Hungry Jack's NBL
Off-Season Report: Perth
HEAD COACH Trevor Gleeson 2015/16 PLAYERS SIGNED Damian Martin; Greg Hire; Jermaine Beal (import); Jesse Wagstaff; Matthew Knight; Shawn Redhage; Tom Jervis; Hugh Greenwood FREE AGENTS DeAndre Daniels (import); Drake U’U; Earnest Ross; Luke Martin Last season: 16-12, fourth in regular season, lost to Cairns Taipans in semi-finals Points For: 79.7ppg, seventh Points Against: 77.4ppg, second Field Goal Percentage: 41.1%, eighth Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 42.4%, third Free Throw Percentage: 71.9%, fifth Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.1%, fifth Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.5%, third Rebounds: 38.6rpg, second Assists: 14.6apg, sixth Steals: 6.5spg, second Blocked Shots: 3.4bpg, fourth Turnovers: 12.2tpg, fifth Perth Arena. It remains the gold standard as far as NBL venues and game atmosphere are concerned. Managing director Nick Marvin and his team work exceptionally hard to both connect with the community and give fans a quality game night experience – the result is that the Arena, while not quite the fortress of recent years, is still as formidable an environment for visiting teams as there is in the League. Membership. 9,631. That’s the number of people who purchased a Wildcat membership last season. It’s an extraordinary number without measure and it’s a perfect example of what’s possible with committed and fully engaged ownership and management and a club prepared to spend money – wisely – to get people excited about the sport we all love. Think a return to the halcyon days of the 1990s isn’t possible? The Wildcats are proving you all wrong. The streak continues. There are NBL fans old enough to remember a Perth franchise that wasn’t a powerhouse and never sniffed the post-season. But, there are increasing numbers of fans who don’t even know what the NBL playoffs are like without the 'Cats. This is an organisation for which making the Finals has become as inevitable as death and taxes – their 29 straight appearances is a phenomenal achievement and maybe something that should be celebrated more than it is. Offence. They struggled for large portions of the season with their offensive fluency and never really figured out how to effectively incorporate DeAndre Daniels into the system. When they moved the ball they looked good, but too often it was a case of throwing it to Jermaine Beal and asking him to bail them out. Injuries. Any coach will tell you that in order to win a championship, a certain amount of luck is involved, especially with injuries, and Perth had no such luck on that front in 2014/15. They lost too many key guys for too long a period of time, and even though he’s lost a step, being without Shawn Redhage for the semis all but signalled their death knell. At the end, it seemed like all the injury hits just proved too much to overcome. Road record. One of the keys to their success in recent years has been their outstanding record away from home – no mean feat considering the enormous amount of travelling they do. But for the first time since the 2010/11 season they finished less than .500 on the road and for whatever reason just weren’t as intimidating in enemy territory as they had been previously. Health. As mentioned, the injury bug hit them pretty hard last season and they’ll be hoping 2015/16 will treat them better on that front. The issue they have is that their core guys will be another year older and there is always going to be a question mark as to whether Matty Knight can make it unscathed through an entire season. More size up front. Tom Jervis has done a terrific job over the past couple of seasons in adding much needed length in the frontline, but the group has ridden the back of Matt Knight as an undersized pivot for too long and you have to believe getting him some help down low will be a priority next season. Defensive consistency. They’ve got the greatest defensive player in NBL history in Damian Martin patrolling the perimeter and a tremendous interior defender in Matthew Knight, but they weren’t as strong as a team at that end of the floor last season. With a couple of notable exceptions – Martin’s complete physical and mental destruction of Sydney’s Kendrick Perry in their first meeting for example – Perth were gotten at far more easily in 2014/15 than we’ve been accustomed to, and they need to get back to that killer lockdown mentality if they want to return to the promised land. There’s little doubt the Wildcat hierarchy was not happy with the outcome of season 2014/15. Making the semi-finals is not enough for this organisation – they have a championship or bust mindset. And while their core guys – Martin, Knight, Redhage, Hire and Wagstaff – all return to provide that needed roster stability, you know the Wildcats will be determined to add whatever quality pieces are needed to make them a title contender at the very least. They’ve already been a major player in free agency. Getting Aussie guard Hugh Greenwood out of the University of New Mexico was a huge – excuse the pun – coup and he’ll be an instant backcourt upgrade. You can also expect a big import splash yet again – they were unsuccessful with Daniels, but with the tremendous resources at their disposal, you can be certain they will go after a real difference maker as they work toward an unparalleled 30th consecutive Finals appearance. By Matt McQuade; NBL.tv commentator. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the NBL.