Aussies in the NBA: Everything You Need to Know


Nine Aussies, one league.

The NBA tips off this week as all eyes shift towards Thursday’s blockbuster between the Boston Celtics and Ben Simmons’ Sixers.

Simmons has promised us plenty this season, but he isn’t the only Aussie with big dreams and big goals taking the court.

The NBA has never been more popular down under, largely due to the true-blue Aussie spirit our stars display on a nightly basis. In case you need a little refresher though, here’s a look at where each Aussie plays, and what to expect this season.

Ben Simmons – PG, Philadelphia 76ers

Simmons enters his third year with the Sixers hoping to come good on two things: his jump shot and a trip to the Finals.

The entirety of Philly’s roster is officially in its prime as the team hopes to build on last year’s crushing Game 7 loss in the Conference Semis. It was a huge learning curve for a team that lives by the mantra “Trust the Process”, but with plenty of game-time now under Simmons and Joel Embiid’s belt, anything short of the Finals is a bust.

Simmons has spent most of the offseason tinkering his jump-shot, while he also sent NBA Twitter into a frenzy by draining a three-pointer last month.  

Having never attempted, let alone hit a three in 160 games, Simmons’ confidence to pull up from beyond the arc was something special. That said, it now opens up a whole can of worms as giddy fans hope Simmons has finally added that one last piece on the way to becoming a complete player.

The Sixers need a leader if they are to make the Finals, and the boy from Melbourne might be the perfect fit. With Embiid often injured and Jimmy Butler now in Miami, expect Simmons to step into more of a leadership role this season, and hopefully, a three-pointer and another All-Star appearance.

Patty Mills – PG, San Antonio Spurs

SAN ANTONIO,TX – APRIL 22 : Ettore Messina greets Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Golden State Warriors in the second half of Game Four of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 22 , 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Mills did the green and gold proud at the World Cup averaging just shy of 23-points per-game, but boy how time flies.

Now at 31, Mills prepares for his 11th season in the NBA and his ninth with the Spurs. The Canberran played all 82 games for the second year in a row last season and also finished with a career-high in rebounds.

Mills will play the role of sixth man again in San Antonio as the Spurs look to reach the playoffs for the 23rd year in a row. Realistically, Mills’ best years are behind him, but as the longest-tenured player on the Spurs’ roster, you know he’s good for his usual dose of big money three’s.

Aron Baynes – C, Phoenix Suns

From Cairns State High School to Washington State University, to undrafted free agent, to a four-year career in Europe, Aron Bayne’s has done it all.

Baynes was a bit of a crowd favourite during his three-year stint in Boston before being traded to the Suns on draft day, but with plenty of experience overcoming the odds, he should relish with new opportunities in Phoenix.

The big man didn’t factor into Brad Stevens’ starting five in Boston and it’s doubtful we see Baynes play anything more than 20-minutes a game in Phoenix. That said, Baynes will add some toughness to a very young and vulnerable Suns roster, so expect plenty of rebounds.

Dante Exum – PG, Utah Jazz

Here’s a list of the injuries Exum has had to overcome since 2014:

  • August 2015, torn ACL (missed the entire 2015-16 season)
  • October 2017, shoulder surgery (missed the first four months of the season)
  • January 2019, bone bruise on right ankle (missed 44 games in total, including the playoffs)

It’s been a rough go for Exum since his rookie year as the former first-round pick can’t catch a break in terms of injuries. Now 24-years-old, this should be the prime of Exum’s career, but he faces an enormous road ahead as he tries to earn a spot not only back inside the top five in Utah, but also on the bench.

Exum now prepares for his sixth season in the NBA as the Jazz hold high hopes he can play a full season. Recovery is key, which is why he hasn’t played at all during the preseason, but with plenty of versatility to play guard or on the wing, we could see the Melbournian back to his best sometime in the next six months.

Thon Maker – PF/C, Detroit Pistons

Thon prepares for his first full season in Detroit after being traded from the Bucks back in February.

The 22-year-old was originally born in Sudan before escaping the civil war. From there, he and his family fled to Uganda before being accepted as refugees by Australia.

Maker’s story is inspiring, but we’re still yet to see the big man really unleash on the NBA. Last season Maker put up career highs in points and rebounds, but so far, no team has managed to make the most of his whopping 7-foot-1 height advantage.

The problem with Maker’s game is this: height is his only real calling card. Now entering his sixth year in the league, Maker is yet to improve his strength from season to season, which in turn, has seen him average only 2.8 rebounds throughout his career.

From the field, Maker also struggles having shot just 37% from the field last year. All of these weaknesses can be developed into strengths, but with the Pistons contending for a playoff spot, time is ticking.

The good news is the Pistons don’t have a ton of depth at the centre position, so Maker could make up some minutes if he impresses early on. For now, though, Maker is nothing more than a long-term project coming off the bench.

Joe Ingles – PF/SF, Utah Jazz

Alongside Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles was equally important to the Boomers averaging 10.5 points-per-game during the World Cup.

The 6-foot-8 forward from Happy Valley averaged similar numbers last year in his fifth season with the Jazz where he put up a career-high 12.1 points-per-game alongside 5.7 assists.

Ingles is a crowd favourite both in Utah and back here in Australia largely due to his lively personality. The lefty doesn’t hold back when it comes to on-court confrontations with officials or opposing players, and it just so happens that he also has the numbers to back it all up.

Ingles can be a deadly three-point shooter when given space, but he’s also (quietly) been an elite defender. The 32-year-old ranked fourth in overall defensive rating (101.6) last season, making him a crucial (and very underrated) piece of the Jazz starting five.

Jonah Bolden – PF, Philadelphia 76ers

Bolden averaged only 14.5 minutes per game during his rookie season with the Sixers last year. He wasted no time making an impact though as he shot just shy of 50% from the field to go along with 3.8 rebounds per game.

The Sixers spent a second-round draft pick on Bolden – albeit a risky one after playing only one season in College with UCLA back in 2016. Bolden underwent surgery on a torn meniscus in his knee prior to his stint with the Bruins but showed plenty of promise defensively to catch Philly’s eye.

Bolden spent plenty of time last year with the Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers’ G-League team. While he shows plenty of promise defensively, the problem with Bolden’s game is simple: fouls and turnovers.

In 44 games at the NBA level, Bolden committed 67 total fouls (shooting and offensive) as well as 22 turnovers. At just 23-years-old, there is plenty of time to right the ship, but this should be another transition year for Bolden as he looks to learn from his mistakes.

Matthew Dellavedova – SG/PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

Dellavedova is a household name after rising through the ranks at Saint Mary’s into NBA stardom with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his glory days, Delly was a crowd favourite in Cleveland, but he’s since seen his minutes reduced off the bench as the Cavs look to get some game-time into their younger players.

Delly played in only 36 games last year where he averaged 7.3 points. That said, the Cavs are still considering the 29-year-old as their starting point guard over rookie Darius Garland.

The man known by teammates as Outback Jesus will go down as one of Australia’s biggest success stories, largely due to the fact he’ll retire an NBA champion. Speaking of retirement, Delly also had his No. 4 retired by Saint Mary’s.

Delly is often the man the Cavs turn to when they need a big basket – normally a three – at crucial stages of a game. There’s still plenty of life left in Delly’s legs, so don’t sleep on a big season from the man from Maryborough if he’s afforded proper game-time.

Ryan Broekhoff – SG, Dallas Mavericks

We’ve left Broekhoff to the very end of this list because he’s by far the most encouraging Aussie heading into the 2019/20 season.

Look, we hear you. In his rookie season with the Mavericks last year Broekhoff averaged only 4.0 points-per-game. So, you’re probably wondering, what’s the big deal?

Dallas showed a real urgency to pump minutes into Broekhoff in the final two months of the season last year, which shows just how serious Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is about developing the man from Melbourne.

Broekhoff is the ideal complement to Luka Doncic as the Mavs look to surround last year’s Rookie of the Year with more shooters. Broekhoff showed some real flash from the wing late last season with the ball, while he also averaged 2.1 rebounds.

Playing time might be the only hindrance to Broekhoff’s chances of improving this year. If the Mavs are serious about the 20-year-old though, the sky is the limit.

Other Names to Watch

Isaac Humphries – C

  • Signed with the Orlando Magic on an exhibit 10 deal before being waived last weekend. Has plenty of work to do on his jump shot but has developed into a confident three-point shooter. Now looks likely to open the season with Orlando’s G-League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic.

Deng Adel – SF

  • Signed with the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason after spending 2019 with the Cavs. Adel’s run with the Nets was shortlived, however, as the Nets cut him last week. From Melbourne, Adel will now spend time with the Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate the Long Island Nets, where Mitch Creek spent time last season.

William Mcdowell-White – G

  • The 21-year-old’s future looks uncertain after being cut by the Rockets last week. McDowell spent time in Germany’s second division last season, but a foot injury limited his playing time.