The All-Canadian NBA Starting 5 for the 2022-23 Season

It’s an exciting time for Canadians in the NBA, so we created an All-Canadian Starting Five of the best NBA players from north of the border.

NBA All-Canadian Starting Five
Complex Original

NBA All-Canadian Starting Five

NBA All-Canadian Starting Five

It was a great summer for Canadian basketball. The men’s national team won all of their qualification games for next summer’s world cup, while the women placed fourth in the 2022 FIBA World Cup, their best result in an international competition since 1986.

But with the summer coming to an end and NBA opening night here, it’s time we shift towards the best men’s basketball league on earth.

This season, a record-high 28 Canadians found themselves on NBA training camp rosters, including the four rookies selected in the 2022 NBA Draft. And while the depth of Canadian talent is clearly better than ever, so is the nation’s top-end talent, with Andrew Wiggins making his first all-star team last season, becoming the first Canadian all-star since Steve Nash in 2012. With Jamal Murray returning from injury and RJ Barrett finally playing alongside a real point guard, there are a number of Canadians primed to follow in Wiggins’ footsteps and breakout this season. 

It’s an exciting time for Canadians in the NBA. And in order to get you prepped for the season, we created an All-Canadian Starting Five of the best NBA players from north of the border.

Point guard: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

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2021-22 stats: 24.5ppg (55.7 TS%), 5rpg, 5.9apg, 1.3spg, 0.8bpg
Also considered: Dalano Banton, Josh Primo

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the best Canadian basketball player in the world right now, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising to find the 24-year-old, Hamilton, Ont. native manning the point for this team. SGA is only getting better as he grows as the lead ball-handler on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Team Canada, where he is a master manipulator with an innate ability to control the game, never predetermining his actions and instead reading the defence at all levels before making his move.

The “hesi-God,” or stop-and-start master of the league, is an elite creator that keeps his defender guessing, baiting them with the hesitation dribble or step-back and either driving into the paint if they bite or simply taking the shot if they give him room. SGA is one of the most frequent and efficient drivers in the entire NBA because once he gets past his man, he has the body control to euro-step into the paint and the playmaking vision to spray out every pass in the book, even in the tight spaces that have become normal in OKC. Now, if he is able to play more than the 45.5 games he has averaged the last two seasons, while potentially seeing his three-point shot bounce back towards his 2020-21 average of 41.8 percent (after hitting just 30.0 percent last season), SGA is primed to make the first all-star team of his career.

With all due respect to the young up-and-coming point guards like Banton or Primo—who could one day supplant themselves as Canada’s lead ball-handler—this is without a doubt Gilgeous-Alexander’s team.

Shooting guard: Jamal Murray

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2020-21 stats: 21.2ppg (59.2 TS%) 4rpg, 4.8apg, 1.3spg, 0.3bpg
Also considered: Lu Dort, Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Any good ball-handler needs good shooters around them, and Jamal Murray is the best shooter in Canada, slotting in nicely beside SGA in the starting backcourt for this exercise and, hopefully soon, for Team Canada. The 25-year-old combo-guard out of Kitchener, ON. is returning this season after almost two years on the shelf due to a torn ACL in his left knee, but this is the same player who put up historically good numbers the last time he was in the playoffs, when he averaged 26.5 points and 6.6 assists on route to the conference finals in 2020—including scoring outburst of of 50, 42, and 50 points in the first-round series against the Utah Jazz, and who shot a career high 41 percent from three the next season. Murray is a wiz on and off the ball, with the ability to create for himself with his patented step-back three, the body contortion to finish round the rim, and a knack for hitting big, tough shots at the end of games. Murray will slowly work his way back into form as the season goes along, but if he re-establishes himself as one of the best young guards in the NBA by playoff time, his Denver Nuggets could legitimately win the championship.

Montreal’s Lu Dort could slot in here for defensive purposes, as one of the best ball-hawks in the NBA who shot an improved 33 percent on 7.8 three-point attempts per game beside SGA in OKC last season. But Murray is a good defender in his own right and simply too good of a scorer and playmaker to sit on the bench. 

Small forward: RJ Barrett

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2021-22 stats: 20.0ppg (51.1 TS%), 5.8rpg, 3apg, 0.6spg, 0.2bpg
Also considered: Dillon Brooks, Oshae Brissett

With the backcourt set, the Canadians need some defense and size at the small forward position. And few Canadians are better equipped to slow down the elite wings of the NBA than RJ Barrett, who at 6-foot-6, 214-pounds is developing into one of the stronger and more versatile and switchable defenders in the NBA. Plus, the bruising lefty has improved as an offensive initiator every season despite the New York Knicks’ lack of infrastructure around him, improving his handle, shooting, playmaking and aggressiveness as he better understands that he is best when driving to the rim rather than settling for jump shots. The 22-year-old Barrett is primed for a breakout season as he will finally play alongside an elite point guard in free agent signee Jalen Brunson, who will open up space for Barrett to attack the paint. If Barrett can put it all together—the defense, the driving, the finishing, and the three point shooting, which fell off a cliff last season after hitting 40.1 percent the season before—Barrett could be in for his best season to date.

Mississauga’s Dillon Brooks might like a word with this selection, as Brooks likes to have many words with many different people, never too shy to let his feelings be heard and tell the Scotiabank Arena crowd “this is my house!” after leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a win over the Raptors last season. But as much as Brooks brings a defensive edge to his teams, he also takes away with his questionable shot selection, giving Barrett, who is much younger and has more room to grow, the slight edge.

Power Forward: Andrew Wiggins

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2021-22 stats: 17.2ppg (56 TS%), 4.5rpg, 2.2apg, 1spg, 0.7bpg
Also considered: Brandon Clarke, Kelly Olynyk

There are a lot of good candidates at the power forward spot—and I’m tempted to leave Wiggins off this list out of spite due to his refusal to commit to the Canadian national team—but how could we leave Andrew Wiggins off the team after the all-star season and run to the NBA Championship that he just had? The 27-year-old wing out of Toronto averaged 18/9/2 in the NBA Finals, where he was instrumental in helping the Golden State Warriors defeat the Boston Celtics in 6 games, learning how to be a monster rebounder as the run went along and the Warriors needed more from him. Wiggins has improved as a jump-shooter in each of his last three seasons, hitting 39.3 percent of his threes last season, and he is only getting more comfortable playing in the space that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson provide for him. He was rewarded with a contract extension this offseason that will keep him in the Bay for five more years (as long as he stays on Draymond Green’s good side).

Brandon Clarke and Kelly Olynyk are both good candidates to fill the power forward spot—Clarke adding relentless energy as a screener and rebounder, while Olynyk brings elite shooting and playmaking. But while those two might enter the season with a theoretical chip on their shoulders, Wiggins enters with a literal ‘chip.

Centre: Chris Boucher

chris boucher on court for toronto raptors

2021-22 stats: 9.4ppg (57.0 TS%), 6.2rpg, 0.3apg, 0.6spg, 0.9bpg
Also considered: Dwight Powell, Khem Birch

What even is a center these days? While Team Canada might tell you a centre looks like Dwight Powell or Khem Birch, with their ability to rebound and protect the rim, a centre in the modern NBA needs to do more, providing the kind of stylistic versatility that is necessary to succeed in a variety of matchups. And while centre still the thinnest position for Canada, the 6-foot-9, 200-pound Boucher is the only guy who can shoot the three, hitting 33.5 percent of his threes in his career, and protect the rim, averaging 1.2 blocks over his career. But on top of that—unlike other Canadian centers—he also does things that a wing does, switching onto perimeter players on the defensive end and attacking closeouts when people bite on his catapult-looking jumper. After breaking out for a career-high 13.6 points per game in 2020-21, he struggled coming out of the gate last season but slowly rounded into form as the season went along, figuring out how to weaponize his size and speed on both ends of the floor, ultimately exploding for 25 points in Game 6 of the Raptors first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. He is primed for another big year for the surging Raptors.

Powell or Birch would both be safe picks, as they provide better post defense and rebounding. But they are best playing one style of play, which is drop defense, while Boucher can do more. And while rebounding could be a big issue with this Canadian team, it’s nothing a little hard work and elbow grease can’t fix. Plus, it’s not actually a real team.

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