Adelaide 36ers Season Preview

Last season: 14-14, fifth in regular season

2015/16 Points For: 89.1ppg, second

2015/16 Points Against: 89.3ppg, seventh

2015/16 Field Goal Percentage: 45.3%, first

2015/16 Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 44.5%, fourth

2015/16 Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.6%, fourth

2015/16 Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 34.3%, third

2015/16 Free Throw Percentage: 76.1%, third

2015/16 Rebounds: 37.4rpg, third

2015/16 Rebound Differential per Game: +1.9, third

2015/16 Assists: 15.4apg, third

2015/16 Steals: 4.6spg, sixth

2015/16 Blocked Shots: 2.8bpg, fifth

2015/16 Turnovers: 13.1tpg, sixth

2015/16 Turnover Differential per Game: -1.7, seventh

NBL Titles: 4 (1986, 1998, 1999, 2002)

NBL Playoff Appearances: 23 (last time 2015)

Homecourt: Adelaide Arena, capacity 7,800

Head Coach: Joey Wright (4th season with Adelaide, NBL career record 218-160, record with 36ers 52-40)

Incoming: Majok Deng (University of Louisiana-Monroe); Adam Doyle (SA Premier League); Anthony Drmic (Boise State University); Terrance Ferguson (import – high school); Eric Jacobsen (import – Arizona State University)

Outgoing: Adam Gibson (Brisbane Bullets); Ebi Ere (import); Kenyon McNeail (import); Anthony Petrie (Brisbane Bullets) Lucas Walker (Perth Wildcats)

Projected Starters: Jerome Randle (import); Terrance Ferguson (import); Mitch Creek; Daniel Johnson; Eric Jacobsen (import)

Bench: Majok Deng; Anthony Drmic; Matthew Hodgson; Nathan Sobey; Brendan Teys

Out with the old, in with the new.

That would seem to be the theme of an interesting offseason for Joey Wright’s Adelaide 36ers.

In one fell swoop, Coach Wright – one of the best we’ve ever seen in this country – almost completely remade a roster that barely missed the playoffs last season, letting go respected veterans Adam Gibson, Ebi Ere and Anthony Petrie and bringing in five rookies with virtually no professional experience.

It’s an enormous gamble, no question. But if it pays off, this team could be the most exciting and explosive group in the National Basketball League.

As my friend and broadcast partner, Liam Santamaria, said at the recent Australian Basketball Challenge – this is the one ballclub with the biggest ceiling and the biggest floor this season.

One thing’s for sure, they will be entertaining. In Terrance Ferguson alone, they have potentially the biggest money-maker in the entire league, a young man whose athleticism is otherworldly and will have fans across the nation willing to shell out their hard-earned just to get a glimpse of the man touted as an NBA draft lottery pick.

And they will play exceptionally hard. Coach Wright demands a high standard from his guys and with the athletes he has at his disposal, expect a ton of pressure defensively and lots of run and gun ball at the other end.

Is it enough to get the 36ers to the Promised Land? Time will tell. But you better believe that this team will have Adelaide Arena rocking on most nights.

If nothing else, Adelaide will be must-watch viewing in 2016/2017.

CENTRE

Eric Jacobsen had a fine career at Pac-12 college Arizona State University and has been brought in to do the dirty work for a team that is otherwise light-on up front. He unfortunately missed the NBL preseason tournament in Brisbane with a concussion, but by all accounts plays with a great deal of energy and will rebound, run the floor and block shots for the Sixers.

FORWARDS

It’s pretty clear that the 36ers will rely heavily on 2015/16 All NBL Second Teamer Daniel Johnson (15.5ppg, 9.3rpg, 79% FT in 15/16) this season. A veteran in this squad, ‘DJ’ is one of the most offensively skilled ballplayers in the league; blessed with a variety of low post moves and the ability to stretch the floor and bury the long range jumper.

Newly-minted captain Mitch Creek (9.9ppg, 4.1rpg) is one of those classic ‘time to take the next step’ guys with tremendous potential who hasn’t quite shown the consistency expected of a top-line talent at this level. But he had an excellent preseason tournament in Brisbane and has the kind of athleticism, power and speed in the open court that makes him exceedingly dangerous if he can finally put it all together.

GUARDS

One of the stories of the preseason has been Coach Wright publicly going after his superstar returnee import point guard Jerome Randle (23.0ppg, 5.2apg, 2.8rpg, 87.2% FT). The ‘Handle’ was a sensation on debut last season, earning First Team All NBL honours after becoming the first 36er ever to lead the NBL in scoring. But he had a rough tournament in Brisbane, having his colours lowered several times, and the Sixer hierarchy will be hoping their pint-sized rocket will be firing when the real stuff begins.

The interesting aspect around the recruitment of young high school phenom Terrance Ferguson is that there are no guarantees he will start this season. That said, the multitude of NBA scouts who will descend upon Adelaide Arena will be hoping Coach Wright showcases a young man expected to hear his name called early at the next NBA draft. So far with ‘T-Ferg’ it’s all about potential – but what potential it is. He’s frighteningly athletic, has good range on his perimeter jumper and if the 36ers can bring him up to speed quickly they will have a weapon on their hands the likes of which the NBL has rarely seen.

BENCH

Once again, youth is the predominant factor on the Adelaide bench. The 36ers have brought in a pair of Rookie of the Year candidates in the extremely long Majok Deng and sharpshooter Anthony Drmic, who both had fine college careers in NCAA D1 ball. What little NBL experience is on the pine is provided by gunner Brendan Teys while talented big man Matthew Hodgson and explosive athlete Nathan Sobey will both push hard for minutes.

BURNING QUESTION

Is Terrance Ferguson the real deal? In the theme of ‘biggest ceiling, lowest floor’, how Ferguson adjusts from high school ball to the physicality of the NBL will go a long way to determining Adelaide’s fortunes this season. It may be unfair to put so much on a kid, but the potential he represents is limitless and if he can reach at least some of that in 16/17, his teammates should flourish and the 36ers will be at the very least in the mix for a playoff spot.

PROGNOSIS

They are without question the most intriguing story to watch this season. Outside of Johnson, Creek and Randle they are exceptionally young and inexperienced but blessed with some extraordinary talent. Joey Wright will have them playing baseline to baseline at a frenetic pace in hopes of causing havoc, but their biggest issue might be with tempo control, especially once opposing teams slow the pace down and force them into a halfcourt battle. Above all else, they should be the most fun team in the NBL – the question is whether all that youth and talent is enough to get them to the playoffs.

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