(Warning: Long post!)
Some people are getting a little bit carried away. I'm a United member, and the fact that they won the Blitz means very little.
A couple of general points:
- There are a lot of teams who look good on paper. There is more talent in this season’s NBL than I’ve ever seen.
- It will ultimately come down to who has better team balance, who gels and finds some chemistry, and who has a good run with injuries.
A few points on each team:
-The Taipans, like the Cats, have exceptional depth in their front court- except they’ve probably got better balance in their lineup overall than Perth. They are well coached, disciplined as always and will be difficult to score against. However, the number one reason they made the Grand Final last season was a bloke named Scottie. Is Markel Starks the new Scottie? His stats look solid. I only saw a few minutes of him and I wasn’t impressed. Although it’s clear that he’s streaky, and I saw a few minutes when he was very cold instead of hot. Time will tell.
When you get into the playoffs you need a genuine go to guy who can put the team on his back and win them the game. In the Grand Final, Wilbekin went cold and Cedric Jackson was that man for the Breakers. Who will the man be for the Taipans? Beal has done this in the past for Perth. Childress, Warrick, Goulding all look to have the ability. Cairns looks to me a lot like the Freo Dockers in the AFL. Well coached, disciplined, work to a plan and generally successful. But winning a championship *usually* requires genuine top end elite class in any sport. Having a very strong *team* is essential, but only gets you so far.
-United will have a starting 5 with all five guys legitimately being able to put up 25 points on any given night. Incredible fire power. Incredible outside shooting with 4 of the 5 starters being capable of lighting it up and hitting 6 or 7 3’s in a match. But- who will take a back seat? Blanchfield, perhaps? Will they be willing to sacrifice their individual games for the sake of the team? Will they gel as a team and find a balance where they’re willing to make the extra pass because let’s fact it, there’s a few guys there who like putting up shots? The signs from the Blitz here are good, but the question remains about how they’ll go under the serious pressure of the regular season.
Also, Majok impressed with 21 boards yesterday. But is he enough of a rim protector? Almost every team has an impressive big who can pound it down low and kill you near the hoop. Conklin, Jawai, Johnson, Khazzough, Childress, Ogilvy. Traghardh, Do Majok, Patton, Kickert and Warrick have the ability to stop these guys? In the Blitz, coaches are trying different things but in the regular season one thing will be on their minds: Winning. The team lacks legit size and muscle- Majok is 6’9 and skinny- Kickert was exposed regularly last season and the league’s bigs are much better this season. Do they have the defensive skills to counter the beasts near the hoop?
Perth’s potential issues with outside shooting have already been discussed plenty. I expect teams will play zone against them all season.
Illawarra- can they defend? Played a nice press against United for a few minutes. But are they physical enough, and good enough defensively to survive in a half court grind?
Sydney- look to me to have one of the most well balanced rosters in the comp. Saw a couple of minutes of Jeromie Hill and he looks solid. Hard to read into the Blitz because they were missing the best player in the competition. Yes, it’s only pre season but getting embarrassed by 36 points - including 26 point first half deficit- is never a good sign. Outside shooting could be an issue perhaps. The general question on Sydney is just the standard one- will they gel?
NZ- Impressive in the Blitz given how undermanned they were. But at the end of the day the equation for me is simple: Get Webster back and they’re still favourite or close to it. Lose Webster and keep Bartlett and I think they’ll miss the playoffs- that’s how good the league appears this season.
Adelaide- Didn’t see much of them. Hodgson is reportedly ready to play some minutes. Johnson’s never been the best defender, and like United, contending with the beasts on the inside could be an issue. If Hodgson can play 10 or 15 solid minutes a game to give DJ a spell, and if imports McNeill and Ebi can push the ball well enough like Ervin and Wilson of years gone by then this team can follow the fast paced, high scoring Wright trademark and is a chance at top 4. But I still rate them very much an outsider if you’re talking about the championship.