There wasn’t much to like about Team USA finishing a dismal 7th place in the most recent World Cup of Basketball. If you are like me though, there was a lot of interesting perspectives watching teams with only a few NBA players on their roster take on bigger roles. Below is a list of key NBA players that have competed at the World Cup and what impact it may have on their fantasy values.
Key Differences in Style of Play That Impact Fantasy Value
The World Cup was physical! This naturally led to more bumps and bruises, and some of the top teams that were running shorter rotations tired late in the tournament. Most teams started the tournament shooting incredibly well from the field. However, this evened out, as a game every second day fatigued even the best shooters in the tournament.
Some of the key difference in style of play to consider when looking at fantasy implications for the upcoming NBA season are:
- There were less fast break chances with a shorter game
- The games were typically slower than NBA games
- The three-point line is shorter than the NBA line
- The offensive schemes differed greatly between countries
- Well-run pick and rolls still featured heavily on the successful teams
- The refereeing was inconsistent, which clearly frustrated a lot of NBA players
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Key Player Notes – FIBA World Cup
The Tournament MVP has been on the Spanish Men’s team since he was 17, and it really showed this year. He averaged 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.5 steals during the three weeks of play. He also shot 38.7% from the three-point line, which is a decent improvement on his NBA percentage from last year (31.1%). Rubio was visibly wrecked after the double OT win against Australia in the semifinal. But he bounced back and displayed a level of poise and leadership that ultimately got Spain over the line in a relatively easy win in the gold medal game.
Outlook: The World Cup should give those who are looking to draft him even more confidence that his shooting percentages can improve. Don’t forget, Rubio is still only 28 years old! He is arguably in his prime this year. He will be a much-needed veteran presence for Phoenix, and I expect his numbers to improve on his last year in Utah.
What a year Gasol has had; an NBA Championship and a World Cup Gold Medal. The FIBA style of play clearly suits Gasol better than the NBA. He had a fantastic final two games of the Tournament, and along with Rubio, was the main driver for the Spanish success. The slower pace of the FIBA game suited Gasol’s aging body and he was able to capitalize on being the focal point of the Spanish offense. Gasol’s outside shooting was key to stretching defenses. That will no doubt continue next year in Toronto. I don’t see Gasol bringing his FIBA form into the NBA though. The speed and style of play will mean his numbers drop off again next season.
Outlook: Tread carefully with Gasol this year. Expect him to miss a few games and his minutes to be limited with his aging body. I am expecting a slight regression on last year’s per game numbers. However, his games played is the real concern.
Bogdanovic was on fire in early tournament play. Having him as the focal point of the Serbian offense really showed his incredible scoring ability. Bogdanovic had impressive shooting numbers for the tournament, shooting 53% from three-point range and 55.6% overall. He had overall numbers of 22 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. He was the leading scorer for Serbia, and they were looking like the team that would challenge the USA for the Gold Medal. Like the US though, Serbia lost due to a lack of cohesiveness on offense when it really mattered in the knock out rounds.
Outlook: If Bogdanovic was in a situation in the NBA where he would consistently get over 30 minutes a night, he would be a breakout candidate this year. However, he is going to be in a tough battle for shots and minutes with De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley both developing, and a relatively deep core of wing players in Sacramento including Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and Trevor Ariza.
The Joker surprisingly came off the bench for Serbia in most of their games. He only played 22.6 minutes per outing, but his statistics across the board were still solid. He averaged 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. However, Jokic and Serbia’s defense was the main reason they did not progress in the tournament. Jokic looked out of shape at times, and his block rate of 0.5 per game highlighted that he has a way to go to get his body right for another full NBA season.
Outlook: Jokic took a slight hit in value after his World Cup performance. He did not appear to be in the best physical shape to compete at the highest level. He has a way to go to get ready for the rigors of an 82 game NBA season.
What a tournament Mills had. He was unlucky not to be on the All-Star five team when the tournament was over. On a lot of occasions, Mills single-handedly kept Australia’s offense going, making tough shots from all over the court. Defensively he struggled on pick and rolls, but his offense was fantastic, scoring 22.8 points per game and dishing out 3.9 assists. He did turn the ball over too much (3.5 turnover per game), but this was due to fatigue later in the tournament.
Outlook: Like Bogdanovic, Mills has proven he is an elite scorer. He also has some serious competition for minutes this year. With Dejounte Murray coming back from injury and the development of Derrick White and Bryan Forbes, Mills will struggle to see the court as much as he did last season. Look to grab Mills off waivers if there is an injury in the Spurs backcourt at any point this season.
Turner didn’t have much frontcourt help during Tournament play. His only backup, Mason Plumlee, was limited to 8 minutes per game. The US ran out a lot of smaller line ups, and Turner was relied on heavily to control the paint. Turner averaged 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per outing. His three-point shot was not falling as it normally does in the NBA, shooting at 30%. This limited his effectiveness for the team. Turner did show signs of developing some post-up moves though. However. he looked fatigued as the tournament went on, and was dominated by Rudy Gobert in the US loss to France.
Outlook: Turner has been working on his post-game. He has improved his post footwork, which he showed off against some of the lower seeded teams. If he can consistently improve his post-game and continue to shoot threes as he did last year, the overall experience will likely be a good one for Turner. His block shots will remain elite and his overall trend should remain positive heading into next season.
Mitchell was second on the team in scoring during the tournament at 13.1 points per game. But in the playoff game to advance to the semifinals, he played a lone hand in scoring against France. Of all the USA squad, Mitchell appeared to adapt to the physicality well. When it really mattered, he was able to score in bunches against a tough French squad. Another good sign for Mitchell was his improved shooting efficiency across the three weeks. Compared to his NBA averages from last year (43% FG & 36% 3PT), Mitchell shot well from 3-point range at 40.1% and 46.6% from the field. On top of the efficiency, he also dished out 5 assists per game and had only 1 turnover per game.
Outlook: Mitchell is set to take another leap this season. The back end of his last NBA season, coupled with a strong showing at the World Cup is a great indicator that he will be in discussions for an All-Star and/or All-NBA birth. Don’t be surprised if he pushes for a top 20 ranking in all fantasy formats this upcoming season.
Walker was the natural leader for Team USA. However, he had an inconsistent tournament, playing well against some of the lower-seeded teams and struggling against the tough backcourt defense of the French in particular. Walker still had decent per-game averages, leading the team in scoring and assists (14.4 PPG & 5.4 AST). It was interesting to see how all four Boston players worked together. Walker played off the ball at times, with Marcus Smart running the point. Jalen Brown played well as an undersized power forward, and the interplay between the three (Brown, Smart, and Walker) seemed positive after Tatum went down.
Outlook: I think Walker will take a slight dip in points and assists this season. The offset might be an improvement in his efficiency, considering he will be surrounded by much better players than he was in Charlotte. However, don’t expect the efficiency increases to improve to a point that he will be more valuable than last year. Walker will likely finish five to ten spots below his fantasy ranking from the 2017/18 season.
Greece had the best player in the tournament and finished 11th! Of all the players that struggled in their own country’s offense, Antetokounmpo struggled the most. The Greek coach had clearly not watched enough of Milwaukee’s system, and Giannis was often stuck in the post, fighting to get the ball on many occasions. The slower tempo of the games and lack of spacing hurt Giannis’ ability to get to the rim. He still had some highlight coast to coast dunks, but he couldn’t enforce his will on games as he does in the NBA. The major concern remains Giannis’ 3-point shooting ability. At the World Cup, Antetokounmpo shot only 22.2% from three-point range.
Outlook: Take the World Cup results for Antetokounmpo as a blip. If anything, his poor showing should motivate him even more to come out firing next season. Keep an eye on his 3-point shooting during the pre-season. I expect him to put a lot of time into improving his shooting and the Milwaukee system should see him get much better shot options than the Greek offense.
Gobert was as advertised during the World Cup. He protected the rim well, had a fantastic field goal percentage and was one of the best rebounders in the tournament. He also got his free throw percentage up from his NBA average of 63.1%, to 69.2%. Overall, it was a good tournament for Gobert, highlighted by his player of the game performance against Team USA where he dominated with 21 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Myles Turner was benched for most of the second half in foul trouble against Gobert. The US had to attempt a small ball line up to counter Gobert’s size. It didn’t work.
Outlook: Gobert is 27 years old this year and heading into his prime years in the NBA. His World Cup outing did nothing to hurt his fantasy value. If he continues a trend of improving his free throw percentage, look out!
Franky Smokes was great down the stretch against the USA, but don’t be fooled by one good game. He only played 19.5 minutes per game and averaged 8 points, 2.5 assists, and 1 steal across the tournament. He did display good bursts of offense off the dribble, but his poor shooting remains. There was nothing outstanding other than bursts of above-average athleticism and solid defense.
Outlook: There is still hope that Ntilikina can live up to his draft position. However, the flashes of brilliance need to be more consistent to be considered on a fantasy roster for the upcoming season. Don’t get your hopes up too much New York fans!
Fournier was another stand out during the tournament. He was France’s best scorer and was named to the All-Star five team. He shot the ball incredibly well from three-point land at over 40% per game, and showed poise in France’s big wins over Team USA and Australia.
Outlook: Fournier is another player that will be fighting for minutes this year. He has shown at the World Cup that he can score in bunches. However, I don’t think his time with France will lead to much of a fantasy improvement in Orlando.
Other Notable Players and Trends
Horrible tournament for Lopez. He shot the ball poorly and did not fit into the style of play well at all.
Had a few games where his shot started to fall. However, with limited minutes and playing out of position in some cases, he didn’t do much to shine.
Gallo looked good and ready to fire this season. His trend is positive.
He looked great throughout the entire World Cup. He dominated a few games with his playmaking and solid defense. More minutes at the Bulls will be great for Sato. Don’t sleep on him in drafts.
Batum stepped up when it mattered for France. He looked much better than he has in the NBA and appeared to revel in representing his country. If he can stay healthy, he could easily outplay his ADP in a poor Charlotte offense.
Osman was inconsistent and did not do anything specific to improve his value. He did hit some tough shots during important times in games, but his overall efficiency limitations remain.
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