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10 Replacement Players We'd Love to See in NBL22

Written for NBL.com.au by Peter Hooley

It’s been a tough period for everyone involved in the NBL recently. From players, to staff and the fans, it’s been a rough few weeks that nobody wanted, yet all probably knew it was inevitable.

The NBL introduced new Rules for COVID-19 Replacement players who can be signed on a game-by-game basis should teams have players ruled out due to COVID protocols.

As we have seen across other sporting leagues both here and around the world, similar rules have given the opportunity to different players. The likes of Joe Johnson, Lance Stephenson and Isaiah Thomas got their shot in the NBA. It begs the question, who could be the NBL's equivalent?

Let’s take a look at 10 players that we’d love to see suit up as a replacement player in NBL22.

 

Nic Pozoglou

Pozoglou is a name that all Australian basketball fans would be somewhat familiar with. The reigning NBL1 West MVP has had numerous stints around the NBL as both a development and training player – but has never really been given that full opportunity to show he is ready for a roster spot.

Pozoglou has consistently put up big numbers across the NBL1 seasons, having recently averaged 17 points and 10.5 rebounds in his MVP season over in the West with the Cockburn Cougars. There’s no doubt it’s a big jump up from NBL1 to the NBL, but all it takes is one golden opportunity to show that you belong. Keep that phone on loud, Poz!

 

Mika Vukona

He might be part of the Tasmania JackJumpers staff this season, but there are a few teams around the league who could use a splash of Mika Vukona this season. Not only would the fans love to see the five-time NBL champion suit up for one last ride, but the presence alone of one of the all-time greats could be super beneficial for a lot of squads.

It’s more than just the leadership that Vukona brought, it’s the tenacity and 1%ers that you just can’t find in many players nowadays. The Udonis Haslem of the NBL, one thing is for sure, you won’t be taking any days off with Vukona around. A man who knows exactly what it takes to win and knows exactly how to get it done.  

 

Lachlan Barker

Lachlan Barker sprung onto the basketball scene last year and put his name right into that hat of those who deserve an NBL chance. Barker was part of a stacked Frankston Blues squad in NBL1 South where he averaged over 21.5 points at a very efficient clip shooting 46.9% from beyond the arc.

Always full of confidence on the court, Barker is the type of player who would look to thrive with the opportunity like he did when he was called upon to suit up for the South East Melbourne Phoenix in the preseason Blitz.

There’s no doubt that if he continues to improve at the rate he is, that an NBL team will be giving him a chance sooner rather than later. 

 

Damian Martin

If you’ve watched any game over the last 12 months and seen Damian Martin on the microphone courtside, you can see the glow in his eyes whenever he steps on RAC Arena.

The six-time champion is happily retired, yes, but it might not take as much convincing to get him back as one would think. As he watches his long-time teammate Jesse Wagstaff turn back the clock in NBL22, you can’t help but think that Damo could lace them back up just one more time.

A couple of steals here, a charge over there and a dislocated phalange, would be enough for everyone to say, “yep, Damo’s back.”

Goodluck to any other team around the league who would try and bring him back though. There’s a high chance that his phone would be on ‘do not disturb’ for nine clubs. 

 

Adam Gibson

There are really two options to think about when a team needs a replacement player. You either find a young and upcoming player and give them a chance, or you sign a veteran who the coach trusts and one that will bring ultimate professionalism to the team culture.

Enter Adam Gibson. Make no mistake, Gibbo can still go. He might have started his own coaching business (check that out ASAP, if you want to learn from one of the best), but Gibbo is staying fit and heavily invested in the game, and he would be a great pickup for any team. It’s not everyday you’d get the chance to call on the services of an Olympian who could still have a big impact for your team this season. 

 

Alex Pledger 

One of the NBL’s favourites, the personal battles that big Chief has recently had to go through have been well documented. What an incredible inspiration, to not only everyone who knows him, but to anyone who has been faced with an almighty challenge.

As Chief continues his recovery, he still has the love and drive to play the sport that helped him become a four-time NBL champion. How good would it be to see the 7-footer busting up zone defences again with that short range jump shot.

The late great Stuart Scott once said, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”

Three months after his diagnosis with colorectal cancer, Pledger was already back on court for the final game of the Southland Sharks season in the NZNBL.

So with that being said, yes Chief is an NBL Champion on the floor, but he’s the ultimate champion of life. The world is a better place because of guys like Alex Pledger. 

 

Jeremy Kendle

Well because, obviously.

When the replacement player protocols were announced, every NBL fan had the same thought. The Jeremy Kendle protocol.

All jokes aside, there’s a good reason why we have seen Kendle pop up around the league as a replacement player for the last few years. Kendle is a jet. The NBL1 North MVP is another one of those guys who coaches will always consider as an option for the team.

A true professional on and off the floor, he’s exactly the type of guy that a team wants to bring in, to fill a specific void. Kendle averaged over 21.7 ppg, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds, leading his Logan Thunder to a 12-1 record. He might be 33 years old now, but there’s no doubt Kendle will be by the phone and ready to contribute to an NBL team. 

 

Aron Baynes

It might be a long shot, but if the NBA champion and Boomers big man is healthy and ready to go, every Australian basketball fan would love to see him in the NBL. For however brief of a stint it may be. If he’s looking for a quick opportunity to showcase where he's at before a return to the Association, maybe he doesn’t have to look too far.

Dream with me for a moment - Baynes returns to the Tropics for a two game cameo in Cairns, balls out, and turns that into a 10 Day Contract in the NBA. You'd just absolutely love to see it.

With that being said, it would just be great to see Baynes on a basketball court again after a tough end to his Olympic campaign. We miss those terror screens Baynsey!

 

Kendall Stephens

Everyone needs shooters, and it would be great to see the likes of Kendall Stephens be given an opportunity in NBL22. Stephens showed some flashes of what he could bring during his time at the Phoenix including a breakout 20 point performance against the Hawks in NBL21.

After dealing with injuries that heavily disrupted his flow, Stephens never really found his consistent game. The 27-year-old is still young in his career, and he would be someone who could really benefit from another opportunity in the NBL. He’s a local, he's got great size and length to add to his outside shooting, and he's be a good pickup for a lot of teams.

 

David Andersen

A fine wine. The 41-year-old finally hung up the boots last year and will go down in history as one of the most successful Australian basketballers of all time. It doesn’t matter what age he is, he will still be unstoppable on the block with his back to the basket.

They say that correlation ≠ causation. Yet it seemed wherever Andersen went, a championship soon followed. So, basically if any NBL team wants to hold up the trophy, maybe all they need is to bring back DA?

 

Honourable Mention

Ben Pepper – If we are going to have Jack Salt in the league as a backup big, then it’s only right we bring the Pepper, too.

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The views on this page are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBL, its Clubs or partners.

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