Aussies in NBA: Mid-Season Roundtable Part I

The NBA's All-Star weekend traditionally marks the unofficial halfway point of the 82 game season. As such, our expert staff covering Aussies in the NBA have gotten together to answer some burning questions that have arisen throughout the first four months of the season.

Let's get straight into it.

Who has been the 'Aussie MVP' so far?

Matt Hickey: This one to me is pretty clear - Patty Mills. He has been superb for the Spurs so far, and also is in 6th Man of the Year contention. Mills has always had the ability to score the basketball, but I think his passing and his ability to lead his team on the floor have been the biggest improvements to his game. Joe Ingles has been as efficient as ever, but I still think Patty takes it out.

Ben Mallis: Joe Ingles has been a revelation this season and is my pick. His play has elevated to such a strong level and Ingles’ experience continues to lead a Jazz team destined for the playoffs.

Jayme Markus: Patty Mills. He came into the season with his Olympic mojo propelling him to career best performances. And although Mills has cooled off since we ticked into 2017, he is still putting up super-efficient shooting stats and career high assists on the team with the second best record in the NBA.

Luke Sicari: Can’t look past Patty Mills. Mills’ career production has been on a constant upward trajectory, but this season, the 28-year-old has taken it to another level. While his per-game numbers of 9.7 points and 3.3 assists don’t jump off the page, Mills’ poise and proficiency running the Spurs’ offence has been important. Additionally, he has made noticeable improvements on the defensive end, which is always a bonus. With a big payday in sight, it’s hard not to give him this award.

Kyle Standfield: I'm a big stickler for a teams overall record when assessing an MVP candidate so I'll go with Patty Mills. As of writing the Spurs are 42-13 and if the Warriors didn't exist, San Antonio would be the odds on favourite for the title. Mills is playing around 20 minutes a night behind Tony Parker, but his per 36 numbers are 14.9 points and 4.9 assists on 42.5 percent shooting.

Hayley Wildes: Patty Mills. Mills has continued on from his stellar Olympic campaign and is one of the very best sixth men in the league. With his three-point shooting percentages being among the best in the league, coupled with his energy and fight, he is going to get PAID in free agency after this season. Heading down the stretch this season, Mills has a very important role to play as the Spurs look to challenge the Warriors in the West.

Winston Zhang: This is a two-horse race between Patty Mills and Joe Ingles. Jingles is having a ball of a season, finally emerging as a solid bench contributor and being recognised as such. But I’m gonna give it to good ol’ Patty Cakes. He’s averaging the most minutes in his career, his points and assists are at or near to career-best standards, and his effective field goal percentage is on par with his best seasons.

When your responsibility increases but your production remains consistent, that’s as good a sign as any of a player on the rise. He’s my Aussie MVP of the 2016-17 season so far for sure.

How much are the Cavs missing Matthew Dellavedova?

MH: If the best player in the world is saying that his team needs a playmaker then it would suggest the Cavs are missing Delly a whole lot. It's not only his heart, hustle, and IQ on court but also what he brings to practice and to his teammates.

BM: I feel that Delly’s absence cannot be measured until the season is over. In a strict basketball sense, the Cavs aren’t really missing him that much. But LeBron James leads the NBA in minutes per game and the weakened Cavs bench is surely a reason for this. Delly was a solid reserve who could competently absorb minutes though a long NBA season – Cleveland misses the depth he helped provide.

JM: I think we’ll find out come playoff time. LeBron is playing a lot of minutes to cover the Cavs' missing depth and playmaking - two areas Delly covered last season. At the moment the Cavs look fine, sitting on top of the East. But If LeBron is too tired to go supernova again come playoffs, you’d have to say a lot.

LS: From a personnel standpoint, you would say a little bit. LeBron James has been vocal about the need for another playmaker, a role, ironically, that Matthew Dellavedova fills. In reality, though, you need to ask the question, how much better would this Cavs team be with Dellavedova, compared to without him? The difference is minimal. Cleveland, despite a poor January and some hiccups, are still the standout squad in the east. That fact doesn’t change, with, or without, Dellavedova.

KS: Even with all the injuries the Cavs have suffered this season they are still sitting reasonably comfortably as the one seed in the East. However, without Dellavedova, the Cavs are basically left with LeBron, and to a lesser extent, Kyrie, as the only playmakers on the team. Without the same diversity on offense, opposition teams can concentrate all their efforts on locking down those guys and worrying less about penetration elsewhere.

HW: LeBron says the Cavs need another playmaker. That is exactly what they lost when they let Delly walk in restricted free agency. Delly was the ultimate teammate and without him the Cavs definitely lack the depth they once had at the point guard position. I am surprised that they are missing him as much as they are though; three All-Stars and the Cavs had a losing record in January – something isn’t quite right there, but it definitely goes far beyond the loss of Delly.

WZ: Well, given that LeBron has recently made some very strong comments about the Cavs’ need for more playmaking, I think it’s safe to say that they are missing him a lot. They made the choice to pay J.R. Smith instead of Delly (significantly more!) on LeBron’s insistence though, so maybe he should look in the mirror a little before dropping f-bombs on the front office? Now that they’re apparently looking at the likes of Jordan Farmar and Jose Calderon to fill in the gaps, it’s probably safe to say that they wish Delly was still their first guard off the bench.

Where should Andrew Bogut play next season?

MH: This is a tough question because I believe there are many possibilities. If he was searching hard for another title I think the Spurs would be a fantastic fit. At the centre position Bogut has tremendous passing ability and vision - something which would fit well in the Popovich system. If it wasn't to be the Spurs then I think he could effective at Indiana. You would slide Myles Turner to the power forward position and have Bogut at the 5. His experience, shot blocking ability, and offensive efficiency would be great for the Pacers.

BM: Bogut has two choices this offseason. Either chase one final pay day from who ever is willing to offer it or settle for much less and play for one of the few bona fide contenders. I think he will select the latter. A homecoming to Golden State is an exciting thought and could be his best chance of returning to the finals.

JM: Philly. Take some of that spare cash and a veteran reserve role. I might be a little selfish here, because I like to pair my NBA Aussies together – currently we have Aussie duos happening in Milwaukee and Utah (used to have one in San Antonio with Mills and Baynes). Watching some Simmons to Bogut highlights (or vice versa) would be fun!

LS: I would love to see Bogut in Boston. While it wouldn’t push the Celtics into contending status, it’ll fill a void in Brad Stevens’ roster. Bogut can provide stiff rim protection and is an intelligent offensive presence, two aspects that would fit nicely in Stevens’ system. How much Boston, or any team, will be prepared to pay Bogut is another question. Constant injuries have deemed him unreliable, so it’s hard to imagine a high price tag on his head.

KS: With Portland recently acquiring Jusuf Nurkic from Denver, I'll go with the Boston Celtics. The C's have struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball and have lacked a legitimate rim protector next to Horford. Bogut will not only address this issue but also help Boston clean up on the boards, something that the team needs desperately. Bogut will help Boston become the clear number two team in the East.

HW: BOSTON BABY. As a Celtics fan, I can’t help but plead my case here. Just make it happen, and why wait until next season – come across before the trade deadline and help us challenge the Cavs this season. Although his injuries are a concern, he is still a legit big man in the NBA, and his skill set is rare for a man of his size.

WZ: He’s going to a contender, no doubt. And with his injury issues, perhaps somewhere that doesn’t need him for more than 20 minutes each night AND has a great training staff to keep him fit. I don’t see him returning to the Warriors, and I don’t really like the idea of having him on the Cavs, so I’m gonna go with the Spurs. He’d probably be happy with a minimum contract if it meant being part of a model franchise and a guaranteed 50-win season. It would also be really interesting to see how Gregg Popovich uses his unique passing talents.

Should Exum and Maker be spending time in the D-League? Why/Why Not?

MH: I don't think Maker should. I believe at the moment that the minutes he does get at the top level are incredibly beneficial for him. For Dante I think he could get something out of it. He would have the chance to be incredibly aggressive and potentially dominate, like we saw Patty Mills do early in his career when he was put down into the D-League. The only risk would be if Exum struggled then there is the potential for him to fade out of the NBA picture.

BM: No, both should be getting consistent minutes in the NBA. Exum has played his best ball over the past couple of weeks and continues showing improvement. It was around this time last season that Jabari Parker, who was returning from an ACL injury just like Exum, started hitting his straps. Exum should be given a similar chance to perform. Speaking of Parker, his unfortunate injury could be a blessing for Maker. The Bucks have an obvious hole in their rotation and with the season slipping away, Maker should be given regular minutes to develop down the stretch run.

JM: Before Jabari Parker went down with his ACL injury, I would have said yes for Maker. But now he has a starting gig and regular minutes filling the Parker void, so it’s a no. Exum yes. The guy lacks in one area right now, a killer instinct. He still defers way too often. Let him get some reps being aggressive and dominating games. The Spurs do this all the time with their young players instead of them racking up DNP-CDs, and they come back looking so much better. Just look at how they’re handling Dejounte Murray.

LS: It wouldn’t hurt. Maker has earned the trust of Jason Kidd and has even started some games, but on the whole, he is still receiving minimal minutes. Ditto Exum, whose playing time has been all over the place, with Quin Snyder hesitant to make the Aussie a lock in the rotation. Both guys in the D-League would guarantee minutes, which subsequently means they’ll have time to fast track their development. The stints don’t have to be long, and should work into the Bucks and Jazz’s schedules, but playing more basketball is never a bad thing.

KS: The D-League is an underrated tool for NBA squads, but having said that, both Exum and Maker should be playing for their respective teams at the top level. The gut-wrenching injury to Jabari Parker opens things up for Thon, while Exum has looked to be much more assertive during his time on the floor for the Jazz in recent weeks.

HW: I think the moment has passed for Exum. Earlier in the season when he was really struggling, I was in favour of a D-League stint, but now I think he just needs to stick with the Jazz and help them make a run in the playoffs.

Maker is a player I think can definitely gain from a D-League stint. With such raw talent and athleticism, he needs developing and the D-League is a great place for that – maybe more so than sitting on the bench for Milwaukee. Having said that, with the terrible injury to Jabari Parker, some minutes might be about to come Maker’s way.

WZ: Exum, no. He’s at the stage of his career where the best development is going to come from actual reps against NBA-caliber opposition. I don’t think he’ll gain anything from beating on D-Leaguers. Maker, yes! He’s still really raw, and still adjusting to the new levels of physicality of the NBA. Going against grown men who are scrapping and fighting for a call-up to the big time would at the very least get him accustomed to this aspect of the American scene.