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EuroBasket 2017 | Group D Primer

We’ve bided our time with summer league, the Big3, the Drew League, and an insane NBA offseason. While we wait for the next season to get underway, we’ve been looking for stuff left and right to pass the seconds, minutes, and hours. We had “Game of Thrones” for a few weeks, but that just ended. Now we’re left with the despair of getting through the first couple weeks of September.

Luckily for the basketball nerd inside all of us, we have EuroBasket. This year’s EuroBasket is the 40th time this has all come together. 24 different countries, split into four groups, will compete in group play and then single-elimination playoffs to determine a European champion. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces and names. You’ll also see some of those highly mysterious draft-and-stash options, as well as future draft picks. This tournament is more than enough to get us to media day for the NBA and a truncated preseason schedule.

With roughly six weeks until the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, this will take up nearly half that time and get us primed for another campaign. Let’s take a look at the teams from Group D to get you prepped for EuroBasket 2017.

Great Britain

Whom should you recognize?

Eric Boateng. Okay, maybe you shouldn’t recognize Eric Boateng right off the bat, but he has been around American basketball for quite some time. He was a McDonald’s All-American in 2005 with Andrew Bynum and Josh McRoberts. He played a year at Duke before transferring to finish his college career at Arizona State. Boateng bounced around the D-League before finding a career overseas. He’s the third-oldest player on the Great Britain team and he might be its best presence inside.

Whom should you learn about?

Luke Nelson. He played at UC Irvine the last four years and just went undrafted in the 2017 draft. Nelson made All-First Team in the Big West the last two years, Big West Player of the Year in 2017, and was named AP honorable mention for All-American. He will play in the Spanish League starting this season. I’m not sure how good he is on this grand stage, but he can play enough to be an important cog for the British team.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

If I were a better man, I’d avoid making a Brexit joke about this team and EuroBasket. Since I’m not a better man, expect Great Britain to have a quick Brexit from 2017 EuroBasket without Joel Freeland, Luol Deng, and Ben Gordon playing for the Union Jack.

Russia

Whom should you recognize?

Alexey Shved and Timofey Mozgov are the two most recognizable names on this Russian team. Shved played, most notably, for the Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks in the NBA. Since 2015, he’s been back in Russia playing for a relatively loaded Khimki team. Shved will likely be the lead guard for Russia in most of this tournament. In the international environment, Shved can serve as a deadly combo guard when he keeps his head in the game. He attacks well off the dribble and can knock down jumpers.

Russia's Timofey Mozgov during the EuroBasket, European Basketball Championship bronze match against Macedonia in Kaunas, Lithuania, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Mozgov is now on Brooklyn, but infamously got paid right at the start of free agency by the Lakers last summer. In the international game, you’ll see Russia go to him for a lot of offense. He can be a big enough impact player that he’ll see double- and triple-teams throughout this event. It will be weird for a lot of NBA fans to see him in this role, but he’s pretty good at it in FIBA play.

Whom should you learn about?

Vitaly Fridzon. He isn’t an up-and-coming player. Fridzon is in his early 30s and has played for the Russian national team a lot during his career, but he’s such a special sharpshooter in these games. He’ll pull a jumper from anywhere on the floor and he expects every single one to go in. If you like gunners, Fridzon will dazzle you a lot. He loves the big shot and loves to let it fly with a hand in his face. He has more confidence than a shirtless Vladimir Putin riding a horse.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

This is a tough group. Not having veterans like Sergei Monia, Viktor Khryapa, and Andrei Kirilenko will hurt them. Their depth doesn’t show as it once did, but the Russians still have a ton of veteran talent on this squad and the back end of the group is weak enough that they should advance past group play. They need Shved and Mozgov to shine in the elimination rounds if they’re going to make a deep run.

Serbia

Whom should you recognize?

Boban Marjanovic, Ognjen Kuzmic, and Nemanja Nedovic all have NBA experience. Most people will recognize Boban from his time with the Spurs and Pistons, along with his recurring roles on “Game of Thrones.” He’s a monster for second units in the NBA and he’s a monster for the Serbians as well. They pair him with Milan Macvan for a formidable frontcourt duo. Kuzmic and Nedovic are both former Golden State Warriors. Kuzmic is a solid center and Nedovic was once called the Serbian Derrick Rose — back when that would’ve been a huge compliment. Serbia has a ton of talent to throw at EuroBasket.

Whom should you learn about?

Bogdan Bogdanovic. He’ll be one of the newest Sacramento Kings this coming season. He also may become the most exciting Sacramento King since DeMarcus Cousins joined the NBA. Bogdanovic is an impressive scorer, who never lacks confidence when he has the ball. He wants to embarrass his opponents. He wants to knock down jumpers in their faces and let them know about it. Remember the hype surrounding Mario Hezonja? Bogdanovic is a smaller player but has that same level of mystique about him. Watch him every chance you get out there. He’ll put on a show.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Absolutely. Serbia is one of the few teams which can challenge someone like Spain in an elimination matchup. You’d love it if Serbia could roll Nemanja Bjelica out there as well, but the Serbs have more than enough talent and firepower on this roster to survive without him.

Latvia

Whom should you recognize?

Kristaps Porzingis is the big name on this team. Latvia also sports San Antonio Spur stretch 4 Davis Bertans along with former Memphis second-round draft pick Janis Timma. Bertans will light up any defender beyond the arc and Timma gives the team a lot on the wing.

Porzingis is the star of this Latvian show. In this environment, there is no question that Porzingis gets to show out. He doesn’t have to fit into the triangle or worry about Carmelo Anthony getting enough touches. Porzingis will be asked to lead — we get to see him embrace that role.

Whom should you learn about?

Rolands Smits. He’s a big man who can stretch the floor, and he’s been playing in the Spanish League since 2012 when he was just 17 years old. Smits is just now starting to get rolling on a bigger international stage. He was named the EuroCup Rising Star this year and came into his own as a scorer this past season. You can neutralize him by putting him on the free throw line and he’s not a good rebounder, but these are all things he can correct. He should be effective in combination with either Bertans or Porzingis on the floor.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Getting out of group play shouldn’t be a problem, but the Latvians don’t have the guards to truly challenge after that. More likely they’ll receive a tough matchup in the first elimination game and receive early plane tickets heading home. But this is another great experience for a Latvian team that is on the rise. It isn’t the same as what we saw from Lithuania 20 years ago, but there are similar vibes in the top talented big men of the two countries.

Turkey

Whom should you recognize?

Furkan Korkmaz, Furkan Aldemir, Semih Erden, and Sinan Guler headline this team. You’ve seen both of the Furkans in the NBA circle with Aldemir having a brief stint in Philly in 2014-15. Korkmaz just signed to come over to Philadelphia this season and should have a long career in the NBA if he wants to be there long-term. Semih Erden had brief stints with Boston and Cleveland but never quite managed to find a foothold at the NBA level. He’s been a veteran of the Turkish team for some time.

Philadelphia 76ers' Furkan Korkmaz, of Turkey, shoots around Boston Celtics' Semi Ojeleye during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Tuesday, July 11, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

AP Photo/John Locher

As for Sinan Guler, he hasn’t played in the NBA, but he has basically been the Manu Ginobili of Turkish basketball for a long time. At 33, he isn’t the player he once was, but he still has these overwhelming moments against opponents.

Whom should you learn about?

Cedi Osman. He’s finally coming over to the NBA after being drafted at the top of the second round in 2015. Osman is a 22-year-old wing who has played for Anadolu Efes since 2011. He and Dario Saric played together for a couple years before Saric made his trek to the NBA. Osman will join the Cleveland Cavaliers this year and might be one of the few bright spots remaining if LeBron James leads an exodus out of Cleveland once again next summer.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

There was a window in which Turkey looked like one of the new powers of the international world. The Turks had some impressive teams with Hedo Turkoglu, Omer Asik, Ersan Ilyasova, Guler, and others playing for them. However, we really haven’t seen that next wave that keeps them afloat. Osman and the two Furkans will help build the national team back up, but they’re no longer the threat they used to be. Still, group play should be easy enough for them to advance past; they can make a little noise in the elimination rounds.

Belgium

Whom should you recognize?

Axel Hervelle? He was drafted in the second round by Denver in 2005, but he’s been playing in the Spanish League since 2004. Hervelle has played for Bilbao since 2009 and will likely be asked to lead this Belgian team throughout group play.

Whom should you learn about?

Look, I’m pretty big basketball nerd, but looking for an up-and-coming Belgian youngster is asking a lot here. I guess Manu Lecomte would be the guy. He plays for Baylor University after spending a couple of years playing for Miami. Lecomte can hit the 3-ball pretty consistently, but he’s a generous listing at 5-foot-11.

They have a shot at this thing/advancing?

Maybe Jean-Claude Van Damme will come down from the rafters and roundhouse kick the competition out of Belgium’s way. If that happens, I like the Belgians’ chances of advancing to elimination rounds. I also like the chances of that leading to another Universal Soldier movie.

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