The Adelaide 36ers released Craig Randall II on Tuesday, after locker room disputes and attitude concerns that left the club with no other choice but to waive him just a month into the NBL23 season.
Starting the season 3-4, the biggest concern with the 36ers in terms of their play has been on the offensive end.
When Randall was on the court, they would often run 1-4 flats that placed him on top of the key, isolated against a big-man defender for the advantage, turning the rest of the team into spot-up shooters or rim runners.
There were times when Randall would use screen and run pick and rolls, allowing Robert Franks or Daniel Johnson to roll and make a pass to a cutter for an easy lay-up. This would create ball movement and fast-paced half-court sets that utilised the talented group the 36ers have put together in the off-season.
Ideally, the best offence we saw was when Adelaide took a trip to the USA against NBA team, the Phoenix Suns – who last year finished as the number one seed in the Western Conference. The 36ers defeated them in a massive upset.
Craig Randall and Mitch McCarron were able to take turns in running the floor and moving the ball, finding the open guy around the rim or for a perimeter shot, whether that was in isolation plays or pick-and-rolls.
These two guards also combined from time to time, being able to fake a pick and roll and split a double team.
At times during the game, they were able to draw the defence out and force them to collapse, leaving the wings wide open for Robert Franks or Antonius Cleveland.
This team at its best looked promising, comfortable in sharing the ball with anyone able to hit a shot from the three levels.
Since then, the half-court offence for the 36ers has been struggling. They have found difficulty in catching rhythm and incorporating off-ball movement that allows the ball to be facilitated and moved to find the open guy.
With heavy isolation and slow pick-and-roll sets, Adelaide has been struggling to produce points, especially when it needed them.
When coach CJ Bruton has allowed the offence to spark energy and confidence through full-court fastbreak opportunities that see everybody running the floor, it puts the defence on the back foot allowing the 36ers to score easy baskets around the rim.
That was one of the biggest takeaways against the Illawarra Hawks, a game played without Randall. Adelaide also only conceded 80 points in the process as well, showing its promising defensive coverage as a team, utilising the size and length it has to cover each matchup against anyone they play.
Franks and Johnson also both had 20-plus points performances with more than five boards and four assists each.
If the 36ers can continue incorporating their big men in passing positions, the court opens up a lot of space and flexibility in half-court sets, allowing the other guys to operate as cutters to the rim, moving around off-ball pin-down screens that open up the wings or top of the key.
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Imports the 36ers could consider signing:
Although Jaylen Adams has said publicly he would only want to play for the Kings if he was to return to the NBL, it is no secret how talented last year’s MVP is and what he could do for a team like the 36ers.
Offensively, Adams operates much better in pick-and-pop situations and is able to create even more space between himself and his defender with step-back or side-step shots.
Around the mid-range area, he can also use his footwork to create deceptive looks against taller defenders that utilise his soft touch around the rim with his runners and floaters.
Running to the rim and finishing in contested situations is an element of his game that Adams has been able to execute time and time again that a high level, especially down the stretch in games.
For the 36ers, Adams can also be implemented in half-court sets operating without the ball, being able to knock down catch-and-shoot threes from deep.
The decision-making abilities of Adams would also allow the 36ers to slow down the offence to create high-quality looks that can put the game away or bring the game closer.
Adams averaged 20 points, shooting 43.1 per cent from the field and 39.6 per cent from three, five rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes per game for the Kings last season. The 26-year-old has shown how crafty he is with the ball and how he can operate in the NBL.
Adams was recently cut from Crvena Zvezda MTS in the Liga ABA, only playing 17 minutes per game, averaging nine points, 1.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in the two games he played.
In February of the NBL22 season, Ian Clark agreed to join the Sydney Kings and was a key contributor off the bench in their championship.
Being a veteran and having experience in the NBL as a player off the bench could excite the 36ers.
As a crafty scorer, Clark can be flexible as well with his range offensively, being able to get to the rim, shoot threes on the dribble or run around screens.
His off-the-ball operation opens the opportunity for the 36ers to continue to use their main ball handlers and allow Clark to play off them and spark needed energy when the game gets tough.
Last season, Clark was in the lineup finishing games for the Kings. The 36ers could use him in a similar role down the stretch, operating as a wing scorer and defender in clutch time.
In game three of the NBL Grand Final series, the NBA champion was impactful, scoring 22 points, shooting 8/15 from the field, and made five threes to seal the deal.
Clark’s on-ball defence would add tremendous contributions to a team aiming to pride itself on that side of the ball.
The 31-year-old played 11 games with the Kings, and averaged 12.9 points, shooting 43 per cent from the field and 38 per cent from three, along with two rebounds, and two assists per game.
Scott Hopson is currently playing with the OKC Blues in the G-League.
With experience in the NBL across multiple clubs, Hopson could provide experience as a veteran wing off the bench, having previously that done during his time with Melbourne United.
Hopson’s ability to get to the rim and operate in fast-break opportunities as a lead runner at his size would be a solid addition to the talented group Adelaide has already.
As a playmaker, Hopson is able to create open looks for his teammates and open up the floor in a half-court set when the pick-and-roll action struggles to work effectively.
Hopson’s change of direction around the paint and mid-range area to get his shot would also take pressure away from Franks and Johnson while allowing them to still use their physicality for the full 40 minutes.
The Adelaide 36ers continue their season on November 17 after the break against Melbourne United at John Cain Arena.
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