The Canadian takeover in the NBA is more prevalent than ever. There was a record 17 Canadian players on opening-night rosters this season and Canada has now led the NBA for the most international-born players for seven consecutive seasons.
In the past three games alone the Toronto Raptors have faced three Canadian players.
Last week the Raptors faced the Memphis Grizzlies, a matchup that saw three Canadians share the court together. The Grizzlies have two of them; Brandon Clarke (Vancouver native) and Dillon Brooks (Mississauga native). The Raptors, of course, have Chris Boucher, who grew up in Montreal and was even a former teammate of Brooks during their time in college with the Oregon Ducks.
On Thursday, the Raptors faced the Boston Celtics, who acquired Brampton’s Tristan Thompson in free agency this past off-season. The Raptors lost big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency last off-season, and it was reported that they showed interest in bringing Thompson back to his hometown.
It has been a consistent goal of Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri to search for Canadian talent to add to the roster since joining the Raptors in 2013. Over those past nearly eight years, we have seen Cory Joseph, Anthony Bennett and other Canadians put on a Raptors uniform, but Chris Boucher is developing into the best one yet. In his breakout season, Boucher is proving himself as one of the most productive Canadian players in the league. That’s a bold statement considering all the Canadian talent that exists throughout the NBA. In addition to Boucher, several other Canadians have really come into their own, let’s take a look at the top five Canadian players in the NBA this season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder went all-in on Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as their primary option when they decided to trade Chris Paul in the offseason. Gilgeous-Alexander has proven he is ready for that role, putting up an impressive stat line in just his third year in the league: 22.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 50.6 FG%, and 38.2 3P%. All of those are career-highs except for his rebound numbers.
OKC’s 10-15 record isn’t great but their future is bright with Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way and a boatload of picks coming in the next few drafts.
Masai Ujiri and the Raptors front office deserves a lot of credit for finding another diamond in the rough in Boucher. His numbers off the bench this season have put him in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation. Additionally, the huge jump in production compared to his stats from last year make him a candidate for the Most Improved Player award as well: 13.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 53.4 FG%, and 44.1 3P%.
He’s not just a fan favourite because of his Canadian citizenship, Boucher is proving himself as a building block for the Raptors with room to grow.
The way Kitchener’s Jamal Murray helped lead the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals last playoffs was extraordinary. Murray and Nikola Jokic have quickly become one of the league’s top duos and they still have lots of potential. Now in his fifth season, Murray is averaging 18.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 1.1 SPG.
At 23-years-old, Murray has made a strong case for himself as the top Canadian in the NBA and even one of the best Canadian basketball players ever.
A change in scenery has done great things for Andrew Wiggins’ development. The winning culture of the Golden State Warriors has helped unlock some of the defensive potential we have all been waiting to see from the Toronto native. Offensively he has carved out a nice role as the team’s second-leading scorer next to Stephen Curry and overall has had a very nice season: 17.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 46.9 FG%, and 37.4 3P%.
It’s a shame Klay Thompson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury before the season, but it has given Wiggins the opportunity to find his role on a team with future championship aspirations.
While his rookie season may not have lived up to the hype, Toronto’s RJ Barrett has found his stride in his sophomore year. Barrett was not named to any of last year’s All-Rookie teams, and he has used it as motivation to improve his points, rebounds and assists averages from last season: 16.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.1 APG.
Barrett is establishing himself as a cornerstone piece for the New York Knicks, who have looked much better this season under new head coach Tom Thibodeau.
It’s great to see many Canadian players finding an ideal situation for themselves to continue to develop and reach their full potential. Canada Basketball fans are still waiting and hoping to see the day when all of Canada’s best players suit up and represent their country in the Olympic Games. With all this talent, they just might shock the world.