Perth Wildcats NBL22 Preview

Perth Wildcats NBL22 Preview. Photo: Perth Wildcats

The Perth Wildcats have gone through extreme change in all facets of their organisation. Does it spell the end of a record-breaking playoffs streak, or can new coach Scott Morrison get the team firing on all cylinders?

The Perth Wildcats have gone through extreme change in all facets of their organisation. Does it spell the end of a record-breaking playoffs streak, or can new coach Scott Morrison get the team firing on all cylinders?

Last Season: 2nd (Runner-up)

It was always going to be a tough task going up against a Melbourne United squad led by NBA-bound Boomers star Jock Landale. Throw in the loss of three-time MVP Bryce Cotton and it was a job too great to overcome.

The Cats finished second after clawing out a gritty, frantic semi-final series with the growing Illawarra Hawks, in what turned out to be Trevor Gleeson’s final season at the helm. He’s now moved on to the NBA as an assistant coach to Nick Nurse with the Toronto Raptors.

Before Cotton’s season-ending injury, he was at his brilliant best. The superstar guard averaged a league-high 23.5 points per game to go with 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals. He made it look easy from all three levels, scoring with consummate ease and making the players around him better in the meantime.

Import John Mooney was the much-needed big-man presence in the paint with his rebounding leading the league and finishing with the third-most all-time in the NBL with 480 on the season. He formed a potent 1-5 pick-and-roll with Cotton across the season.

Gleeson’s flex offence got the absolute best out of this team, with United a bridge too far in the finals, losing out 3-0.

Biggest In:

Former NBA forward Vic Law is the big name for the Wildcats in NBL22. In the G-League two seasons ago he averaged 19.7 points to go with 8.1 rebounds on his way to being named in the G-League Third Team at season’s end. He also featured for the Orlando Magic in the NBA Playoffs, before spending last season with the Brisbane Bullets.

His first season in the NBL was cut short due to injury, but he spent time with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Summer League and comes to Perth refreshed and ready to make his imprint on the league.

Law is a natural scorer with great athleticism, and is able to extend his range beyond the arc. His rebounding is also a real need for the club with the loss of Mooney.

The Wildcats have also welcomed former Houston Rocket Michael Frazier, who will play minutes at both guard spots for the team. He has come off a season with the Delaware Blue Coats in the G-League after being named the league’s Most Improved Player in 2019 while winning a Championship with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Biggest Out:

John Mooney leaves the Wildcats after a fruitful season, joining the Chiba Jets in the Japanese B.League. Mooney recorded 27 double-doubles in 42 games, and averaged 11.4 rebounds per contest.

Last season he was named the Club’s MVP. He was so important to what the Wildcats did on both sides of the ball – on defence everything was funnelled to him in the paint with his ability to play the ball and his opponent instrumental. On offence, Mooney showed off a bit of range but mostly played within himself, setting bone-crunching screens and catching lobs to set The Jungle alight.

The Cats will miss his elite rebounding and high IQ on both sides of the ball. In his place steps Matt Hodgson, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.9 rebounds with the Brisbane Bullets last year.

The club also lost sharpshooter Clint Steindl to the JackJumpers, while Will Magnay departs after a short stint to end the season.

Player to Watch:

NBL21 unearthed one of Australia’s best young talents in 20-year-old Luke Travers. The forward is long and bouncey, with his athletic qualities making him a pest in the passing lanes and a nightmare for ball-handlers.

He racks up steals and blocks like few in the NBL with his wingspan and timing, and gets out in transition as well as anyone in the league with his bounding athleticism getting him up the floor before the defence can set itself. It’s seen him pull off highlight plays catching lobs and finishing at the rim.

Travers is set to be given a bigger offensive load this season, and a consistent defensive output should see him get large minutes in Morrison’s rotation.

With a big NBL22, Travers’ flying mullet could be NBA bound.

Starting Five:

PG: Mitch Norton*

SG: Bryce Cotton

SF: Luke Travers

PF: Vic Law

C: Matt Hodgson

*Norton will miss the first five weeks of season due to a knee injury.

Full Squad:

Bryce Cotton, Corey Shervill, Jack Purchase, Jesse Wagstaff, Kevin White, Kyle Zunic, Luke Travers, Majok Majok, Matthew Hodgson, Michael Frazier, Oliver Hayes-Brown, Todd Blanchfield, Vic Law.

Fixture Highlights:

The Cats will be playing on the opening night of the season against the Adelaide 36ers, and The Jungle will be rocking for the first game of the season.

However, they’ll be pencilling in their first clash with United when the full schedule is released past Round 6. There’s been a recent history of bad blood between the two clubs after being successful sides in recent years, and the Wildcats will be desperate to get some revenge after a finals sweep in NBL21.

A five-game home stand will be the perfect way to start the season off for Perth, and a visit from the new kids on the block the Tasmania JackJumpers on December 19th will be an opportunity to make a statement before hitting the road.

More W/NBL Season Previews

WNBL 2021/22 Season Preview: Townsville Fire

NBL22 Season Preview: Illawarra Hawks

WNBL 2021/22 Season Preview: Perth Lynx

What to expect:

The Perth Wildcats have made the playoffs a world-record 35 straight seasons. Some tip that may end in NBL22. A new ownership group, coupled with an unproven coach (in the NBL) and roster turnover has seen the Cats ranked at 8th in the NBL’s power rankings to start the season.

As always, pundits are underestimating the 10-time champions’ culture. This is a team that gets the absolute best out of their roster every season without fail, and they will once again be led out by one of the greatest imports the league has ever seen.

Cotton has declared himself fully fit after his emergency leg surgery, and is every chance to win his fourth NBL MVP. His scoring power is unmatched in the league and the club has added more shooting with Frazier and Law as their imports.

Add in the natural progression of Travers and the eventual return of pesky defender Mitch Norton, and this team will be must-watch every time they step on court. There will be more Cotton buzzer-beaters, more Travers throw-downs, and more wins than losses for the Cats.

The last word:

There are undoubtedly some question marks heading into NBL22 for the Wildcats. Can Hodgson and Majok Majok hold down the centre position? Is Cotton 100 per cent after his season-ending injury? How bad is Norton’s knee injury after being passed off as minor during the pre-season?

The biggest question mark comes off the court – with little face-to-face experience with his squad and the ever-lasting expectations of coaching the Perth Wildcats, how will Scott Morrison go in his first season at the helm?

With all that said, this outfit is as professional as you will find in the NBL, and the play-offs will once again be in reach for the Wildcats in NBL22.

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