The time is now for Canada Basketball. The Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team is currently in the midst of the FIBA 2019 World Cup Qualifiers, and has looked great. It has offered a glimpse as to what this team could potentially look like and achieve in the years to come. Canada has moved on to the second round, and sits tied atop Group F in the FIBA Americas qualifying process with Brazil and Venezuela.
After back-to-back first overall picks in the NBA Draft in 2013 and 2014, Canadian basketball fans like myself began to get very excited for what this could start to mean for the program on a national scale. 2016 was full of disappointment, as the Men’s Basketball team failed to reach the Olympics for the fourth straight time. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan will mark 20 years since the Canadian men last made it. Next to the United States, Canada now has the second most players in the NBA. 2020 is Canada’s chance to reverse the curse, and create a “Dream Team” of our own. The famed U.S. “Dream Team” of ’92 had 11 bonafide Hall of Famers, and arguably the best college player of all-time. Canada may be nowhere near that level, but this could be the first time that Canada’s roster could be filled top to bottom with NBA talent. And it would be the first time that any country besides the United States fielded a team with all NBA players. So, it is kind of a big deal.
This is my projection of the best team Canada could put forth in 2020.
- PG – Cory Joseph (Indiana Pacers)
- SG – Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
- SF – Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves)
- PF – Kelly Olynyk (Miami Heat)
- C – Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
- R.J. Barrett (Duke – NCAA)
- Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks)
- Trey Lyles (Denver Nuggets)
- Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies)
- Nik Stuaskas (Portland Trailblazers)
- Khem Birch (Orlando Magic)
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (L.A. Clippers)
It all comes down to health, and who decides to represent the country. If Canada can qualify and get a commitment from all these players, they will have to be considered one of the favourites to take home a medal.
This roster has athleticism, shooting, experience and a ton of depth. I have put both Cory Joseph and Jamal Murray in the starting lineup along with Tristan Thompson, but this roster would give head coach, Jay Triano, a bunch of different options. I like having both Joseph and Thompson in the starting five, because they have the most experience. Both have won a championship in the NBA, been involved in deep playoff runs, and will be 9-year NBA veterans by 2020.
Traino could very easily decided to go small with Kelly Olynyk at the five with four guards on the floor. This roster has the versatilty to play big, spread the floor, and get a lot of easy buckets in transition.
R.J. Barrett will no doubt be the biggest x-factor for Team Canada. If all goes according to plan, he will have just completed his rookie season in the NBA, and the sky is the limit for him. He could be coming off an amazing rookie campaign like Donovan Mitchell or Jayson Tatum, or it could take him a little longer to adjust like Andrew Wiggins. Either way he will be a very solid player. However, he comes into a much easier situation with Canada Basketball than any of his predecessors did.
It is a great fit for Barrett, because he won’t have the entire pressure and expectations of a nation square on his shoulders. A core of more veteran players around him like Wiggins, Murray, Joseph and Olynyk should allow Barrett to just go out there and play.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a very promising run at NBA Summer League. When 2020 comes around, he will have two full NBA seasons under his belt. Dwight Powell, Trey Lyles, and Dillon Brooks continue to put in solid minutes and improve every season in the NBA. Canada has never been able to field a team this talented and deep ever before. The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China will be a great test for this up and coming squad.