NBL Team Watch: NZ Breakers
THE New Zealand Breakers endured a tumultuous 2020-21 NBL season, with much of it affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. As the only side in the league based outside of Australia, the Breakers were forced to spend a period of five months in hotels, away from family, friends and their homes. The Breakers were finally able to return home to host their final seven games in their home country, but unfortunately the damage had been done by this point.
It is hard to judge the Breakers purely on last season alone. Any squad would have struggled in those circumstances, and given they spent so much time in hotels, an eighth placed finish is about expected for what they endured. The team will be after some more continuity with the side they put on the court, as they suffered the loss of numerous key players. With key players such as Rob Loe and Tom Abercrombie missing significant time throughout the season, the Breakers were constantly on the back foot with putting a side on the court that could deliver a winning score. Thankfully they also saw Finn Delaney produce an impressive season, so this should serve them well in the upcoming year.
The Breakers have been impressively active in the offseason, making several moves that would have caught they eye of opposing teams. The signing of France’s Ousmane Dieng made headlines in the Australian basketball world given its significance internationally. The 18-year-old joins the side as a part of NBL’s Next program, and is currently projected as a top-15 pick in an upcoming NBA draft. The Breakers famously brought eventual NBA draftee RJ Hampton across the equator, so their name will be well-known for athletes opting out of the traditional college route to the big leagues.
The team also signed another French guard destined for the NBA in Hugo Besson, a move which should deliver on-court success in the 2021 NBL season. Besson joins the side following a strong season in his home country, and is projected to be the 35th selection in next year’s NBA draft. If the French duo can use their season in the NBL to increase their draft stock, the Breakers should be able to translate this into wins.
Following their most troublesome season as a club, the stars appear to be aligning for the New Zealand Breakers. With the opening up of Australia imminent, the Breakers should get some continuity in their schedule. Combining this with their strong offseason signings, the team would be confident on improving on last year’s finish on the ladder.
Photo: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images