2017-18 NBL Power Rankings R3-5: Each team should know what they have now
There's been a fair bit of movement in the power rankings over the past few weeks but the league now appears to be settling into place. Each team will now know where they sit in the league hierarchy.
Perth and Melbourne have both bounced back from their first losses of the year with resounding wins at home. Illawarra has put internal drama behind them to climb up the rankings. Sydney continues to struggle but does have that third import slot available when they are ready to pull the trigger. Cairns has found new ways to lose, whilst New Zealand has proved to be the calm veteran when things get tight.
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.
The power rankings are the opinion of one man only. To discuss the rankings, hit me up on Twitter @alleighoops.
(ORTG= Offensive rating, DRTG = Defensive rating, PACE= pace of play)
1. NZ BREAKERS (Previous rank: 6th ↑)
ORTG (2nd - 117.2) DRTG (4th - 111.0) PACE (6)
It was a toss-up between Perth's superior net ratings or New Zealand's superior winning streak.
In the end, a league best six-game win streak can't be ignored and the Breakers thoroughly deserve top spot in the Pick and Roll NBL Power Rankings for this edition.
New Zealand hasn't just been scraping through against the minnows of the competition either. Though they have beaten Sydney twice and toweled up Melbourne United 88-76, the Breakers have had recent down to the wire victories over Brisbane (5pts), Adelaide (4pts) and most recently the Cairns Taipans (3pts) thanks to a Sosa miracle at the death.
SPOTLIGHT: Who is this Shea Ili character tearing up the league off the bench?
2. PERTH WILDCATS (Previous rank: 2nd –)
ORTG (1st - 122.8) DRTG (3rd - 109.0) PACE (7)
Perth looked shaky and a little brittle against a Cairns team that was up for the fight in round 3 but emphatically answered any lingering doubts about their credentials with back to back drubbings of Illawarra and Sydney. This team has the best home court advantage in the league by a fair margin and the players love playing up to the crowds support every game.
The tough part of the schedule is coming into view for Perth. Four of the next five are away from the jungle, with three of those against top ranked New Zealand (an interesting and perhaps timely quirk in the schedule). It's a chance to make a very loud statement to the competition.
WARNING to the rest of the league: Tokoto is taking over - nightly! Jean-Pierre is currently second in the league with 1.8 steals per game. Damian Martin is currently third at 1.7 spg. Bryce Cotton fourth at 1.5 spg. What was that about defence wins championships?
SPOTLIGHT: Derek Cooke Jr finally getting some burn and actually producing is handy. The unfortunate (but necessary) retirement of club stalwart Matt Knight has opened up some playing time for the Perth big men and Derek will be hoping for a large slice of that 18 minute pie.
3. MELBOURNE UNITED (Previous rank: 1st ↓)
ORTG (6th - 111.8) DRTG (1st - 104.3) PACE (2)
Casper Ware had us all worried for a little bit there.
The return of CG43 seemed to coincide with the disappearance of Casper who averaged 8.7 PPG and 4.3 APG at 32% from the field in the first three games Goulding was back on court. Incidentally, all three of those games were losses against inferior talent (on paper).
But in the two recent shellacking's of Adelaide and Cairns, Casper got his groove back to the tune of 23.5 PPG and 5.5 APG at 50% from the field. Goulding also upped his output to 15.5 PPG across the two wins, while Casey Prather put forward his "best small forward in the game" case averaging 20.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2 APG and 3.5 SPG while shooting 55% overall.
This offense and the finish are both elite. Melbourne is warming up and getting comfortable.
4. ADELAIDE 36ERS (Previous rank: 3rd ↓)
ORTG (5th - 112.2) DRTG (2nd - 108.3) PACE (1)
This was going to be a write-up about their roster being the best and deepest in the league and then asking the question: Is there a better top seven in the league than Johnson, Sobey, Creek, Moore, Childress, Drmic and Shorter?
This team is stacked and dangerous and can unleash a high-octane offense whilst shutting you down with an aggressive defensive scheme. When it clicks they are the most exciting team to watch by a mile. When it clicks.
Adelaide is frustratingly inconsistent which is probably why Joey Wright leaves Nathan Sobey on the bench for entire halves, or goes away from Anthony Drmic after his scintillating start to the year. Unfortunately, in trying to make a point, Coach Wright probably cost his team any chance of a W against Melbourne. Having said that, maybe Melbourne are just the 36ers bogy team? Three of their four losses have come against United.
Josh Childress is slowly getting re-acclimated to the NBL with averages of 6.0 PPG at 57% FG, 3.0 RPG and 2.0 APG across his first three games in a 36er uni. Not overly bad, not overly great, definitely a far cry from the 21.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.8 APG and 1.7 BPG he put up for the 2015-16 Sydney Kings though.
One of the more bizarre events to file away in the Wright files. Ejected shortly after finally bringing Nathan Sobey into the game with just over 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Coincidence?
5. ILLAWARRA HAWKS (Previous rank: 8th ↑)
ORTG (4th - 113.6) DRTG (6th - 115.7) PACE (3)
Illawarra is the big mover of the past fortnight. High scoring routes are on the menu again after a couple of minor tweaks breathed life into their free-wheeling game. The Hawks have picked up the pace and are getting after it far earlier in the shot clock. Rotnei Clarke was inserted into the starting line-up and responded as MVP's should, with standout performances against Brisbane and Sydney (twice).
AJ Ogilvy has responded to the outside white noise with a couple of bounce back games, the Hawks using him from the post to kick-start some of their most efficient offensive schemes. When he is involved and getting plenty of the ball, the Hawks look much better. He also brings players like Nick Kay into the game.
SPOTLIGHT: #freecody #whereiscody #bringbackcody #letcodyplay
Cody Ellis hasn't seen the court for five straight games now. He is the only Hawk player not to see any court action over that period and has seemingly become the whipping boy of the Hawks organisation for reasons still unknown.
To the outside world, both Ellis and Bevo have remained classy at all times but the mail is that Bevo is privately seething and absolutely furious about the situation. He is unhappy that his coaching is being micro-managed from higher-up, that he is being told who to play and when and that a fan favourite in Cody is being thrown under the bus. What initially was meant to be a three-game benching-- to get the imports accustomed to the league-- has now turned into five, with no clear sign of changing anytime soon.
What is happening in the Hawk inner sanctum?
Cody is handling this situation like a true professional, always the first one-off the bench waving the towel and still engaged in timeouts too.
This invariably never ends well but something's got to give.
6. CAIRNS TAIPANS (Previous rank: 4th ↓)
ORTG (8th - 107.4) DRTG (5th - 112.0) PACE (8)
It's hard to know exactly where this team sits in the pecking order of heavyweights. The Taipans came out and utterly spanked the Perth Wildcats in round 3 but then came up short against Adelaide at home, Melbourne away and New Zealand at home thanks to that Sosa heart-breaker. What a crazy finish.
For those counting, that's three straight losses and a tumble-down the power rankings for now.
The Taipans have concerns everywhere particularly rebounding the ball, corralling only 45.7 % of the total rebounds available (marginally worse than the Kings). When it comes to shooting though, this team might have trouble beating three retired players and two people off the street in a game of H-O-R-S-E. The Taipans shoot 41% from the field and 31% from 3PT range - both league lows - and their 46.3% effective field goal percentage is the worst in the league with no other team shooting below 51.9%
It's not pretty, just as Fearne likes it but it may be time for a change in approach.
SPOTLIGHT: Cairns has a lot of fight and doesn't give up easily but as we know, in the playoffs especially, you need someone to take over a game and be the man. Who is the man on this team? Does the addition of Michael Carrera answer that question or are his wild ways and over the top passion for physicality, actually a distraction in crunch time for this team? Carrera averages 17.3 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 22 minutes per game while shooting 38% from behind the arc, gaudy numbers, but the team is 1-3 with him in the line-up.
7. BRISBANE BULLETS (Previous rank: 7th –)
ORTG ( 3rd - 116.8) DRTG (8th - 127.4) PACE (5)
Brisbane is the best shooting team in the league apparently and currently is the only team making over half of their field goal attempts - 51.4%. This probably speaks more to them shooting a league low 16.5 three-pointers per game (league average is roughly 22 per game).
On the flip side, Brisbane allows opposition bench units to pillage them for 34 points a game at 54.5% shooting and nearly 60% from behind the arc on over 7 attempts. All league-high clips and all unfathomably bad numbers if you're a Brisbane fan.
The two key areas for the Bullets moving forward are finding a way to get more rebounds so they can get more shots up. Currently Brisbane is at league low rebounding numbers - 27 per game. Secondly, Brisbane has to get greater contributions from their bench both defensively and offensively.
The timely return of Mitch Young should help the bench unit produce in both of these areas, though it is yet to be seen how the injury lay-off will affect his play.
SPOTLIGHT: Perrin Buford is one hell of a player and has been the one shining light for Brisbane in the early going.
After being thrown to the wolves (Cats?) against the defending champions in round 1, Buford is quickly building quite the highlight resume in the NBL. Perrin leads Brisbane in field goals made and attempted, shoots an eye-popping 62.5% from the field and 57% from behind the arc and leads the team in scoring at 18.2 PPG, rebounding at 6.2 RPG and 1.7 blocks per game. A worthy replacement for Torrey Craig and a player to keep an eye on every time he plays. It's hard to believe how young he is.
8. SYDNEY KINGS (Previous rank: 5th ↓)
ORTG (7th - 109.9) DRTG (7th - 121.2) PACE (4)
There's no two ways about it, this team is utterly putrid at the moment.
The long-term injury to Lisch (calf tear) gave Sydney the chance to rectify some of their much talked about defensive issues and to balance out their roster. Instead they signed smallish import guard Jeremy Kendle who played a few games last year with Brisbane after Jermaine Beal was cut loose.
As shown in the five games since, the addition of Kendle doesn't help this team one iota in the areas they need it most. On paper, the Kings have enough shooting and scoring power in the back court and they should have more than enough playmaking with Cadee, Newley, Blanchfield and Leslie. It's a perplexing signing that frankly doesn't make any sense.
Filling an import slot with a big guy that plays defence and rebounds is still needed. The longer they wait the further back they tumble. Championship defensive stopper Jameel McKay is still out there.
If the intention is to go small and play five similar sized guys, then the defensive principles must be tight and any switching on a string. At the moment, Sydney doesn't appear up to it (or aren't getting clear directions on that end) because they are the only team allowing the opposition to shred their defence for 95.4 easy points per game at better than 50% shooting (league high).
SPOTLIGHT: Isaac Humphries is slowly coming into his own. Across the past three games, big Humph is putting up 10.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 2 BLKS in 22 minutes per game while shooting 80% from the field. Solid numbers for a rookie in his career's infancy but 3 rebounds a game for a genuine 7-foot banger is alarming.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:
Cody Ellis (Illawarra): Professionalism
JP Tokoto (Perth): 23 pts, 5 rbs, 4 asts, 6 stls v Illawarra; 15 pts, 6rbs, 5 asts v Sydney
Rotnei Clarke (Illawarra): 29 pts, 2 rbs, 5 asts, 5-8 3pt v Sydney
Casey Prather (Melbourne): 25 pts, 5 rbs, 11-15 FG's v Adelaide
Perry Ellis (Sydney) Casper Ware (Melbourne) Edgar Sosa (NZ) Mitchell Creek (Adelaide) Nick Kay (Illawarra) Kirk Penney (NZ) Michael Carrera (Cairns) Daniel Johnson (Adelaide) Oscar Forman (Illawarra)