New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett will not play for Team Canada in the upcoming FIBA World Cup, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. He will attend training camp in Toronto and participate in team activities, but he will not play as he is recovering from a mild calf strain suffered in Summer League. Players are treating calf injuries extremely cautiously after a strained calf seemingly led to Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles tendon, so Barrett appears to be playing it safe ahead of his first season in the NBA.
Barrett is already a decorated player for the Canadian national team. He was the leading scorer on Canada's silver-medal winning team at the 2015 under-16 FIBA Championship, and has played on several other teams for Canada in international competition. His father, Rowan Barrett, is the general manager of the Canadian men's national team, and his godfather is Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash. Barrett is practically Canadian basketball royalty and seems to be a lock to play in the 2020 Olympics.
That team should be able to compete for a medal right away. Several of the best international teams over the past decade are beginning to age out of contention. Teams like Spain, which has been built around the Gasol brothers, and France, which has been built around Tony Parker, are going to have to adjust their rosters significantly in the coming years, while Canada has seen a significant influx of talent hit the NBA recently.
Besides Barrett, Canada will have several young stars on its roster moving forward. Their backcourt of the future should be led by Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Kelly Olynyk and Tristan Thompson give them a versatile frontcourt that should be able to handle most opponents. Barrett would figure to slot in as the long-term small forward for Canada, and their bench will be populated mostly with other NBA players.
Two teams from the Americas will be able to qualify for the Olympics based on their performance in the FIBA World Cup. Team USA would figure to be an obvious candidate for one of those slots. The others are a bit murkier. Brazil and Argentina have been powers in the past, but their best players are all now well past their prime. The Dominican Republic can sport a dominant frontline of Al Horford and Karl-Anthony Towns if both play, but their backcourt leaves much to be desired.
Canada should be in good shape to qualify even without Barrett. Keeping him healthy for his rookie season, and the 2020 Olympics, is a sensible priority. Canada seems destined to become the next true challenger to Team USA on the world stage, but they are going to need another year before they can put their complete roster on the floor.