Paul George’s announcement certainly turned things around for Basketball Australia (BA). Earlier this week, the All-Star swingman confirmed his intentions to play for Team USA in Melbourne next August. It most certainly is a real coup for BA, after what seemed like a horrid month in the tabloids. In speaking with the Herald Sun, George stated, “I can’t speak for everybody but I would love to [go to Melbourne], and I would imagine most guys feel the same way.”
When news broke that Basketball Australia had reached an agreement to play two exhibition games against Team USA, it was met with obvious optimism. However, there were several factors which could have seriously limited the whole experience. One of these, was the actual team Team USA would bring Down Under.
USA is under no obligation to bring a full-strength team and many players might prefer not to make the trip down to Melbourne, for one reason or another. Injuries will also still play a role in the American team roster. With OKC’s superstar, Paul George verbally committing to the fixture, it seems like a potent squad may be brought out for the event.
This places an even bigger emphasis on the Boomers to put forward their best side possible, to show just how far Australian basketball has come in recent years. Go back a decade and Australian fans were pinching themselves they had a genuine NBA-caliber starter in Andrew Bogut to watch and support. It’s now 2018, and Australia could have as many as 11 players on NBA rosters in the coming season.
The game of basketball has arguably never been as strong in Australia as it is today, and there’s no reason not to believe in Australia’s ability to field a competitive side to face the might of Team USA. Let’s take a look at the team that could face the Americans in Melbourne next year.
Patrick Mills has been the unofficial captain of the Boomers since bursting onto the scene in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Indigenous guard has been a staple diet for Australian basketball for over a decade now, and nothing short of a season-ending injury will stop him from taking the court against the Americans next August.
Mills has carved out a nice NBA career for himself, and is entering his 10th year in the Association next season. His ability to score and handle the ball will be vital in the contest, while his three-point shooting is something which could be the difference between the two sides. Mills is a dead eye shooter and has shot 39% in his career from beyond the arc.
Mills’ last encounter against the Americans in Rio was a momentous occasion. Even though Australia lost the encounter, Mills came away with 30 points, including five three-pointers. There’s no doubt that Mills will be pumped for this encounter and it would be a brave man to back against him from lighting up again.
Dante Exum, fresh off a new 3-year, $33 million deal with the Utah Jazz, must be on cloud nine this offseason. Exum entered the last year on his rookie deal under all sorts of pressure, after suffering what looked like the second season-ending injury of his career, after disclosing his shoulder.
Thankfully Exum was able to return right before the playoffs and helped Utah make it to the second round thanks to some elite play from the Aussie guard.
Exum received attention in the playoffs, after some exceptional defensive plays against the former (Russell Westbrook) and current (James Harden) league MVPs.
Exum is also a dual citizen, thanks to his father, Cecil Exum. Expect Exum to be pumped up for this clash against his home away from home.
Is there anything more iconically Australian than the image of Delly, downing Corona tinnies following the Cavaliers 2016 championship?
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 20, 2016
Delly oozes everything Australian and will certainly be pumped for this encounter.
Delly’s on court production is also something which will see him garner minutes at both guard positions. His three point shot is something which the Americans will have to respect while his playmaking is likely only second to Ben Simmons, on this side. This was no more evident than in their last encounter with the US as Delly recorder a double double, including 11 assists!
Following his most recent outing for the Boomers against the Phillipines, Dellavedova went on the record stating that he “felt sick in his stomach” following the on court brawl. The Milwaukee point guard has unfinished business in the green and gold jersey and his NBA experience will be vitally important against the Americans.
There is a reason Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks have taken a chance on Ryan Broekhoff. The Melbourne native has just finished a season in the EuroCup where he averaged over 50% from three. No one in the entire NBA (who made over 20 three-pointers) last season shot above 47% from deep last season. Considering this, Broekhoff’s efforts in Europe last season are just absurd and it’s no surprise he was at last, given a chance in the NBA.
Expect a big year from Broekhoff and the Mavericks as they look to reassert their dominance in the Western Conference. Broekhoff is clearly the best option the Boomers have as a starting shooting guard. Any meaningful contributions in the NBA this season Broekhoff will only serve to cement his starting spot.
Broekhoff will also have a point to prove after a poor showing in their encounter in Rio, finishing with zero made field goals.
Goulding at this stage, is the only member of this squad who has yet to feature in the NBA – not that he lacks basketball experience. Fresh off a NBL Finals MVP award with Melbourne United, Goulding will be keen to excise the demons of his most recent outing for the Boomers, after he was targeted by the Phillipines during the on-court brawl.
That aside, Goulding is an excellent addition to this side and will pose a serious threat from deep for the Americans to contend with. Goulding finished last NBL season averaging a competition high 3.0 three pointers made per contest, while shooting at 43%. Goulding is the perfect man to insert off the bench to take advantage of opposing starters who are beginning to tire.
Goulding will be looking at these games as the perfect opportunity for revenge after his lacklustre performance against the Americans in Rio. Goulding only played eight minutes and finished with zero points, making next to no impact on the contest.
Had Ben Simmons not burst onto the NBA scene this past season, Joe Ingles might just have stolen the title for Australia’s best player. Ingles, after inking a new 4-year, $52 million contract last offseason, produced easily his best NBA season so far, as the Jazz shook off Gordon Hayward’s departure and returned to the playoffs.
Ingles was enormous in Salt Lake City. He finished the season with career highs in points, assists and rebounds, while setting a franchise record for most threes made in a single season by a Utah player. Ingles loves representing Australia and will certainly (injuries aside), not be passing up this opportunity. Ingles’ shooting and ability and playmaking will be crucial in this setting and could be the difference in the contest.
Ingles’ last appearance against USA in the Olympics was a disappointing one and one which should see him motivated to rise to the occasion in for these matches. Ingles finished with only seven pointes and came close to fouling out, finishing with five fouls.
What a year it has been for Mitch Creek. He started last season with the Adelaide 36ers, before moving to the German Basketball Bundesliga in hope of attracting the interests of a NBA side. He did just that and after a stellar year for both club and nation, Creek was awarded with a training camp deal with the Brooklyn Nets.
If Creek is able to sign a guaranteed deal in Brooklyn, it will certainly be the biggest move in his career to date. As a swingman, Creek’s position in this Boomers makeup becomes even more important due to his versatility. Although Creek lacks an elite three point shot, his ability as an all rounder should see him be able to contribute on both ends of the floor via other means.
The man, known in the Australian basketball world as “The Yank”, will be the key to beating the Americans in this encounter. Ben Simmons burst into the NBA last season, quite unlike anyone ever expected. After missing his entire first year in the NBA, Simmons made up for lost time and proved he is the next best thing.
Simmons cemented his place in NBA folklore, winning the Rookie of The Year award, in one of the most hotly contested rookie classes in history.
Simmons can do it all and is a bonafide MVP star already, at 22 years old. The rest of this squad will be required to play their part in this contest. But if the Boomers are any true chance of winning, Simmons will need to be at the centre of it all. Simmons is perhaps the finest best ball handler and playmaker the Boomers have ever had while his finishing around the rim is also elite. The Americans will know what to expect from Simmons and will guard him heavily throughout both games. Expect Simmons to rise to the occasion!
After a fairly lacklustre Summer League showing from Jonah Bolden, he will need to hit the ground running if he is any chance of cracking the 76ers’ rotation this season. The pedigree is there and if Bolden can put it all together, he has the makings of a genuine NBA player.
His lone season in Israel showed definite signs of this. Bolden finished the season as the team’s highest rebounder, something which should translate nicely into the modern-day NBA. Bolden’s also showed that his three-point shot is improving, something which will improve his chances of being able to play alongside 76ers team mate Ben Simmons in the green and gold.
The very fact that Aron Baynes is still relevant in the NBA is a testament to his work ethic, both on and off the court. After going undrafted in the 2009 NBA draft, Baynes tried his luck in Europe, before latching onto a deal with the Spurs back in 2013. Since then, Baynes has transformed his game to the point where he was seeing genuine minutes as a starter for the Boston Celtics in the playoffs this past season, as they finished 1 game short of the NBA Finals.
Baynes is right up there in the conversation for best Australian player currently. Each and every time he pulls on the Boomers jersey, he does not disappoint either. There is also a high probability that Baynes will be facing off against several of his Boston Celtics teammates in these games.
Baynes’ will be highly motivated for this encounter after his melt down in their last encounter in the Rio Olympics. Baynes shot a dreadful 0-for-5 from the field and in the end, only played 17 minutes, as Lemanis opted for a smaller lineup down the stretch. Expect Baynes to right those wrongs in this encounter and if his new found three-point shot is anything to go by, the Americans will have to guard him closely!
After the events of the Phillipines, in what was only his second ever outing for the Boomers, Thon Maker is surely highly motivated to right the wrongs of that ugly brawl. Maker made headlines around the NBA world for his involvement in that on court brawl with two (albeit ineffective) fly kicks and a resultant 3 match ban from FIBA.
The bans themselves will matter nought to Maker who would have missed the upcoming games due to NBA commitments anyway. But the publicity that came with his involvement is something Maker has spoken about trying to rectify in the future.
“I take responsibility for my actions knowing that they were a result of my desire to protect my teammates and myself,” he wrote.”I am deeply disappointed in the actions displayed during yesterday’s game against the Philippines.”
In any case, Maker’s on court ability to protect the rim and stretch out to beyond the perimeter makes him an ideal fit in this Boomers side. Pairing him with the playmaking of Ben Simmons is a pick and pop dream waiting to happen for Australian basketball.
Last but certainly not least is the man that started the Basketball revolution all those years ago when he became the first Australian to ever be drafted first overall. Andrew Bogut is without a doubt, the best Australian to ever play in the NBA and it would be a fitting way to finish his career in the green and gold, against Team USA, likely to feature several of Bogut’s old team mates.
Age and injuries have certainly brought about a quicker decline than Bogut would have liked. But as things stand, Bogut is without a doubt, still one of the most intelligent basketball minds in Australia. His NBA experience and his elite playmaking for his size should see him receive significant minutes in these encounters. Bogut certainly proved he still had it during their last encounter in Rio, finishing with 15 points and three blocks as he battled with Team USA’s big men all night.
Who would you like to see on the Boomers squad?
Team USA will face the Australian Boomers on Thursday 22 August and Saturday 24 August 2019 at Etihad Stadium as part of both teams preparations for the FIBA World Cup, to be held in China.