By Liam Melrose
Wildcats center John Mooney was on fire against the Sydney Kings. Photo: Getty Images
Mooney steals the show from Cotton and Ware
Looking at the round six match-up between the Perth Wildcats and the Sydney Kings you’re immediately drawn to the battle of the superstar point guards in Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware. However, it was Wildcats center John Mooney who stole the show. Mooney finished with an incredible stat line of 30 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while shooting 12/13 from the field. He is the first player in NBL history to finish with 30 points and 18 rebounds while shooting at least 90% from the field with one three-point attempt. Ware and Cotton both had really strong games scoring 34 and 30 points respectively, however it was the Perth rookie John Mooney who well and truly put himself on the NBL map.
Hopson seriously lacking confidence
In our round five six pack I spoke about how good Melbourne United star Scotty Hopson looked against the Illawarra Hawks, however fast forward just over a week and Hopson looks to be lacking confidence yet again. In United’s round five win against the Hawks he finished with 21 points and nine rebounds and looked to be back to the Scotty Hopson we’re used to seeing. Going into round six there were high hopes he had recaptured his 2019/20 season form, however in Melbourne’s loss to the Perth Wildcats he scored just 10 points shooting a lackluster 5/16 from the field and 0/6 from behind the three-point arc. In United’s second game for round six against the Cairns Taipans he was no better, finishing with just eight points while shooting 4/12 from the field. Against the Taipans, Hopson looked to have little confidence often looking to pass mid-shot, in one instance even passing the ball out of bounds while in the midst of an open shot. That is an obvious sign of someone who is playing with little to no confidence. He is a star of this league as he showed with the New Zealand Breakers last season, and while there is still a long way to go this season he needs to turn it on as soon as possible, to lift both his confidence and ultimately his team.
Mitch McCarron continues to lead from the front for Melbourne United. Photo: Melbourne United
McCarron and Baba a perfect match
In the absence of Chris Goulding and Shae Ili, Yudai Baba has filled a void and the backcourt of Mitch McCarron and Baba is a perfect fit. In United’s round six match against the Taipans the pair combined for 34 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, and six steals, McCarron had the bulk of the steals and assists however as a starting shooting guard Baba has slotted in perfectly. He is great defensively, he can attack the ring and can also shoot the ball as well. McCarron has been terrific as a stand-in captain for Chris Goulding, playing the extremely tough brand of basketball he is known for attacking the basket, while also getting his teammates involved with a number of open looks. Mitch and Yudai are building quite the back-court tandem.
The Taipans let another one slip
Cairns looked to be all over Melbourne in round six, leading at the first break 25-17 and looking to be in control of the match for a majority of the night. However. they were overrun by United in the fourth quarter, something Taipans fans have become used to through the first part of this season. Across their first ten games they’ve only managed to win four final quarters. Three of those matches they led going into the fourth quarter, if they had won those three final quarters from each of those games they’d find themselves sitting in the top four with a record of 6-4. However, as a result Cairns currently sit second last with a record of 3-7, and while they’re definitely not the eighth best team in this league that’s what happens when you struggle to finish off games.
Matt Hodgson took his game to another level with a career high 20 points in round six. Photo: Brisbane Bullets
Matt Hodgson is back
Matt Hodgson has shown how good he can be at different stages throughout his career. In Brisbane’s round six match against the South-East Melbourne Phoenix, Hodgson put up 20 points along with nine rebounds in just over 20 minutes. The Bullets have struggled to find a consistent center in the early part of this season with both Harry Froling and Tyrell Harrison sharing the starting role, however after Hodgson’s performance against the Phoenix he deserves the opportunity to start.
Louzada the key to success if he can stay healthy
Didi Louzada has been injury plagued ever since he came into the league last season, however when he's healthy he is one of the best players in the NBL. In round six against the Perth Wildcats Louzada provided a spark off the bench for the Kings, finishing with 19 points, shooting the ball at 53.8% from the field, including 5/9 from behind the three-point line. Louzada hit some incredibly tough shots, and reminded the league just how good he can be when he is injury-free. If he can avoid any further injuries this season he significantly boosts Sydney’s hopes at a championship.
Cover Photo: Sydney Kings
By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Mitch McCarron put in a captain's performance in round five with 17 points and seven rebounds. Photo: Melbourne United
Mitch McCarron leading from the front
Mitch McCarron is known as one of the league’s best combo guards, can shoot the ball but can also pass the ball extremely well and isn’t afraid to crash the glass either. As the stand-in captain for the injured Chris Goulding in round five, McCarron took his game to another level finishing with 17 points, seven assists and three rebounds. He plays like a leader and this really showed on Wednesday night. If he can continue this form through the NBL Cup, Melbourne United already have one hand on the silver wear.
Nathan Sobey has got the grit
Last season I implored Nathan Sobey to take the leap and become an MVP front-runner and lead Brisbane to the finals. I got it in small glimpses. 2021? I’m getting it in spades and I love it. Sobey isn’t taking any sh**, and is carrying the load of the team on his back. He’s leading the league in scoring with 24.3 points a game and managing nearly four rebounds and four assists a game. While also tossing up 48/34.5/86 shooting splits. If he can manage to lift his three-point shooting to around the 38 percent mark he’ll be really taking his game to another level. Teamwise the Bullets sit sixth with a 3-4 record, but they’ve shown promising signs and Sobey is leading them the right way.
South East Melbourne and Perth played twice in round five with both teams winning one game each by large margins. Photo: South East Melbourne
The round five Yo-Yo
If you look at round five of the NBL season it could best be described as a Yo-Yo round. On Thursday night, the Perth Wildcats defeated the South-East Melbourne Phoenix by 31 points, however on Sunday afternoon it was the complete opposite, with the Phoenix getting the job done by 25 points. Both games were played on the same court. Another example was the two games we saw between the Adelaide 36ers and the Brisbane Bullets. On Saturday, the 36ers defeat the Bullets by 15 points in Brisbane, however on Monday night the Bullets toppled the 36ers in Adelaide by 19 points. If round five is anything to go by, the NBL Cup is going to be extremely hard to predict.
Sam Froling has the tools
He’s shoulders are a little hunched over and he kind of runs funny but I’m a big Sam Froling fan. He can do most things pretty well. Had some great defensive moments against Jock Landale during the Hawks match-up with United in round five, and hurt them on the other end at stages. He’s not setting the world on fire by any stretch with 11.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and a block per game. However, he has nice footwork offensively, can find his way to the rim and finish and he can defend. Oh, and he’s only just turned 21. He has a very bright future if he can develop a three-point game, and can get to the free-throw line more consistently.
New Zealand's Lamar Patterson is struggling to find his 2019/20 season form. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Lamar Patterson … ouch
I don’t want to jump too hard on the big fella, who knows what else is going on in his life. However, it’s grim reading at the moment. 10.4 points on 33/20/56 shooting splits. A tad over four rebounds and just over two assists per game. To top it all off, the wildly pre-season fancied New Zealand Breakers are bottom of the table at 1-4. Lamar playing terribly, not in shape and the team performing badly, not an ideal to start a new year.
Hopson stands up to propel United past the Hawks
Prior to round five, star Melbourne United import Scotty Hopson had experienced a shaky start with his new club. However, he turned it on against the Illawarra Hawks to propel his team to victory. Finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds and three assists he looked somewhat back to his old self, the Scotty Hopson we’re used to seeing. With no Chris Goulding for a few more weeks expect Hopson to continue to feature in the scoring column.
Cover Photo: South East Melbourne Phoenix
By Liam Melrose
Yudai Baba lifted Melbourne United over the Perth Wildcats in round four. Photo: Melbourne United
The Yudai Baba show was on full display at Bendigo Basketball Stadium in round four. Baba came off the bench to finish with 14 points, three rebounds and two assists, however he did it at both ends of the floor with his length on show, managing two blocks and two steals. With superstar Chris Goulding going down with a calf injury, United needed someone to step up with the match in the balance, and the explosive Japanese guard did just that. With Shae Ili and Chris Goulding expected to miss up to four weeks, I expect we’ll see Baba slot into the Melbourne starting unit for more Baba Brilliance.
Deng and Noi lift to slither Taipans past Breakers
Majok Deng and Kouat Noi combined for 39 points on Monday night as the Cairns Taipans defeated the New Zealand Breakers 84-69. Over the past two seasons the bulk of the Cairns scoring has come from Scott Machado and Cam Oliver, however Deng and Noi are both proven scorers and they reminded us just how dangerous they can be on Monday night. The balance of the Taipans starting unit was back to their best in round four and if they can keep this up they’ll get their season back on track.
Jarrell Martin was at his best on Saturday night as the Sydney Kings cruised to a 94-75 win over the Adelaide 36ers. Photo: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
Casper and Jarrell an almighty combination
Casper Ware has had somewhat of a shaky start to the 2021 season, however on Saturday night he was back to his best. After a scoreless first quarter, the superstar went on to finish with 27 points, 14 of those coming on the back of a phenomenal fourth quarter performance. His stat line also included 6/10 from behind the three-point arc, he was back to the Casper Ware we have become so used seeing to over the past few seasons. While Ware finished off the 36ers, it was Sydney’s other import Jarrell Martin who started the game superbly on his way to 23 points, as the pair combined for 50 points as they cruised to a comfortable 94-75 win.
Kings find the Key to getting past 36ers
The Adelaide 36ers were on a roll going into their round four match-up with the Sydney Kings, having won four of their last five games including their most recent over the Kings a week earlier. However, the Kings found the key to stopping the 36ers on the offensive end, put the clamps on Isaac Humphries. With Humphries in career best form and arguably Adelaide’s best player right now, they have looked to be one of the better teams in the league. On Saturday night, the Kings limited him to just four points and in doing so shut the 36ers down completely.
Cam Gliddon finished with 15 points on the back of 5/11 shooting from behind the three point line against the Illawarra Hawks. Photo: Martin Keep/Getty Images
Sharpshooting Gliddon finds his range
South East Melbourne’s Cam Gliddon has been one of the league’s best shooters for a number of years. However, prior to round four he hadn’t found his range, with the guard/forward really struggling. On Sunday against the Illawarra Hawks he flicked a switch, hitting five threes and reminding us of how dangerous he can be when he is at his best. The Phoenix look a whole lot better when he is hot.
Alarm bells for the Breakers
The New Zealand Breakers were tipped by most to finish the 2021 season in the top three. However, at the moment they look a long way off it. On paper they’re one of the most talented rosters in the league, however currently sitting at 1-3 it’s simply not working, and they could very well be 0-4 if it wasn’t for a late rally to pull off a come from behind win against the Taipans on Saturday. It seems as though the Breakers coaching staff isn’t sure what their best rotation looks like. It's simply a shambles and while it’s only early days, they need to turn things around quickly otherwise the season will get away from them.
Cover photo: Cairns Taipans
By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
The Hawks depth has been a key reason for their early season success. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
The Depth of the Hawks nest
If you watch The Hawks right now whoever is on the floor can play at both ends. The depth is incredible. The starting unit of Tyler Harvey, Justin Simon, Justinian Jessup, A.J Ogilvy and Sam Froling is so well balanced. When Brian Goorjian rests his starters, players such as Isaac White and Deng Deng are coming off the bench and having an impact, propelling what the starters have setup. In most cases when a team takes off its star players you might expect them to fade a little, however The Hawks are looking settled and the depth they have means no matter who is on the court, they are going to swoop. Keep in mind they have been without Deng Adel and Cameron Bairstow for the most part who you’d expect to slot into the starting unit only increasing what is already an incredible amount of depth.
Oliver/Machado putting up numbers, but Cairns can’t defend
If you looked at Cam Oliver’s and Scott Machado’s stats, you would think Cairns would be a top four team. 18.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2 blocks on 53/32/69 shooting splits for Oliver and 16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8.8 assists on 40/36/64 splits for Machado. There’s some negatives in there, Oliver’s three-point and free-throw shooting isn’t great and Machado’s field goal and free-throw percentage are below average. However, the stats are decent and they pass the eye test. What’s letting them and the team down is their defence. 93.2 points allowed per game is the second worst in the league. They’re lowest points allowed through six games is 86 against Sydney in round one. Since then, they have allowed 92, 99, 87, 90 and 105 points. Their start has included five games at home, meaning the schedule only gets harder from here for Cairns.
Victor Law's heroics against Cairns helped Brisbane to a 2-0 weekend. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
I was wrong Brisbane
In the round two six pack I said Brisbane were the most irrelevant team in the NBL and I didn’t see them beating Sydney or Cairns in round three. I was wrong. They grinded out a win on Tuesday against the Kings 90-87 and thanks to Victor Law’s heroics at the buzzer they went on to beat the Taipans 105-103 on Saturday. Both great games to watch and two clutch wins by the Bullets. They somehow managed to re-bunk both my claims from last week. Not only did they win, they won the hard way in must-see basketball. Now back on track with some relevance in the league.
The Jack White Impact
Going into this season four positions of the Melbourne United starting lineup looked a lock, Mitch McCarron at the point guard spot, Chris Goulding the shooting guard, Scotty Hopson at small forward, and Jock Landale at centre. However, there were question marks over who would play that four position, would it be United veteran Dave Barlow or ex-Duke University captain Jack White? United elected to go with White, and its proven to be a great move. He looks right at home at the power forward spot and is providing great balance to a starting unit that has a number of players that can shoot the ball. White has been great on the defensive end, however it was on the offensive end in round three where he played his best game for the season so far with 22 points and six rebounds in just over 22 minutes on the floor. If he can keep up this level of play he is right at home in the Melbourne United starting unit.
Bryce Cotton has started right where he left off last season, beginning 2021 in MVP form. Photo: Getty Images
Bryce is proving me right with MVP start
I don’t want to go the early crow but in my pre-season prediction, I picked Bryce Cotton for MVP. Why? He’s the best player on a team that will be competitive and doesn’t have other stars around him to take shots off him. Valid, it’s only been two games. However, 29.5 points, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals on 49/36/90 shooting splits is a hell of start. As long as Perth can win enough games and be around the top four mark, Cotton will do his thing and in my eyes, will be the MVP.
Adelaide raising eyebrows
Most pundits wrote the Adelaide 36ers off before the season even began, with many questioning the level of talent on the roster. So far the question marks people had have been answered. After their opening night thrashing at the hands of Melbourne United it looked as though the only scorer the 36ers had was Daniel Johnson. However, following that game Adelaide have won four of their last five games and the unit as a whole is looking much stronger than expected. Isaac Humphries is sending shockwaves around the league with his early season form, while 18-year-old NBA prospect Josh Giddey is living up to the hype. Giddey’s form has even relegated NBA veteran Donald Sloan to the bench, something none of us would’ve expected. If Johnson, Humphries and Giddey keep putting up the numbers they have as well as Sloan providing strong minutes off the bench, there is no reason why Adelaide can’t play finals in 2021.
Cover Photo: Getty Images