NBL | Ones to Watch – Round 20

AFTER one of the most exciting fixtures in the modern era, the 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) season is set to come to an end over the weekend, but the action is far from done.

Despite there being just one round remaining, the race for the finals is far from over, with three sides looking to lock in the two remaining spots in the finals. Those teams are the Brisbane Bullets, the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings. Although the Cairns Taipans and Adelaide 36ers are still mathematical chances, it seems unlikely either will pull off a miracle.

Last night, the Illawarra Hawks locked in their spot in the postseason action after thumping the Perth Wildcats at WIN Entertainment Centre, capping off the fairytale story of the season. The Hawks were 2-7 before making a coaching change, and will now finish in the finals, likely in fourth spot unless they lose to Melbourne United and the Breakers beat both Brisbane and Adelaide.

However, the action is still set to be at an all-time high in the final round. With that in mind, Rookie Me Central will continue its weekly series of highlighting some key players worth keeping an eye on this weekend.

Nathan SobeyBrisbane Bullets

Making an appearance on this list for the second week in a row, Brisbane’s star guard will have a massive say in his team’s future over the weekend. The Bullets take on the Breakers in a do-or-die clash on Friday night, and no one is more important to Brisbane’s success than Sobey, who showcased that with a 37-point effort last weekend in the win over Adelaide. If the Bullets are to take down a determined Breakers side, then the ball will need to be in his hands as much as possible. Sobey has shown his match-winning tendencies in the past, and they will need to be on display here too.

Zylan CheathamNew Zealand Breakers

In that same game, the Breakers will be looking to keep their season alive as well when they host Brisbane at Spark Arena. One of the team’s biggest challenges on paper will be containing the Bullets’ vast array of frontcourt power. Tyrell Harrison, Aron Baynes and Rocco Zikarsky will all see court time on Friday evening, and given the loss of some key personnel over the course of the season, it will be up to Cheatham to carry the load in the paint. He has been more than serviceable on the glass in recent weeks, pulling down 27 boards over two games in Round 19, and will need to bring more of that ariel presence in tonight’s crucial clash.

Jaylen AdamsSydney Kings

The reigning champions are in territory that has been unfamiliar in recent years, finding themselves on the brink of missing out on the postseason action altogether. One thing that is in their favour is the fact that the Kings match up against an undermanned SEM Phoenix side in the final round, and are red-hot favourites to get the job done, which should result in a play-in spot given Sydney’s hefty percentage. However, no result in sport is guaranteed and there is no doubt the Phoenix will be fired up at the chance to spoil the party for a team that has had its fair share of success in recent years, so it could be a danger game. Expect the ball to be in the hands of Adams as much as possible, with the former MVP experienced in leading an offence to success, and will be loving the opportunity to put his team on his back and get them

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