Is Canada the team to beat at the FIBA World Cup?


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The FIBA World Cup once again features plenty of NBA players, even though certain superstars, like Nicola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, are not participating this year. Team USA unsurprisingly features the most NBA players on a squad mostly made up of young rising stars. They have already won their first three games in dominant fashion, but they are not the only powerhouse at the World Cup.

Team Canada has finally arrived on the international stage. Behind Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and new head coach Jordi Fernandez, they have likewise dominated their first three games. Playing in a somewhat tougher group than the United States, they already took out strong teams in France and Latvia.

With seven NBA players on Team Canada’s roster and the level of success they’ve had so far comes the question of whether Canada is actually the team to beat. It may seem unlikely at first but there is actually quite a lot to be said in favor of the Canadian team.

After years, decades even, of failing to put together successful men’s national basketball teams—over nine Olympics they have only ever won one medal, which was silver at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—Canada finally put together a squad with great talent and chemistry.

Many of these players have competed with or against each other most of their lives and it shows on the international stage. They work well on defense and have a smooth offense, especially in transition. Part of that should obviously be attributed to the coaching staff and not only the players. Jordi Fernandez did not miss a beat taking over for Nick Nurse. He has the team looking extremely prepared and locked in on both ends of the floor.

As a result. The Canadians are taking the second most field goal attempts per game behind only Australia with 72.3. They also lead the tournament in scoring with 108 points per game and in field goal percentage, shooting 54.8 percent. From behind the arc, they are shooting 42.9 percent which ranks second throughout the tournament so far. This makes them a tough team to beat and maybe even the team to beat on the way to a gold medal.

To top that off, they are doing all this without Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins. Both are incredibly talented players, but the Canadians barely seem to miss them this summer. The reason for their success is simple: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Apart from Luka Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander is arguably the best player in the tournament and single-handedly turns Team Canada into a third-quarter scoring machine. Dominant third quarters have been their key to success and part of it is their ability to play stifling defense, especially on the wing. Everything else, however, is Gilgeous-Alexander. The Canadians outscore teams by an average of 14 points in the third quarter. Against both France and Latvia Gilgeous-Alexander outscored the opponents all by himself.

While the tournament is far from over, it does not seem like the Canadians are going to slow down anytime soon on their quest for a gold medal and they might just be the team standing in the way of any team that wants to win. An eventual showdown between Canada and the USA sounds like every basketball fan’s dream come true.