NBL Season Preview: Melbourne Tigers
Credit: Melbourne Tigers Facebook
With the NBL season only days away, it's time to continue with our series of NBL club previews. Today, it’s the Melbourne Tigers’ turn to go under the microscope.
2012/13 Record: 12-16 (5th)
Stephen Dennis (Bakersfield Jam, NBA D-League)
Mark Worthington (KK Radnicki, Serbia)
Scott Morrison (Bremerhaven, Germany)
Auryn MacMillan (Wollongong Hawks)
You Won’t See:
Matt Burston (Cairns Taipans)
Chris Anstey (Coach)
Chris Anstey (Head Coach)
Darryl McDonald (Assistant Coach)
PG - Nate Tomlinson
SG - Chris Goulding
SF - Mark Worthington
PF - Tommy Greer
C - Scott Morrison
2013/14 Championship Odds: $7.00
The Tigers got off to a very slow start last season, before the mid-season signing of former top 10 NBA draft pick Johnny Flynn saw them charge home to miss out on a playoff spot by the smallest of head-to-head margins.
With the departures of Flynn (17.4ppg and 5.9apg) and fellow import Seth Scott, who also had an impressive season posting 11.6ppg and 6.2rpg while going at 52% from the field, the Tigers were always going to have to find some quality for this season if they wanted to build.
While it was always going to be difficult to replace a player of the quality of Flynn, the signing of combo guard Stephen Dennis looked like it may well have filled the gap before he went down at training with what is likely a season-ending Achilles injury, leaving backup point Nate Tomlinson to fill the sizeable void early.
Dennis, who stands at 198cm, came to Melbourne after a stint in the NBA D-League which followed on from an impressive college career at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, where he finished as the all-time leading points and assists leader among other accolades. With only a week until their first game, the Tigers look sure to be shorthanded in the first few weeks while they try to find a replacement.
Arguably the biggest off-season signing for Melbourne was that of Australian Boomer and former Tigers MVP Mark Worthington, who comes back to Australia after an injury-riddled stint in Serbia. Worthington will provide the Tigers with plenty of scoring to complement sharp shooter Chris Goulding.
Scott Morrison will fill the final import slot, which turned heads given how players of his size have struggled to make an impact in the league in recent years. The 7-foot Canadian will look to buck that trend and, if all goes according to plan, may well be able to provide the Tigers with a match-up to cause nightmares for the other clubs.
Morrison averaged just 10.4ppg and 4.7rpg in Germany and will need to increase his output in order to be successful in the NBL, particularly given the losses of Scott and Matt Burston over the pre-season. The good news for the Tigers, however, is that he shot 55% from the field, indicating that he could post big numbers if given the opportunities.
An injury free Adam Ballinger, off-season signing Auryn MacMillan and Lucas Walker will help form a front court which has plenty of scoring punch and defensive prowess. However more injuries to Walker, who is likely to resume within the first two rounds, and captain Tommy Greer, who will miss the first two months of the season, will test the depth of that frontcourt early.
The X-factor for the Tigers will be Goulding, however, after his breakout 2012/13 season which saw him earn a call-up to the national side and a stint in the NBA Summer League with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His 15.4ppg average fails to tell the whole story, with eight of his 27 appearances last season returning 21 points or more, capped by a run of five straight over this mark to end the season. After what will be a delayed start to the season due to an ankle injury, becoming a more consistent performer will go a long way to pushing the Tigers into the playoffs for the first time since their runner-up effort of 2008-09.
The Tigers will likely struggle early given their injuries, with both frontcourt starters and their captain missing. Replacing Dennis will be difficult at short notice, but will likely hold the key to Melbourne’s playoff chances. If they can earn a respectable record after the first month, at which point Goulding should return and a replacement import will likely have joined the club, then the finals will be on the table once more. For the time being, it will be a tough ask.