16/04/2024

Patty Mills has had a brilliant season with the Spurs. Photo: @Patty_Mills Twitter

With seasons coming to an end for our Aussies in the NBA, The Inner Sanctum has taken a look at how each player performed in 2020/21, and assessed their outlook for Tokyo 2020.

Eight Aussies – still in the running for the Olympics – suited up for NBA franchises in 2020/21. With the elimination of the Philadelphia 76ers from the playoffs, there are no more Boomers in NBA Championship contention.

As a result, The Inner Sanctum has taken a deep dive into each of their seasons, and assessed their outlook for Tokyo 2020.

What did they bring to their NBA teams – and what do they bring to the Boomers?

Joe Ingles – Utah Jazz

In 67 games for the league-best Utah Jazz – who were bundled out in the Western Conference Semis – Joe Ingles flirted with the best effective field goal percentage (eFG) of all time.

He ended with an eFG of 65.2 per cent and was second in Sixth Man of the Year voting to his teammate Jordan Clarkson.

That was the type of season Ingles had. He was poetry in (slow) motion offensively.

The 33-year-old was a focal point for the Jazz offence. He started 30 games in point guard Mike Conley’s absence, and averaged 4.7 assists. He recorded 12.1 points in 27.9 minutes per game.

His movement on the court is slow, and oftentimes he does get punished for it trying to match up with some of the best athletes on the planet. But, he has a brilliant basketball mind that is still razor sharp.

Ingles was an invaluable piece of the best regular season team in the league because of his smart, selfless nature.

Jinglin’ Joe brings an abundance of experience to the Boomers, but is also in career-best form and carries the best shooting percentages of his career into the Olympics. He is going at 45.1 per cent from three on 6.1 attempts; if he can carry that form into the Olympics he will be one of Australia’s best players on the international stage again.

https://twitter.com/Joeingles7/status/1406626593540243462?s=20

Patty Mills – San Antonio Spurs

Mills embodies the Australian spirit and culture over in the US – and could be a flag bearer for the opening ceremony come Tokyo 2020.

His 10th season in San Antonio was as good as any individually. He provides an incredible veteran presence as the only remaining player from their last ring, but is also one of the best spark plugs off the bench in the Association.

Mills played 24.8 minutes in his 68 games, starting just one and receiving some Sixth Man of the Year votes. He averaged 10.8 points and 2.4 assists per game, working tirelessly off screens and in transition offensively to find himself looks. It isn’t easy being a barely-six foot player in the league, and he works remarkably hard to be a player that is now sought after in the free agency market at the age of 32.

‘Boomer Patty’ is back for the Olympics. He is motivational, inspirational and passionate when he pulls on the Australian jersey.

He seems as locked in as he has ever been, and it will be a privilege to be able to watch him pull on the green and gold for his fourth Olympic Games at Tokyo.

Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers

Simmons had a horrible finals series, and he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting. These polar opposites make for a very complexing assessment of his fourth playing season in the league.

Firstly, he has become one of the great modern day perimeter defenders. His length and quickness; his footwork and timing. It’s a combination that is incredibly unique and he has used it to his advantage.

What he hasn’t used to his advantage is his offensive potential. Putting aside his crippling lack of an outside shot, and he is still a very poor free throw shooter (61.3 per cent) and as a result shys away from contact in the paint. That is the severe hinderance on his game at the moment.

It all came to a head in final quarters during the Eastern Conference Semis. He took three shots in the final quarters of that series. That’s seven periods of 12 minutes in which the season is up for grabs and he refused to shoot.

Simmons is now 24, so age isn’t an excuse for his passive play on the offensive end.

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It has been reported that he won’t be suiting up for the Olympics, citing ‘skill development’ in the off-season as his reason for remaining in the US. None of that has been confirmed by Simmons, so Australians will wait to see if he attends Boomers training camp in LA, and if he will travel to Tokyo to play for the green and gold.

The query from the public surrounds his potential ‘skill development’ with the Boomers – is it not beneficial for him to work out with the likes of Mills and Ingles, who are world-class shooters?

If he does play for the Boomers, they become a serious medal fancy. He is the perfect facilitator for shooters, and is an extra big to assist Baynes and Landale defensively.

The general public is so hard on the former number one pick because his ceiling is that of some of the greats of the game. He still has the opportunity to enter rarified air, but it may end up being for a different team than the one that drafted him in 2016.

Matisse Thybulle – Philadelphia 76ers

Thybulle promised the world on the defensive end coming out of College, and in 2021 he delivered on it.

The 76ers wing took the biggest assignment night-in, night-out in his 20 minutes per game for the one-seed in the East. He was relied upon by Doc Rivers to do the job, and he did. It culminated with him being named Second Team All-Defensive at the end of the season.

Matisse blends an incredible seven-foot wingspan with elite anticipation to make for a formidable off-ball threat. He plays the passing lanes with authority, and closes out on shooters as quick as anyone in the NBA.

On-ball, he is an absolute pest and makes life incredibly difficult for ball handlers with his timing and foot work. He has room to grow with his discipline as he still bites for fakes and fouls more than the franchise would like of him, but there is so much talent defensively that Rivers couldn’t not play him. He averages an elite 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks – insane high water marks for any player in the NBA.

Offensively, he is still a work in progress as he still shoots just 30.1 per cent from three-point range and can’t create for himself off the dribble. There are positive with his offensive rebounding and sky-high athleticism that gets him some easy buckets in transition, but the likelihood is that he will never been a great offensive threat – which wasn’t expected of him anyway.

Thybulle nominated for the Boomers after opportunities to play for France and the USA in a huge boost for medal chances.

He brings elite defence which comes as a relief to the squad. It allows the likes of Ingles and Baynes to expend less energy on defence when he is helping from the weak side or taking up the challenge on the opposition’s best player.

There remains a possibility that he does end up pulling out after the 76ers shock loss to the Hawks, but it is looking positive that he will pull on the green and gold for the first time in his life.

Aron Baynes – Toronto Raptors

Baynes came off a brilliant end of the 2020 season with the Phoenix Suns, and joined an organisation with perennial playoff experience. Unfortunately, the season didn’t pan out how the Raptors or Baynes would have hoped.

The 34-year-old played 18.5 minutes and started 31 of 53 games in 2020/21. He only averaged 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest, with his shooting percentages way down.

He dropped from 35.1 per cent to 26.2 per cent from three, and struggled to keep his spot in the starting five as the wore on and the lottery became a reality for the Raptors.

So many of the Boomers medal aspirations will be pinned on Baynes as the best big man they have. He offers elite rim protection and a capacity to stretch the floor. He also offers a hard edge that is required for international basketball.

If he can recapture his best form, the Boomers will go a long way in Tokyo.

Matthew Dellavedova – Cleveland Cavaliers

Delly hasn’t found the minutes he would like playing for a team that is firmly in rebuild mode over the past few seasons.

Since he re-worked his jumpshot, he’s struggled to hit consistently behind the three-point line, but he still offers an off-the-ball threat that defenders respect.

Delly shot 16 per cent from three in his 13 games for the Cavs. He also had 4.5 assists in his 17.1 minutes on the court, showcasing his elite distribution.

With Simmons likely to miss the Olympics, Delly becomes as important as ever to the Boomers. His capacity to be an additional ball handler is ideal, but he also figures to be the main ball handler for the Boomers with Ingles and Mills stretching the floor off-ball.

Josh Green – Dallas Mavericks

Pick 18 in the 2020 NBA Draft, Green showed some promise for the Mavericks when he got his opportunities.

In his 11 minutes, Green only averaged 2.6 points and two rebounds per contest, but his defensive work proved a scope to become good on that end.

He was a pesky on-ball defender when he was switched onto ball handlers, and cut passing lanes and showed good anticipation to average 0.4 steals (1.5 steals per 36 minutes).

There is a lot to like with the upside of his game and he figures to play quite a prominent role off the bench for the Boomers at Tokyo if he has a good training camp.

It will be a brilliant experience for the 20-year-old as he finds his feet as a pro.

Dante Exum – Cleveland Cavaliers

The number five pick from the 2014 draft has had a horrid injury run in his seven-year NBA career.

He spent some time in Cleveland, and was then traded to Houston – which is a good situation for him – but didn’t play due to a long-term calf injury.

Exum is an interesting prospect for Goorjian because he hasn’t played too much for the Boomers since turning pro. He figures to be a good ball handler and provide length of the defensive end, but he has never been a reliable shooter (35.1 per cent from three his highest clip) and his body has proved to be super unreliable.

Having said that, there is great opportunity for Exum to establish himself as a vital cog for the Boomers at Tokyo.

Thon Maker and Will Magnay suited up in the NBA this season, but aren’t a part of Brian Goorjian’s squad of 16 at training camp in Los Angeles.

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