Under The Bleachers: NBA Has Canadians on Tap

Above: Andrew Wiggins enters the NBA in style
Above: Andrew Wiggins enters the NBA in style

Canadian basketball fans, your time has come.

For the second year in a row a Canadian player was chosen first overall at the NBA Draft, but for the first time that top draftee will actually make an impact in the NBA.

As most expected, the Cleveland Cavaliers—who also chose Canadian Anthony Bennett first overall last year—took Andrew Wiggins, the high school phenom-turned-college star NBA teams have been waiting years to draft. But he wasn’t alone: fellow Canadians Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis were also first-round picks, Stauskas eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings and Ennis 18th by the Phoenix Suns.

Stauskas is a great outside shooter who’s good at sharing the ball, characteristics that should help him fit comfortably in Sacramento’s backcourt. Ennis is more of a cerebral player who’s responsible with the ball, but could have a lot of work to do to contribute with the Suns.

All three were important players for their respective colleges and they’ll likely be very good players in the NBA, but Wiggins is something else entirely. He’s a marquee name—the Drake of the Draft, if you will—who’s already good enough to be a starter and has the potential to be an All-Star. Odds are we’ll still be talking about him a long time from now, and not in a, “Remember Wiggins? What a bust!” kind of way.

The NBA Draft has recently been a day basketball fans in Canada wind up lamenting. Whether it’s the Cavaliers choosing Anthony Bennett first overall last year—then watching him go 33 games before putting up double-digit points for the first time—or the Toronto Raptors using their No. 1 pick to choose Andrea Bargnani over LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo and their current point guard, Kyle Lowry, too often Canada would rather forget about the draft altogether.

While Canadian players left a big impression on the 2014 draft, Canada’s lone franchise bewildered its fans with its first-round pick. Most Raptors fans had never heard the name Bruno Caboclo before the Raps called his name with the 20th pick, and there’s every chance they’ll never hear it again—the Brazilian teenager is about as off-board as draft picks get. There’s evidence he has played basketball before—a couple of blurry YouTube videos—but nothing that gives the impression he can play in the NBA. We know Raptors GM Masai Ujiri wanted Ennis, but fans still have to wonder what the team was thinking.

The Raptors also chose Xavier Thames—a player who maybe could have made their roster next year—second-last in the draft, then traded him to Brooklyn. There are whispers that the Raptors are working hard to pry Ennis away from Phoenix, which could make this draft a win by all accounts, but don’t hold your breath.

For now, if Raptors fans are disgruntled about draft day they can always go cheer for the real Canadian team—the Cleveland Cavaliers—and the biggest new star on the block, Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins.

Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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