2019 WBA Playoff first round predictions
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!