THE 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) is right around the corner, with the fixture set to kick off on Thursday, September 28.
The season is shaping up like no other, with an unprecedented amount of young and international talent complimenting the homegrown players set to suit up in the nation’s premier basketball competition.
The landscape of the league looks as even as ever, with the title up for grabs after a period of dominance from the Sydney Kings. As shown with the New Zealand Breakers and Cairns Taipans last time around, any side could climb the rankings, and the player movements have ensured there is no clear favourite.
With that in mind, Rookie Me Central will be taking a look at each side and how they are shaping up ahead of the season’s commencement, with some intriguing outfits around the NBL.
With the first week of the series coming to a close, there is no better side to discuss than Melbourne United, who had arguably the strongest off-season of any side, and are primed for another tilt at the title.
2022/23 record – 15 wins, 13 losses
It was an underwhelming season from Dean Vickerman‘s side, who backed up a minor championship with a campaign that saw the team miss the postseason completely. However, some big inclusions to the roster have catapulted Melbourne back into contention, where it should be ready to compete for the ultimate prize once again.
Ariel Hukporti, Brad Newley, Campbell Blogg, Chris Goulding, Flynn Cameron, Ian Clark, Jo Lual Acuil, Kyle Bowen, Luke Travers, Malith Machar, Matthew Dellavedova, Robert Loe, Shea Ili, Tanner Krebs, Zac Triplett
Key question – What is the pass mark for a roster of this calibre?
There is no doubt United had the strongest intake of players during the off-season, with plenty of high-profile names joining the roster and launching the team back into contention. The likes of Dellavedova, Clark, Lual-Acuil and Travers are all household NBL names, and bring a wealth of experience to the table in one of the most stacked playing lists in recent memory.
Melbourne has all the tools to win it all, especially with an experienced coach like Vickerman at the helm, but what is considered an acceptable result for this team. With a roster as stacked as this, an appearance in the semi-finals should be considered the bare minimum, a goal that United are likely to achieve having just come off an NBL Blitz tournament win, but don’t be surprised to see them hold the trophy come season’s end.
One to watch – Luke Travers
In one of the biggest free agency moves within the NBL over the last few months, young gun Travers made the move from WA to Victoria to join United. It was a move that was made to try and continue his journey into the NBA, hoping to benefit from a bigger playmaking role after playing alongside Bryce Cotton.
Travers will now play alongside a wealth of experienced players and should take on bigger ball-handling responsibilities. He has demonstrated his ability to run an offence, and made exceptional strides in terms of his shooting last season too. Under bright lights in Melbourne, the rising youngster should continue his development with some experienced teammates and under one of the game’s best coaches.
United are one of the most exciting teams coming into the season, with a stacked roster that surpasses all others in the competition. Having emerged on top during the pre-season tournament, the sky is the limit for this Melbourne side in the near future.