WBA Round 2 Predictions
By Ron Chambers
I confess. My first-round predictions were off a little bit. I was correct on five out of eight match-ups. But, those five were no-brainers. I missed on all the challenging series. So, maybe you should save your time and read Timmy French since he went 6-2. But, I have to try and redeem myself. Hopefully, you will find it worthwhile or at least interesting.
#1 Paris vs. #4 Gabon
Paris swept the first round as everyone expected. They are that good. The only surprise in that round was game four where they allowed the Pirates to score 141 points! I still can’t explain that one. But, Paris scored 156 so no harm was done. That 15 point victory was actually as close as Nigeria would come. Jervan Timmons is playing like the best point guard in WBA history. In the first round, he averages 17.8 points, 14.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.3 steals. The young center Klemens Eberle really stepped up averaging 21 points and 9.5 rebounds. Marcus Rogers also had a very good first round averaging 17.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 steals.
Gabon surprised me. As you all know, I expected Barcelona to pull out the victory in a very competitive series. Gabon, however, preferred to win in convincing fashion. four of the five games were actually competitive with the only blowout happening in game three when they won by 30. Abdiel Gordon is not the player he once was. But, he is still darn good! He led Gabon with 24.6 points per game. Brendon Avery also had a solid first round with 12.2 points and 7.6 assists. Gabon looks forward to getting Urban Navratil back during this series. He scored 27 points in game one before getting injured in game two. Mathias Kurz continues to be the team’s defensive anchor with 3.2 blocks and 8.4 rebounds in the first round.
I’m a big fan of the Gabon franchise and while I hate to pick them to lose a second time when I was wrong last round, I just don’t see any way that they can overcome Paris. Paris is too good and too efficient. While they still have detractors they are surely one of the best teams in WBA history. A team doesn’t win 73 games by accident.
Prediction: Paris over Gabon in 5
#2 Albacete vs. #3 Moscow
Cancun really stepped it up last round and made their series with Albacete go to six games but, in the end, Albacete had too much talent. Lonny Jordan continues to be the team’s all-star. He averaged 25.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. Pretty close to his season averages. Behind him, four other players also averaged at least double digits. Alston Irving really emerged as a passing point guard with 9.7 assists per game while scoring 14.3 points and shutting down opponents with 4.3 steals. Blanco and Brandon averaged 17 and 18.8 points respectively. Brandon also did a good job rebounding at the small forward position with 8.3 rebounds a game. But, management has to be concerned with how close the first round was against a hobbled Cancun team.
Moscow was very impressive in making it through the first round without their starting backcourt. Moscow’s coaching staff has to be given a lot of credit. The key move was bringing Douglas Trice up for the WBADEV to start at Power Forward. He averaged a very respectable 15. 3 pints but only 4.7 rebounds. This allowed Davidson to slide to small forward and Acklin to shooting guard. Zachary Wise is healthy again so I expect to see Acklin and Davidson to be returning to their normal positions. Likely Charlie Meyers will also be able to return to the lineup before the series is done but he may not be 100% yet. Trice was the only player on the Snow Bears to have a positive +/- in the first round which both shows how close the series was and how important bringing him up was. The big three of Acklin (23.6 points), Davidson (19.4 points), and Neetar (18.0) carried the team but they needed the young guy to put them over the top.
Both these teams are built around young talent. Albacete definitely has more young talent. But, Moscow has some very important veterans with Meyers and Neetar. I wish Moscow was 100% healthy because it would be fun to see these two teams go head to head at 100%. Even in that situation, I think Albacete would have the advantage but with Meyers’ injury, I don’t expect Moscow to be able to pull this one off.
Prediction: Albacete over Moscow in 6
#1 California vs. #4 Fort Worth
California has been an elite team for several years. This is their fourth straight year with at least 60 victories. They were expected to dominate Toronto and that is exactly what happened. With the acquisition of defensive giant Marc White, they have adopted a four-headed scoring monster approach. The Fighting Cocks had four players average at least 19.7 points in the first round. Hassan Watt is the team leader and he had an amazing first round averaging 25.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks. Talk in the Bay Area is that Watt is better than Bailey was in his prime… they don’t like when you bring up the rings. Some in the league actually think Dan Kinkaide is the most talented player in the league. He averaged 23.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks. But, he is not a dominant personality which has allowed him to fit in seamlessly on a team full of egos just as he did when he won a championship with Mario Bailey in Brooklyn. Mighty Mouse, 5’4″ point guard Jesse Szcygiel, is a fan favorite and plays with more heart than anyone else in the league. He had a great first round averaging 21.3 points, 6.8 assists 5.3 rebounds, and 2.8 steals. Yes, you read that correctly 5’4″ and 5.3 rebounds…. hence he is a fan favorite. The chink ink California’s armor this round is the injury to Kurt Beck. He had the team’s best +/- in the first round but missed the last game of the series and is expected to miss at least a week. California is known for their depth, at least they once were. This year they are about their starting line-up. Wally Birkhead is not the player he once was as a result when Beck went down the coaching staff decided to start Erdman Schuepf and slide Kinciade to power forward. The drop from Beck to Schuepf is dramatic.
Dan Kinkaide once wore a Fort Worth uniform but that didn’t last long. Nowadays, Fort Worth relies on the offensive prowess of Curtis Starman, Frank Mathieu, and Darryl Whittaker along with the passing of Trevor Tomlin. I was hard on this talented but mistake-prone team in my first-round preview. They proved me wrong by sneaking past a much improved Los Angeles team. It is no mistake that they won the last two games in that series once Darryl Whittaker was able to play. Even not completely healthy he is arguably their most talented player. It is nice to see the very talented Tomlin get the success that he was never quite able to achieve in Miami or Toronto. All WBA fans now know that he is one of the league’s best passers, only behind Timmons. Offense is not this team’s weakness though. It is defense. They will be lining up against one of the best defenses in the league.
California has the type of talent that can overwhelm opponents. Beck being injured is a big deal and gives Fort Worth a slight opening, I just don’t think it is big enough of an opening.
Prediction: California over Fort Worth in 5 (likely 4 but the Beck injury really is huge)
#2 Brooklyn vs. #3 Boston
Rage haters around the world have been cheering the demise of Brooklyn. Brooklyn likes to point out that they still had 63 wins even though they had significant injuries to both Tyris Mayes and Jarius Miles. No one expected Dick Pelham to start 23 games when the season started and NO ONE expected Keven Rollin to start any games. But, even the most ardent Rage fanatic will admit that Brooklyn has taken a step back. After three straight 70+ win seasons and five straight championships, it is to be expected. For some Brooklyn fans, the most disappointing part of the season was losing a game to Salt Lake City in the playoffs. Bailey fans have never forgiven SLC GM Brad Bangerter for fanning unfounded rumors about Mario Bailey. Some console themselves by remembering that SLC snuck out a victory against the 70+ win California team last year. But, this single loss but more sadness in the Rage fans than all 17 losses during the regular season. Despite that, Brooklyn actually had a really good first round. All five starters had double-digit +/-. Jarius Miles and Anthony Davis actually were both +20 or better. Mario Bailey looked a lot like a younger version of himself. He averaged 29.4 points. He was actually well above that but only scored 11 in game 5. Jarius Miles looks a lot like the player who was playoff MVP the last three years. He averaged 22.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks. Most impressively, he had a +/- of +25.8.
There has been some talk this year that Boston is actually a better team than Brooklyn. They only won 54 games but the injury to Michal Askins was brutal on them. They looked impressive sweeping Colorado. John Keating had a great first round averaging 32.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. Chris Dao was also mighty impressive with 22.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. Askin has rounded back into form and played very well at PG with 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.5 steals. This team is good, really good. The question is if they are Brooklyn good. They definitely have the talent. But, critics point out that they don’t have the same level of chemistry that we see in other top teams. Time will tell. For them to win this series Keating, Askins, and Dao all have to play very well.
These are two powerhouse teams and probably both are a little better than their records indicate. But, Boston has not made it past the second round during this current Brooklyn dynasty and it seems safe here to go with the trend of history.
Prediction: Brooklyn over Boston in 6