Several important pieces of the Senior Men’s team roster for the Manila qualifier appear to be in flux at present, starting with 6’8″ Andrew Wiggins, considered by some to be Canada’s most important player. Wiggins, who recently discovered he will be coached by Tom Thibodeau next season at Minnesota, was quoted on April 12th about his participation this summer for Canada, saying he will “Cross that bridge when we get to it”, followed by a laugh according to NBC Sports. In the long run, being coached by task master Thibodeau, who has a proven track record of developing great all-round players – see Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson among others – and, more importantly for Wiggins, doling out playing time to players who defend and rebound, could be a catalyst to take that next step in Wiggins’ career. A potential generational-talent offensively, Wiggins has the potential to make a move into a front-end N.B.A. all-star under the tutelage of Thibodeau by getting his compete level up, especially on the defensive end and on the glass (career 4.1 rpg including 2.6 rpg on the defensive glass). Ultimately when all is said and done, Wiggins career will be judged by winning (45-119 .274 in first two seasons) and Thibodeau and playing for Canada can be two positive enablers to making that happen… Some NBA mock draft boards have Canada’s 6’5″ Jamal Murray going as high as #3; certainly the offensively well-rounded Kitchener native will have his name called very early on draft night (June 23rd, 2016 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn). Murray, who has displayed the ultimate in loyalty toward playing for Canada throughout his career – playing in international tournaments in some cases despite injury and fatigue – is justifiably uncertain regarding Canada’s Manila campaign, given that Canada’s training camp is likely to begin on or about June 10th and the first game of the FIBA qualifier on July 5th. With the draft basically in the middle of that time and the threat of a pre-draft/pre-first contract injury, Murray’s lack of commitment at this point is reasonable… Recall that last summer Canada was without key inside post 6’9″ Tristan Thompson, owing to a contract negotiation that did not settle until late into last summer. The potential unfortunately exists that both 6’10” Andrew Nicholson and 6’9″ Dwight Powell may also encounter similar circumstances. Both Nicholson and Powell are now restricted free agents and both are thus far without qualifying offers… Note that the NBA Finals are set to begin June 2nd and there are several Canadians participating in the playoffs on teams with strong chances of advancing to the Finals, starting with Cleveland and the aforementioned Tristan Thompson. If the Cavs, favored to win the East, make the Finals again, there will be conflicts with Canada’s training camp dates. A seven-game NBA Finals series would end late during the week of June 13th, giving participants very little time for rest and travel to Manila in time to play July 5th. Canada may also be affected by the apparent progress of the Toronto Raptors. While 6’3″ Cory Joseph has been outstanding in his role off the bench – scoring, distributing and defending very well – a prolonged advance by the Raptors in the NBA playoffs could also has some influence on Joseph, who, like Murray, has been among the most loyal Canadians playing for his country. Canada’s best overall player last summer in Mexico was 6’11” Kelly Olynyk however the multi-skilled big from Gonzaga has been battling a shoulder problem that has kept him out of Boston’s past two playoff games and his status is uncertain. Another loyal Canadian baller, how far the Celtics progress and more importantly how much rest his shoulder needs are other uncertainties for Canada going into the summer of 2016… On more positive notes, the progress of 6’10” Trey Lyles this past season at Utah (attached article intimates that Jazz veteran Trevor Booker may be expendable as a result of Lyles progress), bodes well for Canada. Lyles averaged about 6.0 ppg in 17 mpg as a rookie and is signed through 2019. Lyles is long and has excellent finishing skills; like most young players, learning the intricacies of team defending at the NBA level is the next step in his progression… As well, Milwaukee Bucks guard Tyler Ennis shook off some injury issues and had a good finish to his season – he is signed through 2019 also – so expect the slick guard out of Syracuse to be in the mix this early summer… Recall that last season’s twelve-man roster consisted of:
Usual starters: 6’11” Kelly Olynyk, 6’8″ Anthony Bennett, 6’7″ Andrew Wiggins, 6’4″ Nik Stauskas and 6’3″ Cory Joseph. 6’10” Andrew Nicholson (who came alive late in the tournament), 6’8″ Dwight Powell (who battled injury toward the end of the tournament) were key paint-area reserves. 6’6″ Melvin Ejim and 6’8″ Aaron Doornekamp were reserves at the wing spot. 6’2″ Brady Heslip backed up at the 2 spot and 6’3″ Philip Scrubb was the back-up point. 6’10” Robert Sacre was a little-used fifth post and 12th man.
Potential new additions to the mix include: Murray at the wing spot (questionable), Lyles (potential replacement for Powell/Nicholson if either/both don’t play) and Ennis in the backcourt.
Plenty of unknowns at present as Canada looks to qualify for Rio.