Final ladder position: 6th (18 wins, 18 losses)
After finishing bottom of the table in the 2017/18 NBL season, the Brisbane Bullets have been slowly building towards becoming a serious play-off threat. Since being comfortably bundled out by the Wildcats the following year, this year has shown that the side has only stagnated.
While the pre-season losses of Will Magnay (New Orleans Pelicans/Perth Wildcats), Cam Gliddon (South East Melbourne Phoenix) and Lamar Patterson (New Zealand Breakers) hurt, big name international signings Vic Law and Orlando Johnson bought a sense of optimism back to the Bullets camp.
If expectations were to appear in play-offs, then the Bullets certainly did not meet them.
What was most frustrating for Bullets fans was an inability to win at home, boasting the second worst home record of any team this year. This was particularly noticeable at the beginning of the season, winning just two of a stretch of six games all held at Nissan Arena.
One area the Bullets didn’t struggle in was hitting their shots. Both Law and guard Nathan Sobey were in the top five for points per game, Law averaging 18.81 PPG at 47 FG% and Sobey averaging 21.2 PPG at 46 FG%.
They were also the third best offensive rebounding team, and the second best defensive rebounding team.
At their best in the 2020/21 season, the Bullets were a high-scoring side with a strong line-up of players who can kill teams on the rebound, Matthew Hodgson (6.97 RPG), Harry Froling (5.03 RPG) and Tyrell Harrison (5.8 RPG) putting in work.
This was most evident in all of the Bullets’ biggest wins of the season.
In their seven-point win over the Illawarra Hawks, Law dropped 29 points and nine rebounds, while Sobey had 18 points (58 FG%) and seven assists. Froling and Hodgson also notched up 13 rebounds between them.
Against top of the table Melbourne United, Law had a monstrous 15 rebounds in addition to shooting 10 points to help guide his side to an incredible upset away from home.
Law and Sobey would dominate the scoring against reigning champs the Perth Wildcats, putting up 54 points between them. There were not many combos that shot like that throughout the 2020/21 season.
What didn’t work:
Simply put, luck didn’t go the Bullets’ way in 2021.
Orlando Johnson was released mid-March after an average start to the season, averaging 6.8 PPG, 1.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds.
They would then re-sign Lamar Patterson, bringing him back from the Breakers after a strong start to the season which saw him shoot 22, 16 and 13 in his three best games.
The stage looked set for the Bullets to get back to what they were building on in 2020.
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Law would then go down with an ankle injury at the end of March against the Hawks, which required surgery that would rule him out of the remainder of the season.
Sitting 10-8, the Bullets had been floating in and out of the top four, the season on a knife’s edge at the halfway point. While Sobey would pick up the slack, the Law-shaped hole became too big to fill.
They would lose five of their next seven games, giving up an average of 90 points while putting up 80 of their own.
Slumping to 12-13 with their biggest offensive threat out for the remainder of the season, the Bullets were inconsistent at best for the rest of the NBL season.
Brisbane’s worst performance came against South East Melbourne in round 19, going down by 29 points in a side that didn’t feature Sobey. The side struggled to score at all, only putting up 66 for their season low, Anthony Drmic’s 20 not enough.
It’s no surprise that Boomer Nathan Sobey was the Bullets’ best from beginning to end, the guard undoubtedly one of the best scorers in the comp in the 2020/21 season.
He averaged the most PPG of his NBL career so far at 21.2, well up from the previous two years of 16 and 16.5, the second highest in the league behind Wildcats star Bryce Cotton.
Sobey made 30 points or more seven times across the year, including a season high of 35 in a thriller against the Kings, going down 108-119. He also had four rebounds and six assists in this game.
Head coach Andrej Lemanis’ time has come to a close after five years at the helm of the Brisbane Bullets, leaving the team in a bit of open water coming into NBL22.
After middling performances under the former Boomers coach, a shake-up at the top could be the remedy they need.
The number one focus for the Bullets in the 2022 season should be finding more talent across basically every position outside of centre and shooting guard.
Keeping Law in Brisbane after he fully recovers from ankle surgery will be key, the American’s strong scoring partnership with Sobey vital to bringing the Bullets back to their best.
Some tough decisions might need to be made to achieve a better structure within the squad, Lemanis commenting that the decision to let Johnson go mid-season was due to an ‘imbalanced’ team.
A new coach coming in may see the Brisbane roster changed drastically in NBL22.
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