Ahead of this year’s FIBA World Cup, bettors may look out for recognisable names from the NBA that could influence the outcome of the tournament. In this article, we analyse the NBA connections in the FIBA World Cup.
A global sport
Historically, the NBA has been USA focused. However, basketball is a global sport and the sport’s elite league is now more global than ever. The Toronto Raptors became the first team outside of the United States to win the NBA Championship this year (albeit based in neighbouring Canada).
Although 29 of the 30 teams in the NBA are based in the United States, the player base is becoming increasingly international. Just using this year’s champions as an example, the Raptors have players on their roster from Spanish, Congolese, English, Cameroonian and Taiwanese heritage.
Additionally, four of the five players to win the major awards at the end of the NBA season were not born in the United States.
Once the FIBA World Cup squads are confirmed, up to 28 of the 30 NBA franchises will be represented across different competing countries. But who are the NBA players at this year’s FIBA World Cup and what impact will they have?
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Which Team USA will turn up?
“Of the 11 Americans on the All-NBA team this past season, only one is currently slated to participate in the World Cup: Kemba Walker. There were 20 NBA All-Stars this season who are eligible for USA Basketball service. Only three remain on the roster”
In light of recent news, USA (1.507*)’s chances to take out their third consecutive FIBA World Cup have drifted due to the withdrawal of its first option stars forgoing the tournament due to numerous reasons;
1. The date of the tournament championship game is September 15, NBA preseason begins in the first week of October. Leaving no break for NBA players.
2. The rescheduling of the World Cup from 2018 to 2019, now leaving no break ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
3. Team USA have relaxed their commitment rules. Previously, players who did not take part in qualification and international tournaments would not be considered for the Olympic team.
4. NBA players are choosing team first over nation to focus on the upcoming 2019-20 season.
The Americans will now turn to newly signed Boston Celtics player Kemba Walker, coming off the best season of his career (25.6 points, 5.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and over 3.0 three pointers made per game), and rely on their deep talent pool of young up and coming players with Harrison Barnes, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum all still capable of bringing the Naismith Trophy back to the states.
Traditional powerhouse Spain (12.920*) have enough NBA experience to fill out two teams. With the likes of Juancho and Willy Hernangomez, Victor Claver, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull being joined by Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio (12.7 points and 6.1 assists) and NBA Champion Marc Gasol of the Toronto Raptors, the Spainiards certainly have the potential to topple the Americans.
Serbia (4.240*) were runners up at the 2014 FIBA World Cup and are currently second favourites for the tournament this time around. They currently have commitments from all of their European stars (Vladimir Lucic and Stefan Jovic), as well as those from the NBA (Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic) could line up with their most talented roster possible.
The Serbians certainly have one of the most talented roster with Nikola Jokic perhaps being the key man. The centre had a breakout season in his fourth year, averaging 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists. He also helped carry the Denver Nuggets to their first Western Conference semi-finals series in a decade and was the first Nugget to be named to an All-NBA First team since 1978.
French (22.150*) big man, Rudy Gobert recently became the 10th player in NBA history to win the Defensive Player of the Year award more than once. Gobert helped the Utah Jazz post the league's second-best defensive rating in 2018-19, while blocking the second-most shots in the league (2.3 per game). He also posted career highs (15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds on league-leading 66.9% field goal) and will hope to take his outstanding NBA form to the World Cup for Les Bleus. With the likes of sharp shooting Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (15.1 points), as well as Nicloas Batum, Frank Ntilikina and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, France will certainly be considered as a genuine contender.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak) guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA's best record and the Eastern Conference Finals. He ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency and finished in the top three in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
The 24-year-old NBA MVP averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game and was one of only three players in the NBA to lead his team in points, rebound, assists and steals (the others being Lebron James and Nikola Jokic). Greece’s (12.490*) hopes don’t rely soley on Antetokounmpo but he will be vital to any success they hope to achieve.
"Interestingly, the Argentinian national squad will not feature any active NBA players for the first time in two decades."
Australia (25.520*) is bringing one of their strongest ever squads to this year’s FIBA World Cup and they’ve got NBA experience from top to bottom. The playing group will consist of Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Matthew Dellaedova (Cleveland Cavaliers) and will be held down defensively by Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes. Utah Jazz swingman Joe Ingles is coming off his best NBA season (12.1 points, 5.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds while shooting 39.1% from 3) but everyone will need to be at their best if the Boomers are to have any chance of medalling.
In addition to all of the contenders listed in the odds, The Field (30.540*) could potentially offer value to bettors as it consists of countries like Germany (Daniel Theis, Maxi Kleber, Paul Zipser & Dennis Schroder), 2010 finalists Turkey, Brazil (with a mix of youthful NBA talent like Raul Neto and Cristiano Felicio, with more experienced vets like Anderson Varejao, Leandro Barbose & Marcelo Huertas), Montenegro (Nikola Vucevic first time Eastern All-Star 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds on 51.8%) and Canada, a team full of NBA talent.
Rivalling the USA with the most youthful talent in the league and recent drafts, Team Canada could have selected from the likes of; Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles, Dillon Brooks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett, Andrew Wiggins & Tristan Thompson to have a have a squad that would be favourites to challenge for the Naismith Trophy, but similarly to America most of their key players have decided to forgo the world cup and will instead be lead by Sacramento King's Cory Joseph.
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Other notable teams
Lithuania (29.350*) will be spear headed by Indianapolis Pacers rising big man Domantas Sabonis (14.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, on 59% shooting) and Memphis Grizzlies centre Jonas Valanciunas (15.6 points & 8.6 rebounds).
Interestingly, the Argentinian (80.260*) national squad will not feature any active NBA players for the first time in two decades. They will, however, still be full of experience with the 10-year NBA veteran Luis Scola.
Italy (80.260*) will rely on stewards Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs (10.5 points & 2.0 threes per game) and OKC’s Danilo Gallinari (19.8 points & 6.1 rebounds).
The host nation will pin its hopes and aspirations on Captain Yi Jianlian, an ex-NBA player with five years’ experience in the league. He now plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers and will be leaned on heavily by the host nation as he tries to replicate his form from the Asian qualifiers (19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds).
Gilas Pilipinas will have their ranks boosted with the addition of the American born Andray Blatche (21.2 points & 13.8 rebounds in qualifiers) who has years of NBA experience and will be the answer to the towering forwards and centres the Philippines will come up against.
A few noticeable NBA connections throughout the FIBA World Cup: Salah Mejri (Tunisia and Dallas Mavericks), Gorgui Dieng (Senegal and Minnesota Timberwolves), Rui Hachimura (Japan and Washington Wizards), Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic and Chicago Bulls), Steve Adams (New Zealand and Oklahoma City Thunder) and Timofey Mozgov (Russia and Orlando Magic).
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