In 2013, we saw Anthony Bennett get drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, marking the highest a Canadian has ever been drafted in NBA history. We also saw his countryman Kelly Olynyk get drafted 13th overall, making it two Canadians chosen in the NBA lottery. With all the exceptional talent from Canada expected to enter this year's draft, could we be in for a repeat of last year?
Canada basketball is certainly on the uprise. Over the last two years, some of the top talent in college basketball have been Canadian. In 2013-2014, it was Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis, Nik Stauskas, and Melvin Ejim running the show south of the border and representing Canada to the fullest. Wiggins and Ennis have already declared for the NBA Draft, while we still wait on decisions from Stauskas and Ejim.
Wiggins, 19, is a 6'8, 200 pound small forward from Thornhill, Ontario. He spent the 2013-2014 season at the University of Kansas, but was already known world-wide before he even put on his Jayhawks jersey. Wiggins was dubbed as the next big thing and was featured on the cover of several magazines including Sports Illustrated. He was hyped so much at a young age that some compared him to LeBron James.
In his one and only season at Kansas, Wiggins averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot 45% from the field, 34% from three point land, and 78% from the free throw line. He had a career high 19 rebounds in January against Iowa State and scored a season-high 41 points in March in a loss to West Virginia. Wiggins not only excels on the offensive end, but he is strong defensively. He is quick and he moves his feet well. His length causes problems for his opponent and he does a nice job getting into their space and staying with them.
Ennis, 19, is a 6'2, 180 pound point guard from Brampton, Ontario. He spent the 2013-2014 season with the Syracuse Orange and had a different rise to fame compared to Wiggins. Ennis wasn't very well known outside of Canada, but that all changed as he emerged as the Orange's starting point guard and led them to a 28-6 record, including winning their first 25 games. Ennis constantly made clutch baskets late in games for the Orange and even hit a half-court game winner to beat Pittsburgh.
In his one and only season with the Orange, Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.1 steals. He shot 41% from the field, 35% from three point land, and 77% from the free throw line. He also ranked ninth in Division One basketball in assist to turnover ratio at 3.24. Ennis has the ability to lead a team and is a talented player on both ends of the court.
Both of these players have high ceilings and could become two of the best players in the NBA within a few years, but there is a lot of work to be done. They need to become more confident, more consistent, and grow into their bodies. They have a lot of work to get to the top, but based on their personality and work ethic it seems as if they are up to the challenge. Could they have benefited from another year or two at the college level? Absolutely. However, it was the best decision for them personally to take their talents to the next level. It is their dream to play in the NBA and that is where the money is.
Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Iowa State's Melvin Ejim could also be potential lottery picks if they decide to declare for the draft. Stauskas led Michigan to the Elite Eight and was named the Big Ten player of the year. Ejim helped lead Iowa State to the Sweet Sixteen and was named the Big 12 player of the year. Ejim scored a Big 12 record 48 points in February.
We see a lot of players who make the decision of coming out early and it benefits them, while others suffer the consequences and wonder what would have happened if they had just stayed in college for another year to learn the game. Austin Rivers is a prime example of this. Rivers had a standout freshman year at Duke averaging 15.5 points per game. He decided to enter the draft after his freshman year and was drafted 10th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Unfortunately for Rivers, he has yet to adapt to the game at the NBA level. This is something that could happen to Ennis as they share similar characteristics. Hopefully Ennis has a strong head on his shoulders and will put in the work necessary to succeed at the next level.
As we look at Wiggins and Ennis, we have to expect that they will repeat last season's success for Canada basketball. Will they both be drafted in the lottery? One has to think so as they both put together impressive freshman seasons that some NBA scouts are drooling over. They both could even find themselves drafted in the top 10. Wiggins' name has been thrown around as being the number one overall pick, but there is a lot of time between now and the draft in June. Until then, we will all have to wait patiently to hear these Canadians' names called by new NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
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