NBA Mailbag

NBA Mailbag: Who will win 2023 FIBA World Cup?

20-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford answers your questions about the FIBA World Cup, the evolution of the NBA and more.

Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram and Jaren Jackson Jr. talk with coach Ty Lue at the FIBA World Cup.

The NBA Mailbag is here to answer your questions throughout the 2023 offseason! Have a question for Jamal? Submit it at the bottom of this edition of the NBA Mailbag.

Who do you think has the best chance of winning the FIBA World Cup?

– from Christopher in Australia

I feel like the USA has the best chance of winning the World Cup because they can beat you in so many different ways. That versatility and depth should give them an edge against the other countries.

How much does committing to Team USA (or any national team) affect preparing for the NBA season both physically and mentally?

– from Jeffrey in Missouri

The biggest negative is you’re away from your family for a large amount of the summer. But besides that, I think the rest of the effects are great. It helps you maintain great shape, physically and mentally. Physically, you’re practicing every single day with the best trainers and coaching staff in the world. Mentally, it gives you an edge to know that you’re in much better shape than anybody else. That always seemed like a big advantage the players who competed internationally had when they returned for the next NBA season.

Which team has surprised you the most so far in the World Cup?

– from James in Australia

Canada. We know SGA is great. We know RJ Barrett is capable of big scoring days. However, how effectively the entire team has performed as a unit has been surprising to me.

What makes international basketball different than the NBA?

– from Stacy in Indianapolis, IN

International basketball is more focused on the team game. They attack as a unit versus more individualism of just attacking and seeing what’s there. I think that’s why in the past, the USA has had some issues because they would play more as individuals and their opponents played more as a team.

Which NBA player competing in the World Cup do you think will be the most improved next season?

– from Jerome in Philadelphia, PA

You have the obvious choices like Anthony Edwards or Austin Reaves, right? Then you see a guy like Paolo Banchero, who’s finding his groove and has major motivation to build off winning Rookie of the Year. Then there’s someone like Brandon Ingram, who hasn’t really found his normal rhythm and he can take that as motivation like, “I can’t wait to get back to my team. I learned some stuff and I get a chance to show it this season.” Those four guys are the main ones who I think will grow their games after this FIBA World Cup experience.

How does a player like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Kyle Anderson adjust to bigger roles in FIBA?

– from Lindsey in Savannah, GA

These are still the best players in the world, right? They can play any role you throw at them, they’re just used in different ways on NBA teams. With Hollis-Jefferson, it seems like he’s tapped into the spirit of Kobe right now. The haircut, the way he’s playing … it’s amazing what happens when you mentally find something and you can hold on to that. For Anderson, he’s always been a really good player. He’s just asked to do a lot more now. And the world is seeing how good these guys can be.

Do you see the NBA expanding in the near future? And in your opinion, which international player is the greatest of all time?

– from Chris in Sydney, Australia

I’m not sure about the NBA expanding. Obviously, there’s been conversations about it. In my opinion, I hope they expand. But there’s not much we can do about it besides sit back, wait and see. I have total confidence in the NBA to make the right decision.

My greatest international player of all time is Hakeem Olajuwon.

Who are the top 5 most-skilled players you’ve played against?

– from Gian in Canada

Wow, let’s go with:

  • Michael Jordan
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Stephen Curry / LeBron James / Steve Nash / Penny Hardaway / Tracy McGrady / Carmelo Anthony

I played against too many great players to limit it to just five!

Give me your “All Fast Break Team” – which bigs are running the most?

– from Jaimeson in Virgina Beach, VA

Let’s make the entire team big men:

  • LeBron James
  • Blake Griffin
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Amar’e Stoudemire
  • David Robinson

With LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan coming off the bench!

When does a player know it’s time to retire? When did you know and why?

– from Joel in Newfoundland, Canada

Joel, the decision to retire was not made by me. I didn’t know that Dirk’s farewell game would be mine as well 🤣 😂 😭

Who will have a better season this year — Victor Wembanyama or Chet Holmgren?

– from John in Naples, Italy

I’m going with Holmgren. He has a full NBA season under his belt, even though he was injured for all of it. He got stronger and was able to actually see the NBA game from a different lens. So he knows what to expect.

Who is the most electric player in the NBA right now, in your opinion?

– from Carter in Phoenix, AZ

I’ll give you three – Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and Ja Morant.

What is the mistake NBA players punish you for the most?

– from Lazar in Germany

Assuming. What I mean by that is you may get in the game and assume a player is going to take the screen because you just watched him do it. When really he’s playing chess to set you up because he knows you just watched him do this move. Now he has a counter to it. And now your coach is mad at you for not being prepared and you’re out of the game.

In your opinion, what was the best squad that didn’t win the title and who is the greatest player never to win a title?

– from Stefan in Sweden

I’ll say the 2000 Blazers squad that lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They were so deep and had every single thing you needed to win. That team was crazy. And also the Lob City Clippers! 🤷

Best player without a ring is Charles Barkley.

What’s always been most impressive to me is how great players continue to improve and develop new skills throughout their careers. Which player stands out to you the most in this regard?

– from Juuso in Finland

Giannis Antetokounmpo. I remember guarding Giannis early in his career and he was really thin. He was so much taller than me but didn’t post me up much. I was like, “This is crazy because he looks like a giant, but he isn’t posting me up.” Now to see how much his skills have improved since then is remarkable. He’s a much better passer, much more dominant, and it’s clear he has figured out how to impose his entire will on the game. He hasn’t stopped improving since entering the league.

What did you buy with your first NBA paycheck?

– from Liron and Ofer in Israel

With my first NBA check, I bought my mom a house. With my first credit line check, I bought an Escalade 😆

What moment in your career brought you the most happiness?

– from Hari in Georgia

Being drafted, because anything after that couldn’t have happened without that moment. That was the coolest moment for me since it was 19 years in the making.

People say the NBA quickly shifts in the way the game is played. Did you feel the NBA shift during your career? And did you need to shift your playbook to fit these changes?

– from Ron in Seattle, WA

I felt the shift around 2014-17. There were so many more 3s going up when it used to be taboo. When I first started in the league, you were never supposed to shoot that many 3s. The shift was accelerated after Golden State had so much success with that style of play. So I didn’t have to change my game, it just became more acceptable to shoot more. And then Houston went all-in to focus on just 3s and layups, period. That’s when everyone really felt the shift. As those teams found success, other teams tried to mimic it.

Cats or dogs?

– from Nathan in Des Plaines, IL


If you had a time machine and went 50 years into the future, what do you think basketball will look like?

– from Alcir in Washington, DC

I think 3-pointers will continue to be a huge part of the game, and aesthetically things will look similar. People love watching a lot of 3-pointers and they love watching players show off their skills, which they can do when they have the space created by 3-point shooting. This should also allow smaller guards back into the game. It used to be all about the dunks and everybody was like, “Well, I can’t be 7-foot, 300 pounds … I can’t be 6-8, 220. But I can be Steph Curry … I can be a 6-3 or smaller guard and make a mark on the game.” It’s a scary thought to think about, though. I wonder what guys 50 years ago would think the game would look like now when they didn’t even have the 3-point shot yet. Something that wasn’t even there at the time is dominating the game now. So who knows what could change by 2073!

What’s the most important part of being a good teammate?

– from Lexi in Alexandria, VA

Being selfless. You’re a teammate when you get out of yourself and into your team. You truly want your team and teammates to succeed just as much as you want yourself to succeed. Out of any award I’ve ever won, Teammate of the Year was the coolest to me because that’s something you’re trying to win. Like you just want the best for all your guys, genuinely! And you may not play for five straight games, but you’re still up and giving guys advice to help them be successful on the court. Maybe they didn’t get enough minutes … “Hey, let’s go shoot after practice.” I think being a good teammate speaks more to your character – who you are and what you’re about. So in short, be selfless.

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