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(Mostly) all hands on deck for Team Canada

Photo credit: @CanBBall/Twitter

Canada’s Men’s National Team training camp for the Men’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament will begin today at the Toronto Raptors training facilities in Tampa Bay, and the roster has never looked so deep. Of the 21 players that will be in attendance, 16 of them are either current or former NBA players, giving Canada a chance to show up to the Olympic tournament with a roster exclusively made up of NBA players.

Canada will be hosting this FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, as it will take place at the Victoria Memorial Arena in Victoria, British Columbia. The Canadian Men’s National Team will be looking to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer for the first time since 2000 but they will have to beat out Greece, China, Uruguay, Czech Republic, and Turkey for the final spot.

Hello old friend

It appears that Toronto-native Andrew Wiggins is finally committed and ready to go to battle for his home country. His announcement on Instagram came as a pleasant surprise – the last time Wiggins suited up for Canada was in 2015 for the FIBA Americas Championship.

Wiggins is only 26 years old and just finished his eighth season as a pro. While most of his season averages were down this year, he did post career-high shooting percentages from both the three-point line (38.0) and the field (47.7). The former first-overall pick from the 2014 NBA Draft was the Warriors’ second-leading scorer this season, averaging 18.6 points per game. He will no doubt be one of the unquestioned leaders of this group, especially on the offensive end.

Still missing some key players

The latest news from Sportsnet’s Michael Grange is that some of the players who accepted an invitation to camp were still absent from camp today. Among those who were missing include key players like Dillon Brooks, Tristan Thompson and Oshae Brissett. It remains unclear if those players will be absent entirely from the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Canada’s roster is capable of qualifying for the Olympics with the group they have, but it’s scary to think how this group would have looked if it weren’t for some injuries to key players. Most notably, Kitchener-native Jamal Murray, who was proving to be the best Canadian in the NBA today, tore his ACL earlier in the season and won’t be able to represent his country this summer.

In addition to the absence of Murray, Montreal-native and Toronto Raptors’ forward Chris Boucher announced that he will not participate in the FIBA qualifying tournament in order to recover from a knee injury. Finally, OKC Thunder guard and Hamilton-native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will also be absent from team Canada’s roster as he is still recovering from injury as well.

Who’s ready to step up?

Despite the injuries to the players mentioned above, this group of players still has a chance to be very special. There will be a good mix of veterans like Wiggins, Cory Joseph, and Kelly Olynyk, but there will also be a core group of young players who will be ready to step up on the big stage.

RJ Barrett took a huge step in his development this past season, helping lead his team back to the playoffs. Barrett turned in a big sophomore season as a co-star next to Julius Randle and the New York Knicks suddenly found themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

An exceptional coach for this talented group

Maybe the one thing to get most excited about is that Raptors’ head coach, and 2019-2020 NBA Coach of the Year, Nick Nurse will be leading this group into battle. This will truly be an impressive collection of NBA talent and it will be led by one of the best coaches the NBA has to offer.

Nurse is never afraid to try something new with his play-calling and lineup rotations, and this group of players will give him lots of interesting options to work with.

Just think about this rotation for a second; a possible starting lineup of Cory Joseph, RJ Barrett, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell, while still having players like Luguentz Dort, Brandon Clarke, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Khem Birch off the bench as role players. No team other than the United States has the ability to put together a collection of NBA talent like this.

It’s crazy to think that it’s taken this long to finally get all of these guys together, but now is the time. Canada just might be ready to make their Olympic dreams a reality and the whole country would be ready to cheer them on this summer.

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