NBL 2021-22 team-by-team season preview

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Broekhoff: It still feels like season one with Phoenix (1:44)

Ryan Broekhoff shares the hurdles he faced after joining South East Melbourne, and the rejuvenation he's feeling going into this season. (1:44)

Opening week of NBL 22 is officially underway, with the season set to tip off on Friday night. Things will get underway with the historic debut of the Tasmania JackJumpers on Friday night, before Round 1 comes to a conclusion with a marquee battle between Melbourne United and the Sydney Kings.

With a new franchise and arguably the deepest field of contenders the league has seen in many years, it's shaping up to be an incredible season of NBL hoops.

With the Blitz in the books, Josh Garlepp and Kane Pitman got together to bring you a team-by-team preview to get you the preparation you need for the season.


Adelaide 36ers

Coach: CJ Bruton

Adelaide's third coach in three years, as well as significant player turnover, will hopefully bring the 36ers into a new successful era, the first after Joey Wright's eight-year tenure. The side went 5-0 for the NBL Blitz without star centre Isaac Humphries and early signs show buy-in for Bruton's system. While the side lost rookie-of-the-year Josh Giddey, they've added Melbourne United championship guard Mitch McCarron and Aussie/Kiwi Next Star Mojave King.

Key outs: Jack McVeigh, Tony Crocker, Josh Giddey, Brandon Paul, Keanu Pinder, Daniel Dillon, Brendan Teys, Jack Purchase

Key ins: Hyrum Harris, Cameron Bairstow, Tad Duelmeier, Dusty Hannah, Mitch McCarron, Kai Sotto, Mojave King, Todd Withers, Emmanuel Malou

What success looks like: Finals. A return to the finals after just 13 wins in 2020/21 must be seen as a win for Adelaide fans. There is still plenty of unknown with this roster and how Bruton's experience and pedigree will fair in his first NBL head coaching role.

One to watch: Dusty Hannah

Hannah's subdued start to the Blitz was obliterated with his 13-straight fourth-quarter points to lead his side past Perth for their fourth-straight preseason win. Over his four seasons in the G-League the guard out of Little Rock, Arkansas averaged over 40 per cent from deep. Hannahs looked comfortable with 19 points in 23 minutes against Adelaide's traditional rivals, even working in an NBL right of passage - a scuffle with Kevin White.

Josh Garlepp

Brisbane Bullets

Another major market with a new head coach. James Duncan steps in after one finals appearance in five years under Andrej Lemanis. The best indicator for the Bullets' chances this season, is that two-time NBL First Teamer Lamar Patterson has come back in shape. Duncan will have two easy early decisions as far as rotations, with Olympian Nathan Sobey, coming off a career year, and Patterson likely to take 30+ minutes.

The Bullets have somewhat flown under the radar this off-season, much of their success hinges on imports Robert Franks and Isaiah Moss' contribution. NBL veterans Jason Cadee and Anthony Drmic will get open looks, if they knock them down the Bullets could be damaging.

Coach - James Duncan

Key ins: Jack Salt, Rober Franks, Isaiah Moss, Deng Deng, Tom Digbeu, Chuanxing Liu

Key outs: Matt Hodgeson, Vic Law, Harry Froling, BJ Johnson, Orlando Johnson

What success looks like: Finals - The senior core of Drmic, Sobey, Cadee and Patterson shouldn't accept anything less than finals in 2022.

One to watch: Tom Digbeu

The Spanish/French wing had 16 points against Perth in a Blitz win and is part of a super talented international Next Star cohort for NBL22. A chase-down block on Cats import Vic Law highlighted his athleticism, the 20-year-old NBA prospect played in Lithuania's top league last season, which included a 27-point, 11-rebound performance against Euro League club Zalgiris.

Josh Garlepp

Watch every game of the 2021/22 NBL season LIVE only on ESPN

Cairns Taipans

Coach - Adam Forde

The Taipans showed flashes during the NBL Blitz but would eventually leave empty-handed losing all five games. Cam Oliver's departure hurts the team's offensive punch and replacement import Stephen Zimmerman has less positional flexibility. Scott Machado, Kouat Noi and Majok Deng need to be more consistent than last year but if any coach can inspire an underdog it's new coach Adam Forde.

Key outs: Mojave King, Tad Duffelmeier, Fabijan Krslovic, George Blagojevic,

Key ins: Bul Kuol, Stephen Zimmerman*, Tahjere McCall*, Keanu Pinder

What success looks like: Top 6 - Cairns' success to reach the semi-finals in NBL20 is a distant memory. Mike Kelly was named coach of the year and DJ Newbill was defensive player of the year, today both key cogs are gone along with star import Cam Oliver following just eight wins last season. Coach Forde provided Sydney with a spirited 5th last year, missing out on finals only by head-to-head but he has inherited a more challenging situation in his second season as a head coach.

One to watch: Tahjere McCall

Newbill's departure at the end of the NBL20 left a hole in the Taipans roster as the elite perimeter defender complimented Scott Machado perfectly. In four Blitz appearances, McCall showed flashes of similar tenacity on the defensive end and punished opponents in transition. The import spent four seasons playing in the G-League before moving to France's Pro A last year where he averaged 6.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 18 games.

Josh Garlepp

Illawarra Hawks

Coach: Brian Goorjian

Ask anyone around the league and there is one common sentiment when it comes to the Illawarra Hawks.

"Goorj will get them there."

A sparkling first season with the Hawks was backed up by a historic Bronze medal with the Boomers, further cementing Goorjian's status as Australian basketball's coaching messiah.

The Hawks have morphed from small market underdog to expected contender, and Goorjian is the major reason for the change. Retaining Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup is a major coup, while the addition of Boomers big man Duop Reath adds another dimension on both ends of the floor.

The franchise has one championship in 2001, but there is no question they expect to be around the mark in NBL 22.

Key Outs: Justin Simon, Cameron Bairstow,

Key Ins: Duop Reath, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Antonius Cleveland, Harry Froling

What does success look like? Grand Final berth. Out of all the rivalries league wide, the matchup between the Kings and Hawks is shaping up as the juiciest. With both teams setting their sights on the title, it's fun to imagine a postseason battle between the two.

One to watch: Justinian Jessup

A bunch of players could have filled this space, but Jessup is the first player on my mind when it comes to the Hawks. A pure shooter, Jessup is in rare company league wide when it comes to his ability to shoot off the catch and off the dribble.

Coming into his second season as a pro, the American will have undoubtedly learnt lessons from year one in the league but will also benefit from an Illawarra offence that boasts increased offensive firepower and spacing with the additions of Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Reath. There's a bit of pick your poison about the Hawks offence and Jessup may just benefit from the decision the opposition are required to make.

Kane Pitman

Melbourne United

Coach: Dean Vickerman

Melbourne come into every season believing they should be among the contenders, but it remains to be seen if major roster turnover in the offseason leaves them chasing a strong field at the top of the league.

Vickerman recently signed a contract extension in a decision that was an absolute no-brainer for United and ties him to the club until 2024. Leading Melbourne to titles in 2018 and 2021, Vickerman's trophy cabinet also includes the 2015 championship with New Zealand.

One thing Vickerman is missing? Back-to-back titles.

Key Outs: Jock Landale, Mitch McCarron, Scotty Hopson, Sam McDaniel, Yudai Baba

Key Ins: Matthew Dellavedova, Ariel Hukporti, Caleb Agada, Brad Newley

What does success look like this season? A championship. The top of the league appears to have strengthened over the offseason and quite frankly, this United roster has plenty of question marks, but the goal always remains the same for this franchise.

Keep an eye on the open import spot. This roster isn't complete, leaving the door ajar for a season altering addition once things get rolling.

One to watch: Jack White

United are likely to take a careful approach with White, who has resumed basketball activities on his long return from an Achilles tear.

Given United rolled to the championship, the early season contributions of White could be easily overlooked. Disruptive on the defensive end and a threat in transition, White is a legitimate two-way player who looms as a key piece of the rotation once he is able to shake off the rust.

Kane Pitman

New Zealand Breakers

Coach: Dan Shamir

For so long a powerhouse in the league, the Breakers once again begin a campaign on the road. It feels cruel that a squad robbed of home games until the final weeks of the season would once again begin a season on foreign ground for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, the Breakers are faced with the harsh reality and vow to lean on lessons learned from a brutal NBL 21.

Head coach Dan Shamir admits there were lessons learned from last season, hoping to the season off to a better start than last season.

Replacing the lumbering Colton Iverson with former South East Melbourne big man Yannick Wetzell allows a more dynamic and up-tempo offence, while NBA prospects Ousmane Dieng and Hugo Besson create intrigue.

Key Outs: Tai Webster, Corey Webster, Colton Iverson, Levi Randolph,

Key Ins: Yannick Wetzell, Jeramiah Martin, Peyton Siva, Ousmane Dieng, Hugo Besson, Princepal Singh

What does success look like? Maybe I'm reading too much into last season but given the uncertainty around travel and the ability to play at home, it feels like reaching the postseason would be a remarkable achievement.

In losing the Webster brothers, the Breakers lose two of their top three scorers from a season ago. Still, the offence flashed potency in the Blitz, with imports Peyton Siva and Jeramiah Martin showing an ability to take over games in stretches.

The Breakers know the destination of their first eight games, with trips to Melbourne, Adelaide, Wollongong, Cairns, Brisbane and Tasmania on the cards. Beyond that, they will be hoping to return home.

If they can manage a .500 record during the opening stretch it will leave them in a good place.

One to watch: Peyton Siva

Selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, Siva has spent six successful seasons in Europe.

At 30 years old, the guard brings an experienced hand to the Breakers, and will oftentimes play alongside Will McDowell-White who returns to the New Zealand roster.

The Blitz was cut short for the Breakers due to a COVID scare, though Siva did fill the box score with 18 points, six rebounds and seven assists in a win over the Kings.

Kane Pitman

Perth Wildcats

Coach: Scott Morrison

For the first time in 12 years one of the Wildcats' greatest strengths has been removed - familiarity.

Perth has won six championships and made nine grand final series appearances over that period but Trevor Gleeson's departure to Toronto, along with his flex offence, is just one of many significant changes for the Red Army. A new coach, a new owner and a redefined core group signifies a new era in Perth and the NBL community is holding its breath to see how the competition's most successful club adapts.

Injured starters Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton watched on as the undermanned Wildcats split their Blitz appearances (2-2). Import and NBL first-teamer John Mooney's departure coupled with Will Magnay's shift to Tasmania leaves the Cats' tall stocks thinned, but imports Vic Law and Michael Frazier will boost Morrison's offensive potency.

Key ins: Vic Law, Michael Frazer II, Majok Majok, Jack Purchase, Matt Hodgeson

Key outs: John Mooney, Clint Steindl, Will Magnay, Jarred Bairstow, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk

What success looks like: Championship - The Red Army is a spoiled fanbase with an expectation for success, regardless of who's steering the ship. Many pundits tip 2022 as the year the world's most successful sporting franchise's finals run ends, but the Wildcats still have a three-time NBL MVP and have added arguably the most potent import after Bryce Cotton in import Vic Law. Don't sleep on the Wildcats just yet, but never sleep on Cotton.

One to watch: Luke Travers

As much as NBA rookie Josh Giddey wowed NBL fans with his maturity and ability on court last season, then development player Luke Travers' impact in Perth's semi-final series against Illawarra was astonishing. The Rockingham product (20) is only a year older than Giddey and coach Morrison has made clear that the side is no longer satisfied with athletic flashes from Travers and will need him to consistently provide on both ends for the Wildcats to be successful this season.

Josh Garlepp

South East Melbourne Phoenix

Coach: Simon Mitchell

What an incredible start it's been to the NBL journey for the Phoenix. A playoff berth in season two and big offseason of signings leave the young franchise with plenty of expectations coming into the season.

From CEO Tommy Greer, to head coach Simon Mitchell, to inaugural star Mitch Creek, South East Melbourne have declared their intent to win a championship.

For the first time in their history the expectations are for them to contend. Speak to any of the players who have played under Mitchell and the response is always the same. They love what he brings to the table.

Passionate and loyal, Mitchell will never back down from supporting his players and in many ways, it's reflected with the way they conduct themselves on the floor. A constant theme in the early years of the Phoenix franchise has been improving on the defensive side of the ball. After taking strides in 2021, it remains the challenge for Mitchell to take this group to the next level.

Key Ins: Zhou Qi, Xavier Munford, Devin Smith, Tohi Smith-Milner

Key Outs: Keifer Sykes, Yannick Wetzell, Ben Moore, Adam Gibson

What does success look like this season? Postseason is the bare minimum. Riddled with injuries and a brutal schedule leading into last season's playoffs, the Phoenix were always going to be up against it battling United.

With a strengthened roster, a healthy Ryan Broekhoff and a legitimate star signing in Zhou Xi, South East Melbourne are a genuine title threat.

One to watch: Ryan Broekhoff

Having Broekhoff return to the league is a treat for Australian basketball fans. Watching the Blitz, he looks refreshed and ready to have a major impact.

With offensive threats throughout the Phoenix roster, utilising Broekhoff as a creator in addition to his shooting from the outside will only boost what look to be a stacked lineup.

Broekhoff delivered a 21-point performance to close the Blitz against United, burying six triples in the tally. The Phoenix will be hoping for more off the same when the real stuff begins.

Kane Pitman

Sydney Kings

Coach: Chase Buford

The Kings expect to make the postseason each year, making NBL 21 a failure by those lofty standards.

A deeper dive into the season unveils a year full of untimely injuries and disruption for a squad clearly capable of making a deep run. With Jarell Martin returning and a host of stars entering the season in good health, the Kings appear an ominous challenger to begin the season.

Buford returns to the sideline as a head coach for the first time since the 2019-20 NBA G League season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At that point, the Wisconsin Herd, led by Buford and Jaylen Adams held the league's best record, seemingly ready to launch an assault at a championship. Since then, Buford joined the coaching staff with the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.

Buford joins forces once again with Adams, on a Kings roster that is stacked and ready to make a charge.

Key Outs: Caspar Ware, Brad Newley, Craig Moller

Key Ins: Jaylen Adams, RJ Hunter, Makur Maker, Matur Maker, Biwali Bayle, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk

What does success look like? Would the Kings be satisfied with simply reaching a Grand Final?

It feels like the answer is no. Of course, the squad will need better injury luck than a season ago, but there's no reason to believe they won't be one of the final teams standing.

One to watch: Xavier Cooks

Cooks just needs some good luck.

In many respects, the forgotten man in a sparkling era for rising Australian talent, Cooks has been cruelled of the opportunity to flash his obvious talent at the NBL level.

Playing alongside Martin in the Blitz, the duo combines to create arguably the most versatile and athletic front court pairing in the league.

Set to play a key role in the Boomers 2019 FIBA World Cup campaign, Cooks suffered a torn meniscus and missed the tournament. Two years later and multiple injuries since, it's time for the tide to turn.

Kane Pitman

Tasmania JackJumpers

Coach - Scott Roth

The NBL's tenth franchise started their on-court journey with two wins and two losses at the Blitz. The Jack Jumpers' pieces meshed well outside of a 30-point drubbing at the hands of the Wildcats.

Tasmania has backed players like Jack McVeigh, Sam McDaniel and Matt Kenyon to make a leap in new surroundings, but the success of Tassie somewhat hinges on how big man Will Magnay adjusts to a starring role at his third NBL club.

The Aussie contingent will be well supported with three exciting import signings, so whether you're a Hobart Devils tragic or an NBL newcomer there's plenty to be excited about on the Apple Isle.

Key ins: Jarred Bairstow, Sam McDaniel, Clint Steindl, Jack McVeigh, Jarrad Weeks, Fabijan Krslovic, MiKyle McIntosh, Josh Adams, Josh Magette, Will Magnay, Matt Kenyon

Key outs: First year in NBL

What success looks like: Top 6 - The South East Melbourne Phoenix made the finals in their second season in the NBL but a top-four finish looks even more daunting with the Jack Jumpers' addition. No team would admit it, but the newcomers have some margin for error in a debut season, regardless based on first appearances they will be competitive every night.

One to watch: Josh Magette

At first glance, Magette looks like an accountant, but his numbers tell a different story. The 31-year-old journeyman has had multiple stints in the G-League and most recently averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 assists in the top Turkish League last season. Magette compliments his roster well, a pass-first guard with his own offensive arsenal the point guard looks to be the perfect glue for the new team.

Josh Garlepp