Hungry Jack's NBL
5 Storylines to Watch at the Blitz
Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike
All 10 clubs ramp up preparations for the 2021/22 season proper later this month at the NBL Blitz throughout Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, and there are plenty of things for you to keep your eyes out for.
Melbourne United, New Zealand Breakers, Sydney Kings, South East Melbourne Phoenix and Illawarra Hawks will be part of one half of the Blitz to be played between the Melbourne Sport and Aquatic Centre and WIN Entertainment Centre from November 13 through 28.
Then there's the Tasmania JackJumpers, Perth Wildcats, Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans and Adelaide 36ers playing their games throughout Tasmania from November 14 through 28.
Here are just five things to watch out for:
CJ Bruton might not have got to choose the roster he would be in charge of as he begins his head coaching career in the NBL, but he's understandably excited at what he has at his disposal.
We will see this new-look Sixers squad together for the first time at the Blitz as we find out if there's good reason Bruton is so enamoured with the playing roster he'll be working with.
Sure, Daniel Johnson, Isaac Humphries and Sunday Dech are back from last season, but aside from that it's a decidedly new-look Sixers line-up including the new coach following the departure of Conner Henry and now arrival of Bruton.
There is a lot to look forward to with this Adelaide team beginning with new imports Dusty Hannahs and Todd Withers. Electing to go with just the two imports, plenty rests on their shoulders and the Blitz is their first chance to show what they're capable of.
Perhaps the most significant signing, though, was luring Mitch McCarron from Melbourne United who he helped lead to the championship last season as point guard. The Blitz is his first chance to show what he can do now leading the 36ers at the point.
Tad Dufelmeier and Mojave King both join the Sixers from the Cairns Taipans a season ago, and will look to settle into their roles in the back court while the signing of Philippines sensation Kai Sotto will have plenty of extra eyeballs on the 36ers.
Manny Malou is another new arrival to round out the Sixers squad that Bruton will be coaching and a good start against the Snakes on Sunday November 14 will be just what they are after.
NEXT STARS ON SHOW
If you go back two years, LaMelo Ball's ascension to becoming an NBA superstar began at the NBL Blitz at Tasmania and now this year presents the chance for the #NBL22 crop of Next Stars to grab the attention of the basketball world.
The talk amongst NBA scouts about Ball being the potential No.1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft began after his performances in Tasmania at the 2019 NBL Blitz including a showing of 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists against the Perth Wildcats.
That earned him comparisons with the previous season's Rookie of the Year Luke Doncic and had scouts expecting him to be in contention to be the No. 1 pick.
Of course, Ball went on to shine at the Hawks in the first half of the 2019/20 NBL season before being taken with the third selection at the draft and going on to be the 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year, and now being a star with the Charlotte Hornets.
That sets the bar mighty high, but what this season's Blitz presents is the chance for is the group of Next Stars for this season to begin to show what they are capable of.
We know what Justinian Jessup and Mojave King's potential is and now we wait to see what Nikita Mikhailovskil, Ousmane Dieng, Tom Digbeu, Ariel Hukporti and Makur Maker can do.
The branch out of the Next Stars program to Europe has seen Dieng join the New Zealand Breakers. The 6'9 playmaker is looking to become a lottery pick and by beginning to shine at the Blitz, it will help rise up those draft boards.
Hukporti is another rising star from Europe to head down under and he joins defending champions Melbourne United. The 19-year-old seven-footer gives United the size they need and at that size, he could really open some eyes at the Blitz.
Jessup is back for a second season with the Illawarra Hawks as he tries to earn that spot in the NBA on the Golden State Warriors roster. He was a standout shooter and scorer last season, and the Blitz will give him the chance to show how far he's improved ahead of NBL22.
The Kings helped Didi Louzada hit the NBA floor with the Pelicans and now they have added Maker to their roster for NBL22. He'll hit the floor for the first time at the Blitz having chosen the NBL over remaining at college.
King had his moments last season with the Taipans but was looking for greater opportunities to showcase his full array of talent, and has joined the 36ers. He can handle the ball, get to the basket, finish at the rim, shoot and defend, and he'll look to showcase all that at the Blitz.
The European Next Stars contingent continues with Digbeu joining the Bullets having come through at the Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona. He is eligible to represent both Spain and France, but with an NBA dream, starring for Brisbane at the Blitz is now his focus.
Mikhailovskil is a 21-year-old Russian who comes to the JackJumpers after being Rookie of the Year in 2019 in the VTB United League, made up of clubs from Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan and Poland. He is a knockdown shooter and it will be fascinating to see how he adapts to the NBL.
WILDCATS TOGETHER AT LAST
Chemistry has been a key component of the remarkable success the Perth Wildcats have had over the past 11 years, but now preparations for the NBL22 season have been like no other.
New coach Scott Morrison has only arrived in Perth with his family this week to begin his quarantine so he will basically lay eyes on his team in the flesh for the Blitz with the 'Cats in action in Tasmania against the JackJumpers, Bullets, 36ers and Taipans.
The Wildcats have had an unmatched period of success over the past 11 years firstly under Rob Beveridge and then Trevor Gleeson winning six championships and reaching nine Grand Finals along the way.
The key to that has been keeping a core group together with minimal changes season on season, but that's not the case this season so much with a new coach coming in with Morrison new to the NBL.
His initiation will be thrown right into the deep end with his new team against Perth's old rivals Adelaide in Tasmania on Tuesday November 16 just days after he and his family get out of quarantine.
Morrison isn’t the only new arrival for the Wildcats either. Vic Law and Michael Frazier are new imports with Matt Hodgson and Jack Purchase new arrivals to the frontcourt, and it will be fascinating to see how it all comes together at the Blitz.
TASMANIA'S FIRST GAME
History will be made this NBL season with the Tasmania JackJumpers entering the league for the first time and it's only fitting that they get to play the Blitz in their home state.
We will get our first look at the JackJumpers, fittingly, as the very first game at the NBL Blitz as well when they host the Brisbane Bullets at the redeveloped Derwent Entertainment Centre, now known as MyState Arena.
Tanner Krebs might be wearing Bullets colours for the occasion, but he is a native of Tasmania and he is excited for the people of his home state to get the chance to have an NBL club again in a new stadium.
"I'm really interested to see how the DEC looks now too. Me personally I only saw it in its old state and going back to vision of seeing my dad play so I'm really interested to see how it has turned out. I've seen a few photos of the modelling of it and all that, and it looks amazing but I'm keen to see it firsthand now," Krebs said.
"I'm excited. It's been a long time since we've been able to step onto the court together as a team so I think everyone's feeling very excited and eager to get down to Tassie and play some games.
"It's a new group for us and we're kind of sick of beating up on each other in practice so we're looking forward to giving it to some other teams, and going up against people who don't know every play that we're going to run inside out.
"I think the feeling within the group is really excited and I'm excited to get down to Tassie to get down and play. Obviously being from Tassie myself, I can't wait to get to Hobart with the opportunity to play in front of some family and friends. I'm extremely excited to get down to work."
As excited as the people of Tasmania will be just to have a team in the NBL again and the shiny new venue, they also want the JackJumpers to be competitive and the first taste of what they are capable of will be at the Blitz on home soil.
Coached by former NBA big Scott Roth, the JackJumpers have plenty to look forward to including NBL championship winners Clint Steindl and Sam McDaniel on board along with talented and experienced contingent Fabijan Krslovic, Jarred Bairstow, Jack McVeigh, Matt Kenyon and Jarrad Weeks.
Will Magnay is a former NBA centre while there's reason for optimism over what imports Josh Magette, Josh Adams and Mikyle McIntosh, and Next Star Nikita Mikhailovskil can provide.
An impressive start at the Blitz will be just the tonic to give the JackJumpers entering the NBL season proper.
Matthew Dellavedova had one of the great NBA careers for an Australian basketballer but now his first foray into the NBL with Melbourne United begins at the Blitz.
There can be no doubting the credentials that Dellavedova brings to the NBL with him. After growing up in Maryborough before attending the AIS and then going to college at Saint Mary's, Dellavedova embarked on a remarkable NBA journey.
He would play 361 of 499 NBA games with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he was an important part of their championship triumph in 2016. Dellavedova became renowned for his lockdown defence and tenacious approach on the court and started 100 of his 499 games as well.
He still played 13 games last season with the Cavs in the NBA before being part of more history with the Australian Boomers in their bronze medal triumph at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
That's quite the resume to bring into the NBL with Dellavedova signing with United and set to pull on the uniform for the first time on Saturday November 13 against the New Zealand Breakers to open the Blitz at the Melbourne Sport and Aquatic Centre.
The only question mark over Dellavedova as he embarks on his NBL career is how much his body has left in the tank after everything the 31-year-old has been through starting with four years at college, and then nine NBA seasons.
The first taste of what Dellavedova will be able to provide the defending champions will come at the Blitz and how he fares is going to become one of the more fascinating talking points.