All-Star Analysts

NBA players help lift Germany to World Cup title

Published September 18, 2023, 8:00 AMIsaac Go

Aside from MVP Dennis Schroder, there are a number of NBA players who became instrumental for Germany as they dominated the FIBA World Cup 2023.

Just like that, the Germans raised their flag in victory over the Serbians in what is and will forever be considered a FIBA World Cup classic. The Germans were methodical in their execution and attack throughout the tournament which is a big reason they not only took home the gold but failed to drop a single game. They weren’t the favorites to win the tournament, but through determination, grit, and trust, they pulled off the impossible and raised the trophy and a lot of the praise should fall on their NBA players. Let’s take a look at their impact on the tournament and how it will affect their NBA future.

Isaac Bonga

Drafted in 2018, Bonga was picked by the Lakers with the 39th pick. He came in as a raw prospect who had the physical tools to be a do-it-all forward. However, in the four seasons he spent in the NBA, he failed to impress NBA GMs and coaches. He played for three teams in those four seasons with averages of 3.1 points and 2.2 rebounds, shooting 30 percent from 3 in 13 minutes of play. 

That is not what he showed in the World Cup. In 20 minutes of play, Bonga displayed his incredible defensive ability. Being 6’8”, he hounded opposing guards full court and made life miserable for them while removing precious seconds off the shot clock. The averages of 7.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, combined with his 2.6 fouls per game, may not impress most scouts, but the vast improvement in his 3-point shot may be what piques their interest. Over the course of eight games, he shot a total of 9-for-21 for 42.9 percent. The 3-point line may be nearer in FIBA tournaments than in the NBA, but the improved shooting could attract potential suitors for Bonga to return to the NBA especially since he’s only 23 years old.

Franz Wagner

The younger Wagner is a legit baller. In his two seasons with the Magic, he has only continued to show improvement year on year. His averages overall increased considering he had to share the ball with Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr., and Markelle Fultz. 

With Germany, he had to play Robin to Dennis Schroder and he dominated, averaging 16.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. There were also times when he showed he was Batman and took charge for the Germans, even though he missed four games after spraining his ankle in the first round. Being just 22 years old, he’s putting the world on notice and the Magic should be ecstatic that they snagged him with the 8th pick in the 2021 draft. He is looking like a legitimate superstar of not only the NBA but the world. 

Moritz Wagner

The older Wager may not be the potential superstar that his brother is, but Moritz can and is a serviceable backup big. After getting drafted 25th in 2018, he couldn’t find a consistent home, changing teams four times over the course of three years. There would be times when you’d hear his name in the news after he put up big games as a starter, but would quickly become an afterthought when the starter came back. However, in the last two and a half seasons, he’s found a home in Orlando. 

In 131 games, he started 31 of them and averaged 9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 18 minutes (career high) per game. With the German squad, he put up just about the same numbers – 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. He provided effort and energy, and it doesn’t hurt that his brother is on the team as well. Looks like he’s cementing his image in the NBA as a capable backup big who will play with heart and energy. 

Daniel Theis

If you don’t remember Theis, I wouldn’t blame you. The 6-year NBA veteran hasn’t really made a big name for himself. Boston fans would remember him for giving quality minutes for their playoff squad early on in his career, providing some size and shooting ability. After that run, he was mostly forgettable with stints in Houston, Chicago, back to Boston, and now Indiana. He averages about eight points and four rebounds as a backup big, but for Germany, his role changed. 

His stats may look similar, averaging around 11 points and five rebounds a game, but he was a defensive anchor for Germany. He was the no. 1 option at the center spot. He showed the ability to switch onto the perimeter and enough to be a decent rim protector. He also showed heart and leadership. He definitely deserves more than the 15 minutes a game he was averaging last season.

Dennis Schroder

We can’t talk about Germany without the MVP.  Dennis Schroder was a menace the whole tournament with averages of 19.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.4 steals. He got a huge break and took advantage of the opportunity presented to him because his past few years in the NBA have been rough. 

After spending five years with Atlanta, Schroder jumped from team to team over the next five seasons. After a great stint with the Lakers in 2021, he turned down an $80 million four-year extension which would have paid him the most money per year in his career. Instead, he earned a total of $8 million dollars over the next two years. To say that he fumbled the bag is an understatement. 

For the most part, he over-delivered his contract, scoring double figures with three rebounds and five assists per game. Before signing his new 2-year $26 million dollar contract, the NBA community probably viewed him as a borderline starting point guard to a very capable sixth man on a bargain deal. After the World Cup, I still don’t think teams will be calling Schroder to be their number one option, but as an above-average starting point guard and a very solid contributor to playoff teams with the ability to play tough on-ball defense such as he did against Bogdan Bogdanovic.

When we look at national teams for the World Cup or Olympics, we as fans typically judge a team's strength by the number and quality of NBA players that are part of the squad. It may be a negative precedent as there are a ton of high-quality players that aren’t currently in the NBA, but there are two reasons why we look at the NBA as the gauge. 

For one, the NBA is still the number one league in the world. Everyone’s dream is to one day reach and play there. The conversation is that the NBA hosts most of the best players in the world and when taking a look at the All-Star Five of the FIBA World Cup, all five players (Schroder, Bogdanovic, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Anthony Edwards) play in the NBA. Second, it is easier to follow the NBA. There are only 30 teams compared to Europe where there are a number of teams in multiple divisions in different countries. 

Overall, Germany wasn’t the favorite to win the tournament. They didn’t have the most or even second-most number of NBA players. I didn’t even have them in the top eight. They banded together, trusted the system, overcame difficulties, and eventually raised the gold and made their country proud. Cheers!

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