Part One is here. We're doing reverse order power rankings. On to the top 3...
3. The Cray's Nest (4-1)
After a blistering start, the league's top seed has come back to Earth in the past three games, holding on for two close wins and dropping a third to Beast of Burden. Despite their knack for winning, this stretch has exposed some weaknesses in their varied arsenal. One of the league's top rebounding teams, they benefit from the strong play of Lars Rasmussen and Vance Tucker, who typically dominate the boards, and average 17 and 12 points per game, respectively. Jordan Glickson, who hit the game-winning 3 against Team Fouls last week, averages 7.8, while point guard Gene Walsh contributes 7 per game. Shane Ryan chipped in with 11 ppg before going down after week 2 with an ankle injury. His return this week is doubtful, though he expects to be back for week 7.
As a team, The Cray's Nest are one of the top offensive units, averaging 46.8. But this total is a bit deceptive; after two weeks, they averaged 55, and have had trouble scoring since. Meanwhile, their somewhat lackadaisical approach to defense in the first two weeks cost them when the offense dropped off; the loss to Beast of Burden came about because of difficulty stopping the Brothers Rodriguez. Still, there are positives for the team to build on. They make it to the line 14 times per game, second only to Dunk-a Schoen, and they make those chances count. They have the highest free throw shooting percentage in the league, at 61%, thanks in large part to Rasmussen's remarkable 77% rate (best in the GABL). And rebounds should win them enough games to stay comfortably inside the playoff race. But their resolve will be tested in the season's second half, and it won't take long- week six's game against The Hospital Bombers is a rematch of their opening win, and promises to be a much harder journey this time around. And due to the recent vulnerability, the target on their back widens with each passing game.
2. Beast of Burden (3-2)
The Brothers Rodriguez, Ismael and Rafael, are the league's stop scoring duo, and they undoubtedly anchor this surging team. But though no other player averages in double figures, Beast of Burden are a cohesive unit from spots one through seven. In fact, they are the only team in the league to boast a perfect attendance record. This unity has paid dividends; after a rough beginning, featuring two close losses to the Layup Line Heroes and the Hospital Bombers (one point apiece), they have congealed into a basketball machine wherein each cog performs its assigned role to perfection.
Ismael and Rafael vie each week for leading scorer (Rafael currently leads the GABL with 18 ppg), but the true strength of BoB is their defense. They allow 39 points per game, tops in the league, and the pressure from their guards has been particularly upsetting to opposing frontcourts. They also excel at the line, hitting 59% of their free throws while averaging 4.0 3s per game and scoring 46 points. Their point differential is by far the league's best, and they're a mere two points from an undefeated record. Still, those two losses are not insignificant. In both cases, Beast of Burden started slow, and their late surge fell short of victory. Did intimidation play a role, or does it just take them more time to find their rhythm? If a championship run is in the cards, this question requires an emphatic answer.
1. The Hospital Bombers (4-1)
The Bombers' week one loss to The Cray's Nest seems, a month later, like ancient history. At 4-1, they are technically in second place, but nobody would argue for anybody else as the league's top team. They've now notched four wins in a row, and have done so with great shooting, a strong board presence, and tireless defense. This may be a team without a superstar (Geoff Nelson and Steve Friedman both average 12 points per game, while Bob Van Kolken has lately emerged as a legitimate post threat with 10.8 ppg), but they benefit from a total lack of weakness. Of their 8 players, any 5 can take the floor at a given time and fulfill the necessary functions of an elite basketball team. This depth makes it difficult for opponents to find any breathing room, and simultaneously ensures that no single Bomber will succumb to fatigue.
Their statistics are irreproachable. They score 47 points per game, best in the league, and hit a competent 53% of their foul shots. They allow 43 per game on defense, a number which hovers around the league's average, but which has lately been far lower. Still, they have something left to prove against The Cray's Nest. Some have speculated that certain players on that team hold a psychological edge over the Bombers dating back to last season, and that this played a large role in the week one result. Also, the Bombers have tended to flag late in games, allowing teams like Beast of Burden and Team Fouls to make close games out of potential blow-outs. If they can learn to turn in 36 minutes of optimal performance, though, it will be extremely difficult for any opponent to keep them from an ultimate victory.