All the NBL teams that missed out on the 2014 play-offs will be reflecting on a season of missed opportunities. For three of the teams the post-season review will be containing a host of ‘if only’ statements.
The James Blond Super City Rangers, Canterbury Rams and Breakers Manawatu Jets all finished the season in fine form and in the case of the Jets, arguably championship threatening form.
Below is a table showing the win/loss records of all the NBL team for the last nine games of the season – the overall record of each team is bracketed.
8-1 IMS Payroll Hawks (15-3)
7-2 Breakers Manawatu Jets (9-9)
5-4 Pacific Jewellers Saints (12-6)
5-4 James Blond Super City Rangers (7-11)
5-4 Canterbury Rams (6-12)
4-5 Eco Finance Nelson Giants (11-7)
4-5 Zerofees Southland Sharks (10-8)
3-6 Advice First Waikato Pistons (8-10)
3-6 OceanaGold Otago Nuggets (7-11)
1-8 The Good Home Taranaki Mountain Airs (5-13)
Not surprisingly the Jets revival began with the reappearance of Nick Horvath, the rebounding colossus. He missed the opening 8 games of the season due to injury, the Jets record at that stage 2-6.
Horvath then played in the final 10 games, the team winning on 7 occasions. The 2012 League MVP has averaged 16.5 rebounds and 14 points per game, his late season form suggests the Jets would have been a top 4 contender if the big centre had played all 18 games.
It took the Canterbury Rams four outings to win their first game and a further eight games to record their second victory. Once they sniffed success on the second occasion confidence and self-belief amongst the playing group and coaching staff appeared to blossom.
The Rams won four of their last six games, two in overtime as the coaching staff moved deeper into the playing roster, trusting the bench players to provide greater contributions. That trust was repaid by the likes of Marty Davidson, Josh Paurini and Inga Solofuti.
The James Blond Super City Rangers can point to a triple threat that enabled them to finish the season strongly (the last game against the Jets excepted). The capture of Sydney Kings bound Jason Cadee was a recruiting masterpiece. Cadee replaced the injured Eric Devendorf and immediately provided the Rangers with the court general it was lacking – not to mention the small matter of 27 points per game.
At about the same time Dillon Boucher returned from injury to add his experience and unique skill set.
Youngster Tohi Smith-Milner was another important cog in the new look Rangers line up. Smith-Milner arrived back from a stint in the US and added much needed power to the Rangers frontcourt. The 19-year-old averaged 12.7-points/4 rebounds/1block per game and also shot the three ball at a better percentage (43%) than most players in the NBL.
All three teams are probably wishing the regular season is at the mid point rather than the finish.