With more Canadian talent in the league than ever before as the season gets underway, let’s take a look at five key players to watch.
Tristan Thompson was born in Toronto, but he moved to the United States for prep school at St. Benedict’s & Findlay Prep. Thompson spent one year at the University of Texas before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the fourth pick in the 2011 NBA draft. His ability to score and defend the rim made Thompson a quick success in the NBA. Tristan Thompson averaged 6.7 points and 9 rebounds per game in the 2016 NBA playoffs to help the Cavaliers win the first NBA Championship in team history. He will be leaned on heavier this season with the departure of Timofey Mozgov.
Trey Lyles is a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native who was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 12th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. While Lyles did not have a very successful college career as far as raw numbers, NBA scouts were able to see his immense talent. Lyles showed great promise in his rookie season last year scoring 6.1 points a game coming off the bench for the Jazz. If Lyles can improve his shooting touch, then he should have no problem developing into a solid starter in the NBA.
Andrew Wiggins has quickly become one of the best small forwards in the NBA in only two seasons. Wiggins grew up in Vaughan, Ontario. He attended Huntington Prep where he flourished before heading to Kansas to play his college basketball. After one promising college season, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. This made Wiggins the second straight player from Canada to be selected with the top pick in the draft. While Anthony Bennett’s career has had its ups and downs, Wiggins has averaged just under 19 points a game in his two NBA seasons. It will be interesting to see if he is utilized any differently under first year coach Tom Thibodeau.
Kelly Olynyk was destined to be a star basketball player. His dad was the head basketball coach at the University of Toronto, and his mom was a scorekeeper for the Toronto Raptors. Olynyk was drafted with the 13th pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, but was subsequently traded to the Boston Celtics before playing his first NBA game. While Olynyk rarely starts for the Celtics, he has still managed to average nearly 10 points and five rebounds a game in his young career. With the Celtics sporting a revamped roster this season, it is Olynyk’s time to shine once he comes back from his shoulder injury & surgery. This could be a daunting task with a crowded Celtics front court.
Nik Stauskas was born in Mississauga before developing into a great high school and college basketball player. His one highly successful season at the University of Michigan got Stauskas drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings. Nik struggled in his rookie season with the Kings before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Stauskas was finally able to show off his skills in Philadelphia, which helped him average 8.5 points a game at the backup shooting guard position. With little guard depth this season, Stauskas will be relied on and must show consistency in his NBA game.
Written by Ryan Nelson
Edited by Drew Ebanks
Photo by Reel Motion Imaging