Category: Melbourne United

2021 NBL: Round 8 stats leaders

HEADING into Round 8 of the National Basketball League (NBL), Draft Central takes a look at the competition’s best when it comes to points scored, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. There is no surprise that a number of names are repeated in the categories given their overall dominance across the league and skillset to excel in more than one area.

Points:

Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats) 24.38
Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets) 23.40
Casper Ware (Sydney Kings) 21.55
Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers) 20.88
Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks) 20.73

Reigning league best and fairest Bryce Cotton tops the competition for average points with the Perth Wildcats guard a continuous force to be reckoned with thanks to his 24.38 points. Nathan Sobey is hot on his heels averaging 23.40 points for the Bullets while Casper Ware has been somewhat of a lone hand for the Kings but still producing at a high rate with 21.55 points a game. Despite having a trying season, Tai Webster has been a mainstay for New Zealand with 20.88 points while Tyler Harvey has been a revelation since joining the Hawks averaging 20.73 points.

Assists:

Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans) 9
Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats) 7.38
Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix) 6.90
Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers) 6.25
Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers) 5.33

Cairns Taipans playmaker, Scott Machado is never far away from the action and leads the NBL for dimes with an average of nine per game, showcasing his overall basketball smarts. Cotton is a livewire with ball in hand able to swing the ball around the court with ease averaging 7.38 assists while Keifer Sykes has been a great addition to the Phoenix with his ball skills often on show thanks to his 6.90 assists. Webster also features highly for assists with 6.90 while rookie Josh Giddey has not missed a trick since joining Adelaide 36ers averaging 5.33 assists.

Rebounds:

John Mooney (Perth Wildcats) 12
Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans) 10
Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets) 8.20
Jock Landale (Melbourne United) 8.10
Isaac Humphries (Illawarra Hawks) 8.08

John Mooney wasted no time imposing himself on the NBL with the Perth Wildcats bigman quickly becoming a menace off the boards with an average of 12 rebounds per game. Cameron Oliver is the only other player to average double-figure rebounds thanks to his 10 for the Taipans. Import, Victor Law has been a key cog for the Bullets recording 8.20 rebounds a game while Jock Landale has also been a welcomed addition to the United squad reeling in 8.10 rebounds a match. Isaac Humphries has also stepped up to the plate for Illawarra amassing eight rebounds per game to be a key reason for their rise up the ladder this season.

Blocks:

Isaac Humphries (Illawarra Hawks) 3
Jack White (Melbourne United) 2.56
Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets) 1.70
Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans) 1.67
Jock Landale (Melbourne United) 1.50

Humphries leads the competition for blocks with an average of three while Melbourne United newcomer Jack White has also been an influential figure with his 2.56 blocks per game. Law continues to flex his defensive mindset producing 1.70 blocks with Oliver (1.67) and Landale (1.50) also within the top five in the league for blocks.

Steals:

Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks) 2.18
Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats) 1.88
Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United) 1.80
John Mooney (Perth Wildcats) 1.38
Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks) 1.36

When it comes to steals, Illawarra Hawks’ Justin Simon tops the table with a competition high 2.18 while Cotton is more than capable of getting his hands dirty to pick off steals with an average of 1.88 to his name. Mitch McCarron has been a steady head for Melbourne United recording 1.80 steals a game while Mooney has showcased his defensive prowess with 1.38 steals. Harvey rounds out the top five in the league managing 1.36 steals a game.

United create more space at the top of the table, knock off Kings by 3

MANY would have thought that after the Sydney Kings’ strong first quarter against Melbourne United on Saturday night, they were going to see things through in the following three terms.

This was not the case, as Melbourne emerged victorious in each of the last three quarters and would ultimately win the contest 83-80 at John Cain Arena in last night’s closer – tightening their grip on the rest of the competition with their ninth win of the season.

It is always a fun clash for the fans when these two rosters face off with one another, but it would be the Kings that gained the upper advantage early, going up by 12 in enemy territory at the turn of the first quarter, thanks to the combined work of Dejan Vasiljevic and Casper Ware.

Being a consistent force throughout the first half as a whole, Shaun Bruce maintained not only a good shooting stroke from the field, but he also passed the rock exceptionally ending his first two quarters of play with nine points and three assists. On the flip side for United though, it was noticeable that their frontcourt was going to need to be the difference in last night’s closer and as they trailed 34-43 at half time, it was evident that Dean Vickerman’s side were running out of minutes and options.

Another strong middle quarter followed Melbourne’s second term, winning the third 10-minute stretch 24-17 and cutting their deficit down to just two points with a quarter to play and a raucous Melbourne supporter base urging them forward in the fourth.

A hectic final two minutes in the concluding period would ensue with Shea Ili putting Melbourne up by six points following a corner three to get those in attendance on their feet. Two consecutive baskets from Ware, however, brought the game back to a single point, before Scotty Hopson returned fire with one of his own.

Ware backed up his superb fourth period after nailing another basket with 40 seconds remaining to cut the margin to one point once again. But after Ware missed out on a final chance in the last 24 seconds, the Kings would fail to draw even or get ahead in the end, as two more free throws by way of Jock Landale polished off a strong-looking Kings outfit by a mere three points.

In a game that could have easily gone either way, Melbourne’s 38 points in the paint most likely proved to be the difference maker in the long run compared to Sydney’s 28. However, it is also worth mentioning United’s 32 bench points, showing just how imperative Melbourne’s secondary unit was in the win.

Adding another game to his well-decorated belt of performances, Landale was spectacular with 20 points and eight rebounds going 57 per cent from the field. Off the bench, Hopson was showing hints of his old form from last season, with a solid 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Meanwhile, other major performers for United also included Mitch McCarron (13 points, six assists and five rebounds), Ili (12 points and three rebounds), Jo Lual-Acuil (five points and 10 rebounds) and Yudai Baba (11 points and three rebounds).

Vasiljevic (22 points and four three-pointers), Ware (21 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Bruce (17 points, three rebounds and three assists) all recorded over 15 points, as the trio devastated Melbourne’s defenders constantly. Brad Newley was also another individual to have a memorable performance in what was classic performance from the veteran, with 10 points and eight rebounds in his side’s loss.

Melbourne’s dominance of NBL21 will move forward to next Friday in Round 8 when United take on Hopson’s old side, the New Zealand Breakers, while Sydney will look to push the Cairns Taipans further down the ladder with another win over the North-Queensland side come Thursday night.

Melbourne United keep 36ers at bay to secure the win

A DOMINANT opening term all but gifted Melbourne United the “W” in their clash against Adelaide 36ers to keep their hot start to the season going, winning 82-73. Weathering the storm in the middle part of the game, United did enough to keep up with Adelaide who flicked into overdrive as the game went on but in the end could not outrun.

Melbourne wasted no time making their intentions very clear with Jock Landale imposing himself in the first minute of the game sinking back-to-back triples. United played with a sense of urgency and intensity, nullifying the 36ers in every which way and mounting the scoreboard pressure nailing a whopping 31 points to eight. Establishing a commanding lead at quarter time the pressure somewhat fell off from United’s perspective as the 36ers ate into the deficit. Hitting the scoreboard more frequently, Adelaide showcased their determination and hard working mindset to knock back 26 points and shut down Melbourne, keeping them to 16 points.

Outclassed in the second quarter, United struggled to recapture that same form they emulated in the opening term while Adelaide maintained its momentum to keep pressing. Desperate to stay in touch, the 36ers put in the hard yards to work the ball forward and cut the deficit to 12 points at the final change thanks to an 18-17 term. Adelaide won the final term of play producing 21 points but it was not enough to ruffle the feathers of United who had done enough to secure a nine-point win, largely due to the blistering first quarter of play.

United showcased their accuracy from the field sinking 28 shots from 67 attempts at 41 per cent while the 36ers converted 25 of their 66 attempts at 37 per cent. Melbourne were also stronger from inside the arc going at 47 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 39 per cent while the roles were reversed when looking at accuracy from deep with the 36ers hitting three triples at 36 per cent compared to United’s eight at 32 per cent.

Melbourne also flexed their muscles on the rebounding front, using their bigmen to cause havoc and reel in 47 rebounds to 37 while they also beat Adelaide at their own game producing 13 assists to 10. When it came to turnovers, the 36ers proved to be cleaner with ball in hand only registering 12 as opposed to Melbourne’s 14 while they also recorded more steals (10-8).

Daniel Johnson imposed his physical presence on the game knocking back a team-high 14 points at 40 per cent from the field. He outmuscled his opponents off the boards securing eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. Josh Giddey also continued to impress registering 13 points as Tony Crocker also nailed 13 to keep his side alive. Giddey was down on his usual output when it comes to assists, only managing the one for the game, however he did record eight rebounds. Isaac Humphries plied his trade, posting nine points while also walking away with eight rebounds.

Missing Chris Goulding once again, it was Mitch McCarron that stepped up to the plate downing 18 points in his 34 minutes on court. McCarron did not stop there, dragging down 10 rebounds to walk away with a double-double while also managing three steals and a block. Landale quietened down after his fast start to the match amassing 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Scotty Hopson was a key contributor in the win collecting 14 points, six rebounds and four assists while Jo Lual-Acuil recorded a double-double thanks to  his 11 points and 10 rebounds.

NBL21 – Round 7 preview: NBL Cup rolls on

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Cup continues into Round 7 of the season, with some teams such as Perth Wildcats making their move up the table, while others such as New Zealand Breakers desperately need a win to get back on track in season 2021.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, February 25 @ 5pm

A Thursday evening fixture sees the sixth placed Sydney Kings looking to stay in touch with the top four, coming up against a struggling New Zealand Breakers outfit. The Kings have had an up and down season, only winning back-to-back games once, and losing two of their past three matches. The Breakers on the other hand cannot seemingly catch a break, winning one from six, which was an on-the-road win against Cairns Taipans back on February 6. Since then they have dropped four consecutive matches and need to turn it around quick smart.

Casper Ware continues to be a problem for the Kings’ opposition, averaging 21.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, shooting at 40 per cent from three-point range. He is well supported by fellow shooters, Jarrell Martin and Dejan Vasiljevic with their in-the-paint and jump shot efforts respectively keeping the Kings in contention. For the Breakers, Tai Webster is averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 5.3 assists and well as 7.5 rebounds, second in the latter stat behind big man Colton Iverson (6.0 points, 7.7 rebounds). Finn Delany (13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) has been a shining light in the front court for the Breakers as he continues to develop.

The Kings should get the job done here, though the Breakers are desperate to turn their season around.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Thursday, February 25 @ 7.30pm

In the prime time Thursday night game, Adelaide 36ers “host” Melbourne United, in a battle between two top four sides. The 36ers are travelling just above 50 per cent for the season, having won six out of 11, but have the lowest points differential of the top six sides with minus-39. United have been the benchmark all season and sit with a healthy 7-1 record, but did suffer defeat at the hands of their nemesis, Perth Wildcats last round, so will be keen to bounce back with a strong Round 7.

The battle between big men, Isaac Humphries and Jock Landale will be key to the clash, with 36ers’ Humphries averaging 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, while Landale has managed 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and an additional 3.0 assists per match. Both also have a strong second big man in Jack White (United) and Daniel Johnson (36ers), with White putting up 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, strong on defence, while Johnson is a more aggressive offensive big man thanks to 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Mitch McCarron (10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals) will also need to watch out for young gun Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steals) in the match.

United will be the team to beat in this one, but the big men of the 36ers will be sure to cause some issues for the top side.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 26 @ 5pm

Two teams up opposite ends of the ladder tip-off Friday night’s action, with the second placed Illawarra Hawks meeting the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets. The Hawks have played an extra game but stand at a strong 6-3 from nine matches, while the Bullets are 3-5 from eight. Brisbane comes into the game with just the one win in four matches and hoping to change their fortunes again. Back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Hawks back in the opening two rounds will spur them on for vengeance, while the Hawks have dropped three of their past four games after starting the season strongly.

Illawarra has a well-balanced squad with its trio of American guards causing all sorts of issues for opposition teams. Tyler Harvey (22.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals) leads the way, while Justinian Jessup (15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals) and Justin Simon (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals) have also been prominent. The Bullets have relied a lot on the output of another import in Victor Law (19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks) at both ends of the floor, while Nathan Sobey remains one of the league’s higher volume shooters with 23.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists thus far this season.

This game is set to be a beauty, with Illawarra favourites to turn their recent form around, but Brisbane desperate for a win.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, February 26 @ 7.30pm

It is danger time in Cairns for the Taipans whose season is on a knifes edge with three wins from 10 games. Perth Wildcats were in a similar boat not long ago, but have taken advantage of late and are starting to gel, moving all the way up to third on the table with a 4-3 record. Since losing to South East Melbourne in Round 5, the Wildcats have strung together back-to-back impressive wins over the otherwise undefeated Melbourne United, as well as Sydney Kings to get their season back on track.

The Wildcats’ win over the Kings last round showed the potency of the Bryce Cotton and John Mooney duo. Cotton has been a star in the league for many years now, putting up another consistent 24.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, but has found a partner-in-crime with Mooney. The big American averaged 18.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per match this season. Mooney will have his hands full with the likes of Cameron Oliver (16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks) having another outstanding season, while the Taipans have five players hitting double-figure points. Scott Machado (18.1 points, 9.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds) is the key play maker for the Taipans, but only Mirko Djeric (11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) also has more than two assists.

Perth will be favourites ahead of the clash, but you can never discount the spread of talent on the Cairns roster.

 

OTHER GAMES:

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 5.30pm

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 27 @ 8pm

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, February 28 @ 2pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, February 28 @ 4.30pm

The South East Melbourne Phoenix will enter the round late, coming up against Illawarra Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Mitch Creek (20.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists) is just rolling along as he always does for the Phoenix, teaming up well with Keifer Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.0 steals) has also been prolific as they eye off rising up the ladder from their 5-5 win-loss record.

The Hawks could draw level with United if the results go their way, while United take on the Kings, the 36ers face the Breakers and the Bullets and Taipans lock horns in an all-Queensland face-off.

Picture credit: AAP/David Mariutz

Melbourne United overcome three-quarter time deficit to reign supreme

SUFFERING their first loss of the season during their previous Round 5 outing Melbourne United ensured that outcome did not happen again with a huge final quarter of action to narrowly edge out Cairns Taipains in a thriller, 88-81. Struggling to get going throughout majority of the game, United showed their class to run it home against the Taipans inspired by Japanese import Yudai Baba.

Coming into the clash on a two game winning streak Cairns had a real pep in their step smothering United’s every move and countering it with their attacking prowess. The Taipans wasted no time asserting themselves on the contest as they skipped out to an eight point lead while keeping Melbourne scoreless in the opening minutes of play. Their overall intensity and belief was up as they tussled hard for each possession and moved the ball with relative ease to boast a handy eight point lead at quarter time. Standings levelled out in the second quarter with United slowly working their way back into the contest outscoring their opponents 18 to 17 but that hardly dented the scoreline. There was no denying the influence Kouat Noi had on the game with the Cairns bigman imposing himself in every which way posting an impressive 17 point before half time as Melbourne failed to combat his commanding presence.

The second half got underway off the hands of Noi as he extended the lead for Cairns and edged the side towards their third straight win. But as the quarter went on, the tables started to turn as United’s defensive pressure intensified culling the margin to a mere four points at half time. Sensing a comeback victory some strong efforts from the likes of Baba and Scotty Hopson was exactly what the Melbourne side needed as they rallied in the final term to post 30 points while keeping their opponents to 19. Playing with a mix of calculated risk, United pressed hard to force turnovers and most importantly capitalise, stealing a seven-point win despite being down and out for majority of the contest.

It is near on impossible to separate the two sides when it comes to shooting percentage with Melbourne United just pipping Cairns at the post thanks to their 43 per cent conversion rate from the field compared to the Taipans’ 42 per cent. United were also more damaging from three point range credit to their 40 per cent accuracy. However, the roles reversed when it came to converting from the charity stripe as the Taipans flexed their muscles through their 82 per cent accuracy nailing 14 of their 17 attempts while United did not have anywhere near the same potency sitting at 66 per cent.

United could not be stopped off the boards, reigning supreme with 50 rebounds compared to the Taipans who only managed 37. United also collected more assists 18 to 17 respectively while also managed a higher amount of steals than the Taipans (9-5). Despite walking away with the chocolates the victors were more costly with ball in hand registering 15 turnovers to 14.

Without the likes of Shea Ili and Chris Goulding, there were three main contributors for United throughout their clash with Jock Landale taking centre stage. Landale was never far from the action walking away with a double-double after posting 18 points and 11 rebounds, with nine of them defensive. The ever-reliable Mitch McCarron plied his trade amassing 17 points, three rebounds, seven assists and five steals while Baba also stepped up to the plate in a coming of age performance credit to his 17 points, four rebounds and three assists. Jack White was a handy option especially from range with majority of his nine points a result of triples.

Starring in the first half, Noi continued that momentum to finish with 27 points, five rebounds and two steals to cap off a stellar performance. He was well aided by the likes of Cameron Oliver who collected 18 points and did what he does best as shown through his six assists while Scott Machado was the only other player that managed to reach double figures. In his 34 minutes on court Machado knocked back 14 points and nine assists while Fabijan Krslovic secured six points and eight rebounds.

Perth end United’s undefeated streak in 2021

PERTH Wildcats handed Melbourne United their first loss of the season toppling the ladder leaders by a mere four points thanks to some Bryce Cotton magic with the reigning MVP winner showcasing his class to put the nail in the coffin to steal the lead within the final 40 seconds (89-85). The rivalry between the two sides continued last night as Perth found a way to do something the rest of the competition are yet to do in season 2021 – win against the Melbourne side. Despite being down throughout stages of the match, the Wildcats rallied to grind out the game and keep their season alive.

The Wildcats had a real sense of urgency and intensity from the minute they stepped out on court, nailing the opening points of the game. they skipped out to a quick lead before United settled into their rhythm despite boasting a different starting five to what the side is used to. From there, neither side could be separated in the first term of play with both United and the Wildcats managing to freely score, feeling each other out in attack to head into the first break even. The second quarter was played more on Perth’s terms as they posted 21 points to 17 to create a narrow lead at the main change.

Disappointed with their second quarter efforts, Melbourne United turned the afterburners on to work their way back into the contest. With a renewed sense of energy across the court Melbourne hit the lead midway through the term but it did not last long as Perth once again hit back. Culling the lead from four points to one at three-quarter time the game intensified as United looked to keep their undefeated record intact and the Wildcats aimed to claim the biggest upset of the season. But in the end it was the lower placed side that found another gear to overcome their opponents in the dying seconds of the game to reign triumphant.

Boasting a 48 per cent accuracy from the field, Melbourne United proved to be more dominant than Perth who managed 43 per cent only converting 26 of their 64 attempts. The victors were strong from down town sinking 13 triples to Melbourne’s 11 at 46 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. United were prominent in and around the basket posting 34 points in the paint compared to Perth’s 22 highlighting the differing style the two sides play. There was also a major differential between points made from turnovers with the Wildcats capitalising on their chances with 24 to 13.

Melbourne just edged Perth out on the rebounding front with 38 to 34 while they also shared the ball around as shown through their 21 assists to 15. But the Wildcats impressed with their defensive tendencies picking up 10 steals to five while also treasuring the ball recording seven less turnovers than their counterparts (10-17).

Recruit, Jock Landale wasted no time putting up another impressive performance for United collecting a team-high 20 points. Landale not only influenced the scoreboard but so too played a role off the boards with his 10 rebounds and four assists even though his side did not get the “W”. Coming off the bench David Barlow was the next highest scorer knocking back 11 points while Scotty Hopson and Sam McDaniel posted 10 points apiece. Mitch McCarron was handy for United recording eight points and eight rebounds however he coughed up the ball six times while Jack White also kept the scoreboard ticking over with his seven points.

For the winners, it is no surprise that Cotton led the charge with his 29 points. It could have been an even bigger outing for Cotton had he been more accurate from the field only going at a lowly 30 per cent. He also racked up seven assists and three steals while Jesse Wagstaff also played an integral role in the victory thanks to his 14 points and six rebounds. John Mooney just fell short of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds all of which were defensive while Todd Blanchfield imposed himself through his 12 points, three rebounds and two assists.

NBL21 – Round 6 preview: NBL Cup tips off in blockbuster weekend

AN eight-game round across four days tips off in a blockbuster National Basketball League (NBL) weekend starting tomorrow. Across Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, double-headers will be played at John Cain Arena in Melbourne, allowing fans to make the most of their trip to the basketball. We take a look at each of the clashes below.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 20 @ 3pm

Tipping off the huge weekend of action is Cairns Taipans going head-to-head against Illawarra Hawks in what should be a fascinating contest. The Hawks bounced back from consecutive losses to defeat Sydney Kings and remain on track for a finals spot under new coach Brian Goorjian. Illawarra sits second on the table with five wins from seven games, while the Taipans have conversely struggled this season after entering 2021 with much optimism after last year’s finals showing. Having played seven games at home and only winning two of them is not crash hot, while the Hawks lost their only game to Melbourne United, but have a 5-1 away record having been well versed at travelling thus far.

The Hawks’ back court has worked really well this season with a trio of imports, Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon making life difficult for the opposition. Harvey (21.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists) and Jessup (14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists) have started every match, while Simon (9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks) has been a third playmaker, starting in five of the seven games. For the Taipans, it means a lot falls on the shoulders of Scott Machado (17.0 points, 9.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds) to match it with them, while Cameron Oliver (17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) is a man on a mission this year once again as the premier big man heading into this contest.

The Hawks will be favourites given their depth, though the Taipans have shown in glimpses they still have what it takes to pick off a big scalp.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Saturday, February 20 @ 5.30pm

In the second game tomorrow, rivals Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats go head-to-head in what is always a fascinating battle. United are yet to lose this season, winning six on the trot and now facing an extended stint at home with the NBL Cup at John Cain Arena. They take on the team that got the better of them two years ago and always provide a challenge in the Wildcats, who have had their worst start to a season in some time, winning two of five games to start the season and languish in seventh spot. Luckily, a trip away could see them reinvigorate themselves and with the tightness of the ladder, quickly put themselves back in contention for a three-peat.

The question mark over the Wildcats is what it was in the preseason – support to help Bryce Cotton – and that is what Perth will need to get the job done. Cotton was the best player in the NBL last year, and has arguably been for a number of seasons now, but with so many of his teammates departing, he needed to find some scoring options to take the pressure off him. Import John Mooney has been a terrific addition at the five, with 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, while Todd Blanchfield has come across to be another contributor with 13 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists per game. Unfortunately the reigning premiers have struggled elsewhere, while United have depth up every sleeve. Big man Jock Landale (15.2 points. 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks) has had the impact he was expected to this season, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds) has controlled the back court. Most impressively though, United has eight players with nine points or more per game, using the rotation options to perfection.

United are yet to loses in season 2021, and it is hard to see it happening here. In saying that, if there is a game the Wildcats are likely to get up for, it is this one.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 21 @ 3pm

Two teams that have been up and down this season in the mid-table logjam are South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The pair face off in the earlier game on Sunday, with the Phoenix playing their fourth home game having started the season with a 2-1 record in Victoria. They will be favourites up against a Brisbane team that has been shaky despite six home games, finishing with two wins from those matches, though the Bullets won their most recent clash on the road against the Adelaide 36ers to give them confidence here.

With news that the Phoenix have lured NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff back from the United States, it transforms the league’s newest side from being a solid mid-table team into a genuine contender, if not favourite alongside Melbourne United. The Phoenix already had a couple of prolific scorers up both ends of the court in guard Keifer Sykes (18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals), as well as forward Mitch Creek putting in a typical performance of 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. Add in Broekhoff who is the most deadly of three-point shooters (averaging 40 per cent from long-range in the world’s best league albeit from limited minutes), and the Phoenix have so many deadly shooters. The Bullets have their own homegrown volume shooter in Nathan Sobey (24.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals), while import Victor Law has been a welcome addition with the departure of Lamar Patterson, stepping up with 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks this season.

The Phoenix will be strong favourites, especially if Broekhoff takes the court, while the Bullets will be hoping to build on their last win, with an all-round team performance.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, February 21 @ 5.30pm

In the final match of the regular weekend, Sydney Kings and Adelaide 36ers face-off in their first of two games for Round 6. The 36ers have had a remarkably good season, with five wins from nine games, but will be ruing their loss to the Bullets at home last start. After a quick trip away to Brisbane they toppled the Bullets, then fell themselves at home in a shock loss. They sit pretty in third on the table, but have played more games than any other side, so will be wanting to quickly rack up some more wins early in the season. For the Kings, they are at 3-4, and still trying to find their feet, having lost at home against Illawarra last start, and sit fifth with a very winnable chance against the 36ers on Sunday evening.

The Kings have certainly found a standout import in Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) to take the load off known volume shooter Casper Ware (20.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals). Ware has been more prolific than his first season with the Kings, but it has been the back court duo of Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic (17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) which has really kept the Kings in the mix for a top four spot early in the season. They come up against a 36ers side that has come on in leaps and bounds since being smashed by Melbourne United on opening night. They could certainly still improve their consistency, but the duo of Isaac Humphries (17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks) and Daniel Johnson (21.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists) has been sensational and is one area where they will have the advantage and look to really control the airways close to the basket.

Adelaide 36ers will be favourites, but the Kings have enough strength in their back court to be a worry for the third placed team, both will be keen to start the NBL Cup off well.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Monday, February 22 @ 5pm

The first team to play two games this round will be Illawarra Hawks, triggering another six teams to double-up over the weekend. For the New Zealand Breakers, they could have the weekend resting up for their sole Round 6 game, and will have had plenty of time to plan for the Hawks in this one. The Breakers are 1-4 from the season and desperate to grab a second win, yet to play at home, and not looking likely on the horizon for some time. Despite the challenges, they have the talent on their list, the Breakers just need to keep battling away.

Tai Webster has been the standout performer for the Breakers, putting up team highs in points (19.6), rebounds (7.2) and assists (5.0) to be a crucial inclusion in the back court. His brother Corey (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has been pretty solid himself coming off the bench, while Finn Delany (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) continues to come of age. The big question mark remains with last year’s MVP contender, Lamar Patterson who languishes with just an average performance of 10.4 points. 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The American imports for the Hawks in Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon have been terrific, while Sam Froling (11.1 points, 7,6 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) have been the size the team needs near the basket, and allowing their smaller teammates to go to work.

Illawarra will be favourites in the clash, but a trip away in the one place for an extended time could be what the Breakers need to kick-start their season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, February 22 @ 7.30pm

Getting stuck straight into the analysis, these two teams are coming off early games on the weekend and will be keen to put on a Monday night show. United will be favourites thanks to an unbeaten run, while the Taipans will be keen to turn their early season form around during the NBL Cup. If they can start firing here, it will give them confidence going forward. The must-watch matchup is clearly Jock Landale up against Cameron Oliver in a huge battle of the big men, and despite Scott Machado’s elite passing and some good solid scoring options across the court for the Taipans in Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric, they do not have the same depth as United, who outside Chris Goulding and Jack White (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks), the ladder leaders still have the likes of former Breakers, Scotty Hopson and Shea Ili, and back court scorers, Mitch McCarron and Yudai Baba putting up strong scores.

United will remain favourites regardless of the earlier results on the weekend, but the Taipans have the talent to give it a shake.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Tuesday, February 23 @ 5pm

A 2019/20 NBL Grand Final rematch between the Kings and Wildcats will tip-off Tuesday night’s action with both teams in very different circumstances to 12 months ago. The Kings sit fifth just outside the top four, winning three of seven games, while the Wildcats are seventh hoping to turn their form around. The Kings trio of Jarrell Martin, Casper Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic provide the majority of the points for last year’s runners-up, though Brad Newley (10.9 points. 5.3 rebounds) comes off the bench to have an impact. They will need some big efforts from the depth however, because that will be the key in this match. As already mentioned, Bryce Cotton is an immense talent, and John Mooney has been great support with Todd Blanchfield a good third shooter. It will be up to the likes of Luke Travers and Mitch Norton as the other starts to really put some heat on the opposition early, and provide other options.

It is hard to pick a winner in this one, Sydney seem to be travelling better, but the Wildcats destroyed the Phoenix two starts ago, so anything could happen in this game.

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Tuesday, February 23 @ 7.30pm

The final match of the round will be the third meeting between Adelaide 36ers and South Melbourne Phoenix. In a twist of irony, the 36ers are playing at “home” at the Phoenix’s home court, for a blockbuster 7.30pm match. The return of Ryan Broekhoff will mean the 36ers will have their work cut out for them, with fellow Boomer Josh Giddey getting another taste of what some of his more experienced teammates can do. The future NBA talent has been doing well at NBL level, with a strong 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Along with Tony Crocker (10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals), the pair will look to provide support to the damaging duo in Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson. The Phoenix trio of Broekhoff, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes will be a delight to watch, but even the likes of Ben Moore (9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Kyle Adnam (13.8 points) coming off the bench will mean the “visiting” team will have plenty of depth.

The Phoenix will be favourites for the clash, as they look to continue to move up the ladder, and they are only a couple of wins away from being outright second if results fall their way in Round 6.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Top 4

AS we approach the sixth round of this year’s National Basketball League (NBL) campaign, the nine teams vying for the four postseason seeds now have a clearer picture of where they currently sit and what objectives need to be tackled, in order to put themselves in the best position possible to secure a semi-final berth.

Draft Central delves into a summary of how each team has performed up to this point and who their key contributors have been following Round 5. Here are the summaries of the teams currently sitting in the top four.

1st – Melbourne United
Record: 6 wins, 0 losses, % – 1.000

Back in late-December, single-year signee Jock Landale stated that United has the “potential to go undefeated,” and given how Dean Vickerman’s side has performed up to this point, that estimate seems to be becoming more and more realistic.

Opening up their season with a dominant 24-point win against fellow top-four competitor the Adelaide 36ers, Melbourne began their season with their best foot first.

Following their first result, United backed up their start 10 days later edging out the Taipans at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena 87 to 85 and could look forward to going back home with two wins under their belt. Four more victories against cross-town rivals South East Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Illawarra rounded out United’s picture-perfect start to the season and are now hosting the defending champions this coming Saturday, looking to knock off the Wildcats one more time.

Chris Goulding is continuing his NBL legacy in fine form leading his side on the scoreboard once again, averaging a decent 16.8 points per game as well as a few rebounds each time out (3.2). Providing top-notch service on the glass, Landale is doing exactly what he was brought on board to do, collecting over 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

Further adding to the team’s success are two more new signings with former Duke Blue Devil Jack White and former New Zealand Breaker Scotty Hopson providing large amounts of scoring, rebounds and assists between the pair. White ranks third on the team in scoring (10.3) and second in rebounding (6.8), whereas Hopson seeds fourth in scoring (9.8) and second in assists (3.8) adding multiple weapons for Melbourne to utilise going forward.

 

2nd – Illawarra Hawks
Record: 5 wins, 2 losses, % – 0.714

Taking into account that the Illawarra Hawks have gone through a roster makeover, appointed a new head coach, undergone two franchise name changes and have averaged 88 points per game, the Wollongong-based team have had an event-filled past six months.

Illawarra’s good fortunes for the season began with two back-to-back victories in the space of three days, firstly knocking over the Bullets and then the Taipans in what was a rout of the two Queensland sides. New coach Brian Goorjian kept his cool following a wonderful 2-0 start to the season and stuck to his “defence-first” basketball mentality, which in turn yielded similar results as the Hawks managed wins once again against Brisbane and Cairns.

Identical results would not follow the team down south to Victoria, as Illawarra faced their first and second tastes of disappointment, losing out to the Phoenix and then United. But, an 85-82 victory over the Sydney Kings has reasserted them as powerful contender for NBL21 before their Round 6 double-header against the Taipans and the Breakers this week.

Taking the league by storm, Tyler Harvey has dismantled every team that he has crossed to date, which has led to an average of 21.8 points per contest (third highest in the NBL). The frontcourt duo of Cameron Bairstow and Sam Froling have dominated the rebounding battles each week with the two grabbing 11 points per game each and at least 7.8 and 7.7 rebounds respectively, while Justinian Jessup is impressing many with his sharpshooting this season, averaging 14.7 points.

 

3rd – Adelaide 36ers
Record: 5 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.556

Having already played nine games to date, the Adelaide 36ers have played the most games out of any other team this season – meaning that each game between now and the end of the season mean a little more. After frustratingly missing out on the postseason in the 2019/20 season, Adelaide looks poised to rectify last season’s missed opportunities and certain rookies are proving to be invaluable when the side is in good form.

Splitting the difference between the two Melbourne-based sides to open their season, then suffering a second loss to the Phoenix, the Sixers found themselves with just one win from three games. Making some schematic alterations to his playbook, Conner Henry helped his team to a winning streak of three following triumphs over New Zealand twice and then the Kings to conclude Round 3, before Sydney returned the favour in Round 4. Adelaide then split results with the Brisbane Bullets in Round 5 leading to the current record of five wins and four losses.

Before their matchup with Sydney on Sunday, it was clear that Adelaide’s successes came primarily from their bigs, more specifically Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries. Johnson’s reign down low has been essentially unmatched averaging 21.3 points and six rebounds, as Humphries has been almost as potent averaging 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks (highest in NBL). Import Tony Crocker’s 10 points per game are the 36ers third highest amount from an individual, while young gun Josh Giddey is making a name for himself in his rookie season, leading the team in assists with 5.8 per game and contributing 9.2 points a contest in the process.

 

4th – South East Melbourne Phoenix
Record: 4 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.500

The best way to describe South East Melbourne’s start to their season would be the team absorbing one punch and then doling one out themselves, as in their back-to-back encounters with Adelaide and then Perth, the Phoenix would lose out in the first game then win the second. Testament to this pattern, the Phoenix started the season with a record of two wins and two losses looking to pick up their performances upon their return to Victoria.

Annoyingly for the league’s newest club they lost their derby meeting and local bragging rights against Melbourne United, 90-96, in their second game of Round 3. However, a motivating win over the Illawarra Hawks (98-82) put some wind in Simon Mitchell’s sails, before once again splitting the results against the Wildcats in Round 5, which was enough to secure them the fourth seed in the standings at this point of the season by half a game in front of the Kings (three wins and four losses).

As expected, Mitch Creek is setting the benchmark in scoring for the Phoenix, totalling 18.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game this season. Closely following him is Keifer Sykes who maintains averages of 18 points, seven assists and 4.5 rebounds. The only other double-digit scoring contributors for South East Melbourne are Kyle Adnam and rookie Yannick Wetzell, providing 13.8 and 10.4 points apiece.

Mid-Season team summaries for the remaining five clubs will be released tomorrow on Draft Central.

2021 NBL Top Performers to Round 5: Illawarra/Melbourne/New Zealand

IN the second of our three-part series looking at the National Basketball League’s (NBL) top performers to Round 5 before the NBL Cup tips off, we focus on Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne United and New Zealand Breakers.

Illawarra Hawks

Wins: 5
Losses: 2
Position: 2nd

Tyler Harvey has taken the competition by storm with the guard constantly imposing himself on the competition thanks to his commanding 193cm frame. Harvey has taken like a duck to water this season for Illawarra, averaging a team high 21.64 points a game at 48 per cent from the field. The American import also manages averages of 3.43 rebounds and 2.14 assists in each outing while also collecting a steal a game.

Fellow recruit, Justinian Jessup has made a splash so far this season averaging 14.71 points a game well shooting at 47 per cent accuracy from the field. Jessup has also proven to be a handy figure on the rebounding front reeling in four rebounds a game while also collecting two assists.

Sam Froling has also wasted no time for the Hawks consistently impacting the contest and keeping the scoreboard ticking over thanks to his average of 11.14 points a game and 7.71 rebounds. The 213cm forward has proven to be a key cog for the Hawks rise up the ladder this season averaging 26 minutes on court and 1.14 blocks a game showcasing his skillset to do damage in all aspects of the game.

In terms of other key play makers for the side, Cameron Bairstow has showcased his scoring nous to secure 11 points a game along with an impressive 7.75 rebounds. Teammates Justin Simon also registered 6.71 rebounds to accompany his nine point average.

Melbourne United

Wins: 6
Losses: 0
Position: 1st

The ever-reliable Chris Goulding has once again led from the front in season 2021 for Melbourne United paving the way for his side through his tenacity and game smarts. Boasting a team high average of 16.8 points albeit at 47 per cent from the field, Goulding has continued his dominance at the NBL level registering 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists to keep his side on top of the table.

Surprise packet and new recruit Jock Landale has been a welcomed breath of fresh amongst the United crew with the center complementing Goulding across the court. No stranger to the scoreboard, Landale has managed an average of 15.17 points a game at an impressive 55 per cent accuracy from the field. He also starred in other facets of the game amassing 7.67 rebounds, 2.67 assists and 1.67 blocks per game.

Jack White also plays a pivotal role for United piling on 10.33 points a game while also securing 6.83 rebounds in each outing. Although not the most proficient with ball in hand as shown through his 0.83 average assists, White possesses plenty of defensive traits registering 2.67 blocks a game.

Outside of that trio United have a number of other capable scorers with Scotty Hopson and Jo Lual-Acuil managing 9.83 and 9.8 points respectively a game. Lual-Acuil is also handy off the boards credit to his 6.8 rebounds while Mitch McCarron leads the way for assists with 4.67.

New Zealand Breakers

Wins: 1
Losses: 4
Position: 9th

There is no denying that Tai Webster has been the main port of call for the Breakers throughout the season so far averaging an impressive 20 points a game. After making his way back after a hiatus from the NBL, Webster has produced some impressive performances taking his averages to 6.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and one steal.

Partner in crime Finn Delany has also been a crucial source of points for New Zealand producing an averaging of 14.2 points a game despite only sitting at a lowly 42 per cent from the field. He is strong off the boards collecting 6.4 rebounds a game while also proving his dominance in the air with 1.4 blocks.

Corey Webster is another standout for the Breakers this season with the 188cm guard continuously applying scoreboard pressure through his average of 13.25 points while also collecting 1.25 assists and three rebounds.

Although the side has struggled to generate wins this season, Lamar Patterson has been influential in patches averaging 10.2 points a game while Tom Abercrombie has also had moments of magic producing stats of eight points a game and 4.8 rebounds.

2021 NBL mash-up teams: State-by-state

FOR something different during the break, we decided to take a look at what mashed up teams would look like in the National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the Victorian teams combined, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and then the three single teams in their respective states/country. We have looked at a starting five as well as a bench to get an idea about what the teams could look like if they were to join forces. For the purpose of the exercise we have not included Ryan Broekhoff given he only signed this week and is yet to play a game.

VICTORIA (UNITED/PHOENIX):

G: Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
G: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
F: Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
F: Jack White (Melbourne United)
C: Jock Landale (Melbourne United)

Bench:

G: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)
G: Yudai Baba (Melbourne United)
F: Scotty Hopson (Melbourne United)
F: Yannick Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
C: Jo Lual Acuil (Melbourne United)

If you are talking depth, it is hard to look past the Victorian side, which is flushed across the lines. The bench five are good enough to compete against most teams, but the overall experience of the starting five is undeniable. Imagine a team with Creek, Goulding and Sykes letting loose, while the big men in White and Landale make life difficult around the basket. Hopson leads an amazing group off the bench, and keep in mind Broekhoff would walk into the side, remarkably sending Goulding to the bench. What a side.

QUEENSLAND (BULLETS/TAIPANS):

G: Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
G: Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans)
F: Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets)
C: Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

Bench:

G: Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets)
G: Mirko Djeric (Cairns Taipans)
F: Orlando Johnson (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Majok Deng (Cairns Taipans)
C: Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)

Despite neither Queensland team setting the world on fire thus far this season, the combined Queensland team on paper would be quite impressive. The fact both teams have two elite scorers in Oliver and Machado (Cairns) and Sobey and Law (Brisbane), and they all play different positions make it one awesome line-up. The depth might slip a little, but they have plenty of options in the big men department, with Harry Froling another one unlucky not to nudge out Deng at this stage.

NEW SOUTH WALES (HAWKS/KINGS):

G: Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks)
G: Justinian Jessup (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Jarrell Martin (Sydney Kings)
C: Sam Froling (Illawarra Hawks)

Bench:

G: Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
G: Dejan Vasiljevic (Sydney Kings)
F: Didi Louzada (Sydney Kings)
F: Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks)
C: Jordan Hunter (Sydney Kings)

It might be a shock to see a shooter such as Ware on the bench, and additionally that last year’s grand finalists make up just one of the starting five compared to the reigning wooden spooners, but on-form it is hard to see it another way. Both Ware and Vasiljevic deserve starting spots, but Harvey and Jessup have been unbelievable in their roles for Illawarra’s back court. Martin has been a standout four with the Kings, but otherwise, Illawarra has been one of the standout teams this season and it shows.

SA/WA/NEW ZEALAND (36ERS/WILDCATS/BREAKERS):

G: Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers)
G: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
F: Todd Blanchfield (Perth Wildcats)
F: Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)
C: Isaac Humphries (Adelaide 36ers)

Bench:

G: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)
G: Lamar Patterson (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Finn Delany (New Zealand Breakers)
C: John Mooney (Perth Wildcats)

It is no surprise that a team that features three different sides rather than two would be an incredibly strong lineup. Whilst New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats have been inconsistent at times, they still boast elite talents, and if Patterson was at his best, than the starting five would be near-unbeatable. There have been a few tough choices here, with Mooney deserving to start, but hard to crack in against either Humphries or Johnson, and playing him at the three spot would be unrealistic. The back court is unbelievably deep, and the rotation would be hard to match with shooters coming off the bench left, right and centre.

Picture credit: Getty Images