A third of the regular season is already complete with the top four teams for net rating in each conference reading as the same playoff teams that were predicted in our preview post. The cream has already rose to the top but there’s still plenty of interesting notes around the league. Here’s a look at each team.
ALBURY-WODONGA (6th in Net Rating, 3rd in Offensive Rating, 11th in Defensive Rating)
The Bandits have had a fairly tough fixture, in terms of opponent quality, but they’ve performed quite well despite moving on from import Justin Browning. Deba George has been close to his brilliant best leading a fast paced offense, whilst import big AJ Robinson has put up league leading box score stats (the Bandits have been killed with him off the court too). Joel Spear has been quiet so far and has lost the plus-minus battle with backup Jack Duck. JT Terrell’s arrival might push Spear out of some minutes as Albury go big with Darcy Harding at small forward. This allows them to get their best five guys on the floor at once (Harding is a plus-4.0 per 36 minutes mostly coming off the bench this season).
BA CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE (15th Net, 12th ORtg, 15th DRtg)
The COE have been rough on both ends as expected but it’s the loss of Tom Fullarton and Angus Glover that has left a top heavy roster even more shorthanded for quality guard play and shot creation. One example of this top heavy roster is with Matthew Johns who has played a large chunk of minutes at small forward despite his current skill-set being suited more to power forward. Lat Mayen has been productive after joining the team recently and Sam Froling should run second in Youth Player of the Year with his impressive all-round game. This squad could really do with another legitimate guard and an athletic big to be able to stay in every game.
BALLARAT (5th Net, 7th ORtg, 5th DRtg)
The Miners have confirmed themselves as a conference threat but they're still a tier below the title contenders. Craig Moller has been outstanding and continues his progression back into the sport with extra shot-creation duties, both for himself and others, on full display. His athleticism advantage at this level is obvious but it's his improved feel for the game when put together with his jump-shot and rebounding that has pushed him into 'All-SEABL' calculations. Peter Hooley started the season on the bench before some inconsistent starter production, including eleven turnover vs. Mt Gambier, before dropping 69 points in the latest round on the back of some long range bombing and plenty of work off the dribble going to the rim. Ballarat now needs Davon Usher to find his spots on offense.
BENDIGO (9th Net, 6th ORtg, 10th DRtg)
The Braves defense has been lit up thus far without Damian Johnson and it’s been as difficult as you could imagine replacing he and Jeremy Kendle, whilst Chris Hogan also hasn’t gone close to replicating his underrated 2016. Adam Doyle, Dyami Starks and CJ Aiken all have negative plus-minus numbers as they’ve put up relatively empty stats thus far. Bendigo haven’t finished within ten points in games against the top teams and have struggled without Kevin White on the floor who was plus-25 in 113 minutes during his brief stint.
CANBERRA (13th Net, 15th ORtg, 9th DRtg)
Roy Booker’s inclusion will boost the offense and make them competitive in a lot more games but the roster is still too thin to make up ground on the playoffs. Ben Kearins hasn’t met expectations as he’s barely played whilst Broderick Doran has been doing OK with double figure points and a decent plus-minus on-off differential.
DANDENONG (8th Net, 9th ORtg, 6th DRtg)
Late import arrivals meant that this fresh faced roster was destined to have a slow start but they’ve come out of things quite well and look like a playoff team at a similar level to Ballarat. Lucas Barker and Josh Oswald have taken a step forward at this level but their outside shooting woes are symbolic of an issue with this team. Tim Lang has been well below his normal production, failing to knock down much of anything from anywhere on the court, whilst Jorden Page has logged fewer minutes than Jack Perry.
FRANKSTON (12th Net, 8th ORtg, 14th DRtg)
Bennie Lewis has posted the worst plus-minus of the Blues starting group and has hit just a third and quarter of his field goal and three point attempts in high minutes. There weren’t high expectations on the team going into the season but Lewis struggling is a huge problem in terms of their competitiveness considering they have next to no depth on the bench. Taylor Dyson has proven a solid scorer at this level, whilst the imports have put up strong numbers but the defense has been torched.
GEELONG (4th Net, 5th ORtg, 2nd DRtg)
The Supercats have been strong but have had zero minutes from Nick Owusu as well having some time missed by Nathan Herbert and Maalo Hicks (who has been as productive as hoped). Owusu’s absence has meant a reliance on veteran Jamie Medved whilst Demarcu Gatlin has done more this season and even came out as one of the hype names after the NBL Combine. Unsurprisingly, he tested extremely well athletically but his fit at the next level as a wing is likely too tough considering his lack of an outside shot. Despite Gatlin’s good play, Herbert is still the most important player on this roster and it’s already showing in his plus-29.0 on-off court differential (per 36 minutes).
HOBART (1st Net, 1st ORtg, 1st DRtg)
Tom Garlepp’s presence and a home heavy schedule has produced a fast start for the Chargers in front of some strong crowds in Tasmania. Garlepp is an MVP type player with his offensive game extremely successful at this level. The news is that he will qualify and play finals which puts Hobart as the conference favourites. Mathiang Muo has further established himself as a second-tier-league star,whilst the imports in Rob Heyer and Chris Whitehead have been as productive as any and Lewis Thomas is set to debut this weekend.
KILSYTH (7th Net, 11th ORtg, 4th DRtg)
The offense is only going as far as Nelson Kirksey is taking it and Kirksey has been disappointing. The Cobras need a bunch of shot-creation and play-making from him but he currently has poor shooting numbers and is dishing only two assist a game. Gabe Hadley has joined the starting line-up recently and they need him to knock down his spot-up threes to create some more room for Kirksey and the mostly non-shooting front-court. Chris Patton has been productive but his skill-set isn’t exactly in vogue at the higher levels of basketball at the moment so an NBL contract seems a fair ways away with only eight teams currently in our premier league.
MELBOURNE (11th Net, 10th ORtg, 12th DRtg)
The Tigers are guard heavy and have been rolling out Ari Stewart and Jimmy Todd as their big men for the majority of the minutes making them easily the smallest team. Bo Liu (some size!) and Daryl Corletto are set to re-join the team and add more to this squad that has some talent in the guard spots with Nate Tomlinson and Tom Wilson. The classy Wilson is a certainty for Youth Player of the Year with his ability to control the speed of the game and make plays a treat to watch.
MT GAMBIER (2nd Net, 4th ORtg, 3rd DRtg)
The Pioneers have performed exactly as you would expect a championship favourite to perform. Richard Hill has them ticking along beautifully and it’s difficult to see them losing more than a handful of games including the playoffs. John Jones and Luke Jamieson are in the only battle for a starting spot whilst the team has performed well with everyone off the court except for Brad Hill or Tom Daly.
NUNAWADING (3rd Net, 2nd ORtg, 7th DRtg)
The fit of Dain Swetalla and Tom Wright into this established squad has gone almost seamlessly. Swetalla looks in peak condition and has picked his moments next to Conn whilst Wright has outshone Shane McDonald in terms of box-score numbers and on-off team numbers (the Spectres have been poor with Wright off but fine with McDonald off the floor thus far). Sharp shooter and versatile wing Matt O’Hea has missed time as has useful bench forward Jesse Caspersz but it hasn’t impacted Nunawading.
NW TASMANIA (14th Net, 13th ORtg, 13th DRtg)
It’s been a bit of a disaster for the Thunder with Danial Sepokas, who needed to be their 'rock', missing time whilst an import change has also occurred with Ahmad Starks joining the team in-season. Line-ups have had to be fiddled with and they’ve finally started Chudier Pal of late. The offense might be what improves as Sepokas gets some consistent game time and their stars start knocking down threes at a better rate.
SANDRINGHAM (10th Net, 14th ORtg, 8th DRtg)
Nathan Crosswell and Ethan O'Day are the two players sporting a positive plus-minus but the team has been mediocre overall as expected. They have OK depth and quality so can be competitive on almost any night but it feels like they need to find the right balance of wing and guard minutes to get their offense up to an acceptable level. Justin Gordon has departed whilst Igor Hadziomerovic should improve as the season progresses.
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