Player Spotlight: Darren Ng
The 2011-2012 season was probably one of the most frustrating fan favourite Darren Ng has experienced. His 15minutes per game, 6.1pts and 38% FG perecentage we all his poorest returns since the 2005 season. But why?
Ng started the season battling Mitch Creek and Nathan Herbert for minutes at shooting guard. With the move to starting Crosswell and Warren and the decision to give excessive minutes to Stephen Weigh (he played 30+ minutes every game for the first 2 months of the year), there was a logjam for minutes at the 2 and 3 positions. Creek and Herbert can play some minutes at small forward due to their defensive smarts and rebounding ability but Ng really is only suited to shooting guard. Ng only played more than 18 minutes twice in the first 2 months but returned double figures in both games. It wasn't really until the Febuary 12 win over Townsville (19pts in 20min) that his minutes really increased. His finish to the season and his popularity amongst fans should ensure he's back for 2012-2013. How will he fit though?
Depending on which way the 36ers go with imports and other recruits, he's probably ideally suited to an 8th man role, with a license to shoot. If Ng hits an early shot his confidence rises and he's often on for a good night. If he starts 0-4, generally you can pop him back on the bench to watch the rest of the game. Even when he's not scoring though he does draw the attention of the D and he's one of the best in the league at running his man through repeated screens. I'd love to see him also get to the line more. In 2008, his highest scoring year, he took 92 free throws. That number stands out over his career compared to other years. He only shot 73% from the line that year but has hit 80% the last 3. Have a look at these numbers over the last 3 years vs that 2008 season.
2008- 47% shots taken were threes, 3.1 free throws per game, 13.3pts per game
2010- 61% shots taken were threes, took 1.1 free throws a game, 8.6pts per game
2011- 69% shots taken were threes, 1 free throws per game, 8.6pts per game
2012- 72% shots taken were threes, 0.7 free throws per game, 6.1pts per game
It stands out that he's taking more and more threes but his scoring is dropping. As a result he's getting to the line less, partly because you rarely get fouled taking 3's, partly because he's not being aggressive and getting to the basket or at least taking mid-range jumpers. He's also taken less free throws in the last 3 years combined than he did in 2008.
Hopefully next year Ng's role is clearer, his minutes more steady and he can get his offensive game sorted. The team needs him as a reliable weapon off the bench to return to the playoffs next year.