New guard top priority for Raiders
MARJON Plymouth Raiders boss Gavin Love has revealed his shopping list for this summer's transfer market.
Love aims to add a new three-point shooter to Raiders' backcourt next season and someone who is happy handling the ball and sharing the point-guard's load in the starting line-up.
One signing may meet both those demands during the off-season, but, the message is clear, changes are coming.
Primarily, that immediately calls into question the future of starting shooting-guard James Jones (above) at the club.
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"We clearly struggled this year at the guard spots shooting the ball," said Love of Raiders, one of only three BBL teams to shoot below 30 per cent from outside this season. "You can't cover that up. It was all year and it hurt us a lot. That's something I'm going to look to rectify."
When specifically asked if finding more firepower from deep meant personnel changes this summer, Love said: "That may be the case. It was a clear weakness. We had games when we were really good shooting the ball from outside and that was when we blew people out, but we didn't have that consistency."
Jones, despite a fantastic pedigree upon his arrival at the Pavilions late last summer, struggled to consistently find his range from the three-point line this season, converting only 32 per cent.
A three-point shooter worth his salt really wants to be shooting nearer 40 per cent from the arc, like Raiders' back-up shooting-guard Michael Ojo, who hit a team-high 39 per cent from the perimeter in an impressive rookie year in 2011/12.
Point-guard Jeremy Bell and Jones started in Raiders' backcourt this season, with Anthony Martin and Ojo respectively replacing them off the bench in a nine-man rotation.
Jones averaged 3.5 assists per game – second behind Martin's team-high 3.6 – in 2011/12.
He was the person in the starting line-up who helped Bell run Raiders' offence – but clearly not well enough in Love's eyes.
Love said: "Maybe there was a lot of pressure on Jeremy. He was the only person in the starting-five who was really comfortable handling the ball.
"Obviously when we had Jeremy and Anthony Martin in the game we had two ball handlers, but Jeremy remained the only person in the starting-five who could do that and that took a lot of energy out of him."
Bell brilliantly led Raiders in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game this season but is not a three-point shooter and only hit 24 per cent from deep.
Bell's game is to drive to the basket or pull-up en route and bury mid-range jump-shots.
Love added: "Jeremy had a great year – all credit to him – but next year we'll be looking at another ball handler (in the starting line-up) as well."
Forwards Lehmon Colbert and Anthony Rowe, and centre Paul Williams formed Raiders' starting frontline this season.
Jamal Williams and Tomas Janusauskas supported them sporadically off the bench, and were the other two players on Raiders' roster.
If changes are to come, Jamal Williams, Janusauskas and perhaps Martin, who did not feature heavily following a rib injury in February, are favourites for the axe.
All nine players, as is typical at Raiders and in the BBL in general, are out of contract and technically free agents this summer.
Love said: "I think there will be quite a few changes to the team (next season). You don't want to rebuild, even though sometimes that's thrust upon you. But at the same time it will be my choice and I definitely see there being changes."
Love, in a nod to his frontline, which may remain intact this summer, added: "I have to take my hat off to some guys who battled through this season, guys like Lehmon Colbert – he's one in a million – and Paul Williams. They were magnificent.
"What I've got to do now is really, really look at who we want to return from this season and what areas we can strengthen."
Raiders flew brilliantly through the first six months of the season and went 28-10 in all competitions from October to early April.
But they collapsed and went 2-5 in the final three weeks of the campaign, including the first round of the play-offs no less.
Injuries to Ojo (groin), Colbert (elbow) and Rowe (neck) did not help, but a complete loss of form hurt them more.
Love said: "We had some fantastic moments and great performances, especially at home, but, at the same time, I want people on board (next season) who are going to be with it until the end.
"I don't want people taking a two-week holiday before the end of the season. I want people with it all the way."