2022/23 NBL team wrap: Cairns Taipans

ALTHOUGH they did not make the Championship Series, the 2022/23 NBL season was far from a failure for the Cairns Taipans, who showed an immense amount of improvement.

The northern-most team in the competition was one of the league’s biggest risers, completely turning things around to become one of the strongest and most dangerous sides in the country. It was the theme for a number of clubs in the 2022/23 fixture, as the landscape of the NBL was flipped on its head.

The Taipans finished in ninth place in at the end of the 2021/22 season, and although they recruited some intriguing imports, a similar result was expected. However, coach Adam Forde implemented a newer, faster style of play that was not only easy on the eyes, but also yielded terrific results.

A third place finish at the end of the home and away fixture would normally mean a ticket to the semi-finals. However, with the implementation of the play-in, the Taipans had one more hurdle to come. In that tournament, they lost to the JackJumpers and instead were bumped down to fourth and booked a matchup against the Kings.

Although it lost to the eventual champions, Cairns still took it to three games and performed extremely well in the semi-finals against the strongest list in the NBL.

Cairns Taipans

2022/23 record – 18 wins, 10 losses

The Taipans were one of the best stories of the NBL season, rapidly rising up the rankings and delivering an exciting style of play.

MVP – Keanu Pinder

Injury derailed Pinder from making a true mark on the 2022/23 season, but his impact was felt nonetheless. Claiming his second consecutive NBL Most Improved Player award (a feat that had never been achieved before) by taking his game to yet another level. With averages of 16.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, Pinder established himself as one of the competition’s premier big men. A facial injury delivered a premature ending to his campaign, missing the entire finals, but his impact in the team’s drastic improvement is undeniable.

Keanu Pinder had yet another outstanding season. Photo: Emily Barker/Getty Images

Surprise packet – DJ Hogg

On a roster that contains the likes of Pinder and Tahjere McCall, not many would have predicted Hogg to top the scoring count for the season. He was one of the NBL’s most damaging offensive players, and delivered a number of standout performances for the Taipans. When going downhill, not many sides could stop the import forward, who was one of the best isolation scorers in the competition. He finished the fixture with numbers of 18.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 44 per cent shooting from the field.

DJ Hogg was the team’s leading scorer. Photo: Getty Images

One to watch next season – Sam Waardenberg

This pick was a bit of a no-brainer, with Waardenberg becoming one of the brightest young players in the competition. The forward won the newly announced NBL Next Generation award, and the 24-year-old was one of Cairns’ most important figures in an outstanding season for the team. It seems certain that the youngster has a bright future ahead in the NBL, and that was reflected by his averages of 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists on 53 per cent shooting in a terrific campaign for the New Zealand native.

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