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Veterans, newcomers, but a lack of depth: looking at the Boomers' squad for Tokyo

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Mills: Boomers arms always wide open for Simmons (2:23)

Patty Mills discusses the support and safe space Ben Simmons has with the Boomers, despite opting to miss Australia's Olympic campaign. (2:23)

The Australian Boomers team is in.

Brian Goorjian's 12-man group for the Tokyo Olympics is a mixture of the Boomers' established faces, combined with a flurry of new blood, all with that one, long-held goal: to win a medal.

It's not all perfect, though. There are areas where Australia has been strengthened, but others that appear diminished. There's also, as is always the case, the controversial selection or two.

Changes can technically still be made to this team up until the Boomers' first Olympic game against Nigeria on July 25, and upcoming exhibition games in Las Vegas -- against Argentina, the Nigerians, and twice against the USA -- may give Goorjian and his coaching staff things to think about.

That apparent flexibility notwithstanding, the Boomers have their 12 as they enter official pre-Olympic camp in Vegas, and the stakes have never been higher.

Australian Boomers' Olympic team: Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, Matisse Thybulle, Danté Exum, Josh Green, Nick Kay, Jock Landale, Chris Goulding, Duop Reath, Nathan Sobey.

Replacement players: Josh Giddey, Xavier Cooks, Brock Motum.


The NBA core's last shot

This isn't a secret. Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes know this is their final Olympics as the core of the Australian Boomers. All are in their 30s -- Andrew Bogut's retirement was the clearest and most visceral example of Father Time winning -- and there's a clear changing of the guard that's happening in front of our very eyes.

Their road has been famous, but always incomplete. They've publicly chased a gold medal and even beat Team USA in a warmup game in the process, but actually walking away with silverware at a major international tournament has always evaded them. Whether it's Spain being "kissed on the d---," as former assistant Luc Longley said in China, or the infamous blocking call on Mills in Rio, the Boomers have remained medal-less.

It's why there's a clear sense of urgency when it comes to this tournament. They've chased a medal for so long, and this is more-than-likely their last chance to win one.

If the core, spiritually led by Mills, can win that coveted medal, all while passing the torch to the next generation of the program's leaders, then this Olympic campaign would be considered a resounding success. And, for that group, the proverbial monkey will finally jump off their back.

The three wings

A lot of eyes have been on Matisse Thybulle's late arrival at camp because he's coming off another outstanding defensive season and, of course, he's Simmons' teammate. There's that ironic wonderment regarding his presence at camp while Simmons does his own thing this off-season.

But, it's not just Thybulle. There's also Danté Exum and Josh Green, both of whom are also young, long, athletic wings who'll give these Boomers a look they haven't had before. It's a debut Olympics for all three and, while they excel in different areas offensively, they provide a multi-positional and switchable look for Goorjian on the defensive end.

Exum is unique because he can legitimately play and guard one-through-three, and his shooting has improved throughout his time in the NBA. Health is the only thing that's held him back so, now as an unrestricted free agent, he'll have the opportunity to show he can stay on the floor and make an impact at a high level.

Thybulle and Green are a pair of elite defenders who should absolutely thrive playing under Goorjian. Both are long, athletic, and have terrific defensive instincts; all traits Goorjian loves. Think of how Justin Simon was placed within the Illawarra Hawks' defensive schemes, usually guarding the ball-carrier and acting as the ultimate disrupter. Thybulle and Green, and even Exum in stretches, can play that role to perfection. Then, there were the times the Philadelphia 76ers went into their matchup zone down the stretch, with Thybulle at the top being long and active; Goorjian went to that with the Hawks, at times, so don't be surprised if we see glimpses of it at the Olympics.

Green is the potential X-factor here. This doesn't seem like the token, end-of-the-bench pick for the 20-year-old to get him some experience. Goorjian went into this camp looking for a defensive dog; someone who would pick up full court and be a nuisance on that end of the floor. Green has the potential to be that guy, but with the overall talent package to make an impact on the offensive end, too.

Let's talk about the big depth

As in, let's talk about the lack of it.

Baynes will be the first to admit that his season with the Raptors was wildly underwhelming, so the hope is that he hasn't carried that form over to the Olympics, because the margin for error in the Boomers' frontcourt is slim. The 2019 FIBA World Cup version of Baynes is what this team will need to go deep into the Olympics.

With Bogut retiring, and no Isaac Humphries (injury) or Thon Maker (withdrew from camp) to consider, Duop Reath almost became a necessity. He's 6'11 and probably doesn't have the frame to compete consistently with some of the elite international centres Australia will come up against, but word is he had an impressive final day of the LA 'drop-in' camp, so there's hope he can hold down the fort when Baynes rests.

Jock Landale will be looked at to provide big minutes at one of the frontcourt spots, and he's probably much more of a four-man at this level. He's coming off an NBL Grand Final MVP performance and showed that his ability to stretch the floor is extremely real, so he'll absolutely need to carry that over to Tokyo.

The final frontcourt spot likely came down to Nick Kay and Brock Motum, and the same result from the 2019 World Cup campaign came to fruition. Kay is exclusively a four-man but is a very solid role player; reliable defensively and has a good nose for the ball. He's slightly undersized and isn't the same shooter Motum is, but he had impressive moments during the World Cup so the hope for Goorjian is that he can do the same here.

We may see Ingles or even Thybulle play stretches at the four, and Landale will likely need to guard five-men at times. Baynes staying out of foul trouble will need to be a focus, too. We'll see if the lack of depth catches up to them.

The elephant in the room

For the entire lead-up to this moment, there was a conversation around the idea of what to do with the final few spots on the roster. They're the spots that rarely actually play, especially when do-or-die games come around.

For the 2016 Olympics and 2019 World Cup, Andrej Lemanis opted to fill those spots with veterans. That act was largely seen as a reward; there were players who had been committed to the program, so they were given the opportunity to be part of the final team.

This campaign partly has a theme of redemption for the main Boomers core, but also one of transition, as we look to the future of the program. It's why many believed Josh Giddey, 18 years old and a projected lottery pick, would be added into the team to absorb invaluable experience, and thus preparing him for future Olympics. Goorjian, instead, opted to select Nathan Sobey.

Sobey is coming off an NBL season where he was an MVP finalist, and the word out of camp was he carried that form over to this past week in Los Angeles, so the merit was there, and Goorjian's philosophy when it comes to the final spot on the roster benefited him.

The argument, however, that the 12th spot on the team would be better served grooming a teenager who may end up as the leader of the program, is a strong one. That spot wouldn't play over Mills, or Delly, or Exum or Thybulle, or Chris Goulding or Ingles. You get the picture. The question then becomes: what value can you squeeze out of a place on a team that would have an infinitesimal impact on the court? The answer for some, including multiple former Olympic Boomers who spoke with ESPN: the opportunity to have one of the future core members of the program learn its famous culture from its current leaders.

We saw something similar happen in 2015, when Lemanis chose not to select an 18-year-old Ben Simmons. That left the eventual No. 1 overall pick disillusioned and uninspired by the program, and we haven't seen him wear the green and gold since. To be clear, there are no indications that this non-selection would sour Giddey's feelings toward the Boomers program; still, the risk is evident, and it's clearly one Goorjian was willing to take.