This one’s exactly what the title says; this morning, BallinEurope takes a brief look at five key players competing in the ongoing EuroBasket 2013 qualifying round with NBA contracts signed or rights owned. Let’s get right to it, then, beginning with a couple of reasons Brooklyn Nets fans should be a heckuva lot more optimistic than they were post-D12 rejection.
• Mirza Teletovic, PF – Team Bosnia & Herzegovina, rights owned by the Brooklyn Nets. If Teletovic’s signing by the Nets this offseason could be classified as “under the radar,” the longtime Caja Laboral stud is a massive attention-grabbing phenomenon on the screen right now. The excellently-named From Russia With Dunk proclaimed Teletovic to be “dominating” in EuroBasket 2013 qualifying games; NBC Sports described his play as “tearing it up”; at Ridiculous Upside, he’s “lighting it up” – all statements made with justifiable reason.
BiE doesn’t believe FIBA names a EuroBasket qualifying round MVP, but Teletovic could make quite an impressive case for the theoretical award. The prospective Net boasts a stat line of 25.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.7 blocks per game for his 4-2 side. Team Bosnia & Herzegovina has been content to dump the ball inside to Teletovic continuously to the tune of 20.7 shots per game, tops in the qualifiers. Teletovic’s best showings have come against the woefully outmuscled Netherlands, who he’s punished for lines of 33/6 and 36/7.
At 6’9”, Teletovic will not solve all of Brooklyn’s problems underneath, but right now he’s looking like a reasonable upgrade from Kris Humphries. Nice signing.
• Tornike Shengelia, PF – Georgia, Brooklyn Nets. As though earning a contract with the Nets after some nifty Summer League play at 20 years of age weren’t enough, the folks at FIBA Europe threw Shengelia an additional gauntlet before the EuroBasket qualifiers tipped off: “Pretty much unstoppable at youth level where he has been a sensation in a Georgia uniform, it’s now time for Tornike Shengelia to prove he can also have an impact with the senior national team.”
And so it has come to pass: A stat line of 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game is perhaps only surpassed in impressiveness by the amount of playing time Shengelia has received for Team Georgia. At 160 minutes accrued in qualifying games thus far, Shengelia’s seen almost as much court time as his internationally acknowledged star big men Zaza Pachulia (91) and Giorgi Shermadini (70) combined. Also outstanding is his remarkable self-control in the paint: Leading the team with 23 fouls drawn, he’s committed only 16 – if only he’d improved on that 60% (18-of-30) free-throw shooting…
(Incidentally, Georgians have got to be liking their team’s future; BiE believes that this side has the potential to become a European power within a few years, right now packing a solid first eight and gobs of skilled height.)
As for Shengelia’s future in the NBA, well, it’s gonna be interesting. To think that three months ago, Nets fans were looking at a backcourt led by Brook Lopez and Humphries while we’re almost certain to be seeing a couple of Europeans named Teletovic and Shengelia getting quality court time by season’s end … maybe now Brooklyn backers can forget about failing to snag Dwight Howard and Andrei Kirilenko.
• Tibor Pleiß, Center – Germany, Oklahoma City Thunder. A longtime BiE fave, Pleiß has stood out among a Team Germany sans Dirk Nowitski and Chris Kaman but dominated by the 1988-1990 generation. With the exception of the Sweden game in which he was keyed on throughout and thus less involved in the offense, Pleiß has provided steady production in the middle, ranking fourth for the tourney in both shooting percentage (64.1%) and offensive rebounding (4.0 per game).
Better yet for the home nation, Team Germany has gone 5-0 against admittedly less-than-stiff competition (Bulgaria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg – hey, can we call this “The Group of Life”?) and is set to clinch a EuroBasket 2013 bid tonight against Bulgaria.
As for running with the Thunder, Kendrick Perkins’ presence will keep the German away for a year or two more, surely. If/when the transition does come, it will mark quite the departure in playing style. While Pleiß’ court awareness and passing skills are developing brilliantly, the truth is the seven-footer does not look physically prepared to thoroughly mix it up in the NBA trenches. Yet.
• Tomáš Satoranský, PG – Czech Republic, Washington Wizards. And the Czech’s upward trend continues – at least in Europe. From being named no. 9 top player in Europe in 2009 to wowing scouts at the 2011 Eurocamp to a no. 32 overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, Satoranský is currently two wins (or even less, depending on the disappointing Team Turkey) away from making the Czech the Cinderella pick in ’13.
Though the 20-year-old was cited for speed and leadership issues in 2012 NBA Summer League play, Satoranský has had few problems with directing the Team Czech offense and his “inability to actually come to the ball” has dissolved on The Continent – perhaps he’s even become too aggressive. Perhaps best evidence of this was in the Portugal game, wherein Satoranský ran up six points, nine assists, 10 rebounds and a steal … against five turnovers.
Worrisome at present is his shooting. After going 6-of-25 in the first two EuroBasket qualifiers, coach Pavel Budinsky clearly patiently explained to his young charge to quit the damn chucking; Satoranský’s attempts thereafter have been capped at 10, his shooting is “up” to 33.3% and his overall line is pleasingly rounded at 9.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 5.2 rpg and 1.2 spg.
BiE’s take? Surely the inconsistencies and sometimes slow reaction can be attributed to inexperience. After a meteoric rise through the ranks, ACB and NBA fans need only give the future Wizard a bit more time before labeling him as fated to spend his playing days in Europe. A medium-term project.
• Ádám Hanga, SG/SF – Hungary, San Antonio Spurs. No way this column ends without giving props to the main man in BiE’s adopted homeland, the best individual player to emerge from Hungary since Kornél Dávid and seemingly destined to become the country’s second-ever Magyar to play in the big league.
Team Hungary’s run in the EuroBasket qualifiers has been disappointing; though perhaps a bit blinded by homerism, BiE had seen promise in the past couple seasons with Hanga as focus. After all, this was the final team to be eliminated from EuroBasket 2011 contention.
But let’s not get bogged down in Hungarian-style pessimism – back to Hanga! The 23-year-old, currently plying his professional trade at Bàsquet Manresa, has demonstrated he’s still riding the learning curve in these qualifiers. His lightning-quick reaction speed is evidenced in his 2.4 steals per game and even 50.0% shooting percentage, his basketball IQ in his 18.8 ppg and incredible 7.0 drawn fouls per.
Draft Express touted Hanga’s excellent play in Eurocamps 2009 and 2011, guessing after the latter that the Hungarian “could be a player a team decides to roll the dice on somewhere in the second round to see how he develops over the next few years in Europe.” Naturally, those too-clever, Euro-stashing Spurs took a flyer on the little-known dude in an obscure basketball program.
The prospect masters have also noted in profiling Hanga that his 6’7” height and prototypical European skill set gave him a huge advantage in the Hungarian domestic league; luckily for San Antonio (and Manresa), Hanga appears to be compensating for certain limits against tougher competition nicely. Can it be long before we see the Spurs suit up a multinational team of Hanga, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan/even Boris Diaw? C’mon, Pops, make it so!