After having reviewed the 5 events that have marked my year 2010, I take a look forward today in order to predict the 5 things that may be the main storylines in 2011. Once again, these 5 stories are in no particular order and only represent my personal opinion.
The U19 World Championship in Latvia
This event is probably going to be the biggest Youth Tournament in 2011. Next to the Team USA that will certainly come over with a serious Gold Medal aspiring team, the presence of the excellent Lithuanian 1992 generation (Valanciunas, Pukis, Redikas, Cizauskas,…), Latvia with their upcoming top star Davis Bertans, Poland and their talented 1993 born players warming up for the U18 European Championship in their home country later in the year, Croatia with most likely their future super-star Dario Saric and Russia with their Silver Medal Team from 2010 will be the main teams to watch. Additionally, the highly talented Australian team that dominated the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in 2010, Canada with certainly several elements from the U17-WC Bronze Medal team, Argentina around the top talent Patricio Garino, China and Taiwan from Asia together with Egypt and Tunisia from Africa will produce a great mix of talent for a very interesting tournament. Europeanprospects.com will be there.
The NBA Draft 2011
The NBA Draft 2011 will probably be one of the most interesting from a European point of view for several years. Not less than 4 European players are currently predicted to become a lottery pick: Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter, Donatas Motiejunas and Jan Vesely. With the NBA lock-out still being a major threat, the possibility that even more Europeans will be picked in the 1st round is rather high. The situation for European based players has never been as interesting in order to be picked in a great revenue-generating position in the Rookie Scale.
The emergence of Nikola Mirotic
Everything is set that 2011 will be the year of Nikola Mirotic. The Montenegro-born Spaniard is slowly getting minutes for Real Madrid and should be able to become a regular contributor until the end of the season; with more to come in the 2011-2012 games. Additionally, the Spanish federation will organize the U20 European Championship in Bilbao where Mirotic will be the leader of the team in order to win the Gold Medal. And why not a early-entrance to the NBA Draft 2011 with a spot in the 1st round. Really, 2011 can be the year of Nikola Mirotic.
The rebirth of Czech Basketball
Czech Basketball is currently in a process of establishing themselves as a future talent pool of high value. The talented 91 generation is set for winning the Gold Medal at the U20 European Championship of Division B, the U18 team got the 1st place in B Division already in 2010 and will compete again on A Division level while the U16 team moved up as well in 2010. In 2011, the Czech Republic will organize the U16 European Championship in Pardubice and Hradec Kralove and they prepared this already last summer as several 1995 born players that should compete in 2011 were already major factors on the U16 team in B Division. With their future top stars Jan Vesely, Tomas Satoransky or David Jelinek in the making, the Senior National team may become one of the major forces in European Basketball in the 2nd half of this new decade.
Bundesliga becomes the youngest major domestic League in Europe
We did the analysis already last summer for the 2009-2010 season: Which league gives the most minutes to young players. By surprise, the German Bundesliga was third in the overall Ranking and even 2nd in terms of Local U22 Minutes versus Total Local Minutes. After the first half of the regular season, it looks like the German League will again improve its numbers concerning the minutes of their young players. Tibor Pleiss, Philipp Schwethelm, Robin Benzing, Maurice Stuckey, Maik Zirbes, Simon Schmitz or Fabian Thülig to just name some of them get more minutes than last season. Some new players have seen the Bundesliga court for the first time like Besnik Bekteshi, Philipp Neumann or Anthony Canty while even some foreign prospects get signed like Siim-Sander Vene. Everything is set for seeing the number of U22 minutes grow significantly once again this season.