Coming back from holidays out of the basketball no-man’s land Switzerland, it will take me some time to get back into the feeling of the Eurobasket 2009. However, I made a quick analysis of the present teams and their different rosters in relation with the age of the players and I will try to find out which teams are currently building their future.
Serbia (21.5 years of age in average): The Serbian team is by far the youngest of this Eurobasket beating their opponents by a huge margin of more than 2 years. The team features a multitude of young players of the very successful generations of 1986 (Uros Tripkovic, Novica Velickovic), 1987 (Milos Teodosic, Milenko Tepic, Ivan Paunic), 1988 (Nemanja Belica, Stefan Markovic, Miroslav Raduljica) and 1989 (Milan Macvan). All of them won a multitude of Medals in the different Youth Competitions and it is especially the “unbeaten” (Gold in U16, U18 and U20) 1987 generation that is leading this Serbian squad. After years of draught, Serbia may come back as the dominator of European Basketball in the upcoming years as the even younger generations feature additional talent.
France (23.9yrs): Despite being built around their highly talented 1981-82-83 core, the French team comes in for a surprising second place in the “youth rankings”. The integration of a multitude of young players like Antoine Diot, Nicolas Batum or Nando de Colo works out very well under coach Vincent Collet. Together with the still young Parker and Diaw and the number of quality players absent for different reasons (Noah, M. Pietrus to name just them), France will still be at the top for the next few years. The team needs to gain more maturity though in order to avoid the set backs like in 2007. The new generation around Batum and Diot knows how to win titles (U16 and U18 European Champions) but the full concentration on NBA talent may be a factor why this team has done nothing except a Bronze Medal in 2005 on FIBA level.
Russia (24.0yrs): The Russian head coach has made a sharp cut this year after the Gold Medal of 2007 and brought in several young players to go for the next generation. The new core of the team will be built around the successful 1985 (Fridzon, Vyaltsev, Sokolov) generation (U16 Gold, U20 Silver) while 1986 and 1987 brings in some additional talent around Anton Ponkrashov, Andrei Vorontsevich and Nikita Kurbanov. However, the absence of an above average scoring leader in this generation may hinder them from repeating the triumph of 2007.
Germany (24.4yrs): The absence of Dirk Nowitzki put head coach Dirk Bauermann into a situation where he had no other choice than to rebuild the team. Germany is the squad with the most players under 21 years of age of the whole tournament with 5 (Lucca Staiger, Tim Ohlbrecht, Robin Benzing, Elias Harris and Tibor Pleiss). While the last one is currently more or less fulfilling a role as 12th man, the other 4 players have a major impact on the German game. Robin Benzing is of course the player that stood out so far, but also Elias Harris is doing some major defensive work in his first appearances with the Senior National team. Bauermann is clearly building a team for the future and the upcoming generations don’t look that bad either for Germany.
Greece (24.4yrs): Yes, the Greek team is pretty young. The core of the roster is bundled around the 1982 (Spanoulis) 1983 (Bourousis, Zisis) generation which were the most successful youth teams for years. It is now the right moment to start a new building around the highly talented 1989-1990 generation and the presence of Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes is a first step in that direction. Greece will remain at the top European level as they are capable of producing “golden” generations at a regular pace by the focusing on FIBA-like players.
Turkey (24.9yrs): The Turkish team is preparing their upcoming 2010 World Championship with their highly crowned 1986-1987 generation improving in addition to rests of their highly talented 1979 born players. A few additional years at the top seem guaranteed.
Bulgaria (25.5yrs): The core of the team is old but the presence of the Ivanov twins born in 1986 and the slow integration of some young talents like Bozhidar Avramov and Chavdar Kostov gives them a pretty young face. But I guess that Bulgaria is one of the teams that we won’t see in Eurobasket competitions in the next years.
Spain (25.5yrs): The Spanish team is the 1980 born players together with a 1990 born Ricky Rubio. In between, you find some additional talent and the takeover of this new generation is moving on. The extraordinary talent level of the 1980 born generation makes it tough for the younger player to crack the rotation but Spain remains a top European basketball nation for the next years for sure as Rubio is not alone and players like Victor Claver or Sergio Llull will take over the team together with Rudy Fernandez.
Israel (25.7yrs): Israel is somewhere in the middle of a renewing process around the generation of Lior Eliyahu and the presence of the veterans of the 1980 borns (Burstein, Green). Together with Omri Casspi who did not play in Poland, Israel has some talent to build around in the next years.
Latvia (25.9yrs): Not really rebuilding but also not insisting on the veterans, Latvia will probably remain among the mid-level teams in the next years as the younger generations feature some correct players.
Lithuania (26.2yrs): Without their main stars (Siskauskas, Jasikevicius,…), Lithuania missed the opportunity to integrate some younger players right now. The highly talented 1985 generation will be the core of the future Lithuanian national team but you find nobody else younger than PG Mantas Kalnietis on the team. Without being a Medal contender this year, Lithuania should have used the tournament to give their youngsters more experience on the highest level as did teams like Serbia, Russia or Germany.
Poland (26.4yrs): The presence of the Oldie Adam Wojcik hurts of course the Polish age average as the team is built around the Szewczyk, Logan, Lampe, Gortat generation that is born in the beginning of the 80s. The problem for Poland is that there is not that much talent coming out for the next 5-10 years.
FYROM (26.8yrs): The team is led by their oldest player and the impact of the younger players is close to zero. Not that much is coming from the youth categories right now so that FYROM will probably move down in the European hierarchy in the next years.
Great Britain (26.8yrs): Some new talent (Joel Freeland, Daniel Clark) is coming out but it won’t probably be enough to keep Great Britain on Eurobasket level over a longer period when the current core is retiring.
Slovenia (27.0yrs): The Slovenian live from their extraordinary core of 78-79-80 born players but try to integrate the younger generation of Goran Dragic or Jaka Klobucar. This year, players like Emir Preldzic or Gasper Vidmar were not with the team and they will be the new Slovenian leaders once the veterans have retired. How quickly this goes has still to be seen, but on a mid-term projection, Slovenia still looks like one of the better teams in Europe.
Croatia (27.6yrs): The oldest team of the tournament is Croatia where the youngest players are the 1984 born Ukic and Banic. However, the core of the team (6 players) comes from this 82-83-84 stretch which will be on the roster for the next years. If you add some younger talent, Croatia remains at the current level in the next years but still misses the greatness to become a title candidate over a longer period.
I will come back on the performances of the players that are candidates for the upcoming NBA Drafts in another article on the Eurobasket 2009 in the next days. The number of them is however pretty limited as most of the talented young players are either already drafted or too old for the 2010 NBA Draft.
N.B.: The average ages are based only on the year of birth and not on the exact age of the players.