Melbourne United forward, Casey Prather has not had the best run of luck this season.
He was out of action early in the season with a knee injury that sat him out right until late November, where he made his debut against the Cairns Taipans. On Sunday, United announced that Prather would likely miss 4-6 weeks with a medium grade hamstring tear, while the injury heals. The injury was likely sustained playing against the Sydney Kings on Saturday night, where he left the game in the fourth quarter.
Seb Greenway of the Greenway and Beston podcast speculated that Prather's body could potentially not be up to the challenges of a NBL season, and the forward's recent spate of injuries seem to highlight this earlier opinion.
The Pick and Roll's Brad Winter discussed Prather's fit on the team in mid-November, suggesting his presence as a legitimate two-way wing and potential role at power forward, would add impact the team positively, for a United team that was struggling defensively.
Aside from his defence, Vickerman will be counting on Prather being able to fill in minutes as a small-ball power forward. Prather has never played this role at the NBL level, but Melbourne may need him, given how reliant they are on 36-year old David Barlow. United are 16 points per 100 possessions better with Barlow on the hardwood and are being outscored when he sits, per Spatial Jam. Smith-Milner and Jo Lual-Acuil have struggled to find their niche while playing next to either Alex Pledger or Long.
Prather would be in unfamiliar territory and may struggle to match up with some of the league’s bulkier power forwards (such as the Hulk-like Jae’Sean Tate). Still, Vickerman will likely need to see Prather succeed as an option up front if Melbourne are to avoid the struggles their bench pieces have faced.
This wouldn’t be unforeseen for Vickerman, either, as the foursome of Casper Ware, McCarron, Goulding, and DJ Kennedy played over 180 minutes together last season. Those minutes were uber-successful — Melbourne outscored enemies to the tune of 25.2 points per 100 possessions.
Prather’s skill set isn’t as adept to playing minutes as a small-ball four as Kennedy’s was, but he could easily succeed in the role. As a nominal 4, he would run traditional power forwards off the court. On top of this, his reluctant nature from the three-point line would become a non-issue.
Prather's absence will once again be filled by Dillon Stith, when United plays the Illawarra Hawks later on Sunday evening at WIN Entertainment Centre.