Tag: Will Magnay

NBL Free Agency update: 36ers, Bullets and Taipans

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

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

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

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

Contracted:

Jack McVeigh
Daniel Dillon
Alex Mudronja
Obi Kyei

Re-signed:

Daniel Johnson

Signed:

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

 

BRISBANE BULLETS:

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

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

Contracted:

Jason Cadee
Nathan Sobey
Tyrell Harrison
Matt Hodgson

Re-signed:

Will Magnay

Signed:

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

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

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

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

Contracted:

Majok Deng
Mirko Djeric
Kouat Noi
Fabijan Krslovic

Re-signed:

Scott Machado
Nathan Jawai

Signed:

Mojave King (NBA Global Academy)

Hodgson returns as Brisbane’s NBL21 chances soar

BRISBANE Bullets are a step closer to retaining their core list for the National Basketball League (NBL) 2020/21 season after contracted star, Matt Hodgson opted to return to the club for next season.

Initially, Hodgson chose to weigh up his future options outside the NBL following the announcement by the league that contracted players could opt-out of contracts that would be slashed by up to 50 per cent. The 211cm and 115kg Brisbane Bullets centre from Ipswich decided to stay in his home state and will now line-up once again for the NBL side as the Queensland team hope to go a step better than in NBL20 and sneak into the finals series.

He has been a ray of consistency in the past couple of years for the Bullets, averaging around 10 points, six rebounds, one assists and one block across his past 55 games. His re-signing brings great hope to the Bullets outfit after the announcement that NBL20 recruit Nathan Sobey, Cameron Gliddon and Will Magnay will all take to the court next season.

It means the four Australian starters have returned to the club, with a wait on American duo, Lamar Patterson and Taylor Braun as the other starter and Sixth Man. If Patterson can re-sign, then the pressure will be thrown to Cairns Taipans to try and re-sign the last couple of their stars with other finalists, Sydney Kings, Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United all losing a couple of star talents.

NBL Off-Season Power Rankings: (not indication of where they will finish but just Off-Season ratings)

1 South East Melbourne Phoenix
2 New Zealand Breakers
3 Cairns Taipans
4 Brisbane Bullets
5 Illawarra Hawks
6 Adelaide 36ers
7 Melbourne United
8 Sydney Kings
9 Perth Wildcats

Draft Central’s NBL 2020 Top 10: Seeds 5-4

AS we move higher up the list of Draft Central‘s National Basketball League (NBL) Top 10, we delve into the league’s top five. Here we look at two of the NBL’s most productive big-men and two of the biggest figures in the Queensland basketball scene, showcasing why both these players had seasons deserving of a First Team selection.

5. Cameron Oliver

Alongside Shawn Long, Cameron Oliver sits at the top of the NBL’s most athletic big men, known for his high-flying plays and a powerful style of basketball. Coming into the league for his first season, coach Mike Kelly was eager to bolster up his frontcourt presence, with Oliver seeming to fit the bill, working with the likes of Nathan Jawai and Kouat Noi. The 23-year-old also possessed a rather unique skill amongst bigs, which was the ability to shoot the ball from range. This ability to knock down the odd three-pointer would create havoc and confusion on the defensive end for opposition teams. From the outset, the Oakland native was able to make valuable contributions on the scoreboard, however he would only amass a single double-double in his first ten games. Following a 10 point and 10 rebound performance against the Illawarra Hawks in Round 8, Oliver started to grow into the efficient inside presence that he has presently. Further down the track in Round 11, the Taipans big-man secured a season-high 17 rebounds alongside 21 points against the eventual NBL Champion Perth Wildcats, thereby staking his claim as one of the league’s most imposing figures. Oliver’s second half of the season would be substantially better than his first, given that he averaged a double-double in his last 14 games on the court, putting up 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds each time out leading up to the finals. Oliver would kick his play into next gear, when the semi-finals came around against the Wildcats, opening up his Game 1 performance with a phenomenal 19 points and 18 rebounds (a new season high). Another switch was clicked, as Oliver produced at an unprecedented level following a 22 point and 19 rebound Game 2 demolition job of the Wildcats at home to tie up the series. While his play would not hold up through Game 3, Oliver capped off his NBL 2020 season with a top-tier level of play (averaging 17 points and 9.1 rebounds), earning himself an All-NBL Second Team selection and the fifth seed in Draft Central’s top 10.

4. Lamar Patterson

Continuously touted as the “workhorse” of the NBL, Lamar Patterson further validated this moniker throughout the NBL 2020 season, as he almost single-handedly carried his team to a postseason appearance, after leading his side in almost all major statistical categories. Throughout all 28 games of Patterson’s season, he consistently put up extraordinary numbers in helping his team. The second year forward, would score 20 points or more in his first five contests, quickly establishing himself as the team’s main producer. While Brisbane did not have any individuals that would consistently pull down 10 rebounds or more, Patterson would do his part on the glass. Next to teammates like Will Magnay and Matthew Hodgson, Patterson’s consistent demeanour on the basketball court, saw him grab four, five or six rebounds per game every time out. Despite the absence of large numbers on a consistent basis, Patterson would still collect a couple huge games, namely a 36-point, four rebound and six assist barrage against the New Zealand Breakers in Round 10, and two 35-point nights against Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats in Rounds 13 and 14. Following their 36-point rout of the Cairns Taipans to finish off their 2020 season, just missing out on a postseason birth via percentage, Patterson finished as the team’s season leader in points (21.4), assists (4.5) and steals (1.1), as well as second in rebounds (6.0). As a result of Patterson’s exemplary season, he collected 43 All-NBL First Team selection votes to claim his second nomination in a row and came in third for this season’s MVP Award with 73 votes. A fitting end for the Pennsylvanian and a suitable seed in Draft Central’s top 10.

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: Brisbane Bullets

IT took three seasons for the Bullets to get off the bottom of the NBL standings since their resurrection as a franchise. This fact meant that the people of Brisbane now had a standard of basketball expected of their city’s team.

Under the guidance of former-Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis, the Queensland side would have all the pieces needed to make a finals appearance. But luck would not be on their side this time as their fate would lose out to United following the final game of the season.

Biting the Bullet

All signs looked promising from the get-go as a result of a 2-0 start to the season, which included an away win in Wollongong and a convincing win over would-be finalist Cairns. However, their three-straight losses that would follow would outline how most of the first half of their season would look.

Both winning and losing streaks would eventuate, leaving the Bullets with an 8-11 record at the turn of the decade. Such a poor record held by a team as skilled as Brisbane’s meant that the side needed to get its act together. The Bullets would do exactly that, and in a big way.

Starting on January 5 with a 12-point win against the Perth Wildcats, the Bullets would go to win seven of their final nine games in what would become an impressive collection of victories. The main highlight, however, would be the hectic turn of events that would conclude the NBL 2019/20 season.

Fresh off demoralising defeats to the New Zealand Breakers and the Wildcats, the Bullets would need to amass a huge win against the Taipans one more time, by at least 34 points to match with New Zealand on percentage. Following a massive first half effort, the Bullets would claw their way to a 36-point demolition job of Cairns, putting them in title contention with Melbourne United still to play.

Despite Brisbane’s optimism, Melbourne would totally outclass the South East Melbourne Phoenix in the final match of the competition and as a result, United would edge out Brisbane for fourth spot in the standings, which by extension would kick the Bullets out of the finals.

Like the Breakers and United, a record of 15 wins and 13 losses would be the final by-line for Brisbane’s regular season. But in any competition with only four postseason slots available, any defeat late in the season is detrimental to a side’s success.

Almost all the right pieces

Lamar Patterson

Successful basketball teams need a number of things to have the recipe for victories, one being a backbone of the team. Leading in essentially every category, Lamar Patterson would solidify himself as the team’s biggest producer of play, even the League’s. He would later be recognised for his efforts as he was amongst the leading vote getters to receive All-NBL First Team recognition.

Patterson was an essential role in last season’s Bullets side, but even so he was required to take his game up a notch this season. Playing at least 30 minutes every time he stepped onto the floor this season, Patterson would go onto average 21.4 points, six rebounds and four and a half assists per contest in a tremendous season for the American import.

Although Patterson has made himself feel at home on the northeast coast, he has made no comment on whether he intends on playing his third consecutive season with the Bullets. If so, the next step in establishing himself as a franchise name would be getting the Bullets past the semi-finals stage.

Will Magnay

Without a doubt the NBL’s biggest surprise of the season, Will Magnay really found traction later on in the season when his production at both ends of the court started to skyrocket. Thanks to these performances, not only has Magnay been invited to train with NBA teams this offseason, but he was also awarded this season’s Most Improved Player award.

While Magnay’s statistics are not through the roof like his peers, he would prove to be more than a nuisance for opposition frontcourts. Alongside him was Matthew Hodgson, and when these two provided good defensive communication, there was rarely another duo that could contest them on the boards.

Magnay would go onto lead the league in rejections, averaging 2.2 blocks per game as his minutes would increase five-fold compared to the previous season. Additionally, he would tally eight points and six rebounds a game to round out his stat line.

Nathan Sobey

After four seasons with the Adelaide 36ers, Nathan Sobey made his way up north to take the Bullets to the next stage, given his prior championship success. The 29-year-old took on a new role as a leadership figure at a club he was new to. He proved he was up to the position with grace which is evident in his numbers.

Shooting at 41 per cent, Sobey would tally numbers higher than any point in his professional career, averaging 16.5 points per game. He would also pool together four rebounds and three and a half assists per contest, while proving to be a reliable source from the free-throw line.

The Coach’s Corner: Andrej Lemanis

In terms of great Australian coaches, Lemanis has an extensive coaching resume that compares to the likes of Lindsay Gaze and Trevor Gleeson. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Australian-Latvian would feel like he somewhat failed as a result of his side missing out on the finals and regressing as a franchise slightly. Nevertheless, Lemanis has constantly admired his side for their mental toughness and ability to fight until the end.

Following the Bullets’ 36-point win against the Taipans in Round 28, Lemanis addressed the Bullets’ fateful giving his gratitude to this season’s team.

“I’ve never been more proud of a team…just coming out and giving ourselves a shot,” he said. “We talk about being tough and unified and wanting to be known as that and tonight certainly displayed both of those values.”

With pieces such as Magnay re-signing for two more seasons, many Queenslanders can start to look forward to an action packed 2021 season at the Armory.

2019/20 NBL season review: South East Melbourne Phoenix

A SIGHT for sore eyes within the NBL community, as a ninth team would enter the competition to begin the NBL 20 season. For the first time since the dissolution of the South Dragons, there was once again a Victorian team to combat Melbourne United. But this time, instead of red and black it would be green and black.

The South East Melbourne Phoenix came into the League with high-expectations, and given their opening round matchup with United, it was the perfect occasion to announce their entry into the NBL.

New Boys on the Block

To begin their season off, the NBL’s first ‘Throwdown’ was set to take place in Melbourne Arena. It was clear after their performance against United, that the Phoenix’s style of play started to shine through. After going 12 of 23 from downtown and toppling United by three points, it would set the tone for the rest of the season, as South East Melbourne would go on to become one of the NBL’s most efficient and high-octane offences throughout the season.

Following from their Round 1 victory, the Phoenix would keep it rolling, knocking over the Bullets and the Hawks at home, tipping off their inaugural season with a handsome 3-0 record. Despite the Phoenix taking home victories against relatively good teams, their first real challenge came in Round 4, as they sized up against the reigning premiers at RAC Arena. Following a very lacklustre first half against Bryce Cotton and his team, the Wildcats would go on to rout the newly formed team, ending their season opening winning streak.

After their trouncing in Western Australia, results would become a lot less consistent, going down to the likes of the 36ers, the Kings and twice to United. But following on from their good start at the beginning of the season, it was paramount to head coach Simon Mitchell, that his side “take it one game at a time”, saying this constantly throughout press conferences in the first half of the season. Coming to the mid-way point of the season, the Phoenix were the definition of average at this point. Sitting just outside the top four with a record of six wins and six losses. The rest of the season was now in the hands of the NBL’s youngest franchise. But the next ten rounds would prove to be anything but smooth.

In the next 16 matchups for South East Melbourne they would go on to accumulate an abhorrent three wins and 13 losses, while also finishing their campaign on an eight-game losing streak. With 20 rounds of basketball completed, the Phoenix would nestle into eighth position with a final record of nine wins and 19 losses. While South East Melbourne would compete relatively well at home, it was their inability to take on opponents on the road. This task of winning on the road was only able to be done a mere three times in 14 contests, which really set back the side in the standings.

The biggest flames

John Roberson

From the beginning of the season, John Roberson was one of the NBL’s most venomous offensive weapons. Leading from the point when Kyle Adnam was on the bench, Roberson was more times than not responsible for the Phoenix’s efficiency from the floor. This is further evidenced by the statistics of his debut season in Australia’s topflight in basketball. Averaging more than 20 points per outing whilst shooting at an impressive 46 per cent for the season, Roberson proved to be a reliable source of production for his side. Not only was Roberson effective from the field as a whole, but the majority of his damage came from beyond the arc. Averaging four three-pointers a game. He would go on to lead the league in this category.

Other categories worth mentioning include being the League’s fourth highest scorer and third in the category of assists, averaging 5.8 per game. He would also go on to break the NBL’s record for overtime points in a game (15) and also the single-season record for three-pointers, which he did back in late-January. If the Phoenix are to keep Roberson on for the 2021 season, then it is almost certain that they will base their 12-man squad around him.

Mitchell Creek

With Roberson taking care of the Phoenix’s backcourt, Simon Mitchell needed someone who could make a difference from the wing, but also be a presence inside if needed there. That someone would be Mitchell Creek. Standing at six foot five inches and weighing 95 kilos, the bulky slasher was exactly the right fit. After gaining NBA experience with the Brooklyn Nets, mostly in the G-League, his skills would become very productive throughout the NBL season, consistently collecting statistics in numerous categories.

Amongst being one of the League’s top-scorers alongside Roberson, Creek would also crack the top 10 in rebounding and steals. In conclusion, Creek would average 20.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals a game in a season compounded by stat-filling play.

Dane Pineau

The story of Dane Pineau’s NBL 20 season is not one of stat-stuffing phenomenon, but a story of miraculous development. Pineau had joined the Phoenix following two seasons averaging three and half minutes a game as a bench player/reserve at the Sydney Kings. Following his transition to Victoria, he immediately increased his workload to that of an NBL veteran.

Pineau would go on to play in 26 minutes of each Phoenix contest as his undersized efforts would start to garner attention across the nation. His efforts on the defensive end would be recognised by his peers later on in the season, as he would be nominated for the Most Improved Player award come the end of the season. Obtaining a whopping 49 votes within the category, he would fall just four votes short to Brisbane’s Will Magnay, but it would still be a season to remember.

The 25-year-old would average 8.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest, all dramatic increases compared to his seasons at the Kings, making him one of the League’s best power forwards at the moment.

Coach Mitchell’s remarks

Following his side’s loss to Melbourne United in Round 20, coach Mitchell had these comments to say about the first season of the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

“What I just asked the guys before [the game] is to look each other in the eye and just savour the moment,” Mitchell said. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group but we won’t be the same group next year and we never will be. But no one else will ever be the first roster of the South-East Melbourne Phoenix, so that’s something these guys will have forever, and I just want them to take a moment to reflect upon that.”

NBL 20 Awards night: Cotton gifted second MVP award, Hopson absent from All-NBL First Team

On Sunday night, the National Basketball League hosted its annual Gala Dinner, where all the outstanding performers throughout the season were recognised for their efforts.

Ever year, the man of the hour title always falls to the winner of the season’s Most Valuable Player Award (named the Andrew Gaze Trophy). That name-tag this year fell to Perth Wildcats guard Bryce Cotton, who for the second time in his career received the honour, following his earlier success in 2018.

For Cotton, it was another remarkable campaign for the fourth-year player, who has spent his entire NBL career in the red and black. The 27-year-old led the league in scoring averaging almost 22 and a half points per game (22.48) and leading the league in steals as well with 1.74 a game, the first player in NBL history to finish the season leading in both of these categories. Furthermore, Cotton was able to muster almost four rebounds a game and over three and a half assists in what was a well-rounded season for the import guard.

Cotton finished first in the votes tally with 88 in total, whereas Scott Machado, who had widely been talked about as the major frontrunner for the award, finished second with 80 votes. Following Machado, Bullets forward in Lamar Patterson locked up 73 points of his own, while Breakers forward Scotty Hopson was a big absentee from the leaderboard.

Personally for Cotton, it was not an individual accolade as he gave major props to his teammates for a tremendous season that sees the people of Perth being in the stands for a 34th consecutive postseason appearance for the Wildcats, “I definitely want to send a special shout-out to my teammates from the love and support that they give me every single game,” Cotton said while receiving the award.

“Whether it seems like I can’t miss a shot or it’s a game when I can’t make one to save my life, they want me to go out there and be me and that goes a long way with me.”

While Machado fell short in his individual category, another figure within the Cairns Taipans organisation was able to receive some hardware on the night, as Head Coach Mike Kelly was recognised for his managerial efforts and was gifted with the Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Award.

Following his disappointing first year at the helm of the Taipans in the 2018-19, where his side finished with an abhorrent six wins and 22 losses record, Kelly made amends in convincing fashion in the NBL’s 2019/20 season as the Taipans solidified third-position and a finals birth with a 16-win season under their belt to round out their season.

With his side averaging over 92 points per game and holding an 11-3 record at home, it was hard to deny Kelly the award, given the complete turnaround in seasons that he had initiated since his debut season.

“I know it’s all about the players and that’s why our coaches in this league get to where they are,” Kelly said.

“I appreciate the team and I appreciate the CQ University Taipans and all the work we’ve done to get where we are. The community is going crazy and this is one of those effects of it.”

Kelly was the clear favourite in the votes tally for the award, taking home 65 votes compared to his peers in Will Weaver (Sydney Kings) and Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats) who both finished with 39 and 32 votes respectively.

Rounding out an interesting Awards night for the NBL, the All-NBL First and Second teams were announced, with some major inclusions and exclusions taking place in both sides that should have the punters riled up for the rest of the season.

Named in the first team was Kings’ forward in Jae’sean Tate, who put up 16.4 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds as well to go along with a triumphant season. In addition to the first-team frontcourt was Wildcats big-man Nick Kay, who found consistency from Round 1 through to Round 20, as he summed up his season averaging 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and shooting over 53 per cent from the field. In the backcourt, MVP-winner Bryce Cotton paired up with fellow superstars in Machado and Patterson which was expected, given the numbers these individuals put up throughout the season.

Major talking points were the absences of Hopson and Cairns big-man Cameron Oliver, who were both named to this season’s All-NBL Second Team. In Hopson’s case, the first-season player amassed 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game in what was discussed as an MVP-calibre season. On the other hand, Oliver finished the season ranked second in both rebounds (9.1 per game) and blocks (1.6 per game), while putting up 17 points a game as well. Other inclusions in the side were Defensive Player of the Year winner in Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.96 rebounds), Casper Ware (19.68 points and 3.93 assists) and Andrew Bogut (8.24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.16 blocks).

Rookie of the Year was awarded to young gun American import LaMelo Ball, who had his season cut short due to injury and was therefore unable to receive the award in person. Nevertheless, Ball averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds a game in a stat-stuffing season for the Hawks.

Lastly, both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards will reside in Brisbane for the next year, as Will Magnay took home the first award and Jason Cadee snagged the latter. Magnay’s eight point, six rebound and league leading 2.15 blocks per game season was enough to earn him 53 votes in his category, four more than Phoenix forward Dane Pineau (49). Whereas Cadee collected 31 votes for his award, just edging out Sydney’s Daniel Kickert, who attained 28.

2019/20 NBL preview: Round 20 – United still in the hunt for finals

THE final round of the National Basketball League action is set to be a big one with the New Zealand Breakers, Brisbane Bullets and Melbourne United all still in contention for that elusive fourth spot on the ladder. While the battle for second spot is just as exciting with Cairns looming as the potential team to leapfrog the Perth Wildcats.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Thursday, February 13, 7:30pm
Melbourne Arena

It is do-or-die for Melbourne United who if they want to get any type of finals redemption from last year’s grand final loss, will have to leave nothing to chance. United have struggled with consistency throughout the season, stringing together a couple of strong performances and then going off the boil making them a real unknown. Melbourne has only won two of its past five games, speaking to its inconsistency and have not won against the Taipans so far this season. Cairns Taipans well and truly have the wood over their opponents and are in hot form sitting on a four-game winning streak and claiming victory in nine of their past matches. The Taipans have taken the competition by storm this season, steadily building into the year and creating a strong winning momentum to secure third seed and a spot in finals. There is no denying that captain, Chris Goulding is a real barometer for United with the experienced guard able to sense the moment and hit the scoreboard with his accuracy from three-point the most damaging part of his game. But Goulding will need support from Melo Trimble coming off the bench with his deft touch and scoring ability. Trimble knocked back 36 points in Round 18 and 13 last week, and will have to replicate that strong attacking intent to get his side over the line and give them a shot at finals. The team from up north have been unstoppable with Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado able to do a wealth of damage on the scoreboard. They both had a big day out the last time these two sides met with Oliver recording a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds making for an intriguing contest.

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS v. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Friday, February 14, 5:30pm
Horncastle Arena

The fourth placed Breakers have everything to play for in their clash against new comers South East Melbourne Phoenix. New Zealand has had a rollercoaster season to say the least with players leaving and succumbing to injury but have somehow managed to hit their straps at the right time winning 10 of their past 13. A win here could all but sow-up fourth spot and their chance at finals whereas a loss could knock them out of contention. Despite a hot start to their inaugural season the Phoenix have simply been unable to maintain their dominance falling well and truly out of the finals race dropping 10 of their past 12 games. Without star, Mitch Creek who suffered a hyperextension last round, the Phoenix will have their work cut out for them and will look to the likes of John Roberson to lead the way on the scoreboard. Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate, while youngster Kyle Adnam will be hoping to keep his hot form rolling coming off an impressive Round 19 performance of a team-high 19 points. The Breakers are not without their own star power with the likes of Scotty Hopson in blistering form coming off a whopping 31 points. Hopson along with Finn Delaney, Tom Abercrombie and Sek Henry have proven that they can stand up under pressure and deliver time and time again making them a damaging prospect for the Phoenix. Delaney has been in ripping form recording double figures in his past six games, so expect him to keep that form going.

SYDNEY KINGS v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 14, 8:00pm
Qudos Bank Arena

With top spot all but guaranteed, the Kings will be aiming to iron out any issues ahead of the finals against the last placed Hawks. The Kings have been near-unstoppable throughout the season with their slick ball movement and explosive scoring along with their variety of options making them a very dominant line-up. Despite Sydney winning two of their three encounters the Illawarra Hawks have proven that when on song they can topple the best claiming a five-point victory in Round 13. But their most recent encounter showcased just how punishing the Kings can be with six players reaching double-figures headlined by Deshon Taylor with 17 points. Casper Ware is no slouch when it comes to the points department knocking back 24 points last week while Jae’Sean Tate backs himself from all areas on the court falling marginally short of a double-double last round with 17 points and nine rebounds. Brad Newley and Andrew Bogut are also imposing figures for the Kings with the latter a rebounding machine. The match-up between Sunday Dech and Ware will bring plenty of interest with the Kings guard well held in recent times only managing eight and 10 points respectively. Josh Boone will have to stand up for the Hawks while captain Todd Blanchfield has been a staple in their line-up. Andrew Ogilvy will be aiming to replicate his Round 19 form recording a team-high 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists in hope to get his side over the line.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 15, 5:30pm
Nissan Arena

The Brisbane Bullets are knocking on the door of finals and must win their clash against the third placed Taipans if they are any chance to secure fourth spot. But history is not on their side with Cairns winning six of their past games against the Bullets. The boys in blue have steadily risen-up the ranks knocking off unsuspecting teams with their precise ball movement and scoring prowess but Cairns will be looking to keep their dominant form going heading into finals and potentially snatch second spot. Last rounds loss will be fresh in the minds of Brisbane and will be looking to rectify their performance with a strong showing against state rivals. Expect both sides to battle hard considering the relatively even match-up across the court and just how much is at stake. Lamar Patterson has been a revelation for the Bullets with the star forward able to single handily change the course of a game with his drive to the basket and defensive pressure. Patterson scored 18 and 25 points respectively last round while Nathan Sobey showcased his attacking intent with a game high 30 points against New Zealand. Will Magnay is a defensive beast for the Bullets thanks to his strong rebounding and ability to swat the ball away leading the league in blocks. Cairns captain, DJ Newbill has taken his game to a whole other level in 2020 and can flick a switch to kick it up a gear and record a win. Majok Deng has blossomed throughout the season becoming a real talent for Cairns relishing the extra court time while both Oliver and Machado are game changers.

PERTH WILDCATS v. ADELAIDE 36ers
Saturday, February 15, 8:00pm
RAC Arena

With a shot at first spot on the line, expect the Wildcats to throw everything at the 36ers who have been plagued with inconsistency throughout the 2019/20 season. Perth is a class act, able to pull something out of the hat even when it looks impossible, while Adelaide ooze unpredictability. Unfortunately, the 36ers are out of the finals race but can still have an impact on the postseason positioning with a win here and considering their recent track record it is quite possible having won their past two encounters. It is a milestone round for Adelaide with Joey Wright coaching his 500th game and potentially giving the spark the 36ers need to win, but the Wildcats are no easy beats able to mount pressure in ways no other team can.  The 36ers have a wealth of stars across the court with Jerome Randle able to hit the scoreboard time and time again while big man Eric Griffin is a real excitement machine for Adelaide with his basketball nous and skill. Throw in Daniel Johnson who is coming off a solid performance and the 36ers could do enough to rattle their opponents and get the wood over them. But it is hard to worry the likes of Bryce Cotton who is simply ice cold when it comes to scoring holding the leading points title. Nick Kay is also a handy influence on the scoreboard with 23 points to his name last week while Terrico White can chime in to wreak havoc.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. MELBOURNE UNITED
Sunday, February 16, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

The final game of the home and away season is set to be a big one. Melbourne United’s future rides on their performance in this round and a win in the opening game could all but gift them with a fighting chance. Playing against an understrength Phoenix could be exactly what the doctor order for United to sneak into fourth spot and play finals. With Goulding able to put on a masterclass and Trimble showing some form in recent weeks coming off the bench a big performance from star recruit Shawn Long could thrust United into finals. Long has been vital for Melbourne with his points scoring ability and strong frame consistently able to gobble up rebounds. Despite their three key players United will have to rely on the performances from other players such as Mitch McCarron and David Barlow if they are any chance to romp it home. But the Phoenix will not go down without a fight and will be looking to end United’s hopes. Forward Tai Wesley will be hoping to make a splash in his first game against United since their opening clash while Adam Gibson and Kendall Stephens will have to up their ante to cause some of trouble on the scoreboard. But given what is at stake expect Melbourne to play with plenty of intensity and passion to down their cross-town rivals.

2019/20 NBL Preview: Round 19 – Bullets looking to cement spot in top four

THERE are only five games in Round 19 of the National Basketball League (NBL) with the Brisbane Bullets the only side to play two games this round. It will be a ladder defining round of action with a host of top four clubs set to do battle and teams hanging on by a thread hoping to sneak their way into finals contention.

BRISBANE BULLETS v. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Friday, February 7, 7:30pm
Nissan Arena

It will be a hotly contested match between the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets and fifth placed New Zealand Breakers to kick off the start of the round. With finals edging closer the Bullets will be hoping to hold onto fourth spot but a loss against the Breakers who are hot on their tail could end their chances. Brisbane are on a six-game winning streak, gradually getting stronger each and every game while the Breakers have won four of their last five, making for a tantalising battle. Lamar Patterson has been the go-to guy in previous outings for the Bullets with the forward posting up high numbers both on the scoreboard and in rebounds. Patterson is coming off a double-double having knocked back 31 points and 12 rebounds, making him the danger man for the Breakers. Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee will also have to stand up in the contest if the Bullets are to get the win over the charging Breakers. New Zealand have their own set of star players looking for a chance at playing finals led by the likes of Brandon Ashley who showed just how much damage he can do last round with 31 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Scotty Hopson is just as dangerous with the guard able to find the net with ease while Finn Delaney and captain Tom Abercrombie are no strangers to the big stage, able to stand up under pressure and deliver. This game will ultimately come down to who can withstand the pressure for the longest and which side is willing to lay it all on the line for a chance at finals.

MELBOURNE UNITED v. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 8, 5:30pm
Melbourne Arena

With a spot at finals still on the line it is do or die for Melbourne United who have had the wood over Illawarra Hawks the past couple of encounters. United have been inconsistent to say the least winning some huge games and dropping some easier match-ups making this contest all the more exciting. On the other hand, the Hawks have really struggled to get any form of winning momentum while also being plagued with injury. Melbourne have only won one of their past five games showcasing just how much a win here could mean to the sixth placed side. It will be up to the likes of Chris Goulding and Melo Trimble to lead the way for United with the latter hitting his straps at the right time. Trimble fell victim to the midseason slump but with a sniff of finals has returned to form of late with 36 points in his latest outing. Big man Shawn Long has also been a key contributor for his new side and will be hoping to make a splash against the Hawks and get his side back on the winners list. Both Mitch McCarron and David Barlow will be hoping to make up for a relatively quiet last round and hit the scoreboard. It is all about pride for the Hawks now, with Josh Boone proving to be a shining light in recent weeks while Todd Blanchfield and Tim Coenraad have combined to become a force off the boards. United will have to throw everything they have at the undermanned Hawks if they are any chance to get finals redemption.

ADELAIDE 36ers v. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Saturday, February 8, 8:00pm
Adelaide Entertainment Centre

With third spot on the ladder almost tied up the Cairns Taipans will be out to officially secure their finals chances while the 36ers will be looking to shake things up. Although they can statistically make the finals, Adelaide’s chances are very slim but a win here and some fortunate losses to teams around them could see the top four open-up. Cairns have been in hot form with their on-court synergy causing headaches for opposition teams. Led by the likes of DJ Newbill the Taipans have roared into action winning four of their past five and do not look like stopping. Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado have proven to be the deadly duo with the two combining week in and week out to post a hefty total. Oliver is crafty across the court, able to find the basket with ease collecting 17 points last round. Throw in the likes of Majok Deng and the Cairns are a real powerhouse when they get going, making it a challenging task for Adelaide. The 36ers will be looking to the likes of Jerome Randle and Eric Griffin to pave the way and keep their season alive. Both players have shown time and time again throughout the season that they can pull a cat out of the bag with their exciting game play and scoring prowess. Daniel Johnson should not be forgotten about for the 36ers with the forward able to navigate his way around the court and use his big frame to outmuscle opponents and score freely coming off a 22-point game.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX v. SYDNEY KINGS
Sunday, February 9, 3:00pm
Melbourne Arena

After a successful start to the season the South East Melbourne Phoenix have well and truly fallen off the boil but will want to end the season on a high and cause a major upset. The Kings currently sit one game ahead of Perth in second and will be aiming to increase that lead with a win over the Phoenix, but South East should not be discounted. The boys in green have an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable and could cause a real stir if they get the win over the firing Kings. Mitch Creek has returned to form with the star proving to be the real barometer for his side with his scoring ability while John Roberson has been handy on the scoreboard. The South East duo will have to go big in their clash if they are any chance to win while Dane Pineau and Ben Madgen will have to step up to the plate to help out both defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, the Kings have a wealth of talent with Casper Ware a real menace while Jae’Sean Tate has been a revelation. Big man Andrew Bogut is a force to be reckoned with and will be looking to impose himself once again on the lowly Phoenix. Brad Newley has been another strong contributor along with Daniel Kickert for the Kings making for a tough challenge for the Phoenix who will have to overcome a strong attacking team.

PERTH WILDCATS v. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 9, 5:00pm
RAC Arena

Sitting one game away from top spot on the ladder, the Wildcats will be searching to inflict some pain on the Bullets who are vying for a top four position. Perth have struggled against Brisbane throughout the season dropping two of their past three encounters against the Bullets, making for an intriguing contest to close out Round 19. The Wildcats are extremely hard to stop when they are on song with the likes of Bryce Cotton able to light the court up with his speed and ability to drain shots from anywhere on the court. Cotton managed 30 points last week while Nick Kay is another one to watch for the Bullets. It is hard to go past Terrico White who has been relatively inconsistent but still has plenty of firepower. NBA recruit Miles Plumlee has been a handy inclusion for the Wildcats, making the challenge even tougher for the Bullets. Expect Patterson to stand up under pressure credit to his strong form against the Wildcats while Matt Hodgson will have his work cut out for him against Plumlee. Will Magnay has been solid in recent weeks for Brisbane and will have to replicate his high output if the Bullets are to ruffle some feathers and claim a major scalp ahead of finals.

The actors in this season’s NBL final performance

WITH just two rounds remaining in the season, the number of the teams capable of making the NBL Postseason are dwindling, as the Adelaide 36ers and the South East Melbourne Phoenix are no longer in contention. Despite this, onlookers are still left with six high quality sides vying to cement their best possible position on the ladder, as two home games in a best of three series is imperative in advancing to the next round. Here are the teams still yet to know their positions come the final game of Round 20.

A SURE THING

1st: Sydney Kings

For the first time in NBL history, a team is on track to go the entire season at the top of the league standings and that team is the Sydney Kings. Sitting at a 70 per cent win rate, the Kings have been formidable to say the least throughout their campaign so far. More impressive than the Kings’ 18-8 season record, is their remarkable record at home. Going up against the rest of the League at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney has gone down only twice in 13 contests and if they are to lock up the first position on the table, teams that get setup to face the Kings in the postseason, should most definitely be worried. Looking ahead to the Finals, the players that need to step up have to be the backcourt duo of Casper Ware and Jae’Sean Tate. Ware (19.5 points & 4 assists) and Tate (16.3 points & 5.7 rebounds) have shown consistently throughout the year, that they can be reliable for four straight quarters and if the ball falls into their hands, you can be sure that they can make things happen. In terms of big men, Andrew Bogut has conducted himself like an All-NBL Team player with his commitment on the boards and acting as the Kings defensive anchor. Again, he will need to perform as well if the Kings are to be successful this season.

2nd: Perth Wildcats

Trailing the Kings by one win in second position, the Wildcats are focussed on stealing that top spot if they are to defend last year’s championship season. Following their hard-fought victory against the Kings at home on Saturday night, that top-spot looks like a real possibility, but the Wildcats have struggled to win on the road, which come the end of the season, will be deciding factor on whether they finish first or second at the end of Round 20. The major talking point for Perth currently, is the absence of Terrico White and Damian Martin due to injury. White, who has been instrumental for his side so far this season, averages close to 16 points per game while shooting at a 40 per cent clip and if by some chance he’s not healthy for the finals, then Perth will have some real issues to address when it comes to that. It’s a no brainer that two of Perth’s biggest producers are Bryce Cotton and Nicholas Kay. For Cotton, it has been an MVP calibre season as he leads the League in scoring with 22.4 points per game along with over three and a half assists to boot, proving to be one of the NBL’s most lethal scorers from the field. As for Kay, it has been a statistic filled season to sum it up, tallying 14.4 points, 7.65 rebounds and over three assists to round it out. Furthermore, the addition of ex-NBA player in Miles Plumlee will further strengthen the Wildcats frontcourt and their team’s 90 point per game will be the biggest worry for opposing teams come the postseason.

3rd: Cairns Taipans

Following their victory against the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night, the Cairns Taipans cemented their spot in the postseason, which was a major moment for the Taipans-faithful after finishing dead-last in the NBL 2018/19 season. After sitting relatively low in the standings for most of the first half of the season, a substantial winning streak propelled Cairns into the playoffs discussion and Mike Kelly could only preach to his team to take it one game at a time, as they currently sit in third with 15 wins under their belt. There has been two words that have credited Cairns with their season performances thus far, with those words being “big three”. Scott Machado, Dj Newbill and Cameron Oliver sit front and center amongst the best three-player combinations across the country as they eye down either Sydney or Perth for a semi-final matchup. Being perceived by experts and media as the favourite for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, Machado has excelled tremendously at the point-guard position in all facets of the game, averaging close to 17 points and 8.2 assists a game, as well as three and a half boards. For Newbill, it has been a fairytale season at both ends of the court, leading his team in scoring with 19.75 points a game and just over three assists as well. Defensively, he also sits amongst the league leaders for pickpocketing with almost a steal and a half a game to put next to his name. The third piece of the trio in Cameron Oliver, has been spectacular on the boards up to this point sitting at the top of the standings trailing only Melbourne United’s Shawn Long, with nine rebounds a game. He’s also been productive on the scoreboard with 16 and a half points per game. No doubt will these three be a hassle for the rest of the playoff contenders in the next few weeks.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT

4th: Brisbane Bullets

The Bullets by a country mile are the NBL’s hottest team as of the last month and a half. Following their monumental performance against Melbourne last Saturday, Brisbane’s current winning streak reached six, the longest streak by any team so far this season. It would be silly to think of reasons for Brisbane’s success story this year other than Lamar Patterson. The 196cm forward has led his side from the depth of the eighth position on the ladder, to being almost one win away from a final’s appearance. Averaging 21.6 points, six rebounds and over four and a half assists per game, Patterson sits in the middle of the conversation for the MVP award as a result. At his side, Will Magnay who has been in tremendous form throughout the second half of the season, will need to be a presence throughout the next couple of weeks if they’re to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. Despite Magnay’s low scoring output, it’s his defensive output that stands out. Averaging close to six rebounds and over two blocks a game, Magnay’s presence around the ring makes most shooters nervous no matter their ability.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

5th: New Zealand Breakers

The only team sitting on a .500 record, the Breakers have wins to secure and little time to do it, if they are to make up the game and a half difference separating them and the Bullets. After securing two victories in round 18, the Breakers certainly have their hopes high on making the finals, but they will need to hope that Brisbane fails to cash in on their last few games. Nevertheless, the Breakers hold that power in their hands for the first game of round 19 as both sides meet this week at The Armory come Friday night. Scotty Hopson has the chance to make the biggest difference should games come down to the wire, given the import Small Forward averages 18.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and almost four and a half assists per game, proving to be one of the most venomous wing players in the Australian Basketball scene. Supporting him throughout the entire season has been Shooting Guard Sek Henry, who has also been a threat from the wing, collecting 13.5 points a game along with a handful of assists in every game. The first step for the Breakers begins Friday night, a loss for them would put them out of contention. It is literally a do or die situation.

6th: Melbourne United

Despite going down by a mere four points to Brisbane last Saturday, Melbourne showed promising signs in their convincing win against Perth the previous Wednesday, perhaps hinting at a possible return to their old form in this last leg of the season. With three game remaining and sitting two games behind fourth position, everything needs to go right for Dean Vickerman’s side as they matchup with the Hawks, Taipans and Phoenix in the run home. Following a 36 point performance against Brisbane, Melo Trimble might have picked up a second-wind following a horror run of games prior to last week and with the 25-year-old import averaging close to 20 points, 4.76 assists and three and half rebounds a game, he’s keen to make up for lost ground. Down in the key, Mr. Double-Double in Shawn Long has been dominant the last couple of weeks, with 2-meter Centre leading the league in rebounds (9.3 rpg) and putting up 18.5 points per game. Should the small-big duo of Trimble and Kemp put on impressive displays, they are sure to put United in the best possible position to sneak into the finals picture. Supporting the young guns in the side, Chris Goulding has shown that he’s still in his primetime years, presenting quality numbers on the scoreboard week in, week out, gathering 16.8 points per contest, whilst maintaining over three three-pointers per game as a result. Should the Bullets lose to the Breakers and Melbourne topples the Hawks, it’ll make for a very entertaining final round to the NBL 2019/20 season.