What if the NBL allowed trades during the season?

Prior to the launch of the 2016/17 NBL season, the league announced a number of broad reforms to its player contract and salary cap rules. Highlights of the rule changes included the removal of the player points system, up to 3 import players per roster, a marquee player system, increase to the salary cap and implementation of the 'soft cap', allowing clubs to go over the cap but pay a tax to do so, amongst other things.

With the unholy evenness of the competition at the conclusion of Round 11, it would be difficult to argue the rule amendments haven't had a great effect in equalising the competition. Put two and two together and it's clear, the changes have definitely worked for the better.

The 'soft cap' tax regime

Would the following rule change undo all the good work or possibly take it to the next level?

As we all know, unlike the NBA, the NBL does not allow franchises to trade players (up to a mid-season trading deadline). But, what if they could?

There always seems to be a 'little brother mentality' when it comes to Australian sporting leagues. The arguments against being allowed to trade players mid-season, invariably come down to two things - the uprooting of families and costs involved. It almost seems like, we dip the toe in but don't quite go all the way. There might be what's called free agency but it's not really a free agency.

In my view, if you want to be a premier professional league, the mentality needs to change. It's a mentality holding us back.

Another possible reason may be the shortness of a season. The number of games played. I don't buy that. Short-term injury replacement players can play anywhere from one game to several. Trading during the season, say, up to Rd 13, is no different.

'Big League Basketball'

Using the NBA as an example, as a league it has been trading players since its inception in 1946, when it was still known as the BAA. When it first began, the BAA was an 11-team league that played 60 games across two countries and even included a Toronto team - The Huskies!

They still traded their players, and so soon after WWII too, uprooting families whilst costing money.

Why don't professional leagues in Australia allow trading of players mid-season?

The Australian Football League (AFL) - Australia's lone sporting colossus and undoubted largest money machine - is home to an NBA-like figure of 450+ players, and yet, only introduced "free agency" (or their watered down facsimile of free agency) at the end of the 2012 season. Now, 120 years into its existence, the AFL still does not allow trading of players during the season. Why is that?

The NBL could quite possibly change the Australian sporting landscape by being the first league to allow trades during the season. Is that being heartless and cut-throat or finally allowing it to become a truly professional business?

The NBL wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel here either, everything needed has already been tested and written into the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The rules about trading could be adapted, amended or tweaked as needed to suit our smaller, still flourishing league.

Finally, allowing trades should be the final brick knocked off the wall when it comes to player salaries being public knowledge (how are we supposed to salary match and prognosticate about who can be traded for who?). The NBL is a professional league after all, every league I can think of internationally has the player salary available at the click of a button. Except Australia. Once again, we dip our toe in the 'professional pool' but not all the way in.

"But, if the players salaries were made public, they might be open to ridicule".Reason Given

I don't understand why this is an issue in Australia? Are we embarrassed the amounts aren't as high across the board as other leagues? What are we afraid of exactly?

Something to think about.

Ok, in light of the expanding, changing NBL world and to get the ball rolling here with a bit fun, here are just two hypothetical trades. Without knowing for sure, I'm assuming the players involved are on similar salaries to make this work. By my estimations they shouldn't be that far apart.

If working the phones as General Manager of the Brisbane Bullets, would you have considered making these trades earlier in the season?

Trade Scenario 1

Jaron Johnson, through no fault of his own, has had a rough start to his NBL career. As intimated by The Pick and Roll's Luke Sicari, Jaron has the talent and athleticism to be a key cog on a contender.

Perhaps an early change of scenery and an injection of confidence might have been just the tonic for Jaron.

The Perth Wildcats who have desperately needed solid guard play and shooting (everywhere from 3-27 ft, to be honest) all year, backed themselves into a little bit of a corner with the 'rest of season' backing of Jaron. Being able to make a trade might have been a saving grace for Perth.

While Jaron has been the best Wildcat from outside statistically, shooting 39% on almost five attempts per game (RealGM), he hasn't shown the consistent ability to breakdown a defence and be a distributor that can get teammates easy buckets or open looks. Whilst Jaron has averaged a solid 12.5 PPG and 4.7 RPG, he has never looked completely comfortable in Perth's stagnant offense.

What if the league rules were different and a blockbuster trade to right an off-season wrong could have been made, in Round 4 or 8 or 11?

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Who's Involved?

Jaron Johnson G/F (Perth Wildcats) to the Brisbane Bullets in exchange for Jermaine Beal G.

Some Stats

JJ - 12.5 PPG - 4.6 RPG - 1.9 APG - 42% FG - 38% 3PT - 16.3 PER in 13 games

JB - 12.9 PPG - 2.5 RPG - 2.1 APG - 40% FG - 34% 3PT - 11.6 PER in 17 games

If you ask the people of Perth, former Finals MVP and All-NBL First Teamer, Jermaine Beal, should still be a Wildcat. His productivity with the Bullets has been noticeably down, almost at career-low levels across the board (according to RealGM). It's time to go home, 'Dolla'.

Some Pro's and Con's

For Perth: You right a wrong and bring back into the fold exactly what you have been missing. Dolla Beal is a composed winner that can shoot the rock in the clutch and will break down a defense, either one on one or through pick action. He won two championships with basically the same Perth team, it's like a family reunion.

Jaron has won Perth a few games with timely buckets, and led comebacks in many others. He is second in scoring for Perth, a mantle Beal would easily cover, but the worry is Perth possibly giving up on JJ too early?

For Brisbane: They get a young, athletic swingman injection to partner with MVP candidate Torrey Craig. The feisty Adam Gibson assumes the mantle as undoubted number one guard, while the plucky Shaun Bruce (who has played over 100 games now) is given more minutes to show what he is made of in the true back-up role. Jaron is set free from Perth's plodding, slow-paced offense and is finally let loose in a better run system more suited to his still hidden talents.


No brainer for Perth. With two championships in three years, Jermaine's fit in the Wildcats jungle is unquestioned. For Jaron, his style lends itself to Brisbane and Lemanis' more open offensive system. Playing alongside Craig, Gibson and Jervis, in his more natural role, would allow JJ to flourish.

Best Starting-5 Unit before trade

Perth: D Martin, C Prather, J Johnson, M Knight, J McKay.

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Beal, T Craig, C Bairstow, T Jervis.

Best Starting-5 Unit after trade

Perth: D Martin, J Beal, C Prather, M Knight, J McKay.

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Johnson, T Craig, C Bairstow, T Jervis.

A win-win that evens out the starting five for both franchises (especially when coupled with Trade Scenario 2).

Trade Scenario 2

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Both David Andersen and Cam Bairstow are currently injured. Neither team would do this trade now, but what about earlier in the year, when both players were struggling to find their feet?

Who's Involved

It's a marquee signing swap - David Anderson F/C (Melbourne United) to the Brisbane Bullets in exchange for Cameron Bairstow F/C.

The Stats

DA - 10.4 PPG - 4.6 RPG - 1.9 APG - 42% FG - 26% 3pt - 16.8 PER in 14 games

CB - 11.9 PPG - 6.0 RPG - 0.93 APG - 46% FG - 28% 3pt - 21.2 PER in 14 games

Pro's and Con's

For Melbourne: Cam Bairstow is the relentless bullocking bull that Melbourne needs on the inside. The missing piece for a line-up that could then push the pace or run pick and roll's with Cam and Ware all night. He is the type of emotional and hard-working player that Casper and Chris would feed off. With Cam as starting centre, Barlow gets inserted into the starting line-up, forming an athletic and interchangeable wing lineup with CG and Vinny. Casper, Chris and Cam also lends itself to witty nicknames that marketing departments love to play with.

For Brisbane: Despite his sluggish shooting start with Melbourne United, David Andersen is far better in the mid-range and from outside than Cam Bairstow is. That can't be questioned. Those particular skills are a far better fit alongside the inside talents of Tom Jervis. Brisbane is still scratching the surface with what Jervis can do. Having him as the focal point inside, would help their defence and better utilisation of his passing skills could assist with their offensive playbook. David has familiarity with Coach Andrej and was one of the better Boomers during the Rio Olympics, the transition there would be seamless.


Check out the starting-5 for Brisbane now. Inside/outside connectivity, better size and switching ability on defence, upgraded shooting in Lemanis' Boomer-styled offensive schemes and increased athleticism.

Best Starting-5 Unit before trade

Melbourne: C Ware, C Goulding, T Blanchfield, D Andersen, M Majok

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Johnson, T Craig, C Bairstow, T Jervis.

Best Starting-5 Unit after trade

Melbourne: C Ware, C Goulding, T Blanchfield, D Barlow, C Bairstow,

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Johnson, T Craig, D Andersen, T Jervis.

Another win-win that evens out the starting-5 for both franchises.

So, in two trades the Bullets' have gone from a small-ish backcourt tandem with a lumbering frontcourt that clogs up the paint area; to one that is more athletic, has better shooting capabilities and fits together as a unit on court far better.

If the NBL allowed trades, would you execute a deal for your team? Tell me, which player trade would you make to improve your team?