Friday, October 12, 2012

1st Quarter NFL Power Rankings

Now that every team has played at least four games, it feels like a good time for some Power Rankings a quarter into the season.

1. Falcons 5-0: The defense looks sharp, and Matt Ryan is running the no huddle offense beautifully. If "The Mattural," as Rich Eisen coined him on his podcast, can keep up the heroics in close games, this team will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Ryan's connection to Roddy White on their GW drive was one of the best big time throws I've ever seen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

2012 NFL Football Part 3: AFC

Editing note: Although this is being posted after the season has already started, it is still serving as team opinions from before season and has not been influenced by games already played.

If you missed Part 2.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots 13-3
2. Buffalo Bills 10-6
A lot of receivers may be lost on Revis Island, but the best defensive player in the league can't help this offense.

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012 Football Preview Part 2: NFC

I went through my playoff picks right here, so now here's what I think of the rest of the NFC teams.

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles 11-5
2. Dallas Cowboys 11-5

3. New York Giants 9-7: So about those picks from last year...I was relatively spot on with most calls, but I picked the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants to come in fourth place in a competitive division. Yikes. I liked the moves they made to improve their team but thought that their rash of preseason injuries would take too big of a toll on them. Instead, no team took hold of the division, they snuck into the playoffs again, and caught fire with Eli Manning becoming the most clutch quarterback in the league. So why am I picking them to miss the playoffs this year? Well, they're shorthanded again, and I think their luck runs the other way this year.
   Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham left for San Francisco in free agency, and although I think Victor Cruz is a good receiver, I don't think he'll be nearly as good as last season. Much like with Manningham a couple of years ago, they got another steal in the second round with Rueben Randle. He'll have some growing pains trying to offset the loss of Manningham as a rookie, and Hakeem Nicks should return to his studly ways after some foot issues in training camp. Martellus Bennet was a nice replacement signing at tight end, but some shuffling along the offensive line could cause some blocking trouble for Manning and runningbacks Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson, their first round pick. Across from Justin Tuck at defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul could make this defense a strong unit just by himself. He's that good, and he may have to be in order to make up for a banged up secondary if this team is going to defend its title.
JPP might have to put the world on his shoulders.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Summer's Over: It's Football Time!

After a two month hiatus, I'm back and ready for some football. My last post was before the NBA Draft, and my recap of that and the rest of basketball's offseason moves has been on hold during this busy summer. After working with the national champions of summer league baseball, the Santa Barbara Foresters, I went to Las Vegas for my 21st birthday and later to Reno for my dad's birthday with some time back home in between. We explored various sports books looking for the best football odds, and here's what I put my money on:
  • -110 that the Colts will win OVER 5 games: $50 to win $45.45
  • +105 that the Niners will win OVER 10 games: $50 to win $52.50
  • +550 that the Niners will win the Super Bowl: $35 to win $192.50 
  • +220 that the Niners will win @ Green Bay in Week 1: $15 to win $33
I feel very good about the value I got in these bets, with the latter two obviously being ambitious and less likely, but after seeing the odds at some other sports books, I know that I got good deals. If I am being honest with myself, I think that the real Super Bowl favorites, the Packers, will win it all, but where's the fun in that? That's what my season preview is for. (For the most part, I was spot on in my picks last year with one glaring omission, but we'll get to that later...)
Came close to betting this SB matchup, but is that my pick?
Part 1: The Big Picture
(Parts 2 and 3 will go team by team through the conferences)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

NBA Big Board 2012

Finally, my favorite draft class in a long time is here. Due to the lockout truncated season, the Finals feel like they JUST happened (because they did), but here we are. There are all kinds of rumors out there, and a number of trades have already occurred this week as a precursor to what looks like a busy draft day. It's nearly impossible to predict things in a mock draft with so much mystery looming, so here is my simple big board of prospects--66 was a nice, random number to cut it off at to try to include everyone who could be drafted. I will provide explanation after the draft with the overall draft analysis, but here are my my previous rankings with descriptions and initial lottery mock draft (you can also click the "NBA Draft" tag for more).

  1. Kentucky PF Anthony Davis
  2. Kentucky SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  3. Florida SG Bradley Beal
  4. North Carolina SF Harrison Barnes
  5. Kansas PF Thomas Robinson
  6. UConn C Andre Drummond
  7. UConn SG Jeremy Lamb
  8. Weber St. PG Damian Lillard
  9. North Carolina PF John Henson
  10. Syracuse SG Dion Waiters 
  11. Illinois C Myers Leonard
  12. North Carolina C Tyler Zeller 
  13. North Carolina PG Kendall Marshall
  14. Kentucky PF Terrence Jones
  15. Baylor PF Perry Jones III
  16. Washington SG Terrence Ross
  17. Duke SG Austin Rivers
  18. Ohio St. PF Jared Sullinger
  19. Baylor SF Quincy Miller
  20. St. John's SF Moe Harkless
  21. Miss St. PF Arnett Moultrie
  22. Washington PG Tony Wroten
  23. Kentucky PG Marquis Teague
  24. St. Bonaventure PF Andrew Nicholson
  25. France SG Evan Fournier
  26. Iowa St. PF Royce White
  27. Kentucky SG Doron Lamb
  28. Vanderbilt SF Jeff Taylor
  29. Memphis SG Will Barton
  30. Syracuse C Fab Melo
  31. Vanderbilt C Festus Ezeli
  32. UCSB SG Orlando Johnson
  33. Vanderbilt SG John Jenkins
  34. Kansas PG Tyshawn Taylor
  35. Kentucky SF Darius Miller
  36. Michigan St. PF Draymond Green 
  37. New Mexico PF Drew Gordon
  38. Marquette SG Darius Johnson-Odom 
  39. Oregon St. SG Jared Cunningham 
  40. Tennessee St SG Kevin Murphy 
  41. Turkey PF Furkan Aldemir
  42. Marquette SF Jae Crowder 
  43. Texas A&M SF Khris Middleton
  44. Iona PG Scott Machado
  45. Duke C Miles Plumlee
  46. Czech SG  Tomas Satoransky 
  47. Ohio St. SG William Buford
  48. Syracuse SF Kris Joseph
  49. Xavier PG Tu Holloway
  50. Norfolk St. C Kyle O'Quinn
  51. Missouri SG Kim English 
  52. West Virginia PF Kevin Jones
  53. Florida St. C Bernard James
  54. Alabama PF JaMychal Green 
  55. Virginia PF Mike Scott
  56. Georgetown SF Hollis Thompson
  57. Alabama SG Tony Mitchell 
  58. Georgetown C Henry Sims 
  59. Gonzaga C Robert Sacre 
  60. Missouri SG Marcus Denmon
  61. Purdue SF Robbie Hummel
  62. Long Beach St. PG Casper Ware
  63. Missouri PF Ricardo Ratliffe
  64. Baylor PF Quincy Acy 
  65. Wisconsin PG Jordan Taylor
  66. LSU C Justin Hamilton

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Initial Reaction to Last Night's Lottery Results

We should have know. Well, more specifically, I should have known better than to not bet on the NBA-owned Hornets in the lottery (to be fair, Saints owner Tom Benson should officially become the owner over the summer). [EDIT: I should add that while suspect, I am not one to believe in conspiracy theories. Zach Lowe's excellent coverage of the lottery process make it pretty clear that it is practically impossible to rig the results.] When looking at the betting odds for the lottery, I went with the 8/1 Kings because they almost always drop in the lottery process, and I thought they were due for some positive energy to help harbor their arena situation. Plus, an all-Kentucky frontcourt of Anthony Davis with DeMarcus Cousins would have been incredible. I stared long and hard at the 5/1 odds for the Hornets as a secondary bet but didn't pull the trigger. Alas, it's over now, and the lottery order is now set after the unusual occurrence of just one team jumping up while the rest held to form. Let's mock:

1. Hornets: Kentucky F/C Anthony Davis: A no-brainer that should help the team's chances of re-signing restricted free agent Eric Gordon if they open up the wallet. It's unclear whether or not the team will re-sign Chris Kaman and/or trade Emeka Okafor, but Davis would fit with either of them as well as rookie Gustavo Ayon, who showed to be a solid rotation big man.
The 'Brow is excited to go back to the city where he won the  National Championship.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Revisiting Old Ideas for the Thunder and Lakers

Despite the typical excitement of a Game 7, another slugfest between the Celtics and Sixers is not expected to be the highlight of this Memorial Day weekend (I'm picking Boston at home to continue the streak of alternating wins in this series, by the way). That right is reserved for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and the Spurs. This is the matchup we have been waiting for, and the two teams are a combined 16-1 so far in the playoffs, hardly encountering any speed bumps on their roads to face each other. I should have picked this fairly obvious Conference Finals matchup because, as I said in my playoff picks, if I'm being honest with myself, the Spurs are the best bet to win it all. They are just an absolute machine right now, going 32-3 in their past 35 games (which includes resting their starters), and they are an incredible 43-4 in their last 47 games in which Tony Parker plays, as John Hollinger points out.

I love Leonard 's game, but he lacks the size on KD
However, there are two key factors that I think could give the Thunder the Conference crown. The first is how coach Scott Brooks manages his rotation. As I have consistently argued, Oklahoma City's best lineup is when it goes small with Kevin Durant as the power forward, and as many have pointed out, this strategy can be especially effective against the Spurs. San Antonio prefers to only have one "bruiser" playing inside at a time: coach Popovich usually plays "stretch 4's" Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner alongside Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Durant would have no difficulties on defense against them, and this lineup would cause matchup  trouble for the Spurs because the Thunder would have an extra perimeter weapon on the floor instead of another non-threatening big man. San Antonio does not necessarily have anyone with the size to guard Durant (although rookie Kawhi Leonard, who I still maintain was the steal of the draft, has made things tough on him), so how Pop handles his rotations against him will be interesting to watch as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Could the Thunder emulate the '05 Suns? What if they signed Steve Nash?

With the Oklahoma City Thunder having swept the defending champs on Saturday, there hasn't been much to think about other than their possible second round opponent and the condition of starting center Kendrick Perkins' hip strain. The former seemed like a near certainty once the Lakers took a 3-1 lead on the Nuggets, but after Tuesday's entertaining Nuggets win in L.A., the series looks very interesting with the series returning to the high altitude of Denver tonight and Kobe Bryant a game-time decision with a stomach ailment. Depending on the result of that series and the status of Perkins' hip (he's still listed as "day-to-day"), the Thunder could face some interesting decisions with its starting lineup.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

2012 NBA Playoffs

This is such a great time of year. The weather is amazing, the NFL Draft is in full swing, and the NBA playoffs are about start. Beautiful. This space would be remiss without some "forecasting" about the playoffs, but first I should note that the first big postseason win happened on Friday by a non-playoff team. That's right, the Warriors' process of tanking that has probably received too much coverage is almost complete after winning the random draw with the Raptors to secure the 7th best odds in the Lottery. That means they have a ~72% chance of keeping their pick now and just have to pray that a team below them doesn't win the lottery. Is it sad that their biggest win of the year didn't involve an actual game? Let's move on...
Carmelo is not going to stop LeBron's quest for a ring.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Will Shabazz and Nerlens Team Up, Avengers Style?

As my friend Vince likes to constantly say: Timing is EVERYTHING. Right now, the timing is all coming together in a whirlwind of events in the college basketball world. Today, Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad, the top two high school prospects, are set to announce their college choices at the same time on ESPNU. Coming away from playing together at the Nike Hoops Summit just last weekend, it wouldn't be surprising to hear the best defensive and offensive players of their class decide to team up at Kentucky.
(By the way, I can't believe Marvel's greatest heroes are set to team up in the highly anticipated Avengers movie in less than a month now! And as I found out today, you can watch all five previous films from the series before the midnight premiere at select locations. Brilliant.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Tonight's Warriors-Kings Actually Matters

At the surface, this is just a contest between two poor teams that has no playoff impact and minor draft implications. However, if you take a closer look, this could potentially be a huge game for the Warriors season, which is important to the Kings, as a division rivals. This whole year I have advocated "tanking" the season, which isn't popular with the fans or, more importantly, the players and coaches, but is crucial because the Warriors are stuck in mediocrity and badly need a top pick in this loaded draft.

The key point of the tanking movement is that they owe a draft pick to the Jazz that is only top-7 protected, and they currently have the 9th worst record with just 21 games left to play. There's a discrepancy in games played, but the Warriors "trail" the Cavaliers by 2 games, the Kings by 3 games, and the Pistons by 4 games, and each of those teams lost one point games this week that could prove to be critical. Hence, tonight's game is a much needed opportunity to close the gap with a loss. Ideally, the 6th worst record is what the Warriors need to aim for in case they suffer some horrible luck and get jumped a spot in the lottery.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What direction are the Niners headed?

For the second year in a row under general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers have gone about constructing their team in the offseason in a shrewd way. They play it patient and let the market sort itself out. That resolve has shown itself more so than ever with the Peyton Manning situation. They weren't listed among the front runners for the former Colt's services early in the hunt, but they now appear to be among the finalists with the Broncos and Titans. They played it so discreetly that the news of his workout for coach Harbaugh didn't become public until the following weekend, and if he is being honest with himself, the Niners are the best situation for him from a football perspective. From a personal standpoint, he would probably like to keep a possible Super Bowl matchup against his brother Eli alive and stay in the AFC, especially in the South that he has always known with the Titans in the state where he went to college. But let's take a look as to what direction the Niners are headed and why they are best fit for his services.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Trade Grades

Well, how was that for a trade deadline? With the unexpected decision by Dwight Howard to opt in to his contract for next year, keeping him with the Magic until the summer of 2013, the dominoes began to fall hard and fast. Of course, the first big blockbuster of the week occurred two days before the deadline between the Warriors and Bucks, as I anticipated last week. It takes a while to gain a little perspective to determine who are the winners or losers in these trades, but here's some quick trade grades:
*Note: all salary figures courtesy of
Warriors: Traded Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. Then traded Jackson for Richard Jefferson, T.J. Ford, and a lottery protected 2012 first round pick. Purchased a second round pick from Atlanta for undisclosed cash considerations.
The good:

  • You have to give the Warriors credit for taking a risk in order to finally secure a franchise center, which Bogut is when healthy. The health is the tricky thing, but his major injuries have never been related and are more of the freak accident variety. Sitting him out the rest of the year should help the tanking cause, however, and it should be noted that (at the time of the trade) since being drafted #1 and #40 overall in the 2005 draft, "injury-prone" Bogut has played 408 games and Ellis has played (wait for it) 413. This is not unlike the Mavericks addition of Tyson Chandler last season, as Zach Lowe points out.
  • The undersized, ineffective backcourt of Stephen Curry and Ellis is finally broken up. It was ill-fated from the beginning, and now the keys to the offense next year can officially be handed to Curry at long last. I'm not completely sold on Klay Thompson as the shooting guard of the future, but he has a lot more length than Ellis and now has the door open for him to see what he's got.
  • In addition to the tanking cause being helped to secure their top-7 protected draft pick, they made sure to at least have a late first round pick in this deep draft, likely in the 25-30 range depending how the Spurs finish, by trading for Jefferson and Ford instead of bringing back the malcontent Jackson, who forced his way out of Golden State in 2009 on bad terms. Of course, he wouldn't have that big contract (due $10 million next season) if they hadn't been dumb enough to give him that idiotic 3 year, $27 million extension in 2008 when he had TWO YEARS left on his current deal.
  • Monta and Udoh were nice additions for the Bucks' playoff push.
  • They also purchased a second rounder from Atlanta that will be whichever is later between the two that the Hawks own. The Hawks couldn't find a deal to get under the luxury tax, so they could use some extra cash for their cheap ownership to pay the bill, and Joe Lacob, to his credit, was happy to oblige.
The bad:
  • The Warriors had to take back Jefferson's albatross contract ($21 million over the next two years), which is a high price to pay for a late first rounder. They also took back the recently retired T.J. Ford, who makes just under $1 million. The Spurs included him just to shave their luxury tax a bit more, and insurance likely covered his buyout from the Warriors.
    • Having to include Udoh as a sweetener in addition to taking on salary and the risk in Bogut's health definitely hurts. He has been their best defensive player while showing a nice mid range jumper, but let's be honest: he's almost 25 already, doesn't have much upside left, and is undersized to play center full time, which he would have to for this team with the presence of David Lee on the roster. Now, the Warriors wouldn't have this problem if they would have done the proper thing at draft time in 2010 and selected Greg Monroe instead of Udoh OR hadn't given Lee such a huge contract in the Anthony Randolph sign-and-trade just a month after the draft.
    • Trading away Ellis, arguably the face of the franchise, is not popular with the fans at all. Of course, the fans aren't paid to make decisions, and they don't always take into account his poor defensive fundamentals or shot selection to go with his empty scoring totals. He had some value for his ability to get his own shot, and this is probably the best deal they could get for him, albeit with the inherent risk. If it works out with Bogut's health, then this is a great move for the long-term because you always take the franchise center over the inefficient, high usage shooting guard. That's a big if, though.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    It's MADNESS

    This year, March is even crazier than usual thanks to the NBA trade deadline occurring later than usual (thanks again, lockout) to go with the start of NFL free agency and, of course, the NCAA tournament. This post is going up late because of a different kind of March Madness: finals and final papers. However, this breakdown of my bracket hasn't changed in my mind since I made my picks on Sunday night. I tweeted my bracket on Monday, and it never changed, even after seeing all of the experts' picks during the week. In fact, seeing some of my upset picks becoming so popular was actually unsettling. Nonetheless, here's my analysis, broken down by region:
    Did you expect me to pick any other champion?

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Last Thoughts As March 15th Approaches

    There was a ton of great research to read about from the Sloan Sports Conference last week, and the topic that I found most interesting was the study on how "Big 2's and Big 3's" fit together. Robert Ayer's research paper basically re-categorized players based on their skill-sets rather than pure positions and analyzed how these "clusters" performed together, with the research discovering that the best Big 3 is a combination of a high usage, high scoring point guard, a versatile scoring wing with shooting range, and a dominant center inside. The versatile small forward (cluster 8) actually proved to be one of the best possible players to build a team around, which pleases me on a personal level since those are my favorite kinds of players (*cough*KevinDurant/HarrisonBarnes*cough*).

    This got me thinking: who is the best scoring point guard in the league? That's pretty simple: Derrick Rose (with all due respect to Russell Westbrook). And there's no question that Dwight Howard is the best center in the game. If only there was a way to get them on the same team with a versatile small forward who could shoot...Oh wait, that's exactly what I talked about in last week's post! I'd like to augment that trade proposal with this one because it is an even better offer for Orlando, and it keeps the Chicago under the luxury tax threshold since they are currently $2 million (roughly) under the tax.  Hedo Turkoglu isn't the player he once was, but he would mesh well as the second trigger man to get the ball to Howard along with Rose. Alas, the Bulls aren't one of Howard's preferred destinations for whatever reason, and the Magic still don't seem to want to trade their star even though this package is ridiculously better than the wasteland of a roster they'll be left once he leaves.

    So enough with that idea; here are some of my last trade thoughts as the trade deadline is just five days away:
    (Note: all salary information courtesy of and all trades are independent of each other, as you could probably figure out.)

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Under The Radar Prospects In The Madness

    This is a great time of the year with the cold of Winter thawing away, Spring break approaching, and, of course March Madness. I wrote a speech for my public speaking class talking about how great the conference tournaments are in addition to the NCAA tournament, and then I realized I forgot to include one thing: draft prospects! March is the best time of the year for casual basketball fans to see some college players and pretend to know everything about their draft chances. I've already talked a lot about the lottery prospects, and now here are some of the under the radar players in this draft:

    Kendall Marshall, PG. North Carolina: How is the best passer in college basketball under the radar you ask? Well, for one, he was left off the 1st team All-ACC team despite setting the conference single season assist record (It's tough to have FOUR 1st team players from one team, but how could you not have the best team's floor general on there?). I touched on Marshall's brilliance in the preseason, and he's mostly held to form. I've thought of him for a while as a left-handed Jason Kidd without the defensive impact, and that's become a popular comparison of late. I think he is a late lottery type of talent instead of the current late first rounder as most sites list him, but I'm biased.

    He's not the best athlete, but he's a big guard at 6'4 who just has incredible court vision and is not afraid to make the difficult pass, especially in transition. His defense is lacking because of his lack of elite quickness with his size, but it also sometimes seems that he's not asked to compete too hard on that end because Carolina can't afford to have him get into foul trouble. The other major criticism is that the lack of a jump shot, but I think he gets too much of a bad rap on that front. He'll make the open 3's when opponents double team his teammates, and he's shooting it with a lot more confidence. He's been looking for his own offense with more aggressiveness lately, and that's a great sign for the Tar Heels.
    You know you're getting a good floor general with Marshall Law.

    Tony Mitchell, SF/PF. North Texas: I've long been intrigued by Mitchell because he was one of Missouri's most highly touted recruits in a long time, but he had to transfer to North Texas due to academic issues. He currently has a late first round grade due to a lack of exposure, but he is definitely worth a flier with his explosiveness and length. Unfortunately, he won't get the necessary exposure in the NCAA tournament because he missed a critical box out late in the Sun Best championship game against Western Kentucky that cost his team a chance at a victory to go to the big dance. Still, he is exactly the type of combo forward that could come in and score off the bench for a team like the Thunder (hint hint).

    [Funny story that's not that funny: I felt a strange sense of connection to both teams when watching that Sun Belt championship on Tuesday. Back in high school, I received letters and emails from North Texas, and my dad implored me to apply there as a "backup backup." I didn't apply because there was absolutely no way I was going all the way to Texas for school, but the thought was nice.

    As for Western Kentucky, I actually met some girls from there just this past weekend. I saw group of cute girls at this party, approached one of them that I liked, and proceeded to compliment her on her nice dress. She was flattered and asked for my name before telling me she was visiting her cousin for spring break. I was shocked that she was from WKU and had to think for a moment before noting that she's a Hilltopper, which she was shocked that I knew and had to call a friend over tell about. Later I was introduced to said cousin who goes here, who's a Kentucky Wildcats fan instead of the Hilltoppers, and some John Wall dance action ensued. Unfortunately, one of the other friends was insistent on going to the upstairs portion of the party, and I later saw the girl I was talking to leaving with another guy and friends. I didn't quite share their enthusiasm when they said bye and how nice it was to meet, but it was cool seeing WKU win the Sun Belt championship  after meeting these girls I'll never see again. Sports knowledge coming in handy with girls at a party, what a novelty!]

    Will Lillard be the first point guard taken?
    Damian Lillard, PG. Weber State: Like Mitchell, the penetrating point guard from Oakland lost in his conference championship game, but not without leaving a strong impression with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists. Lillard has a chance to go in the lottery due to a lack of elite point guard prospects in this draft and because he is plain good. He's not a pure point guard, but you can't blame him for scoring so much on a team that lacks elite scoring options. He has good size (6-2, 185), great quickness, and a nice perimeter game with shooting range past the three point line. I wish I could have been able to see more of him, especially against the tougher competition that would have come with the NCAA tournament.

    Arnett Moultrie, PF/C. Mississippi State: Moultrie is on the bubble as to whether he'll make the tournament and if he'll be a first round pick. In his first year playing after transferring from UTEP, he has broken out in a big way thanks to his athleticism and size at 6'11 with a nice frame to add more strength. He's great at scoring without the ball, especially from offensive rebounds. While not a great post player, he has progressed as a shooter and is a very good free throw shooter for a big man. He has potential on the defensive end, but he's inconsistent in this area, with his strong rebounding being his best asset. He could definitely rise as the draft gets closer.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Where Dwight SHOULD Go

    Now that the All Star break has left Orlando, it's time to figure out when and where Dwight Howard will leave, too. We've pretty much known where he wants to go as a free agent: basically, wherever Deron Williams lands, whether it be in his current New Jersey/Brooklyn location or native Dallas. I wrote in the beginning of the season about how Dallas basically conceded its chance at defending its title by taking cost efficient routes to fill its rotation in order to have the flexibility to go after these two premium free agents. Even if they deal Shawn Marion and amnesty Brendan Haywood's contract, whether or not the Mavs would be able to sign BOTH remains to be seen.

    As for the Nets, there's not a single team that has the most boom or bust potential in free agency, assuming there's no trade based around Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, and draft picks before then. They're a longshot to make the playoffs, which won't make Williams happy, but they'll have a decent chance at winning the lottery. Thus, there's the potential of teaming Dwight, Deron, and a top pick OR winding up with nothing if Williams leaves for Dallas or somewhere else.
    Next year, will Dwight be saying, "Good play bro! High five?"

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Finding a Home For Pau Gasol

    With the Pau Gasol trade rumors swirling, the drama in Los Angeles is palpable. The Lakers aren't exactly sure what they want to do, but a Gasol trade could completely retool their team both now and for the future. As John Hollinger notes in Wednesday's PER Diem, their roster so far this season has basically consisted of three stars (Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Gasol), one average player (Matt Barnes), and a bunch of scrubs (Derek Fisher, Metta World Peace, et al). That's what happens when you trade away Lamar Odom in what equates to a salary dump: you end up as a middle of the pack Western Conference contender with few trade assets.
    Where could Pau end up?

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Austin Rivers Still Haunts My Nightmares

    Okay, I don't actually have nightmares, but I am still bitter about North Carolina's loss to Duke last week. I've probably seen Austin Rivers' shot somewhere between 50 and a gazillion times. On Wednesday, the Miami fans heckled Tyler Zeller with an "Aus-tin Riv-ers" chant when he shot free throws. And it worked, as he went just 1-4. Fans are so clever.

    Today, I finally brought myself to read Shane Ryan's first hand recap, and it brought all the emotions back. First, the annoyance that the Blue Devils kept hitting those first half 3's, prompting the Duke fan I was watching with to cheer with exuberance. The 3 point line has been the Tar Heels' weakness all year, which is unfortunate since, you know, that's what Duke's offense revolves around. The beloved Black Falcon, Harrison Barnes, was struggling chasing around Rivers on the perimeter because of a hobbled ankle. (That ankle played a part in Barnes going 0-4 in the first half as he struggled to finish through contact and a couple jumpers rattled out.) Thus, Rivers was going off, and his face seemed even more punchable.
    I hope it hurt under that pile.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Jerry West and the Art of "Tanking"

    Jerry West, a recently added head consultant for the Golden State Warriors, wants the team to stop winning. At least that's what he told my source in direct contact with him. Admittedly, West said that over the phone the morning after the Warriors' thrilling 119-116 home loss to the Thunder last Tuesday, and Golden State has been playing much better of late. However, I spoke with the source today, and it was re-established that West loves Kentucky big man Anthony Davis, the odds on favorite for the #1 pick.

    It's yet to be determined how The Logo will make his impact.
    Now, this isn't exactly groundbreaking news because, as my source reiterated, Jerry isn't in power. As Tim Kawakami and Sam Amick have noted in recent columns, West hasn't had a huge role in decision making so far. He was an influential voice in selecting Klay Thompson in the draft (which I wasn't the biggest fan of at the time, but he's growing on me), but that's about it...or else Jeremy Lin might still be in his native Bay Area. My source wouldn't elaborate as to whether West would push for any trades at the deadline to start "tanking," but for fun, there are some things I'd like to throw out there.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Checking In With The NBA Draft Prospects

    Last week, ESPN's Chad Ford debuted this year's Lottery Machine, and it is an excellent way to waste time that would otherwise be productive. As you can see there, Kentucky freshman sensation Anthony Davis pretty much has a stranglehold on the #1 spot, and here's how I would rank the rest of the lottery prospects after him:

    (Here is what I said about them in the beginning of the year.)
    It's a bird, it's a plain, it's...the Unibrow!

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Big Week For Marvel

    This space is normally reserved for sports posts, but this week was just so full of movie trailer goodness that I had to talk about them on here, Grantland style. In particular, the good people at Marvel released some awesome trailers for their upcoming superhero blockbusters. It started with a new trailer for The Avengers last week that was extended for a spot during the Super Bowl:

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Patriots! Giants! Its Super Bowl XLVI on NBC!

    If you can't tell, I'm pretty pumped about this Super Bowl. Even though I have the unenviable task of dealing with a midterm the day after the big game...and that Wednesday...and Thursday. How that's legal, I don't know. Anyway, that may delay the basketball posts I have cooking, but right now it's all about Super Bowl Sunday!

    The pick: to save you some time, I'll say straightaway that I'm sticking with my guns from the preseason and taking New England -3.You may notice where I picked the Giants to finish; I thought their myriad of injuries would be too much to overcome. Obviously, I was wrong, and they were able to sneak into the playoffs in the last week and got hot at the right time. They're actually very reminiscent of last year's Packers.
    So why exactly am I picking the Patriots? Let me explain.
    Hold on, let me explain.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    I don't (completely) put the loss on Kyle Williams

    First, let me say that the 49ers' second year receiver Kyle Williams had a horrible day as a punt returner. Early in the game he took a huge risk when he dove to receive a punt; then he had a "muff" when he was indecisive and should have just gotten the hell out of the way instead of letting the ball graze his knee; and finally, he fumbled the ball on a punt return in over time that put the Giants in position to kick the game winning field goal.

    With that being said, you can't put the loss on just one player. As much as everyone wants a scapegoat, it's always going to be a team game, and although Williams' plays might have had bigger impacts than others, there are countless other plays that could have determined the outcome. It's just like the '91 NFC Championship game against the Giants that I briefly talked about. One of my best friend's dad still hates Roger Craig for that fumble despite his prolific career as a Niners' runningback who won three titles with them. However, I would say that the defense still had the chance to stop New York from getting down the field in time for a game winning field goal. And yesterday, it was a team loss that could have gone differently if any number of players had made a better play, not just Williams.

    And that's exactly how Patrick Willis put it last night when consoling his teammate. If Dashon Goldson doesn't collide with Carlos Rogers and comes up with the interception in overtime, Williams wouldn't have even been in that position to field a punt. Or if Goldson hadn't have taken out his teammate Tarrell Brown on the other near interception, then Tramaine Brock isn't in the game, and maybe the Niners don't give up that touchdown on 3rd and 15 after the muffed punt. Or if the referee doesn't blow a quick whistle for forward progress, then Brock's strip of Ahmad Bradshaw would have given the Niners the ball deep in Giants territory. Or if the Niners don't run a shotgun run for Frank Gore that loses yardage, then maybe Alex Smith's pass to Vernon Davis for 11 yards would have been a third down conversion instead of just short. Or if the offensive line gives Smith better protection on any of those final plays in the fourth quarter, maybe he could make a play down the field.

    You could go on and on. You can't just say "If Williams would have actually taken care of the ball on the punt return, then the Niners wouldn't have lost" because it's a slippery slope from there. The kick still would have been a 42 yarder if the defense wouldn't have given up any yards after the fumble, and that is certainly no gimme. Just ask Billy Cundiff (another unfortunate scapegoat) after he missed his "easy" 32 yarder that would have tied the game against the Patriots. It happens. I may have lost sleep over it, but life goes on. It was still a hell of a first season under Jim Harbaugh.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Is it Championship Sunday yet?

    The teams in the NFC and AFC Championship games have some history together. I touched on it briefly early in the week for the NFC side, but let's take it a step further with a look at the possible Super Bowl matchups. The big game is in Indianapolis this year, so the most compelling story lines might be a meeting between the Ravens and Giants. Not only would it be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXV, but it would mean that Eli Manning would have the chance to win his second title on the home turf of big brother Peyton (who only has one), AND it would be a sweet victory for Baltimore if they won in the city that stole their Colts away. If it's the Patriots and Giants, it would obviously be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, and the Pats would be able to get revenge for the fluke loss that ended their perfect season. A Ravens and Niners "Harbowl" would of course be the ultimate test for the Harbaugh family with the head coaching brothers facing each other for the Lompardi trophy.

    My hope, however, is a Patriots and Niners Super Bowl because it would match Tom Brady against his hometown team who passed on him in the draft (for Giovanni Carmazzi!!!), and it would also match Jim Harbaugh, who coached a team to the championship out of no where, against Bill Belichick, who coached his team to a championship out of no where exactly a decade ago. If these two teams win in their respective Championship games, it would match one of the best defenses in the league against one of the best offenses. Speaking of Championship games, this is going to be the 30th anniversary of The Catch, which is really the defining moment of the start of the 49er dynasty. You know who was in the opposite end zone at that game? A young Tom Brady.

    On to the picks!
    Could there be even more drama in SF this week?

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Why you need to watch the NFC Championship Game

    For my Public Speaking class, I had to write a one minute speech to convince people to feel or do something. It was an open topic, so I chose to talk about the upcoming NFC Championship game after watching this. Enjoy. (And yes, I think I'm going to have to talk very quickly to keep all of this under one minute...)
                If there is one thing you do this weekend, make sure it is watching the NFC Championship game on Sunday between the Giants and 49ers. It is going to be exciting. It is going to be dramatic. You might even cry by the end of it.
    These are two of the best franchises in football history, and they have met in the playoffs seven times, including some dramatic finishes in Candlestick. For example, in the 2002 playoffs, Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens led a furious comeback of 25 straight points. It came down to a botched field goal attempt by the Giants when the holder had to scramble and heaved it downfield to a lineman that actually drew pass interference, but the Giants were called for an illegal man downfield and the game ended.
                Furthermore, in the 1990 NFC Championship game, the two time defending Super Bowl champion 49ers held onto a slim lead at home until Joe Montana, the greatest quarterback of all time, got knocked out of the game just like in ‘86. With an inexperienced Steve Young in, the Niners got conservative trying to run out the clock, and Roger Craig fumbled to set up a Giants game winning field goal. 15-13. Giants go on to the Super Bowl.
                When the Giants visited San Francisco in the regular season this year, the game came down to a final defensive stop by the Niners on fourth down. This is going to be a good game. Trust me, you want to see it.

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    NFL Divisional Round

    Last week, I tweeted my picks while on a road trip and went 2-2. An explanation for those picks: I had faith in the Texans defense at home against a rookie QB; I thought the Lions offense could keep up with the Saints, which they did for 3 quarters; I knew the Giants defensive line would kill the Falcons' offensive line, but I thought the game would be a lot closer; and I thought the veteran Steeler defense would play the ball better in the air-- I should have remembered how many times I've uttered the phrase "Ike Taylor is a great corner who is always in good position but has terrible ball skills" over the years.

    It was just the third time since the new playoff format in 1990 that all four home teams won in the Wild Card Round, and it would be the first time ever that home teams would go 8-0, but that's how I'm picking them.
    Crabtree had a big day in a classic on MNF last year.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Talking Thunder Point Guards

    Could Sam Presti have struck gold again?
    I have already gone on record saying that the reported chemistry issues between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been far overblown, but let's take a look at the Thunder's point guard situation overall.  Barring a trade for someone like Dwight Howard, I don't want to see Westbrook traded because he is an All NBA caliber performer and one of my favorite players despite the fact that his decision making infuriates me sometimes. He is even more important to the Thunder now that backup point guard Eric Maynor has unfortunately torn his ACL and rookie Reggie Jackson will have to be pressed into a key role.

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    LSU. Alabama. Who to Watch For

    The National Championship game is tonight, and I am shocked that #1 LSU is the underdog. I've always had a soft spot for the Tigers, and I'll also be rooting for them because of the ruckus that would ensue if Alabama wins and gains the title of "National Champions" despite the fact that both teams will have defeated each other once. Nonetheless, 'Bama IS a loaded team that is very much LSU's equal, and this game will feature a bundle of pro prospects to watch for. I'm picking LSU because they always seem to weather the storm before coming back even stronger with a counter punch because they have so much depth and playmaking ability, headed by sophomore defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. The Honey Badger takes what it wants, and Mathieu always finds a way to make an impact in games whether it be an interception, forced fumble, punt return, or a simple pass break up. He's not draft eligible yet, but he is definitely a player you want to watch tonight.
    Will Randle be able to break loose tonight?

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Injuries Hitting Big in the West

    Well, now it's official: both Manu Ginobli of the Spurs and Zach Randolph of the Grizzlies are out 6-8 weeks with a broken hand and torn MCL, respectively. These losses severely hurt two of the teams I picked to be in the top six in the West as both players are arguably their teams' best scorers, and they will be out for a significant chunk of this compressed season. This could open the door for lower teams in the West to rise above them: the new, up-tempo Blazers could now land a top seed, or a highly competitive Rockets squad could sneak into the playoffs. For the Spurs, in particular, it hurts them with their upcoming "rodeo trip" and the sheer amount of games they have to play in January. They will likely have to lean on their younger players such as James Anderson, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green to play more minutes and give Richard Jefferson a larger role in the offense. If Gary Neal is fully recovered from a December appendectomy, then he will obviously provide a much needed boost, as well.
    Replacing Z-Bo is a tall task.