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 if Jaylen Adams will become a two-time league MVP, whether Alexandre Sarr should finish his campaign by Christmas and if the Hawks can consider benching an import. Are these headlines or a genuine storyline?
Jaylen Adams is in the mix to join the exclusive two-time NBL MVP club
Peter Hooley: Storyline
If you have to ask yourself what makes someone an MVP, there are a couple of answers. Firstly, they clearly need to have an elite individual season statistically. Then, their team performance also has to be decent, as you'd find it hard to vote for someone averaging 30 points and their team finishes last. There are usually multiple players who fit the above two categories, but perhaps what separates the MVP finalists from everyone else is the ability to put the team on their back and win games. Whether that's in the clutch or just overall impact, that is what makes someone a most valuable player. Long story short, Jaylen Adams is all of that and more. As the Kings continue to trend toward the right direction, once they hit their stride, Adams will be right in the mix of rare company if he can get his hand on a second MVP trophy.
Kane Pitman: Storyline
A sure-fire way to place yourself in the MVP conversation is to be the best player on the best team. Thus far, Melbourne United are threatening to run away with the best record in the league but is there really an MVP candidate on that roster brimming with extraordinary depth? Not for mine ... as of today, at least. Adams is once again one of the premier scorers in the league, tallying 18.9 points a night to sit third across the NBL. The scary thought is that his efficiency is well off his NBL22 levels, as his 3-point mark is down nine percent and non-rim paint attempts down 21 percent via SpatialJam. After a long layoff from playing, Adams should only get better as the season rolls on.
Olgun Uluc: Storyline
Jaylen Adams' game will fly under the radar more often than not; partly because of the relaxed nature of it, and because the Kings have a ton of depth. He plays at his own pace, and probes, and expertly gets to his spots without a crazy amount of fanfare. However, if we dig into his impact - and the numbers - he's primed to be toward the top of the MVP conversation for the remainder of the season. He's averaging very close to the same numbers he tallied during his MVP season from a few years ago; and, as Kane mentioned, the efficiency numbers have been down. With DJ Hogg back in the mix and the chemistry of these Kings clearly improving with each game, those shooting splits should revert to the mean. With the Kings threatening to separate themselves from the middle of the pack, and United doing what they do by committee, the stage is set for Adams to go and nab another MVP.
Alexandre Sarr should consider wrapping up his NBL season by Christmas Day ahead of the NBA Draft
Peter Hooley: Headline
If you had asked me this a couple weeks ago, I may have said he needs to get out. Not just because of Perth's struggles so far this season, but more to the fact that he had already had multiple mock drafts showing him as the #1 pick. After all, that's the ultimate goal. Yet, watching him lately, I think a full season of NBL could help his game improve immensely and have him primed to not only be drafted high, but to have an immediate impact when he hits the league. The Wildcats, however, I believe need to put a little more trust in the youngsters ability to impact games and know that he is only going to get better each week with more opportunity.
Kane Pitman: Storyline
Before the NBL season even tipped off, Jonathan Givony pegged Sarr as a potential No. 1 overall selection, with the teenagers' stock climbing after a dominant showing against G League Ignite in Las Vegas. The question for Sarr's team will be whether or not they believe his stock has already reached its peak, with his role on the Wildcats roster seemingly not in line to expand. In the first four games of the regular season, Sarr tallied 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 swats an outing. Over the last four, he's logging 6.7 points, 4.5 boards and 0.5 blocks as his minutes slightly trend down. Sarr is without question a blue-chip prospect and with the difference between pick one and pick ten worth millions of dollars, this has to be a storyline to watch.
Olgun Uluc: Headline
A draft prospect usually shuts it down when the value proposition of continuing to play makes no sense. If Sarr had locked up a top-five spot in the 2024 NBA Draft, then shutting it down would make some sense; there's no point risking it from that point on. Sarr hasn't done that, though. The big-man is averaging 9.2 points and 5.0 rebounds a game, which is impressive for an 18-year-old in this league, but isn't at the heights of his preseason expectations. There's a large enough gap between where his stock is right now vs where it could be that continuing to play makes the most sense.
The Illawarra Hawks are heading toward benching an import
Peter Hooley: Storyline
It just hasn't clicked for the Hawks so far and it seems the frustration within is growing rapidly. Last season before Justin Robinson got hurt, I was all in on the lefty backcourt of him and Tyler Harvey dominating on the floor with their ability to light it up quickly when they're feeling good. Unfortunately, we have only seen games so far where either one of them has a decent game or they both struggle and ultimately that leads to the Hawks not getting it done. It's a unique situation when you look at how the dynamic works between the two, because Robinson - who is more of a true PG than Harvey - has the ball a lot of the time to begin the game. Harvey, however, is not your usual catch and shoot off-ball guard. He's one who prefers to shoot off the dribble with stepbacks or floaters, which makes things a little tricky for the Hawks.
Kane Pitman: Headline
I certainly understand the merit, though, I would make one simple change with the Hawks: Play Dan Grida more minutes. Via SpatialJam, the Hawks have 14 five-man lineups that have played a minimum of 100 possessions together. By Net Rating, Grida is among the top two, with Gary Clark, Justin Robinson and Sam Froling the teammates. The combination of Tyler Harvey, Robinson and Clark are fourth on that list. I'm not convinced the Hawks have the depth of talent to bench one of the imports, but I think the injection of energy from Grida could be worth a look.
Olgun Uluc: Storyline
The Hawks are 2-6 with, far and away, the worst defence in the NBL. Something has to change, and Jacob Jackomas has said as much. We've seen other NBL teams go through this part of the maturation process: both the Bullets and Wildcats have benched an import, and gotten positive results from it. That seems to be where we're headed with the Hawks and, based on performance, the only one who seems safe is Gary Clark. The Hawks need something to be a catalyst toward lifting their defence, and benching an import would be a positive step - and a sign that the team is willing to make bold decisions in order to achieve success - toward that. How to actually do that, because the majority of what the Hawks do on the offensive end is centred around Harvey and Robinson, is tough, but, with the season on the line, something's got to give.