Boomers squad takeaways: Snubs and surprises for Paris (2024)

  • Olgun Uluc, ESPN Basketball Insider

Jul 5, 2024, 02:16 PM

The team for Paris is in, and the reaction has been loud.

The consistent theme out of the Australian Boomers' training camp was that this might be the toughest selection in the program's history, and those who missed out was evidence of that. Players who are credentialed and worthy and, in any other cycle, would be walk-ons, were always going to be sent home, so there was no easy way out when picking the final group. Whatever decisions Brian Goorjian and his staff made were probably always going to be unpopular.

"It's the job he chose but it is a f-king sh*t job," Joe Ingles said on Thursday, of Goorjian's task of picking a final team. "It sucks."

The team that ended up being picked - and still needs to be ratified by the Australian Olympic Committee - wasn't what most people would've predicted.

Matisse Thybulle's omission from the final team is the biggest surprise, considering the role he's played over the last two major tournaments for the Boomers, while Chris Goulding and Xavier Cooks - both of whom were on the World Cup squad - were also left off. Whether or not one agrees with the direction - and it's reasonable to not - the decisions were considered and thought through.

"Whatever comes out of this, there's gonna be a lot of people that wanna put a bullet in my head," Goorjian said on Thursday. "There's a no win here. I've got a great staff. I feel really good that we're gonna make the right decisions and put the best on the floor."

Goorjian and his coaching staff had boxes they wanted to tick - both in how to improve from a poor showing at the World Cup, and the fits that work best within the framework of this team's core - and made their selections based on that.

So, let's dive into how this Boomers team for the Paris Olympics ultimately came together and, according to those with knowledge of the selection process who spoke with ESPN, the reasoning that went into them.

Why was Matisse Thybulle cut?

No-one saw this one coming.

Thybulle wasn't just considered by many as a lock to make this Olympic team, but he was regarded as a probable starter. Players within the Boomers, former players on the periphery, and everyone in between were stunned when word began to trickle out that Thybulle was left off the 12-man team.

The Boomers had a significant drop off defensively from Tokyo 2021 to the World Cup, so leaving one of the best perimeter defenders in the world off this roster sounds counterintuitive. Sure, there was always the question of: are there too many non-shooting, athletic, defensive wings? But, even with that floating in the ether, no-one really expected Goorjian to leave someone like Thybulle off the roster, purely because his defensive capacity is so elite. Thybulle has no injury concern that would have kept him off the team, sources said, and he put together a relatively impressive camp.

Ultimately, it came down to Thybulle or Dyson Daniels. The sense from the coaching staff was that there wasn't room for both within the Boomers' main rotation, and there was a desire to lean more into Daniels as a point-of-attack defender on the wing for this campaign.

Theoretically, Thybulle still could've been regarded as one of those 10th to 12th guys - the limited-to-no minutes players who are there for insurance or have specialised skillsets that can be unleashed on different matchups - but they felt there was a need to bring different types of players in those spots, so the Portland Trail Blazers wing was left off the team, much to the surprise of everybody.

It came down to the wire for Ingles

Goorjian said something interesting after Thursday's exhibition win over China.

"We were thinking something coming into the game, and then, in the middle of the third quarter, I looked and: hey, man, we've gotta talk about this sh-t'," he told reporters. "[The staff] could all see it. We've gotta go back and plough out a little bit more."

He was referring to a stretch in the second half where the offence looked stagnant. Joe Ingles then entered the game and was able to steady the ship and guide his teammates in the right direction.

Going into Thursday's game, Ingles was on the bubble with regard to making the final team. Frankly, he was more than likely right on the outside looking in. There was a legitimate question of what value he brings to the group, relative to some of the other options: as a pure spot-up guy, you probably take Goulding; as a defender, you'd prefer Thybulle; if you want to be bigger and more athletic, you bring Cooks.

That thing of value, which wasn't 100 percent clear early on, was on show in the third quarter. It's Ingles' ability to calm things offensively when it gets sticky, and guide an offence. His ability to play and be creative off on-balls is a helpful asset for a team that may be volatile offensively and could need another initiator.

"I think a lot of times, I've kind of been that guy," Ingles said postgame.

"My whole goal, knowing I was playing the second half, was just to get in there... getting in that flow offensively of moving the ball, and playing off the actions that we've got. That's when I'm at my best. Steadying the ship and controlling that a little bit; knowing the offence, knowing the scout, knowing what we wanna do. It's kind of what I've done a lot of my career."

Where's the shooting?

Goulding was 8-of-13 from beyond the arc in the Boomers' two exhibition games against China. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to lift him onto the final team.

Shooting was an issue for the Boomers at the World Cup - Goulding was on that team, but didn't get meaningful minutes - and that burden will now be shifted to a newcomer in Jack McVeigh. The reigning NBL Championship Series MVP was the standout in camp, hitting shots all over the floor, and sent a message in Tuesday's game, where he dropped 24 points - including six three-pointers - in 13 minutes. As a spot-up option who's perhaps more effective as a defender because of his size, McVeigh became the preference.

The emergence of McVeigh then gave the coaching staff some flexibility.

He can play the four-spot - there's a nonzero chance he starts - and was effective enough sliding down to the three. The reasoning then follows that, because the coaching staff likes the shooting element that Nick Kay brings to the table, too, all of a sudden there are no rotational minutes at the four left for Cooks. With shooting ostensibly covered, the Goulding spot from the World Cup could then be filled with a different skillset, so Goorjian looked to what Matthew Dellavedova and Ingles brought to the table to fill it. That's not a justification of the decision; it's merely the reading of how it came to be.

The Dellavedova inclusion is having an understanding of two things. The first is that, even if he gets no minutes, then he'll remain a positive, energy-giving force off the court, and there's a heap of value in that. If Dellavedova does hit the court, though - whether that's for two, or five, or seven minutes - there's a high level of trust that he'll give the entirety of his energy and capacity defensively, pick up full court from the get-go, and sprinkle in some creation if need be. Goorjian has spoken a lot about adding heart, and spirit, and grit to this Boomers team after falling short at the World Cup, and, while those can often be platitudes, the way Dellavedova exhibits them could legitimately help the Boomers in a material way.

Of course, it's tough for Goulding, who was looking to make his third and, probably, final Olympics. It was against a poor China defence, but there's not much more the Melbourne United sharpshooter could have done to show his worth to make this Olympic team, and we'll wait and see; there may be a scenario the Boomers face where not having that extra shooting will come back to bite them.

Boomers were always bringing three bigs

The coaching staff knew after the first day of camp that Will Magnay would more than likely be on the plane to Paris.

The prospect of foul trouble or injury to one of Jock Landale or Duop Reath - especially after losing the former to an ankle sprain ahead of the World Cup - made it a no-brainer that a third big-man would be needed for insurance, and Magnay was the only option.

The Tasmania JackJumpers big-man had a good camp, and Goorjian has consistently likened him to Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes, with regard to the physicality he brings to the table. There aren't bulk minutes available for Magnay, and there's a chance he never even hits the floor, but, given the size the Boomers could face as the Olympics progresses, having big-man insurance - especially an tough, athletic, shot-blocking one like Magnay - was a priority for Goorjian and co.

Boomers squad takeaways: Snubs and surprises for Paris (2024)
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