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NBA

Projecting the impact of Canadian rookies in the 2019-20 NBA season

NBA-Canada-Rookies
A historic Canadian draft class stands to make a historic impact (NBA.com Illustration)

When NBA training camps open in the coming days, 10 Canadian rookies will be suiting up. Among them are seven players with guaranteed contracts and plenty to prove as they begin their professional careers.

Plenty of these young players made names for themselves in Las Vegas this summer, but the grind of an 82 game season presents new challenges for each one of them.

As their rookie seasons approach, here's how each Canadian can make an impact on their respective teams.

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

After being selected No. 3 overall in the 2019 draft, Barrett undoubtedly has the highest ceiling of this group, as he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star and franchise player in a few year's time.

Barrett is gifted offensively both as a scorer and playmaker, two aspects of his game that were put on full display during his lone season at Duke. Because New York has a number of guys that can fill it up, conventional wisdom might suggest that opportunity could be limited for Barrett on that end of the floor but it could very well have an adverse effect.

MORE: Drawing pro comparisons for Barrett

Alongside players like Julius Randle and Dennis Smith Jr., opposing defences cannot simply key in on making things difficult for Barrett. The 19-year-old put up big numbers alongside two lottery picks at Duke, so he's familiar with picking his spots alongside prolific players.

If and when defences do key in on the rookie, he'll use his court vision to set a number of his talented teammates up to score.

More on what to expect in Barrett's rookie season can be found here.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans Pelicans

He might not be the biggest-named rookie in New Orleans, but Alexander-Walker certainly put the league on notice this summer in Las Vegas with a few big performances:

Date Opponent PTS AST REB STL FG FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P%
July 8 Bulls 23 8 2 3 9 16 .563 3 6 .500
July 10 Cavaliers 26 6 5 1 10 20 .500 3 7 .429
July 13 Heat 34 5 5 4 9 21 .429 5 12 .417
July 14 Grizzlies 14 5 7 3 5 23 .217 2 7 .286
Averages 24.2 6.0 4.8 2.8 8.2 20.0 .413 3.2 8.0 .406

Now he joins a loaded Pels roster that has both a blend of established veterans and a group of young talents that stand to develop alongside one another on a similar timeline.

MORE: Who has the best young core in the NBA?

At 6-foot-5, NAW is capable of playing both guard positions, something that can work in his favour with the amount of backcourt talent the Pelicans will have this upcoming season.

As a lead guard, he can push the pace, set players up and keep defences on their heels with his ability to score the ball. His shooting 40.6% from deep in the summer is encouraging for his ability to space the floor off the ball this year.

For more on Alexander-Walker, head here.

Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies

After winning MVP of the MGM Resorts Las Vegas Summer League and the championship game, it's safe to say that Clarke, the No. 21 pick, is an early favourite to be the steal of the 2019 draft.

In six games, Clarke led Memphis to the title with team-high averages of 14.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. He'll look for that to translate to the upcoming season for a Grizzlies team that begins a new era of basketball surrounding a young core that's headlined by this year's No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant and last year's No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr.

MORE: Projecting Ja Morant's rookie impact

With Jackson and Jonas Valanciunas holding down the starting frontcourt positions, Clarke will likely be an energy guy off the bench that can make an impact with his scoring, rebounding and rim-protecting abilities.

Head here for more on how Clarke could be the steal of this year's draft.

Mfiondu Kabengele, LA Clippers

If Clarke is the steal of the draft, Kabengele should be the top candidate to be considered the sleeper from this year's draft.

While the Clippers motioned to acquire Kabengele on draft night, it was the moves that the team made just weeks later that caught the attention of most, and rightly so.

But don't sleep on Mfiondu.

In four Summer League games, the native of Burlington, ON posted averages of 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on 43.8% shooting from deep. After winning ACC Sixth Man of the Year last season at Florida State, Kabengele stands to join a Clippers second unit that features back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams and Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Montrezl Harrell.

So now, Kabengele, a player familiar with finding his rhythm off the bench, will get to learn from two of the best reserves in the league, making an already scary second unit even scarier.

More on Mfiondu's path to the league can be found here.

Ignas Brazdeikis, New York Knicks

The second half of the Knicks' Canadian rookie duo, Brazdeikis looked much better than the prototypical late second-rounder this summer in Las Vegas.

He was efficient, averaging 15.4 points per game while shooting above 50.0% from the field and beyond the arc, and also did some dirty work, averaging over 5.0 rebounds per contest. Based on his performance in Vegas, Brazdeikis can bring perimeter shooting, hustle and effort right away.

MORE: Brazdeikis won't be overshadowed in New York

The abundance of wing talent in New York could make it more difficult for him to crack the rotation right away, but Brazdeikis' moxie and approach to the game would suggest that he'll find a way to carve a role for himself this season.

His scrappiness and hard-nosed play fits the DNA of this new-look Knicks team. Head here for more on his road to the NBA.

Marial Shayok, Philadelphia 76ers

It's been a summer of movement in Philadelphia, movement that's resulted in a glaring need for shooting.

Enter Marial Shayok.

Shayok was a late second-round pick (No. 54 overall) and will be on a two-way contract this season, but he could very well prove to be the answer to some of the Sixers' problems.

A 38.1% 3-point shooter over his four-year college career, Shayok looked smooth from deep this summer, connecting on 40.0% of his triples while attempting five per game.

In addition to his shooting ability, the 6-foot-6 forward looked more than comfortable driving the ball in the half-court and in transition; his ability to play fast is major considering the fact that the Sixers have been at their best when pushing the pace.

Shayok stands to have an impact with both the Sixers and the Delaware Blue Coats this season and if he continues his play from the summer, could see his contract converted at some point.

More on his summer performance can be found here.

Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder

After going undrafted, the 20-year-old Dort signed a two-way deal with Oklahoma City for the upcoming season.

With the roster moves the Thunder made this offseason, the Montreal native could find pockets of time as a backup guard in 2019-20. OKC has a number of talented guards that Dort could learn from, including all-timer Chris Paul and fellow Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

This summer, Dort showed some flashes of what he's capable of, looking strong off the bounce and in transition, which are two things he can immediately bring to the next level.

With a nice blend of strength and athleticism, Dort's body is NBA ready, and he's in a good spot for his game to follow.

Head here for more on Dort's summer with OKC.

Training Camp Invitees

Kyle Alexander, Miami Heat

Alexander, the all-time blocks leader at the University of Tennessee, will head to Miami's training camp as one of as many as six players competing for a two-way contract (per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald)

You can learn more about Alexander's journey here.

Oshae Brissett, Toronto Raptors

After playing with the LA Clippers in the 2019 Summer League, Mississauga native Oshae Brissett signed an Exhibit 10 contract with his hometown team. The contract means Brissett will participate in training camp with an opportunity to either make the NBA roster or join the G League's Raptors 905.

Brissett had an impressive showing with the Canadian National Team under Nick Nurse ahead of the World Cup but was sent home ahead of the tournament due to a leg injury. He could parlay his play and his familiarity with Nurse to a spot with the Raptors.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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