20 NBA players to watch at the 2023 FIBA World Cup

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 13: Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece reacts prior to the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 quarterfinal match between Germany v Greece at EuroBasket Arena Berlin on September 13, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 13: Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece reacts prior to the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 quarterfinal match between Germany v Greece at EuroBasket Arena Berlin on September 13, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images) /

The 2023 FIBA World Cup kicks off on the 25th of August. With 22 rosters locked and loaded and some 70 NBA players joining the action, here’s a look at the 20 most exciting, dominant players you should spend some time watching throughout August and September.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a two-time NBA MVP and seven-time NBA All-Star and is arguably the no.1 player at the World Cup. The 28-year-old, who also became an NBA Champion in 2021, is Greece’s trump card. Expect Antetokounmpo to control the offense, attack the rim, hit mid-range jump shots, and fire shots from outside the arc.

Can anyone stop him? Can’t see it. Antetokounmpo averaged 31.1 points and 11.8 rebounds with the Milwaukee Bucks last season but it wasn’t enough to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Bucks flatlined in the NBA Playoffs, losing to Miami 4-1. Antetokounmpo likes to win. This World Cup gives him another shot at winning.

Anthony Edwards, USA

Anthony Edwards is already establishing himself as one of the faces of the NBA’s next generation of talent along with Ja Morant. He’s not quite there yet, but he’ll be the best, most entertaining player to watch on Team USA.

He averaged 24.6 last season, landing 213 three-pointers, and like Morant, attacks the rim from all parts of the court with raw instinct. He’s fearless and should lead the US attack along with Tyrese Haliburton (averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds) and Jalen Brunson (averaging 24 points). The only question is will his NBA game translate well against international competition?

Luka Doncic, Slovenia

Luka Doncic averaged 32.4 last year and led the NBA in scoring. It’s hard to believe he is only 24 years old.

Doncic no stranger to European ball. In 2018 he was crowned EuroLeague Champion and MVP. He also won Slovenia’s Sportsperson of the Year. Doncic was the youngest player to represent Real Madrid at 16. He’ll feast at this World Cup. Doncic just dropped a triple-double against Greece in a warm-up game with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists.

Of the last three World Cups Slovenia has qualified for, they finished 9th, 8th, and 7th. However, the team’s fortunes land and Doncic is a must-watch megastar.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray, Canada

High expectations will be placed on this Canadian duo to perform well at the World Cup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is coming off a stellar season in the NBA and evolved into a top-five scorer averaging 31.4 per game. While Jamal Murray, who recovered from an ACL injury to win his first NBA Championship with the Denver Nuggets, averaged 20. Can they gel together? It’s exciting to think about.

The rest of the Canadian team is stacked with NBA players including RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Kelly Olynyk, and Lu Dort. But they will need their two-pronged superstar guard attack to go large if they go deep into the tournament.

Lauri Markkanen, Finland

Something happened at EuroBasket last summer that kick-started the latest version of Lauri Markkanen we’re likely to see again later this month. In seven games he averaged 27.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.4 three-pointers. That led to an incredible career year with Utah averaging 25.6.

The 25-year-old stayed healthy last year. Something that he couldn’t do when he was at the Chicago Bulls. The guy they call “the Finnisher” will spearhead the national team after he completes military service which is mandatory before 30 in Finland. That’s some kind of preparation.

Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia

After a solid year with the Wizards averaging 23.2 points, Kristaps Porzingis made the decision to move to Boston in a bumper trade and will now be looking to push Latvia into uncharted territory.

In two qualifying matches, Porzingis averaged 25.5 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. He helped Latvia clinch their first-ever World Cup debut. Porzingis has a beard now and Latvia could be legit: they won 11 straight games in the qualifiers and made 134 triples at 37.5 percent, making them second-best among all European qualifiers.

Jordan Clarkson, Philippines

It’s still confirmed that Jordan Clarkson is lacing up for the host nation, the Philippines, on their home deck. He gained citizenship through his grandmother after the age of 16. The Philippines will play Italy, Angola, and the Dominican Republic in the group stage.

Anything is possible from one of the host nations. During the Asian Qualifiers, Clarkson averaged 25 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists. He’s coming off a solid year with Utah shooting 20.8 with 4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 61 games.

Nikola Vucevic, Montenegro

At 32 years old, the veteran Bulls center is still a high-level performer. Nikola Vucevic averaged 17.7 points and 11 rebounds this past season. He brings leadership and a competitive mentality to his game that Montenegro will need to lean on.

Vucevic is back for his second straight FIBA World Cup. He wants to be there and brings a long list of Euro Ball experience, featuring in three EuroBaskets (2011, 2013, 2017), and the 2019 World Cup.

Josh Giddey, Australia

Josh Giddey is one of the youngest players at the World Cup at 20 years old. He’s establishing himself in the NBA as a triple-double threat in the same mold as LaMelo Ball, averaging 16.6 points 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game last season.

Giddey creates shot opportunities with that rocket pass he’s got in his artillery and is learning to master the floater. He joins Josh Green, 22, and Dyson Daniels, 20, two other young NBA-Aussies at this World Cup looking to make an impact.

Yuta Watanabe and Rui Hachimura, Japan

Basketball fans are bullish on host nation Japan: They have two NBA players in Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe. Plus, the sharpshooter Keisei Tominaga, dubbed the “Japanese Steph Curry”.

According to the Japan Times, both players are expected to play key roles and are “integral to coach Tom Hovasse’s World Cup plans.” This is going to be a fun campaign for them. Both coming off fresh contracts with the Lakers and Nets, playing in front of fanatical Japanese crowds, and both will be relied on heavily to score.

Kyle Anderson, China

If you don’t know Kyle Anderson’s story about how he discovered his Chinese heritage, it’s pretty cool. In 2014, his mother Suzanne began finding Kyle’s great-grandfather. She hired a genealogist. Then had a breakthrough on AncestryDNA.

It ended a four-year search for family. In 2018, the Andersons took a trip to meet some 30 relatives. All that to say, the Chinese basketball team is excited to have him. Anderson will be looking to bring his late NBA season form to the World Cup. Anderson scored double-digits in 16 of the last 24 games, including two triple-doubles against the Hawks and Bulls.

Rudy Gobert, France

Timberwolves fans may not like that Rudy Gobert will feature for France at this year’s World Cup after getting banged up at EuroBasket 2022. That led to a subpar first season in Minnesota.

His scoring was down. Rebounds were down. Blocks were down. Gobert said at the end of last season that he’s planning his best summer ever and that he wants to have his best career year. If he can get through unscathed and with form with France, who will be without phenom Victor Wembanyama, it sets him up for a comeback year with the Wolves.

Jonas Valančiūnas, Lithuania

Jonas Valančiūnas has been playing the international circuit since 2007, getting his start with the U16 squad. He’s proud to represent his country. And this FIBA game suits him: hard, uncompromising, team-play.

It’s a less flashy, grittier game and Valančiūnas loves to get his hands dirty. The Lithuanians will want a repeat of the 30-year-old’s performance at EuroBasket 2022, where he exploded and averaged a double-double and as Lithuania went on to qualify for the round of 16.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominican Republic

Karl-Anthony Towns broke down with a calf strain that forced him out for most of the NBA season. He only played 29 games for the Wolves. The 27-year-old started to find form late in the year and in the last eight games, he scored 20 or more in six of them and produced two triple-doubles in the losing playoff series against Denver.

Those are good numbers and great signs for the Dominican team. This is Towns’ first time back to a FIBA tournament since 2013 and there’s a good chance his country can claim a Quarterfinal berth with the Philippines, Angola, and Italy–their main obstacles in the group phase.

Ricky Rubio, Spain

Life in Cleveland has been a struggle for Ricky Rubio. He missed the first 42 games of the NBA season through injury and managed 33 healthy ones last year. He only played ten-to-15 minutes a night, averaging 5.2 points and 3.5 assists stuck behind a long list of guards.

But playing for Spain is different. Rubio is a key cog who helped Spain win FIBA gold in 2019, averaging 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and six assists. He missed Spain’s success of EuroBasket gold in 2022 because of injury, but he’s back to add more hardware to his European collection.

Mo Bamba, Ivory Coast

Mo Bamba is proud of his African heritage. He was born in Harlem, but in 2022 built a basketball facility that supports 200 children per day in SOS Village Abodo-Gare in Abidjan.

Mamba has played 275 games in the NBA and is entering his seventh season. Now he’s on the Lakers roster, his time on the court got shaved down to nine minutes toward the end of the season. Let’s see what Mamba can do on the floor for his country. He’ll have plenty of opportunities.

Simone Fontecchio, Italy

The 6”7 small forward is the only NBA player on the Italian roster. Fontecchio has strong ties to the national team. He’s been playing for them since he was 16. The 27-year-old’s mother, Mali Pomilio also played for Italy and won two Euro titles. Meanwhile, his father was a hurdler and his grandfather also played basketball.

The Fontecchio family are natural-born athletes. It will be exciting to see what Utah’s Fontecchio can do for the Italian team.

Nikola Jovic , Serbia

Nikola Jovic sees NBA Champion and fellow Serbian Nikola Jokic as a big brother and mentor. They went through the same pipeline to reach the NBA. Jovic, 20, is just starting his NBA journey and already got an NBA Finals series under his belt.

That should give him the confidence to compete on the global stage. In 2021 he was part of the U19 Serbia World Cup team. With Serbia missing two-time MVP and 2023 Finals MVP Jokic, there will be an opportunity to score and show off his talent. Can Jovic stand up? Miami fans would love to see it.

Next. Ranking the 10 biggest threats to Team USA at the World Cup. dark