3/31/13

Season review with Daniel Rouse: Pt 1

One of the enjoyable parts of running this blog has been interacting with followers through the both the comments section of the blog and social media. One of our readers, Daniel Rouse (you can follow him at @Daniel_Rouse ), has shared lots of good thoughts and wisecracks via our Twitter feed ( @36reasonsblog ). I thought it would be good to do a season review with Daniel via a series of emails. It took us four days and several thousand words. Here's what we came up with.



PF: Let's start with Adam Gibson. He was a massive signing in the off-season........ but may be gone after just one season. What did you think of his year and will it be a good thing or a bad thing if he signs elsewhere?


DR: After the first game of the season it was already apparent that Gibbo was the heart and soul of the 2012/13 36ers. He brought a fire, passion and toughness that had been missing from the Sixers in recent years.

He proved that he is still one of the elite defenders in this league, routinely locking down the best perimeter players on the opposition. Unfortunately, it was often the other 4 players the team struggled to stop on a weekly basis.

He shot his lowest FG% of his career this season (40.9%) and led the team in assists while being our starting 2 guard. This was where the problems arose. Both he and Cadee did their best work with the ball in their hands. JC was too often willing to defer to the more experienced Gibbo and that seriously detracted from the development of Cadee's game.

Gibbo is the big domino to fall this off-season for the Sixers. If he opts in, we are likely to see a very similar group suit up next year as we will have limited salary cap room to manoeuvre. If he opts out, we have room to make a change ie to find a dynamic, game-changing import. Someone who's main ability is to put the ball in the bucket and who can shoot from 3. Ideally a 2/3 type player.

Gibbo has been my favourite Sixer to watch of the last couple of years. He was the one guy I knew was going to give everything he had on any given night and he was willing to tell a teammate when they weren't pulling their weight. I will hate watching him play anywhere else, but the best chance for the Sixers to move forward is if he opts out and we can find an exciting, dynamic import to replace him.

Which way do you see his decision falling?

PF: I think he'll walk....unless the new coach is Joey Wright. He's clearly tight with Cadee, Petrie and Weigh in particular but the rumour about Melbourne makes sense. Has played in that city before, it's bigger city and market, provides better security and he's got Chris Goulding there (and maybe Worthington too?). Melbourne could trot out a lineup of Gibson, Goulding, Walker, Worthington and an import centre and be frightening. My darkhorse team is Cairns, who will have plenty of flexibility and will be after a player just like him.

The strange thing is that what Adelaide really needs is a 2 guard who can score and play solid D. Gibson should fit that bill. While his D was generally very good, he averaged just 11.6 points on 41% shooting. Had some key runs and big quarters but rarely kept the scoreboard ticking all game (only had four 20pt games). I think Cadee would thrive if the team played a more high-paced offense and he was flanked by a few athletes at the 2 and 3 (import and Creek).

If he stays (and even more compounded if Weigh stays) the team will basically have the same key 8 rotation guys. Even if we get a gun coach in, I just don't see that balance working. For wins and for ticket sales, the club needs two imports next year. That said, it's in the club's best interest if Gibson walks and they don't extend Weigh. Those guys could very well thrive elsewhere but for several reasons change is needed.

Let's move onto Weigh, who I think improved a lot this season. Would you like to see him get another contract or should we let him go?

DR: I notice you brought up the coaching situation, I think we might leave that one for now (that wound is still a little raw.....)

The Weigh era in Adelaide has been an interesting one. I think this year Steve finally began to get comfortable in his own skin. He understands his own game and his own limitations far better now than at any other point in his career and he plays within those limitations far better. This was without a doubt his best season as a member of the Sixers.

10.6 Points, 5.9 Boards, 1.5 Assists, 43.3% from the Field and 38.8% from 3 is probably about where Steven's skill-set sits.

He is at his best defensively playing as a small 4-Man - a little too slow laterally to guard a true 3-Man and with the propensity in the NBL nowadays of 3 Guard line-ups, gets exposed for quickness a little too often. Offensively, well we wouldn't know where he fits best. We were never able to see anything run that accentuated his strengths. Too often we couldn't run a simple play to get Weigh open for a catch and shoot 3.

I see him working best as a 'Stretch 4' type player. Which, with DJ, Schensch and Peach under contract for next year - means in all likelihood it is time for Steve and the Sixers to move on.

We have our wing of the future, his name is Mitch Creek. Any contract for Weigh is only taking valuable minutes off of the guy who should be the future of this ball club.

You had a great season Stevie, you've grown a lot as a player but I think it would be best for both of us if we went our separate ways. 

Also, what better way to signify the end of the Marty era than saying goodbye to the guy who he would blindly play every second of a game if he could?

PF: Good summary. In the league as it sits today he can get away with decent minutes at the "4" because he's a good rebounder. This year, he limited the forced shots and mostly stuck to taking good 18-24 foot shots. I like his game but for the team's flexibility and the need to get minutes into Creek, it's time we said goodbye.
Speaking of players who Clarke was smitten with, let's move onto DJ.
He's locked in for 2013-2014 and will look to take a step up after not showing much progress this year. How much of that relates to being moved to power forward for a lot of minutes is up for debate. He was almost forced to take more threes and outside jumpers and didn't hit at the same rate as last year. His blocks and assists were down but his rebounding and steals were slightly up. Jump in turnovers too (that's a bad thing). Overall, not what we were expecting after last year's breakout, although the Schenscher signing was always going to hamper his progress.
As much as DJ brings to the table, I just don't think you'll win a title if he's your best player. Lacks the leadership and sheer determination to take a team to a title. Absolutely needs a Cedric Jackson-type to take over down the stretch, to create some easy baskets for him and to pat him on the head when he does something good (and slap him upside the head when he raises his hands after not getting a foul called).
Sixers brass needs to surround him with the right players and understand as talented as he is, he's not a franchise player.
Am I crazy?

DR: Ahhh, DJ. This was always going to be the toughest part of this exercise for me.

You are not crazy. DJ is not a franchise player. You cannot build a franchise around a guy who has attitude problems and goes through patches where he is either disinterested or just doesn't want to play on the defensive end. 

He had a great 2011/12 year. This season he took a step back. He, for the most part, was a liability on defence (I mean seriously, at the half way point of the season Jason Cadee had more blocked shots than DJ for the season). He fell in love with his 3 point shot and despite shooting below 24% for the season, refused to see the need to follow his shot to the rim at any point all season - even when he was the only big on the floor!. 

We are now 4 years into the DJ era in Adelaide. In those 4 years, DJ is yet to set a screen that makes contact with an opposition player. He needs to spend some time with Mark Davis in the off-season. He needs to understand that the purpose of setting a screen is not only to get himself open and that contorting your body away from all forms of contact does not help anyone.

Okay, enough of airing my gripes about DJ (wait, one more - the constant sulking whenever he doesn't get a foul call and when he is on the bench. He is a horrible teammate when it comes to enjoying someone else's success. Basically the anti-Mitch Creek in this aspect)

DJ is still the best scorer on the Adelaide roster. He is basically the best low post scorer in the league and his mid-range jumper is almost automatic. When he decides to be, he can also be a pretty damn good force on the boards. He has been coddled a lot under Marty and a new coach who is willing to challenge him and hold him accountable should do wonders for DJ. He is a very valuable member of the team. He just can't be the centrepiece.

And he should NEVER be able to inbound the ball. EVER.

I know you would agree with me on that point.

PF: Yeh, we had a few tweets about "that game" , a performance that showed just how much Johnson still has to work on to be an elite player in the league. Has all the tools, it's just a lot of the "head" stuff that needs work.

Let's move now to his frontcourt partner, "Big Luke". Schenscher has had some success in the league but he needs the right system and team mates to guarantee success. Plus he needs his body to not collapse on him. I was very cautious about his signing, mainly due to age, injury concerns and the fact I thought he'd slow DJ's progress. I also thought a Weigh/Johnson/Schenscher frontcourt would have opposing teams lining up to attack the rim.

Schensch started the season terribly but gradually started to have the odd game where he got it together on both ends (15 and 10 v Cairns, 18 and 10 v Sydney, 18 and 12 v Townsville and 25 and 16 v New Zealand). Sandwiched in between a few of those performances though was the odd 4 and 3 and 3 and 4 game, not acceptable from someone of his stature. Certain teams with professional coaches worked out how easy it was to get him to foul defending the pick and roll and in some games he became unplayable.

He's signed up so we've got to use him, although I think despite his resume he has to move to the bench next year. DJ needs to go back to the 5 and be flanked by two strong defenders at the 3 and 4. I'd love to one day see DJ play with a beast by his side (think a Mark Davis type) but I doubt the 36ers will go for an import 4 this year.

What would you do with Schensch? Keep him at the 5 and utilise him more in an offense that goes through him? Move him to the bench? Move DJ to the bench as an offensive spark?

DR: I was a little bit more excited for the return of Big Red than you. A big guy who rebounds, changes shots at the rim and is a good passer from the post? How could it go wrong?

Well, I forgot about the Marty factor. You can't have a team with two big guys and not surround them with 3 point shooters. You can't have two guys who do their best work in the post and not run an offence designed to go inside-out. 

What was our offensive identity this season? What was the plan? Big Luke suffered from a lack of structure and inability to maximise his gifts (he was not alone in this aspect). The difference between Luke as a Sixer version 1 and Luke as a Sixer version 2 (apart from the age difference) were alarming:

2009 (48 min games): 16.9 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 54.9% FG% and 74.6% FT%
2013 (40 min Games): 9.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 45.3% FG% and 61.3% FT%

The drop in FT% cannot be explained by role or system. The others though? Luke showed that when you feed him the ball he can be a force. He torched Nevill and Pledger head to head and our defence was significantly better with him defending the rim rather than DJ. Just check DJ and Luke's on/off court splits, that is where Luke's impact is big for this ball club.

Bringing Schensch off the bench won't work. He has to start. He isn't an impact player. His game isn't built on bringing energy. I think he and DJ can play together. Whether they start together or not, they still have to be able to share the floor. I have said this a couple of times this season and I think DJ as 6th Man could work. Tell him just to come into the game and score. That's all he wants to do anyway. Use the role of Deleon for the 'Gong this season as the example. It didn't hurt his game any.

Obviously, Luke struggles to keep up with the smaller, quicker bigs in the league, but a coach who has a plan and a system to maximise Luke's skill-set would make a big difference. Hopefully everything is okay after that big fall and he will be fully healthy next season. I think he will be looking to bounce back and show some people a thing or two.

Maybe we just need another redhead on the roster to bring out his best, like when we had him and Ballinger doing their Twin Ranga routine?

PF: I agree that DJ is more suited of the two to an "energy" role off the bench, but I do think Luke would be brilliant as someone the second unit could run the offense through with a few shooters on the wings waiting to knock down threes. Nice luxury.
Let's now look at the last of the starters, Jason Cadee.

I was probably more excited about his signing than any of the others. Here was a kid who had the world at his feet a few years back before a nasty car accident that nearly took his life. A pure point guard if ever there was one.  I'm sure he was expecting to have a big year with the chance to start and play some significant minutes.
All things considered, he had a disappointing year. He wasn't helped by the coach deciding to play him generally more as a two guard and not properly utilising him but he just had too many poor games with no influence. Struggled with his shot, especially at home, and outside the odd good shooting game he was unable to have an impact on the game with his passing or defense.
I've been a long-time advocate of US point guards as there is an abundance of them, they can be reasonably interchangeable if you lose one  and they can provide leadership, confidence and several other attributes in short supply locally. If the 36ers decide they need an upgrade, Cadee will be moved the bench, a move that will severely hamper his progress and something he wouldn't be thrilled with. Having said that, when you average 7.5pts, 2.5 ast and shoot at 39%, you can hardly expect to have a starters spot locked down.
Should the club go for an import point guard? Should they back him in and utilise him better in a more free-flowing system, better utilising himself, Creek and DJ? Other ideas?

DR: I was far less impressed by the Cadee signing. It didn't make any sense to me at the time and after seeing the make up of the team for a season still doesn't make any sense.

I agree that he would be much better in an uptempo system, but a lot of the circumstance that had him playing off the ball were his own doing. He was too willing to defer ball handling duties to Gibbo and Crossy. If he doesn't have the ball in his hands, he is not helpful on offence. Have you seen that corkscrew he calls a jumpshot? 

Let's take a look at JC's career numbers: 41.0% from the field, 29.6% from 3 and 41.0% from the line. His season numbers were barely a touch above these and every time he shot the ball i was surprised when it went in. That is not a good sign.

You are not winning anything in this league with JC as your starting PG. He can't shoot, doesn't play great D (on or off the ball) and quite often is far too willing to just go through the motions. 

I was on the 'Progress Tom Daly' rather than 'Let's sign another PG' brigade. After this season, I'd still rather have Daly. He competes every possession. He's a better shooter and the guy routinely defended the better offensive guards when on the guard. 

I still think we need an import wing. A guy who can play the 2 and the 3, but if that isn't available? We need to look at import PG. A PG who can get to the rim whenever they want to, who can hit a 3 and who can control the game. We had 4 PGs on the roster this season and I'm not even sure Cadee was the 3rd best of the lot. I say, Free Tom Daly.

Read Part 2 here

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