NBL Season Preview: New Zealand Breakers
|Dean Zardo||Oct 4, 2013|
The NBL season is inching closer as we countdown to the first tip for 2013/14. We will have a look at three-time defending champions New Zealand in today’s edition of our season previews.
2012/13 Record: 24-4 (1st)
Kerron Johnson (Belmont University, College US)
Darnell Lazare (Sydney Kings)
Jeremiah Trueman (Perth Wildcats)
Dean Vickerman (Coach)
You Won’t See:
Cedric Jackson (Slovenia)
Dillon Boucher (Retired)
Andrej Lemanis (Coach)
Ruben Te Rangi
Dean Vickerman (Head Coach)
Paul Henare (Assistant Coach)
PG - Kerron Johnson
SG - Thomas Abercrombie
SF - Mika Vukona
PF - Darnell Lazare
C - Alex Pledger
2013/14 Championship Odds: $4.00
New Zealand returns for season 2013/14 gunning for an unprecedented fourth straight NBL title. If they are to go back-to-back-to-back . . . to-back however, they will have to do it without 2012/13 league MVP Cedric Jackson, who jetted off to Europe over the off-season.
Jackson took the league by storm, averaging 14.6ppg, 5.9rpg, 6.8apg to go with 2.8 steals per contest, including a triple-double against Melbourne and, more importantly, Johnny Flynn, highlighting his exceptional talent.
He was ably assisted by big man Alex Pledger, who averaged 10.7ppg and 7.3rpg while shooting at a 51% clip. Pledger’s inconsistency is the only downside of his play, and if he can get that right this season he may well hold the key to the Breakers' championship run this campaign.
The loss of coach Andrej Lemanis to the Australian national side will also hurt, but understudy Dean Vickerman will come in having spent six years as the Breaker’s assistant coach. He should be able to jump straight in and lead the team with little time needed for transition.
The off-season import signings of Darnell Lazare from the Sydney Kings, who enjoyed averages of 11.3ppg and 7.2rpg in his first NBL season, and undrafted Belmont University product Kerron Johnson, who has impressed in the pre-season, will bolster the existing squad.
Johnson, standing at 185cm, plays a similar game to the man he will be replacing at starting point guard, and in his first season out of college will definitely be one to watch. Whether or not he can match, or at least get near, the level of play Jackson delivered to the Breakers will go a long way in determining the outcome of their season.
The team, with the exceptions of Jackson, fellow import Will Hudson and retiring stalwart Dillon Boucher, has been kept together in an ominous sign for the rest of the competition.
Thomas Abercrombie, who is coming off a disappointing campaign where he offered up numbers of 11.2ppg and 4.6rpg, will be one player the Breakers will to as someone to fill the scoring left by Jackson. Abercrombie’s ridiculous potential was on full display in 2011/12 where he averaged 15.2 points a contest and he will need to get back to that form this season.
The squad remains as deep as ever, with the likes of Darryl Corletto, CJ Bruton and the ever-improving Corey Webster to provide plenty of scoring punch off the bench, while the energy of Mika Vukona will provide the spark at the defensive end.
The Breakers face a tough ask to win the competition again with the loss of Jackson, but that’s exactly the type of challenge this club will thrive on. The jury will be out early on Johnson, but if he can plug the hole at the point then his team will be in it all the way to the end once again. Look for Pledger, Abercrombie and Lazare to pick up the rest of the offensive slack. Whether it will be enough will be the burning question.