What better time to update the NBL Top-15 than the first day of the new year.
Version 3.0 of the NBL23 Player Rankings sees three new entrants to the list from the last version, with Craig Randall II one of those names as he has exited the league.
As is always the case, this list balances team importance, individual performance, entertainment value, and some good old-fashioned opinion. The top five players in particular could be shuffled by season end, but as of January 1, this is how it stands.
1. Xavier Cooks - 16.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.8 APG (previous rank: 2)
Best player on the best team in the league. Cooks looks on track to add a regular season MVP to his Grand Final MVP from NBL22. He has one of the most unique skillsets in the league with his size and ability to bring the ball up the floor and facilitate. The Kings' engine on both ends and just a superb player.
2. Bryce Cotton - 23.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.6 APG (previous rank: 1)
In two seasons of putting together these rankings, Cotton has never dropped from the top two and I didn't exactly enjoy moving him below Cooks in this version. The Wildcats are right in the Play-In Tournament mix mainly due to the constant force that is Cotton. Leading the league in scoring with 23.8 points per game, Cotton has lifted Perth to sit with a top-three offence in the league, a remarkable feat given the struggles of some of his teammates. Cotton has five 30+ point games already this season. He only had four for the entirety of NBL22.
3. Mitch Creek - 23.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.5 APG (previous rank: 3)
A likely MVP finalist, Creek has battled nagging injuries for much of the season to be available on a nightly basis for a team ravaged with injury. His 46-point classic against Sydney in Traralgon will be remembered for many years. He is pouring in 23.6 points per night on a very healthy 51.5% from the floor and 35.0% from long range.
4. Derrick Walton Jr. - 16.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.6 APG (previous rank: 5)
Speaking of that afternoon in Traralgon, Walton Jr. had 45 points of his own in a stunning individual scoring outburst as Cooks exited the game early with an ankle injury. As well as his scoring capabilities, Walton leads the league in total assists (118), well ahead of the second ranked Shannon Scott of the Cairns Taipans.
5. Keanu Pinder - 17.9 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.6 APG (previous rank: 4)
Fourth in the league for points per game (16.9) and first for rebounds per game (9.9), Pinder's season has been nothing short of remarkable. He is well and truly in the mix to be an MVP finalist and appears an absolute lock for All-NBL honours. A physical force for much of the season, Pinder has been a bit banged up of late, which will be something to watch with 11 regular season games still left on the slate.
6. Robert Franks - 17.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.1 APG (previous rank: 6)
The focal point of the Adelaide offence, Franks has battled to find his spots during a rollercoaster ride of a regular season for the Adelaide 36ers. He leads the team in scoring with 17.3 points a night, while also reeling in 6.4 boards and adding a pair of assists. The one knock has been a rough season from three, with Franks only connecting on 28% of his long range tries which is well below par.
7. Dererk Pardon - 12.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 0.8 APG (previous rank: 10)
The engine of a New Zealand Breakers team that has planted itself in the top two of the league for much of the season. Pardon takes the assignment on the opposition's best big, is a force on the glass, and knows his role on offence, leading the league in 2P% at a scorching 67.6% (min 35 attempts). A no frills star import.
8. Milton Doyle - 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 APG (previous rank: not ranked)
The JackJumpers closer enters the rankings for the first time. Doyle is averaging 16.8 points per game and scorching teams in non-rim two-point attempts. The smooth moving Doyle is 24-for-35 (69%) on non-rim paint attempts (floater range) and is 11-for-24 in the midrange. He's a little old school and a delight to watch.
9. Antonius Cleveland - 14.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.6 APG (previous rank: not ranked)
I couldn't bring myself to list a third Adelaide player last time around with the 36ers scuffling at the time but there is no question Cleveland is a top-10 (perhaps higher) player in this league. The addition of Ian Clark likely makes Cleveland's life easier, with smaller reliance on running halfcourt offence and more time to cause absolute havoc on the defensive end and, as a result, transition. He is third in the league for steals with 1.8 thefts per outing.
10. DJ Hogg - 16.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.5 APG (previous rank: 9)
Averaging 8.0 attempts from long range per game, there is no big man in the league who lets it fly quite like D.J. Hogg. He has nailed 4+ triples in seven games so far this season and has formed a nice inside-outside big man combination with Pinder up North.
11. Barry Brown Jr. - 20.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.6 APG (previous rank: 7)
The spark plug off the bench, Brown is a point of difference on a methodical Breakers roster. One of only three players in the league putting up 20 points a night, Brown is shooting a very tidy 45.1% from the floor and 36.0% from long range.
12. Alan Williams - 16.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.9 APG (previous rank: 13)
Big Sauce has been as advertised for South East Melbourne. An old school post operator, Williams uses his strong frame to play bully ball down low and score with great efficiency. He is also averaging 6.1 free-throw attempts per game, trailing only Cotton, Creek, and Pinder across the league.
13. Chris Goulding - 16.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.5 APG (previous rank: 12)
Before falling ill and missing the Christmas Night game in Sydney, Goulding was on a heater. Across his previous five games, Goulding had drilled 22 triples at a neat 40% clip, including a 6-for-13 outburst against Illawarra on December 18. He is still Melbourne's most important player.
14. Rayjon Tucker - 17.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.2 APG (previous rank: not ranked)
My preseason MVP pick took a long while to get going, but has seemingly found the solution to his struggles -- all-out attack on the basket and no hesitation letting it fly. Tucker is pouring in 21.5 points per game over his last 11. In seven of those 11games he's connected on over half of his shot attempts. Oh yeah, he also gets extra points for the nightly highlight reel plays. A true entertainer.
15. Shannon Scott - 9.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.8 APG (previous rank: 11)
Scott is 2nd in the league for total assists (99), while simultaneously being 22nd in the league for total turnovers (34). The Taipans floor general takes care of the ball as well as any player in the league and has quietly become a steadying force for the Snakes, even if his play has slipped a bit of late. Scott just held his place ahead of Justin Simon, Jarrell Brantley and Jack McVeigh to name a few...
All stats are via realgm.com and spatialjam.com and are taken from prior to the December 31st slate of games.