The Breakers host Cairns Taipans on Friday looking to get their season heading back in the right direction after so far failing to win consecutive games. They’re only 2-3, which is almost funny to realise because it feels like they’ve been so inconsistent and yet they’re one game away from an even record. If this team can click under Kevin Braswell and get around to fulfilling the vision he’s set out for them then they’ll be excellent, don’t even worry about that. Just a matter of actually doing that, you know?
So far there have been glimpses of the end product. Against Adelaide they got a quick-paced game which allowed them to play in transition and be absolutely brutal. When they don’t get that they haven’t quite figured out how to manufacture it. A few too many issues on offence holding them back, while of course a team with a lot of changeover is still adapting to defensive structures and patterns. But there have been those glimpses.
What’s annoying is that the swings have been so drastic. A team that scored at an incredible 133.2 points per hundred possessions in that game against Adelaide could also only muster seven total points in the fourth quarter of their next game, away in Perth, despite beginning the frame down only one point. They started their season scoring a mere 73 points at home against Brisbane then went and beat the defending champs Melbourne away from home. Their second home game they only scored 78 and they lost by 23. The third home game was the Adelaide explosion with 114 points. It’s all over the bloody place and it’s been a bit of an emotionally draining experience trying to follow them so far.
Let’s try and get a little perspective then, shall we?
Tai Wesley has been immense. He’s top scored in three of five games, causing proper old havoc with his unstoppable post moves. Like, this dude is getting his shot up one way or another. He’s averaging a shade under 20 points while shooting a shade under 50%. Very impressive. Old mate plays some good defence too. He’s been the Breakers’ best through five games and it’s not especially close.
The four-time reigning worst free throw shooting team in the NBL are still putting up pretty average numbers in that regard… but after a rubbish 8/16 from the line in the season opener they have actually been a lot better since. Take that one out and they’re an almost commendable 47 of 61 for 77.0%. That’s still not especially good, it’d be nice to edge up over 80%... but it’s well within the realms of normality for once. Bear in mind that this club hasn’t even hit ‘em at 70% since 2013-14. By the way, the Breakers were 100% from the charity stripe in Perth but they only got there three times. A game between Perth and New Zealand, the two fiercest and most competitive rivals in the competition… and the away team were only awarded three free throws in 40 minutes!? Something fishy there.
What Finn Delany did to Adelaide the other week for a career high 27 points, unleashing a barrage of dunks and layups as he drove to the hoop with regularity, could be a game changer for this team. Having that kind of indomitable energy coming off the bench is something that can alter the course of any contest and for a club that no longer has Mika Vukona and with Shea Ili now starting it’s also something that’s been a bit lacking from that second unit. Delany’s apparently been working on his shot with Kirk Penney and kiwi shooting pedigree don’t come any bigger than that. He needs to be able to knockdown from range if he’s going do this consistently but it’s inflicting damage on the rim where he’ll make his meals. We’ve seen it once now so we know it’s possible.
Would not have guessed before the season that the Breakers would be so trash from distance, that’s for sure. Armani Moore and Patrick Richard both come with the ability to sink threes, Corey Webster is a legend from range, Tom Abercrombie is still hanging around, Jarrad Weeds, Tai Wesley and Jordan Ngatai too… nope, not the way it’s panned out to this point.
The Breakers have made 29.5% of their three-pointers, 38 out of 129 attempts. And the numbers get a whole lot worse when you take out Corey Webster’s 13/34 (38.2%). Webster’s numbers are great, nothing wrong there. He’s capable of getting up over 40% but you can’t exactly expect that of any joker. It’s the rest of them that oughta worry you. Tom Abercrombie is at 26.7% from 14 attempts. Tai Wesley is at 29.3% from 17 attempts (why is TW shooting more threes than TA? Probably because his quality in the paint means he’s getting the ball in his hands way more). Worst of all is Shea Ili who has 1/12. Put that into context, Melbourne lead the league with 38.8% from deep as a team (surely that’s unsustainable…) and the Breakers are dead last by a distance behind Cairns’ 31.3%... so don’t expect too many bombs on Friday night.
Shea Ili and Tom Abercrombie remain concerns. These are their total shooting stats after five games…
Shea Ili – 7/27 FG (25.9%) | 1/12 3PT (8.3%) | 4/8 FT (50%)
Tom Abercrombie – 17/40 FG (42.5%) | 4/15 3PT (26.7%) | 8/11 FT (72.7%)
Tommy’s making some free throws this year which is nice while Shea is not but way more troubling than him missing four FTs is that he’s not even averaging two attempts a game. This is the starting point guard and a bloke who is currently shooting less than 10% from range and he’s not getting to the line either. He’ll never be a killer three-point shooter and that’s okay, his strength is driving to the hoop with that speed off the mark and his ability to finish. And he’s not even doing that. If he’s not getting fouled it means he’s not being aggressive enough. If he’s not being aggressive enough his whole game collapses. He does lead the team in assists, as he should, but it’s not been good.
As for Abercrombie, what we want to see from him is open threes. Set up on the edge in space as defenders get drawn inside towards the likes of Tai Wesley and then get the cheeky catch and shoot action going. Or if they charge out on him then put it on the deck and drive along the baseline as he does so well. There have been glimpses of the latter but he has to be able to do the former too. This guy won a finals MVP once. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in points. Weird that he rarely seems to be challenging for top scorer in games. Seems like it’s not a complete coincidence that the two games he’s scored in double figures are the Breakers’ two wins - last season the Breakers were 8-3 when TA scored 12 or more and 7-12 when he scored under 12. This season it’s 2-0 and 0-3.
Is Kevin Braswell getting the best out of his rotations? It’s not so much the starting lineup, which has to be what it is given the roster that was put together, maybe Tom Abercrombie could drop to the bench but they do need his bouncy rebounding so dunno. But Corey Webster only playing 26 minutes per game, he could easily get more, particularly some time at point guard with Patrick Richard also out there. Because Richard getting 20 mins per game and Armani Moore (who’s currently injured) lingering at 15 mins per game, barely more than Jarrad Weeks, doesn’t feel right.
What’s going on when the Breakers, supposed to be this rapid, modern offence, are sitting dead last in assists per game? Part of that will get better when/if shots go down, still that’s not a great indication of where we’re at. Kinda odd that Tai Wesley is second on the team in assists too.
Jordan Ngatai has played less than ten minutes combined, not even appearing at all in two of the games, and is yet to attempt a shot. What’s up with that?
Is it a deeper trend or a bit of a fluke that the Breakers are copping 42.9% three-point shooting against them? Clint Steindl popped five outta five last week. Three different Sydney players made three triples each when they came to town. Cam Gliddon hit five of them in the opener. Gotta guard the perimeter better.
MVP Points vs Sydney (L 78-101)
3 – Tai Wesley
2 – Shawn Long
1 – Shea Ili
MVP Points vs Adelaide (W 114-94)
3 – Finn Delany
2 – Armani Moore
1 – Shawn Long
MPV Points at Perth (L 93-78)
3 – Tai Wesley
2 – Shawn Long
1 – Corey Webster
Overall MVP Standings (5 Games)
Tai Wesley (10)
Shawn Long (7)
Corey Webster (4)
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