The FIBA break has arrived in NBL23, presenting the perfect opportunity to update our Top 15 Player Rankings.
Similar to previous years, version 2.0 brings significant change, with newcomers to the league shifting up and down the list. The top two remains unchanged, as the early MVP race plays out as expected.
Ultimately these rankings are good old-fashioned opinion, which naturally brings vigorous disagreement and debate. Let's get into it.
1. Bryce Cotton, Perth Wildcats - 21.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.6 apg (previous rank: 1)
The Wildcats have some real issues to start the season, with Cotton attempting to put the team on his back with a lack of help on the offensive end thus far. Cotton once again leads the league in scoring, while somehow bumping his true shooting percentage from 56.4 last season to 57.9 early in NBL23. If you watch how he is guarded on a nightly basis, it really doesn't make sense.
2. Xavier Cooks, Sydney Kings - 16.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.1 apg (previous rank: 2)
It should be no surprise that Cooks has increased production across the board after claiming last season's Grand Final MVP while Jaylen Adams was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Cooks can dominate a game without scoring and projects as the type of two-way talent who fill a role immediately in the NBA. A nasty ankle injury suffered in New Zealand will hopefully not derail a brilliant start to the season.
3. Mitch Creek, South East Melbourne Phoenix - 21.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.2 apg (previous rank: 4)
Creek has battled several niggles to start the season, with a bout of plantar fasciitis the latest ailment. Nonetheless, he continues to be one of the leading scorers in the league as he has every year the Phoenix has existed. In recent games the cavalry has arrived, with the Phoenix now boasting more depth than ever. You get the sense Creek will enjoy the support and might just get off the chain even further.
4. Keanu Pinder, Cairns Taipans - 17.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.6 apg (not previously ranked)
I recently mentioned Pinder to an opposition assistant coach and was met with a shake of the head and a simple "he's an absolute beast" response. I need to own up to major oversight in version 1.0, with Pinder not making the top 15. On reflection, the evidence was clear. From a Most Improved award last season to contributing with the Boomers in the offseason, the body of work is large enough to acknowledge the reality that Pinder is a star in this league. The only player in the league averaging a double-double at the break.
5. Derrick Walton Jr., Sydney Kings - 15.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.2 apg (not previously ranked)
Replacing the league MVP was always going to be a difficult bar, but so far, so good for Walton, who has meshed scoring binges with stretches of playing facilitator. Still finding his place in a deep Kings rotation, at times he looks like he could be more aggressive looking to score the ball.
6. Robert Franks, Adelaide 36ers - 16.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg (previous rank: 7)
Still the most NBA ready player on the Adelaide roster, Franks has had a difficult time finding his spots in what has been an iso heavy offence to start the season. Without leading scorer Craig Randall II in the lineup against Illawarra, Franks exploded for 25 points on 11-for-15 shooting. Head coach CJ Bruton admitted the 36ers haven't found the best way to get the most out of Franks but it's still very early in the season.
7. Barry Brown Jr., New Zealand Breakers - 21.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg (not previously ranked)
The Breakers second in the standings at the break and while the team defence has been suffocating, Brown has delivered the bucket getting ability New Zealand need. Brown has missed a blowout loss to the Phoenix, a narrow win over Cairns and a win over Illawarra who look like the worst team in the league by a wide margin. So far, New Zealand are a different team with Brown in the lineup.
8. Craig Randall II, Adelaide 36ers - 20.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg (not previously ranked)
Randall is must watch, but at least to this point, his electric scoring is yet to translate to a productive Adelaide offence. Adelaide is currently seventh in the league for offensive efficiency, scoring 108.0 points per 100 possessions. Randall is one of the most talented individual scorers in the league, the challenge will be helping everyone else get involved.
9. DJ Hogg, Cairns Taipans - 18.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.4 apg (not previously ranked)
Hogg is in the top five for scoring in the league and it's yet to feel like he has truly exploded. He's connected on 34.9 percent of his league-high 9.1 long range attempts per outing. Hogg is an absolute weapon in Adam Forde's system.
10. Dererk Pardon, New Zealand Breakers - 11.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 0.7 apg (not previously ranked)
Pardon fits the Breakers identity to a tee. His last outing against the JackJumpers was a signature performance, with six of his 14 rebounds coming on the offensive glass, as the Breakers produced the extraordinarily rare feat of outhustling the JackJumpers. Nothing flashy, but at least to this point, Pardon has simply got the job done.
11. Shannon Scott, Cairns Taipans - 12.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 7.1 apg (not previously ranked)
Scott entered the starting lineup to replace Tahjere McCall and you now expect he will stay there for the season. The import point guard leads the league in total assists with 57, while he has only committed 14 total turnovers. A steadying presence on a team that can be unpredictable. The Snakes have nailed their imports.
12. Chris Goulding, Melbourne United - 15.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.1 apg (previous rank: 8)
CG43 is averaging more minutes per game (32.4) than he has since the 2015-16 season, while also averaging his lowest field goal attempts per game (11.8) since 2017-18. The United offence has been bogged down in the halfcourt at times, with head coach Dean Vickerman hoping to pick up the tempo as the season rolls on. The returning Shea Ili should help Goulding's plight, with the league's best shooter breaking out to drop 30 points in Sunday's showdown.
13. Alan Williams, South East Melbourne Phoenix - 15.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 apg (not previously ranked)
Another South East Melbourne player that has had injury concerns to begin the season, Williams appears to be finding a comfort level in the league. A monster in the paint, Williams put 30 points and 14 rebounds on United in the Throwdown, including ten free-throw attempts. His per game average of 5.6 free-throw attempts is tied for the most in the league and is climbing sharply.
14. Aron Baynes, Brisbane Bullets - 12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.0 apg (previous rank: 5)
Baynes and the Bullets have had a slow start, which was relatively easy to predict when you combined the number of underdone stars with a brutally tough schedule across the opening six games. A back-to-back against Illawarra was an excellent way to bring some good vibes to the Bullets, with the big man now averaging 14 points and 12.3 rebounds over his last three appearances. Playing through Baynes has led to better Bullets basketball.
15. Jack McVeigh, Tasmania JackJumpers - 15.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg (not previously ranked)
Every time I do these rankings, I feel it takes far too long to name a player from the even Tasmania JackJumpers roster, but at the same time, that's what makes Scott Roth's squad so great. Milton Doyle, Rashard Kelly and Josh Magette deserve mentions but it's the efficiency of McVeigh that stands out. A 45.8 percentage from the floor and 36.8 percent from long range is much needed on a team can still endure dry spells offensively. If it wasn't for Pinder, McVeigh would be the most improved player in the league over the last two seasons.