The Sydney Kings have announced the signing of NBA point guard Derrick Walton Jr for the upcoming NBL season, all but confirming reigning league MVP Jaylen Adams won’t be at the club next year.
Walton, 27, is the Kings’ first import signing for the season, following news on Monday that first-choice big man Jarell Martin had joined Maccabi Tel Aviv after two seasons with Sydney.
Walton brings four years of NBA experience to the Kings, who are looking to defend their NBL title after completing a clean sweep of last season’s grand final series against the Tasmania JackJumpers.
“I had a zoom meeting with the whole staff, including Coach Buford and (CEO) Chris Pongrass, and I just thought their energy and their knowledge was incredible,” Walton said.
Since making his NBA debut in 2017, Walton has played with the Miami Heat, LA Clippers and Detroit Pistons for a total of 45 NBA games – three more than Adams brought to the Kings.
Sydney management told AAP they had also been impressed by Walton’s college career with the University of Michigan, where Walton is the only player in the school’s history to post at least 1000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.
“Derrick is an NBA calibre point guard that we are thrilled to add to our group for next season,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.
“He is a terrific scorer and shooter, and he really excels at creating for teammates as a driver and playmaker out of pick and roll actions. He is also a physical and athletic defender capable of frustrating opponents.
“More importantly, his character, attitude, and competitiveness will fit right in line with our returning core from last season and we envision Derrick being a strong leader within our group.”
Walton joins Xavier Cooks, Shaun Bruce, Dejan Vasiljevic, Angus Glover, Biwali Bayles, Jaylin Galloway, Jordan Hunter, Kouat Noi and Jackson Mackoi on the roster for NBL23.
With local products Vasiljevic and Glover impressing in the championship season, the Kings appear unlikely to pursue another overseas guard with their remaining two import slots.
The Kings had been eager to retain Adams but his heroics in the lead-up to the club’s first NBL title since 2005 were always going to make it difficult to fending international interest off.
Adams has yet to sign a contract elsewhere, however.
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk and Martin, both regular members of Sydney’s starting five last season, have both found opportunities elsewhere so the Kings may choose to go for size as they test the market overseas.