Home » Brutal Boomers calls: The locks for Paris… and big questions to decide final Olympic spots

Brutal Boomers calls: The locks for Paris… and big questions to decide final Olympic spots

Brutal Boomers calls: The locks for Paris… and big questions to decide final Olympic spots

The Boomers cruised to comfortable wins in two warm-up games against China but now comes the most difficult part of the week for coach Brian Goorjian.

He will be tasked with trimming Australia’s 17-man squad down to 12 players, although the process looks to have already started considering two absentees from Thursday’s game.

Here, foxsports.com.au breaks down who has already punched their ticket to Paris and the tough calls Goorjian needs to make.

Boomers vs China match wrap | 02:31

WHO ARE LOCKS?

There are seven players who will definitely be on the plane to Paris.

Starting with Josh Giddey who, regardless of what you made of his final season at Oklahoma City, is clearly the face of the Boomers both now and moving forward.

Sure, Giddey has his shortcomings on the defensive end and isn’t a reliable outside shooter just yet but Goorjian would have seen enough in last year’s FIBA World Cup to know this team is at its best when the offence is running through the 21-year-old.

Now, while Giddey’s 3-point shooting remains a glaring weakness, that is obviously not going to be a crippling issue for the Boomers like it was in Oklahoma City, where the Australian was playing more of an off-ball shooter role anyway.

For Giddey, the key is to be more aggressive in hunting mismatches as was the case in his best game of the World Cup last year against Japan, where he used his 6-foot-8 frame to his advantage to finish with 26 points, five rebounds and 11 assists.

Josh Giddey will be the starting point guard. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Josh Giddey will be the starting point guard. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Giddey will be the starting point guard. Who starts alongside him in the backcourt is up for debate, but you can also lock in Patty Mills for a spot in the 12-man squad.

That is despite a less than ideal season in the NBA where Mills struggled for minutes at Atlanta before being traded to Miami, where he saw more game time early as injuries tested the Heat’s backcourt depth.

Mills’ performances in the warm-up games have to be a cause for concern too, with the veteran going 1-for-11 from the field on Thursday night after eight scoreless minutes on two field goal attempts in Tuesday’s win.

It follows a World Cup campaign where Mills also struggled to consistently find his shot.

Still, if there is a major question mark over this Boomers team heading into Paris it is whether it has that one guy who is capable of consistently making buckets like Mills did with his 42-point heroics against Slovenia at the Tokyo Games.

Is Patty still capable of that sort of performance? Maybe not. And he definitely didn’t provide the sort of consistent shooting the Boomers needed from him at the World Cup, especially when you consider the disadvantage Australia is at on defence with Mills and Giddey sharing the backcourt.

Which is why four-time Olympian Shane Heal suggested in a column for news.com.au that Mills should start off the bench as more of a scoring spark plug.

Either way, Mills will be on the plane to Paris.

Patty Mills hasn’t found his shooting rhythm yet. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Moving onto the frontcourt, you can add Jock Landale and Duop Reath to the list of locks for the Boomers’ 12-man squad that is off to Paris.

Landale was set to be a big part of Australia’s FIBA World Cup campaign last year before being ruled out with an ankle injury that ended up disrupting his pre-season at Houston.

He will obviously be a welcome addition with his size on the defensive end while Reath will operate as a floor-spacing big for the Boomers, having flashed his potential in an expanded role last year with Landale sidelined before going on to really emerge in the NBA for the Trail Blazers.

Reath averaged 9.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his rookie season in the league, shooting 35.9 per cent from downtown and made an immediate impact in Tuesday’s warm-up game against China on both ends of the floor.

Reath will benefit from not having to shoulder so much responsibility given the Boomers didn’t have a back-up big to ease the pain of losing Landale on the eve of the World Cup.

Then you have Australia’s versatile trio of Josh Green, Dante Exum and Matisse Thybulle.

It will be interesting to see how Goorjian balances out Green and Exum’s minutes given they are right now less than a month removed from playing in the NBA Finals.

If Goorjian ends up going in the direction Heal has suggested, that would likely involve starting Exum alongside Giddey in the backcourt.

Although Exum was a real X-factor for Australia off the bench running the second unit at the FIBA World Cup.

As for Thybulle, he was one of Australia’s standouts at the Tokyo Games but was relatively quiet by his lofty standards at the World Cup.

Still, there is no doubting Thybulle’s place in the squad given his ability to impact a game on the defensive end with his length and athleticism, while the 27-year-old wing also had some hot shooting stretches at Portland.

Obviously he’s never going to be a consistent, knockdown 3-point shooter but anything Thybulle can add on that side of the ball along with his elite defence is a bonus.

WHAT ABOUT THE REST?

So, this is where things get interesting because there are only five spots left and 10 contenders to fill those spots.

Starting with Dyson Daniels, who was recently traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Atlanta Hawks.

Daniels got little to no playing time at last year’s World Cup and while he has another season of NBA experience under his belt, the same logic applies to why you would and wouldn’t give him more of a go this time around.

Daniels’ length and athleticism on the defensive end is obviously his biggest strength, with the Bendigo product establishing himself as one of the NBA’s best defenders.

It is why he saw relatively consistent minutes in the New Orleans’ rotation, at least before the playoffs, because the 21-year-old is otherwise too limited on the offensive side of the ball.

Dyson Daniels has room to grow. Picture: Michael KleinSource: News Corp Australia

The 3-point shooting isn’t there but the bigger concern is that Daniels still at times plays with too little confidence, not backing himself to be more aggressive and drive towards the rim to help open up his game more.

At this stage Daniels looks likely to punch his ticket to Paris on the back of his defence, but Goorjian will have to be selective with the line-up he puts around the former No. 8 overall pick given his limitations on offence.

Moving from a young emerging Boomer to a longstanding veteran, it will be particularly interesting to see where Goorjian lands on Joe Ingles, who on Thursday signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ingles won’t be starting but when it comes to sorting through his potential bench options, it is ultimately a case of what qualities Goorjian is looking for.

With someone like Ingles, you are obviously getting a level of leadership and composure that comes with the 18 years of his experience he has playing in the NBA, NBL and Europe.

The 36-year-old wing also still has the competitive fire and trash-talking to win the mental battle against some of the best.

If Ingles can be solid enough on defence and make his 3-pointers when open, he is the right kind of connective piece with his shooting and playmaking to be a glue guy off the bench.

He showed that on Thursday night too, dishing out three assists in a professional third-quarter cameo that had Andrew Gaze impressed.

“There are some out there that have raised question marks… but in the last five minutes you have seen why he can be so valuable,” Gaze said in commentary.

Ingles signs one-year deal with Wolves | 00:39

Matthew Dellavedova is another veteran pushing for selection, although unlike Ingles he missed out on a spot in last year’s FIBA World Cup squad.

But Dellavedova is as scrappy as they come and after a standout season in the NBL, the 33-year-old is in the frame for a bench spot.

Dellavedova was productive off the bench in the first game, scoring three points to go with seven assists and four rebounds in just 14 minutes.

The Boomers’ offence flowed nicely with the veteran running the point, pushing the pace in transition and making the right plays — even if they weren’t flashy ones — that come with the kind of experience he has built up.

Dellavedova wouldn’t see extended minutes in Paris but Goorjian could strike the right kind of balance to get the most out of his energy and tenacity on both ends of the floor.

That then moves us to the next group — Jack McVeigh, Chris Goulding, Nick Kay, Will Magnay and Xavier Cooks.

McVeigh looked to have booked his ticket to Paris after a standout showing in the first game against China, where he went 6-for-8 from deep to finish with 24 points.

Gaze said in commentary during that game that it would be hard not to pick McVeigh.

Has Jack McVeigh secured his spot? (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Jack McVeigh has just come in, been composed, taken what’s been given to him and been very, very crafty,” Gaze said.

This Boomers squad is full of athleticism, length and versatility but lacks a genuine sharpshooter to take advantage of the open looks those kinds of versatile playmakers can create.

Mills used to be that guy and still can be to a certain extent but McVeigh could be lightning in a bottle off the bench, plus he has the ‘chip on my shoulder’ mentality that makes him the perfect locker room presence.

The big question for Goorjian is whether he feels like he can afford to carry both McVeigh and Goulding, who made four 3-pointers in the first warm-up game against China and then exploded for just as many triples in the third quarter alone in game two.

There is an argument that the Boomers need all the scoring they can get and so Goulding and McVeigh can co-exist, especially given the way Tasmania’s Finals MVP impacted the game beyond just his 3-point shooting, also converting on a few mid-range looks as he drove towards the rim.

It is something Gaze suggested in commentary on Friday night when considering the likely core of the squad as a whole.

“I just think when you look at what this team needs — yes they are incredible athletes, yes they can get up and in and you can see the havoc they can cause on the defensive end,” Gaze said.

“Defence is the foundation but you’ve still got to be able to put the ball in the hole. When you’ve got those moments where things are breaking down… you get it to Goulding and you feel really good about it when the ball leaves his hands unlike some of the other well credentialed players on this roster.”

Boomers looking to build on bronze | 01:03

The other dilemma for Goorjian is whether he carries a third big after Australia’s lack of size was exposed at the World Cup last year without the injured Landale.

If Goorjian wants to play it safe and give himself some insurance, Will Magnay will be in the 12-man squad.

Nick Kay is another option having been a mainstay in the Boomers set-up for a number of years now, with Goorjian consistently calling on him to match up against the opposition’s best wing or big.

Kay saw significant minutes at the World Cup last year, obviously in part to Landale’s absence, but it still speaks to the confidence Goorjian has in the veteran to get the job done on both ends.

Otherwise, the alternative is mixing in the small ball line-up with Xavier Cooks at the five, as was the case at the World Cup.

Although given the fact that contributed to Australia’s early exit, perhaps Goorjian will opt to play it safe this time around to make sure the Boomers are covered and history doesn’t repeat.

Speaking of Cooks, he stood out in a big way at the World Cup last year, scoring 24 points to go with 16 rebounds in a big win against Japan.

Of course, there is only so much you can take from that game against an undersized Japan outfit that doesn’t accurately reflect what the Boomers are going to see in their group at the Olympics.

But Cooks’ defensive versatility will always have him in the conversation for selection.

Elsewhere, DJ Vasiljevic and Jack White did not see any playing time in Thursday’s game and at this stage look long shots to make the cut.