Basketball: Olympics to aid prodigy Simmons

LSU forward Ben Simmons vies for a rebound with Kentucky forward Derek Willis during an NCAA college basketball game. Photo / AP
LSU forward Ben Simmons vies for a rebound with Kentucky forward Derek Willis during an NCAA college basketball game. Photo / AP

Australian NBA star Matthew Dellavedova believes the upcoming Olympics can help college prodigy Ben Simmons' transition to the pros.

Simmons' status for the summer games is being held to ransom by the NBA draft, where the Louisiana star is expected to be picked at number one, and is staged just two months before the opening ceremony in Rio.

The sticking point is whether Simmons' future NBA team, who'll invest over $US25 million over the course of his rookie three-year deal, would risk their star playing in another uniform.

The Utah Jazz lost Australian point guard Dante Exum, who was the number five pick in 2014, for the entire NBA season after he tore his ACL playing for the Boomers last August.

But Dellavedova, who went to the London games in 2012 as a college player, said the experience would only be beneficial to both Simmons and his new team.

"International basketball is different to the NBA in style of play. For most people, just playing international basketball, where every possession matters, is a good experience," he said.

The Cleveland guard labelled his own London campaign as the best experience of his career, even above last year's finals series against the Golden State Warriors. Dellavedova shone in the absence of Australia-born starter Kyrie Irving and alongside megastar LeBron James, but said representing his country helped improve his game exponentially.

"(London) was the highlight of my career so far," Dellavedova said.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of going to an Olympics and to be able to go to one when I was 21 then, it was a great experience.

"Playing international basketball definitely helped my development a lot.

"Dellavedova said Australia's NBA contingent of Boomers will gather over the upcoming All Star break to continue preparations for Rio, where they hope to win their first ever medal. But before that, the Cavaliers will celebrate their ties to Australia with an Australia Day game on January 26, when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Dellavedova described the promotion as a "cool initiative", and wants to see it lead to more.

"Hopefully it will result in an exhibition game or a pre-season game, or maybe even one day a regular season game in Australia, because there's a lot of support in Australia and a high number of league pass subscribers," he said.

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