Hungry Jack's NBL
NBL Power Rankings: December 15
By Liam Santamaria
Every week this NBL season, I’m releasing my power rankings.
They drop each Tuesday on NBL Overtime and then run on nbl.com.au the following morning.
Here’s my money-back guarantee: they won’t ever correlate with the ladder. They also don’t reflect where I think each team will finish. Instead, like most ‘power rankings’, they represent how each team is currently tracking when you consider form, injuries, recent opponents, etc. In other words, the team on top is the one other teams do not want to be playing right now.
With that in mind, here are this week’s power rankings:
1. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Previous rank: 1
There’s no change at the top with the Hawks producing another impressive performance on the road.
To this point, everything Goorjian & Co. envisaged for this roster has played out beautifully. Duop Reath is the stretch big they needed, Antonius Cleveland is a legit two-way wing and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, while he will have some inefficient nights, looks to be the dynamic play-maker they needed off the bench.
Those offensive struggles the Hawks dealt with last season appear to be a thing of the past.
This week: vs New Zealand, @ Brisbane
2. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Previous rank: 2
So far so good for South East Melbourne. Wolf Creek is operating at an MVP level, Xavier Munford has settled in nicely and Zhou Qi is an absolute monster at protecting the rim.
In fact, let’s talk about Zhou’s shot-blocking for a sec because that’s the key difference-maker for SEM this season. The big fella is such an enormous presence around the basket that their margin for error defensively has risen dramatically. That said, Zhou’s next two matchups are Jarell Martin and Duop Reath; two guys who will really test him with their ability to shoot from the perimeter.
This week: @ Sydney
3. SYDNEY KINGS
Previous rank: 3
The Kings hold onto their top-three spot, despite going down to the Hawks at home.
Chase Buford’s men were seriously undermanned for that fiery clash but they competed well, with guys like Angus Glover, Shaun Bruce and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk all stepping up. The big question for Sydney is: can they get – and stay – healthy?
This week: @ Melbourne, vs South East Melbourne, vs Tasmania
4. BRISBANE BULLETS
Previous rank: 5
That effort in the Jungle was much more like it from the Bullets. James Duncan had his guys moving the ball, playing with confidence, and completely locked into their game-plan defensively. The result was a hard-fought bounce-back win.
That said, this week’s schedule is almost as tough as it gets.
This week: @ Perth, vs Illawarra
5. PERTH WILDCATS
Previous rank: 4
The Wildcats are still without three key pieces and it took double OT to beat them on Sunday, despite the MVP shooting just 5-of-23 from the field.
Two more home games for the ‘Cats this week before they pack their bags and hit the road.
This week: vs Brisbane, vs Tasmania
6. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Previous rank: 7
The 36ers rise slightly up the rankings thanks to a couple of much-needed wins that got them back to .500. Congrats to the legendary CJ Bruton on grabbing his first couple of dubs as an NBL head coach.
Dusty Hannahs appears to have found his touch, which is huge, while Isaac Humphries is still working his way into fitness and form. Importantly, hard-nosed guard Sunday Dech (quad) is a chance to be back on court this week. His return will serve as a massive boost for the Sixers as they’ve really missed his defence.
This week: @ Cairns
7. MELBOURNE UNITED
Previous rank: 6
The defending champs are 0-2 but help is on the way in the form of returning stars Chris Goulding (hamstring) and Jack White (Achilles). Goulding’s been given the all-clear to lace ‘em up tomorrow while there’s a realistic chance White will step back out there on Sunday. Time to get some wins.
This week: vs Sydney, vs New Zealand
8. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Previous rank: 9
Another week, another really tough schedule for the Breakers.
The good news? Jeremiah Martin (ankle) and Tom Abercrombie (oblique) are both on track to return while Matt Walsh has moved swiftly to temporarily replace injured guard Peyton Siva (hamstring). Chasson Randle is the guy they’ve brought in, a 28-year-old with considerable NBA experience who also won a Euroleague title a few years ago. Randle’s been signed to a two-month contract which contains a team option for the rest of the season.
This week: @ Illawarra, @ Melbourne
9. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Previous rank: 10
The Snakes slither out of tenth place thanks to that ugly win over Tassie.
Remarkably, that victory marked the nineteenth time the Taipans have won their home opener across their twenty-one seasons in the league. There’s just something about that gym in the Tropics.
This week: vs Adelaide
10. TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS
Previous rank: 8
Round 2 served as a reality check for the league’s newest team as back-to-back losses saw them crashing back down to earth.
As you can see, things are about to get even tougher.
This week: @ Perth, @ Sydney