Ben Simmons looks like his old self again, Josh Giddey has faced challenges in his sophomore season, and several young guns are blossoming before our eyes.
There’s plenty of Aussies making noise in the NBA this season in what’s been an interesting few weeks for the stars from Down Under.
Here, foxsports.com.au profiles all the Australians to keep an eye on in the 2022-23 season.
BEN SIMMONS (Brooklyn Nets)
Is he back?
The former Pick 1 has broken out of his early-season slump to suddenly look like the old Ben Simmons again.
Over his last four games, Simmons averaged 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists while shooting 80.8 per cent from the field, even returning to the starting line-up in the last three contests.
Facing off with his old team, the Sixers, was his biggest test yet, a test he well and truly passed in another promising performance despite the Nets getting blown out 106-115 against Philly side without Joel Embiid and James Harden.
But in terms of Simmons’ individual play, the Nets would be buoyed that it could help continue to steer them in the right direction.
Brilliant Ben can’t lift Nets to win | 01:21
“Confidence is a really crazy thing. In some cases, I think there has to be an irrational level of confidence to play in the NBA. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can see it physically,” former NBA player Anthony Tolliver said on SiriusXM NBA Radio.
“It’s been there for a while, going back to that playoff series against the Hawks, you could see it, he just didn’t have confidence.
“I don’t know what switch flicked or what happened. Last night obviously him being highly motivated to perform back in Philly was a factor, but he’d had a couple of games leading up to that game that were pretty solid.
“If he can play that way for them, it’s going to increase their chances tremendously to win … you can see his confidence has grown a lot.”
JOSH GIDDEY (Oklahoma City Thunder)
It’s been a season of adjustment for the sophomore, he even admitted as much.
Giddey is not only learning to play alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s elevated himself to being among the best players in the league, but the Aussie is also being played differently by opposition defences.
On the surface, Giddey’s numbers looked OK, averaging 15.1 points per game, 7.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
But it’s been a season of ups and downs for the 20-year old, hampered by an ankle injury, and you wouldn’t say he’s substantially improved in any area despite showing off a three-point range in the pre-season.
In saying that, his play has been much better of late including putting up a fifth career triple-double against New York last week. With it, Giddey joined NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain as the only other player in league history to record triple-doubles in their first two games at Madison Square Garden.
Although the Thunder have surpassed expectations at a competitive enough 7-11 — despite dropping four of their last five — developing their young players such as Giddey remains the priority, and so he’ll continue to get opportunities to evolve.
For ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the type of player Giddey develops into remains an unknown.
“They haven’t often drafted for IQ like they’ve drafted for length and athleticism — I think to the detriment a little bit of feel,” Lowe said of OKC on The Dunker Spot Podcast.
“Giddey obviously has feel coming out of his ears. It’s been fun to watch a guy who’s not necessarily a point guard or point forward or whatever Giddey is, a guy you expect to be a really good passer because he has to be.
“I’m very curious to see what he is in the NBA and how much he’s going to end up needing the ball.
“He’s figured out some ways to put his body into people and get into the paint and finish shots. Obviously people go under on him at all times — what does that mean for his future? I’m just curious to see what he develops into.”
DYSON DANIELS (New Orleans Pelicans)
For rookie Dyson Daniels, it’s been all about being ready when his opportunities come.
Playing on a loaded New Orleans Pelicans team that currently sit third in the West at 11-7, those opportunities have been inconsistent at times, mainly seeing court time when the team’s stars have been sidelined by injury.
But when his name has been called, Daniels has shown he’s up to it.
Daniels’ versatility is what’s really stood out, being up for any assignment and displaying promising flashes at both ends of the floor.
It’s included him being matched up on the likes of Luka Doncic and LeBron James at different stages, and not being overawed by either superstar.
In fact, Daniels welcomes such challenges.
“That was special going up against one of the best players of all time. It was a pretty surreal moment for me and is still sinking in now. You dream of these things as a kid,” Daniels told SportsCenter Australia of playing on James.
“For me it’s just embracing it and going out and taking the challenge.
“Every NBA team these days has a star on it I look forward to guarding. For me to go up against LeBron, Luka, DeMar DeRozan, people like that already, it’s been pretty special.”
JOSH GREEN (Dallas Mavericks)
The former Pick 18 has seen his role grow at the Mavericks this season – and along with it has his confidence.
He’s playing a career-best 19 minutes per game and has absolutely shot the lights out this season, going at a 63 per cent clip from the field including 53 per cent from downtown on 1.1 makes.
It included an epic explosion against the Nuggets this week, scoring a career-best 23 points with six triples on 8-of-9 shooting.
Beyond his dominant shooting exhibition, the young gun showed off leadership qualities against Denver too.
“What was revealed tonight with the ‘Mic’d Up’ is how aware he is of where everybody should be on the floor and he’s barking out commands and his teammates are executing it,” NBA analyst Jeff Wade said on Bally Sports Southwest.
“That’s a really good sign. It’s one thing to go, ‘Alright, I’ve got my man in front of me on this and I’m going to stop him from scoring’, but to know everybody else’s assignments and be calling out orders is a really big step. ”
It comes in a crucial season for Green where he’s extension eligible, and frankly, prior to this campaign he hadn’t quite lived up to his draft position.
A solid defender, adding that shooting stroke to his game was seen as a crucial part to his development.
And according to former NBA player Devin Harris, Dallas is also trying to turn him into his third ball-handler.
“They’re trying to make him into that and what is that ball-handler’s job? It is to know where everybody else is on the floor so that’s a point guard mentality and we talk about one of the best points guards to play the game that is a coach (Jason Kidd) instilling that into one of his players,” Harris said .
“We’re seeing how that can incorporate and how you can turn a game that does not naturally play the position but has a guy coaching him that played it at a really high level and we’re seeing what that tutelage looks like. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.
“That’s something he’s lacked the last two years. We know he’s a skilled player, we’ve seen flashes, now we’re starting to see what confidence can do matched with the hard work.”
Green’s super slick moves torches Nets | 01:13
MATISSE THYBULLE (Philadelphia 76ers)
It’s been a frustrating season for Matisse Thybulle in multiple ways.
Firstly, he was frozen out of the rotation early in the campaign and made to watch on from the bench as the Sixers got off to an indifferent start.
Injuries to the likes of James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid have since opened up minutes for the defensive guard, however he hasn’t been quite able to maximize his chances.
And now, Thybulle has joined the injury list himself with an ankle issue.
Simmons jokes about return to Philly | 01:24
He even tried to play through the injury during Wednesday’s meeting with the Brooklyn Nets due to how shorthanded Philly was already, but was pulled for the second half given his physical restrictions.
Unfortunately, he’ll now need to miss time as a result of the injury and work his way into form whenever he returns.
“We didn’t have any guys,” Thybulle said of his ankle injury, per The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.
“So I wanted to be available. And if I could get something out of it, do it. But me being out there, I think coach (Doc Rivers) and I felt was more of a liability than a benefit just having a bum wheel …”
“So now it’s just taking some time to take care of it so I can come back and be myself.”
JOCK LANDALE (Phoenix Suns)
Landale is all about the team.
Opportunities already remain limited at the Suns behind star center DeAndre Ayton, but Landale was even snubbed for backup minutes for the first time against the Knicks this week in favor of Bismack Biyombo.
It came as Landale’s family had made the long trip from Australia to watch him play an NBA game for the first time, not that the big man took it personally.
“It hurt for a second just ’cause this is the first game my family was able to see me play basketball in the NBA,” Landale told the Arizona Republic.
“I think it was good for the team. I think that’s where my head is always at. What’s best for the boys and us winning.”
Simmons’ Nets & Curry’s Warriors win big | 01:19
Landale did however again fail to get on the court in the Suns’ most recent outing against the Lakers as Biyombo has suddenly moved ahead of the Aussie, who hasn’t played NBA minutes since against Utah on November 19th.
It’s clearly less than ideal, but the 26-year-old is used to such a grind and a challenge, such is his journey to the NBA.
Over the course of an 82-game season, a reserve like Landale is prone to ebbs and flows, especially playing for one of the best teams in the league. He’ll look to crack back into the rotation as the campaign progresses.
JACK WHITE (Denver Nuggets)
White was recently recalled from the Nuggets’ G-League affiliate Grand Rapids Gold amid several absences, and he’s earned some rotation minutes for Mike Malone’s side.
Although he’s only had limited opportunities, there’s been calls for the 25-year old to play more after showing promising signs including blocking two shots against OKC on Thursday.
He even entered the game ahead of DeAndre Jordan, who was starting at center for the Nuggets while Nikola Jokic was sidelined in Covid-19 protocols.
It’s also worth noting White has been in blistering form in the G League, averaging 16 points per game, 11.3 rebounds (ranked fifth in the league), 1.3 steals and one block.
Getting such development under his belt while also getting to rub shoulders with the likes of Jokic and Jamal Murray — even if he doesn’t get significant NBA minutes — can only be a good thing for White.
PATTY MILLS (Brooklyn Nets)
The veteran has taken more of a back seat at the Nets this season — playing 11.5 minutes per contest — his lowest return since the 2012/13 season.
He’s also only played over six minutes just once since the 14 of November.
Regardless, Mills remains a valuable locker room presence at Brooklyn, particularly given the off-court drama that’s often consumed the team.
The guard also provides valuable floor spacing if Jacque Vaughn ever so desires. And if the Nets cop any back-court injuries, they know Mills is more than capable of stepping up to the plate.
MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA (Sacramento Kings)
Dellavedova has been given limited playing time for the Kings, with just two games in the past fortnight for a total of 10 minutes on the court.
The 32-year-old did get an extended run during the 153-121 blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets, recording four assists and one steal.
It was a nice touch given it was also Dellavedova’s first significant minutes at home, with the Sacramento faithful giving the Australia a big ovation as he entered the game.
JOE INGLES (Milwaukee Bucks)
There remains no update on Ingles’ status as he works his way back from an ACL injury.
Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst revealed in September he expected the Aussie would realistically return sometime in January, so that likely remains the target date.