As the Basketball World Cup tip-offs, the Australian national team has assembled a deep, talented roster looking to build on their success in the Tokyo Olympics where they earned a bronze medal, defeating Slovenia in the 3rd place game.
With 9 of their 12 players currently on NBA rosters, the Boomers will be tested early in a difficult group that includes Germany, 11th in FIBA rankings, tournament co-host Japan, and Finland, lead by NBA All-Star Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz.
Given the tournament's structure, the Aussies will play their three games in Okinawa City (a home-court advantage for the Japanese) but have the talent to compete and beat any team in the tournament, mixing the experience of veterans Joe Ingles and Patty Mills with the youthful energy of Josh Green, Dyson Daniels, Dante Exum.
Australia's brightest young star, Josh Giddey, who is playing with great confidence after starting every game for the OKC Thunder this past season that he appeared in (76 games), is expected to start at point guard and facilitate the offense.
Giddey the Kid
A New Era
The tournament will serve as a transition for the Australians, with key players from the last World Cup in 2019, a loss to France in the 3rd place game, Matthew Dellavedova, Andrew Bogut and Aaron Baynes no longer on the team (although Delly was available, at training camp, one of the final cuts); and head coach Brian Goorjian remarking:
"It's easy to just talk the talk, but we've put ourselves in a position over the last 10 years where we're knocking on that door. And we don't want to take a step backward now...when the whole country wants that gold medal."
Expectations are high, but as FIBA's third-ranked national team, and winners of the Asia Cup in 2022, the general shift represents progress for the Commonwealth of Australia which has a long, rich basketball legacy dating back to 1896.
The country has produced a wealth of talent (3x NBA Champion Luc Longley, former #1 pick Ben Simmons, and Kyrie Irving, who was born in Melbourne), and despite the top domestic competition, the National Basketball League´s commercial struggles in recent years, is a prime location for discovering high- quality young players.
In fact, the NBA's Global Academy in Canberra boasts the most amount of graduates who have transitioned to the league with Giddey being the first drafted in 2021.
Australia plays in one of the earlier games as the tournament begins against a quality Finnish team. For The Boomers, an early win in their group will build confidence and provide initial data points to consider before the group's most anticipated matchup against Germany on Sunday.
If the Aussies can establish themselves, given the tournament's format, the second round will include another team from their group and two from Group F, which features Luka Doncic's Slovenia and Edy Tavares' Cape Verde.