Hungry Jack's NBL
Off-Season Report: Melbourne
HEAD COACH Dean Demopoulos 2015/16 PLAYERS SIGNED David Barlow; Nate Tomlinson FREE AGENTS Auryn Macmillan; Daniel Kickert; Daryl Corletto; Jordan McRae (import); Lucas Walker; Mark Worthington; Owen Odigie; Stephen Dennis (import) Last season: 13-15, fifth in regular season Points For: 83.3ppg, fourth Points Against: 85.0ppg, sixth Field Goal Percentage: 44.2%, fourth Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 44.8%, sixth Free Throw Percentage: 75.2%, sixth Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 37.0%, first Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 34.4%, fifth Rebounds: 32.8rpg, seventh Assists: 14.6apg, fifth Steals: 5.7spg, third Blocked Shots: 2.8bpg, eighth Turnovers: 12.1tpg, third Entertainment value. This team was criticised at times – but there was no denying that when they were flowing, they were as fun a team to watch as there was in the NBL. Jordan McRae was a human highlight reel on occasion, Lucas Walker flashed glimpses of his Sam Mackinnon-like potential and it was intriguing to see big man Daniel Kickert take a run at the single season three-point shooting record. Big wins. There weren’t as many as they would have liked, considering the hype and expectation around a group that featured a highly-touted NBA prospect, veteran leadership and a quality Australian big man. But when this team fired, they could put anyone to the sword – witness their early destruction of the eventual champs at Hisense Arena and a dominant display against the 2014 titlists on the road. Committed ownership. Despite divided views on the name change, the tremendous committment to basketball from the owners of the Melbourne franchise has been undeniable. Right from the pre-season in Ballarat, the club was highly visible and working hard to secure memberships, to doing whatever it took to put a talented team on the floor. Chris Anstey’s departure. It was maybe the biggest bombshell of the season when Chris resigned from his position as head coach after just one regular season game. Whatever the reason, the abrupt move cast a pall over the team and they struggled to bounce back. Poor chemistry. After a loss to bottom-feeder Wollongong in Melbourne, United guard Daryl Corletto publicly confirmed what most already suspected – this was a playing group hardly united. Corletto laid out what was a massive problem for this team all season long – lack of chemistry. As talented as Melbourne was, it was a lesson to all – having talent is great, but it means nothing if guys aren’t fully committed to the team concept. Rebounding. Among many problems, one thing this team lacked was a consistent effort on the boards, outside the relentless Mark Worthington. They were outrebounded by an average of seven boards per game – worst in the league – and it cost them some games without question. Frontline toughness. No disrespect to Daniel Kickert, but he showed that he was most effective when playing away from the basket offensively – defensively he struggled to deal with physicality at times. There’s no doubt if he gets some more help inside – Chris Patton showed flashes that he could be that guy in future – Melbourne will be much better for it. Clearly defined roles. A lot of this comes down to chemistry and buy-in to a team ethos. Incoming coach Dean Demopoulos is going to have a big job establishing that culture and getting players to embrace it and understand what they must do to ensure the success of the team next season. Defensive improvement. There were far too many times this group was too easily scored on last season, and when they look at building their roster for 2015/16, they need to look at recruiting some hardcore stoppers – even if it’s someone just to come in and play that role for 10-15 minutes a game. It’s already a team with a lot of question marks. And now that the departure of Mark Worthington has been confirmed, the questions mount even more. Losing last season's team MVP is a blow and it potentially signals a complete rebuild of that roster. That said, getting the 2014/15 NBL Most Improved Player Todd Blanchfield on board was a significant coup and is going to allow them a lot of flexibility in who they secure for the two open import slots. However, maybe the biggest question mark is Melbourne’s new head coach Dean Demopoulos. As a long-time NBA assistant, he’s one of the most highly-credentialed coaches we’ve seen in the NBL, but the fact is he has very limited head coaching experience and that could be a factor given the job he faces in building the team culture in Melbourne. That will be one of the most interesting stories to watch over the next few months. By Matt McQuade; NBL.tv commentator. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the NBL.