What to expect from Team Africa's five debutants at NBA Africa

There are five players on Team Africa making their NBA Africa Game debuts on Saturday in South Africa, though none will be new to fans of the game.

Six years ago, Pascal Siakam was a wide-eyed participant at the Basketball Without Borders programme, a shock selection from Cameroon.

He was an unlikely participant, who was almost dismissed on sight by Masai Ujiri, the president of Toronto Raptors, who later said, "When I saw Pascal in Basketball Without Borders [in 2012], I couldn't even tell you if he was an NBA player."

All that is history now. The lad, who played as a rookie starter in the first NBA game he ever saw live, is making another jump in an unfolding inspirational story, as he joins his role models to represent the continent on Team Africa.

Siakam's place on the team, unlike that of the legendary South Sudanese Luol Deng, was not assured. The Cameroonian power forward, who has played two seasons and made just 42 more starts after that debut, is slowly engraving his name on the hearts of fans on the continent, just as he did with his adoring fans in Toronto.

In his rookie season, Siakam played 55 games and made 38 starts in a Raptors' team that was trying to roll in a new direction. His athleticism and enthusiasm made him the first choice for defending the best players on opposing teams. This past season, he only made five starts in 81 appearances as he formed part of Toronto's famous Bench Mob.

Siakam is a hustler on defense: per Second Spectrum, LeBron James was 2 for 10 in Field Goals in meetings against the Raptors when Siakam was the closest defender to him. It is that same energy he will bring to bear when he lines up for Team Africa.

It took Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot five games to get a field goal when he started playing in the NBA with the 76ers two years ago.

Atlanta, Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland had come and gone without the French small forward, whose roots extend to the Republic of Congo, getting a bucket. Then the Utah Jazz came along, and the Frenchman announced himself loudly, as he unleashed a massive dunk to open his NBA account.

That is one of the things fans can expect from the 23-year-old, who played in two leagues (France and Serbia) before landing a spot in America in 2016. Luwawu-Cabarrot went on to average 6.4 points in 17.2 minutes, and added 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists in that first season; proof that he can facilitate offense.

His scoring included 16 games in which he posted double figures. But fans in Philadelphia will not forget that dunk in a hurry, and just like he did that night against the Utah Jazz, expect the new Oklahoma City Thunder forward to produce at least one spectacular moment during his NBA Africa Game debut.

Of the five players in question, New Orleans Pelicans' Cheick Diallo is probably the least experienced.

Diallo is yet to start an NBA game, but the Mali-born 21-year-old has taken a leap from the 17 games he played for the Pels in his first season, to 52 appearances in his second -- including 7 more in the playoffs -- to underline his growing influence.

The Kansas product has averaged 4.9 points in the two seasons he has played so far, and his 4.1 rebounds average over the same period, with the limited minutes he is playing (he is averaging 11.3 minutes per game), is a likely indication that he is paying attention to the lessons being handed down by the Pelicans' All-NBA and All-Star forward Anthony Davis.

Diallo is a joy to watch when he runs the floor on a fast break, and when he elevates either to dunk or block a shot. He may have limited minutes at the NBA Africa Game, but those minutes will be memorable.

Another player who will be eager to step out in the colours of Team Africa, it will be the Orlando Magic's Algerian-French swingman Evan Fournier.

In 2015, the then 22-year-old had just recorded his first season of scoring in double figures in his three-year career, as he averaged 12 points per game in his first season at Orlando following a trade from Denver, up from the 8.4 points average in his second season.

The following year, 2016, Fournier improved across all major statistical categories, including boosting his shooting percentage and scoring. That convinced the Magic to hand him an improved $85-million, five-year contract.

By the time 2017 rolled around, the quick-thinking guard took over the Orlando scoring mantle from Victor Oladipo, who had departed for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and led the Magic in scoring with 17.2 points per game.

But 2018 was where he really hit his stride, recording a career-high 32 points in the win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and again led the Magic in scoring by averaging a career-high 17.8 points per game, and added career highs in rebounds, blocks, and free-throw shooting percentage.

Fournier, a FIBA Basketball World Cup bronze medallist with France in 2014, will be eager to show why he should have been included in more Africa game line-ups.

Ian Mahinmi, the 31-year-old French-Beninese center for the Washington Wizards, will be an exciting addition to the game at the Sun Arena.

He is an NBA champion, having won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, and his story is an interesting one as he put in the hard work to forge a solid career in the USA.

He was picked with the 28th selection in the 2005 draft by the San Antonio Spurs. Having played for a couple of seasons in France before heading States-side, his height and length made him a sought after player who could impose himself on the defensive end, hence his being drafted late in the First Round.

He only played six games in his first two seasons in San Antonio, between 2007-08, spending most of his time in the Developmental League. In 2009 Mahinmi played 26 regular season games and featured in two Playoffs games for the Spurs before moving to Dallas.

At the Mavericks is where Mahinmi achieved his greatest accomplishment in winning an NBA championship. He featured in a total of 127 games for the Mavericks over two seasons, including making key contributions on the road to the title.

The 6'11" center also played at the Indiana Pacers, between 2012 and 2015, and he really stood out there. He had spent most of his career coming off the bench, but in the 2015 season he started all 78 of the games he played for the Pacers, averaging 9.3 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game and one block per game in the regular season.

In 2016 Mahinmi signed for the Washington Wizards and he's made a home in the US capital. The Wizards have been a team on the rise and Mahinmi has been part of that improvement.

He makes a huge impact coming off the bench and he still dominates the paint with the second unit as an integral part of the Wizards plans for success.

Additional reporting from Kaunda Chama and Cyrus Rogers