Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santamaria
The calendar has officially flipped into August which means the NBL20 pre-season is now just around the corner.
The schedule is out, an exciting new broadcast deal is in place and opening night is now just two months away. And with the standard of the competition set to crank up yet another level, many clubs have already made a start to their on-court preparations.
All that makes now the perfect time to take stock of where each team’s roster stands and shine a spotlight on the positions that are still to be filled.
Five teams have completed their 11-man rosters; Adelaide, Brisbane, Illawarra, South East Melbourne and Perth
Melbourne and Sydney each have one player to add while the league’s two other clubs – Cairns and New Zealand – are both still a couple of moves away from completing their line-ups, despite each making some recent announcements.
That, of course, excludes Next Stars and development players (DPs). We’ll have to wait to see if any more Next Stars are added to the mix while most clubs will use pre-season workouts and warm-up games to evaluate their DP prospects.
Of the four teams with incomplete rosters, the Breakers are perhaps the most intriguing as they’re set to add a couple of starting imports to bolster their squad.
Melbourne and Sydney each need another forward while the Taipans have a bunch of spots to fill. There’s actually plenty going on in Cairns at the moment. The club announced this morning that free agent recruit Tom Jervis has decided to hang up his kicks and there are a few more announcements to come out of FNQ in the coming days.
In alphabetical order, here’s where each team’s roster currently stands, their projected depth charts and ‘the word’ on each squad.
Before we start though, a quick comment on the depth charts included below. Truth be told, in the modern era charts like these (that feature the sport’s traditional five positions) are becoming increasingly archaic. Most coaches these days think of their squads in terms of ball-handlers, wings and bigs and are high on players who can defend multiple positions.
Brisbane, for example, have signed three imports who are all essentially small forwards and have a squad full of versatile players who will switch across most positions at the defensive end.
GM Richard Clarke spoke about this in a media release during the week, saying that the style the Bullets want to play “is less about traditional positions and more about having good players whose skill-sets complement each other.”
Despite all that, I’ve constructed each team’s depth chart here the old fashioned way in order to give you a simple, clear picture of what each team has. Just keep in mind that very few players are single-position guys these day. Most are able to slide up or down the line-up as required.
OK, let’s have a look at the rosters.
* denotes restricted player (import)
** denotes Next Stars player
Head Coach: Joey Wright
Assistant Coach: Kevin Brooks
Returning: Daniel Johnson, Jack McVeigh, Anthony Drmic, Harry Froling, Ramone Moore*, Brendan Teys
New: Eric Griffin*, Deshon Taylor*, Daniel Dillon, Kevin White, Obi Kyei, Alex Mudronja (DP)
Need: The 36ers have room to add a Next Star and, potentially, another couple of DPs. That being said, I think this will be their squad.
PG: Taylor* | Dillon | Mudronja
SG: Moore* | White | Teys
SF: Drmic | McVeigh
PF: Griffin* | Kyei
C: Johnson | Froling
The Word: A lot of this team’s success will depend on how effective Taylor proves to be. They’ll also need to get some growth from within, particularly from Drmic, Froling and McVeigh. I’m actually pretty high on McVeigh this season. He’s put on a bunch of muscle over the winter and, given he’s also set for an uptick in minutes, I’m tipping he’ll be a Most Improved Player nomination when all is said and done.
Head Coach: Andrej Lemanis
Assistant Coaches: CJ Bruton, Sam Mackinnon
Returning: Cameron Gliddon, Jason Cadee, Mika Vukona, Reuben Te Rangi, Will Magnay, Tyrell Harrison, Matt Hodgson, Lamar Patterson*, Callum Dalton (DP)
New: Nathan Sobey, Taylor Braun*, EJ Singler*
Need: For Te Rangi and Vukona to fully recover from their current knee injuries.
PG: Sobey | Cadee
SG: Gliddon | Singler*
SF: Patterson* | Te Rangi
PF: Braun* | Vukona | Dalton
C: Hodgson | Magnay | Harrison
The Word: Patterson’s re-signing was a bit of a surprise after the Bullets had earlier stated that he wouldn’t be returning. Thank goodness he is though, as he is a baller and such a good fit with this squad, on and off the floor.
— NBL (@NBL) July 31, 2019
That being said, the concern for the Bullets this season is their lack of big bodies ready to play regular minutes at the four and the five. Hodgson looks set for a big year and Magnay is on the rise but Vukona is now 37 and Harrison isn’t quite ready to hold it down. Braun, Patterson and Te Rangi will all play minutes at the four but how those guys go against the likes of Tai Wesley and Nick Kay will be interesting to see.
Teams who typically hoist the trophy in this league have a legit set of big bodies who can hold it down on the glass during the bump and grind of the playoffs. The game is changing, yes, but size and physicality are usually hallmarks of NBL title-winning teams. That was the case last season and the season before that and the season before that and…
Head Coach: Mike Kelly
Assistant Coaches: Jamie O’Loughlin, Brad Hill
Returning: Jarrod Kenny, Fabijan Krslovic
New: Majok Deng, Cameron Oliver*, Kouat Noi, Mirko Djeric
Need: Import starters in the backcourt, a signature from Nate Jawai, a replacement for Jervis and a back-up wing.
PG: | Kenny
SG: | Djeric
SF: Noi |
PF: Oliver* | Deng | Krslovic
The Word: OK… there’s a lot to work through here. As was reported last week, the Snakes have agreed to terms with import point guard Scott Machado so that should be announced soon. DJ Newbill remains the priority at shooting guard and Jawai remains the priority at centre. The departure of Jervis leaves a bit of a hole at the back-up five spot but keep in mind that Oliver will play minutes at both PF and C.
Head Coach: Matt Flinn
Assistant Coaches: Eric Cooks, Ben Bagoly
Returning: Todd Blanchfield, Emmett Naar, Daniel Grida, Tim Coenraad, Angus Glover, AJ Ogilvy, David Andersen
New: Aaron Brooks*, Josh Boone*, LaMelo Ball**, Sam Froling, Sunday Dech
Need: A game-plan for when Lavar comes to town (and a DP or two).
PG: Naar | Ball**
SG: Brooks* | Dech | Glover
SF: Blanchfield | Grida
PF: Coenraad | Andersen | Froling
C: Boone* | Ogilvy
The Word: Flinn will use Brooks in a similar role to what Cotton plays in Perth, where he’ll primarily play the two but will slide to the one at times. The position battle at point guard between Naar and Ball will be fascinating to watch. If LaMelo buys in defensively he’ll get the start but that’s a pretty big ‘if’.
Unlike last year, Grida and Blanchfield will regularly play minutes beside each other this season and, as talented as Sam Froling is, I’m expecting either Coenraad or Andersen to start at the four. Coenraad, who will enter NBL20 full of confidence after burning up this year’s 3×3 scene, will also play minutes at small forward.
This is a fun roster but Flinn, a first-year head coach, will have his hands full juggling these rotations.
Head Coach: Dean Vickerman
Assistant Coaches: Paul Henare, Justin Schueller
Returning: Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron, David Barlow, Alex Pledger, Tohi Smith-Milner, Sam McDaniel, Sam Short (DP)
New: Melo Trimble*, Shawn Long*, Casey Prather*, Shea Ili
Need: Another forward and maybe a Next Star.
PG: Trimble* | Ili | Short
SG: McCarron | Goulding
SF: Prather* | McDaniel
PF: Barlow | Smith-Milner
C: Long* | Pledger
The Word: Melbourne have one more roster spot to fill and you’d have to think they’d be looking to add another body to their frontline. Veteran power forward Lucas Walker, who played last year with Cairns but is now a free agent, has been scrimmaging with United and could potentially be an option in that spot.
It’s going to be fascinating to watch how Vickerman manages the minutes at shooting guard this season, especially considering Goulding is in a contract year, but I suspect McCarron will start initially.
Lastly, I’m hearing that United are set to add another smart basketball mind to their already impressive coaching staff.
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Head Coach/Director of Basketball: Dan Shamir
Assistant Coaches: Mike Fitchett, Zico Coronel
Returning: Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie, Jarrad Weeks, Finn Delany, Jordan Ngatai, Thomas Vodanovich
New: RJ Hampton**, Scotty Hopson*, Rob Loe, Terry Li (DP)
Need: Import starters at guard and centre as well as another back-up big.
PG: Hampton** | Weeks | Li
SG: | Webster
SF: Hopson* | Abercrombie | Ngatai
PF: Delany | Vodanovich
C: | Loe
The Word: Following the signings of Hopson and Vodanovich, the Breakers now have three roster spots left to fill. I’m told that they’ve agreed to terms with players for each of those spots, with an import combo guard and an import centre part of that mix. The final addition will add depth to their frontcourt.
In other news, Breakers owner Matt Walsh thinks I’m sleeping on his squad. We’ll see.
Head Coach: Trevor Gleeson
Assistant Coaches: Paul Woolpert, Jacob Chance, Luke Brennan
Returning: Bryce Cotton*, Nick Kay, Mitch Norton, Clint Steindl, Damian Martin, Jesse Wagstaff, Terrico White*, Rhys Vague, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk
New: Dario Hunt*, Majok Majok, Luke Travers (DP)
Need: Nothing, nada, zilch. The ‘Cats are good to go.
PG: Martin | Norton
SG: Cotton* | Steindl
SF: White* | Swaka Lo Buluk | Travers
PF: Kay | Wagstaff | Vague
C: Hunt* | Majok
The Word: I could see Norton starting over Martin this year, Steindl and Swaka Lo Buluk are probably interchangeable at the two and the three while Vague will play back-up minutes at both the four and the five.
At 6’9, Hunt is slightly undersized as a starting centre in this league but he possesses a seven-foot wingspan and is a very good athlete. He’s not likely to be an impact guy at the offensive end – and he’s a very shaky free throw shooter – but he looks to be a mobile defender and uses his length well to protect the rim.
SUPER DARIO! ?️
— Perth Wildcats (@PerthWildcats) August 2, 2019
Hunt was a French league All-Star two years ago and the leading rebounder in Italy two years before that. He bears some similarities to former Perth import Derek Cooke Jr in terms of his mobility and athleticism but has a much more advanced skill-set and a much higher basketball IQ. If he can hold it down against the likes of Bogut and Long, the ‘Cats will have what it takes to defend their title.
SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Head Coach: Simon Mitchell
New: Mitch Creek, Ben Madgen, Tai Wesley*, John Roberson*, Keith Benson*, Kyle Adnam, Adam Gibson, Dan Trist, Kendall Stephens, Terry Armstrong**, Dane Pineau, Deng Acouth
Need: A DP or two… and a strong membership drive heading into the season.
PG: Roberson* | Adnam
SG: Madgen | Gibson
SF: Creek | Stephens | Armstrong**
PF: Wesley* | Pineau
C: Benson* | Trist | Acouth
The Word: The addition of Benson completed South East Melbourne’s inaugural roster and, as I tweeted during the week, I really like their combination of balance and versatility. At all five spots they’ve got at least three guys who can genuinely play minutes without feeling ‘out of position’.
With Creek committed and Benson locked in, the final move for the Phoenix will be to sign a DP or two. A number of talented youngsters have been working out with them over recent times, including NBL1 standouts Lachlan Barker (Frankston), Geremy McKay (Eltham), William Hickey (Melbourne) and Ben Ursich (Kilsyth). Hickey is particularly intriguing, as he possesses considerable upside and was a standout at last month’s Next Gen Camp.
Head Coach: Will Weaver
Assistant Coaches: Adam Forde, Aleks Maric, James Duncan
Returning: Andrew Bogut, Daniel Kickert, Kevin Lisch, Brad Newley
New: Casper Ware*, Craig Moller, Jae’Sean Tate*, Didi Louzada**, Shaun Bruce, Kuany Kuany, Jordan Hunter
Need: Another back-up forward, preferably one who can get on the glass.
PG: Ware* | Bruce
SG: Lisch | | Kuany
SF: Louzada** | Newley
PF: Tate* | Moller
C: Bogut | Kickert | Hunter
The Word: I’ve spoken to a bunch of people about Tate and everyone I’ve touched base with loves him, with the words most commonly used to describe him being ‘animal’, ‘beast’ and ‘freak’. One international scout described him as “a mini-Zion with his frame” and said “he’s too powerful for small forwards and too elusive for power forwards.” I can’t wait to watch this guy take on the NBL.
As for their final roster spot, the Kings have a number of names on their list. One of those guys is… wait for it… recently-retired Wildcats legend Greg Hire. While Hire’s chats with Melbourne United have decreased, I’m told the Kings have held legitimate talks with the four-time champ about the possibility of him coming out of retirement to join their squad. Hire would be a great locker room presence for a championship contender, there’s no doubt about that, and negotiations, I’m told, are ongoing.