A free agency for the ages is upon in South Korea. Five out of the league’s six naturalized Koreans on the market. And teams are getting ready to empty their wallets to sign them.
Coming off one of the worst seasons in league history, the Korean Basketball League (KBL) will look to make significant changes to its rules and regulations which is taking a lot of conversation away from what is the hottest free agency summer the league has ever seen.
The 2015 KBL free agent class is led by the two Moon brothers who might be searching for the final contracts of their career (Moon Tae Young is 36-years-old, Moon Tae Jong is 39-years-old). There will be a lot of money spent this off-season and it will be interesting to see what team is willing to take a chance on any of these top free agents seeing how not one of them is under the age of 30.
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Whoever lands Tony Akins is hitting an off-season home run. Not because he was Mr. Basketball for the state of Georgia in 1998. Not because he is one of the most dynamic point guards the KBL has ever seen. It’s because of how well he will adapt to the new 6 ft. 4 in. height restriction on one of the two foreigners. Akins is a great catch and shoot guard, an American combo guard will create more open space beyond the arc. Last season Akins’ season came to an end shortly after the all-star break when he suffered a lower body injury in practice. He played a total of 38 games with the Busan KT SonicBoom averaging 11 points and four assists per game. He is entering his seventh season in the KBL.
Entering his ninth season in the KBL, Daniel Sandrin enters the free agent market after a sub-par season with one of the worst teams the KBL has ever seen, the Samsung Thunder. It’s fair to compare the Samsung Thunder to the Philadelphia 76ers in the sense that they’ve been tanking seasons to scoop up the best draft picks and rebuild that way, but for Sandrin who was the best player on the worst team, that might have effected his free agent stock value in a negative way. The Thunder were serious about tanking, they limited Sandrin’s minutes to 12 per game. Sandrin was healthy all year, and that could be a positive for teams looking to sign an athletic wing player who can play in the post. But his 2014-2015 stats are nothing to be impressed about averaging five points and two rebounds per game.
Eric Sandrin missed the entire 2014-2015 KBL season due to a leg injury. He was schedule to return late in the season but Dongbu decided to keep him sidelined for reasons unknown and were reluctant to trade him. Sandrin was one of the leagues most athletic players during his tenure in the KBL. His will to aggressively attack the rim is unprecedented in the KBL. Most bigs rely on their ability to shoot the mid-range jump shot. And while Sandrin is capable of stretching the floor, it’s his ability to get to the hole that has brought him success in the league. But with recent injuries, the aging Sandrin (37) will have to prove teams that he is worth taking a chance on. Don’t expect teams to cough up a multi-year deal. It’s been almost a year since the former national team player has last seen the floor.
Last year, Moon Tae Jong was overworked. In Korea, employees are known to work long office hours, but the amount of basketball Moon Tae Jong played during the 2014-2015 season would make those office workers look like part-timers. Lets start in April 2014 when he led the Changwon LG Sakers to the KBL finals. After a tough series against Ulsan Mobis, Moon Tae Jong reported for the Korean national team to take part in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. When he got back to Korea, he continued working with the national team in preperations to the 2014 Incheon Asian Games where he was the most valuable player leading team Korea to gold. Two weeks later, he was in a Changwon LG Sakers uniform playing in the 2014-2015 KBL season. He played a total of 60 games (23 minutes per game) and was out of gas during the KBL semi-finals against Mobis.
In recent contract negotiations, the Changwon LG Sakers decided not to re-new his deal letting him test the market. According to rumors in Korea, the amount that let the deal fall through was about $50,000 USD. A team in Korea will pay Moon Tae Jong the money he deserves, but it won’t be LG.
Last season, Moon Tae Jong averaged 12 points and four assists per game. In December, he will turn 40. No word yet on how many years he is looking for on his next contract but a team option on his final year is expected.
Since joining the Ulsan Mobis Phoebus in 2012, Moon Tae Young has been a KBL champion every season. He now has three rings and played a vital role in every one of those championship seasons. Since joining the KBL in 2010, Moon Tae Young has created matchup nightmares for opposing teams. His high basketball IQ along with his ability to finish in traffic was on full display in this year’s 2015 KBL finals where he was awarded the finals MVP award. Of course Ulsan Mobis wants to re-sign his but with his brother Moon Tae Jong testing the market, rumors are starting to spread about the possibility of both players signing with the same team. If this were the case, one of the brothers would have to take a steep pay cut, and with the recent reports of Moon Tae Jong not willing to take a pay cut to stay with LG, this might not be the case. But wherever Moon Tae Young goes, expect the team to give up top dollar for his presence. His five year KBL resume includes five KBL all-star games and three KBL championships. Last season, Moon Tae Young averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game.