Who was the best for each country at the World Cup?
MANILA (Philippines) - Now that the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 is over, it's time to analyze what each team has done at the summit. We have gone through all of the numbers and first-hand impressions to pick the most valuable player for each participating team.
One of the biggest stars of the entire program in Manila was Rondae Hollis Jefferson. There were question marks over his role, since most people know him as a reliable role player option from the NBA, but turns out, RHJ spent the last couple of years of his life turning into a lefty Kobe Bryant. He studied the footwork, the mentality, the looks, the gestures, the shots, the drives, the post ups, and all of a sudden he heard "KOBE! KOBE!" cheers from the Filipino fans in the Mall of Asia Arena.
Hollis Jefferson finished the event with 23.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals, while logging in tournament-high 38.6 minutes per game. The man who played like Kobe was Jordan's MVP.
Well, we could've gone with Mohammad Amini or even Behnam Yakhchali, but out of respect for the legend of the game, Iran's best was Hamed EHaddadi. The big guy played his last games of a wonderful career and the numbers said he's retiring after a four-game stretch of 10.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game at the World Cup.
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It wasn't one of those tournaments for Venezuela where they earn new fans all over the world, but they still had contributions from their ten-men rotation. The one who stood out just a bit was Nestor Colmenares, getting 10.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals, while playing a team-high 27.6 minutes per game.
One of bright spot for China at the World Cup was Kaier Li, also known as Kyle Anderson, who had just over 16 points per game after his scoreless start against Serbia. His tournament averages said 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.
They became the smallest nation to ever win a FIBA Basketball World Cup game, and they were in the hunt to reach the Olympics as the top African nation all the way until the end of the competition, which is more than most expected from a new squad at the event. Edy Tavares was playing his usual game, with 9.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, and he even added 3.2 assists in the mix, proving once again why he's considered the best center in European club basketball.
Coach Dejan Prokic could get a vote here, because he made sure all his players got a taste of the World Cup, eleven of them averaging 11.6 minutes or more. In a balanced offense, it was Solo Diabate who was standing out, not because of his 9.4 points, but more because of 5.6 assists per just 1.2 turnovers, a rock solid performance to guide this team to the battle for the Olympics until the final buzzer.
Bruno Fernando delivered 14.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, but the feel-good story of this squad was Childe Dundao. The 25-year-old standing at 1.67m (5ft 6in) had 19 points against Italy, then finished the tournament with 17 and 21 in the last two Classification Games. Overall, he averaged 14.0 points with 5.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals, earning the right to be called Angola's best in the Philippines.
Coach Omar Quintero struggled to get the best out of most of his players, but there is always one guy who delivers whenever he wears the green jersey. It's Pako Cruz, who collected 18.2 points per game, with solid shooting splits of 44-36-86 percent. He also dished out 4.6 assists and grabbed 3.4 rebounds per game as Mexico found their way to a 2-3 record.
This one is easy. Jordan Clarkson was that guy, with second-best World Cup average of 26.0 points per game, trailing only Luka Doncic. He also had 5.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds at home, plus that crazy game against China which will go down in history as one of the biggest individual performances in World Cup history, when he put up 20 points in just four minutes.
Jordan Clarkson went ballistic in the third period to lift Gilas Pilipinas over China in their final game 🔥— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) September 2, 2023
📊 34 PTS | 5 3PM | 61.1% FG | 29 EFF#FIBAWC x #WinForPilipinas 🇵🇭 | #InspireGreatness pic.twitter.com/hiOQn4APGu
They will remember this event because they come oh-so-close to defeating France, and they fed off of that good game 3 of their run so they picked up two wins later on to finish 2-3. Wael Arakji was their MVP in Jakarta, with 18.0 points and 6.0 assists per game, edging out Omari Spellman for the most efficient player stat on the team.
Four guys stood out for the Tall Blacks, with Finn Delany and Reuben Te Rangi averaging team-highs of 16.4 points per game, and Izayah Le'afa being the defensive presence with 12.8 points and 2.2 steals per game, but Shea Ili was the man of the hour for coach Pero Cameron. The point guard put up 14.8 points and 7.6 assists per game, finishing just behind Carlik Jones and Tremont Waters in the assists-per-game category. Ili really was their best player.
How important is Lauri Markkanen to this Susijengi lineup? Well, the next two guys combined had a lower efficiency per game than Lauri alone, Markkanen at 24.0, Mikael Jantunen and Olivier Nkamhoua at 22.8 together. The big guy is just unstoppable in this environment, he just needs more support from his teammates to take those 24.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game into the real TISSOT MVP conversation.
Another feel-good story of the World Cup, Egypt went from the team that has not won a World Cup game in 29 years into a 2-3 team fighting for a direct flight to the Paris 2024 Olympics. African basketball fans warned about Ehab Amin, now 19.4 points and 5.6 assists per game later, we can all say they were right, and Ehab is the real deal. You get to watch him again on a global stage at the upcoming FIBA Intercontinental Cup 2023 in Singapore.
By the numbers, it would've been Joshua Hawkinson. By the charisma, it would've been Yuta Watanabe. But by heart, Japan's best was Yuki Kawamura, finishing with 13.6 points and 7.6 assists per game, but done in just 23.8 minutes per game. That means Kawamura's assist average would've been at incredible 12.8 assists per 40 minutes! Easy math sees Kawamura's influence in 19.3 points and 9.3 assists in three wins, 5.0 points and 5.0 assists in two defeats.
They will try to forget this event as soon as possible. Or maybe the exact opposite, keep the memory of not reaching the last 16 alive, use it as fuel and motivation to be better at the Olympics at home next summer. Rudy Gobert was statistically their best player, with 10.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
The 11-1 Qualifiers record was a warning side that this squad is good. In fact, they are excellent, earning a direct ticket from the Africa zone to the Paris 2024 Olympics. Carlik Jones flirted with triple-doubles and assist records, he was the clear South Sudan best in the Philippines with 20.4 points, 10.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. Now, time to do it all over again next summer, to put South Sudan on the Olympic map.
Another chapter of history is written by the Bright Stars as South Sudan clinch Olympic basketball qualification for the very first time at the @FIBAWC 🌟— FIBA (@FIBA) September 2, 2023
See you in Paris @SSBFed!#FIBAWC x #WinForSouthSudan 🇸🇸 pic.twitter.com/7U1zgp28NL
Sure, the younger guys Goga Bitadze and Sandro Mamukelashvili had themselves fine tournaments, but this squad still revolves around Tornike Shengelia. He finished with a team-high 15.5 points per game, while playing four of their five games which saw them reach the top 16 in the world for the first time ever. No longer a Cinderella story, Georgia are becoming a solid European basketball force.
Bringing on Thomas Walkup was a good decision. The point guard felt at home in coach Dimitris Itoudis' system, getting 12.8 points and 7.2 assists per game, while shooting 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. But without Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tyler Dorsey, Kostas Sloukas and Nick Calathes, this was always going to be an uphill battle for Greece.
How fun was it seeing Karl-Anthony Towns in this environment? He was smiling since day one, blasting the golf ball for 250+ on the simulator even with the 7 iron, he was talking to everybody, he was reflecting that same mood on the court with 24.4 points and 8.0 rebounds, while sporting a 46-39-93 shooting split. Let's just make this the first of many, okay KAT? See you soon? See you soon!
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Can we share this between teammates? Because Yago Mateus and Bruno Caboclo go so well together, it's the same combo that got ratiopharm Ulm a surprising German championship last season, and they combined for 31.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game. If we had to pick one? Let's go with Yago. Because he stepped up after Raul Neto's injury, because he took over and won the game against Canada, because he's shot it at 49-45-89 percent for the World Cup. More to come, from both of them.
This has become a very Puerto Rico thing to do, playing slow, not winning a lot, basically struggling in the preparation games, and then coming up bit at the summit. Puerto Rico made it back to the sweet 16 again, and Tremont Waters finished with 20.0 points and 9.2 assists per game, earning the right to be called Puerto Rico's best of the World Cup.
They finally made it over the hump. Montenegro went from being the big Qualifiers story to becoming a regular dangerous World Cup team, all done behind Nikola Vucevic's best performances in the national team jersey. His 19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 steals per game proved once again that Nikola is the best player nobody talks about.
It's okay, Patty. It's okay, Joe. You guys can relax now, the Boomers are in safe hands with Josh Giddey taking over, earning the Wanda Rising Star award with his team-highs of 19.4 points and 6.0 assists per game. He didn't get that first ever World Cup triple-double, but with four more years of professional basketball under his belt, he's the hot favorite to pull it off in Qatar 2027.
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The flip of the page towards the next generation is happening effortlessly for coach Sergio Scariolo and Spain. Willy Hernangomez is now the statistical leader of this team, and the best of their outing in Jakarta with 18.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, but it's good to see the other names next to him among the stat leaders: Santiago Aldama, Usman Garuba, Juan Nunez, all born 2001 or later.
It would probably make sense to give this to coach Gianmarco Pozzecco because of everything he brings to this team and Italian basketball, generally. However, Simone Fontecchio is the clear difference maker on the court, 18.0 points and 5.6 rebounds made him the efficiency leader for Italy, and the best part about it is that he was far from his best basketball. Don't be surprised to see him average 25+ in a major event soon.
No need to waste words here: 27.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists per game. Led the World Cup in scoring.
Luka Doncic came two dimes short of the World Cup's first-ever triple double to power Slovenia's win over Italy and earn TCL Player of the Game honors 👏— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) September 9, 2023
📊 29 PTS | 10 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 32 EFF#FIBAWC x #WinForSlovenia 🇸🇮 | #InspireGreatness pic.twitter.com/8ScQNdTdsl
These guys defeated the United States, then suffered the curse of defeating the United States in a major event. They brought a lot of color to the Mall of Asia Arena, and a sixth place finish is more than anybody hoped for with a lot of their stars missing. Jonas Valanciunas was there, he was their MVP, he was steady on his way to 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, both team-highs by some distance.
This is where it gets tricky. Who was Latvia's best player? Was it Davis Bertans, for being the leader and finishing with 12.0 points per game? Was it Rolands Smits or Andrejs Grazulis, the two most consistent players? Was it Rodions Kurucs, who played an amazing defensive tournament?
All of them could work, but the one who turned heads in Jakarta and Manila was Arturs Zagars. The free agent point guard was named to the second team of the World Cup, and with 17 assists in the Fifth Place Game, he set a new record in single game assists. Tournament averages? 12.4 points, 7.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds. He won't be a free agent for long...
Anthony Edwards proved at the World Cup he's worth all the hype, scoring 18.9 points in just 26 minutes per game, with 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals also to his name. Sometimes, he was unstoppable. He just turned 22, by the way.
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Getting to 30 in efficiency sounds impressive. How about averaging 30.4 in that department in eight tough games at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 or more in three of those games, had 12 assists in the Third Place Game against the United States, and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Quarter-Finals against Slovenia. He took "doing a bit of everything" to a whole new level, finishing with 24.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game, a masterclass in efficiency.
He's the role model. He's the hero back home. He's the one that the entire world respects and he would've been the TISSOT MVP of the World Cup had he won it with Serbia. Bogdan Bogdanovic collected averages of 19.1 points, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals, and Serbia were a +92 team with him on the floor in the entire World Cup. Time to add FIBA Bogdan to the list of the scariest opponents.
Well, this one was clear all the way. Dennis Schroder was the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 TISSOT MVP, so it's only logical he was also Germany's MVP at this event. He played his best basketball when it was needed the most, celebrating his 30th birthday on September 15 as the World Cup winner who averaged 19.1 points, 6.1 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.
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