Record: 17-11, lost 2-1 in semi-finals to Illawarra
Average points: 92.5 (1)
Average points against: 90.0 (8)
Points Differential: +2.5 (1)
Points: Jerome Randle – 21.3
Rebounds: Daniel Johnson – 7.1
Assists: Jerome Randle – 5.4
Blocks: Matt Hodgson – 0.7
Steals: Nathan Sobey – 1.0
Team MVP: Jerome Randle
The easiest choice of any team, the league’s MVP is, of course, the 36ers’ MVP. Last season, Randle was an MVP candidate and was awarded an All-NBL First Team position. This season, he was much more valuable to Adelaide and the league.
Third, in points and assists in the whole competition, Randle had an incredible season. He may have only come third in scoring but he played almost twice as many games as leader Bryce Cotton, and his shooting percentages were off the chart. For a point guard, shooting over 50% from the field is exceptional, so for Randle to be top 20 out of all players in field goal percentage at 50.6% is spectacular. His 90% from the free throw line was also top five in players who averaged at least one attempted free throw. Any way you slice it, Randle was a statistical marvel.
Looking past the numbers, Randle had a way to willing his Sixers to wins. Opposing teams would base their game plan on stopping Randle, which would free up the rest of the Adelaide team to make plays. The best player on the best team, Randle will be sorely missed if he doesn’t come back for another stint in the NBL, as both the league and the fans will miss his exciting brand of basketball.
What went right?
After round seven, the Sixers were dead last at 3-6 and were struggling. Their offense was potent, but their defense left a lot to be desired. After that, the team went 14-1 to take the minor premiership. For a team that was rated last by many experts (including Aussie Hoopla), they played unbelievably well as a team.
Nathan Sobey had a year to remember and catapulted himself into the league’s elite. Eleventh in points, seventh in assists and top 20 in rebounds, Sobey was one of only two players to average at least five rebounds and four assists per game. He was Adelaide’s all around guy who could do it all.
Adelaide’s youth brigade stepped up on a nightly basis, with Anthony Drmic winning Rookie of the Year and Majok Deng close to being runners-up. High profiled import Terrance Ferguson may not have troubled the stat sheet that often but it wasn’t a coincidence that when he was inserted into the starting line-up, Adelaide started winning. He also brought excitement to the league, from winning the pre-season slam dunk contest to having NBA scouts at many 36ers games.
What went wrong?
Losing in the Semi-Finals against Illawarra after being a game up was a bitter way to finish the season. They didn’t look like the best team in the league, and that could have been attributed to their 1-6 end to the regular season. The team seemed to take the foot off the pedal and may have interrupted their postseason preparation.
Apart from Randle, the imports for Adelaide weren’t up to the high standard of the 2016-17 NBL. Eric Jacobsen was regularly outplayed by Matt Hodgson and came off the bench for most of the season, and even though Terrance Ferguson had some highlights, he couldn’t be relied upon to be a major contributor to the team. It is difficult for a club like Adelaide to spend as much money as the heavyweights like Sydney and Melbourne, and their lack of output (apart from Randle) showed.
Their high potent brand of outscoring their opponents worked well during the regular season but coming up against a similarly built team in Illawarra, it fell flat. In Adelaide’s 14-1 streak they gave up 100 points or more only once, in their two postseason losses, the Hawks put up triple digits in both games. It’s the danger of playing at such a high pace that the other team could do it better.
Focus for next season
Jerome Randle has had so many rumours circulated about him it’s hard to keep track of what is real and what is just a story. The most likely outcome is that he won’t be back which means that the Sixers will need another stellar point guard to keep the team in the playoff hunt. If Randle comes back, then an import forward would be on the cards.
The team has re-signed Nathan Sobey which is a fantastic retention as another year for his development will do the team wonders. Daniel Johnson, Mitch Creek, Majok Deng, Anthony Drmic, Brendan Teys, Adam Doyle and Matt Hodgson are all back for 2017-18, so the team has most of last season’s local contingent. This team is predicated on Randle, so however his contract saga concludes, the team will look entirely different from either outcome.
Season grade: A
This team was not expected to make much noise. They were too young, too inexperienced. Joey Wright did a fantastic job of getting this team to work to the team game plan, and it paid off. Jerome Randle was excellent, Nathan Sobey had a breakout year, and Daniel Johnson was in the running to be the best big man in the competition. It was a disappointment that the team lost in the first round of the finals but that shouldn’t take away from how good they were during the regular season.