With the NBA playoffs nearing their end, the attention of fans is starting to shift ever so slightly to the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, where the next generation of NBA players will be picked by their new teams.
On May 17, the NBA held the Draft Lottery, which determined the order in which teams will pick players. This year, the Orlando Magic will have the Number One pick, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings in the top four.
Toronto Raptors fans can surely remember last season when Toronto had the Number Four pick. After MUCH speculation on who they should pick, the Raptors selected Scottie Barnes with that fourth spot. As we all know, he turned into the Rookie of the Year.
So, basically, anything can happen on Draft Night.
If you’re not familiar with how the NBA Draft works, usually scouts and analysts will create “mock drafts” based on the best prospects coming into the NBA that year. Depending on what picks teams have, they will meet and interview with certain players to see how they would fit on the team.
Now, the mock draft isn’t set in stone, teams stray from it often (again, looking at you Masai Ujiri). Plus, undrafted players can make teams as well — think about Fred VanVleet, who went undrafted and is now an All-Star.
There is also an “NBA Draft Combine” which is basically a training camp for draft prospects. Players participate in skill tests, get their measurements taken, and are watched by teams that are interested in them.
Then, on Draft Night, teams make their official picks, and this year FOUR Canadians have been invited to participate in the Draft Combine.
Shaedon Sharpe (from London, Ontario) out of the University of Kentucky, Leonard Miller (from Scarborough, Ontario) who is still in high school at Fort Erie Prep, Bennedict Mathurin (from Montreal, Quebec) out of Arizona, and Andrew Nembhard (from Aurora, Ontario) out of Gonzaga.
The Raptors’ highest pick in the draft is #33, after they traded the 20th pick to the San Antonio Spurs in the trade that brought Thad Young to Toronto at the 2022 trade deadline. Will the Raptors repeat last year and draft one of the Canadian players like the did with Dalano Banton in 2021? We’ll have to see where these four players end up as the draft shakes out.
Let’s examine each prospect using this mock draft. (Disclaimer that mock drafts vary based on who makes them!)
Starting with Shaedon Sharpe (a Shooting Guard), who is currently projected to be drafted in the 5-6th range. Sharpe was declared the number one recruit of the 2022 high school class and committed to Kentucky in September 2021.
Sharpe then decided to forgo his college eligibility entirely and immediately declare for the NBA draft without having played a single game for Kentucky — and he is still projected 5th overall! Expect Sharpe to not only be a long-time presence in the NBA, but ALSO on the Canadian National Men’s team!
Next up is Bennedict Mathurin, projected to go 10-11th overall in the draft. Mathurin went to Arizona where he played two seasons with the Wildcats before declaring for the NBA Draft. He is a shooting guard/small forward who was named the PAC-12 Player of the Year in 2022.
Over his two seasons at Arizona, Mathurin averaged 14.8 Points per game and had a 45.6% field goal percentage. He could offer bench points to a team and eventually develop into a dependable shooter.
Leonard Miller is another player opting to skip college basketball and instead declare for the NBA Draft (though he is keeping his eligibility for now). He is the youngest player in this year’s draft at just 18 years of age. Currently, he is predicted to be drafted in the late 30’s, but could potentially go earlier if he catches the eye of an NBA team during the Combine.
Miller is an interesting prospect, opting into the newer idea that athletes don’t necessarily need a year or two at the college level before entering the NBA. While he would most likely spend a couple years in the G league if he does get drafted, he presents an opportunity for a team to invest in his future.
Finally, there is Andrew Nembhard, a point guard out of Gonzaga. He played his first two years of college basketball at the University of Florida before heading to Gonzaga for his final two years. He made the first-team All-WCC in 2022.
Nembhard is currently projected to be drafted early in the second round, and could provide depth at the point guard position to his future team. He has a career average of 5.3 assists per game and a field goal percentage of 44.6. He also brings National Team experience, and was on the Canadian Senior Men’s roster under coach Nick Nurse in the FIBA World Cup in 2019.
With the game of basketball in Canada constantly growing to new heights, it’s exciting to see these new faces breaking into the league. Players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett have made names for themselves in the NBA. Kia Nurse, Natalie Achonwa and Bridget Carleton are among the Canadians making waves in women’s basketball in the WNBA, with more prospects continuing to come up.
SLAM Canada has arrived!!— Kia Nurse (@KayNurse11) May 18, 2022
I am still in shock and so grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a cover of SLAM Canada Issue 1!!
The ❤️ for basketball in our country just keeps on growing and I can’t wait to see SLAM Canada bring the stories of our hoopers to life! pic.twitter.com/q5SiuKrPb1
Exciting times are ahead as the future of both the Men’s and Women’s Senior Canadian Basketball teams look bright. These young players entering the NBA and WNBA help grow the game in Canada and prove to the world that Canada is a BASKETBALL country!
Good luck to our four Canadians as they prepare for the NBA Draft on Thursday June 23 in Chicago!