The start of the NBL season tips off this Thursday night with Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers, which starts one of the most anticipated seasons in recent history.
The addition of the American imports has shaken up the NBL for the better and now Australian and New Zealand punters are getting to see some of the most seasoned and up-and-coming NBA players from offshore.
The NBL is one of the most competitive basketball leagues in the world and with only eight teams, the difference between making the top four and missing out on the playoffs can be close.
Perth are the defending champions, but there are a host of teams knocking on the door.
7:30pm Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United @ Titanium Security Arena
It’s going to be a busy time for Melbourne United which play on Thursday night before travelling to the U.S. to play an NBA pre-season game.
They then fly back and play next week, but United has the team to cope and there’s a reason they’re currently the favourite to win the premiership.
United has retained most of its core players from last season, which includes local talent Chris Goulding, Kyle Adnam, but the key will be their talented imports.
Star players Majok Majok and particularly Casper Ware made headlines last year with dazzling play and Ware is one of those players who can make shots from anywhere on the court.
The same can’t be said for the 36ers who lost their best player in Jerome Randle, but the signing of Ramone Moore and Shannon Shorter should give them the needed boost.
Home grown talents Daniel Johnson and Mitchell Creek give them a good inside presence and the high-flying Nathan Sobey is a player to watch this season.
Bookmakers have United as the away favourites in this game, but we think they might have their minds on the upcoming trip away and the 36ers should gel better in week one.
Betting tip: Adelaide 36ers to win @ $2.25 (BET NOW)
36ers by 8
7:30pm Cairns Taipans vs. Illawarra Hawks @ Cairns Convention Centre
The Taipans snuck into the playoffs last season and they will be looking to build upon that confident season.
That confidence took a hit earlier this week with the injury to star player Michael Carrera, but they replaced him with 6’8″ Jerry Evans who has experience playing professionally in Poland and Greece.
The Taipans are ruled by their big men, which includes Nathan Jawai and Alex Loughton. The rim protectors for the Taipans will need to step up this season and their team doesn’t look overly impressive on paper.
The Hawks enter enemy territory as the surprising underdogs this week, but despite not playing well away from home in recent seasons, this is a Hawks team ready to go.
The usual suspects of Tim Coenraad, Oscar Forman, Rhys Martin, Kevin White, Andrew Ogilvy and Rotnei Clarke make up this high-scoring and exciting team.
We think the Hawks could go one better this season after losing in the finals to Perth and winning here would be a great start.
Betting tip: Illawarra Hawks to win @ $2.05 (BET NOW)
Hawks by 5
5:30pm Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers @ Qudos Bank Arena
Punters got a good look at the Sydney Kings when they played the Utah Jazz on Tuesday in the U.S. and there were good signs for the franchise.
The Kings held their own against a more talented side and it was only in the last quarter which the fitness gave out.
With a lineup that includes Kevin Lisch, Brad Newly and swing man Jason Cadee, the Kings are going to be a threat this season and we could see a similar start to last season which saw them on top of the ladder mid-way through the competition.
Shockingly, the Kings ended up running second-to-last after a horrific collapse in form, but they’re out to make amends and the addition of top college and NBA prospect Perry Ellis is going to help.
Ellis played many roles for Kansas in college and we thought an NBA team pick him up, but he’s getting some key experience with the Kings and we will help them in all aspects.
The 36ers chances largely depend on how they play on Thursday. We think they will win at home on Thursday, but playing two games in three days could be tough and playing on the road against a hungry Kings side won’t make it easy.
Bookmakers have the Kings as the –3.5 favourites and that line looks spot on.
Betting tip: Sydney Kings –3.5 @ $1.91 (BET NOW)
Kings by 9
8:30pm Perth Wildcats vs. Brisbane Bullets @ Perth Arena
No team has had the same dominance in the NBL as the Perth Wildcats – winners of three from the past four seasons.
The Wildcats open the season with home court advantage as the raging hot favourites over the Brisbane Bullets which finished at the other end of the ladder last season.
Perth have a wealth of talent and their recruiting staff work wonders in the off-season. Devondrick Walker and Bryce Cotton are set to ignite the courts this season and together with the Australian players, the Wildcats are set for another top four finish to extend their amazing playoff record.
Defensive tough man Damian Martin has had his fair share of injuries over the past few seasons, but he’s always battled on with class and he’s the glue that sticks this time together.
Getting into the paint against Matt Knight can be difficult, but the Wildcats’ best attribute is their ability to play as a team. They never look out of the contest and they’re almost unbeatable at home.
That’s the task that the Brisbane Bullets face this Saturday, but the Bullets have a solid outfit this season.
The addition of Daniel Kickert and Adam Gibson gives them plenty of experience and the youth factor comes in with Travis Trice – one of the better players last season before getting injured.
He averages 11.1 points against Perth and he will need to bump that up to around 16 if the Bullets are going to pull off the upset.
Betting tip: Perth Wildcats –5.5 @ $1.90 (BET NOW)
Wildcats by 10
3:00pm New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans @ Spark Arena
The New Zealand Breakers are multiple NBL premiership winners and they should always be taken seriously, but there could be cause for concern this season.
There’s no doubting the talent of Alex Pledger, Mika Vukona, Kirk Penney and Tom Abercrombie, but that fifth position on the court is a worry and they haven’t recruited their American players very well in the off-season.
The have lost Kevin Dillard, Akil Mitchell and Ben Woodside this season and have only added Devonte Newbill and Edgar Sosa – two players that don’t bring much to the team.
The lack of depth could catch up to the Breakers which will rely on their front four, but Cairns could expose that depth this Sunday.
It will be the second game of the weekend for rival Cairns and although the Breakers have had good success over Cairns in seasons gone by, this one could be different if the Breakers are asleep.
We’ll tip the Breakers in front of a sold-out crowd in Auckland, but the experienced players will need to be on form.
Betting tip: Breakers –1.5 @ $1.91 (BET NOW)
Breakers by 3