Australian Boomer Ryan Broekhoff, has been making good of his basketball journey in Europe so far. Could the NBA finally be the Victorian's next step, following a terrific European career?
The 27 year old forward led Lokomotiv Kuban to yet another victory, this time over Trento earlier in the month, scoring 20 points, hitting 5 of 10 three-pointers that paved the way to a 97-69 win. He's currently averaging 13 points (73.7% on field goals, 52.2% on three-pointers) and 5.6 rebounds over 25 minutes nightly in the EuroCup (stats), and is once again up for selection to be a VTB United League All-Star (vote for him here) after playing for the World Stars in last season's showcase.
Broekhoff, who went undrafted in the 2013 NBA draft after a stellar senior year with Valparaiso, first joined Beşiktaş Integral Forex in Turkey where he would go onto become a Turkish League All-Star. He later inked a three-year contract with Lokomotiv in 2015, making this year his final year with the Russian club. While it sounds logical for Broekhoff to continue playing in Europe and make the best of a extremely productive career there, the NBA remains a real possibility.
The swingman last participated in the NBA Summer League back in 2015, playing with the Denver Nuggets (highlights). While his performances did not seem to warrant further attention, Andrew Bogut has been supportive of his Olympic teammate's style of play.
"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," 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."
The Australian style of basketball has been anything but flashy, having rooted itself firmly in the fundamentals of team play and more importantly doing the little things right on the court.
Like fellow Australian Joe "Ultimate Glue Guy" Ingles, who got his first NBA deal at 28 with the Utah Jazz, the door remains very much open for Broekhoff to get a shot on an NBA team.
It is a view shared by another former Australian NBA player Chris Anstey, who recently pointed out that Broekhoff's current role and larger contract are two things that have to date, conspired against a move to the NBA. However Anstey also expressed confidence that Broekhoff will eventually end up in the NBA, just like Ingles.
Broekhoff has confirmed NBA teams have indicated interest previously.
“There has definitely been some [NBA] interest from a number of NBA teams, similar to the last few years,” Broekhoff shared last year.
“In accepting an invite to training camp, that in itself is a risk. If I take the risk, attend training camp and things don’t work out, by then the good teams in Europe have already filled out their rosters for the season. Teams are full and the risk is that you miss out on a roster spot and then have to consider teams playing at a lower level.
“I am still under contract with Loko for a third season, but there is a buyout option. A lot of things change pretty quickly over in Europe, so who knows?”
Two attributes continue to be highly prized in the modern NBA: defensive versatility and three-point shooting. It's no secret the Golden State Warriors perfected their championship blueprint over these traits. NBA teams looking to emulate the Warriors' success, be they contenders like the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, or rebuilding sides like the Brooklyn Nets, will most certainly have their eye out for swingmen who can space the floor with three-point shooting, while defending multiple positions.
On paper, the 6'7 Broekhoff fits into this NBA archetype, and the EuroCup rankings back it up. In EuroCup's Top 16 so far, he's ranked 1st for threes attempted, 2nd in threes made, 7th in steals, and 13th in total rebounds. Over the regular season, he's ranked 3rd in the league on threes made, and 17th in defensive rebounds snagged.
With all of that said, Broekhoff's excellent performances and accolades remain what they are: a academic argument that cannot be qualified. While Europe is an elite landscape for professional basketball, it still isn't the NBA, where athleticism is at another level altogether, and NBA teams play at a pace and focus that is quite unlike how European teams run their systems.
The Summer League games of 2015 aren't going to matter in 2018, and Broekhoff will have to play against actual NBA competition once more, and prove to the coaches that he will be a trustworthy asset on the floor.
Ryan Broekhoff is not going to be a Lou Williams, and put 50 points up against the Golden State Warriors. But as a role player the coach can trust, as someone who understands team play, and makes the right decision when given the ball? One would think Broekhoff would definitely fit the bill, when viewed in that light.
Will 2018 be the year, that sees Ryan Broekhoff finally join his mates in the bright lights of the NBA? We can only wait and hope.