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Xavier Cooks has signed with the NBA, so here’s where it’s at and exactly what it all means


Xavier Cooks, NBL preview

Just the day after League MVP Xavier Cooks led the Sydney Kings to a second straight title in the NBL Finals, he was on a life-changing flight.

During the series, which the defending champs claimed at home in the decider 3-2, Cooks landed an NBA opportunity. A whirlwind year ending in a whirlwind fortnight.

The forward managed an ankle injury, and other post-season wear and tear, but now’s not the time for rest and rehab. He has a dream to concur. Cooks has enjoyed a steady emergence the last two seasons down under; it’s been something to behold.

Xavier Cooks
Xavier Cooks has gone to another level at the Kings this season.

But some unanswered questions remain, so here’s a bunch of the context for Aussie and US-based fans.

Xavier Cooks has signed a four-year deal with the Washington Wizards

When Cooks got the ‘Woj’ treatment, it all got very real.

ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski – and Aussie counterpart Olgun Uluc – broke the news Monday morning that the Kings star will sign a deal with the Washington Wizards through the 2023-24 season.

It’s since come out it’s actually a four-year, $6.1 million dollar contract. It’s life-changing money for Cooks and his young family, but on the low-risk scale for a Wizards team feeling the squeeze of an overblown Bradley Beal contract and limited rebuilding resources.

Just two days after the ultimate success in Sydney, he took to the court for his first NBA minutes.

Who is 27-year-old Xavier Cooks?

Americans, particularly Washington-based, might be waking up tomorrow wondering who exactly the Kings star is. So here’s a quick run through.

Xavier Cooks is a 6-foot-6 power forward for the Sydney Kings who has been playing in the NBL for four seasons now.

He grew up in Wollongong, New South Wales, about an hours drive from Sydney; but was born in Ballarat, Victoria.

His emergence as one of the best players in the NBL over the past couple of seasons saw him recently receive League MVP, the greatest basketball accolade of his career yet; averages of 16-points-per-game, eight rebounds and four assists.

Back in November, Cooks was sidelined for multiple weeks after injuring his ankle and has had issues with it in the past.

In Game 1 of the NBL Finals, Cooks seemed hampered by a knock to his knee during the match, which played a role in his side’s defeat but has overcome it in the past few days.

What can’t be ignored is that Xavier Cooks’ career-best campaign helped lead his Kings to top spot at the end of the NBL regular season and top seed for the playoffs. It set up a homecourt advantage in the best-of-five Finals series with the New Zealand Breakers.

Can Cooks work his way into the rotation?

With only a couple more weeks before the NBA Playoffs, it’s now or never for the 12th-placed Wizards in the East. While they’re not good enough to compete in the post-season anyway, it’s now or never if they want to scrap and claw their way up into the Play-ins.

NBL Finals Hero
Xavier Cooks is one of the faces of the NBL.

But it’s likely Washington’s Playoffs fate will be sealed in the next week, which could lead to the team shutting down a couple of their better players, like Beal. That may lead to Cooks gaining some NBA experience before it all wraps up.

The franchise right now does have some depth in the forward positions. Star duo Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis take up a lot of game time together with Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert playing valuable role-player minutes.

Something that could play to Xavier Cooks’ advantage is his ability to facilitate, averaging four assists a game this season with the Kings. The Wizards have some lethal knock down shooters on the perimeter that would pair perfectly with Cooks’ drive and kick game.

The 27-year-old will need to be tireless in the gym this American summer, working on his shooting. It’s the one area of his game which needs to get better, should he become a reliable player in the states. The free throw capabilities got marginally better during the NBL’s post-season and that needs to go to yet another gear, otherwise he could end up being ‘just’ another Aussie that’s constantly hacked at in the paint.

So fans down under are better off staying patient and seeing how things start to unfold next season. Before that of course, though, is a FIBA World Cup. Cooks will play a role there for the Boomers.

Is this news a reflection on the NBL’s growing reputation?

Over the past decade we have seen an increase in players being drafted or picked up by NBA teams who have come through the NBL competition; the last couple of years have been unprecedented.

Young guards such as Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers) and LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks) have shown that there is a great pathway to every basketballer’s dream through the NBL and has even been floated as a potential landing spot for Bronny James before he can be drafted.

Not to forget Jock Landale, Joe Ingles and Patty Mills who have used the NBL as a spring board later in their careers to make the NBA.

With Xavier Cooks following a similar route as those three, he will become the 11th Australian currently playing in the NBA.

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