The 2015-16 Australian NBA Forecast

patty-mills-gregg-popovichIt’s time to finally turn our attention to that “other” league. You know, the one across the Pacific, with half a dozen Australians and that LeBron fella in it?

Yep, that’s what the revamped NBL has done to me – I’ve gone and forgotten that the NBA season is about to start! Holy crap!

So just in case you’ve forgotten as well, Downtown has provided the breakdown of what we should expect from the seven Australians who are gracing the NBA hardwood this season.

 

Patty Mills

The most anticipated season by an Australian in the NBA this year is not Delly, Big Banger, Joe Ingles, or anyone from Oz but Patty Mills. His game is refined, he’s finely blended in with San Antonio’s veterans, and last season’s Spurs wasn’t quite the same without him humming on a clean bill of health. Sure, the world will fixate on LaMarcus Aldridge’s fit and Tony Parker’s health, but Mills’ part in the Spurs’ reconstruction shouldn’t be undersold.

It’s probably fair to suggest that Manu Ginobili has made Mills’ role easier to define and fulfill over the last three seasons. But here’s the thing: Manu is washed upstream somewhere (although he’s looked funky at times during the preseason), and with San Antonio’s bench gutted from the summer of craziness, Patty will likely have to gravitate towards the role of facilitator, instead of PUJIT Master.

Yes, the Spurs’ bench is laced with gifted passers, and they’ve never been about the work of one. But San Antonio needs Patty’s offensive game to be more diverse. Saying its second unit has a chance to survive both the departures of Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli, and Manu’s weirdo play is the same as saying the Aussie will enjoy a career season.

If you’re searching for the sneaky subplot in San Antonio’s quest for its sixth championship, Patty Mills might just be at the center of it.

 

Andrew Bogutandrew-bogutIt’s hard to imagine what Andrew Bogut’s career would look like if he wasn’t traded to the Warriors or if he hadn’t shattered his arm. Does he play 35 minutes a game and average a double-double? Hell, does he squeeze out an all-star appearance? If he lingered in Milwaukee for a few more seasons, he would still be a professional rim protecting ace and a connoisseur of dirty tricks. But what kind of player, exactly, would Bogut be?

We’ll never know. What we do know, however, is that he’s now an NBA champion. That ring clouds all of these questions. Simply, the Warriors’ champagne-soaked run provided Bogey’s defining moment.

So what’s next?

Well, he’s flipping birds and running with a lighter frame. The impolitic, frank Bogut is the best Bogut, no doubt. Even still, Assistant Coach Ron Adams thinks the Aussie can make a leap on the offensive end. A leap would mean doing more with the ball in the post, and not just pitching gorgeous backdoor passes to the Splash Bros from the top of the arc. The “Andrew Bogut, go score me a goddamn bucket” ship sailed for the most part when his arm fell off in 2010, but if he notches his little flip-shot game just a little – even to Tiago Splitter levels – then he’s going to draw more attention from opposing bigs.

Indeed, Bogut might not ultimately seize more touches in the low-post this season. At the very least, it will be nice to have the skills polished for the Boomers’ 2016 Olympic campaign.

 

Joe InglesInglesJingles enjoyed one of the most delightfully random seasons by an NBA player last year.

Yes, he was sometimes reluctant hoisting shots even when the coast was definitely clear. And yet, he acted as both ball handler and slick passer for a Jazz team that desperately needed an offensive conductor beyond Gordon Hayward.

At his best, Ingles opens up cracks in the defense with split-second passes and is dangerous enough from deep to draw the defender’s attention. Before the all-star break, Ingles leaned too much toward deferring. But he eventually figured out the NBA game, and found ways to be effective. In short, Joe realised he’s perfect for the pass-and-pass-again era.

Perhaps of all the senior Boomers, Ingles’ NBA future seems most predicated on what happens over the next 12 months. The transition from Europe to the NBA is rarely smooth, and the cold math suggests teams are less patient in year two.

Ignore the stats, Ingles was a genuine NBA player last season.

This season, we’ll find out if that’s still true.

 

Matthew Dellavedova

Let’s be honest: The boy from Maryborough is weird. Nearly everything Matthew Dellavedova does differently than the rest of the NBA can be viewed through the prism of this ‘hard ball get’.

Delly operates under an entirely different set of rules with his relentless, unapologetic pursuit for the ball. He’s very much an outlier in the NBA. And that’s why he’ll feature again in the Cavs’ playoff run next year, despite the acquisition of Mo Williams. His wild dives, outrageous hustle and commitment to David Blatt’s system renders him the perfect 7th – 9th rotation guy. After all, he might be the only Cavs’ bench player not itching to shoot his own team out of the gym.

The Cavs will walk through the East, but they’re wounded right now. There are minutes here for Delly straight off the bat. In a contract year, Delly can’t afford to take a step backward. But then again, he’s the weirdo outlier. He thrives when the chips are down.

 

Aron BaynesAron BaynesWe could debate whether Aron Baynes, in his current form, is or isn’t worth $20 million all night long. Either way, he’s in a nice spot in Detroit to play into his three-year deal. The Pistons needed a reserve big that could do the grit with a little bit of polish, and in this instance, the Banger fits the part.

Sure, we remember Baynes’ season ending on a Blake Griffin poster and a TMZ video, but don’t overlook the significant strides he made as a basketball player through the regular season.

When the Big Banger first arrived in the Association, he was a work in progress in terms of using his bulk and positioning himself in standard NBA pick-and-roll coverage. But with more floor time and repetition in San Antonio’s system, he unfolded a fine midrange touch, bruising screens and enough defensive smarts to keep the hounds at bay. He ultimately started in 17 games for the Spurs while averaging 6.6 points and 4.5 rebounds last season.

For a time in February – with the Spurs’ casualty list reaching the summit – he was playing like one of San Antonio’s five best players. From afar this sounds absurd. But just like his play at last year’s FIBA World Cup, he thrived when he carried a little more responsibility on offense.

Baynes will help in Detroit, though how much is unknown. Good news: Andre Drummond can’t hit free throws, and the Big Banger can. Even if it’s hard to imagine Baynes closing games, shooting free throws well and just being competent at a bunch of NBA skills helps harvest trust from a coach like Stan Van Gundy.

 

Cam Bairstow & Dante Exum

You could go on and on about how deflating Dante Exum’s off-season injury was, but he should be fine. So will the Utah Jazz, at least in the short term.

Meanwhile… Bobby freaking Portis!!!

This is bad news for Cam Bairstow. This is especially bad news when Nikola Mirotic, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson are also teammates. If Bairstow was on one of the dozen dumpster-fire rosters in the Eastern Conference then he might just nab a spurt of NBA minutes this season.

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Indeed, the former Lobo is still unknown at this level but he knows his limitations and where he can be useful on the court, which is good news! He will scrap, bang and even pop out to the arc. Coaches love workers and Fred Hoiberg has already noted the Aussie’s “winning” plays.

Bairstow has the tools to carve out an NBA career while Exum could be anything. I can’t wait to see them both attempt to figure it out.

 

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