Now that the ASEAN Basketball Season 6 is over in the elimination round stages, we will take this time to take this time to take a look back at the seasons of all six ABL teams.
Here’s the season review for Hitech Bangkok City.
Hitech Bangkok City might have been the only team this year that has always been on decline. Is it an anomaly or a sign of what is in store for the future?
Season In Review
The defending champs started the ABL season out on fire. They were quick to snatch up a new breed of ABL imports, the Thai-Americans. Tyler Lamb was a former UCLA stud and Freddie Goldstein has strutted in stuff in Thailand before. Their two World Imports were back and so were the rest of their local core, save for injured Wattana Suttisin and Montien Wongsawangtham.
As good as Jerick Canada and Patrick Cabahug were, a lot of people expected this year’s version of Hitech Bangkok City to be even better.
During a solid 4 game winning streak to start the season, it seemed to be that way.
Freddie Goldstein was tearing up the league with his crossovers and acrobatic moves. Tyler Lamb was shooting the lights out. Everything seemed to be coming along well. Until it just…didn’t.
Their season opening winning streak was broken when they lost at home badly to the Singapore Slinger by 19 points. Everything seemed to go pretty downhill from there. They suffered a second loss to the KL Dragons a couple of games later and got involved in a tussle which got Tyler Lamb suspended for one game. The calendar year was ended with a beatdown of the Pilipinas MX3 Kings, but if anyone watched that game, you will remember that the Kings kept it close for a half before it seemed like they just gave up in the second half.
The New Year came and that’s when things changed for Hitech. They just simply went from being one of the best defensive teams…to becoming the worst defensive team.
2015 Hitech: 71.2 Points Allowed, 36.9 opponent FG%, 23.7 opponent 3P%, 16.6 opponent FTA, 17.4 opponent AST%,
2016 Hitech: 88.9 Points Allowed, 45.4 opponent FG%, 37.3 opponent 3P%, 18.8 opponent FTA, 25.6 opponent AST%
That’s a pretty astronomical change. Hitech allowed 2.2 less Field Goal attempts per game…yet opponents scored a whopping 17.7 more points on them. That’s like going from Golden State Warriors defense to Philadelphia 76ers defense.
And probably the most frustrating part is, you can’t really pinpoint exactly what went wrong. They didn’t make any roster changes. They didn’t get any injuries during that time. It was as if the clock struck twelve and the fairy godmother’s magic expired.
Hitech lost 4 games in the second half of the season including two losses to rivals KL Dragons for a combined 59 points (!) and an overtime loss to the Saigon Heat as well. They were never able to beat any team by double digits in the last 9 games of the season and ended the ABL Season 6 campaign with 5 double-digit wins. Just for reference, the KL Dragons had 11 and the Singapore Slingers had 8.
Not only were there issues on the court, Hitech had plenty to handle off the court as well. The local players of Hitech were called up to play in other local tournaments (University Games, Army Games) which not only effected the fatigue but risked injuries. Wutipong Dasom is the prime example of the misfortune of the situation picking up an ankle injury in the 18th game of the season and looks doubtful heading in to the playoffs.
Not only stopping at Dasom, Tyler Lamb picked up an injury himself which led to him being shutdown for the rest of the season. Hitech would pickup last year’s hero, Patrick Cabahug, as a replacement. Despite how awesome that seems to be, it highlighted the sort of downfall that Hitech Bangkok City had been experiencing for the past two months.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Hitech Bangkok City offense.
They were one of the best teams in the ABL on the fastbreak. Tyler Lamb and Chris Charles was one of the best combos in that open court. Lamb and Goldstein could seemingly finish any open lane they had. Steve Thomas probably has the most outlet pass assists in the ABL (though Reggie Johnson would probably be a very close second). Dasom was a decent finisher on the fastbreak.
But once they settled down in the halfcourt set, it just turned into a whole different story.
At only 43.4 eFG%, Hitech had the second worst scoring efficiency in the ABL and that says a lot. Sitting next to Hitech Bangkok City in the list are Saigon Heat at 45.3 eFG% which is quite a drop off. Despite taking the most amount of shots in the league per game (81.9), Hitech were only able to finish off 39.5% of those shots.
After mentioning all of that, some of you readers might be quick to point out that trigger-happy duo of Goldstein & Lamb as the culprit for these offensive flaws. While they did combine for an unbelievable 38.9 attempts per game, you also have to remember that Hitech shot only 39.8% from the field last year. This is nothing new.
This is just how Hitech Bangkok City runs their offense. The assist rate is down a bit (from 53.5% to 52.8%) but so are the turnovers (from 14.8% down to 14.0%).
The problem of Hitech Bangkok City is not the offense. Or at least it wasn’t a problem last year when they won the title. They have plenty of room for improvement, but it’s not what has been holding them back.
It’s tough grading a team that has the second highest block rate (9.5%) and highest steal rate (11.9%) this low on defense, but that’s where we’re at. I said that Saigon Heat were flashy on offense. Well, Hitech are kind of like that, but on defense. You get a lot of monster blocks from Chris Charles for sure, which his league leading 3.5 blocks per game (7.3 BKL%). Tyler Lamb (2.83), Freddie Goldstein (2.35), and Steve Thomas (2.35) are the top three of the steals leaderboard.
BUT I’M RATING THIS TEAM A “D+” ON DEFENSE?!?!
Hear me out.
Despite all of those quantifiable defensive numbers, they are only the third best at forcing turnovers (20.1 opponent TOV%). And most importantly, despite all of those steals and blocks, they are allowing teams to score at a 41.1 FG% clip on them, which is the worst among playoff teams.
This is a huge drop-off from last year, when they were arguably the best defensive team in the league allowing an absurdly low 36.6% shooting.
I feel that a main part was that the amount of offensive load Lamb and Goldstein took up forced them to not be able to put in as much effort on the defensive end. Transition defense was also a key point as they allowed plenty of easy points on the fast break. But for me, it’s still hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with Hitech Bangkok City’s defense this year and this is coming from someone who has watch every single Hitech game this season.
If they don’t figure out and fix what went wrong, defending the title will be like climbing the Everest.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t change it.”
This was half of the approach that Hitech Bangkok City took heading into this ABL Season. Even if Chris Charles and Steve Thomas are on the wrong side of 30 and visibly showing their decline, they have still been the anchors of the Hitech Bangkok City defense. Hitech had no reason to replace them, coming off of a title run and they didn’t. Kudos.
The ASEAN import situation was rattled early on when Jerick Canada got signed long-term in the PBA with Blackwater Elite (congratulations to him once again here). Suddenly out of the blue, they were gift-wrapped with two Thai-Americans and the rest was history.
With the addition of the two Heritage imports, the usage rate of the World Imports dropped with Charles dropping from 27.4% to 23.4% and Thomas going from 18.0% to 13.3%. But the world imports maintained their performance steadily nonetheless.
Thomas even boosted his free throw shooting from 53.1% to 64.4%! Charles on the other hand dropped from 64.4% to 49.5%.
Goldstein and Lamb took up a lot of possessions this year for Hitech. Goldstein logged in at 29.4% while Lamb used up 27.8% of their possessions. Their scoring inefficiencies (40.9 eFG% and 39.7 eFG%, respectively) left a lot to be desired but they were the heart and soul of the Hitech Bangkok City offense, whether you like it or not.
Time and again, their three-point shooting would win Hitech games…but they would also shoot Hitech out of some games as well.
But it’s their first season playing here. They have more time to adjust. It’s just the fact that they are being burdened with the pressure of defending a title that might be a bit unfair to these two stars.
I know it’s a lost cause to mention Wattana Suttisin again, but missing out on his services was quite a blow.
Hitech went from being a team that used up 44.9% minutes on playing its locals last year to only 33.8% this year. That’s still a pretty high number though and the trend among all returning teams (except Saigon Heat) are that their local players playing time has reduced.
But it has to be pointed out that the reduced playing time is not for the lack of talent in the locals, at least in Hitech’s case. Wutipong Dasom has made a slight stride forward. He’s been scoring more efficiently, getting rebounds at a better rate, and passing ball better.
Season 5 Dasom: 43.1 FG%, 19.0 3P%, 55.6 FT%, 45.9 eFG%, 5.5 REB%, 7.4 AST%
Season 6 Dasom: 45.1 FG%, 23.3 3P%, 60.9 FT%, 47.7 eFG%, 5.8 REB%, 10.5 AST%
…and because he got injured at the tail end of the season, Hitech won’t be able to use him in the playoffs.
This would be the perfect time for their other featured local, Nakorn Jaisanook, to step up. Jaisanook played bits and pieces last year, but he was used more frequently this year. He’s only shooting a modest 35.6% from the field and an above average 32.1% from the three-point line, but that is an improvement from his 21.2 FG% and 20.9 3P% from last year. Now that Dasom is out of the playoff picture, it will be up to Jaisanook to step up.
Another two frequently used locals are grizzled vets, Piyapong Piroon and Attaporn Lertmalaiporn. Attaporn has taken a step back from last year, where he came up in huge situations for Hitech. This year, he has been reserved to mostly stop-gap situations.
Piroon, however, has found a second wind in his career. He’s has a game or two hitting a number of crucial three-point shots which will come helpful in the playoffs should he still be able to conjure the same form.
Hitech Bangkok City has just as talented locals as any other team, it’s just been a matter of if they are willing to use them.
I might say that Hitech Bangkok City peaked too early in the season, but I can’t really pinpoint where exactly they peaked either. Maybe they haven’t even peaked yet and are about to peak in the playoffs. Whatever the case, we can probably say that Hitech Bangkok City ended the season lower than where they (and I) expected, and I don’t only mean the standings.
Finishing an ABL season in 3rd place with 14 wins is quite the achievement. However, taking in the consideration of the development as the season went on and the expectations set, I don’t think Hitech are satisfied with where they are right now.
On one hand, it’s reasonable to expect Tyler Lamb and Freddie Goldstein to return to Hitech next season a la Moala Tautua’a/Stanley Pringle. They will have adjusted to the ABL pace better and will have matured as professional players. Wuttipong Dasom is still young as well as Nakorn Jaisanook.
The next generation of Hitech Bangkok City are primed to start making their own noise.
This sets up the fading of the veterans of the team. Steven Thomas has been considering retirement and I don’t think anyone would hold anything against him if he did at this stage of his career. Chris Charles can still play at a high level, but he’s spent three seasons in Thailand and you have to wonder if he’s saturated his experience here yet. Piyapong Piroon and Attaporn Lertmalaiporn are more than half a decade away from their Local MVP candidate days.
It’s just up to the team to manage this transition with ease.
Let’s take a look back at what I said about Hitech Bangkok City at the start of the season:
Hitech Bangkok City should be rock solid.
I was talking about defense. Spoiler alert: they weren’t.
One thing I saw that plagued Hitech in the Thailand Basketball League was their untimely injuries.
I could just replace “Thailand Basketball League” with “ASEAN Basketball Leauge” and reuse that line for the playoff preview.
Hitech have the depth to withstand an injury, but they will have to manage it well.
And now we shall get to see how they manage it.
I predict a 14-15 win season once again for Hitech Bangkok City.
I AM THE ALL-KNOWING GOD. COME TO ME WITH YOUR OFFERINGS.
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