Canadians in the NBA Draft

With the Toronto Raptors making history last week as the first Canadian team to win the NBA title, a group of young men will look to continue the trend of blazing trails for Canadian basketball on Thursday night.

In 2014, a record four Canadians had their names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the NBA Draft on a June night in Brooklyn.

You can catch the 2019 NBA Draft LIVE on June 20 at 7pm et/4pm pt on TSN2, on TSN Direct and streaming on

On June 20th, back in Brooklyn, there could be even more ballers from north of the 49th hearing their names called by Silver as their pro careers begin.

A record number of Canadians have declared for the 2019 NBA Draft, with perhaps as many as seven of them having a legitimate shot at being one of the 60 selections.

In 2014, it was Andrew Wiggins (#1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers), Nik Stauskas (#8 to the Sacramento Kings), Tyler Ennis (#18 to the Phoenix Suns) and Dwight Powell (#45 to the Dallas Mavericks) that made up the quartet of drafted Canadians.

Let’s take a look at the group poised to exceed that number.

RJ Barrett

Duke - Freshman - 6'7, 202 lbs
Mississauga, ON - Forward

22.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4.3 APG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #3

Though the Blue Devils failed to capture the NCAA title they were heavily favoured for, the two-headed monster of Barrett and projected top pick Zion Williamson more than lived up to the hype, terrorizing defences across the country.

Right now, Barrett appears be firmly locked in at the No. 3 spot – currently held by the New York Knicks – behind teammate Williamson and Murray State point guard Ja Morant. While some Knicks fans might view Barrett as a step down from Williamson, the soon-to-be 19-year-old is one heck of a consolation prize.

Before Barrett suits up in the NBA, though, there is the matter of the FIBA World Championships this September in China where he is expected to be a member of Nick Nurse’s Team Canada.

Brandon Clarke

Gonzaga - Junior - 6'8, 215 lbs
Vancouver, BC - Forward

16.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.9 APG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #13

Even with the Bulldogs now firmly established as a perennial contender, Clarke and the rest of Mark Few’s team were unable to reach the rarefied air of an NCAA title, but Clarke’s draft stock saw an uptick.

Clarke is nearly unstoppable from close range with and without the ball, possessing a deft touch from inside, as well as a keen ability to haul down offensive boards. Clarke’s biggest asset might be his versatility on defence, equally capable of banging on the glass as he is guarding the perimeter.

It will be a competition between Clarke and teammate Rui Hachimura to see who the first Zag off the board will be on draft night. Right now, Hachimura is currently ranked at No. 12 by ESPN.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Virginia Tech - Sophomore - 6'5, 205 lbs
Toronto, ON - Guard

16.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.0 APG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #22

The Hokies guard looks to be the second member of the Alexander clan taken in the first round in two years with cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander selected with the 11th pick by the Los Angeles Clippers last summer.

Battle-tested in the tough ACC, the Hokies reached March Madness for the third straight year for the first time in the program’s history. Their trip to the Sweet 16 marked the first time a Hokies team had won two tournament games since 1967.

Alexander-Walker was a huge part of their success, leading the team in scoring. Though he will continue to grow and fill out, his already big frame bodes well for his transition to the pro game, as does his ability to make good choices while defending.

Mfiondu Kabengele

Florida State - Sophomore - 6'10, 250 lbs
Burlington, ON - Forward

13.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.5 BPG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #23

The nephew of the legendary Dikembe Mutombo, Kabengele announced his presence in a big way this year, winning the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year Award and leading the team in scoring, despite playing only 20.9 minutes per game.

Though the ‘Noles couldn’t match 2018’s run to the Elite 8 – falling in the Sweet 16 to Gonzaga – Kabengele helped spearhead the program’s best period in over two decades and will look to capitalize on that momentum by turning to the pro game.

While big and long, Kabengele isn’t particularly fast and will need to work on his passing as he transitions into the NBA, but his pedigree and skill set likely make him a lock for the first round.

Luguentz Dort

Arizona State - Freshman - 6'4, 215 lbs
Montreal, QC - Guard

16.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #26

In the NCAA tournament proper for the first time in five years, Dort and the Sun Devils’ March ended in heartbreak again, falling in the first round to an upstart Buffalo team. Still, ASU was a bright spot in what was a pretty awful Pac-12 this season and Dort was a big reason for that, leading the team in scoring.

Dort’s draft stock has oscilated over the course of the season with him currently projected to be a first-round pick. The reason for why he’s appeared in mocks everywhere from the lottery to borderline second round? He’s struggled with his shot (dropping below 40% at one point this season), especially in catch-and-shoot situations.

Though a good athlete with a long wingspan that bodes well for the pro game, Dort will need to get more consistent with his shot before he can expect to see steady NBA minutes.

Ignas Brazdeikis

Michigan - Freshman - 6'7, 215 lbs
Oakville, ON - Forward

14.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.8 APG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #69

Brazdeikis is hoping to be the second Ontarian of Lithuanian descent to be selected in the NBA Draft out of Michigan, following in the footsteps of Nik Stauskas in 2014. But this could be an uphill battle for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

A good shooter who can hit from outside, Brazdeikis drives with flourish and isn’t afraid of contact. He’s effective off the ball and possesses a keen eye for quickly identifying mismatches and exploiting them.

Still, there’s much work to be done for Brazdeikis as he attempts to go pro, namely locking in on the defensive end and improving his passing.

Oshae Brissett

Syracuse - Sophomore - 6'8, 210 lbs
Mississauga, ON - Forward

12.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 APG
ESPN Draft Ranking: #79

Some are surprised that Brissett elected to remain in the draft, rather than return to the Orange for his junior year, but the 20-year-old from the GTA felt buoyed by his strong showing at the G-League combine that earned him an invitation to the NBA combine in Chicago.

While Brissett could bulk up a bit, as could most at this stage, his reach and wingspan will allow him to play at either forward position and to contest on the perimeter, but question marks remain.

A dip in shooting this year – especially from three where he dropped from 33.1% to 27.0% – didn’t help his draft stock and his shot can remain a streaky proposition at times. Even while hearing his name called on June 20th remains the goal, preparing for the G-League would behoove Brissett at this point.