Last season Andrew Gaze went looking for new players to strengthen the Sydney Kings roster at the NBA summer league. Last year he tried to do that sitting in the stands, this season Gaze is able to recruit players from the as close as the sidelines, thanks to an invitation to be a part of the Indiana Pacers summer league team this month.
The opportunity has been both nostalgic and fruitful for Gaze who was among one of the many vying for the eyes of NBA scouts during NBA summer league in 1989.
Gaze noted that this year’s trip gives him what he feels is a competitive advantage over other coaches to recruit talent and is keen to sign a number of players who were a part of the Pacers squad.
“When you get to actually work with players, see them on a daily basis and see how they interact with teammates and you get into the intimate details, which is difficult relying on others for feedback… seeing it all firsthand it gives you a huge advantage and there are a few players on the Indiana Pacers roster that we’re absolutely looking at”. Gaze told the Aussie Hoopla podcast.
The players Gaze is referring to are still keen to pursue their NBA dreams over the next few weeks which means Gaze will continue to tinker with his roster until NBA squads start to finalize their rosters.
This season, however, convincing talented imports to play down under may be more difficult with the NBA”s new “two-way contracts” which were introduced in the new collective bargaining agreement.
NBA teams now have two roster spots for “two-way contracts” which will allow players to play for their affiliated G-League team (formerly D-League) as well as play as many as 45 NBA season guys during the year.
Gaze was able to get a feel for the kind of players hoping to sign a “two-way contract” and those happy to play overseas and believes NBA team’s having two extra roster spots is going to significantly impact the players that NBL teams can recruit.
Gaze notes that while in the past players have played in the D-League to keep their NBA chances alive despite playing for minimal amounts of money but now that a two-way player could earn potentially US$271,000 far fewer players are going to be interested in leaving the states to play half way across the world.
“This move by the NBA is significant because it starts to get to a real meaningful number making it more difficult for international teams to recruit the players that are getting offered those contracts,” said Gaze.
“As a result, I believe NBL teams are going to find it more difficult to sign guys fringe NBA players who are being offered G-League contracts”
The Brisbane Bullets have already felt the crushing blow that the two-way contract has created with their star defensive player Torrey Craig, who was contracted to play this season, heading to Denver after a spectacular summer league performance with Nuggets.
Gaze almost suffered the same fate with recently signed Kings import Perry Ellis playing so well a number of NBA teams were interested in signing him to a two-way deal.
“Watching Perry in the summer league, cripes, the first game he didn’t have a great one and we thought gee we’d love him to do a little better than that… just for his own confidence, then the next game he started off like a house on fire and we thought this is great. Then he had 11 points in a game, 13 points in a game, then 19 points in a game, now we’re all looking at each other and saying gee whizz, I hope he doesn’t do too much better because or that’s going to make it tough for us”.
Despite the attention from NBA teams and offers of two-way deals Ellis has decided to play in the NBL this season. Although the two-way contracts seem certain to impact NBL teams from here on in, there are positives and negatives for those players who do agree to play under the new deals.
“Some players have been very reluctant to sign these deals because if you do, you’re allowed to play for the NBA team that signs you or it’s G-League affiliate but other NBA teams aren’t able to call you up from the G-League. For some people taking 29 other teams out of the race is risky when you’re hoping to make it”.
The Kings announced today that they have signed another player that was a part of the NBA summer league, Caringbah local Isaac Humphries.
The 213cm Aussie centre was a highly decorated junior in Australia before playing for Hall of Fame college coach John Calipari at the University of Kentucky. Humphries went head-to-head with a trio of talented NBA stars during his time in Kentucky, matching up against 2017 NBA lottery draft picks De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.
In his final college game, Humphries came off the bench to score 12 points and grab five rebounds as the Wildcats fell agonisingly short of reaching the NCAA Final Four, losing in the South Regional Final to the eventual national champion University of North Carolina.
Isaac turned professional after his appearance in the NCAA Tournament and worked out for several NBA teams in the northern summer before deciding to head back to Australia and join his hometown Kings.
“We are really pleased Isaac has made the decision to join us. We want to assist him to become the best player he can be and reach great heights, and in turn, we believe he can help us in reaching our ultimate goals here in Sydney. He’s a Sydney guy and it’s a great story to have him come back to his hometown and play professionally”, Gaze remarked.
“He’s still very young and got a lot of development to do so we’re not putting any unrealistic expectations on what capacity and impact he could have on our program but we feel in the long term he could be an absolute superstar and think he has the potential to be an NBA player.”
It’s clear that Gaze has been eyeing off this piece of tall timber for a long time with both Gaze and Sydney Kings Managing Director Jeff Van Groningen making numerous trips to the United States to try and recruit 7-footer who they feel will not only create match-ups problems in the NBL but in future international competitions as a member of the Australian Boomers.
“On the international arena we feel he has the upside to be a threat from three point range so his potential is great but he’s still got a lot to learn. I think he’ll present some problems for some NBL opponents with his versatility and his inside, outside game but we don’t want to put too much pressure on him… he is not the sort of guy who is going to transform the entire competition this year, he has potential to do that but as a 19 year old I think he understands he’s still got a bit of work to do and we’re excited to nurse him through that process” Gaze said in his recent interview on the Aussie Hoopla podcast.
The Sydney Kings pre-season will officially tip-off on Thursday 10 August when they face the University of Oklahoma at Penrith Basketball Stadium.
For updates on every NBL team player signing, visit our NBL Free-Agent Tracker.