21/02/2024

The Perth Wildcats, Cairns Taipans, and Tasmania JackJumpers were big winners coming out of the FIBA break. (Image: @NBL; @JackJimpers)

Some teams came out of the FIBA break firing while others struggled to get back into the flow of NBL action.

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.

Here are The Inner Sanctum’s NBL Power Rankings ahead of Round 10 of the 2023/24 season.

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1. Melbourne United

Record: 10-3, Previous Ranking: 1st

The first game back from the FIBA break didn’t quite go to plan for Melbourne after it was upset by the Cairns Taipans.

United wasn’t at their defensive best and allowed the Snakes to score their highest score of the season (115 points) on a highly efficient 62 per cent shooting. Dean Vickerman’s men couldn’t contain Patrick Miller and Tahjere McCall on the perimeter, while Josh Roberts made them pay down low.

The result against Cairns was a minor blip and Melbourne shouldn’t view it as a long-term concern as it has been super tight defensively this season.

It was Matthew Dellavadova’s first game back from injury and Ian Clark is nearing a return from his hamstring injury, the only way is up for the ladder leaders as they integrate the pair back into the lineup.

Games this week: Vs Brisbane

2. Tasmania JackJumpers

Record: 8-5, Previous Ranking: 3rd

Tasmania jumped a spot in the rankings this week after its performance against Adelaide, recording its largest win in franchise history (35 points). The result saw Tasmania soar into second on the ladder.

Before the break Scott Roth urged his side to find its defensive prowess and the JackJumpers certainly heard their coach’s cry, restricting the 36ers to their tied-lowest score of the 40-minute era (54 points) on 29 per cent shooting.

With a clash against the under-manned Breakers in New Zealand, the JackJumpers will want to ensure their good form continues.

Games this week: @New Zealand

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3. Perth Wildcats

Record: 8-5, Previous Ranking: 4th

The Wildcats’s surge up the rankings continues after they secured a massive win over rivals Sydney Kings to extend their winning streak to six games.

Superstar Bryce Cotton sent a reminder of why he is considered one of the greatest to play in the league, finishing with a league-high 41 points, seven assists, and five rebounds.

King Cotton has certainly found his groove after going through a slump to begin the season. Over his last six games, the three-time MVP is averaging 30.2 points on 44 per cent field goal shooting and 34 from three-point range.

Perth will hope to continue its winning momentum as it travels to Illawarra to face the Hawks.

Games this week: @Illawarra

4. Sydney Kings

Record: 7-5, Previous Ranking: 2nd

Sydney now finds itself fourth in the standings and the power rankings after its loss to Perth and its form throughout games is becoming a cause of concern.

In the past few weeks, the Kings have been exposed defensively.

They allowed the Wildcats to score 64 points in the second half after allowing United to 67 points last week. Sydney sat third in defensive ranking two weeks ago and now sits ninth.

Also, something to monitor is its form amongst the other top teams. Sydney is 1-4 against the three teams above it (Melbourne, Tasmania, Perth).

Jonah Bolden’s form over the past three weeks has been impressive and culminated in a 28-point performance, shooting seven of eight from downtown in 23 minutes against the Wildcats. The 27-year-old is only going to continue to get better and better as NBL24 goes on.

This weekend is crucial for the Kings with clashes against Cairns and South East Melbourne on the cards.

Games this week: @Cairns, vs South East Melbourne

5. Cairns Taipans

Record: 5-7, Previous Ranking: 7th

The Taipans sent a scare through the Bullets but caused the upset of the weekend, claiming the scalp of the league leaders, Melbourne United to snap their three-game losing streak.

Adam Forde rewarded Jonah Antonio and Josh Roberts after the pair’s performance late against Brisbane with starts against Melbourne. The change to the starting lineup caught Dean Vickerman’s team off guard as the Taipans set a club record half-time score on the road scoring 67 points in the first half.

Roberts averaged five minutes per game and scored a total of nine points this season before being thrown into the starting five. He repaid the faith, finishing with a season-high 22 points, five rebounds, and three blocks in close to 27 minutes.

We know how good defensively Cairns is but if it can continue to get its offence humming, the Snakes could make a serious run up the standings.

Games this week: Vs Sydney, @Adelaide

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6. Brisbane Bullets

Record: 7-7, Previous Ranking: 6th

Brisbane snapped its two-game losing streak, securing wins against Cairns and Illawarra.

The Bullets fourth quarter woes continue again struggling to finish out games. Across the weekend, Brisbane scored 16 and 13 points in the last quarter and were lucky to escape.

Finding a combination to help solve their fourth-quarter fadeouts will be a priority for coach Justin Schueller before they run into the top-tier teams in the league and it costs the Bullets.

Games this week: At Melbourne

7. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Record: 7-6, Previous Ranking: 5th

South East Melbourne snapped its two-game slide with a much-needed win over New Zealand. It took a while to knock off the rust, but once they did the Phoenix rolled into gear.

Head coach Mike Kelly will be impressed with his side’s balanced performance as six players scored double digits. Kelly made a change to his starting five, elevating Matt Kenyon and sending import point guard Will Cummings to the bench.

Cummings looked comfortable (15 points and three assists) with a change of role coming off the bench, while Matt Kenyon also made the most of his extended minutes.

Unfortunately, South East Melbourne will be without Craig Moller for the rest of the season after scans have confirmed the forward ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee.

It’s disappointing for Moller who’s had shocking injury luck as the 29-year-old has been a revelation this season for the Phoenix.

Despite not having a huge impact offensively, South East Melbourne will sorely miss the 208cm forward’s defensive efforts and impact on the glass.

Moller’s injury comes at an unfortunate time for South East Melbourne with a treacherous schedule ahead with games against Sydney and Melbourne on the horizon.

Games this week: @Sydney

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8. New Zealand Breakers

Record: 4-8, Previous Ranking: 9th

After a disappointing loss to the Hawks before the FIBA break, the New Zealand Breakers needed to come out with a response.

They certainly did that, coming out of the gates against the 36ers scoring 37 points – the highest-scoring first quarter in NBL24. Despite a fightback from Adelaide, New Zealand came out with a 13-point victory.

The Breakers had an opportunity to come away with another victory, staying in touch with the Phoenix before scoring only 14 points in the last quarter.

The short-handed Breakers have lost, then won, then lost, then won, then lost in their last five games. With a clash against the JackJumpers, they will be hoping to break that sequence.

Games this week: Vs Tasmania

9. Illawarra Hawks

Record: 3-8, Previous Ranking: 10th

Illawarra will be disappointed after it left an opportunity slip against Brisbane, going down by a point.

The break looked like it was highly beneficial for the Hawks as the team looked more energised and inspired under interim head coach Justin Tatum.

Illawarra shared the scoring load with nine players scoring more than five points. Gary Clark, Justin Robinson, Sam Froling, and Hyunjung Lee were four who scored 10 or more points.

Tatum wasn’t afraid to make consistent changes to the five he had on the floor, but it did hinder his players from getting into any type of rhythm.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Hawks as it hosts one of the form teams in the league, the Perth Wildcats.

Games this week: Vs Perth

10. Adelaide 36ers

Record: 4-9, Previous Ranking: 8th

After going into the FIBA break with some momentum, the Sixers were majorly disappointing in Round 9.

Adelaide had a tough schedule, but that doesn’t excuse the effort in both games as it looked dispirited, especially against Tasmania where it went down by 35 points.

The events of the weekend saw the club part ways with coach CJ Bruton on Wednesday morning and will see assistant coach Scott Ninnis take charge for the rest of NBL24.

Ninnis has vowed to shorten the rotation and lean into the younger players on the roster, so expect to see an increase in the minutes of Nick Marshall, Kyrin Galloway, and Next Star Trentyn Flowers.

Games this week: Vs Cairns

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