Monday, October 20, 2014

Pressing Questions: Atlantic Division

Will league MVP Anthony Anderson get as much of the ball as he did
last year? /The Chronicle Herald
We’re only a couple of weeks away from the 2014-15 NBL Canada season, meaning teams are running out of time to teach players their systems, finalize their rosters, and get set for opening night. With time running out, there are still pressing questions yet to be answered for every team - some that may not even be answered until halfway through the season. Here’s a little preview of what fans should look for from the Atlantic Division teams.

Saint John Mill Rats

Who gets the ball? The Mill Rats made one of the most exciting acquisitions of the offseason by getting Aquille Carr, who is a former high school star and Youtube sensation. However, Carr’s game is a ball dominant style of play, which might cause a bit of a back court conflict with another ball dominant guard the Mill Rats already had that you may have heard of, reigning league MVP Anthony Anderson. With Anderson already taking 18 shots a game last season, how many shots are there to go around? Will a big man ever see the ball? There’s also the defensive issues of having a backcourt with two players under 6 feet. Maybe the plan is for Carr to come off the bench (e.g Stephen McDowell with the Lightning last year)? Either way, how the two guards co-exist will be a very interesting storyline for the Mill Rats.

Moncton Miracles

Who takes charge of this team? Moncton has been a team lucky enough to have an go-to scorer in recent seasons, whether it was Johnny Mayhane last year, or Devin Sweetney before that. The Miracles have done an excellent job of finding guys like Mayhane and Sweetney, and plugging them into their lineup, but can they keep it up? Only four players in the entire NBL were able to average 20 points a game last year, which shows how difficult it is to find that kind of scoring talent. With no obvious answers on the training camp roster, the Miracles will either be hoping that one of their returning players steps up (keep an eye on Stanley Robinson), or that they strike gold for the third year in a row.

Halifax Rainmen

Was last season’s playoff run a mirage? During the 2013-14 NBLC playoffs, the Halifax Rainmen were a force, beating the top seeded Mill Rats in 4 games (best-of-five series), and giving the Island Storm all they could handle in a very tightly contested Atlantic Division final. All that success in the playoffs comes with one large asterisk however, as Halifax was downright awful in the regular season. After starting the year with 10 straight losses, including only three wins the first three months. A late season surge (aided by the mid-season additions of Jason Williams and Olu Famutimi) saved the Rainmen from having the worst record in the NBLC, but just barely. So with Williams and Famutimi gone, will the Rainmen emerge as the dangerous team we saw in the playoffs? Or will they remain the cellar dweller from the regular season?

Island Storm

Can they be stopped? The Storm have been one of the most consistently good teams in the NBLC. This is a team that has consistently been atop the Atlantic Division, made the NBLC Finals last year, and then went all-in by adding a 3rd team all star from last year (Johnny Mayhane), a former league scoring champ (Brandon Robinson), and a former McDonald’s All-American (Renardo Sidney). It helps that the team is run by former NBLC co-coach of the year Joe Salerno (He shared the award with former Lightning coach Micheal Ray Richardson in 2012-13). They did lose three starters from last year, with the loss of Antonio Ballard making them particularly exposed in the post. But if Sidney can be the type of interior presence that his pedigree implies, and Robinson continues to add to his already impressive NBLC career, the NBL Canada title might be heading out east for the first time.