We have officially reached 2019, signaling the midpoint of the PGBL Season. I wanted to start off by saying that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year celebrating with all of your friends and family. May we all have a wonderful New Year filled with health, happiness, and luck (especially for those who may have found a coin in their vasilopita slice).
Of course, I also want to extend my sincerest apologies on two counts. First, to PGBL legend Bill Zonios. When I had first made my “way too early” PGBL predictions for individual awards back in the fall, I had listed Bill Zonios as a frontrunner for the scoring title and expressed my shock that he had not won it before. But as it turns out, the PGBL archives that I had access to had not been updated when I had written that first piece, and it turns out that Zonios won his first scoring title last season, while scoring just over 24 points per game. My apologies Bill.
Secondly, my weekly summaries of the PGBL game action on Thursday nights are significantly behind schedule. My apologies again to those who consistently read Mr. PGBL’s Corner as their method of getting news and updates on the league. Fortunately, the busy holiday season has passed, and I find myself refreshed and restored to do a big summary of the last 3 weeks of PGBL games, as well as formulate my midseason Power Rankings in one long simultaneous post. I hope you all have a temporary appetite for reading, because I’ve cracked my fingers and stretched my limbs for a lengthy post. Without further ado, let’s get started:
PGBL Mid Season Power Rankings 2018-19
Record in Last 3 games: 3-0
Overall Record: 6-0
The Outlaws should probably go down as one of the greatest PGBL teams ever assembled (certainly the greatest regular season team ever). They have won their first 6 games in a row and 16 straight regular season games overall (dating back to last season), extending their PGBL record. They are dominating the league this season, with all but one of their wins this season coming by double digits (and even that one, a 65-57 win over The Process, wasn’t as close as it looked, as the Outlaws had a 20+ point lead in the 2nd half). The Outlaws have been on absolute tear, with 2 of the top 4 leading scorers on their roster in combo guard Jimmie Armentani and swingman Laz Makrides. Both players have been on an absolute tear these past 3 games, with Makrides dominating most of his individual matchups (despite often getting the opposing team’s best defensive player) and Armentani getting bucket after bucket in the Outlaws run and gun style of play, while also benefitting from all the defensive attention on Makrides. And now, even former PGBL MVP Pete Kada has joined the party after a relatively slow start to the season, having dropped 16+ points in each of his last 3 games. The Outlaws have even shut down opposing teams on the defensive end, with their opportunistic, high risk/high reward style leading to many steals and blocks that fuel their offense in transition, leading to many easy points on the other end. When they decide to play in the half court, both Makrides and Armentani have the capability to slash to the basket in isolation, and when they draw the occasional double team, Kosta Pavlidis is the sharpshooter on the perimeter waiting to splash open 3 pointers. This team is absolutely tearing it up, and as of right now, they seem destined for the PGBL Finals.
2. Tune Squad
Record in Last 3 games: 2-1
Overall record: 5-1
The Tune Squad certainly had a talented roster on paper to begin the season, but I’m not sure if anyone expected them to be this good this quickly. Save for a 83-46 drubbing to the Outlaws (with Tune Squad only having 4 available players), they have been excellent this season. In the game immediately after their loss to the Outlaws, Tune Squad combo guard Demetri Zanikos went absolutely berserk on The Process, and those fans who decided to stay home or come late to this game missed out on PGBL history. Zanikos, in his rookie PGBL season, made a league record THIRTEEN three pointers (nope, not a typo) against The Process, on his way to 43 points overall. The thirteen three pointers smashed the previous PGBL record held by Pete Kathopoulis (11 three pointers) from 5 years ago, and it was an absolutely marvelous display of shooting. Zanikos made three after three even with hands in his face to challenge his shot attempts, but it did not matter. With the rise of Zanikos over the last 3 games has also come the emergence of his teammate Ben Voudouris, the athletic forward who dropped 27 and 20 points on the Warriors and Outlaws, respectively. With Zanikos and Voudouris both playing well, combined with PGBL vets Chris Voutsakis (the league’s most versatile defender), Louie Karapanagiotides (the league’s best facilitator and midrange jump shooter), and the aging but still effective Chris Vasiliou (averaging double figures in points) the Tune Squad certainly have what it takes to challenge the Outlaws, so long as they have their full squad available to them.
3. PAS Giannina
Record in Last 3 games : 3-0
Overall Record: 4-2
Okay, so I lied. I need to apologize on a third count, and this apology of mine extends to the entire PAS Giannina team. I had them dead last in my start of season Power Rankings after a sluggish start to the season, but all they’ve done since then is shut me up and prove me wrong. PAS has been the league’s second hottest team (after the Outlaws) since their opening game loss to the Revolution, and now look like the formidable team they were from last year. PAS has swept the season series against the defending champion Kings, and have also notched impressive double digit wins against both the Warriors and The Process. With PAS, it starts and ends with Evan Tsiklidis, who has averaged 30 points per game in his last 3 games and has now overtaken Laz Makrides as the league’s top scorer. Tsiklidis could become the first PGBL player since Pete Kathopoulis in 2013-14 to secure both the league MVP and the scoring title. But enough about Tsiklidis, the real story of PAS on their current winning is the rest of Tsiklidis’ supporting cast, who have rebounded from poor early season showings to become a solid group of rotation players, all of whom can defend and be spot up shooters on the perimeter. PAS as a unit have surrendered less than 50 points per game to their opponents this season (the one outlier being the Outlaws), and are certainly one of the hardest working teams in the league in terms of effort. The combined efforts of rotation players Bill Dosis, Dimos Touloumis, Laz Karasavas, and Nick Dinoulis over this 3 game stretch have been critical towards PAS’ success, while the rest of their deep bench unit is excellent at performing their individual roles as supporting players around Tsiklidis. With all of the positive things I am seeing from PAS, they will certainly be a tough out in the postseason.
Record in Last 3 games: 0-3
Overall Record: 2-4
The Kings have slipped a bit after their solid start to the season, but not all is lost for them, as they are still the two time defending champs and still have an excellent roster (so long as they all show up to the games). Their recent 30 point loss to the Outlaws had a silver lining, as Niki Veronis made his season debut and despite the obvious rust, still looks like a player that can take over a game at any time. Combine that with lanky forward Alex Veronis and the league’s greatest shooter in Bill Zonios, the Kings can certainly make another run at the title. Not only are the game absences still there, but the injury bug has also returned to afflict the Kings this year, as guard Niko Balis has been dealing with knee issues that could keep him out for an extended period of time. Fortunately, the consistent play of Zonios and steady point guard Chris Kourelias has kept the Kings afloat. Kourelias has done an excellent job thus far this season, averaging double digits over this 3 game stretch and still being one of the league’s best facilitators for a currently thin Kings team. Overall, the Kings’ record is not a good indication of how good they actually are, given the absences and the injuries. They always seem to gel together at just the right time when all of their players are healthy and actually do show up for games, and this has helped them win back to back titles, but the Kings may not be able to overcome busy work schedules and bum knees/legs this time around. However, this remains to be seen, as the Kings still have the league’s best roster when fully assembled, and can still beat anyone on any given night.
Record in Last 3 games: 1-2
Overall Record: 2-4
The Revolution find themselves in an interesting position, and I can’t seem to figure out what to make of them. After starting the season well with a win over PAS, they stumbled into losing their next 4 games, including a bad loss to the tied for last Warriors. But also within that stretch, they nearly upset the Tune Squad in dramatic fashion, and now they recently dominated The Process to get back on track for the playoffs. They might be perhaps the league’s most inconsistent team, especially offensively, However, they certainly have talent, and they still own an excellent team defensively with their solid core of rotation players headed by physical forward Jake Sotiros. However, the team starts with their leader Vangeli Carabeses, as he continues to make his case as the league’s best two way guard next to Louie Karapanagiotides, as Carabeses is 7th in scoring and still plays lockdown defense. Lefteris Ioannidis has also come alive over this 3 game stretch, averaging 17 points per game and proving himself to be a great second scoring option for the Revolution. However, the X-factor to the success of the Revolution is big man Vassili Nasis, whose physical stature and low post dominance can be a huge boost for the Revolution on any given night, so long as he is available for games and his teammates can get him the ball. If the Revolution can manage to find consistency on offense through Nasis, and both Ioannidis and Carabeses can keep providing a scoring punch, the Revolution and the rest of their solid defensively sound rotation players can make a late season push for the title.
Record in Last 3 Games: 1-2
Overall Record: 1-5
The proud PGBL team that is the Warriors have fallen on some difficult times this season, but their competitiveness, hustle, and speed has kept them in all of their games this season. The Warriors only real blowout loss was to the Outlaws (who seem to have dominated everybody thus far), and they could have very easily beaten both the Kings and PAS this season as well. With hard nosed, tough players like Spiro Karalis running the point, Elias Kaltsidis down low, and both Will Galiatsatos (12th in scoring) and Niko Papatsiaras (8th in scoring) providing solid low post offense, the Warriors can keep up with any team in this league. The reason the Warriors find themselves on the wrong end of these competitive, close games is that they don’t have a true #1 star player that can take over a game when needed. Both Galiatsatos and Papatsiaras could possibly slide into this role, but it remains to be seen whether or not either of these players can thrive in said role. Either way though, the Warriors are always a tough matchup to any team, given that they are the league’s hardest working bunch of players.
7. The Process
Record in Last 3 Games: 0-3
Overall Record: 1-5
Only a win-by-forfeit over the Revolution has prevented The Process from going winless. But besides that, the Process really have struggled since their first 2 games, both of which were promising, solid performances against the Outlaws and the Kings. The Process’ next 3 losses were all by 20+ points and in all of these games, they failed to crack 50 points as a team. The promise that they showed against the league’s two most talented teams has suddenly faded. The young Process struggle to score on offense while also giving up too many open three pointers on the defensive end in their 2-3 zone. However, the talent is still there. Chris Dawson is still the most athletic player in the league, and he could easily become an offensive force if he continues to drive to the basket for layups. Alkis Tsitsios, Ahileas Yiantsos, and Demetri Stergiou can all score in double figures on any given night, including from the perimeter, and forwards Tommy Tzumakaris and Pauly Rafailidis are still tough, physical players that can both rebound and score when on form. The Process’ lack of experience and physical shape have been evident in their struggles thus far, but they have too much promise in their young roster to continue playing like this. Now that they have had their share of losses, they should be able to rally in the 2nd half of the season and perhaps make a playoff run.