- National Teams
Another BBL season is in the books with the 2016-17 regular season finishing at the weekend. We take a brief look through each team before getting into our own annual BBL awards..
Leicester Riders (27-6) defended their BBL Championship and BBL Trophy titles, wrapping up the league title with four games to spare as they set the standard once again.
Newcastle Eagles (23-10) made a strong start to the league campaign at 12-1 and defended their BBL Cup title before falling away including a 2-6 stretch in March/April.
Glasgow Rocks (21-12) opened the season 9-1 in the league and were runners-up in the Cup. Despite losing five straight in March, they finished with four wins in a row to lock up third.
Sheffield Sharks (20-13) were hit by injury after injury throughout the campaign, but smart mid-season pickups helped the team towards another top-four finish ahead of the playoffs.
Worcester Wolves (20-13) struggled to hit the ground running and after missing out on the Trophy final, they put together a 12-game win streak in all competitions to finish with 20 league wins just outside the top four.
London Lions (18-15) fell away rather rapidly having looked promising early on with a 5-0 start as inconsistency struck and never won more than two in a row since, but managed to earn sixth spot.
Bristol Flyers (16-17) completed a remarkable turnaround having started the season 1-11, they would win 15 of their last 21 in the league including a double-winning weekend in the final round of fixtures to make the playoffs.
Surrey Scorchers (15-18) were another team to get off to a slow start after a tough schedule early before a strong second half of the season, aided by an overtime triumph against Newcastle on the penultimate weekend.
Plymouth Raiders (14-19) had the talent to challenge for the top four, at the very least, but having been 12-6 and unbeaten through January as they reached the Trophy Final, two wins in their next 15 saw them missing out once again.
Cheshire Phoenix (11-22) went through a number of changes as the season went on and were stronger in the second half of the season, but still fell short of making the playoffs.
Leeds Force (8-25) started with a big win in the Yorkshire derby and had lows of a 64-point loss against Leicester to the highs of beating Newcastle before winning just four of their last 17 to miss out on a playoffs return.
Manchester Giants (5-28) endured a difficult campaign, but ended on a high with a final day victory against Plymouth and had shown signs with a three-game win streak early on.
— Hoopsfix 🇬🇧🏀 (@Hoopsfix) April 23, 2017
Moving on to some of our awards and starting with the MVP, which always seems to cause the most debate.
One main reason is the interpretation of the term of which many people view differentially.
Team success over individual stats. Or should it be the other way around?
In finals, this is perhaps more significant. Regardless of whether a player drops 50 points, if they didn’t win then surely they were not the ‘Most Valuable Player’ on the day because the aim is of course to win. However, over the course of a long regular season, it differs as it takes a team to win a Championship.
Rahmon Fletcher – Let’s start with the reigning BBL MVP. Arguably, the best player in the league and Fletcher has had an even bigger individual year than last year, though trophies will mean more to him.
Three straight BBL Cup titles, three straight Finals MVP awards after leading the Eagles to victory in January.
A new-look for the Eagles this season and with the retirement of Charles Smith, they needed to make up for the loss of offensive output – Fletcher has provided that. The league’s leading scorer with 676 points, whilst also topping the assists charts with 217 is quite the impressive feat.
— Bradley Gains (@BradHoopsfix) April 24, 2017
Leicester Riders – Where do you begin with the league champions? Such is the testament to their team ethos, it’s difficult to pinpoint a standout name.
When it mattered most, Taylor King really stepped up his game, particularly in the second half of the season just as Riders began to run away with the title, while Brandon Clark took a little bit of time to settle before really coming into his own. Also, the performances of Pierre Hampton seem to have slipped under the radar somewhat despite being an important piece of the overall winning puzzle.
Looking back a couple of years, Hampton and King were the two leading scorers in the league and there were doubts over whether they could fit into the Riders’ system, but both have proved that wrong.
Maurice Walker – A late signing, but a player who has certainly made one of the biggest impacts this season. Just like Marek Klassen’s in-season pickup by Leeds Force last season, the signings of Walker and Aaron Cosby of Bristol Flyers were key in helping change the fortunes of their respective sides.
The Wolves were beginning to really struggle before Walker’s arrival and the British-Canadian big hit the ground running, becoming a walking double-double.
Averages of 18.9ppg and a league-high 9.1rpg highlight Walker’s value, but just the 19 games played having been a late signing and also picking up an injury late in the season may go against him.
Kieron Achara – The GB captain has had a huge influence on the Rocks again this season and simply does it all for his team. A leader, a key scorer inside and outside as well as being a tough defender with a strong presence on the court.
Achara played in all 33 league games with a season-best of 28 points and 14 rebounds against Newcastle and was second in scoring, first in rebounds, third in assists on his team, whilst leading the league in blocks per game.
Rashad Hassan – The Lions didn’t have the most consistent season in terms of results, but Hassan was one of the team’s more consistent performers.
Familiar with the league from his time with the Riders, Hassan settled back in and put up double figures in points in every game bar one weekend in January, whilst recording 11 double-doubles.
Hassan finished in the top 3 in both scoring and rebounding averages for a team that finished inside the top six.
Hoopsfix Most Valuable Player: Taylor King.
It’s not an easy choice and by no means a runaway winner as there are valid cases for any of the leading candidates with Fletcher and Achara rounding out our competitive top three.
King had such a different role in his time with Cheshire Phoenix when he scored over 600 points in the 2013-14 campaign, but has buckled down with the Riders and crucially played a key role as the Riders pulled clear in the title race to defend their title.
He can score in multiple ways with his range from outside to toughness inside and King was also a key rebounder for the Riders, who hasn’t shied away from defensive responsibilities.
The former McDonald’s All-American (2007) also picked up the MVP award in the Trophy final after an early blitz helped Riders to a dominant victory against Plymouth Raiders.
Season averages of 12.7ppg and 7.8rpg don’t necessarily stand out as MVP calibre numbers, but as King got better, so did the Riders and his performances were a key factor to a double success.
King (12.7ppg, 7.8rpg) is joined in the First Team by team-mate Clark (13.4ppg, 5.7apg) who controlled the team well from the point and has the ability to have a hot streak at any moment, as evidenced most notably in his season-high 30-point haul against Glasgow in February.
Fletcher (20.5ppg, 6.6apg) produced a stellar season for the Eagles just like Achara (15.3ppg, 7.9rpg, 1.7bpg) did for Glasgow with another MVP candidate in Walker (18.9ppg, 58.2% FG, 9.1rpg) rounding out the team.
In the Second Team, Lions’ forward Hassan (19.7ppg, 61.3% FG, 8.3rpg) leads the way as the league’s second highest points scorer and with the best field goal percentage having returned to the league following a spell in Luxembourg.
Deondre Parks (18.5ppg, 45% 3PT) formed a formidable back-court partnership with Fletcher for the Eagles and had a number of strong performances in his rookie season, whilst finishing second behind Jack Isenbarger (48.6%) in the 3-point percentages.
Another player to impress with his all-round displays was Worcester Wolves’ Jermel Kennedy (12.7ppg, 7.4rpg, 3.4apg, 1.7spg) who picked up the BBL Player of the Month award for March as he enjoyed a strong finish to the season.
Hameed Ali (16.1ppg, 5.5apg, 2.2spg) was a consistent performer for Bristol Flyers in his first season in the BBL and instrumental in helping his side make a surge for the playoffs. He finished seventh in scoring (532pts), fifth in assists (182) and second in steals (72).
Completing the team is Cory Dixon (18.9ppg, 52.1% FG, 7.0rpg, 3.5apg). Whilst Plymouth Raiders ultimately under-achieved by missing the Playoffs despite starting 12-6 and set for a top-four finish, Dixon still showcased his talent and versatility to shine amongst all of the scoring firepower around him.
Hoopsfix All-First Team:
Rahmon Fletcher, Brandon Clark, Taylor King, Kieron Achara, Maurice Walker
Hoopsfix All-Second Team:
Hameed Ali, Deondre Parks, Jermel Kennedy, Cory Dixon, Rashad Hassan
Honourable mentions: Marek Klassen, Pierre Hampton, Neil Watson, Zaire Taylor, Daryl Corletto, Aaron Cosby, Earl Brown, Hayden Lescault, Jermaine Sanders.
Hoopsfix Coach of the Year: Rob Paternostro
The Riders play-caller masterminded another Trophy and league double with the potential of a third piece of silverware to come. Once again orchestrating the best defence in the league, Paternostro is a strong contender for his fourth BBL Coach of the Year award with mentions also going to Sterling Davis and Andreas Kapoulas.
Glasgow looked like genuine title contenders early in the season and reached the Cup final amidst an impressive win streak and despite a wobble through injuries, still gained key results in securing a third placed finish.
And whilst the Flyers did start 1-11, Kapoulas made a key change in bringing in Aaron Cosby and was able to get his team playing the Flyers way and a strong finish cemented their return to the playoffs.
Hoopsfix Sixth Man of the Year: Andy Thomson
Again, you look straight to Leicester Riders for this one such is their strength in depth.
Drew Sullivan has won it all in the BBL with 19 trophies to his name and brings vital experience, while Conner Washington would easily slot into a starting role at most BBL clubs and not many teams have one of their American imports coming off the bench with sharpshooting guard Eric Robertson adding something different.
But, our award goes to Thomson, who joined the Riders from their main rivals Newcastle Eagles in the summer and averaged 10.6ppg, 5.8rpg and 1.4apg in 22.4 minutes per game from the bench to add yet another dimension to their rotation.
Hoopsfix All-British Teams:
First – Conner Washington, Gareth Murray, Drew Sullivan, Andy Thomson, Kieron Achara
Second – Callum Jones, Daryl Corletto, Tayo Ogedengbe, Orlan Jackman, Rob Marsden
Hoopsfix Most Improved Player of the Year: Raheem May-Thompson
The 26-year-old seized his opportunity for more playing time by swapping Leicester for Cheshire early in the season. May-Thompson (12.7ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.5bpg) played in 30 league games and reached double figures on 21 occasions with three double-doubles to his name, whilst finishing second in the league in blocks behind Achara.
As a media outlet that has grown off the back of pure digital, it’s only appropriate that we recognise the club leading the way online. Leicester Riders digital content is second to none, headed up by Joe Pinchin. A leading light for the league with their social media, they are setting the standard for other franchises and it is translating into a burgeoning fan base as well.
DISCLAIMER: These are not the official BBL awards. Selections based on the personal opinion of the author based on games watched this season. The All-teams are flexible and stray from positions 1-5. Statistics via the BBL are used to provide context rather than pure justification of a selection.
Agree? Disagree? Have your say, and leave your thoughts in the comments below!