After a wonderful start to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Washington Wizards power forward Xavier Cooks’ run has come to an end. Australia was already eliminated after their second-round loss to Slovenia, but they weren’t officially done until their 100-84 win over Georgia today.
Wizards fans might be disappointed in the way Cooks finished during his time playing on the international stage. Through the first round, Cooks averaged 14 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in just 19.5 minutes per game. The second round saw his production take a significant cutback in which he averaged just 1.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per game.
Some might be concerned by this drop, but Cooks still showed incredible effort throughout the entirety of his time playing for Team Australia. In their game against Luka Doncic-led Slovenia, Cooks came off the bench, immediately forced a turnover, and got a steal thanks to hustling to a timely double-team.
The soon-to-be second-year forward also added five rebounds and a block across his last two games, a testament to his hard work and never-say-die attitude. His showing may have taken a downturn, but Cooks showed why he could potentially step up as a key frontcourt piece in the NBA.
How could Xavier Cook’s play translate into his role with the Washington Wizards?
The Washington Wizards currently have just a couple players who fill the traditional center role on the roster in Daniel Gafford and newcomer Mike Muscala. With his tenacity and effort, Cooks can cement himself as the third man in that rotation. Now that veteran Taj Gibson has entered free agency and power forward Danilo Gallinari is still recovering from a torn ACL, a strong training camp could see Cooks catapult himself into more playing time in the NBA.
While he will be eventually competing with Gallinari for playing time, Cooks can take this opportunity to learn from the 35-year-old veteran to improve his game. As another international player who may have needed a boost to his confidence after averaging just 6.1 points per game as a rookie, Gallinari can surely offer some advice and instill some confidence in the 28-year-old Australian who still has a lot of basketball left to play.
Although he isn’t the biggest player at the forward position, Cooks demonstrates a mobility that most don’t at his size. His ability to defend multiple positions makes him a valuable member of the defense and defending the pick-and-roll. His four-year, $6.1 million deal signed in March coupled with his recent string of performances at the FIBA World Cup could help boost his confidence just in time for the 2023-24 NBA season.
Looking forward, training camp is only a month away. If Cooks can carry the momentum from these past couple weeks into October, he could secure a solid spot in the rotation in time for opening tip versus the Indiana Pacers on October 25th.
NBA training camp begins on October 3rd with the Wizards’ first preseason matchup coming a week later on October 10th versus Cairns Taipans of Australia’s National Basketball League. The rest of the Wizards preseason features a home matchup versus Charlotte (Oct. 12th), away versus the New York Knicks (Oct. 18th), and away versus the Toronto Raptors (Oct. 20th).