Record: 13-15 (seventh)
Average Points: 82.0 (6)
Average Points Against: 82.5 (5)
Points Differential: -0.5 (6)
Points: Brad Newley – 17.6
Assists: Brad Newley – 4.1
Rebounds: Greg Whittington – 6.4
Blocks: Greg Whittington – 0.9
Steals: Kevin Lisch – 1.9
TEAM MVP: Brad Newley
Beating out the likes of Kevin Lisch, Jason Cadee, Aleks Maric and Josh Powell for team MVP is no small feat. Rising above talented imports, members of the national team and former NBL MVP’s, Newley lead the team in scoring (6th best in the league at 17.5 ppg) and assists (7th in the league at 4.1 per game).
Despite not playing in the Australia since 2007, Newley returned with a focus and skill set at both ends that few Aussie’s have displayed in this league. Newley wasn’t merely the best player on his team, he was one of the finer players in the competition, which was proven with his appearance on the league’s All NBL second team.
This season Newley was one of only two players to average five rebounds and four assists, the other being Nathan Sobey.
His play went further than just gaudy statistics, as he was a great leader and played with passion and intensity that many of the other Sydney players lacked at the end of the season. His defence was fantastic and something which would be more obvious if he didn’t suit up with one of the best defenders in the league in Kevin Lisch.
The Kings lost their way when Newley went down with a hamstring injury which shows how important he is to this team. Despite not finishing the season where they wanted to, Newley is contracted to the Kings for two more seasons and will be a cornerstone as the team looks to improve next year.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The start to the season was magical. It got everyone who was interested in the league sit up and take notice. After losing their season opener to Brisbane, the Kings went on a 5-1 streak to lead the league with six wins from eight games. There were outrageous statements like, “best squad ever assembled,” “the title is back in Sydney” and “a new dynasty has arrived.” On paper, they were a fantastic team, and it seemed that everything went right for them.
With the wins came a new interest in NBL basketball in Sydney.
Qudos Bank Arena was buzzing, and basketball was a hot topic in the country’s biggest city. When the team acquired two former NBA players in Josh Powell and Steve Blake, there wasn’t a media outlet that wasn’t covering the purple and gold. Powell’s Instagram recording of the team’s post-game celebrations became one of the season’s biggest stories and basketball was back in the harbour city.
Newley performance this season reminded Australia of how versatile a talent he is and even had some wondering about why, exactly, he was left off the Boomers Rio Olympic team.
Aleks Maric’s statistics weren’t amazing but watching him set bone-crunching screens and be the garbage man to the team of names was excellent. Greg Whittington was way better than advertised, and the thought of Julian Khazzouh joining this cavalcade of stars was mouth-watering.
Kevin Lisch’s first half of the season was spectacular and was an MVP candidate and came third in MVP voting while Brad Newley was sixth. All in all, the first half for the Kings was nearly as good as a team could get.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Much written about the Kings fall from grace this season. The Kings finished first on the ladder after round ten. Then it was like someone turned off the switch and the team stopped playing. After round ten, they went 3-8 and dropped from first to seventh, or second last. The team celebration videos stopped, and it seemed that there was a massive drop in effort and urgency.
One reason was the imports. Greg Whittington was carrying his weight, but it appeared that the rest of the foreigners just weren’t up to snuff.
Josh Powell was average but faded in the end when the season was going under.
Steve Blake, the mid-season marquee signing was awful. Six points and two assists per game on 30.1% shooting was not the output the Kings expected when they signed him from the NBA.
Garrett Jackson was an import in status only as he averaged only twelve minutes per game in six outings.
Arguably the biggest reason why the Kings dropped off a cliff in the standings was the bizarre decrease in production from captain Kevin Lisch. He went from MVP candidate to shooting 31% in his last eight games. Lisch lead the league in minutes per game, and that could have impacted his presence on the floor, and when Brad Newley went down with injury, opponents could zero in on Lisch.
FOCUS FOR NEXT SEASON
With the NBL shifting to a scoring point guard dominant league, the Kings need to find someone who can do what Casper Ware, Bryce Cotton, and Jerome Randle can do: take over games, not only with their scoring but their offensive game in general. Kevin Lisch isn’t a point guard, and Jason Cadee is best utilised as super-sub off the bench like Rotnei Clarke at Illawarra.
Getting Julian Khazzouh back in the mix would be a huge bonus for the Kings who needed an inside presence. Aleks Maric may be a former Boomer, but he doesn’t have the offensive power as Khazzouh who would have complemented Lisch and Newley. He’s a two-time All-NBL First Team member, and adding that kind of firepower would bring another facet to an already talented squad.
With such big names in the starting five, the Kings bench was one of the worst in the league. In fact, Sydney’s second unit scored the least amount of points of any bench squad by a large margin. Sydney’s bench averaged 19.4 points a game, five points less than second last Brisbane’s bench and a whopping 23.1 less than league leaders Illawarra. Improving their bench should be a priority unless they want their starters to log heavy minutes again. Lisch, Newley, and Cadee were in the top six in minutes averaged per game for the whole league.
SEASON GRADE: D
Even though the team started out like a house on fire and their crowd attendance was way above last season’s numbers, it just doesn’t excuse their implosion in the second half of the season. With a roster many felt sure would win the NBL title this year and a spectacular star it’s clear the talent is there.
Sadly the team failed to meet expectations and will spend the next 6 months looking to answer what went wrong. Was it coaching, injuries, imports? All will be reviewed, but one thing’s for sure, the Kings came a long way from where they were last season and with their core group contracted for next season, Newley, Lisch, Maric, Cadee and Garlepp they will continue to make basketball relevant in Sydney again.