The New Zealand Breakers were away from home for the second consecutive season and struggled to consistently get their best players on the court due to injury, but the Breakers still had some shining lights.
Final ladder position: 10th (five wins, 23 losses)
The New Zealand Breakers had several speed bumps throughout the season with players going in and out of the lineup. New Zealand’s import signings Jeremiah Martin and Peyton Siva missed games at the start of the season. Especially Siva, who the Breakers signed Chasson Randle as an injury replacement before signing him to a full roster spot after they and Jeremiah Martin came to a mutual release.
The Breakers could never consistently get their roster settled, with several players going in and out of the lineup. Yanni Wetzell, Tom Abercrombie, Peyton Siva, Ousmane Dieng and Will McDowell-White missed games due to injuries.
Next Star Ousmane Dieng and import Hugo Besson alongside Yanni Wetzell were positives that New Zealand can take from NBL22.
The Breakers finished the season with five wins and 23 losses finishing on the bottom of the ladder. After another brutal season away from family and friends, the Breakers returned home to New Zealand licking their wounds.
With several key players going down with injury, it gave opportunities to the younger talent on New Zealand’s roster.
Ousmane Dieng had a slow start to the season, finding it difficult to deal with the physicality. In his first 11 games, the 18-year-old averaged four points on 24.7 per cent shooting, 15 per cent from three.
Once the 208cm forward finally felt comfortable and adjusted to how the league is played, we saw Dieng’s talent and potential.
In the second half of the season, Dieng averaged 13.3 points on 48 per cent shooting and 35 per cent from beyond the arc. He also scored double digits in nine of his last 12 games.
Dieng’s countrymen Hugo Besson also showed he is an NBA talent, providing highlights for all fans of the competition but especially Breakers fans.
The 21-year-old was New Zealand’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.9 points per game. Besson also averaged 2.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Besson will be remembered for his scoring and shooting ability. Despite only shooting 30 per cent from the three-point line, the Frenchman was able to get the Breakers a bucket when they desperately needed one.
Last year the Breakers were a top-four defence, but this season they were the second-worst defensive team in the NBL, conceding on average 88.5 points per game, only behind the Bullets who conceded 89.2 points per game.
The loss of captain Tom Abercrombie for spurts throughout the year really hurt New Zealand as it lost its primary defender and defensive and spiritual leader.
It also didn’t help to have two rookies in Ousmane Dieng and Hugo Besson who were adjusting to how to play in the competition up against grown men.
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The Breakers’ standout player in season 2021/22 was newly acquired centre, Yanni Wetzell. After moving back home this season after a spectacular rookie season with South East Melbourne, the 25-year-old took his game to another level.
The Pretzel became one of the most dominant and dependable big men in the competition, consistently putting up massive numbers as the main focal point of the Breakers’ offence.
Despite experiencing back spasms throughout the year, Wetzell managed to play 22 games, averaging 17.7 points and 8.5 rebounds. He also finished in the top 10 for steals and blocks, averaging 1.6 steals and one block per game.
Wetzell’s performances this season were so brilliant that they caught the eye of Spanish EuroLeague team Saski Baskonia. The 25-year-old and the New Zealand Breakers came to a mutual agreement to release the 208cm centre from his contract to allow him to join Baskonia.
The New Zealand Breakers will be looking to lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder in NBL23 as they hopefully get to play lots of games back home.
The Breakers will have to make their climb up the ladder without Peyton Siva and Yanni Wetzell as they leave to go play in Europe, for Panathinaikos B.C and Saski Baskonia respectively.
New Zealand will also be without Hugo Besson and Ousmane Dieng as both declared for the NBA Draft.
At the moment, New Zealand only has veteran centre Rob Loe, captain Tom Abercrombie, and local product Sam Timmins who will look to replace the hole left by Yanni Wetzell on its roster.
Getting forward Finn Delany’s signature is pivotal for the Breakers, especially after the departure of Wetzell. Despite his numbers being down this season, the Breakers know how dangerous Delany can be when he is firing.
New Zealand could play a different style of basketball next year after head coach Dan Shamir stepped down after three years with the organisation. Shamir’s assistant coach Mody Maor will take the reigns for NBL23.
New Zealand opened NBL free agency securing the talent signature of young Kiwi Dan Fotu and adding more depth to its frontcourt. The 22-year-old is the first signing of new head coach Mody Maor, who is targeting top kiwi talent to add to the Breakers’ roster.
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