Mark Sands

Mark Sands

Sunday, 11 February 2018 20:33

Muscle add big talent at #7

Years ago, the Muscle traded away their franchise centerpiece big man in an attempt to reboot the team and bring them back into contention.  Six years later, the perpetual rebuild might have finally come full circle, as the Muscle used the #7 overall pick to draft a guy who might be their next superstar--Maryland Center John Weatherford.  The 19-year-old from Zachary, LA was the #4 overall prospect coming out of high school in 2021.  He turned in a solid freshman season for the Terrapins, averaging 9.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg.  "John is the full package," stated GM Mark Sands.  "This guy can score inside and outside, pull down rebounds, play some great D in the paint and even generate some blocks."  In addition to raw physical talent, there might not be a better conditioned athlete in any level of basketball anywhere than Weatherford.  "This is a big, strong kid who is only going to get bigger and stronger," stated Muscle scout Riley Cable.  "If he can have a good training camp, I think this is the kind of player who can make a push for OBWL minutes straight away."

With two second round picks, the Muscle went for low-ceiling, high-floor players who can contribute bench minutes right away.  Seton Hall Senior Ismael Arias was the Muscle's pick with the #33 overall pick.  The 6'6" small forward was a solid glue guy and three-year starter for the Pirates.  In 2022, he averaged 9.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and 1.7 steals.  Arias has outstanding three-point range and is was one of best in college basketball in drawing fouls.  His quick hands generate a ton of steals, which is his best defensive skill, though he is an otherwise mediocre defender and rebounder.  Arias also has enough quickness and jumps to spell some PT at the shooting guard position.  The Muscle do not currently have a SF on the roster and may be counting on quality minutes from Arias right away.

With the #34 pick, the Muscle went with Texas A&M point guard Stephen Cannon.  As a 6th man for the Aggies, Cannon averaged 8.1 ppg in 20.8 mpg, to go along with 2.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, and 1.3 spg and was a key part in his team's run to the OBCL championship game.  Cannon, a favorite of the league scouting bureau, projects to be an average passer at the PG position with average defense and steals and some non-traditional shot blocking talent for a 6'1" guard.  However, it will be Cannon's offensive game that will make or break his OBWL career.  Cannon projects to be a plus jump shooter with an elite ability to get to the line and some three-point range.  Physically, Cannon is a quick player with surprising strength, good ups, and great stamina.  Cannon is penciled in to play spot minutes at PG/SG behind Xander Remington.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 11:34

Good start by Muscle threatened by injury

2021 was expected to be another painful year in the motor city.  Coming off of the worst season in franchise history, the Muscle committed to a total rebuild by shedding veteran salary and making a total commitment to youth.  But a funny thing happened on the inevitable march to the #1 overall pick--it turns out that the Muscle are a pretty deep team getting solid contribution from their bench.    After 17 games, the Muscle check in with a 9-8 record, good for 3rd place in the American East Division and ahead of pre-season darling Philadelphia.  

The Muscle's surge to mediocrity has been fueled thanks in large part to a rebuilt front court featuring three first-round draft picks.  Starting PF Chris Spitz was drafted 9th overall in the June Draft after an superstar career at the University of California.  Spitz was a Freshman All-American, three-time first-team All-Pac-10, two time Pac-10 Player of the Year, and a 1st Team All American in his Senior year with the Golden Bears.   Despite his college pedigree, Spitz fell on many draft lists because he was considered too slow to play SF (his college position) in the OBWL and too short to play PF.  GM Mark Sands was thrilled to get Spitz, who was near the top of the Muscle war board.  That confidence has paid off.  Spitz has been a solid fixture in the Muscle lineup, averaging 10.8 ppg and 6.5 rpg, all while playing stout defense and making a minimum of fouls.  While he needs to be more efficient (he has a 49.2% TS%), Spitz looks to be at the beginning of a great career.  Joining Spitz in the starting lineup is 27-year-old C Ray Granger, who was signed as a free agent from the Denver Demons.  Granger has solidified the front-court with outstanding rebounding and tough defense in the post.  Granger is averaging 9.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 3.7 bpg to start the season.

Backing up Granger and Spitz is 2018 10th overall pick Derrick Van Pelt.  Van Pelt is in his 2nd full season with the Muscle, after spending 2018 and 2019 bouncing back and forth between the Muscle and its OBDL affiliate.  Van Pelt has solidified his role as a key 6th man, with career bests in mpg (23.4), points (9.8), rebounds (6.1), and most critically has reduced his fouls/36 minutes by nearly 1.  Also getting significant minutes for the first time in his career is PF/C Lucas Williams, who was selected with the 9th overall pick in the 2019 draft.  Williams, an exceptional offensive rebounder who is a real force on the inside, forced his way into the Muscle rotation thanks to an exceptional training camp.  "It was clear that Lucas had worked extremely hard over the off-season," stated GM Mark Sands.  "We had planned to send him back to the OBDL again, but the he showed up and just outplayed everybody else on the roster.  The kid made it so that we had no choice but to put him into the rotation and give him minutes."  Williams is averaging 3.9 ppg and 2.7 rpg in just under 21 mpg.  Which he isn't scoring much, he has been a very efficient shooter and at just 21 year old, has plenty of time to improve as his playing time increases.

But the Muscle's good feelings are in jeopardy after Granger tore a ligament and team doctors opined that he would miss 2 months due to that injury.  This is the 7th season in a row that the Muscle have lost a starter for more than 10 games--Everett Dolinish for 13 games in 2015; Shawn Pace for 10 games in 2016; Trevon Booth for 24 games in 2017; Hollis Warren for 20 games in 2018; Warren again for 29 games in 2019; and Jimmy Cacace for 11 games in 2020.  The Muscle will turn their eyes to 33-year-old Gene Cantell, who is on the last legs of a distinguished career.  With the team expected not to compete, Cantell's minutes have been reduced to give more playing time to the team's young talent.  But in 2020, Cantell showed that he has some game left, averaging 10.7 ppg, and 5.6 rpg in just over 32 mpg.  Does he have another 23 good starts left in those legs?  The Muscle better hope so.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017 22:59

Cantell to Detroit

The Detroit Muscle are starved for offense.  In 2018, the Muscle scored 96.8 ppg, "good" for 13th in the conference and 22nd overall in the OBWL.  They missed the playoffs.  They dipped even further in 2019, having one of the worst scoring teams (14th CR/26th TR) scoring just 89.7 ppg.  They missed the playoffs.  In the first 21 games of the 2020 season, the Muscle found themselves once again in a huge hole, thanks to a paltry 92.4 ppg (14th CR/27th TR).  Part of the reason for their offensive woes has been C Shawn Pace, who has fallen steadily since 2017 and is now essentially an offensive black hole at the center position (3.9 ppg, 0.74 PPS, .354 TS%).  So with the team in a 8 team fight for 2 playoff spots, GM Mark Sands could no longer afford to play 4-on-5 offense.  After giving some consideration to turning the starting center job over to 22-year-old Darrick Vanpelt (8.3 ppg in 18 mpg), the Muscle instead pulled the trigger on a deal that brought veteran C Gene Cantell to Detroit with SF Ken Gary in exchange for Pace's expiring salary.

"Gene Cantell is an institution in this league and we couldn't be happier to have him in Detroit for the next three seasons," stated GM Mark Sands.  "Even at 32, he is one of the biggest, strongest guys in the league and plays up to his body.  He can score from anywhere, pulls in his fair share of rebounds, passes, blocks shots, and most importantly can stay on the floor.  Most importantly, the man is a winner.  He was the 2016 Finals MVP and brings the kind of veteran leadership we've lacked for a long, long time."

In his very brief stint with the Enforcers, Cantell averaged 10.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, and 1.2 bpg while playing 30+ mpg.  "I'm happy to be back in the OBWL's best conference.  Detroit has a pretty nice young team.  I called Hollis [Warren, Cantell's Anaheim teammate from 2014-2016] and he told me there are some exciting things happening here.  I want to get back to the playoffs and maybe show the Archers what a huge mistake they made not bringing me back.  I think I can accomplish that here in Detroit."

Cantell will join a recently reshuffled Muscle lineup, that saw Warren brought back into the starting lineup and #2 overall pick Xander Remington forcing his way into the rotation, with 11.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.9 apg over the past 7 games (27.3 mpg).


Tuesday, 28 February 2017 10:15

Muscle 2020 Season Preview

It has been a long time in the wilderness for the Detroit Muscle, since they last were in serious competition for a playoff position in the 2016 season. A combination of badly-timed key injuries, the surprising collapse of Daryl Shipes as an effective scorer in 2017 and 2018, the loss of two lottery picks from the Shipes trade, and poor other trades have left the Muscle languishing in 30ish win limbo for the past three seasons. Since the disastrous attempt to go "all in" by acquiring Shipes, for the past two years the Muscle have concentrated on creating cap space and looking to 2021 as the year of re-emergence.  Can they compete a year early? They better, since Detroit traded its 2021 1st round pick to move up to get 2nd overall pick Xander Remington.

Here is a look at the 2020 Muscle:

PG Tobias Collins (7th Season/7th with Detroit) - Collins has been a constant presence in the Muscle lineup since he burst onto the scene as a late 1st round draft pick in 2014. Unfortunately, he never turned into the 10-12 ppg scorer the team really needed at the PG position. But he remains a very good passer who doesn't turn the ball over too much. He is also very solid defensively; able to cover the entire floor and generate a good amount of steals. Collins will be feeling heat from Hollis Warren all season, particularly if the offense struggles as it did last year and during the preseason.

SG Keven Kowalczyk (4th Season/1st with Detroit) - The Muscle gave the 26-year-old SG from Texas Christian $12MM and the opportunity to start for the first time since his rookie year of 2017. Kowalczyk is lightning-quick and a threat to score from anywhere on the court. He is also a solid defender, particularly on the perimeter. He will be the primary weapon for a team that in 2019 was the worst offense in the OBWL. The Muscle will need more than the 16.7 ppg he produced in the preseason if they want to become competitive in 2020.

SF Jimmy Cacace (10th Season/2nd with Detroit) - Cacace was probably the best player on the team in 2019 and he will need to have another good season this year if the Muscle hope to break .500. Cacace is a very effective and efficent scorer, able to pressure defenses from the inside, outside, and draw fouls and get to the line.  In 2019 he averaged 16.0 ppg with a TS% of .513. He also plays pretty stout defense in the post, though he can be taken advantage of in the perimeter. If only Cacace could rebound! 

PF Trevor Jolley (10th Season/2nd with Detroit) - A much needed steadying presence in the Muscle lineup. Jolley does a bit of everything -- he can give you 10+ points on occasion, he is a good rebounder, and can even give you nontraditional passing from the PF position. Of course, Jolley is known as one of the OBWL's best defensive players and he lived up to that reputation in 2016 (8.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 3.7 blocks).

C Shawn Pace (10th Season/5th with Detroit) - There may not be a single other player in the OBWL who suffered more from the 2017 rule changes than Shawn Pace.  Before the rule change, Pace was one of the top centers in the game--a top rebounder who would give you 10 ppg and a relative ton of assists from the center position. His offense has whittled down to being negligible in the past three season and his rebounds have decreased significantly as well. His 2019 numbers were pedestrian across the board (5.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.5 apg). While Pace remains a good defender, he will likely be looking over his shoulder for PT the entire season.

The Significant Bench Players:

PG/SG Hollis Warren (7th Season/5th with Detroit) - For the past four years, Warren has been a reliable offensive weapon when healthy. Unfortunately, he has missed at least 20 games in each of the past two seasons; both of which heralded doom for the Muscle's season. In 51 games last year, Warren averaged 16.7 ppg in just over 25 mpg with a very efficent TS% of .537. He also added 3.2 apg and generated 2.0 spg. So how is this guy not in the starting lineup? Well, he defense is borderline dreadful in a division filled with deadly SG threats. However, given the team's offensive struggles, Warren may find his way into the starting lineup anyway.

C/PF Derrick VanPelt (3rd Season/3rd with Detroit) - VanPelt was drafted #10 overall in the 2018 draft. He spent the past two seasons splitting time between the Muscle and the team's OBDL affiliate. But after two seasons, the now 21-year-old big man appears to have matured enough to earn significant OBWL minutes. VanPelt looks to be a deadly inside scoring threat who can get opposing big men into significant foul trouble. In 6 preseason games, VanPelt averaged 7.2 ppg in 23 minutes. He was very efficent, with a TS% of .550 and scoring 1.16 points per shot--another measure by which his team lags. He also has a developing fringe-average jump shot, but it isn't there yet. The rest of his game still needs development--he is only a fringe-average rebounder and post defender, though he may still may develop into being above average on the boards and in the paint. VanPelt isn't yet ready for starters minutes, and with his stamina may never be. But on this team in 2020, it would not be a surprise if he overtook Shawn Pace to add much needed punch into the lineup.

SF Scott Lehmann (10th Season/1st with Detroit) - After Lehmann signed a 1 year/$2.34MM contract to be the backup small forward, he showed up to training camp very out of shape. This cost him significant quickness and the team was disposed towards cutting him outright. Instead, he got limited playing time in the preseason--which he used to seize back the backup SF minutes he was signed to provide. Because it turns out that a fatter, slower Lehmann is still a significant scoring threat who can hit a shot from anywhere on the court while not sacrificing much on defense. In just under 9 mpg, Lehmann scored 4.5ppg on 58.8% shooting from the floor; which translates into a sterling 1.59 pps. While that number probably won't survive the small sample size, the Muscle are now confident that the efficient scorer they expected is still there under a protective layer of blubber.

PF/C David Jacquez (9th Season/3rd with Detroit) - Jacquez was signed as an insurance policy in case young PFs Lucas Williams and Arthur Prosser were not ready for prime time. They weren't. So Jacquez will play some sparce minutes behind Pace/Jolley/VanPelt. He is an excellent rebounder and average defender who doesn't excite you too much--except when he hits an unexpected three.

The Kids:

PG Xander Remington (1st Season/1st with Detroit) - Remington was selected 2nd overall in this year's draft, and was traded to Detroit for its #8 pick and 2020 1st round pick. The Muscle love this kid's upside, and he showed some sparks of the kind of player he will be in the preseason. Remington averaged 5.0 ppg in 12.7 mpg. He was extremely efficient, turning in a TS% of 55.6% and scoring 1.36 PPS. The rest of the 20-year-old's game needs polish; particularly his passing (which left much to be desired). While Remington could probably produce some points off the bench right away, the Muscle already have Hollis Warren for that role and will likely let Remington ply his trade in the OBDL for a least the first month of the season.

SG Tim Wood (4th Season/2nd with Detroit) - When Lehmann showed up to camp out of shape, the door opened for Wood to seize playing time as a combo SF/SG. Unfortunately, he tripped on the carpet and fell head-first into the door, probably closing it forever. Wood was a woeful 11-33 in the preseason with just 9 rebounds in 66 minutes of play. And while he is a good defender, the Muscle need offense and Wood failed to deliver any. That follows up on a disappointing 2019, where Wood averaged a pedestrian 8ppg in 18mpg off the bench, with a not-terribly efficient 46.1 TS%. I would imagine that any team that came knocking about Wood's still considerable talent would find a willing ear in Muscle GM Mark Sands.

PF Lucas Williams (2nd Season/2nd with Detroit) - Williams was selected 9th overall in the 2019 draft, the pick obtained in the Trevon Booth deal. But so far, he has not lived up to that billing. Williams played well in the OBDL in 2019, scoring 12.2ppg in 29mpg and is particularly dangerous in the paint. Unfortunately, he is an offensive liability almost everywhere else. His offensive rebounding is top notch, but his defensive rebounding and overall defense don't project to be much more than league average. Williams had a disappointing training camp and his preseason wasn't much better. He was barely a presence in 10.5 mpg, scoring just 2.8 ppg and 2.0 rpg. Likely to return to the OBDL for a season season.

PF Arthur Prosser (1st Season/1st with Detroit) - Prosser was picked by the Muscle with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. Prosser was one of the best rebounders in the OBIL and is likely already an above-average rebounder for the OBWL. That showed in limited minutes in preseason, where he averaged 2.5 rpg in 7.5 mpg. While he could develop into an average offensive player with an above-average inside game, it isn't there yet. And his "defense," well, there is a reason he was available in the 2nd round. Prosser is 3rd in line to go to the OBDL to work on his game, but will start the year at the end of Detroit's bench.

SG/SF Arnulfo Christopherson (2nd Season/2nd with Detroit) - An OK player with some potential to be a spark off the bench. He has some decent offensive tools and can make a tough pass. In particular could develop an above-average jump shot and will draw some fouls. He may even turn into a decent rebounder. But that is the limit of his potential, as he is a dreadful defensive player who is destined to sit at the end of the bench.

PF Genero Debose (4th Season/3rd with Detroit) - Two years ago, the Muscle plucked Debose off of the waiver wire and he turned into a pleasant surprise.  On paper, he is a guy with a good inside game and rebounding, with some nontraditional passing for a PF and decent if unexciting defense. He even has enough quickness that he could go down to play SF. He really hasn't had much of a chance to prove what he can do.

Prediction: 38-42, 5th in the American East Division, miss playoffs.

Saturday, 04 February 2017 12:41

Muscle take big risk for star rookie PG

For three seasons, the Detroit Muscle have been too bad to make the playoffs but not bad enough to land one of the top picks in the OBWL draft.  They found themselves in that situation again, sitting at #8 while player after player on the top of their draft list went off the board.  But instead of selecting a second-tier talent in the draft, the Muscle instead traded the #8 pick and their first-round (and possible lottery) pick in the 2021 draft for 19-year-old PG Xander Remington from the University of California, who was drafted #2 by the Boston Buzzards.  "Xander gives us a player with superstar potential, which is something our roster really lacks," stated GM Mark Sands.  "This is a guy with plus potential in every area--shooting, passing, and defense.  He's a little raw right now, but we're hoping that a good training camp will have him ready for the everyday lineup come October."  Remington came off the bench for the 2018 National Champion and 2019 Pac-12 Champion Golden Bears.  Last year, he averaged 7.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, and 1.9 apg in just over 17mpg.  

The Muscle traded back into the draft in the second round, taking senior PF Arthur Prosser from Texas Christian with the 32nd overall pick.  Prosser was 2nd in the OCIL in rebounding last season, hauling in 11.2 rpg.  He scored 14.4 ppg and was 2nd Team All-Mountain West.  "We had Prosser as the 16th best player on our board," stated GM Mark Sands.  "This is a guy with double-double potential and he could be one of the best rebounders in the game.  Sure, his defense is a little, um, raw, but he's a big, strong kid who can be a difference maker."  To get Prosser, the Muscle sent SF Charles Minter to the San Diego Storm.  Minter was very effective off the bench in 2019, averaging 8.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 1.6 apg in 20 minutes per game.  

If the Muscle have another bad season, losing a Lottery pick to grab Remington could loom as a large mistake.  But given the talent available at #8 (the Buzzards selected solid, but unremarkable SF Lon Upchurch with the pick), it was a risk worth taking.


Thursday, 22 September 2016 20:04

Muscle Big Man Duo off to hot D-League Start

Rebuilding is hard.  When the Muscle traded superstar Trevon Booth, they knew that the 2019 season would be a challenge.  But the Muscle have struggled mightily out of the gate, losing 12 of the 13 games dating back to the November 11, 2019 game where star 6th man Hollis Warren went down with injury.  And a 3-13 record in the ultra-competitive American Conference is probably a death blow to the team's chances to make the playoffs once again (at least this time, the Muscle have their own 1st round pick).

But that is not to say the team is without hope for the future.  With the 10th pick in the 2018 draft, the Muscle took 20-year-old center Darrick Vanpelt.  After missing most of the D-League season with a broken leg (Darrick scored 10.6 ppg with a 54.6 TS% and pulled in 8.7 rpg in 20 games), Vanpelt was recalled to the OBWL to finish out the season as the Muscle's starting center.  In the last 7 games of the season, the youngster made a solid impression scoring 9.7 ppg, with 7.7 rpg and an nontraditional 2.1 apg from the center position.  Based on that solid finish to the 2018 season, Vanpelt found himself in the Muscle rotation to start 2019.  And he looked a bit like a young, 21-year-old.  There was some good, Vanpelt scored 7.8 ppg to go with 3.6 RPG.  And while he got to the line, Vanpelt struggled from the floor, shooting just 37.6% from the floor.  To get him back on track, Detroit sent him down to the D-League to work on his skills.  The results so far have been fantastic, in 27 minutes per game, Vanpelt has averaged 14 ppg to go along with 8.3 RPG and 2.5 APG.  More critically, his efficiency is back.  Vanpelt is shooting 55.6% from the floor and is nearly unstoppable inside.  With his elite foul-drawing skills, Vanpelt has turned in a 65.1 TS%.  

The Booth trade brought in the 9th overall pick in the 2019 draft.  With that pick, the Muscle went young again--this time for 19-year-old Lucas Williams.  Williams, a tough, strong PF from San Diego State University.  While perhaps not quite ready from prime-time, Williams has made an immediate impact in the D-League.  In 16 games, Williams has averaged 13.1 PPG to go along with 8.3 rebounds.  Williams has been nearly unstoppable inside, with a scorching 67.2% shooting.  From anywhere else on the court, he looks like an untested 19-year-old.

They might be a season or two away from everyday minutes, but the big-man duo of Vanpelt and Williams should give Muscle fans something to cheer about for years to come.   

Friday, 12 August 2016 15:47

Muscle Reboot Continues

It has been a tumultuous two weeks that has changed the landscape of basketball in Detroit.  After trading superstar SF Trevon Booth, the Muscle freed up substantial money for the 2019 and potentially the 2020 free agency signing periods.  After striking out on signing the big-name talent in free agency--namely PGs Michael Keyes and Frank Williams--the team shifted focus after years of a "stars and scrubs" approach and focused their dollars on depth.  

It paid off immediately when the team signed 29-year-old Power Forward Trevor Jolley to a 3 year/$17.06MM contract, with a $6.5MM player option for 2022.  Jolley was a mainstay on the two-time Conference champion Kansas City Pioneers before his $13MM contract was bought out in the offseason.  Jolley is a threat from everywhere on the court, scoring 8.6 PPG with 6.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 3.6 BPG, and elite defense in the paint.  "Trevor is probably the best glue guy in the league and we are thrilled to have him here in Detroit," stated GM Mark Sands.  "This is a guy who passes like a guard, blocks and rebounds like a center, and will put other bigs in foul trouble.  This is the kind of guy who is the foundation of great teams and we think he's going to lead the Detroit Muscle back into being a contender."

Joining Jolley in the Muscle starting 5 will be another glue guy, PG Tobias Collins who re-signed for a bargain 3 years/$11.6MM.  Collins has been a starter on the Muscle for most of 5 seasons and while he has never quite lived up to his rookie of the year campaign in 2014, he has settled in to become a solid, reliable presence in the backcourt; with great defense all over the court and by generating a ton of steals.  In 2018, Collins averaged 6.4 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.0 SPG.    

After losing out on top target Jonathon Honea (who signed with the Enforcers despite heavy interest from Detroit), the Muscle turned their attention to 29-year-old Jimmy Cacace.  Cacace will step into Booth's shoes at SF and he is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor.  But unlike Booth, Cacace is actually a capable defensive player, particularly down in the post.  He is an efficient scorer (53.6 TS%) and all-around productive player (17.4 PER), although he does not bring the blocks that Booth did.  In under 19mpg, Cacace averaged 10.3 PPG and 2.7 rpg.

Finally, the Muscle took a Flyer on 24-year-old SF Charles Minter.  Detroit's scout was a big fan of Minter, who is an average shooter but is outstanding at drawing fouls and is an above-average rebounder at the SF position who plays tough D (which seems to be a theme this year).

With money left on the table, Detroit continues to look for opportunities to improve and put a balanced lineup on the court in 2019.

Sunday, 31 July 2016 23:43

Muscle turn the page

After three seasons of trading first-round draft picks in a futile attempt to get back into the playoffs, Detroit Muscle GM Mark Sands made the first, painful step towards a long-term plan to rebuild the franchise by trading superstar SF Trevon Booth to the London Knights.  In trading Booth, the Muscle freed up approximately $7.3MM of cap room, putting the Muscle $11MM under the salary cap.

In exchange for Booth, the Muscle landed the 9th overall pick in the draft, which they used to pick PF Lucas Williams.  The tough, 19-year-old sophomore turned a lot of head at San Jose State in 2018, with his combination of solid offense from inside the paint, hard-nosed rebounding, and some non-traditional passing skills from the power forward position.  "From a pure talent standpoint, we had Williams as the 5th or 6th best player in the draft," stated GM Mark Sands.  "Obviously, at #19 he is very raw, but we think when he fills out this is a guy who can give us a double-double every night with a ton of blocks and pretty decent defense.  He was the best player available where we picked and I believe he will pair nicely with Darrick Vanpelt (the team's pick at #10 in 2018) to make up a very formidable front court."  Williams averaged 15.4 PPG, 8.2 ROG, and 1.6 APG in 29 starts for San Jose State in 2018.

Also coming to Detroit is 25-year-old SG Tim Wood, the #24 pick overall in the 2017 draft.  Wood has played some decent spot minutes in his first two seasons in the OBWL, but shined in 21 games in the D-League last season.  From a pure talent standpoint, there is a ton to like--Wood is a well-above average defender, a huge need for the defensively challenged Muscle.  Wood also has a nice inside game and can pick up rebounds from the SG position.  The trade likely frees up incumbent Hollis Warren to split time between PG and SG, where he will be able to use his advanced offensive talents to exploit defensive matchups.

The Muscle also added veteran SG Phillip Glavocich.  In 80 games last year, Glavo averaged 15.5 PPG to go along with 4.3 RPG.  Glavo will compete with Wood and Warren for PT, but is likely to be a trade chip.

The Muscle ended draft day with a pleasant surprise, grabbing Iowa Hawkeye SG Arnulfo Christopherson with the 51st overall pick.  Christopherson was considered by some scouts as a fringe 1st round pick, and the Muscle were pleased to get him at the very end of the draft.  "We didn't really need another guard, but this deep in the second round you just have to take talent wherever you find it" said Sands.  "We think Arnulfo has the makings of a solid bench player; he is a good jump shooter, gets to the line, and can make the tough pass, and he even rebounds a little.  We're going to give him every chance to develop in the D-League with an eye towards contributing in Detroit in 2020."  The sophomore averaged 11.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 29 games with the Hawkeyes in 2018.  

It's another injury-plagued season of disappointment in Detroit.  Just two months ago, the Muscle were one of the better teams in the American Conference, sporting a 26-21 record and looking like a good bet to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 3 seasons.  But it all fell apart on February 5th when Hollis Warren, the team's starting SG, when down for xx games against the Manhattan Swing.  This was the second time in two years that a Muscle starter had missed significant time with an injury--superstar SF Trevor Booth missed 24 games in 2017 with an injury.  The Muscle collapsed during the Booth injury and couldn't recover in time when he got back to make the playoffs.

History repeated itself with Warren's absence.  The Muscle were already a mediocre offensive team, and the loss of their 2nd best offensive weapon took an immediate and obvious toll.  The Muscle went 5-14 without Warren, dropping out of the playoff race.  This, despite a decent effort from rookie SG Justin Rausch, the 2017 OCIL player of the year who was picked at the bottom of the 2nd round by Detroit.  In 10 starts, Rausch showed some flair--scoring 9 ppg, 2 RPG, and 1.6 assists in 16.4 mpg as the team's starting SG.  If nothing else, Rausch showed that he might have a future off the bench in the OBWL.

Unfortunately, Warren's return has not helped matters and the Muscle have found themselves essentially out of the playoff race.  But any hope they had died during the team's 105-99 victory of the Kansas City Pioneers.  In the middle of the second quarter, Pace got tied up with Dontae Grant on what looked like a moving pick.  No foul was called, but Pace was hurt and it was bad.  The team found out after the game that Pace had broken his left leg and would miss the remainder of the season.  Pace joins Booth and rookie Derrick VanPelt as the third Muscle player in two seasons to miss 100+ days with an injury.  

With the season now essentially over (the Muscle are in 10th place, 4 games behind the Americans with 7 games to go), the team has decided to give VanPelt, the 10th overall pick in the last draft, the starting job to end the year.  In 20 games in the OBDL, VanPelt has played well; scoring 10.6 PPG to go with 7.7 RPG and 1.6 APG.  

"We were high on Derrick when he fell to us in the first round," stated GM Mark Sands, who's chair must certainly be wobbly after this season.  "You hate to lose an elite center like Shawn, but at least now we get to see how Derrick will respond against real OBWL competition.  I suspect we're going to see some holes, but we know he needs developing and hopefully this will speed the process."

The Muscle do not have their first round pick, which was traded to LA in the disastrous Daryl Shipes deal.  Shipes has not been the same player he was before the league office tightened the rules after the 2013 season.  

Friday, 05 February 2016 09:31

Detroit fills bench spots

In the hyper-competitive American Conference, building a bench of solid role players is essential to a team's playoff hopes. The Muscle went into the off-season with a lack of depth in the backcourt and weak defense in the post.  The Muscle were able to fill these two gaps with their mid-level exception money and look to head into the 2018-2019 season with one of the most balanced rosters they have had in some time.

For three seasons, the Muscle have sought to upgrade the point guard position.  While the team reportedly kicked the tires on some potential starters, it appears once again that incumbent Tobias Collins will will maintain his starter's job.  With Collins' job secure, the Muscle signed veteran guard Gus McCulloch to a 2 year, $4,611,500 contract be his backup.  The 29-year-old McCulloch was stuck at the end of the Kentucky bench in 2017, playing just 338 minutes over 49 games.  He was not very effective, but given the sample size that doesn't mean much.  Over his career, McCulloch has averaged 5.2 ppg, 4.5 apg, and 1.4 SPG in the approximately 20 mpg he would be expected to play in Detroit.  McCulloch is considered an above-average defender with some post-defense skills and the kind of quickness that makes for elite steals.  McCulloch is an average ballhandler with average passing skills; which translated in today's OBWL into a pretty good point guard.  Offensively he is considered to have an elite jump shot; but that has not translated into a strong shooting percentage.  He also does a nice job getting to the line.    

The Muscle's have a solid defensive foundation in the front-court, led by C Shawn Pace.  Post-mate Jamie Adkins is another excellent defender; can draw fouls at will; and like Pace is a non-traditional source of assists.  However, his defense leaves a ton to be desired.  Into that breach comes veteran Power Forward Fernando Turner, who signed a contract worth $2.5MM in 2018 with a $2.51MM team option for 2019.  Turner is one of the best pure post defenders in the entire OBWL, and has incredible skill on the glass.  While his days of collecting 15 pgm might be over, Turner still managed 10.2 RPG and 4.2 ppg in 85 games for the Americans and Enforcers in 2017.  Nobody wants Turner to shoot or handle the ball in a non-rebounding circumstance, though he is league-average in drawing fouls.  But he's not there for offense, and Turner's presence immediately improves what was one of the worst defenses in the entire league in 2016.  Turner is expected at a minimum to play significant minutes at PF and could even start some games with Adkins coming off the bench.

The Muscle also brought back C/PF Dexter Richards on a 2 year, $4.21MM contract (with a player option in 2019).  Richards started 35 games for the Muscle last season, averaging 8.2 PPG and 6.7 RPG in 24.5 mpg.  Richards is an excellent rebounder, with average offensive skill across the board.  He will likely move back to C in 2017 to backup Pace.



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