Round 8 of the competition saw players illustrate their importance to their teams, while some clubs desperately lacked leadership from their stars.
The Inner Sanctum has made five observations that are flying under the radar around the NBL this week.
Is Rathan-Mayes the key to Illawarra’s title chances?
Xavier Rathan-Mayes could be the piece that helps the Illawarra Hawks breakthrough and win this year’s championship.
Rathan-Mayes provides a lot to Brian Goorjian’s backcourt mix, currently averaging 10.6 points, shooting 42 per cent and dishing out under four assists per game.
The 27-year-old’s ability to act as a secondary ball-handler allows Goorjian to use his other star guard Tyler Harvey in a more off-the-ball type of roll and worry about scoring instead of setting up his teammates.
Firmly secured as one of the first men off the bench for the Hawks, the Canadian is strongly considered in the race for Sixth Man of the Year as well.
If Rathan-Mayes continues to play his role and the Hawks pick up the effort defensively, it will go a long way towards winning their first title since 2001.Embed from Getty Images
Xavier Cooks is the Sydney Kings’ most important player
The Sydney Kings’ two matches this round highlighted what an important cog forward Xavier Cooks is in their new system under head coach Chase Buford.
Flashback to Friday night against the Brisbane Bullets, when the Sydney ran riot in the first quarter. Cooks was tasked with defending Robert Franks, holding him to two points and two rebounds.
The game changed early in the second quarter when Cooks was ejected. The 26-year-old only played 10:34 minutes but had a plus/minus of +17, in the remaining 29:26 minutes the Kings were -26.
In the return game on Sunday, Cooks importance was shown on both ends of the floor. The 6’8 swingman finished the game with 13 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, and a plus/minus of +28
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Has Harry Froling found his place?
Harry Froling has bounced around the NBL since he returned home early from college. Froling has already played with three different teams (Townsville Crocodiles, Adelaide 36ers and Brisbane Bullets), before signing with the Illawarra Hawks to join his brother Sam Froling.
Although he doesn’t play a consistent amount of minutes, it appears that the 23-year-old might have finally found his place due to his hard work and change of attitude.
In Brian Goorjian’s system, Froling plays as a backup big man and is used to provide some good minutes off the bench while Duop Reath or Sam Froling need a rest.
On Monday against the Adelaide 36ers, Froling had a career night, scoring 27 points (career-high), shooting eight from ten from behind the three-point line while grabbing nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
Tasmania isn’t getting enough from its imports
The JackJumpers’ imports haven’t quite lived up to the expectations that were put on them in the pre-season, and are a big reason why they’re ranked last in offence according to SpatialJam.
With the roster they have, Tasmania needs Josh Magette, Josh Adams and MiKyle McIntosh to stand up because outside of captain Clint Steindl and Will Magnay, Scott Roth doesn’t have enough offensive weapons compared to other teams in the league.
Magette, Adams and McIntosh are averaging 13.5, 14.5 and 5.88 points per game respectively, however, they’re all finding it difficult to shoot the ball efficiently.
The import trio again had a disappointing outing on the weekend against South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Second halves have been an issue for the JackJumpers so far this season and if they want to start winning more games, they need their imports to stand up and lead the way.
We need to cut teams slack coming back from extended breaks
Only one team in Round 8 was coming back from a long break due to COVID interruptions and that was the Cairns Taipans. Unfortunately, the Taipans were unable to get the desired result against the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
With the uncertainty of the virus, we are likely to see more games postponed should teams experience more outbreaks again. We saw the Phoenix suffer the same fate last week when they came up against the Brisbane Bullets, playing their first game in 28 days.
So as fans when watching teams returning from extended breaks, we need to keep in mind that it will take time for teams to get back to their best.
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