‘Getting better and better’: Daniels shines in opening month of NBA season
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Dyson Daniels, Josh Green and Duop Reath are making a mark, Josh Giddey has an off-court drama to contend with but his form is on the improve, and Joe Ingles is doing what he’s always done. But Ben Simmons’ promising start has been hijacked by injury and Patty Mills can’t get on the court.
Here’s an update on the 10 Aussies playing their trade on the hard courts of the NBA in the first month of the season.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey.Credit: Getty Images
Josh Giddey (Oklahoma City Thunder, 11-5 win-loss 2nd in West)
Stats (average per game): 15 games, 27.2 minutes, 12.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Giddey faced some unfounded criticism early in the season, with some commentators unhappy with his production and questioning his future with the Thunder. Those views were off the mark, and the Thunder are ranked among the best teams so far this season. They are adapting to the arrival of star centre Chet Holmgren, who loves to get his hands on the ball, so it was only natural Giddey’s stats would drop.
In recent games, he looks to have found his groove again, including 19 points against Golden State, but questions have now emerged about whether his season will be interrupted by the NBA investigation into allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a minor. He remains in the Thunder line-up and has yet to comment on the allegations.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels.Credit: AP
Dyson Daniels (New Orleans Pelicans, 9-8 9th in West)
Stats: 16 games, 28.1 mins, 8.4 points, 5.2 rebs and 3.7 assists.
In the words of Pels coach Willie Green, his second-year guard is “getting better and better”. A lung injury to CJ McCollum opened a starting guard spot for Daniels, and he is shining as a playmaker and on-ball defender. He flirted with a triple-double against reigning champions Denver Nuggets recently.
“He’s a great rebounder, you can play point guard, can play off the ball. The shooting is getting better. He’s a big-time defender,” Green said post-game. Daniels had a career-high six steals against Utah on Sunday AEDT.
Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Green.Credit: AP
Josh Green (Dallas Mavericks, 10-6 4th in West)
Stats: 15 games, 25.5 minutes, 7.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Green’s Mavericks have flown out of the blocks, and he is playing a major role, despite only starting three games. His defence and connectivity with his teammates does wonders, and while his three-point shooting percentage has slightly dropped, he is taking a few more shots per game, so expect it to rise.
Importantly for Green and the Boomers, he signed a four-year, $US41 million ($62 million) extension with Dallas just before the season tipped off. If Dallas keeps up its form, Green could be in for a special season.
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons.Credit: Getty Images
Ben Simmons (Brooklyn Nets, 7-8, 11th in East)
Stats: 6 games, 31.8 minutes, 6.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists.
Simmons was pulling in rebounds and dishing out assists early on for the Nets. While his scoring has been low, and he’s yet to take a three-point shot, he was looking productive. But his back issues flared against Milwaukee earlier this month, and he hasn’t played since. The Nets hope the nerve impingement will ease, and are planning to re-assess him in a week.
Nets coach Jacques Vaughan misses his Australian playmaker. “It’s two different teams [with and without him],” Vaughan told media. “We were top five, top six in transition with Ben, bottom five without Ben. Better executing in the half court without Ben, not with Ben.”
Dallas Mavericks guard Dante Exum goes to the basket against Dyson Daniels.Credit: AP
Dante Exum (Dallas Mavericks, 10-6 4th in West)
Stats: 14 games, 9.8 minutes, 4.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists.
It’s not about numbers for Dante Exum, but about having an impact for the Mavericks, and he is doing just that.
Exum is playing his trademark tough defence, rarely turning over the ball and coming up with dunks and drives to the basket. His minutes briefly lifted when Kyrie Irving missed some time, so we could see more from Exum should the Mavs start resting their veteran guards more often.
Orlando Magic forward Joe Ingles.Credit: AP
Joe Ingles (Orlando Magic, 11-5 2nd in East)
Stats: 16 games, 18.7 minutes, 4.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists)
Ingles is looking better and better with this young Magic team, and he is being asked to play an important role off the bench as a creator and playmaker.
Earlier in the season, Ingles looked a bit out of place, but he is finding his feet with his new club, and his athletic teammates are starting to benefit from his passing and floor-spacing. The Magic sit in second place in the East and have beaten reigning champions Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics, first in the East, in their last two games.
“He brings that poise, brings that maturity, he settles things down and makes the right pass,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosely said after the Denver game. “He’s coaching on the floor. It’s so great to have him, he settles so many things down for us.”
Portland Trail Blazers guard Matisse Thybulle.Credit: AP
Matisse Thybulle (Portland Trail Blazers, 4-11 13th in West)
Stats: 15 games, 21.3 minutes, 6.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals
After a frustrating year, Thybulle is looking back to his defensive best with some canny steals and drives in recent games.
The Blazers are young, battling injuries and are struggling for wins but Thybulle is making the case for a bigger role.
Portland Trail Blazers centre Duop Reath.Credit: AP
Duop Reath (Portland Trail Blazers, 4-11 13th in West)
Stats: 7 games, 14.7 minutes, 7.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists.
Reath is on a two-way contract, which means he has to move between the G-League team and the NBA roster, but he is playing important minutes as centre Robert Williams III has been ruled out for the season.
“The Great Barrier Reath” as the team’s social media account called him, had a career-high 16 points against Cleveland on November 17. If his strong play continues, the team may need to upgrade his contract.
“This is why I wanted Duop on our team so bad; because he is different to our other centres and can space the floor,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said after the Cavs game. “He gets on the offensive glass. He’s got a good feel for the game and makes all different reads and passes.”
Houston Rockets centre Jock Landale.Credit: Getty Images
Jock Landale (Houston Rockets, 8-6 8th in West)
Stats: 11 games, 8.7 minutes. 1.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists.
The Rockets haven’t used Landale much in the opening month despite signing him to a multi-year deal in the off-season. He was always likely to be backup to young star Alperen Sengun, but they are often going to smaller line-ups when he rests, rather than use Landale.
The Boomers centre will be ready when his opportunity comes up, but he is in a frustrating spot right now. The positive is that Landale is a resilient character who will stay ready for his chance.
Patty Mills in his new Atlanta colours.Credit: Getty Images
Patty Mills (Atlanta Hawks, 8-7 8th in East)
Stats: Yet to play.
The Hawks used Mills in four of their preseason games, but he has not yet seen the court as the team looks to other players. This was the fear when the 15-season veteran landed with the Hawks after being used in multiple trades during the off-season. It will certainly be a concern for the Boomers coaches that their leader is being left on the bench.
The guard-heavy Hawks may well be waiting until later in the season to trade Mills’ expiring contract, hopefully to a team that needs his scoring off the bench. Until then, Mills will have to keep training and wait for his time to come.
Please note: Jack White and Xavier Cooks were cut from their NBA teams on the eve of the season. White is now playing for the South Bay Lakers in the NBA G-League and Cooks with Japanese B-League club Chiba Jets.
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