Success or failure?
The Australian Boomers, allegedly, took circumstances into their own hands by losing to Angola in order to shape games so they would avoid America until the semi-finals. Facing the "Dream Team" any earlier than the semis would have certainly ruled out the Boomers from not only a medal but a Top 8 finish. On paper, this was not a team that should be content with a Top 8 finish.
In their own minds, as well as the minds of their closest followers (ie those who woke in the middle of the night to watch them), this was a team that really should have feared no-one expect the might of the USA and Spain. Every other team was beatable if the Boomers brought their "A" game. This was a team made up of 2 current NBA players, 3 recent draftees who'll play this year, 2 guys who have played in the NBA and 3 who have played summer league. Few teams can match that NBA "cred".
That's not to mention the absent and the team's most highly credentialed NBA guys, Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills.
The team opened it's campaign with a loss to Slovenia. A win wasn't necessarily expected but the Boomers surely thought it was a 50-50 game. A win was likely if they could stop NBA star Goran Dragic. They didn't and the result was as expected.
The loss highlighted a few problems for the team.
1- It's pick and roll defense wasn't at a high level.
2- Dante Exum wasn't going to be their saviour
3- The team struggled to defend the perimeter
Next up was South Korea. This was a "can't lose" game and the team handled them with relative comfort. This game showed the team had good depth but would likely go as far as Baynes and Ingles took them.
Game three would be the most difficult of the team's last three games, facing the might of one of it's best rivals, Lithuania. The team featured a few NBA guys but didn't rely heavily on them. Baynes shutdown Toronto Raptor Jonas Valanciunas and Joe Ingles starred, leading the Boomers to an 82-75 win.
The next matchup was expected to be a Boomers win and it was, with Baynes this time shutting down Mexico's best player, Gustavo Ayon. The Boomers were now 3-1 and headed for 4-1 unless there was an upset.
Heading into the Angola game, the Boomers knew their finals fate. A win against Angola confirmed they would finish second, meaning if they won their Round of 16 game they'd almost certainly face the US in the Quarter Finals. If they lost, they'd still be relying on Lithuania to beat Slovenia. History tells us the Boomers, while resting Joe Ingles and Aron Baynes, led for the majority of the match until they suffered multiple "defensive breakdowns" that led to a stunning Angola win. The Boomers were still through to the last 16 but would be destined to face the US unless Lithuania pulled off an unlikely win.
The washup was a face-off against Turkey, a strong European team but not at it's best with players such as Hedo Turkoglou and Ersan Ilyasova out (yeah, they had good players out too). The Boomers started strongly and led for the majority of the game but those problems that reared their ugly head in the Slovenia game popped up again. The team struggled to defend the pick and roll and were killed by a game-winning 3.
So did the Boomers fail?
To those who point to the missing Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills, I retort with France missing Tony Parker, Argentina missing Ginobili and I could keep going. Those guys are much bigger stars in the NBA but their countries have more "ready" guys to cover them. Australia is loaded with "NBA" guys but many of them are in their infancy of their careers. That's where things gets exciting though moving forward.
By the next World Championships, Exum, Motum and Bairstow will have all likely played 4 years in the NBA. Pretty exciting. In fact let's look at the potential roster for 2018.
CURRENT "LIKELY" STARTERS
Baynes, Exum, Motum, Bairstow, Dellavedova, Ingles, Broekhoff, Jawai, Newley
Andersen (age), Gibson (past prime)
"LET ME BACK IN"
Bogut, Mills, Maric
Simmons, Humphries, Vasiljevic,Maker (unless he decides to become Canadian) and a bunch of others I don't yet know.
We're still 4 years out but our 2018 squad may look like this
BIGS- Baynes, Bogut, Humphries. Motum, Bairstow
SWINGMEN- Ingles, Simmons,
GUARDS- Exum, Dellavedova, Broekhoff, Mills
That's likely 12 NBA guys. And a medal certainty.
With any luck Exum and bairstow will come on quickly and Mills and Bogut will be available for the 2016 Olympics. If that happens a medal is a strong possibility there too.
Hang in there Boomers fans. We're close. We might have just got a little ahead of ourselves........