NBL 3x3: Kings or JackJumpers - who wins the Grand Final series?

Nobody saw this coming.

The Tasmania JackJumpers continue to stun the basketball world, eliminating the defending champion Melbourne United in three games.

Next up, the juggernaut from Sydney, with the Kings sweeping the rival Illawarra Hawks behind 29.5 points per game from the league MVP, Jaylen Adams.

Kane Pitman, Peter Hooley, and Josh Garlepp are on hand for the final 3x3 of NBL22. What happened to Melbourne? Who will win the GF series? Which player is the X-factor?

Let's dive into it!


What went wrong with Melbourne United?

Kane Pitman: Considering their defensive dominance all season long, it's hard to say Melbourne made a mistake with their roster construction but the lack of shot creation and shooting in the halfcourt always loomed large.

It was a curious decision to opt against adding another scorer throughout the season with open import spots, with the losses of Jock Landale and Scotty Hopson glaring at times.

United discussed Matthew Dellavedova leaning into a more prominent scoring role in the preseason, but it never eventuated, with his total of 23 points on 32 shots across the three playoff games not enough.

With that in mind, the absence of Chris Goulding in Game 3 was an early nail in the coffin, as the offence laboured for the sixth time against the JackJumpers this season. Melbourne averaged a paltry 73.5 points across all meetings against Tasmania in NBL22, opening up the door for a monumental upset.

Peter Hooley: Let's be honest, the only people who really saw that coming, are the JackJumpers team and coaches.

I'm not just talking about them winning the series, but the way they did it was remarkable.

It's been a long time since we have seen a Melbourne performance like that, especially in Game 3. Yes, Chris Goulding was a huge out for United. He was really the one player that they simply could not afford to lose, yet everyone thought they still had enough pieces to get the job done on their home floor.

The JackJumpers ability to stay level-headed throughout an entire game contributed to Melbourne's anxiety.

Without CG on the floor, it was clear Melbourne never felt settled which led to long and contested threes just to try and break the dry spell. That doesn't work against Tasmania. They may not be the most skilled make up of individual talent, but what they are, is the perfect puzzle of a team that is so hard to beat.

Josh Garlepp: Will Magnay's absence from Tasmania's line-up for a lot of NBL22 forced Scott Roth to double down with what he had, a tight rotation of predominantly switchable and mobile players all capable of knocking down the three.

In game three against Melbourne, they looked like the more comfortable side, playing with confidence and not surprised when starters or bench players put up shots.

The Jack Jumpers have the highest three-point rate out of any club, 45% of shots from deep.

On the other side, without Chris Goulding, Melbourne United's space shrunk and with the defensive pressure at its peak, no other perimeter player could fill the void left by arguably the country's best shooter, making life harder for Jo Lual-Acuil and Ariel Hukporti.

Pressure got to the reigning champions in some key moments, missed lay-ups and wide-open threes, and despite trailing by just two points with three minutes remaining they couldn't get it done.


Who wins the Sydney-Tasmania Grand Finals showdown?

Kane Pitman: Sydney will go in as the overwhelming favourites, which you have to believe Scott Roth and the JackJumpers will absolutely love.

Unlike Melbourne, the JackJumpers will have to deal with multiple shot creators against Sydney, with Jaylen Adams leading a deadly offensive powerhouse.

The Kings' ability to bend the Tasmania defence looks dangerous on paper, with the league's No.1 pick-and-roll offence continuously creating opportunities at the rim and out on the perimeter in drive-and-kick scenarios.

Both the JackJumpers and Kings held top-three defences, though Roth's squad did rank seventh in isolation scenarios. Where they were able to dare Melbourne to shoot, the Kings will make them pay.

I'll take the Kings in 4.

Peter Hooley: Let's make one thing clear, the JackJumpers don't want anyone to think they have a chance in this series.

That's been their mantra all season long. Everyone has counted them out and that seems to be what they thrive against. Their ability to stay calm in the biggest of moments and trust one another to grind out wins, has been nothing short of remarkable.

Having said that, facing this Sydney Kings team is going to be an almighty challenge. This Kings outfit is deep and extremely talented on both ends. They can score in bunches when they have to and can lock up on defense too.

The biggest reason I have for not picking the JackJumpers is that I'm yet to see them show an answer for Jaylen Adams. Side note: I'm aware no one showed they have an answer for him all season, either.

In a Grand Final series, with everything on the line, there's always a chance for a surprise. I'm not about to start picking the JackJumpers now and ruin their back against the wall mentality, so I'll stay with what I've been doing and enjoy being shocked after.

Sydney in 3.

Josh Garlepp: The knee jerk reaction after Melbourne United and Tasmania's semi-final series result was that "nobody wanted these players in Tassie" but they 'somehow' came together to do the unthinkable.

While the result was an upset, I think that's a bit too simplistic.

When starting their franchise, the JackJumpers appeared to target undervalued players hoping they'd make a 'leap' when arriving in new surroundings.

Jack McVeigh represented the Boomers at 20 in 2016 after dominating junior basketball for Queensland and being touted as a future Australian superstar.

He showed his potential off the bench for two years in Adelaide but backed himself to be a consistent scorer in a starting spot at the NBL level in Tasmania and since January 30, he's managed 15 points per game.

Sam McDaniel and Matt Kenyon have both found productive positions on the Apple Isle, as have Clint Steindl and Jarrad Weeks.

Scott Roth has done an amazing job in organising the troops but at some point, you have to give the players some credit.

While they head in underdogs against a Sydney team that has been near unbeatable for the second half of the season, I can't help but want to back these ants to march on to a fairy tale finish.


Who is the Grand Finals X-Factor?

Kane Pitman: Josh Adams.

It may seem weird to describe Josh Adams as an X-factor given he's the leading scorer for Tasmania, but his wild swings in scoring efficiency could be the difference between extending the series or going down swiftly.

It was fitting that the Game 3 dagger from Adams came on an off balance triple off-the -dribble. It was an audacious and low percentage look, but that's what Adams does when he's cooking.

The JackJumpers are 10-3 when Adams scores at least 19 points, including five straight since the beginning of April, while they are just 8-10 when he fails to reach that mark.

Peter Hooley: The JackJumpers puzzle has been completed since the emergence of the bully off the bench - MiKyle McIntosh.

He looks like a completely different player than the man who started the season, but what an impact he's been having. He's playing with the utmost confidence and found a way to impact the game that benefits his team.

McIntosh will be crucial in bringing a level of physicality to this series for Tasmania. The Kings are flooded with athletic bigs, so maybe McIntosh can either draw some fouls or hit some bodies and force one of those guys to have a spell. He will need to continue to be able to hit the occasional three as well, to make the Kings respect him on the floor.

Josh Garlepp: On the NBL scrap heap very early in his career before NBL22, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk has now cemented a starting spot on the championship favourite, with just a Grand Final series remaining.

He is Sydney's go to perimeter defender having had impressive performances against some of the league's best, including former teammate at Perth and NBL superstar Bryce Cotton.

In the five-game series, Swaka Lo Buluk will likely get the job on Josh Adams, a player the Jack Jumpers need to have at least two or three big games to be competitive.

Coach Chase Buford has belief in his group, as do the players in him, and Swaka Lo Buluk will likely get the opportunity first on Adams and his impact could potentially determine the outcome of NBL22.