Are the NBL’s new salary rules creating a “caste system” ?

Are the NBL’s new salary rules creating a “caste system” ?

The new NBL salary cap rules are in full effect.


With NBL teams now able to sign more imports and more marquee players than ever before there seems to be a growing trend in this offseasons player movements.


NBL teams in capital cities with big budgets so far have been able to sign marquee talent like Kevin Lisch (who signed with Sydney), Daniel Kickert and Adam Gibson (both signing with Brisbane), yet it seems the leagues smaller market teams are being left out in the cold.


The league’s first big signing of the off-season saw Illawarra, who had hoped to re-sign their club MVP Kevin Lisch, lose him to a lucrative offer made by the Sydney Kings and their new ownership AEG Ogden (who also own the LA Kings, Ontario Reign and Manchester Monarchs).


daniel kickert adam gibson


Next we saw the Brisbane Bullets hit the ground running by signing Daniel Kickert to a number which rival team Melbourne United weren’t prepared to match. Shortly after they paired him with two-time NBL champion in Adam Gibson (and if all rumors are correct his Adelaide teammate Anthony Petrie).


The Sydney Kings have also locked in Julian Khazzouh, Jeromie Hill, Jason Cadee to team with the aforementioned Kevin Lisch. It’s believed that former NBA star Josh Childress will also return for a third year if he is unsuccessful in returning to NBA.


The New Zealand Breakers have been active by securing big man Alex Pledger for three years and will soon announce they have been able to lure homegrown hero Kirk Penney back for Breakers legend Paul Henare’s first season controlling the team.


Melbourne United, who already have 54% of it’s roster signed, sealed and delivered should announce this week the signatures of Chris Goulding (supposedly to a $400k per year deal), Stephen Holt (who will be signed as an Asian player, not an import), New Zealand Breakers Player of the Year Cedric Jackson and maybe, just maybe, the John Hancock of a healthy Nathan Jawai.


This incredible recruitment class would join Todd Blanchfield, Majok Majok, Igor Hadziomerovic, Nate Tomlison, Owen Odigie and Chris Patton at United in what will surely be a championship or bust season for them.


In comparison there have been next to no movement from some of the smaller market teams around the league.


Townsville have  yet to announce a decision on Nick Kay, Mitch Young and Leon Henry, who all currently have contracts with options already in place, let alone any big name talent.


Cairns have made no moves as yet but were lucky enough to ink their players to multi-year deals before the league announced the new rules which would allow players to receive drastically higher pay cheques then before. Cameron Gliddon, Stephen Weigh, Cam TRagardh, Alex Loughton and Mark Worthington are already locked in place, however from our discussions with Aaron Fearne on the podcast the Snakes plan to get a lot younger this year but so far no moves have been done to address that.


aj ogilvy illawarra vs townsville


And finally Illlawarra, who by signing AJ Ogilvy to a three-year deal made the number of rostered players for 2016/17 equal one. This coupled with the loss of Lisch, most likely Rhys Martin (as well known target of the Bullets) and soon Penney, the club is certainly depleted. In season’s past it’s been well documented that the Hawks do not spend the full amount allowed by the league on it’s player so currently it’s very uncertain how and from where they will recoup this talent from.


Is this all coincidence or is a clear trend creating a “caste” system within our league? The numbers below show an interesting story.


Number of Contracted Players Per Team

Melbourne (6)

Adelaide (5)

Cairns (5)

Sydney (4)

New Zealand (4)

Perth (3)

Townsville (2)

Brisbane (2)

Illawarra (1)


We are set for what will be the most talented NBL season in a many years, but it’s clear the landscape is sure to change with the new salary cap rules.


Will the smaller market teams be able to lure many quality free agents once Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne start to close their wallets or will the bank accounts of the league’s big market teams be able to “pay for a title”.


That’s why we play the game… let’s wait and see.




Dan BoyceAuthor: Dan Boyce (366 Posts)

Dan Boyce is a die-hard Sydney Kings fan who grew up in Melbourne during the roaring 90's of Australian Basketball and spent far too much time collecting Futera NBL Basketball cards