NBL Blitz Wrap/Round 1 Preview: New club set to kick off season
AFTER many long months of waiting, the National Basketball League (NBL) 2021-22 season is finally here, with proceedings set to kick off tomorrow night in what will be a welcome return for Australia’s premier Basketball competition. The ‘Blitz’ pre-season series gave fans a nice preview of the season to come, but now comes the time for teams to put their best foot forward and start their campaigns with a bang. With plenty of storylines around the league heading into NBL22, expect the action to start from the very first tip-off, which will see the competition’s freshest addition hit the court for its first regular season match.
Before we dive into the upcoming Round 1 action, it’s time to wrap up the recently concluded NBL Blitz competition, which gave clubs their first taste of action heading into the season. There were matches held across two weeks of action, and clubs across the competition were able to get some runs into their legs with the season just around the corner.
After a fortnight of entertaining action, the Adelaide 36ers were crowned Blitz champions, having finished their time in the tournament undefeated and on top of the ladder. The competition also gave fans a first glimpse of some of the young guns such as Ousmane Dieng and Hugo Besson, both of whom impressed throughout their time in the competition. There were a number of highlights, including a game winner from New Zealand’s Finn Delany and a monster dunk from JackJumper Josh Adams. New 36ers recruit Mitch McCarron was named the player of the tournament with averages of 5.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
NBL Round 1:
The season’s opening match will see the Tasmania JackJumpers, in their very first NBL game, take on the Brisbane Bullets on Friday night. Adding to the intrigue, it was also be the first official NBL match in the new MyState Bank Arena, which is based in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart. With the Apple Isle waiting so long to get its own side in the NBL, expect the stands to be full of eager supporters, but the Bullets will be out to spoil the party and start their season in perfect fashion.
The hype around the JackJumpers has only built since the team was announced in October of 2020, and the side is finally gearing up for their first encounter. The ‘Blitz’ pre-season competition was somewhat a success for the JackJumpers, who secured two wins from their five matches. This also allowed for the emergence of some of the side’s recruits, such as Adams, Josh Magette and MiKyle McIntosh.
Adams and Magette look to be one of the league’s deadliest duos, with the pair frequently causing the opposition defence some form of trouble through their scoring and playmaking. McIntosh has also shown his ability to hit the scoreboard, demonstrating dynamic talents on the offensive end. Pairing this trio with a number of experienced teammates such as Clint Steindl and Will Magnay (who is extremely damaging if he can stay healthy) should see the JackJumpers surprise a number of fans in their maiden season. They are every chance to shock the competition and claim a win in their debut outing against the Bullets this weekend.
The Bullets will be positive heading into not only this season, but their opening matchup against the JackJumpers. Throughout their time in the NBL Blitz, the Bullets showed that they will be right in contention this season, with a runner-up finish a positive indicator of this. Once again, Nathan Sobey is the man, with the veteran pouring in an impressive (but not surprising) pre-season campaign. He looks set to lead this side in strong fashion once again this season, and will be hoping to start his NBL22 season off with a bang against the JackJumpers. The Bullets will have the advantage of experience over their opponents in this matchup, but Tasmania impressed in the NBL Blitz, so Brisbane will need to start their year off strong, but will be quietly confident.
The second match of the round will see the in-form Adelaide 36ers take on last year’s grand finalists in the Perth Wildcats at RAC Arena on Friday night. This match provides the perfect opportunity for Adelaide to prove that their Blitz form can carry into the regular season, but they will be taking on a formidable opponent.
The Perth Wildcats fell just short of another dose of NBL glory, falling to Melbourne United in the grand final series as they were bested by a stronger side. They will be looking to amend this in NBL22, starting on Friday night. Without setting the world on fire, the Wildcats played their part throughout the NBL Blitz, getting some action into their players before the season tip-off. Unfortunately, they have also been forced to deal with injuries to key players such as Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton.
However, in better news, the side will be regaining a healthy Bryce Cotton, who will be eager to hit the court once again, and could cause problems for the Adelaide defence. With the 36ers claiming the Blitz title, the Wildcats will be eager to put a stop to the momentum of their opponents and start their campaign in style with a win in their first outing.
The 36ers did not put a foot wrong in the NBL Blitz, delivering an undefeated run as they stormed through any opponent in their path. They will be looking to carry this form forward as they seek a win against a strong opponent this weekend. The team will be looking to utilise the talents of McCarron, who was clearly their prized recruit of the offseason. The guard has shown the ability to lead a side to an NBL title as recently as last year, so the 36ers will be keen to lean on the veteran in their season opener. With a talented list and some eye-catching momentum, Adelaide will be a strong chance to upset the Wildcats on Friday night.
New Zealand Breakers
Saturday night’s action kicks off with the South East Melbourne Phoenix playing host to the New Zealand Breakers when the two sides face off at John Cain Arena. The two sides are tipped to deliver strong performances in the upcoming season, and this clash should prove an indicator of how accurate these predictions are.
The Phoenix delivered a strong sophomore season in NBL21, improving from cellar-dwellars to semi-finalists in the space of just a year, and they look eager to build on these efforts in the upcoming campaign. The club’s offseason moves (or lack thereof) demonstrated the confidence they have in their list and staff to keep this momentum flowing into years to come. They come up against a Breakers side that is full of youthful talent, so they will need to rely on the veteran presence of leaders such as Mitchell Creek to steer them to victory in this match. It will also be interesting to see how the side uses new recruit Xavier Munford in this match, given he essentially acted as the side’s primary ball-handler for much of the NBL Blitz campaign.
The Breakers look ready to take the next step in NBL22, with a youthful squad set to carry the club forward during the upcoming season. The NBL Blitz campaign saw the side’s play rely heavily on NBL Next Stars Dieng and Besson, which could be an indication for how they will operate this match. They face off against a Phoenix side that has a number of established stars, so the experience of players such as Delany will likely prove invaluable in controlling the tempo of the team on both ends of the court. If the Breakers are able to come out and produce a round 1 victory over last year’s semi-finalists, they will be announcing themselves as one of the team’s to watch this season.
The first match of a Sunday triple-header will see the Illawarra Hawks travel to Adelaide Entertainment Centre to take on the Adelaide 36ers. The Hawks impressed in their pre-season campaign, but will be taking on the strongest team of that tournament in a test of character for the side. This is Adelaide’s second match of the round.
The Illawarra Hawks will be quietly confident heading into this match, given their undefeated status throughout the NBL Blitz competition. Unfortunately, COVID-related issues prevented them from gaining even more traction heading into the season. However, they will be looking to start their season early and take advantage of an Adelaide side that may be slightly fatigued given this will be their second match in 48 hours. The addition of Duop Reath in the offseason will likely pay dividends as early as this round 1 clash, with the big man likely keen to impose himself on the competition from the very first matchup. The Hawks took down some quality competition in the pre-season and will be looking to do this once again when they take on Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.
The reigning champions will get their first look at defending their title when they take on the Sydney Kings at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Kings have looked strong in the pre-season, but now face the tough task of taking on a Melbourne United side that will be looking to claim consecutive championships.
The Kings have surprised many fans and critics during the NBL Blitz competition, and while they did not produce an outstanding record, it was the way they went about their matches that impressed. Under new head coach Chase Buford, the side has adapted a fast-paced style of play that has frequently caught the opposition on the back foot, and will be the method of attack in their clash against United. Given United’s success last year, the Kings won’t exactly be confident heading into this match, but talent players such as Jarell Martin certainly have the capability to carry this team to an unlikely win, so don’t rule them out just yet.
Melbourne United are likely still riding the high of the NBL21 championship, but this does not mean they don’t plan on backing it up this season. Against the Kings, the last year’s champions will enter this clash confident of their chances, but complacency will be their biggest enemy. There have been plenty of teams in NBL history that have not been able to back up their efforts, but United have the tools to change this pattern. The side will be eager for the regular season debut of recruit Matthew Dellavedova, who made headlines with his return to our shores. The point guard will play a vital role on Sunday afternoon as the side looks to start their NBL22 season off with a bang.
The final match of the opening round will see the Cairns Taipans kick off the 2021-22 campaign when they take on the Perth Wildcats at RAC Arena on Sunday night. The Taipans have been underwhelming in their run into the regular season, but will be looking to prove the doubters wrong with a win over the Wildcats. This will be Perth’s second match of the round.
The Taipans struggled throughout the NBL Blitz pre-season competition, unable to register a win from their four matches. On top of this, they suffered two losses to the Tasmania JackJumpers, who were yet to win a game in the competition. The Taipans will be eager to remove these losses from their memory as they look towards their round 1 clash against the Wildcats, who will likely prove tough competition. The teams clashes in the Blitz competition, where the Taipans fell by nine points, so they will be looking to amend this on Sunday afternoon. The Taipans will be hoping star Scott Machado will find his way out of a slump, because if he can impact the contest like he has in the past, an upset may be on the cards.