05/03/2024

The Adelaide 36ers will be looking towards making the finals in NBL23. (Picture: Adelaide 36ers; Design: Will Cuckson)

The Adelaide 36ers had a season that some could have predicted, with a roster constructed by his predecessor CJ Bruton had a tough first season as head coach. This time around Bruton has built the roster to fit his style of play and has the championship in his sight.

Last season

Ladder Position: Seventh (10 wins, 18 losses)

The Adelaide 36ers struggled in NBL22 with the roster not really able to form much chemistry throughout the season. Injuries interrupted the seasons of Isaac Humphries and Cam Bairstow, and the Sixers were never able to get their season going.

The recruitment of the captain Mitch McCarron was an astute one, bringing leadership to a team, who needed some spark and experience.

Adelaide won three of its last four games, showing a glimpse of optimism about how head coach CJ Bruton wants it to play. Now Bruton has had the opportunity to seek out players and build his own roster to suit his game plan instead of the one he inherited, Adelaide has its eyes firmly set on trying to win the championship.

Biggest in

The biggest in for Adelaide is Antonius Cleveland, who will an exciting prospect for 36ers fans to watch this season. The former NBL Defensive Player of the Year from the Illawarra Hawks looked extremely dangerous in the NBL Blitz.

The 28-year-old is a great defender with athleticism to burn. He was named to the All-NBL first-team after a fantastic debut season in the NBL.

After averaging 14.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and a block per game in Illawarra, Bruton will be sure to put Cleveland to good use this season as one of Adelaide’s main weapons on both ends of the floor.

Another massive in for the 36ers is import power forward Robert Franks who was recruited from the Brisbane Bullets.

For the Bullets last season, Franks averaged 18.2 points, shooting 50 per cent from the field, 8.8 rebounds, and almost a steal per game. The 25-year-old is a great three-point shooting option which is something the Sixers lacked last season.

Biggest out

The biggest out for the 36ers is Isaac Humphries who departed in the offseason, signing with Melbourne United.

The 24-year-old has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons, and when he is fully healthy he has shown he is capable of being one of the most dangerous big men in the league.

During his first season in Adelaide, Humphries was playing at an MVP level before being struck down by injury. In NBL21, the 6’11 centre averaged 13.3 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game.

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More NBL Season Previews

NBL23 Season Preview: South East Melbourne Phoenix

NBL23 Season Preview: Brisbane Bullets

NBL23 Season Preview: Cairns Taipans

Player to watch

A young player that 36ers fans will need to keep an eye on this season is the development of Nick Marshall after a solid NBL1 South season playing for the Mount Gambier Pioneers.

Marshall and the Pioneers missed out on the championship after they were defeated by the Hobart Chargers in the Grand Final. He starred for Mount Gambier, averaging 21.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

The 23-year-old re-signed with the Sixers for two more years in the offseason. The development player will get more opportunities in the next two seasons as he looks to shift into a spot on the active playing roster in the 2023-24 NBL season.

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Starting five

The Inner Sanctum’s predicted starting five for the Adelaide 36ers. (Design: Will Cuckson)

Full squad

Anthony Drmic, Antonius Cleveland (import), Cameron Thew (development player), Craig Randall II (import), Daniel Johnson, Deng Acuoth, Fiston Ipassou (development player), Fraser Roxburgh (development player), Hyrum Harris, Kai Sotto, Kyrin Galloway, Mitch McCarron (captain), Nick Marshall (development player), Robert Franks (import), Sunday Dech

Ins: Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets), Antonius Cleveland (Illawarra Hawks), Cameron Thew (Northside Wizards, NBL1), Craig Randall II (Long Island Nets), Deng Acuoth (Knox Raiders, NBL1), Fiston Ipassou (Forestville Eagles, NBL1), Fraser Roxburgh (Knox Raiders, NBL1), Kyrin Galloway (New Zealand Breakers), Robert Franks (Brisbane Bullets)

Outs: Cameron Bairstow (retired), Dusty Hannahs (Santa Cruz Warriors, NBA G-League), Emmanuel Malou, Isaac Gattorna (Sydney Kings), Isaac Humphries (Melbourne United), Lachlan Olbrich (University of California, Riverside), Mojave King (NBA G-League Ignite), Tad Dufelmeier Jr, Todd Withers (Rytas Vilnius)

Fixture highlights

There are many games that the 36ers fans should be looking forward to but the season opener against the Tasmanian Jackjumpers firms as a great first look at the newly constructed roster.

Another highlight is the game against the Perth Wildcats which have built a rivalry with the Sixers over the years. Looking to get back into the NBL finals, Perth will be hell-bent on redemption this season which should see a big year from it.

36ers fans will be hoping to get an early Christmas gift as they host the Phoenix on Christmas Eve.

What to expect

With such a shift from lesser-known talent to big recruits, the Sixers make no bones about paying up for known quantities. Adding Antonius Cleveland and Robert Franks to the core of Mitch McCarron, Sunday Dech, and Daniel Johnson forms a formidable roster and will go a long way in helping Adelaide reach the playoffs and hopefully a grand final appearance.

The Last Word

Considering the acquisitions the Sixers made in the offseason, signing Cleveland and Franks, they are going into NBL23 with big expectations. Anything short of a grand final appearance would be disappointing.

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