Conference Final Predictions
by Ron Chambers
I feel like I’ve redeemed myself some with a perfect 4 out of 4 in predicting the second round. I will admit that, for the most part, the winners were more dominant than I expected. And, the predictions obviously weren’t too difficult since both Timmy French and I were perfect. But, I’m feeling good going into the Conference Finals. These predictions will be a little harder though, since in both cases the #1 and #2 seeds are facing off.
#1 Paris vs. #2 Albacete
Paris has had an easier time making it through the first two rounds going 8-1 as opposed to Albacete’s 8-3. But, that is to be expected. The Honey Bees won an impressive 73 games. Because of the recent success of Brooklyn, we forget how impressive that win total really is. It is tied with Colorado’s 2003-2004 season as the third-best record in WBA history. Only Brooklyn has done better. Despite not having a lot of high-scoring players Paris managed during the regular season to have the league’s best scoring offense. They have managed to be even more impressive on the offensive end during the postseason, so far, averaging 121. 8 points per game. All that despite not having a 20 point scorer. They are the epitome of an efficient team offense. Defensively, they were also impressive in the season ranking #4. During the playoffs, though they have not been as tough allowing 5 more points a game. A big part of that was a complete defensive letdown against Nigeria, in a game they still managed to win. Timmons continues to be the heart and soul of this team. In the post-season, he is averaging 171. points, 15.5 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 steals. But, he is a little hobbled. Will his health give Albacete the chance to steal a game in Paris? Klemens Ebberle has stepped up as a force for Paris. He is their second-leading scorer in the playoffs along with leading the team in rebounds and blocks. This series is Paris’ to lose. If they don’t make it back to the finals everyone in the world, outside of Albacete, will consider it a failed season.
So much young talent. But, it is still young. While four of Paris’ starters are 27 or older, Albacete has four starters that are 24 or younger. I don’t think anyone seriously doubts that the future of the WBA belongs to Albacete. But, we are talking about this season. They are a very good offensive team ranking #3 in the regular season and #2 in defense. With numbers like that they are good enough to knock anyone off. And while Paris did have 73 wins Albacete’s 65 wins is also very impressive. Lonny Jordan is this team’s heart and soul. He is a generational player who eventually will be in the all-time greats conversation. Kelley Brandon, Alston Irving, and Edgardo Blanco are the other young guns on this team. But, there it is again. They are young. They have limitless talent but they still need some experience.
This is a match-up of superpowers. Next year I would probably predict Albacete. But, they need more time to mature. Paris is in its prime. If they manage to get a win or two in Paris due to Timmon’s injury everything could change. But, I don’t expect it. I certainly don’t expect them to steal two.
Prediction: Paris over Albacete in 6 games
#1 California vs. #2 Brooklyn
California has been chasing Brooklyn for years. Last year they won 70 games and it wasn’t enough to catch Brooklyn. This year they fell back to 69 due to injury but finished six games ahead of Brooklyn. They have also looked great in the playoffs as the only remaining undefeated team. They even managed to sweep the second round against Fort Worth without the help of Kurt Beck. Beck still isn’t 100% healthy but I expect him to return in game 1 or 2 of this series. If Beck is back in Game 1 it shows how seriously California takes the threat of the Rage. California was the #2 offense and #3 defense during the regular season. Hassan Watt is the brightest of California’s three stars. But, Kurt Beck and Dan Kincaide are also among the best in the league. Mighty Mouse, Jesse Szcygiel is the team’s heart and soul. There is nobody tougher, pound for pound, in the league. Watt has been tremendous in the playoffs leading all scorers with an average of 32.4. He is also averaging 9.4 assists and 8.1 rebounds making him a constant triple-double threat. Oh, and he is a great defender averaging 2.6 steals and 1.1 blocks. Many argue that he is a better player than Mario Bailey in his prime all he needs are some championships to strengthen his claim.
The only thing standing in the way of California is the five-time Champions. For the first time in recent memory, Brooklyn looks vulnerable. The Fighting Cocks certainly had their number during the regular season winning all four games. But, the Rage are currently healthy and playing very well. Jarius Miles, Mario Bailey, and Anthony Davis all lead the WBA as the only three players who are better than +20 in +/-. Travis Mayes comes in at 19.0 followed by Kurt Beck at 18.0 and Hassan Watt at 17.9. That is a pretty good sign. Miles is playing like the player who won Play-off MVP over the last three years. He has the best playoff PER in the league at 27.1. He is also leading all playoff rebounders with 11.9 per game. Not to mention his 22.4 points (on 63.4% shooting), 6.3 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Additionally, Mario Bailey is playing like he is 27 again averaging 31.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.0 steals, and 0.8 blocks. This is arguably his best postseason since 2016-17 when he averaged 31.3 points and won the playoff MVP. So far in the playoffs, Brooklyn has averaged 120.7 points on offense and only allowed 98.6 points defensively. That is only 1.1 points behind California on the offensive end but seven points better on the defensive end.
Man, this one is hard. It is hard to pick against the five-time champion when they seem to be playing at championship form again. Still, California did win more games and, more importantly, swept Brooklyn in the regular season. Still, this is the time of year that Mario Bailey and Jarius Miles live for. Let me toss a coin.
Prediction: California over Brooklyn in 7 games.