By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Mitch Creek will be a huge loss for SEM, is their season done? Photo: Getty Images
The Phoenix slip is coming
No Mitch Creek means no South East Melbourne. Creek has been charged with assault and will cease training and games while the matter if before the courts. What that means for the Phoenix is the beginning of the end of their season. They face Adelaide in round 10, still a very winnable game but they face Melbourne United in round 11. With the ladder as it is, games are going to become even more important and the Phoenix won’t have the cattle to take it to the finals.
United sent back to the pack
Melbourne United entered round nine with a win loss record of 10-2, two games clear of the Perth Wildcats who sit second on the NBL ladder. They finished round nine with a record of 10-4 and suddenly they’re only one win clear at the top of the ladder. Since round five United has been in clear air with the best record in the league by a long way however, after losing three straight games they’re suddenly back in the pack. It doesn’t get any easier for United as they face the Sydney Kings on Friday night in Sydney who won’t be beaten easily. They’ll return to Melbourne to face the Illawarra Hawks on Sunday at John Cain Arena who defeated them on Saturday night by eight points.
Josh Giddey has exceeded the hype heaped on him in the pre-season. Photo: Getty Images
Josh Giddey has lived up to the hype
Going into the season I wasn’t reading into the Josh Giddey hype. I knew he was extremely talented, however the jump from junior basketball straight into a professional league with grown men isn’t easy, especially with all the extra attention he was drawing. However, he has lived up to the hype and round nine was a perfect example. Across two games he averaged 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 12 assists. Let’s not forget he is only 18. He also led the NBL Cup in assists per game, averaging 7.4 across eight games. In my eyes, he is actually playing at a higher level than LaMelo Ball did in his twelve games played with the Hawks last season. Ball was taken by the Charlotte Hornets with pick three in the 2020 NBA Draft, therefor there’s no reason why Giddey can’t be a lottery pick if he continues playing like this for the remainder of the season.
Battle for third and fourth
The top two spots are lined up, Melbourne United and Perth will be the one and two seeds, the order of the two is yet to be determined. The battle for third and fourth is intriguing, however. As it stands, Illawarra are third at 9-6, South East Melbourne are fourth at 9-7, Brisbane fifth at 8-7 and Sydney sixth at 7-8. All four well and truly in the hunt, all four have had great stretches and poor ones this season, we’ve seen their best and their worst. We can’t forget about New Zealand either, who are way back in eighth at 4-9, but it’s feasible they could make the finals. This race has become the new season in the season. My pick; Illawarra third and Sydney fourth by seasons end.
Lamar Patterson's return to Brisbane might not necessarily be a good thing for the team. Photo: AAP
Why interfere with something that’s working?
When I saw the Brisbane Bullets had released Orlando Johnson to make way for Lamar Patterson I was surprised. The Bullets have been in red hot form and as the NBL Cup progressed it looked as though they had finally clicked. Nathan Sobey is playing at an MVP level, Vic Law has been a terrific find and the bench has been excellent providing strong minutes. Orlando Johnson may not have been putting up huge scoring numbers but he was a good fit defensively and could score the ball if he had to. If you have players like Sobey and Law next to you as well as your reserve options being scorers in Cadee, Drmic and Hodgson you can’t be expected to put up large scoring numbers. The addition of Patterson isn’t ideal as he now has to find his way back into their system under an injury cloud while also being out of form. Before his injury, he was struggling immensely with the New Zealand Breakers averaging just under 11 points per game. Why tamper with something that’s firing on all cylinders Brisbane?
Cairns three-point shooting
It was clear from the opening couple of games of the season that Cairns were going to live and die by the three. They put up the most in the league, 30.8, but shoot the third worst percentage at 34.6 per cent. The way modern basketball is played, this is a recipe for disaster. They put up 7-24 against New Zealand in round nine and lost. They were better against the Phoenix at 10-20, but the damage has been done, their confidence is shot and the seasons done.
Cover Photo: NBL