With the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup on the horizon, excitement is growing by the day.
This year's tournament features a record 32-team field and naturally, plenty of NBA talent across the board. With the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker set to participate, it begs the question: Who will be the tournament's scoring leader?
Will it be one of the aforementioned big names or is there a surprise candidate capable of putting up big numbers? Our NBA.com Staff provides their takes.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I'd be shocked if it's not Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Not only is he coming off of an NBA season in which he averaged 27.7 points per game on 57.8% shooting from the field, Greece is going to need him to be at his best in order to compete for a medal. It appears as though Antetokounmpo is going to give his all as well - he told reporters prior to the tournament that he would "exchange the MVP title for the World Cup goal medal in China."
MORE: What if Giannis is only at 60% of his full potential?
The last time we saw Antetokounmpo in international competition was the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. He finished behind three players in scoring in that tournament with an average of 15.3 points per game. Him doubling that is unlikely, but 22-25 points per game is certainly on the cards.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'm going to go outside the box a bit and say that I think that Serbia's Bogdan Bogdanovic will end up being the tournament's leading scorer.
The 27-year-old is no stranger to international competition and is just the type of player capable of putting forth big performances on the offensive end. At 2017 FIBA EuroBasket, Bogdanovic was sixth among all scorers as he averaged 20.4 points per game while shooting 47.4% from the field and 82.5% from the charity stripe.
This time around, he'll have Nikola Jokic back on his side after the big man missed EuroBasket. With Jokic, who is the best passing big man in today's game, Bogdanovic is sure to get even better quality looks and put in great positions to score. Defences can't key in on just one player as Bogdanovic and Jokic are just two of the team's five NBA players, as Nemanja Bjelica, Marko Guduric and Boban Marjanovic will also command attention.
The biggest key to Bogdanovic's scoring is his 3-point shooting ability - he's coming off a season in which he sank 36.0% of his 5.3 3-point attempts per game. In 2017, he put up big numbers without shooting well from the perimeter (29.2%), so I'd imagine big numbers if his jumper is falling this time around.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Put some respect on the shoulders of Patty Mills.
The Aussie knows a thing or two about getting buckets in big international tournaments after finishing second in scoring with 21.3 points per game at the 2016 Olympics in Rio behind only Croatia's Bojan Bogdanovic. With Croatia not in the field, that makes Mills the top returning scorer from the last major international competition.
Mills will have every opportunity to shoot a high volume for a Boomers squad that needs some scoring punch especially with Ben Simmons not suiting up. The other top players on that team - most notably Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut - aren't exactly known for their scoring so Mills should have the ultimate green light, just as he did in the first exhibition game against the United States in which he took a team-high 16 shots.
International play is often-times dominated by guard play, even moreso than it is in the NBA. In that regard, Mills is primed for a big tournament and should be pouring in points by the bunches.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_ ): I just want to be on record that I fully believe that there is no way that Giannis Antetokounmpo does not lead the FIBA Basketball World Cup in scoring. But for the sake of this activity and getting another potential name in the mix, I'm going with Italy's Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari is coming off of the best NBA season of his 10-year career leading the unsung LA Clippers to the playoffs. The Italian forward averaged a career-high 19.8 points per game shooting 46.3% from the field and a lights-out 43.3% from beyond the arc and on top of that, he hasn't been able to participate in Italy International play since Eurobasket 2015.
Italy failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and Gallinari missed Eurobasket 2017 due to a hand injury suffered from a punch thrown in an exhibition game leading up to the tournament.
When he last competed Internationally at Eurobasket 2015, he was the tournament's fourth-leading scorer posting 17.9 points per game. Gallinari is more than capable of filling it up and he likely feels like he owes his country a massive showing after the incident in 2017.
As Italy's clear-cut premier scorer, Gallinari will certainly get enough shots to lead the entire World Cup in scoring and if he can find his efficiency, you'll surely find him near the top of the leader board in points per game.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I'm going with the old guy Luis Scola. Argentina has a very unselfish bunch. If you saw them play at the Pan Am Games in Peru, they were whipping the ball around the court without a care of who scored.
That may change at the World Cup. Scola is just 21 points away from passing Australian great Andrew Gaze for second place on the FIBA World Cup all-time scorers list. It's expected that at some point in the tournament he will pass Gaze, but what if he's willing to go after first place?
Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt set the bar at 843 total points at the World Cup. Scola is currently 270 points away. He knows it, the team knows it, the country knows it. The chances of him catching Schmidt is slim, but he'll be able to create distance between him and Gaze with a strong outing in China.
At 39 years of age, this will be Scola's last run with the national team, what a way to go out if he cements his legacy as one of the greatest scorers in World Cup history.
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