Canada Men’s Basketball Olympic Qualifiers Roster Analysis

Canada men's basketball looks to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics

The Canada men’s basketball team will look to qualify for the Summer Olympics for the first time since 2000. They will open their Olympic qualifying tournament against Greece. All the Olympic qualifying games will take place at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Canada Men’s Olympic Qualifying Basketball Roster Analysis

Eight NBA Players Commit to the Canadian Men’s Basketball Team

A total of eight current NBA players have committed to the Canadian men’s basketball team. Most notably from the list are Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins and young New York Knicks small forward/shooting guard RJ Barrett.

Canada’s strong suit is their backcourt, which included Luguentz Dort, Cory Joseph and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Current Dallas Mavericks center/power forward Dwight Powell is also with the Canadian men’s basketball team.

Two former NBA players on Canada’s roster include first overall pick Anthony Bennett and sharpshooting forward Andrew Nicholson. It also shapes how the Canadian men’s basketball team will look in the Olympic qualifiers.

Canada Men’s Basketball Frontcourt Starters

The frontcourt of the Canadian men’s basketball team is lethal and will be a problem for any team playing them.

Andrew Wiggins – Small Forward

Small forward Wiggins was drafted first overall in the 2014 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had another solid year in the 2020-21 NBA season. He averaged 18.6 points, 2.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game in that NBA season with the Warriors. Wiggins also had a 71.4 free-throw percentage and had a career-high 38 percent from the three-point line. He is by far the most important player on the frontcourt.

Dwight Powell – Center/Power Forward

 

The other excellent NBA player in the frontcourt is Powell. Just two months ago, he had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks would end up winning that game 93-108 over the Los Angeles Lakers.

He can play both the center and the power forward position. In the 2020-21 NBA season, he averaged 5.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game with the Dallas Mavericks. According to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, this is what current Mavericks president Mark Cuban said of Powell:

“People don’t realize, Dwight Powell is the ultimate, consummate team player,” he said. “No ifs, ands or butts. Dwight Powell you could say is the heart and soul of this team. He does everything it takes to win and nothing for his personal stats. Nothing.”

This is good news to hear for Canadian men’s basketball fans. Powell is not the best player on this list, but he is the most important. This is because of the lack of depth on the bench in the center/power forward positions. Whether Canada qualifies for the Olympics or not might to large extent depend on how well Powell plays for Team Canada.

Trey Lyles – Center/Power Forward

This is the same for Trey Lyles, the power forward/center for San Antonio Spurs. Lyles averaged 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. One of his best games was scoring 18 points and five rebounds in a Spurs 93-119 win over the New York Knicks. It is unclear who will start at the center or the power forward position. However, it is clear that Powell and Lyles will be occupying these two positions.

Canada Men’s Basketball Backcourt Starters

RJ Barrett – Shooting Guard

The biggest strength for the Canadian men’s basketball team might be their backcourt. Barrett is the most notable name on the list. Barrett averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season. He played a big role in Canada winning gold in the 2017 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup. This is what Barrett said about the victory at the time according to Bryan Meler of Sportsnet:

“We knew everyone was behind us,” Barrett said on Wednesday. “But it wasn’t until we got home and got off the plane and saw everyone at the airport waiting for us. That’s when we really knew that, wow, we really did something special, and all of Canada really cares about what we did and is really proud of us.”

Also, Barrett won the Most Valuable Player award in that tournament. This showed that Barrett played a major role in Canada winning gold. Also, most importantly, it showed that Barrett has experience playing FIBA basketball. The same cannot be said of all the players on this list, especially in Barrett’s age group.

Cory Joseph – Point Guard

For a point guard, Joseph should be the starter. Yes, his stats are not that impressive compared to the other starters on this list. Joseph averaged 8.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.0 steal per game. This does not take into account though, what Joseph means to Team Canada.

He has played for Team Canada in almost every opportunity he could get. This included playing in Canada’s previous Olympic qualifiers in 2015. In the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, they were eliminated by France in the Olympic qualifying final.

Joseph also hit the game-winner against Mexico in the FIBA Americas Championship to finish third place in the tournament. He will provide vital leadership for the Canadian team that will be needed in close game situations.

Bench

Luguentz Dort – Small Forward/Shooting Guard

The depth in the small forward position is also quite impressive. Dort averaged 14 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists with the Oklahoma City Thunder this previous season.

He is a player who can play both offensively and defensively and can play in both the small forward/shooting guard positions. Canadian men’s head coach Nick Nurse is obviously happy to have him on the team. Dort is very good defensively and is now starting to show his offensive prowess at only 22 years old.

Other Bench Players

To back up Joseph, Mychal Mulder (who made the Rising Stars team this year) is available. Mulder averaged 5.6 points and 1.0 assists per game. Mulder, like Wiggins, plays for the Warriors, so those two players should have good chemistry with each other on the court.

Alexander-Walker is another great player to back up Joseph. He averaged 11 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.0 steal per game for the New Orleans Pelicans this previous NBA season. He is a terrific player. The only reason he is not a starter is that Joseph has more experience playing the FIBA game than Alexander-Walker.

If there is a weakness on the bench, it might be players who could play the center/power forward positions from the NBA. Even then this roster is filled with talent. It is important to remember that the other teams do not have the number of NBA players that Canada has in this Olympic qualifier.

Canada Men’s Basketball Team Overview

Things can obviously change, maybe some other notable players will drop out on Monday. It is unlikely though, as the Olympic qualifiers will start next Tuesday.

It is also important to note that Nick Nurse is probably the best coach for the job. He made the 2020 NBA All-Star Game as a head coach and won the 2019 NBA championship. Nurse played a critical role in the Raptors championship run. He also has experience coaching FIBA basketball with Great Britain.

Anything can happen in basketball. Canada was made painfully aware of that when they lost to Venezuela in the 2015 FIBA America Championship. The chemistry between players is going to be an issue and some of these players may not be used to the FIBA style of basketball.

On paper though, Canada has the best player for every position in the starting five of the six teams in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Also, unlike the game against Venezuela, these games will take place in Canada, specifically in Victoria, British Columbia. Also, all games will take place at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Main Photo

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