If wins from the FIBA World Championships counted toward players’ respective NBA squads, the Phoenix Suns would be sitting atop the league standings right about now.
Goran Dragic and Hedo Turkoglu led Slovenia (4-1) and host country Turkey (5-0) to a combined 9-1 record through the preliminary round, but now those wins go by the wayside as the 16-team, single-elimination tournament kicked off Saturday.
Dragic and Slovenia will open up against Patrick Mills and Australia (3-2) Sunday at 8 a.m. MST, while Turkey will square off against Boris Diaw and France (3-2) Sunday at 11 a.m. MST. If both teams come away victorious, Dragic and Turkoglu will collide in the second round on Wednesday.
Goran’s prelim performance
The Suns’ point guard of the future has been solid through five games of action, averaging 13 points, 3.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game, while shooting an impressive 65.4 percent on twos and 33.3 percent on threes.
He’s been in double-digits scoring in every game except for an underwhelming performance against the US, where he tallied only seven points on 2-of-8 shooting against Derrick Rose and company.
But other than that, Dragic has been very effective and efficient, most recently scoring a game-high 18 points on only 10 shots in a 65-60 win over Iran. He’s looked confident in every game but the USA game, and has proven to be the leader of his Slovenian squad.
Turkoglu’s prelim performance
Although his team is one of only three undefeated squads, Turkoglu has been disappointing for the host country through five games. Despite playing more minutes than any of his teammates (129), the multi-skilled forward is fourth on his team in scoring (9.8 ppg) while shooting at a pathetic 31.9 percent clip and reaching double digits in only two of the five games.
He’s fallen in love with the three ball, hoisting 28 of his 47 total shots from distance. He’s also only gotten to the line 14 times through five games, proving his lack of aggression.
To be fair, Turkoglu only played 10 minutes in a blowout win over China Thursday, but he’s been underwhelming even before that contest. He’s looked unmotivated and a bit slow, which are both traits that apparently ran him out of Toronto.
Turkoglu should turn it up when the stakes raise against France, but he’ll need to show better shot selection and aggression if he hopes to impress Suns fans.
Prelim scores: 76-75 win over Jordan, 74-72 loss to Argentina, 78-43 win over Germany, 94-79 loss to Serbia, 76-55 win over Angola.
Australia was fairly impressive through the preliminary round, and could give Dragic’s squad some trouble with its size. They feature a twin tower attack with 6-foot-11 big man Aleks Maric and Toronto Raptors big man David Andersen in the middle, along with the point guard play of 5-foot-11 Portland Trailblazers guard Patty Mills.
Players to watch for Australia: PF David Andersen (11 ppg, 8 rpg), PG Patty Mills (14 ppg, 4.4 apg) and SF Joe Ingles (9.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.4 apg).
Dragic’s matchup: Goran Dragic vs. Patrick Mills
Each team’s best player (both NBA products) make up the must-see matchup of the game. Dragic is about five inches taller than Mills, but the former St. Mary’s product has the speed advantage.
Athough Mills has been very impressive throughout international play, Dragic is a proven NBA commodity and should edge out Australia’s leading scorer in this point-guard matchup.
Prelim scores: 72-66 win over Spain, 86-59 win over Lebanon, 68-63 win over Canada, 69-55 loss to Lithuania, 82-70 loss to New Zealand.
France got out to a great start with a win over Spain followed by a pair of victories, but has dropped its last two contest to finish the preliminary round at 3-2. The French are one of the more talented clubs in the FIBAs, headlined by former Sun Boris Diaw, Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum and former NBA-er Mickael Gelabale.
Diaw looks like an NFL linebacker minus the muscle as he’s up to around 240 pounds, and has been underwhelming through five games. But Batum and Gelabale have been good, and France has still has the pieces and athleticism to give Turkey some trouble.
Players to watch for France: SF Nicolas Batum (12.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.4 apg), SG Mikael Gelabale (12.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), SF/PF Boris Diaw (6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.6 apg).
Turkoglu’s matchup: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Nicolas Batum
This is a matchup that Turkoglu most likely will see in the Western Conference a few times during the 2010-11 campaign. Turkoglu is an offensive threat, while Batum is a defensive stopper, and each is his team’s best player, so this is undoubtedly the must-see matchup of the game.
Batum’s length should give Hedo some problems, especially if he continues to settle for long jumpers. Batum, France’s leading scorer, should have his way with a sub-par defender in Turkoglu. Hedo may not need to go off for his team to win, because Turkey survived without him in the prelims, but if he wants to regain some respect he could use a good performance.
FIBA World Championships Bracket