The Pick and Roll 2017-18 NBL Half-time Roundtable Part II
When you’re more than halfway into an NBL season, questions are always flying around about what’s already happened on and off the court and what could take place the rest of the way. Who’s winning this thing? Who will take out the MVP? What have you thought about X so far? Which players would would you start an expansion team with?
Here at The Pick and Roll HQ, six of our expert writers take a moment to breathe from what’s been an incredible and chaotic season of hoops to provide an insight into the NBL season so far and what might lay ahead.
If you missed Part I, you can catch up here.
Pick two current NBL players to start an Expansion Team with (One Import and One Australian).
Steve Chalmers: Obviously depends a little bit on where my expansion team is located, and my first task on my whiteboard is to attract an Australian star currently plying their trade overseas to come back home. That means I’m targeting someone like Andrew Bogut or Ryan Broekhoff. So if I nail one of them it may change my planning of this question to pick two CURRENT NBL players. So let’s say I’ve attracted talent to come home, my import is one of the lean, athletic small forwards because they’re a real talent to the league. Perrin Buford is probably that guy, while the Aussie I’d obviously love to go and get would be Mitch Creek, but I think there’s a thing called salary cap! So I’d hit up (needing a guard) Nathan Sobey or Shea Ili (I know it said Aussie but I’m calling it unrestricted players).
Alex Robins: The Toowoomba Swamp Dragons are building around Bryce Cotton and Mitch Creek. With heart-on-his-sleeve Creek doing a bit of everything on the court, Cotton will just let the game come to him and pick apart helpless defenses. They're both great decision-makers, would step into leadership roles and establish an unstoppable two-man game.
Jon Guarna: If I was starting an expansion team the first player I would sign is Jerome Randle. He ticks a lot of boxes for a franchise. He is an exciting player on the court who can score at will and make all of his teammates better. Fans love to watch him play because of his size, skill and charisma. Most importantly he gives your team a chance to win every night regardless of the opposition.
The first Australian I would sign is Mitch Creek. Creek can do it all; he can run the offense, he can get you a bucket when you need one, he can defend from 1 through 5 and he gives maximum effort every time he is on the floor.
Having Randle and Creek on the same team has been successful before so why not run it back for a new team?
Matt Hickey: Expansion Team – The Glen Iris Gators would look to bring in Brad Newley and Travis Trice. Newley still has some good years left in him and would be a great influence on younger players. Trice could easily turn into an eight-year import in the NBL - he plays hard on both ends of the court whilst also acting as an excellent floor general.
Jordan MC: Bryce Cotton - NBL teams need imports who are shot creators and Cotton is elite offensively. He's proven he can take and make shots in the playoffs where the defensive intensity is at its highest, whilst his ability to play off the ball helps him fit into the team concept as well.
Mitch Creek - the only thing that can hold Creek back is injury. He's one of the toughest and most versatile locals in the league, he's still young enough that you can build around him for a while and knows and plays to his strengths perfectly. Someone who can guard one through four (and some fives in a pinch), as well as play efficiently on offense scoring in the teens is a terrific building block.
Matthew L Smith: The caveat I'm assuming in this hypothetical is that every player is a free agent available to be signed.
The Arnhem Land Warriors start the 2018-19 NBL season by prying loose the back to back to back champion (it will happen) and probably the biggest Warrior in the league, Damian Martin on a golden handshake contract.
His mandate is clear: set the professional standards for this new ball club every single day. In that regard, there is no-one better suited for the job, even though he may only have two to three years of top line basketball left in his body. That should be enough.
My import slot is filled by a guy who might be here for a number years and could become an all-timer of the league: Perrin Buford. Perrin is just 23 but has all the qualities, both offensively and defensively, to be a future MVP and bona fide force in the league for a long, long time.
Who makes the playoffs and who wins it all?
SC: Perth, Illawarra, Adelaide, Cairns. Champions: Illawarra
AR: Taipans, Breakers, 36ers and the NBL 2018 Champion Perth Wildcats
JG: Perth, New Zealand, Melbourne Adelaide. Champions: Perth Wildcats experience trumps all.
MH: Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and the eventual victors, New Zealand.
JMC: Perth, Melbourne, Breakers, Adelaide. Champions: Perth
MLS: Perth, Melbourne, New Zealand, Adelaide. Champions: Perth 3-PEAT!
Share a bold prediction for the second half of #NBL18.
SC: Well you saw my bold prediction in the previous question when I announced Illawarra make the play-offs. I stood with them at the start of the season picking them to win it all. I can’t shy away from that fact and a string of home games right now helps them pick themselves up and make a run in the second half of the season.
AR: Melbourne United come together to make up for Casey Prather's absence, but lack of bench support and all those early season losses come back to haunt them. Despite being swept in the season series against Melbourne, the 36ers’ depth and the return of Mitch Creek sees Adelaide finish second on the ladder. Cairns claims the fourth spot, leaving everyone wondering why we ever doubted them and United fans thinking what could have been.
JG: The Sydney Kings will make a big turnaround to contend for a Finals spot...but fall just short.
Sydney's addition of Jerome Randle is a game changer. The reigning MVP has the ability to will the Kings to a win in any game they play as evidenced by their comeback win vs the Bullets in Round 11.
But it won't be just Randle helping the Kings make that Finals push. Brad Newley has been excellent all season long and will continue that into the 2nd half. Jason Cadee will continue to thrive in his role as 6th man. Jeremy Tyler will continue to dominate the paint. But the biggest improvement for the Kings will be the return of a healthy Kevin Lisch.
Unfortunately the hole may be too big to climb out of, but the Kings will have fans at the edge of their seat as the try to force their way into Finals.
MH: Brisbane to push into the playoffs and cause an upset in the semis. Andrej Lemanis continues to build his system with the Bullets and all the players seem to be buying in. They are still working out the perfect role for Stephen Holt but they have shown enough to impress and have the defence to cause trouble in the postseason.
JMC: Perth vs. Melbourne Grand Final series goes the distance.
United have battled through inconsistency as a team and with their star guards but they've still managed to get to a 10-6 win-loss record. Tai Wesley is in peak form and the bench has grown in confidence with some pleasing play in Prather's absence. The unknown is how adding a new import into the mix goes, along with the play of Ware and Goulding on offense, but they do have a strong defense to rely on which should be playoff tough.
Perth are more settled with only an injury to Damian Martin derailing them momentarily and a question mark up front should some bigs get into foul trouble, which they just may. This would be a hell of a series.
MLS: The team that finishes on top of the ladder gets bundled out of the playoffs in the semi's again.
Adelaide went into last years final series against Illawarra a short priced favourite and after dominating game 1, was embarrassed in back to back close games.
I'm predicting it happens again, this time with top of the table Melbourne being defeated by Adelaide in three games.
NBL-AFL affiliations. Good for the sport in Australia?
SC: I like it. I could speak about this for a LONG time, so I think I’ll keep this one short.
I like the idea, the framework is already in place to run a professional sports team. Everything is readily available to take a team from day dot. I don’t see what is a negative.
AR: A Richmond based Melbourne Tigers revival sounds great.
Apart from that, I feel Larry Kestelman has the NBL finding its own feet and the returns on a partnership similar to those across European sports would be limited. We shouldn't underestimate the special time it is for Australian basketball and just how big the game can get in the next few years.
JG: This isn't a good idea...it is a great idea!
AFL clubs are already scouting basketball games for kids to poach so why not have them there to actually scout basketball players to play hoops? AFL clubs have big money behind them with existing fan bases which are basically dormant after the Grand Final. This is an opportunity for the AFL to get their fans in front of a sporting product in the off-season, maximising their revenue through ticket sales and merchandise while potentially reaching new fans for both sports/teams. Plus, it works in Europe so why can't it work here?
MH: A part of me says it may actually reduce the number of players who jump ship because football clubs would be hesitant to try and poach any player from the side they have a partnership with. But will it impose a ceiling on basketball in Australia? It is one that will very likely be a case of what if.
JMC: I don't think player theft is the issue here for a couple of reasons.
The players that might be poached are likely just end of bench guys and we have the depth in this country to replace them with like for like talent. The NBL club could also enter into an agreement with the AFL club in regards to poaching e.g. No player on your basketball roster could play for your football club without sitting out for two years (or something to that effect). The AFL issue is more about getting a commitment from the club to lock into supporting an NBL team for a significant period, not just a couple of seasons and then choosing not to continue. The NBL team would get supporters from that AFL clubs supporter base, but they'd be unlikely to get anyone outside of that, is that enough? That would seem to be doing somewhat the opposite of the Tigers-United rebrand.
MLS: I'm sceptical, especially if Collingwood and Eddie Maguire are involved.
I believe, for no reason other than gut-feel, that their own 'football' interests will always be put before the good of the basketball department.
Players, be it promising American imports or young up and coming dual sport studs, could be led away from basketball with the promise of enticing higher salaries and greater spotlight in the AFL world. It is after all top dog in the Australian sporting landscape.
That is my only concern.
In terms of the financial security - the dollars that could be pumped into the NBL system, we've never seen that kind of coin before - and the stability, facilities, corporate knowledge and staff development that AFL clubs could provide for existing club partnerships (say, Collingwood-United, or Eagles-Wildcats) or future expansion models (Tigers-Tigers) is exciting and enticing.
A lot of work is needed to make it come to fruition but the idea itself is something that should be looked at thoroughly.
There you have it. The consensus amongst the Pick and Roll writers is that Perth will take out an historic three-peat and that Mitch Creek is the number one Australian baller to start an NBL club with today.
Who do you think wins it all? Who would start a team with if you had the chance at any player in the league today? Do you have a bold prediction? Tell us what you think, leave a comment.