With an incredible NBL21 season concluding, The Inner Sanctum has taken a look at the year that was, with a season review of Melbourne United next up.
In the simplest of terms, it was a dominant campaign from United. From start to finish they were the best team to beat in the competition, with the acquisition of star centre Jock Landale creating a formidable starting line-up that beat most opponents.
What made their near-perfect season so remarkable was the obstacles they overcame. Many players on the roster welcomed new additions to the family while having to hub to start the NBL playoffs would have thrown a weaker team off.
However, United proved they were always strong and steady, as a reliable bench rotation helped pull through in a comfortable final series clean sweep over arch-nemesis Perth Wildcats.
With Scotty Hopson also being added to United’s list, they suddenly had nearly two full teams of top-level NBL talent and ended the season with plenty of talent that may carry the franchise forward in coming years.
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Everything worked well.
Coach Dean Vickerman clearly had a plan of sharing the ball on offence, using plenty of quick passes to open up space and give their dynamic scoring options opportunity.
With Landale scoring consistently in the post, and captain Chris Goulding getting up to his usual deep shooting ways, United quickly became a multi-faceted line-up that often produced winning scores with ease.
But where they came into their own was their depth and their defensive intensity.
In most games down the stretch of the season, Vickerman was most vocal when United were defending. By the finals series, it became clear why.
With so much raw attacking talent at his disposal, the defence was the final piece of the puzzle. With Yudai Baba, Hopson and Sam McDaniel all coming into their own as key defensive members, United’s defence stifled opposition at the end of the season.
While Jo Lual-Acuil, Mason Peatling and Mitch McCarron all filling out a talented roster, United’s depth across the board in every position was pivotal to their easy championship win.
What didn’t work
It was only in certain parts that United failed or stuttered briefly. A late Throwdown loss to the South East Melbourne Phoenix exposed how predictable they could be to defend if their offence relied too much on Landale, Hopson and Goulding.
With Landale now likely to be drafted in the NBA, Vickerman and co will have to devise new ways of scoring in the clutch without such a powerful post player.
When tired and fatigued, United’s drop in energy made them look completely different defensively. It showed when defending guards, as the likes of Keifer Sykes made a habit of thwarting United in regular-season Throwdowns, as well as in the tightly contested semi-final series.
On certain occasions, Landale and Peatling found themselves out-rebounded, as the lack of ability to prevent second-chance opportunities did threaten their superiority.
Furthermore, it took for Vickerman’s side to reach the finals before they rectified a troubling turnover trend, with their carelessness in passing through transition situations prevented them from racing away in certain games.
It’s hard to look past Jock Landale, who deservedly took home the MVP Award for United.
Unlucky not to be shortlisted in the final three of the league’s MVP Award, Landale’s maiden (and most likely only) season in the NBL was a whirlwind one. He averaged a tick over 16 points, a block, 7.8 rebounds and nearly two three-point shots per game in a mind-blowing well-rounded effort across the board.
Cap it off with a chip and the – Medal for the finals MVP, Landale did nearly everything possible to return United to the glory of a championship win.
The big resigning of young Lual-Acuil shows where their future lies, as the likely loss of Landale, should be covered by big Jo. The resigning of most other members should maintain a healthy and complete roster, while the return of the injured Jack White could add a new element to United come next season.
The likes of Shea Ili and David Barlow have already recommitted to the club, but guard Sam McDaniel will become the first signing by the new NBL club the Tasmania JackJumpers.
Other than this, the big news will be around Landale, but even if he goes, Melbourne can expect to have another strong lineup going into next season.
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