2014/15 NBL Season Preview: Perth Wildcats
Coming off a championship, Perth will attempt to go back-to-back in 2014/15 and build on the huge success, both on and off the court, achieved in 2013/14. Let’s take a look at how the Wildcats are shaping up ahead of season tip-off.
2013/14 Record: 21-7 (1st)
The Wildcats took the next step in 2013/14 after two straight runners-up finishes, claiming the NBL title with a victory over Adelaide in game three of the grand final series.
The benchmark of the NBL, Perth built an 11,000-strong fan base present for every home game and boasted a roster full of star power, with the NBA bound James Ennis and fellow American Jermaine Beal leading the way.
The emergence of Tom Jervis as a quality starting centre gave them yet another dimension, with the likes of Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff and Damian Martin continuing to steer their side around the court.
2013/14 can only be labelled as a success for the ‘Cats, with an enormous fan base, constant sell-outs at home games, the most talented roster in the league and a championship to boot.
Who’s New: DeAndre Daniels (Toronto Raptors, NBA), Earnest Ross (University of Missouri, US College)
You Won’t See: James Ennis (Miami Heat, NBA), Mathiang Muo
Back Again: Jermaine Beal, Shawn Redhage, Matthew Knight, Damian Martin, Jesse Wagstaff, Greg Hire, Drake U’u, Tom Jervis
Coaching Staff: Trevor Gleeson (Head Coach), Jamie O'Loughlin (Assistant Coach), Adam Tatalovich (Assistant Coach), Adam Forde (Technical Assistant Coach)
DeAndre Daniels #481616423 / gettyimages.com While NBA draftee Daniels is the obvious standout, his position holds plenty of importance given the calibre of the player he is replacing on the roster this season.
With James Ennis returning to the NBA, Perth has brought in Daniels in the hope of finding an instant replacement. While it is very early days, Daniels looks to be exactly what the Wildcats were after when they went fishing in the international market over the off-season.
Daniels will bring a mix of athleticism and scoring in the forward positions, which will fill the sizeable void left by Ennis, and he will look to forge another dangerous partnership with returning star and 2013/14 Finals MVP Jermaine Beal.
The only downside so far is that Daniels missed a chunk of the pre-season as he recovered from an elbow injury, meaning he will need to find his feet in a balanced and settled roster on the go during the regular season.
How quickly the aspiring NBA player can fit into the Perth system and find his feet in the NBL will be crucial for the Wildcats as they look to go back-to-back in 2014/15.
2014/15 promises much of the same for the Wildcats, who will start favourites for the flag and deservedly so. With Daniels and Earnest Ross adding firepower to the eight returning players from 2013/14, Perth will again be the team to beat as they continue to be the benchmark for the NBL.
One of the keys to success will be the fitness of Matt Knight, who, despite the emergence of Jervis at the centre position, remains one of the premier big men of the league and one of the most important cogs in the Wildcats side.
The evergreen Martin will continue to lead the ‘Cats backcourt into battle every week with energy at both ends of the floor, and the dangerous Beal will again be a constant threat from the outside as his talented teammates create plenty of space by getting to the rim.
Anything other than a grand final appearance will be a failure for Perth, and barring a series of catastrophes throughout the season, it is hard to see anything less for the juggernaut club.
2014/15 Championship Odds: $2.75