Canada has always been a huge minority country in the NBA, with Toronto being the only team north of the border and just a handful of Canadian players suiting up in the league. There have only been 18 total Canadian players in the NBA, four of whom are currently playing in the league (with two of them playing in the warm climate of Miami).
I bet you can't name more than two or three Canadian NBA players who aren't named Steve Nash or Rick Fox. However, after last night's draft, that's about to change.
Boom. Didn't see that one coming, did you? Cleveland's pick might seem like a bit of a reach here to some people, but Tristan is a serious baller who could help the Cavs right away. This pick also puts Canadian basketball on the map a little bit more, as the Toronto-born Thompson is the highest-drafted Canadian in NBA draft history.
The 6'7" power forward averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for Texas last year as a freshman. I think that TT will turn a lot of heads this year as he tries to be a part of the Cavs' rebuilding process. The fourth pick could have gone a million different ways, but by drafting Thompson, Cleveland picked up a guy who can score and who has the intensity to fight for all the wins they are looking to rack up this season.
Canada wasn't quite done yet after Thompson was drafted at No. 4. Fast-forward down to the penultimate pick of the first round:
"With the 29th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Cory Joseph from the University of Texas."
There are so many exciting aspects of this pick that I don't even know where to start. First of all, the fact that Joseph was even drafted in the first round is a pleasant surprise, especially by the Spurs, who know their way around a draft.
Second of all, Joseph joined Thompson in making history. With the selection of Joseph, this was the first time that two Canadian players were chosen in the first round of a draft.
The difference between this pick and the Thompson one is that Joseph is now a part of a title-contending team and could become the fifth Canadian to win a ring. Joseph is a solid, athletic guard who can help San Antonio off the bench, especially after they traded backup point guard George Hill last night and got forward Kawhi Leonard in return.
All in all, this draft was a success for Canada (except for the Raptors' selection of an Andrea Bargnani clone who can't play in the NBA for another year). As a Canadian, I can only hope that this draft opens up the doors for other Canadian athletes to realize their potential, get drafted and hopefully put the national team on the map. You know, the lineup of Nash, Thompson, Joel Anthony, Samuel Dalembert and Joseph doesn't sound too bad for next year's Olympics.