Basketball: Increased depth a big boost for Breakers

By Niall Anderson

The Breakers gather for a team huddle after beating the Illawarra Hawks. Photo / Getty
The Breakers gather for a team huddle after beating the Illawarra Hawks. Photo / Getty

It is looking like there will be very few holes in the New Zealand Breakers rotation this season.

Canny offseason recruitment has created more depth for last year's beaten finalists, who now possess productive ANBL talent right throughout their roster.

The Breakers' depth is best displayed through their bench, which has made significant strides from last season, and played a key role in their 100-85 victory over the Ilawarra Hawks on Friday night.

When adjusted for pace, the Breakers bench leads the league in points per game, assists and field goal percentage, and ranks second in rebounding and three-point percentage.

Compare that to last season, where they had the second-worst scoring bench, the fewest assists and shot poorly, and a clear boost emerges.

The production from the bench means no individual has too much of a burden to carry. Only Tom Abercrombie averages over 30 minutes per game (31.2), and 10 players average more than 10 minutes per game.

That even split of minutes is a good place to be in, says Breakers coach Paul Henare.

"I was a little bit concerned about how I was going to find minutes for everyone to really contribute," he admits, referring to a guard lineup which saw new import David Stockton come off the bench.

"The load of all the guys was managed pretty well which will hopefully put them in good stead for Sunday."

Their depth will be called on again tomorrow as they battle Illawarra once more, with centre Rob Loe out for 1-2 weeks with a toe injury. Henare is confident that their reliable big man rotation can handle the job at hand.

"We're a little bit smaller with [Loe] out so it means a little bit more time for Akil at the five. If [Alex Pledger] can continue to be the rock in the middle of the lane and keep rebounding and finishing at the rim I think we'll be able to cover that."

Those big men will be important once more against a Hawks side struggling on the defensive glass this season. Containing penetration is the key to snagging more rebounds, says Hawks captain Rhys Martin.

"When its six seconds into the shot clock and you're having to rotate players, you're out of position for any defensive rebounds. If we can do a better job of containing them and forcing to the perimeter, then we have got our bigs matched up inside to contest rebounds."

Part of that penetration came from Stockton, who compiled 17 points and five assists on debut as he showcased impressive quickness and vision.

Henare believes Stockton can open up the Breakers' transition game to provide another offensive element.

"He looks to push the tempo a little bit more, to get out in the open court and create plays for himself and for his teammates and that plays into the hands of the guys he has around him - I think he'll open up space for shooters around him and once teams scout that side of his game I'm certain other opportunities will open up for him as well."

- NZ Herald

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