<
>

NBL23 Numbers: How do you stop the Kings? Perth's best lineup?

With each team reaching the quarter way mark of the season, the trends for each squad are beginning to form. While there will be some noise in the numbers for weeks to come, there has been enough on-court action to assess how the 'eye-test' marries up with the numbers.

While the storylines are endless, here's the breakdown on the Sydney Kings blueprint, the Adelaide 36ers biggest concern and some rotation issues for the Perth Wildcats.

Kings suffocate Breakers in early season test

If it wasn't for Xavier Cooks suffering an ankle injury late in the half, you get the sense Sydney head coach Chase Buford would have entered the locker room feeling pretty good about the way things went in New Zealand last weekend through two quarters.

Leading 45-27, the Kings had limited the Breakers to taking the shot profile their defence is designed to allow. New Zealand were 9-for-34 from the floor (26.4 percent), with the shot chart telling the story.

The Kings defensive principles are simple: restrict shots at the rim, limit corner three attempts allowed, and coerce the opposition to shoot from the midrange or non-restricted area paint attempts (floater range).

Through two quarters, the Breakers attempted 16 non restricted area two-point field goals, recording a 4-for-16 shooting clip, while also attempting a paltry two corner 3-point attempts.

While the Kings opposition shot profile is elite, here's the kicker. Even if the opposition does make it all the way to the bucket, they are then met by Cooks, Tim Soares and Jordan Hunter, who all provide significant rim protection on the back line. On the season, teams are 111-for-218 at the rim, with the 51 percent mark falling eight percent below league average.

So how do you beat the Kings?

Across three matchups, Adelaide (1-0) and Cairns (1-1) have blazed their way to competitive outings against Sydney. Combined, the two teams attempted 114 3-point attempts from their total of 214 shots. Incredibly, only eight of those 114 attempts came from the corner.

At 7-2 on the season, the Kings aren't unbeatable, though the data is indicating that to have success, you need to be able to hit the shots they force you to take.

Perth lineup questions

Wildcats head coach John Rillie is working through a challenging first phase of his NBL head coaching career, with his squad attempting to overcome deficiencies on both sides of the ball to start the season.

Offensively, the team is looking for support behind superstar guard Bryce Cotton, while on the defensive end, the data suggests there has been little success with import big men TaShawn Thomas and Brady Manek sharing the floor.

Defensively the pairing has been disastrous, with the Wildcats posting a raw +/- of -30 across 141 possessions while sharing the floor with Cotton. The luck adjusted defensive rating is 130.5 (points against per 100 possessions), while the team is getting outscored by 20.0 points per 100 possessions in the time the trio have shared the floor.

Substituting one of the import big men for Luke Travers or Jesse Wagstaff has produced dramatically improved numbers, particularly on the defensive end. Part of those numbers could relate to familiarity with the Wildcats program, but it could also simply be early evidence that using one of Manek or Thomas as a four will prove to be an unsuccessful move looking ahead.

Rillie has already made an adjustment by starting Wagstaff, but needless to say, having two imports playing the same position that are unable to share the floor would be problematic if the trend holds true.

Adelaide defensive woes

It's been another big week in Adelaide, with the club parting ways with import guard Craig Randall II. Even by subtracting one of the league's top scorers to start the season, the 36ers are stacked with offensive talent, though the questions absolutely remain on the defensive end of the floor.

Though it's only been seven games due to their late start to the season, the 36ers are last in the league for defensive efficiency, giving up 114.6 points per 100 possessions. Compared to the rest of the league, it's in transition where the data paints a particularly ugly picture.

Adelaide's opposition transition frequency sits at 15.4 percent, the second highest mark in the league. That number is of greater concern when you note that they are giving up 1.38 points per play in transition, which is significantly more than the second worst mark of 1.15 from the Illawarra Hawks and well above the league average of 1.05.

While the club searches for an import replacement, two players who figure to see a bump in minutes are Anthony Drmic and Sunday Dech. If you're looking for a positive as an Adelaide fan, the team's defensive rating with Drmic (107.1 in 274 possessions) or Dech (108.6 in 270 possessions) on the floor is significantly better than any of the seven players to have seen at least 200 possessions of court time in NBL23.

As the kids say, the vibes have been bad in Adelaide, but they now have an opportunity turn a new page, with improved effort on the defensive end sitting at the top of the list of boxes to tick.

*All data for this article sourced from SpatialJam.com - luck adjusted advanced metrics in table used to minimise impact of small sample size and variance in shooting that cannot be directly correlated to one player on the floor.