2023/24 NBL Team Wrap – SEM Phoenix

THE 2023/24 season of the National Basketball League (NBL) was one of the most entertaining in recent memory, with all teams performing at a high level and making a genuine run at some postseason action along the way.

All 10 teams were in the hunt for a spot in the finals and play-in until the penultimate round, demonstrating the impressive quality of the competition.

Given the season has concluded, Rookie Me Central will be dissecting each team’s campaign, and the key pieces that shaped it.

The first team on the agenda are the SEM Phoenix, who finished in 10th place and struggled with a lack of continuity on the playing list.

SEM Phoenix

2023/24 record – 10 wins, 18 losses
Final ladder position – 10th

How it happened

With the departure of Simon Mitchell and the appointment of John Kelly as his replacement, the Phoenix were hopeful they could compete for their maiden NBL championship in the 2023/24 fixture. With the addition of some young players and retention of some of the team’s big names, South East Melbourne entered the season with high hopes, but could not make them a reality.

Off-season recruit Will Cummings departed the club mid-season due to a poor performance off the court, and the Phoenix’s remaining chances of competing for a finals spot were foiled by a plethora of injuries to the team’s biggest names. Alan Williams led the league in rebounding, but missed the start of the season before his campaign was given an early conclusion due to a knee injury, and South East Melbourne never recovered as more players missed valuable time towards the end of the fixture, finishing last in the standings, two wins shy of ninth place.

Most Valuable Player – Mitch Creek

A familiar theme throughout the club’s short history, Creek was once again a consistently strong performer for the Phoenix in a tumultuous season. Despite a lack of support at times with his star teammates spending time on the sidelines, the star forward was still able to make his side a chance of winning any contest, regardless of the circumstances.

The Phoenix captain dragged his side to several unlikely victories, including against the reigning champions in the Sydney Kings, with most of the starting five missing. Creek posted averages of 20.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one block per game, enough to make him the second-best scorer in the league, and earn him a spot in the All-NBL Second Team.

The coach – Mike Kelly

It is hard to judge Kelly’s performance in his first season at the helm of the Phoenix, given the injuries the team dealt with. The team’s offensive output took a hit in the second half of the season, but Kelly put more responsibility on the shoulders of Ben Ayre in a solid move, while his use of Matt Kenyon gave the wing an improved output as well. However, he could be a victim of circumstance if the team looks to change direction in the coming months.

Where to?

Given the current core has been unable to deliver the ultimate goal once again, it appears a genuine possibility the Phoenix will look to pivot into a bit of a rebuild. The big name imports may be on the way out as South East Melbourne looks to acquire either different overseas players or look towards picking up some local talent. It appears the timing is ideal to make some big changes and re-tool the playing list, and given the lack of personnel changes last season, some big moves may be incoming.

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