Part two of our mid-season roundtable is here! Our expert staff tackle some more questions regarding Aussies in the NBA (AITNBA) as the season reaches its unofficial halfway point.
Let’s jump into it.
What has been your favourite moment of the season?
Matt Hickey: In regards to the AITNBA it would be Thon Maker’s first NBA points. Thon’s story is an unbelievable one, and it is a moment I’m sure he will never forget. The reaction of the Bucks crowd was also incredible – and illustrated that he will be a fan favourite for years to come.
Ben Mallis: With our Aussie guys, my favourite moment was the night I witnessed Ingles dunk a basketball in a real life NBA game! The man himself claims this is a regular occurrence, although I’m less than convinced (as is Patty Mills). Just like Hayley, #IWasThere to witness this monumental moment. NBA wide, I am in love with everything that involves Joel Embiid. The Process is gaining steam and my man crush is growing with every passing day.
Jayme Markus: Clutch Aussie performances. Watching Mills and Ingles given the opportunity to take clutch shots and knock them down has been pretty awesome to watch.
— NBA.com (@NBAcom) December 21, 2016
Joe Ingles out here dropping daggers from deep on the Lakers pic.twitter.com/9AHfO7oCSd
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) December 28, 2016
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 15, 2017
Luke Sicari: Thon Maker crossing up Chris Anderson.
Some will argue it wasn’t really a crossover, as it seems Anderson simply lost his footing and fell over. Those people aren’t fun. Maker has hit cult hero status in Milwaukee; plays like this, and his incredible work ethic, are reasons why the fans love him.
Kyle Standfield: The whole Thon Maker story has been incredible. From the moment he was drafted to his first three-pointer, over to the game where he crossed over on Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson. But it’s more than just basketball. The success he has had since escaping war torn South Sudan as a child and subsequently settling in Australia as a refugee makes me hopeful that others that may find success after coming from a similar situation.
Hayley Wildes: That is a tough one. For our Aussies in the NBA, I would have to go with Delly getting his ring.
The way his teammates reacted by showing so much love for him, displayed just how great of a teammate he was in Cleveland, and continues to be in Milwaukee.
Winston Zhang: I’m going with a funny one, when Patty clowned Jingles about his dunking:
— Patrick Mills (@Patty_Mills) January 24, 2017
Jokes aside, it really speaks to the camaraderie and confidence of our Aussies in the NBA ranks nowadays, so it gets me laughing and feeling good about the future of Australian basketball.
Is Mills deserving of a big contract offer from the Spurs this offseason?
MH: YES! I think Patty is due for a massive contract come this offseason. With the huge contracts that were signed at the end of last season I think Mills could sign a contract worth between $15m-$20m per year. SHOW HIM THE MONEY!!!
BM: Yes, Patty Mills is going to be one rich man. I explained why he deserves a substantial pay raise here.
JM: Abso-freakin’-lutely. The skyrocketing salary cap has meant every player who steps on an NBA court is getting a big contract and Mills is better than many who have already cashed up.
Bala gonna get paid.
LS: Absolutely. Like I outlined earlier, Mills has been a key cog in the Spurs’ machine. His impact off the bench can’t be measured in numbers and he is beloved by Gregg Popovich, so it’s likely you’ll see the St Mary’s product get paid.
KS: Considering Rajon Rondo was given a two-year, $28 million dollar contract this offseason by the Bulls, then yeah, Mills should get paid. Not only is Mills a much better player than Rondo, he is younger, too.
HW: Absolutely. If he doesn’t get one from the Spurs, he definitely will from somewhere else. He would be a starting point guard for a heap of NBA teams, and if he wants that I have no doubt he will be able to get it. It’s just a question of whether he wants to leave the Spurs to get that, or does he stay in San Antonio and play second fiddle to Tony Parker for a year or two more?
WZ: He’s my Aussie MVP, for sure he’s deserving of a fat new contract! With Tony Parker on the downswing, I expect Patty’s responsibilities to only keep growing from here. He might even work as a starter once Parker bids au revoir to the league. Get it done, R.C. Buford!
Should Simmons play this season or wait to debut in 2017-18?
MH: Considering the hype that is around Philadelphia at the moment I think it’s really important that Simmons plays this season. If they can end the season well, with all their youngsters playing good basketball, they will be able to take some serious momentum into next season. They are also only around six games outside the playoff picture at the moment, so who knows? Maybe Philly can provide us with something amazing and make the postseason, with Simmons playing an important part.
BM: Assuming the broken foot is fully healed, Simmons should make his debut this season. Simmons should be on a strict minutes restriction and monitored closed, but there is no benefit in forcing him to wait if ready.
Simply letting Simmons debut this season will be enough. It doesn’t matter whether he plays every game post All-Star or just a few minutes, as Paul George did in 2015 after his leg injury. All that matters is a bill of clean health when the off-season begins.
JM: Wait. Foot injuries involving bones are tricky things, and although I’m no doctor, I think the longer they are left to heal the better.
Come back next season and play when the Sixers will have a real shot at the playoffs. And it will give Simmons a chance at Rookie of the Year.
LS: If he is ready, go for it. No point holding him back. Not only will it give Simmons some experience to the NBA game, but it’ll also give the Sixers some data on line-ups with and without Simmons to study in the offseason. This only happens if he is 110 percent, though. Last thing you want to do is risk him.
KS: It may sound simple, but Simmons should play when the doctors give him the all clear to do so. If that happens in March, then play him. If that happens at Summer League in July, then so be it. The Sixers have so much invested in Simmons that whenever he debuts, I’ll trust that the organisation has made the right decison.
HW: PLAY! Everyone wants to see Simmons play and I am definitely in that boat. The pairing of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is going to be a joy to watch for many seasons to come, and there’s no time like the present to get that underway. The Sixers are being extra cautious with him, and there’s no way they will let him play unless he’s 100% ready, so only time will tell as to whether we see him this season, I guess.
WZ: This might just be some form of mild OCD talking, but I like having proper beginnings to careers, especially for a talent as exciting as Simmons, so I’m not hot on him making his debut in the middle of a season. He should heal up and get proper ready, before being unleashed on the league next year.
Which Aussie will make the biggest difference for their team in the playoffs?
MH: This is an interesting one because Patty Mills will no doubt have a big impact in the playoffs. However, I think Joe Ingles will make the biggest difference out of all of the Aussies. In what is a relatively young side, Ingles experience in big games in Europe and in international tournaments will be a great asset to the Jazz. Not only to help guide those without similar experience but to also be a reliable “go to” guy for Quinn Snyder when the going gets tough.
BM: Ingles is the answer again. His team looks like securing home court in the first round and simply put, the Jazz are a better basketball team when he is on the floor. I flagged this last week, but the statistics just keep getting better. The five-man unit of Ingles plus Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors Gordon Hayward and George Hill now has a net rating of 23.7. Look for that unit –and Joe– to be a force in the playoffs.
JM: Joe Ingles. With the Jazz playoff bound for the first time in years, their young and talented core are going to need the grizzled gluey play of Ingles more than ever when the intensity rises.
LS: I’ll say it again. Patty Mills. For all the reasons I’ve explained about him above.
KS: While you could certainly make the case for Joe Ingles, I’m going to go with Patty Mills here. Mills is the literal embodiment of what it means to be a Spur and is an integral part of this current version of the team. He has shown previously in both the Olympics and NBA playoffs that he is capabale of rising to the occasion and with Tony Parker only getting older, Mills may have to take up some of the slack at come playoff time.
HW: Patty Mills is primed for a huge playoffs series. With the Warriors penciled in by many to be a lock for the Finals, Mills and his Spurs teammates will be aiming to shock the world. When he knocks down his triples, plays solid defence and provides that hit of energy for the Spurs, he makes them that much more of a headache for the opposition. It’s not like he needs any extra incentive than a ring, but if he plays well come Playoff time, that pay day will be MASSIVE.
WZ: Andrew Bogut, because the Mavericks are gonna make the 8th seed and stun the Warriors 4-1 and he’s going to go for 20 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists every night.
Yeah, no. I’m going with Jingles on this one. Mills is going to be a big part of the Spurs’ efforts to upset the Warriors, and everyone already knows this. Opponents will game plan for him, as San Antonio’s key bench spark plug warrants that kind of attention.
Jingles though, is still a somewhat-unknown quantity. He’s obviously yet to play in the playoffs, and with a whole load of attention paid to the starrier names in the Jazz lineup, such as Gordon Hayward and George Hill, Jingles could wind up in a three point shooting paradise. And we all know he can splash them.
Outside of Ingles in the three point shootout, which Aussie would you like to see at All-Star Weekend and in what event?
MH: Patty Mills in the Skills Challenge. This event IS the San Antonio Spur – pace, agility, passing talent and shooting skill. The current way the competition works is “talls” vs “smalls”, so if they wanted someone on the other side, Thon Maker could be deadly – we’ve all seen that mixtape that put him on the map.
BM: Thon Maker in the 2018 slam dunk contest. Please do it, Thon!
JM: Thon Maker as one of the big men for the skills challenge. He has got all the main ingredients to win – athleticism, sick handles and a sweet stroke.
WATCH: Thon Maker drops Birdman with the step-back jumper pic.twitter.com/FRt6bxL4DB
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) November 30, 2016
LS: Thon Maker in the skills challenge would be entertaining. We have seen big men dip their toes into the mostly guard-oriented event, with varying degrees of success. However, Maker can shoot and handle like a guard and has speed, so seeing him weave through the statue defenders and throwing passes into the targets would be enjoyable.
KS: Thon Maker in anything! Seriously, Maker wouldn’t be out of place if he was in the dunk contest, skills challenge or three-point shootout. He already has a plethora of highlight jams and is shooting an insane 55 percent from downtown this season! Granted, his percentage is from a rather small sample size, but it would still be highly enjoyable. And that’s what All-Star weekend is about; having fun!
HW: Andrew Bogut in the Skills Challenge or Patty Mills in the three-point contest.
Bogut is one of the best bigs in the league when it comes to passing the ball and he would be awesome to watch in that event. He would definitely be an asset for the ‘bigs’.
Patty Mills is a tremendous three-point shooter and I believe he should be in this year’s three-point contest. He would knock down plenty of triples and provide plenty of competition to the best shooters in the league.
WZ: They should create a new event featuring ridiculous hairstyles. Finalists would include Marcus Smart/Jared Sullinger, Jeremy Lin, and Elfrid Payton. But we all know Aron Baynes would trump them all.