Tag: jordan ngatai

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.

Harvey erupts for 35, Hawks hold off Taipans by two points

ILLAWARRA Hawks’ star import Tyler Harvey went off in Sunday’s closer for a career night in scoring, leading his team to edge out the Cairns Taipans 82-80 and going two wins clear of the fourth ranked Brisbane Bullets in the NBL standings – bearing in mind the Bullets have three games in hand.

After a tough loss two games prior to last night at home, the Hawks wanted to get off to the best start possible in what was the last game of Illawarra’s three-game home stand. With this in mind, Illawarra’s home crowd spurred their team on to a five-point lead after the first quarter as Harvey put up 10 points in that time.

While Cairns started to strike back after being down 20-25 at the first break, it had to begin through their main weapons in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado. But as Mike Kelly’s squad started to string together some much needed scores, Illawarra’s Deng Deng and Deng Adel made their presence known to the Taipans finishing strong at the tail-end of the second quarter to put the Hawks up by 11 points at half time.

It was obvious that Kelly needed to inspire his side to a strong start in the third and Oliver felt obliged to step in early as a result. As the Cairns center kept knocking down jumpers, Justin Simon and Sam Froling answered back with buckets of their own and the third quarter ensued.

Backed by Oliver’s 10 third quarter points, Cairns pulled back the margin from 11 points at half time to just five, after a good defensive period which led to the Taipans limiting the Hawks to just 10 points before the fourth got underway.

Both sides traded baskets back and forth during the first couple of minutes in the final term before Nathan Jawai scored five consecutive points to tie up the contest with eight minutes left to play.

The one player that Cairns could not figure out how to contain was Harvey, as the first season import exploded for a career-high night putting Illawarra in the best possible position to finish the contest strongly.

In the final minute, a Simon jumpshot would fall to put the Hawks up by four, however, Jordan Ngatai dropped a triple of his own with 14 seconds on the clock to keep those in attendance on edge.

Luckily enough, Justinian Jessup remained cool and composed under pressure hitting four-straight free throws, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a narrow two-point victory and cap off a successful three-game home stretch, winning two games out of three.

In many areas of last night’s closer, both teams were relatively even throughout the meeting, but Illawarra excelled at scoring in the paint and rebounding at both ends. On the other hand, Cairns were much more disciplined from the free throw line shooting 85 per cent from the charity strike (17-20) and knocked down nine triples compared to Illawarra’s seven. All in all, both the Hawks and the Taipans shot relatively well with the sides shooting 45 and 40 per cent from the field respectively.

There was no stopping Harvey on his way to a career-high 35 points shooting 13 of 24 attempts from the field, as well as three rebounds to add to his performance. Simon was the only other Hawk to crack double digits with 10 points and six rebounds, while Andrew Ogilvy led Brian Goorjian’s roster in rebounds and assists finishing his night with eight points, nine boards and five dimes.

For Cairns, Oliver was head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates with an impressive 27-point, 12-rebound and five-assist outing. A surprising notable performance by youngster Tad Dufelmeier would also be a main headline in the box score with the 24-year-old putting up a season-high 12 points in 13-and-a-half minutes of game time.

Cairns now look to end their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they host the Adelaide 36ers, who are hot off a motivating win against the Perth Wildcats. Illawarra Hawks will hope to do the same thing as they head to RAC Arena on Friday to face the defending champions and kick off a Round 14 that will entail clashes against two of the top teams in the NBL.

United finish strong to tame Taipans in Snake Pit

MELBOURNE United has strung together their fourth consecutive win with a 10-point National Basketball League (NBL)21 victory on the road against Cairns Taipans, 83-73. The visitors led by two points at quarter time, and three at the half, with Cairns able to keep in touching distance at the final break before United came out too strong in the final term, to run out the double-digit winners.

Melbourne United had the early going with a narrow 24-22 lead when the first quarter ended, and again marginally edged ahead at the half-time break courtesy of an extra point, 19-18. With the margin in favour of United 43-40, Cairns managed to wrestle back some of the momentum, albeit only by a point, to head into the final break two points behind, 60-62.

After an early Cameron Oliver lay up with 6:52 on the clock, United clicked into gear with Mitch McCarron piling on eight consecutive points to blow the margin out to nine points in the space of 90 seconds. Oliver brought it back with a big dunk, but Chris Goulding answered immediately, and the Mason Peatling stretched the lead out to 11. Jordan Ngatai desperately kept his side in it with a three-point attempt, but missed attempt after missed attempt from the home team really hurt.

In the end, it was McCarron and Scotty Hopson who just put the cream on the cake with another five points for a 13-point lead, before Scott Machado and Oliver had a couple of late baskets either side of a Hopson dunk to end the game with a 10-point margin. The 83-73 Melbourne United win made it the Victorian side’s fourth consecutive victory in the NBL after a sluggish end to the NBL Cup.

Both teams were fairly even in shooting from the field, with the Taipans and United scoring 27 baskets. The home team had a higher percentage of threes to twos (11 from 27 total makes), while United was double the twos to threes (18 of 27). Melbourne took control in the rebounds (51-40) and led the assists (19-15) and blocks (5-2). Cairns still impressed with an extra steal (6-5) and had less turnovers (9-12), as well as a great contribution off the bench (24-18). united had a greater impact in the pain with 36 points to 28 in there, as well as an extra point off turnovers (12-11).

McCarron won Player of the Match for his superb last quarter, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists on the night, as Jock Landale provided the strength close to the basket, putting up 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Hopson had one of his best games of the season thanks to 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists, as Goulding topped all-comers with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists. Off the bench it was Yudai Baba (five points, four rebounds) and David Barlow (five points, five rebounds) who aided the cause, with the latter teaming up well on rotation with Peatling (nine points, three rebounds).

Machado was the main man again with 20 points, seven assists and three rebounds, as Oliver recorded yet another double-double for the home team. The big man picked up 14 points and 10 rebounds – four offensive – as well as two steals for his troubles. Ngatai played his best game for 2021 with 15 points and five rebounds, while Mirko Djeric was the standout off the bench with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Melbourne United will head to John Cain Arena on Saturday to host the New Zealand Breakers, whilst the Taipans have a full week to recover before taking on Illawarra Hawks at WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday.

Picture credit: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Cairns secure win back at home, end five-game losing streak over 36ers

WITHOUT both Kouat Noi and Majok Deng, the Cairns Taipans ran out 79-65 victors over the Adelaide 36ers back at home yesterday in the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, snapping a five-game losing skid in the process as Mike Kelly and his squad look to fight their way off the bottom of the NBL standings.

Adelaide found early success from the three-point line hitting three of their first four attempts from deep, as Cairns looked relatively sluggish to start in front of the home crowd. Following a 10-point run and 57 per cent shooting from the field, the Taipans would fight back to take the 24-18 quarter-time lead. Led by Mirko Djeric, who had eight points in the first 10 minutes, and Mojave King (six points), Adelaide’s early benching of key big-man Daniel Johnson gave Cairns the opportunity to strike with a strong four-minute stretch in the first.

For Cairns, it took until the second quarter commenced that their stars Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver started to make an impact, which as a result saw a more free-flowing brand of basketball being played by the rest of the roster. Momentum kept increasing through the second term for the home side, as the Taipans limited Adelaide’s secondary unit and overall scoring ability, keeping the 36ers to just 16 points before half time.

The Taipans’ good form in the initial two quarters was capped off by Jarrod Kenny hitting a ridiculous shot from half-court which sent the hosts into the main break with a comfortable 46-34 lead. Cairns were impressive from behind the arc with nine triples compared to Adelaide’s five, but the Taipans were not doing themselves any favours having turned the ball over 11 times before the third stanza. However, having a plus-10 on the boards (21-11) certainly offset some of their self-harm due to poor ball security.

Showing promising signs in the third, Adelaide strung together numerous good plays to cut into their deficit before Cairns found some more rhythm. Djeric and Jordan Ngatai combined for two big plays at the midway point of the third quarter to abruptly halt the 36ers’ progress. But “DJ” was not going to concede defeat so easily, inspiring a comeback effort shortly before the final break bringing his points total up to 19, as well as motivating Jack McVeigh and Tony Crocker to some productive efforts at a critical stage in the contest. Adelaide finished the third on a 7-0 run and only trailed 50-58 credit to a 16-12 period.

Once again, Cairns neutralised Adelaide’s efforts to get back into the game after hitting three consecutive shots to put their lead back above 10 points two minutes into the concluding 10-minute stretch.

An important three-pointer and contact-layup from Sunday Dech signalled another possible fightback attempt as Adelaide whittled their deficit to a little as nine points. Nevertheless, Machado and Oliver put the final nails in the coffin over the last couple of minutes to win on home turf by 14 points after 10 straight appearances away from home.

Oliver finished the night with a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds adding yet another double-double to his impressive NBL21 collection. His running mate in Machado had himself a solid night out too in the “Snagpit” with 17 points and six assists, while Djeric was consistent with 13 points off of 55 per cent shooting.

Despite Johnson finishing with the game-high in scoring (21 points and six rebounds), little impact on the scoreboard was made elsewhere with McVeigh the next highest contributor adding 15 points and a pair of rebounds. Dech was the only other playerr to amass more than 10 points, concluding his efforts with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Notably, Brandon Paul was again quiet with just six points to his name.

A true challenge awaits the Taipans in Round 12, with Cairns set to face Melbourne United this upcoming Friday down in Victoria. On the other hand, Adelaide has the Illawarra Hawks waiting in the wings with the Sixers to host the contest back in South Australia the following night.

Perth steals top spot with dominant win over Taipans

PERTH Wildcats have claimed top of the table honours after defeating Cairns Taipans last night (93-75). A Melbourne United loss earlier in the evening gifted Perth the chance to steal the number one position on the National Basketball League (NBL) with their win making that a reality. The good times just keep on rolling for Perth currently sitting on a four game winning streak while Cairns are a shell of the team they used to be in the 2019/20 season slumping to their 13th loss.

The intentions of Perth were made abundantly clear from the opening minutes of play with Bryce Cotton once again having a major influence on proceedings. His presence across the court was immediately felt putting up seven triples in the first quarter alone to try and gain some early ascendancy. With five minutes left in the opening stanza the Wildcats established a 12-point lead and while the Taipans managed to slightly eat into that buffer thanks to the likes of Nate Jawai and Jordan Ngatai it still resulted in a 12-point ball game.

The second followed suit and although Perth were not as proficient only managing the 24 points as opposed to the 31 they scored in the first, the ladder leaders added to their growing tally. The lead blew out to as much as 20 points but by half time it was only a 15-point buffer.

Destined to work their way back into the contest, the Taipans rallied in the third term to apply some strong scoreboard pressure and shut down the Wildcats’ easy ball movement. Some Scott Machado magic took centre stage with the lynchpin for the side stepping up to the plate in the third and dragging his side to within 13 points. However his heroics were short lived as Perth went on a scoring spree, sinking 10 points to zip. A couple of three from Ngatai and Machado bookended the term but the damage was done heading into the fourth.

With the game firmly in their grasps Perth continued their merry way, rounding out the match with an 18 point victory. Their overall cleanliness and dominance proved to be the difference while their proficiency enabled them to dictate the terms of the game. bursting out of the blocks from the opening quarter, Perth never really looked like losing and Cairns simply did not have the answers to run with them.

It was Cotton’s night once again with the reigning league best and fairest  impressing in all facets of the game. Cotton led the way with 28 points and while his accuracy could have been better from beyond the arc – six from 16 at 37 per cent – he was still a force to be reckoned with. John Mooney was in the thick of things again producing 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists while Todd Blanchfield also made his presence felt knocking back 17 points, five rebounds and two steals. Although Jarred Bairstow did not feature highly on the points scoring front his strength off the boards was notable collecting seven rebounds.

Machado was the main source of pain for the Taipans nailing 16 points and reeling in four rebounds. Kouat Noi was the next best and fell just short of a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds to his name as Jawai chimed in with a handy 13 points. Ngatai knocked back 10 points while Cameron Oliver had a quiet outing by his lofty standards with six points and six rebounds.

Cairns surprise Hawks with final quarter flurry

THE Cairns Taipans have claimed a huge upset win over the second placed Illawarra Hawks defeating their opponents in an enthralling contest (101-95). With the lead chopping and changing throughout the game the Taipans put their best foot forward in the final term, exploiting their opponents to win their third game of the season.

It was a nail-biting start to the game with both sides throwing down plenty of buckets and showcasing their scoring prowess to keep the scoreboard flowing. The Taipans took the lead in the first quarter edging out their opponents by a point but the Hawks changed gears in the second term with their bigs taking charge. Finding the basket with relative ease, Illawarra found their groove to create some separation on the scoreboard and take a handy lead into the main break.

Down at half time, Cairns came out with a renewed sense of confidence and attack making the first points of the second half, to get the game back on their terms in the opening minutes. The Taipans reduced their buffer to a mere two points and looked set on keeping things that way with their intent and pressure, however Illawarra was not about to lie down. With the lead getting out to as much as 12 points midway through the third term, the Taipans rallied only facing a three point differential at the final change. But things got even more interesting in the final moments of the fourth quarter thanks to Cairns dominating the term. Playing the game on their terms, the Taipans kicked things up a notch to post a whopping 33 points to 24 to secure a win and claim a big scalp.

Shooting percentage lent in the favour of the Taipans securing 34 of their 73 attempts at 46 per cent from the field and while the Hawks converted more shots with 35 their overall accuracy was down at 40 per cent. From beyond the arc the victors also had the upper hand sitting at 51 per cent compared to 43 per cent. The Taipans did the most damage in the paint with 26 points to 22 but it was a different story when it came to scoring off turnovers with the Hawks showcasing their class to capitalise through their 19 points to eight.

The Hawks outclassed the Taipans with ball in hand to secure 18 assists to 16 while they also impressed when it came to steals and blocks with (6-3) and (6-2) respectively. On the rebounding front Cairns just edged out the Hawks with 47 rebounds to 45.

Captain Scott Machado had the ball on a string throughout the contest, posting 31 points for the match while also dragging down eight rebounds, all of which were defensive. Machado well and truly led from the front for the Taipans controlling proceedings and using his basketball nous to dictate the play with his six assists. Jordan Ngatai also impressed for Cairns recording 17 points at 66 per cent from the field while also collecting four rebounds. Mirko Djeric plied his trade registering 16 points in the win to accompany his three rebounds and five assists as Majok Deng and Cameron Oliver sunk 13 points apiece. Oliver also recorded eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks.

For the Hawks it was Tyler Harvey that once again took charge posting a team-high 24 points in his 32 minutes on court. Harvey’s stat line did not stop there picking up five rebounds, six assists and two steals. Justinian Jessup was not far behind with 17 points of his own, one rebound and two assists as Deng Deng kept the scoreboard ticking over with 17 points and five rebounds. Cameron Bairstow was a force to be reckoned with off the bench recording a double-double with his 10 rebounds and 13 points while Sam Froling was the only other player to reach double figures with 12 points.

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: #1 – Tom Vodanovich (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.

#1 TOM VODANOVICH

Top spot on our Top 20 Sal’s NBL countdown of the best players of season 2020 had to go to the Most Valuable Player (MVP). Vodanovich was a deserving winner of the award, and while the likes of Derone Raukawa and Jordan Ngatai both had deserving claims, the Jets power forward was absolutely enormous throughout the year as he often had to stand up with teammates such as Hyrum Harris out injured. When push came to shove, Vodanovich was not afraid to make his presence felt, and he was a hard man to stop up either end, a key reason why the Jets went all the way to the grand final.

The knock on Vodanovich not winning the award was often because of his low assist and steal numbers compared to some of the other top players in the competition. But that means little in the scheme of things when you factor in his influence on games. He was third overall for points (22.4) and fourth for rebounds (10.2), one of only four players to average a double-double in season 2020 alongside Marcel Jones, Harris and Leon Henry. But it was not only his sheer volume of numbers on the offensive end – where he also picked up the fourth most offensive rebounds (2.2) and the only player in the top 10 for that stat who averaged more than 18 points per game.

One cannot speak about Vodanovich’s impact without reciting his ridiculous accuracy from the field. Of the top 20 point-scorers, Vodanovich was the most deadly from outside the arc (44.9 per cent), and the second most deadly from inside it (63.7 per cent), for a total field goal accuracy of 52.1 per cent (fourth of those shooters). While statistics can lie, and players who rarely put up shots pick up high percentages, this was not the case with Vodanovich. The Jets forward had the most three-point marks in the league with 4.1 per game. To put that in comparison, that is more than one per game higher than his nearest competitor, and only 11 players averaged two or more per game – he doubled that feat. He actually put up more three-pointers than two-pointers which is rarely thought of considering the high percentage plays.

In season 2020, Vodanovich only dipped below double-digit points twice, and below five rebounds twice. One of these happened in the same game against Auckland Huskies where Vodanovich was managed leading into finals with second spot locked on the ladder and played just 15:45 minutes. Of his best games? It is hard to go past his competition-record 43 points, as well as 11 rebounds, three assists and one steal, dropping 10 triples on the Bulls in a devastating night. The Huskies could sympathise with the Bulls because he did it in the second game of the season against Auckland, recording 10 of 16 from three-point range on his way to 38 points and three rebounds as well.

Vodanovich had nine games of 20-plus points making him clearly one of the most dominant shooters, and when factoring in him being the most accurate of the lot, the Jets big man was a well deserving winner of the MVP Award and top spot in our Top 20 Sal’s NBL countdown.

STATS:

Points: 22.4
Rebounds: 10.2
Assists: 2.1
Steals: 1.1
FG%: 52.1
2P%: 63.7
3P%: 44.9
FT%: 71.4
Minutes: 32.6