I had my doubts on the Singapore Slingers before the start of last season in 2015. I had my doubts on the Singapore Slingers before the start of this season in 2016. After their first six games of the season, I have learned that I should never doubt the Singapore Slingers.
“Season’s Greeting” is a six-part article where I took a brief look at each ABL team in the 2016 while also taking a shot at projecting their fate in 2017. I’ll try to keep it as lightheaded as I can.
The Slingers started the season without their top local big men (Russel Low and Delvin Goh), their surprise local star from last season (Wu Qingde), and their surprise local star from two seasons ago (Larry Liew).
And it didn’t matter at all.
6 games into the season and their only loss came at the hands of a very strong Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions team on the road in overtime.
What we know from 2016: Singapore Slingers
- Justin Howard isn’t Old
The Slingers’ import looks old and moves like he’s twice his age, but he seems to be one of those players who just ages well.
The big man has always been able to score, boasting a 20.2 career average over 55 games while being held in double digits only one game. He’s always been dominant on the boards too, never averagering less than 12.5 per game.
So far in this season, Howard is averaging a career high 25.5 points and 18.8 games. He’s shooting 53.0% from the field and 70.7% from the free throw line.
Another coach of an ABL team joked with Justin early in the season that they were supposed to get him, but he was considered “too old”.
Not looking too old now.
- Well-oiled Machine
The Slingers are leading the league in rebounds (49.7) and assists (15.0) and they are among the leaders in scoring efficiency.
They worked hard on the boards, they share the ball around well until they get the shot they want, and they get to the free throw line a lot.
There’s a lot to like about how the Slingers a playing right now and the scary thing is that they have yet to get Qingde and Liew back in to the lineup yet.
- That Three-Point shooting though
In a world of modern basketball where teams are exploiting the three-point shot to success, the Slingers have gone the opposite route. Despite being one of the most successful teams in the past three years, the Slingers have never attempted more than 20 three point shots per game in a season. The only other team to shoot less than 20 three point shots per game was Laskar Dreya (Saigon Heat is currently averaging 13.3 this season).
While other top teams (Hitech Bangkok City, KL Dragons, this year’s Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions) have been feeding off a barrage of long range shots, the Slingers have been pounding down low the whole time.
It’s just a weird phenomenon.
- OCBC Hotdogs
Still the best venue snacks in the ABL.
What we can expect for in 2017: Singapore Slingers
- Who’s in the house?
Wu’s in the house!!! Your most favorite scrappy surprise star of 2016 has yet to see the court for the Singapore Slingers this season, but he is primed to return to the court soon.
The Slingers have been missing a spot up three point shooter this season and it’ll be interesting to see if he still has that mojo when he returns.
PS. The Return of Larry Liew is also underrated as well.
- Dead End
Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander have been unstoppable so far, but what happens when they sputter? Wei Long and Kwek have done well supporting the two imports, but they haven’t had moments where they “take over” even momentarily.
Alli Austria hasn’t had as much of an impact as the Slingers had hoped for so far. Last season, they had Kris Rosales who stepped up and keep the boat steady when either Howard and Alexander struggled, but who will play that role this season?
This is a big question for the Slingers that needs to be answered as well.
- Is One Really Enough?
I admire the fact that the Slingers went through the entire season and went to the Finals with only one Heritage Import (Rosales). It was great for the league, great for the local players, and great for the team’s branding.
But let’s look at the dead cold facts. It’s your seventh season in the league. You have lucked out on getting two high-level imports who have formed a cohesive bond with the entire team and they seem to be peaking at the right time. You have a collective group of local players who have a good mix of veteran leadership, experience, freshness, and talent.
This could very well be the Singapore Slingers BIGGEST championship window EVER.
And again, while I admire that they are doing this with only ONE Heritage import who has yet to secure a big role… you have to wonder if they sohuld capitalize their window by adding another Heritage Import.
It hurts the cause of promoting local talent and developing local talent, but let’s say they add a guy like Moses Morgan or Jerick Canada or any other proven ABL veteran. While there are obvious risks (like players not meshing well or other unpredictable issues), what if it resulted in a championship?
I’m not saying that the current squad is incapable of securing a title, but what if they don’t win it all this year for a second year straight?
Will the they feel like they had this card up their sleeve the whole time but refused to use it?
Wishlist: Singapore Slingers
- Alli Austria transformation
- Wu Qingde/Larry Liew/Russel Low/Delvin Goh
- Find whatever Justin Howard is eating and make sure he keeps eating it
- Consistent Leon Kwek
New Years Resolution: Singapore Slingers
- Stop Justin Howard from turning the ball over (5.3 per game)
- More threes? (Or maybe not?)
Conclusion: Singapore Slingers
The Singapore Slingers look like one of the best bets to win the ABL title so far. All of their main active players have been filling in their roles and they still have some players primed to return.
Things are looking good for the Slingers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions that they need to answer themselves.
The Slingers open up the New Year with back-to-back games against the KL Dragons in their “Strait’s Cup” rivalry. The first game will be on Friday the 6th of January in Malaysia before returning home on Sunday the 8th.
Check out the articles for the other teams here: