Aussies in the NBA: 2017-18 season preview (Part 1)

Ryan Geer Roar Rookie

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    The new NBA season is about to start up and here’s the chance to preview the eight Australian players which are on NBA rosters to start the 2017-18 season.

    We’ll get through four today and four tomorrow, so without further ado…

    Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
    There is much hype around the league to see Simmons’ rookie season.

    The number one draft pick in 2016 missed his whole first season with a broken foot, which had a few issues healing. Even though he didn’t play, a year in the NBA environment will do wonders for Simmons, preparing him more than most rookies.

    His talent has never been questioned – he has amazing passing skills and vision for man at nearly seven foot, making his teammates around him better. His ability to use his size and athletic ability to get into the lane with ease makes him even more unique. His shooting is his only issue, not having the best efficiency, but with time that should improve.

    This season he’ll likely start at point guard, playing a point forward role, pushing 2017 number one pick Markelle Fultz to the shooting guard position.

    76ers coach Brett Brown spoke about playing Simmons at the point guard spot, saying, “It catches people off guard when you say you’re going to give a 6’10 guy the ball and you’re going to call him a point guard.”

    Philadelphia are looking to be big improvers this season, and hopefully Simmons can help guide the team to knock on the door of a playoff berth in the East.

    In five preseason games, Simmons averaged 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 23 minutes. The future looks bright for Simmons and is already one of the favourites for Rookie of the Year honours.

    Andrew Bogut (Los Angles Lakers)
    After a season to forget in 2016-17, firstly getting traded to the Mavericks, then making his way to title contenders Cleveland Cavaliers before breaking his leg 40 seconds into his first Cavaliers, game the veteran Aussie is back – this time with the Lakers.

    The 2005 number one draft pick was reportedly receiving offers from contending teams including the Spurs and the Celtics, so signing with the rebuilding Lakers came as a surprise, especially with veteran Brook Lopez and rookies Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant already at the centre position.

    Known around the league to be a great defensive anchor and a great passing big man, the signing should benefit LA, who struggled to defend at the rim last season.

    With his championship experience, along with 12 seasons in the league, Bogut can be a great mentor for the many young players on the team including Lonzo Ball, Bradon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma along with Zubac and Bryant. Bogut spoke about what he can bring to the team “just being a veteran presence, it’s a very young team here in LA a lot of guys here in their early 20s, just bringing that mindset of being professional there’s going to be good days and bad days that’s just the grind of an NBA season with 82 games.”

    Bogut will most likely play decent minutes coming off the bench behind Lopez, being that leader on the defensive end rebounding and blocking shots, as well as on offence passing and setting screens. His health and injury history will be the only thing keeping him from being a success at the Lakers.

    Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz)
    Coming into his fourth season in the league, 30-year-old Jazz forward Ingles will look to improve again after a career-best 2016-17 season which also earnt him a four-year, $52 million extension.

    He is a versatile player who can rebound, pass, defend and a valuable three-point shooter, with a 44.1 shooting percentage last season one of the best in the league.

    Ingles’ professional experience will be key to helping an up-and-coming team make the playoffs again. Not a star by any means, but a team player who will do whatever it takes to win – rebounding, passing, shooting and even playing as a lockdown defender – Ingles is player that most teams would love to have.

    He will never really trouble defences with his scoring but it’s his work off the ball that gains recognition. Will play a more off the ball role as a sharpshooter this season, but also don’t be surprised if he handles the ball more.

    Ingles has averaged 4.6 points, three rebounds and 3.2 assists in 23 minutes of playing time over the preseason.

    Dante Exum (Utah Jazz)
    Exum is coming into his fourth NBA season but really his third, after missing all of 2015-16 with an ACL injury he sustained playing for the Boomers.

    Last season, playing as the backup point guard behind George Hill, Exum struggled at times, still adapting to the NBA and just coming back from a knee injury, averaging 6.2 points, two rebounds and 1.7 assists in 18.6 minutes of playing time.

    This past offseason, Exum worked hard to improve his game and show fans he was worth pick five in 2014. Getting bigger and stronger, along with improving his shooting, Exum showed in the summer league he was head and shoulders above the rest. His shooting had really improved, at 41 per cent for the three-point line, and his aggressiveness was also on show, driving into the lane.

    In his three summer league games, he averaged 20 points, 6.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds shooting at 52 per cent from the field.

    This form translated into the preseason, with Exum establishing himself as able to play decent minutes coming off the bench, before disaster struck. Exum landed awkwardly on his shoulder, later being diagnosed with a separated left shoulder.

    The Jazz are seeking opinions, with the fear if he has done ligament damage he’ll need surgery, ending Exum’s season before it even started. The best case scenario is estimated to be two to four months.

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