IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Dandenong Rangers’ men’s side who made the finals last season, but went out in the opening week.
2019 in Review:
Finished: 8th (Lost in Elimination Finals)
What went right:
- Offence (Top 5 in points, 2nd in 2FG%)
- Assists (18.6 per game ranked 4th)
- Steals (7.9 per game, ranked 4th)
- Ball-handling (11.4 turnovers per game, equal third least)
- Strong finish (won four of the last five games)
The Dandenong Rangers had plenty that went right statistically, and realistically, there were not too many blowouts on the scoreboard. Of their losses, all were under 20 points, and they were able to play both high scoring shootouts (such as the 138-130 loss to Sandringham Sabres) and low-scoring slogs (such as the 74-69 defeat to Geelong Supercats). They pushed the top teams all the way, with narrow losses to Ballarat (seven points) and Geelong (five), and had their best run of form in the final month, when they won four of a possible five games on the run home. Statistically, they had the third least turnovers of any side, they were able to use the ball well through offence – ranked fourth in assists, second in two-point field goal percentage and top five in overall points – and were able to win the ball back from opponents regularly with 7.9 steals per game to rank fourth overall in that area. Basically, there was a lot to like about the season other than just scraping into the finals series.
What went wrong:
- Rebounding (24.5 defensive rebounds, ranked 16th in the competition)
- Blocking (2.4 per game, ranked 14th in competition)
- Inconsistent year (no more than three consecutive wins)
It would have been a frustrating year for the Rangers and a lot of “what ifs?” considering they lost games to three of the four bottom sides who they really should have put away – especially given the fact they were at home on all those occasions. Despite having some seriously quality talls, they struggled with rebounding (24.5 defensive, ranked 16th overall) and blocking (2.4 blocks, ranked 14th overall), and it led to teams being able to get second chance points and open looks at times. They also did not win more than three consecutive games, unable to get a run on like some other finalists did. Had they beaten those three bottom four sides, and the Rangers would likely be looking at a double chance – a season of inches.
The playmaker of the team was the creator with ball-in-hand, able to distribute the ball cleanly across the court and set up looks for his teammates. He was just a really consistent player throughout the 2019 NBL1 season, putting up numbers of 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, shooting at 45.2 per cent from the field and 36.2 per cent from long range. Barker was also reliable when stepping up to the line, having the most free throws of any Rangers’ player such was his impact on opposition defences, finishing the season with an impressive 77.5 per cent efficiency.
One of Dandenong’s experienced big men and helping provide some knowledge to up-and-coming star, Sam Froling, Lang was one of five players to get more than five rebounds per game. He also averaged 11.5 points and almost two assists per game, as well as a steal per game which was impressive for a 206cm center. Despite being 33-years-old entering the season last year, Lang showed he is capable of strong performances and will be a real team contributor with his accuracy from inside the arc.
A 199cm guard who put up strong offensive numbers throughout the year, Kernich-Drew finished the season with a team-high 17.6 points. Despite his size, he was certainly used more in that catch and shoot role, also averaging three rebounds and two assists per game – less than his teammates, but more points. He took the ball off the opponents at least once per game on average, and while more inaccurate from two-point range than his teammates at just 41 per cent, he was stronger at the line (79.2 per cent) and from long range (37 per cent).
Easily could have made the above, but given the 20-year-old fits the category of Young Gun, we have slotted the future star in here. He had a really promising season and averaged 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, setting himself up nicely for the NBL where he signed with the Illawarra Hawks. Following his famous siblings into the sport who already play at the top national level, Froling has so much potential measuring in at about 211cm which makes him near impossible to stop when he releases, and with a solid accuracy of 45 per cent from two-point range, he is fairly strong. His three-point and free-throw shooting could improve, but he is a genuine young star of the competition.
Christmas list for 2021:
Consistency. Dandenong has such good talls when it comes to offensive transition, and they showed they can rebound the ball offensively, but had a much lower offensive-to-defensive rebound ratio compared to other sides. The Rangers do not need a lot to move up the ladder, it would just be a case of winning the games they should.
The Dandenong Rangers have a squad that is good enough to compete with the best, and one that when the talls are up and going, is hard to stop. They are strong offensively, and in-play defensively, and once they can stop more attempts going to the basket and finish off those lower-end sides like title contenders should, then watch out in 2021.