NBA Draft: 3 Winners

The NBA draft is undoubtably the best draft of any professional sport.  There aren’t 27 thousand rounds like the MLB, it doesn’t take a whole week like the NFL and its not hockey.  The way a team drafts can define a teams legacy for the next 20 years.  No one wants to be the general manager that decided to select Greg Oden over Kevin Durant or Sam Bowie over the great Micheal Jordan.  Heaven forbid you be the guy that decided  to take Darko Milicic with the second pick of one of the greatest draft classes of all time.  the 2018 NBA Draft had a lot of promising and intriguing talent, its time to decide who had a great night and who made a Sam Bowie pick.

Winners

Phoenix Suns- Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges (trade rights), George King, Elie Oboko

Ok I know, this is a a pretty easy choice, having the number one pick usually means you are going to get a great talent.  I want to praise GM Ryan McDonough for not over thinking the situation.  Luka Doncic was an intriguing prospect for a team that will still be in rebuild mode next season.  They ignored the intrigued and locked up the clear best player in the draft.  Scouting reports for Deandre Ayton listed very few weaknesses, the lone problem was a supposed inability to protect the rim. What most people seem to forget is that Ayton played a large amount of time at the power forward position drawing him away from the basket and limiting his ability to be in a position to effect as many shots.  The ability to improve defensively will come as he transitions to the center position.

For most teams Ayton would be enough but the Suns also pulled off a trade acquiring Villanova swing man Mikal Bridges. Bridges has the tools to be a versatile defender at the NBA level, especially guarding 1-3. Averaged 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40.  He also brings offensive efficiency to a young team.  Bridges time at Villanova allowed him playing on a winning team while not having to be the focus of the other teams attention.  He is a perfect fit to play alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.

Indiana Pacers- Aaron Holiday, Alize Johnson

The Indiana Pacers put themselves back on the map during the first round of the playoffs taking mighty Lebron James to game 7.  Picking from the 23rd position usually it is not easy to find the perfect fit for whatever need you have but sometimes it does.  UCLA Guard Aaron Holiday fell down the draft a bit and ended up in a perfect place.  Indiana needed depth at the point and shooting guard spots and they got it with Holiday. Excellent blend of shotmaking and penetrating — 21.6 points per 40 minutes. Tremendous balance and touch. Made 2.8 3-pointers per 40 minutes at a 42.9 percent clip as a junior.  Holiday will allow Victor Oladipo to play the off the ball more as well as get more rest and know that there will still be a scorer on the floor.  Holiday has top 15 talent that the Pacers grabbed in the mid 20’s, look for Holiday to make and immediate impact…Donavon Mitchell like??

The Pacers also picked up mid-major phenom 6’8″ Point/Forward Alize Johnson with the 20th pick of the second round.  Johnson a swiss army knife on the floor can give the Pacers depth at multiple positions.  The Missouri Valley Conference 2x first team all conference player improved every year for the Bears including shooting 39% from three in 2018.  I great grab for today’s NBA style.

Chicago Bulls- Wendell Carter, Chandler Hutchinson

I have wrote and talked about the development of the young core of the Chicago Bulls all season.  With a healthy Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkenan  I think they have the building blocks of an Eastern Conference playoff team in 2018-19.  Sitting at #8 in the draft they could have taken some chances, maybe go with Micheal Porter Jr. or add a wing player like Kevin Knox or Mikal Bridges.  They went with the steady hand of Wendell Carter Jr.  Carter Jr. is a double double machine that has underrated shot blocking ability. Chicago picks up a big center who can slide in right next to Lauri Markkanen’s finesse game up front. He has excellent hands and touch around the basket. Carter compares very well to former Bull and Blue Devil Carlos Boozer.

Having a second first round pick allowed the bulls to take a gamble on a potential prospect gem in Boise State’s 6’7″ swingman Chandler Hutchinson.  The 2018 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year brings great size and length to the young Bulls.  Hutchinson has the potential to move right into the Chicago rotation and give them valuable minutes on both ends of the floor.  Chicago found a way to add two valuable rotational pieces that are NBA ready right now.

Honorable Mention : Denver Nuggets (Micheal Porter Jr. at #14 is a steal)

 

 

 

A “Rockie” bullpen

The Colorado Rockies found themselves in the National League Wild Card game in 2017, losing to the Diamondbacks.  The players looked at the season as a huge step forward for a young club.  With young starters like Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson carrying the load of the rotation as well as a offense packed with talent the Rockies had a clear hole to fill in the back end of the bullpen.  They needed depth and a new closer, enter Wade Davis.  Davis and Colorado agreed to a three-year, $52 million contract. The deal included a four-year vesting option that could take the total value up to $66 million if he finishes 30 or more games in the 2020 season.  The former Royal and Cub signed a historic contract pundits of the deal called it a classic “Coors overpay”.  Fans of the contract saw the final piece of a potential championship puzzle.

Davis joined free agent signee former Indian Bryan Shaw (3year, $27million) and the resigning of Jake McGee (3year, $27million). Along with the rebranded and dominating Adam Ottavino the Rockies thought they had shaped a bullpen that would be able to handle the pressures of Coors Field.  Unfortunately for Colorado their bullpen has been more rocky then the mountains they were named after.

If you exclude Ottavino the other top five Rockies bullpen arms based on usage:

Bryan Shaw 39 games, 7.08ERA, -1.5 WAR

Jake McGee 30 games, 5.40ERA, -0.1 WAR

Chris Rusin 23 games, 7.45ERA, -0.6 WAR

Mike Dunn  23 games, 9.00ERA, -0.5 WAR

Wade Davis 30 games, 4.55ERA, 0.3 WAR

Five players making a combined $130 million in contracted salary have combined to make the worst bullpen in the entire league with a combined ERA of 5.75.  Davis leads the league in blown saves followed directly behind him is Bryan Shaw, both have 4 blown saves for a team that is still looking to fight their way into a playoff spot.  Davis has also been uncharacteristically wild during the first two months of the season, sporting a 33.6 percent Zone% that is the second-lowest among qualified relievers.

The Rockies cannot blame the entirety of their troubles on their bullpen.  The starting rotation hasn’t been top level and the offense has been nearly non-existent at times during the season.  The Dodgers have had early season struggles and the Diamondbacks have been falling off from their red hot start.  The Rockies are still in the mix for the National League West despite being four games under .500. Colorado will need a drastic turn around from their bullpen to have a chance to make up ground with in the division.

The Nationals made the first move to improve themselves before the All-Star break acquiring Royals Closer Kelvin Herrara.  With some much money locked up in their current relievers its seems unlikely the Rockies will be able to go outside the organization for help.  They will have to rely on their players to overcome their problems.  There is hope despite recent struggles Wade Davis has had his moments including 18-20 saves before June as well as holding hitters to a .274 Xwoba at dreaded Coors field.  Adam Ottovino has established himself as a dominate reliever.  Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee are not young players, you would have to believe that they will find a way to figure out what is going wrong.

The NL West has done one of the worst things they can possibly do, allow a team that has underperforming talent stick around.  If the Rockies find a way to fix their bullpen they will leave their mark on the National League soon.

 

 

Eddie Rosario- The star we don’t talk about

In 2017 the Minnesota Twins would have been the best story in baseball if they had not been overshadowed by the brilliant run by the world champion Houston Astros.  The Twins made a huge step forward finishing second in the Central, finding themselves in the American League Wild Card game.  Minnesota fell short against the powerhouse Yankees but the statement was made, they have arrived on the scene and are ready to make the next step.  The baseball world has begun to see the Twins but they have yet to notice their developing star Eddie Rosario.

Rosario burst onto the scene in 2015 for the Twins hitting 13HR, stealing 11 bases  and hitting an astounding 15 triples.  Rosario finished 6th in the rookie of the year voting.  Rosario struggled to stay healthy in 2016 playing just 92 games. Without their young star the Twins suffered a tough season finishing just 59- 103, 35.5GB.  A healthy Rosario took the field in 2017 and began his accent to a leadership role on a young Twins roster looking for a star.  Rosario’s stats spoke for themselves, being placed in the middle of the Twins order Rosario blasted 27HR. Rosario also saw a huge progression in his advanced analytics. 2017 Stats (Increases from 2016)  OBP +33 – SLG  +86 – OPS +120 – XWOBA +59. The impact of having Rosario created a boast to the team as they finished 85-77 a ridiculous +26 in there win total.  While there are many different reasons for the increase in wins for the Twins it cannot be ignored that Rosario’s presence was huge for this team.

Rosario has continued his development in 2018 continuing to be a force.  The Twins struggled out of the gate mainly due to pitching issues.  But as we inch closer to the All Star break the twins currently sit 4.5 games back from the Central leading Indians.Eddie Rosario has been the reason why this team has been able to stay afloat in the division.  Over his last 15 games he has a Ruthian stat line .379BA 7HR 13RBI.  Eddie Rosario came into the league as a guy with a little pop but a lot of raw skills.  He used his speed and defensive ability to get into the lineup.  There has been a regression in his speed game, but I believe that is due to the fact that the Twins needed a guy that can hit for power.  Players like Byron Buxton can provide speed, Joe Mauer can provide more OBP. Rosario has changed his game to address the needs of his team.  He has found more value swinging for extra base hits and driving in runs.

Right now Eddie Rosario’s numbers should place him right in the middle of the MVP discussions.  His .323BA (5th), 16HR (10th), 46RBI (6th) put him in the same class as players like Mike Trout and Mookie Betts but he is still not looked at in the same light as these stars.  Rosario currently ranks 14th in AL All-Star voting behind players like Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Nick Castellanos and Michael Brantley.   While these players may be deserving they are not near the level of Eddie Rosario.   I live in realistic world, players in bigger markets are always going to be put in front of a player that plays in the midwest.  Rosario sits in a market that doesn’t receive the same level of coverage.  The baseball world has to open their eyes and see what is happening up in Minnesota.  The best way to make that happen is to win.  The Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau Minnesota Twins teams of the early 2000’s forced the sports world to pay attention.   If the Twins can get more consistency from their pitching and secondary players they can turn around what his been a disappointing season.

Eddie Rosario will most likely make the All- Star game, he may even find himself in the talks for MVP (Not Realistic to win).  What is certain though is that he is becoming a player that the league cannot ignore.  He hits both righties and lefties, he hits for power, he hits for average,  he has speed and he is only 26 years old! It is time to pay attention to this man and watch as he continues to be one of the best players in Major League Baseball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What should the Spurs do with Kawhi?

Kawhi Leonard established himself as arguably the best two-way  player in the league.  He has the ability to shutdown the other teams best player while also carrying the scoring load. Due to a nagging quad injury, he missed most of last season and only played nine games. That injury has caused a stable relationship to completely fall apart. The Spurs medically cleared Leonard, but he chose to sit out and rehab the injury away from the team. The dissention between the Spurs and Leonard had become uncomfortable.  Long time Spurs star Tony Parker publicly commented on Leonard not playing “My quad was 100 times worse.”  Uncharacteristically the Spurs dirty laundry was being aired out in public.  Suddenly the all mighty Spurs had become a headline for something that had nothing to do with winning.  They were more about drama then basketball.  The story has continued in the offseason, Leonard has announced that he would like to like to be traded from the Spurs during the offseason.

The Spurs sit in an interesting place.  They have a team that has been built around Kawhi Leonard.  Successfully they have supplied a group of rising roles players around him with Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson and Davis Bertans.  They have also given him a co-star in LaMarcus Aldridge.  Leonard has two years left on his contract but an opt out clause at the end of the upcoming season.  If Leonard decides to opt out at the end of the season the Spurs will lose one of the top stars in the league without anything to show for it.   The Spurs must act now.  The Indiana Pacers were dealing with a similar situation last summer when star Paul George made it very clear he would be leaving Indiana when he becomes a free agent.  Instead of just letting the star walk the Pacers were able to land a potential star in Victor Oladipo and solid role player Domantas Sabonis.  The Spurs have to find a way to cover themselves for the coming seasons.

The first and obvious answer for the Spurs is to give Kawhi what he wants.  Send him to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, potentially Julius Randle (RFA) and their first round draft pick.  Lonzo Ball’s name has been put into that conversation but let’s live in the real world.  Gregg Popovich will not have any interest in dealing with the Lonzo/Lavar Ball situation. Popovich is well known for not being interested in helping out team in the West.  While Kuzma may be a nice piece he would still not be acceptable as the centerpiece of a trade for a top 5 NBA player.  Kawhi May want to go to LA but being under contract gives the Spurs the power in this situation.

The move that makes the most sense for the Spurs would be to make a call over to Danny Ainge.  The Celtics are loaded with future draft picks as well as young stars.  With the return of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving for the 2018-19 season the Celtics will be the favorites in the East.  A player the caliber of Kawhi Leonard could be the player that gives them a real chance against the dynasty of Golden State.  The Spurs can make a call and ask for Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and one of the many Boston owned draft picks.  This trade would give the Spurs two young cost controlled players that are on the verge of superstardom.  The Spurs would also have their pick of numerous future draft picks that the Celtics hold.  The Celtics would be fools to ignore the call fro, San Antonio, with their surplus of extra talent they can afford to move on from a few of their exterior talents.

The Spurs have to move Kawhi now, but this is not an organization that is going to panic.  They will wait and make the move when they need to make it.  This is still a team that made the playoffs last season even though Kawhi spent the season on the bench.  They still have a star they can build around.  The Spurs will make the right decision but don’t expect it to happen right away.

3 Reasons Mariners are Winning without Cano

The Seattle Mariners currently sit atop of the ultra competitive American League West.  One game up on the reigning world champion Houston Astros.  Seattle being in first at this point in the season is surprising. The fact that they sit on top with their best player Robinson Cano on the DL (or suspended list) is inconceivable.

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, known for his aggressive style, has made the moves necessary to cover for the 8 time All- Star.  These are the reasons why the Mariners are winning without their star

1.Soft Schedule

Winning is winning.  I will be the first to agree that it really shouldn’t matter who you play your team still has to show up and execute.  Still it is hard to ignore that the Mariners schedule is been very favorable over the past few series.  The Mariners have still not played the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and have also not had to travel to division foes Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros.

Seattle has won 13 of 16 over their last five series playing only one team with a record above .500, that team being the Oakland Athletics (25-23).  Seattle has feasted on struggling teams during this span.  Beating up the lesser competition in the American League will be vital as they wait for Robinson Cano to return to the lineup.

2.Bullpen Pieces stepping up

Jerry Dipoto made the first move of the 2018 season grabbing Rays Closer Alex Colome for a few mid level prospects.  Colome was another piece added to a bullpen that has begun to fill out their roles to perfection.  Offseason signee Juan Nicasio has begun to get back to his 2017 form, allowing the Mariners to have a 3 headed monster of power pitchers at the back end of the game.  Seattle’s bullpen sits at 8th in the league statistically allowing opposing hitters to hit just .228 against them.

Closer Edwin Diaz has made the conversion to top ten closer with an astounding .85WHIP during the 2018 season. Emerging arms Chasen Bradford, James Pazos and Ryan Cook have emerged as impact arms early in games.  Pazos has been especially nasty. Pazos has substantially decreased his home run rate. The 6’2” 235-lb hurler sports a career 15.6% HR/FB rate, which is thrown a bit out of whack by the 50% figure from his 3.1 innings in 2016. Pazos has given up a total of one run in his last 20 appearances.

3. James Paxton and Mitch Haniger

I put Paxton and Haniger together because they have both taken huge steps in their career during the early portion of the season.  Both highly touted prospects in the Mariners system have reformed themselves into team leaders both on the mound and at the plate.

Paxton the third round pick back in 2010 has emerged as the ace of the staff in 2018. Long time ace Felix Hernandez has not been the dominant force that he has been over the last ten years in Seattle. Paxton has emerged to dethrone the king in Seattle becoming more dominant at ever turn.  Paxton 5-1, 2.95ERA, has struck out an astounding 101 batters over 82.1 innings.  His dominance culminating in a no hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 9th.  Still just 29 years old Paxton is entering what could be the prime of his career at a time where the team needs him most.

Mitch Haniger is struggling right now for the Mariners.  Over his last 15 games he is just hitting .185.  The reason I have him on this list is because he has still been a force in the Mariners order.  For the season Haniger is has 12HR 43RBI this season.  Haniger has improved his advanced analytics across the board as well.  Picking up the production lost by the suspended Cano.  Haniger has stepped into the role as run producers for a team that lacked consistency through the order in 2017.

Haniger Advanced Stats (MLBSavant.com)

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The Mariners will eventually get back their star.  But if they are able to make it to the playoffs Cano will not be eligible to play.  This time without him will prepare them for that situation.  They have the pieces to contend but the upcoming months will provide us with a true idea of what this team is.  I see the playoffs in 2018….maybe.

Top 5 Sports Blunders

Athletes can do amazing things.  They physically have the ability to defy logic while in play.  Their gifts are respected, honored and immortalized in history.  But even athletes make mistakes, JR Smith’s recent mistake in Game 1 of the NBA Finals may go down as one of the worst of all time.  It had me thinking what other brain farts on the field were worse.  So here is my top ten Sports Blunders of all time.

5. Ruben Rivera’s worst baserunning ever

Ruben Rivera never really lived up to his cousin Mariano’s family legacy.  A career .216 hitter with little impact in his professional career does have something historic on his resume. Rivera may have the worst baserunning moment in the history of Major League Baseball.  In 2003 while playing for the Giants Rivera was on base in the 9th with the game on the line, Marquis Grissom roped a shot to right field that was overrun by the fielder.  Rivera then proceeded to resort to third grade t-ball status.  It must be seen to be believed.

Rivera gets completely confused around second base, at first unsure about what is happening in the outfield, where the outfielder misplays a line drive.  Once Rivera realizes that the ball is still in play and no out has been recorded, he heads to third, but forgets to tag up at second.  He goes back to do that, and then heads to third, where it looks like he will be out by 10 feet.  However, the third baseman misplays the ball and it kicks away from him.  Eventually Rivera is tagged out and his career was tagged out shortly after.

4. 1982 NCAA Tournament Game:  Fred Brown passes it to the wrong team.

The 1982 NCAA Championships matched two iconic programs fighting it out as Michael Jordan’s North Carolina Tarheels taking on the Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas.  This game had everything you could want, future NBA legends, Hall of Fame Coaches and back and forth action.   With 17 seconds left in the game and North Carolina leading 63-62, Georgetown Guard Fred Brown mistook Carolina’s James Worthy for a teammate and passed the ball right to his opponent. Worthy was fouled by Eric Smith with two seconds to go.  With no timeouts left the Hoyas were unable to get the ball down the court after two missed free throws.  In the heat of the moment even the best make mistakes but this one will live on in the memory of Hoya fans as an all time blunder.

3. Leon Lett fumble recovery… sort of.

Leon Lett was a 2-time pro bowl defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys during their early 90’s dominate run.  Lett was a dominant force at times for a strong Cowboys defense.  While his playing career had many highlights he is known more for his two massive mistakes. His famous Super Bowl fumble was pretty embarrassing but the Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills so the embarrassing moment was overshadowed by victory

On Thanksgiving day in 1993,  during a rare snow and sleet storm in Dallas, the Cowboys, who came into the game with a 7–3 record, were leading the 8–2 Miami Dolphins by a score of 14–13 with 15 seconds remaining in the game.But instead of allowing the ball to die down and let the refs pick it up, Leon Lett comes rumbling, bumbling and stumbling on top of the ball, squirting it into the arms of shocked Dolphins. Re-kick. The Dolphins take advantage of the second chance and win.

2. Jim Joyce Noooo!

Mental mistakes don’t always just happen to athletes officials some times don’t make the best decisions. On June 2 2010 the Detroit Tigers were taking on the Cleveland Indians in a central division showdown.  The Tigers had Armando Gallarraga on the mound putting on an amazing performance retiring 26 straight Indian batters when Jason Donald stepped up to the plate.  Donald hit a weak ground ball to First Baseman Miguel Cabrera, Cabrera tossed to the covering Gallarraga to complete just the 21st ever Perfect Game in MLB history…..or so we thought.

Veteran umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe at first thus ending the bid for perfection.  Upon review it showed that he baserunner was out by at least a step and a half.  Joyce, whom was voted as the top umpire in Major League Baseball the year before had just made one of the most epic wrong calls in the history of the game.

Gallarraga never was able to capture the same stuff he had that night, his career ending after a few subpar seasons.  Jim Joyce is still umpiring, but every time his name is brought up you can’t help but think of that call.

1.Chris Webber’s huge mistake

Chris Webber was arguably the best college basketball player in the country during his time at Michigan.  Webber, the #1 ranked recruit going into the 1991-1992 season brought size, speed and athleticism to the power forward position unlike anything the game had seen.  He could run point, post you up and hit jumper in your face while grabbing ten boards a game.  The cornerstone of the historic Fab Five teams college resume will always be tarnished but not because Michigan was forced to bring down the banners.  It will be tarnished for the biggest mental mistake in the history of college basketball.

On April 5th 1993 the Webber’s Michigan Wolverines were in the National Championship game against Dean’ Smith’s North Carolina Tarheels.  With seconds left in the game and the Wolverines down Webber had the ball and charged down court. Then it happened

“Webber brings it into the frontcourt … they have no timeouts remaining … Oh! He calls it, too many timeouts! That’s a technical foul! He called a timeout, and Michigan doesn’t have any!”

North Carolina shot the two technical free throws and sealed up another National Title.  Webber and his teammates had to just watched as for the second year in a row their dreams of a championship would go down the drain.  Webber to this day doesn’t want to talk about the miss timed timeout.  He went on to have a great NBA career, currently one of my favorite NBA Analyst to listen to.  But forever I will remember him as the guy that called the worst timeout in college basketball history