Lemanis: Brisbane Bullets eyeing star point guard

Brisbane Bullets coach, Andrej Lemanis, has made it clear his team is searching for an elite point guard to shore the backcourt up next season.

The Bullets finished bottom of the ladder in 2016/17, with injuries and import issues creating constant roster turnover. At the point guard position alone, Brisbane was a revolving door, with the likes of Adam Gibson, Jeremy Kendle, Isaih Tueta, Jermaine Beal, Shaun Bruce and Matt Kenyon all having stints at the one spot.

While Gibson, Bruce and Kenyon are under contract for next season, Lemanis has made it clear he is searching to sign an impact point guard for 2017/18 and beyond.

“I don’t think there’s any secret that we are after a point guard that can really help us,” Lemanis said at the NBL Combine.

“We’ve kept most of our Australians; I think we’ll be better off for having gone through a season together and building some continuity and some understanding, even just understanding offensive and defensive frameworks. Last year, we started from nothing.

“We will add a couple of pieces to the puzzle, but certainly, a point guard who can come in and be a significant contributor to us is important.”

Another key piece Lemanis will be happy to welcome back next season is forward Cameron Bairstow, who tore his ACL in late December. Although the recovery is going smoothly, the former Chicago Bull is still on a lengthy timeline.

“His recovery is on track, but on track means coming back by the end of the year,” Lemanis said of Bairstow.

“It’s all positive but it’s going to take the time it is going to take.”

Thanks to the shortened NBL campaign, it allows players to play overseas and gain more exposure and experience. This also assists coaches and recruiting staffs, as it affords them extra time to create a shortlist of free agent targets.

The implementation of the NBL Combine is yet another avenue teams can use to identify talent, however, Lemanis believes it is vital to establish the level of competition when grading individuals.

“It’s interesting trying to get a feel for the different levels and where they all sit,” Lemanis said.

“Even when you come out to events like [the Combine], what’s the level? If someone is doing well in here, how does that translate to the NBL? I guess ultimately, that comes down to the coaching staff and scouts, trying to make those assessments.

“It’s also a little bit of what you are after as well. Are you after someone to come in and be your starting point guard and get you 30? Or are you after someone who can come in and play a role?

“So within a team scenario, there are lots of different positions you are trying to fill and lots of different locations can provide the different talent you’re looking for.”

Even though the majority of players participating in the combine are developmental commodities, Lemanis says the onus is on NBL teams to provide young Australian talent the opportunity to flourish.

If this doesn’t occur, the Australian men’s national coach fears the country will lose more players overseas.

“As an NBL coaching group, we need to be prepared to give opportunities, otherwise they all go to the United States and to college,” Lemanis said.

“From a national team perspective, that isn’t always the best development path for them. As the NBL continues to give them development pathways here and chances to play, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they can deliver and continue to raise the standard of the league. This is a legitimate pathway now for these kids to make it to the NBL.

“The NBL have done a great job at reenergising this pathway. There have been lots of unfortunate cases of kids going to college and having poor experiences, and that’s becoming more known.

“The kids who stay in the NBL tend to have good experiences and have great development.”