Tag: new zealand breakers

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

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: RJ Hampton

NEW Zealand Breakers youngster, RJ Hampton has shown flashes of what could be, if he continues on this trajectory and develops to his full potential. He already has an impressive highlight reel and definitely has the capability to be a future basketball star. He is quick on his feet, able to dart around the key so fast that NBA players for the Thunder and Grizzlies get crossed up, giving Hampton a free lane to lay it in. He is so agile that he makes stagnant centres move all the way under the basket for an easy two.

Standing at 196cm and 85kgs Hampton can pull out illusive spin moves, fast-break finishes, reverse layups and riveting blocks.  Hampton’s rookie season in the National Basketball League (NBL) was filled with glimpses of elite-level stardom. Hampton’s best asset by far is his speed. He can break down defences off the dribble, change direction on a dime and shift his defender any way he chooses. He has shown all of this and more, from a season he came into as an 18-year-old. That is why the expectations for Hampton’s career are so high after a season averaging 8.8 points, 2.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds. Hampton was an integral asset for the New Zealand Breakers and played his role each time he stepped out on court. 

Throughout the 2019/20 season Hampton was excellent in coordinating the pick and roll on offence – something most rookies take years to master while also showcasing his play making abilities. He has good instincts about what to do with and without the ball and has taken some important strides in his ability to defend. When you consider he just turned 19 years old, it only enhances his stock. Add on to that the experience he accumulated from winning two gold medals for Team USA and Hampton has undergone an extensive learning experience already. He has proven his ability to evolve in high pressure circumstances and is always willing to take on advice which will go a long way in extending his career.

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 Top 10 2019/20 NBL memorable moments: #2 – LaMelo and RJ go at it

EVERYONE just knew the game between the Illawarra Hawks and New Zealand Breakers – the first clash between likely top 10 NBA Draft selections LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton was going to be huge. What fans received was nothing short of expectations when in the very first possession for the Hawks, Hampton swatted Ball’s shot nearly into the stands. Every fan watching at home was on the edge of their seat as the large American audience tuned in for a battle between the future stars of their league. What other way could you explain the most-watched NBL game in history? Hampton, a silky smooth combo guard with size, going up against Ball, a flashy playmaker who also might be the most well known teenage basketball player outside the NBA. The two future stars put on a performance in Illawarra, showcasing exactly why they are ranked as some of the best basketball recruits on the planet. 

The night might go down as the first of many, many meetings between the two as they progress throughout their careers. The expectations for the duo ranged from just quality NBA players to carrying basketball entertainment for generations. Since the prospects decided to shake up the college and professional basketball landscapes by opting to play in the NBL, they have strengthened the league more than anything else ever could. In fact just Ball’s debut game for the NBL was at the time, the most watched game in NBL history. The duo drew over a million new fans on the NBL’s Facebook page, but could only play face-to-face once all season, making this moment all the more special.  

The showdown took place in front of 16 NBA scouts. That is more than half of the NBA having a representative to watch a Round 4 matchup between the two lowly ranked sides in Illawarra Hawks and the New Zealand Breakers. That is how much magnitude these stars behold just playing on the same floor. But Hampton looked to be as relaxed as ever, as his Breakers led a one-sided first quarter ending at 30-18. It was more of the same in the second, and even with Ball hitting back-to-back threes within the space of a minute, New Zealand had all but killed off any chance of a comeback, blowing its lead out to 27 points to end the fourth. But Ball was not going to leave without giving his fans something to remember. After a contested layup from Aaron Brooks missed, Ball came flying in from the baseline before throwing down a huge one handed put-back dunk. Even the Breaker fans got out of their seats. What a historic moment in NBL history.

Top 10 NBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 Phoenix upstage United in opening round
#9 Scotty Hopson’s consecutive buzzer beaters
#8 Bryce Cotton drops 39 points in grand final preview
#7 Bryce Cotton hits game winner in grand final rematch
#6 Casper Ware torches former team in regular season
#5 Greatest comeback in NBL history
#4 LaMelo Ball posts back-to-back triple doubles
#3 John Roberson’s 21 points in last six minutes to win game
#2 LaMelo and RJ go at it

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.

Draft Central’s NBL Top 10 #3: Scotty Hopson

WHEN it comes to some of the most under-recognised players in the National Basketball League (NBL), Scotty Hopson’s name might spring to mind. This comes hot off the heels of two major snubs at this season’s NBL Awards night. Hopson who averaged 19.1 points per game (ninth overall), 5.8 rebounds (third amongst small forwards) and 4.7 assists (fifth overall), was denied an All-NBL First Team selection and failed to qualify for the top three in this season’s NBL MVP tally.

Despite missing out on seven games this season due to injury, Hopson still proved to be a constant contributor to New Zealand’s offence. From his first game of the season, Hopson made sure he would become an integral part of this season’s Breakers side, piling on 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists against the Kings in Round 1 to kick off the season, despite losing the contest. But this performance would set the tone for the import’s debut season in NZ. With the forward missing out on all of November with injury, Hopson’s return come December marked the start of the beginning of the Breakers’ resurgence in the second half of the season. Upon his return in Round 13 against the Brisbane Bullets, Hopson would again provide all-around contributions to the rest of his squad, with a quiet 14 points and six rebounds to help secure the 96-85 victory. However, it was not until a week later that the former-Oklahoma City G-League prospect had his coming out party, as he dominated at both ends with 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists against a struggling Phoenix outfit. During this collection of games, New Zealand conducted some of the best runs of form in the franchise’s history. With Hopson on the floor from Round 10 to the end of the season, the Breakers’ record would stand at 12 wins and just four losses, proving just how much of an effect the Kentucky-born baller had on the side. Finishing the season the way he started, Hopson’s 23 point, 10 rebound and five assist double-double capped off a very successful season for Dan Shamir’s side, and if the dominos had fallen a different way in regards to the mid-table teams, the Breakers could have faced off with the Sydney Kings in the semi-finals instead of Melbourne United.

While Breakers’ fans everywhere would love Hopson to make a return to the NBL 2020-21 season, the 30-year-old still has plans for the NBA, returning back to the NBA G-League’s Oklahoma City Blue continuing to play back in the States. In a conversation with News Hub NZ, the Breakers’ club MVP said that whether he is to return to the Breakers for the upcoming season is to be decided at the conclusion of the G-League campaign. “When that season [G-League] is over, I will evaluate all possible opportunities in the NBA, as well as the Breakers.” Hopson’s position as third in Draft Central’s top 10 is well-earned and if he is to return next season, the Breakers should settle for nothing less than a finals appearance in 2021.

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10: Seeds 5-4

AS we move higher up the list of Draft Central‘s National Basketball League (NBL) Top 10, we delve into the league’s top five. Here we look at two of the NBL’s most productive big-men and two of the biggest figures in the Queensland basketball scene, showcasing why both these players had seasons deserving of a First Team selection.

5. Cameron Oliver

Alongside Shawn Long, Cameron Oliver sits at the top of the NBL’s most athletic big men, known for his high-flying plays and a powerful style of basketball. Coming into the league for his first season, coach Mike Kelly was eager to bolster up his frontcourt presence, with Oliver seeming to fit the bill, working with the likes of Nathan Jawai and Kouat Noi. The 23-year-old also possessed a rather unique skill amongst bigs, which was the ability to shoot the ball from range. This ability to knock down the odd three-pointer would create havoc and confusion on the defensive end for opposition teams. From the outset, the Oakland native was able to make valuable contributions on the scoreboard, however he would only amass a single double-double in his first ten games. Following a 10 point and 10 rebound performance against the Illawarra Hawks in Round 8, Oliver started to grow into the efficient inside presence that he has presently. Further down the track in Round 11, the Taipans big-man secured a season-high 17 rebounds alongside 21 points against the eventual NBL Champion Perth Wildcats, thereby staking his claim as one of the league’s most imposing figures. Oliver’s second half of the season would be substantially better than his first, given that he averaged a double-double in his last 14 games on the court, putting up 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds each time out leading up to the finals. Oliver would kick his play into next gear, when the semi-finals came around against the Wildcats, opening up his Game 1 performance with a phenomenal 19 points and 18 rebounds (a new season high). Another switch was clicked, as Oliver produced at an unprecedented level following a 22 point and 19 rebound Game 2 demolition job of the Wildcats at home to tie up the series. While his play would not hold up through Game 3, Oliver capped off his NBL 2020 season with a top-tier level of play (averaging 17 points and 9.1 rebounds), earning himself an All-NBL Second Team selection and the fifth seed in Draft Central’s top 10.

4. Lamar Patterson

Continuously touted as the “workhorse” of the NBL, Lamar Patterson further validated this moniker throughout the NBL 2020 season, as he almost single-handedly carried his team to a postseason appearance, after leading his side in almost all major statistical categories. Throughout all 28 games of Patterson’s season, he consistently put up extraordinary numbers in helping his team. The second year forward, would score 20 points or more in his first five contests, quickly establishing himself as the team’s main producer. While Brisbane did not have any individuals that would consistently pull down 10 rebounds or more, Patterson would do his part on the glass. Next to teammates like Will Magnay and Matthew Hodgson, Patterson’s consistent demeanour on the basketball court, saw him grab four, five or six rebounds per game every time out. Despite the absence of large numbers on a consistent basis, Patterson would still collect a couple huge games, namely a 36-point, four rebound and six assist barrage against the New Zealand Breakers in Round 10, and two 35-point nights against Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats in Rounds 13 and 14. Following their 36-point rout of the Cairns Taipans to finish off their 2020 season, just missing out on a postseason birth via percentage, Patterson finished as the team’s season leader in points (21.4), assists (4.5) and steals (1.1), as well as second in rebounds (6.0). As a result of Patterson’s exemplary season, he collected 43 All-NBL First Team selection votes to claim his second nomination in a row and came in third for this season’s MVP Award with 73 votes. A fitting end for the Pennsylvanian and a suitable seed in Draft Central’s top 10.

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10: Seeds 10-6

FOLLOWING an incredible season in the National Basketball League (NBL), Draft Central has compiled a list of ten exemplary individuals that performed at an elite level consistently throughout the 20 rounds of NBL20. Here are the first half of our selections, with the final five still to come.

10. Will Magnay

It is rather rare for a player as young as 21-year-old Will Magnay to crack any top 10 in a professional league of any sport. Yet Magnay has turned countless heads this season, which in turn has drastically developed the young centre’s prospects. When one looks at Magnay’s season statistics, nothing pops out instantly when it comes to the youngster’s offensive numbers. But defensively, it’s an entirely different ballgame, as Brisbane’s big man would go on to rank amongst the league’s top 20 in rebounds (six rebounds per game) and lead the competition in shot blocking by more than half a block (2.15 per game). On only three occasions throughout the NBL 20 season, would the 208cm Magnay go an entire game without a swat, also he would amount three blocks or more in seven different contests in what was a dominant season for the five man. Lastly, he would also collect an almost unprecedented seven blocks against the Phoenix, in the side’s final push to the finals and break an NBL record for most blocks in a two-game span with 13. But, for Magnay he would also be recognised for his season efforts as he was awarded at this season’s NBL Awards as the League’s Most Improved Player. More importantly though, Magnay would rank second in the competition’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, trailing only Dj Newbill in the votes tally. An impactful and surprising season by the Bullet was enough to crack this season’s top 10.

9. Nick Kay

The NBL 2020 Champion Perth Wildcats had many cogs in the machine that helped secure their fourth title in five years and fifth in seven. But, for the last two seasons in particular, Kay, has been the backbone for Perth’s play at both ends of the court. While Kay does not impose any ridiculous athleticism compared to other frontcourt players, the man’s diligence and effectiveness for 40 straight minutes is almost unparalleled, as Kay would again shoot over 50 per cent from the field for his fifth consecutive season. In addition, the 206cm big would average an all-around 15-point, three-assist and seven and a half-rebound stat-line for 2020, showcasing his ability to produce in all facets of a game. The Boomer selectee would obtain seven double-doubles throughout the season, including three straight games in early-December securing over ten points and ten rebounds. Although Kay would perform at an elite level, this run of form would carry over into the playoffs, with the Wildcats starter averaging 19 points per game in their semi-final series against the Taipans, and 20.3 points in the grand final series against the Kings. All in all, the 27-year-old would put away another productive season under the guidance of Trevor Gleeson, earning himself a second All-NBL First Team selection (second straight year) and earning the ninth seed in Draft Central‘s top 10.

8. Jerome Randle

One of the NBL’s greatest scoring guards, Jerome Randle continued his legacy of producing points at an exemplary level. Finishing fifth amongst the league leaders in scoring and averaging 19.75 points per contest, Randle took the majority of the 36ers offensive attempts through 20 rounds and for good reason, as the fifth-year Chicagoan import was good for 45 per cent of his shots. With Randle being aided by the likes of Daniel Johnson and Eric Griffin, he would also facilitate 4.5 assists every outing. Randle’s hustle also ventured outside his usual roles as point guard averaging more than three rebounds a game, was up there with the season’s best rebounding point men.  Randle went 26 games with double-digit performances until the 27th game where he would manage only nine points against the Taipans, which was followed by seven against the Wildcats the next time out to end the season. While Randle would not be selected to either of the All-NBL Teams to encapsulate the season, he would crack 20 points in 15 different encounters which puts him in this season’s eighth slot. But with Adelaide turning over a new chapter with the resignation of Joey Wright, the 36ers new identity come 2021 may prove fruitful for Randle and his team.

7. Shawn Long

Perhaps the NBL’s most dominant force and most powerful individual across all nine sides, Shawn Long sampled why he is known as “Mr. Double-Double”. From the get-go, Long earned six double-doubles in his first seven match-ups, but results were not falling Melbourne United’s way early on. But following a 1-4 start, United strung together six straight victories to become a title contender towards the end of the year. With Long’s numbers coming in droves, the Louisiana-born centre accumulated 14 double-doubles to conclude the season, securing himself as the league’s leading rebounder with an average of 9.43. Despite United’s eventual series loss to the Kings in the semis, Long continued to average high numbers, averaging 22 points and 10.3 rebounds through the three games. With these kinds of performances at such a consistent rate for such a long period of time, it is hard to fathom the 27-year-old was not recognised more for his efforts this season. Nevertheless, he makes the cut for seventh on our list.

6. Jae’Sean Tate

To round out the first half of Draft Central’s Top 10, number six is credited to the Sydney Kings’ most consistent producer throughout the entire season, Jae’Sean Tate. In his debut season in the NBL, following a brief stint in Belgium, Tate made it known that he could run with the big boys, and standing at 193cm and weighing 104kg, he certainly looked the part. Maintaining a high level of production in any league is an arduous task for most seasoned veterans, but Tate took the responsibility head on, as he scored double digits in 27 of his 28 games. This proved beneficial to the Kings, when their marquee point guard Casper Ware could not find his shooting stroke. Tate’s 16.4 points per game was a benchmark that he would constantly find a way to match, as his side would go from Round 1 to 20 at the top of the standings, the first time in NBL history for a team to do so. Given his 66 per cent shooting from the field during the regular season, the small forward from Ohio was pulling out all the stops in his quest for some championship hardware, averaging 18.6 points in the playoffs alongside five and half rebounds to match it. With the Kings going down in the finals to the Wildcats, it was not all doom and gloom for Tate, as he would earn an All-NBL First Team selection in his first year of play down-under. A task that very few have been able to complete, thus earning him the sixth spot of the top 10.