NBL 2017/2018 Season Preview
NBL season is here!
Opening night sees the 2016-17 minor premiers Adelaide host the 2017-18 favourites Melbourne United in a blockbuster to kick off the season.
We won't be releasing any tips or bet recommendations until teams have played at least 5 games as there are numerous new players (including big name imports) who we want to take a look at how they will perform in the NBL before attempting a punt.
However that's not going to stop us from taking a (potentially ill-advised) look into the crystal ball and have an educated guess as to how the season will pan out.
The Team To Beat: Melbourne United
We're with the bookies on this one (in fact if anything we are even more bullish than the $3.50 on offer for a United flag) - Melbourne United have put together one of the best NBL sides in history. The acquisition of Casey Prather from the Wildcats to play alongside stars Caspar Ware and Chris Goulding give Melbourne the most potent offence in the NBL. Add the most intimidating big man duo in Josh Boone and Majok Majok and the experience and guile of David Andersen and David Barlow and it is clear United have a talent edge over the competition. Our model currently has the difference between United and the 2nd best team as greater than the difference between the 2nd best team and the 8th best team. Can these team of stars gel to be a star team? That is perhaps the only question mark on United.
The Main Contenders: Perth Wildcats, Sydney Kings, Illawarra Hawks, Adelaide 36ers
The Wildcats are perhaps Australia's greatest sporting organisation and are going for a three-peat. They've lost Casey Prather but their new imports come with big wraps and any team with Bryce Cotton must be feared. The Wildcats veterans Damian Martin, Matt Knight, Greg Hire and Jesse Wagstaff are consistent performers with elite defensive skills whilst Angus Brandt is rapidly improving and has experienced a great off-season with the Boomers. Expect the Wildcats to be around the place.
Sydney were a major disappointment last season but still have the talent on their list with veterans Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley to be a contender. The Kings will be hopeful their imports can gel better than the struggles from last season.
Illawarra were surprise Grand Finalists last season and are often under-rated without some of the "name" stars of other clubs. However, the TBP model rates the Hawks higher than most and if new acquisitions Demetrius Conger and Delvon Johnson can fire alongside AJ Ogilvy, Kevin White, Oscar Forman and co the Hawks could surprise again.
Adelaide have a similar looking line-up to the side that swept all before them in the regular season last year before getting upset by the Hawks in the semi finals. One big difference and the reason many are tipping them to plummet down the ladder is the loss of superstar Jerome Randle. We aren't quite as pessimistic as most and whilst we don't expect the Randle-less 36ers to dominate like they did last season, we still expect them to be very competitive with Ramone Moore and Ronald Roberts to attempt to offset much of the burden carried by Randle.
The Battlers: Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans, New Zealand Breakers
It is perhaps unfair to call any sides battlers in what should be once again a very even league (perhaps with the exception of Melbourne United) however our preliminary view is that the Bullets, Taipans and Breakers are starting from a little further back than most.
The Bullets were a clear last in 2016/17 albeit their 2nd half of their season was ruined by injuries. Picking up Cairns MVP Travis Trice gives their back court a lot more potency and with a decent run with injuries we expect Brisbane to be better in 2017/18.
The Bullets gain is Cairns loss and we see a sans-Trice Taipans as one of the sliders of this season. The Taipans finished the regular season in 2nd last year before crashing to the Wildcats in the semis but it is hard to see them replicating that in 2017/18. With issues in regards to long term injuries and late arriving imports there are a lot of unknowns about Cairns and we expect they'll be slow starters.
The Breakers recent dominance of the NBL took a hit last season and we can't see them turning it around this season. Once again there are plenty of unknowns - particularly with new import Edgar Sosa and it would be foolish to write off the proven feats of the likes of Kirk Penney and Tom Abercrombie. However for ours we just can't see the Breakers matching it with the likes of United, the Wildcats and the Kings.