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.


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