NBA Draft Preview

The 2018 NBA Regular Season is coming to an end next week.  As the race for championship continues the battle for the bottom is s till very interesting. Let’s begin our mock draft

Phoenix Suns select Deandre Ayton, Center, Arizona

Deandre Ayton tenure at Arizona was not one the university will not be one of that many will remember for positive reasons.  Fact is that Ayton is the clear #1 selection for a Suns team that is in full rebuild mode.  Devin Booker and Josh Jackson give them some light at the end of an extremely dark tunnel but with the addition of a player like Ayton that tunnel may have an emergency generator that keeps the lights on for at least the extent of a rookie contract.  The Suns last attempt drafting a big man was not successful, former Maryland big man Alex Len has not developed into an impact player that they hoped when they used their 5th overall pick on him in 2013.  Ayton though is considered to be that blue chip prospect that can help this team back to relevance.  This is a no brainer at #1, the only way to screw it up is to not do what everyone thinks you should do.

 Memphis Grizzlies select Luka Doncic, Guard, Real Madrid

Luka Doncic enters the 2018 NBA draft as one of the most respected Euroleague resumes. Doncic also led Slovenia to last summer’s Eurobasket title. Doncic is comfortable in the lead guard position but will most likely need to learn to play a wing role along side Mike Conley. The Grizzlies have to find a direction for the franchise as they begin to see the decline of Marc Gasol, a young talented import is the answer, he can be the next star in a Grizzlies uniform.  The Grizzlie will probably still stink next year but at least they will get nice media coverage with this pick.

Dallas Mavericks select Marvin Bagley, Forward, Duke University

The Dallas Mavericks are one of the two teams that have been openly tanking to help their draft position.  They find themselves picking number three on draft day and will score themselves a marquee forward to build their franchise around. Marvin Bagley was one of the most productive college basketball prospects all season long at Duke, utilizing his athletic mismatch to score in the paint and manufacturing easy baskets on the offensive glass at an elite clip.

Atlanta Hawks select Jaren Jackson, Forward, Michigan State

The Hawks stink, but they really stink defensively. The answer for them is Jaren Jackson. His shot blocking numbers (5.5 per-40) are off the charts, and teams are intrigued by has ability to protect the rim and defend in space while also being able to space the floor (39.6% from three). The Hawks have no identity, they are looking to build around point guard Dennis Schroder.  They need to cut bait with everyone over 25 and build their team around the length of Jackson and the continuing development of Taurean Prince. The Hawks are still very far away from being a competitive team.

Orlando Magic select Michael Porter Jr., Forward, Missouri

The Orlando Magic have a couple of nice pieces to build around with Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic. The impending free agency of cornerstone Aaron Gordon leaves an opening at the power forward position, the perfect fit will still be available with Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr’s injury derailed what could have been a fun year for the Tigers in the now basketball strong SEC.   Porter Jr is a scorer with the size of a power forward and the movement of a point guard.  While I could see the Magic taking a shot on Trae Young here, they would be wise to go with MPJ his size and skill will make him an immediate impact.

Sacramento Kings select Trae Young, Guard, Oklahoma

This is a dream for the Sacramento Kings.   A draft full of centers! Hopefully they make the intelligent decision and take the best player n the board for them.  Trae Young is a captivating player that will give the Kings some attention in the California market. Trae Young alongside De’aron Fox may not work out in the long run due to the fact that both players are very ball heavy.  But if I am the Kings and a talent and marketable asset like Young falls into my lap I have to go with it.

Chicago Bulls select Mohammad Bamba, Center, Texas

The Chicago Bulls greatest dream would be for Trae Young to fall to them but that is unlikely. So they will have to go to plan b.  Luckily for the Bulls plan b is Mo Bamba! All-league defensive potential is the center of Bamba’s appeal, and while Texas’s season wound up a disappointment, he’s shown plenty of ability and held steady as a top selection. The Bulls have a built a nice core of young talent lead by 2017 first round pick Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Bobby Portis.  The Robin Lopez stop gap is coming to an end.  Plug in Bamba and let him swat shots all over the arena.  His skills will continue to grow on the offensive end.

Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn) select Wendell Carter, Forward, Duke

Wendall Carter is a man at 6′ 10″ 260lbs. Carter was as solid as possible for the Blue Devils last season and is ready to make the transition to the NBA.  Carter has the ability to spread the defense with mid range shooting as well as be a stable force in the middle. Pairing Carter with the range of Kevin Love will give that Cavaliers a solid punch in the middle and from the outside. His impressive skill level, passing and on-court feel should help him find an NBA fit, and a different system might unlock more of his skills.

New York Knicks select Mikal Bridges, Guard/Forward, Villanova

The Knicks shocked everyone last season going with Frank Ntilikina with the 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Ktilikina showed glimpses of his potential during the season, but it has been the emergence of Trey Burke that has brought the most impact to the Knick during the season.  The Knicks have a strong core with the Unicorn, Enes Kanter, and a few different options at the point.  A great addition will be some 3 and D wing help like Mikal Bridges.  His upside could very easily point him in the top 5 so this could be a steal for the Knicks.

Philadelphia 76ers (from LAL) select Jalen Brunson, Guard, Villanova

I am going to be honest in saying this probably is a long shot, the realistic pick for the Sixers would probably be Lonnie Walker from Miami or Miles Bridges from Michigan State.  Brunson doesn’t have the traditional tools of an NBA top ten pick, his athleticism has been questioned as well as his size. He relies on his considerable craft to compensate for a lack of top-flight quickness and understands how to pick his spots, change speed and direction and score the ball.  Brunson brings a lot of grit as well as considerable leadership to whatever team he plays for.  With the talent the Sixers have put together strong leadership is something that they have to value.

Brunson is a long shot in this spot, the Sixers really need a defensive stopper at the guard positon, Walker from Miami really does make a lot more sense but to see Brunson in Philly would be awesome for everyone.

 

That’s my top ten at this point…things always change this time of year I will continue to update a we get closer to the draft.

 

 

Wainwright or Flaherty? The Debate

Adam Wainwright has been the backbone of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation since he became a full time starter in 2007.  146 wins over his career has earned him the respect of players and fans alike, but as he steps on the mound Thursday for the Cardinals home opener the fan base has been split on whether this is the right decision.

Jack Flaherty has been a top prospect in the Cardinals system for the last few seasons.  Reaching as high as #38 on MLB.com’s prospect rankings.  The former first round pick carried his spring training momentum into the regular season striking out 9 over 5 innings against the vaunted Milwaukee Brewers lineup.  Flaherty had the misfortune of being the odd man out of the rotation with the return of Wainwright.  The question for Flaherty is, What happens next?

Flaherty will continue to make starts in Memphis.  While he has nothing more to prove in the minors sending Flaherty down was the only choice to the Cardinals.  Wainwright may one day be an option for the bullpen but as of now you have to see if he still has anything left in the tank. If he does have the ability to get outs it can be a huge asset to a playoff run with his veteran presence on the mound.  No one will debate that Flaherty was great in Milwaukee, but has not yet earned the confidence to say that he is the answer in the rotation.  2017’s 6+ ERA may be a thing of the past but it still lingers in the mind of Cardinals management.

The reason the move has caused such a backlash from Cardinals Nation is really due to Cardinals management giving mixed signals to its fanbase.  During the offseason John Mozeliak made it clear that the Cardinals were set with their young arms.  They planned to move forward with the young arms rather then spend money on a veteran like Jason Vargas or bringing back long time Cardinal Lance Lynn.  After making such a bold statement in the offseason they seem to contradict themselves by sending down the young arm before you are sure your veteran is ready to go.

The St. Louis fanbase lives for their Cardinals.  They are allowed to question the decisions by management.  But when you look at this situation, this was the only move that made sense.  Adam Wainwright is not going to the bullpen, Jack Flaherty makes no sense moving to the bullpen.  By sending Flaherty down now it also allows him to continue his regular rotation spot.  Flaherty has to stay positive – especially with the injury histories of Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright – the uncertainty of Luke Weaver and Miles Mikolas there will be a spot for the young hurler to make an impact in the 2018 season.

Jack Flaherty is going to be a good, possibly great starting pitcher on the major league level but he has to be patient and mature during this process.  Go talk to Carson Kelly about how to handle this situation.  Don’t ask Pham.

 

 

Former Grizzlie makes MLB start

When you are a kid playing little league you dream of making it to the big leagues.   You imagine yourself on the mound with thousands of people cheering your name.  The reality is most players never live that dream.  Thousands of players play professional baseball for pennies in stadiums that are falling apart, eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner.   The lucky few that do get signed by professional organizations never actually make it on to a Major League Baseball mound.  But they continue to play, they continue to hold on to their childhood imagination.

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Former Gateway Grizzlies pitcher Trevor Richards, 24,  was one of those that held onto to the dream and it paid off on Monday Night in Miami. Richards made his major league debut just 21 months after his signing by the Marlins organization.  The local product from Aviston, Illinois (about an hour from St. Louis) didn’t get the win but he did inspire the baseball community.  Richards struck out 5 allowed 5 earned runs while going 4.1 innings. The biggest impact he made was on the world, social media blew up seeing the kid that came from obscurity to the majors.

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Richards played his college ball at Drury University a division 2 school in Springfield, Missouri. Never touted highly by pro scouts he went undrafted after his graduation.  Not willing to call it quits yet he signed with the Gateway Grizzlies in 2015. Richards did not disappoint immediately taking a leadership role with the team at the top of the rotation.  His ability to mix up his pitches and locate made him an asset to Manager Phil warren. In 2016 Richards continued his role at the top of the rotation for the Gateway Grizzlies.  While he was pitching well in the Frontier League scouts were still not taking notice.  It was shear luck that a scout was able to see Richards pitch.  The scout that signed Richards, David Espinosa, was actually at a game to look at two relievers from the other team.  “His changeup is an anomaly,” Espinosa said. “According to analytics, the spin rate on a changeup is slower than it is for a fastball. We call it a ‘white ball.’ But the spin rate on his changeup is almost as fast as it is with his fastball.” Richards changeup and poise was enough for Espinosa to pay the $3,000 contract buyout from the Gateway Grizzlies.  It small price to pay for the potential that he saw.  Richards rewarded Espinosa by pitching his way right through three different levels of the Miami system eventually being named 2017 Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Richards followed in the footsteps of guys like Scott Patterson former Gateway Grizzlie turned Yankee reliever and St. Louis Cardinal First Baseman Jose Martinez. Before Martinez was hitting in the middle of the beloved Cardinals order, he was hitting dingers for the Frontier League Rockford Aviators.  Richards is just one of the examples of players that have made it from obscurity.  The Frontier League is one month away from beginning its historic 26th season.  While this league may not have . the affiliations of a major league team, they do have players with real ability.  Trevor Richards start was not only a great moment for him and his family, but a great moment for the league as a whole.

The Gateway Grizzlies will look to honor Trevor Richards this season as they host a bobblehead on Friday July 20th.

Come see the next wave of hungry athletes, the Grizzlies season begins on May 11th when the Grizzlies take on the Schaumberg Boomers.

 

National Championship Pick

The 2018 Men’s Basketball National Title game will take place Monday night. The Alomodome will become the Thunderdome as two teams enter but only one team will leave with the title.  The Michigan Wolverines will try and keep the Villanova Wildcats from winning their second title in a three year span.

Villanova opens up as a 6 and half point favorite after their thrashing of the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday night in San Antonio.  When Jay Wright sat down with his coaching staff and mapped out the game plan I am sure he had a great strategy.  I am sure they figured they would break the record for 3-pointers in a Final Four game, IN THE FIRST HALF! This Villanova team came out and punched Kansas right in the stomach and wasn’t going to stop until the final horn went off.  The Wildcats have taken an NBA approach to their college games and so far it seems to be working very well, they have been passing up on two’s for three’s and hitting them at an unstoppable rate. Through their five games in the NCAA Tournament, Villanova is hitting 42.3 percent of its three-pointers while sinking at least 13 treys on four occasions.  Villanova has had an amazing season going 18-0 in non-conference games Wildcats went 13-3 against the ESPN RPI top 25 and 50 teams, respectively, while also ranking No. 1 at KenPom.com, checking in with the top mark in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 15 on the defensive side. This is a team that has almost single handedly ended the season for ousted the nations top conference the BIG12 beating West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas in convincing fashion.  This is also a team that boasts multiple players that have been in this game before, including Phil Booth who put up 20 points against the Tar Heels just two years ago. It will be hard to make a case against the Wildcats walking through Michigan.

Michigan has gotten to the national championship game thanks to its stellar defense and ability to slow the game down. The Wolverines are holding opponents to 58.6 points per game and a lousy 38.7 shooting percentage.  The perimeter defense has been dominate in the NCAA tournament, but they have not seen an offense with near the efficiency of Villanova.  For Michigan to be successful they will need to have better performances from Charles Mathews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkmann.   They have to pick up their game so that Villanova can’t double and even triple team big man Mo Wagner.  Michigan will also have to hit from the line, which has been an issue all season. In Villanova’s four losses this season, the Wildcats have allowed opponents an average of 23 trips to the charity stripe. Michigan has been bad at free throws this season – shooting 66.2 percent as a team – but attacking the hoop may be the path of least resistance.

Michigan has had a great season, but Villanova has been dominate most of the season.  Jalen Brunson and company are just way to loaded on the offensive end, even though the Wolverines will put up a fight, this just doesn’t seem like an even matchup.  I like Michigan to stick around if they can shoot half as well as they did in the Texas A&M game but fall in the end due to their free throw shooting troubles. Villanova walks out of this one with the victory and Jay Wright’s second title in three years.

Prediction: Villanova wins 80- 74