2017/18 NBL Preview

The National Basketball League (Australia) Blitz has begun – the preseason Tournament that sees all of the teams hit the court in the home stretch of preseason action before the real stuff starts.

This year the Blitz has moved away from Brisbane and is taking place in country Victoria for a few days before the final day is played at a number of different stadiums around metropolitan/surburban Melbourne.

This seems to be the perfect time to take a look at each team for the upcoming season.

Adelaide 36ers

Roster: Adam Doyle, Anthony Drmic, Brendan Teys, Daniel Johnson, Majok Deng, Matthew Hodgson, Mitchell Creek, Nathan Sobey, Ramone Moore, Ronald Roberts, Shannon Shorter, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi

It’s not very often that a reigning league MVP doesn’t return to the league but that is the case, with Jerome Randle and the 36ers not teaming up this season. The 36ers also lost their other import, more expectedly, with Terrance Ferguson being selected in the NBA Draft and heading to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

They have done well in maintaining the bulk of their roster from last season with players such as Johnson, Hodgson, Creek and Sobey all continuing on with the team.

Their new imports are high-flying Ronald Roberts (18.1pts, 12.1rbs in the NBA D-League last season), Shannon Shorter (20.1pts, 6.3rbs, 4asts in the Turkish BSL League) and Ramon Moore, who last season played with Melbourne United.

The 36ers have a number of choices to make when it comes to their starting lineup, on paper their “non-import” players rival those same players of any team in the league and they could easily trot out a lineup of Sobey, Teys, Creek, Hodgson and Johnson but I can see Roberts taking the place of Hodgson and Moore taking the place of Teys and that being the lineup they go with.

One thing is for sure, expect the 36ers to play an up-tempo style of play with plenty of above the ring action.

Brisbane Bullets

Roster: Adam Gibson, Mitchell Young, Matt Kenyon, Shaun Bruce, Tom Jervis, Daniel Kickert, Tom Fullarton, Anthony Petrie, Reuben Te Rangi, Cameron Bairstow, Perrin Buford, Tyrell Harrison, Stephen Holt, Travis Trice

The Bullets made moves in the off-season! Stephen Holt and Travis Trice are great pickups and should slip into the starting lineup immediately.

They should be joined by Adam Gibson and Daniel Kickert with the fifth to be a toss up between Anthony Petrie and Mitchell Young.

Torrey Craig is a big loss to the Bullets after signing a two-way deal with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA and they are hoping that Perrin Buford (16.8pts and 7.7rbds in Italy) can pick up some of that slack but I see him coming off the bench.

Another loss is Cam Bairstow who will likely miss the whole season due to a medial and posterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee. It’s been a tough run for Bairstow who only managed to play half the season last year after suffering a shoulder injury while playing for the Boomers in Rio. The good news is the club is still looking at having him on the roster in a full playing capacity in 2018/19.

However, with the new look backcourt for the Bullets, expect plenty of drives to the basket and then kick outs to the perimeter for three. The Bullets could likely lead the league in three point attempts at the end of the season.

Cairns Taipans

Roster: Cameron Gliddon, Damon Heuir, Mitch McCarron, Stephen Weigh, Nathan Jawai, Nnanna Egwu, Alex Loughton, Jarrad Weeks, Michael Carrera, Kuany Kuany, Scoochie Smith

The Taipans instantly get bonus points for having the player with the best name on the team – Scoochie Smith, his name is actually Dayshon but let’s stick with Scoochie. His trip to the NBL is his first professional outing after finishing up at the University of Dayton (13.8pts, 3.1rbds and 4.5asts).

They went to Venezuela to pick up one of their other imports in Michael Carrera (14.7pts and 5.8rbds in his home country) and they also re-signed Egwu from last year.

The Taipans have some X-factors in Jarrad Weeks and Mitch McCarron but the jury is still out on all of their import signings. On paper, it doesn’t look like a team that could challenge at the end of the season. They’ll need big seasons from Gliddon and Jawai alongside the previously mentioned imports (and Weeks/McCarron) to see them at the pointy end of the ladder.

Illawarra Hawks

Roster: Kevin White, AJ Ogilvy, Oscar Forman, Mitch Norton, Nick Kay, Rhys Martin, Rotnei Clarke, Tim Coenraad, Cody Ellis, Demitrius Conger, Delvon Johnson

The Hawks, for the last few seasons, have been a great team to watch when they’re on song. When they aren’t though, it’s a very stagnant style of basketball that you see on the court.

AJ Ogilvy and Rotnei Clarke are the stars for this team and the Hawks will be hoping that the two of them will be able to get them to another Grand Final series.

Nick Kay has improved over the past season and played well in the FIBA Asia Cup for the Boomers and would now be considered an offensive threat.

Their two new imports, joining Clarke, are Demitrius Conger (11.5pts and 4.2rbds in Belgium) and Delvon Johnson. Conger looks to be the better prospect and fits in with the other players on the roster position wise, Johnson looks like he has been selected for his rim protection only and will be behind Ogilvy and Kay at the five spot, as well as possibly Kay, Ellis and Forman at the four spot.

Once again the Hawks don’t go for the stand out star players but rather the solid, hard working types and it works for them. Plenty rests on the shoulders of Ogilvy and Clarke though.

Melbourne United

Roster:  Josh Boone, Kyle Adnam, David Andersen, Tohi Smith-Milner, David Barlow, Casper Ware, Majok Majok, Casey Prather, Tai Wesley, Chris Goulding, Peter Hooley, Craig Moller, Sam Short

The team that always seems to splash about the most money and somehow keep players and the salary and points caps. Once again, Melbourne has an absolutely stacked roster and should (like the past few seasons) be in serious consideration for the Grand Final series BUT just like every other season recently, who’s going to get the ball?

Melbourne has players who all need the ball, who all want the ball in their hands to be able to create for themselves. That will be the biggest challenge for incoming coach Dean Vickerman – how does he get all his players on the same page and the ball in the right spots.

Casper Ware is returning, as is Josh Boone and the addition of Casey Prather makes this three man import lineup one of the best in the league.

They will be fun to watch but will this finally be the season they live up to the hype? If everyone does what Vickerman wants them to do, absolutely.

New Zealand Breakers

Roster: Finn Delany, Shea Ili, Kirk Penney, Mitchell Newton, Derone Raukawa, Thomas Abercrombie, Mike Vukona, Robert Loe, Jordan Ngatai, Alex Pledger, Daniel Fotu, James Hunter, DJ Newbill, Edgar Sosa

The Breakers have once again gone out and found a ball dominant point guard to complement their team of shooters and slashers – Edgar Sosa from the Dominican Republic is the man they have turned to for the 17/18 season.

DJ Newbill, their other import pickup this off-season, is touted as a solid combo guard who can do a bit of everything on the court.

These two alongside Penney, Abercrombie and Vukona will likely form the main five but not necessarily the starting five for the Breakers. Finn Delany and Shea Ili have been improving and the Breakers will be hoping that one, if not both, have a breakout year this year. Rob Loe and Alex Pledger will also be relied upon to avoid foul trouble as they seemed to get early fouls in most of the Breakers games last season.

You can never count the Breakers out, they have been too good for too long and their core players are still very good players. Their season will depend on how quickly the imports mesh with the roster and if one of those young players can step up consistently.

Perth Wildcats

Roster: Lucas Walker, Mason Bragg, Greg Hire, JP Tokoto, Jarrod Kenny, Matthew Knight, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Bryce Cotton, Angus Brandt, Derek Cooke Jnr, Jesse Wagstaff, Damian Martin

Just like Melbourne United, the Wildcats always seem to have an absolutely stacked roster and this season is no exception.

Bryce Cotton, who joined the Wildcats halfway through last season and effectively lead them to the Championship (averaged over 25ppg in the postseason including a 45pt effort in the Grand Final series), is returning and on his own is a massive re-signing.

However, add to his signing the signing of new import JP Tokoto who is an exceptional athlete and solid perimeter defender and you possibly have two of the best imports in the league. Derek Cooke Jnr is also a great athlete and should become the starting four for the Wildcats.

From a local perspective, Wildcats regulars Damian Martin, Matthew Knight (hopefully the two can remain injury free for the season!), Jesse Wagstaff and Greg Hire will all play their usual physical roles. Of those, Martin is the only likely starter with Angus Brandt (coming off a good showing for the Boomers in the FIBA Asia Cup) holding down the centre position instead of Knight.

Wildcats will be thereabouts once again, simple.

Sydney Kings

Roster: Isaac Humphries, Travis Leslie, Jason Cadee, Brad Newley, Amritpal Singh, Kevin Lisch, Todd Blanchfield, Tom Garlepp, Dane Pineau, Adam Thoseby, Perry Ellis

The Kings have an….interesting roster with the main question being; who starts?

Humphries is the only legitimate centre on the roster and a “known” player so it would be assumed he starts. There is no way that Lisch doesn’t start and Travis Leslie (former LA Clippers NBA player) will start alongside him in the backcourt. So it comes down to Cadee, Newley, Blanchfield and Ellis to fill the other two positions in the starting lineup.

The Kings will need to use the Blitz to figure out what’s going on with their rotations, if they can get that sorted quickly then they can challenge for a postseason spot from the get-go. They have a talented roster, not as stacked as Melbourne or Perth in terms of names on paper but one that can just as easily match them on the court if they keep their heads screwed on for the entire game.

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