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FIBA World Cup Buyer’s Market, Phoenix Suns edition

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Whose stock is up and whose stock is down heading into the final days of the FIBA World Cup in China?

Spain v Poland: Quarter Final - FIBA World Cup 2019 Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images

The FIBA World Cup is down to the Final Four. As a whole, the tournament has been a spectacle, showcasing basketball talents across the globe. Yes, there can only be one gold medal winner, but that doesn’t mean other players won’t be leaving the tournament as winners as well. With that, let’s take a look at whose stock we are buying after the most recent set of FIBA Games.

Buy: Aron Baynes

Aron Baynes has been nothing short of dominant in the FIBA World Cup. He’s been the defensive anchor and physical tone-setter for the undefeated Australian Boomers while also putting up 13.3 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field, 53.3 percent from three, and 90.9 percent from the charity stripe.

Baynes became the first Australian since Chris Anstey over 20 years ago to put up 20 points and 10 boards in a FIBA World Cup Game, and he did it against Lithuania, a frontcourt featuring NBA superstars Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis. He followed up that performance with dazzling display against Rudy Gobert and Team France. Gobert for the tournament has put up an aggregate plus/minus of +94 while averaging 12.7 points and 9.7 rebounds including a masterful 21 point 16 rebound game in Team France’s win against Team USA. Aron Baynes held Gobert to 8 points, 4 rebounds, a -2 plus/minus, and fouled Gobert out all while putting up 21 points on the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Australia’s 2 point win.

A date with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, and the rest of Team Spain stands in Australia’s way of medaling, but if Baynes can keep his performance up, not only is a gold medal likely, but Baynes could be a dark-horse candidate for tournament MVP.

Buy: Ricky Rubio

When the Phoenix Suns inked Ricky Rubio to a three-year/$51m deal this past season, analysts mocked the move. The signing was tied for worst acquisition of the offseason, according to an anonymous ESPN survey.

“The paid him a lot of money, and he isn’t very good,” an Eastern Conference scout said. Well, anonymous scout, this “not very good” point guard just became the World Cup all-time assists leader and has a date with destiny against new Suns teammate Aron Baynes and the rest of Australia for a chance at FIBA World Cup Gold.

Rubio has been a true tone-setter throughout the tournament. He scored 19 points and dished out four assists in Spain’s win against the favored Serbia and put up another 19 points and nine assists against Poland in the quarterfinals. Critics be damned, Suns fans have to be salivating at the prospect of the Baynes-Rubio pick-and-roll or watching Rubio drive and dish to an open Devin Booker for three.

Remember, the Suns were coming off a 29-53 season before they gave the offensive keys to a veteran point guard with some playoff experience by the name of Steve Nash and saw a 33-win swing. If FIBA Rubio is the point guard coming to Phoenix, then the Suns could be looking at a legitimate step forward in the West.

Buy: Devin Booker

But wait, Devin Booker didn’t even play in the FIBA World Cup! This is correct, and the media slammed his decision to bypass the opportunity to play “meaningful basketball.” BUT — This is where the mainstream media pretzeled themselves because if we are calling the FIBA World Cup meaningful basketball (which it is), then there is a major domino effect that we must consider.

For one, we no longer can ignore the dominant performances that the aforementioned Baynes and Rubio have put forth in the tournament. Secondly, while the decision to represent USA is certainly commendable, we cannot ignore the disappointing results of Team USA. The team featuring four Boston Celtics, Khris Middleton (who just signed a max deal), and Donovan Mitchell lost to Australia in an exhibition, barely beat Turkey in a nail biter, and has since lost to France and Serbia.

They say misery loves company, so perhaps that is the reason why Devin Booker received so much flak for Team USA’s struggles, despite not even playing. However, by acknowledging Booker as the savior of the team, pundits are implying that all Booker needs is winning talent around him and he could vault himself into MVP conversations. Well, going back to point number one, Booker finally DOES have winning talent around him, and they just happen to be his new Suns teammates, Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio.