NBL coaches deserve more recognition.
Seriously, is any coach doing a bad job at the moment? Sure, some are going through bad patches, like Andrej Lemanis in Brisbane, but there is no denying the offensive philosophies he has implemented are sound. Joey Wright has been able to turn things around in Adelaide, ditto Aaron Fearne in Cairns and Dean Demopoulos in Melbourne.
Rob Beveridge’s decision to move Rotnei Clarke to the bench has rejuvenated their season. Trevor Gleeson has withstood an avalanche of injuries in Perth, while Paul Henare’s transition to the position has been solid in New Zealand. Finally, what hasn’t been said about Andrew Gaze?
In a profession that is scrutinised to the nth degree, these eight coaches have been able to crave out their own identities. However, where do their respective teams fall in this week’s power rankings?
These power rankings are the opinion of one man. To discuss the rankings, hit Luke up on Twitter at @lukesicari.
1. Adelaide 36ers (Last week: 4th)
It’s time to jump on the 36ers’ bandwagon.
Now on a five-game winning streak, Adelaide is the epitome of how quickly things can turn in your favour in this year’s NBL. Just 26 days ago, the Sixers had suffered an 18-point beatdown to Brisbane, at home. That marked a four-game losing streak and things seemed sour for Wright’s men. However, after redeeming themselves against the Bullets just days after that aforementioned defeat, Adelaide has suddenly became the hottest squad in the league.
After another undefeated weekend, this time against New Zealand and Cairns, the 36ers are second on the ladder but first in the power rankings.
What have been the keys to this epic turnaround? For one, Jerome Randle continues to play like an MVP candidate. During the win streak, Randle is averaging 24 points, while constantly putting defenders in vulnerable positions.
— NBL (@NBL) December 12, 2016
Furthermore, Mitch Creek made an instant impact in his return game, while Daniel Johnson remains the NBL’s most underrated player. Nathan Sobey’s breakout campaign is gaining new legs and the bench, which looked like one of the most under talented in the league earlier in the season, is producing. Also, Terrence Ferguson seems to be settling into the flow of the NBL game.
Basketball is fun in Adelaide again, and not just because Wright’s squad is pushing the pace like they always do. Rather, wins are accompanying that run-and-gun style, making the 36ers must-watch television each week.
2. Melbourne United (Last week: 2nd)
There is no better scoring backcourt in the league than Casper Ware and Chris Goulding. While the duo may not fire together, their individual scoring abilities are just as devastating. We saw the full package of that this weekend.
Friday night in Perth was Ware’s night. Despite United’s late charge falling just short, the American import put on a shooting clinic. Ware finished with 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting and 8-of-19 beyond the three-point line. The confidence in which Ware has immediately played with in Melbourne suggests this rapid shooting spree won’t end anytime soon.
For Goulding, he was havin’ a party against the Kings (sorry). The Olympian was at his entertaining best, putting up 28 points while shooting 8-of-15 from the field and 6-of-10 from downtown. His barrage of triples kept Sydney at bay throughout the contest, which saw United take down the league leaders.
As is the case with every offensive-minded guard, Ware and Goulding’s shot selection can sometimes be called into question. This is nitpicking, though – as long as the duo is hitting them, no one will complain.
Side note: how good was it to see Devin Williams getting nasty at the rim against Sydney? If the West Virginia product can attack the basket like that consistently, it’ll unlock a new dimension in United’s offensive playbook.
3. Sydney Kings (Last week: 3rd)
The intrigue surrounding a possible Sydney/Melbourne playoff series is at an-all time high, with United getting the better of Gaze’s men again this week. Of course, the Kings do have one win in the bag over Melbourne, but that was against a depleted unit. With United at full strength, Sydney hasn’t been able to slow down their immense offensive onslaught, so keep that in mind if the two squads meet in the playoffs.
That’s working in a hypothetical, though. In reality, the Kings had a strong win in Cairns on Friday night, on the back of an electric fourth quarter.
Sydney outscored the Taipans 31-15 over the final 10 minutes, with Josh Powell having the best offensive game of his NBL career. The NBA veteran finished with 17 points off the bench, showing how the Kings have weapons all across the roster.
Seriously, every night someone else can beat you on this Sydney squad. Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley are always excellent, while the likes of Jason Cadee and Greg Whittington are capable of scoring in double-digits when needed.
4. Illawarra Hawks (Last week: 5th)
Could Rotnei Clarke do it?
Could Clarke win the MVP and Sixth Man of the Year award in the same season? Is that allowed? Is their a rule against that?
Who knows, but if there is ever a season where it’s possible, it’s this one.
It seems like we talk about Clarke every week in this column, but it’s for good reason. Beveridge’s decision to move him to the bench will go down as one of the best of the season, as it’s awoke the beast inside of Clarke. The Oklahoma native is tearing second units up and is scoring at a rapid rate, fitting right into ‘Bevo-Ball.’
Moving on from the Clarke lovefest, his replacement in the starting line-up, Mitch Norton, has been wonderful. Not only does Norton bring a defensive mindset to the floor, but as he proved in the win over Brisbane, the 23-year-old can provide some scoring as well. Norton finished with 14 points on a highly efficient 4-of-6 shooting, giving the Hawks’ first-placed offence even more firepower.
Keeping Illawarra fourth for now, as they haven’t been consistent enough to be placed above any of the teams ahead of them, but they have all the ability to rise.
5. Perth Wildcats (Last week: 8th)
Boy, did the Wildcats need that. Winning cures everything, and even though Perth still has tangible issues, things must feel a lot smoother this week after Friday night’s thrilling triumph over Melbourne.
You wonder how much Casey Prather can shadow the Wildcats’ minimal guard depth and offensive ammo. He was tremendous against United, scoring 39 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Not sure if there is anyone that can match Prather’s unique blend of strength, speed and skill, especially around the rim. As long as Prather is on the court, the ‘Cats have a chance to win – but how much longer will that fact last?
Also, what’s up with Angus Brandt? The 2015 Rookie of the Year is scoreless over his last three games, with minute totals of five, 11 and four. Brandt seems low on confidence and is failing to establish himself in a Wildcats team that desperately needs more scoring next to Prather – it’s time to get aggressive.
Jaron Johnson had moments against Melbourne, but as always, his level of production is as inconsistent as they come. Until Brandt, Johnson or someone else steps up, the Wildcats will be living and dying by Prather’s production.
6. New Zealand Breakers (Last week: 7th)
Tale of two games for the Breakers this weekend.
Thursday night’s victory over Brisbane was encouraging, mainly on the offensive end. New Zealand was swinging the ball around the court like we are used to seeing from them, finishing with 20 assists on 30 made baskets. An even spread of contributors was also a positive, with five Breakers scoring in double-figures, including Kirk Penny (16), Thomas Abercrombie (15), Rob Loe (14), Mika Vukona (12) and Corey Webster (10).
The offence was still there against Adelaide, as New Zealand eclipsed the 90-point mark and shot 50 percent from the floor. Furthermore, Penny’s 25-point performance was offensive harmony, as his jump shot is one of the prettiest in the league.
On the defensive end, though, it was a disaster. The 36ers ran all over an inattentive Breakers’ D, on their way to 102 points at a ridiculous 54 percent shooting clip. New Zealand was slow getting back in transition and allowed the Sixers to get into the lane whenever they pleased.
Henare still can’t get his team to play to their potential every week, which has to be getting on his nerves. Oh, the fact that Webster is now out for the foreseeable future doesn’t help, either.
7. Cairns Taipans (Last week: 1st)
Let’s grant Fearne the privilege of summing up his team’s week.
“I thought I was coaching two teams tonight and that was the disappointing thing for me,” Fearne said, after Cairns’ loss to Adelaide on Monday night, via NBL.com.au.
“I thought our first group – and that was there last week as well – were fractured, don’t play hard together, concentrate.
“If I was a fan tonight, I’d be pissed off. I’d be disappointed with the way we played. It’s embarrassing for me that we can go out and play like that. I expect us to play a lot harder than that.”
8. Brisbane Bullets (Last week: 6th)
We mentioned off the top how good the coaches have been this season. Lemanis has had his hand in that, getting the Brisbane public to care about the Bullets again, but now, he has a new challenge.
Lemanis’ Brisbane outfit is consistently inconsistent, something that’s starting to get on the nerves of the Boomers’ 2016 Olympic coach. He talked about the Bullets’ turnover woes and foul trouble after this Saturday’s loss to Illawarra, and for good reason. Brisbane had 20 cough-ups and gave up 32 free throws against the Hawks, while Thursday night’s contest against New Zealand didn’t go much better. The turnovers were down against the Breakers, but the Bullets still allowed 29 free throws, which is too many.
Giving up free throws isn’t a new thing in Brisbane, as they concede 26.3 per game, first in the league. This is a by-product of a larger issue with the Bullets’ defence, as they constantly allow too much dribble penetration on the perimeter. When this occurs, the rest of Brisbane’s defence breaks down and it becomes a lot easier to score.
There was a lot of hoopla surrounding Lemanis’ hire. For the most part, it’s been successful, but now he has a lot on his plate.