Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

NBA draft tracker: The Canadian invasion (8 items)

By , For the Deseret News

May 29, 2014

The draft is less than a month away, and teams are locking in on who the best fits would be for their style of play. The hype surrounding the incoming prospects has been just this side of ridiculous, thanks to the remarkable skills of players like Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart. Among some of the best prospects in the draft is a group of players from north of the border.

Canada is traditionally known as a hockey hotbed, but in the last few years the Canadians have produced some impressive young players who are already beginning to make names for themselves in the NBA. The 2011 draft saw two Canadians go in the first round with Tristan Thompson being taken fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cory Joseph going 29th to the San Antonio Spurs.

A year later, Andrew Nicholson was selected by the Orlando Magic with the 19th overall choice while Robert Sacre was the last pick of the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers. Last year's draft also saw a pair of Canadian stars hear their names called in the lottery, with Kelly Olynyk getting drafted with the 13th overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks before landing with the Boston Celtics and Anthony Bennett becoming the first Canadian to ever get drafted with the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With as good as the last few drafts have been for Canadian basketball, the 2014 draft should be a jackpot. Here is a look at the best draft eligible Canadians who hope to hear their names called in late June.

Note: all heights and weights come from ESPN.com.

1 of 8. Sim Bhullar

Bhullar is a mountain of a man who left New Mexico State after his sophomore season to test the NBA waters. At 7-5 and 355 pounds he is a sure presence in the middle of a defense and is a good shot blocker (3.4 per game). Bhullar also has a solid offense game when he gets around the rim and is a decent rebounder. As a sophomore, Bhullar averaged 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists to go along with his big block totals. In the latest mock draft on CBSSports.com, Gary Parrish has the San Antonio Spurs drafting Bhullar with the last pick in the second round.

2 of 8. Jordan Bachynski

Bachynski got better ever year he spent at Arizona State, and by his senior season he was one of the best defensive big men in the entire country. The 7-2, 250-pound center also developed into a serviceable offensive player who could really finish around the rim. As a senior in 2013-14, Bachynski averaged 11.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and four blocks a night as the Sun Devils earned a trip to the NCAA tournament. DraftExpress.com has Bachynski rated as the 62nd best prospect in this draft class.

3 of 8. Dwight Powell

Powell was one of the best players on a Cardinal squad that made a deep run in the NCAA tournament. He can do a little of everything on the floor. He can score from the block as well as from the mid-range and is an excellent passer for a big man. On the defensive side of the floor, Powell is a solid rebounder and is good in the passing lanes. As a senior, Powell averaged 14 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals. In the latest CBSSports.com mock draft, Matt Moore has Powell landing with the Atlanta Hawks at the 43rd pick in the second round.

4 of 8. Melvin Ejim

The Big 12 Player of the Year showed flashes of brilliance throughout an impressive senior year for the Iowa State Cyclones. Ejim can finish from inside and out and is one of the best offensive rebounders in this draft from the wing position. After putting up solid numbers during his first three years on the floor with the Cyclones, Ejim was a monster as a senior, averaging 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals. Matt Moore of CBSsports.com has Ejim going with the 53rd pick in the second round to the Minnesota Timberwolves in his latest mock draft.

5 of 8. Khem Birch

Birch is another big man who has great ability as a rebounder and a shot blocker. Even though the 6-9, 220-pound forward left UNLV after his junior season, he left his stamp on the Rebel program in his two seasons on the floor (Birch played his freshman season in 2011-12 for the Pitt Panthers, according to ESPN.com). Birch isn't a polished offensive player but is a beast on defense because of his athletic ability. As a junior, Birch averaged 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks. NBADraft.net has Birch being taken by the Phoenix Suns with the 50th pick in the second round in its latest mock draft.