With the NBL Blitz getting underway this week I’ve put together a list of some players that I’ll be keeping a close eye on. These guys have either impressed me already this preseason or they’re guys that I’m eager to learn more about.
Nathan Sobey 4 Games | 21 Mins | 12.3 Pts | 57.6 FG% | 33.3 3P% | 87.5 FT% | 5.0 Reb |1.3 Stl
Sobey has been one of the stories of the preseason so far after he made the move from Cairns over to Adelaide. He collected MVP honours up in Darwin for his impressive play on that three game trip flashing some nice potential as an impact guard off the bench. Sobey is playing with a lot of confidence and looks in great condition using his speed and athleticism (he’s even been receiving some lob passes) to impact both ends of the floor. Wright has shared the minutes around, so it’s hard to gauge how much he’ll actually play in the regular season, but he’s still worth keeping an eye on up at the Blitz to see if he can maintain the same energy and production.
Torrey Craig 5 Games | 25 Mins | 13.0 Pts | 52.2 FG% | 40.0 3P% | 6.8 Reb | 1.2 Ast | 3.4 Tnv
Stephen Weigh started Sunday (and Craig was quiet) but I’d love to see Torrey take on a bigger role this season. He’s coming off a dominant season in the New Zealand NBL and with Cairns’ frontcourt not getting any younger his athleticism and versatility is something that could help the Taipans remain as contenders.
Kirk Penney 2 Games | 26 Mins | 11.5 Pts | 37.5 FG% | 25.0 3P% | 2.5 Reb | 2.5 Ast | 2.0 Tnv
With AJ Ogilvy drawing an insane amount of fouls and getting to the line at will during the preseason (12.8 FTA per game), it’s certainly going to be a potent Hawks offense with all the shooters around him. Penney is one of those shooters and the must watch guy at the Blitz considering he’s been out of our sights for a little while. How well is he moving on defense at his age? How will Illawarra fare on that end of the court? How much will it matter?
Stephen Holt 3 Games | 34 Mins | 21.0 Pts | 40.8 FG% | 28.0 3P% | 6.3 FTA | 5.3 Reb | 6.3 Ast | 2.7 Tnv
Melbourne have a load of talent heading into this season so naturally it’s the point guard that is one of the more interesting players for me to keep an eye on. From what I’ve seen of Holt so far, he seems like he has a good combination of inside and outside scoring, as well as play-making for others. The fit next to Chris Goulding is an interesting one with Goulding playing a lot with the ball in his hands during his last stint in Melbourne. An import change already has me a little cautious but United have plenty to work with.
Reuben Te Rangi 2 Games | 32 Mins | 12.5 Pts | 34.6 FG% | 29.4 3P% | 4.0 Reb | 1.5 Ast | 1.5 Tnv
The idea of watching Te Rangi at the Blitz tournament is fairly obvious with the absence of Corey Webster meaning he will have ample opportunity for extra minutes and touches. Flashes of more ball handling and creativity were evident during the Oceania series so that’s something of interest, whilst he did go for 18 points in his first Breakers preseason hit out. The shooting percentages could be up and down all week but he’s a young prospect that New Zealand will be leaning on (and one that could be a most improved contender).
Nate Jawai 2 Games |19 Mins | 5.0 Pts | 18.2 FG% | 4.0 FTA | 3.5 Reb | 2.0 Ast | 3.0 PF
We caught our first glimpse of Nate against Sydney on Saturday with him starting alongside Knight, Redhage and Prather, where he showed some glimpses, but obviously he’s going to take time to get up to speed. Spacing is going to be interesting on offense with question marks on Perth’s outside shooting and guard play, whilst defensively, the Jawai signing also means that a number of players will be sliding down a position (they’re a guard short).
Marcus Thornton 3 Games | 29 Mins | 14.7 Pts | 33.3 FG% | 32.0 3P% | 8.3 3PA | 1.7 Ast | 1.3 Stl
Thornton is going to be one hell of an entertaining player when his shot is falling (and that should be fairly regularly). He’s a shot maker with an ability and desire to take threes off the dribble, whilst he also has some nice athleticism to make some funky moves slicing his way inside. 7-13 from deep against Perth on Saturday was probably just scratching the surface so strap yourself in. Sydney have plenty of different faces compared to last season and they’ll be one of my favourite teams to watch in the preseason.
Nicholas Kay 4 Games | 28 Mins | 14.3 Pts | 59.0 FG% | 33.3 3P% | 4.0 FTA | 5.0 Reb | 2.3 Tnv
Townsville is the place of opportunity this season with a host of contenders sure to feature in the Rookie of the Year or Most Improved contenders list. Kay looks like the front runner for ROY having made the most of the Brian Conklin’s absence in the preseason by posting some efficient scoring numbers. He’s only put up 3 three point attempts so far but with Conklin back in drawing plenty of attention I’m hoping Kay shows off a bit of range to help the Crocs spacing.
Full preseason stats for each player can be found at crunchtimeshots.com (these will be updated again post Blitz).