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Free Agency Analysis: Will Magnay to New Orleans

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

Released by: Brisbane Bullets 

Signed by: New Orleans Pelicans 

The deal: Two-way NBA Contract

Age: 22

2019-20 team: Brisbane Bullets

2019-20 stats (per game): 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 48.7 FG%, 18.8 3P%, 67.4 FT%

Projected role: Back-up big.

Quote: “We’re extremely proud of Will who has proven that with hard work, the right attitude and strong values you can get to the NBA.” – Andrej Lemanis (Brisbane Bullets head coach) 

My take: Now that the Pellies have made this deal official, let’s break it down.

First things first, it’s worth taking a moment to marvel at the enormity of this achievement by Magnay. Over the past few years the young Queenslander has progressed from being an NBL development player to earning an NBA two-way contract. That’s outrageously impressive.

It’s massive for Magnay but it’s also a really significant moment for both the Brisbane Bullets and the NBL; serving as absolute validation of the league’s standing as a pathway to the Association. 

Sure, highly-rated US prospects can jump in for a year on their way to the Draft. We know it works as a place to grow ‘draft and stash’ players and yes, Jae’Sean Tate and Torrey Craig have shown recently that undrafted imports can bounce from here to The Show. 

However, Magnay’s story is something different altogether. This is a local kid – a banana bender playing for his hometown team – who has worked his way up the ladder and parlayed a breakout season directly into an NBA deal. Not since Nate Jawai in 2008 has an Aussie (or Kiwi, for that matter) taken the leap directly from the NBL.

Magnay first jumped onto NBA radars at last year’s Blitz, where his impressive play caught the eye of numerous teams, including New Orleans. He then regained their attention right before Christmas when he produced a dominant performance in his first career start, pouring in 23 points while grabbing 14 boards and blocking a couple shots.

That was the night everything changed. 

What was particularly special about that game was Magnay’s willingness to take – and indeed, make – perimeter shots. Andrew Bogut and the Kings dared him to launch it from beyond the arc and the promising youngster obliged, showing his potential as a pick-and-pop threat by knocking down three of six long range attempts.

From there, Magnay got rolling and the Pelicans maintained their interest as he tore up the league across the second half of the season. They weren’t the only team in the picture, of course, with a number of others talking to his management. But when push came to shove, it was New Orleans that made the most sense as an initial landing spot. 

The Pelicans are an organisation on the rise. Blessed with a duo of young stars and a smart new coach, they also have a savvy front office with a keen eye for talent. Additionally, the Pellies have recently acquired Kiwi Steven Adams, an experienced big man from this part of the world, whom Magnay is sure to learn from. For all kinds of reasons, The Big Easy is a great place for him to begin his NBA career.

In year one, Magnay will split his time between the Pellies and the organisation’s G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks. That being said, the arrangements for players on two-way contracts will be very different this season. With such a short off-season (for some teams) and the ever-present threat of coronavirus, the league is expected to allow two-way players to spend more time with their NBA teams. Either way, the Pelicans will initially be focused on developing Magnay and there will be no expectation on him to immediately become part of the rotation.

The longer-term goal will be to grow him into a guy who can play 15-20 minutes a game as one of the first bigs off the bench. 

Defensively, Magnay’s mobility allows him to guard screening actions on the perimeter while his length, athleticism and timing make him an accomplished rim-protector. 

Down the other end, the Pellies look at his ability to run the floor, set solid screens and finish above the rim – as well as his potential as a pick-and-pop threat – and see a guy who possesses a whole lot of upside. Tapping into that potential, especially developing the consistency of his stroke, will be the key.

As for the Bullets, well they’ve lost an enormous piece of their NBL21 roster. That much cannot be denied and, let’s be honest, it’s a piece that can only really be filled by a high-level import. With Matt Hodgson, Harry Froling and youngster Tyrell Harrison on the roster, they’ve certainly got some depth at the five but they really need to bring in an import four to come in and play a major role. 

Of course, Magnay’s departure comes as no surprise to anyone. The Bullets have known all year that an NBA deal was on the cards so they’ve been planning for this situation for a while. In fact, I’m expecting them to announce a replacement sooner rather than later. 

The question is: how good will he be? Magnay was set to tear this league apart in NBL21. They are very big shoes to fill.

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