It's Monday, the weekend's action is in the books and it's time to react with fire or cool the jets on some NBL takes.
Kane Pitman, Olgun Uluc and Peter Hooley are here to decide... is this just a headline, or is it a genuine storyline?
The Sydney Kings have the best centre duo in the league
Peter Hooley: Storyline. It's early in the season but a lot of Sydney's early success comes from the impact both Jordan Hunter and Jonah Bolden have had. Both play a very different style in that position but are both equally as effective in producing for the Kings. One thing that they do very well is crash the glass, which we saw with their monster effort rebounding against Perth. Melbourne United's Hukporti and Loe have looked great respectively, but with Jo Lual-Acuil still out injured Right now, there probably isn't a better center combo around the league than what the Kings have shown.
Kane Pitman: Storyline. Jonah Bolden was one of the big unknown quantities heading into the season, though the upside was clearly immense. Thus far, the Kings are outscoring the opposition at a rate of 21.6 points per 100 possessions with Bolden on the floor (via SpatialJam), which ranks second in the league among the 76 players to have been on the floor for at least 100 possessions. The scary thing is, he should only get better as he continues to shake off the rust.
Olgun Uluc: Storyline. There's no other team in the league -- outside of Melbourne United, especially when Jo-Lual Acuil Jr. is back -- that practically loses nothing when they go to their backup five-man. Hunter is quickly coming into his own as part of the Kings' offence -- after being an afterthought at times last season -- and then Bolden comes in off the bench and provides a really valuable mixture of rebounding, shooting, and passing. Some of the Kings' most effective lineups include Bolden, and that's scary considering the team was expecting him to ease his way into the season after such a long time off. They're probably the best centre duo, and should only get better.
The addition of Dejan Vasiljevic propels Adelaide to playoff contention
Peter Hooley: Headline. I think DJ Vasiljevic makes Adelaide a vastly improved team than what we have seen to begin the season, but I'm not ready to call them playoff contenders yet based on a couple of reasons. Firstly, they set themselves back to begin NBL24, starting 0-4, with a couple of games that they probably should have won. Secondly, I think there is just going to be a logjam of teams above Adelaide vying for those final spots and I'm not sure I can pick a top team who I think would fall out for Adelaide to make it. That being said, they've finally put up a competitive score on the offensive end, so adding Vasiljevic should only increase that. Let's see if they can get on a run.
Kane Pitman: Headline. DJ Vasiljevic is one of the best locals in the league and his return to the NBL would be a major boost for the competition, let's get that out of the way. But, in a league that is so deep and competitive, digging yourself an 0-4 hole to start the season is asking for trouble. Last season, Melbourne United missed out on the Play-In Tournament with a 15-13 record. For Adelaide to reach that mark, they would have to finish the season 14-9, winning 60 percent of their games. That is a winning rate usually associated with top four teams and I'm just not sure I see the 36ers in that mix...right now, anyway.
Olgun Uluc: Headline. There's no doubt his addition would help, but the 36ers' issues are deeper than just just fixing everything with a good local scorer. It'll be interesting to see how the 36ers plan to use Vasiljevic; he's never been a go-to guy on an NBL team before but CJ Bruton seems to like him enough that they may lean into him to be that. There are both on and off court considerations when it comes to doing something like that. As a starter-level role player for his Kings' championship teams, he had significantly more talent around him -- especially from a creation perspective -- so, if that's the role he plays, how would he fare in that role within a group without such a high-level core? They should undoubtedly improve, but incorporating a rotation player while the season is already underway can be difficult, especially if the foundation of the team isn't already in a decent place.
The next two weeks are season-defining for the Breakers
Peter Hooley: Storyline. Right now, there's probably no greater test than playing Melbourne United, considering how strong they are on the defensive end. The Breakers return after their NBA trip with limited time to prepare and take on United at John Cain Arena. If they can find a way to score on this team and come away with a win, they'll be ready to go on a big run over the next few weeks. It's easy to forget that the last time we saw New Zealand play, they lost on their home floor somewhat surprisingly.
Kane Pitman: Storyline. The New Zealand Breakers would have reasonable cause to feel hard done by when it comes to the schedule. After the oddity of travelling to the USA during the regular season, the Breakers return home and face two separate trips to Melbourne in a seven-day period, with a home game sandwiched in between. Brutal. Mody Maor has emerged as one of the great motivators in the league. He thrives on the grind and the hard work associated with success and if they Breakers can claim a 2-1 record in those games, they will set themselves up nicely.
Olgun Uluc: Headline. The Breakers would be a whole lot more comfortable going into the next two weeks if they didn't drop that home game against Brisbane, and of course they'd love to return to Melbourne and get a big win, but this stretch won't make or break their season. Mody Maor's team still has to incorporate a new import in Anthony Lamb, and get more NBL reps into guys like Zylan Cheatham, so losing over the next two weeks shouldn't define them, by any means. The schedule is rough for these Breakers, especially when they're in the midst of adding new guys, but the foundation of this team feels trustworthy. Would these games be valuable wins to have in the bank? Absolutely. Season-defining? Nah.