Monday, November 2, 2009

How Does Your Team Look?

Awvee Storey and the New Zealand Breakers will only get better as the season goes along.

The NBL 2009/10 season has already raced through a quarter of the season. I take a look at how each team is traveling and where I think they will end.

Adelaide 36ers (4-4): John Gilchrist is the key to the 36ers success. When he plays huge they win, and when he looks stiffer than David (as he did against the Melbourne Tigers) he looks marginal and so does the team.

Center Matt Burston's injury problems do not help as that forces Adam Ballinger to play a lot of minutes a centre. Something I cannot imagine he wants to make a steady diet of doing.

But, if the 36ers are to advance to the playoffs this season, road wins are going to have to start to appear. Currently 1-3 on the road (and that over a struggling Cairns Taipans) the 36ers need to find some consistency when traveling away from "Brett Maher Court".

I have the 36ers missing the cut as they will not accumulate enough road wins.

Cairns Taipans (3-6): After racing out of the gate (3-1) the Taipans have shown they're no stayer as they have lost their last 5.

Phill Jones has been a great addition but even his sweet stroke will not be enough to pull the Snakes out of the cellar.

It will be interesting to see how long the Cairns faithful with stick by their team as the loses begin to mount. Round 8 may bring relief as the local derby will stimulate most Snake fans out of hibernation when fellow North Queenslanders, Townsville come to town.

I cannot paint this picture any better, the Taipans will struggle for wins the remainder of the way.

Gold Coast Blaze (3-5): The Blaze are no different from all the other NBL franchises, they struggle on the road. Yet to post a win in four attempts on the road, the Blaze need to find a way to get it done when they leave the beach.

New coach, new players will always lead to a slow start but Coach Joey Wright will be looking for his squad to start getting into a winning mood soon.

This upcoming weekend could really become a season defining one for the beach boys. Thursday night they head southeast to take on the New Zealand Breakers, then head to the city of churches on Saturday.

If they want to be considered a legit playoff team, this weekend is the time to start.

Sorry Joey, despite the hype around your team during the offseason, you better have Fox Sports if you want to watch the playoffs.

Melbourne Tigers (3-5): Everyone is waiting for the Tigers to tinker with their roster but they still have talent to get the job done.

The Tigers tackle the hot Wollongong Hawks on Wednesday before they head home for a favourable home schedule for the remainder off the month.

Mark Worthington is still playing himself into shape (thanks to a preseason foot injury) and with Chris Anstey to return around the same time as Santa Claus appears, the Tigers, well, are being the Tigers.

When February comes around, the Tigers will be in the Final Four.

New Zealand Breakers (4-3): The Breakers are brilliant at home and terrible on the road. A perfect 4-0 at home while they remain winless in Australia.

That means the Breakers will finish 14-14 which I believe will be enough to make the finals.

Unfortunately for opposition teams, I feel the Breakers will only get better as a group. With MVP Kirk Penney out, this has allowed the growth of Tom Ambercrombie and extra minutes for import Awvee Storey on the perimeter. (I have been told by several players throughout the league, he goes to the boards with a purpose so you better get a body on him.)

The Breakers get to break the duck on the road over in Perth on Sunday. Not the easiest place to get a win, but a hot shooting Breakers could just do that.

Perth Wildcats (5-2): This team has made the most of the home stand in recent times. the critics were out after a slow start on the road, but no they are the hottest team in the league, having peeled off four in a row.

They are one of only a few teams that have a few guys that can tear you apart.

Shawn Redhage has been steady without being outstanding, but I expect him to find a rhythm that sees him post some huge numbers.

Import Kevin Lisch has shown he can deliver down the stretch. He has 2 game winners to his name already.

My X Factor for the Wildcats is Martin Cattilini. He has not been called on to play huge minutes to date, meaning he will be as fresh as a daisy heading into the playoffs.

Yes, the Wildcats playoff streak will continue.

Townsville Crocodiles (4-4): The only team in the league that has tasted success multiple (two) times on the road.

Corey "Homicide" Williams has started off the season in red hot form. He will need to continue this type of form if the Crocs are to make a run at a Top 4 spot. The murderous one has had his way with defenses, but I'm expecting teams to become a little more aggressive with him as the season plays out.

When and if this happens, the likes of Michael Cedar, Brad Williamson, Peter Crawford and Kelvin Robertson need to be locked and loaded and ready to knock down the three.

Like Adelaide and Gilchrist, the Crocs will be dependant on Williams being able to continue to perform at such a high level if they wish to taste playoff action for the fourth year in a row.

Wollongong Hawks (5-2): No doubt the surprise packet of the season. Import Ty McKee is getting his share of ink but it is his teammates that have been just as helpful.

Mat Campbell has been solid, Larry Davidson has been doing it all and Cameron Tragardh has become a real Jay Leno.

Gordie McLeod has once again done a great job of allowing his plays to utilise their individual strengths, while performing within the team structure.

The Hawks fast start will allow them to steal a playoff birth. Hawks fans will get a better understanding of their team as they have three games in four days this round.

There you have it. If I was to put some of the hard earned stuff on who I believe will make the Final Four, here you have it.

Wollongong, Perth, New Zealand and Melbourne

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