Four Canadians to watch in the 2022 NBA draft

O Canada, the kids just keep coming.

After a record 25 Canadians found their way onto NBA rosters in the 2021-22 season, the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft is likely to add more to the mix. Four Canucks have a chance to hear their names called during Thursday night’s draft, as Canada continues to cement itself as the second-most represented country in the league behind the United States.

Shaedon Sharpe, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard and Caleb Houstan are the four Canadians with a realistic shot of hearing their name called on Thursday night. While they have all taken very different paths to get here, all that matters now is that they are in a position to their lifelong dream of making it achieve to the NBA.

While Nembhard and Houstan are likely to go in the late-first or early-second round, Sharpe and Mathurin are likely top-10 picks, meaning they could become just the second Canadian duo to ever be selected inside of the top 10, and the first since Andrew Wiggins (No. 1) and Nik Stauskas (No. 8) did it in 2014.

With the draft fast approaching, here’s everything you need to know about the four Canadians in the 2022 NBA Draft:

Shaedon Sharpe, Wing, Kansas

Age: 19 | H: 6-foot-5 | W: 200 lbs

Sharpe is the mystery man of this draft, having not played competitive basketball in more than a year.

Sharpe exploded onto the scene at the highly-competitive EYBL club circuit in 2021. He went from unranked after one season as a starter at a US high school to the No. 1 high school player in his class after putting up 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 12 EYBL games.

Sharpe also has national team experience, helping Canada win silver at the 2019 FIBA ​​Under-16 Americas Championship. He was considered the top recruit in the 2022 recruiting class until he decided to reclassify and redshirt at Kentucky for the second semester of the 2021-22 season. However, because Sharpe turned 19 in May and is a full season removed from graduating high school, he was eligible to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft despite never playing a game of college hoops.

Sharpe has explosive athleticism with arguably the best vertical pop in this draft class, finishing above the rim and through contact with relative ease, allowing him to succeed as a cutter and in transition. The 6-foot-5 wing (6-foot-11 wingspan) is also a great jump shooter with a smooth release and a big bag of tricks, stopping on a dime or tough side-step and step-back shots on balance.

The problem for talent evaluators is that Sharpe’s effort level comes and goes, and he has never had to his playmaking or defensive abilities due to always being the star player on his teams. Sharpe has skipped some developmental steps, too, so there is less information on what type of teammate he is, how he performs in the big moments and how accepting he will be of a more complimentary role.

Sharpe’s floor may be low, but his ceiling is sky high, looking the part of the long, shot-creating wing that NBA teams covet. That’s why you will see Sharpe predicted to go anywhere from as high as No. 4 to late in the lottery. They don’t call him the mystery man for nothing.

Bennedict Mathurin, Wing, Arizona

Age: 20 | H: 6-foot-6 | W: 205 lbs

Mathurin is widely considered one of the safest picks in the draft, but that doesn’t mean the Montreal native who just turned 20 is done improving. In fact, Mathurin is a likely top-10 pick because he has gotten better every step of the way, moving from Montreal to Mexico City to Arizona and showingcasing his character and intangibles in every setting.

As a four-star high school recruit, Mathurin took the risk to leave Montreal and attend the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City, becoming the first Canadian to attend one of the NBA Academy. The risk paid off, with Mathurin impressing enough to get a scholarship to the University of Arizona, where he played for two seasons and racked up the accolades, earning the Pac-12 Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Tournament’s most outstanding player and a second-team All-American by The Associated Press in his sophomore year.

He averaged 17.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 45 per cent from the field and 37 per cent from three-point range. He also played for Team Canada at the Under-19 FIBA ​​World Cup in 2021, averaging 16.1 points per game en route to a bronze-medal finish, including 31 points in the bronze medal game.

Mathurin is another explosive athlete with great leaping ability who has improved as a ball-handler and facilitator. But Mathurin’s outstanding skill is his shooting, hitting 38 percent on more than 380 three-point attempts in two years at Arizona, knocking it down off the dribble if his defender goes under the screen and in catch-and-shoot scenarios. That gives him the ability to immediately impact games as a floor-spacer at the next level. Mathurin also has elite size and strength, playing everywhere from point guard to power forward over the last few years, allowing him to theoretically guard multiple positions.

The only real question is whether Mathurin will be able to create advantages at the next level or if he will always be more of a complimentary player, but given his continued improvement and shot-making prowess, it’s hard to bet against him.

Andrew Nembhard, Guard, Gonzaga

Age: 22 | H: 6-foot-4 | W: 195 lbs

Nembhard has had to grind to get to where he is today, playing four full seasons of college and at virtually every level with the Canadian program, starting with under-16s and eventually making the senior team at the 2019 FIBA ​​World Cup.

After struggling at Florida for two seasons, the Aurora, Ont. native transferred to Gonzaga and took on a bigger role, where he was a key player off the bench for the historic 38-1 Gonzaga team in 2021. He then emerged as the top perimeter option for a No. 1 seeded Gonzaga team in 2022, where he earned first-team All-WCC honors and won the WCC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award, averaging 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

Nembhard is a pure point guard with a pair of steady hands, able to make every pass in the book and unselfish enough to do so with regularity. In fact, Nembhard posted an impressive 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his senior season, leaning on his advanced feel for the game to know exactly where everyone is on the court and his elite size for his position to make plays for his teammates.

While he’s arguably the best operator out of ball screens in this draft class, the knock on Nembhard is that he relies on those screens a little too much, lacking the elite burst or athleticism to score in isolation. Also, Nembhard is more of a playmaker than a scorer at this point in his career, but his shooting has improved enough in recent years to make that less of a concern — he shot a career-high 38.3 per cent from three last season.

The team that takes Nembhard will get a hard worker who is ready to run their bench from Day 1. In a draft defined by uncertainty, Nembhard is as safe as it gets.

Caleb Houston, Wing, Michigan

Age: 19 | H: 6-foot-8 | W: 205 lbs

A consensus five-star recruit and one of the top players in the 2021 recruiting class out of Montverde Academy in Florida, Houstan has been one of Canada’s most high-profile prospects for a long time. Unfortunately, after forgoing his senior year of high school, the Mississauga, Ont. native underwhelmed in his freshman season at Michigan, struggling to adapt to the size and physicality of the Big 10, missing out on All-Freshman honors after averaging 10.1 points per game on 42.6 per cent shooting.

However, Houston was the No. 3 prospect in the ESPN class of 2022 recruiting rankings (before he reclassified to 2021) for a reason, with terrific size for a wing at 6-foot-8 (with something in the vein of a 7-foot wingspan) and elite shooting touch . He was the only non-senior to start on a stacked Monteverde roster alongside current Toronto Raptor Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham and Moses Moody.

He has already had an illustrious career with the national program, leading Team Canada in scoring at the 2019 FIBA ​​Under-16 Americas Championship, averaging 22.8 points per game. Then, in 2021, Houstan represented Canada at the FIBA ​​Under-19 Basketball World Cup, where he averaged 17 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game, leading Canada to a bronze medal.

Plus, Houston began to shoot the ball better towards the end of his season at Michigan. He finished the year hitting almost 36 percent of his shots from three, mostly in catch-and-shoot scenarios, sometimes on the move.

While it’s true that Houston lacks elite athleticism, strength and ball handling abilities, it’s hard to find wings with legitimate size and dynamic shooting. Houstan turned down an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine in May, leading to speculation that he has a guarantee from a team ready to pick him.

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