Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018 NBA Draft Week Review

Draft day is here! Like last year, I'm going to recap all of the wheeling and dealing going on this week. I'll start with the trades that have already happened, and then go team by team with a summary of what they did tonight. As usual, all salary data is from BasketballInsiders.com. 

The Howard-Mozgov salary swap

Nets receive:
Dwight Howard$23,819,725

Hornets receive:
Timofey Mozgov$16,000,000$16,720,000
#45 pick
Nets' 2021 2nd round pick
Undisclosed cash considerations 


Like many others, my first thought when I saw the news was that Howard is finally a Net after the "Dwightmare" six years ago, but alas, the union won't last long. As Tim Bontemps speculated yesterday, Brooklyn will likely buyout the last year of the enigmatic big man's deal to put the exclamation point on this salary dump. With Mozgov's money off the books, the Nets are now in position to have enough cap room for two max contracts a year from now and still keep the cap holds of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie. They also still have the 40th pick tonight, lessening the blow of sacrificing the second rounders. Because the difference in salary is more than the amount of cap space they have right now, this deal can't become official until the new league year starts on July 6th. They'll have to renounce the cap holds of some of their free agents, but they can still keep Joe Harris' rights and have around $5.8 million in room left.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

TSFJ Posts: June Round Up

Since I've been contributing to The Sports Fan Journal more frequently, I will occasionally be posting links to my works here for easy access. My latest from this month:

I take a look around the NBA to see who actually has significant cap space.

The Financials Are Clear: Kyler Murray Is Right To Choose Baseball
An examination of the financial choice the A's first round pick and Oklahoma quarterback faced.

A breakdown of where the Cavaliers roster would stand in a post-LeBron world from a cap perspective.

I make the case for which rookie wide receivers might help their teams right away based on a specific set of criteria.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Kawhi Leonard's 3 Main Options for His Next Contract

By now you probably know the details about the rift between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. If not, Kevin O’Connor sums up the situation well, but basically neither side has a ton of trust right now after Leonard sat out essentially the whole season with a quad injury that San Antonio thought he could play through. With the San Antonio Express-News breaking the news that a trade request was made and Yahoo! and ESPN simultaneously reporting the same, a divorce seems imminent. As a Southern California native, the Lakers are apparently his preferred destination, but with the Clippers, 76ers, and Celtics also in the running, the Spurs have no obligation to send him anywhere than the franchise that provides the best trade package. In any case, any team he plays for this season will have an eye towards his next contract since he is all but guaranteed to decline his undervalued $21,329,752 player option next summer, so let’s take a look at what his options are for a new deal as his 27th birthday approaches this month.


#1: Stay with San Antonio for the most money

This seems like the least likely choice given all of the new developments, but Leonard has reportedly yet to have his expected meeting coach Gregg Popovich. There’s still a chance that relationships could be repaired, and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is convinced to stay like LaMarcus Aldridge was last year. If everything is smoothed over, the Spurs can offer him the Designated Veteran Extension since he was named All-NBA in both 2016 and 2017. Commonly referred to as the “supermax,” this simply allows Leonard to tack on five years to his contract with a starting salary at 35% of the salary cap as opposed to the 30% he’d normally be eligible for based on his seven years of experience. With a projected salary cap of $108 million next year, he’s looking at a five year, $219,240,000 extension on top of this season’s $20,099,189 for a six year total of $239,339,189.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018 NFL Draft Live Blog

At long last, it's draft day in the NFL! After re-watching Kevin Costner's amazingly entertaining Draft Day (featuring Chadwich Boseman just in time for Avengers: Infinity War!), I am so ready for all the trades tonight. It's sure to be one of my wildest 1st rounds in recent memory thanks to the range of opinions on the quarterbacks, and I might not have been creative enough with my mock draft last week. As you can see there, I've begun contributing to TheSportsFanJournal.com, where I also wrote about three running back sleepers after the 1st round (in addition to tackling the NBA ROY debate), and that's why there hasn't been anything recent on this site. That changes tonight -- obviously, since you're reading this -- as I'll be continually updating this with analysis throughout the round just like last year.

My excitement/relief about today's arrival is probably nothing compared to all of those involved after so much scrutiny they've gone through, and this time of year there's so much misinformation out there. The fact that there are so many conflicting reports out there about what Cleveland is going to do at #1 is amazing, especially with reports that GM John Dorsey has kept Mr. 1-31 aka coach Hue Jackson out of the loop until just recently. It's hilarious that so many reporters suddenly feel most certain about Baker Mayfield being the guy. You know, right around the time that Jackson was told the pick...

4:53 PM PST: Since they have their choice of players at the top, it may seem silly to have "smokescreens" out there about who they'll take, but I think it makes some sense to keep people guessing and create chaos around trade talks for other teams since they're picking again at #4. I hope that Dorsey just told Jackson that Mayfield is the guy just to throw off the scent because he knows how close he is to the media, but IF the former Sooner does end up going #1, that would certainly change up how I see the top of the draft going. Sam Darnold appears to be the only one the Giants appear to be set on ahead of Saquon Barkley, and with the Jets likely to take the next best quarterback, Josh Rosen, that could suddenly create a ton of demand for #4. That could be where Buffalo or Arizona trades up to, but I'll stick with Bradley Chubb to Cleveland for now. Then the Broncos, Colts, or Buccaneers could suddenly be gifted Barkley to fill their running back hole, or they could make that trade down, with Denver potentially taking Josh Allen themselves.

4:58: Almost showtime! Call me crazy, but I still believe it'll be Darnold until I see definitely otherwise. One last what-if thought exercise, though:
1. Mayfield
2. Darnold
3. Rosen
4. Chubb
5. Barkley
6. Allen (Buffalo trade)
7. Derwin James (it's a real coin flip after I had Minkah Fitzpatrick here in my mock)
8. Quenton Nelson
9. Fitzpatrick
10. Roquan Smith (though he could go 6 if Indy isn't who makes the trade)

5:05: Bringing out Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Jason Witten with him didn't stop Roger Goodell from getting booed!

5:14: They're really using up the whole 10 minutes even though they've been on the clock since the season ended...But Mayfield is on the phone apparently! Looks like he really is getting the draft call.

5:17: And it's official: The reigning Heisman winner who was originally a walk on at Texas Tech is the #1 overall pick. I really didn't expect that since Dorsey is known as a "measurables guy" and Mayfield only came in at 6’0⅝”, 215 lbs at the combine (6’0⅜”, 216 lbs at the Senior Bowl, oddly), but apparently Scott McCloughlan really has his ear.

5:20: Troy Aikman is the first to bring up the Johnny Manziel comparison! I've had that sort of feeling for a while, and it'll only grow stronger now that Mayfield is also a Brown. He has kind of won me over, but I still have Darnold and Rosen as better prospects. For what it's worth, the Pro Football Focus has had Mayfield as the top guy going back to October.

5:22: The Giants stuck with Barkley after all. I can understand it more than most running backs thanks to his impact in the passing game, but man, when will they have the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback again? Eli Manning is 37.

5:28: Jets pick up Darnold and probably rejoice. Rich Eisen points out that he's only 20 years old (turning 21 in six weeks), and that two year edge on Mayfield shouldn't go unnoticed. Being so young when drafted is yet another similarity he has to Jameis Winston, who was also better as a redshirt freshman than in his draft season. They're also similar in size, play more athletically than they tested, have slightly funky deliveries, and can be turnover prone. That wouldn't be too shabby compared to how the last USC quarterback the Jets took ended up turning out, even if they did overpay to move up to this spot weeks ago.

5:36: Another Cleveland stunner: Denzel Ward at #4! I can't knock it since I view him as the best pure outside corner in the draft, but I didn't think they'd prioritize the position since they added E.J. Gaines, T.J. Carrie, and Terrance Mitchell as veterans already. Seems like they tried trading down but were asking for too much and just took their guy higher than expected. With Denver supposedly smitten with him, ideally after a trade down, they must be a bit disappointed.

5:43: I remember Peter King mentioned that Denver loved Bradley Chubb but never thought he'd be there at #5. I'm not sure how great he'll transition to a 3-4 defense, but that might not matter since nickel defense is basically the new base. They'll probably still look for that third corner as Aqib Talib's replacement in the next round or two. My question is if this means they might shop Shane Ray or Shaq Barrett, who just recently signed his 2nd round restricted free agency tender.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Addressing the 49ers' Needs

NFL free agency begins next week, and now that the draft combine and franchise tag deadline are in the rear view, it's the perfect time to look at the outlook for one of 2018's most interesting teams, the San Francisco 49ers. Depending on the sportsbook, Vegas has given them around 20-1 odds to win the Super Bowl next year after finishing last season on a five game winning streak with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback, and the former Patriot has already been re-signed at the highest annual salary in the league (at least until Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers reset the market). A 6-10 team that started 0-9 being within the top ten favorites may seem ambitious, but this franchise has some precedent for quick turnarounds: the 49ers' first Super Bowl winner in 1981 went 13-3 after being 6-10 and 2-14 the previous two years. Their record before coach Kyle Shanahan arrived this past season? 2-14.

I'm not saying this team is ready to win it all this year, but they might not be as far away as the casual fan might think if they can make some key additions. Quarterback is often considered the most important position in sports for a reason, and the turnaround under Garoppolo is an example why, as the offense went from being ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards, yards per play, and points before he took over to being in the top five in each. Furthermore, the defense experienced a similar improvement to the top 10 in those same categories, and although that can partly be attributed to rookie defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and a lineup filled with young players getting more comfortable as the season progressed, the offense no longer put them in disadvantageous situations. With the fifth most salary cap space per OverTheCap.com and nine draft picks (selections 9, 59, 70, 74, 128, 143, 184, 227, and 240) at the disposal of John Lynch and the front office, here are their biggest needs and some options to fill them to at least make them playoff contenders.
This coach-QB pairing is cause for celebration.
Cornerback: 3rd round round pick Ahkello Witherspoon came on strong down the stretch, starting the final nine games and earning an 81.1 grade from Pro Football Focus, but even if he grows into more than a solid starter, there's still a massive hole across from him with Dontae Johnson often struggling and not expected back in free agency. K'Waun Williams made a strong enough first impression to earn the first extension under the new regime early in the season, but at just 5'9" he is limited to nickel duties, especially in Saleh's Cover 3 scheme from Seattle that prefers more length on the outside. That role still put him on the field for 56.18% of the team's defensive snaps despite missing two games, though, showing that you can never have enough corners in today's pass happy NFL. You can expect them to add at least one veteran capable of starting on the outside (as evidenced by their reported interest in Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Vontae Davis, and David Amerson already) and draft another corner early, ideally with one of them able to also playing in the slot to provide competition and depth for Williams.

Free agent options
  • Being just under 5'10", Malcolm Butler may not be a perfect fit, but he has shown over the past three years that he is a high-level starter and only just turned 28. He's played a variety of roles in New England with their game plan specific schemes, so strange Super Bowl benching that arguably cost them this year's championship notwithstanding, I'm not concerned about his ability to play zone in the Cover 3 or shadow man-to-man. 
  • Trumaine Johnson is the other corner considered among the best free agents and often mentioned with the 49ers due to his hometown of Stockton, CA and great length at 6'2" with 33.25" arms, but I'm not convinced he'll be worth the huge contract he'll get based on his inconsistency over the years.
  • Kyle Fuller's combination of production, size, and youth might be the most intriguing of all the options, but Chicago placed the transition tag on him so that they can match any offer sheet he signs. With their other starting corner a free agent on this list, I don't think the Bears are going to let their former 1st round pick get away.
  • Given more of a mid-tier price range, Aaron Colvin is probably my favorite option based on him only being 26, his ability to play in the slot, and the connection to Saleh, who was on the Jacksonville coaching staff the previous three seasons and runs essentially the same scheme. With Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye starring on the outside, Colvin was limited to nickelback, but I think he's talented enough to excel in a larger role, somewhat in a similar way to how Casey Hayward has become a star as a Charger after an up-and-down tenure in Green Bay.
  • Prince Amukamara also overlapped with Saleh in Jacksonville, and although he never became the star expected when picked 19th overall in 2011, he has been a reliable starter on the outside. His 81.2 PFF grade in Chicago this season actually wasn't far behind his teammate Fuller, but with his 29th birthday months away, I don't expect a price tag nearly as high.
  • I hadn't put a lot of thought to Rashaan Melvin after he finished his breakout season on injured reserve, but after the Better Rivals podcast made the case for him as a late bloomer with standout athleticism, I realized that he could be this year's A.J. Bouye without as expensive of a salary commitment. According to DraftScout.com's pro day numbers, he put together a 4.42 40 yard dash, 10'6" broad jump, and 38" vertical at just under 6'2" and 192 pounds, so together with the success he found this season, he might be the best lottery ticket of the bunch since the new regime seems to place an emphasis on athleticism. Like Amukamara, Melvin will be 29 this year, so I could see him getting a nice payday that's only a short term deal while a prospect is drafted in the first three rounds to develop.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2018 NBA Power Rankings: Post All-Star Edition

With the All-Star Break and trade deadline in the rear view and every team having played between 55 and 61 games, it's time to take a quick look at each team for the last third of the NBA regular season! When organizing this list, teams seemed to group together in a mostly clear way, so I broke this down into tiers with considerations for performances so far and an outlook towards the future. To provide a full summary, I've listed records, how many of those games were at home versus on the road, point differential, and offensive and defensive ratings from NBA.com.

Title Favorites
Those most likely to hold up the Larry O'Brien trophy in June

1. Golden State Warriors (1st in the West) 44-14 (29 H, 29 R)
Point Differential: +8.1 (3rd), Offense: 113.7 (1st), Defense: 103.7 (5th)

Kevin Durant's first 50 point game as a Warrior wasn't enough after a couple of close plays at the end of their last game, so they didn't become the first team to have the best record at the All-Star Break for four straight seasons. They also have a lower point differential than we're used to, but who are we kidding? This team is still the heavy favorite to win it all, and their net rating better reflects that, sitting at +10.0 per 100 possessions to lead the league. Injuries to youngsters Pat McCaw and possibly Jordan Bell will lead to further lineup experimentation ahead of the playoffs, and I wonder if staggering Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry will return, at least to a certain extent (something like Durant playing the first nine minutes of the 1st and last nine of the 2nd while Curry sticks with his usual 12 and six minute stints per half) to almost always have an MVP to lean on offensively. The usual unit to start the 2nd and 4th quarters (Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and David West) has a +25.5 net rating rating across 116 minutes, but that's thanks to an incredible 77.5 defensive that might not be sustainable enough to continue overcoming a paltry 103.0 offensive rating that would rank 26th in the league.

2. Houston Rockets (2nd in the West) 44-13 (29 H, 28 R)

Point Differential: + 8.7 (1st), Offense: 113.2 (2nd), Defense: 104.6 (9th)

The sample size of them being 28-1 when Chris Paul, James Harden, and Clint Capela are healthy is getting to be hard to ignore. The surrounding cast has been shifting, and Ryan Anderson coming off the bench since coming back from injury is an interesting wrinkle that not only puts better defenders on the floor but also surprises teams with Harden guarding bigs at times. Buyout additions Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright provide experienced depth, but they had to let go of wing prospect Troy Williams and are now without much point guard depth if Paul or Harden get banged up. A couple big buckets by either of those veterans in the playoffs would make it all worth it, of course.



Beasts of the East
The favorites to be representing the conference in the Finals

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (1st in the East) 34-22 (27 H, 29 R)
Point Differential: +0.2 (T-15th), Offense: 110.1 (5th), Defense: 109.8 (28th)

The most difficult team to rank since the performance to date obviously hasn't been impressive, especially since they've won six more games than expected based on point differential per CleaningTheGlass.com, but they completely revamped their team at the trade deadline and of course have LeBron James, who has represented his conference in seven straight Finals and seems rejuvenated by the recent moves. Much like the Warriors being the overall favorites, this is the team to beat in the East until proven otherwise. For what it's worth, they won in Boston and Oklahoma City by a combined 30 points with the new additions in the lineups.

4. Toronto Raptors (2nd in the East) 41-16 (28 H, 29 R)
Point Differential: +8.5 (2nd), Offense: 110.7 (4th), Defense: 102.6 (T-3rd)

I really wanted to put them as the Eastern favorites, but they've let me down too many times in the playoffs. Reasons for encouragement include better ball movement on offense, DeMar DeRozan already setting a career high in 3's made as a result, and a 34-11 record since rookie OG Anunoby joined the starting lineup. That last point has led to that unit having a +12.0 net rating in 619 minutes and their eventual second unit of Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl now getting up to a ridiculous +31.1 in 172 minutes, their second most used lineup. With no back to backs, benches don't play as much in the playoffs, though, so it's unclear how much of an advantage this will be when it counts.

5. Boston Celtics (3rd in the East) 40-19 (32 H, 27 R)

Point Differential: +3.5 (4th), Offense: 104.4 (21st), Defense: 100.9 (1st)

You may have heard about the offensive collapse since the calendar turned to 2018, and although that is an arbitrary cutoff point, being just 10-9 with the 28th ranked offense at 101.9 during that time is concerning, especially since they only have nine home games the rest of the way. Somewhat surprisingly, playing center Aron Baynes alongside the main four starters of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford in a more traditional lineup has produced better offensive ratings in addition to stronger defense than going smaller with Marcus Morris next to that group, both before and after the New Year. Overall, the lineup with Baynes has a +13.5 net rating compared to having Horford at center next to Morris for a -10.4 net rating, largely due to the latter lineup having a terrible 75% defensive rebound rate, as expected. The looming question over all of these lineup decisions, though, is if/when Gordon Hayward can return to the rotation in some capacity after that gruesome injury in the opening minutes of the season.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

2018 NBA Trade Deadline Week Recap

So much for that "quiet deadline," right? I've listed every move that's happened this week with almost all of them having every detail included by now (12:05 PM PST, just after the deadline has passed), and I'll add any further details plus some thoughts on the deals as the day goes on. All information about players' current salaries is from Eric Pincus at BasketballInsiders.com, with non-guaranteed, team option, and player option seasons color coded.


Milwaukee gets:
Tyler Zeller$1,709,538$1,933,941


Brooklyn gets:
Rashad Vaughn$1,889,040
Milwaukee 2018 2nd round pick (protected 48-60, otherwise becomes 2020 2nd round pick)

Nets GM Sean Marks continues to do solid work with his cheap veteran signings, and now he cashed in one of them to pick up an extra draft pick that will likely last longer with the team than the former 17th overall pick was going to. Across 42 games (33 starts), Zeller averaged a solid 7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in just 16.7 minutes with 54.6%/38.5%/66.7% shooting. I don't completely see the need on the Bucks' end for another limited big man, but they always seem to be looking for a center that can provide some offensive skills without killing them on the other end. Since they declined the fourth year option on Vaughn, they obviously didn't have plans for him in the future after he was also the 17th pick in his draft, so they must be hoping they'll be good enough that the 2nd rounder will be late enough to not be of much consequence.


Charlotte gets:
Willy Hernangomez$1,435,750$1,544,951$1,701,735

New York gets:
Johnny O'Bryant$1,524,305
Charlotte's 2020 and 2021 2nd round picks

Poor Hernangomez: he goes from out of the Knicks' rotation to a Hornets team that already has Dwight Howard, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky in established roles up front. Howard and Kaminsky only have one more year left on their deals, though, and the 23 year old Spaniard showed enough as a rookie (11.6/9.3/2.0 averages in 25.8 minutes over his 22 starts) that he can be thought of as a nice backup center option in the future. It would have been nice if things worked out for him to stay in New York with his former Sevilla teammate and buddy Kristaps Porzingis, but getting two 2nds back isn't bad value in return considering he was a 2nd rounder himself and that his defensive limitations have kept him out of favor this season.


Los Angeles signs Williams to 3 year, $24 million extension:
Lou Williams$7,000,000$8,000,000$8,000,000$8,000,000

With the last year reportedly only containing $1.5 million guaranteed, this was a surprisingly affordable extension for the Clippers since Williams was eligible to sign for upwards of $42 million over four years. I suppose the 31 year old veteran preferred some security in the same city after being on his fifth team in five season, including a year and a half in LA already with the Lakers, over chasing the Mid-Level Exception that is expected to have around an $8.6 million starting salary this summer. That's understandable, so hopefully for his sake the Clips don't end up trading him after the required six month wait now that the high-scoring 6th man is under team control like they did with Blake Griffin.


Chicago gets:
Willie Reed$1,471,382
Right to swap 2022 2nd round picks

Detroit gets:
Jameer Nelson$1,429,818

Don't look now, but after all the other times they conceded sweeteners as a throw-in, the Bulls actually made a deal that benefited them in the 2nd round! Nelson, who turns 36 tomorrow and will be on his fourth team since training camp, was never long for the rebuilding squad after being included in last week's trade, and now he gets to be reunited with his Orlando coach, Stan Van Gundy, as needed point guard depth for a team competing for a playoff spot. The cost is clearly low for the Pistons after Reed was also recently acquired as an extra piece in the Griffin trade, and it looks like Chicago is just going to waive him anyway despite his productive per-minute numbers. That's a little disappointing, but it does open up a roster spot to try out younger players while inching the Bulls ever so closer to the salary floor (more on that shortly). 


Los Angeles gets:
Channing Frye$7,420,912
Isaiah Thomas$6,261,395
Cleveland's 2018 1st round pick (protected 1-3)

Cleveland gets:
Jordan Clarkson$11,562,500$12,500,000$13,437,500
Larry Nance Jr.$1,471,382$2,272,391

I'm still a bit in shock from the first stunner of deadline day as my initial thought from this morning still holds true: I can't believe the Cavs helped the Lakers clear salary space to target LeBron James and another max contract this summer. As things stand now with the 1st round pick sitting at #24 and estimated at a $1.82 million cap hold, LA can hold onto Julius Randle's cap hold as a restricted free agent and have $45.93 million in space. Clearing Clarkson's salary made things simpler to achieve the estimated $65.65 million in room needed for James and a 30% max salary player like Paul George (assuming a $101 million salary cap), though, because they can stretch Luol Deng's remaining salary and simply renounce Randle's rights like the rest of their free agents to reach $67.3 million. That number could increase a little bit if the pick becomes lower due to Cleveland improving after today or if they waive the non-guaranteed contracts of young players like Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac, or Thomas Bryant. Perhaps the Cavs are confident enough that James will stay, especially after fortifying their roster today, that it doesn't matter; there was a report two days ago that LA was shifting their focus to the 2019 free agent class after all. If that is the case, this still helps the Lakers get closer to having two max slots that summer as they'll now have over $60 million in space, and stretching Deng that year could offset a new deal for Randle that eats into that. Deng's contract might even be easier to move once it has less money remaining on it, but it's always been likely that it'll have to count as $7,362,000 in dead money over five years or $6,270,000 over three depending on once he's waived.

As for the actual product on the court, it's a shame how far Isaiah Thomas' stock has fallen after his hip injury and poor 15 game run in Cleveland that he's basically just an expiring contract, so hopefully he can rebuild his free agent value a bit with what is likely to be plenty of opportunity in LA. It may hurt his pride to come off the bench, but he could potentially feast on opposing second units, play alongside the 6'6" Lonzo Ball, and have free reign during the times the rookie is banged up like now. If Frye isn't bought out, he can help in their young players' development by providing floor spacing as a big man like I wrote about when Brook Lopez was brought in. For the Cavs, Nance will give them a player who actually brings effort on defense, and they've already seen recently with rookie Cedi Osman how much of an impact that simple difference can make. He can also slide across a couple of positions for some versatility along with Clarkson, and although the latter tends to give it back up on defense, he provides an athletic scoring punch to the back court with some passing. With that being said, it is a little odd that they did this move that required giving up a 1st round pick and taking on future salary considering they had their other big trade coming just a little bit later. Dealing with Isaiah Thomas' constant public comments couldn't have been that bad, could it?