14 straight days of NBL hoops is in the books and you guessed it....we are no closer to knowing which six teams are going to advance to the postseason.
Three games in the loss column separates the Sydney Kings in first from the Adelaide 36ers in seventh, with Melbourne United holding on to faint hope of a late season run.
Who will finish in the top two? What are the new year resolutions for clubs? What should be the next initiative for the NBL after a successful Christmas night matchup?
Kane Pitman, Olgun Uluc and Peter Hooley are here to answer those questions in this week's 3x3.
Which two teams will finish the regular season at the top of the standings?
Kane Pitman: Sydney and New Zealand.
The latest spate of injuries for South East Melbourne has me doubting their ability to win enough games on the road, while a favourable run home for the Breakers leaves them in a great position. Only five of the last eleven are at home, but they do play the Illawarra Hawks and Brisbane Bullets two more times, in games that should present opportunities to add to the win column. Ranking second for offensive and defensive efficiency, the Breakers have been steady all season long.
Olgun Uluc: Call me crazy, but Sydney and Tasmania.
The Sydney Kings are a given; they're probably the only team in that top tier right now, and look primed to go back-to-back as champions. That second seed is interesting, though. It's currently New Zealand but they're in a bit of a rough patch. South East Melbourne probably would've been the answer if they weren't going through injuries to key guys. So, I have the Tasmania JackJumpers, a team that's been playing really solid basketball on both ends as of late, guard well, look to have good depth, and have a favourable schedule down the stretch with six of their last 10 games at home. Barring any new injury surprise, Scott Roth has his team looking very well-organised, and primed for a late run.
Peter Hooley: Sydney and New Zealand.
It's hard to go past the two teams who have looked the hardest to beat when they're at the best. Sydney have shown that they can get it done on both ends and when they need to ramp it up, they have a number of guys who can lead the charge. With a healthy Xavier Cooks running the show, Sydney is the team to beat. To join them at the top, I think New Zealand will go on a run towards the back end of the season and become mighty hard to beat. History shows us that if you're an elite defensive team, you'll have a chance at a title. It so happens that at their best NZ are the best in the league and also a very strong offensive unit, too.
Name a New Year's resolution for one NBL club
Kane Pitman: Cairns Taipans - Take the lid off the rim.
The Snakes have plenty of shooters....they just haven't been knocking down plenty of shots. Cairns is connecting on just 31.7 percent of their long-range attempts thus far, with Adam Forde's squad firing away from long range at the highest rate in the league. D.J. Hogg looms as a likely threat for the stretch run, with the star import hitting just 33.8 percent of his eight attempts per game. Only Bryce Cotton and Chris Goulding are getting up more attempts than Hogg from deep, but history suggests he will see an uptick in that clip.
Olgun Uluc: South East Melbourne Phoenix: to stay healthy... Please.
Simon Mitchell's frustration during the start of the season was sometimes palpable; the Phoenix head coach sometimes looking down his bench, only to realise there's no-one to sub in. The Phoenix have had their injury woes to key players early on but fought through them as well as they could, still putting themselves in a great position to fight for a top-two spot. After a decent stretch where everyone was healthy - and they played their best basketball because of it - they're now dealing with injuries again; they were missing Alan Williams, Gary Browne, and Ryan Broekhoff last game, and will likely miss the latter two for a few more. The Phoenix's New Year's Resolution: no more injuries please, for the love of god.
Peter Hooley: South East Melbourne: good health.
It's been a mixed bag of performances since the beginning of the year for the Phoenix, who are yet to get through a month of basketball without significant injuries. They started the season with some key outs, then went on a run when everyone was back, and now find themselves missing starters for a few weeks once again. If any team wants any New Year's resolution, it's a clean bill of health to finish out the NBL23 season for South East Melbourne.
After the Christmas success, what should be the next big league initiative?
Kane Pitman: Five game playoff series for the semi-finals.
A three-game series is not enough reward for a team who has earned home court advantage. With the Play-In Tournament, we have added cutthroat win or go home hoops, now it's time to expand the first round of the postseason and give a real home court advantage to those who earned it. The league is deep enough and competitive enough that this can be nothing but a win for the fans. Who would seriously complain about more playoff hoops?
Olgun Uluc: I'd love to see a mid-season tournament.
So, this comes from how much I enjoyed the NBL Blitz this preseason. It's nice to have all the teams and their respective staff in one place, where you can watch a lot of basketball in a short span of time. The bad thing about the Blitz, though, is that the games don't matter, so it's tough to actually see real basketball. Imagine an NBL Cup sort of vibe, perhaps hosted in a different city every year, with maybe a cash incentive for the winner. There's definitely a way to make it work, and it'd be a cool, meaningful way for fans in Australia to congregate and watch high quality basketball.
Peter Hooley: Ugly Christmas jerseys.
Everyone's talking about the next step of Christmas Day game being a double header, so let's step it up a notch. Christmas themed ugly sweater jerseys. The city jerseys for each team are great, and always well received, so what better way to celebrate Christmas than adding a flavour to a once off jersey. Better yet, maybe even open it up to fans to submit their best Christmas themed jersey once the schedule is known, and lock one in.