On Point Scouting exclusive article by Aaron Shore
A record number of 24 Canadians got playing time in the NBA this season and quite a few of them have played really well, especially after the all-star break. Here’s a short season summary prior to the beginning of the playoffs.
MY ALL CANADIAN FIRST TEAM:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC Thunder) With Jamal Murray out, he’s our best player this season. Didn’t start the year that well and his shooting has been off, but the second part of the year was a thing of beauty. In 13 games after the all-star break, he put up 30.4ppg (63.4 TS%), 7.3apg, 5.8rpg, and 2.8 stocks. Hope the Thunder get lucky in the draft and become competitive next year so that they can stop sitting him and Dort with every minor injury and we might even get to see them in the playoffs soon.
RJ Barrett (New York Knicks) Like Gilgeous-Alexander (and even more), he started the season slow and looked like he took a step back, but since the calendar year changed, he’s been great. In the 22 games after the all-star break he had 24.5ppg, 6.2rpg, and 3.8apg. His shooting efficiency remains the swing skill but he’s certainly trending in the right direction.
Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies) This is the one spot where I was a bit torn. It was between Brooks and Luguentz Dort for me, as both generally played well but were also injured for significant stretches. Eventually, team success convinced me to go in the direction of Brooks. Dillon continues to be a rather inefficient volume scorer, but he’s an integral part of the Grizzlies success, contributing with enthusiasm, defense, and intangibles. In 11 games after the all-star break his stats are 18.5ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.8apg. The Grizzlies are my team for the playoffs.
Andrew Wiggins (Golden State Warriors) Unlike most of the guys on this list, Wiggins started the year really well for the hot Warriors. He was able to not only clinch his first all-star appearance but also did it in style as a starter. Unfortunately, his play trended down as the year continued. After the all-star break, his numbers really dropped to 15.7ppg on 50 TS%, 5rpg, and 2.4apg. He’ll now need to shake things up in the playoffs. Regardless, the great first half of the season secured him a place on my first team.
Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks) Dwight has been fantastic this season, completely getting back to his old form after that dreadful Achilles injury. In fact, he’s never looked stronger and has been one of only five NBA players to play all 82 games this season. He’s finished the season especially well and enters the playoffs in very good form. In 23 games after the all-star break he put up 12.5ppg (76.5 TS%!), 6.2rpg, and 1.3apg, hitting 19 of his last 20 shots of the season (including 18 in a row, a new Mavericks record).
OTHER NOTABLE CANADIANS:
Luguentz Dort (OKC Thunder). Dort continues to improve his offense while pestering the opponents’ best perimeter players on D. He recorded new career highs in points, rebounds and assists this year, also shooting better from the field and at the free throw line. In 18 games in 2022, before a season-ending shoulder injury prior to the all-star break, he put up 19.5ppg (57 TS%), 4.3rpg, 1.8apg. Dort is currently sitting on arguably the most team-friendly contract in the league. But if he continues in this trajectory, he’s going to get paid big time at the end of next year (and maybe even before).
Oshae Brissett (Indiana Pacers) is solidifying his place in the league. In the final 20 games of the year, since the all-star break, he put up 13.7ppg (55 TS%), 6.9rpg, and 1.7apg. The Indiana Pacers severely underperformed during this stretch, but he didn’t make if affect him as he’s been playing well enough to make a claim for a steady rotation spot next year.
Brandon Clarke (Memphis Grizzlies) has been back to his efficiency from his rookie year, and even better (though the funky shot mechanics are still here and his outside shooting kind of fell off a cliff). Like many others on this list, he started a bit slow. But in the final 41 games of the season, since the start of 2022, he put up 11.8ppg (67.0 TS%), 5.8rpg, 1.3apg, and about 2 blocks, all in just about 20 minutes per game. How efficient has he been? His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) for the season is at around 24, which is top-10 in the league.
Trey Lyles (Sacramento Kings) has had arguably the best and most consistent season of his career. He played fairly well for the Detroit Pistons, and since moving to the Sacramento Kings he’s been a starter, albeit on a weak team. In 20 games after the all-star break he’s had 11.5ppg, 6.1rpg, and 1.4apg.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING:
Chris Boucher (Toronto Raptors) (24 games after the all-star break): 9.7ppg (57 TS%), 6.8apg. A bit of a decline from last year, but still can make an impact on games.
Kelly Olynyk (Detroit Pistons) (19 games after the all-star break; only 18 minutes per game): 8.5ppg (67 TS%), 4rpg, 3apg. A year for him spent on a rebuilding team without much fanfare. Hope he finds another team this summer.
Josh Primo (San Antonio Spiurs) is starting to show some flashes that suggest the Spurs might have known what they were doing taking him in the last draft’s lottery. In his last 10 games he had 9ppg, 2.5rpg, and 2.5apg, while playing very solid defense for his age. Overall, as expected, Primo was not a good NBA player this year, but he has all the tools (size, athleticism, shooting, and some creation) to start breaking out next year.
Ignas Brazdeikis (Orlando Magic) playing quite well for a very weak Magic team. In 14 games following the all-star break: 9.4ppg (55 TS%), 2.6rpg, and 1.2apg, including a career-high 20 points against the Cavs. He wants to play for Lithuania, so not likely to ever play for the Canadian SMNT.
BONUS: NBA G-LEAGUE FIRST TEAM:
Dalano Banton. Banton has been a really pleasant surprise for me this year. I thought he’s would essentially a long-term project that would need substantial improvements to make an impact. But he played really well in the G (40% from 3) and for stretches with the Raptors and looked like he could really get a steady rotation spot with time. In 12 games with the 905 this season he had 26.5ppg (59 TS%), 9.0rpg, 6.5apg. Despite being a rookie, he was one of the best G-league players this year, though he didn’t play enough games to be a candidate for any season end all-league selections.
Nik Stauskas (Grand Rapids Drive-Boston Celtics) A mid-season explosion (100 points in the stretch of two games, going 20 of 28 from 3) helped Nik clinch a two-year deal with the Celtics. It remains to be seen if the Celtics honor the second year in this contract and whether he can find his way into a rotation spot. In 36 games with the 905 and the Grand Rapids he had 23.5ppg (66 TS%!), 6rpg, and 5apg. I still feel he could have been a great Euroleague player with his shooting and ability to create for himself and for others. But it didn’t happen for him and that train might have passed.
Nate Darling (Agua Caliente Clippers) (41 games with Agua Caliente): 17ppg (58 TS%), 4rpg, 3apg. A very good season for Nate. Hope he clinches a contract overseas next year. Quite a few similarities to Stauskas, but he’s only 23 and there’s no reason he can’t make it in the right setting.
Lindell Wigginton (Wisconsin Herd-Milwaukee Bucks A solid G-league season for Wigginton, and good enough to give him a spot here. In 19 games he put up 15.7ppg, posting decent shooting from the field, 5.2apg, and 4.7rpg. As a bonus he played in 19 NBA games with the Milwaukee Bucks, finishing the season in style with career highs in points (18) and assists (8) in the last game of the regular season vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Mfiondo Kabengele (Rio Grande Valley Vipers) A quiet but very efficient season for Fio in the G. In 28 games with Rio Grande he put up 17ppg (on 75 TS%!) and 9rpg. Can’t see him getting another real chance in the NBA, so I’d love to see him try his luck overseas. I think he’s well suited to the international game and can do quite well in Europe.
A LOOK AHEAD TO THE PLAYOFFS:
Most of the Canadian action will be in the West. Unfortunately, Murray will not be coming back (maybe that’s for the best, as I’d hate to see him thrown in the fire and struggle at this stage in the season), but Brooks, Clarke, Wiggins, and Powell will be there, playing for good teams.
Memphis with Brooks and Clarke is the team I’m rooting for. They’ve been great all year and Ja Morant is one of the most fun players in the league. Brooks has been fantastic in last year’s playoffs while Clarke fell out of the rotation. But he’s played well this year and should see minutes this time around.
Golden State and Wiggins were great to start the season but after Curry got hurt they haven’t been very good and Wiggins also trailed off. We’ll see if he can get back into shape.
Dallas closed the season quite well, and as I note about Powell has been great, especially after they moved Porzingis.
In the East, it’s the Raptors with Boucher and Birch, though I’m not sure if both will play much when the rotation tightens (and I can’t see Banton getting significant minutes), but all must be ready if called upon.