Note: This is the first of a two-part series dedicated to the Canton Charge, who currently on a seven-game winning streak. In this piece, we examine the tremendous play on the offensive end. In the following piece, that will come out later this week, we’re going to move over to the other end of the court.
In the first few years after making a move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Canton in 2011, the Charge stood as one of the best teams in the D League. From that year through the 2016-17 campaign, Canton consistently stood above .500 and made it to the playoffs in every season. Although they never made it to the Finals, that stable excellence was a testament to the excellence of the organization.
However, that solid play came to an end when the rebranding to the NBA G League in 2017. In the two full seasons since then, Canton finished with a 22-28 record in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. Those below-average records were due to their struggles on the offensive end. During those two seasons, the Charge finished 23rd and 21st in offensive points per 100 possessions in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.
Despite those back-to-back seasons of dread, head coach Nate Reinking stayed in his position as the team was getting ready for the 2019-20 season. Although some diehard Charge fans may have been upset about, it seems to have been the right decision. That’s due to how the Charge has taken a complete 180-degree turn since 2018-19 to become one of the best teams in the G League.
As of the time of this piece, the Canton Charge have a 28-13 record and sit as the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. Although they’ve been stable throughout the year, they’ve kicked it up a notch since returning from the All-Star Break as they’ve won seven consecutive games. During that stretch, the Charge has beaten both the Delaware Blue Coats and Capital City Go-Go, who are sitting above .500 and in contention for playoff spots. The most impressive victory came on March 4th where they defeated the 31-9 Wisconsin Herd in a double OT thriller.
In addition to them beating some solid teams, the Charge has been downright dominant when you look at some advanced numbers. Since the streak started on February 19th, the Charge is in the top six in both offensive and defensive points per 100 possessions. From an offensive end, they sit second averaging 117.2 points per 100, an eight-point improvement over the number they maintained during the first three months of the season.
Canton’s strides on the offensive end has a lot to do with their progression from beyond the arc. In the 35 games before this current streak, they shot 33% from beyond the arc, which placed them as a below-average shooting team. That inefficiency has subsided during this streak, where their three-point percentage has grown to 39%.
Their progression from beyond the arc has a lot to do with the presence of rookie guard Matt Mooney. Signed to a two-way deal from the Cleveland Cavaliers back on January 15th, the Texas Tech alum was immediately able to fit into the Charge offense due to his ability to shine as both a facilitator and perimeter threat.
Those skills have been most evident during the streak, where he’s averaging 15.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 49% from 3 and 43% from beyond the arc. With those numbers and skills, the rookie guard has been a dangerous threat as teams need to remain on their toes to deal with him no matter if he’s working off-ball or controlling the offense in the half-court.
Although Mooney has always had those skills in his arsenal, they’ve been most evident since he joined Canton due to the team’s offense being based around space and ball movement. Within this system, he has the room to maneuver around screens or work as a drive-and-dish facilitator.
While Mooney’s versatility has been allowed him to be a significant asset for the team, a combination of cohesiveness and everyone knowing their role within the offensive system has been the most significant reasons behind their current success.
When it comes to the leaders of the team’s offensive unit, both Malik Newman and Sheldon Mac have stood alongside the aforementioned two-way player as the main facilitators for the team. Like Mooney, both players do a lot of their work in the drive-and-dish. That trait works well within the team’s wide-open offense as you’re always going to have players parked around the perimeter waiting to get the ball.
No matter how great the passing or ball movement is, it obviously wouldn’t be successful without guys that can nail the open looks. Luckily, the team’s 39% three-point percentage during this winning streak has been due to a collective group of quality shooters. During the stretch, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Alan Herndon, Dean Wade, Mooney, and recent Cavs call-up Sir’Dominic Pointer have all shot better than 40% from beyond the arc during this stretch.
Out of that group of hot shooters, Dean Wade stands out from the bunch. Because in addition to him shooting 45% from 3 during this streak, he’s perhaps the best example of a player that’s been able to use Nate Reinking’s offensive system to his advantage. In addition to being a great shooter, the 6’9 big uses the spacing to create his offense and utilize the skills that allowed him to be a star with Kansas State.
With the ball in his hands and four defenders stationed around the court, he has the freedom to spot up from deep, post-up on the right block, drive to the rim, or move closer to the basket to take a mid-range shot. Those traits have allowed him to average 20.2 points and 8.5 rebounds with a 61% True Shooting Percentage during this stretch.
Although a lot of this piece has been dedicated to the leadership of Cavaliers two-way players Matt Mooney and Dean Wade, Canton wouldn’t stand out as one of the hottest offenses in the G League without a tremendous collective effort. From Sheldon Mac throwing great drive-and-dish passes, Sir’Dominic Pointer driving to the rim, or Alan Herndon pick-and-popping, every player on the Charge’s roster has played a significant role behind this current success.
While they’ll likely lose a game or two before now and the start of the playoffs, their offensive cohesiveness is one of the reasons to be confident that the Canton Charge currently stand as one of the favorites to make it to their first G League Finals since they played in Albuquerque