Year-In-Review: Isaiah Canaan
After picking up Isaiah Canaan at the February 2015 NBA trade deadline, the 76ers didn’t have much time - just 22 games - to obtain a thorough sense of what they got from their swap with the Houston Rockets. But, with Canaan in the fold for a full season this year, the Sixers were able to take a much longer look at the Murray State product.
What were some of the findings?
Three-point shooting has been a strength of Canaan’s over the course of hoops career, at both the college and professional levels, and throughout this past year, he proved to be a dependable, prolific option from outside the arc. The soon-to-be 25-year old knocked down a career-best 176 triples. His 485 three-point attempts were the most he’s hoisted in his career, too. On eight occasions, Canaan connected on at least 5 treys in a single game. He posted a season-best six three-pointers first on November 7th versus Orlando, and then again on December 16th at Atlanta.
“I think I did pretty good,” said Canaan back in April, when he assessed his third NBA season. “I bounced around, did a lot of different things. Just tried to do whatever the team asked me. Really just tried to be a two-way player that they needed me to be, play defense, do what I can offensively. Just talking to Coach [Brett Brown], I think I did pretty good.”
Canaan did indeed “bounce around” a bit this season. On October 28th at T.D. Garden in Boston, he found himself penciled in as the opening night starting point guard, a role that he occupied for the team’s first three games. Following that stretch, Canaan was used off the bench for three weeks, before he vaulted back into the starting group behind a career-high string of eight consecutive double-figure scoring performances.
While Canaan acted primarily as a point guard at the outset of the campaign, his skill set - especially based on his steady three-point shooting - lent itself to him being an effective shooting guard fit as well. He had originally assumed the latter of those two positions for the Sixers upon first being acquired from Houston, and it’s where he ultimately returned to play on a more regular basis beginning with the Sixers’ December 5th 108-105 home setback to the Denver Nuggets.
“Just to continue to get better,” Canaan said about the mindset he adopted for this past season. “I’m still young in my career. I still got a lot of things to learn. Each game is a learning curve for me, each practice is a learning curve. Just try to get better each game.”
Canaan seemed to hit his stride in the days leading up to the All-Star Game break, and then proceeded to carry that momentum into the final stretch of the season. Over his last 24 appearances, Canaan accounted for 12.1 points (36.1 fg%), 2.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. Amidst this stretch, he was the Sixers’ second-leading scorer, and converted 79 of 218 three-point attempts.
Canaan was particularly efficient in his final two outings, April 2nd against Indiana and April 5th versus New Orleans. Between those two tilts, he combined to tally 40 points, hitting 13 of his 27 overall shots, and nine of 19 tries from distance. In the Pelicans game, Canaan sustained a torn left labrum while attempting to blow up a screen. The injury would keep him out of action for the Sixers’ final four contests of the year.
“It’s tough for me because I hate sitting out,” said Canaan. “I love playing the game. Overall, the year, I felt I grew as a player. Just tried to continue to do everything I could to help this team out, just establish myself and let people know that I bring it every night, no matter the circumstances. Just looking forward to the next step.”
Which is exactly what he took this past season.
Season Shot Chart:
After starting a six-game November road trip with a 25-point setback to the Charlotte Hornets, the Sixers had little time to dwell on their one-sided defeat. The very next night, they were right back at it, visiting the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. In that match-up, Canaan assumed an instrumental role in providing his squad with a needed spark, notching four of the first nine points the Sixers scored during a momentum-changing 16-0 tear that propelled them in front by 17. Later, in the third quarter, he connected on three three-pointers to help the Sixers preserve their lead. Canaan paced his teammates with 22 points, and began a personal career-high string of eight straight games in which he manufactured at least 10 points.
Canaan’s 176 triples this season ranked 15th overall in the NBA, while his 485 three-point attempts stood as the 11th-highest total in the league.
Furthermore, Canaan’s three-point field goal total from this past campaign ranked fourth on the Sixers’ all-time list. Kyle Korver set the single-season franchise record during the 2004-2005 slate with 226 treys.
Not only did Canaan have a knack for knocking down three-point field goals, he consistently managed to do so in the face of contact. On seven separate occasions this season, Canaan drew an And-1 from behind the arc. In each of those instances, he successfully sunk the ensuing free throw. Perhaps the most memorable and clutch four-point play that Canaan delivered came in the Sixers’ upset bid of this year’s record-setting edition of the Golden State Warriors.
With the Sixers down six points, and 40 seconds remaining in regulation, Canaan pulled off an improbable shot. His back to the court, Canaan received a sideline inbounds pass from Ish Smith. Then, in one fluid motion, Canaan rotated about 180 degrees, and quickly released a heave from the corner that splashed home for a swish. As a bonus, after getting slapped on his right shooting hand by Splash Brother Steph Curry, Canaan toed the free throw line, where stroked a foul shot that cut the Sixers’ deficit to two, 105-103.
The seven four-point plays that Canaan generated and converted this season tied the total of Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard for most in the NBA.
Although Canaan had to sit out the Sixers’ final four games of the year with a labrum tear in his left shoulder, he wasn’t expecting the injury to interrupt his off-season training.
About his forthcoming recovery, Canaan said, “Shouldn’t take too long, and hopefully be back to normal.”
Canaan has a home in Houston, and intends to “go out there and relax, and enjoy the weather and the South.”
“I’m still getting antsy,” said Canaan about having to deal with lull in activity that sets in during the off-season. “I can’t sit down for too long. I’m going to try to do a better job of getting some rest this summer, and try to spend some time with the family, and then probably around July crank it back up and get going.”