Small ball is a common term used in the NBA these days, and it’s one the Singapore Slingers will be forced to adopt for the 2016-17 ASEAN Basketball League season.
With an average height of just over 187cm (or 6’1” in imperial terms), the Slingers will be one of the smallest teams in the ABL this season, and fans can expect to see a fast and furious approach on the court this year.
While big man Justin Howard towers over 211cm (6’11”), the next tallest teammate of his is fellow world import Xavier Alexander who stands at 195cm (6’5”).
It’s not the usual height profile of a towering front line, but with the success of the Golden State Warriors’ small-ball lineup over the past two NBA seasons, more and more teams are shying away from the traditional power forward / center combination and opting for four guards and one center.
The Slingers will be without local power forward Delvin Goh for the majority of the season while he finishes his national service commitment, and fellow Singaporean big man Russell Low has decided against joining the team this season in order to concentrate of his university studies.
It means Alexander will spend a lot of time at the traditional power forward position this season, and he will be deputised by a committee of men such as second-year player Leon Kwek (188cm), Wu Qingde (188), Ng Han Bin (194) and Kelvin Lim (190).
The small-ball Slingers lineup will rely on extended defensive pressure and accurate shooting to combat the bigger teams in the league. But it will be their ability to defend in the half court against the stronger and taller power forwards that will prove crucial to the team’s success this season.
Howard and Alexander will need to stay out of foul trouble so they can remain on the court for extended periods of time, and the Slingers may use a zone defence more than they have in previous seasons.
Coach Neo Beng Siang is confident his troops can excel with a smaller roster this year.
“With Russell and Delvin out there’s no doubt we are small,” coach Neo said.
“Although we are quite small at the four position, we are quick and can hit shots from the outside.
“We will need to apply some full-court pressure defence in order to play to our strengths.”
The Slingers’ guards do have the quickness and depth in numbers to apply extended defensive pressure, and Alexander is terrific in that department as well.
In team captain Desmond Oh, reigning two-time local MVP Wong Wei Long, new ASEAN heritage recruit Alli Austria, and Singapore’s own Mitch Folkoff, the Slingers have a quartet of terriers to turn loose defensively.
Larry Liew is a taller guard who has the quickness to defend the full court, and new recruit Tay Ding Loon is a terrific athlete who could also provide defensive pressure when required.
There will be a lot of pressure on Alexander, Ng Han Bin, Leon Kwek and Kelvin Lim to provide much needed rebounding support for Howard.
The Slingers’ season starts this Friday at OCBC Arena against Malaysia Dragons, and then on Sunday they play new ABL team Alab Pilipinas in the Phillipines.
Tickets are available at all APACTix outlets or at OCBC Arena one hour prior to each home game.
Slingers 2016-17 Roster:
Desmond Oh (Captain), Alli Austria, Wong Wei Long, Wu Qingde, Leon Kwek, Larry Liew, Tay Ding Loon, Xavier Alexander, Ng Han Bin, Mitchell Folkoff, Kelvin Lim, Justin Howard, (Delvin Goh expected to join the team in 2017)