2019 NBL Awards: A brief retrospective

The NBL awards have come and gone once more. Now that winners have been crowned, it’s time to look back with sober eyes and examine what we liked and what we didn’t like about the NBL awards.

Liked: A tight MVP race

This year’s MVP votes revealed a near photo finish. The top two vote-getters, Andrew Bogut and Casper Ware, spent the entire season making very solid cases for themselves. It was terrific to see the votes reflect the tightness of the race, but Bogut took the award home, snaring only six more votes over Ware (83 to 77).

There were muttering on the internet, within the slightly more conspiratorial circles, that Bogut, perceived by some as the NBL’s “golden boy”, would gallop away with the Andrew Gaze trophy as a publicity ploy. Although Sydney big man’s win won’t silence those rumblings, a look at the vote count does a lot to quell those theories by showing just how close the decision was.


We will just ignore the bizarre curveball that was Bogut's DPOY acceptance speech.

Disliked: MVP nominees from bottom teams

It should be prefaced that this isn’t to disparage the skill of some of the MVP nominees. The question that is being as posed is, do players whose teams are well and truly out of finals contention deserve MVP nominations? Should their team’s record carry more weight in making it to the list?

It’s a tricky question to answer due to the NBL’s award structure. The NBL doesn’t have an equivalent to the NBA’s All-Star selections, so the MVP nominations seem to be a way to recognise the widespread talent that exists in the competition. However, a case could be made that a list that ignores the win/loss column diminishes the importance of such a prestigious award.

On the other hand, no one can say with a straight face that players such as Melo Trimble (team finished 8th) or Shawn Long (team finished 6th) didn’t play basketball at an MVP level. Of course, in the end, the award went to a player from a top team, but perhaps it’s time for the NBL to consider bringing back the NBL All-Star game. Something like an All-Star game would provide another platform to acknowledge personal accomplishments that isn’t inextricably tied to the NBL’s most valuable player award.

Liked: Mix of local, import talent in All-NBL teams

This year’s All NBL selections demonstrated two things.

Firstly, it illustrated how international the league has become, consolidating its status as a respected destination for top global talent. It also showed that the Australian talent is more than capable of keeping pace with our American guests.

Last year the ratio of internationals to Australians in the All NBL teams was 4:1. This it was 3:2. Putting aside the terrific selections, with the chosen players drawn from seven of the eight teams, the 2019 All-NBL teams highlight what the league has become, and what it should strive to embody going forward.

If this is the direction the NBL is heading, sign us up.

Disliked: Most Improved Player's voter tally

First thing’s first; Reuben Te Rangi is a deserving recipient of the Most Improved Player award. That’s not what is being disputed here. What may have raised some eyebrows is the position of David Barlow and Nick Kay in the final tally.

Both finished with 22 votes, tying them for third place, essentially putting their cases for the award on the same level. Now, I’m sorry but that doesn’t seem fair.

Barlow had a terrific season, one that will be talked about for years. His Phoenix-like story of resurgence couldn’t have been scripted better.


Yet, to say that his case for MIP was on the same level of rising superstar Nick Kay just doesn’t seem just.


Some leniency on this issue can be given due to the matter of how the award is interpreted, but at the end of the day Nick Kay’s upwards trajectory went into another stratosphere this year. His improvement was so impressive because the benchmark he set last year was already so high, and the fact he only pulled 22 votes doesn’t seem right.