Every player in the NBA is on vacation now, right?
Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat, Omri Casspi and Jonas Jerebko are among the NBA players still playing international ball for their home countries in the qualification tournament for Eurobasket ’13.
There are over 25 guys in qualification who are current NBA players, former NBA draft picks, or future NBA prospects.
Next summer’s tournament will be held in Slovenia and will serve as the qualifier for the newly rechristened 2014 World Cup (the tournament that was formerly called the World Championship). This summer’s tournament has been highlighted by the surprising struggles of Turkey (which won the silver medal at the 2010 Worlds), the strong play of former Yugoslav republics Montenegro and Croatia (both of which are undefeated heading into Sunday’s games), and the resurgence of Italy, which has been in a six-year slump since playing at the 2006 Worlds in Japan.
Cedric Simmons (Bulgaria) and Nenad Krstic (Serbia) are among the NBA-caliber players without NBA contracts who are playing in the qualification round as we enter basketball’s “dead month.”
Here is the SheridanHoops ranking of the Top 25 players making noise through the first several games of qualifying. Click here for a primer on how qualification works, and click here for the link to FIBAEurope.com, which has full game reports, stats and box scores.
1. Marcin Gortat, Center, Poland (Phoenix Suns)
Since leaving the gigantic shadow of Dwight Howard in Orlando, Gortat has proven to be a legitimate starting center in the NBA with his tremendous size and efficiency around the basket. At this level of qualifying, Gortat has a sizable advantage on both ends of the court with his craftiness around the rim, and his sheer size and length defensively. He is averaging a healthy 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, and looks like a lock to make the first-team for this competition as Poland has gone 3-2 in Group E. Whether Gortat can thrive without Steve Nash running the pick-and-roll with him anymore remains to be seen, but his development over the last few years has been excellent.
2. Danilo Gallinari, Forward, Italy (Denver Nuggets)
Gallo has been struggling shooting (7-for-23, .304) for an Italian team playing without Andrea Bargnani and Marco Bellinelli. Nevertheless, the Italians are undefeated (5-0) and a lock to qualify for next year’s European championships. With Gallo, Bargnani and Bellinelli entering their prime with a solid supporting cast, the Italians will be under pressure to get back to the main stages of international hoops (They won silver at the 2004 Olympics.). If Italy has any chance to make some noise in the Worlds or the Olympics in the next four years, Gallinari will need to emerge as one of the top international talents.
3. Omri Casspi, Forward, Israel, (Cleveland Cavaliers)
As the first Israeli NBA player, Casspi has emerged as the leader of the Israeli team, coming up big time with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in Israel’s win over heavily favored Serbia. After struggling the past two seasons to adapt to the added weight he has put on since his rookie year, it appears that Casspi seems much more comfortable with his body. He may find himself fighting for minutes in Cleveland with the addition of C.J. Miles, but Casspi looks ready to prove he deserves to stay in the NBA after his rookie contract expires next season. Israel has gone 3-3 in Group A.
4. Mirza Teletovic, Forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina, (Brooklyn Nets)
Teletovic has been a scoring machine in this competition, pouring in 23.6 points a game. His abilities as a shot maker who can put up points in a hurry, should make him fit in very nicely with the Nets once he adapts to the American game. It should be interesting to see him play in a role where he takes less difficult shots at a lower volume than he has recently in Europe. He could very well develop into a big time shot-maker who can put points up in a hurry with Deron Williams feeding him open looks.
5. Milos Teodosic, Guard, Serbia, (CSKA Moscow)
Over the last few years, Teodosic has been among the cream of the crop in the Euroleague, winning the 2010 Euroleague MVP along with many other accolades along the way. A big guard with excellent court vision, shooting ability and overall basketball IQ, Teodosic could definitely hang in the league right now. While he may not be gifted enough athletically to be a star in the NBA, he has the potential to be a very solid 25-30 minute playmaker on a contender. As a player who has historically made big money with Olympiacos in Greece, and CSKA in Russia, chances are it would take a dream offer to get him to make the jump, but he certainly has the capability to succeed in America. He is averaging a team-high 13.8 points per game.
6. Jonas Jerebko, Forward, Sweden, Detroit Pistons
The do-it-all Swedish sensation has been putting up a solid 20 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the surprisingly competitive Scandinavian team. His outside shot still could use some work, but it appears Jerebko’s return to full health may vault this squad into next summer’s European Championship. Jerebko’s mobility looks a lot more similar to his rookie season than the post-injury form he showed this past year, and should be ready to build on the promise he showed while making the All-Rookie second team.
7. Bojan Bogdanovic, Swingman, Croatia, (Brooklyn owns draft rights)
Nets fans should be very excited about the development of Bogdanovic. He is quickly becoming one of the best perimeter scorers in Europe, and with his buyout becoming far more appealing next summer, his rights could have the same value as a lottery pick in next year’s draft. With an excellent shot from outside and a knack for drawing contact on his way to the rim, he should be even better playing next to someone with the court vision of Deron Williams. Definitely a guy to look out for as a potential NBA starter 3-5 years from now.
8. Nenad Krstic. Center, Serbia, CSKA Moscow
Recovering from an ankle injury, Krstic hasn’t looked like himself thus far in this tournament. He was a major factor behind CSKA’s success last season, having an All-Euroleague caliber season. However, his potential of returning to the NBA as an impact player appears lost. Since his leg injury with the Nets, Krstic doesn’t seem to be able to physically handle the minutes or the heavy schedule of the NBA enough to be a go-to post player for long stretches. With probably only a couple years of hoops left in him, it appears Krstic may prefer to be a highly paid superstar in Europe than a 10th man in the NBA.
9. Zaza Pachulia, Center, Georgia, Atlanta Hawks
Along with Manuchar Markoishvili, Pachulia is a leader on the Georgian national team that currently looks like a lock to qualify for the European Championships. While some NBA role players are stars on their national teams, Pachulia continues to do all the dirty work as a rebounding and defensive machine. He looks to score a little more than he does in Atlanta, but this is a guy whose bread and butter is his toughness, his commitment to boxing out and his quick feet defensively. He may not be a star to carry a team to a medal in a major tournament, but he can get you that crucial rebound or stop down the stretch.
10. Lior Eliyahu, Forward, Israel, (Minnesota owns draft rights)
After being thrown into the Chase Budinger trade by the Rockets this past offseason, it appears Eliyahu has a chance to make the jump next season when his buyout situation becomes more appealing. One of the most unique players in Europe, Eliyahu is deadly with his floaters from the mid-range. At first glance, his game appears very awkward, but in reality it is cold and calculated, consistently hitting at around a 60% clip from 2. He may have some flaws defensively, but his ability to quickly get points in the paint could make him an effective NBA bench player.