The Australian domestic basketball season belatedly gets underway on Friday – get your NBL tips for all five Round 1 match-ups.
History: Played 49: United 31 V 36ers 18
Last meeting: January 11, 2020: 36ers 100 d United 86 at Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Final Thoughts: Adelaide 36ers and Melbourne United get the 2020-21 NBL season underway on Friday night.
The 36ers finished seventh last year with a 12-16 record, losing five of their last six. Daniel Johnson remains the key man in Adelaide, but young gun Josh Giddey and the returning Isaac Humphries, who had a brief taste of the NBA with Atlanta Hawks, suggest a climb up the ladder is not beyond this side – despite them being on the last line of NBL betting.
United came home with a wet sail to finish fourth last season, before losing a hard-fought semi-final series to the Kings in three games. The addition of Jock Londale to a line-up already boasting proven Melbourne performers Chris Goulding, Mitch McCarron and Scott Hopson has edged United into NBL title favouritism.
The Sixers’ pre-season campaign featured a pair of blowout wins over the Bullets and an eight-point loss to the Taipans. United beat the Taipans 97-81 in their only pre-season hit-out.
United have won six of their last eight against the 36ers. But after a pair of heavy defeats in Melbourne, the 36ers romped to a 100-86 victory in the only encounter in Adelaide last season.
Early-season rust aside, expect Melbourne United to start their compelling bid for the NBL glory with a win.
History: Played 16: Bullets 8 V Hawks 8
Last meeting: January 18, 2020: Bullets 106 d Hawks 77 at Nissan Arena
Final Thoughts: Brisbane Bullets were squeezed out of last season’s playoffs on percentages. But external expectations around the Bullets are somewhat muted, with key players Will Magnay and Lamar Patterson departing. New import Vic Law shapes as their key man.
Illawarra Hawks won just five games to finish last in a 2019-20 campaign dominated by LaMelo Ball’s crowd-pulling ability. There’s no Ball this year, but the likes of two-way threat Deng Adel and valuable-but-injury-prone Cameron Bairstow should make the Hawks a tricky opponent this season.
The all-time head-to-head count is locked at 8-all, but the Bullets are on a seven-match winning streak against the Hawks. Last season they won all four encounters by at least nine points.
The Hawks split their two pre-season games against the Wildcats and lost to the Kings by nine points. The Bullets accounted for the Phoenix twice but lost to the 36ers twice. I’ll back the underdog visitors in here.
History: Played 37: Kings 24 V Taipans 13
Last meeting: January 11, 2020: Kings 92 d Taipans 83 at Qudos Bank Arena
Final Thoughts: After storming to the NBL semis last year, Cairns Taipans are hot on Melbourne’s heels in the NBL Championship market. They have kept a relatively stable roster – with the loss of import DJ Newbill a notable exception – and Cameron Oliver, Scott Machado and Kouat Noi shape as a ‘Big 3’ capable of taking the Taipans all the way.
Controversially denied the title as the COVID-19 pandemic halted the NBL Grand Final series, Sydney Kings are not expected to repeat the table-topping 20-8 season they put together last year. Andrew Bogut’s retirement is an obvious blow and plenty rides on Casper Ware Jr rediscovering his best form.
The Kings have won eight of their last nine against the Taipans. Cairns managed a 109-98 upset in Sydney last season, bookended by single-digit losses to the heavyweights at home (79-71) and away (92-83).
The Taipans are giving away a few points at the line but I’m expecting them to cover at home against the rebuilding Kings.
History: Played 4: 36ers 3 V Phoenix 1
Last meeting: February 2, 2020: 36ers 100 d Phoenix 93 at Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Final Thoughts: The 36ers back up less than 48 hours after their season-opener against Melbourne.
South East Melbourne Phoenix made a bright 5-2 start to their debut NBL season, but they capitulated to finish second-last with just nine wins. The newcomers lost their last eight games in a row. Everything will again revolve around homegrown hero Mitch Creek – and he will look forward to teaming up with ex-Bullets pair Cameron Gliddon and Rueben Te Rangi.
After an early-season loss to the new boys, the 36ers won three straight against the Phoenix last season. The teams’ four matches all produced 192-plus points.
The teams can’t be split head-to-head, but at this stage the fresher Phoenix look a better bet.
History: Played 42: Taipans 22 V Hawks 20
Last meeting: January 31, 2020: Taipans 99 d Hawks 75 at Cairns Convention Centre
Final Thoughts: The Taipans and Hawks will both be backing up two days after their first assignments. The Taipans have the advantage of playing each of their Round 1 games at home, while the Hawks will be making the trip up to Cairns from Brisbane.
Illawarra have won nine of their last 10 against Cairns. Three of the Hawks’ meagre total of five wins last season came from their four clashes with the Taipans.
The Taipans are $1.33 pre-round favourites to account for the Hawks. Check back after Saturday’s matches for updated tips and analysis.