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2017-18 NBL Power Rankings RD 10-11 plus: Melbourne streaking in the open-air!
Welcome to the festive edition of the Pick and Roll NBL Power Rankings. It's an encapsulation of the NBL action over the past few weeks, and what a chaotic fortnight it was with every team except the top team at the start of Round 10 (Perth) winning a game.
Given the festive mood we are all in, and the break (some of us) have taken, I've taken the liberty of including the Boxing Day open-air clash between Melbourne United and the Brisbane Bullets for these rankings. Technically, it is a Round 12 game but it's in and what a game, what a finish.
Boges was pretty happy.
In a boon for the parity squawkers, seven of the eleven games across Rounds 10 and 11 were single digit affairs with three of those being one bucket games decided in the final seconds.
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. MELBOURNE UNITED (Previous rank: 5th ↑)
ORTG (4th - 111.1) DRTG (1st - 106.5) PACE (3)
A four-game win streak skyrockets Melbourne United into the top spot of the Power Rankings even though they haven't been dominant by any stretch.
Since losing to Cairns on December 9, Melbourne has reeled off a 27-point smack-down of the Sydney Kings, a hard fought 6-point win over the Illawarra Hawks, a controversial 8-point win over Adelaide 36ers and a come-from-behind, rip-your-heart-out, never should have won, 1-point win against a demoralised Brisbane team.
Many thought the dislocation to Prather's elbow would also paralyse Melbourne's playoff hopes, but as is often the case, from injury comes opportunity.
Melbourne has used the Prather injury as the catalyst to properly define the pecking order (and shot allotment) with great effect. That or they just got lucky a couple of times.
Either way, the team is rolling, with contributions coming from the entire squad in different games and now United fans are hoping the arrival of Carrick Felix won't rock the winning feeling.
SPOTLIGHT: So who is Carrick Felix?
The Washington Post has a fantastic article on the newest United player here. I urge you to read it.
In basketball parlance, Felix is a 6'6 guard/forward not too dissimilar to Casey Prather in terms of athleticism, he has a more natural offensive game though. Has a good up fake to get into the paint for easy buckets. He is comfortable handling the ball in traffic and never appears panicked, using hesitation dribbles to get separation whilst keeping the defence off balance. Uses his bulky frame to go right at bigs on drives to the rim and loves finishing through contact with either hand.
Speaking to the media last week Coach V stated what the club was looking for as a replacement for Prather:
“This league is full of elite three-men at the moment, so we’ll go with a defensive mindset to start with”
“We believe that the players that we have can all put points on the board, but it’s really important that we find that defensive side that Casey gave us because we can probably cover the other side a little better.” Coach Dean Vickerman (source)
They may just have hit a home run with this signing. I'm looking forward to seeing him in person January 12 against Jean-Pierre Tokoto.
2. NZ BREAKERS (Previous rank: 2nd –)
ORTG (2nd - 115.6) DRTG (4th - 113.7) PACE (6)
The Breakers stand pat for this edition of the Power Rankings almost by default. Perth was simply more awful.
New Zealand has been pretty ordinary, having their collective asses handed to them in the last quarter of the Adelaide game. Seemingly riding towards another ho-hum win as they led by 8 heading into the last quarter, the Breakers were outscored 34-11 by a rampaging Adelaide unit.
It was a monumental collapse that left Coach Paul Henare seething, publicly labelling his team 'soft' whilst hinting the team might finally use their 3rd import slot to give the team a much needed lift.
“Coming in it was injury cover or if needed. Look, I still have 100 percent faith in the group that we have but there is always the option of bringing someone in.” Henare
New Zealand wasn't much better when tipping off against a now solid Sydney team in Round 11 either. It was a 24-point explosion off the bench from Rob Loe that saved them and ensured a 3-point win after trailing most of the game.
After starting 9-1, the team has lost 4 of the last 6 games. The faith is being tested, now might be the time to call for that backup.
SPOTLIGHT: Refereeing any sport is a thankless job, why should NBL refs have it any different?
"Do they change the way the game is called at home?
"I'd like to see the amount of fouls we're called for on the road and the amount we're called for at home." Henare
The good folks down at NBL HQ give us the numbers here.
3. PERTH WILDCATS (Previous rank: 1st ↓)
ORTG (1st - 119.2) DRTG (5th - 110.0) PACE (7)
On top of the ladder with a 10-3 record and an "easy" home game against Brisbane coming up, things were looking pretty good for the Cats. They would take care of Brisbane without breaking a sweat and then travel to the Gong to take on an Illawarra team they've had the wood over the past 18 months and who were missing several of their own gun players too.
The wide world of sports doesn't always work out as expected and the "MILDcats" looked stunningly mortal without their fearless and talismanic leader in both games.
Coach Gleeson wielded the big boy stick during the week at training and Perth responded with their worst game of the season against Illawarra.
Jarrod Kenny has looked uncomfortable running the offense full-time and along with their other primary ball handlers (Cotton and Tokoto) the team has lost it's 'league leading' offensive mojo. Alarmingly, against the Hawks, Perth turned the ball over 19 times leading to 29 easy points for Illawarra. You can't win games like that.
Perhaps more damning, the Wildcats lost by 14 after leading by 16. A 30-point turnaround against inferior competition (on paper) should never ever happen.
Which brings us to our Wildcat spotlight...
SPOTLIGHT: D Martin 3 Votes
We heard that phrase a lot on Brownlow Medal night and it can probably be used for basketball too. How can a man who shoots 39% from the field and 30% from 3PT range, whilst averaging only 5.5 points per game, possibly mean so much to a team?
Damian Martin is the undisputed heart and soul of this ball club and it is evident in the win-loss record of the back-to-back, championship winning Wildcats. Since the beginning of last season, the team record is 27-8 with the league's best defender on court and just 3-10 without.
The year on year win-loss breakdown:
2017-18: 10-3 with and 0-2 without
2016-17: 17-5 with and 3-8 without
He proves every year that defence, attitude and leadership are as important as being able to score points. That win-loss record is a worrying sign for Perth given his injury history.
4. CAIRNS TAIPANS (Previous rank: 3rd ↓)
ORTG (8th - 108.9) DRTG (2nd - 107.5) PACE (8)
Cairns answered Round 10 defeats to Brisbane and Sydney in the best way possible: by thumping a disinterested and thoroughly disappointing Sixer unit 94-75 in the first ever NBL Christmas Eve match.
Cairns may yet rue the missed opportunity to cement their place in the top 4 after Travis Trice broke loose for the game-deciding floater with 11.0 seconds left on the clock in Round 10.
Game-winning attempts from Scoochie Smith and Alex Loughton were launched amongst a sea of writhing arms, legs and chaos. They were either blocked (thanks Perrin) or banged against the backboard, giving Brisbane a famous, morale-boosting win.
Given the parity of teams sitting 3rd to 7th on the ladder, dropping games where you have a lead in the last minute will prove costly.
SPOTLIGHT: Cam Gliddon is putting together a sneaky efficient season: top 25 in the league for PER, points per game, effective FG%, true shooting %, 3PT's made and attempted and 3PT %, turnover %, steal %, assist to turnover ratio, steal to turnover ratio, offensive rating and OWS, defensive rating and DWS.
Those are the hallmarks of an efficient and elite pro-baller.
Is he a top 25 player though?
Keep playing like this, the answer is an emphatic yes.
(OWS = Offensive win shares, DWS = Defensive win shares)
5. BRISBANE BULLETS (Previous rank: 6th ↑)
ORTG ( 3rd - 113.3) DRTG (7th - 117.2) PACE (5)
At the commencement of Round 10, there was a sense that Brisbane's on-court chemistry was coming together and the team had finally clicked.
Closing out Cairns 75-74 thanks to Trice's icy veins and Perrin's pterodactyl arms; Brisbane then followed up with an emphatic road win against the mighty Wildcats 82-76 two nights later. This suggests Brisbane could be a surprise top 4 contender for the second half of #NBL18.
The Pick and Roll has mentioned Perrin Buford a couple of times already but the man is the main reason Brisbane has been able to turn their season around. Game saving defence should always be spotlighted, so take a bow Perrin and Trice.
As stated above, every game carries with it an added importance and dropping games where you have a lead in the last minute will prove costly. Brisbane should not have lost to Melbourne United in the open air game. They will be kicking themselves for a while after letting that one slip.
How they respond on New Year's Eve against Illawarra is all important but Brisbane will be confident they have worked out who they are and how they want to play now. They're a solid team, good enough to beat any team, with a number of weapons that can be effective when used properly.
The Bullets are my smokey choice to sneak into the top 4 and the playoffs.
SPOTLIGHT: A nice player profile on one of my favourite players and the undisputed best shooter in the NBL - tip your hat for Daniel Kickert.
6. ADELAIDE 36ERS (Previous rank: 4th ↓)
ORTG (5th - 110.9) DRTG (6th - 109.8) PACE (1)
A loss to Melbourne 99-91 and a thumping at the hands of Cairns 94-75, sees Adelaide taking a turn in the lower rungs of the Power Rankings, at least for this week.
I can't work this team out. Even with the loss of Creek for a couple of games they have more than enough talent, size, shooting and home court advantage to win more than they have.
Is it leadership?
SPOTLIGHT: Congratulations to Daniel Johnson who joined an elite and illustrious list of players to play 200 games for the Adelaide franchise. Check out some of these names:
Here's a little game, which player is Daniel Johnson?
Player A: 26.6 MPG, 29% FG, 10% 3PT, 10.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Player B: 31.7 MPG, 54% FG, 43% 3PT, 21.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
The answer might surprise you, they are both Daniel Johnson this season.
Player A is the HOME version, Player B is the ROAD version. Wow, I know which one Joey would prefer shows up.
7. ILLAWARRA HAWKS (Previous rank: 7th –)
ORTG (7th - 110.4) DRTG (6th - 113.8) PACE (2)
Beating Perth at the Gong saved Illawarra from dropping to the cellar of the Power Rankings for this edition but make no mistake Sydney is mounting a challenge to climb up the ladder.
Miraculously, the Hawks came from 16 down against top of the table Perth and surprisingly ran all over them from that point, comfortably winning by 14 points.
The turnaround coincided with the sudden appearance, read: emergence, of my pre-season MVP pick, Demetrius Conger coupled with the perfect shooting of Tim Coenraad off the bench.
Conger was barely sighted through the first half before exploding for 21 points on nine shots, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks.
Coenraad only played 17 minutes but was a perfect 4-4 from the field including 3-3 from behind the arc for his 11 points. Tim was also a plus/minus god with a plus 22 in just 17 minutes on court.
Oscar Forman's history making 500th game will have to wait another week at least and I don't yet know what to make of the AJ Ogilvy leaving rumours.
SPOTLIGHT: Rotnei Clarke had no business making this shot.
The 2014 MVP award would have gone to James Ennis of Perth if I was voting, however, the winner that year Rotnei Clarke, continues to amaze and delight NBL fans every single week. A great player who competes against behemoths and is a joy to watch.
8. SYDNEY KINGS (Previous rank: 8th –)
ORTG (6th - 110.7) DRTG (8th - 119.2) PACE (4)
I really wanted to be able to present a case to move Sydney up the rankings a spot or two as they have clearly improved. There simply isn't one that can be made yet, especially with the lowly Hawks taking care of Perth.
Aussie Hall of Famer and NBL great, Phil Smyth, recently spent some time with Gaze and the coaching group to assess the coaching and practice routine etcetera. Smyth backed the methodology of Andrew Gaze and the Kings but also suggested a few tweaks that could be beneficial to the players.
"He researches well, he does all the stuff, talks the right language and says the right things" Smyth on Gaze
It's still early days but two wins in three games since Phil lent his ear and gave his soothing advice can't be a coincidence.
SPOTLIGHT: Not for the first time, a player has responded after the Pick and Roll Power Rankings gave them a bit of a rev up the week or two before. This time around it was Todd Blanchfield taking the criticism on the chin, looking in the mirror and answering critics the only way possible, by playing well.
Blanchfield played relaxed and carefree against Brisbane in Round 11; the result was season highs of 20 points and 5 of 8 three's.
It might still be a long way back for Todd who is setting career lows for shooting from three point range (31%) and overall at 40%. His offensive rating (101.7), defensive rating (119.8) and PER (9.33) numbers are all well below league average and are also the lowest of his career.
It's a far cry from the highs of the NBL Most Improved Player Award he received just three years ago.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: RD 10
Perrin Buford (Brisbane): 17 pts, 12 rbs, 1 stl and 1 HUGE block v Cairns and
24 pts, 8 rbs, 8-12 FG's v Perth
Ramone Moore (Adelaide): 27 pts, 5 rbs, 5 asts, 11-16 FG's v NZ
Tai Wesley (Melbourne): 17 pts, 6 rbs, 7 asts, 2 stls, 2 blks, 100% FG's and FT's
Isaac Humphries (Sydney): 14 pts, 5 rbs, 1 ast, 1 blk in 18 minutes v Cairns
Mitch McCarron (Cairns), Jeremy Evans (Cairns), Finn Delany (NZ), Daniel Johnson (Adel), Bryce Cotton (Perth), Daniel Kickert (Brisbane), Josh Boone (Melb), Jeremy Tyler (Sydney), Brad Newley (Sydney)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: RD 11
Todd Blanchfield (Sydney): 20 pts, 5-8 three's v Brisbane
Cam Gliddon (Cairns): 27 pts, 1 rbs, 9-12 FG's, 7-10 three's v Adel
Jeremy Tyler (Sydney): 23 pts, 10 rbs, 3 blks v NZ
Rob Loe (NZ): 24 pts, 3 rbs, 9-16 FG's, 4-8 three's v Sydney
Perrin Buford (Brisbane):18 pts, 10 rbs, 5 asts, 1stl, 2 blks v Sydney
Jerome Randle (Sydney): 27 pts, 2rbs, 7 asts, 2-3 three's v Brisbane
Demetrius Conger (Illawarra): 21 pts, 4 rbs, 3 asts, 2 stls, 3 blks, 6-9 FG's v Perth
Brad Newley (Sydney), Peter Hooley (Melb), Chris Goulding (Melb), Daniel Johnson (Adel), Jason Cadee (Sydney), Rotnei Clarke (Illawarra), Bryce Cotton (Perth), JP Tokoto (Perth), Alex Loughton (Cairns), Mitch McCarron (Cairns)