Before NBA training camps begin this month, about 30 of the league's players will represent their countries at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 qualifying games. Canada leads the way with six NBA players competing in the qualifying window.
The qualifiers will run September 13th through the 17th and are an important step on the road to next year's World Cup. Thirty-two teams qualify for the 2019 World Cup: 12 from Europe, seven from the Americas, seven from Asia, five from Africa, plus the host nation of China.
The September window is crucial because some teams are in danger of elimination, while others are looking to secure their World Cup spot before the final windows in November and February.
With NBA players unable to compete in the winter windows, teams have recruited as many of their stars as they can to help in September.
Let's take a look at some of the NBA players who expect to suit up.
About the Qualifiers
Kelly Olynyk | C | Canada
NBA team: Miami Heat
Games: vs. Brazil (Sept. 13), @ Chile (Sept. 17)
Canada was the best team in their region this summer, blowing out the Dominican Republic 97-61 and the Virgin Islands 99-69.
Olynyk was really good in both games, scoring 14 points in each while adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. The sweet-shooting 7-footer looked like he was in midseason form as Canada rolled.
But despite those wins, Olynyk and crew are far from safe. They are tied with Venezuela and Brazil at 5-1, while the Dominican Republic (4-2) are lurking. Only three of those four can advance, so Canada's game vs. Brazil could have a huge impact.
Canada will need Olynyk and his big-game experience against a solid Brazilian squad.
Bogdan Bogdanovic | SG | Serbia
NBA team: Sacramento Kings
Games: @ Greece (Sept. 13), vs. Estonia (Sept. 16)
One year after leading Serbia to the EuroBasket 2017 silver medal, Bogdan Bogdanovic has returned.
He was lights out in that tournament, averaging 20.4 points, 5 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. His performance earned him a spot on the All-Star Five with MVP Goran Dragic, Luka Doncic, Alexey Shved and Pau Gasol.
Bogdanovic turned that momentum into a great rookie season with the Sacramento Kings. He scored 11.8 points per game, made game-winning shots and established himself as the best young players in Sacramento.
Now he's looking to help Serbia, who are in third place in their group of six teams.
Only the top three from each group advance to the World Cup, so Serbia (4-2) are hoping Bogdanovic can carry them to wins over group leader Greece (6-0) and Estonia (2-4).
Jusuf Nurkic | C | Bosnia and Herzegovina
NBA team: Portland Trail Blazers
Games: @ Finland (Sept. 13), vs. Czech Republic (Sept. 16)
The Bosnian beast is back!
Jusuf Nurkic hasn't played for his national team since 2016, and his return comes at a critical time. Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-4) are at the bottom of their group after losing both games in the summer qualifying window.
Luckily for BIH, Nurkic should destroy Finland.
In his last four games with Bosnia, he averaged 19.2 points and 13.5 rebounds. Finland will be without their only NBA player, Lauri Markkanen, and they were already small in the frontcourt. Containing the bruising 7-foot Nurkic will be a nightmare.
He faces a tougher test vs. high-flying Jan Vesely and the Czech Republic, but he should still be the best player on the floor.
Nurkic will also have some help on the perimeter from 19-year-old SF Dzanan Musa. The Brooklyn Nets 2018 First Round pick scored 26 points against Russia in the winter qualifying window.
Cedi Osman | SF | Turkey
NBA team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Games: vs. Montenegro (Sept. 14), @ Slovenia (Sept. 17)
Cedi Osman isn't quite the LeBron James of Turkey, but he clearly learned from the King during his rookie season in Cleveland.
Osman dominated this summer, scoring 20 points against both Ukraine and Sweden. He shot 50-percent on two-pointers, 53.8-percent on three-pointers and grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game to help Turkey get two crucial wins.
With Turkey (4-2) in 2nd place in their group, Osman and fellow NBA players Furkan Korkmaz and Ersan Ilyasova have their team in a great position.
Dario Saric | PF | Croatia
NBA team: Philadelphia 76ers
Games: vs. Lithuania (Sept. 14), @ Poland (Sept. 17)
After another strong season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Saric looked rusty in Croatia's first game this summer. He made just 2-of-15 shots vs. Italy, finishing with 9 points and 9 rebounds in a 78-72 win.
It didn't take long for Saric to recover, though. Against Romania a few days later, he had a brilliant 22-point, 12-rebound, 5-assist performance.
Croatia will need that Saric to show up again in September. They are currently fifth their group, tied with Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands at 3-3, while Italy (4-2) and Lithuania (6-0) are on top.
Unbeaten Lithuania won't have their NBA players, making this the perfect time to face them. And while Poland is tough, Croatia should overwhelm them with talent.
If Saric and other Croatian NBA players Bojan Bogdanovic, Ante Zizic and Ivica Zubac play up to their potential, Croatia should win both games.
Nicolas Batum | SF | France
NBA team: Charlotte Hornets
Games: @ Bulgaria (Sept. 13), vs. Finland (Sept. 16)
With Boris Diaw retiring this week, Nicolas Batum is the new captain of the French national team. He's taking his duties seriously, as he will be France's only NBA player at the September qualifiers.
France (6-0) are in first place in their group after beating Bosnia and Russia in the summer. Batum showed his versatility in those two games, averaging 11 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
France looked pretty comfortable in their group, and with their depth, they would probably win both September games without any NBA players. Hopefully, Batum stays healthy so he and fellow Frenchman Tony Parker can play together on the Hornets.
Dennis Schroder | PG | Germany
NBA team: OKC Thunder
Games: @ Estonia (Sept. 13), vs. Israel (Sept. 16)
Dennis Schroder owned the summer FIBA window and now he's back for more.
The lightning-quick point guard was unstoppable against Austria and Serbia, putting up 23 points, 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Germany won both, improving to 6-0 in the qualifiers.
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Shroder a few weeks later, but before he runs with Team USA stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George, he has unfinished business with Germany.
If Shroder produces half of what he did this summer, Germany should cruise past Estonia and Israel.
Jose Juan Barea | PG | Puerto Rico
NBA team: Dallas Mavericks
Games: vs. Panama (Sept. 14), @ Argentina (Sept. 17)
J.J. Barea is a hero in Puerto Rico, not just for his play on the court, but for his incredible humanitarian efforts outside of basketball.
The hometown love for Barea and Puerto Rico will be strong when they host Panama this week. Both teams need a win, as the group is one of the most tightly contested. USA and Uruguay are on top at 5-1, but Puerto Rico (4-2), Panama (3-3) and Mexico (3-3) can all advance.
Puerto Rico needs more magic from Barea, who led them to two wins this summer. After scoring 15 points vs. Cuba, Barea put together a 12-point, 11-assist, 0-turnover masterpiece to beat Mexico 84-79.
Don't be surprised if the tiny 34-year-old PG leads Puerto Rico to two more wins in the September window.
Frank Mason III | PG | USA
NBA team: Sacramento Kings
Games: vs. Uruguay (Sept. 14), @ Panama (Sept. 17)
After splitting their two games this summer, Team USA decided to add young NBA players to their roster of G-Leaguers.
Enter Frank Mason III. The explosive 6-foot point guard was the 2017 National Player of the Year in college, and he played 52 games as a rookie for the Sacramento Kings.
Mason averaged 7.9 points and 2.8 assists in 19 minutes per game for the Kings. He'll be making his FIBA debut, but his style should fit the international game well. He's a good 3-point shooter (47.1-percent as a senior at Kansas) and he's aggressive attacking the rim.
With a tough leader like Mason running the show, Team USA should win both games easily.
Complete list of NBA players expected to play in September qualifying window
CAN - Tristan Thompson, Kelly Olynyk, Khem Birch, Justin Jackson, Dillon Brooks, Cory Joseph
GER - Dennis Schroder, Maxi Kleber
SRB - Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica
TUR - Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz, Ersan Ilyasova
BIH - Jusuf Nurkic, Dzanan Musa
CRO - Ante Zizic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Dario Saric, Ivica Zubac
UKR - Alex Len, Svi Mykhailiuk
NGR - Al Farouq Aminu
TUN - Salah Mejri
JPN - Yuta Watanabe (two-way contract)
USA - Dwayne Bacon, Jordan Crawford, Henry Ellenson, Isaiah Hicks, Frank Mason, Derrick White
CZE - Tomas Satoransky
PR - J.J. Barea
FRA - Nicolas Batum
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