2021 NZNBL team review: Auckland Huskies

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Auckland Huskies.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 4th
Wins: 11
Losses: 8

KEY STATS:

Points: 85.5 (6th)
Rebounds: 35.3 (8th)
Assists: 15.1 (7th)
Steals: 7.0 (7th)
Blocks: 2.2 (8th)
Field Goal %: 45.0 (6th)

KEY PLAYERS:

Chris Johnson

The star import was enormous throughout the season, and whilst he had to head back to the United States prior to the end of the season, Johnson finished averaging a massive double-double. He put up 20.1 points. 11.0 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.7 blocks, shooting at 32.8 per cent from long-range, and 49.1 per cent from the field overall. When getting to the line, he rarely missed, with an 88.24 per cent success rate. In a remarkable feat of consistency, Johnson did not dip below 11 points all season, and had 20 or more on eight occasions, including a 30-point season-high outing on debut. He picked up 10 double-doubles throughout 2021, with his best saved for last, when he racked up 25 points and 20 rebounds – 16 defensive – against the Manawatu Jets.

Zach Riley

Starting the equal most amount of games, and playing in all 19 for the Huskies, Riley averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals. He was as consistent as any player, holding the team together through other absences and injuries. With a 40 per cent clip from long-range and 49.7 per cent from the field, Riley could be relied upon to hit the jumper. Like Johnson, he was emphatically good from the line, hitting 87.8 per cent of his free throws. Riley had a slower start to the season, only averaging in single digits for the first eight games, then had eight of the last 11 in double-digits. His consistency at times from game-to-game wavered from a points scoring perspective, hitting zero points from 29 minutes against Franklin Bulls, but then also putting up 32 points in 40 minutes against Taranaki Mountainairs.

Dontae Nance

The teenage star was outstanding for the Huskies off the bench, only starting three times, but making his impact felt when coming on the court. He averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals, lighting up the boards with his X-factor. He shot at 31.6 per cent from long-range and 40 per cent overall, still a raw talent but one with plenty of years to develop. The 16-year-old started the season on fire with double digits in three of his first four games, and had another five games of double-digits. Whilst consistency is still an area to iron out, no doubt Nance has some exciting traits.

Tom Vodanovich

Coming in for the second half of the season after his ANBL duties, Vodanovich showed why he was the 2020 NZNBL Most Valuable Player. He averaged 21.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists from nine games, scoring 65.9 per cent of his free throws. His three-point shooting preference had him at 36.6 per cent, with an overall field goal percentage of 48.2 per cent. When Vodanovich is on, he is hard to stop, having two games of 33 points, and another four games of more than 20 points in his nine. His best effort was 33 points and 13 rebounds in overtime against Southland Sharks, the first of three double-doubles for the big man, with another 33 points and seven rebounds in the losing semi-final to Wellington Saints.

OTHERS:

Much like Vodanovich, Justin Bibbs only played the nine games, but put up 18.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in that time, whilst Brooke Ruscoe (10.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals) and Nick Barrow (4.4 points. 2.8 rebounds) were regular starters. Jeremy Kendle played the first three games and racked up a ridiculous 28.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.3 steals before heading back to Australia to play.

SUMMARY:

The Auckland Huskies just found a way to stay in games and win matches without dominating the stats sheet. As the team stats show, they were fairly low down in the scheme of things, but still made finals and fought hard despite being undermanned. They unearthed Nance and had they had their best players all year long, they would have been a serious threat.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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