Admit it, you don’t know what the TBL is.
For most basketball fans around the world, basketball season just ended as we witnessed the San Antonio Spurs showcase what should be nominated for every Best Picture Oscar Award for the next 10 years. If aliens were to invade earth, capture me as earth’s representative to persuade them within 6 minutes and 54 seconds why they should not take over our planet and make us their kinky sex slaves, I’d show them this Spurs highlight reel.
Of course, this Spurs team also demonstrated that if the plot of Space Jam 2 (where LeBron James is stuck with a bunch of Cartoon Characters to fend off our planet from Aliens that stole the skills of the Spurs) were to become a reality, we would become alien slaves before they could bring out LeBron’s Secret stuff into play.
After the Spurs dominated the Miami Heat and won the title, a large part of the lesser diehard fans were left in basketball purgatory. I used to be one of those casual fans and even though I followed the NBA and NCAA basketball religiously, there was the offseason summer gap each year that always leaves me unsatisfied.
Only until the recent couple of years did I start to follow domestic basketball regularly and it has been one hell of a start.
Let’s get acquainted with the TBL. Not to be confused with the cooler substitute to LOL or the Turkish Basketball League (which just recently crowned their new champions in one strange string of events. Congrats to Fenerbache anyways!), the TBL I am referring to is the Thailand Basketball League.
This is the TBL’s third running season and from my experience, this year has taken a huge leap in development. The first major improvement is the cooperation with a media outlet (MONO29) to broadcast live games and have a game archive as well. For me, this has not only made my spectating prospect more convenient, it makes the whole idea of me following this league possible altogether as I work in a different country. Also, as being a self-proclaimed stat freak, this is perfect for my experience as a viewer.
The League consists of 10 teams as of this moment, which I will hold onto the introductions for later on. Teams will play a home-and-home series and the four top teams will play a 2 out of 3 playoffs to determine the Champion. Halfway through the season, each team will select one representative player to participate in an All-Star game. On top of that, the Champion will be Thailand’s Representative for the next ABL season. In case you are finding it hard to keep track of that abbreviation, ABL is the ASEAN basketball league, which I promise I will try to cover once the ABL season starts in about a month from now.
There is a catch in the roster building of the TBL, as do most Asian basketball league.
- One roster may consist of two import players and a maximum of one can be on the court at a time.
- One roster may consist of 5 national team players and a maximum of three can be on the court at the same time.
The rule that intrigues me the most is the first one concerning the Imported players. Among Asian basketball leagues, the “Import” player has been twisted into many variations:
- The Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) doesn’t restrict the number of imported players on a roster, but they restrict the height of those imports.
- The Chinese Basketball Associatiom (CBA) has a wildly entertaining list of restrictions. Each team is allowed 2 “overseas” players who can play a total of 6 quarters between them. However, the teams that finished in the bottom 5 spots of the last CBA season were allowed an extra Non-North American player without any playing time restrictions. There is one team, the Bayi Rockets, that doesn’t have any overseas players. Teams with overseas players are allowed only a total of 5 quarters from their overseas player against the Rockets. Additionally, teams with that extra 3rd oversea player, can not play him against the Bayi Rockets. I imagine that being a Coach in the CBA and having to track all of this must be quite frustrating.
My point for bringing this up is that we just witnessed the crowning of the Champions of the best basketball league in the world to a team that consisted of 9 players born out of that leagues base country. On the other side of the globe, we have leagues setting multiple restrictions for players from outside of the country. There is nothing wrong with those restrictions, it is just an interesting contrast to see from a spectator’s point of view.
I shall use that as an intro for my first TBL analysis for the match on the 7th of July, between the MONO Vampires and the Nakhonpathom Mad goats.
MONO Vampires @ Nakhonpathom Mad goats (7/6/14)
The Mad goats were the clear favorites here in this game, playing at their home stadium boasting a roster filled with National Team Veterans. A quick run through of the notable Mad goats’ personelle from my little thailand basketball knowledge:
- The most glorified player in recent Thailand Basketball history, Ratchadetch “JO” Kruatiwa, who spent some time with the Maryland Nighthawks of the American based PBL. Here is a sketchy footage of a highlight of him playing and here is the announcement of the signing. It must have been a huge moment for Thailand basketball at that moment and up until today, JO is still in the conversation as the best basketball player in Thailand. If he hadn’t suffered some knee injuries, my personal opinion is he would probably be the clear cut choice for Thailand’s indisputable best player.
- The Best set of Twins to play basketball in Thailand Basketball History, Darongpun and Darunpong Apiromwilaichai. These twins have played together at the highest stages of Thailand basketball and have been a familiar face within the national ranks of basketball. They have had a recent spike of popularity since they have dropped their autobiography “Magic Twin – Shoot for Dreams” which I must get my hands on as soon as I can for all reasons imaginable.
- Chaiwat Kaedum is a veteran for the Thai National team. With his huge size, he is commonly know as “P’ Yuk” or translated roughly to Giant Brother. The announcers keep on referring him as the Shaquille O’Neal of Thailand, which I find is a very laughable and lazy comparison.
The Madgoats were going up against a newcomer to the league, the MONO Vampires. The newcomer status might fool you, as this is a team complete with star power, front office power, and strategic plans.
- The Vampires are coached by Coach Prasert Siripojanakul or known as Coach “Seng”. Coach Seng is a former National Team starting point guard who is revered as one of the best ever to play his position for Thailand. I have personally been in one of his training sessions and I would understand why his players would run into a wall for him. He is a great father figure and a teacher.
- The Vampires star power starts with Kannut “Bas” Samerjai, who is a national team regular himself. He is known for his quick first step and more notably known for his acting career in the Thai basketball(?) movie Fireball.
- The Vampires other national team regular is Pairach “Van” Sekteera. He was mentioned to be a favorite of Coach Joe Bryant during Coach Bryant’s reign as the head coach of the Thai National Team. I’d just like one moment to picture Coach Bryant calling up to Kobe in the middle of a Lakers game to tell him to play more like “Van”.
That ends the brief intro of the teams and now we enter my game analysis and observations.
As mentioned earlier teams are allowed 2 foreign players on their roster and 1 on the court at a time. I wanted to take a look at the impact of the foreign players themselves.
MONO Vampires Foreign Players
- Anthony Daquise McClain: McClain is a 26-year-old, 1.97M center from the United States. I have no idea why anyone hasn’t dubbed him with the nickname “Diehard” or why he doesn’t yell “Yippekayay” after a crutial play (That is a John McClane/Diehard reference and I realize that the spelling is different, but whatever). If that catches on somehow, I do not demand any credit, I just demand to make sure that it sticks. (I just found out that his real nickname is “Biggie”. Whatever, I’m still going with “Diehard”.)
- Antonio Haymon: Haymon is a 26-year-old, 1.99M center from the United States. It was broadcasted that Haymon referred McClain to the MONO front office with the promise of a Championship “if you signed this guy”. We’ll see about that.
Nakhon Pathom Mad Goats Foreign Players
- Michael Fey: It is horrible for anyone that the first result of a google search of their name turns out to be the first American to be involved in a caning in Singapore. However, Michael Fey, the not-caned-basketball player, was a part of the 2005-2006 National NCAA Runner-ups UCLA Bruins, where he played along side multiple future NBA players. This is a guy who in his junior year in college was playing ahead of NBA player Ryan Hollins.
- Victor Toribio: Victor has played in the Dominican Republic for multiple clubs and Japan. That just seems very well traveled and experienced.
After our introduction to the foreign players, let’s break down their notable stats:
The first thing in common with all foreign players is their Usage Rate.
The blue columns are for the foreign players (V35 is for McClain, who wears #35 for the visiting team and V23 for Haymon). The blue columns are for the foreign players (H45 is for Fey, who wears #45 for the Home team and H08 for Toribio).
You can see that their Usage numbers are almost literally off the charts. For those unfamiliar with Usage ratings, it indicates the percentage of possession which a player ends, either by missing a shot, making a shot, or turning the ball over. Simply put, it is how much a team uses a player. On an ideal team that distributes shots equally, each player will have a usage rate of 20% with 5 players on the court each using one possession each. This indicates the major “foreign player” impact among TBL teams. Foreigners are the main point of the offense, either by design of the system or because of their personal behaviors. Sometimes a team will use foreign players because they are the best players on the team. Sometimes its because of a lack of chemistry leading the foreign player to focus on using his personal skill set to score only, leading to shots and turnovers which end possessions.
This is sample data from only one match, but I think the numbers give you a pretty clear picture. Fey and McClain got their load of scoring (Both players scored 19 Points) because they were in the game more than Toribio and Haymon but from this data, it’s not to say that they were used more.
The next thing to take focus on is the rebounding impact. You don’t need any numbers to tell you that foreigners are brought in because of their size. Size leads to rebounds. Lots of them. And I’m still going to throw numbers at you anyways.
Once again, we look at two very uneven graphs. The Rebounding Percentage is a number that indicates the percentage of rebounds that the player can get in ratio with all the missed shots while he was on the court. All four foreigners led their team in this specific catagory (Fey had 15 rebounds and McClain had 11) , even if Toribio did so in a much smaller sample size (4 rebounds out of 8 available). Still, the numbers do indicate that while on the floor, these guys gobbled up boards like a kid in a candy shop buffet.
Finally, I’d like to point out that both Fey and McClain led their teams in post ups at 11 and 16 respectively. As mentioned earlier, Foreign Players are brought into teams mostly because of their size, therefore teams will utilize that size and impact it into their inside presence.
From this quick Analysis of numbers from a limited sample size of data, we can vaguely see the impact of foreign players in the TBL. In my honest opinion, TBL teams are right to exploit the foreign players size to their rebounding and inside advantages, but they must be careful about the high usage rate which might be too dependent on these foreign players.
am was will always be a Legend
This was a game of two different approaches from two teams. The Mad Goats attempted 26 three-point shots. That is on par with how much the Golden State Warriors averaged last season. Consider that the NBA plays 48 minutes a game and TBL plays 40 minutes and you get an idea of how much they shot from behind the arc. The Vampires relied less on the long range game with only 16 tries. The main point that was the difference in this game was how much more efficient the Vampires were at putting the ball into the hoop. The Vampires dominated the Mad Goats in all field goal shooting percentage with the approximate same amount of attempts (Mad Goats took 3 more shots; 75-72). If you are hitting less of your shots than your opponent, you either have to be taking more shots than them or making more free throws. And that’s why despite the huge gap in shooting percentage, this game never turned into a blowout.
The Mad Goats were way more efficient from the Free Throw Line than the Vampires and while it resulted in a difference of +11 points for them, it wasn’t enough to overcome the difference in field goal shooting. The game ended 72-64 in favor of the Vampires. One might point out the shooting woes of the Madgoat to the poor shooting of sharpshooting legend, Ratchadetch “JO” Kruatiwa. I know I certainly did while watching the game the first time around.
You could say that JO’s measly 12% shooting percentage (H03, as defined as ice cold on that icy short column) from a 2-17 shooting performance (1-15 shooting from beyond the arc) was the reason the Mad Goats lost. Or you could say that maybe the Legend is really beginning to become a Legend in the term of past tense.
First of all, you must acknowledge that although JO did shoot very poorly this match, his team mates didn’t fare any much better. Relatively, yes he shot poorly, but in the big picture, this team shot just as horribly that day. Of the 3 players that showed great shooting percentages (H22, H20, H08) only H22 (Chaiwat Kaedum) played a significant number of possessions.
Secondly, remember that this is just one match. This is a very small sample size and one that can be used to view the game from a distance, but not to be used to scrutinize every detail. I believe this game is merely an outlier from JO and that he will perform better as the season continues to develop.
There are three sets of numbers which I found very interesting which I’d like to quickly present.
- The Offensive and Defensive Rating for Mad Goats’ Chaiwat Kaedum are both remarkably low. Offensive ratings are the amount of points scored per 100 possession that a player is on the court. For example, if the Lakers scored 2 points on every offensive possession (OPOSS) that Kobe was on the court, Kobe would have an offensive rating of 200.00. Vice Versa, Defensive ratings are the amount of points allowed per 100 possesion that a player is on the court. If the Lakers didn’t lose a single point on every defensive possession (DPOSS) that Kobe was on the court, Kobe would have an offensive rating of 0.00. Judging by these numbers alone, Chaiwat might have stalled the offense a bit, but he was phenomenal on defense and all of this was done in almost half of the teams total number of possessions.
- Same observation for the Vampire’s Kraisit Wetwitayakit (V58). Krasit played in about 40% of the possessions for his team and had the Best Offensive rating (V15 played in only 5 possessions which shouldn’t be taken into account due to statistical insignificance) and Best Defensive Rating. Should the Vampires take a closer look at this and utilize Kraiwit into the game more often than the 64 total possessions he got?
- Finally, I’ve always admired a point guard that can really dictate the games tempo and I really like the way Nattakarn Muengboon (H27) controlled the pace for the Mad Goats. He pushed forward into the fast break when he saw the holes and calmly took the ball up when the defense settled. One stat that can indirectly indicate this is the PASSCROSS which is the number of times the ball is advanced over the half court line by a player via a pass.As seen here he passed the ball up cross the half court line a total of 8 times, which is more than the total of the Vampires.
I will come around again to upload videos that will help depict the facts I have tried to point out and I will post a complete box score of this game which I recorded by myself.
Until then, this seems to be a wonderful start to a spectacular Thailand Basketball Season and I want you all to join the ride with me through my point of view.