Aussie NBA players hustling hard but no shooting stars emerging – time to change mindset in coaching pathways

Australian basketballers are taught to be tough, physical and hard working from the moment they learn how to dribble. 

It’s time to change that mindset. The process of putting the ball in the basket needs to be emphasised much, much more. 

Australians have struggled to be elite shooters on the world stage and in the NBA for decades apart from outliers like Andrew Gaze in Olympic competition and Patty Mills in his decorated NBA and international career. 

Apart from Mills, the current cadre of Aussies in the NBA look like they’ve been cast out of the same mold. 

Rangy, defensive-minded hard workers who can pass and rebound but are a couple of steps, and plenty of percentage points, behind the best of the best offensive weapons. 

Ben Simmons, Josh Giddey, Dyson Daniels, Josh Green and Dante Exum are variations on the same type of player – a ball handler who is great at setting up teammates and hustling at both ends of the court but are inefficient scorers. 

Dyson Daniels steals the ball from Luka Doncic. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Matisse Thybulle also fits the typical Boomers archetype but that’s more of a coincidence rather than anything to do with the Australian pathways because he lived in the US in his formative basketballinf years. 

Even a veteran like Joe Ingles, who is a statistically potent long-range threat, had unreliable three-point accuracy until he started benefitting from being around NBA coaching on a regular basis. 

When they’re all together in Boomers mode, it makes it easy for opponents to defend a team that has cutters and distributors but very few outside weapons. 

Career 3pt%Career FG%Career PPG23-24 3pt%23-24 FG%23-24 PPGDante Exum30.141.25.622.747.24.8Josh Giddey29.845.414.531.94211.8Dyson Daniels28.341.24.724.240.46.9Josh Green36.750.46.936.542.25.9Ben SimmonsN/A5610.6N/A52.86

It’s likely too late for Simmons to ever make the leap from all-rounder to one who can shoot like Ingles did. 

There comes a point in time where you have to show your supposed shooting skills on an NBA court rather than in edited off-season social media posts. 

Exum is making the most of his belated second coming as an NBA player at Dallas after rejuvenating his career in Europe and while he’s filling a role off the bench, he’s always been a slasher rather than shown signs of morphing into a shooter. 

Starter Dante Exum! ????

He did it all for the Mavericks tonight, filling the stat sheet with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.

Watch Dante’s #NBA full-game highlights below.

— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) December 9, 2023

Daniels, Giddey and Green are the future of Australian basketball and if two of this trio can develop their shooting from deep, the Boomers have the potential to add to their sole Olympic bronze medal at major tournaments. 

Green is probably the best bet to consistently have a three-point percentage that starts with a 4. 

He doesn’t have to worry too much about playmaking at Dallas with Luka Doncic one of the NBA’s most ball-dominant players. 

Green’s role is to look after their perimeter defensive assignments and knock down enough threes to prevent opponents from double-teaming Doncic or Kyrie Irving. 

Mavs coach Jason Kidd has underplayed Green over the past couple of seasons – he was recently reinstated in the starting five and his skill set was complementing the All-Star guard duo but now he’s going to miss a couple of weeks with an elbow problem. At least that’s meant more time for Exum. 

Giddey has been anointed as the player that the Boomers will centre their plans around and after winning the Rising Star award at the World Cup in September with splits 19.4 points, 6.0 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game, he can become a significant asset in FIBA events. 

OKC are one of the NBA’s least-productive three-point shooting franchise and Giddey’s numbers have been consistently modest in each of his three years and have regressed slightly this season.  

Perhaps the drama surrounding his off-court investigation is having an effect – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on the weekend the league would not be taking any action towards Giddey over claims he had an inappropriate relationship with a young girl until after police had investigated the allegations to see if he would face charges.

Josh Giddey. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

On court, the Thunder will naturally try to make him a better shooter but it’s not likely to be a focal point for the rising team in the West – if they sign him long term, they will likely keep him in a facilitator role and upgrade their shooting on the wings or use rookie centre Chet Holmgren as their stretch five. 

Daniels has been given an increased role early in his second season at the super deep New Orleans roster. 

The Pelicans are another team that prefers the mid-range to beyond the arc but now that they have CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy back from injury, they’ll let it fly more from outside. 

Daniels doesn’t get guarded too heavily because he’s not seen as a threat but he’s still very green in NBA terms and he should get plenty of open chances whenever he’s on the court with the likes of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram also commanding plenty of attention from defences. 

Next year’s Paris Olympics campaign will be the last international fling for Ingles and Mills.

The Boomers need new blood to step up into the shooting roles but at the moment there is no long-range threat emerging from the pack to carry the three-point torch.

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