Simmons headlines record Aussie NBA playoffs haul
THE NBA Playoffs are here, and a record number of Australians are set for postseason action.
While all eyes will be on Ben Simmons and the streaking Philadelphia 76ers, he's just one of seven Australians who'll suit up for teams across the league; all chasing an NBA Championship.
Patty Mills has helped the San Antonio Spurs to a 20th straight postseason, while Joe Ingles and Danté Exum are expected to play big roles for a Utah Jazz team that looks like it can make some noise.
Here's everything you need to know about every Australian set for postseason action.
BEN SIMMONS, Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons has been a leader for a 76ers squad that looks like a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference title, and, if they remain healthy, could lead his team to a potential NBA Finals run.
The point guard averaged a near-triple-double over the course of the regular season, and really picked up his game during the 76ers' 16-game winning streak, taking over in the absence of his All-Star teammate, Joel Embiid.
The 76ers earned the third seed in the East, and will face the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, which will see Simmons match up against Goran Dragic; a player he's had multiple battles with over the course of the season. The regular season series between the 76ers and Heat was tied at 2-2, with all games going down to the wire, so expect the playoff series to go a similar direction.
Simmons has performed well against a Heat team that acquired a rejuvenated Dwyane Wade at the trade deadline, averaging 14.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, over their four regular season meetings.
For the first time, an Australian in a top-two player - arguably the best player - on a playoff team, and they have a chance at going all the way. Buckle up.
JOE INGLES, Utah Jazz
If the Jazz want to progress out of the first round of the postseason, they'll need Joe Ingles to be at his best.
And that's the reality that comes with being a key player on a playoff team.
Ingles has been nothing short of remarkable this season; putting up career-highs in every department, and seamlessly stepping in for the departed Gordon Hayward, running the point at times, while shooting at a much-improved scoring clip.
Coming up against the New Orleans Pelicans - who have chosen to start Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, and E'Twaun Moore to end the season - it's still unclear who exactly will go up against the Aussie.
With 6'3" Moore the small-forward on paper, both Quin Snyder and Alvin Gentry will have to make a decision how they want that matchup to look.
DANTÉ EXUM, Utah Jazz
Exum sat out most of the season with a left shoulder injury, but has been extremely impressive for the Jazz as they closed out their season on a high.
In 13 games for the Jazz, Exum averaged 8.3 points and 3.1 assists per game, showing glimpses of what we can expect in the postseason, as well as the remainder of his career.
With the Jazz earning the fourth seed in the West, they'll face the Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs, with Exum likely to continue his role as the first point guard off the bench. Exum has the potential to control the pace of the game, against a Pelicans team that lacks depth on the perimeter.
If the point guard can do in the playoffs, what he did to finish the regular season, then he should be able to make a clear impact for one of the NBA's dark horses.
ARON BAYNES, Boston Celtics
It's been quite the year for Aron Baynes.
A bench player on a middling Detroit Pistons side, to a genuine contributor, starter, and defensive anchor for the No. 2 seed Boston Celtics.
Baynes goes into the playoffs in superb form, dropping career-high 26 points, to go with 14 rebounds, on the final day of the season against the Brooklyn Nets.
While the specific one-on-one match-ups aren't great for the Aussie big, the Celtics will need to rely on his rim protection against a Bucks side that likes to get to the rim.
It's fair to assume that his season average of 18 minutes a game will stay about the same in the first round.
PATTY MILLS, San Antonio Spurs
It's been an up and down season for Mills, but he came to life as the San Antonio Spurs made an uncharacteristically late playoff push.
With the Spurs suffering through a multitude of injuries, as well as their tendency to rest older players, Mills started more this season, than he had in any season of his career, and he made the most of it.
Mills' production picked up as the season unfolded, and he'll play a significant role as the Spurs open up their postseason as the seventh seed, with a first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.
To open the playoffs, don't be surprised to see Mills continue in his starting role, bringing his signature energy and quickness in a matchup that will need it. The Canberra-native's shooting wasn't up to scratch to end the season, and that'll need to change against a Warriors team that can put up a lot of points, even without Stephen Curry.
While the Spurs will look at Mills to provide that ultimate spark on both ends of the floor, with the team trending younger, it would make sense for them to lean on him for his playoff experience, too.
MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA, Milwukee Bucks
Returning to action after over two months out, it's impossible to tell exactly what Matthew Dellavedova's role will be in the upcoming playoffs.
The 27-year-old looked about as rusty as you would have imagined when he took to the court against the Philadelphia 76ers on the final day of the season.
And with Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and newly-acquired Brandon Jennings all involved too; Delly may have a tough time working his way back into Joe Prunty's plans.
The No. 7 Bucks will face the Boston Celtics in the first round, and with no Kyrie Irving in the line-up, there's an argument to be made that a defensive-minded guard like Delly won't be necessary.
If he does play, the Aussie will likely come up against either Terry Rozier or Shane Larkin.
THON MAKER, Milwaukee Bucks
Coming off an impressive rookie year, and first taste of playoff action, Maker's sophomore season has unfortunately trended the opposite direction.
After earning admirable minutes to start the regular season, a coaching change saw the big-man's role diminish, to the point where he suffered through multiple DNP-CDs over March and April.
While there's a chance the Bucks use Maker as an energy, rim-running centre over the course of the playoffs, that doesn't seem like it'll be the case, at this point.
The Bucks go up against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and, if he plays, Maker will likely see a lot of time matching up against Daniel Theis, a fellow big-man with similar mobility for the position.