Matchup to Watch – Xavier Cooks vs. Keanu Pinder

THE FIFTH Round of the 2022/23 NBL season is underway, with some big matchups on the cards over the course of the weekend.

While there are many clashes to watch from a team perspective, there is arguably an individual matchup that is set to be the most entertaining part of the round. The two best big men in the competition are set to lock horns on Saturday night when Xavier Cooks and the Sydney Kings take on Keanu Pinder and the Cairns Taipans at Qudos Bank Arena.

Both players are in career best form and look slated to be in the MVP conversation come season’s end given how strong their sides are performing. It is a change from the last few years, which has seen dominance from point guards for the most part, but these two have bought big men back into vogue, and bragging rights are on the line in this contest.


Xavier Cooks – 16.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Keanu Pinder – 16.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists

Both players have started the year in exceptional form, crashing the boards and scoring in the paint with energy and strength, and have become the number one scoring option for their respective sides.

Offensively, the two players look quite evenly matched. Pinder is slightly ahead scoring the ball, while Cooks has proven to be the better playmaker, reaching as high as nine assists in a single game in recent weeks. With plenty of options on the perimeter, Cooks is making the most of his high basketball IQ and his side is benefiting from that.

Keanu Pinder has been in MVP-form. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

In the low block, both players have proven just about unstoppable, throwing down big dunks and putting up deft hooks to create space from the defence. It will be intriguing to see how the defence stacks up in this matchup, given how talented both are offensively.

There has been no better rebounder than Pinder so far this season, remaining the only player to average double-digits in that area. He has recorded a double-double in just about every game, and it culminated in a career-best performance last weekend with 26 points and 10 rebounds. There is no doubt that Cooks will need to box out, and while he is a handy rebounder himself, he will have his work cut out for him.

There is plenty of excitement surrounding Saturday’s match, with the battle within the battle set to dominate headlines. Both Pinder and Cooks have proven unstoppable in the opening four rounds, there will be plenty on the line for the duo when they do battle in the paint on the weekend.

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