There has already been much a buzz about this generation of ballers coming out of the great white north.
Most recently, Canada’s senior men’s national team made a trip all across Europe the past two weeks, where every leading scorer from each game for Canada was below the age of 27.
They beat the teams that they were supposed beat, and put up an impressive fight against the class of Europe, including the #2 worlds ranked Spain.
Another thing that has become clear during this renaissance of Canadian basketball is that the greater Toronto area is leading the charge without question.
A quick glance at every Canadian roster at every level of the national program speaks for itself, Toronto has it locked down.
Not to be forgotten obviously is that both British Columbia and Quebec have developed some impressive players over the years including Kris Joseph of Montreal and Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, although he was also born in Toronto.
To put it bluntly, Toronto could field a men’s national team by themselves.
This city knows basketball unlike any other in Canada. (Photo: Rob Sinclair/Getty Images)
It is a mix of proper training, an incredibly diverse culture that has embraced the sport, a huge population (one in five Canadians live in the GTA), and a close proximity to the United States, has allowed easy travel for the younger generation to face the best competition in the world.
The results have been obvious: two back-to-back #1 overall NBA draft picks, and a total of seven Torontonians in the NBA at this moment. It’s so impressive, we can make our own top five list!
So in the next five weeks leading up to this brand new NBA season, we will be counting down the top five GTA players to pay attention to throughout the year.
This is not a “top five best” list per se. This list is more of a guide to players who we believe will be the most interesting to see progress throughout the season.
Some are playing with the expectations of entire organizations on their backs, others are playing to prove the pundits wrong about their value in the league, and some are simply just trying to find where they fit in the rotation during their rookie campaign.
Regardless of their situation, it will be a pleasure to watch all of these young men attempt to leave a mark the rest of Canada, and the rest of the NBA for that matter, won’t soon forget.
Let’s get to it!
Feb 23, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas (11) celebrates against the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Crisler Arena. Michigan 79-70. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
#5 Nik Stauskas
Weight: 207 lbs.
GTA high school: Loyola Catholic S.S. 2007-2008, 2008-2009
Drafted: 2014, 8th overall by the Sacramento Kings.
Born in Etobicoke but raised in Mississauga, Nick Stauskas will begin his NBA career at the tender age of 20.
Stuaskas busted onto the national scene as a freshman sharpshooter for the Michigan Wolverines in 2012.
At first, he was only seen as a deadly threat from beyond the arc during his first year in college, shooting an impressive 44% from behind the arc.
Then, during his sophomore season, he showed a tremendous growing confidence and developing basketball IQ.
This was never more on display then when defenders began to lunge at him while he received the ball at the three point line.
Rather than force up a contested shot, Stauskas would many times put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop, relying more on his length rather than his first step against his unsuspecting opponents, struggling to catch up to him after committing to a shot that never came.
Stauskas showing off some of his athleticism during his Sophmore season (Photo: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)
The fast moving Michigan offence gave Stauskas the chance to develop his pump and drive technique. He rode this two-step game all the way to 17.5 PPG in his sophomore year, 6.5 points up from his freshman season, and actually increased his three-point percentage to .442%.
In his mind, he was NBA ready.
The Sacramento Kings agreed, and drafted him 8th overall this past summer at the 2014 NBA draft.
Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Nik Stauskas (Michigan) shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Sacramento Kings in the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
But every rose has it’s thorns, and Stauskas is no different. His defence can be a little lacking at times, averaging 0.6 steals and 0.3 blocks during his college career.
His defensive issues were never noticeable during his Michigan days, where zone defence and up-tempo pressure by his more athletic teammates were the name of the game. His below average 6’7″ wingspan isn’t exactly something to be excited about either.
When Michigan did go man-to-man while Stauskas was playing, he was never assigned a top offensive threat from their opponents, so don’t expect any different when he’s in the league.
Unfortunately, no matter how smart you are on the floor, sometimes pure athleticism can trump all, such is the NBA for a guy like Stauskas.
Nonetheless, his game starts and ends with that three-point shot, the Kings didn’t draft him to be a defensive juggernaut, so don’t ever expect him to be one.
Despite his suspect defending, this Mississauga native can knock down three’s with the best of them.
Expect Stauskas on the receiving end of a few Rudy Gay drive and kicks this year in the Queen City, and an appearance during the Rookie-Sophmore game come February.
Mar 31, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas (11) shoots a three-pointer over Florida Gators guard Mike Rosario (3) during the second half of the South regional final game in the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
This kid is that good at shooting three’s.
Be sure to join us next week when we analyze #4 on our list, Brampton, Ontario native and current Pheonix Sun Tyler Ennis!