Record: 14-14, fifth
Average Points: 84.0 (3)
Average Points Against: 85.2 (5)
Points Differential: -1.2 (7)
Points: Kirk Penney – 17.2
Assists: David Stockton – 4.2
Rebounds: Akil Mitchell – 7.2
Blocks: Alex Pledger – 1.2
Steals: Mika Vukona – 0.9
Team MVP: Kirk Penney
It’s hard to definitively say who was more important to the Breakers success this season. If Dillard had played more than nine games surely, he would have been our clear recipient of this award. But with less than a third of an NBL season under his belt, Kirk Penney gets our nod for team MVP.
Penney finished eighth in points per game and finished seventh in MVP voting. As one of only two Breakers to suit up in every match, Penney was the man who brought stability to the team. He may not be the flashiest player for New Zealand anymore, but when his team needs a bucket, Penney will be the man with the ball in his hands more often than not.
As one of only two Breakers to suit up in every match, the elder statesman brought stability to much-maligned Breakers unit for the entire season. While Abercrombie sat on the sidelines, Corey Webster suited up to court and multiple imports came and went, the greatest guard New Zealand has ever produced kept the Breakers on course.
The aforementioned Dillard was also a revelation if only the Breakers could have found him sooner. Dillard arrived in New Zealand after Ben Woodside and David Stockton both were injured and removed from the team. After scoring 28 points and draining a buzzer-beating game winner against Brisbane in only his third game, he cemented himself as an impact player in this league and hopefully the Kiwi’s can retain his services for next season.
He led the team in points, steals and was second in assists and if he came to the league sooner and continued this production, he would have won this award by two basketball courts.
What Went Right?
The team came agonisingly close to playing in the postseason. It was only a couple of baskets in the last minute of the last game of the season which saw Melbourne defeat Perth and the door close of the Breakers playoff hopes.
Kevin Dillard was a revelation but he wasn’t the only surprise package across the Tasman. Even though he played only nine minutes a game, Finn Delany showed the world that he had massive hops and gave the Breakers faithful some spectacular plays for the highlight reels. He’s only 21 years old so expect more from this kid in the future.
The Breakers were one of the best shooting teams in the competition, leading all teams in three-point percentage and coming third in field goal shooting. Surprisingly, New Zealand was the worst free throw shooting team by a fair margin. The team is also top three in points, rebounds, assists and blocks per game.
What Went Wrong?
Injuries played a major part, with starting import point guards Ben Woodside and David Stockton were both replaced because of injuries and only two out of seventeen players contested every 28 games. For all the media attention towards Brisbane and their injuries woes, New Zealand used the equal most players with seventeen.
To put that in perspective, minor premiers Adelaide used only thirteen. When New Zealand lost, they lost in bunches. They lost three games or more consecutively three times which was only matched by the bottom-placed Bullets.
After playing three games for the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Summer League in the off-season, which was enough to be offered a non-guaranteed NBA contract, everyone thought this would be Corey Webster’s year. Injuries, issues with teammates, problems with the law and Breakers staff ultimately led to the team asking him to leave.
On court to say Webster performed under our expectations would be an incredible understatement. He shot a woeful 35.7% from the field, which was good enough for only 11.7 points per game, way below last season. Nearly every statistical category was worse than the previous year and Webster’s behaviour keeping him the court was more detrimental to the Breakers than any injury they suffered this year.
Focus For Next Season
If the Breakers can bring back Kevin Dillard and get him into a full training camp and campaign, this team could do damage. Corey Webster will play basketball for the team’s trans-Tasman rivals, the Perth Wildcats, so he will be a non-issue now. Where they replace his scoring power from however is something they need to identify before the start of the 2017-18 season. Alex Pledger and Rob Loe are above average for NBL big men but Mika Vukona is not a young man anymore so will need more help. Someone like Akil Mitchell would be perfect.
They have some pieces already in place; they just need more polish and talent to get them into playoff contention.
Season Grade: B
New Zealand stopped the “bleeding” last season by releasing Webster and finding a pair of quality imports. The focus now is to retain their core group for next season and give the team time to gel under Paul Henare who only have one year of NBL coaching under his belt. If Breakers refine and expand on what they already have no doubt this will see them return to the NBL playoffs once again.