Tag: Cam Gliddon

Adelaide 36ers hold on in thriller against Phoenix

ADELAIDE 36ers prevailed in a National Basketball League (NBL) classic, pipping South East Melbourne Phoenix at the post by five points (99-94). The contest had its fair share of twists and turns resulting in multiple lead changes as they wrestled for momentum and continuity to establish dominance. But it all came to a head in the dying seconds of the game with the Phoenix gifted a chance to clinch victory but unable to capitalise on their chances, handing the 36ers a much needed win.

The 36ers wasted no time hitting the scoreboard with Josh Giddey opening the account within the first minute announcing his intentions. He was quickly answered by Cam Gliddon as the two sides went blow for blow in the first quarter sitting at 19 points apiece. The overall scoring increased for both sides in the next term with Adelaide and South East Melbourne settling into a rhythm in attack. Giddey continued his merry way as Isaac Humphries also got busy in the term to create some separation with the lead pushing out to as many as seven points with two minutes to spare in the half. But the Phoenix buckled down eating into the margin and attacking each opportunity that came their way to get back within one point at the break.

After losing their seven-point lead, and the Phoenix stealing the lead in the first minutes of the second half Adelaide kicked into gear as the quarter went on. They came out to prove a point smothering their opponents every move to re-establish their hold on the game and put the Phoenix on the backfoot. They went on somewhat of a scoring spree, dictating the flow of the game and using their bigs to influence the contest and produce a 13 point lead. Staring down the barrel of their fifth loss, Phoenix rallied with Mitch Creek taking centre stage and controlling proceedings for the side as they went on a 16 point to two spree. Gliddon made things interesting with 12 seconds to play landing a layup to get it back within three points but that is where it stopped with Adelaide doing just enough to hang-on.

The victors were stronger in the field shooting at 52 per cent after converting 38 out of 73 attempts while Phoenix only managed 41 per cent. However the script was flipped when it came to three pointers with South East Melbourne sinking 12 at 41 per cent compared to Adelaide’s seven at 35 per cent. On the rebounding front the 36ers flexed their muscles with 44-36 while they also collected more blocks (4-2). The Phoenix shared the ball around amassing 27 assists to 20 while also registering six steals to the 36ers’ four.

Daniel Johnson was the topscorer for Adelaide leaving no stone unturned with his 27 points at 62 per cent proving to be a real thorn in the Phoenix’s side. Johnson also reeled in 11 points to collect another double-double while Humphries also effectively chimed in posting 24 points. Humphries further added to his stats sheet with 11 rebounds, nine of which were defensive, two blocks and an assist. Giddey was a major influence on the outcome nailing 15 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists highlighting his skill with ball in hand. Tony Crocker was the only other player for Adelaide to reach double-digits thanks to his 10 points as Sunday Dech plied his trade off the boards with five rebounds.

“I was pleased with how we came together as a group. Everybody played a part, everybody bought into what we are trying to get across what we are trying to do the past two days and we needed a really good, solid, hard fought victory,” coach Conner Henry said post-match.

For the Phoenix, it was Creek that lead the charge boasting a tally of 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in an all-round strong performance. Gliddon also featured highly for the Phoenix thanks to his 18 points, three rebounds and four assists as Ben Moore made his presence felt nailing 13 points, and six rebounds five of them offensive. Teammate Yannick Wetzell finished with 12 points but could have had more given his accuracy was only at 44 per cent from the field while also securing seven rebounds.

Triple-double by Sykes helps Phoenix burn Bullets

WITH both the Brisbane Bullets and the South East Melbourne Phoenix coming off their biggest victories of the season, the two teams battled in yesterday’s opener for three out of four quarters, before the Phoenix ran away 99-83 winners after a 31-point fourth quarter – placing their record above .500 with their fifth win of the season.

The Bullets came into Melbourne on Sunday ready to play, landing the first punch and startling the Phoenix throughout the first 10 minutes, as Brisbane led 27 to 16 after an impressive 15-point run headlined the opening term.

Reinvigorated by team leaders Mitchell Creek and Adam Gibson during the first break, South East Melbourne opened the second with a 15-6 start, all but clearing the margin mid-way through the period.

Some impressive work by Matthew Hodgson and Nathan Sobey was enough to stave off a resilient Phoenix fightback. But after two, Simon Mitchell and his guys had tied things up already. While both teams were locked up at 44 points apiece, Creek was phenomenal through 20 minutes, harbouring 20 points and four rebounds already, while Sobey, Hodgson and Anthony Drmic had combined for 33 points in the same amount of time.

Seven consecutive points by the Phoenix to commence the second half dumbfounded the visitors, instilling the entire Green Team to step up their game in what appeared to be a pivotal moment of the contest. In another twist, Brisbane produced a nine-point run of their own shortly before the five-minute mark of the third, making for an entertaining final 15 minutes.

Keeping their noses in front 68-66 with a term to play, Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix had another great start with a 10-0 effort to put the side up by 12, placing South East Melbourne firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Bullets continued to fight in the dying stages of the meeting cutting the deficit to as little as nine points. However, a three from Cam Gliddon with seven seconds on the clock iced the game, while Sykes earned his triple-double at the start of that same possession just before the Phoenix closed out the win.

An impressive shooting night best described the Phoenix’s overall game, converting on 39 out of 76 shots (51 per cent) from the field last night, while doling out 23 assists in the process. For Brisbane, their biggest detriment was their inability to slow down South East Melbourne from deep, allowing 13 triples and only producing six of their own.

Finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and an assist, Creek emerged supreme as the game’s leading scorer, but man of the match honours was unequivocally awarded to Sykes after he secured a 14-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound triple-double. Gliddon ruled from beyond the arc with 19 points off of five threes in 36 minutes of play, whereas Kyle Adnam had another strong outing with 15 points and six assists.

Hodgson showed up with an elite level of focus making nine out of 10 shots on his way to a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Sobey who leads the NBL in scoring was held to a modest 16 points, six rebounds and four assists as Coach Mitchell had a great game plan in place to neutralise the star. Lastly, Drmic was large off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds as well posing as the only other double-digit contributor – Vic Law finished with a lowly nine-point performance.

The Phoenix will look for the two-win week when they challenge the Adelaide 36ers on Tuesday night to conclude Round Six, whereas the Bullets will take aim at the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night.

Happy homecoming for Wildcats, down Phoenix 88-76

IT was double the fun for the reigning premier Perth Wildcats, as the West Australian side raised their 2019/20 championship banner before running away with yesterday’s clash against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, beating the visitors 88-76.

The raucous crowd at RAC Arena yesterday made their presence known early on, as Bryce Cotton and Mitchell Norton accounted for the Wildcats’ first 11 points. Meanwhile, the Phoenix found their scoring from various contributors in the game’s infancy stages.

After shooting over 40 per cent from Perth and producing a plus-five on the boards after 10 minutes, Trevor Gleeson’s side had a cushy 23-17 lead during the first intermission, as the hosts looked to get off to the best possible start in their first contest of NBL21.

A different approach from South East Melbourne saw them attack the rim at a more frequent pace, converting on their attempts from in-close and clawing their way back into the contest just before half-time.

Following 20 minutes of tightly contested basketball, the Phoenix snatched a narrow four-point lead at the main break, 42-38, stoking a hint of doubt in the minds of the Wildcats supporters.

The Phoenix’s Adam Gibson and Mitchell Creek provided much needed confidence to the rest of their squad, reaching double-digit points totals in a dominant second quarter. Following a somewhat successful first half, South East Melbourne started to ramp up their production, stretching out their lead to a game-high eight points, which was to be completely flipped by Perth shortly after.

Ultimately after three quarters Perth had the upper hand, going up by a single point with the final term still to be played and Todd Blanchfield making his role in the game more prominent on the scoreboard. Noticeably, John Mooney was an animal on the boards to this point with 12 rebounds through three quarters.

Gibson got proceedings underway with a jumpshot to get things going before Clint Steindl quickly created space between the two sides, draining a triple and putting Perth up by six. However, at the midway point of the fourth, the Phoenix concocted a lovely 9-2 run for themselves and gifted the lead back to the visiting side with just a few minutes remaining.

It seemed that couple of tricks were being kept up Perth’s sleeve, as the duo of Cotton and Blanchfield switched control of the game once more, which was further compounded by Jesse Wagstaff’s three with three minutes on the clock, the score now at 77-73.

11-straight points from the Wildcats abruptly concluded the affair in the final minute, blowing out the final margin to 12 points and bringing joy to the fans of last year’s champions.

Out of the numerous reasons for Perth’s win last night, perhaps the biggest reason was the side’s ability to facilitate the ball and force it out of their opponent’s hands. The Wildcats ended the night with 18 assists – seven more than their opponents – and forced 19 turnovers out of the Phoenix yesterday afternoon.

Of course, Cotton would receive man of the match honours thanks to his 27 points, seven assists and five steals. But almost as importantly was the debut performance given by Mooney, as he left with his head held high due to his 13 points and 15 rebounds. Lastly, Blanchfield put solid numbers up in his first performance since moving from Illawarra, collecting 16 points and four rebounds.

Looking at the Phoenix’s main contributors, Creek would set the benchmark for his team with 17 points and five rebounds. In the process, Cam Gliddon, Gibson and Kyle Adnam each achieved 10 points or more with 15, 13 and 10 points respectively.

Last night’s participants will meet again in Round 3 on Friday as Perth will once again host the Phoenix. The upcoming meeting has extra significance for South East Melbourne, as another loss would mean just one win from their opening four contests – a result that the Wildcats would relish.

NBL21 Round 1 preview: Taipans, Hawks and 36ers to double up in opening round

A FIVE-game opening round which features seven of the nine teams was eventually indicative of what became of the 2020 season. Just when it looked like 2021 was going to be a better version on its predecessor, the global pandemic reared its head once again, and the National Basketball League (NBL) was forced to make multiple changes in a week after finalising the first few rounds last month.

The NBL cancelled the all-Melbourne showdown between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix, and then created two smaller hubs in Adelaide and Queensland to avoid the New South Wales and Victorian COVID-19 clusters. Whilst Brisbane then fell into a short state of panic with a three-day lockdown, the most recent NBL21 opening round fixture appears set after much conjecture.

The most notable features include three of the nine teams playing two games, and two sides playing no games, with New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats now sitting out the first round which tips off Friday. Instead, Adelaide 36ers will now open the season against Melbourne United, playing a home game before a 40-hour break to welcoming the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.

Queensland hosts the remaining three games as Brisbane Bullets – who only found out their opponent earlier in the week – take on The Hawks in Brian Goorjian‘s return game, before Cairns Taipans host a double-header in North Queensland. The Taipans take on last year’s grand finalists Sydney Kings on Saturday night, before hosting a standalone game two days later against The Hawks in what should be an entertaining contest.

NBL21 ROUND 1 FIXTURE:

Friday, January 15:

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Saturday, January 16:

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks @ Nissan Arena
Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings @ Cairns Pop Up Arena

Sunday, January 17:

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Monday, January 18:

Cairns Taipans vs. The Hawks

 

PRESEASON:

In terms of preseason form, Adelaide 36ers had two good wins over Brisbane Bullets early in the off-season, before going down to Cairns Taipans in the last match of the season. Melbourne United won its only game against the Taipans on New Years Eve, meaning the Taipans head into the first round with a 1-1 record prior to the season. The Hawks split their games with Perth Wildcats 1-1 over in Western Australia, before losing to Sydney Kings in late December. In the other two games, Brisbane Bullets accounted for South East Melbourne Phoenix on the Gold Coast in thrilling contests, which meant the Bullets went 2-2 throughout the preseason.

Melbourne United are considered title favourites, coming in against one of the up-and-coming outsiders of the competition in Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers have few admirers, but can head into the season underrated with some good young talent – led by Josh Giddey – coming through the ranks. The 36ers will be hoping to score a win against South East Melbourne Phoenix, though both teams will have faith in taking home the points.

Cairns has been installed as second favourite to United, and will hope to establish themselves with games against the New South Wales sides at home. Two wins sets them on the right paths, especially against sides that are considered lower down the order in favouritism. The Hawks and Brisbane Bullets will be the interesting match of the round, with both having points to prove following mixed preseasons.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United

The key to Adelaide’s success is hitting the triple-figures, winning all eight matches last season at home where they scored at least 100 points, whilst losing all matches that were in double-digits. Many will hope it is a repeat of the season opener from the 2017-18 season where United got up by just two points, 99-97 which resulted in the sides going all the way to the NBL Grand Final.

Dean Vickerman will coach his 100th game as United coach tonight, which was fitting considering his first match was that season opener, and has since won two NBL Coach of the Year awards and the championship in his debut season. For Adelaide, Donald Sloan celebrates his 33rd birthday on debut tonight, while fellow import Tony Crocker will do so on Sunday when the 36ers take on the Phoenix.

The keys to success for Melbourne lies in big man Jock Landale who has proved hard to stop over the preseason, with he and Jack White being welcome inclusions. Scotty Hopson has a lot more known about his ability having dominated for the Breakers in recent times. The 36ers have had a lot more change outside of their imports and young gun Giddey, with Isaac Humphries and Keanu Pinder returning, Sunday Dech crossing from the Hawks, and Conner Henry stepping to ex-coach Joey Wright‘s shoes.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks

The first match up in Queensland is as much about the men off the court as the ones on it, with legendary leader Brian Goorjian returning to the league having won more matches in it than any other. He steps up to take The Hawks role, and will face off against a former player of his in Andrej Lemanis. Both coaches are the only ones in history to lead their sides to three-peats, albeit with other teams in the New Zealand Breakers (2011-2013 for Lemanis) and Sydney Kings (2003-2005). As it stands in the head-to-heads, Goorjian leads 10-2 and will be hoping to build on that record that ended 12 years ago.

Brisbane have been hit badly losing their two biggest names in Lamar Patterson and Will Magnay. Whilst the Bullets had a promising season last season, they will be hoping new imports, Orlando Johnson and Vic Law can have an equal impact. Harry Froling and Anthony Drmic had good seasons in the Queensland State League (QSL) since crossing from the 36ers, as did Tanner Krebs a young player with plenty of potential. Nathan Sobey is always a crucial play and will look to team up with Jason Cadee in creating up the court.

By comparison though, The Hawks have overhauled their list as part of the rebrand, looking to get off the bottom of the ladder. Goorjian replaced outgoing coach Matt Flinn, whilst the likes of Next Star Justinian Jessup, and imports Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon lead the list of inclusions. They should provide the depth in the back court, whilst Cameron Bairstow and Deng Adel round out the front court. Sam Froling will lock horns with his brother, and as potentially the only starter who was at The Hawks last season.

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings

In the battle of two finalists, Cairns Taipans will be keen to go better than their semi-final exit last season, whilst Sydney Kings fell at the final hurdle in an interrupted COVID-19 Grand Final series. These teams faced off last season in Round 1, with the Kings getting up by eight points, in what was the North Queensland’s side’s first ever Round 1 loss at home. The Taipans strength at home was notable though, winning every match there in the 2020 calendar year.

The Taipans have relatively stayed the same with DJ Newbill and Anthony Fisher the key outs, while Next Star Mojave King and New Zealand Breakers talent Jordan Ngatai lead the inclusions. King is the second youngest contracted player in the NBL this year behind Giddey and becomes the second youngest ever to play for the Taipans. With crucial re-signings in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado working their magic, and having depth like Jarrod Kenny and Nathan Jawai coming off the bench in those spots, the Taipans look to be one of the teams to beat.

The Kings have lost a lot of quality over the offseason, with Jae’Sean Tate and Deshon Taylor out, the former heading to the Houston Rockets. Andrew Bogut called it a day, as did Kevin Lisch, with Lucas Walker also out of the side. They managed to pick up another import in Jarrell Martin, while Tom Vodanovich and Angus Glover joined from other NBL clubs. Martin is the only starting inclusion though, with the Kings picking up depth for roster rotation, and will again look to Casper Ware and Didi Louzada as the creators.

In the remainder of the round, the Taipans will go head-to-head with The Hawks as both sides double up, whilst Adelaide 36ers will take on a fresh South East Melbourne Phoenix in a standalone game on Sunday. Having covered the 36ers above, the Phoenix are a side that is hopeful of moving up the NBL table, having retained the crucial signature of Mitch Creek, and then brought in a number of starters who improve various positions.

Imports Keifer Sykes and Ben Moore will step into the side and provide experience at both ends, with Sykes able to replace the outgoing talent that was John Roberson. Moore can play that five role with great success, while fellow inclusions Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi have joined the Phoenix from the Bullets. They have more depth and top-end strength than season one, and while Roberson will be a loss – particularly from outside the arc – they seem to have a more balanced and all-round settled outfit.

NBL21 season previews: Brisbane Bullets

THE Brisbane Bullets were a cat’s whisker away from a second straight postseason back in NBL20, missing out on fourth position by just a handful of points determined on the last day of the season.

Three different sides finished with a home and away record consisting of 15 wins and 13 losses, in what was one of the tightest races to the end of the season in recent NBL history, with Melbourne United edging out the Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers. But coming so close to success, many of Brisbane’s faithful are on unstable ground determining whether their side can replicate the same benchmark of play they displayed last season to crack the finals this time in 2021.

A major talking point that came into the spotlight months ago was the release of last season’s MVP-candidate and member of the 2019-20 All-NBL First Team, Lamar Patterson, who recently committed to the Breakers. Patterson exhibited ridiculous numbers for the Bullets last season, averaging 21.4 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists in an all-around campaign. The loss of Patterson paired with the secondary loss of star big-man and now member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Will Magnay, means Brisbane will definitely have their work cut out for them.

The club acquired imports Orlando Johnson and Vic Law during the Free Agency period, adding much needed depth to the side’s wing positions with both signings having an abundance of experience at the NBA level. These additions backing up Nathan Sobey and returning sharpshooter Jason Cadee will make Andrej Lemanis’s backcourt a formidable one to say the least.

Following the departure of Magnay, Brisbane needed to fill that void. The club found their solution down in Adelaide in the signing of 211cm tall Harry Froling who will line up next to fellow 211cm center Matthew Hodgson who is fresh off re-signing with the side for another season. The second of the two signatures from the 36ers is 28-year-old Anthony Drmic, who spent three seasons at his old team before heading north for warmer weather and a more primary role.

Listing off the rest of the Bullets’ rosters is a litany of young and promising talents. The list includes 200-plus youngsters Blake Jones, Tyrell Harrison and Callum Dalton (Development Player), with forward Tanner Krebs concluding the list of talls. Meanwhile, NBA Global Academy member of the last three years in Canberra, Tamuri Wigness, will look to make a considerable impact in his rookie professional season at just 18 years of age.

Due to the large number of new faces set to don the blue and gold in just under a week, a few individuals from last season had to leave. Excluding Patterson, the Bullets relinquished New Zealander Reuben Te Rangi and Cameron Gliddon, both of whom have joined the league’s newest side in the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Uniquely, Brisbane’s ridiculous size across the roster will provide the Bullets with all the tools necessary to combat some of the NBL’s best offences. But, in order to translate good defence into positive results Coach Lemanis will need his offence to perform on a consistent basis in NBL21 with the season just around the corner.

NBL Free Agency Update: Kings, Phoenix and Wildcats

TO wrap up Draft Central’s National Basketball League (NBL) Free Agency updates to this point, we delve into the moves made by the reigning premiers, the Perth Wildcats, and last season’s runners-up Sydney Kings. We also look deeper into how the NBL’s newest team, South East Melbourne Phoenix, is shaping up for their second season in the country’s top basketball competition.

SYDNEY KINGS

Even though the Kings have made minimal changes to their line-up for NBL21, last season’s minor premiers have still made some noteworthy signings for the upcoming campaign. Firstly, for Sydney, it was their decision to re-sign Craig Moller on the NBL’s newly introduced club option rule. Moller’s re-signing got the Kings going in regard to outlining what their squad would start to look like, currently holding Brad Newley and Jordan Hunter under contract. To help bolster their side with young and exciting faces, the Kings re-acquired one of the biggest surprises of last season, Shaun Bruce, as well as fully recovered Xavier Cooks to the fold.

With the retirement of potential Hall of Famer, Kevin Lisch, and the future of Andrew Bogut unknown, the allowance of new signings for the Kings has also increased. The poaching of another sought after NCAA graduate from the United States took place, as former Miami Hurricane, Dejan Vasiljevic, made his way down-under to continue his successful basketball career. The three-year-deal between the Kings and Vasiljevic embodies the next few years of transition that the purple and gold will undertake, as they start to bring in new talent. Furthermore, 21-year-old Angus Glover will make the hour and a half drive northbound to Sydney, after putting pen to paper on another three-year contact under Will Weaver. Having served as a key part of Matt Flinn’s rotation last season with the Hawks, Glover would average a modest 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Contracted:

Brad Newley
Jordan Hunter

Re-signed:

Shaun Bruce
Xavier Cooks
Craig Moller (Club Option)

Signed:

Angus Glover (The Hawks)
Dejan Vasiljevic (Miami Hurricanes)

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Following the retirement announcements of two of their most senior players and leaders in Tai Wesley and Ben Madgen, head coach Simon Mitchell now has his hands full to try and re-shuffle his squad for the NBL21 season. The additional losses of star shooter John Roberson to Spanish side Estudiantes and Dan Trist to the New Zealand Breakers, as well as promising young prospect Yanni Wetzell due to his European opt-out clause, does not make life easier for the Phoenix.

While the losses to this point have been sizeable, the Phoenix administration have made headway in reconciling this dilemma. The re-signings of Chicago-native Kendall Stephens and pivotal power-forward Dane Pineau, both of whom were members of the Phoenix’s inaugural season, will look to suit up in the green for at least one more fixture.

In terms of new additions, two members of the Brisbane Bullets can now look forward to some less consistent weather, as both Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi announced their intentions to move South. Gliddon, an Australian Boomer, has represented his country on numerous occasions, having served the green and gold at both the 2017/2018 FIBA Asia and World Cups. Linking back up with teammate Mitchell Creek will be an added bonus to the team’s morale when the season’s preparations start to ramp up. Te Rangi, who was a late inclusion in this year’s NZNBL representing the Canterbury Rams, looks to continue his rapid development in Australia’s top-flight. Te Rangi helped the Rams to an unexpected title run, which saw the team make it all the way to the competition’s semi-finals, despite finishing the regular season with a 4-10 record and finishing at the bottom of the standings.

Contracted:

Adam Gibson
Kyle Adnam
Mitchell Creek

Re-signed:

Dane Pineau
Kendall Stephens

Signed:

Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets)
Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets)

 

PERTH WILDCATS

After what was a hectic start to their off-season movements, with both Nick Kay and Bryce Cotton opting out of their contracts and then Cotton re-signing for three-years, the defending champion Wildcats have well and truly started to rebuild their squad, as they endeavour on yet another successful NBL season.

The first of many was the Club Option taken on big-man Majok Majok, as the Wildcats look to centre their offseason on obtaining big bodies and after Majok’s contributions last season, one would not argue how valuable he is to Trevor Gleeson’s squad. Next up in the batting order, is fourth-year player Todd Blanchfield, who has transferred to the West Coast after two years with the Hawks, averaging over 13.5 points and 45 per cent shooting from the field during his time in Wollongong.

To help reinforce Perth’s backcourt, 36ers guard Kevin White will help mentor his younger peers in his fourth year of NBL action. The 33-year-old will look to step in where Damian Martin left off after his Hall of Fame career came to a fitting end after winning his sixth NBL Championship and with the re-signing of Taylor Britt and purchase of John Mooney, some fresh legs will look to insert some explosiveness into the depth of Gleeson’s gang.

Contracted:

Clint Steindl
Jesse Wagstaff
Luke Travers
Mitchell Norton
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk

Re-signed:

Bryce Cotton
Majok Majok (Club Option)
Taylor Britt

Signed:

John Mooney (University of Notre Dame)
Kevin White (Adelaide 36ers)
Todd Blanchfield (The Hawks)

NBL Free Agency update: 36ers, Bullets and Taipans

IN the first of a three-part series this week, Draft Central looks at the Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans Free Agency moves thus far ahead of the delayed 2020/21 National Basketball League (NBL) season.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Adelaide is certainly undergoing a change after a tough end to the season saw coach Conner Henry replacing the controversial Joey Wright. Immediately they picked up one of Australia’s brightest talents in Josh Giddey, who at 17-years-old will be a valuable guard for the side as he eyes of an NBA career in the future. In what could be one of the most potent four-five combinations, Daniel Johnson re-signed with the club, and Isaac Humphries came on board after languishing in the G-League. A former NBL Rookie of the Year with the Sydney Kings, Humphries was on the roster for Atlanta Hawks, took part in the NBA Summer League for the Los Angeles Clippers and then signed with the Orlando Magic, but after being waived opted to return back to Australia.

Humphries will replace the outgoing Harry Froling who has headed to Brisbane, with two-way player Anthony Drmic also headed north. The inclusion of former Illawarra Hawks’ guard Sunday Dech will help soften the blow of Drmic leaving while 25-year-old Keanu Pinder returns home after completing his college at Arizona and then spending a couple of seasons in Poland with Legia Warszawa. The 36ers were looking at including Tall Blacks talent Jack Salt, and returning shooting machine Jerome Randle, but unfortunately both suffered long-term injuries with Randle suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Contracted:

Jack McVeigh
Daniel Dillon
Alex Mudronja
Obi Kyei

Re-signed:

Daniel Johnson

Signed:

Josh Giddey (NBA Global Academy)
Isaac Humphries (Lakeland Magic G-League)
Sunday Dech (Illawarra Hawks)
Keanu Pinder (Legia Warszawa Poland)

 

BRISBANE BULLETS:

The Bullets had a breakout year in the 2019/20 and were always going to gamble on whether they could retain their bigs in Will Magnay and Lamar Patterson. Magnay re-signed, while Patterson is still a work in progress with the hope that he returns to Brisbane. They were quick to re-sign Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Tyrell Harrison, with Matt Hodgson initially exploring his options then re-signing to negotiate a better deal than the COVID-19 pay cut, much like many of the NBL biggest and best talents. They also have only lost the two players thus far, with Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi both heading south for the summer.

Gliddon had an inconsistent year in 2019/20 and was viewed as better to have a clean run somewhere else, whilst Te Rangi has been keeping in form representing the Canterbury Rams in the second half of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season. While they both could be big talents on their day, the ins are certainly valuable ones and make Brisbane a genuine contender in 2020/21. Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling have jumped ship from the 36ers, whilst Tanner Krebs has returned after finishing his college years at St Mary’s. The 198cm shooting guard will replace Gliddon, whilst NBA Global Academy talent, Tamuri Wigness will slot into the other guard spot and no doubt have some court time next season. If they can re-sign Patterson, then watch out for how damaging this side could be.

Contracted:

Jason Cadee
Nathan Sobey
Tyrell Harrison
Matt Hodgson

Re-signed:

Will Magnay

Signed:

Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling (Adelaide 36ers)
Tanner Krebs (Saint Mary’s NCAA)
Tamuri Wigness (NBA Global Academy)

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

A major question mark still hangs over a number of Taipans players, with the club relatively quiet thus far over the Free Agency period. Re-signing Scott Machado and Nathan Jawai was important for he club, whilst a host of others opted to remain at the club in guards, Mirko Djeric and Fabijan Krslovic, and forwards, Majok Deng and Kouat Noi. All up they already have seven players on the list for next season when counting in Mojave King, an NBA Global Academy talent. The 195cm shooting guard is one who who no doubt learn off the likes of Machado who was one of the best players in the competition last season.

The question marks remain over un-signed Free Agents, Sam Froling, Cameron Oliver and DJ Newbill who all remain yet to to put pen to paper. Froling and in particular Oliver have other suitors, and the way they opt to go could determine how deep the Taipans go in season 2020/21. Newbill looks likely to re-sign, whilst a couple of Tall Blacks in Jarrod Kenny and Tai Wynyard are also among those left un-signed at this stage. Kenny had a strong season in the NZNBL, but has no officially signed anywhere in the NBL as of yet, the same as Wynyard who was one of the more impressive fives in the NZNBL.

Contracted:

Majok Deng
Mirko Djeric
Kouat Noi
Fabijan Krslovic

Re-signed:

Scott Machado
Nathan Jawai

Signed:

Mojave King (NBA Global Academy)

NBL Round 16 review: Breakers back in the hunt, Bullets rise to equal fourth

A HUGE round of National Basketball League (NBL) action saw New Zealand Breakers bounce back from disappointment last round, while Brisbane Bullets emerged as a genuine title contender with the some one-sided contests across the weekend.

New Zealand Breakers (88) defeated Sydney Kings (81)

It was different setting for the Breakers in the opening game of Round 16, with Friday night’s matchup taking place at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth. But that didn’t stop the New Zealand side from gathering momentum, particularly from forward Scotty Hopson, who started off strong with 13 opening quarter points. Despite this, a big three-pointer from Xavier Cooks of the Kings had the game tied after ten minutes at 24 a piece. However, this would carry over the visitors ultimately leading by five at half-time and looking to steal an away win with four rounds remaining. For New Zealand, this was a must-win game if they were to have the best chance of making finals and they certainly looked like they wanted to,  following an 8-0 run late in the third-quarter which began the Breakers’ crusade to the final buzzer and back into the winner’s column. The win for the Breakers was largely credited to Hopson, who has maintained an elite level of play predominantly in the second half of the season, and his 30 points, six rebounds and five assists were a testament to that. Additionally, it was another efficient week for New Zealand’s center Robert Loe as he snagged up 18 points, four rebounds and five assists, including the three-pointer to ice the game with 24 seconds remaining. Finn Delaney was also a major presence on the boards, securing a double-double against the ladder-leaders with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Casper Ware’s night was nothing extraordinary compared to prior outings, going 7-22 from the field, managing 17 points and six assists. Meanwhile, Jae’Sean Tate would crack 22 points, going 7-8 from the charity strike. The win for the Breakers would springboard them into Sunday’s clash against Melbourne, as the Kings would need to recuperate for the round-closer against the Phoenix.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Robert Loe (NZ)

Perth Wildcats (97) defeated South-East Melbourne Phoenix (71)

Perth’s main objective heading into the clash against the Phoenix was to just stick to their game plan and win their only matchup of the weekend to further chase down the Sydney Kings. From the outset the game was rather one-sided thanks to fast-break buckets coming in bunches for the defending champions. Leading by nine, the Wildcats would continue to stretch the lead throughout the game, leading by 26 at the final break and then maintaining the deficit to the final buzzer. The result for the Wildcats has put them a game behind the Kings once again (15-8), with a massive game against New Zealand looming next Saturday. As for the Phoenix, the loss was a major setback given they were to face an angry Sydney side just two days later and had gotten off on the wrong foot to their Round 16. The major factors behind the Wildcats’ victory were the various ways they obtained points, as they outscored the Phoenix in categories such as points in the paint (40-34), second-chance points (7-0) and points from turnovers (15-6) which added up to a plus twenty-two on the scoreboard as a result. Bryce Cotton once again guided his team through the storm with a solid 25 points and seven assists, shooting 50 per cent around the basket. He was assisted by Mitchell Norton, who up until last week had been relatively quiet, tallying 18 points in 27 minutes of play. Only two of the Phoenix’s players managed to crack double digits, with John Roberson stringing together an indifferent 11 points and six assists and surprisingly Devondrick Walker, who led his side in the scoring totals with 16 points.

DC Medal: 3 – Bryce Cotton (PW), 2 – Nick Kay (PW), 1 – Mitch Norton (PW)

Brisbane Bullets (106) defeated Illawarra Hawks (77)

The final score of Saturday’s game between the Bullets and the Hawks does not reflect the fight that Illawarra had displayed in the first half as the game was tied mid-way through the contest. But mainly due to Brisbane’s stellar ball movement and momentum gained from their successful three-point shooting, it was a massacre in the second half at the Armory. A 36-point third quarter from the Bullets had almost instantaneously put the contest beyond doubt, as the home-side limited the Hawks to just 17 third-quarter points. To cement the win, the Bullets didn’t let up on the defensive end, again limiting Illawarra to a mere 13 points in the final period and as result, convincingly routing the ninth placed Hawks and reinstating their case for a finals spot. With the Bullets dominating across all the shooting categories, it was no surprise they would collect 13 shots from downtown, compared to Hawks’ five, with the main culprits being Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee, as they each slotted four. Lamar Patterson was as good as you’d expect, with the import forward rounding up an even 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. All five of Brisbane’s starters garnered double digits in points and this just proved too much for Illawarra as only two of their whole squads managed that feat. An NBL rising star in Angus Glover came out with 18 points and five rebounds, while Todd Blanchfield settled for 17 points. For Brisbane, prospects are starting to become more positive as they sit even in the standings with Melbourne United with .500 records (11-11) and a finals spot that is only an arm’s reach away. For Illawarra, it marked their fifth consecutive defeat.

DC Medal: 3 – Lamar Patterson (BB), 2 – Will Magnay (BB), 1 – Nathan Sobey (BB)

Cairns Taipans (108) defeated Adelaide 36ers (91)

It took a little bit more than just a strong first quarter for Cairns to get over the line in their victory over the 36ers, in this much anticipated clash of two of the top candidates to suit up in the post-season. While Cairns did jump out to a 12-point advantage after 10 minutes of play, Adelaide refused to go away for the rest of the three periods. Due to Cairns’ shooting efficiency, the 36ers were just never able to make a substantial run away from home. Adelaide’s shooting was below par on the night, stumbling along with a 37 per cent success rate from the court, whereas Cairns’ flourished, making more shots than they missed (51%). The Taipans’ ‘big-three’ came up big under the spotlight, as Dj Newbill contributed a team-high 28 points against a struggling Adelaide backcourt. For big-man import Cameron Oliver, it was another double-double performance for the season with a whopping 24 points and 15 rebounds, whereas Scott Machado fell one assist shy of a double-double of his own, finishing with 21 points and nine assists. The two-man duo of Jerome Randle and Daniel Johnson did all they could and more, but it was not enough. Randle, who only managed seven field goals on the night, still accumulated 21 points and 10 assists, while Johnson was unable to miss, finishing with an astounding 38 points and eight boards. After Adelaide’s defeat it meant they were now at the tail-end of the mid-table logjam. Only sitting half a game from fourth, the pressure is now mounting for the 36ers to earn some late-season victories. Cairns’ triumph now means that they sit a game and a half ahead of fourth place, ever increasing their chances of making finals with few games to play.

DC Medal: 3 – Jerome Randle (AD), 2 – Cameron Oliver (CT), 1 – Daniel Johnson (AD)

New Zealand Breakers (90) defeated Melbourne United (68)

New Zealand made their return to Spark Arena with an abundance of momentum, coming away with a hard-fought victory over the Kings two days prior. They had to move on quickly however, as they now had to topple a desperate Melbourne United side that had lost three of their last four contests. Despite the level of desperation that United were showing, the Breakers weathered the storm to start the game with the utmost perfection, leading by ten points just seven minutes into the game. One of the main questions being asked was ‘is Sek Henry’s output as of lately a result of poor form?’. Henry showed up to the game to silence the critics in his limited minutes of play, with two massive three-pointers in the second quarter setting the tone for the rest of the game. New Zealand would win every quarter, finishing off the struggling Melbourne side by 22 points and really ramping up the finals race in the process. Two teams in the Breakers and the 36ers sit a half game behind Melbourne due to their loss, as well as the Bullets who sit equal fourth with four rounds to go. An all-around scoring performance by the Breakers is the easiest way to describe their offence on Sunday, as Scotty Hopson led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds and Finn Delaney notching up his second double-double of the weekend with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Melbourne’s struggles only continue to get worse as Melo Trimble continues his run of poor performances, with a quiet 12 points and five assists. Shawn Long and Chris Goulding made up the rest of the team’s points with 18 and 13 points respectively.

DC Medal: 3 – Scotty Hopson (NZ), 2 – Finn Delany (NZ), 1 – Robert Loe (NZ)

Sydney Kings (98) defeated South East Melbourne Phoenix (81)

Sink or swim was the scenario facing the South-East Melbourne squad walking into Qudos Bank Arena, which motivated them to come out firing in the first quarter. But it was a grind for the Phoenix through the first three-quarters, with every basket being fought for against a tenacious Kings defence. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Simon Mitchell’s team’s knees gave way and the relentless onslaught of Sydney’s offence finally came through, outscoring the Phoenix 23-13 in a dominant final period, regaining the loss they had sustained in New Zealand and winning the contest by a modest 17 points. Despite coming out second best in almost every statistic, the Phoenix hung around with the Kings for 30 minutes, which points to lack of conversion, evident in their 44 per cent shooting from the field compared to Sydney’s 53 per cent. As five different players reached double digits for the Kings, there weren’t many major performances, however Didi Louzada’s 18 points in 17 minutes off the bench was a big talking point during the contest. Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate’s 14 points apiece were also essential in the victory coupled with Andrew Bogut’s 11 rebounds, making it a well-rounded win for the top team in the league. John Roberson’s 27 points and five three-pointers was a highlight for the Phoenix, while Dane Pineau put up more impressive rebounding numbers with 13 and Kyle Adnam put on one of his best performances of the season, with 17 points at a 72 per cent clip. The Kings hold on to their top spot for another week as they secured their sixteenth win of the 2019/20 season, with a red-hot Perth side just one win behind them. On the other hand, the Phoenix’s postseason hopes have been severely hindered, following two defeats over their double-header weekend placing them two wins behind the pack in the mid-table race.

DC Medal: 3 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK), 2 – John Roberson (SEM), 1 – Didi Louzada (SK)

DC Medal Leaderboard:

35 – Bryce Cotton (PW)
34 – Lamar Patterson (BB)
33 –
32 –
31 –
30 –
29 –
28 – Shawn Long (MU)
27 –
26 – Jae’Sean Tate (SK),
25 –
24 – Mitch Creek (SEM)
23 – Scott Machado (CT), Jerome Randle (AD)
22 –
21 – Casper Ware (SK), Melo Trimble (MU)
20 – LaMelo Ball (IH)
19 – Cameron Oliver (CT), John Roberson (SEM)
18 –
17 – Nick Kay (PW)
16 –
15 – Daniel Johnson (AD)
14 –
13 – Andrew Bogut (SK), Scotty Hopson (NZ)
12 – Eric Griffin (AD)
11 –  Corey Webster (NZ)
10 – DJ. Newbill (CT)
9 – Terrico White (PW)
8 – Nathan Sobey (BB),
7 – Chris Goulding (MU), Finn Delany (NZ)
6 –  Kouat Noi (CT), Dane Pineau (SEM)
5 – Aaron Brooks (IL), Brad Newley (SK), AJ Ogilvy (IL), Anthony Drmic (AD), Todd Blanchfield (IH)
4 –  Dario Hunt (PW), Brandon Ashley (NZ), Ben Madgen (SEM), Tom Abercrombie (NZ), Matt Hodgson (BB), Robert Loe (NZ), Didi Louzada (SK)
3 – Sek Henry (NZ), Glen Rice Jr (NZ)
2 – Jason Cadee (BB), Sunday Dech (IH), David Barlow (MU), Mitch McCarron (MU), Tim Coenraad (IH), Kendall Stephens (SEM), Will Magnay (BB)
1 – Majok Deng (CT), Craig Moller (SK), Jesse Wagstaff (PW), Keith Benson (SEM), Tohi Smith-Milner (MU), RJ Hampton (NZ), Angus Glover (IH), Emmett Naar (IH), Josh Boone (IH), Ej Singler (BB), Daniel Kickert (SK), Sam Froling (IH), Mitch Norton (PW)

NBL 2019/20 Weekend preview: Round 1 – Inaugural Throwdown opens season

SEVEN of the National Basketball League (NBL) sides begin their campaign this weekend with Melbourne United having a double-up in Round 1, while Adelaide 36ers and New Zealand Breakers have an extra week of pre-season ahead of their start in Round 2. We take a look at the four games across the weekend with one game on each day to satisfy fans across the country.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Thursday, October 3, 7.30pm
Melbourne Arena

The season opener is the inaugural ‘Throwdown’ between grand finalists, Melbourne United and new team on the block in South East Melbourne Phoenix. United is a proven talent that has lost some serious firepower, but also gained some at the same time which makes them very hard to tip against in the this contest. Melo Trimble made the massive move down south after a dominant season with Cairns, joining the likes of Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron and the currently injured David Barlow. Shea Ili also crossed from the Breakers, with teammate Shawn Long also making the jump with the pair signing one-year deals. Sam McDaniel earned a full-time roster spot after a good season last year as a development player and continuing that form with the Southern Sabres in the NBL1.

South East Melbourne Phoenix have made it clear they are not in the competition to make up the numbers, with Sydney trio, Dane Pineau, Kyle Adnam and Deng Acuoth all joining the new franchise, with Brisbane’s Adam Gibson and arguably the top signing from the NBL contingent in New Zealand Breakers’ Tai Wesley. Seeing Wesley going head-to-head with Trimble will be great, but the most dangerous player is G-League and Boomers’ star Mitch Creek who tasted National Basketball Association (NBA) action last season and has come home to lead up the new franchise. As already mentioned, it is hard to tip against the established team in United, but with a few question marks over sore players, the Phoenix have more than enough talent to compensate and would love to open their NBL inaugural season with a win.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Friday, October 4, 7.30pm
Cairns Convention Centre

The Taipans finished last on the NBL table last season and will be keen to start the new season off on the right foot with an upset win over last year’s finalists, Sydney Kings. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Taipans will be without star Trimble who departed to join Melbourne, while Kuany Kuany will suit up for the opposition in this match. The Taipans managed to pinch Majok Deng from Adelaide, while mostly looking outside the country for new recruits with Los Angeles Lakers’ Scott Machado, G-League talent Cameron Oliver and Mirko Djeric from the European leagues coming into the side. They will need to be at their best and gel quickly if they are to make an impact early in the season, but will be able to rely on the likes of Jarrod Kenny, Nathan Jawai and DJ Newbill still running the court.

Sydney have made massive changes to its roster with just four players contracted that were on the list last season. NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP), Andrew Bogut will again be the centrepiece of the organisation, but this time he will have the talented Casper Ware who caused a stir crossing from rivals United to the Kings. Craig Moller joined him, while Shaun Bruce came from the 36ers with Kuany and Lucas Walker travelling south from Cairns. Brad Newley, Kevin Lisch and Daniel Kickert will look to create some stability in a side with the likes of young stars Brian Bowen (NBA) and Tom Wilson (AFL) both leaving the league completely. Despite the changes, Sydney head into this game as strong favourites, it will just be whether or not the Kings can gel with so many fresh faces in the door.

PERTH WILDCATS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Saturday, October 5, 5.30pm
RAC Arena

The match of the round is the Grand Final replay between reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, and unlucky runners-up United. The Wildcats are the most stable side of any team in the competition with eight players re-signed to the list, including crucial duo, Bryce Cotton and Terrico White. The pair will likely renew hostilities with Trimble and Ili who will rep the different colours in 2019/20. The ace in the pace is Dario Hunt who has joined the club from Italy, while Majok Majok transferred from New Zealand Breakers to the Wildcats over the off-season. With such an even team contribution leading to the premiership last season, the Wildcats should be no different in 2019/20 with so many ways to punish the opposition, led by the dominant Cotton.

United will head into this game with a match already in the books having taken on the Phoenix 46 hours prior. They will be keen to make the most of recovery, with the plane trip west likely to bring back some disappointing memories after going down to Perth in the deciding playoff series last year. They could start really strongly as the team that has had the first full game hitout in the round compared to the Wildcats who will undoubtedly celebrate last year’s success in front of the visiting side pre-game. But depending on how the Phoenix game goes, the Wildcats might have the fresher legs to finish the match which means it could be down to the wire. A win against their title nemesis would be crucial in the mental games for the season for Melbourne, while a win for the Wildcats will throw extra salt in the wounds for United. Trimble vs. Cotton is a much-watch battle to see which player can have the most impact for his club.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, October 6, 3pm
WIN Entertainment Centre

In the final game of the round, all eyes will be on LaMelo Ball as he makes his NBL debut against Brisbane Bullets at home in Illawarra. The potential 2020 NBA top draft pick will have plenty of exuberance in his first official game on Australian courts, teaming up with the likes of Josh Boone who was a massive recruit from United, while Aaron Brooks has returned after playing with Creek at the Timberwolves in the NBA. David Anderson, Todd Blanchfield, Tim Coenraad and Angus Glover all re-signed for the club that missed out on finals last season, while Sam Froling showed enough during the NBL1 to suggest he will be more than a handful for opposition clubs this season. Kevin White and Brian Conklin are among those who have departed the club, but largely as a whole, the Hawks have brought in far more talent than they have lost.

Brisbane announced a huge signing themselves over the off-season with Nathan Sobey signing on for three years from the 36ers. He will be the man to watch on the court, teaming up with Cam Gliddon and Jason Cadee as the key players within the Bullets’ arsenal. Like the Wildcats, they are a settled side with eight players re-signing from last season, as Adam Gibson and Jeremy Kendle were the key players to depart the club. This might be a tight contest given the relative unknown of the impact that the imports and recruits will have for the Hawks, with the Bullets having more of a known quantity. It got them to finals last season, and Sobey coming in will only strengthen the side. The Hawks should be marginally favourites due to the Triple B impact of Ball, Boone and Brooks, but the Bullets will not lie down in this contest.

NBL Semi-final Series previews

IT is an age-old saying that defense wins championships, and in these two semi-final matchups of the 2018/19 National Basketball League season, that is certainly true. Some of the best defensive players go head-to-head, whereas on the opposite end of the court, sharp shooters are likely to bust heads to put up as many shots as they can. Game 1 for each series begins on Thursday night. Starting in Melbourne, where United host rivals the Sydney Kings in a contest that will be heated through out the series. While the later game sees Brisbane travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats in a tough ask at RAC Arena. Each team deserves their place in the NBL Finals, with plenty of superstars taking to the court to fight it out for a spot in the Grand Final.

Melbourne United v Sydney Kings
Thursday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena
Sunday, 2:20pm at Qudos Bank Arena
Tuesday, 7:50pm at Melbourne Arena (if needed)

The key matchups:
Josh Boone v Andrew Bogut

It’s a bit saddening that this matchup comes up in the semi-finals, only due to seeing these two showcase their skills for five games rather than three. Two of the best big men in the league, their battles so far have proved some good results. Bogut perhaps has the wood over Boone, due to his presence alone, but more so his exceptional ways that he can put up vital blocks (2.8 for the season, 3.0 against Melbourne) to stop the layups and dunks. Boone averages 1.5 blocks both for the season as a whole, and against Sydney. Bogut has had double-digit blocks in every game against United for a total of 53, where Boone has pulled down 35 boards against the Kings. Boone did not have the greatest game against Cairns in the final round and should be rested and come with vengeance. Last years finals saw Boone get 13.3 points at 56% with 8.1 rebounds across seven games. Bogut is no stranger to finals either. During his time in the NBA he’s played in 58 playoff games for 5.5 points, 7.6 rebounds (10.9 in the 2013/14 playoffs) and 1.5 blocks. In addition, having finals success with the Golden State Warriors in 2013/14.

Casper Ware v Jerome Randle
These two love going at it, and both have been hitting the right notes all season long. Ware has been slightly down lately, noticed in his field goal percentage, while Randle has been shooting brilliantly at 46% this year. Randle has Ware covered in their matchups this season, the Kings guard picking up two games over 21 points (including a 35 point game), whereas Ware has been held to below 10 points twice. Both have been great at giving off the ball (Randle has 4.3 season assists against Ware’s 4.8) and have the know-how to instigate plenty of crucial plays, or try to make them on their own. Ware hasn’t shot the greatest in the last seven games, converting below 43% in those games, so he needs to pick himself back up to make a difference in this series. In last year’s finals matches, Ware had 19.3 points and 2.9 assists in seven games. Randle played finals in 2016 where he put up 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists with 1.3 steals in three games with Adelaide.

How they got here: United always remained competitive, defending their 2017/18 NBL title. They were given plenty of scares throughout the season, with five overtime games, winning four of them. Losses down the stretch to Sydney and Cairns hurt their chances of ending the season in top spot. Sydney started off poorly, losing two straight games to Adelaide but came together as a team quite quickly to lead talks about a championship-winning team. They finished the season with a 18-0 record, the same as Melbourne and Perth, but percentage played a deciding factor that prevented them from a home court advantage.

Season form against each other: Melbourne and Sydney have played each other four times throughout the course of the season, with United taking a 3-1 lead. In Round 4, United won 77-70 at home where they didn’t give up a lead. DJ Kennedy hit 24 points with 10 rebounds. Sydney had Jerome Randle doing the hard yards with 15 points, three assists and two steals. In Round 7, at Melbourne Arena again, United survived a Sydney fightback, running out 84-82 victors. United’s Casper Ware was magnificent with 23 points, five rebounds and six assists, whereas Randle played as good as he did all season, finishing with 35 points. In Round 10 it was Sydney’s turn to host, but a 19-10 fourth quarter saw United steal a win 75-70. Andrew Bogut was massive with 11 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. For United, David Barlow scored 12 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in this match. Their final meeting of the season came in Round 17, again in Sydney. This time, the home side were able to manage a win, breaking a 10-game drought, claiming a 97-85 win. Randle had 21 points with six assists, while for Melbourne, Kennedy had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Leaders against each other:
Points:
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings): 86 points at 21.5 per game.
Casper Ware (Melbourne United): 57 points at 14.25 per game.
Rebounds: Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings): 53 rebounds at 13.25 per game.
Josh Boone/DJ Kennedy (Melbourne United): 35 rebounds at 8.75 per game.
Assists: Casper Ware (Melbourne United): 21 assists at 5.25 per game.
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings): 12 assists at 3.0 per game.
Field goal percentage: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United): 55.3%
Brian Bowen (Sydney Kings): 51.78%
Steals: Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings): seven steals at 1.75 per game.
Chris Goulding (Melbourne United): five steals at 1.7 per game.
Blocks: Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings): 12 blocks at 3.0 per game.
Josh Boone (Melbourne United): six blocks at 1.5 per game.

The game: Both teams have found ways to win away from home this season, which might work in Sydney’s favour having the possibility of traveling to Melbourne twice. United are eight wins and six losses to the Kings’ nine wins and five losses. They’re just as good with a home court advantage too, each side really getting big crowds behind them, leading them to victory. All across the court, the matchup will be entertaining as even the other players, with the likes of Mitch McCarron and David Barlow for United and Daniel Kickert and Brad Newley for the Kings providing a added spark. United have plenty of shooters that put up lots of shots, attempting 172 more shots than Sydney, and average 5.3 more points. As much as Andrew Bogut is tall, United lead the Kings by 3.7 offensive rebounds and it’s the likes of Melbourne’s forwards who leap at the ball. United steal well, however the Kings are the lowest stealing team with 4.9 this year. This season, Melbourne and United have gone head to head in converting their shots, with two percent or less from the field separating the two quality sides.

Perth Wildcats v Brisbane Bullets
Thursday, 10:20pm at RAC Arena
Saturday, 2:50pm at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Monday, 9:20pm at RAC Arena (if needed)

The key matchups:
Bryce Cotton v Cam Gliddon
The two top scorers for their respective sides, Gliddon will want to tighten up his defensive game in order to restrict Cotton presences. The Wildcat has averaged 27.75 points against the Bullets this season at 58.05%, so whenever Cotton feels he’s got a good look, he’ll back himself to get the points. Thoughout this season Cotton has averaged 22.5 points, and grabbed nine rebounds against Melbourne in the final game to average 3.8 for the regular season. Gliddon averages 4.5 rebounds against Perth so he certainly get high on the rim to start a quick transition. Against Perth, Gliddon averages 15.25 points, which can be a handy contribution for the Bullets. Cotton, over his two-year NBL career has been exceptional when it comes to finals. Last year, in two games, he averaged 26.5 points and in 2017, through five games, averaged 25.2 points at a combined 49.0%, definitely stepping up. The last time Gliddon played finals was in 2016, where he averaged 4.0 points in two games and before that, in 2014, he averaged 12.3 points in four games in 2014, however, a now-seven-year veteran, should know the pressure and play accordingly.

Nicholas Kay v Lamar Patterson
Kay has played the big-man role well this season, in all areas of the court. Averaging 15.3 points for the season with 8.7 rebounds, he’s helped Perth recently get back into the swing of things. Against Brisbane, Kay has scored 56 points (14.0 at 59.5%), 39 rebounds and 10 assists with five steals. Patterson was helpful for Brisbane since he came into the side, and in 22 games, are leading their scoring, rebounds (and defensive rebounds) and second for assists. Patterson’s presence has done wonders for the Bullets, who’s opponents are fearful of what he can do, and in only two games against Perth, he has played a key role. In those two games, he’s scored 30 points and had 12 rebounds.

How they got here: Perth started the season on fire, losing just one game in their first 11 matches of the season. Their season took a bit of a tumble late in the year, losing eight games in ten matches between Round 8 and Round 14. Fortunately for the Wildcats, talk of missing the playoffs sparked them and from there, won the next six to confirm their spot for a 33rd consecutive season, finishing with a 18-10 record. Brisbane fought hard for their spot, and won in Round 18 against New Zealand to overtake Adelaide on percentage for the last placing with a 14-14 record. Brisbane were the surprise outfit early in the season, especially when they beat Perth, but what brought the Bullets undone was losing games they shouldn’t have. Early on they lost to Cairns and Illawarra by lengthy margins and heading towards finals, lost to teams like the Breakers, Cairns and Sydney three times.

Season form against each other: Perth and Brisbane have battled on four occasions this season, and it’s an even ledger at two apiece. Each of the matches came within the first 10 rounds, and Brisbane were the only team to beat the Wildcats in their first 11 games. The first matchup in Round 2 went Perth’s way, 88-73. Bryce Cotton starred for the Wildcats with 28 points, three rebounds and four assists. Cam Gliddon was Brisbane’s top scorer with 13 points, adding eight rebounds. A short turnaround towards a second meeting, in Round 3, Brisbane fought back hard, taking what they’d previously learnt to not give up a lead after half time before finishing with a 100-96 win at home. They had valuable contributions from everyone, but Jason Cadee was good with 14 points, four rebounds and seven assists. For Perth, Terrico White was their best, ending the game with 19 points and six rebounds. In Round 5, it was back at RAC Arena, and another close game with the home side beating the Bullets 90-87. A strong game by both team, it was Cotton who provided 37 of the Wildcats’ points, with three rebounds and assists each. Lamar Patterson joined in for the Bullets with 13 points, and four rebounds and assists each in his second game since coming in for Alonso Gee. Their final meeting back in Round 10 was another comeback win for Brisbane, the final result being 93-86 after the Wildcats led by 14 points in the third quarter. Gliddon was a handy contributor with 24 points, three rebounds and assists each, while on the Perth roster, Cotton tried hard to get his team across the line with 29 points and three rebounds and assists each.

Leaders against each other:
Points: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats): 111 points at 27.75 per game.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets): 61 points at 15.25 per game.
Rebounds: Nicholas Kay (Perth Wildcats): 39 rebounds at 9.75 per game.
Cam Bairstow (Brisbane Bullets): 21 rebounds at 5.25 per game.
Assists: Jason Cadee (Brisbane Bullets): 15 assists at 3.75 per game.
Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): 14 assists at 4.67 per game.
Field goal percentage: Matthew Hodgson (Brisbane Bullets): 68.75 per cent.
Mitch Norton (Perth Wildcats): 63.68 per cent.
Steals: Damien Martin (Perth Wildcats): six steals at 2.0 per game.
Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets): six steals 1.5 per game.
Blocks: Mika Vukona (Brisbane Bullets): four blocks at 1.0 per game.
Angus Brandt (Perth Wildcats): two blocks at 0.5 per game.

The game: Both sides won their respective games at home this season, so perhaps Perth is in the box seat for this finals series. Brisbane have failed to win the important games this season, and while even against Perth and 3-1 against Melbourne, they are 0-4 against the Kings this season. Brisbane have arrived into the finals on the back of some exceptional shooting though, with players like Cam Bairstow capable of draining threes (48 per cent), as well as Cam Gliddon attempting 187 from outside of which 73 found the net. Despite not playing as many games as his teammates, coming into the team in Round 4, Lamar Patterson led the Bullets season scoring (18.1), the next best being Gliddon at 13.7, which could be a reason as to why the Bullets are shooting 89.4 points per game. Although this may seem low, the Wildcats are below them – barely – at 89.3 points per game. However, when the Wildcats have the Fans MVP Bryce Cotton – who led the league scoring with 22.5 points – who can also find ways to get to the line, they are primed for big scores. A difference for this game, as they are both good shooting teams are the ability to gather the loose ball at their own basket; Perth lead this over Brisbane 13.7 to 11.5 per game and the tall timber at the Wildcats means they can get off a second chance point or pass it off to someone on the outside. Both are good with assists, and as above, Brisbane can palm it off to those with good looks from deep. Perth will be on an attack from Game 1, and will relish turnovers, of which Brisbane average 12.3 a game, which they’ll need to bring down for finals where every possession is precious.