Constant Roster Changes Hurting Fort Wayne Mad Ants Chemistry
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are 22-14. Right now, if the playoffs started today, they are the fifth seed. Considering that they won the championship last season it is a somewhat disappointing position for the team to be in. The struggles the team is undergoing begs the question of why and how did they drop from being the best team in the D-League to just an average team?
One of their biggest challenges has been the fact that they have not had a consistent roster. In the D-League in general, it is tough to have a solid roster with call-ups happening anytime an NBA affiliate deems it necessary. Honestly, the entire point of the D-League system is to allow players with potential to get professional level experience and develop their skills. The Mad Ants dilemma, specifically, is that they have multiple NBA affiliates. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are the only team in the D-League that serve talent to more than one NBA team. In fact, they are affiliated with 13 teams so far. Therefore every season, they receive an influx of drafted players as well as players on assignment. All of these players have the primary goal of getting to the Association, so they play in a way that focuses on making themselves look good. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to go one on five every game (unless you are Lebron James or Kobe Bryant).
The silver linings for the Mad Ants are Gary Talton and Andre Emmett. They have played together longer than any other players on the roster and it shows. Their incredible chemistry is the reason they have won 22 games. Talton is a natural point guard and Emmett is a natural shooting guard, despite the fact he claims to be a small forward. CJ Fair, the small forward out of Syracuse University, is coming along nicely and I can tell that he has gotten comfortable enough to perform for the team and not just for himself. It took some time though, because the team has so many players to “tryout” that some do not get the the opportunity to showcase their talent, unless someone else is either injured or called up.
The Mad Ants recently acquired Bruno Caboclo, who was assigned by the Toronto Raptors, and he has immense upside physically. However, the Mad Ants have a stable of big men, as well as a large amount of stretch power forwards. At the moment, Caboclo is not consistent enough to be a stretch four, and he has not proven himself to be a threat in the post outside of open dunks. It is a stressful situation to be in, but former Indiana University player Will Sheehey is much more consistent right now and a local fan favorite.
There is great talent on the Mad Ants roster, but their offense runs almost entirely through Emmett and Talton. Fair comes off of the bench as instant offense to give Emmett a break. It works most of the time, but if Fair has a bad game, there is no sure chance for a win. If Emmett struggles, the team loses hope and goes back to individual basketball. That is no way to function as a team. If it was not for the excellent coaching of Connor Henry, then the team would not be where they are today. Commentators always mention that many teams maintain a core group and win, but they will always discuss the Mad Ants because they are still making it without the typical lineup.
By Joshua Hamer