NBL22: Award predictions from the team
What could this season's award winners look like? The team share their picks.
Credit: Russell Freeman Photography
The long offseason is finally over, the Blitz is in the books, and the NBL season proper tips off on Friday night. While every team will only have eyes for the championship, some players would also be hoping for some individual silverware as they look to lead their teams to glory.
With a tenth side entering the competition and a wealth of talent around the league, competition for the NBL’s top awards will be fierce. The Pick and Roll’s NBL team have cast their votes on all of the individual awards on offer, with the voting panel including Brad Winter, Michael Houben, Matt Hickey and Jacob Doole.
Rookie of the Year: Luke Travers, Perth Wildcats (75%)
NBL22 will be the third season in the league for Luke Travers, but after two years as a development player, he remains a “rookie” in his first fully contracted season. It’s not often that an impact player on a grand final team would be eligible for this award, but then again, it’s not often that a development player would be given as much responsibility as Travers was last season.
After starting 20 games and showing plenty of promise in 2021, Travers looks set to take another big step forward in his development this season. The 20 year old swingman was used in fits and starts last year, even when in that starting role, and when all was said and done he averaged just 12.5 minutes, 4.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. On the whole, it was a season of promise more than one of production.
Under the bright lights of the NBL Finals, though, Travers began to unpack some of that potential. Injury saw him miss the final two games of Perth’s campaign, but in their four finals games prior he put up 10.3 points, 7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1 steal per game. With Bryce Cotton’s absence leaving a gaping hole in Perth’s gameplan, Travers stepped up and showed confidence and poise beyond his years on both ends of the floor.
Based on the NBL Blitz, it looks like that performance was far from a flash in the pan. New Wildcats head coach Scott Morrison has used Travers in a variety of roles, and that has allowed him to showcase a remarkably well-rounded skillset in preseason competition. Spending time in every position from one through four, he has upped his game again to average 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks across five contests.
Those numbers go some way towards showing Travers’ versatility, but it takes a full Wildcats game to see his true value. On one offensive possession, he is flashing across the key and catching the ball as a dangerous cutter; on the next, he is initiating the offence and handling the ball in the pick and roll. It’s the same on the defensive end of the floor, where he has already been used as a perimeter stopper, a help defender around the rim and everything in between.
The best case scenario of that do-it-all role was on display in Perth’s big win over Tasmania. Travers impacted the game in every facet and racked up the numbers to match, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. There’s a reason that Travers can speak so openly of his NBA aspirations heading into the season — there are very few players standing two metres tall that can do what he does.