Numbers don’t lie: Here's why the Cairns Taipans are at the bottom
Sixteen games into the season, things aren’t looking good for the Cairns Taipans.
Although they earned a win against the Brisbane Bullets on Thursday night, their second victory in sixteen games isn’t enough to outshine the horror year they’ve had so far. Their 2-14 record is by far the worst in the NBL. With twelve games remaining, there is time for things to get worse if they get complacent. A look at the numbers certainly doesn’t paint a picture of hope for the club.
Cairns’ presence at the bottom is in large part, due to their lacklustre offence. The Taipans are scoring 84.4 points per game, the lowest in the league. Although the production of their offence has improved from last year, it hasn’t been enough in this year’s high-octane competition. Rank Team Points scored per game 1 Adelaide 95.5 2 Melbourne 90.4 3 Perth 89.8 4 New Zealand 89.3 5 Brisbane 88.6 6 Illawarra 87.1 7 Sydney 85.5 8 Cairns 84.4 Watching Cairns play this year, one thing in particular stands out. They depend enormously on their American import, Melo Trimble, who is currently the NBL’s second most prolific scorer with 20.3 ppg, and lack other dependable scorers.
The team's second option, DJ Newbill is posting a respectable 14.4 ppg, but his 58% at the free throw line blunts his edge. 23 year old Devon Hall has shown glimpses of his scoring potential, but his inaccurate shooting (34% from the field and 28% from three) has badly held him back in his debut season.
As a result, Cairns has the worst offensive depth in the entire NBL. Their bench accounts for only 23.6% of their points, with Trimble generating 25.1%. Rank Team Percentage of total points scored by the bench per game 1 New Zealand 34.5% 2 Adelaide 32.3% 3 Illawarra 31.5% 4 Brisbane 31.0% 5 Sydney 27.7% 6 Melbourne 26.9% 7 Perth 26.4% 8 Cairns 23.6% The lack of scoring firepower and their disproportionate reliance on Trimble throttles the Taipains’ flexibility, and makes them far more one-dimensional than their opposition. It’s Trimble or bust for Cairns, and the rest of the NBL knows it.
The ineffectiveness of their bench is exacerbated by the lack of a high calibre sixth man, someone along the lines of a Daniel Kickert or a DJ Kennedy. Both Kennedy and Kickert give their teams instant offence and have the gravity to turn a game.
The best offensive producer Cairns have coming off their bench is Alex Loughton. Although no fault of his own, 35-year-old Loughton is past his prime and doesn’t inspire the fear he used to. Loughton’s points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and three-point percentage are all at career lows. It's not Loughton's fault, but his struggles this season personify the Taipans’ chronic depth problem.
Defensively, things haven’t been much better for the Snakes. In points allowed per game the Taipans rank sixth, ahead of seventh-ranked Illawarra and eighth-ranked Adelaide. However, unlike Cairns, the 36ers are able to compensate for their defensive deficiencies with scoring. Rank Team Points allowed per game 1 Sydney 81.1 2 Perth 83.9 3 Melbourne 88.2 4 Brisbane 88.6 5 New Zealand 90.2 6 Cairns 91.8 7 Illawarra 93.8 8 Adelaide 94.2 The combination of a feeble offence and inconsistent defence is sending the Snakes down a dark path.
Currently, they are losing by an average of 11.7 points. In team plus/minus they sit dead last, with -7.3. This is in large part due to the fact they have been beaten by 10 or more points on nine occasions, and as you probably guessed, that’s the most in the league. Rank Team +/- 1 Perth +6.0 2 Sydney +5.2 3 Melbourne +2.8 4 Adelaide +1.4 5 Brisbane +0.1 6 New Zealand -0.9 7 Illawarra -6.6 8 Cairns -7.3 In almost every imaginable metric the Taipans rank last or near to last. The team's win against Brisbane on Thursday night, whilst well-earned, was just a tiny step up an enormous perilous mountain.
There are twelve games left on the Snake’s schedule. That’s plenty of time for them to salvage some pride, or, continue their journey off the edge of a cliff.