2021 WBA Playoff first round predictions
by Timmy Frenchie
Nigeria Pirates vs Paris Honey Bees
(Paris won season series 3-0)
After an impressive 60 wins season where they reach the Finals, the Honeybees were even better this year with a team record of 73 wins. It ranked as the 3rd best season in WBA history. Only one team (Brooklyn), has won more games in a regular season. Jervan Timmons is the key to this team success, leading the league with an incredible 15.5 assists per game. This is the 2nd best all-time assist average in a season, trailing only Chuck Henderson who had 15.98 in the 2003-04 season. Joining Timmons in the backcourt is defensive expert Marcus Rogers, as they average almost a combined 8 steals per game. It is very uncommon to see 2 players from the same team topping the steals leader’s category. In his second season, young big man Klemens Eberle also has been all they can hope for. With that kind of regular season performance, general manager Adrian Arceo has only one goal this post-season. Win it all.
Newcomer Kevin Hitch is quickly making a name for himself as a WBA general manager. In his first campaign with the Pirates, a team that has missed the playoffs for 6 consecutive years, he managed to put them right back in the mix. Let us not forget that the World Conference is crowed with talented teams. Nigeria had to fight hard all season long to get in front of young and hungry squads like Tokyo, Sydney, London and Fury. Nigeria should enjoy the moment, whatever happens next.
The Pirates are still celebrating after clinching that last playoffs spot while the Honeybees are ready to bulldoze their way to the Finals. Paris outscored Nigeria by a total of 80 points over a 3 games span in the regular season. They are even rumor that Bobbie Mason, who dominated in the Dleague, might join the Honey Bees for their playoffs run. That Pirates ship will sink fast.
Prediction: Paris over Nigeria in 4
Cancun Outlaws vs Albacete Burning Hell
(Season series split 2-2)
The Burning Hell have now back-to-back 60+ wins season, which is no easy task in today’s competitive WBA. Even if they got 65 wins this season, it feels like they took a step back. They lost the World Conference top spot to Paris, a team that dismantled them in last year Conference Finals. Having said that, Lonny Jordan has become one of the league’s best player even at only 24 years of age. And general manager Pedro Alcaraz did some major retooling this season, brining young studs like Alston Irving and Kelley Brandon to re-vamp this squad. Those moves should pay off in the next few season regarding championship aspirations, but this unit might need a little time to get good cohesion in place. Also, can a team that ranked almost last in 3pts shooting efficiency be the last one standing in today’s long distance gunning era?
The Outlaws had a great first half of season and were 27-10 in late January. They were then hit by injuries to key players as both Gerhold Verholm and Timi Rambuka had to miss extended period of time. Even though general manager Pat Fullum had assembled a solid bench for this squad in the offseason, Cancun had trouble piling up wins in the second half of the season as their schedule was getting more difficult. Trentesols is still in the conversation as league best big man, and he finished the regular season with some magnificent performances. Cancun has a solid and experienced group of players, and they are dangerous comes playoffs time. They were in the WBA Finals 3 years ago. And they reached the Conference Finals 4 years ago while being the 7th seed. They must be taken seriously.
This is not your usual 2 vs 7 matchup. Both teams hold serve on their own floor for their regular season meetings. Albacete might appear superior in regard of talents but that could backfire if they approach this series with too much confidence. Beside last year post-season run, Albacete has not won a playoffs series in the modern WBA era. This should be a long series and it could come down to which coach makes the proper adjustments. I might surprise some with this bold predictions, but I think playoffs and championship experience will prevail.
Prediction: Cancun over Albacete in 6
Milan Mayhem vs Moscow SnowBears
(Season series split 2-2)
The Snow Bears just finished another regular season with 50+ wins, as they captured the division title. That is good enough to get the 3rd seed in the Conference. The success of Eric Steele’s team relies heavily on the shoulder of their Stars trio (Chris Acklin, Kenyatta Davidson and Coomas Neetar). It is even surprising at some degree that Moscow was able to obtain such a high seed in the standings without having much depth around their core players. Veteran Charlie Meyers, even way past his prime, was still able to lead this group as their floor general. But an unfortunate injury at the end of the season puts him out of action for the next month, making him very doubtful to play again this season. The Snow Bears still finished the season strong, but how far can they go without Meyers leadership when the competition will get stiffer.
When general manager Michael Esposito traded away his main star Damien Bohm to Toronto last season, it became clear that Milan had begun a rebuilding process. That meant also giving tons of playing time to rookies Archemous Verga and Heinrich Stoebener. This could have been a transition year, out of the playoffs picture, to plan the future. While the Mayhem did not obtain the same level of regular season success we are used to see (they had won at least 55 games for the last 3 season), veterans Silvino Eufrazio and Lakar Everidge were able to ride this ship to a very respectable 7th place and more importantly keeping that 7 year playoffs streak alive.
These two teams are very similar in many areas which should result in a very entertaining series. With both rosters fully healthy, I would pick Moscow to run away with the W without too much sweat. But the loss of point guard Meyers really hurts them as his replacement Lacy Toomer is not the same type of player. In the end, the best player on the floor should be able to lead his squad to victory with both his scoring and playmaking skills. It is up to you Chris Acklin.
Prediction: Moscow over Milan in 6
Gabon Giants vs Barcelona Counts
(Season series split 2-2)
The Counts would be ranked higher in the seedings if it were not for the fact that they are in the same division as powerhouses Paris and Albacete. It is team that does not get that much publicity, but they steadily won a playoffs series for 3 consecutive years. While the Counts are led in scoring for the 5th consecutive season by shooting guard Primo Bugeja, they like to spread the rest of the scoring among multiples players. They also are very efficient at it having the best points per shots of the entire league as a team. Center Hamilton Robins also gives them a strong inside presence both offensively and defensively. Can Corey Daubanton lead the Counts to a 4th playoffs series victory in 4 year?
Last season was a disaster for the Giants. Even if it was a transition year, things were much worse than expected. General manager Simon Drapeau must be glad things are back on track this year as the Giants won 22 more games in the regular season. To be back in the playoffs picture was one of team’s goal so you can already check that off from the list. Gabon fans are so thankful to have WBA living legend Abdiel Gordon on board, who had arguably his most efficient season in his 12 seasons career. This future hall of famer was magnificent all season long in getting this franchise back where it belongs.
Like most of the world conference first round series, this one should be closely contested. Giants perimeter players will have their hands full trying to contain all those scoring options for the Counts. Barcelona will have to counter Mathias Kurz immense rebounding force. Homecourt, own by Barcelona, should be a difference maker in tight games. If Gordon can be the best player on the floor, the Giants have a chance.
Prediction: Barcelona over Gabon in 7
Toronto Dinos vs California Fighting Cock
(California won season series 2-1)
After finishing as the USA Conference second seed for 3 years in a row, the Fighting Cocks have finally surpassed the Rage in one area… regular season wins. This could be the first step leading to greater accomplishments, like reaching the WBA Finals and winning the championship. Home-court advantage could be key if these two powerhouses meet in the Conference Finals. Hassan Watt, Kurt Beck and newcomer Dan Kincaide have combined for an imposing 72 points per game, making this trio difficult to defend for any team in the league. General manager Justin Lawrence also acquired big man Marc White this season, who could be a difference maker down low with his great defensive and rebounding skills. This franchise has been patiently waiting for a shot at the holy grail, and this year could very well be the moment they have been waiting for.
The Toronto Dinos clinched the USA Conference last playoffs spot at the last minute, getting in front of the Kansas City Blues. This playoffs appearance breaks a 3-year drought, which is a sign that the arrow is pointing up for Toronto. The interim general Manager has to get recognition for acquiring Superstar Damien Bohm this offseason. With him on board for multiple years, management should be able to build around him having some nice financial flexibility. Pat London was also a nice acquisition as a free agent. We are still far from the not so long ago Dinos glory days, were they captured 3 conference titles in a row. But this team is headed in the right direction.
Toronto performed decently against the Fighting Cocks this regular season, winning one game, and losing the others by 4 and 19 points. It is difficult to see California stumble that early in the playoffs, as they only lost consecutive games once during the entire regular season. Maybe the Dinos can steal one game if Bohm or London has a monster game. Too much talent in California to let this series linger. Too much ambition too.
Prediction: California over Toronto in 5
Salt Lake City Fanatics vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 4-0)
All empires fall, eventually. After winning 5 straight championships, the greatest of them all is near the end of his reign. The Brooklyn Rage won only 63 games, and that is following 3 seasons over 70+ wins. Last season this team was winning games by an average of 21 points in the regular season. This season this number is down to 13. Even if those are just numbers, you can feel that this squad is declining, as they begin to look vulnerable, especially on the road. They lost to some average teams multiple times this season, something we were not used to see for the last 6 seasons or so. Of course, those losses could be explained by the fact that key contributors Jarius Miles and Tyris Mayes missed multiples games due to injuries. But General Manager Rondall Reynoso knows better. He knows that every team has a life cycle, and that Brooklyn is getting closer and closer to the end of it. Having said that, this proud dynasty still might be good enough to add another trophy to their unbelievable championships streak.
Also known as the Youth Basketball Development Academy, the Fanatics keep on acquiring young talents in order to build the next WBA dynasty. General manager Brad Bangerter did brought some well needed veteran leadership by signing Shermar Mahara and Alonso Station as free agents this past off-season. He also did well managing minutes to involve as much as possible those youngsters in need of playing time. While there is no improvement in the winning column this season, it is still clear that this team is heading in the right direction. Still, patience and a few more moves might be required to get playoffs success.
Brooklyn era may be close to the end, but it will not happen in the first round. This Rage squad is much too savvy and wise to go down against this young Fanatics group. As mentioned before, patience is the key here…
Prediction: Brooklyn over Salt Lake City in 4
Colorado Pioneers vs Boston Massacre
(Season series split 2-2)
For the second season in row, Boston finds themselves in the Conference 3rd spot behind top teams California and Brooklyn. With a few less wins in the regular season compared to last season, can the Massacre get over the hump and reach that Conference Finals this season? General Manager Quinten Lawrence is trying hard to reach that goal. He made some major moves, acquiring Chris Dao and Claude Weidner to build a starting five that complement each other’s well. They even added the veteran Napoleon Carter as the bench General. As good as this squad is, do they possess the talent level required to compete with the top dogs?
Conference finalist just 2 seasons ago, the decline of the Pioneers has been drastic. Health issue of General Manager Marc Hameleers during off season was a key factor in the team inability to acquire a much-needed point guard to run this squad. Also, former All-stars John Devine and Tom Kinsey have both slow down substantially this season. After both being consistent and efficient for so many years, there is something a little sad seeing that father’s time has arrived. Colorado Management will have very difficult decisions to make this off-season, as a complete overhaul might be necessary to bring back this team into contention.
The Colorado Pioneers are a favorite team of mine and I would like them to give a hell of a fight before they go down. Unfortunately, it does not look like it is going to happen. Just a week before the playoffs, Tom Kinsey, Pioneers anchor inside, went down with a sprained ankle. Since he should be out at least for the first round, it is difficult to believe that the Pioneers can win this, also considering their lack of depth. Boston will get the opportunity to warmup for the next round because a greater challenge awaits. Colorado will get back from this… in a near future we hope.
Prediction: Boston over Colorado in 5.
Los Angeles Gargoyles vs Fort Worth Warriors
(Fort Worth won season series 2-1)
General manager Gustavo Follana did an excellent job turning this franchise around since he took over last offseason. He took a team that won only 20 games for consecutive seasons and put them back in the playoffs as the 6th seed. This year the Warriors improved on that performance as they finished as the 4th seed in the USA Conference. Home court advantage could very well result in franchise 1st playoffs series victory. Curtis Starman has now a sidekick in big man Frank Mathieu, which gives the team an explosive inside/outside scoring duo.
The Gargoyles regular season performance is somehow a surprise. Afterall, they did win only 24 games for the previous 2 seasons combined. General manager Gerald Tessier did make multiples trades, sending away future 1st picks to get better quickly. Los Angeles did assemble a skilled group of veterans (Chad Nolan, Jeremy Aarons and Jarrod Roe) around their main offensive weapon William Curry. It did produce positive results as the Gargoyles have won 41 games this year, good enough to capture the 5th playoffs spot in the Conference. A very streaky teams, the Gargoyles finished the regular season strong, winning 14 of the last 18 games. They are also a much more confident team at home winning 28 games on their own floor this season. With not much financial flexibility and some aging key players, Gargoyles time to make some noise is now.
Suffering a stress fracture just 2 weeks before playoffs start, Warriors 3rd leading scorer Darryl Whittaker should be out for the entire series. His 21 points per game will be sorely missed, but there is hope that Isaac Rice can filed his role. Buried on the bench while playing less than 5 minutes per game, Rice can still score at a high level as he averaged 30 points per 36 minutes this season. On way or another, the Warriors will have to find a way to score against a very adequate defensive team filled with veteran experience. Once again, coaching adjustments could be key here. Homecourt advantage too.
Prediction: Fort Worth over Los Angeles in 7
Enjoy the WBA playoffs!