Aussie Mid-Season NBA Report Cards

Jazz Spurs BasketballWith the All Star break fast approaching, it’s about time we checked back in with our seven NBA Australians to see how they’re getting along. Consider this their mid-year report cards; graded on their performances as compared to our pre-season expectations.

So… how did your favorite Aussie fare?

 

Joe Ingles: A+

His late departure from the Los Angeles Clippers and very late replacement of fellow Aussie Brock Motum in Utah meant that not much was expected out of Joe Ingles this season.

Providing solid training bait with the potential to develop into a solid role player down the track, while also providing some depth in case of injury, was the scope of his opportunity.

However, injuries to Alec Burks and rookie Rodney Hood have afforded Ingles the chance to play.

With the door being left ajar, Ingles has well and truly pushed his way through.

Consistency from the perimeter has always been the key to Ingles’ game and that has once again proven true in the NBA. As is the case for all wings in the pros, regularly knocking down the outside shot has allowed Joe to be more effective at getting in the lane off the dribble; possibly his best attribute as an offensive player.

Ingles is currently averaging 25.9 minutes per game in January and recently almost recorded his first triple double,  registering a line of 8pts, 9reb and 7ast on January 5th vs Indiana.  Those numbers may not win him any player of the day awards but they’re a far cry from pre-season expectations.

Joe has had an exceptional season considering where he started and, in my opinion, has done more than enough to ensure he stays in the league for at least another season, whether that’s in Utah or somewhere else.

I mean, the guy is now an NBA starter!

 

Dante Exum: B+ (and climbing)

Dante was pick number 5 in last year’s stacked NBA Draft and, although his age and ‘potential’ tag kept expectations low, I still believe he is yet to show us what he can really do. Heres hoping these last two outings are a sign of the young talent doing just that.

We knew Dante was not going to come in and set the world on fire. In fact, during a purple patch early in the season coach Snyder developed a little trust in Dante and we saw, just for a split second, what people were talking about when referring to his potential.

His last two performances as a starter have helped to cement confidence in both his own mind and also in the front office of the Utah Jazz.dante-exumOver and above the development of his skills and body, Dante needs to learn to trust in his own game. For much of the season he’s been playing timid, focused on avoiding mistakes rather than making plays.

Defensively, Exum has been pretty good.  As we knew he would, he has bought into Snyder’s teaching and has performed well; locking in defensively on most occasions. His pick and roll defense against seasoned professionals like Chris Paul still needs work, but there are not many in the league that can defend that at a high level.

Offense is the key for Dante moving forward. If he wants to impress Snyder enough to earn solid court time then he needs to take some risks. Now is the time to throw caution to the wind and trust in his abilities.  Nobody’s expecting him to set the world alight, we’re simply looking for a glimpse of what we know he can deliver.

Hopefully Friday’s promotion to the starting lineup gave Exum the confidence boost he needs to begin to showcase his talents.  His immediate response to the promotion was to score a career high 15pts (scored by knocking down 5 triples) and drop 5 dimes in a close Utah win, followed up by another 13pts, 4rbs, 4ast, on 5/7FG including 3-three pointers. If that’s anything to go by, I wouldn’t be surprised if that B+ looks more like a solid A by season’s end.

 

Patty Mills: A+

What, you were worried about Corey Joseph?

Think again! Patty Mills has returned from injury in fantastic shape and is looking every bit his former self. After cementing himself as a key cog in the San Antonio Spurs system last year with a couple of stellar performances during the Playoffs, there was plenty of concern that the offseason shoulder surgery could undo all of his hard work.

Forget that. Patty came back and almost immediately reclaimed his sparkplug role off the bench.  His play has resulted in an average of 22 minutes per game in January, 5 minutes per game more than his January average last year.

The Spurs were 18-13 when Patty returned from injury but have gone 10-4 since his return, further evidence of Microwave Mills’ importance.

Due to Patty’s size and run-and-gun style of game it becomes very easy to doubt him. Some non-believers saw last year’s performance as a flash in the pan or a product of the San Antonio system.  However Mills continues to prove the doubters wrong and the way he has returned from injury this season goes to show what a consummate professional he is on and off the court. He isn’t going anywhere for a good while.

If the Spurs are going to make a run at defending their title, they’re going to need Patty to continue his form and then some. The good news is that shoulder surgery couldn’t stop him and he has certainly shown no signs of slowing up.

GAME DAY BALA GAME DAY!!!

 

Andrew Bogut B++

I really wanted to give the Bogey Man an A- but, due to the amount of games he has missed (13 already), a B++ seemed more realistic!

The Golden State Warriors possess the top ranked defense in the league when determined by Defensive Efficiency and much of the credit needs to be handed to the big man in the middle, Andrew Bogut.

Sure, it takes more than one man to build a team committed to defense and by no means am I saying Bogut has done this by himself. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and a more locked-in Stephen Curry – as well as the guidance and tutelage of Steve Kerr – have all contributed significantly to their championship quality performance on the defensive end.

For me though, Bogut is the key.

Although I don’t maintain a personal friendship with Bogut, we did play alongside each other in our junior years. One thing about Bogut that can sometimes push people away is his relentless competitiveness and his no-nonsense approach to telling it like he sees it. This is a trait that can occasionally put people offside and in the same vein draw some people in. Those characteristics drew me in as a young athlete and the same can be said for Bogut’s teammates on this Warriors squad. They are committed to the defensive end of the floor and Bogut leads not only by command, but also by example; displaying the level of desire and relentlessness for winning each possession that is needed to win a championship.

Bogut has mentioned that this is one of the tightest teams he has played on; where the guys often dine together pre-game and actually enjoy each other’s company. This could be seen as a throw-away line but I know from personal experience the big fella would not be saying it if he didn’t whole-heartedly believe it.

Averages of 6pts, 9 rebs and 2blks are not setting the world on fire, but the leadership that Bogut has brought to the Bay Area, both on and off the floor, is no doubt one of the major reasons for their success so far.

In fact, the Warriors have won 20 games straight when Bogut has been on the floor (potentially 21 later today). Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Bogus? I think not!

 

Cameron Bairstow: B

Bairstow, much like Joe Ingles, came into this season with little to no expectations from the basketball public. While Cameron has not managed to carve out the same amount of opportunity that Joe has in Utah, his task has also been markedly more difficult.

Bairstow is lining up in what is potentially the best and deepest frontcourt in the NBA. Trying to steal minutes from Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and European sensation Nicola Mirotic is an almost impossible task for a second-round draft pick.

This season will prove to be one of expediential growth for Bairstow and his game, as he learns from the accomplished NBA stars playing above him.

My only concern for Cam would be his production when his opportunities do arise. In 19 minutes against Denver he only recorded 2pts, 2rebs, 1ast and 1blk on 1-4 shooting. Now, nobody’s expecting the Bair to light up the stat sheet – and there is no doubt that he’ll learn from his first taste of NBA playing time – however the time is coming for Cam to lay his entire resume out there on the floor.  When that opportunity presents, fingers crossed he’ll be ready, prepared and up to the challenge.

 

Matthew Dellavedova: B

It’s a solid pass but it’s not the exceptional A+ of last season.

Upon his arrival in Cleveland, new coach David Blatt quickly fell in love with Delly, as did the Cavs’ numerous high-profile recruits.

Delly’s role this year is not too dissimilar to last season’s; bring the intensity defensively and play strong controlled basketball offensively to help the squad get into their sets. However, the recent additions to the roster have somewhat brought that role into question.

Delly’s minutes are volatile at the best of times and have only become even more unpredictable recently.  Although he is currently the clear backup in terms of the point guard position, there is some concern that maybe Iman Shumpert could step into that role as the season progresses.  The suggestion is that perhaps Shumpert can play minutes at the one while LeBron handles the ball and directs the offense from the small forward position.

Having said that, Delly has certainly done a fantastic job filling in for Kyrie Irving whenever the star point guard has missed games.  Delly has always made the most of his opportunities in Cleveland which bodes well as Blatt tries to integrate J.R. Smith and Shumpert into the rotation.

I have no question that Blatt and the team will remain positive about Delly, as we know he will do all the right things and buy into whatever role he is asked to play. Whether that role involves maintaining the status quo or taking a backseat for the remainder of the season, we will have to wait and see.

 

Aron Baynes: A+

Aron Baynes well and truly deserves an A+ grade on the back of his tremendous first half of the season. Spring-boarded by an eye-catching performance at the FIBA World Cup in the offseason, Baynes came into this year with a point to prove.

Earning the trust of Gregg Popovich is no easy task and Baynes has accomplished just that, in little more than a season and a half.

Baynes is only averaging 6pts and 5rebs so far this year but has taken advantage of every opportunity for increased playing time, producing three double-doubles (and five very near misses) already this season.

Baynes has bullied his way into playing regular backup minutes for the Spurs this season, with his bullish style of play and outright aggressiveness.

Sure, some of his teammates become a little frustrated with him at times, (I’m staring at you, Manu), but all-in-all they have developed a level of trust in The Big Banger’s abilities and that has been reflected by Pop extending his court time and trusting him to play major minutes when key starters are rested.

So far so good for Baynes, who joins Ingles and teammate Patty Mills with an A+ grade for the first half of the season.

 

Follow me on Twitter @tommygreer10

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