NBL Player Power Rankings: Pair of Taipans make their move

Round 9 is down, so it's time for another edition of our NBL Player Power Rankings.

Corey Webster drops out due to injury.

All numbers are courtesy of Spatialjam.com and jordanmcnbl.com (particularly those pertaining to play types).

20. Eric Griffin (Adelaide 36ers)

Last week: 20

Griffin hangs in despite a turnover-prone, uneven game against the Wildcats (in which he fouled out!), primarily because no one outside the bubble really stood out in an underwhelming round of basketball.

Like some of the other four-men higher up on this list, Griffin is finding some success simply facing up and bulldozing his way to the basket.

The encouraging things for 36ers fans is that there is less wildness, and more controlled aggression, to his game now - that was not the case at the start of the season.

19. LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks)

Last week: 18

It is okay to hold players to a higher standard. It is not necessary to wilfully ignore his faults, and be a staunch apologist for the league's golden ticket, in which every defence begins and ends with "he's only 18". It is possible to appreciate LaMelo Ball's talents and, at the same time, critique areas in which he really needs to improve.

Exclusive social media videos of his work ethic are not needed - it's what happens on the court that matters.

In that vein, it is unclear if Ball succumbed to the inevitable wild fluctuations of youth, or he was simply bored by an undermanned Breakers.

Never mind the careless turnovers, the questionable shot selection, the back-to-earth shooting numbers, or the inability to manage the floor properly. Ball reverted to some of his very worst defensive habits over the weekend: Giving up once there was a whiff of a screen; abandoning his defensive assignment -- mid-possession -- by literally turning his back and gravitating towards the paint for the chance of a rebound.

And boy were there moments of very-obvious rebound-chasing. An impressive stat line does not mean an impressive performance.

Those who defend Ball pounding the rock usually cite his teammates, and how he's forced to do everything. That defence is rather simplistic. I would counter with the notion that yes, he does indeed have teammates. It would be good if they touched the ball once in a while - it might even help with their confidence and finishing.

18. Cam Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

Last week: unranked

Honesty can be a refreshing tool to reset one's mindset.

"I wasn't really proud of myself [in] the last round. I just felt I kind of was in my own head a little bit after my inconsistency kind of kicked in," said Oliver, in the postgame presser after the Taipans had defeated United once again. "That's kind of been a little bit of a knock on me for a long time in my career. So, I just wanted to turn the page and be able to show everybody that I'm a new person.

In turning the page, it was back to basics for Oliver, who once again drew upon reserves of activity and energy - the foundation of his game.

Oliver operated exclusively as a finisher, and he easily outpointed Shawn Long on both ends of the court to tally 26 points (18 shots), 13 rebounds and four blocks (and four turnovers).

Of course, certainty also helped - he did not share the floor much with Nate Jawai, and revelled in that precious additional spacing.

17. Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)

Last week: 12

A somewhat mixed round for McCarron.

He was all over the court against Cairns, finishing with 12 points (5-of-9 shooting), six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in over 36 minutes of action.

But he was largely invisible against the Kings on both ends of the court. McCarron can have quiet offensive games, but he is usually a disruptive defensive presence - that was not the case on Sunday.

16. Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)

Last week: 14

At this juncture of the season, the Bullets are not what we thought they were. And the benching of Sobey -- the official reason provided was recovery from a stomach bug during the week -- only fuels the notion that they are grasping for an identity.

Especially after a muted performance of 14 points (5-of-13 shooting), two assists and a single rebound.

At least there seemed to be a more singular intent to get to the rim, if not the results. I'm almost certain that Sobey has yet to hit a single floater all season.

15. D.J. Newbill (Cairns Taipans)

Last week: 17

Newbill rates as one of the strongest spot-up shooters in the league, which is important, considering spot up attempts are his heaviest shot diet, according to play type data via jordanmcnbl.com.

Newbill's game on Friday night exhibited his two-way power: an efficient 19 points (6-of-11 shooting), three rebounds and two assists, and stellar defence hounding Chris Goulding.

14. Jerome Randle (Adelaide 36ers)

Last week: 15

Randle just keeps plugging away every week - he leads the league in volume shooting coming via the pick-and-roll (just ahead of Melo Trimble), and at an above league average rate.

He had 20 points (on 9-of-20 shooting) and eight assists against a Wildcats team that offered zero resistance.

13. Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)

Last week: 11

Goulding followed one of his more inefficient games of the season against the Taipans -- 19 points (7-of-16 from the field), three rebounds and four assists -- with 18 points (11 shots), three rebounds, two assists and three turnovers against the Kings.

Goulding is taking close to 10 triples a game - that would be a career high rate if he sustained that sort of shot profile for the rest of the season.

12. Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)

Last week: 16

Johnson's usage rate had declined in recent weeks, but so too had his post up efficiency.

Data provided by jordanmcnbl.com shows that Johnson averaged 5.5 post ups over his first five games. That figure dropped to 2.3 over his last six.

So it would have been of great relief for 36ers fans when they witnessed a more engaged Daniel Johnson against the Wildcats, particularly in the first half, when he had 17 points (from 8 shots).

Johnson finished with an efficient 29 points and 17 rebounds. Welcome back.

11. Nick Kay (Perth Wildcats)

Last week: 7

In many ways, Nick Kay is like the big man version of Mitch McCarron.

Six points on 3-of-9 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks probably does not do justice to his selfless, multi-faceted game.

He does so many different things to help a team - some it is unnoticed grunt work that either puts out a fire on defence, or creates space for a teammate. And like McCarron, sometimes you wish he would just be more aggressive.

Yet over the past few weeks, Kay often seemed to float, ambling from screen to screen. In some possessions, he wouldn't even touch the ball.

Aggression does not necessarily equate to shots - it just signals an individual intent to make something happen. It invariably results in action towards the rim.

A mean-spirited lefty drive from well outside the arc comes to mind, when he shoulder-checked Obi Kyei, knocking him backwards before finishing with his left hand.

We wrote last week that the Wildcats have much larger issues -- namely defence -- but the progress of Kay also bears monitoring.

10. Shawn Long (Melbourne United)

Last week: 8

Despite the seemingly gaudy line of 16 points (6-of-18 shooting), 14 rebounds, two assists (three turnovers) and two blocks against the Taipans on Friday night, Long was thoroughly outplayed by Cam Oliver and seemed to digress into a frustrated, brooding mess.

On Sunday, Long leveraged Bogut's unwillingness to guard him credibly from the perimeter. But a more face-up approach is also a pertinent change of tactic.

Data provided by jordanmcnbl.com confirms this. Over his past eight games (before yesterday), Long's efficiency has dropped - he's scored at 0.72 points per possession, far below league average.

Unfortunately, his 20 minutes of action were innocuous before fouling out - it's almost unfathomable that he only nabbed a single rebound.

9. Lamar Patterson (Brisbane Bullets)

Last week: 9

With Nathan Sobey on the bench and his minutes more aligned with the second unit, Patterson became the sole playmaker for large stretches of his court time.

Patterson's heavy lifting yielded nine assists, and his assist rate is far greater than last season.

The only issue? It's tough work for Patterson when he's the only guy for stretches who can create his own shot (and looks for others) and bend the defence - this was the exact same issue the Bullets faced last season.

It was supposed to be easier this season with the acquisition of Sobey.

Of course, it doesn't help that Patterson's three-point shot has completely abandoned him - his accuracy from beyond the paint has dropped to LaMelo Ball levels.

8. Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)

Last week: 13

When it comes to managing the clock for a final possession before a quarter break or half, too often you see players go too early. Not Machado.

He is a magician with the way he manages a possession and manipulates the floor.

The way he managed that final possession of the first half against United was perfection - absolute perfection. Machado, eyes constantly on the shot clock, waited until the final moment before attacking in the pick-and-roll. Once he turned the corner on a lunging Shawn Long, it was over.

Now with a head of steam, Machado leveraged the attention of the entire United defence towards a rolling Jawai, and with McCarron closing to an open Mirko Djeric, he whipped a righty pass straight to DJ Newbill, who drilled the wide open three.

LaMelo Ball's vision and passing is great (not merely for an 18 year old), but Machado's game management is the best in the league.

Against the Wildcats, Machado finished with 17 points (3-of-7 from downtown), four rebounds, 10 assists (just the single turnover), and two steals.

7. Jae'Sean Tate (Sydney Kings)

Last week: 10

Tate continues to rise.

Two moments against United encapsulate the Jae'Sean Tate experience: A furious put-back dunk late in the first quarter; and the audacious -- and equally hilarious -- Tracy McGrady off-the-backboard impersonation that went awry.

Both tell a story of intent at the rim. And that approach led to an ultra-efficient 25 points (on 10 shots!), to go with six rebounds and two assists.

Tate was dominant in the paint, and his style symbolises the Kings smash-mouth approach that is powering their status as the top dogs.

6. Melo Trimble (Melbourne United)

Last week: 6

Trimble had one of the more quiet 16-point, four-assist performances you will find on Friday night against the Taipans.

On Sunday, he and Goulding were the only consistently aggressive scoring threats for United. He powered Melbourne throughout the rout, finishing with 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting, two rebounds, four assists and two steals.

5. John Roberson (South East Melbourne Phoenix)

Last week: 5

With his supreme shooting off-the-bounce and expert usage of screens to gain the required separation, teams have been trying to either force the ball out of Roberson's hands, or funnel him inside the arc. He's now finding ways to manipulate the defence without the ball.

In one early first quarter possession, Roberson leveraged Talyor Braun's anticipation (who is an expert at fighting through screens, by the way) that he would use a Dane Pineau screen, only for Roberson to rejected it and saunter to the rim for an uncontested layup. He did the same thing again midway through the third quarter.

It was a controlled 17-point performance (6-of-10 overall from the field) against the Bullets on Saturday night, including five assists and two steals.

4. Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings)

Last week: 4

Another win, another game in which Bogut pretty much walked into his season averages: Nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and one block in a tick over 20 minutes of court time.

Bogut's minutes aligned with those of Shawn Long, and there was little need for Will Weaver to over-exert his defensive linchpin with the Kings destroying United.

3. Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)

Last week: 2

There is a sense of lethargy with Cotton, of late. He lacks the usual effervescence that has come to characterise his play - on both ends of the court.

He finished with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists against the 36ers, but there was no ferocity of will. He seemed lost in the flow.

As a result, the Wildcats were not even close to threatening, especially with a still-to-be-worked-in Terrico White.

2. Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)

Last week: 3

Ware had his most efficient game of the season against United with 27 points (9-of-14 from the field), two rebounds and five assists; he was also 4-of-7 from downtown.

We have written before that despite his shooting struggles, Ware's self-confidence was never in doubt. What was encouraging though was his clear intent to muscle his way towards the basket with his frame, as opposed to settling - that is Ware at his best.

1. Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)

Last week: 1

Creek's energy was infectious against the Bullets. He was in passing lanes; he snuck in and grabbing o-boards; his game was the usual assortment of things that help a team win. This is what the best players do - you don't need to dominate the ball to dominate a game.

Creek finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 36 minutes of hustle.

Stay tuned for next week's edition.