The 2017 Drew League playoffs are here.
Starting Friday night, the Drew League is down to only 15 games. Who will make it to next weekend out of the Hank Salvatori division?
The focus is on one team at a time here, but every team’s priority is the division quarterfinal matchup. Here they are:
HANK SALVATORI DIVISION
Friday, August 4: #2 Houdini’s Problems vs. #7 Clozers (7:45pm)
- Houdini’s Problems defeated Clozers 82-77 in Week 3
Saturday, August 5: #3 IE No Shnacks vs. #6 FootPrint (11:00am)
- FootPrint defeated IE No Shnacks 88-78 in Week 4
Saturday, August 5: #4 BB4L vs. #5 LA LOOP (3:00pm)
- LA LOOP defeated BB4L 88-87 in Week 5
Saturday, August 5: #1 Birdie’s Revenge vs. #8 Jaguars (5:45pm)
- Birdie’s Revenge defeated Jaguars 80-63 in Week 8
#2 – Houdini’s Problems (11-1):
There’s a lot of history between these Houdini’s Problems and Clozers. Back in 2015, Houdini’s All-Stars embarrassed the Clozers, forcing a Drew League record 60 turnovers over the course of the 32 minute regular season contest that saw Houdini’s All-Stars blow out the younger team by a sizeable lead by halftime.
Houdini’s Problems looked like a juggernaut ever since the beginning of the season, when it was announced that coaches Allen “Houdini” Caveness and Mark “Taco” Caudillo would be combining forces for 2017. When Houdini gunners Corey “The Guillotine” Allen and Garrett “G-Money” Nevels returned to the fold in Week 3, rejoining Antonio “The Swagg Champ” Biglow in the backcourt, a strong playoff run seemed almost inevitable.
Caveness went recruiting in the offseason, looking to fill the few holes his team had always had on offense, shooting and size, and came up aces with B.J. Johnson, Steve Alford, and the biggest — and possibly most important — piece, big man Deshawn Stephens (Ed. note: Stephens is questionable with a lower body injury), who’s been worked seamlessly into Houdini’s signature high-velocity attack and pressure defense.
While Clozers will certainly have a size advantage over Houdini’s Problems, HP has the advantage of experience, as well as a veteran core who have played together since they were younger than the Clozers are now. Each of Houdini’s go-to guys is a pro, and their execution will reflect that.
#7 – Clozers (6-6):
This year, the Clozers’ core is two years older and have learned from their mistakes. The league’s youngest team is still one of its biggest and most athletic, with rangy wings like Bennie Boatwright and Marquise Moore being anchored inside by Chimezie Metu and standout newcomer Chance “The Chief” Comanche.
But their most important addition might be coach Wally’s bringing veteran guards like Steven Pickens and Raymond Cowels III. They provide leadership and a calming influence to a group that still tends to panic in close games and resort to ill-advised isolation plays when they could simply chip their way into a lead with smart plays and patience.
If Clozers wants beat their long-time nemeses, they need to play together and take advantage of their size and athleticism to beat the press with ball movement rather than resorting to “give the ball to Bennie and clear out” tactics.
#3 – IE No Shnacks (8-4):
Well, IE No Shnacks finally has what they’ve always wanted, but the matchup they’ve earned might make them regret it.
No Shnacks has plenty of rim protection of their own in super bouncy forward Adom Jacko, who returned late in the season to help them complete their playoff push alongside Sango Niang and Marvelle Harris, making them a dangerous team to overlook. Rene Rougeau has been on a tear of late, scoring at hyper-efficient clips in their late-season wins to get them over the hump, and Ryan Nitz is coming into his own as both a scorer and as a defender. Unfortunately, it might not be enough.
Jacko will probably not be able to contain Johnson, and despite Daye’s often lackluster effort, No Shnacks really doesn’t have any size to match up with him. Niang has had a super quiet season after exploding in 2014-16 seasons for 20-point scoring outbursts, and there isn’t really another supreme offensive weapon in their arsenal after Rougeau. It’s too bad they don’t still have Darren Collison this summer; they could use his scoring punch.
#6 – FootPrint (7-5):
This one will be interesting, as we have a new team coming into a matchup with a team that’s barely missed the postseason the last few seasons running.
FootPrint, the team comprised seemingly entirely of Hamilton relatives, has a distinct advantage here in both size and athleticism. After slowly adding needed pieces throughout the season, they have gone from a team that looked like a laughingstock in Week 1 to a legit dark horse threat to take it all going into the postseason.
After adding point guard Marcus Williams to run the offense, FootPrint was able to relegate Daniel and Isaac Hamilton to their natural position on the wings once they supplemented Mr. Iso’s playmaking with the size and versatility of bigs Austin Daye and Dakari Johnson.
The team had a Player of the Week three of the first five weeks of the season, with Daniel Hamilton, Jordan Hamilton and Williams all winning the honor. Meanwhile, they’ve become so stacked that Jordan Hamilton is now coming off the bench as their stretch four. They’ve got plenty of weapons and have shored up their defense with the rim protection provided by Johnson.
FootPrint has won the majority of their games by pretty wide margins. Their long arms allow them to poke out at ball handlers, jiggling the ball loose, and both of the younger Hamiltons have a nose for the exact moment that will happen, taking off down the court for easy leak-out buckets. Of course as brothers, they’ve been playing together for so long, they’ve developed a preternatural sense of each other’s tendencies on offense.
Many times, it will seem that Isaac or Daniel has thrown a ball out of bounds, only for the other brother to appear just in time to completely fake out a defender on a cut to the rim. Then there’s Mr. Iso, who has failed to live up to his name in the best way this season. Rather than facing up and taking opponents one-on-one, he’s been bringing the ball up and waiting for the play to unfold in front of him before threading the needle on a laser beam pass to Johnson on the block.
#4 – BB4L (8-4):
BB4L has probably seen the more evolution in one season than any other team but bottom-ranked EPX Spirit. Baron Davis will be stuck coaching, as he spent the season playing with New Edition, but the revolving door that BB4L has apparently installed on their roster has cycled in Kirpatrick McCauley, Lamond Murray, Jr., Frank Kaminsky, Stanley Johnson, and Andre Drummond, earning them back their old nickname, “Cheaters.”
There’s no telling which of their cameo appearance pros will turn up, but their primary starters should be available and are nothing to sneeze at. Casper Ware II loves the postseason — he went off for five three-pointers in a row during last season’s Championship — but don’t sleep on Van Girard, the team’s beating heart for the last two seasons, and Charles Jackson, their true anchor under the basket. Jay Harris is also good for a 20-point performance, and they’ve still got good old coach Derrick Huey yelling his head off on the sidelines.
Every player will have to play their given role, they’ll need to share the ball, and they’ll need to push the size advantage that their complement of bigs will give them if Johnson, Kaminsky, and Drummond should come through. They can’t let Murray shoot them out of the game, like they did with Birdie’s Revenge on Sunday. And they can’t overlook LA LOOP.
#5 – LA LOOP (7-5):
This is going to be a slugfest. LA LOOP genuinely believes that they can match up with anyone in the league, and some of their recent additions make that a distinct possibility. They’ve always had 2016 Co-MVP Pat Rembert leading the attack, along with big man Richard Solomon anchoring the middle. But now they have D.J. Shumpert, recent defector from #Juglife and human dunk highlight, as well as Ryan Anderson, who should help bolster them on the interior.
LA LOOP probably won’t be relying on Darian Townes quite as much as they have in the past. Justin Cobbs and Eric Williams might not be available, but Rembert is more than capable of orchestrating enough offense to keep the game close if their pros don’t show up. Frank Robinson will be there to back him up, and despite a couple of knee surgeries, he’s proven in the last few weeks he still has enough bounce to get up and throw down hammers with the best.
LA LOOP tends to get flustered when it comes to pressure defense; see their performances against Birdie’s Revenge and Houdini’s Problems. There’s a reason they’re number five in the division. They’ll have to protect the ball better than they did against BB4L when they played earlier in the season, because BB4L will be looking for vengeance after coming out a little too cocky in that contest and letting LA LOOP get the better of them.
While LA LOOP has a bad tendency to throw games away with complacent basketball, now that they’ve made the postseason, we just may find that they have a higher gear when they know that every game could be their last.
#1 – Birdie’s Revenge (12-0):
Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session may go off for upwards of 30 by himself. That’s not including Marcus Bell, who the Jaguars lack the size to properly match up against. Jaguars guard Dakari Archer is a great guard, but when Roshun Wynne, Jr. and Jarrell Tate descend on all but the best ballhandlers at the Drew, a turnover is almost guaranteed.
#8 – Jaguars (5-7):
The Jaguars were pretty lucky to make it into the playoffs this year, which is good on Coach Pops, but they don’t really look like much of a threat to Birdie’s Revenge. For one thing, they lack offensive weaponry; while Khalil Kelley and Everett Osborne outscore their teammates, they max out at 16 points a game. There’s a small chance that Nitty has a bad game, Game takes too many shots and everyone on the Jaguars puts in a stellar performance, but if we’re betting tacos, I’m not so sure you’d want to put too many on their side of the table.