As the international scene of basketball has steadily developed over the last 30 years, more and more teams from Europe are becoming highly competitive. More European nations are putting more resources into young players development, that really only use to be prevelent in the United States. As a result we’ve seen young European players make immediate impact. Luka Doncic and Porzingas are two players of recent history that come to mind.
One team that may not have produced superstars, but a variety of strong top level talent is France. Most people will tend to think of Tony Parker, the multiple time champion with the spurs, or more recently Rudy Gobert, the reigning defencive player of the year. However their talent goes much deeper than that.
David Stol once again is back in our ongoing series, A Look Ahead, where we try to predict the final rosters of national men’s basketball teams that will be present at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Today we changed the format of our article, as previous ones would end up being around 25 minute long. I was told this can be long winded, especially when we have repeat picks. Instead we formed a single team, with Dave picking the back court of the starting lineup, and me the front. We then filled out the bench and picked a young prospect.
If you would like to read more of Dave’s writing, you should check out his blog. He works on a variety of basketball related projects.
PG — Frank Ntilikina (Dave’s Pick):
Although Knicks owner James Dolan seems more interested in the development of his garage band than his young point guard, Ntilikina has remained a rare bright spot in New York’s dismal rebuild. Although some have expected more from the 20-year-old guard, he’ll undoubtedly be one of the key standouts for France in 2020. As an intelligent defensive presence with great size, Ntilikina should be able to contribute on both sides of the ball and take over as the starting point guard in Tokyo.
SG — Nando de Colo (Dave’s Pick):
As an experienced veteran of the national basketball landscape, de Colo’s shooting ability from beyond the arc will be a necessity alongside Ntilikina, who’s struggles to stretch the floor. Despite being past his prime, de Colo currently averages an impressive 14.7 PPG while shooting an incredible 43.1 3PT% in the competitive Turkish EuroLeague. Obviously, he doesn’t have a notoriety or reputation that you may expect from a starting guard on the French national team, but de Colo’s ability to spread the floor and offer veteran consistency alongside Ntilikina will continue to prove invaluable in 2020.
SF — Evan Fournier(Dave’s Pick):
What Fournier lacks in hair follicles; he makes up for in talent. As one of Orlando’s key scorers and playmakers, he’ll be able to contribute as both an additional long-range shooter and a much-needed facilitator. Fournier’s versatility and NBA experience will create an intriguing perimeter trio alongside Ntilikina and de Colo. Although his calling card has been his jump shot throughout his career, Fournier’s also carved out an effective slashing game in recent years that helped him average 15.1 PPG this past season and a career-high 17.8 PPG the season prior.
PF — Adrien Moerman (Shotaro’s Pick):
I was tempted to go with youth and potential here with Guerschon Yabusele or length with Jofferey Lavergne to fill this starting position, but ultimately I landed on Adrien Moerman for a couple of reasons. First of all unlike Lavergne, Moerman is able to hit perimeter shots, pulling up with relative consistency. In his last season with Anadolu Efes, the Turkish pro team, he converted on .401% of his three point attempts. He also shows an ability to run the floor and is a strong finisher, which Yabusele lacks. He can consistently hit a little baby hook while in the post as well, despite not being the biggest power forward at 6'8".
Although he may be the strongest offensive piece for France at the power forward position, or at least the most well balanced, he can be abused on the pick and roll, lacking lateral quickness when switched onto smaller guards. With defensive studs like Ntilikina and the 2018 defencive player of the year by his side, he shouldn’t be too much of a liability.
C — Rudy Gobert (Shotaro’s Pick):
Current reigning defensive player of the year, and an anchor for the always competitive Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert will be the premiere defencive center piece in at the Olympic Games. Rudy’s ability to be rim protect is what won him DFP of the year honors in 2018. At 7'1" (216 cm) with a wingspan of 236cm, the 26 year old will be an important part of establishing the defencive mind set of the French team. Ntilikina at the point and Gobert at the center position could make for a stout defencive pairing.
We can’t talk about Rudy Gobert without mentioning his somewhat lack luster offensive abilities. He is by not means a terrible offensive presence, as he has shot a remarkable high FG% over the last three years, hovering in the mid 60% with about 14 ppg. His post moves are under developed and relies on rim running for lobs and offensive rebounds to get his points. He can’t stretch out a defence like some other NBA big men as well. He may not be a go to scoring option but he can be quite effective on limited opportunities. He is the most obvious pick for the starting center position.
6). Thomas Heurtel — PG (David):
While 2020 could very well be the year Ntilikina takes the reigns from Heurtel as the country’s starting point guard, the 30-year-old veteran still has lots to offer the roster. As potentially the best passer on the team, Heurtel’s playstyle will be an integral spark for France’s offence. You almost have to feel bad for Heurtel; almost as soon as French legend Tony Parker retired, Ntilikina steps in to fill the starting position. But at the same time…he’s four inches shorter and ten years older.
7 ). Rodrigue Beaubois — SG/PG (David):
Beaubois is an interesting case study because while just 31-years-old, he feels like he’s aged quicker than most guards. He’s lost the speed that used to define his game in recent years, but with a consistent jump shot and a nice high release, Beaubois can hopefully contribute some guard minutes off the bench before being exposed as a defensive liability.
8 ).Kevin Seraphin — C (David):
Although his time in the NBA was relatively short lived, I still have a feeling Seraphin can make his way back onto the national team roster and contribute with his size and shot-blocking ability. If Seraphin is able to stay in shape until Tokyo (a feat he’s struggled with throughout his career), he should be able to act as a solid backup to Gobert as an interior defender while adding a nice touch and midrange jump shot on the other end of the floor.
9). Nicolas Batum — SF (Shotaro):
Nicolas Batum has had a NBA career that spanned over ten years now. First playing for the Portland Trail Blazzers for seven after being drafted in 2008, and more recently with the Charlotte Hornets. Nicolas assumes more of a Point Forward role than Fournier, and often looks to contribute in more ways than simply scoring. His playmaking ability and overall feel for the game lands him on the bench. A good way to describe Nicolas Batum is talented but inconsistant. Regardless he will be able to play a crucial role off the bench.
10). Joffery Lauvergne — PF (Shotaro):
Joffery Lauvergne offers something that the other power forwards just don’t have on France’s roster. That’s great size and strength. At 6'11" (2.11m) and 260lb (118 kg), he can be another big body in the paint that smaller guards would have to worry about with Gobert. His offence consists of a lot of dunks and back to the basket play. He utilizes quick spins to allow him relatively easy pathway to the basket. Despite his lack of creating for himself, he can excel when matched with a playmaker around him. Despite his butler-esque name, he is no mild mannered player, and will be serving some yams in faces.
11). Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot — SG/SF (Shotaro):
In his short NBA career so far Timothe has show flashes of his potential in games. He has at times displayed an effortless jump shot as he displayed for the 76ers. The problem like many bench players is the consistency to perform isn’t always there. In his four NBA seasons he a shot a less than desirable FG percentage at .381%. Despite this, he still is very capable of making and contributing to France’s national team. He’s plays either wing position and has an ability to get hot, which could be used for energy coming off the bench.
12). Guerschon Yabusele — PF(Shotaro):
I was tempted to put him in the young prospect, but it is kind of hard for me to justify him as such, since he is already 23 years of age and in the NBA. I felt like he should get the last roster spot despite there already being so many frontcourt players. It was only 3 years ago that he was selected 16th overall by the Boston Celtics because of his potential. He is not the biggest or most skilled, but makes up for with grit, which every team can use a little of. Yabusele actually trained to be a boxer for most of his youth, which explains his toughness. Yabusele is currently holding the third roster spot for the power forward position on France’s national team, so to say he will be on the Olympic Roster isn’t a surefire bet.
1). Élie Okobo — PG (Shotaro):
Okobo just complete his rookie seasons with the Suns this year. You may not have heard of this 21 year old Frenchman because of the rather long list of high profile rookies from last years draft, including his very own teammate Deandre Ayton. Okobo is a score first point guard, who can offer a burst of offense and quickness to Frances team. He is still somewhat limited in his vision and needs to continue to develop, but as a potential young prospect for France, his chances moving forward seem promising.
2). Joel Ayayi — SG (David):
Despite being just 19 years old, Ayayi has already experienced a wealth of international and NCAA experience throughout his young career. As a redshirt freshman for Gonzaga and a former All Star for the French National team throughout the FIBA U18 European Championship, Ayayi is no stranger to thriving against elite competition. Averaging 15.7 PPG throughout the international tournament, the 6’5” shooting guard has proven his ability to score with ease beyond the arc while facilitating for others in the half court setting. He lacks explosiveness and isn’t much of a slasher, but a smooth jump shot and a useful in-between game makes Ayayi a promising piece for the French national team. Tokyo could be yet another opportunity for France to hone the skills of their young prospect on one of the biggest stages.
If you would like to check out any of the other articles we have written in out ongoing series. A Look Ahead, links are provided below.
A Look Ahead: Predicting Argentina’s 2020 Olympic Men’s Basketball Roster
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A Look Ahead: Predicting Spain’s 2020 Olympic Men’s Basketball Roster
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