21/02/2024

Who rose and who fell in our Round 14 NBL Power Rankings? (Images: @MelbUnited; @BrisbaneBullets)

A few teams would have hoped the new year would have brought them better fortunes, while others continue to enhance their performances.

These Power Rankings are based on current form and short-term expectations. They aren’t a prediction of where teams will finish the season on the ladder, but rather an expectation on how they will perform in their upcoming games with consideration given to injuries and form.

There hasn’t been an article over the last couple of weeks, so here are my rankings from the last time I posted them.

With that in mind, here are this week’s power rankings ahead of Round 15.

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1. Melbourne United

Record: 15-5, Previous Ranking: 1st

Melbourne United split their double in Round 14, demolishing the Kings before losing to the 36ers.

Melbourne’s road trip got off to a shaky start, losing two of its last three games, but there isn’t any cause for concern yet as it still has the best offensive and defensive in the league. If this trend continues then it might be something to monitor, until then United is still the team to beat.

United was without Luke Travers for both of their games. Without him in the lineup, it hurt what they do on both ends of the floor, especially defensively.

Tanner Krebs’ form recently is a huge positive for United. In his last five games, the Tasmanian product is shooting the lights, averaging 12.4 points (4.6 FGA, 3.6 3PA per game) on 74 per cent from the field and 61 per cent from three-point range.

Games this week: @ New Zealand

2. Perth Wildcats

Record: 12-7, Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Perth Wildcats are humming right now, winning 10 of their past 12 games and are legitimately a title threat.

Coach John Rillie deserves a lot of credit for Perth’s incredible turnaround.

After a dire start, Rillie and his coaching staff needed to find a winning formula and shuffled the lineup around, shortened rotations, and things started to happen.

Another reason for the Wildcats’ success is Bryce Cotton playing at an MVP level.

The change in personnel and roles (benching Jordan Usher, increasing Hyrum Harris’ minutes and leaning into Jesse Wagstaff off the bench) has allowed the Wildcats to maximise the three-time MVP’s offensive firepower.

Perth welcomes South East Melbourne to the Jungle this weekend and will look to continue on its winning ways.

Games this week: Vs South East Melbourne

3. New Zealand Breakers

Record: 8-10, Previous Ranking: 3rd

Unfortunately for the Breakers, their four-game win streak ended after the Wildcats’ come-from-behind win.

Despite the loss, this New Zealand side is one you still don’t want to come across, especially since it’s almost at full strength.

Zylan Cheatham put up 25 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes against Perth, reminding everyone just how good he is. There was always going to be rust that Cheatham would have had to dust off coming back from injury, but these are very promising signs for the Breakers as they continue their play-in push.

Games this week: Vs Melbourne, @ Sydney

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4. Tasmania JackJumpers

Record: 11-7, Previous Ranking: 4th

The JackJumpers got back to their defensive best, but the issue this season has been they haven’t been able to do it consistently.

Milton Doyle (26 points) looked to have recaptured his early season form, something that will be important if it continues, especially while Jordon Crawford has cooled off.

Will Magnay’s first game back from the injury scare on Christmas Day and continues to anchor the JackJumpers on the defensive end and his health will determine how far the JackJumpers can go.

This weekend will be crucial for Tasmania with games against Brisbane and Illawarra as it continues its quest for a top-two spot.

Games this week: @ Brisbane, vs Illawarra

5. Illawarra Hawks

Record: 8-9, Previous Ranking: 5th

Illawarra took advantage of a heavily undermanned South East Melbourne outfit to propel itself into the top six for the first time this season.

Although we can’t read too much into the contest due to the Phoenix’s injuries, the Hawks could have been forgiven for a lack of intensity, but they put together a professional outing, punishing the visitors.

The Hawks are one of the form teams in the league, having won three games in a row and four of their last five.

It hasn’t been the season Justin Robinson would have hoped, but he has turned it around under interim head coach Justin Tatum.

In his last five games, the former Washington Wizard guard is averaging 13.4 points on 53 per cent efficiency and nearly four assists, looking remarkably better and more confident in himself compared to how he looked at the start of the season.

The upcoming weekend sets up to be huge for the Hawks as they travel to Tasmania and Brisbane to face the JackJumpers and Bullets. Both games will have major implications for Illawarra who will want to keep its momentum going into the back half of NBL24.

Games this week: @ Tasmania @ Brisbane

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6. Brisbane Bullets

Record: 9-11, Previous Ranking: 9th

Just as all hope was lost on Brisbane Island, its last two games have got it back in the play-in hunt, currently sitting in sixth after the round concluded after beating Sydney at Qudos Bank Arena for the first time since 2017.

In recent weeks, Justin Schueller has put more emphasis on attacking the rim. This has allowed Nathan Sobey to get out of his shooting/scoring slump that he had previously been in and it has seen the star guard score 35 and 27 points in his last two games and look back to his best.

The encounter against the Kings’ was also Casey Prather’s first game in Bullets’ colours and the three-time NBL champion offered a glimpse of what he can produce with eight points and two rebounds in almost 11 minutes.

Games this week: Vs Tasmania vs Illawarra

7. Sydney Kings

Record: 10-10, Previous Ranking: 6th.

The concerns for Sydney are real.

The lack of urgency that the Kings have shown is alarming, and they look like a bottom-of-the-play-in type team at the moment.

Sydney isn’t the same team defensively as seen in previous seasons, and is leaking points on a nightly basis and is trending backward.

Over each team’s last 10 games, the Kings have the worst defence in the league, conceding 120.3 points per 100 possessions, and they’re 3-7 in that stretch.

There needs to be a seismic shift in the Kings’ approach to games from this point on, otherwise, they will find themselves slipping out of the top six.

Games this week: @ Adelaide, vs New Zealand

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8. Cairns Taipans

Record: 9-12, Previous Ranking: 7th

It’s to be expected with such a young roster that the Taipans’ rollercoaster season continues, but they remain in the play-in hunt.

Cairns has lost three of its last five games, and the issues it faced at the beginning of the season remain. The Snakes continue to have offensive struggles and are highly reliant on Tahjere McCall and Patrick Miller.

Despite the loss, Taipans fans saw young point guard Taran Armstrong breakout which will have them optimistic on how he will perform in the future. The 21-year-old finished the encounter against the JackJumpers with 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

Games this week: Vs Adelaide

9. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Record: 9-11, Previous Ranking: 8th

Without their imports (Abdel Nader, Alan Williams, and Gary Browne all out due to injury), the Phoenix were comprehensively beaten by the Hawks.

South East Melbourne has lost now four of its last games, which has seen it fall out of the top six after the round.

With eight games left in their season, the Phoenix can’t afford to lose too many more games and to give themself the best chance is to keep their top-ended talent healthy.

South East Melbourne needs to get back on track quickly, but with a date against Bryce Cotton and the Perth Wildcats in the Jungle on the horizon, it won’t be easy.

Games this week: @ Perth

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10. Adelaide 36ers

Record: 6-13, Previous Ranking: 10th

The 36ers caused the upset of the round and possibly the season, taking down the ladder-leading Melbourne United on the night they were celebrating the 1999 NBL championship-winning team.

Adelaide’s performance on Saturday night in front of a record home crowd was one of its best performances under interim coach Scott Ninnis. The 36ers took advantage of United’s lack of defensive intensity to score 100 points on a highly efficient percentage (50 per cent from the field).

Dejan Vasiljevic (30 points) and Trey Kell (24 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists) piled on the points, combining for 54 points against the best defensive backcourt in the league (Matthew Dellavedova and Shea Ili).

Under Ninnis’ tenure, Kell has the ball in his hands a lot more and it is paying dividends, with the 27-year-old averaging 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game.

The 36ers play host to an under-pressure Kings outfit on Thursday night in a game that will be Dejan Vasiljevic’s first time facing his former team before travelling north to face the Taipans.

Games this week: Vs Sydney, @ Cairns

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