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How much can an import change help the Brisbane Bullets?
Alonzo Gee produced next to nothing in the regular-season to change any opinions from the preseason that he was a recruiting mistake. Now the Brisbane Bullets have made the move to replace him with Lamar Patterson in a bid to push towards the playoffs.
Gee was clearly not in NBL shape when he arrived and he lacked the bounce or zip to his game that Brisbane needed, especially given the makeup of the rest of their roster. With him being well past his peak physically, and not having the shooting to fall back on, it was only a matter of time before a decision was going to be made, regardless of the "personal reasons" explanation that Brisbane gave for the change.
The Bullets sit at a respectable 2-3 record but in such a competitive league there is little margin for error moving forward and little to suggest so far that they are a playoff team. Brisbane are yet to string together consecutive games with either an above-average offense or above-average defensive performance, and that’s without playing the highly fancied Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide.
Defensively, they have done reasonably well, given their personnel, to come out as average so far as they have forced a league best opponent turnover percentage. On the offensive end however they have been clearly below average as they give up turnovers, struggle to get to the free throw line, and appear to have their shot distribution all messed up (Reuben Te Rangi is second on the team in field-goal attempts).
When committing to a starting back-court of Cameron Gliddon and Jason Cadee, the roster was then desperate for a player at small-forward who could make the defense move, either with elite creation off the dribble, or by being a threat moving without the ball and getting on the end of plays with athleticism at the rim.
Gliddon is NBL starter quality, a strong shooter, a capable secondary creator, and that combined with his defense make him an easy fit on the team. He has however proven to be inconsistent and needs a reliable first option in the starting lineup with him for the team to thrive.
We know exactly what we are getting from Cadee and that’s some shot-creation but he doesn’t do it consistently well enough to counter his defensive shortcomings and be a starter every night on a playoff team. The early on-off court plus-minus numbers aren’t doing anything to counter that argument either.
Stephen Holt’s re-signing was perplexing and risky with the idea floated that he would have the ball put in his hands more to bring out the form that we saw him display in Melbourne. In theory, this showed decent logic with Gliddon taking the Chris Goulding role, but in reality it has led to minimal Holt minutes and touches and will only lead to him feeling more lost and devoid of confidence. If Brisbane continue to play him how they have then they may as well cut ties and say sorry we messed up, again!
The Bullets have no high-minute defensive anchor in their big-man stocks at the moment so getting someone at small-forward who could defend multiple positions and add an athletic element to the roster was certainly a must. Their best front-court player in Cameron Bairstow is a scorer and needs support on the defensive end to cover up his lack of mobility.
Is Patterson the answer to a bunch of these key questions? His gaudy Chinese NBL numbers can be mostly dismissed as the standard of competition and role he will play here will be much different. Patterson should be an upgrade on Gee’s off ball shooting, shot-creation in the half-court, as well as passing. He doesn’t look to have anywhere near the lob catching and leaping ability of Torrey Craig, or the athletic force of Perrin Buford, but his long arms should allow him to compete defensively.
The Bullets have dealt with some injury concerns since their return to the NBL and it takes time to build a club back up in such a strong competition. There’s good reason why Perth are continually competitive and why Melbourne were favourites for a number of seasons before failing and then finally claiming the title last season.
The Patterson addition gives the Bullets more of the quality they thought they were initially getting with Alonzo Gee but it does put a pause on their season whilst they integrate him into their system and a number of other players round into form. By the time that all happens it’s likely too late and a third straight losing season will be complete.