NBL 3x3: Who needs to step up? How early is too early to panic?

As Christmas approaches, the NBL22 season continues to heat up.

If you are involved in a tipping competition for the league, our thoughts are with you, with the battle for ladder positioning as tight as predicted.

It's not all good news though. How early is too early to panic? Which teams need their New Year's resolution to come true? Who needs to step up their production?

Kane Pitman, Josh Garlepp and Peter Hooley are back for this week's instalment of 3x3 to discuss all the major talking points as we turn the corner for Round 4.

Watch: Round 3 NBL highlights

Three opinions

Early concerns for Adelaide

Kane Pitman: The 36ers are 2-3 on the season but it feels so much worse.

Brimming with talent on paper, Adelaide's fluctuating effort level to start the season has been troubling to say the least. C.J. Bruton's squad have turned the ball over a staggering 77 times to their opponents' 56, producing a differential of 21 in just five games. Oftentimes, those turnovers are translating directly to transition baskets for their opponents who are routinely outhustling the 36ers in getting down the floor.

On the offensive end, some wrinkles need to be ironed out, which is to be expected early in the season, though they will need Isaac Humphries to become more of a focal point on that end of the floor. A genuine MVP candidate before injuries struck last season, Humphries endured an interrupted preseason and is only playing 19 minutes per outing thus far as he rounds back into form.

By the time Tuesday rolls around the 36ers will have had 10 days to reset after getting blown out by the Cairns Taipans in Round 3. Perhaps an early season recalibration is exactly what they needed.

Don't panic Breakers fans

Peter Hooley: An 0-5 start has the Breakers sitting at the bottom of the table and in a tough spot, but let's quickly breakdown their last four weeks.

They've played four teams that the majority of people predicted would be in finals at the end of the season including an expected title contender in South East Melbourne twice.

Their schedule has by far been the toughest in the league, and that's not even factoring in the fact that they've been living out of hotel rooms for quite some time. While it might seem that there aren't many positives to take out of their winless start, it's worth noting that they pushed Illawarra to double overtime and had another tight loss to the Phoenix.

The early breakout of French sensation Hugo Besson has been one of the stories of the season so far, with Yani Wetzell also proving to be one of the best offseason signings in the NBL.

The Breakers team, and their entire cohort, just need some luck to go their way. They had COVID knock everyone around a week before tip-off, then lose their starting import point guard to injury, and adding the cherry on top - Tom Abercrombie getting hurt again, after just returning. The Breakers have some serious potential once they put it all together. For right now, there's only one thing they all need and deserve - that first win.

Brisbane can play finals

Josh Garlepp: Okay, we're ridiculously early into NBL22 and they've burnt me before but the Bullets can play finals.

Brisbane is currently an unimpressive seventh in offensive rating but are top four in defence and more importantly have managed to peel off overtime wins over Perth and Illawarra.

The biggest boost has been support for Lamar Patterson and Nathan Sobey on the offensive end, with Brisbane's recruiting team nailing another import selection with current top-four scorer Robert Franks (21.00 PPG).

There are still issues to be ironed out, with many possessions reliant on players like Sobey, Franks, Patterson and Jason Cadee's individual talent bailing out sloppy offence and there's significant pressure on young centre Tyrell Harrison to produce a double-double performance every night with limited size in Brisbane.

But the Bullets are learning a new system, have shooters everywhere and have a friendly schedule in the weeks to come -- (Cairns, Perth, NZ, Cairns) -- to establish a winning brand.

Three questions

Which NBL teams need their New Year's resolutions to come true?

Sydney Kings and a blank injury report

Kane Pitman: Watching the Kings get run out of John Cain Arena by Melbourne United in the first quarter last Thursday night, I couldn't help but think how desperately they needed point guard Jaylen Adams on the floor to stem the tide.

With United clamping the interior, Sydney jacked up triple after triple, with little offensive creativity to unsettle Melbourne's defence. It's not to say the result would have changed with the star import in the line-up, but he does bring the type of multi-faceted ball handling skillset that commands the respect of the opposition both from the perimeter and as a penetrator.

Without Adams, it's hard to really judge the Kings form early in the season, in fact, take any star ball handler out of a squad's line-up and the predictive waters are going to become murky.

Adams is said to be progressing well, but is yet to resume five-on-five activities as Buford and the Kings patiently await his return.

When you consider an interrupted start for RJ Hunter and the loss of Jordan Hunter for season, you could forgive Kings fans for thinking back to how last season panned out.

Perth seek the freedom of travel

Peter Hooley: It's a pretty simple New Year's resolution for the Perth Wildcats ... lighter border restrictions.

No, this isn't a piece on politics or COVID, however it's merely highlighting how important it is to have a fortress at home in one of the closest NBL seasons in some time.

The Red Army arrived in force on Sunday with a record setting crowd, to see Vic Law and Bryce Cotton put on a show. With the uncertainty around the WA border, it will likely mean the Wildcats will spend a good period away from home. They're definitely good enough to win a lot of away games, but for a team as talent and deep as they are, they'll need the jungle rocking come the business end of the season.

No more blowouts for Sydney

Josh Garlepp: Some give up smoking while others join a gym, but the Kings will be hoping to go cold turkey on historic losses this New Year.

The preseason talk was hard to ignore as the 'Hoops Capital' compounded hype with every subsequent roster announcement. But their lowest score in franchise history, horrendous shot selection and an absolute pounding from Melbourne United have likely put in perspective what is required to be successful in NBL22.

New coach Chase Buford said post-match that the team were "not going to lay an egg like this on Saturday" and to their credit, they didn't. An impressive win against an undefeated South East Melbourne came on the back of a shortened rotation and leadership on both ends from Xavier Cooks.

Fortunately, Dejan Vasiljevic is gaining fitness, two imports are set to return, and the team has enough motivation for 10 resolutions let alone just this one.

Which players need to step up?

Kane Pitman: Josh Adams (Tasmania)

The JackJumpers picked up an emotional win to open the season, but it's been hard work from that point on, particularly on the offensive end.

Import, Josh Adams typifies those struggles, with the highflying scorer averaging 14.7 points on 15.2 shots per game. Those numbers equate to 32 percent shooting from the floor and 19 percent from beyond the arc. Rough stuff.

Overall, Tasmania hold a true shooting percentage of 46.7 as a team, the lowest mark in the league.

Adams is taking on an increased role to what he has previously carried in recent stops across Europe, but the JJ's will need to see those shooting splits have an uptick in coming weeks.

Peter Hooley: Ryan Broekhoff (South East Melbourne)

There are a number of players who have struggled early this season, but this is more of a player needing to be more dominant. Ryan Broekhoff is averaging just 8ppg at 37 percent after he looked unstoppable. during the Blitz.

The Phoenix are loaded with talent and have arguably the MVP favourite and the DPOY as well, but they need their sharpshooter to be that consistent scoring punch in their quest for a title. That was noticeable in the loss to the Kings when everyone was struggling to score. It's a matter of 'when' not 'if' for Rowdy, as we all know once he begins to knock them down, the flood gates will open.

Josh Garlepp: Mitch McCarron (Adelaide)

McCarron is one of the most selfless and effective point guards in the NBL but right now Adelaide need more from the former championship guard with Melbourne United.

He's still had an impact on the defensive end and is finding his teammates with 5.2 assists per game but Adelaide have struggled when McCarron isn't presenting a scoring threat.

The 29-year-old no longer has the space that United's arsenal afforded him, but the Metro State product needs to tally more than seven points per game on 37/38/38 shooting percentage splits in 34 minutes of play per appearance.

This is vote of confidence rather than a critique, as we know what McCarron can produce and he wouldn't be satisfied with his current output.

What has been the pleasant surprise to start NBL22?

Kane Pitman: The return of defence up North.

When the Taipans lost Scott Machado to injury early in their second game of the season it would have been reasonable to wonder how they were going to find ways to win.

The answer has been on the defensive end of the floor, with back-to-back wins against Tasmania and Adelaide where they gave up a paltry average of 64.5 points per game.

With Defensive Player of the Year candidate Tahjere McCall causing havoc on the perimeter and big man Stephen Zimmerman protecting the paint, the Snakes once again have the defensive tools to remain competitive on a nightly basis even if the questions remain on the other end of the floor.

Peter Hooley: Sydney's resolve.

It's been well documented and spoken about, but the Kings got more than embarrassed against United on Thursday.

However, their response was incredible. Not just to bounce back and win, but the way they went about it against the Phoenix, was character building. They looked refreshed and ready to start that game, and came out on fire, to the shock of nearly everyone but the Kings team themselves.

They'll be tough to beat if they continue that energy and get Jaylen Adams back healthy as soon as possible. Xavier Cooks said pregame that the United loss was "just another loss," and well, maybe he was right. And just maybe Cooks is starting to take a step into the MVP conversation.

Josh Garlepp: Adam Forde. It's double the love this week for Cairns!

Coach Adam Forde was commended after nearly guiding Sydney to a finals appearance in NBL21 despite a string of injuries at the Kings. In new surroundings and arguably a more challenging situation, Forde has had a strong start with Cairns this season. A sloppy win over Tasmania was consolidated with a blow-out victory over Adelaide without former runner-up MVP Scott Machado.

We're just three games in but the Taipans looked inspired against the 36ers with import Tajhere McCall playing like his life depends on wins and contributions from an eight-man rotation who were relentless from the jump. The side is yet to play, Sydney, Illawarra, SEM and United but for a team that was almost unanimously predicted to finish last, sitting fourth and 2-1 deserves some kudos.