The expectations on the Bullets last season were only moderate with a competitive roster assembled in their first season back in the league after a hiatus. The team had put together a respectable 8-9 win-loss record around the middle of December, in what was a tightly contested league, but injuries to Cameron Bairstow, Adam Gibson and Anthony Petrie slowed their form before they also let Jermaine Beal go after some underwhelming play. Ultimately, the Bullets only won two of their next eleven games to finish on the bottom of the standings.
Shot-creation from the guards was an issue for last season’s roster but their strong front-court pushed them to rankings of second for offensive rebound percentage, as well as first for both points scored in the paint and points via free throw makes (based on percentage of team points). The injury to Bairstow however has now led to a third import signing (up from two last season) with that spot going to a guard, thus switching the balance of the roster somewhat.
OUT – Torrey Craig, Cameron Bairstow, Jermaine Beal / Jeremy Kendle
IN – Perrin Buford, Travis Trice, Stephen Holt
WHAT THEY SHOULD DO WELL
To balance out their strength in the paint game, guard play has been upgraded. Brisbane ranked last in both three point rate and turnover percentage, whilst they were second last in assist percentage. The additions of Trice and Holt to form a three man rotation with Adam Gibson gives them real quality and balance in their back-court minutes. Shaun Bruce had an incredible QBL season and could be set to find his feet at this level (if his current injury doesn’t linger) after a poor 2016-17 NBL season, whilst Matt Kenyon is a year older and a quality prospect.
WHAT QUESTION MARKS ARE THERE?
Perrin Buford’s physical profile, plus his above average rebounding and shot-blocking for his position, is at a similar level to the man he is replacing but he doesn’t have quite the same years of experience or offensive game as Torrey Craig. Buford’s absence in the preseason makes it difficult to read the complete dynamic of the team but he is certainly a creator on offense using a ball-screen, slashing, posting, or pulling up for a mid-range jumper (he has never shot the three with volume). From the on/off court numbers, Brisbane were 7.9 points better on offense and 9.2 points better on defense with Torrey Craig on the floor – big shoes to fill.
It wasn’t just luck that the mobile Michael Carrera had a strong scoring performance against the Bullets in their final Blitz game as the depth, quality and two-way play of Brisbane’s bigs is a question mark (especially at power forward). Daniel Kickert will continue to score exceptionally well in this league despite being in his mid-thirties, whilst Tom Jervis is a quality player, but their combination as starters won’t hold up defensively against some match-ups. Anthony Petrie needs to defy his age and injury concerns from last season, Reuben Te Rangi (who will log some small-ball-four minutes) is desperate for a career breakout season, whilst Mitch Young needs to produce or he will struggle to get another contract with roster spots so competitive around the league.
PROJECTED FINISH – 12 Wins 16 Losses
Four of the Bullets five most used five-man line-ups last season had a positive net rating, which underlines that their peak form was decent before the injuries, but ten wins and a bottom two efficiency ranking on both ends of the floor was still the end product.
The Holt and Trice additions are an upgrade but those guys are not Bryce Cotton or Casper Ware level guards. Holt’s ability to play both guard spots, be unselfish and hit threes should mesh well with this group but Trice has a little more to prove. He showed he has plenty of zip on offense but still needs to turn that into consistent production that helps the team overall.
Brisbane will certainly be competitive but making up what they’ve lost from Torrey Craig, especially on defense, will be difficult. With the current state of all eight rosters, I’d suggest it’s unlikely that they’ll be seen in the playoffs.
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