Oshae Brissett is one of 21 players who accepted an invite to the Senior Men’s National Team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament training camp. The neighbors to the North haven’t made the Olympics in men’s basketball since 2000. They haven’t reached the podium since 1936, the first year of the program. Now that they’re hosting the qualifier, Canada has a prime opportunity to brandish its basketball talent.
But the first order of business is cutting the roster down to 12 men. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. Canada had 17 players on opening night NBA rosters this year and Brissett wasn’t one of them. But by the end of the year, on an injury riddled Indiana Pacers team, Brissett got big minutes and shined in the play-in tournament. The 22 year old averaged 16.5 points per game and 5.5 rebounds when it counted most.
It will come down to what Head Coach Nick Nurse wants from his squad. There are a couple of confounding variables that only help Brissett’s odds of making the cut. For one, he used to play for Nurse in Toronto and the Raptors liked his game. There was no room for him on the NBA roster, so he spent the bulk of his time in Toronto as a two-way player, but they are the ones who signed Brissett out of Syracuse. Team Canada is also a little banged up. Raptors forward Chris Boucher won’t be at training camp. He missed 12 of the final 13 games this season with an MCL injury. Thunder guard Shae Gilgeous-Alexander was sidelined for the final 29 games of the season with a plantar fascia issue. Nuggets star Jamal Murray is notably absent from the playoffs due to a torn ACL he suffered in April.
Brissett provides a lot of versatility as a forward who can shoot from outside (42.3% this year) and play big when he has to down low. That’s why the path for him to make the roster seems pretty clear, and his odds seem pretty good. There are only 14 NBA players at training camp, so think of it as Brissett likely needing to be the 12th best pro at camp rather than a top 12 player in a pool of 21.
Off the bat, there are a few automatic qualifiers. Knicks guard RJ Barrett improved every facet of his game in his sophomore NBA season. Most importantly, he bumped his three-point percentage up by more than eight points at a higher volume. Dillon Brooks is playing the best basketball of his life under the bright lights of the playoffs, willing the Grizzlies to a competitive series against the top-seed Jazz. Celtics big Tristan Thompson provides the Canadians with imperative physicality if and when they make it past the qualifier. Warriors wing Andrew Wiggins is a staple of the squad, strong scorer and suddenly a plus-defender. Thunder guard Lugentz Dort more than doubled his scoring average with an accelerated role this season. Houston’s Kelly Olynyk is the best scoring big man in camp.
After that, the “B and C list” pros will likely fill out the roster. The Khem Birchs, Bandon Clarkes, Dwight Powells, Nickeil Alexander-Walkers and Cory Josephs of the world will make the cut. The only question is will Brissett play at that level.
Oshae is 22 years young, and playing the best basketball of his life. At this point its not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. If Brissett somehow doesn’t make the cut for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in 2021, he will only have to wait three years for another shot.