FWDB #2a: Why You Can/Why You Won't (Win The Thing)

  • By John Comey, Day 125, 2022

With about six weeks to go in the season, it’s time to figure out who the serious contenders for the title are. There are a lot of pretenders and ne’er-do-wells out there.

So, without further ado, here we go.

Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Portland, St. Louis

Why they will not win the title: Because their records preclude them from participating in the tournament that is required to participate in to become champion. In Portland’s case, we could add them to the list of teams that have a chance, but they are two games behind Denver for ninth in the West.

The rest will go by record, regardless of conference. Because why not jumble it?

Louisville Colonels (26-33)

Why they could win the thing: The team added Tyson Kuberka to partner with Trendon Knox. So far, Kuberka has taken over the alpha scoring role, averaging 29.0 ppg in two contests. The Colonels have a diverse offense otherwise, with several players averaging double figures. Uman Akele is a matchup nightmare starting to break out in a big way. Their team defense ranks fourth in the league. They are capable of getting into the playoffs and beating anyone.

Why they won’t win the thing: Well, except for Philly or Toronto, their would-be first round opponents. For as diverse as their offense is, they are ranked 24th in the league. And their seven games under .500, and play the slowest pace in the league. Maybe that’ll change with Kuberka. We doubt it. They do not get to the line enough, do not rebound enough (17th in total rebounds, 20th in defensive boards per game), and do not generate enough turnovers. They are a bend-not-break defense.

Denver Dragons (29-31)

Why they could win the thing: They get to the line, ranking fifth in both free throws made and attempted per game. They are also 12th in the league in scoring, and third in steals per game. Their three-most used lineups all net a positive return. Jason Novak is capable of putting a team on his shoulders with his shooting ability.

Why they won’t win the thing: Because they’re two games under .500 in a conference absolutely loaded with stocked teams. They are 20th in team defense, 22nd in threes made and attempted per game, and generally poor in many other things that would require a team to be good at to make a serious run. As good as Novak, SF Mitchell van Bree and SG Odell Bracey can be can be, their frontcourt would get smashed into ittle bits against the West’s top teams.

Detroit Mustangs (29-30)

Why they could win the thing: They play an uptempo pace efficiently (eighth in pace and FG%). They get to the line often, and know how to get teams in foul trouble. They are a solid rebounding unit across the board (10th in offensive boards, eighth in defensive). They pass well (fifth in assists). Between Reggie Dawkins and newly-acquired Dameon Clarke, the Stangs have a post offense that can crush defenses. With Demetric Vaughn, the Mustangs have a solid inside-out offense that is capable of beating you in multiple ways.

Why they won’t win the thing: Because for their pace and field goal percentage, the team doesn’t score (14th in PPG). Oh, and they’re not good in preventing points (24th in the league). Getting rid of Pace LaGarde, whose O and DRtgs were incredibly impressive with the Stangs, means their overall defense is even worse. They do not stretch you on defense, ranking among the worst in anything three-point related. While they rebound quite well, it does not seem to lead anywhere well. Clarke has come in and taken the alpha role on offense, meaning the entire team has to adjust. That may make for a difficult stretch (well, the schedule will do that) when they can ill-afford to have a difficult stretch.

Los Angeles Fireballs (32-27)

Why they could win the thing: The Fireballs added significantly to their depth with the additions of Orien Young and Lorenzen Eyles (Rockets) and Stoyanov Vitas and Sebby Kidd (Canes). So while it will take some time to fully understand what losing Hilton Phillips will do, Chris LaCruz keeps on firing with his new teammates. Eyles appears to have found new life (yes, small sample size), posting 19.5 ppg in his first two games with LA. With Isaiah McCarty, Collin Stafford, and Vitas and Young operating down low, the new frontcourt looks as good and as diverse as any in the West. Adding Eyles makes a team already dangerous from three (5th in threes made, 4th in attempts) even more dangerous.

Why they won’t win the thing: There’s a lot of new pieces to put together on the fly, when they’re already in a fight for the final spot in the West. Should they get that, it means either Houston, Las Vegas, or Seattle, three teams who are matchup nightmares for the Fireballs. The Fireballs are not especially proficient at scoring or preventing others from scoring, sitting at 17th in both. Of course, that can change with the additions…but we’re not sure that they will rise much from 23rd in field goal percentage. With many more mouths to feed, and with a scoring point guard, this could be a disaster after the honeymoon period.

New Orleans Hurricanes (35-24)

Why they could win the thing: They moved Tyson Kuberka, ultimately, to get Hilton Phillips, which freed them from money a year early, and added a considerable defensive upgrade. Phillips is no slouch offensively either (more on that in a bit), and when teamed with Leon Bowen and Ryan Pierce, gives the Canes a solid inside-out presence. Phillips’ defense adds to the fifth-best in the league. The Canes get to the line, and make more at the line, than any team in the JBL. They are an excellent defensive rebounding team (sixth). They are seventh in both offense and defensive rating, and may very well be a sleeping giant with the addition of Phillips.

Why they won’t win the thing: Losing Vitas is damaging to their depth, and Phillips came in and took over the alpha dog role on offense, hoisting up 14.5 attempts in his first two games. Sure, it’s slightly more than Kuberka, so it may not be a major adjustment. Phillips does take more threes, which is good; the team is last in the league in both makes and attempts from deep. They are not an efficient offense whatsoever, 24th in FG makes and 30th in attempts. For as good as their defense is, they do not generate turnovers. That may change with Phillips. The math of their pickups…well, they weren’t going to beat Philly, Toronto, or Chicago as they were currently constructed. Why not shake it up? (It won’t matter through, unfortunately, though that shouldn’t deter NO fans from loving their team anyway. It’s a fun squad.)

Phoenix Vultures (36-24)

Why they could win the thing: They have an offense that can simply outscore you. They are fifth in PPG, third in FG made, and fourth in FG%. They move the ball great (seventh in assists), and rank third in team offensive rating. They can stretch you out, as is evidenced by their three-point percentage. Drayton Banks is an elite scorer and rebounder, posted 23.5 and 14.6 boards. The Vultures have four other players in double figures, notably Rasheem Fisher, who is having a career year (16.8 pts, 10.5 apg, 1.77 tov) and SG Kendall Nash, who is shooting 40.4% from three and posting 17.8 points and 5.5 assists a game. The Vultures are well-rounded and difficult to stop.

Why they won’t win the thing: They are equally as adept at letting players other than those in a Phoenix uniform score, ranking 19th in oPPG. They also are not a great rebounding team, grabbing boards at the 19th-best clip in the league. For as good as they are shooting the three, they sure do not like to do it. They’re 11th in makes, and 18th in attempts. Maybe that is what makes them effective. But one would think that, if they can stretch out that effectiveness over several more looks, they would. Their pace is on the slow side (23rd), meaning that their offense is living on the thin margins. The Vultures have difficulty getting to the line (16th), which can also make extending a game late difficult. Their bench is very thin, which shows up in their lineup ratings. Teams can be effective gaining momentum while the starters sit. As teams like Los Angeles gained depth, and Seattle and Las Vegas already have depth, the Vultures do not have enough to keep up. Their starters will be taxed over a seven-game series.