Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: NBA’s First Half Most Valuable Player

Sixers star Joel Embiid sits atop the latest Most Valuable Player ladder published by Michael C. Wright at NBA.com. Embiid was also Dan Devine’s choice for first half MVP in a half-season awards roundup for Yahoo Sports this week.

There’s certainly no question that Embiid has submitted an MVP-caliber performance when he’s back on the court. He’s leading the NBA in scoring for a third straight season with a career-high 35.0 points per game to go along with 11.4 rebounds and a career-best 5.9 assists for the 28-13 Sixers. On Saturday, he scored 30 or more points for a 20th consecutive game, becoming only the third player in NBA history to achieve that feat (Twitter link).

But Embiid has also missed 10 of Philadelphia’s 41 games so far, putting him on track to sit out 20 for the season. Maintaining that pace would mean he’d fall short of the 65-game minimum required for end-of-season award winners, making him ineligible for this year’s MVP award, as we covered in detail yesterday.

Even if Embiid does reach that 65-game minimum, he may not be a runaway choice for MVP, given that several other NBA superstars are having transcendent seasons for contending teams.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic has been providing the defending champion Nuggets with his usual All-NBA caliber production, including 25.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per night.

Jokic has also played in 42 of 43 possible games, logging 348 more minutes more than Embiid so far. That’s not an unimportant detail, given that the 29-14 Nuggets have a +11.0 net rating when their star center is on the court, compared to a -7.5 mark when he isn’t — Jokic’s ability to stay on the floor has been crucial to the team’s success.

The surprising Thunder are a half-game ahead of Denver in the standings at 29-13, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been fueling that ascent by putting up career highs in points (31.1), assists (6.3), and steals (2.2) per game to go along with a 54.9% field goal percentage. Like Jokic, Gilgeous-Alexander has only missed one game this season and has led his club to a +11.0 net rating during his minutes.

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s elite production has become routine by this point, but his incredible production – 31.2 PPG, 11.4 RPG, and 6.0 APG with a .609 FG% – shouldn’t be overlooked. The 29-13 Bucks have a -4.6 net rating when Antetokounmpo isn’t on the court; that mark increases to +7.3 when he’s playing.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has boosted his scoring average to a career-best 33.6 points per game this season while also contributing 9.2 assists and 8.3 rebounds, with a .485/.376/.778 shooting line. Dallas will likely have to improve its place in the standings to help earn Doncic a real shot at this season’s award though — currently the team sits in sixth place in the West with a 24-18 mark.

Conversely, while Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has certainly had an impressive statistical season so far (26.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, .472/.367/.812 shooting), his numbers aren’t quite as gaudy as the ones posted by the players mentioned above. But his team has a 32-10 record, which is the best in the league. ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins referred to Tatum on Friday as his pick for first half MVP (YouTube link).

Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, and Kings center Domantas Sabonis are a few of the other players hovering on the fringes of the MVP race, but they’re dark-horse candidates for now.

We want to know what you think. If you were voting for an MVP based on the season to date, who would you pick? Is Embiid’s missed time a deciding factor for you or has he been valuable enough in his 31 games to earn the top spot on your ballot?

Vote below, then head to the comment section to share your two cents!

Poll: When Will The Pistons Get Their Next Win?

The Pistons are on the verge of making the wrong kind of history after losing their 25th consecutive game on Thursday vs. Utah.

Last night’s matchup looked like a prime opportunity for Detroit to snap its lengthy winless streak, which began way back in October. The team was playing at home against a shorthanded Jazz squad that was missing top scorers Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson and point guards Keyonte George and Talen Horton-Tucker, among others. But the Jazz – who got a season-high 27 points from Kelly Olynyk and at least 13 from all five starters – pulled out the victory.

The Pistons are now nearing two ignominious NBA records. Losing a 26th game in a row on Saturday would put them in a tie for the longest single-season losing streak in league history. If they lose three more in a row, they’d tie the record for the longest total losing streak (including across multiple seasons): 28 games. A total of four more consecutive losses would put them in sole position of both records.

Over the course of the 25-game losing streak, there haven’t even been many close calls for the Pistons — they haven’t lost by five points or fewer since November 20, and they only have two such losses during the entire streak. The other 23 losses have been by at least six points, and many have been far more one-sided than that.

Detroit has been the NBA’s worst three-point shooting team this season, ranking dead last in makes per game (9.7) and percentage (33.0%). Protecting the ball on offense and taking it away on defense have also been major issues. The Pistons’ 16.6 turnovers per game rank 29th in the NBA, as do their 6.3 steals per night. On top of that, no team commits more fouls per game (22.8) than Detroit.

Put it all together and it’s perhaps no surprise that Cade Cunningham‘s assertion on Thursday that there’s “no way” the Pistons are “2-26 bad” elicited eye-rolls from many fans. But he might have a point — the team’s -11.4 net rating is in the same ballpark as that of the 7-19 Hornets (-10.8) and it’s actually ahead of the mark that the 4-23 Spurs have posted (-11.6).

Still, it’s safe to assume that the Pistons aren’t going to enter a game as a betting favorite until perhaps January 10 at home vs. San Antonio, so if they’re going to avoid setting a new NBA record for futility, they’re going to have to pull off an upset.

Here’s the Pistons’ upcoming slate:

  • Dec. 23: at Brooklyn
  • Dec. 26: vs. Brooklyn
  • Dec. 28: at Boston
  • Dec. 30: vs. Toronto
  • Jan. 1: at Houston
  • Jan. 3: at Utah
  • Jan. 5: at Golden State
  • Jan. 7: at Denver
  • Jan. 9: vs. Sacramento
  • Jan. 10: vs. San Antonio
  • Jan. 12: vs. Houston
  • Jan. 15: at Washington

We want to know what you think. Will the Pistons win one of those games against the Nets to avoid setting the NBA record for most consecutive losses in a single season? Will they win at least one of the next four and avoid entering the history brooks for the longest NBA losing streak of any kind? If not, when exactly is this streak going to end?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Poll: Which Team Will Win NBA Cup?

The NBA’s first-ever in-season tournament final will take place on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, as the veteran Lakers take on the upstart Pacers for the right to hold the NBA Cup — and to earn championship bonuses worth $500K per player.

The Lakers may have the home-court advantage, given Los Angeles’ proximity to Vegas and the franchise’s huge fan base, but the Pacers have earned plenty of fans of their own in recent weeks with their fast-paced, high-scoring style of play. And they’ll enter the game as the lovable underdogs looking to knock off another highly star-studded opponent after defeating Boston in the quarterfinal and Milwaukee in the semifinal.

The Pacers’ 123.5 offensive rating is easily the NBA’s best mark, as is their pace (104.13 possessions per game). Tyrese Haliburton, who is submitting an MVP-caliber season thus far, leads the attack with 26.9 points and an NBA-best 12.1 assists per game, but the Pacers have no shortage of offensive options, with six other players averaging double-digit points per night (a seventh, Jalen Smith, won’t be available on Saturday).

They’ll be going up against one of the NBA’s stoutest defenses — the Lakers’ 110.3 defensive rating is tied for sixth-best in the league. Los Angeles also holds a significant edge in big-game experience. While Haliburton and several other Pacers have never played in the postseason, LeBron James alone has 282 playoff games on his résumé.

Of course, Saturday’s game isn’t a playoff contest, and Haliburton and the Pacers certainly haven’t shied away from the spotlight so far in the in-season tournament, having talked repeatedly about how they’re embracing the rare opportunity to play for a national audience.

Both teams have taken the tournament seriously so far and that doesn’t figure to change on Saturday, with $300K on the line (the runners-up will go home with bonuses worth $200K rather than $500K).

We want to know what you think. Are you taking the Pacers or the Lakers to win the first NBA Cup?

Place your vote below, then head to the comment section below to share your predictions.

Poll: Which Teams Will Win In-Season Tournament Semifinals?

The semifinals of the NBA’s first-ever in-season tournament will be played on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with the winners advancing to Saturday’s final.

It’s a safe bet the early game will be a shootout. The high-octane Pacers have the NBA’s best offensive rating by a significant margin at 123.6. But they give up plenty of points too — their 120.2 defensive rating ranks 28th in the league, ahead of only Charlotte and Washington.

The Bucks are poised to take advantage of the holes in Indiana’s defense. Milwaukee’s 119.2 offensive rating is the NBA’s third-best mark and the group has been firing on all cylinders as of late, putting up 132 points on Saturday vs. Atlanta and a season-high 146 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal victory over New York.

Tyrese Haliburton has perhaps been the breakout star of the in-season tournament, but he and the Pacers will be underdogs against a Bucks squad led by superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. BetOnline.ag currently lists Milwaukee as 5.5-point favorites.

Still, Indiana knocked off Boston in the quarterfinals and will perhaps benefit from what should be a neutral crowd in Las Vegas. The Pacers have a winning record away from home this season, while the Bucks are a modest 5-5 on the road.

The Lakers, on the other hand, may have a home-court edge in Thursday’s late game, given Vegas’ proximity to Los Angeles and the franchise’s sizable fan base. But they’re only favored by two points against a Pelicans team that’s as healthy now as it has been in quite some time.

While both Los Angeles and New Orleans have had to deal with injury issues during the first quarter of the 2023/24 season, they’re nearly at full strength heading into Thursday’s semifinal, with only Gabe Vincent expected to be out of action for L.A., while the Pelicans are just missing reserves Larry Nance Jr. and Matt Ryan.

Forwards LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram – along with guard CJ McCollum – are the headliners in this matchup, and a superstar-type performance from one or two of them could ultimately decide the game, but the Lakers’ and Pelicans’ supporting casts shouldn’t be overlooked. Role players like D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, and Trey Murphy are capable of being game-changing X-factors.

What do you think? Which two teams will prevail on Thursday and meet in the first-ever in-season tournament final on Saturday?

Poll: Will The Grizzlies Make The Playoffs?

The 2023/24 NBA campaign tipped off on October 24, making this the 12th day of the 177-day regular season. It’s early, in other words, so teams falling short of their expectations during the season’s first couple weeks shouldn’t be reaching for the panic button quite yet.

Still, the Western Conference is expected to be extremely competitive this season — when we ran our over/under polls on teams’ win totals in the weeks leading up to opening night, the benchmark for 11 of the 15 teams in the West was 44.5 or more victories. Only six Western teams will qualify for the playoffs outright and only four more will make the play-in tournament, which means one of those 11 clubs with high expectations for 2023/24 will be left on the outside looking in, not even a play-in team.

The margin for error in the West is thin, which doesn’t bode well for the Grizzlies, the NBA’s lone remaining winless team.

We knew Memphis might be in some trouble entering the season, with a few key players expected to be unavailable for a significant portion of the year. All-Star guard Ja Morant is serving a 25-game suspension, starting center Steven Adams is out for the season with a knee injury, and key frontcourt reserve Brandon Clarke is still on his way back from a torn Achilles.

Still, we didn’t expect the Grizzlies to begin the season 0-6, with losses to potential lottery-bound teams like Washington, Utah, and Portland. Again, it’s early, but Memphis is digging an early-season hole that might be tricky to climb out of.

In addition to being without Morant, the Grizzlies can no longer rely on steady backup point guard Tyus Jones, who was traded in the offseason, and newcomers Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose have been shaky so far. Jones has been the NBA’s perennial leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, but without him and Morant, the Grizzlies rank 26th in that category in the early going and have had trouble generating much offense at all — the club’s 102.9 offensive rating ranks dead last in the NBA.

Adams obviously isn’t the scorer or play-maker that Morant is, but his absence in the frontcourt has been just as deeply felt as Morant’s in the backcourt. Before Adams went down with his knee injury last season, the Grizzlies ranked second in the league in rebounding percentage and offensive rebounding percentage, with Adams leading that effort. However, they were 25th and 22nd in those categories the rest of last season, and are in the bottom half of the league’s rebounders again this fall.

The good news for the Grizzlies is that their stars – Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson – have looked great, and there’s no reason not to expect the same from Morant when he returns in December. But Memphis isn’t getting much from its role players, and the team needs to at least tread water until Morant is back in order to stay in the playoff hunt.

We want to know what you think. After winning over 50 games in each of the past two regular season, are the Grizzlies just off to a slow start this season? Will they turn things around and end up having a strong year? Or is this slow start a harbinger of things to come? Will the Grizzlies end up being the odd man out of the postseason from that group of 11 Western teams with playoff expectations?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts on the Grizzlies.

Poll: Western Conference Outlook For 2023/24

Earlier this week, we discussed the contenders to come out of the Eastern Conference in 2023/24, noting that many of the presumed favorites have major question marks hanging over them as training camps near.

The same is true in the Western Conference, where there’s no powerhouse poised to run roughshod over its rivals like Golden State did during the Kevin Durant years.

The Nuggets are the defending champions, and made a convincing case during their title run this spring that they’re the team to beat in the West. But they’re not bringing back quite the same roster that won the 2023 championship.

The team’s two most-used reserves in the postseason, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, headed elsewhere in free agency, while Vlatko Cancar will likely miss the season after tearing his ACL this summer. Denver will have to rely on young players like Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Zeke Nnaji to take on increased roles and hope Reggie Jackson can give the club more than he did down the stretch last season.

The Suns have the most star-studded roster in the West, with Bradley Beal joining Durant, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton as part of an extremely talented starting lineup. But the rest of the roster is comprised of nearly entirely minimum-salary players, many of whom are newcomers, so it may take some time for Phoenix to develop chemistry. And an injury to one of its stars would seriously test the team’s depth.

The Warriors are a perennial threat as long as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are on the roster, and adding Chris Paul to the mix will give the franchise another experienced veteran to lean on in big moments. But all four of those players will be at least 34 years old when the playoffs tip off in the spring and may not withstand the rigors of a deep postseason run as comfortably as they would have a few years ago.

The Lakers made the Western Conference Finals last season and are bringing back a similar roster, swapping out role players like Dennis Schröder, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown, and Malik Beasley for guys like Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Christian Wood, Cam Reddish, and Jaxson Hayes. As long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are healthy, Los Angeles is a contender, but that certainly hasn’t always been the case in recent years.

The other Los Angeles team, the Clippers, has had even more trouble keeping their stars – Paul George and Kawhi Leonard – healthy for the playoffs, but would be a legitimate threat in the West if both of those stars are at their best.

The Kings were one of the NBA’s best stories last season, with a feel-good squad that snapped a 16-year playoff drought. But their postseason run was short-lived, and it remains to be seen if De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis can be the best players on a title contender.

In the Southwest, Luka Doncic certainly looks capable of being the best player on a contender, but the Mavericks may still not have enough talent around him to seriously vie for a title. The Grizzlies have won 107 regular season games over the last two seasons, but have yet to translate that success to the playoffs, and will have to get through at least the first 25 games of the season without suspended star Ja Morant. The Pelicans looked like a potential top-four seed during the first half of last season when Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram were healthy, but that hasn’t happened often.

Among the dark horse options, the Thunder are an exciting team on the rise, but didn’t even make it out of the play-in tournament last season and may still be a year or two away from taking a huge leap. The Timberwolves could be a legitimate threat if Anthony Edwards makes the jump to superstardom, but they still have to figure out whether the Rudy Gobert/Karl-Anthony Towns experiment will work in the frontcourt.

The betting website BetOnline.ag currently lists the Nuggets (+240) as the favorite to win the West, followed closely by the Suns (+325). The Warriors (+650), Lakers (+750), and Clippers (+900) make up the next tier, followed by the Mavericks (+1200) and Grizzlies (+1400).

The Pelicans (+2000), Kings (+2500), Thunder (+3300), and Wolves (+3500) are all longer shots, while the Spurs, Rockets, Trail Blazers, and Jazz aren’t considered likely contenders.

We want to know what you think. Which team is your early choice to come out of the West? Are you taking one of the betting favorites or is there a dark horse that you like?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your predictions!

Poll: Eastern Conference Outlook For 2023/24

During the latest episode of The Lowe Post podcast (YouTube link), ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Kevin Pelton briefly discussed the Eastern Conference pecking order, noting that there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals in 2024.

Pelton says he would pick the Celtics at this point, while Lowe agrees that he’d probably lean toward Boston by “default,” despite the fact that he’s unsure how losing Marcus Smart and Grant Williams and adding Kristaps Porzingis will impact the team. The Celtics’ new identity without a longtime leader like Smart is certainly something to monitor heading into the season, but several of the East’s other would-be contenders will have significant questions of their own to answer.

The Bucks, for instance, are coming off a first-round playoff exit and may feel added pressure following Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s comments about his long-term future; the Heat lost two key rotation players in Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, and they’ve been unable to complete a trade for Damian Lillard; the Sixers have yet to resolve James Harden‘s trade request.

Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia were the East’s best teams during the regular season in 2022/23, while Miami had an incredible playoff run to win the conference. On paper, those four teams might be the frontrunners in the East again, but that hierarchy could easily be upended, Lowe notes.

“Maybe in two months this will just be nonsense,” Lowe said. “(Maybe) James Harden will be back and playing well, and the Celtics will look awesome. (Maybe) Milwaukee will be totally fine and who cares what Giannis said two months ago, they’ll be 23-4. It just feels a little more unstable than it did last year.

“… Like, if we woke up in the conference finals and New York or Cleveland or Team X was one of the two teams in it… I’m not sure I’m going to pick that, but right now I wouldn’t be surprised.”

The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag currently list the Celtics, Bucks, Heat, and Sixers, in that order, as the best bets to come out of the East. Those four teams are followed by the Cavaliers (+1100) and the Knicks (+1800), with the rest of the East’s clubs, including the Hawks (+3300), Raptors (+4000), and Nets (+5000) viewed as extreme long shots.

We want to know what you think. If you had to make your pick today, which team would you choose to come out of the East? Which of the potential concerns for the conference’s top teams do you view as legitimate and which ones are overblown?

Make your pick in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Poll: Which Teams Will Win World Cup Medals?

A pair of World Cup games on Sunday will determine which nations leave the Philippines with medals. The long-awaited U.S. vs. Canada showdown is finally on tap, but that game will be for the bronze medal, not the gold. It’ll be Germany vs. Serbia for the gold, with the loser claiming the silver.

Germany vs. Serbia

Bogdan Bogdanovic has been Serbia’s best player in the World Cup, while Dennis Schröder, Daniel Theis, and the Wagner brothers (Franz Wagner and Moritz Wagner) have led the way for Germany.

But both teams are getting important contributions from non-NBA players, including Olympiacos big man Nikola Milutinov (13.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG) for the Serbians and Bayern Munich guard Andreas Obst (10.9 PPG, .457 3PT%) for the Germans.

These are also two squads that have plenty of experience playing together in international competitions, and the chemistry they’ve built paid off in a big way in the semifinals, where they knocked off clubs that featured more NBA talent.

Germany is the only undefeated team in the World Cup and will benefit from the fact that the Serbians are missing superstar center Nikola Jokic. But Serbia only has one small blemish – a two-point upset loss to Italy – on its World Cup résumé and has otherwise looked dominant, winning six games by an average of 25.3 points per contest.

The oddsmakers expect a close one on Sunday, with Germany currently favored by a single point, per BetOnline.ag.

United States vs. Canada

Much has been made of Team USA’s lack of true star power – Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the only All-NBA player on either roster in this matchup – but the club has had no problems putting the ball in the basket over the course of the World Cup, making an impressive 53.8% of its field goal attempts, including 40.4% of its three-pointers.

Defense and a lack of size has been the Achilles heel for the United States in this tournament. Despite the shorter (40-minute) FIBA games, the U.S. surrendered 110 points in its second-round loss to Lithuania, then 113 points in its semifinal loss to Germany.

Canada has the offensive firepower necessary to make the U.S. pay for a subpar defensive effort. Besides Gilgeous-Alexander, four other Canadians – RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Kelly Olynyk, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker – are averaging double-digit points in the World Cup. And in Olynyk and Dwight Powell, Canada has a couple bigs capable of making life difficult for Team USA on the interior.

Still, the U.S. has a deeper, more talented roster overall than Canada, and more ways to win this game. The Americans are the frontrunners to win the bronze, with BetOnline.ag listing them as seven-point favorites on Sunday.

Poll: Who Will Win World Cup Semifinals?

The race for 2023 World Cup gold is down to just four teams, and they’ll all be in action in Friday’s semifinals, battling for the right to play in the championship game.

With less than 24 hours to go until the first of those semifinals tips off, let’s take a closer look at the matchups…

Canada vs. Serbia

Canada has had no shortage of NBA talent over the last two decades, but has finally put it all together in a World Cup, reaching its first ever semifinal. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the main reason for the club’s success, leading the Canadians in categories across the board, including points (25.0), rebounds (7.2), assists (5.0), and steals (1.7) per game.

It hasn’t just been the SGA Show though. RJ Barrett (14.7 PPG) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (10.0 PPG) been reliable secondary scoring options, Dillon Brooks and Luguentz Dort have played stifling defense, and Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell have allowed the Canadians to match up with bigger teams. Even without players like Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins, Trey Lyles, Shaedon Sharpe, and Cory Joseph, this is a very talented roster.

Serbia, meanwhile, is missing star center Nikola Jokic and point guard Vasilije Micic. In their absence though, Bogdan Bogdanovic has emerged as an effective leading man, averaging 18.8 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per night.

Big man Nikola Milutinov, whose NBA draft rights are held by Brooklyn, has provided the Serbians with a consistent presence up front, averaging 13.2 PPG and 8.8 RPG. Current NBA players like Nikola Jovic (10.7 PPG) and Filip Petrusev (9.8 PPG) have chipped in too, as has former NBAer Marko Guduric (8.3 PPG, 3.8 APG).

Canada has more high-level NBA talent than Serbia and is currently listed as a 5.5-point favorite, per BetOnline.ag. But the Serbians have more experience playing together in international events, so this one could go either way.

United States vs. Germany

Even without its A Team, the United States is the heavy frontrunner to win the World Cup as the only squad in Manila made up entirely of NBA players. Team USA’s roster is deeper than any others at the World Cup, so head coach Steve Kerr has plenty of options if certain players are struggling.

Anthony Edwards (17.3 PPG) has been USA’s go-to scorer so far, but he had just three of the team’s 100 points in a blowout quarterfinal win over Italy, with Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton, Austin Reaves, Jalen Brunson, Brandon Ingram, and Paolo Banchero providing the necessary offense. While a total of nine Team USA players have averaged at least 16 minutes per night so far, none have played more than 23 MPG, as Kerr has taken advantage of the depth available to him.

Still, the U.S. isn’t unbeatable. The club lost to Lithuania in the second round of the World Cup and only narrowly defeated Germany in an exhibition game prior to the tournament.

The Germans are the only undefeated squad left at the World Cup, having been led by NBA players Dennis Schröder (18.0 PPG, 6.3 APG), Moritz Wagner (12.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG), and Daniel Theis (10.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG). Franz Wagner also made his return from an ankle injury in Wednesday’s quarterfinal and will be a key factor in Friday’s semifinal.

Like the U.S., Germany showed on Wednesday that it can win even when its top scorer has an off night. Schröder was just 4-of-26 from the field, but the Germans pulled out a two-point victory over a tough Latvian team.

Poll: 2023 FIBA World Cup Quarterfinalists

As we outlined earlier today, four of the eight teams who will play in the quarterfinals of FIBA’s 2023 World Cup have been set. The United States, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Germany earned their spots in the knockout round with victories on Friday.

That leaves four spots up for grabs, to be determined in a series of win-or-go-home matchups on Sunday. We want to get your predictions on which teams will advance. Let’s dive in…

Italy vs. Puerto Rico

The Italians and Puerto Ricans entered the second round with 2-1 records and kept their quarterfinal hopes alive by upsetting Serbia and the Dominican Republic, respectively. Italy had previously lost to the Dominicans, while Puerto Rico fell to the Serbians in the first round.

This version of the Italian national team isn’t as strong as some past groups, but it still features some NBA talent, past and present. Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio increased his World Cup scoring average to a team-high 20.0 PPG with 30 points on Friday, while former Pistons forward Gigi Datome and ex-Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli have also played key roles.

Puerto Rico’s roster also features some names that may be familiar to NBA fans, starting with former Celtics second-rounder Tremont Waters, who racked up 37 points on Friday and leads the team with 21.8 PPG through four games. Former Cavaliers forward John Holland is representing Puerto Rico too.

Brazil vs. Latvia

Brazil lost to Spain by 18 points in the first round, while Latvia was blown out by 26 points by Canada. However, Brazil defeated Canada on Friday while Latvia eked out Spain, keeping them in the quarterfinal hunt.

Brazil’s leading scorer through four games is former NBA first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, who is showing in international competition the upside that the Raptors saw when they selected him 20th overall in 2014. He has averaged 15.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game through four contests. Former Lakers guard Marcelo Huertas, former Bulls big man Cristiano Felicio, and Warriors draft-and-stash prospect Gui Santos are among the other notable players on Brazil’s roster.

Latvia is missing star big man Kristaps Porzingis, but has multiple impressive wins so far in the tournament, knocking off 2019 bronze medalists France in the first round before beating Spain on Friday. The Latvians have several talented shooters, starting with Thunder forward Davis Bertans, who is averaging 12.0 PPG. Former Nets forward Rodions Kurucs is among Latvia’s other key contributors.

Dominican Republic vs. Serbia

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns has been the leader of an upstart Dominican Republic team, averaging 24.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in four games. Joined by Warriors two-way guard Lester Quinones and former Clippers center Angel Delgado, Towns led the Dominicans to three first-round wins before they lost to Puerto Rico on Friday.

Unlike the Dominican Republic, which hasn’t won a game by more than seven points, the Serbians were dominant in round one, defeating Puerto Rico, South Sudan, and China by an average of over 30 points per game.

Without Nikola Jokic, the Serbians don’t have a star as impactful as Towns, but they do have a well-balanced roster that includes Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (18.0 PPG, 5.3 APG), Heat forward Nikola Jovic (14.0 PPG), and Nets draft-and-stash prospect Nikola Milutinov (13.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG).

Canada vs. Spain

Through the first round, Canada and Spain looked like two of the biggest threats to challenge Team USA for gold. But after disappointing showings on Friday, one of them won’t advance to the single-elimination round.

Prior to Friday’s four-point loss to Brazil, Canada had the best point differential of any team in the tournament (+111), as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.8 APG) led the way with his scoring and play-making. The Canadians will be hoping that Friday was just a blip on the radar and that a squad which also features RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks, Luguentz Dort, Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker bounces back on Sunday.

It certainly won’t be a cakewalk though. Spain is the defending World Cup champion and entered this year’s tournament as FIBA’s top-ranked team. The Spaniards are missing 2019 World Cup MVP Ricky Rubio, but Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez have played well, and the club has gotten solid contributions from current and former NBAers like Santi Aldama, Usman Garuba, Rudy Fernandez, Victor Claver, and Alex Abrines.