Facing Gilas Pilipinas: Croatia
Oliver Lafayette is their naturalized player. He went undrafted in the NBA in 2007 and currently plays for Olympiacos in Greece. He was projected to start at PG over Roko Ukic, but in recent encounters they’ve split the time almost evenly.
- FIBA Ranking: 16
- How they qualified: Placed fourth at FIBA EuroBasket 2013
- Date of Gilas game: August 30
Krunoslav Simon is a lockdown shooter who is also a highly-rated perimeter defender. Mario Hezonja, together with Dario Saric, is Croatia’s future. He was the MVP of the 2011 FIBA Europe U16 Tourney, leading Croatia to the gold. He led Croatia to third place in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships. He’s athletic and can shoot from long range.
Luka Babic and Damjan Rudez are both tall swingmen who are also great shooters.
Bojan Bogdanovic is this team’s best overall offensive weapon. He can overpower opposing small forwards and has a quick first step to get past bigger power forwards.
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Saric was a double-double machine in the youth level, and he’ll probably start at power forward for Croatia. Damir Markota, meanwhile, is an enforcer who can shoot from long distance.
Ante Tomic is Croatia’s best low post threat. He can score in multiple ways and has a nice midrange game.
Luka Zoric and Luksa Andric are both tall, big-bodied, and physical guys. They don’t score much, but they rebound well. Andric can hit the three ball, too.
Croatia has won 5 of its 8 pre-tournament matches so far. They lost to Spain, 82-64, a few days ago in a pocket tournament in Badalona, but rebounded well by defeating FIBA Americas champion, Mexico, in the consolation game, 99-74. Not surprisingly, Bogdanovic did well in both games, scoring 17 against the Spaniards and then 11 points in just 24 minutes as Croatia cruised against Mexico.
How does Gilas match up?
As with all the other teams Gilas will face, size will be an issue, but the Croatians are also built solidly and are known for their physicality. Andray Blatche, Japeth Aguilar, and June Mar Fajardo will get more than they bargained for against the likes of Tomic, Saric, and Zoric. Those guys can bully their way to the basket or hit from the perimeter. Needless to say, it probably won’t be pretty. And when we go to Marc Pingris and Ranidel De Ocampo? It’ll be even tougher.
Don’t expect Blatche to have an outstanding offensive game against Croatia, if only because he’ll probably have his hands full on the defensive end. Sure, it’s quite possible Blatche will still put up a 20-10 line laced with a couple of triples, but, by and large, he’ll have to work extra hard against these young and undaunted Europeans.
A potential x-factor for us will be RDO, who, despite his struggles on the defensive end, should be able to stretch the floor with his perimeter game. He won’t leave anybody in the dust with his ball handling or burst of quickness, but his outside shooting has the potential to open things up for our slashers and bigs. I’m assuming, of course, he plays as a stretch 4. If he plays as a big 3, then that might create more problems, since he’ll match up with the bigger and faster Bogdanovic.
Speaking of Bogdanovic, the Brooklyn Net will be the toughest nut to crack for Gilas. We just don’t really have anybody to perfectly match up with him. He’ll overpower Gabe Norwood and Gary David and be just too agile for RDO or even Ping. Don’t be surprised if he scored like 16 points in 10 minutes or something like that.
Again, outside shooting is what will keep Gilas’ heads above water. With the exception of Blatche, our frontliners aren’t the strongest finishers at this level of basketball, so our wings and guards have to be at their very best. We have to compensate for our defensive mismatches by waxing hot from long distance. If that doesn’t happen, then, well the chances of an upset are next to nil.
|SF||Bojan Bogdanovic||25||6’8||Brooklyn Nets|
|SF||Luka Babic||22||6’7||Cedevita Zagreb|
|SF||Damjan Rudez||28||6’10||Indiana Pacers|
|PF||Dario Saric||20||6’10||Anadolu Efes|
|C||Luka Zoric||29||6’11||Fenerbahce Ulker|
|C||Luksa Andric||29||6’11||BC Astana|