VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 07: (L-R) Dirk Nowitzki and Steffen Hamann of Germany celebrate during the EuroBasket 2011 second round group A match between Germany and Spain at Siemens Arena on September 7, 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Fellow SBNation blogger Zebulun Benbrook from Welcome to Loud City is over in Lithuania covering Eurobasket. He was kind enough to put together this scouting report for us! It's pretty awesome that he did that for us- THANKS ZEB!!
It's easy to see that Dirk is, as of right now, one of the NBA's crown jewels. He just led the older Dallas Mavericks to an impressive NBA Finals win over the superstar-laden Heat, and he has shown no signs of slowing down as he heads into old age. The only real question is how long he can keep his game up, and whether he can survive playing almost year-round, getting only a short break between the NBA Finals and the start of the Eurobasket.
The short answer is, Dirk is still going strong. He is still the offensive force he always was, and he doesn't get stomped all over defensively. He'll occasionally get fooled by a vet like Krstic, but his lateral quickness is good enough that he never gets blown by, and his tallness is enough to prevent anyone running him over.
Germany is a team full of shooters that doesn't really have a crafty ballhandler. Dirk doesn't eliminate the need for one, but the slick passes that he's capable of whenever he draws double-teams really helps fill the hole. This skill is basically what sets him apart from a guy like Andrea Bargnani. He can be involved in almost every single play, and, as a result, make his team mates better than they really are. Kaman in particular benefits from Nowitzki's play, as it frees him up in the lane.
**More Dirk and Kopponen after the jump!**But what benefits Germany the most is simply his clutch ability to get points when you need them the most. In European basketball, teams don't rely on individual talent a whole lot, usually passing the ball around to whomever has the open shot, and trusting them with scoring the clutch points. Nowitzki, however, is head and shoulders above the rest of his team, giving Germany a go-to guy that most teams don't expect, and when they do expect him, it's really easy for him to find an open shooter.
Dirk can't carry his team everywhere though, which is why Germany has lost to Spain, France, and Serbia, possibly the most talented teams in the tournament. He also struggled against the vastly inferior Latvia, which is a team that loves to run it up and down the floor and score points. He can't really cope with a bunch of quick guards slipping into his passing lanes and double teaming him outside of the paint. It's something that comes with being slow-footed, and something I'm sure Mavs fans still have nightmares about.
Despite all that, Dirk is still, in my opinion, this tournament's MVP. There is no team that relies on a single player so heavily, and there's no team that has counted reliably on that one player's presence so much.
From what I saw of him against Russia, Kopponen didn't really live up to the hype people had been spouting on him. I remember hearing reports saying that he was a "Houdini in the backcourt" and a pass-first type of guard. Sure, he would make the occasional good pass to the open man, but he left a lot to be desired. He was rarely the ballhandler, settling into the 2 guard spot for most of the game. As a result, he was trying to make point guard-like passes from the wrong positions, like hurling the ball over the half court line to a guy well guarded at the three point line. He hardly ever called any plays, and when he did, it was usually nothing more than a simple pick or isolation.
Offensively, Kopponen basically acted as a scoring two guard, and a very bad one, at that. He would go one on one with his opponents, usually trying to use his speed to get around them or using a simple fadeaway to outsmart them. Usually, his drive would result in a foul or block, and his jumpers would flat out miss. Of course, he could have been having an off day, but if his athleticism isn't working against the usually slow-footed Russians, it definitely won't work in the NBA.
Defensively, I didn't see a whole lot of pressure from him. There were times where he could have cut out as passing lane or double-teamed a good scorer, but he seemed content to sit with his current defender. That was his problem on offense a lot of the time too. Unless the play was specifically drawn up for him, he didn't seem to have a lot of motivation to innovate and make a play work. A lot of the time he'd just sit around on the weak side, waiting for the ball to come his way.
Of course, he does have a bit of upside. He was a decent three point shooter, and knew how to knock it down when it mattered. He also knew ways to get to the basket, though he wasn't the best finisher in the world. I could occasionally see glimpses of point guard passing or handling greatness, but they only happened in isolated places, and often didn't lead to a good play.
I also saw him against who some consider to be the best defensive team in the tournament, but from the clips that I've seen and the stats he's put up (25% shooting and 4 turnovers in Finland's lone Group F win), he's clearly struggling. Maybe he's being asked to shoulder too much of the offensive load, or maybe he's playing out of position. I don't know, but judged on how he has performed in this tournament, he has a long way to go if he wants to play on an NBA level.
Again, many thanks to Zeb for this AWESOME insider look!!