After a short schedule in the first week of the season the championship favourites had a strong week going 4-1. Whilst they'll be disappointed in their loss to the Jaguars they had strong wins against the Devils, Mustangs, Tritons and Lightning and currently have the best point differential in the league by a considerable margin. Craig is probably the leader in the MVP race at this point and both Shakur and Peeler have upped their games as hoped. Kaiser has been a considerable upgrade at center and the team is also getting solid post minutes from rookie Obinna Holden. But perhaps the best news for the Stars is that Hartford is playing his worst offensive ball in years, and it hardly seems to matter.
The Thunder jump from 9th to 2nd this week after an exceptional week in which they swept all 4 games. After only one game last week they were challenging to rate but this week they proved their bonafides with back to back road wins against the powerhouse Rockets and Scorpions. Phifer is leading the way on offense as expected but most impressive has been the team's stout defence, with the team currently leading the league in defensive rating.
The Hurricanes started their week with a heavy road loss to the Scorpions but followed that up with strong back to back wins against the Cyclones. They'll be disappointed with the road loss to the Warriors but rebounded to finish the week with a solid road win against the Jaguars. Despite an up and down week the Hurricanes have earnt the 3rd spot given that they are still without their best player in Leon Bowen. In his absence Ryan Pearce and Tyson Kuberka are playing perhaps the best ball of their careers and are both solidly in the MVP conversation.
The Scorpions continued their hot start to the season with strong wins against their in-form division rival the Hurricanes and the Fireballs. However after a strong start they finished the week on a 2 game losing streak, dropping close games against the Knights and ascendant Thunder. In both games their league leading offense failed them with the team shooting sub .400 from the field. The reigning champions will look to regain their mojo on day 19 against the struggling Cyclones.
The Rockets started their week with a comfortable home win against the struggling Cyclones and a solid road win against the Warriors. They then lost their next two back to back against the undefeated Thunder and the Skyhawks despite 49 points from Nyambi. Goodwin came back to earth a little after a phenomenal opening week and Nyambi's best form has yet to appear but it will come. Despite the up and down week the Rockets are still on track to lock in another playoff campaign.
6. New York Renegades (5-4, + 6.2) (Last Week #2, -4)
The Renegades are perhaps the hardest team to rank currently. They went 1-3 this week, losing to the Jaguars, Vultures and Lightning. However these losses come with an asterisk as the team was missing Frashon Lewis and Rashard Stevens, their second and third best players. With the return the of Lewis on day 14 they ended their week with a win against the Warriors. Whilst the Renegades will be disappointed with the record given their title aspirations they have done well to hold a winning record at this point and with Stevens yet to return their best is still to come.
7. Detroit Mustangs (3-3, + 1.5) (Last Week #7, No Change)
The Mustangs started the week with a strong road win against the Knights but then lost their remaining 2 games; at home against the Stars and on the road against the Huskies. Whilst Vaughn has started to build in the last week this has corresponded with a slight dip in performance from Dawkins, who started the season in world destroying pace. Independent of their record the team has continued to invest minutes in the development of promising rookies Bundu and Foreman, a move that may not pay off immediately but bodes strongly for the future.
The Knights split their games this week in a fashion that shows both their potential and their inconsistency. In their first game they were beaten soundly at home by the Mustangs in a game they would have been expected to win. However they rebounded from this to win a close game against the defending champions which no one (except the Scorpions GM) saw coming. Honeycutt has slowed somewhat after a dominant first week but is still still clearly improved from last year whilst Hawes is rounding into some strong form. The team is clearly a playoff contender but may rue losses like the Mustangs game at the end of the season.
The Lightning continue to be challenging to evaluate with their second consecutive week of only 2 games. They defeated the banged up Renegades comfortably on the road but ended their week with a heavy loss to the Stars. Lamar Francis hasn't yet recaptured the form that got him an All JBL nod last year and neither Clarkson or Spencer have taken the steps forward the team might have hoped for. The team is stacked with young talent and continues to play a deep 10-man rotation. The team may benefit from a slight tightening of the rotation to give more opportunity to some players such as Kendall Nash who has been extremely efficient in limited minutes.
The Tritons went winless this week losing on the road to the Huskies and at home to the Stars. Whilst the second loss can be excused, the Stars are championship favourites, the loss to the Huskies will not doubt be concerning to the team. Whilst the Hawk has continued his strong start to the season the team is being held back by slow starts to the season from Reggie Fortier and the recently resigned Cameron Nix.
After losing a close game at home to the Thunder to start the week the Jailbirds made some changes to their line-up, reallocating some of the minutes allocated to rookies Stone and Harris to their veterans, most notably Obdradovic. The team would go on to win their next two games convincingly against the Devils and Huskies. Whilst the veterans contributed to the change in fortune the main reason was the re-emergence of Jason Cheaney who had started the season slowly by his lofty standards. With 34-12 and 30-18 in the back to back victories Cheaney reminded everyone why he is one of the top FA targets this offseason and more importantly he reminded everyone not to sleep on the Jailbirds.
The Vultures played 2 road games this week and split them, losing to the Kings and then defeating the banged-up Renegades. On a positive note Stafford has continued his strong start to the season and Vidmar's promising rookie campaign took another step forward with two solid performances. It's no surprise that Williams came off the bench in his return from injury. Unfortunately Fisher has not taken the anticipated step forward to date and Winder, who declared that this may be his final season, has been inconsistent. The Vultures still have enough talent to catch strong teams off guard on the nights when Winder winds back the clock, but a final playoff campaign for the legend seems unlikely.
13. Los Angeles Fireballs (2-4, - 5.3) (Last Week #19, + 6)
The Fireballs headed into this week with a new starting lineup (Westley replacing the Dragon) and it paid dividends immediately with the Fireballs getting their first win against the Devils in a turbo charged game notable for containing a comical amount of turnovers and a LaCruz game winner. However perhaps most importantly it featured Drayton Banks' best game in a Fireballs jersey to date with the big man posting 27-10. They lost their next game against the Scorpions but finished the week on a high with a solid win against the Warriors. After a poor opening week the Fireballs have now laid a foundation to build upon.
The Devils went 2-3 this week opening their week with losses to the Stars and Fireballs. They rebounded with a devastating victory against the Skyhawks who recorded the lowest score for the season to date but then lost at home to the Jailbirds before finishing their week with a road win against the Cyclones. The team saw some benefits from rejigging their rotation this week and Slattery has been exceptional in what is quickly becoming his breakout season. Unfortunately Swayda has been far below his best to date and both Wilkinson and Thomas have struggled from the field. The team is currently playing the 2nd highest pace in the league and may benefit from slowing it down a little and letting Swayda's offensive skill shine.
15. St. Louis Skyhawks (3-4, - 6.0) (Last Week #18, + 3)
The Skyhawks woke up this week going 3-2 after a winless start to their campaign. They started their week with a close game on the road to the Thunder and then finally broke the seal with a road win against the Warriors. After this game the team put an end to their 3 big man experiment and then proceeded to record the single worst loss of the season to date, a 29 point pasting by the Devils. But the team recovered quickly a solid win against the Kings. To end the week the team returned to its 3 big lineup, Burrell had shot poorly in a starting role, and recorded a statement victory at home against the Rockets. But significant questions remain for the GM and his coaching staff. Oliver was dominant against the Rockets but has otherwise been well below his best. At the same time the team may be better suited to playing a traditional 2 big lineup as they did last season, but neither Chambers or Burrell has grabbed the brass ring to date.
16. Mexico City Jaguars (3-4, - 6.9) (Last Week #16, No Change)
The Jaguars opened their week with a road win over the banged up Renegades and followed that up with an extremely impressive win against the Stars led by rookie Kahlil Hooker who had his best game as a pro recording a 22-11-7 line. They ended the week with a loss to the Hurricanes but should be pleased with the progress they've made this season. However whilst Hooker has been exceptional to date, and is probably worthy of the starting job at C, the team is being held back by Rice and Cavenell who have shot poorly. In particular Cavenell must be getting nervous about his starting role given he is being consistently outplayed by Vega who has taken big strides forward early in his sophomore campaign.
The Kings opened their week with a strong win at home against the Vultures on the back of Strickland and a dominant cameo by rookie Kierall Richardson. After this win the team rewarded Xavier Turner for his strong start to the season by promoting him to the starting lineup. He performed well in his first start, but the team recorded a loss against the Skyhawks, who chose an unfortunate time to wake up. On a positive note Benson continued his fine start to the season with another double-double and is making a compelling case for supplanting the offensively challenged Odiambo in the starting lineup.
The Huskies went 2-1 this week with narrow wins at home against the Tritons and Mustangs. The Tritons win was a great win for this young team and featured the best performance of the season to date for last year's ROY Darius Barry who has struggled a little in his move back to SF. Rookie Vionte Houston also had his best game for the season with a 20-11-7 line. Unfortunately both Barry and Houston came back to earth against the Jailbirds, shown up by their more experienced counterparts in Carter and Cheaney. Nevertheless, this young team should be very pleased with the progress it's made since last season.
The Warriors came back to earth this week going 1-4 opening the week with losses to the Rockets and Skyhawks before narrowly defeating the Hurricanes at home. They would round out the week with losses to the Fireballs and Renegades. But the real story this week is #WeaverUnshackled. After a short hashtag campaign Weaver was inserted into the starting lineup at SG for the Day 9 game against the Rockets at the expense of the underperforming Frazier. And after Reggie Coleman suffered a foot injury Weaver got the start at his natural SF position for the last three games of the week. Whilst he hasn't shot well and his performances have been inconsistent it's vital that the team continue to give him the opportunity as his development should be the key goal this season. On the same note it may be time to consider a promotion for rookie Isaac Foster who has consistently outplayed starting PF Robert Weekes.
The Cyclones had the week from hell losing all 4 of their games, 3 by double digits. Worst of all each loss was to an EW playoff contender which means that after only two weeks the Cyclones playoff hopes may already be dashed. The biggest issue for the team to date has been that they rank 1st in the league for turnovers and 2nd last for assists. Not surprisingly both these stats can be directly tied to the absence of a true point guard on the roster with veteran Mark Robertson out injured since the start of the season. Whilst both Rickey Douglas and Djordjevic can play some PG they've both been found wanting in terms of running the teams high pace offense. MRob will be back this week but at 36 he can hardly be considered a long term solution.