EuroBasket 2017 is just around the corner, and while we’re still harping on the big questions of the NBA offseason (where will Carmelo play next year? who won he Kyrie trade? And will anyone be able to beat the Golden State Warriors in the West?), there’s plenty to watch on the other side of the world.
The EuroBasket tournament is the qualifying round for European nations for the FIBA 2019 Basketball World Cup, which will take place in 2019. Twenty-four teams have made it to the group round, which will begin on August 31st and will be played in Finland, Turkey, Romania and Israel.
There will be the familiar faces: The Gasol brothers and Ricky Rubio will suit up for the Spanish national team, Zaza Pachulia will represent Georgia, Timofey Mozgov will star for the Russians. Others, such as Tony Parker, who was injured during the NBA postseason, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be sitting this one out. Unfortunately they’re not the only one who will watch from afar. One of the most exciting players we were hoping to get a glimpse of was Serbian guard Milos Teodosic, who recently signed with the LA Clippers as a guard in the post CP3 era, was ruled out due to a calf injury.
The EuroBasket isn’t just a chance to watch some of the NBA’s veterans face off against one another away from the Association, or an opportunity to sneak a peek at the level of competition that will gather in two years. It’s a chance to get a glimpse of the up-and-coming stars as well as the veteran European players who are making some noise overseas.
Here are five players you should keep an eye on during the tournament:
Nando De Colo
Nando De Colo’s days in the NBA weren’t anything to write home about, but the guard has built a successful career in Europe. De Colo spent only two seasons in the NBA, playing for the Spurs and Raptors between 2012-2014 (including some D-League time) and averaging only 3.8 points. But the now 30-year old is regarded as one of the best guards outside of the NBA.
Over the past two seasons, De Colo has averaged 19 PPG on 55.4% shooting from 2-point range in 27 minutes during EuroLeague games for CSKA Moscow. This past season he averaged 17.3 PPG on 66.4% shooting from 2- point range in 22 minutes in Russia’s VTB United League. He will likely have an even larger role on the team during the upcoming season, since Teodosic is leaving Moscow for LA.
De Colo will suit up for France alongside the NBA’s Evan Fournier, Kevin Seraphin and Joffrey Lauvergne. But the team will be missing big names Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum.
First thing you should know about Bogdan Bogdanovic: he’s coming to the NBA. The 25-year old Serbian guard was originally drafted by the Phoenix Suns during the first round of the 2014 draft, but opted to stay in Europe and play for Fenerbahce Istanbul, the reigning EuroLeague champs. This summer Bogdanovic inked a 3-year, $36 million deal with the Sacramento Kings, making him the highest-paid rookie in the history of the NBA.
As a rookie, Bogdanovic will already have five years of experience in the EuroLeague, including winning the 2017 title, and an Olympic silver medal from Rio 2016. He signed his first professional contract in 2010, when he was just 18 years old.
Bogdanovic is coming off his best season yet in 2-point and 3-point FG% in EuroLeague play, with 56.9% and 43% respectively.
With several of Serbia’s top players sitting out this tournament, the 2-time EuroLeague Rising Star will have to step up to help his national team continue in its winning ways. It will also give us a chance to get a better look at the Kings’ new guard.
There are plenty of NBA stars on the Spanish National Team that can steal the show any day of the tournament. Pau and Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio will once again suit up for Spain. Alex Abrines, who just wrapped up his rookie season in Oklahoma City, will be right beside them. The 6-6, 190lb shooting guard played in 68 games for the Thunder in 2016-17, starting in eight of them. Abrines averaged 6.0 PPG and 1.3 rebounds during his first season, including 38.1% from 3-point range.
Before making his way to OKC, Abrines spent four seasons playing in Europe, winning the Spanish Cup and Spanish League Championship. In 2016 the 24-year old was named the EuroLeague Rising Star and was part of the Olympic bronze medal-winning Spanish team.
Willy and Juancho Hernangomez
More members of the Spanish National team, which is stacked with talent and shouldn’t be overlooked. The Gasol brothers will be joined by another set of brothers: Willy and Juancho Hernangomez. The brothers were drafted in back-to-back drafts in 2015 and 2016, and both just wrapped up their rookie seasons in the NBA, Willy (the elder by two years) with the NY Knicks and Juancho with the Nuggets.
Willy had a productive rookie season in the Big Apple, averaging 8.2 points and 7 rebounds per game in 18.4 minutes played. Juancho scored 4.9 PPG in 13.6 minutes played for the Nuggets.
EuroBasket 2017 will be Juancho’s first time on Spain’s national team (not counting U20 teams), while Willy won the Bronze medal with the team in Rio.