Preview: Perth Wildcats vs Adelaide 36ers

A new dawn and a day has arrived for the NBL. The build-up to the 2015/16 season has been fantastic, with #hardballs seemingly everywhere this is the most anticipated NBL season in years. I haven’t been this excited for a Perth¬†Wildcats season since the days of James Crawford and Ricky Grace.

The Wildcats are gunning for an amazing 30th straight playoff appearance, and start their campaign Saturday night in Adelaide against the 36ers. Captain Damian Martin looks likely to miss the opening game, still recovering from a calf injury. Star signing Nate Jawai has returned from Queensland, where he tended to a family matter and is a good chance to suit up for his first game as a Wildcat.

He’ll be needed facing a big 36ers lineup, who looked great in the season opener against New Zealand Breakers.

Let’s take a closer look at the opposition.

Adelaide 36ers Strengths

23-year-old center Matt Hodgson had a fantastic debut for the 36ers, scoring 16 points in just 18 minutes. He was a menace on the boards, grabbing seven offensive rebounds, and was great defensively blocking three shots on the night.

He’ll have a much tougher time facing the Wildcats, where he’s coming up against one of the deepest frontcourts on the league. The 36ers also have depth in the big man department. It’s quite a luxury to have two bigs, Daniel Johnson, and Anthony Petrie, who can step outside and nail 3-pointers.

That’s a luxury the Wildcats don’t have. Starters Nate Jawai and Matty Knight can’t shoot threes, but they do possess a well-rounded offensive game. Jawai is a beast in the post – he didn’t he get the name “Outback Shaq” for nothing, and Knight has a nice mid-range game for a big man.

With Damian Martin likely sidelined, Adam Gibson looms as a major threat. The point guard was influential in the win over the Breakers, dishing out eight assists. It’s a big test for Perth’s backup point guard, Jarrod Kenny, but if he can shut down Gibson, it will go a long way in securing a Wildcats victory.

Keys to a Wildcats win

Nullifying the influence of Gibson is key. Equally important is stopping Ebi Ere shooting threes. Against the Breakers the 34-year-old looked slow and out of shape, in fact, he is slow and out of shape, but he can still hit shots from downtown. Whoever guards him, either Jermain Beale or Casey Prather, will need to be glued to Ere. Can’t allow him any space to get off 3-point shots.

Offensively the Wildcats need to “feed the beast”. Jawai is a dominant low post scorer, giving him space to work with will be paramount.

Perth should be able to get some easy points in transition. With the athletically gifted Jermaine Beal and Casey Prather, the ‘Cats should look to get out and run.

The Unknown

The additions of Jawai and Prather are great on paper, but we don’t yet know how the two will fit in. Prather lacks a 3-point shot, which looks to be a weakness overall for the Wildcats, and Jawai in the lineup means less playing time for Jesse Wagstaff and Shawn Redhage.

We’ll find out against Adelaide whether these are major, minor or non-existant issues.

I like the way Perth matchup with the 36ers, even without captain Damian Martin I’m expecting a relatively easy victory.

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