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International NBA Standouts At FIBA World Cup

Several players are representing their home countries at the FIBA World Cup for the first time since gaining NBA experience and have become the new faces of their national teams.

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The FIBA Basketball World Cup this summer has been a great reminder of how globally popular the game of basketball has become. Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup has been a lop-sided affair with the United States often dominating games by 50 points or more. Now, of the 32 teams in the tournament, 17 are represented by players who also play in the NBA, upending the dynamic of past tournaments. This year, the United States only had one 50-plus-point blowout within the first three games of play.

This time around, we have already witnessed the USA against a formidable competitor in Turkey, a country that boasts three NBA players on the roster, where they went into overtime during the first game of their tournament run. The USA relied on Turkey missing four free throws with 9.2 seconds left in overtime — and Kris Middleton nailing two of his own with 1.6 seconds remaining — to seal a 93-92 victory.

Given this early challenge, USA can expect to face tougher games in this tournament given the number of overseas players who now face NBA-level competition regularly. Several NBA players are representing their home countries at the FIBA World Cup for the first time since gaining NBA experience and have been the new faces of their national teams.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Before the start of the FIBA World Cup, Serbia was seen as one of the biggest threats to the United States in this tournament. Serbia grabbed early tournament headlines after head coach, Aleksandar “Sasha” Djordjevic, was quoted saying, “may God help them” when asked how he felt about playing the United States. Serbia’s roster highlighted Nikola Jokic, Boban Marjanovic and Bogdan Bogdanovic, all significant contributors to their NBA squads.

This past season, Jokic received the fourth-most votes for Most Valuable Player and Marjanovic maintains one of the highest player efficiency ratings in NBA history — but Bogdanovic has taken over during this World Cup. Bogdanovic represented Serbia in 2013 in the FIBA World Cup but, after playing in the NBA for two years, has developed into the leading scorer for the Serbian squad, averaging 19.3 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 2.8 RPG during this tournament.

Serbia’s only loss came at the hands of a very talented Spanish team, where Bogdanovic was still able to capture 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Bogdanovic has been known as a sharpshooter with the Sacramento Kings, averaging 37 percent from behind the arc in his first two years in the NBA. He has taken that reputation to another level by averaging 54.5 percent on his three-point attempts in the World Cup.

Dennis Schroder

The German point guard has been in the NBA for six seasons, often as a strong role player for the Atlanta Hawks and the Oklahoma City Thunder by averaging 13.4 PPG, 4.6 APG and 2.7 RPG throughout his career. He has also represented the national team at the EuroBasket FIBA Tournament, but never on the global stage.

Schroder is now leading the way for the German squad with 17.7 PPG and  8.7 APG. He is also averaging 42 percent from behind the arc and 1.3 SPG. Although Germany only has two other NBA players on their roster — and only one other averaging double-digits in points — Schroder has been able to highlight his offensive prowesses.

The German squad failed to make a deep run, but their heavy offensive reliance on Schroder in all of their games shows just how critical he is to the team. The Germans won their first contest over Senegal with a score of 89-78. Schroder lifted his country ahead by taking over in the third quarter, scoring 24 points and dishing 12 assists after trailing the Senegalese at the half.

Cedi Osman

Osman has been representing Turkey for the past six years in international play and already played in the FIBA World Cup five years ago. In his first appearance at the World Cup, Osman was a bench player who only averaged 9 MPG. During this tournament, however, Osman leads Turkey in points with 17 PPG and averaging 31 MPG.

After being drafted by the Cavaliers in 2017, Osman gained great experience being on a team led by LeBron James and even went to the NBA Finals during his rookie year. Upon James’ departure in his second year, Osman gained significant playing time with Cleveland. Osman started all but one game and averaged 13 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 2.6 APG. Already, it’s clear Osman has been able to translate his NBA experience into several positive showing with the Turkish squad.

Their poor showing record-wise was mainly due to their tough draw, landing in a group pool with the United States and the Czech Republic. Osman was integral to forcing the United States into overtime and, eventually in their first loss, with his strong perimeter defense. He helped to limit the USA to only 38 percent from the field and added 15 points with four assists.

Notably, though, he was also a key factor in not securing that near-win against the USA, as it was Osman that missed two of the four free throws Turkey had to seal the game in overtime. Thankfully, Osman bounced back from those errors by scoring 24 and 19 points, respectively, in Turkey’s two following games against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

With international basketball getting better by the year, the NBA’s worldwide influences have never been more clear. From Bogdanovic to Osman, overseas stars are carving out pro-level niches before returning to their respective countries to dominate — that alone, may be the greatest testament to the NBA’s grand development abilities yet.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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