The ‘North’ takeover of the NBA continued on Thursday as six Canadians were selected in the 2019 NBA Draft. It was a historic night, surpassing the then-record of four Canadian picks in 2014 and is the most ever selections for a non-American country. With this draft, the Raptors championship season, and Nick Nurse subsequently being hired as the head coach of the national team, Canadian basketball history has been made and its future remains equally as bright.
Here are where the six picks are headed:
- R.J. Barrett – No. 3, New York Knicks
Barrett’s destination on draft night to New York was one of the more obvious subplots on an otherwise unpredictable night. The wing from Mississauga was under the microscope all of last year as a member of a star-studded collegiate program and delivered 22.7 points per game, breaking the ACC and Duke’s freshman scoring records. Barrett’s game was heavily dissected given Duke’s massive national coverage, his tunnel vision and outside shot drawing slights from many scouts. Still, Barrett has the freakish athleticism and versatility required in the modern NBA, can get to the rim and finish inside, and is already a high-level passer for his size. His personality and demeanor fits perfectly with a big city like New York.
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker – No. 17, New Orleans Pelicans
Alexander-Walker is one of my favourite players in this draft. He shares very similar traits to his cousin and former high-school teammate, Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as oversized point guards that are fluid playmakers. Walker-Alexander will fit in well alongside Jrue Holiday in a league that has leaned towards having two guards that are capable of sharing on-ball and off-ball duties. He is a smooth operator in the pick-and-roll as he can score inside and spoon-feed his screener with an array of passes. Couldn’t pick a better fit for an exciting player.
- Brandon Clarke – No. 21, Memphis Grizzlies
At almost 23 years of age, Clarke’s draft stock suffered due to NBA scout’s ageism tendencies. However, the Vancouver native’s hyperactivity and defensive chops made him too tasty of an option to pass up for long. He was a late bloomer that drew minimal attention from colleges, eventually transferring to Gonzaga after two successful seasons at San Jose State. Clarke’s basketball smarts, leaping ability, and capacity to defend multiple positions makes him one of the most NBA ready players in this draft. He will be able to contribute meaningful minutes on a young Memphis team from the get-go.
- Mfiondu Kabengele – No. 27, Los Angeles Clippers
As the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo, Kabengele has elite shot-blocking ability in his blood. This eye-popping skill is great, but like fellow Canadian and current Toronto Raptor Chris Boucher, his blocks often came from being initially out of position and has had a history of foul trouble. Regardless, Kabengele has insane upside defensively and can nail shots from deep, averaging 36.9 per cent from outside despite a funky hitch in his shot. This outside shooting is a tantalizing proposition in the modern NBA. Being brought into a stable organization like the Clippers is a great fit as it is vital that Kabengele has a coaching staff that can develop his raw skillset.
- Ignas Brazdeikis – No. 47, New York Knicks
Brazdeikis was on the peripheries of many mock drafts, so his inclusion on the list for Canadian picks tonight was far from a certainty. The Lithuanian born, Oakville raised forward was a sharp outside shooter in his lone year at Michigan, averaging 39.2 per cent from three. His lack of athleticism is going to pose a significant hindrance to his success at the next level.
- Marial Shayok – No. 54, Philadelphia 76ers
Talk about a bolter. Shayok was not even on any boards of our aggregated rankings. The late round pick from Ottawa is one of the oldest players in the draft, turning 25-years-old in July. Shayok is a proven three-point shooter and picked up the Big 12 Tournament MVP honours this season. He is also the first player ever selected from our nation’s capital.