How the 11 Australians (and one Kiwi) look heading into the 2023/24 NBA season

ByKane Pitman ESPN logo
Monday, October 23, 2023

The 2023-24 NBA season tips off on Wednesday morning with a re-match of the Western Conference Finals, as the Denver Nuggets host the Los Angeles Lakers.

Entering this season, the interest in players from Australia and New Zealand has never been higher, with the FIBA World Cup in the rear vision mirror and the road to the Paris Olympics underway.

From Josh Giddey to Patty Mills to Dyson Daniels, here's what you need to know about the local stars in the Association this season.

JOSH GIDDEY - Oklahoma City Thunder

Entering year three, Josh Giddey has already announced himself as one of the premier facilitators in the NBA, averaging 6.3 assists across his 130 regular season appearances with the Thunder.

Extension eligible next offseason, the 21-year-old is on track to ink a long-term deal, likely the richest for an Aussie NBA player in history, with his prowess as a scoring threat on and off the ball the key to further unlocking his immense potential.

Giddey led the Boomers in scoring at the FIBA World Cup, averaging 19.4 points per outing, while finishing at a tidy 61 percent on two-point attempts. Often, he was able to use his 6'8" size and building frame to bully his way to the basket to score or head to the free-throw line in a sure sign of growth. Additionally, his efficiency from beyond the 3-point line increased from 24.5 percent as a rookie to 33.7 percent in year two on catch-and-shoot tries, which boosts the damage he can inflict when playing alongside MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder are a popular selection to launch up the standings in the Western Conference, as the young squad enters opening night with genuine outside expectations to win for the first time in Giddey's young career.

BEN SIMMONS - Brooklyn Nets

After appearing in just 42 out of a possible 164 regular games over the last two seasons, Ben Simmons is playing preseason basketball. He's also expressing the type of public confidence in his game that has been absent for much of that period.

"I knew it would take a lot of work. Doubting that I would be able to do what I'm doing now is not something I really had in my mind," Simmons reflected, when asked about his recovery from back surgery on two herniated discs.

"It was frustrating playing last year knowing I wasn't capable of doing some of the things I'm doing now."

Simmons' early preseason play has included 7.0 assists per game, 80 percent finishing at the rim and the multi-faceted defensive disruptiveness that made the former No. 1 overall pick a star in the league.

The team situation is also different for Simmons, who is no longer playing alongside MVP calibre talent like Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and at least for now, championship contention not expected for the Nets.

It appears safe to proceed with cautious optimism when it comes to Simmons in the NBA this season, though Paris 2024 is still a long way away, so let's be patient with the green and gold hopes of next year.

JOCK LANDALE - Houston Rockets

The offseason provided a rollercoaster of emotions for Landale, who signed a 4-year, $32 million (USD) free agent contract with the Houston Rockets before an untimely ankle injury ruled him out of the FIBA World Cup.

That contract is guaranteed for the first year only, though, it comes on the back of an impressive NBA postseason showcase, where Landale averaged 6.1 points and 4.0 rebounds across seven appearances and 17.2 minutes per outing for the Phoenix Suns.

The Rockets made a splash in free agency, bringing in a veteran core including Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks to go along with Landale, hoping to return to the postseason mix after a three-season combined record that stood at 59-177.

It appears likely that Landale will play a significant role off the bench for Ime Udoka's squad, with Alperen Sengun slated to start at the five. A swing skill for the Aussie big man is most certainly his outside shot, with his reputation as a floor spacing big man not quite coming to fruition in the early stages of his time in the league. Thus far, Landale is just 50-for-173 (28%) from beyond the arc across his two campaigns.

For the first time in a while, the Rockets will be an intriguing watch, with the addition of Landale a nice bonus.

JOSH GREEN - Dallas Mavericks

A legitimate breakout candidate for this season and the type of defensive weapon that the Dallas Mavericks desperately need.

Green and the Mavericks agreed to a 3-year, $41 million extension just prior to the Tuesday morning [AEDT] deadline.

While all the focus on the Mavericks continues to zero in on Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the stark reality is that Jason Kidd's squad plummeted from 7th in defensive efficiency during 2022 to 25th in 2023. The inability to slow the opposition down resulted in a remarkable 14 fewer wins and no postseason action.

Amidst the overall carnage, Green transformed into an every night player in Dallas, bumping his minutes per game mark up to 25.7 from 15.5 the year prior. Per cleaning the glass, the Mavericks conceded 3.1 points fewer per 100 possessions ( with Green on the floor last season, opening the door for his role to expand further in 2023-24.

On the offensive side of the ball, Green buried a very tidy 40.2 percent his of triples, with reason to believe his volume will expand on the 2.8 attempts per outing last season. Green is beginning to show new levels of offensive aggression, pouring in 22 points across just 24 minutes of court time in the preseason finale against the Detroit Pistons.

Still just 22 years of age and one of the true stars of Australian basketball on a team hoping to contend for an NBA championship.

DYSON DANIELS - New Orleans Pelicans

By the end of Dyson Daniels' rookie campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans, the young guard was banged up and exhausted.

Dealing with multiple ankle injuries through the back end of the season, Daniels struggled for continuity and ultimately feel out of the rotation as the team attempted to make a push towards the postseason. Ultimately, the Pelicans would lose a Play-In Tournament game to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Josh Giddey.

"It was disappointing that we lost, obviously we wanted to go further, we felt like we should have gone further. Once the season ended, I was able to take a few days off and recap, it was kind of a relief," Daniels told ESPN earlier this year. "I felt like I was a bit inconsistent, I think there were some things I could have done better but it was good to know what I need for season two and what I need to be better at. It's good now to reflect on that and come back for year two." Daniels used his rookie season as fuel for the offseason, shining during Summer League, where he was tasked with increased ball handling duties and responsibility for running the offence.

The 20-year-old stuffed the stat sheet in Vegas, tallying 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks in a series of eye-opening performances. With veteran guard Josh Richardson no longer on the depth chart, there appears to be a path to once again locking down key rotation minutes on the talented Pelicans roster.

Much like the Thunder, the Pelicans are viewed as a young squad potentially set to rise if they can stay healthy.

JOE INGLES - Orlando Magic

This time last year, Ingles was in the final stages of rehabbing a torn left ACL as a newly minted member of the Milwaukee Bucks. One-year on, he's now in Orlando, after an impressive return netted him a 2-year, $22 million (usd) deal with the Magic.

Across 46 regular season outings with the Bucks, Ingles canned 40.9 percent of his 4.4 long range attempts per game and posted an assists percentage of 18.3, placing him in the 85th percentile among forwards.

Ingles has lost a step defensively over the past few seasons, though he remains a high-level offensive player and the young Orlando big man core of Paulo Banchero and Franz Wagner should thrive in the pick-and-roll game with the crafty lefty.

The second year of Ingles deal does include a team option, so it will be an important season for Ingles if he has designs on remaining in the league beyond the Paris Olympics.

PATTY MILLS - Atlanta Hawks

It was an interesting offseason for Mills, who bounced around in a series of transactions after a challenging season with the Brooklyn Nets.

Mills appeared in just 40 games with Brooklyn last season, his lowest tally since 2012, which was his first season with the San Antonio Spurs. Even when he did see the floor, his role was often reduced, with his average of 14.2 minutes per game his lowest mark since 2013.

The veteran guard was first traded to the Houston Rockets, before being flipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was then finally traded to the Atlanta Hawks, with the moves all happening in the space of a week.

"I'm coming into a locker room that is talented, young, filled with that young energy, that young enthusiasm, it's a great place to start," Mills told reporters on media day of his role as a veteran leader.

"There's going to be a lot of adversities but to be able to keep this group together and keep the growth mindset. Trae (Young) and Dejounte (Murray) are obviously the head of the snake here. Being able to empower them so that they can be the players that they are is very important."

There's no question that playing an expanded role would be beneficial for Mills and the Boomers leading into the Paris Olympics.

DANTE EXUM - Dallas Mavericks

Did I already mention the defensive woes of the Mavericks? With that in mind, Dante Exum is an appealing piece for obvious reasons.

The fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Exum's return to the NBA comes on the back of a brilliant stint in Europe with Barcelona and Partizan. Still just 28 years of age, Exum has plenty of good basketball in front of him and early returns have been strong in the preseason.

Exum averaged 18.9 minutes per game across four preseason appearances, putting up 6.8 points and 5.5 assists, while only committing 1.3 turnovers per game. The bulk of the guard minutes will naturally go to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, though Exum's commitment to playing defence puts him in a solid place to crack the rotation.

Exum's $3.1 million (usd) salary for the 2024-25 season is non-guaranteed.

STEVEN ADAMS - Memphis Grizzlies

Awful news surfaced in the early hours of Monday morning, with the Memphis Grizzlies announcing that Steven Adams would undergo season ending surgery on his right knee.

Injuring his knee on January 22nd last season, Adams failed to make progress, leading to a stem cell injection to help repair the PCL sprain he suffered. The setback eventually ruled him out for the entirety of last season as the Grizzlies would ultimately be eliminated in the first-round by the six-seed Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite their best efforts, the non-surgical approach was not working as hoped, leading to an extended period on the sidelines.

The news is a massive blow for the Grizzlies, as the numbers don't lie when it comes to the impact Adams has on the success of the team.

Prior to the injury, Memphis ranked 2nd in ORB% (33.1) and REB% (52.1). Post injury to Adams, the Grizzlies plummeted to 22nd in ORB% (26.0) and 25th in REB% (48.4).

Without the New Zealander manning the paint, the Grizzlies have a major issue on the glass while they attempt to stay afloat early in the season.

MATISSE THYBULLE - Portland Trail Blazers

A new home and a new lease of life for Matisse, with a rebuilt Portland roster set to begin life after Damian Lillard.

After trading Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in late September, the Blazers roster is brimming with young talent led by this year's No. 2 overall draft selection, Scoot Henderson.

With that, should come solid rotation minutes for Thybulle, who appears to be enjoying expanded opportunities on the offensive end at his new club. In 22 appearances with Portland last season, Thybulle attempted 137 shots, with 85 of those coming from beyond the arc. The 3.9 long range attempts dwarf his average of 2.1 per game with the Philadelphia 76ers across 245 outings.

Portland isn't expected to make the postseason in the stacked Western Conference, though, for Thybulle, the situation appears significantly better than Philadelphia.

XAVIER COOKS - Washington Wizards

What a wonderful 24 months it has been for Xavier Cooks. After years of injury concerns, the versatile forward has finally found continuity and with it has come instant success.

An NBL Grand Final MVP and title in 2022, an NBL regular season MVP and title in 2023, an NBA debut with the Washington Wizards and his first appearance in a Boomers uniform at a major tournament.

Cooks barely had time to shake off the jetlag before making his first NBA appearance at the back end of last season just days after claiming the title with the Sydney Kings.

With his contract non-guaranteed beyond this season, it loomed as an important year for Cooks, with reports on Tuesday morning surfacing that the Wizards have selected to waive the 28-year-old.

JACK WHITE - Oklahoma City Thunder

A member of the championship winning Denver Nuggets roster this past June, Jack White originally signed a deal with OKC in the offseason.

Early on Monday morning, reports surfaced that White would be waived, with the Thunder needing to make a series of roster cuts over the last few days. White has attracted interest elsewhere in the NBA, with the athletic forward looking to stay in the United States.

White appeared in 17 NBA games with the Nuggets last season, while also putting up dominant numbers in the G League with the Grand Rapids Gold.

DUOP REATH (Portland TrailBlazers)

Signed to an exhibit-10 contract in September, Reath was given the opportunity to play in the preseason in the hopes of earning a roster spot with the Portland TrailBlazers. On the weekend, the Blazers announced they were waiving Reath, leaving his immediate future uncertain as of today.

On the back of an impressive Summer League and World Cup, Reath averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds during the preseason, further consolidating the belief that he is an NBA calibre player.

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