Merry Christmas, NBL fans!
What’s our gift to you this week? Well, the NBL only had three games, which is understandable as it gives players time to spend with their family, but sucks for fans because we just want to see more basketball.
However, we can’t be guilty. The quality and competitiveness of the NBL this season has been tremendous and more than anybody could have expected, which is the best Christmas gift of all.
The three games did impact the length of this week’s power rankings, as the teams that didn’t play didn’t move spots. Although, the power rankings must go on.
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: 1st)
Eight straight, can you say any more about these streaking Sixers? It’s not just coming from stud import Jerome Randle either; with Nathan Sobey, Daniel Johnson, Eric Jacobsen and the return of Mitch Creek (among others) all putting in their fair share.
2. Cairns Taipans (Last week: 2nd)
Did not play.
3. Illawarra Hawks (Last week: 3rd)
Oscar Forman, take a bow!
After scoring no points in his prior three games, Forman exploded for 24 points off the bench in the Hawks’ victory over Sydney. It was so refreshing to watch the 34-year-old have a throwback performance, after it seemed as if age had caught up to him. The great thing about Forman’s performance was the way he scored fits right into Rob Beveridge’s system. Forman connected on 6-of-12 three-pointers, the type of floor spacing that Illawarra craves in their fast-paced system.
The Hawks’ defence was also a positive development in the impressive win over the Kings. They’ve now jumped to third in defensive rating, and if that remains a constant theme, then Illawarra could be title sleepers.
4. New Zealand Breakers (Last week: 4th)
Did not play.
5. Melbourne United (Last week: 6th)
It’s a shame Melbourne had their best performance of the season when most teams had their byes, as Dean Demopoulos’ men would have been shoo-ins for a top-two power rankings spot.
However, that doesn’t take anything away from their Boxing Day demolition of the Bullets. Seriously, United was clicking on all cylinders. Their offence was flowing, with open shots being created with ease. Melbourne’s criminally underrated defence held Brisbane to 22-second half points and a 36 percent shooting rate. It was as good of an all-around team performance we have seen this season.
Maybe more impressive? It was done so with Casper Ware shooting just 3-of-10 and Josh Boone playing 19 productive minutes after arriving in Australia a day earlier. This means United still has room for growth and improvement, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
6. Perth Wildcats (Last week: 8th)
It’s so hard to write the Wildcats off, but with each loss, it becomes more tempting to do so.
Without Damian Martin, it seems unfair to judge Perth. Injuries, though, are apart of sport and teams, especially championship ones, deal with them. The ‘Cats haven’t done this so far, despite their honourable loss to the league-leading 36ers. However, the fact we are mentioning ‘honourable loss’ and ‘Perth’ is the same sentence is saying something.
Positives still exist, though. Trevor Gleeson’s men still posses the NBL’s best defence and new import, Bryce Cotton, brings NBA experience to the roster. After another Jaron Johnson release, after one of his best games, and a 7-9 record, the Wildcats just need to start getting wins anyway they can.
7. Sydney Kings (Last week: 7th)
It’s not panic time, but that red light is starting to look a little brighter in Sydney.
The Kings, after looking like the benchmark of the competition about a month ago, have fallen flat on their face. After Friday’s loss to Illawarra, Andrew Gaze’s men have now lost six of their past eight, with their analytical measures dropping as well. After ranking first in the category for most of the season, the Kings have dropped to third in NET rating, while Gaze’s squad has dropped down to sixth in defensive rating.
Sydney, however, did sign promising youngster William McDowell-White as a developmental player this week. McDowell-White has opened the eyes of scouts across the globe and was one of Australia’s most anticipated freshmen this year, so his NBL progression will be fascinating.
8. Brisbane Bullets (Last week: 5th)
Who would have thought an Andrej Lemanis coached team could get humiliated as badly as Brisbane did on Monday night?
That was woeful. After staying competitive for the first half, the Bullets folded in the final 20 minutes. The offence was lackadaisical and settled for way too many poor shots. Defensively, Brisbane was even worse, with a lazy performance causing frequent miscommunications and missed rotations.
Jermaine Beal’s inconsistent ways must be concerning for Lemanis. Over his past six games, Beal has had three double-digit scoring nights and three single-digit scoring efforts, with Brisbane needing more out of one of their key offensive pillars.
Beal’s struggles, though, are a microcosm of this Bullets team, one that has officially taken the mantle of most inconsistent team in the league.