The 2022-23 NBA season is on our doorstep, and the Australian influence in the NBA is getting ever stronger, now with 11 Australians in the league, let’s discuss what may be ahead for our nation’s stars.
In this edition, we’ll examine our young stars, Dyson Daniels, Jack White & Makur Maker, and what may lie ahead in the dawn of their careers.
Who are they?
A 6’6″ guard, who arrives bearing the expectations of a lottery pick, as a part of a New Orleans Pelicans team looking to build upon last season’s playoff berth. The 8th pick out of the G-League Ignite squad looks to add some playmaking and defence to a young New Orleans Pelicans team.
Playing on a 2-way contract following an impressive Summer League, the 6’7″ forward may not see regular minutes in the NBA, yet he’s already built up a reputation as “the best shooter on the team” according to teammate Christian Braun.
A surname familiar to Australian fans, Maker, a 6’11” center, signed an Exhibit 10 contract with Washington, yet unfortunately was waived on October 13th. Despite the setback, Maker is expected to feature for the Wizards’ G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.
Journey to the NBA:
The most unique journey of the 3 men, Daniels began his sporting career as a promising footballer. Daniels featured at state level for the Victorian under-12s, a side littered with AFL players.
As he grew up, his focus turned towards basketball, Daniels impressed early, representing his state as a member of the Vic Country Under 16s team as a bottom-age player. Daniels proceeded to represent his state consecutive times, culminating in a silver medal at the 2021 Australian Under-20 Junior Championships.
He made his NBL1 debut for his home team, the Bendigo Braves, at just 16 years old, the same team who retired his father’s no. 23 just years ago. His international debut came soon after, representing the Boomers in 2021.
Daniels, despite offers from both Division 1 colleges and the NBL, chose the G-League Ignite program, where he averaged 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Daniels proceeded to declare for the draft on April 16, 2022.
A product of Traralgon basketball, Jack White was invited to play for the Australian Institute of Sport during his junior career. White also represented Australia during his junior years, playing in the 2014 under-17 World Championships, and the 2015 under-19 World Championships.
At 18 years old, White made his NBL debut for the Cairns Taipans as an injury replacement player before moving to Duke University.
White played 4 years at Duke, including playing with multiple future lottery picks, including Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, and R.J. Barrett. During his final 2 seasons at Duke, White was named captain, receiving much praise from the heralded Coach K.
Ahead of the 2020-21 NBL season, White announced he would return to the NBL, now with his home club, Melbourne United. In April, against his former team, White suffered a serious Achilles injury, with a 12-month stint on the sideline predicted.
White returned after just eight months away, in the midst of a successful 2021-22 season for Melbourne, who claimed their 6th Regular season championship. Following this, White was invited to play in the NBA Summer League with Denver, who proceeded to sign him to a 2-way contract, after a successful showing.
2015 began the serious progression of Maker’s road to the NBA, which saw the beginning of his high school career. Freshman year saw Maker join Chaminade College Preparatory School (CCPS), the first of many schools for Maker.
Maker moved from CCPS to The Tech Academy, to being homeschooled, to Orange Lutheran High School, to Pacific Academy, and finally, the Centre of International Basketball Academy saw the conclusion of his high school journey.
Despite the disturbed high school career, Maker was a consensus Five-Star recruit, yet despite offers from top schools in UCLA and Kentucky, Maker chose to join Howard, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in a decision that surprised many.
His college career was brief, only playing 2 games due to injury and COVID. Maker’s professional career began the following season, joining the NBL with the Sydney Kings. In a championship-winning year for Sydney, Maker averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 21 games.
Maker went undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft but played in the Summer League with Chicago. Following this, Maker signed his first NBA contract, an Exhibit 10 deal with the Washington Wizards.
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What’s the fit?
Daniels’ two biggest strengths come from his wizardry playmaking and his freakish defence. In a vacuum, he’s surprisingly similar to Ben Simmons, as Daniels is very much a pass-first guard, who has been criticized for being ‘too unselfish’.
The defensive ability of Daniels comes from his size, 6’6″ tall, closer to 6’8″ in shoes and a wingspan over 6’11” allows Daniels to smother his opponents. In just 71 minutes of preseason action, Daniels had 8 steals and 4 blocks. The prospect of a lineup featuring Daniels, Herb Jones & Jose Alvarado is a frightening prospect.
Furthermore, Zion will be quite the beneficiary of Daniels, as they’ll make for quite the intimidatory lob-threat duo. Brandon Ingram will be sure to reap these benefits as well.
Whilst Daniels is elite at creating shots for others, his ability to create his own shot has room to improve. His three-point shooting is, temperamental. In his final 6 games in the G-League, Daniels shot 10/19 (52.6%) from beyond, yet, only made 2/13 (15.4%) in pre-season.
His floater is his best offensive weapon right now, seemingly letting it fly with some range, here’s hoping this can extend out to the three-point line.
The man on a 2-way contract makes for quite the 3&D wing, standing at 6’7″, with his natural athleticism, he’s able to hound opponents, and he’s fantastic when it comes to crashing the boards. Offensively, he’s already leaving his mark in Denver as an elite shooter, leading the Nuggets in 3/5 shooting challenges.
White’s shooting talent has only blossomed within the last couple of years, devoting much of his rehab to improving his perimeter shooting. During White’s time in college and the NBL, his best shooting year was his senior year, where averaged just 32.7% from just 1.7 3PAs per game. Famously, Jack White had a freezing-cold streak at Duke, missing at least 28 3’s in a row, a far cry from 2022.
However, White is limited with the ball in hand, a so-so ball handler, without much of a ‘bag’, White won’t be seen dizzying players with a whirlwind shot-creating ability. Fortunately, in 2022, 3&D wings are key players on successful teams, and Denver is a team looking to make a deep playoff run this year.
Hopefully, Jack White can make quite a meaningful contribution to this Denver team, yet White will compete hard for his minutes as he currently finds himself far down the depth chart, behind players including, but not limited to, Jeff Green, Zeke Nnaji, and Christian Braun.
Cousin of Thon, Makur is a very modern big man, standing at 6’11”, yet, it isn’t strictly accurate to call him a center, Maker is a talented ball-handler, particularly so for a man of his size. He’s also a decent shooter, at the least, he’s prone to letting it fly.
Despite his point guard-like tendencies, Maker does make for a solid post-scorer, with a deft touch that he carries to his 3-point shooting. In the 2021-22 NBL season, Maker shot about 35% from beyond the arc, but his true shooting percentage was up to 60%.
Like many players with his size and athleticism, Maker is still quite a raw prospect, whose criticisms outlay his tendencies to have passive moments, he tends to have lapses of concentration, and he’s prone to being inconsistent. If Maker can assert himself as a leader on both ends of the floor, he should find his way onto an NBA list in a permanent manner soon.
What does the future look like?
Dyson’s already a strong defender with a good presence with ball in hand. At just 19, he’ll be able to carve out a very healthy NBA career with those skills in his locker already. Dyson’s offensive arsenal is what could determine how successful he is in the league, he’s got the tools to become a one-man offensive hub, it’s how the Pelicans use him in his formative years that will likely determine this. At a minimum, the Pelicans made Lonzo Ball an elite shooter…
For Jack, the harsh reality is, he has to shoot the ball at a very good rate to further his NBA career. Fortunately, all signs are currently pointing to success, given his early pre-season accomplishments. A natural leader, Jack will hopefully be able to be a leader of the 2nd unit in Denver, he may potentially even see starts if things fall his way.
Makur is staring down the barrel of what may be a very significant year, with his American Basketball future up in the air, a successful G-League campaign, or potentially a return to the NBL would be massive for his chances at cracking a roster once again. There’s clear talent in Maker, it’s simply down to what he makes of it.
Note: Luke Travers, taken with the 56th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft by Cleveland, will play in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats this year. You can check out their season preview now!
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