Vol 4: NBL22 Awards Watch

Via Peter Hooley of nbl.com.au :

After a tough period over the last few weeks, the NBL is back in full swing. Across this tricky stretch, we have seen some players and teams take a little while to get back to their full potential, and we have seen others make an instant impact.

With an abundance of games on the horizon, let’s take a look at who sits where on the Awards list.

Most Valuable Player

When it comes to major awards, MVP is the one award where a team’s record really impacts the outcome. It’s always going to be hard to give the votes to a standout superstar, on a team that finishes towards the bottom of the ladder. Having said that, it’s not entirely out of the possibility either.

The Sydney Kings have had a very inconsistent start to NBL22. Injuries to their stars haven’t help them build any sort of momentum since preseason. However, Xavier Cooks has started to show everyone just why he has been on the Boomers fringe for the last few years.

Cooks is averaging just under 13 points and nine rebounds, but that doesn’t come close to showing the true impact he has on the floor. He can rip down a defensive board and push the ball in transition to either score himself or drop off a dime. But what’s become evident to start this season is just how good of a defender Cooks is as well.

Averaging two blocks a game, it’s his length and athleticism off the ball, that has also added to his success. Before getting ejected in the game against Brisbane, Cooks held Robert Franks to just two points in the first half. If Sydney can start to string some wins together, keep an eye out for Xavier Cooks to rocket up the MVP ladder.

  1. Mitch Creek
  2. Bryce Cotton
  3. Vic Law
  4. Xavier Cooks
  5. Chris Goulding

Best Defensive Player

The last time we had seen Tahjere McCall play an NBL game was the 18th of December. That was due to both COVID and an injury he sustained in shootaround before their game against the Wildcats. Everyone knows that McCall came into the NBL with a strong reputation as a potential Damian Martin Trophy winner, and it’s easy to see why.

The Taipans went down to the Phoenix last round, but look no further than McCall’s efforts in the last few minutes as to why he is a defensive specialist. The arguable MVP favourite, Mitch Creek, was dominating the game from the tip and started to really put his foot down in the last quarter.

With five minutes remaining, McCall yelled at Keanu Pinder, who was Creeks matchup for the majority of the night, and demanded that he take on the assignment. From then on, it became evident why he is in the conversation for best defender in the league. The on ball pressure, switching onto others to force turnovers and cleaning up the defensive glass.

  1. Zhou Qi
  2. Matthew Dellavedova
  3. Tahjere McCall
  4. Antonius Cleveland
  5. Xavier Cooks

Most Improved Player

It’s not secret that the Adelaide 36ers have struggled to begin their NBL22 campaign. After landing one of the biggest free agents this off-season in Mitch McCarron, who would have thought that it was the signature of Cam Bairstow that would be the biggest talking point after round eight.

Bairstow has been a revelation for the 36ers. Averaging 13 points and eight rebounds, he’s easily been the most consistent performer to date. With half of those rebounds coming on the offensive end, Bairstow has been a crucial spark for a team who has often struggled to find energy in games.

Injuries have unfortunately plagued Bairstow across his entire career, but to see him performing at this level, is a simple reminder to all Aussie basketball fans of just how good he can be when he’s healthy. The ex-Boomer and NBA big man was a ‘risk vs reward’ type signing in the offseason for that exact reason. Teams and coaches know just what he can do, but can he stay healthy for most of the season?

Well, the Adelaide 36ers took a chance on him, and right now it’s paying off dividends. And for all the Australian basketball fanatics, it’s hard not to root for the guy after all he has been through, to be back at this level.

  1. Cam Bairstow
  2. Tyrell Harrison
  3. Yanni Wetzell
  4. Xavier Cooks
  5. Jo Lual-Acuil

Best Sixth Man

I’ve gone early on the best sixth man race over the previous editions of the Awards Watch, and I’m starting to regret it. Whilst it still looks as though both Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jeremiah Martin are leading the charge, some veterans of the NBL have started to enter the conversation.

Nine-year veteran and captain of the JackJumpers, Clint Steindl, has relished his opportunity to be the spark off the bench in their inaugural season. He’s averaging 12.4 points to start the season, which is second to only his 2016 season for the Townsville Crocodiles, where he averaged 12.8 points per game.

Everyone knows that when Steindl checks into the game, the JackJumpers are going to run a play for him and he’s going to let it fly. Well defended or not, that’s just how his role is and always has been. He is shooting the three at 42.6% and would leave fans wondering just how the scoreboard would look for Tasmania, had he not been there.

  1. Jeremiah Martin
  2. Xavier Rathan-Mayes
  3. Kyle Adnam
  4. Clint Steindl
  5. Jason Cadee

Rookie of the Year

The silver lining for teams dealing with injuries to key players is that it often opens the door to opportunity for others. Enter Cairns Taipans and Bul Kuol.

In some limited appearances during the NBL Blitz, Kuol showed glimpses of what he could bring to the NBL. A strong energetic guard with a nose for disrupting players on the defensive end, combined with an ability to fill it up from the three. With the injuries to Scott Machado and Mirko Djeric, Kuol has taken the opportunity to have a bigger role with the Taipans, and hasn’t looked back.

Adam Forde has loved the energy the Kuol has brought on the defensive end. In the game against the Wildcats on New Years Eve, Kuol went at Bryce Cotton from the start of the game. He’s one of the toughest matchups in the league, and in the second quarter it was evident why, as Cotton erupted with Kuol initially on the bench. Kuol has played over 30 minutes in three of the last five Taipans games, and has no doubt worked himself into the rotation, even when the Taipans are at full strength.

  1. Luke Travers
  2. Bul Kuol
  3. Kai Sotto
  4. Mason Peatling
  5. Biwali Bayles

Coach of the Year

No it’s not déjà vu, it’s just Dean Vickerman showing why he is one of the best in the business. After starting the season with back-to-back losses, everyone questioned whether this Melbourne United team had the right pieces this season. How quickly that changed.

United has rattled off eight wins in a row to sit on top of the ladder after Round 8, and that is largely due to their defence. Yes, it helps getting a healthy Jack White back and having Chris Goulding but for a United team who everyone questioned perhaps didn’t have enough firepower, maybe it doesn’t matter in the end.

Scoring droughts in games are inevitable, and Vickerman knows that, but he preaches how when those situations occur, getting stops is the only solution. Delly is leading the charge on the defensive end. In the words of Liam Santamaria, “Delly’s the head of the snake for a team that’s defending at a historic level.”

United are off to a hot start, and they’re finding ways to win, but they know how tough this season is. If they didn’t already have a target on their back as the reigning champions, they most certainly do now.

  1. Dean Vickerman
  2. Simon Mitchell
  3. Scott Morrison
  4. Brian Goorjian

Related posts

Leave a Comment