Way too early takeaways on Melbourne United's roster
United's gritty win over the Perth Wildcats and 2-1 record might overshadow deeper issues.
It’s never wise to start breaking out the reactionary takes early into the NBL season. At least, that’s the disclaimer that has preceded any discussion following Melbourne United’s absolute drubbing by the hands of the Sydney Kings last Sunday.
Though the Kings ended up winning 91-71, the 20 point margin doesn’t reflect the magnitude of how lopsided that contest was, with a half-time score of 57-23 rendering the game all but over far before its final whistle - United had a jarringly deflating performance.
Having said that, Melbourne redeemed itself —on the ladder, at least— with a Friday night 84-81 road win against the Perth Wildcats.
With the risk of looking ridiculous later in the year, here’s some early takeaways on Melbourne United’s performance so far, that are worth monitoring through this early stage of the season.
Melbourne United’s early concerns
It may feel unreasonable to be critiquing a team sitting at 2-1 early in the season, but there seems to be some early signs of concern coming out of Melbourne United.
It can’t be understated that the injuries to Shea Ili and Ariel Hukporti have been immense losses not only due to the direct loss of their production, but also how it has impacted the wider roster construction.
Vickerman, known for his focus on the defensive end of the floor, lost some key pieces on that end in the offseason. Jack White, one of the league’s best defensive pieces, jetted off to the NBA, whilst Jo Lual-Acuil, the league’s equal blocks per game leader last season, departed for China. It’s a void in the front court that was aimed to be filled by Ariel Hukporti, but after the German centre tore his Achilles at the NBL Blitz, a sudden burden has been placed on Isaac Humphries, slowly returning from his own stint on the sidelines after an injury-riddled NBL22 season.
Add in a concussion to Shea Ili —whose stifling point of attack defence was replaced by extra minutes to Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Lachlan Barker in the guard rotation— and United’s defence has come out of the gates sluggishly at best. The team, who possessed a league best 100.1 defensive rating last season, is currently sporting a league seventh rating of 115.9 (stat recorded from prior to Melbourne/Perth Friday night).
Their capitulation at the hands of Sydney aside, defensive woes were also evident in their round one victory against New Zealand.
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