Three games is all it took for Perth to make the first big roster move of the NBL season with Jaron Johnson cut in favour of Andre Ingram. Ingram is smaller, a lower usage player than Johnson, a D-League lifer, and a specialist guard with his game revolving around his three point shooting.
Given my initial scepticism of the shot creation on this roster, Casey Prather’s role now becomes even more in focus as they need him to continue to quickly evolve his game and be consistent at making plays off the bounce. His three point shooting has steadily improved each season of his career and now it’s his ability to break his man down or work as the pick and roll ball-handler that will need to follow a similar path.
His off-season brought about plenty of talk about an expanded game, and the opening part of the season has seen plenty of reps with a high usage that has seen him look to progress from his more natural role as a cutter and opportunistic slasher. The early result has produced a bit of a whirlwind 90 minutes of game time with plenty of points at the rim or from the free throw line, 12 assists, 14 turnovers and only four FGM from outside of the paint.
With two defensive minded (and more ball-moving than penetration) type point guards, Ingram’s reliance on others creating for him (88% of his FGM were assisted last season) will place added pressure on Prather as the main shot creating guard or wing.
To try and put Prather’s less than natural play-making into perspective, here’s a look at his numbers over the past two seasons per spatialjam.com and stats.nbadleague.com Season Minutes % of FGM Assisted APG AST per 36 AST% 2015-16 691 66.2 1.8 2.6 13.3 2014-15 1161 58.1 1.7 2.4 9.7 The theory floated by Coach Gleeson in his recent press conference was that Ingram’s gravity as a shooter would open up the lane for Casey and also ease the problems that might have occurred with adding Matt Knight back into the paint without adequate spacing around he and Jameel McKay. He also freely admitted that there had been discussions for two or three weeks, that an error had been made in duplicating skill-sets on the wing, and that Johnson did indeed have the game to carve out a career in this league in another situation.
A specialist is an interesting choice for an import guard with not many of these types making their way to our shores in the past few seasons, but Gleeson has made the call to value shooting. He will back in Prather to progress, the front-court to increase their usage in the post as scorers and passers, in the pick and pop, as well as the screen and roll, and the defense to remain a deciding factor.
By my calculations, Perth sit 8th in Pace, a far cry from the supposed style shift that was mooted with the athleticism upgrade over the off-season, but their defense has remained strong (2nd in Defensive Rating) allowing their sluggish offense (6th in ORtg) to be barely good enough to sneak to a 2-1 record. Expectations are no bigger than in a place like Perth, now it’s time to see how it plays out.