WHEN it comes to teams that have maintained a good consistency throughout the NBL21 campaign, the Sydney Kings do not particularly pop into minds as the nine-win, nine-loss team has struggled to find any substantial headway in the standings to this point.
Hanging around in fifth position on the ladder right now, the Kings have been above a .500 win-loss record just once this season, and it was short lived to say the least, lasting just one game before their most recent loss to the Perth Wildcats (65-89), which brought their record to what it is today.
The problem of competing at a high level is not a strange concept for Sydney, as they have toppled two out of the four sides above them this season. Most notably, a 28-point demolition job of Melbourne United (103-75) back in Round 10 showed just how much damage this Kings squad is capable of.
On the flip side however, the question of whether Adam Forde and his roster can consecutively string wins together is an opaque one, rather than clear-cut. Despite stringing together three-straight victories spanning from Round 9 to Round 10, Sydney has only ever posted back-to-back wins on one other occasion (excluding their three-game streak) this season, which was back in Round 3/4 when they knocked over the Adelaide 36ers and the New Zealand Breakers. Perhaps a late-season charge is in the cards for the Kings, but they will need to find some good form soon with just 10 contests left on the ballot before the season ends.
In terms of the path forward, Sydney’s next eight games have already been established with the final two matchups to be announced in the coming months. Out of the next eight games, two of them will be against the Wildcats with the first to come later tonight at RAC Arena.
The timing could not be worse for last season’s runners-ups as they look to try and defeat the two-time reigning premiers, after the Kings sustained not only their biggest loss of the season but also their lowest scoring total of the 2020/21 season to date coincidentally at the mercy of Perth.
Many might not admit it but there is actually an abundance of importance to tonight’s game, because if the purple and gold can pick up the away win, it will put them in wonderful stead to make the most out of a five-game home stand that begins after tonight and start their charge up the ladder.
Sydney also has the South East Melbourne Phoenix lined up three times in their next eight meetings with two of those encounters to be hosted at Qudos Bank Arena. Furthermore, the Kings will also square off once with the Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans and the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong to conclude Round 15.
While Sydney’s points per game average sits at a decent 89, their offensive production numbers sit amongst the top half of the league largely in part due to the Kings’ imports. Casper Ware who has long been a force to be reckoned with in the Australian basketball community, is at it once again leading the team in scoring. Averaging 19 points, 4.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds on 45 per cent from the field, Ware is making a strong case as one of the NBL’s marquee guards for another season. The second of the team’s imports in Jarell Martin has also been an impactful addition to the team, crushing his inaugural season down-under statistically with 17.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. An early favourite for rookie of the year, former Miami Hurricane (NCAA) alum Dejan Vasiljevic continues to show off his skillset by accumulating at least 16.8 and 3.6 rebounds each time out – all while playing 29 minutes per game.
With Andrew Bogut’s departure following the conclusion of the previous season, Jordan Hunter has had big shoes to fill both figuratively and literally. But the 24-year-old has handled himself relatively well this season, averaging eight points and over five boards as he aims to create an efficient presence down low in the post and around the rim on the defensive end. NBL veteran Brad Newley has also proved his worth in his year-eight season, putting up solid numbers off the bench and occasionally starting on the floor with 7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game next to his name.
Looking specifically at 21-year-old Didi Louzada, he is yet to really take the season by storm yet, averaging just a minimal 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest. With a Golden State Warriors scout reportedly liaising with Louzada currently, the Brazilian-born Next Star prospect should look to improve his current numbers to boost his stock in the U.S. given its his second season with the Kings already.
Numerous others on the Kings’ roster have the chance to shine in the later stages of this season, but the objective of finding a consistent winning culture in these last handful of games will be the defining factor for Sydney this season in whether they make the postseason or not – one that begins tonight against the defending champions in enemy territory.