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ANALYSIS

NBL Power Rankings: January 26

By Liam Santamaria

Every week this NBL season, I’m releasing my power rankings.

They usually drop each Tuesday on NBL Overtime and then run here 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, illness, 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. MELBOURNE UNITED

Previous rank: 1

The defending champs kept things rolling this week as they took care of Adelaide and snuck past Brisbane, extending their winning streak to eight.

One thing that’s worth noting about United is how well they churn their defence up when it’s time to close out a win. While other squads have been dropping leads and letting teams back into games, no team has been able to score more than 18 in the final quarter against Melbourne over the course of their eight-game streak. In fact: here are the last eight fourth quarter scores put up against Dean Vickerman’s crew: 14, 16, 18, 7, 9, 17, 11 and 18. That’s some impressive lockdown D, right there.

This week: @ Brisbane, @ Adelaide

 

2. PERTH WILDCATS

Previous rank: 2

Their issue with slow starts still needs fixing but that was a really impressive win the ‘Cats grabbed over the Hawks. It was the exact type of bounce-back performance Scott Morrison was looking for after COVID legs saw them go down to Adelaide.

That said, this is when things will get tough for the Wildcats. Stuck on the road with no certainty about when they’ll go home, that team’s collective mental toughness is about to get seriously challenged.

This week: @ Illawarra, @ Sydney

 

3. ILLAWARRA HAWKS

Previous rank: 3

Brian Goorjian put the heat on his squad this week and they responded, shutting down Adelaide for a double-digit win.  

Their defence still needs to improve (and it will) but on the season they’re ranked second in offensive efficiency, per spatialjam.com. Part of that is due to their depth of scoring talent but it’s also a result of their elite ball protection. The Hawks give the rock away with the lowest frequency in the league. In fact, over their past two games they committed just 9 total turnovers – creating history as the only time an NBL team has had 5 or less turnovers in consecutive 40-minute games.

This week’s rematch with Perth is a big one as the Hawks are currently 0-3 against the top half of the league.

This week: vs Perth, @ Cairns

 

4. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Previous rank: 4

Speaking of large games, this weekend’s clash between the Bullets and the Phoenix is huge for both teams. The Phoenix were running in mud when they met two weeks ago but both squads have put those COVID-related issues behind them and are up for the fight.

For SEM, that game represents a chance to claim their first real statement win of the season. Yeah, beating United in Round 2 was nice but the defending champs didn’t have Chris Goulding and he’s a difference-maker in every sense of the term. Simon Mitchell’s men have also claimed wins over New Zealand (twice), Tasmania and Cairns but now it’s time to go on the road and knock off a genuine finals contender.

This week: @ Brisbane

 

5. BRISBANE BULLETS

Previous rank: 5

The Bullets are tough. Yes they laid an egg in Sydney but you saw today just how tough a beat this squad can be when they’re locked in and competing. The issue is: that level of focus tends to waver from game to game.

Add to that the concern about Tyrell Harrison’s injured pec and the Bullets will need to come out firing this week against the Phoenix.

This week: vs South East Melbourne

 

6. SYDNEY KINGS

Previous rank: 7

We may not agree on their ranking but let’s all agree on this: Xavier Cooks is a beast. Averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2 blocks per game, Cooks has placed himself in conversations around all-league selections across the first third of the season. Had he not been ejected on Friday night, Sydney probably would’ve gone 2-0 in Round 8 and be sitting two spots higher on the NBL ladder.

With Cooks, Jarell Martin, Jaylen Adams and Dejan Vasiljevic all finding form, the Kings appear poised to go on a bit of a run. The question is: can they use that momentum to topple the ‘Cats?

This week: vs Perth

7. ADELAIDE 36ERS

Previous rank: 6

The Sixers had a TOUGH schedule this week as they hosted United and then took on the Hawks. The result, unsurprisingly, was a couple of Ls by double-digit margins as the Sixers gave up 97 to Melbourne and the full century to Froling Bros. & Associates.

This is a squad that just hasn’t been able to clean up their key areas of deficiency: looking after the ball and locking down on D. The 36ers rank second last in the league for turnover percentage (only ahead of Cairns) and have now slipped below the Breakers to rank last in defensive efficiency.

Sunday Dech’s return, Cam Bairstow’s production and Kai Sotto’s recent efforts have all been positives but, at 3-5, this week’s showdown with Tassie has become a genuine must-win.

This week: @ Tasmania, vs Melbourne

 

8. CAIRNS TAIPANS

Previous rank: 8

After almost a month without playing, the Taipans made their way to Victoria last night and threw the ball all over the gym. The Snakes committed a whopping 23 turnovers in Traralgon, setting a new high-water mark for any team this season. That’s an issue that desperately needs tidying up.

The truth is: this is a squad that really can’t afford to be missing key guys so the simultaneous absence of three of them – Scott Machado (heel), Mirko Djeric (calf) and Kouat Noi (protocols) – makes life particularly difficult.

This week: vs Illawarra

 

9. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS

Previous rank: 9

The Breakers revealed yesterday that eight of their players contracted COVID after their win over Sydney and that, as a team, they only started practicing again on Monday this week.

That’s a big chunk of their roster that will now need to rebuild their fitness after a week in isolation.

“It was bad timing,” head coach Dan Shamir said. “It’s not the first time we’ve fallen. We need to build, and we will build again.”

That process begins with a ‘home’ game against Tassie this Sunday.

This week: vs Tasmania*

 

10. TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS

Previous rank: 10

The JackJumpers made their own return to action this week where they did their usual thing: kept a lid on their opponents for a while before eventually getting overrun.  

Clint Steindl continued to knock down shots and Will Magnay looked terrific but what the Ants really needs is consistent, high-level production from their imports. This inaugural roster was always going to lean heavily on those three and, so far, they just haven’t been at their best often enough. Time to turn that around.

This week: vs Adelaide, @ New Zealand*

 

The views on this page are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBL, its Clubs or partners.

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