CAIRNS – The Cairns Taipans had a number of roster changes this past off-season – three new imports, some skilled local talent, and a new head coach.
Season 18/19 Roster:
Devon Hall (G), Nathan Jawai (C), Jarrod Kenny (G), Dexter Kernich-Drew (G), Kuany Kuany (G), Robert Loe (C), Alex Loughton (F/C), DJ Newbill (G), Melo Trimble (G), Lucas Walker (F), Mitchell Young (F)
Possible Starting Five:
Nathan Jawai, Alex Loughton, Devon Hall, DJ Newbill, Melo Trimble
The Taipans will likely start games with a three guard lineup with Melo Trimble at the one, DJ Newbill at the two and Devon Hall at the three.
Trimble is a good scorer without being a solid shooter from the perimeter. He can create his own shot and create for others offensively while defensively he is adept at staying in front of his player and will get the odd steal to show on the boxscore.
Newbill played with the New Zealand Breakers in the last NBL season and while he had some real breakout games, he never hit the heights the teams like to see from their imports. With the Taipans this season he will be looking to be more aggressive with the ball and is one of the few players on this team that would be able to bully opponents to get to the rim.
Devon Hall is the latest NBA draftee to head to the NBL to ply his trade. Selected with the 53rd pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder, he will look to sharpen his game in the NBL before stepping into the NBA. A good shooter who can also slash to the basket, however he will be down the pecking order in terms of offensive options for this team.
Talk about turning back the clock, Alex Loughton revitalised his career last season after a quiet previous season. While his averages of 12.5ppg and 3.7rpg don’t jump off the page at anyone, it was the way he played with a renewed energy and intensity and how he was counted on in big moments to take the big shot. If he gets it going again, he is one of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the NBL.
The big man Nate Jawai is in a similar spot to Andrew Bogut, what could have been without injuries? Jawai is one of the best post players, one of the best centres in the league, with a great soft touch around the basket and ability to read the ball well for rebounds. His biggest troubles are that he is both injury and foul prone.
This is where things get a little unknown for the Taipans, they’re going to be relying on their starting five a whole lot and if a couple of them go down with injuries then they may be in trouble.
Lucas Walker (currently injured), Dexter Kernich-Drew and Robert Loe will see the bulk of the minutes off the bench and for Kernich-Drew in particular, this season will be his chance to breakout and he could be a candidate for Most Improved come seasons end.
Robert Loe will be called upon many times throughout games to give Jawai a breather or to simply step in for the big man if/when he gets injured or in foul trouble. While Walker will come on and spot Loughton so the veteran can rest and recover, he will also be an option to cover Jawai if Mike Kelly wants to play small with this team.
The Taipans gameplan should be similar to that of the Sydney Kings – they have a dominant post player, look to utilise him as much as possible. Jawai sealing down low is a nightmare for just about every other team in the league and it also creates space for players like Trimble and Newbill to attack the basket and draw the defender to them.
Hitting Jawai with a pass inside will also allow for an inside-outside game to come into play if he can be spaced with shooters around him and Newbill has been putting up an increased number of three’s this preseason, an indication of what the Taipans need more of from him for the upcoming season.
Once Jawai heads to the bench, Loe isn’t the same presence inside so floor spacing is more important and allowing players room to cut hard to the basket from off-ball screens and back screens. Running into an empty paint allows a higher chance that the pass can be made on the curl and finished at the rim. If a defender steps up to help, there will be a second offensive player cutting hard to the basket and getting fouled or spotting up for the open jump shot.