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NBL 2017/18 Predictions

Tonight, a new NBL season tips off here in Australia with the Adelaide 36ers hosting Melbourne United.  The league just continues to get stronger as basketball enjoys a renaissance here in Oz.  Looking at the season ahead, here’s my thoughts…

I’ll take a look at each team first, the ins and outs plus a quick overview of how I think they will fair.  Then at the end of the post will be my prediction of finishing order.  As with most NBL season recently, I expect this one to be close again, although will it be as close as last season where every team was still eligible for finals with a couple of rounds to play.

Adelaide 36ers

In:  Ramone Moore, Shannon Shorter
Gone:  Terrance Ferguson, Eric Jacobsen, Jerome Randle

(Updated Oct 5th – The 36ers have had to release Ronald Roberts from his 1 year deal due to a knee injury.  Below notes have been edited to accommodate this change.)

Returning all the local talent to the regular season champion 36ers roster should ensure the fire burns strongly to avenge last seasons playoff letdown.  Dropping the semi final series to the Hawks was a big shock for the Sixers so we’re looking for Creek, Sobey, Johnson and Co to drive this group back to the playoffs in 2017/18.

The two import In’s look good in the early going, with Ronald Roberts Jr. also looking promising before the 36ers had to release him due to injury.  PG Shannon Shorter has played overseas in various locations and although he has big shoes to fill – namely 2016/17 MVP Jerome Randle – the fact he has a little more size than Randle will help on the defensive end.  Ramone Moore on the wings will be key to work in with Creek, Sobey and Drmic, while probably another big man to replace injured and released Roland Roberts Jr. will be necessary to help Daniel Johnson and Matt Hodgson battle the big bodies down low.  Brendan Teys has been elevated to the captaincy with Mitch Creek away for Australian duty at times, not to mention his questionable decision online in the offseason landing him in hot water!

With possibly the best group of local talent in the league, as proven from last season, plus the addition of what look to be 2 good imports fitting into roles often needed in the NBL, the Sixers look primed for another post season push – especially once the third import spot is filled.  I think the regular season title might slip through their grasp this season but they will be in the mix for March playoff action and hopefully take the next step into the Finals series.

Brisbane Bullets

In:  Perrin Buford, Stephen Holt, Travis Trice
Gone:  Cam Bairstow, Torrey Craig, Jeremy Kendle, Isaih Tueta

With a starting lineup of Buford, Trice, Holt, Daniel Kickert and Tom Jervis, the Bullets look to put a disappointing last placed finish last season behind them.  The 2016/17 campaign was ruined by injuries and poor form (Jermaine Beal had won championships in Perth but was cut from the Bullets) so the squad is looking for a better outcome this time around.

The players are here to do it.  Along with the starting 5 mentioned before, experienced Aussies Adam Gibson, Anthony Petrie, Shaun Bruce and Mitch Young along with kiwi Ruben Te Rangi round out the core roster and on paper it looks like a team which can push for a finals berth.

Already there are some early injuries to Mitch Young, Shaun Bruce and Tom Jervis.  Also the big man depth and quality looks a little suspect especially if Jervis misses time.  In all likely-hood they remain on the outside looking in come February, but still a unit not to be taken lightly on any given night.

Cairns Taipans

In:  Michael Carrera, Kuany Kuany, Dayshon Smith
Gone:  Fuquan Edwin, Tony Mitchell, Travis Trice, Mark Worthington

Cairns will roll out and expected starting unit of Mitch McCarron, Cam Gliddon, Dayshon Smith, Michael Carrera, and big Nate Jawai to open proceedings.  Then off the bench they’ll bring in Nnanna Egwu, Alex Loughton, Stephen Weigh and Jarrad Weeks.  After sneaking into the payoffs last season they were no match for Perth and the initial look at the roster for this season has me thinking they will come up short again too.

Last season, the US talent was so strong so guys like Smith and Carrera need to hit the ground running for a repeat performance.  I haven’t seen much of these guys but on the surface the roster just doesn’t jump out at me as being playoff worth, given guys like Loughton and Weigh are a year older and little back court depth behind McCarron, Gliddon and Smith.

Illawarra Hawks

In:  Demetius Conger, Delvon Johnson
Gone:  Marvel Harris, Michael Holyfield

The Hawks made it all the way to the big dance last season, before being blown away by Perth.  It was a great effort given the tight operating budget in Illawarra, and so heading into 2017/18 the outlook appears much the same – a need for guys to play at an extremely high level nightly to challenge again.

Stability in the roster is key, with guys like Rotnei Clarke, Tim Coenraad, Cody Ellis, Oscar Forman, Nick Kay, Rhys Martin, Mitch Norton, AJ Ogilvy and Kevin White all returning.  Given how well this unit clicked last year, they are again in the box seat to get back to the playoffs, although the NBL Finals series looks a tougher ask.

Melbourne United

In:  Peter Hooley, Craig Moller, Casey Prather
Gone:  Todd Blanchfield, Igor Hadziomerovic, Owen Odigie, Nate Tomlinson

Predicted to be the pace setter a year ago, we’re feeling a little groundhog day about the United lineup this season as they are right up there again with one of the best squads on paper heading into 2017/18.

Boomers experience in Chris Goulding, David Barlow and David Andersen, championship experience with Casey Prather crossing the country from Perth, solid kiwi Tai Wesley, then gun imports Casper Ware and Josh Boone – it is impressive.  Majok Majok, Craig Moller and Kyle Adnam will round out the bench too.

Melbourne goes in as a regular season favourite in my eye, but will they come out the other side with silverware or a frustrated Casper Ware after watching Goudling dominate the ball with countless questionable looks??  Time will tell…

New Zealand Breakers

In:  James Hunter, DJ Newbill, Edgar Sosa
Gone:  Paul Carter, Kevin Dillard, Akil Mitchell, Corey Webster

A very disrupted season in 2016/17 saw the Breakers slide down the ladder.  Perhaps it is being far removed from the NZ media, but for mine I think this trend will continue this season.  The golden era of the NZ team is on pause for the moment as this current group searches for it’s identity.

The ever dangerous Kirk Penney is still in town, along with jack-of-all-trades Mika Vukona, and a fit Tom Abercrombie will no doubt help.  Although I wonder if all these injuries are starting to take a toll on his slashing, athletic style of play and it will be great to see if he can adapt his game accordingly.

Alex Pledger and Rob Loe bring Tall Black experience, and much will be expected of Edgar Sosa and DJ Newbill, otherwise they will follow Dillard, Carter and Mitchell out the door.  Solid but unspectacular, just out of the playoff race too.

Perth Wildcats

In:  Derek Cooke Jr., JP Tokoto, Lucas Walker
Gone:  Jameel McKay, Casey Prather, Shawn Redhage

The champions are back and here to defend their crown.  All legitimate roads to the title will pass through Perth Arena again this season, Damian Martin, Bryce Cotton and the crew from the west-side will ensure that!

Although Melbourne may get the nod for the regular season title, I think Perth can reign supreme again over a Finals series and Bryce Cotton will walk away with the MVP award.  Martin, Matt Knight, Jesse Wagstaff, Greg Hire and Angus Brandt add muscle and grunt to the squad, while Lucas Walker will be keen to he still belongs in the league.  If Cooke Jr. and JP Tokoto slot in to accompany the crew and not disrupt, the long trek to Perth will bring most undone again this season.

Perth are the defending title holders and my pick to get the chocolates again this season.

Sydney Kings

In:  Todd Blanchfield, Perry Ellis, Isaac Humphries, Travis Leslie, Dane Pineau, Amritpal Singh, Adam Thoseby
Gone:  Jeromie Hill, Garrett Jackson, Aleks Maric, William MCdowell-White, Craig Moller, Josh Powell, Dion Prewster, Greg Whittington

Wholesale changes were the order of the offseason in the Harbour City.  They started on fire, and led the league around the halfway mark.  Then is all went south which has no doubt contributed to the fire sale to prepare for 2017/18.

Blanchfield is a great pickup, keen to see more opportunity outside of Goulding’s lengthy shadow from United last season.  Landing Humphries was a coup and certainly helps fill a gap in the guard rotation.  They appear to have employed guys to do a little bit of everything this year, based on the lineup appearing to miss a true PG and true C.  A bunch of SG, SF and PF types to hustle and scrap towards the playoffs.

Some of their competition looks better to me.  Even with Lisch, Newley, and Cadee back, I’m not sold on the purple and gold.  Although they do have one more import spot to fill and the lure of the biggest city in Australia could just jag them some cut NBA talent once the season begins.

Regular Season Tips

  1. Melbourne United – talent to burn, regular season winners.
  2. Perth Wildcats – strong, solid, dependable.
  3. Illawarra Hawks – home court a fortress, stability key.
  4. Adelaide 36ers – take a little to gel, will peak at the right time this season.
  5. Sydney Kings – nearly, but not quite.
  6. Cairns Taipans – brave last season, fall short this time.
  7. Brisbane Bullets – improved if healthy, still not quite.
  8. NZ Breakers – Dangerous at home sometimes, where is the next wave of kiwi’s?


  • Adelaide d Melbourne – United miss the role players to do the dirty work and Adelaide gets by.
  • Perth d Illawarra – Perth in a canter like Winx.


  • Perth d Adelaide – Sixers may take one at home, but Perth win again.
  • MVP – Bryce Cotton (Perth)

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