Nate Jawai and the Perth Wildcats look dominant
If you didn't already know, the Perth Wildcats' biggest signing this off-season was Hugh Greenwood. But he decided to make a DeAndre Jordan-esque U-turn and renege on a three-year deal.
"It's one thing being left at the altar, it's another thing being dumped a month into the marriage," he said.
The Wildcats didn't let hurt feelings get in the way of business and swiftly rebounded with the large signing of Nate "The Beast" Jawai. While Greenwood's departure left the backcourt shelf a little bare, it certainly wasn't empty.
The Wildcats still had Boomers point guard Damian Martin, last season's top scorer Jermaine "Dolla" Beal and new import Casey Prather. Had Greenwood stayed, one of those three would be coming off the bench - four doesn't go into three. Perth then added Tall Blacks guard, Jarrod Kenny, to backup Damian Martin, adding much-needed depth to the backcourt.
The Greenwood reversal turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Nate Jawai could be the most dominant player in the league. He was given the nickname of 'Outback Shaq' for a reason - although apparently he hates it.
Jawai, in his Wildcats debut against the Adelaide 36ers, at times looked unguardable, dominating a frontcourt that only a few days prior dominated the New Zealand Breakers.
His presence in the post demanded double and sometimes even triple teams, the same way the real version of Shaq used to. Jawai was just too difficult for one defender to handle.
The box score will say he only scored 11 points, but that doesn't tell the full story. Plagued by early foul trouble, and possibly some conditioning issues, Jawai only played 20 minutes for the match.
In those 20 minutes, he was a nightmare to defend. After scoring two easy baskets early in the game, against opposing center Daniel Johnson, Adelaide switched to a more aggressive defensive scheme, double teaming Nate Jawai at every opportunity. If he had the ball in the post, 36ers players were rushing over to help out. Which inevitably led to the Perth perimeter players being left wide open at the 3-point line.
At first Jawai struggled to find the open man, in part due to Adelaide executed their defense to near perfection but mainly due to a lack of familiarity between Nate Jawai and his new teammates.
However, as the game wore on the Wildcats made the 36ers pay, with 'the beast' able to dish out three assists to Perth players waiting all alone at the 3-point line. The more this Wildcat team plays together, the more dangerous a Nate Jawai led offense will be. With him on the floor his teammates are going to get many wide open looks at the 3-point line.
Against Adelaide, Perth was able to hit enough of them to win the game. Opposition teams will be hoping that won't be the case in the future. They'll test out the shooting ability of Casey Prather, Jarrod Kenny, and Damian Martin when he returns from injury.
For this Wildcats offense, Prather is the key. We know Beal and Martin can shoot from the outside but we're not sure what to expect from Prather just yet. While he hit a 3-pointer in his NBL debut, he was a reluctant shooter in his four years of college ball, nailing a paltry ten shots from downtown.
If he brings that form into the NBL, teams will leave him open and dare him to shoot. Which makes double teaming Jawai easier. Perth needs three shooters on the floor to maximise the threat of Jawai.
This team will only go as far as their outside shooting takes them. If they're hitting 3's and Nate Jawai's in "Outback Shaq" mode, then look out.
Perth has proved they can be a good shooting team for one game, let's see if they can do it for a full season.