The Oklahoma City Thunder was the most surprising team in the NBA. A big part of this was the two Canadian NBA players for the Thunder. They have made the NBA playoffs all but two times since moving from Seattle. However, the 2019-20 NBA season was supposed to be a down year for the Thunder. After losing Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets and Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, there seemed to be no hope for the Thunder in the 2019-20 NBA season. However, led by Chris Paul, the Thunder was able to lead the team to fifth place in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Canadian Influence
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was born in Toronto and brought up in Hamilton, had an impressive sophomore 2019-20 NBA season. He averaged 19 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. This is a big jump from his rookie 2018-19 NBA season with the Clippers, where he averaged only 10.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. In his 2019-20 NBA season, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20-29 points 32 times and 30-39 points three times. One of his best games was against the Toronto Raptors on December 29, where he scored 32 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and three steals. As a result, Gilgeous-Alexander finished sixth in the Most Improved Player of the Year Award.
Full voting results for Most Improved Player below.
Jayson Tatum pic.twitter.com/mfkHuGsaMm
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) August 31, 2020
Paul, who has been Gilgeous-Alexander’s mentor this year, said this about him according to Gilbert Mcgregor of Sporting News:
“It’s so cool because I think everybody’s always wondering what I’m teaching him but he’s teaching me things,” Paul said. “Like, I’m trying to learn how to do the Eurostep, too.”
For a 10-time NBA All-Star like Paul to say that shows the skill of Gilgeous-Alexander. He is only 22 years old and only been in two NBA playoffs. Furthermore, he could make history next year and become only the third Canadian in NBA history to make the NBA All-Star Game.
Luguentz Dort from Montreal went undrafted in the 2019 NBA draft. However, he was still able to carve out his name in his rookie season. In the 2019-20 NBA season, he averaged 6.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. His best game was scoring 23 points, two rebounds, one steal, and one block against the Sacramento Kings on January 29.
However, it would be the NBA playoffs when Dort’s play shined brightly. According to Brad Botkin of CBS Sports, former 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden was held to just 32 percent shooting by Dort. Dort would then show up offensively in game seven. He scored 30 points and hit six three-pointers against the Rockets.
According to stats.nba.com, Dort had a defensive rating of 104. This is what Harden, 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player said:
“He just played his butt off. He doesn’t care about anything but playing hard,” Harden said. “As a young guy, coming into this league, that’s all you can ask for.”
Dort is just the start of the trend of basketball players coming from the province of Quebec. The NBA should take notice of the number of players coming from the province of Quebec. It would be no surprise if Montreal somehow landed an NBA team with all the talent Quebec is producing.
Overview of the Oklahoma City Thunder and their Canadian Nucleus
Canada is home to the second-most NBA players by nationality. They are also making a difference on several NBA teams. The Thunder is just one example. They got a steal in signing Dort, who was undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft and is just 21 years old.
According to Megan Armstrong of Bleacher Report, the Clippers gave up George to get Gilgeous-Alexander, a player not many expected to take such a huge leap this year. He has the talent and the ability to make the NBA All-Star Game next year. With the possible departure of Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander will become the best player of the Thunder either next year or the next few years. He will be the face of the franchise.
Dort could also establish himself as potentially a starter with the Thunder. He has proven in the NBA playoffs that he is a potential starter on any NBA roster. This is especially true with the departure of head coach Billy Donovan and the possible departure of Paul, which could lead to the team rebuilding.