Burning Questions: Mic Roundtable Season Predictions Part 1 – Team Edition

Photo credit: Render Creative NZ

The 2024 Sal's NBL season starts this week and with rosters across the league nearly settled we can lock in and look to what we can expect from teams across the NBL this season. The 2024 Sky Sport commentary team has plenty of opinions about how things will turn out over the course of the year so we asked them to put pen to paper and share those opinions with all. Today in part one we take a look at the teams and give you our thoughts on where they will land in the standings when the dust clears. 

Question: Which Teams Make the Final 6? 

Huw Beynon: Auckland Tuatara, Taranaki Steelformers Airs, Mills Albert Wellington Saints,  Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams, Night n' Day Otago Nuggets , NBS Nelson Giants

Tom Abercrombie: In no particular order I’ve got Wellington, Taranaki, Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Franklin. Nelson much like last season I feel is going to be right on that bubble trying to sneak in.

Justin Nelson: Taranaki Airs, Wellington Saints, Auckland Tuatara, Canterbury Rams, Southland Sharks, Franklin Bulls

Phill Jones: Nelson Giants, Taranaki Airs, Canterbury Rams, Otago Nuggets, Wellington Saints, Auckland Tuatara & Whai.

Maia Williamson: Auckland Tuatara, Taranaki Airs, Wellington Saints, Canterbury Rams, Franklin Bulls, Otago Nuggets

Brooke Ruscoe: Saints, Rams, Tuatara, Airs, Nuggets, Bulls

Taylah Johnson: Giants, Rams, Jets, Whai, Saints, Tuatara – I reckon the newbies might have beginners luck!

Andrew Mulligan: Saints, Rams, Tuatara, Airs, Nuggets, Bulls

Casey Frank: Taranaki Airs, Wellington Saints, Auckland Tuatara, Canterbury Rams, Manawatū Jets, Southland Sharks

Miles Pearce: Saints, Rams, Tuatara, Airs are all up there for me. The next 2 spots are a little harder. Everyone has a case for those final spots. Bulls will have a new energy about them with a coaching change. Sharks have recruited well, Whai have put together a squad year 1, Jets have some talented imports, Giants are always well coached and the Nuggets are looking good and Sammy G brings some experience to the Bay. 

Nick Bewley: Tuatara, Rams, Saints, Airs, Nuggets & Bulls. 
This is a near impossible task in one of if not the most competitive leagues in New Zealand sport. As we know, nailing the import spots has a huge say in separating the contenders from the pretenders. While we wait to see what the overseas talent brings, it’s hard not to be impressed by the local talent the Tuatara have assembled adding Tom Vodanovich and Corey Webster alongside Rob Loe and Reuben Te Rangi. I’m picking the Airs to be the big movers. 

Question: Who's your tip to win the Championship?

Huw Beynon: Tuatara. If the Tuatara starting 5 stays healthy, and happy, then I find it hard to look past them. All proven performers at this level, with talented youngsters on the bench. Yes, there's a bit of a drop-off once you get past the starting 5, but there should be with that group! 

Tom Abercrombie: All the teams I see in the Final 6 I believe have a chance of winning the championship but its just so hard to choose without seeing how well the imports adjust and gel with their new surroundings. On that basis I’m going with the Tuatara. They’ve doubled down on local talent and will have a chip on their shoulder coming so close last year

Justin Nelson: Taranaki Airs

Phill Jones: Nelson Giants

Maia Wiliamson: At the moment, I want to say Taranaki. They provide great versatility, with a threatening front court in Froling and Minnie. This is accompanied by a difficult backcourt, with Flynn and Mitch. With their extra bits and bobs too, I think they round out quite nicely.

Brooke Ruscoe: I've got the Tuatara winning it all this year. They've kept the majority of the core together and if anything strengthened the squad with Tommy V. I had them winning last year but CWeb had other ideas but you add him to the mixer as well that's a tough squad to beat.

Taylah Johnson: Auckland Tuatara

Andrew Mulligan: Wellington Saints

Casey Frank: Taranaki Airs, Love how they have rebuilt and think they will give it a go. I've got the Tuatara and Saints in the same conversation.

Miles Pearce: Saints v Tuatara final maybe!! After the last 2 years anything is possible. This is going to be an exciting year. I am really looking forward to seeing some of these teams battle it out. 

Nick Bewley: Canterbury Rams!! For the sake of my safety behind the mic at Cowles Stadium this season I’ll lean the way of the defending champions! They’ve retained their young core with the best basketball still ahead of the likes of Walter Brown, Max Darling and Kaia Isaac. The Rams are meticulous when it comes to their overseas recruitment, so I'm expecting big things from the trio of Lachlan Olbrich, MJ Walker and KJ Buffon.

Question: Which Team will take the Wooden Spoon?

Huw Beynon: This is tough! Going to go with the Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks. I actually like the "reset" that new GM Jarrod Kenny has done at the Hawks, and think they'll be better for it in the long-term. However, there could be some short-term pain there. Gonna be a tight season though, and if they get their imports right, they could prove me wrong pretty quickly! 

Tom Abercrombie: The Hawks. They were late to the party signing a new coach and I think that’s hurt them in player retainment and recruitment. Jordan Ngatai will be late to the party coming off his season in Finland and will undoubtedly help but I fear it will be a matter of too little too late.

Justin Nelson: Whai

Phill Jones: Southland Sharks 

Maia Williamson: Whai has to be my pick on this one. The loss of Sam Mennenga has hurt their relatively inexperienced line up - curious to see how their imports round out. 

Brook Ruscoe: Damn that's a cold question! I'm going with the Whai on the simple fact it's their first year. I like some of the early signings with Sam Mennenga was a huge pick up but also a huge loss and if I'm being honest I hope I'm wrong.

Taylah Johnson: Hawke's Bay Hawks

Andrew Mulligan: Whai

Casey Frank: It's a cold world, but I gotta pick someone so I'm going with the Hawks who have replaced experience with youth. It should pay dividends down the road but there will be some growing pains this year.

Miles Pearce: This is worse than the last one! Everyone can beat everyone. If a team does not show up to play then they can take an L. 

Nick Bewley: Whai. Apologies in advance to the newcomers, but with the talent and continuity across the league I suspect it might be a difficult start for the Whai before it gets better. The late withdrawal of Sam Mannenga is a blow. I truly hope I’m wrong here – hopefully this works as some sort of reverse jinx! 

Question: Which team will win the Sky Broadband Rapid League?

Huw Beynon: Traditionally the Rams run deep with talent, and it's no different this year. I also think the teams who have "sister teams" in Tauihi could be at an advantage having been through it already. So, I can see wither the Rams or Nuggets taking out basketball's newest innovation. 

Tom Abercrombie: This is a big unknown for me. I can’t wait to see some of New Zealand’s up and coming talent get a real chance to impress on a big stage. We have been crying out for a feeder competition to give those young guys a pathway to bigger roles for their respective sides so this is going to be exciting. I’m going with the Wellington Saints, Zico will let those young guns run free and there is a wealth of talent in the Wellington area I’m excited to see.

Justin Nelson: Canterbury Rams

Phill Jones: Nelson Giants

Maia Wiliamson: This could be a space where the Otago Nuggets can thrive.  6-12 their squad are all guys that don't necessarily contribute huge numbers in NBL, but could capitalise on a fast-paced, smaller sized game like Rapid - think Coman, Ruske, Aitcheson, Bardsley etc. 

Brooke Ruscoe: Nelson, this is not an educated guess I'm just not to sure how the rapid league will pan out so I'll give some love to the Giants!

Taylah Johnson: Franklin Bulls

Casey Frank: Tough one to pick till we see the starting lineups and who will be there, but looking at depth charts I'm leaning Auckland and Canterbury. The Tuatara have tons of Kiwi experience coming off the pine where the Rams are in the conversation at being the most talented up and comers off the bench and both units will be looking to carve out some playing time in the NBL by showing out in Rapid.

Miles Pearce: If the blitz is anything to go by the Rams or Saints. Max Darling and Rangimarie Dougall-Mita off their respective benches looked like they can dominate the Rapid League this year and I can not wait to see that battle come the regular season. 

Nick Bewley: Otago Nuggets. This is an absolute throw of the dart prediction here but I suspect teams on the cusp of the top six in particular will put greater emphasis on picking up what could be valuable competition points in Rapid League. Looking at the Nuggies depth chart, Dontae Russo-Nance could dominate alongside the likes of Robbie Coman and Matthew Bardsley. That’s if Brent Matehaere doesn’t start DRN, of course. 


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