Hungry Jack's NBL
Off-Season Report: Sydney
HEAD COACH Damian Cotter 2015/16 PLAYERS SIGNED Angus Brandt; Jason Cadee; Tom Garlepp; Julian Khazzouh FREE AGENTS Cody Ellis (option); Daniel Joyce; Josh Childress (import); Josh Duinker (option); Kendrick Perry (import); Kevin White; Nick Horvath Last season: 9-19, seventh in regular season Points For: 82.9ppg, seventh Points Against: 86.0ppg, seventh Field Goal Percentage: 44.4%, third Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 45.0%, eighth Free Throw Percentage: 73.8%, third Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.1%, sixth Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 34.9%, sixth Rebounds: 32.0rpg, eighth Assists: 13.2apg, eighth Steals: 5.1spg, fifth Blocked Shots: 4.7bpg, second Turnovers: 11.3tpg, second Josh Childress. Well, duh. Despite the feeling in some quarters that the former NBA star and Euroleague standout would be coming out for a holiday, nothing could have been further from the truth. He raised the standard of the league through his sometimes otherworldly play, and worked harder and was more of a team player than anyone could have imagined. Team culture. With the amount of turnover this team has had over the past five seasons, establishing a true team culture has proven elusive – that is, until Damian Cotter came on board as the new head coach. The results may not have been there, but this was a group that was underpowered compared to most other teams and suffered a ton of adversity, yet never fractured or pointed fingers, as has been the case in the past. Cotter is building something more solid – culture-wise – than anything seen since the Goorjian Era. Offensive execution. Despite an overall lack of talent and an import point guard in Kendrick Perry who failed to make an impact, Sydney took great strides in both their halfcourt sets and transition offence last season. They improved their offensive efficiency for the most part, and although the argument could be made that it helps when you have an ultimate game-breaker like Josh Childress, there was much more fluency and fewer mistakes than in recent times. Defence. It’s been an issue for the club since they came back into the league and it’s still a work in progress. While their pick and roll defence was much improved from the debacle of the previous season, the Kings continued to have problems on D both in transition and on the perimeter. Rebounding. Maybe the most glaring stat for this group was just how poor they were on the boards, despite having the league’s leading rebounder in Childress. They gave up the most offensive rebounds of any team in the league and were outrebounded by an average of six per contest. Injuries. Frankly, this team was decimated by injury last season and the group was never completely healthy for an extended period of time. Starting centre Angus Brandt was hurt most of the year and they lost both Josh Childress and Ben Madgen to season-ending injuries. Re-sign Josh Childress. Again, duh. By all accounts, Childress loved his first season in the League and would be open to a return. If that’s the case, the Kings’ hierarchy need to move heaven and earth to get him back. He’s something the league has rarely seen – a multi-talented forward with size, speed and uncommon ability – and when you add in his great media savvy and community work, he’s exactly the kind of import the organisation needs. Replace Ben Madgen. He’s meant everything to the franchise since breaking through with a Rookie of the Year season in 2010/11, to the point where he was named to the club’s 25th Anniversary Team, no small feat. It’s going to be tough to replace his scoring at the very least, but maybe it’s his leadership and toughness that will be missed the most. There aren’t many obvious local options at the two so the club may decide to go after a combo import, but other guys on the roster are going to need to step up and help fill what is a significant void with Madgen’s departure. Improved depth. There’s little doubt that Sydney’s depth wasn’t great overall last season. There were some good performances from individuals in a couple of games, but as a group they struggled and the team would benefit from improvement in that area. It will be interesting to see how active the Kings will be in free agency this off-season. There’s no question they lacked depth in 2014/15 and need to upgrade their roster significantly at a number of positions if they are to make a serious charge at the League’s elite programs – one absolute must is to recruit an experienced, quality import floor leader. The loss of Ben Madgen is a massive blow and impacts their recruitment program – replacing him is no easy feat. However, getting former captain Julian Khazzouh back into the program was a tremendous coup and immediately addresses what was, unquestionably, a significant problem last season – their lack of size inside. They also are faced with a split home season between Darling Harbour and Homebush given the impending demolition of the Qantas Credit Union Arena and that will be challenging to deal with. But one thing is clear – the club has had five consecutive losing seasons, and that has to change in 2015/16 if the team is going to make some inroads into a highly competitive Sydney sports marketplace. By Matt McQuade; NBL.tv commentator. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the NBL.