June 29, 2011

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Top NBA Free Agents

By: Rick Jarrell

NBA Playoffs are over. The draft has been completed. What now? Free agency!

The looming collective bargaining agreement, set to expire June 30, is more than likely going to hinder the beginning of the free agency period. Hopefully the owners and players can hash out their differences in a relatively short time span, but we’re still going to be forced to talk about offseason moves, even though they can’t happen yet, slightly longer this year.

The 2011 NBA free agent class is nowhere near as heralded as last year’s barrage of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, and David Lee. But there’s interesting players out, a few sure to sign max contracts.

Nene Hilario

Every team can use another frontcourt bruiser, and at 28 years old, Nene will surely garner at least a four year contract. Left behind in the midseason trade of Carmelo Anthony as the only remaining building block, Nene’s performance in the second half helped lead the team to the playoffs. Putting up 14 points and 7 rebounds a game, plus a block and a steal, could turn into a solid double-double provider night in night out on the right team. Plus at 6-11, 250 pounds, the man can play both the 4 and 5 positions.

The downside, which I actually see as an upside in some respect, is how Nene makes an impact. He’s a glass man – gets rebounds, tips balls to his teammates, and cleans up the mess. Running plays designed for him consistently is not likely to pay off. But his willingness to do the dirty work outweighs, and a backdoor layup is right up his alley.

Tyson Chandler

What a difference a year makes. A season ago, Tyson Chandler was deemed expendable by the Charlotte Bobcats after his worst statistical year and burgeoning knee problems. But the Dallas Mavericks took a chance that paid off. Chandler provided a key force near the rim during the finals, limiting the impact of Miami’s Big Three.

Chandler has a similar problem to Nene, to a greater degree, in that he is not offensive minded. Aside from rebounds and put backs, his value is on the defensive end. Blocks, steals, help defense, the whole lot. Chandler has readily admitted he likes defense, that’s where he belongs. Plus, even though it feels like he’s been in the ABA merged into the NBA, he’s only 28 years old. The knee may cause some concern, but someone (possibly the Mavericks), will take another chance.

Marc Gasol

The Memphis Grizzlies have stated they intend to resign their rising star. But after paying Rudy Gay and Mike Conley last summer and Zach Randolph a couple months ago, and uncertainty regarding salary cap rules, they may not have the funds left to make a deal. Gasol will surely have a high price tag. His sweet mid-range jumper (for which he does not jump) helped power the Grizzlies past the number one seed Spurs in the first round. Rebounding and defense come in the package, as well. But despite his size, don’t expect him to post up anyone on the block and back them down. Gasol is more effective on the move, using his mid-range shot and a variety of “trick” shots, in addition to put backs.

He’s the kind of player you’d love to see on your team. No one would have ever thought the “Pau Gasol trade,” where the Lakers and Griz swapped brothers years ago, would look like a decent move Memphis.

David West

A late addition to the bunch, and another front court player! West said this week he would test the NBA free agent market this summer, likely because of the constant rumors swirling around Chris Paul’s longevity in New Orleans (more Decision fallout!). Averaging a quiet 19 points and 7.5 rebounds for another season, West suffered a potentially career-threatening ACL injury before the playoffs. If healthy, he’s arguably at the top of this group (Gasol could be, too). But a serious knee injury for a 30 year old big man causes concern. He’ll probably get a decent sized contract, assuming he passes a physical, but the tail end of his contract may become an issue.

June 28, 2011

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Crowning the 2004 Champion

By: Joe Williams

In the movie Men In Black, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith work for a top-secret agency that polices, monitors, and directs alien activity on Earth. They use pocket-sized devices called “Neuralyzers” to erase the memories of witnesses to avoid leaving any evidence of their existence.

The powers that be in the BCS recently did something similar by stripping USC of its 2004 national championship. I used to think I spent the night of Jan. 4, 2005 with friends watching the USC destroy Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game. Oops. Didn’t happen. I hope I don’t get accused of any crimes that were committed on that night. I have no alibi.

For those who don’t like the BCS, the 2004 season was already full of controversy.

End of regular season BCS standings:

  1. USC                             12-0
  2. Oklahoma                 12-0
  3. Auburn                      12-0
  4. Texas                          10-1
  5. California                  10-1
  6. Utah                            11-0
  7. Georgia                        9-2
  8. Virginia Tech           10-2
  9. Boise State                 11-0
  10. Louisville                   10-1

 

Five teams finished the regular season undefeated, but according to the BCS system, only two get to compete for the championship. Auburn, Utah and Boise State did everything they could do but it wasn’t enough. Fans all over the country were outraged and the call for a playoff system increased.

Now that we know there was no winner of the BCS Championship Game, the controversy is back. Will the BCS award the championship to someone else? Oklahoma played in that championship game as the No. 2 team in the rankings so should they get it? Auburn beat Virginia Tech 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl and finished 13-0 and No. 2 in the polls. What about Utah? The Utes crushed Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. They were a perfect 12-0. Boise State’s undefeated season came to an end with a 44-40 loss to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl so the Broncos are out of the conversation.

This is where the BCS is better than a playoff system. There is no way to bring back the teams from the 2004 season and have a playoff tournament to determine the champion. But the computers basically pick the champion anyway so why can’t the people running the BCS get out their calculators and use their computer formulas to determine a new 2004 champion?

It shouldn’t be that hard to take USC’s vacated victories out of the equation and add the results from the bowl games. They might as well start now. At the rate these scandals are coming out in college football, we could have more seasons that end up with no champion.

If not, those who run the BCS are going to have to start going around with their own “Neuralyzers” erasing our memories of College Football Championships that were not won.

June 27, 2011

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2011 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

By: Anson Whaley

This past week’s NBA Draft wasn’t very star-studded according to most experts. Unlike the 1996 Draft, which was one of the best in recent memory producing future Hall of Famers such as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, and Allen Iverson, this year’s class isn’t expected to have as many stars.

That said, as always, some teams still found a way to draft wisely while others left us scratching our heads.

WINNERS

Washington Wizards – I know all about Enes Kanter taken by the Utah Jazz at No. 3, but Jan Vesely could end up being the best international player in this field. Vesely is a true athlete that has an NBA-type game and will be a perfect fit for John Wall and the Wizards’ young team. At 6’11”, he has three-point range and could cause huge mismatches for opposing teams’ frontcourts. Washington also landed Chris Singleton at No. 18, a great defensive weapon, and Butler’s Shelvin Mack in the second round. Mack was listed as a late first-round pick in many mock drafts and the Wizards could have gotten a bit of a steal.

Detroit Pistons – The Pistons picked up a relative steal in getting Brandon Knight at No. 8. Knight is the second-best point guard in the draft and averaged more than 17 points a game as a true freshman – something virtually unheard of. Getting him that late (especially when there’s a premium on point guards in the NBA these days) was a big coup for General Manager Joe Dumars. The Pistons also ended up with Kyle Singler, who played a big role on some winning teams at Duke and as a second-rounder, was a smart pick. And while Vernon Macklin (No. 52) isn’t a star, he shot more than 60% during his entire collegiate career and has a chance to be a serviceable backup center.

Sacramento Kings – Sacramento reeled in the draft’s most prolific scorer in BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. Even better for the Kings is that he should be an excellent fit for their team. Fredette will fit right in alongside Tyreke Evans and give the Kings a great backcourt for years to come. He’s not a stellar defender and will need to improve if he wants to play 30 minutes a game, but he knows how to score – and that’s the primary function for a shooting guard. Tyler Honeycutt was a solid second-round selection and, unlike some other teams to be named later, the Pistons secured a good proven talent in guard Isaiah Thomas with the last pick in the draft instead of going for an unknown international player.

LOSERS

Los Angeles Clippers – Man, the Clippers’ just can’t catch a break. They were so desperate to unload Baron Davis’ huge contract that they traded him away with an unprotected first-round pick back at the trade deadline in February. Little did they know that pick would turn out to be the No. 1 overall selection. So to recap, the Clippers traded away Davis (a former All-Star) and the No. 1 overall pick for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams? Yeah, how’s that one working out? Look, I understand the desire to move that contract, but the fact is that Davis is still a solid NBA player. Instead of having Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams to pair along with Blake Griffin, the Clips are still a few players away from being able to compete. The bottom line is that trading unprotected lottery picks away simply to dump large contracts is a very bad idea and this is why the Clippers are the Clippers.

Los Angeles Lakers – Even without a first-round pick, the Lakers still had a chance to make an impact in the draft. Unfortunately, even with four second-round selections, Los Angeles failed to add much substance to their team. Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock were reasonable picks, but that’s when things got a bit crazy. With talented players like Scotty Hopson and Ben Hansbrough still on the board, L.A. somehow decided it was a good idea to draft Ater Majok (a player who averaged less than a point per game in the NBDL) and Chukwudiebere Maduabum, an international project with no discernable talent. In their defense, Maduabum was later shipped to Denver, but with some solid players still available, the Lakers had the chance to add two quality prospects instead.

Philadelphia 76ers – Philadelphia took a huge gamble by taking big man Nikola Vucevic at No. 16. Nothing about him screams superstar and the 76ers could have done much better with more of a proven commodity. At No. 50, Lavoy Allen out of Temple was a solid, but unspectacular player in college. What strikes me the most about him is that he didn’t seem to improve much during his time there. His stats over the past three seasons remained virtually unchanged and his shooting percentage actually dropped the last two. It can be sometimes hard to find real value that late in the draft, but Allen had undrafted free agent written all over him. This move reeks of drafting a hometown kid just for the sake of a nice story. And a team needing as much help as the 76ers can’t afford to make those types of picks.

June 24, 2011

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Top Trends in Sports This Week

By: Lionel

 If you thought Bruins fans were done celebrating, you thought wrong. Bruins Fatheads have dominated our weekly top ten seller list once again with the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Champions Logo in first place and Tim Thomas in 3rd and 4th place. Looks like the celebration will continue until the NFL fans start up again… that is if there is actually a NFL season.

Official Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Champions Logo

The top ten selling Fatheads of the last week (6/18 to 6/24):

  1. Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Champions Logo
  2. Dwyane Wade Drives
  3. Tim Thomas
  4. Tim Thomas – Stanley Cup
  5. Aaron Rodgers
  6. Tom Brady
  7. Dirk Nowitzki
  8. Derrick Rose
  9. Derek Jeter
  10. Paul Pierce

June 22, 2011

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NBA Draft Day Stories

By: Rick Jarrell

Since Joe already beat me to the mock NBA draft, I’ll take a look at story lines to watch and potential trades that may go down this Thursday. Around this time each year, the rumor mill begins churning full throttle as the draft becomes near and free agency begins. This year, with the NBA lockout looming over our heads, potentially limiting the free agency period, there is even more excitement around the draft.  Excitement despite a widely believed weak draft class, which coincidentally, is attributable to the expected lockout. Is your head spinning? It may spin a little more after reading this.

Cleveland Tries to Replace LeBron

As a lifelong Cavalier fan, I’m willing to realize that we Cleveland fans might be the only people extremely interested in this NBA draft. Not only will we get a building block to revamp the team, but two. But despite Cleveland’s feelings regarding LeBron post-decision, I don’t think anyone believes he can be replaced. Two picks in the top five is a start, though.

Despite the smoke signals being sent out by the front office, I fully expect them to take Kyrie Irving numero uno. He’s the safest bet in a risky draft, and coach Byron Scott needs a strong point guard to build around and run his offensive system. Baron Davis is great when he wants to be, but is on the back end of his career. And Ramon Sessions showed signs of progress at the end of last season, but he’s better suited as a scoring option off of the bench. Irving has to be the pick.

With the fourth pick, they’ll take…? If they keep the pick, they need a stronger front court, leaving it a tossup between Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas. Contradicting reports have surfaced recently regarding who they favor, but now that Valanciunas’s European buyout won’t allow him to join the NBA until the 2012-2013 season, the Cavs will likely pick Kanter. If it was me, I would take the European with higher potential, knowing they’re years away from competing anyways – why not take the risk? But I’m sitting on my couch watching Seinfeld right now, and they’ve been thinking about these picks nonstop since the lottery last month.

There’s also chatter they may trade down/up, but the rumors surrounding that notion are so vast and likely lack substance, until something happens, it’s better assuming they keep the pick.

Timberwolves and the #2 Pick

Minnesota has publicly admitted to shopping the second pick. The team, who’s had trouble rising from the bottom tier of the NBA since trading Kevin Garnett, has enough young talent to potentially make a jump. Kevin Love was an All-Star, and Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph possess high potential. Not to mention the highly touted Ricky Rubio is finally leaving Spain to join the T-Wolves. So the team doesn’t need another young talent, but a few veteran pieces to help them move forward.

Kevin Love

Likely trade partners are those interested in taking Arizona forward Derrick Williams. The list includes Cleveland, the Washington Wizards, and Phoenix Suns, to name a few. But with Minnesota likely waiting till the last minute for an offer to “blow them away,” there’s a chance they hold on to the pick and take Williams, potentially trading his rights after the draft (Note: Lockout likely will begin the next day, so this option is murky at best).

Who Will Exceed Expectations?

Other than Irving, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the 2011 NBA draft class. Even more, after the first few picks, the draft order becomes fluid. Players like Kanter, Valanciunas, Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, Kawhi Leonard, Jan Vesely, and Bismack Biyombo could go from the 5th pick to as low as the 15th. Internal battles inside front offices will weigh the value of potential over need. So who will rise to become NBA studs and all-stars in the next few years?

Predicting this year’s rookie class’s impact on the league in a few years is as easy as deciding between Megan Fox and Brooklyn Decker. But ignoring the impossibility of this task, Vesely will be the best player out of this group. He’s tall at 6’11, but fits the mold of small forward, looking to run in open court and stretch the floor. If he falls to the Wizards, they’ll be ecstatic.

One prospect to keep an eye on is Norris Cole, point guard out of Cleveland State. Draft pundits are raving over his workout performances, and the buzz is if he would have gone to a big time school, would be a top ten pick. Depending on where he lands, if he’s in the right situation, Cole may become the steal of the draft.