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Canadians in the NBA draft becoming an annual tradition

Israel Fehr
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Brampton, Ontario native Anthony Bennett is projected as a top-five pick. (The Canadian Press)

There's a bit of a trend developing at the NBA draft.

When Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk hear their names called by NBA commissioner David Stern on Thursday night in Brooklyn, it will be the fourth consecutive year that a Canadian-born player will be selected in the draft and the third consecutive year that a Canadian will be taken in the first-round.

This is a significant development. Only three Canadians were drafted into the NBA between 2000 and 2009. The next generation of players are setting a higher standard for their country as the number of players and their basketball pedigree is continuing to grow.

Bennett and Olynyk enter the draft as well-known commodities, while Myck Kabongo, a five-star high school recruit just two years ago, loiters quietly as a potential second-round bargain and according to Yahoo's Marc Spears could be making a push to go late in the first-round.

Despite being limited by a shoulder injury, Bennett is regarded as the top power forward in the draft, although his relative lack of height for the position (he's listed as 6-foot-7), has many characterizing him as a "tweener" and wondering how he'll fit in bigger lineups. Even if he's a cross between a 3 and a 4, his deft scoring touch and voracity on the boards is what makes him a promising prospect.

Olynyk has been described by draft analysts as having the most polished offensive game among post players. However, questions persist about his defence and athleticism.

According to various mock drafts Bennett could go anywhere from Washington at No. 3 to Sacramento at No. 7. There's even less consistency with Olynyk. Some analysts have him going as high as No. 12 to Oklahoma City while others have him falling well out of the lottery and landing with Indiana at No. 23.

In 2011, Brampton, Ont.-born forward Tristan Thompson was picked fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, making him the highest drafted Canadian in the modern era. Fellow Brampton native Bennett has the chance to equal or eclipse Thompson's mark, but if he doesn't there's almost no doubt that projected 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins will do so next year.

There are more on the way. Along with Wiggins, who will debut for the Kansas Jayhawks next season, Canadians like Nik Stauskas from Michigan, Kevin Pangos from Gonzaga, and Khem Birch from UNLV are impact players for their college teams. Point guard Tyler Ennis (No. 20 on ESPN's high school top 100 recruiting list) and shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (No.44) are going to Syracuse and Florida State respectively and will be worth watching out for in 2013-2014.

Tonight, Bennett, Olynyk, and Kabongo will join a growing fraternity of Canadians playing in the NBA. It's not a full-fledged takeover but people are beginning to pay attention. Make room basketball world, Canada's talent is for real and it’s here to stay.

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