A few days have passed since Germany edged Serbia to win the 2023 FIBA World Cup at Manila. Many lamented the tournament’s lack of star power as Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and literally an entire roster worth of American superstars decided to forgo this two-week tourney.

Despite the lack of big names though, the World Cup turned out to be a tremendous success. The ever-growing international basketball landscape provided fans with a thrilling competition that had no clear cut favorite and many signature moments.

Each team walked away with their fair share of victories, whether actual or moral, and picked up some insights along the way as well. An entire book would be needed to analyze each team’s World Cup stint, but a few of the most important ones are enumerated below.

Franz Wagner is going to be a force to be reckoned with

The 22-year-old Wagner wound up playing only four games in the FIBA World Cup after sustaining an ankle injury in Germany’s opening match. They managed to make it through the group phase undefeated before Wagner returned in the quarterfinals to help them win it all.

Though it was Dennis Schroder who was (rightfully) named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Germany would not have won the gold medal without Wagner who averaged 19 points per game over their three final phase games. Each of those contests went down the wire and Germany’s cumulative winning margin for all three was just 10 points.

The on-court presence of Wagner–a mobile 6’10 forward who moves like a much smaller guard–kept defenses honest and ultimately freed up the floor for Schroder to take over late in the final versus Serbia.

Wagner will only get better with age and though Schroder is still only 29 years old, it appears imminent that it is only a matter of time before this team is his. He looks like he is all set to challenge for a spot on the NBA All-Star team this season and is already the best German-born player since Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.

Serbia should be favored heading into the 2024 Paris Olympics

Even without reigning NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, a Serbia team that had only one NBA player in Bogdan Bogdanovic still managed to snag the silver medal in the World Cup. Serbia’s balanced attack overwhelmed their opponents who were constantly bombarded with three-pointers and physical play.

Come next year’s Paris Olympics, Serbia should be considered among the favorites–if not the favorite–to take home the gold medal if Jokic does decide to suit up. The 28-year-old fits perfectly with the Serbia team that just played in Manila and adding an Olympic gold medal to his resume will only bolster his growing case as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

Team USA needs to get its act together

The model is clearly not working.

Team USA has fallen short in winning gold in the last two World Cups and they have not even been able to take home a silver or bronze medal. The Americans finished seventh in 2019 and fourth this year after winning it all in 2010 and 2014.

Team USA has historically struggled to attract top talent for this tournament dating back to the 2000s and this year was no different.

Their current pick-up basketball style system where the team’s composition changes from summer to summer needs to go. At this point in time, establishing some continuity akin to the Redeem Team era is now a “need” rather than just a “want.”

Following his team’s loss to Canada in the bronze medal game, USA head coach Steve Kerr said that “This is not 1992 anymore” in reference to the Dream Team’s dominance. While Kerr’s statement is indeed correct, he sounds like a broken record at this point.

It only took the world 10 years to catch up to Team USA as the 2002 World Cup, then known as the World Championships, revealed the flaws of their program. 20 years later, the USA has yet to fully adjust. The USA is very much aware of their vulnerability and the most important question to ask now is why they allowed themselves to revert to this year-by-year system in the first place.

The Redeem Team already set a foundation, but it was thrown out the window by the 2012 Olympics. For now, they are back to clinging on to memories of the Dream Team and a bygone era when their complacency had no real consequences.

The best is yet to come for Canada

While Team USA has continued to trend downwards in recent years, their northern neighbors have simultaneously been building something special.

Canada came into the World Cup as one of the favorites to win the gold medal for the first time in recent history. Though they ultimately fell short, they salvaged their trip to Manila by winning the bronze medal over the USA.

If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is still only 25 years old, continues to suit up for Canada, then there is no question that they are going to be a gold medal contender for many years to come. Their World Cup roster featured seven current NBA players, all of whom are at least rotation pieces for their teams, and it is scary to think that they already made it this far without Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins.

Once these two decide to join forces with Gilgeous-Alexander and company, Canada might just establish themselves as the new international basketball powerhouse with Team USA-like depth sprinkled with European-esque continuity.

Philippine basketball needs to open up to foreign influences

Team USA’s model doesn’t work, so why is the 40th ranked team in the world still following it?

Aside from this lack of preparation that has been discussed over and over, Tab Baldwin’s controversial comments from three years ago that Philippine coaches are “tactically immature” continue to haunt the local basketball scene as well.

It has been a challenge for foreign coaches to enter the PBA given the league’s restrictions which has made it difficult for international best practices to penetrate Philippine basketball.

The leaders here continue to think that the country’s “passion” and “love for the game” make it superior to other countries with regards to this sport which is obviously not true. The poor showing of Gilas Pilipinas under now former head coach Chot Reyes in the World Cup is tangible proof of this. It’s finally time to permanently do away with the country’s false bravado with regards to basketball that is best embodied by Reyes whose resignations from the team never seem to be permanent.

Foreign influences are a good thing and it’s about time that the country opened its doors, not only to better players from other countries, but to coaches too who have so much to offer to help bring Philippine basketball into the modern era.

Luka Doncic can’t do it alone

Slovenia becoming a regular dark horse in the international basketball scene with a population of slightly over two million people (For reference, Metro Manila’s population is now at 13 million) is quite an impressive feat.

Given their miniscule population, the country inevitably has a limited talent pool. This makes it quite understandable that Luka Doncic “has no help” on this team, especially now that Goran Dragic, who missed this year’s World Cup, is entering the twilight of his career.

Slovenia managed to win the 2017 EuroBasket tournament back when Dragic was still in his prime and Doncic was a teenage sensation as they took turns tearing apart opposing defenses.

Now, Doncic is left with no teammate on the level of Dragic which has left Slovenia stuck in the middle of the pack with regards to international basketball. Throughout the World Cup, Slovenia struggled whenever defenses zeroed in on Doncic as their lack of a secondary playmaker hindered them.

While there is only so much that Slovenia can do to improve their roster, learning from the lessons of this World Cup will serve the Dallas Mavericks well. Doncic may be a generational talent, yet he needs at least one other shot creator and a defensive anchor to play his best basketball. Slovenia had neither of these and the Mavericks have half of this problem solved with Kyrie Irving under contract at least until 2025.

Though Doncic cannot demand a trade out of Slovenia, he can ask out of Dallas or sign elsewhere once his contract is up. The Mavericks must ensure that Doncic has the right teammates around him so that he can start winning now in order to avoid what could be a messy ending to this partnership.