Melbourne suffered a shattering loss in their NBL semi-final series opener to Sydney, but coach Dean Vickerman is adamant it won’t be tough to lift his side.
After a 28-match 2019-20 NBL season, these are my player rankings for fourth-placed Melbourne United.
Melo Trimble: 8.5/10
Unfairly criticised due to being the replacement for Casper Ware, Melo Trimble had a great year. He averaged nearly 20 points and five assists a game in the regular season, and when moved to start on the bench in the final few games and in the play-offs his performances were taken to another level. He has the components to be a great in this league.
What Trimble really needs to work on is his decision-making in big moments, but he’s still very young, and that’s something you learn from experience. Even though it is rumoured Melbourne United and Trimble are set to part ways, my hope is that he’ll re-sign with United. If not, I hope he stays in the NBL, as he’s an exceptional talent who can improve his game to an MVP level.
Shawn Long: 9/10
Shawn Long also had a great year in his first year at Melbourne United. He averaged 18 points and nearly ten rebounds a game. Long led the league in rebounds per game and also offensive rebounds per game. He also showed that he has the capacity to shoot well from the three-point line when left alone, proving he’s one of the most damaging centres in the league. His elite rim protecting was also on for display this season. He had a great play-off run and was vital to United’s post-season campaign. He’s Another player I hope at least remains in the NBL for years to come.
Chris Goulding: 7.5/10
This was an inconsistent year for Chris Goulding, whose stats fluctuated throughout the season. Heavily reliant on his three-point shooting ability, he had a rough patch during which he wasn’t scoring at a high volume. It could have been due to the fact that during those times he wasn’t utilised well by his teammates.
When Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman started Melo Trimble on the bench it gave Goulding a new lease on life. He was able to score early to impact the game and gain confidence for himself and for his teammates. A great leader while still managing to average 17 points a game is a great effort. I hope he also remains at United for another year, because he is becoming a Melbourne United great.
Stanton Kidd: 6/10
There is always a huge amount of pressure on an injury replacement player when joining a team midway through the season. The expectation is always for the player to be able to perform well immediately. He had no time to gel with the team. On top of that, Stanton Kidd was a replacement for NBL legend Casey Prather. Melbourne United already has high expectations, which Kidd seemed to struggle with to begin with.
Kidd’s start to his season in the NBL was pretty below average. He didn’t play many minutes and didn’t score enough and at a high conversion rate, although he did improve slightly as the season went on and had a pretty good play-off campaign. He showed the ability to knock down some big shots when required to. I’m not sure if we will see him at United next season, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was at another NBL club next season if the price was right.
Mitch McCarron: 8/10
McCarron is the glue that holds the team together. He’s probably the most important player on their roster. His on-ball and off-ball defence is elite. His rebounding, spacing and ability to read the defence to make the right pass resulted in another impressive plus-minus ratio. Again, it was the highest in the NBL for the second straight year, with a plus-minus differential of +22.1.
Like Goulding, he’s a great leader both on and off the court. He also has the ability to shoot the three but chooses to facilitate rather than take the shot himself.
Shea Ili: 7/10
This was a great year for Shea Ili, whose great form was rewarded in the form of a starting role by the end of the season. His defence on his point guard opponents was incredible and his shooting improved as the season went along, which saw his confidence grow over time. He was pivotal in a lot of games and the main difference in a few games, including the win against the Sydney Kings in the regular season. I hope to see an even bigger improvement in him next season.
Jo Lual-Acuil: 6/10
He was a very serviceable backup centre for when Shawn Long was in foul trouble or needed a rest. He essentially took Alex Pledger’s spot as the backup, and it was never taken away from him. He was great at protecting the rim and showed off his athletic capacities. I think he has a lot of potential for a guy just in his first year in the NBL.
David Barlow: 6/10
The NBL legend didn’t have a bad season this year. He showed his great three-point shooting ability with an impressive high three-point conversion rate of 46 per cent, although he did experience a lot of foul trouble throughout the season and just couldn’t seem to get his defensive technique right. Even though he suffered, he still showed he can continue to play in the NBL if he chooses to do so.
Tohi Smith-Milner: 2/10
An unreliable backup role player. I’m unsure why he saw as many minutes in the regular season as he did. I’m also unsure why he thinks he has the licence to shoot three-pointers when he has a three-point conversion rate of only 25 per cent. A common trend throughout the season was silly errors and poor judgements. This is why he ended up with barely any minutes in the play-offs. I would be surprised if we saw him at Melbourne United again.
Casey Prather: 3/10
A healthy and promising preseason turned into an injury-plagued disaster in the regular season. Prather managed just six games for the entire season. The three-time NBL champion’s return to the NBL was one to forget. When he eventually returned from injury he played few minutes and didn’t show the same athleticism as he was known for.
Luckily, with a two-year deal, he is returning to Melbourne United next season and can hopefully recapture the form that saw him win three NBL championships in as many years. I hope he can shake off this career-threatening injury and return to the Casey Prather we know and love.