The Breakers start their Australian Basketball League season tonight against Melbourne United so we thought we'd ask our basketball experts - NZ Herald writer Kris Shannon and Radio Sport commentator Brenton Vannisselroy - for their tips for the season ahead.
What are your expectations of the Breakers this ANBL season?
Kris Shannon: Similar to how Dean Vickerman struggled in his first season with a pair of new imports, it would hardly be surprising if Paul Henare takes time to make his mark on the team. The recruitment of Kirk Penney, in particular, should ensure the Breakers challenge for a playoff place but a return trip to the grand final might be beyond them.
Brenton Vannisselroy: I'm setting the bar low this season. If the Breakers are still in the playoff hunt in the closing weeks of the regular season I'll judge their campaign a success. Nearly every other team has got stronger and taken advantage of the opportunity to sign three imports. The Breakers only have two and they're untested, and I also doubt whether Kirk Penney will be able to remain on the floor for the entire season.
Which player do the Breakers need to stand up the most?
Kris Shannon: Alex Pledger, who at last enjoyed the type of off-season he needed to reach full health heading into the campaign. Injury-free and allowed an opportunity to rest after skipping Tall Blacks duty, the Breakers need Pledger to return to top form at both ends of the court.
Brenton Vannisselroy: Ben Woodside. We know what to expect from the rest of the Breakers line-up, but Woodside is the unknown. He needs to be their playmaker at point guard.
Which team is your tip to win the ANBL this season?
Kris Shannon: Melbourne United are the favourites for a reason. The best team in the regular season last year were caught short by the Breakers in the playoffs, but adding Cedric Jackson and Tai Wesley should help them find revenge.
Brenton Vannisselroy: Perth Wildcats. The defending champions are the safe bet and I think they've improved their roster from last season.
Which team is your dark horse to win it all?
Kris Shannon: It's never easy for a team to build from scratch and immediately contest for a title but the Brisbane Bullets - back in the league after an eight-year absence - have recruited well enough and, in Andrej Lemanis, have the coach to make a strong initial splash.
Brenton Vannisselroy: Sydney Kings. I really like the roster Andrew Gaze has put together in Sydney. Any team with Kevin Lisch should be a contender.
Which team will be a disappointment?
Kris Shannon: Cairns were among the also-rans last year and their off-season player transactions suggested that fate might again await them.
Brenton Vannisselroy: The Breakers. They won't meet their high expectations, but should still finish clear of the wooden spoon.
Who is your tip to win the MVP of the league?
Kris Shannon: Casey Prather was at times electric in leading Perth to a title last season and, having returned to another impressive-looking Wildcats outfit, his familiarity with the competition should make him even better the second time around.
Brenton Vannisselroy: Kevin Lisch. He's a proven performer at both ends of the floor in this league and will spearhead a resurgent Sydney Kings this season.