This season has been a revelation for the man who surprised everybody, going from fringe Australian National team player to starting big man for the Boomers and one of Euroleague’s elite big men in only 14 months.
It all started in September 2011 when after sitting on the pine for most of the 2011 Oceania Championship’s Baynes finally get a chance to show his talents in FIBA competition delivering 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 24 minutes in the final game against New Zealand.
At this stage Baynes was a regular amongst Boomers camps and had already played a number of games for the National team. He was even was a member of the 2010 Australian team for the World Championships in Turkey but until his 24 But still he had never really been a part of a crucial game, nor had he played big minutes or delivered big results in the Green and Gold.
Even in London Baynes was considered our third or fourth sting big man at best behind established names like David Andersen, Aleks Maric and Matt Nielsen. It was clear after the Boomers first game against Brazil however that Baynes was going to be a huge part of the Boomers success in London. Baynes came off the bench to record 10 points and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes that game and finished the London Olympics averaging 7.5ppg, fifth highest on the team. Who could forget the numerous alley-oop throw downs tossed his way from Matthew Dellavedova which became a huge part of the Boomers set plays by tournaments end.
Since then Baynes has gone on to sign with Slovenian team Union Olimpija and has been making quite an impact in Euroleague competition. Euroleague is without doubt the premier basketball competition in the world outside of the NBA and when you’re averaging 15 points a game and the leading rebound in Europe, often the ears and eyes in North America start to pay attention.
This week it was reported by Baynes agent Daniel Moldovan that two western conference teams in the NBA had already enquired about Baynes and were “keeping tabs” on the Aussie big man. “There are two Western Conference teams closely following Aron, and after four rounds of Euroleague, there has been much more serious enquiries and interest shown,” Moldovan commented.
By no means has Aron Baynes suddenly appeared on NBA radars. He was a key player during the two greatest years of Washington State University’s basketball program. From 2006-2008 Baynes was a big part of the Cougars success being named to the Pac-10 all-academic team twice during that time.
He nominated for the NBA draft in 2009 and after not being drafted had a short stint playing for the LA Lakers summer league team before taking his game to Europe.
Currently Baynes is the only Euroleague baller to post impressive double-double averages of 15 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Perhaps most amazingly he currently ranks number one in Euroleague on their Performance Index Rating, which basically means he is statistically the best player in the world outside of the NBA.
“(Baynes’) Olympic experience gave him the confidence boost he needed to perform at the level he’s on now,” said Daniel Moldovan earlier this week. Baynes only got a true feel for basketball at 17 years of age so his rise to achieve all this less than 9 years after really taking up the sport is quite remarkable. Because Aron started playing ball so late, he is only now coming to his peak, something even he acknowledges. “I have been working hard for the last few years, trying to get my body and basketball IQ up to a level where I can be an impact player, and I think I am up there right now. I just want to play well and be a presence on the court.”
Is Aron Baynes set to become the 10th Australian to play in the NBA, time will tell… until then Euroleague teams are going to have their hands full with the 208cm115kg powerhouse from Cairns. I hope they’ve done their homework.