Previewing Team Canada for the FIBA World Cup

Fiba World Cup
TORONTO, ON- Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse pleads for a call against the Indian Pacers in Toronto on Sunday(Rene Johnston/Toronto Star) (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Nick Nurse has taken the reigns of Team Canada ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. For the past decade, this has been touted as Canada’s golden generation. Yet, once again, the majority of the best players have decided to not represent Canada. Most are preferring to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. Medalling at this event would be the first silverware at a major event for Canada since the 1936 Olympics. Despite having arguably the most difficult in the tournament, Canada still has an opportunity to advance and push for a medal.

Team Canada’s Outlook in the FIBA World Cup

Potential Roster

So far 19 players have agreed to go to attend camp in Toronto. Unfortunately, two of those are Jamal Murray and RJ Barrett who are both injured and will not be playing in the World Cup. There are only three players who currently play on NBA rosters that are attending; Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat; Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic; and Cory Joseph of the Sacramento Kings. While the rest of the roster lacks NBA talent, there are some notable names. The greatest basketball player in Canadian USports history and the 2018 Offensive MVP of the Basketball Bundesliga in Germany, Phil Scrubb. There is also Kevin Pangos who currently plays for a very talented Barcelona side and Kyle Wiltjer who has spent time with the Houston Rockets.

Players Not Attending

The most dynamic players that Canada has to offer will not be attending the event. Players such as Andrew Wiggins, who would have been the centre of the Canadian offence. While they may be the two biggest offensive talents not participating, there are others who would have been critical role players who also declined to attend. Dwight Powell is an elite big in the pick and roll and as a rim runner in transition. Second-year NBA guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an outstanding defender and would likely have been the second option at point guard. He would have added another dimension to Nick Nurse’s defence, picking up full court and pressuring the ball out the opposing guards’ hands. 

FIBA World Cup Opponents

Canada has been placed in arguably the best group of the tournament. Alongside Canada are Senegal, Lithuania, and Australia. Senegal only has Gorgui Dieng on their roster representing the NBA. Their whole team is long and athletic, two qualities that were major issues for the Canadians during their two exhibition matches versus Nigeria. Australia projects to be a hard-nosed team that defends well and execute on offence. A veteran team that is littered with terrific defenders such as Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut. They also bring the former Saint Mary’s standout Jock Landale who will give Canada problems in the low-post. Senegal and Australia are two very good teams, but Lithuania boasts the best player in Jonas Valanciunas. A terrific post-player and in the pick and roll who could easily be one of the leading scorers of the tournament. 

Projections for Team Canada

Canada will have to rely heavily on its elite shooters if they wish to make a deep run in this tournament. They do not have a plethora of dynamic playmakers, so Nick Nurse will have to get creative with his offence. But if the likes of Kyle Wiltjer, Kevin Pangos, or Brady Heslip get hot, Canada could surprise some teams. Ultimately they will only go as far as Kelly Olynyk takes them. Olynyk suffered a bone bruise in an exhibition match against Nigeria. He will play, however. Olynyk gives Canada an inside scorer and someone who can create for others. If Olynyk can have a standout tournament then Canada has a chance to make it out of the group stages. Once out fo the group stages, anything is possible in a bracket-style tournament. Canada could push for its first FIBA World Cup medal ever. 

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