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Suns’ Rubio, Baynes to compete at the FIBA World Cup

Before newly acquired Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio and center Aron Baynes take the floor as teammates, they will compete on different sides in the world’s largest international basketball tournament.

They are each representing their countries at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which starts on Saturday in China. Rubio is on Spain’s national team while Baynes will play for Australia.

Both players have performed well in their exhibition games leading up to the tournament. Rubio is fresh off of a 25-point, eight-assist performance that led to a Spanish victory over Argentina on Tuesday. Those 25 points are an international career high for him.

Baynes’ exhibition highlight came last Saturday against the United States. He scored 13 points in a shocking 98-94 Australian victory. The win for Australia snapped the United States’ 78-game winning streak.

This is the third World Cup for each of the Suns’ new additions. They both played in 2010 and 2014, and were both among the top perfomers of those events.

Rubio averaged 5.1 assists per game in both years, as he finished third and sixth in those tournaments respectively. Baynes broke out in 2014, averaging 16.8 points per game, good for 10th in the World Cup.

Both teams are coming off of recent success in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Spain and Australia played in the bronze-medal game, with both Rubio and Baynes competing.

Rubio took home the medal in a narrow 89-88 win for Spain, but the recent successes and strong outings in this summer’s exhibitions for both teams could lead to deep tournament runs for Rubio and Baynes.

The big game experience could help the two veterans bring further leadership to a young Phoenix roster.

The Suns may not be favored to make a postseason push next year but possibly having Rubio and Baynes fresh off of big tournament runs could lead to them giving sound advice to Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, talented players without a ton of high-stakes game experience.

A plethora of notable Suns have taken part on the World Cup in the past, and many of them put together massive seasons in Phoenix right afterwards.

Dan Majerle (1994) and Shawn Marion (2002) were named Western Conference All-Stars in seasons after competing for Team USA. Leandro Barbosa (2006) won the Sixth-Man of the Year award after representing Brazil the summer prior.

Rubio and Baynes both had one of their better seasons after competing in 2014, so perhaps that trend could continue.

Spain’s World Cup starts on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. PT against Tunisia, and Australia begins on Monday at 12:30 a.m. PT against Canada. Another team for Suns fans to keep track of could be Serbia, as Phoenix assistant coach Darko Rajakovic will be on his native country’s team’s staff.

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