NBL 2013-2014 Predictions Pt 1

We're still a few months away from the start of the NBL season but that doesn't stop most fans making calls on who'll be the team to beat and which new players will and won't pan out. I thought I'd ask a few of the prominent NBL bloggers to make some early calls on what they see unfolding in the upcoming season. Helping us out are.....

Andrew from lobpasstoabercrombie.com (follow him on twitter @andrewbprice )
Nat from andthefoul.net (@andthefoulnet )
Paul from andthefoul.net and hoopdiary.com (@HendoHoops)

1/ Who is the "team to beat" at this stage?

Andrew: The way the league stands at the moment I would say it will be close between Adelaide and New Zealand. I think Adelaide have had a fantastic off-season, re-signing Gibson and adding Ervin and a new coach. The Breakers too haven't taken much of a step back from their championship season, and if they do manage to re-sign Jackson, I'd say would be there or thereabouts again.

Paul: I'd go with Adelaide or Melbourne at this stage. The addition of Ervin and a new coaching staff in the City of Churches along with a (hopefully) healthy Mitch Creek could make a big difference to the Sixers. As for Melbourne, what part of Wortho, Goulding, MacMillan, Dennis and a re-signed core is not to like? I'm digging Melbourne's chances and look forward to watching them in the playoffs this year.

Nat: Even though Cedric Jackson's future is still in doubt (Although he missed out on an NBA roster recently), the title still has to go through NZ. Even if Ced doesn't return - They have enough money to find a good replacement.Put together with their core group.. They're still #1

2/ Who has been the signing of the preseason so far?

Andrew: Probably have to go with Gary Ervin at this stage, but I think Worthington and Ogilvy will also be a big contributors in the big centres too (pun not intended). Ervin's a former MVP, and (combined with L.Nevill) dragged the Crocs kicking and screaming into the playoffs last season. My favourite signings though would have to be Josh Pace and Brian Conklin being picked up by the Crocs. Pace has been dominant in the NZ NBL for a number of years now and Conklin was huge for the Sharks this year, and it will be interesting to see how their skills translate to this competition. I'm assuming he didn't have a huge price tag either, so all in all could be very smart pick ups by the Crocs.

Paul: As always, it remains to be seen at this stage as there's a lot of variables at play but I definitely see Ervin being a game-changer in Adelaide.

Nat: Even though he's unproven in the NBL, I'd have to say AJ Ogilvy. If Shane Heal can get him to hit the boards he'll be a All-NBL First Team selection no doubt.

3/ What's in store for Perth and New Zealand? Will they be playing off for the third year running? Will one team have a drop? Are both teams due for a slide?

Andrew: It does feel like the end of an era in this regard, mostly because both head coaches from these two teams have now stepped aside. Although the battles were fought on the court, it did feel in many respects that there was a serious (yet respectful) rivalry between Lemanis and Beveridge.

I know that I'm biased, I'm not even going to pretend otherwise - but I think the Wildcats have definitely taken a step backwards this season. Last season they were swept in the playoffs by a Breakers franchise that well and truly had their number. The Wildcats desperately lacked a scorer, seemingly having put all their money into stopping teams, rather than scoring. Now that Lisch has left too, this will become even more of an issue. Matthew Knight, Damian Martin and Shawn Redhage are the core of this team though, and if they can add a couple of wing scorers, they could be getting close again.

At this stage, I'd say NZ haven't taken quite the step back Perth have, although impact of losing Andrej remains to be seen. By all accounts Vickerman is a great coach, experienced and well-liked. Much of the Breakers season depends on the re-signing of Cedric Jackson. He didn't make an NBA team during their Summer League, but he has had some lucrative offers from Europe. The Breakers can't match the money, but Cedric does love playing here and it could be a tough choice for him.  Re-sign Jackson and I'd say the Breakers should make the finals again. If not, it could be back to the drawing  board, but the core of Abercrombie, Vukona, Pledger, Corletto and the huge rise of Webster should be enough to see them into the playoffs as a worst case scenario.

Paul: No. I respect Perth (the franchise) too much to count them out but there's been a lot of change and it depends heavily on how that pans out for them. New coach, new roster... time will tell. As for the NZ Breakers, I will never count them out of anything, ever again. I still expect them to be in the mix come playoff time. It would be remarkable if they met in the Finals again though.

Nat: I doubt NZ will drop. Worst case they finish 2nd I believe.Perth is the biggest question mark. Down a former MVP and one of the best coaches in the league. Replaced by a coach who has had a chequered past
when it comes to player relationships, Redhage is approaching mid-30s etc.Can Greg Hire step up even more so this year? Will Damian Martin be the same player when he returns from injury? Matt Knight has had plenty of injuries in recent years, can he stay healthy?

4/ Which new import do you expect to have the biggest impact?

Andrew: There are still a lot of import signings to be completed, but if we're talking imports that haven't played in the NBL before, there seem to be a lot of straight-out-of-college type guys which will usually struggle with not only their first pro-league but also their first time living overseas. I'm always wary of these type of imports. Because of this, and the fact that no big name imports have been announced yet, I'd say the Crocs duo arriving via the NZ NBL will be solid additions to the team. I'm sure though, that Perth will announce a big name for their team to replace Lisch in the near future. Likewise, the Breakers will have a huge pool of money to throw at an import if Jackson doesn't re-sign.

Paul: Anyone of the two gentlemen wearing Melbourne Tigers colours. ;)

Nat: It's hard to say at the moment.We know what Lazare, Ervin and Wilson bring. I like Stephen Denis (newTigers import). I think he could be a Darnell Mee like point guard.Josh Pace (Townsville) has been a player many fans have said could play well in the NBL. He's in his basketball prime right now so it's now or
never, he knows that, so expect him to come out guns blazing in the first few rounds.. Good or bad!

5/ Which teams are treading water?

Andrew: Wollongong, Cairns, Townsville

Although I don't think Wollongong will be the worst team in the NBL this season, they, alongside Cairns and Townsville seem to be the two teams not having made any major moves to improve this offseason. In saying that, I do like the Burston signing in Cairns, giving Tragardh the chance to play the 4 again. I believe the Hawks have some signings to announce in the next few days though, so this could all change.

Paul: I'll say Wollongong for the moment... but it's hard to be critical this early. I'll wait until Week 3 to make any (harsh) statements.

Nat: Wollongong are yet to sign half their roster.. So might have to wait for this one.

6/ Could this really be a new era for Adelaide?

Andrew: Yes, I do think this could be the start of something big in Adelaide. I do say that hesitantly though, after we all thought the same thing this time last season too, and we all know how that worked out… However, now that Marty Clarke has 'departed' who knows what could happen. The Ervin/Gibson duo will give backcourts league-wide trouble and Adelaide have a strong interior presence too. Yes, this is shaping up to be a great season for Adelaide, and I really hope it is too. You guys deserve it.

Paul: I sure hope not! But on a serious note, it could very well be. A new coaching staff and influx of fresh faces is always good news when a team is coming off a last-place finish but there's some great names and a proven coach. Anything's possible!

Nat: It's now or never. Championship coach, former MVP, Boomers players, 3 great/good big men. Surely it's grand final or bust - hell, I'd go as far as saying it's championship or bust with this roster.

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