The Slingers dropped their 6th consecutive game today, falling to the San Miguel Beermen 61-68 in the teams’ third meeting for the season. With a record of 4 wins and 9 losses, the Slingers have now the most number of losses and are seated at the bottom of the ABL table.
However, unlike the previous games where the Slingers suffered blowout losses ranging from 20 to 30 points, the Slingers managed to break their destructive pattern with a huge rally in the fourth quarter, albeit unsuccessful at the very end.
Despite the fact that we lost again, I must say that this game was indeed heartening; finally giving hardcore Slingers fans something to cheer for, after a dismal one month without home games and 6 straight losses.
But at the same time, having watched the game (as usual) from the stands, and scrutinising the game with my not-so-limited basketball knowledge, I can’t help but offer a few humble suggestions for the team, believing with all my heart that this team can make the playoffs should the things I point out be rectified.
So here goes: starting with the negatives in this one (so we can end on a positive note in the next article)
What this team needs to stop doing:
1) Getting their bigs to set high screens
If you observe the Slingers on offence, you would notice a recurrent pattern of either Rashad Jones-Jennings or Donald Rashaad Singleton repeatedly flashing up high to set a screen for our guards. This happens, at times, more than once in a single possession where the 6’7 Jones-Jennings and 7’0 Rashaad Singleton would set high screens for either Philip Morrison, Wong Wei Long, Desmond Oh or JunJun Cabatu. This play makes me wonder because, so far, not only has it not help the Slingers create any offensive threat whatsoever, but it also leads one to question: “What for?”
So after the screen, Desmond Oh, Wong Wei Long or Philip Morrison gets an opening to drive into the paint, only to find themselves blocked by Justin Williams or one of the other Beermen bigs? Or they get a tough floater or mid-range shot in the lane or the wing, which misses, only to find no Slinger bigs in the paint to challenge for an offensive rebound? Or Wong Wei Long or Philip Morrison ends up jacking up a contested jumpshot? That is, without executing all but one successful pick-and-roll or screen-and-roll for the entire game.
I’m sorry, but that is just an ineffective offensive strategy. With a big man of Rashaad Singleton’s calibre, shouldn’t the ball be played more on the inside rather than the perimeter? And with a rebounder like Rashad Jones-Jennings, shouldn’t the Slingers put the best rebounder in the league in position for an offensive board rather than get him outside on the perimeter?
2) Using Rashaad Singleton like Kyle Jeffers
It’s almost like the Slingers have forgotten that Kyle Jeffers is no longer playing with the team. Rashaad Singleton is, and they are completely different players. The problem is, the Slingers are trying to replace Jeffers’ positions with Singleton which doesn’t get the job done.
Well, I’m really impressed that as Singleton can really shoot the ball. He has the range, but are these the best type of shots the Slingers should get him to take? Instead of capitalising on Singleton’s big body and getting him deep in the paint, the Slingers are pulling him out like they did for Jeffers, who balances both an inside and outside offence. And instead of getting the shot-blocking Singleton to hog the paint on the defence, the Slingers are trying to use him like Jeffers to edge a screen on the outside (of which, Singleton doesn’t have the speed to and shouldn’t have to).
Singleton is not Jeffers. Shouldn’t need to play like him, or cover entirely Jeffers’ positions. He has his own game and his own strengths, which the Slingers should try to exploit instead of offset.
3) Using Wong Wei Long like Jai Reyes
The Singapore Assassin is fading away? Is he?
Wong was 0 for 8 for the game and 3 for 13 in the last. Gone are his double-digit games and sharp-shooting.
The question: why?
Yes we all know how tough being a full-time NTU student is. It’s hell when deadlines arrive! Yes, it’s March, people. Perhaps the toll of juggling studies and playing for the Slingers have been getting into the Long-ranger that he hasn’t been on the scene of late.
But what if, that’s not exactly his problem?
The entire region knows Wong Wei Long’s ability to hit the three-ball. But not many actually knows how he hits it.
Wong Wei Long is like a Jodie Meeks kind of player. He needs a catch-and-shoot, not a pull-up trey or two, for the matter. But in last three games where we saw Wei Long in action, he has been, in my opinion, “trying too hard to impress” – taking treys in his defenders’ faces, taking treys off the dribble, driving into the lane for lay-ups, shooting mid-range jumpers, tossing up floaters and tear-drops etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I see a much more aggressive and tenacious Wong Wei Long out there on court, but perhaps in trying too hard, the reverse outcome kicked in.
Wei Long is one of the brightest sparks in the Slingers’ season – much improved but still a long way to go. The way I see it, to elevate his game up a notch, Wei Long really needs to know how to take the right shots, that is, the kind of shots that he would make at a high percentage in the ABL.
Having seen every single minute Wei Long plays on the court, I must say, driving into the lane or hitting mid-range jumpers isn’t his ABL forte. Getting a lay-up to fall in the face of Justin Williams or Gavin Edwards or any other ABL shot-blocker isn’t the best shot for Wei Long to take. Thus far in the season, he has only made 3 field goals inside the three-point line. So I believe, for him to become a more efficient player, he is better off taking his catch-and-shoot three-pointers rather than challenging his opponents on the inside.
I am not asking Wei Long to be less aggressive, but a good player always excels in his shot selection, and taking the right type of shots in the game.
Wong Wei Long is no Jai Reyes who is going to score on the drive. He is the Singapore Assassin, who is going to kill opponents with his deadly three-point shooting.
You might say, so how is Wei Long going to score because we need his scoring. I have an excellent suggestion (in my next article, so stay tune for Part 2).
4) Choosing either Rashad Jones-Jennings or Rashaad Singleton to operate in the post
Now, back to our bigs…
Since the arrival of Singleton, the Slingers has been experimenting on who to give the ball to in the post: Jennings or Singleton. In the first game against the Dragons, it was Jennings in the post, Singleton on the outside. Then, it was Singleton in the post, Jennings on the outside. Didn’t work again. So the Slingers went back to Jennings in the post, Singleton on the outside. Then in the previous game, Singleton on the inside and Jennings outside again. And today, Singleton and Jennings were playing both on the inside and outside.
Well…in any case, our offensive strategy shouldn’t be Jennings or Singleton, but Jennings and Singleton! Getting anyone of our big guys to give up his game for the other is just NOT going to get us a lot of offence.
There is no way Singleton should be cleared from the paint and stand around on the outside for Jennings to post his player inside. So if Jennings misses, who’s going to get the rebound with Singleton standing on the outside? Or the other way round, if Singleton is working on a post-up and (good Lord!) the best rebounder in the ABL is standing on the outside!
The Slingers really got to start playing to our players’ strengths – that is, what they can do best (not just well). For Jennings, it’s rebounding and getting us second-chance points. For Singleton, it’s getting deep in the paint where he is virtually unstoppable in this league.
The Slingers got to start making a choice! To play best as a team, seriously, they got to stop sharing the wealth around, and start feeding the ball to the one player (yes, just one) that is our biggest offensive threat: Donald Rashaad Singleton. This team needs a focus on offence, and that focus is Singleton. The team needs to adopt an offensive strategy that revolves around Singleton. The team has got to play off him. Not a share the wealth, try our luck with anyone and everyone?
Just look at the fourth quarter when Singleton came alive when he demanded the ball. And he was 8/12 for the entire game. And almost unstoppable on the inside. Why isn’t he taking more shots given his dominance in this league? Why settle for 19 shots from Morrison, 15 shots from Jennings and just 12 from Singleton, when he shoots at such a high percentage?
This is what I call: play off one guy and everyone will get better. Can you imagine a Slingers team playing off Singleton who is going to draw double and triple teams, and the ball goes through Singleton on every possession? Because he draws two big guys to defend him on the inside, when he misses, Jennings, the best rebounder in this league, is going to clean up the glass (and perhaps score more points at a much higher percentage?) Can you imagine, our guards driving into the lane, collapsing the defence, and then dishing it out to Singleton for a dunk? Can you imagine shooters like Wei long and Philip Morrison getting open shots because the other team can’t help but double-team Singleton every single possession?
Well, I can.
And I can imagine how this would make the Slingers a much more efficient and deadly offensive team…
(Stay tune for Part 2 where I will elaborate on what this team needs to start doing)
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