A stage as grand as the 2023 ABL Invitational Playoffs demands the grand performances of the
four teams in contention – Saigon Heat, Hong Kong Eastern, NS Matrix, and Singapore Slingers.
To achieve that level of performance, these teams will need top-notch quality play from their
Here are the players that have been providing their teams with a high level of play in the past
circuits and is expected in the Playoffs, even worthy of an MVP consideration as a matter of
fact. These are the MVPs for each of the teams heading into the Playoffs:
Stats: 27.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.1 steals, 57 FG%, 36.6 minutes per game
Xavier Alexander is an all-time talent and Slingers legend. Even then, not listing him as the
Slingers’ MVP heading into the Playoffs is not a slight on Alexander, but says more about just
how good Kentrell Barkley has been.
Barkley leads all scorers in the competition by a wide margin, both in totals (383) and on
average (27.4). No other player has scored over 300 points in the ABL Invitational and he
averages nearly 7 more points than any other player remaining in the Playoffs. It’s remarkable
that he’s putting points up at that volume with efficiency, making shots from the field close to
60 percent conversion rate. On top of that, he leads all players in total steals and all playoff
players in steals per game. Just for good measure, he also averages 10.7 rebounds, making him
a member of a small group of players that are averaging a double-double this year.
More than the counting numbers, Barkley has shown from day one that he could and would
perform in the clutch. Going back to the Slingers opening day win over NS Matrix, it was Barkley
who made the decisive drive that would allow him to clinch the win with free-throws.
Barkley has scored in double-digits in all of his games, five times over 30 points, and has one
game tallying 41 points – the highest number of points scored in the ABL Invitational so far.
Eight double-doubles. Two triple-doubles. MVP-level stuff.
NS Matrix Malaysia
Stats: 20.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 blocks, 65.3 FG%, 30 minutes per game
This is not a clear-cut choice for the balanced Malaysian squad, but it feels like the right one.
Even though Tevin Glass has been superb for NS Matrix, playing all games and efficiently (37.5
3P%, 82FT%) averaging 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, it’s tough
to deny how clear it was that NS Matrix needed Amir Williams during his absence in the
Vietnam circuit. Not only did they see their 9-game win streak snapped in a loss to the Macau
Black Bears, but they also later suffered a loss to upcoming Playoff opponents Hong Kong
Eastern as well. Williams was their anchor in the paint on both ends of the floor and he just
made things happen. He didn’t have to take matters into his own hands all the time as he was a
more than capable passer and did a very good job covering area on defense.
NS Matrix are a deep squad and Amir Williams is the key centerpiece that makes it all tick.
Hong Kong Eastern
Stats: 17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 40.6 3P%, 32.7 minutes per game
There should be no surprises here. The ABL veteran has been the most important player in this
championship-hungry squad. He’s not putting up absurd numbers – his highest scoring total this
year came in a loss – and he’s only leading the team in one category, assists, by only 0.1 per
game, but ODB is just so good at setting the tempo and working the flow of the game so that it
is generally in Hong Kong Eastern’s favor.
Now that the Playoffs are here, the smaller details will get magnified and the pace won’t be as
hectic as it has been, which could put Bassett and Eastern in a position of advantage.
Stats: 15.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 59.9 FG%
Combs might not be a popular pick as MVP for the Saigon Heat heading into this final phase,
but his importance is just undeniable. While Evan Gilyard and Jarius Holder are both 20-point
scorers who can shoot the lights out on any given night, there are also two of them for Saigon
Heat to utilize.
That leaves Combs down in the paint and, since Hasan Thomas must roam around and cover
the wings a lot as well, most of the time he’s alone.
It took a while for Combs to properly fit in, but he recorded double-doubles in his last six games
heading into the Playoffs, compared to having only one in his debut. He’s the reason that
Holder and Gilyard can shoot confidently from outside. He’s a big reason why the Saigon Heat
are the number one seed heading into the Playoffs at home. And he’s their MVP.