SEABL | Observations from Week 1-4

Corey Maynard had a strong debut

Ishmael Hollis quickly experienced the highs (player of the week in round one) and lows (cut ahead of week four) of an import as Frankston moved in a new direction in search of the right team chemistry.

Securing a player of the level of Corey Maynard is a terrific signing (although it leaves them thin up front) and his competitiveness on defense, as well as his ability to control a game at point guard, was on full display in his debut. As expected, there were a couple of turnovers with passes darting to where teammates were or should’ve been, but that’s expected given his limited preparation.

Maynard’s addition opened up some more minutes for Josh Oswald who played well inside (especially early) yesterday and combo guard Tom Wilson, who slid over to the shooting guard, hit three catch and shoot triples early in the game. Wilson, Maynard and Bennie Lewis are a nice trio in transition if Frankston can pressure the opposition into turnovers.

The Blues are a young team in a tough conference, and unsurprisingly (given their youth and lack of depth), currently have both a bottom three offense and a bottom four defensive rating (points per 100 possessions). Despite the roster change, it's still going to be a tough year at Frankston.

Hobart have made the South Conference even tougher

The current conference record in head to head games reads 12-7 in favour of the South, and with the strong play of Hobart (including a win in Mt Gambier), it shapes as an even more competitive group than predicted.

Everything is fun again at the Chargers with Jarrad Weeks pushing the ball and playing with freedom alongside a mobile group that sits in the top five for points scored per 100 possessions – this after the team averaged under 70 points per game last season.

They’ve gone small this season with a three guard line-up of Weeks, Tom Wright and Tiri Masunda playing alongside the versatile but more natural small forward that is Shane Southwell.

Bandits import (and early league leader in dunks per Greg Mays finished 13-19 inside the paint on Friday night against Hobart, which exposed what looms as the area of Hobart’s roster that will likely restrict them to a battle for fourth in their conference.

Zac White looms as a big factor on this team going forward as they need him to come off the bench and gives them something that they don’t have. He has length and bounce, although still lacks some size, and needs to impact games for the Chargers to do damage.

Small-ball is trending

Two obvious trends in the league again this year have been player availability for almost all teams, which is clearly affecting results, and then there’s the fact that teams are choosing to (or being forced to) play with smaller and more mobile units.

The majority of imports in the league this season are filling the forward spots with a number of more natural small forwards playing up a position. This trend could fit in line with where the game has headed recently with less traditional bigs and players who can do more outside shooting and playmaking whilst also having defensive versatility.

The mobile power forward is a huge weapon in this league when a big can attack off the dribble, stretch the floor with shooting, comfortably switch onto guards or bigger guys, rebound and/or protect the rim.

Luke Jamieson thrived in this role as he played Matt Andronicos off the floor in the Pioneers matchup with Bendigo. Andronicos had the size advantage but he had neither the ability to punish Jamieson inside on offense nor the ability to match his mobility and speed going the other way. Around the rest of the league its players like Shane Southwell, Garrett Jackson, Daequon Montreal, Damian Johnson and Desmond Simmons (plus others) who have had success like this.

Frankston downsized with their recent roster move, resulting in very few legitimate big man minutes available on their roster outside of Dain Swetalla, and there’s been a group of other teams who have played with just the one genuine big man. Teams such as Albury-Wodonga, Geelong and Dandenong (expected contenders) have some size up front so it will be interesting to watch how these matchups shake out.

Joel Naburgs is an NBL player

His appearances were limited due to injury last season, but now it’s again obvious that Naburgs is as close to the best player in the league that hasn’t logged minutes at NBL level before that I can think of.

He has an elite combination of athleticism, outside shooting, rebounding for his position, ball handling and versatility on defense. To top all that off, he’s as tough as they come. He's wing height but regularly switches onto some power forwards or smaller guards and competes extremely well for near on 40 minutes a night using his strong build and athletic gifts.

Tim Lang might be Kilsyth’s most important player, and Kyle Adnam might be the fan favourite with as flashy play as anyone in the league, but Naburgs’ composure and all round skills make him the best player on this team.

A quick well done to Kilsyth’s crowd on Saturday night who were as wild as any that I’ve been in attendance for this season.

Brisbane's guard rotation

The Spartans battled through two heavy defeats to start the season without three key guards in Isaih Tueta, Jonny Miller and William McDowell-White. I watched Mathiang Muo battle manfully (but with limited success) at Kilsyth to try and create some offense but he had little guard penetration next to him to get him any easy shots. Fast forward to game three and it was the return of ‘Izzy’.

Brisbane have gone 3-1 with Izzy in the line-up with the offense moving along at a top five level during that time. Tueta immediately proved his worth in his first game back with some smart reads, a bunch of floaters and threes, he regularly made his way to the free throw line, and also defended well. In their most recent game, they finally suited up their entire guard rotation with Miller making an appearance.

For those keeping tabs on William McDowell-White, here are his per 36 minute numbers through two games: 14.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.6 turnovers (5-15 on shots outside of the paint).

Something else to keep an eye on - Nunawading have lost four straight (two of those against Brisbane) and only just snuck past Sandringham in overtime prior to that. They would be my early pick for the most disappointing team thus far but at 2-4 it's far from over.

Melbourne’s offense is desperate for Daryl Corletto’s return

Sporting an offensive rating that is double digits worse than the second worst offensive team (on a per 100 possessions measure), Melbourne have struggled mightily to even crack 70 points.

Rhys Carter is working his butt off for this team on both ends in his typical fashion but there’s been numerous occasions where the offense has been squeezed out of the team and he’s been left to launch a difficult contested three.

Jock Perry is fairly limited on that end at this stage whilst fellow starting big, import Bo Liu, is certainly skilled but hasn’t been able to find his spots with any sort of regularity yet. Rob Jones has looked both awful and terrific in the games I’ve caught live. His size and shot making helped him in isolation and post plays against Kilsyth but he looked a long way off the pace against Nunawading.

Corletto’s addition will help free the load on Carter with his ability to handle the ball, be a genuine floor spacer, and importantly, provide the Tigers with another experienced and quality player who can be relied upon consistently. Providing just under 20ppg in the BBL, The Tigers will need almost all of that from the veteran.

Tim Coenraad at Canberra and Kevin White at Bendigo

These two signings weren’t public knowledge when I wrote my season preview and quite obviously they help sway their team’s chances of contention.

Coenraad is one of the best local scorers in the league and has the size to play both forward positions which works perfectly at this level. The Gunners have a strong group of Aussies and quite clearly are now a chance to compete for the playoffs in a wide open conference, despite going down to Melbourne in their second game of the season.

Bendigo have been fantastic this season with Jeremy Kendle living up to expectations and powering the league leading offense in the early goings (6.0 points per 100 possessions better than any other team). White adds vital depth with a little bit of additional ball handling and scoring exactly what this roster needed. It’s more than likely not enough to put them into title contention, but it certainly gives them a shot at winning their conference.

Teams that I need to see more of

Ballarat - Quite incredibly, they have Earnest Ross, Ollie Bailey and Roy Booker all topping 24ppg, but without their center rotation they've been exposed on the other end. One intriguing piece they’ve just added on a short term deal is Craig Moller who has been doing everything he can in recent times to land an NBL contract (he opted out of his Waratah League deal to get this chance).

North West Tasmania – It’s no surprise to see Garrett Jackson posting big numbers given what we know about him but Gary Johnson is a guy I need to catch more of. Together they’re combining for 51 of the Thunder’s 86.4 points per game, although the defense has leaked points (14th ranked team in defensive rating) and it remains to be seen how much their guards can give them in their playoff push.

The Centre of Excellence – Just one game on the schedule so far for the kids due to their fixture and other commitments.

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Final note: Make sure you check out where Andrew now has SEABL and NZ NBL shot charts and shooting data.