Hungry Jack's NBL
The Run Home: Rating Each Team’s Finals Chance
By Liam Santamaria
There are only four rounds remaining in the 2019/20 regular season and the race to the Hungy Jack’s NBL Finals has reached fever pitch.
At the top of the table, the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats are locked in a tight battle for the regular season championship.
The Kings have ruled from atop the NBL ladder for the entire season but, make no mistake, the Wildcats are gunnin’ for that number one spot. After all, the regular season title comes with a highly valuable prize – home-court advantage throughout the Finals – and both Perth and Sydney will be keen to claim that reward.
Below them, a total of six teams remain in the hunt for a place in the post-season; Cairns, Melbourne, Brisbane, New Zealand, Adelaide and South East Melbourne.
It’s worth noting that no team under the current finals format has ever won 16 games and not qualified for the finals.
This season a 15-13 record should get you in while 14 wins and a healthy percentage might just be enough.
With 13 wins and 10 losses, the Taipans are slightly ahead of the chasing pack while the 9-13 Phoenix are now leaning on that dreaded ‘mathematical chance’.
So, as we enter the final phase of the regular season, here’s a look at where each team currently stands, with their chances of claiming a finals berth rated out of ten.
1st – SYDNEY KINGS
Remaining games: @ ILL / vs MEL / @ PER / @ SEM / vs ILL
State of play: We all know they’re in but the Kings will officially clinch their finals spot if they go 2-0 this weekend. Right now they’re trying to pull off a delicate balancing act where they continue to improve (especially offensively), win ball games, secure top spot and also manage the workload of some of their key guys.
Key game/s: There’s a reasonable chance next week’s clash with Perth will end up deciding first place.
What chance are the Kings of making the finals? 9.999999/10
2nd – PERTH WILDCATS
Remaining games: vs NZ / @ MEL / vs SYD / vs BNE / vs ADE
State of play: The Wildcats have a very friendly run home with four of their remaining five games at RAC Arena. That should help them continue to integrate Miles Plumlee, challenge for the regular season title and enter the finals in winning form.
Key game/s: There’ll be a lot on the line in round 18 when the ‘Cats host the Kings.
What chance are the Wildcats of making the finals for the 34th freakin’ season in a row? 9.9/10
3rd – CAIRNS TAIPANS
Remaining games: @ SEM / vs ILL / @ ADE / @ MEL / @ BNE
State of play: The Snakes have a tough run home but they’re playing well, are already at 13 wins and have an excellent percentage. I can’t see them missing from here.
Key game/s: Thanks to their superior percentage, if the Taipans take care of business in their next two – match-ups against the two bottom teams – they’re in.
Geez, you’re bullish. How do you rate their finals chances out of 10? 6/10
4th – MELBOURNE UNITED
Remaining games: @ SYD / vs PER / @ BNE / vs ILL / vs CNS / @ SEM
State of play: Given their poor current form, Melbourne appear likely to only get to 13 or 14 wins. However, keep in mind that despite their big loss last week their percentage is actually pretty healthy. That could prove the difference down the stretch as a .500 record could be enough to get them in.
Key game/s: They’re all important but a road win over Brisbane in Round 18 would be enormous for United’s chances. If they can somehow turn their form around and get two of their next three, they’ll be well on their way.
So… what chance are United of squeezing into the finals? 4/10
5th – BRISBANE BULLETS
Remaining games: vs SEM / @ ADE / vs MEL / vs NZ / @ PER / vs CNS
State of play: In great form and with two thirds of their remaining games at home, I’m expecting them to make it in.
Key game/s: Assuming they beat the banged-up and travel-weary Phoenix, a win over the 36ers would put the Bullets on the verge of a finals berth.
What chance are Brisbane of returning to the finals? 5.5/10
6th – NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Remaining games: @ PER / vs ADE / @ ILL / @ BNE / vs SEM
State of play: The Breakers are playing really well but will likely need to win four of their final five games to make it. With road trips to both Perth and Brisbane and a danger game against Adelaide on the slate, that’s an awfully steep mountain to climb.
Key game/s: Those clashes with the 36ers and Bullets loom particularly large.
How do you rate their chances? 3/10
7th – ADELAIDE 36ERS
Remaining games: vs BNE / @ NZ / vs SEM / vs CNS / @ PER
State of play: The big issue for the 36ers (apart from their wild fluctuations in form) is that their percentage is shot. They’ve suffered too many big losses over the course of the season and when they’ve won it’s usually been pretty close, despite them scoring a lot of points. As a result, the Sixers are basically certain to lose a tie-breaker situation (like they did last year) and will need to go at least 4-1 over their final five games to give themselves a chance. That’s not beyond the realms of possibility, of course, but it’s highly unlikely.
Key game/s: This week’s clash with Brisbane is huge. The Sixers will be at home and will have the fresher legs. They’ve got to get this one to keep the dream alive.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yep, but not a good one. 1/10.
8th – SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Remaining games: @ BNE / vs CNS / @ ADE / vs SYD / @ NZ / vs MEL
State of play: Due to their poor percentage, South East Melbourne would essentially need to win-out from here to qualify. Not going to happen.
Key game/s: The home loss to New Zealand three weeks ago.
“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope”: 0.5/10
9th – ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Remaining games: vs SYD / @ CNS / vs NZ / @ MEL / @ SYD
State of play: Building for the future.
Key game/s: “Beat the Kings! Beat the Kings!”
The views on this page are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBL, its Clubs or partners.