Around 12 months ago, there was a genuine prospect of LeBron James coming to Australia and playing basketball.
Some Aussies in the NBA are at new teams, some have lucrative, new contracts, and others are just getting started.
We covered four yesterday, today we close out the preview with the final four.
Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)
Coming into his seventh season with the Spurs, the energetic backup point guard is in a battle for a starting role with youngster Dejounte Murray, while veteran Tony Parker is out injured.
Mills is coming off the back of his best season, playing a career-high 22 minutes a night, averaging 9.5 points, 3.5 assists and averaging 41.1 per cent from three-point range.
This earned Mills a contract extension worth $50 million for the next four seasons. If he doesn’t start, and even when Parker returns, he will continue his role being the spark off the bench.
“Patty’s been very consistent for us for the entire time that we’ve had him,” Spurs coach Greg Popovich recently said.
“He’s a huge part of our bench and the group that comes onto the court. Obviously, his energy, but his shooting ability and his competitiveness are great. He’s a ball mover and people enjoy playing with him. I think he’s really taken pride in becoming more of a cerebral point guard instead of just being known as an energy guy.”
Mills will have a major role to play if his side are to challenge Golden State.
Aron Baynes (Boston Celtics)
Baynes has moved from Detroit to Boston on a one-year, $4.3 million deal. Last season with the Pistons, he averaged 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15 minutes of playing time a night.
After the Celtics lost Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk they were thin on big men, so the Baynes signing made sense – he is now the only true centre on the roster.
Baynes will be asked to play a vital role, guarding opposition big men and helping out on the defensive glass. He has also shown he can be effective on the offensive end as a rolling big man, consistently knocking down a mid-range jumper.
It is uncertain whether Baynes will start this season, being a bench player most of his career, although starting would allow veteran big man Al Horford to move to his preferred position at power forward while Baynes takes the centre slot.
So far in the preseason, Baynes has been averaging eight points, 4.3 rebounds and shooting 53 per cent from the field.
Baynes has an important role to play coming into a contract year, and has a great opportunity being part of a team contending to knock off Cleveland as the best team in the East.
Matthew Dellavadova (Milwaukee Bucks)
Dellavadova struggled in his first season in Milwaukee, losing his starting spot around mid-season to eventual Rookie of the Year winner Malcolm Brogdon.
His shooting was down as well, ending the season averaging 7.6 points and 4.7 assists a game, in 26 minutes of playing time.
This season, Dellavadova looks set to become the leader of the Bucks’ second unit and will drive high standards from his teammates at both ends of the court. With the young talent improving over the offseason, Delly’s pass-first mentality will help to help everyone around him. His shooting should improve after a down season and he can become a threat again from the three-point line.
With the Bucks looking to make a push up the Eastern Conference standings, Dellavadova will have a big role to play on and off the court, with his play and leadership.
Before a knee injury ended his preseason early, he was averaging 4.5 points and five assists in 14 minutes a night.
Thon Maker (Milwaukee Bucks)
A surprise pick ten in the 2016 draft, Maker’s rookie season was better than even the Bucks expected. The seven-footer started 34 of the 57 games he played, averaging four points and two rebounds in ten minutes of play.
This season, the young centre has added size to his slender frame and, combined with his unique skill set and defensive intensity, the Bucks will be more likely to start him.
With his new size, he can hopefully be more of a presence on the defensive end and his shooting should have improved after already having a decent mid-range and three-point shot.
The Bucks are excited by their young star and with his big offseason program, and he is looking to bang on the inside with the bigger bodies.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd even spoke about Maker’s transformation, saying, “You can see he’s getting stronger. That will help him.”
Maker himself said he felt stronger and that the new strength will help him on offence, saying, “When I am making moves, little bumps don’t bother me and I will be able to finish through contact.”
At 20, the sky is the limit for Maker and he can become a core presence for a team hoping to push up the Eastern Conference standings.