As popularity in the NBA continues to surge, drawing millions of fans from around the globe each year, it’s inevitable that the world’s passion for basketball is transcending borders… and boundaries.
Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than in the land Down Under, where basketball has experienced a meteoric rise in recent years.
In 2022, Australia found itself in the midst of a basketball renaissance, with over 1.3 million people embracing the sport, firmly establishing it as one of the fastest-growing athletic pursuits in the country. This surge of enthusiasm for basketball Down Under serves as a testament to the game’s universal appeal and the unifying power of sports on a global scale.
With this push comes an increase in the calibre of basketball; Australia’s national basketball team the ‘Boomers’ came third at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and there are more players than ever that play in the premier basketball league in the world, the National Basketball Association (NBA).
There are currently 14 Australian players in the NBA for the 2023/24 season, from No.1 overall picks to crafty NBA veterans.
In this Australian NBA Players article.
- Ben Simmons
- Josh Giddey
- Dyson Daniels
- Josh Green
- Xavier Cooks
- Joe Ingles
- Jock Landale
- Patty Mills
- Matisse Thybulle
- Jack White
- Dante Exum
- Dejan Vasiljevic
- Matthew Dellavedova
Read on as DMARGE gives you a breakdown of which Australians play in the NBA and what steps they took to get there.
Ben Simmons is an all-star point guard/small forward who plays for the Brooklyn Nets and is perhaps the most famous Australian player ever to play in the NBA.
Chosen with the No. 1 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 NBA Draft, Melbourne-born Simmons sat out his first year with a foot injury but returned the next season for a big first year, winning the title of ‘2018 Rookie of the Year’.
Simmons came into his own as an individual over the next three seasons; he became an all-star, achieved the most steals of any player in the league in 2020 and was voted on to the all-NBA third team, ranking him as a top-15 player in the league.
Although he achieved a number of personal accolades, as a team, the Philadelphia 76ers struggled in the playoffs, not making it past the conference semi-finals three years in a row. Ben Simmons was heavily criticised by coaches, teammates and analysts alike for passing up an open dunk in Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks in 2021, instead choosing to pass the ball.
Ben Simmons Injury
In response to the criticism, a reported back injury and mental health issues, Simmons declared his intentions to be traded from the team and sat out of the 2021-22 NBA season. He became the most fined player in NBA history for his refusal to play, with reports estimating his “stalemate” cost up to $10 million.
The 76ers eventually traded Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for former MVP James Harden, before the 2022 Trade deadline.
Ben Simmons Nets
Simmons made his debut for the Nets after the 2022-23 NBA season had started, scoring six points, five assists and four rebounds in a 127-108 loss to his former team the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason game.
Although there were some big moments in his debut season with his new team such as scoring a season-high 22 points during a win over the Grizzlies on 20 November 2022, Simmons struggled for consistency.
Ben Simmons Contract
Ben Simmons signed a five-year deal with the 76ers worth an estimated $170 million (~$261 million AUD) in 2019. It’s reported that Simmons is set to earn $37.9 million (~$58 million AUD) in the 2023/24 season and $40.3 million (~$62 million AUD) in 2024/25.
Early performances this season have not given us much of an indication as to how Simmons will do in the 20223-24 NBA season. But one thing is for sure, we’ve got to stop giving our boy Ben such a hard time, time to let his basketball do the talking.
Josh Giddey is a point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
One of Australia’s brightest young talents, he was drafted with the No. 6 overall pick by the Thunder in 2021. He previously played for the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL before taking his talents to America.
Josh Giddey NBA
In his first season in the NBA, he became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double (double-digit totals in at least three of five stats – points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks), aged only 19 years and 84 days.
He also became the first man since NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson to record three consecutive triple-doubles as a rookie.
Josh Giddey injury
Giddey struggled with injuries nearer the end of the season but was still awarded the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award four times over the year.
Josh Giddey Salary
Josh Giddey signed a four-year contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder worth $27.2 million (~$41.7 million AUD). During his first season with the Thunder, Giddey took home $5.9 million (~$9 million AUD). This is said to increase to $6.3 million (~$9.6 million) for the 2022/23 season and $6.5 million (~$10 million) for the 2023/24 season.
Josh Giddey News
The future is bright for the young man from Melbourne, and everyone is very excited to see what Giddey can do with the Thunder’s new big-man acquisition Chet Holmgren. Is this the beginning of the NBA’s next big one-two punch?
Dyson Daniels is a shooting guard/small forward who plays for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Born and raised in Bendigo, Victoria, Daniels was proficient in both basketball and Australian rules football, before eventually settling for hoops instead of posts. He played for the semi-professional Bendigo Braves aged only 16.
Rather than going to an American college, Daniels instead chose to sign for NBA G League Ignite, a team in the NBA’s developmental league, averaging 12 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
Dyson Daniels NBA Draft
Daniels was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, in time for the 2022 Summer League – although an early injury ruled him out.
Regardless, he finds himself in a young squad full of talent including all-stars Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. It’ll be interesting to see how Daniels fits into the Pelicans rotation this season, but he certainly has a lot of potential.
Josh Green is a shooting guard currently playing for the Dallas Mavericks. He was drafted No. 18 overall in the 2020 NBA draft.
Sydney-born Green was a multi-sport athlete growing up; by the age of 10, he had been selected to play for New South Wales in a whopping nine sports.
Josh Green AFL
Clearly, basketball isn’t Josh Green’s only love; the Sydneysider is also a huge AFL fan, with his favourite team being the Sydney Swans. Both the Swans and the Greater Western Sydney Giants offered Green a place in their development academics, but his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona for his father’s job, forcing him to quit the sport.
Josh Green Mavericks
His time at the Mavericks has been spent playing as a role player for the first team and in the G-League. However, reportedly in the off-season he has been working tirelessly with Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry to improve his game.
Mavericks Head Coach Jason Kidd has said previously that “Josh’s work is paying off,” and that if he continues his development and current trajectory, “it is just the tip of the iceberg for him.”
2023 may be the year we see Josh Green form solid partnerships with Mavericks main man Luka Dončić and fellow guard Spencer Dinwiddie, to take the franchise to the next level.
Xavier Cooks is a small forward for the Washington Wizards in the NBA.
Originally from Wollongong, New South Wales, Cooks started playing basketball with the Illawarra Hawks in the Waratah League, before moving to the Australian capital, Canberra, to compete in the South East Australian Basketball League.
Cooks then moved stateside to play college basketball with the Winthrop Eagles hoping to make it big in the NBA; still just a teenager, Cooks excelled in South Carolina, earning plenty of individual accolades during his four years at Winthrop.
Xavier Cooks NBA
Unfortunately, it didn’t earn Cooks a spot through the NBA draft; instead, Cooks played basketball in Germany’s BBL before returning to ply his trade in his native Australia with the Sydney Kings.
Cooks was an integral part of the Kings’ back-to-back NBL titles last season and was crowned the league’s MVP for 2022/23 before making the switch to the U.S.
Now at Washington, Cooks made his debut for the Wizards and has made 10 appearances for his new team. Cooks ended the season with an average of 3.8 points per game. Expect a big season from the 28-year-old in 2023/24.
Joseph “Joe” Ingles is originally from Adelaide and is a shooting guard/small forward for Orlando Magic.
Going undrafted in the 2009 NBA draft, Ingles played in Spain and Turkey before being picked up by the Utah Jazz in 2014. In 2022, he signed a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks worth $6.5 million
A Jazz stalwart, he played 418 consecutive games for the team from 2014 to 2021, mostly as a ‘sixth man’. His efforts did not go unnoticed, finishing as runner-up for NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2021 behind teammate Jordan Clarkson.
Known for being a consistent three-point specialist, Joe Ingles set the record for the most threes in a single game by a Jazz player, finding the hoop eight times.
However, he may be better known for being a “troll”, both on and off the court, with the unique ability to get under players’ skin. If you have 10-minute YouTube compilations made about your annoying opponents, you must be doing something right.
Joe Ingles Salary
In 2023, Joe Ingles signed a 2-year deal worth $22 million (~$33.7 million AUD) contract with the Orlando Magic.
Jock Landale is a 6ft 11 in center for the Phoenix Suns.
Originally born in Melbourne, Landale almost gave up basketball at an early age, but a growth spurt seeing him grow almost a full foot between year 9 to year 12 encouraged him to keep playing. He earned a scholarship to play in America for college.
Jock Landale NBA
Landale went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft, but honed his craft in Europe and back at Melbourne United, winning the NBL Grand Final MVP.
He was also a member of the ‘Boomers’ squad who won bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Off the back of the tournament, the San Antonio Spurs saw young Landale’s potential, signing him to a contract in 2021. After multiple trades, he now plays with Chris Paul and Devin Booker on the title-contending Phoenix Suns.
Jock Landale Salary
Jock Landale signed a 4-year deal worth at least $32,000,000 with the Houston Rockets, which will see the Australian take home $8 million (~$12 million AUD) a year.
One of the most accomplished Australian NBA players in history, Patty Mills is a point guard who plays for the Atlanta Hawks.
Mills was raised in Canberra; his father is a Torres Straight Islander and his mother is an Indigenous Australian. As such, his first basketball experience age four, was playing for a local indigenous club.
In 2006, he was the youngest athlete selected for the Australian Boomers squad for the FIBA World Championship, aged only 18. This made him only the third athlete of Aboriginal descent to play for the national team – his uncle was the second. He would later go on to captain the team to the bronze medal – as Australia’s flag bearer – at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Playing college ball in America, the Portland Trailblazers gave Mills a chance, selecting him with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft.
However, it was not until he reached the San Antonio Spurs in 2012 that he came into his own. Playing in back-to-back NBA finals in 2013 and 2014 against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, Mills played a key role off the bench. In Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals, Mills scored 14 of his 17 total points in the third quarter, helping to win the Spurs the championship 4-1.
Patty Mills contract
During the 2023 window, Mills was traded three times in just 10 days, starting with Brooklyn to Houston, Houston to Oklahoma City and finally on to Atlanta. It’s reported Patty Mills signed a deal worth $6.8 million ($10 million AUD) a season with the Hawks.
Patty Mills Stats
In 2021, he set the record for the most three points made in NBA history as a reserve, and the only Australian to make over 1000 threes in the league.
In 2023/24, Patty Mills will be playing for the Atlanta Hawks.
Matisse Thybulle is a shooting guard/small forward who plays for the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA.
Originally born in America, but emigrating to Sydney when he was two, he did not play much basketball whilst Down Under, instead preferring swimming.
Moving back to America when he was eight, he eventually went on to play for the University of Washington, being voted as the best defensive player of the year for 2018-19.
Matisse Thybulle NBA
He was selected by the 76ers with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, as the team wanted to add a strong defensive presence to the side.
His first season was tumultuous, being played during the Covid-19 pandemic. But he found a way to entertain the masses, wivlog-styleg style videos when games were being played behind closed doors during the 2020 NBA bubble.
Thybulle is proud of his Australian roots and was a part of the Boomers squad that won bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
No, not the guitarist. Jack White is a small forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Originally a native of Traralgon, Victoria, White played basketball at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, before being scouted to play for Duke University, alongside future NBA talent Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish.
Jack White NBA
White went undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft, so decided to return to Australia to play for Melbourne United in the NBL where he went on to win the championship in 2021.
Impressing scouts there, the Denver Nuggets picked him up in July 2022 but transferred to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2023/24 season.
Australian point guard Dante Exum returns to the NBA after signing a two-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks ahead of the 2023/24 season.
A Melbourne native, Dante Exum was first introduced to America’s premier basketball league after being selected by the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Dante Exum NBA
Exum would go on to feature in all 82 games for his new side in his debut season becoming only the 10th rookie in Jazz history to do so, averaging 4.8 points per game before suffering an ACL injury in his left knee while on international duty with the Boomers; Exum missed the entire 2015/16 season through injury.
Exum would continue with the Jazz for another five seasons, contributing sufficiently to his side’s points throughout the seasons although successive injuries would hamper his career progression.
In 2022, Exum won the Spanish Cup with FC Barcelona before moving to Partizan Belgrade, where he would lift the ABA League trophy as well.
Dante Exum Contract
On 14 July 2023, Exum signed with the Dallas Mavericks on a two-year deal.
Canadian-born Aussie baller Dejan Vasiljevic moved to Melbourne from Serbia with his family aged just six years old. He showed an aptitude for a number of Australian sports at an early age, playing football, tennis and cricket, however, it was the allure of the hardwood that truly captured his heart, and at the age of 12, he embarked on his basketball adventure.
Fast forward to 2016, and Dejan made a life-altering decision to cross the Atlantic in pursuit of his hoop dreams, landing in the vibrant city of Miami. There, he honed his skills and earned his stripes on the college basketball courts over three thrilling years.
Amongst a talented roster, the young Australian baller was one of just three Hurricanes players to appear in all 31 games for the 2019/20 season and the only one to start each of them, before returning to Australia with the Sydney Kings.
Vasiljevic was part of the back-to-back NBL-winning Sydney Kings side along with Xavier Cooks; the pair even moved to the Washington Warriors during the same window ahead of the 2023/24 season.
Although Dejan Vasiljevic is no longer playing in the NBA, we felt he deserved a special mention.
Matthew Dellavedova enjoyed many years playing for Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland in the NBA, but has since moved back to his native Australia with Melbourne United in the NBL.
Originally from Maryborough, Victoria he played multiple sports growing up before settling on basketball, playing at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
Dellavedova moved to America to play for Saint Mary’s College (the same as Patty Mills and Jack Landale) and after four years there, left as the college’s all-time leader in scoring, assists, games played, free throw percentage and three-point shots.
Matthew Dellavedova NBA
Despite all of these accolades, he went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft but was given a chance by the Cleveland Cavaliers (and I bet they’re glad they did).
Dellavedova became an integral part of the Cavaliers’ rotation for their trips to the NBA finals in 2015 and 2016. In the latter, the Cavaliers became the first team in history to come back from 3-1 down to win the NBA championship.
After playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland once again, he eventually moved back to Australia to play for Melbourne United, winning the championship in 2021/22.
Clearly not content with his NBA career so far, Dellavedova signed with the Sacramento Kings in the summer, marking his return to the NBA, but has now moved back to Australia with Melbourne United.
An aggressive defender, Dellavedova has often been labelled as a “dirty player” by opponents but praised as “playing hard” by others. Regardless of what side of the coin you stand on, he may be exactly what the Kings need to improve their shoddy defence.
And before you stand to correct us – yes, we know Kyrie Irving was born in Australia, but he plays for the United States national team, so we chose not to include him.