What If Kyrie Irving Decided To Play For Australia?

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We all know about the blockbuster trade that took place in the NBA offseason that saw one of the best guards in the NBA today, Kyrie Irving, wanting out of LeBron James’ shadow in Cleveland and requested a trade. He would wound up with the Boston Celtics and now together with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, they were to pose a stronger challenge  to the Cavaliers. Of course with the unfortunate injury to Hayward, the Celtics would have to wait until next season for that to happen.

I thought about this recently and remembered that Kyrie was born in Melbourne, Australia and holds dual citizenship as an American and Australian. So a thought came into my head:

What if  (just for the sake of speculation and shenanigans) Kyrie Irving trolled the basketball world and announced, “I don’t want to play for Team USA. I’m want to escape the shadow of LeBron James and play for my first home of Australia for the next Olympics.

Yannick Quintal (a madman)

First of all you’d probably put me in a straight jacket and lock me up in an insane asylum. Next you’d go on to ask why would Kyrie leave a sure gold medal team that could field him and 4 D-League players and still win a Gold medal. But hear me out ok.

Look at the Australian national team last year:

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In the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, a talented Australia team that consisted of three NBA champions (Mills, Bogut and Dellavedova) went 4-1 in their group stage; the loss coming from Team USA by 10 points. It wasn’t USA’s strongest team with superstars like Steph Curry and LeBron James noticeably absent (not sure if LeBron will be there for 2020) but a potent team nonetheless. Australia fell a point short of medalling, but they were in my eyes one of the more exciting and fun teams to watch in the Olympics.

So even if Kyrie is committed to playing for Team USA, for imagination’s sake let’s say he does switch national allegiances, how would the team look? What are its chances in the Olympics and how would they fare against Team USA? I’ve come up with a possible starting five based on the available player talent that Australia has in the NBA and how much of the players they may become by the time the Olympics roll around.

To clarify on the info provided, their ages are how old they will be by the time 2020 rolls around and the stats are their current NBA stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

 

POINT GUARD

Kyrie Irving

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Age: 25 (29 in 2020)

Career Avgs: 21.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.4 RPG, 45.6% FG, 38.2% 3P

Advance Stats: 21.2 PER, .560 TS%, 40.7 WS

 

The man of the hour. One of the best point guards in today’s NBA. Scoring, handles, playmaking ability you name it. Scores inside, outside and in between. Defense needs work but he’ll get by. Dellavedova’s a good point guard but Kyrie’s a significant upgrade that adds more firepower to the offense and the attention he gathers can draw defenders to him, allowing him to find other teammates for easy buckets.

Only question I would have for Kyrie is: can he lead? Can he be that vocal guy that the team rallies around? Sure his play will do the talking as he’s been quoted as saying so, but can he get his guys to rally around him when the team is down. Other than that, he’ll elevate Australia basketball to a new level of competitiveness.


SHOOTING GUARD

Dante Exum

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Age: 22 (26 in 2020)

Career Avgs.: 5.4 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.8 RPG, 38.5% FG, 30.8% 3P

Advanced Stats: 6.8 PER, .488 TS%, 1.1 WS

It’s been a rough start in the NBA for the former first round lottery pick. Injuries have kept him out of the fold for the Jazz and more importantly impeded his development. He missed out the entire 2015 season with a severe knee injury while playing for Australia and he’s set to miss extended time this year after successful shoulder surgery.

Looking at it right now, Exum’s out of position. From a small sample size at least, his shooting numbers won’t allow much floor spacing. Can he play off the ball? Would it be wise to play virtually 2 ball dominant guards on the floor? (3 if you count the PF seen later)?

But let’s look at him hypothetically 4 years down the road. He’s 6’6″ 190 lbs, with a 6’9″ wingspan so he’s got the size and athleticism to guard 1’s and 2’s. Let’s say he does develop that outside shot, which we saw glimpses in Summer League this season. Let’s say he does stay relatively healthy during that 4 year span so he has that same athleticism to rise high for those block shots against driving guards and that shoulder heals so it doesn’t affect his jumpshots.

Four years down the road, we could be seeing a combo guard that be a two-way threat on both sides of the floor. He has a respectable 3 point shot and if defenders eat the pump fake, he could drive to the basket or find the open man on the floor. He’s a player with a lot of upside but it all depends on whether he can stay healthy and stay on the floor and further develop his game.


 

SMALL FORWARD

Joe Ingles

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Age: 30 (34 in 2020)

Career Avgs: 5.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 43.7 FG%, 40.4% 3P

Advanced Stats: 11.1 PER, .578 TS%, 9.9 WS

The Aussie earned a 4 year, $52 million contract over the offseason after having a career year last season. After playing a full season and starting in 26 games he tallied career highs in (7.1), rebounds (3.2), assists (2.7) and steals per game (1.2) with an efficient 45.2 percent shooting clip from the field. Those numbers will continue to increase with him stepping into the staring SF spot withGordon Hayward gone.

At 34 years of age, Jingles would most likely be the oldest on the roster alongside Aron Baynes. While contributing with his floor spacing, 3 point shooting, catch and shoot offense and feisty defense, I also see him as that swiss army knife that could handle the ball when needed, find open guys and clean the glass on occasion.

Ingles will also be that dude on the floor that will always fire up the team too. His personality to get into the opponent’s face when necessary and the spirit that he brings to the floor will always be a huge intangible to a team. The veteran leadership that he’ll bring to the Australian team would be invaluable. No wonder the Jazz faithful loves this dude.


POWER FORWARD

Ben Simmons

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Age: 21 (25 in 2020)

Career Avgs (4 games): 17.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 7.0 APG, 49% FG%

Advanced Stats (4 games): 19.1 PER, .528 TS%, 0.4 WS

He’s just a jump-shot away.

The things that Ben Simmons is doing so far for his size is just isn’t fair. Look what he did to one of the top defenders in the NBA in Avery Bradley:

In that same game he posted his first triple double in his fourth career NBA game. Hasn’t been done since Hambone Williams in 1967. Look at that impact! He made me look up who Hambone Williams was!

So we know Big Ben has the NBA size already. We know he’s got a good post game as well as the ability to get to the basket. His passing ability is apparent. He has defensive potential with his size and 7 foot wingspan. He’s got all the physical tools to be great in the Association for a long time.

For Australia in 2020, he’s going to have to adjust to playing with Kyrie Irving running the point. For that to happen his long range shooting is going to have to reach a point where opposing 4s are going to have to respect his range beyond 18 feet. Of course he’ll able to run the point in spurts with Kyrie taking a break on the bench, but without the floor spacing, The Boomers won’t be able to have space underneath. He hasn’t attempted a 3 point shot in the NBA yet. That’ll change by the time Australia prepare for Tokyo.

All Ben Simmons needs is that outside shot and he has the potential to make himself and Australia a challenge for opposing teams.


CENTER

Thon Maker

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Age: 20 (24 in 2020)

Career Avgs: 4.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 44.5% FG%, 36.9% 3P

Advanced Stats: 13.4 PER, .546 TS%, 1.3 WS

Did you know that he’s Australian too?

I did some research after being informed by a couple guys on twitter. Apart from being born in Wau, a city located in South Sudan, Thon Maker, also holds Australian citizenship after being accepted as refugees by Australia. They were refugees as they were escaping war that was going on (and still going on) in Sudan. From refugee to starting Center in the NBA, Maker has had quite a ride so far in his young 20 years.

First thing you notice with Maker is that…well he’s long. 7’1″ with a 7’3″ wingspan and 9’5″ standing reach. So obviously the shot blocking potential is there. In the 57 games he played last season he blocked 26 shots. That number will look to improve in his first year starting for the Bucks.

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The NBA soon realised his floor spacing potential, knocking down close to 38% of 3s in the 57 games he played last season. He’s also a very mobile for his height. On the break, he can get up the floor and he can get around the half court to protect the rim.

By 2020, Maker would have to improve in a lot of areas to be an effective player for the Boomers. First he has to get stronger.  He weighs 223 lbs right now and that would see him get pushed around a lot inside. He competes inside but without adding more weight to his frame, he’s going to lose a lot of those battles.

He doesn’t have a polished offensive game yet. He doesn’t have much of an inside game, which is why you’ll see him posted up in the corner or behind the he arc looking for catch and shoot opportunities. Right now he’s more of an energy big, going after garbage points and relying on teammates to get points off lobs.

If he could improve on these things by 2020, Australia would have a monster of a player guarding the paint and a versatile offensive player as well.


 

The Bench:

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Here’s your sixth man right here.

Led Australia in scoring last year in the Olympics (21.3 PPG), he’ll be the bench’s main scoring threat, and a lethal one at that. He’s the Spurs sixth man back in America so he won’t be in unfamiliar waters if Kyrie ever plays for the Boomers. He’s also a feisty defender and will dog at opposing ones and twos.

 

Matthew Dellavedova

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A bulldog of defender, he’ll be the bench’s perimeter enforcer. He also will run the point and find open teammates on the floor (led the team in assists in Rio; 7.0 per game) He’ll also a catch and shoot player so he’ll make his fair share of threes as well.

 

Andrew Bogut

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He’ll be 36 by the time Tokyo rolls around. He might not be there, but if he does make the squad, they’ll have a decent big man who will protect the rim while having a scoring presence inside as well.

 

Aron Baynes

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Another impact big on the defensive side. He’ll give you hustle plays, set good screens  and probably give you a couple of plays on the offensive side as well.

 

Team Potential

At the end, in the 2020 Olympics, This team gets the silver medal in my eyes if what I hypothesised in this post plays out. You have three point shooting in Joe Ingles and Delly and Patty off the bench. You have an uber-talented young front court in Maker and Simmons with a lot floor spacing and defensive potential. The bench might look old but depending on who Australia actually puts out there for the team, it should be one that should help the starting 5.

They will end up losing to Team USA because, well, it’s Team USA and they’re an almost unstoppable juggernaut whenever FIBA or Olympics competition rolls around.  They’ll compete though. I believe that the team I have could have a shot at beating America, especially with Kyrie running the show. And who know’s, they might actually shock the world.

But alas, this is all speculation and fantasy. Kyrie is committed to play for Team USA and most likely would never leave a sure gold medal to play for another country.


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┻┳| •.•) Or would he?

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