1. Shane Larkin to Turkey
I am honored and humbled to have an opportunity to represent this country by joining the Turkish National Team. Extremely excited to wear this jersey with the Turkish Flag across my chest with pride. pic.twitter.com/YusbpuixiJ
— Shane Larkin (@ShaneLarkin_3) February 1, 2020
One of the best point guards not in the NBA has naturalized and will now suit up for Turkey for international basketball. And of course, this is big news for Canada as Turkey is 1 of 6 teams in the last change qualifying tournament hosted in Victoria this summer.
Larkin, a former NBA player, is a scoring machine at the guard position. He currently leads the Euroleague in scoring with 21.76 PPG. He’s also an elite shooter and he’s shooting a blistering 52.17% from three. The Euroleague website has one advanced stat that they call the Performance Index Rating (similar to the NBA’s EFF) and of course, Larkin leads the league with a score of 25.90 . While putting up these historic offensive numbers, Larkin has led his team, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, to the first seed in the whole league.
And then there was the game at Bayern Munish where Larkin set a Euroleague record and scored 49 points!
And if Larkin’s scoring wasn’t lethal enough, he also recorded a 44-inch max vertical at the NBA Draft combine in 2013 and has incredible speed with ball. Though he stands at just 6’0” (although I doubt that’s accurate), Larkin is a force to be reckoned with, especially in the international game. He’s probably the run away favourite for Euroleague MVP this season and fill a huge hole for Turkey.
With teams like Greece (7th in FIBA rankings), Czech Republic (10th) and now an even stronger Turkey (15th) all in the tournament, Canada’s road to the Olympics won’t be easy. While Canada may have the most talent and depth, their lack of chemistry and playing time could be our Achilles heel when it comes to single elimination games. If anything, the tournament in June will be an entertaining and stressful 6 days for Canada basketball fans
2. A Disappointing Crop of Prospects
The wave of Canadians being drafted in the last decade has been well documented and just shows how quickly the game has grown in Canada. A Canadian has been drafted in every draft in the last 10 years. In 6 of the last 7 drafts, a Canadian has been selected in the first round. Last year, there was a record 4 Canadians taken in the first round and another record 6 Canadians drafted overall (should have been 7 but maybe Dort had a prearranged agreement with OKC).
However, this season has been disappointing for the big Canadian prospects in the NCAA. Currently on most draft boards (ESPN, Sam Vecenie) no Canadian is listed in the top 60 (Vecenie has only 1 Canadian in the top 100, and its Karim Mane whose still a high school player).
Andrew Nembhard, who looked so polished on the senior men’s national team this summer, has struggled to play consistently all year and it’s led to a up and down season for Florida. Though he’s had some bright spots (first career double-double), he just hasn’t broke out in the way that many fans (including me) thought he would. You can check out the deep dive I did into Nembhard’s elite passing here. It’s probably a 100% certainty that Nembhard returns to school for his junior year. Maybe the Raptors give him a two-way or G-league deal if he does declare as it seemed Nurse really loved Nembhard’s game this summer. I still am a big believer in Nembhard’s game and whether or not he gets to the NBA, he will be an important player for the national program for years to come.
The same story can be said with AJ Lawson. Pegged as a first round pick in the summer, his sophomore season has been decent at best. Lawson has had struggles with consistency like Nembhard and its caused him to slide all the way out of the draft picture this season. He’s a good athlete whose got a sweet looking stroke from three. While he’s put on some more muscle, he’s still a little thin. Though, I was really impressed by his athleticism on this play. Goes from o to 100 in a couple of steps and explodes at the rim.
The top Canadian freshman, Addison Patterson, has struggled to find playing time at Oregon this season. A four star prospect coming out of high school, I really liked Patterson’s ability to get to the rim after watching him at the U18 Fiba Americas in St.Catherines 2 years ago. He’s averaging just over 10 minutes per game and it’s safe to say Patterson will need a couple years in Eugene before he makes the jump to the pro game.
Marcus Carr has had a really productive season after sitting being forced to sit out all of last season due to transfer eligibility issues. Although his scoring has been great for the Gophers, he’s shooting just 37.1% from the field, which really limits his potential at the next level. Still he’s been a welcome surprise in a year where most big time prospects have been disappointing.
Marcus Carr with the rebound then the crossover and dagger on the other end for the Gophers pic.twitter.com/db1WFWai5T
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) January 24, 2020
Isiaha Mike, a junior from SMU, has really picked up his play this season. Granted I’ve probably watched Mike the least out of all prospects listed. Though he’s already 22 years of age, he’s shooting at 41.4% from three and can defend at a high level. If SMU can make a run in the tourney, Mike might be able to jump into the 2nd round. At this point, I think Mike is Canada’s best shot of keeping the streak alive.
And then there’s Nate Darling who started the year scorching from the field. Though he’s come back down to Earth a little, he’s still scoring 20.0 points per game. One thing that has really popped out to me is the muscle that Darling has put on. Back in Canada’s historic U19 gold medal run in 2017, Darling was a a very thin guard. I mean just watch at how skinny he looks on the floor here.
Compare that to now and Darling’s added muscle has allowed him to become such a lethal scorer at the NCAA level. I don’t expect Darling to make some real NBA noise, but he will turn out to be an excellent pro player.
While it may look like no Canadians will be drafted in 2020, the depth that the program has developed over the years is incredible. There are so many college and high school prospects who have pro potential. Exciting times for basketball in Canada.
1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
The scoring continues to trend downwards but the rebounding numbers have continued to blow me away. He’s really using his length and size to contribute on both the offensive and defensive glass. At this point already, I think it’s time we have a discussion about that Paul George trade. With the way Shai has developed and with George’s injury-riddled season, not to mention Gallinari and 4 unprotected first round picks, it’s beginning to look like the Thunder are the winners of the trade. While I totally understand why the Clippers made the move, Shai’s ascension to borderline all-star this season has to worry Clipper fans and the organization. If the Clippers win the chip, of course the trade would be 100% worth it, but with the way Shai has played, it could be a trade that the Clippers organization regrets for years to come.
Also, Shai was named to team World for this year’s Rising Stars game. Looking down the roster, he is definitely the 2nd best player on team World (behind Doncic) and you could make a serious argument he’s solidified himself as a top 3 player in the whole game. Shai’s come along way and its exhilarating to think of the future he has in front of him.
Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson and Trae Young headline NBA Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend in Chicago. Rosters here: pic.twitter.com/9kUBC3lFqG
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 31, 2020
2. Dillon Brooks
Brooks has continued his scoring run and dropped 20+ points in 3 of 4 games this season (and Memphis was 3-0 in the games he scored 20+). This run that Brooks has been on has lasted for give or take 27 games (depending on which game you say the run started) and it’s starting to look sustainable. Brooks is entering the discussion for top 3 Canadian player and is playing an vital role for the upstart Grizzlies.
With the way that Brooks has balled out, he’s made himself a ton of money. Though he did say earlier in the season that he “plan[s] on playing regardless of if [he] gets a contract or whatever happens”, I find this unlikely, especially with the way he’s blown up. Nobody in their right mind would risk losing so much guaranteed money and he shouldn’t be faulted if he does end up sitting out.
Dillon Brooks has played 27+ minutes in 10 of his last 12 games. In those 10 games he's averaging:
The Grizzlies are 16-1 when Brooks scores 20 points this season. 7-23 when he doesn't. pic.twitter.com/1u95DL6hYg
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 29, 2020
With the tear that Brooks has been on, it’s beginning to seem like he may start commanding a contract similar to Buddy Hield’s 4-year $106 million contract. Though Brooks’s scoring numbers are slightly lower than Hield’s and he’s not quite the shooter, he is 3 years younger and has become a leading option for the Grizzlies on offence now. Here’s to hoping Brooks can get his extension before June 23rd because team Canada would be a lot better with him on the wing.
3. Andrew Wiggins
I think it’s time for Wiggins and Minnesota to part ways!!! Wiggins need some real MFs around that’s going to hold him accountable. I honestly think he needs a Miami Heat Type Culture!🤷🏾♂️
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) February 3, 2020
Like Perkins, I think the majority of NBA circles have realized that the Timberwolves are bad, and I mean very bad. KAT hasn’t won a game since Nov 27th and Minnesota is reeling with an 12 game losing streak. After a strong start to the season, Minnesota has fallen to 14th in the Western Conference and have the same record as the lowly Knicks. Though Wiggins hasn’t been bad recently, the numbers he puts up are empty with how bad the Wolves are. He really needs a change of scenery and there’s been rumors of a potential trade with GSW for D-Lo. With his albatross of a contract, it may be hard to move him but I would love to see how Wiggins performs on a team with a strong culture and a winning system.
4. Brandon Clarke
After two strong offensive showings this week Clarke was sidelined with left hip soreness. His TS% is still a ridiculous 67.9% and his eFG% is still hovering at 65.2%. He’s just such an efficient and impact player.
Here’s a really interesting video by Ben Taylor over at Thinking Basketball where he dives into Clarke’s floater game. Go to 4:22 to hear him start talking about Clarke.
5. Luguentz Dort
With the high level defender that Dort has already proved to be, it’s really hard to believe he went undrafted. Whether he had a prearranged deal with the Thunder and he went the Fred Vanvleet “Bet on Yourself” route or if he really just slipped through the cracks, he’s played so well that he’s now started the past 7 games for the Thunder.
He even went 5/6 from three in a game this week. Dort is proving that he can already be such a difference maker on the floor, even if his offensive game is not as polished as you would like. With his ability to hound players on the defensive end, it will be interesting to see if he cracks team Canada’s roster this summer as a defensive specialist. Nurse loves guys that can defend multiple positions at a high level and especially with Larkin on Turkey, Dort could be that much more valuable.
Honorable Mention: Chris Boucher
With Marc Gasol’s hamstring injury, Chris Boucher returned to the the Raptors rotation this week. And he didn’t take it for granted. He dropped 9, 10 and 8 points in the games this week and contributed nicely as the Raptors continue their 11 game winning streak.
Boucher offers something that none of the other Canadian bigmen offer. He can defend the rim at a high level, fly around on defense and hit threes. Just check out the ground he covers on this defensive closeout. Very few NBA players can pull this off and Boucher’s length allows him to be a high level defender.
He’s also developed into a dangerous roll man, fostering some good chemistry with Kyle Lowry. His length allows him to be a big target when he’s rolling and he gets to the rim with ease. While he’s definitely not the elite roller that Dwight Powell is, having a real threat out of the pick and roll will give Nurse a lot of options to tinker with. With his familiarity with Nurse’s system, Boucher figures to be a huge part of Canada’s quest to get back to the Olympics.