Keith Wright Jr., Frank Bartley crack list
By José Colorado
Photo Credit: Philip Matusiewicz
They unapologetically gun it, sling the long-ball, rip down rebounds and lead their respective teams.
So what is the difference between the Island Storm's Sampson Carter and the Sudbury Five's Jaylen Bland?
Through the first four weeks, not much.
There is Bland's affinity to hoist it from deep that exceeds Carter's but the latter isn't so shy either – attempting the fifth most in the league.
Carter may have the edge when it comes to the glass but Bland rebutted that with two big double-digit rebounding efforts in his past three outings.
If nothing else, the biggest difference maker may simply be games played at this point.
Bland has suited up in seven to Carter's four.
With no major drop-off in Bland's play this past week that alone leaves him atop.
Yet with the Island's schedule finally ramping up in the weeks to come that flimsy determinant can dissipate come Sunday, revealing the true best newcomer.
1. Jaylen Bland (Sudbury Five, 5-2)
Hometown: Reseda, Calif.
Previous professional experience: Luxemburg, Mexico, U.S. (NBA G-League)
Season stats: 23.3 points per game (43.4 field goal, 41.1 three-point, 90 free throw), 6.4 rebounds
The analytic junkies must just love Bland.
With two more sub-45 per cent shooting outings, Bland saw his field goal percentage dip a little further south again this past week to 43.4 per cent.
Yet the argument could be made the Californian has actually more than made up for it in his penchant for the three-ball – he attempted 27 this past week, making 11 (41 per cent).
You see, with Bland making a league-leading 5.6 threes per game on a league-high 13.6 attempts per outing, the shooter's scoring average (23.3 points per game, second in the league) has remained so in his conscious search for the extra point.
For instance, if Bland were to rely solely on two-pointers he would need 11.5 (12) makes per game to arrive at his 23 point average. On the other hand, if he counted on only three-pointers he need make just 7.6 (8) per outing.
At a 41.1 per cent clip from downtown, Bland's three-point marksmanship essentially equates to four fewer made shots needed per game to arrive at his average. If he were to go strictly the two-ball route he would need at least 60 per cent or better shooting to equal his current three-point pace.
If you're completely lost right now just consider this:
Of Bland's 17.4 field goal attempts per game, 13.6 are three-pointers.
But after all is said and done he is still second in the league in scoring with a respectable overall field goal percentage that doesn't lag too far back from the other elite scorers in the league.
2. Sampson Carter (Island Storm, 2-2)
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Previous professional experience: Portugal, Dominican Republic, U.S. (NBA), Mexico, Philippines
Season stats: 22.3 points per game (38.5 field goal), 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists
When it comes to NBLC newcomers, Carter is making sure it's just a two-man island.
The Storm player appears bent on dethroning Bland atop the leaderboard after putting in another huge effort, this time against the Cape Breton Highlanders with 22 points (seven-of-17) and 15 rebounds.
If you were to take away Carter's unequivocal worst game of the year – a three-of-16 shooting outing for seven points against the Saint John Riptide on Nov. 18 – then the forward would be averaging 27.3 points per game on 44 per cent shooting and 10 rebounds.
Those aren't Newcomer of the Year numbers, those are MVP stats.
Next week fans can gain a greater sense of the six-foot-eight forward's game as the Island will finally partake in a pair of games.
The club has had a markedly slow start to the season by participating in a league-low four games to date.
3. Keith Wright Jr. (St. John's Edge, 2-5)
Hometown: Suffolk, Va.
Previous professional experience: U.S. (NBA G-League), Sweden, Poland, Philippines, Greece
Season stats: 11.4 points per game (59 per cent field goal), eight rebounds, 1.71 blocks
The St. John's Edge's best game of the year coincided with Keith Wright Jr.'s best outing to date.
The big man has put in a solid campaign thus far for head coach Doug Plumb by ranking third in the league in field goal percentage (58 per cent), eighth in rebounds (eight per game) and second in blocks (1.71 per game).
This past week the international veteran put in a big double-double effort against the Highlanders with 16 points (seven-of-eight field goal shooting) and 11 rebounds in a 109 – 92 win.
With the Edge incorporating a guard-centric playing style centered on dynamo point guard Maurice Jones Sr. and sharpshooter Carl English, it is unlikely Wright Jr. will ever get the chance to truly explode offensively.
He is only averaging 8.7 shots per game in 32.1 minutes but his value remains indispensable by way of his defense, rebounding, rim protection and efficiency.
4. Xavier Moon (London Lightning, 4-4)
Hometown: Goodwater, Ala.
Previous professional experience: France
Season stats: 15.5 points per game (51 per cent field goal), 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists
Much like the London Lightning's week, Xavier Moon went from good to bad to awful.
The Alabama product went for 20 points (eight-of-13 field goal shooting) and a season-high eight rebounds in his opening game of the week – a 99-98 win against the Windsor Express.
But then he managed only 16 points (five-of-13 field goal shooting) and four rebounds in his next two games combined – a pair of blowout losses to the Riptide and KW Titans.
In the latter match, Moon was particularly absent as he recorded a season-low five-points on only four field goal attempts.
Despite the erratic week, Moon remains the thirteenth best scorer in the league and London's go-to bucket getter heading into a transitional week.
On Dec.11 the club announced the release of head coach Keith Vassell with Elliot Etherington to replace him effective immediately.
The club is heading in a new direction.
What that signals for Moon remains to be seen.
5. Frank Bartley (Saint John Riptide, 2-5)
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Previous professional experience: True rookie
Season stats: 15 points per game (41.2 per cent field goal), 3.7 rebounds, 1.14 steals
Frank Bartley squeezes his way onto the list after a pair of career-high nights.
Bartley – who is playing on his first professional contract – dropped 24 points, four rebounds and three assists against the Sudbury Five on Dec. 6 and then outdid himself two nights later with a 27-point, four-rebound performance against the Lightning - resulting in the Riptide's first two wins of the season.
The scoring numbers have been there for Bartley as he ranks fifteenth in the league in that department but the efficiency hasn't.
The Louisiana graduate has only shot above 50 per cent once through his first seven games with that coming in his latest outing against the Lightning.
If Bartley is able to maintain a decent level of effectiveness (i.e. 45 per cent or above) while hovering around the 15-point mark in a league as competitive as the NBLC, the 24-year-old rookie must consider that as a solid first-year in the professional ranks to build off.
Warming up the plane:
Joel Kindred, Halifax Hurricanes
14.4 points per game (43.6 per cent field goal, 57.9 per cent three-pointers), 4.1 rebounds