I basically agree with what LV is saying here. I think if Cotton gets injured, people would probably get the point.
Betweem the attention demanded by Cotton, and their excellent execution within their system, they have been able to get open looks for their role players. I think without Cotton there, those opportunities just aren't the same. I'm not sure of the role players can maintain that level of performance. Also not sure if a team like United may be able to adapt to defend better over a finals series.
I think the Wilcats also lack depth on ball handlers.
As long as no one breaks Cotton's thumb against the back board again, then we may expect a full season from him.
SEM have been able to adjust well to the loss of Sykes, as Adnam has used his shooting and nimble ball handling to good effect. I doubt Norton could achieve a comparable result on offense.
Cotton has also been slowed down by good defenders at times. Justin Simon has done very well recently, though tired by the end of the game. I would like to see if Illi with support from McCarron could focus their energy on slowing Cotton.
The one area where I think Perth has been the best team, is the consistency of high effort play, including when they face a significant deficit. Norton takes some criticism for his offense, but he is a disruptive defender and rebounder. They often have disruptive effort on boards, with blocking out, cutting to gaps, tipping, and chasing. Other teams just don't seem to maintain that effort level as consistently. That's just heart, belief and effort.
I still think we haven't yet seen the best of what Melbourne have to offer, but also not sure that we will. I'm not yet convinced by the culture at either Melbourne or Sydney.