Aussies in NBA: Unpacking 2023 free agency chaos
The madness from this year's NBA free agency has yielded major dividends for several of our Australians abroad.
NBA free agency period saw plenty of action in 2023, especially from an Aussie hoops perspective - possibly the most we’ve ever had. Several players found new homes, highlighted by Danté Exum’s return to the league, Patty Mills’ whirlwind jetsetting and Jock Landale getting paid.
2022-23 season averages: 12.2 points, 3.1 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 turnovers, 21.9 minutes, 74 games played. FG 52.1%, 3P 38.8% (2.7 attempts/game), FT 84.7%.
Years from now, we will look back on Danté Exum’s European adventure as the blueprint for responding to a career setback.
Forced out of the NBA after a string of injuries that repeatedly halted his development, the lanky guard went to work and proved his doubters wrong. He refined his three-point shot, free throw form and off hand, becoming a dangerous isolation scorer. Exum also took on more of a lead guard with KK Partizan, averaging a career high 3.1 assists and thus allaying any concerns NBA scouts may have had, about trusting him with the rock. His trademark athleticism hasn’t gone anywhere, highlighted by a lightning quick first step, and neither has his disruptive presence on the defensive end.
The Dallas Mavericks liked what they saw, and offered Exum a way back in to the world’s premier competition. He will be logging bench minutes behind the back court duo of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving, but the Mavericks don’t have a lot of depth beyond that. Jostling with Seth Curry and countryman Josh Green, Exum may well be the first man off the bench - in a sixth man role. It’s a high stakes situation to be in, given that Dallas only offered a one year minimum deal, but Exum could be a key point of difference in their playoff push. The Mavs faded towards the back end of the 2022-23 season and missed out on a play-in spot, so expect Dončić and Irving to lead a resurgence. There’s every chance Exum could boost his stocks with team success in a bounce back season.
2022-23 season averages: 6.9 points, 3.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 turnovers, 22.7 minutes, 46 games played. FG 43.5%, 3P 40.9% (4.4 attempts/game), FT 85.7%.
After Joe Ingles suffered a torn ACL in early 2022, at the age of 34, his long term NBA future was unsurprisingly brought into question. The crafty swingman has never been the most explosive player on the court, but brings a blend of high IQ, passing vision and shooting touch to the table. Even at this stage of his career, an ACL injury wasn’t going to rob him of the skills that underpin his game. Ingles made a comeback partway through the 2022-23 season, and became a key bench piece for the Milwaukee Bucks. As a high volume three-point shooter, he knocked down an impressive 40.9% of his downtown looks, and dished out 3.3 dimes per game in a secondary playmaker role.
Entering free agency in the 2023 offseason, it was clear that Ingles had hardly taken a backward step, despite his ACL tear and lengthy rehabilitation process. The Boomers stalwart subsequently signed a two year, US$22 million deal with the Orlando Magic, which will take him past the 2024 Paris Olympics and beyond. Given that Ingles will be turning 38 when this contract ends, one must wonder if it’s his last NBA deal.
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