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MANILA, Philippines – The 2023 FIBA World Cup is right around the corner. To be held simultaneously in three countries, it will see 32 teams fight for global supremacy on the hard court.
The beauty of the 2023 tournament is its unpredictability and parity among the top nations. Injuries, lack of preparation time, and squads going through transition contributed to this. A few teams, however, have established themselves as a cut above the rest.
Let’s look at how some of the best teams in the world stack against the others:
This is not the Dream Team the Americans were used to seeing, an iteration of Team USA that’s a far cry from what they paraded in 2019. Nevertheless, this squad – boasting of an average age of 24.6 years old – has looked like a well-oiled crew from its recent World Cup warmups.
With a new coach in multi-time champion Steve Kerr, this young Team USA will have to withstand a gauntlet of seasoned teams to gain back lost glory in the world stage, after bowing out three years ago in the quarterfinals.
The Americans went 5-0 in their slate of exhibition matches against Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Spain, Greece, and Germany. Early returns indicate that the team has established itself as the top favorite of the World Cup.
Leading the charge for the Americans are New York Knicks star guard Jalen Brunson and Minnesota Timberwolves ace Anthony Edwards. Brunson, 26, and Edwards, 22, are projected to be the go-to weapons of Kerr alongside Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, and Indiana Pacers’ Tyler Haliburton.
Team USA will play in Group C in Manila.
The Aussies have never been hungrier for World Cup glory. Australia has been a perennial contender in past years, after placing fourth in the 2019 World Cup and snagging its first-ever Olympic medal when it won bronze in Tokyo in 2021.
Certainly, the Aussies are geared to break the ceiling once more and have a breakthrough World Cup campaign this time around.
The Boomers are led by the young, towering guard Josh Giddey. The 21-year-old rising star of the Oklahoma City Thunder has been orchestrating the offense for Australia in preparation for the World Cup. Having the keys to their offense, Giddey will be tasked to run Australia’s charge predicated on a mixture of fluid schemes and firepower.
Head coach Brian Goorjian – the same tactician who led Australia to the bronze in Tokyo – will once again call the shots for the Boomers. Goorjian will have a loaded list of NBA players at his disposal, like veterans Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, Joe Ingles, and Xavier Cooks, alongside young bloods Giddey, Dyson Daniels, Josh Green, and Jack White.
Australia will play in Group E in Okinawa, Japan.
The FIBA version of Luka Doncic is a one-man machine. Doncic alone is a must-watch for the upcoming World Cup.
The Slovenians’ rise to global basketball excellence has been impeccable with Doncic holding the torch. Doncic will be joined by sharpshooter Klemen Prepelic, Mike Tobey, Jaka Blazic, and Zoran Dragic – brother of NBA player Goran Dragic who recently retired from the national team. Vlatko Cancar is the only other NBA player in the squad.
Relative to the other favorites, Slovenia lacks the star power in its roster, but has one mega figure to rely on for the rest of the tournament.
Will Luka be great enough to pull Slovenia to world glory?
One of the most star-studded teams in the World Cup, Canada has lined up NBA players led by last season’s All-NBA First Team guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Despite producing some of the best players in the sport, Canada has never had the same success on the world stage as its North American neighbors. This time, however, feels different, and the team hopes to find the cohesion and chemistry to catapult themselves to a podium finish – a potential first in any major basketball tournament the Canadians have competed in.
Alongside Gilgeous-Alexander, New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett will be the secondary option of the team, which will also consist of NBA players Dillon Brooks, Lu Dort, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
With this amount of talent in a tough Group H comprised of France, Lebanon, and Latvia, Canada’s road to World Cup success will be an intriguing yet grind-out affair.
The Les Bleus have always come close yet so far from the crown. France lost in the gold medal game in Tokyo and fell short again in the championship game of the EuroBasket in 2022. France certainly is hungrier than ever.
France will look to tap into its chemistry brought about by their program’s continuity and its stifling defense spearheaded by three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Some other notable names who will star for the Les Bleus are NBA players Nic Batum and Evan Fournier, together with mainstays Nando De Colo, Terry Tarpey, and Guerschon Yabusele.
Having head coach Vincent Collet at the sidelines once more, France has a chance to finally break through.
“Basketball is a simple game. Ten men chase a ball for 40 or 48 minutes, and at the end Spain always win,” the FIBA EuroBasket tweeted in 2022, borrowing a quote spoken by broadcaster Gary Lineker in reference to the German football team years earlier.
This has been proven true in the 2019 World Cup and the EuroBasket in 2022. But with the landscape of power in this year’s tournament, Spain’s chances may have dimmed darker.
For one, the team doesn’t have a clear-cut “star,” having only four NBA players in its roster: Juan and Willy Hernangomez, Santi Aldama, and Usman Garuba. The pressure will come on the shoulders of veterans Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull, who are expected to lead the squad amid this transitional period.
There will be many questions for the Spaniards to answer in the tournament. One thing is for certain: Spain remains a dark horse.
The resurgence of Dennis Schroder and the emergence of Franz Wagner have turned Germany into a contender.
The German squad is coming off a productive stint in the EuroBasket 2022, winning bronze in one of the most stacked continental tilt. Nine from that same team will head to the World Cup to continue their winning ways and hopefully shock the world. Reinforced by NBA players Daniel Theis, Mo Wagner, and Isaac Bonga, Germany is no pushover, even if pitted against the best teams.
Playing in Group E in Okinawa, the Germans should be a fun watch and a matchup nightmare for any team who dares to relax.
The hole left by NBA champion and Finals MVP Nikola Jokic will be massive, to say the least. The Serbians’ chances may have taken a hit without Jokic and former EuroLeague MVP Vasiljie Micic, but considering their culture of winning, they remain a threat to any team.
Serbia will lean on the offensive firepower of Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, while fellow NBA player Nikola Jovic will look to reach his potential now that he will take up bigger cudgels for the team.
Having a relatively manageable slate in Group B, Serbia may have the time to gel together as a unit as the tournament progresses. – Rob Andrew L. Dongiapon/Rappler.com
Rob Andrew L. Dongiapon is a Rappler intern from the University of Santo Tomas. His work on this article was guided and vetted by a staff reporter and editor.