Only a week to go until the start of one of the most exciting NBL seasons in recent memory. It seems that the talent in the league this season is better than any other year, with an additional import spot, former Australian superstars coming back to the country and a closer gap between teams.
. So what is in store for the eight teams over the next four months?
- How will the Bullets fare in their first season since 2008?
- Will someone break Perth and New Zealand’s streak of seven straight championships between them?
- Will Cairns welcome back their prodigal son in Nathan Jawai with open arms?
- Will Sydney do anything of substance this season?
- How will Adelaide’s youth movement pan out?
- Will the NBL video streaming service be anything better than what it used to be, a steaming pile of garbage?
It’s all very exciting but how does someone make sense of the eight teams in the league? Aussie Hoopla has done the hard work for you in our weekly power rankings. Every Tuesday the rankings will be updated to give a proper rundown of your team’s chances during the season. Come back every week and find out.
1. Melbourne United
Last Season – 18-10, Third
What I Like – Depth. Melbourne’s second unit of Nate Tomlinson/Ramone Moore/David Barlow/Tai Wesley/Devin Williams wouldn’t be that far off some starting fives of previous years. The United (ugh, still not a fan of the name) have many, many options for points so they don’t have to rely on Chris Goulding as much as they did last season.
What I Don’t Like –Lack of Moxie or fortitude. They won their first nine games of last season before ending on a 9-10 run. Then they choked in the playoffs, getting swept comprehensively by the Breakers. Are they regular-season warriors or can they take the pressure of the playoffs and win their first title since 2008?
2. Sydney Kings
Last Season – 6-22, Last
What I Like – Talent. Adding three past and present Boomers to a squad that already included Julian Khazzouh is as mouth-watering as it sounds. Two-time MVP Kevin Lisch is a fantastic addition but bringing back Brad Newley and Aleks Maric is tantalising. Will there be enough shots to go around? Judging by the Australian Basketball Challenge, no. The King were dead last in assisted made baskets.
What I Don’t Like – Violet Crumbles. The Kings have had talented squads in the past, and nothing came from them. Since returning to the NBL in the 2010-11 season, Sydney has not had a winning season and made the playoffs only once which was on a tiebreaker countback. With such talent rosters in previous seasons, will this one be any different?
3. Perth Wildcats
Last Season – 18-10, Champions
What I Like – Culture. There may be some backlash from Perth fans for having the defending champions so low on the list, but the league is just getting better and better. It seems that basketball in Perth is getting close to religion status and the sheer ferocity shown by their fans is staggering. Expect to see the Wildcats in the playoffs for what seems like the millionth consecutive season.
What I Don’t Like – Turnover. The Wildcats have lost Nathan Jawai (Cairns), Jermaine Beal (Brisbane) and Tom Jervis (Brisbane), three important cogs in the last season’s championship team. They’ve added two new signings straight out of college which could cause some teething issues early on.
4. Cairns Taipans
Last Season – 12-16, Sixth
What I Like – Nathan Jawai. Last time Jawai was with the Snakes he was a rookie sensation. Averaging 17 points and nine rebounds, he won the Rookie of the Year award, All-NBL Second Team and the All-Star Game MVP award. After that, he went overseas, played in the NBA, then came back to the NBL with Perth. Reports say that Jawai has lost weight and is agiler than ever which is imposing news for a team that added potential MVP candidate Travis Trice to an already loaded roster.
What I Don’t Like – Scoring (lack of). Last season the Taipans were dead last in points per game at 80 per contest. It will be interesting to see who will fill the space of Torrey Craig (Brisbane) and Markel Starks, two of Cairns’ top three scorers last year.
5. New Zealand Breakers
Last Season – 16-12, Second
What I Like – Scoring. He may be 36 years old, but Kirk Penney still has it, winning an All-NBL Second team award last season. Adding his scoring to Corey Webster and Thomas Abercrombie will push the Breakers over the century mark in many games this season.
What I Don’t Like – Imports. So far the Breakers have Ben Woodside and Akil Mitchell, two names that aren’t going to make any team go running scared. It could be that with New Zealand’s big three taking the majority of the spotlight they don’t need to set the world on fire, but it’s possible that there will be some new imports by mid-year.
6. Brisbane Bullets
Last Season – 2008
What I Like – Cameron Bairstow. Arguably the best signing of the whole offseason, Bairstow will be an MVP candidate from day one. Any 25-year-old that played the last two seasons in the NBA, no matter how little court time he got, is a huge coup for a team. It may take him a couple of games to get into the NBL groove, but when that happens, the league will tremble.
What I Don’t Like – A lot. Daniel Kickert may have shot the lights out and earned himself an All-NBL First Team selection but a power forward/centre that averages less than four rebounds a game is bound to be exposed. Jermaine Beal was overrated, and Adam Gibson is not the player he used to be. Cam Bairstow’s shoulders will need to be strong because right now, he will be carrying this team every night.
7. Illawarra Hawks
Last Season – 17-11, Fourth
What I Like – The AJ Ogilvy/Rotnei Clarke combination. It is in my opinion that Ogilvy was the best big man in the league last season, coming in the league’s top ten in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. At only 28 years old he’s got plenty left in the tank and with the departure of Kirk Penney and reigning MVP Kevin Lisch his role will grow. The addition of former MVP Rotnei Clarke will give the league another dynamic inside/outside duo to watch feed off of each other.
What I Don’t Like – Talent. Losing two of the top five scorers in the league is massive, with Kevin Lisch (Sydney) and Kirk Penney (New Zealand) leaving huge holes that probably won’t be filled. Clarke will do his best, but unless more people step up, it’s going to be a tough slog on the offensive end.
8. Adelaide 36ers
Last Season – 14-14, Fifth
What I Like – Jerome “Antman” Randle. Randle was a revelation last season, coming aboard and blasting the 36ers up the ladder with his electrifying brand of lightning-quick drives to the basket. It’s going to be a rough year for Adelaide so expect to see the ball in Randle’s hands more and more. And yes, Homicide Williams’ nickname for Randle has stuck and will be used as much as possible.
What I Don’t Like – The Youth Movement. It’s not that I don’t like the youth that the team has brought along, I think it’s great. It’s just not going to convert into many wins this season. Terrance Ferguson will dazzle the highlight reels as many times as he will turn the ball over. Eric Jacobsen will pulverise someone with his strength but give up an offensive foul in the progress. And Majok Deng will do something never seen on a basketball court but will accidentally miss a defensive assignment the next play. It’s not their fault; it’s just the perils of youth.