The 40th season of the best basketball competition in the country has started after an extended pre-season and an overseas interruption by the name of NBL x NBA.
Round one did not disappoint, with heartstoppers in Adelaide on opening night to the Taipans making history. If this is the level of play for the start of the season, expect fireworks all year long.
In addition to the weekly power rankings, coming tomorrow, Aussie Hoopla will be running a Player of the Game segment, where the writing team debate the best players of every NBL game this season.
Just like the AFL’s Brownlow award, votes will be awarded in a 3-2-1 format, with three votes going to the player voted best on the court, with two and one votes going to the second and third best players respectively.
The voting will not replace our usual method of choosing the Most Valuable Player, as it has been agreed that viewing a player’s season as a whole is more meaningful as opposed to game by game, but this way is a handy recap on who the best players were in each round.
Votes will be tallied throughout the season, and the player with the most votes at the end of the season will be awarded “Voter’s Choice MVP”, a very prestigious award that has never been presented before.
So, without further ado, onto round one.
Melbourne 99-97 Adelaide
The 36ers started out like a house on fire, running Melbourne ragged to a handy first quarter lead. They were paced by Nathan Sobey, who capitalised on his fine off-season form. Melbourne fought back, especially with a 40 point third quarter, to take a comfortable margin going into the fourth. Adelaide wasn’t done, as they outscored their opponents by nine in the last term to fall agonisingly close in their home opener.
Three votes – Casper Ware (MEL) – He led all scorers with 23 points and added eight rebounds and six assists. Ware was the go-to man for United down the stretch and didn’t disappoint.
Two votes – Nathan Sobey (ADE) – Started out perfect from the field after five attempts, Sobey was phenomenal. The current Most Improved Player led his team in points (21), rebounds (9) and assists (4) to have an excellent all-around game.
One vote – Casey Prather (MEL) – Although Prather shot poorly from the floor at only 9/23, his aggression was a great sign from the defector. 39% field goal shooting isn’t great, but 20 points and six rebounds is a good start for Prather at his new team.
Illawarra 87-88 Cairns
The Taipans showed off their complete team orientated game, as only Mitch McCarron played more than 26 minutes. Neither team held a double-digit lead as both teams fought for momentum in a grindy, yet high scoring game. Alex Loughton was the hero of the far north, nailing the first free throw with four seconds to go, before intentionally missing the second to seal a one-point win.
Three votes – Alex Loughton (CRN) – The 34-year-old veteran was clutch, as he not only led the Taipans in points with nineteen but sealed the win with Cairns’ last three points.
Two votes – AJ Ogilvy (ILL) – The Hawks’ big man had his hands full against a rampaging Nathan Jawai, but after Big Nate’s game-ending injury Ogilvy had his way. His 22 points, 11 rebounds and three assists were the best statistical game of the round with an efficiency index of 30.
One vote – Rotnei Clarke (ILL) – Clarke did what he does best: score the ball. 22 points in 27 minutes were electric, but five turnovers to only one assist will need to be improved for the Hawks to do damage.
Adelaide 105-96 Sydney
Solely checking the box score would tell a completely different story to what happened on the court. Adelaide dominated the Kings statistically, shooting a whopping 57% from the field to Sydney’s 44%. They had more rebounds, assists, steals and blocks but the Kings were deadly from downtown, being +22 in three-point shots, which kept the game close.
Three votes – Ramone Moore (ADE) – 22 points in as many minutes was inspired, and set the standard for the Sixers throughout the game. He will be invaluable as a super sub this season.
Two votes – Brad Newley (SYD) – One of not many Kings to stand up and show class in this game, Newley continued his outstanding form from last season. 24 points was a game high and his strong drives set up quite a few three-point opportunities for the rest of the team.
One vote – Shannon Shorter (ADE) – Throughout the first part of this season, Shorter will always be compared to reigning MVP Jerome Randle. In reality, they play completely different. Shorter had a round high nine assists to go along with his 14 points and five rebounds, showing he is more pass first than score first.
Brisbane 86-96 Perth
The reigning champs did what they do best, win. After getting out to a 19 point lead, the Wildcats seemed to cruise to a ten point victory. Bryce Cotton was electric, Damian Martin was his suffocating best while Lucas Walker turned back the clock. Our friends at NBLFacts found the amazing statistic that new Perth import Derek Cooke Jr was the first Wildcat import to lay a goose egg (0 points) in their first NBL game since Sunday Adebayo in 2002. Yikes.
Three votes – Bryce Cotton (PER) – The MVP favourite was outstanding in his first game since his 45 point blowout to win the championship. 24 points, four rebounds and three assists might not set the stat pages on fire, but his class and influence on the game were second to none.
Two votes – Travis Trice (BRI) – There is a lot of pressure on Trice to lead the Bullets, and he didn’t let them down. 27 points, five rebounds and four assists is a man-sized output, which was, unfortunately, let down by Stephen Holt, who held to seven points and three turnovers.
One vote – Jesse Wagstaff (PER) – Perth’s sixth man was spectacular, missing only two shots for the whole game on the way to 18 points for the match.
Cairns 82-71 New Zealand
The first game in New Zealand’s fancy new renamed stadium, Spark Arena, didn’t go to plan for the home side. The Breakers held a quarter time and halftime lead before surrendering it by being outscored 25-12 in the third. Cairns held on to win their first two games of the season with another team based attack.
Three votes – Scoochie Smith (CRN) – 18 points and five rebounds tells only part of the story, as Smith was fantastic on New Zealand’s point guards. Edgar Sosa and Shea Ili combined to shoot 35% from the field and turned the ball over seven times to only three assists.
Two votes – Thomas Abercrombie (NZB) – The only player to get going for the Breakers, Abercrombie was far and away the best New Zealand player. 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks (double the amount of any other player in the league) was not enough to help his team win.
One vote – Stephen Weigh (CRN) – A great second in command for Smith, Weigh got the best of one of the most formidable front lines in the league. 17 points and seven rebounds and causing foul trouble for Mika Vukona (fouled out), Rob Loe (fouled out) and Alex Pledger (four fouls).
3 – Bryce Cotton, Perth Wildcats
3 – Alex Loughton, Cairns Taipans
3 – Ramone Moore, Adelaide 36ers
3 – Dayshon Smith, Cairns Taipans
3 – Casper Ware, Melbourne United
2 – Thomas Abercrombie, New Zealand Breakers
2 – Brad Newley, Sydney Kings
2 – AJ Ogilvy, Illawarra Hawks
2 – Nathan Sobey, Adelaide 36ers
2 – Travis Trice, Brisbane Bullets
1 – Rotnei Clarke, Illawarra Hawks
1 – Casey Prather, Melbourne United
1 – Shannon Shorter, Adelaide 36ers
1 – Jesse Wagstaff, Perth Wildcats
1 – Stephen Weigh, Cairns Taipans