NYC National Tournament Team Preview: Will the new-look LA KIXX improve on last year's result?
As the New York National Tournament inches closer, it’s time to dive deep into each team and evaluate their roster. It’s time to wrap up Atlanta week by taking a look at LA KIXX.
Greg Little (Captain)
LA KIXX have completely overhauled their roster from last year, losing four players and adding five new ones. Little, Heavens and Herring return from last year’s roster, and the rest of the five players are making their national debut. That leaves a lot of unknown with this team, making it hard to try and predict where they’ll finish. It’s even tougher to predict that when a couple of the players that I’ve seen play on this roster can already be inconsistent (more on that later).
Player to Watch
If you read the schedule reveal article for LA KIXX’s game against RTG, then you’re already familiar with the streakiness of Little. He has the potential to be a game-breaking player, but he also has games where you barely notice him on the floor.
His production in last year’s tournament is a perfect example of this. Here is the amount of points he scored in each game last tournament with his shooting numbers next to it.
Pool play - 67-64 loss vs. Classic Barbershop: 16 points, 6-13 from the field
Pool play - 95-82 loss vs. FMB: 3 points, 1-11 from the field
Play-in game - 60-46 win vs. $Ball: 30 points, 9-15 from the field
Quarterfinals - 56-55 loss vs. DMV Ballers: 13 points, 5-18 from the field
His game against $Ball was great, his game against Classic Barbershop was above average, his game against DMV Ballers was below average and his game against FMB was horrendous. This all added up to 15.5 points per game with shooting splits of 37/20/79.
If you could get his performance against $Ball consistently, he’d be the best player in the tournament. For LA KIXX to make some noise in this year’s tournament, they’ll need Little to consistently play like his game against Classic Barbershop or better. Scoring 16 a game and shooting over 40% from the field has to be bare minimum, or else this team is doomed.
With these kind of performances, Little may better fit the description of an X Factor, but I think they have a better candidate.
Herring has had a rough start to his Ultimate Hoops career, as he averages 13.8 points on 13.7 shots per game. He’s played in 12 career games, with four of those coming in last year’s tournament. He just met the requirements for playing in the tournament, played those four games, and has not played in UH since last August.
The biggest reason I have him listed as the team’s X Factor is because I have no idea what to expect from him this time around. National tournaments never give a full scope of someone’s skill due to the streakiness that can come in three to four games. And 12 games isn’t a big enough sample size to make a conclusion on someone. It becomes more difficult to assess Herring since he hasn’t played at all since last tournament. Even if he only played in one season since, if he put up similar numbers in that season from his first 12 games, I would have almost enough evidence to confirm his inefficiency.
As of right now, he’s a player that looks better on the eye test than through the stat sheet. I was genuinely surprised to look back at his stats from last tournament and see he shot 35% from the field and 24% from deep. There were games in last year’s tournament where he looked like one of the best players on the floor during stretches, despite the poor shooting at times.
No matter if LA KIXX plays three or six games in this year’s tournament, it won’t be enough to confirm the kind of player that Herring is. But without the scoring support of Sari Papazian and Frankie Ghouchani this year, LA KIXX are going to need an improvement from Herring. If his points per game are the same number as his shots per game, this team will only play three games.
Little, Heavens and Herring bring a combined 18 national games of experience, which will help, but bringing in five players without tournament experience is risky. Especially since the players they are adding have a combined 51 games played in Ultimate Hoops. It does help that every player on this roster (except for Herring) is playing on the same team in the Atlanta Open League this summer, and they’re 3-0 and in first place. That will help build chemistry heading into the tournament, but it still might not be enough.
Play-in game exit
I’m ready for the entire Atlanta region to come at me for this. I have both Atlanta teams as the two to be knocked out first, and I’m fairly confident I’ll get at least one of the two right. The combination of inconsistency from their veterans and inexperience from the rest of the roster scares me. I expect LA KIXX to be heading back to Atlanta early on Sunday.