The influence of Canada in the National Basketball Association is undeniable.
Canada is the most well-represented international country in the NBA. As of the 2019-20 season, a total of 22 Canadians were on the opening rosters of NBA teams. Canadian Steve Nash won back to back NBA MVP award in 2004 and 2005. Andrew Wiggins was the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year. During the 2019 draft, a total of six Canadians were picked. If you want to include it, the Toronto Raptors won the 2019 NBA championship.
Let’s take a look at the best Canadians in the NBA in 2020:
Andrew Wiggins is the son of former Houston Rockets guard Mitchell Wiggins. The younger Wiggins was the second Canadian to be drafted 1st overall in the NBA draft after he was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014. He never played for the Cavs as he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
Wiggins won Rookie of the Year honors in 2015. But since then, he’s had an up and down NBA career. He had his big moments in Minnesota but he never lived up to the expectations. Wiggins was traded to the Golden State Warriors during the 2019-20 season and he now has the chance to prove his worth in a team where the expectations aren’t as lofty.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the 11th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets but was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers on draft night. The former Kentucky Wildcat was named to the 2019 All-Rookie second team before he was traded by the Clippers to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George.
SGA broke out in his first season with the Thunder. Not only did he adjust seamlessly to his new team, but he was also able to take his game to the next level. Together with Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari, Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to the 5th spot in the Western Conference. Not bad for a team that was supposed to be on rebuild mode after trading its top two scorers from the previous season.
Jamal Murray is another former Kentucky Wildcat who played only one college season before turning professional. Murray was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the 7th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft and he had a decent 2017 season where he was named to the All-Rookie Second team during his debut season in the NBA.
He is now in his fourth NBA season and is only 23 years old. Murray has blossomed into one of the league’s top shooters and has become half of Denver’s duo along with Nikola Jokic. When he entered the league, he was labeled as just a scorer but he has developed an all-around game that has made him one of the NBA’s up and coming stars.
Dillon Brooks played for the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA before he was drafted 45th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets and immediately traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. Brook had a good rookie season but he was hounded by a lingering toe issue during his sophomore season.
Brooks bounced back with a strong third year in 2019-20 as he averaged a career-high 15.7 points per game this season. He has jelled well with star rookie guard Ja Morant in the Memphis backcourt. He and Morant are the main reasons why the Grizzlies were in 8th place when the season was suspended.
After he was named as one of the finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation’s top collegiate freshman in 2010-11, Tristan Thompson applied for the NBA draft and he was selected fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA draft. Thompson made the All-Rookie second team during his maiden NBA season and he became a key player in the Cavs’ rotation.
In 2016, Thompson helped the Cavs win their first-ever NBA title. He has emerged as one of the NBA’s offensive rebounders and as a solid frontcourt player in the NBA. He is one of the veterans on this list and has been a mainstay of the Canadian Men’s basketball team for years. He was having a quietly productive 2019-20 season as he heads to free agency this summer.
R.J. Barrett was Zion Williamson’s teammate at Duke and was the 2018 Naismith Prep Player of the Year in 2018. He joined Zion in the 2019 NBA Draft where he was selected 3rd overall by the New York Knicks.
Barrett had a rough start to his rookie career as the volatility in the Knicks’ franchise has not maximized his God-given talents. But those who know Barrett realize that there would be growing pains in the NBA after turning pro at such a young age. Despite his struggles, Barrett showed flashes of brilliance which give the Knicks hope that he is going to be one of the players who will lead them back to prominence.
Brandon Clarke played college basketball at San Jose State and Gonzaga. During his junior season at Gonzaga, he was named West Coast Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. In March 2019, Clarke became the third player in the history of the NCAA tournament to score 35 points and block five shots in a single game. Clarke was selected 21st overall in the 2019 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Clarke was the MVP of the 2019 Summer League and helped Memphis win the championship. He became the first player to win the Summer League title and win game MVP honors. This high-flyer has turned out to be a find for the Grizzlies. He is a versatile big man who can stretch the floor with a shooting touch that continues to improve.
Dwight Powell played for Stanford University in college and as a sophomore in 2012, he helped the Cardinal win the NIT Championship. He was named as Pac-12 Most Improved Player during his junior season and was selected to the All Pac-12 first team during his final two college years. Powell was the 45th overall pick of the Charlotte Hornets in 2014. He was traded to the Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and then to the Dallas Mavericks.
Powell was on pace to his best season ever when he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during the 2019-20 season. He has developed into an excellent rim-runner and his partnership with Luka Doncic has helped the Dallas Mavericks become one of the best offenses in the NBA.
Kelly Olynyk played for the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the NCAA and he was a consensus First Team All-American in 2013. After his redshirt junior year, Olynyk applied for the NBA draft and he was drafted 13th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He was traded to the Boston Celtics before he played his first-ever NBA game and he earned All-Rookie second-team honors with Boston.
Olynyk signed a free-agent deal with the Miami Heat in 2017. With the emergence of Bam Adebayo and the arrival of new players in Miami, Olynyk has taken a smaller role this season but he is coming off a year where he had his best three-point shooting percentage ever. He is going to be a valuable piece for the Heat in the playoffs.
Trey Lyles played one season for the University of Kentucky. After he was named to the SEC All-Freshman, he joined teammates Karl Anthony-Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Caulie-Stein, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, and Dakari Johnson in applying for the 2015 NBA draft. He was picked 12th overall by the Utah Jazz.
Lyles has struggled to find consistent minutes throughout his career. He has failed to live up to the expectations but has slowly settled into a nice back-up role with Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs. Lyles has improved his game in the NBA, specifically his three-point shooting and rebounding.