True North: A look at some of the top Canadians to watch in the NBA this year / by Philip Drost

The 2018-2019 NBA season is nearly upon us. Here’s the details on some of the Canadians you should be keeping your eyes on this season.


Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray will likely be on this top five list for the foreseeable future, as he continues to be one of the best basketball players for Canada.

Last season, Murray was able to increase his point production from 9.9 points a game in his rookie season, to 16.7 in his sophomore year. The shooting efficiency that troubled Murray in his rookie season was but a memory, as the Blue Arrow shot 45 per cent on the year.

One of the most exciting parts of last season was watching how well Jamal Murray played off of star Nuggets big-man Nikola Jokic. The two were more in sync than any Justin Timberlake boy band.

The Nuggets were a loss-to-the-Timberwolves short of making the playoffs in 2018, and with the young talent of Denver returning, it should be an exciting year for Murray and his squad.

Dillon Brooks


Dillon Brooks wasn’t expected to get many minutes as a second round pick for the Memphis Grizzlies last season, but as you can read here, he made the most of the time he got and quickly became a starter.

Brooks averaged 11 points a game for Grizzlies and played in all 82 games. He started in all but eight of those games and finished off the season with a 36 point game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dillon Brooks is projected to be back in the starting lineup, which should be no surprise. In Episode 32, it was made clear Brooks has an elite work ethic and drive to get better. It will be interesting to see what improvements he made to his game during the off season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t on the minds of many casual fans at this time last year, but John McAloon called it when he came on Episode 22 to talk about some of the Canadians to watch in the NCAA.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander took over during his freshman year at Kentucky, and played well enough to convince the Los Angeles team without LeBron James to pick him with the 11th pick in this year’s draft (well the Hornets drafted him, then traded the rights).

It will be interesting to see where Shai manages to fit into the rotation. Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley figure to start with the Clippers, with sweet Lou Williams takes his typical role as the sixth man, but Shai should be the next guard up. And on injury or Jimmy Butler trade could change everything.

But one thing is for sure. The 6’6” guard will be getting minutes, and has the ability make an immediate impact with his defensive skills and play-making ability

Andrew Wiggins

There are so many questions surrounding Andrew Wiggins and his game, and this year could be the year we get answers. Wiggins is an athletic freak and a scoring machine, but hasn’t been able to knock down the three ball consistently, and has been poor defensively.

Many thought last season with was going to be a big one for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team acquired all-star Jimmy Butler and spent some time at the top of the West, but when Butler got injured, the Wolves fell.

Now it seems Butler’s future with the Wolves is near an end, which will give Wiggins opportunity to be the second option once again. Wiggins is still only 23, and with the athletic tools he has, there’s a lot to get excited about. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, including a clutch buzzer beater against the OKC Thunder, but he needs to start showing more.

R.J. Barrett


I know what you’re thinking. R.J. Barrett isn’t in the NBA… yet. But with Barrett projected to be a top pick in the upcoming draft, many tanking NBA teams will be sending their scouts to Duke Blue Devil games to watch the young star.

So while Barrett isn’t on a pro roster, you can keep an eye on the bottom of the NBA standings to see where he might end up next season.