Thursday, 07 September 2017 16:31 Written by Tom Lacher
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2021 National Conference Preview


2021 Owens 01
Jose Owens and the London Knights will look to conquer the National Conference again in 2021.

 

National East Division

The NatEast, affectionately known to it's members as the NattyBeast, is a division that has been highly contested in recent seasons.   The reigning OBWL Champion London Knights, along with Boston and Toronto have been at the top of the NatEast consistently. South Florida and Quebec have made great strides recently and Manhattan has a Heikkinen Cup. Only New Jersey has not tasted any real success.

2021 looks like another dog fight but London is considered the clear favorite.

LONDON KNIGHTS

 

Strengths:

The Knights biggest strength is that their pieces seem to fit together perfectly. While PG Val Crumley is a great player, he does not put up superstar numbers. London relies on the whole. Crumley and SG Mack Lavoie are an electric backcourt. Signing SG Tod Padron and PG Dudley Shill in free agency adds to the all-hands-on-deck approach. Up front, DPOY Jean Larry takes over at C and PF Jose Owens will be looked on to play more minutes and continue to score.

Weaknesses:

Are there any?

If forced to pick something then the SF position, but that's being rather nit-picky. There is no clear-cut starter. James Willhite, Gregory Gebhardt and FA signee Horace Rodriquez will battle it out.....but they are all capable and that means once again the Knights have great depth at SF. (The Knights are so good that a seeming weakness, in actuality, is a strength.)

Outlook:

The Knights will win the NattyBeast and the NatCon and go back-to-back as OBWL Champs.

BOSTON BUZZARDS

 

Strengths:

Much like the Knights, Boston relies on the total team effort. Unlike the London, the Buzzards do not have a Crumley type player on their roster. Boston is the perfect example of 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'. Boston does have solid players. SG Michael Loftin and newly acquired PF Louis Lysne head that list. Buzzard faithful are hoping the super-max contract given to SF Octavio Morrison

means that he is ready to take that step towards super-stardom.

Weaknesses:

Boston does not have a true star. More concerning, however, is the lack of a true PG. Incumbent starter Curtis Swiger and FA signee John Sims look to be battling for the starting nod. Neither is a great passer but both can defend.

Outlook:

The Buzzards will put pressure on London all season. If they can avoid being on the same side of the bracket as the Knights come playoff time we could see Boston in the NatCon Finals.

TORONTO HUSKIES

 

Strengths:

The Dynamic Duo of the North, PF Charles Flowers and SG Matthew Cole, are as good as it gets as a combo. They are nearly unstoppable offensive forces. Either or both can score 40 points on any given night. Both are capable of carrying a team on their back. The passing of PG Jonathan Weaver helps get these 2 prolific scorers great looks.

Weaknesses:

Toronto lost the third part of its 3-Headed Monster when SF Motya Kamensky signed with Kentucky. Finding consistent scoring from another source and consistent play at SF will be vital. Veteran Oscar Riggs looks to get the first shot at SF. He does a little of everything except shoot the 3.

Solid play at C from Kadeem Parandian and Howard McGhee is a must.

Outlook:

Flowers is the most talented player in the OBWL and Cole is a stone-cold scorer but they need help. Toronto will be a good team but will not have enough to challenge for the NatEast crown or the NatCon championship.

SOUTH FLORIDA SHARKS

 

Strengths:

The Sharks have two players in PF Quinten Bryson and SF David Witherspoo who can score anywhere on the floor and can create their own shot. Both are alpha dog scorers and there was some initial concern as to how they would mesh. Those fears were put to rest almost immediately after Bryson arrived as both seemed to play better together. If SG Dominique Bahena fully recovers from the broken leg he suffered last season, he will be a very solid 3rd option.

Weaknesses:

PG Richard Voyles and C Arthur Fiscus serviceable players but not starting quality players. When both are on the court, South Florida is basically playing 3 vs 5 on their offensive end. Both Fiscus and Voyles are solid defensively but their offensive challenges make them liabilities.

Outlook:

The Sharks will be in the playoffs and will be a scary draw but will have a tough time making it out of the 1st round unless they can somehow swing a deal for a quality PG.

QUEBEC COYOTES

 

Strengths:

The Coyotes boast a very strong starting 5. C Charles Ottinger and PF Garry Williams are entering their prime years and both are on the verge of stardom. SF Joe Spurlock continue to harness his great athletic gifts and improve his skill set. The backcourt of SG Frank McGehee and PG Dario Cruz have become a solid duo as both can pass score and defend.

These 5 need to play 36-40 minutes a game each.

Weaknesses:

The reason the Coyotes have to have their starters log heavy minutes is because their bench is every bit as bad as the starters are good. PG Lynn Brannen is as good as it gets on the Quebec 2nd unit...and that is not a good thing.

Outlook:

The Coyotes will need an injury free season to have any hope of getting into the playoffs.

MANHATTAN SWING

 

Strengths:

Swingmen Thomas Stanley and Mark McKelvey are both solid players and scorers. They are both 27 and should be starting to play their best basketball. It gives the Swing something to build around....or use a trade bait to acquire some picks and/or young talent to start to rebuild.

PF Whitney Cherry is a young player that played very well in his 6th man role last season and may be on the verge of becoming a player Manhattan can have in their long-term plans.

Weaknesses:

The rest of the roster is very limited and aging quickly. PG Todd Butterfield and C Maurice Pokrajak are both on the decline. The FA signing of 35-year old SF Angel Kurzyna was met with some questions but his track record suggests he still has some gas left in the tank so maybe he can be used in a trade to grab a younger player.

Outlook:

Things look like they may get worse before getting better in Manhattan. The playoffs are a long shot at best.

NEW JERSEY ENFORCERS

 

Strengths:

D-E-F-E-N-S-E.

All 5 project Enforcer starters are very good defenders.

The backcourt of veteran Duncan Mitchell and free agent acquisition Horace Robinson is very quick and could be very disruptive in the passing lanes. The frontcourt of SF McKinley Brownin, PF Ean Kariger and C Trevor Jolley can all defend their position well.

Weaknesses:

The Enforcers are going to have a hard time scoring. Mitchell will need to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. New Jersey is hoping the passing of the Robinson-Mitchell backcourt can help get some easy buckets.

Outlook:

New Jersey went all in with veterans but it will not be enough to get them out of the cellar in the NatEast.

 

National West Division

The NatWest has been under the control of the Arizona Thunderbirds and the Seattle Sea Dogs since the beginning of the OBWL. No other team has won the division. The T-Birds look to remain atop the pile while Seattle looks to be sliding. Minnesota and Denver look to be poised to challenge this season while Honolulu, Vancouver and San Diego look to all be improving.

ARIZONA THUNDERBIRDS

 

Strengths:

Arizona's perimeter offense is one of the best in the league. The starting backcourt of all-time great PG Harry White and SG Mark Marble can fill it up from outside. They have been counted on to carry the offense over the past few seasons. The free agent signings of notable long-range bombers Jacquez Becklin and Jason Bruder only add to the perimeter prowess.

Interior defense is another strength in the Valley of the Sun. Opponents will have a hard time scoring or even getting clean looks at the rim with C Elton Carnahan and PF's Joey McGehee and Jordyn Hardin patrolling the paint.

Weaknesses:

Perimeter defense is going to be a massive issue for the T-Birds this season. Aside from Marble, who is considered just an average defender, no one on the Arizona roster seems capable of keeping anybody they guard in front of them. The shot-blockers may have a lot of chances at the rim this season.

Outlook:

Arizona is a talented team. Behind London, arguably the most talented team in the NatCon. They should have no problems securing another NatWest crown and getting the #2 seed in the NatCon. I see them facing London in the NatCon Finals.

MINNESOTA MARAUDERS

 

Strengths:

Offensively, Minnesota is a tough handle for any team they play. Superstar SG Andrew Bordo can score from anywhere and has zero trouble creating his own shot. PF Michael Jenkins is beginning to show fans why the Marauder Front Office signed him to a big money long-term deal. SF Blake Cobb's scoring and facilitating combo is as good as any frontcourt player in the league.

Minnesota upgraded their bench to the point it now looks like a strength. SF Chet Schaaf and PG Hao Billups were signed during free agency and added to SG/SF Howard Richey and combo guard Kenneth Dashiell and PG Nathaniel McMull for a deep perimeter group.

Weaknesses:

PG; Incumbent Elroy Lucier has been so up and down performance-wise that it looks like the Minnesota Front Office may have finally given up on him. While signing Billups was a solid move, starting Billups does not alleviate the issue at PG. The Marauders need Lucier to get his head straight and step up and lead the offense.

Perimeter defense could be a problem as well. Billups helps in that area as well but the Marauders have a lot of matadors on the wings.

Outlook:

Minnesota has the talent to challenge Arizona for a division title but the play of their PG's must be better than last season.

DENVER DEMONS

 

Strengths:

The Denver Demons will D you up! Denver was a very good defensive team last season and they look to have gotten even better. The signing of SF Daniel Goodrum, whether it was because of miscommunication with the front office by their notably tyrannical GM or not, no one can argue that Goodrum is not an elite, if not the best, defender in the OBWL. Denver can now put a plus defender at every position on the floor to surround star SG Greg Fore.

PF Justin Malone and C Charles Cazares are elite shot blockers and whoever wins the starting PG job can defend as well.

Weaknesses:

Who will run the show in Denver? Seems that has been the question over the last few seasons and no one has stepped up. Last year's starter, Chris Brawner, seems to have the leg up but 3rd year man David Bouchard has impressed many during training camp. Holdover Troy Benson is also an option.

The bottom line is that one of the three needs to step up and win the job.

Outlook:

The Demons are my sleeper pick to win the NatWest IF, and that is a huge if, someone can be consistent at PG. Denver doesn't need a great PG, although that would massively helpful, they just need someone to give them consistency.

If one of the three B's can do that, the Demons could be scary.

SEATTLE SEADOGS

 

Strengths:

Seattle lost the face of their franchise, Joseph Drumm, in free agency. That's a big loss, obviously, but the Sea Dogs still have C Donovan Bashford and he is a legitimate #1 scoring option in the post. That is something most OBWL teams do not possess. Bashford will get the chance to lead the franchise and he seems ready to do it.

Bashford will need help though if the Sea Dogs want to contend in the NatWest. To that end, Seattle traded from the mercurial Severin Sauter to play PF. Many think this is the perfect situation for the former #1 overall pick. He will able to play his natural PF position and not be asked to be the #1 offensive option.

Weaknesses:

Talent, after Bashford and Sauter, and depth could be issues in Seattle this season.

Free agent signee SG Keven Kowalczyk, vet SF Lou Gracchi and PG Larry O'brien all must reverse the downhill trend their careers have taken over the past 2 seasons. All 3 are capable but their play last season was concerning.

The Sea Dog bench has very little proven OBWL talent. It remains to be seen if a young player can step up and give some quality minutes. There will certainly be opportunities for that to happen.

Outlook:

Bashford is good enough to carry a team. If Sauter plays the way many think he will and Kowalczck, Gracchi and O'brien return to form then Seattle can be good, maybe really good, but they will need all that to happen and someone to step up off the bench or it will be a long season in the Northwest.

HONOLULU INFERNO

 

Strengths:

The Inferno roster is filled with young athletes. SF Michael Weathersby and rookie SG Aaron Baum head that list. Both are quick and can jump. C Jack Miley and PF Richard Hardee are among the most athletic players at their position as well.

A number of young reserves are also extremely athletic. These youngsters need to use their athletic ability to complement their basketball skills and not the opposite if Honolulu wants to see this group continue to ascend.

Weaknesses:

Seems to be a running theme is the NatWest....PG. Isaac Lafollette is an exciting player but he is a not a natural PG and not one that will take your team to the next level. Veteran Melvin Gadsen was signed in free agency but he is not the answer. Baum has the skill set but is prone to turnovers and it's tough handing the reigns of an OBWL team to a rookie but it just might make the most sense.

Outlook:

Honolulu surprised everyone by being in contention for a playoff berth all season. The young guys look to have improved and Baum adds something for sure but the Inferno are at least a season and a natural PG away from the playoffs.

VANCOUVER HIGHLANDERS

 

Strengths:

Vancouver has an outstanding backcourt in veteran PG Michael Keyes and SG Dennis Pichardo. Keyes is an all-time great and has been the face of Highlander basketball since being drafted #1 overall in 2014. He singlehandedly gives Vancouver the chance to win every night. Pichardo is bull of a SG. He does not have great quickness but can jump and is as strong as any perimeter player in the league.

On the interior, C Darin Deans made great strides last season and anchors the defense.

Weaknesses:

The F positions are a cause for concern in Vancouver. #1 overall pick Joe Aviles looks to be the starter at SF. His upside is unquestioned but the concern is that he may not be ready physically or mentally right now. At PF, journeymen Daniel Black and Brian Westerman are the likely choices. Both are good rebounders and post defenders but neither offers anything offensively.

Outlook:

Vancouver is improved and may leapfrog Honolulu is Aviles can hold his own. Regardless, the Highlanders will not be making the playoffs this season but rest assured Vancouver, your team is on the rise.

SAN DIEGO STORM

 

Strengths:

The wings of the Storm, SG James Nichol and SF Daren Keyes, are really good OBWL players. Neither is a star or even close to it but both are very good players. They will score and score a lot in San Diego. Keyes could be on the verge of a break out season. He is an undeniable talent who has yet to fully figure out how to play at an OBWL level consistently. Nichol parlayed a great season in Kentucky last year into a huge payday from San Diego. No one is concerned that Nichol was a flash in the pan however. He looks to be a cornerstone for the Storm.

C Alejandro Craft rebounds and plays interior defense as well as any player in the OBWL. He will lead the Storm defensively.

Weaknesses:

A lot. There simply is no PG capable of running an OBWL team on the roster at this time. The PF position is a massive hole and the bench is basically made up of undersized SG's.

Despite the fact that San Diego has 3 very talented OBWL players, the overall lack of talent is undeniable.

Outlook:

Once again, the Storm improved themselves in the off-season with a solid FA signing (Nichol). However, the overall dearth of OBWL talent on the team keeps San Diego at the bottom of the Natwest.

 

 

 

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