Playoff Team Preview
By Mike Begley
Ladies and gentlemen we are in April and for the first time in forever I will not be able to visit the wine country in Cape Town for the WBA playoffs; I made reservations to attend during Cape Town’s draft lottery party. We will still have the pleasure of watching Abdiel Gordon give it his all in Gabon.
Another WBA playoff battle is upon us let us meet the contenders.
#1 California Fighting Cocks
Hassan Watt is in his 6th season and has yet to attend the WBA finals. Oh, wait he did attend once to congratulate Mario Bailey on his gazillionth Finals MVP. Will this be the year he gets over the hump or will he be ceremoniously dismantled again by an aging Bailey? That’s why we tune in to watch. We can’t say this year’s Cocks are improved over last year’s as the team ages. Nonetheless, the big 3 of Watt, Kincaide, and Beck are undoubtedly the best trio in the league. Though with Beck and Kincaide in their 30’s it may be now or never for California’s championship window. This drive may push them over the top or Mario Bailey may just be kryptonite.
#2 Brooklyn Rage
With Jarius Miles missing significant time due to injury the Brooklyn Rage will enter the postseason as the number two seed. Don’t let this red herring fool you. The Brooklyn Rage are the defending champs and bring back almost the exact same squad as last year’s powerhouse. And you can bet Rondall Reynoso is not one to go quietly into the night. The Rage are now healthy heading into the postseason, and last I checked there is no better defensive team than the Rage with Jarius Miles on the floor limiting teams to a league-low 91 points per game with his sole presence. No doubt, the Rage are the favorites, still.
#3 Boston Massacre
Since my playing days, the Boston Massacre have yet to make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs so it’s hard to take a team like this too seriously. This is a team efficient on both ends of the floor, well managed, and well coached but seems to lack a spark. It was hoped Dao could provide that spark, but he just doesn’t seem to get enough touches. If you ask me Askins is asking for an exit if he can’t lead his team past the second round.
#4 Fort Worth Warriors
It’s good to see Reed Moses in a WBA uniform and the Fort Worth Warriors with homecourt advantage in the first round. This is an exciting, physical team. However, considering this is a veteran squad with half the team over 30 they still place no value in protecting the ball with a league worse 17.6 turnovers per game. When your best player Curtis Starman leads the league in turnovers it sets the tone for the rest of the team. Could we see an upset in the first round? Likely, and not in Fort Worth’s favor.
#5 Los Angeles Gargoyles
The Los Angeles Gargoyles prove I know nothing about basketball or the WBA. I never thought this team would ever again make the playoffs. However, under the sound direction of Gerald Tessier this team may in fact advance to the second round of the playoffs. They don’t score much but they also don’t turn the ball over recklessly. It will be a contrast of styles in the first round, but I see the Gargoyles coming out of the first round on top.
#6 Salt Lake City Fanatics
The Salt Lake experiment may forever be seen as a failure and Brad Bangerter forever perceived as a tortured genius who never recovered after he lost his precious Abel Debuisnes, only to follow up that loss with Alston Irving. That the Fanatics are still in the playoffs is a testament to what could have been. Nonetheless, if Brad decides to show up to coach his team we may see an upset in the first round with Salt Lake taking vengeance on the powers that be.
#7 Colorado Pioneers
We’ve all heard of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and if you have followed the WBA you have witnessed the rise and fall of the Colorado Pioneers. Marc Hameleers took this team from the bottom of the league to the conference finals, and now as nature continues its motion as the ocean waves return to the sea this team seems to be receding back to the depths. Gone is the glue in Edgar Kamara who has yet to catch on with even a D-league team at the ripe old age of 33. Wilmer Zamora was supposed to be the future who would keep the engine going but after early promise ran out of steam. And so, Colorado has three 30 year old, well paid aging former stars to give it their best. Anything is possible.
#8 Doesn’t matter
My apologies, no team with a 43% winning percentage merits mention in a playoff preview article. We currently have the Kansas City Blues (responsible for Brooklyn’s last championship) and the Toronto Dinos battling it out for the distinction to be swept by the Fighting Cocks.
#1 Paris Honey Bees
These bees have one job and that is to protect the queen in this case Paris, as the team is currently undefeated at home. Now, this is likely to change eventually but nonetheless commendable given several of its ranks were picked off waivers or signed for low-level contracts. I mean who really is starting power forward Don Sellers? After reaching the finals last season and getting ceremoniously swept these bees aim is to make lots of honey in the playoffs.
#2 Albacete Burning Hell
Albacete made a killing in free agency luring several souls to hell apparently photoshopping pictures of Barcelona and writing Albacete in their recruitment brochures (unconfirmed rumor). Whatever marketing tactic employed this team is markedly improved over last year’s squad especially when newcomer Kelley Brandon sees the floor. Kelley seems to hit just the right notes to make Lonny sing in tune with Irving. With both Albacete and Paris improving it will be a higher octane conference finals if these two meet again.
#3 Moscow Snow Bears
Reaching 50 wins last season with two of the league’s emerging stars we expected a marked improvement from Moscow. The team can score with the best heck just take turns between feeding Acklin or Kenyatta, so then, perhaps Coomas Neetar is not the answer as a third wheel. Some things we don’t understand like why Zachary Wise led the league in minutes. Or why Acklin was moved to small forward when he flourished as a shooting guard in his rookie year? The question is in the answer.
#4 Gabon Giants
The cat is out of the bag with news that Artie Duggons will be joining the Gabon Giants in time for the WBA playoffs. This is huge for Gabon as they combine perhaps the best big man of all time in Abdiel Gordon with possibly the best big man of the future in Artie Duggons – can the two get in sync and sing in harmony? We shall see! Gabon has recovered well after ending their playoff streak last season GM Simon Drapeau went to work shoring up the defense while simplifying the offense. All the while taking time to generously gift promising young Bobbie Mason.
#5 Barcelona Counts
We all heard rumors Corey Daubanton would finally unleash Andrew Holmes at power forward. Alas, this was not the case as the Counts kept it old school with the same tried and true formula that has consistently taken the team to round two of the playoffs. And as I wonder who has the best job in the world I get my answer: Carlito Carmona, $8 million to travel the world and score 7 points in twenty minutes.
#6 Long Island Mayhem
Somewhere along the line Michael Esposito grew satisfied with a finals appearance and decided to rebuild while remaining competitive. Once upon a time Silvino Eufrazio was a young rookie now he seems to be on his way down past his prime. Blossom by blossom the spring ends. Nonetheless, the Mayhem have several up and coming youngsters ready to make their mark. Perhaps this new era will begin with a playoff upset over the Snow Bears.
#7 Cancun Outlaws
Why is Cancun low in the playoff standings is it because Pat Fullum spends his time in Merida rooting on his beloved Bahlam? Or is it because Gerhold Verholm keeps getting hurt? Beats me as the Outlaws still play exceptional defense. In the talented World Conference, this is a tough draw for any team especially a team that worked hard to earn a top seed.
#8 Nigeria Pirates
These Pirates are led by an exceptional young talent in Heinrich Rarich. Unfortunately, Stephen Harrelson is not living up to his price tag of $15 million. I can name three D-league players off the top of my head who can contribute more to a WBA team than Harrelson. To prove this, these players are: Mathew Norwood, Lamar Cox and Dennis Dufour. Yes, all free agents available for the minimum.
For the first time in many many a year we might see a world champion emerge from the World Conference. For many a year this conference was severely underfunded as USA conference teams made millions off “realistic” NBA (whatever that is) luxury suites allowing them the cap room to pay exorbitant prices to retain any free agent. Will justice prevail or will the Rage keep on swimming in their 4,400 club seats? Tune in on Reddit WBA streams. We shall see!