THE National Basketball League (NBL) season has reached the last round before the postseason, wrapping up an extremely entertaining campaign across 2022 and 2023.
As is the case with every season, the final round will have plenty of say in how the finals structure looks in the coming weeks. The path forward is even more complex given the newly implemented ‘play-in’ tournament, which will see third to sixth face off in elimination matches to secure the final two spots in the postseason.
Rookie Me Central will break down the upcoming round and how it will affect each team’s finals chances, in the most vital batch of games of the home and away fixture.
Kicking things off, the Illawarra Hawks and the Brisbane Bullets are locked in to finish tenth and ninth respectively, having struggled to maintain winning form over the course of the season.
On the other end of the stick, the Sydney Kings have secured top spot in the standings after capping off a dominant season where they remained at the head of the table.
The New Zealand Breakers and the Cairns Taipans are set to battle it out for second and third spot, with the Breakers given the opportunity to move into the top two if they win both games this weekend. If not, it belongs to the Taipans.
The rest of the ladder is where it gets a bit trickier to predict, with a number of outcomes possible by the time the final batch of games wrap on Sunday evening.
For the Adelaide 36ers, a postseason appearance seems unlikely, although it is a mathematical possibility depending on the results of other games. They would need to make up a point differential of 30 and the Wildcats would need to lose by a combined 35 points over two games for Adelaide to make sixth place.
Looking at the improving Melbourne United, they may be brought undone by a lower percentage when it’s all said and done. If they are to book an unlikely spot in the final six, they will need to record a thumping win over the 36ers (at least 38 points) to leapfrog their crosstown rivals, which seems the most likely scenario. Although they could reach as high as fourth, although Perth would need to lose both home games and the JackJumpers would need to be on the end of a belting from the Hawks.
For the SEM Phoenix, their season is done with all 28 games played, so they will be watching patiently as their rivals decide the shape of the ladder. Sixth spot appears likely for Simon Mitchell‘s men, with the JackJumpers and Wildcats both looking likely in claiming a win on the weekend and staying ahead of the Phoenix, while United would need to bring the most dominant performance of the year to pass South East Melbourne.
The Perth Wildcats have two games at home in the final weekend of the season, and if they win both, they will finish no lower than sixth spot. To move above the JackJumpers seems too tall a task for the Wildcats, but there is a small chance they drop down to eighth if they lose both games and Adelaide wins both of its games by enough, with percentage playing a big role. The goal is simple for the side out West; win one.
Last but not least are the Tasmania JackJumpers, who appear destined for fourth spot. Mathematically, it is possible for the ‘Jackies’ to move into third, but the Breakers would have to lose to the bottom two sides by a combine 80 points, which seems more of a fantasy than opportunity. Tasmania could also remarkably fall out of the top six, but would need to lose to the bottom-placed Hawks and then a number of sides would need to claim wins larger than we have seen all season.
With so many variables heading into the final batch of games tomorrow night, the last round of the NBL season is certainly one to watch.