NBL: Foreign Taipans lacking venom?
The Cairns Taipans entered the new NBL season as one of the favourites for the championship. After beating the Illawarra Hawks in their opener, the Taipans seemed to be living up to the hype; however, a bad loss to the Sydney Kings in addition to a hard fought victory over the lowly Townsville Crocodiles, things don't quite look as rosy.
The Taipans have a roster filled with outstanding Australian talent. Cameron Gliddon has matured into one of the best guards in the competition, Stephen Weigh is a threat from the outside, and Alex Loughton and Matt Burston are a handful on the inside.
The Taipans already had Cameron Tragardh coming off the bench, but stretched their local muscle even further with the signing of Mark Worthington in the offseason.
All of these players have made a solid start to the season - the problem for Cairns has been the lack of production from their imports.
New addition Markel Starks and second-year import Torrey Craig haven't fired. Together they're averaging a paltry 9.7 ppg.
Starks hasn't hit a 3-pointer yet this season, and Craig, hitting them at 15 percent, hasn't been much better. The most damning statistic is their efficiency rating - Torrey Craig at -33 and Markel Starks -48 (as per RealGM)!
For those unfamiliar with the stat - it means for every 100 possessions Starks in on the floor, the Taipans are outscored by a whopping 48 points.
Three games is a tiny sample size, and those figures are destined to improve, but it shows how ineffective the two have been to start the season.
Especially so, when you take into account that none of the Taipans starting five have a minus rating, and four of them have a rating over plus 10.
If the Taipans are any hope of competing for the title, they need more out of their two imports. The good news is - Craig and Starks are capable of that.
Last season, Torrey Craig averaged 9ppg in under 20 minutes of action and shot the three-ball at 37 percent. That's Perfect. With Gliddon and Weigh on the roster, Craig isn't required to play big minutes. All the Taipans need from Craig is to score ten efficient points a night and play solid defense - that's it.
We know Markel Starks can play. He proved that in the pre-season Blitz, as joint winner of the MVP award.
Although he hasn't hit a 3-pointer this season, the Georgetown product knocked them down at 36% in college. He also put up 17ppg in his senior year against quality opposition. The man has talent.
And so does this Cairns Taipans team.
The additions of Mark Worthington and Markel Starks should offset the loss of Scottie Wilbekin. With Tragardh, Worthington and Torrey Craig coming off the bench, this team is deep enough to contend.
If Cairns can get the two imports to play up to their potential, they have every chance of going one better this season and winning the NBL championship.
The pieces are there, they just need a little more out of their American teammates, and the Taipans will be deadly.
All statistics used in this article via RealGM.