With only a few days left before the start of the 2019-2020 ABL season, it’s about time to asses the team’s moves during the offseason. Here are our preseason rankings based on each team’s potential on paper. Needless to say, anything can happen during the season and teams can always surprise us.
#10: Macau Wolf Warriors
The Macau Wolf Warriors received a rude welcome in their debut season as they finished with two victories, finishing at the bottom of the standings.
This offseason, the Wolf Warriors sought to improve their import lineup with the signings of ABL champions Douglas Herring and Steven Thomas. The two veteran imports can surely give the team a much-needed boost in crunch time while serving as the team’s leaders on and off the court. Julian Boyd, the team’s third import, also looks good on paper and can be expected to contribute on both ends of the floor once the season starts.
Cai Chen, the league’s leading scorer among locals last season, will be returning to the squad. It will be interesting to see if he can sustain his numbers working alongside the three new imports.
We can expect that the Macau Wolf Warriors will win more games this season but unfortunately, those wins may not be enough to get them out of the league’s cellar.
#9 Kuala Lumpur Dragons
Similar to the Macau Wolf Warriors, the Dragons have opted to take in three new imports for the upcoming season. The most familiar name to ABL fans is Will Artino, who was a focal point of the Formosa Dreamers’ stellar run to capture the #1 seed last season.
Last season’s iteration of the Dragons had a terrible offensive outing. They were dead last in points per game and field goal percentage. To address this, Artino was brought in to be the team’s reliable force in the paint while 6’4” spitfire guard Amir Bell and sharpshooting Cade Davis are expected to address their outside shooting woes.
All in all, the KL Dragons put in a great effort to give themselves the best chance imaginable to break their three-year playoff drought. But in a group where they have to face the Singapore Slingers, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas, Mono Vampire, and the Saigon Heat four times each, the Dragons will most likely miss the playoffs once again this time around.
#8 Macau Black Bears
Most within the league would agree that it would be tough going against Mikh McKinney on any given day. Let’s not forget that the man was the league’s leading scorer last season. When Anthony Tucker went down with an injury, McKinney stepped up to the plate and carried the load. However, Mikh McKinney can’t do it alone.
During the offseason, Anthony Tucker and Ryan Watkins jumped ship. Tucker was a former Import MVP while Watkins was the league’s Rebounding leader last season. The exit of the two imports is a hard blow for the Macau-based squad.
The Black Bears did a good job of finding replacements though as they signed Kenny Manigault and Brandon Edwards during the offseason. Jenning Leung and Lai Ka Tong have also re-signed with the team, providing a sense of stability while bolstering the team’s local lineup.
The biggest hurdle for the Black Bears this season is their lack of size. Their tallest player is listed at 6’8” while Edwards, who’ll probably be a part of the starting five, coming in at 6’6”. In a league where they have to go head-to-head with the likes of Sim Bhullar, Chris Charles, and Michael Holyfield, their size issue might be too much to overcome.
#7 Formosa Dreamers
The Formosa Dreamers were the biggest surprise of the 2018-2019 season. From finishing dead last the previous year, they skyrocketed to the #1 seed last season. Their then trio of imports along with the solid contributions of their local players made them a hard team to beat.
However, all three imports are gone and the team is now under the leadership of Kyle Julius. Julius led the Saigon Heat to their most successful season yet as the Vietnam-based team finished the regular season with a 14-12 record. The Canadian coach will now have to take on the challenge of introducing a new system and integrating new imports for the upcoming season.
Marcus Keene, who averaged 32.5 points per game in two appearances last season, will take on point guard duties while former Singapore Slinger Jerran Young will also be joining the team. With new imports joining, the Dreamers have managed to keep their core of local players with Kenny Chien, Lin Hsueh Lin, Tien Lei, and Chen Shih Nien returning to the squad. They have also added former Fubon Brave Jet Chang into their guard lineup, making them much more formidable.
The Dreamers have a good squad on paper, but with other teams strengthening their personnel as well, the Dreamers might have to settle for seventh. But don’t be surprised if they manage to climb up a few spots.
#6 Saigon Heat
The Saigon Heat had its winningest season during the 2018-2019 campaign. They also won their first playoff game in history during this run. Going into the 2019-2020 season, the Heat are most definitely on an upward trajectory.
The Heat also beefed up their roster with import signings of ABL All-Time 10 honoree Chris Charles, NBA veteran Gary Forbes, and young forward Sam Thompson. Their local lineup is in pretty good shape as well with returning players Khoa Tran, Sang Dinh, and Chris Dierker. To add to their already stellar local lineup, VBA MVP Tam Dinh (Sang’s older brother) is also joining the squad this year to form a very formidable team.
The Saigon Heat has the potential to have a great season and give teams a hard time. But for now, we’ll place them at the sixth spot.
#5 Hong Kong Eastern
Hong Kong Eastern has chosen to go younger this season as former Import MVP Marcus Elliott has decided to leave the team he once led to the title back in the 2016-2017 season. The squad has chosen to put up an import lineup of Trey Kell, TJ Price, and Michael Holyfield.
Kell and Price will have big shoes to fill as fans will look at them to be the replacements for Elliott. However, Kell and Price have the track records that could indicate that they have what it takes to take over the Eastern squad. They both have proven to be capable scorers who can power the team’s offense this season. Meanwhile, Michael Holyfield has proven to be a top-tier talent in terms of rebounding skill, rim protection, and scoring.
Also, Eastern’s local talents have always been reliable. With shooters like Lee Ki and Chan Siu Wing hovering around the perimeter, Eastern can very well be a deadly team this season.
#4 San Miguel Alab Pilipinas
In their three seasons in the ASEAN Basketball League, San Miguel Alab Pilipinas has never finished worse than third in the league standings. Just last year, Alab dominated the start of the season before suffering injuries to key players that resulted in their 2nd seed finish. The Philippine-based team could not regain their bearings in time for the playoffs as they got swept by Hong Kong Eastern in the quarterfinals.
Renaldo Balkman, the team’s leading import for the past three seasons, was originally supposed to return to Alab this season. However, due to family matters, the Puerto Rican forward had to return home which leaves Brandon Rosser and Lawrence Domingo as the only holdovers from the 2018-2019 campaign.
On the other hand, Alab did make a splash during the offseason as they signed ABL champion Jason Brickman, who will be playing as a local for the first time in his ABL career.
Alab also added young locals such as Jeremiah Gray and Jordan Heading to somewhat compensate for the exit of three-time Local MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr. To top it off, Adrian Forbes and Khalif Wyatt have also signed with the team to provide some reinforcement for Alab.
Because of possible concerns, Alab may very well be on track for their worst regular season finish in franchise history. But at the same time, history would dictate that they would be able to find a way to finish as one of the top teams in the league.
#3 Singapore Slingers
A perennial title contender in recent years, the Slingers have made it to the Finals in three of the last four years. Although they have fallen short all three times, the team has shown that they can field a strong lineup every season.
This offseason, the Slingers shocked the ABL world with the announcement of Marcus Elliott’s signing. The former Import MVP is currently third in the scoring list and has been one of the league’s best imports. With the signing, the Slingers may have possibly formed the league’s best backcourt with Elliott and 2019 Import MVP Xavier Alexander.
Singaporean locals can also be expected to play big roles this upcoming season. Delvin Goh has shown improvement season-by-season and this trend will probably continue growing this year. Meanwhile, Leon Kwek’s return to the team and the league this season is set to bolster the Slingers’ lineup.
The Slingers still have a lot to figure out as shown by their performance in their recent preseason games. However, they will have until December to work on all the kinks.
#2 Taipei Fubon Braves
Fresh off a championship in the Super Basketball League (SBL), the Taipei Fubon Braves will be joining the fray as they attempt to add more hardware to their trophy case.
The Braves boast of a local lineup of Taiwanese stars such as Lin Chih-Chieh, Tseng Wen-Ting, and Joseph Lin. On top of that, the Braves sent shockwaves throughout the ABL as they announced the signing of ex-NBA star O.J. Mayo. Mayo will be joining the likes of Renaldo Balkman and Gary Forbes on the list of ABL players with significant NBA experience.
The Fubon Braves will still have to adjust to the competition in the ABL as they may still be unfamiliar to most of the team’s players as mentioned by Coach Roger Hsu during the Season Launch last October.
Given their recent showing, it will be hard not to consider the Braves as a title contender. But only time will tell if they can live up to the hype.
#1 Mono Vampire
Mono Vampire could have been considered two different teams last season: the team who was a bottom-dweller and the team who made a run for a playoff berth and upset the number one seed.
Tyler Lamb, Freddie Lish, and two of their imports last season were midseason additions who needed to adapt fast to compete for the eighth spot. But this season, the team will have the luxury of having a team who spent time together during the offseason. Their core is intact and there most certainly is no need to be concerned with their team chemistry this season.
Mono Vampire also did a great job of adding Ryan Watkins to their lineup. The American big man led the league in rebounding last season and was part of the top 10 in scoring. Although they also originally signed former MVP Anthony Tucker, they have a capable replacement in Preston Knowles.
With a roster that boasts Tyler Lamb, Moses Morgan, Mike Singletary, Freddie Lish, Ryan Watkins, Chitchai Ananti, and Darongpan Apiromvilaichai along with other capable locals — Mono Vampire may very well be the team to beat this upcoming season.