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ANALYSIS

NBL23 Free Agency Primer

By Liam Santamaria

As the Sydney Kings continue to celebrate the NBL22 championship, preparations are already underway across the league for the 2022/23 season.

Free Agency opens on Friday (!) so if you’re a key decision-maker withing an NBL front office, now is not the time to be caught napping.

As always, there are some big names in play. This year’s free agent class includes Grand Final MVP Xavier Cooks, All-NBL First Team centre Jo Lual-Acuil and Olympic bronze medallist Duop Reath. It also includes a bunch of star imports, including league MVP Jaylen Adams, All-NBL First Team selections Antonius Cleveland and Vic Law as well as Tassie duo Josh Adams and Josh Magette.

So… what does each team need? Who will be going where? Let’s get ready for the free agency frenzy that lies ahead.

* denotes restricted player (import)

(NS) denotes ‘Next Stars’ player

(DP) denotes development player

(SRP) denotes special restricted player  

(IP) denotes player signed under Indigenous Player Rule

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS

Head Coach: CJ Bruton

Current 2022/23 roster:

  • Mitch McCarron
  • Daniel Johnson
  • Sunday Dech
  • Hyrum Harris
  • Kai Sotto (SRP)
  • Nick Marshall (DP)

Free Agents:

  • Dusty Hannahs*
  • Todd Withers*
  • Cam Bairstow
  • Isaac Humphries
  • Tad Dufelmeier Jnr
  • Mojave King (NS)
  • Emmanuel Malou
  • Zac Gattorna
  • Lachlan Olbrich

Notes: The 36ers were smart to re-sign Nick Marshall as he’s a youngster with a whole bunch of upside.

Cam Bairstow was terrific for the Sixers last season but concerns around his durability remain after he wound up missing over a third of the season.

The other big name here is Isaac Humphries, who only suited up for the opening six games of last season. That’s now two years in a row where the talented big man has been limited by injuries and, as a result, his value in the marketplace has taken a hit.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS

Head Coach: James Duncan

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Nathan Sobey
  • Jason Cadee
  • Tyrell Harrison
  • Tom Digbeu (NS)

Free Agents:

  • Robert Franks*
  • Lamar Patterson*
  • Isaiah Moss*
  • Anthony Drmic
  • Chuanxing Liu (SRP)
  • Deng Deng
  • Jack Salt
  • Tanner Krebs
  • Tamuri Wigness
  • Taane Samuel
  • Max Mackinnon
  • Harry Rouhliadeff

Notes: The Bullets enter the free agency period with just three players under contract (plus Tom Digbeu whose Next Stars contract officially sits with the league).

It was interesting to see Anthony Drmic land on the free agency list, meaning his mutual option for NBL23 was declined. Drmic makes sense as a guy Sam Mackinnon would want to bring back but other teams around the league are likely to ask the question.

Meanwhile, the Bullets decided not to pick up their option on Chaunxing Liu’s contract for next season, making him available to other clubs as a Special Restricted Player.

This is a squad that needs to take big strides defensively next season so that will no doubt be a focus as they re-build their roster. The other factor will be their desire to bring in a point guard to pair with Boomers guard Nathan Sobey in the backcourt of their starting line-up. The question is: will that be an import or will they try to recruit a guy like Will McDowell-White, who grew up in Brisbane, to fill that spot?

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS

Head Coach: Adam Forde

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Majok Deng
  • Mirko Djeric
  • Bul Kuol
  • Keanu Pinder

Free Agents:

  • Scott Machado*
  • Tahjere McCall*
  • Stephen Zimmerman*
  • Nate Jawai
  • Kouat Noi
  • Jarrod Kenny
  • Jordan Ngatai
  • Brayden Inger
  • Marshall Nelson
  • Robbie Heath
  • Ben Ayre

Notes: The Taipans are to be applauded for retaining Bul Kuol and Keanu Pinder, two guys who are coming off award-winning campaigns, prior to free agency opening. Those re-signings mean the Taipans have four guys under contract for the upcoming season and plenty of flexibility with the rest of their roster.

It’s interesting to see Kouat Noi entering free agency after the mutual option on the final year of his contract wasn’t picked up. Noi entered the league with plenty of promise a couple of years ago but has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons and hasn’t performed at his best.

One thing’s for sure: both head coach Adam Forde and CEO Mark Beecroft are very good at uncovering up-and-coming talent. With that in mind, look for one or two of the talented prospects returning from college to land in Far North Queensland.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS

Head Coach: Jacob Jackomas

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Tyler Harvey*
  • Sam Froling
  • Akoldah Gak
  • Alex Mudronja
  • Dan Grida

Free Agents:

  • Duop Reath
  • Antonius Cleveland*
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes*
  • Justinian Jessup (NS)
  • Tim Coenraad
  • Harry Froling
  • Emmet Naar
  • AJ Ogilvy
  • Isaac White
  • Lachlan Dent

Departing:

  • Brian Goorjian – signed with Bay Area Dragons (Hong Kong)

Notes: There’s an air of uncertainty surrounding the Hawks right now, following Dorry Kordahi’s decision to step down as President and the departure of legendary coach Brian Goorjian.

All of that is especially in play when it comes to the future of out-of-contract big man Duop Reath. Goorjian was heavily influential in bringing Reath to Illawarra so the absence of the Boomers coach makes that situation particularly interesting as free agency opens.

The other big name to keep an eye on here is Antonius Cleveland. There are numerous teams looking for a ‘Cleveland-type’ to fill one of their import spots next season, which means AC’s agent will be receiving plenty of calls from around the NBL.

 

MELBOURNE UNITED

Head Coach: Dean Vickerman

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Chris Goulding
  • Matthew Dellavedova
  • Jack White
  • Shea Ili
  • Mason Peatling
  • Ariel Hukporti (NS)
  • Brad Newley
  • David Okwera
  • Zac Triplett (DP)

Free agents:

  • Jo Lual-Acuil
  • Caleb Agada*
  • Yudai Baba (SRP)
  • David Barlow
  • Dion Prewster
  • Callum Dalton
  • Will Hickey

Notes: The big piece here is, obviously, Jo Lual-Acuil who was an All-NBL First Team selection last season and finished third in voting for MVP. Lual-Acuil has made it clear that he’s focused on landing an NBA deal this off-season but has also been forthright about where he’ll play if he’s back in the NBL.

In other news, Melbourne announced the re-signing of veteran wing Brad Newley this week while five-time champion David Barlow, who will turn 39 later this year, is on the free agent list.

 

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

Head Coach: Mody Maor

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Tom Abercrombie
  • Rob Loe
  • Dan Fotu
  • Sam Timmins
  • Hugo Besson*
  • Ousmane Dieng (NS)

Free Agents:

  • Finn Delany
  • Will McDowell-White
  • Peyton Siva*
  • Chasson Randle*
  • Rasmus Bach
  • Kyrin Galloway
  • Isaac Davidson
  • Geremy McKay
  • Sam Short

Departing:

  • Yanni Wetzell – signed with Saski Baskonia (Spain)
  • Dan Shamir

Notes: It’s been a rough couple of years for the Breakers so the biggest hope is that NBL23 will resemble much more of a normal season for this once-powerful club.

In the meantime, there’s plenty going on when it comes to their roster. Firstly, Dan Shamir has stepped down as head coach after three seasons at the helm, with Mody Maor being elevated to fill that position. They’ve also lost star centre Yanni Wetzell to a lucrative deal in Europe and both Ousmane Dieng and Hugo Besson are about to get selected in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Meanwhile, Dan Fotu is an excellent signing that has flown a little under the radar since it was announced last weekend. The younger brother of Tall Blacks star Isaac Fotu, Dan is precisely the kind of guy the Breakers need to recruit as he’s both a young Kiwi talent and appears ready to contribute right away.

That brings us to free agency opening tomorrow, when all eyes will be on out-of-contract Breakers Finn Delany and Will McDowell-White. Both of those guys endured tough campaigns throughout NBL22 but have each shown that they’re capable of providing high-level production. Delany is an interesting one, as he’s expected to explore opportunities in Europe, while McDowell-White is bound to receive offers from a number of NBL clubs.

 

PERTH WILDCATS

Head Coach: Scott Morrison

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Bryce Cotton*
  • Mitch Norton
  • Luke Travers
  • Corey Shervill
  • Majok Majok
  • Kyle Zunic (DP)
  • Oliver Hayes-Brown (DP)

Free Agents:

  • Vic Law*
  • Michael Frazier*
  • Todd Blanchfield
  • Matt Hodgson
  • Jesse Wagstaff
  • Kevin White
  • Jack Purchase

Notes:

The first major piece of Perth’s roster re-build got ticked off two weeks ago when they re-signed Bryce Cotton. In a major coup for the Wildcats, the three-time MVP has re-upped on a new three-year deal which will see him remain in Perth up until at least the end of the 2024-25 season.

From there the ‘Cats decided to pick up their options on both Majok Majok and Ollie Hayes-Brown but decline the final year of Jack Purchase’s contract.

All of that brings us to the start of free agency where Perth’s second and third leading scorers, Vic Law and Todd Blanchfield, are coming out of contract. That’s also the case for starting centre Matt Hodgson and six-time champion Jesse Wagstaff, so there are some big decisions that need to be made by that Wildcats front office.

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Head Coach: Simon Mitchell

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Mitch Creek
  • Ryan Broekhoff
  • Kyle Adnam
  • Dane Pineau
  • Reuben Te Rangi
  • Izayah Le’Afa

Free Agents:

  • Zhou Qi (SRP)
  • Xavier Munford*
  • Brandon Ashley*
  • Cam Gliddon
  • Tohi Smith-Milner
  • Owen Foxwell
  • Koen Sapwell
  • Lachlan Barker
  • Tristan Forsyth

Departing:

  • Adam Gibson (retirement)

Notes: The big news items around SEM right now are the re-signings the club announced yesterday, with Mitch Creek re-upping for another three years and head coach Simon Mitchell extended for the upcoming season.

Chinese superstar Zhou Qi declined his player option for NBL23 but he’s currently in talks with the Phoenix on a potential new deal. Meanwhile, Izayah Le’Afa decided to take up his player option, electing not to explore free agency and, after two years with the Phoenix, Cam Gliddon is coming out of contract. Anyone need a veteran shooter off the bench?

 

SYDNEY KINGS

Head Coach: Chase Buford

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Jordan Hunter
  • Jaylin Galloway
  • Angus Glover
  • Biwali Bayles (IP)
  • Makur Maker (NS)

Free Agents:

  • Jaylen Adams*
  • Xavier Cooks
  • Jarell Martin*
  • Ian Clark*
  • Dejan Vasiljevic
  • Shaun Bruce
  • Matur Maker
  • Wani Swaka Lo Buluk
  • Tom Vodanovich
  • Jayden Hodgson
  • Iggy Mitchell

Notes: Have a look at the star power in that list of free agents! The champs have a whole bunch of big names coming out of contract, with the league MVP Jaylen Adams and Grand Final MVP Xavier Cooks headlining that list.

The most intriguing one, for me, is Dejan Vasiljevic. The high-scoring guard has smartly opted out of the final year of his contract, allowing him to explore his value in the free agency market. Vasiljevic has gone on the record to state that if he’s in the NBL, it will be back with the Kings, but this is a guy whose star is one the rise and will have plenty of options around the globe. He clearly has NBA aspirations, and so he should, but there’s also the potential for him to take his game to Europe if a lucrative offer lands on the table.

 

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS

Head Coach: Scott Roth

Current 2022/23 Roster:

  • Will Magnay
  • Jack McVeigh
  • Clint Steindl
  • Fabijan Krslovic
  • Matt Kenyon
  • Sam McDaniel
  • Jarrad Weeks
  • Jarred Bairstow

Free Agents:

  • Josh Magette*
  • Josh Adams*
  • MiKyle McIntosh*
  • Jock Perry
  • Sean McDonald
  • Sejr Deans

Notes: The JackJumpers have their entire contingent of fully-contracted locals on the books so their focus will be on imports and development players over the next little while.

Of course, the two key names in that regard are Josh Adams and Josh Magette. Adams was an All-NBL Second Team selection for his efforts across the regular season, but he elevated his play to an all-world level in the playoffs. Magette, meanwhile, was a huge key to Tassie’s success with his ability to control the tempo, keep the ball moving and make big plays. If the JackJumpers can somehow bring both of those guys back that will be a massive success.

The other interesting element that’s currently playing out in the background are the contract renegotiations involving Scott Roth. The Coach of the Year was the driving force behind Tassie’s incredible success in year one so hopefully he’s back ‘defending the island’ next season.

 

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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