London Lions: Can they still be the capital’s top cats?
Last Season Finish: 2nd
Makem Takem Prediction 2018/19: 3rd
Key Player(s): Robinson
Likely Starting Five: PG – Robinson / SG – Spencer / SF – Tabb / PF – Peel / C – Bristol
Concerns: Is their bench strong enough to compete with the top teams?
London Lions had their best ever season last year and that was achieved even with a mid-season coaching change. They put together a very strong starting unit with good support from the bench and that caused problems for every other team in the BBL.
They have returned eight players from last season’s roster and none more important than British point guard Justin Robinson. Robinson was the game changer for Lions last season. He was the key to them breaking up the recent top of the table dominance of Newcastle and Leicester. His high basketball IQ enabled his teammates to play with added confidence and combining that with his ability to score in the clutch meant that London took close wins that in previous years they would have lost.
The other standout player returning from last season is Brandon Peel and to be honest I am impressed that Coach Macaulay could keep him from jumping to Europe for a bigger contract. Peel isn’t a high flying, chest-thumping hype type of player that the BBL has become used to, no, Peel is more unassuming and just gets the job done. For most coaches, this is a dream player and the stats he put up last season were just the cherry on top of the cake.
To complement the returning core London has brought in three new players in Jordan Spencer, Kervin Bristol and Ladarius Tabb. Spencer has worn the Lions jersey before, in the exhibition game against the Big Baller Brand, but Lions fans have been chomping at the bit to see him sign for the new season. He comes off the back of an impressive college career at Augustana including picking up a Division II national championship. Expect Spencer and Robinson to be reasonably fluid with regards to their roles in the backcourt, which will cause matchup issues for their opponents.
The first of their new imports Ladarius Tabb could become one of the stand out players in the BBL this season. He enters the BBL coming off two mammoth seasons in Luxembourg where he averaged 27 points and 15 rebounds per game. If he can come close to that kind of performance level for the Lions it will put him in the running for the league MVP award come May. His style looks suited to the BBL as he is a very direct offensive style and crashes the boards hard. He will feature heavily in the BBL’s team of the week awards throughout the season.
The other new addition to the frontcourt is Kervin Bristol. Bristol will provide some serious rim protection for the Lions. He is a veteran big man who flat out knows how to defend the paint. You have a feeling that he may have been brought in on the back of the impressive frontcourt court that their new crosstown rival, London City Royals, have recruited. It certainly will make the London derbies even more interesting with a physical battle in the paint.
Overall the starting five for the Lions looks as strong as any in the league but the concern comes when you look at the bench. It doesn’t have the same the quality that other benches in the league do and as such Coach Macaulay is likely to run a very short rotation, potentially only seven players, at times. Against the lower half of the league this shouldn’t cause an issue but when they come up against the other top teams they may run out of steam in the final quarter. The BBL has been won on short rotations before but surely those days are in the past. The Lions will need to prove us wrong if they want to pick up some silverware this season.