Last season is already in the past as the summer signing period is in full swing.
Despite the bad news from Leeds Force, being unable to sustain a BBL team, the news has been positive for a number of teams. Also the release of the NBL full list of registered teams for the 2018-19 season seems to imply that the Worthing Thunder and their impressive BBL standard guard Zaire Taylor, are staying put and not throwing their hat into the BBL ring.
As things stand at the moment there are a few arguments for which team is currently winning in the off season and already some players to keep an eye on for your fantasy team. Leicester Riders announcing that they are entering Champions League basketball is a massive plus. Not to mention bringing back Pierre Hampton and TrayVon Wright, two players that were key contributors to the Riders success last season and big fantasy scorers. Also the resigning of Andy Thompson, who impressed when he played but was otherwise plagued with injury issues. Short term, the Riders may widen the gap from the rest of the field, potentially being able to recruit a high standard of player who could be looking for exposure in the highly scouted European competition. However, a more long term view and provided the Riders have some relative success in Champions League, it may encourage more BBL teams to explore the European competition and entice even more quality players to the league, therefore raising the standard of the BBL. So far these post season moves definitely point to the Riders winning the off season so far.
The Plymouth Raiders are also a contender for their moves in post season so far. The announcement to kick off the summer period was that coach Gavin Love was resigning and heading back to his previous position as coach of his former club in Europe. The question being raised by some perhaps did he jump before he was pushed, although it did seem to be a choice that would benefit him professionally as well as personally. Regardless, it was not a good return to the BBL for Love, who’s Raiders team at the beginning of the season was fairly loaded, with the likes of Neil Watson, Kinu Rochford and Brandon Penn. They impressed by dishing out the first defeat of the season to high flying Newcastle Eagles squad, that was unbeaten aftet eight or nine weeks of the season. With the exception of beating the other two busts of the season, Manchester Giants and the Leeds Force, the Raiders would not win another game. The Worcester Wolves parted ways with long time coach Paul James, and the Raiders pounced on the opportunity to sign the well respected and highly talented coach. The Raiders have since added Josh Wilcher, a former member of the squad, who after much success in Australia, has been given two years to give the Raiders some much needed stability in the point guard position. A fantasy punt on Wilcher could pay off if his previous time in the BBL is anything to go by. He will be joining last seasons suprise find Denzel Ubiaro, a low fantasy scorer last season, that has potential to improve. To top off the already impressive steps to try and achieve the playoffs this season, the Raiders released a statement outlining the clubs intension of having it’s own purpose built facility by 2023.
Sheffield have also made notable progress in the off season, resigning their own Captain Marvel, Mike Tuck. Tuck, a veteran Shark, has a two year contract that should see him finish his playing career in a Sharks uniform. Along with him, fellow big man Rob Marsden has accepted a new deal, which is actually a pretty big deal. Marsden has been one of the top scorers and rebounders in the BBL in recent memory and to have a player of that calibre coning off the bench can only be a positive. Look for Marsden to consistently pick up fantasy points, with the ability to go for big numbers. The final move for the Sharks so far this summer has potentially been their best, bringing back last seasons point guard Chris Alexander. Alexander is listed as a potential medium point scoring yellow fantasy player, but defiantly can put up high, green standard numbers.
Finally the Cheshire Phoenix added Ashton Khan to their roster from the Wolves. Khan only played ten league gamed for the Wolves last season, but finished with a respectable 12.1 PIR, making him one to consider as a potential bench player. The Wolves have now lost Khan and their coach Paul James, so they have their work cut out for the remainder of the summer.
The winners so far seem to be the Riders and Raiders, with the Riders edging it by the sheer class of their re-signings. Not to mention their venture into the Basketball Champions League.
Sub note: since writing this piece, the Riders have cemented their case for so far winning the off season by re-signing J.R. Holder, one of the contenders for MVP. Bristol Flyers have also kicked off their summer with the re-signing of the highly talented Daniel Edozie. Still plenty of time left, but already the BBL teams are working hard to better their chances of success next season.