Australia's final 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup in China was revealed Wednesday morning, with some shock omissions headlining a Boomers squad that has its sights set on a maiden medal at a major international tournament.
Mitch Creek headlined the big-name omissions, with Deng Adel and Brock Motum joining him on the outer.
Both Creek and Adel tasted NBA minutes during the 2018-19 season, while Motum has been a fixture for the Boomers in years gone by, highlighting the growing strength of the Australia's national team.
In a tip of the hat to the rising standard of the NBL, Cameron Gliddon appears to have squeezed out Creek and Adel, while Perth Wildcats' big man, Nick Kay, got the nod ahead of Motum.
Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis admitted that delivering the bad news was "heartbreaking", before declaring the final roster was not an all-star team and selected based on the specific fit and meshing of particular skillsets on the roster.
Creek's shock omission
Creek's omission sparked outrage among Australian basketball fans, after the veteran Boomer played a heavy role in World Cup qualification in the lead-up to the recent training camp.
Lemanis pointed to the hot-shooting hand of Gliddon being a point of difference at the selection table, with the outside shot a clear weakness in Creek's all-round weaponry. Creek was just 14-for-63 (22 percent) from deep in 41 appearances for the Long Island Nets in the G League last season, creating the bulk of his opportunities closer to the basket with his trademark physicality and finishing ability.
After opening training camp with a minor hamstring complaint, Gliddon was a standout in the final four days according to Lemanis, who is also his coach at the Brisbane Bullets. Gliddon is a 38 percent shooter from beyond the three-point line in 205 career NBL games with both the Bullets and Cairns Taipans.
Outside of Bogut, the remainder of the Boomers roster presents a legitimate threat from deep, which does validify the Creek omission to a certain extent, but it is sure to be a hot topic throughout the campaign, particularly if early results don't go to plan.
Continuity the key?
Boomers assistants Luc Longley and David Patrick raved about Nick Kay's performance throughout the camp, with Lemanis echoing that sentiment at Wednesday morning's press conference in Melbourne.
Prior to the squad being selected, Longley may have indirectly given a vital clue into the direction Boomers staff were going to head when the time for final roster cuts arrived.
"It's a really important balance. Obviously, a strength of our Boomers team has been continuity and guys have known the stuff for a long time; so having these guys, a lot of them through qualifying makes a big difference. We will benefit from that continuity," Longley said.
One of the challenges national Teams face when coming together for a major tournament like the World Cup is preparation time. Now that the rapid fire six-day training camp is complete, the Boomers will face two exhibition games against Canada, and two against Team USA, before their crucial group opener against Canada on September 1.
A potential advantage the Boomers will hold over other nations will be familiarity with the Australian system, and also each other.
The projected starting line-up of Bogut, Baynes, Ingles, Mills and Dellavedova have navigated an Olympic campaign as a unit, while a significant portion of the second unit is made up of local talents that played major minutes together during the qualification phase.
Lemanis touched on a potential advantage this could create come tip-off in China.
"I think continuity comes into it because it just helps, and that's a thing where you come into camp and day one you are looking at it and where we are offensively and defensively for the first day of camp is pretty impressive," Lemanis said.
"That comes because of the core that we've had together with the Boomers but then that ability to go through the World Cup qualifying campaigns and have that broader base of players that are familiar with our concepts."
With Landale, Bolden and Cooks being the wildcards in the pack, the Boomers have a distinctly familiar look, and maybe that will be a key factor while other nations battle to iron out wrinkles in their system.
How about that medal?
If you have spent anytime following the Boomers in the years after the devastation of the bronze medal game in Rio, you'll know the fateful finish against Spain has not been forgotten.
From Mills to Longley, Landale to Lemanis, the fourth-place finish in Rio has been a reoccurring theme over the past few days.
Selection controversy aside; Ben Simmons' withdrawal aside; this Boomers team is still brimming with talent and they will head to China with a legitimate chance of claiming a medal.
A word of caution, however, don't believe everything you read about Team USA; they are still loaded with talent and the unequivocal favourites. After all, what other nation can claim to have a full roster of legitimate NBA rotation players?
The Americans will be the team to beat, but after that things get interesting. A weakened Canadian squad will present the first challenge for the Boomers, as will fellow group 'H' members, Lithuania.
One of Germany or France are projected to be on a collision course with Australia in the second round, while Spain will once again be a force, as will a Greek national team led by NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Along with Australia's rise to prominence in the basketball world, the worldwide reach of the sport is at an all-time high. The Boomers will enter the World Cup with a legitimate shot at the podium, but don't mention bronze or silver around them, as their goal is to go one step further.
"As a group, in terms what our expectations are of ourselves, is that we are there to win a gold medal; that's clearly and simply our goal. There's a focus on that, there's a drive behind it," Lemanis declared at Wednesday's press conference.
The Boomers World Cup campaign tips off in 25 days, we'll know soon enough if that goal is within reach.