Sergio Perez continues to lay claim to as the title of king of the street courses after picking up his second victory of the F1 season Sunday at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Canadian senior men’s basketball team will have a chance to make history this summer at the 2023 FIBA World Cup by placing on the podium for the first time ever and potentially qualifying for their first Olympics since 2000.  

Canada is coming off a dominant qualifying run led by Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and Hamilton, Ont. native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, where they led the Americas with an 11-1 record and a world-best +351 point differential. 

But as FIBA drew groups on Saturday night in Manila, Philippines to finalize eight, four-team preliminary round groups, the reality has set in that despite their impressive record in qualifying and commitment from a core group of NBA players, Canada is going to be in tough against some of the world’s best teams early in the competition. 

Team Canada was drawn into Group H and will face France, Lebanon and Latvia in Jakarta, Indonesia. The tournament begins on August 25th and will be broadcast on Sportsnet. 

“With France, Lebanon, and Latvia joining us in Group H, each will present a unique set of challenges and varying styles of play,” said general manager and executive vice-president of the senior men’s program, Rowan Barrett. “Having connected recently with each of our coaches and players, the team remains committed and focused on achieving the goals we’ve established as a program.”

That includes head coach Nick Nurse, who is still committed to the program through 2024 despite being let go by the Toronto Raptors, and who said: “I’m excited to get back together as a group in August and continue building on a strong performance during the Qualifiers.”

After playing each team in their group, the top two teams from Group H will face off against the top two teams from their crossover group (G), which includes Spain and Brazil, with results carrying over into a new group (L). The top two teams from Group L will move onto the quarterfinals, meaning Canada will likely have to beat one of Spain or France to move on to the knockout stage. 

More importantly, Canada has to finish top-two in the Americas in order to automatically qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics, overcoming teams with an easier route (on paper, at least) to the quarterfinals such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. If they fail to do that at the World Cup, Canada will once again have to test their luck in a last-chance qualifying tournament — something they have been unable to advance past since the format was re-introduced in 2008. 

For now, however, let’s focus on Canada’s immediate opponents in Group H, diving into where each team ranks, how they got to the World Cup, key players, X factors, and more. 


FIBA World Ranking: No. 5

How they got here: 10-2 record and first overall in Group K of the European Qualifiers

Head Coach: Vincent Collet

Key Player: Victor Wembenyama is planning on participating in the 2023 World Cup despite likely being drafted No. 1 overall in the NBA draft just weeks before the tournament. While most recent draftees are unable to immediately participate in international competition for a myriad of reasons, the 19-year-old French international is a special case and likely has a little more power to do what he chooses this summer. After leading France with 19 points per game in qualifications, it is likely that Canada will have to overcome the 7-foot-4, three-point shooting, shot-blocking menace that is Wembenyama.

X Factor: Joel Embiid has never played in a major international tournament and has not yet publicly committed to any national team, but he is eligible to play for France, the U.S.A. or his native Cameroon leading up to the 2024 Paris Games. France is the leading candidate, and a sooner-than-expected exit from the NBA playoffs could mean Embiid is with the French team at this summer’s World Cup, throwing a 7-foot wrench into the current order of international men’s basketball. 

Scouting Report: France is an international basketball powerhouse who earned silver at the 2020 Olympics, but it’s difficult to know what kind of team France will roster at the World Cup because they have already qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics as the host country. Will program stewards Rudy Golbert, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Fournier be there? Or will it be a younger team led by the new generation, including Wembenyama? Regardless, France is one of the deepest basketball nations in the world and will be stiff competition for a less-experienced Canadian team.

World Cup history: Fresh off back-to-back third-place finishes in 2014 and 2019 — the country’s best-ever pair of finishes in a Men’s World Cup — and ending as runners-up to Spain in the 2022 EuroBasket, France will be looking to win their first ever international gold medal this summer. 


FIBA World Ranking: No. 43

How they got here: 7-3 record and second overall in Group E of the Asia Qualifiers

Head Coach: Jad El Hajj

Key Player: Wael Arakji, who plays his club basketball in Lebanon and is literally nicknamed “the Great,” figures to play a big role for Lebanon this summer. The 28-year-old score-first point guard suited up for the Dallas Mavericks at the NBA Summer League in 2019 and was named the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 MVP after Lebanon finished runners up to Australia in the tournament. He also led the way in World Cup qualifying, averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game while shooting 48 per cent from three on 3.4 attempts per game over the course of eight games. 

X Factor: Ater Majok and Ali Haidar are Lebanon’s two best big men and leading rebounders, and they will likely split duties at centre, while also playing alongside each other, due to Haidar’s versatility and ability to pass and space out the floor. Majok, meanwhile, is a more traditional rim-running, rim-protecting centre who averaged 3 blocks a game in qualifying while leading the team in +/-.

Scouting Report: Lebanon went on a seven-game winning streak during the 2023 qualifying campaign and became the first Asian team to qualify for the World Cup. They play a very democratic style dictated by ball movement and quick decisions, which is necessary without an NBA-caliber star. Expect them to play a safe game with good fundamentals and to not beat themselves. 

World Cup history: Lebanon is set to return to the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup for the first-time since 2010, when they opened the tournament with a win over Canada. After missing out on the 2019 tournament in their final qualifying game, they will be looking for their best finish at the tournament since they finished 16th in 2002. 


FIBA World Ranking: No. 29

How they got here: 9-1 record and first overall in Group I of the European Qualifiers

Head Coach: Luca Banchi

Key Player: Washington Wizards centre Kristaps Porziņģis re-joined the Latvian national team after a five-year absence from international basketball, leading the team in qualifying with 25.5 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks per game (although he only played in two qualifiers). As a mobile 7-footer, Porziņģis dominated the paint on both sides of the ball during qualifiers, and he is the ideal FIBA player who can be a deterrent at the basket and space out to three on offence. His biggest weakness is that he can get pushed around by some of international basketball’s more physical centres. 

X Factor: Former Wizard and current Dallas Maverick Davis Bertans will be the X factor for Latvia, running around screens and opening up the floor for Latvia to attack as a 40 per cent career three-point shooter in the NBA and in international competition. Shutting him down will be the key to limiting Latvia’s attack, although they are not only dependent on NBA talent. In fact, Davis’ brother, Dairis, led the team in minutes during qualification, while combo-guard Rihards Lomazs is another crafty scorer to keep an eye on. 

Scouting Report: After failing to qualify for the 2019 World Cup or 2022 EuroBasket, Latvia turned some heads with a 9-1 record in World Cup qualifying, including wins over Serbia, Greece and Turkey. They have a deep team with a good mixture of youth and veteran talent, but the key to overcoming them will be limiting their 7-foot unicorn Porzingis.

World Cup history: Latvia is set to make their FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup debut this summer. After a fifth-place finish with Porzingis at EuroBasket 2017, Latvia is much better than their 29th world ranking would indicate. But, then again, so is Canada.