NBL22 Season Preview
By Matt McQuade
It’s extraordinary to think how far the National Basketball League has progressed over the past six years.
Think about it – the Brydens Lawyers Sydney Kings were playing in a 4,500-seat facility at the end of 2015; the competition was struggling for relevance in the sports marketplace and while there was some exciting talent sprinkled among the teams, it was nothing like what we would see in later seasons.
Anyone claiming the NBL was a powerful, world-class league at that time would have been at the very least challenged on that opinion; more likely laughed at.
But no one’s laughing anymore.
Right now, there is absolutely no argument that the NBL is an outstanding basketball competition; one that easily sits in at least the top five of leagues globally outside the NBA.
It has managed to deal with the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic with agility and flexibility, and its establishment as a legitimate pathway to the NBA has seen a tremendous influx of talent from all corners of the globe.
In fact, coming into NBL22, the incoming level of talent to Australia is unprecedented. Never before have we seen players from so many different countries head to these shores to play in the NBL.
Not that long ago, having a European or Asian player on your roster was considered unusual. But this season, there will be players from Germany, Russia, France, China and the Philippines suiting up across multiple NBL rosters.
Of course, that’s not to mention the usual entry of outstanding players from the United States.
All of that enhances a local product that continues to go from strength to strength; a country that now boasts an Olympic medal and home-grown talent that’s as deep across the board now as it has ever been.
There’s no question that when you look at the ten teams that will contest NBL22, not one can be said to be an easy out, even the newest NBL franchise Tasmania JackJumpers. It’s the same old story – you better bring your A game every night if you want to succeed at this level.
As competitive as the league will be this season, it also raises a ton of questions. Are the Illawarra Hawks the favourites to win it all? How motivated will Bryce Cotton be after the way NBL21 finished for he and the Perth Wildcats? Does Melbourne United have a chance of defending their title given all their offseason departures? Will New Zealand’s international crew lead them to the playoffs? How will the five new head coaches in the league fare? How many games will Tasmania win?
To try and answer some of those queries and provide you with a primer to what should be a fantastic NBL22 season, here’s a look at the nine teams who will provide a stern challenge to the Brydens Lawyers Sydney Kings in their quest for title number four.
Last season: 13-23, seventh in regular season
2020/21 Points For: 82.9ppg, sixth
2020/21 Points Against: 87.7ppg, seventh
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 44.6%, fourth
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 44.0%, fourth
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 35.6%, third
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.5%, second
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 77.6%, third
2020/21 Rebounds: 39.0rpg, sixth
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: -1.9, seventh
2020/21 Assists: 18.4apg, third
2020/21 Steals: 5.7spg, fifth
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 3.8bpg, third
2020/21 Turnovers: 12.9tpg, eighth
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 10.7tpg, eighth
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: -2.2, ninth
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 107.8, eighth
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 114.0, seventh
2020/21 Regular Season vs. Kings: Kings won 3-2
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 98 games played; 36ers lead 55-43
NBL Titles: 4 (1986, 1998, 1999, 2002)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 25 (last time 2018)
Homecourt: Adelaide Entertainment Centre, capacity 11,300
Head Coach: CJ Bruton (NBL rookie head coach)
Incoming: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United); Dusty Hannahs (import – NBA G-League); Todd Withers (import – Italy); Cameron Bairstow (Illawarra Hawks); Mojave King (Next Star – Cairns Taipans); Tad Dufelmeier Jr. (Cairns Taipans); Kai Sotto (Special Restricted Player - Philippines); Emmanuel Malou (QBL); Hyrum Harris (NZNBL); Lachlan Olbrich (development player); Zac Gattorna (development player); Head Coach CJ Bruton
Outgoing: Josh Giddey (Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)); Brandon Paul (import – Spain); Tony Crocker (import – France); Jack McVeigh (Tasmania JackJumpers); Keanu Pinder (Cairns Taipans); Alex Mudronja (Illawarra Hawks); Brendan Teys; Head Coach Conner Henry
Projected Starters: Mitch McCarron; Dusty Hannahs (import); Todd Withers (import); Daniel Johnson; Isaac Humphries
Bench: Sunday Dech; Cameron Bairstow; Mojave King (Next Star); Tad Dufelmeier Jr.; Kai Sotto (Special Restricted Player); Emmanuel Malou; Hyrum Harris; Lachlan Olbrich (development player); Zac Gattorna (development player)
There were a few judges who thought the 36ers would make some noise last season, but Adelaide fared poorly in a campaign where they front-ended a ton of home games thanks to Covid scheduling. Not banking enough wins early with that home court advantage hurt the Sixers, and poor import play combined with untimely injuries saw them well out of playoff contention by the midpoint of NBL21, even with a budding superstar in Josh Giddey having a Rookie of the Year season. Adelaide’s seventh place finish ultimately cost Conner Henry his head coaching role and necessitated serious offseason turnover, but a couple of the changes made by this organisation have them positioned for better results in NBL22.
Giddey’s loss to the NBA, while expected, is still significant, but the big reason for optimism for Sixer fans should be the addition of NBL21 championship-winning point guard with Melbourne United, Mitch McCarron (9.5ppg, 5.1rpg, 5.2apg, 1.4spg, 43.2% FG, 30.6% 3PT FG, 84.9% FT), who provides a level of toughness and leadership that’s been missing for some time. Together with new import, deadly perimeter shooter Dusty Hannahs and the returning Sunday Dech, Adelaide’s backcourt is going to be a strength of the roster. The team has also added a second import in forward Todd Withers, who’ll bring some starch to a formidable Adelaide frontline of Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson, and Cameron Bairstow looks to resurrect his career after an injury-hit couple of years. Philippines seven-footer Kai Sotto is an intriguing prospect, talented Next Star Mojave King heads south looking for more opportunity and guard Tad Dufelmeier Jr showed last season he has some potential. New head coach and Sydney Kings Legend CJ Bruton finally gets his chance in the big chair and should be a great acquisition, and he leads a group that has plenty of size and new-found toughness with McCarron leading the way, plus an import spot up its sleeve. Adelaide could be a real surprise packet in NBL22.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
As with a lot of teams, they’ve got a new coach with CJ Bruton leading it and new players like Mitch McCarron. I would imagine them to be pretty up-tempo and free-flowing, but like with a lot of these teams you just don’t know what to expect because everything with them is so new. But they are going to be tough; they’ve obviously got some really good players in Humphries and DJ so with the new guys bringing some energy to the veterans in the group, they’ll be good.
Last season: 18-18, sixth
2020/21 Points For: 89.0ppg, second
2020/21 Points Against: 90.9ppg, ninth
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 45.1%, third
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 44.8%, fifth
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.4%, seventh
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 36.9%, eighth
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 77.3%, fourth
2020/21 Rebounds: 42.3rpg, first
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: +1.0, third
2020/21 Assists: 18.3apg, fifth
2020/21 Steals: 5.4spg, seventh
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 3.6bpg, fourth
2020/21 Turnovers: 12.1tpg, fifth
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 10.4tpg, ninth
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: -1.7, eighth
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 112.9, fourth
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 115.3, eighth
2020/21 Regular Season vs. Kings: Kings won 3-2
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 83 games played; Kings lead 47-36
NBL Titles: 3 (1985, 1987, 2007)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 22 (last time 2019)
Homecourt: Queensland State Netball Centre, capacity 5,000
Head Coach: James Duncan (NBL rookie head coach)
Incoming: Robert Franks (import – Orlando Magic (NBA)); Isaiah Moss (import – NZNBL); Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks); Jack Salt (NZNBL); Liu Chuanxing (special restricted player – China); Tom Digbeu (Next Star – Lithuania); Taane Samuel (development player); Max Mackinnon (development player); Head Coach James Duncan
Outgoing: Vic Law (import – Perth Wildcats); B.J. Johnson (import – Orlando Magic (NBA)); Matt Hodgson (Perth Wildcats); Harry Froling (Illawarra Hawks); Callum Dalton (Melbourne United); Head Coach Andrej Lemanis
Projected Starters: Nathan Sobey; Anthony Drmic; Lamar Patterson (import); Robert Franks (import); Tyrell Harrison
Bench: Jason Cadee; Tom Digbeu (Next Star); Isaiah Moss (import); Jack Salt; Liu Chuanxing (special restricted player); Tanner Krebs; Deng Deng; Tamuri Wigness; Taane Samuel (development player); Max Mackinnon (development player)
One of the NBL’s former juggernaut clubs has had an indifferent period since being readmitted to the league in 2016, with only one playoff appearance, a pair of wooden spoons and just one winning record in the regular season to show for their participation in the past five seasons. Last season, the Bullets finished outside the playoffs with an 18-18 mark in a mediocre campaign that closed the door on the NBL career of Andrej Lemanis, who left the club for an overseas opportunity; and saw the departure of several key pieces, not least of which was talented import forward Vic Law.
Brisbane welcomes eight new faces to their team and a brand-new Head Coach in former Sydney Kings assistant and player development guru James Duncan, who will be given the not inconsiderable task of taking this new group back to the playoffs. In order to do that, James will be looking for another All-NBL season from Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Nathan Sobey (21.1ppg, 4.9rpg, 4.8apg, 45.8% FG, 38.2% 3PT FG, 88.7% FT), a more committed to his fitness Lamar Patterson (14.2ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.0apg, 1.5spg, 41.4% FG, 34.7% 3PT FG, 67.9% FT), the continued development of big man Tyrell Harrison and immediate impact from the two new imports, forward Robert Franks and swingman Isaiah Moss. Coach Duncan has also brought in a couple of intriguing prospects in Next Star Tom Digbeu and Chinese pivot Liu Chuanxing, who at 7’5” will be the tallest player ever to set foot on an NBL floor, while Jason Cadee and Anthony Drmic will be counted on to provide veteran leadership and perimeter shooting. More than anything else, Coach Duncan understands that if this group is going to be a postseason threat this season, it must start at the defensive end of the floor, an area where Brisbane has struggled for many years. They’ve got offensive talent to burn – the question with the Bullets as always is can they stop anyone?
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
My man JD leading the way! I’m really excited for him. But I think Brisbane with Sobey and Cadee and some of the guys they have is going to be a team that really gets up and down the floor. I’m really interested to see what JD has in store for them. The thing is though, there’s so many moving parts with them and a lot of teams, so it’s really a case of having to wait until the season proper before we can get a handle on them.
Last season: 8-28, ninth in regular season
2020/21 Points For: 81.7ppg, eighth
2020/21 Points Against: 89.1ppg, eighth
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 43.7%, eighth
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 45.7%, eighth
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 34.8%, fourth
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 37.0%, ninth
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 71.7%, eighth
2020/21 Rebounds: 37.5rpg, eighth
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: -4.1, ninth
2020/21 Assists: 17.0apg, sixth
2020/21 Steals: 5.5spg, sixth
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 3.4bpg, fifth
2020/21 Turnovers: 12.1tpg, sixth
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 10.9tpg, sixth
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: -1.3, seventh
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 109.0, sixth
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 118.8, ninth
2020/21 Regular Season vs. Kings: Kings won 3-2
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 69 games played; Kings lead 51-18
NBL Titles: 0
NBL Playoff Appearances: 8 (last time 2020)
Homecourt: Cairns Convention Centre, capacity 5,300
Head Coach: Adam Forde (1st season with Cairns, NBL career record 19-17)
Incoming: Steven Zimmerman (import – Czech Republic); Tahjere McCall (import – France); Keanu Pinder (Adelaide 36ers); Bul Kuol (NBL1); Brayden Inger (development player); Head Coach Adam Forde
Outgoing: Cameron Oliver (import); Mojave King (Next Star – Adelaide 36ers); Fabian Krslovic (Tasmania JackJumpers); Tad Dufelmeier Jr. (Adelaide 36ers); Venky Jois; George Blagojevic; Head Coach Mike Kelly
Projected Starters: Scott Machado (import); Tahjere McCall (import); Kouat Noi; Majok Deng; Steven Zimmerman (import)
Bench: Nathan Jawai; Jarrod Kenny; Mirko Djeric; Jordan Ngatai; Keanu Pinder; Bul Kuol); Brayden Inger (development player)
The team that became a league darling in NBL20 thanks to an unlikely semi-final appearance where they took eventual champions Perth right to the limit in a three-game epic, crashed to earth last season in what was one of the most disappointing campaigns in the Taipans’ franchise history. After winning their season opener in Cairns, the Snakes dropped their next six and were never in the hunt the rest of the way; a season of woe that saw the dismissal of NBL20 Coach of the Year Mike Kelly and the eventual loss of superstar import Cam Oliver to the NBA.
Kelly’s replacement is none other than Sydney’s head coach in NBL21, Adam Forde, who did a terrific job with the Kings under all kinds of adversity before parting ways with the club, enabling the Taipans to gleefully snap him up in a move that should give Cairns the kind of tough, intelligent, motivated head coach that can quickly turn this program around. Interestingly, there haven’t been that many significant changes personnel-wise, with import floor leader Scott Machado (15.6ppg, 3.4rpg, 7.0apg, 1.0spg, 40.9% FG, 35.8% 3PT FG, 80.0% FT) looking for redemption after a down season by his lofty standards, but the club is hoping that 6’11” import Steven Zimmerman is an adequate replacement up front for Oliver and swingman Tahjere McCall provides desperately needed defensive starch at the wing position. Bounce back seasons from injury-prone forwards Kouat Noi and Majok Deng would also be helpful, while incoming Keanu Pinder is still raw but with some potential based on his tremendous athleticism. Coach Forde knows that no one will give his group any respect nor will anyone believe they are a legitimate playoff contender, but that will just give him a lot of fuel to add to the fire. This is a team that will work hard and make life tough for any opposition team, especially in Cairns.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
Fordey is going to have them playing really hard and I think that’s something he does really well. Obviously, they are an athletic team that can run and get up and down, but he’s going to get the most out of those guys. They are going to be playing hard and for their community as they always do, and they are going to be a tough team to beat in Cairns.
Last season: 20-16, third in regular season, lost to Perth Wildcats in semi-finals
2020/21 Points For: 82.3ppg, seventh
2020/21 Points Against: 82.1ppg, second
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 42.7%, ninth
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 43.3%, second
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.4%, eighth
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 35.1%, seventh
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 70.2%, ninth
2020/21 Rebounds: 41.6rpg, second
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: 0.0, fourth
2020/21 Assists: 15.9apg, eighth
2020/21 Steals: 7.8spg, first
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 4.6bpg, second
2020/21 Turnovers: 10.6tpg, second
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 13.3tpg, second
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: +2.8, first
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 107.5, ninth
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 107.2, second
2020/21 Regular Season vs. Kings: series tied 2-2
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 101 games played; Kings lead 55-46
NBL Titles: 1 (2001)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 20 (last time 2021)
Homecourt: WIN Entertainment Centre, capacity 5,800
Head Coach: Brian Goorjian (2nd season with Illawarra, record with Illawarra 21-18, NBL career record 535-238, 6 NBL championships)
Incoming: Duop Reath (Serbia); Xavier Rathan-Mayes (import – Romania); Antonius Cleveland (import – NBA G-League); Harry Froling (Brisbane Bullets); Alex Mudronja (Adelaide 36ers)
Outgoing: Justin Simon (import – Germany); Cameron Bairstow (Adelaide 36ers); Deng Deng (Brisbane Bullets); Max Darling (released)
Projected Starters: Xavier Rathan-Mayes (import); Tyler Harvey (import); Justinian Jessup (Next Star); Sam Froling; Duop Reath
Bench: Antonius Cleveland (import); Harry Froling; Isaac White; Tim Coenraad; AJ Ogilvy; Emmett Naar; Akoldah Gak (development player); Lachlan Dent (development player); Alex Mudronja (nominated injury replacement); Daniel Grida (injury reserve)
It’s based on a hoary old cliché, but there are three certainties in life – death, taxes, and Brian Goorjian leading his team to an NBL semi-final appearance. The undisputed GOAT of NBL coaches did it again for the 21st consecutive time last season in taking the unfancied Hawks to within one game of the Grand Final, and he capped off a remarkable campaign by leading the Australian Boomers to an historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
And while Illawarra has had a couple of offseason losses to deal with – most notably NBL21 Defensive Player of the Year Justin Simon – they enter NBL22 as one of the clear championship favourites, based on an offseason recruiting spree that saw Boomers big man Duop Reath come in to form a potentially deadly frontcourt combination with NBL21 Most Improved Player Sam Froling; plus two new imports in swingman Antonius Cleveland, who’ll be an upgrade offensively on the departed Simon; and new point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has NBA experience and will allow the explosive Tyler Harvey – the First Team All-NBL selection who re-signed with the club to great fanfare – the ability to play off the ball, which should make him even more effective. Talented but enigmatic big man Harry Froling was also signed in what was a low risk, high reward move; and Justinian Jessup returns for his second Next Star stint and should get more open looks in a squad loaded with offensive firepower. On paper, this is one of the most talented Illawarra teams in the history of that franchise, and with the legendary Brian Goorjian patrolling the sidelines, the Hawks are going to be hard to deal with this season.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
Defence is the first thing you think of with Goorjian. You look at what he did on D with the Boomers at the Olympics. And they’ve added some good pieces to the guys that are coming back from last year like Harvey and Jessup. I think they’ll play up tempo, they’ll be flying around and taking lots of shots on offence; defensively they’ll be pretty stingy and hard-nosed. They’ll be tough as always.
Last season: 28-8, first in regular season, NBL CHAMPIONS
2020/21 Points For: 88.6ppg, third
2020/21 Points Against: 82.1ppg, third
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 46.6%, first
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 42.2%, first
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 37.1%, first
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.8%, third
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 77.8%, second
2020/21 Rebounds: 41.2rpg, third
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: +3.9, first
2020/21 Assists: 18.4apg, fourth
2020/21 Steals: 6.3spg, fourth
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 5.3bpg, first
2020/21 Turnovers: 13.2tpg, ninth
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 12.0tpg, fourth
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: -1.2, fifth
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 114.1, third
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 105.8, first
2020/21 Regular Season vs. Kings: series tied 2-2
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 33 games played, United leads 23-10
NBL Titles: 2 (2018, 2021)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 5 (last time 2021)
Homecourt: John Cain Arena, capacity 10,000
Head Coach: Dean Vickerman (5th season with Melbourne, record with Melbourne 95-47, NBL career record 146-87, 3 NBL championships)
Incoming: Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers – NBA); Caleb Agada (import – Israel); Ariel Hukporti (Next Star); Brad Newley (Sydney Kings); Dion Prewster (NZNBL); Callum Dalton (Brisbane Bullets); David Okwera (development player); Zac Triplett (development player); Will Hickey (development player)
Outgoing: Jock Landale (San Antonio Spurs – NBA); Scotty Hopson (import – Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)); Mitch McCarron (Adelaide 36ers); Sam McDaniel (Tasmania JackJumpers); Yudai Baba (Japan)
Projected Starters: Matthew Dellavedova; Chris Goulding; Caleb Agada (import); Mason Peatling; Jo Lual-Acuil
Bench: Shae Ili; David Barlow; Ariel Hukporti (Next Star); Brad Newley; Dion Prewster; Callum Dalton; David Okwera (development player); Zac Triplett (development player); Will Hickey (development player); Jack White (injured reserve)
Before Jock Landale was recruited by Melbourne in the NBL21 preseason, United was already touted as a title contender, but when the Australian starting centre signed on the dotted line to become part of a potential superteam, Melbourne was transformed into the no doubt championship favourites, a status they embraced. Not surprisingly, United fulfilled their destiny with a three-game sweep of a Bryce Cotton-less Perth Wildcats in the NBL Grand Final series, but the defending champs enter NBL22 with a lot more questions than answers.
That’s down primarily to the loss of three of their main contributors to their second championship team, two of whom went to the NBA – Landale to the San Antonio Spurs and Scotty Hopson to the Oklahoma City Thunder – with the third, point guard Mitch McCarron, heading to Adelaide in a stunning development. How United replaces the production those guys provided will determine if they are a chance of going back-to-back, and the club is hopeful that some of that will be delivered by incoming Australian Boomer and former NBA champion Matthew Dellavedova, who needs to show that he still has plenty left in the tank after he struggled at times in Tokyo. Nigerian swingman Caleb Agada was an intriguing – and surprisingly only – import addition, while former Kings Brad Newley and Dion Prewster were solid pickups to provide depth on the wing and Next Star Ariel Hukporti is a powerful seven-foot big man with NBA potential. Of course, United still has conscience-free gunner Chris Goulding to light up opposition defences and the league’s best backup point guard in Shae Ili, with defensive standout Jack White also set to make a midseason return from the unfortunate Achilles injury he suffered in NBL21. Thanks to terrific head coach Dean Vickerman, there’s little doubt Melbourne will play tough defence from baseline to baseline, and ‘Deano’ will have this squad well prepared no matter what. However, their offseason losses were massive, Dellavedova’s status as a productive player is questionable, and it’s hard to believe that at some stage United won’t pull the trigger on at least one other import. Of all the teams in the NBL this season, Melbourne is perhaps the one club whose fortunes are the most difficult to predict.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
They really are the great unknown. They’ve got some new faces; although Deano always has his guys playing tough and disciplined. They’ve got some of that same core there like Goulding, but they’ve changed a lot as well. I’m sure ‘Newls’ is excited about a new start; then you’ve got ‘Delly’ who runs the show and I’m sure he’s going to be doing a lot of the creating and playmaking and he’ll add to that tough style that Dean loves to play.
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Last season: 12-24, eighth in regular season
2020/21 Points For: 81.6ppg, ninth
2020/21 Points Against: 83.9ppg, fourth
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 44.3%, fifth
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 45.5%, seventh
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.9%, fifth
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.9%, fourth
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 73.4%, seventh
2020/21 Rebounds: 37.7rpg, seventh
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: 0.0, fifth
2020/21 Assists: 15.4apg, ninth
2020/21 Steals: 5.2spg, eighth
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 2.7bpg, seventh
2020/21 Turnovers: 12.5tpg, seventh
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 11.2tpg, sixth
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: -1.3, sixth
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 108.1, seventh
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 111.3, fifth
2020/21 Regular Season vs. Kings: Kings won 3-1
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 58 games played; Kings lead 30-28
NBL Titles: 4 (2011; 2012, 2013, 2015)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 8 (last time 2018)
Homecourt: Spark Arena, capacity 8,500
Head Coach: Dan Shamir (3rd season with New Zealand, NBL career record 27-37)
Incoming: Peyton Siva (import – Germany); Jeremiah Martin (import – Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)); Hugo Besson (import – France); Yanni Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix); Ousmane Dieng (Next Star), Sam Timmins (development player)
Outgoing: Corey Webster (Egypt); Colton Iverson (import – Japan); Levi Randolph (import – Belgium); Tai Webster (Lithuania); Daniel Trist
Projected Starters: Peyton Siva (import); Jeremiah Martin (import); Hugo Besson (import); Finn Delany; Yanni Wetzell
Bench: Ousmane Dieng (Next Star); Thomas Abercrombie; Will McDowell-White; Rob Loe; Rasmus Bach; Kyrin Galloway; Isaac Davidson; Sam Timmins (development player)
Last season, the Breakers were a popular pick to reach the playoffs, based off a squad that looked impressive on paper. However, they were dealt the worst of hands for the majority of NBL21 with their inability to play in New Zealand thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, an issue that weighed heavily on their mental and emotional state and was no doubt an enormous factor in their ultimately disappointing campaign.
This season, they may face similar concerns, albeit hopefully for not an extended period, and the ongoing uncertainty around their ability to play at home thanks to the vagaries of travel requirements between New Zealand and Australia mean that any predictions about what the Breakers might achieve in NBL22 have to be taken with a large grain of salt. That all said, when you look at the talent and depth of this squad, even without the departed Webster brothers, it’s hard not to be impressed. It starts with the new blood. New import point guard Peyton Siva is a former NCAA champion who has been a star in Europe for years; Ousmane Dieng and Hugo Besson are young but have serious NBA-level ability; Yanni Wetzell is an emerging star in the middle and import two-guard Jeremiah Martin is an explosive scorer and aggressive defender. Then you’ve got the returning group, including superstar in the making Finn Delany, reliable veteran Tom Abercrombie and talented floor leader Will McDowell-White, not to mention a legitimate outside threat in Rasmus Bach and a stretch the floor big in Rob Loe. Head Coach Dan Shamir will be praying for a relatively calm season off the floor because he’s got a team positively loaded with talent, that under the right circumstances could be a strong playoff contender at the very least.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
Dan Shamir does a great job, and he’s got a great knowledge of the game. He always seems to get the most out of his players and runs a pretty disciplined style. They’ve got guys from everywhere across the world, which could actually help them because they’ll be relocated for a little while and it’s a new environment for everyone. I think they did an amazing job last season under the circumstances, and obviously they’ll need to continue that a little bit at least to start this season.
Last season: 25-11, second in regular season, lost to Melbourne United in Grand Final
2020/21 Points For: 87.0ppg, fourth
2020/21 Points Against: 80.6ppg, first
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 43.8%, seventh
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 45.1%, sixth
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.9%, sixth
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.4%, first
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 80.8%, first
2020/21 Rebounds: 39.9rpg, fifth
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: +3.8, second
2020/21 Assists: 19.6apg, first
2020/21 Steals: 6.6spg, third
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 2.1bpg, ninth
2020/21 Turnovers: 9.9tpg, first
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 12.3tpg, third
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: +2.4, second
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 117.8, first
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 109.1, third
2020/21 Regular Season games vs. Kings: Wildcats won 5-0
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 102 games played; Wildcats lead 63-39
NBL Titles: 10 (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 35 (last time 2021)
Homecourt: RAC Arena, capacity 14,000
Head Coach: Scott Morrison (NBL rookie head coach)
Incoming: Vic Law (import – Brisbane Bullets); Michael Frazier II (import – NBA G-League); Matthew Hodgson (Brisbane Bullets); Jack Purchase (Adelaide 36ers); Kyle Zunic (development player – Winthrop University); Oliver Hayes-Brown (development player); Head Coach Scott Morrison
Outgoing: John Mooney (import – Japan); Will Magnay (Tasmania JackJumpers); Clint Steindl (Tasmania JackJumpers); Jarred Bairstow (Tasmania JackJumpers); Wani Swaka Lo Buluk (Sydney Kings); Head Coach Trevor Gleeson (Toronto Raptors – NBA)
Projected Starters: Bryce Cotton (import); Mitch Norton; Todd Blanchfield; Vic Law (import); Matthew Hodgson
Bench: Michael Frazier II (import); Jesse Wagstaff; Luke Travers; Majok Majok; Kevin White; Jack Purchase; Corey Shervill (development player); Kyle Zunic (development player); Oliver Hayes-Brown (development player)
As with Brian Goorjian and his unerring ability to take his teams to the NBL Final Four, there is another absolute certainty in the NBL – that no matter what, the Perth Wildcats will make an appearance in the NBL playoffs. They’ve now achieved the feat an extraordinary 35 straight times; a record that will be hard to top, and last season it was even a case of what might have been given the untimely late-season injury to NBL Most Valuable Player Bryce Cotton, whose absence from the playoffs left Wildcat fans lamenting a lost opportunity to join Sydney and New Zealand as teams to have won three straight titles.
So, consider the theme of the Perth Wildcats NBL22 season to be the Bryce Cotton revenge tour. The megastar guard (23.5ppg, 2.9rpg, 5.7apg, 1.5spg, 40.6% FG, 31.9% 3PT FG, 90.0% FT) is back at full fitness and will be a handful for any defence to contend with, and he’ll be highly motivated to lead his team back to the Promised Land. And the Wildcats made a very savvy addition with former Brisbane import Vic Law (18.8ppg, 8.3rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3bpg, 46.6% FG, 29.7% 3PT FG, 82.5% FT) providing them with another shot creator and playmaker alongside the irrepressible Cotton. Their third import was an interesting choice in fringe NBA swingman Michael Frazier, when many expected them to go for an import big given the loss of double-double machine John Mooney, who went to Japan. But provided he stays out of foul trouble, Matthew Hodgson was another smart pickup, plus they get back Majok Majok from injury to provide rebounding and toughness up front, so they feel they are covered in the frontline. Luke Travers was a breakout star last season and will be expected to continue his rise, while Mitch Norton is hopefully healthy and ready to lead this team from the backcourt. The biggest question mark of course relates to the end of the Trevor Gleeson era with the five-time NBL champion heading to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. Former Boston Celtics assistant Scott Morrison assumes the mantle of head coach, and it will be interesting to see how much that impacts the existing culture. Nonetheless, provided Cotton is fit the entire season, you can expect this team to be a serious title contender.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
I think people will be very interested to see how they perform. Obviously, you’ve still got Bryce Cotton and if you’ve got him, you’re going to be a tough team. Even if he was on an NBL1 team playing NBL, you might think of that team as favourites in a way. It sounds like he’s healthy and I’m happy for him. But there’s a new coach in Morrison and a new front office, so there’s a big change there from what they’ve had. So, they’ll be good as always, but it will be interesting to see how they play and how they go about it.
SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Last season: 19-17, fourth in regular season, lost to Melbourne United in semi-finals
2020/21 Points For: 89.4ppg, first
2020/21 Points Against: 86.8ppg, sixth
2020/21 Field Goal Percentage: 46.4%, second
2020/21 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 47.0%, ninth
2020/21 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 36.6%, second
2020/21 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 34.1%, fifth
2020/21 Free Throw Percentage: 77.1%, sixth
2020/21 Rebounds: 36.9rpg, ninth
2020/21 Rebound Differential per Game: -2.2, eighth
2020/21 Assists: 19.0apg, second
2020/21 Steals: 6.6spg, second
2020/21 Blocked Shots: 2.3bpg, eighth
2020/21 Turnovers: 11.2tpg, fourth
2020/21 Turnovers Forced: 13.4tpg, first
2020/21 Turnover Differential per Game: +2.1, third
2020/21 Offensive Rating: 116.0, second
2020/21 Defensive Rating: 112.6, sixth
2020/21 Regular Season games vs. Kings: Kings won 3-1
All-Time Record vs. Kings: 8 games played; Kings lead 7-1
NBL Titles: 0
NBL Playoff Appearances: 1 (last time 2021)
Homecourt: John Cain Arena, capacity 10,000
Head Coach: Simon Mitchell (3rd season with South East Melbourne, NBL career record 28-36)
Incoming: Xavier Mumford (import – Turkey); Zhou Qi (special restricted player – China); Devin Thomas (import – Estonia); Tohi Smith-Milner; Owen Foxwell (development player)
Outgoing: Keifer Sykes (import – Indiana Pacers (NBA)); Ben Moore (import); Yanni Wetzell (New Zealand Breakers); Adam Gibson
Projected Starters: Xavier Mumford (import); Cameron Gliddon; Ryan Broekhoff; Mitch Creek; Zhou Qi (special restricted player)
Bench: Devin Thomas (import); Dane Pineau; Kyle Adnam; Kendall Stephens; Tohi Smith-Milner; Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa; Tristan Forsyth (development player); Owen Foxwell (development player)
You have to give the Phoenix enormous credit for what they’ve been able to achieve since their birth in 2019. An organisation built from scratch reached the playoffs in only their second NBL season – an impressive feat in anyone’s language and placing South East Melbourne in rarefied air. Coach Simon Mitchell, GM Tommy Greer and the Phoenix ownership group have done a terrific job in record time, and one wonders how soon a championship might come for this franchise.
In fact, you have to believe that the team has set themselves that very goal in NBL22, and why not, considering the core group they have returning and the potential of their incoming talent. The big returnees are Mitch Creek (18.2ppg, 6.4rpg, 3.6apg, 50.9% FG, 38.7% 3PT FG, 77.1% FT), Ryan Broekhoff (7.0ppg), Kyle Adnam (12.0ppg, 3.6apg) and Cameron Gliddon (10.5ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.5spg). Creek is a force of nature who is relentless every minute he’s on the floor, Broekhoff was a disappointment last season but is set for a bounce back campaign, Adnam is a terrific sparkplug off the bench and Gliddon provides defence and perimeter shooting from the wing. They lost a good one in NBA-bound Keifer Sykes but found a quality replacement at the point in Xavier Mumford, while 7’1” former Houston Rocket Zhou Qi was a phenomenal addition, not just for his enormous size and skillset but for the potential bonanza he represents in the behemoth Chinese sporting marketplace. The Phoenix also shored up their frontline by bringing in a second import, power forward Devin Thomas, while Dane Pineau should return from injury to ramp up their depth even further. If Qi can impact the league, Broekhoff returns to the form that saw him play in the NBA and Mumford does the job at the point, this is, at the very least, a serious contender, and the addition of Thomas might even push them over the top.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
They are always tough, especially at the guard spots with all the actions they run; all the multiple pick and rolls you have to defend. Then you’ve got to worry about Mitch Creek and how dynamic some of those other guys can be. Simon Mitchell coaches them really well, and gets his guys playing hard. And I’m sure after they made the playoffs last year that he’ll be looking for his team to feed off that energy.
Last season: not in league
Homecourt: MyState Bank Arena, capacity 5,000
Head Coach: Scott Roth (NBL rookie head coach)
Incoming: Will Magnay (Perth Wildcats); Josh Adams (import – Italy); Josh Maggette (import – Turkey); MiKyle McIntosh (import – France); Nikita Mikhailovskii (Next Star); Jack McVeigh (Adelaide 36ers); Clint Steindl (Perth Wildcats); Sam McDaniel (Melbourne United); Jarrad Weeks (Sydney Kings); Fabijan Krslovic (Cairns Taipans); Jarred Bairstow (Perth Wildcats); Matt Kenyon (NBL1); Sejr Deans (development player); Sean Macdonald (development player); Jock Perry (development player); Head Coach Scott Roth
Projected Starters: Josh Adams (import); Josh Maggette (import); Sam McDaniel; MiKyle McIntosh (import); Will Magnay
Bench: Jack McVeigh; Clint Steindl; Jarrad Weeks; Fabijan Krslovic; Jarred Bairstow; Matt Kenyon; Sejr Deans (development player); Sean Macdonald (development player); Jock Perry (development player)
For long-time NBL fans, there’s always a level of excitement when a new team comes into the league, and in this case, more excitement than usual given that the incoming franchise hails from Tasmania, a state that hasn’t seen NBL representation since the Hobart Devils played their final season way back in 1996. Over the years, there has been the odd attempt to get the state back in the national competition, but those efforts proved fruitless before NBL supremo Larry Kestelman saw an opportunity to extend the league’s reach to a market that has been crying out for a national league team in any sport. The story of the JackJumpers should be fun to watch in NBL22.
On court, the team has recruited reasonably well, building out their squad with a host of Australian role players outside big man Will Magnay, who didn’t have the impact envisioned of him last season with the Perth Wildcats following his NBA experience, but should be primed for a solid campaign after a full preseason. The imports have European experience and Josh Adams in particular is expected to be an impact player in the backcourt, while Next Star Nikita Mikhailovskii is a 6’7” small forward with some NBA buzz, Jack McVeigh will provide his usual intensity and become an instant fan favourite and Clint Steindl will be counted on to provide perimeter shooting off the bench. New head coach Scott Roth spent time with the Perth Wildcats, so he understands what it takes to build a winning program. Accordingly, you’d expect Tasmania to be a club from the start that works hard on and off the court and sets itself a high standard to maintain. Making the playoffs would be a stretch in their debut campaign, but they’ll be competitive right out of the gate.
KEVIN LISCH SAYS
The imports they’ve added, plus the Aussies, with a few old Perth Wildcats in there – it sounds like they know how to win, plus you’ve got Scott Roth from that Perth system and he already knows the league pretty well, so that’s a positive. As a new organisation they are going to be raring to go, and it sounds like they’ll have the Tasmanian community behind them, which should be awesome.
COMING THIS WEDNESDAY: A complete breakdown of the Brydens Lawyers Sydney Kings and their chances in NBL22.