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STUDS AND DUDS

Studs and Duds | Round 9

At the conclusion of each round, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.

 

STUDS

Perth Wildcats

Of course the Wildcats took out the NBL Cup. Winning trophies is what they do and as the ‘Cats arrived home yesterday they added another piece of silverware to their already enormous trophy cabinet.

Perth were simply terrific over the past month, defeating every single team except the Brisbane Bullets.

To close out the Cup the champs produced a pair of impressive comebacks, with dominant third-quarters leading them past New Zealand and Adelaide.

John Mooney continues to double-double, Todd Blanchfield continues to hit shots while Mitch Norton continues to lead the way at the defensive end.

As usual, however, there was one Wildcat star who shone brightest of all…

 

You Know His Name (Perth Wildcats)

Nathan Sobey, Casper Ware, Mitch Creek and Jock Landale have all been sensational this season but Bryce Cotton is the current MVP leader without a shadow of a doubt.

The man is just outrageously talented and he continues to prove it week after week after week.

Cotton had 24 and 7 against the Breakers and then scored 20 of his season-high 34 in the second half to fire the ‘Cats past the Sixers.

It was yet another spectacular display of world-class shot-making by the league’s leading scorer who is just such a pleasure to watch every single time he steps on the floor.

 

Illawarra Hawks

The Hawks were in the duds last week but bounced back beautifully in round 9, securing impressive wins over both Sydney and Melbourne.

The difference? Energy, effort and desire, particularly at the defensive end, and a much more team-oriented approach offensively.

“I’m walking out of here tonight, going back to the ‘Gong, and I feel like I and the team have backed up the promise (we made) to the community when Illawarra became the name,” head coach Brian Goorjian stated after beating United.

“I’m proud of the group. I told the guys: ‘Head up, chest out. When you come back into the community feel really good about yourself.’”

 

Brian Goorjian (Illawarra Hawks)

Speaking of Goorjian, the GOAT notched up game number 750 on Saturday and he did it in style, leading his squad to a win over the ladder-leaders.

It was a quintessential Goorjian victory too, with the Hawks tightening the screws in the second half and limiting United to their lowest score of the season (69). 

The milestone win came on the same court where ‘Goorj’ hoisted the Dr John Raschke Trophy with the South Dragons back in 2009, exactly twelve years on from that unforgettable Game 5 victory.

 

Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand Breakers)

Amidst a season of trials and tribulations, this was a wonderfully joyous moment for the Breakers.

 

South East Melbourne Phoenix

After sweeping their three-game round the Phoenix are back in the top four with one hundred thousand extra dollars in their coffers.

Simon Mitchell’s men tipped off their week with an against-the-odds win in the Throwdown before closing out the Cup by defeating the league’s two bottom teams.

It’s the first time this season the Phoenix have won three games in a row and, with Ryan Broekhoff working his way towards fitness, everything’s been very positive for them on the court this past week.

In fact, from my vantage point sitting behind their bench on Sunday, there was a real energy amongst that Phoenix group. It was palpable. Yes, I know, there was $100k on the line. But that group is talented, harmonious, bought-in and very supportive of each other. 

Of course, Mitch Creek has been a key part of building that culture. Those attributes – right throughout the club – will be thoroughly tested now. 

 

Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)

Adelaide’s teenage point guard just continues to impress.

In fact, no – that doesn’t do it justice. The kid is flat-out balling right now and is showing everyone why he’s one of the most exciting young players on the planet.

Giddey flirted with a triple-double in each of his games this week, falling just three boards shy against Brisbane and just 2 boards short against the all-conquering Wildcats.

As his former junior coach, Andrew Gaze, says: the young fella is a ‘triple-double waiting to happen.’ But, you know what? I’M DONE WAITING. It’s time to get over the hump.

Look at these Giddey stat-lines from different points this season:

Round 1 vs SEM: 16, 11 & 7 

Round 2 vs NZ: 13, 10 & 8

Round 6 vs Sydney: 10, 7 & 7

Round 6 vs SEM: 15, 7 & 10

Round 8 vs Illawarra: 14, 6 & 9

Round 9 vs Brisbane: 19, 7 & 11

Round 9 vs Perth: 14, 8 & 13

You know how many triple-doubles LaMelo Ball had last season? Of course you do. So did the NBA scouts. Let me ask you this: how many times did LaMelo come close?

Now, they’re just stats. I get that. And there are many more important things than numbers in a box score. But in the lead up to the NBA Draft, these things matter. A lot. There’s a golden opportunity in front of Giddey to obtain favourable comparisons with LaMelo in the lead up to the Draft and a couple of trip-dubs will only further promote that cause.

So keep doing your thing, young fella. But while you’re at it, swoop those defensive boards and get yourself a TD or two.

 

Brandon Paul (Adelaide 36ers)

Speaking of the 36ers, their new recruit just had 25 on debut. That guy's an absolute bucket.

 

Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)

Speaking of import changes… the Bullets are shaking things up but here’s hoping the move doesn’t negatively impact on Nathan Sobey. Because that man has been straight-up out of this world this season.

Sobey’s impressive form continued throughout Round 9 as he strengthened his status as one of the very best players in the league.

Against his former team, Sobey poured in 30 points on the back of a career-high 6 made triples as he fired the Bullets to victory.

Forty-eight hours later Sobey drained another 6 from long range, scoring a career-high 35 as he went back-and-forth with Casper Ware in a memorable backcourt battle.

We’re almost halfway through the regular season and the Jedi is averaging 24 points per game on 50 – 40 – 90 shooting clips. The Force is strong with this one.

 

DUDS

Adelaide 36ers

The Sixers balled out in the first half on Sunday and with a 21-point lead at the major break, never should’ve lost that game.

Instead they came out and made one solitary shot across the first nine minutes of the third quarter as their lead was completely disintegrated by Cotton and the Wildcats.

In the end the 36ers coughed up the game – their fifth loss from their past six outings – which capped off a winless weekend of hoops for Conner Henry’s men.

That’s a squad that really needs to get a little tougher.

 

Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers)

Too much fouling!

New Zealand’s talented point guard has been plagued by foul trouble since returning to the NBL and on Sunday it once again really hurt his team.

Webster fouled out in 26 minutes in his team’s 14-point loss to the Phoenix, spending key stretches of time off the floor due to foul trouble. To be fair, he did cop a rough call. But he was also whistled for three offensive fouls and picked up his fifth on a lazy defensive possession where he fell asleep off the ball.

Tai Webster’s just too good to be sitting on the bench. He’s so important to everything the Breakers do offensively – especially right now – that they need him on the floor for close to 40 minutes per game. Which means he’s got to play smarter; much smarter at the offensive end and both harder and smarter defensively to avoid silly fouls. And I don’t mean just keeping his hands out. Webster needs to stay more engaged off the ball to avoid getting caught flat-footed. Right now he stands up and relaxes when his guy doesn’t have the rock and then gets caught out of position. He needs to sit down, stay in a stance and stay on the floor.

 

Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans)

Remember Kouat Noi in the preseason? That man was balling and his impressive play had us all excited about an almost-certain breakout campaign. I mean, c’mon. He was supposed to be this season’s Most Improved Player! Instead, things are quickly going from bad to worse.

A dangerous scorer when he’s up and about, Noi is averaging just 4.5 points per game across his last four, connecting on a measly 22 percent from the floor and 18 percent from long range.

It’s time to turn it around.

 

Melbourne United

That’s now three Ls in a row for the championship faves.

With their offence sputtering, United are really missing Jack White’s energy and, even more significantly, they’re really missing Scotty Hopson’s versatile offensive skillset.

For all the talk of his slow start, the numbers tell a pretty strong story: United are 10-1 with Hopson in uniform and 0-3 without him.

 

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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