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?
Jordan Crawford is about to steal MVP favourtisim from Milton Doyle
Peter Hooley: Headline. For as good as Crawford has been, for now I think Tasmania's success still relies on Milton Doyle to be their guy. That's not to say that Crawford couldn't make a real run at that MVP, but the last few games it's been clear that opposition teams have put a major emphasis on shutting down Doyle and Crawford has responded to that in a big way. Either way, these two are a problem. Not many teams have multiple elite defenders to shut down both guys every time, so you have to pick your poison and right now, both are as venomous as anyone in the league.
Kane Pitman: Storyline. MVP campaigns are defined by the big moments against the big teams, with Crawford delivering a fourth quarter that will be hard to top on Sunday. With the Kings trimming the JackJumpers lead from 12 to 7 with a quarter to play, there was a sense Sydney would make a run at home. Instead, Crawford rattled off 14-straight Tasmania points in the space of 2:21 seconds to balloon the lead to 19. Game over. The real story might be splitting the pair, but they've both been too good for me declare Doyle is clearly ahead.
Olgun Uluc: Headline. Crawford has been really impressive to start the season, but one dominant effort isn't enough to dethrone the consistency in which Milton Doyle is this team's best player. Doyle is still the go-to guy, the threat opposing teams are most concerned about, and who the JackJumpers want with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. Doyle hasn't had a teammate who can create advantages as effectively as Crawford, so my feeling is that his presence is more likely to bolster Doyle's eventual MVP case than take from it.
Ariel Hukporti should stay in the starting lineup even with the return of Jo Lual-Acuil
Peter Hooley: Storyline. Hukporti has been on another level to begin this season and his confidence is flying. I'm on this as a storyline for the time being for a couple of reasons. Firstly. it's going to take Lual-Acuil a few more weeks to get to his peak match fitness after missing some time. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, right now United are rolling. When you bring in such a big piece like JLA, I think the second unit is the perfect fit for him to find his role as a major scoring threat amongst this incredibly deep lineup they have. Dean Vickerman is notorious for switching up lineups and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens a bit over the next month.
Kane Pitman: Storyline. As someone who pitched Hukporti as an All-NBL big man before the season started, I will concede my early take is guiding me here, but the big German has been outstanding. Hukporti sits in the top five league wide for defensive rebounding percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and block percentage, while United are holding teams to a stifling 92 points per 100 possessions when he is manning the middle. Lual-Acuil did play the final 7:56 of game time against the Breakers on Sunday which is noteworthy, but this will be a story to follow.
Olgun Uluc: Storyline. This is tough and maybe premature, because Lual-Acuil Jr. has a good case for being United's best player, but Hukporti's fit has been too great with the starting unit to just suddenly bench him. The Next Star excels as a roller and rim protector -- he's one of the most effective defenders in the league to start this season -- and that just fits so well with a starting unit that has the creation and shooting potential from every other position. He's just been such a solid anchor for the best defence in the league, so why mess with that? It also means having Lual Acuil Jr. can be the go-to guy when he gets on the floor; his usage is warrantably high, and he's been expectedly effective working out of the low block. This obviously isn't an indictment on how 'good' these players are or aren't. United is just playing with a really good flow so, unless something drastic happens from an outcome perspective, why change things?
The NBL top six is already locked in and we haven't yet got to the end of October
Peter Hooley: Headline. Look, it's very close in my opinion. It's just a little too early for me to lock it in. There are probably four or five teams who are locked in for the top few spots, but these next few weeks are going to be very interesting. I'm very intrigued to see how Cairns return, with all the injuries and sickness they endured recently. There's a lot of heat out west and for good reason, but with all this talent on the roster, something has got to give. The loss to Adelaide might have to be the wakeup call that something has to change, whether that's a lineup change or minutes, it's time for the Wildcats to make a big call.
Kane Pitman: Headline. I'm finding it very difficult to keep faith in the Perth Wildcats right now, though, it's hard to lock in New Zealand and Cairns with both teams only appearing in three games so far due to the NBA preseason trip. While head coach John Rillie chose to focus on the offence in the postgame press conference on the weekend, their eighth ranked defence has been nothing to write home about either. The Bullets have no question missed the impact of Aron Baynes on the floor, with the team now 0-4 without him if you include the second half against the Taipans. That 2-0 start feels so long ago, but they showed promise.
Olgun Uluc: Headline. This is so tempting, because it very well could be the case, but there are some teams who don't deserve to be written off just yet. We're still so early in this. We've seen glimpses but we still really don't know what the Cairns Taipans are, so it's probably worth reserving judgment on them for now. The Brisbane Bullets are another team that showed enough of a defensive identity to start the season that this losing streak isn't one to read too much into. The Perth Wildcats and Illawarra Hawks have the talent to be a top-6 team, too, so there's still a lot to play out before we can truly rule a lot of these teams out of playoff contention.