The first round of the FIBA Americas tournament was like a four-game warmup to eliminate the worst team in each group. Cuba simply wasn’t good enough, though 21-year-old Jasiel Rivero has talent. The surprise was a weak team from Brazil. It’s understandable that Leandro Barbosa, Nene Hilario, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter preferred to rest, but younger NBA players like Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira might have helped.
The second round gets under way at 1:00 Eastern on Sunday, with every team playing four more games in as many days. Unbeaten Argentina has the easiest draw until they face host Mexico, also 4-0, on Wednesday. The game between Canada and Mexico on Tuesday will be another highlight. Two of those three countries should qualify for the Olympics by winning a semi-final next Saturday; the others are longshots.
NBA veterans Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni have the way, as other Argentinian stars like Manu Ginobili, Pablo Prigioni and Carlos Delfino chose not to participate. Solid guard play from 25-year-old Nicolas Laprovittola and 24-year-old Facundo Campazzo has helped.
Mexico’s Gustavo Ayon has dominated, with 21 points and 12 rebounds in 35 minutes per game. Familiar to NBA fans, the 30-year-old center now plays for Real Madrid. Hector Hernandez has also been strong up front, while 26-year-old Bucks guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 player of the year with Cal in 2012, looks sharp.
Canada has won three straight since a disappointing opener to sit third overall. Led by NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, new Raptor Cory Joseph and Celtics sophomore Kelly Olynyk, they are young and extremely deep. Coach Jay Triano has shared minutes among every player on his roster; Dwight Powell of the Mavericks sat out yesterday’s game with a bruised elbow, so Robert Sacre of the Lakers got extra run.
Early Fantasy Sleepers
One of the pleasant surprises in this event is Nik Stauskas, whose rookie year in Sacramento was a nightmare. New coaching and teammates in Philadelphia could be just what he needs. “Sauce Castillo” (as he was named in a closed-captioning error) looks much he did at Michigan — a sharpshooter with a good handle.
Scola and Joseph were under-the-radar additions by Toronto GM Masai Ujiri. CoJo — from nearby suburb Pickering — will back up Kyle Lowry and they can play together in small lineups. With Patrick Patterson the likely starting PF and Jonas Valanciunas at C, Scola will provide a change of pace at both positions.
Another deep sleeper on the Canadian team is Anthony Bennett. Starting beside Wiggins for nine or ten games here could develop chemistry that carries through to Wolves camp. Kevin Garnett probably won’t play much, so the former #1 overall pick will battle Adreian Payne for significant minutes.
J.J. Barea always looks great when playing for his native Puerto Rico and Dallas fans love his energy and scoring off the bench. He’s recommended in deep leagues, especially if you own Deron Williams, who rarely starts 60 games in a season.
In standard 12-team leagues, all of the above should be free agents. There is one FIBA sleeper — Wiggins is ranked #82 at Yahoo, #59 at ESPN. I have him in the mid-30’s in redraft leagues, much higher in keeper formats. That was an amazing first season for a skinny 19-year-old — 20 PPG in the second half vs. double-teams — and the T-Wolves are a much better team.
Around the rest of the NBA, Trail Blazers will be bargains, except for Damian Lillard — the only returning starter. Meyers Leonard gets more responsibility and Chris Kaman contributes off the bench, but three new big men have tremendous opportunities. Noah Vonleh, just turned 20, is the one you want in keeper leagues. Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis are also capable, so it’s too soon to assign precise values to any of the PF/C rotation.
While PG/SG C.J. McCollum has more upside than SG/SF Gerald Henderson, both will play big minutes no matter who starts. Al-Farouq Aminu is the #1 SF ahead of Maurice Harkness and a much safer pick; Moe is a change-of-scenery hunch.
In most redraft formats, rookies tend to be picked too early for me. If Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay or Indiana’s Myles Turner last long enough, I’m interested. Last year my freshman target was Julius Randle, who broke his leg. If anything, he’s better value this year. The Lakers might start Brandon Bass for a while, but Randle will take over at PF before long.
Mirza Teletovic would be on this list as a breakout candidate even if starting Suns PF Markieff Morris wasn’t throwing a tantrum. Like Chris Bosh, Teletovic was shut down by a blood clot in his lung and played just 40 games. Look for the Bosnian 3-point specialist to set career highs in every category.
Terrence Jones played just four games last year before missing nearly three months with a nerve issue in his leg. Then it took six games to get back to full speed. After one excellent month, he suffered a rib and lung injury, missing two more weeks. Again, he wasn’t 100% when he returned. That’s not injury-prone, it’s unlucky. And he’s in a contract year.
The Fantasy Spin features DFS advice every day of the NBA season. Until basketball returns, we’re offering baseball tips on weekdays. Follow Kent Williams @SheridanFantasy for updates.