Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia. Over 1.3 million people play the sport in Australia in 2022, with almost a quarter of this figure being children.
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 that ever that play in the premier basketball league in the world, the National Basketball Association (NBA).
There are currently ten Australian players in the NBA for the 2022-23 season, from No.1 overall picks to crafty NBA veterans.
Read on as DMARGE gives you a breakdown of which Australians play in the NBA and how they compare to the rest of the roster.
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’.
The next three seasons Simmons came into his own as an individual: 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.
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” costing up to $10 million.
The 76ers eventually traded Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for former MVP James Harden, in a package deal.
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.
Early performances this season have not given us much of an indication as to how Simmons will do in the 2022-23 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.
Joshua “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.
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.
He 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 course of the year.
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. He was drafted with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft.
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.
He joined the Pelicans for the 2022 Summer League but suffered an injury which 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 Daniel’s fits into the Pelicans rotation this season, but he certainly has a lot of potential.
Josh Green is 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.
He is 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.
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 said, “Josh’s work is paying off,” and that he thinks, “it is just the tip of the iceberg for him.”
2022 may be the year we see Josh Green form solid partnerships with Mavericks main man Luka Doncic and fellow guard Spencer Dinwiddie, to take the franchise to the next level.
Joseph “Joe” Ingles is originally from Adelaide, and is a shooting guard/small forward for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Going undrafted in 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 in for NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2021 behind teammate Jordan Clarkson.
He is a three-point specialist, having set the record for the most threes in a single game by a Jazz player, scoring eight.
However, he may be better known for being a “troll”, both on and the off the court, with the unique ability of getting under players’ skin. If you have 10-minute YouTube compilations made about you annoying opponents, you must be doing something right.
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.
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.
Will the center find himself with a ring after the 2022-23 NBA season?
One of the most accomplished Australian NBA players in history, Patty Mills is a point guard who plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
Mills was raised in Canberra; his father is a Torres Straight Islander and his mother an Indigenous Australia. 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 decent 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 really 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.
In 2021, he set the record for most three points made in NBA history as a reserve, and the only Australian to make over 1000 threes in the league.
He now plays for the Brooklyn Nets alongside Ben Simmons and other NBA superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
What a career Patty!
Matisse Thybulle is a shooting guard/small forward for the Philadelphia 76ers 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 University of Washington, being voted as the best defensive player of the year for 2018-19.
Wanting to add a strong defensive presence, he was selected by the 76ers with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
His first season was tumultuous, being played during the Covid-19 pandemic. But he found a way to entertain the masses, with his vlog 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 who won bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
No, not the guitarist. Jack White is small forward for the Denver Nuggets.
Originally a native of Tralalgon, 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.
He went undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft, so decided to return to Australia to play for Melbourne United in the NBL, winning the championship in 2021. Impressing scouts there, the Denver Nuggets picked him up in July 2022.
He plays for both the Nuggets and G-League affiliate Grand Rapids Gold and is turning heads with his ridiculous shooting accuracy in training.
If he is able to carry this into games, he may well land himself a regular spot on the Nuggets roster this season.
Saving one of the best for last, Matthew Dellavedova is a point guard for the Sacramento Kings in the NBA.
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.
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 are glad that 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.
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.