Melbourne United have a significant blow to their improved lineup when newly signed backup guard Daniel Dillon injured his Achilles whilst playing for the Kilsyth Cobras in the SEABL.
The guard will miss the 2017/18 season with a recovery time estimated to be 6-8 months. Dillon, 28, had only just joined returned to Melbourne for the first time since playing with the Melbourne Tigers in 2012.
Dillon noted the injury had certainly impacted his NBL return but made it clear he’d use the time off to get his body right and come back even stronger.
“The injury is definitely a huge set back. But I’m excited to be back home in Melbourne and I see this as time I can get my entire body stronger and back to 100%” Dillon told Aussie Hoopla.
Dillon seemed to be on track for an impressive return as he averaged 21.0ppg, 6.3rpg, and 5.5apg during his time with Kilsyth. He was also shooting the ball at an impressive 53.2% clip from the field.
It’s possible Dillon could be available by end of the season, but he knows it’s a long road between now and making that a reality.
“I’m really eager to get back on the court and join the boys. But I’m not going to put a timeframe on it. The decision will be made by the doctor, team Physio, and my body as to when it’ll be ok for me to be back on the court” said Dillon.
With the season only a couple of months away from kicking off and most NBL teams having solidified their Australian core, Melbourne faces the daunting task of trying to find a suitable replacement for Dillon at a time where it’s slim picking’s for talented backup guards.
Melbourne have made it known they are hoping to go younger at the backup point guard spot, having recently released 27-year-old, Nate Tomlinson.
Tomlinson never seemed to blossom into second unit spark plug Melbourne had hoped for after he won the 2014 NBL Most Improved Player award. While it’s unlikely they would return to Tomlinson, who else is out there to give much-needed rest to Chris Goulding and a star import point guard, rumored to be either Casper Ware or Jerome Randle.
Whilst Melbourne have made it known they hope to go in a younger direction, there is a clear need for defense and veteran leadership at that spot, two qualities the injury Dillon had hoped to provide. However talented Goulding and third string guard Kyle Adnam may be, they have not shown the ability to lock down opposition guards in past seasons.
The point guard position has been the NBL’s most talented spot in past seasons. The race for the NBL MVP last season resulted in four of the top five vote getters being point guards (Randle, Ware, Kevin Lisch and Rotnei Clarke) so a defensive stopper off the bench is what’s sorely needed as Dillon’s replacement.
There isn’t a lot of Australian point guards who have made their mark in the NBL and finding a point guard replacement for Dillon who is young and a great defender will be a tough find.
The most likely candidate would be William McDowell-White, who played seven games under the watchful eye of Vickerman whilst both were members of the Sydney Kings. 19 year old, McDowell-White was headed to play college basketball at Fresno State but has declined that offer and now eyes a potential NBL return.
Rhys Carter, a 268 game veteran, has been known as a “Three and D” player for almost a decade among NBL coaches. But with the two-time NBL champion now 33 years old, he doesn’t quite tick the “young” box.
“Hearing about Dillon hurting his Achilles was tough, you never want to hear that. I’ve known Dan for a long time and played with him at the Dragons, he’s a great guy and player, but if Melbourne or any other NBL team needed me, I’d be keen to come back to the Australia” said Carter whilst training with a Spanish basketball club.
Peter Hooley is another name on the list. Since graduating from the University of Albany, Hooley has spent a year playing in England and is now training with the United as a free agent. With Hooley training with United, he likely understands what Coach Vickerman want’s from a backup guard more than any other potential replacement but he hasn’t shown a strong defensive skill set in the past.
“Training with United has been great, I’m focused on doing anything I can to improve my game so I’m happy to be able to train with Dean and the guys” Hooley told Aussie Hoopla.
While Hooley may have had a great career in college with Albany University, he has yet to be successful finding an NBL club. Last season he played alongside NBL veterans Rhys Carter and Daryl Corletto with the Plymouth Raiders.
He hopes the effort he has put into his game whilst in Europe can translate to a spot with United, or another NBL team.
“Dan (Dillon) was playing some really good basketball and I’m sure would have had a huge year. I’m just working hard and looking for any opportunity. I think I can offer a lot to teams, and I would love any chance to be able to do that” said Hooley.
While the needs analysis for Dillon’s replacement may be young, court aware and strong defensive skills, there doesn’t really seem to be a clear answer to that.
McDowell-White has youth on his side but hasn’t shown he can compete at the league’s strongest position.
Nate Tomlinson seems to be the project that never went to plan and a forgotten amongst NBL coaches.
25-year-old Hooley isn’t the youngest or the best offensively or defensively. He’s kind of in the middle, but is the safest best going to deliver United the most success?
Carter, a two-time NBL champion Carter has the experience of playing under Vickerman at New Zealand but isn’t getting any younger.
“I might be 33 but I feel 25. I’m speaking with some European team’s and I feel I’ve got a big point to prove this year! I’ve always been able to help teams with defense and energy. I know I’m still at my best, and I can be a big impact player, and bring the same energy” said Carter.
It may be one of these players, it may be none, but a replacement for Dillon won’t be an easy one to find and could end up being the most important move United makes from here.