When a while, Canada has typically been a Hockey country. However, with the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship, things may be changing for Canadians. In the last decade alone, dozens of skilled Canadian basketball players have been effective in the NBA. Here, we look at the top five Canadians in the NBA today.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Boucher, Cory Joseph, Dillon Brooks
No. 5: Tristan Thompson
While the Cleveland Cavaliers currently sit dead last in the Eastern Conference, you can’t blame Tristan Thompson for their struggles. Thompson continues to be an elite rebounding center, averaging 10.1 boards per game this season. He’s also scoring 12 points per contest, and, to many fans’ surprise, is shooting a very solid 39.1% from beyond the 3-point arch. Thompson showed earlier in his career that he could play a role on a winning team.
In 2016, Canadians watched with glee as Thompson helped the Cavs to their NBA Championship.
No. 4: Andrew Wiggins
In 2014, Andrew Wiggins became just the second Canadian ever picked 1st overall, after Anthony Bennett. Wiggins had a tremendous first season in the league, earning Rookie of the Year while averaging just under 17 points per game. After a few years, Wiggins started to receive criticism for not being able to propel his team to a playoff spot.
After six years with the franchise and zero playoff berths to show, Minnesota decided it was time to move on from Andrew Wiggins. At this year’s trade deadline, the T-Wolves traded Andrew Wiggins to the Golden State Warriors. Although Wiggins was never able to live up the #1 overall pick hype fully, he’s still had a good career and will fit in well with Golden State. Wiggins isn’t meant to be the #1 option on a team, but surrounding him with shooters like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, he will thrive. Expect big things from Wiggins next year.
No. 3: RJ Barrett
After an incredible year at Duke, RJ Barrett had plenty of hype surrounding him before the NBA Draft.
Barrett had a solid rookie campaign up until the cancellation of the NBA season. He was averaging 14.3 PPG to go along with 5 rebounds per game. Barrett did have his efficiency woes, but as his career progresses, he can improve as a shooter. Barrett was amongst the top five in the rookie of the year race.
Expect the Knicks to garner another lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft. The duo of that young player alongside Barrett will be one to watch. Canadians have something to look forward to in following Barrett’s career.
No. 2: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is currently in the midst of a breakout sophomore season. This year with OKC, he is averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.
Drafted 11th overall by the LA Clippers in the 2018 NBA Draft, Gilgeous-Alexander only played for LA for one season. Last July, he was dealt to the Thunder along with a plethora of draft picks in exchange for Paul George.
Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul were silencing the critics, in the midst of leading the Thunder to a playoff spot before the NBA shutdown. Prior to the season, ESPN had given the Thunder a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs. Clearly, Gilgeous-Alexander has proved a lot of doubters wrong.
No. 1: Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray is just getting started. The 6’6” native of Kitchener, Ontario, has been lighting it up for the Denver Nuggets for several years now. Murray helped lead the Nuggets to the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs last season and was likely primed for another deep postseason run this year.
The Nuggets signed Murray to a five-year, $170M extension last summer and are hopeful the duo of Jokic and Murray can help them find some playoff success in the coming years.
Murray is a symbol of pride for Canadians, an example that one of their own can dominate at the NBA level.