In massive news yesterday, Casey Prather has spurned the Perth Wildcats to join rivals Melbourne United for the upcoming NBL season. To compare this to the NBA, it’s like Kevin Durant joining the Warriors. Granted, Melbourne didn’t go quite as well as Golden State the season before Durant joined, but the signing of Prather is going to reshape the NBL landscape completely. Just like Durant did.
In short, Casey Prather is a superstar in this league. He was top five in points (19.5) and steals (1.6) and top 15 in assists (3.5). He was named to the All-NBL First Team, won Perth’s Most Valuable Player award and capped it all off with another championship for the Wildcats. His play was so spectacular that he finished second in MVP voting, behind only Adelaide’s Jerome Randle. Without a doubt, Prather was in that rare echelon of elite talent in the league.
On paper, like last season, Melbourne’s squad looks to be a championship contender. On paper. Even though the team had a star-studded roster, they just couldn’t get the job done and didn’t even make the playoffs even with the likes of Casper Ware and Chris Goulding. Casey Prather will single handedly change that.
As said above, Prather is an elite player. But what separates him from other high-class imports and will be the driving force in Melbourne’s resurgence is his experience. Two seasons with the Wildcats have given Prather a calm head, someone who knows what is needed to get to the final podium.
Although Bryce Cotton got most of the attention for his sensational performance in game three of the NBL Championship series, Prather was rock solid in all three games. 19 points, five rebounds and five assists are amazing averages in the most pressure filled three games of the season.
As Melbourne gains Prather, it also means Perth loses him. Removing an All-NBL First Teamer from any roster is a major blow, especially for a team trying to three-peat. Devondrick Walker and Derek Cooke Jr look like excellent additions, but they are still unknown. Casey Prather has shown on multiple occasions that he is a superstar that can succeed from day one of the 2017/18 season. Walker and Cooke Jr, who knows?
If the rumours are true and Melbourne will regain the services of Casper Ware, the trio of Prather, Ware and Josh Boone is the best three imports in the league, and it’s not even close. Although most teams haven’t signed their full allotment of imports, it’s going to be hard pressed to beat these three. As of right now, only Brisbane could have challenged, and only if Torrey Craig didn’t leave for America to chase his NBA dream. Combining Craig with Stephen Holt and Travis Trice would have been a delicious thought for Queensland fans.
In fact, this group of imports for United may be the best the league has seen in many, many seasons:
- Casey Prather – All-NBL First Team, club MVP, second in league MVP
- (possibly) Casper Ware – All-NBL First Team, club MVP, fifth in league MVP
- Josh Boone – league leading rebounder
The last time two imports from the same team were on the All-NBL First team was back in 1998 when Derek Rucker and Ray Owes played for the Townsville Suns in the season before the league moved to a summer competition. For the 2016/17 season, Casey Prather and Casper Ware were All-NBL First Teamers. Add in Josh Boone, who even though only played twelve games, was arguably the best big man in the competition, is a tantalising thought for Victorians.
Melbourne plays against Oklahoma City in October and will be a great test for this new and improved roster. In most cases, this will not be a close game. However, with the addition of Casey Prather, it will be much closer than other NBA pre-season contests. The United have a balanced roster and will be out to prove themselves at the highest level and could really surprise a lot of people.
Signing Casey Prather signals that Melbourne is not playing around anymore. They want a championship and are not afraid to get the best players in the league to fulfil that idea. It also weakens the best team in the competition, as Perth are pinning their hopes on two players who most basketball fans are not particularly familiar.
Just like Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors, Casey Prather enlisting with Melbourne is ground breaking news for the NBL. It has increased the league’s talent level and has put every other team in the competition on notice that if they want to compete, they are going to have to get better. Now all Melbourne must do is transfer what is on paper onto the court.