Tag: Nick Kay

NBL Free Agency Update: Kings, Phoenix and Wildcats

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

SYDNEY KINGS

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

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

Contracted:

Brad Newley
Jordan Hunter

Re-signed:

Shaun Bruce
Xavier Cooks
Craig Moller (Club Option)

Signed:

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

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

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

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

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

Contracted:

Adam Gibson
Kyle Adnam
Mitchell Creek

Re-signed:

Dane Pineau
Kendall Stephens

Signed:

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

 

PERTH WILDCATS

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

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

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

Contracted:

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

Re-signed:

Bryce Cotton
Majok Majok (Club Option)
Taylor Britt

Signed:

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

2019 NZNBL season recap: Wellington Saints take out title

AN undefeated season from the Wellington Saints saw the side take out the 2019 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) title. Draft Central throws back to last season with the new 2020 season upon us to see how each of the teams performed and whether they are competing this year.

1st Wellington Saints (18-0)

The minor premiers had a perfect season to-date storming to the title off the back of an 18-0 regular season, and then winning both their finals. The Saints defeated Southland Sharks by six points in the semis, and 10 points in the final, to take home the coveted title. Their side featured names such as Nick Kay, Shea Ili, Jordan Ngatai and Thomas Abercrombie, of whom all are legitimate stars at Australian National Basketball Level (ANBL). Unfortunately like three other sides in the top four, the Saints will not be competing in 2020, leaving the title up for grabs.

2nd Hawke’s Bay Hawks (14-4)

The Hawks chose not to compete in 2020 after finishing second overall and making the final. They were still four wins behind the Saints, but comfortably inside the top four with a win extra on top of the third place Canterbury Rams who they defeated in the semi-finals to reach the decider. The Hawks had talented players like Jarrod Kenny (competition-high 6.8 assists) Brandon Bowman, Ethan Rusbatch and E.J. Singler which helped them have such success in the season.

3rd Canterbury Rams (13-5)

The third placed Rams were a win off a home semi-final and went down narrowly to the Hawks in semis. They had produced some consistent basketball all season and avoided the fourth placed spot to go up against the minor premiers. Among the Rams’ top players were Emmett Naar and Cameron Gliddon, though Canterbury had a real even team balance across the board.

4th Southland Sharks (12-6)

The Sharks will not be competing in the 2020 season, but will remember the 2019 one fondly. They reached the finals, and while they ultimately fell short against the top of the table Saints, had a number of impressive players throughout the season. Jarrad Weeks, Todd Blanchfield and Hyrum Harris were among those on the books for Southland in 2019.

5th Southern Huskies (9-9)

Making the trek from Tasmania was a tricky obstacle for the Huskies who missed out on finals with a 50-50 win-loss ratio. They have since rebranded and based themselves in Auckland which should help, and one of the newest sides there will be keen to get off to a good start. Jalen Billups and Marcel Jones were among the top performers for the Huskies last season.

6th Nelson Giants (7-11)

The Giants were the next best in mid-table duo, with a four-win gap to the bottom three, but still two wins adrift of fifth. During the season they had a couple of standout players such as Jordair Jett and Rhys Vague who held up their end of the bargain for the Giants who will eye off more success in 2020.

7th Super City Rangers (3-15)

Statistically the Rangers absolutely dominated, but could not quite get it to click. Tim Quarterman averaged the most points (28.1) and steals (3.3) per game, while Venky Jois had the most rebounds (11.5) and Nnanna Egwu had the most blocks (1.9). It did very little in the overall scheme of things however as the Rangers won just three games, and they are the other side (outside the top four from 2019) not competing in the 2020 competition.

8th Taranaki Mountainairs (3-15)

Finishing below the Ranges with an equal win-loss record, the Mountainairs did not have too many standout players, but rather contributors. Kevin Foster, Chris Early and Derone Raukawa all made Team of the Weeks at different points during the season, but once each for a total of three nominations. Returning in 2020 under the new format, the Airs will be keen to take full advantage of the draft.

9th Manawatu Jets (2-16)

The wooden spooners from 2019 was the Manawatu Jets who won just the two games from 18 appearances. Daishon Knight and Wally Ellenson were the two standouts throughout the season, but ultimately the Jets were not able to be competitive enough for long enough. With a new format in place this season, they could be anything with the right drafting.

NBL Free Agency – May: How each team stands after contract opt-outs

LAST month the National Basketball League (NBL) announced it would need to reduce player payments across the board, slashing contracts by up to 50 per cent and reducing the maximum amount of imports to two per club. This had a ripple effect on the clubs and we take a look at who has fared best and who is not looking so good as of May 4 – the close of contract-opt outs. The information has been compiled thanks to Aussie Hoopla’s NBL free agent tracker and recent announcements by the clubs and league.

Note: The below rankings are not saying this is the ladder positions, but more how they have fared in terms of the quality lost or uncertainty over the lists for next season. The least impacted to the hardest hit.

#1 South East Melbourne Phoenix

There is not much more you could ask of the Phoenix thus far, having re-signed their star player in Mitch Creek and the bulk of the list being retained thus far. A perfect off-season would be retaining John Roberson and then seeing if they could snatch a third big name such as Terrico White. There is not much to write other than the Phoenix are in a good spot thus far coming into season two.

#2 New Zealand Breakers

With more players linked to the Breakers than departing, the New Zealand-based side could take advantage of a number of the Australian teams losing quality imports. The Breakers have been rumoured to consider an All-New Zealand side which would be an interesting move, but one that could help in terms of long-term success and continuity. The experienced Tom Abercrombie, as well as Corey Webster, Jarrad Weeks and Finn Delany are all signed up for next year, and a lot will depend on what happens with Scotty Hopson, but the Breakers are looking alright.

#3 Cairns Taipans

If there is a side that would be nervous about the unknown of the pandemic, it would have to be the Taipans. They got their act together on court this season, largely thanks to the likes of Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver doing their thing up either end of the court. While both have either agreed or are expected to return, there would be a question mark over them given the current circumstances. If they re-sign them, Cairns could be title favourites with the sides above them all having players opting out of contracts.

#4 Illawarra Hawks

As it stands, the 2019/20 wooden spooners at least will have continuity in their list for next season. While LaMelo Ball is obviously a huge – but expected loss – the starting line-up that carried the team through the second half of the season remains intact. They have likely lost Daniel Grida due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, and are waiting to see what happens with a number of uncontracted players. The only way is up for the Hawks next season and perhaps having continuity in the side will help.

#5 Adelaide 36ers

While the 36ers might have lost a coach over the off-season, they have replaced Joey Wright with Connor Henry who signed a three-year deal for the club. Everything looked good for the next season until Jerome Randle devastatingly did his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Europe. With him all but certain to miss next season and doubts on Eric Griffin as well in terms of re-signing, the 36ers will put plenty of weight on the younger brigade such as incoming recruit Josh Giddey and the ever-improving Harry Froling. Had Randle stayed fit, the 36ers would be in the top four at this point of the untouched preseason, but the injury hurt them badly.

#6 Brisbane Bullets

On face value, the Bullets have signed up most of their quality starters. But there is a Lamar Patterson-sized question mark over their list for the 2020/21 season. Patterson was expected to re-sign for another season prior to the pandemic, but like many it is unknown what impact the contract reductions and restrictions will have on the imports. If he signs, they could easily fly into the top four, if he does not, then they lack that dominant big man. Especially with Matt Hodgson opting out of his contract.

#7 Melbourne United

United have been able to re-sign those players who had multiple-year deals which is the first step towards season 2020/21. The reason they are lower down on the list is two of their best players are either departing or are expected to depart in Shawn Long (South Korea) and Melo Trimble (one-year deal). They missed out on Giddey and could be losing veteran Chris Goulding in a year. Basically, United will look to try and sign up a few more names to give some certainty about the look of their roster next season.

#8 Sydney Kings

The Kings have lost Casper Ware and Xavier Cooks at this stage, with both players opting out of their contracts and looking elsewhere. Andrew Bogut and Jae’Sean Tate are among those out of contract and of course Didi Louzada is headed for the NBA. Just a lot of question marks over what their 2020/21 roster could look like at this point in time. After a huge season and showing what the Kings were capable of a mix of bigs and smalls, the grand finalists will have some work to do in order to get back to the pointy end of the season.

#9 Perth Wildcats

It has been a real gut-wrenching period for the Wildcats thus far, losing their two best players in Bryce Cotton and Nick Kay who have opted out of their contracts and look at other opportunities for the 2020/21 season. With White also rumoured to be considering a move to Victoria, the Wildcats unbelievable reign in the NBL finals could be in danger. But we know how well the organisation is run, and with more space opening up, expect them to poke the eyes out of quality local talent.

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10: #1 – Bryce Cotton

Given that this season’s League MVP would go on to win the NBL Title, the Finals’ MVP and lead the competition in scoring and steals, it would make perfect sense that Bryce Cotton would rank at the top of the pack in this season’s edition of Draft Central’s NBL Top 10. However, the decision to put Cotton at number one was not so clear cut.

Season performances from the likes of Scott Machado, Scotty Hopson, Lamar Patterson and others, made the decision to put Arizona-born guard at the top of the list, one that wouldn’t be decided until the postseason. While 22.48 points per game (league leader) is all well and good, Cotton’s consistency separated himself from his piers during the season, as only once would he put up single digits in all 27 of his games, scoring four points against the Breakers back in early-November. He would also hold himself responsible to a 42 per cent field goal accuracy rate, one of the best amongst guards and forwards collectively.

Defensively, Cotton would once again lead the competition in another major statistical category, this time in steals. On eight separate occasions, Cotton would accumulate three or more steals during a contest, which would help him attain an average of 1.75 steals per game throughout the season. Cotton’s contributions carried his team throughout 27 encounters, as on several separate days he would put up monumental performances. Notably his 36 and 39-point efforts against the Sydney Kings in Rounds 6 and 13, his 34 points against the Breakers in Round 7 and his 42 points against the Taipans in Game one of their semi-final series.

As the Wildcats would grind away at the Kings’ ladder-leading position throughout the season, their ability to not fall into losing slumps helped the Wildcats maintain an ongoing winning form. Not losing three games in a row, helped Perth secure second position and home-court advantage leading into their series with the Taipans. Following their 85-72 win over the Brisbane Bullets, Cotton would receive his second MVP Award as well as his third All-NBL First Team selection alongside teammate Nick Kay. But the individual accolades were trivial compared to the major prize of a potential championship.

The 27-year-old made his intentions known in Game One against Cairns as mentioned earlier, but Games Two and Three required a different approach of play by Cotton. With the Wildcats going down by 11 to Cairns away from home in Game 2, Cotton would walk away with a measly 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. In Game Three, however, he would facilitate the ball in a fashion that had not occurred all season, as he dished out eight assists in the deciding Game Three contest, aiding his side in the 11-point triumph.

Moving on to face the Kings, all that could be said in the Grand Final series was Sydney’s inability to stop the scoring of Cotton. Putting up 30-point games on two separate occasions would set the reigning-MVP up for a 30-points per game series win and the defining performance for him and his team, winning their fourth title in five years. While Cotton awaits to hear back from the Australian government in regard to his citizenship request, as mentioned to the Arizona Daily Star, he was relieved to receive the title given the unfortunate fashion that it was obtained. “It felt just as amazing to be acknowledged as the champions,” said Cotton. “It was almost like watching Selection Sunday. We were just kind of sitting around waiting to see what the verdict was going to be.”

The guard had cemented his own dynasty with his third chip in his extensive NBL career thus far. Of course the news coming through yesterday was that Cotton had opted out of his contract with the Wildcats for season 2020/21 after the NBL’s decision to cut player payments by up to 50 per cent and limit import numbers. The agreement put in place is that Cotton will search for opportunities overseas, however the Wildcats have retained his rights should he choose to honour the contract for next season. In other words Wildcats fans, he cannot play for another NBL team. It will be Perth or international for the star guard.

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 season review: Sydney Kings

THE Sydney Kings were one of the three teams that tied for first position in 2018-19 alongside the Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United. Unfortunately, due to percentage the Kings would have to settle for third position and relinquish home court advantage, and they would lose their semi-final series to United 2-0.

This season, however, Will Weaver’s side would take no luxuries, as for the first time in NBL history, a single team would remain at the top of the League’s standings from the first round to the last.

From start to finish

Sydney Kings would begin their season from the get-go, as they would fight hard for an eight-point away win against the Taipans. Following this, a convincing 22-point demolition of the 36ers would quickly establish the Kings as the League’s benchmark and the team to beat throughout the season. It would not all come so easily to the Kings, which was evidenced by their back-to-back series against the Breakers. A team that would finish the season in sixth would push Sydney to the limit across eight quarters. Nevertheless, the Purple and Gold would prevail in both contests, extending their unbeaten start to the season to four.

Sydney’s first downfall came from an old foe, as once again United would come out on top as a result of a 107-104 battle down at Melbourne Arena, reminding the Kings of the pain they endured in last season’s semi-finals. Not only was Sydney’s win percentage throughout the season impressive, it was their ability to bounce back from a loss and stick to their guns. This was evident following their first loss of the season. Firstly, a 10-point win over the Bullets would provide valuable momentum to the Kings as they would face the second of the League’s best two sides two days later.

The first contest between the Kings and Wildcats was a close affair at first with Sydney up by just three points. But thanks to rookie Brazilian, Didi Louzada (28 points and six rebounds), an exemplary second half from the Kings would ensue, as they outscored Perth 55-39 in the last two periods, solidifying themselves as the League’s top dogs. Another three contests would be won in a row to cap off one of the best starts in the NBL’s history, holding a record of 11 wins and one loss after 12 games.

Over the next two games for Sydney, however, would not be so kind due to losing back-to-back games to the Taipans and the Wildcats in their rematch at RAC Arena, which started to bring up questions of whether the Kings could hold their own against the other top teams in the finals conversation. Sitting atop of the standings with an 11-3 record, the two-horse race between themselves and the defending champions from WA had started to heat up, as for the rest of the regular season, the Kings would have the Wildcats nipping at their heels week after week.

A 2-3 start to the second half of the season would make things a little harder for the Kings, going down to the Wildcats again (bringing their season series to 1-2), the Bullets and the bottom-seeded Hawks in a game that fell through their grasp like wet sand. If the Kings were to secure the top-seed and earn home-court advantage through the playoffs, a strong push would be needed for their remaining five matchups and one factor remained a constant on the route to the top-spot.

Sydney’s ability to win on their home floor would provide much needed leeway in the standings because the Kings’ road record was not impressive. At 8-6 away from home, Sydney’s home record was what separated themselves from the Wildcats, losing just twice at Qudos Bank Arena through the 28 games. Their home record would come up big for them once again through their final nine games as they would win all five home encounters in the final stretch, which coupled with two away victories to help Weaver’s team secure the League’s number one seed with a season record of 20 wins and eight losses.

Run it back

For the second straight season the Kings would matchup with Melbourne United in this season’s NBL semi-finals, but this time it would be the Kings that would hold the home-court advantage.

Following a slow first three quarters where United would limit almost all of Sydney’s major weapons, whether it would Casper Ware’s shooting efficiency, Andrew Bogut’s inside presence or Jae’Sean Tate’s effectiveness from the wing. Despite this, the Kings would pull off one of the biggest comeback efforts in front of more than 13,000 people at Qudos bank Arena. One of Will Weaver’s strengths when it comes to his sides, is their massive amount of depth across the roster, and Game One of the series would prove this once again, as standout performances would come out of Xavier Cooks (13 points, nine rebounds and four assists), Brad Newley (17 points and five rebounds) and Didi Louzada (eight points in 16 minutes) who would come up big down the stretch. While Tate did find his stroke late in the game with 23 points and five boards, without the help of their secondary unit United certainly would have taken Game One.

Game Two was an entirely different story, however, as Melbourne was more than a little angry, due to the 16-point lead they blew two days earlier and they were itching to make amends. While the game would seem innocent after ten minutes of play, United would turn on the gas over the next two quarters scoring 77 points in the next 20 minutes. As a result, Melbourne would score 38 straight points at one stage of their run, as well as being in front by as many as 58 points, therefore quashing any possibility of a late comeback, as United would take out the debilitating contest 125-80.

But once again, Sydney’s ability to fight back on their home floor would be on display, as Game Three returned back to New South Wales for the deciding game. With both sides winning quarters leading into the main break. United had the slight edge as they led by five following a strong second quarter and it was well documented that marquee Guard and ex-Melbourne United player, Casper Ware, was not performing at his usual rate up until Game Three. But the import would pick up his game with 15 points and four rebounds, which was further aided by Tate’s 20 points which proved to be important late in the game. The Kings would tie up the contest by the end of the third quarter, setting the crowd up for a Win or Go Home final quarter. With defence being the major talking point all game, one of the teams had to break away, and with Tate once again proving to be the factor by making a jump shot with 84 seconds left in the game to put the Kings up by four, it turned out to be enough to get Sydney over the line against their long-time rivals. They would hold on to win the nail-biter 89-87 and move on to the Grand Final series to face the Wildcats.

False Kings

Even though the Kings had proven on numerous occasions that they were the best performing team in the competition following the 20 rounds, not everyone was convinced that the Kings could topple the reigning champs. Throughout the four encounters of these two teams, Sydney had only defeated Perth on one occasion, which sparked an abundance of doubt from punters and spectators alike. Nevertheless, the spectacle of game One proved to be a treat for all that attended as they observed a highly competitive contest.

With both teams trading quarters and leads, it was only three points the difference at the end of the first half, with the Wildcats just holding their noses in front. However, the Kings would hit back hard with a strong third quarter leading by five with ten minutes remaining. But behind their MVP, the Wildcats would have the last run of the game, outscoring the Kings 20-13 in the last quarter, taking Game One on the road by 88-86. Bryce Cotton’s 32 points, six rebounds and four assists would set the tone for a stellar series individually.

Following new COVID-19 restrictions, the dynamic of home court advantage would change as a minimal amount of people would attend games, and given the result of Game Two, this became very relevant as strong first and fourth quarters saw the Kings tie up the series 1-1 in a very quiet RAC Arena, as Bogut, Tate and Kevin Lisch combined for 58 points in Sydney’s 97-83 win leading into Game Three. With the new restrictions, they would soon giveth and taketh away as the lack of supporters would also work in favour of the Wildcats, following a 29-18 opening period, which seemingly deflated the Kings from the beginning. Because of this, 61 points from Cotton and Nick Kay would beat down on the Kings’ defence earning them the easy 2-1 series lead.

As the NBL would decide to anti-climactically end the series due to the newly introduced lockdown restrictions after three games instead of the conventional five games, and much deliberation, by default the Wildcats were awarded their second title in a row ending the Kings seemingly unstoppable campaign.

What next?

Casper Ware

 For many occasions, Casper Ware was the reason for a lot of Sydney’s success. However, when it came to moments at the tail end of the regular season, Ware would appear absent in times that mattered. This became apparent in the semi-final series against Melbourne United, as shooting became seemingly difficult for the star Guard. This would also carry over into the Grand Final series against Perth, as Cotton found the freedom to explode onto the scoreboard compared to his opponent.

Nevertheless, Ware’s numbers remained impressive as he positioned himself sixth amongst the League’s leading scorers averaging 19.7 points a game, alongside almost four assists a game. These efforts would earn him another All-NBL Team nomination putting him in good stead for the upcoming season.

Jae’Sean Tate

On the many occasions Ware has been absent from the floor, Jae’Sean Tate has made a name for himself this season as one of the NBL’s premiere wing players through his athleticism and accuracy. Shooting at a remarkable 66 per cent from the field and averaging 16.4 points per contest, Tate’s offensive prowess was almost unmatched amongst other players in his position. He also made himself known on the glass grabbing 5.8 rebounds per encounter. For a debut season earning an All-NBL First Team selection, he may very well have a stellar career in Australia’s top-flight should he choose to sign an extension with a club that is hungrier than ever for championship success.

Andrew Bogut

Coming off an MVP season in 2018-19, it was going to be hard for Andrew Bogut to improve his game. The 35-year-old took some of the load off himself in NBL 2020, shaving off minutes and points as a result. While Bogut’s numbers might have dwindled, his efficiency remained high, as his field goal percentage went up to 59 from 56 the previous season. He would also go on to average 8.8 rebounds a game, remaining a dominant force in that category and average a modest 8.2 points too.

Because of Bogut’s injury woes this season, the club forced him to manage his output and court-time. This has led the veteran to consider what his future does look like, as he has stated how difficult this season has been on him physically and mentally, so we will have to wait and see what the big man does leading into next season.

The Coach’s corner: Will Weaver

As a result of their disappointing yet necessary series defeat following Game Three, Weaver spoke at length at Triple M on behalf of his side thanking the city, and how lucky he felt to be a part of the process, despite the way the season had ended.

“Thank you guys so much for your support throughout the season and I’m so proud of the city of Sydney and to be a part of this city being embraced the way that we are, and by people that haven’t been a part of our program previously,” he said.

2019/20 NBL title decision: Who should win?

THE National Basketball League (NBL) championship is yet to be decided with the Grand Final Series being abandoned with two games to spare given the coronavirus outbreak. With player welfare at the forefront of the mind, the Sydney Kings decided to call it quits on the remainder of the series and despite the Perth Wildcats leading 2-1 over minor premiers Sydney, the result is yet to be determined. Arguments can be made for both sides in regards to which team should walk away with the title given their impressive seasons. We take a look at the options.

Sydney Kings:

There is no denying that the Kings were the front runners throughout the season, kick-starting their campaign with a seven game winning streak and only dropping a mere eight games for the whole season. They seemed to have all the answers time and time again, with their home court Qudos Bank Arena becoming a real fortress winning a staggering 12 out of 14 games there. Led by big man Andrew Bogut with an average of 8.80 rebounds per game the Kings proved to be too strong with teammate Xavier Cooks also chiming in off the boards to record an average of 9.07 rebounds a game. When it came to scoring, Casper Ware was the go to man, able to hit the scoreboard with ease whether it be from within the paint or beyond the arc with an average of 19.68 points while Jae’Sean Tate also came into his own throughout the season.

Despite their impressive form throughout the home and away season, the Kings looked a bit worse for wear in snippets during the finals, getting smashed by Melbourne United in what was a history making performance by United. While the Kings recovered, ultimately downing their interstate rivals and moving through to the Grand Final Series they have not been able to recapture their signature pressure and winning ways. Ware lost his scoring mojo unable to have his usual influence and while the likes of Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley have stepped up it has not been enough to generate a match winning total.

Perth Wildcats:

Up 2-1 in the Grand Final Series it is almost impossible to rip the trophy away from the reigning premiers who are looking for back-to-back NBL titles. The Wildcats have been red-hot premiership contenders throughout the season pushing teams to their limits and notching up key wins against fellow top four sides. The Wildcats have a wealth of key players but none bigger than powerhouse Bryce Cotton. After playing 27 games throughout the 2019/20 season Cotton was second in the league for points per game with a whopping 22.48 something that he well and truly brought into his finals campaign with the dynamo constantly lighting up the scoreboard. While Terrico White had a quiet year in comparison to his previous ones, the likes of Nick Kay stood up to shoulder the load while recruit Miles Plumlee showed his worth off the backboard.

Renowned for their ability to win at home, sitting at an 11-3 win-loss record Perth often used the crowd at RAC Arena to create an intense atmosphere many opposition sides were fearful of. Although they had not won a final at the venue so far in the Grand Final Series, a home court advantage in Game 4 could have been enough to give them that winning edge and claim premiership glory for consecutive seasons. They have shown that they can it match with the best travelling to Sydney on two occasions and taking down their opponents by three and 15 points respectively in Game 1 and 3.

Perth takes 2-1 lead in Grand Final Series

PERTH Wildcats proved too strong in Game 3 of the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final Series running out convincing 15 point winners  over Sydney Kings. The Wildcats edged one game closer to back-to-back championships with 111-96 victory. It was the first time since 1999 that the first three games in a grand final series were won by the visiting team.

As both sides channelled their inner basketball gym memories thanks to the empty seats due to the coronavirus, it was Perth that edged ahead to begin the game. Following the explosive start from Miles Plumlee, earning himself six points, two assists and a couple of blocks within the opening five minutes, the Wildcats finished the quarter holding the Kings to a mere 18 points as they produced 29 of their own, setting the tone early at Qudos Bank Arena.

The second quarter featured a couple of standout performers for the Kings, as three second quarter three-pointers from Brad Newley kept the home side within striking distance, while Jae’Sean Tate made his mark around the rim. Despite these factors, Sydney’s mission to cut the deficit was becoming futile given they had only outscored the Wildcats by one point in the second period, trailing by 10 at the main break.

However, it was in the opening half of the third quarter that Sydney finally made headway, tying up the game off the back of a pull-up three from Kevin Lisch. Nevertheless, that would be as close as Sydney would get to stealing Game 3 from the defending champions thanks to two big three pointers from Nick Kay, who ultimately set himself up for a night to remember. Stretching their lead back out to 14 with ten minutes remaining in the contest, all Trevor Gleeson’s men had to do was conduct their regular brand of basketball to the end, and following an alley-oop jam for Plumlee four seconds into the fourth quarter, it was safe to say Perth would conduct business as usual.

Good shooting from the starters to the bench for the Wildcats would see out a competitive Game 3 winning the contest 111-96, therefore setting up a bid to win the series back in Perth for Game 4. But, given the fact that the home team in all three games thus far has not won yet, it could mean a potential Game 5 if the Kings can pick themselves up. While four out of Sydney’s starting five amassed double-digit numbers, Will Weaver’s men still could not get the job done. Nevertheless, noticeable performances by Tate (20 points and six rebounds) and Newley (19 points and five rebounds) rounded out the Kings’ stat lines. Lisch also made substantial contributions with 16 points, while Casper Ware again struggled from the field with 11 points, going 5-20 (25 per cent) from the field.

For the Wildcats, it was a two man show once again as their NBL First Team stars were the main culprits. Bryce Cotton who shot close to fifty per cent, finished with 31 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in what was an all-around performance from the MVP.

On the other hand, it was a career-high night for Kay, collecting 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as he dominated from start to finish from deep. Alongside his numbers, Kay managed seven threes in a dominant performance offensively further solidifying his spot amongst the NBL’s elite. It is the second time in NBL history (first time since 1986) that two teammates have amounted 30 points each in a Grand Final series game (Cotton, 31 and Kay, 30). Good performances from Plumlee (13 points and seven rebounds) and Terrico White (10 points and four assists) aided the away side, while Clint Steindl made his shots count as he summed up his night with 13 points, going three of four from deep.

With Game 4 scheduled for Friday at RAC Arena, Perth has the chance to retain their championship on their home floor, but whether this kicks the Kings into gear and force a deciding Game 5, we will have to find out later this week.

2019/20 NBL Grand Final Game 3 preview: Sydney Kings vs. Perth Wildcats

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final Series tied at one game apiece, Sydney Kings return home to Qudos Bank Arena to take on Perth Wildcats. The former hopes to take control of the home court advantage unlike in the first game, and put themselves in a good position to take out the 2019/20 title – their first since 2007/08 – and stop the Wildcats making it back-to-back titles and their fourth in five years.

Sydney Kings bounced back from a two-point loss here at Qudos Bank Arena, to comfortably account for the Wildcats at RAC Area, 97-83. Andrew Bogut was the star with 19 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in Friday night’s game, making his average for the series 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists to be the leading Grand Final Most Valuable Player (MVP) candidate if the minor premiers get up.

If the Wildcats win overall, it seems fairly straightforward that 2019/20 MVP Bryce Cotton will take out the medal, having no fear here in Sydney after a phenomenal effort of 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal in Game 1. Returning home, Cotton was almost as strong, picking up 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal for an average of 29.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and one steal across the two games

Other players for the Kings who have been impressive thus far are Kevin Lisch (18.5 points) and Jae’Sean Tate (15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists), while Nick Kay (15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists) has been the sole Wildcat really helping Cotton on the scoring front. Miles Plumlee (8.0 points, 7.5 rebounds) has been strong off the boards but ultimately overwhelmed by Bogut.

In terms of players that need to lift, it is hard to look past Casper Ware and Terrico White for their respective sides. Ware has averaged just 6.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists, shooting at a woeful 16.7 per cent from the field. For Perth, White has just not been able to get his mojo going, averaging 6.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and also holding a lowly 27.8 per cent shooting efficiency.

Looking at overall team statistics, both sides have managed a remarkable 58 defensive rebounds across the two games, though the Kings are much better at second chance points with 26 offensive rebounds compared to the Wildcats’ 12. The turnovers are fairly even with Sydney having two more than Perth (27-25). The Wildcats’ clear strength is their ability to win the ball back and deny the opposition with 16 steals to seven, and nine blocks to three. The Wildcats have also committed more fouls in trying to do so however, recording 40-33 in this series.

Heading into Game 3, the Kings will be favourites to make it back-to-back wins and bounce back from the initial Game 1 loss last week. If Sydney can win, then it puts title favouritism fairly and squarely in the Kings’ court with a guaranteed third home game on offer even if they lose in Perth. For the Wildcats, a win would be instrumental to Perth’s back-to-back chances, because it means the Wildcats have a home game coming up, whereas a loss means they are on the ropes not only having to win at home, but take out the title in a challenging Game 5 here in Sydney.