FIBA OQT Scouting Report: NBA-stacked Canada not invincible

The 2016 FIBA Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament is about one month away. The National Team, Gilas Pilipinas, has been very busy preparing for this tournament. 

How about the other teams that will fly to Manila and compete against us? One of those teams will be Team Canada.

Canada is not as strong and as popular compared to the best North American team out there, Team USA (#1 in the FIBA World Rankings), but Canada is no slouch either. Just last year, Canada’s National Team competed in two international competitions. Team Canada finished with a 4-1 record during the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games and they won a silver medal while achieving the best ever finish for Team Canada in Pan Am history.

The other international tournament they played in was the 2015 FIBA Amercia’s Championship in Mexico City. The Canucks had an impressive competition as they went 8-2 and ended up with a bronze medal which assured them of a slot in the 2016 Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Canadians are only ranked 26th in the world according to the current FIBA world rankings. That’s only 2 spots below the Philippines who are at 28th. Still, the Canadians are a formidable team with more than a handful of NBA players on their active roster. After USA and Spain (maybe France), the Canadians are up there when it comes to players with NBA experience. Even their head coach, Jay Triano, has NBA coaching experience.

So, here is a preview of some of their players. Take note: Rosters used are from 2015 and the lineups for the Manila OQT could still change.

Anthony Bennett PF 6’8”
Aaron Doornekamp SF 6’6”
Melvin Ejim SF 6’6”
Brady Heslip SG 6’2”
Cory Joseph PG 6’3”
Andrew Nicholson PF 6’9”
Kelly Olynyk C 7’0”
Dwight Powell PF 6’9”
Robert Sacre C 7’0”
Philip Scrubb SG 6’3”
Nik Stauskas SG 6’3”
Andrew Wiggins SF 6’7”

Their current roster has 8 players who are currently employed by NBA teams. Only Doornekamp, Ejim, Heslip and Scrubb are not in the NBA. However, these 4 guys are playing professional ball in Europe or in the developmental league. Aside from these 12 names, their training pool also includes two more NBA players: Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Trey Lyles (Utah Jazz). They might still enlist their services to the Canadian National Team.

Despite having a bunch of NBA players, one name stands above all, Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wiggins is an upcoming All-Star in the NBA. He is a bonafide scorer plus his jumper is improving. Wiggins will be one heck of a match-up conundrum for Gilas Pilipinas. Our best perimeter defenders will have a tough time slowing him down and it might be unwise to guard him one-on-one. Thus, using zone defense against Wiggins might work especially since his jumper is still inconsistent and Wiggins is prone to make poor decisions with the ball. Now, it would be awesome if Wiggins will be the only headache for Gilas, however, Canada has more weapons at their disposal.

Apart from Wiggins, Team Canada can also depend on point guard, Cory Joseph, to provide leadership, outside shooting and rugged defense. Joseph was a key piece of the San Antonio Spurs championship during 2014 and he was instrumental during the Toronto Raptors’ recent playoff run. Moving on, another guy to watch out for is Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics. He is a seven-footer with three-point range and he can put the ball on the floor.

As a whole, Team Canada is an above average offensive team. They have multiple shooters on the team (Heslip, Joseph, Olynyk & Stauskas) and they have athletic guys who can dominate in transition chances (Powell, Nicholson & Wiggins). They generally utilize pick and pops/fades often plus they settle for jumpers. Of course, they isolate Wiggins and allow him to create every now and then but Andrew isn’t very good at playmaking just yet.

While the Canadians can be good offensively, they certainly have holes on their team. A couple of their weaknesses is interior defense and rebounding. The apparent absence of Tristan Thompson severely reduces their inside presence because even though they have big guys (Olynyk, Powell, Sacre & Nicholson), they are not known for physical play, rebounding and defensive intensity. Furthermore, the Canadians do not have a low post presence. Olynyk is more a stretch 4 or 5 who prefers playing face up while Robert Sacre is limited offensively.

Overall, this will be a difficult game for Gilas if they face Canada. Gilas Pilipinas should not be intimidated against Team Canada just because the Canucks have a lot of NBA players. Gilas needs to remember that Canada is not unbeatable. – By Rolly Mendoza

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