BEIJING — A record 54 NBA players took part in the FIBA World Cup over the past 16 days, a true commitment with training camps scheduled to open in two weeks.
The performance of the 12 who played for Team USA was well documented. Though Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell and a few others had some impressive moments, it wasn’t a tournament to remember for those players.
But there were some strong efforts by some international players that would be of interest to NBA fans. In all, NBA players represented 17 different countries while in China. Here’s a look at the NBA players who had the most impactful World Cup:
Ricky Rubio, Spain
Now one of most experienced international players, Rubio played with a vision and aggression befitting his experience. Spain has a number of experienced players, but he drove it to the title, scoring 20 points in the championship game to cement World Cup MVP honors. He shot the 3-pointer better than in the past, 38 percent. If he carries it to training camp, it will be a true boost for the Phoenix Suns.
Marc Gasol, Spain
He took only one week off between the NBA Finals and reporting to the national team, making his strong play even more impressive. He played 39 minutes and scored 33 points in a double-overtime win in the semifinals against Australia, one of his best performances in a long career for Spain, in what turned out to be the vital one in winning the gold.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia
He shot 36 percent from 3-point range for the Sacramento Kings last season but he was relentless throughout the World Cup, nailing 53 percent of his 3s and making an average of four per game. Granted, the line is closer in international play, but everything about his shot looked smooth and his confidence was great. He averaged 22.9 points and was unquestionably one of the best guards in China as he was named to the all-tournament team.
Evan Fournier, France
Here is the kind of guy Fournier is: As soon as he got his bronze medal, he gave it away, saying he already had one from 2014 at home. Then he criticized American friends, like former Orlando Magic teammate Tobias Harris, for not coming to play. He played with same fearless attitude throughout the tournament. He battered Team USA and even though he didn’t shoot great down the stretch, finished at 41 percent from 3-point range and averaged 19.8 points in the event. Still unclear: whether he gave away the watch he got for making all-tournament team.
Patty Mills, Australia
When suiting up for his national team, Mills plays with tremendous pace and a scoring mindset, like a FIBA combo of Steve Nash and Allen Iverson. He zipped all over the floor, keeping the dribble alive and looking to shoot at any moment. Mills probably could never play that way in the NBA, but he ended up as third-leading scorer in the Cup, averaging 22.8 points.
Rudy Gobert, France
The Utah Jazz center and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year crushed Team USA with 21 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks in France’s quarterfinal victory. He did what he does, finishing second in the Cup in blocks and fourth in rebounds. He was outplayed by 39-year-old Luis Scola in the semifinals, but overall he played like an All-NBA player.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
The 2019 NBA MVP’s numbers were OK — 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.8 steals — so that’s why he made this list. That said, he didn’t come close to having the impact that was assumed. The FIBA style of defense and some of the rules bothered him, and he didn’t look comfortable. There was only one game where he truly took control (not that this performance defines him in any way).
Aron Baynes, Australia
Following in the path of Brook Lopez, Baynes starting shooting 3-pointers for the Boston Celtics last season. He’d made four in his whole career then made 21 in 2018-19. That conversion is progressing, and he showed this summer that his new team, the Phoenix Suns, could benefit. Baynes nailed 52 percent of his 3s in the Cup and bothered Gobert with five of them in a win over France in the second round.
Tomas Satoransky, Czech Republic
The Czech Republic became one of the surprise teams of the tournament, and Satoransky was a big reason why. He showed tremendous playmaking in China, finishing second by averaging 8.5 assists to go along with 15.5 points per game. His play made the Chicago Bulls’ choice to sign him to a three-year, $30 million deal in the offseason look good.
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