Bogdan Bogdanovic

Five lessons learned from the FIBA World Cup


There wasn’t much drama — Team USA went 9-0 in the World Cup, won games by an average of 32 points, and when they turned on the energy pretty much every game felt like the gold medal game rout of Serbia.

What did we learn from all this? Well, aside the USA doesn’t have to send a team to the FIBA Americas tournament next year to qualify for the Rio Olympics now? Here are five things I’m taking away from basketball in August and September.

1) The USA’s talent pool remains far deeper, bigger than the rest of the globe. Sure, basketball is a growing international game, with tons of fans in China and the Philippines. In some parts of the world its popularity is second only to soccer/futball. But we still have the best players by far. All the talk before this tournament was about who wasn’t there — and that was before Paul George got injured and Kevin Durant pulled out. Didn’t matter. Not only did we always have the best couple players on the court at every moment, we were rolling NBA All-star caliber players off the bench. No country in the world is close to matching that yet. (Well, maybe Spain, but they blew the chance to test that theory.)

2) Anthony Davis is ready to make the next leap. No doubt Kenneth Faried was the breakout star of the World Cup for the USA (and he earned himself a lot of extra bank). Kyrie Irving was the World Cup MVP and looked like a guy ready to step on the stage next to LeBron James in a couple of weeks. But it was Anthony Davis though the tournament that looked like a guy who is going to make a leap this year — and I mean leap to top five NBA player. At least, maybe third. Mike Krzyzewski put a lot on him and Davis lived up to it — he averaged 12.3 points a game on 54.9 percent shooting, plus he pulled down 6.6 rebounds a game and averaged 2.1 blocks on top of it all. Early in the tournament he was destroying teams and he forced teams to adjust their defense to account for him, which opened up scoring opportunities for James Harden, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest on the wings. When the season starts, keep an eye on Davis and the Pelicans.

3) Bulls fans are going to like having Pau Gasol around. The elder Gasol had looked like a guy dropping off the past couple years in Los Angeles, but that was more about Mike D’Antoni’s coaching than anything. Gasol didn’t fit in D’Antoni’s role (as a stretch four) and that led to a lack of energy. Back in his native Spain Gasol was showing off his wide arsenal of shots to score 20 points a game on 63.5 percent shooting. More importantly, he was showing passion for the game again, something D’Antoni sucked out of him. Gasol found his love of the game again and watch out for him in Chicago.

4) Speaking of Bulls fans, Derrick Rose is pretty healthy but still has a ways to go. On the bright side, Derrick Rose was moving well by the end of the World Cup. He played in five games in six days, showing he is healthy. He played some good defense, he showed some signs of a more mature game (like the six assists in the gold medal game against Serbia). But his shot was just off — he hit just 25.4 percent of his attempts all tournament. He struggled to finish inside, his jumper was erratic (he was 1-of-19 from three). Bulls fans need to hope that is just rust. For Bulls fans the good news is Rose shook off some of that rust in Spain rather than in the early games of the season.

5) There were a lot of players from around the globe who were just fun to watch. We focused on Team USA a lot but there other guys from other countries who had big tournaments. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng looked like a guy ready for more minutes while playing for Senegal. The Nets have themselves a shooter in incoming rookie Bojan Bogdanovic of Croatia, who averaged 21.2 points a game. Don’t confuse him with Bogdan Bogdanovic of Serbia, who looked like he could develop into a player the Phoenix Suns could use in a couple of years if/when he comes over. Jose Barea led the tournament averaging 22 points a game. Andray Blatche averaged 21.2 for the Philippines while still making Blatche-like plays. Goran Dragic was great as expected but it was his unsigned brother Zoran who was catching people’s eyes. Even “Pooh” Jeter (Ukraine) was a blast to watch.

FIBA World Cup USA vs. Serbia preview: Serbia no pushover but Americans should grab gold


The closest any team has come to beating Team USA at the FIBA World Cup was Turkey back in the group stage, where the Americans by five at the half and ended up winning by “only” 21 points.

Serbia has the talent and system to keep it about that close. Maybe.

What had been expected to be a gold medal showdown with Spain has instead morphed into what should be another comfortable USA win with Serbia all that is between them and gold (3 p.m. ET on ESPN 2). Don’t get me wrong, Serbia has some NBA-level talent on the roster, they are not intimidated, and they are playing well right now, but once again the Americans should be able to overwhelm with athleticism and skill and pick up the gold. Comfortably.

For Serbia’s puncher’s chance to land a whole lot of things have to go right. That will start with their star point guard Milos Teodosic (who spurned the Grizzlies to stay at CSKA Moscow) who must have a monster game. Teodosic is a quality pick-and-roll point guard who can both shoot it (14.1 points a game at 55.2 percent shooting) or find the open man if the defense lapses.

Serbia’s offense often consists of a pick-and-roll out top between Teodosic and Miroslav Raduljica (who sat on the Bucks bench last season) with shooters spacing the floor everywhere, such as the Suns’ 27th pick from the last draft Bogdan Bogdanovic or former NBA player Nenad Krstic. Raduljica just sets the screen and rolls hard to the rim. It’s a good system, one that Greece, Brazil and France have not been able to figure out in the knockout rounds as all of those world powers fell to Serbia.

But the USA brings a different level of athleticism to the party. Kyrie Irving will start on Teodosic and he can be disruptive. Then when Teodosic comes around the pick he will see the long arms of Anthony Davis, who can shut off the drive and still recover to the rolling Raduljica (and you can expect weak-side help from the energetic Kenneth Faried there). When Irving gets a break the USA rolls in Derrick Rose — who has moved well and played good defense this tournament even as his shot has not fallen — and they also play Stephen Curry at the point. Basically Teodosic is going to have to play about 35 strong minutes while Mike Krzyzewski keeps rolling in fresh, more athletic guards to throw at him.

The bottom line is that there have been things to pick apart about the USA defense this tournament, but the healthy gap in athleticism between them and every opponent has not allowed anyone to really exploit those flaws. This will be the same case. Serbia might stick close for a half as they throw their best punches at the Americans, but the USA will absorb those and eventually blow the game open with a big run.

Serbia’s defense this tournament has not been great, which will be an issue against the attacking and good shooting of the USA. Also Serbia is willing to play up-tempo — but they can’t in this one. If they get in a track meet with the Americans this will be over fast. Serbia needs to follow the Turkish model of slowing the game down, including fouling out at mid court when it seems the USA will get on the break.

Serbia has quality players, just not ones of the same quality and without the depth of the USA bench (and that is even with Rudy Gay having a busted jaw). The Americans have had their moments of sleepwalking this tournament, but you can expect them to show up focused with the gold medal on the line.

The fact is Serbia looks on paper to be just another speed bump between the USA and gold — they can slow the Americans down a little but not stop them. It would take a lot of things (including help from the notorious FIBA referees) to keep this game inside 20 points. Serbia is confident and should be playing with nothing to lose.

But they are going to lose. This is the USA’s big day.

Suns GM likes what he’s seen from Bogdan Bogdanovic, who can’t come to NBA this season

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We’ll start here: Don’t confuse Serbian combo guard and Phoenix Suns’ draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic with Croatian forward and soon to be Brooklyn Nets rookie Bojan Bogdanovic. Good luck with that. Very different guys, different games, yet we’re all going to mix them up at some point. Today we’re talking about Bogdan.

The Suns drafted Bogdanovic with the No. 27 pick in the draft last June expecting to stash him overseas for a couple years then bring him to Phoenix. But for a lot of Suns fans the first real look they got at him was in the World Cup — and he’s looked good, scoring 11.3 points a game and shooting 39.3 percent from three for a team into the Final 8 (and facing Brazil Wednesday).

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Suns GM Ryan McDonough, which is what Paul Coro did for the Arizona Republic.

“He was very efficient and got his spots and got the shots he wants to shoot,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough, who attended the game in Madrid. “He scored on spot-up shots, off the dribble and going to the basket. I’m impressed with his playmaking. He’s got long arms. He’s strong and he has a feel for the game.

“He can make a lot of plays other guys can’t make.”

Bogdanovic is a tall guard (6’6” with 6’11” wingspan) who likely plays the two in the NBA but is versatile enough to take on some shot creation in the offense. He’s also gritty and plays tough.

It’s a lot to like, but Suns fans will not see him for a couple years.

Bogdanovic plays for Fenerbahce in the Turkish league and his buyout is pretty steep until 2016. That was the plan all along for the Suns — draft and stash, see if he develops. If so, bring him over, if not trade his rights as part of another deal (that could still happen anyway, depending on the trade).

Right now, from this World Cup, Bogdanovic looks like a keeper.

FIBA World Cup round of 16 roundup: USA, Spain meeting still on track


We are down to eight teams at the FIBA World Cup after the first two days of the win-or-go-home knockout rounds. We know you were watching football all weekend (so were we), so here is the roundup of what you missed.

Bottom line, it still looks like Team USA vs. Spain will meet for the gold medal Sept. 14. Both look clear and away to be the best teams.


USA 86, Mexico 63: This went pretty much as expected, another easy USA win behind 20 points from Stephen Curry. NBA free agent Gustavo Ayon put up 25 and 8 for Mexico, but this game was never in doubt as the Americans came out with a little fire from the start for a change. Next up for them is Slovenia, who the Americans beat by 30 in a Madison Square Garden exhibition a couple weeks back.

Slovenia 71, Dominican Republic 61: Goran Dragic had 18 points and six assists to get his team the win. Their reward? Team USA next round. This is why Dragic was complaining about Australia throwing a game to get the three seed in their group, so they avoided the Americans longer (in theory). They got blown out by Team USA in an exhibition, but having seen the Americans should help in this meeting. Not enough, but it will be closer.

Turkey 65, Australia 64: Hey Aussies, getting on the other side of the bracket to avoid the Americans only works if you win and advance. Australia led by five with 1:02 left when Cavaliers guard Matt Dellavedova made a lay-up. But Emir Preldzic hit a two threes including one with five seconds left to lift Turkey. Next up Lithuania.

Lithuania 76, New Zealand 71: Give New Zealand credit, they fought hard and made this one close but in the end they had no answer for Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas who had 22 points and 13 boards in the game. They have a tough but winnable game with Turkey next (then the USA looming after that).


Spain 89, Senegal 56: Spain looks dominant. Yes, they could beat the USA. Senegal was no match, with Pau Gasol scoring 17 on 8-of-10 shooting, while Serge Ibaka chipped in 11 and Marc Gasol had 9. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng had a fantastic tournament for Senegal but he struggled against this huge front line for Spain, shooting just 1-of-9 on the night.

France 69, Croatia 64: Nicolas Batum came alive with 14 points to spark the defending European champions France to the win. France beat Spain to get that Euro title last year, now they have to face Spain again in the next round, and it’s going to turn out differently. Nets incoming rookie Bojan Bogdanovic had 27 in a losing effort.

Serbia 90, Greece 72: Big game from Bogdan Bogdanovic — the guy the Suns drafted in the first round this year, not to be confused with the Croatian Bogdanovic who is the Nets property — with 21 points. Serbia was much the better side in this one and looked like a team that could be in the mix for the bronze medal.

Brazil 85, Argentina 65: Everyone was pumped for this South American skirmish, but Brazil just owned the game as Argentina’s golden generation just looked old and slow. Raul Neto stole the show for Brazil with 21 points, while the combination of Tiago Splitter Anderson Varejao looked good inside combining for 19 points and 17 rebounds. Brazil may be my favorite to get the bronze right now, but they have a tough game with Serbia coming.

Former NBA players, stashed NBA draft picks all over World Cup rosters


We know the NBA players that fill out not only Team USA but other World Cup rosters are loaded as well — 45 guys currently on NBA teams will be playing in Spain. Guys like Goran Dragic suits up for Slovenia, or Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, Evan Fournier, and Ian Mahinmi will play for France. You get the idea.

But as John Schuhmann notes at, a there are also 23 guys who used to be on NBA rosters also are playing in the World Cup.

The biggest names among them are Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman (both of whom play for Puerto Rico), Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain), and Andres Nocioni (Argentina).

Schuhmann makes another interesting observation: There are 17 other players drafted by NBA players who have been stashed overseas who will also be on World Cup rosters.

There’s Croatia’s Dario Saric, who the 76ers picked up in the last draft. There is Raul Neto playing for Brazil and maybe someday the Jazz. Bogdan Bogdanovic will be part of a pretty good Serbian team and could someday play for the Suns.

Team USA still has more depth of talent than any other team in the world — but there is talent all over the globe now. The days of the USA cruising to gold are fading. Fast.