Amid intensifying hoopla for the upcoming Pan Am Games in Toronto, there is still one big question when it comes to one of the event’s premier attractions: men’s basketball.
Who will suit up for Team Canada for the first game July 21?
There has been incessant speculation on the men’s Pan Am roster for months, with reporters launching into the same query —“will you play this summer?”— every time a Canadian visited Toronto to play the Raptors this season.
Though officials from Canada Basketball, the national organization that puts together men’s and women’s teams to represent the country, declined to talk about the Pan Am roster Monday, at least three NBA players have confirmed they’re available to play: Kelly Olynyk (Boston), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando) and Anthony Bennett (Minnesota).
Andrew Wiggins, who won the rookie of the year award last week, has yet to decide on his Pan Am involvement, while San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson are also unsure.
Wiggins played the season’s full slate of 82 games, averaging 36.2 minutes, and Minnesota may want him to skip the Pan Ams to recover from such a heavy workload.
Both Thompson and Joseph will be restricted free agents in July, leaving them with no guaranteed deals for the 2015-16 NBA season.
The earliest they could possibly sign with their existing teams is July 8 when the league’s signing moratorium is lifted. If other teams give them offer sheets, the Cavaliers and Spurs could take up to three days to decide whether to match the offers, further pushing back their earliest availability.
Adding to the lineup uncertainty is the timing of the event in the summer basketball calendar. The Pan Ams overlap with the NBA’s summer league play. That could affect players like Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis.
On top of that, the FIBA Americas Championship, a qualifier for next year’s Olympics, is scheduled to begin Aug. 25. Some players may rest for that event by skipping the Pan Ams.
But basketball fans in Toronto would love to see first hand how Canada’s best players would do. Here’s a look at the possible starting lineup for Team Canada at the Pan Ams if everybody is willing and able to play.
Centre: Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics)
2014-15 stats: GP: 64 PPG: 10.3 RPG: 4.7 APG: 1.7
In short: The seven-footer from Kamloops, B.C., is returning to Team Canada after dressing for the squad last summer. The team went 5-6 on a European tour while Olynyk added to his wealth of international experience, having represented the country on the U-18 and U-19 teams before joining the men’s group at the 2010 world championship in Turkey.
Power forward: Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers)
2014-15 stats: GP: 82 PPG: 8.5 RPG: 8.0 APG: 0.5
In short: Thompson is coming off a career season as he heads into free agency for the first time. Charles Barkley called him the best offensive rebounder in the NBA. He would bring some winning experience to the roster, with the Cleveland Cavaliers expected to go far in the NBA playoffs as well as the bronze medal he won with Team Canada’s U-18 team at the FIBA Americas Championship in 2008.
Small forward: Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2014-15 stats: GP: 82 PPG: 16.9 RPG: 4.6 APG: 2.1
In short: The dream participant for Team Canada, the NBA’s rookie of the year would bring a truckload of star power to the Pan Am Games. He also has a solid history playing internationally; in 2012, he led the country’s U-18 team at the FIBA Americas, averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Shooting guard: Nik Stauskas (Sacramento Kings)
2014-15 stats: GP: 73 PPG: 4.4 RPG: 1.2 APG: 0.9
In short: The sharpshooter from Mississauga could fit in well at the two spot for Team Canada. He first dressed for the country in 2008, when he travelled to Argentina to play in the U-16 FIBA Americas Championship. He later played with the U-17 crew in 2009, when he netted 21 points against Bradley Beal and the American team.
Point guard: Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs)
2014-15 stats: GP: 79 PPG: 6.8 RPG: 2.4 APG: 2.4
In short: Should Joseph play, he’ll bring some solid NBA experience, having spent the past four years as back up point guard for coach Gregg Popovich on the San Antonio Spurs. He dressed for Canada’s junior teams in 2008 and 2009, while joining the men’s squad in 2011.
- With files from Doug Smith