Vaughan’s Andrew Wiggins Named NBA All-Star Game Starter. Could Another Canadian Be Next?

Written By Jose Colorado on February 3, 2022
Canada Sports All-Star Andrew Wiggins

From bust to boom, Andrew Wiggins has shocked the NBA world.

The Vaughan native is an NBA All-Star Game starter for the first time in his career. Come Feb. 20, Wiggins will be playing alongside nine of the other best players in the NBA as voted on by the fans. That includes the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant (injury pending) and more.

Few sportsbooks would have predicted this scenario at the season’s start.

Previously, bettors wagering on Ontario’s only legal sportsbook, Proline Plus, could not bid on individual awards.

But beginning April 4, that is set to change with Ontario’s online gaming market finally set to launch.

Wiggins’ odds for most improved still a longshot

Considering that, here’s how some of the major operators – who offer markets on individual awards- currently have Wiggins’ odds for the Most Improved Player Award.

  • FanDuel (+24000)
  • DraftKings (+50000)
  • BetMGM (+50000)

If odds were available for an NBA All-Star Starter, chances are Wiggins’ would’ve been even higher before the season.

Wiggins finds ideal role with championship Warriors squad

For the vast majority of his eight-year NBA career, Wiggins has been an underachiever of sorts.

Yet his talent – 18 points per game career average – and physical tools – six-foot-seven, 200 lbs – were always apparent. Critics wanted more, though.

Naysayers argued a former No.1 draft pick (2014) should be capable of turning around an entire franchise. But, Wiggins isn’t that – even to this day.

However, the slasher is an ideal secondary or third option player on a high-level team. And that is exactly what he has found with the Golden State Warriors since his trade in early 2020.

Not only has the Ontario-native upped his defensive prowess. But his offensive averages have remained essentially unchanged.

Plus, playing with Stephen Curry never hurts national exposure. And with a few injuries to some perennial all-stars on other teams, Wiggins made it into the game.

Three Canadian All-Stars in NBA History: Who could be next?

Canada has the most NBA players outside of the United States, something that’s been true for many years.

But, to date, we have only had three Canadian NBA All-Stars:

  • Jamal Magloire (2004)
  • Steve Nash (8x All-Star)
  • Andrew Wiggins (2022)

Even the most optimistic fan would be hard-pressed to believe Wiggins’ selection will become a regular occurrence. But, circumstances are in his favour at the moment. Outside of Wiggins, however, a few Canadians across the league seem increasingly ready for the spotlight.

Here are a few options bettors should keep an eye on.

Jamal Murray (Kitchener, Ont.): Canada’s brightest star recovering from torn ACL

Jamal Murray seemed to be right on the cusp of superstardom – never mind all-star status – back in 2020.

His performance in the NBA “playoff bubble” caught national headlines as he averaged 27 points per game. Much like Wiggins, playing alongside a national media focus such as reigning MVP Nikola Jokic will help Murray’s visibility.

His Denver Nuggets also have many young assets to help vault them into championship contention.

Unfortunately, a devastating ACL injury has halted Murray’s progress of late. He hasn’t played since April 2021, making this year a wash.

But next year, he could be back stronger than ever. All reports indicate Murray has a laser-like focus on his rehabilitation. Bettors would be wise to take note for future individual awards.

He is already amongst the most accomplished Canadian ballers. Now, if he can remain healthy and regain his step, he could be Canada’s fourth NBA All-Star.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: top-notch guard but team success lacking          

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) is neck-and-neck with Murray when it comes to talent.

His 23 – 5 – 6 stat line (points per game – rebounds – assists) would certainly make the case. Unfortunately, playing on a bottom-feeder and a low-profile media market like Oklahoma City works against his favour.

Not to mention he is in the Western Conference – home of the most elite wing players in the league.

Needless to say, as evidenced by his opening odds at BETMGM for Most Improved Player, his progression has stalled a bit in his fourth season.

At the beginning of the season, he started at +700 odds. Now he’s considered a long shot at +25000.

The Thunder does have one of the more respected GMs in the game in Sam Presti. Simply put: he makes things happen.

And for OKC to take the next step, the team needs to add an all-star calibre player to its roster. Should that occur, SGA landing in the All-Star Game wouldn’t be out of the question.

Luguentz Dort (Montreal, Que.): Defensive Player of the Year potential

Luguentz Dort – or Lu Dort for short – won’t be making an all-star game anytime soon.

He might not even make one for his entire career.

But the Montreal-native is already amongst the best defenders in his third year in the league. Winning the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award isn’t out of the question. But it will be difficult as a wing/small forward. Voter bias tends to lean towards big men for this award.

A wing hasn’t even won the award since 1996 (Gary Payton).

Former Toronto Raptor Kawhi Leonard was the last forward to claim it back in 2016.

As OKC grows, Dort should get a chance to niche down and increasingly focus on his role. It would be a disappointment if he didn’t get a few nods for the NBA All-Defensive Team throughout his career.

But, a DPOY honour would be a long shot only a brave punter should risk.

RJ Barrett (Toronto, Ont.): Darkhorse for future awards

Perhaps the biggest dark horse of the bunch is New York Knicks’ forward, RJ Barrett.

The Toronto-native has been solid but not spectacular in his three-year NBA career thus far. Playing in a weaker Eastern Conference should help him in his All-Star game bid.

But being with the Knicks – an organization known for its comical dysfunction – is a wild card worth considering.

Given his “gunner’s” (scorer) mentality, Barrett could eventually fill a role as a sixth man for many elite-level clubs. Once there, he could find his place and get a crack at that category’s major award (Sixth Man of the Year).

But that will be years down the road. At 21-years-old, Barrett must continue to explore his abilities as a scorer and playmaker.

Steve Nash: From 2x MVP to Coach of the Year (COY) candidate

The greatest Canadian basketball player ever could be breaking new barriers again.

But this time, it would be on the sidelines.

As the Brooklyn Nets head coach, Steve Nash has kept his club towards the top-end of the Eastern Conference. This despite a slew of injuries and the ever-lasting drama of his unvaccinated star, Kyrie Irving.

It is unlikely voters will give Nash his due respect simply because of the talent level (when healthy) on the Nets’ roster. But he has managed the storm beautifully this season.

BetMGM has him on the board for COY at +2500 odds, tied for seventh-best in the league.

As a respected legend, Nash is sure to have plenty of future coaching opportunities. That should always put him in the mix to be the next Canadian to receive a major NBA award.

Raptors’ influence expected to be strong at NBA All-Star Game Weekend

With NBA All-Star Weekend less than two weeks away, Canadian influence is sure to be aplenty.

Former Raptor DeMar DeRozan will be starting in the Eastern backcourt. Meanwhile, Scottie Barnes is sure to be selected to the NBA’s Rising Stars Game.

He’s amongst the favourites to win the NBA Rookie of the Year (BetMGM +500, second-best odds)

However, the Raptors’ guard Fred VanVleet is in serious contention to be named an All-Star reserve for the East. He – and the rest of the basketball world – will find out on Feb. 3 when the NBA announces the reserves.

This year marks the NBA’s 75th anniversary season.

Photo by Jeff Chiu / Associated Press
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Jose Colorado

Jose Colorado is a British Columbia-based writer. He lives in Burnaby and loves sports, anime, writing, business and the occasional walk on the beach.

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