“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”. No, the new GM of the New York Firestorm is not the Little Engine That Could, but their GM has adopted this ever popular and fondly remembered motto. GM Smith fought the urge of joining the WBA for quite some time, as we was concerned on whether or not he could invest adequate time into two separate leagues. However, the NABL is on a current hiatus, making the timing right for diving into a new league and new challenge. In looking over his potential options (teams that were needing a GM), Smith chose the Firestorm. Smith he welcomed the challenge of getting this team out of its massive salary cap purgatory and making them a contender once again.
GM Smith has experienced mild success in the NABL, winning one championship (the inaugural) and only missing the playoffs twice in fourteen seasons. His Miami Tropics are looking formidable for the foreseeable future with a young core in Harold Lorenzo and Gavin Sherman. However, that is neither here, nor there. This is the WBA and the Firestorm we are supposed to be talking about. GM Smith was also attracted to the Firestorm for one big reason, Neville Donner. The young seven footer has flashed potential and the Firestorm were hoping that he would take the leap this season. Unfortunately, Smith may have to admit he misjudged Donner as Donner has not grown into the player the Firestorm faithful had hoped.
One thing GM Smith is known for (both good and bad) is for always being ready to wheel and deal. The first trade this new GM made was to ship off PF Chad Nolan. Nolan was deemed dispensable mainly due to his massive contract and his disappointing production. Crafty and savvy GM Morfeld saw something in Nolan that Smith didn’t, and Nolan has performed admirably for the Gamblers this season. Smith also dealt a future first in order to move Nolan and his massive contract and received Alexej Peska and Charles Fisher in the deal. Fisher has played well, but Peska has suffered a broken leg and is rumored to be heading off in another trade.
The second deal that Smith made was moving his star point guard, Shemar Mahara in a trade to the Burning Hell. The return was great in that Smith received Coomas Neetar, Friedrich Egg, and two future 1st round picks. Mahara has shined with the Burning Hell as their starting point guard and sports an insane 4.54 AST/TO ratio for the 16-5 1st place team. Neetar has scored at a career clip this season for the Firestorm, which isn’t surprising due to the lack of scoring options on the current roster. Rumblings are that both Neetar and Egg may be on their way out which makes it extremely difficult to gauge this trade at this juncture.
The last big deal that Smith made was acquiring Ajan Estay from the Arizona Dragons. The price was hefty in that the Firestorm sent three players and a future first round pick. Two of the three players shipped off have been starters for the young and struggling Dragons team. Estay has been nothing short of brilliant for the Firestorm and GM Smith is hoping (and praying) that Estay will decide he wants to resign with the Firestorm or that at a minimum, the Firestorm having Estay’s Bird rights will ensure that he stays with the team for the rest of his career. Estay’s value was felt when he went down with an injury and the Firestorm struggled mightily in his absence. They are hopeful that having him back in the fold and fully healthy allows them to challenge for a playoff spot.
The Firestorm currently sit at 10-11 and would be an 8th seed in the playoffs. The East division is of course loaded with the Rage and Massacre and is respectable from top to bottom. Thus far, although early, the Firestorm are a respectable 2-1 within the division, but were absolutely blown out of the water in their matchup with the Rage losing 143-96… Since Estay’s return from the injured list, the Firestorm have managed to put together a current three game winning streak including an impressive (and probably surprising) win over the Giants. The Firestorm loving playing in Madison Square Garden and are currently 6-2 at home, but are only 4-9 on the road. Thankfully the rematch on December 20th with the Rage is at MSG, so hopefully the final deficit can be less than 47 points…
So where does this team go from here? The hope is up… Smith wants to get younger, while still improving the overall talent of the team, and wants to continue to work on getting this team out of salary cap purgatory. By righting the salary cap situation, it is GM Smith’s hope that superstar Free Agents will consider New York as their next destination. Ultimately, time will tell, and we will continue to utter the motto as we keep climbing the hill… “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”.
The 2019 offseason was a busy one for the Las Vegas Gamblers. Despite reaching the playoffs for the second year in a row, and breaking .500 for the first time in three seasons, GM David Morfeld knew that the team needed more if it would have any hopes of challenging the league’s top teams.
Step 1 had to be towards overcoming some of the shortfalls with budget. Despite having above average attendance numbers, the current arena that was built in 1983 just couldn’t support a fan base looking to grow. An arena proposal was completed, submitted, and approved for 2021 completion.
A new arena alone wasn’t going to be enough to make an increased budget appear. For that reason, Morfeld knew he had to field a competitive team, capable of winning big games that could attract enough fans to fill that arena once construction is completed. Through a rush of transactions, the Gamblers carried over only 3 players from a season ago – Talacka, Deletombe, and Kramer. The starting five now includes Chad Nolan, Justus Rhodes and Vester Friedrich. There was no way to know how compatible this group would be. To make such changes was…a gamble. “You have to know when to hold em, and know when to fold em” Morfeld was quoted as saying. There wasn’t much holding this offseason.
Just over 20 games into this season, the gamble appears to be paying off. Currently sitting at 16-6, the starting 5 are really meshing well. All seem to be filling a role, while none are distancing themselves as a true superstar. Second year power forward Benjamin Deletombe has improved from his strong rookie campaign to average 20.5 PPG, 9 RPG, 3.1 APG and 1.6 BPG. Despite being the least experienced in the lineup, Deletombe has proven to be a major piece of the success. New addition Vester Friedrich has proven to be a great floor general and is putting up the best numbers of his career.
While lots of basketball has yet to be played in the 2019 season, GM Morfeld has to be pleased with the results so far. Profit numbers are heading in the right direction as attendance approaches 100%. Most noticeably, the team is having fun and cohesion is improving for a group with only 22 games together. Upcoming games against the Rage and Fighting Cocks will prove to be true measurements to identify what this team is really capable of accomplishing. Without star SG Almantas Talacka during those games will not make things any easier.
Only time will tell what this team will be…Blackjack or bust.
Going back to the WBA. First weeks.
The question is how has it been the return to the WBA? Quite nice. I had a team with money, the first-round pick on the draft and a star player. Yes, I am talking about the Fort Worth Warriors!
I didn’t know it at that moment and looking at the roster I was ready to trade everything. Luckily no worthy requests for him came and I have been able to see first hand how useful he is to my team. Obviously I am talking of Curtis Starman. The guy is putting 30 points a game, 3.7 Rebounds, 3.7 Assists. It is playing the best basketball of his life. At the moment he has played only 18 games at that level, but it is amazing. Some people were saying he was not even going to score 20 a game. I am laughing at you!
Obviously I have had some luck, getting Whittaker was very lucky. It could be that I offered him too much money for certain people. And it is true that at the end of his contract he may be overpaid, but he is going to give me at least 3 good seasons. He allows me to have a clear cycle view of my team. I have 3 years to play for everything and then 2 to suffer. At the end of that five years cycle, I need to recycle. So the main issue will be to free some cap and play the lottery. Yes, I forgot, all of this only works if I can keep Kincaide… He is the X factor. I have been trying to trade him around but I am not getting what I would like for him. So I will have to try to keep him during Free Agency and see how that goes. If we lose Kincaide for nothing we will lose a lot, but that is the game.
To finish them team we got Trevor Tomlin. He is playing at a very nice level. I think that all my team has benefited for his selfish play. He is more a passer than a scorer and that has helped the stats on Starman, Kincaide, and Whittaker. As we have lost him for 27 days we are going to see how valuable for my team he is.
If I am not talking about Centers it is because I have several minimum contract players doing the job for me. So far they are doing a good job, but I tinker right and left to see if I can improve the position. The issue is that improving the Center is may come with the price of losing one of my big 3 and that could mean going backward…
I have heard people talking about targets. I have three targets this year. First the easy one, win more than 32 games for the first time in history franchise. Second, win 40 games during the season. That is going to be harder, but doable with the team I have. Injuries could be a factor to stop me from arriving there… Last and not least, going to the playoffs att he moment I am there, but I know that I am going to lose quite a lot of matches against the top teams, I cannot play them yet, but it will come next season hopefully. Why the playoffs? The team has never been there! Isn’t that good enough?
It is still going to be a long season. So far I think I have only one win against an above .500 team (a victory against the Blues…). That shows that we are still very weak in some aspects, but it is difficult to cover all the positions during one offseason only. Some of the choices I did, contract wise, during FA were not good. But I see that now more clearly so my FA bids should improve next season.
The final word is a good start, a wild start, and happy to be back and enjoying the season so far.
Tommie Cornwell (SG – TOM) Cornwell met with WBA legend John Davis who advised, “The extra possession can make all the difference.” This seemingly pedestrian advice seems to have inspired Cornwell’s shooting and effort.
The WBA world is always full of rumors. Here are the rumors the GSPN staff has been tracking the first few weeks of the season:
By Ron Chambers
Yesterday we looked at the incredibly deep World Conference. Today, we are diving deep on where the top teams from last season all reside, the USA conference. Three of these teams finished above 60 wins last year and seem poised to do the same this year. One team took a huge jump and may compete in this category also. Heck, there is even a 5th team that could hang out in the stratosphere. But, there are only so many wins to be had…this will be a fun year.
The 2018-2018 Brooklyn Rage were arguably the most dominant team in WBA history. They won 74 games which is the second most in WBA history and were the first team to go through the playoffs without a loss. But they had a problem. Money. They had huge contracts and older players and it looked like after this next year they may fall apart. Management decided that they believed they could move two starters and still compete for a Championship while preparing themselves for the future. They traded Omar Jefferson’s gigantic contract to Kansas City for Antonio Gleason and Ed Rhodes. They then traded Dan Kincaide to Fort Worth for Trenton Adams who they believe will be a future star for them. Brooklyn feels that as long as they have Mario Bailey and Jarius Miles they are in the run for a championship. They still have Tyris Mayes at center. Antionio Gleason is no Dan Kinkaide but he is still a very good player and more affordable. At point guard, defensive specialist Anthony Davis will move into the starting role. The Rage may actually have a better defense this year than last but might drop off some offensively. Brooklyn also has some really great depth with players like Shawn Jones, George Faup, David Walker, Ed Rhodes, and P J King. The one real weakness is what will happen if Anthony Davis gets hurt. The Rage are used to having tremendous depth at PG. If he goes down they will have to get creative. To many, except those living in Northern California, the Rage are still the favorite to win the Championship. But, they will not be the completely dominant force that they were last season.
The Massacre had a frustrating season last year as the looked to retool. They dropped 10 wins from the previous season. Boston is always a good team but they have not been able to really break through. They have made the playoffs the last five seasons but they have never been higher than the 5th seed and only once have made it out of the first round. Their retooled roster has a mix of youth and players in their prime. Three starters are 24 or younger while Victorino Pinelo and Casey Pointer are 27 and 28 respectively. It looks like the Massacre will run a three-guard system with Pinelo, Pointer, and their superstar Michal Askins. That trio will provide tremendous offensive fire power. John Keating will fill in admirably and Frank Mathieu should continue to be a major force inside, though expect his scoring to drop. Boston also has some good young depth so look to this team to be improved and back on track. Their problem is that there are too many powerhouse teams in the USA conference. It is hard to imagine this team finishing above the 5th seed this year which will no doubt disappoint management.
The Liberty are the only team to win a championship in the last six years other than the Rage, but that was five seasons ago. Last year they were pretty average offensively and poor defensively resulting in a team with 36 wins. They are in the process of reworking their team to fit the vision of new ownership. They will look very different. Neville Donner will still start as one of the bigs, probably center, and Kelley Brandon will start at small forward. Coomas Neetar will replace Chad Nolan at power forward. Ajan Estay came over from Arizona and will move from point guard to his more natural shooting guard. Moving Shermar Mahara to be replaced by Friedrich Egg is probably a slight step back. All in all New York looks like they will be roughly the same as last year.
Toronto was an elite team that made the finals three years in a row. But they blew up their team which led to the discovery of the WBA’s great cheating scandal. They have struggled the last two years winning 35 & 32 games. They currently have temporary management but they have still increased their talent level. They will likely run four smalls and Senecca Redd. Latrell McDyess, Jay Dickenson, Char Archer, and Jim Koons are all talented but only 6’ 5” or 6’ 6”. James Donovan will probably come off the bench. He is taller at 6’ 9” but isn’t much of an interior player. If it works out well this team could find some magic and approach 40 wins but more likely they will remain in the low 30s.
Are the Bangerters really cursed? Some argue yes. Their teams certain have not performed the last couple of years the way they expected. But to be fair, the brothers have both had very good teams I the past. The question for Miami is if they can get back to that. Miami has brought in more talent so I suspect they will improve. They can go a lot of different ways with their rotation. They may start Omar Rozier and Rufus Castellano at guards which may give them the best rebounding guard duo in the league. They will need that rebounding if they keep Maury Coleman and Jim Woods as their forwards because they are very talented but not great rebounders. Jesus Morrell will continue to be a rock in the middle. Or course, they could decide to start James boon as power forward and move Jim woods to small forward and Maury Coleman to shooting guard. These are the tough choices that management has to make but the good thing for Miami is that they have choices to make since they have improved their talent. The Xtreme should certainly finish the season with over 20 wins, probably in the range of 25 but they could hit the 30s. It depends on how they manage things.
#5- New York
Last year the Pioneers were elite. They were one of only three teams to break the 60 win mark. They are much the same team that they were last year which means they will remain elite. They added Donovan McCormick for greater depth at the bigs. DaRond Lyons will once again be the team’s big scorer. But Henderson is their heart. Divine Devine will also continue to be a big scorer. Kinsey is the other one of the big four. Edgar Kamara will probably still be the starting point guard but despite his terrific qualities he continues to slow with age. The other issue with this team is depth. They rely VERY heavily on their top four players and if they get a serious injury it could totally derail them because they just don’t have that much talent after their big four. Still, they won 64 games and finished 13 games ahead of the Blues in second place so it is hard to pick against them since they are basically returning the same team.
The Blues felt they were a point guard away from a championship run last year. They may have been right. Daren benson is a good player but he probably is not a championship quality point guard, at least not as a started. Off-the bench I’m sure championship quality teams would love to have him. So, the Blues made the controversial move of trading away their starting small forward and their starting shooting guard to acquire Omar Jefferson. Jefferson has been a key part of the success the Brooklyn Rage have had over the last seven years. Many thought he and Bailey were going to retire together especially since he has such a monster contract. KC, however, looked at the age of Walt Jackson and decided they needed to try and win it all now. The Blue are set with four of their starters Jeremy Sims and Walt Jackson are their stars. Matthew Turgeon is a young developing talent and Omar Jefferson is their new sharp shooting floor leader…or is he? One option is to start those four player as PG, SG, SFS, & PF and then have Shawne Olson as the Center. Another option is to have Olson come off the bench and have either Johnny Blaylock or Daren Benson start at point guard. The smart money is on starting Olson but they have tried both ways during the preseason. If things go as management hopes KC could easily jump to the 60 win range. The question is if Fort Worth has made enough improvement to pass them. The top three in this division are all really good and depending how injuries and player fit goes any of the three could finish 1-3 in the division.
Salt Lake City
The Fanatics tried really hard to keep Able Debusiness. But it seems he didn’t want to play on a college team. That isn’t an insult. It is just that the Fanatics are incredibly young. Guy Welty is the oldest player on the roster at 24. The average age on the roster is 21.58…you know college age. There there is tremendous potential on this roster. There are 10 players who were lottery picks and five who were picked in the top 5. If they can keep their players an development they could have one of the all-time great dynasties. This year they will probably start Alston Irving, Leonard Sedelmaier, Ermin Zeleznik, Guy Welty, and Fulgencio. That is a pretty solid starting lineup. JuJu Wambaugh, Demarcus Walton, Bobo Reynolds and Blaise Godin may see less playing time this year but developing them for the future is key. This is one of the teams I am really looking forward to watching over the next five years. Can a Bangerter build a winner or will the family curse stay alive?
This team only won 23 games last year and they did not make huge improvements in the off season. Their starting five will probably have four of the same players. One change will be at point guard where they slightly upgrade from Jermaine Lee to Eric Falk. The league is improving, and this team is standing still so they may even drop a little in their win total. But they aren’t too worried about that. It isn’t because they don’t want to win. It is because they are taking the long view. They have a lot of young talent that they are looking to develop Bennett Bangerter (21), Chico Dillinger (20), Asdrubal Aristia (18), and Wimpy Critchfield (20) are the future of this franchise. Cincinnati will not judge their success by their win totals they will judge it by the development of their youngsters.
There is no team in the league that will see the type of improvement that has the fans of Fort Worth excited. This is a team that has spent the last five seasons between 20 and 29 wins. They should easily double last year’s total of twenty wins and could even look to triple it. Likely only Curtis Starman will retain his starting roll from last year. He will, however, have much more talent around him so don’t expect him to average almost 27 points a game. He may not break 20 this year. Trevor Tomlin will take over at point guard. Super stud Darryl Whittaker will lead the team from the small forward position. In a surprise move Dan Kincaide was sent from the championship Rage to the Warriors. This gives forth worth two legitimate stars and a near star in Starman. The one question for this team is center. They don’t need scoring. They have clearly put s focus on defense also so who starts there is still up in the air. Conventional wisdom says Marques Feldman. He is the most talented player they have at that position. But they started Ulrich Kunze there in much of preseason. He is a better defender. Another option is to go with Vance Clopp he is past his prime but defends about at well as Kunze while rebounding better. If I had to wager, I would guess Kunze but there also may be another deal in the works to plug this team’s one hole.
#2- Fort Worth
#3- Kansas City
#4- Salt Lake City
This team is the pride of the Western Division and in many people’s mind the favorite to dethrone the Rage. They finished last year with 66 wins, second only to Brooklyn. They also bring back every player in their rotation with the exception of Victorino Pinelo. They took full advantage of this year’s very deep draft with two solid draft picks in the 20s, Heinrich Stoebener and Timoteo Gangotena who made be dominant forces in the WBADEV. In free agency they were also able to get some surprising talent, such as Austin Bangerter and Mike Lewis, despite only being able to offer minimum contracts. There is no doubt that the loss of Pinelo hurts. But they expected it. Hassan Watt is still only 23 and improving as he is becoming one of the most dominant shooting guards in the league. Kurt Beck is healthy and will be arguably the best small forward in the league. Last year they had the leading defense and a top three offense. That should continue. They are a dominant force and despite Wally Birkhead and Bishop Stein getting older most of their team is in their prime of still improving. There isn’t reason to expect a jump in performance from this team, but they are already at or near the top. Depending on health they should finish with between 65 and 70 wins.
The Gamblers finished 25 games behind the Fighting Cocks. Don’t expect them to make up that ground. They were very close with the Rainmakers finishing just two games ahead of them. That is where LV’s main challenge lies. Second year player Bemjamin Deletombe is the Gambler’s best returning big. But they made big improvements with their bigs. They traded for Chad Archer and Macario Montavez. Both are solid players. It is a little uncertain exactly what the rotation will be but those are three quality players. They also signed Justice Rhodes to replace Rufus Castellano, who they traded to Miami. Almantas Talacka will return as their main scoring option. Brice Bell was traded to the Fury in a deal that brought Vester Friedrich to the Rainmakers. Friedrich is not the floor general that Bell is, but he is a much better scorer. Michael Kramer and Brian Sewell also provide a good deal of depth at the guard position. They also now have two good young talents to develop in Kenny Lobo and Toussaint Leclecq. It is hard to judge this tea to last year because they should have four new starters. But this team has more talent and certainly more depth. It all depends on how the talent comes together. They should break .500 again and could eas.ly pass 45 wins.
The Rainmakers are on the rise after years of being just terrible. They were just one win shy of doubling their previous years total and made the playoffs for the first time since moving to Seattle. But they weren’t content with that. They decided to add talent this summer. They signed Justice Grant to a big but short-term deal- a great move. Grant is certainly an improvement over Reed Moses who moved to Albacete. Grant much improves their already strong big man rotation of Neville Blake, Valentine Ghesquier, and Stretch Armstrong. They also drafted Lucien Poirier who can play small forward or power forward. Seattle’s scoring punch comes from their wings, Pat London and Scooter Baylor. They are both good scorers and good shooters. They throw up a lot of threes but the also make a lot of them. Baylor is also young and is continuing to improve as he moves into his prime. Brice Oliver was the starting point guard for the majority of last season and the youngster will likely continue in that roll with veteran Coleman Johnson coming off the bench. Seattle also added some good depth with talent like Kurt Williams and Lon Johnson. This team is better and deeper than last year. They should break the .500 mark.
The Gargoyles moved to Los Angeles to take advantage of the large market, but they have never quite pulled it off. Since moving to LA they have not won more than 33 games. Two years ago they only won 19 and last year they barely improved to 20. Last year they had virtually no talent. It was a miracle that they won 19 games. William Curry was their lone bright spot. The new management is committed to spending money to bring in talent. They gave defensive force Marc White a maximum contract to come play in the city of Angels. He is a great defender but he has limited endurance and does not score. On the right team that can be fine. We will have to see if LA gets production out of his worthy of that contract. LA also traded with Gabon to bring the championship experience of Tyriq Lang to the team. Obviously, LA wants a strong interior presence and they now have it with tow good rebounders and defenders. They also now have a lot of depth at the bigs with every player who started for them last year at the power forward or the center still on the roster. David Poland started at small forward last year. Don’t know who he is? Neither do the residents of Brentwood so don’t worry about it. It looks like he may still start but the coaching staff should reconsider that as they have better options on the roster. William Curry will continue as the star but likely transition to his more natural position of shooting guard. He is a legitimate offensive threat and should have an excellent year. But as long as he is LA’s primary offensive option they will not be an elite team. Richie Reddy, who came over from Sydney looks like he will be getting the nod at point guard. As with so many teams this is the weak spot. Reddy is a good passer and defender and very quick but his offensive game still needs to develop. The Gargoyles still have significant holes outside the bigs but they are a much improved team. Their problem is that there are many improved teams in the league which means they may not get the big bump they want. 25 wins sounds about right.
Ouch! This team is in a hard place. They had only 18 wins last season and their finances are a wreck. A few years back they were solid with 55 wins but they dropped some each of the last four years until they were just terrible last year. They are also paying $26 million this year to Wayne Taylor. Yes he is the all-time WBA scoring leader, former champion, and one of the best players in WBA history. But his body has taken a beating and at 33 he is not the player he once was. He is a serviceable reserve but not worth a 10th of his salary today. Things will be very different in the high desert this year. LaMar DeAngelo started 52 games at center last year only averaging 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds. Expect him to spend this year in the developmental league. Walter Walter who was acquired as part of the Ajan Estay trade will take over this role. Marquez Houston started the season as power forward but only played 27 games due to a bad concussion. He is back and is looking pretty good for a 32-year-old. Jo Jo Edwards started 52 games last year. The new management had no interest in resigning him. He is now in Paris playing for a minimum contract. Meechy Jennings, the former #3 pick who hasn’t quite worked out yet will take over this starting role. Wayne Taylor started most of the season at shooting guard despite being rather slowed by age. 24-year-old Nicholas Evans will take over this role and provide much improved defense. The spot where this team really falls off will be at point guard. Sean Madera is no where near the player that Ajan Estay is. Still over all this team should be improved and look to win 25-30 games.
#2- Las Vegas
#5- Los Angeles
By Ron Chambers
It is always an honor to be asked by GSPN to give my thoughts about how the new season will play out. I hope these predictions are accurate. It is always a risk to put opinions out there.
The Counts have an interesting history. For several years they struggled as a high-powered offense that couldn’t stop anyone. Two years ago, they made a huge improvement from 39 to 60 wins and they have been among the best teams in the World Conference the last two years but can’t get out of the second round of the playoffs. They have played an interesting style with a big slow center and four small runners. But this year they didn’t retain Marc White who signed a huge contract with LA. They also let Sam Hickerson, who started 61 games, go to Cancun for a minimum contract. Clearly Barcelona decided their center position was a big part of their problem. Fortunately, youngster Hamilton Robins has been developing nicely in the developmental league. He is now ready to step up. He is not quite the defensive player that White or Hickerson are but he is a good defender and very solid rebounder. He also has good stamina which was previous a problem given how fast this team goes up and down the court. Maybe more importantly though he isn’t nearly as slow as either of those players. Most importantly though he is only 22, will continue to improve and can be a long-term piece of this franchise. It looks like the rest of Barcelona’s rotation will be essentially the same. This team should still be good. There may be some drop off as they figure out how their completely revamped, and not as deep, big man rotation will work. During the preseason Carlito Carmona has been starting at power forward, but he is a terrible rebounder. He is quick and strong and can jump so he can cause some problems for other teams but that rebounding is so bad that it is hard to imagine him staying in that position. Time will tell.
Albacete is trying hard to return to elite status. It looked like they were well on their way last year until after 24 games Lonny Jordan was suspended for drug violations. In Spain, there are rampant conspiracy theories tying this to some cabal out of Utah but no real proof has surfaced. But loosing the young franchise player for most of the season definitely hurt. So just having Jordan back will improve this team but they also made some good moves in the off season. They lost Coomas Neetar and though he is a good player he won’t really be missed. Hendricks is playing great so far as the Center. Jordan will likely move to Power Forward which will allow Claude Weidner to move to his much more natural small forward position. That allows Ahmed Dougherty to return to shooting guard. Most importantly the change from Friedrich Egg to Shermar Mahara is a big upgrade. Second year player Edgardo Blanco will move to the bench where he should very effectively back up both guard spots. Albacete should be among the best teams in the World Conference this year. How good? We will have to see how all the parts fit together.
This team is trying to completely change their image as they have transformed from the Predators to the Honey Bees. They are normally a top team but last year they finished with only 37 wins. Lettery Pick Klemens Eberle is very young and good. Even at 19 he is an improvement over Marques Feldman. Errol Bierman was a bench player in Barcelona but he may get his chance in Paris. Also, expect Merlin Lundy to see major minutes in the big man rotation. That means an entirely new rotation but a better rotation that a year ago. Hilton Fulton is a talented young small forward but not a great defender. He is definitely a step down from Koons who had this role last year. The teams leading scorer Timi Rambuka is also gone and replaced b defensively minded Marcus Rogers. Rogers has a terrific skill set but he is not a big scorer which on the right team can be great. The only returning starter is Jervan Timmons. Timmons is a generational player. When all is said and done he will likely go down as the best floor general in WBA history. But, he needs more talent around him to really shine since he is not a great scorer. This is an interesting team with some real promise but they need more scoring punch. That lack of scoring will hold them back this year.
This team may have under performed a little last year as they tied for last in the division. They lost Gerhold Verholm which is a challenge. He is a very good player. They did, however, sign Omar Raoumbe who is a far superior rebounder and a strong interior offensive player. So while the power forward position will look different it is still high quality. Guilhem Lamerand spent last season in the developmental league but he is ready to play with the big boys this year. He has star potential but for now he is solid but not a star. He probably will be about equal, maybe a little better than Justus Rhodes was last year. Last year, Lenn Marella and Erdmann Schuepf split the starting roll as shooting guard. It is unclear what will happen this year. So far in the preseason rookie Fola Onibiyo has been starting there. He has a bright future but probably is better suited to come off the bench as a combo guard. Getting Brice Bell to start as the point guard was a good move. He isn’t a scorer but is one of the best floor generals in the league. This team may have more talent than they can use as the guard spots so look for them to make some trade to either improve their starters or get some depth at the bigs. This team is so different that it is hard to predict how they will go. Probably they will be improved. There is a good chance they will be right around .500.
The Disco were tied for the worst record in the Euro Division but that isn’t too bad. In the USA Division they had enough wins to get into the playoffs. But the World conference was very tough even if it wasn’t as strong on the very top. They are an improved team though. They drafted Cetus Vlahakis with the #15 pick in this year’s very deep draft and he will be an improvement at center. They also picked up Matias Gutierrez as a free agent. The loss of Casey Pointer is big since he was their leading scorer last year but overall, they should have an improved starting five. Their weak spot is shooting guard. Frank Ryan is a spot shooter and good defender. He won’t hurt this team but there is NO talent backing up the guards on this roster. Well, Evan Bobbins has a lot of raw talent but at 19 he isn’t ready to play a big role. This team has a solid starting rotation that should fit together well but the bench is a problem. Because of that and despite the improvement in the starting roster expect this team to once again finish in the mid-30s when it comes to wins. However, a major injury could completely derail this team.
This is an interesting team because when you look at them, they are good but they just don’t stand out. They were the same way last year and they made it to the finals so maybe that isn’t a bad thing. They have very good but not crushing defense and their offense is a little better than average. They are essentially the same team as last year. They did add some depth at the bigs with Michael Huryta which is important. They lost Brian Sewell who played 16 minutes off the bench as a shooting guard, but they can cover those minutes. The big surprise here is that they are still planning to rely on Marvin Lee as the teams starting point guard. Lee is an excellent passer and an adequate defender, but he is a hole offensively. He would make an excellent back-up point guard. If he was a shut down defender, he could work well as a starter. But if Milan is going to take the step to compete with a healthy Cancun team or the top teams in the USA conference they have to improve at this spot. Expect this team to stay about the same with a win total in the low to mid-50s.
The Snow Bears is often called a cursed franchise. They suffered through years of player mismanagement. Their last management team was good with finding players but badly mismanaged the team’s finances. The new management team is experienced and should be able to bring some stability to the franchise. For the first time in memory this team was actually good last year. They 45 wins is amazing for a franchise that has 3 times finished with 10 or fewer wins. Kenyatta Davidson and Chris Acklin are a duo to be feared for the next decade and the flowered sooner than expected averaging a combined 51.1 points. It was heaven for Meyer who could score when he wanted and pass to offensive genius at will. Simeon Hill is the perfect center for this team because he just likes to play defense and rebound leaving the shots for Davidson and Acklin. But that is where this team hits some problem. We’ve mentioned 4 players and they are the clear starters but a team starts 5 players. Will the fifth starter be Laine Saunders? Raphael Park? Pam Thum? Issac Embry? Zachary Wise? Judging by the preseason it looks like it will be Zachary Wise. This is probably a smart move as he is an excellent defender who can spread the floor and score when needed but won’t demand too many shots. The others in that list will provide much needed depth. Given that Moscow seems to have found a rotation they like and they fact that Davidson and Acklin are still maturing this team should improve. Could the Snow Bears break 50 wins? There is a good chance. 45 was probably already the franchise record 50 is beyond Putin’s wildest dreams.
At 31 wins, this team overachieved last year. They had very little talent. They had enough money to go after one big name free agent and they landed Abel DeBusiness, stealing him from the Fanatics who were trying to keep him. Last year DeBusiness was #4 in the league in scoring with 28.3 points. Youngsters Keenan Holter, point guard, and Kip Toney, small forward, also seem to have improved for this year. Vincent miles is still a very solid power forward. Kaniel Hobbs will probably start at center. He is a good rebounder and defender and absolutely no offensive threat. But Abel will like that he isn’t takig shots from him. This team should be better than last year; however, the overachieved so don’t expect a huge jump in wins. They should finish with a win total in the mid-30s.
Let’s be honest. This team only won 25 games last year and they did not have a good offseason. Some fans are saying they are being mismanaged and that is hard to argue considering they still haven’t completely filled out their roster. Last year, they had a legitimate star with Darryl Whittaker and a near star with Javonte Bolk. They lost Whittaker to Fort Worth and didn’t replace him with comparable talent. This team only has two players who are serious WBA starters: Hugo Gutierrez and Javonte Bolk. Ramon Phelan and Tommy Pedersen both could be good role players and, in a few seasons, young prospect Milton Michaels could be excellent. But that is it. This team will be lucky to hit 20 wins.
Last season, Sydney was about as bad as it gets. They had the worst record in the league with only 15 wins. It was the fourth straight year that the bloods failed to achieve 20 wins. Expect to see improvement right away. The new management is committed to not being the joke of the WBA. This team has a lot of young talent even their veterans aren’t old. Kyle Hawkins is 28, Glen Rabon in 26, and Djoka Andjelic is 26. 22-year-old rookie Valentin Muntean is going to be a star as is 21 year old third year player Amaury de Schutter. Talents like Darrel Goldsmith, Terrence Massey, and Roylen Fillum will likely need to spend some time int eh developmental league but with time they will prove valuable. This team has talent and depth in the forwards and center positions. However, Amaury de Schutter is the only guard on the roster that is ready to play significant minutes in the WBA this season. De Schtter is not ready to be the star he likely will be in the future but he is ready to contribute. The point guard position is a real problem. Sammy Crayton is a serviceable reserve but he should not start in the WBA and is better suited for a third option; but he is the only point guard on the roster. Look for this team to be much improved. They should break 20 wins and erase some of the pain of recent years but without a legitimate point guard and with their future stars not yet developed do not expect them to pas 30 wins. Still, if a 15 win team goes from 15 to 25 or 30 that is pretty impressive.
The Outlaws were clearly the best team in the World Conference last year. A late season injury to Clement Trentesols not only kept Cancun from being the only team in the Conference to reach 60 wins it ruined their postseason. Trentosols it the heart of this team and clearly a top 10, probably top 5 player in the league. The Outlaws did not retain the services of aging star Isaac Rice who was their second scoring option, but they replaced him with stretch forward Gerhold Verhom who is also a strong scorer while also better defender and younger. Also, they upgraded at shooting guard defensive minded Marcus Rogers to Timi Ramabuka who is also an elite defender but will score the ball with ease. Ed Summerall and Justin Hill keep their key roles as hard-nosed defenders. Sumerall’s weaknessis that he is not much of a passer or ball handler which means Hill plays point forward. The lack of great passing is the one weakness of this fantastic team. Last year they were the #2 defense but a middling offense. They should be a much-improved offense this year while being just as tough defensively. The bench is a mixed compilation of roll players that will work well assuming there are no injuries. If there are extended injuries Cancun could find themselves with some challenges. All that said, I expect this team to be improved and to finish above 60 wins barring a major injury, but even with a major injury I expect them to push the 60-win mark.
The Giants were one of the top teams in the World Conference last year. They were only three games behind Cancun with the best record in the Conference and hat the same record as the Mayhem, the team that made it to the finals. So, with no changes they would have been good. But they are convinced that they found a gem with the #12 pick in the draft. Matthias Kurz was passed over by 11 other teams, probably because he is not a huge offensive player. But, the 7-footer is a beast on the boards and defensively. This will likely move Brian Armstrong to power forward since the Giants did not resign Tyriq Lang. The combination of Kurz and Armstrong will give Gabon a crushing defense on the interior. Further, Kurz isn’t going to demand shots which will allow others to shine, especially Napoleon Carter. Just as importantly the Giants added depth with Troy Blecher, Bobbie Mason (spent last year in the D-league), Kevin Rollin, and Shelton Britton. This team was a top five defensive team last year, expect them to be better. But they do have a real weakness when it comes to depth with their bigs. The loss of Polikarp Dragunas, who is an ideal bench player is huge. If they had retained Lang that could have also helped. As is if either Armstrong or Kurz get hurt expect the Giants to run four smalls which may be challenging on the defensive end. But we can’t forget that the Giants also drafted Artie Duggons with the #2 draft pick. There is little doubt that Duggons has star potential but this 19-year-old plays on a very talented team so it is likely that he will spend the year in the WBA Developmental league. Gabon could surprise us though and have Duggons play a significant roll off the bench behind Kurz and Armstrong. This is an improved team as long as they stay healthy. They very easily could push 60 wins this year.
For years Cape Town has been all about Abdiel Gordon. There is no doubt that he is one of the premier players in the league. It is amazing to think how much this powerhouse struggled his rookie year scoring 6 points a game on 26.9% shooting. Now days he averages 4-5 times that much and his FG % is double that. Last year, there just wasn’t enough talent around Gordon. A big concern for the Zulu is that their #2 player Chance Crowley decided to move a little north to Nigeria where he will likely be the top scoring option. Humberto Saez, Eric Switzer, Gervais Calloart, Nestor Marugeiro, Wes Taylor, Al Rozier, and Ian Tilman are all nice role players that can help round out a team. But elite teams have 2-3 stars. Cape Town just doesn’t have that. Despite adding depth this year, they could slip a little in the standings unless Gordon has a superhuman year. He is capable. It will be interesting to see how the new management works all the pieces together.
Mexico City is under new management this year but they have a strong foundation. That foundations name is Chris Dao. The 6’9” shooting guard was impressive last year. He averaged a career high 22.2 shooting 55% from the floor and 41% from distance. But he missed 29 games which hurt the Hellcats who really relied on him. When it comes to the Hellcats future, they were HUGE winners in the draft picking up at #18 the 6’11” 19 year old Davey Chisholm. This kid is a few years away, but early reports are that he is better than anyone expected and can become a star in the WBA. Inge Adlgassar spent most of last season in the WBADEV, but he is ready for meaningful minutes in the WBA now. With the exception of the aging Raphael park, who really shouldn’t have started 29 games last year, this team has most the same pieces but they are young, so they have improved. If Dao stays healthy this team is a legitimate threat to break 50 games.
The Pirates finished last season with a 38-42 record which was the worst in the Global Division and were the only team in that division to miss the playoffs. But making the playoffs In the World Conference was tough. This was a solid team. Their number one scoring option from last year, Omar Raoumbe, left to play in Frankfurt. But they still have their number two option from last year Victor Morales and added capable scorer Chance Crowley. They resigned defensive center Andre Rawlings, but most observers feel they paid way too much for him which could cause problems in a season or two. The youngsters Steven Harrelson and Aiden de Schutter continue to develop, and the team does have more depth with players like Scott Berger and Babbling Brook. The big difference though is the addition of rookie Heirnich Rarich. Last year Remi Jeay was the starting point guard for the Pirates. Jeay is a good role player but should not be the starter on a strong WBA team. He will work well off the bench but adding Rarich who is a better passer, scorer, defender, and much more athletic should really help this franchise.
#3- Mexico City
#4- Cape Town