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How do the 2019 Australian Boomers compare to Rio?
For the fans and media alike, drawing comparisons to past rosters each time a new Boomers squad is announced is part of the excitement and anticipation before a major event tips off.
Australian Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis admitted he doesn't like to make direct comparisons, before conceding this version of the Boomers is quite possibly the most talented yet.
"If you, I guess place it on players with NBA championship rings or guys playing quality minutes in the NBA, it’s perhaps as good a team as we’ve ever had from that perspective," Lemanis said at a press conference in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.
Not that anybody needs reminding, the last time the Boomers were on the floor in a major tournament was the heartbreaking (and controversial) 89-88 to Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and the Spain national team.
Let's take a closer look at the rotation from that squad in 2016, and assess how it stacks up to the 2019 squad gearing up for an assault on the podium in China next month.
Rio 2016 Olympics
China 2019 World Cup
A clear strength of the Boomers squad is the familiarity between the the likely starters on the roster. There are certainly some question marks over whether the combination of Bogut/Baynes starts again, now that Bolden and Landale provide a point of difference with defensive versatility and outside shooting.
If Lemanis does opt to roll with the same group to start, a clear boost will come with the health of Andrew Bogut, who courageously battled through a knee injury back in 2016, in an attempt to help the Boomers claim the bronze, though his 14 minutes and just one shot attempt give a clear indication he was well below full strength. A light NBL schedule and minimal minutes with the Warriors in the recent playoffs will definitely help.
You would be hard pressed to find a more experienced backcourt duo than Dellavedova and Mills in FIBA basketball, while Ingles and Baynes have further enhanced their reputation in the NBA since those Olympic games. Ingles, who had a shooting slump in Rio, has since cemented his reputation as one of the NBA's best three-point shooters in recent years, along with an extensive offensive repertoire. Baynes similarly, made himself a credible outside threat with the Boston Celtics.
Above all else, this group might get the nod on the basis of having redemption on the mind, with "unfinished business" to attend to, according to Mills and Dellavedova.
"We have some unfinished business from the Rio Olympics, two years coming up right now is the big picture and we have some time to get on the same page," Mills shared during the recent Boomers training camp.
"I’d tried not to think about [Rio] too much because, obviously it was bitterly disappointing. But that kind of hunger in the belly and that sick feeling of disappointment has been there all summer [in the US], and that’s why I have been really working hard and getting ready so we can give it a good crack,” Dellavedova said in a recent interview.
Of the seven players that will likely come off the bench for the Boomers in China, only one name returns from Rio: Melbourne United's Chris Goulding.
Broekhoff withdrew early due to family reasons, Motum missed the final cut, David Andersen retired, while Lisch, Martin and Bairstow were not invited to a Boomers training camp loaded with talent.
Even with Ben Simmons, Thon Maker, Dante Exum and Broekhoff absent, Mitch Creek and Deng Adel controversially missed selection, despite having played in the NBA during the 2018/19 season. Adel was left out due to unfamiliarity with the Boomers' system. Creek was reportedly cut due to outside shooting, and points to a core skill in this edition of the Australian Boomers - three-point shooting at multiple positions.
Cam Gliddon's inclusion raised eyebrows, but the Bullets sharpshooter appears likely to fill the 3&D role that Broekhoff played to a T in 2016. His contributions could determine how brightly the spotlight shines on Lemanis and the rest of the Boomers.
Cooks' multi-positional versatility adds wing (and guard) depth to the squad. The 6'8 swingman definitely made an impression during training camp with his ability to shoot, defend, rebound and handle the ball.
With Bolden, Landale and Kay, the Boomers boast ridiculous talent at the four and five, giving Lemanis enviable depth of athleticism, defence, outside shooting and distribution that will allow the Boomers to adjust due to opposition, and perhaps more importantly, ride the hot hand.
Guard depth is once again light, though historically the Boomers have placed a heavy workload on Mills and Dellavedova, and will be able to utilise Ingles as a secondary ball handler as they did in Rio, with Goulding and Sobey providing options off the bench.
When comparing squads, it really begins and ends with the bench rotation. A clear indication of Australian basketball's growth is evident, when you look at the names that will not be participating.
In earlier years, a starting lineup of Simmons, Exum, Broekhoff, Creek and Maker would have had Australian basketball fans brimming with excitement. Add in Adel, and you have some serious talent on the sideline.
Despite the absent talent, the 2019 Boomers still boast physicality, athleticism and outside shooting at every position, and will be one of the most talented we have ever seen.
Lemanis stated the Boomers' aim is not just to medal, but return home with the gold.
With expectation comes pressure, and the Boomers aren't shying away from the spotlight, as they rightfully shouldn't. This team is legitimate, but Team USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Serbia and Lithuania arriving with the same goals.
Needless to say, China is sure to be one hell of a ride.