After an eventful off season has been left in the rear view mirror, let’s take a look at some of the fantastic signings that are shaping what may be one of the deepest pool of NBL imports we have seen in a long time. We have seen some familiar faces return for another shot at impressing the NBL community and some new players with an impressive pedigree.
With the season due to kick off in just a few weeks time, there are now eight imports gracing the NBL hardwood who have previously been selected in the NBA Draft, up on the five who represented the NBL in 2017-2018.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 imports for the upcoming season.
Players to watch/Honourable Mentions
Devon Hall (Cairns Taipans)
Hall was a recent pick in the 2018 Draft, taken with pick 53 by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had a standout season averaging 11.9 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and averaging 44.3% from beyond the arc. He played in the recent Summer League with OKC but was signed by the Cairns Taipans for the season.
Melo Trimble (Cairns Taipans)
Trimble went undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft, but was worked out by up to nine NBA teams prior. He joined the 76ers for the Summer League dropping 10.3 points per game. Minnesota Timberwolves then came knocking and signed him for their pre-season roster. Trimble was cut before the start of the season, he went on to represent the Iowa Wolves for the remainder of the G-League Season before signing with the Cairns Taipans for the upcoming season.
Shawn long (New Zealand Breakers)
Long wasn’t selected in the 2016 NBA draft, but shortly after he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for their Summer League campaign. He played several games in the 2016-2017 season with the 76ers averaging 8.2 points per game, 4.5 rebounds whilst playing 12.7 minutes per game. Long is a 6 foot 9 power forward who is explosive around the ring and has the ability to get up the floor in transition.
5. Jacob Wiley (Adelaide 36ers)
Ex-Adelaide superstar Mitch Creek certified and helped seal Jacob Wiley’s signature for the upcoming NBL Season. Creek played along side Wiley during the past NBA Summer league and helped point the 36ers towards the athletic forward.
Last year Wiley found himself spending time between the Brooklyn Nets and their G-League affiliate The Long Island Nets. He showcased a defensive prowess and an ability to shoot the ball from the outside as he went 37% from beyond the arc. His physical attributes are outstanding as he stands at 6 foot 7, with a wingspan of of 7 feet, Wiley has the athletic tools to be a force in the league. The 36ers have a unique eye for talent, they have seemingly found a like for like player to replace Mitch Creek, which gives them an x-factor leading into the new season.
From the small sample size we have seen when he has pulled the 36ers jersey on in pre-season he loves to finish above the rim, work up the court in transition and isn’t afraid to contest and alter shots on the defensive end.
4. David John “D.J” Kennedy (Melbourne United)
Melbourne’s newest signing comes with years of experience playing across the US and Europe since leaving college in 2011. Melbourne had been in desperate need of finding a new small forward for their upcoming season and fortunately stumbled across what feels like a complimentary piece to their already star studded line up.
He joins Melbourne on the back of leading his side “Overseas Elite” through The Basketball Tournament (TBT), helping them to their fourth consecutive crown. After an impressive showing throughout the tournament Kennedy was named MVP and displayed an all around ability to make his team better whilst averaging 14.3 points per game.
Kennedy is a high IQ player who has put up impressive numbers playing for Pınar Karşıyaka in Turkey this past season, averaging 19 points per game, dragging down 8.4 rebounds and handing out 3.4 assists.
Dean Vickerman spoke recently with Melbourne United media saying that he had been on their radar last season, but in the end they went with Casey Prather. He went on to comment on Kennedy’s ability to play across the court, helping United with some fantastic flexibility.
“We were looking for a bit of a Swiss Army knife and we think he has ball-handling ability. He’s been a high-level passer everywhere he’s played, and I’ve always been a believer in imports coming in to make others better and I think he’s capable of doing that.”
United could utilise his versatility in a “small ball” line up, whilst the overall belief is Kennedy will be preferred to play at the small forward position he could slide across to play at power forward.
3. Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings)
How can’t you get excited to see Jerome Randle run out on to the floor next to a man like Andrew Bogut?
The Sydney Kings’ playoff and championship hopes will definitely lie with the connection that these two can create, as the 5 foot 9 point guard will need a big bruiser to open up the court.
Sydney jumped at the chance to bring Randle back after an exciting season for him personally, averaging 19.78 points per game and 5.26 assists per outing, becoming the first player since 1989 to lead the league in scoring and assists, since his coach Andrew Gaze did.
There’s no question about Randle’s ability to open up the floor and put the ball in hole, but he has now more weapons than he’s ever had. His ability to distribute the ball will need to be at it’s best if the Kings are to make a genuine championship run. He has electrifying speed, amazing handles and the skill set to help shape the Kings’ season.
Randle has now appeared in the All-NBL 1st or 2nd team in each of his three seasons now and enjoyed personal success of winning the league MVP for his standout performance during the 2016-2017 season.
2. Casper Ware Jr. (Melbourne United)
The NBL has been lucky enough to enjoy Casper Ware Jr. for two seasons now. He recently resigned with Melbourne after another stint at the NBA Summer League. United have reloaded and re-tooled for a championship run this season and Casper will be at the forefront of their journey throughout the season.
Over the past two seasons Ware has captured United fans’ hearts. His infectious personality on court makes the crowd go wild, but his elite level of play partnered with his ability to put the ball in the hoop and distribution skills, fit perfectly for a team aiming for another championship run. But it’s not all flash from Ware, he loves to grind and plays a physical, high pressure defensive style of basketball.
With two 1st All-NBL teams in his two seasons in Australia, Ware’s expectations of himself will be at an all-time high, after missing out on another chance to get back into the NBA after a quieter showing for Portland in this year’s NBA Summer League.
1. Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
Can we go past the reigning MVP from Perth?
What’s scary for the rest of the NBL is that Cotton has had a chance to rest this off-season, he re-joined his teammates much earlier than previous seasons, last year he returned to Australia on August 30. He has been able to spend all winter working on returning to the Wildcats before the NBL season kicks off.
Cotton took a slight step back in his second season with the Wildcats averaging 19.9 points per game, but he sharply improved his accuracy from deep. Whilst we have known and loved Cotton’s ability to pit defenders into a spin and finish around the basket, Cotton last season was able to stretch opposing defences shooting a lights out 45% from the 3.
With a strong supporting cast placed around Cotton again this season, he is primed to deliver, instead of chasing after his NBA dream he committed to the Wildcats for a further 3 years. In his two seasons in the NBL he has gone on to win an NBL championship (2017), a Grand Final MVP (2017) and the NBL’s Most Valuable Player (2018), all whilst averaging a combined 21 PPG and knocking down 135 three pointers.