Dean Vickerman says Melbourne United still has the budget to re-sign championship winning imports Casper Ware, Casey Prather and Josh Boone for next season.
Melbourne made a surprise move to sign rising Australian star Mitch McCarron last week and that led to fears from some supporters that United had given up on retaining both Ware and Prather. McCarron can play across all three guard positions, so could replace either player in the starting five.
Vickerman was excited to bring in McCarron due to his versatility and his desire to become more of a point guard but the championship-winning coach said his club still had the budget to bring back their three stars.
Ware remains a top priority if he cant land an NBA deal and Melbourne is willing to wait as long as it can to let the star point guard look over his chances.
Ware recently joined a camp with the Portland Trail Blazers soon as they look over talent for their NBA summer league team.
While Vickerman has signed former New Zealand Breakers centre Alex Pledger, he still wants Boone to return and believes the two would complement each other.
Prather, who also has NBA potential, is being chased by his former club Perth Wildcats and he appears the most likely to depart. But Vickerman said Prather loved Melbourne and he remained a priority.
“We still see that as a definite possibility – bringing Casey back,” Vickerman said.
“We have looked at small ball groups playing with four guards and anchoring that with a big but we still have Daniel Trist, David Barlow and Tohi Smith-Milner [all power forwards] who let us change that line-up quickly.
“Right now we are not absolutely set but it [signing McCarron] doesnt discount Casey Prather coming back.”
McCarron has played a lot of his career as a shooting guard or small forward but wants to be more a point guard as he feels his future overseas, in Europe or the NBA, will likely be in that position.
He played in Slovenia after the NBL season as a point guard and Vickerman saw plenty of promise.
“Right now we dont see Mitch starting there, we still hope to bring Casper back and if not Casper, then someone of that level of experience,” Vickerman said.
“Say if we were starting a Chris Goulding, Casper and Mitch together – then we would see him sharing that backcourt with Casper a little more. Chris did that this year.
“Then Mitch has the ability to guard other small forwards.”
Casey loved being a part of our team and has always indicated he would love to come back.
Melbourne has filled all its Australian roster spots with only the three imports to go and while clubs like Perth and Sydney have signed several of their imports, Vickerman is sitting patiently as he knows the quality of Ware, Prather and Boone are worth waiting on.
“Casey loved being a part of our team and has always indicated he would love to come back,” Vickerman said.
“As we do with our imports at this time of year, we let them continue to feel our their value and look at opportunities. When you continue to sign people on one year deals thats what you have to experience.”
While Melbourne have reduced their player budget this season, Vickerman said the team reduced some wages on their bench.
“We wanted to allow a budget very similar to what we spent on our imports last year,” Vickerman said.
“We made some savings off our bench but maximise the value we had for our imports and starting, high-level players.”
Melbourne United 2018-2019 (three imports to be signed): Chris Goulding, Peter Hooley, Craig Moller, Tohi Smith-Milner, Dan Trist, Alex Pledger, Dave Barlow and Mitch McCarron.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.
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