Last summer, Tristan Thompson made history when he was chosen fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, making him the highest Canadian ever picked in the NBA draft.
The San Antonio Spurs then selected his Texas Longhorns teammate, Cory Joseph, with the 29th overall pick. This set another standard as it marked the first time that two Canadians were taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
Canadian basketball has been on the rise in recent years as American colleges and high schools are teeming with high-end talent so it looks like more and more drafts will start to look like 2011.
On June 28, a few more Canadians are hoping hear their name called by NBA commissioner David Stern. Though there are no players with talent like Thompson this year, the sheer number of ballers from North of the Border is encouraging.
Andrew Nicholson, Power Forward, St. Bonaventure, 6’9″, 240 lbs
The St. Bonaventure power forward has become a revelation over the past four years. Nicholson was barely recruited out of Father Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., but quickly earned starter’s minutes as a freshman and has never looked back.
In his senior season, Nicholson developed a deadly three-point shot and finished the season with 43.4 per cent shooting from downtown. Combined with a knack for rebounding and a soft touch around the rim, Nicholson is projected as a ‘stretch four’ in the NBA.
Though not blessed with elite athleticism, Nicholson should hold down an NBA job for years to come due to his high basketball IQ.
NBA comparison: Ersan Ilyasova
Pick: Boston Celtics (1st round, 21st overall)
The Boston Celtics desperately need a big man who can step in right away. Last year they ended up with JaJuan Johnson, who clearly wasn’t ready for the big show. The result was that the Celtics ended up giving undrafted free agent Greg Stiemsma significant minutes in the playoffs. Needless to say, Boston could use another big body with one of their two late first-round picks who can stretch the floor with Kevin Garnett and Brendan Bass eligible to test the free agent market this summer.
Kris Joseph, Small Forward, Syracuse, 6’7″, 215 lbs
The 2011 NBA Draft was nowhere near this year’s version in terms of overall depth but had Kris Joseph left Syracuse a season earlier, the Montreal native would have been a boarder-line first-round pick.
Instead, Joseph stayed with an excellent Syracuse squad for his senior season and enjoyed a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Though he led the Orange in scoring during the regular season, Joseph was disappointing in the tournament and that performance likely hurt his draft stock.
Joseph is not a great shooter, going just 42.1 per cent from the field last year but is a decent athlete and should be able to defend at the next level. The biggest concern is that he tends to disappear for long stretches during the game and needs to be more mentally tough.
NBA comparison: Damion James
Pick: Washington Wizards (2nd round, 46th overall)
The Wizards are in full rebuild mode and will be looking for good people just as much as good players after the Gilbert Arenas fiasco. With one more year on the stinky Rashard Lewis contract and a dearth of quality on the wing, Joseph would get a chance to play in Washington.
Robert Sacre, Centre, Gonzaga, 7’0″, 260 lbs
Sacre’s biggest advantage is his size. Seven-footers are a dying breed in the NBA and the overall talent at the centre position is lacking. The problem for him is that his doesn’t possess a single above-average skill. Considering he has ideal size and build, his first option would be to develop a low-post game and a mid-range jumper. More realistically though, if Sacre uses his intensity to become a hard-nosed defender a la Kendrick Perkins, he just might be able to claim an NBA roster spot.
2011 NBA Comparison: Jamaal Magloire (current)
Pick: Dallas Mavericks (2nd round, 55th overall)
Free agency and the trade market take top priority in Dallas when it comes to filling the holes in their roster. Ian Mahinmi is a free agent and the only other centre on the Mavericks roster other than Brendan Haywood. Sacre could be a cheap replacement if the Mavs want to save additional cash.
Other eligible to be drafted:
Olu Ashaolu, Oregon, Small Forward, 6-7 228 lbs
Devoe Joseph Oregon, Guard, 6’3″ 175 lbs
Tyler Murray, Wagner, Shooting Guard, 6-5, 260 lbs