What if the NBL allowed trades during the season?

Prior to the launch of the 2016/17 NBL season, the league announced a number of broad reforms to its player contract and salary cap rules. Highlights of the rule changes included the removal of the player points system, up to 3 import players per roster, a marquee player system, increase to the salary cap and implementation of the ‘soft cap’, allowing clubs to go over the cap but pay a tax to do so, amongst other things. 

With the unholy evenness of the competition at the conclusion of Round 11, it would be difficult to argue the rule amendments haven’t had a great effect in equalising the competition. Put two and two together and it’s clear, the changes have definitely worked for the better.

The ‘soft cap’ tax regime

Would the following rule change undo all the good work or possibly take it to the next level?

As we all know, unlike the NBA, the NBL does not allow franchises to trade players (up to a mid-season trading deadline). But, what if they could?

There always seems to be a ‘little brother mentality’ when it comes to Australian sporting leagues. The arguments against being allowed to trade players mid-season, invariably come down to two things – the uprooting of families and costs involved. It almost seems like, we dip the toe in but don’t quite go all the way. There might be what’s called free agency but it’s not really a free agency.

In my view, if you want to be a premier professional league, the mentality needs to change. It’s a mentality holding us back.

Another possible reason may be the shortness of a season. The number of games played. I don’t buy that. Short-term injury replacement players can play anywhere from 1-15 games. Trading during the season, say, up to Rd 13, is no different.


Using the NBA as an example, as a league it has been trading players since its inception in 1946, when it was still known as the BAA. When it first began, the BAA was an 11-team league that played 60 games across two countries and even included a Toronto team – The Huskies!

They still traded their players, and so soon after WWII too, uprooting families whilst costing money.

Why don’t professional leagues in Australia allow trading of players mid-season?

The Australian Football League (AFL) – Australia’s lone sporting colossus and undoubted largest money machine – is home to an NBA-like figure of 450+ players, and yet, only introduced “free agency” (or their watered down facsimile of free agency) at the end of the 2012 season. Now, 120 years into its existence, the AFL still does not allow trading of players during the season.

The NBL could quite possibly change the Australian sporting landscape by being the first league to allow trades during the season. Is that being heartless and cut-throat or finally allowing it to become a truly professional business?

The NBL wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel here either, everything needed has already been tested and written into the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The rules about trading could be adapted, amended or tweaked as needed to suit our smaller, still flourishing league.

Finally, allowing trades should be the final brick knocked off the wall when it comes to player salaries being public knowledge (how are we supposed to salary match and prognosticate about who can be traded for who?). The NBL is a professional league after all, every league I can think of internationally has the player salary available at the click of a button. Except Australia.  Once again, dip the toe in the professional pool but not all the way in, players might be open to ridicule. Ahuh, and?

In light of this changing NBL world and to get the ball rolling (so to speak), here are just two hypothetical trades. I’m assuming the players involved are on similar salaries to make this work. By my estimations they shouldn’t be that far apart.

If working the phones as General Manager of the Brisbane Bullets, would you have considered making these trades earlier in the season?

Trade Scenario 1

Jaron Johnson, through no fault of his own, has had a rough start to his NBL career. As intimated by The Pick and Roll’s Luke Sicari, Jaron has the talent and athleticism to be a key cog on a contender.

Perhaps an early change of scenery and an injection of confidence might have been of benefit to Jaron.

The Perth Wildcats who have desperately needed solid guard play and shooting (everywhere from 3-27 ft, to be honest) all year, also backed themselves into a little bit of a corner with the ‘rest of season’ backing of Jaron.

While Jaron has been the best Wildcat from outside statistically, shooting 39% on almost 5 attempts per game according to RealGM, he hasn’t shown the consistent ability to breakdown a defence and be a distributor that can get other Wildcats much needed easy buckets or open shots. Jaron averages a solid 12.5 PPG and 4.7 RPG but has never looked completely comfortable in Perth’s stagnant offense.

What if the league rules were different and a blockbuster trade to right an off-season wrong could have been made, in Round 4 or 8 or 11?


Who’s Involved

Jaron Johnson G/F (Perth Wildcats) to the Brisbane Bullets in exchange for Jermaine Beal G.

The Stats

JJ – 12.5 PPG – 4.6 RPG – 1.9 APG – 42% FG – 38% 3PT – 16.3 PER in 13 games

JB – 12.9 PPG – 2.5 RPG – 2.1 APG – 40% FG – 34% 3PT – 11.6 PER in 17 games

If you ask the people of Perth, former Finals MVP and All-NBL First Teamer, Jermaine Beal, should still be a Wildcat. His productivity with the Bullets has been down, almost at career-low levels across the board (according to RealGM). Time to come home, ‘Dolla’.

The Pro’s and Con’s

For Perth: You right a wrong and bring back into the fold exactly what you have been missing. Dolla Beal is a composed winner that can shoot the rock in the clutch and will break down a defense, either one on one or through pick action. He won two championships with Perth, it’s like a family reunion.

Jaron has won Perth at least two games with timely buckets, and led comebacks in many others. He is second in scoring for Perth, are they giving up on him too early?

For Brisbane: They get an athletic swingman injection to partner with MVP candidate Torrey Craig. The feisty Adam Gibson assumes the mantle as undoubted number one guard while the plucky Shaun Bruce, who has played over 100 games now, is given more minutes to show what he is made of in the back-up role. Jaron is set free from Perth’s plodding slow-paced offense and is let loose in a better run system more suited to his talents.


With two championships in three years at Perth, Jermaine’s fit in the Wildcats is unquestioned. He is a certified winner and difference maker in this league so you need to be getting quality in return. For Jaron, his fit in Brisbane’s open system alongside Craig, Gibson and Jervis would allow him to flourish.

Best Starting 5 Unit before trade

Perth: D Martin, C Prather, J Johnson, M Knight, J McKay.

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Beal, T Craig, C Bairstow, T Jervis.

Best Starting 5 Unit after trade

Perth: D Martin, J Beal, C Prather, M Knight, J McKay.

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Johnson, T Craig, C Bairstow, T Jervis.

A win-win that evens out the starting five for both franchises (especially when coupled with Trade Scenario 2).


Trade Scenario 2

Both David Andersen and Cam Bairstow are currently injured. Neither team would do this trade now, but what about earlier in the year, when both players were struggling to find their feet?

Who’s Involved

It’s a marquee signing swap – David Anderson F/C (Melbourne United) to the Brisbane Bullets in exchange for Cameron Bairstow F/C.

The Stats

DA – 10.4 PPG – 4.6 RPG – 1.9 APG – 42% FG – 26% 3pt – 16.8 PER in 14 games

CB – 11.9 PPG – 6.0 RPG – 0.93 APG – 46% FG – 28% 3pt – 21.2 PER in 14 games


Pro’s and Con’s

For Melbourne: Cam Bairstow is the relentless bullocking bull that Melbourne needs on the inside. The missing piece for a line-up that could then push the pace or run pick and roll’s with Cam and Ware all night. He is the type of emotional and hard-working player that Casper and Chris would feed off. With Cam as starting centre, Barlow gets inserted into the starting line-up, forming an athletic and interchangeable wing lineup with CG and Vinny. Casper, Chris and Cam also lends itself to witty nicknames that marketing departments love to play with.

For Brisbane: Despite his sluggish shooting start with Melbourne United, David Andersen is far better in the mid-range and from outside than Cam Bairstow is. That can’t be questioned. Those particular skills are a far better fit alongside the inside talents of Tom Jervis. Brisbane is still scratching the surface with what Jervis can do. Having him as the  focal point inside, would help their defence and better utilisation of his passing skills could assist with their offensive playbook. David has familiarity with Coach Andrej and was one of the better Boomers during the Rio Olympics, the transition there would be seamless.


Check out the starting 5 for Brisbane now. Inside/outside connectivity, better size and switching ability on defence, upgraded shooting in Lemanis’ Boomer-styled offensive schemes and increased athleticism. That is a start engraving the championship trophy starting 5 right there.

Best Starting 5 Unit before trade

Melbourne: C Ware, C Goulding, T Blanchfield, D Andersen, M Majok

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Johnson, T Craig, C Bairstow, T Jervis.

Best Starting 5 Unit after trade

Melbourne: C Ware, C Goulding, T Blanchfield, D Barlow, C Bairstow,

Brisbane: A Gibson, J Johnson, T Craig, D Andersen, T Jervis.


Another win-win that evens out the starting-5 for both franchises. So, in two trades the Bullets’ have gone from a small-ish backcourt tandem with a lumbering frontcourt that clogs up the paint area; to one that is more athletic, has better shooting capabilities and fits together on court far better.

If the NBL allowed trades, would you execute a deal for your team? Tell me, which player trade would you make to improve your team?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s