Friday, 07 July 2017 14:29 Written by Jason Warnke
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2020 OBWL Finals Preview

2020 TBT LON
Tritons vs. Knights: The Rematch


The Tale of Two Seasons: A 2020 OBWL Championship Series Preview

Talent, fate, and a little bit of luck have set up the 2020 OBWL Championship series as a rematch of just a year prior. The defending champion Tampa Bay Tritons, who started out the season on a 37-4 tear, will face the London Knights again, who finished the season on an astonishing 38-3 clip.

Throughout the first half of the season, it was nearly league-wide consensus that the Tritons would repeat, and that GM Tom Lacher would once again prove his superiority as one of the best front office executives in the history of professional basketball. Then, as the team approached the all-star break they sputtered, limping into the play-off with a 58-22 record, playing .538 ball (21-18) in the second half of the season and falling to the second seed in the American Conference to the always tough Kansas City Pioneers.

On the other side of the coin (and pond), the London Knights looked to struggle early, just as they did in 2019. However, as usual GM Jian Lan made some critical moves as the mid-season approached that allowed them to finish the season with a league best 62 wins, as well as home court advantage for the entirety of the postseason.

The path to the championship was not paved with gold for the Knights. They managed to parry the Manhattan Swing in only five games, but were tested by both the Toronto Huskies and the Arizona Thunderbirds. Both of these series went to game seven. Despite this adversity, London cruised to a 24 point victory in the final game of round two against the Huskies (106-82) and then went on the embarrass the usually highly effective Arizona defense with a 43 point rout (132-89) to win the National Conference Finals in game seven. Some would claim home court helped. Others would say both opponents simply gave up or ran out of gas in their respective game sevens.

The road to the 2020 Finals was a bit easier for the Tritons. They dispatched the Los Angeles Chaos in five games, the Las Vegas Blackjacks in six, and then went on the sweep the St. Louis Sun Kings in the American Conference Finals. The success to date in the play-offs can be largely attributed to the inspired play of team leader, and scoring machine, Andy Teeters.

So the table is set. London will have home court advantage in this series. Tampa Bay will have a more rested squad.

The Backcourts

London: Val Crumley & Mack Lavoie
Tampa Bay: Ervin Glaser & Andy Teeters

It is difficult to tell who will match-up where this series as both Lacher & Lian have been known to shuffle around lineups to take advantage of their opponent's weaknesses. However, both Tampa Bay and London have depth and flexibility, we will evaluate the most likely of starting lineups coming in to game one.

The Triton backcourt is collectively averaging 44 points, 10 rebounds, and 13.4 assists a night. Teeters has led the league in scoring (32.3ppg) this postseason, and is coming off a series where he singlehandedly obliterated the young St. Louis Sun Kings. That said, Lacher has been bouncing Teeters around these play-offs, so while he can certainly excel at the two-guard, it would not be surprising if they played smaller ball with Andy at the SF or PF position. The difference between the Knights and Tampa's previous opponents is London's flexibility on the defensive end. With defensive stoppers like Mack Lavoie, Jean Larry, and Herschel Hofer patrolling the floor, neutralizing Teeters may be less difficult than teams in the past.

London's backcourt appears a less prolific on paper, combining for 32.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 4.3 steals throughout the playoffs. However, both Crumley & Lavoie are capable of having a huge night, and both are efficient on offense and on defense. Unlike Tampa Bay, it appears that the Knights will likely keep their starting point guard and shooting guard in place throughout the entire series.

Advantage: Tampa Bay, Slight

The Frontcourts

London: Jose Owens, Jean Larry, Herschel Hofer
Tampa Bay: Kevin Gordon, Rajeev Seifert, Hunter Heath

Yet again, it is nearly impossible to determine who will start where given all the interchangeable parts in both London and Tampa Bay. That said, the players listed above are those likely to get the most starter minutes throughout the series, even if they do end up coming off the bench in one or more games.

Look for Lacher to try to get Kevin Gordon matched up on Jose Owens in game one. Lian used Owens effectively at the power forward slot in the first two playoff series, where he averaged nearly 20 points a night. He had cooled off however, and was eventually sent to the bench to come off as a reserve. It is very likely that Gordon could shut down the sophomore Owens, so it would not be surprising if London opts to play the game of shuffle with their young stud.

It may turn out that the Tritons go small early, and Teeters ends up at the four in a game one shocker. To thwart this potential, we may see GM Lian stick OBWL Defensive Player of the Year, Jean Larry at the power forward. This would mean Owens would likely come off the bench, but it would also limit Teeters to small forward for the series if Lacher is worried about Lavoie & Larry. Then again, Teeters could still prove too quick and agile for the top defender in the league.

Both Seifert & Heath are very versatile in their own right. In fact, both are widely considered two of the best Glue Guys in the game. This postseason they are registering 26.8 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 3.7steals, and 2.2 blocks a night. Each can play anywhere on the floor other than the point guard slot if called upon, and are largely interchangeable.

The Knights primarily rely on their defense in the paint. So it will be interesting how the series plays out given the interchangeable nature of both rosters. It would not be out of the question to see veteran Trevon Booth who has been averaging 15.1 points on a 61% TSP in just 27 minutes a game called upon for an expanded offensive role in this series. Likewise, GM Lian has relied on Gregory Gebhardt a little more this postseason. Gebby has started 8 of the 18 games, averaging close to 10 points on a night in just over 18 minutes a game. The Knights may need to rely on these two role players to provide an additional offensive spark in an effort to keep up with the prolific Triton offense.

Advantage: Tritons

The Benches

London: Trevon Booth, Gregory Gebhardt, James Willhite
Tampa Bay: Stan McClelland, Hobert Frisby, Band of Misfits

At first glance, it may appear that the London Knights are a bit deeper than the Tritons since Tampa Bay has only given significant minutes to McClelland and Frisby in the play-offs. However, GM Lacher does have three other role players that provide around 10 minutes a game. This Band of Misfits include Dell Chamberlin, Joe Turner, and Arnulfo Milner.

McClelland is an athletic two-guard who can create his own offense from almost anywhere on the court. Undersized at 6-1, he makes up for this with his explosiveness and jumping ability. His ability to serve as a microwave off the bench, provides continued offensive punishment to opponents when Teeters needs a breather. Hobert Frisby, the #1 overall selection in last year's rookie draft, adds insult to injury of opponents, who on the season was already putting up numbers that would garner a starting spot on virtually every other OBWL franchise. Frisby averaged over 17.5 points and nearly 5.4 assists per 36 minutes in his rookie campaign. His perimeter defense has been solid as well. The fact that this cat is coming off the bench would make any opposing coach cringe.

The Knights look to former OBWL alpha-dog Trevon Booth to lead the way. In 2020, he averaged over 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals on a 59.3% TSP in just 24.7 reserve minutes a night. While Booth is not the dominant scorer that he once was, he can certainly provide the proverbial spark off the bench and is capable of hanging 30 or more points on an opponent on any given night. Gebhardt, who may see some starts, is also a well-rounded offensive weapon despite having some shooting issues of late. James Willhite, who suffered a major injury midseason, is also back and should not be ignored, as he can do a little bit of everything and not get in the way on the offensive or defensive end.

Advantage: Tritons, Slight

The Verdict

This series will come down to how well each team plays the match-up game and whether or not the Knights can hold Teeters closer to 24 points a night. London, while capable of exploding offensively, is built more on defense than they are offense. To the contrary, the Tritons play solid defense, but are built to efficiently make buckets as displayed by their league leading 107.6 team points per game during the regular season.

At first glance, one may think that the success of the Tritons falls squarely on their Team MVP, Andy Teeters. That is just not the case, however. GM Tom Lacher has built a very balanced offensive squad with virtually no holes. They can play small ball, or they can go big. They can situate offense at every position on the floor if necessary, or deviate from plan and place a defender at any given position in an effort to shut down an opponents' strength. The team literally has six players that could explode offensively at any time. Given that one of those six is one of the greatest scorers in the history of basketball (Teeters), any team facing the Tritons should be very worried.

Do not count out the Knights, however. Val Crumley has had a fairly pedestrian post season, Jose Owens has slumped of late, and James Willhite has just returned. Their defense is strong from top to bottom, and just as with Tampa Bay, London has a lot of different looks and options that they can throw at the Tritons. The main concern will be the containment of Teeters, wherever he ends up being positioned. However, with a team defense that help opponents to a league leading 90.2 points a game, absolutely anything is possible.

This week the OBWL's leading offense will be pitted against the league's leading defense. The team that started the season on a historic tear will be matched up against the squad that ended the season on fire. In short, the two best teams at start and finish will face off to determine the 2020 Heikkenen Cup Champion.

Series Prediction: Tampa Bay in 7.

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