What the FIBA World Cup tells us about Fantasy Basketball

Josh Lloyd

Team USA were dumped out of the FIBA World Cup in a massive shock felt across the basketball world. But it’s not the only thing to come out of the tournament in China that will have an impact for this coming NBA season.

The first question is why did the USA lose before they even got to the medal round? The answer is a pretty simple one - the players they had just weren’t that dominant.

There was just one All-NBA player on the team, Kemba Walker and only one other current All-Star in Khris Middleton.

Of course, France, who knocked out the USA, only had Rudy Gobert who was an All-NBA player this past season.

The difference between France, and other teams like Australia, Spain, Argentina, and Serbia, and the USA is that these countries’ players have experience playing together and working as a team.

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When the talent level is relatively similar, which is how we should view the USA’s squad, teamwork and cohesion become all the more important in getting victories.

Unfortunately, the USA couldn’t get that to work, and Spain were eventually crowned as champions, defeating Argentina in the final.

From a fantasy basketball perspective, there are plenty of important FIBA World Cup takeaways. Let’s start with the defeated favourites.

Team USA

Players who move to new teams can often find it a little tougher to fit in immediately with their new squad, but Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics) has already spent a month with three of the team’s best five players in Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown.

Walker averaged 14.4 points in his seven games in just 25 minutes a game to go along with 5.4 assists per game.

He will need to up his assist rate to approximate his fantasy value from his years in Charlotte, but the situation he has been placed in has helped him get the leg up for this coming season.

Kemba Walker, pictured playing for Team USA, linked up with new Boston teammates Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart for the first time.
Kemba Walker averaged 14.4 points and 5.4 assists per game for Team USA at the World Cup. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets) shot an astonishing 47 percent from three last season in the NBA and for those of you who think this was an aberration, he knocked down 52 percent (11-of-21) of his deep looks in China.

Harris may not have been a household name, and likely still isn’t, but that shooting is legit and playing off of the incoming Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn should allow him plenty of wide-open looks this season to be an excellent contributor again this season as someone who can be had with a late pick.

Each time there is a big-time international tournament, there are one or two NBA players who really take the next step in the following season. We’ve seen it with DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Rose in the past, as well as Kenneth Farfied, and this year it could be San Antonio Spurs point guard Derrick White.

White played just 14 minutes a game but averaged 1.9 assists, and more impressively, 1.1 steals per game, while shooting a very high 57 percent on his two-point attempts.

He was under the watchful eye of his NBA coach, Gregg Popovich, so that can’t have done his chances of a big season any harm either and he could end up a nice late-round steal in fantasy drafts.

Australian Boomers

Patty Mills had an outstanding tournament as the Aussies reached the semi-finals before losing out to Spain in Beijing, in a double overtime thriller.

Up until the semis Mills averaged 22.2 points a game through his six contests, shooting 41 percent from deep, adding 4.5 assists as well.

Now, his role with the Spurs next season is going to be much smaller than it is for the Boomers, with White and Dejounte Murray ahead of him.

But this outburst from Mills has shown that he can’t be discounted as a hot scorer off the bench who can be a solid waiver wire option and deep league staple.

Czech Republic

Tomas Satoransky just recently moved from the Washington Wizards to be the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls.

If I wrote that sentence a few weeks ago, a lot of people would’ve doubted my statement that he is the starter, but watching this World Cup should put that doubt to bed.

Although the Czech side were bundled out of the World Cup by the Boomers in the quarter finals, the fact that Sato got them that far is a surprise enough.

Tomas Satoransky, pictured at the FIBA World Cup, impressed ahead of his switch to Chicago for the upcoming NBA season.
Tomas Satoransky, who has signed with the Chicago Bulls this season, averaged 15.9 points for the Czech Republic. (Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images)

Averaging 15.9 points across his seven games, Satoransky also added 6.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.4 blocks, while shooting a blistering 46 percent from deep.

His current ADP (average draft position) is way too low in fantasy basketball and he has shown the ability to be a top 60 player when filling in for John Wall in the past.

He is less of a mystery to the casual fan now than he was a month or so ago, but you can still reap the rewards with a little more confidence.

Spain

Ricky Rubio seemed like his value was tumbling after a couple of disappointing years in Utah, but his World Cup campaign has shown that the Suns may have a decent point guard on their hands for the first time in a while.

Rubio is averaging 15.5 points while shooting 48 percent from three (not a noted strength of his) along with 5.5 assists.

Point guards go off the board early in fantasy drafts, but Rubio is often available late in drafts and could harken back to his Minnesota days in terms of fantasy production.