Melbourne United Season Review

There will be much discussion after a disapppointing playoff showing for United. Picture: @MelbUnited

Crashing out of the playoffs is far from how Melbourne United expected its season to end. Where did it go wrong, and can they recover next season?

Crashing out of the playoffs is far from how Melbourne United expected its season to end. Where did it go wrong, and can they recover next season?


Final ladder position: First (20 wins, 8 losses); Lost to the Tasmania JackJumpers 2-1 in Semi-Final series.

Having won their second title last season, and roster turnover that saw key members such as Jock Landale and Scotty Hopson depart, Melbourne United still had a strong team and was still well and truly in the conversation to go back-to-back.

There was little evidence that it wouldn’t eventuate, outside of a 0-2 start to the season, Melbourne finished the regular season with 20 wins and six losses, finishing on top of the ladder and winning the regular-season championship.

United faced off against the JackJumpers in the semi-finals and defeated them in game one, and it seemed like a formality that they would return to the best of five series for the second year in a row.

However, a determined and hungry Tasmanian outfit stunned the reigning champions in three games, sending Melbourne packing.

It’s safe to say that United was not expecting to fall at the first hurdle, and there’s a lot of soul-searching that may need to be done this off-season.

NBL22 Season Review: Melbourne United
United was stunned by the new kids on the block in the finals. Picture @MelbUnited

What Worked

With a relatively decent turnover after the championship, Melbourne United needed sections of their roster to stand up to fill the shoes that were left behind. No one was a better example of grabbing their opportunities with both hands better than Jo-Lual Acuil, who went from the sixth man of the year to starting centre and MVP candidate.

Not only exceeding expectations in the role but shattering them, Lual-Acuil led United in points (16.6) and rebounds (9.2) per game.

Another player that slotted into the line-up like a glove was Matthew Dellavadova, coming directly from the NBA, and losing little touch as he went on to lead United for assists for the year (seventh overall in the league, averaging 4.8 per game) and made the All-NBL Second Team.

To top it off, Chris Goulding, now back to being sole captain after Mitch McCarron’s departure to the Adelaide 36ers, led by example in his fifth season as captain, averaging 15.2 points per game, and making the All-NBL Second Team for the second year in a row.

These pieces, among others, saw Melbourne average 87.7 points per game in the regular season, fourth in the league behind Perth, Illawarra, and South East Melbourne Phoenix.

NBL22 Season Review: Melbourne United
Jo Lual-Acil stepped up in a big way this season. Picture: @NBL

More NBL22 Season Reviews

NBL22 Season Review: Perth Wildcats

NBL22 Season Review: South East Melbourne Phoenix

NBL22 Season Review: Adelaide 36ers

What Didn’t

Ironically, had United defeated their conquerors the JackJumpers in the final round of the season, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to cause the upset in the semi-finals and would have faced a weaken Wildcats outfit.

But while the matchup between the JackJumpers and United may have been on paper advantage to United, they had lost to the JackJumpers twice during the regular season, including in the last round when the JackJumpers kept them to a season-low 61 points.

The late withdrawal of Chris Goulding before Game Three of the series proved more costly than it seemed on paper as well. Not only were United missing their captain, but they were also missing their best shooter.

In Game Three, stand-in captain Matthew Dellavadova went 1-7 from three, while Caleb Agada, Jack White, and Yudai Baba went 0-7, 0-5, and 0-2 from three respectively. Overall United went 6-29 (20 per cent) from three, compared to the JackJumpers 10-32 (31 per cent).

Tasmania defensively caused headaches for Melbourne all season, with four of their five worst conversions from three coming in games against Tasmania. Only once did United win with their three-point conversion lower than 21 per cent all season, and that was in Game One of the semi-finals.

NBL22 Season Review: Melbourne United
Things may have gone a little differently had Chris Goulding lined up in game three. Picture: @MelbUnited

Club’s MVP

There wasn’t much that would prevent Jo-Lual Acuil from being named Club MVP, and he was deservedly named as such at the club awards night.

Lual-Acuil was already one of United’s rising stars winning the sixth man of the year last season, and after becoming starting centre.

The 28-year-old had an amazing season. He finished the season ranked eighth in the league for points, third for rebounds, and second for blocks. The Sudanese Australian was third in MVP voting, runner-up in the most improved player of the year and made the NBL First Team for the first time.

Another potential contender could have been Shea Ili, who was named Defensive Player of the year for United. Averaging career highs for steals (1.4) and assists (3.9), Ili gave excellent service for United coming off the bench.

Looking Ahead:

While it may be tempting to write off the series loss to the JackJumpers, and move on, United are far too professional to do that and some serious soul searching will take place this off-season.

Critically, several key pieces of the line-up are already committed to next season, including Jack White, Matthew Dellavedova, Shea Ili and captain Chris Goulding. However, Melbourne will be without Jo Lual-Acuil who is set to depart the club and look at opportunities overseas.

United were reigning champions and the number one seed for a reason and there’s no reason they can’t rebound and go again next season.

Melbourne United will be determined to be back next season. Picture @JohnCainArena

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