The NBA itself is in its usual summer lull, with Summer League far in the rearview mirror and the season itself still over two months away. That doesn’t mean that basketball is taking time off, nor that you can’t see NBA players in competitive action.
In addition to the WNBA hitting the home stretch of its season, international basketball is in full swing this month. Teams around the world are playing friendlies as they ramp up for qualifying tournaments or the grand event itself, the FIBA World Cup.
This year three different countries will be hosting: the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia. The tournament kicks off on August 25th, although many teams will need to first qualify for the final slots in the field.
Are any members of the Cavaliers playing this summer?
Cavaliers in the World Cup
This will be a light year for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their international representation. The only player currently on the roster who is expected to suit up is Ricky Rubio, playing for the Spanish National Team.
Rubio had an excellent run with Spain at the Olympics two summers ago and parlayed that into a fantastic start to the season with Cleveland before he tore his ACL; could he build similar momentum this year?
Editor’s note: It was recently reported that Ricky Rubio is stepping away from professional basketball.
Raul Neto is expected to play for his native Brazil, and until he signs with another team he can still technically be considered a member of the Cavs as they hold a version of his Bird Rights. It’s possible that a strong showing for Neto with Brazil can lead to a contract as a team’s third point guard.
Former Cavs playing in the World Cup
There are a handful of former Cleveland Cavaliers playing in the World Cup as well. The most prominent such player is Lauri Markkanen, who had a monster showing at EuroBasket last summer for Finland, a harbinger of the breakout season to come with the Utah Jazz. He will look to repeat that success for Finland this summer too.
Markkanen and the Finnish national team will travel much farther than Dante Exum and Australia, who are at least in the same basic longitude as the World Cup this year. Exum used two strong years playing overseas to earn his way back to the NBA, signing with the Dallas Mavericks this summer.
Cavs who aren’t playing
Most of the Cavaliers’ roster this season are American, which narrows the scope significantly for World Cup participants. A guy like Dean Wade would start for many international teams, but he obviously won’t sniff the Team USA player pool.
With that being said, it is surprising that none of the Cavs’ young players are involved in Team USA this summer, especially with their focus on younger players for this cycle. Mitchell has been an active part of multiple Team USA squads, so he must have turned down a spot on the team.
What about Darius Garland or Jarrett Allen? Both have been on the Select Team before; wouldn’t Allen be a more logical choice than Walker Kessler? Garland is more understandable given the depth at point guard, but wouldn’t USA rather have his shooting than Cam Johnson or Bobby Portis?
It’s also bizarre that Evan Mobley isn’t on the Select Team, a natural landing spot for the defensive phenom. Cade Cunningham will be there. Chet Holmgren too. Why not Mobley?
One can only assume that the Cavaliers’ young core turned down the chances to play in the World Cup or to be on the Select Team. One can hope that leads to this group being healthy heading into next season; they won’t benefit from the common step forward many Team USA players experience the year after representing their country.
Keep an eye out for opportunities to watch Ricky Rubio, Team USA and all of the World Cup process this month, from friendlies to qualifying to the main event.