Tag: NBL

NBL Free Agency Update: Hawks, United and Breakers

IN the second edition of Draft Central’s NBL Free Agency update, we take a look at the signings and re-signings of the Hawks, Melbourne United and the Breakers during this year’s Free Agency period, as we prepare for the National Basketball League (NBL) 2020/21 campaign in December.

THE HAWKS:

For last season’s wooden-spooners, the team will look undoubtedly very different in the upcoming season including a new head coach and assistant but also welcome back some familiar faces with one of them Emmett Naar.

Naar, who has spent the better time of two years at the club, will be excited to give next season another crack with the team and work alongside new head coach Brian Goorjian. Next to Dan Grida and Sam Froling, Naar is one of three players currently to have locked themselves in for another season with the Hawks association.

Among the first to join the Hawks’ ranks was Deng Deng, an experienced veteran within the Australian basketball scene, most previously having served as an injury replacement player for the Breakers last season. Furthermore, Deng Adel, a highly sought-after prospect after previously playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, has also committed to the city of Wollongong. Adel, who most recently endured a stint with the Brooklyn Nets G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, averaged 11.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in his time over in the States.

Additional signings such as NCAA player Isaac White, Max Darling, Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon nicely round out the majority of the core group for the Hawks and gives Goorjian’s side some much needed depth. But perhaps the marquee signing for the NSW-based side, has to be the acquisition of former Chicago Bull and Boomer, Cameron Bairstow. Having represented Australia at the 2014 FIBA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Bairstow brings a handful of professional experience to his new team.

With the departure of key individuals from last season such as Sunday Dech, Todd Blanchfield and Angus Glover, Goorjian and his new coaching staff, namely his assistant coach in Jacob Jackomas, will have their hands full to try and piece their new team together. But, given the signings they have obtained, the Hawks look set to take the league by storm if they can click from the get-go.

Contracted:

Nil

Re-signed:

Emmett Naar
Daniel Grida
Sam Froling

Signed:

Deng Deng (New Zealand Breakers)
Deng Adel (Long Island Nets)
Isaac White (Stanford University)
Tyler Harvey (Ratiopharm Ulm)
Cam Bairstow (Rytas Vilnius)
Max Darling (KK Vrijednosnice Osijek)
Justin Simon (Windy City Bulls)

MELBOURNE UNITED

With the departures of imports Shawn Long and Melo Trimble, United has looked to sign some younger names to put in their place. The first of two college recruits that Dean Vickerman and Melbourne’s administration have seen fit to sign is former Duke Blue Devil, Jack White. After four seasons in North Carolina, White finished his studies and his collegiate athletic career, after which he became one of the most highly praised and talked about Australian talents coming out of college. Luckily for Melbourne, they were able to win the race for his signature and came to a delightful three-year deal.

The second of two collegiate acquisitions and another three-year-deal to add to the books, is 23-year-old Eastern Washington alum Mason Peatling. The 23-year-old will be rostered on as a Development Player for his initial season, then upgraded to the core squad in the years to follow.

While Vickerman is investing in multiple youngsters to the franchise’s rotation, he has also gained valuable professional experience also. The signing of Japanese international Yudai Baba a month ago comes as a blessing. Baba, who spent a few seasons between 2017 to 2019 in Japan’s B.League playing for Alvark Tokyo, helped earn the team back-to-back titles. In the latter of the two, he was also rewarded finals MVP honours. Baba’s career took a massive step forward, as he was procured by the G-League’s Texas Legends, the affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.

Other movements for Melbourne so far are the re-signings of league veterans, David Barlow and Chris Goulding and most recently Sam McDaniel on a one-year deal. Barlow extends his contract by a year, whereas Goulding will call Melbourne home for the next three.

Contracted:

Casey Prather
Jo Lual-Acuil
Mitch McCarron
Sam Short
Shea Ili

Re-signed:

Chris Goulding
David Barlow
Sam McDaniel

Signed:

Jack White (Duke University)
Yudai Baba (Texas Legends)
Mason Peatling (Eastern Washington University)

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

The majority of Dan Shamir’s side will look entirely the same for the upcoming season, keeping all of their core players for at least the next year with the contract extensions of Corey Webster, Jarrad Weeks, Rob Loe and Finn Delany. But to add to their cause, the Breakers have found several prominent individuals during this season’s signing period, that have persuaded the pundits to lean towards New Zealand as a title-contender before the season’s opening tip-off.

Perhaps the biggest transfer of this season’s Free Agency to this point, is the addition of current All-NBL First Team selectee Lamar Patterson and MVP-candidate to the Breakers’ roster. After earning numerous accolades in his NBL 20 season and providing almost unrivalled levels of production to the Brisbane Bullets, Patterson further proved his value to the rest of the competition.

After learning that former marquee player Scotty Hopson was considering other options, the Breakers moved in on the 28-year-old from Pennsylvania, as the two parties came together for a one-year-deal. Patterson’s numbers from last year concluded to 21 points, six rebounds and over four and a half assists per game.

Other acquisitions leading up to today include Webster’s younger brother, Tai, who has numerous years of international experience with Turkish Super League side, Galatasaray. Daniel Trist, who spent last season as an integral part of the South East Melbourne Phoenix’s inaugural season also dons the blue, white and black in 2020/21 and Kyrin Galloway has made his first professional signing (three-year-deal) with New Zealand, after concluding his time at the University of North Carolina (Greensboro).

Contracted:

Tom Abercrombie
Terry Li

Re-signed:

Finn Delany
Jarrad Weeks
Rob Loe
Corey Webster

Signed:

Tai Webster (Galatasaray)
Dan Trist (South-East Melbourne Phoenix)
Kyrin Galloway (UNC Greensboro)
Lamar Patterson (Brisbane Bullets)

For Draft Central’s Free Agency update on the 36ers, Bullets and Taipans – Click HERE

NBL Free Agency update: 36ers, Bullets and Taipans

IN the first of a three-part series this week, Draft Central looks at the Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans Free Agency moves thus far ahead of the delayed 2020/21 National Basketball League (NBL) season.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Adelaide is certainly undergoing a change after a tough end to the season saw coach Conner Henry replacing the controversial Joey Wright. Immediately they picked up one of Australia’s brightest talents in Josh Giddey, who at 17-years-old will be a valuable guard for the side as he eyes of an NBA career in the future. In what could be one of the most potent four-five combinations, Daniel Johnson re-signed with the club, and Isaac Humphries came on board after languishing in the G-League. A former NBL Rookie of the Year with the Sydney Kings, Humphries was on the roster for Atlanta Hawks, took part in the NBA Summer League for the Los Angeles Clippers and then signed with the Orlando Magic, but after being waived opted to return back to Australia.

Humphries will replace the outgoing Harry Froling who has headed to Brisbane, with two-way player Anthony Drmic also headed north. The inclusion of former Illawarra Hawks’ guard Sunday Dech will help soften the blow of Drmic leaving while 25-year-old Keanu Pinder returns home after completing his college at Arizona and then spending a couple of seasons in Poland with Legia Warszawa. The 36ers were looking at including Tall Blacks talent Jack Salt, and returning shooting machine Jerome Randle, but unfortunately both suffered long-term injuries with Randle suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Contracted:

Jack McVeigh
Daniel Dillon
Alex Mudronja
Obi Kyei

Re-signed:

Daniel Johnson

Signed:

Josh Giddey (NBA Global Academy)
Isaac Humphries (Lakeland Magic G-League)
Sunday Dech (Illawarra Hawks)
Keanu Pinder (Legia Warszawa Poland)

 

BRISBANE BULLETS:

The Bullets had a breakout year in the 2019/20 and were always going to gamble on whether they could retain their bigs in Will Magnay and Lamar Patterson. Magnay re-signed, while Patterson is still a work in progress with the hope that he returns to Brisbane. They were quick to re-sign Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Tyrell Harrison, with Matt Hodgson initially exploring his options then re-signing to negotiate a better deal than the COVID-19 pay cut, much like many of the NBL biggest and best talents. They also have only lost the two players thus far, with Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi both heading south for the summer.

Gliddon had an inconsistent year in 2019/20 and was viewed as better to have a clean run somewhere else, whilst Te Rangi has been keeping in form representing the Canterbury Rams in the second half of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season. While they both could be big talents on their day, the ins are certainly valuable ones and make Brisbane a genuine contender in 2020/21. Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling have jumped ship from the 36ers, whilst Tanner Krebs has returned after finishing his college years at St Mary’s. The 198cm shooting guard will replace Gliddon, whilst NBA Global Academy talent, Tamuri Wigness will slot into the other guard spot and no doubt have some court time next season. If they can re-sign Patterson, then watch out for how damaging this side could be.

Contracted:

Jason Cadee
Nathan Sobey
Tyrell Harrison
Matt Hodgson

Re-signed:

Will Magnay

Signed:

Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling (Adelaide 36ers)
Tanner Krebs (Saint Mary’s NCAA)
Tamuri Wigness (NBA Global Academy)

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

A major question mark still hangs over a number of Taipans players, with the club relatively quiet thus far over the Free Agency period. Re-signing Scott Machado and Nathan Jawai was important for he club, whilst a host of others opted to remain at the club in guards, Mirko Djeric and Fabijan Krslovic, and forwards, Majok Deng and Kouat Noi. All up they already have seven players on the list for next season when counting in Mojave King, an NBA Global Academy talent. The 195cm shooting guard is one who who no doubt learn off the likes of Machado who was one of the best players in the competition last season.

The question marks remain over un-signed Free Agents, Sam Froling, Cameron Oliver and DJ Newbill who all remain yet to to put pen to paper. Froling and in particular Oliver have other suitors, and the way they opt to go could determine how deep the Taipans go in season 2020/21. Newbill looks likely to re-sign, whilst a couple of Tall Blacks in Jarrod Kenny and Tai Wynyard are also among those left un-signed at this stage. Kenny had a strong season in the NZNBL, but has no officially signed anywhere in the NBL as of yet, the same as Wynyard who was one of the more impressive fives in the NZNBL.

Contracted:

Majok Deng
Mirko Djeric
Kouat Noi
Fabijan Krslovic

Re-signed:

Scott Machado
Nathan Jawai

Signed:

Mojave King (NBA Global Academy)

Syndicate buys Illawarra Hawks licence

A SYNDICATE of three passionate basketball businessmen were awarded the Illawarra Hawks licence for the 2020/21 National Basketball League (NBL) season and beyond.

In one of the biggest talking points of the NBL off-season, it was at one stage rumoured that future NBA star LaMelo Ball was set to buy the Hawks after representing them last season. Instead, a syndicate of Australian entrepreneur and former co-owner of the Sydney Kings, Dorry Kordahi, prominent former NBA executive Bryan Colangelo and US businessman and basketball influence Michael Proctor have taken over the Hawks’ licence.

In the announcement today, NBL Owner and Executive Chairman Larry Kestelman said it was an “exciting” time for the Hawks and further demonstrated the impact the NBL had on the world stage for international investors to show interest in a league club.

“There was widespread interest from a number of overseas and local parties, and we believe this is the best credentialed group to deliver long term success on and off the court for our proud foundation club,” Kestelman said in a statement today.

“They have a proven track record in business and basketball to be able to take the Hawks to the next level as the NBL continues on its strong growth trajectory after five consecutive years of record attendances and broadcast audiences as well as increased global recognition. “And the syndicate is still open to other business people from Australia and overseas to be involved.

“The decision in choosing the right owners was not an easy one and I want to acknowledge and thank all those who were part of the thorough process undertaken. “I would like, in particular, to thank LaMelo Ball and his organisation for the support and interest shown in wanting to achieve the best outcome for the team that has helped him have a chance at being the number one NBA Draft pick. “We hope we can explore future opportunities with LaMelo and wish him all the best for the NBA Draft in October and his ambition to be the best ever player in the game.”

A talking point during the announcement was what the team might be renamed to with a suggestion that the Hawks’ moniker would remain, but the Illawarra brand would be expanded to be more inclusive of a larger area.

“The intention is for Wollongong to remain the primary base for the Hawks, supported by positive discussions with Venues NSW about upgrading the WIN Entertainment Centre to ensure we have the best venue possible to deliver world class entertainment for Hawks fans,” NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said.

““There are also opportunities for the Hawks to grow their fan base across the region following their success in taking games to Canberra in recent seasons. “I wish our newest team owners the very best for the coming season. “We are confident that once we get back out on the court, the Hungry Jack’s NBL is going to be as hotly contested as ever.”

Kordahi, a well respected businessman who has earned a number of industry awards co-owned the Sydney Kings by the age of 32. He is also a member on the Advisory Board of the NBL.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the syndicate and myself to positively contribute to the ongoing success of the NBL, give back to the local basketball community and embrace the rich history of the only founding club to create a team that fans can be proud of,” he said.

“Our goal and main drive are to grow the Hawks organisation and establish a respected program in the NBL. “We believe we have a unique collective of experience, knowledge and networks, both in basketball and business to deliver this.”

Colangelo has experience within the NBA, having spent time across three clubs, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. He hopes to bring that experience Down Under and make the Hawks a destination club, as well as a destination league.

“Australian basketball with its great history has been on a significant rise for many years now and the NBL has played a significant role in growing the sport’s awareness and participation levels, while developing some of the best athlete and coaching talent the world has to offer,” Colangelo said. “We are thrilled to be selected as new partners with the league and pledge to outperform the expectations placed on us and deliver for Hawks fans.”

“With the Next Stars initiative, the league has strategically positioned itself as a viable alternative for young athletes seeking a premium player development and athlete care model that best prepares them for competing at the sport’s highest levels. “LaMelo Ball, among others, serves as a great example of just how influential the NBL has become on a global basis.”

Proctor is a businessman, restaurateur and real estate developer based in St. Louis, Missouri. He has been involved with basketball from the NBA down to the NCAA where he spent time playing as a prospect himeself.

“The Hawks present such an exciting opportunity for our ownership,” Proctor said. “We view the league as one of the world’s best. “My hope is that we can make the Hawks a well-respected winner for years to come.”

NZNBL Draft nominations surpass 300 as streaming service announced

MORE than 300 players have already registered for the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Player Draft on June 11, including a number of Australian NBL (ANBL) players and New Zealand stars.

The most recent big name was Melbourne United’s Tohi Smith-Milner who registered for the draft early on day two. His registration came a day after the likes of Jack Salt – a young Kiwi who has experience all over the world – as well as a host of other recognisable names in the sport.

Perth Wildcats’ development player Taylor Britt, Illawarra Hawks’ development player Hyrum Harris and New Zealand Breakers’ Tom Vodanovich were among those registered who were on ANBL lists in the past season.

While only 84 players can be drafted on one of the seven team lists, the depth of the nominees means the quality of basketball is likely to be high. For those wanting to catch all the action of the Sal’s NBL, the games are broadcast locally on Sky Sport, while for those overseas, a live stream of all matches will be set up via League Pass as a way of helping support players and teams.

New Zealand NBL General Manager Justin Nelson said the League Pass initiative of pay-per-view allowed another source of income for players and clubs during the tough international climate.

“We all know COVID-19 has brought the sporting world to a grinding halt, so that means our league could be the best available basketball option for overseas fans,” he said. “We are stepping into new territory by offering our games globally.

“The teams’ revenue sources are challenged this year too, so we needed to help them and the players. “We think LeaguePass.co.nz is an enticing option for the basketball hungry audience and could potentially be a great financial boost for the players, as well as the teams and their profiles.

“We think this might be a first. “I don’t know of another sport in New Zealand where players have been given a share of the pay-per-view revenue like this.”

For more information on the NZNBL coverage, visit the NZNBL website.

Player registration will run until the end of next week – Friday, June 5 – giving as many players the opportunity to sign up for the unique competition as possible. The Pre-Selection Window will commence from Saturday, June 6 to Tuesday, June 9 before the Player Draft on June 11, and a short Trade Window from June 12-14.

Teams arrive at the central location in Auckland on Friday, June 19 with the first matches to tip off on Tuesday, June 23.

Andrew Bogut to take hiatus, Kings and Bogut part ways for 2020/21

FORMER NBA champion and 2019 National Basketball League (NBL) Most Valuable Player, Andrew Bogut, has made the decision not to re-sign with the Sydney Kings for the upcoming 2020/21 NBL season, but emphasises that this is by no means a retirement announcement.

This comes amidst what has been an unprecedented offseason so far in the NBL’s history.

In a tweet earlier today, Bogut cited, “With everything going on in the world the future does not look too clear, most notably in regards to sporting leagues worldwide.”

“This is by no means a retirement note, but simply saying any concrete decisions are too hard to be made at this point in time,” Bogut would add.

Obviously alluding to the effects that COVID-19 has unleashed upon leagues on an international level, the timing of Bogut’s hiatus does however afford the 35-year-old some benefits on a personal level.

In the tweet posted by Bogut, spending time with his family and affording his body some much needed rest are a couple of things that he will be expensing time doing.

“I have enjoyed being at home with the family and learning more about my kids than I ever could have previously.”

“My body is enjoying the break after playing basketball for 19 straight months and I hope to be back out on the basketball court in the near future!” he would add.

After helping lead the Kings to the NBL Grand Final series this past season and earning an All-NBL second team selection, Bogut would cap off his second season in the NBL with 8.2 points per game, alongside 8.8 rebounds and a field goal efficiency of 58.7 per cent.

With Bogut’s departure from the Kings for next season coming more than a month before the Free Agency period opens, the shock move presents the Sydney Kings much needed time to search for a replacement five man to lock down their frontcourt for next season’s campaign.

Bogut would conclude his announcement with, “The plan for moving forward? Spending time with my wife and kids, slowly getting back into physical shape, and finally making the most out of time we don’t traditionally get at home”.

The free-agency period for the National Basketball League will commence on the 1st of July.

Young Guns in the NBL: LaMelo Ball

OF all the National Basketball League (NBL) young guns, the top one from the season was clearly LaMelo Ball. He only played 12 games, but in every stop, Australian basketball fans flooded the stadium just to get a glimpse of the 6’7 point guard. Were the fans buying those tickets just so they could say they witnessed the pinnacle of a hype train? Sure, that was part of it. Australians do not get to see that many international stars, and they weren’t going to pass on seeing a potential NBA superstar at only 18-years-old.

But Ball’s season was much more than that. It took a lot of courage to turn down an NCAA scholarship and prove his worth against quality opposition. Players that typically were not fond of the attention he was getting and were determined to ball out in front of the millions watching around the world. But Ball proved something truly great, this season. Most importantly Ball proved it, not his undying fan base, not his reality TV show and not his outgoing father. What did he prove? To believe the hype.

He came into the season as a 17-year-old and left averaging 17 points per game – less than one point away from being the Illawarra Hawks’ leading scorer. But it  is not how much he scored but how he scored that speaks to Ball’s greatness. Snapping ankles, step back threes, posterising dunks, flashy layups – Ball’s season highlights reel is proof of the skill he has at such a young age, but what makes Ball’s games ‘must watch’ material is that he is so much more than just a scorer. Seven rebounds, seven assists, Ball does it all.

Including setting a NBL record for the youngest player to notch a triple double. That is crazy for a kid that young – but not as crazy as doing it again the very next game. These were 32-point and 25-point games – not your casual ‘just got enough in each category to set a record’ type of night. If it was not for his foot injury that ended his season prematurely, who knows what other records he could have broken. It’s not often a player can come into a league, play half the season, and be remembered as a record setter, a social media influencer and an all time leader in helping to grow the league of the NBL. This season surmounted Ball’s legacy as an NBL legend.

Hodgson returns as Brisbane’s NBL21 chances soar

BRISBANE Bullets are a step closer to retaining their core list for the National Basketball League (NBL) 2020/21 season after contracted star, Matt Hodgson opted to return to the club for next season.

Initially, Hodgson chose to weigh up his future options outside the NBL following the announcement by the league that contracted players could opt-out of contracts that would be slashed by up to 50 per cent. The 211cm and 115kg Brisbane Bullets centre from Ipswich decided to stay in his home state and will now line-up once again for the NBL side as the Queensland team hope to go a step better than in NBL20 and sneak into the finals series.

He has been a ray of consistency in the past couple of years for the Bullets, averaging around 10 points, six rebounds, one assists and one block across his past 55 games. His re-signing brings great hope to the Bullets outfit after the announcement that NBL20 recruit Nathan Sobey, Cameron Gliddon and Will Magnay will all take to the court next season.

It means the four Australian starters have returned to the club, with a wait on American duo, Lamar Patterson and Taylor Braun as the other starter and Sixth Man. If Patterson can re-sign, then the pressure will be thrown to Cairns Taipans to try and re-sign the last couple of their stars with other finalists, Sydney Kings, Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United all losing a couple of star talents.

NBL Off-Season Power Rankings: (not indication of where they will finish but just Off-Season ratings)

1 South East Melbourne Phoenix
2 New Zealand Breakers
3 Cairns Taipans
4 Brisbane Bullets
5 Illawarra Hawks
6 Adelaide 36ers
7 Melbourne United
8 Sydney Kings
9 Perth Wildcats

NBL Free Agency – May: How each team stands after contract opt-outs

LAST month the National Basketball League (NBL) announced it would need to reduce player payments across the board, slashing contracts by up to 50 per cent and reducing the maximum amount of imports to two per club. This had a ripple effect on the clubs and we take a look at who has fared best and who is not looking so good as of May 4 – the close of contract-opt outs. The information has been compiled thanks to Aussie Hoopla’s NBL free agent tracker and recent announcements by the clubs and league.

Note: The below rankings are not saying this is the ladder positions, but more how they have fared in terms of the quality lost or uncertainty over the lists for next season. The least impacted to the hardest hit.

#1 South East Melbourne Phoenix

There is not much more you could ask of the Phoenix thus far, having re-signed their star player in Mitch Creek and the bulk of the list being retained thus far. A perfect off-season would be retaining John Roberson and then seeing if they could snatch a third big name such as Terrico White. There is not much to write other than the Phoenix are in a good spot thus far coming into season two.

#2 New Zealand Breakers

With more players linked to the Breakers than departing, the New Zealand-based side could take advantage of a number of the Australian teams losing quality imports. The Breakers have been rumoured to consider an All-New Zealand side which would be an interesting move, but one that could help in terms of long-term success and continuity. The experienced Tom Abercrombie, as well as Corey Webster, Jarrad Weeks and Finn Delany are all signed up for next year, and a lot will depend on what happens with Scotty Hopson, but the Breakers are looking alright.

#3 Cairns Taipans

If there is a side that would be nervous about the unknown of the pandemic, it would have to be the Taipans. They got their act together on court this season, largely thanks to the likes of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver doing their thing up either end of the court. While both have either agreed or are expected to return, there would be a question mark over them given the current circumstances. If they re-sign them, Cairns could be title favourites with the sides above them all having players opting out of contracts.

#4 Illawarra Hawks

As it stands, the 2019/20 wooden spooners at least will have continuity in their list for next season. While LaMelo Ball is obviously a huge – but expected loss – the starting line-up that carried the team through the second half of the season remains intact. They have likely lost Daniel Grida due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, and are waiting to see what happens with a number of uncontracted players. The only way is up for the Hawks next season and perhaps having continuity in the side will help.

#5 Adelaide 36ers

While the 36ers might have lost a coach over the off-season, they have replaced Joey Wright with Connor Henry who signed a three-year deal for the club. Everything looked good for the next season until Jerome Randle devastatingly did his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Europe. With him all but certain to miss next season and doubts on Eric Griffin as well in terms of re-signing, the 36ers will put plenty of weight on the younger brigade such as incoming recruit Josh Giddey and the ever-improving Harry Froling. Had Randle stayed fit, the 36ers would be in the top four at this point of the untouched preseason, but the injury hurt them badly.

#6 Brisbane Bullets

On face value, the Bullets have signed up most of their quality starters. But there is a Lamar Patterson-sized question mark over their list for the 2020/21 season. Patterson was expected to re-sign for another season prior to the pandemic, but like many it is unknown what impact the contract reductions and restrictions will have on the imports. If he signs, they could easily fly into the top four, if he does not, then they lack that dominant big man. Especially with Matt Hodgson opting out of his contract.

#7 Melbourne United

United have been able to re-sign those players who had multiple-year deals which is the first step towards season 2020/21. The reason they are lower down on the list is two of their best players are either departing or are expected to depart in Shawn Long (South Korea) and Melo Trimble (one-year deal). They missed out on Giddey and could be losing veteran Chris Goulding in a year. Basically, United will look to try and sign up a few more names to give some certainty about the look of their roster next season.

#8 Sydney Kings

The Kings have lost Casper Ware and Xavier Cooks at this stage, with both players opting out of their contracts and looking elsewhere. Andrew Bogut and Jae’Sean Tate are among those out of contract and of course Didi Louzada is headed for the NBA. Just a lot of question marks over what their 2020/21 roster could look like at this point in time. After a huge season and showing what the Kings were capable of a mix of bigs and smalls, the grand finalists will have some work to do in order to get back to the pointy end of the season.

#9 Perth Wildcats

It has been a real gut-wrenching period for the Wildcats thus far, losing their two best players in Bryce Cotton and Nick Kay who have opted out of their contracts and look at other opportunities for the 2020/21 season. With White also rumoured to be considering a move to Victoria, the Wildcats unbelievable reign in the NBL finals could be in danger. But we know how well the organisation is run, and with more space opening up, expect them to poke the eyes out of quality local talent.

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10: #1 – Bryce Cotton

Given that this season’s League MVP would go on to win the NBL Title, the Finals’ MVP and lead the competition in scoring and steals, it would make perfect sense that Bryce Cotton would rank at the top of the pack in this season’s edition of Draft Central’s NBL Top 10. However, the decision to put Cotton at number one was not so clear cut.

Season performances from the likes of Scott Machado, Scotty Hopson, Lamar Patterson and others, made the decision to put Arizona-born guard at the top of the list, one that wouldn’t be decided until the postseason. While 22.48 points per game (league leader) is all well and good, Cotton’s consistency separated himself from his piers during the season, as only once would he put up single digits in all 27 of his games, scoring four points against the Breakers back in early-November. He would also hold himself responsible to a 42 per cent field goal accuracy rate, one of the best amongst guards and forwards collectively.

Defensively, Cotton would once again lead the competition in another major statistical category, this time in steals. On eight separate occasions, Cotton would accumulate three or more steals during a contest, which would help him attain an average of 1.75 steals per game throughout the season. Cotton’s contributions carried his team throughout 27 encounters, as on several separate days he would put up monumental performances. Notably his 36 and 39-point efforts against the Sydney Kings in Rounds 6 and 13, his 34 points against the Breakers in Round 7 and his 42 points against the Taipans in Game one of their semi-final series.

As the Wildcats would grind away at the Kings’ ladder-leading position throughout the season, their ability to not fall into losing slumps helped the Wildcats maintain an ongoing winning form. Not losing three games in a row, helped Perth secure second position and home-court advantage leading into their series with the Taipans. Following their 85-72 win over the Brisbane Bullets, Cotton would receive his second MVP Award as well as his third All-NBL First Team selection alongside teammate Nick Kay. But the individual accolades were trivial compared to the major prize of a potential championship.

The 27-year-old made his intentions known in Game One against Cairns as mentioned earlier, but Games Two and Three required a different approach of play by Cotton. With the Wildcats going down by 11 to Cairns away from home in Game 2, Cotton would walk away with a measly 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. In Game Three, however, he would facilitate the ball in a fashion that had not occurred all season, as he dished out eight assists in the deciding Game Three contest, aiding his side in the 11-point triumph.

Moving on to face the Kings, all that could be said in the Grand Final series was Sydney’s inability to stop the scoring of Cotton. Putting up 30-point games on two separate occasions would set the reigning-MVP up for a 30-points per game series win and the defining performance for him and his team, winning their fourth title in five years. While Cotton awaits to hear back from the Australian government in regard to his citizenship request, as mentioned to the Arizona Daily Star, he was relieved to receive the title given the unfortunate fashion that it was obtained. “It felt just as amazing to be acknowledged as the champions,” said Cotton. “It was almost like watching Selection Sunday. We were just kind of sitting around waiting to see what the verdict was going to be.”

The guard had cemented his own dynasty with his third chip in his extensive NBL career thus far. Of course the news coming through yesterday was that Cotton had opted out of his contract with the Wildcats for season 2020/21 after the NBL’s decision to cut player payments by up to 50 per cent and limit import numbers. The agreement put in place is that Cotton will search for opportunities overseas, however the Wildcats have retained his rights should he choose to honour the contract for next season. In other words Wildcats fans, he cannot play for another NBL team. It will be Perth or international for the star guard.

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10 #2: Scott Machado

THIS season’s main facilitator and the second Cairns Taipans player in Draft Central’s top 10, Scott Machado takes out second spot on the countdown after an impressive 2019/20 campaign. His journey goes all the way back prior to the season’s opening tip, following the signing of Cameron Oliver to bolster the Taipans’ frontcourt. Mike Kelly and his coaching staff were in need of someone to control the flow of games and elevate the offensive performances of those on the floor at any given time. The decision was Machado, who was signed with the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers at the time. The signing would strengthen Cairns’ backcourt, as Machado would go shoulder-to-shoulder with DJ Newbill, who was a part of the Cairns’ side that went 6-22 the season prior and was eager to make this time round a very different story.

Despite Cairns’ good intentions, they lost their opening three encounters, but a hard fought 99-76 blowout win against the Wildcats got the ball rolling for the Taipans. Machado’s 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds were a significant factor in that game. Falling to 2-6 after a debilitating loss to the Illawarra Hawks in Round 6, the Taipans faced a crossroads on whether this season would turn out similar to last, or if they were to change the way they conducted themselves on the court and start to climb the standings. They chose the latter.

Led by Machado, the Taipans won five of their next six contests with their point guard obtaining two double-digit assist games over this period. It was rather a big shock to the Taipans faithful when they had back-to-back losses handed to them in Round 11, falling to the Wildcats and the Phoenix, but the way Cairns bounced back would define their season. In their remaining 12 outings, the Taipans would go on streaks of five and four games, losing once to the Kings and twice to finish their season, with the third seed already locked up by that stage.

Machado averaged an elite level 16.4 points, 6.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds in his side’s monumental run to the finals, helping Cairns secure a 16 win and 12 loss record at the end of the season, locking up a matchup with the Wildcats and MVP Bryce Cotton. Game One would prove to be massive for Machado, as he would shoot a massive 61 per cent from the field, whilst collecting 31 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 39 minutes of play, arguably his best individual performance all season. Machado would continue to put up solid numbers for his team in Games Two and Three, averaging 16 points per contest. But, Trevor Gleeson’s side had too much depth, as they snatched Game Three and moved on to the Grand Final Series to face the Kings and defend their title.

To encapsulate Machado’s breakout season, he was awarded some consolation as the NBL Fans’ MVP, averaging 16.1 points per game in NBL 2020, as he led the league in assists with 7.9 dimes being dished out every time out for the 29-year-old. He also earned himself a spot in the NBL’s All-NBL First Team and runners-up in the MVP votes count behind Cotton. Whether the “big-three” returns again next season for the Taipans or not, it is without a doubt Machado was to be ranked second in Draft Central‘s top 10, if not first, had he edged out the Wildcats in the semi-finals.