Tasmanian Targets: possible local players for the inaugural NBL team
Wait, where did all the basketball go?
With the sporting world quickly crumbling, fans have been left with nothing but old highlights and re-runs to keep them going. Even better than looking back, though, is looking forward to what’s still to come. Despite the strange end to the season, the latest edition of the NBL was one of the best ever and has left plenty of room for optimism moving forward.
That’s best evidenced by the impending arrival of the league’s tenth team. With Tasmania entering the competition in the 2021-22 season, now is the perfect time to start picturing what their inaugural team might look like. Some local targets are obvious, while others take a little more mental gymnastics. One thing is for sure, the newest club will be looking to make a splash with some big names right off the bat.
This almost makes too much sense. A Tasmanian native who grew up in Launceston until the age of eight, Chris Goulding would be the perfect marquee signing for Tasmania’s NBL team. He’s the state’s most decorated basketball player, with two NBL championships, a Grand Final MVP, a Commonwealth Games gold medal and appearances at the Olympics and World Championships already to his name.
Despite a reputation as one of the NBL’s best shooters, the last few seasons have been a little rockier. Goulding is the league’s third-highest scorer since his debut in 2006, per Spatial Jam, but his role for Melbourne United has fluctuated as they have added and axed numerous imports in the last two years. After battling with injury early in the 2018-19 season, he spent time coming off the bench and averaged just 14.4 points per game, his lowest mark since 2011-12. The numbers suggested a bounce-back campaign this year, but his 17.7 points per contest came as United struggled to balance the offence between himself, Shawn Long and Melo Trimble.
That opens the door for a return to his home state. United have invested heavily in their two imports, and Goulding may want to find a more prominent role elsewhere. He’ll also be turning 33 early in Tasmania’s debut year, and if he can play at a high level next season there may be one final big payday available for him. South East Melbourne have provided the blueprint with Mitch Creek as their iconic local signing, and Goulding could be a similar figure in the Apple Isle.
This is a less flashy name, but Tanner Krebs would be an astute and realistic signing. Another Tasmanian local, he’s the son of former Hobart Tassie Devils NBL player Dan Krebs, who starred during his lone season in the league.
Now an excellent player in his own right, the younger Krebs has wrapped up a college career where he played a crucial role for the Saint Mary’s Gaels. While he missed the chance for a fairytale farewell with the NCAA tournament cancelled, he was a key contributor on a team that won 26 games and looked to be peaking at the right time of the year. Krebs missed just one game, averaging 9.1 points while shooting 39.1% from deep. He developed into something of a marksmen across his college career, shooting over 39% from three in each of his last three seasons, per Sports Reference.
Looking ahead, his style of play projects well for the NBL. A six-foot-six guard, he has the length and athleticism to be a versatile defender even at the next level. The NBL is ruled by smaller guards such as John Roberson and Bryce Cotton, giving a taller player like Krebs serious mismatch potential on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he would fill a similar role in the NBL as at Saint Mary’s; move the ball and shoot it with confidence. In the modern game there will always be a place for knockdown shooters, and it’s a good sign that Krebs shot a high percentage while taking more three’s than two’s every season in college.
With such an abrupt end to his senior year, it’s unclear what will be next for Krebs. If he signs a one-year deal for next season, though, it may be with an eye towards Tasmania’s introduction in 2021-22.
We’re going outside the Tasmanian bubble here and making some calculated predictions about next season. If it goes anything like the 2019-20 season, Cam Gliddon may need a change of scenery sooner rather than later. After six straight years with a double-digit scoring average he was shunted down the pecking order in Brisbane, playing a little over 20 minutes per game and putting up just 7.1 points per contest, per Spatial Jam.
It’s hard to know what Brisbane might do with their roster next season, but their perimeter-heavy rotation made it hard for Gliddon to earn consistent minutes. He, Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are still under contract for next year; as of right now, Gliddon would be behind both in the race for court time. He’ll also be a free agent ahead of the 2021-22 season, and another year without a defined role might force him to look for a fresh start.
At his best Gliddon is a dynamic threat on the perimeter, and his NBL and national team experience would make him a valuable locker room presence. A lot hinges on how next season unfolds in Brisbane, but it seems reasonably likely that he’ll be on the market when Tasmania enters the fold.
It’s almost impossible to know what might be next for Harry Froling. Between the shocking fallout from Adelaide’s season and his NBA aspirations, there are a lot of moving parts when assessing his options. He’s currently a free agent, though, and a short-term deal seems likely as he continues to chase an NBA chance.
If that opportunity doesn’t come immediately, the new Tasmanian team could be a good stepping stone. It may also be a needed fresh start for him, given his issues with former coach Joey Wright came on the back of an underwhelming individual season. Froling showed his potential with a handful of strong performances, but his numbers regressed across the board from his Rookie of the Year campaign. If an NBA contract is realistic, Froling will need to show that he is a starting-calibre big man in the NBL. A brand new team may be his best chance to do so.
He already has connections to the island state too, with a brief stint playing for the Southern Huskies in the NZNBL. There were also reports that he was close to signing with the Hobart Chargers in the NBL1 this year. There’s clearly interest from Froling in playing in the island state, and it’s fair to assume that that interest would be mutual.
If Adelaide do look to hit the reset button, maybe Tasmania should aim a little higher. Daniel Johnson will be out of contract ahead of their debut season, and he will also be 33 years old. With a new coach incoming and a current roster that failed to make the finals, could a mass exodus be on the cards?
That’s probably a little dramatic, but it’s as good a reason as any to speculate with no hard evidence. While his age may be a concern, Johnson has a game that should age gracefully given his combination of size, skill and shooting. In fact, the numbers suggest that he’s continuing to improve, upping his scoring average for the last three seasons and putting up 18.1 points per game this season. That was largely thanks to a stellar shooting year, with his 44% mark from three a huge career high and among the league’s elite.
Big men are seeing their impact lessen in the NBA, but they’re still crucial to success in the NBL. A proven performer like Johnson in the middle would be a great starting point for the league’s newest team.
With more than a year until the team’s debut, now is the time to dream big. It may seem a little unlikely, but a return to Australia and the NBL feels somewhat inevitable for Matthew Dellavedova. Whether that happens soon enough for Tasmania’s first season is a lot less certain, but it’s far from impossible.
Since winning a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dellavedova has struggled to make an impact in the NBA. With just one season in that span shooting over 40% from the field, he’s hit a new low this season with a 35.4% clip from the field and a 23.1% mark from deep, per Basketball Reference. Realistically, there are only two things keeping him on Cleveland’s roster; his value as a positive locker room presence, and the team’s willingness to tank for a high draft pick.
There have been glimpses, though, of the playmaking and defence that made Dellavedova a household name. Combine those with his continued strong play for the Boomers, and it’s safe to say that he would be a star in the NBL. As far as marquee Australian signings, it would be hard to find a more perfect target for the Tasmanian team.
A few more worth considering…
It’s hard to know how many years he has left, but based on last season Adam Gibson still has plenty left in the tank. The 33-year-old missed the start of the season with a calf injury, but he bounced back to play a key role for the Phoenix off the bench. 2021-22 could be close to his last hurrah, and the Launceston native would be a perfect mentor for his home state’s team.
He may not be a born-and-bred Tasmanian, but Craig Moller must be close to becoming a naturalised citizen. After leading the Hobart Chargers to the 2018 SEABL championship, he returned to the state for the lone NZNBL season of the Southern Huskies. At the NBL level, he developed into a solid contributor for the table-topping Sydney Kings and would be a valuable piece in the rotation for any team.
Could Hugh Greenwood make another shock code switch? The former Boomers squad member signed a three-year contract with the Perth Wildcats in 2015, but retired from basketball just months later to pursue a career in the AFL. That’s been a resounding success, as he played 51 games for the Adelaide Crows before requesting a trade to the Gold Coast ahead of this season. While his current contract runs for four years, he has shown a willingness to throw caution to the wind on that front before. At the very least, Greenwood will be a target once that contract ends, as he has often spoken of his desire to play basketball in and for his home state of Tasmania.