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NBA AM: An Early EuroBasket 2017 Preview

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The reason NBA Summer League is a poor predictor of future NBA success is that rosters include many players auditioning for a spot on a team’s G-League roster with almost no chance of playing rotation minutes on an NBA roster. For this reason, international tournaments such as EuroBasket 2017—starting August 31 and hosted by a combination of Romania, Finland, Israel, and Turkey—have become among the greatest resources for scouting current and future NBA talent. In this article, we’ll take a look at several top teams prepping for EuroBasket 2017 and the current players on NBA rosters who will compete.

EuroBasket is a qualification tournament for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, an international championship normally held every four years and generally considered to be of similar stature to the Olympic basketball tournament. In order to de-sync the FIBA World Cup from soccer’s FIFA World Cup—both tournaments formerly happened in the same year every four years—FIBA has moved the next Basketball World Cup back to 2019. This will come five years after the United States defeated a surprising Serbia team for the title in 2014. That tournament included one of the largest collections of players on guaranteed NBA contracts ever assembled outside the NBA itself.

Serbia

With its performance in reaching the FIBA championship game in 2014 and earning silver at the Rio Olympics—and with Nikola Jokic’s ascension as an NBA star—Serbia has announced itself as a basketball powerhouse. Serbia’s prospects for EuroBasket 2017 took a hit when Jokic announced that he will not compete and will instead spend the summer prepping for the 2017-18 NBA season. Nonetheless, EuroBasket will be the first opportunity for many to get a look at a pair of pending NBA rookies who received significant contracts this summer.

Point guard Milos Teodosic is often called the best player in the world who hasn’t played an NBA game. As a passer, he has a flair for the spectacular. The Clippers signed Teodosic to a two-year, $12.3 million contract in July to back up Patrick Beverley at point guard. International basketball fans are obviously familiar with his extensive body of work in EuroLeague and international tournaments, but EuroBasket 2017 will have a lot of more casual NBA fans tuning in to see what the hype is about ahead of the impending rookie season for Teodosic.

But Teodosic isn’t the only Serb NBA fans will be tracking. The Sacramento Kings signed Serbian shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic to the largest rookie contract in NBA history at three years and $36 million. Kings GM Vlade Divac—also Serbian—traded the pick Phoenix used to select Marquese Chriss for a pair of later picks and the rights to Bogdanovic. Because Bogdanovic was drafted in the first round in 2014 but never signed with an NBA team, he is no longer bound by the rookie salary scale. Thus, he signed the massive offer from Divac rather than the team-friendly deals rookies are normally limited to.

The biggest beneficiary of Jokic’s absence could be Miroslav Raduljica, a journeyman center who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per 36 minutes in 53 appearances for the Bucks and Timberwolves from 2013 to 2015. Coach Aleksandar Djordjevic told Serbian website Blic Sport that his team will continue to play through the center position even with Jokic unavailable for EuroBasket. Djordjevic further stated that Raduljica didn’t have similar opportunities at his last club stop at Emporio Armani Milano prior to signing with the Jiangsu Dragons in China. This could be a chance for Raduljica, a bruising, multi-talented player, to showcase himself to a wider audience.

Spain

Long considered second only to the United States among international sides, Spain has a lengthy tradition of exporting talent to the NBA. The latest EuroBasket addition hasn’t been cut down to the final squad yet, but one player to watch will be Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines. In 68 games as a rookie last season for Oklahoma City, Abrines shot 38 percent on nearly four three pointers per game. Abrines told Spanish website AS.com that coach Sergio Scariolo has told him he will have an opportunity after several injuries at the forward positions.

“Sergio has not talked much individually with the players, but he told me that this was my year and that I had to take a step forward,” said Abrines.

Pending final cuts and availability, Spain should still sport multiple players familiar to the NBA audience. Brothers Marc and Pau Gasol, along with Spanish mainstay and new Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio, are expected to appear. One notable absence will be Bulls restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic, who could not commit to the tournament with his contract status unsettled. Spanish site FEB.es reported a week ago that Mirotic is out for EuroBasket.

Joining Abrines among up-and-coming NBA players who should have a chance to grab the spotlight at EuroBasket is yet another pair of Spanish brothers—Knicks center Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez of the Nuggets. Willy was among the most productive rookies in the NBA last season, averaging 8.2 points and seven rebounds in 72 appearances that included 22 starts. Knicks president Steve Mills told Newsday’s Al Iannazzone that the team intends to build around Kristaps Porzingis, newly-signed free agent Tim Hardaway, Jr., newly-drafted French point guard Frank Ntilikina and Hernangomez (with no mention of Carmelo Anthony). Among Knicks with at least 1000 minutes last season, only Justin Holiday posted a higher net rating. Center Juancho Hernangomez was less productive as a rookie for the Nuggets but was still promising with five points and three rebounds per game in 62 appearances and 13.6 minutes per game.

France

The French team at EuroBasket will be missing a lot of firepower with Tony Parker, Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum unavailable. Once again, this will create opportunities for other players including Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier, Bulls forward/center Joffrey Lauvergne and 76ers wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Joining them among featured players for Les Bleus is former Spurs shooting guard Nando de Colo, who replaces Teodosic as both a guard for CSKA Moscow and possibly the best guard not currently playing in the NBA.

Greece

If you needed one simple reason why EuroBasket 2017 could be the most watched edition in history, here’s two words for you: Greek Freak. While so many other stars will sit out, EuroBasket will be a showcase for one of the NBA’s transcendent talents. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t enjoy nearly the depth of NBA talent that Spain and France can field, but all eyes will be on the player who is somehow making Wisconsin cool.

Rosters for EuroBasket 2017 are not set and players mentioned could still withdraw ahead of the tournament. But for NBA-starved fans dealing with the dog days of the offseason, Europe’s premier international basketball showcase provides something to look forward to ahead of training camps and the preseason. And with the combination of competition level and key absences of experienced players, EuroBasket will surely be the coming out party of as yet unknown NBA prospects.

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About Buddy Grizzard

Buddy Grizzard

Buddy Grizzard has written for ESPN.com and BBallBreakdown and served as an editor for ESPN TrueHoop Network.