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Aussies making mark in the NBA

Ben Simmons after becoming a 76er this morning. Photo: AAP
Ben Simmons after becoming a 76er this morning. Photo: AAP

NUMBERS one and 10 have added up to nine in the NBA for Australia.

With Ben Simmons (taken with pick No.1) and Thon Maker (No.10) the latest Aussies to be drafted into the world's biggest basketball competition, the contingent from Down Under is up to nine.

Australian Regional Media takes a closer look at how they've all been faring.

 

Then of the Chicago Bulls, forward Cameron Bairstow tries to prevent a shot by New Orleans Pelicans forward Alonzo Gee  at the United Center in Chicago.
Then of the Chicago Bulls, forward Cameron Bairstow tries to prevent a shot by New Orleans Pelicans forward Alonzo Gee at the United Center in Chicago. TANNEN MAURY

CAMERON BAIRSTOW

BRISBANE native played 18 games for Chicago last NBA season, averaging 1.9 points and 5.7 minutes. Was drafted in the second round in 2014. Found it tough to get good minutes with the Bulls boasting star big men Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, as well as Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis. Got traded from the Bulls to the Pistons last week. If he does not get waived by July 25, he could play alongside fellow Aussie Aron Baynes in Detroit next season.

 

Detroit Piston player Aron Baynes (left).
Detroit Piston player Aron Baynes (left). Tony Dejak

ARON BAYNES

LOOKING like the 2014 champion at the Spurs - now at Detroit - could be the man to replace the injured Andrew Bogut for the Boomers at the Rio Olympics. Signed a three-year, $26.36 million deal with the Pistons a year ago and produced some good numbers for his first season in Detroit. The centre averaged 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game behind All-Star Andre Drummond.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) reaches for the ball as he defends Golden State Warriors centre Andrew Bogut.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (right) reaches for the ball as he defends Golden State Warriors centre Andrew Bogut. Eric Risberg

ANDREW BOGUT

AVERAGED a very respectable seven rebounds per game for runners-up Golden State last season. Could have been a different story for the team which lost a thrilling seven-game championship deciding series if Bogut did not suffer a knee injury, which is likely to rule him out of the Rio Olympics. One of Australia's best-ever basketball talents. The country's first No.1 NBA draft pick in 2005 (Milwaukee) and has played 644 games over 11 NBA seasons, picking up a championship ring for the Warriors in 2015.

 

Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova of Australia celebrates the Cavaliers’ NBA championship.
Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova of Australia celebrates the Cavaliers’ NBA championship. DAVID MAXWELL

MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA

THIS is what the world's best player, LeBron James, had to say about "Delly" during Cleveland's championship parade through the city this week: "If there was a bear right here and there was Delly right here and I shot the ball and I was wondering who would get to the ball first, Delly would tear that damn bear up." Became a cult figure in the 2015 finals for his relentless defence when playing for the injured Kyrie Irving. Not a lot of game time in this year's finals but has a championship ring to show for it and could be in for a massive pay rise. The Cavaliers paid him $1.53 million in 2015-16 but the Pistons and Bucks are reportedly ready to offer $53 million over four years.

 

Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum, from Australia (right) works the ball against Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum, from Australia (right) works the ball against Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. Don Ryan

DANTE EXUM

MISSED all of last NBA season due to a knee injury and will miss the Rio Olympics as he continues to recover. His rookie 2014-15 season for Utah did not go to plan, the lanky guard showing some promise but averaging just 4.8 points over 82 games. Expected to improve next season and he will need to.

 

Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles.
Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles. Kim Raff

JOE INGLES

ONE of the senior players in the Boomers' Rio Olympics team, and he was the oldest player on the Jazz roster at 28. Had a strong 2015-16 season - his second in the NBA - the forward averaging 4.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Walked off the court with pride in Lakers legend Kobe Bryant's last game, with 12 points, four assists, two steals and a rebound.

 

San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills.
San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills. David Zalubowski

PATTY MILLS

WON the respect of the NBA's elite with an incredible display in game five of the 2014 Finals. The little guard scored 17 points to help his Spurs to the title over a LeBron James-led Miami, including 14 in the crucial third quarter. Mills has been consistent since then, averaging 8.5 points per game last season. Much will hinge on his scoring prowess if the Boomers are to secure their first Olympic medal in Rio.

 

Ben Simmons during his Louisiana State University days.
Ben Simmons during his Louisiana State University days. Stacy Revere

BEN SIMMONS

IS THE second Australian behind Andrew Bogut (2005) to be taken at No.1 in the draft. Cavaliers superstar Kyrie Irving was born in Australia and taken as the first pick in 2011, but has pledged his allegiance to the US as he was raised there. Simmons averaged an impressive 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in 33 games for LSU in 2015/16, helping the Tigers to a 19-14 record. A tremendous ball handler and passer, his jump shot is seen as one of his rare flaws. After he was rumoured to be keen to be picked up by the famous LA Lakers franchise, Simmons said he was delighted to be the struggling 76ers' pick. "It feels amazing, honestly. I've been wanting to do that since I was five, six, seven."

 

Thon Maker was the surprise of the NBA Draft, taken at pick 10 by the Bucks.
Thon Maker was the surprise of the NBA Draft, taken at pick 10 by the Bucks.

THON MAKER

A STUNNING No.10 pick for the Milwaukee Bucks, coming straight out of high school and leaving the entire basketball world in shock. Became the first high-school player taken in the first round since the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect. Maker graduated from Canada's Orangeville (Ontario) District Secondary School in June 2015 and remained with the affiliated basketball program - the Athlete Institute of Ontario - for a post-graduate year in 2015-16. Remarkable journey to the NBA after being discovered playing soccer in Sudan by an Australian who eventually brought him and his brothers to a basketball camp in Texas. Maker's age had been in question entering the draft, but the Bucks still decided to add the 216cm power forward. 

Topics:  ben simmons nba thon maker