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2027 OBWL Season Preview


2027-Heath-01
Hunter Heath and the Tampa Bay Tritons are ready to defend the Heikkinen Cup against a field of contenders in 2027.

 

 A new season is upon the OBWL and many changes have occurred in the offseason. The balance of power has shifted from contenders and pretenders alike. Let's look around the league and each conference.

AMERICAN CONFERENCE

The American Conference remain the conference of champions, having won 4 of the last 6 titles with 4 different teams. The current champions are the Tampa Bay Tritons. The Tritons have one of the best lineups in the league and are in great position to repeat. Usually this is when Kansas City is mentioned in the same breath. Not so this year as the Pioneers enter full rebuild mode after cleaning house in the offseason. So, who will replace the Pioneers and challenge the defending champs? In Sacramento, it is uncertain if the talented Snipers can take the next step to join the Tritons in the upper echelon of the league. Might it be a dark horse team like the young and rising Lumberjacks of Portland? Or a suddenly fearsome Archers team that are seeking to reclaim Anaheim's past glory? Are Philadelphia and Kentucky more than token road bumps for Tampa Bay in its division? The water is murky and far from clear.

CONTENDERS - Anaheim, Portland, Sacramento, Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay is an obvious contender as the reigning champions. Joe Aviles and Colby Allan are the one-two punch that leads the team's efficient offense. Allan has now won three titles, each with a different team (Kansas City, London and Tampa Bay). Getting a fourth will put him in the history book as the first player to get four rings. Anchoring the defense is Hunter Heath, the most versatile defender in the league and possibly OBWL history. Heath will once again play where he is needed and shut down whomever faces him. The Tritons did lose bench strength in the offseason. Gary Brainard and William Cuellar are both gone. But with Allan, Aviles, Hobert Frisby and Aubrey Delgado, the team will not be lacking quality shooters. The knock on the Tritons is the dismissal of the former face-of-franchise and future Hall of Famer Andy Teeters during the preseason. Dirty move by a usually classy organization. Karma is knocking.

Sacramento is flushed with talent. Led by superstar and MVP candidate, Lynwood Emmert, the Snipers also feature power forward Gregory Santiago and point guard Troy Howse, two of the best young players in their positions. The team added Erik Langlois, another promising young player to help shore up the interior with veteran Justin Malone. Langlois is somewhat foul-prone and he will split minutes with the very capable Malone at center. The Snipers did lose Octavio Morrison and his 12 points per game but that should be easily absorbed by the addition of Langlois and the continued growth of their three stars. With big contracts tied to their starters, there is little quality depth on the bench. A key injury might be this season's downfall. Last year, Sacramento was neck and neck with Kansas City before falling apart in the second half. Was it the pressure or the exhaustion of the starters playing 40+ minutes each game? With the Pioneers out of contention, expectations are at a franchise high for the Snipers to become the new divisional kingpin and more.

Anaheim and Portland are the two dark horse contenders vying to come out of the conference. The Archers decided enough with rebuilding, time to do winning and brought in Greg Fore to fast track them back atop the AmCon. Fore is one of the few unguardable players in the league and is now surrounded with the most talent since the Denver Finals team. His running mates include no less than three top 10 picks: Ray Weston (#9), Randolph Wright (#3), and Don McDaniel (#7). Fore will be playing for a team that loves to run and score so a career year and an MVP trophy at age 30 is not out of the question. It'll be up to him to ready the baby Archers and guide them to new heights. The division is ready to be had.

Portland made its first playoff appearance in a decade and gave the number one seeded Pioneers all it could handle last season. If not for Yevgeny Ilgauskas being injured and missing Game 7, the Lumberjacks might have pulled off an upset for the ages. Afterwards there were questions during Free Agency if Ilgauskas would return to the Great Northwest. But the team went all-in and signed the shooting guard to a 6-year max contract. In the end, money talks and the young Russian decided to return and finish what he helped built. The Lumberjacks showcase the best interior duo in the league. There's not a starting combo better than Roger Desfontaines and Kendall Melanson. The two averaged 46 points and 16 rebounds last season. With opponents focusing their attention inside, Ilgauskas has all the freedom to roam the perimeter. There are no MVP candidates in Portland, instead there are three stars capable of taking over any game. As a group, they are likely better than the big 3 in Sacramento.

PLAYOFF BOUND - Detroit, Fort Worth, Kentucky, Philadelphia

A notch below the contenders are the next four. Kentucky leads the pack with a true difference maker in Andrew Jackson. There was no question that Jackson was returning to Kentucky. He inked a max contract and went back to work. Though playing in a small media market El Presidente has gained consensus recognition as one of the league's best. He's joined by Cecil Means, an underrated player that is a reliable sidekick and was the lead guard that helped the Stallions to the Finals 3 seasons ago. In the offseason the team added Ruy Andres to replace the loss of Arthur Fiscus at center. Andres will continue the tradition set for Stallions' bigs: play defense, rebound and scoring optional. The problem remains the lack of options outside of Jackson and Means, and that could prevent Kentucky from being a serious threat.

Joining Kentucky are the run and gun Americans from Philadelphia. Points will not be an issue for this team. Already one of the top scoring teams, the Americans added Alain Lagon in Free Agency to further amp up the attack. Fans will be entertained but there's a saying that "defense wins championships". That is something the team will need in order to go deep in the postseason. Last season's team gave up 109 points and allowed opponents to shoot 49%. Not a good trademark. Lagon joins an explosive roster that includes returnees Charles Ottinger (16pts), John Newton (25pts), and Renato Ardoin (16pts). Philadelphia will be able to score but unless the husk of Louis Lysne can rejuvenate itself the Americans might find themselves another early exit.

After three straight seasons of first round exits, Detroit took a step back going 26-54 and went back to the lottery. With the 9th pick the Muscle selected Edmund Harley, another big body to go with their stable of young big men (John Weatherford and Van Lefevre). Harley can contribute on day one and gives the team a formidable frontcourt. In Free Agency, Mark Olivas broke hearts after leaving to join former Muscle, Quintin Bergquist, in Vancouver. But the organization found a clone replacement in Joey Short. Short is adept at both scoring and defending, a requirement for Detroit guards. Joining him on are Blaine Fitzwater and Xander Remington. The trio form one of the quickest perimeter rotations in the league. The Muscle look to have all the ingredients to return to the playoffs.

Fort Worth had a horrible season last year. So bad that there're rumors that they are relocating – to not offend the fans. It was mystifying that the Dragoons finished with the third worst record in the league when talent tells you otherwise: Edward Baranowski, Rufus Motley, Geraldo Ibanez and Ethan Budd. Perhaps it was inexperience and inconsistency, Baranowski, Ibanez and Budd are all under 25yr while Motley is the seasoned veteran at 28yr old. Upon closer look it was the lack of a true point guard and soft interior that destroyed hopes for the team. During the offseason management decided to stick with the process and decided on a re-do. The team obviously believe the result was an outlier. Motely was signed to a "star" worthy contract after producing a very un-star like 15 points per game and not much else. The Dragoons got lucky and were able to draft Roy Williams with the #5 pick. Williams has the potential to become a star, though his true position has yet to be defined. Fort Worth still lacks rim protection and a true point guard but in a weak conference it might be enough to get them in.

THE REST - Chicago, Indiana, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, St Louis

Very little separates the rest of the conference. The remaining teams are either rebuilding or waiting for cap relief. Kansas City is in the best position to sneak into the playoffs solely based on their organization. The Pioneers went full rebuild mode after having the best record in the conference last year. The team traded away Charles Cazares and did not resign any of their veterans. Instead the checkbook was opened for the likes of Abe Gutierrez, Dieudonne Carpentier and Arthur Fiscus. All three signed two-year contracts with team options. Sounds odd. But the true masterplan might be that all three players see their options declined, leaving the Pioneers and GM Ben Johnson enough space for two max contract players and to quickly reload back into contention. This is the perfect season to do that as the Pioneers should remain competitive in a weaken conference.

Indiana, St Louis and Los Angeles have all seen better days. St Louis is only a few seasons removed from dominating the conference and the league. But only Timothy Adler remains on the team today. The Sun Kings are in a tough predicament – not good enough and not bad enough. The team is in limbo and will likely decline Jasper Hughes option for next year and must wait another year for Adler, unless he gets traded. Similarly, Indiana finds themselves in the same situation. This season is likely Cleveland Hall's last with the Invaders. While he'll always be remembered in Indiana, there will be a sigh of relief when his 26+ million come off the books along with Charles Barnett's 8 million when the season is over. During his reign with the Invaders, Hall has only made it to the 2nd round twice in a Hall of Fame career. In Los Angeles, the team cling to hopes of another playoff berth but gone are Lenny Davis and Frank Williams. The Chaos did add Johnnie Bechtel to replace Davis's production and will once again feature a strong inside presence led by Andrew Culbertson and Geoffrey Askew. But there is very little else on the team.

Chicago has been rebuilding for several seasons now with consistent top 5 picks. Only Byron Dambrosio, last year's #1 overall, looks to be the real deal. Several are on the verge of being disappointing to outright bust: Daniel West (#1 disappointing), Jose Lui (#5 bust), Luitpold Hippeli (#5 bust), Erasmo Dryden (#1 disappointing) and Herschel Pettway (#5 disappointing). Thankfully the Blaze drafted Danny Largent, this year's #2 overall. Largent looks to be the real deal and can be a solid foundation for the team along with Dambrosio. For Las Vegas, the team and fans are in for another rough season. Little was done in the offseason to improve the Blackjacks. Roosevelt Woodworth, selected #8, joins last year's #7 Thomas Carter as the rebuilding continues.

PREDICTIONS

 

AMERICAN EAST

Tritons (*)
Americans (*)
Stallions (*)
Muscle (*)
Sun Kings
Invaders
Blaze

AMERICAN WEST

Lumberjacks (*)
Snipers (*)
Archers (*)
Dragoons (*)
Pioneers
Chaos
Blackjacks

Playoff teams in *

NATIONAL CONFERENCE

There is no disputing that the National Conference is deep. It starts with the two front-runners, Boston and Minnesota. The two clubs met in the semis last season and are on a collision course to meet again this year. But this time with a possible trip to the Finals at stake. Both teams possessed uber-talented starting lineup and a deep and reliable bench. Several teams are closely behind: London and its core of aging stars, Arizona under the guidance of their brilliant management team, and Honolulu with their trio of stars entering their prime. Would any of them stand in the way of Boston and Minnesota? Further down the ladder, in the West, there is the rise of Seattle under new GM Jay Amado and, in the East, the continued improvement of New Jersey under GM Marco Heinrich. And no one should count out Vancouver, a team that has always punched above its talent class. This year, talent is with the Highlanders.

CONTENDERS - Arizona, Boston, London, Minnesota

Boston was on pace to have the best record in the league before being plagued with injuries. Instead, it was Minnesota, who surprised everyone behind a breakout season by Andrew Evans and the outstanding inside-outside tandem of Tony Pence (PF) and Andrew Lawler (SG). But it was a different story in the playoffs as the Marauders fell victim to a fully healthy Boston team. The Buzzards easily dismissed the top seed 4-1 on their way to representing the NatCon. Both clubs return mostly intact and will battle it out for supremacy. Minnesota is now clearly Evans' team. Pence and Lawler will be heavily involved and could, individually, be the number one option for several teams. That speaks of how gifted Evans is offensively. The Marauders spent the offseason signing compliment players. Frank Williams was signed to be a do-it all role player. Tony Jenkins was picked for his superb defense. Hector Briley returns to be a roadblock with Ervin Holmes in the paint. The Marauders are as complete a team as there is. They will rampage and pillage the league this year.

Standing in their way is Boston. The Buzzards lost two key reserves in Jerrold Dean and Abe Gutierrez. Neither put up amazing numbers but were cogs in the machine and provided quality minutes off the bench. What was lost on the perimeter hopefully was made whole in the paint with the signing of Richard Burke II. Boston has always been a physical team and Burke fits the mode. His scoring will compliment Darin Deans' DMVP caliber defense. The offense will flow through Sheldon Perkins and Jesse Yoshida. Both are excellent scorers anywhere on the floor. Secondary scoring will go to Burke, James Wall and Frank Gifford. Boston checks all the boxes to be a championship contender.

Meanwhile in London, the championship window is closing fast. Last year's early postseason exit and the status quo off season left little confidence in the fan base of a title run. Jean Larry and the return of Val Crumley and Jose Owens will keep the Knights among the contenders. But outside of the big three, the once vaunted depth is non-existent. The team is looking at another season of journeyman backcourt playing alongside Crumley. It's unknown how long Crumley can continue to carry the unit. The only thing given is that the Knights interior (Larry, Owens, Forrest Valentine and Gerald Stubblefield) will be one of the league's best. Though with only an aging Crumley on the perimeter, its uncertain how much that matters.

Arizona has always been a model franchise, going back to its founding days under Ben Johnson. The Thunderbirds are once again legit contenders under Nick Simpson. Year in, year out this organization does more with league minimums than any other team in the OBWL. It's no different this season as the Thunderbirds filled out the roster with seasoned veterans on short term contracts. Defense has been the team's recent calling card. Ace defender Daniel Goodrum patrols the perimeter while Elton Carnahan shuts down the paint. Providing the scoring punch for the team are Carl Terwilliger and Claud Lassiter. Arizona lacks a true dominating scorer and scoring punch off the bench.

PLAYOFF BOUND - Honolulu, New Jersey, Seattle, Vancouver

Honolulu and Vancouver are familiar names in the post season. Honolulu has a home-grown roster that feature three of the best players in their position. Udo Bach (PF), Michael Weathersby (SF) and Aaron Baum (SG) are all entering their prime. The past couple of trips to the playoffs have ended with disappointment for the Inferno. The team was expected to rise to the top of the conference but instead find themselves stalled. Bach is near unstoppable in the paint while Weathersby and Baum are stars that any team would love to have. Its baffling that Honolulu has not enjoyed more success. Perhaps this is the season that it comes together.

Vancouver should not be overlooked. Domenic Baum and Dennis Pichardo are back once again, having both signed long-term contracts. The Highlanders also added Mark Olivas, once again raiding Detroit for talent. Olivas is perfectly suited for the team's grit and grind style and provide much needed speed on the perimeter. Vancouver has been unafraid to spend in the Free Agency. Two seasons ago Quintin Bergquist signed a massive contract to leave Detroit. This year, the war chest was once again opened for Baum, Pichardo and Olivas. It's a move that screams of win now. Scoring has always taken a backseat to the team's elite defense but, make no mistake, this version of the Highlanders can and will be able to put up points. Baum and Pichardo averaged over 20 points each last season and are fully capable of taking over games. Bergquist and Olivas are solid secondary options, both averaged double digits last year. There's not much to dislike about this team.

New Jersey and Seattle will fittingly fight it out for the final playoff spots. Call it fate as the two franchises are now bounded by Luis Engram's defection from the Evolution to the Sea Dogs. The East Coast – West Coast hate is real. Engram now gets to play with Charles Ackerman, the best point guard in the game. At least for one season. It will be ironic if Ackerman ended up in the Garden State, but that's thoughts for the future. Seattle's GM Amado starts his tenure with bang and swung for the fences. He has put together a team that is a serious threat. After the Engram coup, the Sea Dogs pulled off a trade to land DMVP candidate Charles Cazares from Kansas City and then signed Long Foote and James Tomlin. All moves made to win now and keep their star point guard happy and in Seattle.

In New Jersey, the Evolution might be salty, but the team still has Ronald Richardson. Richardson is arguably just as good, if not better than, Engram. Thanks to GM Heinrich, the club quickly recovered from the shock and signed William Cuellar, Octavio Morrison and Daren Keyes. Not the signing that fans wanted but New Jersey is without a doubt a better team this year than last. After years of dwelling in the cellar, the Evolution will continue onward, even if their former star is not along for the ride.

THE REST – Denver, Manhattan, Quebec, San Diego, South Florida, Toronto

Manhattan and Toronto are the likely teams to fight for a playoff spot in this group. The Swing bring back an experienced team led by Whitney Cherry and Mack Lavoie. Though the team would love to be competitive this season but it's likely that a top pick would be more welcoming as the offseason brings a clean slate with only 25 million on the books. For the past year, all the talks were if Charles Flowers would return to Toronto. Speculations were rampant. But the GOAT remains true to the team that drafted him and signed a super max deal that will see him retire a Husky. The city of Toronto was pleased. The Huskies likely won't make the playoffs but there are things more important than wins.

The remainders of the group are in full rebuild mode. For Quebec, the highlight will likely be the drafting of Jacob Cartagena with the 7th pick. After making the playoffs in his first year, GM Joshua Biddle has not had much success since. After paying for Wesley Lefler and Frederic Johnson, a big decision is looming on Horacio Vega for the small market team. South Florida gets another new General Manager. What is it about the Sharks that makes GMs want to leave? This time it's Patrick Abrams. So far, he's off to a good smart by committing to only short-term contracts and placing James Nichols on the trade block. South Florida is in for a complete remake. Again. San Diego won and was able to keep its lottery pick. With the number one overall, the Storm selected Roman Roberson. Roberson is a young, raw point guard that several experts around the league have compared to Harry White. One of the loftiest comparisons a rookie can have but it also speaks of the huge potential for the kid. Here's hoping he lives up to it and finds success in San Diego. Lastly, after trading away the face of the franchise Greg Fore, the Demons have waved the flag and gone full rebuild. Hobert Shell and Michael McClellan were drafted 3rd and 4th to jumpstart the process. It's going to be a down year in Denver. May it rain fishmacs on all.

PREDICTIONS

 

NATIONAL EAST

Buzzards (*)
Knights (*)
Evolution (*)
Swing
Coyotes
Huskies
Sharks

NATIONAL WEST

Marauders (*)
Thunderbirds (*)
Inferno (*)
Highlanders (*)
Sea Dogs (*)
Storm
Demons

Playoff teams in *

 

 

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