21/04/2024

With signing of NBA star Aron Baynes, the Brisbane Bullets will be hoping for much improvement this season. (Image: @NBL; Design: Will Cuckson)

The Brisbane Bullets had a season to largely forget in 2021/22, but with a list overhaul and key signings, including Australian basketball superstar Aron Baynes and former NBA player Tyler Johnson, Bullets fans can enter season 2022/23 with more hope and enthusiasm than thought possible a few months back.

Last season

Ladder Position: Eighth (10 wins, 18 losses)

The Brisbane Bullets struggled for much of last season, never really being in the finals hunt and finishing a disappointing eighth. There were glimpses of good basketball throughout the season, but they were all too sporadic, resulting in the team missing the finals for the third consecutive season.

Key medium-term injuries to key players including Nathan Sobey and Tyrell Harrison didn’t help Brisbane’s cause, and a clear change in fortune and players is needed for things to improve.

Biggest in

The biggest in the Brisbane Bullets have ever had, and arguably the biggest signing the NBL has ever seen – Aron Baynes is set to play for the Bullets.

After his freakish accident at the Tokyo Olympics, Baynes had to teach himself to walk again, so it is a minor miracle he is able to grace the courts at all, let alone in the NBL. The Aussie centre has worked tirelessly to get back to match fitness and even worked out in front of NBA scouts during the off-season.

No doubt he will be hoping to use the Bullets as a stepping stone back into the NBA, but he has committed to the Bullets for three seasons, meaning Australian and Bullets fans should get to see plenty of Baynes in action.

Baynes may have had something to do with luring former NBA player Tyler Johnson to the Bullets. Johnson was an NBA regular a number of years ago, before struggling to get game time.

The 30-year-old managed just three games for Philadelphia last NBA season, following 39 games in the 2020/21 season for Brooklyn.

There is little doubt he is still a talented basketballer, so he should bring great skill and finesse to a Bullets team in need of some consistent scoring and defensive play.

Biggest out

The biggest loss for the Bullets is clearly last year’s Leroy Loggins MVP award winner Robert Franks. The forward-turned-small-ball centre averaged 18 points per game and was a critical cog in many of the team’s victories.

Along with his scoring prowess, Franks was great defensively, averaging nine rebounds and one steal per game.

Franks’ career will continue with arch-rivals, the Adelaide 36ers.

The Bullets will also sorely miss their defensive player of the year Deng Deng.

Despite only averaging 19 minutes per game last season, Deng was able to bring down five rebounds per game, as well as average close to a block and a steal per game.

The lack of defensive pressure from both Franks and Deng means Bullets fans will hope Baynes and other key signings can fill this void.

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Player to watch

The two huge signings of Aron Baynes and Tyler Johnson will be must-watch players each week, however, it is Nathan Sobey that many will be keen to see play this season.

Coming off an interrupted season in 2021/22, the Boomer will be keen to impress and stamp his mark on both the Bullets team and the league.

Sobey will be keen to put together an uninterrupted season similar to 2020/21, one in which he was named as part of the All-NBL First Team and was among the candidates for the Andrew Gaze MVP award. The big signings should not only help take pressure off Sobey to perform but hopefully, see him elevate his game to another level.

Having recently signed on for a further three years, the Bullets are putting faith in his help to take the side up the ladder and back into contention.

Starting five

The Inner Sanctum’s predicted starting five for the Brisbane Bullets. (Design: Will Cuckson)

Full squad

Aron Baynes, D.J Mitchell, Devondrick Walker (import), Gorjok Gak, Harry Froling, Jason Cadee, Kody Strattman, Lual Diing (development player), Matt Johns (development player), Nathan Sobey, Rasmus Bach (injury replacement player), Tanner Krebs, Tyler Johnson (import), Tyrell Harrison

Ins: Aron Baynes, Devondrick Walker, D.J Mitchell, Gorjak Gak, Harry Froling, Kody Stattmann, Lual Diing, Matt Johns, Rasmus Bach, Tyler Johnson

Outs: Anthony Drmic (Adelaide 36ers), Chuanxing Liu, Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks), Isaiah Moss, Lamar Patterson, Taane Samuel, Tamuri Wigness, Robert Franks (Adelaide 36ers)

Fixture highlights

The Bullets will have to wait until their fourth game to unveil Baynes and Johnson to their home fans, with a Sunday afternoon matchup against the champion Sydney Kings a great way to do so. The Bullets can expect a bumper crowd that afternoon in what is a mouthwatering matchup early on in the season.

The Bullets start the season on the road in Perth against the Wildcats – the Sunday afternoon timeslot will give fans a chance to watch in large numbers against a Perth side that is always tough to beat at home.

A New Year’s Day matchup against one of the title favourites in Melbourne United also promises to be a great game. Hopefully, by that point in the season, the Bullets are really rolling and crowds can use the holidays to appreciate their side’s performances.

What to expect

With such a list overhaul, it is hard to know what to expect, but if the pre-season games are anything to go by, we can expect some exciting, fast-paced basketball.

Baynes and Johnson should bring crowds back to Bullets games and have Nissan Arena buzzing each home game. If those two can make an immediate connection, combined with a fit Nathan Sobey and exciting playmakers in Devondrick Walker and D.J Mitchell, then we can expect the Bullets to be competitive each and every game – something that we could not say in season 2021/22.

The Last Word

If the key inclusions can stay injury-free and gel on-court, anything is possible for the Bullets this season. Anything short of a playoff spot would be considered a failure.

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