2014/15 NBL Season Preview: Melbourne United
The newly revamped Melbourne United have ditched the Tiger moniker and are steadfast in their pursuit of a championship.
A relatively successful season for Melbourne in 2013/14, finishing third with a record of 15 wins and 13 losses, however, they were somewhat disappointing once the playoffs hit. Losing two of three semi final games to the Adelaide 36ers, United will be hoping to show further improvement this season. The complete overhaul of the franchise, including team name and jersey design, has raised eyebrows but the Melbourne brass will be embracing the fresh start.
The team formerly known as the Tigers had several strong players contribute to their top four finish, namely Chris Goulding who led the league in scoring to the tune of 23ppg. They weren’t one-dimensional, though, as point guard Nate Tomlinson (NBL’s Most Improved Player) led the league in assists with 5.2 a game. This is to say nothing of the strong foundation that club legend Chris Anstey has built as head coach.
Key Additions: Jordan McRae (Philadelphia 76ers), Daniel Kickert (Europe), David Barlow (Europe), Stephen Dennis (Injury), Chris Patton (UC Riverside, College), Darryl Corletto (New Zealand Breakers)
Returning Players: Mark Worthington, Lucas Walker, Nate Tomlinson, Auryn MacMillan, Owen Odigie
Key Losses: Chris Goulding (Europe), Scott Morrison, Tommy Greer (Retirement)
Melbourne has made sweeping changes to its roster in the hopes of building a championship team. After being drafted by Philadelphia in the NBA, Jordan McRae has chosen the NBL as his pathway to score a contract with the Sixers. They are also buoyed by their other import, combo guard Stephen Dennis who returns from an Achilles injury he suffered before the start of last season. Saint Mary’s alumni Daniel Kickert returns from Europe and should slot in nicely as a sweet-shooting stretch five. Arguably the biggest coup of their considerable off-season was the signing of Boomers stalwart, David Barlow. The veteran small forward has bounced around Europe the past few seasons and has returned to the NBL to chase a fourth championship.
There are a number of players who could make a case for this spot, but the most exciting and dynamic player on their roster looks to be Jordan McRae. After four strong seasons of Div I College at Tennessee, McRae was selected with the 58th pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
McRae was arguably the 76ers best performing player in the Summer League, which made their decision not to sign him puzzling. The 76ers loss is Melbourne United’s gain and McRae is an ultra athletic, long scoring two-guard. He can score from anywhere on the floor and is a sweet shooter, however, it’s his elite athleticism that will set him apart from the competition.
Given the significant roster overhaul it’s difficult to judge just how well this team will stand up to the rigours of the NBL. While their depth could be tested over time, the overall talent of this roster is enormous. There is shooting at all five positions in their starting line-up with Tomlinson, McRae, Barlow, Worthington and Kickert. Furthermore, 6’6” point guard Stephen Dennis and the athletic Lucas Walker should provide a spark off the bench.
Anstey has an army of talent at his disposal, and a plethora of different line-ups he can put on the court. Expect to see the newly minted Melbourne United firmly entrenched in the playoff race; it would be a major disappointment if this roster wasn’t right in it at the business end of the season.
With the right combination of shooting and athleticism, explosive youth and veterans, and an elite import, expect United to finish towards the top of the table and push for a championship.
NBL Championship Odds: $5
Thank you for loving Aussie hoops! From Kein, Damian and #TeamPnR