The NBA could be next: How Ryan Broekhoff is following in Joe Ingles' footsteps

The modern-day NBA values three-point shooting and defence. Joe Ingles, together with his high IQ and playmaking ability, has proven he fits the mould.

As one of the NBA's elite three-point marksman last season, Ingles has become one of the Utah Jazz's most valuable players and one of a growing number of standout Australians in the NBA.

Ingles' journey to the NBA was far from being the norm. Starting off with the now-defunct South Dragons in the NBL, it was not long before Europe came calling and he landed in the Spanish ACB. Three teams and five years later, including a EuroLeague title with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Ingles signed with the Jazz after being waived by the Clippers and has never looked back since.

Fellow Australian Boomer Ryan Broekhoff could be following in Ingles' footsteps and make the jump from Europe to the NBA, as soon as next season.

The Journey

Ryan Broekhoff's basketball journey saw him emerge from Frankston's junior program in Victoria, before his elite talent saw him receive a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport (now known as the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence or CoE). Like many rising Aussie stars, he ventured to the US to attend college at Valparaiso, and left an indelible mark on the program. After enjoying a standout collegiate career that included being named 2011-12 Horizon League Player of the Year and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2013, he has continued to elevate his game, heading to Europe to establish himself as a pro.

Since landing in Europe, Broekhoff's career has followed a path not dissimilar to that of compatriot Joe Ingles, albeit in different countries. After starring with Besiktas in the Turkish League, the 6'7 wing moved to Russia in signing with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, shining in both the EuroLeague and more recently the EuroCup.

Having already earned the mantle of Turkish League All-Star, Broekhoff also became a VTB United League All-Star, winning the three-point contest in the 2018 event. His 2017-18 season was his best year to date, and it has him poised to become the next Australian player to make it to the NBA.

Comparison to Ingles

Broekhoff's big year for Lokomotiv has seen the forward be increasingly compared to Ingles.

Both share the ability to shoot the three-ball at an exceptionally high clip while being able to play deceptively good defense, skills that are highly coveted by the modern-day NBA. Standing at 6'7 and 6'8 respectively, with long, wiry arms, they clearly adhere to the "3 and D" archetype. That is where the comparison ends, as both have additional differing attributes that make them a valuable NBA commodity.

Ingles' additional strengths are his court vision, ability as a primary playmaker and team-first, easygoing attitude. He is the guy you want to have in your locker room, who has your back on and off the court, which sparked our feature on how Jingles is indeed the ultimate glue guy.

While Broekhoff shares the same team-first attitude, it would be unfair to compare the two on their playmaking abilities.

The Lokomotiv sharpshooter is more athletic and does his best work off the ball, in comparison to Ingles. It's also worth noting that Broekhoff is a superior rebounder, something that was cultivated from his college days, back when he played out position as a 4-man for the Crusaders. It was a sentiment that Broekhoff agreed with in his recent interview with Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype.

"I’d say Joe [Ingles] probably has a little bit more creativity on the offensive end with pick-and-rolls, whereas being in Europe over the last few years, I’ve been pushed more into a stretch option at the 3 and the 4, and not done so much pick-and-roll and that sort of stuff. But on closeouts, using our shots as a tool to get defenders to close out really hard or jump on pump fakes, [allowing us] to attack off that is also a strength of mine that Joe has been using this year as well."

Having taken part in the NBA Summer League back in 2015 when playing with the Denver Nuggets, his style of play is not one that is likely to shine in such an environment where flashy, one-on-one isolation moves have become the norm.

“He is not a guy who will go to [NBA] summer league and wow himself into a contract, because he is not a flashy guy. He is not a guy that can isolate one on one,” fellow Australian Andrew Bogut told Fairfax Media back in 2015.

“He is a great team player, a great rebounder for his size and he can shoot the shit out of the ball – his three-ball is unbelievably consistent. Someone will figure that out.”

Well it seems that NBA teams are now sitting up and taking notice. As reported by David Pick earlier in the year, a number of NBA scouts traveled to Russia to check in on Broekhoff following his VTB United League All-Star three-point competition victory.

There is a place for a 6'7 wing who can shoot, defend, rebound and be a team player in the NBA, and it is why Broekhoff should be suiting up for a team in the 2018-19 NBA season.

By the numbers

Ingles played on some great teams before crossing to the NBA, winning a EuroLeague title with Israeli giants Maccabi Tel Aviv in his final season in Europe. When you look at the roles and numbers that Ingles (2013-14) and Broekhoff (2017-18) have delivered, Broekhoff stacks up amazingly well with his fellow Aussie.

Ryan Broekhoff vs Joe Ingles' last season in Europe | Credit: Shelley Creative

The Jazz forward averaged 6.4 points, 3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 22.9 minutes per game while shooting 41.1% from three-point territory for Maccabi, starting 13 of a possible 30 games. It is always difficult to translate numbers from different leagues and eras. While no disrespect is meant to Ingles, his Europe numbers did not shout him out as being a potential NBA player back then.

Broekhoff in comparison, excelled as his team's leading scorer before a broken thumb saw his EuroCup and VTB United League season ended prematurely. His return was bungled by his club, despite being declared fit. Before the injury, the 2016 Rio Olympian was delivering a team-best 12.3 points with 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 26.6 minutes per game, shooting a remarkable 50.6% from beyond the arc as the 6th man off the bench. More importantly, his side was unbeaten heading into the EuroCup quarterfinals and tabbed as one of the favourites to win the championship at the time, and went on to be named to the All-EuroCup Team.

In the VTB United League, Broekhoff was also impressive, continuing to shoot the three-ball at 46% while adding 8.1 points and 4 rebounds per game. However, much like their early exit from the EuroCup finals, Lokomotiv would finish the year without any postseason success, desperately missing their Victorian three-point marksman.

According to Basketball Reference, Broekhoff added 16.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per 36 minutes from his 2017-18 numbers. Ingles' statistics back in 2013-14 with Maccabi translated to 10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per 36 minutes. Broekhoff has put up more points, rebounds and shot better from beyond the arc than Ingles, and given the latter's success in the NBA, there is no reason to suggest Broekhoff cannot succeed either.

Perfect timing

According to Frank Urbina, Broekhoff has scheduled workouts with the Milwaukee, Minnesota and New Orleans this week. While all three teams could utilise his services, the Bucks would appear to be a logical choice and a perfect fit. Milwaukee is also not too far from Valparaiso, Indiana, where Broekhoff attended college. The Bucks currently have two Australians on the roster with Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker, and could easily use an efficient, proven three-point shooter.

Back in August last year, fellow Australian Boomer Matthew Dellavedova shared with The Pick and Roll that he was in no doubt of Broekhoff's NBA potential, suggesting there may be interest being show by the Bucks.

“I definitely think [Broekhoff] is an NBA player and I’m trying to get him to Milwaukee because I think shooting in the NBA is so valuable and he is an elite shooter. The Bucks definitely know who Broekhoff is, so we will see what happens."

Broekhoff is no stranger to the NBA Summer League scene. While he could well sign on to play in NBA Summer League, the swingman's ideal situation would be to ink a deal with a team outright and obtain immediate security.

In an interview with The Pick and Roll in August 2017, Broekhoff outlined that there had been genuine interest from NBA teams, but the timing had not quite been right. This past week, he further explained that after five years in Europe, he was ready physically and mentally to compete in the best league in the world.

"So I think after five years at the highest level in Europe, or the EuroCup level, has really prepared me physically/mentally to be able to compete at the highest level, which is the NBA, and have a consistent output and production level. I’m not thinking I’m gonna come in and be a superstar, but I feel like I can contribute to teams better now than maybe I could a year or two ago."

Coming out of contract with Lokomotiv after a career year in Europe, the stars finally appear to be aligning for the Frankston product to possibly land his first NBA contract. It is an outcome that will realise Broekhoff's long-held aspirations, but also further increase the Australian basketball presence on the largest basketball stage in the world.