Tritons Preseason Review
- By Reggie Cross, Day 1, 2023
Tritons, as in prior years, bring back their strong core and surrounded them with new players to compensate for relative weakness in defense from last year. Here's the pre-training camp breakdown:
Returning: Alonzo Traylor, Devin Roberts
Arrivals: Tenor Dembele
A decidedly veteran position, Alonzo Traylor and Devin Roberts gave the Tritons highly efficient offense and consistent defense in 2022. Traylor at 7'0", 257 lbs shot an impressive 72% from the field with 10.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg in just 24 mpg while holding down the paint defensively. At 35 years of age, however, Traylor may not be able to give the Tritons starter level minutes so recenlty signed 7'2" Tenor Dembele may be the starter at some point in the season, if not the beginning. Dembele, while not considered a high level player, showed promise with the Barons in 2022 where he contributed 9.7 ppg, 7.4 ppg while shooting 55% from the field. Once adapted to the Triton system, Dembele should provide the Triton similar production in the post while providing more youth and athleticism than the aging Traylor. Roberts, the rotation center in 2022, may see time at center again if the young Dembele struggles. Roberts shot an equaly impressive 59% from the field in 2022 but his speed may be of concern against athletic players.
Returning: Marcus Ivory, Zeke Boreczky, Juan Vasquez
Arrivals: Keon Perkins
Lost: Rahsaan Hayes
Anchored by All-JBL Marcus Ivory, the Tritons may be overly deep at this position. Ivory, slid between PF and C during the 2022 while departed Simon Hartford was injured with Boreczky also sliding between SF and PF. At his most comfortable position, PF, Ivory gives the Tritons 36 minutes at power forward, leaving little playing time for Boreczky who may continue to slide between PF and SF as new acquisitions Kai Navigato and Lorenzen Townes become acclimated to the Tritons offense. While Zeke covered the SF spot for most of the 2022 season, Rahsaan Hayes did an inconsistent job spelling Ivory at PF and resulted in the Tritons declining his option for 2023. At age 33, Boreczky is still very respectable defensively despite poor defensive ratings resulting from the overall poor team defense the Tritons struggled with the entire season. Tritons will try to give backups Juan Vasquez and Keon Perkins playing time as much as possible. Vasquez, a second round pick in 2022, struggled with his shot in his limited minutes, but showed clear promise on the defensive boards averaging 14.5 rpg per 36 minutes. More experience will likely help Vasquez find his scoring touch in the paint. Keon Perkins, a defensive stretch five in college will need to develop his body physically and his shot consistency if he wants to play the center position so he may find he is better suited at the power forward spot while he develops
Returning: Zeke Boreczky, Mitchell Epps
Arrivals: Kai Navigato, Lorenen Townes, Shaun Williams
Lost: Marques Bowen, Dmitri Karacic
Although not as weak as perceived, the shooting forward position had a fair amount of vulnerabilities in 2022. Left with a series of minimum options with Simon Hartford's 25 million on the payroll during free agency, the Tritons started Dmitri Karacic at shooting forward for the majority of the start of the season when SImon Hartford fell to injury and was subsequently traded. Sliding Zeke down, Karacic did a respectable job although struggling defensively at time which may have contributed to the Tritons' defensive difficulties. Lacking consistency necessary at the SF position, the Tritons decided not to re-sign Karacic to another minimum. Boreczky's size and scoring ability would have been adequate at SF, but the Tritons decided that they needed youth and athleticism at the position and made a draft day move to acquire Kai Navigato from the Scorpions to help fill the defensive void at the three position. Although undersized compared to the elite shooting forwards in the league, Navigato's well rounded game and athleticism looks well suited to compliment the scoring punch from Ivory and Peeler. Navigato should be able to adapt quickly to the Tritons' playing style and is projected as being the starter as they develop new draftees Lorenzen Townes and Shaun Williams. Townes shows great scoring instincts and athleticism that the Tritons will need to keep their high octane offense and will be sure to be part of their future as he gets he adapts his game from college to the pros. Williams is simply a raw talent who has great potential if he can transition from playing the power forward position he played premdominately in college to the wing position in the pros. Already possessing several impressive traits defensively, the Tritons will also need to find time to give Williams to develop him. Although Mitchell Epps provided microwave scoring at the start of the season, if he is not traded before the start of the season, it is questionable if he can retain a spot on the team in this deep position. Although the Tritons felt Marques Bowen had potential to develop, he was not re-signed due to lack of roster spots.
Returning: Antoine Peeler
Lost: Aaron Gayle
Tritons re-signed Antoine Peeler to a maximum contract in free agency allowing them to retain the consistent shooting Peeler, a first time All-JBL player. The future will be on his shoulders as well as the bulk of the minutes with Aaron Gayle being signed away by the Blizzards. Gayle, while being undersized at covering the shooting forward spot also backed up Peeler at times. The team appeared to struggle, however with Gayle at the two spot due to a lack of aggression. While attempts were made to retain him, the 4.5 million price tag from the Blizzards was a bit too high to retain him for minimal production. The Tritons will look to use Kai Navigato at times to give Peeler a break as well as one of their two headed point guards who gave backup minutes consistently during the 2022 season. Navigato seems to be the most likely choice, however, since Peeler's firepower needs to be replaced adequately while he is out of the lineup. Jack Donlon played the shooting guard alongside Coleman at the point for the latter half of the season and produced mixed results against stronger teams. Depending on Coleman's development, Donlon may or may not see more time at the shooting guard.
Returning: Evan Coleman, Jake Donlon, Nikica Jankovic, Danny Alexander
If there was a position which needed a frankenstein merge, it would be this position. Each of the point guards possess different attributes and promise. Coleman, the 2022 starter at the beginning of the season, still has not shown the scoring prowess he displayed at Louisville averaging 22.5 ppg in 2020. 2023 may be his breakout season as he has shown consistent shooting (when he decides to shoot it) and has been developing his passing and defensive game each season. While his hidden potential may still be there, he may never be able to manage to fit his college offensive game in the shadow of the dominant scoring from Ivory and Peeler. On the other hand, Jake Donlon, acquired in the middle of the season, showed impressive passing ability and an improved offense as he got accustomed to the Triton offense. Donlon's upside and scoring ability may not be as high as Coleman and his defense still requires some development. Jankovic did fairly well in his rookie season and possesses the defense and athleticism that the other two lack, but his downfall.... his size at 5'10". Depending on the Tritons' patience with Coleman's development, Jankovic may receive more rotation minutes further in the season. All three are projected to get time at point guard and it will depend on training camp to decide who will get tagged as a "starter" between Coleman and Dolon. In the Triton offense, the starting roles other than Peeler and Ivory are fairly liquid depending on the matchup so the title will only matter if players like Coleman or Donlon care about it on a selfish level - a mentality that does not go well with the Triton team first philosophy. Coleman will likely start at the beginning of the season with Donlon serving as sixth man and spot rotation minutes behind Peeler, but if Coleman does not show development in his floor generalship or scoring, Donlon may regain the the starting role as he did towards the end of the season. Danny Alexander provided veteran presence and leadership so he was retained on a second minimum contract and emergency backup minutes.
The Tritons have 15 players who are all able to contribute in some way. About ten of them will see more consistent minutes, but a lot will rely on training camp. Managing their playing time may be difficult, however, it's always better to have more options than less. A large part will be Coach Carter's willingness to play deep into his lineup or whether he runs his players through the ground at 38 to 40 minutes per game. Veteran leadership and cohesion will be important if the Tritons want to make another strong run in the playoffs.