After 17 days of game action in Jakarta, Indonesia; Okinawa, Japan; and host city of Manila, Philippines, the 2023 FIBA World Cup has come and gone. In case you missed it: Germany has reclaimed what Deutschland considers its rightful place in international ball after leaving the 2022 EuroBasket tournament with the taste of bronze in their collective mouths.
Being on the field, in close contact with many players and coaches, presented many scenes and moments to fill a journalist’s notebook, some of which highlight deserving talent and great individual stories. Others could perhaps shed light on particular topics to monitor as the basketball calendar inches closer to the NBA season.
The Germans had a seven-point lead over eventual champion Spain in the EuroBasket 2022 semifinals last September. Schröder played for that losing team without an NBA contract after sitting on the open market for so long in the summer of 2021 – until he signed with Boston at the mid-level and then was traded by the Celtics before the trade deadline. He was almost out of the league, and it marked a real downfall for a former first-round pick and Sixth Man of the Year candidate. When Schröder showed up for Germany a year ago, he was able to parlay that performance into a veteran’s minimum contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, rejoining coach Darvin Ham after the two overlapped as pieces of the feisty Atlanta Hawks by Mike Budenholzer.
Schröder started 50 games for Ham’s Lakers last season and played an integral role in Los Angeles’ run to the Western Conference finals. It wasn’t long after free agency opened in July, when Toronto acquired Schröder for a reported four-year, $48 million deal.
Many European NBA players participate in international basketball for the pride of their country and nothing more. They do not generate a salary from FIBA game preparation. But when Schröder stood on the podium Sunday night as World Cup MVP after scoring 28 points in the gold medal win over Serbia, it was hard not to see the emotion behind him. Let’s hope there was a feeling of vindication for the roller-coaster ride of his final seasons, capped by the ups and downs of the business at this level of competition.
There was no sweeter scene in Manila than a sweaty-haired Austin Reaves waiting outside the Germany locker room, even after the Germans had eliminated Team USA from gold medal contention, so that Reaves could hug Schröder , his former Lakers teammate. Aside from Luka Dončić’s brief appearance in Manila – after the first-round games in Jakarta – Reaves has been the clear fan favorite among the Filipino faithful who largely lean on a Lakers-leaning fanbase. And Reaves has embraced the increased attention with seriousness and humility as much as with humor.
It was a stunning display of stardom from the 25-year-old from Newark, Arkansas, fresh off a $53 million salary in four years. Reaves was mostly impressive on the court, too, soaring for contested dunks and rebounds, whipping behind-the-back dribbles past opponents and shooting 50 percent from 3-point range as Team USA’s third-leading scorer. In many games, it fell to Reaves and Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton to resurrect a slow American start off the bench.
Maybe it will be chalked up to the FIBA game, but Reaves was picked over and over again on defense. Whether it was Lithuanian guards like Vaidas Kariniauskas — wagging his tail at Reaves after a post-up bucket — or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hunting him at the top of the key, he was often the target of rivals’ half-court attacks. We won’t know if the NBA staff will archive that sample for subsequent postseason games next spring. But Reaves, to his credit, fought back against all that brutality. He will still have his skeptics, like any undrafted player who is thrust into the Hollywood spotlight. But it appears there are far more league personnel who would value Reaves’ total contribution closer to the $100 million maximum he could have earned on an offer sheet this free agency, as opposed to the salary Los Angeles has been given able to hold it.
3. Luka Dončić’s disqualification from the quarter-finals
The Dallas Mavericks’ All-NBA powerhouse was parked behind him, calling for another foul last week in Slovenia’s final loss to Canada, when Dončić was assessed his second technical foul of the game and ejected from the game. Let’s be clear: it wasn’t just Dončić who persecuted officials once Slovenia reached Manila. His entire team bench asked referees to treat routine hacks as unsportsmanlike fouls. Manager Aleksander Sekulić was also one of the most outspoken coaches on the sidelines, often needing to be reminded to return to the box. FIBA allows players to stay inside.
Clearly Dončić’s complaints have not dented his popularity. Every time Slovenia played, the crowd was inundated with blue No. 1 jerseys. 77. A couple held a poster boasting that they had named their baby after him. But Dončić’s complaints alienated several NBA figures in attendance. His behavior with the referees has officially become something noteworthy. Even during Dončić’s post-Canadian media availability, when he admitted, “A lot of times I don’t control myself, and that’s caused me problems,” Doncic went on to say that he thinks the officials’ explanation for not calling certain whistles against Dillon Brooks wasn’t “right.” Dončić’s antics are something he, and the NBA in general, would benefit from eradicating.
There may be no shooter in the world who induces more fear in opposing fans than Bogdan Bogdanović, at least during FIBA play. When Bogdanović has the rock in his hands, an extra bounce in his step, and a clear escape to launch into a wide-open 3-pointer, you can hear a collective groan in the crowd.
Bogdanović was named First-Team All-Tournament after averaging 19.1 points per game and shooting 42.3 percent on 6.5 long balls per contest. He scored at all three levels. He defended aggressively, jumping into passing lanes like a cornerback looking for pick-sixes. It was a reminder of how dangerous a weapon the Hawks have hidden on the wing next to Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. It was a reminder of why Atlanta was able to discuss De’Andre Hunter trade concepts this summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports, with Detroit, Indiana and others. It was also a reminder of why Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks were so interested in Bogdanović in the late summer of 2020. If you recall, Milwaukee almost signed and traded for Bogdanović to be the ball-handler in the backcourt for the dreams of Antetokounmpo, before the deal was done. ultimately voided due to tampering violations, and the Bucks eventually moved on to acquire Jrue Holiday from New Orleans. When he’s healthy, Bogdanović is a bad, bad man.
5. Evolution of Anthony Edwards
After Edwards scored 34 points during Team USA’s 16-point comeback win over Germany in a friendly exhibition, the fourth-year Minnesota guard’s supposed leap to imminent stardom became one of the loudest talking points around the American club in this World Cup. Team USA staff, rival NBA coaches and other ancillary personnel in the program were all enthusiastic about his build and athleticism, along with Edwards’ passion for the game and work ethic to improve.
The glaring obstacle facing Edwards, however, has always been the development of the former No. 1 pick. 1 in a winning basketball player. While it’s clear that Edwards has the ability to spark a string of explosive goals at any moment, there have been conversations among Team USA coaches and players about Edwards finding the balance between when to shoot and when to distribute. It’s the same back-and-forth that Timberwolves officials have been talking about with Edwards since December, when he was lifting Minnesota out of a hole left by Karl-Anthony Towns’ lingering calf injury. Yet throughout the World Cup, it seemed that for every highlight dunk, for every breathtaking step-back, Edwards was also prone to throwing the ball away, traveling or staggering into an ill-advised fadeaway.
But there was one World Cup moment that really stood out from the 22-year-old’s time in Manila. After Team USA’s 110-64 rout of Jordan to finish 3-0 in the first round, there was certainly a jovial spirit in the mixed zone, which essentially amounts to a makeshift hallway, where players walk off the court to their locker rooms and average. members can meet them at the waist-level divider for some semblance of conversation.
Edwards was, completely inappropriately, asked by a European journalist which of his teammates he would prefer to trade: Towns or Rudy Gobert. At first, Edwards simply ignored the ridiculous question. Then, when he was done being questioned about something completely reasonable, Edwards actually paused, turned back to the disrespectful member of the media, and stated forcefully, “Neither of you, man. I like all my teammates. I love them. They are my brothers. I wouldn’t trade either of them.”
It was Edwards’ most impressive moment, in terms of his development from prospect to superstar. Much more than anything he did between the painted lines.
6. Artūrs Žagars demonstrates his NBA potential
The 23-year-old point guard was the undisputed star of the World Cup, and that was before Žagars broke the tournament’s all-time record with 17 assists in Latvia’s final ranking match to take fifth place in the tournament. Žagar’s skilled pick-and-roll playmaking, ability to launch 3-pointers and a full range of passing vision have certainly put the 6-foot-3 ball-handler on the radar of all 30 NBA teams. He remains a free agent, like Schröder last summer, although obviously without the long NBA resume. Injuries have slowed his career, but Žagars has already earned an invite to the Summer League with the Wizards in 2022. Much has already been written about him, but keep the Latvian general in mind when it comes to the best young Europeans who could one day translate to NBA.
Lithuanian guard Rokas Jokubaitis also earned rave reviews from team scouts and staff in attendance, as well as those watching from afar. At 6-4 and just 22 years old, Jokubaitis drilled 55 percent of his 20 3-pointers at the World Cup and peppered passes throughout Lithuania’s attack for a total of 5.8 assists per game.