2022/23 NBL Finals preview: Sydney Kings vs. NZ Breakers
AFTER an extended break between playoffs, the Sydney Kings and New Zealand Breakers are set for game one of the 2022/23 NBL Final Series which kicks off tonight. The best-of-five battle will see the Kings host three games and the Breakers two, as the minor premiers look to go back-to-back, while the underdogs hope to complete the fairytale season.
The Kings have been one of the major teams to beat all year, and it would come as no surprise that the reigning premiers have made yet another Grand Final Series. Atoning for the loss to Perth Wildcats the year before, the Kings were triumphant over the Tasmania JackJumpers last season, and will aim to go back-to-back against the only team situated further south.
Looking at the Kings list, they have star talent and captain Xavier Cooks who won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) this season and has been in sensational form all year having taken out last year’s Grand Final MVP. He is averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, teaming up well with Derrick Walton Jr (16.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
The depth of the kings list is telling and a key reason why Sydney has been so successful of late. The likes of Dejan Vasiljevic (14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds), Justin Simon (10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds) and Tim Soares (10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds) all contribute off the boards, and though the Kings do not have as much of a spread on the attacking transition, they can keep possession for long periods of time.
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
The Breakers have not had the recent success the Kings have had, with the New Zealand side struggling over the past couple of seasons due to the hubs put in place through Covid restrictions.
Without any home games, the side did not get to play in front of a home crowd in some time, and made up for lost time this year. Storming up the ladder in season 2022/23, the Breakers have been the big improver in the competition and play with a fast-paced style.
Barry Brown Jr. has been a star on the shooting front, scoring 19.5 points per game, to go with 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists, though his most damaging trait is his scoring potential. He along with Jarell Brantley (16.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Izayah Le’afa (10.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists) all average two three-point makes per game highlighting just how damaging the team as a whole can be from beyond the arc.
Not only that, but Dererk Pardon has been causing headaches for opposing bigmen up both ends of the court, bullying his way to 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He and William McDowell-White provide the strength on the inside, with the latter notching up 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists in an underrated season this year. The Breakers are not without a chance, but need to capitalise early.