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FIBA EuroBasket 2022: Group seeding to be finalized in late April. How far do you think Deni Avdija and Israel can go?

Washington Wizards payers like Deni Avdija, Alex Len and Issac Bonga could be representing their countries as they look to earn berths for the 2023 World Cup.

Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors
Deni Avdija hasn’t represented Israel at the senior level, but he won two European championships at the U20 level before.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

You are probably familiar with EuroBasket, mostly because of the women’s tournament which is held every odd numbered year in the summer during the WNBA season. Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman has represented her native Belgium in each tournament since 2017 and at least some of you may view it as a distraction from a WNBA fan perspective.

That said, this article is on the men’s version of EuroBasket. It is run quite differently from the women’s tournament. It is now held once every four years in the late summer so it syncs up with the World Cup cycle. The tournament was also supposed to be held this year, but it was pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympics being held this year. The women’s side has decided not to adjust that (so Women’s EuroBasket is right before the Olympics). And finally, there are more teams in EuroBasket (24) than Women’s EuroBasket (16).

As Washington Wizards fans, we also should watch EuroBasket 2022 because there’s a good chance that there will be some players in the tournament, even though it’s possible (if not rather likely) that there could be some major trades involving Bradley Beal and/or Russell Westbrook by then.

Of the players on this season’s roster: Deni Avdija (Israel), Alex Len (Ukraine) and Issac Bonga (Germany) are on countries that will be part of EuroBasket 2022 which will be held in the Czech Republic. Georgia, Germany and Italy. While NBA players generally don’t participate in continental qualifiers, they do participate in the continental tournament. Of the four major continental tournaments (which include the AmeriCup, AfroBasket and the Asia Cup), EuroBasket is the most competitive and prestigious.

The group drawing for the 24 teams will be on April 29 at 7 a.m. ET in Berlin, Germany (or 1 p.m. Central European Time). EuroBasket 2022 will be held from Sept. 1 to 18, during the NBA offseason.

Who is in it?

The 24 teams in are six four-team pots and there will be four six-team groups.

Pot 1 is made of the highest ranked men’s basketball teams and Pot 6 is the lowest. It also seems that next year’s EuroBasket will be very competitive since 20 of the 24 teams made the last tournament in 2017, the last time it was held. Of the remaining four teams that missed 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands and Estonia made it in 2015. The last team, Bulgaria, last made it in 2011.

Here are the Pots:

  • Pot 1: No. 2 Spain, No. 5 Serbia, No. 6 Greece, No. 7 France
  • Pot 2: No. 8 Lithuania, No. 9 Russia, No. 10 Italy, No. 12 Czech Republic
  • Pot 3: No. 13 Poland, No. 14 Croatia, No. 15 Turkey, No. 16 Slovenia
  • Pot 4: No. 17 Germany, No. 28 Ukraine, No. 32 Finland, No. 36 Georgia
  • Pot 5: No. 37 Belgium, No. 38 Hungary, No. 39 Israel, No. 41 Great Britain
  • Pot 6: No. 43 Bosnia and Herzegovina, No. 44 Netherlands, No. 47 Estonia, No. 49 Bulgaria

Will Avdija, Len and/or Bonga (or any future European Wizards players) play for their nations?

True, I’m writing about this over one year before the actual competition. But we have a lot of European fans and the Wizards seem to love their European players. Since there’s a lull om the schedule, it’s not a bad time to write about it now.

But to answer this question, the answer is we don’t know because EuroBasket is next year. That said, I’d say Avdija is probably the player who would make the biggest impact if he were to play on the team. He’s also the one European player who will likely remain on the team next year, barring a rather unexpected trade.

How far could Israel go?

As you can see, Israel is in Pot 5, so they aren’t expected to do much based on their past EuroBasket performances (which is how these world rankings are made).

Of the other teams in their pot, the team that’s most similar to Israel is Belgium (the men’s team obviously). Both teams have been regulars in EuroBasket over the last decade, but neither team advanced to the quarterfinals though they haven’t necessarily placed at the bottom every time either. And also, neither team has made the FIBA World Cup or Olympics in recent memory.

That said, Israel’s men’s basketball team seems to have the potential to go on a better-than-expected run like ... Belgium’s women’s basketball team did in Women’s EuroBasket 2017. That’s because Avdija played on the U20 Israeli boys basketball team and won European championships in 2018 and 2019. Furthermore, he was named the MVP in the 2019 championship. When a “non power” team dominates in the youth ranks, there’s a good chance that will help the senior team down the road, so I don’t think Israel will be a minnow next year.

Case in point? Belgium’s U18 girls basketball team won the European Championships in 2011 though their senior team was irrelevant at the time. Who was the MVP of that team? Meesseman.

This isn’t to say that Israel’s men’s basketball team is bound to be the “Belgian Cats” of European men’s basketball next year where they go on a tear to the semis. To be clear, Avdija will enter EuroBasket 2022 at an earlier point in his career than Meesseman did in Women’s EuroBasket in 2017 during hers, so that road will be more difficult.

But again, like we saw in the women’s tournament four years ago, upsets happen and the world order can be shaken. Though I’m not familiar with Israel’s players, if Avdija takes a major step forward next season, that certainly could give Israeli fans hope that he could get them back to a quarterfinals finish for the first time since 2003.

EuroBasket is still over one year away, but which country will you root for? Is it the countries that Wizards players represent? Or are you a patriotic French, Turkish, German, Spanish, Italian or Dutch fan and are rolling with them? Let us know in the comments below.