It was a turbulent first week for our current and upcoming Boomers. For some it was their first official game with a new team, others were finally returning to real in-game action after lengthy injuries, then there were some just beginning another year with the respective roster attempting to better their results.
To begin this weeks round-up of Aussies in the NBA we’ll focus on those that underwent a sea change over the off-season and are now plying there trade for a new team in a different city. Who better to start with than Boomers big man Andrew Bogut?
Bogut kicked off his career as a Dallas Maverick against the Indiana Pacers which just so happened to be the first overtime game of the new season. The big man had a tough night because he was in charge of containing Myles Turner, who was fresh off his rookie reason and on a rampage clocking 30 points and 16 rebounds. His 6 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 19 minutes doesn’t fully quantify the impact he had on the team and the paint. Indiana’s’ two other giants only had a combined total of 9 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks over 20 minutes of play.
Bogut was setting his usual screens and creating space for the others around him doing all the little things that don’t show up in the box scores and stat lines. Playing alongside future Hall of Fame inductee Dirk Nowitski, Bogut is joined by a plethora of new additions and style altering roster moves. So going to OT in the season opener against an Eastern Conference dark horse is a good result to build upon and being coached by one of the best minds in the NBA in Rick Carlisle, Bogut is looking at having another good year in the league.
The Milwaukee Bucks begun the 2016-2017 season with a basket from their new starting point guard Matthew Dellavedova, an awesome way to get the ball rolling on Delly’s new chapter. But their opener didn’t go as planned losing 107-96 to the Charlotte Hornets, yet Delly was one of the bright sparks of the evening. Much to the pleasure of the home crowd, he instantly connected well with Milwaukee’s golden boy Giannis Antetokoumpo as he raced down the court on the fast break, Delly threw him a pinpoint pass that Giannis dunked with ease.
Dellavedova ended up with 11 points, 3 assists, 3 rebound to shoot 57% from the field and made 1/3 of his 3 point attempts on his debut. But he was set to build upon this performance in the Bucks second game of the season against the Brooklyn Nets.
In this game Dellavedova had 14 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and only 1 turnover on 56% shooting. This was all without making a single 3 point shot, which having averaged 41% on 3 point shooting last season means that Delly’s scoring abilities are only going to increase once he finds his groove from beyond the arc.
The most encouraging aspect we saw from last year’s Finals champion during the opening games was the amount of fast break points they accumulated. Against Charlotte as a team they scored 16 points from these opportunities. Only to better this again against the Nets with 20 fast break points, 4 of which resulted directly from Dellavedova steals. The Bucks aim to run a tight defence, force turnovers and run it down the other end of the court for easy dunks. It’s in this system that Dellavedova is set to thrive and grow, although it seems obvious he is feeling right at home in Milwaukee.
Three Australians were returning to action with the same team as last year: Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and Arron Baynes. Each of these players are on teams that have a lot of potential, so building upon the results of last year are the main priority for these select bunch. Taking out two birds with one stone were Joe Ingles and Dante Exum who are both members of the Utah Jazz. They opened their season with a hotly contested game against the Portland Trailblazers.
The game finished 104-113 but the final 9 point margin doesn’t show how intense this matchup was as it was back and forth until the last minute. Literally until the last minute when Portland extended their lead to 3 with 1:38 left on the clock in the 4th quarter did they manage to pull away via a pair of Damien Lillard free throws.
Ingles played 14 minutes and finished with just the 2 points and a +/- rating of -9. This is a respectable stat line considering Joe did this off 100% shot accuracy. He knows his role and he sticks to it to rarely waiver in consistency to make him a top asset. In a game that was contested to the last minute it is hard to find Ingles much game time, so there will be more to come from this Utah role player later in the season.
Exum it is a different story because he is returning to first team action after missing the entirety of his sophomore season. This was the first game back for the 5th pick of the 2013 draft since his lengthy absence last season, so Dante’s first few games have just been about getting a feel for the team around him and getting back up to speed. He has averaged 15 minutes per game so far while clocking 4.5 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists and shooting 50% on FGs while also 100% from the free throw line. Although they opened the season with a loss don’t get used to that with this Jazz team – they are well put together and have a deep roster, I can see them finishing in the top 6 in the Western Conference and Dante’s role will steadily increase as the season goes on.
Aron Baynes is another player who remained with his team as of last season with the Detroit Pistons. He has an important role in this team due to the starting centre Andre Drummond being a notoriously bad free throw shooter (he averaged 35% last season). So when teams turn to the ‘Hack-a-Drummond’ technique Baynes gets bought on to whether the storm because his average of 76% is much more respectable.
When Baynes is on the floor he is able to contribute well, in the first two games of the season he managed 8 points and 3 rebounds followed up by a 13 point, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal game in a win against the Orlando Magic. Drummond’s free throw percentage isn’t showing any signs of improving so Baynes is going to continue to have a valuable role for the franchise who have a great chance of making some noise in the Eastern Conference this year – watch this space!
I know there are probably some disgruntled readers at this point that are thinking I forgot Patty Mills, but don’t worry I saved the best performance for last because Patty played a phenomenal few opening games for the Spurs. One of those was against the newly formed super team from the West in the form of the Golden State Warriors.
During that clash, Mills recorded the highest +/- of the game at +35 and tallied 11 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and one rebound while shooting 60% from downtown. An awesome stat line from a game that gave hope to many people out there who thought this regular season would be a walk in the park for the Bay Area team.
It’s well known that Coach Pop trusts the players within his system and likes to develop from within the walls of San Antonio. Given the maturity that Mills is playing with it’s no surprise that Patty was awarded the starting role in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans. He was started ahead of Spurs legend Tony Parker who is now entering his 15th season in the league and is likely to rest multiple games this season in order to stay ready for the playoffs.
Once handed the starting role Mills put in a stellar performance tallying 18 points, 1 rebound and 5 assists off of only the 1 turnover. In a season where Kawhi Leonard has been given free reign out on the court, these steady performances with limited turnovers are the exact type of supporting play that the Spurs need.
So after a very strong start to the season recording 4 W’s and 0 L’s, Mills is looking as though he is ready for another year at San Antonino that ends with potentially securing his 2nd Championship ring and maintaining the greatness of the Spurs franchise post the retirement of Tim Duncan.