Last night’s recap of the action in FIBA EuroBasket 2013 qualifying round, in brief: Serbia and Turkey took care of business, the miracle campaign of dark horse Azerbaijan ended sadly, and the 24 teams that will comprise The Continent’s big tournament are now known.
BallinEurope has a podcast with Germany-based heinnews on more general matters regarding the qualifying teams scheduled for later today, so a few thoughts will follow. For now, however, contact the virtual trophy makers, because BiE’s announcing its official All-Qualifiers Team. Without further ado, the first five are…
• Taylor Rochestie, Montenegro. Yes, yes, Rochestie’s lines of 8.4 points and 4.1 assists per game weren’t exactly mind-blowing, ranking him 125th and 19th respectively among all those in pool play. But BiE believes that outside of Mirza Teletovic, perhaps no player was more valuable to his side than Rochestie.
As the aforementioned heinnews pointed out to BiE a couple of days ago, the most dramatic switch on the Montenegro roster for 2012 was the substitution of the naturalized American playmaker for the naturalized scoring-minded American Omar Cook. The result? A team that turns the ball over far less frequently, led by Rochestie’s own 43 assists against 16 TOs (including six in the two Iceland laughers). The Montenegro game plan suddenly includes a deadly arsenal underneath the basket – guys like Bojan Dubljevic (who killed on the offensive boards, by the way), lengthy center Blagota Sekulic and the brilliant Vladimir Dasic – and simply incredible ball movement facilitated by Rochestie.
And take a look at this balance: Beyond Dasic’ 15.1 ppg, Montenegro could boast seven players good for 7-12 points in 20-30 a night (the latter excepting Sekulic, who saw relatively limited playing time) – and this eight shot for 49.3% overall combined. Nice shot selection, eh? Thanks to a single clever roster tweak, Team Montenegro is easily imaginable as a final eight side in ’13.
• Petteri Koponen, Finland. If you’re looking for a qualifying round MVP in terms of importance to the team, Koponen’s near the top of the list. In last night’s must-win versus Switzerland, Koponen flicked the switch, gave up his selfless game and took over the shooting. Together with Shawn Huff, the Finns rained down threes – 27 in all, 16 from Koponen and Huff – to earn a EuroBasket bid. As though his line in eight qualifiers of 19.9 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.4 rpg and 1.6 spg weren’t impressive enough, consider the question that Finnish basketball fans don’t dare to: Where would this team be without Koponen?
• Mirza Teletovic, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Mainstream media and blogosphere alike are agog with admiration for the incoming Brooklyn Net; having joined the lovefest last week, BiE’ll just send you to this link for more on Teletovic.
Incidentally, Teletovic definitely turned one in a clip for Top 5 Plays of EuroBasket 2013 qualifiers mix, hurling this three-point dagger to slay Team Georgia in the wildest game of the month.
• Marcin Gortat, Poland. The Polish Hammer struck again and again, running up six double-doubles for overall marks of 21.1 ppg and 11.6 rpg. Speaking of stats, Gortat’s were monstrous in these qualifiers: a tournament-high 8.3 FGs made per game and 9.6 defensive rebounds, plus just 2.3 blocks per game.
Thanks to Gortat, Poland was able to successfully compensate for its glaring weakness in the backcourt (Lukasz Koszarek, a name typically preceded by the adjective “disappointing”, was there and, well, um, yeah) by throwing it down low early and often. Poland made 175 three-point attempts in the eight games, a mere six better than worst-in-the-category Romania and it didn’t matter. Every opponent keyed on and, when possible, doubled up on Gortat and it didn’t matter. What matters is that Gortat took this squad on his huge back and carried them into the ’13 tourney. Good show!
• Omri Casspi, Israel. Did anyone else notice the overall lackluster play in the no. 3 spot – and on the wings in general – in these qualifiers? Few shooting forwards left much of a positive impression over this slate of games, excepting Danilo Gallinari of Italy and Manuchar Markoishvili of Georgia – and Omri Casspi.
Playing with the national team for the first time since a knee injury took him out before Eurobasket 2011 even started, Casspi has got to be the toast of Israel today. His awesome 44-of-67 (65.7%) success rate within the arc shows his incredible ability to pick his spots throughout the eight games, his amazing consistency in contribution is remarkable and his “intangibles” metric for this team is surely off the charts. Speaking completely subjectively, Casspi worked the making-his-teammates better ability to better result than any player except Rochestie – and had superior stats to boot. Gallinari may do things flashier, but there’s no underestimating Casspi’s abilities after the qualifiers.
Second team: Anton Gavel, Slovakia; Adam Hanga, Hungary; Danilo Gallinari, Italy; Jonas Jerebko, Sweden; Charles Davis (who might have made the first team if he hadn’t missed two games), Azerbaijan.