NBAussies February 2017
In 2015, before shutting my site down for 12 months, I wrote about the Boomers having their best chance in a very long time of taking a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
One of the reasons for that is because there was going to be enough young talent combined with some old heads, and a fairly well balanced roster. Of course Australia did very well, however thanks to injuries and professional choices* we never really got the youthful side of the team to Brazil.
On the plus side, we have enough players and enough time (but a less balanced team at this point) to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics our own.
In view of that, I will be looking to do a regular in depth update of the happenings with Aussies in the NBA moving forward, to help provide both the high level follower and the everyday man with some insight into how our boys are doing.
February started with the new Aussie Derby** between the Jazz and the Bucks, and had Thon Maker getting just his 3rd NBA career start. Unfortunately for the Bucks it continued a slide for them as the high flying Jazz took out the first Derby of the season. We were then treated to a second Aussie Derby towards the end of the month and the result was almost identical. There were other highs and lows in February, but let’s take a look at the breakdown by player
Key February Stats –
Games Played - 1
There is really only 1 stat needed to sum up most of February for Bogut. The big man got traded, then waived, then signed by the defending champions to close out the month/begin March and I expect there will be a lot more to talk about in this section about 5 weeks from now.
Key February Stats -
Minutes Per Game – 17.7
Points Per Game – 8.2
Both of the above stats are his lowest calendar month splits for the season so far, but it is not anything to be concerned about. Coach Pop knows his team about as well as a coach can, and history shows that he uses the regular season to see what he has in his fringe players and to give them game time reps so that they can handle themselves should the pressure come during the playoffs. In the past this is what has given Mills his opportunities to impress, and it is a testament to what he did with those chances that he is now established enough to be making way to give others minutes.
Key February Stats –
Minutes Per Game – 26.3 (season average 26.5)
Points Per Game – 4.9 (season average 7.4)
3P% - .250 (season average .340)
FG% - .323 (season average .388)
It has been a rough month offensively for Delly, as his minutes have remained steady but his points have dipped due to some poor shooting. The feisty point guard is known more for his in your face defence than having a silky smooth shot, but coach Jason Kidd will struggle to maintain the minutes coverage much longer with splits like that. The Bucks are still looking for one of the final playoff spots to give some experience to their immensely talented but very young team, so hopefully Delly can bounce back in March and help guide them there.
Key February Stats -
3P% - 0 (no attempts)
Aron Baynes is a bit of a square peg in league that is full of our round, oval and triangle holes. He is a man who can do a certain job. If given the minutes of a starter, he is likely to be able to give you around 15 and 10 most nights. He is a rough and tough player who doesn’t shirk the hard work down low and he has learnt from some of the game’s best coaches. However this doesn’t mean he makes your team better when he plays. Baynes is listed as 6’10” which seems a little generous, but his hulking frame makes up for it. However, he is naturally a Power Forward. In the NBA though he is nominally a 5. Which makes him undersize at that position. Ideally you would want him playing at the 4 and providing a threat at least beyond 15 feet to help stretch the floor, but modern NBA teams can’t afford to play someone as a Power Forward if they have no range at all. The thing is that Baynes averages over 80% from the free throw line – a great number for a big man – which indicates that his shot isn’t broken. Obviously the range just isn’t there, and at the age of 30, it is probably too late to try and find it, but stranger things have happened. Prior to this season Marc Gasol’s entire career in the NBA (8 seasons) had seen him shoot a total of 66 threes, making just 12 for a career shooting percentage of less than 20%. This season alone (which is only around ¾ of the way through) he has shot 214 threes, making 85 of them^ for a success rate of almost 40%. Gasol’s Free Throw percentage has always been fairly strong, but even then is still not as high at Baynes'. It is an unprecedented change, but a sign of the times that Gasol can do this and if Baynes wants to extend his career, it might be something worth giving a shot.
Key February Stats
Minutes Per Game – 26.2
Assists Per Game – 2.8
Joe has always been a guy that does the little things right on a basketball court. Things that don’t always show up in the box scores. He can throw a pin point cross court pass. He always knows where he needs to be on defence. He can run a fast break as the ball handler, scorer or just filling the lane. He has always been the quiet achiever. However over the course of this season, he has begun to carve out a place for himself in the league. His minutes per game numbers were the highest they have been in over 2 years last month and this is at least in part due to the fact that Ingles has found himself in the top 5 three point shooters in the entire league. The Jazz are a team on the verge of distinguishing themselves as a genuine threat, but to do this, they will need to hope that Ingles can up his production while maintaining his high percentage.
Key February Stats
Minutes Per Game – 15.2
FG% - .508
Points Per Game – 6.8
January was a scary month for Exum. There were reports that the lottery draft pick had been dropped to the D-League, which turned out to be misleading, but he also racked up a few “DNP Coach’s Decision” games and the minutes he was playing in the games that he was getting on the court dropped to an all time low. February on the other hand has not only seen Dante’s minutes bounce back up by almost 5 minutes per game, but has also coincided with the best shooting month from the field of his career (which it is important to remember is technically not yet through its second season). He has finally begun to show the confidence in himself and his speed and athleticism that saw him touted so strongly in his draft class. This is the type of play that Jazz fans would have been expecting mid-way through last season had he not injured himself on duty for the Boomers, but with an entire gap year, it has taken a bit longer for him to start making the progress expected. If he can finish the season strongly and establish himself as the backup PG for Utah in the playoffs, it may be just what he needs to make a leap heading into next season.
Key February (and career) Stats –
Games Played – 0
The less said about this the better. It depresses me.
Key February Stats –
Games Played – 10
Minutes Per Game – 13.7
Points Per Game – 5.8
Rebounds Per Game – 2.7
I could add more stats above, but the point is that all of these stats are season highs for the rookie 7 footer (who is basically the antithesis of Aron Baynes). His height dictates he is a Centre, but his lack of muscle and the fact that he shoots over 50% from the 3 point line suggests he is a Forward long term. Either way, he has found his way into the regular rotation and is taking the opportunity while he can. February saw Maker have a couple of 12 point games, including in the first Aussie Derby where he hit 3 of 4 from beyond the arc -helping to stretch the famed Jazz defence, to go with his 3 blocks as he had a genuine impact on the game. If he can build on that and help to become an integral part of this unique Bucks team, his future is very bright.
*Freshly drafted players spending the pre-season with their new teams is a good decision, but it would have also been great to see them play for the Boomers
**The old Aussie Derby was between Utah and San Antonio, but with the moves the Bucks have made and Aron Baynes moving out of Texas, we have a new showdown.
^As at March 3 2017