Canada Basketball could have some big names for Rio 2016 qualifiers

When the final selection is made in Thursday’s NBA Draft, there could be as many as eight Canadians with new NBA homes.

Basketball Canada is crossing its fingers that some of these young stars can help the men’s national team qualify for the Olympic tournament for the first time since Sydney 2000.

With a possible first overall pick in Andrew Wiggins, as well as two potential Top-10 picks in Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis (photo above), it is being argued that the 2014 crop of prospects features the most (and best) Canadian talent of any draft in history. Over the past four NBA drafts (2010-2013) there have only been a total of eight Canadians selected, with the most in one year being the three picked in 2012 (Andrew Nicholson, Kris Joseph, Robert Sacre). Even if only five or six of the potential Canadian draftees are chosen (as many pundits are predicting), it will still go down as the most Canadian-flavoured draft ever. While there are several Canadians that could eventually be key NBA contributors, the one that is clearly a level above the rest is Thornhill, Ontario’s Andrew Wiggins.

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For years now, Canadian basketball fans have eagerly awaited hearing Andrew Wiggins’ name called at the draft. Back in 2011, ESPN ranked him as the top high-school freshman in the USA and projected that he would find himself right at the top of the 2014 Draft class. Well, they were bang on with their prediction, as almost every mock draft out there right now has the high-flying Wiggins slotted to be one of the first three names called this year. Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett first overall, making him the only Canadian to ever become the top selection. Wiggins is hoping he can follow in Bennett’s footsteps and make it two straight years with a Canadian topping the draft board.

The best sign for Canada Basketball about the new influx of Canadian talent, is that almost all of the youngsters in this year’s draft have either played for or have committed to play for the national team in the coming years. And they will need all the help they can get.

Last summer, the Canadian team finished sixth at the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament, which meant they failed to qualify for this summer’s FIBA World Cup. As a result, they will need to have a very good result at the Olympic qualifying tournament if they hope to find themselves competing at Rio in 2016. National team Head Coach, and former player himself, Jay Triano, seems confident in the team’s ability to qualify, saying “The future’s going to be great.”

With the additions of Wiggins, Bennett, Ennis, and others, Canada Basketball has a much deeper pool of talent to draw from when selecting the team that will attempt to qualify for Rio 2016. Even if Wiggins, Ennis and the other 2014 Draft prospects can’t help Canada qualify or win a medal at Rio, they should be a medal threat by the time Tokyo 2020 tips off.

Here is an idea of what that team could look like, position-by-position:

Centres – Joel Anthony, Kelly Olynyk

Power Forwards – Tristan Thompson, Andrew Nicholson

Small Forwards – Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Melvin Ejim

Shooting Guards – Nik Stauskas, Andy Rautins, Brady Heslip

Point Guards – Cory Joseph, Tyler Ennis