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 the KL Dragons.
The KL Dragons came back hungrier than ever. It took them time to gain steam, but it seems like they might have actually reached the pinnacle of their potential at just the perfect moment in the season.
Season In Review
It might have been a strange transition period for the Dragons in the offseason. They had lost a huge chunk of their entire local core from the run to the Finals, yet Coach Ariel Vanguardia was reloading a very interesting import roster.
With a roster loaded with relatively high-level NCAA talent, the Dragons were ready to take the ABL by storm. But it took them time, as you would expect from a team with barely any ABL experience.
After beating the Pilipinas MX3 Kings in their season debut, the Dragons struggled a bit. They went into overtime against the Saigon Heat. The Slingers beat them. They went down to the wire against Mono Vampires. Saigon Heat beat them.
But maybe the turning point for them (like a lot of teams this year) was the New Year’s break.
They were coming off a tough gritty loss at the hands of rivals, Singapore Slingers, and maybe that was what fueled them for the rest of the season.
Let’s take a look at the crucial split:
Before loss to Slingers: 41.1 FG%, 31.4 3P%, 17.7 APG, 87.1 PPG
After loss to Slingers: 50.6 FG%, 36.9 3P%, 24.3 APG, 99.5 PPG
HOLY SMOKES. It’s like they just flipped the switch to another gear. They were sitting at 3rd place at the time, but 10 wins later, they are sitting as the top seed headed into the ABL playoffs. There was that one loss blip to Hitech Bangkok City, but that game showed more of how good Hitech really is.
Calvin Godfrey broke through his professional rookie wall, going from shooting 42.1% to 63.1% after the jump. Jason Brickman kicked up from 7.5 assists per game to 11.7 per game.
But the biggest part of the transformation might have been the return of Loh Shee Fai. Shee Fai conveniently came back into the lineup (following an ACL surgical repair) after that loss to the Slingers and the Dragons had never been the same since.
Maybe it was because they had another legit three-point shooting three (Shee Fai shot 15/30 from downtown) to take the pressure of the big men and Wright.
Maybe Shee Fai is a local that Coach AV could trust, having played for him for so long.
Whatever the case, it shifted the Dragons into another level of play and it seems to be holding on right into the playoffs.
I’d give a higher grade than this, but there really isn’t a point. I seriously though it would be hard to top the level of offense the Dragons posted last year…but well, I was proven wrong.
Season 5 KL Dragons: 89.1 PPG, 43.3 FG%, 29.5 3P%, 47.2 eFG%, 82.4 Pace
Season 6 KL Dragons: 93.9 PPG, 46.2 FG%, 34.4 3P%, 51.3 eFG%, 85.6 Pace
YEESH. The Dragons led the ABL this year in FGM, FG%, 3PM, 3P%, FTM, FT%, Points, eFG%, and AST% and the competition wasn’t even close.
Their offensive unit seems like the perfect fit. Jason Brickman can and will find any open man. Matthew Wright seems to be able to find the right spots to catch and shoot. Calvin Godfrey has the size and speed to be a matchup nightmare. Reggie Johnson has the perfect touch around the rim to compliment his size and ability to get close.
Put in long 3&D guys like Tian Yuan Kuek and Wong Yi Hou and sharpshooting Loh Shee Fai, and this is one of the deadliest offensive line ups ever.
The Dragons also lead the league in Offensive Rebounding percentage (35.3%), so even in the less likely case that they miss a shot…someone will probably be there to clean it up anyways.
The guy that keeps it all running is Jason Brickman. With an average of 10.5 assists per game at an absurd 37.7 AST%, he is the guy who keeps everyone well fed. Brickman seems to just know where his team mates are on the court at all times especially Matthew Wright, who he has found for those wide open three-point shots over and over again.
It’s not hopeless to defend this team. We’ve seen Singapore do it twice. We’ve seen Hitech do it once.
But it will be hard.
This isn’t your typical all-offense, no-defense type of team. But of course, if you’ve been following since last year, you would have known that.
The Dragons are pretty stingy, allowing 40.7 FG% (2nd best) and only 26.9 3P% (2nd best). Alongside the solid defense of their imports, their locals are long and love to tangle and tussle with the opposition. We’ve seen numerous incidents where Tian Yuan Kuek or Wong Yi Hou would get another player seething in frustration after contact.
They also force 20.5% turnovers out of their opponents, which creates the fastbreak opportunities that Brickman thrives in creating and Wright/Godfrey loves finishing.
But with all of that pressure and contact, comes the inevitable large amount of fouls. The Dragons led the league in fouls (20.2 per game) and trail Mono Vampires closely in opponent free throw attempts per game (21.6 per game). Players who have had huge performances against the Dragons spent a lot of time on the line as well.
The Dragons aren’t going to be easy to breakdown defensively, but as we’ve seen the Slingers and Hitech do, you just have to keep going aggressively at them and hope for the best.
Jason Brickman leads the league in assists per game (10.5).
Jason Brickman has 8 games of double-digit assists.
Jason Brickman has two 20+ assists games.
Jason Brickman officially holds the ABL record for assists in a game (21).
Matthew Wright scored 23.1 points per game (officially leads ABL).
Matthew Wright is tied for 2nd with four 30+ point games.
Matthew Wright shot 41.8% from the three-point line (leads ABL).
Matthew Wright made 71 three-point shots, which leads the ABL by 24 made threes.
Matthew Wright holds the ABL record for three-point shots made in one game (10).
Matthew Wright holds the ASEAN Import season-high in points with 41.
Reggie Johnson scored 21.6 points per game (officially 3rd in ABL).
Reggie Johnson leads league with seven 30+ point games.
Reggie Johnson leads the ABL in field goal percentage (56.9%).
Reggie Johnson leads ABL in effective field goal percentage (57.6 eFG%).
Reggie Johnson leads ABL World Imports at free throw shooting percentage (77.8%).
Reggie Johnson is second in rebounding percentage (18.8%).
Calvin Godfrey might not have accolades like that (and I’m trying to wrap this up as fast as I can ) but he’s boasting a line of:
21.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.7 blocks, and 53.6 FG%
The jump in level of play that Calvin Godfrey made after mid-season that I mentioned earlier, coincided with the Dragons end-of-season surge and that might put him up for the World Import MVP award.
If you aren’t impressed with that import lineup, I don’t know what will.
The Malaysian locals probably aren’t as bad as this grading suggests, but it reflects the impact they have made on the team this year for whatever reason that may be.
This is already taking in consideration of Shee Fai’s season of scoring 4.9 points off 50% three-point shooting. Other than raining threes, Shee Fai didn’t contribute as much as he did last year.
Tian Yuan Kuek was a solid contributor if not a huge one. His main role is to annoy on defense with his long limbs and to hit those open threes when they come his way. Plus, he was the only other local aside Wutipong Dasom to throw down a dunk this year!
The youngster Wong Yi Hou has glimpses early in the season, but his minutes dwindled away towards the end as Shee Fai reclaimed his role. Same goes for Choo Wei Hong, who started a couple of games, but wasn’t able to make any impact.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment might have been Ivan Yeo. He looked like he lacked confidence going into each game and despite showing that he had potential to work with, it never blossomed.
It might be unfair to judge the KL Dragon locals this way, as the imports dominated for most of the part, but this is what was displayed for us to see.
I had pretty high expectations for this team and they still managed to exceed it. The Dragons were simply breathing fire (pun intended) and they found the right moment to spread their wings and fly (pun intended).
They finished the season with more wins than they had last year, ended in the number one spot, broke plenty of record books along the way, and will have home court advantage though out the playoffs.
I’ll say that a very successful season.
They are still looking for a star local to build around. Tong Wen Keong could have been that guy, but we’ll have to wait and see. Wong Yi Hou might be that guy, but he’s still 2-3 years away. Shee Fai was that guy, but he’s nearing his peak fast. Ivan Yeo seemed like he could have been that guy, but this wasn’t a promising start.
Jason Brickman and Matthew Wright are still a couple of years away from entering the PBA Draft if they decide not to go through the D-League, but the Dragons will have to keep them close. Godfrey’s demand will certainly raise up higher after this season, as well as Johnson’s.
But you know what? Despite all of the uncertainty, we’ve seen Coach AV reload in a hurry. And it’s been a good one so far.
Let’s take a look back at what I said about the KL Dragons at the start of the season:
I’m more worried what happens when Brickman needs a breather.
Brickman never seems to need a breather.
Experience will be an issue that Coach Ariel Vanguardia will have to overcome this year.
And he did.
Their raw talent alone will probably propel them into the playoffs.
It SHOT them into the playoffs.
Getting 15 wins again might be too much to ask for
No, it isn’t.
but I don’t see them winning less than 10 games.
At least, I got this right.
I’m going to predict a 12-win season for the Dragons.
A bit off…but hey, no one is perfect.
You can follow Tones & Definition at the following media outlets as well:
Line: @tonesndef (the “@” is a part of the ID)