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ANALYSIS

Free Agency Analysis: Cam Oliver back to Cairns

NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria continues his look at each and every signing, breaking down what it all means ahead of #NBL21. 

Re-signed by: Cairns Taipans

The deal: Two years

Age: 24

2019-20 team: Cairns Taipans

2019-20 stats (per game): 17.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 53.9 FG%, 36.6 3P%, 70.1 FT%

Projected role: Starting centre.

Quote: “[Cam] knows he fits in with our team and this league now, so he will have high expectations of himself and I’m expecting that he will be even stronger in the season coming up.” – Mike Kelly (Cairns Taipans head coach)

My take: This is enormous.

For a club that’s historically struggled to retain high-level imports, re-signing Oliver – who took the league by storm last season – represents a major step forward. Re-signing him on a multi-year deal? Even better!

Oliver was a high-risk, high-reward proposition when the Taipans recruited him last year. The big fella was hugely talented, that was beyond question, but he was also recovering from ankle surgery and there were some slight question marks around his willingness to buy-in to a team-first environment.

Well, sometimes when you swing for the fences you hit a home run.

Oliver was brilliant last season, on and off the floor, and his impact was a major reason why the Snakes came within a single game of a Grand Final appearance.

He was a lob-catching, shot-blocking, three-point-hitting beast who paired wonderfully with Scott Machado and was a constant presence on highlight reels across the country. Nobody’s more psyched to have Space Camm back than the Goatmentator!

Off the floor, Oliver similarly impressed; immersing himself into the local community and the culture of selflessness they’re building up there in Cairns. In fact, that maturity is what Kelly was referring to yesterday when he said: “I think his mindset and his approach to the game changed over the course of the year with us and it was really cool to watch his growth in that respect.”

What makes this signing even more impressive is the enormous interest in Oliver that exists in the global marketplace.

Off the back of that eye-catching NBL season (and a dominant stint in Israel), all kinds of big-money teams in Europe and Asia have been expressing interest. Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bayern Munich, Olympiacos… I’m talking massive teams. Heck, I’m told at one stage he was even offered half a mil USD net from a club in Korea but turned it down. For Oliver it was simple: it’s either the NBA or it’s the NBL.

Which brings us to the one cause for concern for Taipans supporters: Oliver’s NBA prospects. Multiple NBA teams currently have genuine interest in the high-flying big man and his new deal includes the types of out-clauses that will allow him to follow those dreams.

If that happens, so be it – his progression will serve as yet another example of the strength of the NBL and its viability as an NBA pathway.

If it doesn’t, well buckle up hoops fans! We’re in for another wild ride.

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