Starting 5: Are the Phoenix rising faster than we anticipated?

The Best of NBL LaMelo Vol. 1 (0:49)

The best plays from LaMelo Ball's first games in the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks. (0:49)

Round 3 tips off this Friday night when the Sydney Kings host the NZ Breakers, so without further ado, let's see what we can look forward to this weekend.

1 - Phoenix's first impression is ... mighty impressive!

They say you can only ever make one first impression, so you best make it a good one.

The South East Melbourne Phoenix have done just that - and then some.

If their debut win over cross-town (and for the moment, same-arena) rival Melbourne United wasn't impressive enough, and rest assured it was, then their 20-point curb-stomping of Brisbane surely raised some eyebrows around the rest of the league.

With a crisp offence predicated on lots of ball movement and some positively lethal sniping from international waters, the Phoenix have looked nothing like an expansion team in the early going.

In Mitch Creek they have a frontline superstar who in all honesty might actually be too good for the NBL. Greater things await, surely.

They have a savvy playmaker in John Roberson, whose dead-eye elan (9-11!! from deep) from the perimeter left scorch marks on the Bullets; it is most definitely not his first rodeo.

They have contributors at all positions, from Ben Magden in the backcourt to Keith Benson up front.

And they're doing it without Tai Wesley, who went down five minutes into the opening game. His temporary replacement, Jaye Crockett, could make his debut this weekend, further shoring up the Phoenix's depth.

Combined with a fundamentally sound defensive structure whereby the team rebounds by committee, and the Phoenix have all the hallmarks of a team determined to make some real noise this season.

Their next test is a prime-time matchup against the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday night at Melbourne Arena and it's a safe bet the new kids on the block will be keen to keep punching teams in the mouth with their long-range fireworks and gritty defensive intensity.

After all, first impressions last.

2 - A right royal reign?

Let's make this very clear - the Sydney Kings look VERY ominous.

Yes, it's early. And yes, other teams are still finding their rhythm. But the team formerly known as the Violet Crumbles have shown plenty of Firepower (oops, sorry Kings fans) to suggest they're going to be a problem all season.

They have weapons at every position, with Jae'Sean Tate taking his turn to shine against Adelaide last weekend. Add in some veteran savvy from Brad Newley and some solid bench output from Daniel Kickert and the Kings look like legitimate title contenders already.

3 - The damned United

It's the toughest of tough starts for the 2018 champs. Already 0-2, United faces a gruelling test of their intestinal fortitude, having to first endure a long-haul trip home following their NBAxNBL hijinks, with barely time to recover before hosting reigning title-holders Perth.

United gave the LA Clippers a proper scare for a half before the NBA squad turned on the jets in the third quarter to run out comfortable winners.

While an 0-3 record won't have coach Dean Vickerman hitting any panic buttons, United really won't to further exacerbate the slow start to the season.

4 - Questions

We're about to head into Round 3 and already some pointed questions are being asked about the Cairns Taipans.

For the North Queensland franchise, the query is actually a simple one in theory but a thorny one in practice. How can they stop making the same mistakes they made over and over again last season?

Patches of highly competitive play continue to be undone by brutal stretches of offensive and defensive ineptitude that allow opposition teams to either build comfortable cushions or mount a comeback from what had earlier looked like an insurmountable deficit.

It's a pattern that has already reared its ugly head on more than one occasion and coach Mike Kelly must be heartily sick of seeing it happen.

A trip to the always-raucous RAC Arena won't help either.

5 - Better late than never

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long strange trip it's been for the New Zealand Breakers.

Thanks to an extended stay in the US, taking on the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Breakers don't make their NBL20 debut until Sunday night, taking on the Kings at Qudos Bank Arena.

Of most interest will be US high school phenom RJ Hampton, who showed some flashes in the NBAxNBL games of his immense talents.

Hampton didn't shoot well in either game but looked obviously more at ease in the second contest against Oklahoma City, showing off some nice passes and attacking the rim to draw fouls.