2019 FIBA World Cup Group D Preview
Enzo Flojo on Aug 28, 2019 09:48 AM
Nikola Jokic will lead heavy-favorite Serbia in Group D of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup (Photo courtesy of FIBA.com).
With just a few days to go before action tips off at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in 8 different Chinese cities, it's time to look at each of the groups, gauge the teams' respective depths, and project how they will fare on the biggest stage of international basketball.
Here we will look at where our own Gilas Pilipinas has been drawn -- Group D in the city of Foshan located in central Guangdong province, where our boys will mix it up Angola, Italy, and the current top-ranked team in FIBA's World Cup Power Rankings, Serbia.
Note: In each of these group previews, the teams will essentially be ranked based on their confirmed rosters/pools and their most recent tune-up game results.
Coach Sasha Djordjevic's side hasn't lost a single preparation game as of this writing. They beat Lithuania and Italy twice, upended Turkey, and also halted the run of Greece and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That shouldn't come as a shock, especially since the Serbians have brought practically all their big names to China, led of course, by All-NBA First Team center Nikola Jokic. Flanking him will be man-giant Boban Marjanovic together with two other hulking Serbs, Nemanja Bjelica and Miroslav Raduljica.
If that frontline isn't enough to put the fear of the Almighty in you, then consider that they also have the explosive Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Sacramento Kings and Euroleague star-turned Memphis Grizzly Marko Guduric. Oh, and former LA Clipper Milos Teodosic completes coach Sasha's deep as heck roster. How exactly can anyone from Group D beat that, eh?
Italy has some big names, too, like Marco Belinelli, Danilo Gallinari, and Luigi Datome, but this is a team that hasn't won a tune-up game since early August and that has lost a number of these preparation matches by embarrassing margins. This makes me think that Italy maybe just isn't as good on the hardwood as they appear to be on paper.
Still, whatever depth they have may just be enough in this group, where both the Philippines and Angola need minor miracles to pull the rug from under the Squadra Azzurra. Beyond that, though, well, Italy may be staring at the void already. Second round? Sure, probably. Quarter-Finals? Consider that this team needs to beat either/both Spain and Serbia to do that. Yikes.
Dark Horse: Philippines
I feel for Andray Blatche, who will undoubtedly carry much of the load again just like he did in 2014. Will five-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo make a significant difference? I certainly hope so, if only to prove that he can really mix it up with some of the world's best bigs, and, who knows, maybe those NBA rumors may actually finally find more serious credence.
Remember, though, that our boys lost to the Adelaide 36ers very recently. That's not a good sign, though, I wouldn't put it past Coach Yeng to try and send some sort of message with that kind of result. Much of this team's success will be determined by wing and guard play, especially on the defensive end. If guys like Gabe Norwood, RR Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena, and Mark Barroca play great two-way ball, heck, anything can happen.
The Angolans are smarting from losses to Czech Republic and Lithuania by a total of 54 points, and collectively, this is one of the older teams in the field with an average age of 31 (much thanks to 40-year-old Eduardo Mingas). There really isn't much to get excited for, if you're an Angola fan, though one cannot fault their consistency. This country, of course, is making its fifth straight appearance at the World Cup.
Overall, Serbia will rule this group with an ironclad grip, and though Italy is favored to join the Serbians in the second round, the Azzurri would do well to keep their wits against the Filipinos and Angolans.