With a little over a month until the start of the 2018-19 NBL Regular Season, and rosters close to complete (minus a Melbourne import and potential signings in the Next Stars Program), five writers from The Pick and Roll team take an early look towards who might feature in the Grand Final Series.
The stand-outs appear to be Melbourne and Sydney, although their rosters are not without questions and the rest of the league looks to have improved for the most part.
United will look for some answers up front with the departure of Tai Wesley placing a greater reliance on the soon to be 34 year old Josh Boone. Dan Trist is the major name that will be called upon to fill the vacant front-court minutes, but Craig Moller and Tohi Smith-Milner are improving, David Barlow is seemingly rejuvenated, and there’s still another import to be announced. Given the signing of Mitch McCarron to what is an elite guard rotation, the new import might see a few more power forward minutes than Casey Prather did, as well as handle the ball less. Sam McDaniel joins the squad as a development player which highlights their depth.
The Kings addressed their most obvious need of last season, a defensive center, with the Andrew Bogut addition. He joins a squad with proven quality and experience at every position, especially offensively with elite guards and also bigs that can stretch the floor, but it’s still a team that you could foresee with a potential problem or two. The age and health of the core group is worth mentioning and monitoring, as is the unproven coaching group and the inexperience on the bench. These factors will all be pushed hard in the playoff setting.
Title winner: Melbourne are still the team to beat.
My Grand Final Series prediction is an Adelaide 36ers vs. Sydney Kings matchup.
The Kings have put together one of the deepest and most talented rosters the NBL has ever seen. The addition of Andrew Bogut to their core group of Jerome Randle, Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley puts them on another level, not to mention the additions of Daniel Kickert, Tom Wilson and Kyle Adnam. Bogut is the key though as he has shown in the preseason that he is still a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball as well as an impact player on the offensive end with his passing ability. If he can stay healthy, and the group can come together, the Kings should be right there at the end of the season.
Adelaide is a team which year in and year out seems to play their best basketball heading into the playoffs. This year should be no different with quite a few new faces in the group. The 36ers will continue to rely on the always underrated Daniel Johnson, as well as returning guards Nathan Sobey and Ramone Moore, whilst they also add former Brooklyn Net Jacob Wiley to the starting five. Add in a more experienced Anthony Drmic and Majok Deng, a healthy Brendan Teys, youngsters in Harry Froling and Jack McVeigh, and I can see the 36ers once again making a run to the Grand Final Series.
Title winner: Sydney. The championship experience of Bogut, Newley and Lisch, plus elite point guard play from Randle, is too much for the 36ers youth and inexperience.
Melbourne and Sydney appear to be the obvious options to make this season’s Grand Final Series.
United have kept the core of their roster and then added some key new pieces in the form of Mitch McCarron, Alex Pledger and, who I think could take the league by storm, Dan Trist. Meanwhile, David Barlow looks to be in the best shape he has been in for a while and will no doubt be a very handy asset.
The Kings of course made the giant (literally) signing of Andrew Bogut who looks to have already had an excellent impact on the club. When you add Brad Newley, Jerome Randle, Kevin Lisch, Daniel Kickert and some young guns around the big man, it is a scary prospect for opposition teams.
One team that could surprise everyone and spoil the party is Illawarra who have three imports with NBL experience and an Australian contingent that could get the best out of each other. I still can’t go past Melbourne and Sydney though, but if one side is going to come from the clouds and make it to the big show, the Hawks look the one.
Title winner: It really comes down to whether Sydney can stay fit. If they do they are every chance of claiming the Championship. However, Melbourne appears to have the better depth and has improved on their team that took it all home last season.
I see two teams ahead of the pack with another potential contender not far off.
The best squad in the league in terms of talent on the court is without a doubt the Sydney Kings. Their depth across their roster is undeniably stacked. Andrew Bogut is clearly the biggest signing in NBL history, achieved in a massive coup to bring him home in a deal which has already returned dividends for our league. Jerome Randle and Kevin Lisch are regarded as the best back-court in the league, and they also have the potency of Tom Wilson, Brian Bowen, Deng Deng, Daniel Kickert and Dane Pineau coming off the bench.
Melbourne United are the defending champions and will be close. The squad has been able to bring back Josh Boone and add Mitch McCarron which can only be beneficial for the club.
I see Adelaide as the ‘smokies’ to give the above two sides serious trouble when it comes to Grand Final contention. The 36ers will miss having the services of Mitch Creek but they have recruited well beyond this.
A name to remember is Harry Froling who is fresh off a championship with the Townsville Heat in the Queensland Basketball League. After dropping out of college and taking the NBL route it wasn’t long before Froling was snapped up. He is young, stands seven foot, and once he hits the hardwood he is dominant and aggressive. He will only become more so with game time and experience and he is primed to take what he sees as his – the Rookie of the Year award.
Title winner: These three sides will battle it out deep into the post-season with the Kings taking the throne off the back of depth and great coaching.
The Sydney Kings are stacked and have spent a lot of time together during pre-season training and I think we would be crazy not to pencil them into the Grand Final series. After seeing Melbourne United take it up to them this week though, it has got me hoping to see these two battle it out with everything on the line.
United have re-signed Casper Ware and Josh Boone which has them bringing back seven rostered players from their Championship winning season, and in my eyes this gives them an amazing core to challenge the Sydney Kings.
The big question with Sydney is – can they stay healthy? With Lisch coming back from basically no basketball last season, and Bogut's well documented injuries, the questions remain.
Title winner: The fact that they have kept their core together, Goulding is starting the season fit and firing, and there’s an open import spot on the roster, could all mean that Melbourne are going back to back. United to win 3-2.