international

Best NBA players from 2018 World Cup countries

The World Cup. The prestigious month-long festivity of soccer that highlights 32 of the world’s best soccer countries is now underway. These 32 countries will meet in Russia to fight for a chance to be crowned the champions of the world. Each country participating at the World Cup clearly boasts tremendous soccer talent, however, many of the competing countries have produced standouts in the game of basketball as well.

Blending international talent into the NBA has made the league, and the sport of basketball, so attractive to all reaches of the globe. This article will dive deep into the history books and uncover a player from each country participating in the World Cup who have put on an NBA jersey and checked in at the scorer’s table.

** Columbia, Peru, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, and Portugal were the only countries to have no current or former NBA players. **

Group A:

World Cup

photo via: Scott G. Winterton/ Deseret News

Russia- PF – Andrei Kirilenko

Stats: 13 years, 11.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 47.4 FG%, 31.0 3PT%, 75.4 FT%

AK-47. The deadly sharpshooting 6’9″ Russian swingman was as versatile a player as there was. Being long enough to guard both the perimeter and the paint on one end, and then being offensively gifted to let it fly from three and put the ball on the floor and attack.

In his first year in the league (2000-2001) Kirilenko earned First Team All-Rookie honors and made sure he struck fear into his opponents leaguewide. In only his third year in the league, he was selected to be an All-Star as well as earning All-Defensive second team honors. Kirilenko went on to earn All-Defensive honors two more times in his career and cracked the All-Defensive first team in the 2005-2006 season where he led the NBA that season in blocks with 3.3 blocks per game.

In his 13 year career, Kirilenko would average double-digit points in 10 of those seasons. His defensive prowess allowed him to achieve 2.0+ blocks in five consecutive seasons.

Top career highlight: March 25, 2006

Kirilenko recorded a triple-double with blocks as he ended with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 blocks.

Saudi Arabia- N/A

Egypt- PF – Alaa Abdelnaby

Stats: 5 years, 5.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, 50.2 FG%, 70.1 FT%

Taken with the 25th pick in the 1990 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, Abdelnaby was never able to live up to his draft grade and failed produce at a high level in Portland. Abdelnaby jumped around the league and played for five separate teams, eventually falling out of the league by the time he was 26. Nicknamed “The Pharoah”, the best season for Abdelnaby came in the 1992-1993 season where he recorded five games of 20+ points for the Boston Celtics.

Top career highlight: December 23, 1992

Abdelnaby tallied a career high in points with 26 points on 9-17 shooting from the field versus the Sacramento Kings.

Uruguay- PF – Estaban Batista

Stats: 2 years, 1.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.2 APG, 43.8 FG%, 61.7 FT%

The 6’10” southpaw made his NBA debut in 2005 for the Atlanta Hawks and in the process became the only player from Uruguay to ever play in an NBA game. Batista did not last long in the NBA, playing only two seasons and playing in only 70 career games.

Top Career highlight: April 10, 2006

Batista achieved his only career double-double performance in a 10 point, 10 rebound game versus the Orlando Magic.

Group B:

World Cup

photo via: Kim Klement/ USA TODAY Sports

Portugal- N/A

Spain- PF-C – Pau Gasol

Stats: 17 years, 17.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 50.8 FG%, 36.6 3PT%, 75.4 FT%

The NBA has seen many Spaniards enter the NBA, but none of which have accomplished the feats that Pau Gasol has reached in his 17-year career. Being talented enough to handle the ball, pass, shoot from extended lengths and hold his own down low, all at the height of 7’0″, made Gasol an elite level talent. He rose to a high level of popularity once he was acquired by the Los Angelas Lakers, and with his help, the purple and gold were able to capture back to back championships.

Gasol’s younger brother Marc was up for discussion in taking Pau’s position on this list, but the longevity and overall resume of Pau made him a more worthy candidate.

Pau took home the rookie of the year award in 2001-2002, has been a six-time All-Star, an All-NBA second team member twice, and an All-NBA third team honoree three times. Along with his many awards, Gasol ranks in the top five of current players in blocks (2nd) and rebounds (3rd). Currently sitting at the 39th position on the NBA scoring list, Gasol looks to climb the leaderboard as long as father time cooperates.

Top career highlight: February 26, 2016

Gasol achieved a career high in assists with 14 en route to a triple-double with 16 rebounds and 22 points.

Morocco- PG/SG – Mike Flynn

Stats: 3 years, 6.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 41.9 FG%, 25.3 3PT%, 62.9 FT%

Playing two years in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers and one year in the ABA, Mike Flynn did not last long in the league as he was done by the age of 24. Flynn produced his best season in his second year professionally averaging 8.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.5 APG. Although the scoring averages did not exceed double digits, Flynn scored 20+ points in five games that season.

Top career highlight: October 26, 1976

Flynn totaled his second highest career high in points with 23 points, nine rebounds, while getting his hands on three steals.

Iran- C – Hamed Haddadi

Stats: 5 years, 2.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.3 APG, 46.3 FG%, 63.2 FT%

The only Iranian basketball player to play in the NBA entered the league in 2008 and never saw his career take off. In his five seasons, Haddadi never started a game and never was able to play more than 36 games in a season. With limited playing time along with lackluster performance on the court, Haddadi was out of the league by the age of 27.

Top career highlight: April 17. 2013

Haddaddi racked up a career-best 14 points and was able to bring in seven rebounds and swat away two shots.

Group C:

World Cup

photo via: Brad Rempel/ USA TODAY Sports

France- C – Joakim Noah 

Stats: 11 years, 8.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 49.0 FG%, 69.9 FT%, 1.3 BPG

After taking two National Championship trophies in his time at the University of Florida, Noah was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. Noah was placed into the Chicago Bulls organization with the perfect coach for his skill set, Tom Thibodeau.

Noah would hone in on the defensive aspect of his game and receive: two All-Defensive first team honors, one All-Defensive second team honor, and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-2014. Adding to the list of Noah’s resume is the two All-Star appearances and member of the 2013-2014 All-NBA first team.

After two forgetful seasons in New York and a contract that might be one of the NBA’s worst, Noah has managed to build an NBA career that should not be overlooked.

Top career highlight: December 2, 2012

Noah achieved a career high in both points (30) and rebounds (23) in the Bulls 108-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Noah also chipped in six assists, two blocks, and two steals.

Australia- PG – Kyrie Irving

Stats: 7 years, 22.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 46.2 FG%, 38.8 3PT%, 87.5 FT%

This guard from down-under also known as ‘Uncle Drew’, is arguably the best point guard that currently is playing in the NBA. Although his dual citizenship saw him suit up in the red, white, and blue for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics, Irving was close to sporting the yellow and green at Rio de Janeiro. Already an NBA champion as well as a Gold medalist, Irving is in the prime of his career at only 25 years of age. Who knows what he will accomplish from this point forward, however, I am sure that the ‘Ankletaker’ will waste no time showing us.

Diving headfirst into the league after an injury-plagued one-and-done season at Duke University, Irving took home the 2011-2012 rookie of the year award and became a member of the All-Rookie first team. Irving then went on to achieve five All-Star appearances and All-NBA third team honors once. After his late-game heroics from winning a championship in Cleveland in 2016, Irving went on to separate himself as a leader and become ‘the guy’ in Boston.

Being one of the best isolation players the NBA has ever seen along with his ability to shoot, drive & finish, and showcase jaw-dropping dribbling skills has proved that he is the best Aussie to play in the NBA.

Top career highlight: June 19, 2006

Tied at 89 in game seven of the 2016 NBA finals, Irving was guarded by league MVP Stephen Curry and given the chance to be the hero. Irving pulled up for three and drained it. The Golden State Warriors were unable to capitalize on their next possession, giving the Cavaliers their first title in franchise history. Irving ended with 26 points, six rebounds, and one assist.

Peru- N/A

Denmark- C – Lars Hansen

Stats: 1 season, 5.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 50.9 FG%, 58.1 FT%

With only a solo season in the NBA as a member of the then Seattle SuperSonics, Hansen only suited up in 15 games. I’m lost here, there is not much to be said here due to the lack of time that Hansen spent in the league.

Top career highlight: December 19, 1978

In only his second career game, Hansen poured in a career-high with 19 points.

Group D:

World Cup

photo via: Soobum Im/ USA TODAY Sports

Argentina- SG – Manu Ginobili

Stats: 16 years, 13.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, 44.7 FG%, 36.9 3PT%, 82.7 FT%

The pride of Argentina lies with soccer icon Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, but for those basketball heads out there, it was San Antonio Spurs own Manu Ginobili. A decorated champion who possesses a crafty arsenal of tactics used on both ends of the floor, Ginobili has shown the beauty of the game with his slick passing, amazing footwork (the euro step), and an awkwardly beautiful left-handed shot.

An overlooked prospect by many in the 1999 NBA draft, Ginobili was taken with the 58th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs. Legendary coach Gregg Popovich got the most out of the Argentinian and made him an integral part for the Spurs dynasty that was crafted. In his 16 year career, Ginobili was able to come away with All-Rookie second team honors, a two-time member of the All-NBA third team, four-time NBA champion, two All-Star appearances, and the 2007-2008 Sixth Man of the year.

Ginobili was a constant double-digit scorer (scoring above 10.0 PPG in 12 seasons) while averaging around three to four rebounds and assists per year. A model of consistency, Ginobili seems has become more cerebral and knows when to pick his opportunities to strike a dagger into the opponent’s hearts. Although he is nearing the end of his career, the NBA world should be grateful of what Ginobili brought to the game of basketball, a gritty tough-nosed international guard who took it to the leagues best night and night out.

Top career highlight: June 23rd, 2005

In a high-intensity game seven of the NBA Finals versus the Detroit Pistons, Ginobili took over in the fourth quarter. In the season’s deciding quarter, Ginobili would add 11 points and hit one clutch shot after another. Closing the game with 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Iceland- C – Petur Gudmundsson

Stats: 4 years, 4.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 49.4 FG%, 75.4 FT%

After playing for three teams in only four seasons, Gudmundsson never found a true home in the NBA. His rookie year he played for Portland and only averaged 12.4 minutes per game He then left for three years to develop his game and play more minutes overseas in Iceland and the United Kingdom.  After his third year overseas, he returned back to the NBA to play for the Los Angelas Lakers where he only appeared in eight games. Gudmundsson did not play the following 1986-1987 season and then landed in San Antonio where he would play two seasons of similar type limited production. After the Spurs, the writing was on the wall for Gudmundsson as he retired from the NBA following the 1988-1989 season.

Top career highlight: November 28th, 1987

Gudmundsson scored a career-high in points as he led all scorers this night with 21 points while also contributing 11 rebounds and three assists.

Croatia- PF – Dario Saric

Stats: 2 years, 13.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 43.1 FG%, 35.5 3PT%, 82.0 FT%

Although he has only completed two years in the league, Saric has shown tremendous production and value to the Philadelphia 76ers. Saric made the All-Rookie first team and in his second year increased his scoring, passing, and rebounding totals. With a smooth overall game that flies under the radar as opposed to the likes of teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Saric has proven that he can handle being either the primary, secondary or tertiary scoring option on a given night. Look for Saric’s career to continue to ascend as he looks to improves on a blooming career.

Top career highlight: March 24, 2017

Saric scored a career-high in points with 32 points as he was able to collect a double-double with 10 rebounds in the 76ers 117-107 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Nigeria- C – Hakeem Olajuwon

Stats: 18 years, 21.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.1 BPG, 51.2 FG%, 71.2 FT%

Arguably the best big man to ever play in the NBA, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon had a dominant 18-year career in the NBA. With a dominant low post presence on both offense and defense, he has been the go-to example of what today’s coaches want their centers to emulate. When today’s players want to become better at scoring down low they reach out to Olajuwon, learning the tricks and trades of how to use footwork in order to be effective.

The accolades of Olajuwon are staggering, so grab a seat while you read these: All-Rookie first team honors, three-time block champion, two-time rebounding champion, four-time All-Defensive seconds team honors, five-time All-Defensive first team honors, three-time All-NBA third team honors, three-time All-NBA second team honors, six-time All-NBA first team honors, 12-time All-Star appearances, two-time Defensive Player of the year, two-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, league MVP 1993-1994, and Hall of Fame Inductee in 2008.

Is there really any more to say?

Top career highlight: March 10, 1987

Although it is hard to pick against Olajuwon’s quadruple-double performance, (one of only four people to accomplish such a feat) this night proved to be more dominant for Olajuwon as he torched the SuperSonics for 38 points, 17 rebounds, 12 blocks, six assists, and seven steals.

Group E:

World Cup

photo via: Brad Mills/ US PRESSWIRE

Brazil- PF/C – Nene

Stats: 16 years, 11.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 54.8 FG%, 66.0 FT%

Taken high in the 2002 NBA draft (7th overall), Nene has made it a habit of finding ways to contribute to any team he lands on. Whether that be the Denver Nuggets with the star being Carmelo Anthony, the Washington Wizards with John Wall and Bradley Beal, or his more recent cameos with James Harden and Chris Paul on the Houston Rockets.

As far as accomplishments go, Nene only has the All-Rookie first team honor he received in the 2002-2003 season. Ranking in the top 20 in NBA history in terms of Filed Goal percentage (19th), Nene can always be relied upon to score the ball when he gets open looks. Whether those looks occur as the roll man on pick & roll opportunities, 10-12 foot jumpers, or easy lay-ins opened up by penetration, he has constantly been able to knock them down throughout the course of his 16-year career.

Top career highlight: February 22, 2014

As he tied his career high in points that night with 30, Nene led all scorers while also putting in three steals, two blocks, and seven rebounds.

Switzerland- C – Nikola Vucevic

Stats: 7 years, 14.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG 2.2 APG, 49.9 FG% 30.8 3PT%, 72.9 FT%

One of the more overlooked centers that currently play in the NBA, Vucevic has maintained a robust and stable career thus far. After a forgetful rookie season with the 76ers, Vucevic found tremendous success with a rebuilding Orlando Magic team. Following the Dwight Howard departure, Vucevic provided the Magic with a center with reliable production. Vucevic averaged a double-double in each of the next three seasons with his most impressive season coming in the 2014-2015 season where he averaged 19.3 PPG and 10.9 RPG.

He has a physically imposing 7’0″, 260-pound frame where can bully his opponents and wear them down. Now extending his range to the three-point line, Vucevic has shown his ability to evolve and find success in today’s spread-out game. In his seven-year career, it is shocking to some that Vucevic has not landed in All-Star game or any All-NBA teams. However, don’t count out Vucevic yet as he is more than capable of doing so in the near future.

Top career highlight: December 31, 2012

Going against the big three in Miami at the time, Vucevic posted a 20-20 performance with 20 points and a career-best 29 rebounds (also an Orlando Magic franchise record). He also was able to contribute two assists, three steals, and two blocks in the Magic’s deflating 112-110 loss.

Costa Rica- N/A

Serbia- C – Vlade Divac

Stats: 16 years, 11.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 49.5 FG%, 23.5 3PT%, 69.2 FT%

The smooth passing Serbian big man made a new home in the state of California playing 14 of his 16 years within the sunshine state Lakers (eight seasons) and the Sacramento Kings (six seasons). Carrying on with the impressive passing ability that international big men possess, Divac found ways to add flare and pinpoint accuracy with his dimes. He could get after it scoring the ball as well with a solid mid-range jumper and great finishing ability at the rim. Divac had the proper size and mass to hang with the best big men in the NBA (excluding Shaquille O’Neal but that’s a conversation for a different time).

Although he does not have a treasure trove of accolades to show for his career with only an All-Rookie first team honor and one All-Star appearance, he was a consistent player who could always be relied upon to make the right basketball play.

Top career highlight: February 24, 1995

In a 20-20 performance, Divac provided the Lakers with a boost by adding 25 points (on 12-17 shooting) with 24 rebounds. For added measure, Divac threw in eight assists, four steals, and three blocks.

Group F:

World Cup

photo via:Jerome Miron/ USA TODAY Sports

Germany- PF/C – Dirk Nowitzki

Stats: 20 years, 21.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 47.2 FG%, 38.3 3PT%, 87.9 FT%

The best international player ever. No questions asked. The seven-foot-tall german basketball has a resume that is as untouchable as his fadeaway jump shot. A big man should not be able to shoot the ball as well as he does. He put on a superheroes cape and found his way past the ‘big three’ of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh in the 2011 NBA finals. That victory gave the Dallas Mavericks organization, that has been loyal to Nowitzki for two decades, their first team championship.

Much like Olajuwon, his career accolades are jaw-dropping. Nowitzki has earned: 13 All-Star appearances, three-time All-NBA third team honors, five-time second-team All-NBA honors, four-time All-NBA honors, one-time NBA champion, one-time Finals MVP, one-time league MVP (2006-2007). It is safe to say he will go down as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Nowitzki ranks sixth All-Time in scoring, ninth in field goals converted, and 11th in three-pointers converted.

Top career highlight: November 3, 2009

Trailing 52-67 heading into the fourth-quarter, Nowitzki led the Mavericks back to a victory as he scored 29 fourth-quarter points and ended the game with 40 points with 11 rebounds, five assists, 2 steals, and five blocks.

Mexico- PF/C – Gustavo Ayon

Stats: 3 years, 4.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 53.6 FG%, 50.4 FT%

Although it was a short-lived career Ayon managed to find his way into the starting line-up for the then New Orleans Hornets, Orlando Magic, and Atlanta Hawks. Ayon never was able to find his way on a team for more than a year and it was clear that he was going to be a journeyman if he had kept it up. He posted respectable numbers given the amount of minutes (16.4 career average) he was given with each team, however, there were no signs of progressions with Ayon. After his last season in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks following the 2013-2014 season, the Mexican big man never laced up the sneakers in an NBA game again.

Top career highlight: February 21, 2014

In a blowout win for the Toronto Raptors, Ayon posted his fifth career double-double with a career-high in points with 16 while bringing in 10 rebounds.

Sweden- PF – Jonas Jerebko

Stats: 9 years, 6.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 45.7 FG%, 36.3 3PT%, 76.6 FT%

After a saddening Achilles injury following his strong rookie campaign of 9.8 PPG and earning All-Rookie second team honors, Jerebko has only been able to show flashes of what he was promised to be. A 6’10” power forward with a sweet stroke and athleticism that caught many off guards, Jerebko has found his role as a spotty scoring bench player in the NBA. After four and a half (playing seasons) with the Detroit Pistons, Boston was rewarded with his services where he proved to be a valuable role-player to a team who needed his spark and energy. After Boston was through with Jerebko he then fell to his third team in the Utah Jazz where he currently sits.

Top career highlight: November 27, 2009

In only his 14th career game in the NBA, Jereko scored what would stay his career high (so far) with 22 points in an efficient 8-11  shooting night while also going 4-4 from deep.

South Korea- C – Ha Seung-Jin

Stats: 2 years, 1.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.1 APG, 51.9 FG%, 50.0 FT%

Selected 46th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, Seung-Jin only lasted two seasons in the NBA. After appearing in only 46 contests over two seasons Seung-Jin proved that he may not have been a good fit for the NBA. He did, however, start four games in his final season with the Trail Blazers. His stats do not bode well for him in any regard and it is a shame that given his 7’3″ height, he could not be as effective.

Top career highlight: April 20, 2005

In an efficient 6-7 shooting from the field, Seung-Jin matched his total points scored all season in just this one game and set his career-high at 13 points.

Group G:

World cup

photo via: Dennis Wierzbicki/ USA TODAY Sports

Belgium- PG – Tony Parker

Stats: 17 years, 15.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, 49.2 FG%, 32.6 3PT%, 75.2 FT%

One of the most decorated players currently in the NBA, Parker has had a career that most international guards dream of. Much like his career-long teammate Manu Ginobili, Parker has been a model of success throughout his career. With big-time playmaking ability and sneaky good post skills, Parker has found ways to be effective for as long as he has. Although Parker is known for his French heritage, his birthplace of Bruges, Belgium needs him on the list more than France does.

Parker has been gifted with several honors in his long career, including first-team All-Rookie first team honors, six All-Star appearances, a one-time All-NBA third team honoree, a three-time All-NBA second team honoree, four-time NBA champion, and one-time Finals MVP (2006-2007).

Top career highlight: May 27, 2013

In a dominant fashion, at the age of 30, Tony Parker had Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies tied in a pretzel all game long with 37 points, six assists, and four rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs beat up on the Grizzlies in game four of the Western Conference Finals.

Panama- SG – Rolando Blackman

Stats: 13 years, 18.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 49.3 FG%, 34.3 3PT%, 84.0 FT%

As unsung a player as can be, Blackman was a scoring machine and that is putting it lightly. In his 13 year career, he had nine seasons where he averaged over 18 points per game. His highest career scoring average came in his third season in 1983-1984 where he finished with 22.4 PPG and an impressive 54.6% field goal percentage. To put that season into context he averaged more points than Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, and “Dr. J” Julius Erving.

Although he was not a stellar three-point shooter in the early stages of his career, Blackman evolved his game and would later turn into a talented marksman, rounding out a respectable career percentage from beyond the arc. A lot of his game and career may have gone unrecognized even though he was able to make four All-Star appearances. Blackman is a player that unless you were around to see him play you didn’t hear about him and understand how good he truly was.

Top career moment: March 12, 1986

In a losing effort versus the Sacremento Kings, Blackman would put in 46 points on 19 of 32 from the field while also dishing out five assists.

Tunisia- C – Salah Mejri

Stats: 3 years, 3.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 63.9 FG%, 14.3 3PT%, 58.4 FT%

The undrafted Tunisian seven-foot big man may not be the most gifted on the court and it took him awhile to get to the league as he made his debut at the age of 29. However, he has found a way to contribute to the Dallas Mavericks. Mejri is a high-efficiency scorer and does not get away from his game, which is to stay close to the rim for lobs, put-backs, and dump-offs. A solid screen setter and a player who rolls hard to the rim accepts the role of doing the dirty work for Dallas.

Top career highlight: February 1, 2017

Mejri would bring down a career-best 17 rebounds and come close to breaking his career high in points (17) with 16.

England- SF/PF Luol Deng

Stats: 14 years, 15.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 45.5 FG%, 33.2 3PT%, 77.0 FT%

After a promising start to his career with the Chicago Bulls, Deng has fallen out of favor for NBA teams currently. Labeled as an athletic wing who could defend, run the floor, and score in a multitude of ways, Deng looked as if he would have appeared in several All-Star appearances. A player of his caliber would likely have seen a steady decline in his production rather than the spike in which he is currently undergoing. It is important for us to remember Deng for the player that he was rather than the player he is now.

As the seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft, Deng rewarded the Chicago Bulls for selecting him as he took home first-team All-Rookie honors and later turned into a two-time All-Star. Deng used his length and athleticism to land on the All-Defensive second team one time in his career and has always been known as a defensive stopper throughout his career.

Top career highlight: November 3, 2009

Deng would use his long wingspan to bring in 20 rebounds and also pour in 24 points in the winning effort for the Chicago Bulls over the Milwaukee bucks 83-81

Group H:

World Cup

photo via: Rob Carr/ Getty Images

Poland- PF/C – Marcin Gortat

Stats: 11 years, 10.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 55.2 FG%, 15.0 3PT%, 67.8 FT%

The polish hammer was a no-brainer for this selection. Gortat has worked his tail off to become a starter in this league and it has paid off for him. Gortat has hung around this league similar to how like Vucevic has in terms of using his size to his advantage. Although he may not shoot as well as Vucevic, Gortat excels at close range looks, setting on-ball screens, rolling to the basket and rebounding. On defense, he tends to be weak guarding players on the perimeter but remains comfortable fighting in the trenches of the paint and protecting the rim.

As Dwight Howard’s back-up for the Orlando Magic his first few years, Gortat was given small chances to go out and compete but never was able to fully get going averaging just below three points and around four rebounds per game. After being sent out to Pheonix to play for the Suns, he repaid them by averaging a double-double in his first year with them (15.4 PPG, 10.0 RPG). Although he had success with the Suns, he saw an opportunity to be the big man of a team who desperately needed one and a place where he could be their premier post-threat. Off to Washington, he went. Since being there, he has stayed consistent with his production and has proven to be a good-pickup for the Wizards even though he is now in a current funk with his game.

Top career highlight: February 29, 2016

Although Gortat has had several nights of solid performance, this night where he scored 18 points on 20 rebounds (personal career high), five assists, and three blocks stands out.

Senegal- PF/C – Gorgui Dieng

Stats: 5 years, 8.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 50.6 FG%, 32.8 3PT%, 78.5 FT%

As a first-round pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the organization saw promise and potential in Dieng. In the 2017-2018 season in his lone season as a power forward, Dieng started and played in all 82 games and performed admirably through the course of the season. With Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler running the show in the North Star State, Dieng has become a valuable member to that second-unit and is now adjusting as well as can be expected. To go from starting in all 82 games to starting zero the following year is most likely crushing to anybody’s production. In a just a few short seasons, Dieng has been shown the ropes of the NBA and now it is up to him to get better, adjust, and produce numbers that he is capable of producing.

Top career highlight: March 20, 2014

In a blowout loss at the hands of the Hoston Rockets, Dieng was able to secure a career-high in rebounds with 21 and chipping away for 22 points.

Columbia- N/A

Japan- SF – J.R. Henderson

Stats: 1 year, 3.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 36.5 FG%, 40.0 3PT%, 55.6 FT%

Much like Lars Hansen, Henderson had a short-lived NBA career as he only played in 30 career games with the then Vancouver Grizzlies. There is not much else to say as his play and short career do not offer up more discussion.

Top career highlight: March 15, 1999

The Vancouver Grizzlies were blown out in this contest by 26 points to the Denver Nuggets, but Henderson scored in double-figures with a career high of 10 points with three rebounds, and one assist added.

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