The 2015/2016 National Basketball League season begins in two days time, here’s a preview of the upcoming first round. *All times are AEDT and tips for each game are in bold.
Wednesday 7th October
New Zealand Breakers @ Adelaide 36ers (7:30pm)
The reigning champs get the 2015/2016 NBL season underway when they travel to Adelaide to take on the 36ers. If ever there was a time for the 36ers to defeat the Breakers, it’s now. Thomas Abercrombie and Alex Pledger are both under injury clouds, also their most lethal scorer, Corey Webster, is not with the team but instead on the roster of an NBA team trying to make it over there.
The 36ers have injury issues themselves, with import and NBL veteran Ebi Ere not having suited up at all during the recent NBL Blitz. A recent news report says that he will be ready to go however.
If Pledger is unable to play for the Breakers, the 36ers big men (Daniel Johnson, Anthony Petrie, Matt Hodgson) will have an easier time down low but will still have to contend with Charles Jackson. Jackson didn’t show much in the Blitz until the final game, so he is a bit of an unknown heading into this game. The other Jackson, Cedric, is capable of winning a game on his own though and Adam Gibson will be glued to him throughout the contest. With clouds over Pledger and Abercrombie and no Webster for the Breakers, the 36ers will take the first game of the season.
Thursday 8th October
Illawarra Hawks @ Cairns Taipans (7:30pm)
This is a tough one to gauge, one on hand you have the ultra consistent Taipans and on the other you have the newly formed “Big 3” of Illawarra, not to mention the great supporting cast that has been put around them.
Kirk Penney, Kevin Lisch and AJ Ogilvy will be an absolute handful for most opponents, throw in Tim Coenraad who is having an off the charts pre-season, Oscar Forman and Rhys Martin and it’s a very difficult team to stop.
The Taipans have lost Scottie Wilbekin to the NBA and it’s too early to tell if Markel Starks can provide the same output that Wilbekin did last season. Mark Worthington is a very good pick up though. I’m going with the Taipans, purely because it’s their home court, they’ve kept their core group of players together and brought in a couple of good additions.
Friday 9th October
Melbourne United @ Townsville Crocodiles (7:30pm)
Both teams have depth issues but the starting five for United is better than the starting five for the Crocs. The problem with United is going to be the same as it was last season, unity/cohesion between players. There are a number of players on that team that will want to “get theirs” and may not be willing to sacrifice their shots for the greater good, so it will be interesting to see how the team plays.
The Crocs have solid players on the court to start the game; Schenscher, Conklin, Steindl, Norton, Jett but there isn’t too much backing them up behind Kay, Maynard and Young. Jordair Jett is still unproven and didn’t exactly set the world on fire during the Blitz.
United will take the win here but close attention needs to be paid to how they play as a team.
Saturday 10th October
Cairns Taipans @ Sydney Kings (5:30pm)
I’m going with the Kings in a bit of an upset to start the season. The Taipans would have played a tough game against the Hawks just a couple of nights earlier while the Kings are coming in fresh.
They picked up Julian Khazzouh and Marcus Thornton in the off-season, both recruits will be huge additions to the team. Khazzouh bringing an inside presence that the team sorely missed last season and Thornton bringing in electric scoring ability. He will need to concentrate on taking better shots however and not be so trigger happy from the three point line like he was during the Blitz.
Any team with Josh Childress in the NBL is a chance to cause an upset though and this season, he has a better supporting cast around him.
Perth Wildcats @ Adelaide 36ers (7:30pm)
I’m going with a 36ers double in round one, they have come up against the Breakers and Wildcats at the perfect time of season.
Damian Martin and Nathan Jawai are in doubt for the Wildcats and with Martin out of the Blitz, the Wildcats looked to missing a spark/fire on the court at both ends. A whole lot rests on the shoulders of Casey Prather, Jermaine Beal and the veteran Shawn Redhage.
Sunday 11th October
Townsville Crocodiles @ New Zealand Breakers (12pm)
The Breakers back at home should be too good for the Crocs, even without the players mentioned earlier. Cedric Jackson alone should be too athletic and simply too good for Mitch Norton to guard. That’s where the game will be won, the defensive end and NZ is simply much better as a unit defensively than the Crocs are.
Illawarra Hawks @ Melbourne United (3pm)
Another tough game to pick a side and it happens to involve the Hawks again. I’m leaning towards the Hawks with this one though, based on what happened during the Blitz when these two sides met and that they have an extra days break in between games.
The Hawks really pushed a full strength United side while they themselves were without Kevin Lisch and Kirk Penney. I believe those two additions will be the key difference in a game that will a three point shoot out to the end.