The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup begins this weekend in China. The tournament features 32 international teams, with Team USA the Bovada favorite at -180 but not quite as strong as they usually are in a tournament like this.
Countries like Serbia and Greece will believe they have a real shot, especially since they’ll have the best player on the court in a matchup with the Americans. Other stalwarts like Spain, Australia, France, and Argentina will hope for one final run at glory for their fading generations, while upcoming teams like Canada and Montenegro will have some hope as well.
So what do the rosters look like at the FIBA World Cup, and which players and teams are worth noting? Let’s run down all 32 teams with group odds from Bovada and make some picks.
Ivory Coast +3300
This is by far the least talented group of the eight and a sweetheart’s draw for the host China, who certainly would not be the favorite in any other group. There’s not a single current NBA player in the group.
China actually brought their team stateside for the Las Vegas Summer League and even won a game there, so this team is battle-tested. You may remember the captain Yi Jianlian, he of the infamous man vs chair workout before being drafted #6 in 2007 by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yi is nearly seven feet tall and has played in four Olympic cycles, so he brings a lot of experience. China also features Zhou Qi, another giant who had a cup of coffee with the Houston Rockets before returning to play in China. The Chinese are probably the most talented team in the group and will have a huge home-court advantage.
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve never heard of any of the players on the other three rosters. Poland’s naturalized player, A.J. Slaughter, should be one of the group standouts. He’s won several European titles and can score points in a hurry.
Venezuela has an older roster that’s played together for years. They could struggle to hold up long term but may benefit from team chemistry and being tested in South America. Ivory Coast is a raw long shot, even in this group. No one here looks worth believing in unless you want to bet on Chinese home-court advantage or Venezuela’s veterans.
South Korea +20000
This is not the Argentina team of yore. Almost all of the players from their golden generation have retired from international ball now, including Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni, and Fabricio Oberto, all members of the 2004 Olympic gold medal team. The one carryover is Luis Scola, now 39 years old, still playing professional ball in China.
Argentina has no current NBA players, but Scola is supplemented by players like Marcos Delia, Nicolas Brussino, and Patricio Garino. Argentina won gold at the 2019 Pan American Games, and though they may not have much of a chance to win it all (+8000), they’ll be a feisty veteran team.
Nigeria have a whole bunch of names you’ll recognize. Minnesota’s Josh Okogie and Orlando’s Al-Farouq Aminu will play big roles, and Louisville’s 20-year-old star Jordan Nwora could be a big scorer. Former USC star Chimezie Metu will also play, as will former NBA bigs Ike Diogu and Ekpe Udoh.
Nigeria have a ton of length and defense without much shooting or polish on offense. And for as many NBA names as they have, they’re missing the one big name that might have made them real World Cup contenders – Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece to Nigerian parents.
Russia’s entire roster plays professional ball in Russia, a common theme across Russian teams in other sports like soccer, too. Former first-round NBA pick Sergey Karasev will feature, and Russia may rely heavily on Vitaly Fridzon, a veteran guard that has won many Russian and European championships. The Russians always seem to pull off a big upset in international tournaments.
South Korea is the one team in this group you can count out. Any of the other three teams could win it. Nigeria and Russia both have the talent to knock off Argentina but are weak enough to lose any game too. In the end, it’s just too hard to pick against Argentina.
Puerto Rico +1100
Spain are the Group C headliner by a mile. They’re equally strong favorites to win their group as Team USA are to win Group E.
Spain brings a very familiar roster to the World Cup. Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol headline the roster, while names like Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, and the Hernangomez brothers add a ton of depth and experience.
No World Cup team brings as much winning experience as Spain, not even Team USA. These guys have played together for years. They know where their teammates will be and know how to fit each other’s styles, and guys like Rubio and Llull always seem at their best in the international game.
Spain won the 2006 FIBA World Championship with many of these same players, though you’ll probably notice a few key Spanish big men missing. Marc is the only Gasol brother present as Pau has retired from the international game, and Serge Ibaka is a miss as well.
Juan Carlos Navarro and Sergio Rodriguez will also be missed. Still, Spain is super talented and will be a very tough out. They’re +1400 to win the whole tournament if you want to bet on veteran savvy and team experience.
The rest of this group won’t present much of a challenge. Puerto Rico is the favorite to advance in second place. They’ll miss J.J. Barea, but you may recognize names like Renaldo Balkman, Gian Clavell, and Isaiah Pineiro.
Puerto Rico always plays with a lot of heart and passion, and it wouldn’t be totally shocking to see them put a scare into Spain. They’re not an absolutely crazy bet to win the group since Spain won’t care much whether they finish in first or second.
Iran and Tunisia are mostly window dressing in Group C. Tunisian big man Salah Mejri of the Dallas Mavericks is the only name of note.
Spain is getting old, and this may be their last chance at a World Cup title with this generation. Spain is talented enough to coast to the semifinals, so you might be looking at them playing a slight underdog role with an experienced, veteran team at +1400 odds to win it all. That’s not a bad look at that number.
Serbia looks like Team USA’s biggest threat at the World Cup, and the odds-makers agree, putting them at a somewhat shocking +325 to win the tournament. Serbia are headlined by do-everything Denver big man Nikola Jokic.
Jokic exploded for 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists a game in the playoffs this spring, and a huge World Cup tournament could vault him into the conversation for NBA’s best player or MVP next season. Jokic is a savant passer with an elite basketball IQ, a soft touch on his jumper, and better defense than you’d think. He could be the star of the tournament.
Jokic will have plenty of help. Serbia could play 76ers giant Boban Marjanovic with Jokic at times, a 7-foot-3 cheat code that can dunk without jumping and makes even most NBA players look miniature. Boban will be particularly useful with international rules allowing him to swat the ball off the rim.
Serbia also features a pair of Sacramento Kings. Nemanja Bjelica had an excellent year and will stretch the defense with his shooting, while Bogdan Bogdanovic is a talented passer and playmaker that may act as the de facto point guard for this team with Milos Teodosic an injury miss.
Serbia will be good, like really, really good, and they’ll be a lot of fun too. They have plenty of passing and shooting and should have an excellent offense, but their weak spot will be in defense and athleticism. They will be a very tough matchup against Team USA because of the size advantage they bring, and they are a very real threat to win the tournament.
They’ll have to beat Italy to win their group. Italy’s roster is full of scrappy, do-what-it-takes guys like Marco Bellinelli, Danilo Gallinari, and Luigi Datome. They’re the European poor man’s version of Argentina, playing with passion and style and plenty of experience.
They won’t be afraid of Serbia, though they don’t have the size to match them either. If Italy gets hot shooting, they could surprise Serbia to win this group.
Both Italy and Serbia will certainly advance. The Philippines feature naturalized player Andray Blatche, and as for Angola? As the great Charles Barkley once said, “I don’t know anything about Angola, but Angola’s in trouble.’
Czech Republic +3300
Team USA is obviously the heavy favorite in Group E, and they’re the tournament favorite as well, though perhaps by not as much of a margin as you’d think at just -180. This is the weakest American roster in some time after a number of late withdrawals leaving Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum among the marquee names on the roster.
You can read SportsBook Review’s full Team USA roster analysis here. Just know that this team may not feature the usual stars, but it’s still the only team at the World Cup with 12 NBA players, and they’ll have a serious depth and athleticism advantage against every opponent they face.
Turkey should present the toughest challenge in the group. You’ll recognize NBA names like Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee), Cedi Osman (Cleveland), and Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia), as well as former Florida star Scottie Wilbekin and decorated center Semih Erden.
You might recognize those names, but you’ll also recognize them as end-of-the-bench NBA guys. Unless they luck into some streaky shooting, they’re no match for team USA.
Tomas Satoransky headlines the Czech roster after a breakout campaign with the Washington Wizards standing in for John Wall at point guard. Sato is a wily player, and the Czechs have a lot of size that could give the Americans some trouble.
Japan features Washington Wizards lottery pick Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese-born first-round pick in NBA history after an excellent season for Gonzaga. He’s joined by the Grizzlies’ Yuta Watanabe and former Nevada star Nick Fazekas. This is a big opportunity for Japan to put itself on the map with a good showing before hosting next year’s Summer Olympics.
Group E features NBA players on every roster. But if you think names like Hachimura, Satoransky, and Ilyasova can match up to Team USA, you are badly mistaken.
New Zealand +2500
Greece has a good recent history of surprising in international tournaments even without big-name talent. Well, that won’t be happening this time around, because this time they have Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Amazing how things change when you can roster the reigning NBA MVP. Suddenly Greece are heavy group favorites and third favorites to win the whole tournament at -1000. That’s the sort of odds you get when you’re guaranteed to have the best player on the court in every matchup.
Giannis is spectacular, and the Greek Freak is still getting better. He’s improved his scoring and rebounding averages in every season in the NBA, peaking at 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists a game this year en route to an NBA-leading 60 wins and the MVP trophy. And Antetokounmpo says he’s still getting better.
He began hitting threes toward the end of the season and has the talent to take over any game of this tournament with his long Euro step drives and Defensive Player of the Year ability on the other end.
Giannis is joined by his older brother Thanasis, and it’s not out of the question there could be three or four Antetokounmpos playing together in a future tournament. He’ll also get help from decorated veteran center Ioannis Bourousis and NBA washouts Georgios Papagiannis and Kostas Papanikolaou. Greece has a lot of size plus Giannis, and that makes them a real threat to Team USA in a likely second-round group game.
But Greece has to escape the first round of group play first, and that’s no lock in this difficult group. Brazil will present the biggest challenge. Brazil always seems to play well at international tournaments. They’re an interesting mix of veterans and youth, headlined by 36-year-olds Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao, and Marcelo Huertas along with up-and-comers Bruno Caboclo and Didi Louzada, a 2019 Pelicans draft pick.
Brazil will play fast. They’re scrappy and energetic and will get to the loose balls and run off make or miss. They’re the sort of team that could upset anyone on the right day.
Montenegro is another team with a couple of talented big men. Magic star Nikola Vucevic had a breakout All-Star campaign last season. He quietly averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists a game while adding a 36% three-pointer and had himself in the running for All-NBA at year’s end before a big offseason contract extension.
He’ll pair with Bojan Dubljevic, a 27-year-old big man that won the Spanish League and SuperCup in 2017 with a Finals MVP performance, then led his team to a second EuroCup this year.
New Zealand missed out on adding another big man with Steven Adams staying home, but Corey Webster has won two MVPs and three championships in the NBL, widely considered one of the best non-NBA basketball leagues in the world. New Zealand may not have the firepower to win the group, but they could upset any one of these teams.
Group F is one to keep an eye on, in part because two of these teams will be American opponents in the second round group stage. It feels like Greece is being given a little too much credit before they’ve accomplished much, Giannis or not.
They’re not a good bet in the group or tournament at large. Brazil’s speed and overall talent could be a tough matchup in this group, and they might be the most intriguing relative long shot group pick at +550.
Dominican Republic +1000
France headline Group G, but the French team got a lot less interesting with the late withdrawal of guards Elie Okobo and Theo Maledon, a likely 2020 lottery pick. Still, France is so good neither of those guys would have even played heavy minutes. Rudy Gobert anchors the team, the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
He’ll be flanked by Nic Batum, Nando de Colo, Evan Fournier, and Frank Ntilikina, all NBA players except de Colo, with talented players like Vincent Poirier, Mathias Lessort, and Axel Toupane available off the bench. France’s starting five features four guys that can handle the ball.
That makes Gobert a dangerous pick-and-roll man and gives France a very international-friendly lineup. It feels a bridge too far to think France can go on to win the whole tournament at +2800, but they’re a dangerous team that could upset any opponent. Keep an eye on them if they face Spain or Serbia in knockout.
Germany will not feature Dirk Nowitzki, and the roster is lighter than you think. Dennis Schröder stars for the Germans and always plays better for the national team than he does in the NBA. He does a bit of everything as the star point guard.
You may recognize names like Maxi Kleber, Daniel Theis, and Paul Zipser around Schröder. It’s a fun team that might surprise if they’re overlooked, but they lack star power for such a large country.
The Dominican Republic will be a tough out in any game, though they’d certainly be a lot tougher if they had convinced Al Horford or Karl-Anthony Towns to play. They are not outlandish to win the group at +1000. Jordan is such an unknown roster that a majority of their players to not even have a Wikipedia page. They already won their World Cup just by qualifying.
The final group could be the most interesting one. That won’t be because of Senegal, who look horribly outmatched in a top-heavy group.
Australia is the group favorite, probably buoyed in part by their win against Team USA a week ago. Australia is like that team at the YMCA that plays super hard and makes energy plays and just hangs around and hopes to get hot. Against Team USA, they did, with Patty Mills carrying the team down the stretch.
The Spurs guard joins names like Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedeova, bringing championship experience to the Aussie roster. The best player on the team is Joe Ingles, an underrated Jazz wing who looked like the best player on the court for much of one of the Team USA games.
Jock Landale and Aron Baynes give them great big man depth too. Australia has a lot of shooters and handlers, plenty of size, and they play well together. They’re still hunting for a medal for this generation and starting to run out of chances.
Lithuania will bring their own twin towers with Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis had a breakout campaign for the Pacers and was in the running for 6th Man of the Year, while Valancinuas closed out the season strong with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade.
You might also remember Mindaugas Kuzminskas from the Knicks. You probably don’t know the Lithuanian guards, but you’ll get to see plenty of captain Mantas Kalnietis, their 32-year-old point guard who’s won just about every European award there is.
Lithuania are a crisp-passing team that shares the ball and plays well together. They have a long history of pulling off big international upsets. They’re a very intriguing play at +145 in this group and maybe should be the group favorite.
Canada will be a favorite sleeper for some, but this was a rough draw and the team has simply had too many late roster withdrawals to really make a run in this tournament. The Canadians still bring plenty of talent, but the headliners are names like Cory Joseph, Kyle Wiltjer, Kevin Pangos, Khem Birch, and Melvin Ejim.
They’re a fun and talented team but they don’t stack up against the best teams in the world and may have a hard time even escaping the group. There are better years ahead, and hopefully 19-year-old Andrew Nembhard gives Canadians some hope for the future, but this might not be the tournament for Canada just yet.
The FIBA World Cup begins with Group A games on Saturday, August 31, and continues through the championship game on September 15. Games will be mostly overnight for Americans since they’re in China, though all three of Team USA’s group games tip at 8:30 am ET if you’d like to start your morning off with a bowl of cereal and some American pride.
For now, get your favorite bets in and enjoy some international basketball!