by Timmy Frenchy
The first round provided exciting matchups in the World Conference. Although it was predicted that some series would be tightly contested, it is still a surprise that the top team exited right away.
Mexico City Hellcats vs Gabon Giants
(Mexico City won season series 3-1)
It is the first time an 8th seeded vanquish the top seed in WBA modern day history. But these two teams were not that far apart talent wise. Cancun losing Trentesols for this series combining by the heroic return of Dao were the missing ingredients for the Hellcats to create the perfect Storm. They held the Outlaws to 92 points per game, a team that average more than 103 points in regular season. Chris Dao averaged 25 points in only 30 minutes, showing off how efficient he is.
Impressive performance by the Giants in the first round. They dismantled a talented Albacete Burning Hell squad in only 4 games. Not a single game was even close as 4 Gabon’s players scored 17 pts per game or more. Napoleon even cap this one with a career high 41 points in the last game of the series. Giants fans might want to contain their excitement as maintaining this level of play is highly improbable. Still, it is nice for them to celebrate Gabon 1st playoffs series victory in the last 3 seasons.
Hellcats matchup very well against the Giants as they only lost once this season against them, a game decided by only 3 points. And let us mention that Dao was absent that day. Both teams come in full steam after great performances in the first round. Which team will maintain that momentum? Which team will adjust better over the course of a potential long battle? It looks like a flip coin. Maybe homecourt and Gabon crazy fans could be the x-factor here. Maybe not.
Prediction: Mexico City over Gabon in 7 games.
Milan Mayhem vs Barcelona Counts
(Barcelona won season series 2-1)
Barcelona was really tested by Cape town in the first round, and they came out on top. They only took a lead in the series after game 5, and it needed 7 games to be settle. Zulus playoffs experience along with Gordon willpower almost got the best of this young and less experience Counts squad. But it is past them now, and Primo & Co may have gained the confidence to go even deeper in these playoffs.
What a relief for Milan management when the buzzer sounded at the end of game 7. Acklin from Moscow just missed a 3 pts shoot that could have tied it. After losing game 5 and falling behind 3 games to 2 against a young and explosive Snow Bears team, it looked like this season was over for the Mayhem. Eufrazio was stellar in game 6 (29 pts, 15 reb, 5 ast) and in game 7 (27 pts, 14 reb, 6 blks) as the Mayhem showed poised to survive this fight.
These 2 teams just both finished difficult 1st round. The Counts have home court and a deeper team, but the Mayhem still have more experience. Looks like we’re in for another long battle that could be decided just before the buzzer sound in game 7. Look for Mayhem top guns to make the difference when it counts.
Prediction: Milan over Barcelona in 7 games
Some lopsided matchups made these first round series short. Two matchups ended in a sweep and no series needed more than 5 games to determine the winner.
Kansas City Blues vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 3-1)
As predicted, the Rage had no problem handling the Firestorm, winning every game of the series by an average of 26 points. Brooklyn had 7 players scoring double digit points per game in this series. Tyrus Mayes came back in game 3 after missing all games since late February because of a concussion. He looks healthy again and should be useful for Brooklyn in their upcoming challenge.
Kansas City took care of business in the first round, winning the series in 5 games. Walt Jackson was particularly efficient against Boston, scoring 27 points per game while shooting .500 from the downtown. This squad is healthy and will even have a few days to rest before facing their biggest challenge this season.
The Blues only won once in regular season against the Rage, and all three games they lost were blowouts. Jackson and Sims are excellent scoring big men, but they should be partially held in check by Miles and Mayes superb defense. Kansas City could be able to steal one or two games, but Brooklyn superior talent will prevail.
Prediction: Brooklyn over Kansas City in 5
Colorado Pioneers vs California Fighting Cocks
(season series split 2-2)
Even without Kurt Beck, the Fighting Cocks were dominant against the Rainmakers in the first round. That series ended with a perfect 4-0 for California where games were won by an average of 27 points. Hassan Watts picked up the scoring slack averaging 6 more points compared to his regular season. Beck absence was a non-factor against Seattle, but it could be a difference-maker in the second round.
It felt like a walk in the park for the Pioneers in their first-round against Gamblers. Colorado limited Las Vegas to only 61 points in game 1, crushing their spirit right from the get-go. Darond Lyons & Co had total control on this series that ended in 5 games. Pioneers are healthy and ready for the next round.
As good a team the Pioneers are, the Fighting Cocks are the best team on paper. Their depth is incredible and that’s exactly what Colorado lacks. But Beck’s absence could change everything. Divine Devine and Lyons will need some huge games to push that series to seven games, and hope they get lucky if they get there. With that said, it still looks like California will punch back-to-back tickets for the Conference Finals.
Prediction: California over Colorado in 7
By Ron Chambers
I have to admit, the first round of the play-offs was amazing this year. Overall, I am pleased with my predictions. I picked seven out of eight. But, boy was I wrong on the Cancun vs. Mexico City match-up. I picked Cancun to win in five games and the lost in six. This proved two things. As much as I thought they relied on Trentesols…they rely on him more. And, Chris Dao is a stud.
Now for Round 2…
Gabon Giants (56-24) vs. Mexico City Hellcats (42-38)
Gabon is a deep, talented, well put together team. They have no stars with not a single player averaging more than 20 points, 8 rebounds, or 7 assists. But, there may not be a deeper team in the league. They play team ball. Despite being fairly averaging in scoring they are among the league leaders in assists and are among the most efficient offensive teams in the league. They also are very good defenders ranking #3 in steals, #4 in blocks, & #4 in opponent scoring.
I take it back, Maybe Mexico City is the deepest team in the league. They don’t have a single scrub on their team. But, their starting five is not as talented all the way through as Gabon’s. The difference is that Mexico City does have a star…at least a star in the making. Chris Dao was impressive in the first round against Cancun. He is certainly one of the future stars of the league. The question is how far can he carry Mexico City this year. I don’t think far enough.
Prediction: Gabon wins the series 4-2.
Barcelona Counts (57-23) vs. Milan Mayhem (56-24)
This should be a great series. Barcelona is an interesting team. They are very deep and have some of the best talent in the league off the bench. Many say Primo Bugeja is one dimensional, but what a dimension. With a PPS of 1.62 he is one of the most efficient scorers in the league. Only the Rage have a more prolific offense. They do tend to play one-on-one basketball but it doesn’t cause them problems offensively as they have the best PPS as a team at 1.42. They are only average from beyond the arc but their talent is inside where they lead the league in FG % and getting to the charity stripe. So why didn’t this extremely talented and efficient team win 60 games? Defense. They are not a great defensive team. They allow 106.3 points which is 1.9 over the league average. They are in the top 1/3 of both defensive FG% and PPS but they foul too much. Still, this is not the all offense no defense Counts team of a few years ago.
Milan does not have the depth of the other teams in the World Conference. They also don’t have a big star like Bugeja or Dao. But, they play good, tough team ball. There is nowhere that they really stand out and no real holes. The one exception is that they don’t get to the line but they also don’t send their opponents to the line so it is a wash. There is no flash here just good basketball. In some ways, they couldn’t be a bigger contrast to Barcelona which has a very specific style they want to play. Milan just balls and see where it falls.
Prediction: Barcelona wins series 4-3
Brooklyn Rage (74-6) vs. Kansas City Blues (51-29)
The Rage have been here before. Many times. They are arguably the most impressive dynasty in WBA history. But, they are starting to think about the end…but it won’t happen this year. The rage are impressive still. They averaged 119.8 points a game while holding their opponents under 98 points. They play the ultimate team ball leading the league also in assists. Their defense is aggressive leading the league in steals and second in blocks. They run hard leading the league in pace and Offensive Efficiency but don’t let up on the defensive end ranking second in defensive efficiency. Their Super Stars Mario Bailey, Jarius Miles, Omar Jefferson, and Dan Kincaide get all the press. But, Tyrus Mayes, George Faup, Anthony Davis, and David Flores are the players that allow them to keep the pace up. With the exception of Faup, who admittedly slows down the team when he is on the floor, this entire team is fast and they use it.
Don’t let the accolades of Brooklyn make you underestimate Kansas City though. The Blues also have star power. Walt Jackson and Jeremy Sims are as good as it gets. Antonio Gleason doesn’t get much press but he has had a great year. Ed Rhodes is an atypical shooting guard in this league with a defensive team-oriented focus. Daren Benson has taken some flack but don’t be fooled. He is a great point guard. He is an efficient point guard who doesn’t take shots away from Jackson or Sims. The Blue are a tough rebounding defensive-oriented team. they cannot be taken for granted. Their slow style of play couldn’t be more different than the full out sprint of the Rage. Controlling the pace will be a big part of keeping this series close.
Prediction: Brooklyn wins the series 4-1
California Fighting Cocks (66-14) vs. Colorado Pioneers (64-16)
This series is going to be really interesting. These are two dynamite teams who are looking to overtake the Rage in the next couple of years. This year if they can have a little luck. The talent that California has in its top 8 spots is mind-boggling. They have a crushing defense and often rival, or even pass, the Rage at the top of league standings. Hassan Watt is the superstar of the future and Kurt Beck is also a superstar. They have eight players who play between 27 and 35 minutes so they spread the load around. Their big problem is the injury to Kurt Beck. He will miss at least a few games this series. If California shows they can handle the Pioneers without Beck look for him to sit until he is completely healthy. If California struggles they should be able to have him back by the third or fourth game of the series.
It is amazing that Colorado could win 64 games and finish third in the conference. Devine, Lyons, Kinsey, and Henderson are as good as any top four players in the league. The Pioneer’s starting Point Guard Edgar Kamara first made a big splash with the Fighting Cocks where they transitioned him from a small, small forward to a tall PG. In his last few years in Colorado, he has fixed his shooting woes. He has shot over 40% for four straight years. This may not sound impressive but remember he has twice shot below 30%. This two-time all-star gets lambasted for not being a scorer. He only averaged 4.4 points this year. But, remember he is passing to Devine, Lyons, Kinsey, and Henderson. The real challenge for this team is that they don’t have much depth and that is where California really has the advantage. Further, a single injury could be devastating.
Prediction: California wins the series 4-2
By Aitor Tilla
Colorado Pioneers: Controversial GM Marc Hameleers knows what he needs to do to be competitive. Tom Henderson and DaRond Lyons have refused to sign an extension and they will explore the turbulent waters of the free agency. While every analyst in the league firmly believes that both players will endup resigning, the situation adds some uncertainty. Colorado really needs them. Every other key player is in their 30s, so the window for Colorado is now. There is a fun scenario associated with this situation. What if Lyons and Henderson decide to hold his signing and that allows Mr. Hameleers to sign a max contract free agent and then extend both players?
Kansas City Blues: The Blues’ offseason revolves just about one name. Jeremy Sims. He is the big fish in this free agency and he’s waiting for all the maximum offers he can collect. While Kansas is the top favorites to resign him, Sims has stated that he wants to compete, and the Blues will have a hard time improving this team. Will he have the guts to look for a better situation? If KC extends Sims’ contract, expect them to use their mid-level exception to improve the PG spot. Daren Benson has been playing well, but he is still the weak link.
Salt Lake City Fanatics: It looks like Brad Bangerter will have an interesting summer. They have a lot of players full of potential, and probably four more players selected in the top next draft. It is well known in the league that Brad is not one of the best talent evaluators in the league, but some of those players selected have to be good. Expect the Fanatics to try to pack a pair of these picks to trade up and secure some top talent. The big question is the conflict with Abel Desbuisnes. He didn’t even listen to extension offers and he will be one of the most sought after free agents. The good news for SLC is that Abel wants a big contract, and no other team can offer him more. The problem for the Fanatics is that Abel is approaching his 30s and the rest of the team are rookies or second-year players who are a long way from contributing to a winning team. We could expect Brad to pack some young talent to receive a star player,
Cincinnati Hitmen: Sheldon Gorman is signed long term, so Cincinnati can be happy, but he is the only good player in the team, and they are really close to the salary cap, so improving via free agency is not an option. The summer of 2020 will be a different animal. GM LoMonaco has a top 7 pick this draft and two potential lotto picks for the 2020 Draft. Meanwhile, the Hitmen should take the smart route and get some young talent. And if they feel that they can’t wait for youngsters to improve, Mr. LoMonaco should choose between youngsters and Gorman.
Forth Worth Warriors: The Warriors have not a lot in their roster to keep. At this point, Curtis “Black Hole” Starman is the only keeper. Starman is a compulsive scorer capable of leading a bad team. Once he has to share the ball, the problems start to show, but he is young and hopefully will improve in this area. The good news for this team starts with the Draft. They have their own pick high in the lottery and 40 millions of cap space. Sadly, history shows that teams with such an awful record have a bad time in free agency. But they could make a move as facilitators. Some teams could try to trade a star to free some money to play in the free agency. That way they wouldn’t need to overpay for mediocre players
by Timmy Frenchy
It was an interesting playoffs race in the World Conference as the first 4 teams were battling for the top spot until the last few days of the regular season. Last 4 positions were also decided in the last week of play. Get ready for a closely contested first round of action.
Mexico City Hellcats vs Cancun Outlaws
(Cancun won season series 3-1)
Last year’s World Conference Champions are ready to climb their way back to the WBA Finals. Even though they lost their best player Clement Trentesols in late March, they went on and won 11 of the last 15 remaining games of the regular season. Trentesols is one of the league’s top players, but this squad is no one-man team. They have talent and depth at every position while being arguably the best defensive team in the league.
The Hellcats had a good regular season overall, but they had trouble winning games since the All-star break. Of course, the injury to their leading scorer is the main reason why they have struggled lately. Good news for Mexico City, Chris Dao will be healthy and ready to go for game 1. He will join point guard Al Levy and center Ryan Rogers to form a dangerous trio.
This series could be closer than some people think. Trentesols will be a no-show and should not be back until the Conference Finals at least. With Dao back, the Hellcats are a much better team than their record indicates. Home court advantage and championship experience should make the difference here.
Prediction: Cancun over Mexico City in 6
Capetown Zulus vs Barcelona Counts
(Barcelona won season series 2-1)
The Counts won 60 games last season and almost repeated the exploit this season, coming only 3 wins short. After getting eliminated in the 2nd round in last year’s playoffs while holding the Conference top spot, better results are expected this year for this squad. If they do not reach at least the Conference Finals, critics will emerge that their unorthodox up-tempo style of play is not built for the postseason. The Counts have lots of firepower on offense, being the 2nd best scoring team in the entire league. But they ranked 19th in points allowed. Time for the Counts to show they can play when it matters.
The Cape Town Zulus have shown signs of decline this season. After 3 trips to the Conference Finals in the last 5 seasons, getting that 7th playoffs spot is a huge drop. They have averaged 54 wins per season during that span but only won 43 games this season. Abdiel Gordon is still playing at a superstar level, carrying his team nights in nights out, but his supporting cast is not as good as it was when they were true contenders. Still, the Zulus have proven this season that they can take down top teams as they beat Brooklyn, California, and Cancun at least once this season.
Barcelona has the better team on paper. They also have home court. Cape Town has more playoff experience. If Gordon catches fire, this could come down to a game 7.
Prediction: Barcelona over Cape Town in 7
Moscow Snow Bears vs Milan Mayhem
(Milan won season series 3-1)
The Milan Mayhem is one of the steadiest teams in the regular season. They have won 55 games the last 2 seasons and 56 this year. But even with some good positioning in the standings, they were never able to have great playoffs success, reaching the second round only 1 time over the last 4 years. Eufrazio, Bohm, Bacchi, and Everidge will be back to face their post-season demons. Management hopes that the expensive off-season signing of Jarrod Roe will now pay dividends.
After years of misery, the Snow Bears organization finally turned it around this season. After winning a total of 98 games over the course of the last 5 season. They managed to win 45 games this season. The arrival of super rookies Chris Acklin and Kenyatta Davidson is no coincidence to the team’s recent success, as they combined for a whopping 50 points per game. What makes this team even more dangerous is the veteran leadership of point guard Charlie Meyers. A five-time all-star, Charlie knows what it takes to keep this group together centered around one goal: winning. Simeon Hill is also a valuable rebounding and defensive option in the paint. But, besides those players, the Snow Bears are very thin depth-wise.
Even though the Snow Bears are on the rise and could do damage in these playoffs, the Mayhem are a very bad matchup for them. Milan is a talented, deep, and experienced team that will not settle for a first-round exit. They are too good on defense to let this series slips.
Prediction: Milan over Moscow in 6
Albacete Burning Hell vs Gabon Giants
(season series tied 2-2)
After some retooling a year ago, the Giants seem to have found their groove again. They won 56 games, improving on that 44 wins total last season. The off-season signing of Brenden Avery brought a breath of fresh air to this squad. Paired alongside Napoleon Carter in the backcourt, this gives Gabon one of the most dynamic guard-duos in the league. This team finished the season strong, winning 14 of their last 16 games, even with the absence of their primary big man Brain Armstrong. It has been announced that Armstrong should be fully healthy when the playoffs begin. Gabon Giants hope to win a playoffs series for the first time in 3 years.
The Albacete Burning Hell had their best season in a while. They have a young and dangerous core of Hendricks, Weidner, Neetar, and Blanco. Add to that the veteran leadership of Ahmed Dougherty and there aren’t many ingredients missing to create something special. The weakest link would be their floor general Egg who, although a decent player, lacks scoring and playmaking skills to elevate this team to the next level.
This series should come down to the wire. These two opponents are evenly matched and should exchange blows until the end. Gabon will lean on their superior defense trying to slow down Albacete explosive offense. The Burning Hell have eliminated the Giants so many time in WBA history, but maybe home court could help Gabon escape in this one.
Prediction: Gabon over Albacete in 7
As predicted, Brooklyn Rage is still at the top of the standings. California and Colorado are not far behind. Kansas City has won more than 50 games. The superiority of these 4 top squads should make most of those first-round series very short.
New York Firestorm vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 3-1)
After winning 76 regular-season games the previous season, while getting their 4th championship in 5 years, the Rage had another dominant run this year with 74 wins. With a similar core of Mario Bailey, Omar Jefferson, and Jarius Miles all producing at an elite level, nothing less than a championship is expected from this group.
Interesting facts: The New York Firestorm are one of the few teams that were able to beat the Rage this season. They are also the only team to win a championship, beside Brooklyn, in the modern WBA. Rumors are that shooting guard Chad Archer, a member of the Brooklyn squad a year ago, gave all the necessary info to New York coaching staff so they can establish the perfect game plan to beat the Rage.
Could this be one of the biggest upsets in WBA history? I don’t think so. Rage won by an average of almost 25 points per game over the Firestorm this season. Warm-up time for Brooklyn.
Prediction: Brooklyn over New York in 4
Seattle Rainmakers vs California Fighting Cocks
(California won season series 3-1)
This Fighting Cocks squad could be one of the WBA’s best teams ever assembled. They appeared at the top of almost every category: scoring, defense, rebounding, etc. Their stars, Hassan Watt and Kurt Beck are surrounded by a talented supporting cast at every position. The problem is that they happen to play in the same era as the Brooklyn Rage dynasty. Worst, they are in the same conference. Still, this is only the beginning of their new quest and so much can happen.
The Rainmakers have improved their record from the previous season, almost playing .500 basketball in the USA Conference. Scooter Baylor has emerged as a strong team leader and should continue to help this squad improve over the next several seasons. This is a first playoff trip for this young group, and they should have some learning to do. They should see it as a positive and growing experience no matter what the result is.
Bad news for the Fighting Cocks, Kurt Beck suffered a concussion in the last regular-season game and is expected to miss more than 3 weeks. His absence shouldn’t impact much the first-round outcome, but it gives an opportunity for the Rainmakers to make things a little more interesting. Like maybe winning a game.
Prediction: California over Seattle in 5
Boston Massacre vs Kansas City Blues
(Kansas City won season series 2-1)
The Blues have been steady for the last 5 years, winning around 50 games in the regular season and getting in the playoffs every year. A trip to the Conference finals 2 seasons ago was the furthest they went in their championship aspirations. The frontcourt trio of Jeremy Sims, Walt Jackson, and Antonio Gleason is scary. The backcourt duo of Ed Rhodes and Daren Benson not that much.
Boston has some very interesting young pieces in league most improved player Frank Mathieu, and the dynamic guard duo of Matias Gutierrez and Michal Askins. On paper, they cause matchup problems for the Blues, but you could also say the opposite. A recent injury to Askins, who should not be available for this series, may be the reason why the Massacre will not be able this keep this series close.
With their roster at full strength and home-court advantage, the Blues should be done with the first round quickly.
Prediction: Kansas City over Boston in 5
Las Vegas Gamblers vs Colorado Pioneers
(Gamblers won season series 2-1)
How can a team finish the regular season with 64 wins total and only get the 3rd place in the Conference? This tells you how good the 2 teams in front of Colorado are. Still, the Pioneers must be taken very seriously. John “Divine” Devine is coming from the best season in his career, Darond Lyons is in his prime, Tom Kinsey and Tony Henderson will do whatever is required to win games. But a weaker roster depth might hurt their chance to go all the way.
The Gamblers are an enigmatic team. They are solid both offensively and defensively but do not excel at any of those. They have won only one playoff series over the last 5 years, but competition is so stiff for the middle-rank teams in the USA Conference. The arrival of power forward rookie Benjamin Deletombe was a nice fit with team cornerstone Almantas Talacka. Gamblers 4 best players average under 25 years old so the future is still bright whatever happens this postseason.
The Gamblers’ youth and energy could cause some headaches for the veteran Pioneers. Las Vegas has found a way to win both games at home against Colorado during regular season. Lyons and Devine will need to be stellar for the Pioneers to advance.
Prediction: Colorado over Las Vegas in 6
The WBA playoffs are here!
By Ron Chambers
Cancun (59-21) vs. Mexico City (42-38)
The Outlaws are a beast of a team! A lot of observers thought they were really going to falter after Clement Trentesols got injured but they kept steaming ahead. They are a great defensive team and I don’t see Mexico City as being able to stop them. But, without Trentesols they are vulnerable. He was their leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker. Mexico City is a team on the rise. Chris Dao is a star in the making as is Inge Adlgassar (currently in the developmental league). But, they currently don’t have the depth or top-end talent to topple Cancun.
Prediction: Cancun 4-1
Gabon (56-24) vs. Albacete (46-34)
Albacete is coming into the playoffs on a slump 4-6 in the last 10. Gabon, on the other hand, was 8-2 in their last 10. The big problem in Albacete was the suspension Lonny Jordan after 24 games. He is their star and that can’t win it all without him. The question is if they can win this round without him. Ahmed Dougherty is still a prolific scorer and they have good talent. Gabon on the other hand is healthy and well balanced. They don’t have any superstars but they are solid at every position and have some really good depth.
Prediction: Gabon 4-2
Barcelona (57-23) vs. Cape Town (43-37)
Everyone is used to Cape Town being a powerhouse. They still rely on superstar Abdiel Gordon who is as good as it gets. Chance Crowley is also an excellent player. But, there is a big drop off in talent after that. They have good role players, they just need more talent in their starting lineup after their top two. Barcelona, on the other hand, has a ton of talent. Primo Bugeja is a top-notch scorer. Ira Redwine is an excellent second option. Marc White is an interior beast defensively. And depth…this may just be the deepest team in the league. Plus, they are the best team in the league at getting to the line and have the top PPS in the league. If they were only better defenders they could be an elite team.
Prediction: Barcelona 4-2
Milan (56-24) vs. Moscow (45-35)
Honestly, I think Milan overachieved. They are a solid team and a deep team but they need more top-end talent. Bohm is a stud and on the verge of being a superstar. Silvino Eufrazio and Jarrod Row are also very good but really the team needs another player at this level to push for elite status. We are all shocked to see the Snow Bears with a good team. They are young and very impressive. Chris Acklin and Kenyatta Davidson are the future of the league. Charlie Meyers is a productive PG and Simeon Hill is exactly the type of Center this team needs. If this team had another strong big they would be a real threat this year. I have no doubt they will be able to get one to add to their young stars. They are the future. But, this is now.
Prediction: Milan 4-3
Brooklyn (74-6) vs. New York (36-44)
The fans will really enjoy having this hometown match-up. New York has some good players but no real stars. Brooklyn is currently the pride of the WBA. The team everyone loved to hate. With their second straight 70 win season, they are closing in on the legendary status of the early Colorado team. But, they have had more success in the playoffs and have won four fo five championships. They have not fallen in the first round in recent memory. Add to that the pending return of Travis Mayes and well…
Prediction: Brooklyn 4-0
Kansas City (51-29) vs. Boston (44-36)
KC is on fire. They are entering the playoffs on a 10 game winning season and the joy of having the league MVP. Walt Jackson and Jeremy Simms are right up there with any duo in the league. Ed Rhodes, Antionio Gleason, Matthew Turgeon, and Daren Benson are all excellent role players. The only weakness of this team is depth. A single injury in any position could undo them. The injury to Michal Askins is devastating to Boston. He is their star. Him missing 17 games was just too much. The good thing is that he will likely be back during this series and that could make things interesting. Frank Mathieu had an excellent season winning most improved. Unlike KC this team has a lot of depth. They just don’t have as much talent at the top.
Prediction: Kansas City 4-2
California (66-14) vs. Seattle (39-41)
The injury to Kurt Beck is huge for California. But, it won’t matter this round. This team has the best 8 man rotation in the league. They will easily be able to cover the absence of Beck…but the next round which will likely be against Colorado is a different story. It is nice to see a good Seattle team. They have a ton of depth but no stars. I like Scooter Baylor but he should not be the top player for any team. They have hope in the future if they are able to attract a star…until that happens they will be a respectable middle team.
Prediction: California 4-0
Colorado (64-16) vs. Las Vegas (41-39)
The four top teams in the USA conference all have incredible duos. DaRond Lyons and Tony Henderson are no exception. Devine and Kinsey are also very talented. To some Kamara looks like a weak link but he is exactly what this team needs at the point. Very similar to how Benson complements the stars in KS very well. The weakness of this team is depth. A bad injury could end them. Las Vegas has a similar formula to Seattle. It is a very deep team. Almantas Talacka is a great talent but they need more top talent.
Prediction: Colorado 4-0
By Aitor Tilla
Brooklyn Rage: The Rage is dominating the league with an iron fist, winning 4 of the last 5 championships. But Rondall’s core is aging and they pay the astonishing quantity of 123 million in player salaries. Omar Jefferson is the oldest player and his contract runs for 4 more seasons, when his contract ends, at 36 years old, he will make more than 25 million alone. Mario Bailey has some miles in his legs too and some expect his decline to start as soon as next season, he’s owed 52 million in his next 2 seasons. Is Brooklyn in trouble? No, at least not yet, but two of their starters have an option at the end of the season. Dan Kincaide could try to exchange teams. Kincaide would receive a lot of max offers all around the league and Rondall would pay that price…if his budget can afford it. At some point, the Rage will have problems with the money they spend. Tyris Mayes has a team option, and he could be sacrificed to accommodate Kincaide’s extension. But Mayes is a hell of a player in Brooklyn’s system, a very capable defensive player who will not take shots from the stars on the other end. Does Rondall keep the team together until the end? Or should he retool trading one of his stars for some young blood accompanied by some financial relief?
Boston Massacre: Boston has done great while waiting for Brooklyn to fade. Matias Gutierrez, Michal Askins, and Frank Mattheu are under 25 and signed for the long term. They will be like 12 million under the cap, and if they decide not to exercise Wes Taylor’s team option, they will be able to sign a max player. Don’t expect a lot of changes in Boston because patience is paying, Quinten knows that Rondall’s reign will fall sooner than later. The only move Boston can make is the signing of a forward and there will be a lot available. Can you imagine Boston signing Tony Henderson? Yes, that sound was Marc falling off his chair.
New York Firestorm: New GM TJ Smith has a lot of work to do, and it won’t be an easy task. First of all, New York’s payroll is out of control. Next season they will be paying Sherman Mahara and Chad Nolan 43 M. You can argue that Mahara lives up to his contract (false), but Nolan’s is by far one of the worst contracts in the league. With no money to spend, aging players signed long term, and the absence of relevant picks in the draft, we can envision a long rebuilding effort here. One idea could be buying Nolan’s contract out without penalty, then trading Mahara for a good pick or some young blood. At least financially it has a lot of sense.
Toronto Dinos: Edgar Meyer is another new GM. Opposite to TJ Smith, Mr. Meyer will have a lot of options to choose a path to the glory. With just three players under contract, Toronto will have around 30 M in cap space to add some talent. The bad news is that not a lot of free agents will be taking turns to sign for the Dinos with that record. Sadly, Toronto has no picks in this draft, and Dickinson and Tomlin are too old to start a rebuilding process around them. Trading them, especially Dickinson, for picks would be a first step in the right direction. Mr. Mayer, as a new owner will have to fight against the desire of signing second-tier free agents to maximum contracts, yes I know that was easy to tell.
Miami Xtreme: Are they tanking? We know the answer is NO because they don’t even have their own pick. Free agency won’t help since they will have the mid-level exception. There is little room for the improvement of their players not named Omar Rozier. Hell, even Jesus Morell seems to be declining really fast. Brent Bangerter is stocking picks for 2020 draft, but once again, Miami’s pick will not be there, so, Miami should start winning some games to stay relevant and attracting players. Building around Morell and Rozier while trying to trade Coleman and Woods for picks or young players in a rookie contract should be mandatory for Miami, but we know how stubborn can be a Bangerter