Oh, Canada! If you do not count the Toronto Huskies who played one season in the NBA precursor, the Basketball Association of America, there have only ever been two NBA teams in Canada and one of them lasted a mere six years before heading south to Memphis. The Vancouver Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors came into the league together in the 1995 NBA expansion. The teams have not had many highlights outside of the Vince Carter years in Toronto, and the current DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry era, and maybe if you want to stretch it, 1997-98 when Bryant “Big Country” Reeves had his best season and the Grizzlies avoid finishing last in their division for the first and only time. On the other hand, the teams have had a plenty of low-lights and of course a lot of bad NBA players have graced their rosters. Here is the list of the 20 worst NBA players who played in Canada.
20 20. Greg Stiemsma – Raptors
After averaging less than four points per game every year at the University of Wisconsin and then going undrafted at the 1998 NBA Draft, Greg Stiemsma went to Turkey, South Korea, and then Sioux Falls South Dakota before finally getting a shot with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2010 Summer League but never made it into a game. After another jaunt through Eastern Europe, Steimsma had another shot and finally cracked into the NBA when he was picked up by the Boston Celtics in 2011. After one season in Boston, Minnesota, and New Orleans he signed with the Toronto Raptors in 2014. He did manage to finally average 4.0 points per game during his season in Minnesota, but that was the highlight of his carrier.
19 19. DeJuan Wheat – Grizzlies
As a star at the University of Louisville, DeJuan Wheat was the first player in NCAA history to rack up over 2000 points, 300 three-pointers, 450 assists, and 200 steals over his four years playing for the Cardinals. As a senior he was named honorable mention All-American and lead Louisville to the Elite Eight of the 1997 NCAA tournament. He was chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 51st overall pick of the 1997 NBA Draft but ended up with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After a season of minimal playing time, Wheat signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1999. Wheat played in 46 games and averaged 4.5 points per game with the Grizzlies but did not return to the NBA and bounced around a variety of minor leagues for the next few years before retiring in 2010.
18 18. Ben Uzoh – Raptors
After four years playing for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Ben Uzoh went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft but ended up being signed by the New Jersey Nets as a free agent. He played in about half the games that season for the Nets and also saw some time in the D-League. In 2012, after playing two games in the Russian League, he was signed by the Toronto Raptors. His career highlight came in April of that season when he put up a triple-double against the New Jersey Nets. It was the first triple-double by a Raptor in over a decade. The following year he failed to make the roster of the Denver Nuggets and shuffled around the D-League for the next few seasons.
17 17. John Thomas – Raptors
As a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, John Thomas helped lead the team, as its captain, to the 1997 NCAA Final Four. Thomas was then drafted with the 25th pick of the draft by the Knicks and ended up in Canada after some time with the Boston Celtics. Thomas only lasted two years in Toronto before hitting the international circuit with appearances in the Dominican Republic, Spain, and China as well as the NBA D-League. He made his way back to the NBA for the Timberwolves and also played for the Memphis Grizzlies, Hawks and Nets before slipping out of the NBA and back into various international basketball leagues.
16 16. Ivano Newbill – Grizzlies
Although it sounds a little like the sort of name Bart Simpson would use in a prank call to Moe’s Tavern, Ivano Newbill was actually a real live NBA player. Well, maybe not even that as he averaged less than two points per game combined over three seasons in the league. After playing his college ball for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Newbill went undrafted in the 1994 NBA Draft but was signed as a free agent by the Detroit Pistons. He played in Detroit for a year as well as for the Atlanta Hawks before ending up with the Vancouver Grizzlies. He did manage to top two points per game over 28 games in his final season in the league.
15 15. Jimmy King – Raptors
A member of the famed Fab Five at Michigan, Jimmy King had an exciting career for the Wolverines, helping them to the Final Four in 1992 and 1994, losing both times in the championship game. As not quite the superstar of his fellow Fab Fivers, Chris Weber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose who all left school early for the NBA, King waited to head to the draft until he completed his senior year. He was chosen in the second round by the Toronto Raptors with the 35th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. King played one year in Canada appearing in 62 games and averaging 4.5 points per game. He ended up being traded to the Denver Nuggets the following season but only appeared in one game before being waived. He bounced around the D-League and internationally for a few more years but never made it back to the NBA.
14 14. Cuonzo Martin - Grizzlies
Almost all players who end up in the NBA are the best players on their high school team and usually the best player on their college team as well. Cuonzo Martin however was neither. He was only the second best player on his high school team behind St Louis legend LaPhonso Ellis. Then as a star at Purdue he was still only the second best player behind Wooden Award winner Glenn Robinson. Despite his second banana status he was selected with the 57th overall pick in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. He never played for the Hawks but was acquired by the Vancouver Grizzlies for the 1995-96 season. He only played in four games however. He got one more shot with the Milwaukee Bucks when he joined his college teammate Glenn Robinson for a few games in 1997 but wrapped up his career shortly thereafter with a total of 32 minutes played.
13 13. Shawn Respert - Raptors
A unanimous first-team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year his senior season, Shawn Respert was one of the best players in Michigan State Spartan history and the second all-time leading scorer in the Big Ten behind Cal Cheaney of Indiana. His number 24 has been retired by the Spartans. After leading the Spartans to NCAA tournament appearances in all but one year at the school, Respert was drafted in the first round of the 1995 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers with the eighth overall pick. He was traded during his second year to the Toronto Raptors and averaged five points per game over two years in Canada. He had brief stints with the Mavericks and the Suns before taking the international route and rounding out his career in Italy and Poland.
12 12. J.R. Henderson – Grizzlies
J.R. Henderson was so bad in the NBA that he had to move to Japan and change his name to J.R. Sakuragi. OK, so he was actually not THAT bad. He actually started out pretty good, attending ULCA where he helped lead the Bruins to the 1995 Final Four where they won the National Championship. After four years and a couple of All-Pac-10 first team selections, J.R. was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft. He only lasted a year in Vancouver, playing 30 games and averaging 3.2 points per game. Eventually he ended up playing in the JBL Super League of Japan for the Aisin Seahorse where he has remained for almost a decade. It is there where he became a star, averaging over 20 points and 11 rebounds per game in 2006. He eventually decided to become a naturalized citizen of Japan, teaching himself to read, write, and speak while changing his name to Sakuragi in order to speed up the process. So even though you could say J.R. Henderson was one of the worst players to play in Canada, J.R. Sakuragi is one of the best players to play in Japan.
11 11. Larry Robinson – Grizzlies
Despite not playing for a Division I college team, not being drafted, and being two inches shorter than the average NBA player, Larry Robinson still managed to carve out a 14 year professional basketball career and also claim an NBA championship ring with the Houston Rockets. The ultimate journeyman, Robinson spent less than half his professional career in the NBA with most of his time being spent internationally in the CBA and Spain. He debuted with the Washington Bullets in 1990 and spent time with the Warriors, Celtics, and Rockets where he won a championship in 1994. After being out of the league playing in the CBA and Spain for three years, he returned to the NBA for the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1998. He spent one season in Vancouver and did not make it back to the NBA until two years later when he was picked up by the Cavaliers in 2000. He played for the Hawks and the Knicks as well before finishing his career with two more seasons of international hoops.
10 10. Sean Marks – Raptors
Despite being among the best basketball players in New Zealand history, Sean Marks might also be among the worst basketball player to ever play in Canada. Marks was the first player from New Zealand to ever play in the NBA. He attended college at the University of California and was drafted in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. Despite underwhelming numbers and minimal playing time, Marks still managed to spend about a decade in the NBA. His first two years were spent with the Toronto Raptors where he played 13 total games and scored less than two points per game. He stayed in the league however moving to Miami, San Antonio, Phoenix, New Orleans, and finally Portland over the next 10 years.
9 9. Jason Sasser - Grizzlies
After starring for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in college, Jason Sasser was drafted with the 12th pick of the second round of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. He did not end up playing for the Kings but broke into the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs in 1996. He also spent time with the Dallas Mavericks before playing in the CBA for a year. In 1998 he signed with the Vancouver Grizzlies but only played in six games. He spent the rest of his career wandering the globe with stints in the CBA as well as overseas in Spain, Germany, and Portugal, as well as in the Middle East in Kuwait, and the Far East in the Philippines and South Korea.
8 8. Mamadou N’Diaye – Raptors
After he was discovered in the Sengalese Basketball Federation, Mamadou N’Diaye made his way to Maine where he played high school basketball before heading to the SEC to play for the Auburn Tigers. At Auburn he broke Charles Barkley’s career record for blocks and was a mainstay of the Tigers defense. The Denver Nuggets selected N’Diaye with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2000 NBA Draft. In January 2001 he was traded to the Toronto Raptors and made his NBA debut that season. He played two seasons in Toronto before skipping around the NBA for short stints with the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, and Los Angeles Clippers before taking his game internationally to play in the Euroleague, Hong Kong, and Israel.
7 7. Obinna Ekezie – Grizzlies
After four years playing for the Maryland Terrapins, Obinna Ekezie was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the 37th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. The six-foot-nine inch, 270 pound center was born in Nigeria. In his debut season Ekezie averaged three points per game over 39 games for the Grizzlies. The following year he moved on to the Washington Wizards and ended up playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and Atlanta Hawks before wrapping up his NBA career. He also played in Serbia, Italy and Russia during his career. His year in Vancouver was his best year until his final year in Atlanta when he averaged over five points per game in 42 games.
6 6. Eric Montross – Raptors
After scoring 10 points per game his rookie year, Eric Montross went downhill from there, his production falling consistently over his eight year career. Montross had been a superstar prospect, selected as a McDonald’s All-American in high school and starring at the University of North Carolina where he was a two-time second-team All-American. He helped lead the Tar Heels to the National Championship in 1993 when they defeated Michigan’s Fab Five. The Boston Celtics chose Montross with the ninth overrall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. After his successful rookie season his numbers dipped in his second year. Over the next two years he played for the Mavericks, Nets, 76ers, and Pistons. He spent a few years in Detroit before joining the Toronto Raptors where he averaged just over 2.1 points per game during his final two seasons.
5 5. Cherokee Parks – Grizzlies
Despite spending nine seasons in the NBA, Cherokee Parks never made much of a mark and averaged less than five points per game over his time with the Vancouver Grizzlies. Parks played for the Duke Blue Devils in college and won a National Championship his freshman year playing behind Duke legend Christian Laettner. Parks also helped the Blue Devils back to the Final Four in 1994 where they lost to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the championship game. He was chosen by the Dallas Mavericks with the 12th overall selection in the 1995 NBA Draft. After his rookie year in Dallas, Parks played two years for the Minnesota Timberwolves before joining the Grizzlies in 1998. After two years in Vancouver he moved on, playing for the Wizards, Clippers, Spurs, and Warriors over the next three years. After almost eight years, Parks came out of retirement to play professionally in France in 2011.
4 4. Robert Archibald – Raptors
Robert Archibald is another one of those players who was among the worst to play in Canada who is nevertheless one of the best players from his own country. Originally from Scotland, Archibald played his college ball at the University of Illinois. The six-foot-eleven inch center was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 31st overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Archibald played one season with Memphis before they traded him to the Phoenix Suns 12 games into his second season. In December 2003 he was traded to the Orlando Magic one week before he was traded again to the Toronto Raptors. Since leaving the NBA he has played in the EuroLeague and has won the FIBA EuroCup in 2006 as well as the Ukrainian Super League championship in 2008. He retired in 2012 after representing Great Britain in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
3 3. Rodrick Rhodes – Grizzlies
A three time high school All-American, Rodrick Rhodes played for the Kentucky Wildcats under coach Rick Pitino for three years in college. He transferred to the University of Southern California for his senior season when Pitino asked him to redshirt after his junior year. In the 1997 NBA Draft Rhodes was selected in the first round with the 24th overall pick by the Houston Rockets. Three games into his second year, the Rockets traded him to the Vancouver Grizzlies where he played in 10 games over the course of the year. He finished his NBA career with one game for the Dallas Mavericks in the 1999-00 season. He continued to play internationally for a few years in Greece, Cypris, The Philippines, France, and Puerto Rico.
2 2. Darrick Martin – Grizzlies AND Raptors
After being named a McDonald’s All-American in High School, Darrick Martin played four years for the UCLA Bruins ranking second all time in assists and steals for the school. Despite not being drafted in the 1994 NBA Draft the five-foot-eleven point guard played in the CBA before signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. He signed with the Vancouver Grizzlies the following season but only played in 24 games before heading back to the Timberwolves. He then spent a few seasons with the LA Clippers, two seasons with the Kings, and played in Dallas before going back to the Timberwolves and the Clippers for additional stints. In 2005 he signed with the Toronto Raptors where he remained for three years. Martin also played for the Harlem Globetrotters for a short time in 2003.
1 1. Lawrence Moten - Grizzlies
A star at Syracuse University, Lawrence Moten was the all time leading scorer for the Orangemen surpassing Derrick Coleman. He averaged over 19 points and four rebounds per game during his career at Syracuse and led them to the NCAA tournament three out of his four years on campus. Nicknamed Lawrence “Poetry In” Moten for his smooth style, he was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the 36th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. He played for two seasons with the Grizzlies averaging over six points per game before heading to the Washington Wizards where he only played a handful of games in 1997. He spent the next few years playing in the CBA and ABA as well as internationally, eventually retiring in 2006.
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