NBL22 Season Review: Cairns Taipans

The Cairns Taipans finished the 2022 season ninth on the ladder. (Image: @Cairns Taipans- Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson).

After enduring a tumultuous 2021 season, the Cairns Taipans found themselves in the same ladder position for a second consecutive year in a row at the end of the regular season. Whilst they had some success with a handful of wins under the guidance of a new head coach, Cairns struggled to move past a 2022 campaign soured by COVID protocols, injuries and fixture reshuffles.

Snapshot

Final ladder position: 9th (nine wins, 19 losses)

The Taipans were under a cloud of uncertainty following the announcement that Mike Kelly would not be moving forward as head coach. That was until Adam Forde was appointed to the position.

Over the off-season, Cairns saw the departure of Mojave King and Cam Oliver. King moved to the Adelaide 36ers, whilst Oliver departed the league to pursue opportunities in the NBA.

Though big local and international signings softened the blows, the Taipans signed former Adelaide 36ers Keanu Pinder and American G-League champion Tahjere McCall.

As well as Bul Kuol, who had spent in the college system before playing in the SEABL and NBL1 competitions. Cairns also picked up American Stephen Zimmerman as a replacement for Oliver.

The Cairns Taipans huddled during a game in season 2022. (Image: Cairns Taipans Twitter).

The Taipans faced difficulties as they headed into the NBL Blitz. Whilst the fresh faces of Zimmerman and McCall showed great signs, it wasn’t enough for them to topple their opponents, as they went winless throughout the entire Blitz.

Heading into the regular season, Cairns managed to pull through with two wins during its first four games. A seven-point win against Tasmania and a 26-point win against Adelaide had it in the top four after four rounds.

However, the Taipans’ good luck started to run out as many names began to be added to the injury list including key players Scott Machado and Mirko Djeric. The Taipans continued to collect more losses whilst the season progressed, along the way many of their games were postponed as a result of COVID protocols.

At the halfway mark of the regular season, Cairns’ record was four wins and 10 losses. With its run of losses continuing, the side saw a dramatic slide down the ladder, finding itself in the bottom three for the remainder of the season.

Whilst Cairns found wins against Brisbane, New Zealand and South East Melbourne, it wasn’t able to overcome top competing teams.

What worked

The Taipans were top of their game when they were passing the ball and getting everybody involved in the offence. They finished equal first in average assists alongside the Bullets, averaging 17.3 assists per game.

Tahjere McCall (5.5 assists per game) and Scott Machado (5.4 assists per game) were high contributors to the stat, with both players among league ladders for assists in third and fourth respectively.

Although it finished ninth in points scored, when Cairns was at its best it was a high scoring side that delivered win margins in the double digits. Three out of their nine wins saw the Taipans winning in double digits.

McCall (16.1 points per game), Majok Deng (14.3 points per game), Keanu Pinder (10.9 points per game), and Bul Kol (10.4 points per game) often stuffed the stat sheet in the Cairns’ wins.

What didn’t

Cairns’ regular season was interrupted heavily with many of the players suffering injuries as well as going through COVID protocols.

Heading into the regular season, questions were asked as the Taipans faced an early obstacle with Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai sustaining calf and foot injuries respectively during Blitz. Whilst both players returned to the court, Djeric suffered another setback suffering a quad injury.

As the season progressed it seemed that luck wasn’t on Cairns’ side with its list of injuries growing right from the early stages of the season. Import guard Scott Machado was sidelined first after an Achilles injury that saw him return in early February before a second injury spell hit the 31-year-old which saw him miss the remainder of the 2022 season.

Kouat Noi, Nathan Jawai, Tahjere McCall, and Stephen Zimmerman also spent stints on the sidelines this season.

It was a revolving door when it came to injuries for the Taipan. Unfortunately, the team’s plans were continually thrown into disarray with several players sidelined. Encompassed by injuries, COVID protocols and illness, Cairns capped off its 2022 campaign by not having fielded a full roster in any game during the season.

Tahjere McCall was among the Taipans’ list of injuries woes. He was significantly missed in games where was absent. (Image: Cairns Taipans-Twitter).

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Club MVP

Whilst the Cairns Taipans had a disappointing season, Tahjere McCall’s consistent performance was a silver lining. McCall’s best shone through as he dropped an impressive 42 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, and four steals in Cairns’ last regular-season game against Brisbane.

The 27-year-old dazzled in his first year in the orange, he was the Taipans’ best when in need of a basket, averaging 16.1 points per game during the regular season. He was the highest point scorer in 10 games.

McCall ranked third for assists, averaging 5.5 assists per game, with Tasmania’s Josh Magette and Sydney’s Jaylen Adams ahead of him.

He was also dominant defensively, finishing equal first in steals, averaging two steals per game. Across all of Cairns’ games, McCall finished with the most assists 15 times, including his season-high 11 assists against the Perth Wildcats.

Looking ahead

The Cairns Taipans have been able to retain key pieces in Rookie of the Year Bul Kuol and Most Improved Player Keanu Pinder, with the pair taking their mutual options.

Another year under Adam Forde’s development and a couple of more signings could see the Taipans collect a couple of more wins, and possibly a rise up the ladder.

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