Tonight highlights a significant historical cornerstone for Canadians in the NBA. If Andrew Wiggins is the first overall draft pick, it will be the first time a country other than the USA has received that honor in consecutive years and only the eighth time the number one pick wasn’t American.
Projected to be one of the deepest drafts in history, three athletes stand above the other prospects in the debate of who will be selected first. Wiggins’ fellow Jayhawk teammate: Joel Embiid has only played the game for four years, but comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon had him atop most mock drafts especially after proving his recovery from a late season back injury. Then this past Friday, Embiid underwent surgery to repair a broken navicular bone which will require 4-6 months recovery time and may see him slip out of the top five.
Following this news the mock drafts moved Jabari Parker to the top slot reasoning that Cleveland would want the most NBA ready player given they already have existing talents and are not in a re-build phase. That was until NBA TV analysts, Vince Cellini and Greg Anthony, highlighted reports that Parker had a poor workout in Cleveland and arrived at a hefty 255 pounds. With this news, Wiggins appears poised to make his mark and Canada’s mark in NBA history. Should he go first overall, another milestone will be achieved as Wiggins will join Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett making the Cavaliers the first NBA team to have three Canadians on its roster.
If that weren’t exciting enough for Canadian NBA fans, two Torontonians: Tyler Ennis and Nik Stauskas are projected to be drafted in the top 20 and five more Canadians: Melvin Ejim, Khem Birch, Dwight Powell, Jordan Bachynski and Sim Bhullar could be selected in the second round. What this means is by night’s end Canada would move ahead of France as the second most represented country in the NBA.
Further enhancing this evening’s excitement is the potential for the Raptors to select a home grown product with one of their three draft selections. Toronto will pick 20th in the first round as well as 37th and 59th in the second round. Although the Raptors have previously picked ten non-US prospects, they have never drafted a Canadian. Some mock drafts have Tyler Ennis available at the 20th selection, but should Chicago snatch him up (let’s face it, Ennis is the type of player Tom Thibodeau salivates over) our last pick could see one of Khem Birch or one of the two tallest prospects Calgary’s 7’2” Bachynski or Brampton’s 7’5” Bhullar being selected. As much as we need a back-up center I’m hoping Montreal power forward, Birch finds his way into a Raptors’ uniform given his compete-level and upside.
The other factor benefiting Toronto is when they make the 59th pick they’ll know who is still available (sans one) for them to invite to Vegas summer league which offers an opportunity to view the players in a game atmosphere and further assess their potential. If the two Canadian centers remain on the board Toronto could easily keep them in the mix with this possibility.
This draft may not produce the same number of hall of fame inductees as the 1984 draft, but it offers depth well into the second round with athletes who can assume meaningful bench roles. Masai Ujiri has pulled several rabbits out of his hat since becoming Toronto’s GM by shedding Bargnani and Gay’s contracts and the ultimate ta-da move of shoring up the Raptors bench and team chemistry with the addition of the four Sacramento King players. However, his greatest achievement may be still to come in tonight’s draft; Ujiri has been noted as being an excellent judge of young talent, specifically in the second round.
Following the Raptors first trip to the playoffs in six seasons and a year of what many termed as over-achievement, basketball in Toronto and Canada is more popular than ever. Up until news broke of the disgusting actions of Clipper troglodyte Sterling, Jurassic Park had been the news of the playoffs. Should Ujiri select a Canadian tonight it would most certainly add to the momentum in popularity the Raptors are currently experiencing, especially with young fans.
This week the announcements that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had opted out of their contracts had pundits scurrying to derive what these actions would mean for their current teams and those pursuing them as free agents. Yesterday, the social networks was lighting up over the trades spearheaded in Texas as Houston and Dallas looked to create cap space and position themselves as buyers. The addition of Asik in New Orleans should make them the early contender for most improved candidate out west. Phil Jackson added a point guard better suited to run his triangle offense in Calderon and also picked up two second round picks for tonight in the process. Next week the real jockeying will begin as the free agent market will build to a crescendo and the probable hierarchy for the 2014-15 NBA season will become much clearer.
Yet all this pre-draft activity south of the border will take a back seat tonight to what will be a historic occasion for Canadian Basketball. Whether Wiggins is selected first, second or third, and whether it’s five or eight Canadians selected overall, June 26, 2014 will go down in history as the night Canada made its mark in the annals of the NBA and launched the era of the Canadian ascent.
Other RR Articles on 2014 Draft:
- Tim W: Who Should The Raptors Take? http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2014/06/24/raptors-take/
- Zarar Siddiqi: Toronto Raptors Draft History Over Last Decade (With Hindsight) http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2014/06/25/toronto-raptors-draft-history-last-decade-hindsight/