Orlando Magic FIBA World Cup Preview: 5 things to know entering group play

Franz Wagner had a breakout tournament in helping Germany win a bronze medal at EuroBasket. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Franz Wagner had a breakout tournament in helping Germany win a bronze medal at EuroBasket. (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Goga Bitadze, Orlando Magic
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 25: Goga Bitadze #35 of the Orlando Magic grabs a defensive rebound in the first half of a game against the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center on February 25, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/2023 Julio Aguilar) /

5 things to know for the FIBA World Cup

Goga Bitadze and Georgia’s debut

Goga Bitadze quickly introduced himself to Orlando Magic fans last year after he arrived shortly after the trade deadline. He was a tough interior defender who could gobble up rebounds on both ends. He gave the Magic a physicality they really needed and quickly found himself in the rotation to close the season.

That is the exact kind of play that usually translates well to FIBA play. And Bitadze looks to be due for a solid tournament on both ends.

Georgia will use Bitadze as a roll man in a lot of ways. He sets screens to get Georgia’s top players — Milwaukee Bucks forward Alexander Mamukelashvili and wing Tornike Shengelia. Both are big forwards who can playmake and score.

Bitadze throughout the exhibition run played clean up, rolling hard to the basket and cleaning up on passes and dump downs.

That does not mean Bitadze is not capable of big games. He scored 21 points in a huge win over Montenegro and then added another strong outing against Australia (in a loss). Bitadze will clean up and display that improved jumper that he showed hints of with the Magic.

Georgia’s Outlook

There is no lying, Georgia is probably better than their No. 32 ranking, but this is a team that is thrilled just to be in the World Cup field. The country is making its World Cup debut. So it is a big moment for them and all the players who have helped forge a way for the team.

Georgia is fortunately in a group that could help them advance. They will likely cede the group to Slovenia. But their game against Venezuela (Aug. 30, 4 a.m.) to close the group could well decide who gets the second spot to advance to the second round.

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Georgia has the talent and capability to get there. This should not just be about making a cameo in the tournament.