Taipans eye NBL title, import retention

Murray Wenzel
Scott Machado (R) is one of three star imports Cairns are hoping to re-sign for next season

Cairns are determined to break the cycle and retain their exciting trio of imports as the NBL underdogs entertain the prospect of a maiden title.

The Taipans (10-9) are fourth on percentage but equal on wins with third-placed Melbourne United ahead of hosting Brisbane Bullets (8-10) on Friday night.

Wooden spoon favourites before round one, second-year coach Mike Kelly has transformed the side into one of the most watchable and versatile NBL outfits.

They have won their last three and boast away wins against title fancies Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Point guard Scott Machado leads the league in assists, while Cameron Oliver's athleticism and DJ Newbill's offensive output has complemented a side that features eight new faces this season.

Brazilian international and former NBA talent Machado (29) continues the club's impressive track record of point guard recruitment, with the likes of Scottie Wilbekin, Jamar Wilson, Melo Trimble and Travis Trice all impressing after arriving in the NBL via Cairns.

Import Trice (Bullets) and Trimble (United) were both pinched by Cairns' NBL rivals, while Torrey Craig, who is now in the NBA with Denver, Cameron Gliddon and Mitch McCarron were also lured away in recent years.

The Taipans rely on a luxury tax subsidy - created when other teams exceed the soft cap - to spend to the required level each season.

Chief executive Mark Beecroft, at the helm since 2009, is bracing for the bigger clubs to come knocking again for their import trio who are all off contract next season.

But he says the club's already in talks to retain them and hopes other off-court improvements regarding player welfare - and a winning culture - can sway them.

"There is criticism because we find talent and other teams can afford to pay them more," he told AAP.

"We don't like it, but that's the reality and we need to stop the cycle by improving our business to prevent it happening.

"We have to do things differently, as we always have."

He said Kelly's exciting brand of basketball was beginning to reveal itself on court thanks to careful recruitment and that a third grand final series appearance was always the internal expectation.

"There aren't too many years we aren't predicted to finish last and since I've been here it's only happened once (last year)," the former coach-turned-administrator said.

"Our thoughts at the start of every year are that we're good enough to win it ... we don't enter to make up the numbers."