David Barlow deserves to be on the MVP shortlist
He doesn’t quite have the upside of some of his teammates but David Barlow, like Mitch McCarron, has been an elite role player on an elite team. Barlow is in the conversation for Melbourne’s second best player this season with his no fuss game helping allow a talented group to mould together. He plays both ends, guards different types, hits a bunch of timely shots and United are significantly better with him on the court.
Casper Ware is likely the league’s Most Valuable Player – a clutch shot-maker (#2 in the NBL for fourth-quarter FGM per spatialjam.com) and Defensive Player of the Year nominee – but Barlow deserved some love on this list.
The MIP criteria is an issue
Speaking of Barlow love, the nominations for Most Improved Player featured both he and Todd Blanchfield. These two, given their previous selections on All-NBL teams, shouldn’t feature on the short-list in my opinion.
The criteria for selection included the following: “significant improvement when referenced against their entire career to date”. Here are their recent NBL numbers per spatialjam.com
Nick Kay’s jump in production needs to be appreciated here after going from a solid starter to a lock for the All-NBL First Team. Outside of his typical hard-working and physical play on both ends, it might surprise some to see that he’s averaging almost identical assist numbers to Andrew Bogut and he's knocked down more than half a three per game. Kay is a plus-minus king and has gone above and beyond replacing Matt Knight’s void.
Shawn Long has not played like a DPOY contender
New Zealand have owned the worst defensive rating in the league all season and it’s that which has held them back in their pursuit of the playoffs.
Shawn Long’s inability to stay out of foul trouble and play defense in a normal scheme has contributed to that and his selection as a DPOY contender is perplexing considering how much zone they have been forced into playing. He has been an absolute force on the offensive end but if he truly was a contender for this award then the Breakers would be a playoff team and he would be the MVP.
Defensive impact numbers via HoopsDB:
Sixth Man of the Year is a tight race
Jordair Jett is the likely winner but the remaining contenders, and players who weren’t even nominated, are close in production and not producing huge counting stats.
The rookies have met the hype
Before the season we expected this to be one of the better rookie classes in recent memory and it has delivered. Harry Froling is the standout with his unique combination of bulk, shooting, passing and confidence already contributing to winning in Adelaide.
It’s been more flash than consistency with the others but Daniel Grida has tremendous promise as a two-way local star, Jack McVeigh’s trademark intensity has been on show, Emmett Naar is already close to the best passer in the league, Brian Bowen has more than a dozen dunks, and Rhys Vague has even managed to log minutes in one of the top team’s rotations.
Grading Rob Beveridge is going to be difficult
The Coach of the Year race is another close call right now with first and fourth position battles still well underway. One of Dean Vickerman or Trevor Gleeson may win it but there’s also more intrigue lower down the ladder.
Illawarra’s initial recruitment looked destined to limit their upside on the offensive end and this has certainly materialised – current rank of #8 in offensive rating. The mish-mash of talent and lack of shooting was something that Rob Beveridge helped recruit so how should we grade his ability to get that roster into serious playoff contention?