Monday, December 15, 2008

Top 50 NBA Trade Value

My favorite column written by the Sports Guy Bill Simmons is his annual NBA Trade Value column. He used to write it every summer, but last year he didn’t get it posted until Christmas, and if you ask me, the best thing Santa could leave under the tree for more this year would be Bill’s Top 50 Players for 2008. That or an Xterra. Or a lifetime supply of Chipotle chicken burritos (with rice, black beans, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream, and a healthy dose of chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce).

Anyway, in anticipation of this glorious annual event, I’ve decided to post my own top 50. Here’s Bill’s rules when making the list:
1. Salaries matter. Over this season and the next three, would you rather pay David West $37.9 million or Andrei Kirilenko $63.3 million?

2. Age matters. Would you rather have Rasheed Wallace for the next four seasons or Al Horford for the next 12?

3. Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications. So if Team A tells Team B, "We'll trade you Player X for Player Y," would Team B make the deal or not?

4. Concentrate on degrees. For instance, neither San Antonio nor Orlando would make a Howard-Duncan trade. But at the very least, the Spurs would say, "Wow, Dwight Howard's available?" while the Magic would say, "There's no frickin' way we're trading Dwight Howard." That counts in the big scheme of things.

5. The list runs in reverse order (Nos. 50 to 1). So if Carmelo comes in at No. 14, players 1 through 13 are all players about whom the Nuggets would probably say, "We hate giving up 'Melo, but we definitely have to consider this deal." And they wouldn't trade him straight-up for any player listed between Nos. 15 and 50.

…and here’s his Top 50 from 2007:
1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Tim Duncan
4. Chris Paul
5. Deron Williams
6. Steve Nash
7. Kevin Garnett
8. Dwyane Wade
9. Yao Ming
10. Kobe Bryant
11. Carlos Boozer
12. Dirk Nowitzki
13. Kevin Durant
14. Carmelo Anthony
15. Baron Davis
16. Manu Ginobili
17. Tony Parker
18. Chris Bosh
19. Paul Pierce
20. Amare Stoudemire
21. Al Jefferson
22. Andrew Bynum
23. Josh Smith
24. Greg Oden
25. Al Horford
26. Chauncey Billups
27. Gilbert Arenas
28. Tracy McGrady
29. David West
30. Caron Butler
31. Josh Howard
32. Luol Deng
33. Shawn Marion
34. Joe Johnson
35. Chris Kaman
36. Allen Iverson
37. Rasheed Wallace
38. Marcus Camby
39. Pau Gasol
40. Tyson Chandler
41. Elton Brand
42. Michael Redd
43. Andris Biedrins
44. Tayshaun Prince
45. Brandon Roy
46. David Lee
47. Andrea Bargnani
48. Rudy Gay
49. Monta Ellis
50. Leandro Barbosa

When compiling my list, I definitely keep the rules in mind, but I put more emphasis on salary and age than anything else. I also favor point guards and centers because they’re the two most important positions on the floor, and there’s also a scarcity of quality at each.

Finally, here’s the players from Simmons 2007 list that did not make mine for 2008:
(TO) Team Option (PO) Player Option (QO) Qualifying Offer

Luol Deng (32 in 2007 rankings), CHI, F, 23 yrs
6 yrs-$71 million
Last season Deng was a budding 22 year old with a world of potential. This year he’s signed him to a gigantic six year contract that makes the new Wall Street Bailout look like a bargain. Bang up job by John Paxson.

Shawn Marion (33), MIA, F, 30 yrs
17,180,000 (salary for 2008/09 season)
From the “Be careful what you wish for department” Marion was unhappy in Phoenix playing with the best passing point guard alive in an up-tempo offense that was perfectly tailored to his skills. His wish was granted last year with a trade to the Miami Heat, and Marion has been less than stellar in his new home. His all-world defense has slipped a bit, and he’s shown he’s not very good at creating his own shot- all for the bargain price of more than $17 million! Not a hard guy to leave off the list.

Allen Iverson (36), DET, G, 33 yrs
This season is proof that Iverson has officially on the downside of his career, but what a run it was. While he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer, The Answer will still be one of the most underappreciated players of this era. In his 13 years in the league he’s averaged 70 games, 27.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 2.2 steals as a slight six footer with lightning quickness and the toughness of a heavyweight fighter. It’s a shame he’ll probably be better known for his whole “practice? We talking bout practice?” speech when few if any played harder during games.

Rasheed Wallace (37), DET, F, 34 yrs
Still a valuable player on the right team, just not one of the 50 most valuable players in the league.

Michael Redd (42), MIL, G, 27 yrs
$15,780,000 09/10- $17,040,000 10/11- $18,300,000
So much money for so little production (currently a PER of just 15.71 this season). Is it more insulting to Wally or Redd to call him the black Wally Szczerbiak?

Tayshaun Prince (44), DET, F, 28 yrs
9,500,000 09/10- 10,324,380 10/11- 11,148,760
Still a solid role player for the Pistons, but doesn’t look as valuable as he once did.

David Lee (46), 25 yrs
Guaranteed to go from underpaid and underrated this year to really, really overpaid and overrated next year. Free agency will do that to people.

Andrea Bargnani (47), TOR, F, 24 yrs
$5,176,440 09/10- $6,527,490 10/11- $8,485,738 (QO)
So far hasn’t come close to living up to the expectations of being a #1 overall pick. Of course the same could be said of Andrew Bogut and yet the Bucks gave him a huge contract extension. I have a feeling Craptors GM Bryan Colangelo will be smarter than that.

Leandrinho Barbosa (50), PHX, G, 25 yrs
6,100,000 09/10- 6,600,000 10/11- 7,100,000 11/12- 7,600,000 (PO)
He’s 26 and in his sixth season in the league and we’re STILL waiting for him to play like an all-star. If it hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think it ever will. Still a nice player for the price, but not a Top 50 value.

With that, here are my Top 50 NBA Players for the 2008/09 season:

50. Paul Millsap, UTA, F, 23 yrs
Coming off the bench in Utah is kind of like putting the NHL on Versus: it’s a good product that nobody sees. Milsap has been one of the league’s best sixth men playing behind Carlos Boozer, and when Boozer flees the SLC this summer (or at the trade deadline), Milsap will step right in and be a double-double machine (as of this writing he’s posted 11 straight). Even with a new contract, he won’t be overpaid because his rookie salary is so low.

49. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR, F, 23 yrs
4,631,400 09/10- 5,844,826 10/11- 7,627,498 (QO)
I could put two or three other Blazers in this same spot. They’re loaded. It’s quite ridiculous how loaded they are. Why teams aren’t signing away people from Portland’s front office to run their teams is beyond me. I suppose it’s easier to hire former players with no experience or skill to run a team because it’s cheaper and cooler to tell your friends at the men’s club you’re the boss of a former NBA star. It’s sure worked for Glen Taylor. Oh yeah, and as for Aldridge, he’s not higher on this list because I’m just not sure how much better he’s going to be.

48. Gilbert Arenas, WAS, G, 26 yrs
6 yrs- $111 million
Honestly, I have no idea what to do with Agent Zero, so I ended up sticking him here. He WAS an incredible scorer and posted PERs in the low-mid 20’s for three straight seasons. His last two full seasons he averaged at least 28 points, 6 assists, 2 steals, and over 40 minutes a night. Problem is, that was almost two full years ago. Hibachi played in just 13 games last year because of a knee injury, got arthroscopic surgery this summer to repair it and remove “floating debris”, and was supposed to be ready to go by January- except he’s nowhere close to running or playing on it yet so now the All-star break or even later seems more realistic. IF he gets back to 100% he’s a top 15 player, but if not, we could unfortunately be looking at another Penny Hardaway-type career that gets derailed by a knee injury far too soon. Either way, the Wiz are on the hook for the full $111 million for the next six years, which I’m guessing is a contract few teams would want to take from Washington right now.

47. Thaddeus Young, PHI, F, 20 yrs
1,968,120 09/10- 2,105,400 10/11- 2,901,241 (TO) 11/12- 3,992,108 (QO)
Last season Young posted the best PER of any rookie (yep even better than Kevin Durant) who played at least 1000 minutes. His playing time is up but his numbers are down so far in his second season, although I’d attribute that to how screwed up the Sixers have been trying to acclimate Elton Brand into the lineup. Just ask Mo Cheeks, who got pink-slipped on Friday- how that’s worked out so far. Still a world of talent for Young at a crazy cheap price for three more years.

46. Monta Ellis, GS, G, 21 yrs
11,000,000 09/10-11,000,000 10/11-11,000,000 11/12-11,000,000 12/13-11,000,000 13/14-11,000,000 (PO)
Ok so the motor scooter accident was dumb. And lying about it was even dumber (is “dumber” a word? Grammar’s never been my strong suit, but if it’s in the title of a movie, it’s a real word to me. By the way, I had every line of that movie memorized. If there was a list of the top 10 most quotable movies of all-time, it would definitely be on it, probably in the top 5. Dumb & Dumber also came out in 1994. Holy crap I’m getting old). But he’s 21 years old, and I’m pretty sure we all did some dumb things when we were 21. He’s a talented scorer locked into a very nice contract at least through his age 25 season, so if Ellis matures on and off the court, this will look like a steal by the time his contract is up.

45. Josh Howard, DAL, F, 28 yrs
9,945,000 09/10- 10,890,000 10/11- 11,835,000 (TO)
Speaking of dumb, Howard might want to lay off the wacky tobaccy if he wants another big payday in three years, especially since he’ll be 31 when that happens. Before being sidelined with an injured ankle, he was off to a great start averaging 20 pts and 8.3 boards.

43. (tie) Tyson Chandler, NO, C, 26 yrs
10,950,000 09/10- 11,850,000 10/11- 12,750,000 (PO)
Chris Kaman (35), LAC, C, 26 yrs
9,500,000 09/10- 10,400,000 10/11- 11,300,000 11/12- 12,200,000
Until the final draft of this post, I had Chandler in the 30’s and Kaman off the list entirely because I was going more off of reputation and last year’s performance than anything else. But when you get right down to it, it’s hard to find much difference between the two- well other than Kaman’s skullet. That is definitely a difference. Still, both were great last year but have been slow out of the gate in 2008. Most of Kaman’s numbers are down (from a 15-12-3 blks last year to 14-9-2 this year), but his shooting percentage is way up and has a PER above 17 for the second straight year, and is currently out with a foot injury. Chandler has no injury excuses as his numbers have dropped (an 11-11-2 last year to just 8-8-1 this season), as has his ridiculous field goal % (in 07 and 08 he was a ridonkulous 62% from the floor, where this season he’s a more mortal 57%). I’ve got to say I was surprised how low his block totals are for a guy who jumps as well as he does. If Chandler regains form he’s worth every penny of that $60 million the Hornets gave him to flee Chicago, but if this 8-8-1 crap continues- especially playing with the best PG on planet earth- he’s off the list entirely.

42. Rudy Gay, MEM, F, 22 yrs
2,579,400 09/10- 3,280,996 10/11- 4,422,782 (QO)
Has made it ok for even the manliest of men to say “I Love Gay!” While his PER is down slightly to start the year (from 17 last year to 16), he’s averaging 20 points and five boards a night, and sometimes he even accidentally picks up an assist. Seriously he’s averaging 1.7 assists: how can you not find two measly assists a game playing with OJ Mayo? Is it that hard? Once a half you can’t kick it out to OJ or the Other Racist Gasol brother for a jumper?

41. Marcus Camby (38), LAC, C, 34 yrs
$8,000,000 09/10- $7,650,000
One of the most reliable and underrated players in the league, averaging a double-double with at least 3 blocks for the fifth straight season, and is signed to a very modest deal. Sure he probably would have brought Denver (the sunshine state! Gorgeous!) into the conversation of best team in the West, but who wants to win when you can deal him to the Clippers for nothing just to avoid the luxury tax? That sound you heard was Nuggets’ fan collectively slamming their hands into a car door at the thought of what could have been.

40. OJ Mayo, MEM, G, 21 yrs
3,875,040 09/10- 4,165,560 10/11- 4,456,200 (TO) 11/12- 5,632,636 (TO) 12/13- 7,390,018 (QO)
So far so good for Mayo, who’s averaging 20 pts, 4 boards, 1.22 stls, and is shooting over 40% from 3 (all adding up to a solid PER of 17.51). The assists should go up too if they ever move him to the point. Good thing the Timberwolves thought Kevin Love and Mike Miller were more valuable.

38. (tie) Baron Davis, LAC, G, 29 yrs
5 yrs- $65.25 million
Tracy McGrady, HOU, G, 29 yrs
21,126,874 09/10- 23,239,561
On talent alone these two are top 10-15 guys, but they’re injury prone and WAY overpriced as they hit their 30’s. Oh and COMBINED they’ve won a grand total of two playoff series in their careers (both by Baron). On the bright side they could be yours for the low, low price this season of just- are you ready for this- 32 MILLION DOLLARS!?!?!? Operators are standing by to take your order now!

37. Pau Gasol, LAL, F, 28 yrs
15,080,312 09/10- 16,451,250 10/11- 17,822,187
Sure he’s soft and disappears as the playoffs wear on but he still gets you some GREAT regular season numbers AND has no problem making incredibly racially insensitive statements. Ok so that last part isn’t very good, but because he’s European, nobody seems to care- kind of like Euro’s attitudes about the playoffs.

36. Caron Butler, WAS, G/F, 28 yrs
8,999,980 09/10- 9,780,970 10/11- 10,561,960
Joins Camby on the constantly underrated team. What else can you ask for from a guy who has averaged at least 20 pts (this season he’s at a career high 22), 6.5 boards, 2 steals and an 85% free throw shooter? What’s that, you’d like a reasonable contract? Done and done. If Wiz GM Ernie Grunfeld’s hadn’t saddled him with Hibachi and Antwan Jamison through 2031, you might even see him help his team to win a playoff round or two.

35. Chauncey Billups, DEN, PG, 32 yrs
11,050,000 09/10- 12,100,000 10/11- 13,150,000 11/12- 14,200,000 (TO)
So remember when I said I hated this trade for Denver (We love you Denver! The city by the bay!)? Kind of looking foolish right now. I’ll stand by my point that regardless of how well Billups plays (and he’s playing well) Denver will still never be as good as the Lakers, Hornets or Jazz, AND Denver’s not going to love this contract in two more years, but hey they’re playing a lot better than I thought right now.

34. Jose Calderon, TOR, G, 27 yrs
7,438,018 09/10- 8,219,009 10/11- 9,000,000 11/12- 9,780,993 12/13- 10,561,985
An unreal facilitator and a solid defender signed to a bargain of a contract. However at 27 this is his peak, which means he’s not a number one, or even number two option on a championship team. Great player to have though if you’re Toronto since he gets the ball to Chris Bosh- well at least until he bolts Canada as a free agent after next season. Then who’s Calderon going to pass to?

33. Rajan Rondo, BOS, PG, 22 yrs
1,646,784 09/10- 2,623,326 10/11- 3,780,214
At just 22 he’s got Finals experience and is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. If he develops anything close to a reliable jumper, he’s top 20 or better…wait for it…wait…a little longer…you know it’s coming…it’s too easy…but I can’t resist- good thing Phoenix needed to avoid the luxury tax more than they needed Rondo, because he certainly couldn’t help them right now. Suns fans, meet the Nuggets fans.

32. Josh Smith, ATL, F, 22 yrs
I know he’s young and talented and a helluva an athlete- but really what is he? A high-flying rebounder/shot blocker with zero offensive game. It’s a fancy, exciting way of saying he’s a role player. For 10 million this year? Done and done. But if he’s expecting max money or anywhere close to rebound and defend as a small forward then he’s losing value for me.

31. Andris Biedrins, GS, C, 22 yrs
9,000,000 09/10- 9,000,000 10/11- 9,000,000 11/12-9,000,000 12/13-9,000,000 13/14-9,000,000 (PO)
What was more unlikely- Tavaris Jackson throwing FOUR touchdown passes yesterday against the Cards, or Warriors GM Chris Mullen-who would be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer if they had a HOF for GM’s who can’t stop themselves from handing out horrible contracts- locking up a 22 year old center who’s a potential double-double monster for 9 million a year for at least the next five seasons? I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure the combination of these things means the Apocalypse will be happening any day now.

30. Elton Brand, PHI, F, 29 yrs
13,757,844 09/10- 14,858,471 10/11- 15,959,099 11/12- 17,059,726 12/13- 18,160,354
So far not so good for Brand in Philly. A year after playing just 8 games because of an Achilles injury, Elton’s scoring and shooting percentage numbers are way down, as are the hopes of the Sixers and their fans. I’m putting Brand here because Brand WAS an all-star player (career averages of 20 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks), and I think we’ll see that guy again before the end of the season. However, if Brand’s career takes a Chris Webber-like turn, it’s going to get ugly for Sixers fans. Thank goodness the Phillies won the World Series because with the state of the Sixers and the impending Kevin Kolb Era,

29. David West, NO, F, 28 yrs
9,862,500 09/10- $9,075,000 10/11- 8,287,500 11/12- 7,525,000 (PO)
I had to double check the salary figures- actually, I triple checked them- an all-star caliber power forward IN HIS PRIME has a salary that goes DOWN every season? Wait what? Greatest deal since the Louisiana Purchase for the Hornets, but West might want to look at an agent who’s not dyslexic for his next contract (wait the contract is supposed to go UP every year? Ohhhh whoops sorry about that David. Well at least you’ll be past your prime for your next contract. Um yeah I’ll just pack my stuff and leave you be. Been nice working with you!)

28. Steve Nash, PHX, G, 34 yrs
12,250,000 09/10- 13,125,000 (TO)
Nash was a great player whose game is starting to fall off. He still runs an offense as well as anyone and his contract situation is manageable, but his defense has gone from atrocious to downright non-existent. His years as an elite point guard are over, but he’d still be great on a team with some weapons that can hide his defense. You know, like the Knicks in 2010. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

27. Kevin Garnett, F, 32 yrs old
24,750,000 09/10- 16,400,000 10/11- 18,800,000 11/12- 21,200,000
KG is one of my favorite players of all-time (My top 5 is Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Chris Webber, KG, and Nash. I know, I thought that list would look more impressive, but there it is. This is what I get growing up in Canada- too many decisions to make as a sports fan), but I had trouble even putting him this high. I've heard ad nauseum about KG being a great leader and teammate and defender, and he's playing a huge part in Boston's big start (as of this writing they're an insane 21-2). But he's 32 years old with over 1,000 games on his odometer, and you have to pay him almost $25 million this year and then a guaranteed $56 million the next three years, when he'll be 36. Read that last sentence again. He has FAR more value to Boston than anybody else, but they're going to be stuck with that contract because quite honestly no team would trade any of the other 49 guys on this list for him.

26. Al Horford, ATL, F, 22 yrs
4,026,720 09/10- 4,307,640 10/11- 5,444,857 (TO) 11/12- 7,143,652 (QO)
Except for his rebounds (which are down just slightly) Horford has shown an improvement in every category as he looks to build on a solid rookie season. At worst he should average a double-double by next year, and if he can develop any semblance of post moves, the native of the Dominican could become one of the East’s best power forwards. So he’s good- but the Hawks new unis? As Stewy Griffin would say, what the deuce? I know these debuted in 2007, but it still doesn’t make them any better. What was wrong with the classic red and gold from the 80’s? Nothing, of course, but god forbid the team hold onto any kind of tradition when they can throw a boring new look out there. For a team in an ownership battle, they don’t have time to make major personnel decisions, but they do have time to approve horrible jerseys? All 12 Hawks fans that are left should be up in arms about this. I would be.

UP NEXT: Top 7-25

Friday, November 14, 2008

NBA All-Division Teams: The Leastern Conference

Heyo! Welcome to part two of the first annual preseason (even though we’re two weeks into the season) NBA All-division teams. Today it’s the Leastern Conference, and despite the strength at the top of the conference, I’m still not buying that the talent gap has lessened much between conferences this season. Just look at the teams below, and tell me any of them are as strong or stronger than what I gave you out West. Especially the second teams (except, surprisingly the Southeast): the second teams are terrible. Anyway, on with it!

G Allen Iverson, Pistons
G Rip Hamilton, Pistons
F Lebron James, Cavaliers
F Danny Granger, Pacers
C Raweed Wallace, Pistons

G Mo Williams, Cavaliers
G Michael Redd, Bucks
F Richard Jefferson, Bucks
F Tayshaun Prince, Pistons
C Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cavaliers
Solid, but not outstanding first team. The second group? Ugh. Could argue that Rodney Stuckey belongs here instead of Mo Williams or Tayshaun or even Michael Redd. I also did not include Derrick Rose here (or any rookie on any of these teams. Not yet), but that could change as soon as mid-season. These teams are for right here, right now to start the season, so Rose just misses the cut, but if we’re talking potential, the only other guy in this division I would take over Rose is Bronbron. That’s it. Also notice the complete lack of Bulls. And some are calling them a playoff team? I don’t think so.

G Jose Calderon, Craptors
G Vince Carter, Nets
F Paul Pierce, Celtics
F Kevin Garnett, Celtics
C Chris Bosh, Craptors

G Andre Miller, Sixers
G Andre Igoudala, Sixers
F David Lee, Knicks
F Zach Randolph, Knicks
F Elton Brand, Sixers
And welcome to the NBA’s worst division! The Atlantic everybody! That’s a decent starting lineup, but the second string is the worst of the six. Yes, even worse than the Northwest’s. When Zach Randolph is the 10th best player in your division, it’s bad. Honestly, who replaces him? Ray Allen? He’s a shell of a shell of his former self. Jermaine O’Neal is half of what he used to be. Nate Robinson? Samuel Dalembert? Maybe Rajon Rondo. Maybe. It’s the worst division and yet you’ll hear more about four of these five teams than just about anyone else. Don’t you just love an East Coast bias?

G Gilbert Arenas, Wizards
G Dwyane Wade, Heat
G Joe Johnson, Hawks
F Caron Butler, Wizards
C Dwight Howard, Magic

G Mike Bibby, Hawks
F Rashard Lewis, Magic
F Shawn Marion, Heat
F Antawn Jamison, Wizards
F Al Hortford, Hawks
I don’t know about you, but I was surprised at the depth and quality in this division. There’s not an elite team among the five, and at least three of them probably won’t make the playoffs, and yet they put together two of the most solid groups of any division. DWade, Hibachi, Joe Johnson AND Dwight Howard on one team? It’s definitely the most unconventional of the starting 5’s, but with those four guys around Superman, they’d also win the award for the most fun team to watch. People from Kazakhstan would say “that’s nice! High five!” about them. The second unit isn’t too shabby either.

So there you have it. Again, no rookies to start, but that could change by midseason. Enjoy the weekend everybody!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NBA All-Division Teams

One of the many things I love about college sports is the idea of All-Conference teams. So I thought, why not apply this to the NBA with not just the Western and Eastern conferences, but with All-Division teams? You're right, it IS a great idea! And why stop with just a first team all division when you can add a SECOND team all division? Again, brilliant, I know. Even though we’re a couple of weeks into the season, this is going to count as a “preseason” All-Division team, and we’ll do another at the All-Star Break and then at season’s end. This is not only more fun than should be allowed, it's an interesting way to look at not only the strength of a division, but the teams within that division. Basically if your team can't get a few players on a 1st or 2nd all-division squad that's made up of just 5 teams, then let me just say I don't like your teams' playoff chances this year (a certain team that resides at 600 First Avenue in Minneapolis might want to pay attention here).

A couple of things I should mention about naming the teams: I'm not going to mandate that we have the traditional 5 positions in a starting five (PG, SG, SF, PF, C) because so few teams actually use that anymore. However, I do require each team to have at least one "ball handler" (Joel that one's just for you) and one "post player". A ball handler can be a true, pure, pass-first point guard, or a combo guard like Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson or Brandon Roy. A post player can be a power forward or center, but it's generally a guy who spends his time, as Hubie Brown would say, "in the painted area." The other 3 spots can be whatever, but as long as you've got somebody who can handle the ball and a low post presence, then you're good to go.

Today we’ll start with the Western Conference.

G Deron Williams, Jazz
G Chauncey Billups, Nuggets
F Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
F Carlos Boozer, Jazz
F Al Jefferson, Timberpups

G Brandon Roy, Blazers
F Kevin Durant, Bandits
F Andre Kirilenko, Jazz
F Lamar Aldridge, Blazers
C Memet Okur, Jazz
Pretty solid first team right there. With Billups joining the division, he replaces Roy on the first team. The second team here is the weakest in the Western Conference, and looking at how the teams were expected to be, that’s not much of a surprise. And for the Wolves fans out there, no I didn’t even consider Mike Miller. Or Randy Foye. Now if we had a spot for “most overpaid white guy” then it would have been a toss-up between Mark Madsen (paying Madsen anything to be on an NBA roster, even in McDonald’s cheeseburgers, would be overpaying him) and Brian Cardinal. So the Wolves have that going for them, which is nice.

G Steve Nash, Suns
G Kobe Bryant, Lakers
F Pau Gasol, Lakers
F Amare Stoudamire, Suns
C Marcus Camby, Clippers- that just doesn't look right either

G Baron Davis, Warriors- I mean Clippers
G Kevin Martin, Kings
F Lamar Odom, Lakers
F Corey Maggette, Clippers- I mean Warriors
C Andrew Bynum, Lakers
Maybe you couldn’t play the three big guys on the first team together, but I couldn’t leave Stoudamire or Camby out of the starting lineup, and for the fifth spot, Gasol made the most sense. Kind of weird to see only two Suns on either team, but that’s where I didn’t feel Shaq, Grant Hill, or anyone else but Nash and Amare deserved consideration. How about four Lakers in the top 10? I may have overthought them having too many issues to go back to the Finals.

G Chris Paul, Hornets
G Manu Ginobili, Spurs
F Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs
F Tim Duncan, Spurs
C Yao Ming, Rockets

G Tony Parker, Spurs
G Tracy McGrady, Rockets
F Ron Artest, Rockets
F David West, Hornets
C Tyson Chandler, Hornets
Best starting lineup of any of the six divisions right here. As much as I hate him, it kills me to leave Parker out of the starting lineup, but it came down to him, GI-NO-BI-LEEEEE!!!!, and Yao, Tony P got left out. Mostly because there’s no one else for the second team who could be considered a ball-handler. In crunch-time though, there’s no doubt Parker’s in for Yao. Just a scary, scary, scary good division. No Memphis Grizzlies, but that could change by midseason depending on what Gay and Mayo do, and when the Rockets’ inevitable injuries strike.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Miller/Love for Mayo Trade

Before I can say "I told you so" I guess I should first probably tell you. I swore that I had weighed in over the summer on the Timberwolves trade with Memphis. The Wolves dealt rookie OJ Mayo and the horrible contracts of Marko Jaric (3 years and $21 million) and Greg Buckner (3 years and $12 million), and the expiring contract of Antoine Walker (technically has 3 years and almost $40 million left but there's a team option after this year). They got back rookie Kevin Love, sharpshooter Mike Miller (2 years for 18.75 million), the awful contract of Brian Cardinal (2 years-$13 million. For Brian Cardinal. Seriously) and the expiring contract of Jason Collins ($6.2 mill this season. Not to be confused with his twin brother Jarron. By the way, what's up with Stanford and twin semi-useless tall brothers? First it was the Collins twins, then Jessica and Stacy Lopez. Does Stanford give discounts if you're tall and twins and also productive pro players with marginal to no NBA value?).

Let's just get the cap ramifications out of the way first. Dumping two awful three year contracts (almost $12 million a year for the next three years) for two years of Brian Cardinal makes sense. Instead of being at the cap through 2011, the Wolves will be at about $46 million (close to $10 mill under) next summer, and puts go WAY under (roughly $20 million in salary- giving them roughly $35 million to spend) for what should be the free agent bonanza of 2010. Of course, they're going to need all of that cap room because you won't just have to overpay, you'll have to REALLY overpay to get players to sign as free agents in Minnesota.

Ok, so financially this makes a lot of sense, but that's only one part of this. Now, a lot of folks are going to judge this deal based on Love vs. Mayo, which is unfair because this deal was not Love for Mayo straight up, but instead Love, Mike Miller and getting out of salary cap purgatory a year early for OJ Mayo. I'm also going to remind you we cannot judge what kind of players Mayo and Love will be for about three seasons. I know Mayo is playing lights out right now (scoring 31 and 33 his past two outings), and so far looks every bit the all-star that some projected him to be. But we're only 8 games into the season, which is a REALLY small sample size. We also need to remember that young bigs in this league take at least three years to develop. Look no further than the Wolves own Al Jefferson, who took 3-4 years to develop into the All-star post he is today.

Judgements made too hastily on deals can look foolish as time goes on. The best example is the Mark Prior vs Joe Mauer debate. I was strongly in the "draft Mark Prior" camp, and for the first few years Prior took the league by storm, looking like the next Roger Clemens, which made the Twins look bad for taking Mauer. Now? Prior's career has been completely derailed by injuries while Mauer just won his second batting title (which is two more than any other catcher in history), and could enter into the "best catcher of all-time" talk before all is said and done. I was wrong on that one and the Twins were right.

So while we can't judge how well this trade works, we can look at where the Wolves are at philosophically. A few weeks ago Wolves asst GM Fred "The Mayor" Hoiberg was on KFAN with Paul Allen (one of the things I enjoy about PA is that because he's able to ask people difficult questions or address difficult topics honestly and openly because he keeps things positive). PA asked Hoiberg about the Mayo deal and why it was made, and Hoiberg's response was something to the effect that while McHale loved Love, they didn't consider dealing OJ Mayo until the Grizzlies included Mike Miller. That right there tells me the Wolves ideals and philosophy for rebuilding the franchise is badly flawed. Whether the plan was to trade for Miller and keep him or to deal him for more picks/young players/cap space, this is not a trade Minnesota should have made.

On a championship team, Mike Miller is a third or fourth option. Great outside shooter (career 41% 3 point) and an excellent defensive rebounder for a 2 guard, but he's not a go-to guy, and he's not a good defender. At all. Having Miller on the Timberwolves would be like putting some phat 18" rims on my Chevy Cavalier. It might enhance the value, but only slightly, and it's still a Cavalier. It's the same thing with the Wolves. This is a 30 win team- at best this year, and I can't see them being much better next year. Miller has two years left on his deal, and they'd have to be extremely fortunate to be even a playoff contender before he's a free agent.

Sure Miller is a nice piece to have, but he's not going to put the Wolves over the hump into a championship contender, or even a playoff contender. The problem here (or one of them) is that McHale and Hoiberg and company believe this should be a contender, and that Miller IS that missing piece. McHale said around the draft he thought the Wolves would win 40 games this year. Um, really? How's that?

Look at the core of this team (pre Mayo trade) and tell me how they're a playoff team. Here's what we know:
Al Jefferson is an all-star- on offense. He is atrocious defensively, and thus far in his career has shown zero ability or desire to play D. If he's going to be your franchise cornerstone (and Glen Taylor locking him up to a long-term extension before the season tells me he is), you MUST compliment him with a Samuel Dalembert-type center or post player that can defend the paint. What you should absolutely positively not do is team him with an equally bad defensive player, no matter how much you think they’ll compliment each other offensively. More on this in a minute.
Ryan Gomes- probably your best all-around player, but on a good team, he'd be a 6th man.
Craig Smith- your most consistent post player other than Al, and on a good team, he'd be 9th or 10th in the rotation.
Bassy Telfair- a backup point guard- on this team, or any other. If he's your starter, you're in trouble.
Corey Brewer- excellent perimeter defender and a real high flyer, but can't dribble or shoot.
The jury remains out on Randy Foye and Rashad McCants, and this is a pivotal year for both to prove they deserve new contracts when their rookie deals expire soon.

Call me crazy, but even with breakout seasons from Foye and McCants this is not a playoff team with the additions of Mike Miller and Kevin Love. Feel free to disagree with me, but please some kind of argument that revolves around facts or stats instead of just “well we feel like this could work.” basketball stats guru John Hollinger is one of my favorite basketball scribes, and I love that he uses progressive stats and explanations that make him the Bill James of basketball stats. While I usually agree with Professor Hollinger, I did not when it came to the Wolves. Hollinger argued that preseason results in the NBA DO matter (the Wolves had one of the league’s best records in the pre-season), and that this was a good indicator of what the Wolves could do. He believed that adding an excellent outside shooter in Miller and a good mid-range shooter in Love would make the Wolves a formidable offensive unit that could run and gun their way to be a borderline playoff team.

The problem with this thinking is that if the aim there is to be a run-and-gun team like Phoenix was pre-Shaq or Golden State was a few years ago, the Wolves don’t have anywhere near the firepower of those teams, or even an adequate defense. I just don’t think enough people understand how bad defensively the Jefferson/Love combo is defensively and how difficult that would be to overcome. If a decent post player (and last I checked there’s a few of those in the West) will come in and score pretty much at will against the T-Pups, that means less defensive boards and less chances for outlets and fast-breaks. If your whole idea is to run-and-gun, isn’t that kind of an issue? So whether you think the Wolves were, or were not, contenders will Mike Miller, I’m not sure how Kevin Love made any sense as the guy to team with Jefferson.

IF you thought this made the Wolves contenders, it was a bad trade. And if you believe they could grab Miller and deal him for picks or prospects, I have a hard time seeing how that could be more valuable than what OJ Mayo could have been. Mayo looked to be a supreme talent at off-guard, and there was word circulating around the draft he could be better than Michael Beasley. Wolves fans seemed pumped on draft night when he fell in their lap, and yet McHale and Co. still believed a better idea was to deal a player who people would actually pay to see.

It’s also illogical to argue that “Minnesota shouldn’t take Mayo because they have too many combo guards already.” This would only be true if the Wolves had too many GOOD combo guards. As mentioned, the two guards they had, like Foye, McCants, and Brewer, are still unproven at best. In the NBA one player can make more of a difference than any other professional sport, so why on earth would you give up the best player, and potential all-star, in a deal for a good 4th or 5th wheel, cap space, and rookie post player who at best could be a 6’9 Brad Miller and who doesn’t compliment your best player defensively at all? Personally, I roll the dice with Mayo, and if Foye and McCants prove they can play, you figure out playing time or trades when it happens. The Wolves went another direction, and so far it doesn’t look good. I hope, like with the Prior/Mauer debate, I’m wrong, but I have a feeling I’m going to be hoping I’m wrong on a lot of moves the Wolves will make in order for them to be successful.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Better Late Than Never Timberwolves Preview: Part I

I was going to include a Timberwolves musing in my Random Rambling NBA preview, but I had so much to say about it, I felt it deserved its own post. Now that I'm back in the Twin Cities (and it really is good to be back. I love Minnesota) I'm going to be seeing and reading and hearing a lot about the Wolves. I'm more positive about this team than I've been since they acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell as they're young, and will at the very least be entertaining. Before we get to expectations for the season, I need to discuss two things: one is the Kevin Love trade and how it will effect this season and beyond, which I'll do in another post. Today, I want to talk about Kevin McHale for one last time.

Last week I heard McHale on The Fan with Paul Allen. He gushed for 20 minutes about summer league ball he had watched, his team, other teams, his players, other players, and everything in between. I've always painted McHale as never putting as much time as he should into the job, yet after listening to him, I realize there's nothing he loves more than basketball. He also loves his job, is genuinely frustrated things haven't turned out well, and really, truly, madly, deeply wants to get things turned around and give the fans of Minnesota a winner. He really does.

Of course, as he's proven over the past dozen years, he won't because he can't. For all his love of basketball, the man has proven over and over and over again that he cannot properly evaluate talent or build a legitimate NBA contender. He just can't. You know his history, but here's just a few of his blunders over the years (for a full list check out an excellent summation here from that will make you throw up in your mouth either a little or a lot):

Corey Brewer instead of about 12 other guys, Randy Foye over Brandon Roy, Rashad McCants instead of Danny Granger, Wally Szczerbiak's Expiring Contract over, well, a lot of people, Ndi Edi over the three guys who went right after him (Kendrick Perkins, Leandrihno Barbosa, or Josh Howard), taking Paul Grant and Will Avery over anybody with a pulse, losing FOUR 1st round picks from the Joe Smith "signing", the first trade with Boston, and the single worst moment in the history of the franchise, when he traded Sam Cassell- WHO ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS PLAYS WELL IN A CONTRACT YEAR!?!?!?!?- AND A FIRST ROUND PICK to the Clippers for Marko Jaric, who he then signed to a 7 year deal.

I'll give you a moment to throw up a little bit after reading that. Just put your head between your knees, breathe slowly, and try not to pass out.

The point of all of that, besides making you a little nauscious, is that if you're going to cheer for the Timberwolves (and judging by their TV numbers, as well as all the empty blue seats at 601 First Avenue, there aren't many) you have to accept the fact that McHale is running the show, and will be for the foreseeable ever. You have to accept that he's going to make more bad draft picks, trades, and signings, because he's doing it for well over a decade, and there's no reason to think he's suddenly going to change. It'd be like watching a Keanu Reeves moving and complaining that he's a bad actor. We know this. Everybody knows this. But if the script is good enough (like the first Matrix movie. And maybe even the second one. After absolutely hating it at first, I've seen it on cable a few times, and it's not as bad I remembered. The third one? Still abhorrently, inexcusably awful), and/or they put enough good actors around him, then it can be decent. Keanu Reeves movies aren't for everybody, but for those who take him for what he is, they can be enjoyable.

I'm saying all of this because I'm not going to be bringing up McHale's past anymore, or keep calling for his head, because neither do any good. He is what he is and he's continue to be what he's going to be until he doesn't want the job anymore because Glen Taylor refuses to fire him. That's not to say I'm not going to disagree, and loudly, with any moves he makes from here on out, because I will. But I'm done chanting "Fire McHale!" because no matter how much he deserves it, it's not going to happen.

So if you can accept all of that, and understand that the Minnesota Timberwolves are basically going to have to build a winner in spite of the guy running the team, then welcome aboard the Timberwolves Bandwagon! Plenty of good seats still available, especially in blue.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

NFL at the Halfway Point

Well we're now officially past the halfway point of the NFL season, so I thought it'd be a good time to review my preseason picks. Long story short is I got a few right, but a lot wrong. Welcome to the NFL in the Age of Parity.

Here's what I predicted in September:
East- New England (including best overall record)
North- Pittsburgh (1st rd bye)
South- Indianapolis
West- Denver
Wildcards- Houston, Baltimore

East- Dallas (best record)
North- Green Bay
South- New Orleans (1st rd bye)
West- Arizona
Wildcards- Philly and Washington

Here's how things stack up through 9 weeks:
East- NY Giants (7-1)
North- Chicago (5-3)
South- Carolina (6-2)
West- Arizona (5-3)
Wildcards- Tampa Bay (6-3), Washington (6-3)

East- New England (5-3)
North- Pittsburgh (6-2)
South- Tennessee (8-0)
West- Denver (4-4)
Wildcards- NY Jets, Buffalo, Baltimore (all 5-3)
(Division tie-breakers: 1. Head-to-Head 2. Division win % 3. Common games
(Wildcard tie-breakers: 1. H2h 2. Conference win %)

Arizona, New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver winning their divisions
Baltimore and Washington as wild cards

Allow me to gloat about targeting Kurt Warner in the latter rounds of both of my fantasy drafts, and getting him. He was awesome down the stretch last year, and he's been MVP caliber so far. Whether he can stay healthy for the whole seasons remains to be seen, but that offense is awesome, and the defense has been good enough in a really bad division that the Cards have a good chance to get the second best record in the NFC. New England has been worse than advertised and the Broncos are winning the AFC West by default. Pittsburgh has been a top 5 team, but if they don't do a better job of protecting Roethlisberger (I HATE how every talking head calls him "Ben." How long has he been in the league? You should be able to pronounce Roth-Less-bur-ger by now. Not that hard), they're in trouble.

I also correctly predicted the struggles of San Diego, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Minnesota, as well as Washnigton and Baltimore (although I did not see Flacco being this consistent this early) being playoff contenders.

Um, how much time do you have? Because there's a lot to talk about here. Dallas, New Orleans and Indy have been decimated by injuries. The two most unexplainable results so far have been Indy's performace and Jacksonville's complete inability to run the football. Yeah, Manning was without his O-line early in the year, but now that everybody's back, they're still average at best. What gives? Is Manning playing hurt? Have some of the guys around him (on both sides of the ball) just in a simple decline? And Jacksonville can't use the injury excuse. It's the same guys that bowled over the league last year, and this year it just hasn't happened. Not even close. If anybody has an explantion for either of these, I'd love to hear it.

I could not have been more wrong about the Bears, Giants, and Titans. I had the Bears pegged for the worst team in the league, but the defense has returned to an elite level, Forte has been the back the Bears had with Thomas Jones and were hoping to get with Cedric Benson, and Kyle Orton has morphed into a real deal legit QB. Who knew? Not me. Not anyone. Based on their 2007 season The Giants were, according to the Football Outsiders guys, the flukiest/luckiest/worst team to win a Super Bowl. They're proving this year that they just got a late start on things, and that the end of 2007 was much more indicative of the team they are than the beginning of 07. They've shown incredible depth (especially on the D-line. They lost Strahan AND Imoymura and are still #1 in the league in sacks. Wow!), and Eli has proven to be a legit top 10 (maybe top 5? I can't quite go there yet) QB.

I figured the Titans were screwed with Vince Young. Well VY got hurt...and Kerry Collins' mistake-free football has helped them to an 8-0 record. Again, nobody saw this one coming either. The defense has been all-world, the Chris Johnson/Lendale White running back combo is the best in football, and they haven't been turning it over. In a season with no super power, that's been good enough.

I was also wrong pretty much the entire NFC South, as well as Houston, who just haven't gotten it together on either side of the ball. Whoopsy daisy!

Green Bay, Philly, Buffalo, NY Jets, Denver, San Diego
All these teams are in playoff contention, and while Denver has been better and San Diego worse than people expected, the Chargers could very well put it together and take a horrible, horrible division.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Welcome Back Joe Dumars

Looks like Allen Iverson is on the move again. According to numerous sources, a deal is all but done that would send AI to the Detroit Pistons for guard and Colorado native Chauncey Billups, F/C Antonio McDyess and somebody named Cheik Samb. IF/when this deal goes down, it looks like a brilliant move for Pistons GM Joe Dumars, and makes absolutely positively no sense for Denver. None whatsoever.

I owe Dumars an apology. After building a surprising champion around other people's castoffs, Dumars looked like an up-and-coming Genius GM. Then he wiffed badly on the Darko pick, screwed up the Ben Wallace resigning, and then stood around and did nothing while his team fell from Title Contender Status to "Only good enough to win a round or two." I gave Dumars crap last week about talking big all summer about blowing up the team, and yet he did nothing. Until now. Well I'd say this move would count as doing a really, really big something.

AI is in a contract year, and while he always plays hard, he should be extra motivated to not only take advantage of his first real chance at an NBA title in years, but also to prove he's worth one more big contract. If things go well, the Pistons are back in the title mix. If they don't, AI's $21 million comes off the books, and along with Raweed Wallace's contract coming off this summer as well, the Pistons will now, if they choose, be far enough under the cap to make a run at the 2010 free agent class of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and more. The Pistons are now major players for one of those guys since they're going to have a good young nucleus (While Dumars should get ripped for the Darko pick, he's drafted very well with his mid to late first rounders in the past few years), and cap room to spare. The Pistons are suddenly looking at the kind of flexibility most teams can only dream about.

For the Nuggets, I cannot seem to find a way to make this make sense. Give them credit for rolling the dice on AI, but things obviously didn't work out. With him, they're a borderline playoff team. With this trade they would be...a borderline playoff team. Granted, their salary cap space is screwed until at least 2012. Melo has four years and $65.7 million left, Nene has four years and $43 million, and Kenyon Martin has three years and $45.9 million. Oh and all three of those guys have player options in the final years of their contracts, where they COULD make $18.5M, $16.5M, and $11.6M respectively in the final year of their deals. It's a stone cold solid LOCK that Nene and KMart won't be opting out early, and I doubt Melo could get more than $18.5 a year, so you're going to have those three guys for the duration of their deals. And this doesn't even include the extension that's coming for JR Smith.

WITHOUT AI's $21 million, the team is still right at the cap for the next four years. Now add Chancey at four years for $50.4 million and McDyess at 2 years and $13.6 mill and the Nuggets are in luxury tax land for through 2012. And for what? Is that nucleus a top 4 team in the West? No way! So you're capped out with immovable contracts where you're going to be in "Timberwolves Territory" (at least during the KG years) where you're just good enough to be a borderline playoff team but not bad enough to get any high draft picks or the cap room to sign free agents. Things are not looking up in the Mile High City.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NBA Win Total Over/Unders 2008-09

Heyo! Had so much fun doing with this with the NFL when the season started, why not throw out predictions for the NBA as well? Feel free to play along at home.

Atlanta Hawks 39.5 Over
Boston Celtics 56.5 Over
Charlotte Bobcats 34.5 Under
Chicago Bulls 41.5 Under
Cleveland Cavaliers 48.5 OVER
Dallas Mavericks 48.5 Under
Detroit Pistons 51.5 Under
Denver Nuggets 45.5 Under
Golden State Warriors 39.5 Under
Houston Rockets 53.5 Under
Indiana Pacers 34.5 Over
Los Angeles Clippers 33.5 Over
Los Angeles Lakers 56.5 Over
Memphis Grizzlies 23.5 Over
Miami Heat 33.5 Over
Milwaukee Bucks 32.5 Over
Minnesota Timberwolves 30.5 Over
New Jersey Nets 33.5 Under
New Orleans Hornets 52.5 Over
New York Knicks 29.5 Over
Oklahoma City Thunder 26.5 Under
Orlando Magic 50.5 Under
Philadelphia 76ers 46.5 Under
Phoenix Suns 51.5 UNDER
Portland Trail Blazers 42.5 Over
Sacramento Kings 31.5 Under
San Antonio Spurs 52.5 Under
Toronto Raptors 47.5 Under
Utah Jazz 51.5 Over
Washington Wizards 38.5 Over

My Five Confidence picks LOCKS
1. New Orleans Hornets 52.5 OVER
2. San Antonio Spurs 52.5 UNDER
3. Miami Heat 33.5 OVER
4. Phoenix Suns 51.5 UNDER
5. Utah Jazz 51.5 OVER

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Random Rambling NBA Preview

My friend Joel loves the NBA as much, or maybe even more, than anyone I know. He does this despite living in Canada, where all you get to watch during basketball season are the Raptors (and let's be honest, we all hate the Raptors. And Toronto), hockey, and curling. It's really, really hard to be a real fan of the NBA and yet Joel does it. Well my friend Joel recently broke both of his big toes. As Ron Burgandy would say "Great knights of Columbus that hurt!" That is a pain I cannot imagine, and so I'm writing an NBA preview in his honor, in hopes that perhaps my meandering musings on his beloved NBA will brighten his day a little.

And for the record, I made my NBA Finals pick BEFORE reading the Sports Guy today- I just didn't get it posted before he did. Honestly, all original content here. So since I was going to save that for last and it's been spoiled, let's start at the top and work our way down...or somewhere

And the Winner Is Not...
If you're like me and you've read a few sports websites or blogs lately, you've noticed that there's a LOT of people who like the chances of seeing an Finals rematch of Lakers vs. Celtics part deux. Me? Not so much. Let's start with the defending champs. The Celtics are a year older, and for a team whose three best players are now 31 (Paul Pierce), 32 (KG), and 33 (Ray Allen), which means in NBA terms means those three are aging in dog years. KG is one of my favorite players of all-time, but he's already logged over 1000 games, and for a guy who works as maniacally hard as he does, those aren't exactly all highway miles. Allen is in a steady decline, and his free fall could happen at any minute. People said it last year (and for good reason) and I'll say it again: shooting guards not named Michael Jordan start losing their game pretty rapidly after the age of 32. Not only that, they lost their "glue guy" in James Posey and did nothing to replace him. I'm not saying the Celtics will be horrible. Far from it, actually. They're still one of the best five teams in the league They'll win their division (although I suppose that's not saying much), push for the league's best record, and possibly go as far as the conference finals. But that's it. A LOT went right for this group last year, and I think the age of their stars, and probably injuries, starts catching up with them.

The Lakers are the NBA's version of the Dallas Cowboys (or are the Cowboys the NFL's Lakers? Discuss, discuss...), meaning they're a walking talking dunking real life soap opera. Other teams might not be able to handle all the extra crap, but I don't see why any of this stuff would bother them now. But if you're assuming the Lakers are going back to the Finals, it means you're also assuming the following...
- Kobe Bryant has played roughly 187,482 minutes of basketball since the preseason last year. A full year, a full playoffs, and then the Olympics, and now Kobe and his bad pinky are going to carry the Lakers through another 100+ games?
- Lamar Odom will be just peachy all season about coming off the bench. Because when I think model teammate, I think Lamar Odom...oh wait, no not exactly.
- That if/When Odom forces a trade, the Lakers will be able to get not just full value back for him, but also a guy who, when he's starting and happy, fits in as well as Odom does. Probably a good time to mention that Odom has Second Banana value, yet the Lakers already have not just two, but IF Andrew Bynum's healthy, three good to great players. So you're asking whoever Odom is dealt for to play D, rebound, distribute, and take the scraps for scoring.
- Speaking of Bynum and his health, let's just all pretend Amare Stoudamire is the rule instead of the norm when it comes to recovering from microfracture surgery. Let's just assume that Bynum takes little to no time to get in game shape, get back to 100%, and take his rightful place among the great Laker centers of all time. Easy peasy Japanesy.

If you assume all of those things are going to happen, then hey, start printing those Lakers championship T-shirts right now. But what you know what they say when you assume...Like the Celtics, I'm not saying they're going to be awful. They'll be one of the best 5 teams in the league- just not one of the final 2 standing.

Three Teams Who Made Some Changes and THINK They're Championship Contenders. Think Again
Houston, Toronto, Philly
The Rockets traded for a crazy person in Ron Artest and are teaming him up with two all-stars who cannot and will not stay healthy. Running the show will be Rafer Alston. Championship? Good luck with that. Toronto fans are just giddy because they traded for Jermaine O'Neal, who hasn't played in 70 games in a season in 5 years, and who hasn't put up all-star numbers in three. Oh, and he's also coming off a major injury. But on the bright side, he's 30, which means he's on the decline and will probably never again average the 20 and 7 of prime. Oh those Raptors fans can so worked up over nothing! Speaking of major injuries, the Sixers signed Elton Brand to a ginourmous deal through the year 2037 after playing just 8 games last season because of a ruptured achilles tendon. He's also been to the playoffs a grand total of one time in his entire career, yet this is who Philly fans are saying is going to take them to the promised land? If Phillies fans don't burn the city to the ground in the riot- er World Series celebration (assuming they ever finish the game!!!), maybe folks will come to their senses.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
The Clippers and Warriors signed each other's free agent. Still, neither one of them are going to the playoffs. Awesome.

The More Things Stay the Same...the More Things Stay the Same
The Washington Wizards have won 42 games each of the last three seasons with the core of Gilbert Arenas, Antwan Jamison, and Caron Butler. Agent Zero and Jamison were both free agents this past summer. Did the Wiz try to trade these guys since everybody but the Grizz, Clippers and Bobcats were capped out, meaning there wasn't really anybody who could sign them to big deals? Nope, they went ahead and resigned both to huge dollars. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the Wiz won't win more than 42 this year either. Just a hunch. In Detwah, Joe Dumars promised to blow up his Pistons squad to retool for another run at a championship. Moves Joe D made in the offseason- signing uber-bust Kwame Brown. Wow Joe, don't go overboard with all of that wheeling and dealing!

And the Finalists Will Be...
New Orleans vs Cleveland. Two cities that could really, really use a championship. Two of the best players in the NBA (maybe THE two best? Discuss, dicuss...) in Bronbron and CP3. Two teams that were close to getting to the Finals last year, and are only getting better. New Orleans grabbed Boston's "glue guy" in James Posey, who will do all the extras he did for Boston and Miami. Cleveland finally landed a point guard that can compliment The Global Icon, can play some D, and can hit the outside shot. Not only that, but they have the sizeable expiring contract of Wally Szcerbiak to deal before the deadline for another good player or two.

The Hornets will finish with the West's best record, the Cavs probably second in the East, but these will be your finalists, with Cleveland winning a title that might just be enough to convince Lebron to stay. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Getting the Band Back Together

So Jer, my old blogging partner in crime, offered me a chance to help with his Gopher Football blog. He's going to let me write about the Big 10, and we're going to do weekly podcasts and all that good stuff, so I'm pretty pumped. So if you're a football fan, check it out.

As for this here space, well, I'm not sure. I've been looking for a focus for awhile, since, as you can tell, I've had trouble posting with regularity. I still may do the odd NBA or non-college post something here, but otherwise it'll be focusing on the Gophs and the Big 10 and college football. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Crack egg on forehead, apply directly to face.

I told you the USC Trojans were the best team in college football. I told you USC had a defense that wasn’t just the best of the this season, but maybe any season this century. I told you USC was so good, they’d probably win the NFC West. I told you these things because I believed them.

So how foolish do I feel waking up this morning to find out USC went up to Corvallis, last night and lost to the Oregon State Beavers 27-21? AGAIN! After all the talk this week from Trojans coach Pete Carroll and the rest of this team about how they were taking the Beavers seriously, and had revenge on their minds for their shocking upset loss out there in 2006, USC went out on a Thursday night and laid a giant egg. They might as well have pooped in my refrigerator. I’m shocked not because they lost to Oregon State, but because they lost to Oregon State AGAIN! How can you make the same mistake twice?!? It’d be one thing to get beat by Washington State or Arizona, but how do you lose in to the Beavers the exact same way you lost to them two years ago?!?!

At any rate, this is bad news not only for USC and the Pac 10, but also for Ohio State and the Big 11. USC's title hopes are shot, and if the Big 10 wants a rep in the BCS Championship game, they're going to have to hope either Penn State or Wisconsin runs the table. Right now, we're looking at an SEC/Big 12 showdown with 5 undefeated teams (Oklahoma, Georgia, Mizzuruh, Florida and LSU) all in contention for 2 spots. As you no doubt know, take what I say with a gigantic grain of salt, but I think we'll see- at best- two one loss teams in the national title game, and that the age of parity is officially upon us.


I also can't leave out the Minnesota Twins, the Little Engine That Could, the team nobody believed in. Wow what a comeback win last 7-6 in extras over the White Sox! I don't get cable at the moment, so I watched the 8th, 9th, and 10th innings on Gamecast, which is a really stressful and frustrating way to "watch" or follow a game, but I'm so glad I had it. I was keeping tabs on the game at first, then when the Sox went up 6-1 and The Office season premiere started (freaking brilliant, although is it me or has Dwight's character fallen off a bit? There weren't as many laugh-out-loud Dwight moments as usual- well except where he drops Phylis off in the middle of nowhere to make her walk back and lose weight. Anywho, good to see that while NBC is hell bent to ruin their best shows- first Friday Night Lights and now Heroes oh and I'm really worried about Life, which was a great show last year but is already getting a little too much hype from the Peacock- The Office remains the best sitcom on TV) I forgot about the game until almost 10. By the time I got Gamecast back up it was the 8th inning and Gomez had just knocked in a run to make it 6-5. The Span triple to tie it, some vintage Joe Nathan, and then in the 10th Alexei Casillas singled in the king Piranha himself, Little Nicky Punto, for the game winner.

The Twins, who regained sole possession of first place for the first time since late August, now have to NOT "Pull a USC" this weekend as they play 3 with Kansas City. Two out of three should be enough, as the Sox have to play the surging Cleveland Indians (by the way, let's be glad the season isn't any longer, because since the All-star break the Tribe are 38-27, and would be overtaking both the Twinks and Pale Hose with another couple of weeks), and a sweep for Chicago, especially with the way they've played of late, seems unlikely.

While I don't love the Twins chances against either Boston or Tampa in the playoffs, I didn't love their chances of even finishing .500 this year. And as I proved with all of my USC chatter, what do I know? Go Twins!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Top 5...

...NFL Teams
1. Dallas (3-0)
2. Philadelphia (2-1)
3. New York Giants (3-0)
4. Green Bay Packers (2-1)
5. Um....?

1. Pittsburgh (2-1)
2. Denver (3-0)
3. Buffalo (3-0)
4. Tennessee (3-0)
5. Jacksonville/Indy/San Diego (1-2)

...Worst NFL Teams
1. St Louis
2. Kansas City
3. Detroit
4. Oakland
5. Cincinnati/Cleveland (Good times for football in Ohio right now)

...Best College Teams Not Named USC
1. Georgia
2. Oklahoma
3. Mizzuruh
4. Florida
5. LSU
(By the way, I've read 3 different articles this week on what would happen if USC and the winners of the Big 12 AND SEC all run the table. People, it's SEPTEMBER! If we have said scenario in November, THEN we can start talking about that. And for the record, I don't think we'll have an undefeated school in either of those conferences, but thanks for asking)

...Big 10 Teams
1. Ohio State (It's like they lost to Southern Utah, not Southern California. Nobody will beat the Trojans this year. Nobody. And with the Buckeyes getting Beanie Wells back AND figuring out that maybe their offense is better with Pryor at QB, they're still the best team in the Big 10, and Penn State is the only team with a chance to knock them off)
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Michigan State (at this rate Javon Ringer will have like 7,458 carries this year, and if he lives through it, the Sparties will be a tough out)
5. Illinois
5a. MINNESOTA!!!!!!!!!! (hey come on it's the last time this year we'll get to talk about them being undefeated. Lets just enjoy it)
(Ok admit it: it's weird to rank the top 5 Big 10 teams and not see Michigan there- and feel like they're not being slighted in the least)

...Conferences after the SEC and Big 12
1. Big 10
2. USC- I mean the Pac 10
3. ACC (only a month until basketball season!)
4. Mountain West
5. Big East (only a month until basketball season!)

...Potential BCS Busters
1. South Florida- wait what? They're in a BCS Conference? Really? THis is awkward.
2. Boise State (a MUCH easier schedule than BYU the rest of the way)
3. BYU
4. Utah
5. TCU

...NFL QB's not Named (Tom) Brady or Peyton (Manning)
1. Drew Brees, Saints
2. Tony Romo, Cowboys
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
4. Donovan McNabb, Eagles
5. Jay Cutler, Broncos (honestly, how can the Vikings have gone through like 58 different quarterbacks in my lifetime while the Broncos go from Elway to Cutler, and the Pack from Favre to Rodgers? Explain how that's fair!)

1. LT, Charge
2. AD, Purple
3. Brian Westbrook (BW?), Iggles
4. Marion Barber III, Cowboys
5. Steven Jackson, Rams

1. Randy Moss, Pats
2. Terrell Owens, Cowboys
3. Torry Holt, Rams
4. Calvin Johnson, Lions
5. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

...Most Annoying things about the new season of Heroes (possible spoilers)
1. The whole Nikki/Jessica character who is now apparently Tracy? (played by Ali Larter, whose career highlights include the whipped cream bikini in Varsity Blues and...yup that's about it. But hey let's feature her more on the show) So we go from a useless character with no powers to a useless character with a new power? Not a good trade off.
2. On the bright side, Tracy is just as annoying and slutty as Nikki/Jessica
3. The annoying Hispanic chick? Still annoying.
4. Saresh turning into a Manwhore.
5. The guy who plays Peter Patrelli is still a horrible actor.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TJack Out, Frerotte In- Start Printing those Championship T-Shirts!!

Gus Frerotte has replaced Tavaris Jackson as the starting QB for the Minnesota Vikings. After an 0-2 start, it looks like we've found the scape goat for why coach Brad Childress' "kick ass" offense hasn't kicked any ass this season (well through the air. On the ground Adrian Peterson has been a force of nature.) All aboard the bandwagon Vikes fans, because it's next stop Super Bowl! The Super Bowl parade will be held on Washington Avenue, then will take a left down the newly renamed "Gus Frerotte Way". After that we'll go streaking up through the quad and to the gymnasium.

In an email today to a group of extraordinary gentlemen, my buddy Kyle summed up the QB switch better than I could have:

"I can't say I'll get all that much more optimistic until our 'kick @ss offense' starts opening things up a bit... As bad as Jackson's interception looked against Green Bay, the reality is he didn't manage the game all that poorly, and you can't point to any other throws that were horrible... The only receiver who ever gets separation is Sidney Rice (Bernard Berrian who???) but we never throw downfield (besides go routes) so it doesn't make any difference anyway... This is just a guess, but I'm thinking this change will simply end up accentuating that the system is the problem... Don't get me wrong, T-Jack is no Johnny Unitas, but he's certainly not Spregeon Wynn either."

Yup I couldn't agree more. Has Jackson been good? Absolutely not. It's a small sample size, but in his first two games his QB rating of 64.8 is 26th in the NFL (you know who's 32nd? Carson Palmer. Yikes), and his yardage, TD's and yards per attempt are all in the same range. If you want to get all fancy and technical and "mathy" up in this piece, the boys at footballoutsiders have two stats that, IF (and it's a big if) I can get my head around it and explain it right, really tell the story of how ineffective Jackson, and perhaps the offense, has been.

DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) gives the value of the quarterback's performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. TJack's DYAR rating is a -41, which means he's been 41 yards worse than a replacement level QB (A replacement level QB would be about the equivalent of Gus Frerotte. Give or take). He ranked 26th in the league.

Another very cools statistic is DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (explained really well here What's cool about this stat is it's not just looking at total yards gained, it's the VALUE of quality of those yards. Like yards gained that go for a touchdown, or gain a first down, get more emphasis than those that don't. Brad Johnson in Chilly's "KAO" was infamous for throwing for 4 yards on a 3rd and 7. Sure, he got the completion and some yards out of it, which helped his QB rating and numbers, BUT HE DIDN"T GET THE FREAKING FIRST DOWN!!!!!! Anyway, this stat helps rate which players get the most VALUE PER PLAY. Pretty freaking cool). So TJack's DVOA is -20.9 (meaning he does not add much value to any play he's involved in. Which could be a problem for a quarterback). He also ranked- you guessed it- 26th in the NFL in this stat.

So three different metrics are telling us Tavaris Jackson is at best the 26th best quarterback in the league, and for a team with Super Bowl aspirations this is already 0-2, that's just not good enough. Yet I've wondered out loud, as Kyle says there, whether the problems this season and last were all Jackson, or if the scheme was to blame too. Childress' kick @ss offense has been one of the lowest rated passing offenses whether it was Jackson or Brad Johnson running the show. Chilly's offense made more throws in the 10 yards and less range than anybody else, and therefore much fewer down field. Hey sure you want to minimize risks, but not taking any is as foolish as taking too many, and Chilly just refuses to open things up.

So is Frerotte the answer? Of course not. Like Kyle, I believe Frerotte will now be asked to make the same 5 yard throws on obvious passing downs that Jackson was, and while his results may be a little better because of his veteran grittiness and experience, the offense isn't going to take off until the man with the mustache starts opening things up.

This QB change is a good thing regardless for Vikings fans: if Frerotte really does make a difference, then the playoffs become a possibility. If he doesn't, and nothing changes, then Childress is canned. I've heard rumors that folks are worried Ziggy may have a Glen Taylor-like attachment to Childress. Not a chance. There's no way an NFL head coach misses the playoffs for 3 straight years and keeps his job. Zero. None. So don't worry about that. If the QB change works, then great but if it doesn't then we get somebody else with some more open philosophies in here next year. And we'll know whether the lack of a passing game in Minnesota has been all Tavaris Jackson's fault, or if Childress should shoulder the blame.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Monday Musings

* Do you know why Los Angeles doesn't need an NFL team? Because they already have a professional football team! USC looked so good Saturday night against an overmatched Ohio State team that you almost start believing they could win the NFC West (they would win more games in the NFL this year than the Rams would. Ok that's not really saying much). If you're not reading Jer's Gopher Football blog then you're an idiot, because you're missing out on some great insight and knowledge. He shared one such pearl of wisdom while we were watching the third quarter. As USC's student section broke into the overrated "OH-VER-RATE-ED" chant Jer mused "That's not fair to Ohio State. They're not overrated because they're not a bad football team. It's just that USC is that much better."

So true. Ohio State has a lot of talent, and a lot of guys who will play on Sunday in the coming years. Sure, their QB Todd Boeckman stinks, and without Beanie Wells the Buckeyes couldn't run the ball with their usual success. But do you really think Beanie would have made up the difference in that ball game? Not a chance. The Buckeyes are a really good team, and despite the loss should still finish in the top 20 in the country, but this Trojan squad is for real. They're absolutely loaded absolutely everywhere, and the real shame of it all is that they won't play a quality opponent again until the National Championship game in February or whenever it's pushed back to this year (I am a biased Pac 10 apologist, but there is no defending the Pac 10 today. They were 3-7 on Saturday and other than SC looked just awful. The Mountain West was 4-0 against them! The Mountain West! The Pac 10 is thankfully still not ACC or Big East bad, but it's USC and a bunch of school girls this year. Too bad).'s Stewart Mandel says this Trojans' team compares favorably with the 2004 squad that won the National Title, and it's easy to see the parallels.

* From a look at the action around the rest of the country, I'm not sure anyone else fares much better against SC than Ohio State did. Certainly nobody else has a defense that good, and offensively, who matches up? Maybe Oklahoma or Mizzou, but that's about it. Right now SC looks about two touchdowns better than anybody else.

* I'm going to show you the stat lines for two QB's from Sunday's games:

Player A: 16-25 165 yds 0 TD's 0 INT's
Player B: 14-24 130 yds 0 TD's 0 INT's

Similar numbers, no? Player A is Patriot Matt Cassell, Player B is Tavaris Jackson. Why oh why do I feel SO much more confident about Cassell than I do about Jackson? Jackson's numbers, really, aren't that bad, but you just knew that late in the game there was no way the Vikings were marching down the field with TJack. Not a chance. And sure enough, when the pressure was on and they needed to move the ball, the Vikings went 3-and-out while the Colts got the points they needed to steal a victory in an ugly football game (well Adrian Peterson wasn't ugly. Wow is he good. Imagine what he could do if the opposing defense actually respected the pass? Maybe next year we'll find out). Jackson seemed to get most of his completions on rollouts. I heard Jeff Dubay of KFAN muse that's because it simplifies things for him by cutting the field in half, which gives him less reads. Makes sense, but if it's true, the Vikings are in even more trouble than we thought. Cassell, as you no doubt heard 479574 times this past week, started his first game since HIGH SCHOOL(!!!!) and yet Pats coach Bill Belichek treated him like a starting quarterback. He let him drop back, make reads, and make throws downfield. This definitely was not the same offense Tom Brady ran, and Belichek certainly wasn't going to take many chances, but watching that game, there were no training wheels for Cassell. He had the green light.

TJack, on the other hand, was starting the 16TH GAME OF HIS PRO CAREER! 16! He's been in the league for three years and has started a full season's worth of games and yet we're rolling him out so he only has to read half the field? Why can't he run the offense? Why can't he read a defense and make throws a normal QB should be able to throw? WHY CAN"T HE MAKE THE SAME PLAYS AS A GUY WHO HADN"T STARTED A GAME SINCE FREAKING HIGH SCHOOL?!?!?!? I would love for Jackson to succeed because then it means the Vikings would succeed. But I don't see it happening. I know Trent Dilfer said a couple of weeks ago that an NFL QB needed 40 starts until he really figured things out, but we're almost halfway to that number, and Jackson not only still has training wheels on, he's riding his freaking big wheel! I hope for one of two things from this season: either a) Chilly and Jackson get it together and the Vikes make the playoffs or b) Jackson continues to suck, and therefore the Vikings continue to suck and so Chilly is fired, Jackson is cut, and we get a new coach and QB in here next year who can actually run an offense. Because this is ridiculous.

* When the Colts get to the Super Bowl, are Vikings fans going to be the only ones who remember how close Indy was to starting 0-2? They had no business winning today, but Peyton got his act together (I've never ever seen him running for life before like he was in the first half. That Vikes pass rush was awesome) in the second half, looked like the Peyton of old, and they eeked out a victory in a tough place to play.

* The Vikings are one of 10 teams to start this season 0-2. According to Don Banks' column on Friday, since since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, only 19 teams have climbed out of an 0-2 hole to make the playoffs. That's about one team a year, and the Minnesota is one of three teams this year with any real shot: the other two are Jacksonville and San Diego. Jacksonville and the Vikes are having offensive problems, but for different reasons (the Jags can't throw, the Vikes can't pass), while both D's have not been as good as advertised. San Diego has lost two heartbreakers to two good teams (how about the gigantic cahones on Mike Shannahan of Denver? Going for 2 and the win instead of the extra point and the tie with 24 seconds left? LOVE IT!), and with the third easiest schedule this year (they get to play Oakland and Kansas City twice each), they will definitely have an easier road than Minnesota or Jacksonville. I'm not even going to mention the Vikes next three games since I've been so negative about them already. Let's just say hosting Carolina, then at Tennessee and at New Orleans doesn't inspire confidence this thing is getting turned around. Whoops guess I just mentioned it.

* In case you're wondering of the other seven 0-2 teams are all but one are dead in the water: Detroit, St Louis, Miami, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Kansas City might as well start planning for draft day because their seasons are essentially over. Seattle is a good team who's had a horrible run of luck and cannot stay healthy. IF they can get any of their top 4 wide receivers back by October, they've still got a chance in the horrible, awful, terrible NFC West.

* Guess the Packers knew what they were doing with Aaron Rodgers, eh? 328 and 3 TD's and the Pack could very well be the best team in the NFC. I know it was Detwah they spanked today, but that was still impressive. Why does Green Bay get all the luck with QB's while the Vikes have a revolving door under center?

* Carolina went 2-0 without wide receiver Steve Smith. Look out.

* You know who could win the AFC East? Not New England. Definitely not the New York Bretts. Buffalo. Buffalo could win the AFC East. What were the Vegas odds on that when the season started? Could you even get odds on that happening? I still don't trust QB Trent Edwards but maybe I should (all of you fantasy football players who need a backup QB should pay attention here): in two games he's completed 70% of his passes for 454 yds 2 TD's and no INT's for a QB rating of 107.7. Yep ol' Trent has now started nine games and already seems to have fully grasped an NFL offense. TJack has started 16 and do a simple 3 step drop and find an open receiver. Just thought I'd point that out.

* Did you see the Rams highlights against the Giants? USC could beat the Rams. I'm not even kidding.

* Stupid Fantasy Football Start of the Week:
Last week I sat Michael Turner in favor of Ricky Williams. This week I started Turner even though I was worried about him going against a really good Tampa D. Who should i have started? Darren McFadden and his 164 yds and a TD, that's who. I just can't win.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Welcome to "I Have No F&*%ing Idea" Week

It's week 2 in the NFL, and never in my 20 some years of watching football can I remember a week with so many questions about so many teams, and the answer to so many being: "I have no f&%*ing idea!" It's a good thing gambling isn't legal, because if it were, there'd be a LOT of money lost this weekend. You'd be just as likely to win by putting your picks sheet on a dart board and throwing darts over your shoulder to get the results as you would be by actually picking the games. About the only way we're going to get all of these questions answered is by watching the games, but don't you get the feeling this is like a season of Lost, where they answer a few of the questions every week, then give you like 10 more?

Green Bay (-6) at Detwah
Which are there more of in Detroit: car fires or Lions fans? And are the two things related in any way?
The Pack made a statement on Monday night than in the most wide open of wide open seasons, they're going to be a factor. With the injury to Marques Colston in New Orleans, the door just opened for Green Bay to get home field. Did I see "Ewing Theory" potential in this team? Indeed I did. But like picking the Vikes to NOT make the playoffs without mentioning the suspension to Bryant McKinnie (Kris, for the record, McKinnie IS overrated and overpaid, but he's a helluva lot better than Artis Hicks or something called Chase Johnson), I picked the Pack to have a big year without realizing another key point: the Favre Saga not only motivated the team, but it was the best possible thing for Aaron Rodgers. And my girlfriend, who is a huge Pack fan, was the one to point this out.

If Favre would have just stayed retired, there would have been tons of pressure from Cheeseheads on Aaron Rodgers to be The Next Brett Favre. But thanks to Brett just gun slingin' his way through a retirement decision, the Cheeseheads now love Rodgers, embrace him, and support him more than ever before. It went from a "I'd have Brett Favre's children- prove to me why I should have yours" to "I'd have Brett Favre's children but I'd pretend to be angry about it but now I'd definitely have yours too even though you're not as good looking or don't wear Wranglers". Somehow they like Rodgers better now, at least that's what they're telling themselves.

Oakland at Kansas City (-3.5)
Who would be stupid enough to pick the Raiders as a sleeper?
Ok so here's the one question we DO have an answer to, and that idiot is me. Next time I try to pick the most disfunctional franchise in football to be a breakout team, slap me. Twice. Three times even. Enough until I realize how foolish the idea was. Then slap me again for wasting your time. Thanks. By the way, we might have found the first sporting event that I would rather watch the WNBA instead of...ok no, I'd still rather watch this than the WNBA, but this one really made me think about it.

St Louis at NY Giants (-9)
How are the Giants only favored by 9 points?
Honestly, how? Did Vegas not watch the Rams get torched by the Eagles last week? Do they not know Scott Linehan is their coach? Maybe a better question is will Linehan survive until Thanksgiving?

Indianapolis (+2) at Minnesota
Do you believe the Colts are a good team?
Some folks would ask this question of both teams, but we already know the Vikes are in trouble, and I believe are in danger of starting 1-4 (they host Carolina next week- who will have Steve Smith back, then travel to Tennessee and New Orleans. Good luck with that). But the Colts? Sure Manning didn't play at all in the preseason, and they lost some o-linemen to injury and we have no idea if Marvin Harrison has plunged off the "he's done" cliff, but to lose by 16 to the freaking Bears AT HOME?!?!? It defies explanation. The Vikes are a simliar team to Chicago (horrible QB, no receivers, strong running game, strong run D), so perhaps the outcome will be the same, but there's just no way Indy lays an egg two weeks in a row. Which is probably why they will, but again, what's the catch phrase for the day? You got it- I have no %*^&ing idea! And neither does anybody else.

Tennessee (-1) at Cincinnati
Are either of these teams any good?
The Teetahns have all the looks of the Bears/Ravens model of strong running game and ridiculously good defense, but what about their QB? I think Kerry Collins is an upgrade, but we won't know it until Sunday. And the Bungles? Is Carson Palmer a shell of his former self? Will all of Chad Johnson's shenanigans motivate him or the rest of his team? Do they have a defense? Is Marvin Lewis' house on the market?

New Orleans (-3) at Washington
Will the Saints still pile up the points without Colston? Can Reggie Bush have two good games in a row? Will Jason Campbell ever figure it out? Remember Lavar Arrington? How did he never make it? Why do the Skinnies always wear white at home?

Chicago at Carolina (even)
Hahaha seriously the biggest "I have no %*^&ing idea!" is when Vegas says "pick 'em." If people who get paid to have a clue don't have a clue, then how can anybody else? The Bears and Colts were the two biggest of surprises and now the two biggest question marks heading into week 2. Was the Sunday nighter an abberition or a true indicator of what both teams will do? It just seems unfathomable that any team with Kyle Orton at QB and whose two "leading" receivers last week each had 2 catches- And both were tight ends!!!!- is 16 points better than the Colts on the road. Carolina is another one of those teams that just have so many questions I don't even know where to start. Insert catch phrase of the day.

Buffalo at Jacksonville (even)
see previous paragraph

San Diego at Denver (even)

Atlanta (+3) at Tampa Bay
Of course you'd take the points against Brian Griese, right? RIGHT?
Usually, until you remember the Falcons are starting a rookie QB. And also that it's the Falcons. You're on your own here.

New England (+1) at New York Bretts
Which team is more overhyped? Has there been a more overhyped and overrated "rivalry" than this one?
Not to rain on the parade of all of those fighting for spots on the Jets bandwagon, but just thought I'd point out that to beat Miami last week the Jets needed a hail-mary-throw-it-up-for-grabs-just-wingin-it-gunslingin-having-fun-i-love-football-TD pass from everyone's favorite Wrangler wearin' QB AND a last minute defensive stand to keep Chad Pennington's wounded ducks out of the endzone. Just sayin'. As for the Patriots, well, if you're anything like me you've heard way, way, way, WAY too much about them so I'll spare you, but let's just say they've got a few questions of their own to answer this week.

Miami at Arizona (-4.5)
Is Arizona good enough to win the NFC West?
Maybe a better way of saying it is are they "not bad enough"? You can't make enough jokes about the sad state of the NFC West, but let me just say that of the many reasons I'm glad to be living back in Minnesota, one of them is definitely that I don't have to watch the Seahawks every Sunday. Good gracious.

San Francisco at Seattle (-3)
Which would you rather watch: this game or Chiefs/Raiders?
Kind of like having to choose between gouging your eye out with a stick or jamming a pen into your ear. Jer would probably take option c) which is always death by killer bees.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Cleveland
There's no way Cleveland can win this game, right? RIGHT?
If the Steelers lose this game, then I officially give up. The Browns looked lost on offense last week, while Pittsburgh absolutely steamrolled a better-than-you-think Texans club. This looks to be the only slam dunk of the week, which in this season, probably means it won't be.

Not that there's ever anything good about a hurricane, but if there were, it would be that we get two Monday nighter's this week on two different channels because of it.

Baltimore (+3.5) at Houston
Is this the most obvious pick of the week?
Vegas might not have much confidence in the Ravens, but I certainly do. Still, a ton of factors and questions at work here, not the least of which is the Texans playing for their fanbase which had to endure a hurricane. Don't ever underestimate that one.

Philly (-3) at Dallas
When was the last time the Monday night game was actually the best game of the week?
Seriously, this is the first time in I don't know when. You want questions? Are the Eagles for real? Could Donovan McNabb throw for 300 yards with five Cowboy fans lining up for him at receiver? Did I overpay for DeSean Jackson in my auction league waiver wire this week? Do I care because it was worth it to get him? Are the Cowboys really the NFL's best team? Is there a more annoying celebrity than Jessica Simpson? Well other than Tom Cruise? Or Avril Lavigne? How angry is Terrell Owens that Chad Johnson is a worse receiver yet getting more attention? When does he change his name to Terrell "I Need Me Some Me"? Could it not happen soon enough?

Answers to these questions and more this weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muse on Sports News

Sure, "Muse on News" sounds better, but you don't come here for non-sports opinions, so I try to stay away from it.

- You're probably sick of the Vince Young story already, as Vince not only is hurt physically for the next month, but he's also hurt emotionally (Jer pointed me to Donald Miller's blog- he's the author of the book Blue Like Jazz. He posted about Vince Young, which is one of the rare positive and supportive takes I've seen out there. Also, check out his "email exchange" with Barack Obama. Even the conservatives will think it's funny). Just a weird and sad story, with Vince going AWOL for a while and his family being so concerned about his emotional well being that they called the cops. Now Vince says he might retire and doesn't find football fun anymore.

The psych major in me believes Young's strange behavior and statements is because this is the first time in his life he's REALLY had to work at something. Sure, he's always worked hard at football, but until he got to the NFL, it always came easy, and people generally are more willing to work hard at something when it's fun and comes naturally to you. Vince dominated high school, "struggled" a bit while playing as a freshman at one of the most prestigious football factories in America at Texas, and then had a meteoric rise to stardom his next three seasons, where he became one of the greatest college players ever. Even his first NFL season, while his passing numbers were awful, his team still won and he was a big reason why. But since his rookie year, as the NFL always does, they adjust to you and make you find new ways to succeed. Unfortunately for Vince, once the league figured out to take away his running lanes and make him throw, he couldn't adjust. VY is exceptional as a playmaker and scrambler, and that had always been enough for him to succeed, so he never learned to throw as well as he should have. So now he's in the NFL, he's really struggling, and this is how he reacts. This could lead me off on a couple of tangents about how the super-star pampered high school athletes, or how the spread offense in college is killing the quarterback position in the pros, but I'll save those for another day.

- Rick Reilly (it still seems weird to read him at ESPN instead of Sports Illustrated) writes an entertaining article about who he believes the most popular team is in each city that has at least two pro franchises. He leaves quite a few out including the Milwaukee/Green Bay area (the top 10 teams in Wisconsin would be 1-5 Packers 6. Brewers 7. Scony football 8. Scony basketball 9. Marquette basketball 10. Badger hockey. The Milwaukee Bucks would be somewhere in the 130's between LaCrosse track and the Appleton high school swim team), New Orleans (since we're including college, LSU is substantially more popular than the Saints or Hornets), Oakland (while the Warriors fan base might be the most diehard in all of professional sports, I still think the Raiders are the most popular team in Oakland), Memphis/Nashville (the Vols by a country mile. Two country miles even. Another place that should not have professional sports, because really, what's the point?), and San Diego (Ron Burgandy IS the most popular sport in San Diego. If surfing was a category that'd be #2. Otherwise, probably the Chargers over The Fathers).

Of the cities he actually mentioned, he had most of them right, but here were a few I either disagreed with or just had a sarcastic comment to make:

Cleveland (Reilly chose the Browns)- I would say Ohio State is even bigger. I'm not from Ohio, but from everything I've heard and read, nobody is bigger in Cleveland or the rest of the state than the Buckeyes, especially right now.

Detroit (Red Wings)- Not only is this the only city where hockey was listed as #1, I'd venture it's the only American city where hockey is even close to #1. Go ahead, look down that list and tell me where an NHL team would even be in the top 3. You can't find it because it's not there. And don't say the Minnesota Wild either- we'll leave the Twin Cities for last. Anyway, I think Michigan Wolverines football (even despite how bad they'll be this year) is more popular than the Red Wings or Pistons or Tigers. Yep, Detwah IS Hockeytown, but they had empty seats all season, including into the playoffs- and this was the team who eventually won the Cup! Michigan, on the other hand, continually sells out almost 112,000 seats every home game every single season.

Houston- Reilly didn't choose here, and I don't blame him, because I have no idea who the choice would be either. The Rockets? During the Hakeem era, sure, but now? The Astros do well but not that well, and the Texans seem to still be too new to bump the other two. I know Texas A&M is very popular there, as is, of course, the Texas Longhorns, but honestly, I have no idea. Could very well be the Dallas Cowboys. Seriously.

Miami (Dolphins)- Just wanted to send out a hardy congratulations to the "fans" in Miami for winning the title of "Worst Sports Fans in America"!! Really, it's quite an accomplishment to beat out places like Atlanta, Phoenix, and Charlotte. While those places do a horrible job supporting their pro teams (except Phoenix with the Suns), at least they get behind a college program (Georgia football and UNC and Duke basketball). Reilly lists the Dolphins as the most popular team, and I don't disagree with it, but here's why Miami fans are the worst: THEY COULDN'T EVEN SELL OUT THEIR HOME OPENER! Against the New York Bretts even! What the hell is that?!?!? And yet Reilly's right, because they only watch the Heat when they're on a title run, the St Paul Saints get more people out to games than the Marlins do (I'm not even exaggerating), and I won't bother mentioning the Panthers (they get a mulligan because a) everyone but Gary Bettman knows Miami is not a hockey market and b) even if they were, their arena is 40 MILES outside of Miami in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. Just an awesome job all the way around by Bettman). "The U?" Well the Miami Hurricanes football team, even in the best of times, had trouble selling out games. Congrats Miami, you have the worst fans in America!

New York (Yankees)- Probably the most popular and famous team on the planet, so I don't argue with this, but I will say I think the Knicks are a closer second than most people realize. That really is a basketball town, it's just they've been awful for a decade and won't be good anytime soon. A real shame.

Philadelphia (Phillies)- No way. I want the good and tortured sports fans of Philly to take a vote on this right now, because there is no way I believe a Phillies World Series victory would be more important than an Eagles Super Bowl win. No way. No how.

Seattle (Seahawks)- No city is going through a tougher time in sports than the city of Seattle. The Sonics, who they fully supported for 41 $^Q%&$ING YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, were moved to Oklahoma because the commissioner is an a**hole. The Mariners, once the pride of the city, spent $120 million this year to finish with the second worst record in baseball. It's also their fourth losing season in the last five, and unless they can fire the owners, it's not getting better anytime soon. Husky football, which until this decade had been by far the most popular team, is in shambles (about to start 0-3 after Oklahoma roughs them up this weekend), and the Seahawks, after five straight division titles, look to be in trouble as they're quite literally pulling guys off the street to play receiver. All the latte's and grunge music in the world can't cheer up the folks in the Pacific Northwest right now.

Finally, we have Minneapolis/St Paul. The Vikings are obviously king of this town. When they sign a backup receiver in June it's front-page news. I'm interested in what you think the rest of the order looks like. Here's my take:

2. Twins- if they can find a 3B, a SS, and an owner willing to spend money, they could overtake the Vikes for #1, especially with the new stadium coming soon.

3. Gopher hockey- it's a cult. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

4. Gopher basketball/Wild hockey: I just can't choose. I know the Wild have an incredible sell-out streak going, but read the dailies or turn on sports radio, and you rarely read or hear about the Wild. They're always buried in the sports section. Gopher basketball, despite some big time struggles lately, still has an incredibly passionate and far-reaching fan base.

6. Gopher football
7. St Paul Saints
8. Minnesota Thunder
13. St Cloud St hockey
19. Minnetonka Skippers
101. Ethan and Courtney's rec league hockey team.
220. Minnesota Lynx
221. Minnesota Timberwolves