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ANALYSIS

NBL22 Awards Watch - Volume 9

Written for NBL.com.au by Peter Hooley

There are two rounds left in what has been an incredibly exciting NBL22 season. As far as the major awards go, I can’t remember the last time that there hasn’t been one runaway favourite for them. Yes, there might be some strong favourites, but all the awards could go either way. If you want an example of how tough it is going to be – the All-NBL First Team can only have two inside choices of Jo Lual-Acuil, Vic Law, Mitch Creek, Xavier Cooks and Yanni Wetzell.

The last two rounds might be crucial in deciding each of the major awards. Having said that, here’s my predictions on who may get the votes.

 

Most Valuable Player

The biggest award of them all as we have thought for some time is a two horse race between two players who have both had outstanding seasons. It could really go either way, and you would say either is deserving if they are to win the Andrew Gaze Trophy. Jaylen Adams and Bryce Cotton have both been incredible in NBL22. Cotton, the league’s leading scorer, has somehow got better in each season he’s played in the NBL. He continues to show why he is one of the greatest we have ever seen, and he continues to amaze. The last two rounds will have a big say in how this plays out, as that’s just how close this race is.

If I had to pick, I’m leaning towards Jaylen Adams ever so slightly. The MVP, as I’ve noted previously, does take into account a team’s performance. Yes, it’s an individual award, but you won’t often see a dominant force on a bad team be voted the MVP of the NBL. The Kings have been rolling in the second half of the season, and a lot of that is due to the unbelievable numbers that Adams has put up. Even in a couple of poor performances by his standards, he has still taken over the game down the stretch and led the Kings to a win. 

My Pick - Jaylen Adams

 

Best Defensive Player

The Best Defensive Player could go to a number of players this season, and all would be equally deserving. The likes of Xavier Cooks, Shea Ili and Matthew Dellavedova have been sensational on the defensive end all season long. I don’t envy the coaches and captains for their votes here, as it will be tough to split. Especially if you’re trying to split the votes of Ili and Delly.

However, it could be Antonious Cleveland who gets the nod with his season changing moments for the Hawks. He has taken on some of the league’s biggest assignments and sparked an incredible run in the last few weeks. One of the best parts of Cleveland’s influence is that he has embraced the challenge for Brian Gorjian. He realised that he can be a game changer, and a season changer, on the defensive end and help lift the Hawks into legitimate championship contenders.

My Pick - Antonious Cleveland

 

Most Improved Player

For so long, it looked as if Jo Lual-Acuil had the Most Improved Player all wrapped up. Whilst I still believe he will get a lot of votes and likely win this, he will have some fierce competition. Yanni Wetzell has been enourmous all season long for the Breakers. In what has been a tough season for New Zealand, Wetzell has stood up as a consistent beast on both ends.

Then there is Xavier Cooks, who has shown us all that he is more than worthy of a shot in the NBA. Keanu Pinder has become a prominent force for the Taipans and has unlocked something in his own game that not many saw coming after his rookie campaign.

As I said, there are more than a couple deserving candidates for this award. It’s great to see so many players go from strength to strength and become legitimate stars. I believe Lual-Acuil could get the final nod, after going from Best Sixth Man, to an All-NBL season and becoming a focal point for the ladder leaders.

My Pick - Jo Lual-Acuil

 

Best Sixth Man

It is another potential two horse race for who has been the Best Sixth Man this season. Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Shea Ili have both been pivotal in their teams success, and are both more than deserving to be awarded this. On one hand, Rathan-Mayes only recently helped his cause stepping into the starting role with Tyler Harvey injured. Not only did he step into the role, he dominated it and led the Hawks to some big wins. On the flip side, Ili has had some big game winning moments across the season. With his relentless defensive effort, combined with big 1% plays when the game is on the line, Ili has shown that he’s one of the most underrated players in the competition.

This could honestly go either way, and it could again come down to these last few games to decide. After those recent starting performances, Rathan-Mayes could have his nose in front, with how well the Hawks are playing. However, if United secure top spot and Ili steps up when it matters, and like he has been, he could claim it.

My Pick - Shea Ili

 

Rookie of the Year

The Rookie of the Year viewing has been a rollercoaster throughout NBL22. From early on when it looked like it was Luke Travers to lose, we have been given a gift of a couple more rookies deciding to show the NBL that they are legit.

Firstly, Bul Kuol, what a story he has been for Adam Forde and the Taipans. Gifted more opportunity with early injuries, Kuol took it with both hands and put together a super impressive rookie season that not many would have seen coming. Enter Ousmane Dieng. This young star's growth throughout the season is a true testament to both his character and to Dan Shamir.

After a rocky start to his season, Shamir was holding him accountable at every opportunity, and it led to a breakout second half of the season for the likely first round pick. Dieng has shown everyone, including NBA scouts, that his best is yet to come and that is an exciting future.

For the ROY, it’s between Travers and Kuol for me. When Mitch Norton went out, it allowed Travers to stuff the stat sheet more. Now with him back, he needs to find a way to do the same. However, the league has seen the rise of Kuol up north, and he could very well take out the Rookie of the Year.

My Pick - Bul Kuol

 

Coach of the Year

Finally, the great Lindsay Gaze trophy. Not enough can be said about what Scott Roth has done down in Tasmania. For a team that many predicted to have a tough first season in the league, he found a way to make them more than just competitive, but on the cusp of a finals berth. Their grit and selfless culture has been a pleasure for everyone to watch and a lot of credit goes to Roth.

Then there is Chase Buford, who has the Sydney Kings riding high on the league’s best winning streak. Where did this come from? After a slow start to NBL22, Buford finally found the recipe he was looking for and with that came the results.

And lastly, Dean Vickerman has been up to his usual tricks throughout this season that lands Melbourne United with a strong chance to finish top of the table. With a roster that many questioned wouldn’t have enough offensive firepower, Vickerman showed that if that was the case, then other teams wouldn’t outscore them either. They are a true defensive juggernaut and he has them firing at the right time.

As Liam Santamaria stated, what Scott Roth has done in Tasmania, is exactly what the Lindsay Gaze trophy is all about. It’s hard to disagree with him. Unless the Kings just keep finding wins to end the year, then it might be hard to ignore what Buford has achieved. It’s Roth for me, but you couldn’t be upset if either of the other two were to win it.

My Pick - Scott Roth

 

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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