Usually international tournaments don’t have two teams with a real shot at winning a gold medal in the same group. Fortunately for basketball fans, Group H at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup provides exactly that, as two international juggernauts sit at the top of the group. France enters the tournament this year as the No. 5 team in the world and the defending bronze medalists in the tournament. Canada comes in at No. 15, but with a number of NBA players on the roster, the team has every reason to believe it will outperform its ranking and compete gold.
On the outside looking in of that top-2 are Latvia, which enter the tournament without the services of star big man Kristaps Porzingis, and Lebanon. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where either team is able to knock off the French or the Canadians, but international play is weird, because all it takes is one off night for everything to change.
Here are the odds to win the group entering the tournament (via DraftKings).
Today, we’re look through the most prominent players, the schedule, and the games to watch in Group H.
Players to Watch
R.J. Barrett (Canada): With Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins missing the tournament, Barrett’s role on the Canadian team is incredibly important. Canada has a no-doubt No. 1 option (see below!) and a number of very good NBA players, but Barrett is the guy who could help push them over the top with the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. The Canadians already have sky high aspirations at the World Cup, and Barrett being the best version of himself would make them even more attainable.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada): One of the two players who earned an All-NBA First Team nod last season and are playing this summer, Gilgeous-Alexander very well might be the best player in the entire tournament. His international exploits are not nearly as well-known as those of Luka Doncic, as this will mark his first major international tournament with his home country. Murray missing out means the ball will be in his hands even more, and it seems a safe bet to say he’ll deliver.
Evan Fournier (France): Things could be going better for Fournier with his NBA career, but he’s continued to be a menace for the French when he suits up for his country. It came in a narrow loss, but Fournier dropped 29 points on Australia, and his ability to provide an offensive spark is part of what has made the team so good over the years. He and Nando De Colo are a veteran, battle tested backcourt that should give France a shot against anyone.
Rudy Gobert (France): The French frontcourt could look very different next year, as Victor Wembanyama has made clear he wants to play in the Olympics and Joel Embiid is eligible to join the team as it goes for a gold medal in Paris. Gobert, meanwhile, has been a constant for France as it has constantly put forth impressive showings over the years. He’s an experienced, decorated international player and someone whose size and physicality could very easily give opposing teams trouble.
Davis Bertans (Latvia): It is hard to imagine a scenario where Canada and France aren’t moving on in the group. The most likely way that scenario comes to fruition involves Bertans getting scorching hot in a game against either of them, the Latvians knocking them off, and taking care of business against Lebanon. With Kristaps Porzingis out, the Thunder forward will take on even more responsibility in trying to get them out of the group.
Schedule/TV Info (all times EST)
Latvia vs. Lebanon, 5:00 a.m., ESPN+
Canada vs. France, 9:30 a.m., ESPN+
Lebanon vs. Canada, 5:30 a.m., ESPN+
France vs. Latvia, 9:30 a.m., ESPN+
Lebanon vs. France, 5:30 a.m., ESPN+
Canada vs. Latvia, 9:30 a.m., ESPN+
Game to Watch
Canada vs. France: This is not just the best game in the group. It’s very possible the showdown between the Canadians and the French is the best game in the entire tournament, as the two teams are legitimate candidates to win a gold medal behind rosters with an abundance of NBA talent. It tips off at a very reasonable time for those of us in the States, and there’s even a chance that this ends up being a preview of the gold medal game a little farther down the road. This one is going to be fun.