Tag: Alex Pledger

Sharks and Dream secure NZNBL 3X3 Cup titles

SOUTHLAND Sharks and AUCKLAND Dream have claimed their respective New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Schick 3X3 Cups over the weekend, with the Sharks winning the male title and the Dream taking out the female title.

Auckland Dream won in a nail-biting final 18-16 over Harbour Breeze to claim the title, with both sides winning all six games leading into the final. The Dream had topped Pool A and then defeated their Pool opponents NZ Select in the semi-finals, whilst Breeze topped Pool B by defeating Otago Gold Rush in the other semi. The two teams were the standout sides in the women’s draw, always looking like the teams to beat, with the Dream winning their two finals by a combined 14 points, whilst the Breeze did not quite have it like their namesake, winning with a combined eight points.

In the end, just two points separated the sides in the decider, with a two-point successful make from Casyn Buchman the difference with just six seconds left on the clock. To that point, the momentum had ebbed and flowed with the Breeze taking control early, before the Dream hit back through young star, Arielle Williams-Mackey. She helped her side to get back into it, before the experienced Amanda Wayment drew it, and Buchman finished it off.

Along with the injured Darci Finnigan who twisted her knee in the semi-final, the quartet was overcome the obstacle of limited minutes for their teammate in the decider to post the win and secure the title after being the fourth seeds heading into the tournament. For the Breeze, Ella Fotu, Brooke Blair, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu tried hard and almost got there after a sensational tournament, but just fell short in the end.

In the men’s competition, Southland Sharks defied the odds to topple one of the tournament favourites in Hawke’s Bay Hawks in the final. Like the women’s final, just two points separated the sides as the Sharks got up 21-19 to secure the title. Seeded fifth at the event, the Sharks won two of their four Pool games in Pool B to finish third on the overall table behind Auckland Huskies and Franklin Bulls, while the Hawks also finished third with two wins from four games, behind Tasman Suns and Otago Nuggets.

Finals are a different ball game, particularly knockout finals, with the Suns defeated by the seventh placed NZ Select Team which faced the Hawks who belted the Bulls 21-12 in their quarter final. The Hawks overcame the NZ Select Team by three points to advance to the final, whilst on the other side, the Sharks toppled the Nuggets by three points, then defeated the top of the table Huskies by four points to reach the decider.

Remarkably the match went blow-for-blow right up until 19 apiece and everything relying on the last basket. Two stars of New Zealand basketball in Derone Raukawa and Hyrum Harris were superb on either end, whilst Dom Kelman-Poto backed up his great work from the NZNBL Men’s competition with another big effort this tournament. It was Alonzo Burton who sank the game winner to end what was the most remarkable finals.

Harris, Kelman-Poto, Burton and Alex Pledger celebrated the 21-19 victory, having done it the hard way after the Pool stage of the competition. For Raukawa, Ethan Rusbatch, Everard Bartlett and Taane Samuel – who had all backed up from their NZNBL efforts – it was so close, yet so far, falling short of a title but having had a lot of fun along the way in the 3×3 tournament.

Picture: NZNBL

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the men’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There are just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Manawatu Jets
Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Mountainairs
Tasman Suns

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

A number of familiar teams are competing in the shortened competition, with this year’s Sal’s NBL premiers Otago Nuggets in Pool A alongside their grand final opponents Manawatu Jets. Taranaki Mountainairs are the other side to have competed earlier this year that falls into Pool A, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Tasman Suns also join the party.

In Pool B, a special NZ Select side will help even the numbers at 10 teams, whilst Southland Sharks also return to the competition after not competing in the shortened NZNBL format this year. The three other sides are Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls who will all be looking to add some silverware to their cabinets after missing out in the NZNBl season.

Southland Sharks would be one of the favourites for the title with some serious firepower including teaming up Hyrum Harris and the much-improved Dom Kelman-Poto. The pair will make it difficult for opposition teams given their size and range, whilst Alex Pledger showed he could impress in bursts during the NZNBL season, and Alonzo Burton rounds out the four.

Franklin Bulls are also a danger team with Mr Double Double himself, Marcel Jones returning to the club for the 3×3 tournament and is joined by a trio of Bulls’ teammates. Isaac Davison was the star of the competition in the early rounds of the NZNBL season, and can shoot from range with ease. Nikau McCullough is also a known three-point shooter, as Joel Vaigangina rounds out the list.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks cannot be discounted with Derone Raukawa leading the charge after a mammoth NZNBL season. He can just about do anything, and he teams up with veteran Everard Bartlett, as well as Ethan Rubatsch and Taane Te Kira Samuel. Otago Nuggets will be keen to do the double and back up their NZNBL win with a 3×3 Cup victory, and they had a strong four. Sam Timmins is the big body close to the basket, whilst Josh Aitcheson, Kane Keil and Richie Rodger are all underrated scorers with plenty of talent.

Looking across the board, the Manawatu Jets will have the talents of Jayden Bezzant and Haize Walker, while the Taranaki Airs have gone with experience thanks to Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Tai Wynyard. Jordan Hunt is a crucial cog for Auckland Huskies this tournament, with Canterbury Rams sticking to what they know with Ben Carlile-Smith, Jack Exeter and Mason Whittaker all named in the side. NZ Select will have players to watch such as Samuel Aruwa, whilst the Tasman Suns welcome the talented Tom Ingham who will prove hard to stop.

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 4 – Huge round of action with plenty of double-ups

ROUND 4 of the NBL brings plenty of action with eight games set to be played from Thursday to Monday. Melbourne United are yet to register a win this season while the Kings and Phoenix will be searching to keep their unbeaten streak alive.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Thursday, October 24
5:30pm

It has been a very inconsistent start to the 2019/2020 campaign for the Hawks who have only registered one win from their five games thus far but despite that they have shown some promise with the likes of LaMelo Ball taking the competition by storm. On the other hand, the Breakers have had less opportunities so far only playing two games but losing both making for an intriguing battle. The Breakers have multiple players that can stand up under pressure with the likes of Scotty Hopson and Corey Webster able to score freely if given time and space while highly touted NBA prospect RJ Hampton will be hoping to have more of an impact on the court against another potential NBA draftee, Ball. After a disappointing start to the season the Hawks will be aiming to restore some continuity in their gameplay and get their campaign rolling with the likes of Tim Coenraad and Aaron Brooks crucial on the scoreboard.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Friday, October 25
7:30pm

Both sides are coming off wins and will be riding high heading into their Friday clash. The Taipans only notched up their first victory of the season last week while the 36ers will be hoping to progress up their ladder by securing their third win of the year. Cairns simply outclassed their Perth opponents, last week making the most of their opportunities and should draw off that belief in this clash with Majok Deng leading from the front with 22 points last round. Cameron Oliver, DJ Newbill and Scott Machado will have to bring out the big guns and perform if they are to get over the top of the higher placed 36ers. Eric Griffin and Daniel Johnson are key for the 36ers given their ability to score and skill above the rim to gather rebounds.

PERTH WILDCATS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, October 25,
9:30pm

South East Melbourne Phoenix are set to travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats and keep their unbeaten streak rolling. Perth currently have third spot sewn up while the Phoenix sit in second making for a high intensity and exhilarating battle between the two sides. The Wildcats suffered a shock loss last week but then struck back against United highlighting their composure and never say die attitude. Bryce Cotton, Terrico White and Nick Kay are instrumental for the Wildcats and if are not contained can prove to be detrimental to the opposition with their explosiveness, scoring range and rebounding ability. The newly established Phoenix have not skipped a beat with the likes of Mitch Creek leading from the front time and time again while John Roberson exploded last week and will be hoping to replicate his form against quality opposition this week. Dane Pineau is crucial for South East with his strength on the rebound.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, October 26
5:30pm

Melbourne United and New Zealand Breakers are both searching for their first win of the season. After competing in the NBAxNBL preseason programme both sides have failed to register a win in the NBL and will be hoping to rectify that issue. United have had their chances falling narrowly to reigning premiers Perth last round along with the Phoenix in the opening round highlighting their ability to match it with the best but fading away when it counts. Chris Goulding has been a rock for United so far this season while the inclusion of Melo Trimble and Shawn Long has been seamless hitting the scoreboard and posing a threat. If they can get some separation early it could go a long way in helping to set up their first win for the season. The Breakers will have their work cut out for them if they are to notch up their first win against United.

SYDNEY KINGS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Saturday, October 26
8:00pm

The Sydney Kings have an unblemished record and will be hoping to extend that record against the Bullets at home. Sydney seem to be getting better and better every game with their connections across the court near on impossible to stop when on song given the class and skill of Andrew Bogut, Casper Ware and Brad Newley. All three have showcased their shooting range and defensive pressure making them a tough task to stop for the inconsistent Brisbane. The Bullets got off to a flyer this season winning two games on the trot before falling victim to the 36ers and Phoenix with their main aim this round to wrestle back some momentum. Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Lamar Patterson are the key playmakers for the Bullets and must have an influence if they are to get their side the win.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Sunday, October 27
3:00pm

It will be both sides second game of the round meaning there could be tired bodies out on the court, but if all things go to plan it could be a riveting match-up. With Phoenix securing second spot and Adelaide fourth expect both sides to fight tooth-and-nail to surge ahead. South East Melbourne is yet to drop a game this season while the 36ers have lost just the one meaning there is a lot on the line for both clubs. Ben Madgen has showcased his worth throughout the season hitting the scoreboard when needed while teammate Kendall Stephens can be an impact player. For the 36ers Jerome Randle and Ramone Moore will be wanting to up the ante even more.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS v. PERTH WILDCATS
Sunday, October 27
5:00pm

Fatigue could be a real issue for both sides given it is their second game of the round and have been forced to travel once each. The Wildcats are no easy beats, with their plethora of stars across the court able to have an impact while the Hawks inconsistency could shoot them in the foot. Ball has plenty of X-factor for Illawarra, but up against White, Cotton and Kay may find it hard to shine. But Perth have fallen victim to lower placed teams going down to the winless Taipans last round showing that it is possible for the Hawks if they play their cards right. Perth has already won against the Hawks at RAC Areana and now head to Illawarra to see if they can go two-up on their opponents.

CAIRNS TAIPANS v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Monday, October 28
7:30pm

Not many would have expected Cairns to have more wins than United by this stage of the season but that is the reality with Melbourne searching for their first win of the season. Both sides have struggled to close out matches and perform for the full four quarters making for a hot contest. Although it will be their second game for the round expect United to throw everything at the Taipans in order to notch up the all important victory while the Taipans will not go down without a fight. Mitch McCarron, David Barlow and Alex Pledger could all have a big influence on the game for United while Kouat Noi and Nathan Jawai are known to be impact players when called upon for Cairns.

2019/20 NBL season team preview: Melbourne United

MELBOURNE United fell agonisingly short of grand final glory going down to the Perth Wildcats in the playoffs. United lost some key players over the off-season with Casper Ware, Josh Boone, DJ Kennedy and Craig Moller all departing the club leaving some gaping holes in the line-up but it is not all doom and gloom for the side, picking up Cairns’ Melo Trimble and New Zealand’s Shea Ili.

Position: 2nd
Percentage: 92.36%
Win-loss: 18-10

2018/2019 Overview:

United once again flexed their muscles showing why they are one of the best in the business, notching up convincing wins with their commanding style of play. They showed plenty of heart and commitment able to fight their way back into the contest. Although they did not get the silverware United showed flair and plenty of defensive pressure to deflect the ball and stream back down the court time and time again. Their ability to spot someone up the other end of the court and deliver the ball was second to none, while also showing patience to not blaze away but instead lower the eyes and hit up an option inside the key. Ware topped the score sheet averaging 18.82 points per game highlighting his class and ability to trouble the scoreboard on a regular basis. Ware was closely followed by teammate Chris Goulding who averaged 14.24 points per game with Goulding working tirelessly up and down the court to influence the play. Boone was influential throughout the 2018/2019 season picking up a team-high average of 8.43 rebounds per game highlighting his strength, ability to read the play and aerial skill to reel in missed shots and propel the ball back down the court. Kennedy was another instrumental player for United averaging 13.04 points per game, 7.32 rebounds per game and 3.32 assists per game with the 198cm tall basketballer wreaking havoc across the court.

Projected shining light:

With Ware and Boone both gone Melbourne United will be looking to replicate their work both offensively and defensively. Boone was renowned for his presence off the boards meaning the likes of fellow center Alex Pledger will have to try and fill the void. Meanwhile the addition of Trimble could be beneficial for Melbourne given his explosiveness. Trimble plays a similar game style to Ware, allowing him to slot seamlessly into the side and cause havoc with his speed, shooting range and attacking mentality. If Melbourne United can get into a solid rhythm early and cover the losses of the off-season it will put them in good stead for the upcoming year given their experience, basketball know how and strong connection of core players.

Perth Wildcats claim ninth NBL title

IT was a big game four with the Perth Wildcats claiming their ninth NBL title over Melbourne United in a dominant performance (97-84). United struggled to combat the defensive pressure of the Wildcats who looked to Bryce Cotton and Terrico White to do the scoreboard damage. Perth eventually ran away 15 point victors’ in front of the Melbourne crowd to secure the title, with Melbourne only managing the one win in the finals series.

White was simply unstoppable across the court, scoring 20 points for the game along with eight rebounds and three assists. Fellow teammate, Bryce Cotton impressed with his 28 points, four goal assists and timely steals to win the ball back for Perth. The Wildcats oozed composure with the likes of Nick Kay leading the way with rebounds, racking up 10 and doing the defensive things well to force United into uncharacteristic errors. Perth captain Damian Martin, was impressive once again, leading from the front, attacking the ball hard and etching himself in NBL history winning his fifth premiership. For United the likes of Casper Ware and Chris Goulding stood up with Goulding nailing some big three’s late in the third and fourth to keep Melbourne in touch but it was not enough to bring them home. Ware scored 18 points, while Josh Boone was good off the glass with seven rebounds, closely followed by DJ Kennedy with five.

Taking a look back through the finals series, Game 3 saw a similar situation with Perth asserting their dominance over Melbourne with their attacking play. It was the usual big names, that once again stood up with White nailing a whopping 31 points and Cotton ending the game with 16 points to his name. Their work across the court to shut down the attacking options for Melbourne proved to be the main difference, with United unable to find an avenue to goal. Tom Jervis worked hard in defence to register a block for Perth, while his United counterpart Alex Pledger also got a timely block but it was not enough to quell the offensive play of the Wildcats. The top-scorer for United in game three was David Barlow who slotted 13, while DJ Kennedy also top scored and racked up 10 rebounds.

Melbourne United asserted their authority on the finals series in Game 2 with a big win at home to prove they were here to play, but unfortunately it was their only win for the series. Chris Goulding and Casper Ware led the way for their side with 14 goals apiece. Guard Mitch McCarron made his presence felt with his four goal assists and 13 points. For the Wildcats, White and Cotton dominated the stats, while Kay chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Game 1 kicked off with plenty of excitement with Perth claiming the opener. Jesse Wagstaff was influential across the court with his 10 points and two rebounds, combining well with Angus Brandt who lead the way with 14 points and seven rebounds to his name. United looked to the ever-reliable Goulding to take control, which he did with his 15 points, while Ware chipped in with 19 points.

Weekend previews: NBL – Grand Final

AFTER 18 rounds and two convincing semi-final wins, we are down to our final two teams of the 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season. The reigning champions from last year, Melbourne United, face off against the most decorated team in NBL history, Perth Wildcats. An even matchup between each other in their four games throughout the season, each are deadly at home and have the forces on the court to punish away also. There is every reason that this Grand Final series could stretch five games, and it will be a most memorable moment for all. Perth have the upper hand from finishing the season atop the ladder with the Grand Final series beginning in the west.

Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United

Friday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Friday, 10:35pm at RAC Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)
Game 5 TBA (if needed)

The key matchups:

Bryce Cotton v Casper Ware

Two of the unlucky players to miss out on the NBL MVP gong, Cotton and Ware have been standout guards this season. Both of these guys are game changers, whenever that is during a game. Ware started the game strong in Game 2 against the Kings last week, draining 17 points including four triples – all within the first 10 minutes. And we have seen so many times this season, Ware has had the game-winning shot and converted, although sometimes it has gone the other way too. Across the semi-finals, Ware averaged 26 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists and in a massive boost, his field goal percentage was above 50 per cent for the first time since January 23 against Illawarra. His semi-final work does translate from his season stats, and it is pleasing to see his rebounding on the up. Against Perth this season, Ware had three games of 15 points or more and it was his best rebounding outputs too, with 18 over four games. Poor shooting brought him undone a bit, especially in Round 23 (nine points at 18.8 per cent), so it’s up to Cotton to bring that pressure yet again. Cotton averaged 20.5 points per game against the Bullets last weekend, with 4.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists, definitely contributing greatly to the Wildcats tilt at a title. Like Ware, it’s easy to see that Cotton hasn’t been fazed by the lights of finals. Cotton played two finals last season for 26.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists so he’s already well on his way to being better this season. The year before, in five games, he averaged 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Ware, in seven matches last finals, averaged 19.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Nicholas Kay v DJ Kennedy

An all-round player, Kay, especially against United, was two rebounds short in Round 18 from getting four double-doubles over the four games against Melbourne this season. Instead, he averaged 17.25 points and 11.25 rebounds which is still a mammoth effort for the Wildcats forward. Kennedy has been a underrated player on Melbourne’s roster, but has had the start on many occasions. He was able to get a double-double in the final game of the season though, ending his home and away season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Other than that, although averaging 13 points across the year, he’s capable of hitting big and even so, provides support to Boone (second in rebounds at United – 7.3 to Boone’s 8.4). Kay leads his team in that department by a full 3 rebounds as he averages 8.7 this year. Last weekend, Kay averaged 17 points and 12.5 rebounds, while for Kennedy, he averaged 15.0 points and 7 rebounds against the Kings. This is Kennedy’s first NBL finals series in his first year in the league, but Kay has played six finals in 2016, only averaging 7.7 points and 3.2 each of rebounds and assists.

Terrico White v Chris Goulding

White is really coming good in the last two months and against Brisbane, he averaged 21.5 points, and in Game 2, hit five of nine from outside. His season average of 15.8 points is good for White, with a season-high of 27 points early on in the season, against Melbourne. A hustle rebounder too (3.9), he recorded 14 in three games against United this year. Goulding has been a standout against Perth in their matchups this year too, averaging 18 points in four games. Often coming off the bench too, Goulding leaves nothing on the court, also against Perth, averages 5 rebounds and 3.25 assists. Goulding has played finals six seasons now, and last year’s series saw him average 17.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The years before that he was averaged over 20 points and around 4 rebounds too. This is White’s first finals series in his first NBL season.

How they got here:

Perth and Melbourne enter the NBL Grand Final with an 18-10 record and a clean sweep in their semi-final matchups against Brisbane and Sydney respectively. It is the first time that this has happened in NBL history, so a credit to just how damaging they each were this year. Perth started the season strongly, only dropping one of their first 11 matches but then suffered eight losses in their next 10 games to seeing them drop to third on the ladder. From their final game in Round 14 to their first game of Round 18, the Wildcats won six-straight before a final loss against United just before the finals started. United took some time to get going this season, getting to the halfway point at nine wins and five losses, never really getting a proper winning streak going, then or throughout the remainder of the season. United were tested a lot by teams finishing below the top four, including in nine overtime periods this season, three of which were against the Wildcats though, so these two sides definitely are matched up well.

Head-to-head form:

Perth and Melbourne first met this season in Round 3 in Sydney in a double overtime thriller that will be remembered for a long time. Two of the best guards, Casper Ware and Bryce Cotton for Melbourne and Perth respectively took shots within the last 22 seconds but both fell short of the bottom of the basket. Perth took a 6-0 run in three minutes within the second overtime period which United couldn’t get a shot away. For Perth, Bryce Cotton was a star with 31 points, four rebounds and two steals. For Melbourne, Chris Goulding contributed 29 points (87.5 per cent from two point range), five rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench. Their next meeting took place in Round 9, this time in Melbourne and it was home side with a commanding 17-point victory – 82-65 – mostly thanks to a 23-6 third quarter. For the victors, Goulding was again the star as he hit 19 points, along with seven rebounds and three assists. The Wildcats, although scoring low, it was Nicholas Kay who steadied the team with 15 points (at 70 per cent) and 12 rebounds with two steals and a block. In Round 14, Perth prevailed again at home, the game finishing a five-point margin again after Perth got off to a hot start, leading 27-14 at the first break. United had a sniff midway through the third term, but it was Cotton with 27 points, two rebounds and six assists, with two steals who allowed the Wildcats to hold on. For United, Mitch McCarron lit up RAC Arena as he scored 21 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. The final game of the season also saw Perth and Melbourne finish a great season. And wasn’t it a great game? An even score at the end of regulation, the overtime result ending in United’s favour 13-2. Goulding scored eight overtime points, but it was DJ Kennedy who stole the show, netting 21 points and pulling down 15 rebounds with six assists. Kay was again good for the Wildcats, finishing a valuable season with 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Head-to-head stat leaders:

Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 80 points at 20.0 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): 72 points at 18.0 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 45 rebounds at 11.25 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): 36 rebounds at 9.0 per game.
Assists: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 16 assists at 4.0 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 13 rebounds at 3.25 per game.
Field goal percentage: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 58.23%
Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): 51.04%
Steals: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): nine steals at 2.25 per game.
DJ Kennedy/Mitch McCarron/Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.25 per game.
Blocks: Josh Boone/Alex Pledger (Melbourne United): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Nicholas Kay/Tom Jervis (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game:

The two best teams of this NBL season, and if the season form is anything to go by, this one could very well go down to Game 5. Formidable forces at home, evidenced by their two from two home records against each other this year. It could point to Perth as an eventual winner of the competition, as Game 5 will take place in the west of the country. Perth have only lost twice at home this year, losing to semi-finalists Sydney by one point in Round 9 and a two-point loss to Cairns in Round 13. Looking at those losses, a combined three points isn’t much and could very easily have been avoided for the Wildcats, so naturally, Perth don’t let teams get away too easily at home. Melbourne on the other hand had four home losses, but made up for those with eight away wins, not fazed by travelling. Statistics show that home teams have won 29 of the past 32, but there’s every possibility for an upset this season. There is not much difference in terms of statistics between the two teams, however Melbourne had an impressive run of consecutive 100+ point games, which is evidenced by their 92.4 points per game this season, compared to Perth’s 89.1 points. Both of these teams have valuable contributors to get them good looks around the offensive end, but equally as important are the rebounds, which Perth lead slightly. Melbourne’s defensive game is one of the best of the league, with the ability for players such as DJ Kennedy and Alex Pledger taking the edge off of Josh Boone, but as a team, United average 4.5 blocks a game (second in the league), whereas Perth are at the bottom, only averaging 1.6 blocks, although the pace of Bryce Cotton and awareness of Damien Martin lets Perth lead the league for steals (6.7 per game) and can easily punish quickly on a fast break. Perth scored just 67.5 points at Melbourne Arena this season, well below the 87.6 points they averaged on the road everywhere else. Melbourne is also the city in which Perth shot the ball the worst (34.7 per cent, 42.9 per cent elsewhere). The crowds in both cities are in for a treat across the next fortnight, and the support will be loud and the players will really thrive on the level of excitement as this 2018/19 NBL Grand Final series gets underway.

NBL x NBA 2018 Tour wrap

FOR the second consecutive year, the best basketball players Australia has to offer made their way to the United States to take on the best teams in the world. After the great success of last year, seven games were played across two weeks as both leagues prepare for a huge season ahead. Australian National Basketball League (NBA) stars, Ben Simmons, Joe Ingles and Dante Exum featured against their home country’s teams, while National Basketball League (NBL) stars hoped to gain recognition from NBA scouts and general managers.

 

Philadelphia 76ers (104) defeated Melbourne United (84)

The pre-season kicked off with the defending NBL champions, Melbourne United taking on the Philadelphia 76ers in the city of brotherly love. Reigning NBA Rookie of the year, Ben Simmons led his 76ers into battle, looking to make a statement against his hometown team, and that he did! Simmons was spectacular with eight points, eight rebounds and 14 assists, putting on an absolute show for the home crowd and providing a huge amount of optimism heading into the regular season for Philadelphia and for Australian basketball in general. Melbourne United fell behind by 13 at the first break and never recovered, ultimately falling 104-84. United star, Casper Ware was held in check by the 76ers’ ferocious defence, something that became a staple of theirs late last season, shooting just 27 per cent from the field. The big man Alex Pledger impressed, registering a double-double with 13 rebounds to go along with his team-high 19 points. The sheer star power of the 76ers proved to be too much for Melbourne, however there were huge moments for Australian basketball, as Melbourne United was able to share the court with a team who is expected to feature deep into playoff action.

Utah Jazz (130) defeated Perth Wildcats (72)

Perennial NBL Championship contenders, Perth Wildcats took to the floor on a Sunday morning in Salt Lake City to battle the exciting Utah Jazz. Despite not playing in the game, Utah and Australia’s cult hero, Joe Ingles is expected to have another huge season for the Jazz after rising to prominence throughout Utah’s unlikely playoff run. The Melbourne-born Dante Exum will be hoping for a bounce-back season as he seeks to overcome a horrendous run of injuries and live up to the potential that saw him become the fifth overall draft pick just a few short seasons ago. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the fast-paced attack of the Utah Jazz would prove to be too much to handle as the Jazz cruised to an astonishing 58-point victory.  The Wildcats shot just 27 per cent from the field with the Jazz’s number one defence from a year ago smothering them at every turn. Last season’s NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton struggled on the big stage, sinking just four shots from 16 for a total of 11 points in a performance he would like to forget.

Los Angeles Clippers (110) defeated Sydney Kings (91)

The Kings and the Clippers opened their pre-season schedules in Hawaii with a tough contest from start to finish. The Sydney Kings’ roster is headlined by former number one NBA overall pick, Andrew Bogut, who returns home to Australia after over a decade in the NBA, which saw him feature in two NBA Finals series, including a championship victory in 2015 with the Golden State Warriors. One of Australia’s greatest basketball players of all time-turned Sydney Kings coach, Andrew Gaze led his team into battle and produced a sound game plan to slow down the Clippers’ prolific offence. The NBL’s leading scorer from a season ago, Jerome Randle put on a show with a game-high 25 points, in what was the best performance by an NBL star thus far, to go along with the 16 points of shooting guard, Kevin Lisch, as the two combined for almost half of the Kings’ points. The Clippers starters proved too much for the Kings, however they more than held their own against LA’s second unit, even cutting their margin to single figures early in the fourth before falling 110-91. Another strong performance from the NBL side.

Phoenix Suns (91) defeated New Zealand Breakers (86)

WHAT A GAME! The New Zealand Breakers almost pulled off a monumental upset against the Suns as they announced themselves on the global stage. In what was without a doubt the best game of the pre-season, the Breakers gave the Suns everything they could handle. Despite only holding the lead for small periods of the game, the Breakers stayed within striking distance the entire time before finally making the late surge we were all hoping for. Down just four points with under a minute to play, the Breakers had several opportunities to cut into the lead and potentially steal the ball game but unfortunately were unable to execute. Corey Webster, who had been spectacular all game, missed a three-point shot that would’ve brought the Breakers back within one in the final seconds, however it just fell short as the Suns were able to pull out the narrow win. Webster dominated, playing 40 of a possible 48 minutes, scoring 27 points and doing everything he could do drag his team over the line. The close game, along with the great individual performances from both sides provided fans with a great ball game and something that should excite all Breakers fans for the upcoming season.

Toronto Raptors (120) defeated Melbourne United (82)

In its second and final pre-season game in the United States, Melbourne United took on another title contender in the form of the new-look Toronto Raptors. Despite missing their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors were able to take care of Melbourne United comfortably en route to a 38-point win. The Raptors’ elite defence was too much for United, which was a common theme among the NBL teams playing, as the Raptors constantly cut off United’s penetration into the paint, forcing tough passes and contested jump shots, which helped them hold Melbourne to just 34 per cent shooting from the field and 82 points. Chris Goulding and Casper Ware produced strong outings despite the poor shooting, each with 17 points as well as logging heavy minutes to help prepare for their title defence.

Denver Nuggets (96) defeated Perth Wildcats (88)

The Wildcats took part in their second pre-season outing at the Pepsi Centre in Denver and put on one hell of a performance. Playing in one of the toughest buildings in the NBA for away teams, the Wildcats kept the contest close throughout and gave themselves every reason to believe they could walk away victorious. After his poor performance in the opening game, Bryce Cotton exploded with an NBL pre-season high 33 points, including five threes. Having cut the lead to just six points with less than 10 minutes to go, the Nuggets turned to Miles Plumlee and Trey Lyles to put the Wildcats away and secure a well-earned victory. Despite the loss, the Wildcats impressed many, including the Denver Nuggets broadcasters, who were very complimentary of not only the Wildcats but Australian basketball in general. A huge win for Australian basketball despite the loss for Perth.

Utah Jazz (122) defeated Adelaide 36ers (99)

Last year’s NBL runners-up, Adelaide took on the Jazz in Utah for the final NBL pre-season game. Similar to Utah’s performance against the Wildcats, the NBA side showed no mercy, with another dominant 30-point win, running its record against NBL teams to 2-0 by a combined margin of 88 points. The 36ers led at the end of the first quarter and looked to be on track to compete with Utah before star, Donovan Mitchell took over the game and helped Utah build what would prove to be an insurmountable lead. Nathan Sobey put together a strong game, stuffing the stat sheet with 23 points, four rebounds and four assists as well as four steals as he constantly got into the passing lanes and created fast break opportunities for Adelaide.

Overall thoughts

Despite the NBL going 0-7 against the best teams in the world, the past two weeks were a huge success for the national league. Five NBL teams were given the chance to share the court with the best players in the world and many flourished, perhaps even getting on the radar of some NBA teams as the season draws near. A big few months ahead for both leagues as basketball season begins!

2018/19 NBL Season Preview

THE 2018/19 National Basketball League (NBL) season is set to be the most exciting yet, with many big names taking to the court. We previewed each team in the lead-up to the highly anticipated season.

Pic: Matt King – Getty Images

ADELAIDE 36ERS

The 36ers finished second last season and pushed Melbourne United all the way in the NBL Grand Final. Star, Mitch Creek has earned an NBA contract with the Brooklyn Nets, which will prove to be a big loss for Adelaide.

Three-time club Most Valuable Player (MVP), Daniel Johnson has been named as captain this season after signing a deal that will see him remain at Adelaide until the end of the 2020-21 season. Australian Boomer, Nathan Sobey will be the vice-captain this season. Shooting guard, Brendan Teys has signed on for his sixth season with the Sixers, joining Majok Deng, Anthony Drmic, Adam Doyle, Harry Froling and Ramone Moore who will also stay with Adelaide.

American, Jacob Wiley has been acquired for the 2018/19 season. Wiley has spent some time in the NBA, debuting for the Nets last season and playing for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Summer League. Jack McVeigh also joins the Sixers on a three-year deal. McVeigh was a previous captain of the Australian Under 19 team and has been playing for the Cornhuskers at the University of Nebraska.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS

The Bullets finished on the bottom of the table in the 2017/18 season with nine wins and 19 losses.

They have made an exciting signing for the 2018/19 NBL season, with NBA veteran, Alonzo Gee joining Brisbane on a one year deal. Gee has played over 400 NBA games and has spent time at Washington, San Antonio, Cleveland, Portland, New Orleans and Denver. Japanese shooting guard, Makoto Hiejima has also been recruited by the Bullets and could make a big impact. Hiejima has been playing in the Japanese national team since 2013 and has spent time with the Afshin Sea Horses. The duo join a host of signings, including five-time NBL champion, Mika Vukona and Commonwealth Games Gold medalist, Cameron Gliddon.

Guard, Jason Cadee will stay with the Bullets until the end of the 2020-21 season. This will be his ninth season in the NBL and he will come into the side after a successful Commonwealth Games campaign. Forward, Reuben Te Rangi has also signed on at Brisbane. Te Rangi played for the Tall Blacks at this year’s Commonwealth Games and claimed a bronze medal.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS

The Cairns Taipans finished sixth last season with 11 wins and 17 losses. With new coach, Mike Kelly at the helm, the Taipans could turn around last season’s form.

Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard, Devon Hall has been acquired for the 2018/19 season. Hall was selected in Round 2 of the 2018 NBA Draft and spent some time on the court in the summer league, playing five games for the Thunder. Cairns also picked up another American guard in Melo Trimble. Trimble was signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA last year, where he then played for the Iowa Wolves in the G-League. After playing for the Taipans in 2013, Mitch Young has returned to the side for the 2018/19 season. Other key signings include Australian Boomer, Lucas Walker and two-time NBL Champion, Jarrod Kenny.

NBL All Australian, Alex Loughton will play his ninth season for Cairns this season. However, the side has lost Cameron Gliddon and Mitch McCarron, with Gliddon heading to Brisbane and McCarron opting to play at Melbourne in the 2018/19 season.

 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS

The Illawarra Hawks finished fifth in the 2017/18 season with 12 wins and 16 losses.

Last season’s captain, Kevin White has also re-signed for the upcoming NBL season. This will be White’s fourth season at the club. Swingman, Tim Coenraad has also re-signed for the upcoming season. He currently sits third on the Hawks’ all-time games played list.

The Hawks have signed two former league MVPs in Brian Conklin and Cedric Jackson. Conklin has been playing in the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto and has been involved in championships in both the French Cup and FIBA Europe Cup. Jackson is a three-time championship player for the New Zealand Breakers and will now have a stint at the Hawks. Point guard, Jordair Jett also joins Illawarra for the 2018/19 season. Jett previously played with the Townsville Crocs and took out both the club MVP award and Defensive Player of the Year. The Hawks have also obtained Melbourne Boomers 2017/18 championship player, David Andersen for the upcoming season. He was a rookie for Illawarra 20 years ago and is now back for the 2018/19 season. Australian Boomer, Todd Blanchfield will also suit up for the Hawks this season.

 

MELBOURNE UNITED

Melbourne United are the reigning champions of the NBL, finishing first on the ladder with 20 points and eight losses. They defeated Adelaide in a tense finals series and would be raring to go back-to-back in the upcoming season. Head coach, Dean Vickerman will remain at the club until the end of the 2021-22 season.

Point guard, Casper Ware and shooting forward, Chris Goulding have returned for the 2018/19 season. Both were key components of Melbourne’s winning outfit last season and could again dominate the court this season. Dominant centre, Josh Boone has also re-signed for the upcoming season.

American shooting guard/ forward, D.J Kennedy will join United this season. He has played four years of college basketball at St John’s University in New York, so he brings a wealth of experience into the line-up. Australian Boomer, Mitch McCarron has also joined Melbourne on a three-year deal. Former New Zealand Breaker centre, Alex Pledger is another exciting recruit for United. Pledger is a four-time NBL Champion and a Tall Blacks representative.

 

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

The New Zealand Breakers finished fifth last season with 15 wins and 13 losses.

The Breakers have signed 25 year-old American, Shawn Long. Long previously played with Philadelphia in the NBA on a short-term contract and followed this up with three appearances in the summer league with the 76ers, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. Small forward, Armani Moore and shooting guard, Patrick Richard are two exciting players that will join the side for the 2018/19 season. The Breakers have also acquired Melbourne United duo, Tai Wesley and Majok Majok, which will prove to be two key signings for the club.

Power forward, Finn Delany has re-committed to the Breakers, signing a two-year deal in the off-season. Delany has recently won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. Swingman, Tom Abercrombie and point guard, Shea Ili have also put pen to paper for another season at New Zealand. This takes Abercrombie’s tally to 13 years with the club while Ili is coming off being named the 2017/18 NBL Most Improved Player.

 

PERTH WILDCATS

The Wildcats had a promising 2017/18 season, finishing third on 16 wins and 12 losses.

Australian Boomers players, Angus Brandt, Damian Martin and Jesse Wagstaff will all be again playing in Perth for the upcoming season. Wagstaff, Martin and Norton are Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists, which will hold the Wildcats in good stead this season. Reigning NBL MVP, Bryce Cotton will also go around again for Perth after a stellar 2017/18 season.

American, Terrico White has been added to the Wildcats’ roster for the 2018/19 season, and is a former NBA Draft pick. Two-time Perth championship player, Tom Jervis has also signed up for the upcoming season. Jervis has spent two years at Brisbane but is now returning back to his hometown. Australian Boomers power forward, Nick Kay is another key recruit for the Wildcats. The 25 year-old has played 90 NBL games, brining plenty of experience to the Perth line-up. Australian teammate, Mitch Norton also joins the Wildcats after previously playing with the Illawarra Hawks.

 

SYDNEY KINGS

The Sydney Kings didn’t record ideal results last season, finishing seventh with 11 wins and 17 losses.

Sydney hopes to rectify this through the biggest recruit of the off-season in Andrew Bogut. The Australian centre has had stints in the NBA with Milwaukee, Golden State, Dallas, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers. He is also a championship player with the Warriors. Former Brisbane Bullets forward, Daniel Kickert is another big signing for the club. The Australian Boomers player became the first player in NBL history to shoot over 50% from the field, 40% from the three-point line and 90% from the free-throw line in the 2016/17 season.

Australian Boomers player, Kevin Lisch has re-committed to the club for the 2018/19 season. The two-time NBL MVP will be joined by 2017 MVP, Jerome Randle once again for the upcoming season. Randle averaged 19.8 points, 5.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game in the 2017/18 season. Two-time Olympian, Brad Newley and former college basketball player, Dane Pineau have also re-committed for the upcoming season.