2. Yuta Watanabe
If there is one player who is going to have fun at this FIBA Basketball World Cup, it is most certainly Yuta Watanabe. Adored by fans in Japan, and with the tournament taking place in his homeland, as well as Indonesia and the Philippines, he is going to get a great reception in whatever arena he is playing.
Like Bol (when he gets there) and many other NBA players, the life of Watanabe in international play is vastly different to that of his life in the league. A lot will be expected of Watanabe because the rest of his teammates aren’t in the NBA. This will give him a chance to expand his offensive game beyond the superb 3-point shooting we saw last season.
The only other Japanese player that NBA fans would be familiar with is Rui Hachimura of the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately for Japan, and Watanabe, he recently declined to play for his country at this tournament. This can still have a positive outcome for Watanabe, who now is the single reason a lot of fans are going to tune in to watch Japan.
If he can lead his country on a little run, and score 20 points per game in the process, he will become even more loved, while also showing the Suns that he can be more than an elite spot up shooter. There will be times when one of their three offensive superstars miss games through injury (maybe even two), and so having a player like Watanabe to step up would be huge.
What better preparation for this than going to a World Cup as your country’s best player, most marketable individual, and one who will have a lot of the offensive game plan drawn up around him. Everything that will not be the case when he returns to the Suns, and so this is a potentially fantastic experience he can bring back with him for the 2023-24 season.