Thoughts: FIBA World Cup qualifiers will break the international mould


The new FIBA international cycle has been difficult to grasp since it was revealed back at Eurobasket 2015 in Lille, France with many members of the media asking the board of directors the reason behind the move with the focus of those questions being the loss of prestige to the national level of competition.

The loss of prestige meaning that future international games will be played without NBA, EuroLeague, EuroCup and even Champions League standouts and in its place would be somewhat unknowns and several uncapped players getting chances when normally they would not.

Nearly two years removed from FIBA’s announcement in Lille and there is still a lot of scepticism and hasty changes being made. Such as the USA using players from the NBA D-League to compete in their FIBA World Cup qualifiers, starting in November of this year.

“With USA Basketball entering the new FIBA qualification system for the men’s 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympic competitions, we’re excited to work with the NBA Development League to field competitive teams for the 2017-19 USA’s World Cup qualifying games,” said USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley.

“The USA Basketball World Cup Qualification Committee features appointees with outstanding basketball experience who will have the important task of selecting USA Basketball teams to compete in this new system.

“This will be an excellent opportunity for NBA D-League players to showcase their talent and experience meaningful and important international competition while representing the United States.”

You won’t be watching Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving during the FIBA international window. But players from the D-League that will be representing the USA at the World Cup qualifiers will be looking to stake a claim to be on the American roster for Tokyo 2020. Photo: FIBA

It isn’t just the USA but other nations that field players from the NBA as well as EuroLeague and EuroCup have had to make changes but are welcoming the new window and are keen to showcase the vast talent that the national arena is yet to see, such as the depth that Spain’s Liga Endesa [ACB] has to offer.

FEB president Jorge Garbajosa can not wait to showcase the unearthed talent that Spain has to offer when the FIBA World Cup qualifiers begins in November.


“Every change needs time to adjust to. When the new competition system was explained to them [the players], they could see there was an opportunity in this kind of window,” said Spanish Basketball Federation president Jorge Garbajosa.

“We can’t play with the NBA players [in the November and February windows] but at the same time, this is a great opportunity because we have a lot of good players that haven’t been able to get into the national team since we’ve had this unbelievable golden generation.

“They [other players] will now have the opportunity to show themselves to a big crowd, to show themselves to the coaches and to show themselves to their teams that they can compete at the maximum level of what the World Cup qualifiers will be.”

Garbajosa’s views are incredibly valid. The prestige of the international game isn’t solely based on what NBA players are available and how many EuroLeague stars can be called upon? The international game can now unearth talent that can compete for roster spots when they were usually almost reserved for well-known stars. France will not be able to call upon players like Nando De Colo and Nicholas Batum because of their club commitments now.

It can also open the field a bit more. Teams that usually missed the cut in previous years now have an opportunity to build a team capable of upsetting the norm and make a legitimate case to qualify. Teams like Great Britain, Georgia, Iceland, Romania and Montenegro to name a few have a great chance of at the very least making life hard for the so-called powerhouses in the qualifiers.

So now there will be more chances to see your national team and you will be exposed to more talent than ever before and those chosen will be out to prove that they belong on the international stage and will aim to give the NBAers, the EuroLeague players and other regulars a message that their spot in the national team is not a given.

The World Cup qualifiers will be interesting.