Part Two of the 2004 Super Basketball League (SBL) season preview focuses on the new-and-improved ETTV Antelopes (formerly the Jeoutai Elephants), the Dacin Tigers, the Sina Lions, and defending champs, the Yulon Dinos, as the season gets underway with tomorrow afternoon's season-opener between the Dinos and the Lions at the Taipei College of Physical Education Arena.
With the addition of former Lions' veteran point man Chou Jung-san, who brings in over 15 years of experience, the Antelopes should find the consistency on offense that was missing throughout the entire season last year. They were the first team to beat eventual champs -- the Dinos -- last year, ending the Dinos' impressive 12-0 start; at the same time, they also lost to the last-placed Bank of Taiwan twice during the same season, accounting for two of the five wins by the bankers.
Chou's unmatched field vision will undoubtedly provide some sense of order to the Antelopes' half-court offense, not to mention his ability to get by the defender and penetrate the middle, which should create some easy buckets for the big men down below. Joining the Antelopes' frontcourt this season is power forward Liao "The Refrigerator" Wei-chen from Taiwan Beer to fill in the gap that was left vacant by the departure of Ha Hsiao-yuan. Liao should be able to use his size advantage on defense in patrolling the paint for the Antelopes, while setting up solid screens for all-star center Wu Dai-hao on offense.
Tiger fans who saw their beloved team fall at the hands of the Lions in first-round postseason action last year, should expect to see a title contender this season as the team that underwent essentially no off-season roster changes shifts right into full gear by skipping the early-season adjustment period that most teams with roster changes are bound to experience.
A stronger and more aggressive Tien Lei, who came in a close second to Taiwan Beer's Lin "The Beast" Chih-jeh for the league's individual scoring title in addition to winning the rebound crown, will look to crash the boards even harder this season for the "most complete player" distinction in the league.
Long-range shooting will make the Tigers tough to defend as four of the five projected starters all have the ability to drain the long three-pointers from beyond the arc, forcing their opponents to abandon any type of zone defense that would be effective against a weak outside-shooting club.
The outlook for the 2004 season is not particularly bright for the Lions as they attempt to replace three of their five starters (point guard Chou Jung-san, power forward Hsiung Ren-cheng and veteran center Huang Chuen-hsiung) with unproven youngsters in a rebuilding process.
Off-guard Luo "The Natural" Hsin-liang will have to share most of the scoring burden with big man Liu Yi-shiang in the early going until newcomers Yang Shih-hao and Wang Chuan-jen find their footing in a brand new environment to compensate for over two-thirds of the offensive production that left with the departure of the aforementioned players.
Controlling the tempo of the game and refraining from getting into early foul trouble will lessen the Lions' exposure to their lack of bench-depth and inexperience.
Also missing a key component of their offense are the Dinos whose top scorer, Chen Hsin-an, recently joined the Orange County Crush of the American Basketball Association (ABA). While the absence of Chen will definitely set the defending champs back a notch in terms of their frontcourt dominance, his departure may very well be what the doctor ordered for running a balanced attack and relying more on a team effort.