Lithuania is a small country in Europe but not at all in the World of Basketball. This is a country where Basketball is the national sport and they have achieved many accolades in the international basketball scene.  Ranked 3 in the FIBA standings, the Lithuanian team is famously dubbed as the ‘Other Dream Team’.  

1) Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas ValanciunasValanciunas plays starting Center for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. The Raptors are having a phenomenal season at the NBA this year with a 53-26 record only behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern conference and the Big Man Valanciunas is a very important part of the Canadian based team.

He is solid as a center with a very impressive back to the basket low-post game. He has quick feet helping him to drive and finish against other big players, good timing to throw put-back dunks and also has a nearly unguardable running hook which he converts mostly going to his right. In defense his 7 foot frame provides a daunting defensive presence at the rim blocking or making the offense take tougher-lower percentage shots. Jonas Valancuinas is the total package.

Points per game – 12.7, Rebounds per game – 9.4, Blocks per game – 1.2

2) Jonas Maciulis

Jonas MaciulisMaciluis is a 6’6” Small forward who currently plays for the Real Madrid at the Liga ACB and Euro League.

His career was marred by injuries to his knee and ankle which sidelined him for as much as 1 ½ years when he was at his prime. Yet Maciulis dropped 34 Points, 6 Rebounds, 4 Steals, 2 Blocks and 3 Assists at a Final 8 game at the EuroBasket 2015 reminding the basketball world that Macuilis is back and he could take over games on his day.

He has a solid 3 point shot, reliable off the dribble mid range shot and is a very good cutter. He is also a very defensive minded forward.  Macuilis would be Lithuania’s go to guy in the perimeter at Rio Olympics 2016.

3) Mantas Kalnietis

Mantas KalniMantas Kalnietisetis is a 6’5” combo guard who prefers to play the point guard spot but can switch to become a 2 guard if the situation demands him to do so. He currently plays for EA7 Emporium Armenia Milan of in the Italian league and also competes at the European league.

He has an impressive shooting stroke both on the catch and shoot and also off the dribble and has a good sense of the game. He is a very nifty defender with some impressive chase down blocks. Mantas has a Bronze medal at the 2010 FIBA World championship and 2 silver medals at the 2013 and 2015 Euro-Basket championships. He will be a very dependable player for Lithuania on both sides of the floor at the Rio Olympics 2016.

Points per game – 6.8, Rebounds per game – 2.2, Assists per game – 4.1, Steals per game – 0.7

4) Deividas Gailius

Deividas GailiusDeividas plays small forward for the Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius at the Lithuanian league and also at the Euro league.  He has previously spent short stints with Neptunas, Bologna and Sialui.

Devidas was part of the National team which won Silver at the recently concluded Euro-Basket championships.  The fact that he has so much experience playing abroad and having had to adjust to different conditions and different playing styles due to him spending short stints has made Devidas one of the more adaptable players in the game of Basketball which will come in handy for Team Lithuania at the Rio Olympics 2016.

Points per game – 11.7, Rebounds per game – 2.8, Assists per game – 1.0, Steals per game – 1.1

5) Domantas Sabonis

Domantas SabonisDomantas is the 19 year old son of former Portland Trail blazers basketball player Arvydas Sabonis. Having won Gold for Lithuania at the European Youth Olympics in 2011, he also became the youngest European player to have played for the National team at the age of 19 years 2 months and 26 days. He represented the Lithuanian Men’s national team in its effort of winning Silver at the Euro-Cup 2015. The inclusion of Domantas in the Lithuanian team for the Rio Olympics 2016 would be not only be adding great value to the present team but would also be the laying of another stone to the foundation of the future of Lithuanian basketball.

Points per game – 17.6, Rebounds per game – 11.8, Assists per game – 1.8

6) Paulius Jankunas

Paulius JankunasPaulius plays professional basketball for his home country Basketball powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas. He is a player that will hustle from the start to finish. He has a reputation of always crashing the boards, contesting shots at the rim and standing his ground and taking a hard charge called to help his team win.

At 31 year of age Paulius has a Bronze medal at the 2010 FIBA World championships and 2007 Euro-Basket and also played an integral part at the Euro- Basket 2015 helping the team win Silver. It might be Paulius who makes a game winning defensive play that will bring glory for team Lithuania at Rio 2016.

Points per game – 12.3, Rebounds per game – 6.2, Assists per game – 1.5

7) Renaldas Seibutis

Renaldas SeibutisLike Paulius he plays for Zalgiris Kaunas and like Deividas he has been spending short stints in several Basketball clubs in Europe including Bilbao basket, Greek Powerhouse Olympiacos Piraeus and Naglis Palanga.

He is a top-notch overall basketball player who can drive, shoot and defend also plays the sport with a lot of passion. Renaldas being a very important shooting guard in the Lithuanian line-up has won Bronze at the 2010 FIBA World championships and 2 Silver medals at the 2013 and 2015 Euro-Basket championships. When the morale levels of the Lithuanian camp falls down, Renaldas will be the type of player that will help raise it back up.

Points per game – 2.8, Rebounds per game – 2.1, Assists per game – 1.5

8) Antanas Kavaliauskas

Antanas KavaliauskasAntanas plays pro-basketball for the Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius.He has also played for other major clubs like Bilbao basket, VEF Riga and Kavaliauskas basket. Having won Gold at the U-21 World championship back in 2005, he recently made his way back to the national team actively contributing to Lithuania’s Silver medal winning effort at the Euro-Basket 2015.

Points per game – 10.3, Rebounds per game – 4.6 and Assists per game – 1.2.

9) Robertas Javtokas

Robertas JavtokasRobertas has been one of the most consistent European basketball players having featured in the Lithuanian national basketball team since 2004. He was picked as the 55th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs back in 2001.

He has won Bronze at the EuroBasket 2007 and FIBA World championships and Silver at the 2013 and 2015 Euro-Basket championships.

Points per game – 4.9, Rebounds per game – 3.7, Steals per game – 0.3

10) Mindaugas Kuzminskas

Mindaugas KuzminskasMindaugus is a 26 year old Small forward who plays professional basketball for Unicaja, Malaga. He has played for his home country Zalgiris Kaunas and also BC Sialuai among other teams in the past.

Mindausgas is an extremely versatile player who has been stacking some solid numbers at the Euro-league during the last few years. His taller than average small forward frame works in his advantage especially in the baseline drives he makes at the basket, he is also an elite rebounder ranked 9th overall in the  Euro-League which is quite an impressive feat for a guy who plays the 3 spot. Mindausgas will be the type of player who will make the hustle play through a tip in on the offensive end or forcing a turn over at the defensive end which will help Lithuania win crunch matches at Rio 2016.

Points per game – 7.6, Rebounds per game – 6.0 ,  Assists per game – 1.8

11) Arturas Milaknis

Arturas MilaknisArturas plays club basketball for UNICS Kazan of the VTB league. He can switch and play between the shooting guard and small forward positions. Like many of his national team mates Arturas has spent quite a few years playing for the Lithuanian giant Zalgiris Kaunas.

Arturas is a dead-eye shooter from the 3 Point-range having a very cunning Jab-step fake and then shooting 3s and coming off screens and shooting on the curl. Defensive players will have to stick like glue on him in order to stop him from hurting them from the outside. He is also a solid defensive player. He was part of the Lithuanian national team which won Silver at the 2015 Euro-Basket championships.

Points per game – 2.31, Rebounds per game – 1.31, Assists per game – 0.81

12) Lukas Lekavicius

Lukas LekaviciusDubbed Lightning McQueen, Lukas is yet another player of Zalgiris Kaunas who plays national level basketball for Lithuania.  At just the age of 22 this 6 foot Point guard is an elite prospect for both his Club and the National team of Lithuania in the future.

He was part of Team Lithuania which became runners up at the Euro-Basket 2015. He is a left-handed guard who has a nice inside out game with an especially sweet shooting stroke outside the arc. His speciality is the teardrop floater. Although Lukas might get limited minutes at Rio 2016 if included, he will no doubt gain further experience at one of the biggest stages of International basketball which will help his country in the future.

Points per game – 1.57, Rebounds per game – 1.14, Assists per game – 1.33, Steals per game – 0.86

Note – You’ll might be raising an eyebrow at the poor numbers, but bear in mind that Lukas gets only around 14 minutes per game for Zalgiris and is primarily used as a defensive a defensive weapon for now.

In summary the above set of players will form a good balance between youth and experience, size and quickness. The Lithuanian Basketball team would play smash-mouth basketball against any team on any day.  But we’ll have to wait for a few months to see if they have what it takes to beat USA and Spain. Team Argentina is next on ‘Swishing the nets’. Until next time – Keep balling!