NBL MVP Race: February

Some poor form and stellar performances has seen a big re-shuffle in February’s MVP rankings as the NBL heads towards its final month of the regular season. Credit: Joel Armstrong |

Wollongong Hawks *Ranking (Last Month’s Rank)

1. (2) James Ennis

Ennis re-gains the number one for February despite a less-than-spectacular month’s work. Through four games his team managed a 3-1 record to bounce back from some poor form, with Ennis putting together averages of 16.8ppg, 9rpg and 2.5apg. The Perth star managed just 42% shooting from the field – way down on his season average of 48% – but more importantly led his side to solid wins over Melbourne (twice) and Adelaide to lock away top spot for the time being. Ennis also took over the mantle of league leading scorer with his season average of 21.9ppg leading four players putting up over 21 per contest, and given he is the best player in the best team he will be very hard to beat for MVP honours as we near the end of season 2013/14.

2. (3) Daniel Johnson

Johnson is alive in the MVP race after two stellar months, with his performances in February just about besting those of every other player in the league. ‘DJ’ managed 21.8ppg and 7rpg over six games in February for the 36ers, with his 33-point performance (on 14-18 shooting) against Cairns his best game over the month. His 56% shooting from the field was as good as any of the top players in the NBL, while his side managed to consolidate second spot on the ladder thanks to a 4-2 record. Johnson’s 19.7ppg is good for fifth best in the competition, while his 7rpg and 54% shooting clip are also right up there with the best in the league. If the 36ers continue to win over the final month and Johnson’s red-hot form is the main reason then we may well see the MVP award heading to Adelaide by season’s end.

3. (6) Rotnei Clarke

The Hawks went 5-0 in February to suddenly be in finals contention, with their star shooting guard the reason behind most of their success. Clarke had a huge month, delivering an NBL season-high 39 points in a win against Sydney on his way to averaging a ridiculous 26.4ppg. He shot the ball at an even 50% from the floor, which is impressive given his tendency to take the jump shot or the contested layup, and also managed to go at an even more incredible 49% from beyond the arc. The Wollongong star also dished out 4.6apg to get his teammates involved. Clarke is the third-highest scorer in the league on the season with 21.6ppg after February, shooting at 46% and dishing out 3.3apg as well in an impressive first professional year for the American. Wollongong are looking increasingly likely to sneak into the finals, putting Clarke right in the race for MVP honours.

4. (5) Sam Young

Young continued to excel during February and can almost lay claim to being the most damaging player in the league since his arrival a little over a month into the season. Sydney went 2-2 for the month in a slightly disappointing result for the club, but Young continued to explode with numbers of 22.8ppg, 4rpg, 3.5apg and 2spg whilst shooting at an incredible 58% from the floor. The former NBA forward is now scoring at 21.7ppg for the season and is the second highest scorer in the league behind Ennis, while his 4.6rpg and 52% shooting are more-than-handy for the Kings as they move towards securing a finals spot. Had Young been in Kings colours from the opening tip of the season then we may well be talking about a serious challenger to Ennis for top individual honours.

5. (1) Chris Goulding

Goulding endured a horror month in February with three games for Melbourne returning just 10ppg at 26% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. His poor month has seen him tumble from top spot and just about out of contention for the award, with his Tigers also going winless in losses to Perth (twice) and Adelaide. While he remains the fourth leading scorer on the season with 21.5ppg and just 0.4ppg behind the league-leading Ennis, his 3rpg and 3apg means his scoring numbers need to be exceptional to stay in contention for the MVP award. The enigmatic shooter is now shooting at just 43% from the floor as well, which is well behind the likes of Ennis, Johnson, Young and Clarke.

6. (4) AJ Ogilvy

Ogilvy was quiet in February and looks to be fizzling out after a red-hot start to the campaign which had him right in the mix for the MVP award. He managed just 10.5ppg and 7rpg over the Kings’ four games, and despite shooting at 49% he simply didn’t do enough. He managed just three blocks over the four games, which is well down for one of the best in the league in that department. His numbers on the season remain solid at 12.7ppg, 9.5rpg and at 55% shooting, but given his impressive form to start the season it is fair to say the star centre is slowing in the back-end of the season.

7. (-) Gary Wilkinson

Wilkinson rounds out the top ten on the back of a big month which temporarily revived the Breakers’ season. After joining his old side mid-season the American has gone about his business like he never left, with his performances across February too hard to ignore. He saw averages of 17.8ppg as well as 10rpg to be the only player in the league to average a double-double across the month, with a 13-14-5 performance against Adelaide and a 33-point exhibition in Sydney the highlights for the red-headed import. Wilkinson’s season numbers sit at 15.1ppg and 6.7rpg, and had he started the campaign in a New Zealand uniform then he may have been much higher in the rankings at this time of the year.

8. (-) Adam Gibson

Adelaide’s star guard rockets into the rankings after a month of all-round brilliance. Gibson averaged 13ppg, 5.2rpg and 5.5apg to help his side to a 4-2 record and cement a finals berth and a likely home semi-final. The Australian national went close to triple-doubles twice, with a 14-9-6 effort in Melbourne followed up by a 17-7-11 effort against the Breakers. A season-low two points against Perth on 1-9 shooting saw his numbers fall a little, but his 12.3ppg on the season comes with 5apg, with the latter good enough to lead the NBL. Gibson has shot the ball at 47%, with big buckets against both the Tigers and the Breakers propelling his side to victory in the fourth quarter. While Daniel Johnson remains the main man at Adelaide, Gibson has enjoyed a stellar second half to the season.

9. (8) Tom Abercrombie

Abercrombie had an up-and-down February, much like his Breakers, as he averaged 17.6ppg at 54% from the floor. His best game was a 29-point effort against Townsville, but his good games came with some bad, namely an 8-point showing in a loss to Wollongong in which he failed to grab a rebound or dish an assist in over 30 minutes of playing time. The athletic Kiwi has recovered from a slow start to the season to post 15.8ppg at 50% from the field, briefly leading the Breakers back into finals contention after they failed to fire early on. While his hopes of taking home the MVP award are as distant as his side winning their fourth straight championship, the young forward can hold his head high after an impressive season.

10. (-) Ben Madgen

Madgen enters the top ten for the first time this season after a steady improvement which culminated in a very good February. His 17.3ppg at a 48% clip helped the Kings consolidate their position in fourth with just over a month left in the season, with the hard-working guard looking like he has regained his 2012/13 form which saw him lead the league with just over 17ppg. Madgen is a flat-out scorer and can go very big when he is on, and his 14.4ppg looks set to grow by season’s end if he can continue his current form. *Dropped out: Shawn Redhage, Mark Worthington, Jamar Wilson

Players to watch:

Keep an eye on these guys in the next month: Gary Ervin, Steven Markovic, Mark Worthington, Kerron Johnson, Brian Conklin