NBL1: Rebound's Chris Hughes' mid-season verdict

After what feels like a whirlwind few months, NBL1 is now at the mid-season break.

Essex Rebels top the pile heading into 2024, while Bradford and Derby booked their places in the KitKing Trophy final.

Derby and Essex, along with Reading and Milton Keynes, are also in the semi-finals of the NBL National Cup.

We caught up with regular NBL contributor, Rebound's Chris Hughes, to get his take on all the going on from the opening half of the season.

Best signing so far?

Luke Busumbru and Essex Rebels are putting the league on notice.

Busumbru is no stranger to NBL1 and his two-way transition play has been a key component to this young Rebels side amassing a 9-1 record in a competitive league where overtime has been needed a fair few times already.

As part of a team where no player averages over 24 minutes, the former Solent Kestrels and Surrey Scorchers man is Essex Rebelsโ€™ most efficient player and is top-three in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

Biggest surprise so far?

From a team perspective, this is a hard question with only three wins separating the top-seven!

Initially I would have leaned towards City of Birmingham Rockets. The newly promoted side started off strong and looked a genuine top-four candidate with a 4-0 start to life in D1. However, their current 0-5 run has raised questions on those credentials.

In terms of players, Johde Campbell is my candidate for most improved.

Campbell is currently the second most efficient player in the league and his impact week-in, week-out is helping Nottingham climb the D1 table. His influence shouldn't be underestimated.

One to watch in 2024?

Bradford's Zion Tordoff is on my radar.

The former GB Under-20 star is doing it all for the Dragons after five years Stateside (two in JUCO, three in NCAA D1) and is a well-rounded, walking double-double that can shoot well either side of the three-point line.

For a team to watch, I have to pick Newcastle.

The University side is quietly getting the job done and are currently on a 5-0 run. We should find out reasonably soon how much of a threat they are to the top-four with a trio of games coming up in January against current top-five teams (Nottingham, Essex and Hemel).

Your two teams to make the Playoff Final?

A tough one! I'm going to go with Derby Trailblazers and Essex Rebels, the latter if they avoid Hemel in the run to the final.