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2017-18 NBL Power Rankings RD 8-9: The Breakers breaking and is Melbourne UN-united or UnitING?
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. PERTH WILDCATS (Previous rank: 2nd ↑)
ORTG (1st - 121.6) DRTG (3rd - 109.0) PACE (7)
Here are the best offensive ratings since 2011:
2016-17 - Adelaide 112.9
2015-16 - Illawarra 116.5
2014-15 - Cairns 110.5
2013-14 - Perth - 118.3
2012-13 - New Zealand - 109.7
2011-12 - New Zealand - 111.0
Perth's current offensive efficiency is sitting at a blistering 121.6 points per 100 possessions.
Their net differential of 12.6 points per 100 possessions is on pace for second best of this decade behind Perth's own 13.8 point differential of 2012-13 (Stats courtesy of RealGM).
In short, Perth is absolutely humming on the offensive end and ominously, according to Coach Gleeson, the Wildcats can still get better.
Two losses to the Breakers clearly stung Perth and Bryce Cotton into action.
The Wildcats are riding a five-game win streak; with a home game against a suddenly frisky Brisbane Bullets this weekend, before away games against Illawarra and Cairns to close out the calendar year. At the halfway point, it's clear the Wildcats are the team to beat and Cotton is making his MVP case.
SPOTLIGHT: Jesse Wagstaff is the poster boy of consistency.
Wagstaff has given Perth between 8.4 and 11.4 points per game for his entire 9-year NBL career; but this season he has become a deadly assassin from long range too, connecting on a career best and league leading 47% (for players attempting at least 3.0 shots per game from 3PT). On top of the 4 championships, people sometimes forget Jesse was Rookie of the Year (09-10) and Sixth Man of the Year (11-12) in the NBL. In #NBL18, Jesse is making a run at another Sixth Man award with averages of 9.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG and a shooting line of 48-47-77 in just 19 minutes per game.
During the 5-game win streak, Jesse has upped his output to 11 PPG while canning 9-20 three-point attempts. He has swung at least two games the Wildcats way with his clutch shooting. It can't be overstated how important Wagstaff is to the Wildcats.
2. NZ BREAKERS (Previous rank: 1st ↓)
ORTG (2nd - 116.2) DRTG (5th - 111.2) PACE (6)
The joys of an improbable 9-game win streak have come crashing down with the Breakers losing three of their last four games.
The Breakers have lost some close ones that earlier in the year bounced their way.
Losing to Adelaide 94-92 was heartbreaking; but a quirk of the schedule gives the Breakers a chance at immediate redemption with two of the next three games against the Sixers.
SPOTLIGHT: Amazingly, Tom Abercrombie is second in the league in block shots per game.
Abercrombie, who has never blocked more than 1 shot a game, is currently sending back 1.64 shots a game. He is six blocks away from setting a career best season total with 14 games still to go.
Whoever said 30-year-olds can't learn new tricks, take note.
3. CAIRNS TAIPANS (Previous rank: 6th ↑)
ORTG (7th - 109.0) DRTG (2nd - 107.2) PACE (8)
Aaron Fearne's 250th game was a resounding success with Cairns putting Melbourne into the hurt locker before closing out a game they never really looked in danger of losing.
No team has handled adversity or tackled the injury bug better than the Snakes in 2017-18, with Michael Carrera suiting up just five times and big Nate going down in the first game of the year. To be 7-7 and in contention for a playoff berth despite playing the same number of players as Sydney, and also losing more players to injury than any other team, says a lot about this organisation.
Stat of the night: Since the start of the 2012 season the Taipans (currently 7-7) are 80-80 in 160 regular season games.
SPOTLIGHT: Alex Loughton is back.
After two down years averaging under 7 points a game in minor minutes off the Cairns bench, Alex has been called upon to fill the injury void and he has responded to the increased minutes in a big way.
Since Fearne inserted Alex into the starting unit six games back, he has responded with some of the best ball of his career: 14.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 2.0 APG in 28 minutes per game. More importantly, the Taipans are 4-2 in those games and are back in the conversation for the playoffs.
4. ADELAIDE 36ERS (Previous rank: 4th ↓)
ORTG (4th - 112.5) DRTG (4th - 112.5) PACE (1)
There is still something not quite right about this team. From the outside looking in, it appears that internal strife could derail another campaign. This, after finishing in top spot last year and not making the grand final series.
They have the cattle and all the tools but injury is starting to take a toll on this contender. The defensive intensity and manic pressure from the early rounds has fallen away badly in the last month.
According to the team, Mitch Creek will now be sidelined for an extended period too which is massive blow given he will miss games against fellow playoff contenders New Zealand (twice), Melbourne and Cairns.
Adding further intrigue to the internal struggles, it appears that Anthony Drmic is not happy about something. Maybe some extra burn with Creek sidelined will alleviate his woes.
Majok Deng is taking major strides towards becoming a handful in the NBL.
6'10 and 80 kilos soaking wet, he can drain threes, fill the lane on the break and do this to one of the best guards in the NBL:
5. MELBOURNE UNITED (Previous rank: 3rd ↑)
ORTG (5th - 111.1) DRTG (1st - 107.1) PACE (3)
A blowout of the woeful Sydney Kings doesn't hide the fact that changes have to be made. United has had many, including yours truly, bluffed since the OKC game.
Prather and to a lesser extent Boone are lone hands at the moment, CG43 is stinking it up on offense but surprisingly getting after it on defense. Everything is topsy-turvy with Melbourne.
Casper Ware isn't taking the game apart like we are used to either. He is not the same player as last season nor the player we saw against OKC.
Tai Wesley is an occasional starter playing less than 20 minutes a game but he has the alpha dog qualities that this team's better players are lacking at the moment.
Big Money players have brought with them bigger problems, bigger egos, bigger mouths to feed and less cohesiveness, for now. There is plenty of time to get this worked out and make a run.
31.0 minutes compared to 29.4 minutes
Casey Prather leads Chris Goulding in every single statistic except for minutes on court.
Coach V: there is no reason Chris Goulding should be on court more than Casey Prather. None. Period. End of story!
6. BRISBANE BULLETS (Previous rank: 7th ↑)
ORTG ( 3rd - 113.1) DRTG (7th - 117.9) PACE (5)
Brisbane is making progress towards respectability with Trice, Kickert and Buford forming a nice three-headed monster. This team is dangerous all of a sudden and they are doing it with a defence that's improved by over 5 points per 100 possessions in the last few weeks.
The concern has always been with the bench unit and Lemanis has tried to combat this by moving Stephen Holt to the bench and inserting Adam Gibson back into the starting unit.
The change has improved Brisbane's defence and is now catapulting their bench unit.
So far the Bullets are 2-2 since the change, with the bench scoring 14, 25, 26 and 26 respectively. It's still a far cry from the Sixers bench that averages over 30 per game but you have to start somewhere.
SPOTLIGHT: In his 5th season at 30 years of age, Tom Jervis is on track to shatter his career bests for points per game (10.7), field goal percentage (62.4), free-throw percentage (92.0) and minutes per game, finally cracking 20 (20.2).
He is top-6 in the NBL for PER (player efficiency rating) at 18.9 and top-10 for offensive rating at 125.4 (12 points higher than Brisbane's rating).
Big Tom was an Eric Watterson All-Star in 2016-17 and is a Pick and Roll favourite.
7. ILLAWARRA HAWKS (Previous rank: 5th ↓)
ORTG (6th - 110.5) DRTG (6th - 115.1) PACE (2)
#freecody #whereiscody #bringbackcody #letcodyplay
The Cody streak was finally busted in a game the coaching staff (and ownership) had no option but to play the man. It almost blew up twitter and for one game at least, gave the higher-ups at the Hawks one almighty "F U" middle finger and left them with a massive load of egg on their collective faces.
It was a narrow loss for the Hawks, in a game they truthfully had no business being in late.
For Cody at least, and his numerous fans throughout Australia, it was a game to savour. 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and two 3-PTers in 21 minutes.
Oh, and a couple of nice dunks late.
How was that not a foul?
Illawarra tumbles down the rankings again thanks to a three-game skid. The great news for Hawkheads? The 9 of 12 games on the road to start the season is over and the 7-game home stand has officially begun.
Looking back to the Pick and Roll season preview, Illawarra has done what it needed to do, even with all the external noise.
Look for them to make their move now they have a run of home games to come.
SPOTLIGHT: Youngster Indiana Faithfull made his NBL debut against Perth and immediately looked very comfortable.
Well done young fella!
8. SYDNEY KINGS (Previous rank: 8th –)
ORTG (8th - 107.5) DRTG (8th - 119.6) PACE (4)
Sydney won't be playing finals in 2018, that much is abundantly clear. The next 13 games are now about pride in performance and avoiding finishing last.
Incredibly, the inclusion of reigning MVP and 2017 scoring champ, Jerome Randle, has caused the Sydney offense to crater as chemistry issues have now become a major problem.
#kevcoming can't come soon enough, yet it will surely be too much for a battered and hobbled Lisch to carry this group.
Another former MVP (now retired) thinks the Kings should use the last 13 games as a rehearsal for next year, stating a 9-4 finish should be enough to warrant bringing everyone back for 2018-19.
At first blush that makes sense, but Sydney probably should have done that with last year's squad, the one that actually started 8-4 and was on top of the ladder.
In terms of the Damian Martin debate. The answer is yes! Of course Sydney would be top 4 with him in the line-up. Every team in the league would be. He might not be a high-scoring point guard like Ware, Newbill, Sobey or Sosa but he can shut down every single one of them and get every one else on the same page.
Just quietly, I'm fairly certain Sydney would love a do-over on the Todd Blanchfield signing, it just hasn't worked.
The good news is that Jeremy Tyler has found his feet and gotten used to the officiating. Maybe. Chris Anstey doesn't think so.
Tyler might be coming into his own but his arrival has coincided with slumps for Perry Ellis and the rising Isaac Humphries.
Perry Ellis has gone from 19.8 PPG to a lowly 10.3 PPG over the last three games. He is still shooting a ridiculous 56% from behind the arc, in a shade under three attempts per game but Ellis has to get more shots even with Tyler and Jerome on court.
Isaac Humphries has gone from averaging 9.9 PPG over his previous six games to just 2.3 PPG over the last three.
Still some kinks to work through. Thank god Lisch is almost back.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: RD 8
Cody Ellis (Illawarra): 14 pts, 4 rbs, 3 asts, 2-5 3PT's in 21 minutes v Melbourne
Jeremy Tyler (Sydney): 15 pts, 7 rbs, 4 asts, 7-11 FG's in 22 minutes v Cairns; 21 pts, 9 rbs, 4 blks v Cairns
JP Tokoto (Perth): 25 pts, 5 rbs, 9 asts, 9-14 FG's, 1 stl and 2 blks v NZ
Cam Gliddon (Cairns): 20 pts, 3 rbs, 1 asts, 5-10 3PT's in all 40 minutes v Sydney
Jesse Wagstaff (Perth): 19 pts, 3 rbs, 2 asts and several daggers v NZ
Mitch Creek (Adelaide) Josh Childress (Adelaide) Travis Trice (Brisbane), Newbill & Sosa (New Zealand)
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: RD 9
Bryce Cotton (Perth): 36 pts, 5 rbs, 3 asts 5-11 3PT's v Illawarra; 24 pts, 3 rbs, 2asts, 3-8 3PT's v Melbourne
Tom Jervis (Brisbane): 20 pts, 4 rbs, 9-10 FG's in 16 minutes v NZ
Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand): 22 pts, 12 rbs, 2 blks v Brisbane
Weeks/Patton/Evans Jr (Cairns): 30 pts, 10 rbs, 8 asts, 4-8 3PT's v Melbourne
Demetrius Conger (Illawarra): 30 pts, 4 rbs, 2 asts, 11-16 FG's v Perth
Rob Loe (New Zealand), Lucas Walker (Perth), Nathan Sobey (Adelaide), Jesse Wagstaff (Perth), Majok Deng (Adelaide), Travis Trice (Brisbane), Tai Wesley (Melbourne), Derek Cooke Jr (Perth), Edgar Sosa (New Zealand) Chris Goulding (Melbourne)