On the back of the announcement of a new NBL streaming app (to go with the Fox Sports and Channel 9 TV deals), here are my rankings of which teams I think will be the most watchable this season.
Early signs were positive with a trophy at the NBL Blitz, but the intrigue around them is still high with so many new faces. The scoring power has already been evident with a 37 point quarter against Adelaide perhaps giving us a glimpse of what will be the highest scoring team in the league. Stephen Holt, Chris Goulding, Todd Blanchfield and Daniel Kickert averaged a combined 28 three point attempts between them in the preseason so if that’s your thing then you will be well and truly satisfied.
Outside of their shooting is a talented rotation that will boast speed and star power, emphasised in the middle by Hakim Warrick who, with one spin and dunk at the Blitz, would have had United fans giddy with excitement. Even with David Barlow sidelined indefinitely, this team looks every bit the contender having upgraded their size and talent.
Health permitting, Josh Childress is clearly the best player in the league and will ensure that the Kings are a handful for everyone. Sadly, we were robbed of ten Childress games last season due to injury so it’s time to make that up.
Seeing Marcus Thornton try and do his best Rotnei Clarke impersonation is probably going to net some mixed results but the good nights will be well worth tuning in for. The rest of the guard rotation is interesting enough with Jason Cadee out to challenge for the most improved player award, whilst Steve Markovic and Rhys Carter wont shoot as poorly as they did in the preseason. Add in the supremely talented Julian Khazzouh and you’ve got yourself must watch talent.
The amount of three point shooters on this roster rivals only Melbourne and to have them playing around a big man of the quality of AJ Ogilvy is a recipe for entertainment. The return of the great Kirk Penney, as well as another former MVP in Kevin Lisch, makes for a fascinating guard/wing rotation with one of Rhys Martin or Tim Coenraad looking likely to sit during starting and closing line-ups.
Heading into the season with just the one import adds to the interest around this team as they seemingly have another level to go to if the opportunity to shake up the roster arises (or form demands that they do). An athletic two way SF-PF springs to mind.
The 36ers clearly played the quickest pace in the league last season and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be right up there again. This fast paced style of play fits in perfectly with what I like to watch and the talents of one my favourite young locals Mitch Creek.
New import Kenyon McNeail has a deadly outside shot but also flashed some sneaky potential as a dunker during the Blitz up in Townsville so he could be a surprise fan favourite. Bounce back seasons from Adam Gibson, Daniel Johnson and Lucas Walker will definitely help, whilst the signings of Nathan Sobey and Matt Hodgson look like great value moves so far.
I’m expecting the Taipans to be a playoff team once again but their lack of intrigue in regards to roster turnover and the slower pace of play that they operate at works against them in these types of rankings.
Markel Starks led the preseason in mid-range makes and showed some signs that he’ll be an adequate Wilbekin replacement, so he’s one that’s on the early must watch list to further decipher his true form. Mark Worthington is the other major addition to this team, whilst the impressive Cam Gliddon, the nifty moves of Cam Tragardh, and the athletic Torrey Craig bring together a team that has plenty of depth.
6. New Zealand
The potential loss of Corey Webster takes away one of the best shot makers in the league although Everard Bartlett did a hell of an impersonation during the Breakers last game at the Blitz. Excluding the Webster-Bartlett situation, the only two roster changes are Charles Jackson and Shane McDonald (who both appear likely to come off the bench to start the season).
Cedric Jackson is a triple double threat every night of the week and will ensure his team is competitive whilst a lob pass to Abercrombie is always a regular highlight. One of the big improvers will be Tai Wesley who will get as many minutes as he can handle early on.
I’ve mentioned Perth’s lack of outside shooting and guard play before and their form throughout the preseason has done nothing to convince me that this won’t be a factor. The loss of Hugh Greenwood takes away the rookie that I was most interested in watching, plus the fit of Casey Prather around their surplus of big men means the roster is somewhat imbalanced (although he’s still going to make some awesome highlight plays).
Perth obviously have a wealth of experience and quality though so the wins will still come. They’ll be dominant on defense, excel with rebounding and should be fun to follow with Nate Jawai inside. How close Nate gets back to near peak form and fitness will be something that is certainly worth following.
A young and inexperienced team that appear to be a level below the rest of the league. Whilst more than half a dozen wins could be hard for Townsville to manage this season, there’s still reasons to tune in. The reigning league MVP (Brian Conklin) and the front runner for Rookie of the Year (Nicholas Kay) are a nice place to start, whilst a number of other youngsters will be gunning for the most improved title with the extra minutes available.
The team’s new import in Jordair Jett has the name to impress but the jury is still out on his place in the league after some injury concerns during the preseason. The outside shooting around Jett, Conklin and Schenscher will be inconsistent so hopefully Clint Steindl finds some room and gets up plenty of shots.
Any questions? Find me on twitter @crunchtimeshots