The Brisbane Bullets once again saw a disappointing run during the 2021/22 NBL Season, as they slipped two down the ladder than where they were last season. Whilst finals were once again not in sight for them, the Bullets showed small glimpses of potential whilst under the reigns of a new head coach.
Final ladder position: 8th (10 wins, 18 losses)
It was not the season that the Brisbane Bullets would have expected. Coming off the back of finishing sixth last season, the Bullets were forced to make several changes heading into a new season, as a result, key personnel left.
Harry Froling signed with the Illawarra Hawks after his one-year stint with the team, whilst development player Callum Dalton secured a spot on Melbourne United’s roster. American forward Vic Law found a new home at the Perth Wildcats, as did Matt Hodgson who joined Law at the Wildcats. B.J Johnson rounded out the departed players after he got picked up by the Orlando Magic in the NBA.
Meanwhile, former Sydney Kings assistant coach James Duncan took over the reins after it was announced that Andrej Lemanis was leaving the side after five years in the position.
The Brisbane Bullets headed into NBL22 with a sense of optimism with international signings Chuanxing Liu, Robert Franks and Next Star Tom Digbeu, as well as welcoming Lamar Patterson back to the side.
Expectations would have been high in the Bullets camp, as they caused a stir in the NBL Blitz against the JackJumpers, Wildcats and the Taipans to go 3-1. Brisbane rounded out the Blitz with a loss to Adelaide.
There were strong contributions all around from the players who performed consistently throughout the four games, particularly Tom Digbeu and Tanner Krebs.
Although the Bullets started off strong at the Blitz, things didn’t go to plan as the regular season rolled around.
In the opening game of the season, the Bullets matched up against the JackJumpers down in Tasmania and it saw them fall short of the win by nine points. Whilst the loss wasn’t entirely dramatic, it set the tone for the side who saw single-digit loss margins against top competing teams.
As the competition hit the halfway mark, Brisbane’s record was 5-9. The Bullets did see a small number of wins as they continued to progress through the fixture, including an eight-point win against the JackJumpers at Nissan Arena and a one-point thriller win against the Breakers.
Yet, the losses of centre Tyrell Harrison and guard Nathan Sobey who both were on the sideline as a result of elbow and knee injuries respectively, caused challenges for Brisbane. Their absences were quite noticeable, with the side struggling to get on top of its opposition.
Even with the handful of wins they did manage throughout the season, the Bullets weren’t able to see a meteoric rise up the ladder as they eventually found themselves eighth following their final game loss against the Taipans.
Despite finishing towards the lower end of the ladder, the Brisbane Bullets were still able to score the ball, finishing sixth in scoring, averaging 85 points per game.
Import Robert Franks led the Bullets in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game. Throughout the season, Franks was the top scorer in 13 games – two games saw the 25-year-old score at least 30 points.
Lamar Patterson followed closely, averaging 16.1 points per game. He was the Bullets’ top scorer in nine games across the season. Meanwhile, Nathan Sobey rounded out the top three, averaging 16.1 points per game and was the side’s top scorer in three games.
Whilst there were contributions from other members of the team, it was clear that Franks, Patterson and Sobey were among those in the team that had the most impact on the scoreboard.
Jason Cadee (10.4 points per game), Franks, Patterson, and Sobey were the only four players on Brisbane’s roster who averaged double-digit points.
Brisbane’s injury woes hindered the side to perform consistently. The absence of Nathan Sobey and Tyrell Harrison was noticeable across several games, particularly the Bullets’ offence without Sobey in the lineup.
This season new head coach James Duncan wanted the Bullets to be better defensively, at the start of the season the 44-year-old would have been impressed with how his team was playing defensively. However, Brisbane wasn’t able to maintain it and its defence fluctuated throughout the year, it finished the year as the worst defensive team, conceding 89.3 points per game.
It also wouldn’t have helped the Bullets’ defence as they struggled to take care of the ball during games, finishing the season ranked first for turnovers, averaging 14.6 turnovers per game.
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It’s little wonder that American forward Robert Franks was awarded the Leroy Loggins MVP award. In his first year at Brisbane, the 25-year-old was an essential part of its roster as he was regularly the leading scorer in many games across the regular season, as well as his work on the glass.
His presence was especially noticed in the Brisbane Bullets’ one-point win against the New Zealand Breakers with Franks scoring his season high 31 points. Despite his team’s woes, he remained one of the Bullets’ brightest amidst a gruelling campaign.
Franks was a key part of the Bullets this year across the 27 games he played in. He finished top five in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game on 50 per cent shooting and 76 per cent from the free-throw line. The ranking is a testament to his consistent performance on the court.
Despite only being 201cm, Franks was often used by the Bullets as a small-ball centre when they wanted to play small and when he wasn’t playing his natural position at power forward, but that didn’t stop him from being a problem for the opposition on the boards. He finished in the top four for rebounds, averaging 8.8 rebounds per game.
Bullets fans will be pleased to see more of star Nathan Sobey next season who announced that he had re-signed to remain with the club for another three years. Sitting out the second half of the season due to injury, Sobey will be looking to get back into action next season.
Ahead of NBL Free Agency, the Bullets have Nathan Sobey, Tyrell Harrison and Jason Cadee under contract.
The development of the young players will be key for Brisbane heading into next season. Brisbane could be without Next Star Tom Digbeu if he ends up being selected in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Although it can be hard to predict what next season will look like for them, it seems unlikely for the Brisbane Bullets to see finals action in NBL23 without some more firepower. The return of Nathan Sobey and Tyrell Harrison from injury will help the Bullets bring some stability and hopefully help them produce more wins.
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