Two-thirds of the way through the first month of the NBA season, Aussie stars have delivered two of the biggest stories of the season so far.
At one end of the spectrum is Josh Giddey, the No. 6 Draft pick who has lit up the floor for the Oklahoma City Thunder — a team widely regarded as one of the worst in the league.
The other is Ben Simmons, who sits at the cente of a long-running saga as the three-time All-Star tries to force his way out of Philadelphia, having already had fans, legends and pundits turn against the 25-year-old.
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The pair had a vastly different path to the NBA and arrived in very different circumstances, as Simmons landed in Philadelphia as the final piece of the “The Process”.
But a telling report from the beginning of the season illuminated one of the big reasons that Simmons struggled as one of the big stars on one of the NBA’s powerhouse teams.
It came from an ESPN report via Ramona Shelburne on the eve of the season, when she revealed the reason Simmons didn’t want to return to Philly.
It was a meeting with 76ers bosses including coach Doc Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, where the powerbrokers told him they wanted him back.
But rather than dwell on comments from Joel Embiid or Doc Rivers following the game 7 loss last year or being so strongly linked with a trade for James Harden that he prepared to pack his bags for Houston, Simmons reportedly had another reason.
“His first three years in the league, the Sixers had such a bright spotlight on them and so much early success, he told them, that he didn’t feel like he could make the mistakes other top draft picks were afforded,” the report said. “His growing pains were too public and consequential.
“He needed to start over, he said, in a place where he ‘could make mistakes’.”
And it appears to be a trap Giddey may get to avoid.
But while Giddey is developing into a rookie of the year contender already, former No. 1 Draft pick Andrew Bogut told SEN on Wednesday morning that Giddey will only benefit from being on one of the NBA’s worst teams, as OKC aren’t expected to dazzle, despite having a 3-6 record for the season so far.
“He’s doing really well,” Bogut said on SEN Breakfast.
“They’re not going to win many games this season, but culturally and with what they’re building he’s in a really good spot.
“As bad as it sounds, the fact they’re going to lose games isn’t the most important thing. It’s that he’s going to be able to play through ups and downs regardless of the result because they’re not expected to win more than 20-odd games this season.
“He’ll be able to play through those bad week or two stretches where he can’t make a shot, then play through those games where he’s playing really well.
“He’s been really, really good so far.”
OKC are going through their own “Process” at the moment, having spent the least on salary in the NBA and hoarded draft picks.
And he hints that it will only be a positive Giddey, who Bogut believes will benefit from arriving in the NBA via the Australian system and the NBL, as he knows how to play a role in a team, rather than needing to be the superstar.
“I assume they’re going to flip a few draft picks in the next year or two for a star player of some sort to group with those young guys.
“But they’ll be able to keep that whole squad together and then actually add another piece. They’re in a really good position and they’ve built themselves into a spot where they can splash some cash in the future.
“I like their squad, I think they’re going to come along faster than people think.
“It won’t be this season, probably not next season, but I reckon that third year of Josh Giddey they’re going to be in contention for a play-off spot.”
It’s vastly different to the situation Simmons face when he arrived in Philadelphia.
For years the diehard fan base had to endure season upon season of losing as the organisation opted to tank and rebuild with top draft picks.
The entire saga became known by the phrase “Trust the Process”, a calling card for fans to hold on to as the dire seasons dragged on, until the side landed Joel Embiid in the 2014 Draft, and Simmons in the 2016 Draft.
And after Simmons sat out the first season due to a foot injury, he was thrust into the spotlight in 2017-18 as the 76ers made the playoffs for the first time in five years.
But despite making the last four playoff series in good seedings, the side hasn’t been able to get past the Eastern Conference semi-finals, including Simmons’ game 7 capitulation last season.
The results have been seen as a disappointment particularly for a fan base as passionate as Philadelphia’s.
Hopefully Giddey can keep improving and take his game to the next level so that he’s ready for the bright lights when they turn on him.