Tommie Cornwell (SG – TOM) Cornwell met with WBA legend John Davis who advised, “The extra possession can make all the difference.” This seemingly pedestrian advice seems to have inspired Cornwell’s shooting and effort.
Tommie Cornwell (SG – TOM) Cornwell met with WBA legend John Davis who advised, “The extra possession can make all the difference.” This seemingly pedestrian advice seems to have inspired Cornwell’s shooting and effort.
The WBA world is always full of rumors. Here are the rumors the GSPN staff has been tracking the first few weeks of the season:
By Ron Chambers
Yesterday we looked at the incredibly deep World Conference. Today, we are diving deep on where the top teams from last season all reside, the USA conference. Three of these teams finished above 60 wins last year and seem poised to do the same this year. One team took a huge jump and may compete in this category also. Heck, there is even a 5th team that could hang out in the stratosphere. But, there are only so many wins to be had…this will be a fun year.
The 2018-2018 Brooklyn Rage were arguably the most dominant team in WBA history. They won 74 games which is the second most in WBA history and were the first team to go through the playoffs without a loss. But they had a problem. Money. They had huge contracts and older players and it looked like after this next year they may fall apart. Management decided that they believed they could move two starters and still compete for a Championship while preparing themselves for the future. They traded Omar Jefferson’s gigantic contract to Kansas City for Antonio Gleason and Ed Rhodes. They then traded Dan Kincaide to Fort Worth for Trenton Adams who they believe will be a future star for them. Brooklyn feels that as long as they have Mario Bailey and Jarius Miles they are in the run for a championship. They still have Tyris Mayes at center. Antionio Gleason is no Dan Kinkaide but he is still a very good player and more affordable. At point guard, defensive specialist Anthony Davis will move into the starting role. The Rage may actually have a better defense this year than last but might drop off some offensively. Brooklyn also has some really great depth with players like Shawn Jones, George Faup, David Walker, Ed Rhodes, and P J King. The one real weakness is what will happen if Anthony Davis gets hurt. The Rage are used to having tremendous depth at PG. If he goes down they will have to get creative. To many, except those living in Northern California, the Rage are still the favorite to win the Championship. But, they will not be the completely dominant force that they were last season.
The Massacre had a frustrating season last year as the looked to retool. They dropped 10 wins from the previous season. Boston is always a good team but they have not been able to really break through. They have made the playoffs the last five seasons but they have never been higher than the 5th seed and only once have made it out of the first round. Their retooled roster has a mix of youth and players in their prime. Three starters are 24 or younger while Victorino Pinelo and Casey Pointer are 27 and 28 respectively. It looks like the Massacre will run a three-guard system with Pinelo, Pointer, and their superstar Michal Askins. That trio will provide tremendous offensive fire power. John Keating will fill in admirably and Frank Mathieu should continue to be a major force inside, though expect his scoring to drop. Boston also has some good young depth so look to this team to be improved and back on track. Their problem is that there are too many powerhouse teams in the USA conference. It is hard to imagine this team finishing above the 5th seed this year which will no doubt disappoint management.
The Liberty are the only team to win a championship in the last six years other than the Rage, but that was five seasons ago. Last year they were pretty average offensively and poor defensively resulting in a team with 36 wins. They are in the process of reworking their team to fit the vision of new ownership. They will look very different. Neville Donner will still start as one of the bigs, probably center, and Kelley Brandon will start at small forward. Coomas Neetar will replace Chad Nolan at power forward. Ajan Estay came over from Arizona and will move from point guard to his more natural shooting guard. Moving Shermar Mahara to be replaced by Friedrich Egg is probably a slight step back. All in all New York looks like they will be roughly the same as last year.
Toronto was an elite team that made the finals three years in a row. But they blew up their team which led to the discovery of the WBA’s great cheating scandal. They have struggled the last two years winning 35 & 32 games. They currently have temporary management but they have still increased their talent level. They will likely run four smalls and Senecca Redd. Latrell McDyess, Jay Dickenson, Char Archer, and Jim Koons are all talented but only 6’ 5” or 6’ 6”. James Donovan will probably come off the bench. He is taller at 6’ 9” but isn’t much of an interior player. If it works out well this team could find some magic and approach 40 wins but more likely they will remain in the low 30s.
Are the Bangerters really cursed? Some argue yes. Their teams certain have not performed the last couple of years the way they expected. But to be fair, the brothers have both had very good teams I the past. The question for Miami is if they can get back to that. Miami has brought in more talent so I suspect they will improve. They can go a lot of different ways with their rotation. They may start Omar Rozier and Rufus Castellano at guards which may give them the best rebounding guard duo in the league. They will need that rebounding if they keep Maury Coleman and Jim Woods as their forwards because they are very talented but not great rebounders. Jesus Morrell will continue to be a rock in the middle. Or course, they could decide to start James boon as power forward and move Jim woods to small forward and Maury Coleman to shooting guard. These are the tough choices that management has to make but the good thing for Miami is that they have choices to make since they have improved their talent. The Xtreme should certainly finish the season with over 20 wins, probably in the range of 25 but they could hit the 30s. It depends on how they manage things.
#5- New York
Last year the Pioneers were elite. They were one of only three teams to break the 60 win mark. They are much the same team that they were last year which means they will remain elite. They added Donovan McCormick for greater depth at the bigs. DaRond Lyons will once again be the team’s big scorer. But Henderson is their heart. Divine Devine will also continue to be a big scorer. Kinsey is the other one of the big four. Edgar Kamara will probably still be the starting point guard but despite his terrific qualities he continues to slow with age. The other issue with this team is depth. They rely VERY heavily on their top four players and if they get a serious injury it could totally derail them because they just don’t have that much talent after their big four. Still, they won 64 games and finished 13 games ahead of the Blues in second place so it is hard to pick against them since they are basically returning the same team.
The Blues felt they were a point guard away from a championship run last year. They may have been right. Daren benson is a good player but he probably is not a championship quality point guard, at least not as a started. Off-the bench I’m sure championship quality teams would love to have him. So, the Blues made the controversial move of trading away their starting small forward and their starting shooting guard to acquire Omar Jefferson. Jefferson has been a key part of the success the Brooklyn Rage have had over the last seven years. Many thought he and Bailey were going to retire together especially since he has such a monster contract. KC, however, looked at the age of Walt Jackson and decided they needed to try and win it all now. The Blue are set with four of their starters Jeremy Sims and Walt Jackson are their stars. Matthew Turgeon is a young developing talent and Omar Jefferson is their new sharp shooting floor leader…or is he? One option is to start those four player as PG, SG, SFS, & PF and then have Shawne Olson as the Center. Another option is to have Olson come off the bench and have either Johnny Blaylock or Daren Benson start at point guard. The smart money is on starting Olson but they have tried both ways during the preseason. If things go as management hopes KC could easily jump to the 60 win range. The question is if Fort Worth has made enough improvement to pass them. The top three in this division are all really good and depending how injuries and player fit goes any of the three could finish 1-3 in the division.
Salt Lake City
The Fanatics tried really hard to keep Able Debusiness. But it seems he didn’t want to play on a college team. That isn’t an insult. It is just that the Fanatics are incredibly young. Guy Welty is the oldest player on the roster at 24. The average age on the roster is 21.58…you know college age. There there is tremendous potential on this roster. There are 10 players who were lottery picks and five who were picked in the top 5. If they can keep their players an development they could have one of the all-time great dynasties. This year they will probably start Alston Irving, Leonard Sedelmaier, Ermin Zeleznik, Guy Welty, and Fulgencio. That is a pretty solid starting lineup. JuJu Wambaugh, Demarcus Walton, Bobo Reynolds and Blaise Godin may see less playing time this year but developing them for the future is key. This is one of the teams I am really looking forward to watching over the next five years. Can a Bangerter build a winner or will the family curse stay alive?
This team only won 23 games last year and they did not make huge improvements in the off season. Their starting five will probably have four of the same players. One change will be at point guard where they slightly upgrade from Jermaine Lee to Eric Falk. The league is improving, and this team is standing still so they may even drop a little in their win total. But they aren’t too worried about that. It isn’t because they don’t want to win. It is because they are taking the long view. They have a lot of young talent that they are looking to develop Bennett Bangerter (21), Chico Dillinger (20), Asdrubal Aristia (18), and Wimpy Critchfield (20) are the future of this franchise. Cincinnati will not judge their success by their win totals they will judge it by the development of their youngsters.
There is no team in the league that will see the type of improvement that has the fans of Fort Worth excited. This is a team that has spent the last five seasons between 20 and 29 wins. They should easily double last year’s total of twenty wins and could even look to triple it. Likely only Curtis Starman will retain his starting roll from last year. He will, however, have much more talent around him so don’t expect him to average almost 27 points a game. He may not break 20 this year. Trevor Tomlin will take over at point guard. Super stud Darryl Whittaker will lead the team from the small forward position. In a surprise move Dan Kincaide was sent from the championship Rage to the Warriors. This gives forth worth two legitimate stars and a near star in Starman. The one question for this team is center. They don’t need scoring. They have clearly put s focus on defense also so who starts there is still up in the air. Conventional wisdom says Marques Feldman. He is the most talented player they have at that position. But they started Ulrich Kunze there in much of preseason. He is a better defender. Another option is to go with Vance Clopp he is past his prime but defends about at well as Kunze while rebounding better. If I had to wager, I would guess Kunze but there also may be another deal in the works to plug this team’s one hole.
#2- Fort Worth
#3- Kansas City
#4- Salt Lake City
This team is the pride of the Western Division and in many people’s mind the favorite to dethrone the Rage. They finished last year with 66 wins, second only to Brooklyn. They also bring back every player in their rotation with the exception of Victorino Pinelo. They took full advantage of this year’s very deep draft with two solid draft picks in the 20s, Heinrich Stoebener and Timoteo Gangotena who made be dominant forces in the WBADEV. In free agency they were also able to get some surprising talent, such as Austin Bangerter and Mike Lewis, despite only being able to offer minimum contracts. There is no doubt that the loss of Pinelo hurts. But they expected it. Hassan Watt is still only 23 and improving as he is becoming one of the most dominant shooting guards in the league. Kurt Beck is healthy and will be arguably the best small forward in the league. Last year they had the leading defense and a top three offense. That should continue. They are a dominant force and despite Wally Birkhead and Bishop Stein getting older most of their team is in their prime of still improving. There isn’t reason to expect a jump in performance from this team, but they are already at or near the top. Depending on health they should finish with between 65 and 70 wins.
The Gamblers finished 25 games behind the Fighting Cocks. Don’t expect them to make up that ground. They were very close with the Rainmakers finishing just two games ahead of them. That is where LV’s main challenge lies. Second year player Bemjamin Deletombe is the Gambler’s best returning big. But they made big improvements with their bigs. They traded for Chad Archer and Macario Montavez. Both are solid players. It is a little uncertain exactly what the rotation will be but those are three quality players. They also signed Justice Rhodes to replace Rufus Castellano, who they traded to Miami. Almantas Talacka will return as their main scoring option. Brice Bell was traded to the Fury in a deal that brought Vester Friedrich to the Rainmakers. Friedrich is not the floor general that Bell is, but he is a much better scorer. Michael Kramer and Brian Sewell also provide a good deal of depth at the guard position. They also now have two good young talents to develop in Kenny Lobo and Toussaint Leclecq. It is hard to judge this tea to last year because they should have four new starters. But this team has more talent and certainly more depth. It all depends on how the talent comes together. They should break .500 again and could eas.ly pass 45 wins.
The Rainmakers are on the rise after years of being just terrible. They were just one win shy of doubling their previous years total and made the playoffs for the first time since moving to Seattle. But they weren’t content with that. They decided to add talent this summer. They signed Justice Grant to a big but short-term deal- a great move. Grant is certainly an improvement over Reed Moses who moved to Albacete. Grant much improves their already strong big man rotation of Neville Blake, Valentine Ghesquier, and Stretch Armstrong. They also drafted Lucien Poirier who can play small forward or power forward. Seattle’s scoring punch comes from their wings, Pat London and Scooter Baylor. They are both good scorers and good shooters. They throw up a lot of threes but the also make a lot of them. Baylor is also young and is continuing to improve as he moves into his prime. Brice Oliver was the starting point guard for the majority of last season and the youngster will likely continue in that roll with veteran Coleman Johnson coming off the bench. Seattle also added some good depth with talent like Kurt Williams and Lon Johnson. This team is better and deeper than last year. They should break the .500 mark.
The Gargoyles moved to Los Angeles to take advantage of the large market, but they have never quite pulled it off. Since moving to LA they have not won more than 33 games. Two years ago they only won 19 and last year they barely improved to 20. Last year they had virtually no talent. It was a miracle that they won 19 games. William Curry was their lone bright spot. The new management is committed to spending money to bring in talent. They gave defensive force Marc White a maximum contract to come play in the city of Angels. He is a great defender but he has limited endurance and does not score. On the right team that can be fine. We will have to see if LA gets production out of his worthy of that contract. LA also traded with Gabon to bring the championship experience of Tyriq Lang to the team. Obviously, LA wants a strong interior presence and they now have it with tow good rebounders and defenders. They also now have a lot of depth at the bigs with every player who started for them last year at the power forward or the center still on the roster. David Poland started at small forward last year. Don’t know who he is? Neither do the residents of Brentwood so don’t worry about it. It looks like he may still start but the coaching staff should reconsider that as they have better options on the roster. William Curry will continue as the star but likely transition to his more natural position of shooting guard. He is a legitimate offensive threat and should have an excellent year. But as long as he is LA’s primary offensive option they will not be an elite team. Richie Reddy, who came over from Sydney looks like he will be getting the nod at point guard. As with so many teams this is the weak spot. Reddy is a good passer and defender and very quick but his offensive game still needs to develop. The Gargoyles still have significant holes outside the bigs but they are a much improved team. Their problem is that there are many improved teams in the league which means they may not get the big bump they want. 25 wins sounds about right.
Ouch! This team is in a hard place. They had only 18 wins last season and their finances are a wreck. A few years back they were solid with 55 wins but they dropped some each of the last four years until they were just terrible last year. They are also paying $26 million this year to Wayne Taylor. Yes he is the all-time WBA scoring leader, former champion, and one of the best players in WBA history. But his body has taken a beating and at 33 he is not the player he once was. He is a serviceable reserve but not worth a 10th of his salary today. Things will be very different in the high desert this year. LaMar DeAngelo started 52 games at center last year only averaging 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds. Expect him to spend this year in the developmental league. Walter Walter who was acquired as part of the Ajan Estay trade will take over this role. Marquez Houston started the season as power forward but only played 27 games due to a bad concussion. He is back and is looking pretty good for a 32-year-old. Jo Jo Edwards started 52 games last year. The new management had no interest in resigning him. He is now in Paris playing for a minimum contract. Meechy Jennings, the former #3 pick who hasn’t quite worked out yet will take over this starting role. Wayne Taylor started most of the season at shooting guard despite being rather slowed by age. 24-year-old Nicholas Evans will take over this role and provide much improved defense. The spot where this team really falls off will be at point guard. Sean Madera is no where near the player that Ajan Estay is. Still over all this team should be improved and look to win 25-30 games.
#2- Las Vegas
#5- Los Angeles
By Ron Chambers
It is always an honor to be asked by GSPN to give my thoughts about how the new season will play out. I hope these predictions are accurate. It is always a risk to put opinions out there.
The Counts have an interesting history. For several years they struggled as a high-powered offense that couldn’t stop anyone. Two years ago, they made a huge improvement from 39 to 60 wins and they have been among the best teams in the World Conference the last two years but can’t get out of the second round of the playoffs. They have played an interesting style with a big slow center and four small runners. But this year they didn’t retain Marc White who signed a huge contract with LA. They also let Sam Hickerson, who started 61 games, go to Cancun for a minimum contract. Clearly Barcelona decided their center position was a big part of their problem. Fortunately, youngster Hamilton Robins has been developing nicely in the developmental league. He is now ready to step up. He is not quite the defensive player that White or Hickerson are but he is a good defender and very solid rebounder. He also has good stamina which was previous a problem given how fast this team goes up and down the court. Maybe more importantly though he isn’t nearly as slow as either of those players. Most importantly though he is only 22, will continue to improve and can be a long-term piece of this franchise. It looks like the rest of Barcelona’s rotation will be essentially the same. This team should still be good. There may be some drop off as they figure out how their completely revamped, and not as deep, big man rotation will work. During the preseason Carlito Carmona has been starting at power forward, but he is a terrible rebounder. He is quick and strong and can jump so he can cause some problems for other teams but that rebounding is so bad that it is hard to imagine him staying in that position. Time will tell.
Albacete is trying hard to return to elite status. It looked like they were well on their way last year until after 24 games Lonny Jordan was suspended for drug violations. In Spain, there are rampant conspiracy theories tying this to some cabal out of Utah but no real proof has surfaced. But loosing the young franchise player for most of the season definitely hurt. So just having Jordan back will improve this team but they also made some good moves in the off season. They lost Coomas Neetar and though he is a good player he won’t really be missed. Hendricks is playing great so far as the Center. Jordan will likely move to Power Forward which will allow Claude Weidner to move to his much more natural small forward position. That allows Ahmed Dougherty to return to shooting guard. Most importantly the change from Friedrich Egg to Shermar Mahara is a big upgrade. Second year player Edgardo Blanco will move to the bench where he should very effectively back up both guard spots. Albacete should be among the best teams in the World Conference this year. How good? We will have to see how all the parts fit together.
This team is trying to completely change their image as they have transformed from the Predators to the Honey Bees. They are normally a top team but last year they finished with only 37 wins. Lettery Pick Klemens Eberle is very young and good. Even at 19 he is an improvement over Marques Feldman. Errol Bierman was a bench player in Barcelona but he may get his chance in Paris. Also, expect Merlin Lundy to see major minutes in the big man rotation. That means an entirely new rotation but a better rotation that a year ago. Hilton Fulton is a talented young small forward but not a great defender. He is definitely a step down from Koons who had this role last year. The teams leading scorer Timi Rambuka is also gone and replaced b defensively minded Marcus Rogers. Rogers has a terrific skill set but he is not a big scorer which on the right team can be great. The only returning starter is Jervan Timmons. Timmons is a generational player. When all is said and done he will likely go down as the best floor general in WBA history. But, he needs more talent around him to really shine since he is not a great scorer. This is an interesting team with some real promise but they need more scoring punch. That lack of scoring will hold them back this year.
This team may have under performed a little last year as they tied for last in the division. They lost Gerhold Verholm which is a challenge. He is a very good player. They did, however, sign Omar Raoumbe who is a far superior rebounder and a strong interior offensive player. So while the power forward position will look different it is still high quality. Guilhem Lamerand spent last season in the developmental league but he is ready to play with the big boys this year. He has star potential but for now he is solid but not a star. He probably will be about equal, maybe a little better than Justus Rhodes was last year. Last year, Lenn Marella and Erdmann Schuepf split the starting roll as shooting guard. It is unclear what will happen this year. So far in the preseason rookie Fola Onibiyo has been starting there. He has a bright future but probably is better suited to come off the bench as a combo guard. Getting Brice Bell to start as the point guard was a good move. He isn’t a scorer but is one of the best floor generals in the league. This team may have more talent than they can use as the guard spots so look for them to make some trade to either improve their starters or get some depth at the bigs. This team is so different that it is hard to predict how they will go. Probably they will be improved. There is a good chance they will be right around .500.
The Disco were tied for the worst record in the Euro Division but that isn’t too bad. In the USA Division they had enough wins to get into the playoffs. But the World conference was very tough even if it wasn’t as strong on the very top. They are an improved team though. They drafted Cetus Vlahakis with the #15 pick in this year’s very deep draft and he will be an improvement at center. They also picked up Matias Gutierrez as a free agent. The loss of Casey Pointer is big since he was their leading scorer last year but overall, they should have an improved starting five. Their weak spot is shooting guard. Frank Ryan is a spot shooter and good defender. He won’t hurt this team but there is NO talent backing up the guards on this roster. Well, Evan Bobbins has a lot of raw talent but at 19 he isn’t ready to play a big role. This team has a solid starting rotation that should fit together well but the bench is a problem. Because of that and despite the improvement in the starting roster expect this team to once again finish in the mid-30s when it comes to wins. However, a major injury could completely derail this team.
This is an interesting team because when you look at them, they are good but they just don’t stand out. They were the same way last year and they made it to the finals so maybe that isn’t a bad thing. They have very good but not crushing defense and their offense is a little better than average. They are essentially the same team as last year. They did add some depth at the bigs with Michael Huryta which is important. They lost Brian Sewell who played 16 minutes off the bench as a shooting guard, but they can cover those minutes. The big surprise here is that they are still planning to rely on Marvin Lee as the teams starting point guard. Lee is an excellent passer and an adequate defender, but he is a hole offensively. He would make an excellent back-up point guard. If he was a shut down defender, he could work well as a starter. But if Milan is going to take the step to compete with a healthy Cancun team or the top teams in the USA conference they have to improve at this spot. Expect this team to stay about the same with a win total in the low to mid-50s.
The Snow Bears is often called a cursed franchise. They suffered through years of player mismanagement. Their last management team was good with finding players but badly mismanaged the team’s finances. The new management team is experienced and should be able to bring some stability to the franchise. For the first time in memory this team was actually good last year. They 45 wins is amazing for a franchise that has 3 times finished with 10 or fewer wins. Kenyatta Davidson and Chris Acklin are a duo to be feared for the next decade and the flowered sooner than expected averaging a combined 51.1 points. It was heaven for Meyer who could score when he wanted and pass to offensive genius at will. Simeon Hill is the perfect center for this team because he just likes to play defense and rebound leaving the shots for Davidson and Acklin. But that is where this team hits some problem. We’ve mentioned 4 players and they are the clear starters but a team starts 5 players. Will the fifth starter be Laine Saunders? Raphael Park? Pam Thum? Issac Embry? Zachary Wise? Judging by the preseason it looks like it will be Zachary Wise. This is probably a smart move as he is an excellent defender who can spread the floor and score when needed but won’t demand too many shots. The others in that list will provide much needed depth. Given that Moscow seems to have found a rotation they like and they fact that Davidson and Acklin are still maturing this team should improve. Could the Snow Bears break 50 wins? There is a good chance. 45 was probably already the franchise record 50 is beyond Putin’s wildest dreams.
At 31 wins, this team overachieved last year. They had very little talent. They had enough money to go after one big name free agent and they landed Abel DeBusiness, stealing him from the Fanatics who were trying to keep him. Last year DeBusiness was #4 in the league in scoring with 28.3 points. Youngsters Keenan Holter, point guard, and Kip Toney, small forward, also seem to have improved for this year. Vincent miles is still a very solid power forward. Kaniel Hobbs will probably start at center. He is a good rebounder and defender and absolutely no offensive threat. But Abel will like that he isn’t takig shots from him. This team should be better than last year; however, the overachieved so don’t expect a huge jump in wins. They should finish with a win total in the mid-30s.
Let’s be honest. This team only won 25 games last year and they did not have a good offseason. Some fans are saying they are being mismanaged and that is hard to argue considering they still haven’t completely filled out their roster. Last year, they had a legitimate star with Darryl Whittaker and a near star with Javonte Bolk. They lost Whittaker to Fort Worth and didn’t replace him with comparable talent. This team only has two players who are serious WBA starters: Hugo Gutierrez and Javonte Bolk. Ramon Phelan and Tommy Pedersen both could be good role players and, in a few seasons, young prospect Milton Michaels could be excellent. But that is it. This team will be lucky to hit 20 wins.
Last season, Sydney was about as bad as it gets. They had the worst record in the league with only 15 wins. It was the fourth straight year that the bloods failed to achieve 20 wins. Expect to see improvement right away. The new management is committed to not being the joke of the WBA. This team has a lot of young talent even their veterans aren’t old. Kyle Hawkins is 28, Glen Rabon in 26, and Djoka Andjelic is 26. 22-year-old rookie Valentin Muntean is going to be a star as is 21 year old third year player Amaury de Schutter. Talents like Darrel Goldsmith, Terrence Massey, and Roylen Fillum will likely need to spend some time int eh developmental league but with time they will prove valuable. This team has talent and depth in the forwards and center positions. However, Amaury de Schutter is the only guard on the roster that is ready to play significant minutes in the WBA this season. De Schtter is not ready to be the star he likely will be in the future but he is ready to contribute. The point guard position is a real problem. Sammy Crayton is a serviceable reserve but he should not start in the WBA and is better suited for a third option; but he is the only point guard on the roster. Look for this team to be much improved. They should break 20 wins and erase some of the pain of recent years but without a legitimate point guard and with their future stars not yet developed do not expect them to pas 30 wins. Still, if a 15 win team goes from 15 to 25 or 30 that is pretty impressive.
The Outlaws were clearly the best team in the World Conference last year. A late season injury to Clement Trentesols not only kept Cancun from being the only team in the Conference to reach 60 wins it ruined their postseason. Trentosols it the heart of this team and clearly a top 10, probably top 5 player in the league. The Outlaws did not retain the services of aging star Isaac Rice who was their second scoring option, but they replaced him with stretch forward Gerhold Verhom who is also a strong scorer while also better defender and younger. Also, they upgraded at shooting guard defensive minded Marcus Rogers to Timi Ramabuka who is also an elite defender but will score the ball with ease. Ed Summerall and Justin Hill keep their key roles as hard-nosed defenders. Sumerall’s weaknessis that he is not much of a passer or ball handler which means Hill plays point forward. The lack of great passing is the one weakness of this fantastic team. Last year they were the #2 defense but a middling offense. They should be a much-improved offense this year while being just as tough defensively. The bench is a mixed compilation of roll players that will work well assuming there are no injuries. If there are extended injuries Cancun could find themselves with some challenges. All that said, I expect this team to be improved and to finish above 60 wins barring a major injury, but even with a major injury I expect them to push the 60-win mark.
The Giants were one of the top teams in the World Conference last year. They were only three games behind Cancun with the best record in the Conference and hat the same record as the Mayhem, the team that made it to the finals. So, with no changes they would have been good. But they are convinced that they found a gem with the #12 pick in the draft. Matthias Kurz was passed over by 11 other teams, probably because he is not a huge offensive player. But, the 7-footer is a beast on the boards and defensively. This will likely move Brian Armstrong to power forward since the Giants did not resign Tyriq Lang. The combination of Kurz and Armstrong will give Gabon a crushing defense on the interior. Further, Kurz isn’t going to demand shots which will allow others to shine, especially Napoleon Carter. Just as importantly the Giants added depth with Troy Blecher, Bobbie Mason (spent last year in the D-league), Kevin Rollin, and Shelton Britton. This team was a top five defensive team last year, expect them to be better. But they do have a real weakness when it comes to depth with their bigs. The loss of Polikarp Dragunas, who is an ideal bench player is huge. If they had retained Lang that could have also helped. As is if either Armstrong or Kurz get hurt expect the Giants to run four smalls which may be challenging on the defensive end. But we can’t forget that the Giants also drafted Artie Duggons with the #2 draft pick. There is little doubt that Duggons has star potential but this 19-year-old plays on a very talented team so it is likely that he will spend the year in the WBA Developmental league. Gabon could surprise us though and have Duggons play a significant roll off the bench behind Kurz and Armstrong. This is an improved team as long as they stay healthy. They very easily could push 60 wins this year.
For years Cape Town has been all about Abdiel Gordon. There is no doubt that he is one of the premier players in the league. It is amazing to think how much this powerhouse struggled his rookie year scoring 6 points a game on 26.9% shooting. Now days he averages 4-5 times that much and his FG % is double that. Last year, there just wasn’t enough talent around Gordon. A big concern for the Zulu is that their #2 player Chance Crowley decided to move a little north to Nigeria where he will likely be the top scoring option. Humberto Saez, Eric Switzer, Gervais Calloart, Nestor Marugeiro, Wes Taylor, Al Rozier, and Ian Tilman are all nice role players that can help round out a team. But elite teams have 2-3 stars. Cape Town just doesn’t have that. Despite adding depth this year, they could slip a little in the standings unless Gordon has a superhuman year. He is capable. It will be interesting to see how the new management works all the pieces together.
Mexico City is under new management this year but they have a strong foundation. That foundations name is Chris Dao. The 6’9” shooting guard was impressive last year. He averaged a career high 22.2 shooting 55% from the floor and 41% from distance. But he missed 29 games which hurt the Hellcats who really relied on him. When it comes to the Hellcats future, they were HUGE winners in the draft picking up at #18 the 6’11” 19 year old Davey Chisholm. This kid is a few years away, but early reports are that he is better than anyone expected and can become a star in the WBA. Inge Adlgassar spent most of last season in the WBADEV, but he is ready for meaningful minutes in the WBA now. With the exception of the aging Raphael park, who really shouldn’t have started 29 games last year, this team has most the same pieces but they are young, so they have improved. If Dao stays healthy this team is a legitimate threat to break 50 games.
The Pirates finished last season with a 38-42 record which was the worst in the Global Division and were the only team in that division to miss the playoffs. But making the playoffs In the World Conference was tough. This was a solid team. Their number one scoring option from last year, Omar Raoumbe, left to play in Frankfurt. But they still have their number two option from last year Victor Morales and added capable scorer Chance Crowley. They resigned defensive center Andre Rawlings, but most observers feel they paid way too much for him which could cause problems in a season or two. The youngsters Steven Harrelson and Aiden de Schutter continue to develop, and the team does have more depth with players like Scott Berger and Babbling Brook. The big difference though is the addition of rookie Heirnich Rarich. Last year Remi Jeay was the starting point guard for the Pirates. Jeay is a good role player but should not be the starter on a strong WBA team. He will work well off the bench but adding Rarich who is a better passer, scorer, defender, and much more athletic should really help this franchise.
#3- Mexico City
#4- Cape Town
Everyone in the WBA knows that this can be a very relaxing league. We can take nine-year breaks and come back like we played yesterday, but sometimes, a flurry of movements makes the league fascinating again. Let’s see the week in review:
The Crying Game:
Some GMs started, once again, to call foul against the financial system of the league. The main issue would be the great difference between the budgets of big market teams. Brooklyn’s Budget is used as an example, but they don´t understand that winning teams have larger budgets.
Sharks running circles around The Rage…
While the Bangerters were calling Rondall out about Brooklyn’s Budget, the rest of the league was waiting for the next offseason to see the dynasty to fall. Omar Jefferson has started to fade and has a Monster contract. Kincaide’s ending contract would be almost impossible to extend, and super Mario Bailey was showing the effect of the years played at the highest level. It was a matter of time, at least we thought that, because
…But Rondall makes his move (in fact, two)
Rondall is a winner for a reason (well two, but we cant talk about the genetic training camp only applicable to Brooklyn’s players). He always finds a way to get what he needs. Financially, he was in a bad place, as he was expected to lose some core players like Kincaide, while having to swallow Omar Jefferson´s contract. In a 24 hours span, both problems are not in Rondall´s hands. First, he traded Jefferson to Kansas City basically for Ed Rhodes and Anthony Gleason. Both players are really capable to be very good role players and they provide some cap relief. The reason for an experienced manager like Dave Williams to absorb such a salary is not clear.
Not happy with that (well, you know, he was jumping full of joy), the Rage traded Dan Kincaid basically for Trenton Adams. While Adams is a pair of seasons away from being a pair of seasons away from contributing, Rondall has demonstrated that he knows how to develop young players (I should not be talking about this). Especially this trade will make the Rage domination to stop, they still will be contenders, but the outcome is really open right now
Stars going to underperforming teams?
Darryl Whittaker going to the lousy Warriors? Really? That’s a big upset, and it was the first move of new GM Gustavo Follana. This signing makes Forth Worth relevant again
Then a pair of days later, the Tokyo Devils steal Abel Desbuisnes from Salt Lake City. None of those teams made the playoffs last season, now, you never know.
We have an early favorite to GM of the Year
Gustavo is a veteran manager, but when we all expected a calmed approach to develop a Young and promising core, he persuaded Darryl Whittaker to sign with the Warriors. It was clear that they needed to try to win as soon as possible. You can argue that trading the number 1 pick for Dan Kincaid in a contract year is a risky move, but that core is a foundation for a playoff team, so, resigning Kincaid is a real possibility. If they find a way to convert Curtis Starman into a competent point guard, they are a lock to be in the postseason.
Albacete (finally) has a floor general
The Burning Hell had a good collection of talented players, but most of them were forwards. The Lonnie Jordan drama did not allow us to see how far this team could go. For a pair of seasons, Fridrich Egg was spotted as the weak link. Egg, a talented player, did not show the leadership needed to accommodate all the pieces in the Albacete scheme. Only a handful of players met the criteria to lead the team. GM Alcaraz tried to go after Javonte Bolk, Jervan Timmons, Omar Jefferson(joke), Trevor Tomlin… There was a moment where Michael Askins seemed headed to Albacete, but finally it was Sherman Mahara the player going to Albacete. Mahara is an experienced point guard with the tools to dominate a game scoring or with his playmaking.
Preparing to dethrone Rondall Reynoso
With Brooklyn moving a step back to retool for the future, all of a sudden they look beatable. Maybe 4-5 teams think they can win it all this season.
Albacete traded for Sherman Mahara and now they have a real point guard to lead the team. Albacete has a lot of scoring options with Mahara, Dougherty, Lonnie Jordan, Claude Weidner, and Lazaro Hendricks capable of averaging 20 points this season. In an underrated move, Albacete signed as a free agent the defensive phenom Polikarp Dragunas
Boston Massacre: Mr. Lawrence has been really active. First of all they got Vitorino Pinelo, and then they improved, even more, their guard rotation trading Matias Gutierrez for Casey Pointer. They are not done trading, but Boston has a lot of options now.
Kansas City Blues has gone all-in trading for Omar Jefferson, will they regret?
California Fighting Cocks: Kurt Beck, Hassan Watt…can you smell the blood?
Cancun has reported that Jim Koons violated the terms of his contract and has been released from him Some are speculating that he did something to violate the morality clause of his contract. Others are speculating that he went skydiving and refused to stop riding his motorcycle which is a violation of his clause against high-risk activities. Cancun has refused to say more.
by Timmy Frenchy
Milan Mayhem vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 2-0)
I was way out in left field when I wrote that Colorado was a threat to Brooklyn in my preview of the USA Conference. Right after the first game, where the Rage annihilate the Pioneers by 53 points, there was feeling that this would not be the series that we anticipated. The Rage allowed only 58 points that game, their 5th best defensive mark all-time. Brooklyn went on to win every other game by 21 points or more, easily accessing to the league’s biggest stage. They come in with a perfect 12-0 post season record and it sure looks like they are going to win their 4th title in a row.
Mayhem really had to work hard to earn their first final berth in WBA history. It took seven games to get rid of the Giants and Milan now have a 12-8 record this post-season. Milan capture homecourt over Gabon in regular season last games and it proved to be a difference maker in the long run as every home team won their game in the Conference Finals. This is a great accomplishment for Milan, and they should continue to dominate over the next few seasons as their main guys are still under contract.
As resilient and poised the Mayhem as been in these playoffs, the dream of winning it all should not come true this year. The Rage are on a mission. They won every playoffs game and are challenged by the fact that they could become the best team in WBA playoffs history. Only one question mark remains: Can Milan won a game in this series and spoiled Brooklyn perfect run?
Prediction: Brooklyn over Milan in 5
by Timmy Frenchy
Gabon Giants vs Milan Mayhem
(Milan won season series 3-0)
Milan showed some poised and experience in the second round as they won against a strong offensive squad even if they didn’t have home court advantage. Except for game 6 which was a 42 points blowout, all other games were decided by an average margin of 6 points. This group is clutch. Eufrazio averaged 28 points and Bohm averaged 24 points to lead the way for the Mayhem. After coming back from behind to beat the Snow Bears in the first round and then taking out a better seeded in the second, Mayhem have now a lots of momentum on their way to the next challenge.
After cruising in round one, the Giants were challenged in the second against the Hellcats. They took a commanding 3-0 lead, winning a close game 2 at home along the way. But then the Hellcats made some adjustments and won both game 4 and 5. The Giants were relieved to get the W in game 6 in Mexico City, winning only by 4 points to avoid a potential game 7 disaster. The Giants are healthy and looking forward for their second trip to the Conference Finals in team’s history.
Both teams have never been to the WBA finals so we will have a brand new World Conference Champions this season. These 2 teams have similarities; they have both deep squad with talented players at every position. Milan won every meeting they had this season by an average of 14 points. They also have home court advantage. Ex-Giants Jarrod Roe wants to prove to his old team that they should have tried to re-sign him this off-season. Unless Gabon can find some kind of magic formula to slow down Eufrazio and Bohm, this series won’t last very long.
Prediction: Milan over Gabon in 5
Colorado Pioneers vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 2-1)
Kansas City did challenge the defending champions in the 2nd round, but only for one game. Game 2 was an instant classic that went to OT and totaled 278 points for both teams combined. Brooklyn won that game and destroyed the Blues in every other game, winning those by an average of 34 points. The Rage are still waiting for a team to make them sweat a little in this post-season.
The Pioneers are in the USA Conference Finals! This is well deserved as they had to defeat the very talented California Fighting Cocks to get there. Some might say that it would have been different if Kurt Beck had return from his injury sooner. But others will remember Tony Henderson superb defense on Beck in the deciding game where he allowed him to shoot only 6/23 from the floor. And Pioneers won that game by 20. It is over and the Pioneers advance.
The Colorado Pioneers represent the first real threat the mighty Brooklyn Rage must face in this year playoffs. Even if they do not have much depth, Colorado have the offensive firepower and the defensive specialists to really give Brooklyn a run for their money. Still, it would be a miracle if the Pioneers surmount this obstacle to get to the WBA Finals. Maybe John «Divine» Devine could do something about it?
Prediction: Brooklyn over Colorado in 6
By Ron Chambers
Well….I blew it last round. Two right out of four is a failing grade. But, I have to admit that this round is pretty tricky.
Gabon (56-24) vs. Milan (56-24)
This will be Gabon’s first match-up this postseason without home-court advantage. Will it make a difference?
Both these teams are efficient offensively and good defenders. They aren’t identical teams but have some real similarities. One advantage that stands out for Gabon is a 1.27 (#4) PPS versus 1.18 (#22) for the Mayhem.
Milan was pushed to the limit in the first round by a young team. But, the bounced back very well in the second round against a very good Barcelona team. The story for Milan has been the great play of Silvino Eufrazio who is averaging 6.8 points a game more in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. He has averaged 28.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks. Oh, and Marvin Lee has been lights out passing at 9.2 assists. Bohm has also been excellent as he always is. Roe has been a strong scorer and rebounder. Bacchi doesn’t’ get the praise but he has been quietly very efficient with a 1.36 PPS.
When you look at Gabon’s playoffs stats no one stands out like on Milan’s roster. Carter has been very good raising his average by 1.7. Avery has raised his passing average to 8.2. The key to their success is excellent team play. They don’t have superstars but they are tough on defense and efficient on offense.
Choosing a winner in this series is hard. They are very closely matched. I tend to give a slight edge to Gabon because of their offensive efficiency. But, Milan has home-court advantage. It comes down to if efficient team play will win over the excellent individual play of Eufrazio and Bohm. So, I make this prediction with very little confidence.
Gaon wins series 4-3.
Brooklyn (74-6) vs. Colorado (64-16)
Colorado and Brooklyn are the only two franchises to break the 70 win mark. Colorado may not be back to what they were 10 seasons ago but they are darn good. Despite winning 64 games this year they surprised many observers by beating the Fighting Cocks. The big surprise though wasn’t the win but how they closed the series out with a dominant win over California when they had a full roster. It was impressive.
Some have written off the pioneers because they don’t have much depth and Kamara doesn’t score. They don’t ask much from their bench. They simply want them to come in, play hard, and not lose the advance. That last part has proven harder in the play-offs but they have performed well enough. Lyons and Devine get the press because of their scoring and they deserve it. But, in the playoffs, Kinsey and Henderson have been key. They lead the team with their high +/-. They are the glue players who defend well and play hard.
But Brooklyn. This team is impressive. They are currently on a 19 game winning streak, including two shut outs in the playoffs. Mario Bailey, Jarius Miles, and Omar Jefferson are all averaging 20 or more in +/- while four others also average double digits. But, they are facing a major test in Colorado. Don’t expect the same sort of dominance.
Brooklyn wins series 4-2
by Timmy Frenchy
The first round provided exciting matchups in the World Conference. Although it was predicted that some series would be tightly contested, it is still a surprise that the top team exited right away.
Mexico City Hellcats vs Gabon Giants
(Mexico City won season series 3-1)
It is the first time an 8th seeded vanquish the top seed in WBA modern day history. But these two teams were not that far apart talent wise. Cancun losing Trentesols for this series combining by the heroic return of Dao were the missing ingredients for the Hellcats to create the perfect Storm. They held the Outlaws to 92 points per game, a team that average more than 103 points in regular season. Chris Dao averaged 25 points in only 30 minutes, showing off how efficient he is.
Impressive performance by the Giants in the first round. They dismantled a talented Albacete Burning Hell squad in only 4 games. Not a single game was even close as 4 Gabon’s players scored 17 pts per game or more. Napoleon even cap this one with a career high 41 points in the last game of the series. Giants fans might want to contain their excitement as maintaining this level of play is highly improbable. Still, it is nice for them to celebrate Gabon 1st playoffs series victory in the last 3 seasons.
Hellcats matchup very well against the Giants as they only lost once this season against them, a game decided by only 3 points. And let us mention that Dao was absent that day. Both teams come in full steam after great performances in the first round. Which team will maintain that momentum? Which team will adjust better over the course of a potential long battle? It looks like a flip coin. Maybe homecourt and Gabon crazy fans could be the x-factor here. Maybe not.
Prediction: Mexico City over Gabon in 7 games.
Milan Mayhem vs Barcelona Counts
(Barcelona won season series 2-1)
Barcelona was really tested by Cape town in the first round, and they came out on top. They only took a lead in the series after game 5, and it needed 7 games to be settle. Zulus playoffs experience along with Gordon willpower almost got the best of this young and less experience Counts squad. But it is past them now, and Primo & Co may have gained the confidence to go even deeper in these playoffs.
What a relief for Milan management when the buzzer sounded at the end of game 7. Acklin from Moscow just missed a 3 pts shoot that could have tied it. After losing game 5 and falling behind 3 games to 2 against a young and explosive Snow Bears team, it looked like this season was over for the Mayhem. Eufrazio was stellar in game 6 (29 pts, 15 reb, 5 ast) and in game 7 (27 pts, 14 reb, 6 blks) as the Mayhem showed poised to survive this fight.
These 2 teams just both finished difficult 1st round. The Counts have home court and a deeper team, but the Mayhem still have more experience. Looks like we’re in for another long battle that could be decided just before the buzzer sound in game 7. Look for Mayhem top guns to make the difference when it counts.
Prediction: Milan over Barcelona in 7 games
Some lopsided matchups made these first round series short. Two matchups ended in a sweep and no series needed more than 5 games to determine the winner.
Kansas City Blues vs Brooklyn Rage
(Brooklyn won season series 3-1)
As predicted, the Rage had no problem handling the Firestorm, winning every game of the series by an average of 26 points. Brooklyn had 7 players scoring double digit points per game in this series. Tyrus Mayes came back in game 3 after missing all games since late February because of a concussion. He looks healthy again and should be useful for Brooklyn in their upcoming challenge.
Kansas City took care of business in the first round, winning the series in 5 games. Walt Jackson was particularly efficient against Boston, scoring 27 points per game while shooting .500 from the downtown. This squad is healthy and will even have a few days to rest before facing their biggest challenge this season.
The Blues only won once in regular season against the Rage, and all three games they lost were blowouts. Jackson and Sims are excellent scoring big men, but they should be partially held in check by Miles and Mayes superb defense. Kansas City could be able to steal one or two games, but Brooklyn superior talent will prevail.
Prediction: Brooklyn over Kansas City in 5
Colorado Pioneers vs California Fighting Cocks
(season series split 2-2)
Even without Kurt Beck, the Fighting Cocks were dominant against the Rainmakers in the first round. That series ended with a perfect 4-0 for California where games were won by an average of 27 points. Hassan Watts picked up the scoring slack averaging 6 more points compared to his regular season. Beck absence was a non-factor against Seattle, but it could be a difference-maker in the second round.
It felt like a walk in the park for the Pioneers in their first-round against Gamblers. Colorado limited Las Vegas to only 61 points in game 1, crushing their spirit right from the get-go. Darond Lyons & Co had total control on this series that ended in 5 games. Pioneers are healthy and ready for the next round.
As good a team the Pioneers are, the Fighting Cocks are the best team on paper. Their depth is incredible and that’s exactly what Colorado lacks. But Beck’s absence could change everything. Divine Devine and Lyons will need some huge games to push that series to seven games, and hope they get lucky if they get there. With that said, it still looks like California will punch back-to-back tickets for the Conference Finals.
Prediction: California over Colorado in 7