May 17, 2024
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Every NBL Team’s Off-Season Grades

Photo: Melbourne United (Twitter / X)

As the 23/24 NBL season is only a few weeks away from opening night, I thought it would be best to grade every NBL team’s off-season so far. Coaching moves and re-signings have also been a factor in these grades.

*Note: Only main roster additions and losses have been mentioned

Adelaide 36ers – D

The Adelaide 36ers have arguably had the worst off-season period out of any team. It starts off with the fact they lost their star import trio from last season and replaced them with downgrades in every position. 

Jacob Wiley was averaging low numbers in the second division in Greece last season, while Jamaal Franklin was released from his Philippines team mid-season due to “team chemistry issues”. Sounds quite familiar… 

I do like the veteran addition of Jason Cadee, although they lost Anthony Drmic which is not ideal. Some other questionable signings were adding a first-year pro at 34-years-old in Alex Starling, and Tohi Smith-Milner as their backup centre for an injury-plagued Isaac Humphries, who will need to have similar form he had when he was playing with Josh Giddey for the team to be at least successful. 

They have added a great next star in Trentyn Flowers who is a projected first-round pick across multiple mock drafts, although the decision to start the 6-foot-8 forward at point guard over Mitch McCarron is dubious.

Additions: Trentyn Flowers, Trey Kell, Jamaal Franklin, Jacob Wiley, Isaac Humphries, Jason Cadee, Alex Starling, Tohi Smith-Milner

Losses: Anthony Drmic, Hyrum Harris, Kai Sotto, Robert Franks, Daniel Johnson, Deng Acuoth, Antonius Cleveland, Ian Clark

Brisbane Bullets – C+

After a disastrous year last year, the Bullets have certainly made some improvements to their roster. With Justin Schueller as their new head coach, this team has a lot of promise with the addition of a few young guns in Isaac White, Josh Bannan, and the next star Rocco Zikarsky. 

The Bullets finally answered the prayers of many Bullets fans by adding not only one but two point guards to play next to Nathan Sobey, in Mitch Norton and Shannon Scott. Although the reasoning behind this grading is the import signings. Shannon Scott was fantastic for Cairns last season, but there are much better import point guards on the market, teams like Cairns and New Zealand have better import guards coming off the bench this season. 

Chris Smith though also put up solid numbers in Japan, playing on the same team as John Mooney and Vic Law last season. Although, it’s hard to grasp the difference between those two leagues. With only two imports, the Bullets needed Sobey or Baynes to become a main local player this season to sign another major impact import.

Additions: Justin Schueller (Coach), Shannon Scott, Chris Smith, Mitch Norton, Isaac White, Sam McDaniel, Josh Bannan, Gabe Hadley, Rocco Zikarsky

Losses: Jason Cadee, Gorjok Gak, Tanner Krebs, Tyler Johnson, Andrew White, Harry Froling, Kody Stattmann

Cairns Taipans – A-

Not many people will agree, but I’m a huge fan of what the Taipans have done this off-season. Yes, they lost two of the best players in the league in D.J. Hogg and Keanu Pinder to rival clubs, but they filled those spots up quite well. 

The addition of projected first-round pick Bobi Klintman is a huge signing for the Taipans. His potential is through the roof and is well and truly one of the most unique next stars we have seen throughout the history of this program. 

The ability to lure a trio of youngsters that also have NBA potential, in Taran Armstrong, Sam Mennenga, and Akoldah Gak, demonstrates that these guys are eager to play under a guy like Adam Forde and do whatever it takes to win the championship in the NBL. 

Cairns also has two imports coming off the bench this season in Josh Roberts and Patrick Miller, demonstrating this team’s true depth. We also cannot forget the massive re-signing of Bul Kuol, who will no doubt improve even more this upcoming season. 

They may be one of the youngest teams in the league, but you cannot deny the massive potential this team has, I mean we could see at least three of these guys on an NBA roster in the next couple of years.

Additions: Taran Armstrong, Sam Mennenga, Patrick Miller, Bobi Klintman, Josh Roberts, Akoldah Gak, Lachlan Anderson

Losses: Majok Deng, Mirko Djeric, Keanu Pinder, Shannon Scott, Ben Ayre, D.J. Hogg

Illawarra Hawks – B+

Like Cairns, I love the injection of youth across the board for the Hawks. To have a next star come off the bench in AJ Johnson is a huge bonus, but it’s the underrated signings of guys like Lachlan Olbrich, Hyunjung Lee, and Todd Blanchfield that validate the depth this team has in all positions. 

Illawarra also has the second-best import trio in the league, only behind the Sydney Kings. Justin Robinson and Tyler Harvey will be a deadly backcourt, which will be tough for teams to stop this upcoming season. Gary Clark also has All-NBL First Team written all over, with his experience in the NBA and G-League. 

My only worry for this team is the lack of defensive big men, but with Mason Peatling also signed to the squad this off-season, this team could go a long way with the pieces they have added.

Additions: Gary Clark, AJ Johnson, Hyunjung Lee, Todd Blanchfield, Mason Peatling, Lachlan Olbrich

Losses: Deng Deng, Alex Mudronja, Michael Frazier, Peyton Siva, Mangok Mathiang, Akoldah Gak

Melbourne United – A

There is no doubt Melbourne United has been busy this off-season period. They have completely changed their starting five, to build around Chris Goulding. Jo Lual-Acuil and Luke Travers in the frontcourt will be super fun to watch, but when you add two NBA champions to your backcourt in Ian Clark and Matthew Dellavedova, they are every bit a chance to hold up the trophy at the end of the season. 

Vickerman also secured two amazing locals straight of college in Flynn Cameron and Kyle Bowen, who are guys that could have easily had bigger roles on other NBL teams. We also must mention that Next Star Ariel Hukprti is back. 

Do we remember what happened last time a United player did a serious injury and missed a year of action… United will certainly be one of the teams to beat this upcoming season.

Additions: Matthew Dellavedova, Ian Clark, Luke Travers, Jo Lual-Acuil, Flynn Cameron, Tanner Krebs, Kyle Bowen

Losses: David Barlow, David Okwera, Mason Peatling, Makuach Maluach, Isaac Humphries, Marcus Lee, Rayjon Tucker, Xavier Rathan-Mayes

New Zealand Breakers – B

The most unusual off-season comes from the New Zealand Breakers. They started by signing Mangok Mathiang, who was average at best for the Hawks last season. The media team harped on about him being way better than Dererk Pardon, who was sensational for New Zealand. 

This led to an exodus of their awesome import trio in Barry Brown Jr., Jarrell Brantley and Dererk Pardon, which left them having to find another solid trio that could replace them. 

Well, that they did, Zylan Cheatham, Justinian Jessup, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright are all astounding import replacements, as all three put up crazy good numbers for their respective European teams last season. 

You could argue that the biggest move this off-season for the Breakers was a tie between the re-signing of elite local guard Will McDowell-White on a multi-year deal and the return of Finn Delany after his unreal season in Germany. 

Once again, the Breakers are loaded with similar talent to that of last season and will be genuine contenders again. Unfortunately, I still have a couple of problems with this squad, questioning how Delany and Cheatham will play together, and if McDowell-White and Jackson-Cartwright can coincide in the backcourt.

Additions: Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Justinian Jessup, Zylan Cheatham, Finn Delany, Mangok Mathiang, Mantas Rubstavicius, Dane Pineau

Losses: Rayan Rupert, Rob Loe, Tom Vodanovich, Dererk Pardon, Jarrell Brantley, Barry Brown Jr, Sam Timmins

Perth Wildcats – C+

Many fans, Perth specifically, have rated what the Wildcats have done so far this off-season. You can see why, as they brought home one of the best locals on the market in Keanu Pinder. 

On top of that, they signed arguably the best Next Star prospect this season in Alex Sarr, who after just two games against the G-League Ignite, looks legit. 

Minus points though for the Wildcats, after they lost two big name veterans in Mitch Norton and Todd Blanchfield. As much as fans wanted them to find other places, they will be missed dearly later in the season. 

Perth have signed some decent future NBA-level prospects in David Okwera, Ben Henshall, and Dontae Russo-Nance, but they will unlikely provide much production this season coming off the bench. 

To re-sign the Webster brothers is huge, but they lose a lot at the defensive end on the court when those two and Cotton are on at the same time, which is my biggest concern. Jordan Usher slots in nicely in this squad, and this grade could move up to a B-, depending on their final import signing.

Additions: Jordan Usher, Keanu Pinder, Hyrum Harris, David Okwera, Alex Sarr, Ben Henshall

Losses: Luke Travers, Mitch Norton, Todd Blanchfield, Brady Manek, Majok Majok, TaShawn Thomas, Corey Shervill

South East Melbourne Phoenix – C-

Personally, I have not been a fan of the South East Melbourne Phoenix’s off-season. Firstly, when I saw Mike Kelly was announced as their new head coach, I had mixed reactions. Kelly has only truly had one good season when he was head coach at Cairns. In the other two, he won the wooden spoon. His time as Perth’s Associate Head Coach was not too successful either, missing the finals in both seasons. 

I thought they also failed to replace Ryan Broekhoff, who brought an unmatched level of experience to the team. Last season, they had several problems scoring the ball through their bench players, and I don’t believe they added such pieces to improve that aspect. 

Will Cummings was a fantastic signing for them, as he has been an MVP in two different countries. Although, I disliked the re-signing of Gary Browne. It did not seem to work last season, so I have no idea why they would bring him back after such an average season. 

Rhys Vague and Gorjok Gak are decent additions as backup frontcourt players, but will it be enough? Time will tell.

Additions: Mike Kelly (Coach), Will Cummings, Ben Ayre, Matt Kenyon, Craig Moller, Rhys Vague, Gorjok Gak

Losses: Simon Mitchell (Coach), Junior Madut, Dane Pineau, Kyle Adnam, Ryan Broekhoff, Grant Anticevich, Tohi Smith-Milner, Zhou Qi, Trey Kell

Sydney Kings – A

The Kings have done it again. They have yet again secured an insane roster, even after losing their entire starting five in the off-season. Xavier Cooks and Dejan Vasiljevic are off to the Wizards, but the Kings were able to replace those guys with some NBA-level talent locals. 

Jonah Bolden has finally returned to basketball after three years, and if he can get back to the form he was with at the 76ers just a few years ago, he could make a huge statement in this league. 

The Kings also snatched Aussie forward Alex Toohey off Gonzaga’s hands and will either start over another prospect in Jaylin Galloway or come off the bench for him. 

They have also gone out and signed one of the best import trios with have seen in a while. The MVP Jaylen Adams is back, they stole D.J. Hogg off Cairns’ hands and secured NBA veteran Denzel Valentine, who should be a familiar name to the casual basketball fan. 

The Kings also made a major coaching change replacing two-time champion Chase Buford, with G-League champion Mahmoud Abdelfattah. The Kings have somehow outdone themselves from their last two championship squads, so there is no doubt they will be playing in April.

Additions: Mahmoud Abdelfattah (Coach), Jaylen Adams, Denzel Valentine, Alex Toohey, D.J. Hogg, Jonah Bolden, Makuach Maluach, Sam Timmins

Losses: Chase Buford (Coach), Xavier Cooks, Biwali Bayles, Dejan Vasiljevic, Tim Soares, Derrick Walton Jr, Justin Simon

Tasmania JackJumpers – C+

Not a very exciting off-season came from the JackJumpers. They re-signed their superstar guard Milton Doyle and added some solid bench pieces in Anthony Drmic, Majok Deng and Junior Madut. 

However, the biggest question to the JackJumpers’ success will be how good their two new imports Marcus Lee and Jordon Crawford will be. Crawford put up some high numbers in Turkey, but how will the 5-foot-6 guard fair in the NBL? 

Magnay looks likely to miss the start of the season due to injury again, which is a major concern for Tassie. 

As much as MacDonald is one of the better development players in the league, it is interesting to see him as their sole backup point guard. One thing is certain about this team though, and that is Scott Roth will do whatever it takes to bring this team another finals appearance.

Additions: Jordon Crawford, Anthony Drmic, Marcus Lee, Junior Madut, Majok Deng

Losses: Sam McDaniel, Matt Kenyon, Jarrad Weeks, Josh Magette, Rashard Kelly

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