THE Playoff Preview
By Ron Chambers
I felt going into these playoffs that they were very different than last year. But, I was wrong. 13 of the 16 teams in the playoffs were in the playoffs last year. What is different is that three of the top four teams in the World Conference were not in the top four last year. So, there has been some shakeup just less than I was thinking.
What may be the biggest change this year is that Brooklyn is vulnerable. Brooklyn has won four straight championships and has been 64-10 over that stretch. They were a perfect 16-0 last year with probably the best team in WBA history. The year before they were 16-1. They haven’t been in a game seven in four years since the 2016 finals with Toronto.
It seems strange to argue that a team with 71 wins that was 19-2 over the last 8 weeks of the season is vulnerable but it is true. California only finished a game behind and Boston finished with sixty wins and gave Brooklyn one of those two losses to end the season. If they do make it to the finals, Paris gave them the other loss. Paris and Albacete are both much improved and finished with at least 60 wins. Brooklyn is still the favorite but they could easily get knocked out and they certainly won’t have an easy stroll.
#1 Albacete (62-18) vs. #8 Cape Town (41-39)
Albacete won the season series 3-1.
The Burning Hell got a bad reputation a few years ago for tanking. But, they tanked right. They got talent and were patient to develop and build around it. Lonny Jordan has become a true stud this year after a painful suspension last year. The addition of Dan Kincaide gives this team two legitimate stars. And, those two are just the tip of this talented iceberg. They won both sixth man of the year, Ahmed Dougherty, and Most improved, Lonny Jordan.
It is strange not to see Cape Town near the top of the World Conference. Abdiel Gordon is still one of the best players in the league but the COnference has gotten much better and despite still having a good talent level they just weren’t able to get everything to mesh this year.
Albacete has the most prolific offense this year averaging 120.3 points per game. The Zulus do have a top 10 defense but they are not a shutdown defense. The question here is if Abdiel Gordon can carry the Zulus on his back past a truly stacked Albacete team. The answer is no.
Albacete wins 4-1
#4 Cancun (50-30) vs. #5 Mexico City (48-32)
Cancun won the season series 4-0.
This was going to be an interesting match up. Cancun only finished two games ahead of Mexico City. But, they swept the season series. Add to that that Gehold Verholm missed more than half the season but is now healthy and it was looking like a big win for Cancun. Then, right at the end of the season, both Timi Rambuka and Ed Summerall had, likely, season-ending injuries. Summerall broke his foot and Rambuka tore a ligament. The Outlaws just can’t catch a break. To make it worse, they just don’t have much depth at the guard position. Parker Mason’s name still inspires respect but his game no longer does. It will be interesting to see how the Cancun coaching staff tries to manage this disaster. Their bigs are so talented that they could make this interesting.
Mexico City is an up and coming team that saw what Chris Dao can do last postseason when he led a HUGE upset of the #1 seeded Outlaws who had an injured Clement Trentesols. It looks like there may be an upset again this year and also because of injuries. Cancun just can’t catch a break.
Mexico City wins 4-1
#2 Paris (60-20) vs. #7 Milan (46-34)
Paris won the season series 3-0.
Last year Milan had a hard-fought and impressive road to the WBA finals where they were dominated by the Rage. But, they no longer have Jarod Roe or Angelo Bacchi. They just aren’t the same. Not to mention that the Honey Bees are not last year’s Predators. New management had really revived this franchise increasing their win total by 23 games in the regular season. The coach of the year award was well deserved. Many doubted whether they would have the scoring punch they needed to truly compete. But, Jervan Timmons with the right pieces around him is ALWAYS a threat. Power Forward Lane Saunders may be one of the biggest surprises in the WBA this year. He went from a bench player in Moscow averaging 17 minutes and 9.6 points to a star averaging 22.7 points to lead the Honey Bees. He also had his most efficient season shooting over 59% from the floor. Paris really took a team approach this year with a roster that, with the exception of Jervan Timmons, is not filled with household names. But, let’s not pretend that this team isn’t all about the star power of Jervan Timmons. He had his best scoring year of his career with 17.1 points while still dishing out 13.8 assists an astounding 6.71 assist to turn over ration. Oh, and he also managed to nab 4.8 steals a game. We haven’t seen steal numbers like this since Bobby Egan was in his prime.
Paris wins 4-0.
#3 Moscow (51-29) vs. #6 Barcelona (46-34)
Barcelona won the season series 3-1.
Barcelona is still a good team but the loss of Marc White was brutal for them. But, they were smart not to overpay him to keep him from bolting to Los Angeles. This team has always been a little strange running four smalls and a big. But, Marc White was the anchor they needed. Hamilton Robbins just isn’t to that level yet. Without a forceful center, Chris Aranda becomes even more of a liability.
The Snow bears are all about the star power of Kenyatta Davison and Chris Acklin. There isn’t a better young duo in the league. they combined for 49 points and 13.6 rebounds in the regular season. Charlie Meyers really enjoys passing to these two. Their problem is on defense. They ranked #22 in points allowed during the season. Their powerful offense hid the problem but in the playoffs that won’t work long. Though I expect it will work in the first round. Despite being well handled by Barcelona in the regular season I suspect Moscow will pull out a close series.
Moscow wins 4-3
#1 Brooklyn (71-9) vs #8 Kansas City (40-40)
Brooklyn won the season series 4-0.
Kansas City was a point guard short of truly competing last season. So, they traded for Omar Jefferson to fill that spot. But, they gave up a lot to get him and actually ended up moving Jefferson to shooting guard. The real problem in Kansas City is defense. Jeremy Sims is a great defender and some argue the best player in the league. Walt Jackson is a great offensive player but mediocre on defense. Jefferson is a decent defender but he really relied on the other players in Brooklyn to shut down opponents. There is no way this struggling defense will be able to stop one of the league’s top offenses in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn on the other hand is a top-tier defense. They ranked #3 in points allowed and #2 in points scored. They also had some of the league’s best margins in rebounds, steals, and blocks. If Mario Bailey hadn’t missed 30 games with an injury they may have ranked even higher. Mario Baily, the four-time MVP is healthy and ready for the playoffs. He lost his MVP role last year to Jeremey Sims and then this year Jarius Miles took up the mantle. So in this series, the MVP in six of the last season will be playing. The problem form Kansas City is that five of those six MVP awards went to Brooklyn players.
Brooklyn wins 4-1
#4 Colorado (55-25) vs #5 Gamblers (43-37)
Las Vegas won the season series 2-1.
Colorado took a lot of heat for sticking with Edgar Kamara as his starting point guard. In the end, Colorado still had a good season but they did accumulate nine fewer wins than last year. Colorado’s top four players Henderson, Lyons, Devine, & Kinsey are as good as any in the league. Back-up point guard Jarion Harris is also a better player than Kamara and played more minutes. The strength of Colorado, as always, is their defense. Offensively, they are rather mediocre but that is good enough with their tough defense. While Colorado has great talent on the top of their roster and drops off quickly, Las Vegas, on the other hand, does not have the same level of top talent but they do have tremendous depth. This team, however, is terrible defensively. They rank #29 in points allowed. Despite winning the season series, I do not believe the Gamblers have what it take to beat Colorado in the playoffs.
Colorado wins 4-2
#2 California (70-10) vs #7 Salt Lake City (42-38)
California won the season series 2-1.
Even without 22-year-old stud Kelley Brandon, who is out with an injury, California may be the deepest team in the league. Not only are they deep but their stars Kurt Beck and Hassan Watt match up with any other power duo in the league. They are a top 5 offense and the league’s #1 defense. It is not surprising that this roster won 70 games. What is surprising is that the Fanatics won a game in this series. The Fanatics may well be the team of the future. Irving, Walton, Lurdes, and Wambaugh are all expected to eventually be stars. No player on their playoff roster is older than 25 (Fonzarelli is injured). But, as much potential as this team has in the future, they may have overachieved this season… which bodes well for the future. But, this is now. California has the far superior roster.
California wins 4-0
#3 Boston (60-20) vs #6 Fort Worth (43-37)
Boston won the season series 2-1.
This was a good year for GMs with the last name Lawrence. Boston had an impressive 16 win improvement. They are talented and deep. Despite falling off some in the last third of the season they hung with Brooklyn and California for most of the season. They are one of only two teams to have three players average 20+ points and all of their starters averaged at least 16 points. They are a top 10 offense and a top 5 defense. They also happen to have the best rebounding margin in the league. There is no real weakness on this team….other than the fact that they foul too much. Fort Worth started the season with high hopes. They were hoping that their big offseason acquisitions Whittaker and Kinkaide would lead them to the promised land. After a slow start, they shipped away Kinkaide and rounded their team off a little better. One big surprise has been how well Curtis Starman has continued to score on this now very talented roster. They will certainly miss the defense of Polikarp Dragunas in the playoffs. He was very important to this defense that ranked #25 in the league.
Boston wins 4-1