The Toronto Raptors’ championship run last season is only the tip of the iceberg indicating Canada’s growing influence on the NBA.
The influx of players from north of the border competing in the league has exploded in recent years; a record-setting six Canadians were drafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, the most ever for a non-American country. Currently, 22 Canadians are signed to NBA deals, also the most of any country outside the US.
That bodes well for Canada Basketball’s attempt to qualify for Tokyo 2020, beginning with the Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria this June.
Here’s a look at the best Canadian NBA players.
1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Stats: 19.3 PPG, 6.1RPG, 3.3 APG, 47.3 FG%, 35.1 MPG
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has adjusted seamlessly to his new team since being traded to Oklahoma City as part of the domino effect that brought Kawhi Leonard to the LA Clippers. The Toronto native is now spearheading the surprise team of the season to another trip to the playoffs. He is a do-it-all guard whose versatility fits perfectly into the modern NBA.
In only his second year, Gilgeous-Alexander is already the cornerstone of the Thunder and Canadian basketball. There is no doubt that this guy is a future All-Star.
2. Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Stats: 18.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 45.4 FG%, 32.6 MPG
Can you believe that Jamal Murray is still just23 years old? The Kitchener product has been in the league for four seasons and blossomed into Nikola Jokic’s running-mate in Denver. When Murray entered the league he was considered a gunner who fit the mould of an offensive spark plug, but he has rounded out his game to become a crucial piece on a playoff team.
Jamal Murray is locked in with 17 PTS on 5-5 3PM to open the game! ☔️
— NBA (@NBA) March 1, 2020
Murray also made history this summer by signing the largest deal ever for a Canadian, penning a five-year, $170 million extension with the Nuggets.
3. Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors)
Stats: 21.8 PPG, 5.1 RPB, 3.7 APG, 44.6 FG%, 34.5 MPG
To say Andrew Wiggins’ NBA career to date has been up-and-down would be an understatement. Expectations were sky-high for the former first overall pick when he entered the league, and optimism remained after he earned the Rookie of the Year award. Since then, Wiggins has struggled to find his way and live up to the promise as a future star.
The recent trade that sent Wiggins to Golden State will serve as an ideal opportunity for him to rehabilitate his career. No longer burdened by lofty expectations, Wiggins has the chance to develop into a quality role player in a star-ladened team.
4. Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies)
Stats: 15.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 40.2 FG%, 28.4 MPG
It has been an amazing bounce-back year for Dillon Brooks, whose sophomore season was derailed by a lingering toe issue. The former second-round pick has nestled into a perfect role with a young Grizzlies roster working alongside superstar rookie Ja Morant.
Brooks is a pitbull on the defensive end of the floor, although his physicality also makes him one of the most foul-prone players in the league.
5. Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Stats: 12.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 51.2 FG%, 30.2 MPG
The first true veteran on the list, Tristan Thompson has been a stalwart of Canadian basketball for years. Thompson has quietly had a quality season leading into his pending free agency this summer.
As long as he remains healthy, Thompson will be one of the first names on Nick Nurse’s list to play for Canada in June.
6. RJ Barrett (New York Knicks)
Stats: 14.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 39.8 FG%, 30.3 MPG
The third-overall pick in the 2019 draft has had a bumpy start to his professional career. However, those familiar with RJ Barrett’s game knew that there would be significant growing pains once he entered the NBA. Unfortunately, the volatility revolving around the New York Knicks has not maximized Barrett’s talents and the roster put around him shines an even brighter light on his shooting deficiencies.
Don’t write off Barrett yet. There is a reason he has been a top prospect since he was 16; the combination of his work ethic and physical talents will pay off in the future.
RJ Barrett went right at him.
Clutch from the rookie ✊ pic.twitter.com/2c4c2eO2O6
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 3, 2020
7. Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies)
Stats: 12.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 62.3 FG%, 21.7 MPG
The player on this list with the thinnest connection to his Canadian roots, Brandon Clarke moved from Vancouver to Arizona at the age of three. Still, the high-flying rookie has indicated some interest in competing for Canada and they should welcome him with open arms.
The Summer League MVP has been a revelation for the Grizzlies as a versatile big man that can also stretch the floor with his improved shooting.
8. Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks)
Stats: 9.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 63.8 FG%, 26.5 MPG
Dwight Powell was on pace for the best season of his six-year career before a devastating achilles injury put an abrupt end to his season in January. His partnership with Luka Doncic as a rim-runner had helped Dallas be the best offence in the NBA.
It is a tough blow for a player who was likely to have a starting role for Canada.
9. Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat)
Stats: 7.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 47.9 FG%, 18.7 MPG
One of the most recognizable Canadians in the NBA for the past few years, Kelly Olynyk has taken a step back this year with the resurgent Miami Heat. Ironically, the Kamloops native is having his best-ever three-point shooting season while also logging the fewest minutes of his career.
10. Cory Joseph (Sacramento Kings)
Stats: 6.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 42 FG%, 24 MPG
Another stalwart on the Canadian team, Cory Joseph has now passed the torch on to the exciting young guards entering the league. Joseph is on the back-end of his career backing up DeA’aron Fox, but remains a quality reserve player.
He has represented Canada at every opportunity and will no doubt feature in Victoria.
11. Chris Boucher (Toronto Raptors)
Stats: 6.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.4 APG, 46.1 FG%, 13.3 MPG
Bonjour! The Montreal native has had a fun, semi-break-out season with Toronto. The reigning G-League MVP is a relative late bloomer in basketball terms and has won over fans with his energetic style and proclivity for highlight reel plays.
However, regular minutes have been hard to come by as the defending champion Raptors boast impressive front-court depth.
12. Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Stats: 6.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 41.4 FG%, 22 MPG
Maybe the biggest surprise on the list, undrafted rookie Luguentz Dort has now assumed a starting role on the playoff-bound Thunder. Dort has impressed as a defensive beast beside Chris Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander, beating out other youngsters for regular rotation minutes.
If he can become an adequate shooter then Dort has a long career ahead of him.
13. Trey Lyles (San Antonio Spurs)
Stats: 6.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 44.3 FG%, 20 MPG
Trey Lyles has struggled to find his way into regular minutes throughout his career. The former 12th overall pick hasn’t been able to live up to expectations but has settled into becoming a nice role player for the Spurs.
Lyles has improved his three-point shooting and is a much-improved rebounder since entering the league.
14. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (New Orleans Pelicans)
Stats: 5.1 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 33.9 FG%, 12.2 MPG
One of three first-round picks for the Pelicans this year, Nickeil Alexander-Walker has had a quiet season after dominating the Summer League.
The younger cousin of Gilgeous-Alexander hasn’t adapted as well to the physicality of the NBA and has struggled to finish at the rim. Expect Alexander-Walker to shoot up these rankings in years to come; there is a special talent waiting to break out.
15. Khem Birch (Orland Magic)
Stats: 3.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.9 APG, 48.7 FG%, 19.4 MPG
An injury-plagued season and a stacked front-court have limited Khem Birch’s impact for the Magic this year. However, Birch is an underrated player whose impact doesn’t translate to gaudy individual numbers.
He has been one of the few NBA players to suit up for Canada on a regular basis.