Lithuanian team won the last EuroBasket tournaments previous to World War II, in 1937 and 1939. The 1939 team was running by Frank Lubin, who helped TO promote basketball in the country and was named the “grandfather of Lithuanian basketball”.
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Later the refurbishment of Lithuanian independence in 1990, the national Lithuanian Basketball team was revived. Lithuania gained bronze medals in the first three Olympics to include NBA players – 1992, 1996, and 2000 – in addition to finishing fourth in 2004 and 2008, and in eighth place at the London 2012 Olympics. The Lithuanian team gained the FIBA EuroBasket for the 3rd time in 2003, and also won a bronze medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
Lithuanian Basketball Rosters
Kalnietis has a lot of intriguing aspects as a point guard: he has good size for the position at 6’5”, has the speed to allow him to stay on the floor regardless of the matchup, and has a wealth of experience in the program.
He’s been the lead playmaker for Lithuania for the past fourteen years and while he’ll be well into his 30s by the time the Olympics take place, the experience is always going to be the most valuable commodity in international basketball.
Sure, he has a skinny frame and he’ll never be a go-to scoring option for a team, but he’s the scrappy defender and consistent playmaker that Lithuania will be looking to have to lead the office in two years’ time.
If I had to describe Mačiulis’ game in a single word, it’d be “scrappy.” Maciulis plays like the middle-aged guy in every pickup game that knows that every game might be his last: he’s throwing elbows, scrambling for every loose ball, and dodging picks like Neo from The Matrix.
His effort and willingness to leave it all on the court is definitely his calling card, but Mačiulis can also spread the floor and can score pretty well in the paint, especially when he’s crashing the offensive boards. Basically, he’s an ideal “jack of all trades, master of none” type of guy.
As a son of Basketball Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, Sabonis has already had more exposure to the game at just 22 years old than most people have in their entire career. Sabonis began his professional career at 16 before heading to Gonzaga to compete in the NCAA for two seasons, eventually getting drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Heading into Tokyo in a couple years, Sabonis will likely be the most talented player on the Lithuanian roster, if he isn’t already. In his sophomore season with the Pacers last year, Sabonis has a fairly pedestrian year in terms of statistics, but his game had clearly evolved and grown from the year prior.
He was in better shape, extended his range, started to work on using his right hand, and was a much stronger presence on the interior. Despite his youth, this steady development is promising and is a big reason why I think he’ll be starting for Lithuania in 2020.
Having two Jonas’ in the same starting lineup is a bold move and one I always recommend against for the sake of confusion, but it’s impossible to keep the face of Lithuanian basketball off the starting lineup.
Valanciunas became the face of the Lithuanian program not simply because his beard makes him look like he just strolled out of the mountains of Juozapinė Hill, but because he’s poured years into the program to help bring it to the height that it’s reached today.
Heading into his seventh season in the NBA and with 10 years of experience under his belt with the national team, Valanciunas will be entering Tokyo as one of the most experienced and matured players the roster has to offer.
In terms of on-court production, Valanciunas will be the best interior defender on the team, a valuable scorer from the post and the midrange, a reliable pick-and-roll option, and the owner of the most inexplicably effective pump-fake the world has ever seen.
In two years’, time, Valanciunas is just going to be entering his prime and will be poised to add the toughness and experience needed in the international game.
Seibutis will be 35 by the time the 2020 Olympics roll around, but a combination of maturity, size, and improved shooting ability should warrant him a starting role at the shooting guard position.
His NBA career isn’t anything to write home about, but Seibutis’ experience bouncing around the EuroLeague and his career with the national team has given us more than enough of a sample size.
His game resembles that of a less-athletic Brent Barry, which actually amounts to a pretty versatile player. He certainly doesn’t have the speed that made him a standout in Lithuania years ago and his defense has gone downhill over the years, but he’s still able to slash to the basket and his long-range shooting has become more consistent with age.
He’s not the scorer he used to be, but his combination of skills, including good playmaking ability, will give the Lithuanian offense the versatility it craves.
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