NBL team wrap: Perth Wildcats

IT WAS A fairytale finish to the end of the 2022/23 season for the Perth Wildcats, although an appearance in the first ever NBL play-in ended in disappointment.

The Wildcats were looking to return to the postseason after missing the finals for the first time in over three decades in the 2021/22 season.

Despite the loss of some key figures such as Victor Law over the offseason, the team injected some proven winners into the team, and head coach John Rillie remained adamant his side was returning to the top part of the ladder.

Inconsistent performances throughout the fixture ended up costing the Wildcats any momentum, and they were looking extremely close to missing the postseason once again. In a blockbuster final round, the equation was simple for Perth; win by 12 and make the play-in, win by any less or lose and it’s season over.

In a dramatic finish, the Wildcats rallied the RAC Arena crowd, and just snuck through for a memorable victory to ensure their campaign continued, and kept the momentum rolling with a win over the SEM Phoenix in the first play-in match. However, they could not get over the final hurdle to book a spot in the semi-finals, and were left to rue their underwhelming performance in the regular season.

Perth Wildcats

2022/23 record – 15 wins, 13 losses

The Wildcats had some memorable wins, but were left to rue inconsistency come season’s end, and were outclassed by the rising sides when it mattered most.

MVP – Bryce Cotton

There was not much doubt over who would get the nod here, with Cotton producing yet another outstanding season. He finished top three in league MVP voting once again, and was a match-winner on a number of occasions. A bona fide star of the competition, the guard posted averages of 23.5 points (a league-best figure), 4.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, and continues to be one of the toughest matchups in the competition.

Surprise packet – TaShawn Thomas

With all of the focus on the arrival of Brady Manek over the offseason, Thomas flew under the radar a bit. Although it took him a while to find his groove, the big man got rolling as the fixture rolled on. He became an integral part of the team’s offence and made life easier for Cotton with his presence in the paint. He averaged 13.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 57 per cent shooting in an impressive campaign, particularly in the back half of the fixture.

One to watch next season – Luke Travers

This is an interesting one because there is no certainty that he will be back in a Wildcats uniform next year, but no matter where he is playing, the talented youngster will be one to watch. Having been drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA last season, there is plenty of expectation that he will be joining the world’s biggest league after a career-best season in the NBL. Travers showed even more promise this year, and took great strides from an individual standpoint.

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