Headline or Storyline: Are the Kings the most clutch team in the NBL?

Jaylen Adams of the Sydney Kings. Getty Images

It's Monday and the weekend's action is in the book, so 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?


Peter Hooley: Storyline

The Kings have shown time and time again that when it comes to crunch time, they just find a way to get it done.

Even last year, with game winners from Shaun Bruce and Kouat Noi, Sydney had numerous options when they needed some buckets late.

Then when it all boils down to it, they still have a man named Jaylen Adams, who is arguably one of the best in the league at getting his team over the line late.

Perhaps what impresses me most about the clutch moments for Sydney is the way their defence can step up and get stops when they have to.

The Kings kept Brisbane scoreless for the final three minutes on Sunday, all while scoring at will on the other end.

Olgun Uluc: Storyline

The Kings just have so many guys who are either supremely talented and relish hitting shots in big moments, or those who have been in high-pressure situations before and are just unphased.

Adams, Hogg, Bruce, Valentine, Glover, Noi, even Galloway defensively; all have shown a propensity to come up big with the game on the line, and in moments that matter, so, yes, this team is probably the most clutch in the NBL.

So many of that group have done it in a playoff environment, and on both ends of the floor too.

The question then becomes: whose hands do you want the ball in?

It's probably Adams, as your primary creator, but Hogg showed time and time again last season that he's ready to step into big shots, and he's already shown that a bunch in his short time playing this season.

It's a very good problem for Mahmoud Abdelfattah to have.

Kane Pitman: Storyline

We've had conversations in this column about certain players having the clutch gene.

We've asked if Milton Doyle is the best closer in the league.

But the thing that separates the Sydney Kings is the depth of players who are willing to step up in the big moments.

We've seen Bruce and Noi hit game winning shots, we've seen Angus Glover go scorched earth in playoff games and then we have the import stars in Jaylen Adams, Denzel Valentine, and DJ Hogg.

The 15-0 run to complete a comeback win over Brisbane down the stretch was hardly a surprise and you suspect the opposition always feels a level of unease holding a fourth quarter lead against the Kings.


Peter Hooley: Storyline

With the key outs that United, the Phoenix simply should not have lost this game.

Yes, Chris Goulding did what we are used to in big games, but South East Melbourne at full strength - without Gorjok Gak, but with Daniel Johnson - had a chance to show the rest of the league that they mean business.

I still think that they will be around the mark at the end of the season, but if I'm looking at both Melbourne and Sydney right now, I am not sure I can confidently say just yet that the Phoenix would beat either of those teams in a multi-game series.

They have all the pieces and have shown how elite they can be, but we need to see that against the top tier consistently before we throw them in that same group.

Olgun Uluc: Storyline

The Phoenix have looked impressive in stretches throughout the season, but this loss showed where they're lacking compared to teams we know are in that top tier.

There was a continuity Melbourne United had that Mike Kelly's team seemed to lack - especially defensively - with regard to their processes, and then their lack of depth came back to haunt them.

Down the stretch, the Phoenix just never seemed to be on the same page, while United looked like a well-oiled machine on both ends.

Dean Vickerman's team knew where their shots were coming from, and how to exploit the Phoenix's defence.

The Phoenix were practically entirely healthy against a United team missing three starters (or starter level players), so this was an opportunity to send a message and pick up a healthy win. Instead, their defence didn't hold up and they were killed by United's depth; you need those two things - defence and depth - if you want to be in the conversation to contend for a title.

Kane Pitman: Storyline

This is true for now.

A lot of the numbers for SEM were typical as they finished the Throwdown +8 in free-throw makes, +8 in fast break points and +9 in points off turnovers.

They largely protected the ball and for large stretches felt in control, which made the result so disappointing. With Matthew Dellavedova, Luke Travers and Ian Clark sidelined, while Ariel Hukporti was limited, the Phoenix must view this as a bad loss.

With five minutes to play and just one point the margin, Dean Vickerman had Flynn Cameron, Kyle Bowen and Cam Blogg all on the floor together and the Phoenix made no inroads.

SEM needed to win convincingly against a heavily depleted rival and they failed the Round 7 test.


Peter Hooley: Storyline

Watch out, league. JLA is back.

It took a few games to find his groove, but Lual-Acuil is out to prove a point.

The star big man looked unstoppable at times in the Throwdown, but it was defensively where I saw him take another big step forward than when he was last in the NBL.

Yes, he's a known shot blocker, but his ability to alter shots without fouling was crucial for United's chance of winning also.

He came back to the NBL with all eyes on winning a title and getting his shot in the NBA.

Watching him on Sunday made me realize that there's potentially no reason he couldn't do all that and snag an MVP trophy along the way.

Olgun Uluc: Storyline

Lual-Acuil has been, practically, unstoppable since he returned to the lineup for United, and there's absolutely enough time for him to put a portfolio of games together to legitimately enter the MVP debate.

Up until this point, United has been the best team in the NBL but hasn't had that standout guy; the closest would be Goulding, who's having one of the best seasons of his career.

In Lual-Acuil, though, United has a force.

He's someone who makes a loud impact on both ends, draws multiple defenders, and is now at a point in his return - he missed the start of the season with a wrist injury - where he'll play bulk minutes with high usage.

If United continues to win, and Lual-Acuil continues to lead his team in usage, you'd bet on him turning that into immense production and being well and truly toward the top of the MVP conversation.

Kane Pitman: Headline

I still think Chris Goulding is Melbourne's most valuable player.

CG43 is putting up 17.2 points per game, which would be his highest output since 2016 (!!).

At age 35, he's still playing over 31 minutes per night and bending opposition defences more than any other player on the perimeter.

On a team that is not exactly stacked for perimeter shooting, Goulding is launching 10.5 attempts long range attempts per game and connecting on 38 percent.

Those numbers hardly do him justice, with most of those attempts coming from well beyond the arc and/or with defenders draped all over him.

His durability and reliability needs to be appreciated. I highly doubt Goulding will be an MVP finalist, but perhaps we need to discuss the idea a little more?