Point Guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a future NBA All-Star without a doubt. He’s having the best season of his young career thus far, with averages of 22.3 PPG, 6.4 AST, and 5.4 RBS. Shai is the backbone of his Oklahoma City team in terms of offence, consistently leading them in scoring while also successfully running OKC’s sets with efficiency and poise. SGA would be an excellent starter for Canada as he would present a tough-nosed, high IQ guard who could handle the different style of international play. SGA can easily play alongside other scorers like Jamal Murray and have success through his playmaking and improved off-ball offence. Shai is going to be a staple of Canada Basketball moving forward and is definitely one of the best players Canada has ever produced.
Shooting Guard: Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray is the best scorer Canada has, so sliding him in at the two guard spot alongside a strong Point Guard in SGA is a no-brainer. Murray can score at high volumes in both regular season play and when the game slows down in highly competitive situations, just look at his numbers from last year’s run to the conference finals by his Nuggets. Murray has a history of play with Team Canada from his time as an amateur so don’t expect Jamal to bow out of competition without very good reasons. Murray will be very successful in this starting five due to the fact that he’ll have other outlets for scoring in order to take some of the load off of the scorer’s back. Watch out for Canada’s ideal backcourt with Murray averaging 20 PPG so far this season.
Small Forward: Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins is having a bounce-back year in a big way in his first full season with Golden State. The Canadian small forward is averaging 17.7 PPG with some serious improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Wiggins brings extreme athleticism and experience to this ripe Canada Basketball squad as he is in his 7th season in the NBA. With Wiggins’ new found defensive identity he’ll be a welcome addition to this starting five. With the brunt of the ball handling duties falling with SGA and Murray, Wiggins will have an opportunity to slash to the basket and shoot the three-ball with efficiency while his teammates set him up. Expect a big showing from Wiggins should he come out for international play in the future.
Power Forward: Brandon Clarke
Brandon Clarke might not bring the flashiest playstyle to this Canada Basketball team, however he brings extreme effort and hustle to the game. The Vancouver native rebounds and blocks shots very well, and his tenacious style of play will translate very nicely to the international style of play. His energy will be infectious and with the other scorers alongside him in the starting five, his primary responsibilities will be defence, screens, and being a spark plug for this team. Clarke is averaging over a block per game and almost a steal per game in the NBA, so with the loose whistle in international basketball, he is going to be great for Canada.
Centre: Chris Boucher
Chris Boucher is having a massive jump in the Montrealer’s fourth NBA season. He has boosted his averages by huge increments now averaging; 13.2 PPG, to go along with 6.6 boards, and 2.0 BLKS. These numbers jump off the page for a guy who isn’t even starting in Toronto. With more opportunity on the national team, expect those numbers to climb even more. With Boucher already being familiar with Coach Nick Nurse’s systems, it will be a smooth adjustment for Chris to switch to international play. Playing alongside crafty playmakers will allow him to find easy looks on offence, while at the other end of the floor, he and Clarke will be tough to score on in the paint.
RJ Barrett loves representing Canada in international play after winning FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup including a massive win over The United States. Barrett will provide an excellent lift off the bench with his ability to create his own shot and rebound the basketball. Barrett is having a much better Sophomore year averaging close to seventeen points per contest for a Knicks team who is competing every night. While Barrett is slotted as a reserve in this list, he would be an excellent replacement for a starter in regards to injury, or if he plays like he has in the past for Canada.
This guy is one of the greatest defenders in the NBA currently, and when the whistle becomes a little more relaxed in FIBA play, only look for his defence to get even better than it already is. Dort would certainly be this team’s primary defensive stopper of non-big men. Dort’s uncanny ability to move his hips and his feet in order to stay in front of the very best guards in the world will help this team to become more complete. Dort’s production doesn’t end at the defensive end however, with his offence really coming into its own in his second season in the NBA, with averages of 12.6 PPG on 33% 3PT. Look for Lu to get spot starts on this team if the opposition has one dominant player who needs to get the clamps.
Brooks has proven to be a starting caliber player in the NBA the last two seasons. He has shown his ability to adequately defend at the NBA level and his career 41% three-point percentage will bring great shooting off the bench for this ideal Canada team. Like Brandon Clarke, Brooks has adopted the hard-nosed style of Memphis basketball. Brooks is a good leader who plays with a chip on his shoulder which will only help this team.
After a devastating injury in last year’s NBA season, Powell is progressing well to return to the form he was in when the injury occurred last season. Powell will bring a high IQ, high-effort style of play to Canada’s second unit. Dwight rebounds the ball effectively and is used to playing alongside great passers like SGA and Corey Joseph due to his relationship with phenom Luka Dončić. Once Powell is back to 100% he will definitely bring a big boost to Canada’s second unit.
Kelly Olynyk brings a very strong veteran presence to this team with a lot of young players. Olynyk is a wonderful international player as he plays with a huge chip on it’s shoulder and can do it all on the court. He can shoot the three at a high level and has international experience under his belt. Olynyk will be able to slide seamlessly in and out of the starting lineup as well as crunch time lineups should he be outplaying starters. Watch for Kelly to be the 6-man of the tournament if he stays coming off the bench.
What more can be said about Corey Joe than his unbelievable commitment to Canada Basketball and his extreme veteran leadership he’ll bring to the team. He can come off the bench and continue to run the offence at a high-level while getting great shot opportunities for his teammates. Joseph has been around for a long time and his presence on Canada’s bench will only help the young guns like SGA and Jamal Murray.
Last but not least is Khem Birch of Orlando. Birch’s energy and rebounding will be what he brings to the table for this team. In limited minutes he’s averaging almost six rebounds a night which is exactly what this second unit needs. Birch has played for Canada in the past and should he again, he should be awarded for his service and his determination. Birch will complement the more perimeter-oriented play of the rest of the reserve big men like Olynyk and Powell.
Now this would be Canada’s roster if EVERYTHING went according to plan, of course that is not always the case so should any of the listed players opt-out of playing for Canada for some reason (that hopefully isn’t lack of interest), Canada has a multitude of options to fill those spots.
If you’re looking at employing strictly NBA players, then there are still a lot of good options on the board, with the likes of Tristan Thompson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Michael Mulder, and more. All of these players would be able to effectively fit a role on Canada’s team should anything happen to the reserves or starters.
It also important to mention the players who may not be NBA players, but have played for Canada in years prior and helped them reach a spot where the national team even has a chance to make the Olympics. Guys like Phil Scrubb, Anthony Bennett, and even a USPORTS player Kadre Gray made large impacts on the recent Team Canada squad who qualified Canada for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifier.
Overall, Canada has a wealth of talent to choose from for their national team program so expectations are high for what this country can do on the hardwood. With the Olympic Games approaching, watch out for Canada as a sleeper to win the gold.