The following are previews with betting tips for selected fixtures in Round One of the 2023/24 NBL season.
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Melbourne United vs South East Melbourne Phoenix
Thursday September 29, 7:30pm
John Cain Arena
To open up NBL season 2023/24 we have what should be a fiercely contested Melbourne Derby, between that of Melbourne United and the South East Melbourne Phoenix. Neither of the two rivals were good enough to qualify for the playoffs last season and as a result massive upheavals have been witnessed at both clubs throughout the off-season, as well as pre-season in the Blitz. For United the key component to that has been the acquisition of young Forward (22) and ex-NBL championship winner Luke Travers. The former Cavalier may well have the gauntlet of death facing him straight away as he’ll be expected to help pull together what was a notoriously poor performing United outfit from the previous campaign. And having posted a huge stat-line of 21PTS, 7REB, 4AST and 4BLK in his sides most recent 18-point demolition job of the Kings, he’ll be confident of doing exactly that!
As for the Phoenix when it was announced early on that former Brooklyn Net and Phoenix Sun Allan Williams would be facing a lengthy layoff due to injury, the alarm bells no doubt sounded. As the rebounding machine and powerful PF/C was a vital player for South East Melbourne last season. However throughout the pre-season Blitz competition in stepped Tyler Cook who won the MVP award of the tournament. as the veteran absolutely cooked the opposition. Shooting 5/8 from the floor, his most recent performance saw him produce 16PTS, alongside 6REB, 3AST and 2BLK. Meanwhile prior to that he exploded for a humungous 29PTS, going 10/13 versus the Kings! He and Travers going at it from close-range will no doubt impact the outcome of this fiery affair.
This is the sort of spicy matchup that really could go either way. However working very strongly in the hosts favour is the fact that they’ve triumphed in six of their last eight H2Hs against the Phoenix. And as history shows us, this Melbourne Derby can quite often be very heavily skewed the way of Dean Vickerman’s troops. So as he’s done continuously for them in the past, leader and all-time Phoenix leading point scorer Mitch Creek will need to lead the lines here for the visitors in order to give them a shot in this one. Regardless of how his teammates fare he is very capable of dragging his side to the win on his own, however influential shooting from Gary Browne, as well as the likes of Ben Ayre and Will Cummings will do them no harm either.
Betting tips: Look for Melbourne to edge out the win at $1.50 and for them to also win Q1 at $1.65 (Bet365)
Also look for the total points scored to be 178+ at $1.91 and for said number of points to be odd at $1.87 (BlueBet)
Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings
Saturday September 30, 8:00pm
WIN Entertainment Centre
Fun fact, although not so fun if you are a ‘Hawk Head’, Sydney have defeated Illawarra in 13 of their last 19 contested H2Hs. Whilst Illawarra have also prevailed just the four times from their last 17 matches at the ‘Gong’. With a healthy crowd expected on Saturday night they need to get the place rocking in order to make it as intimidating as mentally and as physically possible for the new look Kings headed up by the new in-charge Mahmoud Abdelfattah. Because Sydney did not win a single game during the Blitz and looked severely disjointed at times, meaning they are very much there for the taking if the Hawks can capitalise. As always look for Tyler Harvey to be dangerous, with the electric American-born PG having poured in 19PTS the last time he competed against his sides rivals. Meanwhile Justin Robinson and Gary Clarke should definitely aid Harvey in sharing the scoring load around, as Illawarra look a hell of a lot more deep compared to that of last season.
That fearsome USA trio will impose many difficulties on the Kings new look squad and especially so with the departure of former NBL MVP Xavier Cooks from the team, who is now a Washington Wizard. It’s next up for the Kings to step up to the plate and fill the massive void that has been left defensively. Over the course of their multiple Blitz games, Sydney leaked 105PTS, 105PTS and 93PTS. This is particularly where Forward Alex Toohey and Centre Jonah Bolden will really have to come to play. With the Next Star Prospect and former Philadelphia 76er respectively forming a completely afresh Front Court duo for the visitors. And depending on how Abdelfattah rotates the team, Jordan Hunter may see a lot of time on the court as well, which will make him responsible for closing the gap close to the rim.
Look for Illawarra to really go full throttle in this affair as they attempt to rattle the visiting Sydneysiders early on and as a result the Hawks may well have a quarter time and perhaps even a halftime lead. And given that the Kings are still gelling together and working throughout the smaller nuances of the team, I’ll pick this intense rivalry to end up pulsatingly close. And one of the other players who may help keep said derby pulsatingly close is Biwali Bayles. Despite winning a Championship during his time in the Harbour City, things fizzled out pretty poorly towards the end of his Kings tenure and in a valiant attempt to reignite his career he switched allegiances and now for the first time he’ll be matching up against his old employers. Look for him to help keep the energy going whenever the versatile Guard steps out onto the court.
Betting tips: Back a Kings victory at $1.48 (BetFair) and for them to come out on top in Q2 at $1.66 (UniBet)