He’s not Prince Harry or Prince William, but New Zealand Breakers import David Stockton is very much basketball royalty.
He’s the son of NBA Hall of Famer and 1504-game Utah Jazz legend John Stockton, who leads the NBA all-time in career assists and steals, ranks third in all-time NBA games behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish, and is a 10-time All-Star.
And while the ‘son of’ tag is probably something David Stockton can probably do without, it’s an unavoidable topic of conversation ahead of the Brisbane Bullets’ clash with the Breakers in Auckland on Thursday night.
Stockton, replacement for the injured Ben Woodside, will be the new piece in the home team puzzle confronting the Bullets as they look to bounce back from a five-point home loss to the Cairns Taipans last Saturday.
The 180cm 25-year-old will be the third Breakers player to assume primary playmaking duties in three games against the Bullets this season.
Ironically, Stockton, who played three NBA games for the Sacramento Kings in the 2014-15 NBA season after a stellar college career at Gonzaga University, was originally targeted by the Breakers for the 2016-17 NBL season but they settled on Woodside when Stockton accepted a three-year offer to play in Croatia.
Only after Woodside suffered a serious foot injury did they revisit Stockton, and were delighted when he sought and was granted a contract release by Croatia’s Cedevita Zagreb.
After playing his first three games for the Breakers off the bench he has started the last two, quickly stamping himself as a player of enormous quality.
— NBL (@NBL) December 4, 2016
So much so, in fact, that he averages 5.6 assists per game to rank No.1 in the NBL ahead, ironically, of Woodside.
Stockton has also averaged 13.2 points per game. He had a team high 17 points and five assists on debut against the Illawarra Hawks in Round 7, and a sizzling 24 points and 10 assists against the Hawks in Round 9 last weekend.
His 10 assists is the most in a game in the NBL this year.
It’s not the first time Stockton has quickly settled into a new job – the day after he was cut from the NBA by Sacramento he went back to the Reno BigHorns in the NBA Development League and tied the League record of 22 assists in a game.
Stockton and the 6-8 Breakers will be as desperate as it gets for a win on Thursday night after four consecutive losses to Illawarra (away), Cairns (away), Illawarra (home) and Melbourne (away).
It is a measure of the extraordinary evenness of the competition that New Zealand and Perth, who played in the 2015-16 NBL grand final, fill the bottom two spots on the 2016-17 ladder after nine rounds.
But Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis, who is set to return for the second time in Bullets colours to the court where he had such phenomenal success with the Breakers, will not for one second under-estimate his former club.
He’ll take particular notice of the fact that the Breakers boast three players in the top 10 in the League for three-point baskets. And that’s without counting the dangerous Stockton.
Kirk Penney has made a League-high 49 triples, while Tom Abercrombie (29) and Webster (22) rank 5th and 9th.
Also, among players who have taken more than 20 shots, centre Alex Pledger leads the League in field goal shooting at 63.7%. Akil Mitchell is fourth at 57.9%.
Penney is the Breakers’ leading scorer, averaging 15.9ppg, while Stockton (13.2ppg), Abercrombie (12.3ppg), Webster (12.1ppg) and Mitchell (11.3) also average double figures in scoring.
Pledger (9.4ppg) is another genuine scoring threat in a team which, in 14 games, has had six different players head the individual scoring column – Abercrombie (4 times), Penney (3), Pledger (2), Webster (2), Stockton (2) and Mitchell (1).
It could easily be seven – back-up forward/centre Richard Loe had 21 points, second only to Stockton’s 24, in 14min45sec against Illawarra last Friday night.
Mitchell, such an influential figure off the bench, is their leading rebounder at 6.9 rebounds per game and ranks sixth in the League.
Pledger (6.7rpg) and veteran captain Mika Vukona (5.9rpg) also have been consistent in their work on the boards, while Pledger ranks fourth in the League in blocks at 1.0 per game.
The Breakers are certain to go into the game Thursday night with a strong focus on looking after the ball after they lost the turnover count 16-6 to Melbourne last time out.
Also, they’ll have a strong defensive focus, having conceded an excessive 98.25 points per game in their last four outings.
This has been a big turnaround after they gave up just 83.8ppg in the first 10 games of the season, sitting third on the ladder with a 6-4 record.
The Bullets, too, will have had plenty to think about following a mixed Round 9, in which the home loss to the Taipans took the gloss off an excellent 90-75 win over Perth in Perth two days earlier which temporarily put them on top of the NBL ladder.
It was a weekend in which Torrey Craig had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the third time this season when he had 24 points and 10 rebounds against Cairns.
— NBL (@NBL) November 20, 2016
Only four other players have achieved this double – Pledger, Perth’s Matthew Knight and Casey Prather and Adelaide’s Daniel Johnson – and nobody else has done it more than once.
Craig also had a career-high five three-pointers, a career-high four steals and an equal career-high four assists against the Taipans, off-set only by a career-high six turnovers.
He is now third in the League in steals to go with first in rebounds, seventh in scoring and eighth in blocks. He is ranked second in offensive rebounds and second in defensive rebounds.
Cam Bairstow had an NBL-best 17 points in both games against Perth and Cairns, and made a personal best 5-5 free-throws against Cairns. He also fouled out for the first time in his NBL career, doing so twice last weekend.
Adam Gibson had eight assists against Cairns, a Bullets high for the season, and is now ranked eighth in the League for assists at 3.69 per game.
Also, Mitch Young played his 100th NBL game against Cairns on Saturday. He’s the fourth Bullets player to post his League century this season behind Jermaine Beal, Shaun Bruce and Tom Jervis.