Sky Sport Commentators Make Their 2023 Sal’s NBL Predictions

The Sal’s NBL season tips off this Thursday night when the Franklin Bulls host the Hawke’s Bay Hawks at The Stockyard, it will be the start of a frantic 16 weeks featuring 95 games of non-stop action, all of which will be live on Sky Sport in New Zealand, on ESPN in the United States and Puerto Rico, and on FIBA YouTube in every other country globally.

One of New Zealand’s longest running national leagues, the Sal’s NBL has never been stronger with season 2022 marking record highs in viewership and crowd numbers, an applauded competitively balanced competition, a thrilling Final 6 and a long list of spectacular highlights.

One of the new innovations to look for this season is the SkyCity Player Timeouts, which were successfully trialled in G.J. Gardner Homes Tauihi last year and now find their way into the men’s league where its strategic use will be at the forefront of team plans. Each team is permitted one per half.

Player signings have been a point of discussion in recent weeks with returning Kiwis including Reuben Te Rangi (Tuatara), Tohi Smith-Milner (Saints) and Tyrell Harrison (Bulls), while no less than five players are coming straight from the NBA G-League to join their respective teams. A number of internationals are also flying in directly from Europe.

The relationship between the Sky Sport Breakers and Sal’s NBL continues to flourish with Cam Gliddon (Tuatara), Rob Loe (Tuatara), Dan Fotu (Bulls), Jayden Bezzant (Bulls), Isaac Davidson (Bulls), Jaamal Brantley (Bulls), Tom Vodanovich (Saints), Sam Timmins (Nuggets) and Alex McNaught (Giants) having all been a part of the 2022/23 Breakers programme.

Those coming from other ANBL rosters include Michael Harris (Wildcats/Nuggets), Walter Brown (Jack Jumpers/Rams), Reuben Te Rangi (Phoenix/Tuatara), Jack Andrew (Perth/Nuggets), Anzac Rissetto (Phoenix/Airs), Tyrell Harrison (Bullets/Bulls), Tohi Smith-Milner (Phoenix/Saints), Kyle Adnam (Phoenix/Saints), Hyrum Harris (36ers/Hawks) and Jarrad Weeks (Jack Jumpers/Tuatara).

The opening round features a number of intriguing battles with the Hawks arguably facing the biggest challenge with an away double against the Bulls and Saints, while the new-look Jets head to the deep south for the torturous Southern Swing against the Sharks and Nuggets.

Round 1

Thursday April 6 (7pm) – Franklin Bulls vs Hawke’s Bay Hawks (Sky Sport 1)
Friday April 7 (7pm) – Southland Sharks vs Manawatu Jets (Sky Sport 3)
Saturday April 8 (5pm) – Nelson Giants vs Auckland Tuatara (Sky Sport Select)
Saturday April 8 (7pm) – Wellington Saints vs Hawke’s Bay Hawks (Sky Sport Select)
Sunday April 9 (4pm) – Otago Nuggets vs Manawatu Jets (Sky Sport 2)
Sunday April 9 (6pm) – Canterbury Rams vs Taranaki Airs (Sky Sport 2 / Prime TV)

# All games are available live on ESPN+ in United States and Puerto Rico.
# All games are available live on FIBA You Tube (outside of NZ, USA & Puerto Rico).

Following on from one of the most competitive seasons in the history of the 41-year-old League, picking winners in 2023 looks to again be a tough assignment, but it hasn’t stopped us from putting five of our Sky Sport commentators under the microscope and on the spot.

Andrew Mulligan, Casey Frank, Justin Nelson, Brook Ruscoe and Huw Beynon have all stepped up and cast their predictions for the Final 6, the season MVP, who they think will be this season’s Breakout Player and which team they believe will claim this year’s Championship.

When predicting the Final 6, each of our five experts have covered themselves by doing so in no particular order, and who could blame them after last year’s thrilling race to the playoffs that saw a ladder constantly changing from week to week.

When it comes to the Final 6, all believe the Tuatara, Saints and Hawks will make it. Despite being minor premiers in 2022 the Airs only have one admirer, while last year’s champions the Nuggets scored three votes meaning two of the commentary team have gone cold on them in 2023. And despite not making the Final 6 last season, the Bulls and Rams are both rated highly to make it this season.

For the MVP, Tuatara Kiwi signing Reuben Te Rangi was the only player to get multiple votes, while Tevin Brown at the Rams was the only import mentioned.

Dynamic Sharks guard Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape was the only player to register multiple votes for this season’s Breakout Player.

When it comes to predicting the Championship, it won’t come as a surprise that the evenness of the Sal’s NBL came to the fore with all five Sky Sport commentators predicting a different team to hoist the trophy on July 23.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the overall selections, with each commentator’s personal selections further below.

(5) – Tuatara, Saints, Hawks
(4) – Bulls, Rams
(3) – Nuggets
(2) – Giants
(1) – Sharks, Airs
(0) – Jets

(2) Reuben Te Rangi (Tuatara)
(1) Sam Timmins (Nuggets)
(1) Tevin Brown (Rams)
(1) Hyrum Harris (Hawks)

(2) Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (Sharks)
(1) Alex McNaught (Giants)
(1) Dan Fotu (Bulls)
(1) Anzac Rissetto (Airs)

Bulls (1)
Hawks (1)
Rams (1)
Tuatara (1)
Saints (1)

Andrew Mulligan

Final 6:  Bulls, Tuatara, Saints, Rams, Nuggets, Hawks
MVP: Sam Timmins (Nuggets)
Breakout Player: Dan Fotu (Bulls)
Champions: Bulls

Casey Frank

Final 6: Tuatara, Saints, Hawks, Bulls, Rams, Sharks
MVP: Hyrum Harris (Hawks)
Breakout Player: Anzac Rissetto (Airs)
Champions: Hawks

Justin Nelson

Final 6: Rams, Saints, Bulls, Airs, Tuatara, Hawks
MVP: Tevin Brown (Rams)
Breakout Player: Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (Sharks)
Champions: Rams

Brook Ruscoe 

Final 6: Saints, Hawks, Tuatara, Giants, Nuggets, Bulls
MVP: Reuben Te Rangi (Tuatara)
Breakout Player: Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (Sharks)
Champions: Tuatara

Huw Beynon

Final 6: Tuatara, Saints, Rams, Hawks, Giants, Nuggets 
MVP: Reuben Te Rangi (Tuatara)
Breakout Player: Alex McNaught (Giants)
Champions: Saints


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