Melbourne United swept their way to the 2021 NBL Championship less than 48 hours ago, but there's no rest for the wicked. NBL Free Agency begins on Monday.
Teams have been able to re-sign players and make decisions on options, which is why we've seen an influx of announcements: from Jarell Martin returning to the Sydney Kings, to William McDowell-White extending in New Zealand, and Kouat Noi signing a 1+1 deal with the Cairns Taipans.
The NBL released its list of every team's free agents on Sunday morning, in preparation for the beginning of Free Agency, so we have a clearer picture of who could be on the move this off-season.
Marquee-level Free Agents
Mitch McCarron is the headliner of this off-season's free agent class, after helping lead United to a title as the team's starting point guard. A starting-calibre, two-way lead guard who's demonstrated the ability to impact winning gives a team flexibility with its import spots, so McCarron's value is extremely high.
The Brisbane Bullets, Adelaide 36ers, and Sydney Kings are preparing significant offers for McCarron, sources told ESPN, while United remains interested in retaining the 28-year-old.
McCarron averaged 10.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.1 assists for United, and suited up for every game over the course of the 2021 NBL season.
Isaac Humphries is listed as a free agent, which means his mutual option with the Adelaide 36ers wasn't exercised. Humphries' 2021 season was cut short by injury but he was widely regarded as one of the league's best players; he's an Australian Boomer and fringe NBA talent. The 23-year-old averaged 13.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game.
Xavier Cooks is listed as a free agent, but he's progressing on a new deal with the Sydney Kings, sources said. In eight games during the 2021 season, the Boomers forward averaged 10.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
Tai Webster, when healthy, showed that he has the ability to be a starting-level guard in the NBL. He averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists a game, on decent shooting splits, outside of his free throw shooting. The New Zealand Breakers just re-signed William McDowell-White, who will be expecting starting-level minutes, and there are legitimate concerns about whether those two can co-exist. That indicates a potential change of scenery for Webster.
Mitch Norton is coming off another Grand Final push with the Perth Wildcats, and will enter Free Agency with good value. The Wildcats have a desire to retain him, but multiple sources indicate the guard isn't against a change of scenery. One team that plans to make a significant push for Norton's services: the Tasmania JackJumpers, sources said. Norton averaged 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game, and was among the finalists for the league's Best Defensive Player award.
Notable Local Free Agents
Ryan Broekhoff was expected to be a free agent, but the NBL's release listed him as contracted with the South East Melbourne Phoenix. That indicates Broekhoff has re-signed. The wing recently withdrew from the Boomers' Tokyo Olympics campaign for mental health reasons.
Jack McVeigh's up-and-down season was largely dictated by his up-and-down minutes, but he showed himself to be among the more efficient scorers in the NBL. The forward averaged 9.4 points, on near 50-40-90 shooting splits, in less than 20 minutes a game. There's an offer on the table for him to return to Adelaide, sources said, while the JackJumpers have been interested for some time and are preparing a significant contract for him. McVeigh's value is relatively high, so he'll have interest from across the league.
Yannick Wetzell had a quietly great season for a first-year pro, starting every game for the South East Melbourne Phoenix, averaging 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. He's still just 24 years old so his value is high, and will test the free agent market. The Phoenix have a strong desire to bring Wetzell back, sources said. There's a sense that his preference is to return to South East Melbourne, sources said.
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.'s value isn't to the point where he's a starting-level player in the NBL, but effective local bigs are at a premium, so the reigning Sixth Man of the Year fits the bill. The 27-year-old averaged 9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks a game for the title-winning United; that championship experience also important for the big-man's value
Will Magnay didn't have the impact many expected during his short stint with the Perth Wildcats, but he still projects as a plug-and-play big for practically every other team. There's a sense that a return to the NBL is what's on the cards for Magnay, who's still just 23 and has a desire to return to the NBA pathway at some point.
Keanu Pinder came into his own toward the end of the season, averaging 7.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game over his last 10 outings, and that really helped his value going into Free Agency. Teams are not eligible to sign Pinder as part of the league's Reconciliation Action Plan.
Harry Froling's team option with the Brisbane Bullets was declined, so he'll enter the off-season as a free agent. Negotiations remain ongoing between the two parties, sources said, so don't rule out a return
Jason Cadee's impact and efficiency dropped off slightly over the 2021 season - shooting just 32.9 percent from downtown - but he's still a serviceable back-up guard and widely regarded as one of the NBL's best teammates. Back-up point guards who can run an offence are valuable in the NBL, and Cadee fits that bill.
Matt Hodgson is coming off a career year with the Bullets, averaging 10.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, and other teams see him as a big-man who can have a Sixth Man of the Year-type of impact. He's expected to test his value this Free Agency, sources said.
Deng Deng showed impressive flashes in what could be labeled a redemption season under Goorjian. He averaged 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, earning a consistent spot in the Hawks' rotation. There aren't many 6'8, local three-fours who are plus athletes and serviceable shooters, so Deng could be an interesting wing option for a lot of teams.
Yudai Baba was a steal for United: he didn't count toward the salary cap, brought in a large fanbase from Japan, and was a legitimate two-way presence. The early word is that he has the sort of interest from outside the NBL that may keep him out of Australia, but that won't stop teams from trying to keep him in the country.
Isaac White was a rotation player for a finals team as a rookie, putting together an impressive back-end of the 2021 season to emerge as an intriguing, young three-and-D option for NBL teams. Over his last 10 games for the Illawarra Hawks, the combo guard averaged 7.4 points, shooting just under 40 percent from downtown on a good amount of volume, while gaining Brian Goorjian's confidence as an effective on-ball defender.
Kevin White's performance in the 2021 postseason probably earned him another contract, because he showed he could be an effective back-up guard for a winning team. The 34-year-old finished with double-digit points in all three Grand Final games, shooting a total of 9-of-18 from beyond the three-point line. Throw in White being a pest on defence and a veteran presence, and he should have a few suitors going into the 2021-22 season.