Melbourne United have loaded up and boast a roster that many assume should win it all. With many returning stars as well as some major ins, there is plenty to talk about when it comes to Melbourne United.
A disappointing 2016/17 campaign saw Melbourne finish with a record of 13 wins and 15 losses, resulting in a sixth place finish. Major improvements have been made in Melbourne and a climb up the ladder is expected.
There was the high-profile re-signings of Casper Ware and Josh Boone, and of course the much talked about Casey Prather signing, but maybe the biggest off-season move from Melbourne is the appointment of a new head coach.
Dean Vickerman has NBL experience by the bucket load and the proof is in the pudding; having a hand in four NBL Championships with the New Zealand Breakers, including one as head coach in 2015. The man knows how to take charge of a team and get the most out of his players. He crossed to Melbourne after a season with Sydney as an assistant to Andrew Gaze.
Adding Vickerman and Prather is enough to put almost any team into contention. But one that already boasted two 2016 Olympians in Chris Goulding and David Andersen? Well that’s just unheard of.
The additions of Peter Hooley and Craig Moller haven’t created headlines, but they will add important depth to a squad that boasts some genuine superstars of the league.
Hooley has shown plenty of promise in the preseason and be sure to keep an eye on his impressive passing ability. Moller was with Vickerman in Sydney last season and Vickerman was very keen to get him down to Melbourne. He made it happen, and Moller looks ready to be a handy back-up to the forwards.
OUT: Todd Blanchfield (Sydney Kings), Nate Tomlinson, Igor Hadziomerovic and Owen Odigie.
IN: Casey Prather, Craig Moller, Peter Hooley, Sam Short (development player) and Dan Dillon (currently listed as a long-term injury – achilles)
The starting five.
Those names don’t need much introduction or explanation for NBL fans. All of them have proved their worth at NBL level and after spending a good chunk of the preseason together, they should be fairly familiar with one another’s games when their season kicks off against Adelaide on October 5th.
Majok Majok and Kyle Adnam will be suiting up again with Melbourne and their preseason form suggests big things ahead. Whilst Ware will handle the majority of point guard minutes, Adnam’s energy and effort will be key in ensuring their is little to no drop off in production when the bench unit rolls in.
The same goes for Majok. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Majok needs to use his strengths in rebounding and setting strong screens to get the shooters open.
The backcourt tandem of Goulding and Ware re-invigorated Melbourne after a very shaky start to last season. An ankle injury to Goulding basically crushed any hopes of the two having quality practice time together as the season progressed and saw him miss major game time as well.
A preseason together could spell trouble for all other backcourt duos out there. On top of that, integrating Prather and his offensive firepower into the playbook will see options galore every trip down the court.
As I’ve said earlier, with the roster assembled, Melbourne United should be challenging for the Championship. With so many stars on the roster though, coach Vickerman will have his work cut out making sure players get their fair share of minutes and touches of the ball.
Many have questioned whether the likes of Ware, Goulding and Prather can co-exist on the one team. We need only look back to last season when the Cedric Jackson experience in Melbourne went sour very quickly. Jackson’s time in Melbourne only lasted nine games before they parted ways.
Only time will tell how this new super team will exist side by side. One thing is for sure though, if that is the biggest question mark about a team heading into a season, it speaks volumes about what they could produce in season 2017/18.
Tai Wesley. After an off-season that saw him represent Guam internationally, Wesley has returned to Melbourne in great shape and looks ready to contribute extremely important minutes for United.
Wesley has been lights out in the preseason, highlighted by averaging 21 points (60% 3PT) and 6 rebounds in three games at the Blitz. Admittedly, it’s very a small sample size, but the signs are definitely positive, especially after only shooting 30% from beyond the arc last season.
With so many talented scorers on the team, and with attention likely to be focused elsewhere, Wesley could sneak under the radar and provide another offensive option and valuable scoring punch.
It is all set up for a major tilt at the Championship for Melbourne United in season 2017/18. Many would call a season finishing with anything less than holding the trophy aloft as a failure.
With injuries wreaking havoc last season – David Andersen and Chris Goulding both missed considerable time – a clean bill of health would be at the top of Melbourne’s wishlist.
If the team is able to steer clear of injuries for the most part, a top two finish should be on the agenda.