Will young Wolves’ international success translate to the NBA?


As we move through this current lull in the off-season, many players are subject to less-competitive basketball, like the Drew League or something along those lines. However, a few Wolves players have spent their summer playing against international competition as we’ve noted here at Dunking With Wolves.

Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett have been the catalysts on a dominant Team Canada in the Pan-American games in July, and now have led Canada to a 4-0 record in the FIBA Americas warm-up tournament in Puerto Rico. Wolves’ big man Gorgui Dieng has led Team Senegal to the semi-finals in the AfroBasket tournament that concludes this Sunday.

All of these players have had their shining moment in international play this offseason, most notably Bennett and Dieng. So what does this mean for the upcoming NBA season? Can we expect Wiggins, Bennett, and Dieng to be as good during the upcoming season as they are right now in international play?

For Bennett, his international play has been a bit of a coming out party. We know that the 2013 number-one-overall pick’s time in the NBA has not been overly fruitful. However, Bennett was the best player in Canada’s silver medal performance in the Pan-Am Games this past July. Bennett has also been pivotal in Canada’s victory in the FIBA Americas warm-up tournament, which they won on Wednesday.

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  • As good as Bennett has played over the summer, I highly doubt he can make that sort of contribution to the Wolves in 2015-16. As of now he is a pretty deep bench presence and has been rumored to be on the trading block throughout the entire off-season. To think that Bennett could come into 2015-16 and average 15 points and 8 rebounds is, in a word, lofty, to say the least.

    Wiggins, who torched Puerto Rico for 20 points on Canada’s win on Wednesday, has only played in the warm-up tournament. He will presumably play in the actual FIBA Americas tournament, an Olympic qualifying event, which begins this Sunday.

    It has been reported that Wiggins has greatly improved him game and has even grown a bit this off-season. If there is one Wolves player whose international game can translate to this coming season, it’s Wiggins. We know the kind of raw athleticism he has and from the brief glimpses we’ve seen of him this summer for Team Canada, he looks to have improved on his overall skills as well. He will hopefully be a much more rounded player come this season, and rely on things besides his athleticism in 2015-16.

    Dieng, on the other hand, has absolutely dominated the AfroBasket tournament for Senegal, who are the clear favorites to win the event. Over five AfroBasket games Dieng is averaging 24.2 points and 15.2 rebounds and has clearly shown himself as the best and most talented player in the tournament.

    I have proclaimed to anyone who has ears about the promise of Gorgui Dieng in the past. He did have stat lines last season for the Wolves that sometimes looked similar to these AfroBasket lines, but to say he will put these numbers up game-in and game-out might not quite be feasible. Remember, he is still technically the Wolves back-up center. However, to say this AfroBasket tournament means nothing would be foolish.

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    There is one glaring element I have yet to discuss and quite frankly it may be the most important. We need to realize that the competition these three are playing against is not NBA-caliber. The best NBA-caliber players Wiggins and Bennett have faced all summer are J.J. Barea, Ryan Hollins, and Anthony Randolph. You can hate on Bennett being a bust as much as you want, but he is a superior player than any of those three at this stage in their respective careers.

    As for Dieng, there is nobody in the entire AfroBasket tournament that can handle his size and skill. I mean the next-best players (at least those participants that have appeared in the NBA) in AfroBasket are Al-Farouq Amino and Ike Diogu. That should tell you something. No disrespect to Dieng because he is clearly the best player in this tournament and maybe the best current African NBA player right now this side of Serge Ibaka, but he is playing against some truly lackluster competition.

    To answer the question of whether or not this experience will translate to 2015-16, I do not think it will be as big of impact as people may think. We need to look at these statistics beyond face value, because some of the teams these guys are playing against are less than good.

    That being said, I think this a great experience for these guys who are still young and can learn a lot out of the experience. All in all it may not translate to the NBA floor come 2015-16.

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