20/04/2024

The Perth Wildcats 35-year-old playoff streak came to an end in NBL22. (Image: @PerthWildcats - Twitter)

The Perth Wildcats endured one of the worst collapses in NBL history, falling from a seemingly unassailable spot in the top four to bowing out in the final round, ending their historic 35-year streak of making it to the finals.

The Perth Wildcats endured one of the worst collapses in NBL history, falling from a seemingly unassailable spot in the top four to bowing out in the final round, ending their historic 35-year streak of making it to the finals.

Snapshot

Final ladder position: Sixth (16 wins, 12 losses)

Coming off a season where they finished runners-up in the NBL Grand Finals series, the Wildcats went into the 2021/22 season with reigning MVP Bryce Cotton and plenty of optimism about going one better.

The Wildcats started off the season under tough circumstances, with the Western Australia border closures staying intact for the majority of the season.

Perth played its first five games at home before playing 14 games away due to the border closure. Despite the obstacle of being away from family and friends, the Wildcats retained their position as a finals contender spending the majority of the year in the top four.

Recovering from a shaky start and playing every game on the road, the Wildcats were primed for their return to Perth and were a consensus favourite to make a finals appearance.

As the four month road trip came to a close, the Wildcats held a very respectable record of 13-6 and were in the box seat to not only make the finals but take out first-place. Perth was given nine straight home games to finish off the season and had a pretty favourable fixture.

A combination of injuries, lack of depth in the forward positions, and off-court rumours seemed to get the best of the team as their historic finals record was broken.

The dream homecoming was shattered as Perth went on to lose six of its last nine games, losing a finals spot to Tasmania in the final game of the regular season.

Losing Vic Law in the back end of the season was undeniably the biggest news of the Wildcats season, as Cotton had an even bigger load to carry on offence.

The pre-season expectations from Perth were not met as it slipped out of a finals spot. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Wildcats as there were plenty of positives that will be taken into what is sure to be a strong campaign in NBL23.

What Worked

The Wildcats enjoyed a great season scoring the ball, having two of the top three scorers in the league whilst leading the NBL in points scored per game, averaging 89.1 points per game.

The dynamic duo of Bryce Cotton and Vic Law was nearly unstoppable in the early stages of the season, as Cotton began to firm as the front runner for the MVP award before the improvement shown by Jaylen Adams.

Cotton and Law both had outstanding individual seasons and were the key to the Wildcats’ offence being so potent throughout the season. In 28 games, Cotton averaged 22.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, while Law averaged 20.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Both of their spectacular seasons were rewarded with All-NBL honours, with the star duo being named in the 2022 All-NBL first team.

The pair single handedly won games for Perth, even during its poor run of form towards the back end of the season, Law and Cotton still stood out as elite offensive weapons.

Outside of Cotton and Law, the improvement shown by Luke Travers was instrumental in Perth early-season success.

Travers turned heads of NBA scouts with his much-improved playmaking, whilst demonstrating a much more respectable three-point shot.

Given more playing time by Scott Morrison, Travers doubled nearly all of his major categories and gave the Wildcats a crucial piece in their rotation.

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What Didn’t

The Wildcats’ struggles to finish the season were well documented, as many external factors caused a late-season collapse.

As the season progressed, Perth was publicly trying to to sign John Brown III which seemed to cause some turmoil in and around the squad.

With some players feeling that their position was under threat, it began to show on the court as Perth struggled to find efficient scoring outside of Cotton and Law.

The Wildcats were still able to manufacture winning scores with Law injured but desperately missed his defensive impact.

In the final ten games of the season, the Wildcats allowed an average of 89.1 points per game as they began to slip out of a finals spot.

Although a lot of these issues were contributed by the fact that they were on the road for three-quarters of the season. As a result of the long time away from home, the team was constantly hit with injuries as they struggled to field the same rotation for consistent periods of the season.

With a shortage of players, the main issue that Perth faced was a lack of genuine power forward, this issue came to the forefront in the back end of the season when Vic Law went down with injury.

Club’s MVP

Where would the Perth Wildcats have been this season without Bryce Cotton?

After finishing second in MVP voting, it’s no doubt that Cotton is the MVP for his team.

Cotton put up stellar stats in the NBL22 as he tried to hold the Perth Wildcats together. This season, Cotton averaged a league-best 22.7 points per game, whilst finishing in second for three-pointers made per game.

Although Cotton shared a lot of the ball with Vic Law throughout the season, his impact on the offensive end was arguably the most valuable in the league.

Cotton’s experience in the NBL was a critical factor in Perth’s successful games this season, as he also averaged just under five assists per game.

The 29-year-old made his presence felt off the ball with his movement around the perimeter causing all types of problems for opposing defences. Cotton also had an improved year defensively as well, averaging 1.4 steals per game.

Looking ahead

Change seems to be at the forefront of Perth’s offseason agenda – as it recently announced the departure of Troy Georgiu as the club’s CEO.

The Wildcats will also need to look for another head coach after Scott Morrison said he will be departing the club due to family reasons.

The majority of the core from last year has already been re-signed, but there is one major question mark surrounding Vic Law who is currently fielding offers from rival NBL clubs and European sides.

Luke Travers was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft. Although, it is still unclear whether he will make the Cavs roster and stay to play in the G League, or whether they will opt to stash him.

Perth has been rumoured to be interested in signing one of Thon Maker and Duop Reath, with the pair reportedly holding talks with the Wildcats.

If the Wildcats were to lose Law, the signing of either of the aforementioned big men would be crucial to fill in a position that they desperately missed last season.

The key for Perth in this offseason will be to sign more reinforcements to ensure it’s prepared if another injury bug was to hit the squad. With the Wildcats preparing for a full-season in Perth with no border restrictions, there will be plenty of expectations for this side to be back where we are used to seeing them, at the top of the ladder, contending for the championship.

The Wildcats hope to re-sign Vic Law. (Image: @NBLFacts – Twitter)

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