2015 NBA Draft Round-Up

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While NBA Draft night wasn’t as wild as we expected it to be, the actual picks turned out to be surprising.  Guys dropped, like Emmanuel Mudiay, and guys went higher than expected, like Willie Cauley-Stein.

We had player trades, but the names weren’t as big as we expected them to be.

The first round of the Draft is where the talent is.  The second round is a crapshoot.  To confirm that, here’s my 1st round recap.  After, we’ll look at second rounders who could make an impact, then examine all the trades that were made.

I’ve been doing this almost a year now, and I still can’t write an intro to any column.  

A First Round Recap:

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

Yup, no shocker.  I ended up conniving myself this was the right pick.  Towns is a two-way player, unlike Jahlil Okafor.  He’ll fit in.  Minnesota is a couple years from contention, but they’ll be fun next year to watch.

No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: D’Angelo Russell

This is where the chaos started.  I really though the Lakers were gonna go with Okafor.  They were in love with him.  But I guess they didn’t want to over-pay Rajon Rondo.  Russell has an amazing offensive skill set.  He can score and pass.  His defense is very good.  I’m not sure he’s the next Magic Johnson, but this is a pick the Lakers needed to make.  They needed a playmaker.  Now I’m hoping he stays, unlike before.

No.3, Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor

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HINNNNKKKKKIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s just… Wow.  This team never fails to mess with everyone.  We still have no idea what the 76ers are doing.

I still trying to decide how I feel about this.  I could be like “Screw you Philly!”, or I could look at it through their vision, which would be “Haha, screw you, other 29 NBA teams!”

I don’t know which way to feel.  It’s just unbelievable that they took another center.  They have three guys on their roster capable of starting at center, and it doesn’t seem like they plan on dealing anyone, yet.  Sam Hinkie is all about assets, as the later parts of the Draft explained.

With Nerleans Noel and Joel Embiid already at center, this pick makes no sense.  But, it is Hinkie.  We don’t know what he’s doing.  He may not even know what he’s doing.  But this pick was so Sixers.  So Sixers.  Pray for Jahlil.  He doesn’t deserve this.

No.4, New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis

At first, I hated it.  Then, Friday morning, I loved it, mostly due to this video:

But now I hate it.

It seems Phil Jackson did whatever he wanted to Thursday night, and didn’t really contact anyone else.  He’s the Zen Master, yeah, but you should probably talk to your star player about your top five pick beforehand.

I like Porzingis.  It scares me a bit that he’s 7’1 and 209 pounds, and is foreign, but I like him.  I didn’t like the pick for New York though.  I knew when it happened it wouldn’t sit well with Carmelo Anthony, and Friday morning we saw where the frustration was.

He’s not happy, and neither are Knicks fans.  Barclays Center booed the crap out of Porzingis Thursday night.  That was disappointing.  It’s simply mean to do that, especially since he’s foreign, and’ll be playing in a new country.

Anyways, I want to like this pick, and him.  But for now, I can’t do it.

No.5, Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja

Croatian J.R. Smith?  Concerning, but entertaining.  Since Porzingis was gone, this made sense.  He’s gonna play three, which’ll bump Aaron Gordon to the four.  I’m starting to like this Orlando team.  They’re just super, super raw.  This is a team that’s taking the “new form” NBA into consideration.  Looking at their lineup, it’s four shooters (with two very good ball-handlers), and a center.  That’s the direction they’re going in.

This pick also makes me think they’re letting Tobias Harris walk in free agency, and’ll start a very young lineup out there next season.

Also, I think Detroit was devastated he went this high.

No.6, Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein

So, reportedly, the Kings still don’t want to trade DeMarcus Cousins, and, reportedly, they plan on playing Willie Cauley-Stein and Boogie together.

Still, the Kings display their mismanagement.  I could run this organization better.

Yes, WCS is a great defensive player, but he has no offensive game.  Perhaps that’s where Boogie cleans up the front-court play, but, these are two guys who’re very similar in body frame.  They’re the exact same players, physically.  I just don’t see these two working together.  We know how Boogie is with teammates and roles.  Something still tells me that WCS is Boogie’s replacement.

No.7, Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay

I thought that Justise Winslow was going here.  The Nuggets were in best player mode.  This was their highest rated player at the time.  Mudiay has obvious concerns, but this is all about the fit in Mike Malone’s offense.  I think he had a strong impression on this pick.  As worth noting:  Seems like the Ty Lawson era is over in Denver.  He’s officially on the trade block.

No.8, Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

Detroit desperately needed someone on the wing, and since they lost out on Mario Hezonja, Johnson was their next best pick.  I liked Justise Winslow better, but Stanley Johnson is a better defender on the perimeter.  He’s outstanding on defense, but needs work with his jump-shot and scoring.  This is a solid pick for Detroit, but there is a bust chance.

No.9, Charlotte Hornets: Frank Kaminsky

I lost it when the Hornets picked him.  I wanted him so bad for my Suns.  Reportedly, the Suns tried to trade up to this Charlotte spot for Kaminsky, but that wasn’t the only team wanting this pick.

Boston really wanted Justise Winslow.  At one point, they offered up as many as six picks for this No.9 overall pick.  Charlotte didn’t budge because they wanted Kaminsky.

With Al Jefferson wearing down, this pick makes sense.  Kaminsky is an offensive specimen who can play multiple positions down low (4,5, stretch 4, stretch 5).  That’s why I loved him.  He’s so versatile.

We’ll get to this Suns later.  After losing out on Kaminsky, we made up for it.

No.10, Miami Heat: Justise Winslow

Bill Simmons is right.  Teams help Miami.

With Detroit passing on him, the Heat landed one of the most athletic players in the Draft.  Justise Winslow is incredible with the ball, is a good scorer, and a decent defender.  The Heat’s one weak spot was wing, and they got someone who’ll probably be plugged right in, and he will produce.

Miami is gonna be scary next year.  Winslow’s gonna be a part of the reason why.

No.11, Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner

So I had him going No.6 in my mock draft, which, yeah, I know.  It was too high.  I knew it when I said it.

Not a lot of people liked this pick, but this is simply about the future.  David West just opted out of his contract, which was a tad surpassing giving his age (34).  He’s expected to leave.  Also, Roy Hibbert opted in, and is now on the trade block.  This pick gives the Pacers some youth down low, that they can develop for the future.

No.12, Utah Jazz: Trey Lyles

I think this would’ve been Indiana’s pick had Turner not been there.

This pick made no sense for the Jazz.  It’s already a crowded front-court, which’ll revolve around Rudy Gobert next season.  Derrick Favors got a big contract at power forward, and now it sounds like they’re planning to recruit Paul Millsap back to Utah.  Lyles is a good player, and has a lot of good skills.  This isn’t the place for him to succeed.

No.13, Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker

After we lost out on Frank Kaminsky, this pick made up for it.

Devin Booker fits the Suns mold.  A great shooter, is good in transition, and plays perimeter defense.  He’s a two-way player.  The Suns have guard depth, even after trading away two point guards last season.  Devin Booker won’t be a starter yet, but he has star potential, especially with the way the league is changing.

No.14, Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne

I believe there was a promise made here, as this was expected pre-Draft.  With Russell Westbrook being injury-prone, this was a good pick for the Thunder.  Cameron Payne has some faults, but those will be worked out.  Oklahoma City just needed some depth.

No.15, TRADE: Atlanta Hawks take Kelly Oubre Jr., and trade him to the Washington Wizards for two future second round picks, and No.19 overall.

So, No.15, Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre Jr.

I thought Washington was gonna go big with this pick.  Kelly Oubre has some issues with ball-handling and shot selection, but can defend on the wing.  It’s interesting, since the Wizards already have Otto Porter Jr., and have Paul Pierce to re-sign, that they made this pick.  Unless they know Pierce is gone, which seems possible.

No.16, Boston Celtics: Terry Rozier

Man, the Celtics really wanted Justise Winslow.  They had no idea what to do with this pick.  Why didn’t they trade down?

Anyways, this creates a mess in the back-court.  Taking Terry Rozier creates a four player crowd between point guard and shooting guard, with three guys capable of starting.  Marcus Smart was being shopped pre-Draft.  You have to wonder if him or anyone else will be shipped out after this pick.

No.17, Milwaukee Bucks: Rashad Vaughn

I like this pick for Milwaukee because it’s simple, fundamental basketball knowledge.  The Bucks didn’t try to do anything crazy, or please the fan-base.  They were smart.  They picked for need.  That’s how you build a winning franchise.  Rashad Vaughn is good scorer, but needs work elsewhere.  He’s lengthy, which is something the Bucks really seem to like.

No.18, Houston Rockets: Sam Dekker

You know how I feel about Sam Dekker.  This did not make me happy.

The main reason why I don’t like it.  Houston already has a Sam Dekker, in Chandler Parsons.  The difference?  They have a $15.3 million Sam Dekker.

That’s why this makes no sense.  The most sensible comparison for Sam Dekker is Chandler Parsons.  I love Dekker.  I want him to succeed.  I’m worried about that in Houston.

The Rockets could’ve easily gone guard here, like Jerian Grant.

No.19, TRADE: Atlanta (with pick from the trade with Wizards) takes Jerian Grant, and trades him to New York for Tim Hardaway Jr.

So, No.19, New York Knicks: Jerian Grant

I’ll get into Tim Hardaway Jr. later.

No one may have liked his first pick in this round… but… ZEN MASTER!

Only Phil Jackson could swing a first round pick for Tim Hardaway Jr.

Anyways, Jerian Grant fills a need for the Knicks.  He’s a good player when it comes to versatility and playing multiple positions.  His offensive skills need work, especially in the Triangle Offense.  But, he’ll probably start for the Knicks, and’ll give them something they haven’t had since Jeremy Lin (who they’re planning to pursue in free agency… I guess??)

No.20, Toronto Raptors: Delon Wright

Delon Wright is excellent on defense, but has shooting troubles.  Toronto needed depth at guard, especially after trading Greivis Vasquez.  Kyle Lowry is great, but is injury-prone.  Wright landed in the right situation.

No.21, Dallas Mavericks: Justin Anderson

I think Justin Anderson would have been a top ten pick had he not been hurt last season.  The Mavericks had at a hole at wing, after losing Chandler Parsons in free agency last Summer.  Something tells me they wanted Sam Dekker, and settled on Anderson here.  He’s a great shooter, is lengthy.  His defense needs a little work.

No.22, Chicago Bulls: Bobby Portis

Even with a new coach, the Bulls stick to their old ways.  Bobby Portis is a big body, and has good post skills.  With Chicago seemingly worried about the age of their big men, which they have many of, this is a good pick.  It may get crowded down there, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Chicago takes care of that this offseason.

No.23, TRADE: Portland takes Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, and trades him to Brooklyn along with Steve Blake for Mason Plumlee and No.41 overall (which resulted in Pat Connaughton)

So, No.23, Brooklyn Nets: Rondae-Hollis Jefferson

I’ll get into Mason Plumlee and Steve Blake’s move later.  And don’t worry, Pat Connaughton won’t be left out.

The Nets have a lot of expenses on their books.  It’s nice that they can fill a need without paying a guy $20 million.  Rondae-Hollis Jefferson is a great defender on the wing, but has some issues on offense.  Bad shooting is something the Nets have enough of, but they lack great defenders on the perimeter.  Jefferson will fill that need.

No.24, TRADE: Cleveland takes Tyus Jones, and trades him to Minnesota for two second round picks, which resulted in Cedi Osman and Rakeem Christmas

So, No.24, Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyus Jones

I called this in my mock draft, though I didn’t get the team and details right.

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So then I went on Twitter and bragged about it.

I just had a sense that this would happen.  It’s for the fans.  It’s for Tyus.

I can’t reiterate enough how much Tyus means to the Twin Cities.  He’s already one of the best players to ever come out of this area.  I know he’s excited to play for the Timberwolves.

As for the fit, I thought Ricky Rubio might have gotten traded out of town, but that obviously didn’t occur.  The Timberwolves have a ton of talent in the back-court, making an interesting rotation back there.  But again, this was more about the fans, and maybe even tickets.

No.25, Memphis Grizzlies: Jarell Martin

Memphis, even with the way they play, was a little thin in the front-court.  While they could have gone guard, Jarell Martin gives them that little bit of depth they need.  Marc Gasol isn’t leaving Memphis, and this pick didn’t have anything to do with that.  It’s a depth move by the Grizzlies.

No.26, San Antonio Spurs: Nikola Milutinov

I know nothing about this guy.  This pick is soooo Spurs though.

No.27, Los Angeles Lakers: Larry Nance Jr. (!!!!)

Larry Nance was one of my Dad’s favorite players growing up, during his Suns’ days.  Now, his son gets to play… for the Lakers (sigh).

Anyways, Nance was great in college.  This pick is interesting since they already have Julius Randle, and are looking for a big guy in free agency.  His role will be limited at first, but will expand depending on what they do this Summer.

No.28, Boston Celtics: R.J. Hunter

I can’t believe R.J. Hunter fell this far.  The Celtics might as well of taken him at No.16.  They lack on the wing, as Hunter can play three if he wants to.  That’ll most likely be his position, since they’re already crowded in the back-court.

No.29, Brooklyn Nets: Chris McCollough

The Nets are pretty confident they’ll have Brook Lopez back.  This pick was more about the future, and protection for Lopez.  McCullough won’t play immediately next season, due to a torn ACL last season.  He has great paint skills, but needs work on defense.  Solid pick, but it may be one where we look back on and say “Could they have gotten him later?”

No.30, Golden State Warriors: Kevon Looney

With David Lee most likely being shipped out of town soon, this is a great pick.  Looney fell way back due to concern over a hip injury.  The Warriors got a steal.


Current Player Movements (Draft or not):

Tim Hardaway Jr.

Whether Knicks fans liked or didn’t like his first round pick, the Zen Master strikes again.  Only Phil Jackson could swing Tim Hardaway Jr. for a first round pick, which resulted in Jerian Grant.  Atlanta wanted more wings, but it’s not like Hardaway is that great on offense.  He’s a better defender than anything.

Mason Plumlee-Steve Blake

The Plumlee move is a sign of two things:

  1. The Nets are very confident Brook Lopez is coming back.
  2. The Trail Blazers are obviously concerned about losing LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez.

Mason Plumlee is a very good player.  He’s a great rebounder, and is a bully down low.  If Robin Lopez leaves, Plumlee replaces him at center.

How many teams has Steve Blake been on?  Man…

Grevies Vasquez

The Bucks add guard depth with this move.  I guess I like it.  I’m not sure it was totally necessary.  Vasquez won’t swing a game for anyone, but will give good minutes off the bench.

Matt Barnes-Jeremy Lamb-Luke Ridnour

Poor Luke Ridnour.  This guy got traded three times in 36 hours, and found himself on four teams within those 36 hours.  He finally ended up in Oklahoma City, which he’ll be role guy off the bench.

The Thunder finally gave up on Jeremy Lamb.  He’ll go to Charlotte where he’ll continue to shoot corners threes that won’t go in.

Matt Barnes has also been a pinball lately, and was traded to the Grizzlies for Ridnour.  They need as much shooting as possible.  Barnes doesn’t have great shot selection, but is an effective scorer.


Possible Second Round Gems:

Unlike the later rounds in other sports’ drafts, the second round of the NBA Draft is a crapshoot.  There’s not a ton of talent.  However, gems come across.  Draymond Green is a perfect example.

  • Montrezl Harrell: The Rockets took him at the beginning of the second round.  He’s very versatile, and was dominant at Louisville.
  • Pat Connaughton: He’s going to Portland in the Mason Plumlee trade.  This guy is overall insane.  He has a ton of skills, but his athleticism (which can be attributed to his baseball career) stands out over anything.  The Trail Blazers love shooting guards (meaning, guards who can make shots, not the position.)
  • J.P. Tokoto:  There’s a lot of things to be worried about, but the 76ers are okay with taking chances.  He’s a very good shooter, but that’s about it.  He needs a lot of work.  The Sixers though, like project players.

Best And Worst Drafts:

Best: Timberwolves, Rockets, Heat

Worst: Celtics, Jazz

I’m leaving for Phoenix Wednesday.  I will though, have at least one more column this week. 

 

2015 NBA Mock Draft

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The 2015 NBA Draft is Thursday night.  I said this in Friday’s column:

I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking “But, you didn’t cover college basketball this year!  What do you know about these prospects?”  Just because I didn’t write about a sport, doesn’t mean I didn’t watch it.  I watched college basketball this year.  I watched enough to put together a mock draft of the first round; It’s still in progress and will be out next week.

Well, here it is.  Also in Friday’s column, I laid out three scenarios regarding the top four picks.  I have made up my mind.

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor, Duke

I’m going out on a limb compared to most people, and it’s not because Jahlil Okafor and the Duke Blue Devils won the title.

Usually at the top of the draft, fit doesn’t matter.  Of course you’re gonna take someone who’ll fit.  It’s not usually about need either.

The case can easily be made that the Timberwolves need a power forward and center.  But I don’t think Minnesota is thinking that way.

What I’m saying, is while I don’t, I think Minnesota still believes that Anthony Bennett can be their power forward.  The former No.1 overall pick (in that terrible 2013 Draft), they got him from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade.  He’s only been in the Wolves’ system one year, and is respected by the fans and the team.

That’s why I think they pass on Karl-Anthony Towns, and take Okafor to play center.

No matter who Minnesota takes, it’s gonna add another talent to this young team.  It’ll make them even more raw than before.

Taking Okafor means dealing Nikola Pekovic, which should be easy except for the fact he’s making a ton of money, and already has.

A deal would be tough with that cap number, Phoenix could absorb a load, and could use a guy like Pekovic, but would have to shed money in light of it.

No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

I went back and forth between this pick, and how it effects Julius Randle.  Randle is 6’9, and Towns is 6’11.  Towns has the ability to play center, but it’s a matter of whether he can develop it or not.  Julius Randle doesn’t have a ton of trade value after an injury-filled rookie season.  It’s a risk of the Lakers to take Towns, and hope it works out between the two players.  The Lakers are in best player mode, but fit is coming into play with these picks.

No.3, Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

I don’t care if D’Angelo Russell has said he doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia or if he thinks he’ll be a good fit in Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense.  You get picked where you get picked.  And Russell’s going to the 76ers.

Philly seems to be interested in Kristaps Porzingis, but No.3 just seems too high for me.  They already have enough big men, who’re very young and raw still, but it’s not like they’re trying to win yet.  If the 76ers lack anything it’s guards, and after trading away Michael-Carter Williams, they need another play-maker.

We though MCW was gonna be a scorer, but it turns out he can’t shoot to save his life.  Russell is an amazing scorer, who can get to the bucket with moves, and nail the three.  He’s kinda like a taller Kyrie Irving.  That’s the type of guy Philly needs, and they surely don’t want a MCW 2.0 (see below).

No.4, New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay, China

I’m in no way a fan of Mudiay, but I think this is where he goes.  Multiple people have him sliding, and the Knicks making some type of move, but New York needs a guard.  Mudiay is unfortunately a MCW 2.0, but hopefully a better shooter.  He’s tall and lengthy, and will make passes.  New York just needs something in that back-court, and while there probably is better options, the Knicks will find a way to screw it up.

No.5, Orlando Magic: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia

Orlando has Nikola Vucevic at center, which opens up a spot at power forward.  Their perimeter is small and full of shooters, who’re all still developing.  Channing Frye is currently at power forward, but has been injured and spotty.  Who says Porzingis is gonna be ready to play right off the bat?  This is a safe pick, and it’s not like the Magic will have to rush Porzingis’ development.

No.6, Sacramento Kings: Myles Turner, Texas

I know, it’s too high, but I just can’t see Sacramento taking anyone else (unless it’s Vivek Ranadive making the draft pick again).  They’re weak next to DeMarcus Cousins, and if they take Turner, they’ll have to re-shape the roster.  Rudy Gay is currently playing power forward.  They could slide him to three, and play Turner at 4, his natural position.  That’d be a killer front-court, Turner and Boogie, making a rebounding machine.

No.7, Denver Nuggets: Justice Winslow, Duke

Justice Winslow is one of my favorite players in this Draft.  This guy is amazing with the basketball, and can pull-up from any-where.  He’s awesome on defense; a lock-down wing player.  Denver’s in re-bulid, and is looking for the best player.  This’d be a great addition for new coach Mike Malone.

No.8, Detroit Pistons: Mario Hezonja, Croatia

This guy, like Winslow, has some insane moves.  He’s a great ball-handler, and is a good scorer from the wing.  Detroit is set down low, and needs more perimeter shooting.  With Brandon Jennings’ name now entering trade talks, the Pistons have to take a scorer and play-maker with this pick.  Hezonja is a foreign prospect, and while the footage is good, you have to expect a tad bit of a rocky start.  Same with Porzingis.

No.9, Charlotte Hornets: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

I’m not a fan of Willie Cauley-Stien.  He’s overrated because he was on Kentucky, and has a cool name.  Okay, that’s not a reason, but this guy has serious flaws.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s great on defense.  With Al Jefferson wearing out, Cauley-Stein can make up for him on the defense end.  Jefferson still gets rebounds, a total that is dropping however.  Where Cauley-Stein has to improve is on offense.  He doesn’t get put-backs, and he can’t shoot to save his life.  He may improve, but Stein just isn’t talented enough on the offensive end.

No.10, Miami Heat: Stanley Johnson, Arizona

The Heat need a wing really bad.  This is a team that has a lot of money to spend on guys who they want to retain this Summer.  Miami has the chance to be really good next year, if they retain everyone.  The wing is the weakest spot on this team, and Stanley Johnson would be a nice piece to fit in.  There are definite concerns about his effort, but playing Miami can’t be a bad gig.  He needs to work on his shooting, but it’s not like the Heat lack that.  This might be a bit of a project.

No.11, Indiana Pacers: Trey Lyles, Kentucky

The Kentucky guys are gonna start flying off the board.  The Knicks, if they trade down, seem to really like Trey Lyles.  Perhaps if Phoenix wants to move up, the Knicks could do something like Eric Bledsoe and No.13 overall for No.4 overall.  New York would have to hope Lyles would be available at No.13.

Indiana’s big guys are starting to wear down.  David West is 34.  He’s got probably two good years left.  Taking Lyles would be a evident replacement, and is, in my opinion, a David West 2.0.  Big body, good rebounder, and has post moves.  This would be an ideal pick, but Lyles is a hot commodity.

No.12, Utah Jazz: Devin Booker, Kentucky

Utah has a lot of shooting already, but needs some more security in the back-court.  Trey Burke, their point guard, hasn’t been what they though he was gonna be.  However, they don’t need a replacement for him.  Devin Booker is a good shooting guard, who has a nice shot.  The Jazz are still building a team, and as it looks right now, they know what they want.  Shooters around a big man.  Booker is one of those shooters they need.

No.13, Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

I’ve been driving this pick for awhile.  I want my Suns to draft Frank Kaminsky.  He’s an amazing big man, who can play center, power forward, and stretch 4, and 5.  He’s impressive.  Most people are worried about his defense, but the guy is an offensive specimen, and that’s what Phoenix wants.  We know how the Suns play:  Fast and versatile.  They shoot a ton of threes.  The Suns need a versatile big man, one who can shoot outside and rebound.  Kaminsky is that.

No.14, Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, Murray State

Most comparisons of Cameron Payne are similar to Damian Lillard.  This pick works because Oklahoma City needs all the depth they can get in the back-court.  We know how injury-prone Russell Westbrook is.  If Devin Booker is still around here, I’d expect the Thunder to go with him.

No.15, Atlanta Hawks: Rashad Vaughn, UNLV

Rashad Vaughn has been flying up draft boards.  I love the two UNLV guys in this draft .  Anyways, this is probably too high.  But I really don’t care.  Kyle Korver is great for the Hawks, but he really only shoots threes.  There isn’t a lot of other skills with him.  If the Hawks lose DeMarre Carroll in free agency, they could move Korver to small forward, and start Vaughn at shooting guard.  Vaughn’s very good on defense, but needs to work on his shot.

No.16, Boston Celtics: Kelly Oubre, Kansas

Kelly Oubre is a little Stanley Johnson-ish, in the fact that there’s a lot of questions.  Of course these guys who have questions come from my favorite teams.  Anyways, Boston traded Jeff Green to Memphis in the middle of last season.  They could easily replace him with Oubre, who’s perimeter player with a good shot.  The defense is okay.  Really, he might be a Jeff Green 2.0.  That’s a little concerning.

No.17, Milwaukee Bucks: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State

R.J. Hunter’s stock went sky high after he knocked Baylor out of the NCAA Tournament on a game-winning shot, where his injured Dad fell off his stool, and dominated Youtube.

I think Hunter has skill, I’m just worried he’s overrated.  Milwaukee has a lot of depth, but with Michael-Carter Williams at point guard, the back-court could use some help.  Hunter is more of a 2, but was Georgia State’s ball-handler, along with Kevin Ware.  Milwaukee has a lot of options with this pick, but they don’t necessarily have a lot of needs.

No.18, Houston Rockets: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

With Patrick Beverely’s upcoming free agency, and an aging Jason Terry, Jerian Grant makes sense for the Rockets.  He’s a good ball handler, necessary for a point guard, and is a great defensive player.  The shooting needs to get better, but Houston has enough shot makers.

No.19, Washington Wizards: Bobby Portis, Arkansas

Nene did a face-plant in the Playoffs, and no one was really sure what happened.  It was like Roy Hibbert in the 2013-2014 Playoffs. Bobby Portis is a big, strong dude.  He reminds me of Zach Randolph.  This pick would give Washington more off the bench, at this season, and replace some of their old, wore-out players.

No.20, Toronto Raptors: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona

The case against this pick is DeMar DeRozan, but it’s quite simple why this pick should be made.  Toronto simply lacked shooting last season.  DeRozan was their best shooter, and while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a basically a 2.0 of him, he’s a better defender.  I felt like the Raptors should had made a move at the Trade Deadline, for someone on the wing, basically Jeff Green.  This pick would give them that, without giving anything up.

No.21, Dallas Mavericks: TRADE: Minnesota sends Ricky Rubio to Dallas for No.21 overall

With No.21, Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyus Jones, Duke

First predicted trade for me, and only.  There’s a ton of rumors, but I just don’t see a lot happening.  Then again, I am prepared for the league-landscape to be changed, which is exactly what the Trade Deadline did.

Minnesota has been shopping Ricky Rubio around, and that hasn’t been denied by anyone.  Dallas, who’s most likely losing Monte Ellis in free agency (along with Rajon Rondo, but that’s been known for awhile), could use his services.

I’ve never liked Rubio.  He can’t shoot to save his life, and is average defensively.  But he’s a great passer, which is the No.1 skill for a point guard.  Bottom line is, he’s fine.  He’s overpaid, but he’s fine.

By shipping Rubio out, the Timberwolves can take the local kid Tyus Jones, the MVP of the Final Four.  Tyus went to high school 30 minutes south of my high school.  Everyone loves him here.  Minnesota as a state isn’t known for producing basketball players.  Playing for his local NBA team would be pretty cool, and would pump up the community.  A pick like that would only make the Timberwolves younger and more raw, but it’s not like they’d be able to contend this coming season anyway.

No.22, Chicago Bulls: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

Like Phoenix, the Bulls have needed a versatile big man for awhile.  The Bulls were built on big guys, who play post and only post.  Montrezl Harrell is a big man who’ll play in the paint, and spread his game out in the mid-range.  He won’t shoot threes, but he will take longer shots.  He’s a lot smaller than Kaminsky, and doesn’t have nearly the footwork, but those are the two versatile big men in this Draft.  They’ll both go before No.22 overall.

No.23, Portland Trail Blazers: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin

Alright, this sucks.  I had Sam Dekker going very high (more like insanely high) before the Hornets-Clippers trade.  You can kinda piece it together by the lack of need for one of those two teams.

This sucks because Dekker dropped double-digit spots because of that.  I love Dekker.  He’s the classic wing player, who can shoot and play perimeter defense.  But here’s the difference between Dekker and say Chandler Parsons, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or any wing player in the league.  It’s the way he moves on the court.  It’s the way he carries himself (which is partly to do with how comedic that Wisconsin team was).  He’s just a kid.  He’s just happy to be where he is.

And that’s how he looks on the court.  He’s so gracefully when he plays.  The way he shoots.

It’s weird.  I think this guy is gonna be amazing in the NBA.  When we talk about how the league’s progressing, this kid fits the mold.

Portland is that type of team.  They’re developing.  They’re gonna be really good soon, and whether they get Wesley Matthews, or LaMarcus Aldridge back this Summer, they’ll be fine.  Dekker is gonna be a stud, and I think Portland is the place for him to do that.  Let’s see if anyone’s smart enough to realize what I have before No.23 overall.

No.24, Cleveland Cavaliers: Delon Wright, Utah

Similar to the Thunder, Cleveland just needs some depth at guard.  No one is sure whether they’ll get Matthew Dellavedova back, who’s a free agent.  Delon Wright is very athletic, and very good on defense.  He needs some improvement on offense, but the Cavaliers, if they lose Delly, would need a guard to back-up Kyrie Irving, and hopefully provide defense like Delly did.

No.25, Memphis Grizzlies: Justin Anderson, Virginia

Even though Jeff Green is coming back next season (expensively), the one thing Memphis missed last season was outside shooting.  The league’s evolving, and Memphis has been slow to catch up to it.  Anderson missed most of the tournament after having a thumb injury, and it killed Virginia.  He’s a play-maker… The Grizzlies need that.

No.26, San Antonio Spurs: Christian Wood, UNLV

This would be such a Spurs-like pick.  With Tim Duncan’s years winding down, Wood would be an ideal replacement.  He’s a little more versatile, but does have a post game.  I really like this kid, and while it’s a little high for most people, this would be a total Spurs-like pick.

No.27, Los Angeles Lakers: Terry Rozier, Louisville

No matter who the Lakers end up with in this Draft or at the end of free agency, they need back-court depth.  Terry Rozier was really, really good at Louisville.  He was a big part of those teams.  Whether they end up with Rajon Rondo or D’Angelo Russell, or neither, Rozier would be a smart pick for a team that just needs to add talent.

No.28, Boston Celtics: Kevon Looney, UCLA

These last three picks are filled with big men.  I think Boston is gonna end up with Kevin Love, but Kevon Looney will give them more depth in the front-court.  He’s a big, strong guy, who’s a good rebounder.  Boston loves to acquire depth, and this pick, their 2nd of the 1st round, gives them that.

No.29, Brooklyn Nets: Chris McCollough, Syracuse

With Brook Lopez’s impending free agency, the Nets need some extra help down low.  Chris McCollough is a tall player who provides rim protection.  The Nets could be a disaster next season, or pretty decent.  McCullough would at least give them some depth if Brook Lopez leaves, or stays.

No.30, Golden State Warriors: Jarell Martin, LSU

David Lee’s about to get shipped out, which clears up some clutter down low.  This pick would essentially replace David Lee on the bench, as Jarell Martin would join the rotation in the post.  Rumors have the Warriors wanting to trade up, which would work if they wanted to package this pick and Lee for a higher selection.

Not doing a second round… Too much.  Also, hoping for two podcasts the rest of this week.  

NBA Finals Round-Up+Latest Trades/News+Draft Outlook

Your 2015 NBA Champions

 

There wasn’t any doubt.

We all saw it coming.

The Golden State Warriors, who had the best record in the league during the regular season, a record that gave them 67 wins, tied for fourth most all-time with many others, are your 2015 NBA Champions.  And while the series went six games, it wasn’t even close.  There was no doubt, at any time in this series for me, that they’d lose it.

The Cavaliers were just too depleted.  They lost Kevin Love in the first round against Boston.  Then, in overtime of Game 1, lost Kyrie Irving for the rest of the series with a broken knee cap.  That forced Matthew Dellavedova into the starting lineup, who’s stardom lasted for about two games.

Golden State didn’t win this series like we expected them too.  Stephen Curry struggled early, with Dellavedova harassing him in Games 2&3.  Game 2, probably Curry’s worst game (19 points, 5/23 FGs, 2/15 on threes), was where Delly’s fame began.  And in Game 3 it took off.  Curry finally found his game in Game 5, where he dropped 37 points and was 7/13 on threes.  By then, Delly was exhausted after playing his heart out in games beforehand.  The problem: Cleveland just didn’t have enough depth.

That’s not an excuse.  It may be the reason they lost, but it’s not an excuse.  There were ways the Cavaliers could have forced Game 7.  First, they turned the ball over 16 times in Game 6, and as we know, Golden State kills everyone in transition.  Secondly, the Cavs only had 14 team assists, continuing the iso-ball play they used earlier in the series and playoffs.

There’s another case.  After Kyrie Irving went down, Lebron James was all this team had.  And boy, did he play his tail off.  His averages during these Finals:  35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists.  Bottom line: Ridiculous.

And it still wasn’t enough.  While Golden State didn’t play their traditional game, they still backed me up, because the Warriors can beat you in so many different ways.  And while only two of the four ways I laid out were present, they switched lineups and game-plans.  They finally made shots. They still got it done.  It’s just one of many ways that makes this team so special.

Really, in my opinion, I’m not sure there was a clear MVP.

Now, had Cleveland won, Lebron would have unanimously gotten it.  There were 11 votes.  Seven went to Andre Igoudala.  Four went to Lebron.  I don’t think Lebron would have accepted it had he won in a losing effort.  He’s not that type of player.

Iggy, the MVP, came off the bench all year, contributed nicely, and gave them some leadership.  But then Golden State found themselves down 2-1 in the series, and decided to bench Andrew Bogut (who was already getting destroyed by Timofey Mozgov) for Iggy.  The move slid Draymond Green to center, where he was still killed by Mozgov.  However, the small-ball lineup gave the Warriors more shooting, and more athletic players on the perimeter.  After that move, Cleveland never won again, even with their own effort in copying the small-ball lineup.

Even though this series went six games, it really seemed like the Warriors dominated.  While the traditional winning ways of the Dubs weren’t present, they found new ones.  They made it happen.  Did you really have any doubt?


On the two latest trades…

Alright, this is just ridiculous.  During the span of these Finals, we’ve had two major trades take place around the league.  I’m gonna break-down both.

Number 1:

Pistons get: Ersan İlyasova

Bucks get: Caron Butler, Shawne Williams

I copied and pasted İlyasova.. I also learned how to pronounce it….

So, my main takeaway from this trade was that the Pistons know or fear they’re losing Greg Monroe in free agency this Summer.  İlyasova is a stretch four, which’ll be a nice compliment to Andre Drummond.  Drummond is a classic center, who’ll grab every rebound there is, but won’t be super physical in the post.  After losing Larry Sanders early in this past season, the Bucks were forced to play Zaza Pachulia at center, a set-up that didn’t bode too well together.

Clearing out İlyasova’s salary give the Bucks a ton of cap-space, up to $22 million this Summer.  There’s been rumors about what they have in mind, but I have a certain solution that won’t give Jason Kidd nightmares about what to do down low.

e59db6c0_boogie-for-america

DeMarcus Cousins’ (BOOOOOOGGGGGIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!) frustration with the Kings has been high for awhile now, rightly so.  He’s played with countless coaches and point guards, and has one crazy owner.  Trading Boogie is something the Kings might have floated before.  Certain people see Milwaukee as a team that would fit; others see the Magic and Celtics as possible contenders.

A trade to the Bucks could look something like this (plus picks.. ESPN Trade Machine doesn’t allow picks to be moved).  Vivek Ranadive probably has daydreams about Giannis Antetokounmpo.. and Deron Williams, and Rajon Rondo, as he does bunch of other guys.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 3.09.32 PM

 

The Kings don’t need anymore wings, but it’s not like Vivek would care.  Vivek doesn’t care about how many players he has at certain positions.  Seriously!  He took the same player in the draft two years in a row!  And it might be three including this year (more on that later)!!!!

Anyways, the Bucks moving İlyasova foreshadows something.  Not quite sure what it is yet.

Number 2:

Clippers get: Lance Stephenson

Hornets get: Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes

Well, this was a nice surprise during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup.  Even though I never even heard about it till the morning after

Don’t ask me how.  I mean, I’m usually on top of things, even while other games are on, but I never saw this Monday night.

Anyways, I think this is gonna be a disaster both ways.  Charlotte desperately needs a wing, and Barnes gives them that.  However, he’s quite sketchy, and has a bad attitude.  He’ll be a nice fit, but now we’re not sure if he’ll even play for the Hornets, as rumors of them waiving him are swirling.

Here’s my question:  Do the Hornets really think that Spencer Hawes is more valuable than Matt Barnes?  Charlotte already has big guys; it’s not like they’re short on them.  And did they see Hawes play this past season?  Yeah, not great!

What the Hornets got back suggests one thing:  They really, really wanted to get rid of Lance Stephenson.  After signing a three year, $27 million contract last Summer with Charlotte, he averaged 8.2 points a game, and shot 37% on field goals… Plus an ugly 17% from three.  It just never worked out there, and I’m not sure it’ll work out in Los Angeles.

First of all, that Clippers team doesn’t need anymore bad personalties, but that number will drop if DeAndre Jordan leaves.  Secondly, a Chris Paul/Lance Stephenson backcourt seems like a problem.  I can’t totally wrap my head around it yet, but it may be the Clippers’ best interest to let DeAndre walk, which would give the backcourt more room to work, space the floor, and fit.

It’s way too early to really dig into it deeper, but these two trades clear up some Draft stuff, and gave the media even more NBA to talk about on off days.


On the Nuggets hiring Mike Malone as head coach…

Their search took forever, and I’m glad it did.

Rather than hiring Mike D’Antoni or Melvin Hunt (now hired as an assistant in Dallas), Denver went with someone who’ll be in it for the long haul.  After inexplicably getting fired by the Kings this past season, Malone comes into Denver with a lot in his control.

Look, this isn’t a situation where he’ll try to make this roster work again.  There’s gonna be guys getting shipped out this Summer (Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried (maybe)).  This is a re-building project with the Nuggets.  They might just trade everyone expect Jursuf Nurkic and whoever they draft.  It’s a large task that Malone has, but he’ll have a much longer leash this time.


On how the first four picks of the NBA Draft may work out….

I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking “But, you didn’t cover college basketball this year!  What do you know about these prospects?”  Just because I didn’t write about a sport, doesn’t mean I don’t watch it.  I watched college basketball this year.  I watched enough to put together a mock draft of the first round, which is still in progress and will be out next week.

Now, maybe I didn’t watch enough college basketball to fill out a decent bracket, but then again, this past year’s tournament was ridiculous.

The top four spots in this Draft could go a lot of different ways.  I’m gonna lay out certain scenarios, and then will make up my mind in my mock draft next week.

There’s four scenarios with these top four picks.  It might get a bit complicated.

FYI:  I believe these four players will be the top four picks.  That won’t change. 

Scenario No.1: 

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor

No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: Karl-Anthony Towns

No.3, Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell

No.4, New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay

This is the scenario that the people in Vegas like.  It’s basically sharpie based on Big Boards.  Most insider people believe that the Timberwolves’ front office likes Karl-Anthony Towns, but that Head Coach/GM Flip Saunders likes Jahlil Okafor and Owner Glen Taylor likes D’Angelo Russell.  So yeah, it’s a bit of a cluster.  Minnesota seems to be in best player mode.  The Wolves are gonna get better; it’ll be awhile before they actually contend though.  I believe that the Wolves haven’t given up on Anthony Bennett playing power forward, the 2013 No.1 overall pick who they got in the Kevin Love trade with Cleveland.  If that’s the case, they take Okafor at No.1, keep Bennett, and ship Nikola Pekovic to Phoenix or something (homer alert).

If the Lakers miss out on D’Angelo Russell, then they’ll probably over-pay Rajon Rondo this Summer.

Scenario No.2:

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor

No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: D’Angelo Russell

No.3, Philadelphia 76ers: Emmaunel Mudiay 

No.4, New York Knicks: Karl-Anthony Towns

The scenarios aren’t in any order of probability, FYI.

Look, there’s almost no way Towns falls to the Knicks at four, but if he does… ZEN MASTER STRIKES AGAIN.

The Lakers don’t need a power forward in Towns; they took Julius Randle last year at No.7 overall.

Russell makes all the sense in the world for the Lakers, and it wouldn’t force them to over-pay Rondo this Summer.  He’s a true point guard, though he is tall like Muiday.  But man, Russell can score. That’s the type of player the Lakers need.

It’s the same situation with the 76ers.  That team is loaded with big men, and need much help in their back-court.  Mudiay seems likes a Michael-Carter Williams 2.0, just in the case that they’re both very tall for their position.  Hopefully, Mudiay will succeed wherever he ends up, as MCW has failed to do.

Again, this scenario is so not happening… But then again… ZEN MASTER.

Scenario No.3:

No.1, Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns

No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor

No.3, Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell

No.4, New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay

So, if Minnesota does what most people expect them to do, and take Towns, it locks in Okafor for No.2 to LA.  The Lakers love him already, and seem to have their heart set on him.

I don’t think Philly is gonna want to deal with a MCW 2.0, so they’ll go with a scorer, who’ll get to the bucket and’ll run pick-and-roll with their big men up top.

The Knicks are the juggernaut in this whole thing.  They’re considering a wide-range of players.  Sure, they’re in best player mode, but certain guys are standing out to them.  And some of those they would be able to snag later in the Draft.

They’re the most likely candidate to make a trade, whether it’s up or down.  It’ll probably be down if it happens, but I have no clue who’ll want to trade up.

Scenario No.4: TRADE AT THE BACK END!!!

The Timberwolves have reportedly been shopping Ricky Rubio around, and the most likely trade I can think of would be a swap with Dallas for No.21 overall.  Dallas is guard needy, as they’ll probably lose Rondo and Monte Ellis this Summer to free agency.  A straight up swap of Rubio for No.21 would give the Wolves another first-rounder, which they could use on local kid Tyus Jones.  Jones, the MVP of the Final Four.  It would essentially replace Rubio at point guard, and would generate a ton of excitement around the Twin Cities.  Tyus went to high school 20 minutes South of my house.  Everyone loves him here, and he’s highly respected in the community.  I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, but it sure would be cool.

Other tidbits before the official mock-draft:

  • I’d love to see the Kings take Justice Winslow just so we can see how crazy Vivek is for taking the same player three years in a row.
  • If the Kings take Willie Cauley Stein at No.6, then.. well… I covered it above.
  • I had Sam Dekker going very high before the Lance Stephenson trade.
  • I’m really liking Christian Wood out of UNLV.
  • I think the back end of the first round is gonna be big man heavy.
  • I’m not sure Kristaps Porzingis is going in the top four.  If he does, it’s to the Knicks
  • The Knicks also seem to be the team most likely to trade down
  • Justice Winslow is gonna go top seven.  Guy is special.
  • I don’t expect any movement in the top three.

NBA Mock Draft coming next week……

Stanley Cup Round-Up

When any team wins a championship, they get unexpected contributions from players.  The Cavaliers, who’re battling for their lives tonight in Game 6 of the NBA Finals,  have gotten an unexpected contribution from Matthew Dellavedova, their backup point guard. It’s the same in hockey.  You have to get someone to break out in any series.  Chicago had that.  The now Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks had breakout players in this Cup series, which they won 4-2 in six games.  Their opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, didn’t get any.

Not only did Tampa Bay not get that unexpected breakout, but their stars didn’t preform.  Tyler Johnson, who ended up leading the NHL this postseason in points, goals, and game-winning goals, had one goal and one assist in six games.  Turns out, we learned in the postgame that he was playing with a broken wrist, an injury he suffered earlier in the series.

Steven Stamkos didn’t contribute much,  scoring one point all series.

This was worse-case scenario for the Lightning.  Chicago’s defense was crippling to the Lightning’s attack.  (It also didn’t help that goalie Ben Bishop, who’s mystery injury kept him out of Game 4 and plagued him throughout the series, was playing with a torn groin.  A torn groin…)  For a team that plays so fast, you would think their speed would have been able to pass the Blackhawk’s defensive line.  But Chicago’s defense stepped up, and Duncan Keith was the leader of that effort.

The Conn Symthe Trophy winner (MVP of the playoffs) played a ton of minutes during the Cup, averaging around 30 minutes per game, a ton for a defensemen.  After the Blackhawks lost Michal Rozsival to a nasty broken ankle against the Wild, the D-men’s minutes were stepped up, but it didn’t bother Keith.  In Game 5 and 6 of the Cup, he totaled 39 shifts, and scored the first goal in last night’s 2-0 victory to clinch the title.  Keith led the league in assists this postseason, dishing 18.  He scored a ridiculous +16 +/- score, beating Victor Hedman by five scores.

Last night’s win captured Chicago’s 3rd Cup win in the past six years, with the Kings (twice) and Bruins winning the other three years.  Gary Bettman, the NHL’s commissioner, proclaimed them a dynasty during last night’s Cup presentation.  That generated controversy, as everything Bettman says does.  I believe, truly, that this is a dynasty.  Here’s why:

When Chicago won in 2010, grabbing their first Cup in this run, I wasn’t totally into hockey.  I payed attention though.  Turns out, six seasons later, it’s pretty much the same roster.  Sure, they’ve added people, but they haven’t lost anyone too important.  Fun fact:  Antti Neimi was the 3rd goalie on that team.  He’s now San Jose’s starter.  That 2010 roster featured a 21-year old Patrick Kane, who scored that funky game winner in Game 6.

The limited roster transition is the reason why this is a dynasty.  There’s been no bad season in-between.  They’ve had the same guys since the beginning of this amazing run.  The Blackhawks are a model-franchise.  They’re well-run; and are probably the best ran franchise in the NHL.

The run is especially amazing in the cap-era.  These teams have a limited amount of money they can spend.  $71 million to be exact.  Chicago, a team that has continued to draft exceptionally well, has managed their cap-number so well.  Guys, who were drafted not long ago, and who are making low-money figures, are producing.  Teuvo Teravainen is making $894,167, and scored 10 points this postseason.  The winger is 20, and gave Chicago another play-maker in this series.  It’s a matter of drafting well, and spending money where they need help.

The Blackhawks have 14 players under contract for next year.  They’ll have around $6.2 million to spend this Summer.  These names aren’t included in that list of 14 players.

  • Brandon Saad
  • Marcus Kruger
  • Johnny Odyua
  • Brad Richards
  • Antoine Vermette

This is part of the game, and business.  They aren’t gonna be able to re-sign everyone.  That’s a fact.  It’s also something we can worry about later.

This Chicago team is special, and has been for the past six seasons.  They’re a dynasty.  And that’s how they’ll be remembered.


 

On the Cup being late to the post-game celebration/presentation…. 

I mean, really?  The Stanley Cup is a treasured piece of metal.  It’s been around for 122 years now. It has it’s own body guard; someone who’s with the thing 24/7.  Last night, due to weather in Chicago, the Cup was delayed getting to United Center.  Here’s the thing though:  Why wasn’t the Cup there pre-game?  Why keep it somewhere else, and risk anything at all?

It’s goofy management, and this so called “Cup Guy” better feel pretty ashamed.

I found it funny, when, after the final buzzer sounded, and the Madhouse exploded, NBC kept interviewing player, instead of showing them with the Cup.  Most people, who didn’t know what the situation was, were pretty confused about the large amount of interviews.  Then NBC told the audience the Cup wasn’t in the building.  Then Twitter exploded.

Overall, it’s pretty ridiculous this happened.  Reportedly, the vehicle the trophy was in traveled at speeds of over 100 MPH through the streets of Chicago to get there in time, with a police escort of course.

Still, it’s embarrassing for the NHL.  How dare they make us, or the fans at the Madhouse, wait.

That was a fun NHL season.  Congrats, Blackhawks and their fans.

Hoping to have our first podcast or two recorded this week….. One on the Cup and one on the NBA Finals….

The AL Is A Cluster

By this time in the MLB season, we should know who’s good and who’s not by now.  Hanging around the 1/3 mark, this is when teams shake off slow starts, or come back to Earth.

Not the AL.  Not anyone in the AL.  The AL this year is weird.  The three divisions are all equally confusing.  There’s not one team in the AL that makes you go “That’s a contender.”

Now, cases can be made for Kansas City, Detroit, or the Angels in Anaheim.  But the division leaders in the AL just don’t fit.

AL East:  New York Yankees

AL Central:  Kansas City Royals

AL West:  Houston Astros

Minnesota is two games behind Kansas City in the Central.

The AL East continues to be the division that no one wants to win.  Tampa Bay sits in 2nd, with a roster full of guys I barely know.  Pitching continues to carry them, as they have the best team ERA in the AL at 3.33.  Chris Archer is striking guys out like crazy, with a SO/9 rate of 11.7.  Still, guys like Logan Forsythe, Joey Butler, and Kevin Kiermaier are providing huge contributions.

Can they keep it up?  Well, this is a roster with limited experience, and full of a bunch of no-namers.  They went through a ton of transition last offseason.  Maybe, just maybe, Kevin Cash is the difference here.

Don’t bet on it though.  New York seems like a team that could keep this up.  They’re scoring a lot of runs, having the second most in the AL.  Alex Rodriguez is getting new drugs, hitting .272/.377/.508 with 11 home runs.  Stephen Drew is hitting home runs all the sudden, and the pitching has been decently good.  The powerful offense has hit 76 home runs this year, second in the AL.  This division isn’t particularly strong in the pitching department.  The Bombers could keep this up, and drag their already two game lead out.

I’ve already made it clear I’m not talking about the Orioles.  They have to be the most boring team in baseball.  

The AL Central is the best division in the Bigs right now.  No question.  We’ve got three teams over .500.  Kansas City is playing surprisingly well, with their awesome outfield carrying them.    Kansas City’s defense is so good, they’re blowing away the Blue Jays by 20 DRS points.  Lorenzo Cain, who’s racking up the All-Star votes, is the third best outfielder in the league per the DRS metric.

The Royals batting is simply average.  They aren’t getting great production out of their power guys, as Kansas City is 28th in the MLB in home runs as a team this season.  The Royals pitching is okay.  I mean, the rotation has talent; there’s a lot there still developing.  This isn’t a team that needs to make a move, as their success is pretty evident, but this is the best division in baseball.  A lot can change, and I expect it to.

I’ve had people yelling at me since the 3rd week of the season about the Twins.  The first couple games were rough, as they couldn’t score runs, and guess what?!  They still can’t!

The Twins aren’t that great of a hitting team.  They don’t produce a ton of runs.  There’s nothing here that makes you go “That’s a good team.”.

I can’t explain it.  Twins fan think they can.  But really, no one knows what’s happening with this team.  It’s a total mystery.  What was once a joke is now becoming real, but I just can’t hop on yet.  Fans, (I know plenty of them) have been talking this up for the past month.  “The Twins are good!”   “The Twins might make the playoffs!”  So why are they getting so excited when they’re better teams in their division?

Minnesota hasn’t been a great team the past couple years.  It’s been five seasons since they’ve finished over .500.  Twins fans have gone through a re-building process, and that’s still not done yet.  I don’t think the front office knew this was coming.  Seriously, no one saw this coming.  It’s totally unexplainable.  I have no answers.  The pitching has been better than expected.  Mike Pelfrey has a 2.28 ERA, but really, digging deeper in his stats, he’s not been fantastic.  He’s getting help.  Help that, well… I don’t know where it’s coming from.

That’s why this is a fluke.  I’m being outspoken, but this is a fluke.  There’s no particular reason that’s explains this Twins season.

I have no clue whether this’ll continue or not.  Again, they’re in the best division in baseball, and have an Indians team behind them, who’ll hopefully pick up their game.

I think the truth behind this breakout is coming.  Soon, we’ll truly know whether this’ll continue.  For now, it’s anyone’s guess.

The Astros, who currently lead the AL West by 2.5 games (over Texas), are another tough team to figure out.  They don’t score a ton of runs.  Houston has the 2nd worst team batting average in Majors, only in front of Milwaukee.

Houston’s pitching staff is carrying them, and in a weak pitching division, it makes sense.  Dallas Kuechel continues to have a Cy Young-like season, as he’s 7-2.  Colin McHugh is pitching well, though his 6-2 record may be caused by help coming elsewhere on the roster.

The analytics-driven team has blown away everyone in baseball, and there’s not a lot of reason for it.  Maybe Houston’s front office knew this was coming, but we never got the vibe that they were wanting to compete.  Houston has a very nice farm system, which has contributed largely.

Their weaker-than-expected division has helped.  Seattle hasn’t found themselves at all this season.  The Angels have been so-so.  Texas has been pretty good, especially since the return of Josh Hamilton.

Houston has something going, and I don’t doubt they can sustain it.  It’s truly a matter of whether their competitors step it up or not.

The next couple weeks in baseball will be turning points.  We’ll see if the Twins fall back to Earth.  If the Astros can sustain their run.  If Cleveland or Seattle can get going.  For now, the AL remains a cluster.  No one seems like a true contender, but then again, you could make the case for two teams in each division.  We’re at a halt right now, but that’s what baseball is about.  It’s a weird sport.  And that’s what makes it fun.


Quick Hits:

  • Lots of trade rumors this week.  Ben Revere, Jonathan Papelbon, and Aramis Ramirez’s names have been floated.
  • Mariners were interesting in Revere.  Phillies wanted Taijuan Walker; Seattle didn’t budge.
  • No clue why.  Doesn’t seem like Walker is gonna get better.
  • The Cubs and Blue Jays were interested in Papelbon.  Toronto is the more needy bullpen out of the two.  Both teams can contend.
  • This is Aramis Ramirez’s last season.  Yea, he’s on the Brewers, but I wouldn’t want to be traded in my last season.
  • Anyways, Mets and Brewers were close on a deal for Ramirez.  Not sure it would have made sense for New York.
  • Chris Heston’s no-hitter was unbelievable.  To have a rookie come in throw a game like that is amazing.
  • Perhaps the most mind-boggling thing about it:  He didn’t walk one guy.  He gave up no hits, and no walks.  Heston hit three batters, costing him a perfect game.
  • Heston is 6-4 this season with a 3.77 ERA.
  • With the Nationals continuing to be hurt, this is a big chance for the Mets.  Not a great division in the NL East.
  • Pittsburgh, the Mets, and the Padres are three NL teams that are just hanging around right now.  Neither seem great but neither seem bad.  Both are mediocre.
  • I think the Dodgers get Cole Hamels.  Back end of their rotation has been struggling.

 

Editor’s Note

I try to limit these to about three a year.  Why?  Well, usually they don’t provide good news.  But that’s different this time.

First of all, I’m out of school.  I just finished my freshman year of high school, which went very well, and was a tad easier than I expected.  That’s why you saw more content from September to June this past year or so.  I have a lot of ideas for this Summer, and not all of them are coming from me.  My friends are such inspirations, and are constantly give me ideas.  Stay tuned for one of those.

Also, as I continue to work other people into this site, we are now on SoundCloud.  That’s for, well, as you might expect: A podcast.

I tried this earlier in 2014.  I bought all this equipment and tried to make it work.  I couldn’t figure it out, returned all the equipment, and was quite upset.  It’s always been something I wanted to try.  I listen to like 10 podcasts (all sports).  My biggest influences all have podcasts or radio shows.  It’s always been something I wanted to try.  And now, I’ve figured out a much simpler way, thanks to couple handy little Apple products.

I’m not promising that this is gonna work right away.  It’s gonna take a couple tries.  I’m gonna be bringing on people with no credentials and no professional experience.  It might be rough at first, on both sides.  I’m gonna bring on friends, family, and anyone else I feel like.  I won’t be hosting it myself (I’ve always found that weird).  I need people to bounce off of.

Also, this gives you guys a chance to hear my voice; hear me talk about sports.  I write my columns from the perspective of me as a fan.  I write columns just how I talk about sports.  What you see on here is what I think, and what I talk.

Whenever a new podcast goes up, I’ll post the link and description on the site (in a column format) and on SoundCloud.  You’ll be able to click on the link here and listen to it straight from SoundCloud.  No sign up, no nothing.

Thanks, I hope you continue to read the site, and be sure to listen to our podcast (s).  The first one should be up soon.

Contacts: 

Email: hunterhippel@gmail.com

Twitter: Personal: @hips38  Site’s: @hippelsportshub

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/hippelsportshub

-Hunter