The EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls are one of the hardest teams to get a read on for the 2021 Sal's NBL season, it's their first full-blown year and they are playing out of a venue no opponent has played at, so all comers will be watching on carefully over the opening few weeks. While they have some players who know their way around the League, they will rely heavily on the likes of imports Josh Selby and Zane Waterman, along with rising Kiwis Matt Freeman and Isaac Davidson. One unknown is exactly when Davidson will be given the green light by the NZ Breakers to return to the Bulls, but with the ANBL team returning home in mid-May and Davidson no doubt craving increased playing opportunities, maybe he'll be in a Bulls singlet sooner than we think.
Let's take a look at the Bulls in 2021.
THE BULLS ROSTER
Coach: Jamie Reddish
All eyes will be on American Josh Selby this season, and for good reason. Selby heads to the Bulls following a pro career that has included solid stints in the NBA, most notably with the Memphis Grizzlies. One noted claim to fame is a joint-MVP at the 2012 NBA Summer League, an award he shared with none other than Damian Lillard! A true global traveller, Selby will be the key to the Bulls' chances this season and will need to be a true leader to help his team reach its full potential. If he is fit, healthy and eager to show his unquestionable talent, Selby is the team's star and could be one of the League’s top players.
Most will jump in the direction of Dane Brooks when talking about being an x-factor, and for good reason as he just has that athletic persona about him, but we will swing in the direction of Matt Freeman this time around. Big and strong, Freeman joins the Bulls with plenty of expectations fresh from an international gig in Germany. Once in NZ and ready to play, Freeman is expected to hold down a forward position alongside Waterman. Don’t sleep on him, he could be set for a big season.
Overall, the Bulls are relatively young, but then you have 29-year old Adam Dunstan, who knows his away around the League and is often called upon for his size and strength. It is unlikely that Dunstan will play starter’s minutes, but will be called upon to ensure the second unit keeps the flow going. Josh Selby enters the season rising 30 and his experience will also be a key ‘veteran’ factor in keeping the Bulls locked in for the season.
The risk for the Bulls in 2021 is just a general lack of experience with the full-season grind, which is to be expected. They have a first-time NBL coach in Jamie Reddish and a lot of players who have little experience at this level, so settling quickly and adapting to things like travel will be very important. One of the biggest (early) tasks for the Bulls will be developing real unity and belief amongst the squad, so hopefully while they’re finding their feet and adjusting to the season's demands, they will do so with a high level of confidence and a sense of belonging. The overall risk is not being familiar with the demands.
The Bulls simply have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and if they tackle it the right way they can certainly make some magic happen. Everything will be a first and you can quickly reward yourself if everyone is pulling in the same direction. The Bulls could also reward themselves with wins at home given no opposition team will have experienced playing there before. Big or small, when you're doing it all for the first time you try and turn every little advantage into a reward. The Bulls will cling to that.
THREE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT
MEMBERSHIPS & TICKETS
A huge start to the season with a home game on Anzac Day against the Huskies, so the nerves and energy will be sky high. Four from the opening five games at home is a favourable start, while a run of four away games between June 6 and June 20 will be a good test, especially with the Southern Swing featuring two games within 24 hours against the Sharks and Nuggets. If a spot in the Final 4 is on the line come the last game of the season, there is no greater challenge than the Saints! All up, a nice flowing schedule for the Bulls.
Sunday April 25 | 7:30pm | vs Auckland Huskies
Saturday May 1 | 7:30pm | vs Manawatu Jets
Thursday May 6 | 7:30pm | @ Taranaki Mountainiars
Saturday May 8 | 7:30pm | vs Nelson Giants
Friday May 14 | 7:30pm | vs Southland Sharks
Thursday May 20 | 7:30pm | @ Wellington Saints
Saturday May 22 | 7:30pm | @ Canterbury Rams
Thursday May 27 | 7:30pm | vs Otago Nuggets
Friday June 4 | 7:30pm | vs Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Sunday June 6 | 5:00pm | @ Manawatu Jets
Saturday June 12 | 7:30pm | @ Auckland Huskies
Saturday June 19 | 7:30pm | @ Southland Sharks
Sunday June 20 | 5:00pm | @ Otago Nuggets
Thursday June 24 | 7:30pm | vs Canterbury Rams
Saturday June 26 | 7:30pm | @ Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Saturday July 3 | 7:30pm | vs Taranaki Mountainairs
Thursday July 8 | 7:30pm | @ Nelson Giants
Friday July 16 | 7:30pm | vs Wellington Saints