2013-2014 Austin Toros: A Look Back

As the 2013 -2014 NBA D-League season comes to a close, teams are looking back at the season along with their rosters and doing one of two things.  They are looking at what adjustments they need to make as they begin their journey in to the playoffs or they are evaluating their players’ performances with an eye towards next year.

Unfortunately for the Austin Toros, they find themselves in the cellar of the NBA D-League’s Central Division and looking towards how to prepare for next season.

While their 19-31 record left much to be desired, the Toros were be among league leaders in field goal percentage at 46.7%.

pittmanGoing in to next season, the team will have to work on improving the on the offensive end.  While they were among the league leaders in field goal percentage, their offense in the paint was slowed down by their lack of three-point shooting.  The Toros averaged 8.1 shots made which put them among the bottom half of the league.   Defenses were able to clog the paint due to not having to worry bout guarding as tightly on the perimeter.

The traffic in the paint also prevented guards from being able drive to the basket.  As a result, the Toros were tied with the Erie BayHawks for the least amount of free throw attempts per game with 43.3 trips per game.

On the defensive side of the court, the Toros excelled at protecting the rim.  Opponents shot 33 percent within 10 feet.  The mid-range to the perimeter areas are where teams hurt them, shooting 38 percent from these areas of the floor.

Among the Toros players that spent a majority of the 2013-2014 season with the team, Ronald “Flip” Murray led the team with a 21.8 points per game average. Dexter Pittman was among league leaders with 2.3 blocks per game. Myck Kabongo was not far down the list with 2.0 blocks per game

In order for the Toros to reclaim the NBA D-League title, they will need to get back to basics and focus on protecting not only the paint but making sure opponents get tough looks from the perimeter and on mid-range jumpers as well.

 

Toros close out season with win over Vipers

The Austin Toros closed out their 2013-14 season on Saturday with a win over the RGV Vipers.

The Vipers were playing for playoff seeding, while the Toros came in with an 18-31 record that eliminated them from the playoffs. Previously, the Toros were 1-6 against the Vipers, but a 129-125 win ruined the Vipers’ chances at the Central division title..

The Toros were led by Flip Murray, who scored 32 points, and Courtney Fells, who finished with 28 points and six rebounds.

If you missed the game, you can catch the full replay below.

Sponsors, jersey logos, and the NBA

Photo by Ronald Oswalt

Photo by Ronald Oswalt

As online gaming operators join the sponsorship market, will we finally see more corporate logos on NBA jerseys, taking a cue from several D-League teams?

While jersey sponsorships are the norm in international basketball, and the WNBA also now sells jersey sponsorships, we’re starting to see more and more D-League teams sport logos. It’s also very well known that the NBA treats the D-League as it’s R&D arm, so is there a chance NBA teams will have logos on their jerseys like the Texas Legends did during Sunday night’s game against the Toros. 

During the height of online gaming’s entry into the New Jersey market late last year, we saw the beginning of what could become conceivably become the norm in a few years’ time: online casino sponsorships of NBA teams. The Philadelphia 76ers were the first to enter into such a deal alongside the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

The practice is relatively new in the US, but online casino sponsorship has become a tried and true tradition in Europe. So much so that it’s become a major factor in the money league list compiled by Deloitte every year. Online gaming operators constantly court high-profile soccer teams in bids to be what has become known as official online partners. The companies pour money into their sponsored teams’ development funds while reaping the increased exposure afforded by having their logos plastered on everywhere from team uniforms to stadiums.

“It’s basically the same as sponsorship deals in the US, except that over here there’s no advertising on jerseys. Well, not yet, anyway, because if the aforementioned deals prove fruitful then it may come to pass that we’ll see more teams sign up with online gaming operators. The Warriors or the Cavaliers, for example, might join with medieval-themed online casino site castlejackpot.com due to the whole medieval fighters theme in their names. Maybe even the Wizards could get in on that, with the Suns and the Thunder signing up with either an energy production or energy drink company.”

At the very least, it may reignite talk of corporate logos on team jerseys. You’ll remember that there was some talk about the NBA opening its arms to jersey sponsorships a few years ago. The league approached the possibility cautiously through limited deployment in its Development League teams in 2012. During that time, financial services company BBVA got its logo splashed across the back of team jerseys used in the D-League playoffs.

A number of teams also inked sponsorship deals of their own. The Springfield Armor, for example, rocked jerseys with the MGM Springfield logo. The Erie BayHawks and Rio Grande Valley Vipers signed similar sponsorship deals with LECOM and Lone Star National Back, respectively. The Toros have a partnership with supermarket chain H-E-B, although so far only our WNBA team, the Stars, has the sponsor logo on its official jersey.

While that particular experiment didn’t successfully reach the majors, that doesn’t mean it definitely won’t happen. Now that new corporate entities are entering the sponsor landscape, there’s no telling exactly what the future holds.

Toros acquire Steven Smith

Austin, TX – The Austin Toros look to bolster their roster with the addition of 6-foot-9 forward Steven Smith. A product of La Salle, Smith played all four of his collegiate years for the explorers from 2002-06. He averaged 18.1 points, and eight rebounds in 107 games with La Salle. He played two seasons at La Salle with former San Antonio Spur and current Milwaukee Buck Gary Neal.

The Philadelphia native went undrafted, but ended up on his hometown team, the Philadelphia 76ers. He played eight games with the 76ers, the only eight games he’s ever played in the NBA.

Smith then went on to play international ball with the Anaheim Arsenal from 2007-2008, the Solsonica Rieti and Kolossos Rodou from 2008-2009, Panellinios 2010-2011, Panathinaikos from 2011-2012 and he most recently played for the Italain league team Virtus Bologna.

Smith played his first game with the Toros in a loss to the Iowa Energy on March 27. He played 9:18 minutes, registering three points on 1-6 shooting, two rebounds and two steals.

Toros dogged by Legends 92-92 on Hoops and Hounds night

Toros fans were joined by their pets for the Toros' Hoops and Hounds promotion. (Photos by Ronald Oswalt)

Toros fans were joined by their pets for the Toros’ Hoops and Hounds promotion. (Photos by Ronald Oswalt)

CEDAR PARK– In a close match, the Austin Toros came up short to the Texas Legends 92-93 Sunday evening at the Cedar Park Center. The game was titled “Hoops and Hounds” and fans were allowed to bring their pets to the game.

The game was well received by pet lovers, who had their own section and were featured in several in-game promotions. The announced attendance was 2,945 for the game.

The Toros dominated first half action leading 56-43, but the second half was in favor of the visiting Legends 50-36.

Toros guard Flip Murray led all scorers with 21 points and seven rebounds. Dexter Pittman recorded a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jonathan Simmons and Courtney Fells added 16 points respectively.

The Legends were paced by Mavericks-assigned Ricky Ledo who scored 18 points off the bench. Marcus Hubbard finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.

The Toros got off to an early lead, outscoring the Legends 30-20 in the first quarter. Luke Zeller was a perfect 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from beyond the arc to record 10 points. Going into halftime, the Toros led 56-43.

The Legends began to chip away at the Toros lead, outscoring them 21-14 in the third quarter and 29-22 in the fourth. With just seconds remaining, former Longhorn Damion James went to the line sinking his second attempt to put the Legends up 93-92 for the eventual win.

The Toros (17-31) play their last home game on April 3rd against the Canton Charge. The Legends (23-25) continue their road trip as they take on the Sioux Falls Skyforce April 4th.

Scouting the Los Angeles D-Fenders

Tip: 7:30 p.m., Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, Texas
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record:
Off. efficiency: 109.5 points per 100 possessions, 2nd
Def. efficiency: 105.6, 10th
Net rating: +3.9, 1st
Pace: 109.5 possessions per game, 1st

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 52.5, 3rd
Turnover pct: 12.9, 1st
Off. rebound pct: 23.5, 17th*
FTA rate: .275, 16th
Opp. effective FG pct: 52.0, 12th
Opp. turnover pct: 17.8, 4th
Def. rebound rate 69.1, 16th
Opp. FTA rate: .277, 3rd

The leaders

Points: Terrence Williams, 21.3
Rebounds: Travis Hyman/James Southerland, 6.8
Assists: Josh Magette, 7.1
Blocks: Hyman, 2.1
Steals: Magette, 1.8

Summary

The Los Angeles D-Fenders have the league’s highest net rating, and they are three games behind the first-seeded Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The D-Fenders have few flaws — even their defense, ranked 10th, which allows way too many shots in the restricted area (38.9 per game), does enough to complement the offense through turnovers and avoiding foul trouble. The offense, second to only Rio Grande, shoots a high percentage from the field, and those shots are generally high-percentage looks (restricted area, corner 3-pointers). They rarely turn the ball over, too; their 12.9 percent turnover rate is the lowest in the D-League.

Where they excel

Controlling the pace. Los Angeles averages 109.5 possessions per 48 minutes, the highest-mark in the D-League. They utilize about seven extra possessions relative to league-average. Their frenetic pace — even in losses, they average 108 possessions — fuels their second-ranked offense and allows them to pressure their opponents into an uncomfortable position.

Where they struggle

Protecting the rim. In an average game against the D-Fenders, the opposition takes about 40 percent of their shots in the restricted area. It’s damn near impossible to build a good defense that way, since protecting the rim is the area on the floor defenses prioritize to take away. The D-Fenders also allow nearly seven corner 3-pointers a game, which is excessive even at their dramatic pace.

Player to watch

Terrence Williams. He’s a massive part of the offense — he leads the team in field goal attempts (18.0), 3-pointers (6.9) and free throws (5.9).

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

* There are only 17 teams in the D-League.

Spurs recall Daye

The San Antonio Spurs recalled Austin Daye from the D-League after his one-game stint with the Austin Toros.

Daye finished with a double-double (27 points, 13 rebounds) in the Toros’ 15-point loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last night.

Daye will be available against the Utah Jazz tonight, though he may be inactive if the Spurs decide to play with a full roster.

Toros lose to Vipers, near playoff elimination

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers converted 21 3-pointers in the 128-115 victory against the Austin Toros.

Rio Grande scored 126 points in the paint, behind the arc and from the free throw line — the most efficient zones on the floor. The Vipers’ top-ranked offense is averaging 112.8 points per 100 possessions this season, all without a stingy defense. Rio Grande compensates on that end by hoisting a high volume of 3-pointers (they attempted 42 against Austin), pushing the pace and, subsequently, the opposition to their limits.

Rio Grande surpassed the 100-point threshold in the third quarter. The Vipers led 102-89 after three quarters.

Austin drew a tie in the final quarter, just about the only victory in a game Rio Grande led from the very beginning. Five Toros finished in double-figures, including Austin Daye, on assignment from the San Antonio Spurs, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Caldwell “Squeaky” Johnson chipped in with 20 points off the bench.

Austin is eight games behind the eight-seeded Iowa Energy. The Toros have eight games remaining, and they are teetering on the edge of playoff contention. They need to win each game and hope for help — a lot of help — just to stay alive.

Spurs assign Daye to Toros

The San Antonio Spurs assigned forward Austin Daye to the Austin Toros.

Daye will be available against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Daye, acquired in a trade on Feb. 20 for Nando De Colo, appeared in two games with the Spurs. In his three minutes, Daye shot 66.7 percent from the field with a 86.4 Player Efficiency Rating.

With the Spurs at maximum health, and the roster at full occupancy, Daye will have ample time to play with the Toros in the meantime. There will be better Dayes (sorry).

Scouting the Reno Bighorns

Tip: 9:00 p.m., Reno Events Center, Reno, NV
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record: 23-14, first in West Division
Off. efficiency: 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 9th
Def. efficiency: 103.3, 6th
Net rating: +1.8, 7th
Pace: 99.3 possessions per game, 15th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 52.0, 4th
Turnover pct: 18.8, 15th
Off. rebound pct: 31.2, 4th
FTA rate: .345, 3rd
Opp. effective FG pct: 50.7, 7th
Opp. turnover pct: 18.4, 3rd
Def. rebound rate 70.8, 12th
Opp. FTA rate: .320, 11th

The leaders

Points: K.C. Rivers, 17.0
Rebounds: Mo Charlo, 7.9
Assists: Sundiata Gaines, 4.6
Blocks: Mickell Gladness, 2.2
Steals: Charlo, 1.5

Summary

Prior to Jan. 1, the Reno Bighorns were 7-7, stuck in the uncomfortable malaise of the D-League. Since, they’ve won 16 of their last 23 games, putting them within two games of the top seed in the D-League playoffs.

In this stretch, Reno has been the best team in the D-League by any objective measure. Winning percentage? Yup, they are first with 69.6 percent in this span. Net rating? Yup, they are first with +6.3. Reno is just a few ticks behind the Sioux Falls Skyforce in defensive rating, otherwise they’d be leading in that facet as well. Reno has built a healthy lead in the playoffs, primarily by beating down the non-playoff teams. Of the nine games against current playoff teams in this stretch, Reno won four. They have completely demolished the lower rung teams of the D-League, though; those poor teams lost 14 of 16 matchups against Reno.

Where they excel

Creating turnovers. Reno creates a turnover on 18.8 percent of their opponents possessions, third in the D-League, and they score 22 points per 100 possessions off these turnovers. Turnovers typically create transition possessions and transition possessions are typically more efficient than half-court possessions; Reno is a top five team in effective field goal percentage, free throw rate and offensive rebounding rate because transition opportunities engender plenty of good chances to score.

Where they struggle

Fouling. Reno has improved a tad since Jan. 1, but they still foul way too often, at least for a respectable defense. They’ve found a healthy middle ground apparently, and they still are sixth in points allowed per possession, despite a high foul rate. But Reno’s defense is still very contingent on turnover creation, and along with being poor on the defensive glass, Reno’s defense could fail miserably against the better teams in the D-League.

Player to watch

Sundiata Gaines. He has some NBA experience in his pocket, though he’s 27, and he doesn’t have much time to find a career in the NBA before the wheels fall off athletically.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats