Tristan Thompson is heading into his second NBA season. (Getty Images)Though the future face of Canadian basketball won't take the court in the NBA for another couple of seasons, hoops fans in Canada have more reasons than just Andrew Wiggins to get excited about what lies ahead. Look no further than the NBA's 2012-2013 opening-night rosters as proof.
An all-time record eight Canadians are on NBA rosters to begin the season, with veteran Steve Nash, of course, topping the list. But while Nash's name is still the one the average basketball fan associates with the sport in Canada -- Joel Anthony and Samuel Dalembert are two other Canadian NBA veterans -- he's far from alone anymore with a handful of young players earning spots with NBA teams, and a handful more coming through the college and high school ranks.
Leading the wave of young Canadians in the NBA is Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson, of Brampton, Ont. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft and averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds with the Cavs last season. Over the off-season the 6-foot-9 Thompson worked mostly on getting stronger and according to a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer he added about 18 pounds of muscle, which should help him improve his inside game.
Cory Joseph is the only other Canadian-born sophomore and the second year point guard out of Toronto was also a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, 29th overall by the San Antonio Spurs. However, unlike Thompson who was selected by Cleveland in the midst of a Cavaliers rebuild, Joseph walked into an organization in San Antonio that's currently led by veterans, including point guard Tony Parker. Joseph spent a lot of the summer working on the defensive side of his game and is hoping his mentality on defence and intensity on offence will lead to more time on the floor this season. He averaged just over nine minutes in 29 games during the 2011-2012 season.
Rookies Andrew Nicholson and Robert Sacre also earned roster spots with their respective NBA teams. Nicholson, a Mississauga native, made a name for himself in the college ranks during his four years with the St. Bonaventure Bonies. As the team's leading scorer the 6-foot-9 power forward led the Bonies to their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in more than a decade last year. Though they fell in the first round of the tournament to Florida State, Nicholson had already drawn plenty of NBA interest and was drafted 19th overall by the Orlando Magic, a moment that YouTube has captured forever.
Sacre on the other hand was a second-round selection, the 60th and final pick, by the Los Angeles Lakers. The powerful seven-foot centre who played four seasons with Gonzaga will be in tough to earn big minutes early in his career with a Lakers front court led by All Stars Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, but Eric Pincus of the LA Times believes the Lakers are in need of a young, dependable centre coming off the bench and Sacre might be there guy.
Kris Joseph of the Boston Celtics is the other Canadian rookie set to make his NBA debut this season. The Montreal native was selected in the second round, 51st overall and seemed to impress Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in pre-season, tallying double-digit point totals in two of the Celtics last three exhibition games. The 23-year-old spent the last three years under Jim Boeheim with the Syracuse Orange where he averaged just over 13 points a game.
And the future of Canadian basketball talent doesn't end with those who've earned roster spots this season. Beyond Wiggins, who is projected to be the first-overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Myck Kabango, Anthony Bennett and Trey Lyles are names that should or could pop up in the NBA within the next few years. Kabango is a sophomore with the Texas Longhorns, Bennett a freshman with UNLV and Lyles is currently ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the 2014 draft class by Rivals.com.
So while the focus of the future may centre around Wiggins, what lies ahead for Canadian basketball seems much bigger than just one player.