2014/15 NBL Season Preview: Adelaide 36ers

The Adelaide 36ers searched far and wide over the off-season in an attempt to bolster their squad for the 2014/15 season, making a number of key signings as they attempt to go one better and capture the NBL championship.


Last Season

There’s nothing quite as heart breaking as coming second, as the Adelaide 36ers would have found out following last year's defeat to Perth in the Grand Final . To come so close to the top and falter at the final hurdle isn’t something that sits easy with a professional sportsman, and is sure to put plenty of fire in the belly for the Sixers ahead of the new season. Following an eighth place finish in 2013, the Sixers had to rebuild, both on-court and off, to foster a winning environment. They hired NBL Champion coach Joey Wright and signed 2011 MVP Gary Ervin to try and bring direction to a team that hadn’t had much success since the Phil Smyth era. They also signed New Zealand swingman BJ Anthony to the roster as a backup big man. The season went well for Adelaide as the side put together a consistent season and eventually finishing in second place. They rattled off a six game win streak early in the season after a slow start, and found themselves with a mixed bag of results the rest of the way. It didn’t affect their post-season chances, however, as they saw off Melbourne in the semis before finishing as runners up overall. It helped them avoid a third consecutive wooden spoon, completely reversing their fortunes in just one season under Wright. Daniel Johnson was the highlight of a bright year for the team, asserting himself as a dominant big inside and using his quickness and size to pile on the points night in, night out. Despite the low attempts, his 40% from behind the arc was an encouraging sign for the 26-year-old. He dropped 19.2ppg and secured 6.8rpg on his way to club MVP. The 36ers were not shy when it came to letting the opposition know just who they were dealing with. There was a blowup between Mika Vukona of the NZ Breakers and BJ Anthony in Round 4 after a hard foul by Vukona. Then in February, there was this post-game skirmish that set the scene for the grand final between the Perth Wildcats and the Sixers. They had a mixed post-season, with good victories against both the Melbourne Tigers and the Wildcats, but ultimately succumbed in Game 3 of the Grand Final with a fairly humiliating 93-59 defeat in the hostile surroundings of Perth Arena.


Player Movement

The 36ers roster is in for another overhaul, having lost Ervin (Wollongong) and Johnson (Poland) who were the two key components in the team's success last year. Team Captain Adam Gibson and Coach Wright will have to make sure that their loss is not a detriment to team morale and that all players adjust to new roles as they try to keep the momentum rolling from last season. They also said goodbye to veteran Rhys Carter, who signed with the Breakers, and Jason Cadee who moved to the Sydney Kings.

Daequon Montreal looks to be a surprise packet for the Sixers this season. Photo Credit: NBL

Daequon Montreal looks to be a surprise packet for the Sixers this season.

Photo Credit: NBL With their two import slots the Sixers signed 'local' Americans: forward Daequon Montreal from the SEABL league and guard Jamar Wilson from Cairns, the latter of which who will try to fill the sizeable void left by the departing Ervin. Both are expected to start in their respective spots on the floor, with Anthony Petrie slated to slide over to the 5 in Johnson’s absence. Tom Daly, a developmental player in the 2012/2013 season who found himself in the full squad after injuries made room in the roster, returns to the squad following a SEABL championship in the off-season. The Sixers also added veteran swingman Peter Crawford from Townsville and developmental player Sam Johns.


2014-2015 Key Player

Adam Gibson #484010137 / gettyimages.com Adam Gibson will start his third season as a player (and captain) of the 36ers, and it’s vital he maintains control of the team in the locker room and on the court. For the team to successfully gel and begin to build a season out of this team, it starts with 'Gibbo'. Gibson will offer up double digit points on most nights and has slowly become more efficient behind the arc, raising his season average to just below 40% in 2013/14. If he can raise that even higher this year, perhaps with a higher volume to boot, he’ll really create space for his teammates to attack the lane. He will dish assists and get his teammates involved, which can only help to foster the chemistry. Jamar Wilson has alarmingly low assist numbers for any guard, which makes it all the more important that Gibson balances his scoring with facilitating. They’ll certainly miss Ervin’s passing, so it’s imperative that he picks up the slack if Wilson doesn’t lift his averages he had with the Taipans. Coach Wright will he be hoping he will provide the steadying factor he brought to the Boomers after he surpassed NBA rookie Dante Exum in the lineup at this year’s FIBA World Cup.


Verdict

With some leadership from the top down and some quick adjustments to their new starters, the 36ers shouldn’t drop too far off their set pace. A slow start to the season may see the Sixers drop outside of the top four by the time the playoffs roll around, but if they can recapture some of the form from 2013/14 then they still have the roster to make a splash and a top four finish should be on the cards. NBL Championship Odds: $17