Twenty-six NBA players are among the Basketball World Cup semi-finalists. Germany, Canada, the United States and Serbia will decide on Friday who will advance to the tournament final. But of the four teams, obviously the United States has the most athletes in the league (12). Meanwhile, Canada has seven, Germany four and Serbia three.
The German national team reaches the semi-finals of the World Cup with six NBA players. However, Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic) was injured early in the competition and missed the team in four matches. He’s averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, but is shooting just 20 percent from the perimeter. Wagner was one of the Magic’s most notable players last season, despite only completing his second league campaign.
The scorer for the Germans is point guard Dennis Schroder. Former Los Angeles Lakers Schroder has signed in free agency with the Toronto Raptors. Although he averages 18.0 points and 6.3 assists in the World Cup, the athlete “crushed the rim” in the quarterfinals, against Latvia: four hits in 26 attempts.
Franz’s brother, Moritz Wagner, is also his teammate at Orlando Magic. Less skilful, the pivot has 12.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in the tournament. In five seasons in the NBA, Moe went through the Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics, before arriving at the Magic in 2020/21.
Finally, another pivot. Daniel Theis, now with the Indiana Pacers, played an important role for the Boston Celtics during his first stint with the team. In Germany, he produced 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. Interestingly, Theis regressed taking advantage of the three-point shot. He hit 38.8% in 2018/19 but only converted 18.2% for the Pacers. At the World Cup, he missed all five attempts.
There are seven Canadian players playing in the NBA who are in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Chief among them is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder. All-Star last season, the point guard was one of the main highlights of the World Cup. Averaging 25.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.7 steals, Gilgeous-Alexander is a serious contender for the tournament MVP title.
RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks has been inconsistent on the court. Against Brazil, for example, he only converted one out of eight tries. But overall, Barrett is doing well for Canada, with 14.7 points and 5.0 rebounds.
“Beloved” by opposing fans, Dillon Brooks is in a new home and will defend the Houston Rockets in the upcoming NBA season. Brooks spent the first six seasons of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies. However, for 2023/24, management had had enough and didn’t want to extend his contract. Scored 11.0 points and shot an astonishing 55.6% from three-pointers in the World Cup.
Kelly Olynyk is an NBA veteran with five teams. Four years with the Boston Celtics, three and a half years with the Miami Heat, plus a season with the Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz and a season with the Houston Rockets. With a contract until the end of 2023/24, he continues at Jazz. At Worlds, Olynyk averaged 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, but still reached 36.4% from the perimeter.
Cousin of Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker showed great promise early in his NBA career, but was almost exclusively a reserve. Today, he plays with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he will play his second season for the team. He scores 10.0 points and reaches 40.5% from the perimeter in the competition.
Meanwhile, Dwight Powell is staying with the Dallas Mavericks. Criticized by the defense, the pivot spent half a season with the Boston Celtics (2014/15). Since then, he has been with the Mavs. During the offseason, he extended his contract, much to the surprise of many. Produced 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in the tournament.
Lu Dort, meanwhile, is Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammate at the Thunder. A great defender, Dort plays as a winger although he is only 1.90 meters tall. In four World Cup games, he has 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds.
All 12 players on America’s World Cup squad play in the NBA. The team’s scorer is Anthony Edwards, averaging 17.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in about 23 minutes per game. The player is the only Minnesota Timberwolves representative in the USA team. Meanwhile, another highlight was Mikal Bridges of the Brooklyn Nets. By the way, the Nets still have forward Cam Johnson in the tournament.
The New York Knicks, longtime friends Josh Hart and point guard Jalen Brunson, are another team to have loaned two players to the team. They played together at Villanova University and last season Hart joined the Knicks in trade deadline.
Now, in terms of efficiency, the best player in the United States is point guard Tyrese Haliburton. Despite being a reserve in the USA, the Indiana Pacers player has 9.3 points, 5.0 assists, 1.8 steals and still passes 56% of three. Even if the numbers are not as spectacular as in the NBA, the 2022/23 All-Star only plays 20 minutes per game in the World Cup.
But if anyone is doing more than expected, it’s Austin Reaves of the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he almost played for the German national team, Reaves decided to represent his country. The player was one of the most speculated names in the out of seasonbut extended his contract on the first night of free agency and remains in Los Angeles.
While Reaves was set to defend Germany, Orlando Magic center forward Paolo Banchero was set to play for Italy. So when he decided to play for the US national team, the Italian officials and coach were outraged by his attitude. They took his presence on the team for granted, but he couldn’t do much.
Playing center in the NBA is quite different from FIBA basketball. Thus Jarren Jackson Jr (Memphis Grizzlies), Bobby Portis (Milwaukee Bucks) and Walker Kessler (Utah Jazz) fail to shine at the Worlds. Maybe it’s because of the time spent in court. But they don’t suffer the physical imposition that they have in the league. While Jackson is quite a power forward for the Grizzlies, at Worlds he suffered from his overly aggressive defensive style. So he made many mistakes. And as the rule excludes five in the World Cup, the player only played 16 minutes.
Portis, who shoots well from the perimeter in the NBA, has a poor World Cup record: 14.3%. Finally, Kessler hardly plays (6.7 minutes), but that’s enough to give 1.3 blocks per game.
But there is a player who is not a pivot and who was not liked: Brandon Ingram. The New Orleans Pelicans star even lost his starting spot and timidly produced 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Not including star player, two-time MVP and defending NBA champion Nikola Jokic, Serbia have only three league players at the World Cup. The highlight goes to Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks. Bogdanovic is another MVP contender. He has 18.8 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals while shooting 37.2 percent from the perimeter.
But he was waiting for his success, even in the absence of Jokic. The winger, who extended his contract with the Hawks in March, has become a key player in Serbia.
Miami Heat’s Nikola Jovic alternated brilliant games with lesser ones. In the tournament, he has 10.7 points, 3.2 assists, but he was outstanding shooting from the perimeter: 45.5%.
Finally, the young Filip Petrusev has not yet made his debut with the Philadelphia 76ers, but he already has a contract for next season. Pick 50 of the 2021 Draft, the athlete spent two years in Europe to develop his game. In the World Cup, he has 9.8 points, 3.8 rebounds in just 13.3 minutes (four games).
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