01/03/2024

Aussies in the NBA Season Review. (Photo: @okcthuner, @sixers, @BrooklynNets/Twitter)

With the 2021/22 NBA season and Playoffs coming to end, find out how our Aussies performed during the year, with the highlights, lowlights and outlook for next season.

The 2021/22 NBA season saw six Aussies take the court, all playing meaningful minutes and carving out defined roles with their teams.

Whether their role was as a three-point shooter, energy player off the bench, facilitator or defensive stopper, our Aussies made sure to make their impact felt this NBA season.

Patty Mills

81 Games, 11.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists

Playoffs: 4 Games, 6.3 points, one rebound

This season was the first time since 2011 that Patty Mills played for a team other than the San Antonio Spurs, after joining the Brooklyn Nets during the offseason.

There was lots of excitement about Mills’ arrival in Brooklyn, where he would be teaming up with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. The team was touted as one of the favourites to win the Championship at the start of the season, however, what began with so much promise ended in disappointment with the Nets suffering a first-round playoff exit.

While from a team perspective the season was unsatisfactory, for Mills individually it was a career year. Mills averaged his second-highest career point total with 11.4 points per game, shooting 40 per cent from behind the arc, making a career-high 227 three-pointers.

Mills ranked in the top 12 players in three-pointers made and top 25 in three-point shooting percentage. The 33-year-old had his best season shooting the ball from behind the arc, starting the season by going seven of seven from deep in his Nets debut.

Mills did not stop there making his first 10 attempts from downtown to become the first player in NBA history to begin a season 10-of-10 from three.

Mills set a new career-high in three-pointers this season with nine, dropping 34 (equalling his career-high). He also recorded the most three-pointers scored in a Christmas Day game, with eight against the Lakers.

This great shooting from three saw Mills acknowledged by being selected as part of the NBA’s All-star Weekend, where he competed in the three-point contest.

The records kept rolling in for Mills later in the season when he surpassed fellow Aussie, Joe Ingles for the most three-pointers made by an Australian in an NBA regular season. The previous record was 204 which Ingles reached in the 2017/18 season.

Mills 227 three-pointers put him second all-time on the Brooklyn Nets franchise threes made in a season.

The year did not come without its struggles, with Mills’ role changing from game to game. This was due to Harden and Durant being sidelined for portions of the season combined with the absence of Irving who could only play road games due to not being vaccinated.

Therefore, the team was without much cohesion, with different lineups each night. This eventuated in the Nets struggling through the middle part of the season, going on an 11-game losing streak.

Mills was an ultimate professional, however, playing the most games for the team, suiting up in 81 of 82 games.

During the playoffs Mills came off the bench able to offer some scoring impact, however, it was short-lived with Brooklyn being swept by Boston.

While the season ended on a sour note, Mills was named the recipient of the Joe Dumars Trophy for winning the 2021/22 NBA Sportsmanship Award.

Patty Mills holding the Joe Dumars Trophy after winning the 2021-22 NBA Sportsmanship Award. (Photo: @NBA_AU – Twitter)

Highlight

There were many personal highlights for Mills following his career year from behind the arc, however, being part of All-Star Weekend as a participant in the Three-Point Contest stands out.

Mills has always been a strong shooter from behind the arc but never received the recognition he deserved when in San Antonio. Now at the Nets and with more attention on him and the team, he was finally recognised for his shooting.

Mills made a good account of himself, finishing with a score of 21, however, this just wasn’t enough to finish in the top three and progress to the final round.

Low light

During the final month of the season, Mills entered a shooting slump, missing shots he had previously been making all year. This slump coincided with Mills now coming off the bench as the Nets returned to full health and with the additions of Seth Curry and Goran Dragic taking minutes from him.

When Mills was on the court during the later stages of the season, he was required to make a quick impact. What Mills primarily provided for the team was three-point shooting, so when he was unable to score, his impact on the game was minimised.

Over his final 25 games of the season Mills made 46 of the 140 three-pointers he took going at 32.9%. Before his shooting slump, in the first 56 games of the season, Mills shot the ball at 42.3% from behind the arc.

Outlook for next season

Mills has a player option for next season with the Nets, which he is expected to trigger, therefore meaning he will be a part of the roster for the 2022/23 season. With Brooklyn expected to make some changes to its roster after the disappointment of this season, there is always the possibility of Mills getting traded.

Although, what Mills provides is what the Nets need, since they want spot-up shooters from deep who can play off-ball. Coming off a career year from three expect Mills to play a similar role next season as a shooter off the bench.

Joe Ingles

45 Games, 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists

Entering his eighth season in the NBA and at 34 years of age, Joe Ingles saw his role from the previous season slightly dimmish as the season progressed. Ingles went from being a starter early in the season to coming off the bench, with Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder favouring Royce O’Neale in the starting five.

His production also suffered, dropping from a double-digit scorer to averaging 7.2 points a game, with him also having his worst shooting season from the field and three since joining the NBA in 2014. This season, Ingles shot 40.4 per cent from the field and 34.7 per cent from behind the arc, down from last year when he shot 48.9 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from three.

The forward was known for having always played a three and D role, Ingles found himself again taking the majority of his shots from deep, with 78.9 per cent of his attempts coming from three-point range, ranking as the highest in his career.

Ingles’ ability to facilitate and create for others was on full display this season, averaging 3.5 assists per game.

Unfortunately for Ingles, his season was cut short after suffering an ACL injury at the end of January. This resulted in him being traded from the Jazz to the Portland Trailblazers, leaving the only club he had played for since joining the NBA.

Highlight

The highlight of the season for Ingles was reaching career milestones in points and three-pointers scored.

In the early part of the season, Ingles scored his 1,000th career three-pointer against the Denver Nuggets, where he joined elite company becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to score 1000 threes while maintaining a shooting percentage of 41.5 per cent. Ingles joins elite company alongside some of the best shooters the league has ever seen, joining Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, and Steve Nash to reach the feat.

At the end of December Ingles reached another milestone, scoring his 5,000th career point against the Charlotte Hornets. Ingles became the third Australian player to reach that mark, with only Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills having scored more.

Low light

Unfortunately for Ingles, his season ended abruptly on January 30, when he suffered a torn ACL against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The injury occurred during the second quarter when Ingles drove to the basket and his left knee buckled underneath him.

As a result of the injury, the Utah Jazz traded Ingles to the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Juancho Hernangomez. A bitter peel to swallow for Ingles who had played 590 games for the franchise and been part of five playoff runs, having played 45 games in the post-season.

Outlook for next season

Ingles may never play a game for the Trailblazers as he’s set to become a free agent this offseason.

With Portland looking to re-tool next season and build around its franchise player, Damian Lillard, there is a chance it looks to re-sign him, to add a veteran presence and three-point shooting to the roster.

There is also the possibility of a return to the Jazz if they want to offer him the mid-level exception. However, with questions around the future of Utah’s roster heading into this offseason, there is no certainty of that happening.

Either way, Ingles will be 35 years old at the start of next season and will be unable to play for the first two to three months of the season as he continues to rehabilitate his knee and work on returning to action.

Josh Giddey

54 Games, 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists

Having been selected with the sixth pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2021 NBA Draft, there were high hopes for Josh Giddey’s rookie season with the 6’8 guard surpassing all those expectations.

Giddey started all 54 games he played for the Thunder averaging 31.5 minutes per game. He shot the ball at 41.9 per cent from the field and 26.3 per cent from three.

The 19-year-old was able to seamlessly fit into the Thunder’s lineup with his unselfish style of play, with his ability to impact the game in numerous ways. Whether it be scoring, rebounding on both ends or using his high basketball IQ and passing ability, Giddey made a difference each game.

When players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort were playing, Giddey took more of a backseat, facilitating and attacking the boards. When neither of them played Giddey played a larger role offensively, having the ball in his hands more and running the offence, which resulted in him recording four triple-doubles.

Giddey set plenty of new NBA records during his rookie year, none more notable than becoming the youngest player to record a triple-double at 19 years old and 84 days, when he put up 17 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists against the Dallas Mavericks in early January.

Giddey’s stellar start to his rookie campaign saw him be named as part of the NBA’s All-Star weekend where he participated in the All-Star Skills Challenge and Rising Stars game.

Giddey’s impact was seen on a nightly basis and was recognised by being named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for four straight months.

Unfortunately for Giddey, his season was cut short just as he was beginning to come into his own and find consistency, with a right hip injury in late February sidelining him for the remainder of the season.

Compared to the rest of his rookie cohort, Giddey averaged the most assists per game (6.4) and the second most rebound per game (7.8). He was the only rookie to score at least 650 points, grab 400 rebounds and have 300 assists.

For his incredible rookie campaign, he was recognised by being named in the 2021/22 NBA All-Rookie Second Team.

Highlight

There were many highlights for Giddey throughout his rookie campaign, but none stands out more than the stretch of games leading into All-Star weekend, where he had three consecutive triple-doubles.

In the first game against the Chicago Bulls, Giddey had 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. In the following game against the New York Knicks, Giddey scored 28 points, grabbed 11 boards, and had 12 assists.

In this game against the Knicks, he scored his career-high in points, set the record for the most points scored by an Australian at Madison Square Garden, and became the youngest player in NBA history to record back-to-back triple-doubles and the youngest to record a 25-point triple-double.

Giddey’s week was not done there, next travelling back to Oklahoma to put up a 17 point, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, triple-double against the San Antonio Spurs. With his third consecutive triple-double, he joined Oscar Robertson as the only other rookie in NBA history to have recorded a triple-double in three consecutive games.

This stretch of games was the moment that Giddey officially announced himself to the league and began getting the recognition he deserved, which was evident during All-Star weekend with players such as LeBron James praising him.

Low light

After such a promising start to his rookie season, it was unfortunately cut short on the 25th of February when he was ruled out with right hip soreness. It was originally thought that Giddey would only miss a handful of games, but the injury appeared to be more severe than first thought.

Giddey did not play again for the Thunder following the injury, with the team instead opting to sideline him for their final 23 games.

Having just started to find his feet in the league before the injury the timing was unfortunate, with Giddey starting to get talked about in the Rookie of the Year debate.

Outlook for next season

With Giddey continuing to develop alongside the exciting young core the Thunder have, they could be a surprise team next season depending on how quickly players improve and what acquisitions they make in the offseason.

The Thunder will add more young talent to their roster to pair with Giddey, having picks two and 12 in the upcoming NBA Draft.

One area of Giddey’s game that he will need to improve is his shooting, with the 19-year-old struggling from beyond the arc at times. If Giddey can average in the low 30s in three-point percentage this will allow him to impact games more with his scoring.

Giddey will also need to develop as a defender, with him already having the size and length to potentially be a good defender in the league.

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Matisse Thybulle

66 Games, 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, one assist, 1.7 steals, one block

Playoffs: 9 Games, 3.0 points, one rebound, 0.8 steals

Matisse Thybulle entered his third season in the NBA fresh off winning a Bronze medal with the Australian Boomers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. During the Olympics he showed off his defensive prowess, averaging three steals per game as well as shooting 41.7 per cent from behind the arc.

Thybulle was able to continue his form on the defensive end, having statically his best season on that end of the floor averaging 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He also improved his scoring (5.7 points per game), and shooting going from 42 per cent to 50 per cent from the field, however, was unable to take that next step as a three-point shooter, making 31.3 per cent of his attempts.

Thybulle began the season coming off the bench as he had in his first two years with the 76ers. After shooting 48.3 per cent from the field and averaging 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks through the first seven games of the season he was promoted to the starting lineup.

This was however short-lived with Thybulle starting two games before being placed in the league’s health and safety protocols list, missing the team’s next seven games. From there Thybulle found himself in and out of the starting five before finally cementing his spot on December 20, against the Boston Celtics.

In the starting lineup, Thybulle had a massive impact on the defensive end, highlighted by him setting a new career-high in steals, with six against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thybulle saw his game on the offensive end grow following Philadelphia trading for James Harden, with Harden’s high basketball IQ and playmaking ability helping the Aussie increase his scoring numbers.

Thybulle and Harden played 19 games together with him scoring in double figures in seven of them compared to only hitting that mark five times in the other 47 games he played without Harden.

When the NBA Playoffs began, Thybulle found himself out of the starting five, replaced by Danny Green. The Sixers went on to win the series against the Raptors but were soon eliminated in their second-round series against the Heat, going down four games to two.

While the season did not end how the Sixers would have envisioned at the beginning of the year and following the Harden trade, Thybulle still had something to celebrate being named on the 2021/22 NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the second year in a row.

Thybulle had a stellar season on the defensive end, being the only player to record 110 steals and 70 blocks, he led the league in three-pointers blocked with 23 and ranked third in the NBA in deflections with 248.

Highlight

Entering this season there were questions over whether Thybulle could take the next step and prove himself to be a starting calibre player for the 76ers. Thybulle did exactly that, able to push Danny Green from the starting five a quarter of the way through the season where he remained until the playoffs.

Proving himself to be a starting calibre player was important for the 25-year-old as it meant getting more consistent minutes and playing with the team’s best players, which had a positive impact on Thybulle’s scoring ability.

Thybulle shot 51.1 per cent from the field and 33 per cent from three when starting compared to 46.4 per cent and 25.7 per cent when coming off the bench.

Low light

After having a strong regular season, being removed from the starting lineup and not being available for his team during the most crucial time of the year was a low light of Thybulle’s season.

Thybulle missed Games three, four and six of Philadelphia’s first-round series with Toronto due to not being fully vaccinated, having only received one dose of the vaccine, therefore meaning he was unable to enter Canada.

Due to being unavailable Sixers Head Coach Doc Rivers was forced to take him out of the starting five. Even though the Sixers advanced despite struggling against the Raptors, Thybulle’s minutes never returned to what they were during the regular season.

Outlook for next season

Next season will be Thybulle’s final year of his rookie contract with Philadelphia. Thybulle will therefore need to put in a lot of work this offseason to improve his game, particularly on the offensive end to maximise his value heading into potential free agency in 2023.

With Danny Green suffering a torn ACL in the Sixers’ last game of the Playoffs, Thybulle should be the team’s starting small forward for the 2022/23 season.

While an elite defender, Thybulle has to improve on the offensive side of the ball, with his three-point shooting needing to be a focus. Thybulle shot 31.3 per cent from deep this season on 2.2 attempts per game which is below the league average of 35.4 per cent.

Three and D players like Thybulle have been given lucrative contracts in the past, so if he can improve his shooting from deep, combined with his defensive ability, a nice payday could be coming his way.

Jock Landale

54 Games, 4.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists

After winning the NBL Championship and Finals MVP with Melbourne United and fresh off a Bronze medal result at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Jock Landale got the opportunity to fulfil his NBA dream, signing with the San Antonio Spurs for the 2021/22 NBA season.

Joining such a prestigious organisation as the Spurs, Landale made immense growth as a player during his rookie season.

Through the early part of the season, Landale played very little, dealing with concussion issues and going into the league’s health and safety protocols, resulting in him being unable to crack the rotation. This saw the centre get assigned to the Spurs G-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs to get some playing time and build continuity.

Landale did exactly that playing two games in the G-League on December 8 and 12, where he scored 26 points and 28 points in the second game, shooting 85.7 and 76.9 per cent from the field. This saw him recalled to the NBA team and from there his minutes and playing time increased.

Landale soon cemented his role on the team as the backup centre off the bench where he come on offering quick scoring, rim protection and the ability to space the floor.

During his rookie campaign, Landale started one game which was against the LA Clippers in mid-January. He also scored a season-high 26 points, the most minutes he played was 35, and the highest number of rebounds he had was 11.

Highlight

The high point of Landale’s rookie campaign came on January 15 with Jakob Poeltl out injured, Landale was named in the starting lineup for the Spurs game against the Clippers.

In just his 25th NBA game, Landale made the most of the opportunity scoring his first double-double with a 10 point, 11 rebound performance in 26 minutes of action. The Spurs also went on to win the game 101 to 94.

The most impressive part of the game was Landale’s 11 rebounds, with eight being offensive boards, showcasing to coach Gregg Popovich the impact he can have.

Low light

Unfortunately for Landale near the end of the season he saw his role reduced with the return of Zach Collins in early February, who had been out with an ankle injury. Collins immediately was put ahead of Landale in the rotation, taking his role as the backup big man off the bench.

Collins had a similar skill set to Landale, able to protect the rim and space the floor. Therefore Landale saw his minutes become more sporadic, often getting a few minutes of playing time where he was unable to make a huge impact.

With Landale being the third centre in the rotation, he did not play in San Antonio’s play-in tournament game against New Orleans.

Outlook for next season

Heading into next season while Landale’s is contracted, it is not guaranteed for 2022/23, therefore, meaning the Spurs can cut him in the offseason. However, it appears Landale will still be in San Antonio next season after showing glimpses of the impact player he can be.

Landale’s competition for minutes will be just as intense with both Poeltl and Collins contracted for next season. If Landale stays with the team he will likely be behind both men in the rotation and therefore will need to work hard during the offseason to improve his game and prove he should get more minutes next season.

Josh Green

67 Games, 4.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists

Playoffs: 15 Games, 1.5 points, 0.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists

Entering his sophomore season and now under a new Head Coach in Jason Kidd, Josh Green had to work hard to earn regular minutes and a place in Dallas’ rotation.

Green saw much more playing time this season compared to his rookie year, which correlated with him averaging more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He also improved his shooting splits from 45.2 per cent to 50.8 per cent from the field, while his three-point shooting increased from 16 per cent to 35.9 per cent.

Green’s season began with him playing irregularly and when he did play the 6’5 guard would only see a few minutes on the court. It was not until mid-December that Green began to get more consistent playing time before he was sidelined due to the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols.

When he returned Green was immediately part of the Mavericks’ rotation, where he would go on to play in all of the team’s remaining games in the regular season.

It did not take long for Green to make an impact, with him scoring a then career-high 17 points just seven games after returning from the league’s protocols. Green backed this performance up two nights later, setting a new career-high with 18 points against the Chicago Bulls.

Serving as an impact player off the bench, the 21-year-old was rewarded for his hard work, being promoted into the starting lineup for two games against the Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans which the Dallas Mavericks both won.

Green started in one more game for the Mavericks a few weeks later against the Rockets where he set a new career-high in steals with four.

One part of Green’s game that stood out was his ability to rebound the ball on both ends of the floor. This culminated in him having a career night against the Sacramento Kings, where he recorded six offensive and six defensive rebounds to set a new career-high in rebounds with 12.

Dallas finished the season as the fourth seed heading into the NBA Playoffs, however, during the post-season with the rotation shrinking, Green’s game time was reduced as the starters got more minutes.

The shooting guard still got minutes against the Jazz in the Mavericks’ first-round series, however in the second and third rounds against the Suns and Warriors, Green did not play as much.

Green would usually play garbage time minutes at the end of games, scoring just five points in the Dallas’ two series against the Suns and Warriors.

Highlight

The highlight of Green’s 2021/22 NBA season was him taking the next step as a player and establishing himself in the Mavericks rotation.

Green went from playing just 39 games in his rookie season to 67 this season where he earnt consistent minutes and proved he could be relied upon when his number was called.

This was evident with his performances when he got more opportunities, able to impact the game via scoring, rebounding or on the defensive end.

Low light

Green began the season from square one after having just worked his way into Dallas’ rotation the previous season.

Green found himself in and out of the Mavericks lineup during his rookie season, however, began to earn more game time during the backend of the year, playing in eight of their final 10 games where he averaged 15 minutes of playing time per game.

With the change in the coaching staff and Kidd taking over as the new head coach, Green had to prove that he should be part of Dallas’ rotation on a consistent basis for this season.

This did not come easily with Green getting minutes in just 11 of Dallas’ first 22 games of the season before he earnt the trust of Kidd.

Outlook for next season

The Mavericks exercised their 2022/23 team option in October last year, meaning Green will remain in Dallas next season.

At just 21 years of age, Green has just started to crack what he could be as a player with him expected to continue to develop and learn from his experiences this season. Having cut out a spot in Dallas’ rotation, Green should expect to play a similar role next season where he will have the opportunity to earn more minutes through good performances.

Unfortunately for Green wanting to have a more substantial role come playoff time will be hard to come by, with Dallas being deep at the guard position. The Mavericks currently have Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson who is expected to re-sign with them this offseason, Spencer Dinwiddie, Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr all under contract for next season, with all currently ahead of him in the rotation.

There have been rumours about the Mavericks being active in the trade market this offseason as they look to upgrade at the centre position. This could result in players being part of a trade package, meaning Green could be thrust into a bigger role next season depending on who is moved.

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