Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Luka Doncic? Ranking 10 best players in FIBA World Cup

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The FIBA World Cup is here, and while basketball junkies rejoice, casual fans might shrug at the dearth of A-listers competing.

Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards is the face of Team USA. Or maybe it’s Knicks guard Jalen Brunson. Heck, for Lakers and Sooners fans, it might be Austin Reaves.

Reigning MVP Joel Embiid isn’t competing — neither for Team USA nor France (he’s a citizen of both nations). Nikola Jokic, having just led the Nuggets to the NBA title, is sitting out for Serbia. Jokic’s running mate, Jamal Murray, isn’t playing for Canada. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, is also out.

This led ESPN’s Tim Bontemps to call Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander “arguably the best player in the field.” As good or better, Bontemps added, than Slovenian superstar Luka Doncic.

High praise for SGA, who joined Doncic on the All-NBA first team last season.

But who else is after them? Here’s my ranking of players in the FIBA World Cup.

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1. Luka Doncic, Slovenia (Mavericks)

Unpopular opinion around here, I know.

Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic both averaged 30-plus points last season, but SGA was more efficient. Defensively, SGA is way better than Doncic. And Gilgeous-Alexander led his Thunder to the play-in tournament last season while Doncic and the Mavericks embarrassingly bowed out.

But I’m not basing my list off of last season alone. Gilgeous-Alexander just made his first All-Star and All-NBA team. Donic, almost a year younger than SGA, is a four-time All-Star and four-time All-NBAer. Doncic also has a Western Conference Finals appearance on his resume.

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Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket past Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during a game at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Jan. 17, 2022.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket past Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during a game at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Jan. 17, 2022.

2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada (Thunder)

What a breakout season SGA had. In case you forgot: 31.4 points on 51% shooting, 5.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished fifth in MVP voting despite the Thunder (40-42) having a losing record.

Gilgeous-Alexander could enhance his superstatus by leading the Canadians to the gold medal.

3. Anthony Edwards, USA (Timberwolves)

In the Americans’ team photo, Edwards is sitting front and center with a grin on his face and a basketball in his hands. He has the personality and the game to be the darling of this tournament.

The former No. 1 pick just turned 22, and he’s already among the best two-way forces in the world.

Haliburton averaged 20.7 points and 10.4 assists in his first full season with the Pacers. The former Cyclone from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, earned his first All-Star nod.

Haliburton probably doesn’t have as high of a ceiling as the first three on this list, but I feel confident sliding him into the No. 4 spot.

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It came down to Ingram vs. Brunson, and I’ll go with the fluid 6-foot-8 forward over the undersized guard.

It seems like we’re all waiting for Ingram to take that next step, to establish himself not as the next Kevin Durant, but the closest thing to KD. And yet Ingram, about to turn 26, has yet to make an All-NBA team. In other words, he’s yet to be regarded as one of the 15 best players in basketball.

Maybe Ingram never reaches those heights, but don’t let that discount how good he is. In his four years with the Pelicans, since being traded from the Lakers, Ingram has averaged 23.7 points on 47% shooting, including 38% 3-point shooting.

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6. Jalen Brunson, USA (Knicks)

Want to put Brunson at No. 4? You won’t hear a word out of me. He was that good for the Knicks last season.

Out of Doncic’s shadow in Dallas, Brunson averaged 24 points, 6.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game in New York.

Brunson will captain Team USA.

I’ll take Jackson’s defense over Karl-Anthony Towns’ offense.

Jackson, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time blocks champ, is incredibly impactful when he’s not in foul trouble.

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He can also be a terror on the offensive end as a modern power forward. He averaged 18.6 points per game last season, shooting 36% from 3-point range on 4.5 attempts per game.

8. Karl-Anthony Towns, Dominican Republic (Timberwolves)

Where to slot Towns? He’s an enigma — incredibly talented offensively and too often indifferent defensively. We’ve seen that a team with Towns as its centerpiece can’t go far. Luckily for the Wolves, Edwards has assumed that title.

But it’s like no one told Towns, and that’s part of the problem.

Who is this man? Certainly more than the 3-and-D poster child he once was. In 27 games with the Nets, after his trade from Phoenix, Bridges averaged 26.1 points on 48% shooting.

It’s hard to know how real that was given the sample size, but underestimate Bridges at your own risk.

I voted Markkanen second team All-NBA last season. While he finished short of an All-NBA nod, Markkanen was honored as the Most Improved Player.

The Finnish forward averaged 25.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He was the engine that propelled Utah to a surprise season.

Honorable mentions: Josh Giddey (Australia), Franz Wagner (Germany), Austin Reaves (USA), Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), Rudy Gobert (France), Lu Dort (Canada), Cam Johnson (USA), Jordan Clarkson (Philippines), Dennis Schroder (Germany)

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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: FIBA World Cup: Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are best in field



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