Jerome Randle was an offensive live wire during his two-year NBL career and rightly earned the 2016/17 league MVP award for his toils. His game was so dynamic that he left opposition coaches scratching their heads as to how to contain him, and indeed as to whether containing him were even possible.
Unfortunately, he’s not coming back. Not this year, anyway. Whether it is a European team or a squad in China that comes calling the NBL and the Adelaide 36ers faithful will have to get used to a future without last season’s most valuable player.
However, the momentous loss may not spell doom and gloom for the 36ers. In fact, Adelaide’s roster is already shaping up like a true contender.
Australians and Adelaide 36er mainstays Mitch Creek and Nathan Sobey have recently finished stints with the Utah Jazz in the NBA Summer League. The experience they’ve gained from those stints, regardless of how many minutes they played, will prove invaluable as the NBL season rolls on. If Nathan Sobey was fast becoming an elite player last season, one can only imagine how much his game will evolve after having liaised with some of the best coaches and players on the planet.
As for Mitch Creek, he will represent Australia with fellow Sixer Matt Hodgson in the FIBA Asia Cup in August. Despite Asia being a weak region in world basketball, exposure to international play styles will help Creek’s game mature as he will surely play big minutes and contribute heavily. Hodgson has come along in recent years and is worthy to be a part of this Australia team. Hodgson’s game will develop from the experience of being around some of Australia’s best, regardless of play time.
Filling the massive shoes of Jerome Randle may be daunting for any import, but it seems that the Sixers have made a real effort. Although only one overseas player has been formally announced, if rumours are to be believed, it will be hard for any other team in the league to have a better import trio.
The one officially announced player is a doozy – Ronald Roberts. Roberts’ credentials are jam packed, playing in the NBA Summer League and D-League and excelling in both. A high-flying, hyper efficient forward, he nearly averaged a double double in only 23 minutes for Toronto in last year’s Summer League.
In his two seasons in the D-League, he averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds while shooting an unbelievable 64% from the field, netting him an All-Star nomination. This 203cm New Jersey native has talent in spades and combined with Daniel Johnson; the Sixers have a formidable front court.
Although the second import hasn’t officially been announced, Ramone Moore is pretty much picking out which number he wants on his Adelaide jersey.
Moore’s raw statistics may not seem awe inspiring last season with Melbourne, as ten points, three rebounds and two assists don’t strike fear into opponents. But look deeper, and Adelaide fans should be very excited about having a player like Moore on the roster.
Playing behind high usage teammates like Chris Goulding, Casper Ware and David Andersen doesn’t give many opportunities to shine, but when he was given a chance, Moore excelled. He was a jack-of-all-trades, giving the team what was needed without sacrificing team balance or chemistry. Injuries dampened his impact during 2016-17, so, if healthy, expect him to have a bigger influence on the game.
If the Adelaide Advertiser is anything to go by, Adelaide’s final import spot may be the most important of them all. Entering the league partway through last season, Kevin Dillard torched the NBL almost as soon as he touched down in the country.
In his second game with New Zealand, Dillard had 19 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals in a win over the Kings. He did one better in the Breakers’ next game, hitting a buzzer beating game winner to defeat the Bullets. His final stat line was 28 points, five assists and four steals.
Dillard is the real deal in the NBL. Even though he only played nine games, he finished fifth in the league in scoring (18.1), fourth in assists (4.8) and steals (1.6), while leading New Zealand to a 6-3 record in that span. The Sixers need a new Jerome Randle, someone that has an alpha dog mentality and has no qualms about hoisting their team on their back and willing them to a win. Dillard has the talent, but more importantly, he has that will.
Having playing talent is all well and good on paper, but having a coach that can bring the squad together and make it function efficiently is another story. Luckily for Adelaide fans, they have one of the best. Joey Wright was rightfully awarded the NBL Coach of the Year last season, and having that kind of expertise is vital to massaging the egos and making this team perform at the highest level.
Adding these assets to an already fully stocked team is a mouth-watering prospect. With the likes of All-NBL First Team Daniel Johnson, reigning Rookie of the Year and probably runner up Anthony Drmic and Majok Deng filling out the roster, this team is primed for greatness.
The Sixers haven’t won a championship since the 2001-02 team led by Brett Maher and Willie Farley knocked off the West Sydney Razorbacks in three games. It was so long ago that five of the eleven teams competing in that competition aren’t around anymore. Adelaide fans should put the last fifteen years behind them because as of right now, there aren’t many teams that can stack up to this Sixers squad.