Tag: Nemanja Bjelica

pau gasol spain olympics

What NBA stars will suit up for EuroBasket? Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others


EuroBasket matters — it offers both the bragging rights of a European championship and is the 2016 Olympic qualifier for Europe. The top two finishers get their tickets punched for Rio for the 2016 games (the USA and Brazil have already qualified). Finishers three through seven get invited to the 2016 pre-Olympics qualifying tournament, where they can try to play their way into the final field of 12 (likely a couple of them succeed).

Because it matters, some of the NBA’s big names will suit up when play tips off Sept. 5 —  Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others. There are 29 players under NBA contract in total expected to participate. Mark Cuban and many NBA GMs will watch clutching their lucky blanket and hoping against injury, but this is the kind of tournament that draws stars.

If you’ve wondered who is going, here’s a list of every NBA player suiting up in EuroBasket, hat tip to Hoopshype.

Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Damjan Rudez (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs)
Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Tibor Pleiss (Utah Jazz)
Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks)

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kosta Koufos (Sacramento Kings)
Kostas Papanikolaou (Denver Nuggets)

Andrea Bargnani (Brooklyn Nets)
Marco Belinelli (Sacramento Kings)
Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets)

Omri Casspi (Sacramento Kings)

Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)

Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)

Zaza Pachulia (Dallas Mavericks)

Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)

Furkan Aldemir (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ersan Ilyasova (Detroit Pistons)

Alex Len (Phoenix Suns)

Report: Timberwolves sign Tayshaun Prince

Boston Celtics v Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves re-signed Kevin Garnett and signed Andre Miller.

Enough veteran leadership on the young team?

Not for Flip Saunders.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Saunders coached Tayshaun Prince on the Pistons, but that was a long time ago. Prince, 35, is an even more methodical player and no longer an elite wing defender.

Still, his length and intelligence make him a capable defender. He can make jumpers, too, and he’s a solid passer for his position (though he bogs down the offense with the ball in his hands).

Prince played reasonably well for the Celtics and Pistons last season after the Grizzlies traded him, so he might have a little juice left. He was in over his head in Memphis, often starting for a fringe contender.

That shouldn’t be the case in Minnesota. He’ll fill a limited role, provide a good example for the team’s younger players and sometimes take minutes that slow the development of Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Nemanja Bjelica. (Andrew Wiggins is getting the same playing time regardless.)

There’s an outside but realistic chance the Timberwolves can compete for a playoff spot. For that reason, signing Prince makes sense. Minnesota wouldn’t want to find out later it was a veteran on the wing away from the postseason. If the Timberwolves fall from the race, Saunders can always turn more toward developing younger players.

Prince gives Minnesota 17 players – two more than the regular-season roster limit. The most likely cuts are Lorenzo Brown ($75,000 guaranteed) and Damjan Rudez (acquired in the Chase Budinger salary dump). Perhaps, the Timberwolves can trade Rudez and get something for him or deal another player in a more significant move. But they have to do something to trim the roster.

Ricky Rubio on Timberwolves: ‘I have to go pull this team in the playoffs’

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors

Kevin Garnett is the Timberwolves’ most-accomplished player.

Andre Miller is their oldest player.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are their most-important players.

But on any team, leadership naturally falls to the starting point guard and highest-paid player. Ricky Rubio, who fills both titles in Minnesota, is embracing that role.

Rubio, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

“We know we’re young and we’re building,” Rubio told SI.com in a phone interview. “At the same time, I think we’re ready to win games. Last season we only won 16 games but it didn’t feel like we were a losing team at all. We were just lacking some things. Me personally, I have to go pull this team in the playoffs. I know it’s a big challenge, but I think we have the right assets, the right weapons to get it. I know we’re in the West side, it’s really tough, but I think we can make it happen. I have big expectations for next season.”

I don’t think it’s completely outlandish to suggest the Timberwolves could make the playoffs. They’re loaded with talent at every position:

  • Point guard: Rubio, Miller, Tyus Jones
  • Shooting guard: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine
  • Small forward: Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica
  • Power forward: Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett
  • Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic

That is one heck of the depth chart.

But there are three major reasons Minnesota won’t make the playoffs:

1. Youth. As talented as those players are, many of them are still very young. They’ll probably need more time to develop and learn how to do the little things necessary to win.

2. Fit. Too many Timberwolves prefer to operate in the same areas of the court. They just don’t have enough floor spacers.

3.  Western Conference. It’s darn good.

Rubio could help, though. He’s reaching the age where he should take the next step. And a nifty passer, he could mitigate Minnesota’s spacing issues. He’ll have no shortage of talented players to throw passes. He’s the crux.

The Timberwolves probably won’t reach the postseason, but if they do, it very well could be because Rubio pulled them there.

Flip Saunders: Kevin Garnett will start for Timberwolves

Kevin Garnett

The Timberwolves didn’t sign Kevin Garnett just for his leadership.

They want him to play.

Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, in a Q&A with Zach Lowe of Grantland:

Is KG going to start?

He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it.

That leaves Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng battling to start at the other big-man spot.

Towns was just the No. 1 pick, a productive two-way player who seems relatively NBA-ready for a rookie. Saunders said Pekovic is still hurt, but the center has been a steady starter the last four years when healthy. Dieng broke out late in his rookie season, and he maintained that level while starting a majority of Minnesota’s games last season.

Towns has the brightest future among that group, and maybe he should start for that reason. It will be pretty tough for the Timberwolves to make the playoffs next season, so maybe they should think long-term.

It’s also possible Towns is already better than Pekovic and Dieng, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the veterans are ahead when the season begins.

Simply based on productivity, Garnett belongs in the mix in a four-man race. But he’s clearly getting the nod based on stature. The 39-year-old also might be better off physically starting rather than sitting on the bench and getting cold to begin games.

I don’t expect Garnett to play typical minutes for a starter, which should leave playing time for those younger players. Enough to maximize their development? That’s a different question – especially with Anthony Bennett, Adreian Payne and Nemanja Bjelica also on the roster.

Perhaps, though, that issues takes care of itself. Garnett played just five games after Minnesota acquired him before the trade deadline, missing the final 21 games of the season. Injury is always an increased concern for players his age.

I’d hardly be surprised if, for one reason or another, Garnett is no longer starting by the end of the season.

Do the Timberwolves have a Euro sleeper in Nemanja Bjelica?


Bjelica_serbia.jpgYou ever heard of Nemanja Bjelica? Of course not, you have a life and a fantasy football team to obsess over. That’s why teams hire European scouts, to go find guys who might fit in the NBA some day so you don’t have to.

Bjelica was a guy who caught interest because he’s 6’10” with a guard’s ball handling skills. Sort of in the Lamar Odom/Kevin Durant mold, save for the fact he is not as explosive athletically can’t shoot as well as those two. But a power forward with handles draws interest.

So the Timberwolves traded for him on draft day. And in Serbia’s win over Spain Wednesday, Bjelica made his presence felt.

Bjelica had 14 points, 11 in the first quarter and a key three in the fourth quarter. He was 5 of 5 from the floor, 3 of 3 from deep. If he can shoot like that the Timberwolves will have something.

He will not be in the NBA until 2012 at the earliest, he just signed a deal with a top Spanish club, Caja Laboral (Tiago Splitter’s team the last few years).

USA’s international scouting guru Tony Ronzone told this to the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Bjelica:

He’s not putting up big numbers, but this is intense competition. He’s young [22], he needs to get stronger. But he’s in a great situation: He’s here in the Sweet 16 with Serbia, and he’s going to a great team that won Spanish league for the next two seasons.

Just another guy to keep on the radar, he could be a real steal in a couple years.