JBL POWER RANKINGS – WEEK 1
1. Austin Rockets (4-0, +14.8)
The Rockets have come out of the gate on fire after a disappointing end to their 2019 campaign. Reggie Goodwin’s contract is already looking like a bargain and Cedric Freeman has offered solid production as the team’s new starting PF. They haven’t recorded a signature win to date, but you can only beat the team in front of you, and they’ve done that convincingly to date with a + 14.8 point differential.
2. New York Renegades (4-1, +15.4)
The Renegades started the season strongly winning their first 4 games by large margins despite losing key starter Frashon Lewis to injury after only 1 game. They did lose to the Tritons by 1 point at home, but that loss is easily excusable given the Tritons deliberately shortened JBL Finals style rotation and Lewis’ absence.
3. Las Vegas Scorpions (4-0, +11.8)
The Scorpions celebrated the unveiling of their banner on Day 1 at home with a strong victory against the Tritons. Their + 11. 8 point differential isn’t as flashy as some teams, but all five starters are playing less minutes and new rotation pieces Benjamin and Marley have fitted in seamlessly. The defending champs are exactly where they want to be.
4. Nashville Stars (2-0, + 11.5)
The Stars started their season with a convincing road win against the Jailbirds that looks a little less convincing in hindsight and followed that up with a solid home win against the Fireballs. But more importantly Peeler and Shakur have started solidly, and the integration of offseason addition Kaiser Andersen is on track. It’s only early days for this writer’s championship favourites but 2-0 is a good place to start.
5. New Orleans Hurricanes (5-0, +15.8)
Are the Hurricanes the 5th best team in the league? Probably not, but for this week we’re giving the Hurricanes their due. They haven’t notched a signature win yet but 4 road wins in a week is nothing to sneeze at. Kuberka is doing more by doing less, averaging his lowest field goal attempts ever, and the team is thriving playing through Pearce and Bowen, who have swapped positions in the post since last season. Bowen’s injury and a weak wing rotation mean this start is probably unsustainable but with other EW playoff contenders struggling the Hurricanes have built a nice little buffer.
6. Oakland Tritons (2-1, +2.0)
After a road loss to the reigning champions the Tritons rebounded with a solid win against the Lightning and narrow road win against the Renegades. It might come with a little bit of an asterisk but defeating your conference rival is a satisfying way to end the week. Yet the most pleasing development may be the strong form of Humphries who didn’t take the step forward expected last season. With Austin finally showing his age, the continued development of Humphries is essential to the franchise’s continued success.
7. Detroit Mustangs (2-1, + 4.0)
Started the season with a road loss to the Rockets but followed it up with convincing wins against the Kings and Jailbirds. Dawkins has started the season in exceptional form but given that Vaughn hasn’t gotten out of first gear yet this team is in solid shape. Most encouragingly rookie Hassan Bundu has already solidified a place in the rotation as a more offensively orientated counterpoint to Wesley Sherman.
8. Seattle Thunder (1-0, + 3.0)
The Thunder won a close and sloppy home win against the Warriors this week in their only game making them the hardest team to rank. I’ve placed them here because winning the games you should win, even if it’s ugly, should be the expectation. They also deserve a little extra credit as they’ve got a new coach and game plan and have made significant changes to their rotation since last year. But where they go from here is anyone’s guess.
9. Houston Lightning (1-1, +5.0)
The Lightning opened their season with an expected road loss to the Tritons but followed it up with a decisive home victory against the Huskies. The Lightning are very much a team in flux as the new GM tries to determine a rotation that gives all the talent on the roster a fair shake. This can be seen in the changes at SF and PG between game 1 and 2. Given all the developing talent it’s likely that the Lightning will finish the season a little lower in the power rankings. But having said that they’ll definitely be good for the odd upset on the nights when the talent all comes together.
10. Kansas City Knights (2-2, -0.5)
The Knights are better than this but will have settle for 10th this week after incurring 2 home losses. The second against the Renegades is understandable but the upset loss to the Huskies is not. A playoff team returning its entire line-up needs to do better. On the bright side Aaron Honeycutt has started the season on fire (11th in PPG) and if he can keep this up the team will be well positioned to make another playoff run.
11. Phoenix Vultures (1-2, -0.3)
The Vultures started the season with a road loss to the Kings and a loss as home against the red hot Hurricanes. But they ended their week on a high with a solid win against the Jaguars. Stafford and Winder have started the season in fine form (5th and 6th in PPG) and Vidmar, despite typical rookie shooting woes, has flashed his promising all around game after being forced into an increased role in the absence of Luke Williams. Whilst the Vultures probably won’t make the playoffs this year, a solid .500 showing in the Winder Farewell Tour is a definite possibility.
12. Miami Cyclones (1-2, -2.0)
The Cyclones lost a tight game to the Warriors and followed that up with another road loss against the Scorpions before finishing up the week at home with a win against the Warriors. But the team gets some bonus points despite the rough loss to the Warriors. Firstly, they’re missing their starting point guard in MRob (out for 2 weeks with an injury) and Rickey Douglas isn’t on the same level as a distributor. Secondly, the team is rolling out 2 new starters both who have had teething problems to date. Chappell is tearing it up on the boards but hasn’t really done much on offense. Meanwhile if you told me Curry was shooting almost .600 from the field I would have told you he was the signing of the season. Sadly, that awesome FG% comes with 6.3 TPG. So not a great start for the Cyclones, but I find it hard to believe they won’t improve as MRob returns and they develop some cohesion.
13. Atlanta Devils (1-3, -8.8)
The Atlanta Devils started the season with a strong home win against the Kings on opening night, but things went downhill from there with three consecutive losses to the Renegades, Rockets and Hurricanes. So realistically they are 1-3 when 2-2 would have been the realistic expectation. But there are lots of bright spots here. Ellington has performed strongly in increased minutes whilst Slattery may have taken the leap. The problem is that neither of them is playing enough minutes. Given the Devils are playing the third highest pace in the league it may be worth getting the now 7’0 Slattery some time at center, which would also increase the minutes available for Ellington at the 4. Like the Cyclones the Devils are a team I expect to see rise in these rankings as the season continues.
14. Cincinnati Kings (1-4, -8.4)
Despite a 1-4 start there are some definite bright spots for the Cincinnati Kings. Bensanity has been a good news story, flashing ROY candidate level production as the backup PF, and Pace LaGarde has returned strongly from injury. Rookie Xavier Turner has also shown some early signs to justify his draft slot. On the flipside the team is allowing the highest points against in the league. Should the defence stabilize and the rookies continue to perform there is the potential to climb the rankings but more likely this year will be about development and another high draft pick.
15. Philadelphia Warriors (1-3, -9.0)
Given the Warriors are the consensus pick for the worst record in the league they had an above average week with a win against the Cyclones and a narrow loss to the Thunder. Given that the whole team seems mired in a shooting slump this was a pretty decent result. But the lead story here is the stronger than expected play of the unicorn Alonzo Weaver. His per 36 production is excellent and simply put he needs more time on the court. Frazier leads the team in minutes and is simply not starter quality. #FreeWeaver
16. Mexico City Jaguars (1-3, -9.5)
The Jaguars started the season with a win against the Fireballs but then lost three in a row to the Scorpions, Knights and Vultures. The good news so far is the strong debut of ROY favourite Kahlil Hooker and the dramatically improved offensive game of last season’s 3rd pick Antonio Vega. In fact Vega may have already surpassed starter Sidney Cavenell. The bad news is that both Winters and Rice are shooting poorly and that the depth chart is probably a little too spread out. Like the Warriors this is a team that probably needs to realistically evaluate where it is at, and focus their energies accordingly. If they can get more development into their young talent then the season won’t be a loss regardless of their final record.
17. Toronto Huskies (1-3, -12.0)
The Huskies first week brought predictable losses to the Renegades and Rockets, a loss against the Lightning and an upset win against the Knights. Rookie Houston has started the season respectably, but reigning ROY Darius Barry has performed poorly in his move back to his natural SF position full time. Giving Barry some more time at the PF spot may assist his performance, particularly his FG%, whilst at the same time freeing up more wing minutes for the development of Houston, or the productive Wingate.
18. St. Louis Skyhawks (0-2, -18.5)
The Skyhawks are another team that’s challenging to rank this week. They lost both games and have the worst point differential in the league. However that doesn’t tell the full story as their opponents this week were the Renegades and Scorpions, last year’s finalists, at home. If they’d managed to win either of those games they might have found themselves ten spots higher in these rankings. Another week and we should have a much better idea on where this team is at, and whether their intriguing triple tower strategy is worth continuing with.
19. Los Angeles Fireballs (0-3, -12.0)
For a playoff team that many thought had improved over the offseason the Fireballs had a horrid week with losses to the Jaguars, Hurricanes and Stars. They would have been expected to have won 2 of them. However the Fireballs have made significant changes to their rotation to start the year with the subtraction of Curry and addition of Banks. Banks has struggled to date at center, he’s naturally a PF, and The Dragon has stunk up the joint in a larger role. Whilst the Banks experiment is worth pursuing it may be time to reintroduce a lineup that was potent for the Fireballs prior to their acquisition of Curry last year; Monroe at PG, Lacruz at SG and Carst at SF. If not that then Westley probably needs to play more at The Dragon’s expense. The Fireballs may be down for now, but I’m still tipping them for the playoffs. But they can’t afford too many more weeks like this.
20. Chicago Jailbirds (0-3, -11.7)
Despite making no changes in the offseason the 2016 champions have wildly underperformed to start the season losing games to the Stars, Mustangs and Knights. Whilst they would have been predicted to lose to the Stars they were expected to beat the Mustangs at the very least. Offensively they’ve been terrible with all three members of the 3 Cs underperforming most notably Cheaney. Whilst it is unlikely that all 3 all stars continue to slump the team the team may also need to look at its center rotation as prior productive starter Obradovic has been completely abandoned in favour of Dupree and rookie Rasheed Stone. Whilst Dupree and Stone aren’t performing badly this move has certainly impacted the team’s cohesion.