The Trade Window’s Hot Five

Photo credit: Render Creative NZ

This week’s first Sal’s NBL trade window is expected to be a slow affair filled with lots of calls between team GMs, but possibly only two, maybe three players are tipped to actually move to a new team.

The general consensus around the 66-hour window is it will take a couple of years for teams and players to learn how to best use the opportunity to their advantage, remembering players must agree to any trade, and they must earn the same money or can be offered more money in any move to a new team.

Of course, teams are in different positions and differing frames of mind midway through a season. Some are doing well, some are not. Some don’t need to change a thing and any trade could be unsettling, while other teams need to re-tool but that takes a co-operative opposition team to be willing to do a deal.

The one thing that is likely to change over the coming years will be players knocking on the GM’s door and asking for a fresh opportunity, that’s part of the system’s maturity.

However, as the teams and players figure it all out, it doesn’t stop the pundits from discussing and dissecting different trade scenarios, and this time around Sky Sport commentators Casey Frank and Justin Nelson pick the five players they would be picking up the phone and asking about if they were sitting in the GM chair at a team during the trade window.

Player 1

JN: I’m putting Dom Kelman-Poto at the top of my list, he’s the one I’m asking about first. The 29-year-old is in the best shape of his career, and he needs to be playing more minutes than the Bulls are offering with Jamaal Brantley ahead of him. Big men who can control the paint and can bang bodies inside aren’t easy to find, and right now (for different reasons) Kelman-Poto might be a great addition for the Whai, Jets, Sharks, Giants, Nuggets and Hawks as they all battle for a spot in the final 6. I rate DKP as the best player in the competition between the blocks and under the backboard, his skills around the basket are uncanny and superior. He’s a proven performer and a competitor who loves to win. This is a guy who can and will deliver so my first call as GM of any team is straight to the Bulls.

CF: For this exercise I'm approaching it like I'm a GM that needs one piece to put me over the top of finals qualification or, if my team is really good, that final puzzle piece that makes me a championship contender.  One guy I've had circled is Kaia Isaac, a talented player who is finding a bit less court time as the Rams have welcomed their talent as the season has gone along. He's shooting 56% from 2 point range but just 25% from three, but with a bit more game time and the freedom that comes with it I see that skyrocketing up.  Could you convince the Rams to let him go? Probably not, but the chance to get him and let him experience the natural improvement on his 8.6pts and 6.1rbs that would come with more playing time might just convince Kaia the grass is greener on the other side of the road. 

Player 2

CF:  Bigs are always at a premium in this league, but so few teams have depth in the position that it is unlikely to get a team to part with a player that has talent in this area. Which is why I would target Josh Leger, he had experience starting with the Jets a season ago, but with the dept of talent that the Tuatara boast opportunities to hit the court have been less frequent this season. Leger has hit the court for 5.7 minutes per game but has hit 71% of his field goal attempts while showing a knack for hitting the free throw line with a 43% free throw rate (Free Throw rate measures how often a player gets to the free throw line compared to field goals attempted, meaning Josh is good at getting to the line) . And the promise of playing time might convince him to ask for a release from the Dino-den and the Tuatara might be willing to let a player that is superfluous to current needs go. 

JN: For my second players I’m going to stay with the Bulls where Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape is averaging his lowest minutes and points per game since 2020. Still only 22 years old, and as athletic as any player going around, Leusogi-Ape needs to be playing more and I think he would be a great fit for a few teams, especially the Whai where another scoring athletic wing would help.

Player 3

JN: I’m really high on Canterbury’s Aidan Tonge and all the good stuff he brings. I rate him highly as an emerging talent. The 21-year-old is really starting to find his feet and his 3X3 skills around the basket are undeniably very good, a bit like Kelman-Poto. The creative forward is in a deep Rams team where consistent minutes are hard to come by with Olbrich, Buffen Jnr and Darling all competing with him. And the Rams also still have Mac Stodart to return. So many teams could benefit from having Tonge, it’s a long list. He’s defiantly one player I’m picking up the phone and asking about.

CF: For player three I'm going with a new strategy, and instead of trying to rob from the rich I'll reach out to a team that hasn't had the results they wanted and is likely out of the finals race. The Southland Sharks may fit that bill (barring a minor miracle) and there are several players on the squad that would be of help to rosters across the league. Ben Hall is a player that has intrigued over the years, but in a year where he has struggled to find form (6.2 pts, 36% fg) maybe the Sharks would be willing to let him go for the right price. What that is I couldn't say, but if a team could pry him away there is nice mix of size and positional flexibility that will come in handy during a finals chase, but perhaps has less value to a squad chasing that first win. 

Player 4

CF: Back to big game hunting as I need someone to give a bit of pop to the low post area and once again it will unlikely to find any partners willing to give any talent up down low. But I'll try my luck with the Nuggets to see if I can't pry away Robbie Coman. He has good size but can hit the deep ball (44% 3pfg) while still showing a knack to get to the line (32% free throw rate). His playing time has been up and down but as he does average over 12 minutes per game he would be tough to pluck, especially with the Nugs own finals chase on the horizon, but you never know until you pick up the phone. 

JN: The Sharks are having a miserable season and should be picking up the phone and listening to everyone right now. And, though the conversation might not last long, if I’m GM of a contender I’m absolutely asking about Alonzo Burton. Shooting at over 46% from deep, Burton would the perfect addition to a contender like the Airs, Bulls and Nuggets, while he would certainly thrust the Giants and Hawks into playoffs contention as well. Burton looks the to be the perfect sixth man, an experienced vet who could play a vital role and help win a championship with the right team this year.

Player 5

JN: I’m going right outside the square now and putting some armour on as I courageously pick up the phone to Airs and ask about Carlin Davison. The 20-year-old is prospectively a prodigious talent, no doubt, but I don’t think we are consistently seeing it (yet). Of course, a recent ankle injury hasn’t helped, but if you look a little deeper and track his career over the last five years, it has fluctuated, it’s been inconsistent. Then again, you fully expect that from a teenager, for sure. But I pose the question, and it’s a difficult question for any young player – would a new environment away from his home town be of benefit? Something completely new? Would it help him to think and do nothing but hoops and rise to next level? As a GM, that’s the pitch I’m making to the Airs right before they hang up on me!

CF: My last call is going to be to the Saints, to see if I can't get a talented scorer who just can't get on the court with any consistency in the capital. Rangimarie Dougall-Mita has the ability to be more than a sniper, and given a longer leash could be consistent double digit scorer. In this case if I'm searching for a 6th man instant offense weapon he'd be on the top of my list. It's been tough for him to find minutes as the talent pool for the Saints expanded with late arrivals and his 12 minutes per game average has dropped under that in 2 of the last three games. His shooting splits are lower than expected (26% fg, 27% 3pfg) but that would come up with a more defined role and the chance to let a few fly without fear of a sub coming his way. He has the type of scoring talent and depth of range to really lift a team that needs a bit of pop in the starting lineup or off the bench, but the Saints are not a team that needs that.


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