NZNBL Draft: Who are some of the first round contenders?

WITH the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Player Draft Order decided earlier today, the seven teams know where they stand. What they also know, is how successful their pre-selections were, and who they have managed to pick up prior to the unknown of draft night.

There is plenty of talent on offer, and for some players who have links to multiple clubs, it will be fascinating to see who could potentially go where. We take a look at some of the top players on offer and who might have been picked up pre-selection. Of course this could all change if a team offers a higher Rank spot (teams offer between one and 14 for players) and manage to secure a talent from another region.

Hyrum Harris:

Harris could be the one to watch and shake up the draft order with his Southland Sharks no longer competing. Still young and after a season in the Australian NBL with Illawarra, Harris could well be considered for the first overall pick. Last season with the Sharks Harris averaged 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and almost two steals per game, something that gives any side a real advantage and balanced gameplay.

Tom Vodanovich:

Another player who cannot play for his 2019 Sal’s NBL side after teaming up with Harris last season. Expect the Tall Blacks forward to potentially go in the first couple of picks given his home region is Wellington, and the Saints have also pulled out of this year’s competition. Potentially, we could see a Harris-Vodanovich combination in the first two picks, and he averaged 12.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in the NZNBL last year.

Jackson Stubbins:

Having loyally signed to the Manawatu Jets for another season before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, expect Stubbins to land there again and be rewarded for his loyalty. He was set to co-captain the side alongside Tia Temata Frost who you could expect to be the next selection for the Jets. They could go the other way as well, but with plenty of interest in Stubbins, expect the Jets to pounce early and then combine the versatile players again to begin making their charge on the 2020 competition.

Mika Vukona:

When it comes to Pre-Selections, this would be the one that comes as no surprise, with the Tall Blacks legend also a Nelson Giants legend. In the team’s preview, the club was looking to base a game plan around the 38-year-old power forward who will no doubt be an asset to Nelson throughout the season. Given his experience both in New Zealand and Australia, it is already a leg up for the Giants who are well positioned at pick four heading into the draft.

Jack Salt:

Canterbury Rams have a mid first round pick and the 208cm, 113kg center who has plied his trade over in the States for Virginia returns to his home country. Whilst Salt was born in England, he grew up in New Zealand, and had signed for Canterbury ahead of the season prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. The Rams do have a good conundrum on their hands, also having Taylor Britt and Mike Karena to potentially balance in the early stages of the draft.

Sam Timmins:

Growing up in the Otago region, there is every chance Timmins is plucked up by the Nuggets with the first overall pick. But Franklin Bulls had signed the 211cm centre this year and would no doubt be keen to keep him in the yellow and black. He has been able to spend time over in the States for the Washington Huskies, and would be a player that the Nuggets look to as consideration in that first round selection. If he does go one, he would make history.

Tohi Smith-Milner

The Melbourne United forward is someone who could slot in anywhere in the opening two rounds, but could be a player the Huskies look to as a man to centre a team around. With back-to-back picks, the Huskies might opt for a couple of dominant bigs, or a big and small combination. Likewise, teams that have multiple players they wish to pre-select might find it difficult to sign them all, with Auckland potentially taking full advantage of a player that falls through.

Jordan Ngatai

Another player who could squeeze into the first round, or perhaps early in the second, the Wellington Saints small forward has predominantly played out of Wellington, but also had a season with both Manawatu Jets and Taranaki Mountainairs. The 27-year-old Tall Black is also originally from the Auckland region which makes his potential pre-selection even more interesting. A number of clubs would consider the 196cm forward, but it will be hard to place where he lands.

Jarrod Kenny

He led the NZNBL in assists last season, so Kenny is a player who could come into consideration from the first couple of picks. At age 34, he is still more than handy as a point guard, and with ties to the Giants, as well as the Auckland region, Kenny will likely be off the board in the first 10 picks. He could join Timmins or Smith-Milner at one of the two newest clubs, whilst Ngatai could end up alongside the other.

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