Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Random MLB Thoughts

-Who's the AL MVP right now? Josh Hamilton? On a .500 team? Manny Ramirez...on an off year? Carlos Quentin...because Thome, Konerko, Swisher and Dye all have had less than stellar first halves while your team resides in first still? Think about it....this isn't a question that will be answered before mid September.

-Can anyone deny that the Minnesota Twins and Oakland A's don't get anywhere near the credit they deserve? Look at the teams in similar situations financially...KC, FLA, PIT...these teams almost never contend yet OAK and MIN are right back in contention every year. Here's the kicker: both of them traded their aces in the offseason. That one blows the mind. They have simlarly built offenses with young SP's and a rock solid bullpen. Seems there is a formula after all...

-I have no doubts that the NL West will be the most fun race for the summer. But eventually one team will decided enough is enough (I say LA) and move out in front for good. I can only hope that COL and SD decide to play the 2nd half like they did last year....we'll be in for a possible 5 team race. Don't count out SF either....they're scrappy and have good, young starting pitching (at least as good anyone else in the division). AZ has Haren and Webb but a struggling offense. Fun, Fun, Fun.

-MLB trade talk is always fun now but how many trades actually happen before the all-star break? None basically. Teams wait and see how they go into the break and that will determine the buy/sell strategies for the next two weeks after the break. I predict the Indians will trade C.C. to a NL Central team (Cubs or Brewers) while the Braves hold on to Mark Teixieira (Is anyone besides Washington out of that race?). The big bat for trade will be Matt Holliday. The Rockies have struggled of late (worse than earlier in the year) and they will be looking to unload the potential free agent. Holliday had a great year last year (my NL MVP but who asked) but his batting average and OBP are higher this year. He's hitting less HR's and the RBI's are way down due to his team's performance more than his individual performance. I look for someone to ante up for him and look to sign him long-term.

Random Sentences of Thoughts

-The Dodgers won a game on Saturday night and didn't get a hit. The Tigers are back in the hunt for the AL Central. The Royals would be a contender in the NL (just kidding but the way they've played, who really knows?). Carlos Delgado had 9 RBI in one game while I wasn't sure if he had that much in a month so far this year. MLB parody is at a ridiculous high but it's still fun. Manny Parra is the best pitcher you've never heard of (Brewers starter). The SP market has to be bad when Bronson Arroyo and Paul Byrd are available. What team can't come up with a minor-leaguer to do the same job? Seriously.

My NBA Draft Thoughts (Cavs Thoughts too)

Draft Day Dilemmas:
-If I was drafting 2 (aka Mr. Riley and your Miami Heat), just draft OJ Mayo. Put him with Dwayne Wade, Shawn Marion, Ricky Davis and Udonis Haslem.....can you imagine that lineup playing in the weak Eastern Conference? Now replace Mayo with Beasley or Bayless....nowhere near the same team at all. It's simple....stand Pat and pick Mayo.
-Memphis at 5: Kevin Love....easiest pick outside of the top 2 (Rose, Mayo).
-Scenario 1: Chi picks Rose, Mia picks Mayo....McHale, who do the Wolves take? Beasley
-Scenario 2: Chi picks Rose, Mia picks Beasley...McHale, who do the Wolves take? Mayo.
Overall, these three (Rose, Mayo, Beasley) should be the top 3 in this draft. No one else is justifiably good enough to overtake one of these three as a top 3 pick.
-The trade of Jermaine O'Neal means the Pacers have the 11 and 17 picks. This is great Mr. Bird as they will add two more quality ballplayers to a team that I thought was underrated last year. I felt they could sneak into the playoffs as the 8 seed but couldn't catch Atlanta. The Pacers have issues right now in terms of salary cap and having bad players under bad deals. Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy (although he showed signs of being a quality player last year) and Jamaal Tinsley are all under huge deals for the next three years. This won't help but they can build around Danny Granger (most underrated player in the NBA...nobody talks about him) and TJ Ford. They will likely add frontcourt depth to Murphy, Nesterovic, Diogu, Foster, Harrison and Shawne Williams (I expect him to be a quality player someday).
-The Hornets sold the 27th pick to Portland. The Nuggets sold to the 20th pick to Charlotte. Both the Bobcats and Blazers should be commended in their efforts to add young talent. Both teams have playoffs written all over them next year (okay, Bobcats as a 7 or 8 seed). Glad to see that NO and DEN have decided Free Agency is the way to go for them as they continue to add to playoff teams that fell short a year ago.
-In terms of names being thrown out for trades, I don't see any big names moving. Elton Brand is a possibilty but LAC can't afford to trade him unless it's for the 2nd pick. When healthy, he gives them something they'll spend years searching for once he's gone.

Cavs Dilemmas:
-Danny Ferry calls me (hypothetically of course) and asks what to do in the Draft (Apparently he's forgotten since we didn't have a pick last year and the last first round pick he had was Shannon Brown in a similar spot to this year's pick). I tell him simply: trade up for Augustin...don't break the bank or anything...but we need a true PG. He's small but durable, can shoot (better than Delonte West) and will give this team an impact ball player that will make Lebron and teammates better now. Isn't that what we're doing here? We're not drafting prospects for the future (3 or 4 years from now...hmmm Hickson, Koufos....sorry these are the names I've seen mentioned with the Cavs on mock draft).
-The Cavs have to add a 2nd round pick. They need two players from this draft...not one. Unless they plan on dumping some of that $30 mil of expiring contracts for bodies after July 1, I think they need another body. I'm not asking for an all-star, just a guy who can come off the bench and play (preferrably defend since Devin Brown will be gone).
-No matter what happens at the Draft for the Cavs, LeBron can't help but think his team is still not quite there as a preeminant favorite in the East. He needs help and the 19th pick just won't be enough.
-Interest in Baron Davis is possible but it would have to be through a trade (He isn't opting out). What is simply seen through the league the past few days is that Shawn Marion and Baron Davis are staying under contract for one more season for another monster salary. Neither could have possibly received that much through free agency and they're both smart to stay under contract.
-Jermaine O'Neal for Rasho Nesterovic, TJ Ford, 17th pick and another player TBNL. LOL. Sorry but all of these guys are useless right now. O'Neal, if healthy (BIG IF) with Bosh will be a good frontcourt but the rest of their team is average at best. Toronto is not winning the East with that team. Ford's addition will be meaningless for most but it could help the Cavs. DJ Augustin was likely to go to Indy at 11 but now Indy sees Ford as their starter. This is the development I could see as the biggest of the draft in terms of what it means to the Cavs. Possibly, Augustin could fall to 19 or at least closer to 19 so the potential trade up won't hurt the Cavs as much.

NBA Draft: Who's good and Who ain't?

It's simple really: either a player is good or he ain't. Anthony Randolph, DeAndre Jordan, every foreign player in this draft....your not good, you won't make it in this league. Derrick Rose, OJ will be the two multi-time all-stars from this class. Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, The Lopez Twins (why do they both have girls names?)....we will be asking why your all too soft to have star impact in the league. And so's my listings of the draft picks and where they fall in my pecking order. Every player falls into one of these categories.

-Future MVP Candidates: Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo
-Terribly Overrated but still could be an All-Star once or twice: Michael Beasley, Jerryd Bayless
-Much skills but not enough to be a star: Eric Gordon, Joe Alexander
-1st Round Sleepers: DJ Augustin, Donte Greene, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Courtney Lee
-No Chance to be Anything but a role player: Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Lopez Twins, All foreign players (including the clown from Italy), Kosta Koufos, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur (these Jayhawks weren't stars in college, don't expect anything more of them in the NBA), Jason Thompson, Ryan Anderson
-BUST CITY: Anthony Randolph, Roy Hibbert, JJ Hickson, Marreesse Speights, JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan
-Ultimate 2nd Round sleepers (Two of them will become quality starters at some point in his career): Bill Walker (could go in first), Davon Jefferson, JR Giddens (the most talented former Jayhawk in this draft....just doesn't have a head on him), Sonny Weems, Shan Foster, Jamont Gordon (these 3 SEC products can ball but may not be more than an offensive spark off a bench...aka Eddie House)

A couple of comments to help understand my thinking here:
-Bill Walker and Davon Jefferson are top 1o picks next year if they come back to school for another their 2nd round picks.
-All of the BUST CITY citizens are big men. I know this....they are all overrated (similar to the big foreign players in this draft)....This draft has an eerily bad smell about it once you get past the top 12-16 picks....these big men are all soft, young and have no chance to make a real impact in this or anyday.
-Michael Beasley is good...I will admit that. But, I don't see him averaging more than 21-10 a game in his that enough to pick him over a swingman, game changing offensive player like OJ Mayo? I don't think so but the top 3 teams should all get good players regardless.
-Those four names on the 1st round sleeper list are four guys any team can add to their roster and be better because of it. I especially like Augustin and Greene. CDR will be solid as well but probably can't start in this league. Lee is the type of player that just won't be denied...that's why I see him having a good career.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cavs Draft Dilemmas

What kind of market are the Cavs looking to explore in July? They have a mid-level exception, which could net a solid role player. They also have the famous $30 million in expiring contracts that they could get rid of. Resigning Daniel Gibson to a nice 3 or 4 year deal would be another thing on the checklist for Mr. Ferry. Here's where I see the Cavs standing at this point:

Damon Jones (4.4 mil), Wally Sczerbiak (13 mil), Eric Snow (7.3 mil) and Joe Smith (4.7 mil) are the expiring contracts. Delonte West will make 2.7 mil as a restricted FA but I don't see much interest in anyone swooping in to give him a big offer sheet. All of these guys can be traded and sought by teams looking to open up cap room after the 08-09 season. Jones and Snow are basically useless to this team, making their tradeabilty greater. Snow needs to apply for the insurance to get that 7 mil off of the Cavs cap. With that being potentially erased, the Cavs would have more money and leverage to deal with in this offseason, as opposed to waiting until next. Plus, no one is going to trade for Snow, even if he comes off the cap in a year. Maybe they can trade him in February but no one wants that 7 mil on their cap for a whole season.

In terms of the draft, the Cavs need to be resourceful in trading up. I haven't heard much about this other than the 14 and ??? for the 19 and Varajao deal that keeps popping up here and there with Golden State. There's a possibility of getting Brandon Wright, a solid young big guy who can eventually replace Smith and Varajao in the lineup. Andy is due to make 12 mil over the next two years in his contract. For the limited minutes and offensive potential, he certainly isn't worth it in my mind (I thought that throughout the holdout and continue to believe the Cavs made a mistake resigning him). The bigger mistake and more untradeable is Mr. Pavlovic. While he is due less than Andy (9.4 mil over the next two years), he is untradeable until his contract is expiring (aka next summer or Feb. 2010).

For the Cavs, I would suggest one of two things: Trading back in the first round and getting a 2nd round pick (Trading a future #1 pick is another possibility; also in the NBA, you can literally buy a draft pick for 3 mil...maybe we can do one of these two). The Seattle Sonics have the 32, 46, 50 and 56 picks in the 2nd round. Does anyone really believe that this cash hungry team won't sell or trade away at least one of these picks? They have the #4 overall as well so adding five players (potentially; second round picks aren't guaranteed contracts) is outrageous. They have 12 players under contract right now with 8 of them having at least 2 years left. They've been rumored to be trading Wilcox (6 mil, expiring) while trying to move up. But, who knows what they'll do? The only thing I can say for sure is that they have multiple first round pick in future years, Durant, Green, the #4 pick (as of now) and many second round picks. Not to mention all of the grossly overpaid, multiple year deals they still have left (Collison, Ridnour, Watson). I believe the Cavs can trade for a second round pick from Seattle, add that player to the roster for less than a million dollars and have a quality player on the bench.

Monday, June 23, 2008

MLB Final Predictions

My Predicted Final Leaders in the MLB (and Playoff Predictions too):


-Batting Title: Johnny Damon, NYY

-HR Title: Manny Ramirez, BOS

-ERA Title: John Lackey, LAA
-Wins Leader: Joe Saunders, LAA

-RBI Leader: Josh Hamilton, TEX

-SB Leader: Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS


-Batting Title: Albert Pujols, STL

-HR Title: Ryan Howard, PHI

-ERA Title: Edinson Volquez, CIN

-Wins Leader: Ryan Dempster, CHC

-RBI Leader: Ryan Howard, PHI

-SB Leader: Juan Pierre, LAD


-6 division champs: Boston, LAA, Detroit, Philadelphia, CHC, LAD

-2 Wild Cards: NYY, Milwaukee

-Best race: Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Mets all within 3 games of the wild card at the end of the year.

-World Series: Angels vs Phillies (Angels win in 5)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Case for Augustin

Here's my hypothesis: The Cleveland Cavaliers would be a better team with a true point guard (Delonte West isn't a true point guard; he played SG to Jameer Nelson in college and has the shooting tendencies that leave me desiring more out of him). The answer is simple: DJ Augustin, PG from Texas. Now most may say why pick another small PG out of Texas when you could just trade for TJ Ford? Well, I believe Augustin is a game-changer at PG, leaving Lebron and his teammates happy with his abilities. Augustin can pass and shoot, play solid D and give the Cavs the true PG they have lacked since (gasp, Andre Miller).

It's not that simple though for Cleveland. Most mock drafts I've seen have Augustin being picked anywhere from 10-13. 11 to Indiana is the popular place at this point. Being that the NBA is backwards from the NFL (the draft is before free agency; in the NFL, free agency is first). The Cavs need to address this situation through the draft. I shudder to think what PG they can pick if they stay at 19. Trading up is the only option right now. Make your move. Show LeBron your serious about improving the team by adding the second best PG in the draft to the team (Rose being 1). After that, you can go about adding a SG (Michael Redd, another rumored name; although I'm quite scared of Redd being a Cav for multiple reasons I'll get into in another post leading up to free agency) or addressing whatever needs that the team may see itself needing. DJ Augustin is a solid talent that can elevate the offense to a higher level (that offense in the playoffs was unoriginal and so inconsistent). Trading up 8 picks or so might leave you without a first rounder in a future year or you may have to part with a player from this year's team. But the overall makeup of the team would be much better with a true PG, DJ Augustin.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Random Rants and Raves

Here's some random opinions on things going on in a lovely Friday in Ohio:

-Coco Crisp vs James Shields: Well, no one could say they didn't see it coming. Coco's over aggressive slide on Wednesday caused Shields to put one on his hip. Surprising to everyone, Coco charged the mound...and nearly paid for it. While I don't advise fighting in baseball (injuries, suspensions...not much good can come from it), this fight might rejuvanate Tampa Bay. They just got swept by Boston, disrespected by them and had to do something about Coco Crisp. Jonny Gomes was landing blows to Coco when he was on the ground and I don't blame him. Shields missed with a haymaker and Dionar Navarro took Crisp down after that. Overall, this was less of a fight than the Kemp/Torrealba escalated incident earlier in the week and we should see some suspensions coming from this.

-The Celtics did what I thought they would do last night: win Game 1. They are the better team while LA has the best player on the court. That best player looked pretty angry after his 9-26 performance but I expect him to play at a higher level at some point in this series. Remember, my prediction has Boston winning the first two games so their going to need to bring the intensity again on Sunday night. Pierce was heroic, Garnett was solid (too many jumpers, go down low and bang with Gasol....he doesn't want any piece of you) and Allen looked as good as he has all playoffs. For the Lakers, their near useless bench (other than Vujacic, who continues to annoy everyone when he's one the court) was exploited again. The Lakers only chance of winning games is Kobe 35 points or more. This became more evident last night.

-The Indians and Tigers are playing an interesting series this weekend in Detroit. Both teams are playing terribly while the Indians just allowed Texas to score 9 runs or more in each game against them. I thought this team was based around pitching? Their offense showed up one night with 15 runs but I expect a high level of tension in Detroit tonight. The Tigers are close to be passed by the Royals and they really need to pick it up on offense. Pitching has certainly been their main issue but I expect them to take 2 of the 4 games from Cleveland.

-MLB names to keep an eye on in the next couple of weeks: Carlos Gonzalez (OF-Oak), Jerry Hairston Jr. (SS-Cin), Radhames Liz (SP-Bal), Shin-soo Choo (OF-Cle).

-In the French Open, Rafael Nadal may never lose in this tournament. He's won three in a row and is in the Final on Sunday again. His opponent looks to be Roger Federer (Fed's up 2 sets to 1 on Monfils as we speak). For me personally, I'm a huge Federer fan. He's the best player in the world who just can't beat this giant on the clay courts. Nadal crushed Djokovic in straight sets this morning. To me, Federer has a huge hill to climb on Sunday (assuming he gets there). Nadal is 27-0 at this tournament. He's not winning close matches either; he's dominating the competition. Federer is one French Open title from the career Grand Slam, 13 Majors (Australian, French, Wimbledon, US) and a chance to erase the one question mark on his legacy at this point. We shall see if he can overcome the odds on Sunday.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Celtics Lakers Positional Breakdown

Here's the interesting part of this series: the individual matchups. Here's how it see it breaking down.

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
I don't really know who has the advantage here. Most would say Fisher should be able to outplay Rondo, at least offensively, giving the Lakers a big advantage. But I'm not so sure about that. I think that Rondo can stimulate the Celtics offense enough to have a big impact on the offensive end, even if he's not scoring. Fisher knows where the ball belongs (MVP's hands) which should make his job easy.

Advantage: Equal (As long as Rondo doesn't turn into the scared kid we've seen at times throughout the season)

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
Um simply put, Allen can't guard anyone, let alone the world's best player.

Advantage: Lakers (huge)

Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs Lamar Odom/Vladimir Radmonovic
Here's the problem for the Lakers that I see as GLARING: who's going to guard Paul Pierce? Yes, Odom can give you good defense but over the course of a game, on an all-star player, he is likely to find foul trouble. It's happened before and I think the best thing the Lakers can do is put bodies and fouls on Pierce. Now I'm not advising hack-a-Pierce but they need to use their bench to stop/slow down Pierce.

Advantage: Celtics (huge)

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs Odom/Radmonovic (whoever doesnt guard Pierce)
Garnett is going to have a big series, I'm anticipating at least 3 or 4 games of 25 and 15. That may seem extreme but I see him being motivated and outplaying his defender throughout the series. Who off the Laker bench can come in and give minutes on Garnett? No one. Turiaf will definately be exploited when he comes in and Mbenga (if he even sees the floor) won't be able to play the 4 or 5 well enough to deserve minutes.

Advantage: Celtics (Biggest advantage in the series)

Center: Kendrick Perkins vs Pau Gasol
The most interesting matchup of the series for me personally. Perkins has done some things well in the playoffs and had some solid games. I don't think he'll outplay Gasol but this won't be as lopsided as it seems on paper. If anything, Garnett can help double on Gasol enough to really affect the Lakers offense strategies.

Advantage: Lakers (smaller than it seem)

Bench: Posey, Brown, Cassell, Powe, House, Davis vs Vujacic, Farmar, Walton, Turiaf, Mbenga?
This is another advantage that I earlier thought could be really exploited. The Celtics bench is so much better than the Lakers, leaving Phil Jackson to play his starters for more time than usual. Seriously, is Luke Walton going to give you 10 and 5 off the bench every night? Doubtful. The fact that the Celtics can avoid playing Cassell altogether and be better for it shows how solid this bench is.

Advantage: Celtics (this advantage will win the Celtics at least one game)

Coach: Rivers vs Jackson
Major advantage clearly to the man with 9 rings. Looking for the full two hands of rings, Jackson should be able to outcoach Rivers enough to where this series is full of close games. Jackson needs to give Bryant the ball in most situations and let him work off of that. Not waiting for the fourth quarter to give Kobe the proper treatment could also decide a game or two.

Advantage: Lakers

My prediction is still Celtics 4, Lakers 2. I think Boston wins the first 2 at home, LA responds with a Game 3 blowout, then blows Game 4, takes Game 5 and sees the Celtics win the championship in Boston in Game 6. My MVP is Kevin Garnett. If the Lakers somehow pull this thing out, it will be in 7 games and Kobe will have established himself as a top 5 player of all time with a 35 point a game series. This is the only way LA wins, unless Gasol and Odom can somehow outplay the Boston bigs enough to give Kobe a chance to take over in the end of games.

Celtics Lakers Preview/Prediction

The eyes of America will be on these two great franchises tonight as Game 1 will take place sometime starting sometime after 9 eastern in Boston. For both of these teams, the past 12 months have been a startling change. For the Lakers, they were bounced in the first round of last year's playoffs for the 2nd straight year by the Suns. For the Celtics, they were terrible throughout the year, even having to endure an 18 game losing streak.

Both of these teams used major trades to turn around their fortunes. The Celtics were able to pick up two legitimate all stars in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason. The Lakers saw a developing Andrew Bynum go down and then they went out and "stole" Pau Gasol. These teams are also full of role players that have played way above their heads in the past few months (Just to name a few: Rondo, Perkins, Walton, etc.) There are 6 legitimate stars in this series: KG, Allen, Pierce, Kobe, Gasol and Odom. The rest of these rosters have complimentary players that could very well decide the series. I like Boston's rotation much better than LA's for some reason and I see this winning the Celtics at least a game.

I'm going against the great Kobe Bryant and the revitalized Lakers in this series. I think the Celtics have shown themselves to be an improving team throughout the playoffs. They looked terrible against the lowly Hawks at certain points, better against Cleveland and similar to the regular season team against the Pistons. Remember when people asked whether they could win a road game in the playoffs? Well, they won 2 against Detroit (although I would argue Detroit is the worst "good" team at home in the playoffs the past 6-8 years; look at how many big games they lost at home. Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals comes to mind along with two straight Game 5 losses to Cleveland two years in a row. If you're a great team or one that supposed to contend for an NBA title, you have to be able to win almost all of your home games.)

The Lakers haven't lost a home game yet in the playoffs but they aren't that great of a home team either. I don't see the Celtics fearing going into LA, even though the series will be 2-3-2. I think the winner of Game 1 will have a huge advantage in this series, even more than usual. Game 2 isn't until Sunday night while the teams will then travel all the way to LA after that game to play Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday. This is why I think the Celtics will have an advantage. They are good enough to win both games in Boston (my prediction), go to LA and win one of three there and come home to close it out in 6. Kobe is good enough to take this team on his back, average 35 a game, get to the line a ridiculous amount of times and pop the champagne in LA in Game 4 or 5. But I don't see that happening.

I will give you position by position matchups a bit later. I will also discuss the tremendous advantage LA has in the coaching department and why this isn't going to kill Boston.