<
>

NBL Player Power Rankings: New No. 1 as Creek slides

Here we go! Sek Henry drops out after hobbling off five minutes into the first quarter against the Phoenix.

All numbers are courtesy of Spatialjam.com and jordanmcnbl.com (particularly those pertaining to play types).

20. Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
Last week: unranked

Goulding makes this spot just ahead of Daniel Johnson, after 21 points (6-of-15 shooting), two rebounds, one assist, two opportunistic steals, and a win over the Hawks. There was a concerted effort to feed Goulding early in United's offence, and two early triples set the stage.

His defence is still an issue -- he tries, but he just gets ploughed through -- and it's a hole which opponents keep picking at.

19. Terrico White (Perth Wildcats)
Last week: 18

"Our defence was horrendous. Really disappointed. That's what we pride ourselves on," said Trevor Gleeson in the postgame presser.

While the Wildcats' defensive issues were team-wide, White's individual defence was also an issue. He seemed to have particular issues navigating around screens with any sort of determination, nor balance, when defending Lamar Patterson, often ending up looking confused. That has cascading effects for a defence.

The Bullets also vaporised White's offensive impact; he looked off and was scoreless in the first half, while his opposite number, Patterson, dominated.

18. Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)
Last week: 19

Sobey seemed largely a spectator against the Taipans, only appearing to wake up in the final term and put his head down, charging into the lane.

That physical intent and aggression returned against the Wildcats. In one first-quarter sequence, he drove into Bryce Cotton, before pulling up and missing a contested mid-range jumper. Unswayed, he launched towards the ball, snagging the o-board, before floating it through the net.

His attentive defence on Cotton was outstanding. When E.J. Singler lost Clint Steindl in the second quarter, he seamlessly switched on the fly.

17. Eric Griffin (Adelaide 36ers)
Last week: 16

Griffin's numbers against the Kings this season aren't good, although two of those match-ups were earlier in the season when he was starting and still finding his place.

Griffin is really a pseudo-starter off the bench, meaning his minutes were still largely aligned with the vice-like frontcourt of Jae'Sean Tate or Andrew Bogut.

It is undoubtedly tough, with Bogut lurking in the paint, and attempting to get inside his head at every turn.

16. Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)
Last week: 20

There were two hustle plays late in the first half which characterise McCarron's impact: chasing a ball hurtling out of bounds and saving it to a teammate; and running back like a madman and contesting what was an open Angus Glover look to end the half.

Dean Vickerman's glue guy is leading the team (equal with Melo Trimble) in total minutes after 14 rounds.

He leads United in steals, and is second in total assists and total rebounds; he trails Shawn Long in defensive rebounds by a mere six boards.

15. Scotty Hopson (New Zealand Breakers)
Last week: 15

Once Sek Henry limped off, more playmaking duties were heaped upon Hopson. That can sometimes be an adventure.

Not this time. Not with Finn Delany somehow scorching nets, and Thomas Abercrombie continuing his hot streak. Hopson simply had to engage the defence and then make the pass, capitalising on that ridiculous above-the-break three-point spree.

His defence is still a lurching disaster - he forgets he has an offensive player that he is supposed to guard.

14. Nick Kay (Perth Wildcats)
Last week: 14

Kay had 18 points (6-of-10 shooting), five rebounds, four assists and two steals against the Bullets.

Kay enthusiasts rightfully point out that he is one of those players who challenges the calcified norms of what constitutes a superstar in this league, ie. unrepentant scorer or empty calorie/stat-stuffing athlete.

He is one those who help to recalibrate that notion - guys who do everything well, play both sides of the ball, are legitimate stars.

13. Jerome Randle (Adelaide 36ers)
Last week: 12

It was an inconsistent round for Randle, in both play and minutes. He had 24 points (7-of-16 shooting), six assists and one steal against United, yet the bulk of that scoring when the game was already over. His performance against the Hawks was strangely muted.

Interspersed was some sloppy play and some matador defence.

12. Andrew Bogut (Sydney Kings)
Last week: 13

We always begin Bogut talk with his defence, followed by his passing, but the Kings star has quietly put together an efficient offensive season, highlighted by some perkiness via the outdated post up.

Via data from jordanmcnbl.com, Bogut is at 1.11 points per post up possession. The word "elite" is probably bandied about a bit too much, but that mark absolutely constitutes elite status. Filter out the random chumps who accidentally stumble into post up terrain, and only Jae'Sean Tate (1.37 points per possession!) is ahead of the big man.

Yep, Bogut's numbers dwarf those of the denizens of Post Up Hill, including Shawn Long, Daniel Johnson and Nate Jawai.

11. Cam Oliver (Cairns Taipans)
Last week: 11

Oliver leads the league in total blocked shots (shout out to Will Magnay for his own spike of Oliver). Incidentally, Magnay leads all in block rate, for those with at least 300 minutes.

But back to Oliver, I'm not sure they could have found a better fit for Cairns, what with his rim protection and three-point shooting (37.2 percent for the season).

Functioning purely as a finisher, the ball doesn't stick. He's playing within the flow and not forcing anything anymore.

In one first quarter example: Oliver caught a lob from Machado, fumbled, and got stuck under the backboard. Even against the smaller (in height) Mika Vukona on his back, Oliver didn't force it, instead pitching it back outside for a wide-open DJ Newbill for the triple. Nice.

10. Melo Trimble (Melbourne United)
Last week: 6

It's been a short and confusing freefall for Melo, highlighted by some recent, tepid shooting. Perhaps it just comes with the territory of a season, but his blah play has been heightened with the struggles of a United team, as they continue to have issues blending all that talent into a cohesive unit.

He's missed his last 13 outside attempts.

9. Lamar Patterson (Brisbane Bullets)
Last week: 10

Against the Taipans, it was a low energy, flat-footed performance from Patterson.

His three-point shooting plummeted back to the depths after a surprising boost last week. But isn't that so Bullets, right?

Against the Wildcats, Patterson was more engaged (particularly defensively) from the outset. He had 19 first half points on Sunday, ultimately finishing with 35 (14-of-20 shooting), seven rebounds and four assists (three turnovers), capitalising on a Wildcats defence that had no viable match up for him.

8. Shawn Long (Melbourne United)
Last week: 7

Along with Goulding, Long was the early focal point for United's offence. He appears to be a willing passer nowadays, although the accuracy is another thing.

Lost amidst his angry dunking and oscillating defence is an interesting skill: Long ranks third in steal rate amongst full-time five-men in the league. He nabbed another two steals against the Hawks.

7. Jae'Sean Tate (Sydney Kings)
Last week: 9

Plus-minus data is always noisy, especially when dealing with minute sample sizes, but Tate was a staggering plus-24 against the 36ers.

Tate is a legitimate star in this league. He is arguably the Kings' most important two-way player at the moment, capable of switching across all match-ups on defence.

In the first play of the game, he bulldozed Obi Kyei out of the way for the finish - his early physicality appears to be a harbinger of the Kings' success, especially when he just grabs a rebound and goes.

We expounded on Mitch Creek's ability to finish inside the paint a few weeks ago - Tate is even better. He's at 79.3 percent (whaat?!) from the restricted area, and 61.7 percent in the non-restricted territory.

6. D.J. Newbill (Cairns Taipans)
Last week: 8

From the 5:07 mark of the second quarter of the Sunshine Stoush, Newbill embraced the challenge of being guarded by Nathan Sobey. He crossed over before gliding to the rim unencumbered. That was later followed by a mean-spirited, step-back trey over poor Sobey.

Newbill's performance included stout defence on Lamar Patterson, including a steal and breakaway jam early in the third quarter

He was the best player on the court in the Sunshine Stoush, finishing with 28 points (on 11-of-17 shooting), two rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.

5. Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
Last week: 3

We know the likes of Ware, Bryce Cotton, John Roberson and Melo Trimble take higher-degree-of-difficulty looks. Not all 30 percent shooting is equal - he's not given time and space to launch those suckers. He will throw up late-clock heaves for the team.

Yes, we know he embraces high leverage moments, and will let it fly without hesitation. He might even make it.

Call me a nit-picker, but sorry, he's just not shooting well. After a 2-of-11 performance from downtown against Adelaide, I'm just not sure it can be brushed under the he-makes-big-shots rug. It's a legitimate concern (that and his recent turnover binge).

Ware is now shooting 27.8 percent from above the break; his 7-of-14 mark from the corners pushes his overall shooting three-point mark to 29.5 percent. In other words, he's shooting worse than Nathan Sobey, someone who absolutely should focus more on attacking closeouts.

4. John Roberson (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
Last week: 5

Sek Henry defended Roberson about as well as any human can possibly do. He was disciplined. His arms are always raised, whether he's in front, or chasing Roberson around a screen; he never lunges, always staying on his feet. It did not matter.

Roberson drained a pair of threes past the outstretched hands of Henry (before the Breaker limped off). He finished with 31 points (6-of-14 from deep) and six assists, but missed what would have been the game-tying layup.

Despite the Phoenix playing no defence, I suppose they can continue to stay in games if Roberson does this all the time?

3. Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
Last week: 4

The first two baskets for the Taipans against the Bullets were finishes at the rim by Machado. There were two crazy, acrobatic, lefty finishes in the final quarter as well.

Machado is at 60 percent in the restricted area, slightly below league average for a guard - that's interesting because he seems such a good finisher.

Machado is usually a calming presence, which makes his late-game unsportsmanlike foul brain fade so out of character. Still, the Taipans held on despite hovering over the self-destruct button in the fourth quarter.

One quibble: he's been slightly turnover-prone of late.

2. Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
Last week: 1

Creek's very recent cold streak continues - he's 9-of-27 across his past two games.

It's unclear how banged up he is (as Simon Mitchell alluded to in his postgame address), but his impact on the glass was surprisingly low against the Breakers.

The bane of inconsistency when it comes to integrating him and Tai Wesley continues - it feels as though he and Wesley are still trying to figure out their on-court fit at this juncture of the season.

There are possessions where he, Wesley and Dane Pineau are bunched up before a shot is even flipped up.

1. Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
Last week: 2

Sure, Cotton scored 24 points. Sure, he grabbed six rebounds, again showing that he is a good rebounder, without gambling out of scheme.

But a moment to appreciate his defensive work.

Cotton defends his backside off - he's rarely out of position and sprints back in defensive transition. He is not loafing back, like some of the scorers on this list, preserving energy for offence and low percentage, highlight plays. He scrambles (like mad) in rotations.

Cotton cares about stuff that doesn't appear on the box score - casual fans only care about scoring.

Stay tuned for next week's edition.