The 2014 FIBA World Cup: Players To Watch (Derrick Rose Comeback?)

The FIBA Basketball World Cup starts on August 30th 2014, and will take place throughout Spain. A total of 24 teams will participate, and we will be taking a look at the stars associated with each team and who will be expected to carry a significant amount of the work for each country. These players are not necessarily the best or superstars, but several are able showcase their talent before making NBA debuts, or show significant improvements in terms of playing style and ability.

1. Angola: Carlos Morais – 6’4″ shooting guard, Toronto Raptors, scored 15.9 points and grabbed 4.6 rebounds during the FIBA Africa Championship. He is also known to be a solid three-point shooter and has gained valuable experience by playing with Canadian NBA representatives last October.

2. Argentina: Luis Scola – Manu Ginobli will not be playing for Argentina so Scola will have a much bigger role to fill for his team. He averaged at least 18 points in all of his recent international games.

3. Australia: Dante Exum – Was drafted in 2014 by the Utah Jazz as a lottery pick. He is a big guard with an athletic playing style, solid defence, and an excellent ball manipulator. The combination of Exum, Mills, and Bogut will help Australia put up a rigid effort against some of the bigger dogs like Spain. This will be a valuable learning experience for the young Australian, and hopefully he will be able to showcase his skills during the World Cup.

4. Brazil: Marcelinho Huertas – 31 year old guard, helped his Barcelona team win the trophy of the Spanish league. He currently averages 11 points and 4.2 assists per game for the national squad, and Brazil seem to have a solid all-round team with great potential this year. In the post they have Nene, Tiago Splitter, as well as Anderson Varejao. Their skills are complemented with Huertas as well as Leandro Barbosa to help spread the floor.

5. Croatia: Bojan Bogdanovic – The Croatian team is full of young potential who will take the stage in the NBA hopefully within the next few years. This includes Mario Hezonja (a predicted top 10 2015 draft pick), Dario Saric (76ers 2014 first-round pick), and Damjan Rudez. During the 2013-14 season, he averaged 13.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in just 27.2 minutes per game. This 6’8″ shooter will surely have a sizeable impact on Croatia’s performance.

6. Dominican Republic: Francisco Garcia – Only player on the national team from the NBA (Houston Rockets) and a decent shooter. He averaged 14.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists in 2012 for the national team, as well as 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists in 2013.

7. Egypt: Assem Marei – 6’9″ post player, good post moves and solid rebounder. During the FIBA Africa Championship he averaged an impressive 14.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game while shooting 53.3%.

8. Finland: Drew Gooden – Evidently the best player on the Finnish team, an NBA veteran, solid athlete.

9. France: Nicolas Batum – Excellent all-rounded player and had a great 2013-14 NBA season. He can contribute in pretty much any fashion for his team and will carry France without Tony Parker on the roster.

10. Greece: Giannis Antetokounmpo – He has shattered the expected developmental timetables and started for the Milwaukee Bucks as a rookie. He performed very well this offseason during the summer league and is predicted to possibly have a breakout 2014-15 season.

11. Iran: Arsalan Kazemi – First Iranian-born player selected in the NBA draft, and an excellent rebounder. He has not made his NBA debut yet as he has chosen to continue to play for his Iranian club. He averaged 12 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.8 steals during the 2010 world cup and was the team’s second leading scorer.

12. Korea: Sungmin Cho – Korea’s second-leading scorer in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship with 11.1 points per game.

13. Lithuania: Jonas Valanciunas – He has been on the verge of a breakout season for a while now and has improved greatly during his young NBA career. He is able to put up big numbers for points and rebounds and is constantly improving his jump shot.

14. Mexico: Gustavo Ayon – Helped bring Mexico to a victory during the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship where he averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 58% from the field. He is seen as the leader of the Mexican team.

15. New Zealand: Isaac Fotu – 6’8″ forward who wants to make a great impression on NBA scouts at the World Cup.

16. Philippines: Andray Blatche – NBA caliber player with an excellent turnaround jumper and a variety of moves to beat defensive efforts against him.

17. Puerto Rico: J.J. Barea – MVP of the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup, leading his squad to gold with 18.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game. He did all this while shooting 52.9% from the field and 50% from 3-point territory.

18. Senegal: Gorgui Dieng – Timberwolves former head coach was known to hold his rookies back, but when forced to play Dieng due to several team injuries, he exploded during the end of the 2013-14 NBA season. He averaged 12 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game over the course of 18 outings.

19. Serbia: Vasilje Micic – 6’6″ 20-year-old point guard who has yet to make his debut with the 76ers in the NBA. Instead he has kept playing in the Serbian league where he averaged 7.5 assists per game.

20. Slovenia: Goran Dragic – Only NBA player on the team with the added potential of being a 2014-15 all-star contender. He was considered a top 20 player during the 2013-14 season with the Phoenix Suns, and there have been several debates suggesting that he should have been picked as an all-star. He is the unquestioned leader of the Slovenian team.

21. Spain: Ricky Rubio – Spain is easily considered America’s biggest threat to a gold medal during the World Cup, and Ricky Rubio is a great reason as to why. With a point guard such as Rubio running the floor and organising Spain’s impressive low post collection of the Gasol brother’s along with Serge Ibaka, they will surely be a dominating force within the competition.

22. Turkey: Enes Kanter – Number 3 pick in the 2011 draft, and as a part-time starter for the Utah Jazz this big man averaged 12.3 points along with 7.5 rebounds per game. With Omer Asik as a mentor, he should be able to make major improvements and put up some impressive numbers for Turkey.

23. Ukraine: Sergii Gladyr – Solid shooting guard drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2009, excellent passer and is known to be an effective sharpshooter.

24. United States: Derrick Rose – Well…this was a no-brainer, wasn’t it? The US team has been kept relatively placid this World Cup in terms of superstar names on the roster. With no LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, and several others, Rose will be expected to lead the way for the world number one basketball team. It will be Derrick Rose’s first opportunity for competitive level basketball on a large stage since his SECOND knee injury with the Chicago bulls early into the 2013-14 season. Recent footage of him at the Team USA scrimmage ignites hope with Rose fans all over the world as he put up a dominant and exciting performance.

Who do you think will win?

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2015: A New Era For Kevin Love & Andrew Wiggins?

It has been confirmed by league sources that the 2014 first pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013 first pick Anthony Bennett, and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick obtained from Miami will be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love in 2015. The five-year $120+ million dollar contract for Love will be yet another massive addition to the rapidly changing Cleveland Cavaliers line-up.

The deal has not yet been finalised as Wiggins was only just drafted, and NBA policy will not allow him to be traded until one month after his rookie signing with the Cavs. What this means is that if one of the teams decides to pull out of the trade until then, there will be no legal problems with that at all – just pissed off fans (or not?). But…how can Cleveland afford to pay the salary of LeBron, Irving, AND Love? If Cleveland did not sign Love NOW, they would not have had any possibility of doing so next summer, so it was a make or break decision. Therefore, they only could have possibly obtained him through a trade of several players in exchange for just one.

Perhaps now people are taking the Cavaliers as serious contenders for an NBA title. The combination of Irving, LeBron, and Love is arguably a much deadlier trio then the previous gang of Wade, LeBron, and Bosh. But were they too quick to get rid of Andrew Wiggins? Highlights of his 41 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 blocks game at West Virginia can be watched here.

Additionally, several people seem to be forgetting Anthony Bennett! Despite his difficult start to the NBA with a below average rookie season, he has shown great progress in the off season and summer league. So don’t completely write him off for next season, especially if he can keep making progress on his level of play.

Sure we have not seen him play yet but if he lives up to the hype in his first NBA season at Cleveland, he could prove to be an unstoppable force. However, it makes more sense that Wiggins be traded to another club to play small forward as opposed to staying in Cleveland for several reasons. Firstly, small forward is also LeBron’s main position, and the question rises as to whether it is good for a supposed prodigy to be playing in a superstar’s shadow. With Kevin Love gone from the Timberwolves, there still exists a threatening trio of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Andrew Wiggins. Let’s not also forget that the Philadelphia 76ers are planning to send Thaddeus Young to the T-Wolves too, and although he does not play at Love’s level he is still able to put up some big numbers.

Additionally, there was the possibility of Kevin Love being traded to the Chicago Bulls. This could have potentially created a massive roadblock in Cleveland’s path for an NBA title, or possibly even ruined it.

It seems as if the Cleveland Cavaliers are not the only ones who are planning to undergo some dramatic changes – the Timberwolves are also looking to unload the following players: J.J Barea, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Alexy Shved. Hopefully the Timberwolves will pick up some players that fit their rotation better, and the Wolves could possibly represent themselves as a genuine threat to the Western Conference.

20140101 Kevin Love

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LeBron & Cleveland: Round 2

The impossible has happened. LeBron’s most recent move from Miami back to Cleveland for a 2-year $42.1 million deal has sparked an array of emotions being felt by basketball fans worldwide. There have been a lot of questions raised, especially towards the ethical aspects of LeBron’s decision to leave Miami.

When he announced he would leave Cleveland for the first time back in 2010, his reasons for doing so appeared to be very oriented towards winning an NBA championship (and why shouldn’t they be?). What I am trying to get at is, he took the chance to play with other NBA superstars such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and ran with it. It is only logical to assume that the Miami Heat could not possibly afford to maintain a maximum salary cap for all three of these basketball icons. Therefore, he was willing to take a massive salary cut for a 5-year deal with Miami and the concept of money was not a main area of concern for him to catalyse his departure from Cleveland.

After winning two championships with Miami and being in the NBA finals for four consecutive years in a row, LeBron has decided that it is time to move on and go back home. There have been the typical responses from fans, such as burning his Miami Heat jersey in protest (a similar reaction when Dwight Howard moved from the LA Lakers to Houston Rockets), yet there has been speculation and eyebrows raised as to whether money is not in LeBron’s agenda anymore.

With current NBA cap regulations, LeBron would have received a maximum deal of $88 million over four years. However the cap changes are bound to increase within the next two years – oh what do you know! LeBron will be a free agent once again. He will therefore earn the $42.1 million on top of whatever his next contract will be. Some say he could be looking at an over $200 million deal!

So…is LeBron in it for the money? Or does he just want another championship? OR…could he be killing two birds with one stone in Cleveland? He couldn’t make the “big bucks” in Miami but could win a couple of championships, so does he feel he can pursue both aspects in Cleveland?

When we look at the new Cleveland Cavaliers lineup, it starts to look something like this:
Point guard: Kyrie Irving
Shooting guard: Dion Waiters
Small forward: Andrew Wiggins
Power forward: LeBron James
Center: Anderson Varejao

Insane, right? I would say he’s taking his chances.

Here are LeBron’s top 10 plays during his time with the Miami Heat:

Lebron james freethrow.jpg
Lebron james freethrow” by David Herrera Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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