Tag: Jarrod Kenny

Taipans stun 36ers with come-from-behind win

AN inspired and gutsy effort from Cairns Taipans saw them overrun Adelaide 36ers last night to snap a three-game losing streak and steal a narrow three-point victory (91-88). It was a topsy-turvy encounter with the 36ers holding the lead for majority of the game but Cairns working gallantly to change their fortunes.

Both sides were riddled with injuries heading into the clash with a number of key figures sidelined such as Scott Machado for the Taipans and Tony Crocker out for the 36ers. Crocker joined Isaac Humphries on the sideline but that did not seem to faze Adelaide who got off to a hot start, shooting the ball with confidence and relative accuracy to skip out to an early lead. Although scores were level at nine points apiece midway through the term, Adelaide kicked it up a gear to create some much needed separation thanks to the services of Daniel Johnson who well and truly had his radar on. Adelaide capitalised on their opponents inaccuracy as they put down 26 points to 17.

Holding a nine-point margin at the first change the 36ers looked to extend their margin and edge one step closer to a much needed win. Spearheaded by Jack McVeigh the 36ers continued their merry way, with not only the scoreboard increasing but so too McVeigh’s tally with the guard racking up 12 points before half time. However the brakes were quickly put on as the Taipans came out refreshed and raring to go. Hunting down the 16-point lead, Cairns toiled exceptionally hard to quell the offensive play of Adelaide and apply pressure of their own largely due to Cameron Oliver who was proving to be a menace off the boards. Sinking eight points straight the home side ate into the deficit and continued to build momentum with the likes of Mojave King also finding his feet and the basket.

It was a two-point ball-game at half time, with the Taipans sensing a chance to strike and push ahead of their opponents. The intensity lifted a notch with neither side willing to relinquish the ball or the lead as Adelaide put in the hard yards to extend their margin. but Cairns proved to be up to the fight, combatting everything that was thrown at them and rising to the occasion. Producing 21 points to 20, the Snakes managed to dwindle the margin to a mere point at the final change setting up an action packed final stanza.

Having held onto the lead for majority of the game, the 36ers simply ran out of legs in the last quarter while the Taipans found a way to win. Digging deep and heavily undermanned, Cairns showed nothing but grit and determination in the last quarter to not only hold on but to overcome a deficit. It was a frantic finish to the game with the Taipans establishing a seven point lead with a tick under a minute left to play, but the lead disappearing before their eyes as the clock ticked down. Huge plays from Sunday Dech and McVeigh’s ability to convert from the foul line saw Adelaide get back within just one with 13 seconds left and while Josh Giddey had a chance to level things his shot was off, gifting the Taipans a hard fought win.

It was a heart in your mouth finish to the game with a number of key cogs stepping up to the plate and leading the way for their respective sides given the calibre of missing players. Oliver had a game to remember for Cairns producing a scintillating 25 points and 17 rebounds with 16 of them defensive while Jordan Ngatai made his presence felt thanks to his 15 points. King upped the ante this match recording 14 points, five rebounds and one block as teammate Jarrod Kenny got busy on the assist front with seven to his name. Both Nate Jawai and Tad Dufelmeier produced strong performances with 13 points for Jawai and 12 points and eight rebounds for Dufelmeier.

Johnson was once again the go-to man for the 36ers racking up 22 points and four rebounds in his 34 minutes on court. McVeigh had a break out game producing an impressive 22 points at 52 per cent from the field while also racking up four rebounds, all of which were defensive. Brandon Paul was the only other player to reach double-digits thanks to his 18 points as he also collected six rebounds and two assists. Giddey fell short of a double amassing eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Dech registered seven points and seven rebounds.

Ruthless Sobey leads Bullets to dominant victory

THE Brisbane Bullets closed out round seven with a commanding 115-95 win over their Queensland rivals in the Cairns Taipans. Although both teams sit at the bottom of the NBL Cup ladder, fans were hoping they could recreate their overtime thriller from earlier in the season which narrowly saw Brisbane prevail. While Vic Law and Nathan Sobey carried their side to victory in that performance, Law would see just 14 minutes of action in this matchup after being ejected from the game after receiving a second technical foul.

An even opening quarter was kicked off with a Kouat Noi layup, before Sobey would start the game the way he would maintain throughout with an aggressive triple as he made his way to 30 points on the night. Fabijan Krslovic was given the defensive role on the dangerous Law and although he kept him accountable up the other end, he could not stop Law from scoring and found himself in early foul trouble.

With the Taipans showing heavy reliance on their starters in all statistical areas this season, coach Mike Kelly needed someone to step up off the bench. Krslovic’s early substitution, Nate Jawai showed that he is still capable of playing a key role in the league dropping seven first-quarter points and providing plenty of energy on the defensive end.

Despite Sobey and a deep three to beat the shot clock, it was an even contest with the biggest margin being five. A Jarrod Kenny three late in the quarter gave the Taipans a 28-25 lead and the NBL Cup point.

The Taipans were shooting well from deep (4 from 5) and had one turnover to Brisbane’s five, but a three from Anthony Drmic and an old-fashioned three from Sobey would give the Bullets the lead and the perfect platform to build from.

Brisbane would go on to pile on 35 points in the second quarter as they managed stops defensively to go with efficient shooting despite Law’s absence through foul trouble. Cam Oliver getting into the game would help the Taipans get to within five points, before back-to-back triples from Harry Froling would push the lead back to 11.

Scott Machado free throws made it a 60-51 ball game at half-time, but just two made shots from Oliver was less than desired, as were the 60 conceded points.

Oliver would start the second half on a much more positive note with an and-one with the first possession, but some quick replies from Tyrell Harrison ensured the lead would not be hindered. This was until Oliver pushed back his range and after a couple of threes and some stops, the margin was cut back to nine points.

Despite the big quarter from Oliver, Law’s return saw the lead maintained for the Bullets as they held an 86-73 lead heading into the final break.

A Jason Cadee three was not the start the Taipans needed, but when Law was ejected and Machado baskets brought the margin back to 10, the Taipans still had a chance.

Eight points from Drmic included his fifth made three from as many attempts kept the Taipans at bay as the margin hovered around the 20-point mark for the rest of the quarter.

Sobey’s 30 points led the Bullets while Law still managed 14 points, but it was Drmic (20 points, seven rebounds) and Froling (15 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench who put in big games to help their side win as comfortably as they did.

The Bullets concede the most assists per game this season but won this contest 24 to 14. Six of those for the Taipans came from Machado to go along with 26 points. Despite a slow start, Oliver managed 21 points and six rebounds on 72 per cent shooting, while Noi was their only other player to reach double figures with 11 points.

Bench points continue to be an area in which the Taipans lack as they had just 26 despite four players playing 12 minutes or more.

The Bullets will play the Breakers on Wednesday, while the Taipans will face the Kings on Thursday.

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?

Brisbane snatch second win from Taipans, Law wins it on buzzer

BRISBANE have stormed back in the final quarter of last night’s opener to force overtime and ultimately earn the upset win against the Cairns Taipans, defeating the out of form visitors 105-103 after a Vic Law layup ended the game in the dying milliseconds.

Even though Law and Tyrell Harrison got their names on the scoreboard early, it was Cairns that made the bigger effect in terms of conversion, jumping out to 16-8 lead through the first five minutes of the game.

Following five more minutes of first quarter play, for the first time this season the Taipans had themselves a lead after 10 minutes – this time on the road. Thanks to a healthy dispersion of points production from their starters, Cairns continued to attack the rim as well as hit their shots from deep, leading 23-19 at the first break.

It took a while for Nathan Sobey to score his first bucket of the clash, but in his absence early on Harry Froling was a standout performer for the Bullets particularly in the second quarter. The 211cm-tall Center had himself a solid eight points by the midway point off the bench yesterday, while Law had himself nine points and six rebounds after 20 minutes and Sobey accumulated eight points of his own in the end.

However, Cairns looked like a totally different side in the first half compared to previous efforts this season. After amassing 55 points in the first two quarters (the highest first half total of any team this season to date), they held a sizeable 15-point lead over Brisbane being led by Cameron Oliver who racked up 18 points and six rebounds in this time.

The Bullets started the third in good stead, putting the first eight out of 10 points on the board to begin the second half and cut the deficit back down to single digits. Shortly after, a heated exchange between Law and Oliver reignited the level of intensity between the two teams and the stakes became slightly raised as a result.

Andrej Lemanis’s side were unable to cut out a big chunk of their sizeable deficit in the third, despite winning the quarter 21-16. This would however set up a fourth quarter that would require the hosts to reverse a 61-72 score line with 10 minutes to play.

Surprisingly it only took six minutes in the fourth for the Bullets to equal things after a put back jam from Matthew Hodgson and some late foul trouble for Mike Kelly’s starters, which allowed Brisbane to gain momentum.

Key exits from Majok Deng and Oliver due to fouling out allowed Brisbane to capitalise in a final period filled with highlights for them and it looked like they would pull away. But a triple from Jarrod Kenny with 20 seconds left, therefore meant forcing overtime in the Battle of Queensland.

Kenny again converted from three in extra time, swinging things in favour of the Taipans with a couple minutes left, but Sobey answered back to tie things up again. He returned the lead back to the Bullets on the next play with an And-One.

Two out of three free throws made by Mirko Djeric cut the difference back down to one point, but a dunk from Law undid this the next possession. Scott Machado and Jason Cadee added to the high-octane overtime period, trading triples with the latter nailing his with 12 seconds on the clock.

The saga would continue after Machado knocked down a step-back three with six seconds on the clock, but the last laugh came from the Bullets as Law drove to the rim and finished the layup with mere milliseconds remaining, stealing away the match at the death.

While Sobey earned man of the match recognition with his 30 points, five assists and four rebounds, Law’s numbers easily matched his tremendous output on the night finishing with 29 points and 11 rebounds. The two helped facilitate the team’s 46 per cent shooting on the night, while the Bullets also accumulated 14 points off of turnovers. Cadee also fished with double-digits for Brisbane, compiling a 11-point, five-rebound and four-assist performance.

Similarly, to other games for the Taipans, the majority of their points came exclusively from the starters. Machado left with 23 points, 10 assists and five rebounds and Oliver did the same with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Deng had a solid night after his 15 points and six rebounds. Furthermore, Djeric and Kouat Noi each provided 11 points to the team.

After processing their win last night, Brisbane now finds themselves back on .500 with two wins and two losses as well as sniffing around the top four, in a match that had plenty of meaning behind it. They can continue a positive trajectory in the NBL standings next Thursday with a win over Melbourne United to kick off Round Four. Meanwhile, the Taipans can exact revenge at home against the Bullets next Saturday in the reverse fixture.

Sydney reverse Round 1 result to become Kings in Cairns

SYDNEY Kings have balanced the ledger in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season, bouncing back from a heartbreaking one-point loss to Cairns Taipans on the road, by points an eight-point win over Cairns Taipans on the road. In another tight game between the teams, Sydney looked to have the game under control after a strong second term, before Cairns hit back in the third. Luckily for the visitors, they were able to steady and get the win, 99-91.

It was neck-and-neck from the start with the Kings marginally ahead at quarter time courtesy of a 23-22 first term. They built on that lead in the second term, piling on 23-15 to head out to a nine-point advantage by half-time. The Taipans had to find something special in the second half, and they did that in the third term. Showing off what they were capable of, Cairns scored a whopping 34 points to 26 in a massive high-scoring term, just three points less than their entire first half.

By the final break, the deficit was back to just one point in the Kings’ favour. The fourth term had a few ebbs and flows, but despite getting it to one-point difference again during the final term, the Taipans could not grab the lead back since midway through the first term, and whilst always been a chance, the Kings claimed the victory by eight points.

Sydney dominated the rebounds with a plus-12 in that category (49-37), as well winning the steals (7-4) and being impeccable from the line (92 per cent free-throw accuracy). By comparison, while Cairns had a higher field goal percentage (60 per cent to 50 per cent), the Taipans could not get enough looks, having 13 less than their opponents, and also two less free-throws, though the home team only managed five of 11 anyway. Cairns did have more assists (20-18) and points from turnovers (14-6), but could only manage three points from fast break opportunities.

Import Jarrell Martin had a massive impact in the win compared to game one, with the Sydney Kings’ forward winning Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the night. Martin collected a double-double thanks to 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and one steal, dominating on the inside. Casper Ware still did his usual thing, sharing the points in an equal team-high 22m as well as two rebounds and three steals, crucially hitting four of seven three-point attempts.

Brad Newley came of the bench for a vital 17 points and five rebounds, while Dejan Vasiljevic is enjoying the starting minutes with 13 points, two rebounds, and one each of an assist, steal and block. Craig Moller (four points, five rebounds and four assists) and Shaun Bruce (seven points, two rebounds and four assists) both played their role in the starting team, while Jordan Hunter (eight points, six rebounds) came off the bench to back up at the five spot.

Despite the loss, there was still no stopping Cameron Oliver who racked up yet another double-double. Shooting at 54.5 per cent from the field – 10 of 14 from two-point range – Oliver amassed 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. Scott Machado marginally missed out on a double-double himself after 14 points and nine assists, while Kouat Noi (13 points, five rebounds), Mojave King (12 points, four rebounds) and Mirko Djeric (10 points, two rebounds) all knocked up double-figure points. Jarrod Kenny coming off the bench only had the two points, but used his playmaking skills to great effect, picking up five assists to go with his three rebounds, but also picked up five fouls.

Cairns Taipans will host a fourth straight game tomorrow when they welcome title favourites Melbourne United to town, while Sydney Kings will travel to Nissan Arena on Tuesday where they will be welcomed by Brisbane Bullets.

Picture credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

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: Cairns Taipans

AFTER a successful season which saw the Cains Taipans snake their way up the ladder, the North Queensland team is ready to build on that stepping stone and go all the way in NBL21. The Taipans finished third on the NBL20 ladder, but were knocked out by Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals. Prior to that, the Taipans had won 16 of 28 games, a massive improvement from a shocking 6-22 record the season before where they finished six games adrift on the bottom of the tale.

While the Taipans are still searching for their first championship – having reached the finals eight times in the past 16 seasons and made two grand finals in that time – they have shown the capacity to turn around misfortune quickly. The turnaround in form from 2019 to 2020 rewarded coach Mike Kelly with the NBL Coach of the Year Award, whilst star D.J. Newbill picked up the Best Defensive Player, and Scott Machado made the All-NBL First Team.

The biggest goal for the Taipans was retaining the signatures of Newbill, Machado and Cameron Oliver, who had all been massive influences on the side’s rise up the ladder. While Newbill announced in August that he would be headed overseas to Japan, both Machado and Oliver were retained on the list as imports. The combination of both the big (Oliver) and small (Machado) combination will worry opposition sides, though it was the arrival of another shooting guard that took the headlines.

New Zealand-board Mojave King signed on with the Taipans, hitting the court two years after signing with the NBA Global Academy. At 195cm, King is a handful across the court, with great shooting ability and a combination of strength and power. He has a number of nice tricks and is one NBA clubs will be keen to keep an eye on, following in the footsteps of LaMelo Ball who is already turning it on for Charlotte Hornets.

The backcourt duo of Machado and King will cause plenty of headaches for the Taipans, whilst Mirko Djeric provides another guard option who adds a three-prong attack, whilst the forward combination of Oliver and Kouat Noi are twin 200cm towers who can score and rebound consistently. Whilst entering the twilight of his career, 34-year-old 209cm Nathan Jawai will always have to be watched, though he could have his greatest impact off the bench.

Having kept a close eye on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), the Taipans signed Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai, a duo that was joined later by Jordan Hunt who provides more size for the team. Kenny is a great playmaker who can provide superb depth in the guard spot, while Ngatai can shoot from just about anywhere and hardly had a poor game in the NZNBL. Throw in other bigs, Fabijan Krslovic, Majok Deng and George Blagojevic, and there are no causes for concern for the Snakes in that regard.

In short, the Taipans have what it takes to go all the way in the NBL21, with an exciting young talent in King, as well as elite stars in Machado and Oliver, and consistent talents in Noi and Jawai, alongside the New Zealand up and comers who continue to have impact wherever they go.

Picture credit: Cairns Taipans

Draft Central’s Top 20 Players of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown: Complete List

HERE is our complete list of the Top 20 Player of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown. Click on any of the links below to view the corresponding article:

#1 Tom Vodanovich (Jets)

#2 Derone Raukawa (Airs)

#3 Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets)

#4 Marcel Jones (Airs)

#5 Hyrum Harris (Jets)

#6 Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Huskies)

#7 Taylor Britt (Rams)

#8 Jordan Hunt (Nuggets)

#9 Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls)

#10 Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets)

#11 Leon Henry (Huskies)

#12 Taane Samuel (Jets)

#13 Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies)

#14 Jayden Bezzant (Jets)

#15 Sam Timmins (Bulls)

#16 Isaac Davidson (Bulls)

#17 Mike Karena (Giants)

#18 Shane Temara (Airs)

#19 Kane Keil (Nuggets)

#20 Taine Murray (Huskies)

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #5 – Hyrum Harris (Manawatu Jets)

IN our newest countdown series wrapping up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, we look at our top 20 players that took to the court this year. While it was an incredibly difficult list to create, we have had a mix of pure domination, defensive efforts and eye-catchers to form this list.

#5 HYRUM HARRIS

When looking at players lighting up the court and the stats sheet across the board, it is hard to look past Manawatu Jets’ Harris. The talented big man missed a few games due to injury, but would have been right up in conversation for All-Star Five selection, and was among the very best defensive players in the competition. Whilst he might not have shared in the Defensive Player of the Year award with Jarrod Kenny and Izayah Mauriohooho Lea’afa, some of the numbers Harris put up week-in, week-out was ridiculous.

He finished the 2020 Sal’s NBL season ranked first in the league for steals (2.7) and second for both rebounds (11.6) and assists (6.4), whilst averaging the sixth most minutes in the competition, with 31.5. While he was not as prolific scorer as some others, he still managed to finish equal 15th in the league with almost 15 points per game, making it a double-double average. Not only did he carry that average throughout the season, but he put up some of the biggest stat lines that the competition saw all season, picking up a rare triple double, but twice looking at the unheard of quadruple-double with at least seven assists and steals twice when picking up double-digit points and rebounds.

When discussing his best games, his sole triple-double effort against Taranaki Mountainairs with 24 points – 67 per cent from the field – 10 rebounds and 10 assists has to come into the picture. Though it would also be remiss not to mention what could well be his best effort in the semi-finals against the Airs again, putting up an unbelievable 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, seven steals and only three turnovers. His other game close to a quadruple-double was against Auckland Huskies with 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and eight steals, though with six turnovers.

With stats like that, it is hard to find too many faults, though his shooting from range and the charity stripe remain as areas of improvement. Other than that, Harris had an incredible season, and factoring in his limited minutes showing in the qualifying final – where he scored three points from 18 minutes – he could have averaged even more. In the grand final, Harris finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals in a prominent shooting display including 80 per cent from two-point range. Overall it was a remarkable year and he kicks off our top five players.

STATS:

Points: 14.9
Rebounds: 11.6
Assists: 6.4
Steals: 2.7
FG%: 54.2
2P%: 60.6
3P%: 21.1
FT%: 51.6
Minutes: 31.5

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #6 – Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Auckland Huskies)

IN our newest countdown series wrapping up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, we look at our top 20 players that took to the court this year. While it was an incredibly difficult list to create, we have had a mix of pure domination, defensive efforts and eye-catchers to form this list.

#6 IZAYAH MAURIOHOOHO LE’AFA

When you start to hit the award winners, you know you are in the real pointy end of the countdown. Mauriohooho Le’afa is the top ranked Auckland Huskies talent of four players to make our Top 20 countdown. He shared in the Defensive Player of the Year with Jarrod Kenny, and was named in the All-Star Five at season’s end. While he ended up missing a few games due to injury, it was clear that when he got on the court, the Huskies were a supremely better outfit and Mauriohooho Le’afa was a key reason why the Huskies started to get on a roll leading into the 2020 Sal’s NBL finals series.

In the 2020 season, Mauriohooho Le’afa was ranked second in steals with 2.5 per game behind only Hyrum Harris. His offensive output on the other hand was higher, ranking inside the top five for points with 20.7 per game and as he showed at the pointy end of the season, was capable of putting up big numbers. He was absolutely sensational in the elimination final and almost single-handedly dragged his team across the line and into a semi-final. His shooting accuracy throughout the season was an area of improvement with just 39.4 per cent accuracy from the field, but a lot of that came from his prevalence of shooting the outside ball where he ranked equal second in three-pointers made with three per game.

Throughout the regular season, his best game came against Nelson Giants on July 5 when he put up 32 points at 50 per cent from the field, draining a whopping eight of 14 from outside the arc. He also collected four rebounds, two assists and two steals on the night. His best defensive effort came a few days later when he racked up a season-high nine steals, pickpocketing the Canterbury Rams on his way to 21 points, three rebounds and three assists. But his best game would be saved for last.

Mauriohooho Le’afa stepped up on the big stage in the do-or-die elimination final, sinking 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal in a remarkable 38-minute effort to never die wondering. It was one of the performances of the season and while the Huskies ultimately fell short in that game, Mauriohooho Le’afa went the full four quarters.

STATS:

Points: 20.7
Rebounds: 4.5
Assists: 5.4
Steals: 2.5
FG%: 39.4
2P%: 41.9
3P%: 36.4
FT%: 81.5
Minutes: 32.5