Breaking down the Australian Boomers 2021 Tokyo Olympic squad
Who will make the Boomers' final squad for Tokyo?
Australia’s extended squad for the 2021 Olympic Games is unmatched. There is an extensive NBA cohort leading the way, with up and coming talent from clubs all around the world combining to provide the Boomers with their greatest ever collection of players.
With so much talent available, head coach Brian Goorjian has the toughest managerial challenge in Australian sports this year: he must decide who is best equipped to make history in Tokyo.
We have analysed the team and attempted to conclude where each member of the 24-man squad sits in the pecking order of this Boomers team. Below are also some poignant questions that will drive the makeup of the squad. Let us start by taking a quick look at the players who will be first selected for the plane to Tokyo.
Locks for the final squad
Patty Mills: He remains Australia’s most lethal scorer. Mills averaged 22.8 points per game at the China World Cup, on 49.6% shooting from the field, 40.4% from three and 86% at the free-throw line. It’s not hyperbolic to say that Mills has been one of the best international (FIBA tournaments and Olympics) performers over the past twenty years. Boomers Patty is the first picked.
Joe Ingles: An integral member of the Boomers starting unit for the past decade, Ingles will be there to balance the national team on both ends in Tokyo. Ingles has seen his professional career blossom over the past decade, and his form for the Boomers has followed the same trajectory. With the Boomers hoping for a deep run in Japan, his experience playing all around the world, with and against the biggest names in the sport, will be relied upon.
Ryan Broekhoff: The lasting image from Rio is Broekhoff flinging a last second heave towards the basket as time ran out during Australia’s defeat to Spain. He had worked to secure his place in the Boomers squad ahead of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and profiles as the Boomers’ X-factor (more on this below).
Aron Baynes: With Andrew Bogut retired, Baynes is Australia’s most experienced big man and a certain member of the Tokyo squad. The shorter three-point line is something he leveraged in 2019 to great success. Throw in his aggressive rebounding and defensive acumen, and the Boomers are confidently heading to Tokyo with a leading five man.
Ben Simmons: It doesn’t even need to be discussed. If Simmons wants a place in this team, he will be there to provide a moment that Australian basketball fans have been dreaming of the past decade. Simmons will provide the Boomers with a player archetype the group hasn’t had before, made all the better by the fact he is already one of the best defenders on the planet.
Jock Landale: Landale was the breakout star of the 2019 World Cup run, starting games against Team USA and then in China as the team chased a medal. He has been labelled a future carrier of the Boomers culture and could be a potential regular in the squad.
Matthew Dellavedova: If Simmons goes to Tokyo, Dellavedova’s time in the starting lineup will likely come to an end. The team’s dependence on Dellavedova is dropping. He remains a required player for the Boomers, but his impact will rest on tangible items, such as whether the shooting stroke he remodelled before the 2019 World Cup brings better results than the 23% he shot from three in the NBA last season.
Nick Kay: Like Landale, Kay showed out in 2019 and proved that he can compete at the FIBA level. With a European move under his belt, the former Perth Wildcat should be even better the next time he dons a Boomers singlet. Kay is playing for a European club that understands how to best utilise the Australian forward and his progress is coming quick. More on Kay’s European adventure can be found here via Daniel Lo Surdo.
Matisse Thybulle: The man born in Sydney is now on track for a Boomers debut, at the most important tournament in the program’s history. Despite his offensive shortcomings, Thybulle has the skillset needed to elevate the squad, especially as part of a defensive tandem alongside Simmons.
Mitch Creek: Creek was surprisingly left off the World Cup squad in 2019, only to be recalled as a last minute replacement. He preceded to massive moments against Team USA in Melbourne and the World Cup in China. He belongs at this level, but with this game mirroring that of Thybulle, it is prudent asking whether the team needs two defence-first reserve guards with limited offence?
Thon Maker: Maker is an NBA stretch five who, at his best, anchors the prototypical modern day small ball lineup. His lack of NBA minutes is a concern and while he is probably one of Australia’s twelve most talented players, he will be competing for a back end roster spot, so fit and role will be the drivers of his fate.
Deng Adel: Adel is the swingman equivalent of Maker. He was overlooked for the 2019 World Cup and remains on the fringes of Australia’s best playing roster. Adel has the talent and pedigree to make this team, with his fate likely resting on whether the coaching staff can identify a role for him in Tokyo.
Danté Exum: As with his NBA career, Exum’s fate will likely be dependent on health. If fit, he undoubtedly belongs on this team. It must also be acknowledged that Exum is an NBA free agent in July, so his professional status could play a role in determining his availability. Assuming health and availability, Exum’s ability to handle the basketball at his size is an enticing proposition - this could see him vault Creek and Thybulle in the pecking order.
Chris Goulding: He has been a perennial member of the program and has proven his ability at the international level. A full-strength Boomers won’t have many minutes available for Goulding, but he is a leading contender for the Cameron Gliddon role from the 2019 World Cup.
Josh Green: He is Australia’s second most promising young gun behind Simmons and has tasted the NBA over the past few months. Green’s athleticism could be his point of difference. It remains to be seen whether he is ready for the Olympic stage later this year.
Those for the future
Josh Giddey: Giddey’s rise over the past few months has been astronomical and it will only continue this year. An NBL season will be followed on by an NBA draft process and a lifechanging selection by an NBA franchise. He is one for the future, and the experience of a Boomers training camp will provide a valuable teaching tool, but Giddey isn’t in any of the Boomers best lineups just yet.
Will Magnay: Magnay has experienced a meteoric rise over the past 24 months, going from NBA spare part to the fringes of the NBA. Training camp will provide the platform to show his lessons from a year in the G League, but he is too far down the pecking order for Tokyo.
Isaac Humphries: Humphries has made a triumphant return to Australian basketball after his time in North America. His career is on a steep upward rise and he figures to be a central player in future Olympic cycles. There are better and more experienced options this year.
Xavier Cooks: Cooks was on the plane to China in 2019, before a last-minute injury cruelly ended his campaign. He has the game to contribute, but a stronger squad has seen his place in the pecking order lowered.
William McDowell-White: He’s been toiling away in the NBA G League and working his body back to full health over the past two years. McDowell-White can grow into a Boomers regular as the decade evolves, but 2021 isn’t his time.
Brock Motum: Motum was surprisingly left off the World Cup squad in 2019. He remains capable of contributing, but with the likes of Landale, Kay and Cooks stepping up, his time in the green and gold is winding down.
Duop Reath: Reath has been forging his path in Europe and his growth over the past few years has been duly rewarded with a place in the squad. His size and length is intriguing, but on a team hoping to win gold, he will be making up the numbers this time around.
Mitch McCarron: The 28 year old is fully worthy of his place in the squad and has been a reliable replacement when first choice Boomers have previously been unavailable. He will provide great cover, albeit not when the team arrives in Japan.
Mitch Norton: Squint hard enough and he looks to be following his former Wildcats teammate Kay’s rise to the national team. Competition for guard minutes is severe, and Norton is a step below the team’s top end talent.
Who is the X-Factor?
Ryan Broekhoff is someone who has been away from the limelight since the 2016 Olympics. He has made an NBA debut in the five years since Rio, but a quick stop in Dallas notwithstanding, Broekhoff taken a backseat to the bounty of Australians boosting their professional careers overseas. He hasn’t played a professional game in over twelve months, but recently signed with the NBL’s South East Melbourne Phoenix as a nominated replacement player on a one-year deal.
All of that said, Broekhoff is someone who could swing the Boomers’ chances in Rio. The swingman remains Australia’s greatest outside shooter; he has shot the ball at an elite clip, across every level of basketball that he has played. He largely earned his NBA chance in Dallas because of his outside game. Like most Boomers, the Frankston native has received more minutes and more responsibilities in the national team, relative to his club career. Broekhoff is a capable defender at the FIBA level, and his complementary offensive skills round out his attacking game.
The Boomers took Cameron Gliddon to China for the World Cup and Broekhoff would be a supercharged upgrade on the South East Melbourne Phoenix sharpshooter. If Simmons goes to Tokyo, surrounding him with Ingles, Mills and Broekhoff will further boost one of the best offences in international basketball.
Where is the squad strong?
Even playing without their full strength team in China, the Boomers offence fuelled a performance that should have seen them medal. Throwing Simmons and Broekhoff into the mix will further balance out the attack. A Simmons-Ingles-Mills-Broekhoff-Baynes line-up would be unguardable on the offensive end. Simmons would be afforded space he has never seen in Philadelphia, while also allowing Mills and Ingles the chance to attack as secondary and tertiary options – a luxury they have never before had in a Boomers singlet.
A full-strength roster will also boost depth, and this could prove invaluable over a long tournament. The Boomers have relied on a handful of players to log large minutes and carry the team over the past two major tournaments. The difference between the actual results and a transformative medal have been razor thin. Relying on depth and finding more rest over the two weeks in Japan will help ensure the team is fully functioning when medals are on the line.
Where is the squad weak?
The Boomers are insanely talented and relative to the majority of global basketball, their weaknesses are minor. Answering this question must be seen in comparison to Spain — the team who has broken Australia’s heart at the last two major tournaments — and a full-strength Team USA, which still is so clearly the most talented team in the world.
Australia will cruise to victory against most, but a lack of two-way wings is the area of concern when thinking about a potential showdown against the Americans and Spaniards.
Thybulle, Creek and Dellavedova are great defensive options, but there is an offensive trade off when they play. A full strength offensive lineup around them will mitigate this somewhat, but against the size and length of Team USA and Spain, any weak shooters will provide an opposition player – who will almost certainly be an NBA All-Star - the opportunity to roam and disrupt the Boomers offence.
The same logic applies to Broekhoff and Mills at the defensive end. They are competent defenders, but if they are present in crunch time of a close contest against the very best, they could be hunted and attacked.
Again, this is nitpicking on the most talented group of Australians ever assembled, but with a quest for gold driving this team, there are challenges to be addressed against the very best team in the world. Goorjian has the ability to deploy five man units that, talent wise, can only be matched by Team USA. But can they actually dethrone Team USA and Spain?
Australia's 24-man Tokyo Olympics squad: