At the conclusion of the 2016/17 NBL season, The Pick and Roll takes an in-depth look at each NBL franchise to see where they went right and wrong, plus what they should be investing into in the future.
What went right?
Cairns found an affective system that led them to winning more games than they lost. The recruitment of Travis Trice was excellent decision, he performed brilliantly, and rarely fell into the import trap of trying to do too much. He finished the season with 14.62 points, and 3.46 assists per game.
Their bench depth and team play was also impressive, getting important minutes from the likes of Jarrod Weeks, Mitch McCarron and more. The Taipans combined well, finished with the equal best home record in the league (10-4), and finished 2nd, in what was one of the tightest regular seasons in recent NBL history.
What went wrong?
It’s hard to put a finger on one major thing that went wrong for the men in orange. They did struggle away from home, going 5-9 when on the road. Nate Jawai managed to feature in 29 games (including playoffs) which was good, but averaged under 20 minutes per game. Cam Gliddon was expected by some to have a break out year, and despite showing glimpses of brilliance only averaged 10 points per game. These are not major negatives, but are small things that when combined turn a potentially great season into only a good season.
The former Michigan State guard showed the entire country just how good he could be. With the D-League being his only previous experience in professional basketball, Trice showed poise and skill at the point guard position. He did all he could throughout the season, and also in their short playoffs stint. Any NBL side would be lucky to have Trice running their side in season 2017/18
The way the Taipans exited the finals will continue to haunt them until next season starts. Having beaten Perth in a regular season game only a few games prior, getting swept was devastating. They will take something out of the fact that the Wildcats went on to win the Championship, however it does not completely sooth the pain. What made matters worse was that it was the last few NBL games for Australian basketball legend Mark Worthington, who deserved another chance to play for a championship before he hung up the boots.
Cairns finished the regular season on fire. But perhaps the game that encapsulated their season was a hard-nosed win over Perth. Playing in front of a packed home crowd, and fighting for a spot in the playoffs, the Taipans fought hard for a thrilling 8-point victory. We saw the best of Nate Jawai, who went beast mode on the Wildcats. Despite suffering a shoulder injury, he finished with his season-high of 22 points, leading his side from the front. Jawai got help from most of his side and they combined for one of Cairns’ shining moments for the season
Not only did losing to Perth in game two of the semi-finals see the end to the Taipans’ season, it also saw something much worse. After the game, while both teams were shaking hands Tony Mitchell grabbed the game ball and seemingly threw it at referee Vaughn Mayberry. It struck the official, and thus made the night a whole lot worse for Cairns. Mitchell was then suspended by the NBL for the entirety of next season. Whether you agree with the punishment or not, a semi final series loss and an ugly act like that are an easy choice for worst moment.
Someone to fill the shoes of Mark Worthington. He was top four in points, assists, rebounds, and steals per game for the Taipans. These are giant shoes to fill, as ‘Wortho’ will without doubt go down as one of Australia’s basketball greats. But Cairns will need a new wing player with the ability to give similar if not more output than the retiring legend did. Something also tells me the Taipans wouldn't mind bringing Travis Trice back for 2017/18
Many did not expect the Taipans to make the playoffs. Some ageing veterans, and untested imports meant that at the start of the season experts were unsure on where they would end up. However they managed to come together under the leadership of Aaron Fearne and finish the year 2nd on the ladder. Their finals campaign brings down the grade, but over all a solid year from the men up north.