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Saints, Sharks loom large in NBL

Replicating perfection is the furthest thing on the minds of the Wellington Saints.

The benchmark of the National Basketball League (NBL) will be gunning for a three-peat and their fourth title in five years when the new season tips off on Thursday.

Wellington would love nothing better than to send departing coach Kevin Braswell off in style before he links with the New Zealand Breakers. Braswell has taken over from Paul Henare as Breakers coach on a three-year deal, but will see out his duties with the Saints.

They became the first Kiwi NBL side in history to go unbeaten last season, winning all 20 games on their path to the silverware. The Saints are on a 24-game winning run, not having lost since May 22, 2016, against the Southland Sharks in Invercargill.

Judd Flavell-coached Southland loom as the biggest threat to ending Wellington's stranglehold on the title. Southland have retained a stable Kiwi core, including Alex Pledger, Reuben Te Rangi, Derone Raukawa, Luke Aston and Australian-born James Hunter, who holds a New Zealand passport. They have nabbed Australian point guard Jarrad Weeks, fresh off signing a two-year deal with the Breakers, and athletic US swingman Orlando Coleman.

"They've added some good pieces down there to what they had last year. They're going to be tough like they are every year," Braswell said.

"I'm sure they're going to be a little bit more up-tempo this year with Jarrad Weeks going down there because he loves to push the ball."

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