Today marks the beginning of Eurobasket, a critical European tournament that determines which teams advance to the 2014 World Championships. Twenty-four European countries are sending teams to Slovenia, and the six teams that finish highest and are not Spain will qualify for Barcelona.
Wizards fans should really only care about one of those teams, though. The Czech Republic features Jan Vesely, Tomas Satoransky and ... well, not much else. Vesely is the team's star and Satoransky is its top young prospect, so they will get plenty of chances to impress. The hope is that Vesely gains some confidence with a strong performance and that Satoransky continues his progression.
Most experts don't think Czech Republic has much of a chance to advance, though. They're in a group with Spain, the top team in Europe, and a number of other intriguing clubs that includes host nation Slovenia. SB Nation's Welcome To Loud City doesn't expect much.
The bottom line is that the Czech Republic got in this tournament by beating up on Belarus and Portugal, while stealing a game from a depleted Turkish team. They have a few exciting prospects, but none of them have blossomed yet, and the team is essentially a collection of role players and a bad quality domestic league at this point. I see no potential way for them to win a game in this group, but I think that they could make some noise in 2015 or 2017.
But what about Vesely and Satoransky? Expect to see the former used in many different ways, both on the perimeter and the post. Truth About It's Luke Mellow points to a Czech interview where Pavel Budinsky said as much:
"We tested Honza at center and at small forward, he was very useful at both positions. Honza's useful at rebounding and on defense. He utilizes his agility and mobility on the offensive end. But [Eurobasket] is the highest level of European play, and it's not easy to for him to use his weight and physical strength. And you can notice that two-year shortage of playing time in the NBA in his game. He fights, but it shows in the speed of his decision-making. Teams at this level play tremendously quick. For example, the Lithuanians were rotating every player in and out of the game like on a carousel, and you just need a quick decision-making, you need to get used to various opponents on the court. I hope that Honza's still going to grow in this area [of game]."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement there, sadly. Vesely appears to have an uphill climb to be productive.
Satoransky has been much more impressive in the preliminary games, though. SB Nation's Timberwolves blog Canis Hoopus noted this in its preview.
I am more interested in 21-year old Tomás Staronasky who was drafted by the Wizards last year and should be a lock to get a chance in the NBA in the next two years. Satoransky took over the starting job of ACB team Cajasol Sevilla this team and responded well to his increased role as a scorer even though having problems as a primary ballhandler and creator, turning over the ball a lot. However, he also was second in assists in the ACB. In the end, his team was quite bad but he seemed to be its best player. All in all, if Satoransky improves his shot, the 6'7" prospect who could become a boxscore-filling secondary ballhandler and threat as cutter with his decent athleticism.
Satoransky also did this in one of the preliminary games (HT: Mellow).
Satoransky won't come over this year, but if he continues to progress and has a strong Eurobasket, we may see him in the US sooner rather than later. (Also: he becomes a useful trade asset).
Here's the Czech Republic schedule:
Today: 3 p.m. vs. Slovenia, ESPN3
Thursday: 11:45 a.m. vs. Poland, ESPN3
Saturday: 11:45 a.m. vs. Spain, ESPN3
Sunday: 11:45 a.m. vs. Georgia, ESPN3
Monday: 11:45 a.m. vs. Croatia, ESPN3
What are you hoping to see in Eurobasket?