Friday, 28 December 2018 11:06 Written by Jason Warnke
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2023 OBWL Finals Preview


2023 finals
Sun Kings versus Demons: A first-time champion will be crowned in the OBWL.

Coming in to the 2023 OBWL Season, the pundits claimed that at year-end, we would see mostly familiar faces in the OBWL Championship series. Out of the American Conference, the so-called experts threw around the Tampa Bay Tritons, Anaheim Archers, and Kansas City Pioneers as the most likely to navigate their way through the play-offs. In the National Conference it was the London Knights and the Toronto Huskies who were thought to be far-and-away the locks before the season began.

Then 2023 commenced. Two teams, the St. Louis Sunkings (59-21) and the Denver Demons (51-29) emerged from their second-tier perches to both garner their respective number two seeds in this season's postseason. No one can argue that both of these franchises are deserving to be here. GM Dominik Jenewein all but told the world he has the best team on the planet; and although the eccentric Klaus Von Meyernick might constantly downplay his team's talent and claim surprise when they win a game it is no secret that KvM has assembled a quality roster that had it not been for injuries might have even registered the best record in all of professional basketball this season.

The Sunkings will enter the Finals with homecourt and more front office bravado than all the remaining teams combined. The Demons will enter play with the better defense, and perhaps sneakily, the better team. Let's break down the matchups:

Point Guard

Denver: Larry Burt - 6.9ppg | 3.4rpg | 6.2apg
St. Louis: Jorge Denis - 13.9ppg | 3.3rpg | 5.4apg | 2.0spg

Neither point guard can be called fleet of foot these days. Burt will provide a little more defense than Denis can at this stage in their respective careers. However, Denis has shown since GM Jenewein made the controversial trade to acquire him mid-season that the feisty combo guard still has quite a bit left in the tank. The problem for St. Louis will be that they really don't have solid back-up options to Denis. If they want to be successful this series, Jorge will need to stay out of foul trouble (something all of the S-Kings have trouble with) and lead this team for at least 35 minutes a night. Should St. Louis find themselves up big in any games, that would be the time to give this veteran a rest.

Larry Burt may look unspectacular on paper, but he is a prototypical facilitator in an offense that he does not have to score in. He is a wizard with the ball (5.54 a/to in the postseason), and plays very solid matchup defense both in the paint and on the perimeter.

Advantage: St. Louis – Jorge Denis is still Jorge Denis. In order for the Demons to win at this matchup, Burt will need to play extraordinary defense, something that could very well be possible. 

Shooting Guard

Denver: Greg Fore - 26.4ppg | 6.4rpg | 3.1apg | 59.5% TSP | 26.9 PER
St. Louis: Domenic Baum - 23.7ppg | 5.5rpg | 3.1apg | 56.3% TSP | 25.2 PER

This could be the most highly anticipated matchup of the entire postseason. Fore, who missed 28 games in the middle of the season due to injury, has turned in a career PER in the regular season and has shown that he has not skipped a beat. One advantage for the Fore is that he often stays out of foul trouble, something that his counter-punching D-Baum has had difficulty doing this year. On the other hand, we fully expect KvM to consider playing a game of "cat-and-mouse" with the Domenic Baum this series, trying to matchup their glove on defense, Daniel Goodrum, on Baum any chance they can get.

Domenic Baum was another addition that GM Jenewein made this year. In a blockbuster that sent Frank Williams to Las Vegas, Jenwein decided to add another offensive juggernaut to an already stacked lineup that includes Dong Richardson and up-and-coming superstar Tim Adler. Baum's success or failure this series will be 100% determined by his ability to stay in the floor. By this, we mean staying out of foul trouble, a common theme for the entire Sunking lineup. It is quite possible that whoever wins this shooting guard match-up will actually lead their perspective team to the Heikkenen Cup.

Advantage: Denver – Baum is the best player in this series. Baum is solid, but his defense is erratic

Small Forward

Denver: Daniel Goodrum - 16.8ppg | 5.1rpg | 2.4apg | 17.1 PER
St. Louis: Timothy Adler - 19.0ppg | 5.8rpb | 1.1spg | 29.2 PER (only 1 regular season start)

Adler only started one regular season game, so it is difficult to determine whether he will see tip-off action in this series even though the 2023 6th Man of the Year he started in over 20% of the play-off games this year. GM Jenewein may opt to bring this offensive microwave off the bench – in part to keep the Demons guessing – but also to keep the foul totals for the team down since Timmy Adler was averaging over 4.42 fouls per 36 minutes throughout the year.

Goodrum we are listing as SF this series, however we will likely see him bounce down to the SG slot and perhaps even up to the PF slot to spend some time wreaking hovoc on all members of the three-headed offensive Dragon (Baum-Adler-Richardson) in St. Louis. Goodrum is arguably the best match-up defender in the league. Whoever draws this kid on defense will have their hands full, and Head Cach Bo Balzer can only hope that whoever Goodrum does defend on any given night decides its their night to try to command more of the offense.

Advantage: Denver – on paper one may think Adler is superior. However, we are unsure if Adler will be starting or coming off the bench; and even if he does start, Goodrum could potentially make the 23 year-old phenom look silly on offense. The added flexibility of utilizing Goodrum as a stopper at multiple positions gives the Demons the edge here as well.

Power Forward

Denver: Charles Cazares - 12.5ppg | 8.8rpg | 1.5spg | 3.3bpg
St. Louis: Dong Richardson - 20.1ppg | 8.3ppg 3.7apg | 23.8 PER

Klaus Von Meyernick made the very difficult decision to extend a maximum contract to Charles Cazares this past offseason. The contract, which will balloon to over $27 million in 2028, may very well pay off if the Demons can bring home the hardware this season. The front court in Denver, and their ability to defend prolifically in the paint, is another reason why we think the Demons have the advantage in this series overall. Unless the Sunkings move Dong Richardson to the point, he will face tough defense at any of the other four positions. Cazares at the four is no exception. A 1.57 block-to-foul ratio makes him a rim stopper on defense and his 56.6% TSP keeps him useful, albeit not a critical cog for the Demons, on offense.

The Sunkings have arguably one of the best players in the league at the power forward slot – Dong Richardson. King Dong was asked to take a step back this season as D-Baum would be the featured player on offense, so his production has been down. In about 4 less minutes per game, Richardson averaged 20.1 points per game. His efficiency actually increased (1.19pps in 2023 vs 1.17pps in 2022) despite seeing a drop in his field goal percentage. Anyone sleeping on this guy for him stepping back from the limelight is likely to be burned. Also, looks for Head Coach Foster Field to move Richardson around the lineup. We may even see him off the bench at multiple positions in a game or two.

Advantage: Sunkings – Cazares may be solid and paid handsomely, but King Dong is a beast.

Center

Denver: Darin Deans - 12.2ppg | 8.5rpg | 4.0bpg | 52.4 TSP
St. Louis: Ted Portis - 4.8ppg | 6.0rpg | 1.2bpg

Ted Portis is an enforcer in the interior for the Sunkings. What he lacks in quickness is made up for by his length and weight. At 7'2, 282 pounds, Portis has had his fill of pork chops and is not afraid to administer pain in the paint to anyone who approaches. He is also foul prone – averaging nearly three per 36 – although not as much so as every other starter on the Sunkings. Jenewein added Portis to the team in 2022, and it was to have some semblance of interior defense. The team does not need to rely on this giant for offense. All they want him to do is punish those who breach his perimter.

Darin Deans is no small guy either. He is also 7'2 and actually weighs ten pounds more then Portis, although is more nimble on his feet than Ted. In addition to four block a night (#7 in the league), Deans is also efficient on offense, knocking down half of his shots. His 1.74 block-to-foul ratio makes the Demon front court formidable on defense, and fearful for their opponents.

Advantage: Denver – Deans is faster, a better defender, more efficient, and fouls less.

Bench & Role Players

Denver: Myron Olander | Hollis Warren | Jerry Carmichael | Gino Rodriguez (Goot & Kramer)
St. Louis: Alfonso Beggs | Joe Turner | Herbert Hoang | Duncan Mitchell

What can you say about these benches? There are many recognizable names in Denver and several players on St. Louis who are no-names outside of the St Louis city walls. Note, Coach Field may opt to bring either Adler or Richardson off the bench. However, they would still be asking for starter minutes out of each of these players if this were the case.

Denver has several cast-offs that can still fill the gaps as they showed during the season when the Demons experiences several injuries. Warren and Olander can easily take over should Burt or Deans go down and the defensive cohesiveness for the Demons remains. Even future Hall of Famers Noah Guterriez and Kade Kramer will be sitting on that bench. Even if they don't see a second of court time during the series simply their veteran leadership and their ominous faces on the sidelines could make the Sunking stomachs swirl.

Advantage: Denver

PREDICTION

On paper, it is very difficult to stray from the powerful offense that GM Jenewein has assembled in St Louis. Many have argued that the self-aggrandizing GM "inherited" his team as both Richardson and Adler were essentially there when he arrived. However, what he inherited was a "good" team that he made great. The ballsy trade of their Glue Guy Frank Williams for D-Baum, the controversial move to add the aging Jorge Denis to their backcourt, and the front offices penchant for self-praise have all been instrumental in constructing a team that is no longer a second-tier success. They are a power house not to be reckoned with.

That said, offense puts fans in the stands and defense wins championships. The Denver defense has long been underestimated, and KvM has built a team that collectively can shut down opponents at nearly every position. To top it off, the they are extremely efficient from top-to-bottom, and have a deep bench and veteran leadership to prove it.

This will be a hard fought series that will need every bit of seven games to decide. However, when the final whistle blows, it will be the Denver Demons who walk off the St. Louis court with the hardware to greet fans of the plane in Denver with their first Heikkenen Cup.

Denver Demons win it in 7.

 

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