When the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies (now the Memphis Grizzlies) both played their first NBA game in 1995, there were only two Canadian players in the NBA. Now, Canada has the second-most NBA players.
This includes 16 Canadian NBA players who were on opening-night rosters according to Canada Basketball. This list will look at the top-six NBA players currently from Canada. This means players like Steve Nash and Jamaal Magloire are excluded from this list as they are already retired.
The Top Six Current Canadian NBA Players
6. RJ Barrett
The top six current Canadian NBA players start with RJ Barrett, who was the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. The Toronto-born player, who spent a significant amount of his life in Mississauga is having a decent year. He is averaging 13.7 points, 5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game.
The one thing he needs to improve is his free throw percentage, which is at 60.1 percentage. However, he is only 19 years old and should improve over some time.
According to Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports, Barrett has huge potential to become a great player in the NBA.
“I’m right-handed with everything,” Barrett said Wednesday, via the New York Post. “My mom was lefty. I do a lot of things with both hands.”
“I’ve been told I have a better shooting form with my right, but I’m more comfortable with the left. I started as a kid shooting [with] two hands and gravitated to the left,” Barrett said.
It is too early to say how Barrett will develop as an NBA player. He is still very raw compared to the other five players on this list.
5. Tristan Thompson
This was a tough choice between Tristan Thompson and Barrett. However, Thompson edges out Barrett, most notably because of him averaging 10.3 rebounds per game. He is also averaging 12.2 points per game, 2.1 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The drama of tensions between the head coach and the players did not help. According to Meredith Cash of the Business Insider, John Beilein had trouble winning players over. Despite that, the Cleveland Cavaliers still have not done well since LeBron James left Cleveland.
Tristan Thompson is indeed an NBA champion right now, but his team is losing a lot at present. Some people may argue that Thompson has better stats than others on this list.
4. Dillon Brooks
Dillon Brooks, a Mississauga native, has taken his game to a new level this year. After missing most of last season due to injury, Brooks is having a special year. He is averaging 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game.
His most notable game was scoring 31 points, four rebounds, and two assists on November 6th, 2019. This was against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. His team, the Memphis Grizzlies, currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Portland Trail Blazers are 1.5 games behind, and the New Orleans Pelicans are 2 games behind the Grizzlies.
3. Andrew Wiggins
A few years ago, Andrew Wiggins would be considered the best Canadian basketball player in the world. He is an NBA All-Star caliber player but has not made the All-Star team once. A big reason for that is not having a winning record with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A notable exception was the 2018 NBA Playoffs. They had 47 wins and 35 losses in the 2017-18 NBA Season. The Minnesota Timberwolves would lose the playoff series 4-1 to the Houston Rockets.
Wiggins is averaging 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. His most impressive game this year came against the Golden State Warriors at Target Center in Minnesota, Minneapolis on November 8th. He had 40 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks against the Warriors.
This is ironic as the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Wiggins to the Golden State Warriors. So far, the Golden State Warriors are impressed in what they have seen from Wiggins.
Anthony Slater, who covers the Golden State Warriors and the NBA for the Athletic talked with Steve Kerr about Wiggins.
“I’m not sure we’ve had a player who has picked up the offense quicker,” Kerr said.
Wiggins may be losing now, but he should be on a winning team next season. Being with superstars like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and playing with a leader like Draymond Green should improve his game. Expect his play to improve and possibly make it to the NBA All-Star Game next year.
2. Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray is averaging 18.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. Kitchener-native from Ontario played his best game was against the Memphis Grizzlies on November 17th, 2019. He recorded 39 points, four rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and one block. His team won 131-114.
“We are playing really good together, we are learning and teaching each other,” said Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets. “He’s a great basketball player, great competitive guy, and just I love to have him as a teammate.”
Like Wiggins before him, Murray has all the makings of an NBA All-Star. He is only 23 years old and is only going to get better. Murray’s team, the Denver Nuggets are currently second in the Western Conference.
They have a better record than Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers, who are currently third in the Western Conference. Murray has played a big part in it. He just needs to improve his points per game a bit more and he will be an NBA All-Star.
1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – #1 Canadian NBA Player
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Hamilton-native is the best Canadian basketball player in the world right now. He is averaging 19.4 points per game, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.7 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game in his sophomore year for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Chris Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammate and 2020 NBA All-Star reserve, has very similar stats. Paul is averaging 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.1 blocks per game.
One of Gilgeous-Alexander’s most notable games is against his home team growing up, the Toronto Raptors. He scored 32 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and three steals. This includes getting the game-winner to secure a tight 98-97 win for the Thunder.
According to Maddie Lee, an Oklahoma City Thunders beat writer, Paul said this of Gilgeous-Alexander:
“Hes got it all: mid-range, finishes, shooting, and his defense, his defensive intensity,” Paul said.
This coming from a 10-time NBA All-Star must be a huge confidence booster for Gilgeous-Alexander. Expect him to become the third Canadian player in NBA history to make it to the NBA All-Star Game next year. This adds to the fact that the Thunder are fifth in the Western Conference, which makes him the best Canadian men’s basketball player in the world.
Overview of the Top Six Canadian NBA Players
There are a lot of NBA players coming out of the Golden Horseshoe of Toronto and in Ontario. These top six NBA Canadian players are just the tip of the iceberg of the many players developed from Canada. Three players on this list could very well be NBA All-Stars this year. There also should be no ceiling on Barrett as he will improve every single year for the New York Knicks.
With the Toronto Raptors’ success and two new pro basketball leagues created in the last decade, Canada is in a good place. Expect even more NBA players to come in this decade. The Greater Montreal Area and the province of Quebec are also starting to produce NBA players. To read more about the rise of Quebec basketball read this previous article.
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