Around the Association: Canada edition (Feb 22nd-27th)
Canadian representation in the National Basketball Association has never been in better hands than it is today. As most basketball aficionados will know, more non-American players come from the True North than any other nation in the world.
It was only a matter of time before an increasing number of Canadian players were going to put the entire league on notice. This is why we have decided to start a new rubric here at On Point. A weekly recap if you will, outlining the latest performances from our country’s top prospects at the highest level.
Let’s start things off with an interesting matchup on Monday as Toronto native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, alongside Luguentz Dort from Montreal and their Oklahoma City Thunder battled it out against Kelly Olynyk’s Miami Heat. Shai and “Lu” Dort, as they are often referred to in order to make our lives a little easier, went for 27 and 11 points respectively. Their performance was not enough however to edge past the resurging 2020 NBA finalists as Olynyk finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds in the win for Miami.
Tuesday was bound to be special. Two of the NBA’s best young players, Vaughan’s Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray out of Kitchener, Ontario shared a birthday on February 23rd, turning 26 and 25 respectively. The former put in a great shift in a win against RJ Barrett’s New York Knicks, 114–106. He has morphed into a much-improved defender this season and continues to impress his new teammates by putting up consistent numbers on the offensive end. The latter, in what has become a must-see TV rivalry over the last couple of seasons between his Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers, finished with 24 points and a team-high 8 assists in a win. Last but certainly not least, Chris Boucher helped the Raptors see off the East-leading 76ers with 10 points including two 3 pointers. The Montreal man has vastly improved his shooting this campaign and continues to be decisive off the bench for the 2019 champions.
Now, none of us were quite ready for what was going to happen on Wednesday. Let’s start things off with a strong double-double performance by Tristan Thompson, dropping 13 points and 13 rebounds on 50% FG for the Boston Celtics in a loss to Atlanta. The most impressive performances however came along later that evening with Oklahoma City hosting DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with a pharaonic career-high 42-point performance before Lu Dort hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner, after a beautiful feed from Al Horford, to win the game for the Thunder. Those two are creating something special in OKC and the future is looking very bright for a team that has picked up an astounding number of first-round picks over what feels like the next decade, notably through the Paul George trade (in which, as a matter of fact, Shai was involved, coming over from the Clippers.)
Thursday, former #2 draft pick out of Duke, RJ Barrett finished with 12 points on an efficient 62% from the field in a blowout win for what have been a pleasantly surprising New York Knicks against De’Aaron Fox’s Sacramento Kings. Murray was up to his usual antics and dropped a light 34, 6 and 6, an outstanding outing in which Denver nevertheless managed to lose at home to the Wizards.
Chris Boucher started the Raptors’ game on Friday night at “home” in Tampa Bay as Toronto hosted John Wall and the Houston Rockets. He finished with 7 points, 8 rebound and 3 blocks, helping his team win this one 122–111. Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo of Lu Dort and Shai were back at it again as they accumulated their team’s starters’ two best +/-, at 11 and 8 respectively, during a 118–109 loss to the Hawks. Andrew Wiggins showed once again why he belongs in a starting lineup by dropping 17 points in a 130–121 W against Rookie of the Year front runner Lamelo Ball’s Charlotte Hornets.
Barrett collected an impressive 24 points on 47% FG, including four made shots from beyond the arc in a strong win against Indiana on Saturday night. He and first-time All-Star Julius Randle have proved to be the perfect one-two punch New York have been desperately searching for to complement an extremely young roster. Jamal Murray also capped things off in style this week by finishing with 26 points shooting 60% from the field against none other than Dort and Gilgeous-Alexander during a blowout win for Denver 126–96.
The future is bright for Canadian hoops, nothing is more certain. Some of these performances are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways Red and White ball has been making waves across the entire continent. More to come.
Written by Thomas Debost