Best Australian Basketball Players Of All Time, Best Australian Starting Five Of All Time


We checked in on every Australian player either on or competing for a spot on an NBA roster heading into the 2019-20 season!

Will Patty Mills be Sixth Man of the Year? Can Ben Simmons be an MVP candidate? How much of an impact will Joe Ingles have on the Utah Jazz”s championship push?

Take a look at a player-by-player breakdown of what each Aussie”s roles are on their current team, and what their ceiling could be for the upcoming season.

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Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns


Ceiling:  Veteran that leads young team to playoffs

Aron Baynes played a key role in the Boston Celtics” playoff push to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018 and he was a major part of their defensive gameplan throughout his two-year stint in Boston. The Phoenix Suns will benefit from Baynes” presence on both of those fronts – the Suns had the second-worst defensive rating in the NBA last season and Baynes is a top-tier defensive anchor. He also has plenty of postseason experience, making the playoffs in six of his seven seasons in the NBA while also earning a championship in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs.

Can Baynes be the defensive presence and veteran in the locker room the Suns need to finally take the leap this season?

Jonah Bolden, Philadelphia 76ers


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role:  Rotation player

Ceiling:  Key role player

Jonah Bolden began to work his way into the regular rotation toward the back end of last season and he appeared in all but two of the 76ers” playoff games.

He showcased his ability as a rebounder and potential source for bench points – mostly as a perimeter shooter – and he”ll likely find his way right back into the Sixers” rotation from the get-go this season. Philly is projected to be among the top teams in the NBA and a favourite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Depth is still part of the 76ers” issue and if Bolden can step up as a key role player, he could help solve one of his team”s biggest question marks heading into what should be a great season in Philadelphia.

Ryan Broekhoff, Dallas Mavericks


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role:  Bench player

Ceiling:  Key role player

Ryan Broekhoff only appeared in 42 games for the Mavericks last season but when the team was eliminated from playoff contention and starting opening up their rotation, the Aussie made the most of his opportunity.

Broekhoff had three consecutive games scoring in double figures down the stretch of the season. He shot an impressive 40.9% from beyond the arc, proving he can be an asset to stretch the floor and knock down 3″s – something that bodes well playing alongside a playmaker like Luka Doncic and a post-scoring threat like Kristaps Porzingis who will oftend raw double-teams.

The Mavericks will be a team flirting for a playoff spot in the West and Broekhoff could certainly work his way into the regular rotation if he plays the way he did toward the end of last season.

Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers


(NBA Getty Images)

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Current role:  Rotation player

Ceiling:  Mentor for Cavaliers” future backcourt

Matthew Dellavedova immediately took on a more consistent role after he was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.

He averaged 7.3 points and 4.2 assists per game while picking up his typical tough defensive assignments against some of the best guards in the NBA. Delly will surely be a rotation player on the Cavaliers again this season, but his role as a mentor will be significantly more impactful for the future of the franchise than his production this season.

The Cavaliers have used back-to-back top-10 draft picks on building their backcourt of the future – Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Both young guards could learn a thing or two from Dellavedova”s defensive IQ, willingness to take on challenges way over his head and just in general, his passion for doing the little things to help a team win.

Dellavedova played a key part in Cleveland”s 2016 NBA title and the experience he gained from that run will be invaluable if he can relay that to this up-and-coming backcourt.

Dante Exum, Utah Jazz


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role:  Rotation player

Ceiling:  Sixth man

Another injury plagued Dante Exum”s season last year when he went down with a torn patella tendon 42 games into the season. The 24-year old guard has shown flashes of being able to make an impact with the Utah Jazz, but he hasn”t been able to stay on the court and off of the injury report.

Exum is expected to return to the floor this season and he should immediately regain his spot in Utah”s rotation. He”s a solid backup point guard, playmaker and defender and with no clear sixth man on the roster, Exum could fulfill that role if he returns to his usual self after recovering from the injury.

Isaac Humphries, Orlando Magic


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role:  Fighting for a contract

Ceiling:  Making the NBA roster

Isaac Humphries made his NBA debut last season when he signed a 10-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks. The Aussie centre struggled in limited playing time, scoring 15 points in five games shooting just 28.6% from the field with 11 rebounds. However, his G League numbers were more promising last season, playing 46 games averaging 11.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 blocks per game shooting 53.8% from the field and 34.9% from 3-point land.

The 7-foot, 21-year old centre still has plenty of upside, which is why the Orlando Magic have given him a chance to make the team this preseason. The pressure is on Humphries to make Orlando”s NBA roster, as they have no more available two-way contracts. Should he miss the cut, he”ll have another year to develop in the G League, awaiting another call-up opportunity in the league.

Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz


Current role:  Starting forward

Ceiling:  One of the best “glue-guys” in the NBA

Last season we saw Joe Ingles play a jack-of-all-trades role for the Utah Jazz, taking over as a point forward when the team”s point guards couldn”t stay healthy. Ingles averaged 12.1 points to go with a career-high 5.7 assists per game, but even more impressive was his 7.5 assists per game average after the All-Star break, all while raising his points per game average to 13.1.

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In trading for Mike Conley – as well as signings like Emmanuel Mudiay and the return of Dante Exum – it”s unclear how much point forward Ingles will play this upcoming season. He became the team”s best playmaker last season and it”s hard to believe Utah would go away from that completely.

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Regardless, Ingles will play a key role for the Jazz who will be fighting to prove they”re a top team in the NBA. They have all the pieces to represent the loaded Western Conference in the NBA Finals and Ingles will be a major factor in just how far Utah goes this season. We”ve seen it before that Ingles has what it takes to be an elite role player in the NBA, but this season the Aussie forward has the opportunity to prove he is the  best “glue-guy” in the entire league.

Thon Maker, Detroit Pistons


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role:  Rotation player

Ceiling:  Impact role player

After struggling to consistently crack the Milwaukee Bucks” deep lineup last season, Thon Maker was traded to the Detroit Pistons around the trade deadline. He appeared in the final 29 games of the season for the Pistons averaging 19.4 mintues per game, but couldn”t find a rhythm with his new team. He averaged just 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game shooting an inefficient 37.3% from the field and 30.7% from long range.

When Blake Griffin was forced to miss the first two playoff games, head coach Dwane Casey elected to slide Maker into the starting lineup. He posted 5.5 points and 2.3 rebounds over four playoff games, but went 0-for-12 from 3-point land and shot 26.9% from the field.

The opportunity for Maker to make an impact is there in Detroit, and his playing time this season shouldn”t waiver. Can Maker take that next step in his career and make the most of his opportunity with the Pistons this season?

Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role:  Sixth man

Ceiling:  Sixth Man of the Year

Last season, Patty Mills became the longest-tenured player on the San Antonio Spurs after Tony Parker signed with the Charlotte Hornets and Manu Ginobili retired. The Spurs got thin at the guard position quickly, and even moreso after starting point guard DeJounte Murray went down with a season-ending injury. As opposed to sliding Mills into the starting lineup, head coach Gregg Popovich elected to keep him as the team”s sixth man, and Mills thrived under that role as a spark off the bench while taking over as the team”s on-court mentor.

This season, it would be interesting to see Popovich use Mills a little bit differently, though. After showcasing what he can do as a scorer at the FIBA Basketball World Cup this past summer – averaging 22.8 points per game shooting 49.6% from the field and 40.4% from 3-point range – it would make sense that Popovich elects to let Mills try his hand at being the No. 1 scoring option for San Antonio”s second unit.

With Murray set to slide back into the starting lineup, Mills and Derrick White could be an electric scoring backcourt that would give other team”s second units fits. Mills was more of a floor general than a scorer last year, but if he could get the opportunity to score the way he did at the FIBA World Cup for a team that”s contending for a playoff spot, Mills could be a legitimate contender for Sixth Man of the Year.

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Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers


(NBA Getty Images)

Current role: All-Star point guard

Ceiling:  MVP

Ben Simmons earned his first-ever All-Star bid in 2019. He was terrific for the Philadelphia 76ers posting near-triple-double numbers at 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game in leading them to a top-three seed in the East. This year, he can – and will – be even better.

The 76ers are expected to be one of the best teams in the NBA heading into the 2019-20 season. They”re one of the favourites to come out of the Eastern Conference and Simmons” play could be the difference between another second round exit or their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2001.

As I”m sure you”ve heard, Simmons knocked down his first career 3-pointer in the 76ers” first preseason game. Sure, it”s just the preseason, but the confidence to attempt a 3-pointer in an actual game shows just how far Simmons” confidence in his jumper has come. He”s already found a way to average nearly 17 points per game without attempting shots outside of just around the rim. If Simmons can keep defences honest from the perimeter, it”ll only open up more opportunities for him to attack players off the dribble and rack up more assists by spacing out the paint for All-Star centre Joel Embiid.

Simmons has a statement year in his young career ahead of him, and I don”t think it”s that  ridiculous to say that if he can again flirt with averaging a triple-double and the 76ers end up with the best record in the entire NBA, that the Aussie guard could be an MVP candidate.

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets


Current role: All-Star point guard

Ceiling: 1st-Team All-NBA

There”s been plenty of ink spilled about how Irving”s 2018-19 season with the Celtics ended in disappointment and not enough ink reserved for one simple truth: he was awesome.

The Aussie-born Irving is coming off perhaps the best statistical season of his career, one that earned him a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. And while he certainly has taken his fair share of lumps for how Boston underachieved, it”s impossible to deny that he was spectacular during the regular season.

Now in a new situation in Brooklyn, Irving has a fresh opportunity to ball out away and do so for an entire season that”s the basketball equivalent of playing with house money. Kevin Durant will spend the entire season rehabbing which means the real expectations don”t begin until the 2020-21 season. That gives Irving a free roll and the chance to lead the Nets further than anyone expects.

After the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, the rest of the Eastern Conference is wide open. Why can”t Irving lead the Nets to a top-4 finish in the East? Why can”t Irving win a playoff series? Everyone loves a good narrative and if Irving is able to lead a Durant-less Nets squad further than anyone reasonably projected, there”s no reason he can”t challenge the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden and Damian Lillard for a spot on the All-NBA First Team.

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