The 2016-17 NBL season has arguably had the best spread of imports the league has ever seen. The talent on show in every team has been fantastic to watch and brings the standard of competition up to a level not seen for many years.
Here at Aussie Hoopla, we’ve ranked all 34 imports that suited up during the season, no matter how little court time they received and then put them into tiers to distinguish their contribution to the league.
THE “THANKS BUT NO THANKS.”
Out of anyone who played at least five minutes per game, Bryson was fifth lowest in scoring and only shot 17.6% from the field. No wonder he was dumped after only four games.
Even though Kromah had even worse numbers than Bryson (if that’s possible), he isn’t last because he came in with no expectations at the end of the season. Still, three total points in three games is not a good look.
In 16 games, Williams had a total of zero assists. The only good from Williams’ season is that when he was cut, Melbourne was able to sign Josh Boone.
Ingram played two games, shot 35% from the floor and then went back to America. Short and not so sweet.
With a massive hype train arriving with Blake, he massively underperformed. Not only did his game not live up to expectations, but he also hindered Jason Cadee’s great start, who couldn’t get back to that form after Blake left.
What makes the second-best assist man and sixth best stealer get lumped into this category? He toxic attitude that made him quit on his team and get fired. There was so much excitement when the United were able to pilfer Jackson from the Breakers, but that turned sour as he sulked, pouted and eventually gave up on his teammates.
THE “MAKING UP THE NUMBERS.”
Import in name only, as Jackson was called up from the SEABL. He was decent for what he can do, but when other teams are signing the likes of Bryce Cotton and Kevin Dillard, it’s a little hard to swallow for Kings fans.
It’s surprising that an import can consistently get such inferior court time. He’s played 33 games this season with the Hawks but is only averaging 11.3 minutes a contest. He must be doing something right for the Hawks to hold onto him.
THE DECENT BENCH
For all his highlight dunks and spectacular plays that brought the NBA scouts running, there was another turnover or missed a defensive assignment. He’s young and plays like it. Surprisingly, when Ferguson was introduced into the starting line-up coincided with the Sixers going on a huge winning streak.
One of Cairns’ unsung heroes. He may not have the best stats, but he shot 56% from the field and did all the things needed from a ‘glue guy’ at the Taipans.
Travis Trice might have got all the attention as the lead Taipan import, but Edwin and Egwu were always there to help. Edwin did only shoot 40% from the field which isn’t the best, but he was average which is what a team oriented squad like Cairns needed.
Beal gave, and Beal gave away. There were times where Jermaine Beal took over games and put the Bullets on his back to a win. However, often Beal shot the team out of games, shown by his 37% from the field. Is it Beal’s ineffectiveness or Jeremy Kendle’s great play why Kendle is above his more prestigious teammate on this list?
Stockton came into the league like a house on fire. There were only five games where a player had a double-digit assist game, and Stockton was one of them, with 24 points and ten assists in a loss to Illawarra. Unfortunately for Stockton, he played only ten games on the season before going down with a back injury and subsequently cut from the team.
It’s hard to know how Mitchell would have played if he suited up for more than ten games but what he brought to the Taipans was enough to show that he would be a quality player in the league. Too bad he won’t be back for at least a year with his twelve-month suspension for assaulting a referee.
The best bench rebounder in the NBL numbers wise, his 5.9 rebounds per game were good for eleventh in the competition. He may not have been as popular as the Sixers’ other imports, but Jacobsen was a central part of the minor premiers.
First in the NBL in assists per game and seventh in steals, Woodside was playing as good as any pass first point guard around. Unfortunately for Woodside and the Breakers, he injured his right foot after only six games and didn’t return to the court. There was a silver lining, though, as New Zealand could sign Kevin Dillard after David Stockton and Dillard was fantastic for them.
For an SEABL player to come in most of the way through a season and make some noise is extremely tough; just read Garrett Jackson’s write-up. Jeremy Kendle had an opportunity, and he took it. With Brisbane devastated by injury, he stood up and took this team on his back. It took him a couple of games to acclimatise, but he stood up after that.
His numbers don’t look fantastic, but he was a major component of the Run DMC of the Breakers at the end of the season that got them so close to the playoffs. His defence was underrated, coming in the top 15 in the advanced statistic Defensive Rating, in front of guys like Greg Whittington and Mike Vukona.
Powell may be remembered as the NBA guy who filmed the Kings when they sang their celebration song. He was also an excellent player, who shot 48% from the field and averaged 18.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes.
It’s hard to imagine what was going through Johnson’s mind when he was cut from the team and then rehired when Andre Ingram left. So, for Johnson to have such a quality season with so much instability is a credit to his personality. He averaged more points than Jason Cadee, Thomas Abercrombie and Greg Whittington while playing fewer minutes on average.
When Chris Goulding went down with his ankle injury, Ramone Moore stepped up and shouldered the load for Melbourne. Unfortunately for Moore, he also succumbed to a season-ending calf injury. He shot well; he defended well and able to take a back seat to the bigger names on the team and do the little things.
Excluding his terrible eye injury, Mitchell was one of the league’s best big men. He was fourth in rebounds and combined with Paul Carter and Kevin Dillard; they formed the electric Run DMC. Mitchell shot an astounding 55.6% from the field and top ten in Defensive Rating, forcing opponents to respect his all-around game.
Before his ankle injury, Harris was not only one of the best imports in the game; he was one of the best players in the whole league. The injury took the wind out of his sails, and he couldn’t quite get back to where he was before, but he was one of the main reasons why Illawarra made it to the NBL Grand Final.
McKay was the best defensive centre in the league. He was second in blocks per game, second in Defensive Rating and top ten in field goal percentage and rebounds per game. Perth prides itself on its defensive intensity and having a fantastic interior presence goes a long way in completing this aim.
There was only one player to average at least one block and one steal per game: AJ Ogilvy. Greg Whittington was two blocks away from joining him on that exclusive list. Whittington was the ultimate jack of all trades, coming fourth in points, first in rebounds, fourth in assists, first in blocks and second in steals for Sydney. When the Kings needed a play, it was often Whittington who came up with the goods.
Too often the Taipans didn’t have enough offensive firepower when Trice was on the sidelines with a hip injury. However, when Trice was healthy, he was the Taipans’ best player. In a league that is dominated by scoring point guards, Trice was the go-to guy for Cairns, notching up six of the top ten highest scoring games on the season.
The league leader in rebounds, Boone was fantastic in complementing the dynamic backcourt of Casper Ware and Chris Goulding. He shot the ball at 60% from the floor and led the competition in PER, Offensive Rating and was third in Defensive Rating. Boone showed his class and talent from playing in the NBA and helped Melbourne get out from the cellar of the ladder.
The Defensive Player of the Year, Craig was the shining light for the bottom dweller Bullets. He started the season as an MVP candidate but fell off the list when Brisbane started losing, but he played well enough to earn an All-NBL Second Team award and come second in rebounds per game.
He may have only played nine games on the season, but Kevin Dillard made his mark on the Breakers. When David Stockton went down injured to replace the injured Ben Woodside, some may have thought that the import PG position for New Zealand was cursed. Not so for Dillard, who was fifth in the league in scoring and fourth in assists. He revitalised the NZB and was one of only four players to average four rebounds and four assists per game.
The main reason why Illawarra made it to the NBL Grand Final season, Clarke was unbelievably good when he started coming off the bench. He had the quickest shot in the competition and showed it nightly. Clarke was far and away the best bench player and was obviously named Sixth Man of the Year.
When Ware joined the United, the team was reeling. They were in the midst of losing their former MVP in Cedric Jackson and needed a defining talent to lead them back from the brink. That man was Casper Ware who ended the season as the league’s leading scorer and fourth best assist man and was named to the All-NBL First Team and almost took Melbourne to the playoffs.
Before the Grand Final series, Cotton was positioned fourth on this list. But after a 45-point outburst to earn the Larry Sengstock Award for MVP of the Grand Final series it was foolish to have him any lower than third. Totalling both regular season and Finals, Cotton averaged the most points per game with 23.1 and his clutch play in the postseason showcases how good of a player he is.
All-NBL First Team. Champion winner. Only player to have a double-digit rebound game and double-digit assist game. Fourth in scoring and steals and eleventh in assists. In a league of superstar point guards, this man stood above them all as the best Small Forward in the league. Bryce Cotton may have the Finals MVP award, but Prather was also amazing, averaging 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in the three games. Superstar is the aptest word for Casey Prather.
1. Jerome Randle, Adelaide 36ers
21.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
His season may not have ended the way he wanted to, but Jerome Randle was undoubtedly the best player in the NBL this season. Third in scoring and assists but played more games than any of the guys above him on either list. He had two of the best scoring games of the season and three of the best assist games and had more double-digit assist games than the rest of the league combined. To take an Adelaide side that no-one thought could do anything to the minor premiership is unbelievable and the way the city of Adelaide has made him as one of their own shows his amazing personality.