Updated: Dec 31, 2019
The Cranbourne Bucks had one of the most talented rosters. So what went wrong?
“I think we had the right guys on the roster, we just had guys missing at the wrong times in the season.” - Matt Innes
The Cranbourne Bucks - one of the best, one of the worst
The Cranbourne Bucks were one team this season that pushed nearly every team they played against, yet they got over the line just 2 of their 11 games. After getting thumped in their first 2 games of the season by would-be contenders Nar Nar Goon Bulldogs and Narre Silverbacks, the Bucks lost their next 3 games by a total of 9 points. Their highest margin of defeat following their first 2 games was just 12 points and included some absolutely heartbreaking losses, one of which against the Bulldogs late in the season, where they went down by just 3 points. This Bucks team also pushed 3 games into Extra time, but was only able to come away with just one win in OT. How did this team come so close, yet finish so far? The Twin Towers
The Bucks had one of the most intriguing player pairings in Aaron Olczyk and Mitch Ryal. Both immense talents with very different skillsets, this pairing had what it took to make this team as good as any in the league, especially when matched with outside shooting from GM Matt Innes, Josh Saunders and Peter Kennedy. Heres the thing though - the pairing wasn't exactly ideal.. Aaron Olczyk put up some massive numbers each game, often earning player of the week consideration and carrying the scoring load for his team. He drew so much attention when he bullied his way into the top of the key that sometimes he would end up with 2, even 3 players contesting his shot. His 16.6ppg average at 44% shooting tells us how solid of an option he was. But with most of his shots coming in the paint while drawing double teams, some of these shots seemed forced. Enter Mitch Ryal. Mitch has a completely different skill set. His shots outside the key would have been close to zero. He has carved a role out on every team he has played in by cutting baseline and using his big frame to finish at the rim. Seems like a match made in heaven right? Driver/mid range finisher and a baseline slasher and paint bully! But Mitch averaged just 9ppg this season on 38% shooting. Low numbers on both sides. Both of these guys could have made each other better players, while upping both of their numbers, but something just didn't click. Sometimes it happens. But this leaves us thinking what could have been, if Aaron found a slashing Ryal when he was double teamed, or perhaps Ryal didn't have to force his shot inside.
Threes This team finished 4th in 3pt% out of 16 teams. They also finished 4th LAST in fg%. You can read into this what you like, but I say if you do something well, why try and differ from in. Hot Sauce - GM Matt Innes lead the league in 3pt% in players that attempted over 10 for the season at an impressive 41%. Their next highest in 3p% was Josh Lanting at 24%
This team made just one small adjustment, bringing in Kerry Ashford later in the season. This gave them a whole heap of veteran leadership and a team first guy. Should they have traded to bring in another dynamic? Let's look at their 3's as an example. Josh Saunders shot at just 16% from deep. Peter Kennedy wasn't too much better. Both of these guys are better shooters than that, we know. But this team still finished 4th overall in 3pt%.
Here's a couple of moves they could have made: Mitch Ryal - Bucks for Leon Stapley - Crocs Josh Saunders - Bucks for Kiel Sutherland - Mustangs
Looking at the numbers, you might wonder why Leon for Ryal? Leon shot just 25% from deep this season. However, he is known as one of the best shooters in the area still - his presence on the court is enough to make the best defences scramble at the thought of him catching fire. Giving up Mitch Ryal is a big one. He would most likely go to the Crocs, average a decent size double double and look fantastic doing it. It would be a win win situation for both teams. The Crocs could benefit from having a monster on the inside and would allow Dan Stow (GM) to put a few more threes up per game - which he happens to be great at! Not to mention he is a terrific facilitator and would know how to out Ryal in great spots. Saunders for Kiel. Now I'm not too sure if the Stangs would bite on this. GM Jacob Begg gets attached to his players, and Kiel has been no different. Begg has been vocal in his support of Kiel and admires his work ethic. But if you look at their squad, they have 2 other fantastic bigs in Jordan Hendrix and Scott Collings. Kiel is arguably the best defender of the lot. But you need to give up to get. The Stangs were the 3rd WORST in the comp % wise from deep. Taking a flyer on Saunders would be a solid gamble. Saunders has had games as recent as a few weeks ago, going for over 30 points and dropping treys like no tomorrow. Betting on him finding his range on a Monday night would be a no brainer. Bringing Kiel in for the Bucks is great. He doesn't demand shots as he knows defence is his speciality. Pair that up with a known extra shooter coming in and who knows what could have happened?
There are a number of similar moves that could have been made, but for now we sit and ponder what could have been.