2022/23 NBL Team Wrap – Adelaide 36ers
MUCH LIKE the last side covered in Rookie Me Central‘s NBL Team Wrap series, the Adelaide 36ers came into the 2022/23 season with high expectations after a busy offseason.
The front office went to work recruiting some of the biggest imports in the league, as well as adding a former G-League star in Craig Randall II. Suddenly, the 36ers were launched into championship favouritism, with one of the strongest lists in the competition.
Unfortunately, the team could not fire in their quest for their fifth championship, finishing in seventh place come season’s end. A slow start and some mid-season locker room drama derailed the team’s hopes of a finals appearance.
Star import, Randall infamously parted ways with the club after explosive rumours surfaced of tension in the locker room. At the time, Randall was one of the league’s best scorers, leaving a big gap in the team’s offence. A number of players tried to fill the void, but things did not come together until the end of the season, as Adelaide almost forced its way into the play-in with an excellent patch of form in the last few rounds.
There were still some positive moments over the course of the fixture, although the biggest came in the preseason, when the 36ers miraculously defeated the Phoenix Suns, one of the best sides in the NBA. Adelaide became the first NBL team to defeat an NBA side, claiming a 134-124 triumph. Although they could not carry the form into the regular season, it was a glimpse of potential that the list held.
2022/23 season – 13 wins, 15 losses
The 36ers left their hot streak too late, falling two wins short of a postseason appearance despite hitting their straps in the final month of the season. Unfortunately for them, this season was one of the closest in recent memory, and spots in the play-in tournament were extremely hard to come by.
MVP – Antonius Cleveland
Cleveland was one of the team’s biggest recruits over the offseason, having enjoyed a terrific debut season last year with the Illawarra Hawks. Although it took him time to find his role within the team under CJ Bruton, the wing’s skill and intent never wavered. His defence was a mainstay in the team, and although the side struggled as a unit to keep the opposition’s score down, Cleveland never faulted in this area. He earned his second consecutive NBL Best Defensive Player award, and hit his stride offensively in the last six weeks of the season. He single-handedly made the 36ers a mathematical possibility for the play-in with a handful of 25+ point performances to close out the season.
Surprise Packet – Ian Clark
Clark’s skill has never been in question, given his championship campaign with the Sydney Kings last year. However, not many expected him to return to the NBL mid-season and give the 36ers a much-needed boost. He slotted seamlessly into the team next to the likes of Cleveland and Robert Franks and the team’s offence looked much better for his inclusion. Across 10 appearances, he averaged 12.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, playing a vital role in nearly getting the 36ers into the postseason.
One to watch next season – Kai Sotto
Sotto took a number of positive steps in the 2022/23 season, becoming a much more consistent around the rim. Given his dominant height and frame, the youngster has always had the tools to hurt the opposition with his finishing in close, and in Adelaide’s campaign, he began to put together more frequent impactful performances. Sotto even earned himself a spot in the starting lineup at times throughout the fixture, further emphasising the progress he has made. Although his future with the team is clouded given he just signed a deal overseas, if he returns to the 36ers next season, his upwards trajectory could continue.