The NBL’s 40th season starts this week.
While there are great choices across each of the season’s nineteen rounds, as well as historic exhibition action against NBA teams also to be played, we’ve chosen five games that – on paper – look sure to feature the best of what the league has to offer.
1 | Round 1: Perth Wildcats vs Brisbane Bullets, Saturday, October 7th
What better way to kick off the season than the reigning champs’ home opener?
Bringing back most of the side that won the Wildcats their eighth title, Perth have added imports Derek Cooke Jr. and JP Tokoto to play alongside Grand Final MVP Bryce Cotton.
Look for both Cooke and Tokoto to try and replace some of the offense that left in the off-season against an up-tempo Brisbane team looking to start the season on a high note after a disappointing return to the NBL last year.
In addition to seeing sharpshooting Boomer Daniel Kickert and the return of Stephen Holt to NBL action, former Taipans guard Travis Trice and 19-year-old Matt Kenyon should keep excitement high in Brisbane’s free-flowing offense. Early season optimism from the Bullets should make this a fun match-up against a Wildcats team ready to get back to business.
2 | Round 3: Perth Wildcats vs Melbourne United, Friday, October 20th
This choice is going to seem a little obvious, but what more could you want out of a heavyweight thriller this early in the season? Both teams will have played only once in the previous round, and Melbourne will have to take its fully-stacked roster on the road to test what new coach Dean Vickerman and his squad have put together.
To add to the drama, this will see the return of All-NBL First Team forward Casey Prather to Perth Arena against his old team. Prather and United’s attacking guards Chris Goulding and Casper Ware should make this a high-scoring affair as they go head-to-head with Angus Brandt, Matthew Knight and Bryce Cotton who led the league in scoring last year.
For Melbourne, their defensive length and roster depth should make this a great road game between
two of the best teams in the league.
3 | Round 11: Melbourne United vs Adelaide 36ers, Friday, December 22nd
While this matchup could have easily been our choice for Round 1 (and we do recommend you watch that season opener), this midseason clash between two consistently strong sides is the one to watch.
With a Melbourne roster boasting more talent than ever, a Round 11 test against Joey Wright’s 36ers seems the perfect time for both teams to have found their form.
Team chemistry has been the biggest issue over the last few seasons for United, and Adelaide will also be
looking remain a contender after losing league MVP Jerome Randle over the off-season. Both Matt Hodgson and Mitch Creek have played well in that time and could take big steps in the early stages of the season for Adelaide, with Hodgson and American Ronald Roberts having to take on Melbourne bigs Majok Majok and Josh Boone. New guards Shannon Shorter and former United player Ramone
Moore should also help Nathan Sobey take on Melbourne’s tight defense.
By the time this one comes around, we should be watching two contenders firing on all cylinders.
4 | Round 16: Illawarra Hawks vs Cairns Taipans, Sunday, January 28th
This is the Hawks and Taipans’ final showdown of the season. Two gritty, consistently overlooked teams that seem to always be in contention (both were eliminated by eventual champion Perth last season) will most likely be making a push for the finals in what should be a very tight ladder this year.
For Cairns, Mitch McCarron and new import Scoochie Smith should provide the scoring that was a concern for the Taipans last season, while their defense will go up against the Hawks three-point shooting under coach Rob Beveridge.
This is also a great game to catch Australian talents Cameron Gliddon, Kuany Kuany and Nathan Jawai for Cairns and the Hawks’ Kevin White, Andrew Ogilvy, Nick Kay and Mitch Norton.
5 | Round 19: Sydney Kings vs New Zealand Breakers, Sunday, February 18th
While many have counted the Breakers out of a finals spot for the second year in a row, their game against the Kings on the last night of the regular season could decide who makes the final four. The fact that this game isn’t in New Zealand could very well mean that the Kings come away the victors.
Both teams will feature consistent cores with a few new faces. Confident shot-creator Édgar Sosa could have his way alongside fellow import D.J. Newbill, but Sydney’s own offensive firepower in Todd Blanchfield and Perry Ellis should prove more than up to the task.
If Kevin Lisch and Dane Pineau also play well, this should be a good night for the home side and a great way to close out the regular season.