The 2019 NBL Award nominees were recently released and naturally, is always a point of discussion, even before the actual awards are handed out.
The nominees themselves are as important as the names left out, and that’s before we dive into early predictions on who the actual winners could be.
*Don’t miss Jordan’s takeaways on the NBL award nominees.
As befitting tradition, it’s time to put forward my selections, on who I think will walk away with each of the awards. Let the debates begin!
MVP: Andrew Bogut
The case for Bogut as the NBL’s most valuable player is pretty simple. One only has to look at the Kings before his arrival and compare that to the Kings we see now; the difference is night and day.
Of course, there are other factors that have contributed to Sydney’s rapid ascendency into legitimate championship contention that you’d be a fool to ignore, such as the return of a healthy Kevin Lisch, and the creation of an incredibly intimidating second unit.
However, the glue that binds it all together, and the person who has his fingerprints all over the King’s first Finals berth since 2013 is Bogut. He currently leads the league in both rebounds (11.6 rpg) and blocks (2.7 bpg). In both of these categories the competition isn’t even that close, particularly in blocks where he averages nearly twice as many as the NBL’s number two shot blocker, Josh Boone (1.5 bpg).
— Sydney Kings (@SydneyKings) February 8, 2019
To add further to his statistical accomplishments, his 3.6 assists per game put him just shy of being in the top 10 playmakers in the NBL; an impressive feat for a big man.
Bogut has shown the Australian basketball community that his return to Australia wasn’t just a quick gimmicky stopover before his retirement. His leadership on and off the court, combined with his personal excellence has transformed Sydney from the NBL’s underperforming black ship, into their top attraction.
That, is value.
Coach of the Year: Dean Vickerman
Among a litany of other roles and responsibilities, the job of a coach is to create a vision that players are itching to buy into, even if it means personal sacrifice. That is exactly the culture that Vickerman has built in Melbourne.
Vickerman has expertly managed all the egos on his roster and has navigated United across some rocky waters on the way to the finals, and the chance for back-to-back finals.
The system he sculpted gave Melbourne the flexibility to bend, but not break, under the strain of potentially season altering injuries to Josh Boone and Chris Goulding. When a man goes down or is unable to fulfill his role, another slots into his place, seemingly without missing a beat. That is testament to terrific coaching and a culture where faith is given in both directions.
Vickerman has also engineered a team that plays both ends of the court better than any other club. Melbourne is currently ranked in the top three for both offensive production and points allowed. Where many teams sacrifice one end of the court for the sake of the other, Vickerman’s United have shown that to compete with them you have to both.
Sixth Man of the Year: Reuben Te Rangi
Reuben Te Rangi has continued to rise up the ranks of the NBL’s best guards/wing players. His terrific scoring off the bench at 11 ppg, has been instrumental in giving the Bullets one of the best offensive second units in the league, and gives the Bullets a starting calibre punch off the bench.
What has stood out the most about Te Tangi this year has been his marksmanship. In a word, it has been utterly lethal, a terrifying weapon. At the time of writing this article, Te Rangi is the most accurate long-range shooter in the competition, with an eye watering 48% conversion rate on three-point attempts.
Te Rangi in a catch and shoot situation has become a nightmare for every other team in the NBL, and this has put him near the top of opposition scouting reports.
The young Kiwi has the gravity of a starter. His presence on the court makes the defence sweat while generating opportunities for his team. It’s the kind of package every coach dreams of in a reserve player. The future is bright for this young man and he deserves recognition.
Defensive Player of the Year: Andrew Bogut
It should be no real surprise for anyone who followed Bogut’s journey in the NBA that he has been a dominant defensive force for Sydney. During his time in the NBA, Bogut distinguished himself as one of the world’s best interior defenders, and at age 34, he’s showing he still has it.
The former Milwaukee Buck has almost single-handedly turned the King’s defence from the makeshift barricade it was last season, into a fortress complete with a moat and towers, all accomplished in the space of a year. The Kings have gone from a team that allowed 89.6 ppg last season to a team that allows 84.1.
Standing 7 feet tall, weighing 118 kilograms, and with expert timing honed in the NBA, Bogut is the biggest deterrent in the NBL. His innate ability to block or alter any shot that enters his airspace has turned Sydney into a defensive titan. Bogut has borne a healthy amount of the Kings’ transformation on his own shoulders, and his 2.7 blocks perfectly encapsulate the ruthless defence he brings every night.
Bogut’s MVP chances are closely tied to his defence, so naturally, MVP and DPOY honours go hand in hand.
Most Improved Player: Nick Kay
This season, Kay has shown the expectation and hype that has surrounded him since his rookie year has been justified. Kay’s improvement has catapulted him from a good player with promise, into a potential MVP candidate in the near future.
Kay improved in nearly every major statistical category, most notably in his rebounding and scoring. His point production this season has increased by 30% from last year, going from 11.7 to 15.2. That improvement balloons to 44% when comparing this season to his career average of 10.5. Similarly, his 8.6 rpg this season and the number four spot on the list of the league’s top rebounders, was the product of a 37% boost from his numbers last year. This boost also applies to his career rebounding average.
His improvement isn’t just in the numbers. Kay has stepped up to his new role in Perth and has arguably become the second most important player on a team campaigning for the title.
16 points. 10 rebounds. 7 assists. pic.twitter.com/n2uC9qZN3W
— Perth Wildcats (@PerthWildcats) January 27, 2019
Although the story of Barlow’s rebirth from the ashes has a whimsical quality to it, it’s Kay who deserves the recognition of this award. Kay hasn’t improved to rediscover lost form; his improvement has taken him to a whole other level.
Rookie of the Year: Harry Froling
The NBL received an invigorating injection of young talent this year, and the clear standout amongst the new additions is Harry Froling.
The 20-year-old big man has been a revelation for the 36ers. The impact he has had game-to-game, playing 15.1 minutes, is astounding. His scoring average (8 ppg) exceeds all other nominees, as does his 4.7 rebounds. He knows how to use his size and strength to dominate in the paint, and he has the long-range game to stretch the floor and help propel Joey Wright’s offence.
🎶 𝘏𝘰𝘸 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘣𝘪𝘨𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸, 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴… 🎶 pic.twitter.com/XgeqWlRQkK
— Adelaide 36ers (@Adelaide36ers) February 2, 2019
Froling has stepped into his role as Daniel Johnson’s back up with poise and confidence that exceeds his rookie status. Throughout the year there were very few signs of tentativeness – Froling has played like someone who knew he belonged in the NBL from the word go.
Froling has sky-high potential to become something special. His debut season hasn’t felt like a debut, it has felt like he’s been playing at the pro level for years. And it’s that fact that makes him the clear Rookie of the Year.
What are your picks for the NBL awards? Leave a comment and share your picks.