Mid-Season Power Rankings
By Mike Begley
The times they are a-changing. The player we all used to hate; we now miss dearly. Mario Bailey did not make the 2021 WBA All-Star game, and the experience just wasn’t the same. The East never put up a fight as they were vehemently crushed by the West, losing every quarter, giving up 147 points. Clement Trentesols only had this to say, Je ne le crois pas. At halftime Paul Simon came out of retirement to sing, Mrs. Robinson, swapping the lyric from Joe Dimaggio to, where have you gone Mario Bailey.
Our league turns its lonely eyes to you. But let us look back no more, let us look forward as we welcome new stars, Artie Duggons, Klemens Eberle, Fola Onibiyo, Omar Rozier, Herve Bourgois who will soon carry the torch into a new era. In the meantime, this league is still led by Jarius Miles, Hassan Watt, Lonny Jordan and Jervan Timmons.
It is halftime in the WBA, the trade deadline has passed, the rosters are set in stone, it is time to revisit our perennial rankings for the final stretch into the playoffs. Welcome to the second edition of Begley’s best!
- California Fighting Cocks (48-4) (Former Rank #2)
Say what you will about California, the cost of living, the tyranny, the weather it’s all relative. One thing we can all agree on is that it’s now or never for the Fighting Cocks. Hassan Watt has taken a huge leap forward this season, as dominant as a vintage 2015 Mario Bailey. Sidekick, Dan Kincaide is also posting one of his best years at 31, Kurt Beck is still as solid as ever in his old age, consequently, California is having a historically great season. The team has had great fortune thus far as injuries go but with Marc White recently out this may put a dent in the defensive armor for the next two weeks. Still, the team should hold onto the number one seed and enter the playoffs as the favorites to win the WBA championship.
- Albacete Burning Hell (48-6) (Former Rank #1)
If you ever go to Albacete, it’s a worth a side trip to El Mirador del Infierno, podrás disfrutar de grandes vistas de los parajes y de las aldeas. It’s where Lonny Jordan goes to contemplate life. It’s where he went after a disastrous game against the Honey Bees when he went 1-12 with five points, in a 28 point loss in Paris. He must have had a very good conversation with Lucifer after Jordan returned to Paris a week later with a 32 point performance, 22 point victory, and scratched cornea to Jervan Timmons. Witchcraft aside, the Burning Hell have been extremely fortunate this season, suffering essentially no injuries, and winning all close games. This team has won every game that they have been within five points. That is clutch or mystical. One thing for sure this is a special season for Albacete and with that comes the pressure in the playoffs. At this point, Albacete is the favorite to represent the World Conference in the WBA Finals.
- Paris Honey Bees (40-11) (Former Rank #4)
These Bees already have four more losses than in the entire last season, and reigning MVP Jervan Timmons is now out for a month. Yet the Bees are still the reigning defending champions. With the recent swap of Kevin Whitlock for Fulgencio Lurdes the team now was more size, reinforcing its interior defense and rebounding. This will be key in the playoffs. Ultimately it all comes down to health but when the time comes the Bees should be ready to steal a game on the opposing team’s home and protect their hive at all costs.
- Brooklyn Rage (36-14) (Former Rank #3)
Count me in as one who was taken aback by Brooklyn’s lack of urgency during the trade deadline to secure help for Bailey, Miles and company. With Antonio Gleason taking two steps back, there is no third wheel to take this cart up the WBA championship mountain. This season may be Bailey’s last as an elite level player and instead of going all in the Rage have instead entrusted the keys to an unproven twenty year old point guard shooting 40% from the field, and now with a broken leg, thanks to Salt Lake Fanatics. With no retribution, we should rename the team to the Brooklyn Pacifists moving forward.
- Gabon Giants (41-11) (Former Rank #6)
Simon Drapeu has assembled a recipe for success in Gabon. Every possession counts as gold. The Giants lead the league in points per shot differential which means for every shot the Giants take they score 1.33 points, while their opponents score only 1.08 points. Safe to assume if the Giants have more shot attempts than the opponent they will come out victorious. Lesson learned, don’t turn it over against this team. Unfortunately, the Giants have suffered key injuries to Mathias Kurz and Abdiel Gordon, which may affect their seeding the playoffs. However, this team has a good a shot as any to compete for a WBA championship in 2022.
- Boston Massacre (40-12) (Former Rank #5)
Boston’s trade for Andrew Holmes is looking more and more like a great fit for the team. Boston has better depth than ever, and the record should be better, if not for a key injury to team captain Michael Askins. Prior to injury Askins had been having his best season in the WBA at the shooting guard position. We may see it come down to the Massacre and Rage in the second round, only this time we might see a massacre of the Rage.
- Barcelona Counts (33-20) (Former Rank #7)
Barcelona’s high octane offense is always good for an exciting game and 50 win season. And maybe that is enough for this franchise. Maybe they are content to reach the second round in the playoffs. Formerly lead by Primo Bugeja and Ira Redwine, these two are now role players for marquee names Chris Dao and Demarcus Walton. Granted, any of these players could lead a WBA team in scoring, and together they are a force to be reckoned but by the law of mathematics, only one player can shoot at a time. And together they are only average defensively. An elite offense, and average defense can take you to round two, and that may be enough when you are a Zen Buddhist and have reached inner peace.
- Las Vegas Gamblers (32-20) (Former Rank #9)
After a rough start, the Gamblers have turned it up a notch in the last month, defeating the Fighting Cocks in a Vegas thriller. Clement is an all-world talent, and together with Justin Hill the two form the best defensive forward combination in the league. Everything about this team says they should be winning more games, but it seems the Achilles heel lies in the free throw shooting, second to last in the league. Those freebies add up and are vital in a league as competitive as the WBA.
- Shanghai Pandas (26-25) (Former Rank #8)
The Pandas want to win and make a mark in this league, but it seems they are still searching for an identity. Is this a defensive or offensive minded team? Neither, it seems they are simply Pandas. The team leads the World Conference in offensive rebounding and the entire league in avoiding getting their shots blocked. Recently the team made a pivotal trade acquiring one of the best passers in the league in Latrell McDyess. In the process they also unloaded the unwanted contract of Stephen Harrelson. However, the team is only 3-8 since pulling the trigger. A mathematician will tell you to give it the rest of the season, though mathematicians do not have to deal with injuries, as McDyess is now out two weeks. Still, these Pandas are young and daily growing.
- Colorado Pioneers (28-24) (Former Rank #12)
DaRond Lyons has regained his form as we see flashes of 2018 when the Pioneers won 64 games and played a tough conference finals. What a difference a point guard makes! The only problem is the rest of the equation. John Devine broke his foot and together with Tom Kinsey now appear shadows of their former selves. To make matters worse, Tony Henderson is out with a dislocated knee for a significant period. Still, this is a sturdy top ten team, and when healthy should make it to the second round.
- New York Firestorm (28-25)
The Firestorm made some bold moves, then faced some tough breaks with injuries. Now they are right in the playoff mix, leading the entire league in three point shooting. It really doesn’t matter who shoots the ball on this team, it is likely going in. The issues arise with the team defense. Shot blocking seems to be non-existent. The team averages 4 fouls for every blocked shot, that is not an acceptable formula for an aspiring winning team.
- Moscow Snow Bears (23-28) (Former Rank #10)
Is there a more exciting team in the entire league? On a typical day between the Bears and their opponent 233 points are scored! The games are settled at an average margin of less than 2 points per game. Both Kenyatta Davidson and Chris Acklin have so far played every position this season. Acklin is averaging 46 points over his last four games at the center position. If that wasn’t enough please welcome the league’s first 6’11’’ point guard Stretch Armstrong! While the Robert Williams curse is alive and well in Moscow it doesn’t mean the team cannot have fun at the same time. The Bears are finally fully healthy, and with Moscow’s last win over the Pandas in Shanghai, this is a team on the rise as we head closer to the playoffs.
- Los Angeles Gargoyles (24-28) (Former Rank #15)
In the last two weeks the Gargoyles have defeated the Fighting Cocks in California, the Snow Bears in Moscow, and the Counts in Los Angeles but then lost to the Zulus. The Gargoyles are an intriguing team that leads the league in opponents three point shooting percentage and is the best at limiting opponents assists. I once thought this franchise was a lost cause. GM Gerald Tessier inherited a tough situation but has made spiked fizzy lemonade out of lemons. If the team continues to be the league’s upset maker while pushing into the playoffs GM Tessier deserves consideration for GM of the year.
- Arizona Dragons (21-29) (Former Rank #17)
The Dragons are better than their record shows. And at the end of the day should still make the playoffs. Nonetheless, they are an ugly team to watch, as they lead the league in fouls committed at 26 per game. This results in opponents gleefully racking up freebies at the line. The main bright spot for the team is behemoth All-Star Humberto Saez but even he averages 3 fouls for every block, consequently, it’s a free lane to drive it right at the rim to form a Rose Parade to line.
- Milan Mayhem (22-30) (Former Rank #11)
Milan is 4-4 in the month of February, after the dust of the wheeling and dealing has settled. Just two seasons ago Milan represented the World conference in the finals, now the team sits under .500, with GM Esposito’s faith in the young Bennet Bangerter to usher in a new era. Stuck between a full rebuild, and still trying to compete is as precarious a position as a pirate ship filled with booty in the Bermuda triangle.
- Salt Lake City Fanatics (23-31) (Former Rank #16)
The Fanatics currently sit at the 9th spot, peeking at the playoffs from the outside. This is unacceptable for a team this talented. The team acquired Kevin Whitlock, perhaps the most prolific scorer per minute in the entire league yet he seems to be on minutes restriction. The Fanatics as a team are not a strong scoring team so it would make sense to play Whitlock an entire game to help in this direction. The team is above average defensively so just feed it to Whitlock and let him carry you into the playoffs.
- Cape Town Zulus (21-32) (Former Rank #19)
The acquisition of Coomas Netar and his career year have helped this rebuilding Cape Town team compete, defeating some of the best, including the Honey Bees. However, the Zulus are currently outside the playoff picture. This is a proud franchise that always prefers to compete rather than tank. For that we root them on as Klaas Binsenshaum continues to develop.
- Miami Xtreme (18-34) (Former Rank #13)
Triple double machine, All-Star Omar Rozier has been a God send to Miami and Jesus Morrell. And it looks like Scott Farmer may follow in those footsteps in a few seasons. But the thing with building a winning team is that players need to peak around the same time. And right now, we are witnessing the bottom of the peaks from Morrell and Woods. This may not be the year for Miami, but they should have plenty of cap room, to build around Rozier, assuming he decides to continue the party in Miami.
- Frankfurt Fury (22-30) (Former Rank #23)
Frankfurt currently sits at the #8 spot in the World Conference. Traditionally this is the spot that ends up getting swept in the first round by the mighty number one seed. I’ll tell you one thing, rising star, scratch that, current All-Star, and WBA 3-Point shootout champion, 23 year old Fola Onibiyo will not take kindly to getting swept or missing out on the playoffs.
- Fort Worth Warriors (23-30) (Former Rank #20)
These Warriors once had the number one overall pick and shot for a clean rebuild. They traded this opportunity to compete now in the WBA. And by this we mean competing to barely make the playoffs. Curtis “Starman” currently leads the league in scoring, but his team gets outscored by six whenever he is on the floor. These Warriors are last in the league in assists per game and the record shows.
- Mexico City Hellcats (18-33) (Former Rank #21)
GM Gutierrez inherited what was left of his team after a few seasons left to the lions. What he delt with upon his return are some outrageous contracts, middling players, and one all world talent in Jeremy Sims. Thus far, things are not optimal for this franchise, as young prospect Jonah Bullard has played in only six games for the entire season in the D-league: losing the opportunity for an entire year of development.
- Sydney Bloods (14-40) (Former Rank #18)
All-Star Herve Bourgois is the lone bright spot of this struggling franchise, as the team punches it in to collect a top five draft selection.
- Cincinnati Hitmen (22-30) (Former Rank #25)
Sometimes you forget a franchise even exists. Since 2013 the Hitmen have yet to have a winning season.
- Toronto Dinos (8-43) (Former Rank #22)
Last season the Dinos made the playoffs on a 35 win season last year, only to be swept. Now with Damien Bohm out, this team is the worst offensive team we’ve witnessed in some time, as they tank it in for a top prospect.
- London Disco (12-41) (Former Rank #26)
Through cunning coaching the Dublin Irish have the best record in the D-league, on pace to be the best team ever. The London Disco no longer exist. Reggaeton fills the bars in London in 2022. Welcome to the future.
- Cancun Outlaws (6-46) (Former Rank #24)
GM Pat Fullum is out in the mountains somewhere enjoying the wonders of earth. A true outlaw. GM Fullum, and Cancun will be back, after the dust of this season has settled.