Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art
Last season was by far the most brutal and hectic, yet also both thrilling and entertaining in the NBL’s entire history as a competition. G1 of the finals series in Sydney saw former NBA Guard Casper Ware miss a last-second three-point attempt in front of a full-house for Perth to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Then the Kings beat the Wildcats on their home-court, in a close-to-empty RAC Arena to even up the scores at 1-1. And then back to an empty Qudos Bank Arena, the Wildcats were victorious. And due to COVID concerns, the rest of the series was cancelled, and electric Guard Bryce Cotton and his team-mates had delivered their side a much deserved, yet also very controversial Championship. However, gone are Kay, White and Plumlee. Will Cotton be able to get the Wildcats back into the finals of his own back?
The losers of that series, the Sydney Kings, have had their own key departures over the off-season. Will Weaver took up an assistant coach role at the Rockets. Whilst the star of the show, Jae’Sean Tate, is also now at the Rockets. And Andrew Bogut, the former NBA Championship winner decided to call it quits as well, as he announced his retirement not all that long ago. How will the Kings fare with their former coach and influential players no longer being a part of the club?
And Lamar Patterson. WOW! Just WOW! In one of the craziest off-season moves in recent memories, the NBL stud moved from Brisbane to NZ, in what is a huge, huge gamble for himself and the club. Brisbane afforded him the chance to be the LBJ or the Jimmy Butler of that franchise. But at the Breakers, guys such as Corey Webster will be balling out constantly. How will he fit in there? And those are the three burning questions headed into this coming NBL campaign. Let me get right into them!
How Cotton could ball out?
In the Wildcats latest pre-season match, he was limited to just 7 points on 2/7 shooting from the court. However, despite those woeful numbers, he still managed to pull in 5 boards and dish out 4 assists. Even without his points, he was still able to have some sort of meaningful impact when he was out there playing. And in his pre-season game prior to that encounter, he went off for 25 points, which included hitting 5/7 from beyond the arc. He also had 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal.
No matter how teams try to limit him, he’ll always find a way to make an impact. And this is especially important when you consider how other star Guards fared at various stages last season.
Goulding of MEL had some pretty poor games. Ware of SYD was virtually non-existent during the GF series. And Lamelo Ball of ILL got his points, but only by virtue of taking a huge number of shots to get there.
Yet through it all, even if he was down in the dumps, Cotton was still taking most of the NBL to school. Even fairly recently the Atlanta Hawks wanted him, but he elected to stay in Perth and that just says everything you need to know about how much of a baller he actually is. If it all goes right, he’ll be leading the Wildcats to an insane 11th Championship this season.
How he could fail?
The Wildcats have made the post-season 34 consecutive times. If Cotton failed to deliver their fan-base at the bare minimum a finals appearance, it could be quite costly to his legacy, that despite what he’s already achieved in the game and in the NBL.
Not only is it the added pressure that comes with representing Perth, but the fact is that they’ve lost a lot of experience and strong shooters over the off-season. Gone are Kay and White, both 2X NBL Championship victors. As is Miles Plumlee, a man who played 9 seasons in the NBA.
Now, look at who they’ve brought in to replace those players. One is John Mooney. A fine young player in his own right, but he went undrafted in the NBA and this is his first professional club. Those aren’t exactly Championship inspiring calibre moves right?
And finally, Cotton already gets enough defensive attention. It will increase 10X over now given the lack of consistent shooting support placed around him. If it all goes wrong, Perth’s finals streak will be broken and his legacy ….. severely dented.
How Sydney will succeed without their winning coach and winning players?
Sure, Will Weaver’s gone, the first legitimately good coach that the club has had in a long while. But replacing him is Adam Forde, a man who knows a thing or two about the NBL. He was an assistant coach at Perth for eight years before joining the Kings and he was a part of the reason behind their massive successes as of late.
One of the things he’s best known for is his player-development skills. So that should be massively beneficial to players such as Didi (21) and Glover (22), guys who are both expected to play key parts in the Kings season.
Then, with a bit of line-up reshuffling, Dejan Vasiljevic was brought into the mix, as was Jarell Martin. Vasiljevic played for Miami in College, and like Tate, has proven to be a very capable scorer. Whilst he also is a flame-thrower from deep. He made a record (for Miami) 51 3’s as a freshman. And Martin replaces Bogut like for like, they both played in the NBA prior to their arrival in the NBL, whilst their best attributes are their ability to rebound the ball and do the nitty-gritty stuff on both sides of the floor such as taking contact hits, etc. If it all goes right, Sydney will have broken their Championship drought.
How Sydney just won’t be the same without the three key men in tow?
Now to a more negative view on things. Will Weaver took the Kings to somewhere they hadn’t been since arriving back into the NBL. Not even the god-like Andrew Gaze was able to get them as far as Weaver did!
Onto Tate, he made a very solid argument that he was the 2nd best player in the NBL during his short time there, behind only Cotton. He somehow gave the Kings a chance at life in their finals series vs Perth, and he consistently provided a spark. And willed them at various points throughout the season when the team’s heads were down, or they were perhaps struggling for points a bit.
Bogut brought the tenacious defensive ability and the attitude inside the paint. During his last meaningful campaign in the NBA, he averaged just 4.4RPG and 0.7BPG, two statistics that don’t exactly make for great readings, but highlight how effective he is in other areas of the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Bogut also won an NBL MVP and Best Defensive Player Award. There’s a lot to live up to in the C position in Sydney.
If it all goes wrong this season, the Kings will be absolute flops, Forde will be without a job and Ware will no longer have a club. There’s a LOT of pressure on the Kings to succeed this season and so there should be given the players they have and the money that has been invested into the club.
How Patterson gets everything to break right for the Breakers (no pun intended)?
Just like Scotty Hopson did in NZ last season, Lamar Patterson can come to the Breakers and quickly make them his own. In his only two seasons in the NBL, he’s been named in the All-First team twice, not to mention in the season prior to his arrival in Queensland, he was the Chinese NBL Scoring Champion. He’s also achieved success over in Italy and has previously repped the Atalanta Hawks. During his lone season in Puerto Rico, after the Bullets were officially eliminated from finals contention, he averaged a fine 13.3PPG, 5.3RPG and 5.5APG.
What he could achieve and what he could do, linking up with Corey Webster and a lot of the Tall Blacks, could be quite simply phenomenal. If it all goes well for them this season, then they could be in serious Championship contention c the business end of the season.
How it proves to be a shocking career move?
Webster has played for NZ much longer than Patterson has, 9 seasons longer to be exact! He’s the star Guard and knows this team inside and out and may well expect to be the main option during the crunch-time bit of games.
That may force Patterson to take a bit more of a back seat then he intended. Which may not suit his game. Look at the struggles of Kevin Love going from being a NO.1 option with Minnesota to a NO.3 option with Cleveland, or the same thing happened when Melo Trimble left Cairns to go to Melbourne. Players don’t always adapt well, and it shows. If Patterson doesn’t adapt, then fans may call for his head early on and that can only negatively affect his performances. It’s absolutely crucial to him that he gets off to a quick start for the Breakers. If he can’t succeed with NZ, then they ain’t making the finals. And if they don’t make the finals then boy oh boy, LOOK OUT!
Those are the three burning questions headed into this current NBL season. And with that in mind, another question is, have you brought a membership to show your support for your club? With the effects of COVID still being felt throughout most of Australia, clubs need your support now more than ever. This comes about as they attempt to navigate through one of the most stressful and difficult periods in the NBL’s history. Show your support and pride for your team by purchasing a membership or tickets to games right here. And if it’s not directly available there, you can always visit the club’s website for more information. https://nbl.com.au/tickets It’s gonna be one hell of a season!