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Olgun Uluc's Round 1 NBL thoughts: Bogut heirs, Giddey questions and 'perfect' United?

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Creek: I can be NBA 'glue guy' and help team culture (1:50)

Boomers and SEM Phoenix wing Mitch Creek believes he would bring on- and off-court value to an NBA team. (1:50)

The opening round of the NBL season is in the books, and it sure feels like we've already seen it all.

The top talent has been shining, a double-overtime thriller had the NBL world on the edge of its seat, some imports are looking questionable, Next Stars are taking centre stage ... and that's all basically come from just one game.

Despite how early it is in the season, we've seen enough glimpses to make a few educated assessments of what we liked and didn't like from the first round of action, all under the obvious preface of understanding the tiny sample size.

So, here it is: observations following an exhilarating Round 1 in the NBL.

Introducing your one-stop-podcast for everything Australian basketball: 'Ball and the Real World'

Justin Simon: Goorj's defensive leader

I'll be the first to admit I was wrong about Justin Simon going into the season.

We had seen signs and heard the hype around his defensive ability, but his offensive output during the preseason was dubious enough for a lot of us to place some real question marks next to his name.

Well, over the Hawks' two games in Round 1, Simon was quick to quash any concerns, demonstrating an incredible ability to tangibly affect an entire contest with his defence, while turning that energy into production on the other end. Outside of Damian Martin and Andrew Bogut, it's hard to remember another player in recent NBL history who's been able to put a defensive stamp on a game as well as Simon did in the opening round.

"We recruited Justin Simon for his impact and leadership on the defensive end," Hawks assistant coach Jacob Jackomas told ESPN.

"He makes it work because it's the first thing he addresses when he steps on the floor. The players and coaches -- of course Goorj [coach Brian Goorjian] -- have made it a focal point from the beginning of the year. There has been some success early, but it has a lot of room for improvement."

Goorjian's teams in the NBL over the years have been known for their defensive intensity, and this season's iteration appears to be no different. Its lead on that end, at least early on, is as clear as day.

Sydney Kings in a precarious situation

Casper Ware Jr. had a bad shooting night in the Sydney Kings' season opener. Sound familiar?

Here's the thing. Ware Jr. has had a career that's extensive enough that we can have some level of trust that his shooting numbers will revert to the norm. Are there worrying signs? Sure. But, is him returning to form completely off the cards? Of course not.

What does scare me is that the Kings have such little room for error. Adam Forde's team does have really solid top-tier talent, with interesting bench pieces, but missing Xavier Cooks for an extended period of time while easing Jarell Martin into the season means the Kings can't afford to have bad shooting nights from their key offensive options.

When healthy, the Kings have the talent to be a clear playoff team. But they're not completely healthy, so dropping games in what looks likely to be another tight race to the finals might be their death knell. That's where the mindset of Ware Jr., as well Didi Louzada, has to be; the Kings are relying on them to keep the team's head above water until the roster is healthy.

Jock Landale and Isaac Humphries: The Bogut heirs

During Bogut's two seasons in the NBL, he gave the Kings an incredible and irreplaceable lift on the defensive end. He blocked and altered shots and was strong and imposing in the paint, adding an element that opposing teams had to gameplan around.

You can also point to guys like Nick Kay and Will Magnay; a pair of locals whose defensive impact was just invaluable to their respective teams.

All three are now out of the NBL, but that doesn't mean there aren't Australian bigs who will end up making a game-changing difference on the defensive end. It's early, but we've already seen signs of it coming from Melbourne United's Jock Landale and the Adelaide 36ers' Isaac Humphries.

Despite being one of the most talented all-round players in the NBL, Landale showed off his defensive chops in United's opener against the 36ers; he patrolled the paint and moved his feet really impressively when defending on-balls. Landale was a big reason why the 36ers were held to just 22 points in the paint that game, and his ability to lock in and play that defensive role will undoubtedly be a big factor for United when the finals come round.

"Plain and simple: if I didn't defend playing for [Žalgiris coach] Šaras [Jasikevičius] or [Partizan coach] Andrea [Trinchieri], I wasn't going to play," Landale told ESPN. "Full stop.

"That harshness led to me becoming a perfectionist in my game all round, but especially trying to help myself get better defensively. Playing against such creative players out there also helps push you to new heights so reading the game all round has just become far easier, but especially on defence."

The same can be said for Humphries, who stepped up defensively for the 36ers in their double-overtime win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix. The 23-year-old finished with three steals and four blocks in that game - to go with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists - and played a crucial role spending time guarding Mitch Creek in crunch time. The centre was ostensibly on a minutes restriction because he's recovering from an injury, but played nearly double that in a performance that showed how valuable he can be in the NBL.

Like Landale, Humphries has spent a good amount of his career defending at a high level; throughout Europe and, most recently, in the NBA and NBA G-League.

"I recall one game I didn't play a whole half because, first possession of the night, I f---ed up a defensive coverage," Landale said.

Both have the potential to be dominant two-way bigs in the NBL, and the league should feel lucky both are honing their craft back in Australia.

Should Josh Giddey run the 36ers show?

During the Adelaide 36ers' emotional double-overtime win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Josh Giddey had his official regular season coming out party, and raised some questions along the way.

Last season showed us why starting a prodigious 18-year-old point guard doesn't necessarily lead to wins, but this situation appears different. Giddey, who turned 18 in October, excelled as the 36ers' lead guard during his time on the floor; and especially during the pair of overtime periods. He finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists, leading the always-passionate NBL community to urge Conner Henry to throw the teenager into his starting group.

Giddey (concussion) is out for the 36ers' next game against the Phoenix, so it gives Henry a good chance to assess how his team operates with its imports - Donald Sloan and Tony Crocker - leading the backcourt. When Giddey returns, does Henry change things up? Will he give in to the public pressure and start Giddey over one of his imports? Does he play him alongside his imports, both of whom are capable of playing off the ball? When asked about the latter question in his postgame press conference, Henry wouldn't commit to any decision, one way or another.

"In our system, all three guards and wings can handle the basketball, and that's the design that we've put in," Henry said.

"Josh's three-point shooting is gonna start to come more and more, Donald's a better three-point shooter than he's shown right now, so they're all learning still within this system; all of us have been together [for] just about two weeks. Playing on the ball, off the ball, the system is designed so that they have an equal opportunity.

"That being said, I like Donald on the ball, and I like Josh on the ball. They're both gonna get better in the system."

The Round 2 opener might just be the barometer for what this team will look like moving forward.

Melbourne United might just have a perfect roster

It's early, yes. Very early. Let's get that out of the way first.

That doesn't mean we can't look at Melbourne United's roster, its demeanour in the season opener, and approach to that game, and make some assessments.

At first glance, the makeup of United's roster is perfect. They have the top-tier talent that can play on both ends, with complementary pieces that just fit so well.

Chris Goulding can heat up in a hurry, Scotty Hopson can do the same, Landale is a dominant two-way threat on the frontline, and Mitch McCarron is one of the NBL's most talented local players who just does all of the little things. And those rare little things McCarron doesn't get? Shea Ili, Jack White, and David Barlow are there to clean up the mess. Amid all of that, Jo Lual Acuil Jr. looks much improved and can be a legitimate scoring threat throughout the season for Dean Vickerman's team, while Yudai Baba is clearly an impact guy, too.

Every piece is there, and they all fit. That's rare.

Keep an eye on this season's ROY race

We knew this rookie class was stacked coming into the season, but who could've guessed we'd see such substantial performances from the get-go.

From Giddey's near-triple-double, to Yannick Wetzell's double-double on debut, Justinian Jessup's scoring explosion, Jack White's Sam Mackinnon impression, and Dejan Vasiljevic's hot stretch off the bench, the young players in the NBL are putting on a show.

As time passes, we're likely to have one or two of those rookies separate himself from the pack - and the smart money is on the guy who'll get the most usage - but, at this point, the Rookie of the Year trophy is anyone's award to win.