20/04/2024

The Adelaide 36ers experienced an inconsistent NBL21 Picture: Adelaide 36ers media

Despite missing out on the playoffs, Adelaide 36ers fans had plenty to cheer about throughout Conner Henry's first season in charge.

With an incredible NBL21 regular season concluding, The Inner Sanctum has taken a look at the year that was for clubs that didn’t make the four-team finals series, with a season review of the Adelaide 36ers next up.

Snapshot:

The Sixers fell comfortably short of a spot in the final four as they finished with a record of 13 wins and 23 losses in Conner Henry’s first season as head coach.

The season was not without its highlights, though, with the emergence of youngsters Isacc Humphries and Josh Giddey at the top of the list with the latter recently declaring for the NBA draft.

With a high player turnover following the 2020 season, inconsistency was to be expected as a new crop of players attempted to gel under the guise of a new coach. This was the case as the Sixers best basketball was clearly of playoff quality however their inability to produce it for four quarters was to be their eventual downfall.

Still, they managed to remain within touching distance of the playoffs until finishing the season on a seven game losing streak harpooned any chance they had of making it into the final four.

What worked:

The bigs. Isaac Humphries returned to the NBL in emphatic fashion, leading the league in blocks and topping the field goal percentage charts of the Sixers.

His partner in crime, Daniel Johnson, had a typically impressive season as we have become used to seeing in recent years.

Johnson shot just shy of 40 per cent from the three point line, averaging almost four attempts per game. This was a large part fo why the Sixers were able to dominate a number of games as his ability to knock down shots from deep allowed Humphries to go to work in the paint.

Humphries impressed fans with his attitude and energy throughout the year with a number of highlight blocks and dunks lifting the crowd at the Entertainment Centre.

Fellow youngster, Josh Giddey, was equally as impressive. The 18 year old was breaking triple double records and lead the league in assists before leaving the squad late in the piece to ramp up his preparations for the NBA draft.

Already touted as a potential lottery pick, Giddey’s first season playing in the country’s top league was a sight to behold as his court vision, composure and ability to find the open man remarkable for someone of his age.

What didn’t:

Interestingly enough, while the big men were the highlight of Adelaide’s season, they also presented a large headache for Conner Henry when Isaac Humphries went down with injury after starting the season like a house on fire.

With Isaac missing, rim protection was left up to DJ and Keanu Pinder who stepped into the starting line-up in the absence of Humphries.

As good as Johnson is on the offensive end, he is not exactly in the DPOTY race and though Pinder had a couple of impressive performances, on the whole his output was underwhelming, though the effort was clearly there.

As well as injuries, the Sixers faced an uphill battle having put together a squad that largely had never played together. Veteran guards Sunday Dech, Tony Crocker and Donald Sloan largely failed to make an impact with the latter departing the club after making just six appearances.

The lack of cohesion was evident on enough occasions to significantly hamper any chance the Sixers had of making it to the post-season and it looks likely to be an issue again next season with very few starters under contract.

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How good is Josh Giddey?

Club’s MVP:

The Sixers announced dual winners of the MVP award at their end of season awards night with Josh Giddey and Daniel Johnson sharing the honours

DJ was phenomenal and his ability to knock down shots form long range made him the perfect stretch big and allowed fellow big man Isaac Humphries to go to work in the paint.

Johnson lead the Sixers in points per game by some distance, averaging 19.5 points per game in an incredibly consistent season and coach Conner Henry lauded the performance of his captain on numerous occasions throughout the season.

DJ played every game of the regular season and was the main reason the sider remained in the playoff picture as long as they did.

Giddey represents the next great hope in Australian basketball as he heads to the 2021 draft off the back of an impressive campaign in the NBL.

A lock for Rookie of the Year honours, Giddey was outstanding on the offensive end for the Sixers, acting as a facilitator for his teammates and enabling them to get open looks both in the paint and on the perimeter.

It was clear from day one that his length made him an asset and as an oversized point guard, his court vision was second to none as he helped himself to multiple double digit assist games throughout the year.

Leading a team as a teenager in one of the most physical leagues in the world is a feat that can not be understated and he deserves all recognition coming his way.

Look ahead:

It’s no secret that the loss of Josh Giddey will be a significant one and Conner Henry has already stated that finding a new facilitator in the point guard position is at the top of his priority list.

Importantly, the dynamic duo of Johnson and Humphries remains under contract with Humphries under a team option for season 2021/22 that the Sixers will surely look to take.

Having had the better part of a season to adapt to each other, it stands to reason that these two will hit new heights next year but the question will be whether or not Adelaide can surround them with the right supporting cast.

The bulk of their roster is out of contract so it will be up to the ball club to make the right calls in the off-season to create a roster that can support the best big-man duo in the league. If they can do that, a playoff push will not be outside of the realms of possibility.

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