After spending years in the wasteland of the Australian sporting landscape, the NBL has found new life in recent times. It’s clear that the local league has improved dramatically and gained in popularity over the last couple of years.
As we approach the halfway point of season 2018/19, let’s take stock of what’s happened so far and what we’ve got to look forward to for the rest of the campaign.
Return Of A King
In what could be argued was the biggest signing in NBL history, former number one NBA draft pick Andrew Bogut signed with the Sydney Kings over the off-season. Bogut’s signature was an enormous boost for the Kings, the league and the general profile of basketball Down Under.
The NBA Champion centre has delivered in spades on the court so far this season, averaging a double-double with 11 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting the ball at 57% from the field.
It’s worth watching the Kings play for the Bogut factor alone.
Talent At An All-Time High
Lindsay Gaze is considered by many to be the Godfather of Australian basketball, and is one of the most respected figures in the game in this country.
So when the great man declares that last year’s talent in the NBL was ‘the best talent I’ve ever seen and it’s gone up another notch’, it’s worth listening.
And he’s not wrong, with a host of recent NBA draftees, ex-NBA players and Australian national side representatives gracing the court each week.
It’s no surprise that the likes of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand all pushed their NBA opponents until deep into the fourth quarter during their pre-season clashes in the US.
New Rivalries Are Born
Each club plays each other four times in season 2018/19, with two each on their home floor and often alternating from home to away. That leaves plenty of room for rivalries to develop over the course of the season as mini-battles within the war are fought in each series.
Melbourne and Sydney has historically been the league’s biggest rivalry, and a fiery pre-season match only threw petrol on that flame.
Melbourne’s Chris Goulding and Craig Moller and Sydney’s Daniel Kickert and Andrew Bogut were involved in a scuffle, and that would simmer over and eventually culminate in a sold-out match in Melbourne as Bogut returned to his home state as the enemy.
Some new rivalries have been forged so far this season as well, with emotions bubbling over in a clash between Adelaide and Illawarra as Harry Froling and Jordair Jett got tangled up.
— joanna grace healy (@jogracehealy) November 17, 2018
The teams met the following week in Illawarra and things got heated again, with technical fouls and ejections flying:
The @Adelaide36ers‘ finals hopes have suffered a big blow with a fiery and controversial 11-point loss to the Hawks in Wollongong. Three players were ejected – including Sixers star Jacob Wiley. @andrew_hayes7 #7News pic.twitter.com/T9GkOGVjcZ
— 7 News Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) November 25, 2018
Just last week the teams met again in Adelaide, and the fans hadn’t forgotten Jett, booing every time he touched the ball. The Hawks import had the last laugh, however, saluting the crowd after winning the game at the buzzer:
Jordair Jett called GAME ?
— NBL (@NBL) December 9, 2018
The teams are set to meet one more time this season, in early January in Illawarra.
Finally, just on the weekend Andrew Bogut and Perth Head Coach Trevor Gleeson were involved in an altercation on court late in the game:
— NBL News (@NBL_News) December 6, 2018
Sydney travels out West to meet a 13,000-strong pro-Perth crowd this Friday night with sparks set to fly. The sides meet again twice more in the final fortnight of the season.
The Playoff Picture
There’s still more than half the regular season remaining, plus the playoff series to follow, so there’s plenty to look forward to before the campaign is over.
Here’s how the ladder looks after 8 weeks:
1st – Perth Wildcats (11 wins, 2 losses)
Championship Odds: $3.25 with Ladbrokes
The ‘Cats have been the most consistent team so far in 2018/19. As always they are notoriously tough to beat out West, with both losses to date coming away from RAC Arena (to Brisbane and Sydney, both currently in the top 4). They’ve all but sewn up yet another finals spot, and behind their ice-cold former NBA guard Bryce Cotton, will be right there when the whips are cracking.
2nd – Melbourne United (9 wins, 5 losses)
Championship Odds: $3.25 with Ladbrokes
The defending champs have been patchy early in the season, dropping some games they wouldn’t normally drop along the way. Injuries have played a part with Chris Goulding and DJ Kennedy both missing games, while Josh Boone has had a few niggles. If they can get healthy at the right time, they’ll have every chance of going back to back.
3rd – Sydney Kings (7 wins, 4 losses)
Championship Odds: $2.75 with Ladbrokes
The Kings are choc-full of talent and have the best player in the league at their disposal in Bogut. Jerome Randle, a former league MVP, has been done on his best form early in the season and fellow ex-MVP Kevin Lisch has been inconsistent at times, but if all the new cogs start turning together there is no doubt Sydney will become a force very quickly. Will they click though?
4th – Brisbane Bullets (7 wins, 6 losses)
Championship Odds: $9 with Ladbrokes
The Bullets were severely underrated by the bookies in the pre-season but are well placed for a championship run, currently sitting 4th with a record above .500. Wins over Perth and Melbourne (twice) have been their most impressive to date, while a buzzer-beating win on the road at Adelaide was gritty. With an import slot still available and arguably the best local talent of any roster, they could still surprise a few teams in the run to the playoffs.
5th – Illawarra Hawks (6 wins, 7 losses)
Championship Odds: $67 with Ladbrokes
The Hawks are at massive odds to win the title despite sitting a game outside of the playoffs. On paper they certainly don’t have the best roster in the league, but if it’s one thing you learn in the NBL it’s to never dismiss a regional side. A relatively tough run home could still see them slip, but they’re certainly not out of the playoff race by any means.
6th – Adelaide 36ers (5 wins, 8 losses)
Championship Odds: $11 with Ladbrokes
The Sixers have been disappointing this season to say the least. After going down in Game 5 of the Grand Final last year, some small personnel adjustments look to have been costly. The signing of Demetrius Conger mid-season will bare fruit in the long run, but it’s been rocky so far. A demoralising loss to the Hawks on the buzzer, after being up double digits in the final term, hurt a lot. It will be an uphill battle to make the playoffs but it’s a close league and they have the talent.
7th – New Zealand Breakers (4 wins, 8 losses)
Championship Odds: $26 with Ladbrokes
The return of Corey Webster had Breakers fans daring to dream, but instead they sit second last with a 4-8 record after eight weeks. Webster has shown glimpses of his explosive scoring ability but has sorely lacked any consistency, while Armani Moore is an early contender for worst import in the league – certainly of the ones who haven’t been cut yet. However, just like Adelaide, there’s enough talent there to make a late run in a tight league.
8th – Cairns Taipans (1 wins, 10 losses)
Championship Odds: $501 with Ladbrokes
It’s time to start looking forward to next season already for the Taipans. They were overrated in the pre-season, pegged to finish around 5th or 6th by most bookies, but have shown where they are really at so far with just one win from 11 matches. Melo Trimble is an elite scorer and passer, but outside of their star point guard and perhaps DJ Newbill, there isn’t much there. Nate Jawai is a quality big man but is far too inconsistent, and the roster drops off alarmingly after that.
It’s Everywhere You Look
With the game growing so quickly in the last couple of years, the coverage has too.
Landmark television deals have seen Fox Sports broadcast every game live, as well as Channel 9 showing two games per week on free-to-air via their ‘Go!’ channel.
Plus you can watch every game on the NBL app in case you’re on the go.
Suddenly the NBL is high quality, exciting and easily accessible to the masses.
There’s never been a better time to follow the NBL.
And our new NBL Tips membership also means there’s never been a better time to bet on the NBL.
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The first bet release will be ahead of this Friday night’s blockbuster between the Perth Wildcats and Sydney Kings.
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