THE race for the 2015/2016 NBL title has realistically come down to four teams with the Breakers, Wildcats, Hawks and Melbourne United all jockeying for position with only six weeks left.
Despite sitting in fourth place on 11 wins and seven losses, the New Zealand Breakers are $3 to defend their title even after their recent loss to the Cairns Taipans ($26). They have played two games less than both United and the Wildcats which will have counted towards their short price.
With star players Cedric Jackson and Corey Webster, the Breakers have been able to put together a solid season and with the playoffs beckoning, they appear to be in good shape for a top four spot, but whether they can reel in the Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United is another story.
The Breakers sit two wins back from Perth and Melbourne so a home-playoff series could be tough to achieve. They do have a semi-soft schedule with two games against Townsville in the last six weeks which will help, and if they can defeat the Adelaide 36’ers this Friday night it will put them above the Illawarra Hawks.
The Hawks have also only played 18 games with the same record as the Breakers, and after a poor start to the season, they are the in-form team heading into the final chapter of the NBL season.
With a dominating home record, the Illawarra Hawks are the value chance at $4.50 if they are able to secure home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. With that being said, the Hawks upcoming schedule is daunting to say the least.
The Hawks will play Melbourne United this Thursday, New Zealand the following week and the Perth Wildcats in Round 16. That’s three possible losses which would put their top four chances in doubt, but they end the season with three consecutive home games, two coming against Adelaide ($26) which will also be trying to make a late run for the finals.
The always professional Perth Wildcats sit atop the championship ladder and they haven’t done anything to put punters off this season. Stellar play from the likes of Jermaine Beal and defensive star Damian Martin has put the Wildcats in a winning position.
They don’t simply rely on one player to score all their points and their team cohesion is some of the best in the league. Perth have a relatively easy schedule to close the season with games against Cairns, Sydney (x2) and Adelaide among their upcoming opponents.
The $3.20 available for Perth to win the NBL Championship at CrownBet.com.au looks the best value among the four main contenders with Melbourne United ($4.50) being the lesser-fancied team based on recent form.
Melbourne United started the season on fire, but have been found wanting over the past few weeks and a lack of offensive power is a worrying sign for United backers.
Thanks to that good start, United sit in second place on 13 wins and seven losses so their playoff spot is in good stead. If they can find their offensive rhythm then the $4.50 at Sportsbet.com.au will shorten very quickly.
NBL Championship ladder and bookmaker odds
Perth Wildcats (13/7) – $3.20
Melbourne United (13/7) – $4.50
Illawarra Hawks (11/7) – $4.50
New Zealand Breakers (11/7) – $3
Adelaide 36’ers (9/9) – $26
Cairns Taipans (7/11) – $26
Townsville Crocodiles (7/13) – $251
Sydney Kings (5/15) – $501
Outside the current top four, the bookmakers have both the 36’ers and the Taipans at the same price. The Cairns Taipans play best at home and they do have an easier schedule to end the season, but they currently sit two wins behind Adelaide in sixth spot.
Adelaide are only two wins out of a playoff spot, but their upcoming opposition will make it tough for Jerome Randle and his teammates. The 36’ers have looked good in patches this season with Jerome “Ant Man” Randle setting the league alight with 22.8 points per game and just over five assists, but his supporting crew haven’t stepped up.
Our NBL Champion selection:
The New Zealand Breakers have been the best team in the league for many seasons, but Perth are always there to challenge and they haven’t done anything this season to suggest they can’t take home the title.
They look in good order to host a semi-final and when you have star players on the offense and defensive side, it makes the Wildcats a tough team to beat.
Perth Wildcats to win – $3.20 at Sportsbet.com.au.