Picking up the Pieces
- By Joel Steelman, Day 1, 2024
DETROIT - The Detroit Mustangs and new head coach Thorton Wells wrapped up the 2023 season with an abysmal 23-59 record riding a 4 game losing streak to a 1-9 record in the last 10 games. This is not too surprising as they ended the season without the aide of iMac or Holloway who both suffered season ending injuries towards the tail end of the season. Despite the horrible end to the season, the Mustangs still managed to finish 3rd in the Central, on par with the 2022 season, albeit with 16 fewer games in the win column.
The Mustangs adapted a new play style in the 2023 season opting for more shots which translated to 6th in the league for Field Goals Attempted per game. This would have been a welcome change in offensive style had they converted more shots, but the team was a horrific 42.4% from the field, which landed them dead last for the league. This was a drastic decline over the 46.4% they shot a year prior, but given the turnover of the team, it's not surprising they didn't find a rhythm. The one offensive highlight, though was the improvement in 3P percentage from 31.1% to 36.1%.
On the defensive and hustle side of things, the Mustangs declined in SPG, BPG, RPG. Pretty much every stat that you want to improve degraded. You can chalk this up to lack of talent, chemistry, or whatever you wish, but the defensive side of the ball will need drastic improvement if the Mustangs will want to even think about competing next year.
The silver-lining for the Mustangs this season was being the 4th worst team in league meant that they were also the 4th seed, if you will, for the draft lotto. The front office had reportedly prepared and expected to fall to pick 6 or 7, but the lottery gods were with Detroit that night as they emerged with the #1 overall selection.
Moving into the offseason, the team had 9 of their 15 players with options to be exercised. Seven of the nine were team options, while the other two were player. The team elected to retain Cleveland, Westley, Dozier and Hicks, while declining Alade, Jinghau and Yates. Of the player options, iMac opted to return for another season, while Zalys decided to test the free agency market. In the offseason, the Mustangs are presumed to be looking to FA to round out their bench.
Following the draft lottery and player/team options, the Mustangs began exploring options of reducing redundancies that may be caused by the draft. They were approached by the Houston Lightning about a trade of Randall Dozier for Stephan Hood. The Mustangs thought of bidding on Hood in the past offseason, but were scared away by his RFA status. So since the opportunity knocked, they decided to answer. Hood has proven himself as a more than capable distributor, but his defensive abilities could be a bit better in the eyes of the front office.
Going into the FA period, the Mustangs roster projects to be:
Walton - [REDACTED] - McCarty - Hicks - Hood
Will the defensive and shooting woes still affect the Mustangs going forward? It's hard to imagine they'll be fixed in one season, but it's a start to something one way or the other.