By: Andrew Price / @andrewbprice
It’s Christmas, and much like the rest of the world, I’m sure the players and management of the NBL have been asking Santa for a gift or two to be left under the tree. Here’s the NBL Christmas wish-list as I see it:
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS: CJ Bruton to return and contribute
The Breakers are on a league high five game winning streak and looking almost unstoppable on their way to back-to-back championships. There isn’t much a team in this position could ask for that they haven’t already got.
Sure, there are petty requests - such as Cedric Jackson finally getting the club’s first ever triple double, since he’s basically been there for the past few weeks. But I’m sure if you asked anyone at the club, the request at the top of their list would be a return to health for veteran guard CJ Bruton.
Bruton has been out for the past three weeks or so with a torn patella tendon and although the team hasn’t dropped a game since, his contributions are always welcome. The fan favourite hasn’t missed this many games since he joined the club and word is the Breakers may get their wish early in the new year too, with Bruton aiming to suit up for the game against Cairns in a few weeks.
PERTH WILDCATS: Shawn Redhage to return to form
It’s no secret this season that Shawn Redhage hasn’t been his usual self. He’s been the backbone of the Wildcats offense for a number of years now and although for the latter half of last season Redhage was out injured, he went down averaging 18.5 ppg (his career average with the Wildcats is 19.5 ppg).
Over the last nine games however, he’s averaged around 11 ppg in a stretch that has seen him register four single figure games. The Wildcats will need Redhage to return to his early season form to make a serious challenge to the Breakers for the title this season.
MELBOURNE TIGERS: A centre
It’s a simple request for Santa from the Tigers this Christmas and one I’ve mentioned before on this blog.
The Tigers need a centre.
Cam Traghardh is pulling his weight on the offensive end, but struggles defensively against the true centres of the NBL. A centre would make the Tigers a title contender and I’m sure Tigers fans are hoping Santa drops one of these down the chimney of the ludicrously named State Netball & Hockey Centre.
GOLD COAST BLAZE: Some Rebounds
The Blaze are a playoff team this season, plain and simple. They have an amazing guard line up, an international level big man and a strong bench.
Despite this, they are currently sitting on a .500 record for the season. The problem with the Blaze has been their inability to outrebound their opponents, despite having a strong front court. The Blaze have been outrebounded at both ends of the court this season and although they’re not the worst in the league, it’s costing them games they can’t afford to lose.
TOWNSVILLE CROCS: Luke Schenscher & Eddie Gill to form an elite partnership
The Crocs are lucky enough to have found themselves in a rare position for this part of the world. They have a star point guard (Eddie Gill) with a great head for the game formed from years of experience and a 7”1 centre (Luke Schenscher) with NBA experience and a strong college pedigree (Georgia Tech). Schenscher has just returned from injury after spending the first part of the season with his leg in a cast and will be looking to make his mark on the season, and Gill might just be the man to help him do this.
Although the duo are yet to create anything that could resemble a partnership (Crocs actually have the second lowest assist rate in the NBL), if utilised properly could create headaches for opponents.
CAIRNS TAIPANS: Consistent Offence
The Taipans are perennially one of the best defensive teams in the league, something that is no different this season. The biggest issue for the snakes this year is where their shots are coming from. They’re the worst ranked offensive team in the league, in no small part due to their terrible shooting percentages.
This team can still make the playoffs but the Taipans need to spend some time over the Christmas break practicing their shooting and their post work.
SYDNEY KINGS: Some perimeter help for Khazzouh
The Kings’ have already opened their Christmas present a week early – Julian Khazzouh didn’t earn a spot with the Golden State Warriors, and will be re-joining them without missing a single game. But if the Kings were to have some extra favours to call in with Santa, it would be to give Khazzouh a little perimeter assistance. This Sydney team already has a formidable front court duo in Khazzouh and Grant, but their guard line up is weak. Get this from Santa, and it could lead to a playoff berth.
ADELAIDE 36ers: The 36ers to string together some wins
The 36ers are 4-8 so far this season, but they have a team that is much better than that. They’ve already done the impossible this season beating Perth at home twice, as well as a strong Melbourne team - but have so far been unable to get any winning momentum.
They’ve just lost their starting shooting guard to a season ending injury but much like Sydney, this team has an outstanding backcourt PF/C combination in MVP candidate Diamon Simpson and Most Improved standout Daniel Johnson. A few more wins in the new year and this team could make some waves.
WOLLONGONG HAWKS: The sense to make some hard calls
I’ve buried the Hawks this week. But with their season over, they now face some tough decisions. The Hawks have two 35 year olds in their starting line up (Glen Saville & Mat Campbell) and a terrible import point guard (Showron Glover).
Cutting the import will be easy in the off season, but forcing Saville and Campbell to retire is another matter entirely. Both these players still contribute to the team, the real issue is their hero status to the community. Both have played their entire careers with the Hawks (save one year in which Saville played with the Kings) and have therefore cemented themselves as mainstays of the club.
It may be a hard pill for the franchise to swallow, but the Hawks need to get younger, faster and more athletic and to do this, both of these stalwarts need to retire. They already have their numbers retired by the club…might want to take that as a hint from a very polite management.
Andrew Price is the creator of lobpasstoabercrombie.com, where he writes about his love affair with basketball, the NBL and his hometown team, the New Zealand Breakers. Follow him on Twitter @andrewbprice and read Abercrombie & Fitchett every Monday on ELA.