Island defeat Magic to snap five-game win streak
Photo Credit: Paula Mazerolle
By José Colorado
Year nine is officially underway.
Canada's longest standing professional league – the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) – is back for its ninth edition and with it a host of storylines have already entered the fray.
We take a look at each in this year's first official NBLC Power Rankings.
1. Moncton Magic (5-1)
Last Week's (LW) Record: 3-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Bye Week
A summer's vacation has done little to slow down the Magic as they've come out of the gates blazing for the second consecutive season.
Led by veteran forward Billy White (18 points per game and 8.2 rebounds) the club has gotten off to a 5-1 record with a schedule that included two back-to-backs games and a three-games-in-four-nights stretch.
Despite losing finals MVP Trey Kell (Hong Kong) in the off-season, head coach Joe Salerno has masterfully been able to offset the scoring loss by using Maurice Jones Sr. (12.5 points per game) as a scoring spark plug off the bench.
And with veterans Wayne McCullough (9.8 points per game) and Corey Allmond (18.3 points per game) setting the championship tone, Moncton fans should be feeling hopeful once again after a strong start.
2. Island Storm (4-2)
LW Record: 3-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Halifax, Sudbury, Halifax
Sure, the Moncton Magic may be the most impressive team of the league thus far but it is the Island Storm who must be considered the early candidate for Story of the Year.
Through one-and-a-half weeks of play the franchise has already equalled a third of its win total from all of last season.
Indeed Canadian sensation Alex Campbell has taken another step in his progression, emerging as the unequivocal go-to-scorer at a league-leading 23.8 points per game while collecting 8.8 rebounds (fifth in the league) on 44 per cent shooting.
But the Storm – much like last season – remains a high-scoring bunch at 114.5 points per game (second-most).
The difference this year rests in efficiency.
At a 47.7 – 36.4 – 80.7 percent shooting split (field goal, three-pointers, free throws) the club ranks second, fourth and second in marksmanship – a stark turnaround from a squad that was habitually in the bottom rungs of such categories just a season ago.
3. London Lightning (5-1)
LW Record: 4-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Windsor
If Moncton is the No.1 club and the Storm are No.2 then London is just a smidge behind at 2(b).
A stifling defense guided by head coach Doug Plumb's has led the franchise to a 5-1 start including four straight victories.
In fact, when diving into the numbers the Bolts have held its opponent below the century mark in five of its six contests with the lone exception coming in a 139 – 136 shoot-em-up affair against the Sudbury Five on Jan.5.
A generous January schedule has helped the club as they are currently enjoying a five-game home stand against primarily Central Division clubs. But they must play who are in front of them and for that they can't be punished.
If there were one thing to nitpick: free-throw shooting.
The Lightning are just converting at a 64.2 per cent clip from the charity stripe; a concerning flaw that could cost them close games late should it continue moving forward.
4. Sudbury Five (2-3)
LW Record: 2-2 | Upcoming Schedule: @Halifax, @The Island
A new pecking order may be taking place in Sudbury but it might take some time before fully crystalizing.
Of course Northern Ontario basketball fans are familiar with the likes of reigning MVP Braylon Rayson and Newcomer of the Year Jaylen Bland but it is a new face in the Five organization that has stolen the show early on for the franchise – Jarius Holder.
At the conclusion of week 1, "JR" (as he is known) sits second in the league in points per game (22.4) and sixth in field goal percentage (57.6) and three-point efficiency (47.6).
Given Rayson's (reigning scoring champion) and Bland's (league-high 44 points versus Lightning on Jan.5) penchant for offensive explosions, the addition of another potentially lethal scoring option can't be understated.
In the micro the Five are off to a slow start.
In the macro they could potentially form the league's most unguardable scoring trio.
5. St. John's Edge (2-4)
LW Record: 2-2 | Upcoming Schedule: Kitchener-Waterloo (Twice)
A rough 0-4 (win-loss) start to the season was calmed by back-to-back wins for the St. John's Edge in week one.
Much of last season's gaudy finalist team is gone and as such, this team must be treated with a clean slate free of such lofty expectations.
One player who does remain however is Toronto-native Junior Cadougan.
The floor general is off to a great start averaging 16 points per game, four rebounds and 4.2 assists on 47 per cent shooting from the floor.
As a team however the club has struggled when it comes to turnovers (15.8 per game) and rebounding (45.7 per game) as they are second-last in both categories.
If they are to climb further in the Atlantic they must improve on gifting possessions to opposing clubs.
Luckily for the fan base the team returns home and will finish January with six straight home games at Mile One Centre, including a pair against the KW Titans this week.
6. Windsor Express (1-2)
LW Record: 0-2 | Upcoming Schedule: Kitchener-Waterloo, @London
With only a league-low three games to pull from thus far, there is still much to evaluate from the Windsor Express, slotting them towards the bottom-tier of the Power Rankings by default.
Chris Jones (26 points per game) and Shaquille Keith (17.7 points per game) will undoubtedly carry the load offensively but after that it gets interesting as to where the Express' offense will come from.
Indeed long-time veteran Ryan Anderson is certainly capable of offensive outbursts but nonetheless Windsor remains one of only two teams averaging under 100 points for the season.
Perhaps more concerning is the work on the glass as the Express average five rebounds less than the next club.
Juan Pattillo, anyone?
7. KW Titans (1-3)
LW Record: 0-2 | Upcoming Schedule: @St. John's (Twice), @Windsor
A historic 2018 -2019 campaign has failed to transfer over thus far for the KW Titans.
The main culprit?
Down key pieces, Ed Horton (hand) and Myles Charvis (Achilles), the Titans suffered back-to-back blowout losses to two divisional foes in the Sudbury Five (118 – 91, Jan.2) and the London Lightning (113 – 97, Jan.4) in week one.
Even more tiring is the fact that KW currently finds itself in the midst of a four-games-in-seven-nights road trip.
The good news for the franchise however is that speedy point guard, Damon Lynn, has made a big leap in his second season with the organization and is averaging career-highs in points (22 per game), assists (5.5 per game) and field goal percentage (44.9 per cent).
With a few more healthy bodies in the mix and the welcomed addition of a familiar face, KW should be fine in due time.
��LOOK. WHO. IS. BAAACK!Check out our Instastories because Akeem Ellis is BACK and taking over the #KWTITANS Instagram! ��— KW Titans (@kw_titans) January 3, 2020
✍️We are thrilled to welcome back the Titans' leading scorer for the 2018/2019 @NBLCanada season!!����
��: @dancongdon pic.twitter.com/QJPTkfN3VG
8. Halifax Hurricanes (1-5)
LW Record: 0-4 | Upcoming Schedule: The Island, Sudbury, @The Island
With a bevy of celebrated old faces returning to the franchise, the Halifax Hurricanes must be considered the greatest disappointment thus far.
Poor shooting has plagued the team as it sits dead-last in field goal (40.1) and three-point (28.4) percentages. Long shots lead to long rebounds and with that the opportunity for opposing teams to run out.
And with the Hurricanes firing up so many blanks it really shouldn't come as a surprise that the club is also giving up 113 points per match – the worst mark league wide.
Of course this slow start may have been expected given the club decided to abruptly change directions just a little over a week prior to the opening tip.
Familiarity with a new voice takes time, even for a team with championship pedigree.