Tag: DJ Newbill

Do Cairns have the instruments to turn their season around, again?

AFTER starting the 2019/20 season with an abhorrent record of two wins and six losses, the Cairns Taipans went on to win 14 of their next 20 games to secure the third seed in the standings and earn a finals appearance – a season after finishing with the wooden spoon honours of the NBL.

Today, the Taipans sit with a lowly record of three wins and seven losses and are slotted in eighth position as a result. But the question that needs to be asked is, “does Cairns have the ability to repeat the feat they did last season?”.

To best gauge how the rest of the 2020/21 campaign will pan out and how Cairns will fare, we will firstly look at the results the Taipans have obtained to this point and then secondly, look at the upcoming fixtures leading up to Round 10 which has not yet been released by the NBL.

Given the strictness of COVID-19 regulations at the time of mid-January, Cairns were lucky enough to enjoy their first five games of the season at their temporary home, the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, and their first nine games in Queensland. After their one-point win over the Sydney Kings, Mike Kelly and his side had cause for excitement.

The excitement, however, would end abruptly two days later after a 16-point loss to the new-look Illawarra Hawks and it marked the start of a six-game losing skid. Losses would come at the hands of more than half of the other NBL sides, including the Hawks, the Kings who they edged out in their first contest, Melbourne United, Brisbane Bullets and the New Zealand Breakers.

But with these numerous losses, there has been a number of indicators that perhaps fans have not seen the better side of the Taipans yet. The common factors that are easily visible with each of Cairns’ three victories always tend to be their ball movement. For example, in their Round 4 win against the Breakers, Cairns out-assisted New Zealand 18 to 12 in their 84-71 triumph. Against the Hawks in Round 6, the same trend could be seen again here with the Taipans winning out in the assists category 19 to 17.

Another prominent factor in the three wins for Cairns is their accuracy and quantity of success from behind the three-point line on these nights. In their first and third wins against the Kings and the Hawks, the Taipans went 13 of 32 (40 per cent) and 18 of 35 (51 per cent) from behind the arc. Meanwhile, the north Queensland side only found the triple on 31 per cent of their attempts but won the quantity of threes category with 10 triples to four over the Breakers.

While these two factors are nice to dissect, it is well known that if the Taipans are to find late season success, they will need to emerge dominant in more facets of the game in a competitive league like the NBL. But now we look at the contributions of individuals who have provided positive numbers, and a few who have perhaps a little more to give in the next 14 rounds.

It is no shock that Scott Machado, last season’s league-MVP runner-up, is leading the team on the frontlines. The 30-year-old who is now playing in his second season, also leads the squad in points per game (18.1) as well as the competition in assists (9.5). But despite being the NBL’s best distributor of the rock, Cairns has shown itself to be one of the league’s most shallow teams in terms of depth, with only one bench player averaging over four points per game (Jordan Ngatai – 4.4 ppg).

Similarly to NBL20, Machado’s partner in crime remains 203cm-tall forward Cameron Oliver. Averaging a titanic 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, Oliver is well on his way to a double-double season for two consecutive years, while also ranking third in the NBL for blocks with 1.8 per outing and will be by Machado’s side for the rest of the season producing at a high level. A good supporting cast amongst the starting five has been somewhat instrumental for coach Kelly, but without DJ Newbill as a consistently reliable force on the floor like he was last season, the job of filling his void has been a difficult one to say the least.

Continuing his impressive rise in the three/four spot over his time in the NBL, Kouat Noi is once again impressing the Australian basketball community averaging 13 points, 4.9 rebounds and half a block, including a dominant 27-point and five-rebound performance on Monday night against Melbourne. Furthermore, the play of Majok Deng (11 points and 4.8 rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (11.3 points and three rebounds) has been nothing to sneer at with the two making considerable contributions leading up to today. Unfortunately, though, there has been no news as of yet if Deng will be making his return on Friday against the Perth Wildcats, after exiting Monday’s game in the first quarter with an apparent knee-injury. A huge loss to the side if the injury is substantial.

To summarise, either the Taipans core needs to produce even more or the likes of Ngatai, Fabijan Krslovic, Jarrod Kenny and especially Mojave King (Next Star) need to step up. These are the two routes that Kelly faces and can encourage to his roster. At the end of the day, making that a reality will fall on the players collectively, as not only will the rest of the season remain just as difficult, but most of the remaining matchups will occur in an away environment.

The possible road to redemption will begin within the next three rounds of action in the NBL Cup, firstly in Round 7. Cairns will hope to entertain the defending champions on Friday before taking on cross-state rivals, the Brisbane Bullets, Sunday afternoon. Round 8 will see Cairns meet the Kings in their first game of March, preceding their next grudge match with the Adelaide 36ers. Their remaining games in Melbourne will conclude in Round 9 against the Breakers who they have beaten previously and the South East Melbourne Phoenix on March 12. Any game past here are yet to be announced.

It was the convincing rout of the second-seeded Hawks and an almost perfect performance against the frontrunning United, which resulted in a fourth-quarter defeat in Round 6, that has perhaps suggested a pivotal point in the Cairns season to date. If the Taipans can topple the Wildcats this week at John Cain Arena, many north-Queenslanders should not write off this team’s season quite yet.

If it can happen once, why can it not happen again?

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

YESTERDAY Draft Central summarised the seasons of each of the top four teams to this point in the fixture. Today we look at the summaries of the five teams that are aiming to displace them for a postseason finals spot in just over a month’s time.

5th – Sydney Kings
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

Sitting less than a game out of the top four, Sydney’s desire to rise up in the rankings will only intensify as Adam Forde’s talented roster will need not dwell on past failures given they share the same record as the Brisbane Bullets.

It was a sombre conclusion for the Kings after their first game ended, going down to Cairns by a single point. Remembering their sorrow from a week prior, Sydney answered back in the return fixture against the Taipans with a 99-91 win to even up their season record.

Two straight losses against the Bullets and the 36ers preceded two consecutive wins against Adelaide again and New Zealand, making up the bulk of their first seven games, before Illawarra edged out an 85-82 win in the battle of the two NSW clubs.

Prepping themselves for an important Round 6 where they will host both the Sixers and the defending champion Perth Wildcats for what will be a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Someone who will be an integral part of getting Sydney more positive results going forward will be Casper Ware, as the 31-year-old is averaging 20 points and three rebounds in his second season at the Kings. Import forward Jarell Martin is also proving that he is very valuable to his team averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, all while maintaining a 53 per cent conversion rate from the field. Last but not least, many punters have 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic as the top performing rookie of the year so far due to his 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game averages – these numbers indicating a promising future for the former NCAA athlete.

 

6th – Brisbane Bullets
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

While the Brisbane Bullets only missed out on the finals due to percentage last season, the sense of urgency to chase down a top-four spot has yet to quite kick in, as they sit a win behind a .500 record and half a game behind the Phoenix who sit in fourth.

After being the unexpected first victim of the new and improved Illawarra Hawks side throughout rounds One and Two, the Bullets found themselves shocked and with no wins after two games (both losses were at home). But narrow victories against the Kings (90-87) and the Taipans (105-103) quickly allowed Brisbane to earn themselves a blank check after four games.

Brisbane would then fall to a red-hot Melbourne United in Round 4, which was further compounded at the start of Round Five falling to the Adelaide 36ers. Luckily for the Bullets, they would save face in the reverse fixture at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre toppling Adelaide by a solid 19-point margin, bringing us to today.

In terms of scoring output, it has been a two-man band between captain Nathan Sobey and newly signed import Vic Law, with the pair accounting for a combined 45 points per game as Sobey sports a league-leading average in scoring with 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with Law boasting 20.7 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. If the additional efforts of Jason Cadee, Tyrell Harrison and Orlando Johnson can become substantial for the remainder of the campaign, then Andrej Lemanis’s squad will pose a serious problem for the rest of the NBL.

 

7th – Perth Wildcats
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, % – 0.400

Despite being one of two teams to have only played five game to this point in the fixture, many have been left to wonder how Trevor Gleeson’s side have taken as many defeats as they have so far this early on.

Things looked promising following a win in their first encounter with the South East Melbourne Phoenix (88-76), but after being snubbed the double in the Round Three rematch by one point it slowed the roll of the champions. Round Four was also a week to forget after losing out to the league frontrunners United by four points, but were able to salvage another win over the Phoenix a week after. The Wildcats and the Phoenix most recently faced each other for a fourth time, where South East Melbourne demolished Perth by a mammoth 25 points, deflating the reigning premiers morale prior to their contest this coming week.

It is hardly a surprise that the current league MVP Bryce Cotton is leading the side in putting the ball in the net with 22.6 points per game, while also averaging seven assists and over two steals. Second import John Mooney is also a primary producer with his 16.8-point, 11.4-rebound stat line, whereas former Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is fitting in well at his new side with 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game next to his name.

 

8th – Cairns Taipans
Record: 2 wins, 6 losses, % – 0.250

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments this season, the Cairns Taipans have been struggling since mid-January ever since they were trounced by Illawarra at the tail end of Round One. Prior to that game, they were in relatively good spirits after a one-point victory over the Kings to begin the season.

Ever since then, the Taipans have run out of form with one of the worst success rates throughout the league after also losing to Sydney, Melbourne, Illawarra for a second time, Brisbane and New Zealand, enduring a streak of losses that would span five games. More importantly, four out of the five losses occurred in front of their home fans.

As of most recently, however, Cairns has since ended their five-game skid after defeating the Breakers in the second of the two teams’ matches, 84-71, and are now looking to continue some good form when they face off with both the Hawks and United in Round Six.

With DJ Newbill no longer a part of the side, both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver have had to increase their production. Machado is operating at an impressive level averaging 17 points, 9.9 assists (again leading the league in this category) and four rebounds, whereas Oliver continues to do what he does best rebounding at an exorbitant rate, ranking second in the NBL with 10.6 per game and 17.5 points to tag onto that number.

While Mike Kelly has a solid core unit, individuals such as Kouat Noi (12.4 points per game), Majok Deng (11.6 points per game) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points per game) need the extra support of their bench if they are to pull through with more victories to their name, especially as the number of games remaining continues to dwindle down.

 

9th – New Zealand Breakers
Record: 1 win, 4 losses, % – 0.200

The second of two teams to have only played five games, the New Zealand Breakers have performed the worst out of any team at this point in NBL21. But that could still change if Dan Shamir’s side can find some cohesion in the second half of the season.

Two losses to the 36ers in Rounds 2 and 3 were the first hiccups of the season for the Breakers, but some hope was reignited in the side when they defeated the Taipans away in Queensland to commence Round Four (85-79).

Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the side’s success, as not only would Cairns get the drop on New Zealand in the rematch two days later, but the Sydney Kings also handed the Breakers their fourth loss of the season in Round Five.

The positives have been few and far between to this point for New Zealand, although players like Tai Webster and Finn Delany have been having respectable seasons so far. Leading the team in points, rebounds and assists per game, Webster is having himself a campaign to remember averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

While Delany is contributing 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on a consistent basis, others like Corey Webster (13.3 points) and former Bullet Lamar Patterson (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds) are also doing their best to make the defence’s job more difficult each encounter. Nevertheless, there needs to major shift in tactics if the New Zealand side is going to climb off the bottom of the standings.

 

Catch the start of the NBL Cup tomorrow night when all nine teams will be competing for $150,000 and more wins to their name, as we kick off coverage for the second half of the NBL21 season.

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.

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)

Young Guns in the NBL: Cameron Oliver

IF you had to pick one player under 25 to be a bona fide superstar in the National Basketball League (NBL), not based just on natural talent or an impressive rookie year, but based on what they are producing right now and their projection, Cameron Oliver would definitely be up there.

What Oliver has accomplished this past season is special. At 203cm Oliver is on the shorter side for a forward, but still managed to drag down over nine rebounds per game making him second in the league for rebounds. This is all the proof needed to show just how much heart Oliver possesses – and he does this while averaging over 17 points a game. A player that small going up against guys that big should not be getting those numbers. But that is why fans love to watch the Cairns Taipans, so they can watch something that is not supposed to be happening.  

Which is why it is painful to hear that Oliver is leaving the NBL for his new chapter in the Israel Basketball Premier League. The 23 year old played just one season in the NBL, but it was one to remember. He made the All-NBL Second Team, and alongside DJ Newbill, won 16 games – the third most in the NBL. They battled heroically against the Perth Wildcats, losing the first game by a single point, winning the next by 11 then losing the next by 11. Perth went on to win the championship but some argue that the Taipans’ series was the real final.

The 2019/20 season proved to be the emergence of Oliver with the 23-year-old coming along in leaps and bounds and helping his team to success. His addition along with a few others proved to be the spark the Taipans needed, rapidly rising up the ladder from last to third this season. It is fair to say that Oliver was a key cog in the Cairns line-up with his impressive on-court skill and ability to both hit the scoreboard and do the defensive things well. 

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10 #2: Scott Machado

THIS season’s main facilitator and the second Cairns Taipans player in Draft Central’s top 10, Scott Machado takes out second spot on the countdown after an impressive 2019/20 campaign. His journey goes all the way back prior to the season’s opening tip, following the signing of Cameron Oliver to bolster the Taipans’ frontcourt. Mike Kelly and his coaching staff were in need of someone to control the flow of games and elevate the offensive performances of those on the floor at any given time. The decision was Machado, who was signed with the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers at the time. The signing would strengthen Cairns’ backcourt, as Machado would go shoulder-to-shoulder with DJ Newbill, who was a part of the Cairns’ side that went 6-22 the season prior and was eager to make this time round a very different story.

Despite Cairns’ good intentions, they lost their opening three encounters, but a hard fought 99-76 blowout win against the Wildcats got the ball rolling for the Taipans. Machado’s 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds were a significant factor in that game. Falling to 2-6 after a debilitating loss to the Illawarra Hawks in Round 6, the Taipans faced a crossroads on whether this season would turn out similar to last, or if they were to change the way they conducted themselves on the court and start to climb the standings. They chose the latter.

Led by Machado, the Taipans won five of their next six contests with their point guard obtaining two double-digit assist games over this period. It was rather a big shock to the Taipans faithful when they had back-to-back losses handed to them in Round 11, falling to the Wildcats and the Phoenix, but the way Cairns bounced back would define their season. In their remaining 12 outings, the Taipans would go on streaks of five and four games, losing once to the Kings and twice to finish their season, with the third seed already locked up by that stage.

Machado averaged an elite level 16.4 points, 6.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds in his side’s monumental run to the finals, helping Cairns secure a 16 win and 12 loss record at the end of the season, locking up a matchup with the Wildcats and MVP Bryce Cotton. Game One would prove to be massive for Machado, as he would shoot a massive 61 per cent from the field, whilst collecting 31 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 39 minutes of play, arguably his best individual performance all season. Machado would continue to put up solid numbers for his team in Games Two and Three, averaging 16 points per contest. But, Trevor Gleeson’s side had too much depth, as they snatched Game Three and moved on to the Grand Final Series to face the Kings and defend their title.

To encapsulate Machado’s breakout season, he was awarded some consolation as the NBL Fans’ MVP, averaging 16.1 points per game in NBL 2020, as he led the league in assists with 7.9 dimes being dished out every time out for the 29-year-old. He also earned himself a spot in the NBL’s All-NBL First Team and runners-up in the MVP votes count behind Cotton. Whether the “big-three” returns again next season for the Taipans or not, it is without a doubt Machado was to be ranked second in Draft Central‘s top 10, if not first, had he edged out the Wildcats in the semi-finals.

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10: Seeds 10-6

FOLLOWING an incredible season in the National Basketball League (NBL), Draft Central has compiled a list of ten exemplary individuals that performed at an elite level consistently throughout the 20 rounds of NBL20. Here are the first half of our selections, with the final five still to come.

10. Will Magnay

It is rather rare for a player as young as 21-year-old Will Magnay to crack any top 10 in a professional league of any sport. Yet Magnay has turned countless heads this season, which in turn has drastically developed the young centre’s prospects. When one looks at Magnay’s season statistics, nothing pops out instantly when it comes to the youngster’s offensive numbers. But defensively, it’s an entirely different ballgame, as Brisbane’s big man would go on to rank amongst the league’s top 20 in rebounds (six rebounds per game) and lead the competition in shot blocking by more than half a block (2.15 per game). On only three occasions throughout the NBL 20 season, would the 208cm Magnay go an entire game without a swat, also he would amount three blocks or more in seven different contests in what was a dominant season for the five man. Lastly, he would also collect an almost unprecedented seven blocks against the Phoenix, in the side’s final push to the finals and break an NBL record for most blocks in a two-game span with 13. But, for Magnay he would also be recognised for his season efforts as he was awarded at this season’s NBL Awards as the League’s Most Improved Player. More importantly though, Magnay would rank second in the competition’s Defensive Player of the Year Award, trailing only Dj Newbill in the votes tally. An impactful and surprising season by the Bullet was enough to crack this season’s top 10.

9. Nick Kay

The NBL 2020 Champion Perth Wildcats had many cogs in the machine that helped secure their fourth title in five years and fifth in seven. But, for the last two seasons in particular, Kay, has been the backbone for Perth’s play at both ends of the court. While Kay does not impose any ridiculous athleticism compared to other frontcourt players, the man’s diligence and effectiveness for 40 straight minutes is almost unparalleled, as Kay would again shoot over 50 per cent from the field for his fifth consecutive season. In addition, the 206cm big would average an all-around 15-point, three-assist and seven and a half-rebound stat-line for 2020, showcasing his ability to produce in all facets of a game. The Boomer selectee would obtain seven double-doubles throughout the season, including three straight games in early-December securing over ten points and ten rebounds. Although Kay would perform at an elite level, this run of form would carry over into the playoffs, with the Wildcats starter averaging 19 points per game in their semi-final series against the Taipans, and 20.3 points in the grand final series against the Kings. All in all, the 27-year-old would put away another productive season under the guidance of Trevor Gleeson, earning himself a second All-NBL First Team selection (second straight year) and earning the ninth seed in Draft Central‘s top 10.

8. Jerome Randle

One of the NBL’s greatest scoring guards, Jerome Randle continued his legacy of producing points at an exemplary level. Finishing fifth amongst the league leaders in scoring and averaging 19.75 points per contest, Randle took the majority of the 36ers offensive attempts through 20 rounds and for good reason, as the fifth-year Chicagoan import was good for 45 per cent of his shots. With Randle being aided by the likes of Daniel Johnson and Eric Griffin, he would also facilitate 4.5 assists every outing. Randle’s hustle also ventured outside his usual roles as point guard averaging more than three rebounds a game, was up there with the season’s best rebounding point men.  Randle went 26 games with double-digit performances until the 27th game where he would manage only nine points against the Taipans, which was followed by seven against the Wildcats the next time out to end the season. While Randle would not be selected to either of the All-NBL Teams to encapsulate the season, he would crack 20 points in 15 different encounters which puts him in this season’s eighth slot. But with Adelaide turning over a new chapter with the resignation of Joey Wright, the 36ers new identity come 2021 may prove fruitful for Randle and his team.

7. Shawn Long

Perhaps the NBL’s most dominant force and most powerful individual across all nine sides, Shawn Long sampled why he is known as “Mr. Double-Double”. From the get-go, Long earned six double-doubles in his first seven match-ups, but results were not falling Melbourne United’s way early on. But following a 1-4 start, United strung together six straight victories to become a title contender towards the end of the year. With Long’s numbers coming in droves, the Louisiana-born centre accumulated 14 double-doubles to conclude the season, securing himself as the league’s leading rebounder with an average of 9.43. Despite United’s eventual series loss to the Kings in the semis, Long continued to average high numbers, averaging 22 points and 10.3 rebounds through the three games. With these kinds of performances at such a consistent rate for such a long period of time, it is hard to fathom the 27-year-old was not recognised more for his efforts this season. Nevertheless, he makes the cut for seventh on our list.

6. Jae’Sean Tate

To round out the first half of Draft Central’s Top 10, number six is credited to the Sydney Kings’ most consistent producer throughout the entire season, Jae’Sean Tate. In his debut season in the NBL, following a brief stint in Belgium, Tate made it known that he could run with the big boys, and standing at 193cm and weighing 104kg, he certainly looked the part. Maintaining a high level of production in any league is an arduous task for most seasoned veterans, but Tate took the responsibility head on, as he scored double digits in 27 of his 28 games. This proved beneficial to the Kings, when their marquee point guard Casper Ware could not find his shooting stroke. Tate’s 16.4 points per game was a benchmark that he would constantly find a way to match, as his side would go from Round 1 to 20 at the top of the standings, the first time in NBL history for a team to do so. Given his 66 per cent shooting from the field during the regular season, the small forward from Ohio was pulling out all the stops in his quest for some championship hardware, averaging 18.6 points in the playoffs alongside five and half rebounds to match it. With the Kings going down in the finals to the Wildcats, it was not all doom and gloom for Tate, as he would earn an All-NBL First Team selection in his first year of play down-under. A task that very few have been able to complete, thus earning him the sixth spot of the top 10.

2019/20 NBL season review: Perth Wildcats

IN the final instalment of the NBL season reviews by Draft Central, we look at the journey of the Perth Wildcats’ 2020 season and the rather unfortunate way that they would secure their fourth title in five seasons and their fifth in seven.

Here we go again

From the beginning, the kitchen sink was thrown at the Wildcats as they faced the team they beat in last season’s Grand Final series, Melbourne United. In what was the perfect way to kick off the 2020 season in front of packed RAC Arena, both teams were ready to get their seasons off on the right foot.

With both Bryce Cotton and Melo Trimble claiming their stake as two of the best guards in the league, they would lead their squads through four quarters of tightly contested basketball. But, thanks to a strong final quarter by the Wildcats, a single point would be all that separated the two sides on the day, as the Wildcats would squeeze by with a 94-93 victory starting off their campaign with a favourable result. Trevor Gleeson’s team would continue their good run of form with four victories in their next five contests, with their first blunder of the season being against a new and improved Cairns Taipans, that was getting ready to take the competition by storm.

Around came November, where Perth would struggle throughout a week and a half losing two out of three contests, going down to Brisbane at the Armoury and getting routed by 19 points away in Sydney, the only loss the Wildcats would endure from the Kings throughout the whole season. Reaching the halfway point of the season with a record of nine wins and five losses, the Wildcats sat rather contently in second place, as it was clear that they remained one of the top two contenders in the League. Nonetheless, the Wildcats needed to avoid getting complacent, as just below them a major storm was brewing in the mid-table logjam, as six different clubs were all vying for a postseason berth, with just a game and a half separating third and eighth position in the standings.

While Perth never really produced any substantial winning streaks on their way past Round 20, it was their ability to keep their losses to a minimal over the span of the entire season. During the second half of Perth’s season, they would string together three victories in a row on three different occasions, keeping them out of reach of the jostling teams below. After finishing one win better than compared to last season, Perth had established itself as one of the League’s best offensive sides, averaging more than 90 points per contest, led by their superior backcourt and solid front court. So, it was only fitting that they would square off with the Taipans in the semi-final round of the playoffs, given they were a very similar style of team.

MVP vs MVP

Following the regular season, it was announced that Bryce Cotton of the Wildcats would be awarded the NBL’s Most Valuable Player with Cairns’ guard Scott Machado falling eight votes short of Cotton. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Machado, as he would be awarded the title of Fans’ MVP. But individual accolades for these players pale in comparison in what is the ultimate goal for any team sport, that being the championship. While Cotton had already received two titles in his time at Perth, Machado was looking to earn his first in his debut season.

Game One was as expected for those who attended. An offensive showdown would go down at RAC Arena with both teams blowing each other out of the water in each of the opening two quarters. With the second half being a much closer affair, Cotton would undertake most of his side’s scoring duties as he would have a career best night, piling it on for 42 points and six assists in an overtime classic and breaking the hearts of Taipans fans looking to wrap up the series in two games.

Keen to force a Game Three, Cairns’ head coach Mike Kelly made a point of limiting Perth’s weapons. Cotton and Nicholas Kay, the Wildcats’ two leading point-getters were held to just 21 points. Meanwhile the Taipans’ ‘big three’ made an impact in front of their home crowd accounting for 41 of Cairns’ 85 points, as they went on to tie the series up winning by 11 on the night. With Cairns tying the series up for a deciding Game Three, the more than 10,000 people that witnessed the match held a slight nervousness as Gleeson and his coaching staff had yet to find a way to weaken the combo of Machado, Dj Newbill and Cameron Oliver.

With both sides neck and neck for every quarter, the contest remained one that could have gone either way at any stage, but Perth had figured out a way to limit the production of Newbill as he would only manage six points on the night. However, it was Cotton that wasn’t making his usual impact either, which meant someone needed to step up when it counted. Terrico White, the second part of Perth’s backcourt made his statement game in the series, racking up 26 points and four rebounds. Further aided by Kay’s 24 points, the Wildcats would squeeze out a semi-final clinching Game Three triumph by 11 points once again, 93-82 and the right to defend their title against the Sydney Kings.

Cementing the Wildcats dynasty

The Kings were for the first time in a Grand Final series since the 2008 NBL season and had not won a series since 2005, which made home-court advantage much more important. However, history was made that was not in control of either of the teams, therefore cutting short a series that was destined for at least a Game Four.

With more that 11,500 people packed into Qudos Bank Arena, Game One was fully loaded to be a big game. Both sides trading quarters seemed to be the trend of the opening contest of the series and most people knew that the game wouldn’t be decided until the final stages of regulation. This would come to fruition, as with only a couple minutes remaining, a massive three-point bomb by Damian Martin would put the Wildcats up by three, which was followed up by Cotton’s two made free throws. These actions would prove to be enough, as the Wildcats would steal Game One on the road.

It was Game Two that the new COVID-19 restrictions had been enforced and this seemed to influence the concept of home court advantage, as Sydney came out strong in front of a silent RAC Arena, winning three out of four quarters in a bid to tie the series up. While Cotton’s 27 points was valuable, it was not enough to get the Wildcats over the line, as they went down 83-97 and were now heading back to Sydney.

Both teams prepared themselves for any other series game not knowing that it would be the deciding game, as following Game Three, the NBL and both teams would decide to finish the series and end the season following this contest. Nevertheless, Game Three would go ahead as Perth would explode out of the gate with a barrage of opening quarter points, getting out ahead 29-18 after ten minutes of play. This would allow Perth to keep Sydney at arm’s length as they would secure a relatively convincing 111-96 victory, putting them up 2-1 in the series.

While the series would be cut short and the Wildcats would collect their fourth title in five years and cement themselves as one of the greatest franchises ever, there’s perhaps no other team more disappointed than Perth at how this season ended, so perhaps another title run next season would convince the franchise.

The pride of WA

Bryce Cotton

Up there with amongst the best point guards in the League’s history, Bryce Cotton further added to that as he would lead his side to yet another NBL title. In the process he would also collect a third title of his own, a second NBL finals MVP, a second league MVP, a third All-NBL First Team selection and a third scoring title. On the season he would average 22.5 points, 3.7 assists and almost four rebounds a game shooting at 42 per cent from the field. However, the 27-year-old will look to make another title run next season given the circumstances surrounding this season’s end.

Nick Kay

Completing his second season, Nick Kay proved his mettle once again providing lots of production in numerous statistical categories. This would secure him a second title and a second All-NBL First-Team selection, alongside Cotton as he remained the Wildcats’ constant in their long and arduous 2020 season. Kay would finish the season with a steady 15 points per game while facilitating three assists every time out on the offensive end. Meanwhile, he would gather an awesome 7.6 rebounds every contest which paved the way for numerous double doubles throughout the season.

The Coach’s corner: Trevor Gleeson

Like his counterpart Will Weaver, Gleeson was devastated by the series ending in the fashion that it did, but he still remains extremely proud of the efforts his side made during the season, as he reflected in a statement by the Wildcats.

“It’s extremely disappointing, but I’m proud of the way we represented the red jersey, our city, and our amazing fans. “I’m proud of the way we handled ourselves in a challenging environment and the way we prepared and played,” said Gleeson.

“We worked hard for this moment, earned this moment, and to have the opportunity torn away from us is really disappointing. “We were the best team throughout the Grand Final Series.”

2019/20 NBL season review: Cairns Taipans

PRIOR to the start of the 2020 season, the Taipans had finished either last, or one position above that in their previous two campaigns. Cairns would also accumulate an abysmal 6-22 record in their 2018-19 season, six wins lower than Illawarra who finished seventh. Given this, not many would have guessed how much of a turnaround Mike Kelly and his men would have made just a season later.

A major face-lift

It is safe to say that Kelly’s first season at the helm was a major failure, leading his team to one of the franchise’s worst records in the club’s history. It was therefore apparent that a major upheaval was needed to move his squad in the right direction. With signings like imports Scott Machado, who would prove to be one of the League’s most dominant performers, and big-man Cameron Oliver owning the boards, the Taipans already had the weapons needed to be serious contenders.

The rest of the competition had other ideas however, as the Taipans would begin their season the same way they did in 2018, losing their opening three contests against the Kings, Bullets and the Hawks in what was a nail-biting one-point loss away at Wollongong. While the core Taipans group was putting up substantial numbers, it was Cairns’ secondary unit that needed to pull its weight.

It was early on in the season that the likes of Mirko Djeric, Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and future hall of famer Nathan Jawai would begin to click with their side’s offence. The Taipans would go on to win seven out of the next eleven fixtures to level out their season record at .500. As this record was neither impressive nor disappointing, their seven wins they had collected at the mid-way point of the season was already higher than their win total for their entire previous season (six), which was accomplishment in itself. They also sat fourth in the standings at this stage, as more and more basketball fans started to see the Taipans as a serious threat in the NBL.

As the race of the finals started to pick up for the mid-table teams, it was Cairns that began the second half of the season slowly, dropping two games to the Wildcats and a crucial loss to the Phoenix. Knowing full well that losing games late in the regular season in a league like the NBL was almost suicidal for a team’s ambitions, a sense of urgency would kick the Taipans into a higher gear as they would pull together their longest and perhaps most important winning streak of the season. Their five consecutive victories would represent the best basketball played by the ‘Snakes’ all season as they would knock over all five of the other teams in the newly coined ‘Logjam’, taking a commanding lead in third position.

With a slight bump in the road losing out to the eventual minor premier Kings 83-92, four more victories would follow for a team that would secure a finals slot with two games remaining and cap off a dream run of nine wins in ten appearances. The Taipans’ 16-12 record would be their best season performance since the 2014-15 competition, stirring up a fervour and hype that hasn’t been seen in Northern Queensland in a very long time leading into the postseason.

A venomous task

Out of all the seasons for a team to regain exemplary form, this one matched the Taipans up with the reigning champion Wildcats in their semi-final series, providing the most difficult task Cairns had to face up with all season. Despite the monstrous task that was bestowed upon the third placed seed, Game One would come to fruition as a contest for the ages at RAC Arena.Perth would explode out of the block in front of their fans, outscoring Cairns 29-20 in the opening ten minutes. But the visiting side would hit back even harder, erasing the deficit and flipping the margin leading by nine at halftime.

Despite trailing, newly crowned League MVP Bryce Cotton would put his team on his back, leading to a career defining postseason performance and pulling his side together forcing overtime in Game One scoring 43 alone. Trading buckets in what was a back and forth five minutes of post-regulation play, long-time NBL veteran Jesse Wagstaff would knock down two imperative free-throws to put his side up by three with eleven seconds remaining. With two seconds left, Machado would hoist up a three-pointer to tie the game, but instead would put back his miss for just two points, leading to a nail-biting opening game win for the Wildcats, 108-107.

Returning back home with a sense of anger due to the fact they couldn’t get the job done in WA, the Taipans would make it clear early that would fight another day. A dominating 30-16 opening quarter and subsequently a 16-point half-time lead for the Taipans would set the tone for the rest of the game. The Wildcats would attempt a third quarter comeback, however a 22 point and 19 rebound performance by Cameron Oliver would quickly quell any remaining doubts from both sides, setting the series up for Game Three back in Perth with a desperately earned 85-74 triumph.

The deciding game would be a battle of wills as both sides would go neck and neck for every individual quarter. But unfortunately for the Taipans, they would lose by the narrowest of margins in every period throughout the game. This would lead to an eleven-point defeat (82-93) in front of more than 10,000 strong in the Red Army, as the Wildcats would earn their right to defend their title against the Kings and end the Taipans’ comeback season.

The NBL’s ‘big three’

Scott Machado

The backbone and commander of the Cairns Taipans, Scott Machado made minced meat of the majority of the competition in his debut season in the NBL. It was Machado’s vision and ability to spread the floor that made his team around him abundantly more cohesive, which in turn created a more efficient offense. He would often do this directly as Machado would lead the League in assists, averaging 7.9 assists per game.

Machado would also do his part on the scoring sheet putting up 16.1 points per contest and hustle for 3.6 rebounds an outing as well. Despite this, it would not be enough to earn himself a league MVP award, however he would settle for an All-NBL First Team selection. Even though Machado has spoken frequently about the positives of living in Australia’s far north, the import has not yet confirmed if he is to stay for another season.

 Dj Newbill

The second of Cairns’ three imports, Dj Newbill solidified himself as one of the League’s elite defenders, following being awarded the NBL Defensive Player of the Year Award and an All-NBL Second Team nomination. Having gone through the struggles of last season, Newbill needed to serve the team as the emotional backbone and would do this with more than just defense. Offensively, Newbill would crack the top ten in scoring averaging 18.8 a game. Defensively he would rank fourth in steals per game with 1.3 and average three rebounds. Much like Machado, Newbill is yet to confirm his intention for the upcoming NBL 2021 season, but if the Taipans administration can lock down the backcourt duo, it would definitely smell of a championship recipe.

Cameron Oliver

One of the League’s marquee centers, Cameron Oliver was an absolute monster at various moments during his 28 games, captivating spectators and flashing his athleticism on numerous highlight reels with rim-rocking slam dunks. But Oliver’s grind on the scoreboard and rebounds was second-to-one (Shawn Long), as he posed as the Taipans defensive protector.

Averaging 17 points and shooting 54 per cent from the field, scoring was almost guaranteed when Oliver had the ball near the rim. On the other end, he would also rank second amongst the League Leaders in rebounds and blocks averaging 9.1 and 1.6 respectively earning himself an All-NBL Second Team spot next to teammate Dj Newbill.

If Cairns can lock down Oliver for next season, then we can all expect similar numbers next season as the 23-year-old has plenty of time to refine his game.

The Coach’s corner – Mike Kelly

As mentioned earlier, this season’s Cairns group has been hailed as the League’s biggest success story. Following Game Three against the Wildcats, Kelly would once again praise the club and what this season’s playing group did for the franchise.

“I think when I look back I’m gonna be able to reflect and see the big picture of what this group did led by these two,” as he pointed to Newbill and Jawai who were seated next to him, “and how special the season was while it was still going.”

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 3 preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans

WITH the series at one game apiece for two of the highest scoring offences in the league, Game 3 of the Wildcats/Taipans series goes back to RAC Arena on Thursday night and the Cotton/Machado MVP conversation can finally be laid to rest for this season.

The opening game of the series went Perth’s way by a single point off the back of a 43-point exhibition provided by Bryce Cotton, in front of more than 13,000 screaming fans layered in red clothing. The following game at the Cairns Convention Centre, however, was one that was efficiently and diligently handled by the Taipans, as a 30-16 first quarter by the home side, was enough to keep the Wildcats at bay for the remaining three quarters, leading to an 11 point victory for the Snakes.

With the result of this series to be determined later tonight, there are a number of things each side needs to do if they are to gain any significant edge throughout the 40 minutes of basketball.

If we look at the Wildcats first, the main factor in anything the defending champions do, is decided by the performance of their league MVP in Cotton. Their star import guard shot the lights out in Game 1, going 14 of 25 from the field, while also accumulating 10 made three-pointers in the process. The fact that the Wildcats live and die by Cotton’s sword was further proven in Game 2 up in Cairns, where Cotton’s stat line was a complete shell of his previous game’s, going five from 12 from the field, resulting in only 11 points. This stark contrast in points and performances outlines that Perth’s number one concern going into the deciding game of the series, will be their reliance on Cotton.

While Cotton is Perth’s number one producer on the floor, it is also important to remember that another member on the Wildcats’ squad is a member of this season’s All-NBL First Team. This individual being Nick Kay. Kay, averaged over 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and more than three assists throughout the NBL season, has often been touted as the league’s most productive work horse. Kay’s output come Game 3, will decide how effective Cotton can perform, which in turn would affect the entire squad as a result.

Looking to the team that has its mind set on spoiling the party for all of Western Australia, the Cairns Taipans are starting to hone in on their franchise’s first NBL title, and with one more win, they could have one hand on this year’s hardware.

In terms of what the Taipans need to do to make an away win at RAC Arena a reality, does not rely on the performance of a single player. Mike Kelly’s playmaking schemes throughout the season have been based on a five-man offence and defence. With this style of play by the Taipans, the majority of their ball flow goes through their star guard in Scott Machado. Machado who has proven himself one of the league’s top play makers given he averages 16 points and 7.9 assists per game following the regular season, the way he controls the game’s tempo sets him apart from his peers in the competition. However, while Machado’s numbers were high in their Game 1 loss and low in his team’s Game 2 win, his ability to move the ball on offence on a consistent basis makes his weapons around him more effective against an inconsistent Wildcats defence as shown in Game 2.

While players like Marco Djeric, Nathan Jawai, Kouat Noi and Jarrod Kenny are all able to be utilised in their own ways against Perth’s defence, the most impact for the Taipans depends on the outputs of Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.1 assists and 3 rebounds) and Cameron Oliver (17 points and 9.1 rebounds). It can be assured that both these stars will look to make an impact on Thursday night, but will the size of Perth’s front-court be too much for Cairns’ “big three”.