With Thomas Robinson out of action for the next three or four months, due to a broken wrist, Giorgos Bartzokas and his players should do their best to step up and overcome the versatile center’s absence.
With Alexey Shved and Robinson as the leaders, the Russian team had made a great start to the season (5-1 record) and was considered one of the favourites to go all the way to the end.
However, things quickly turned around, as the Russians suffered three straight losses, playing mediocre on both ends of the floor (5-4 record).
To make matters worse, Robinson sustained a serious injury and Khimki are now forced to play without one of their best players, who had a central role in coach Bartzokas’ tactics.
More specifically, the American player averaged 11.4 points (51.8% in two-pointers) and 7.8 rebounds in almost 20 minutes of action, so his team-mates should now find a way to cover his gap.
That said, and given the side’s difficult schedule until the end of the year (facing the likes of Brose Bamberg, rivals CSKA Moscow and Barcelona, among others), what changes should coach Bartzokas make to ensure the team will play at high standards and claim crucial victories, in spite of Robinson’s injury?
Jenkins to step up
Charles Jenkins was one of Crvena Zvezda’s best players last year, both defensively and offensively, yet the situation is a bit different this season.
Although he is still one of the best on and off-ball defenders (with 1.8 steals per game), his offensive productivity is relatively low (just 3.8 points, 50% in two-pointers and 33.3% in three-pointers).
Even though he plays almost 22 minutes per game, he hasn’t offered decent solutions on the offensive end of the floor and, consequently, it’s easier for the opponents to stop him, making Khimki’s playing style more predictable.
If Jenkins enhances his performance in the next few games, then coach Bartzokas will have an extra “weapon” that could make the back-court line more dangerous.
Shved to shoot the ball better
Shved is the club’s best player. There is no doubt about it. He is capable of scoring in many ways (from beyond the arc, from mid-range, with a lay-up) and is the number one “threat” for the opponents’ defence.
Although he dishes almost five assists per game (4.6), he often fails to move the ball quickly and prefers to take advantage of his ability to be productive in 1 on 1 situations.
However, his field goal percentage is very low (41.2%), given his talent and the shots he makes in every game, while his numbers are even worse from the three-point range (just 29.2%).
That said, the Russian combo guard should play better offensively, not in terms of scoring (he is second on the respective list, averaging 19.4 ppg), but in terms of shooting the ball better and helping his squad have a quicker ball movement.
The players to raise the level of concentration
With Robinson unable to compete, his team-mates should be at their very best in order to beat their opponents and climb higher on the table.
To achieve this, though, the team should deal with the concentration issues they have faced in the last few games, which prevent them from retaining their chances to be victorious.
For instance, Khimki was decimated by Panathinaikos in Athens (93-65), as the Russians missed many shots, made many turnovers and played very badly defensively.
Concurrently, a week later, they came back from a 17-point deficit and were down by one point, with less than a minute to go (68-67), yet they made all the wrong decisions and, consequently, lost the opportunity to triumph over the defending champions, Fenerbahce, who won by four in the end (71-67).
The aforementioned examples show the players are not 100% ready, especially mentally, and coach Bartzokas should immediately change that and bring the team back to the winning track.
To minimise the turnovers
The assist/turnover ratio is an important factor in basketball nowadays and usually plays a significant role during the game.
Although Khimki dish more than 17 assists per game (17.33), they also make many turnovers, being fourth on the respective category, with 12.67.
As a result, their assist/turnover ratio is relatively low (just 136.84%, 12th overall), which gives their opponents the opportunity to take control of the game.
Moreover, and despite grabbing many boards (34.67 per game), their poor shooting percentage (just 45.41%) minimises their effectiveness in transition and doesn’t let them run the floor well and score fast-break points.
The supporting cast to become more aggressive
With Robinson out of action and Shved as the number one “weapon”, coach Bartzokas needs his players to be consistent and raise their level of energy.
With Stefan Markovic (7.1 ppg, 39.3% from beyond the arc, 4.2 assists), James Anderson (13.4 points, 59.1% in two-pointers) and Anthony Gill (9.6 ppg, 71.4% in three-pointers) playing very well, both defensively and offensively, it’s the remaining players’ performance that will determine whether Khimki will effectively cover Robinson’s absence.
Players like Malcolm Thomas (7.1 points and 5.2 boards per game), Marko Todorovic (1.6 points in just six minutes of action) and Sergey Monia (3.3 ppg, 42.9% from the three-point line) should improve their performance, otherwise coach Bartzokas will have no other option but to sign another player.
It’s worth adding, though, that the return of versatile defender, Tyler Honeycutt, will help the Russians make their defensive line tougher and more productive.
Overall, Robinson’s injury shocked his team-mates and staff, however it’s up to them to turn things around again.
With Khimki hosting Brose Bamberg tonight (30/11, 18:00 CET), it’s vital for them to earn the victory and put an end to their three-game losing streak, before entering a series of difficult matches until the end of the year (Armani Milano, Unicaja Malaga, CSKA Moscow on the road, Anadolu Efes and Barcelona at home).