Three in the Key: Selecting the Boomers for the 2014 FIBA World Cup

Credit: Scott Belzner of sb4photos.com

Rising Expectations

2014 is a massive year for basketball across the world with the FIBA World Cup set to get underway in August. The World Cup is really the pinnacle for the sport and once again represents another chance for the Boomers to make a run at securing that elusive medal on the senior international stage.

Dellavedova guarding Tony Parker: Credit Scott Belzner of sb4photos.com

Dellavedova guarding Tony Parker: Credit Scott Belzner of sb4photos.com

Unlike the previous 2012 London Olympics campaign, there is a real buzz surrounding the Boomers. Australia now boasts 6 bonafide NBA players and with a number of others playing in high level European leagues. Along with tantalising talents set to burst onto the world stage in Dante Exum and Ben Simmons, expectations for the Boomers are rising once again.

Craig RaynerTravis Reid and Damian Arsenis discuss and select their final 12 for the Boomers 2014 FIBA World Cup for Men ahead of the official team announcement by Basketball Australia on Monday, 28 July 2014 at 8:30am.


Three in the Key: Selecting the Boomers

Damian: With the 17-man Boomers squad named for the pre-World Cup camp in Canberra this week, who was your surprise inclusions and omissions?

Travis: The most surprising selection was at the centre position with the inclusion of Angus Brandt, or more specifically the omission of Luke Nevill. Nevill gave the Boomers a consistent spark on the offensive end in the Sino-Aus series when the team struggled.

Damian: While he has shown a lot of promise, I thought the inclusion of Angus Brandt over a genuine 7-footer in Luke Nevill also appeared strange. The Boomers do not have Andrew Bogut or Aleks Maric due to injury and even though he may not have made the final 12 for Spain, I would have thought Nevill should have been invited. His ability to mid-range shots and his size at the defensive end would have got him an invite. Brandt is 6’10 and without any major international experience – the Boomers front court just looks a little short in this instance.

Craig: Like you both, Brandt was a surprise for me too given Nevill’s form and increased minutes (over Brandt) in the recent series against China. Perhaps reading between the lines, Lemanis already has his bigs picked, namely Jawai, Andersen and Baynes, with Brandt merely there for experience. Broekhoff’s inclusion was also a little surprising, however given he was a late withdrawal from the Chinese series perhaps Lemanis has given him a lifeline. He could be the 17th man so-to-speak as I thought the squad for this camp was originally going to be a 16-man squad.

The position that really has me scratching my head is our 4th guard as with Mills withdrawal means Dellavedova, Exum and Goulding pick themselves? I can’t toss-up between Martin and Gibson for that 4th spot, leaning to Martin if I have to due to his 3-point ability. Other option of course is playing Newley at the guard and Ingles even spent time playing the point in London. How do you see the guard rotation working in Spain?

Travis: Lemanis did always state that the final camp squad would be 16, but I also heard him mention on a radio interview that FIBA allows the teams to submit a 20-man roster. Any of the additional 8 players can be brought in as an emergency in the event of injury. Lemanis probably already had that 20-man line-up selected when you consider the likes of Bogut, Mills & Maric being unavailable.

Mills will be absent for the Boomers: Credit Scott Belzner of sb4photos.com

Mills will be absent for the Boomers: Credit Scott Belzner of sb4photos.com

Damian: Mills’ absence has almost certainly made Lemanis rethink his Boomers back court. So who joins Delly?

Travis: The guards are interesting. Personally, I’ve always believed we need to take a true backup point guard to Spain. Even before Mills was hurt I was advocating the selection of Damian Martin. He is by far our best defender and can guard a wide range of players including bigger guys. The knock on him in the past has been his shooting, but he has worked hard on that, shooting well over 40% from three this past NBL season. He gets my vote as the fourth guard behind Delly, Exum and Goulding.

Damian: There is no argument from me that Delly will be the undisputed floor general in Spain. With Mills out that has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons. Exum should make the final 12-man roster as he has the talent and is going to be a Boomer for the next 15 years, but right now I am not convinced he is ready to provide consistent production at this level. He will have the lead-in games to prove that or not. Goulding deserves his chance after a stellar NBL season and a very good effort in NBA Summerleague with the Mavericks – we need a scorer like him on the team who can explode – especially without Mills. I also think Damian Martin gets a gig for his leadership, experience but also his defensive abilities – he is also no longer a liability from the perimeter.

It is also worth noting that we can definitely expect to see Newley and also Ingles spend decent time alongside Delly – this flexibility will allow the Boomers to go big at times that could really come in handy.

Travis: With Exum, prior to Mills getting hurt I figured his role for this World Cup would be to come off the bench and try to make an impact in short bursts with his quickness and athleticism. Like 5 minute bursts where he can ignite the defense with a couple of steals/deflections, and make some plays at the offensive end by getting into the key. I don’t believe Mills’ absence should change that role, and I don’t think we should expect Exum to play big minutes every game in this tournament.

With Goulding, his ability to score will be even more important now that Mills is injured. It was great to see him play a totally different role for Dallas in the Summer League than we’ve been accustomed from him in the NBL. To see him control his offensive aggressiveness and play as a spot up shooter, whilst really zeroing in on the defensive end was super impressive. With Mills out, Bubbles has to be a lock to go to Spain.

The one guard we don’t need to talk about is Delly. He is as much of a lock as there has ever been for a Boomers team. He is the engine that makes the whole team go. The only real question about him is will he be named Captain? What do you guys think?

Craig: I am a fan of David Andersen and Joe Ingles as co-captains of this current team. Both have been exposed to not only international competition for a number of years now but experienced the madness of playing in Europe and are well-respected. I think they’d be a good example and set the tone for a focused World Cup.

Travis: I’ve been super impressed by both Andersen and Ingles in recent interviews I’ve heard with them. I’m sure they will Lemanis will go down the co-captains route. Delly is a natural-born leader, he’ll be the spiritual leader of this group regardless of role, so he may as well carry the official title too.

Damian: Dellavedova is definitely Captain for mine. True leader on and off the court. While I hate to say it, but right now it is now even close. But moving into the wings, who should be included? I mentioned previously that Ingles and Newley will pinch-hit at the 2-spot. I think that both will be key to how far Australia advance in the tournament. Ingles was great in London and will need to be just as good if not better. We need more from Newley this time around, but I don’t think his game translated to what Brett Brown tried to do with the team. I think Lemanis will get the best out of him this time. Adam Gibson although talented, is now well down the pecking order even with Mills out.

Travis: Your right Damian, both Ingles and Newley can give the team minutes at the two-spot. Ingles can even play spot minutes at the point if necessary. Newley is a real x-factor. If he can hit consistently from the perimeter, his value to the team goes through the roof as it opens up the driving lanes and he can use them to get all the way to the rim. On Gibson, I agree Damian. I cannot see Gibson getting another run at a major international tournament. He doesn’t really ‘fit’ into any specific role for the Boomers, which is understandable for a 6’2″ combo guard in international basketball.

Ingles drives past Red Star's Jaka Blazic during their Round 7, Group D contest (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Ingles drives past Red Star’s Jaka Blazic during their Round 7, Group D contest (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Craig: Ingles will soak up a lot of the court time in the 3-spot, perhaps up to as much as 25-30 minutes a game which leaves Newley some decent time on the floor in addition to perhaps some small stints at the shooting guard position. Given our depth and likelihood of these two playing big minutes, we don’t need to be as deep here as say in the guards or the bigs. Hopefully the lead-in matches allow Newley to find his niche in the national team again, something that did go missing a little in the last couple of years although that also occurred in his domestic league seasons. This last season in Spain was a good one for him so all signs point to a re-emergence of Newley in Spain.

Travis: We don’t have a shortage of swingmen at the moment, that’s for sure. Ingles and Newley will get the majority of minutes at the three spot, but Broekhoff and Simmons certainly can both make a case for their inclusion in the team. Broekhoff is an extremely versatile player, and can certainly swing between the shooting guard and small forward spots. He’s another guy that Lemanis can count on to try to rectify the outside shooting woes that have plagued the team in recent times. Plus he is an outstanding rebounder for his size. In fact, his rebounding is so good that he could also be used in spurts as a four-man in smaller line-ups.

As for Simmons, well, where do you start? It’s an amazing position that basketball in Australia finds itself in when a guy like Dante Exum can be selected with the fifth pick in the NBA draft, yet not be the most exciting prospect in the country. Most pundits have commented that Simmons may be too young to go to the World Cup, but I don’t agree. He has recently turned 18, and recent measurements have him listed at 6’9″ and about 100 kilograms, so he is no ‘boy’ despite his age. Joe Ingles recently commented that the Boomers are going to press 95% of the time in Spain, and look to run at every opportunity. With that kind of setup, an athlete of Simmons’ size and ability is too hard to ignore.

Damian: Agree with your assessment of Broekhoff entirely – I’m a big fan of his game. Simmons is able to slide across to the power forward spot more readily than Broekhoff but is still very young – he is still at High School! No offence to Exum, but Simmons is the future superstar of Australian basketball – if not the entire world! Big wraps on this kid and I think he get selected for the future as 12th man. Give him some spot minutes here and there – but who knows? Maybe he will demand more? So does that mean a guy like Broekhoff misses out? He was last man cut at London and it appears he may be headed for a similar scenario this time around…

Travis: Broekhoff deserves to go to Spain, no doubt, you could make a case for all 17 guys currently in the squad. Unfortunately for the players, but fortunately for the team, talented players are going to miss out, and it would seem that Broekhoff may be an unlucky one (again) this time.

Damian: With no Bogut or Maric – which Aussie big men get to punch a ticket to Spain?

Craig: Baynes, Andersen and Jawai are all locks in the front court for mine, and given Bairstow’s senior year at New Mexico and now being in form from the Vegas Summer League, I think he has to be a lock as well. Andersen and Jawai may look to the World Cup as a springboard to a new European contract, while Baynes could still very well be un-signed once the action kicks off and also be out to impress. I am very glad Bairstow is in form and pitch in solidly, as with Baynes and Jawai being foul prone at times, I was worried in the past that we would be vulnerable down low; especially if foul trouble should hit us against the likes of Spain with the Gasol brothers and Ibaka roaming the paint.

Travis: The bigs almost, ‘almost’ pick themselves. Baynes is a lock. He was a lock before Bogut and Maric withdrew. Andersen is another lock; whether he starts or comes off the bench is yet to be determined, but his experience alone in the absence of some other veteran bigs books his ticket to Spain. It doesn’t hurt that he can still spread the floor with his jump shot either! With Baynes starting, Jawai will take up residence as the impact big off the bench. Boomers fans have waited many years to see if Jawai can be the x-factor he’s so long promised to be. 2014 is when we’ll find out. Last but not least, Bairstow. Big Cam has to go. His game has gone through the roof in the past 12 months, he may even find himself starting at power forward. Motum is the last man looking in at the moment. That doesn’t mean he won’t be selected, but he’s in a real battle for one of the last spots.

Damian: Baynes is arguably our best big in the paint still available. I can’t wait to see him link up with Delly in the pick and roll as they made some decent highlights in London! Andersen with his experience and ability to stretch teams with his shooting ability will make his last appearance for the Boomers on the world stage. His long-term replacement may well be Simmons, but for now it looks to be Bairstow who gets a gig and for mine will play decent minutes. A fit Jawai is something the Boomers really need – but will he be match fit and able to deliver his best? I still think he may be worth the gamble. Definitely all ahead of Brandt and Worthington. Walker for mine is training fodder for the camp although to his credit he played well against a B grade Chinese team.

Travis: Yeah, I was totally blown away with the performances Walker had in the Sino-Aus series, but it seems hard to believe they could translate to a spot in the World Cup team. Lemanis has always been fond of having that mobile four-man in the mold of Walker, but Simmons and Motum would have to be ahead of him. I am also an unabashed fan of Worthington and everything he has done for the Boomers over his past almost decade of service, but with the youth coming through it feels like now is the right time to make a change.

Damian: So we have Delly, Exum, Goulding, Martin, Ingles, Newley, Simmons, Baynes, Andersen, Bairstow & Jawai. That’s 11 gents – who is our last selection for the Boomers World Cup team?

Ben Simmons goes up for the dunk - Courtesy Randy Kemp / MaxPreps

Ben Simmons goes up for the dunk – Courtesy Randy Kemp / MaxPreps

Craig: The final spot in the squad for me is Simmons. Given the names that will be in front of him in this squad, minutes will be limited but the fact that he is pretty much a lock already for Rio. I am a fan in this instance to pick a player with an eye on the Olympics. In the past we have used up 2, even 3 roster spots with an eye to the future but now with the depth we have we don’t have to do that. Teams like Argentina, Spain and France use Under 17/19/20’s championships to blood their youngsters. I think the experience for Simmons at a World Cup will do him the world of good for Rio and of course be up a number of notches from the Oceania Championships he’s already been exposed to.

Damian: Having already selected Simmons who will probably be the 12th man, my last inclusion is either Broekhoff or Motum. We have two very young guys in Exum and Simmons on the roster already who may or may not play a lot. Broekhoff gives the team some more flexibility with his shooting and ability to slide across a lot of roles. Motum is primarily a power forward who knows how to score. Given the unknown with Jawai’s potential inclusion, I’m inclined to take Motum as insurance otherwise we may be one genuine big man short.

Travis: With Ingles set to soak up most of the minutes at the three spot, it is not necessary to carry a lot of depth in that position. Also, I agree entirely about Baynes and Jawai being foul prone. As much as I think they both should be in the team, it would be wise to carry an additional big. This all leads to the final selection which I think it will be Motum. With Patty out, you can’t help but feel there may be patches where the Boomers struggle to score consistently. This is where Motum can really help. If he can play the same role for the Boomers that he so successfully played for the Jazz in Summer League, he will be a very valuable asset for the team. To be able to bring an aggressive mobile big off the bench, one that can score quickly both inside and outside, is a true luxury, and one I believe Lemanis will want. Sorry Ryan Broekhoff, but it looks like you’ll be unlucky 13th man again.

Damian: Wow guys – so we have all agreed on our final 12 for Spain! This is how it looks:

David ANDERSEN
Cameron BAIRSTOW
Aron BAYNES
Matthew DELLAVEDOVA
Dante EXUM
Chris GOULDING
Joe INGLES
Nathan JAWAI
Damian MARTIN
Brock MOTUM
Brad NEWLEY
Ben SIMMONS

Craig: Fingers crossed that we are on the money with the final 12, that’ll help boost our cred!

Damian: We don’t have too long to wait as the final 12 are being announced at a Basketball Australia press conference being held at 8:30am on Monday, 28 July by Lemanis and Longley. The only thing we did not get consensus on was the team captain!

Damian Arsenis

Written by

A patriotic and passionate follower of all things #AussieHoops. With a Master of Marketing, I am a Life Member of the Warrandyte Basketball Association, Level 2 qualified coach and referee, podcaster, and proud father of three girls.

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