Playing to your strengths

Last night I read this extensive chat between Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe on the Los Angeles Laker's woes and it got me thinking about our own Adelaide 36ers.
If you don't follow the NBA, the Lakers in the off-season built one of the all-time great rosters on paper (sound familiar). The team already had one of the Top 20 of all-time in Kobe Bryant and brilliant forward/centre Pau Gasol. Without sacrificing a lot, they managed to bring in two-time MVP Steve Nash and three-time Defensive Player of The Year Dwight Howard. Essentially they surrounded one of the league's best inside-outside combos with one of the best passers in history and one of the best defensive centres ever. Not bad.

We're not in the same league but Adelaide started with a core of MVP-candidate Daniel Johnson, promising forward Stephen Weigh and young gun Mitch Creek. They added former NBA player Luke Schenscher, Olympian Adam Gibson and one of the league's up-and-coming point guards in Jason Cadee. Many, inclduing Brett Maher, said that this was one of the best rosters Adelaide had assembled.

In L.A things didn't start brilliantly, with Nash and Howard both having injury issues early. The team got off to a 1-4 and the Lakers brass well and truly hit the panic button. They jettisoned coach Mike Brown and brought in former Nuggets,Suns and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.  D'Antoni is an "offense first" coach who achieved good success  with his "Seven Seconds Or Less" gameplan, most successful when run by point guard Steve Nash. With Nash and D'Antoni being reunited and Kobe getting the chance to play for a coach who he admired, it was seen as a countdown to the title. Surprisingly, things haven't gone to plan and now many are calling for D'Antoni's head. You'd think if a team is looking to try a third coach in a season  that perhaps the players are more to blame but most seasoned experts are again laying the blame at the coach's feet.

Adelaide started the season with a solid win over Melbourne but was then brought back to earth after a tough loss to the Breakers in New Zealand. It bounced back with a win over Cairns but then fell apart in the second half the next week against Wollongong. The roller coaster continued (you know, ups and downs)until the wheels started completely falling off, especially when the club made the call to cut loose import CJ Massingale. The club endured an eight game losing streak, breaking the losses with a good win over Sydney at home before again laying down against the Breakers last weekend. It's been a rough year to say the least with more and more people calling for Clarke's head.

Marty Clarke is in his 3rd season and the numbers tell us he has overseen the lowest point in the club's history. This season is still up in the air but it would take a brave person to predict Adelaide won't again finish in the bottom two. Clarke, like D'Antoni, has drawn criticism for his rotations and the stubbornness of trying to make his players fit his game plan instead of utilising the talent at hand. Some guys have been played out of position, some have been asked to play roles against their strengths and some have been totally under utilised.

Here's 5 players I think have been misused during the Clarke era.

Was one of the league's best outside shooters and someone who could go ballistic when he's got his eye in. I wrote in detail about his frustrating playing time in this article here and how his role had changed during Clarke's tenure. Clarke rarely showed a knack for when to bring him in and in with which matchups ( like this one ) he could likely succeed. There's a few good reasons Dr Ng isn't in uniform this year but he would have been a brilliant fit with this lineup. If used properly.

He was dangerous in the preseason but started the regular season looking well out of his depth. After a few games though he started to find his rhythm and looked like a good find. He pretty much won us this game ,yet was cut just a month later. CJ cracked 15 minutes just twice, in the Tigers blowout and that game against Perth. He was no Willie Farley but he could have been handy, especially in light of the bungled recruitment of Scott Christopherson (and his consequent play). This is probably a pertinent time to look at their "per 40" numbers side-by-side

Per 40 Minutes
CJ Massingale17.643.870.862.150.431.724.30
Scott Christopherson5.586.511.400.

CJ's "per 40" scoring number trails only DJ and Petrie for the season. But he's not active, so kind of pointless.

Last year Weigh was seen as an "all-around" player who could do most things but few of them very well. His brightest spot was probably his rebounding. This year he's still rebounding well but has seen a nice improvement in his 3pt shooting. I went early and figured his main role this year would be as a spot up 3pt shooter. At that point he'd taken 13 threes, hitting eight of them. While Weigh's %'s remain excellent, Clarke has not managed to get Weigh more three point attempts and utilise his improved shot. When paired with Schenscher, Weigh should have plenty of open looks. He's only taken more than five triples twice, going 5/7 and 3/7. That's a good return and we should see more plays (or just good screens) for him to gain from this strength.

I was hopeful at the start of the season we'd see some entertaining basketball with JC at the one and especially with Cadee and Creek sharing the backcourt at times. Incredibly, we saw just over 12 minutes of these two sharing the backcourt. Cadee's confidence has dramatically dropped to the point he looks lost out there at times. Is at his best playing freewheeling basketball and attacking the basket. Instead he's spending the majority of his time as the two-guard and being completely under utilised (you've seen his shot stroke right?). I'm a believer in his game but it's been painful at times to watch him and see his talent being wasted to the point it's harmful to the team (his +/- is an astonishing -88)

Has struggled in Clarke's system despite his obvious talent. Is not the sort of player you can pigeonhole and is best when he's just "free to play". The team always looks better with him out there due to his knack of making something from nothing and the ability to turn a game at either ends of the floor. I wrote in this article about what Creek needed and it's fair to say his role remained similar to last year. This is despite Creek's "per 40" numbers continuing to be right around Steve Weigh's and that his shooting continues to improve. Hey, he's even 4th on the team for 3pt % this year at 29%, ahead of Cadee (25%) and DJ and Christopherson (22%). Sadly, he had played 40 minutes over his last two games and was showing more signs until the horrible Achilles injury. Let's hope next year we see him in a 6th man role and given some freedom to play his style.

We also can't overlook the stellar play of ex-Clarke players such as Jacob Holmes (league's best rebounder who we couldn't fit in), Aaron Bruce (been great for Sydney) and  Brad Hill, who have found homes interstate and are playing some of their best basketball.

Clarke is not without his positives but his inability to adapt the game plan to suit his roster has been a large part of his problem. Just like Mike D'Antoni. Both guys seem to be so married to their gameplan and style that they'll likely "die trying" rather than making changes on the fly.

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