With the second half of the Beko BBL season already in full swing, one could categorize the season of the Fraport Skyliners into three parts with nonstop Europe Cup winning, mostly winning in the Beko BBL with big wins against the Brose Baskets Bamberg and FC Bayern Munich and a few loses on account of minimal focus and concentration. For head coach Gordon Herbert, the season has been a success so far, but in reality the season could have been even better for the perfectionist. Not to forget the Fraport Skyliners could actually have 15 wins instead of 13 had they not lost on the last possession against Oldenburg and Wurzburg and could have even had a few wins more had they just been able to play Skyliners basketball the way they know how instead of losing road games to ratiopharm Ulm and medi Bayreuth. One can always lose to a team like Alba Berlin when they are hitting the ocean like Jordan Taylor and Wil Cherry did, but in reality the Fraport Skyliners are already a very good basketball team at this point of the season one really has to wonder how good it could be now if they hadn´t had injury problems early in the season and had the big German three of Johannes Voigtmann, Danilo Barthel and Konstantin Klein been at full strength. They were without the big three in their first two loses against Oldenburg and against Wurzburg and only had a full rotation against Bayreuth while not having the services of American Jordan Theodore in the loss in Ulm. Frankfurt has been able to have a perfect 10-0 record in Europe Cup thanks mainly to always having a full rotation, but only because the international competition started in late October.
There are many reasons why the Fraport Skyliners have been so successful and that starts with head coach Gordon Herbert. He may only have one title in Germany which he won back in 2004 with the then Opel Skyliners and after nothing to show with his time with Alba Berlin and now Frankfurt, people will probably first notice what he can do with the x´s and o´s once he wins another title. He has been known for years in Frankfurt of being able to get the best out of the talent that he is stuck with and the players understand what he wants from them quickly. The best example is Canadian Philip Scrubb who has only been here a few weeks, but has accepted his role, understands his task and has played as if he has been here for months.His clutch shooting has been very helpful on many occasions especially in the second half against Oldenburg in the cup where he didn´t let the opponent get closer. It also didn´t hurt that he kept many players from last season with the big three Germans, Aaron Doornekamp and Quantez Robertson which build the foundation of the team and is the complete heart and soul. Bringing in experienced guys like Jordan Theodore and John Little has impacted the club in that they have the right characters and never dying attitude to wanting to succeed and win that they bring to the floor. Having many from last season, having these two character type players with Little and Theodore have helped continue to form the team chemistry that has continued to get stronger and stronger. Scouting is also the other massive strength of Herbert as Frankfurt have a big advantage each game just knowing their opponent inside out and as well as if they were sleeping together. Often opponents have complained after games that Frankfurt knew on many occasions exactly what they were going to do. The other strength of Herbert is having installed a defensive philosophy early that stuck quickly with the team and has been consistent. The club has averaged giving up 70 points in the Beko BBL and even better in Europe Cup at 65. They have held BBL teams to under 70 points 10 times and in Europe Cup seven times under 70 points in 10 games. Each player defends with a passion and if it was their last game. The club has consistent good communication, has good help defense, sharp pick and roll defense and it doesn´t hurt that the club has probably the best trio of guard defenders of Quantez Robertson, John Little and Jordan Theodore. The Fraport Skyliners offense has been solid as they average 76 points in the Beko BBL and 79 points in Europe Cup play. A big strength is their unselfishness. Even if there are games where not everything is clicking, the biggest concern of the team is always finding the best positioned player. That doesn´t happen each possession as that one on one play can never be totally stopped and seeing a Quantez Robertson flight to the hoop is always nice to observe, but overall team unselfishness totally outweighs individual play and having that mentality isn´t easily attained or even expected nowadays. Frankfurt has that special team play mentality that goes a step further in that they eat, sleep and breathe each other on the court instead of only themselves. Their ball movement belongs to the best in the Beko BBL as they have made it common practice to make a good shot into a great shot.Rebounding can always be improved, but team turnovers at 12 and assists at 17 in the BBL and 18 in the Europe Cup is pretty solid. Another big strength of the team is having had that extra energy push in the fourth quarter which has propelled them to wins in Europe Cup play against teams like Leiden, Krka Novo Mesto, and Royal Hali. Even when they aren´t playing their best basketball, they are able to still win which shows that the team has unbelievable nerves of steel.
At mid-season, it is time to give out grades and Johannes Voigtmann has been the team MVP and gets an A. Voigtmann has made a further step in his development as he is slowly seen as not only as the best center in the BBL, but best player in the league. He is averaging 13,7ppg, 7,3rpg and 2,8apg. He is first in scoring, rebounding and blocks on the etam. In Europe Cup play he is averaging 13,2ppg, 5,8rpg and 2,8apg and is first in rebounds and second in scoring and third in assists on the team. He is shooting 44% from outside in the BBL and his only knock is his 2,0 turnovers per game in both competitions. He has scored in double figures in 11 of 13 BBL games and eight of nine Europe Cup games. He has the complete package and already has interest from NBA teams. People come to the Fraport arena to watch the slick moves and athleticism of Quantez Robertson, dunking of Mike Morrison, shooting of Aaron Doornekamp while I come to watch the amazing passing of Voigtmann. Jordan Theodore leads the team in scoring in both competitions and is first in team assists and steals in the BBL. He is averaging 13,7ppg, 3,3rpg and 4,7 apg in the BBL and is averaging 13,7ppg, 3,0rpg and 3,6apg in Europe Cup play. He has had some big games against BG Goettingen with 28 points, 24 against Ludwigsburg and 22 against FC Bayern Munich. The American gets a B. He will be the first to admit that his game isn´t anywhere near where he would like it to be. He often got hot in the second half after finding his teammates more in the first half. The only knack is his inconsistency which he most likely will ´heighten in the second half of the season. Aaron Doornekamp gets a A-. After an up and down season last year, the Canadian has been a pleasant surprise this season. Currently he is averaging 12,3ppg, 4,8rpg, 1,7apg and is shooting 47% from outside while in Europe Cup play he is averaging 10,7ppg, 5,3rpg and 2,4apg. He had a few forgettable games putting up the goose egg against Bayreuth, but mostly has been very consistent and efficient having scored in double figures in 14 of 18 BBL games and has picked up in Europe cup action having scored in double figures in the last four games. He was very instruamental in the 88-86 win against Bamberg with 22 points. He is the glue guy and does so much extra that isn´t seen in the stat sheet and his hot three point shooting has been his biggest strength this season.
Quantez Robertson gets a B+ and is averaging 9,6ppg, 3,7rpg and 3,6apg in the BBL and in Europe Cup play averaging 13,4ppg, 4,1rpg and 2,7apg. He has only scored in double figures in nine of 18 games in the BBL, but in international play in six of 10 games and had huge games against FC Porto with 25 points and 22 points against KrKa Novo Mesto. Tez is the heart and soul of the team. He has become so much more of a two way player now as he isn´t just the minister of defense, but a solid offensive force. He is shooting 40% from the parking lot in Europe Cup play. His step back jumper is improved and is an adequate point guard as well as his passing has also improved. The only knock on his game is his at times flaunting his athleticism and trying to do too much NBA showtime. Danilo Barthel gets a B- and is averaging 9,0ppg, 3,8rpg and 1,1apg in the BBL and 9,4ppg, 4,1rpg and 2,1apg in Europe Cup play. The German came back from injury in late October and has been solid. He has scored in double figures in six of 13 games in the BBL and in three of eight games in Europe Cup play. With the more mid range game of Voigtmann present, Barthel has had to do more work inside and has become a kind of bruiser and really taken more elbows in the paint than he would have liked. He has taken less three´s, but been more active inside. He has had some good games against Bamberg with 23 points and 21 against Sodertalje. With Frankfurt having many offensive options, it seems like he has been lost in the shuffle. He has been lost for 6-8 weeks and this hurts the team greatly. The German really has had misfortune the last two seasons with injuries. One can only hope that he will return strong from injury and be a force in the stretch run. Konstantin Klein also gets a B- as he is averaging 9,9ppg, 2,5rpg and 2,7 apg in the BBL and in Europe Cup play averaging 7,5ppg, 1,7rpg and 3,0apg. He has scored in double figures in eight of 14 games in the BBL and in three of nine Europe Cup games. He had some big games against Bonn with 19 points and was consistent in both wins against Leiden with 14 points a piece. Klein continues to be a potent offensive option as his attacking the rim and three pointer are always dangerous and he has had the knack of hitting big shots this season. His defense has been solid, but could be heightened and he will be hungry to get his three point shooting up and turnovers down. However he also has caught the injury bug and will be lost for 4-6 weeks.
Mike Morrison gets a B- as well as he is averaging 7,2ppg and 4,1rpg in the BBL and 6,9ppg and 4,1rpg in Europe Cup games. He had a great start to the season scoring in double figures in his first five games mainly benefited to the absence of Voigtmann, but as he came back from injury, his minutes have dwindled. He controlled the paint against Giessen hauling down 13 rebounds in 20 minutes, but in the last four games, he has only got 40 minutes. He had some strong games against Leiden with 17 points and scored 10 points against Porto and 11 points against Sodertalje. His body is always beneficial in the paint as well as his long arms on defense for changing the flight of shots, but on offense he needs to be more consistent making put backs on offense. John Little gets a C+. Currently he is averaging 5,3ppg, 2,2rpg and 1,2apg in the BBL and in Europe Cup play 5,8ppg, 2,6rpg and 1,1apg. The 2010 Eurochallenge winner had some big games against the Walter Tigers Tuebingen with 16 points as he was 4/4 from outside and had 14 points against Leiden with 2/2 from downtown. He is the ultimate team player that plays hard-nosed defense and is just a pain. On a team that has many offensive options, it is always a plus to get added production from a guy in his role. He also does so much on both ends of the court especially the hustle plays that don´t get noticed, but stats don´t lie and for a guy that averaged at least a steal per game in his career getting his steal average up can only be beneficial in the second half of the season for the club. Johannes Richter has been the player with the biggest misfortune in the first half. He hasn´t got as many minutes as he could of as Gordon Herbert has gone with a big man rotation of Voigtmann, Barthel, Morrison and Doornekamp. Richter is averaging 3,1ppg and 2,1rpg in the BBL and 0,5ppg and 0,8rpg in Europe Cup play. The German also benefited from the injury to Voigtmann in the first three games averaging 21 minutes, but overall is averaging only nine minutes per game. He had seven points against Bremerhaven and then 13 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes against Oldenburg in the first two games of the season. Recently he had a very good showing of five points and three rebounds in 12 minutes against Ludwigsburg. The less minutes hasn´t helped the development of Richter, but he has stayed focused and always gives his best and gets the best out of the little time he gets. Now with Barthel out again, Richter will get minutes and get another chance to show that he has the quality of a Beko BBL player. Tomas Dimsa also has been hit by the injury bug as he has played only nine BBL games averaging 5,1ppg and 1,0apg. He started the season well with 12 points against Oldenburg and 16 points against Tuebingen where he shot 6/7 from outside combined in both games demonstrating to be that added shooting presence, but then he got injured. He has much potential and that quick first step has been noticed already as well as his dunking ability as his alley-op dunks haven´t been forgotten which he did early in the season. He should be an added help from the bench in the second half if he stays healthy. With the injury bug there again, Max Merz will need to make the best of his minutes. He always gives the energy that you expect, but his youthfulness still gets in a way against the more experienced players, but his game IQ speaks for itself.
So what do the Fraport Skyliners need to do in the second half of the season to make an impact in the Beko BBL playoffs and Europe Cup? Even if the season goal is reaching the playoffs and making some noise, the Fraport Skyliners biggest goal is to win the Fiba Europe Cup. At the moment they are 10-0 and if they can keep up their stellar play and play defense the way they know how should be able to also be 12-0 after the second round. Frankfurt walloped Sodertalje and Rosa Radom at home and slipped by Royal Gail on the road. Frankfurt didn´t have problems on the road in Sweden and won´t in Poland either and will send the Turkish team back home with a bitter taste in their stomach smothering them on their own home court even if the Fraport arena will see some extra Turkish noise from citizens living in Frankfurt. It won´t get any easier on the road to the final 4, but Frankfurt has been there before with the core of their roster and are simply on a mission with the take no prisoners approach. In the Beko BBL, the Fraport Skyliners will have an easier schedule at home as the toughest teams that arrive will be Oldenburg and ratiopharm Ulm so they should be able to have a good home record as they lost only two games in their living room in the first half. They will have more of a challenge on the road as they have to play the big three with Bamberg, Berlin and Munich on the road. If they can get a win on the road or even two against them will help them immensely in their jockeying of the playoff places. A big determination factor of where the Fraport Skyliners will land will depend just how many slip ups the big 3 have against poorer teams. Frankfurt really only played one bad game against a poor ranked team with Bayreuth and every other loss was against playoff type teams. If Frankfurt had stayed healthy, then they could of cracked the top 3, but with Barthel and Klein out for a longer extended period this could be more difficult. Bamberg will finish strong, but Frankfurt could sneak up on FC Bayern Munich or Alba Berlin as both teams have shown glimpses of not always having that steady focus. Frankfurt also set one season goal of reaching the cup top 4 and will be a very uncomfortable opponent for anyone and could turn some heads if they are underestimated. If Frankfurt can stick together now in their next injury period, can develop and make their team chemistry grow more and carve steady focus into their mindset, then they could finish in third place and have home court in the playoffs, but many many things need to go right, but they can´t afford another major injury for their course to go as planned. Even with the current situation and injury woes, one seems to dream more, but then again the Fraport Skyliners have Gordon Herbert and anything is possible with his know how and Frankfurt carved out another masterpiece against a top team with Oldenburg as it was a team effort with all guys contributing even if the injury bug was there.