Fast Five is back! It's where we ask five quick questions and get five quick answers.
Tickets to the Sal's NBL Showdown are now on sale - click HERE.
After a historic player draft and with just 10 days until tip-off at Trusts Arena in Auckland, let's ask five questions about Draft Night in the Sal's NBL.
Fast Five Q1 - Which team won the historic Sal's NBL Draft?
Nothing like starting with the hardest question of all! Of course it depends on what you're looking for and how you assess each team, but there's no doubt both the Nuggets and Jets came away feeling very good about their top two picks in particular - the Nuggets landed Ngatai and Kenny, the Jets scooped up Vodanovich and Harris. But maybe, just maybe, if you look a little deeper than the big picks at the top of the draft, the roster that significantly improved with just three 'live' picks (3, 10, 11) belongs to the Nelson Giants. Grabbing the experience of Dane Brooks (pick 18), Thane O'Leary (pick 67) and young Theo Johnson (pick 74) may prove to be a trio of very astute additions to a team that will be headlined by Mika Vukona.
Fast Five Q2 - Which team will start strong and which team will finish strong?
Good question! Everyone expects the Rams to jump out of the blocks given the familiar feel of their roster, plus they have spent a lot of time training together and know Coach Downer's system back to front. As for the tail end of the competition, remembering all seven teams progress to the Finals Week, the Auckland Huskies loom as the fast finishers. With Kevin Braswell at the helm and a squad filled with experience, you get the feeling the Huskies will be in the thick of it at the business end.
Fast Five Q3 - Who was the steal of the draft?
This will be much easier to answer as the competition progresses and we get to see what players are delivering, however for the moment you would think the great steals on draft night included Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies - pick 8), Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets - pick 14), Isaac Davidson (Bulls - pick 34), Thane O'Leary (pick 67). Of those four, you can't help but think Kenny will be the player that punishes teams for letting him slip that far.
Fast Five Q4 - Who is the sleeper of the draft?
Well, there could be plenty, time will tell. Probably the most intriguing potential 'sleeper' is Benoit Hayman (Nuggets) who was taken at pick 42 and behind the scenes proved to be one of the most talked about players amongst coaches. With international experience in Switzerland, the 23-year old is a player many won't know, but he looms as potentially the draft's big surprise packet. Other players who could possibly play above their draft position include Jayden Bezzant (Jets - pick 17), Joel Vaiangina (Bulls - pick 48) and Oscar Robertson (Airs - pick 69).
Fast Five Q5 - What was the biggest story to come out of the draft?
You could talk about the rivalry building between the Bulls and Huskies, the return of the Nuggets, or even Jordan Ngatai making history as the first ever pick in a NZNBL draft. However, the biggest story to come out of the draft has to be the widespread coverage the League received during a global pandemic. Lauded for being creative and coming up with an initiative to keep the 39-year old competition alive, the draft resonated with so many people and captured imaginations. More than 450 registrations, draft parties across the nation, two-and-half hours of live television, an audience extending beyond New Zealand's shores - by any mark the Sal's NBL Draft was a success and has people talking basketball, the media totally engaged in hoops and has generated a whole new level of passion for the Kiwi League. At a time when so many people are doing it tough, when the future of the competition was in question, the biggest winner on draft night was the game itself.
Fluid Recruitment Otago Nuggets
Jordan Ngatai, Jarrod Kenny, Jordan Hunt, Kane Keil, Josh Aitcheson, Benoit Hayman, Darcy Knox, Richie Rodger, Sam Aruwa, Akiva McBirnie-Griffin, Jack Andrew, Matthew Bardsley.
Steelformers Taranaki Mountainairs
Derone Raukawa, Marcel Jones, Shane Temara, Tai Wynyard, Mitch Dance, Francis Mulvihill, Kenneth Tuffin, Denhym Brooke, Will Heather, Oscar Robertson, Carlin Davison, Baxter Fenwick.
Property Brokers, See Me Media Manawatu Jets
Tom Vodanovich, Hyrum Harris, Jayden Bezzant, Taane Samuel, Nick Fee, Haize Walker, Tia Temata-Frost, Ashton McQueen, Matangirei Hipango, Josiah Laracy, Tom Power, Kalib Mullins.
Mike Pero Nelson Giants
Mika Vukona, Mike Karena, Dane Brooks, Tom Ingham, Josh Bloxham, Nick Trathen, Riley Bensemann, Tysxun Aiolupotea, Zeb Lovell, Thane O’Leary, Theo Johnson, Tommy Garguilo.
Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams
Jack Salt, Taylor Britt, Joe Cook-Green, Alex Talma, Sam Smith, Toby Gilloly, Jack Exeter, Tom Cowie, Thomas Webley, Mac Stodart, Ben Carlile-Smith, Mason Whittaker.
EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls
Dominique Kelman-Poto, Sam Timmins, Everard Bartlett, Jackson Stubbins, Isaac Davidson, Nick Barrow, Joel Vaiangina, Nikau McCullough, Connor Woodbridge, Joe Reddish, Chris McIntosh, Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape.
Izayah Mauriahoohoo Leafa, Tohi Smith Milner, Leon Henry, Taine Murray, Rasheed Al-Kaleem, Tinashe Matambanadzo, Ana Haku, Johnny Fesolai, Marvin Williams-Dunn, Jaylen Gerrand, Nick Brophy, Nathan Wilson.
(Article by Sal's NBL Media)