As the closest and (usually) dear neighbors of the United States, it should come as no surprise that a number of Canadian NBA players have made their mark in the league over the years.
While Canada may be better known as the country of ice hockey players (though what’s interesting is the national sport of lacrosse), Canada’s top 10 NBA players have plenty of star power.
Canadian NBA Players
The Toronto Raptors have proven sales to the NBA in Canada, and the possible expansion of NBA cities north of the border like Vancouver and Montreal could be a big part of the league’s plans for the future. Here are the 10 best Canadian NBA players to date.
A cult hero as part of the Gonzaga Bulldog team who always seemed to mess up the odds under head coach Mark Few in college, Kelly Olynyk with his wild hair taken with the overall choice of No. 13th of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
Olynyk was immediately brought to Boston where he became an important player for the Celtics. Olynyk may never reach the star potential that some say he has, but he has averaged 9.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game over the course of his career.
This includes a late breakthrough year in Houston during the 2020-21 season in which Olynyk averaged 19.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but moved to Montreal at the age of 14, Samuel Dalembert almost qualify for this list.
Dalembert may never be an All-Star or top scorer, but his career spanning 12 seasons, six teams is one to be proud of. Dalembert averaged 7.7 points per game for his career. However, it was at the defense end of the court, where he was most effective. Nearly 7,000 boards and over 1,500 blocked shots is the most of any Canadian product to date.
If you want to argue that it’s too early to put Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on this list, then I’ll be listening. If you want to argue that this place is too low-key for SGA, then I’d be listening too.
That was the impact a fourth-year player from Kentucky had during his brief time in the NBA. The Toronto, Ontario native was solid in picking up 10.8 points per game in his first season with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The swap with a fledgling Oklahoma City Thunder squad, however, was perhaps the best thing to happen to the SGA. He scored 19.0 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game during the 2019-20 season, before increasing his points to 23.7 per game in 35 games in the 2020-21 season.
Most Canadian NBA player of all time by stature, “Big” Bill Wenington is a 7-foot, 260-pound center of Montreal, Quebec.
Wenington deserves a place on this list simply for his perseverance. Initially, the overall choice of No. 16 of the 1985 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks of St. Johns, Wennington’s six-year career has never played more than 19 minutes or averaged over 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
A stint in Italy suggested his NBA career was over, but Wennington found his way back into the league with the Chicago Bulls in 1993. While still not a heavy contributor, Wennington and his career averaged 4.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. three-time NBA champion.
Jamal Murray is a young free-scoring Canadian with plenty of career ahead of him to climb this list. Seventh overall pick from the 2016 NBA Draft, the Kitchener, Ontario native has played his entire career to date with the Denver Nuggets.
Murray’s 9.9 points and 2.1 assists per game as a rookie is a sign of what is to come with his best year to date being the 2020-21 season. He averaged 21.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game that season and he could not be far from his first NBA All-Star nod if his form continued.
He also scored 50 points in the February 2021 win over the Cavaliers. This is the first game in NBA history that any player has scored at least 50 points without attempting a free throw.
Jamaal Magloire transitioned his NBA career to behind-the-scenes work as he served as a development consultant and public awareness ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. Hailing from Toronto, this felt a perfect fit for a player who ended his career with the Raptors after stints with six other NBA squads.
One of the best Canadian basketball players, Magloire became the second Canadian All-Star in NBA history (after Steve Nash) when he was selected to play for the New Orleans Hornets in 2004.
It was Magloire’s peak NBA season as he averaged 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while starting all 82 for the Hornets. Magloire could have been much higher on this list had his career not been marred by injuries following his sixth NBA season.
A 6-foot-9, 254-pound power forward, Tristan Thompson impressed with the Cleveland Cavaliers between 2011 and 2020.
Thompson is one of many Canadians the Cavs have drafted with high picks over the past decade or so and he was picked with fourth overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft after a year of college with the Texas Longhorns.
Thompson played all 82 games in four of his first five seasons at Cleveland, usually fine to nearly double-double in points and rebounds every time he stepped on the court. He averaged 7.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as the Cavs won the NBA title late in the 2015-16 season.
Andrew Wiggins should finish his career as the second player on this list, although he will struggle to reach the top spot. 27-year-old Wiggins has years left and is just getting to his peak.
This is a scary thought considering the Toronto, Ontario native has averaged 19.5 points per game as a free-scoring winger. Wiggins was the first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers of the University of Kansas.
This made him the second Canadian to be recruited for the first time overall. He also became the second overall number one choice to be traded without playing a game when he was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a three-team deal that August.
Wiggins was selected for his first All-Star game during the 2021-22 season and his situation at Golden State is one that should see him thrive.
At one time, Rick Fox perhaps better known for marrying Vanessa Williams than anything else.
It completely underestimated Fox’s ability as a basketball player, with the Canadian-Bahama minnow a major contributor as the Los Angeles Lakers clinched three consecutive NBA titles between 2000 and 2002.
Fox was a role player after entering the league during the 1991–92 season with the Boston Celtics. In his last two years in Boston, Fox improved his minutes per game and racked up 14.0 and 15.4 points per game in successive seasons. Lakers management saw enough to envision Fox alongside Shaq and Kobe, with the Foxes playing in all 82 games each year during their turn of the century threepeat.
It will never be someone else.
Steve Nash topped the list of Canadian NBA players as the greatest Canadian basketball player of all time.
Nash surpassed the list of the greatest Canadian basketball players ever to become one of the best NBA players of his generation. Despite being born in South Africa, Nash moved with his family to Regina, Saskatchewan at a young age and developed skills that would make him one of the best point guards to have ever played the game.
Nash is an elite passer who averaged 8.5 assists per game over his 18-year Hall of Fame career. He can also shoot the ball and is good at drawing fouls, with a two-time NBA MVP averaging 14.3 points per game. Nash, an eight-time NBA All-Star, was the 15th overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Nash never appeared in the NBA Finals, but he finished with more than 17,000 points and 10,000 assists for his career.
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