Milwaukee Bucks: Matthew Dellavedova, Thon Maker’s importance to Australian Basketball

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 27: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 27: (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

As basketball continues to thrive in Australia, the influence of Milwaukee Bucks duo Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker shouldn’t be overlooked.

As news of the latest deal between the NBA and Australia’s own NBL became known, an entire nation of fans rejoiced as one. The rise of Australian Basketball had finally come full circle and they were now receiving the recognition they truly deserved.

The role of the Milwaukee Bucks’ own Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker cannot be overstated in this process, though.

To truly understand how far Australian Basketball has come, first you must analyze the state of the game in the early 2000s.

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Before Andrew Bogut was drafted by Milwaukee in 2005 with the first overall pick, there were zero Australians playing in the Association. Luc Longley had retired four years prior and with Andrew Gaze on his way out in the local NBL, Australian fans truly had no hope to cling to.

On top of this, three seasons later, three sides in the NBL (including two who will be playing in the upcoming NBA/NBL pre season fixture, Brisbane and Sydney) folded leaving the competition, and Australian Basketball in disarray.

Basketball, once the hottest ticket in town in the 1980s and 1990s, was on its knees and ready to pack it in. Memberships and crowd numbers were down, and as a result, the performance of the national team was suffering. Interest from the casual fan was waning, and who could blame them?

Then, out of nowhere, a golden generation of Australian basketball emerged. So what happened?

Look no further than the number of Australians playing in the NBA. Last season, eight Australians saw time on the floor in the league, including Milwaukee’s own Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker.

The role that these two, especially Dellavedova, have had on Australian basketball cannot be glossed over.

Dellavedova is an absolute rockstar in Australia, highlighted by his recent venture home this offseason. Countless media outlets gathered in Melbourne earlier this week, hanging on every word, as Dellavedova discussed life in Milwaukee, while also promoting his charity of choice Bluearth Foundation.

Dellavedova will also be hosting a Basketball Skills camp for kids, run by PEAK which has quickly sold out as young fans frantically gather to work alongside their hero.

In an interview with ESPN recently, Dellavedova also spent time promoting fellow Boomer Ryan Broekhoff as a possible free agent signing.

"“I definitely believe he (Broekhoff) is an NBA player and I’m trying to get him to Milwaukee, cause I think shooting in the NBA is so valuable and he’s an elite shooter”."

In another interview, he also went on to state:

"“That’s how it’s been as individuals for all our careers with the Boomers and collectively as a group, we want to do something special that hasn’t been done in Australian men’s basketball”."

Dellavedova knows the importance of continuing to grow the Australian presence in the NBA, as a way to grow the national team’s strength, but also improve the interest levels for the sport in general.

Last season, Dellavedova started in 54 regular season games and averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 assists per game, both career highs. That stat line won’t blow you away, but when Dellavedova signed his four-year, $38 million deal with Milwaukee last summer, he wasn’t paid to grab the limelight.

Dellavedova is there to do the dirty work, so that guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo don’t have to. Dellavedova will defend all day to the absolute best of his ability, and stand on the wing, providing space for Giannis to do his work. Dellavedova is a team oriented guy and would take having a quiet game and winning, over grabbing the highlight play but seeing his team lose any day of the week.

The value of good Australian players playing well in the NBA, as well as the national team succeeding cannot be underestimated. Australian basketball owes so much to the success currently emanating out of the US.

Even Thon Maker has started making an impact with local sports apparel chains beginning to sell his Milwaukee Bucks jersey. Maker, who averaged modest totals of 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, took Australian media by storm last season, both when he was drafted and when he began starting regularly for Milwaukee. It’s not just Maker’s play which Australians are being drawn to (although it surely hasn’t hurt his case), but it’s also the story of his upbringing and his work ethic that has Australians glued to his every move.

Related Story: Thon Maker Is Paving A Path For Others Like Him To Follow

Back in February of this year, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, released a detailed story on Maker’s road to the NBA. In the story, he outlined Maker and his family’s journey through Sudan’s Civil War, to a refugee camp in Uganda and finally, to Perth, Australia.

Australia is a multi-cultural country and accepts countless numbers of refugees each year from war-torn countries, but it’s what Maker has done since which has Australia staying tuned to his each and every move.

Maker routinely consumes three to four times the amount of calories a normal person should be consuming and is often the first and last person out of the gym in Milwaukee. His dedication to himself and his game is second to none. Maker is giving himself every chance to succeed and after the journey he’s been through to get here, who can blame him?

Both Dellavedova and Maker have had vastly different journies to the NBA, but they’re both considered heroes in their home nation of Australia. That’s not because of their level of play, MVP status or desire for celebrity, but instead it’s their determination and level of commitment to which sees Australian fans rally behind them.

So when the 2020 Olympics come around and Australia are considered favorites to meet Team USA in a Gold Medal Match, it won’t be by accident. Basketball in Australia has come along way in the past decade and who knows how much further it will go in the future.

The NBL is currently recording some of the best viewership numbers it’s had in years and the latest NBL/NBA deal will only strengthen this. The national team (The Boomers) are also in the strongest place they’ve been in years.

Next: Bucks should be involved in the next NBL/NBA series

The rise of Australian basketball in recent years has been nothing short of amazing and in no little part, they have Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker to thank for this.