Canada sets record with 16 national players on opening rosters for NBA season
New York Knicks NBA basketball drafts picks Ignas Brazdeikis and RJ Barrett pose for photographers during a news conference, Friday, June 21, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP / Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK -- NBA opening-night rosters will include 16 Canadians, setting a record for most players from a non-U.S. country.
A robust class of Canadian rookies will bolster what was already a strong contingent of national players in the league. Canadians entering the NBA in 2019-20 include RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis of the New York Knicks, Mfiondu Kabengele of the Los Angeles Clippers, Brandon Clarke of the Memphis Grizzlies and Nickeil Alexander-Walker of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Returning veterans include Denver guard Jamal Murray, who is coming off a breakout season with the Nuggets, Cleveland Cavaliers centre Tristan Thompson, Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and Miami Heat centre Kelly Olynyk.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks to build off his strong rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers. Gilgeous-Alexander was part of the trade that brought Paul George to L.A.
Khem Birch of the Orlando Magic, Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors, Dillon Brooks of Memphis, Trey Lyles of the San Antonio Spurs and Dwight Powell of the Dallas Mavericks round out Canada's opening-day contingent.
There also are four Canadians on two-way deals -- making them eligible to play in the NBA and G League. Naz Mitrou-Long (Indiana Pacers), Luguentz Dort (Oklahoma City), Marial Shayok (Philadelphia 76ers) and Oshae Brissett (Raptors) form that group.
The class of Canadians is part of a group of 108 international opening-day players from 38 countries.
The Mavericks have an NBA-high seven international players. The Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers each have six, while Memphis, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah and Washington each have five.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2019.