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Aussies in the NBA: Exum's rocky, rookie road so far
The playoffs are inching closer, and teams are refining their play with every game. Bogut surprisingly, is possibly trending downwards in recent weeks. Patty is working towards 100%, and Baynes has relinquished his starter role to Tiago Splitter once more. What else has happened this week with our Aussies in the NBA?
Highlights of the week
First off, some great highlights from our guys, courtesy of Alistar!
Aren't you sick of these Curry-Bogut lobs by now? We have two of them this week - seriously guys, seriously. Jingles chimes in with a flying oop to Booker for the fast break jam, Delly gets on the bandwagon too, throws it up for Mozgov-mination hour. Lastly, Bogut takes matters into his own hands and annihilates Mason Plumlee. No regard for human life, none at all.
Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors)
The Warriors lost to Brooklyn earlier this week, despite Bogut's impressive 16-point (in a half) night. It was almost 10 points more than his season average of 6.4, and he certainly has been very efficient recently too, making a combined 11 of 13 shots over two games.
Despite these numbers, Bogut ended up with +/- numbers of -3 and -2 on these games, which was a bit strange as Bogut was the +/- king in early season.
Bogut's downward spiral?
I had a look at Bogey's ratings (benchmarked against the team's ratings) through the season, along with four production columns (points, rebounds, assists, blocks) and the results were, interesting. Bogut's impact is actually trending the wrong way right now (producing less points, allowing more points), but his numbers don't show any obvious skew.
It's an interesting thought. This feels like the team isn't as reliant on Bogut's performance to keep their season afloat, likely because of their devastating ultra small ball lineup, which has featured Draymond Green at the 5 along with multiple wing players.
We don’t necessarily want to, but we feel like we’re really good at it. And Draymond allows us to do that, along with Andre and Harrison. But Draymond’s sort of the key guy because he can play the 5. Looked at some numbers today, when Draymond is at the 5, our defensive rating is just off the charts, like 87.5 per 100 possessions. To give you some context, we’re No. 1 in the league overall, we’re at I think a defensive rating of 98 points allowed per 100 possessions.
When Draymond’s at the 5, that number is 87.5. It’s crazy. Small ball is the way everyone’s going and it’s good for us; we’re good at it. - Steve Kerr after the Warriors’ small-ball victory over Milwaukee: “Draymond (Green) has a lot of Dennis Rodman in him”
At the same time, you have to wonder why the numbers are dipping for Bogut. Slow legs? Recovery from injury? Something to keep in mind for now. Bogut remains a defensive force against the Mavericks in their latest clash, observe how he denied Dirk's shot solidly.
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Highlights and Lowlights
ICYMI: Bogut had a poster moment (read: got dunked on) by Brandon Bass, during the Warriors' visit to Boston. Not that it mattered - the Dubs came back from a 16-point deficit to take the game.
Bogut talks road travel with Yahoo!
Bill Fink of Yahoo! Travel interviewed Bogut recently, and Bogut had a few quick quips on how plane seats and beds were built too small for his frame, along with a lack of sleep.
Aron Baynes (San Antonio Spurs)
With Tiago Splitter's return to the starting lineup, Baynes played only a combined 24 minutes this week. He scored 4 points, along with four rebounds, one assist and a steal against the Kings, and only had 2 points, 2 rebounds against Denver. More encouragingly, most of his shots were taken in the paint.
Take for example, this two-handed hook shot over DeMarcus Cousins on the break. Ungainly, even awkward - but it works!
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It doesn't seem likely that Pop will continue to start Baynes, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Baynes' maturation over the course of this season will make him a potent weapon when the playoffs arrive, and playing against the opposing bench will give him better opportunities. Mark Travis from Caller.com discussed Baynes' impact on the team pretty well, worth a read and ten minutes of your day.
Cameron Bairstow (Chicago Bulls)
Bairstow was a DNP this week.
Dante Exum (Utah Jazz)
(Be warned, incoming rant.)
Amar of SLC Dunk also pointed out a pressing need for Exum to drive more, something I've been saying for a while.
According to NBA Stats, Exum did not attempt a free throw in his last 22 games before their latest game against the Sixers. There's a lot to be said about bad shooting nights, but you have to make up for it somehow, and freebies at the line help.
Good things happen when Exum drives. For example, he drives here and finds Gobert for the bucket.
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One recurring theme through this season has been Exum's off-ball role as the shooter. There have been improvements, but the real work will likely begin in the off-season, when he has time to work on his shot at the gym, instead of a parade of endless matches.
Exum is more of a set shot guy than a pull up shooter at this stage, so a lot of the makes come from having wide-open, set 3s that give ample time for the setup.
For example, look at this shot where Avery Bradley left him open at the corner. Hayward probed the Boston defense, found Exum waiting and sent the ball over.
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Or this one, where Exum was left wide open at the top of the key, after Conley was drawn away by Hayward.
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Contested, missed threes
Against contested shots, the 6ft 6in Exum hasn't done as well, not even against shorter defenders like Marcus Smart (6ft 3in), Mike Conley (6ft 1in) and Isaiah Thomas (5ft 9in), especially when he takes a pull up shot.
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Marcus Smart wasn't exactly running hard at Exum, in these two sequences.
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Gobert smartly found Exum wide open for a shot here, but Conley was running out to disrupt the shot. [gfycat data_id="SevereImprobableCrustacean" data_autoplay=false data_expand=true]
One silver lining over all these misses - all of the shots hit the front rim, they were falling straight. This is easily fixed, and is not a matter of horrible technique - who remembers MKG's jump shot from last season?
Be like Conley
In a lot of ways, Conley is the kind of point guard I'd like to see Exum become. Crafty on offense, knows to get his guys the ball, and plays smart on defense too.
For example, look at how Conley observed the floor while bringing the ball upcourt, and noticed the defense not being set up. He immediately charged in and got an easy layup at the rim. [gfycat data_id="LargeSecondaryFlatcoatretriever" data_autoplay=false data_expand=true]
This too, is a trick I would love to see Exum add to his arsenal. Instead of going straight up for the shot, Conley fakes, dribbles in but does not charge right to the rim, where the Stifle Tower would have likely sent him home. He gauges the help defense, drives by Ingles and opts for a floater over Gobert instead. [gfycat data_id="JealousConcernedHoneybee" data_autoplay=false data_expand=true]
The Aussie combo strikes again!
Love watching the guys play off each other. See how Exum drives baseline and finds Jingles for a corner 3. [gfycat data_id="GargantuanGlisteningAoudad" data_autoplay=true data_expand=true]
Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz)
by Hayley Wildes
Joe Ingles had a positive week of basketball. Ingles helped the Jazz to a 3-1 record over that span, highlighted by a big win over the west powerhouse that is Memphis. Each and every game sees Ingles look more comfortable and confident in his environment and himself.
Ingles started the week off strongly with an all-round game against the putrid Nuggets. Utah came away with a 22 point victory and Ingles filled the stat sheet with 7 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and no turnovers. His ability to dish the ball to the open man is needed for the Jazz, especially with Dante Exum struggling to find consistency.
Unfortunately Ingles was unable to follow up his great game against Denver, as he was sent back to Earth with an average game against Milwaukee. The Jazz came away with the win, but Ingles was unable to get into the game. He recorded 2 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound and 4 turnovers. His overall game may have been a disappointment, but he did supply a highlight alley-oop pass to Trevor Booker.
The most impressive win for the week was getting past the Grizzlies in Memphis. Ingles played a big role in the win and showed further improvement as he was aggressive and confident when shooting the three ball. The aggressiveness was highlighted by this drive past Jeff Green.
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Ingles finished with a +/- of +18 for the game in 34 minutes of game time.
Another highlight of Ingles’ increased aggression when driving to the basket came against the Celtics. Just as Boston was making a run and getting some breathing space, Ingles took it upon himself to drive past Evan Turner and get the bucket and draw the foul. The celebration certainly needs some work Joe! He hit the free throw too, his first since the All-Star break.
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Ingles caught up with DJ and PK on ‘The Zone’ for his weekly chat. He shared his thoughts on the last second loss to the Celtics, revealed he doesn’t have much time to enjoy the cities he sees, and just how much stress his body is under.
Ingles struggled to take the frustrating loss against the Celtics; “This one hurt a little bit, it probably hurt a little bit more as well because of the last time we played them, we kind of owed them one… You’ve got to move on pretty quick. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
When asked if he enjoys the current road trip that includes historic sites such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York, Ingles replied with a very honest answer.
“I don’t do anything. I lived in Barcelona for 3 years and didn’t do one tourist thing. Didn’t see the city. It’s just not really me. It’s more a matter of the time and getting rest.”
He will make time to catch up with Philadelphia coach, Brett Brown though. “I’ll see my old coach, he was our Australian coach for 4 years, so I might catch up with him for a quick bite to eat, but that will be about it.”
“Pretty much destroying it. You kind of get used to being tired.”
This was Ingles’ response when asked what the demands of NBA basketball are doing to his body. Once again, points for honesty from Ingles.
Ingles’ continual improvement is a driving factor in Utah’s 6-2 record since the All-Star break. Watch this space as he strives to finish off the season strongly.
Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers)
by Alistar Sullivan
The Cavs have been rolling since the All Star-Break. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for our loveable Aussie Matthew Dellavedova.
Since the All-Star break, Delly has been in a huge shooting slump. Not only has his shooting declined, his overall game has also suffered, especially when running the offense. This was displayed clearly against Houston, when Delly got the opportunity to start at point guard in lieu of the injured Kyrie Irving.
Matthew began the game looking confident, but seemed to fade from the second quarter as he lost confidence in himself and others. Lebron took control after half-time, due to Delly's bad passing and indecision.
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Matthew was given another opportunity two nights later against a small Boston Celtics outfit, and played most of the second half because of a blow-out lead that the Cavs developed. That didn't go too well for Delly, as he shot 0/6 from the field and 0/3 from deep to have his worst shooting night of his career. The only positives out of the 25 minutes he played were his 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
Delly rounded the week out with a solid 15 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks. He had 5 points overall, hitting 1 of his 3 attempts from deep, courtesy of a Kyrie Irving kick-out pass. Despite what looked like a poor night of play, Delly was locked in and played aggressive full-court defense against Dennis "Baby Rondo" Schröder.
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As we close in on playoff time, teams are really making a push for survival, Delly needs to really focus in on his ability to spread the floor and make it hard as possible for the defense with pressure and intensity. Hopefully time is not an enemy and Delly can get some of his rhythm back.
Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)
by Alistar Sullivan
The Spurs are hanging on for the last few spots in the West, making a playoff run and looking to find the perfect chemistry the defending champions had last year to peak at the right time.
Patty is looking for chemistry of his own, similar to what he brought to the team last year in the postseason.
Patty's been searching for that stroke and has been more aggressive lately on the offensive end. Although it hasn't really made a significant difference in his numbers it's a welcome attribute to see back in his game.
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One thing that's growing in confidence is the Aussie combo of Mills and Baynes.
This season, Baynes and Mills have really worked hard together when they are both on the floor, and it's working well. Earlier in the year, Baynes was getting less playing time on the court and usually on the bench when Patty replacing Parker. Lately, Popovich seems to have noticed the two guys work more efficiently together on the court. You will notice Baynes always looks for Patty off a screen or high post when he has the ball, Mills will get Baynes to set a pick whenever he can and together they are building chemistry that wasn't there earlier on in the season.
As you can see in this video, Patty has really improved his basketball IQ and awareness, realising that the ball handler would stop and turn straight to the basket Patty ran away from his man to get inside the lane and get in front to make a easy layup end up in a defensive stop.
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Game schedule for the week featuring Aussies in the NBA
We are using an embedded Google Calendar format, which would hopefully make it much easier for all of you to keep track on when our favourite Aussies in the NBA are hitting the court!
Game schedules courtesy of NBA on ESPN.