Shooting for Gold: Dissecting the star-studded Boomers Olympics squad

After the 12-man Boomers squad was announced Saturday afternoon, Daniel Lo Surdo looks at each of the selections ahead of Tokyo 2020.

Photo: FIBA

At long last, and with much suspense, Brian Goorjian has finally named the 12 Boomers who will travel to Tokyo with hopes to win a first major medal for the Australian Men’s program. With a blend of veterans, NBA talent and first-time Olympians, Goorjian named a star-studded roster ready to take on Tokyo 2020: 

  • Aron Baynes

  • Duop Reath

  • Matthew Dellavedova

  • Dante Exum

  • Patty Mills 

  • Chris Goulding 

  • Josh Green 

  • Joe Ingles

  • Nick Kay

  • Jock Landale

  • Matisse Thybulle

  • Nathan Sobey

Outside of the final 12, Brock Motum, Josh Giddey and Xavier Cooks have been named replacement players for the squad, with Mitch Creek being forced to farewell the squad after the Boomers’ selection camp in California.

Who missed the cut? 

  • Brock Motum: 

    • Perhaps the most surprising omission of the final squad, made even more so by Ryan Broekhoff’s withdrawal from consideration just over a week ago, Brock Motum has been left on the cutting room floor for his second consecutive major tournament. The Rio 2016 Olympian arrived at the Boomers’ California camp after a stellar European campaign in both Turkey and France, where his combined 50.4 per cent from three-point territory seemingly positioned Motum perfectly as a complementary floor-spacer and shotmaker off the Boomers’ bench. Now with Motum’s omission, Goorjian will look to sharpshooter Chris Goulding for the bulk of Australia’s second-unit scoring production. 

  • Josh Giddey:

    • After a stellar NBL season and the NBA Draft on the horizon, an Olympic berth would’ve been the perfect conclusion to a magnificent first professional campaign for Josh Giddey. In Tokyo, the 18-year-old would’ve been forced to earn any floor time and chosen for his potential rather than his immediate production. Now with continued Olympic preparation off the cards, Giddey will presumably stay in the United States to train and workout before he begins his NBA career at the end of the month. 

  • Xavier Cooks: 

    • An injury-maligned NBL21 meant that inclusion in the Boomers’ final Olympic squad for Xavier Cooks never seemed all that likely. Whilst the retirement of Andrew Bogut opened a position for a forward in the squad, the EuroLeague and FIBA-proven trio of Duop Reath, Jock Landale and Nick Kay proved too appealing to Goorjian. Cooks, who was forced to withdraw from the 2019 World Cup after an injury, will return to the NBL for the 2021/22 season after he inked a one-year extension with the Sydney Kings.

  • Mitch Creek: 

    • The Boomers’ swiss-army-knife from China two years ago will not be reprising his role in Tokyo. With the emergence of NBA wings Matisse Thybulle and Josh Green in the Australian program since the Boomers’ last major tournament, Creek’s inclusion for the Olympics - despite another All-NBL Second Team year - seemed improbable. His omission from the 12-man squad speaks greater to the growth in the Australian talent pool throughout the past 24-36 months, rather than any regressions or faults in Creek’s game. 

Who to watch for: 

  • Patty Mills and Joe Ingles: 

    • Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, the two undisputed stalwarts of the Australian Men’s program, will both be forging their fourth consecutive Olympic appearances, with the pair having begun their Games careers in Beijing at age 19 and 20, respectively. Now entering Tokyo, both have made it clear their determination to finally finish the tournament with a medal, but will be aiming for no less than gold once touched down in the Japanese capital.

  • Danté Exum: 

    • Danté Exum will relaunch his Boomers’ career with a chance to challenge incumbent floor general Matthew Dellavedova for starting duties in Tokyo, and also be able to display his immense upside away from the cloud of injury that has followed his professional career. With Exum set for unrestricted free agency this offseason, a stellar Boomers’ campaign could usher the former lottery pick back into the consideration of NBA executives. 

  • Matisse Thybulle: 

    • The American born (but Sydney raised) Matisse Thybulle will begin his Boomers’ career on the Olympic stage. With Ben Simmons’ withdrawal from Australian selection, Thybulle will be entrusted by Goorjian with predominant perimeter defensive responsibilities and promises to form an extremely disrupting backcourt alongside Dellavedova. As a likely starter for Australia, Thybulle’s ability to space the floor and hit open shots alongside Mills and Ingles may prove paramount to the Boomers’ offensive success. 

  • Chris Goulding: 

    • With Motum’s omission from the 12-man squad, Chris Goulding looks set to shoulder a commanding portion of Australia’s offensive bench productivity. As the only proven scorer for the Boomers’ presumed second-unit, Goulding has been entrusted by Goorjian with keeping the scoreboard ticking while Mills and Ingles sit. What remains to be seen, however, is Goorjian’s Plan B should Goulding be failed by his hot-hand through the course of the tournament. 

  • Aron Baynes: 

    • Having largely assumed starting centre duties for Australia at the 2019 World Cup, Aron Baynes will embark on his first major tournament since the retirement of Andrew Bogut. After enduring a disappointing maiden season with the Toronto Raptors, Baynes will look to get his groove back in Tokyo. 

Special plaudits to: 

  • Duop Reath: 

    • The South-Sudanese born product initially had ambitions of playing football in the Olympics, and only took to basketball in his final years of high school after a growth spurt placed him perfectly for the hardwood. Reath spent two years playing in Junior College before earning his transfer to LSU, where after two productive years was signed professionally in Serbia. Reath joins the Boomers after his first season with EuroLeague side Crvena zvezda, where he was an important piece for a side that won both the Serbian and ABA League. 

  • Matthew Dellavedova:

    • A third consecutive Olympics appearance didn’t look all that likely for Dellavedova earlier this year, whose bouts with a serious concussion sustained in the primitive stages of the 2020/21 NBA season left many concerned for the future of the NBA Champion’s career. Now named for Tokyo 2020, Delly is primed to again assume floor general responsibilities for what shapes to be the best Boomers’ outfit yet. 

  • Josh Green: 

    • After seeing limited playing opportunities under Rick Carlisle with the Dallas Mavericks in his rookie season, Josh Green enters his first Olympics campaign eager to make a strong impact for his national side. With new management awaiting Green on the other side of Tokyo, a strong Boomers’ campaign may be just what the 20-year-old needs to find a role under Jason Kidd in his sophomore season. 

  • Nick Kay: 

    • After helping Perth to their second consecutive NBL Championship, and being named a back-to-back All-NBL First Teamer, Nick Kay made the ambitious move to Spanish side Real Betis ahead of the Olympic window. Arriving to an unfamiliar infrastructure and system, Kay quickly became a critical member of a Betis side that staved off relegation and has now been rewarded for his move abroad with a debut Olympic nod. 

  • Jock Landale: 

    • After failing to sign that elusive NBA deal last offseason, Landale stayed in Australia after spending his first two professional seasons in Europe. With Landale their talisman, Melbourne United dominated the NBL, where they boasted a league-best record and subsequently swept the Perth Wildcats in the Grand Final Series. Landale was named MVP of the Grand Final Series and was also named an All-NBL First Teamer. Now with a first Olympics appearance on the horizon, a classy showing in Tokyo may be just what Landale needs to finally ink an NBA contract. 

  • Nathan Sobey: 

    • Nathan Sobey stands as the personification of hard work and resilience for this Boomers squad. Initially left out of Australia’s extended Olympic squad in February, Sobey’s play for the Brisbane Bullets following his omission from the Boomers’ setup forced Goorjian to add the shooting guard back into the program three months later. Now named to his first Olympic Games after his first World Cup appearance two years prior, Sobey will be offered an opportunity to display his resilient spirit to a global audience in Tokyo. 

The Boomers will begin their road to Tokyo with a Las Vegas showcase game against Argentina next Sunday afternoon (AEST), before taking on the USA and Nigeria the following Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The squad will begin Olympic tournament play on Sunday the 25th of July against Nigeria, two days after the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony.