Canadian Roundup: 2023 GLOBL JAM

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Canada’s U23 team fell to the USA (represented by the Kentucky Wildcats) 89-72 in the finals, settling for a silver medal. For a team that didn’t have quite the big name prospects that the 2022 GLOBL JAM roster had, they fought incredibly hard and recorded a better finish in the tournament (2nd this year vs 3rd last year)!

If you’re interested in game-by-game breakdowns and notes, I had a live thread on Twitter for each Canada game. You can find my most unfiltered and reactionary takes on this GLOBL JAM roster in these threads.

Once again, massive kudos to head coach Nate Mitchell (and the whole coaching staff), who continues to find ways to win with lesser talented Canadian Men’s National Teams. He did a wonderful job guiding Canada to a surprise 4th place finish at the 2022 AmeriCup and did it again this year at GLOBL JAM. I was impressed with some of the sets he ran with the team and thought he made some really important adjustments (going to full court press for the majority of the 4th vs Germany sparked the comeback) along the way.

Some Notes on Canadian Prospects

My favourite thing about GLOBL JAM is it gives another data point to track the development curve of Canadian prospects and figure out which players could potentially have long careers for the national team. So who were my standouts at 2023 GLOBL JAM?

Thomas Kennedy

For those who have read my work in the past, you know I am a big fan of Thomas Kennedy. His rapid ascension in the program the last couple of years has been eye opening, and I wrote a deep dive into Kennedy’s performance at the AmeriCup. Like I wrote in October of 2022, Kennedy has a great chance to become a national team staple for years to come as part of the Winter Core. I’ve only grown more confident in this statement since then.

Kennedy continued to showcase his elite level processing, vision and passing touch at GLOBL JAM. Initiating from the top in 5-out “Delay” alignment, Kennedy was fantastic as a playmaking hub for Canada, hitting cutters (usually Addison Patterson) for easy layups or dunks.

And while Kennedy is still not the best rim protector due to a lack of elite vertical pop, I think he continues to fare quite well keeping players in front on the perimeter. Here Kennedy does a great job sliding with D.J. Wagner, the 4th ranked recruit in the Class of 2023 and ends up blocking the shot.

Unfortunately, the touch and shooting continue to be areas of improvement. Kennedy shot 12-21 (57%) from the field in the tournament and 9-18 (50%) from the free throw line. Considering his shot diet was predominantly in the paint (he took 0 3PA), these numbers aren’t the most promising.

Elijah Mahi

Elijah Mahi, the youngest player on Canada’s roster this year, has the highest ceiling of any Canadian at GLOBL JAM. That being said, his inexperience definitely showed as his play gradually faded as the tournament went on. Still, his flashes were tantalizing and I remain very high on him.

GLOBL JAM was my first opportunity to watch the 6’5″ Mahi and I came away thoroughly impressed with his athletic tools. His vertical explosiveness was on full display when he relentlessly attacked the glass for offensive rebounds (Mahi recorded 7 offensive rebounds over the 4 games), getting some easy buckets for himself along the way.

I think Mahi’s handle was the part of his game that caught my eye the most. Don’t get me wrong, the ball security and creativity is not close to being the best in the world, but it doesn’t have to be. The important thing is Mahi’s handle doesn’t limit his movement and athleticism on the court. Time and time again, we see explosive athletes handicapped in the halfcourt because their handle isn’t good or quick enough to keep up with their burst. In Mahi’s case, I actually think the opposite is true. Combining his handle, strong frame and vertical pop, Mahi projects to be a good slasher in the halfcourt as well as in transition.

Mahi also had a few nice playmaking flashes in the tournament, though they didn’t happen often. This is an important area to develop if Mahi is going to become an effective slasher and collapse defenses over his career. This next sequence really highlights everything that I love about Mahi’s game. The handle to stay under control in semi-transition, the strength and frame to shield defenders away while going downhill, and then the perfectly placed lob after forcing a rotation. There’s something here!

Kellen Tynes

“We start him to start our defense and our intensity. I get on him, like ‘you don’t have a steal’ and he’ll go and try and get one. And it’s not gambling, jumping the passing lanes, it’s on ball, disrupting their offense. I think it’s really special, like high-level NBA special, to be honest”

Nate Mitchell on Kellen Tynes

Kellen Tynes is an absolute elite POA defender. Standing at 6’3″ and sporting a long wingspan (I couldn’t find an exact measurement online, but he 100% has plus length), Tynes was so impressive harassing other team’s lead ball handlers all tournament long. What really makes Tynes special as an onball defender is his active hands. He’s constantly mirroring and poking at the ball all while staying in good defensive position. His anticipation of the opposing player’s ball placement is sublime, and Tynes uses this “foresight” to put his hands in perfect position early. It’s no wonder Tynes led the whole NCAA last year in steals per game.

He put on a POA clinic in the clip below, denying the screen, sliding back in front and then reaching around the back to poke the ball away with his left. This defensive possession is even more impressive when you factor in the player he is guarding, Jonas Mattisseck, is a point guard with 101 games of EuroLeague experience!

Off the ball, Tynes is also spectacular. Honestly, his aggressive rotations and heavy hands remind me quite a bit of former Toronto Raptor point guard Fred VanVleet. I have to agree with coach Mitchell, that if Tynes had a single NBA level skill right now, it would be his ability to create turnovers. Tynes came up clutch with this huge, game-saving defensive stop, helping off of the strongside corner on the drive to force a jump ball late in OT against Germany.

Aiden Warnholtz

Aiden Warnholtz, who plays for USports powerhouse Carleton, was Canada’s only guard with a halfcourt scoring punch at GLOBL JAM. Both Tynes and Brown were tenacious defenders, but lacked the poise and polish that Warnholtz displayed.

The tournament was a small sample size, but I was a little disappointed with Warnholtz’s 3 point shooting. Over the 4 games, he shot 3-16 from 3, a measly 18.8%. A lot of these were good looks that just didn’t go down and his pullup shooting especially was inaccurate. I do think he’s a much better shooter than he showed at GLOBL JAM though. There’s 4 USPORTS seasons worth of data that show he is an elite shooter (129-321 from 3, 40.2%), so I am more convinced the GLOBL JAM performance was to due to some bad shooting variance.

Warnholtz did do a decent job distributing the ball, especially out of the PnR. Overall, he recorded 16 assists and 9 turnovers (1.77:1 AST:TO ratio) and Warnholtz was pretty comfortable throwing accurate 1-handed skip passes which impressed me. He’s not quite a risk-averse game manager guard, which is actually fine to me.

I definitely see a future with the Winter Core in a few years as Warnholtz continues to develop and eventually establishes himself as a solid Euro pro. Compared to past Carleton and SMNT veteran guards, Warnholtz’s senior season actually stacks up quite nicely. The FG% might be a slight red flag, but overall I’m optimistic about Warnholtz.

Aiden Warnholtz (age 23 season)17.96.641.541.4
Phil Scrubb (age 23 season)16.64.548.348.7
Kaza Kajami-Keane (age 23 season)

Addison Patterson

Addison Patterson saved his best for last as he had a fantastic 1st half against Kentucky in the Gold Medal game. He was doing so much damage as an off-ball cutter and transition finisher in the 2nd quarter where he scored 13 of his 20 points. It truly was an encouraging performance to see for Patterson, who recently has climbed his way back to a NCAA D1 program (Northwestern State).

The most interesting thing that I saw from Patterson’s game at GLOBL JAM was his reworked jumper. His current mechanics are a stark difference when compared to his form back when he was playing D1 at Oregon in the 2019-2020 season. Patterson brings the ball up along the right side of his head, snapping the ball back almost to his right ear before releasing the shot. Compare that to his form from a couple years ago where the ball was more centered.

The results of the new form are encouraging. Again, small sample size, but Patterson was 6-15 from 3, good for 40% at GLOBL JAM, compared to the 35.7% he recorded at Oregon.

X’s and O’s Breakdown

As I mentioned earlier, I was thoroughly impressed with head coach Mitchell and the whole coaching staff throughout the tournament, but especially for some of the offensive sets they ran.

With news that Nate Mitchell would remain on Canada’s SMNT coaching staff for the World Cup later this summer, I was particularly focused on looking for sets that had been run before by previous editions of the SMNT.

One action that carried over to GLOBL JAM was “Motion Strong”. This set, which comprised of staggered screens for a shooter in the corner, was run primarily for Marko Maletic (a 40.7% 3 point shooter last season in the NCAA) to get an open look from the top. During the 2019 World Cup campaign, Canada went to “Motion Strong” a ton as well, but added a “Twirl” wrinkle to it (this was mainly to get Wiltjer who was usually setting the first of the staggered screens a look from 3).

Another action that caught my attention was a “Rip DHO” set Canada ran in their game against Germany. Warnholtz sets a rip screen (back screen), before receiving a handoff from Boakye at the elbow. This exact set actually was used widely throughout the Denver Nuggets 2023 NBA Championship run, weaponizing Jamal Murray’s elite movement shooting and forcing opposing bigs to chase Murray along the perimeter. At the 2023 World Cup, I could see coach Jordi Fernandez using the set with Olynyk at the elbow, Murray receiving the handoff and a lob threat like Brissett or Edey receiving the rip screen.

The last set I wanted to highlight was another one run for Aiden Warnholtz. I thought this play was a fantastic adjustment from coach Mitchell. To set the stage, Germany had been defending Canada’s PnR’s with deep drop coverage, a conventional choice. However, by running “Veer” (a ball screen followed by an off-ball screen), Canada was able to exploit the drop coverage and generate a wide open Warnholtz 3. Just look at how far deep Abgakoko (the German big) drops to defend the initial ball screen, leaving him way out of position to defend the next action (the off ball screen for Warnholtz). Brilliant play design to exploit Germany’s defensive coverage.