Drones Dime (2024 Recap)
- By David Gonzalez, Day 196, 2024
2024 Season Review
Our realistic goals as described in our Season Preview were to with the Southeast Division for the first time in franchise history and to finish with our first winning record targeting 45-48 wins overall. Up from 41 in 2023. Anything beyond that would be considered gravy as we continue to move ourselves away from the expansion era the be felled the previous General Manager. I’m happy to say that we accomplished both those goals having finished the season with a 46-36 record and winning the division by six games.
2024 also proved that we could compete with nearly any team in the JBL by posting wins over the Warriors, Kings, Bullets, Thunder, and Dragons. All were teams we had little chance of competing with in 2023. As a team, we improved our Defensive Rating from 16th to 8th and our overall Net Rating from 19th to 15th. A lot of this can be contributed to our major free agent signing of Devan Carroll. He would end up second on the team with 3.9 defensive win shares and posted a 6.6 WS number which led the team.
We were once again spearheaded by Lucas Rush who saw his overall usage drop from 32.9% to 25.9% but his efficiency and overall production to the team went up. A lot of his drop in usage could be contributed to our ability to put 4 scorers on the court who all averaged close to 18 ppg or above. Rush would lead the team in scoring, rebounds and steals.
Khalen Anthony had his best season as we focused the offense more around him throughout the season and it led to a career high in both ppg (19.4) and rpg (7.8). Interestingly enough, Anthony contributed a career best 3.3 DWS which most scouts in the league understand to be the weaker part of his game.
Raefael Williams II had what was likely the most interesting season for any of our starters. He started his second season extremely slow and our staff was worried if he would ever turn it around. Over the course of the year, he would pick it up and find most of his shooting touch while not completely matching his performance from his rookie season. A lot of eyes will be on RWII in 2025 to see answer the question of who is the real RWII? Is it the rookie who finished with a 117.4 ORtg and 5.8 WS or is it the 2024 version who finished with a 105.2 ORtg and 2.2 WS.
Isaiah Leonard was a player our coaching staff was banking on in 2024 having passed up drafting a PG in the 2024 draft. Leonard would see his offensive production drop which isn’t so much the issue as we got the ball more to Anthony and we now had Carroll at the four, but rather his eFG% dropped to a career low 44.4% and his 3P shot dropped from the 38% level down to 31.3%. With four players who can all score around him, Leonard needs to knock down these open looks if he wants to stick around beyond 2025. Leonard would post a team worst -124 and a -4.6 NetRtg as he lost his spot in the starting rotation over the final 30 games to Caius Springer.
As for the veteran reserves, free agent pickup Xavier Russell did not pan out as well as we had hoped. We looked for him to be our 6th man off the bench which is probably something we shouldn’t have promised as he never was really in line to get more than
15-18 minutes on any given night. Next season we will need Russell to contribute more offensively to help that 2nd unit out. For the second straight season Jason Sutton would end up complaining about minutes as he served as the backup to Anthony. Sutton would appear in 75 games and finished with a career best 12.8 PER. With that said, it is highly unlikely the Drones will pick up his team option and he will enter 2025 as a free agent.
How did the youngsters do? Well we gave up on Trent Buchanan and shipped him off to Chicago for a 2nd round selection as he did not fit in our scheme nor did he provide the production level we were looking for. Our 3rd selection in 2023, Justin Chauca, started the year as the backup behind RWII but he also fell out of favor quickly as he was outplayed by undrafted FA DeAndre McRoy. McRoy would end up leading our bench in scoring at 6.9 ppg on 50.2/38.5/72.7 shooting. We are hoping McRoy will continue to develop his shot in the offseason. Our first round pick in 2024, Godwin Kite finished the season with a 19.7 PER and 2.1 WS as he averaged 10 mpg. Godwin showed the flexibility to play center and power forward and will likely have the opportunity to earn more minutes in 2025.
Even though 2024 moved us in the right direction, this offseason has a lot of question marks that will make or break 2025. Will the staff bring back Rush and/or Anthony? Will they make a play for another free agent similar to how they went all in on Carroll? Will the real RWII please stand up? How will GM David Gonzalez manage 4 picks in the upcoming draft and where will the focus lie after having drafted a PF in each of the past two first rounds?