Starting next Saturday morning, when the majority of North Americans are catching their z’s, a match-up between Serbia and Angola will kick off the 2019 FIBA World Cup. From that point until the tournament ends on September 15th, hoop lovers across the world will have their eyes glued to the event to follow several big storylines.
Can NBA All-Stars Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo push their countries to success? Will an improved Canadian team be able to medal for the first time in history? Despite a depleted roster, can Team USA capture gold in their third straight FIBA World Cup?
Although the answers to those questions will only be revealed as the competition transpires, fans will immediately have a chance to be entertained by the cornucopia of quality players that will be participating. Among that talent, a lot of those guys have some portion of their career playing in the NBA G League.
While those more than a dozen of alums participating in the FIBA World Cup, it made sense to put together a small list of five players to keep an eye on when the event starts on August 15th. To prevent limited it to prospects from one or two nations (which was definitely possible), it made sense to limit it to just one player per country.
Brady Heslip - Canada
Over the course of the last half-decade in G League history, we’ve seen fantastic perimeter shooters like Troy Daniels and Seth Curry utilize that league as a means to get into the NBA. While that duo has gone on to have success at the top level, there’s one three-point threat in recent memory that stands out above both Curry and Daniels in terms of the G League; Brady Heslip.
While he’s spent most of his career getting European stamps in his passport, the Baylor alum was able to shine in the G League with the Reno Bighorns in 2014-15 and Raptors 905 in 2016-17. In both of those stints, he was able to light it up from beyond the arc as he averaged 18.5 points and 2.3 assists on 45% from field and 43% from beyond the arc in a combined 68 G League games. He was able to do that through rolling around screens, catch-and-shoots or spotting up and shooting from beyond the arc.
With Team Canada not having not featuring headline talent like Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins and RJ Barrett, someone like Heslip will need to step up to make sure they have a chance at receiving a medal.
Derrick White - United States
As we mentioned at the top of the article, Team USA will enter the 2019 FIBA World Cup more depleted than ever. That’s due to All-Star talent like James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, and Kyle Lowry decided to withdraw in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. Their departures left holes in Team USA’s roster that were in desperate need to be filled before the start of the FIBA World Cup. One player that stood above the rest to fill one of those spots is guard Derrick White.
Although White is now known for being an up-and-coming talent for San Antonio, the 6’4 guard spent a lot of his rookie year playing in the G League with the Austin Spurs. That run started during the G League’s regular season, where he put up 20.1 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks on 45% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 6.1 attempts per game.
While he was fantastic in the regular season, the rookie really blew up during the post-season as his incredible production helped lead Austin to a G League title. In four playoff games, he had 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks on 45% from field and 34% from beyond the arc.
16 months since then, White now appears to stand as both a vital part of a younger San Antonio Spurs team and a member of Team USA’s FIBA World Cup roster. In both areas, White could be relied upon in big moments to facilitate or make stops on the defensive end.
Gabe Vincent - Nigeria
One year removed from finishing his college career with UC Santa Barbara, Vincent will likely reach the apex of his career as a member of the Nigerian national team in the upcoming FIBA World Cup. Although the roster hasn’t been officially finalized yet, it would be surprisingly to see him not make the team as he’s been outstanding in Nigeria’s exhibition games.
For G League fans, that kind of production might be surprising as Vincent struggled during his rookie year with the Stockton Kings. In 19 minutes per game, he averaged 8.8 points, 2.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds on 38% from field and 29% from beyond the arc. Although he did have some solid outings for the team, which included a 25 point game against the AC Clippers on December 28th, the UC Santa Barbara alum was otherwise inefficient during his time with the team.
However, it appears that the young guard might be turning things around with his better play in exhibition games with Nigeria. Will he be able to transfer that to the FIBA World Cup and help guide his country to success? That’s yet to be seen but he’ll definitely be a intriguing player to watch.
Yuta Watanabe - Japan
Among the five players on this list, Watanabe might actually stand as the most intriguing of the bench. While that might surprising considering that it includes a current NBA rotation player, the Grizzlies two-way player will be entering the FIBA World Cup coming off an incredible Summer League run where he averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 50% from the field in 4 games during the separate runs in Vegas and Salt Lake City.
While it’s not exactly smart to take much from a four-game stretch, Watanabe might be a different case when you factor in his lock-down with the offensive flashes that were shown during his rookie year with the Memphis Hustle. Those traits added up could equate to the forward being a potential prospect during the 2019-20 season. Although that won’t campaign won’t begin for another two months, we could be seeing signs of that when the Grizzlies prospect plays for Japan in the FIBA World Cup
Bruno Caboclo - Brazil
After grinding during the first five years of his pro career going back and forth between the NBA and G League, Bruno Caboclo entered the 2019 off-season standing as a bonafide NBA player after a solid late season run with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Before he landed in Memphis, the Brazilian forward started the prior season in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Although that stint only lasted two months, the 6’9 player was able to shine by averaging 16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 3 blocks on 52% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc in only 28 minutes per game.
Following a great all-around 2018-19 season, Caboclo will enter the FIBA World Cup looking to be one of the leading players for a Brazilian team looking to medal in global competition for the first time since 1978. Although there’s more than a handful of solid teams that will look to outmatch Brazil, Caboclo’s great all-around play could potentially lead the team to heights they haven’t reached in more than 40 years.