College basketball’s March Madness continues on in 2015 without any Australian talent to watch out for, but it could be a very different story next year.
Two revolutionary young talents are set to rock the first round of the NBA draft one year from now, which has Australian basketball fans counting down to the Rio Olympics with great anticipation.
Ben Simmons and Thon Maker are both projected first round picks of the 2016 NBA Draft, and look set to join the growing Australian family residing in the Association.
What does it take to be revolutionary?
NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal described Ben Simmons as “the best player in the world”. At just 18 years old, he stands at six-foot-nine and plays the coveted small forward position.
In his high school senior year, he averaged a double-double, leading his team in scoring, rebounds, steals, assists, and came second in blocks. Simmons was awarded the 2015 Naismith High School Player of the Year Award for his performance during the season.
Simmons is projected to be taken with the number one pick in the 2016 draft, but even if he doesn’t enter he will be the most hyped Australian going into the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
Joining Simmons in the watchful eye of the basketball world will be Thon Maker.
Thon Maker stands at seven-feet tall with a seven-foot-two wingspan, and he only just turned 18. In terms of being revolutionary, it is rare to find a player of his size and length with the type of athleticism and skill set that he brings. Described as an “unusual” shooting touch, Maker’s skills stand out from those of his size, and his ceiling for potential is still rising.
Maker put up similar numbers to Simmons for his high school team in his sophomore year, averaging the most points, rebounds and blocks, and coming third in assists and steals. Maker was even called the “7-foot Kevin Durant-Chris Paul combo”; a bit rap considering the level these two play at..
Both players’ impact on international competition is very minimal so far, given their inexperience and youth. Yet, this could be a very different story in one year with both players potentially having a full year of college basketball on their resume.
The Rio Olympic Games are scheduled for August 2016, while the NBA draft is traditionally a June event, which means the extent of Australia’s NBA family could reach double figures by then. So what does this mean for Australia’s chances for gold in men’s basketball at Rio?
Men’s basketball gold at the Olympics usually goes to the United States, whether they decide to field a full strength line-up or even try, which historically has not limited their success, the competition is typically for silver between the best of the rest.
Australia has never made the podium in the men’s basketball competition, with their best result coming in the 1996 Atlanta Games where they made the semi-finals. In 1996, there were only three active NBA players that represented Australia in the Olympic Games.
This year there are a total of seven Australian players on current rosters, the most of any NBA season. This number is set to rise next year with Simmons and Maker being likely candidates to enter the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts.
Australia’s potential line-up in Rio would see Andrew Bogut in the middle, with Patty Mills and Mathew Dellavedova/Dante Exum in the backcourt, then Ben Simmons and Aron Baynes/Thon Maker up front. It would be the first Boomers squad to feature NBA talent starting on the bench at the Olympics.
Last year at the FIBA World Cup, a Boomers team, minus their best two players Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut, finished a disappointing 12th. Despite the performance of the team, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles starred, which helped Ingles land a spot on an NBA roster.
This potential Rio 2016 Boomers squad is arguably the most talented Australian team ever to be assembled, thus becoming the most exciting time in Australian men’s basketball history.