NBL Headline or Storyline: Are the Wildcats the real deal?

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It's Monday, the weekend's action is in the books and it's time to react with fire or cool the jets on some NBL takes.

Kane Pitman, Olgun Uluc and Peter Hooley are here to decide... is this just a headline, or is it a genuine storyline?


Kane Pitman: Storyline

Over the last five games (all wins), the Wildcats rank 4th in offence and FIRST (!!) in defence.

It's worth noting that three of the wins have come against Cairns, Brisbane and Adelaide, who rank in the bottom four offences across the season, with another against a heavily depleted New Zealand, but any progress is good progress.

Head coach John Rillie recently pointed to "togetherness" as a reason for the turnaround. Consider me someone who didn't see this turnaround coming and I'm still sceptical for now.

Bryce Cotton has been utterly magical of late, but there seems to be actual buy-in that has been lacking. Now to do it against some of the better teams in the league.

Peter Hooley: Storyline

Call it a stroke of genius from John Rillie, but after their slow start, a move simply had to be made.

Moving Hyrum Harris into the starting lineup and pushing Doolittle to the small forward has had the Wildcats rolling.

Harris is the perfect complimentary piece to Cotton and Pinder, as he isn't the type of player who needs the ball in his hands to have an impact.

Doolittle on the other hand has been phenomenal, both defensively and attacking the glass.

Both were areas of concern for Perth before this win streak began and Doolittle has relished his new role and Perth looks like a completely different team.

Olgun Uluc: Storyline

... but let's see more In a vacuum, a five-game winning streak is great; it's truly revitalised the Wildcats' season.

Bryce Cotton has been solid, but you'd put this improved play more down to changing up the way they operate: Hyrum Harris and Jesse Wagstaff are more involved, Jordan Usher is less involved, and Kristian Doolittle is being utilised a whole lot more, and in different ways.

Their defence and rebounding have taken a leak since we've seen more Doolittle at the three, so progress of any kind has been a good thing.

Where I'd hold my horses is: how many of these five wins would you consider high quality?

I mean that in the sense that it's largely been against sub-par teams, and hasn't been wholly convincing.

The numbers are absolutely trending in the right direction, but wins against better competition would really elevate them into legitimate top-four status.


Kane Pitman: Storyline

I think it is worth consideration moving forward and certainly worth watching.

The 36ers are 3-3 since signing Vasiljevic, who has averaged 19.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in that stretch.

In the three wins, he's tallying 22.6 points and 3.6 triples per game.

As a team, Adelaide's offensive rating has bumped up from a league worst 101.6 points per 100 possessions to 112.6 per 100 (5th in that span), a marked improvement.

Adelaide isn't winning enough right now, but based on the small sample so far, if they reach the Play-In or beyond, Vasiljevic looms as the key reason why.

Peter Hooley: Headline

I was close to making this a storyline because I think Vasiljevic's impact has given this Adelaide team a new spark after their rough start.

However, the further you look into the wins they have had since he arrived, the more you find that it's a couple of bench sparks who have been pivotal in the run as well.

Guys like Kyrin Galloway and Trentyn Flowers have both had moments where they've checked into the game and made big plays in the third quarter to drag their team back into it or turn things around.

Then, in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line, you want your superstars like Vasiljevic to do what they're supposed to do and bring you home.

Olgun Uluc: Headline

The 36ers being better than what they were to start the season isn't difficult, but definitely credit to Vasiljevic for breathing some much-needed life into them.

However, they're 3-3 since that acquisition; much better offensively (see Kane's above), but worse defensively (109.4 pre-DJ, to 115.1 points allowed per 100 possessions post-DJ; bottom-three in the league), and still don't look like a Play-In team.

Vasiljevic will be the 36ers' most productive player, no doubt, but the MVP has to come from a winning team, that's ideally in the top-four.

We'll see what unfolds but, considering who currently sits in that conversation and how good those teams are looking, it's very tough to see Vasiljevic doing enough to enter the race.


Kane Pitman: Headline

The second half was as equally impressive from Melbourne as it was bizarre from Sydney.

Outscored 67-40 in the second half, the Kings showed little desire to change the tempo of the game, call a timeout to halt momentum or improve shot selection while under fire from a red-hot Melbourne.

On the back of the league's best defence and an offence that has caught fire behind a sizzling hot Chris Goulding, United are absolutely the best team as of the middle of November, but I suspect Mahmoud Abdelfattah would manage the second half differently if that was a playoff game.

The title race is still absolutely open.

Peter Hooley: Storyline

A lot of people had concerns last week in the Throwdown that Melbourne's injuries would be too much for them to overcome, and then they went and beat the Phoenix.

If you thought they'd answered every question so far, they went and had themselves down 20 to the second-placed Kings and gave themselves a challenge after halftime of that game.

Well, considering every question about this team answered as they poured on 67 points and ran away with a win.

Not only that, but this team is so deep and talented that guys like Campbell Blogg are checking into the game and having instant impacts because they're all so hungry for opportunity.

Dean Vickerman has his men rolling right now and it's hard to see them falling apart long enough to not finish on top.

Olgun Uluc: Headline

United should finish on top of the ladder.

Even when undermanned, they're still too talented, deep up top, and well-coached to be really troubled in a regular season game.

As for getting all the way to the point where they're champions; well, at this point, Sydney still remains a threat.

They have all of those things as well, and have looked like they've been playing with their food for much of the regular season thus far.

There's only so long a team can be in 'we're just trying stuff to see what works' mode, but, based on some of the decision-making in that United game - and throughout the season so far, to be honest - that's where the Kings are.

They still have the talent and depth to compete with United, so, while Vickerman's team is currently the benchmark, we can't be giving out rings in Melbourne just yet.

*Advanced stats via SpatialJam.com and RealGm.com