(Photo: Adelaide 36ers/Website; Design by Will Cuckson)

As a result of a new head coach and mixed results from their off-season recruits and imports, it's a feeling of deja vu for the Adelaide 36ers after missing the finals for the fourth consecutive year.

As a result of a new head coach and mixed results from their off-season recruits and imports, it’s a feeling of deja vu for the Adelaide 36ers after missing the finals for the fourth consecutive year.


Final ladder position: 7th (10 wins, 18 losses)

At the beginning of the season, expectations weren’t sky-high for the Adelaide 36ers, however with new coach CJ Bruton and promising new recruits, it was expected that Adelaide might be better than in previous seasons.

During the off-season, the 36ers gained the services of young pair Mojave King and Kai Sotto, while adding surprise packet Tad Dufelmeier as well as imports Dusty Hannahs and Todd Withers.

A few of the highlights of their additions were the pair of Australian Boomers in Cam Bairstow and Mitch McCarron, McCarron coming off a championship with Melbourne United was a big coup and Bairstow proved to be a risk worth taking.

One of the better performers when fit was Bairstow, he was practically the last player signed by the 36ers in the pre-season with many teams not wanting to take a chance on him due to his injury history.

Adelaide had lost quite a bit of talent in the off-season with a turnover of its playing roster, the key one was Josh Giddey. Giddey was drafted into the NBA by Oklahoma City Thunder and was only ever going to be in the NBL for a one-year after the season he had.

The 36ers finished the season for the third consecutive year in seventh position on the ladder, things that affected their ability to win games were injuries to key players and recruits not living up to their potential.

One of the main injuries concerned big man Isaac Humphries, if he can get his body right he is one of the best big players in the league. Unfortunately for the 36ers, Humphries has been ravaged with injury for the last two seasons, which has not helped their chances, only managing six games this season.

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What worked

An aspect that was good about the season for Adelaide was its finish to the year, despite being out of finals contention it played some great basketball. The 36ers nearly made it four consecutive away wins to end the season after losing in a close game against the Phoenix, a feat that was tough at the beginning of the season for this group to achieve. This will hopefully see them roll into the next season which will be a big one for the club as a whole.

In terms of players that contributed in big ways, Hyrum Harris was one that was unexpected. Harris was plucked out of obscurity and played his role well for the team throughout the season.

The 26-year-old showed that he could score inside and play at the forward spot. Harris finished the year winning the club’s Most Improved Player at the Adelaide 36ers MVP awards night A testament to his playing ability and potential, Harris is signed up for the next season.

Cam Bairstow was another big contributor although hampered with injury during the year. He was the fourth for average points, averaging 11 points per game, he also was the leading rebounder at Adelaide, averaging 7.8 rebounds per game.

Sunday Dech was also a solid contributor in his second year at the 36ers. During his time with Adelaide, Dech has been a versatile guard, the 28-year-old averaged over 12 points, two assists and four rebounds per game in 23 games.

Kai Sotto was another positive for the 36ers this season and he came into his own towards the end of the season. In one respect, Sotto was also a way of bringing more international viewers to watch and support the 36ers. This also shows that the 36ers are a breeding ground for NBA prospects such as Josh Giddey last season as well as Sotto and Mojave King.

What didn’t

What didn’t work for the Adelaide 36ers was that Conner Henry was released from the final year of his contract while serving isolation on his way to Adelaide in the pre-season. This meant that incoming head coach CJ Bruton became the head coach of the club after the roster was assembled.

Having a coach who didn’t have a hand in signing new imports or having a say over who was playing for his team meant Bruton had to play with the men that were signed.

This coupled with the imports not playing as well as suggested did not help the matter. Both Dusty Hannahs and Todd Withers underperformed in several games throughout the season and only show what they were capable of on an inconsistent basis.

Injuries to Cam Bairstow and Isaac Humphries were also massive issues for the 36ers, in particular, Bairstow, who was fantastic early in the season. Having these two talented players out for large chunks of the season left a gaping hole on the Adelaide roster, leaving a lot for Mitch McCarron and Daniel Johnson to keep it in games.

Club’s MVP

Daniel Johnson won his second consecutive Mark Davis Award for the Most Valuable Player for the Adelaide 36ers. The former captain had another amazing year, sometimes playing a lone hand for the lowly side. In 28 games, the 34-year-old averaged 16 points, two assists and nearly seven rebounds a game this season.

A player that was close to receiving this award was the new 36ers captain, Mitch McCarron. The 29-year-old averaged 7.6 points, 4.9 assists, and 6.8 rebounds per game, although his numbers don’t jump off the page, McCarron’s impact goes much further.

McCarron was often found getting other teammates involved in the game and setting up a lot of the offence for Adelaide. He won the Chairman’s Award at the MVP Awards Night.

Look ahead

Looking towards next season, it is clear that there will be a bit of a shakeup with Adelaide’s roster. Head coach CJ Bruton is looking to log in players that he wants and offload those he wasn’t able to utilise in his game plan or didn’t play as expected this season.

For these reasons, it will be probable that the 36ers recruiting will look to either work with the imports that they brought in or most likely look for other imports to get the 36ers back into finals contention.

The 36ers have already signed up up-and-coming young player Nick Marshall for two years (One as a development player and another as a full-contracted player). Marshall joins Hyrum Harris, who signed a one year deal and Sunday Dech who is re-signed for a further three years. The Next Star Program will see Mojave King also return as a 36ers player.

It is expected that the 36ers will have to make a call on both Humphries and Bairstow who are both amazing players for the team but have been out through injury this year (and last year in Humphries’ case).

Kai Sotto has nominated for the NBA draft so should the 20-year-old get drafted, he may not return.

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