Category: South East Melbourne Phoenix

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.

No Sykes, no problem as Phoenix hold firm around top of the table

A SUNDAY double-header to end round seven action kicked off with the South East Melbourne Phoenix meeting and beating the Illawarra Hawks for the second time this season, 93-76. Two of the three teams in the league that average more than 90 points per game were both coming off tough losses and were looking to bounce back to solidify their place around the top of the table.

With stringent and physical defence from the Phoenix handing the Hawks their first season loss in their first matchup, the key difference this time was the absence of star import Keifer Sykes who is carrying an ankle injury. He joined the already sidelined Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau, as well as the recently signed Ryan Broekhoff who is still in quarantine. Kyle Adnam stepped up in his absence as the Phoenix again restricted the Hawks to their lowest score the season and served them their biggest loss.

The Phoenix picked up where they left off from their last matchup and were intense on both ends of the floor from the outset. Adnam and Cam Gliddon led the charge early with tidy distribution and shot making being key areas that gave the Phoenix an early lead which they did not squander.

While their intensity was clearly superior early, South East Melbourne was also able to take the Hawks off the dribble and either straight to the rim to score or find passes inside to big men like Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore.

With Sykes’ injury forcing the Phoenix to make rotation changes, star of the New Zealand National Basketball League Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was given extra minutes having played just four minutes this season. He made an immediate impact with his known defensive abilities, forcing an eight-second backcourt violation in his first possession on the court.

The offensive stalwarts for the Hawks in Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey struggled for much of the game, with air balls for each of them highlighting their struggles. The pair also struggled in their last matchup, as coach Simon Mitchell made a point of reminding his players to always know where they are and force them right.

The quarter-time score read 25-13 for the Phoenix as they shot the ball 19 per cent better and had six more assists, areas they would continue to dominate for the rest of the game.

Brian Goorjian pleaded for more physicality from his outfit, and despite a couple of easy baskets and poorly missed shots, an and-one from Andrew Ogilvy, and triples from Deng Deng, Deng Adel, and Harvey combined with some intensity on the defensive end saw them back within six points.

Losing the offensive fluidity they enjoyed to this point, the Phoenix sought to get to the free throw line to halt the Hawks’ momentum and did so to great effect. They had 17 attempts to Illawarra’s five.

The Hawks, however, continued to shoot well from deep and if it were not for some Mitch Creek magic down the stretch, the Hawks would not have been trailing 45-37 at the main break.

Although the margin was only eight points, South East Melbourne still felt in control and they proved it with a big 28-18 third quarter to give them an 18-point lead heading into the final quarter. An up and down start to the term would eventually be dominated through the Phoenix’s sharp ball movement, and offensive glass prowess headed by Moore.

The margin was extended to 20 points after an Adnam floater was followed by his tenth assist on the night.

The final quarter comeback would have needed to have been the biggest of the season, but it was not to be as the rest of the game ebbed and flowed. Two Cameron Bairstow triples gave the Hawks life, but the Phoenix pushed through and kept the Hawks to their lowest score of the season again winning 93-76.

The Phoenix enjoyed another huge NBL Cup outing from Creek who had 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 58 per cent shooting. Gliddon put up 19 points, to go with five rebounds and three assists, while Adnam fell just short of a double-double with nine points, 11 assists, and four steals. Moore also enjoyed one of his best games this season with 22 points and five rebounds off the bench, which included 12 of 12 from the free throw line.

South East Melbourne has 23 more free throw attempts in the game and managed to force Illawarra into 16 turnovers. This disciplined defenced managed to hold the Hawks’ key players in Jessup (seven points) and Harvey (14 points) quieter than usual. Justin Simon (13 points, six rebounds) was the only other Illawarra player to score more than 10 points.

The Phoenix will look to carry this momentum into their Wednesday matchup with Perth, while the Hawks will look to bounce back on Thursday against the 36ers.

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

Adelaide 36ers hold on in thriller against Phoenix

ADELAIDE 36ers prevailed in a National Basketball League (NBL) classic, pipping South East Melbourne Phoenix at the post by five points (99-94). The contest had its fair share of twists and turns resulting in multiple lead changes as they wrestled for momentum and continuity to establish dominance. But it all came to a head in the dying seconds of the game with the Phoenix gifted a chance to clinch victory but unable to capitalise on their chances, handing the 36ers a much needed win.

The 36ers wasted no time hitting the scoreboard with Josh Giddey opening the account within the first minute announcing his intentions. He was quickly answered by Cam Gliddon as the two sides went blow for blow in the first quarter sitting at 19 points apiece. The overall scoring increased for both sides in the next term with Adelaide and South East Melbourne settling into a rhythm in attack. Giddey continued his merry way as Isaac Humphries also got busy in the term to create some separation with the lead pushing out to as many as seven points with two minutes to spare in the half. But the Phoenix buckled down eating into the margin and attacking each opportunity that came their way to get back within one point at the break.

After losing their seven-point lead, and the Phoenix stealing the lead in the first minutes of the second half Adelaide kicked into gear as the quarter went on. They came out to prove a point smothering their opponents every move to re-establish their hold on the game and put the Phoenix on the backfoot. They went on somewhat of a scoring spree, dictating the flow of the game and using their bigs to influence the contest and produce a 13 point lead. Staring down the barrel of their fifth loss, Phoenix rallied with Mitch Creek taking centre stage and controlling proceedings for the side as they went on a 16 point to two spree. Gliddon made things interesting with 12 seconds to play landing a layup to get it back within three points but that is where it stopped with Adelaide doing just enough to hang-on.

The victors were stronger in the field shooting at 52 per cent after converting 38 out of 73 attempts while Phoenix only managed 41 per cent. However the script was flipped when it came to three pointers with South East Melbourne sinking 12 at 41 per cent compared to Adelaide’s seven at 35 per cent. On the rebounding front the 36ers flexed their muscles with 44-36 while they also collected more blocks (4-2). The Phoenix shared the ball around amassing 27 assists to 20 while also registering six steals to the 36ers’ four.

Daniel Johnson was the topscorer for Adelaide leaving no stone unturned with his 27 points at 62 per cent proving to be a real thorn in the Phoenix’s side. Johnson also reeled in 11 points to collect another double-double while Humphries also effectively chimed in posting 24 points. Humphries further added to his stats sheet with 11 rebounds, nine of which were defensive, two blocks and an assist. Giddey was a major influence on the outcome nailing 15 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists highlighting his skill with ball in hand. Tony Crocker was the only other player for Adelaide to reach double-digits thanks to his 10 points as Sunday Dech plied his trade off the boards with five rebounds.

“I was pleased with how we came together as a group. Everybody played a part, everybody bought into what we are trying to get across what we are trying to do the past two days and we needed a really good, solid, hard fought victory,” coach Conner Henry said post-match.

For the Phoenix, it was Creek that lead the charge boasting a tally of 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in an all-round strong performance. Gliddon also featured highly for the Phoenix thanks to his 18 points, three rebounds and four assists as Ben Moore made his presence felt nailing 13 points, and six rebounds five of them offensive. Teammate Yannick Wetzell finished with 12 points but could have had more given his accuracy was only at 44 per cent from the field while also securing seven rebounds.

Triple-double by Sykes helps Phoenix burn Bullets

WITH both the Brisbane Bullets and the South East Melbourne Phoenix coming off their biggest victories of the season, the two teams battled in yesterday’s opener for three out of four quarters, before the Phoenix ran away 99-83 winners after a 31-point fourth quarter – placing their record above .500 with their fifth win of the season.

The Bullets came into Melbourne on Sunday ready to play, landing the first punch and startling the Phoenix throughout the first 10 minutes, as Brisbane led 27 to 16 after an impressive 15-point run headlined the opening term.

Reinvigorated by team leaders Mitchell Creek and Adam Gibson during the first break, South East Melbourne opened the second with a 15-6 start, all but clearing the margin mid-way through the period.

Some impressive work by Matthew Hodgson and Nathan Sobey was enough to stave off a resilient Phoenix fightback. But after two, Simon Mitchell and his guys had tied things up already. While both teams were locked up at 44 points apiece, Creek was phenomenal through 20 minutes, harbouring 20 points and four rebounds already, while Sobey, Hodgson and Anthony Drmic had combined for 33 points in the same amount of time.

Seven consecutive points by the Phoenix to commence the second half dumbfounded the visitors, instilling the entire Green Team to step up their game in what appeared to be a pivotal moment of the contest. In another twist, Brisbane produced a nine-point run of their own shortly before the five-minute mark of the third, making for an entertaining final 15 minutes.

Keeping their noses in front 68-66 with a term to play, Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix had another great start with a 10-0 effort to put the side up by 12, placing South East Melbourne firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Bullets continued to fight in the dying stages of the meeting cutting the deficit to as little as nine points. However, a three from Cam Gliddon with seven seconds on the clock iced the game, while Sykes earned his triple-double at the start of that same possession just before the Phoenix closed out the win.

An impressive shooting night best described the Phoenix’s overall game, converting on 39 out of 76 shots (51 per cent) from the field last night, while doling out 23 assists in the process. For Brisbane, their biggest detriment was their inability to slow down South East Melbourne from deep, allowing 13 triples and only producing six of their own.

Finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and an assist, Creek emerged supreme as the game’s leading scorer, but man of the match honours was unequivocally awarded to Sykes after he secured a 14-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound triple-double. Gliddon ruled from beyond the arc with 19 points off of five threes in 36 minutes of play, whereas Kyle Adnam had another strong outing with 15 points and six assists.

Hodgson showed up with an elite level of focus making nine out of 10 shots on his way to a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Sobey who leads the NBL in scoring was held to a modest 16 points, six rebounds and four assists as Coach Mitchell had a great game plan in place to neutralise the star. Lastly, Drmic was large off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds as well posing as the only other double-digit contributor – Vic Law finished with a lowly nine-point performance.

The Phoenix will look for the two-win week when they challenge the Adelaide 36ers on Tuesday night to conclude Round Six, whereas the Bullets will take aim at the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night.

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.

2021 NBL Top Performers to Round 5: Perth/South East Melbourne/Sydney

THE final part 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 Perth Wildcats, South East Melbourne Phoenix and Sydney Kings.

Perth Wildcats

Wins: 2
Losses: 3
Position: 7th

Despite a difficult season MVP winner, Bryce Cotton has continued his merry way on the points scoring front recording a whopping average of 22.6 points. Although not the most accurate shooter sitting at 45 per cent from the field and 35 per cent from long range Cotton is Perth’s lynchpin. He also averages seven assists, 3.6 rebounds  and 2.2 steals a game.

Newcomer John Mooney has also stepped up to the plate for the Wildcats this season posting an average of 16.8 points across his 31 minutes on court while also registering double-double figures thanks to his 11.4 rebounds. Mooney is a real competitor across all areas of the court with the forward averaging two assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks a game.

Another dominant force for Perth has been Todd Blanchfield with the 30-year-old able to generate 13 points each time he steps out on court while also amassing 3.8 rebounds, two assists and one steal, highlighting his overall versatility and consistency.

Other top performers consist of Mitchell Norton, Jesse Wagstaff and Luke Travers. Norton has proven to be a steady stream of points with an average of 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists while Wagstaff has produced an average of 7.8 points.

South East Melbourne Phoenix

Wins: 4
Losses: 4
Position: 4th

It is no surprise that superstar Mitch Creek has impressed for South East Melbourne Phoenix with the captain showcasing his scoring prowess to lead the side with 18.5 points. Shooting at 56 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from beyond the arc, Creek has made a name for himself with his reliability. He also averages seven rebounds and 3.13 assists a game along with per steal a game.

American import Keifer Sykes has wasted no time impacting the NBL and leading the Phoenix to a number of victories with his explosiveness and sheer athleticism. Sykes is a real playmaker for South East Melbourne as shown through his average of 18 points, 4.63 rebounds and seven assists while also mustering up 1.13 steals.

It has been somewhat of a coming of age season for Kyle Adnam putting out an average of 10.38 points a game to accompany his 1.63 rebounds and 1.75 assists. Although he does not register a wealth of court time as shown through his 20 minutes on court, his ability to hit the scoreboard is undeniable.

The Phoenix have a number of other key contributors that have assisted with their current ladder position as Yannick Wetzell consistently chimes in with an average of 10.38 points while Ben Moore has also proven to be handy to keep the scoreboard ticking over through his 9.25 points and 8.63 rebounds a game.

 

Sydney Kings:

Wins: 3
Losses: 4
Position: 5th

Livewire Casper Ware is a real lynchpin for the Kings and while it has not been the season they would have hoped for, Ware is still up to his old tricks. Boasting an average of 20 points a game and a 42 per cent conversion rate Ware leads the way for Sydney while also accumulating 2.29 rebounds, 3.29 assists and 1.29 steals.

Partner in crime Jarell Martin has also found his groove for the Kings sinking up with the likes of Ware to produce 18.75 points and an impressive 7.14 rebounds showcasing his overall dominance. Martin has been a key inclusion for the side this season after a number of key cogs departed at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Dejan Vasiljevic has well and truly stepped up a level in 2021 sinking an average of 17 points over his seven games. Not the most accurate shooter sitting at 44 per cent from the field and 37 from the perimeter, Vasiljevic is a consistent performer who also manages 3.29 rebounds and two assists a game showcasing his ability to impact in other areas.

Experienced figure Brad Newley is another role player for the Kings knocking back 10.86 points a game along with 5.29 rebounds while Shaun Bruce is handy with ball in hand credit to his 4.86 assists and 5.86 points.

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 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

Could the Phoenix push for a premiership with the signing of Broekhoff?

THE signing of former NBA and Boomers star Ryan Broekhoff has sent the National Basketball League (NBL) into a spin, with the 30-year-old joining South East Melbourne Phoenix for the remainder of the 2021 season. A formidable force on the basketball court and a member of the Boomers side, Broekhoff will add another element to an already multi-pronged Phoenix unit and potentially give them an added winning boost.

Currently holding down fourth spot on the ladder thanks to their four wins from eight appearances the Phoenix are building a strong platform to really launch off in the backend of the season. Littered with a number of stars across the court, the acquisition of Broekhoff is only set to bolster their squad and make them more of a threat against the rest of the competition as he replaces Mike Karena.

The signing of Broekhoff is a huge coup for the side with the guard/forward able to hit the scoreboard with relative ease given his frame and general prowess. Although only averaging four points a game with Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA (14.2 points per 36 minutes), there is no denying that Broekhoff is a real livewire that can inject strength and excitement into an already potent attack for the Phoenix. Broekhoff is regarded as one of Australia’s top shooters given his overall accuracy shooting at above 40 per cent from the field and beyond the arc making him a huge target for opposition teams to lockdown. On an international level, Broekhoff has played a role in the FIBA Oceania Championships in 2013 and 2015 while also featuring in the Olympic teams making him well versed when it comes to dominance on the big stage.

With the squad headlined by the likes of captain Mitch Creek and import Keifer Sykes the Phoenix have no shortage of players that know how to attack the rim and pile on the points. Creek currently boasts an average of 18.5 points a game at 56 per cent from the field showcasing just how much damage he can do when he gets going, while also amassing seven rebounds and 3.13 assists each time he steps out on court. Partner in crime, Sykes, is also a stalwart for the Phoenix posting an average of 18 points a game. Sykes has proven to be a handy inclusion to the side racking up an average of 4.6 rebounds along with seven assists as he has dragged his side over the line on a number of occasions.

Lucky to have two key playmakers in their side the Phoenix also have a number of support players that are able to step up to the plate and ply their trade with the likes of Kyle Adnam registering 13.75 points a game and Yannick Wetzell making a splash with his 10.38 points average but the introduction of Broekhoff will only make the side more commanding. His output alongside Creek and Sykes could make for an extremely damaging trio that could take the competition by storm given their proficiency and create a potential finals tilt.