The Canadian Men's National Team still has work to do before they can think about participating at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but the hope is that they make their first appearance at the games since 2000 in Sydney, Australia.
Canada has never had more talent both in and outside of the NBA and with Championship-winning head coach Nick Nurse at the helm the expectations are and should be high heading into the summer.
Canada has to win an Olympic Qualifying Tournament which they're hosting in late June to punch their ticket to 2020 Tokyo.
Picking the roster will be tough, but picking the starting lineup is even tougher. Last year we asked some experts around the country who should Canada start at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
Things have changed since then, so we asked the same experts from around the country to weigh in on who they think should start for Canada in the Olympics should they make it.
MORE: Who should start for Team Canada version 1.0?
Carlan Gay - NBA.com ( @TheCarlanGay ): G : Shai Gilgeous-Alexander G : Jamal Murray F : Andrew Wiggins F : Khem Birch C : Tristan Thompson
Putting my bias Canadian hat on, I love how this isn't as easy as picking the five best Canadians anymore. I also love that you can make a genuine argument for guys who aren't even in the NBA ie Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer.
I had the privilege of calling two Candian games this past summer at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China and the thing that stuck out to me despite Canada not having their best player there was that the talent pool for this country is so deep. We don't have to rely on just picking 12 NBAers, Nick Nurse can truly pick 12 guys who are going to fit his system. Everyone I spoke to in China and that was covering the team closely said the same thing, Nurse isn't married to having 12 NBA guys he wants a team.
That being said I'm still rolling with five NBA players as my starting lineup. I think the only surprise for some may be the inclusion of Khem Birch. Birch struggles to find consistent playing time in Orlando so don't take what he's doing in the league this year as your barometer as to if he should be included on the Team Canada roster. Last summer at the FIBA World Cup Birch had to carry the team at points throughout the tournament. He got better with every outing and was able to adjust to the physical style of play that world basketball provides.
Birch not only should be apart of the team that is built this summer, but he should start. He didn't only earn it by stepping up and playing when most wouldn't. He earned it on the court by showing Nurse he can be a valuable piece to a team. Plus having a frontcourt of Birch and Thompson is pretty intimidating.
The three wings, SGA, Murray and Wiggins all provide scoring, playmaking and more importantly they can all play off the ball. The only thing this lineup may need is consistent three-point shooting, but there are seven other roster spots to be filled out that can figure that out.
Eric Fawcett - GatorCountry ( @Efawcett7 ): G : Cory Joseph G : Jamal Murray F : Andrew Wiggins F : Dwight Powell C : Kelly Olynyk
Some strong performances for Canada's young guns in the NBA and college so far this season have made this conversation a bit more interesting but I'm still sticking with veterans who have been through more of the FIBA and NBA battles.
A refreshed Andrew Wiggins is playing like the best version of himself in Minnesota this year and his length and athleticism are going to be necessary for Canada to hang with the big boys internationally.
Cory Joseph has as much international experience as anyone available to Canada and will be the veteran point guard they need while Dwight Powell and Kelly Olynyk are fire and ice in the frontcourt with Powell's intensity and explosiveness and Olynyk's shooting touch and finesse.
Jamal Murray is going to be the featured offensive piece with his ability to shoot off movement. As someone who can work with the ball in his hands or as a threat on the weak side of the floor, he'll be as valuable a piece as any starter and he'll be the player trusted to get a bucket late in a tight game.
Elias Sbiet - North Pole Hoops ( @Elias_NPH ): G : Jamal Murray G : Shai Gilgeous-Alexander F : Andrew Wiggins F : Dwight Powell C : Tristan Thompson
Rule #1 - Nobody is bigger than the team. If they don't eagerly want to play for the red and white, then Team Canada's leadership should not plead or massage egos. If Canada is serious about going and medalling at every opportunity and level then the team can do without entitled personalities.
Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andrew Wiggins, Dwight Powell, Tristan Thompson. That's my 5, yet there's a conundrum on the Wiggins vs RJ Barrett pick. I'll dig deeper into that in a bit.
Most people's initial thought is, "how are you not going to have Corey Joseph? He's the International vet and the most loyal to the National program?"
The answer is easy. Gilgeous-Alexander is a better option with great length and playmaking ability. He and Murray are interchangeable at the guard spots. Either can bring it up, handle pressure and create for themselves and others. The question becomes can Jamal be primarily off the ball or will ball dominance play a factor?
Clearly, the Wiggins we're seeing now has a better mental make up then the version of him we've seen in the past. There is more killer instinct now than ever before. Since high school, there was the question of whether or not he truly loves the game or if he was just working with his God givens. Today he is playing with purpose. This alpha Wiggins could be an excellent piece on the wing offensively and be a versatile defender on the opposite end.
That spot belongs to either him or RJ Barrett and since I prefaced by mentioning best available I go with Andrew Wiggins although Barrett's loyalty to the National Team is unwavering. Wiggins can not be denied, he's playing the best basketball of his career, maximizing on his potential and up in every statistical category.
Lastly, you have your elite role players in Powell and Thompson who can clean up on the glass and both capable of large offensive outputs depending on matchups.
This all Canadian NBA starting 5, in my opinion, gives Canada the best chance at attaining global basketball supremacy.
Jason Thom - NPA Canada ( @_jasonthom ): G : Shai Gilgeous-Alexander G : Jamal Murray F : Andrew Wiggins F: Kelly Olynyk C : Tristan Thompson
What a difference six months can make!
Let's start with my starting frontcourt, which remains the same and looks better than ever with Tristan Thompson's expanding game which looks to be in large part due to the work he put in after declining the invite to play with Canada at the World Cup.
Kelly Olynyk's international experience continues to be invaluable to Canada, which was evident once again after he went down with an injury during Canada's exhibition tour and the team simply was never the same again.
Now for my new starting wing. Andrew Wiggins is finding the form that everyone in Canada knew he had, but grew frustrated with his perceived acceptance of simply being 'good enough'. I really think this is due (at least in part) to a delayed Fred Van Vleet parenthood effect. With one year of being a father under his belt, the Wiggins we see now has a newfound perspective, confidence and clarity that translates from one's personal life to their work life.
The starting backcourt really speaks for itself. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's pace, length, play-making ability and improved three-point shooting makes him an obvious choice to politely take the torch from Cory Joseph as the starting point guard. His skill set meshes so well with Jamal Murray's explosive offence that Head Coach Nick Nurse would have a field day with the options at his disposal.
Now...we just need everyone to suit up in the red and white!
Drew Ebanks - On Point Basketball ( @DrewEbanks ): G - Jamal Murray, G - Andrew Wiggins, G - RJ Barrett, F - Chris Boucher, C - Kelly Olynyk
Wiggz is back folks as he has put the League on notice to start the season and is playing with Mojo again averaging a blistering 25.2ppg 5.2 rpg & 3.5 apg with a PER of 20.2 while doing it all for the T-Wolves.
If he wants to be there for Canada next summer he should be.
Murray is the guy you want leading Canada at point guard position although the #6ixguard Cory Joseph has done so much for the country and the SMNT. Can't go wrong with either one but the Blue Arrow will go to work!
The Knicks are pretty bad right now but one of their bright spots is the Canadian rookie RJ Barrett. Barrett has shown he is ready for prime time and his versatility at the guard/small forward spot would be hugely beneficial to Canada in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. He plays with a fire and desire that you can't teach.
Boucher has shown he's a player on the come up garnering the NBA G-League's MVP & Defensive Player of the Year last season which was a first in league history. His recent games with the undermanned Raptors has shown he brings versatility, toughness, length and shooting that will be a positive in the International game. Going out on a limb for Montreal's finest.
Kelly Olynyk, like Cory Joseph, has set the standard for Canadians suiting up for the National team. He loves playing for his country and but for an injury during an exhibition game, would have suited up for his country in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China this past summer.
Josh Eberley - HOOP Mag (@JoshEberley): G - Jamal Murray, G - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G - R.J. Barrett, F - Brandon Clarke, C - Tristan Thompson
Canada's turnout this summer was a catastrophic hit to the national basketball brand and an absolute tragedy, highlighted further today by the genuine list of options we all had here for this exercise.
Murray played well above his station last postseason, putting up numbers that compared favourably to position leaders like Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. He feels like a no-brainer to have running this team.
Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the top Most Improved Award candidates to start the NBA season and he's proving he can occupy either guard spot in Oklahoma City. Barrett isn't an instant sensation but his career has started in a promising fashion and there's no doubt he's a staple for Canada in the years to come.
Clarke might be my one out there pick but having a big who can rotate, protect the rim, and spread the floor is a necessity in today's game and Clarke fits that bill best.
Thompson has looked rejuvenated to start the year. He's a mainstay with the program and the best rebounder the country can offer, a natural fit to bookend the unit.
Wiggins is playing his way back into the picture, hopefully, the willingness to be involved is also on the horizon.
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