Sep 01

Golden State Warriors Big Men… Strenghths, Weaknesses, Potential Improvements, How They Stack Up to the Competition…

This is a reaction to a shade tree mechanicish blog that deserves no mention other than it is my inspiration.  The particular blog’s premise was that the Warriors are not close to being NBA Championship contenders because of the makeup of the roster and the lack of big men.  Specifically the author sited Andrew Bogut’s inability to stay healthy on the floor long enough to be of value, and his lack of quality backups.  These things are all debateable, but this writer failed to consider many things.  His article just read like a Warriors Hater who couldn’t stand hearing about the potential of the team.  It also REEKED of minimal knowledge and minimal give a shi* as a writer/journalist.  So what.  I’ve really enjoyed writing this rough draft so far in response.  What is the possibility of this team’s ceiling this year?  Oh it’s through the roof if Steve Kerr is as intelligent and prepared as I think he might be.  It just is, or should I say I wish it was the goal of every team every year in every sport to win a Championship!  New Coach Kerr has said in press conferences that the goal is to compete every year.  He said this is a very good team as it is.  That’s not enough for me.  I want to hear: Hey fans!  Our goal for this season is not to just compete.  That’s not enough.  Our goal is to win a Championship this year!  Let’s do it now!  I could absolutely understand that he doesn’t want to have that kind of boastfulness out of the gate.  That is understandable.  I would hate to be the OKC Thunder who every year are knocking on the door of a Championship.  Their Coach, Scott Brooks takes such a deadpanned approach to just getting better, growing as a team and individuals, one step at a time, ……… SCOTTY!  Sometimes one step at a time doesn’t make you the best in the world.  Sometimes you’ve got to jump Scotty!

1. How many years has it been? 2 years. In the 2012-2013 season this group of Warriors made the playoffs for the first time. They did it again in the 2013-2014 season. So yes, 2 years. Before the ’12-’13 season started, the Warriors certainly were not considered a lock to make the playoffs, and were not overrated in any way with a second year head coach in Mark Jackson who was extremely unproven.

2. “Ever since the Warriors became a good team, we have been trying to find every excuse we could to try to put the Warriors in the same class as the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.”

Let me tell you why. In the ’12-’13 NBA Playoffs, the Golden State Warriors were the only Western Conference team to beat the San Antonio Spurs even once. In fact the Warriors won two games of that series and were very close to a 2-0 series lead were it not for a double overtime loss in game 1.

What’s the Warriors’ record head to head against the LA Clippers the last two seasons? In ’12 – ’13 they won the season series 3-1 and last year they tied with a 2-2 season series.

In the ’13-’14 playoffs, the Warriors pushed the Clippers to 7 games which seemed impossible without Andrew Bogut in the lineup. They found success when Jermaine O’Neal voluntarily suggested he give up his starting status so Draymond Green could start and harass Blake Griffin. Amazingly, moving David Lee from the starting power forward spot to the center did not hurt the Warriors as much as slowing down Griffin with Green helped. See, not many teams, even very good teams have great players at the power forward and center positions. The undersized David Lee showed to be able to match up acceptably against the Clippers’ center DeAndre Jordan. The decision was a net positive, as Griffin was slowed by the smaller Green, and Jordan’s advantages over Lee were not pronounced enough to be an issue. As it happened, I do think the Warriors’ lack of depth at power forward and center was a big reason they did not prevail. With just 4 healthy bodies at the power forward and center positions, the Warriors were outmatched. O’Neal really couldn’t handle the work on the defensive end and Mo Speights was overmatched in the open court by Griffin streaking to the rim. Something had to give, and certainly if Speights kept his eyes on Griffin in those situations instead of being a ball watcher, he could have at least attempted to plant himself between Griffin and the rim.

3. My point is that the Warriors are given hype, because they are good. With a healthy Bogut, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson, the Warriors defense is scary good. The health is a big deal, and for this team, the injury history of Bogut and Curry especially is frightening. Last season, with injuries to Iguodala and Bogut during the regular season, this team finished 3rd in the NBA in defensive rating. Even in basketball, it is said defense wins championships. Most fans, scribes, and pundits figured that the offense could find it’s way out of the funkiness that engulfed the team at times. In the playoffs, the game slows down, becoming more of a defensive battle.

4. “David Lee is a man among boys in the paint, and Harrison Barnes has developed into a solid player.”

It’s interesting for me to read those words from you and think how many times I have read or heard a Warriors’ fan with the same viewpoint. It’s never happened. You gave an empty compliment that Warriors fans know is not true.

Fans that appreciate Lee will cite the fact he had more double-doubles than anyone in the NBA in the ’12-’13 season. Those same fans will also cite lackluster defensive effort, his late season injuries, and his lack of size compared to other Western Conference power forwards. No one with knowledge of the team would dispute Lee’s shortcomings. No one would call Lee a man among boys. On the offensive side, he can appear that way. Lee is outstanding offensively. The problem is that on the defensive side, he lets guys have big nights against him.

Harrison Barnes is a talented player that many a Warriors’ fan will tell you might be a solid player, one day. If you only watched him in the ’12-’13 playoffs, you might come away thinking Barnes looked good. He did! He looked really good! Man it just would have been nice if he was doing all that against someone taller than Tony Parker! Fact is, Parker was given the task of defending Barnes so better defenders could check Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Mostly, Barnes has been a guy who’s maddeningly inconsistent do likely to the various roles he has found himself in. He has started, and come off the bench as the number 1 scoring option at times. Considering his age, and the variety of roles he’s played, really he’s doing well. He’s just not a solid player yet, and he is still growing. There are things he does very well. He shows great ability to finish at the rim, and along the baseline. He has been a decent catch and shoot 3 point shooter. Negatives for Barnes include trying to create his own shot off the bounce in the mid-range area. Barnes has been dreadfully ineffective in this scorer’s role. That’s the way our old Coach, Mark Jackson used him. That’s not the way i expect Kerr to use him. I expect Kerr will have Barnes move from corner 3 to corner 3 with cuts along the baseline, potentially developing into explosive back door dunks. Setting a screen here and there, grabbing some rebounds and loose balls would be nice too.
Barnes is a player under construction. It’s easy to see what he could be, but he is not by any means a solid player at this point in his career. That’s ok. He’s young.

5. “Andrew Bogut can’t stay on the floor long enough to have a presence. Even worst, the Warriors have no capable inside presence after Bogut. This was the main reason why the Warriors were interested in getting Kevin Love, but they could not let go of their loyalty to Thompson to reach a deal.”

Let’s talk depth at those power forward and center positions.

The first point to make is that Kevin Love being a “capable inside presence after Bogut” isn’t quite what people think of Love. This is absolutely not why the Warriors wanted Love. It is true that he can bang in the paint with other large bodies, but this is not typically his game. Yes it’s true that Love has a huge body, much bigger than Lee at the same position. Similar to Lee, Love is an offensive beast, one of the best rebounders in the game, and a work in progress defensively. Luckily, Love is not just bigger than Lee, but also younger. He could become a better defensive player over time, which is not something we can really hope for Lee at this stage of his career.

It must be understood that Love does not exactly have an inside presence, anyway, as he is an outside-in type player. Offensively, Love starts on the perimeter as a stretch 4, setting screens in his pick and pop game. He’s a space rebounder using his intelligence and ability to cover ground rather than banging in the paint all the time.. We as fans, generally know what makes Love attractive… of course we all want Love.

Offensively, Love is one of the most developed and valuable players in the game. He would be a perfect compliment to Curry. Love’s repertoire includes setting screens, 3 point shooting, the ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the paint or midrange for his own shot, and the ability to pass. Love isn’t nearly as devastating a 3 point shooter as Curry or even Klay Thompson, but looking at the whole picture, he is very valuable. Offensive rebounds are a big part of his game, and as a shooter, Love can clean up his own junk as well as his teammate’s misses. It would make the Warriors amazing offensively to add Love to Curry. Curry could use Love on his team sooo muuuuch! It’s a match made in heaven. A give and go game between the two would just be sick…. I absolutely believe Love and Lebron are not the match for each other. It will likely work fine. Let’s see if Love and Curry can team up for USA Basketball in the next couple of years. It’s salivating! Lebron is a player that doesn’t really need a Love type player. It couldn’t hurt Lebron having Love, but it’s not the help that setting screens for Curry would be.

Ask Warriors’ fans about Love backing up Bogut and being another capable inside presence, and they will shake their head at you. That’s just not what the Love idea was about. That’s missing the point by a long shot. I am one of the rare Warriors’ fans who would be ok with Love playing center for a small part of the average game. Bogut comes out, Love moves to the center position, and Green comes off the bench as the power forward. A 5-10 minute rest for Bogut with Love manning the center position might not be a bad idea, but it comes with big risks.

The problem is, we can’t expect Love to change the way he plays just because he becomes the center. He’s just not going to post at the high block or low block every time. He’s going to follow around the point guard, working off him, and setting screens for him and others on the perimeter. When the defense shows a weakness inside, Love is very good at moving into the paint using his own ballhandling or recieving a pass. He is a capable paint scorer.
On the defensive side of the ball, it would be a negative game changer to have Love replace Bogut. It would place pressure on Love to attempt to replicate Bogut’s awesome prowess altering shots and eating space defensively in the paint. A likely outcome would be opposing teams switching their offensive strategy. Driving to the rack on every possession would be an intelligent strategy in this case, and we could see Love rack up 2 or 3 fouls in 2 or 3 minutes. How frustrating would that be?

Love as another inside presence behind Bogut would certainly not have been an easy thing to create. i do believe against certain lineups, certain teams, it could work fine. Pairing him next to a strong defender like Green at the power forward would certainly be advisable.

So here I am, offended by this article’s lack of knowledge, the odd conclusions that are not based on reality, and the lack of ability to think like the average Warriors’ fan. I have pointed out fallacies in the original article, but for the most part, I have certainly not painted the Warriors as a contender. Much of what I have written shows the flaws that we know are there. That’s fine.

It’s time to see the Warriors as a contender. Let’s see why. What’s nice is we can stop the Love hypotheticals. Love is a Cavalier, and will not likely be a capable inside presence for them either, as that’s just not his game.

Let’s start with Bogut. Why can’t he seem to stay on the floor? Has he been getting in foul trouble? Yes, this is one of Bogut’s fixable issues. Bogut is one of the worst moving screen violators in the NBA. He routinely sticks his hip out into the defender at the last minute everytime. Somehow, it seems he only gets called for the foul on this play about once a game. He gets away with it a ton.

Bogut also gets taken out of the game in the regular sub rotation, but then routinely is left on the bench when the starters return. The center sub, O’Neal last year, or potentially Speights this year, stays out there when the other starters return. This an seemed to be an every game ploy be former Coach Jackson. i believe the idea was to keep more of an up-tempo offensive flow than can be had with Bogut, while giving him extra rest.

There is a simple way to play with a center who slowly joins his offensive teammates down the floor. Let him take his time getting back. It is true the defense may have a 5 on 4 advantage for 5 seconds or however long it takes. When the big lumbering center finally makes it to fit in with the offense, it can be difficult to defend. Feed the center, Bogut the ball as he lumbers into the high post. If the defense is caught off guard, Bogut can lumber straight to the rim and throw it down. If the defense picks Bogut up, he suddenly creates new opportunities because he is a decent passer. He just needs to be deep enough, say a step above the foul line, so that he can be a threat to score, pass, or handle the ball. He could use the triple threat better. He has a terrible habit of acting like a guard… with the ball in his hands on the perimeter in the triple threat, he will start dribbling without going anywhere, just standing in one place. This is poor basketball when a guard does this, giving up the triple threat. When a center does this, it is ludicrous. If he makes smart decisions and is playing confidently, Bogut has just enough ball handling ability to use one dribble from just above the foul line and with a step, give himself an easy bankable paint shot. It would be interesting if defending centers start to respect Bogut offensively, so that they meet him at the foul line in this case. If so, players standing in either corner can become baseline cutters to the rim, with little rim protection, as the defensive center is on Bogut. If not, Bogut needs to kiss a foul line jumper off the glass and in, a relatively easy shot for anyone. He’s done this before, but it is extremely rare. Using Bogut as a trail man, in an aggressive to the basket move could be fun as well, as he would undoubtedly draw defenders and have wide open shooters on the perimeter.

The issues here with Bogut are the understanding of what would work in these trail situations, practicing a couple more aggressive moves he can use his ball-handling combined with vision to move into the paint, and keeping vision to pass out to shooters or take his own shot. It’s really an opportunity to be a player that can change up the offense a little, giving a different look. I wouldn’t ever again allow him to handle the ball in the open court, as former Coach Jackson allowed him to do in the past. However, in the half court offense, as a high post facilitator, and understanding how to trail and come open in that role to score or find open shooters, I think he could become more valuable and productive I wonder if he could use his ballhandling combined with quicker, more. decisive movements. These things, Bogut can do with just one dribble or maybe two controlled dribbles at the most. We will see what new Coach Kerr can come up with. Hopefully Bogut finds some way with the coaching staff’s help to be a more active participant in the offense when the team is playing a slow half court style. We know he likes to get his hands on the ball. He likes to be involved with the decision making, but he needs some structure and practice to improve his confidence and value offensively.

Mostly, Bogut would be improved and more available if he cuts down on his fouls, starting with eliminating the moving screen. Next, don’t ask the guy to exert himself getting back on offense. He will get there when he gets there. If Bogut is exerting himself and physically battling, that can be limited almost completely to the defensive end. .In fact, it is beneficial to tell Bogut to take his time to join the offense, using him as the late trailer or late high post passer. Most importantly, the Warriors need him to focus on always being back on defense where his highest value to the team is. Like I’ve said about Bogut not necessarily entering the play offensively, if there is a period of fastbreak basketball, Bogut can let the other more mobile players run up and down the court, even as it transitions to defending the other team’s fastbreak. Or he can just stay on the defensive side of the floor when the game is uptempo. Bogut might be able to play more minutes by conserving his energy and picking his spots to enter the offensive play. I like the idea of using him primarily at the high post as well, instead of having him bang more physically at the basket on the offensive end all game. From the high post, there is less physical contact, and there is also less distance to get back to the defensive end than if he’s in a wrestling match under the basket with the opposing center.

Lee is a serviceable big man, as noted above, with his flaws. I do not like Lee sliding over to the center position when Bogut leaves the floor, and I think he’s more of a liability in this position than Love would be. Against certain teams and their bench lineups, this would be fine. I would like to see Lee improve on his ability to defend stretch 4s and stretch 5s like Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes or Orlando’s Channing Frye. Against a center like the LA Clipper’s Jordan, this is not a terrible idea, as Jordan does not figure much into the Clipper’s offense, and is not quick enough to slow down Lee’s scoring. There are ways he can improve, and much of it would be to learn from Bogut, and give better help rotations. Lee doesn’t like to leave his man to give help, and if he would trust his teammates more, such as Green, he could improve defensively. It is absolutely imperative to use Green as the power forward next to Lee if he is ever used as the center. Green has the ability to rotate over to defend the center as well, even though he gives up 4 or 5 inches to them.

When people who don’t know the Warriors’ well talk about the team, Green is one of the quickest and easiest forgotten. Funny… putting this note in here after writing about Green more than I thought I would. i started out discussing Green like any useful player, but in the end, a few paragraphs later, I was absolutely gushing about this man. I love me some Draymond Green.

Drayjmond Green is a very nice piece defensively to have. He also has a developing stretch 4 game, offensively. His 3 point shot has improved and become a decent weapon. Green is used in the pick and pop/ pick and roll game, and his skills in this area are growing. He knows how to set a solid screen for other shooters, and when Curry or another ball handler wants to get Green the ball, Green does a nice job of being ready for the pass. He also has a great handle for his size and position, with nice passing ability. Green is one of the team’s most under used and under appreciated players offensively. i consider him to be extremely versatile. Offensively or defensively, I like Green in any position on the floor. He can do everything: Green is a jack of all trades. When the Warriors have had problems finding ball-handlers and Curry was on the bench, I asked and asked everyone, why don’t they use Green more as a backup ball-handler, the point forward?

Green has a little Magic Johnson in him, the way he handles the ball with his head up, with solid court vision and intelligence. I’m not comparing the talent, or ceiling of Green and Magic, don’t take me wrong. Green is never going to be Magic Johnson… but he can do all of the things Magic could. All of the individual skills Magic had, Green has. I don’t expect Green to start at point guard and lead the Warriors to the championship. This is not what I am saying. I am saying he absolutely has Magic’s skill set, his physical abilities, including the handle as a primary ball handler. I expect Green to have some Magic like moments… Maybe for a minute, he can be Magic. There are many similarities the two have… their size, Magic 6’9″, Green 6’7″, the thick, strong torso frames of their bodies… the two african american men both attended Michigan State, but it is Green who holds the school record for career rebounds. Green at times actually will flash a great charismatic smile, that reminds me of Magic. It actually resembles Magic’s own classic winning smile. The biggest difference in the two is a huge one, the supreme confidence that Magic possessed. Magic was Magic. He was a great competitor, a winner, a class act, and one of the most creative players ever. No one is expecting Green to do what Magic did, and you may be shaking your head at me right now. That’s fine. Green has all the physical tools Magic had… of course for Magic, it was rarely about Magic the athlete anyway, it was Magic the innovator, the creator, the highlight reel, Magic. Doing Magic. Enough of that, maybe Green can be used as a special facilitator and ball handler as he has the talent to do.

The only real negative for Green in this role of point forward is that he hasn’t been put in the situation enough to grow in the role in the NBA. At Michigan State, he was used in this manner regularly. In Warriors’ Summer League Green has been used as a ball-handler. In regular season games, I have pulled my hair out wondering why former Coach Jackson wouldn’t let Green do what I have seen him do so well in limited action. Let Green be an option as a primary ball-handler off the bench, the point forward, I consider Green nearly the quality of ball-handler that Iguodala is. In time, I would expect him to be every bit as good. I like to call him Mini Iggy. I consider both to be very versatile, but Green is absolutely more versatile than Iguodala, and is more valuable in the long run considering age, potential growth and of course salary.

I’d be ok with Green or Iguodala guarding say… Derrick Rose. Iguodala would not likely be able to effectively switch off that assignment to guard Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson in the paint. With Green guarding Rose, if Rose moves through the lane, and Green realizes Gibson has come free of the defense, Green can switch onto Gibson effectively. I could see this happening with Green picking up Noah as well. I thought about Pau Gasol, newly signed with Chicago, and I realized it scares me a bit, having Green guard Gasol. Highly skilled 7 footers is asking a bit much for 6’7″ Green. A center like Noah, who is not a great scorer, wouldn’t worry me. Green would be able to muscle either one out of the lane, blocking them out to prevent them from grabbing a rebound most times, as Green has the bulk and strength and rebounding know-how to do so.

Jul 22

Golden State Warriors Take Step Back On Love, New Ideas

Is there something of a sinking, shoulda known feeling inside me now?  Yes, honestly, there is.

 

This is just what is expected.  The NBA’s offseason is a time where rumors and fantasies abound.  As a Warrior’s fan, I am happy that our team in in the discussion now for the best player acquisitions.  No, I don’t think they have given up on trading for Kevin Love completely.  It seems to be a solid decision to not include Klay Thompson in trade discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves, as has been reported widely.  It was interesting to me to hear that it was Jerry West and Steve Kerr who objected to putting Thompson out there as trade bait.  I would like to read that it was a team decision, which ultimately, it is.

 

Thompson’s value is on the defensive end as a compliment to Curry, allowing Curry to hide on that end of the floor, is very important to the building philosophy of the team.  We see that in the recent additions of Bogut and Iguodala since the new front office has taken over.  This offseason, the additions of Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush show continued desire and results to show for it of adding two-way players that have good size for their position.  If bringing in a superstar player of Kevin Love’s stature means the team gives up a portion of it’s identity, then truly it may not be worth it.

 

Being an armchair GM as I am, I have complete control over what I have with me…  My remote, my PBR, my beef jerky…  I can only wish I had control over the Warriors’ roster.  If it was me, Thompson would be available.  Love is too big a piece, has too much offensive game, has the size, and fits with Curry perfectly.  I can’t say the same for Thompson.  How can I argue this, considering what I just wrote about team building philosophy?  Without Thompson, the Warriors still have many options to guard the best perimeter players in the game.  Iguodala, Green, Rush and Livingston are solid options to guard anyone from Chris Paul to Lebron James. Love, replacing David Lee,no doubt has the potential to become a much better defender, as he is young and could learn from Andrew Bogut.  There are trade rumors I have written about before that included the Orlando Magic getting into the deal, sending Aaron Afflalo to Golden State to make up for the loss of Thompson.  Afflalo is a very similar player to Thompson as a “3 and D” two-way type who has less ceiling, but also is a veteran who comes at a reduced price.

 

Additionally, there are some other ideas that I have not seen come up.  Including Iguodala with Lee in a trade to Minnesota could give the trade legs.  The Warriors, specifically GM Bob Myers would likely be against this idea, as Iguodala was just last summer’s free agent splash.  Many others would likely object to this idea as well, but I love it.  Coming back to the Warriors would be Love and of course the remaining two years of Kevin Martin’s deal at around $7 million a year.  That is enough to get the deal done, and gives the Wolves more talent in return then they are likely to get from anyone else.  It may be enough to take Minnesota’s 2015 first round draft pick back in return.

Iguodala is a redundant player for the Warriors, as Draymond Green is a very similar player, and is more versatile.  Offensively, Green has the ability to handle the ball and pass, is an improving shooter, and is a more willing screener than Iguodala.  On the defensive side of the ball, I am comfortable with Green guarding anyone from a Point Guard to a Power Forward, and sometimes a Center.  I wouldn’t want Iguodala guarding anyone larger than Lebron, and Iguodala’s quickness has deteriorated to the point that he has trouble guarding quick shooting guards like JJ Reddick, as seen in the playoffs last year.  Iguodala also appears to be an overpay, regardless of the fact that the Sacramento Kings were willing to give him more money.  His athleticism seems to be declining.  Offensively, he can be as passive as Andrew Bogut.  It is not conductive for a good offense for two of the starters to be afraid to take an open shot.

The Warriors current roster construction includes 3 players going forward over 30 who are on multiple year contracts at over $10 million per year, Bogut, Lee and Iguodala.  These players all seem to be declining in ability and have had injury issues recently.  This idea rids the Warriors of two of them, and leaves the most valuable, Bogut, on the team… Bogut has shown the ability to completely dominate a game even in the playoffs.

 

So lets just look at potential lineups…

Starters

PG Curry

SG Thompson (still here)

SF Green

PF Love

C Bogut

Reserves

PG Livingston

SG Martin (better scorer than Thompson, gets to the line more, defense not on par, but huge upgrade for the bench.)

SF Barnes

PF Speights

C Ezeli

Others

Rush SG, SF

Nedovic PG (could be cut)

Kuzmic C (could be cut)

Armstrong PF, C (could be cut)

Santa Cruz possible call ups

Cameron Jones (SG)

Orlando Johnson (SG)

Aaron Craft (PG)  I highly expect a call up

James McAdoo (PF)

Love just makes this team so much better.  I know what Iguodala has done, but this clears more cap space, and makes the team younger and better.  This team would be considered a serious contender tor the NBA Championship, and Vegas would have them in the top 4 I guarantee.  This seems to be the best idea to continue to be able to stay under the luxury tax, but not guaranteed, while being a true championship contender for at least the next 5 years.

Now Cleveland is willing to include Wiggins in a deal for Love.  They have upped the ante.  As they intend to sign him soon, they are not allowed to trade him until a month after signing.  This gives the Warriors time to think.

The Fraz

 

 

 

 

Jul 22

Michael Sam does not impress me, Tony Dungy does. ESPN Radio reaction, Freedom of Expression, EXPLICIT

MICHEAL SAM OFFENDED ME DURING THE DRAFT

 

Listening to and later watching this morning’s Mike and Mike show on ESPN reminded me of the first time I had a good look at the Rams’ rookie Michael Sam.

 

Micheal Sam and his boyfriend during live NFL Draft coverage.

Micheal Sam and his boyfriend during live NFL Draft coverage.  Courtesy of NBC.

 

I have never seen a man and a woman embrace and kiss like this during live draft coverage.  I have also never seen a man cry the way Sam cried immediately before this still frame.  To me at the time, it looked like it could have been staged.  Every time I see it again, I cringe, and I become more and more convinced it was staged and insincere.  The look on Sam’s face when he was on the phone just after he was drafted, to me was full of shit.  He was fake crying.  Now I am sure it was staged; a man who wanted to show the blend between male and female.  I don’t have a problem with the fact that a male can have female attributes, or vice versa.  I have a problem that he made a show of it, just like some bullshit reality show with a script.  Be gay and show a strong persona, a strong mind, and don’t go over the top with it, please.  Once again, I have never seen a man and a woman embrace and kiss like this during live draft coverage.  It is highly offensive to me.  I would have had little problem if they held hands and shared a peck on the lips.  That is not what happened.

 

I still would have had a problem with it, but I would not be writing this.

 

I am extremely proud of Tony Dungy for his statement.  There is nothing wrong with what he said.  “I would not have taken him.  Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam shouldn’t have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.  It’s not going to be totally smooth.  Things will happen.”  From ESPN radio.  Officially, this was an off-topic question, shortly after the draft, during a draft review interview of Dungy regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a local paper journalist.  Interestingly, months later, this journalist decided to release this information now.

Mike Golic was absolutely slow to give an opinion, but was spot on to say it depends on the player’s talent level.  If this was a first round talent instead of a seventh round talent, then the player would be given more rope for off the field issues, says Golic.  He is absolutely correct.  Of course it was discussed that he may have slipped in the draft due to his sexual preference.  It is a risk versus reward.

Mike Greenberg was immediately critical of Dungy’s statement.

It is completely unfair and (fuck fair) blindfolded to continue this gay issues public stance with so much disrespect by the LBGT community.  IT IS NOT OK.  Parents who are straight are consistently figuratively smacked up side the head to learn their children are gay.  Many times their first thoughts include “what did we do wrong?”  This is a completely legitimate question and response.  The truth is that they may have done nothing wrong.  I do believe that it is a choice to be gay or heterosexual.  It is a choice for me to be against the gay lifestyle.  It is also MY CHOICE.

It is Michael Sam’s choice to be gay.  I want him to make the best choice for himself.  I don’t have to like it.  He doesn’t have to act like a drama queen about the whole damn thing.  That’s what I see.

Tony Dungy has just released a statement on the subject, as I was writing…

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/07/22/tony-dungy-elaborates-on-his-michael-sam-comments/

Dungy shares that Oprah Winfrey had planned to do a Michael Sam documentary as the first gay man in the NFL… the plug has since been pulled.  It seems to be exactly the type of thing Sam wants to do.  He wants to be a fucking scripted reality show.

Something that was interesting on SVP and Russillo also ESPN radio (Scott Van Pelt I know and love was out and was subbed by Jorge Sedano), was a couple things they started out with.  One was a misunderstanding of the context, that the journalist and Dungy were on break and the question was off topic with the recorder still on, that Dungy was out of line to provide that quote with out any more explanation of where he was coming from.  As you will understand from my above writing, this was not what the interview was about in the first place, and seems a backhanded way to release Dungy’s comments.  The radio show hosts may have not realized this, but at least MIke and Mike immediately went to what was the context, and what was the question that was asked.  In my opinion, Mike and Mike don’t so much feed the masses with crap, but rather, give their honest professional opinions.  They are the best in the business.  Period.  Sedano and Russillo are guys I don’t have much experience with, but from what I can tell, they do not have the professional journalistic integrity that Mike and Mike do.  Neither does the Tampa journalist.

What completely got my blood boiling, has to do with the freedom of expression, which I respect of the LBGT community, as well as the Christian and Catholic community.  I subscribe to neither of these.  Jorge Sedano, filling in for Scott Van Pelt, said of Dungy, it’s hard not to be cynical of Dungy based on the fact that this could be coming from his religious beliefs.  Russillo responded with, I think that’s the problem here.  He went on to say you have to be an activist in today’s day and age.  This was paraphrased by me.

THIS HAS TO CHANGE.  If the LGBT community has the right to do and say what they want to, then people who are against it have the right to say and do what they want to in opposition and be subject to the same kind of reprimands that they give the LGBT community.  On the other hand, if we can dull down the hate, unlike I have in this article, it will be better for us all.

If Tony Dungy can say what he wants to about the subject and not get slammed, I will certainly listen to the LGBT community with out slamming their lifestyle.  FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

If you don’t like what people do, screw yourself and leave them alone.  If Dungy wouldn’t draft the guy and you have a problem with him, screw yourself and leave him alone.  If you are Michael Sam and you want to make a spectacle of yourself, screw you.

And if I can’t handle it, screw me.

The Fraz

 

 

 

Jun 19

Melo to Warriors a Better Fit Than Love?

THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS, THE LIKELY SCENARIOS ARE NOT

 

Stephen Curry fires up a 3 point shot, as David Lee hinders Carmelo Anthony's  shot contest.

Stephen Curry fires up a 3 point shot, as David Lee hinders Carmelo Anthony’s shot contest.

 

Now in the offseason of the NBA, its fantasy time.  What free agents are available that could make the team better, and which ones are literally pipe dreams?  Every player on the Miami Heat could be a free agent this summer except Norris Cole, who is the only player without an option to be decided upon to be on the payroll for next season. (see: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/heat-are-favorites-win-2015-nba-title-n132651).  The thoughts of Lebron James or even Chris Bosh joining the team by the bay are enticing.  I would even love to see Ray Allen lending his Hall of Fame marksmanship to our youngsters, Curry and Thompson.  Sadly, I take the lead from major media when it comes to rumors, and there is no talk of Heat castaways landing with the Warriors.  It could be an interesting road to go down, but until players show interest in a different team verbally at a minimum, it’s best to treat those ideas as unlikely.

 

The Timberwolves hope they can recover from the loss of the next big man, Kevin Love, better than they did when Kevin Garnett left them in 2007.

The Timberwolves hope they can recover from the loss of the next big man, Kevin Love, better than they did when Kevin Garnett left them in 2007.

 

 THE KEVIN LOVE-FEST

 

A certain Superstar on a bad team in the frigid tundra of Minnesota, with the harsh luck of never making the playoffs, has verbally shown interest in the team by the bay.  Kevin Love, all 6’10″ and 260 lbs of him, has narrowed down his favored destinations to two cities, Chicago and their Bulls, and Oakland and our Warriors.  There is a great feeling as a fan when a player of his caliber looks to our city, the much maligned Oakland, and considers us a potential new home.

Love, a scheduled free agent in the Summer of 2015, has informed the Minnesota Timberwolves he will not sign another contract with the team.  He, like many  before him, most recently Dwight Howard, has the ability to force the team to trade him sometime between now and up to the February 2015 trade deadline, else lose him to free agency with no compensation.  During this Summer, rumors are swirling fast.  The Timberwolves stated early in the process, Love will not be traded this summer, and will start next season a member of the Timberwolves.  That is not bad news for the Warriors, as they can continue to develop and evaluate their players under new Head Coach Steve Kerr.  It would be beneficial for them, for this to drag all the way to the February trade deadline.

I find it very interesting that the NBA is the only one of the 4 major US professional sports leagues that does not offer any kind of compensatory draft picks to a franchise that loses a top player.  Compensatory picks are part of systems in the NFL, NHL, and MLB that prevents these drawn out “trade me” demands and speculation.  Of course, this very speculation is part of the charm of the NBA.

For a player of Love’s caliber, it’s going to take a haul of players and/or draft picks in return to aid the Timberwolves in rebuilding and being as competitive as possible in the short term.  This franchise appears very unsure and concerned about Love’s future.  It certainly is understandable, as in the Summer of 2007, Kevin Garnett was traded from Minnesota to Boston.  The Timberwolves went from a team that made the Western Conference Finals in 2004 with a great player in Garnett as their anchor in the middle, to a team that couldn’t make the playoffs with him giving his all in each of the next 3 years. That 2004 3rd round exit is the last time the team made the playoffs.  Serious mismanagement is the culprit according to many Timberwolves fans.

It is a reasonable viewpoint considering how much they curse “the wrath of (David) Kahn.”  In consecutive drafts, ’09 and ’10, Kahn was responsible for passing up Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Greg Monroe, Demarcus Cousins, and Paul George.  The players he selected instead were Johnny Flynn and Wes Johnson.  On draft day, he has traded Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers away.  Of course, there was the Darko Milicic issue.  Somehow, the Timberwolves ended up with the second overall pick of the greatest draft in recent memory in trade.  Included in that top 5 draft class were Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh.  The Timberwolves got the other one, Darko.  They really seemed to believe he was the second coming of Vlade Divac.

What does this all mean?  Now that Khan is out, and the team has come close to respectability, someone has to wonder if current triggerman and coach Flip Saunders can recreate some of the magic he presided over during his first stint as Timberwolves Head Coach.  The problem is, that coincided with Garnett growing up in the league and anchoring the Timberwolves.  Now, Love is on his way out the door.  Who is there now for the team to lean on as it’s anchor, the leader?  Timberwolves fans are bracing for the team to get fleeced in the upcoming Love deal. As I wrote above, they stated Love will not be traded before the start of the season, and now, rumors are going full bore that Minnesota is in talks with the Celtics, Nuggets, Warriors and the Bulls.

 

MELO AND THE WARRIORS: A SQUARE PEG AND A ROUND HOLE.

Considering the difficulty, some media members have looked elsewhere to bolster the Warriors squad.  The next major Superstar potentially on the move is Carmelo Anthony, currently of the New York Knicks.

There have been some in the NBA media who have suggested Carmelo Anthony would be a better option than Kevin Love.  Though both are difficult to see coming to our Warriors without major roster changes, it’s fantasy time, and there is much fun to be had in weighing the possibilities.  I had a strong reaction to one of these Melo to the Warriors articles found on Warriorsworld.net about a month ago.  Here is the link:

http://www.warriorsworld.net/2014/05/23/is-carmelo-anthony-is-a-better-option-for-golden-state-than-kevin-love/

This article is an interesting take.  The recommendation is that Melo who is 6’8″ and 235 lbs, would replace Lee who is 6’9″ and 240lbs as the starting Power Forward.  To begin with, Lee is undersized at the Power Forward position, and the idea is to get smaller with Melo.  I understand and appreciate the stretch – 4 idea, and we have seen it work well with smaller Power Forwards like Harrison Barnes, really playing out of position here, and also Draymond Green in the playoffs.   The article went into depth about Melo’s offensive numbers as a Power Forward.  He happens to mirror Love’s offensive production reasonably well on all levels, save rebounding, where Love outperforms Melo and the average Power Forward for that matter by a nice margin.  Interestingly, there was no discussion of Melo’s defensive numbers in the article.  I’m not going to search that out here, as it is common sense that Melo has issues defending the post against larger Power Forwards.To me, he makes sense only as a Small Forward on the Warriors, with Andre Iguodala moving to the Shooting Guard and Klay Thompson coming off the bench. I could see the reverse, Iguodala moving to the bench as a second unit facilitator, but Thompson gives the bench a more valuable addition as a go-to scorer and Iguodala has a chance to facilitate between Melo and Curry, while somehow keeping both happy.  A Power Forward free agent signing such as Paul Millsap or Kris Humphries would be necessary.  It just doesn’t work having Melo guard Blake Griffin, Lamarcus Aldridge, or heaven forbid Kevin Love.

Melo as the Small Forward is not a bad idea to explore and could be feasible.  Trading Lee for younger pieces in a salary dump with Orlando could give us young players like Mo Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and/or Kyle O’Quinn.  Arron Afflalo has been rumored to the Warriors in some trade rumors, and if Klay Thompson were included in any deal, Afflalo would be a cheaper veteran option to replace Klay.  I have seen some three team trade rumors, the kinds of deals that typically get done, with Orlando facilitating a trade between the Timberwolves and Warriors.  Many of the above players swap teams to Minnesota or Golden State, and Orlando has the ability to send Minnesota draft picks that we can’t.  This same idea can work for the Knicks if Melo comes back this way in a sign and trade.  Somehow in all of this, it is likely that the Warriors would want to talk Melo into a less than max contract, to be able to still field a competitive team around him and Curry.

The author describes sending Lee and Barnes for a second rounder and a Traded Player Exemption to Orlando or Philadelphia, as well as the potential of trading Iguodala or Andrew Bogut to free up even more cap room.

This sounds something like the deal we used to clear cap to sign Iguodala last summer, except it is much more difficult.  We sent Utah draft picks to help them accept it, and the contracts sent over were all expiring. The Lee plus others salary dump isn’t exactly likely.  Lee is owed approximately $30 million over the next two years.  This is a completely different scenario and much tougher to do than the Utah salary dump.  Of course Lee could have some value as a high post scorer and roll man.  Both Orlando and Philadelphia utilize centers with shooting range and have no great options for starting Power Forwards.  This makes Lee’s offensive style of making cuts from the high post to low post a perfect compliment for either team offensively.  Defensively, Lee wouldn’t fare terribly in either case, as the Eastern Conference has a lack of powerful big men, unlike the Western Conference, as I will discuss more.

I just can’t see tying up the cap space for Melo that it’s likely going to require and still need to fill the power forward spot with a body.  Once again, Melo as a Power Forward in the Western Conference isn’t going to cut it rebounding or on the defensive end.  It could work against Dirk Nowitzki or similar perimeter oriented Power Forwards such as Pheonix’s Morris twins and Channing Frye.  Against  other starting Power Forwards, Melo will get handled the way Lee gets handled trying to bang with 7 footers all game long when he is misused out of position as the Center.  The majority of the best and biggest Power Forwards all reside in the West, including Lamarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Derrick Favors, Serge Ibaka, and of course, Love.  Everyone of these big men stand at least 6’10″ tall, 2 full inches taller than Melo and have the brute strength to wipe the floor with him.

In the end, I think the only way this  really works is a sign and trade that puts the Warriors well above the Salary Cap and into Luxury Tax repeater area.

Starters
Curry, Iguodala, Melo(FA), Humphries (FA), Bogut.
Bench
Mario Chalmers (FA), Jordan Crawford (FA bring him back), Thompson, Speights, Festus Ezeli.

I don’t love that team.  Chalmers, I came up with without really looking at the FA Point Guards available, but he’s likely to be the caliber of player that runs the team off the bench.

 

In closing, there is no place for Melo on the Warriors, for the reasons of the salary cap hell it would likely cause, moving Iguodala and Thompson out of their roles, and weakening the frontcourt strengths of rebounding and defense.

No worries… I am setting up a Kevin Love scenario article that I will be posting soon.

The Fraz

Jun 04

49ers Rolled With The Punches Until Kaepernick Dropped The Bomb

This is what Mr. Colin Kaepernick and his representation have done to the San Francisco 49ers.  SH*T!

This is what Mr. Colin Kaepernick and his representation at XAM Sports have done to the San Francisco 49ers. SH*T!

An offseason that challenged Jim Harbaugh’s desire for all members of the team to be above reproach at all times, has revealed some proper planning as well.  The San Francisco 49ers drafted well, hitting needs as well as explosive compliments to an already talented skill position group,  They traded for Steve Johnson formerly of the Buffalo Bills, without giving up much.  What free agents were lost, seemed to be filled with talented, younger, less expensive replacements.

Then they dropped the bomb.

Or should I say Kaepernick dropped the bomb, a right hook, a knockout punch.  More impressive than anything he’s ever done.  181 yards rushing in the playoffs?  That was a significant record.  Taking your team to the Super Bowl after taking the starting QB job in midseason?  Never been done before, probably never again.  In the NFC Championship game this last season in Seattle, throwing a 40 yard TD pass while scrambling with both feet off the ground?  A Dart!!! No plant foot!!! Most amazing throw I’ve ever seen.  No, this is bigger!

Oh, no… This was THE BOMB.  Mr. Colin Rand Kaepernick just broke the record of records.  He signed the largest guaranteed money contract in NFL history.  The “up to” 6 yrs/126 mil is not the big deal.  We hear all the time, now it’s about the guaranteed money.  So, Kap did it.  $61 Million in guaranteed money.  ummmm ok…. What’s Kap going to guarantee the Niners and the fans?  What do I get?

Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory right?  Sure it wasn’t before the beginning of the season, but he wasn’t making a guaranteed $61 mil in the deal either.  I want a Super Bowl L victory for the San Francisco 49ers.  I want it now.  I want it yesterday.  I want it last February!  What about the February before that Mr. Colin Rand Kaepernick?

You’re late.  Get to work.

The Fraz.

the shortlink for this post is being sent via twitter to Kap.  Got your back Niner’s fans.  We don’t accept failure.

 

 

Jun 04

Athletics and Giants have proven what?

Don't disrespect the Athletics... get em mad, and they get EVEN!

Don’t disrespect the Athletics… get em mad, and they get EVEN!

There's nothing better than placing this on your home field.

There’s nothing better than placing this on your home field.

 

The San Francisco Giants have not had the best record in the majors on June 4th since 1972, and once again in 2014, today, they do.  Guess what?  That was the year the Athletics started rolling MLB with 3 straight World Championships.

The Athletics have a run differential of +118.  That is 64 runs better than the next best MLB team, the Giants at 54.  This leads to a projected “Pythagorean Win Total” of 115.5 games.  The most the A’s have ever won was 107 games in 1931 as the Philadelphia A’s.  The most games ever won in an MLB season was 116, done twice.  First in 1906 by the Chicago Cubs and recently in 2001 by the Seattle Mariners.  Neither of those teams won a World Series.

Although the Giants do not own the run differential mark, they do hold the better record at 37-21 vs. 36-22 for the A’s.

The A’s have a great starting pitching staff, and a great bullpen, except their saves record.  Since Doolittle has been installed as Closer, the save issues have been cleaned up, but it still shows as their one pitching blemish.  The bullpen is second in the AL at a 2.73 ERA to Boston’s 2.71.  The A’s sport the 5th best bullpen ERA in all of MLB… It is normal for the top 3 MLB bullpen ERAs to be all NL teams, as they generally score less runs do to the lack of the DH.  Interestingly, the Giants have the second best bullpen ERA in MLB at 2.45.  Although the A’s sport a stellar bullpen ERA, their Save % is second to LAST in MLB at 55%.  Only the Colorado Rockies have a lower save % at 52%.  For comparison, the Giants save % is a respectable 10th in MLB at 71%.

Of course, much of the A’s issues with saves is the rare A’s GM Billy Beane mistake in bringing in Jim Johnson, a workhorse reliever the last two years, for around $!0 mil per year, 2 year contract.  Johnson saved 101 games over the past two years, and blew 12 saves.  That doesn’t sound terrible until you consider the guy blew 9 saves last year alone.  At 30 years old, he is one of those guys Beane will just not touch.  This year, Johnson only has 2 saves, only 1 blown, but with 2 losses already and an ERA of 6.55, it doesn’t look good for the 10 Million Dollar Man.,

Oh well, in the last couple weeks, the A’s have switched to Sean Doolittle as closer, and he is only improving from earlier this year.  He seemed to have a hiccup around the time he signed a contract extension of 5yrs/ $10.5 million, a much more reasonable value at just over $2 mil a year compared to Johnson’s deal.  Doolittle signed his deal in late April of this year.  His ERA in the month of April was 6.17, along with 2 losses, a save and a blown save.  Since the start of May, he has not allowed a run, pitching 14.1 innings and accumulating 5 saves.  His ERA is now 2.67 on the year.

The Giants have made additions to their team.  The most obvious are Michael Morse and Tim Hudson.  They have both been stellar additions so far.  Morse has 11 HRs, good for a tie for 7th in the NL, and sports an OPS of .906, 8th in the NL.  Both numbers lead the Giants, and he is hitting .289, not bad, only bested by Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence on the team.

Tim Hudson has been perfect,  with the exception of his minor injury to his hip which did not keep him out long.  His 1.75 ERA is only bested by Johnny Cueto in MLB qualified starting pitchers.  He is 6-2 over 11 games started.  He averages 7 innings a start.  He has an insane 50 Ks to 8 Walks ratio, and an equally amazing 0.87 WHIP.

I could go on and on, but the point is that both of our Bay Area teams have had great starts and that doesn’t mean anything.  What is interesting, Is that both of these teams have had great Post-All-Star Game runs in recent years.  If they are hot now, how hot can they get late in the season?

It’s been fun to watch so far, but they better keep it up, now that they’ve caught our attention.

The Fraz

 

Jun 03

Raiders Need To Win Now? Chill Mr. Davis.

What is Raiders owner Mark Davis expecting for this new season? And what should we be expecting?

 

Pinhead is a Raiders fan.  He's not impressed.,

Pinhead is a Raiders fan. He’s not impressed.

 

The Raiders have reloaded in a big way.  Gone is Terrelle Pryor.  Matt Schaub, also known as Mr. Pick Six, has come in to fill the role of franchise QB.  Derek Carr, the hopeful future face of the franchise, is expected to hold the clipboard until deemed ready enough to fill Schaub’s shoes.  That time could be sooner or later.

This year in the draft the Oakland Raiders did not make themselves look bad.  This time around, fans are not yelling at the top of their lungs, cursing GM Reggie McKenzie.  This time, talking heads, pundits, NFL people in the know, and then people like me… well, we are not portending a dark abysmal decline in to nothingness.  Last year, it was a different story.

In baseball, hitters get three strikes.  In football, it is not always that way.  Last year could have been that one year try, then the hook, but last year is last year.

This 2014 draft will not be properly evaluated until 3 years from now, likely.  Names like Outside Linebacker Khalil Mack and talent like Offensive Lineman Gabe Jackson certainly have changed my mind already.  I made a joke about Schaub, but I will not do the same for Carr, his backup, although his brother was drafted highly, and became a bust.  Who knows what Carr, the younger, will look like in 3 years.  With the right coaching, players around him, and attitude, the Raiders backup QB could be one of the rising stars in the near future.  The team’s Offensive Line certainly has been beefed up, and is deep as well as talented.  The Running Backs have been changed up a bit, gambling on a contract with Darren McFadden with very little guaranteed money, and bringing in long time bell cow and Oakland native, Maurice Jones Drew.  Latavius Murray is a second year bruising RB who missed all of last year to injury and expected to be healthy this season.  The Raiders did not draft Wide Receivers or Tight Ends, but did trade for the San Jose St. product James Jones, formerly of the Green Bay Packers.  Jones is absolutely a go get the ball type speedy, physical receiver who has put up nice production.  Last season, he had 59 catches for 817 yards and only 3 TDs, but just one year previous, he caught 14 TDs, most in the NFL in 2012.  I liked the talent already on the Raiders at receiver, with the young Juron Criner who just needs more consistency, Rod Streater, who was an undrafted steal, and Andre Holmes.

Bringing in defensive players who have won Super Bowls is not a bad call.  Lamar Woodley and Justin Tuck are not the players they once were, but they are not going out of the NFL with a whimper either.  They can still play.  I really like the idea, just like bringing back Charles Woodson before.  These guys know how to get it done.  Pair them with young studs like Sio Moore, last year’s draft stud, and Mack, this year’s likely draft stud, and there is a good chance for a Silver n Black future to be proud of.

No, the Raiders don’t need to win now.  Not only do they have 6 games against the brutal AFC West like always, but also they lined up the NFC West this year.  That’s 10 games against many of the best teams in football.  That leaves 6 other games to find wins… Sure the Chiefs and Chargers are beatable, but not easy.  The NFC West is going to crush all comers.

An improvement over last year’s win total of 4 is highly desired.  Vegas has the Raiders pegged at 5 wins for the over/under bet.  If I were to bet, I would pick the over, and half of me would expect the push.  How do they not set all over unders at increments of 1/2?  I don’t know.  If the number was 5 1/2, I’m not sure what side of it my bet would fall on… so that answers my question.  Haha…

5 wins is not going to make the Raider Nation too happy, until they really look at the schedule.  I would expect an improved team from top to bottom this year that in a normal year with a normal schedule, such as last year’s, might produce 7 or 8 wins.

Finally, don’t fire anyone Mr. Davis!  Unless this season is an atrocious slip into the abyss of the Black Hole that used to eat up those who dared challenge the Raiders in the Coliseum, hold to the plan.  Continuity is better than being the Browns.

The Fraz

Jun 03

Golden State Warriors… Jackson out, Kerr in. Next, Love?

As former Coach Jackson may have looked after finding he was removed from the Warriors Head Coach position.

As former Coach Jackson may have looked after finding he was removed from the Warriors Head Coach position.

FIRST ROUND EXIT LEADS TO THE AXE

The Golden State Warriors certainly have aired out some dirty laundry since pushing their new rival LA Clippers to seven games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.  I was certainly surprised and pleased by how the Warriors took it to the Clippers without starting Center Andrew Bogut.  Inevitably, letting go of Head Coach Mark Jackson was deemed necessary by team management.  It is impressive how split everyone seems to be on the decision that even Jackson himself saw coming. During the playoff series with the Clippers, he told his players in a timeout that he was coaching for his basketball life.  After elimination, it sure didn’t take long for the news to break that Jackson was out as coach.

I am going to break down the issues I had with former Coach Jackson throughout the year, and specifically with the Clippers series.  I had been calling for his firing since the ’12-’13 season for lack of coaching ability as well as a lack of preparation that was evident by the team’s play.  The surprising leaks to the media by unnamed sources after Jackson and his staff were let go certainly deserve some comments as well.

The Warriors moved quickly to identify head coaching candidates to replace Jackson, and after a swing and miss aimed at Stan Van Gundy, the team identified Steve Kerr as the next possibility.  After Kerr’s negotiations with the New York Knicks broke down, the Warriors management swept in and quickly agreed to terms with Kerr for a 5 year $25 million contract.  I have to be impressed by the process that took place as described by GM Bob Myers and Kerr at the press conference held May 20th, and I am equally impressed with the hire and the man himself, new Head Coach Kerr.

I am excited at the prospect of Kerr leading this basketball team, and will expound on the possibilities going forward.  Kerr himself brought up some very interesting ideas during the press conference, that gave some shape of things to expect.

How the Warriors retool with free agency, trades (all we need is Love!), and the lack currently of a draft pick will be very interesting.  I will share the ideas I have read and heard, as well as what the ceiling of this team really is.  When asked by the media if the team is NBA Championship material, Kerr simply stated that this is a very good team.  I was certainly disappointed in that answer, as I would like to hear the Head Coach say that a Championship is the goal every year, and that goal is attainable with this team, even if it would be a difficult and even unlikely achievement.  I certainly believe that with health, the Warriors current roster is a championship contender with the right coach.  Jackson was certainly not that coach.  It is certain that the team will look to improve the roster over the summer, and the possibilities seemingly endless.  Many free game changing free agents could be available.  Although unlikely, a breakup of Miami’s big three is even possible, as Lebron James and Chris Bosh could leave as free agents.  There are other interesting names out there as well such as Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki.  Kevin Love is set to be a free agent in the summer of 2015.

THE PROBLEM WITH MARK JACKSON

Due to the improvement of the team during Jackson’s time as head coach, his performance is a very polarizing subject.  The team improved defensively by leaps and bounds over the last three seasons and became one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA.  I would point to that as a reflection of the players that were brought in over that period of time, much more than on Jackson.  Adding Bogut, who has long been considered one of the best defensive centers, certainly helped.  Andre Iguodala was a former Team USA Olympic member, and he wasn’t on that team for his scoring, but rather for his perimeter defense, ball handling and passing.  Klay Thompson defensively has grown in his three years with the team, and as a rookie was an immediate upgrade to former Warrior Monta Ellis.  David Lee’s defense is still shabby, but his rebounding has always been great.  Pairing Bogut in the middle with Lee only made Lee and the team better.

Defensive lapses still happened quite frequently with the Warriors.  Weak side defense has always been non-existent, as defenders commonly turn their back to their assignment completely to watch the ball handler.  Backdoor cuts and skip passes routinely create open looks.  Stephen Curry is the biggest culprit here.  It had been a commonly heard rumor that Curry received special treatment from Jackson, and this is just one of many examples that support the rumor.  In the playoff series with the Clippers, many players were guilty of watching the ball handler and not their man.  As Chris Paul advanced the ball, he found defenders eyes on him, not the streaking Blake Griffin who repeatedly raced down the opposite wing unopposed and found easy dunks off of Paul assists.  Warriors forwards Lee and Marreese Speights were repeat offenders, failing to recognize the open Griffin. These were the fast breaks that featured Lee and Speights waiting at the Clippers basket to stop a penetrator, but other times, they were gassed and didn’t get there.  Ironically, Curry found himself defending Griffin multiple times down the floor early in the series.  Too many times Warriors bigs just didn’t get down the floor quickly enough to get to Griffin before he received the pass in the Clippers up-tempo offense. Curry vs. Griffin on the block was just a joke.  Sadly, it took a lineup change to fix this issue.  Moving Draymond Green into the starting lineup to defend Griffin, did the trick.  An even bigger issue is that the idea didn’t come from the coach.  Center Jermaine O’neal came up with the idea to remove himself from the starting lineup, in favor of Lee in the Center spot with Green in the Power Forward spot.  The fact that Jackson failed to correct an obvious flaw in defense, and took suggestion from a player, shows that he didn’t bother to identify problems and attempt to correct them.  The lineup change was successful, and no more in the series did we see Curry defending Griffin, thank God!  Throughout the regular season and in the postseason, the team played to over help into the paint against the drive, and were always late to close out on three point shooters.  Depending on the opposition, whether they are a shooting team, or a paint scoring team primarily, smart defenses adjust accordingly.  The Warriors under Jackson always ran the defense the same regardless of opponent.  The exception here is the occasional zone schemes that were employed based on Jackson’s hunches, but there seemed little rhyme or reason to those changes.  Warriors zone defenses were normally ineffective.  Generally straight up man to man with help when beaten likely would have been an improvement.

Scouting the opposition was lacking many times under Jackson.  Wing defenders had an ugly habit of opening up completely to allow the ball handler to use his off hand.  The defender would turn sideways, giving a right hander an open lane to drive, with the left hand. This is part of a common NBA defensive strategy to an extent, called ICE defense, that is used in pick and roll defense.  Instead of allowing the ball handler to use the pick, the defender steps up in front of the pick and forces the ball handler in the opposite direction.  This is a tactic I’ve seen the Warriors use, in all too limited cases. I’ve seen other scribes give the Warriors credit for this, but mostly, picks worked, since Warriors defenders were not warned of a pick coming in by their teammates.  Too many times, when expecting a pick, the Warriors perimeter defender would get in this ICE position, to force a player a certain direction, and giving too wide of a driving lane. In the NBA, there are not many perimeter players that this works against as most can dribble with the off hand.  The Warriors repeatedly were burned by this in Jackson’s tenure and it never changed.  Warriors forwards, especially David Lee, often had trouble identifying forwards with shooting range.  Specifically, the first time the Warriors played the Brooklyn Nets this year, Lee was guarding Mizra Teletovic who caught a pass about twenty feet from the basket, and Lee set up about five feet away, staring at him, expecting a drive or pass.  Lee didn’t move, and Teletovic drained the jumper in the easy way he is known to do. Lee then looked at the bench putting his hands up like “what?  He can do that?”  Assistant coaches were seen on the bench nodding their heads to Lee with a roll of the eyes.  I and everyone else can blame Lee for this, but Jackson ultimately was responsible for players knowing their assignments.  Iguodala had an interesting quote after a game with the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans of course).  The Warriors, having snapped a losing streak, “found their scout” according to Iguodala.  That inspired the damning headline for the recap of that game…”Warriors found their scout in New Orleans.”  Figure he (the scout) must have been on Bourbon Street, three sheets to the wind.  It was interesting that there was no mention of coaches stressing the tendencies of the Hornets, but rather as Iguodala said, and I paraphrase, we as players have a book on other players in the league, and we paid attention to it tonight.  That is on the coaching staff as well, to conduct video review with the team, walkthrough tactics in practice, and carryout a game plan based upon the book on the other team’s players.

Equally damning was a quote that just recently turned up from Jackson on game preparation, specifically asked of him on Bay Area sports radio station KNBR   “Um, you won’t hear this from anybody else, but I think it’s overrated. Do you mean to tell me I gotta stay up to figure that Chris Paul is a superstar basketball player and he’s going to be tough defending pick and rolls on? Or Blake Griffin? I gotta stay up to figure out how to defend him in the post situation and keep him in transition. You do your work, you’re prepared, and then you go out and handle your business. But to me, I really believe it is overrated. That doesn’t mean you don’t do the job, but I’m going to get my rest, I’m not going to grow old and be stressed out and get gray hair.” (see thehoopdoctors.com/online2/2014/04/mark-jackson-calls-playoff-preparation-overrated/)

It also has been reported the Warriors had a 20 minute practice the day after a playoff loss to the Clippers. Throughout the season, it was rumored that the Warriors wouldn’t watch game tape as a team.

Issues from early in the season show Jackson’s shortcomings as well.  I cringed every time Kent Bazemore operated the point for the second unit until he was traded for Jordan Crawford.  Bazemore’s assits to turnover ratio was terrible, and many times it seemed inevitable that he would dribble the ball off his foot before he could make a pass.  I saw a combination of any two of these three, Iguodala, Green, and Douglas, to be far superior to Bazemore.  Case in point, after being traded to the Lakers, coach Mike Di’Antoni was able to use Bazemore as more of a slasher and 3pt shooter not off the bounce, but rather in catch and shoot situations. Without the ballhandling duties, Bazemore excelled.

Green seemed to be under used for his ball handling and passing.  I don’t see it that Harrison Barnes’ development has been slowed by Andre Igoudala’s arrival, so much as Green’s development has been slowed.  I see a small amount (but it’s there!) of Magic Johnson in Green.  It’s not just the Michigan State connection, although that helps.  It’s the way he keeps his head up handling the ball in transition.  He’s sees the floor and is a solid passer.  Otherwise, it’s a great thing Green has been able to learn from Igoudala realistically.  I would Green utilized more and differently than Jackson did, specifically as a point forward.

Curry and Thompson are so very good and young that I just believe Jackson coached them at the right time.  He established a faith and even a cockiness in the “Splash Brothers,” but there are fixable flaws in their games that hurts to watch at times.  Curry has a habit of dribbling into traps and using an overhand flip pass into a taller defender’s hands.  A bounce pass in this case would be an improvement.  Not finding himself in this situation would be nice too, but when David Lee or Andrew Bogut set screens, they often roll off not looking for the pass, thus an immediate double on Curry.  This is not completely Curry’s fault.  Jackson absolutely deserves fault for this, as he was a point guard and never seemed to coach Curry to improvement in this area.  Thompson himself has improved tremendously, but establishing more of a slasher mentality, going to the paint and using his length to finish would be very nice to see.

The “hockey line change,” the many games Curry and Klay played the entire second half, generally poor game management in the areas of time outs, and little offensive creativity are all common complaints of Jackson’s coaching style.  It was stated by management that wins and losses were not what determined the coach’s fate, but I expect many of the losses were a part of it.  Joe Lacob was quoted near the end of the season that many of the home losses to lesser teams was disturbing.

Jackson’s decisions on the firings of Scalabrine and Erman were in direct opposition of the front office. Jackson reportedly asked the “logo” Jerry West not to attend practices.  The dirty laundry aspect of this is sad, and I don’t take much heed to it since only part of the story is being told.  However interesting it is, the story that comes out ends up consisting of pointed fingers without answers.  Unnamed sources are those who are no longer employed most of the time I would think in stories like these.

MAN ON FIRE : STEVE KERR

Steve Kerr and his 5 rings

Steve Kerr and his 5 rings

 

The NBA’s all time best 3pt shooter by career percentage has been hired as the new coach of the man who would like that mark… I find this exciting.  Curry might just be best coached by someone who also holds his elite skill.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Kerr was a scorer, or the type of elite player that Curry is becoming.  As a catch and shoot player, Kerr was one of the best ever, with many fewer attempts per game than Curry.  The ability to shoot is still there, and the knowledge of how to get open for a shot, understanding where that open shooter will be, and the repetition of the mechanics are all things that can be improved with a strong teacher who has done it himself.

In addition, Kerr laid his offensive philosophies out, as well as taking a stab at starting Power Forward Lee during his media introduction.  Taking ideas from the Spurs and Phil Jackson’s triangle, Kerr intends a flowing uptempo style using spacing, passing, off ball screens, and player movement before settling down into the Curry pick and rolls that Kerr called “devastating.”  Big to big passing, as well as post to shooter/cutter passing are expected to be staples of the new Warriors offense.  We saw these things often in the great games the Warriors lit it up in, but in too many others, isolations were more the norm.  Kerr doesn’t seem to be into isolations, but rather team ball.  When the questions of roster additions came up, Kerr stated he would like a stretch 4 added to the team.  Love?  He didn’t say, but I’m sure he’d love to .  Lee’s spot seems a bit hot.

I couldn’t say too much about Kerr’s defensive ideas , although it has been reported he fired D’Antoni due to a difference in defensive philosophy.  Apparently, to Kerr it is a requirement for basketball, and he didn’t feel D’Antoni was in agreement.  Considering this came during his experience as the General Manager of the Phoenix Suns, I give it weight towards Kerr’s professional NBA experience.  I don’t see Kerr as the inexperienced first year coach on Jackson’s level when he took the job.

My personal excitement level for the Kerr Era is very high.  I expect intelligent basketball.

LOVE THE POSSIBILITIES

Kevin Love backs David Lee down.

Kevin Love backs David Lee down.

 

I consider Kevin Love to be worth the asking price.  What’s the asking price?  We don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m buying.

One of the issues with Love landing on the Warriors is whether The Minnesota Timberwolves would consider acquiring Lee in exchange.  The salaries are very similar.  Lee would be considered a downgrade in every area: size, shooting, scoring, rebounding, and likely defense as well.  The only area I might think Lee would be a bit better would be with moves off the high block putting the ball on the floor to attack slower bigs, but I still see Love as much more able to score in this area of the floor due to his height.  I’m certain Minnesota and Golden State would agree, hence the issue.  We don’t want him… they have made bad deals before and will do it again?  Crossing fingers!

Of course there are other ways to do things.  There are so many trade ideas out there including the mega three team deals that seem always to get things done.  I like the idea of sending Lee to Orlando, Love to Golden State, Barnes and Thompson or Barnes and Green to Minnesota.  A player like Maurice Harkless along with Aaron Afflalo could come back to Golden State.  In addition, the Warriors would probably send their 2015 first round pick to Minnesota.  This pick cannot be traded until after the NBA draft per league rules that prohibit trading multiple year’s picks.  That leaves the Warriors with a potential championship level roster…

PG Curry, Nemanja Nedovic

SG Igoudala, Afflalo

SF Green, Barnes, Harkless

PF Love, Speights

C Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Ognjen Kuzmic

I think that’s a starting 5 Curry, Igoudala, Green, Love, and Bogut that would be the best starting 5 in the league.  (wait didn’t we have that last year?  Sure but this version knocks the crap out of that version.)

The second unit is also improved.  Afflalo has many of the same qualities that Thompson does… Long lock down perimeter defender, 3pt marksman, ball handler.  Afflallo is also more under control and has the veteran plus of being a fully formed player.  Klay could easily become an every year All-Star, but this is worth the risk.  Harkless is very young, but he provides athleticism and size.

This team is lacking an established backup point guard again, but I wouldn’t want to see Steve Blake back.  I would rather stay younger, but a veteran like Detroit’s Will Bynum could be inexpensive and perfect for the team.

I would not be surprised if Kevin Love is a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves to start the season.  Reports state that is what the team intends.  If that is true, I could believe Love will be traded at the trading deadline.  For the Warriors, this may be the best case scenario.  Seeing Coach Kerr do magic with young players like Barnes, Green and Thompson may change opinions on this whole deal.  If Kerr and the Warriors do not start out as “Men on Fire” then that can affect deals as well.

Just to add possibilities, here’s a rundown of interesting free agents and players who could opt out and become free agents this year…

PGs Mario Chalmers UFA, DJ Augustine UFA, Jerryd Bayless UFA, Steve Blake UFA, Eric Bledsoe (Very Interesting) RFA, Darren Collison RFA, Kirk Hinrich UFA, Shaun Livingston (Very Interesting) UFA, Kyle Lowry (Very Interested) UFA, Shelvin Mack UFA, Patty Mills (Very Interesting) UFA, Nate Robinson RFA, Ramon Sessions UFA, Isaiah Thomas UFA, Greivis Vasquez (Very Interesting) UFA, and Mo Williams (Very Interesting) RFA.

PFs and or Cs Chris Andersen (Very Interesting) RFA, Andray Blatche (Very Interesting) RFA, Aron Baynes UFA, Michael Beasley UFA, Dejaun Blair UFA, Chris Bosh RFA, Elton Brand UFA, Ed Davis UFA, Boris Diaw UFA, Tim Duncan (not gonna ever leave SA) RFA, Channing Frye (Very Interesting) RFA, Pau Gasol UFA, Drew Gooden UFA, Marcin Gortat (Very Interesting) UFA, Udonis Haslem RFA, Spencer Hawes (Very Interesting) UFA, Jordan Hill (Very Interesting) UFA, Kris Humphries (Very Interesting) UFA, Chris Kaman UFA, Ryan Kelly (Very Interesting) UFA, Josh McRoberts RFA, Greg Monroe (VERY INTERESTING) RFA, Dirk Nowitzki UFA, Jermaine O’neal UFA, Zach Randolph (Very Interesting) RFA, Mike Scott UFA, Ekpe Udoh UFA, Jan Vesely UFA,

Others of interest Ray Allen UFA, Alan Anderson RFA, Trevor Ariza (Very Interesting) UFA, Shane Battier UFA, Kent Bazemore UFA, Jae Crowder RFA, Luol Deng UFA, Jimmer Fredette UFA, Rudy Gay RFA, Danny Granger RFA, Gordon Hayward RFA, Xavier Henry UFA, Lebron James RFA, Shawn Marion UFA, Chandler Parsons RFA, Patrick Patterson UFA, Paul Pierce UFA, Brandon Rush (Very Interesting) UFA, Lance Stephenson (Very Strange but Very Good) UFA, PJ Tucker UFA, Evan Turner UFA, Dwayne Wade RFA, Nick Young RFA.

Well there you go.  First off, there are a high number of stretch 4s that could come in and take Lee’s spot, if we could trade him… or a sign and trade for Greg Monroe?  Even though Monroe is not a stretch 4, he does have range, and is a very talented two way post player, who is well suited for the Power Forward or Center positions, which is nice considering the injury history of our starting Center, Bogut. Nowitzki is not sold on Dallas, you heard it here first.  Playing next to a healthy (when’s that gonna happen?) Bogut could help extend the number of years Nowitzki will play.  As it is, he would be amazing with Curry, as would Love. Diaw could work well for this team off the bench if we add shooters… or keep Crawford and add someone like Lowry at the backup point?  What happens if we bring in Jan Vesely or Ryan Kelly and either one becomes our stretch 4?  Does Lee come off the bench?  Making 15 mil a year, he’d better be the 6th man of the year.  Realistically, that could be the future for Lee, on the Warriors, or another team.  Josh McRoberts is another stretch 4 who could fit in as a starter or contributor.

The most interesting thing about the FA list is the Heat could potentially be cleaned out of talent next season.  Every player of importance is a Free Agent or could become one… Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Andersen, Chalmers, Battier, Allen, Haslem, ummm yeah that’s the team. Not likely to happen, as guys with player options tend to remain with a successful team, but if they fall apart against the Spurs, who knows?  Bosh as a replacement to Lee would be very nice, as Bosh has developed a 3pt shot.  Bron bron as our 4?  Hmmm….  Well dreams are nice.

Regardless of additions during the offseason, there certainly is a new level of excitement for our Golden State Warriors.  Coach Kerr will be in position to take blame and criticism as well as praise and glory.  He seems well prepared to move the Warriors toward the goal of championship contention every year.  I just would like to hear him phrase it that way.  I believe with a healthy roster, Kerr would take this current roster to the Western Conference Finals next year.  I don’t see growing pains for him that will impact the team more than Jackson’s shortcomings.  Kerr has said he wants head coaching experience next to him, and that helps.  Whether it is Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollings, Lawrence Frank, Vinny Del Negro, or even Mike Woodson, I am sure Kerr will lean on his assistant coach as well as the rest of his staff.  With minor changes, especially bringing in a backup point who is an upgrade over Blake, and a talented stretch 4 who doesn’t have to start, I expect the Golden State Warriors to make the Conference Finals at a minimum.  Every year, the goal should be stated to win a NBA Championship.  I never heard Scott Brooks say it.  He seemed to be afraid to.  I haven’t heard Steve Kerr say it.  He needs to.

 

The Fraz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 19

just a quick SF Giants Post!

Bay Area!

 

Damn,  I’m sure the A’s could have beaten the FRIKEN YANKMEES oops.  Fact is the Tigers (who beat the Yankees in 4 and the A’s in 5) are waiting when you G-men top the Cards… no matter how you do it…  There is a Bay Area Rivalry right now that will be special for years to come.  Let’s go Timmie!

Aug 10

My Completely Objective (yeah right) NBA Western Conference 2013 Playoff Seeding Projections

Now that the NBA free agency period has mostly wrapped up and major trades are likely over, it is time to look at how the Golden State Warriors stack up in the West.

The big news of yesterday was… Howard to the Lakers for Bynum and a protected first rounder and Igoudala to the Nuggets for Afflalo, Harrington and another protected first to Orlando.  This changes the NBA landscape.  On sports radio, I have heard comments regarding the sad state of our Warriors franchise and how this does nothing but hurt our chances this year.  Across the board it is the same whether it is 95.7 the Game, KNBR 680, or Fox sports radio.  Seriously, this is stretching it a bit.  The Lakers and Nuggets were already better than our Warriors before this trade went down, as evidenced by the fact that both teams made the playoffs last year.  On the other hand, what happens a few years from now with the Lakers as the core enters “father-time”  could be fun for Warriors fans to watch.  The Lakers basically have traded away all first round picks in the next 4 years.  Interesting.

Ok… moving on.  I see the Western Conference the way many do for this upcoming season.  The top 6 teams in the Conference are all considered to be locks for the playoffs, barring some unforeseen injuries.  These teams are the Thunder, Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Nuggets.  These teams have stayed either the same for the most part or in the case of the Lakers and Nuggets, have improved. This leaves 6 teams who have the opportunity to fill the last two spots in the playoffs for the West.  I would say that the teams that are out for sure are the Rockets, although I will be rooting for them with Jeremy Lin, the Kings, and the Hornets.  I know the Hornets are reloading, but it is too early to expect them to leapfrog half the conference into the playoffs.

1.  Top seed goes to the Thunder.  The team is unchanged as far as I can tell, but with this nucleus of players growing after the experience of making it to the finals, we can only expect greatness.  I have been expecting Durant to show himself to be the best player in the NBA for the last couple of years, and he didn’t quite beat out Lebron or Kobe yet.  The scoring title for Durant was a nice accolade for him, but he has a bit more to do on the defensive end as well as the pure want and desire to win that Lebron showed in the Finals.  This team is possibly the most balanced team in the NBA with a great scoring point in Westbrook, a superstar in his own right, Durant, Harden, the sixth man of the year, Ibaka, a beast in the paint who is still learning the offensive game, and Sefolosha as the lockdown wing defender/three point specialist.  The Thunder added a very interesting player that could be a homeless man’s Durant in Perry Jones.  Coach Scotty Brooks out-coached Popovich of the Spurs in my opinion and came close to figuring out how to down the Heat.  The sky is the limit for this team.

2.  The next seed is hard to predict, but I will give it to the Lakers.  Now that Dwight Howard is in and Bynum is out, without having to give up Gasol, the Lakers are going to be scary this year.  There are questions galore with this team, and Hollywood will have a great time dreaming up fairy tale endings.  They have the talent to win Kobe a 6th ring and tie the Celtics for the most NBA Championships all time.  The problems all start with chemistry.  Kobe and Nash have always been rivals.  Howard is just as much a head case as Bynum.  Any team with MWP has potential to have issues.  The Lakers reloaded in a big way that put them around 100M salary for this coming year, when the Luxury Tax cuts in at 73M.  This just wasn’t supposed to happen any more.  A couple of weeks ago I was laughing at this bench, but after adding Jamison and resigning Hill, the bench doesn’t look so bad anymore.  Rookies from this draft, Johnson-Odom and Sacre certainly don’t hurt.  I think this team has the best chance of taking the crown away from King James.  I don’t put them in the top seed, and even considered slotting them lower due to the fact it may take a whole season to jell before the Lakers reach their full potential see Heat of 10-11.

3.  Spurs.  This is one of the most amazing teams in the NBA.  Poppovich is the best coach in the NBA if you ask me.  He has the ability to get everything out of his players and change strategies on the fly.  Last season, this team went from one of the lower scoring teams in the NBA to one of the highest scoring teams, while finishing with a .750 record.  Even though the Thunder and Brooks outplayed them for the right to play in the Finals, this was an amazing team down the stretch last year.  Duncan, who is now a Spur for life still has game and the team is morphing around him to remain highly effective.  Even without Ginobli for the majority of the year, the Spurs just rolled.  Parker was a huge part of this excellence as he had one of his most productive years yet.  The Spurs are continuing to reload as well as Leonard, last years first rounder acq’d via trade from the Pacers, fits the team perfectly as a defender at multiple positions who also fits in perfectly with the offense Pop ran last year.  The Spurs did not have a first round pick this year.  This is not a Championship contender this year in my mind, but they will be one of the best in the West.

4.  Grizzlies.  This is just an old school type of team.  They can pound the ball in the paint with Marc Gasol and Randolph.  Both are tough rebounders as well.  They have one of the best small forwards in the game in Gay.  Gay can do a bit of everything, as he gets to the rim for monster dunks, can drain the three, and plays D on the perimeter.  Gay was one of my favorite fantasy players last year.  What is amazing about this team is the ability to absorb an injury to a major contributor, as Gay and Randolph have sustained injuries that cost them a large part of the season in the last two years.  The Grizz largely seemed unaffected.  What can this team do with a healthy season and healthy playoff run?  This offseason, they let Mayo get away who was a decent 6th man at times, but this is not a huge loss as he has under-performed as much as he helped.  Bayless comes in from Toronto this year and is a player that can do things to really help this team at the 1 or the 2.  They have starters those positions who are outstanding 2 way players in Allen and Conley.  Adding Wroten in the draft gives them another multi-talented guard who specializes in getting to the rim.  This team if healthy could finally have a long playoff run.

5.  Nuggets.  The addition of Igoudala makes this team very interesting.  I remember this team as the team that nearly knocked off the Lakers in the playoffs last year.  Subtract only Afflalo and Harrington and add Igoudala… so you lose some scoring, but you add a playmaker and a defender.  As far as I am concerned, Igoudala can guard darn near anyone in the NBA.  If Chandler can play the 3 with Igoudala at the 2, then you have a team that can really defend the perimeter.  Special PGs in Miller, resigned for a great deal at 3mil per for 3 years, and Lawson, who tore up the Lakers D in the playoffs, add to the interesting mix of this team.  Gallinari is a player I was not high on before last season, but I found I was impressed last year.  The question is… can he be an effective starter as a stretch 4 instead of the 3?  With Igoudala or Chandler at the 3, it could work… on the other hand, start Igoudala at the 2, Chandler comes off the bench, Gallinari starts at the 3, and let second year stud Faried start at the 4.  When you have the potentially improving McGee starting at the 5, this rounds out to be a very solid team.  If this couldn’t be any better, the top European prospect, Fournier was drafted by the Nuggets this year.  He is playing with them this year, and is a multi-talented large guard.  Coach Karl may finally have a roster that can rival his great Sonics teams of years past.

Here is where it gets interesting…

6.  Clippers.  This is a team that is going to have injury problems this year.  Their once hopeful Olympic 4, Griffin recently reinjured the same knee that kept him out of his rookie year.  Word is he will be ready for the start of the season, but don’t count on it.  Paul, considered the best point in the game by many, is showing his age as he has knee issues as well and other ailments that pop up from time to time.  Paul really isn’t that old, but he plays slow and gimpy at times.  It seems he does his best Kobe to play through things, but how much better is he and the team when he is healthy?  Billups comes back at a great price and can still play… if healthy.  He tore up his knee last year in a season ending injury.  Jordan is a nice 5 who is an athletic shot-blocker.  Caron Butler might start at the 3, while newly acquired Grant Hill could push to be the starter.  Clips did reload nicely with the addition of 6th man Crawford who played with the Blazers last year, as well as taking a chance on Odom.  Clips had no first rounder this year.  The upside of this team could be very high with health, but I just don’t see this team improving this year.

7.  Warriors.  Another team with injury issues galore.  On the other hand, this team is loaded and deep. There are no true stars here, but when healthy, they have one of the better starting lineups in the West.  The big difference this year is Bogut acquired in trade at the deadline last year from the Bucks for fan fave Ellis.  Additionally, the new ownership has stocked this team with more big bodies than they have had in my memory.  Starting with 7 footer Bogut, a 3rd team all NBA player in 09, they have the rebounding and interior defense that has been sorely lacking for this team in recent years.  Bogut has had 3 devastating injuries in his career.  A broken elbow sustained during a fast break dunk a few years ago still seems to bother his shooting, although it is his off-hand.  He had a major back issue that he missed games for, then last year, he broke his ankle and was injured at the time of the trade.  He is expected to play for the first time for the Warriors when the season starts, day 1.  Curry, the franchise face, is a sweet shooting point who has had a nasty recurring ankle sprain issue.  Curry is widely considered one of the best shooters in the NBA.  At the 2 is another of the best young shooters in the game in Thompson.  He started for the Warriors after the Ellis trade and quickly made a name for himself.  Rush,  a valuable long range shooting 6th man for the team last year has the ability to play the 2 or 3 and could start, most likely at the 3 until the team deems Rookie Barnes ready.  Barnes was a steal is some people’s mind to drop to the Warriors in the draft, but in Summer League play he has looked shaky at times.  Lee is a pick and roll or pick and pop scoring machine who can work very well with Curry.  Lee’s issue is defense which the addition of Bogut should really help.  Landry and Jack are other off-season acquisitions who help with depth at the 4 and 1 respectively.  They played together last year with the Hornets, and also for asst. coach Milone while he was with the Hornets the year before.  In addition to Barnes, the Warriors drafted big man Ezeli with the pick they got from the Spurs.  Ezeli is very raw, but is a major presence on the defensive end.  I can’t say how healthy this team will be, but with some luck, this depth and some chemistry should propel this team into the playoffs for the first time since 07.

8.  Timberwolves.  It is hard for me to figure whether they are better than the Warriors, but this is likely to be a playoff team.  With Kevin Love, who is on the Olympic team and is a baller, there is a chance for this to be a very impressive team…  Last year PG Rubio, a former European star, blew out his knee after having a stellar start to the season.  The chemistry of Rubio and Love was special.  Now with Rubio healthy again, this has to be one of the most interesting teams in the NBA.  Add to that signings of Roy, who sat out a year due to knee injuries, and Kirelinko who played in the Euroleague last year and is tearing up the Olympics for Russia right now, and this is going to be fun to watch.  A countryman of Kirelinko’s, Shved, has also been signed.  Shved is a large combo guard who can really play and is also torching it with Russia’s Olympic squad.  Add in an emerging quality 5 in Pekovic and the Wolves have a multinational team with great promise… if healthy.  They did not have a first round draft pick, but brought in some quality players here on the fly.  The only reason I put them here is that the Wolves have so many new pieces and young players that need to jell.  Oh yeah, and the Warriors are my team of course.  So there we go.

Mavericks…  Nowitzki is the premier stretch 4 in the game, but Love of the Wolves is very close on his heels.  Nowitzki is aging and was less effective last year.  The pieces around him are now subpar as the team is hoping for the big time free agent fish, but haven’t been able to reel it in.  Mavs lost out on Deron Williams and Howard this year, and they signed mediocre players to short deals to be ready with cap space again this next year.  Kaman, Mayo, and Collison are all likely to be new starters for the team while the returning starters are Nowitzki and Marion.  Marion as well as Nowitzki are both aging but outstanding players.  Kaman is aging as well and injury prone.  In recent years, Kaman has been injured every bit as much as the Warrior’s Bogut.  Kaman is a nice defensive player and decent rebounder, but is an inefficient offensive player who turns the ball over at a nasty pace. Mayo was an underperfoming 6th man for the Grizz in the past years, who became expendable.  Collison is a point who really is just not very good at much at all.  The teams depth consists of many rookies and subpar players.

Trailblazers…  I could be wrong about this team.  Playoffs are possible, but they are rebuilding.  They have an All-Star in Aldridge who is a tough 4 who can score and defend.  The problems I have with this team is the youth and Batum, a young athletic average 3, who they resigned for way too much money.  Other than that, I think they got the best pick in the draft in Lillard.  A point guard who can score from anywhere, Lillard played at tiny Weber St.  People question whether his game can translate to the NBA, but I expect him to be an All-Star year in, year out once he develops.  I also love Leonard, a raw 5 they drafted with their other first round pick.  I see the Blazers as one of the Warriors true rivals and don’t want them to do well.  Give them a year or two, and they will be back in the playoffs again every year.

Suns…  Losing Nash really hurt them.  It was inevitable.  They are taking the right track with young players at this time and have some guys I like.  Markieff Morris was drafted last year as a tough rebounding stretch 4.  Luis Scola came in after being amnestied by Houston.  Goran Dragic is a reasonable replacement for Nash, considering the rebuild mindset.  Kendall Marshall, a PG was their draft pick.  He is regarded as a pass first point with great court vision.  This could be a fun team to watch, but there is just not enough talent.

Rockets…  Lin could score 30… in fact I expect him to do so at least a couple of times this year.  There is not much else on this team.  Rookies and more rookies as they, like the Mavs, swung and missed on Howard this year.

Jazz…  Many expect the Jazz to compete for a playoff spot.  Mo Williams is not the answer at the point.  Hayward is a developing 2, but is just not that good.  The other Williams, Marvin, acq’d from the Hawks is a big 3 who I really don’t like that much.  The frontcourt is nice, but Al Jefferson is only a scorer at the 5.  He doesn’t defend.  I love Millsap, but he is getting older… Favors can look up to him as a perfect mentor.  Favors is special.  This team is not as good as it was last year.

Kings… Nice players.  Bad team.  Freddette did not pan out last year as their early draft selection, but the last pick in the draft… one Isiah Thomas is a little spark plug of a point that made the all rookie team.  This team is fun to watch, but has much growing to do.  Cousins, the 5, is another Bynum.  All the talent, but a head-case.  Their first rounder this year, Robinson, is a beast.  As an undersized 4, he is a baller.  He just out muscles and out works his opponent.  Hopefully, he can do that in the pros as well.  The biggest question for this team may be… can they figure out how to properly use former ROY Tyreke Evans?  He is a great talent who has been used at the 1, 2 and 3.  Nothing has worked right for him and the team yet.

Hornets… I did not like their draft.  Haha I know… Unibrow.  I am not a supporter.  He is just too thin for me.  He could end up being a nice player, but he would be an undersized Tyson Chandler at best.  Rivers… he wants to be Kobe, but is more like Jamal Crawford at the best.  I do really like Gordon.  For his sake, I wish he signed with Pheonix.  It’s going to take time for this team to get anywhere… In the mean time, more lottery picks!

Thanks for reading, this was fun.

The Fraz

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