IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at North West Thunder team that finished 13th overall after a promising start to the season.
2019 in Review:
What went right:
- Offensive Rebounding (25.8 per game, ranked fourth overall)
- Had seven teenagers out of a 13 player roster heading into the year
- Defeated Waverley Falcons and Hobart Chargers twice
- Had a win-loss record of 5-4 after nine games
- Nick Banyard and Jordan Bowling’s seasons
Whilst the season might have finished in less than ideal circumstances for the Thunder, they certainly still showed plenty of promise throughout as they set themselves up for the future. Holding a 5-4 record early in the year after nine games, albeit from a yo-yo form line, the Thunder were able to take in the youngest team in the competition with seven of the 13 listed players still teenagers. With only one player – Paul Campbell – above 30-years-old and only two more above 25, it was quite a tough task for coach Sam Armstrong against more experienced sides. Nick Banyard led the way for his team throughout the season, as the 25-year-old 203cm center/forward had team-highs in points and rebounds, to provide a strong body off the boards, while Jordan Bowling could hold his head high not far behind. The Thunder also ranked fourth overall for offensive rebounds with 25.8 per game, and managed to topple Waverley Falcons and cross-state rivals, Hobart Chargers twice. Once the losses started mounting up it made it difficult for the Thunder, but there was still plenty to take out of it for the Ulverstone-based side.
What went wrong:
- Lost seven of their last 11 games
- Could not string back-to-back wins together and only won two games outside Tasmania
- Offence (84.6 points per game, ranked 15th overall, two-point field goal percentage – 46.2 – ranked 18th overall)
The last half of the season fell away for the Thunder, losing seven of their last 11, to slip down the ladder and comfortably miss out on finals. The key reason was a lack of scoring, averaging just 84.6 points per game to be ranked 15th overall, and their two-point field goal percentage stood at 46.2 – the worst in the competition. Not being able to string back-to-back wins together would have been frustrating, but again understandable given the age bracket of the team, and the continuity issues that come with having to travel interstate regularly. They won just the two games outside Victoria in season 2019, something the Thunder will look to build on in 2021.
The top points scorer for the Thunder averaged 17.9 points per game, and almost a double-double for the season with 9.2 rebounds per match as well. Banyard averaged 2.9 assists and almost a steal per game with 45.1 per cent accuracy from the field. He shot just five of 24 three-point attempts, and was a bit shaky from the free-throw line (63.8 per cent) but you could not fault his work off the boards or his ability to put up a high volume of shots.
Playing every game and one of only two players to start in every match, Bowling averaged 15.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Another one of North West Thunder’s 25-year-olds on the roster, Bowling teamed up well with Banyard and left plenty for the future, shooting at a higher rate at both the foul line (75 per cent) and three-point range (37.6 per cent). Bowling also averaged 2.8 assists and almost a steal per game across the season.
The experienced veteran was the oldest in the team entering the season and provided great presence to his younger teammates through a tough season. He took the court in every game, starting 14 times and averaging 9.6 points and 8.4 rebounds. Like every sensible 208cm center, Campbell did not attempt a three-pointer throughout the season, but he did finish with a high two-point accuracy of 64.3 per cent.
An exciting player with plenty of upside after being in the United States, Armstrong was a buzz for the Thunder throughout 12 games in the season. He averaged 16.3 points per game and was one of the more dominant three-point shooters across the competition with an average of 40.6 per cent. His field goal percentage as a whole was solid at 43.3 per cent, while he also finished the year with 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Having just exited his teenage years, Armstrong still has plenty to offer in the future, regardless of the level he plays at.
Christmas list for 2021:
Scoring power. The Thunder had a clear deficiency in this area, with only one of the top three scorers playing every game (Bowling). With the other two combining for 29 of a possible 40 games between them, North West Thunder just simply have to find another couple of avenues to goal to help with depth. If they can do that, the Thunder can compete with the higher echelon teams throughout the competition and look dangerous for season 2021.
The North West Thunder might not have had an ideal start to their NBL1 history in 2019, but they showed when they have a full-strength squad that they are no pushovers. If they can make adjustments to the list for 2021, and the teenagers come on in the future, then watch out as they look to grow the group and develop them together.