Best off-season by a GM (Top 7)
by Timmy Frenchy
This article is not to talk about WBA best teams. There are already enough articles promoting the Paris and Brooklyn of this world. This one is about honoring general managers who significantly improved their teams this off-season. Sometimes the path to greatness is even more satisfying than winning the trophy itself.
It was a very entertaining (and long!) offseason. With the league shrinking from 30 to 26 teams, we could experience the WBA first dispersal draft. This gave the opportunity to teams in difficult position to take a step in the right direction. This should also bring more overall balance to the league, but it may take a few seasons to see the full effect of it.
So here are general managers who stand out in this special offseason:
Las Vegas Gamblers
After winning only 27 games last season, team’s worst performance in 7 years, general manager David Morfeld knew he had to do something to put this team back on the right track. Gamblers made some major moves this off-season to put them at the top of this list.
First, they selected Keenan Holter in the dispersal draft, a 25 year old product from Bayou academy. Although listed as a shooting guard, where he played alongside Abdel Desbuine in Tokyo, Holter could be better suited for the point guard position. His 8 assists per game last season points toward that direction. His scoring production and efficiency isn’t flashy, but he gets the job down across the board. Keenan should embrace this new opportunity as he could be given the keys to lead this talented squad at the point guard position, with Verster Friedrich as his backcourt mate.
Las Vegas management was then involved in a mega-blockbuster deal where they were able to land a formidable trio of Outlaws. 5 time All-star and All-defensive first team Clement Trentesols is now a Gambler. Arguably one of the best player in the game when healthy, the Frenchman impact on the court is undeniable. At 30 years old, it looks like he still has lot of fuel in the tank, as his posted career best in steals (2.1) and blocks (3.2) per game last season. Along came with him small forward Justin Hill and Point guard Ed Summerall. Hill is another superb defender and a good all-around player. Summerall is a little short at 5-10 but remains an excellent defender and should be a valuable backup behind Holter. I do not remember a team acquiring so much defense from three players in a single trade.
In free agency, rebounding and defensive specialist Polikarp Dragunas was added. We have been expecting his game to decline for a few years now, but Dragu has been keeping his steady production.
What an off-season for the Gamblers! They have acquired so much talent and especially so much defense. They also were able to keep last year top scorer Vester Friedrich and top rebounder/shot blocker Dimitrije Erkocevic on the roster. After finishing 15th in the USA Conference standings last season, we can expect the Gamblers position will skyrocket this season. With a starting unit of Holter, Friedrich, Hill, Trentesols, Erko along with quality pieces on the bench (Summerall, Deletombe and Dragu), this newly assemble squad could even finish in Conference top 3 at the end of the season. One thing for sure, there was a change in mentality has defense became the focus in Las Vegas. Could Gamblers management just transform the worst defense in the league into the best one… in just one off-season?
Mexico City Hellcats
Garbiel Tudor (returned in IBF)
Karl Schowalter (returned in IBF)
It is very nice to see Sergio (Chewy Bastid) back in charge as Hellcats General Manager. We missed him and he is back where he belongs. With that said, he did inherit a mess following bad trades made by previous management. The Hellcats re-acquiring Casey Pointer and his huge contract does not really make any sense for this team. Still, even considering that, Hellcats found themselves in the best position there is for this off-season, having the 1st pick for the dispersal and for the regular draft.
The first pick of the dispersal was a no-brainer, as the best center in the league was available.
Acquiring a unique player like Jeremy Sims in his prime for free is something we have never seen before in the WBA. This sole move will instantly catapult the Hellcats out of the standings bottom. Simply put, Sims has no flaw. He led this superstars filled league in scoring last season and was second in rebounding (by a close margin of 0.2 rebounds). He is also shooting 41% from downtown. His complete overall skills are unmatched. Mexico City just received a gift from heaven.
During draft day, Mexico City Management decided to trade away the 1st overall pick to acquire multiple young prospects. Small forward Jonah Bullard was selected with the 3rd pick. A raw product at the moment, Jonah showcased some incredible athletic abilities during try outs and could become an impact player in the future. But a few seasons of development in the Dleague is required to get to that point.
Gabriel Tudor and Karl Schowalter were also selected but they decided to stay overseas. They should be inclined to come to the WBA as early as next season, especially if the Hellcats get back to their winning ways sooner than later.
Valentin Ghesquier is a strong inside defensive presence that was added in free agency and should help the team immediately as they have no depth inside.
After finishing dead last in the WBA standings last season with only 14 wins, the Hellcats can become one of the most improved team ever. Pairing Sims with some quality guards like Al Levy and Casey Pointer should produce dividends right away. Stumpy Goodrich should also be efficient offensively at the starting small forward spot, where he should log heavy minutes.
Mexico City may have other important decisions to make this season. Are they willing to sacrifice some of the young and high valued prospects to acquire some depth and experience that this team need if they want to surround Sims adequately? A few rookies in a package with Pointer could be enticing for some teams in rebuilding mode. Having a jewel like Jeremy in his prime signed for three years is a golden opportunity. It was a fantastic offseason for the Hellcats, but there is more work to be done to get this team to the top of the Conference.
New York Firestorm
After finishing dead last in the USA Conference last season, general manager TJ Smith had seen enough. While being in a difficult position after trading away their own first round pick for year 2021, Timothy still found a way to do a complete overhaul of this team.
First move was to trade picks to acquire young talents, as Shelton Britton and Stretch Armstrong were added via trade. Britton, only 23 years old, is a scoring phenom who averaged 17 points last season in only 23 minutes of playing time as a reserve in Gabon. If given the green light by the coaching staff, this flashy guard could be among league’s top scorers as a starter in New York. Armstrong is 24 years old and he’s already a solid overall player at the small forward position, while being an excellent free throw shooter.
In the inaugural draft, Firestorm selected another talented scoring guard, Frenchman Abel Desbuines. The veteran was averaging 29 points per game last season as Tokyo first, second and third options on offense. Abel can score from anywhere on the floor and has excellent ballhandling abilities.
New York management kept adding some young talent as they sign Jo Jo Edwards and Milton Michaels in free agency, along with future hall of famer Ahmed Dougherty. Jo Jo is only 22 years old and captured the WBA most improved player last season. He’s one of the most efficient scorer in the entire league. If you don’t believe me, look at his true shooting percentage and points per shot. Playing 30 minutes in the pro for the first time of his career last season in Osaka, Milton Michaels really didn’t disappoint averaging 15 points per game on 53% FG and 91% FT and has the potential to get even better. Dougherty will bring championship experience, as he just won a title in Paris by being part of one of the best team ever.
Firestorm management needed to make moves to put this organization in the right direction. They did lot of them, and the wind has turned in New York. Talented youngsters were added to this squad along with crafty veterans. They added so many weapons on offense. Desbuines and Britton are averaging 25 points per game per 36 minutes for their career, as Doughtery is averaging 22. Edwards and Michaels are inside scoring machines. Expect the Firestorm to vastly improved on last season scoring team average of 100 points, as they could be a top 10 team in that department. But there is only one ball and only 48 minutes to play in a game. This will be puzzling for the coaching staff to get everybody involved and happy on offense.
As far as defense is concerned, there is not much to write about as no key piece were added in the offseason. Milton should become a very good defender but he’s not at that point yet. At least Timoteo Gangotena is still there, as his presence will be crucial for this team to win games on a regular basis and become playoffs bound.
Usually, a team must make many roster changes to be included in this list of few selected top general manager. This is not the case with the Frankfurt Fury, who kept all major pieces from last year roster. But general manager Andrew Sharitz did work his magic on draft day, packaging multiples first round picks to acquire the top pick in the draft. They used that pick to select a 22 year old point guard from Croatia named Pribislav Hecimovich. Pribi handling and passing skills are very impressive, as he was IBFW assists leader since he joined this league 3 years ago. Even a comparison can be drawn with current WBA league champion and MVP, as Hecimovich could be a poor man Jervan Timmons (which would be great!). Pribi might still need a little time to polish his shooting skills but expect him to have a major impact in the WBA and on Fury’s future success.
The addition of power forward Duke Norman, selected in the dispersal draft, is also a nice move. Duke is a strong big man who can stretch the floor with his first-class three-point skills. This will add another dimension to the Fury’s attack who was heavily relying on Omar Raoumbe inside scoring ability to get points from their Bigs. Norman is 27 years old and at the peak of his career. Arturo Fonzarrelli is another interesting acquisition in free agency as he can help the team with his outside shooting and experience.
Rookie Asher Irving looks like a great prospect at the small forward position, but he is far from ready to be a valuable contributor at the pro level. Maybe several years in the Dleague would be beneficial for him. Or maybe management could trade him for a more WBA ready player if the current regular season goes well.
After making few but key additions this offseason, the Fury find themselves vastly improved. It will be up to management to decided if they want to be patient and invest in the future. That could mean sending Hecimovich in the Development league for a season or two. Or they could decide that they want to win now and put on the court a super young guard trio of Fola, Pribi and Arne. Those are both good options. We also expect Guilhem Lamerand’s game to take a leap as he’s entering his final contract year.
Whatever decisions are made by management, the Fury will improve in the winning column and get more than 40 wins this season, which will be good enough for a playoff spots. That’s right, the Frankfurt Fury will make the post-season this year, ending a very long-draught.
Interim general manager Dan Dingleberry has done a very nice job re-tooling this franchise for the last 2 years. This off-season was no exception has the Dragons continue to acquire young talent and picks to build a better future in Arizona. It seems that Dragons management took part in all off-season phase and were able to be successful in every one of it.
Selecting Toussaint Leclerq in the dispersal draft was another good move made by Arizona management. This 21 year old kid has a lot of potential could become an All-star in a not so distant future. This Frenchman has the skills to become what you are looking for in a point guard; great passing and perimeter defense to go along with decent scoring abilities. And his quickness and stamina are simply out of this world. Leclercq is the perfect addition to this young and rebuilding Arizona team.
Letting Matias Gutierrez go in exchange for Inge Adlgasser looks like another smart move, as Inge is a little younger and a more efficient basketball player overall. He is also capable of playing the 1, 2 and 3 spot with ease. If Adlgasser is willing to negotiate a reasonable contract extension this season, this trade looks like a homerun for the Dragons.
Rookie Allen Donaldson selected early in the regular draft looks like another solid choice, as the 19 years old could develop into a great scorer and rebounder in this league. But only time will tell and lots of it will be necessary before Allen can become a contributor in the pro.
Free agency was also beneficial, as they were able to ink big man Severino Moscoso to a long-term deal. After being selected in the second round in 2019, Severino career took a huge step forward last year as he became Development league most improved player. General Manager from all over the WBA noticed the time and effort this 23 years Spaniard has put in his game, as Moscoso received multiple lucrative offers this free agency. Arizona was the lucky winner and should benefit from his tremendous offensive rebounding and jumping abilities. Re-signing team second leading scorer Meechy Jennings was also a must if the team didn’t want to take a step back scoring wise, as he and Guiterrez were carrying much of the burden last season.
Although recent moves might not result in wins right away, the Dragons find themselves in a very good position. They have so many talented players that are 25 year old or younger. They should still improve on the 26 wins total from last year, but that is not the main goal. Getting better in the long run is.
As this team is now in good shape, with many options to work with, timing would be great to see a new manager comes in. There was a time that new managers had to come in with untalented teams filled with bad contracts. It needed years before the situation was decent again. This team is in good condition, and it should be fun to see them evolve over the next few seasons. Anyone interested in this general manager gig? Maybe a retired GM who would like to make a comeback?
Gabon Giants management did send some talented players in trades this summer, but it looks like they got even more talented ones in return. Britton is a spectacular scoring machine and Algdasser can do it all, but general manager Simon Drapeau was willing to let them both go to acquire players that appear to be better fit for the team. The Giants were involved in 2 blockbuster deals early on this summer.
In one of those deal, they acquired Kelley Brandon from Albacete. Brandon has been bouncing around a lot in his 5 first years in the WBA, has the Giants will be his 5th team already. Only 23 year old, Brandon is a superior defenseman on the perimeter as well as one of the best free throw shooter in the entire league. He is also an underrated ballhandler and rebounder. The Giants believed that he is the small forward they have been looking for. They believe he can fill that position right away and hopefully for many years to come. At least management does not have to worry about that for now has Kelley is signed for the next 3 years at a reasonable price.
In another deal, they acquired the second overall pick of the current draft. Gabon’s management were comfortable with that pick as they were interested in 2 players for this. One of them was Pribislav Hecimovich, and he was selected first. So that made the decision easy from the Giants, as they selected Isidore Masquely with their pick. This Frenchman is not your typical draftee from the international league, as he is already 28 years old. The Giants did not care about that, because they felt lucky to have the opportunity a player of his caliber, in his prime, at a discount. Masquely is clearly the top rookie of this draft class and the more WBA ready player. He has multiplied the honor in the IBFE league over the last 5 seasons, even winning the championship in 2016. Isodore was scoring 26 points in 32 minutes of playing time in IBF last season, while shooting 52% from the field and 81% from the free throw line. Masquely is also lighting quick and a great outside defender, which is impressive for a player at 6-6. If Masquely’s game can translate well to the WBA, the Giants might have acquired a superstar for the next 4 seasons.
2-time WBA champion George Faup was selected in the dispersal draft, and it seems that he would have a positive impact of the bench for a team that did not have many options inside at the time. But when the opportunity of getting back Charlie Meyers present itself, Gabon management could not resist. Meyers is an experienced point guard who played for a few good teams in his 13 seasons in the WBA, but it is with the Giants that he had the best years of his career. He averaged 18 points, 7 assists and 2 steals over a 4 year span from 2013 to 2016, even leading the Giants to the World Conference Finals in 2013. Let’s be realistic here, Charlie is 33 years old and will not get back to his all-star form from 5 years ago. But he could be a super backup point guard behind starter Brenden Avery to lead a deadly second unit along with Abdiel Gordon and Urban Navratil.
Enough has been wrote about the new addition of Masquely and Brandon in Gabon but let us not forget who the team is building around. Artie Duggons has not played a single regular season game in the pro yet, but he sure made an impression in last year playoffs. Getting thrown into the wolves against top-level competition, the big man showed he was special. In Gabon’s playoffs run that lasted 10 games, he averaged 25 points while shotting a mesmerizing 64% from the floor and 89% from the charity stripe. He was the team leading scorer in the focal point on offense. At only 20 years, Artie has still work to do to polish his game, especially in the rebounding department where he must improve on his 6 rebounds per game. A real giant at 7-2, Duggons should be able to grab a few more rebounds per game especially with his incredible jumping skills. Gabon’s management are thrilled to see him on the roster and ready to play for a full regular season.
Brenden Avery and Mathias Kurz are still there to fulfill a steady and defensive presence on two of the most important position in basketball, the point guard and the center. Avery will have the luxury to lead a group of talented offensive players as he will be the main dishes distributors this season. After scoring 20 points per game in his rookie season, Urban Navratil could be in the running for 6th man of the year if he embraces his new role. Future Hall of famer Abdiel Gordon is also back for another shot at the holy grail.
The Giants management have been in rebuilding mode while staying competitive for a few season now, with the ups and downs that comes with it. But it is clear now what path they have chosen. They have traded all their potentially good future 1st round picks to acquire talents ready to contribute right away. No more superstar in the making playing in the DLeague for development purposes. Giants are all in to win now.
Barcelona barely makes the list here, but they still must be mentioned. Only a few moves were made from management, but those should have a significant and positive impact.
In the dispersal draft, Corey Daubanton had the guts to do what many general managers were thinking about. That is drafting WBA future hall of fame Walt Jackson. Walt is 33 years old, but still managed to score 19 points and grab 9 rebounds per game last season while shooting 44% from the downtown. This living legend came with a price tag of a one year guarantee contract of 18.9 millions. The Counts have added a major piece to their roster, one that could help them climb higher in the standings this season.
Barcelona then acquired Chris Dao in exchange of Andrew Holmes. While Chris might not meet the superstar expectations that was tagged on him since he joined the league, he still remains a scoring force. What is not to like of an average of 22 points on 56% FG, 81% FT and 37% on 3 pts%? The Counts were already set at the point guard position with Ira Redwine being the clear-cut starter there, so letting go Holmes is logical. Dao will give them an option to upgrade their shooting guard or small forward spot depending on the coaching staff liking.
Barcelona kept their core almost intact (re-signing Hamilton Robins was also important) but those 2 key moves make them better. And the Counts were already a very good team, so it looks like they are slowly approaching the Conference Summit.
Honorable mentions: Cape Town Zulus, Miami Extreme, Albacete Burning Hell, Colorado Pioneers, Sydney Bloods.