2017-18 NBL Power Rankings R2: Lesser-lights shine through as Hawks take a tumble.
|Matthew L Smith||Oct 17, 2017|
Round 2 gave us a glimpse of the rising young talent in the NBL.
Kyle Adnam had the brightest impact but he wasn't alone, as a bevy of young men shined under the spotlight. Dexter Kernich-Drew showed why he is a microwave marksmen to be feared. Majok Deng, may be all arms and legs but continues to be a positive every time he steps on the court. There are shades of Thon Maker with flashes of three-point shooting prowess and athletic rim finishes. Anthony Drmic does what Anthony Drmic does. He's a stud. And Isaac Humphries finally used his mammoth size to bully opponents in the paint; something we've all been waiting for.
The future sure is bright for the NBL.
These power rankings are determined by many factors, including both offensive and defensive ratings, who you beat, who beat you and how you played. The stats noted have been provided by RealGM.com and nbl.com.au. (ORTG= Offensive rating, DRTG = Defensive rating, PACE= pace of play)
The power rankings are the opinion of one man only. To discuss the rankings, hit me up on Twitter @alleighoops.
1. MELBOURNE UNITED
(Last week: 1st –)
ORTG (4th - 118.6) DRTG (1st - 105.4) PACE (1)
Is Kyle Adnam the second coming of Shane Heal? The comparison is easy to make: both share a diminutive stature, never back away from a challenge, have blonde hair and both can shoot the lights out when they get hot. On Saturday night, Kyle took it upon himself to lead a jet-lagged United team to a dominant dismantling of fellow title contenders Adelaide, scoring a career-high 23 points and knocking down a very 'Hammer-like' six three-pointers. It was enough to get the man himself exciting (sic) and impressed.
Even Slo Mo Joe found the time to tweet out some love for Kyle.
Kyle obviously isn't at Shane's level just yet but at least on this night the little maestro conjured memories of the peroxide bomber and earned a place on the Eric Watterson All-Star watch list.
Hearts were in mouths when Casey Prather went down against Adelaide but the news coming out of the United camp is positive, he isn't expected to miss any time. Thank goodness because his loss on top of the already missing CG43, could have seriously derailed the teams best laid plans.
SPOTLIGHT: Many (including yours truly) thought Melbourne would be overrun by a fast-paced Adelaide unit looking to exact revenge after their round 1 loss to United. In the return bout, United showed how much confidence they brought back from the States, crushing Adelaide on their home court by 20 points.
Melbourne is averaging a league-best 99 points per game without Chris Goulding; and Tai Wesley is proving a handful. This could get frightening.
FUN FACT: It's hard to fathom just how bad Josh Boone is at free-throw shooting. In his NBL career, Josh has made 27 of 54, a 50% clip. The two games this season are even worse with Josh shooting a mind numbing 17%, making just 2 of 12. (stats) Something has to be done, maybe under-arm style? Or shoot it like a jump shot, a la Hassan Whiteside.
2. PERTH WILDCATS
(Last week: 2nd –)
ORTG (2nd - 123.3) DRTG (2nd - 108.8) PACE (7)
Perth is gonna Perth which the Hawks discovered Friday night. After leading by six points at the main break 43-37, Illawarra was a Coenraad three-ball from one of the lowest-scoring quarters in NBL history. The Hawks scored a measly 7 points in the 3rd frame as the clamps tightened. Perth choked the life out of Illawarra, keeping them to 21 second-half points, in the process showing that even without their main man Bryce Cotton firing (held to just 3 points), they are still too good at home for most.
On any other team, Dexter Kernich-Drew would probably be the front runner for Most Improved Player. With Perth he might still win it, but only if he gets regular minutes EVERY game. In the meantime, we'll just have to enjoy short burst scoring explosions like Friday night, when he romped to a quickfire 11 points in 10 minutes.
Perth still plays at one of the slowest paces, but the efficiency of their offence and defence - both top 2 in the league - is clear for all to see. JP Tokoto has slotted in seamlessly on both ends of the court, currently leading the team in scoring at 15.0 per game whilst also swiping 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. This is no one man team.
SPOTLIGHT: Shawn who? Lucas Walker, the man who couldn't get a full-time roster spot (on any team) last year is going gangbusters early. Walker is shooting 64% overall and 40% from three while averaging 12.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.0 spg. He was the most efficient player in the league with a 22.6 PER until Perry Ellis went ballistic on Sunday to claim top spot. Walker's 145.9 offensive rating is good for 5th in the league.
Lucas is the main reason Derek Cooke Jr can't get off the bench (just 10 minutes in two games). How can you possibly take him off the court with irresistible all-round play like this? The simple answer is: you can't.
FUN FACT: Ah, Angus Brandt currently has the highest usage rate in the league at 35.7%. To put that number into perspective, Bryce Cotton isn't even in the top 25 with a usage rate of 20.1%. Perth likes to start every game with 3 or 4 straight early post touches for Angus, but that usage number seems way out of whack.
3. ADELAIDE 36ERS
(Last week: 4th ↑)
ORTG (5th - 113.5) DRTG (3rd - 109.5) PACE (2)
The search is on to replace the replacement.
After the Roland Roberts fiasco, the 36ers settled on 33 year-old veteran baller, Alan Wiggins, as his replacement. That lasted all of eight minutes with Wiggins breaking his arm taking a charge in the last quarter of Adelaide's 20 point loss against Melbourne. Eight minutes into your first game in a new country before breaking something has to be some kind of record. Best wishes Al, sometimes it's just not meant to be.
Is there a more schizophrenic team in the league than the 36ers? First, a two point loss to Melbourne after being up double figures. Then a nine point win against Sydney after being down double figures. Followed by a twenty-six point shellacking of Cairns then a twenty point loss to Melbourne.
Shannon Shorter missed the Melbourne game and should be back this week with (hopefully) a new import partner. Daniel Johnson fell one point short of a career high with 32 points against Cairns, but it's Mitch Creek who is beasting the league. He is seriously fun to watch in the power point/forward role.
The good news is their best is very good.
SPOTLIGHT: Nathan Sobey might be carrying something because his last three games have been well below expectations. 6 points, 6 points and 11 points for the reigning Most Improved Player.
FUN FACT: Melbourne United is 2-0 in Adelaide this year.
4. CAIRNS TAIPANS
(Last week: 3rd ↓)
ORTG (8th - 108.7) DRTG (4th - 115.0) PACE (4)
Cairns was left scratching their heads after being completely outplayed by Adelaide. It turned into a laugher. You can't turn the ball over 17 times whilst only dishing out 6 dimes; where is the ball movement? Amazingly, even with all the turnovers Cairns still shot the ball 15 more times than Adelaide. In a blowout loss? Unheard of.
Cairns is the second worst shooting team behind New Zealand, the second worst rebounding team behind Brisbane and equal worst ball sharer with New Zealand. It's kind of incredible they have won two games.
Still, they have a very winnable game against Brisbane (away) before taking on the Perth Wildcats at home (Sunday).
A 3-2 record without Jawai for 4 games is definitely respectable but they are missing their alpha with the big dawg out.
SPOTLIGHT: Young bun wearer, Damon Heuir put forward his case for more rotation minutes with a solid 13 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes including 7 of 10 free-throws.
FUN FACT: The 26 point loss to Adelaide was their second biggest home loss since 2009.
5. SYDNEY KINGS
(Last week: 6th ↑)
ORTG (3rd - 120.9) DRTG (6th - 118.8) PACE (3)
Sydney needs a big man who can vacuum up rebounds and play intimidating defence. Weak-side rotation against New Zealand cost them the game as DJ Newbill proved. He was able to waltz in almost unimpeded, make himself a coffee, then hit the winning lay-up as time expired.
Alarmingly, Sydney's roster issues have been further complicated with news two-time MVP Kevin Lisch will be out at least a month, possibly two, from a calf tear.
For a team that desperately needs reps on the court together, the Lisch news has sullied a convincing home win, 103-87 over Illawarra. The Kings are now left to ponder getting a replacement for Lisch or fill more pressing needs with a big guy. Sydney could toy with Cadee in the starting line-up, or shifting Leslie to the point guard slot and bringing in a starting big alongside Newley, Blanchfield and Ellis. Whispers suggest they may look to bring in a point guard for Lisch.
There's a whole bunch of options Sydney needs to work through but the sameness in their roster composition may have just worked itself out. Get a big man.
In good news, the waiver wire for the NBA has been finalised and someone on that list fits the bill: Kendrick Perkins everybody!
On second thought, maybe that's not such a good idea.
There is a player worth investigating, a name that will sound familiar to Aussie Hoops and Sydney Kings' fans alike. He's just been waived by the Indiana Pacers and is surely worth a call: Jarrod Uthoff.
Uthoff went undrafted in 2016 out of Iowa but played nine games last season with the Dallas Mavericks. He previously played summer league with the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings and has a bloodline with this team already. Older NBL fans would remember his Pops, Dean 'the Man Mountain' Uthoff. Named a Sydney Kings legend at their 25th Anniversary celebrations, he still holds four of the top six individual rebounding games in NBL history some 20 years after retirement.
Jarrod plays more like NBL legend Simon Dwight than his dad (whose blunt force ground-bound type of game is now out of fashion) and would surely plug up a lot of the glaring issues for Sydney, namely: rebounding, weak-side defence and rim protection. As a senior at Iowa in 2015-16, the springy and rangy 6'9 forward/centre averaged 18.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while shooting 38% on five attempts per game from behind the arc.
That sounds like the new age, multi-faceted type of player that Sydney could use alongside Perry, Brad and Todd.
SPOTLIGHT: Perry Ellis take a bow. The Kings need a whole lot more of this.
FUN FACT: Greg Whittington had a Sydney Kings import scoring high of just 22 points last season. Ellis smoked that with 33 a few days ago.
6. NZ BREAKERS
(Last week: 8th ↑)
ORTG ( 7th - 109.1) DRTG (5th - 115.3) PACE (5)
DJ Newbill had possibly the play of the round, slicing down the middle before banking in the deuce for an 87-85 win.
Up 54-41 at the half against a team with no identity and playing the worst defence Andrew Gaze has ever gazed, it should never have come to that. The game winner saved what would have been a demoralising collapse by the Breakers.
New Zealand has scoring problems.
As discussed last week, Thom Abercrombie needs to be more consistent to be the leader of this team. 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks with 4 made 3PT baskets can't be followed up with 4 points, 7 rebounds and zero assists. The team needs more from Thom.
SPOTLIGHT: Kirk Penney obviously didn't take too kindly to The Pick and Roll's questioning if he was done last week. In a must-win game, Kirk exploded for 25 points on 7-10 FG's and 6-8 from 3PT range. It's a reminder to never count out wily veteran shooters so early in the season; they just take a little longer to get warmed up is all.
FUN FACT: They shoot the worst, pass the least and funnily enough, score the least.
7. BRISBANE BULLETS
(Last week: 7th –)
ORTG (1st - 126.7) DRTG (8th - 141.4) PACE (8)
No change in the NBL power rankings for the Brisbane Bullets after not playing a game in the NBL for round 2.
Brisbane has a brutal upcoming schedule with five games (four at home) in 14 days between October 20 and November 3. The team should be well rested and ready to play Cairns at home (Friday), before making a short trip to play bottom of the ladder Illawarra (Sunday). Then there's New Zealand, Melbourne and Illawarra at home over the following nine days.
If the Bullets (mainly Travis Trice) play like they did after quarter time against the Phoenix Suns, they could win three of those games; maybe four.
SPOTLIGHT: The Bullets shot 56% from three-point range and 57% overall against the Wildcats; yet still lost by 10 points.
FUN FACT: Brisbane actually won the last 3 quarters against the Phoenix Suns 81-76.
8. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
(Last week: 5th ↓)
ORTG (6th - 110.4) DRTG (7th - 122.9) PACE (6)
The Hawks are currently playing at a snail-paced 71.9 possessions per game and scoring at the 6th best efficiency rating. Something isn't quite right with this squad and Bevo might have to shuffle the deck to find an ace.
AJ Ogilvy went from a man possessed in round 1 (22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) to two games where he crapped the bed. Against Perth, AJ was a complete non-factor: 4 points and 1 rebound. Against a smaller Sydney lineup he was supposed to dominate: 14 points and 4 rebounds. The Hawks need a lift from the 3-time All-NBL 1st teamer.
Illawarra have two of the top 6 scorers (Clarke and Conger) but barf up the ball 15 times a game, the league's highest clip by a fair margin. It's a glaring problem along with their defensive pressure which has gone missing. They are allowing opponents to shoot 40% from three and 50% overall - the worst mark in the league. For a team known for forcing turnovers (1st the last two years) the Hawks currently rank 6th, forcing about 10 per game.
The problems start with defence. Also, where is Nick Kay?
SPOTLIGHT: Is this the biggest block in NBL history? No.
Do we all have short memories? Yes.
Only last week, Oklahoma City's young'un Josh Huestis, swatted away two attempts at NBL glory over the NBA. Sorry Meech, they probably sit more comfortably as the biggest blocks in NBL history.
FUN FACT: Actually, this is not such a fun fact for Hawks fans: the 2000 Perth Wildcats are the only team to win the NBL Championship after starting 0-3. It's going to be a rough couple of weeks for Bevo but the Hawks certainly won't be running away from this adversity.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Kyle Adnam (Melbourne): 23 pts, 2 rbs, 3 asts, 6-8 from 3PT v Adelaide.
Perry Ellis (Sydney): 33 pts, 2 rbs, 2 asts, 11-15 FG's, 4-5 from 3PT v Illawarra.
DJ Newbill (New Zealand): 22 pts, 7 rbs, 1 stl, 2-4 from 3PT and the game winner v Sydney.
Josh Boone (Melbourne): 18 pts, 10 rbs, 1 stl, 1 blk, 8-11 FG's in just 21 minutes v Adelaide.
Daniel Johnson (Adelaide), Kirk Penney (New Zealand), Jason Cadee (Sydney), Mitch Creek (Adelaide)