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United they stand (NBL Preview)

IT'S going to be an NBL season like no other, where resilience and the ability to cope with unforeseen circumstances play as big a role as talent and Xs and Os.

But before hitting the COVID-19 trail, let's start at the beginning. In June, I personally and my site here was subject to considerable ridicule from some of the game's new wannabes when I correctly declared Brisbane Bullets prodigy Will Magnay would be playing NBA next, not NBL.

Yes, my information he was heading out immediately was flawed, but the fact he would not be in the NBL this season but in the NBA instead, that anyone reading between the lines when Harry Froling was signed by the Bullets - alongside returning "big" Matt Hodgson - could see Brisbane knew Magnay's departure was imminent, and also breaking Anthony Drmic was bound for the Queensland capital all proved 100 per cent on the money.

I'm not reminding readers to earn any belated kudos but to caution some that you actually don't enhance your own credibility by trying to demean someone else's. Hopefully it is lesson learnt. But I doubt it. Just revisit my third paragraph below.

To paraphrase the words of Canadian author, journalist and public speaker Malcolm Gladwell, journalism is a "first draft of history". It takes time to get to the full truth.

Another who should learn his lesson is the scribe who assailed the NBL for what actually has been a prudent and careful approach to constructing its 2021 season. The fact we are even on the verge of a season is a credit to the League and also to the clubs who in these uncertain times have to be very nimble on their feet as any new corona-virus case hits.

Anything you read on from here is based on the shaky premise the season is not unduly affected by the pandemic, even though we all know life can change within a city, a state and a nation at a moment's notice courtesy of COVID-19.


MVP: Scott Machado (above), Bryce Cotton or Mitch Creek would be on my first line of betting.

All Star Five: Scott Machado (Cairns), Bryce Cotton (Perth), Scotty Hopson (Melbourne), Mitch Creek (South East), Cam Oliver (Cairns).

Rookie of the Year: Josh Giddey (Adelaide) from Mojave King (Cairns)

Best Defensive: Deng Adel (Hawks)

Best Sixth Man: Corey Webster (Breakers)

Most Improved: Sam Froling (Hawks)

Coach of the Year: Dan Shamir (Breakers). No. Wait. This category is now "Best Director of Basketball". Apologies all around.

Ref of the Year: Mr V-for-Video Mayberry


1 Eastern states scribes will write off Perth Wildcats' chances of an 11th title, substituting wishful thinking for genuine analysis.

2 The erratic officiating and self-serving television commentary will be weekly topics of fan derision and frustration.

3 Todd Blanchfield will make Wildcats fans forget Terrico White.

4 Darryl McDonald will oversee Mitch McCarron's development into a Big Mac point guard, and Hungry Jack's will not be impressed.

5 Any time Scotty Hopson plays a blinder, Lamar Patterson comes up huge in NZ's next game.

* * *


4 (1986, 1998, 1999, 2002)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 25 (last time 2018)
Homecourt: Adelaide Entertainment Centre, capacity 11,300
Last season: 12-16, 7th
Coach: Conner Henry (17-14, 53%)
Returning: Daniel Johnson, Jack McVeigh, Brendan Teys, Daniel Dillon, Alex Mudronja
New: Isaac Humphries (NBA G-League), Donald Sloan (import – Germany), Tony Crocker (import – Turkey), Josh Giddey (Next Star), Sunday Dech (Illawarra Hawks), Keanu Pinder (Poland)
Gone: Eric Griffin (import – Israel), Jerome Randle (import – Spain), Ramone Moore (import - checking emails), Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets), Harry Froling (Brisbane Bullets), Kevin White (Perth Wildcats), Obi Kyei (The Mandalorian), Head Coach Joey Wright (Transition Sports Adelaide)
Likely Starting 5: Donald Sloan, Josh Giddey, Tony Crocker, Daniel Johnson, Isaac Humphries.
Best Case: Conner cajoles a killer season out of his vets and new faces to become Henry the Vth with the club's fifth championship.
Worst Case: He doesn't, instead collecting the wooden spoon and "Clarke of the Court" (dis)honours.
Money Man: Daniel Johnson
Time-Out: Joey Wright has decided against attending Conner Henry's inauguration.
Tip: 8th

* * *

3 (1985, 1987, 2007)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 22 (last time 2019)
Homecourt: Queensland State Netball Centre, capacity 5,000
Last season: 15-13, 5th
Coach: Andrej Lemanis (198-174, 53%)
Returning:  Nathan Sobey, Jason Cadee, Matthew Hodgson, Callum Dalton (DP), Blake Jones (DP), Kian Dennis (DP)
New: Orlando Johnson (import – Russia), Vic Law (import – NBA G-League), Anthony Drmic (Adelaide 36ers), Harry Froling (Adelaide 36ers), Tanner Krebs (St Mary’s College), Tamuri Wigness (Next Star)
Gone: Lamar Patterson (import – New Zealand Breakers), Will Magnay (NBA – New Orleans Pelicans), Cameron Gliddon (South East Melbourne Phoenix), Reuben Te Rangi (South East Melbourne Phoenix), Mika Vukona (Southern Districts Spartans), Taylor Braun (import – Israel), EJ Singler (import – NZNBL).
Likely Starting 5: Nathan Sobey, Anthony Drmic, Orlando Johnson, Vic Law, Matthew Hodgson
Best Case: Hodgson stays out of foul trouble, Froling frolicks, Vic lays down the law and so be it, the Bullets narrowly miss the Final Four.
Worst Case: Andrej Lemanis scoots off mid-season to coach Latvia, nicknames the national team "The Borchst" but returns disenchanted after Kristaps Porzingis refuses to come off the bench.
Money Man: Vic Law
Time-Out: With five former 36ers on the roster, the Bullets have become "Adelaide Lite."
Tip: 9th

* * *

NBL Playoff Appearances: 8 (last time 2020)
Homecourt: Cairns Convention Centre, capacity 5,300 / Cairns Pop-Up Venue, capacity 2,500
Last season: 16-12, 3rd, lost 1-2 to Perth Wildcats in semi finals
Head Coach: Mike Kelly (23-36, 39%)
Returning: Scott Machado (import), Cam Oliver (import), Mirko Djeric, Kouat Noi, Majok Deng, Nathan Jawai, Jarrod Kenny, George Blagojevic, Fabian Krslovic
New: Mojave King (Next Star), Jordan Ngatai (New Zealand Breakers), Jordan Hunt (DP)
Gone: DJ Newbill (import – Japan), Anthony Fisher (Cairns Marlins)
Like Starting 5: Scott Machado, Mirko Djeric, Kouat Noi, Majok Deng, Cam Oliver.
Best Case: Reunited and rejuvenated, the Kelly Gang goes all the way and wins the club's historic first championship.
Worst Case: DJ Newbill's absence is felt more acutely than expected, heavy expectations weigh down the team's younger brigade and they narrowly miss the playoffs.
Money Man: Scott Machado
Time-Out: The Taipans are rapt Brisbane now is recruiting from Adelaide and not Cairns.
Tip: 2nd

* * *

1 (2001)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 19 (last time 2017)
Homecourt: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, capacity 5,800
Last season: 5-23, 9th
Coach: Brian Goorjian (514-221, 70%)
Returning: Sam Froling, AJ Ogilvy, Emmett Naar, Daniel Grida
New: Tyler Harvey (import – Germany), Justin Simon (import – NBA G-League), Justinian Jessup (Next Star – Boise State University), Deng Adel (NBA G-League), Cameron Bairstow (Lithuania), Isaac White (Stanford University), Max Darling (Croatia), Deng Deng (NZ Breakers), Akoldah Gak (DP)
Gone: LaMelo Ball (NBA – Charlotte Hornets), Josh Boone (import – Bahrain), Todd Blanchfield (Perth Wildcats), Sunday Dech (Adelaide 36ers), Angus Glover (Sydney Kings), Tim Coenraad (retired), David Andersen (Limbo), Head Coach Matt Flinn (Centrelink)
Likely Starting 5: Tyler Harvey, Justin Simon, Justinian Jessup, Deng Adel, Sam Froling
Best Case: The NBL's most successful coach weaves his (South East Melbourne) magic, the Hawks rise as kings and drag-on into the Final Four.
Worst Case: Cam Bairstow struggles to stay healthy, the Hawks remain a work-in-progress with better times around the corner.
Money Man: Tyler Harvey
Time-Out: Boy-Goorj now has only the league's second-best nickname, behind Yeah-Naar.
Tip: 5th

* * *

*1 (2018)
NBL Playoff Appearances: *4 (last time 2020)
{*Does not include Melbourne Tigers history}
Homecourt: John Cain Arena, capacity 10,000
Last season: 15-13, 4th, lost 1-2 to Sydney in semi finals
Coach: Dean Vickerman (113-78, 59%)
Returning: Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron, David Barlow, Shea Ili, Jo Lual-Acuil, Sam McDaniel, Sam Short (DP)
New: Jock Landale (Lithuania), Scotty Hopson (import – New Zealand Breakers), Jack White (Duke University), Yudai Baba (Japan, NBA G-League), Mason Peatling (DP)
Gone: Melo Trimble (import – Spain), Shawn Long (import – Korea), Casey Prather (import – Israel), Tohi Smith-Milner (NZNBL), Venky Jois (NBA G-League), Alex Pledger (NZNBL)
Likely Starting 5: Mitch McCarron, Chris Goulding, Scotty Hopson, David Barlow, Jock Landale
Best Case: McCarron is a huge hit at PG, Goulding plays like it's an Olympic year, Hopson is Hopson, it all clicks when it matters and United secure their second (sixth?) title.
Worst Case: Barlow, fitter and stronger than most at his position, continues to slow down regardless, Dean Vickerman is distracted by Smith-Milner and Pledger in the stands giving him the Kiwi stink-eye and Melbourne stumbles out in the semi finals.
Money Man: Scotty Hopson
Time-Out: Jonah Bolden is believed to have his nose out of joint because United went with "The Jock".
Tip: 1st

* * *

: 4 (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 8 (last time 2018)
Homecourt: Spark Arena, capacity 8,500
Last season: 15-13, 6th
Director of Basketball: Dan Shamir (15-13, 54%)
Returning: Tom Abercrombie, Finn Delany, Corey Webster, Rob Loe, Jarrad Weeks
New: Tai Webster (Turkey), Lamar Patterson (import – Brisbane Bullets), Colton Iverson (import – Russia), Daniel Trist (South East Melbourne Phoenix), Rasmus Bach (Denmark), Kyrin Galloway (DP), Taine Murray (DP), Isaac Davidson (DP)
Gone: RJ Hampton (NBA – Denver Nuggets), Sek Henry (import – Turkey), Scotty Hopson (import – Melbourne United), Brandon Ashley (import – NBA G-League), Jordan Ngatai (Cairns Taipans), Ater Majok (Qatar)
Likely Starting 5: Tai Webster, Lamar Patterson, Tom Abercrombie, Finn Delany, Colton Iverson
Best Case: Searching Webster's Dictionary under "great players", you find pics of Tai and Corey as the Breakers add title #5 to their trophy cabinet.
Worst Case: Patterson shows up looking like HMAS Lamar and the Breakers stay stuck in dry dock.
Money Man: Lamar Patterson
Time-Out: Every rival team's post-match buffet will include a sharp knife, a ripe avocado and a Corey Webster place-name. 
Tip: 3rd

* * *

We told you last year and the same applies yet again... (This time they're chasing the threepeat)

10 (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 34 (last time 2020)
Homecourt: Perth RAC Arena, capacity 14,000
Last season: 19-9, 2nd. Won championship over Sydney 2-1
Coach: Trevor Gleeson (247-171, 59%)
Returning: Bryce Cotton, Jesse Wagstaff, Mitch Norton, Clint Steindl, Majok Majok, Wani So Lo Buluk
New: John Mooney (import – Notre Dame University), Todd Blanchfield (Illawarra Hawks), Jarred Bairstow (Brisbane Capitals), Taylor Britt (DP), Tom Jervis (retirement), Kevin White (Adelaide 36ers), Andrew Ferguson (DP), Corey Shervill (DP)
Gone: Nick Kay (Spain), Terrico White (import – Puerto Rico), Miles Plumlee (import - by the phone), Damian Martin (retired), Rhys Vague (Japan)
Likely Starting 5: Mitch Norton, Bryce Cotton, Clint Steindl, Todd Blanchfield, John Mooney
Best Case: Cotton's citizenship happens sooner than later, the Wildcats bring in a new import face, Damian Martin missing half of last season has Perth well-prepared for life without him and they hang Title #11 in the rafters.
Worst Case: Martin's leadership is acutely missed, Cotton does not become an Aussie in time and Perth misses the Final Four for the first time in 35 straight attempts. Yeah. I giggled when I wrote it too.
Money Man: Bryce Cotton
Time-Out: If the Wildcats win it all again, Shawn Dennis wants a cut of the prizemoney.
Tip: 4th

* * *

NBL Playoff Appearances: -
Homecourt: John Cain Arena, capacity 10,000
Last season: 9-19, 8th
Coach: Simon Mitchell (9-19, 32%)
Returning: Mitch Creek, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens, Kyle Adnam, Dane Pineau
New: Keifer Sykes (import – Greece), Ben Moore (import – NBA G-League), Cameron Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets), Yanni Wetzel (San Diego State University), Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets), Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (DP), Tristan Forsyth (DP)
Gone: John Roberson (import – Spain), Keith Benson (import – Lithuania), Tai Wesley (retired), Ben Madgen (retired), Daniel Trist (New Zealand Breakers), Terry Armstrong (NBA undrafted), Deng Acuoth (Ballarat Miners)
Likely Starting 5: Keifer Sykes, Cam Gliddon, Reuben Te Rangi, Mitch Creek, Ben Moore
Best Case: Gliddon and Te Rangi relish their career lifelines, Creek continues to expand his game, the imports are studs and the Phoenix are into the post-season in Year 2.
Worst Case: Gliddon confuses "stops" for "flops," Pineau's SEM sophomore season after returning from injury is hindered, Creek runs into a steady stream of double-teams and the Phoenix are flummoxed.
Money Man: Mitch Creek
Time-Out: Simon Mitchell will reach out to "Aussie" NBA guard Kyrie Irving if the Phoenix again suffer a mid-year slump.
Tip: 6th

* * *

3 (2003, 2004, 2005)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 15 (last time 2020)
Homecourt: Qudos Bank Arena, capacity 18,000
Last season: 20-8, 1st, Lost Grand Final Series 1-2 to Perth
Coach: Adam Forde (R)
Returning: Casper Ware (import), Didi Louzada (Next Star), Brad Newley, Shaun Bruce, Daniel Kickert, Xavier Cooks (currently injured), Craig Moller, Jordan Hunter
New: Angus Glover (Illawarra Hawks), Thomas Vodanovich (New Zealand Breakers), Dejan Vasiljevic (University of Miami), Jarell Martin (import - NBA G-League) 
Gone: Andrew Bogut (retired), Kevin Lisch (retired), Jae’Sean Tate (NBA - Houston Rockets), Deshon Taylor (import - by the phone), Lucas Walker (retired), Coach Will Weaver (NBA - Houston Rockets)
Likely Starting 5: Casper Ware, Brad Newley, Didi Louzada, Craig Moller, Jarell Martin 
Best Case: Casper has a point (or quite a few points) to prove, Shaun the Bruce becomes William Wallace, Brad Newley has a championship-charge left in him and Sydney sneaks into the post-season.
Worst Case: The player losses are too great to ignore, the rest of the core returns but a step slower, injuries remain a factor throughout and the Kings finish in debasement.
Money Man: Casper Ware
Time-Out: If they can finish atop the throne, the Kings want the Grand Final reduced to a one-and-done at home, while Jordan Hunter says he plans to maintain the tradition and will collect the Best Defensive Player trophy on behalf of the winner.
Tip: 7th

* * *

(*Thank you to Sydney Kings historian and renowned NBL broadcaster Matt McQuade for his assistance compiling the meticulous team lists)

This Just In: Joey Wright, Rob Beveridge, Paul Henare, Shawn Dennis and Chris Anstey are in talks to form the Forever Under-valued Coaches Klubbe, Yet Outstandingly Unique. But they are apparently ignoring any calls and emails from Dean Demopoulos, Ian Robilliard and Matt Flinn.

Roll on Friday aaaand, Let's get it started...

Jan 12

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