Once again, the Breakers are set to find themselves under the international microscope.
In the 2019-20 season, the club drew attention from across the world of basketball with RJ Hampton, a highly touted prospect projected to be selected early in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft, opting to spend a year in the NBL rather than take up a college scholarship. It saw NBA scouts and basketball media from abroad take notice of the team.
It was a big decision by Hampton, and had many questioning whether it was the right one when he was limited to about 20 minutes per game and saw his draft stocks decline. Joining the Breakers as a projected lottery (top 15) pick by many respected analysts, Hampton was eventually drafted 24th overall.
This season, the Breakers are tasked with the development of two potential first-round NBA draft picks in what will no doubt be referred to as "The French Connection" throughout the year.
Like Hampton, 18-year-old French prospect Ousmane Dieng made the decision to join the Breakers as part of the NBL next stars programme rather than play in the American collegiate system, while 20-year-old Hugo Besson also joins the club after a couple of seasons in France. Besson was originally planning to be eligible for the 2021 NBA Draft, but withdrew himself after sustaining an injury and now looks to improve his stocks ahead of 2022.
Dieng joins the Breakers with the "potential lottery pick" tag, while Besson has been projected as a late first-round or early second-round selection, and the pair seem to have joined the club at the perfect time.
During the offseason, the Breakers parted ways with three of their top four scorers from last season, with only Finn Delany, who averaged a shade above 16 points per game, still in the squad. With Corey and Tai Webster no long with the team, and Tom Abercrombie sidelined with an injury to start the campaign, there are going to be plenty of touches to go around.
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Dieng has been hailed for his play-making, vision and defence, but will have scouts salivating if he can show a consistent offensive game in his time with the Breakers. During the preseason, both he and Besson showed they would not hesitate to get their shots up.
Match-ups are going to be key for the Breakers this season. Along with the versatile Dieng and combo guard Besson, the side have used the other two import spots to bring in shot creator Peyton Siva and volume scorer Jeremiah Martin – both point guards by trade, but with very different styles in which they approach their business.
The Breakers have quietly put together a deep team for their upcoming campaign, which will afford coach Dan Shamir the luxury of tinkering with his starting line-ups depending on the style of game they're up against – with a handful of players capable to lead the way on offence on any given night.
But while the Breakers replaced the scoring they lost in the offseason, the defensive end could be a concern - particularly in the paint. As former NBA star Andrew Bogut wrote in a column for Fox Sports: "None of the bigs scare me if I'm attacking the paint."
They have several good defenders on the perimeter, but against high-usage bigs such as Isaac Humphries, Daniel Johnson (Adelaide), Jarrell Martin (Sydney) and Vic Law (Perth), there could be some concerns. In that area, Yanni Wetzell looks like a great recruit.
Though he has not historically been a volume shot blocker, he showed enough in the preseason to earn good minutes at the five spot.
The Breakers begin their campaign on Saturday night against the South East Melbourne Phoenix under less-than-ideal circumstances after a bout of Covid-19 swept through the squad, with Shamir having to lay low and being unable to attend the season opener. But for a team who have dealt with all sorts of issues over the past year, don't expect that or the extra attention to worry them.