NBL: Five Things To Watch The Rest Of The Way

The Import Trend

The NBL secured two of the top US imports in league history this season- James Ennis and Sam Young- guys that will go down as all-time NBL greats should they spend a significant chunk of their career Down Under.

Both are impact players, multi-faceted and a highlight reel waiting to happen. Ennis’ outstanding play has seen the Wildcats shoot to the top of the table while averaging 22.4 and 6.7 rebounds per contest. The more physical Young has bullied his was to averages of 21.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in five games since the Kings picked the former Indiana Pacer up in mid-November.

Adding NBA talent to NBL is clearly the best way for the league to increase its standing among other mid-tier Australian sports while putting fans in seats. The money is obviously going to be a big factor when trying to lure the fringe NBA guys to Australia, however if the league is able to move in favour of a new rule to pay one import per team outside of the salary cap, the NBL will become an attractive place for a lot of America’s top talent heading overseas.

Will He Stay Or Go?

2013 has seen a new star born in Chris Goulding. The 25-year-old has become one of the league’s toughest matchups; leading the NBL at scoring with 24 points a game as the Tigers rolled out a four-game win streak to enter the New Year with an 8-6 record.

Goulding’s play is likely to attract a big European offer this coming off-season- a move that may prove hard to turn down considering the MVP candidate has an opt-out clause in his current deal (which expiries at the end of next season) that enables him to walk with the Tigers receiving a payout in return.

One of the league’s few home grown marketable stars capable of carrying a franchise, Goulding would represent a huge loss for the NBL which has seen a number of the nation’s top players opt for bigger contracts overseas rather than staying at home.

Can’t Count Out The Chamsps

Don’t count the New Zealand Breakers out of the playoffs just yet. The former powerhouse club recorded a much needed win over the Kings on the 29th to halt a three-game losing streak and extend their overall standing to 5-9.

The fallout from winning three straight championships has been as quick as it has been dramatic, but betting against the Breakers remains a risky business.

The team is has, at least on paper, a roster far better than the record indicates and vital championship experience very few NBL clubs can claim to have. Six games at home over the final stretch could potentially allow the New Zealand side to string together some much needed wins and a little momentum heading into playoff season.

Honour Our Stars

The return of the NBL All-Star Game was a nice addition to a successful 2012-13 season and was considered an overall success. But the event attracted only 4,000 fans in Adelaide last year after five-year hiatus and was scrapped again after failing to become a money maker.

The league’s current crop of talent could probably boast to be at a decadal high and is a great way to attract Australia’s casual sporting fan base back into basketball.

Can The Cats Be Denied?

The best NBL team this season has been the Perth Wildcats by a long margin. The club has done an excellent job constructing a roster featuring some amazing two-way talent including Ennis, the brilliant acquisition of Jermaine Beal from Brazil, emerging big Tom Jervis alongside veterans Damian Martin, Shaun Redhage, Matt Knight and Jesse Wagstaff.

Adelaide appear to be the only team capable of denying the the wounded Cats a long awaited six championship, even after suffering just their second loss of the season New Year’s Eve against Cairns after dropping a 16-point lead and seeing Knight stretchered off the court with a concussion. Knight’s value is undeniable, but isn’t essential and the team have the tools to win without him- as proven by their hot early start while Knight recovered from pre-season ankle surgery.

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