I would be a fool not to talk about how Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters finished the previous conference – a conference that saw them dominate the competition to a pulp (at least in the conference games). Talk ‘n Text had a net efficiency rating of +7.8 back in the All-Filipino Cup. They were buoyed by both a great offense (4.3 points per 100-possession over league average) and by a great defense (3.5 points per 100-possession below league average). Adding a talented import, regardless of his role, should mean good things for the Tropang Texters, right? I mean, if they were this much better than the rest of the PBA, then an influx of imports (who fall within a certain boundary of productivity) should not adversely affect their ability to win. Logical, right?
So it goes without saying that this past conference has been nothing short of confusing, frustrating and perplexing.
By the Numbers
It wasn’t so much as they were inconsistent (as can be seen from Table 1.1) as they had no identity. Inconsistency is acceptable if you have an identity. TNT had neither. Or they had an identity but they didn’t execute it. I’m inclined to believe the latter. Some nights they were a good offensive team (they recorded an ORTG of 100 six times), some nights they were a good defensive team (they recorded DRTG of below 90, one was against Globalport, 84.7 DRTG, and another against Rain or Shine, 85.7). But there were also times where they were horrible both on offense (7 games with an ORTG of below the league average and) and on defense (8 games where their DRTG was above the league average).
Overall, as the season went along, their net efficiency was always below average (see table above). Table 1.2 shows TNT’s points per 100-possession scored and allowed (or ORTG and DRTG, respectively) as the season went along (compared to Table 1.1 which shows their ORTG and DRTG on just a game-to-game basis). Changing imports wasn’t as helpful as they would like it to be. The third import (Jerome Jordan) wasn’t even the last one – TNT replaced their import midway through their battle with Ginebra (which probably cost them a Finals seat). It was like TNT was run by not just three blind mice – but four, as all four imports never really meshed well with their local counterparts.
Who’s to Blame?
This was a conference that was lost. Who is to blame? Can we blame the players for not stepping up?
To a degree, yes – in particular Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams and Jayson Castro. Here are charts detailing TNT’s most important players and their offensive rating from the All-Filipino Cup to the Commissioner’s Cup (along with their usage rates and minutes per game).
If you looked at the ORTG table, you’ll see that most of the players (outside of RDO, Castro and Kelly) experienced little gain/loss. However, those 3 experienced severe drop offs from the efficiency they exhibited in the PH Cup. Upon further examination, Castro and De Ocampo experienced some minor bumps in usage rates – Castro’s usage went went up from 25.3% to 28.2% while De Ocampo’s went up from 22.1% to 22.6%. Not huge increases that the decrease in efficiency was acceptable. Kelly, on the other hand, can be excused. He was given an indefinite leave of absence due to his sickness (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura). Nobody should play basketball while battling through a disease such as this one. A testament to Kelly’s fortitude, bravery and love for the sport. Nonetheless, his play this season did cripple TNT.
That however is not the biggest issue. Kelly Williams wasn’t a main creator (his usage rate hovering around 17% with few assists). He was merely a player who played off others. Castro and De Ocampo are different. They are asked to create scoring opportunities for their team. So their drop in efficiency (-15 for Castro, -14 for De Ocampo) placed so much pressure on TNT (both offensively and defensively) that they cracked under the pressure. What is the main culprit for this?
Most of their advanced statistics barely changed except for two (which are intertwined) — true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage. For both players, the bulk of the drop in their efficiency stems largely from their decrease in eFG and TS% (-8.4% and -8.8% for Castro; -2.5% and -4.35 for De Ocampo). If we checked out their attempts, we’ll see why.
There we go. Both players had a huge decrease in their 2PT%. This is because the new conference welcomed longer and more athletic players (Dozier, Dawson, Bowles, Macklin to name a few) that offered far more resistance inside than their local counterparts. As a result, Castro and De Ocampo were forced to tougher shots. In particular, Castro elected to go for higher arching layups, higher and body-contorting floaters. De Ocampo, on the other hand, had more shots blocked or changed than he would like to – his 6’5″ frame unable to cope up with the sudden change in competition. The new conference (and the lesser imports that accompany it) can be a ground for renewal. Talk ‘n Text’s offense cannot survive without those 2 operating at a consistently, peak efficiency.
It’s a far more difficult task to evaluate Talk ‘n Text’s defense during the conference. For one, they looked discombobulated – rotations were not on point, effort was halfhearted leading to either awful closeouts or linear drives on fakes that further broke down their defense. This resulted into an effective field goal percentage that was third worst in the entire league (46.5%). When they do force misses, the chicken race that happened before the miss (awful rotations, players not knowing where they should be, everybody just chasing anybody) left TNT players out of position for defensive rebounds – a personal source of pride for Norman Black. TNT, as Norman Black’s team, was never about gaining offensive rebounds. His teams have been at or near the bottom in ORB% during the past two PBA conferences and in his final season in the UAAP. His teams, however, do pride themselves on the “one-and-done” rule – a rule that allows just one shot per possession for teams. That was not the case this conference. They still had a DRB% that was above league average (TNT DRB% = 69.6%, League Average = 69.2%). But it pales in comparison to his past two teams (his team last conference was +6.1% on the defensive glass and the Ateneo Blue Eagles were +1% with the league leading defensive eFG to boot). If you don’t plan on attacking the offensive glass, you better make sure you control the other side. A +0.4% on the defensive glass just won’t cut it. This is where Kelly Williams’ decline and Ali Peek’s injury were felt. Both were among TNT’s better defensive rebounders in the All-Filipino Cup (22.6% for Kelly, 17.9% for Ali Peek). Neither was present to impact the defensive glass (and help their import, in the process). Kelly rebounded just 14.3% of the available defensive rebounds. A decline is to be expected (since you’re going to play with an import who will clog the paint up) but a decline of this magnitude means more than just a natural decline. With Kelly and Dillinger out (both are very strong defensive rebounders), TNT has an uphill climb in front of them to get back to the defensive level they showed in the All-Filipino Cup. Rabeh, who’s a really weak rebounder, will be asked upon to be more aggressive on the defensive glass. I don’t expect him to, but he’s TNT’s only hope (outside of maybe a trade).
Want further proof of the declining nature of TNT’s chicken race D? We know that second chance points are born out of offensive rebounds, right? Well, if we look at the ratio between second chance points allowed per game and offensive rebounding percentage allowed, we’ll see that Talk ‘n Text allowed the most second chance points per offensive rebounding percentage (behind only Barako). That’s not going to cut it.
You can’t count out the fact that more than half of these guys were practicing with Coach Chot for the Gilas. And with the Gilas team possibly suiting up and playing in the next few months, rest is a luxury the Texters don’t have. A trade could help bolster these Texters. One candidate that may be good for them (and probably easy to acquire) is Doug Kramer. Doug Kramer has been an excellent defensive rebounder for the Barako Bull Energy Cola. He’s been relegated to garbage minutes but his 28.7% defensive rebounding rate in the All-Filipino Cup (on 26 minutes per game) and 21.2% defensive rebounding rate in the Commisioner’s Cup (on 10 minutes per game and against tall imports) will certainly help alleviate Kelly Williams’ loss.
On the import front, Tony Mitchell was laughable as an import. In 3 games with TNT, he had a usage rate of 49.5% – that means he’s taking the offensive load of 2.5 people. YEESH. I know that it is just 3 games, but if there ever comes a time to define what “ball hog” really means, just point them to this.
I’m not too keen on researching on rumors but apparently, now that Tony Mitchell is focusing on getting back to the NBA, TNT is looking at their former import Paul Harris as reinforcement (story here).
Paul Harris will do (he can rebound well and space the floor for the Texters). But they should also consider looking for REALLY undersized but defense-oriented bigs. They do not lack perimeter scoring – between Alapag, Castro, Fonacier and Reyes, they already have enough. What they do lack is inside help. Signing a player like Tony Mitchell or Paul Harris (both are perimeter-oriented players) won’t really solve a problem for them. I don’t have any names with me but this should be their number one priority for the Tropang Texters. Their offense will be fine – Ranidel showed glimpses of his former self in 6 games in the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs scoring around 122 points per 100-possession, but their defense suffered because they couldn’t find the right import to anchor their defense too. Getting a perimeter player won’t help that.
See more posts from this series
- Retribution On-Hold: The Rain or Shine 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Review
- Never Say Never: The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Review
- Roller-coaster conference: The San Miguel Coffee Mixers 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Review
- The One That Got Away: The Petron Blaze Boosters 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Review
- Heart of a Champion: The Alaska Aces 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Conference Review
- Four Blind Mice: The Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters 2013 Commissioner’s Cup Review