The 2015 version of the National Basketball League Blitz, hold in Townsville, has now been completed. So what has been learnt about the eight teams taking part in the upcoming NBL season?
The 36ers like to play fast, no real surprise given that it’s a Joey Wright coached team but they’ve gotten even more athletic. Lucas Walker has come over from Melbourne United and Nathan Sobey has been someone to watch as soon as he steps on the court. The two biggest things to come out of the Blitz for the 36ers though are Nathan Sobey and Matt Hodgson, both bench players.
In Game 1 (remember each team played three games) Hodgson came off the bench to finish with 8pts and 8rbds on 4/8 shooting, Sobey came off the bench for 2pts, 3rbds, 1ast and 3blks on 1/6 shooting.
In Game 2, again both players came off the bench. Hodgson finished with 7pts and 5rbds on 3/3 shooting while Sobey chipped in 10pts, 5rbds, 1stl and 1blk on 4/9 shooting.
In the 36ers final game of the Blitz Hodgson started in place of Daniel Johnson who was rested, in 11 minutes he finished with 2pts and 2rbds. Sobey continued to come off the bench and finished with 15pts, 5rbds and 3asts on 6/12 shooting.
Sobey is surprisingly athletic, he seems to come out of nowhere to get his blocks and he hassles his player with on-ball defense. Hodgson is a very serviceable big man and if he can chip in 5-10 rebounds per night off the bench while Daniel Johnson is getting a spell, then the 36ers will be getting more than they asked for with him.
A little piece of “what did we learn” to finish off, it’s something that is said every year and every year injury ruins his season BUT Mitch Creek looks like he’s ready to take his game to the next level. Here’s hoping he can do that without yet another injury coming in and ruining his progress.
The roster stability is certainly a good thing with the Taipans and throughout the Blitz we saw once again how each player buys into the team first mentality up there.
The only real thing you could say you learnt about the Taipans over the past week is that they will continue where they left off last season and will once again push for the Championship.
Their depth is unbelievable, Mark Worthington, Cameron Tragardh and Torrey Craig all coming off the bench is something that most teams would absolutely kill for! They also remain as good as last season defensively, with Game 3 against the New Zealand Breakers (where NZ scored 100pts) being the only game where the opposing team got out of the 60’s.
The big three – AJ Ogilvy, Kevin Lisch and Kirk Penney – didn’t get the chance to play together during the Blitz. Lisch didn’t play at all and Penney only played 17 minutes during Game 3. Ogilvy was the only one to play all three games and in two of those three he finished with five fouls, something that the Hawks will have to monitor during the regular season.
One big thing we learnt is that Tim Coenraad has stepped his game up another notch; throughout the Blitz he averaged 16ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.3apg and 1spg. It would be expected that he’ll move to the bench once Kevin Lisch and Kirk Penney hit their stride but if he can hold his form over to the regular season then the Hawks have another good weapon off their bench.
United have a whole lot of offensive weapons on their team, not so many defensive.
Stephen Holt, Chris Goulding, Todd Blanchfield, Daniel Kickert and Hakim Warrick are all capable of scoring 25+ points on any given night and the first four mentioned there are also capable of hitting multiple three’s on any given night. The question will be, who will sacrifice their own shots for the betterment of the team? United have, in a way, recruited their way into exactly the same type of roster as last season; they’ve brought in the big guns but will the big guns be able to fire at the same time or will they start shooting at each other – team chemistry, it’s a big thing.
We learnt that they still haven’t addressed their defensive issues from last season; rebounding and rim protection. Daniel Kickert still acts like he is allergic to rebounds. He had eight rebounds for the entire tournament! Chris Patton, who played 35 minutes total for the tournament off the bench for United, finished with seven rebounds, one less than Kickert who played approximately 75 minutes in the tournament. Thank god for Majok Majok who brought down a remarkable 21 rebounds in Game 3 against the Kings. If he keeps rebounding like that (plus two blocked shots) he could find himself getting more and more game time.
Hakim Warrick played sparingly in Game’s 1 & 2, not at all in Game 3, and provided a few highlight dunks and will definitely be worth watching; if for some reason you weren’t going to before.
New Zealand Breakers:
Cedric Jackson is still as good as ever and will kick into top gear once the regular season begins, while Mika Vukona will continue being Mika Vukona and push the boundaries between amazing physical play and foul trouble.
Tai Wesley, Tai Wynyard and Reuben Te Rangi are the three to watch for the Breakers. All three showed glimpses throughout the three games that the young players coming through the NZ system are bringing the goods. In Game 1 it was Te Rangi with his shooting and rebounding, Game 2 against Perth it was all three lighting it up and in the final game it was Wynyard.
Charles Jackson had a great Game 3, 19pts, 16rbds and 2blks but aside from that he was underwhelming. Here’s hoping he picks it up come the regular season.
Perth has close to the, if not the, best inside presence in the league this season with Matt Knight, Tom Jervis and returning Australian big man Nathan Jawai. In Game 1 the three of them pulled in 20 rebounds, Game 2 the total was 17 and in Game 3 they brought in 12.
Jawai is going to be a great addition to this team, his combination of power, finesse and passing ability down low gives Perth yet another wrinkle on offense. In about 20mpg, Jawai finished with 13pts and 3rbds in Game 1, 9pts, 3rbds and 1ast in Game 2 and 8pts, 5rbds and 6asts in Game 3.
Unfortunately, they also have one major flaw which was seen throughout the Blitz; outside shooting.
Jermaine Beal is still their main offensive weapon when it comes to outside shooting. Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff and Casey Prather can all hit from long range but are extremely inconsistent and are more suited to the mid range. Wagstaff is best used as a trailer, a player who follows behind the ball carrier for the spot up three at the top of the key, he isn’t consistent enough to be used as a dedicated spot up shooter though.
They also seemed to be lacking a bit of intensity on defense and overall direction without Damian Martin on the court, they didn’t overly struggle but it certainly looked like a spark was missing.
There were three good things and one bad thing for the Kings during the Blitz, well two if count Josh Childress not being able to suit up.
The bad thing first, Marcus Thornton is here to get his and nothing more. He is extremely shot happy from beyond the arc and looks like a sieve on defense. In Game 1 he shot 9/19 (4/12 from deep), 3/7 (2/6 from three) in Game 2 and in the final game against Melbourne United he shot 7/21 (1/9 from deep). So first thing is to cut back on the three point attempts and get to the basket and the second thing is to keep the team involved. That was what made Childress so refreshing last season, he didn’t come in like most imports and try to dominate possession, he kept the team involved and was too unselfish at times.
Now onto the good; Jeromie Hill looks like a very serviceable shooting big to come in off the bench. It’s probable that he’ll get 10-15mpg during the regular season and if he can come in and grab five rebounds a game and/or get 5-10pts then he’ll be doing good.
Jason Cadee once again showed that he needs more time on the court in the regular season. In Game 1 he finished with 14pts, 2rbds, 3asts and 1stl while shooting 4/6 from deep and in Game 2 he had 30pts, 5rbds, 3asts, 1stl and 1blk while shooting 10/14 rom the field including 4/8 from three. He didn’t play in the final game against Melbourne but it’s good to see him carry his strong NZNBL form over.
Julian Khazzouh has come back and is straight to dominating the inside. Looking at just his rebound and block numbers, Game 1 (9mins) he had 2rbds and 2blks, Game 2 (30mins) he had 14rbds and 1blk and in the final game he had 13rbds and 1blk. The Kings have missed an inside presence like him and he will be relied on heavily at both ends of the floor, most likely second only to Childress.
Getting all their players on the court will be the main thing for the Crocs; Luke Schenscher, Mitch Young, Jordair Jett, Mirko Djeric, Brian Conklin and Mitch Norton were all unable to play every game of the Blitz.
Depth is a clear issue for them as well, they seem to only go seven or eight deep while other teams entire roster could get up and play when required. This also raises the issue of where is the scoring going to come from outside of Conklin, Schenscher and Steindl? Corey Maynard showed enough to show he could have a very solid season with the Crocs, Mitch Young also played with plenty of energy off the bench but Jordair Jett looked disinterested, Mitch Norton did very little and Leon Henry is yet to be convincing in a game either.
One thing the Crocs have got is a good thing in Nick Kay. He finished with 18pts, 10rbds and 1ast in Game 1, 5pts, 4rbds and 2asts in Game 2 and i nthe final game had 14pts and 4rbds. He showed more than enough to indicate he will be a very good back up centre to Schenscher.