The Southern Huskies' playoff bid officially ended Thursday night, but it’s not all disappointment as they have gained valuable experience and are set to welcome back a star signing for a much-anticipated debut.
It’s come at the expense of a Tre Nichols injury, but the arrival of Harry Froling provides us with the chance to ascertain an answer to one of the biggest ‘what if’ questions surrounding the Huskies this season.
Froling was set to play a starring role before a mix up in his NBA draft preparation altered his plans and timeline, therefore putting his Huskies debut on hold.
His presence (plus Nichols’ absence) will give the team a different look and some new challenges, but even with limited preparation, it’s a timely boost for a team on a four-game skid.
“Some stuff developed with my USA, NBA stuff and I had to enter the draft this year, so I had to go over there and I was based there for three months,” Froling explained in an interview earlier this week.
“I really wanted to come down here and play... I'm a versatile player. I can shoot the ball. I can play inside. I'm a competitor. I'd be able to play however they need me to, and do whatever they need."
THE ROSTER RE-SHUFFLE
After the team’s initial road trip, I looked at where the team appeared to be placed after Froling and Mathiang Muo were confirmed as unavailable to play.
Noted was the imbalance on the roster with too many point guard and power forward sized players, as well as some overlap in offensive skillsets and potential fit issues.
A defence that wouldn’t be anything more than average and some struggles with turning some individual high counting stats into team production were some of the results of this.
The offensive end of the floor seemingly had the highest ceiling with Marcel Jones and Bryan Michaels joining the group after the first road trip, but results have now shown that Muo’s wing size and elite floor spacing, as well as Froling’s entire package was not replaced in a meaningful enough way.
The circumstances were certainly difficult and out of the ordinary, but the reshuffle culminated in a group coming together that was a bit of a mish-mash of talent, rather than a collection of players that would compliment each other enough to qualify for the playoffs.
BALL MOVEMENT AND SHOOTING
Consistently generating easy shots for teammates was a struggle with the offense becoming too stagnant and including too many isolation bail-out shots at times.
Marcel Jones’ talent addition provided some highlight and winning plays at times, but tellingly, some of his weaknesses or questions around fit embodied their struggles in relation to ball-movement.
Lochlan Cummings has hit his share of triples off the bench and boasts a team-leading plus-minus, but Michaels has managed just five made threes despite the team’s need for him to fill that role.
Meanwhile, Mathiang Muo has hit over 40% from deep on around seven attempts per game in NBL1. Even with the Froling addition, they will still desperately miss Muo on the wing.
Overall, the Huskies offense has failed to post an above average efficiency rating in any game against a playoff team, their lack of spacing was obvious (29% on three-point attempts), and their lack of passing has also hurt them (39% assist-rate).
This output didn’t give the group enough to fall back on when matched up against the most disciplined and intense defensive teams.
“We now understand what it takes to win a title,” said head coach Anthony Stewart after the Froling announcement.
An important point to of course remember is that it is only year one and it has been a season that has still included wins, some highlight plays and many meaningful learning experiences.
The Huskies have shown that they can be competitive, they have a home court advantage that won’t be going anywhere, and they will be more well versed in using the reasonable wiggle room that the league provides regarding local player eligibility.
“We’ve come into a new league, I’ve learnt a lot, not just as a coach but how this league operates, the rules and regulations, so we’ll be a lot better prepared next year,” said Stewart.
The playoffs should certainly be an achievable aim for 2020.
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