ABL Playoffs 2014 Preview: Westports Malaysia Dragons

Starting our preview out with the Number 1 team in the final ABL standings, let’s take a look at the KL Dragons.

Before we start off the ABL Playoffs 2014, I’d like to use this space here to look back at the regular season numbers and see what we can crunch from that to evaluate out expectations for this year’s playoffs from each team.

Strengths

Let’s get this out of the way about the Dragons. They are by far the best offensive unit in the ABL.

points per

Not only do they lead the league in points per game, they lead by a gap of 9.05 points per game from the second team. It is understandable to score a lot when you play such a fast paced game like the Dragons do, evident from their league leading pace. We have already covered to some extent about the Dragon’s fast style of play on earlier posts.

But then you look deeper into the numbers and you see that that gaudy numbers are not just a result of face pace playing, but also because they are also the most effective scoring team in the ABL, leading the league once again with a highly effective 44% Field Goal Percentage even though they lead the league in Field Goals Attempted as well.

FGShooting

FGper

Of course, the effective scoring rate is not really much of a surprise with all the dunks and breakaway layups that the Dragons create.

The Dragons will be having home court advantage throughout the playoffs, which should be frightening for every other team as them have only lost one of their home games to Hi-Tech Bangkok city that were saved by a last second running shot by Jerick Canada, and eventually beat them in overtime but a mere 3 points. Their fast pace offense kicks up another notch at home where they score 95.5 point per game.

Here’s the secret to their fast paced game. They create a lot of turnovers.

Steals

ForcedTO

Tied with the Warriors for most turnovers forced at 14.85, the Dragons also lead the league in steal per game at 8.9 per game. This gets the more possessions, which get them more shot opportunities.

In addition to all of that, they are second in the league in handling the ball with only 12.25 turnovers per game compared to the 14.24 league average.

TO

This is a team that makes their shots, creates turnovers, and handles the ball well.

How do you take them down?

Weaknesses

Looking into their numbers, you find some interesting stuff from their 5 losses.

There’s one funny thing sticking out there and that’s the number of personal fouls that the Dragons commited in their losses. 25.4o fouls per game is not something to laugh about as it will limit the scoring opportunity for the top-heavy Dragons. Scharer, Eversley, Knox, and Tautuaa have been responsible for 71.7 percent of their scoring which is the second highest amount of scoring among imports in the ABL.

pointsdes

These guys can get into foul trouble by contesting shots and pressuring the ball for turnovers with their style of basketball.

And that’s another thing you see from their loses. They played at a higher speed in their losses than in their wins. In their losses they played at a 84.22, but in their wins they played at 81.41. If you push them to play at a high speed then they would like to, you will have a better chance at getting them to foul more often.

The Dragons are a really strong team, but they have that chink in their armor.

Keys to winning

1. Limit those fouls. As mentioned, this is a team that can limit itself quite a lot by fouling. With their style of play it might be difficult to balance between the right amount of aggressive pressure enough to cause turnovers but not to much to start foul problems. However, the Dragons have done so quite well throughout the season, with a few hiccups here and there.

2. To soften the blow of those fouling issues, the locals have got to pick up their scoring. As mentioned, the imports eat up a lot of the team’s scoring so if one of them get into foul trouble, it might cause some problems. Shooters like Loh Shee Fai and Yim Shen Hao have had their shining moments in some games, but they will need more of that support to solidify their case as champions.

NBA Champion comparison

2012-2013 Miami Heat + 2002-2003 New Jersey Nets

Okay, so the Nets weren’t NBA Champions, but they went to three straight finals so that counts for something. The Miami Heat comparisons are almost on the spot, with the Heat and the Dragons playing small ball and using their wings to create front court pressure to create turnovers.

At first I had Chris playing the LeBron James all-around, do everything role and Scharer doing all the cutting and slashing, but I think that was mainly because of the my frustration towards Scharer’s cockiness and tried to fit with Dwyane Wade’s smug approach.

In reality, Scharer is the walking triple double and floor general like James while Chris is doing all the cutting, scoring and mid-range shooting that Wade does.

Justin Knox perfectly fits with the Chris Bosh role, hitting long jumpers and playing goofball while the rest of the bench is slowly growing into the three point shooting bench that the Heat compiled over the years.

This left Moala Tuatuaa without a comparison, so I looked towards the New Jersey Nets of 2002-2003 since Scharer also reminded me Jason Kidd as well. Eversley fits the Richard Jefferson mold a bit and Moala Tautuaa is the Beast that Kenyon Martin was supposed to be before his injuries derailed him. I like Lo Shee Fai being compared to Kerry Kittles, being the long ranged shooter playing solid defense.

This was quite a bit of a stretch as the Nets didn’t really play much like the Dragons, but I had to find a place for Moala Tautuaa.

Conclusion, this Dragons team could be considered some what like the Miami Heat 2012-2013 team if they added 2002-2003 Kenyon Martin and if Lebron James played more like Jason Kidd.

The Dragons are scheduled to play the Saigon Heat on the 29th of October at 8.30PM at MABA Stadium for Game 1.

They will play on the 2nd of November at 4.00PM at CIS Arena for Game 2

If necessary, Game 3 will be played on the 4th of November at MABA Stadium for the Final Showdown.

Stay tuned.

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