The Essential Aussie NBA Preview

With an unprecedented seven Australian players pulling on jerseys (excluding Kyrie Irving), the 2014-15 NBA season is poised to have a large impression left on it by the Boomers.

Cam Bairstow, Dante Exum and Joe Ingles are fresh faces who enter this season as rookies, joining NBA champions Aron Baynes & Patty Mills, as well as big man Andrew Bogut and Cavalier’s backup guard Matt Dellavedova.

Each of these seven players will produce interesting storylines as the 82 game season progresses, from the weight of expectations on Exum to the questions over whether Bogut can get back to being healthy.

With one of the most intriguing seasons in history tipping-off this week, I will chronicle each player as they set to make their mark on the biggest league in basketball.

Cameron Bairstow

After an outstanding season at New Mexico in which he was selected to the All-Mountain West Conference (MWC) first-team and was named MWC Tournament MVP, Bairstow was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 49th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

The young power forward from Queensland finds himself on a Bulls team featuring a returning Derrick Rose, four-time NBA All-Star Pau Gasol and 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, amongst a host of other great players.

Being around players of this calibre, particularly Gasol and Noah, will do wonders for Barstow as he looks to bring his game up to the lofty standards of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Bulls are looking to compete for a championship right now, and the unfortunate news for Bairstow is that it looks like he’ll be seeing a lot of DNP’s this season.

As a power forward who can spend minutes at centre, he finds himself behind Noah, Gasol, Taj Gibson and even veteran Nazr Mohammed.

These are all established NBA players, who have all multiple seasons at Chicago under Thibodeau.

Making matters worse is the addition of forward Nikola Mirotić, who joins the Bulls following a stint in Europe, and first round pick Doug McDermott who at six-foot-eight could potentially spend minutes at the four.   

The thing for Bairstow to do this season is sit back and learn from the wealth of experience around him, and hopefully show the coaching staff what he has to offer when he does get on court chances.

Aron Baynes

Following on from a championship win with the Spurs, Baynes went to to the FIBA World Cup full of confidence, and it really showed.

With the absence of Andrew Bogut, Baynes became the go to big man for the Boomers.

He thrived in this environment, averaging 16.8 points and 7 rebounds per game, good for tenth and fifteenth best in the tournament. 

However, for a period of time during the offseason it appeared that Baynes would take more money to play in Europe and have a more prominent role than his current one with the Spurs.

On September 26 Baynes resigned with the Spurs, committing to a team attempting to win back to back titles for the first time in their history.

Baynes was featured much more heavily in the 2013-14 season over his debut campaign, jumping from 16 games to 53 where he saw on court action.

Used predominantly as a centre, Baynes only featured in games for an average of 9.3 minutes, largely thanks to the presence of Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter as the other centres on the roster.

This backup role is likely to continue this season, as Diaw was a major factor in the Spurs championship success, while they have also recently made a long term commitment to Splitter.

Baynes will definitely see considerable court time this year, and if he plays at the level he did at the World Cup he will almost certainly force coach Greg Popovich to give him an expanded role.

Andrew Bogut

After only playing a combined 44 games during the ’11-12 and ’12-13 seasons, Bogut managed a relatively healthy run during his second season with the Golden State Warriors.

He improved his game in a number of areas, most notably being his field goal percentage which reached a career high 62 percent.

Bogut also returned to averaging double digit rebounds per game and had a per 36 of 13.7 rebounds per game, another career high.

When Bogut is healthy he is the anchor of a Golden State defence which was top ten in the league. 

His presence in the paint his a nightmare for opposing teams offence, and he is a criminally underrated passer, which he showed off recently in a preseason game.

Bogut even brought the ball up the court at times last season. A sign of the confidence the team has in his passing and ball handling abilities.

Steve Kerr has taken over from Mark Jackson who was fired after the Warriors exited the playoffs, losing to the Clippers in seven games.

Despite this change in head coach, it appears that Bogut’s role will remain relatively the same as Kerr has stated he doesn’t want to completely revamp the way this team has played in the past two seasons.

On that note, it appears that barring injuries Bogut could potentially be on the verge of a monster season as the Warriors attempt to make a deep post-season run.

Matthew Dellavedova 

After winning a cut throat battle for a roster spot last preseason, Dellavedova has begun to make a name for himself in the NBA.

His incredible work ethic quickly earned him the respect of Cavalier fans and saw him play 72 games at 17.7 minutes per night in his rookie campaign.

While his stats from a year ago aren’t anything to write home about, he put up serviceable numbers when at times he was the Cavaliers third option at point guard.

During the offseason Cleveland landed the biggest catch of all: home town hero LeBron James.

As a result this will bring a new level of scrutiny to all players on the Cav’s roster, and Delly is no exception.

During the Heat’s “Big 3” run Mario Chalmers was often the whipping boy and I can see this role falling to Delly with players of the Calibre of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love around him.

Delly will also have to work with a new scheme from new head coach David Blatt and it remains to be seen how extensive the growing pains will be for this new super team.

However, with only A.J. Price being added to the teams point guard stocks, Dellavedova seems set to see an even bigger role this season.

He’ll be relied on to play hard, scrappy minutes to give Irving relief, which is a role Delly is perfect for.

Dante Exum

Dante Exum was the x-factor of the NBA draft.

Utah selected the athletic guard with the 5th overall pick in the 2014 draft, taking him ahead of other guards who had college experience such as Elfrid Payton and Marcus Smart.

Exum’s lack of college experience was seen as his biggest downside, as he’d never played any top level competition other than a game at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit in which he scored 16 points.

These concerns continued to grow as he turned in underwhelming performances during the NBA’s Summer League, while sparing use at the 2014 FIBA World Cup raised major questions over whether he was ready to take on top level talent.

Exum began to show his true performance as the preseason began to ramp up, turning heads with his performances against the LA Clippers, while his 7 of 13 mark from 3 in five preseasons games started to quieten a few doubters.

His best performers came against Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers where he dropped 13 points and dished out 6 assists.

Many watchers described the young talent’s first step as elite.

Despite these praises, this season doesn’t look to be shaping up too well for Exum or his Utah teammates.

The Jazz are one of the most inexperienced teams in the league, which combined with a rookie head coach spells disaster.

Exum should be using this year to bring his game up to NBA standards, preparing himself for a year or two when the expectations on his play will be sky high.

Joe Ingles

This offseason was certainly a big one for Joe Ingles.

After a dominant World Cup campaign in which he averaged 11.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists, Ingles was picked up by the LA Clippers.

But in a disappointing move for Australian fans, Ingles was cut from the Clippers roster just days before the season as they tried to get under the 15 player maximum.

Ingles didn’t have long to dwell on what might’ve been though, as he was approached within hours by the Utah Jazz, quickly signing to join fellow Boomer Dante Exum.

While it’s been an up and down ride to get to the NBA, Ingles seems set to see a lot of time on the bench this season .

While the Jazz are incredibly inexperienced, their best and most experienced player (Gordon Hayward) just received a four year, $62 million contract and is occupying the same position as Ingles.

The majority of the Jazz’s small forward minutes will be going to him, while the chances of Ingles playing as the backup appear low with the Jazz drafting Duke forward Rodney Hood with the 23rd pick in the draft.

Even the human dunk machine Jeremy Evans appears to be ahead of Ingles at this point.

Despite this, not everything is doom and gloom for Ingles.

Being on a young and inexperienced time will play into his hands, as head coach Quin Snyder will no doubt want to have an in-depth look at every player on the roster at some point this season.

When Ingles gets his chance to shine, he needs to grab it with two hands, proving to Snyder why he deserves to be a permanent fixture on an NBA team.

Patty Mills

Patty Mills should be riding high off of a playoff run that saw him average 7.3 points and 40% shooting from the three-point line, leading to a San Antonio Spurs championship.

Instead, Mills is recovering from shoulder surgery that will likely force him out of action until January 2015.

This is awful luck for Mills, as he had just established himself as a genuine player for the Spurs, playing 81 out of 82 regular season games in the 2013-14 season.

When he does return, expect Mills to slot straight back into the Spurs rotation.

The only competition for the backup role is Corey Joseph who has been largely unimpressive in his threes seasons with the Spurs.

Whether Mills will return at the high level he performed at during the NBA finals remains to be seen, but expect him to yet again be a major factor at the pointy end of the season.

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