What to look for in 2020

Photo by: Jacinthe Leblanc
Photo by: Jacinthe Leblanc

Story by: David Tingley

Alright NBLC fans, let’s have a little fun. Whether your squad has played three games or just one, I’m here with my crystal ball to let you know what’s real, what’s not and who to look for on your team and for all 8 teams as we head into 2020.  For each team, I’ll hugely overreact to an early season stat, I’ll give you one development you can expect to continue and one player to fall in love with.  Ready?  Let’s do this.

Halifax Hurricanes

Overreaction Wednesday: Joel Kindred will lead the league in rebounding: Most of the crazy misleading stats through three games for the Hurricanes are negatives and not fun, so let’s go with a 6’4”/194 6th man nudging ahead of the likes of Sam Muldrow and Billy White over the next 33 games. Hey, he’s a solid player, an excellent rebounder for his size already and merely needs to double last year’s production. No problem

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! Antoine Mason will make his living at the line: over 9 trips per game through 3, making 92.9% of them. For a team breaking in a new offense under new coach Ryan Marchand, his toughness and rack attacks will keep them afloat while they round into form. He’ll lead the league in trips to the line with his Harden-like ability to create contact. 

Worth The NBLC Live SubscriptionTremayne Johnson: A leading candidate for Newcomer of the Year, Johnson’s energy and rim running have provided Halifax with sorely-needed easy buckets during his early season minutes. The 6’7”/200 pound L.A. native is coming off a fluky bad (we think) outing for the Hurricanes against Moncton, but is still averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and a steal on 57% shooting.

 

Island Storm

Overreaction Wednesday: Robbie Robinson will pull off the first 60/60 season in league history: The man is already way over 60% on his three-point attempts so the fly in the ointment is the less-than-stellar 55% clip he’s shooting from 2-point range.  I expect him to pull up his socks a little and stop slacking.  Keep getting those buckets Robbie! (Update: he “only” went 7-18 from the field last night in an 18 and 8 showing and a win over the Edge.  A real stinker.  You let us down Robbie!)

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! Alex Campbell will be on everyone’s MVP short lists: I think last year’s all-defensive team member makes yet another step in his development.  He’s improved every year he’s been in the league and I think he’s your top Canadian and potential Defensive POY this year.  He probably won’t be the MVP unless the Storm take a huge step forward as a team, but this guy is a triple-double waiting to happen all of a sudden.

Worth The NBLC Live Subscription: This team has multiple candidates, including potential Newcomer of the Year Nathaniel Wright and potential Rookie of the Year Antwon Lillard, but this has to be Johnathan Loyd. Come for the blazing speed, stay for the scoring (16.0), distribution (7.7 dimes against only 1.3 turnovers) and defense (almost 3 steals per game).

 

KW Titans 

Overreaction Wednesday: The starting PG and C combine for 20 attempted 3’s a game: So far Damon Lynn and Jon Harris have gotten UP those shots from deep.  But here’s the thing…they’re making 44% of them.  Why not keep getting them up in volume?

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! Both those players make, and stay on, all-NBL team short lists throughout the year. The path to a lot of minutes is wide-open for these guys and they’ve looked really comfortable through two games.  Maybe they get scouted up and come back to earth a little, but Lynn’s athleticism is there and, as long as he shoots the ball with efficiency, he’s going to be good.  And Harris’ three-point shooting and rebounding seem to blend well with coach Johnson’s system.

Worth The NBLC Live Subscription: How about a young Canadian to watch? Myles Charvis had a solid start to his pro career with the Guelph Nighthawks of the CEBL this past summer and it’s carried over to his first 2 games with the Titans. He’s averaging 13 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2 steals off the bench.  Carry that flag Myles!

 

LONDON LIGHTNING 

Overreaction Wednesday: The team will have 7 players averaging double figures: Ok, so this is the first overreaction that could actually….you know….happen. Mo Bolden, Xavier Moon, Omar Strong, Garrett Williamson, Mareik Isom, AJ Gaines, Marcus Capers…..anyone on that list that you want to bet on NOT being a reliable scorer? Didn’t think so. 

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! After a one-year hiatus, the Lightning re-establish themselves as the team to beat in the Central: You saw that list of guys right? Moon was the MVP of the CEBL this summer and I expect him to take a step up in his second year in this league as well. With Isom and Strong joining the returnees and some bruisers up front, this squad is set up well for the rest of the year. 

Worth The NBLC Live Subscription: Of course Gaines and Bolden will give you some highlight-level blocks and slams, but appreciate the game of Mareik Isom fans. He was underrated as a member of the Saint John Riptide 2 years ago, but his defense and versatility and length are real weapons. He just lit up the Sudbury Five for 30 in his third game in London. Beware!

 

Saint John’s Edge

Overreaction Wednesday: Ryan Richardson will attempt 80% of his shots from behind the arc: Again, for lack of a more fun overreaction to choose from, we’ll go with one that might actually happen. I’ve already given Richardson the moniker of Ryan Anderson East for a reason. Every long-range jumper he shoots looks soaking wet and, as the season wears on, I look forward to the creative ways coach Marcus comes up with to free him up. He’s making 52% of his 3’s on 7.5 attempts per game through 3.

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! Tyrone Watson will nose his way back into Canadian of the Year discussions: “Muscle” his way back in would be more appropriate perhaps.  After an injury-plagued couple of seasons, the freight train is back on the tracks and balling, with averages of 12.3 points and 6 boards through 3 games.  (after an off game last night on the Island) A healthy Watson is a welcome sight to fans in Saint John’s and the rest of the league.

Worth The NBLC Live Subscription: Mike Edwards is putting some unfortunate soul on a poster sooner or later and the speed of Jesse Jones and Cane Broome off the bench is breathtaking at times, but here’s hopingKarrington Ward gets himself healthy and back on the court after missing the Edge’s second game against Halifax. Length, shooting, defense and explosiveness…..this guy has all the tools.  Get well soon Karrington! (Update: he got well and played last night on PEI.  Didn’t shoot well, but collected 14 boards, 6 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks….yeah, he’s good folks)

 

SUDBURY FIVE 

Overreaction Wednesday: Jaylen Bland averages more turnovers than field goals made for the season: Ok, as much as the rest of the league would welcome this development, I can’t actually sell this with a straight face.  Last year’s all-NBL first team member will heat up at some point, but the team as a whole is 15-79 from three through 2 losses to start the year. The good news Five fans? You were in both games despite the struggles. Better times are ahead.

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! JR Holder for Sixth Man of the Year!: …and Newcomer of the Year? I mean, if you keep averaging 21 points on 63% shooting, sooner or later you may break into that starting lineup right? If coach Stutz chooses to keep him in his role however, he’ll keep feasting on opposing benches with his versatile game and three-point shooting. 

Worth The NBLC Live Subscription: He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well yet, but Marlon Johnson is a walking double-double.  He’s averaging 13 points and 9.5 rebounds, can score on all three levels, and is a future card-carrying member of the all-highlight team.  He’s aggressive, fearless and attacks the rim on one end while protecting it with his length and athleticism on the other.

 

WINDSOR EXPRESS 

Overreaction Wednesday: Sam Muldrow will average 5 blocks per game: ok, with only one game under their belts, this is too easy, but Muldrow has been an immovable object in the lane since his days with South Carolina in the SEC and it ain’t likely to change anytime soon.  Five blocks might be asking a lot, but the league leader? Not out of the question to be sure.

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! Derrick Nix may be a dominant force down low: He’s 6’9’/270 with a soft touch and went for 20 and 6 in game one.  Small sample size from a BIG man, but that was a great start to be sure. 

Worth the NBLC Live Subscription: He also struggled in game 1, but I’m intrigued by DeShaun Thrower. On tape, he reminded me a lot of MVP Braylon Rayson. He’s got big time range and once upon a time was Mr. Basketball and the runner-up for Mr. Football in the state of Michigan.  So….yeah, he’s got some chops.

 

MONCTON MAGIC 

Overreaction Wednesday: Moncton will finish dead last in opponent field goal %, opponent 3 point % and forced turnovers: last season’s championship was buoyed by the league’s number one defense and it’s been anything but so far. The second half of the Edge game on Friday carried over to the first half of the Hurricanes game last night and nudged them out of the basement in the last 2 categories.  However, the team still hasn’t put together a full 40 minutes.  Until they do, I stand by this prediction!....for at least one more day. 

So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?! The Magic finish with the league’s number one offense. Yeah, yeah I know. I just got done telling you that it’s their defense that they lean on….but ummm, have you seen what happens when they turn that defense into offense?  By coach Salerno’s standards, I’ll bet they’ve only played about 4 quarters worth of decent basketball in 4 games….and they’re leading the league in points per game. You think that’s going to change when they finally put it all together?  Not a chance. 

Worth the NBLC Live Subscription: There are very few new faces to the league on the roster at the moment, so I’m….ahh….”forced” to fall back on the most obvious answer of all.  If you’re a fan of the league and you haven’t reached full appreciation of what Marcus Lewis does on both ends of the floor, you owe it to yourself to change that immediately.  He hasn’t shot the ball consistently yet, but still is amongst the league leaders in blocks, and leads the league in steals, deflections defensively (probably) and highlights per minute played (definitely). Marcus Lewis hates rims!

 

For all you NBLC Live action, subscribe at nblclive.ca! Tune in tomorrow night to catch all 8 teams on the court.

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