lobpasstoabercrombie.com , I was asked if this year's batch of imports was the best of the last decade. I said no, believing that 2012 and 2008 at this stage looked to be superior. After another week of games, it's starting to look like the class of 2013/2014 will give those groups a serious shake.
The Sixers were one of the first teams to lock down it's two imports, pairing former league MVP Gary Ervin with old pal Jarrid Frye. Ervin's toughness, leadership skills and scoring ability were well-known around the league but Frye was an unknown and had plenty of question marks around him, mainly around his lack of dominance in a respected league. After a few training sessions and preseason games is obvious Frye will be an important part of this year's team and will challenge for the mantle of "recruit of the year".
Let's look though at Ervin and Frye's competition for import duo of the season.
The Wildcats have been setting the standard for years now (being a playoff lock, selling out games on a regular basis, developing a state-of-the-art arena etc) and added to that by signing a current NBA draft pick from the carryover champions, the Miami Heat. James Ennis will like be in the NBA within the next 12-15 months so make sure you go and watch him play. Shot selection and not being too Craig Winder-ish will be his challenge but expect him to be one of a handful of players who'll average 20+ points a game this year. His running mate will be fellow American Jermaine Beal, who also likes to score and led the team in scoring in their most recent warm-up game against Townsville. Expect these two to provide plenty of headaches for opponents this year.
The Breakers bring in two new imports this year, pairing diminutive point guard Kerron Johnson with Shane Heal's whipping boy, Darnell Lazare. Johnson won't replace Ced-Jax but will do a very good impersonation while Lazare will hopefully enjoy a change of scenery in Kiwiland. Lazare has all the tools but just needs to work on his focus and not falling too in love with his outside game.
The Hawks took their time finding their imports and that delay sure looks like a wise move now. They've paired point guard Rotnei Clarke with the athletic Durrell Summers and will create lots of challenges for opposing defenses. Clarke could be one of the best three-point shooters we've ever seen in the league while Summers could be one of the most dynamic scorers we've seen in the last decade. Pairing the combo with some savvy,team-first veterans should ensure the Hawks are up there with all the other challengers.
The Crocs went the economical route, picking up a few guys who had solid form in the NZNBL in Josh Pace and Brian Conklin. While they might not have excited too many Crocs fans initially, both guys have had very good preseasons and look the goods. The Crocs have a solid core with some nice weapons off the bench and if Pace and Conklin continue their early form there's no reason to think that the Croc's can't go from nearly-out-of-the-league to serious playoff contenders.
Jonny Flynn was a big (name) loss for the Tigers but Melbourne fans won't stay disappointed for too long with the play of Stephen Dennis. The import point guard has good size and should be in the MVP discussion this year. Centre Scott Morrison brings some much needed size and should be solid, if not spectacular. Goulding's injury will hurt but expect Dennis to shoulder the load and show us all his tricks.
Any early concerns around Charles Carmouche and Jesse Sanders appear to have evaporated with both players getting a handful of games now under their belt. Sanders has simply been outstanding early on and Carmouche has had enough big games to show he'll be handful. Ben Madgen's early return will only help the two imports and the Kings should be fun to watch in 2013/2014.
Jamar Wilson holds the distinction of being the only import returning to the club he was with last year. Wilson, like his team, disappointed last year but expect him and his team to turn this season on it's head. Joining Wilson will be combo guard Demetri McCamey, who will likely be a fan favourite with his play making skills and tenacity. McCamey won't pile up the stats but should be a key cog in a resurgent Taipans lineup.
It's early days but all signs are we may see no import changes (outside injury) this year as all teams appear to be happy with their rosters and import choices. It's great to see a load of new imports and to see each roster filling two import spots. It should coincide with the best season of NBL of the millenium.