The Saigon Heat will reportedly be adding Gary Forbes and Sam Thompson to its roster as world imports for the team’s eighth consecutive ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) campaign.
The now-history Kyle Julius era of Saigon Heat basketball required a ball-dominant world import guard to run the team’s offense (Akeem Scott in 2017-18 and Trevon Hughes in 2018-19) most of the time, and while it did deliver better results than in seasons past, the Heat were still unable to clear the first-round playoff hurdle.
Stepping in as Julius’ successor is new head coach Kevin Yurkus, who appears to have already made his presence felt with a new approach toward import selection. Sources close to the situation have informed ASEAN Sports that Saigon will not be signing a world import point guard for the 2019-20 (ABL) season.
With 11 years of professional basketball experience, Gary Forbes will be stepping foot into Vietnam as one of Heat’s world imports. The 34-year-old has played in the NBA and G-League, as well as in multiple other elite leagues around the world which include the Italian LBA, Greek Basket League, Phillipine Basketball Association (PBA), and Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). He has also represented Panama on the international stage.
The 6-foot-7 wing will join just a short list of ABL players with NBA regular season experience and will be the fourth ex-NBA player in Heat history following Julius Hodge, Justin Williams, and Dijon Thompson.
Profile-wise, Forbes is a prolific offensive weapon with a lightning-quick first step which helps him hit jumpers from mid-range, and to less consistent extent, from beyond the arc. He also regularly attacks the basket and draws fouls, enabling him to play both the small forward and shooting guard positions.
Defense and outside shooting are areas which can be improved on for the former Toronto Raptor, but Heat fans should be excited with the arrival of a veteran scorer with a well-rounded offensive game.
The team’s second signing, Sam Thompson, is a product of NCAA Division I school Ohio State, and has played mostly in the NBA G-League over the last four years. He also has one international stint playing in the Hungarian NBIA, where he averaged roughly 15.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals a game for Vasas Akademia Budapest.
While Thompson’s professional career may not appear as impressive as Forbes’, the 26-year-old forward did have amazing years in college with the Buckeyes, going on deep NCAA tournament runs in the four years he played there (reached the Final Four in 2012) and battling alongside top-tier talent like former National Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger and 2019 NBA All-Star D’Angelo Russell.
Unlike his new Panamanian teammate, Thompson is a highly valuable asset on the defensive end, possessing excellent lockdown defense on multiple positions and the ability to block shots. The Chicago native has an explosive playing style, with his tremendous speed and athleticism allowing him to play above the rim and run the floor, which makes up for his weakness at shooting.
Forbes and Thompson can be used interchangeably at the three and four positions as the Heat are expected to use its last import spot on a big man, while giving ball handling and distribution duties to local players who have yet to be announced.
Hypothetically, Forbes could start as a wing player, but his size and shooting would allow him to convert into a stretch four if needed in order for Thompson to leverage his quickness as a small forward.
Both players are due to arrive soon in Ho Chi Minh City to prepare for the new season which is set to begin at the end of Novemeber.
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