Group G at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup is notable for one main reason: the defending champions and current No. 1 team in the world are in it. Despite learning that star guard Ricky Rubio will not play in the tournament as he tends to his mental health and the Gasol brothers no longer being part of the national team program, Spain has been on fire in recent years, as the team took home gold at the 2019 World Cup and are the reigning champions of the Europe after they won EuroBasket in 2022.
Unsurprisingly, Spain are the clear favorites to make it out of the group, while Brazil are the overwhelming favorites to take second and both Iran and Ivory Coast face an uphill climb. Here are the full odds for a group winner, via DraftKings.
Ivory Coast +6500
Here, we’ll go through Group G and identify the players and games you need to check out.
Players to Watch
Bruno Caboclo (Brazil): No longer two years away from being two years away in the NBA, started to carve out a nice career for himself in Europe, as he’s coming off of a league title in Germany and an All-Basketball Bundesliga First Team nod. During qualifying, Caboclo was remarkably productive for the Brazilians, as he averaged 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. Brazil has a proud basketball heritage and aspirations of using the World Cup as a way to earn a spot in the Olympics, and if they can make some noise, the play of their former first-round pick will be a big reason why.
Behnam Yakhchali (Iran): While some players on Iran’s roster (namely Hamed Haddadi and Arsalan Kazemi) might be more well-known to American fans for their exploits in the NBA and college ball, Yakhchali is the straw that stirs the drink for the Iranians. He was instrumental to their ability to qualify for the World Cup, as he was the third-highest scorer in Asian qualifying at 19.1 points per game. His ability to fill it up and provide some offensive firepower is going to be crucial to Iran’s chances of moving on.
Vafessa Fofana (Ivory Coast): A guard-heavy Ivory Coast team has aspirations of making it out of the preliminary round for the first time in history. They are a consistently strong side at the FIBA Africa Championship (they won a silver medal in 2021) and rolled through qualifying, with Fofana being crucial to their efforts. A forward who plays his professional ball in France, Fofana averaged 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game in qualifying.
Rudy Fernandez (Spain): Fernandez is no longer as prolific as he was earlier in his career. Regardless, he’s an institution in the world of Spanish basketball and should help fill the leadership void that is going to exist due to Rubio’s inability to play in the World Cup. He’s a heady, crafty veteran, and we’ll see what he can do in what should be one of his final tournaments with Spain.
Willy Hernangomez (Spain): The reigning EuroBasket MVP, Hernangomez has turned into the star of Spain’s national team. He was outstanding as Spain went on to win its last tournament en route to becoming the No. 1 team in the world, and with Rubio out, he’ll have to shoulder an even larger load as the team looks to defend its gold medal at the World Cup.
Schedule/TV Info (all times EST)
Iran vs. Brazil, 5:30 a.m., ESPN+
Spain vs. Ivory Coast, 9:30 a.m., ESPN+
Ivory Coast vs. Iran, 5:30 a.m., ESPN+
Brazil vs. Spain, 9:30 a.m., ESPN+
Ivory Coast vs. Brazil, 5:30 a.m., ESPN+
Iran vs. Spain, 9:30 a.m., ESPN+
Game to Watch
Brazil vs. Spain: It’s hard to imagine any of the teams in this group beating Spain, even with Rubio not playing. If anyone can do it, it would be the Brazilians, which have a handful of current and former NBA players on their roster and are coming into the tournament riding a shocking upset of another team with aspirations of winning gold, Australia. Again, you should not assume that Spain are going to lose at all in the group, but the best thing about group play in international tournaments is that one bad day can get punished very easily.