Brisbane Bullets Season Preview
Last season: Not in league
NBL Titles: 3 (1985, 1987, 2007)
NBL Playoff Appearances: 21 (last time 2008)
Homecourt: Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, capacity 4,000; Brisbane Entertainment Centre (Boondall), capacity 13,500
Head Coach: Andrej Lemanis (1st season with Brisbane, NBL career record 150-108)
Incoming: Cameron Bairstow (Detroit Pistons); Jermaine Beal (import – Perth Wildcats); Shaun Bruce (Cairns Taipans); Torrey Craig (import – Cairns Taipans); Adam Gibson (Adelaide 36ers); Matt Kenyon (SEABL); Daniel Kickert (Melbourne United); Tom Jervis (Perth Wildcats); Anthony Petrie (Adelaide 36ers); Reuben TeRangi (New Zealand Breakers); Mitchell Young (Townsville Crocodiles)
Projected Starters: Adam Gibson; Jermaine Beal (import); Torrey Craig (import); Daniel Kickert; Cameron Bairstow
Bench: Shaun Bruce; Matt Kenyon; Tom Jervis; Anthony Petrie; Reuben TeRangi; Mitchell Young
After seven long years in the wilderness, the return of one of the NBL’s most iconic franchises is an enormous shot in the arm for the competition and yet another win for NBL supremo Larry Kestelman, who from the start of his tenure knew that a team based in the country’s third largest market was an absolute must if the league was to move forward.
There was an abortive attempt to bring back the Bullets in 2014, but this time there are no doubts or concerns – Brisbane is back and in a big way.
What’s really impressive about this group is that they aren’t your run of the mill expansion team. In fact, what the Bullets’ hierarchy has accomplished this offseason is nothing short of extraordinary because they’ve built a team which can contend for a title straight out of the gate.
Start with maybe the most important addition – Head Coach Andrej Lemanis. The second man in history ever to lead a team to three consecutive NBL championships, Andrej did a magnificent job recently in taking Australia to within one official’s horrific call of what would have been an historic bronze medal in Rio.
Coach Lemanis will now bring his flow offence to a group that has been put together with winning in mind – a group of individuals who have had to sacrifice in various ways in their previous lives and will no doubt appreciate Andrej’s share the wealth philosophy.
There is championship experience and even NBA experience up and down the roster. It’s a squad blessed with a ton of guys who know how to get it done in the clutch and if the Australian Basketball Challenge is any indication this is a group that already is demonstrating terrific chemistry.
Of course, preseason is one thing, the regular season something different entirely. But you have to applaud the Bullets’ approach to their re-entry into the National Basketball League. This isn’t a team just happy to make up the numbers. This is a team that will do serious damage this season.
Pass the word. The Brisbane Bullets are BACK.
His shoulder injury suffered in Rio might keep him out of a couple of early games, but once he takes to the court, Cameron Bairstow will demonstrate just why his signing was one of the biggest coups in NBL history. A standout at the University of New Mexico, he comes straight to the league from a two-year stint with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. A player in a similar vein to Perth’s Matt Knight, Bairstow has great strength in the post, will rebound and defend and can hit the face-up 15-footer. He’ll be a tough cover for everyone in the NBL when healthy.
Daniel Kickert (14.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 52.2% FG, 47.0% 3PT FG, 90.1% FT with Melbourne) is a prototype stretch five and one of the sweetest-shooting big men we’ve ever seen at this level. He was on an historic tear with Melbourne United last season, almost creating the 50-50-90 club for himself and he gives the Bullets a real matchup problem they can exploit whenever necessary.
The theme for explosive wing Torrey Craig (11.6ppg, 6.1rpg with Cairns) is ‘unleashed’, according to my ABC broadcast partner Liam Santamaria, who posited that Craig has been held back to a degree by the deliberate offence favoured by his old Taipan club. In this offence though he should thrive and we could see some real fireworks from one of the competition’s best athletes.
There are few more clutch performers in the league than Jermaine ‘Dolla’ Beal (15.7ppg, 3.6apg, 2.4rpg, 83.5% FT with Perth). You might have a quibble with his decision-making at times and his tendency to disappear in games, but when it comes to winning time, he’s the one who more often than not is putting his hand up to take the key shot. He’s a powerful combo guard who can take over a game when he gets hot and is a fine addition to this roster.
There’s a feeling out there that Adam Gibson (9.1ppg, 4.1apg, 3.5rpg, 89.4% FT with Adelaide) is a candidate for the ‘change is as good as a holiday’ club. It’s no secret the former Australian Boomer found himself in Joey Wright’s doghouse at times last season and his time with the 36ers was up. Back in the place where he helped win a title in 06/07, ‘Gibbo’ will be itching to show that he remains a quality guard and excellent floor leader in the NBL.
You have to admire the depth that Andrej Lemanis has secured for his roster, with a host of veteran guys plus one very talented youngster in Matt Kenyon out of SEABL giving this team exceptional depth. Big man Tom Jervis is one of the most underrated players in the league, Anthony Petrie is as smart, tough and intelligent as they come, Mitch Young is one of those sneaky great athletes, Reuben TeRangi provides excellent versatility and Shaun Bruce is one of the best backup guards in the league.
Can a first-year franchise reach the playoffs? It’s rare in any league for an expansion team to make some noise in their debut campaign, but this is a squad that has been built very well and with Cam Bairstow up front is going to cause plenty of headaches. The league will be hoping that Brisbane connects immediately with the local community, get some early wins under their belt and generate that old excitement for the Bullets.
First things first – it’s great to have Brisbane back in the league. It’s been a long time coming – eight years – but the time is finally here and every NBL fan should be celebrating, at least until their team has to face this immediately powerful ball club. Unlike some other returning franchises over the years, the Bullets look like they’ve built their club in the right way, from an excellent front office led by the outstanding Richard Clarke, to a superb coaching staff with CJ Bruton and Mick Downer supporting Andrej Lemanis and a talented and experienced roster. They tick all the boxes, and incredibly have to be in the championship conversation.