Casey’s Corner Round 14: The Road to the Final 6

Photo credit: GameFace NZ

The Road Home

We’ve come down to the final stretch of the season and while not every team in the league has a chance to qualify for the postseason each and every team does have a part to play in who the Final 6 teams will be and where they will be seeded. This week I take a look at the run home and what teams need to do to qualify for the Final 6 from here out. 

Below you will find teams in their current ladder order with their current records and points percentages and games remaining (home games in all caps). 

Tie breakers:

1st : Wins as a percentage (ex 16-4= 80% winning percentage)

2nd breaker: Points percentage (Total points for divided by total points against, includes Sal's NBL and Rapid League) 

3rd breaker: Points percentage from games played between those teams that are tied on the first two tie breakers (Total points for divided by total points against between the teams that are tied on the above measures, includes just the Sal's NBL results)

IN THE MIX FOR THE TOP TWO (and the home court semi-final that comes with it) - This group of three teams all have a realistic shot at a top 2 seed and control their own destiny, win their remaining games and they get to watch the play in games from their comfy lounge suites, lose and a longer road awaits. 

Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams 14-2 (1st), 114% (clinched a postseason berth)

Best possible finish 18-2, Worst possible finish 14-6

Games Remaining:  R14 – Airs (R) & Jets(R)  R15- Sharks(H), R16- Bulls(H)

The Rams have the inside track on the number 1 seed and the home court advantage that comes with it, with this rounds road game at Taranaki shaping up as a season defining game for both squads. Even if the Rams let their 13 game winning streak slide in that matchup it would still take another loss to drop out of the top two which is unlikely given their current form. Games against the Jets and Sharks should be wins, stranger things have happened but not many, but it is the games vs the Airs and Bulls that will have seeding implications for all teams. 

Prediction - 3-1 down the stretch to finish 17-3 and grab 1st seed and home court advantage throughout finals 

Auckland Tuatara 14-3 (2nd) 113%, (clinched a postseason berth)

Best possible finish 17-3, Worst possible finish 14-6

Games Remaining: R!4- Bulls(R), R15- Airs(R), R!6- Hawks(R)    

The Tuatara have proven to be more than the summation of their starting 5 with a win spearheaded by youth last round, but the task of winning will be a bit tougher against fellow top 5 teams the Bulls and Airs will difficult tasks as they await the return of 3 starters. Their depth has proven better than in years past, but will it be good enough to hold the fort and keep home court advantage for the Finals?

Prediction- 2-1 down the stretch to finish 16-4 and grab a top 2 seed and home semi-final

Taranaki Steelformers Airs 12-4 (3rd), 114%, (clinched a postseason berth)

Best possible finish 16-4, Worst possible finish 12-8

Games Remaining: R14- Hawks(R), Rams(H), R15- Tuatara(H), R16-Giants(H)

The Airs have proven that even without 3 starters they are a formidable foe who can compete with all comers. While the Airs had confidence in their talent,the win in Franklin sans 2 imports (McCarron and Froling) and a Tall Black (Flynn Cameron) was  proof to the rest of the league that this year's squad may be the best version of an Airs team ever. Their final four games include two huge clashes against the top of the ladder, and if they are able to beat both the Rams and Tuatara they will lay claim to a top two position on the ladder and the home semi-final that comes with it, but even with a fully loaded roster that will be a tough task to accomplish. They have a small advantage with points percentage on the Tuatara at the moment, and will have to keep their foot on the pedal to keep it.  

Prediction- 3-1 down the stretch to finish 15-5 and claim third spot and a home play in game

IN THE MIX FOR A TOP 4 FINISH (and the home play in game that comes with it)- This is a smaller group than expected as the Bulls and Saints have found themselves in a two way chase for 4th spot on the ladder. 

Franklin Bulls 10-5 (4th), 102%, (1 win required to clinch postseason)

Best possible finish 15-5, Worst possible finish 10-10

Games Remaining: R14- Whai(R), Tuatara(H), R15- Hawks(H), R16- Rams(R), Nuggets (H)

Barring some unforeseen results at the top of the table, the Bulls home loss to an understrength Airs team likely puts them out of the chase for a top 2 spot, but a home finals game is still on the cards. Not only do the Bulls have the most games of any team in the league left to play, but all of the Bulls remaining opponents have post-season hopes of their own so claiming that home game won't be easy. When they play to the best of their ability they have proven themselves a tough out with games against the Tuatara and the Rams still on the dock they could technically play their way into the top two if everything wen their way. But this team has claimed only 1 win against a team in the top 5 on the ladder (a gutsy road win against the Saints) indicating a higher level of execution will need to be reached to make a home finals game a reality. 

Prediction - 3-2 down the stretch to finish 13-7 and take 5th to claim a road play-in game

Mills Albert Wellington Saints 11-6 (5th), 106%, (clinched a postseason berth)

Best possible finish 14-6, Worst possible finish 11-9

Games Remaining: R!4- Nuggets(H), R!5- Whai(R), R16-Sharks(H)

When playing at their peak the Saints are a lighting quick offense that can dominate from the perimeter while sending big bodies to claim an caroms that go awry, but if the shots aren't falling the team that depends on shots from deep more than any other in the competition can look very ordinary. A favourable schedule down the stretch will give the Saints the opportunity to clean things up and find a groove, and if that groove is found they may very well be the team that nobody wants to face.

Prediction - 3-0 down the stretch to finish 14-6 and claim 4th spot and the home play in game that comes with it

IN THE MIX FOR 6TH - Four teams are chasing the 6th and final spot for the finals, and while one team seems to have the inside track there is still a heap of basketball to be played over the final three rounds of the season

NBS Nelson Giants 8-9 (6th) 107%

Best possible finish 11-9, Worst possible finish 8-12

Games Remaining: R14- Sharks(H), R15- Nuggets (H), R16- Airs(R)

The Giants have been the most mercurial of teams with the highest of highs and a few lows that had Nelson wishing for a do-over. That inconsistent form still leaves them in control of their own destiny and if they win 2 games they are all but assured of making the 6, due in large part to their excellent form in Rapid League that has given the Giants the 4th best points percentage in the comp, which essentially equates to a 3 game lead in the standings (when combined with the 2 wins they currently have in hand on their competition). If they win their remaining games no team underneath them on the ladder will be able to match their record, but a slip up could spell disaster. 

Prediction - 2-1  down the stretch to finish 10-10 and claim the 6th and final post-season position

Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks 6-10 (7th), 94%

Best possible finish 10-10, Worst possible finish 6-14

Games Remaining: R14- Airs(H), R15- Bulls(R), Jets(H), R16- Tuatara (H)

The Hawks have found their form rising and falling throughout the season but when at full strength they have been a tough out for even the best teams in the league, the problem being that they are well beneath their top level with Jordan Ngatai away with the TB's. Of their 4 remaining games 3 are against teams currently in the top 4 making their chase for the finals a difficult one.

Prediction -   1-3 down the stretch to finish 7-13 and out of the post-season 

Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets 6-11 (8th), 96%

Best possible finish 9-11, Worst possible finish 6-14

Games Remaining: R14- Saints(R), R15- Giants(R), R16- Bulls(H)

After a quick 3-0 start 2024 quickly turned into a season of what ifs. What if the Nuggets could have kept Tai Webster all season long? What if Dontae Russo-Nance hadn't been struck down by injury? What if Ben Henshall hadn't been called up to the 'Baby Boomers' squad for international duty? Those questions will remain unanswered but they still have a part to play in post-season seeding for other squads around the league if they can muster up some wins.

Prediction - 0-3 down the stretch to finish 6-14 and finish out of the post-season 

Tauranga Whai , 6-11 (9th), 89%

Best possible finish 9-11, Worst possible finish 6-14

Games Remaining: R14- Bulls(H), R15- Saints (R), R16- Jets (H)

The Whai have proven a consistently difficult team to score against this season, keeping opponent after opponent from reaching their season average scoring the basketball. Unfortunately their scoring prowess has been below par and kept the squad from racking up wins at a more consistent rate.  Their remaining games are all winnable, but to run the table would require a level of scoring that they haven't yet shown, and that lack of scoring has also saddled the Whai with the lowest points percentage of any team in the finals hunt. 

Prediction - 1-2  down the stretch to finish 7-13 and finish out of the post-season 

SPOILER HOPEFULS - No hint of postseason hopes here but keeping another team from realising that post-season dream can be fun too

Southland Sharks 2-14 (10th), 83%

Best possible finish 6-14, Worst possible finish 2-18

Games Remaining: R14- Giants(R), R15- Rams (R), R16- Jets(R), Saints(R)

The Sharks look a much tougher test then they did early in the season and despite their record now have the talent and the form to play spoiler down the stretch and shake up the post season seedings. But the game they may be most focused on could be the Round 16 matchup against the Jets where the loser will almost certainly be saddled with the wooden spoon.

Prediction - 1-3  down the stretch to finish 3-17 and finish out of the post-season 

Property Broker Manawatu Jets 1-15 (11th), 81%

Best possible finish 5-16, Worst possible finish 1-19

Games Remaining: R14- Rams(H), R15- Hawks(R), R16- Whai(R), Sharks(H)

A tough season doesn't get any easier for the Jets as they host the top of table Rams this round before hitting the road for a couple of games against teams with slivers of post-season hope motivating them. Upsets seem unlikely for a team that has come close to victories on several occasions only to watch wins slip out of their fingers. The final game of the season against the Sharks may be the best bet to save face on a tough year, but the wooden spoon seems to be destined to land in Palmerston North.

Prediction - 1-3  down the stretch to finish 2-18 and finish out of the post-season while claiming the wooden spoon

Worth Mentioning

Elijah Minnie - Minnie saved his best game of the season for a game where his team needed him most, dropping 30pts, 4rbs, 1ast and an astounding 6 blks in the most minutes he has played this season (37) as the Airs dropped a statement to the rest of the league with a huge understrength win against the Bulls. His highest points total since game 1 (24pts) of the season came at the perfect time, protecting the Airs position in the top 4 while keeping them in the race for 1st. With a talented team surrounding him he has probably had the ball in hand less than an import of his talent would normally be used to but credit to him for accepting his role and stepping up when needed. 

Tuatara Young Guns - When 3 Tuatara starters were called into the Tall Blacks there were questions galore about who would be able to step up in the absence of Reuben Te Rangi (12.5ppg), Tom Vodanovich (20ppg), and Corey Webster 21.4ppg) and their combined 53.9 points per game. Well say hello to my lil friends (make sure you say that in a Tony Montana voice) Charlie Daulton (19pts, 7-11fg), Tukaha Cooper (20pts, 8-17fg) and Braydon Iuli (20pts, 8-10fg) who took the reins and actually topped the combined scoring of the starters they were filling in for (59pts to the aforementioned 53.9). If they can keep of this level of play the Tuatara may still have a shot at the top seed in the comp (but would need a wee bit of help) while staying on track for a top two finish and the home semi-final that comes with it. The biggest takeaway from the situation should be that the Tuatara can now lean on their depth to a higher degree come finals time, which may make all the difference. 

Round 14

Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks v Taranaki Steelformers Airs, Wednesday 7:30pm, Rodney Greene Arena

The Hawks welcome the Airs to town just as their post-season hopes seem to be dwindling away as they dropped 4 of their last 5 games to teeter on the brink of realistic postseason qualification. Isaiah Moore (2nd in the league in scoring @15.33 and 1st in minutes per game)has been terrific all season long but his play needs a much higher level of support to make a dent in the talent discrepancy between the two teams now that Sam Froling and Mitch McCarron are back onboard. 

Stats that Matter:

Hawke's Bay- 11% turnover rate (best in league), 44% assist rate (last), 7% steal rate (10th)

Taranaki- 10% steal rate (3rd), 34% free throw rate (1st), 31% offensive rebound rate (3rd)

Matchup to watch: Isaiah Moore V Mitch McCarron 

Tauranga Whai v Franklin Bulls, Thursday 7:30pm, Mercury Baypark Arena

The Whai split their matches last with a loss to the Sharks being followed up by a gutsy defensive minded win against the Nuggets to keep themselves mathematically alive for the post-season, but that life is hanging on by the thinnest of threads and any loss will knock back their postseason hopes. They've been able to defend above their talent level all season long and will need to lift that to another level as they welcome a Bulls team that will be looking back on last rounds results with a similar level of regret. The Whai have struggled with size all season long, and that will likely be the case again as big Sam Timmins looks to take advantage of an undersized crew on the low block and on the offensive glass. The 3-point shot could be the equaliser for the Whai, but they will have to find a much higher level than was acheived their last time out when they connected on just 2% of shots from beyond the arc.

Stats that Matter:

Tauranga- 76.12 points scored per game (last), 84.41 points allowed per game (4th), 43% three point rate (2nd)

Franklin- 25% three point rate (last), 76% defensive rebound rate (3rd), 34% offensive rebound rate (1st)

Matchup to watch: Phil Carr v Sam Timmins

Taranaki Steelformers Airs v Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams, Friday 7:30pm, TSB Stadium

The matchup of the round and a game that has serious ladder implications comes to us when the Airs host the Rams and their league leading 13 game winning streak. The Rams have beaten all comers during the streak, but were tested by the Airs before securing a 3 point win the last time they faced each other. These two evenly matched teams would both still have their eyes on the top seed, and while the Airs path there is a more difficult one it is still very feasible.  The Rams should expect a tight game on the road, but the have enjoyed tight wins on the road in recent week (see Nelson and Auckland) so will be well versed in situational basketball. The team that controls the glass while taking care of the ball will have the inside track on victory. 

Stats that Matter:

Taranaki- 94.38 points per game (4rd), 82.06 points allowed per game (2nd), 31% offensive rebound rate (3rd)

Canterbury- 94.81 points per game (3rd), 82.25 points allowed per game (3rd), 77% defensive rebound rate (1st), 

Matchup to watch: Sam Froling v Lachlan Olbrich

Mills Albert Wellington Saints v Night 'n Day Otago Nuggets, Saturday 4pm, TSB Arena

The Saints up and down week last round is indictive of their form of late where they are 5-5 in their last 10 games, and finding a more consistent form of themselves is key to any postseason chances. Rumours that Hyrum Harris will return to the lineup in time for the postseason will give hope to Saints fans that a title run is still on the cards but some improved performances prior to that would be well appreciated. From first glance this game looks like a math equation in that it just doesn't seem possible that the Nuggets will be able to compete when it comes to the three ball.  No team shoots more than the Saints do from deep and only 2 teams (Auckland and Franklin) shoot a higher percentage. That is bad news for a Nuggets squad that managed to drop just 5 of 20 looks from deep last time out. If the Nuggets can contain their opponent from deep they will give themselves a chance, but that is a big if. 

Stats that Matter:

Wellington- 50% three point rate (1st), 60% assist rate (1st), 10% steal rate

Otago- 57% free throw percentage, 14.41 turnovers per game (9th), 34% three point rate (9th)

Matchup to watch: Kimani Lawrence v Taane Samuel

Franklin Bulls v Auckland Tuatara, Saturday 7:30pm, Saturday 7:30pm, Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre

The Bulls hopes to host a postseason match took a hit with the loss to the understrength Airs last round but all is not lost, as a win the battle of the 09 would put them back on track. But even against the less than full strength Tuatara that will be a problem as Auckland's reserves proved to be up to the task last round. But a road game against a team fighting for home court may be a different kettle of fish for the now young Tuatara squad. Veterans Cam Gliddon and Rob Loe are sure to lead from the front once again but it remains to be seen if the young guns that surround them are able to produce to a high level when playing the role of visitor. Luther Muhammad leads the league in scoring and hampering his effectiveness will be job one for the Auckland defense but the big question for the Bulls may be who is going to join Muhammad  and Sam Timmins (coming off a season high 26)in double figures after just Josh Scott and Dom Kelman-Poto reached the mark last round (12 each). 

Stats that Matter:

Franklin- 36% three point percentage (1st), 50% field goals (1st), 44% field goal percentage defense (4th)

Auckland- 36% three point percentage (2nd), 48% field goals (2nd), 43% field goal percentage defense (3rd)

Matchup to Watch: Sam Timmins v Rob Loe

Property Brokers Manawatu Jets v Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams, Sunday 3pm, Fly Palmy Arena

This one looks ugly on paper and is likely to be just as ugly in person as the Rams have yet to let an opponent they have the measure of get the best of them. The stats say this will be leisurely Sunday stroll for the visitors, and as much fun as a Jets upset would be to see, I can't see a way for the Jets to find their way to victory. The good news is the Sharks come to town for the final game of the season so there may be 1 more home win on the cards this year, but it won't be this one. 

Stats that Matter:

Manawatu- 49% field goal percentage defense (10th), 67% free throws (10th), -5.94 rebounding margin (last)

Canterbury- 43% field goal percentage defense (2nd),  74% free throws (3rd), +7.44 rebounding margin (1st)

Matchup to Watch: Mustapha Heron v Walter Brown

NBS Nelson Giants v Southland Sharks, Sunday 6:30pm Trafalgar Centre

In a season where the Giants form has been anything but consistent this reeks of a danger game for Nelson. The Sharks have been much improved of late, securing 2 victories in their last 5 matches (which also includes a last second loss to the Hawks) and playing like a team that would have found itself a few rungs higher on the ladder had the talent come together at an earlier date. In those last 5 games the Sharks have boasted their 3 highest O-ratings of the year while topping 93 points in each of those games. The shooting of Alonzo Burton and Brayden Inger has found a higher level of accuracy and Cal McRae is still a handful in the low post. Even without Dan Fotu (Tall Blacks) the Giants have the talent to win this game, but the discrepancy between the two clubs in that area is closer than you would think. If the Giants win this game they will just about have the 6th spot sealed up, so it should be treated as a do or die game. But that won't matter to the Sharks, whose sole goal moving forward is to drag as many teams down with them as they can. 

Stats that Matter:

Nelson- 12% turnover rate (2nd best), 44% assist rate (10th), 11% steal rate (2nd)

Southland- 17% turnover rate (last), 20% free throw rate (last), 97 offensive rating (last)

Matchup to Watch: Cooper Robb v Kobe Langley and Callum McRae v Theo Akwuba

Advanced Statistics Courtesy Of

Sky Broadband Rapid League games tip off 1 hour prior to times listed above


Form is temporarily not available. Please visit our contact page.