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Best of both worlds: Selecting an NBA/NBL Dream Team is a nightmare

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Expert
9th December, 2021
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When picking a Dream Team of players who have lined up in the NBL as well as the NBA, you can’t go wrong when it comes to selecting a team loaded with talent.

And, of course, you can’t be right either because everyone will have an opinion on who should make the cut.

With one of the most exciting NBL seasons since the competition’s formation in 1979 underway, it’s time to work out who would make a squad of players who’ve stepped on court in both leagues.

There have been more than a hundred players who’ve done so – shoutout to the fine folk at Basketball Reference and Aussie Hoopla for their in-depth databases covering all the necessary career details.

14 of these players have reached the top of the mountain, winning an NBA championship.

Former Cairns and Brisbane forward Torrey Craig became the latest NBL player to be part of a title-winning squad last season even though he was lining up for Phoenix in the Finals after being traded from eventual champions Milwaukee earlier in the season for cash considerations.

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Craig joined the likes of Boomers legends Luc Longley, Patty Mills, Andrew Gaze and Andrew Bogut, as well as Spurs firebrand Stephen Jackson on that list.

In order to select an NBA/NBL Dream Team, a not-so-shortlist of guards, forwards and centres was created.

There is no particular method to the madness – the only criteria was the player had to have spent at least one game in each competition.

This was handy for the likes of Longley, who scored two points in as many games for Perth as a teenager in 1986, and two-time NBL MVP Robert Rose, who didn’t bother the scorers in the three minutes spread across two games for the LA Clippers in 1988.

But that also meant the likes of modern-day Australian stars like Ben Simmons, Matthew Dellavedova – who is yet to log an NBL regular-season minute for Melbourne United – and Dante Exum did not qualify.

Once the long line of quality candidates was narrowed down to a 12-man line-up, a starting five was selected.

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Guards

Here is the list of most notable names who qualify.

LaMelo Ball (Illawarra + Charlotte)

Steve Blake (Sydney Kings + Portland, LA Lakers, Washington, Detroit, Denver, Milwaukee, LA Clippers & Golden State)

Aaron Brooks (Illawarra + Houston, Chicago, Indiana, Sacramento, Minnesota, Denver & Phoenix)

Bryce Cotton (Perth + Utah, Toronto & Phoenix)

Johnny Flynn (Melbourne Tigers + Minnesota, Portland & Houston)

Andrew Gaze (Melbourne Tigers + Washington & San Antonio)

Josh Giddey (Adelaide + Oklahoma City Thunder)

Ricky Grace (Perth + Atlanta)

RJ Hampton (NZ Breakers + Orlando & Denver)

Shane Heal (Brisbane, Geelong, Sydney, South Dragons & Gold Coast + Minnesota & San Antonio)

Scotty Hopson (NZ Breakers & Melbourne United + Cleveland & Dallas)

Cedric Jackson (NZ Breakers, Melbourne United & Illawarra + Cleveland, San Antonio & Washington)

Adonis Jordan (South-East Melbourne Magic, Townsville & Victoria Giants + Denver & Milwaukee)

Darnell Mee (Canberra, Adelaide, Cairns & Illawarra + Denver)

Patty Mills (Melbourne Tigers + Portland, San Antonio & Brooklyn)

Doug Overton (Illawarra + Washington, Denver, Philadelphia, Orlando, New Jersey, LA Clippers, Boston & Charlotte)

Casper Ware (Melbourne United & Sydney + Philadelphia)

Shane Heal and Andrew Gaze

Shane Heal and Andrew Gaze (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Patty Mills is a lock for one starting spot – he’s done it all in the NBA but if not for a short sojourn with the Melbourne Tigers during the 2011-12 lockout, wouldn’t have an NBL stint on his resume.

The other starting guard comes down to Australian national sporting treasure Andrew Gaze versus possibly the most skilful hooper to have played in both leagues, Charlotte star LaMelo Ball.

Longevity gets Gaze the nod now but give LaMelo a few more years of wowing fans, teammates and opponents with his array of tricks and he could possibly become the greatest NBL/NBA star of all time.

In choosing another couple of guards for the bench, pretty much any of the names on the not-so-shortlist would be worthy options.

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Ultimately, it came down to Shane Heal, Cedric Jackson, Ricky Grace, Aaron Brooks and Bryce Cotton.

Even though his modest NBA career doesn’t reflect his brilliant scoring ability, Heal gets one of the spots.

Brooks, who was a consistent scorer in the States for more than a decade, edged out Cotton despite his three NBL MVP awards.

Hopefully, Josh Giddey and RJ Hampton will build on their fledgling NBA careers in the next few years to put themselves into the conversation for a guard spot.

Forwards

David Andersen (Illawarra, Melbourne + Houston, New Orleans & Toronto)

Cameron Bairstow (Brisbane, Illawarra & Adelaide + Chicago)

Ryan Broekhoff (South-East Melbourne Phoenix + Dallas)

Lanard Copeland (Melbourne Tigers, Brisbane & Adelaide + Philadelphia & LA Clippers)

Josh Childress (Sydney Kings & Adelaide + Atlanta, Phoenix, New Orleans & Brooklyn)

Torrey Craig (Cairns & Brisbane + Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee & Indiana)

Mitch Creek (Adelaide & South-East Melbourne Phoenix + Brooklyn & Minnesota)

James Ennis (Perth + Memphis, Philadelphia, Miami, Orlando, Houston, Detroit & New Orleans)

Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide + Oklahoma City & Philadelphia)

Al Harrington (Sydney Kings + Indiana, Atlanta, New York, Denver, Golden State, Washington & Orlando)

Joe Ingles (South Dragons + Utah)

Stephen Jackson (Sydney + Golden State, San Antonio, Indiana, Charlotte, Atlanta, New Jersey, Milwaukee & LA Clippers)

Ollie Johnson (Hobart & West Sydney + Kansas City, Portland, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia & New Orleans Jazz)

Lamar Patterson (Brisbane & NZ Breakers + Atlanta)

Kirk Penney (NZ Breakers & Illawarra + Miami & LA Clippers)

Robert Rose (South-East Melbourne Magic, Adelaide, Canberra, Townsville & Cairns + LA Clippers)

Jae’Sean Tate (Sydney + Houston)

Hakim Warrick (Melbourne United + Memphis, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Chicago, Charlotte & New Orleans)

Owen Wells (Newcastle & Sydney SuperSonics + Houston)

Rudy Gobert Joe Ingles

Rudy Gobert and Australia’s Joe Ingles. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Again, this was another mind-crusher. All of these players were or still are influential members of winning teams. For their total body of work, Joe Ingles and Al Harrington are my choices for the starting gigs.

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Starting out as “Baby-faced Joe” with the South Dragons 15 years ago, Ingles has had one of the more unusual careers – finally succeeding in the NBA over the past eight seasons at Utah after a lengthy stint in Europe.

Harrington’s record is impossible to deny as well – he is the only player to have suited up in more than 1000 NBA games and also played in Australia, although he was far from his best when he filled in for Sydney for six games in 2015-16 at the age of 36.

For the bench spots, Stephen Jackson had a similarly lengthy NBA career, including a title with the Spurs in 2003, so he has to be there.

David Andersen only showed Australian audiences glimpses of his talent at the very start and end of his illustrious career but his efforts in Europe, the NBA and the Boomers mean you can’t leave him out.

For the final forward spot on the bench, there have been several modern stars who were in contention like Josh Childress, Ryan Broekhoff and James Ennis but eventually it came down to a choice between two NBL legends who had a brief taste of the NBA before heading Down Under – Lanard Copeland and Robert Rose.

This was excruciating but Rose’s two MVP awards put him a fraction in front of Copeland’s iconic career achievements.

Centres

Chris Anstey (Melbourne Tigers, South-East Melbourne Magic & Victoria Titans + Dallas & Chicago)

Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings + Milwaukee, Golden State, Dallas, Cleveland & LA Lakers)

Josh Boone (Melbourne & Illawarra + New Jersey)

Mark Bradtke (Adelaide, Melbourne Tigers & Brisbane + Philadelphia)

Acie Earl (Sydney Kings + Boston, Toronto & Milwaukee)

Todd Fuller (South Dragons + Golden State, Utah, Charlotte & Miami)

Jock Landale (Melbourne United + San Antonio)

Luc Longley (Perth + Minnesota, Chicago, Phoenix & New York)

Nate Jawai (Cairns & Perth + Toronto & Minnesota)

Miles Plumlee (Perth + Phoenix, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Indiana & Charlotte)

Luke Schenscher (Adelaide, Perth & Townsville + Chicago & Portland)

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With David Andersen acting as a power forward/centre option on the bench there was only room for two big men to round out the NBA/NBL Dream Team.

This was no easy task but when you look at the players in contention, two tall timbers stood out, as they’ve done their entire life.

Andrew Bogut, a No.1 draft pick who had a stellar NBA career including a championship with Golden State who then won an NBL MVP as a Sydney Kings veteran, was an automatic selection to start.

And backing him up off the bench is Australia’s NBA pioneer, Luc Longley – as a starter in arguably the greatest team of all time, the second Chicago Bulls three-peat, he can’t be denied a spot on that achievement alone.

They held off a worthy field of centres, particularly Boomers stalwarts Chris Anstey and Mark Bradtke, whose careers are too often not given the credit they deserve.

(Getty Images)

NBL/NBA Dream Team

Starters

Patty Mills

Andrew Gaze

Joe Ingles

Al Harrington

Andrew Bogut

Bench

LaMelo Ball

Shane Heal

Aaron Brooks

Robert Rose

Stephen Jackson

David Andersen

Luc Longley

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