Sports Talk

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NBA Power Rankings w/ Tiers, ft. the Orlando Magic — October 22, 2017

NBA Power Rankings w/ Tiers, ft. the Orlando Magic

When I’m on an NBA high like I am right now, I’m going to be checking the scores (and the box scores) of every game, every night. The result, on a nightly basis: knee-jerk reactions based on every game (wait, the Jazz beat the Thunder AND the Nuggets, and the Timberwolves beat the Jazz… the Timberwolves are SO GOOD!) when in reality, it’s a long season, teams are ‘on’ and ‘off’ every other night. So how are you supposed to figure out which results matter and which don’t? TIERS!!

So basically what I did is I broke the league up into 6 tiers (contenders, almost contenders, middle of the pack, etc.) and looked for games in which a team from a lower tier beat a team from a higher tier… showing me of the 37 game results so far, the 6 results that mattered. Nets beat Magic, Magic beat Heat, Magic beat Cavaliers, Grizzlies beat Warriors, Jazz beat Thunder, Bucks beat Celtics… In my opinion those are the games that should have opened some eyes- the games in which a lesser team beat someone they weren’t supposed to beat.

Here are the tiers, the way I see it…

Tier 1: Contenders

1. WARRIORS (L3 Grizz)

2. CAVALIERS (L4 Magic)

3. ROCKETS

4. THUNDER (L2)

5. SPURS

6. RAPTORS

7. CELTICS (L2)

This tier is pretty consensus, although the Raptors might count as a new addition with the way their offense has looked to start the season. #s 2-5 have a shot at the Warriors, Celtics and Raptors maybe not so much but they do have a shot to the win the East.

Tier 2: Teams that can beat anybody, but not quite contenders

8. TIMBERWOLVES

9. WIZARDS

10. BUCKS (W1)

11. BLAZERS

12. NUGGETS

13. JAZZ (W1)

Six dangerous young teams with talent and an identity… I was on the fence about the Jazz but they locked up the Thunder and held their own against tier 2 teams (Denver and Minnesota). Wizards and Bucks are both in that Eastern Conference 4-5 seed safe zone; nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Tier 3: Middle-of-the-Pack

14. CLIPPERS

15. GRIZZLIES (W1)

16. HEAT (L4)

I thought about putting teams 14-21 all in tier 3, but I think LA, Memphis and Miami deserve better. I’m putting LA and Memphis at #9 and #10 in the West but they’ll battle for those last two seeds. All three from Tier 3 have the potential to jump up into Tier 2.

Tier 4: Playoff Hopefuls and the Pelicans

17. PELICANS

18. HORNETS

19. SIXERS

20. PISTONS

21. MAGIC (W3) (L5) (W1)

Even if Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins can figure it out, Jrue Holiday is inconsistent and the Pelicans don’t have much else. It feels like 18-21 is basically a pick-two grab bag for the playoffs as it stands right now. Like I said in the intro, Orlando beating two higher-tier teams (Miami and Cleveland) should open some eyes; but until they prove it, I still have them behind Philly and Detroit in the playoff race.

Tier 5: Re-building Projects

22. PACERS

23. LAKERS

24. KINGS

25. NETS (W4)

Too much talent to go tank-mode, but they’re obviously in a re-building state.

Tier 6: Tank City!

26. MAVERICKS

27. HAWKS

28. KNICKS

29. SUNS

30. BULLS

Of the Mavs’ top 5 in PPG, one is Harrison Barnes and the rest are point guards. Even Dennis Smith Jr. can’t prevent the inevitable in Dallas. Same deal with Dennis Schroder in Atlanta, Kristaps Porzingis in New York, Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix, and Robin Lopez?? in Chicago.

 

 

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Football Season — July 21, 2015

Football Season

I’m a basketball guy. I love basketball. But there’s just something about being an American that draws me to football.

As we go deeper into July and begin to realize just how close we are to football season, I’m sitting here wondering why this sport isn’t played everywhere. I mean, I know in a lot of third-world countries all the helmets and pads are just too expensive… but not even some of the richest countries in the world play football. Is it just because Americans are stupid? I mean, it is a pretty dangerous sport… but so is rugby. It just seems strange to me that no one plays American football except Americans.

Maybe that’s why we love it so much. Because it’s OUR game. It reminds us of the tough, blue collared people who built our country. You have to be tough to play football. I think we also love it because it’s the best TEAM sport. Sure, the quarterback gets a ton of credit for a team’s success, but anyone who knows football knows it all starts with the battle on the line of scrimmage. Everyone on the field has a crucial role. It’s all about schemes, teamwork and communication.

Football can bring groups of people together the way no other sport can. Football is a pride thing. My school is better than yours because we have a better football team. Who cares if you have a better basketball team? For instance, just think about the atmosphere at a high school football game on a Friday night. It’s awesome. I mean, baseball and basketball games are fun, but the atmosphere at those games is nothing compared to the feeling at a football game under the lights.

By the way, if you’re bored and looking for a good sports movie, watch InvincibleIt’s a great movie. Seriously.

There’s so many great things about football… 7-on-7 pickup games. Thanksgiving Day. College Gameday. The NFL Playoffs. The Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills’ uniforms. Adrian Peterson. Auburn-Alabama games. Like this one. High school football. The College Football playoff. SNOW GAMES. And the list goes on…

Like I said, I’m a basketball guy, but its almost football season and I can’t wait.

NBA Draft Winners and Losers — June 29, 2015

NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Winners:

Minnesota Timberwolves– Here’s what the Wolves will look like next year: Two future stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, an exciting point guard in Ricky Rubio, experienced veterans Kevin Martin and either Pekovic or Garnett rounding out the starting five, with Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, and now hometown boy Tyus Jones coming off the bench. The Wolves added two good, young players who also fit in perfectly with their roster.

Miami Heat– Justise Winslow… the Knicks thought about picking him at #4. The Magic probably should have picked him at #5, but instead took the European Mario Hezonja. The Kings went for Willie Cauley-Stein over Winslow, which makes absolutely no sense to me unless DeMarcus Cousins is on his way out. Then Winslow just kept on falling… Denver took Emmanuel Mudiay, Detroit took Stanley Johnson (might be one of the worst picks I’ve ever seen), Charlotte took Frank Kaminsky, and that’s how a Kawhi Leonard/Paul George-type player miraculously fell into Pat Riley’s lap at #10.

Denver Nuggets– I absolutely love Emannuel Mudiay on the Nuggets. I really didn’t think he would fall past the Kings, but he did and the Nuggets jumped on him. Mudiay is a great player for the Nuggets to re-build their franchise around.

 

Losers:

Everyone Involved in Philadelphia– D’Angelo Russell was the guy the Sixers wanted. That was their plan when they traded away Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline. Instead, the Lakers nabbed Russell and the Sixers picked a true center at #3 for the second straight year. Concerns about Joel Embiid’s injury became real when the Sixers picked Okafor. Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric now have to seriously start worrying about playing time and job security. And now Okafor has to forget about the lights of Los Angeles and head towards the uncertainty and confusion awaiting him in Philadelphia.

Detroit Pistons– Stanley Johnson over Justise Winslow?? Seriously?? The Pistons’ front office is a joke.

Sacramento Kings– Again, the Kings picking Willie Cauley-Stein over both Winslow AND Mudiay only makes sense to me if Cousins is on his way out. If that’s the case, then the Kings are still losers.

 

 

What if the 2014 Draft Class Wasn’t All That Overrated? — May 25, 2015

What if the 2014 Draft Class Wasn’t All That Overrated?

Injured/ Didn’t come over from Croatia – Parker, Embiid, Randle, Saric

Weren’t Supposed to be Good Right Away – Exum, Vonleh

Played Well – Wiggins, Smart

Played Not So Well – Gordon, Stauskas

That’s the top 10.

Let’s start with the disappointing players. Jabari was a little disappointing when he played but most of the other rookies got a lot better in the second half of the season. Aaron Gordon only played 47 games and was not expected to be a scorer right away. He still could be a really good player. It’s a joke that Nik Stauskas was even picked in the top 10.

Marcus Smart’s team went from a 25-win team last year, to a 40-win playoff team this year. The Jazz went 24-16 after Dante Exum replaced Trey Burke in the starting lineup. Those two didn’t put up big stats but drew positive reviews from most analysts. Smart is going to be a very good point guard. Exum still has a ton of potential.

Believe it or not, Wiggins lived up to the hype. He scored 16.9 points per game on .437 shooting, which was even better than most people expected for him as a rookie. Remember, Wiggins didn’t really start playing well until after Jabari Parker got injured. Joel Embiid would have been the #1 pick ahead of Wiggins had he not gotten injured. Smart and Exum could be top 15 point guards in a few years, which is saying something given how PG-loaded the league is. And the rest who struggled still have plenty of time to turn things around.

2015 NBA Mock Draft (1-14) — May 23, 2015

2015 NBA Mock Draft (1-14)

This draft has a lot of solid prospects in the lottery, but when you get to the 17-18 range there’s not a whole lot of good picks left in my opinion. So I’m not even going to bother with the second half of the first round. Here’s my mock draft as it stands, knowing there’s probably going to be some trades which might shake things up…

1 Minnesota: Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C, Kentucky – The Wolves first ever #1 pick came at the perfect time. They have the opportunity to choose between two great big man prospects in Towns and Okafor, and I think they’re going to go with Towns. I love Okafor as a low post scorer, but Towns has the potential to become a much more complete player. He’s also a great fit for the Wolves offensively and defensively.

2 LA Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke – I really like Jahlil Okafor, and I think he’s going to be a star. He’s already a great low post scorer with a good combination of strength and finesse. With some work there’s no reason he can’t become a solid defender, although he won’t be much of a shot blocker. A frontcourt of Jahlil Okafor and Julius Randle might have trouble with rim protection, but they could be scary offensively.

3 Philadelphia: D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State – And here’s match made in heaven #2… D’Angelo Russell and Joel Embiid! I was hoping the Sixers would have the chance to draft Russell because him and Embiid is just perfect. If Embiid can stay relatively healthy, I think he’s going to be the best center in the NBA down the road (ahead of the two guys listed above). With all the frontcourt prospects the Sixers already have, their ideal prospect would be a point guard to get them the ball, or a great shooter to space the floor. Russell is both.

4 New York: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke – Phil Jackson told season ticket holders he would like to draft an elite defender and look for a point guard in free agency. Justise Winslow is my favorite player in the draft. He’s also an elite defender, and he was seen hanging out with Melo recently. The one question mark for him is his shooting. He shot 42% from 3 at Duke, but on just 2.8 attempts per game, and he shot 64% on free throws. Other than that, he’s a great athlete with a great feel for the game. But watch out for a Ty Lawson trade…

5 Orlando: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia –  Ah, Kristaps. I’m basically basing this off reports that teams are considering him in the top 3, and that he’s a “lock for the top 5”. Would Orlando really take Emmanuel Mudiay when they already have Elfrid Payton? I don’t think so. Porzingis seems like a good fit as a stretch 4, as long as Aaron Gordon can play the 3. I’ve seen comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol.

6 Sacramento: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, DR Congo –  This would be the dream scenario for the Kings. From what I’ve seen, Mudiay has all the tools to be a good point guard. But it might take some time. He’s not a great shooter, and although he’s a really good athlete, he’s not quite as explosive as Russell Westbrook or John Wall. But scouts really like his ability to get to the rim and create offense. The Kings really need a point guard, and should be ecstatic if Mudiay falls to them.

7 Denver: Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Croatia – I don’t know where the Nuggets are going with their re-build, but the top two options are probably Hezonja and Willie Cauley-Stein. I like WCS as a defender, but the Nuggets already have Jusuf Nurkic at center. Hezonja is another European I don’t really know much about, but it looks like he’s an athletic scorer with a high basketball IQ, and he’ll at least give the Nuggets another shooter.

8 Detroit: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky – I decided to give the Pistons Trey Lyles, who in my opinion is very underrated. If he had gone anywhere besides Kentucky he would’ve been a star as a freshman. Even at Kentucky we saw glimpses of a smooth post/mid-range game and a solid jump shot. He’s not necessarily the stretch 4 the Pistons want, but I think he’s going to be good.

9 Charlotte: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky – Finally Cauley-Stein goes off the board to the Hornets. What Charlotte really, really needs this offseason is shooting. So they could go with a guy like Devin Booker, who would be a good shooter off the bench. Or they could take Cauley-Stein, who’s talented enough to go top 5. I’ll take the top 5 guy any day of the week, no matter what position he plays. Cauley-Stein is known for his elite defense. He’s a great shot blocker (2.9 blocks per game as a sophomore) who could also legitimately guard 2’s. I think his best comparison is DeAndre Jordan.

10 Miami: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona – Luol Deng is a free agent, and even if he stays the Heat could use an athletic defender who’s ready to play right away and should become a solid starting SF whenever Deng leaves. I’ll admit I barely watched Stanley Johnson at all this season, so I don’t really know.

11 Indiana: Myles Turner, PF, Texas – Stretch 4. Rim protector. That’s what teams in the NBA want nowadays, and that’s what Turner is projected to be. He’s going to take a while to develop, but eventually could be David West’s replacement at PF.

12 Utah: Kelly Oubre, SG/SF, Kansas – At this point in the draft teams really start drafting for need, but the Jazz have depth at every position. Kelly Oubre looks like a project, but he’s young, athletic, and has potential to become a solid 3 and D player.

13 Phoenix: Frank Kaminsky, PF/C, Wisconsin – Kaminsky can shoot, rebound, and block shots. He’s also a lot more athletic than he looks. The Suns could use a possible replacement for Channing Frye.

14 Oklahoma City: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State – Payne has been rising up the draft boards. He’s a crafty point guard who knows how to get into the paint and make things happen. He could become a solid backup point guard for the Thunder.

The Truth about Ricky Rubio — May 16, 2015

The Truth about Ricky Rubio

Those who know me know that I’m a huge Ricky Rubio fan. I’ve been a Rubio fan since the first game he played in the NBA… He’s got great energy, he plays hard, and I’ve never seen a better passer. I absolutely love Ricky Rubio. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the significant and obvious weaknesses in his game…

He can’t shoot. He’s not very athletic. He’s injury prone.

It took me too long to realize that for these reasons, he’s never going to be a great point guard.

A while back I made a bet with my brother that Ricky Rubio would be an All-Star in five years. Now, I know it hasn’t been five years yet, but I think I’m just gonna take the loss on that one. Rubio is never going to be able to compete with Damian Lillard or Russell Westbrook. He’s a great passer, but his shooting has been historically bad in recent years. Every time you think he’s about to turn the corner, he gets hurt again. And even his defense is overrated by a lot of people. Defense isn’t all about steals. If you actually watch him play, you see him constantly getting beat by quicker guards. He can’t shoot, he’s not very athletic, he’s injury prone, and he gets beat defensively. So have I given up on Ricky Rubio?

Absolutely not.

Because even if he can’t be a great point guard, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good one. He’s definitely not good in some aspects of the game, but he’s great in other ways… No, he’s never going to be a good shooter, but he makes all the shooters around him better. Yes, he gets beat by quicker point guards, but he also led the league in steals a year ago. No, you don’t want him on the floor in crunch time, but yes, you do want him on the floor every other time.

Timberwolves fans need to quit complaining about Ricky Rubio. I’ve heard some people say that you can’t win in today’s NBA without an elite point guard. And they’re not crazy. The Warriors have Stephen Curry, the Cavs have Kyrie Irving, the Spurs have Tony Parker, etc. Most of the top teams in the NBA have an elite point guard. But not all of them.

How about the Heat? They won 2 championships with Mario Chalmers… Okay. Fine. They had LeBron James… How about the Pacers, who took Miami to 7 games back in 2013 and then had the best record in the East in 2014? Their point guard was George Hill, who is the definition of ‘eh‘.  I mean, if that word was in the dictionary…

eh

George Hill.

But back to Rubio… At the start of the ’13-’14 season, the Wolves were actually pretty good. They started 7-4 and they seriously looked like they could be competitive in the West. But instead, they limped along toward a 40-42 season. They ended up missing the playoffs. Kevin Love became frustrated and eventually asked to be traded in the off-season. Why?

People look to blame someone, and Rubio is the easiest choice because of his shooting. Which isn’t fair. Talk about his shooting all you want, but plain and simple, the Wolves are better with Rubio on the floor. According to sportingcharts.com, Rubio was 15th in the league in overall +/- that year. The Wolves outscored their opponents by 379 points (4.6 points per game) when Ricky Rubio was on the floor. He had the highest plus-minus of anyone on the Wolves, and he was the only one of the top 20 in the NBA on a team with less than 50 wins. (Disclaimer: He played 82 games, which is good, but that definitely helps him in +/- compared to other players who might have missed games.)

There were a lot of factors that led to the Wolves underachieving that year, including an extremely stacked Western Conference. The Wolves could’ve been good that year. They just weren’t.

I think the real concern with Rubio isn’t his shooting, it’s his injuries. He tore his ACL as a rookie, and he’s had nagging leg injuries ever since.

But when you look back, it hasn’t really been that bad. He missed the end of his rookie year and the start of his sophomore year with an ACL, then he played all 82 games in his third season. This past year, he badly sprained his left ankle in November, came back in February, and re-injured it in March. But I doubt that the injury was really that serious. The Wolves didn’t necessarily want Rubio to be on the floor reducing their lottery chances too much.

Some people are concerned by Rubio’s shooting percentage this past year. His shot looked like it had improved, but he shot .356, compared to .380 last year. I’m not worried about that. He looked like he was forcing up shots just to get more practice shooting in games. His 3-point attempts went up to 2.3 per game from 1.6 the past two years. That’s unrealistic. In fact, as the Wolves get better, I would expect him to shoot less and less. He’s not a scorer. On a good team, he won’t have to look for his own shot. He’s not a terrible 3-point shooter, and every year he’s going to get better at finishing inside. Give him a few years, and he’ll be a point guard who can lead the Wolves to a championship. I believe in Rubio.

The stats don’t tell the whole story with a guy like Ricky Rubio. He affects the game in ways you can’t see in a box score. Cliché, but it’s true (which is a cliché). At the end of the day, all that matters is scoring more points than the other team (triple cliché). And it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s all about how you play the game. Wait, what. Okay.

Oh, by the way, the Wolves outscored their opponents by 379 points when Rubio was on the floor. In case you were wondering, here’s #1-14 in 2013-’14 +/-… Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, David Lee, Chris Bosh, Manu Ginobili, James Harden, LeBron James, David West, Serge Ibaka.

You know you want to love Rubio. He might be the most enjoyable player to watch in the NBA. He plays hard, he’s got a high basketball IQ (am I using the right accent over the é?), and he does things like this. And this. And this.

Ricky Rubio is not a scorer, and he never will be. So what? He’s a point guard, and he’s a pretty solid point guard… People always think someone’s either great or they’re garbage. Maybe with Rubio especially because of his style of play. Rubio is not an elite point guard. But he’s also not bad. He’s a good point guard. So JUMP OFF THE HATE TRAIN, quit whining, and enjoy Rubio for the player that he is.

How Each Top 4 Draft Prospect Would Fit with the Wolves — May 9, 2015

How Each Top 4 Draft Prospect Would Fit with the Wolves

It seems every year, the draft lottery brings nothing but disappointment to Minnesota Timberwolves fans. If you don’t know what I mean, this article pretty much sums it up. This year, the Wolves were the league’s worst team, so they have the best chance to win the lottery. But we all know that doesn’t really matter. It’s the Wolves… Sure, it would be nice to get the top pick. But let’s be honest. It’s not going to happen.

Even if we don’t end up with the #1 pick, Wolves fans should have a reason to be excited no matter what happens on May 19th. Because even if everything goes wrong (which it will), the worst that could possibly happen is that we pick #4. And I would be okay with that, because right now I see four players in this draft who would be great picks for the Wolves:

Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, and Justise Winslow.

The Current Team

I’m a huge believer in Ricky Rubio. I love how he impacts the game, and I believe we can build a championship team with him at point guard. So I would say that right now, the Wolves have 2 “cornerstone” pieces in Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins, and 9 players who seem to be in their future plans. Here’s a list of those 9 players and what I would expect the depth chart to look like heading into the draft:

PG: Rubio                                                                                                                                                                                               SG: Martin    LaVine                                                                                                                                                                     SF: Wiggins  Muhammad                                                                                                                                                             PF: Garnett  Payne                                                                                                                                                                         C:   Pekovic   Dieng

In my opinion, the top 4 prospects in the draft are Towns, Okafor, Russell, and Winslow. PG Emmanuel Mudiay and PF Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia are also in the discussion, but neither one has really proven himself against elite competition. At the end of the day, I don’t expect Flip Saunders to take any unnecessary risks. The Wolves will probably end up with either Towns, Okafor, Russell, or Winslow. Here’s how each of them would fit with the Wolves:

Karl-Anthony Towns

I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have the #1 pick. Towns is most likely going to be the #1 pick, and he’s also an absolutely perfect fit with the Wolves. He’s a 7 foot forward/center hybrid who has a lot of versatility.

The Wolves are built to run, and Towns is fast. The Wolves need a shot blocker, and Towns is a shot blocker. It would be nice for the Wolves to open up the paint for Rubio and Wiggins to attack, and Towns has the potential to be a very good shooter. One of the negatives on Towns is that he might need some time to develop, but the Wolves have time. They also have KG who would be a great mentor for Towns. Rubio, Wiggins, and Towns would make an awesome Big 3.

If Towns were to go to the Wolves, he would probably start at power forward with either Gorgui Dieng or Nikola Pekovic at center. But I would expect him to move around a lot between the 4 and the 5 as a rookie. He could play with any of the Wolves other bigs (Dieng, Pekovic, Garnett, Payne). I would also expect to see him in a lot of different roles within the offense (high post, low post, pick and roll). I would love to see him work the high post, low post game with Kevin Garnett next year… Depending on how they play together, the frontcourt of the future could be either Towns and Dieng, or Towns and Payne. Dieng is going to be a good, balanced center. Payne could be a really solid stretch 4 if his shot developed. Either way, Towns would be the ideal pick for Minnesota.

Jahlil Okafor

Even though Okafor isn’t as good a fit as Towns, he would still be a great addition to the Wolves. I really think he’s going to be a star in the NBA. He’s big, strong, highly skilled, and has a lot more athleticism than he’s given credit for. He would give the Wolves a second legitimate go-to scorer along with Wiggins. And even when neither of them is on, Rubio would keep the offense running smoothly. Okafor would give the Wolves one of the most dynamic offenses in the NBA.

If the Wolves drafted Okafor, they would have to make some roster tweaks. First of all, an Okafor-Dieng or an Okafor-Pekovic frontcourt doesn’t make very much sense, forcing both Pekovic and Dieng to the bench. I think the Wolves would end up keeping Pekovic and trading Dieng. This wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world because Dieng is a good, young player with a cheap contract. They might be able to get something like a lottery pick back for him. Secondly, the Wolves would want to make some changes to get better defensively. Okafor might eventually become a solid defender, but he doesn’t look like he’ll ever be much of a shot blocker. Maybe the Wolves could look for a defensive specialist at PF and some “3 and D” wings to help solve their defensive issues.

Even next year, a lineup of Rubio, Martin, Wiggins, Garnett and Okafor looks pretty good. They might even be a surprise team in the West. There would eventually have to be some changes with the players around Rubio, Wiggins and Okafor, but they could definitely make it work. And KG would also be a great mentor for Okafor.

D’Angelo Russell

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not Rubio and Russell could play together. At first it seems like it wouldn’t work. They’re both ball-dominant point guards. Rubio can’t shoot. They might have some trouble defensively… But then you look at last year’s Suns. They went 48-34 with a similar combination of guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. They were arguably the most exciting team in the NBA. Maybe the T-Wolves could make it work.

The other thing you have to consider is that the Wolves still have Zach LaVine and Kevin Martin, which might create a little bit of a logjam at guard. We’d probably have to dump Kevin Martin to free up playing time for LaVine. So I broke down how the rotation would work with Rubio, Russell, and LaVine.

During regulation there’s 96 minutes of playing time in the backcout (PG and SG). If you divide that time evenly between Rubio, Russell and LaVine, each player gets 32 minutes (Rubio averaged 31.5 minutes per game last year). Rubio gets 32 minutes at PG, LaVine gets 32 minutes at SG, and Russell gets 16 at PG and 16 at SG. That gives you 16 minutes of Rubio-Russell, 16 minutes of Rubio-LaVine, and 16 minutes of Russell-LaVine. So ideally, Rubio and Russell only have to play together for 16 minutes a game.

On paper, it looks like it could work. Then it just comes down to chemistry issues. Both Rubio and Russell would have to make sacrifices. So would Zach LaVine.

The good thing is that the Wolves would have flexibility. In the worst case scenario, they might have to trade away Rubio. That would definitely be disappointing, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. If I had to choose a player to replace Rubio, it would be Russell. He’s a baller. Offensively, he might not be as good a passer as Rubio, but he can create his own shot and spot up. He would really be an ideal teammate for Andrew Wiggins. He would not only be able to find Wiggins on cuts to the basket, but he would also be able to draw the defense away from Wiggins with his shooting ability.

Justise Winslow

If D’Angelo Russell is Andrew Wiggins’ ideal teammate, than Justise Winslow is Rubio’s ideal teammate. He would help create the type of team that Rubio wants to lead… one with swarming perimeter defense, fast breaks, alley-oops, and lots of energy. I could just see Rubio, Wiggins, and Winslow getting after it on defense, getting steals, and getting out on the break all game long.

Winslow is a great athlete at small forward, he can shoot, slash, he’s smart and he’s a good passer, and he’s a great on-ball defender. He’s only 19 years old, and he looks like someone that could also become a good one-on-one scorer. He has all the tools to be an All-Star.

If the Wolves picked Winslow, he would play small forward and Wiggins would slide over to shooting guard, creating a serious matchup nightmare. Wiggins has already shown the ability to post up on smaller guards, and Winslow would also be a tough cover for a 2. They would also be great defensively. And don’t forget about Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad coming off the bench. They’re set at center with Gorgui Dieng and Nikola Pekovic. If they could add a good stretch 4 in free agency, this team could win a championship.

So…

With all that in mind, my draft board goes Towns, Okafor, Winslow, Russell. The fourth pick would be good. Winslow will probably still be there at #4. The third pick would be better. The second pick would be awesome.

It has to get worse before it can get better… — May 7, 2015

It has to get worse before it can get better…

It’s been a tough year to be a Minnesota sports fan. Last summer, the Twins finished last in the AL Central and tied for the fourth-worst record in major league baseball. They were surprisingly good at scoring runs, but their pitching was awful. The Vikings’ season got off to a great start when they buried the Rams 34-6 in Week 1. Then the reports came out about Adrian Peterson’s child abuse and he didn’t play the rest of the season. The Vikings finished 7-9… not terrible, but the whole Peterson situation was just depressing. Then there’s the Wolves, who finished with the worst record in the NBA at 16-66. Ricky Rubio got hurt again (and again). So did every other key player except Andrew Wiggins.

Recently, I realized that even though my profile says I’m a Minnesota homer, I haven’t posted a single entry about Minnesota teams yet. Maybe that’s just because they’ve all been terrible. Sure, the Wild are in the playoffs and that’s exciting, but I’m not really a hockey guy. The Gophers football team had a good season. They finished 8-5 and were just one win away from going to the Big Ten championship. But the basketball team was terrible.

No, it hasn’t been a good year for Minnesota sports. But a few things in the past month have made me feel good about the future. It all starts with the Twins. After 27 games, their record is 14-13. That’s not anything spectacular, but it just feels good to be above .500, especially for such a young team.

The Vikings had a pretty good draft. They grabbed defensive players in the first three rounds, filling out their young defense with a solid middle linebacker in Eric Kendricks. Last year, they showed that they could be a decent team without AP. In a perfect world, Peterson will work out his issues with the Vikings management. If not, the Vikes have a good, young team that has shown they can win without him.Last week, Andrew Wiggins was named Rookie of the Year, and here are some of the things he had to say about his future in Minnesota:

“I hope I’m here forever… I hope. It would be nice… I don’t believe there’s any curse or nothing like that… We just needed the right pieces. I feel like now we’ve got them. We’ve got a nice young core…It’s been great up here…Everybody’s been showing me love. It’s not too busy up here. It’s perfect. It’s cold, just like Toronto. I’m used to it. I couldn’t really ask for nothing more up here. I like it up here.”

This is music to Wolves fans’ ears after watching Kevin Love mope around and complain for the last few years. Andrew Wiggins is a great kid and it sounds like he loves being here, he wants to get better, and he’s excited to try to bring a championship to Minnesota. And the Wolves have a legitimate chance at making that happen. They’ve got a great floor general in Rubio, a budding star in Wiggins, and a good chance of landing either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor in the draft, depending on how the lottery goes.

That’s why it’s so perfect for the Wolves to bring back Kevin Garnett. And for the Twins to bring back Torii Hunter. In Minnesota, we love our star players. KG and Torii Hunter were easy to love. They had babies named after them and they were on posters in every kid’s bedroom. However, neither one was able to win a championship in Minnesota.

But we still love them, and we’ll welcome them back. We’ll get up out of our seats to welcome them back… hoping they can become mentors to our new stars, Andrew Wiggins and Byron Buxton. Maybe 15 years from now, we’ll do the same for Wiggins and Buxton. Or maybe we won’t. Maybe Wiggins is the player that will lead the Timberwolves to their first title. Maybe Byron Buxton will still be around when the Twins win the World Series.

Minnesota hasn’t won a championship in the “Big 4” (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) since 1991. But for some reason, I’ve got a feeling that one is coming. I really do.

It’s been a tough year to be a Minnesota sports fan. But things are starting to get better. We’ve got a new generation of future stars. We’ve got young teams with lots of potential. We’ve got an eye towards the future, and the future looks bright.

Ty Lawson to the Knicks? — May 4, 2015

Ty Lawson to the Knicks?

The Nuggets are re-building. The Knicks want to win now. Maybe the Nuggets would rather have a top 5 pick than a star point guard, and the Knicks would rather have a star point guard than a top 5 pick? New York is heading for the draft lottery with the second best chance of winning the #1 pick. I think depending on which pick they end up with, a trade of Ty Lawson to New York for the Knicks’ top 5 pick would make sense for both teams…

Denver

I’m thinking if the Knicks offer a top 5 pick for Lawson, the Nuggets have to take it… They aren’t going to compete in the West in the next few years no matter what roster tweaks they make. So they need to add some good, young players to develop for the future. If this trade happened, they would get a chance to instantly replace Lawson with either D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay. Add in the #7 pick, Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic, and you have a solid core.

New York

It’s a little more complicated for the Knicks, but I think a trade for Ty Lawson makes sense for lots of reasons…

Reason #1- They Knicks keep saying that they want to win now. And right now, Ty Lawson is a lot better than anybody they might get in the draft.

Reason #2- Lawson’s probably the only chance the Knicks have at getting a star player this off-season. It’s hard to see them competing for a title with only one star on their roster, and I really don’t see them landing any of the top free agents. Gasol isn’t going anywhere, Aldridge doesn’t seem interested, Love doesn’t seem interested, and Rondo- eh… But Ty Lawson really is a star and I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the league.

Reason #3- Lawson’s an ideal fit next to Carmelo. Remember how badly Melo and Stoudemire played together, because Stoudemire clogged up the paint and Melo needs space to be effective. So even if a big guy like Love or Aldridge wanted to go to New York, Lawson would be a much better fit. Lawson is a very good scorer, but he’s also a good passer and playmaker. He might be more effective on the Knicks without so much defensive attention on him. Defenses would focus on Anthony, giving Lawson extra space to make things happen. I just think it would work really well.

Reason #4- Deja vu. In 2011, the Knicks wrestled Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets. They might as well do the same with Lawson.

Reason #5- Anthony and Lawson were teammates for two years in Denver so they might have a little head-start as far as chemistry goes. They’re also both from Baltimore.

I would love to see this trade happen. Lawson would bring a lot of energy to the Knicks and seems like a guy that other good players would want to play with in New York. The Knicks would still have tons of cap space to maybe add one of the second-tier free agents like Greg Monroe or Jimmy Butler. The Nuggets would take a definitive step toward re-building and be able to maybe draft a cornerstone piece.

Besides, Ty Lawson is too good a point guard to be stuck in Denver playing with a dysfunctional group of role players. Somebody call up Phil Jackson! This has to happen!

A New Era in the NBA (Unfortunately) — April 26, 2015

A New Era in the NBA (Unfortunately)

One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about the history of the NBA is that it has definitive eras. And these eras shift pretty much every time a new decade starts. Think about it. The 60s was Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. The 70s was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The 80s was Magic and Bird. The 90s was MJ. The 2000s was Shaq and Kobe. And so far this decade has belonged to LeBron.

It seems like for every new era, there’s come a point in time when everyone knew it was the start of a new era of NBA basketball. In the ’79-’80 season, Bird and Magic came in as rookies and dominated. Bird was the Rookie of the Year and Magic was the Finals MVP. They went on to absolutely dominate the 80s. At the end of the decade, there was a little transition period. With Magic and Bird worn down, and Jordan’s Bulls not quite good enough to win championships yet, Isiah Thomas and the “bad boys” won back-to-back championships. Then in 1991, a new era began again when MJ finally beat the Pistons. The Bulls won in ’91, ’92 and ’93. Jordan retired. The Rockets won back-to-back. Jordan came back and the Bulls won in ’96, ’97 and ’98. When Jordan retired the second time in 1998, there was another shift as Shaq, Duncan, Iverson and (Grant Hill) took over. The 2000s were dominated for the most part by the Lakers and the Spurs.

The late 2000s kinda messed this system up. LeBron, Wade, CP3, Melo, and Dwight Howard were too good too early and broke down too fast. That’s why the NBA was awesome in the late 2000s but the past few years there’s been a lack of superstar players. You remember people talking about LeBron, KD, CP and then who?? I feel like we’re in a transition period at this point. It’s unfortunate for these guys… most of their championships were eaten up by Kobe and Duncan.

These guys were awesome right from the start. They were talented, charismatic, and really fun to watch. By 2009 you could rank them all in the top 10 players in the league. You had LeBron in Cleveland, Wade in Miami, Melo in New York, Paul in New Orleans, and Dwight Howard in Orlando all in the playoffs on good, young teams… destined for a decade of awesomeness.

Then two things happened. First of all, they all ditched in the next three years and went to bigger markets. The top two guys- Wade and LeBron- teamed up in Miami. Howard and Paul went to LA (not together, but they almost were), and Melo went to NYC. All of those new teams have pretty much flopped, while the grandfatherly Spurs have continued to compete for championships every year. The other thing that happened? Injuries.

It makes me sick to think about how good CP3 and D-Wade could’ve been if they’d stayed healthy. Chris Paul was SO good five-some years ago. The thing that made him so good was that he was quicker than any other guard. He’s actually still pretty quick, but 2009 Chris Paul would torch 2015 Chris Paul. Just imagine how good he’d be if you combined that blazing quickness with all the basketball savvy he’s gained over the past few years. It’s the same thing with Wade. They’re still really good players, both of them, and I’d watch either one any day. But man…

Looking forward, what should we expect from this new era of NBA basketball?

Well, first of all, LeBron James is still going to be the best player in the league for a while. There’s already a few young guys who have become superstars: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis. There’s also a lot of good young point guards… Westbrook, Curry, Irving, Lillard and Wall just to name a few…

At this point, there aren’t really any great teams in the NBA (unless you count the Warriors) and there probably won’t be unless something happens. If Durant and Westbrook could figure out how to play off of each other instead of just playing 1-on-1, they could be really, really good. Until that happens, it’s going to be a battle in the West every year. In the East, the Cavs should keep getting better as Kyrie Irving gets better. John Wall and Bradley Beal could also be really good.Then there’s the really young teams like Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. The T-Wolves have Wiggins, Rubio and possibly the #1 pick. After giving up MCW for not much in return, I would bet the Sixers are looking at D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay to pair with Joel Embiid regardless of which pick they draw. And I really like the Bucks. I love Jabari. I love Giannis. I’ll definitely be rooting for them.

As far as the actual game play, hopefully we’ll see better better ball movement in the future. And one more thing…the NBA has really been lacking dominant centers and back-to-the-basket scorers. Well, I’ve got five names for you: Cousins, Drummond, Okafor, Towns, and Embiid. I think I’ll post about that some other time.