By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Jason Cadee drives past Jo Lual Acuil in Brisbane's upset win over Melbourne United. Photo: Brisbane Bullets
Here come the Bullets
A lot of people had written the Bullets off early in the season, however any team that is coached by Andrej Lemanis and captained by Nathan Sobey is always going to put up a fight. Going into the NBL Cup the Bullets were sitting at 3-4, they’re now 7-6 and are a massive chance to finish in the top three of the Cup with just two games remaining against both Adelaide and Sydney. More importantly though, they find themselves in the top four on the NBL ladder for the first time this season and above .500. Nathan Sobey is in career best form, Vic Law has been consistent throughout the first eight rounds, Orlando Johnson is starting to find his feet in the line-up, and key reserves Jason Cadee, Anthony Drmic and Matt Hodgson have provided strong minutes off the bench throughout the season. The team is extremely balanced and after defeating the two best teams in the league so far this season to date in Melbourne and Perth in round eight, there’s no reason why Brisbane can’t feature in the finals in 2021.
Kyle Adnam taking the opportunity
It’s amazing what trust and opportunity will do for a players’ confidence. While Kyle Adnam is not someone who has lacked confidence to this point in his NBL career however, he is taking his new starting role with both hands. In the three games he has started he’s put up 15.6 points, three rebounds and six assists. Give a player significant time and watch them flourish. Will there be growing pains? Probably. However, regular opportunity does a lot to a players’ confidence. They’re assertive in what they do on the floor, they get used to the speed and physicality of the game and they become productive. Some won’t, of course, but I can guarantee more do than don’t when given the chance.
Chris Goulding has settled into his new role nicely. Photo: Getty Images
Chris Goulding transition
It’s been fun to watch Chris Goulding’s transition from a heavily relied on star player to the impactful role player that we see today. When I say role player, I’m talking the highest grade of role player. Across the past two seasons we’ve seen him handball the responsibility to the likes of Mitch McCarron and Jock Landale, while he focuses on what helps Melbourne United the most. Spacing the floor and hitting threes. Sunday’s 21 point and six threes performance was the perfect example. Making the most of his touches and impacting the scoreboard. In the upcoming games, he may not get the same looks because the defence will be more attached to him, which open the lane for Landale, McCarron and Yudai Baba. The perfect transition from a star player; seamless and effective.
Space Cam has crashed
Cameron Oliver has been one of my favourite players since he entered the league last season because of how athletic he was around the ring, the way he crashed the boards and his presence on the defensive end of the floor. However, while still averaging 16.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in 2021 he isn’t having that same impact. Cairns played two games in round eight, the first was a win against the Sydney Kings 96-92, while the second a ten-point loss to the Adelaide 36ers 71-81. Against the Kings, Oliver had just 12 points and four rebounds, against the 36ers he managed only eight points and six rebounds. These numbers are very unlike Cam Oliver, and as a whole the Taipans looked flat against Adelaide, however this is when players like Oliver need to step up the most, his highlight plays can lift the group but when there’s no energy there there’s no fuel for Space Cam to take off. I hope he can re-capture his best form and the Taipans can get their season back on track, as he is one of the best players in this league at his best.
Nathan Sobey is putting together a career year for the Brisbane Bullets in 2021. Photo: Brisbane Bullets
MVP battle down to two
I may be calling it way too early, but Nathan Sobey and Bryce Cotton are my two locks for MVP candidates to this point. Sobey; 23.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 49/38/90 shooting splits with his team fourth on the ladder at 7-6. Cotton; 24.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals on 42/34/89 shooting splits with his team second on the ladder at 7-4. Splitting hairs at this point and while I love the efficiency of Sobey’s scoring, I’m going to stay with my pre-season pick and go with Cotton … for now.
The Jack White injury has paved way for Mason Peatling
Prior to Jack White dislocating his finger against the Adelaide 36ers in round seven Mason Peatling had only seen more than five minutes on the court so far this season once. In round nine Peatling played 17 minutes against the New Zealand Breakers, finishing with eight points and five rebounds providing big minutes off the bench for an injury depleted Melbourne United. In United’s second game of the round against the Brisbane Bullets, Peatling finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. With Jack White expected to be out for at least three more weeks Peatling will likely continue to see at least 15 minutes per game as the backup power forward, and if he continues to provides strong minutes off the bench like he did in round eight Melbourne United’s incredible depth just got deeper.
Cover Photo: Brisbane Bullets