USA and Spain considered favourites for the tournament…
With less than two weeks to go until the FIBA World Cup 2014 tips off in Spain, we take a look at five players to look out for in the tournament.
Although the competition doesn’t perhaps have the same importance to many players as the NBA and winning a championship, the opportunity to represent their country on a world stage is one that is relished by many.
Unsurprisingly, Team USA are considered the favourites for the tournament given the vast array of talent at their disposal, but hosts Spain will be keen to upset the odds and win a World Cup on home soil.
Nevertheless, there is slight disappointment in terms of the players that have withdrawn from the tournament, with the likes of Kevin Durant, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili not set to feature this summer.
However, there are still a number of individuals ready to step up and ensure that this is a FIBA World Cup to remember, and we look at five in particular that are ready to take centre stage…
5. Australia – Dante Exum
Fresh from being selected in the first round of the Draft by the Utah Jazz earlier this summer, Exum will be suiting up for the Boomers and it will possibly be the first time many have seen him in action.
As a big, athletic guard, there is a great deal of excitement over what the Australian can achieve in his career, but he will have to start now as his game will be scrutinised if he doesn’t live up to the billing.
With Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills ruled out, it will be up to a real young starting five to deliver with the likes of Aron Baynes, Cameron Bairstow and Matthew Dellavedova, but Exum could well grow into that deciding factor.
4. Greece – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Nicknamed the “Greek Freak”, Antetokounmpo has surprised many with how quick he has developed during his rookie year with the Milwaukee Bucks and then during the Summer League.
It remains to be seen how he responds on such a big stage, but ultimately if it clicks with the Greek national team, this athletic, long and ultimately highly talented star can take his game to the next level.
Antetokounmpo has attracted significant attention over the last 12 months, and he could well set the tone for his sophomore year with Milwaukee with a strong contribution in Spain.
3. Slovenia – Goran Dragic
Despite the disappointment of being snubbed for the All-Star team last season, Dragic established himself as a top player in the NBA with his performances for the Phoenix Suns.
Without doubt, he is Slovenia’s best player and leader, and as a result much of the play will go through him and a significant amount of responsibility will rest on his shoulders.
Whether or not he can deal with that remains to be seen, particularly if Slovenia progress, but it should be a lot of fun watching him build on his impressive displays last year.
2. Spain – Ricky Rubio
The Minnesota Timberwolves point guard has established a reputation for his on-court vision and ability to pick out an assist from nowhere with a touch of extravagance.
While Spain are likely to pose the biggest threat to the USA with players of the quality of the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka, Rubio’s play will undoubtedly be a vital part of their success.
With questions marks still remaining over his shooting, it’s time for the 23-year-old to show some real signs of progression, and this could well be the perfect stage for him to do so.
1. USA – Derrick Rose
Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad is packed with talent, but this summer perhaps doesn’t mean more to anyone other than Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.
This is a huge test for the 25-year-old after playing in just 10 games in the past two NBA seasons due to serious knee injuries. It will be an indication of how far he can recover his game but if he is fully healthy and back to his best, he can light up this tournament.
While he still needs to work on his conditioning and rhythm, Rose is still one of the most entertaining players to watch and his explosiveness when attacking the basket coupled with his improved long-range shooting game make him the most exciting player to look out for in the FIBA World Cup.