Whilst the main number behind Brian Conklin getting cut may very well be his salary, with the full contract set to soon kick in for the remainder of the season, Conklin’s on court production has definitely been well down on his MVP season. via RealGM MINS PER USG% eFG% TS% REB% TOV% ORtg DRtg 2015-16 30.6 12.56 25.15 36.5 44.6 11.82 12.43 94.7 110.8 2014-15 30.0 21.64 26.95 50.8 57.5 11.81 11.52 116.5 108.9 2013-14 28.7 17.98 26.51 49.3 56.3 10.33 13.30 110.2 116.7 'King Conk' has been playing his usual allotment of minutes, with typically high usage, but his touch away from the rim has been atrocious. After partnering the offensively limited, and shot blocking ace, Mickell Gladness last season, Conklin was relied upon to provide some sort of spacing in the middle to make the pairing work. The end result had him finish an MVP season with over 100 shot attempts from mid-range (a similar rate of attempts to this season) which made him one of the most impressive (and improved) shooting big men away from the rim, excluding three point shooters. FG% by area Restricted Area Non Restricted Area Mid Range 2015-16 66.7% 29.8% 24.2% 2014-15 64.1% 46.9% 46.9% 2013-14 82.9% 50.0% 32.7% The regression to the mean on the elbow and baseline jump shots has been huge this season, and with limited shooting and shot creators on the roster around him, Conklin was focus number one and two of the defense. One thing Mickell Gladness did do well offensively last season was finish at an awesome rate at the rim (81.9 FG% and second in regular season makes in the restricted area). A defense going from the threat of leaving Gladness at the rim to helping off of Mitch Young or Nicholas Kay is a totally different proposition, and it's something that surely contributed to that poor non restricted area shooting percentage this season (they had Russell Hinder spacing the floor in 2013-14).
Arriving as an undersized power forward who wasn’t close to an elite rebounder or shot blocker, as well as having no three point shot, meant he was a tricky fit as a player. To Conklin’s credit though, his combination of speed for his playing position, bull-like aggression, and an elite ability to draw fouls (as well as the development of that mid-range jumper) allowed him to thrive for the majority of his stay.
Heading into this season it was clear that Conklin was going to have to shoulder an enormous load and be put under heavy strain. Coming back as the reigning league MVP draws its own attention, but headlining a roster as inexperienced and unproven as this one was going to cause headaches.
My expectations of this team prior to the season was to finish around 6-22, and with their current record of 4-10, they are actually a game up on that with more home than road games to come. The Crocs claim that the potential of not making the playoffs was a driving force behind the decision, but the reality is that that dream was likely crushed in the off-season before a game had been played.
“Unfortunately, we are almost sitting last on the NBL ladder and the reality of not making the Finals again is one we do not want to face. There are no outside factors or reasons behind this decision – we simply want to give this club the best chance of being successful in the competition.”
We’ve seen a quality import like Jerome Randle come in after the season has begun and contribute immediately in a meaningful manner, but the Crocs finding someone who can produce at that level as quickly as he did would have to be a longshot. Still, if the move means that Conklin’s salary does not become guaranteed for the remainder of the season, and they can get a cheaper import replacement with similar or better production to this years version of Conklin (a reasonable expectation), then the move definitely has sound logic. Given Townsville's financial struggles of late, let’s hope it’s not a sign of their demise. Hopefully the new import is an athletic fan favourite that generates some buzz and adds something different to their roster.
Whether Conklin ends up on another team in the league is a thought that has been mentioned, but the likelihood of that happening appears slim. Looking at roster fits and straight swaps for other imports, I'm not crazy about the idea of Conklin stepping in mid season with another team and complimenting a roster better than the guy he would replace.
The Hawks do have an open import slot though (providing they can afford the salary) and they also have the required player points to make an upgrade. The talent upgrade from Cody Ellis (who is not shooting well and doesn’t boast any extra rebounding or shot blocking) to Conklin is obvious, but I'm not convinced that the fit would be good enough to edge them into the title hunt. Illawarra are languishing near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency and rebounding so would be looking to target those areas with a second import.
For now, it’s goodbye Brian Conklin.
Advanced statistics via RealGM
FG% by area statistics via crunchtimeshots.com
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