By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Bryce Cotton had 36 points as the Wildcats cruised past the Adelaide 36ers. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Wildcats taking over the league once again
After being written off by many and a shaky start to the season the Perth Wildcats are now clicking on all cylinders. They’ve won their past five games and sit at the top of the NBL ladder with a record of 11-4, something this organization is so used to. I wasn’t sure how they’d go without an import wing to compliment back-to-back MVP Bryce Cotton, however the balance of the team is perfect right now. John Mooney has had a great first 15 games in the league averaging 17 points and 11.7rebounds per game, while Todd Blanchfield and Mitchell Norton compliment Bryce Cotton nicely on the wings. This team knows how to get the job done regardless of the personnel and after Cotton’s 36 points and Mooney’s double-double against the Adelaide 36ers, the Wildcats look to be taking over the league once again.
In the NBA, the period between the All-Star break and just before the playoffs is a bit dead. The excitement of the start of the season is gone, the bad teams are bad and the good trams are good. Everyone is sort of just waiting for the playoffs to come. Same thing in the AFL from about round 10 to round 17. Melbourne United have entered that lull period. They’ve lost three of their last four, including a 28-point loss to Sydney in round 10. Am I worried? No. They’re just waiting for that excitement of the impending playoffs to come, then I think we see the best of what United has to offer.
The Brisbane Bullets are a contender as the finals race heats up. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
The finals race is well and truly heating up
We could see the ladder shake up a fair bit from the way it stands now, however the most intriguing battle at the moment for me is third through to sixth. Currently in order of how the teams sit right now it includes the South-East Melbourne Phoenix, Illawarra Hawks, Brisbane Bullets and the Sydney Kings. Each of these teams are playing really good basketball right now with both the Phoenix and Kings on winning streaks. All four teams have looked good enough to mix it in the finals at their best, however there are only four spots in the finals. You’d expect both Perth and Melbourne to finish first and second unless things seriously fall apart. That leaves third and fourth open for most likely one of these four teams. With only a game separating third to sixth as we enter round 11 the finals race is well and truly on. Who will peak at the right time?
Rookie of the Year battle
I’ve seen discussions lately on the rookie of the year battle at the moment and it’s an interesting one. Josh Giddey is probably the leader for most putting up 10.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.3 steals on 41/30/67 shooting. Vasilijevic is putting up 17.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 49/46/87 shooting. Giddey is filling the stat sheet, I’ll give you that. He can’t shoot though. Vasilijevic however, is playing the perfect shooting guard role this season. Elite shooting (almost the amazing 50/40/90), decent rebounding for a 190cm player and passable defence. Close battle, but Vasilijevic is the man.
Ben Moore was massive for the Phoenix in Mitch Creek's absence. Photo: Getty Images
He’s an On The Pine man and he’s had an impressive season off the bench after a slow start to the season. He put up 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and 8-9 from the field and 7-8 from the free-throw line against Adelaide as he replaced Mitch Creek in the starting line-up. On the season he’s been a great energy guy for South East Melbourne however, in his first start we saw the dominance he can display too. If he wants to return, he’ll be a sought after product in the NBL for years to come.
The Breakers need their new signings on the court as soon as possible
The 2021 NBL season has been quite simply a disaster for the New Zealand Breakers so far. For a team that is stacked with so much talent it just hasn’t worked. Being stuck in Australia without a home base has made it really tough for them and obviously it is something out of their control. However, it’s not just not having a home base that has contributed to the disastrous start to the season. The rotations have been all over the place at times, it didn’t work out with star import Lamar Patterson who they eventually parted ways with last week, as well as injuries to star guard Corey Webster. The season had so much promise for the Breakers and while there is still a long way to go they’d be desperate to get Levi Randolph and Will McDowell-White into the lineup as soon as possible as their depth has taken a real hit with things simply just not going their way.
Cover Photo: Sydney Kings