Category: Sydney Kings

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.

Kings climb back into top four

THE Round 7 opener of the National Basketball League (NBL) between Sydney Kings and New Zealand Breakers was fairly clean cut with the former surging to an 18-point win, 96-78. The Kings wrestled back full momentum after going down in the opening term and from there did not look like letting up, constantly pressing and exploiting their opponents weaknesses with the win rocketing them into fourth spot on the ladder.

Hoping to secure their second win of the season the Breakers came out with a point to prove in the first quarter putting in the hard yards and attacking the rim to outscore their opponents 30-20. The second term however was a complete obliteration as the Kings simply could not be denied piling on a whopping 26 points to six. Sydney stopped the Breakers in their tracks, halting any of their attacking plays and cutting through their defence with ease to steal the lead and claim the ascendancy heading into the break.

The playing field evened up in the third quarter as both teams wrestled for momentum and settled into the game after two fiery quarters of basketball. Boasting a 10-point lead the Kings were eager to extend their buffer and create some much needed separation getting out to as much as 18 points ahead before the Breakers chiselled down the margin to 13. A strong finish from the Kings gifted them their fifth win of the season posting 28 points to 23 and holding off a fast-starting New Zealand outfit. While they have struggled to secure back-to-back victories the Kings are building some strong momentum to mount an exciting campaign.

Sydney made the most of their opportunities sitting at 50 per cent from the field while the Breakers failed to fire on all cylinders converting at 45 per cent. In terms of dominance from inside two-point range, the Kings definitely had the upper hand nailing 30 of their 48 shots at 62 per cent as opposed to New Zealand who managed 25 from 46 at 54 per cent. The Breakers flexed their muscles from down town converting eight triples at 29 per cent with the Kings sinking five from 23, with the only other stat the trans-Tasman side leading – blocks – recording four to zip. The Kings impressed off the boards reeling in 10 more than the Breakers (44-34), while also showcasing their skillset to share the rock around with 21 dimes to nine. The victors collected seven steals to five and also registered less turnovers than New Zealand (8-12).

Jordan Hunter came to play, leading the way for the Kings and topscoring with 24 points despite only being on court for 19 minutes. hunter oozed nothing but accuracy and class not missing a single shot from the field to boast a 100 per cent accuracy while Dejan Vasilijevic dominated. The guard impressed in all facets of the game knocking back 20 points and 10 rebounds to secure a double-double with eight of those rebounds defensive. Casper Ware was his usual self, bobbing up with a handy 19 points, four rebounds and six assists, with Craig Moller the only other player to reach double-figures thanks to his 11 points. He also managed six rebounds and three assists.

For the Breakers it is no surprise that Corey Webster reigned supreme producing a team-high 24 points but could have had more given his inaccuracy sitting at 47 per cent from the field. His brother, Tai Webster was the next closest with 18 points while he also picked up four rebounds, five assists and three steals. Captain Tom Abercrombie managed nine points, four rebounds and an assist in the loss while Colton Iverson slotted eight points at 100 per cent to accompany his six 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

Cotton and Mooney star in Perth’s grand final rematch

IT was a scoring fiasco for Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats however it was the latter that walked away with the “W” (113-106). Both sides came to play with their intensity up from the first few minutes of basketball as they looked to attack the rim and claim some much needed ascendancy to close out Round 6 of the National Basketball League (NBL).

In their first meeting since the 2020 grand final the rivalry well and truly came to the fore as the two sides battled bragging rights with the Kings coming up big in the opening term of play. Although Perth slotted the first points of the game Sydney seemed to have the game on their terms as the quarter went on with Casper Ware putting on a vintage performance and inspiring the Kings each step of the way. Holding a six-point lead at quarter time, Perth worked in overdrive to cut the deficit and get back in the game piling on 30 points while limiting the Kings to 26. Shutting down their movement and looking to attack the basket more regularly Perth were able to generate some strong momentum with Bryce Cotton stepping up to the plate.

With only two points separating the two sides, it was clear that this game was going to go down to the wire and while neither the Wildcats or Kings have had the same dominance they did last year they were eager to recapture some form. An excellent term of basketball from Perth was all they needed to not only steal the lead but create a handy buffer. John Mooney was the key instigator of change for the Wildcats nailing a layup to commence play and maintained that level of intensity throughout the term. Letting loose with 32 points to 17 Perth went into the final change up by 13 points and did not look like letting go despite Ware making his presence felt for the Kings. Sydney worked their way back into the contest playing with a sense of freedom and determination but could not do enough to topple the Wildcats who had built a strong foundation in the third to run out victorious.

Statistically speaking it was hard to split the two sides with Sydney sitting at 51 per cent from the field and Perth at 50 per cent and while they both boasted a 40 per cent accuracy from beyond the arc the Wildcats managed 15 triples compared to 14. Perth showcased their strength off the boards outmuscling their opponents to collect 46 rebounds to 32 while their natural game plan of sharing the ball around was also on display amassing 26 assists to 14. Although they fell short of the win the Kings proved to be more cautious with ball in hand only recording six turnovers to eight and also registered one more block (4-3). Majority of Sydney’s points came from in the paint knocking back 42 while the Wildcats put up 34.

It was the Casper Ware show for Sydney with the guard running amuck and posting a team-high 34 points going at 100 per cent from the charity stripe and 52 per cent from the field. Ware was involved in just about everything for the Kings picking up five rebounds and four assists. Didi Louzada was the next biggest contributor for Sydney piling on 19 points and making his presence felt from down town with five triples. Dejan Vasiljevic and Thomas Vodanovich also proved to be handy figures collecting 13 and 10 points respectively while also dragging down four rebounds apiece.

With Ware doing it up one end for the Kings, Cotton flexed his muscles with 30 points and fell just short of a double-double credit to his nine assists. But teammate, Mooney did manage to reach this feat with a staggering 18 rebounds and 30 points to well and truly wow the opposition. Mooney was virtually unstoppable in defence with 16 of his 18 rebounds defensive while also coming up with two blocks. Todd Blanchfield was a consistent figure throughout the match producing 17 points, three rebounds and two assists as Mitchell Norton did not muck around thanks to his 10 points and eight rebounds.

Overcoming a half time deficit is never easy as Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson pointed out post-match, touting the impressive effort the side put in to flip the script.

“I thought it was a really gutsy win especially with how well they were shooting the ball in the first half. We had to wrestle that momentum back and I thought we did that just before half time I think about five minutes to go then we got it back to two points at half time so we built some momentum for the third quarter,” Gleeson said.

Dejan and Ware pair up to conquer 36ers, combine for 55

EACH quarter had a different leader up until the final buzzer on Sunday afternoon, as both the Sydney Kings and the Adelaide 36ers traded scoring runs for 30 minutes straight. But, it was the Kings that outlasted their opponents in the last period of play, securing a well-earned 94-77 outcome against the Purple and Gold.

With 52 points between the two sides scored in the opening term, the contest started at a really high pace to begin with. Unexpectedly, it was the combination of Thomas Vodanovich and Casper Ware that got the Kings off the ground, as the New Zealand international got his season up and going with eight first quarter points.

As Sydney led 30-22 at the end of one, Adelaide needed to produce positive outcomes on the floor and fast, before the game would get out of hand early on. Import Tony Crocker was the man for the job in the second quarter with an impressive bounce back effort after a sluggish start.

Crocker led the way with 13 points, two rebounds and two assists, as the 36ers won the second quarter 29-18 and took a three-point lead at half-time adding to Sydney’s stresses. But the work of Dejan Vasiljevic and Ware was more than enough of a precedent to give the Kings the confidence to overtake Adelaide with a good second half coupled with their 54 per cent shooting in the first two quarters.

In what proved to be a seesawing affair, the Kings quickly turned the odds in their favour by scoring 17 of the first 21 points in the first six minutes of the third period, returning the lead back to last season’s runners ups.

Continuing their good form from the first half, Ware and Vasiljevic maintained their steady flow of points as each held 21 points apiece with 10 minutes remaining, while the Kings completely shut down Adelaide’s offence, conceding just eight points in the third.

The lead would fail to change hands in the final stanza and end in rather one-sided fashion, with the Kings toppling the 36ers in the fourth quarter alone, 21-13, leading into Sydney’s solid 17-point win without Jarell Martin in their line-up.

Capitalising on Adelaide’s 16 turnovers, Sydney compiled 22 points by way of takeaways and 32 points from their effective bench unit. In addition, the Kings would make more shots than they would miss, shooting 51 per cent on the afternoon compared to the 36ers’ 42 per cent.

A quiet final period for Vasiljevic and Ware saw the duo finish with similar numbers to when they concluded the third period. Vasiljevic performed at a consistently high rate with 22 points, while Ware’s 23-point game saw him return to an elite level that has only reared its head a few times in NBL21. Yesterday also saw veteran player Daniel Kickert put up solid numbers in his first game of the season with 11 points and three triples.

Four Adelaide players scored 10 points or more with Crocker leading the team with 15 points and three rebounds. Meanwhile, Isaac Humphries (14 points and six rebounds), Sunday Dech (13 points, five assists and three rebounds) and Josh Giddey (10 points, seven assists and seven rebounds) were all major footnotes in their team’s defeat.

Adelaide will look to regain lost footing in the top four when they face the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Tuesday night, and prior to that the Kings aim to tackle down a Perth Wildcats side that is eager to get their season back on track.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

YESTERDAY Draft Central summarised the seasons of each of the top four teams to this point in the fixture. Today we look at the summaries of the five teams that are aiming to displace them for a postseason finals spot in just over a month’s time.

5th – Sydney Kings
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

Sitting less than a game out of the top four, Sydney’s desire to rise up in the rankings will only intensify as Adam Forde’s talented roster will need not dwell on past failures given they share the same record as the Brisbane Bullets.

It was a sombre conclusion for the Kings after their first game ended, going down to Cairns by a single point. Remembering their sorrow from a week prior, Sydney answered back in the return fixture against the Taipans with a 99-91 win to even up their season record.

Two straight losses against the Bullets and the 36ers preceded two consecutive wins against Adelaide again and New Zealand, making up the bulk of their first seven games, before Illawarra edged out an 85-82 win in the battle of the two NSW clubs.

Prepping themselves for an important Round 6 where they will host both the Sixers and the defending champion Perth Wildcats for what will be a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Someone who will be an integral part of getting Sydney more positive results going forward will be Casper Ware, as the 31-year-old is averaging 20 points and three rebounds in his second season at the Kings. Import forward Jarell Martin is also proving that he is very valuable to his team averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, all while maintaining a 53 per cent conversion rate from the field. Last but not least, many punters have 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic as the top performing rookie of the year so far due to his 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game averages – these numbers indicating a promising future for the former NCAA athlete.

 

6th – Brisbane Bullets
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

While the Brisbane Bullets only missed out on the finals due to percentage last season, the sense of urgency to chase down a top-four spot has yet to quite kick in, as they sit a win behind a .500 record and half a game behind the Phoenix who sit in fourth.

After being the unexpected first victim of the new and improved Illawarra Hawks side throughout rounds One and Two, the Bullets found themselves shocked and with no wins after two games (both losses were at home). But narrow victories against the Kings (90-87) and the Taipans (105-103) quickly allowed Brisbane to earn themselves a blank check after four games.

Brisbane would then fall to a red-hot Melbourne United in Round 4, which was further compounded at the start of Round Five falling to the Adelaide 36ers. Luckily for the Bullets, they would save face in the reverse fixture at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre toppling Adelaide by a solid 19-point margin, bringing us to today.

In terms of scoring output, it has been a two-man band between captain Nathan Sobey and newly signed import Vic Law, with the pair accounting for a combined 45 points per game as Sobey sports a league-leading average in scoring with 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with Law boasting 20.7 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. If the additional efforts of Jason Cadee, Tyrell Harrison and Orlando Johnson can become substantial for the remainder of the campaign, then Andrej Lemanis’s squad will pose a serious problem for the rest of the NBL.

 

7th – Perth Wildcats
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, % – 0.400

Despite being one of two teams to have only played five game to this point in the fixture, many have been left to wonder how Trevor Gleeson’s side have taken as many defeats as they have so far this early on.

Things looked promising following a win in their first encounter with the South East Melbourne Phoenix (88-76), but after being snubbed the double in the Round Three rematch by one point it slowed the roll of the champions. Round Four was also a week to forget after losing out to the league frontrunners United by four points, but were able to salvage another win over the Phoenix a week after. The Wildcats and the Phoenix most recently faced each other for a fourth time, where South East Melbourne demolished Perth by a mammoth 25 points, deflating the reigning premiers morale prior to their contest this coming week.

It is hardly a surprise that the current league MVP Bryce Cotton is leading the side in putting the ball in the net with 22.6 points per game, while also averaging seven assists and over two steals. Second import John Mooney is also a primary producer with his 16.8-point, 11.4-rebound stat line, whereas former Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is fitting in well at his new side with 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game next to his name.

 

8th – Cairns Taipans
Record: 2 wins, 6 losses, % – 0.250

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments this season, the Cairns Taipans have been struggling since mid-January ever since they were trounced by Illawarra at the tail end of Round One. Prior to that game, they were in relatively good spirits after a one-point victory over the Kings to begin the season.

Ever since then, the Taipans have run out of form with one of the worst success rates throughout the league after also losing to Sydney, Melbourne, Illawarra for a second time, Brisbane and New Zealand, enduring a streak of losses that would span five games. More importantly, four out of the five losses occurred in front of their home fans.

As of most recently, however, Cairns has since ended their five-game skid after defeating the Breakers in the second of the two teams’ matches, 84-71, and are now looking to continue some good form when they face off with both the Hawks and United in Round Six.

With DJ Newbill no longer a part of the side, both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver have had to increase their production. Machado is operating at an impressive level averaging 17 points, 9.9 assists (again leading the league in this category) and four rebounds, whereas Oliver continues to do what he does best rebounding at an exorbitant rate, ranking second in the NBL with 10.6 per game and 17.5 points to tag onto that number.

While Mike Kelly has a solid core unit, individuals such as Kouat Noi (12.4 points per game), Majok Deng (11.6 points per game) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points per game) need the extra support of their bench if they are to pull through with more victories to their name, especially as the number of games remaining continues to dwindle down.

 

9th – New Zealand Breakers
Record: 1 win, 4 losses, % – 0.200

The second of two teams to have only played five games, the New Zealand Breakers have performed the worst out of any team at this point in NBL21. But that could still change if Dan Shamir’s side can find some cohesion in the second half of the season.

Two losses to the 36ers in Rounds 2 and 3 were the first hiccups of the season for the Breakers, but some hope was reignited in the side when they defeated the Taipans away in Queensland to commence Round Four (85-79).

Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the side’s success, as not only would Cairns get the drop on New Zealand in the rematch two days later, but the Sydney Kings also handed the Breakers their fourth loss of the season in Round Five.

The positives have been few and far between to this point for New Zealand, although players like Tai Webster and Finn Delany have been having respectable seasons so far. Leading the team in points, rebounds and assists per game, Webster is having himself a campaign to remember averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

While Delany is contributing 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on a consistent basis, others like Corey Webster (13.3 points) and former Bullet Lamar Patterson (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds) are also doing their best to make the defence’s job more difficult each encounter. Nevertheless, there needs to major shift in tactics if the New Zealand side is going to climb off the bottom of the standings.

 

Catch the start of the NBL Cup tomorrow night when all nine teams will be competing for $150,000 and more wins to their name, as we kick off coverage for the second half of the NBL21 season.

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.

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