What We Learned From Round 13

Photo credit: Blake Armstrong

Saints Are Up Against It

Let’s preface this by saying the Saints continue to play without one of the toughest hard-working players in the League (Hyrum Harris), so we know they potentially have a stud to come back in for the Final 6, but last Saturday’s loss in Christchurch exposed plenty of cracks. In two meetings with the Rams this season the Saints have lost by 23 and 25, big margins by any stretch and a clear sign that the 2023 champs have their measure. Saints coach Zico Coronel is regarded as one of the very best tacticians in the Sal’s NBL, but so far against the Rams he has come up empty-handed. Lachie Olbrich, KJ Buffen and Taylor Britt did as they pleased for much of this latest contest. Such was Coronel’s frustrations this time around he benched his starting unit for the last quarter, a sign that he was clearly unimpressed with their efforts. By chance, the Saints may avoid the Rams in the first stages of the Final 6, but you can’t help but feel if the Wellingtonians are to claim a 13th title this season, they will need to take down the Rams at some stage. Right now, such a feat looks unlikely. 

Tuatara’s Youth Advantage Shines Bright

It’s little wonder teams around the Sal’s NBL frown when talk of Auckland Tuatara’s surging basketball base and population advantage is raised, which ultimately extends to the inherent advantage that comes with being able to access a healthy dose of New Zealand’s best young talent. There was no better example of this than in R13 when the Tuatara belted the Nuggets by 32 points with Tom Vodanovich, Corey Webster and Reuben Te Rangi all away on international duty. But not only did youngsters Chalie Dalton (amateur), Braydon Iuli (amateur) and Tukaha Cooper fill the gaps, they combined to score more than the season averages of the three players they were replacing in the starting five.

Carlin Davison Is The Real Deal

As hard as it is to believe a 20-year-old could be an enigma, that’s exactly what Airs forward Carlin Davison is. For the last six years we have seen the trials and tribulations of this super athlete, and the growth and frustration that comes with emerging talent, but boy oh boy does this kid have that talent in spades. A development player with the NZ Breakers last season, the Taranaki local is getting bigger and better every time he steps on the court with the Airs. It is well and truly time an Aussie NBL team takes this guy seriously and brings him into the fold with a full-time gig. Davison has now reached the point where he looks like he wants to grab a game by the scruff of the neck every time he has the ball in his hands. Huge future!

Youth Player of the Year … wide open!

Season 2024 might be the first year where the interest and talk around the Youth Player of the Year packs a bigger punch than the All-Star 5. Surely topping the youth contenders are Lachie Olbrich, Carlin Davison and Ben Henshall. With Henshall currently away on international duty with the Australian ‘Baby’ Boomers, and perhaps done for the season, the race for YPOTY might now be a battle between ‘Aussie Lachie’ and ‘Kiwi Carlin’ and both are balling out right now. With three rounds to play we might be about to see both Olbrich and Davison rise to a whole new level. Let’s hope so.

Is Another Rebuild Coming For The Jets?

Where do you start when trying to assess the Jets this season? Another hammering in R13 (while the Sharks won) has pushed the Jets down to clear last place on the Sal’s NBL ladder with one win from 16 games. The Jets talked-up a rebuild a few years ago as they set about building a fresh identity under new ownership, and while the business seemingly grows and expands off the court, the (lack of) performance on the court continues to be a major worry. This season, amongst some poor recruiting and a couple of injuries, there have been a sprinkling of bright spots with James Moors, Campbell Scott and Liam Judd, while young Lachie Crate looks a future star – so some positives to boast. The standout error was the signing of Troy Baxter Jnr, it smacked of very little due diligence, given the champion Rams choosing not to bring back a key championship piece despite his impact and availability. Last Saturday night’s loss to the Giants was another sub-par performance poor and hard roster decisions ahead of 2025 are now on the cards for coach Natu Taufale. It’s a line-in-the-stand moment for the Jets.

League’s Push For Better Behaviour Worked

Hours before R13 tipped off the League sent a memo to all teams, and made a public announcement, that excessive disputing of referee decisions by players and coaches would no longer be tolerated. Fair call … season 2024 has seen a lot of poor behaviour and the slipping standards were becoming a bad look. Under the competition’s rules the officials have the power to report players and coaches after games if they feel decisions during the game have been excessively disputed, and the penalties range in fines from $250 up to $1500. Those rules have now been emphatically emphasised. Though we still saw a couple of technical fouls handed out, the clear warning issued by the League worked with far less complaining by players and coaches. Let’s hope it continues.

Fouling Woes Continue For Bulls

If the Franklin Bulls are to win the Sal’s NBL this season they will need to adjust their defensive plans because committing fouls continues to be a thorn in their side. While they escaped the scrutiny in R12 when they mastered a 4-point overtime win against the Saints despite having four players fouled out, Sunday’s R13 game against the Airs was highlighted by excessive fouling again (24-16), which led to two Bulls starters being reduced to low minutes before fouling out (Isaac Davidson 23 minutes and Lee Skinner 20 minutes). No other team in the competition commits as many fouls or gives up as many points from the Chemist Warehouse stripe as the Bulls. It’s an issue and the sample size is more than big enough to show it’s something the Bulls must fix. If not, it could be something that bites them hard in a final.  

Whai Love To Win Ugly

Whether or not the Whai make the Final 6 this season need not matter, they have performed admirably and can hold their heads high in season number one. The biggest claim to fame they will ultimately take away from 2024 will be their ability to play defence and win ugly. While the Whai score a League worst 76.1 points per game, they concede just 84.4 points, which places them as the competition’s fourth best defence and (believe it or not) only behind the top three teams on the ladder – Rams, Tuatara, Airs. In their six wins, the Whai has held each opposition team to 75 points or less, while four of those wins have been at 70 points or less. It hasn’t been pretty, but it’s been effective and sets the Whai up with a hard-nosed defensive identity for the future.


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