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 Nunawading Spectres, the inaugural premiers of the NBL1.
2019 in Review:
Finished: 3rd (Premiers)
What went right:
- Won the 2019 NBL1 title
- Offence (total points, two-point accuracy, three-point accuracy and free-throw accuracy all ranked top five overall)
- Rebounding (30.1 defensive the best in the competition, 41.0 total rebounds ranked third overall)
- Turnovers (10.7 per game the second least in the competition)
- Five players averaging double-figure points for the season
- Dain Swetalla and Simon Conn’s seasons
There was not too much to fault for the eventual NBL1 South men’s premiers as Nunawading took the title after bouncing back from a qualifying finals loss to Frankston Blues. The hard road to victory cemented their journey as one to remember, and eventually saluted against Bendigo Braves thanks to a 24-14 third term to win, 99-90. The likes of Dain Swetalla (Grand Final Most Valuable Player) and Simon Conn (All-Star Five) led the team superbly throughout the season as they proved hard to beat, winning 14 of 20, and were deadly on the road with an 8-1 record. Even though the Spectres dropped their first final to Frankston away, they showed plenty of grit, winning their way to the title. Offensively they were dominant with top five finishes in each of the major scoring categories, and defensively were strong as well. They were the best defensive rebounding unit in the lead, and ranked top three overall for rebounds. Throw in the fact they rarely turned he ball over (second least turnovers in the competition) and the Spectres were a clear title contender long before the final game of the season.
What went wrong:
- Not much
- Blocks (1.5 per game ranked 17th overall)
- Steals (4.7 per game ranked last overall)
When you win a title, the season is a success and you cannot really look too harshly on a season. But every team wants to maintain its dominance by getting better the following season. Statistically it was just blocks and steals that were ranked in the bottom two in the competition, though that is hardly surprising considering the Spectres dominated possession, led the defensive rebounds and rarely turned the ball over. It could mean the side looks to add an extra player to the roster to try and pick-pocket opposition players more often, though they do not need to add much.
Making the NBL1 All-Star Five is a clear indication of the kind of season the veteran 206cm center had. He is like a fine wine and showed he is just as dominant off the boards as he has been in the past. Finishing the season playing every game, averaging 31.1 minutes on court and putting up numbers of 19.5 points. 9.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists, Conn was the consistent star of the show throughout the season. He also averaged 87.1 per cent from the line when a defence dared to foul him thanks to his 55 per cent two-point accuracy as well. He led the team in points, offensive rebounds and total rebounds and was deserving of his season honour.
The Grand Final MVP did not just have a performance out of the box when he picked up 28 points and nine rebounds, he had been doing it all season. In fact, Swetalla averaged nine rebounds in season 2019 to go with his 17.2 points and 2.1 assists. He finished his attempts off at a high rate with 58.5 per cent from inside the arc, and 44.6 per cent from outside the arc as one of the most damaging long-range shooters in the competition. Another experienced shooter, Swetalla teamed up with Conn well and the pair caused all sorts of headaches for the opposition.
There were a number of players who could have slotted into this spot, though Wright was the next highest in terms of his points, averaging 18.1 per game from 18 games. He averaged the most minutes on court with 31.3 per game and also took home 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists for his troubles. He might not have won the plaudits that the other two did, but Wright was another player who just kept applying the scoring pressure across the court and was a key playmaker on transition offence.
They did not have the youngest list coming into the 2019 season with just four players aged 23-years-old or younger, and we start with the oldest of that quartet given he had the most game time of the lot. Saunders averaged 13.4 minutes on court for 7.2 points and 1.2 rebounds, giving the starting guards some rest time as he came on and could be relied upon to have an impact. At greater than 20 points per 40 minutes, Saunders showed he could step up for a starting role if required and he was particularly damaging from long-range, averaging 38 per cent and sinking the second most triples of any player despite the lack of court time.
Christmas list for 2021:
List retention. There is nothing glaringly obvious the Spectres need, though with effectively two years moving on since the start of the 2019 season, players are entering a couple of years older and with the majority of the Nunawading list set to be the wrong side of 30, the Spectres need to firstly retain the list, then look to build on their youth.
The Nunawading Spectres had a memorable first season in the NBL1 and took out the 2019 title. They get to be reigning champions for two seasons now, and no doubt their hunger will be increased to go back-to-back in 2021 when they can get back out on the court.