As we come to the Christmas showcase, several teams have sprinted out to an early lead. The Fanatics, Bears, Zulus, Dinos, Extreme and Disco. But this story is not about them, nor is it about those who are challenging from the division lead.
This is a story about those teams that do not get as much publication. But they are fighting for the lower playoff spots. Who are these unheralded teams trying to prove they belong in the playoffs? Starting with the west coast, Capetown, Cancun, SLC, Oregon and Gabon, are in. They all have a winning percentage of greater than .700. That leaves realistically 6 teams going for three spots.
Sacramento has been amazingly competitive. They are the only team with a winning record going for one of the final three spots. Early on they were challenging Oregon for a top the division before the unfortunate injury to Edgar Kamara (Broken Leg) and Camron Diaz (Sprained Knee). The untrained eye would say that they are role players and therefore they are not missed. Edgar is a wonder in his own right. He does everything pretty well. He passes, and rebounds, as well as adds some backup scoring. While he is still out for more than a month. He will be a welcome addition back to the starting role. Sacramento is a team that is a player or two away from becoming one of the big boys. But with Shamir Sheth, there is always a chance. They could be capable of a first round upset depending on the matchups.
Seoul Dragons have been a very pleasant surprise. With GM Oliver at the helm, they have found a way to beat most expectations. I know I for one put them in the Budapest bad type of team. A lot of their good fortune is due to future WBA Allstar – Rookie sensation Merlin Lundy. I knew this kid was special despite going to school in Appleby. While we won’t judge him for his college of choice, he has escaped that pit of despair and taken a leadership role. He is only 22 years old, but plays like a savvy veteran. He very well could earn Rookie of the Year honors. And right now, he has my vote. Merlin isn’t doing this magic all by himself. Teaming up with Ajan Estay who was drafted a year prior.
These Dragons are going to be dangerous in a couple of years if they can keep both these players. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the third wheel of this young budding tandem of excitement. Brian Armstrong has proven to be a solid Power Forward. Again, youth is their enemy, but if they can keep this trio together, they will be tough to beat in 3 years.
The Sun Warriors have started to play much better of late, with a huge upset over Gabon last week. They have played a lot of teams very tough, and have important tie breaker wins over Seoul. Roy Base misses the days of having Wayne Taylor by his side. But he is trying to hang on until some additional talent can be acquired. Simeon hill is a Double-Double machine, but he simply doesn’t give this team that 2nd scorer they so desperately need. The Sun Warriors should hang around, but I suspect they will just miss the playoffs. As they have lost all three contests against their in-state rival.
Omaha Wild, enjoyed a seven game winning streak back in late November. In fact, they were only 3 games out of first place with SLC. Then their luck seemed to change overnight with seven straight losses. It is rumored that the Omaha owner had a dream about 7 healthy ears of corn that were then devoured by 7 sickly ears of corn. Perhaps it was a sign, but who would have thought that this dream meant the things it did. The biggest thing for Omaha is they have a tie breaker advantage over Omaha. They have split with Seoul thus far, if they lose that tie breaker, don’t be surprised if they miss the playoffs. The biggest concern for Omaha is they have only beaten 2 teams with a winning record, Baltimore and Long Island. Teams have found if they slow down Gerhold Verholm, chances are they win the game. They have been plagued with injuries, but I don’t think it would improve their record too much, although Harold Gil is surely missed.
Hellcats, one thing that is common with most of the teams on this list is that they are all dealing with injuries. Mexico City is no different. Casey Pointer is the young star in his second year in the league. In a couple of years, he is going to get a very large payday. If he was on a Team such as Toronto or Miami, he would be scoring 35+ Points a game. As it is, he is scoring 21 points a game on a team that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of talent. Despite being talent challenged. They have some notable wins over quality teams such as Capetown, London and who can forget when they manhandled Brooklyn. They will need some things to bounce their way for them to make the playoffs. When they get healthy they could make that push for post season play.
Let’s be honest the Gamblers are in a tough spot. They want to show their fans they are trying to win, but while they don’t own their first round pick, there is nothing wrong with making their 2nd round pick worthwhile. The recent hiring of Alex Junge has sparked some life in them. They are currently riding a 4 game winning streak. Chad Archer has received his payday that will give him over 85 million over the next 5 years. The kid is a great scorer and if he can strengthen his defensive game, he will be a household name. Las Vegas is better than what their record states, they are keeping games close, and while they are young, eventually they will turn those close games into victories.
I predict that the following teams will make the final three playoffs spots:
Sacramento Fighting Cocks