Four Magic Players Set to Play in 2019 FIBA World Cup
Nikola Vucevic, Montenegro
Vucevic, a first-time NBA All-Star last season, will play in the FIBA World Cup for the first time in his career. The Magic’s 7-footer is no stranger to international competition, however. He has played in three EuroBasket tournaments this decade for his country, Montenegro, including in 2017 when they advanced to the Round of 16. In that tournament, Vucevic was solid, averaging 14.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks.
Montenegro will have one of the better frontlines at the World Cup, which starts Aug. 31 and ends Sept. 15. Although neither have yet played in the NBA, 6-foot-9 Bojan Dubljevic and 6-foot-11 Marko Todorovic were both 2013 second round NBA Draft picks. Todorovic was selected 45th overall by the Blazers and Dubljevic was chosen 59th by the Timberwolves.
Montenegro's Group F Schedule:
Sunday, Sept. 1 vs. Greece: 8 a.m. ET
Tuesday, Sept. 3 vs. New Zealand: 4 a.m. ET
Thursday, Sept. 5 vs. Brazil: 4 a.m. ET
Evan Fournier, France
One country confident it can upset the United States in this competition is France, which will feature five current NBA players, including Fournier, who, like Vucevic, also participated in EuroBasket 2017. The French lost a heartbreaker in the Round of 16 to Germany in that tournament despite Fournier’s spectacular 27-point performance. In six games, the Magic’s versatile guard averaged 15.8 points on nearly 48 percent shooting from the field.
Joining Fournier from the NBA are Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum, New York’s Frank Ntilikina and Boston’s Vincent Poirier. Former Spurs and Raptors guard Nando de Colo is also on France’s roster. In the last World Cup, which took place in 2014 in Spain, the French finished in third place. The very next year at EuroBasket 2015 they won the bronze again, losing just one game throughout the tournament.
France's Group G Schedule:
Sunday, Sept. 1 vs. Germany: 8:30 a.m. ET
Tuesday, Sept. 3 vs. Jordan: 8:30 a.m. ET
Thursday, Sept. 5 vs. Dominican Republic: 8:30 a.m. ET
Al-Farouq Aminu, Nigeria
Nigeria, featuring three current NBA players and one former NBA player, is participating in the FIBA World Cup for the first time since 2006 when it advanced to the knockout stage. Aminu, who signed a free agent deal with the Magic this summer, is a veteran of international competition, having played for his country in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2013 and 2015 FIBA AfroBasket tournaments. He was unable to play in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, however.
The Timberwolves’ Josh Okogie and the Spurs’ Chimezie Metu will join Aminu on Nigeria, which since 1995 has medaled eight times in AfroBasket including in 2015 when it captured the gold.
Nigeria's Group B Schedule:
Saturday, Aug. 31 vs. Russia: 4:30 a.m. ET
Monday, Sept. 2 vs. Argentina: 4:30 a.m. ET
Wednesday, Sept. 4 vs. South Korea: 4:30 a.m. ET
Khem Birch, Canada
Although nearly all of its top players will not be in China due to injuries, Canada will have an NBA championship head coach on its bench. Nick Nurse, who helped lead the Raptors to their first title in franchise history last season, will be the one drawing up the X’s and O’s for the Canadians, who are playing in their first World Cup since 2010. Canada’s best player in this tournament might very well be Birch, who re-signed with the Magic this summer.
If the Canadians find a way to qualify for next year’s Summer Olympics, they could make some serious noise in 2020. Andrew Wiggins, R.J. Barrett, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell could all theoretically be on that roster.
Canada's Group H Schedule:
Sunday, Sept. 1 vs. Australia: 3:30 a.m. ET
Tuesday, Sept. 3 vs. Lithuania: 7:30 a.m. ET
Thursday, Sept. 5 vs. Senegal: 7:30 a.m. ET