NBL Season Preview: Townsville Crocodiles
The NBL season is almost upon us for 2013/14 as we continue our club previews. The Townsville Crocodiles get their turn under the microscope in today’s edition.
2012/13 Record: 10-18 (7th)
Brian Conklin (NZNBL)
Josh Pace (NZNBL)
Steven Markovic (KK Radnicki, Serbia)
Mirko Djeric (Wollongong Hawks)
Shawn Dennis (Coach)
You Won’t See:
Gary Ervin (Adelaide 36ers)
Ben Allen (Sydney Kings)
Larry Abney (Retired)
Brendan Teys (Adelaide 36ers)
Shawn Dennis (Head Coach)
Mike Kelly (Assistant Coach)
PG- Steven Markovic
SG- Josh Pace
SF- Todd Blanchfield
PF- Brian Conklin
C- Russell Hinder
2013/14 Championship Odds: $25.00
Townsville struggled for consistency in season 2012/13, and some close losses to teams around them proved costly after all was said and done. While the Crocs finished in second last place, they were just one win outside of 4th spot, which isn’t a bad result considering they sacked their two original imports before the season had even begun and looked in utter disarray through the first half of the campaign.
Coming into 2013/14, which is shaping up to be just as close and congested in terms of who makes the playoffs and who misses out, Townsville will need to take advantage of their oppurtunities if they are to make some noise come Autumn next year.
That task will be made harder by the huge off-season losses of point guard and former league MVP Gary Ervin and star big man Luke Nevill, who formed a formidable partnership towards the back end of last season as the Crocs pushed for the playoffs. The club has recruited well over the off-season to cover those losses, signing American imports Brian Conklin and Josh Pace out of the NZNBL.
Conklin averaged 22.4ppg and shot at a ridiculous 61% from the field through 17 games, whilst also pulling down 9.5rpg and earning a spot in the All-Star Five as a forward. His new teammate was arguably more impressive, with Pace scoring 22.7ppg on 58% shooting, gathering 7.9rpg and dishing 2.4apg through 18 games.
The Americans will be pivotal in deciding the fate of the Crocs this season, however the talent around them will also have a say given it features veterans Peter Crawford, Jacob Holmes, Russell Hinder as well as improving youngster Todd Blanchfield and off-season signings Steven Markovic and Mirko Djeric.
While Crawford is under a cloud with on-going bone spur issues in his ankles, the likes of Blanchfield and Markovic will have an increased role and may well prove the difference between success and failure for their team. Blanchfield enjoyed career best numbers of 9.4ppg and 4.1rpg in 2012/13 and will look to build on that and establish himself in the starting five.
Point guard Markovic, a former Boomer, is returning home from a stint in Serbia. Despite modest numbers of 5.8ppg and 3.9apg during 2012/13, Townsville will rest easy knowing they have an assured and reliable point guard who will consistently get his team the best shot possible. Given the wealth of scoring talent at the point this season across the league, Markovic will need to increase his own scoring output at some stage or risk seeing his team fall off the back of the pack.
The lack of a scoring center, with Hinder and the returning Greg Vanderjagt to share the role, is a major worry and may prove to be the downfall of Townsville’s season, especially when you consider 4-man Holmes only managed 6ppg last campaign. Most of the scoring will be left to Conklin, Pace and Blanchfield, at least in the early stages of the season, and the Crocs may find themselves struggling for points throughout the summer as a result.
The Crocs will need to rely heavily on their imports for points this season, while the injury to Crawford and ageing big men will mean youngsters Blanchfield and Djeric will need to fire. While Townsville have all the right pieces to challenge for a playoffs spot on paper, in a very tight competition they will struggle to keep up with the better teams offensively and will likely be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon as the season draws to a close.