"He should be in the NBL!" A perfectly sensible list of Aussies and Kiwis in Europe that could be lured home
There are plenty of talented Australians hiding away with little fanfare in overseas leagues that would be strong contributors at the NBL level. With the introduction of the marquee rule, bringing top tier locals back home is as viable as ever, and hopefully among this wide group of Aussies plying their trade in Europe or elsewhere, we can see some familiar names make an appearance on NBL rosters next season.
In the first part, we looked at some NBA and G League names that could possibly make a return to the NBL. A lot of these players have left our shores for more lucrative professional opportunities, but given the league’s increasing reputation, some of our best talents outside the NBA could be lured back home if financially prioritized.
Brock Motum would be a massive piece for an NBL team to snag come next NBL season. Motum left the NBL in 2015, lured away by some of the best European clubs in the world, having played with Zalgiris, Anadolu Efes, and now Valencia Basket. However, this Euroleague season Motum has struggled for minutes this season, sitting on the outside of Valencia’s rotation in recent times.
It may be a great time for the former Boomer to make his way back to the NBL, where he has proven to be a big time contributor in years past. In his season with the Adelaide 36ers in 2014/15, Motum averaged 18.6 points and 7.2 rebounds on 52.6% field goal percentage and 49.2 from three-point range. If Motum can replicate this form if he comes back to the NBL, he can be a star in the league next season.
With NBA experience via the Charlotte Hornets, and an incredibly encouraging couple of seasons over in Europe, Mangok Mathiang is one of Australia’s best front court exports. After averaging 10.9 points and 9.7 rebounds in 25.7 minutes for Vanoli Cremona last season, he’s now producing 12.6 points and 10 rebounds a contest for Bahçeşehir Koleji in the Turkish League. The 6’10 center has NBA level size and athleticism, and could enter the conversation as one of the NBL’s best five men should he sign in the league next season.
After two impressive seasons with LSU in the NCAA, Reath, now 23, is contributing as a starter for Serbian team FMP, where he’s averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 19.7 minutes a game. At 62.9% from the field, and 40% from three, Reath is a versatile offensive threat, and has the size and length to be an impactful two way player. For perspective, in Jonah Bolden’s season with FMP in 2017, at age 21, Bolden averaged similar productivity with 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds a contest.
Reath has gone without too much notice the last few years, but in testament to his ability, Reath gained a spot on the Brooklyn Nets Summer League team this year, following up a 2018 Summer League stint alongside fellow Australian Mitch Creek with the Dallas Mavericks.
Unlikely: Jock Landale
Jock Landale would be a coup for an NBL team to land, but with the young big on the up, having signed previously with Partizan and now Zalgiris, it may be an unrealistic task to try and pry him away from lucrative high level European offers as he continues to attempt to knock on the NBA’s door. It’s unlikely we see the young big in the NBL for many years to come.
There are several other local starting level bigs available from outside the current NBL crop. Angus Brandt and Cameron Bairstow are two proven veterans with recent NBL experience that could be reacquired as lucrative front court signings.
The NBL’s local center prospects are currently slim sans Andrew Bogut, but as a nation, we have plenty of talent as the position. Teams would be wise to try and pursue these players with a marquee spot.
New Zealand also have a bunch of nationals that should be considered as NBL pickups next season.
Tai Webster, brother of Tall Black Corey Webster, recently expressed on Twitter his desire to return to home, and with current starter RJ Hampton all but certain to join the NBA ranks next year, Webster would be a suitable replacement for the Breakers who will be in need of a new starting point guard.
Webster hasn’t graced the NBL since his time as a development player from 2012-2014, but his play with Galatasaray in Eurocup, as well as for the Tall Blacks in this years FIBA World Cup, has proven his worth as a contributor. Webster was the third highest scorer for the Tall Blacks, scoring 13.4 points a contest. He’s a young player who still has to iron out turnover issues and improve his outside shooting, but he would still come in as one of the NBL’s more dynamic and athletic local point guard threats.
Fellow Tall Black Isaac Fotu could be a bona fide star in the NBL. Fotu showed his class in the World Cup, averaging 18.4 points per game for the Tall Blacks, and has been plying his trade on teams in Lega Serie A, Eurocup and Liga ACB since leaving college.
Fotu is a definite starting caliber piece in the NBL. Also formerly a development player for the club, the Breakers offered the forward a reported $300,000 deal in 2013,but he ultimately decided to stay another year in Hawaii, and subsequently took his career overseas. While he has evaded the ever interested Breakers to this point, new Breakers owner Matt Walsh has not been afraid to skimp financially on high level players thus far. If Fotu is available, it’d be wise for the Breakers to put out the feelers once again, and if not, every other NBL team should be on his tail.
Younger front court options
There is a small handful of cheaper, more realistic local options that would be excellent rotation pieces and welcome, exciting additions to NBL rosters.
19 year old New Zealander Maxwell Darling is an exciting young talent and likely future Tall Black. At 6’6, Darling is undersized for a power forward, but plays much bigger than his size with NBA length (Darling possesses a 7’1 wingspan) and athleticism. Darling was the best player on the Tall Blacks u19 squad earlier this year, and would be a project with great potential that NBL teams should be trying to get their hands on. In 2018, Darling decided to forego college, signing with Croatian team Vrijednosnice Osijek, with whom he’s averaging 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game.
In July, Bronek Wawrzynczuk or Europrospects described himself as “really optimistic about Max Darling’s projection for high level of Euro ball or NBL within few seasons”. He has a strong, pro ready body, high level athleticism, and an ever increasing offensive skillset. While it may be deemed risky for young, unproven talent to be penciled in to expected roles at the NBL level, Darling is the caliber of prospect that should be ready to contribute now, and has plenty of potential to grow in to a high level player in the league.
Also from New Zealand, Jack Salt may pique interest as a bruising big man. Salt is limited offensively (scoring only 3.3 points a game over his 4 seasons with Virginia) but made a living at the college level with his hard screens and strong defense.
Salt is less of an upside signing, but the 23 year old provides a clear, hard nosed skillset that translates to every level, reflected in his signing with the Phoenix Suns’ Summer League team earlier this year.
The Breakers, of which he was formerly a development player, tried to acquire his services for this NBL season, but ultimately he signed with Trefl Sopot in Poland.
Son of former NBL player Tiny Pinder, Keanu Pinder finished two years with the Arizona Wildcats, and has since explored playing with Legia Warszawa of the PLK, where he has functioned as an effective energy big off the bench.
While Pinder’s offensive skill-set is limited, his calling card is on the defensive end, where he uses his athletic 6’8 frame to great effect. Through his two college seasons, Pinder averaged 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals per 40.
Pinder would come cheap, and could provide a handy defensive presence off the bench for an NBL team.
Chima Moneke was primed to help the South East Melbourne Phoenix this season, but with local player eligibility issues proving to be a snag, he was unfortunately released and has continued to pursue offers overseas – currently playing for Quimper of France’s Pro-B League.
Per Eurobasket, Moneke currently leads his team in both scoring (14.8 points) and rebounding (6.9), as well as contributing 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks a game. A notable revelation has also been his three-point shooting. After attempting only 24 three’s over his college career, Moneke is shooting 46.2% from three this season on over 2 attempts per game.
The 6’6 forward is undersized but super athletic, and enjoyed a highly productive 2 seasons at UC-Davis which led to some NBA draft workout interest. At 24, Moneke has plenty of potential, and if he can be acquired as a local, Moneke should be on multiple teams shortlists.