We’re over a month into the 2023/24 NBL season, and teams are starting to show us who they are.
These NBL Power Rankings are based on the squads’ current form and short-term expectations. They aren’t a prediction of where teams will finish the season on the ladder, but rather an expectation on how they will perform in their upcoming games with consideration given to injuries and form.
Here are The Inner Sanctum’s NBL Power Rankings ahead of Round 7 of the 2023/24 season.
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1. Melbourne United
Record: 8-2, Previous Ranking: 1st
Monday night was the first time Melbourne United was at full strength, however, that only lasted until Luke Travers (concussion) and Ariel Hukporti (knee) left the game within the first minute of play. Import Ian Clark also left the game and didn’t return due to a leg injury he’s been dealing with since the pre-season.
Despite that, United still almost got it done against a spirited Wildcats outfit before going down in overtime in controversial fashion.
Although Melbourne didn’t get the result it would have wanted, there were still several positives from Monday night’s game, such as Kyle Bowen’s impact on the boards (16 rebounds) and the offensive load both Jo Lual-Acuil (25 points) and Matthew Dellavedova (23 points) were able to carry.
United is deep, but their depth will be tested when they match up against the Phoenix, as they will be without Luke Travers due to concussion protocols and potentially Clark and Hukporti.
Games this week: At South East Melbourne
2. Sydney Kings
Record: 6-3, Previous Ranking: 4th
Sydney is building nicely and has quietly found itself 6-3 and a loss behind Melbourne United.
The Kings went 2-0 in Round 6, annihilating the Hawks before grinding out a gritty performance against the Breakers.
Jaylen Adams has now found his groove and is in MVP form, once again proving to be one of the premier scorers in the league, averaging 18.1 points, and his willingness to get everyone involved is also prominent.
D.J. Hogg has another two games under his belt and the chemistry will continue to improve the more games he plays.
Games this week: Vs Brisbane
3. Tasmania JackJumpers
Record: 5-4, Previous Ranking: 2nd
Tasmania avenged its loss to Brisbane last week as it continues to perform solidly.
Milton Doyle recaptured that offensive spark that we were accustomed to at the start of the year after a few quiet performances.
Scott Roth will want to see his roster continue to improve as they match up against the Sixers in Adelaide.
Games this week: At Adelaide
4. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Record: 6-4, Previous Ranking: 3rd
The Phoenix can’t seem to ever catch a break on the injury front with Gorjok Gak going down with a calf injury against his former team.
To soften the blow of Gak’s absence, it has been reported by ESPN’s Olgun Uluc that South East Melbourne has signed former Adelaide 36er Daniel Johnson as a short-term injury replacement.
Gary Browne, Mitch Creek, and MVP candidate Alan Williams (despite fouling out in both games) again had great games, but it was the Phoenix’s role players that took the limelight over the weekend.
In the absence of Will Cummings against the Taipans, others needed to stand up and help the three mentioned above pick up the scoring load, and Matt Kenyon (12 points), Reuben Te Rangi (10 points), and Ben Ayre (10 points) answered the call.
South East Melbourne’s depth was questioned at the start of the season, but if its role players continue to pitch in here and there, it will go a long way to help get it to where it wants to be.
The Phoenix currently sits third on the ladder and with teams hot on their tails, they have the opportunity to stake their claim, hosting a potentially undermanned Melbourne United squad on Sunday afternoon.
Games this week: Vs MelbourneEmbed from Getty Images
5. Brisbane Bullets
Record: 5-5, Previous Ranking: 6th
Brisbane’s loss to Tasmania came at the end of a four-game stretch over nine days, but head coach Justin Schueller’s side was close to winning its fourth game in a row.
The Bullets have been competitive in every single game so far this season – a reflection of the culture Schueller has created and is continuing to build upon.
Despite key players coming in and out of the lineup, Brisbane has had several players stand up in their absence.
Mitch Norton has been able to slide into the starting point guard role with ease. At the same time, centre Tyrell Harrison has catapulted into Most Improved Player calculations with his hot form over the past few rounds and saw Aron Baynes make his return from the bench.
An area this team can improve on is their late-game executions.
Saturday against the JackJumpers wasn’t the first time this season the Bullets have failed in crunchtime and it won’t be the last so it’s an important aspect they’ll need to fix.
Games this week: At Sydney
6. New Zealand Breakers
Record: 2-5, Previous Ranking: 7th
The Breakers split their Round 6 double, but if not for a disastrous final play against the Kings, it could have been a great weekend.
New Zealand is starting to figure some things out and looked so much better defensively against Cairns and Sydney, restricting them to 87 and 85 points.
Coach Moar would have loved what he saw from Anthony Lamb across the round as the former Golden State Warrior continues to familiarise himself with the league and the Breakers’ system.
Lamb is currently averaging 18.4 points on 55 per cent shooting in 28 minutes per game, imagine how good the 25-year-old could be once he begins to feel more comfortable.
With a trip to the Jungle on the cards this week, New Zealand will want to ensure it gets back to winning way and secure a big road win.
Games this week: At Perth
7. Cairns Taipans
Record: 3-4, Previous Ranking: 5th
It was a rough weekend for Cairns as it continues to juggle key players coming in and out of the lineup.
The Taipans have been great defensively so far in NBL24, ranking second in defensive ranking behind Melbourne United, allowing 109 points per 100 possessions (via SpatialJam), but it’s the offensive end where Adam Forde’s side can improve.
Unlike its defensive ranking, Cairns ranks last in offensive ranking, scoring 105.8 points per 100 possessions and with the offensive firepower that other teams in the league have that is just not going to cut it.
That number should rise once Patrick Miller returns and as Tahjere McCall builds up his minutes. Another who has demonstrated he can put the ball in the cup at a high level is Bul Kuol – who is averaging 18 points over his last four games.
Games this week: Vs IllawarraEmbed from Getty Images
8. Perth Wildcats
Record: 4-5, Previous Ranking: 10th
With pressure mounting, John Rillie and the Wildcats were able to lessen some of the heat with two much-needed wins.
Perth nearly lost against Adelaide after it dominated early on to get a lead out to 20 before securing a win against Melbourne – who lost three starters during the game.
Moving Hyrum Harris into the starting five looked like a masterstroke, with the Kiwi providing the Wildcats with some physical presence on the boards and defensively.
The change to the starting lineup saw Jordan Usher move to the bench, which had mixed results.
Giving Jesse Wagstaff and reducing the minutes of the Webster brothers (Corey and Tai) was another change Rillie made to his rotation over the weekend, and Perth benefitted greatly because of it.
It also helped that Bryce Cotton found his mojo, looking like his regular self after a sluggish start to the season.
The Wildcats still have plenty of areas to improve before they can be considered title contenders, but with the minor changes Rillie made, it’s a step in the right direction.
Games this week: Vs New Zealand
9. Adelaide 36ers
Record: 3-6, Previous Ranking: 8th
Adelaide would have been disappointed with its performance against Perth, especially after getting the lead after trailing by as much as 20 points.
Dejan Vasiljevic had a poor shooting night and didn’t go to Isaac Humphries down low as often as they have in recent games.
It was a poor night on the glass for Adelaide as it was outrebounded 46-35. The Sixers were dominated on the offensive glass (21-9), allowing the Wildcats second-chance opportunities (26 points).
It doesn’t get easier this week as the Sixers play host to the JackJumpers.
Games this week: Vs Tasmania
10. Illawarra Hawks
Record: 2-6, Previous Ranking: 9th
Illawarra finds itself at the bottom of the rankings again after it was smashed in its Freeway Series clash against Sydney.
The Hawks have struggled defensively all season and conceded another 103 points on the weekend. They have given up 100 points or more in half of their defeats this season, including a 30-point loss to the JackJumpers.
Tyler Harvey and Justin Robinson’s shooting struggles continued, the pair shooting nine and 32 per cent. Gary Clark (23 points and seven rebounds) continued to deliver the goods, the Hawks need to run more sets for him since he’s shown how dangerous he can be.
Coach Jacob Jackomas talked post-match against the Kings about changes to his rotation next game which is good as something needed to change.
Games this week: At CairnsEmbed from Getty Images