If you have been paying attention, you will know that the NBA’s biggest stars will be making their way to Australia for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In August of 2019, the Australian basketball team will host the USA in what is sure to be a historic event, especially as basketball has grown significantly in Australia over the past two decades. With all of that being said let’s look at the predicted starting lineups for each team.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler
Small Forward: Kevin Durant
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Centre: Demarcus Cousins
While there are obvious stars missing from the lineup, the truth is that the USA isn’t going to be taking everyone to the 2019 FIBA World Cup, which is what these exhibition games are in preparation for. Going back to the 2016 Olympics, players such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook gave it a miss, in order to preserve their bodies and allow for more rest during the off-season.
This starting lineup is based upon the players that actually went to the Olympics and are likely to head to China for the FIBA World Cup. Make no mistake; this is still a star-studded lineup, with each player named still being a top 10-15 player in the NBA. Kyrie Irving has established himself as a top Point Guard and the leader of the Boston Celtics, and would make his way to his place of birth to greet the number of fans he has in Melbourne, just has he has done so previously. Jimmy Butler is one of the best two-way players in the league, capable of scoring 25+ points and locking down the best players in the NBA, his addition to this team will round out the backcourt.
As for the frontcourt, nothing needs to be said that hasn’t already been said. Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins are some of the best, if not the best in their positions. They’re all young and hungry which would motivate them to make the journey down under then to China, and Kevin Durant will offer that veteran leadership to the young group of players, and be the de facto elder statesman among the group.
Point Guard: Patty Mills
Shooting Guard: Joe Ingles
Small Forward: Ben Simmons
Power Forward: Aron Baynes
Centre: Andrew Bogut
This is the greatest group of talent Australian Basketball has ever seen, as we have a legitimate group of players playing in the NBA, and there’s every possibility for a podium finish in the next Olympics, or at next year’s World Cup. Every player in that lineup either stars, features prominently, or has been an established player on an NBA roster.
While Ben Simmons has been primarily playing Point Guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, if Markelle Fultz can stay healthy he will occupy that role, and Simmons will be moved to the Small Forward position and create from there, like his mentor LeBron James. Taking the Point Guard role in this lineup is Patty Mills, who has become a great Point Guard for the Spurs, and his service to the Australian Team and his tutelage under Greg Poppovich is only going to do the Aussies wonders in this matchup. Joe Ingles is the prototypical role player on the wing, with great defensive abilities coupled with deadly three-point shooting, he’s been vital to Utah Jazz’ success this season.
Ben Simmons is still a freak of nature, even if he will be moved to Small Forward. All this does is really turn him into LeBron, as he can still use his size combined with exceptional skill to drive to the rim at will, before kicking out to the shooters in Mills and Ingles. He will thrive in this role whether it’s for Australia, or for the 76ers next to Fultz. Aron Baynes has been a great big man for the Celtics, providing the necessary interior defence and rebounding, that has become synonymous with Brad Stevens’ outfit. Whilst Andrew Bogut hasn’t been himself over the last few seasons due to injury, he can still put in a shift wherever he goes and will be the leader of this bright Aussie team. He can expect competition from young gun Thon Maker, who can pose problems for his opponents should he gain some muscle on top of his skinny frame.
In what is sure to be a tough battle and a show for Aussie basketball fans, the USA should still pull this one over their Aussie counterparts. Whilst Australia has built a great team for the future, the USA simply have the best basketball players in the world playing for their team. Ben Simmons could easily erupt and put on a clinic in his hometown and be virtually unstoppable, the USA’s combined talent and depth will prove too much and should see them over the line. We won’t care, though, as this is a great coup for Australia, as we finally get to see the NBA’s biggest names head down under. It’s going to be a great event, and a landmark moment in our sporting history.