Magic guard averaging 25.5 points per game thus far
Photo Credit: Jacinthe LeBlanc
By José Colorado
Two games into the NBLC Atlantic Conference Finals the No.2-seeded Halifax Hurricanes have regained home court advantage against the first-placed Moncton Magic following a 102 – 87 win in Gm.1 on April 18.
While the victory comes very important the greater long term puzzle piece that remains unsolved is how Halifax will proceed in defending standout guard, Trey Kell.
Through two games the 23-year-old is averaging 25.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and six assists, revealing no true holes in his game as he leads the Magic in points and assists while trailing big man Denzell Taylor by just three rebounds for the series.
With Corey Allmond subdued (nine points per game on 29 per cent shooting for the series) and Defensive Player of the Year Rhamel Brown and Chadrack Lufile down low to bother forward, Billy White, it's clear Moncton goes as Kell does.
So how should Halifax guard him?
The key stat to look at here is free throws: Kell has made a living off them.
In fact in just the opening two games of the Atlantic Finals he is shooting 24-of-26 (92.3 per cent) from the charity stripe, meaning not only is Kell scoring but he's scoring at an ultra-efficient clip with the second-highest percentage shot (layup) in basketball.
Overall the guard's field goal accuracy hasn't been great at 41.37 per cent.
It then holds to reason that if Halifax can defend without fouling, Kell has actually struggled to score in live action.
With Brown and Lufile manning the middle, one may think it would be a good idea to funnel Kell into the defensive walls and make him finish in the paint over high hands.
That however would be playing into the crafty guard's hands given his free throw accuracy and assists per game numbers both ranking amongst the league's best.
Instead what need be done with a roster as mobile and versatile as the Hurricanes is turn Kell into a one-on-one jump shooter with stunting help defenders (i.e. faking help and then recovering to shooters).
All ball screens need to be switched instead of doubling or hedging to avoid opening up possible passing or dribble kick-out opportunities as well given Moncton is the league's top three-point percentile shooting team at 37.4 per cent.
Granted Kell, himself, is shooting a superb 39.7 per cent from long range on the year but that comes at a low volume (4.1 attempts per game).
Sparingly has the athletic player attempted more than five triples in a single game and only once has he significantly influenced a game's outcome from distance (six-of-10 on Feb.24 versus the Island Storm).
With a player as talented as the Californian something must be sacrificed. And admittedly head coach Mike Leslie can only hope to slow him rather than shut him down completely.
However if the 'Canes can achieve even the former then they may have just found the last piece to secure the Atlantic Finals – and its third consecutive ticket to the championship round.