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Monthly Archives: October 2020

Mid-Year Grades

By Mike Begley

Here we address the age old question: are you getting the bang for your buck? In this analysis we hope to offer an alternate angle to examine what it means to run a successful franchise. Any team with an unlimited bank account can put forth a winner on the floor but is the product on the floor really worth the price? It takes a conscientious general manager to make it work with limited means. On the other spectrum we can see just how disastrous a franchise can become when it has unlimited funds coupled with no team vision. We call that complete negligence, and hence we begin with one such example, the disastrous Dragons.

Arizona Dragons

Season wins rank: 27

Team salary rank: 28

Overall rank: 30

What in the world is going on in Arizona? The team currently stands 16 million deep in luxury tax only to field the third-worst team in the league. Rumors indicate the team is secretly being run by league corporate sponsors, one Dan Dingleberry is seeing to its demise. There is absolutely no reason, except perhaps to pad their career statistics, to be paying Wayne Taylor and Marquez Houston a combined 47 million, when they should be competing in the D-league. These financial errors will lead to long-standing repercussions. And sadly, despite having cap room next season I do not see the Dragons ever emerging from this depression.

 

London Disco

Season wins rank: 28

Team salary rank: 22

Overall rank: 29

The Disco currently stand 5 million deep in luxury tax while fielding the league’s 2nd worst record. This situation has nothing to do with the current owner, Earl Breese, who graciously took on the responsibility to resurrect this sad affair. To make matters worse the Disco traded their lottery pick for aging journeyman Frank Ryan. Once upon a time, the Disco used to be a solid team but without solid ownership, the team has sunk low in the last few seasons.

 

Los Angeles Gargoyles

Season wins rank: 29

Team salary rank: 16

Overall rank: 28

Luckily, the Gargoyles do not currently stand in luxury tax waters, yet they are at the league’s bottom while writing max contract checks to Chad Nolan and Marc White. While these two players are set for life in sunny Los Angeles the Gargoyles are effectively damned to mediocrity for the foreseeable future. I do not see any way out for this franchise and these financial issues are only getting worse as those max salaries increase. The Gargoyles offseason is negligence at its finest.

 

New York Firestorm

Season wins rank: 22

Team salary rank: 23

Overall rank: 27

 

The Firestorm currently stands 8 million deep in luxury tax while clearly out of the playoff picture. You cannot fault a team for trying as they sincerely believed they could compete this season. Hence, the decision to rebuild may have been ill-timed as it does not seem they got their money’s worth for their lone beacon of hope, Kelly Brandon. Not sure what they were thinking, to be honest, recovering only a couple of late first-round picks in return for a young budding star signed to a reasonable long term contract, and once considered a potential franchise player. With increased financial flexibility next season, the Firestorm look to take a gradual, cautious approach to rebuilding. At least they seem to have a plan.

 

Sydney Bloods

Season wins rank: 30

Team salary rank: 12

Overall rank: 26

The Bloods may have the worst record in the league, but they are nobody’s fool. No majorly overpaid has-beens or accompanying luxury tax penalties. They are young and they know it; they currently may suck and they know it; but they also have the patience to develop. Cheers to the Bloods!

 

Cincinnati Hitmen

Season wins rank: 26

Team salary rank: 14

Overall rank: 25

We expected more from the Hitmen and so did their fans after shelling out for Sheldon Gorman, and acquiring key role players. Nonetheless, the Hitmen have never quite recovered from the curse of the Bangerter, Bradley the number two overall pick in the 2015 draft, and one of the biggest busts in league history. As a side note, Bradley has carved out a solid career in the D-league, currently a key cog in the rotation for the Alaska Tides as they vie for a playoff berth. Nonetheless, not wanting to give up on the Bangerters, the Hitmen currently place their franchise hope on Bennett Bangerter, motivating him by placing his locker next to Bradley’s.

 

Gabon Giants

Season wins rank: 18

Team salary rank: 21

Overall rank: 24

This may be the toughest season for a proud Gabon franchise, as it becomes clear they have given up hope on a playoff run this season by releasing Arturo Fonzarelli and his 18 million price tag. After being a game away from a finals appearance by sheer good fortune the Giants possessed the number two overall selection in the draft. However, instead of trying to go all in to build a championship contender the Giants opted to rebuild. Well not technically. The Giants hoped to still complete and rebuild; quite ambitious but not realistic. You cannot have your cake and eat it too, especially in the WBA where Rondall eats all the cake, every time.

 

Kansas City Blues

Season wins rank: 20

Team salary rank: 19

Overall rank: 23

The Blues have recently stepped into luxury tax waters, while standing on the outside looking in on the USA Conference playoff race. Quite underwhelming and mediocre is how the Blues would describe this season. For some odd season, the Blues thought Omar Jefferson had something to do with all those Rage championships, quite possibly forgetting Bailey and Miles were on that team. Jefferson, may in fact have been a limiting factor on those Rage squads with his poor defense and awful rebounding certainly not Rage trademarks. Witnesses attest Rondall was jumping for joy the minute Jefferson and his hyperbolic contract were shipped for the younger, more athletic, much better defender and one of the best bargain deals in the league, Antonio Gleason.

 

Fort Worth Warriors

Season wins rank: 14

Team salary rank: 25

Overall rank: 22

The Warriors made some bold fanciful moves this offseason, turning a perennially losing team into currently the 5th seed in the USA Conference. They paid a hefty price including the number one overall selection and cap flexibility for years to come. Pundits would critique they should have opted to rebuild patiently around their number one pick, but you certainly cannot fault ownership for wanting to compete. The fans in Forth Worth certainly appreciate the effort, though the ticket prices are a bit heftier, the results are often, a win, as Fort Worth holds a 14-9 home record.

 

Barcelona Counts

Season wins rank: 12

Team salary rank: 24

Overall rank: 21

The Counts hold famously deep pockets; good luck trying to sign away a player from the Counts in free agency. They will pay whatever is necessary to retain their talent as was seen in their retention of Andrew Holmes, 15 million a year for a bench player, and the team currently standing 12 million in luxury tax. The Counts are currently playing well for their fans. But that is nothing new in the last few seasons. The Counts play an exciting brand of basketball, but fans are starting to wonder why major changes have not been made in the last few seasons, as the team has underwhelmed in the playoffs incorporating the same old styles. When your pockets are infinite a higher duty of care is owed to the fans and that has not happened in Barcelona.

 

 

Miami Xtreme

Season wins rank: 19

Team salary rank: 15

Overall rank: 20

The Xtreme may epitomize the average struggling franchise in the WBA as they fight for dear life to hold on to the 8th spot in the USA Conference. The team has historically withstood severe injuries and tough luck. The team’s highest-paid player, Maury Coleman, is clearly past his prime, while its best young player, Omar Rozier, is not close to reaching his prime. As such, this season seems a bit discombobulated and out of sync as the team awaits to reach a new peak, in which all parts flow together to victory. Ok, maybe that’s Xtreme.

 

Las Vegas Gamblers

Season wins rank: 16

Team salary rank: 18

Overall rank: 19

The main question surrounding this franchise is why is Nikos Atirides still playing? Even in his prime his true value to a team was questionable with his trademark errant shot selection. Now at 35 years, and earning 19 million this season, he is perhaps the worst player in the league earning regular minutes, heck he may no even crack some D-league teams! By cutting Atirides this team saves 19 million, and 19 errant shot attempts per game. This is not worth the gamble even on the penny slot machines.

 

Toronto Dinos

Season wins rank: 24

Team salary rank: 9

Overall rank: 18

Gone are the days of James Borbath or “Gustavo Follana,” this is a new era in Dinos basketball, welcome to mediocrity. The Dinos are not winning much but they are also not paying much so in a sense they are getting what they pay for as a classic sign of Canadian reasonableness. Nonetheless, nothing can explain those 10 million going to Craig Bradshaw’s hamburger habit. It is also too bad Latrell McDyess has not been able to shine as he was second in assists in the entire league before breaking his leg trying to get these Dinos to compete.

 

Seattle Rainmakers

Season wins rank: 22

Team salary rank: 11

Overall rank: 17

These Rainmakers are a solid likeable bunch ran with solid financial principles. Most everyone earning reasonable paychecks except for Neville Blake, who is getting paid 10 million to consistently let his team down with brick after brick. This team has talent but maybe some experimenting is necessary to get the most out of the group. Is it a Stretch to play Armstrong at point guard?

 

Albacete Burning Hell

Season wins rank: 5

Team salary rank: 27

Overall rank: 16

Here is the first major surprise of this ranking. While the Burning Hell possess the league’s 5th best record vying for the top spot in the World conference; they also possess the league’s 4th highest payroll, overall, one of the league’s oldest teams, and 14 million deep in luxury tax. They are getting paid to win and they are winning with most of that money coming off the books in the offseason. For this operation to be sustainable, however, the team will need to make major changes as these older players will not remain at the same level; these inevitable personnel changes may or may not gel. Also, who is leading the team to victory, the old guys or Lonny Jordan?

 

Colorado Pioneers

Season wins rank: 6

Team salary rank: 26

Overall rank: 15

The Pioneers played it conservatively during the offseason remaining intact overall. However, this has come at a financial price, as team stands 16 million deep in luxury tax, while holding onto the 4th seed in the USA Conference. That seems a fair price to play your hand in the playoffs, and hence this respectable 15th overall grade for the team this season.

 

California Fighting Cocks

Season wins rank: 2

Team salary rank: 29

Overall rank: 14

Note: these are not Chanticleers. However, the legal costs saved by making that statement are negated by the team’s league-high 43 million expenditure in luxury tax. To make that clear this franchise has made no profits this season and is 2 million in debt to keep this operation together. On top of that rumors circulate their former head coach is currently filing a lawsuit against the team to recover unpaid salary which the team opted not to pay to “save team budget”. Well the team has the 2nd highest payroll in the league; and the 2nd highest wins; so, they are getting what they pay for hence a respectable 14th overall rank.

 

Brooklyn Rage

Season wins rank: 1

Team salary rank: 30

Overall rank: 13

Big surprise here; the team with the highest payroll also has the most wins. A clear distinction is that despite being over 40 million deep in luxury tax they are still finding a way to reap 60 million in profit. This team is special in that they only have one fan that we know of yet can reap millions in profits.

 

Milan Mayhem

Season wins rank: 11

Team salary rank: 20

Overall rank: 12

The Mayhem are barely scratching the luxury tax, while wavering between the third and fifth seed in the world conference. After a trip to the WBA finals, in which they ceremoniously bowed to the Brooklyn Rage, the Mayhem seemed to have taken a step down, but not without intention as they also acquired some solid assets for the future toddler Milan fans to enjoy. Esposito runs a solid ship as he sails around the world.

 

Mexico City Hellcats

Season wins rank: 13

Team salary rank: 17

Overall rank: 11

The Hellcats have a solid hold on another playoff berth as the team rides the last year of Chris Dao’s rookie contract. After Sergio Gutierrez stepped down as the architect we wondered what direction the Hell Cats would take, and they have largely stayed in place. With some solid pieces to build around the team will eventually need to open the pockets but for now they are competing at a reasonable price.

 

Osaka Fugu

Season wins rank: 25

Team salary rank: 2

Overall rank: 10

Critics of this list will cite the Osaka Fugu as not deserving of any praise as admittedly they possess the worst defensive team in the entire league. However, the Fugu also have the 2nd lowest payroll in the league, hence they are not paying for defense. They are paying for Javonte Bolk to entertain the fans, and Tommy Pederson to earn rookie of the year, all while reaping over 50 million in profits! So, who has the last laugh?

 

Frankfurt Fury

Season wins rank: 21

Team salary rank: 6

Overall rank: 9

Most expected the Fury to take a bigger leap forward this season; and after accumulating much talent over the years (the team has not made the playoffs in 6+ seasons) and adding Omar Raombe to a max contract the team remains pretty much the same in the final product (outside the playoff picture). So how do we justify placing the Fury at 9 overall? Well they have earned over 40 million in profits, their arenas are filled almost to capacity, and they are 15-11 at home. What more can you ask for as a German basketball fan?

 

Cape Town Zulus

Season wins rank: 17

Team salary rank: 10

Overall rank: 8

It is looking more and more probable that the Zulu’s will miss the playoffs for the first time in the Abdiel Gordon era. This is certainly not good. Nonetheless, the Zulu’s are not financially mis-managed, and they are still competing for a playoff berth. The issues present here are likely in talent evaluation. Why the team traded a 15th overall selection in the draft for Hancho Durrant, who cannot even crack the Roosters D-league rotation? How the team let Chance Crowley go to the rival Pirates? Why the team invested in Eric Switzer? These are mysteries beyond comprehension.

 

Tokyo Devils

Season wins rank: 23

Team salary rank: 3

Overall rank: 7

The Devils may be the youngest team in the league, and certainly seem to have a brighter future ahead than their current situation (outside the playoffs). After stealing away Debuinses it seemed they were poised to challenge for a playoff berth. The main question is why Abel Debuisnes minutes so low? This is a player who could easily lead the league in scoring yet seems to be limited with the current coaching. This team is poised for better results, but fans cannot control the coaching methods.

 

Cancun Outlaws

Season wins rank: 8

Team salary rank: 13

Overall rank: 6

The Outlaws may be the epitome of a well-run franchise. The consistency exhibited year after year is beyond measure. Currently, they stand 4th in the World Conference despite an injury riddled season. Nonetheless, there was a bit of a slip for the Outlaws after they allowed Marcus Rogers to sail away to Paris. The trademark defense, and sound financial management are still here but with Clement Trentesols rookie contract expiring it will be interesting to see how a team with limited financial resources can maintain this run sustainable. After this season, we may have witnessed the end of the Parker Mason era.

 

Nigeria Pirates

Season wins rank: 12

Team salary rank: 5

Overall rank: 5

After witnessing Omar Raoumbe jump ship it seemed Nigeria was doomed. Nonetheless, the team rebounded by signing Chance Crowley from Cape Town while developing its young players. Currently, the team has a firm hold on the playoffs while possessing the league’s fifth lowest payroll. With further financial flexibility this off-season the Pirates are poised to compete for years to come. Well done Rob.

 

Salt Lake City Fanatics

Season wins rank: 15

Team salary rank: 1

Overall rank: 4

We are witnessing history as Brad Bangerter is managing to secure a playoff spot sporting a team 25 and younger with perhaps the lowest payroll in WBA history! This is financial management at its greatest (or cheapest?)! Whatever makes the fans happy. As the Fanatics are currently playing to a sell out crowd each night Brad may be the most beloved GM in the WBA right now. Now imagine if he still had Frenchie.

 

Moscow Snow Bears

Season wins rank: 7

Team salary rank: 7

Overall rank: 3

Pablo Del Pino may have drafted the best 1-2 punch in league history with Chris Acklin and Kenyatta Davidson, and with that he took a bow and exited into the sunset. Moscow thereupon managed to compete in the playoffs for the first time in history. Now they stand third in the World Conference with excellent financial flexibility. Moscow currently holds the league’s 7th lowest payroll while sporting the league’s 7th best record. This is as efficient as Acklin driving to the rim! Time will tell if the young core will live up to Del Pino’s wildest dreams.

 

Paris Honeybees

Season wins rank: 4

Team salary rank: 8

Overall rank: 2

Chalk this one up to Jervan Timmons, the greatest point guard in WBA history. There is no question these humble Honeybees live and die at the hands of Timmons (the Queen bee). With eight players, that is right eight players, on this squad picked off the waiver wire, the Bees are the hallmark of financial frugalness. In the early season, esteemed Rage homer Ron Chambers, predicted the Bees to have the worst record in the division and had this to say about the Bees, “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.” Well what do you know, the Bees score more points than the Rage, at half the price!

 

Boston Massacre

Season wins rank: 3

Team salary rank: 4

Overall rank: 1

And drumroll please… If you’ve read this far down then you must have found this ranking at least mildly amusing, and for that we reveal a beast of a team, the Boston Massacre led by Quinten Lawrence, who has managed to amass the league’s third best record with the league’s fourth lowest payroll! How is that for talent analysis, coaching, and financial planning? Nonetheless, it is the playoffs that count, and with first round exits in the last four seasons, the Massacre need a deep run in the playoffs, or the Massacre become just another brick in the road for the Brooklyn Rage.

 

Midseason Award Favorites

By the ever-opinionated Stefon B. Smythe

MVP

Lonny Jordan – Albacete – 29.0 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 4.0 APG

Jeremy Sims – Kansas City – 28.6 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 3.4 BPG

Hassan Watt – California – 28.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 BPG

Jarius Miles – Brooklyn – 24.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 2.7 BPG

Jervan Timmons – Paris – 18.0 PPG, 13.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 5.0 SPG

It may be unconventional, but my vote for MVP midway through the season is not going to be for the player that scores the most points.  Maybe he is not even the most fun to watch.  But what he brings to his team is unmatched, making him the most valuable player.  Jervan Timmons might be 50th in the league in scoring, but he leads the league in both assists and steals per game.  Not only does he lead the league in both of those statistics, but he is FAR beyond the player ranked second.  His 13.9 assists per game is 4.5 assists better, per game, than the 9.4 per game by Javonte Bolk, who is second best in the league.  Timmons’ 5.0 steals per game is 1.8 steals better than what Jesse Szcygiel (2nd) is averaging per game.  These are numbers that are rarely seen in the game, let alone from a single player.  Many players specialize in a single facet, but to have such an impact on both end of the floor for his team, is perhaps unmatched.  For this reason, I give Timmons the edge.

Despite feeling as if Timmons is the leader for MVP, I have a feeling that Lonny Jordan would be the winner if the season were to end today.  Scoring points is flashy and gets attention, passing not as much.  Jordan leads the league in scoring and is fourth in rebounds.  More than deserving of the votes that he will receive.

 

OPOY

Hassan Watt – California – 28.7 PPG, 3.7 ORBPG, 5.0 APG

Lonny Jordan – Albacete – 29.0 PPG, 2.8 ORBPG, 4.0 APG

Jeremy Sims – Kansas City – 28.6 PPG, 3.2 ORBPG, 3.5 APG

Kurt Beck – California – 25.7 PPG, 3.1 ORBPG, 5.2 APG

Jervan Timmons – Paris – 18.0 PPG, 13.9 APG, 1.4 ORBPG

Similar to MVP, Jervan Timmons stands out as having such a major offensive impact on his team.  Paris is averaging 119 PPG, second best in the league.  Between averaging a very respectable 18.0 point per game as a floor general, Timmons adds to that total by assisting on nearly 14 baskets a game.  His 1.4 ORBPG and 5.0 steals lead to additional points for his team.  Timmons is the engine that makes Paris run…and they currently sit atop the conference with only ten losses at the midpoint.

Assists and creating doesn’t lead to votes.  Lonny Jordan has the ability to take over a game when it matters most.  Lonny Jordan, and Albacete, can greatly influence my opinion on many of the awards by winning the conference.  Currently in a very close fight with Paris, Albacete is slightly behind in the win column.  If Lonny Jordan has a strong back half of the season, leading his team to the regular season conference title, he may sway a lot of voters in his favor.

 

DPOY

Jervan Timmons – Paris – 5.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 3.0 DRBPG

Jarius Miles – Brooklyn – 2.3 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 8.3 DRBPG

Frank Mathieu – Boston – 8.9 DRBPG, 2.5 BPG, 0.3 SPG

Chad Nolan – Los Angeles – 6.5 DRBPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.6 SPG

Jeremy Sims – Kansas City – 7.1 DRBPG, 3.4 BPG, 0.7 SPG

I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that would like to see a trifecta for Timmons at the top of the award board.  His 5 steals per game is not even close to being matched by any other player in the league.  Despite his ability to seek out the ball, I don’t see his overall defensive impact as being as impactful as that of Jarius Miles.  Arguably the most consistent across the board statistically, Miles sits towards the top of the league in defensive rebounds, steals, and blocks per game.  He dictates the opposing offense in every facet defensively.  His all-around ability is what makes me give him the lead at the midway point of the season.

 

ROY

Mathias Kurz – Gabon – 32.0 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 3.2 BPG

Heinrich Rarich – Nigeria – 29.3 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.0 SPG

Gervais Calloart – Cape Town – 33.9 MPG, 17.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG

Cetus Vlahakis – London – 32.4 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.6 BPG

Klemens Eberle – Paris – 30.1 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.3 BPG

Choosing a rookie of the year is a little more difficult at the midpoint.  There are several rookies who didn’t play to start the season that are making strong cases to join this list.  Timoteo Gangotena is averaging over 10 RPG in his first 14 games played, Heinrich Stoebener scored 23 points in his first game in Milan and was perfect from the floor, and Toussaint Leclerq has achieved, or been 2-3 assists shy of, a double-double in seven of his first 10 games since starting in Las Vegas.  The most impactful rookie to date would have to be Mathias Kurz.  Maybe not the most prolific scorer of all rookies, Kurz makes his impact on the glass and on the defensive end.  Leading all rookies in both rebounding and blocks, Kurz is making a name for himself.  On November 6, Kurz set a current league record by bringing down 13 offensive rebounds in a single game.  It’s not everyday that a rookie leads the league in any category, but Kurz sits at the top of the league with 3.8 offensive boards per game.

Way Too Early GM of the Year

The Favorites:

Adrian Arceo – Paris Honey Bees                            Current Record: 28-9

Case: The Honey Bees are on pace to exceed last season’s win total by 20 or more games.  That is an impressive growth.  Last season the Honey Bees missed the playoffs.  This season, they are a top five team in the league and are leading the World Conference.  With no clear superstar, this team’s success was built around cohesion and depth. They rank first in the conference in six different team categories, and lead the entire league in steal and turnover margins.

What is needed to win:  Finish the season strong.  If the Honey Bees finish the season first in their conference, after having missed the playoffs last season, I think Adrian Arceo is more than deserving of the award.  60+ wins and it would take a lot to get me to vote for anyone else.  Winning the conference would almost guarantee a win in my eyes, but anything less and the door opens.

 

Pedro Alcarez – Albacete Burning Hell                   Current Record: 26-8

Case: Last season Albacete won 46 games and lost in the first round of the playoffs.  To make some slight improvements would be a welcome site for most teams, but not Albacete.  Albacete is on pace to improve their win total by 14 games, one of the highest improvements in the league.  For a playoff team to improve by that much is impressive.  To do so and potentially win the conference is an added perk.  Some great transactions also led to the growth this season.

What is needed to win:  Finish the season strong.  If the Burning Hell are able to end the season atop the conference, GM Alcarez will sit atop my list of candidates for GM of the year.  Just winning the conference wouldn’t be enough, but considering that would require an improvement of 14 or more wins, that does it for me.

 

Quinten Lawrence – Boston Massacre                                  Current Record: 25-9

Case: Boston is another playoff team that is on pace to improve by double-digit wins.  Not an easy feat.  Currently sitting at third in the USA Conference, the Massacre are having a great season.  A very strong back half to the season and Lawrence could vault up with the list of favorites.  Strong player development has led to some superstars playing in Boston.

What needs to happen: If somehow reaching 60 wins, the conversation will become even more tense.  Boston currently leads the league in rebounding margin and points per shot margin.  This is a team and GM to watch the rest of the season.  Don’t be surprised to hear his name thrown around more often.  I’d personally have him third on my list, but not by much.  I may take a 60 game winner from the USA Conference as opposed to the World Conference winner.

 

The Rest – In no particular order

Gustavo Follana – Fort Worth Warriors                 Current Record: 19-16

Case: Normally a GM whose team is just over .500 would not be in the GM of the year discussion, however, if you consider that Fort Worth won only 20 games last season and has not exceeded 30 wins in five seasons, it is easy to see how this season is special for Fort Worth.  Several key moves/acquisitions have resulted in the Warriors being one game away from last season’s win total, and we still have 45 games to play.  Right now, they are on pace to improve by 23 wins from last season.

What is needed to win: Honestly, 60 wins.  I think the moves made and overall growth are nothing short of amazing.  But to finish the season at 43-45 wins and just over .500 would still make it very difficult to sway votes from some of the other top GM’s.  I like the underdog, and I think GM Follana is worth voting for, but it would take an even better back half of the season to win this award.

 

Brad Bangerter – Salt Lake City Fanatics                              Current Record: 21-15

Case: The Fanatics haven’t made the playoffs in three seasons, and last season only won 32 games.  Strong player development has them projected to exceed last season’s win total by 17 games.  Very few transactions have led to the development of this team.  They have drafted and developed their way to this point.

What is needed to win: Similar to FW, ending the season close to .500 would not be enough to win this award, even with the major improvements.  As a GM, Bangerter has proven he can draft quality players and work to develop them, but the lack of transactions to build this team in this particular season may be seen as a detractor.  Perhaps the season when the picks were made would have been the better option.  This upcoming offseason may also be a defining moment if he is able to resign his top talent.

 

Rob Arnold – Nigeria Pirates                                     Current Record: 23-11

Case: After missing the playoffs for five straight seasons, the Pirates are on pace to exceed 50 wins and improve their record by 16 wins over last season.  Currently third in their conference, the Pirates are well on their way to the playoffs and, potentially, a favorable first round.  Similar to SLC, there don’t appear to be many transactions that created success this season.  A cohesive group of players seems to be their recipe to success.  No one on the team averages more than 16.4 PPG.

What is needed to win: Win the conference.  Nigeria missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, but still won 38 games last season.  That is at least respectable.  A major jump would be needed to overtake other candidates.

 

 

Brent Bangerter – Miami Xtreme                            Current Record: 15-20

Case: Having a losing record makes it seem very unlikely that there is any chance to really win this award, yet Miami is one of the few teams that is projected to improve their win total by double digits from last season.  Because of that growth, I had to include him on the list.

What is needed to win: A winning record wouldn’t even do it.  That winning record would have to be 50-60 wins.  Many detractors would say that it isn’t as difficult to improve a record by 16 wins when the team only won 18 games the season before, and I think that point would resonate with many voters.

 

 

David Morfeld – Las Vegas Gamblers                                    Current Record: 22-14

Case:  The last of the playoff teams that is currently on pace to improve by double digit wins, Las Vegas had a busy offseason.  With only three players remaining from the core roster of last season, a lot of transactions were completed to create the growth that is resulting this year.  Similar to several other teams, there is no established superstar, but success is resulting from depth and cohesion.  Seven players on the team currently average over 10 ppg.

What needs to happen:  60 wins.  The Gamblers currently sit as the fifth seed in the USA Conference and are not far from being the sixth seed.  Despite the good start, there is still uncertainty that the team will make the playoffs.  Obviously an improved record would be a positive, but if failing to make the playoffs, GM Morfeld will fall off this list completely.

 

 

The Given’s:

Rondall Reynoso – Brooklyn Rage                                          Current Record: 34-3

Case: Winning.  The Rage are once again at the top of the league, despite losing Dan Kincaide.  Some key transactions helped alleviate some future salary cap concerns, and the team hasn’t skipped a beat. This is a championship or bust season once again.

What needs to happen:  Due to the level of continued success, it may be difficult to win this award.  I was surprised to see the GM Reynoso has only won this once in the last six seasons.  Somehow, at 34-3, the Rage are still on pace to win fewer games than last season.  Maybe if they don’t lose a single game the rest of the season…

 

Justin Lawrence – California Fighting Cocks                        Current Record: 34-5

Case: Having won 66 games each of the last two seasons, the Fighting Cocks are on pace to exceed that total by a couple of games.  Amazingly, GM Lawrence hasn’t won this award over the last six seasons, despite the success.

What needs to happen:  The Gamblers need to do well, and the Fighting Cocks need to win the conference.  It could be argued that California plays in one of the weaker divisions in the league, with Las Vegas as the primary competition (but not close).  If Las Vegas were to drop and approach .500 and the Fighting Cocks’ gap with the Rage gets worse, GM Lawrence will be fighting an uphill battle. Critics will say their record is partially due to that weaker division play.  If they can overtake the Rage atop the conference, they will alter the WBA.

As the WBA Turns

  • Lon Johnson (PG – YAK) is left by his abusive wife and refocuses on basketball.
  • Ajan Estay (PG – AZ) He Stars in musical based on his life. This seems to positively affect his confidence.
  • Tony Brawley (SF – AZ) Suspended for throwing an opposing team’s fan through a window in a bar fight.
  • Lukas Hartwig (C – GOM) Moscow awards player Russian Order of Friendship.
  • William Dore (SG – HER) has announced the passing of his mother. He has dedicated this season to his mother.

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. USA CONFERENCE

BROOKLYN RAGE

Key additions:

Antonio Glaeson, SF, 17.8 ppg, 8,2 rpg, 3,3 apg, 20.8 PER

Ed Rhodes, SG, 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 spg, 10.7 PER

Trenton Adams, PG, pick #1 in the draft

Key subtractions:

Dan Kincaide, SF, 18.9 ppg, 8,2 rpg, 1,7 spg, 25,0 PER

Omar Jefferson, PG, 18,2 ppg, 6,3 apg, 1,3 spg, 19.8 PER

THE GOOD: They solve their financial problems while they are still a contender. Rondall trades Omar Jefferson for some reasonable talent. Jarius Miles and Mario Bailey are still there. Without Jefferson and Kincaide, they still lead the league with 26-2

THE BAD: Losing Jefferson and Kincaide makes Brooklin look beatable for the first time in some seasons. A bad injury in Bailey’s left arm will provide some unexpected losses

THE UGLY: When Trenton Adams is ready to contribute, Mario Bailey will be out of the league

OFFSEASON GRADE: A-

 

TORONTO DINOS

Key Additions

Latrell McDyess, PG, 6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.8 apg, 11.9 PER

Chad Archer, SG, 13.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.0 spg, 15.3 PER

Jim Koons, SF, 14.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 14.9 PER

Key Subtractions

Scott Berger, SF, 15.6 ppg, 6,4 rpg, 15.4 PER

Trevor Tomlin, PG, 18.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 10.3 apg, 23.8 PER

THE GOOD: They have their own pick and around 50 millions in cap room for next season seasons. Latrell Mcdyess is the best young PG in the league. They started the season with a 8-5 record and looked like a cinderella team for some time.

THE BAD: For a team winning 32 games last season, their best players not named McDyess are around the 30 years mark

THE UGLY:  McDyess injured his right leg and he won’t come back until the end of March. The season is over

OFFSEASON GRADE: B-

 

NEW YORK FIRESTORM

Key Additions

Jay Dickinson 20.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 20.8 PER

Ajan Estay, PG, 21.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.9 apg, 23.4 PER

Key Substractions

Sherman Mahara, PG, 21.6ppg, 7.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 26.1 PER

Chad Nolan, PF, 13.2ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 14.8 PER

Kelley Brandon, SF, 16.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 17.0 PER

THE GOOD: While they lose some talent, New York gets rid of Chad Nolan’s contract. Every move TJ Smith has made goes towards managing his cap room. Somehow, the team is in a better position for the future.

THE BAD: With all this trades, the team’s cohesion is a nightmare. They have traded for neetar and he has been traded. Same for Egg and Peska. The team has no loyalty, and they could pay when free agents have to decide where to play

THE UGLY:  The guard’s rotation is really weak, even more with Egg traded and Estay injured for 40 more days. They are 12-15 and will have a hard time reaching the 25 wins. Did I mention that they don’t own their pick this offseason?

OFFSEASON GRADE: C

 

MIAMI EXTREME

Key Additions

Rufus Castellano, SF, 18.2ppg, 6,2 rpg, 3.7 apg, 18.1 PER

Key Substractions

None

THE GOOD: They add a talented forward to a team needed of young talent. With a 12-15 record, you can say that Miami is overachieving

THE BAD: After winning 18 games, Rufus Castellano will not be enough to make the playoffs. Jesus Morell talent is being wasted

THE UGLY:  One of the worst teams in the league and they traded a lot of picks to get Castellano. But the GM keeps talking about unbalanced budgets

OFFSEASON GRADE: D+

 

BOSTON MASSACRE

Key Additions

Casey Pointer, SG, 21.7ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.9 apg, 20.0 PER

Victorino Pinelo, SG, 19.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.6 spg, 20.9 PER

Key Substractions

Matias Gutierrez, PG, 19.6ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.9 apg, 20.7 PER

THE GOOD: They improve the guard rotation. Pinelo, Pointer and Askins will make you sweat. Frank Mathieu will have one more year of experience.

THE BAD: John Keating will go from the Dev league to a starting power forward position. It’s a lot of pressure. While they are 18-7, the gap with California and Brooklyn is massive

THE UGLY:  When you look at the forward rotation and want to cry

OFFSEASON GRADE: B

 

COLORADO PIONEERS

Key Additions

None

Key Substractions

None

THE GOOD: Colorado resigns its stars. Every key player returns. Great cohesion. Their window is still open

THE BAD: They failed to sign a new big name before resigning their own players. Same team, one year older. Some players like Devine and Lyons are starting to fade

THE UGLY:  You felt short last season, maybe a little improvement of the team is needed. GM Hameleers does not think so

OFFSEASON GRADE: C-

 

SALT LAKE CITY FANATICS

Key Additions

Fulgencio Lurdes, C, pick #5 in the draft

Leonard Sedelmaier, SG, pick #10 in the draft

Juju Wambaugh, PG, pick #3 in the draft

Key Substractions

George Bissett, SF, 12.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 15.5 PER

Abel Desbuisnes, SG, 28.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.1 spg, 33.5 PER

THE GOOD: They are young with great potential. Some of their youngsters could be superstars in a future. They have time to develop and money to manage it. They are ahead of schedule. With a record of 14-12, the Fanatics are looking like a playoff team.

THE BAD: Some of these players will be stars in other teams. Once they start asking for extensions, the situation could turn dramatic, even more with the budget drama

THE UGLY:  Losing Desbuisnes sucks. Alston Irving has been rumored wanting to play elsewhere. Some GMs have been fired for way less

OFFSEASON GRADE: D+

 

KANSAS CITY BLUES

Key Additions

Omar Jefferson, PG, 18,2 ppg, 6,3 apg, 1,3 spg, 19.8 PER

Key Substractions

Antonio Glaeson, SF, 17.8 ppg, 8,2 rpg, 3,3 apg, 20.8 PER

Ed Rhodes, SG, 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 spg, 10.7 PER

THE GOOD: Jeremy Sims stays in Kansas. Now they have a big three with Sims, Walt Jackson and Omar Jefferson.

THE BAD: Jackson and Jefferson are 31 years old, the window is so tight…You have to wonder if Jefferson’s trade is the right call. With a 14-13 record, they could even miss the playoffs

THE UGLY:  That contract…

OFFSEASON GRADE: C

 

FORTH WORTH WARRIORS

Key Additions

Claude Weidner, SF, 21.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 22,1 PER

Darryl Whittaker, 19.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.4 spg, 26.9 PER

Isaac Rice, PF, 181.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 19.0 PER

Trevor Tomlin, PG, 18.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 10.3 apg, 23.8 PER

Key Substractions

Justice Grant, C, 8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 15.6 PER

Trenton Adams, PG, pick #1 in the draft

Latrell McDyess, PG, 6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.8 apg, 11.9 PER

THE GOOD: You had zero stars and now you have three of them. Surround them decently and a joke of a team becomes a playoff contender. Starman wants to show that he belongs to the elite

THE BAD: They have a big hole in the zone. Maybe their last trade with Albacete could help, but rebounding is a glaring need here

THE UGLY:  Trenton Adams will be a star, but Gustavo could not wait for him to develop his talents

OFFSEASON GRADE: B+

 

CINCINNATI HITMEN

Key Additions

None

Key Substractions

None

THE GOOD: They have the same team that last season, a team that won 23 games. Cincinnati has its own pick and Devil’s pick, both projected to be top 10 picks

THE BAD: The Hitmen doesn’t have a lot of building blocks for the future, maybe Bennett Bangerter is the only player with potential to be an all-star

THE UGLY:  Their salary structure won’t allow them to sign free agents next offseason

OFFSEASON GRADE: C

 

 

LOS ANGELES GARGOYLES

Key Additions

Marc White, C, 4.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 14.5 PER

Key Substractions

None

THE GOOD: Los Angeles has its own pick, when your record is 3-22, you’d better have your pick. William Curry is still improving

THE BAD: There is no talent around curry, just the promise of better things to come

THE UGLY:  Have you seen Marc White’s contract? This guy is going to earn almost 100 million averaging under 5 points. Good luck

OFFSEASON GRADE: F+

 

CALIFORNIA FIGHTING COCKS

Key Additions

Kelley Brandon, SF, 16.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 17.0 PER

Key Substractions

Victorino Pinelo, SG, 19.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.6 spg, 20.9 PER

THE GOOD: California keeps the team together. Losing Pinello won’t be a major factor since they have Beck and Watt. Brooklyn has opened the door and this could be the year, they have recently added Kelley Brandon, so, their future is not a concern while they go all-in this season

THE BAD: Wally Birkhead is a legend, but can he still perform at an elite level at 33? California has a thin frontcourt and Birkhead’s talents will be needed.

THE UGLY:  That payroll. Could they lose Brandon this offseason?

OFFSEASON GRADE: B-

 

 

SEATTLE RAINMAKERS

Key Additions

Justice Grant, C, 8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 15.6 PER

Key Substractions

None

THE GOOD: Seattle is not one of the worst teams in the league anymore. They have young players that will keep the team respectable, and some major flexibility with their cap room

THE BAD: Justce Grant has never lived up to his potential. We will see this new enviroment

THE UGLY:  Pat London is wasting his prime, it would be a good idea to trade him now.

OFFSEASON GRADE: C+

 

LAS VEGAS GAMBLERS

Key Additions

Vester Friedrich, SG, 17.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.6.0apg, 16.0 PER

Chad Nolan, C, 13.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 14.8 PER

Key Substractions

Rufus Castellano, SF, 18.2ppg, 6,2 rpg, 3.7 apg, 18.1 PER

THE GOOD: GM Morfeld is improving this team slowly. After winning 34, 36 ad 41 games, he is on pace to win 50 games this season. Most of their core is young and still improving

THE BAD: Vester Friedrich wants to test free agency. Not a good idea, but he wants to go to a contender. At this point, the Gamblers can’t afford a max contract under their budget

THE UGLY:  Chad Nolan’s contract is huge. Titanic’s iceberg level of huge. The worst part is that Vegas traded for him

OFFSEASON GRADE: C

 

ARIZONA DRAGONS

Key Additions

NONE

Key Substractions

Ajan Estay, PG, 21.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.9 apg, 23.4 PER

THE GOOD: They have an interim GM who is trying to stabilize the team. First of all, he is creating some serious cap room to add some meaningful players. At 7-22, they kept their pick and that’s a good start

THE BAD: No player in the current roster is a keeper

THE UGLY:  Who is going to want to play for this organization? While the new GM has made some huge work, the team has no talent at all

OFFSEASON GRADE: C+

 

 

 

 

WBA Fan Misery Index

The Fan Misery Index is all for fun. The scores were calculated based on overall team success and depth achieved in the playoffs. The higher the score, the more miserable the fan base. The lower the score, the more consistent success the team has achieved. Four teams have not made the playoffs during the current 6 season history…and it is no surprise which team has the least miserable fans.

Team Overall
Misery
Score
Summary
Bloods 60 6 straight seasons without a single playoff appearance. This team
has only exceeded 20 wins twice, with a high of 24. This season isn’t
looking much better, as the Bloods currently sit at 3-24. Bloods fans
cheer for the free t-shirts and hot dogs, but not much else.
Fury 60 Having never made the playoffs over the course of six seasons, Fury
fans are best described as being full of…fury. They are angry people.
After some offseason moves, and sitting at 10-13, the Fury are still in
the hunt to make the playoffs and the fan base is hopeful that player
development will finally get this team to the playoffs. Rumor has it
that they may even change the team name from the Fury to the
Frankfurt Calm once that happens.
Gargoyles 60 Six seasons, no playoffs. The greatest win total was 33 in 2013.
Currently at 3-22, the 2019 season doesn’t appear to be the one to
break that team record. Fans have been known to literally throw
stone gargoyles, and many can be seen around Los Angeles with bags
over their heads. Even the old churches in town are ashamed of their
historical architecture.
Warriors 60 One of the few teams to have not made the playoffs in the last six
seasons, the Warriors fans had some high hopes for this season. A 14-
13 start isn’t exactly what was expected, but is far from playoff
elimination. And, with only one season exceeding 30 wins, they are
on pace to break that record.
Hitmen 45 5 straight seasons missing the playoffs. Fans have come to expect
very little from this team. You would think that Hitmen would have
good aim, but shooting percentage is not a strong point for these
Hitmen. The story is told that more half-court shots by drunk fans
were made in one season than three-point shots by the team.
Pirates 45 These fans are approaching the end of the plank. Five consecutive
seasons ending early. The 2019 season has had a very promising
start, at 17-8. If something would happen to keep this team from the
playoffs, after the fans have envisioned success, don’t expect many
to be left to push away.
Rainmakers 45 Let it rain! Losses that is. A single playoff appearance last season
had fans feeling less depressed, but a 10-19 start to 2019 has
brought back reality. As if there wasn’t enough moisture already in
Seattle, the tears that these fans have shed could be raising sea
levels.
Snow Bears 45 What is a snow bear anyway? Are they real? Are they scary? I
thought maybe it was a kind of Care Bear. I had to google it and
apparently they are native to Westeros. While instantly making them
a more cool mascot, it unfortunately doesn’t make them any better
at basketball. It has been a long winter for these fans, but a 17-10
start is very promising.
Devils 25 Two straight seasons in the playoffs, the second of which went to the
second round, had Devils fans feeling good. But the very next
season, the team dropped their win total by 50 and ended at only 5
wins. The last few seasons have seen the win total on the rise, but
the 2019 season has not been kind so far. At 9-17, these fans may
feel like they’re in hell.
Counts 20 After four straight seasons of missing the playoffs, the Counts have
had back to back years reaching round 2. After 26 games, this season
appears as if that streak will end, as their record is 10-16. Unless
something changes, you can Counts them out this season, and the
fans’ misery will only worsen.
Burning Hell 15 The Burning Hell are on a cycle, missed playoffs followed by a round
1 exit. For six seasons, that cycle has been consistent. Routinely
around 40-45 wins, the Burning Hell had one really bad season with
only 10 wins before rebounding to improve by 30 games the next
season. With a stacked lineup, this season is looking very promising
for the Burning Hell, as they currently sit at 20-6, on pace for their
best record ever. Will this be the season that they advance past the
first round?
Fugu 15 Reaching round one in three of six seasons means this fan base isn’t
the most miserable. After back to back seasons of missing the
playoffs, fans were hopeful to get back this season. Starting 12-14,
the Fugu are in the hunt for a playoff spot. Finally the fans may be
able to stop yelling at the coach ” What the fugu doing?!?”
Hellcats 10 Three seasons in the playoffs and three out. Only one year reached
the second round. At 14-12, the playoffs are once again well within
reach, and fans will be eager to see how far their team can go.
Historically, they have played more like Hellkittens when it matters.
Fanatics 5 Three straight seasons of making the playoffs, followed by three
straight seasons staying home, Fanatics fans are maybe impatient,
but not the most deprived of success. At 13-12 to begin the 2019
season, there is a real chance that this could be the year that the
Fanatics make it back to the playoffs. Some young talent should
certainly make a Fanatics fanatic feel fanatical about the future.
Honey Bees 0 Remember hearing that Honey Bees were on the verge of extinction?
And then hearing that they appeared to be making a comback? Well,
fans feared that their Honey Bees were becoming irrelevent, missing
the playoffs in three of four seasons. But don’t sleep on Honey
Bees…With a current record of 20-9, the Bees are swarming.
Dragons -5 The Dragons have had moderate success, with four playoff
appearances – one of which made it to the second round. It’s a rough
season for the Dragons, with only 5 wins through 25 games. Anyone
who has seen Game of Thrones knows that Dragons can make a
comeback… This fan base is hoping that that proves true and that
they don’t have to wait for winter.
Gamblers -5 Not the most miserable, but not the happiest of people either.
Playoffs in four of six seasons, but only once in the second round.
Let’s be real, fans aren’t going to Vegas to watch this basketball
team. They go to Vegas to bet on how badly the team will let their
fan base down. This season has had a promising start at 18-9, but
the best odds show a first round playoff exit. Despite a decent
record, ticket sales still aren’t at 100% as traveling fans lose their
money at the casino across the street. What happens in Vegas, stays
in Vegas.
Pioneers -5 Colorado fans are high on their Pioneers. Round 1, Round 2,
Conference Finals…that is the last three seasons for the Pioneers. If
that trend continues, we should all be expecting them in the WBA
Finals. An 18-9 start appears as though they are well on their way.
Xtreme -5 Back to back seasons missing the playoffs aren’t the big deal…it is the
reduction in wins by 26 to only 18 last season that is extreme. It is
obvious that these fans are wanting more and want to see the
Xtreme back in the playoffs. At 12-15, the season is on the edge.
Perhaps a playoff push wasn’t in the cards this season.
Disco -10 Disco fans sure had a good run back in the day. Playoffs in four of six
seasons, with two reaching the second round, they never felt more
alive. A rough 5-21 start to the 2019 season may just prove that
Disco is dead.
Massacre -20 Making the playoffs in five of six seasons is far from misery. Having
only made it past the first round one time is the sole source of
disgust amongst Massacre fans. A promising 18-7 start has this fan
base picturing this team slicing through the playoffs.
Mayhem -35 A season removed from the WBA finals, the Mayhem have been a
common participant in the postseason. 5 straight trips to the
playoffs, and an 18-10 start to the 2019 season has the fans in Milan
expecting an encore trip to the finals. The rest of the league needs
Allstate to help protect from this Mayhem…
Fighting
Cocks
-50 The Fighting Cocks have had their fair share of success, making the
playoffs in all six seasons. Back to back seasons with 66 wins has the
fans feeling hopeful that this could be the year that they make the
WBA finals. At 25-3, they are well on their way and it may be finals
or bust. A weak, season-ending letdown and these fans may petition
to change the name of the fighting boneless chicken wings to “saucey
nuggs”.
Blues -60 The Blues have proven to be consistent in reaching the postseason. 1
trip to the conference finals and 3 trips to the second round have
kept this fan base entertained, but while they may not be miserable
from overall team performance, their only misery results from having
a taste of success without reaching the WBA finals. Having exceeded
50 wins in 4 of 6 seasons, this current season could potentially be the
worst for the Blues since 2013.
Dinos -65 Despite some recent struggles, the history of the Dinos runs pretty
deep. From 2014-2016, the Dinos reached the WBA Finals in three
straight seasons. Fans enjoyed the sustained success, but with a
record of 11-15 to begin the 2019 season these Dinos may become
extinct.
Firestorm -70 Firestorm fans have something that very few others around the
league have – a team that has a championship. After missing the
playoffs in 2013, the Firestorm rebounded to win the championship
the following season, and then proceeded to make the conference
finals the year after that. Injuries have led to a 12-14 start to the
2019 season, but don’t expect to see many fans feeling sorry for a
former champion.
Giants -70 Despite having never won a championship, the Giants are well
experienced in the playoffs. Conference finals in 2013 and 2018, with
1st or 2nd round exits in between. This fan base has been treated to
a consistent level of success that few others have experienced.
While hoping that the team would take one GIANT leap and make the
WBA finals, this season appears more like a step in the wrong
direction with a 13-16 record.
Outlaws -70 The first time the Outlaws reached the WBA finals, they followed it
up with a first round exit and then a season of missing the playoffs.
In 2016, the Outlaws made their second WBA finals and followed that
performance with a first round exit in the following season. Will the
2019 season result in missing the playoffs??? Certainly the fans are
hoping that the 15-12 start will take a turn for the better.
Zulus -85 Three trips to the conference finals and three other seasons ending
in the playoffs means the Zulus fans have been appeased. Winning is
an expectation and that expectation has been met with consistency.
All good things are eventually taken for granted, and Zulus fans are
beginning to expect the team to take the next step. A 12-16 start to
the 2019 season is the exact opposite of those hopes.
Rage -220 Screw their fans and their happiness. How’s that for Rage 🙂

 

Race to the Bottom- The 5 WBA Teams in the Tank

With every team now more than 20 games into the 2019-2020 season, a batch of contenders have emerged to challenge the perennial champion Brooklyn Rage. Teams like the California Fighting Cocks, Albacete Burning Hell, Las Vegas Gamblers, and Paris Honey Bees have drafted well, signed top free agents, and/or gotten the better end of trades to build a winning combination of players. However, for every winner, there is a loser and in this article we’re going to the other end of the spectrum to examine the teams currently having the worst records in the WBA, how they got there, and what their path forward might look like.

 

#5 Cincinnati Hitmen (7-18)

Six years removed from their last playoff berth in 2013, the Hitmen have been looking to build through the draft for the past few years, making 2 first round selections for the past three years. 5 of those players are still with the team, with only 2018 #3 overall pick Hancho Durrant moving on in a trade that brought them the Devils’ 2020 first round pick. With Tokyo right above them in the league standings, Cincinnati could be making two picks in the top 10 this year.

Prospects:

SG Bennett Bangertner- Picked 10th overall in 2017, Bangertner is showing good development as a scorer but really shining as a facilitator, leading the team with 5.2 assists per game while PG Eric Falk is taking the lead scoring role. Bangertner’s defense is a liability now and he will probably never be considered elite on that end, but he should be able to get to a point where he holds his weight on that end while being a major offensive asset. If his 3 point shooting and ability to drive to the rack continue to mature, he should become an All-Star in the league.

C Wimpy Critchfield- Drafted 12th last year and spending the entire season in the D-League, Wimpy has become the Hitmen’s first big man off the bench. Scoring from the post is his best strength at the moment, but the 7’2 Great Plains University alum has shown flashes of a jump shooting touch and good passing and handling instincts for a frontcourt player. His rebounding is also a work in progress, but with his frame it would be a surprise if he didn’t become elite in that category eventually. Like Bangertner, Critchfield’s limitations project to be on the defensive end, though with his size, strength, and leaping ability, he could become a shot blocking specialist. It may not be on his first contract, but Wimpy should also blossom into an All-Star player given time.

SF Asdrubal Aristia- The Hitmen’s pick at #6 this year, Asdrubal is cutting his teeth with the Cleveland Rockers in the D-League. Though a capable shooter, he’s probably never going to be a lead scoring option or even the #2 guy. Aristia will make up for it on the defensive end however, where he specializes in getting steals and can guard the entire floor. Certain scouts already believe he could be a better overall player than Bangertner or Critchfield, but his ceiling isn’t quite as high.

Top Current Players:

PF Sheldon Gorman- Acquired in free agency from Milwaukee in 2018 with a 4 year/$75 million contract, Gorman was the centerpiece of the Cincy offense last year, averaging a career high 17.1 points to lead the team. Sheldon is still the Hitmen’s best all-around player, anchoring their post defense and leading the team in rebounding. Now 30, Gorman has a player option in the 4th year of his deal and by that time the Hitmen may be hoping he doesn’t exercise it unless they’ve moved their way into contention.

SF Diego Blizzard- A 3-point shooting specialist who can also hold up his end on defense, Blizzard may be slightly overpaid on the 4 year, $31 mil deal he signed due to being a lackluster rebounder and a nonfactor scoring inside, but would be a great 6th man who could provide a spark at either SG or SF.

PG Eric Falk- A great deal for the next 2 years at just over a million per, the 25 year old is leading the Hitmen with over 22 PPG currently. The concerns with Falk are that he’s mediocre as a defensive player and doesn’t have the ballhandling or passing you would hope for from a point guard, and is probably too short at 6’1 to function effectively at the 2 guard spot. Like Blizzard, Falk would be a potent option off the bench if the Hitmen were able to find someone capable of supplanting his starting position, but he remains their best bet for now. He has recently been put on Cincinnati’s trade block as they search for a more natural fit.

Others:

SF Korey Earle is a former 2nd round pick who can function as a small forward or a power forward, if the 25 year old continues to improve he will live up to the 5 year, $50 million deal he is signed to. Center Alonso Staton, who has spent his entire career with the Hitmen, is a rebounding specialist in the final year of his contract who may be supplanted in Cincinnati by younger players. PG Yoshikazu Tawaraya is a fantastic defensive player and ballhandler, if he had either a 3 point shot or more passing talent he could be an all-star instead of a borderline starter.

Final Verdict:

The Hitmen field a capable team across the board, with most players having a defined strength but also being a liability in another area. What they are lacking is a lead superstar to build their team around, though their many first round picks have acquired prospects who could grow into that role.  With just over $50 million committed to their cap next year, the Hitmen could probably sign 1 impact free agent if they choose not to bring back Alonso Staton. Having 2 early first round picks is a nice boon- Cincinnati should use at least one on a ballhandling specialist point guard, they could go best player available with the other. There is definitely talent in house, it looks like the Hitmen are finally ready to turn the corner and compete for a playoff spot again next year or the year after.

 

#4 Arizona Dragons (5-21)

The Dragons have experienced a total roster turnover since their 2016 run to the Conference Semis in their first year in Arizona, their deepest run in recent history. In August of ‘19 the final holdover said goodbye- guard Ajan Estay, who had been their mainstay and leading scorer for several years and netted multiple players along with the Firestorm’s 2022 1st rounder in return. Nevertheless, at that point it could be said that the team did not expect to be competitive this year. Although they currently have the league’s 3rd highest payroll, a vast majority of that is expiring deals and the Dragons will most likely be players in free agency next year. Let’s look at the current roster and try to extrapolate what positions they might target.

Prospects:

SF Meechy Jennings- A former top 3 pick, Jennings has been starting for the Dragons and leads the team in scoring, shooting over 50% from the field in defiance of the scouts’ opinion of his skills there. Jennings projects more as a defensive standout and has some room to grow in that respect. He should spend most of his years in the league as a starter, but it’s questionable if he’ll ever become the kind of All-Star you would typically see from that high in the draft.

C Lamar DiAngelo- Lamar was a 1* recruit coming out of high school, rated as the #682 player in his class. He developed a ton at Mid-Atlantic University under coach Rob Arnold, and became the 13th pick in the 2018 draft. After starting most of the season last year, DiAngelo was busted down to the D League by the acquisition of Walter Walter in the aforementioned Ajan Estay trade to continue getting him minutes. His biggest strength is rebounding, though he’s coming along as a defender. His offensive game will probably never develop beyond the 8-10 PPG range so he may spend his career as a #2/#3 option in the post for teams.

PF Arlen Epps- Epps on the other hand, was a blue-chip recruit coming out of high school, the #6 overall recruit in the 2016 class. He lived up to that billing, being awarded National Freshman of the Year honors in the GCBA for Devi State University, as well as garnering a first team All-American selection. Epps jumped right into the draft and was selected by the Dragons with the #16 pick. He has spent most of his time in the D League and looks to be a solid player on both ends of the floor. Arlen needs to get a little more intensity on the boards to become a star, but the 20 year old should have a long career as a starter in the league.

Top Current Players:

C Walter Walter- Making $10 million this year with an identical player option for next year, Walter is probably the Dragons’ best player at the moment. He’s a reliable rebounder, a very good defender, capable as a scorer both with his back to the basket and facing up, and also possibly the team’s best ballhandler. If he opts in it might take minutes from one of Arizona’s prospects, but it would be good overall for the team.

SG Nicholas Evans- One of the few players signed to the Dragons beyond this season, Evans’ specialties are midrange jump shooting and perimeter defense. He is only shooting 28% from 3 on the year and is an awful passer, contributing heavily to Arizona’s assist problems this year. Evans is currently starting but might be better served as a heat check guy off the bench.

Others:

PF Marquez Houston and SG Wayne Taylor are expiring contracts currently making over $20 million each. Houston is starting and is 2nd on the team in scoring along with being their leading rebounder at 9.4 per game, but his plus minus is over 2 points worse than fellow starter and prospect Jennings. Taylor averages 25 PPG in his WBA career but is currently hardly playing, as an age decline hit the 33 year old hard. Tony Shumaker has come straight from the D League into the starting PG role, but the responsibility of facilitating the offense have been too much for him, he is currently just outside the bottom 5 in the league in plus/minus.

Final Verdict:

The Dragons do have two first rounders this year, but the Honey Bees’ pick will probably land in the 20’s. It seems pretty clear that point guard is the biggest need, with shooting guard right behind. The Dragons should have the cap space to fill one of those holes with a top free agent and draft the other. They might be a couple years away from jumping back into the playoffs, it depends on what kind of moves they can make.

 

#3 London Disco (5-22)

The Disco were a playoff team for 4 of the past 6 years, advancing to the 2nd round in 2015 and 2017. However, they were promtply swept there both times and resorted to the trade market to press the reset button on the team. Their latest exchange with the Massacre yielded 2 of the organization’s current building blocks in Matias Gutierrez and Cetus Vlahakis at the cost of 2018 leading scorer Casey Pointer and next year’s first round pick. As a result, London will be looking to build as quickly as possible this offseason with no reward for a low finish next year.

Prospects:

C Cetus Vlahakis- The 15th overall pick in the most recent draft, Cetus has been thrown into the fire in London, starting immediately. While Vlahakis is taking his lumps and has the lowest +/- on the team, the 22 year old Greek rookie is gaining valuable experience and playing at a higher level than many projected. He is an effective scorer from the post who can grab rebounds and defend the paint, it wouldn’t be outlandish to think he could become an All-Star by the end of his rookie contract.

PG Evan Bobbins- Taken 2 picks before Vlahakis at pick 13, Bobbins is a 19 year old who went one-and-done from Yellowhammer State after being a 5 star recruit (coincidentally, also rated 13th coming out of high school). A phenomenal athlete, Bobbins is still mediocre at both ends of the floor and while projected to become a capable shooter and defender, may be too much of a developmental prospect to help London in the near future.

Top Current Players:

PG Matias Gutierrez- A former 4th overall pick who already has 6 years of starting experience at age 25, Gutierrez is a consistent scorer and defender who rebounds well for his position and rates as the Disco’s best overall player. Under team control for the next 3 years, Gutierrez seems to be miscast as a ball distributing point guard and would probably fare better if London could find someone who specializes in that role to play beside him. New GM Earl Breese is said to be high on Gutierrez and has resisted trade packages for the Argentinian who is just entering his prime.

PF Juwan Bixby- Brought to the Disco in a 2017 trade, Bixby made his lone all-star team in that season after nearly averaging a double double with 20.3 PPG and 9.9 rebounds per game. Now 32, Bixby is still starting and holding his own on both ends of the court but no longer playing at the level he was when he originally signed his 5 year/ 75 million dollar deal. It’s rumored that London would like to move his salary to free up cap space for next year, but it might be hard to find a trade partner willing to part with an expiring contract.

SF Cordell Parks- Coming to London in the same trade that netted Bixby, Parks was an All-Star for 5 straight years from 2013-2017 but has noticeably regressed in his age 32 season and has missed the last month with a torn abdominal muscle. With a 27 million dollar contract expiring this year, Parks is most likely playing his final season in a Disco uniform.

Others:

SG Frank Ryan just signed a 4 year extension with London paying him around 19 million. The 29 year old is undersized, but a dead eye 3 point shooter when allowed the chance to spot up, currently ranking 3rd in the league at 48%. He is also still an effective perimeter defender. 31 year old Quade Nash is on a 3 year deal which actually gets cheaper each year and is still a tenacious rebounder and paint protector. His scoring leaves something to be desired but he’s probably properly positioned as the first big off the bench.

Final Verdict:

London has a few talented players, but lacks much in the way of depth. Having Bobbins play significant minutes is a problem for the Disco, and they will have to use their first round pick on either a PG who is more ready to play or a SF to replace Parks. They will have cap space next year, but possibly not enough to offer a max contract. Without their 2021 pick, London is in a tough spot and will have to make a few smart acquisitions in free agency to improve their team from the cellar.

 

#2 Los Angeles Gargoyles (3-22)

The Gargoyles have no playoff appearances in the past 6 years, and it seems the former GM was getting increasingly desperate to break that streak, trading first rounders that became very high draft picks for current players in an attempt to win immediately. For the first time in a few years, L.A. has retained its own pick along with the Fury’s first rounder, and also hold two first rounders next year. As their record indicates, they will need to do some team building from the foundation up. One major positive for the team is the amount of cap space they currently possess for 2020; with only $33 million currently on the books they should be able to prize away a top free agent.

Prospects:

SF David Poland- Originally a 2nd round pick, Poland has already been extended at a manageable salary for the next 4 years. The 21 year old is competent in most areas and an above average passer for his position. If L.A. puts in some extra work with him, he could certainly outplay his contract.

C Randal Ramirez- Randal was picked 23rd overall by the Gargoyles in the 2018 draft after being considered a top 5 prospect as a JuCo before signing with Jersey State. Standing 6’9, Ramirez relies on brute strength in the post, and is a skilled back to basket interior shooter who cleans the glass and blocks shots on the defensive end. Though he’s only currently logging around 8 minutes a game, his .556 FG% is impressive for a 2nd year player.

Top Current Players:

PG Jeremy Aarons- Having just landed in LA as part of a 3 way trade from the Fort Worth Warriors, the 6’6 30 year old has been plugged in at Small Forward for the Gargoyles. He’s strong enough to work as the 3, but as one of the best ballhandlers in the league it’s hard to say his natural position is anywhere but the point.

SG William Curry- Originally drafted at #16 overall, Curry was traded to the Gargoyles in 2016 and the team has done their best to develop the skilled shooter. He leads L.A. in scoring this year and while his defense could only be considered average, the 25 year old has no glaring weaknesses in his game.

C Mark White- Signed to a 5 year/$95 million deal in the offseason, Mark White is a shot blocking specialist who relentlessly pursues rebounds. Offensively, he is averaging less than 5 PPG but possesses a soft touch on his jump shot. White was 2nd Team all defense last year and anchors the middle for the Gargoyles.

Others:

24 year old PG Richie Reddy is a good hand on defense and a top shelf passer, but gets more than his share of turnovers for someone who isn’t a primary scoring option. 35 year old SG Nikos Atriedes was an All Star from 2013-2015 but is now past his prime, his -11.8 +/- in around 25 minutes a game is one of the lowest in the league. Currently making a shade over $19 million, he will most likely be taking a massive pay cut if he gets a contract at all next year.

Final Verdict:

The Gargoyles have about as much talent as their record indicates. They definitely have the resources to improve their roster going forward, but change won’t come overnight. With 4 first rounders over the next two years, L.A. should be focused on the future and look to take the best player available to them in the draft. As far as free agency goes, the team would be best served targeting players still on the upside of their careers.

 

#1 Sydney Bloods (3-24)

The Bloods are another team who has been out of the playoffs for the last 6 years, and stuck in the teens in terms of victories for the last 4. They were another team to fall victim to the lure of trading draft picks that ended up being in the top few for players that didn’t end up helping them win. They finally broke that curse and ended up drafting at #1 in 2017, following that up with top four selections in the next two years. There is a surprising amount of talent here for a team with the worst record in the league and Sydney is capable of rising up the standings just by the natural progression of who they already have, but they are still in pole position for another extremely high pick.

Prospects:

PF Andrew Jaimes- A collegiate star at Heavenly Holy Academy, Jaimes was drafted with the 11th overall pick in 2017 and traded to Sydney in the most recent offseason. An offensive specialist, Jaimes can score in the post and is developing his jump shot, he is currently shooting over 90% on free throws so there is good reason to believe he can become a talented faceup scorer. He has good instincts on the offensive glass, but at 6’8 his post defense relies primarily on his strength and shotblocking. Andrew has been a starter for most of 2 years already, and could be the rare big man who consistently averages 20 PPG.

SF Roylen Fillum- Selected with the #4 pick last year, the 20 year old Fillum was a 5* prospect coming out of high school who went one-and-done from Columbus Poly University. Roylen is an explosive athlete and a pure shooter, but his tendency to gamble for steals instead of focusing on lockdown defense is a concern, as well as his reluctance to pass. Fillum is the type of prospect who might take some work to be a valuable starter, but can change a game when he’s in the zone.

C Darrell Goldsmith- A 7 footer who was taken 19th overall by the Bloods this year, Goldsmith is a raw prospect who is spending his first year in the D League, where he is currently working his way through an injury. Most scouts think Goldsmith possesses the potential to acquire the skills of a traditional big man, but the only one that becomes apparent when watching him currently is his knack for pulling down offensive rebounds.

Top Current Players:

SG Amaury de Schutter- Taken #1 overall by Sydney in 2017, de Schutter was originally projected to be a defensive mastermind adept at forcing turnovers, but entering his third year starting for the Bloods he leads the team in scoring as well. He’s a good all around defender and does lead the team in steals, but the 21 year old has room to grow on both ends of the court.

SF Valentin Muntean- Though he was just drafted this year (at #4), the Romanian SF has to already be considered one of the Bloods’ premier players, displacing de Schutter from his natural position as a 3 up to shooting guard. Muntean is a better post defender and rebounder, already snagging an impressive 2.6 offensive rebounds per game. His jump shot is already respectable as well. It’s pretty clear that Valentin will be making all-defense teams in his career, and should become an All-Star for several years as well.

PF Brian Armstrong- A 30 year old who weighs in at a beefy 308 lbs. Armstrong has all the skills of an ideal big: scoring inside, rebounding, and protecting the paint. His weight may hold him back from being as valuable as his talents appear though, as he’s never been able to average 30 minutes per game in a season despite being a starter for 7 years now. Set to make in the $12 million range for the next 2 years, Armstrong will be a valuable bridge as the Bloods’ young bigs gain experience.

Others:

PG Sammy Crayton is the only natural 1 guard on the roster and while offensively he’s certainly heading in the direction of what you would want out your floor general, the 23 year old’s defense is mediocre. 27 year old Djoka Andjelic starts at center for Sydney, the 7 footer is pretty much an average starter all around whose specialties are defense and offensive rebounding. PF Kyle Hawkins has made some spot starts for the Bloods and is the team’s most successful 3 point shooter at 41%; however, Sydney does rank last in the WBA overall from that range.

Final Verdict:

Sydney has all their picks going forward, but the only position where they aren’t stocked with a top prospect currently is PG. They should be looking in that direction in this draft, as they’re likely going to be moving up the standings next year just looking at the young talent they have acquired in the past 3 years. They have some cap room going in to next year and could possibly add a veteran shooter to help their scoring struggles.