2019 FIBA World Cup Magic Recap

by Josh Cohen

Evan Fournier

Fournier captured his third bronze medal with the French national team, which defeated Australia in the third-place game and won six of its eight 2019 FIBA World Cup contests. The 26-year-old, who is getting ready to begin his sixth season with the Orlando Magic, averaged 19.8 points per game throughout the tournament, fourth best among current NBA players.

Fournier’s best game, despite it coming in a loss, was against the Aussies in the second round when he erupted for 31 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the floor. The 6-foot-7, 205-pounder was clutch throughout the competition, too, burying several late-game shots, including in the opener against Germany when he drilled a baseline jumper with 32 seconds left to seal France’s win.

France also snapped the U.S.'s streak of 58 straight wins in international tournaments with NBA players. Fournier led France, which ended the game on an 18-3 run, with 22 points in that quarterfinal victory.

France, by virtue of finishing with the second highest ranking among European countries, qualified for next year’s Olympics, joining Spain, Argentina, Australia, USA, Nigeria, Iran and Japan. Four additional teams will clinch their spots during the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will take place a few weeks before the start of the Olympics.

Nikola Vucevic

Playing in his first ever FIBA World Cup, Vucevic was solid for his country despite them winning just one of their five games during the competition. He was particularly excellent against Turkey in the classification round, posting 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in that contest.

In Montenegro’s lone victory against Japan, the Magic’s current longest-tenured player recorded 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor. Although he only attempted 10 total 3-pointers during the competition, the 28-year-old shot it well from deep, making four of them.

It was the first time Montenegro participated in a World Cup since joining FIBA as an independent nation in 2006.

Al-Farouq Aminu

Nigeria will play in its third consecutive Olympics after finishing the 2019 FIBA World Cup with the highest ranking among teams from Africa. After putting up a good effort against both Russia and Argentina in the first round, the Nigerians reeled off three straight victories to conclude their time in China. One of those wins came against the host nation in the finale. Aminu filled up the stat sheet in that victory, posting six points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block.

Although his stats weren’t dazzling – averaging 8.2 points on 45 percent shooting – the soon-to-be 29-year-old’s contributions were significant. He was arguably Nigeria’s most stifling defender and was often his team’s secondary or tertiary playmaker. Aminu, one of Nigeria’s top players in 2012 at the London Olympics, will now have the opportunity to play in his second Olympics.

Khem Birch

Canada not having most of its top NBA players allowed Birch, who re-signed with the Magic this summer, to have a prominent role with the team. The soon-to-be 27-year-old scored in double figures three times throughout the tournament and averaged 11.6 points on nearly 58 percent shooting from the field.

The only player in the competition who averaged more offensive rebounds than Birch, who grabbed four of them per game, was South Korea’s Ra Guna. Orlando’s center averaged 7.0 rebounds per game, 19th best at the 2019 World Cup.

Although he missed all four of his attempts, the 6-foot-9, 233-pounder wasn’t shy to take shots from beyond the arc. If he’s able to help stretch the floor this upcoming season, the Magic will have three centers – Vucevic and Mo Bamba the other two – who can all knock down the long ball.

Canada will have a chance to qualify for the Olympics at next summer’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will feature four six-team tournaments.

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