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Canada 2023 FIBA World Cup preview: Who steps up with Murray out?

Ahead of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the big news for Canada is that star Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has decided to sit the tournament out.

Murray helped lead the Nuggets to their first NBA title in June after missing all of the 2021-2022 season with a torn ACL and now needs additional recovery time following the long season.

New-look Canada roster takes shape

Without 2023 NBA Champion Murray, Canada still have plenty of players they can rely on with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander now their undisputed leader. 

He had 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Canada defeated Germany in overtime, 113-112, to win the DBB Super Cup, a mini-warm-up tournament ahead of the World Cup. 

Gilgeous-Alexander, who also had 26 points, six steals and three assists in a 107-76 victory over New Zealand, averaged 31 points, five assists and five steals for the Thunder last season. 

Gilgeous-Alexander is currently the favourite to be the World Cup’s leading scorer, at +325. He also has some of the shortest odds for most steals in the tournament (+600) and assists (+1000). 

RJ Barrett, a fifth-year man out of Duke, averaged 19.6 points and five rebounds for the New York Knicks last season. 

He shot 13-of-14 from the field and scored a game-high 31 points in Canada’s win over Germany. 

NBA veterans Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk round out the starting lineup. 

Brooks, now with the Houston Rockets, averaged 14.3 points for the Memphis Grizzlies last year and will be the team’s primary defensive presence. 

Powell averaged 6.7 points and 4.1 rebounds for Dallas and has been a consistent contributor over a 10-year career. 

Olynyk has also played 10 years in the NBA, with five teams. Last year, the center/forward averaged 12.5 points and 6. 2 rebounds for the Utah Jazz and added 21 points in the overtime win over Germany.

Lu Dort, Kyle Alexander and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are Canada’s top bench players. Dort averaged 13.7 points for the Thunder and is part of the youth movement there, along with Gilgeous-Alexander. 

Alexander-Walker, currently with the Minnesota Timberwolves, has averaged 8.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in his four-year NBA career. 

Alexander is one of several Canada players not currently on an NBA roster. He averaged 5.7 points and 3.1 rebounds for Valencia in the Euroleague last year. 

Some other names to remember on Canada’s roster include Boston Celtics forward Oshae Brissett, Golden State Warriors guard Cory Joseph and Olimpia Milano guard Kevin Pangos, who played his college basketball at Gonzaga.

Canada’s Group Stage Prospects

Before Murray’s announcement, Canada was co-favorites to advance out of Group H with France. 

Now, Canada is listed as +110 to win the group, while France is now the sole favorite and currently listed at -110

Latvia and Lebanon, the other two Group H countries, are longshots, so Canada is expected to advance to the second round. 

How far can Canada Advance?

The countries that advance from Group H face the countries that advance from Group G, including Brazil, Iran, Ivory Coast and Spain, in the second round. 

If Canada advances, as expected, out of their group stage in Indonesia, they could face the Spaniards in the next round. 

Canada is listed at +1000 to win the tournament, fourth behind favorites USA (-112), France (+750) and Australia (+900). 

Spain is just behind them, tied for fifth-best odds with Serbia at +1200. This could be an historic tournament for the Canadians, even with Murray sidelined. 

The team finished 21st in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, and their best-ever finish is sixth in both 1978 and 1982. 

They haven’t made the Olympics since 2000 in Sydney and have only medalled there once, a silver medal way back in the 1936 Berlin games. 

Canada's national soccer team recently made waves when they qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. The basketball team is hoping to experience the same kind of renaissance.

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