The ABL is about to go underway! Before we tipoff the first of more than hundreds of games this season, here are 9 reasons for you to stay tuned with the ABL all season long.
- There are now 10 participating teams – the most in ABL history.
During the ABL launch last October, the league announced that the Wolf Warriors would be joining the upcoming 2018-2019 season. The team from China raises the number of participating teams to 10 – the most ever in the league’s history.
The Wolf Warriors announced their participation after the Chong Son Kung Fu relocated to Macau and rebranded as the Macau Black Bears.
Each team will now play 26 regular season games as compared to the previous seasons’ 20.
The 10 teams are as follows: CLS Knights Indonesia, Formosa Dreamers, Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team, Macau Black Bears, Mono Vampire Basketball Club, Saigon Heat, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas, Singapore Slingers, Westports Malaysia Dragons, and the Wolf Warriors.
As the common saying goes: the more the merrier.
- 8 Teams will enter the playoffs
The playoffs will surely be more exciting this season. As the number of total teams grew for this upcoming season, so will the number of teams that will qualify for the ABL playoffs.
This season, the top 8 teams will enter the playoffs. That means there will be no byes and no waiting for the top two seeds this season. All teams will have to work and win games to make it to the next round.
With teams working to improve more during the offseason, expect each series to be competitive.
- Ex-NBA players
The ABL continues to grow in level of competition and popularity and the league has continued to attract bigger names to join the participating teams. This season, there will be at least four players with NBA experience on opening day.
The most prominent name on the list is former 4th Pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, Eddy Curry. Curry is an 11-year NBA veteran and champion. He had stints with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and the Dallas Mavericks. Curry will play for the Wolf Warriors, solidifying their inside presence.
Renaldo Balkman of San Miguel Alab Pilipinas enjoyed an NBA career spanning seven seasons. The Puerto Rican played for the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. It will be Balkman’s second year with Alab, after being named Co-Defensive Player of the Year last season. Balkman and Curry were good teammates during their stint with the New York Knicks, making their potential matchup when Alab Pilipinas faces the Wolf Warriors a bit more interesting.
Teaming up with Balkman on the Alab Pilipinas roster is PJ Ramos who had a short stint with the Washington Wizards after being picked in the second round of the 2004 draft.
Sundiata Gaines of the Westports Malaysia Dragons played in the NBA for five seasons for the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, and the New Jersey Nets. He is still widely known for his buzzer-beating shot to take down the Cleveland Cavaliers which were then led by LeBron James.
- More Opportunities for Locals
In past seasons, players were classified into three categories: Locals, Heritage imports, and World Imports. Each team could sign two Heritage Imports and two players World Imports, respectively.
With the rule changes this season, instead of having a total of four imports, teams can now field three World Imports. There will no longer be Heritage Imports. This means that each team will have one more roster spot to give to one of their local players, giving them a chance to showcase and develop their talents on a big stage.
The rule changes coincide with the league’s mission to grow and develop the sport of basketball in the region.
So get ready to cheer for your very own local players this upcoming season!
- Teams can now have up to three World Imports.
In relation to what was mentioned above, the new rule of having three World Imports can also give opportunities to more talented international players to enter the league.
The entry of these new World Imports will help elevate the level of play in the league and give fans more exciting games to look forward to!
- All 2017-2018 MVPs awardees are coming back.
Last season, Bobby Ray Parks Jr of Alab Pilipinas won local MVP, while Mikh McKinney and Anthony Tucker of Chong Son Kung Fu (now the Macau Black Bears) won Heritage Import MVP and World Import MVP, respectively.
All three of them are coming back for the 2018-2019 season but with stiffer competition.
Parks helped Alab Pilipinas win a title last year while racking in his 2nd straight local MVP award. On the other hand, the MVP duo of McKinney and Tucker hope to turn that star power into an ABL championship this upcoming season.
Parks will surely appreciate a third straight local MVP award but with a heightened level of talent among local players, the Alab Pilipinas swingman will have a lot more competition.
Tucker isn’t a sure bet to repeat either as fellow imports such as Balkman, Samuel Deguara, and Marcus Elliott return this year, while new imports such as Curry and Ramos joins the party. The Import MVP race will surely be a crowded one going down to the wire.
- Old Faces in New Places
The ABL offseason gave the fans a few surprises as players like mainstays Wong Wei Long and Mario Wuysang switched teams. Wei Long, a long-time player of the Singapore Slingers, moved to the CLS Knights after missing the 2017-2018 season, while Wuysang signed with the Wolf Warriors after initially announcing his retirement.
Other notable players like Caelan Tiongson (Alab Pilipinas), Maxie Esho (CLS Knights), Moses Morgan (Mono Vampire), and Samuel Deguara (Hong Kong Eastern) will also be wearing new uniforms when the seasons starts.
Their homecomings will surely be worth anticipating when the time comes. How will their previous teams’ fans welcome them?
- Big vs Small Ball
The beauty of a basketball team is to see how each roster is built and how it plays out on the court. Among the 10 teams that are playing in the ABL this year, it almost seems as if each team has their own different mindset of the “perfect team” coming into the season.
Last year, Samuel Deguera made his presence felt as he dominated the paint and made a strong impact for his previous team, Mono Vampire Basketball Club. The rest of the league certainly took notice as a few of them decided to bring on taller players. The defending champions Alab Pilipinas signed 7-foot behemoth PJ Ramos as their second World Import to add more size to their line up, while Hong Kong Eastern lured Deguara away from Mono Vampire to anchor him in the paint.
Although some teams followed suit, other teams chose to go the other way by going small in an attempt to speed things up like the Macau Black Bears. Ryan Watkins seems to be their main and only big guy on the roster, but the Black Bears are full of quick and speedy guards and wings who look to terrorize in the open court. After losing Deguara, Mono Vampire replaced the tallest player in the ABL with Marcus Keene who is listed at 5’7″. Deguara’s size will be missed, but Keene’s impressive scoring ability will look to make up for that.
It will be interesting which approach will be most effective, and which style of play will reign supreme.
- The Fans!
The ABL is a league like no other. Being the first and only regional professional basketball league in Asia, the ABL certainly brings a different atmosphere especially when it comes to the fans.
Each ABL team shoulders along the pride of representing their country going into each and every game and the fans rally behind that mentality. You can see fans proudly waving the nation’s flags at games as they cheer on, hoping to see the home team take a win.
It is the fans and their undying support for their teams, the energy they bring to create a unique atmosphere that makes each and every ABL game a can’t miss spectacle.