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NBL Predictions: 2018-19

The best thing about AFL season nearing the end…it means Basketball Season is here!  Time for some real sport, so lets get into the 2018-19 predictions!

Like last season, 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.  Am I on the Kings bandwagon too??  Read on to find out…

Adelaide 36ers

In:  Adris DeLeon, Jacob Wiley, Harry Froling, Jack McVeigh
Gone:  Mitch Creek, Josh Childress, Shannon Shorter, Matt Hodgson

A few more changes this season than last, on paper the 36ers look to have a tough road ahead to make it back to the NBL Finals.  That said, write off a Joey Wright led team at your own peril – you better be fit to keep up with his Sixers run and gun style.

Mitch Creek has been the heart of this ball club for the past few seasons, and he’s off chasing US or Europe success.  Along with the losses of Childress, Shorter and Hodgson, the Sixers have some talent to replace this season.

Early indications are Jacob Wiley should be a drawcard in our league.  Long, athletic, there’s plenty of evidence of highlight reel moments on YouTube – lets hope he can add to this while in the navy of the Sixers.  Adris DeLeon is here to add composure to the PG role vacated by Shorter.  Youngsters Froling and McVeigh will look to impress as they begin their NBL journey.

Nathan Sobey becomes the main man of the Sixers core with Creek gone.  Johnson will look to backup another All-Star 5 season with a solid campaign inside, and further improvement is expected from Deng and Drmic.  Ramone Moore returns to the fold and with the injection of youth, he’ll have a bigger role to play from day 1 this season.

I feel the Sixers are in the mix for a 3rd to 6th place finish based on some of the improvement other clubs have made.  If Wiley lands as a gun, DeLeon can still control the game like his previous NBL stints, Sobey, DJ, Moore, Drmic and Deng all have solid or improved campaigns again, the Sixers are a very dangerous unit.  Just as easily though, the new parts don’t gel and the loss of Creek is more to the club than realised and they’re watching from the outside come Finals.

I’m predicting the former with another Playoffs campaign for Adelaide – as I said earlier, write off a Joey Wright mob at your own peril.

Brisbane Bullets

In:  Cam Gliddon, Mika Vukona, Matt Hodgson, Jason Cadee, Alonzo Gee
Gone:  Travis Trice, Daniel Kickert, Perrin Bufford, Shaun Bruce, Tom Jervis, Anthony Petrie

Thanks to Gliddon, Vukona and Gee, in my view the ‘Ins’ look better than the ‘Gones’ here, as such the Bullets should be on the way up this year.  In addition they get Cam Bairstow back fit after he missed all of last season so we can treat him as an in too.  However…

My concern here is the size and how they will balance all these one dimensional big guys in today’s brand of basketball.  Hodgson and Vukona wouldn’t do much outside the paint, Bairstow probably prefers being in there too.  Gibson and Holt are still around and should partner well with Gee but they seem to be another guard/shooter short for my liking.  Reuben Te Rangi promised much as a youngster but has never been consistent enough in the NBL to be relied upon.  Maybe Japanese recruit Makoto Hiejima is the missing piece to balance all this out – but as I won’t know much about him until this team trot out on opening week, it’s hard to predict much more than these Bullets climbing out of the bomb shelter but still short of a playoff berth.

Cairns Taipans

In:  D.J. Newbill, Melo Trimble, Devon Hall, Rob Loe, Jarrod Kenny, Lucas Walker
Gone:  Cam Gliddon, Mitch McCarron, Scoochie Smith, Nnanna Egwu, Stephen Weigh

Mike Kelly takes over the Cairns roster and it’s possibly the hardest one to make a call on this season.  Proven import D.J. Newbill is joined by two lesser known new imports in Melo Trimble and Devon Hall, and I expect those three will be the core of this team.  They have a bunch of bigs to go with them – Nate Jawai, Alex Loughton, Rob Loe, Lucas Walker and Mitch Young.  But I can see the majority of the scoring coming from the 3 imports here.

Jawai could be a bit of a sleeper given the fact we haven’t seen him fully healthy for a while.  If he is good to go and gets through the season, they are a smokey for the playoffs.  Also if those 3 imports really do gel together and one can put in an MVP-like season, that is the other way they could be in the mix.  Personally I just don’t see it and right now, I’m thinking it might be a tough first season for Kelly.  Perhaps he’ll get on the phone to Boy Goorj a bit for tips and turn this thing around!

Illawarra Hawks

In:  Cedric Jackson, Brian Conklin, Jordair Jett, David Andersen, Todd Blanchfield, Emmett Naar
Gone:  Rotnei Clarke, Nick Kay, Mitch Norton, Demetrius Conger, Rhys Martin, Oscar Forman, Delvon Johnson

Talk about going back to the future.  Looking at this roster, I was wondering if Saville and Campbell might still be able to make a return??  Looks like some solid in’s… from 5 years ago in the NBL!  Conklin and Jackson can certainly play, Jett I’m not so sure about.  Andersen is rounding out his stellar career back where it started and Blanchfield is another player trying to reignite things.  If they could have also kept Clarke in the squad, they would really have a contender.  Ogilvy, White and Coenraad remain in the core from the previous model, so overall the roster does look capable.

There will certainly be some night where these guys will have the will to prove old clubs and maybe old team mates a thing or two and lock in some surprise wins.  Add in the Rob Beveridge factor as one of the best coaches in the league on the sidelines and these guys will be dangerous.  Dangerous but not quite good enough or consistent enough to make the playoffs and the losses of Clarke, Kay and Norton are too big to cover.  But they will grab some big scalps especially on their home floor.

Melbourne United

In:  D.J. Kennedy, Mitch McCarron, Alex Pledger, Dan Trist
Gone:  Casey Prather, Tai Wesley, Majok Majok, Kyle Adnam, David Andersen

Defending champs, aiming to go back-to-back and start a dynasty…and they might be on to something too.  Casper Ware and Josh Boone return, along with Chris Goulding to lead the title defence.  Barlow and Moller also with bigger parts to play this season if they are to repeat.  Mitch McCarron is a great addition and will help cover some of the defensive lapses seen in the past, while Pledger will pair with Boone in a very formidable centre lineup.

But losing both Prather and Wesley could be an issue here.  As with Adelaide losing Creek, there’s a fair bit of soul for the United team walking out the door there, especially with Wesley.  I felt his physical play was a barometer for them last season and without him it might be tough to bring everyone together on all night.  Still there is enough here to get back to the playoffs for sure.

New Zealand Breakers

In:  Tai Wesley, Armani Moore, Jarrad Weeks, Shawn Long, Patrick Richard, Majok Majok
Gone:  Edgar Sosa, D.J. Newbill, Kirk Penney, Alex Pledger, Rakeem Christmas, Rob Loe

They lose an alltime Kiwi great in Penney, the entire Tall Black centre lineup in Pledger and Loe, cycle through 3 new imports and yet I look at this roster and can’t help but think they are a chance to be down to the final 2 again.  Why is this so?

Three key components of the current Tall Black squad is here with Webster, Ili and Abercrombie.  So if we’re talking up the Kings for their Boomer component, these guys also need a mention.  Ok, so there’s no one as credentialed as Bogut here.  But all 3 are in their prime which is something we can’t say about Sydney.  Tai Wesley is as tough as anyone down low, then Finn Delany was also impressive at times last season and should continue to grow with this squad and a perfect transition piece for Tom Abercrombie in the years to come.

What sets them further apart are the three imports.  Moore, Long and Richard all look to be very handy in the NBL so this roster has a bunch of depth.  Add to that the fortress they will set up for travelling teams coming over to New Zealand, and the Breakers are in the mix for sure this year.

Perth Wildcats

In:  Nick Kay, Terrico White, Mitch Norton, Tom Jervis
Gone:  J.P. Tokoto, Jarrod Kenny, Derek Cooke Jr, Lucas Walker, Matt Knight

Well Perth have done it again.  When Matt Knight retired last year and with Damian Martin also in his final seasons, many were thinking the reign of Perth over the NBL may finally be coming to a close.  So what did they go out and do to address it…

  1. Sign Bryce Cotton up for 3 years!  Yes, he could split at any time for an NBA opportunity perhaps, but that is unlikely.  So getting him for 3 years to keep a consistent import core is a great get.
  2. Nick Kay signs on as perhaps a perfect replacement for Knight.  Tough, unassuming, and his game just keeps getting better.  Check out some of his recent Boomers work for an example of that.
  3. Who else in the NBL could be seen as the heir apparent to Martin??  Did I hear ‘Mitch Norton’??  Ok, so Perth just goes and gets him too!!

As tough as this is for me to say being a 36ers man, the Wildcats could be seen as being in a transition year and still look like possible title favourites – with Brandt, Wagstaff, Hire and Steindl still around, plus another quality import in Terrico White too!  Urgh.

Sydney Kings

In:  Andrew Bogut, David Wear, Daniel Kickert, Kyle Adnam, Tom Wilson, Deng Deng, Brian Bowen
Gone:  Perry Ellis, Tom Garlepp, Jason Cadee, Todd Blanchfield, Isaac Humphries

As the Kings trotted out the big name signings this season, without thinking it through I had them pencilled in on paper as the team to beat.  Bogut, even with the age and miles on his frame from the years toiling in The Show, should dominate other NBL bigs.  His scoring may not be up there, but smarts on the glass and of course the passing should have fans impressed throughout the country.  How often do we get to have a #1 NBA Draft pick in our league, even if he is in the twilight of his career??

Randle, Lisch, Newley, Kickert and Bogut as the starting 5.  Wow!  That has Championship written all over it.  However after that it thins out – considerably.  As such, this unit reminds me a little of the Lakers in 2004 where they targeted an all time great starting 5, but eventually lost to a better team in the Pistons.  Same could play out here I think.  Randle is the youngest of that starting five at 31, so it will also be interesting to see if the experience counts or if the pace of the modern game is too much at times.  No doubt the starters have the talent, but in a team sport I worry about the depth after Wear and maybe Bowen for these Kings.  Playoffs would have been a guarantee by ownership – if that looks like missing, Drewey will be fired!  Finals look a real stretch unless everything clicks into place with Randle and Lisch having MVP calibre seasons.

Regular Season Tips

  1. New Zealand – the mix of local NZ talent, imports and up and coming youngsters has them very hard to beat.
  2. Melbourne – Title defence tracking nicely throughout the regular season.
  3. Perth – Starting a rebuild?  Please.  Everything remains on track in the West for another championship tilt.
  4. Adelaide – DeLeon and Wiley fit into Joey’s system perfectly, Drmic and Deng continue to grow.  Sneak into 4th late in the season.
  5. Sydney – I’ve cooled off on this team!!  An alltime great starting 5 but may only be out there 20% of the time??  Who else steps up??  Dog fight with Adelaide for 4th.
  6. Brisbane – Looks like a team built for the 90’s NBL with all that size.  Mobility issues hurt, but they get some good scalps and ultimately drop away in the final weeks.
  7. Illawarra – Tough team to come up against, well coached and will get some surprise wins.  But they are in the battle for the bottom.
  8. Cairns – Unless Mike Kelly has been able to teach everyone his style of D in the preseason, Cairns will slide to the bottom with this roster.


  • New Zealand v Adelaide – New Zealand sweep this one 2-0.
  • Melbourne v Perth – Perth are running on all cylinders now and escape with a 2-1 win here.


  • New Zealand v Perth – The two big clubs from the past decade are at it again.  Another 5 game series epic with the silverware crossing the ditch again.  Breakers 3-2.
  • MVP – Bryce Cotton goes back to back.

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