Circling to Soaring?

  • By Aaron Liang, Day 1, 2023


2022 Season Overview

The Vultures finished 2022 with a 55-27 record and #5 seed in the West, closing the regular season with a strong 21-3 record after the all-star break. In the first round, the Vultures emerged victorious in a tough 7 game series win over the Knights, completed by a Jamaya Sprinkle hail mary at the buzzer, however suffered an expected (though still disappointing) loss to the eventual 2022 Champion Thunder in 6 games.

Offseason recap

- Vultures trade #23 and #51 to the Tritons for the Tritons 2024 #1 (http://jblfl.com/articles?id=406)
- Vultures trade #53 to Scorpions for the Scorpions 2026 #2 (http://jblfl.com/articles?id=431)
- Vultures trade #29 to Jaguars for the Jaguars 2026 #1 (http://jblfl.com/articles?id=444)
- Vultures trade the Vultures 2024 #1 to the Lightning for SF Orpheus Swayda (http://jblfl.com/articles?id=450)
- Players lost: Tahric Kimbrough (free agency), Theandre - Solverson (free agency), Jared Grace (waived), DeShawn Harper (retired)
- Free agents retained: Drayton Banks, Dedrick Clayton, Rashif Green, Derrick Posey
Free agents added: Kostas Vougiokas (free agency)

Lineup comparison

2022 - Jamaya Sprinkle, Drayton Banks, Sasha Vidmar, Kendall Nash, Rasheem Fisher. 6th man Tahric Kimbrough
2023 - Jamaya Sprinkle, Drayton Banks, Orpheus Swayda, Sasha Vidmar, Rasheem Fisher. 6th man Kendall Nash

2023 Outlook

The Vultures made few moves in the offseason however still managed to materially change the team dynamic and, to most observers, improve their chances at truly contending for a JBL Championship.

The obvious key addition this season has been the introduction of Orpheus Swayda (23.2p, 7.1r, 4.1a) into the starting lineup. While Swayda is on the downside of his career at 34 years old, he is returning to his natural SF position (having played exclusively in the guard positions last season) and still projects to be an efficient twenty point per game scorer. The Vultures will slide Sasha Vidmar (15.1ppg, 6.9rpg, 5.2apg) to SG to allow him continued court time and opportunity to progress, however there are question marks over his ball handling, shooting and defensive abilities at that position (and in general). It does address a frequent refrain of commentators that the Vultures lineup is too small, and will allow the team to evaluate Vidmar at a position he has never really played as he heads into free agency next offseason.

With newly re-signed Drayton Banks (22.4ppg, 14.7rpg, 2.5bpg), Rasheem "Eats For A Lifetime" Fisher (17.7ppg, 11.4apg) and Jamaya Sprinkle (12.9ppg, 9.3rpg) returning at PF, PG and C respectively, this leaves Kendall Nash (17.5ppg, 5.3apg) as the odd man out in the rotation. There are differing opinions as to what role a 6'4 offensive SG can play on a contending team - Cameron Nix of the 2018 Champion Tritons is evidence that it can be done - however for the most part the league seems to have moved away from small SGs that are considered to be defensive liabilities.

For the Vultures, Nash is expected to fill a 6th man role of scorer and playmaker, which likely means backing up Fisher at PG, and that on second units Vidmar will slide to SF, Swayda to PF and Banks to C. During his career, Swayda has proven to be a sound rebounder at his position however most prognosticators expect this will be a difficult assignment for him at times. Banks most meaningfully played C during his short run 'n' gun stint with the 2020 Fireballs, with mixed results, however at the Vultures this figures to be less of a change in role for the 6'10 249lbs big man, who should be comfortable at the pivot at this stage of his career.

The 2022 Vultures were a strong offensive team despite the absence of a top flight scorer, finishing 3rd in the league with an ORtg of 116.3, and this is expected to remain the case in the absence of material chemistry issues. On the defensive side, last year's Vultures struggled (111.1DRtg, 16th) despite seemingly having the tools - Sprinkle, Banks, Vidmar and Fisher each have scouted defensive attributes - so the addition of Swayda (2.0spg, 1.9bpg, 105.5DRtg) and movement of Nash (1.7spg, 113.0DRtg) to the bench is hoped to improve the team's stopping capabilities.

The remainder of the lineup saw little substantial change over the offseason as most backups were retained on minimum deals, although the loss of C Tahric Kimbrough (7.4ppg, 5.1rpg in 17.9mpg) will be felt. Sophomore SF Aquille Glover (5.8ppg in 13.0mpg) is expected to soak up most of the minutes at the remaining backup slots in the heavy guard and wing rotation that is expected to be implemented. Regardless, the backup big positions are a clear on-paper deficiency that will be amplified in the event of injury or fatigue.

Prediction

59-23.
The Vultures should be disappointed to not secure home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs this season. The franchise will expect to be a fringe contender taking into consideration the increase in talent and internal improvement in the lineup, but offset by chemistry issues and lack of big man depth.