Ranking Australia's top ten Boomers of the past decade
The past decade has arguably been the best in Australia’s basketball history. On two occasions, the Australian Boomers came within striking distance of a major tournament medal. If you could change a referee call in 2016 and one Patty Mills free throw in 2019, the results could be very different. Looking back on the past ten years, here are our picks for the best basketball players to have worn the green and gold.
*Please note that this list only considers performances for the Australian senior national team.
10. Ryan Broekhoff
FIBA World Cup (2014), FIBA Oceania Championship (2013, 2015), Olympic Games (2016)
Broekhoff was an important bench player at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, where he scored 7.7 points per game with 58% shooting from three point range. The 6’6 swingman later reprised his role at the 2016 Olympics, where Australia finished fourth. Barring injury, Broekhoff will likely be there again in 2020. He might just be the perfect complement to Ben Simmons with his sharp shooting, if the 76ers star chooses to suit up.
Broekhoff unfortunately suffered a fractured fibula on 29th December, while playing for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA. Despite this setback, he should return within the next two months, as the average time missed for a proximal fibula fracture is 13 NBA games. The 29 year old has made the most of his limited minutes with the Mavericks, shooting 50% from three-point range thus far.
9. Matt Nielsen
FIBA World Cup (2010), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011), London Invitational Tournament (2011) Olympic Games (2012)
Three-time Olympian Matt Nielsen was a major part of the Boomers’ rotation in the early 2010s. At the 2010 FIBA World Championships, he averaged 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 24 minutes per game. Nielsen later produced similar numbers at the 2011 London Invitational Tournament and 2011 FIBA Oceania Championships, before making a third and final Olympic appearance in 2012. The 6’10 big man also captained the Boomers early on in the past decade, up until his final tournament in Australian colours at the London Olympics.
Nielsen retired from playing in 2013, before embarking on a successful coaching career. He won three NBL championships as an assistant coach with the Perth Wildcats – 2014, 2015 and 2019. The 41 year old now finds himself stateside in Austin, Texas, as an assistant coach for the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s G League affiliate.
8. Aleks Marić
FIBA World Cup (2010), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011), London Invitational Tournament (2011), Olympic Games (2012)
Here’s a blast from the past. Aleks Marić hasn’t appeared for the Boomers since 2012, but made the most of his short international career. The 6’11 centre was Australia’s best player at the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championships, leading the boys in green and gold to a 3-0 series victory.
He averaged 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, both of which were team-high figures. This is no mean feat, considering that several present day veterans – Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes – all featured on that team.
In addition, Marić was a key player at the 2010 FIBA World Championships, with per-game averages of 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. This tournament was one to forget, as Australia crashed and burned in the round of 16 against Slovenia. Marić also appeared at the 2011 London Invitational Tournament and 2012 London Olympics, receiving limited minutes on these occasions.
After retiring as a player in 2017, Marić ventured into coaching. He is currently an assistant coach to Will Weaver at the Sydney Kings, having joined the organisation in 2019.
7. Andrew Bogut
FIBA World Cup (2019), FIBA Oceania Championship (2015), Olympic Games (2016)
Andrew Bogut will retire as one of Australia’s greatest ever players, if not the greatest. The big man lays claim to arguably the greatest individual season among all Aussie players, past and present, having made the All-NBA Third Team in 2010.
So, why does Bogut rank so low on this list? Well, simply because he seldom featured for the Boomers in this past decade. Amidst injury woes and NBA commitments, the 7-footer only appeared in two major international competitions. However, when he did represent Australia, Bogut made his presence felt. He was a standout performer at the 2016 Olympics, averaging 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists to go with 76% shooting from the field.
The veteran centre was then part of another fourth-placed Australian side at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He will again be a major asset to the Boomers at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, bringing a wealth of experience to the table. This might be the last time we see Bogut wearing the green and gold, as he turns 36 in November.
The reigning NBL MVP is currently a key player for the in-form Sydney Kings, averaging close to a double-double this season.
6. Brad Newley
FIBA World Cup (2010, 2014), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011, 2015), London Invitational Tournament (2011), Olympic Games (2012), FIBA Asia World Cup Qualifier (2017), FIBA Asia Cup (2017)
Longtime Boomers stalwart Brad Newley comes in at sixth for his work early in the past decade. He played important minutes in two World Championship events and the 2012 Olympics. The 6’6 swingman was also Australia’s best player at the London Invitational Tournament in 2011, outplaying the likes of Patty Mills and Joe Ingles. Newley averaged 14.8 points and 3.5 assists per game in London, while also knocking down three pointers at a 55% clip.
Although he hasn’t been selected for a major tournament since 2014, the two-time Olympian won a gold medal at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. Playing alongside home-grown NBL talent, Newley was able to extend his resume with yet another foray into international basketball. The 34 year old is currently playing in Sydney, having joined the Kings in 2016 after spending nine years in Europe.
5. David Andersen
FIBA World Cup (2010, 2014), FIBA Oceania Championship (2013, 2015), Olympic Games (2012, 2016)
Much like Brad Newley, David Andersen made his mark in the early 2010s. The 6’11 stretch four was a leader on Australia’s 2010 FIBA World Championships team, as well as the 2012 Olympics team. In both tournaments he averaged double digit points and over six rebounds per game, while playing in excess of 25 minutes per game.
Andersen would remain a key cog in the Boomers outfit right up until the 2016 Olympics, where he still logged 20 minutes per game at age 36. The veteran big man showed in Rio that class is permanent, averaging 8.8 points per game on 54% shooting from the field. Andersen is still yet to retire, which is a testament to his longevity. The 39 year old currently plies his trade with the NBL’s Illawarra Hawks.
4. Matthew Dellavedova
FIBA World Cup (2014, 2019), London Invitational Tournament (2011), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011, 2013, 2015), Olympic Games (2012, 2016), FIBA Asia World Cup Qualifier (2017)
Matthew Dellavedova burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced college basketball star at the Olympic Games in 2012. Despite still attending St. Mary’s College of California at the time, Delly didn’t back down on the big stage. The gritty point guard logged over 28 minutes per game throughout the London Olympics, laying the groundwork for a long and fruitful international career. Dellavedova has gone on to represent Australia in three more major tournaments, with his finest hour coming at the 2016 Olympics.
The 6’3 point guard averaged 8.9 points and 7.0 assists per game at the Rio Olympics, while making 52% of his field goal attempts. Australia finished fourth, equalling the nation’s best ever Olympic result. Dellavedova would later find himself in another key role, at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Despite shooting 33% from the field at the World Cup, Delly contributed 6.2 assists per game as Australia finished fourth yet again.
The 29 year old will most likely be an important part of the Boomers’ rotation at this year’s Tokyo Olympics as well, where the boys in green and gold are chasing that elusive medal once more. The scrappy point guard has appeared in every major international tournament since 2012, bringing a wealth of experience to the table.
Although Dellavedova isn’t having the best of seasons with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, shooting just 31% from the field, his resume is undeniable.
3. Aron Baynes
FIBA World Cup (2010, 2014, 2019), London Invitational Tournament (2011), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011), Olympic Games (2012, 2016)
Aron Baynes is one of only two Australian players to appear in every major tournament (two Olympic competitions and three World Championship events) of the past decade – Joe Ingles is the other . Formerly a Boomers role player, the big man made a major leap in 2014. With Patty Mills forced out of the 2014 FIBA World Cup due to injury, it was Baynes who truly stepped up to fill the void. The 6’10 centre was a rare bright spot in an Australian side that fell to Turkey in the round of 16. He averaged a team-high 16.8 points per game, in addition to 7.0 rebounds per game. From that point forward, Aron Baynes was no longer a role player.
Baynes was a key figure in both fourth-placed Australian sides, at the 2016 Olympics and 2019 FIBA World Cup. Continuously evolving, the big man added yet another dimension to his game in 2019. Earlier in the decade, Baynes was an interior presence who seldom shot three-pointers. At the 2019 World Cup however, with coach Andrej Lemanis giving him a license to a shoot, the 6’10 centre became a genuine marksman. He made 52% of his three-point attempts, with 2.6 attempts per game on average. Baynes also averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, making for a productive World Cup campaign.
With new-found confidence from three-point land, Baynes is currently enjoying a breakout season at club level with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. He is in the best form of his career, and the timing couldn’t be any better, with the Tokyo Olympics looming large.
2. Joe Ingles
FIBA World Cup (2010, 2014, 2019), London Invitational Tournament (2011), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011, 2013), Olympic Games (2012, 2016)
Joe Ingles has been a pillar of consistency for Australia in the past decade. Like Baynes, he played in every major tournament from 2010 to 2019. The 6’8 forward emerged as a Boomers standout in the early 2010s, averaging double digit points at the 2010 World Championships and the 2011 London Invitational tournament. He also averaged over 28 minutes per game in both competitions, taking on a major role from the start of the decade.
Ingles’ best tournament in Australian colours was the 2012 Olympic Games, where he truly announced himself on the world stage. The skilful lefty averaged 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for a seventh-placed Aussie side. He also played in excess of 33 minutes per game and shot over 50% from the field, proving to be a real leader. Ingles was yet again a key player at the 2014 World Cup, when Patty Mills was out due to injury. Although Australia ultimately suffered an early exit in the round of 16, Ingles had a great tournament, averaging 11.4 points per game and shooting a whopping 69.7% from the field.
In more recent years, Jinglin’ Joe was a big part of both fourth-placed Boomers teams. After averaging 26 minutes per game on the 2016 Olympic team, Ingles found an even greater role on the 2019 World Cup team, where he was logging over 33 minutes each night. Although he went ice cold against Spain in the semi finals, the 6’8 forward finished with per-game averages of 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Slow Mo Joe will again be an essential piece of the Boomers puzzle at the Tokyo Olympics this year, and fortunately he has found some form at club level. Since Mike Conley suffered a hamstring injury, Ingles has enjoyed a resurgence with the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Read about his recent NBA form here.
1. Patty Mills
FIBA World Cup (2010, 2019), London Invitational Tournament (2011), FIBA Oceania Championship (2011, 2013, 2015), Olympic Games (2012, 2016)
Was there ever any doubt?
Patty Mills is a national treasure. Since emerging as a raw 20 year old at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Mills has become a legendary figure in Australian basketball. Who could forget his buzzer beater against Russia in 2012? Or his 30-point games against France and Spain at the 2019 FIBA World Cup?
Mills has averaged over 20 points at three major tournaments for Australia – the 2012 Olympics, the 2016 Olympics and the 2019 World Cup. The Boomers just narrowly missed out on medals at the latter two events. Without Mills, it’s hard to say if the team would have hit those heights. The fleet-footed point guard even led the 2012 Olympics in scoring, beating out a host of NBA stars – Kevin Durant ranked 2nd and Manu Ginóbili ranked 3rd, for instance.
However, the 2019 FIBA World Cup was arguably Mills’ best tournament yet. Having never previously averaged over 30 minutes per game in an international tournament, the San Antonio Spurs stalwart was now logging over 33 minutes each night on average. He contributed a time-high 22.5 points per game while shooting 49.2% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. Mills was a genuine contender for tournament MVP, and many were shocked when he didn’t make the competition’s All-Star Five.
The 2020 Olympics will be Mills’ fourth, and he may be a candidate for Australian flag bearer. “Patty Thrills” is currently enjoying a productive NBA season with the Spurs, averaging 11.7 points per game and shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. If he can carry this form into the Tokyo Olympics, Mills’ legacy will grow even greater. The veteran point guard will be 35 next time around, meaning this could be the last time we see him dominate the Olympic arena during his prime. After getting so close to that elusive medal in the last two competitions, nobody deserves one more in 2020.