By: Law Murray
After 10 weeks of the regular season and two weekends of the playoffs at Los Angeles Southwest College, the 28-team Drew League will crown a new champion! The 2016 Drew League Championship is scheduled to tip Sunday, August 21 at 4p.m. Pacific between #1 seed BB4L (14-0, John Williams Division Champion) and #6 seed #Juglife (9-5, Stanley Dill Division Champion). That’s right: Only #Juglife stands in the way of BB4L finishing with the first undefeated record at the Drew League since Problems did it in 2007.
BB4L defeated #2 seed LAUNFD 84-77 to secure the John Williams Division Championship, getting 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists from G Casper Ware II, ending the defending champ’s repeat bid. #Juglife trailed 22-4 in the 1st quarter vs. #1 seed Redemption to begin the Stanley Dill Division Championship. But #Juglife came back from down 13 at halftime to beat Redemption 88-81 behind 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists from G Sek Henry. BB4L also defeated LAUNFD during the regular season, along with division quarterfinals opponent #8 seed Problems and division semifinals opponent #4 seed Birdie’s Revenge. #Juglife didn’t face Redemption or divisional quarterfinals opponent #3 seed Houdini’s All-Stars in the regular season, but defeated both in the postseason; they defeated #7 seed Scrapes & Gravel in the division semifinals.
Here’s a breakdown of the title game:
JUG PERIMETER OFFENSE vs. BB4 PERIMETER DEFENSE:
#Juglife added F Nick Young to the perimeter attack, which was paramount once F Jordan Burris left for overseas. But G Sek Henry is the main threat on the outside for this team, even after switching to lead guard for the playoffs. Henry is averaging 23.3 points per game in the playoffs. G Tre Brewer is the reason why #Juglife didn’t start 0-5, as he hit a walk-off three-pointer in overtime to defeat One Culture in Week 1. Henry acknowledged after the Dill Division title game that BB4L can switch everything on the perimeter, and the presence of Gs Casper Ware II and Ervin Ware ensure that #Juglife will be challenged on everything outside of the paint. BB4L takes pride in forcing teams into forgettable shooting games. ADVANTAGE: BB4L
JUG INTERIOR OFFENSE vs. BB4 PERIMETER DEFENSE:
#Juglife has a major size advantage in every game when 7’0” C JaVale McGee suits up. That allows 6’7” F D.J. Shumpert to do the dirty work at the four. McGee is averaging 21.3 points per game in the playoffs, and he has more offensive rebounds (20) than defensive rebounds (19) in the postseason, so BB4L will have to keep a body on him before and after shots. BB4L has been starting 6’7” Stanley Johnson at the five, and the only big off the bench in the rotation is 6’10” F Edgar Garibay. ADVANTAGE: #Juglife
JUG CONTROL vs. BB4 PRESSURE:
#Juglife switched up the starting lineup ahead of their matchup with Houdini’s All-Stars, a team that punishes unprepared backcourts. Putting the veteran Henry at PG kept #Juglife’s turnovers relatively low in that game, and #Juglife had fewer than ten turnovers against Scrapes & Gravel and Redemption. BB4L doesn’t gamble often, which is good, but they also don’t have a lot of length at any position. BB4L F Van Girard picks off his share of passes, and G Baron Davis gets steals at a high rate too. ADVANTAGE: Draw/#Juglife
JUG PRESSURE vs. BB4 CONTROL:
Henry loves to gamble. There was a play vs. Redemption where Henry hid in the corner near Gucci Row while Jonathan Gibson received an inbounds pass. Then like the Viper he is, Henry snuck up from behind and ripped Gibson. A big advantage #Juglife had in the Stanley Dill title game was that Gibson was the only true ball-handler on the active roster for Redemption. BB4L has a plethora of ball-handlers, from the Ware brothers to Davis to Tim Johnson. #Juglife doesn’t prioritize forcing turnovers either, and with BB4L being undersized, expect them to put an emphasis on protecting the rock. ADVANTAGE: BB4L
JUG INTERIOR DEFENSE vs. BB4 INTERIOR OFFENSE:
While #Juglife is the bigger team, they have been taken advantage of in the paint at times over the last month. The last time #Juglife lost a game was in the last week of the regular season, a game that saw Bulldogs bigs James Boyd (league-record 29 rebounds) and Tyrone Riley (35 points) go completely unchecked. Stanley Johnson has hit the glass hard, averaging 9.0 rebounds per game in the playoffs, but BB4L has been outrebounded in every game in the playoffs so far. Young actually has helped McGee the most on the boards, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game in the playoffs. When McGee is locked in, the rim is well protected. Girard will have to be on his game in this one, as he has eaten all season via baseline cuts, unchecked rim runs, and putbacks following offensive rebounds. ADVANTAGE: #Juglife
JUG PERIMETER DEFENSE vs. BB4 PERIMETER OFFENSE:
This figures to be the key matchup of the game. BB4L overloads the perimeter with constant motion and ball movement, but players like C. Ware, Davis, Stanley Johnson, and F Terrence Ross have the green light to just pull up for threes. Stanley Johnson has actually been the most effective of the distance shooters, nailing 13-of-25 threes (52 percent) in the playoffs. This perfectly outlines #Juglife’s dilemma: what does McGee do on defense? Does he stay in the paint, hoping to guard someone, while Stanley Johnson drifts out? Does he follow Stanley Johnson out to the arc? Or does #Juglife go to a zone, something that worked against Redemption but could be shredded by BB4L’s numerous outside options around the horn? Now, it is important to note that outside of Stanley Johnson, BB4L has not shot the three well in the playoffs. BB4L players not named Stanley Johnson have made only 12-of-50 threes (24 percent) in the playoffs. BB4L is at their best when they are attacking the basket, not settling for contested jumpers. ADVANTAGE: BB4L
JUG SPECIAL TEAMS vs. BB4 SPECIAL TEAMS:
I define these units based on the open court game, depth, and the ability to make free throws. BB4L emphasizes playing with a fast pace, and even without big men Eugene Phelps and Charles Jackson available, they are the deeper team with Davis, Garibay, Tim Johnson, and Jordan Mackie in solid roles. #Juglife has a very shallow rotation, with only G Gary Franklin and 6’8” F Davon Jefferson seeing time off the bench; and that’s with #Juglife putting up the highest point differential in the playoffs so far. Even in garbage time, #Juglife has only played seven players. Expect BB4L to target #Juglife’s habit of taking plays off in live ball situations. In a second game of a back-to-back for both teams, BB4L should be the fresher team. ADVANTAGE: BB4L
#Juglife’s John Downey has done a great job with this team, as they overcame a 1-4 start to go on a five-game winning streak. While the team has several colorful personalities, they rarely get called for technical fouls, and Downey’s chill temperament certainly helps his team retain a poised demeanor. It’s a trait that goes mostly unnoticed. BB4L has my Coach of the Year pick in Derrick Huey, with a big assist from Davis. BB4L has changed rosters and lineups throughout the season, and they’ve had to get it done in several close games. D.H. has managed the sideline in great concert with Davis, pushing all of the right buttons throughout the summer. They haven’t lost yet going into the championship game, something no coach has been able to claim in nearly a decade! ADVANTAGE: BB4L
Young has had a quiet postseason, and he transferred from Problems after an inauspicious start to the season. But he’s the only player in this game that was in the Drew League championship game last year. I Am Legend gets another shot a title. Likewise, Davis, Girard, and the Wares were on Cheaters and Cheaters 2 in 2014 when both teams lost in their respective Division Championships. Stanley Johnson started the season on ICEO, a team that lost to #Juglife during this season and also lost to #Juglife in the first round of the playoffs last year. This is Stanley Johnson’s payback opportunity. #Juglife had to earn their way to respect – this was a team that was so bad in 2014 that they didn’t even field a team for the last week of that season. They made the playoffs last year despite starting 0-5, and again this year following a 1-4 start. #Juglife winning a title would be a Drew League rags to riches story. But being undefeated is a different story. BB4L has embraced the pressure of greatness all season. How they handle it in the ultimate contest will be fascinating. ADVANTAGE: BB4L
Remember Demetrius “Gucci” Walker?! He led BB4L in scoring when they beat #Juglife 71-57 in May 2015. These teams are different now, of course, especially #Juglife. Henry has been outstanding, and he’ll be a handful for BB4L’s backcourt, especially with Young lurking to take the pressure off. McGee could have a double-double at halftime. But when subs are made and the game gets long, who wears down? Will it be BB4L due to their relative lack of size? Or will it be #Juglife due to their relative lack of depth? While #Juglife will enjoy the extended halftime, BB4L can take advantage of the longer clock. Look for BB4L to jump out to a big lead early and hold off #Juglife just enough to get to 15-0.
PREDICTION: BB4L 87, #Juglife 82
Law Murray first covered the Drew League in 2014 as an intern while getting a masters in journalism from Southern California. He is from Philadelphia and is also a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania. Law has also served two years in City Year, covered the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia and the Los Angeles Clippers, and is an NFL Network researcher. He has long arms, but his dunks are terrible.