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Holly MacKenzie

Around the Association: Canadians making an impact to start the NBA season



Nov 29, 2023

And just like that, we’re a month into the 2023-24 NBA season. While sample sizes are still on the small side, the Canadians have been making their mark in the league in the first month of the season. From veterans to rookies, here’s a quick catch up on some standout starts to the season:

- All-NBA guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads the list, just as he leads the league in steals. His hot start to the season has helped the Oklahoma City Thunder to an 11-5 record, good for second in the Western Conference. Gilgeous-Alexander started the season on a high after leading the Senior Men’s National Team to Canada’s first FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup medal when they defeated the United States to capture the bronze medal this past September in Manila.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Shai put on for his country 🗣️<br><br>The pride of Hamilton earned <a href="">@FIBAWC</a> All-Star Five honours after leading 🇨🇦 to Bronze<a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIBAWC</a> | <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WinForCanada</a> | <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OneTeam</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Canada Basketball (@CanBball) <a href="">September 10, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

After averaging 24.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game for Canada in the World Cup, Gilgeous-Alexander has shifted his stat-sheet stuffing over to the Thunder without skipping a beat.The sixth-year point guard is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 30.4 points to go with 6.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, a league-leading 2.3 steals and just under one block per game. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-media-max-width="560"><p lang="zxx" dir="ltr"><a href=""></a></p>&mdash; OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) <a href="">November 25, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Gilgeous-Alexander has already topped the 40-point threshold three times this season, most recently scoring 40 points to go with 12 assists and three blocks in a 116-102 Thunder victory over the Chicago Bulls where he connected on 17-of-18 free throws. The 25-year-old superstar is shooting 53 percent from the floor and 93.7 percent from the line, both career-high numbers. Whatever the Thunder have needed from their floor leader this season, he has provided in abundance.

- Over in Minnesota, Wolves rookie Leonard Miller celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring his first NBA points, finishing a pass from Shake Milton to officially get on the NBA scoring list in Minnesota’s 119-97 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">first <a href="">@NBA</a> points for our guy <a href="">@LeonardMi11er</a> 🙌 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) <a href="">November 27, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Miller was selected 33rd overall in the 2023 NBA Draft after spending the 2022-23 season playing for the G League’s NBA-run development team, G League Ignite. The Hamilton native started this season on assignment with Minnesota’s G League affiliate Iowa Wolves, averaging 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in five games before rejoining Minnesota and logging time in their previous two games. During his year with the Ignite, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds, both team-highs, as he impressed teams around the NBA with his skillset.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-media-max-width="560"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Leonard Miller PnR rim protection + rebound <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) <a href="">November 27, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

- After a stellar summer with the Canadian Senior Men’s National Team, Dillon Brooks continues to be lights out from deep in the NBA. Brooks is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc in his first season with the Houston Rockets after averaging 35 percent shooting from deep in his career. The seventh year guard is averaging 13.4 points in 14 games for the Rockets.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐓&#39;𝐒 𝐓𝐎𝐔𝐆𝐇 𝐃𝐁 😤 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) <a href="">November 23, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Brooks was on another level during the World Cup, setting a new FIBA World Cup record for points scored in a medal-winning game as he dropped 39 points against the United States, shooting 12-for-18 from the floor and a ridiculous 7-for-8 from beyond the arc in Canada’s 127-118 victory to capture the bronze medal.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">“I&#39;m the best perimeter defender in this tournament, in the world, in the NBA.” 🛡️<br><br>Dillon Brooks is the Best Defensive Player of <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIBAWC</a> 💯</p>&mdash; FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) <a href="">September 10, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

During his NBA career, Brooks has earned his reputation for being a lockdown defender. In addition to his offensive outburst this summer, Brooks was also named the Best Defensive Player of the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup and he's brought that defensive-minded game with him to Houston.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">watch this team 𝙃𝙐𝙎𝙏𝙇𝙀 🤝 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) <a href="">November 20, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

- Shaedon Sharpe has put together a fantastic sophomore start to the season for the Portland Trail Blazers. The seventh overall pick in 2022 is taking full advantage of the opportunity given to him due to Portland's injury woes in his second NBA season. Sharpe is averaging 16.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and nearly a steal in 36.6 minutes per game this season. His numbers are up across the board with his increase in playing time and he’s made the absolute most of each minute played, showing off his talent on both ends of the floor with a series of highlight reel worthy plays already, including this huge block at the end of regulation to force overtime in a win against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this season:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">SHAEDON MF (MY FRIEND) SHARPE <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) <a href="">November 4, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

A couple of weeks ago, Sharpe became the youngest Blazer to reach 1000 points scored at 20 years and 171 days old. Through 17 games played this season, Sharpe has scored in double figures in all but one as he continues to show why the Blazers were so high on his potential despite Sharpe having never suited up in college.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">MAKING H1S7ORY <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) <a href="">November 18, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

- Over in New York, RJ Barrett has started the season as he finished the summer with Team Canada, averaging 19.5 points per game while shooting 44.6 percent from deep. Barrett has topped 20 points in five of 11 games, scoring a season-high 26 points twice, in two wins for the Knicks. The 23-year-old Toronto native averaged 16.8 points and five rebounds for Canada in eight games at the World Cup, topping the 20-point threshold four times, including a 23-point performance in the bronze-medal game victory over the United States where he shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="">@RjBarrett6</a> and <a href="">@CanBball</a> grab Bronze at the <a href="">@FIBAWC</a> 🇨🇦 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) <a href="">September 10, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Barrett had 18 points and seven rebounds in New York’s 100-98 comeback victory against the Miami Heat in their in-season tournament game on Friday. After trailing by 21 points, the Knicks outscored Miami 29-11 in the fourth quarter to get the win. With the Knicks trailing by two points late, Barrett converted a three-point play to move New York in front by one, 97-96, with less than two minutes remaining. The Knicks went on to secure the victory from there.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">WE SEE YOU <a href="">@RjBarrett6</a> 🫡 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) <a href="">November 25, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>