Coach Butautas is having a hard time fixing all the gaps in the Lithuanian National Team as many of the stars decided to either miss this championship in Poland or to end their end their National Team careers all together. Šarūnas Jasikevičius, Rimantas Kaukėnas, Arvydas Macijauskas, Ramūnas Šiškauskas have all chosen not to play in Eurobasket. Very sad but at the end you just have to work with what you’ve got – that at the moment is 16 talented and skilled players. There are only 12 spots for grabs and someone will get dropped. And I already have just done that for coach Butautas, the list depending on the performance of players in friendly games might change and will be updated some time, but I’ll give it a go now.
The selection process
I’ll write down the names of players based on their skill level and importance to the National squad. That of course will be my own perspective of the things.
#1 Linas Kleiza. It makes no difference whether Kleiza decides to continue his career on this side of the pond or the other. The former Nugget is expected to lead the Lithuanian National Team together with the team’s big men battalion. His yet to be known club will have a chance to witness if Kleiza has what it takes to be a team leader as he will be given plenty of opportunities and playing time to prove that. Skill level: 9/10; importance to the team: 10/10
#4 Paulius Jankūnas. Paulius emerged as a difference maker for Žalgiris last year – he’s a great player and that is proven by the interest of such clubs like Khimki, who could afford nearly anyone in the European market. The National Team is filled with talented bigs and that will limit Paulius minutes to some extent, but his skill set would be welcomed by any team. Skill level: 9/10; importance to the team: 8/10
#5 Robertas Javtokas. Powerful, dominant and powerful again. Robertas’ body was built to own the painted area. His athletic abilities and superiority in defense will help the team as many of Lithuanian big-men in this squad are more offeively minded. Robertas can already book his tickets to Poland as he was chosen to be the captain of the team. The mid-season move to Khimki will let him experience the taste of Euroleague once again and that is always welcome. Skill level: 7,5/10; importance to the team: 9/10
#6 Marijonas Petravičius. Petravičius great pick’n’roll skills will come in handy providing he finds a connection with Mantas Kalnietis. Mario had a nice couple of season with Lietuvos rytas and was rewarded with a big contract in Italy. He has a bigger choice of weapons offensively that Javtokas, but his is defense is a little worse than the captain of the team (still good though) mainly because of his lack of athleticism. Skill level: 7.5/10; importance to the team: 8/10
#7 Mantas Kalnietis. The only decent point guard available, Kalnietis will have to take up some responsibilities and try his best in the fast tempo which Butautas plans to play. This should come pretty good as Kalnietis like playing up tempo and has some experience from earlier National Team appearances. This will help the young point guard develop and should come in handy as he plays for Žalgiris in Euroleague next season. Skill level: 7/10; importance to the team: 10/10
#8 Simas Jasaitis. Some skillful shooters are always expected in a team. Simas’ bombs from downtown will be killers if the sharpshooter finds his shot. I personally think that the move to Turkey was a step back in his career. Skill level: 7.5/10; importance to the team: 7/10
#9 Tomas Delininkaitis. If statistics don’t lie Delinininkaitis has made a big improvement through a couple of last years and should be a decent player of the bench. He should get some extra time because of his ability to play the point guard position. Add his range and you’ve got a decent player who’s only playing in Ukraine. A move back to the European radar would is anticipated. Skill level: 7; importance to the team: 8/10
#10 Mindaugas Lukauskis. As most see a gap only in the point guard position, a lack of guards overall can be seen as well. Mindaugas is a solution, not the best possible one but he showed what he’s capable of in last year’s Olympics, with some break out games. He’s a good 3 point shooter and can get the ball across the mid point. Lukauskis signed with Asvel, who look to be building a good team (not really often in France, I have to say) capable of making the Top 16. Skill level: 7.5/10; importance to the team: 7.5/10
#11 Renaldas Seibutis. Seibutis makes the team for now, as it lacks in guards. Mačiulis would have seen this place for him if it hadn’t been for Silvio in the comments, who kind of realised that my decision was stupid as the team really had only 4 guards if you count Joma in for his ability to play in the point. Skill level: 7.5/10; importance to the team: 8/10
#12 Artūras Jomantas. Hasn’t had the best of luck when it comes to the international stage as he was healing up his injuries for the previous two summers. A good defender, very strong and physical, Joma is not a typical 3 as he doesn’t have a snipers touch, but his ability to score from beyond the three point line has been increasing for some time now. Can play the point, as he did sometimes in Lietuvos rytas but the offense might get clogged up and out of rhythm. Skill level: 7/10; importance to the team: 7.5/10
Those who didn’t make it:
#13 Jonas Mačiulis. He could have saw himself ranked higher if he had had a better season. Mačiulis couldn’t really find his real self sometimes and made terrible decisions more often. Still has high chances.
#14 Giedrius Gustas. He is a point guard, but his skills are not at the level of the National squad. I’d rather see Delininkaitis lead the team, than Gustas. No matter how I dislike him, he still has chances to make the team if he doesn’t mess up in the pre-tournament games.