Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 NBA Free Agency

July: The dog days of summer. The scorching heat, the lazy days, the air conditioning, but absolutely no important sports action whatsoever. Baseball is on, but I don’t like baseball, especially in July when no games matter. Wimbledon ends in the beginning of July, and I can usually count on my man Roger Federer to provide me with some sports happiness. Luckily this year there is also the World Cup (which I have already gushed about). Quick tangent: Brazil is still my pick to win the World Cup. And my runner up Spain is still alive as well. My other Final Four picks Nigeria and England are out. That’s what happens when you get someone who doesn’t know anything about soccer picking a soccer tournament. But this July, we have something else. It’s an event that usually gets overlooked and underappreciated, but not this year. The NBA Free Agency Period is creeping up, and is only 24 hours away. It’s going to be as hectic as a bunch of kids in line waiting to hit a piƱata once it hits Midnight on July 1st. GM’s, owners, coaches and players are going to be lobbying for the help of the greatest free agent class of all time. Rumors have been running wild for 2 years about where these superstars are going to end up. There has never been one summer that had so much riding on it. The fate of the NBA is up for grabs in the ensuing weeks, and the way I look at it, there are 5 separate scenarios of what the league is going to look like when its all said and done. Think of it like the United States Homeland Security Scale. You know, the color-coded terror advisory scale that scares the hell out of people whenever it changes from yellow to orange. Well, think of the potential free agency results as the changing of the security scale. Does your head hurt as bad as mine does? Okay, let me make it easier on you.

Level One (Green) LOW: Low Risk of Terrorist Attacks. Translation- All major free agents stay put with their current teams.
Level Two (Blue) GUARDED: General Risk of Terrorist Attacks. Translation- A few major free agents leave their current teams.
Level Three (Yellow) ELEVATED: Significant Risk of Terrorist Attacks. Translation- Majority of major free agents leave their current teams.
Level Four (Orange) HIGH: High Risk of Terrorist Attacks. Translation- Nearly all major free agents leave their current teams.
Level Five (Red) SEVERE: Severe Risk of Terrorist Attacks. Translation- TOTAL F’ING CHAOS!

Level One: This is the scenario that practically has no chance of happening, just like there is no chance we will ever be at green in our security scale. Think of this scenario like there being world peace. Not going to happen. Bosh isn’t staying in Toronto, from all recent reports LeBron isn’t staying in Cleveland, and Amare isn’t staying in Phoenix. Not only is this unlikely, but it would also be the biggest letdown in sports history. Has there ever been a non game or event that has been this hyped? I can’t think of one. Sportscenter might not even show anything besides free agency news for the next week if things turn out how we are expecting them to. If no free agents leave, what will Scott Van Pelt and John Buccigross talk about? If you process everything you’ve heard just over the past month or so, you’ll know this won’t happen, just like world peace.

Destinations under Level One
LeBron- Cleveland, Wade- Miami, Bosh- Toronto, Boozer- Utah, Dirk- Dallas, Amare- Phoenix, Johnson- Atlanta, Allen- Boston, Pierce- Boston, Gay- Memphis, Lee- New York.

Level Two: Under this scenario, we’ll see the guys who are expected to leave actually leave. Again, because of recent reports, the likelihood of this scenario isn’t very high, but more likely than level one. This scenario means no league superpowers form, but some players make some moves out of bad teams or situations they don’t like.

Destinations under Level Two
LeBron- Cleveland, Wade- Miami, Bosh- Miami, Boozer- Utah, Dirk- Dallas, Amare- Chicago, Johnson- New York, Allen- Boston, Pierce- Boston, Gay- New Jersey, Lee- New York

Level Three: Now this is more like it. Over half of the top tier free agents on the market find a new team. This is yellow on the homeland security scale, which we have been at since August 2005 (Fun Fact!). This means that this scenario is the most likely to happen. In all likelihood, a couple of teams get significantly better due to the signing of a couple top guys, but things aren’t too out of hand yet.

Destinations under Level Three
LeBron- Chicago, Wade-Miami, Bosh- Chicago, Boozer- Miami, Dirk- Dallas, Amare- New Jersey, Johnson- New York, Allen- Miami, Pierce- Boston, Gay- New Jersey, Lee- New York

Level Four: This is where we see the first league superpower. The rumor is that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh met in Miami to talk about playing for the Heat. In Level Three, LeBron and Bosh will decide to team together in Chicago, and Boozer will head to Miami. But lets assume the Heat sign Wade, sign and trade for Bosh (Beasely and pick for Bosh), and sign LeBron. 3 of the top 20 players in the league are playing for one team, including 2 of the top 4. Yikes, that scares the hell out of the rest of the league. But that’s not all. Level Four terror alert means more than that. ALL of the top free agents go to new teams.

Destinations under Level Four
LeBron- Miami, Wade- Miami, Bosh- Miami, Boozer- Chicago, Dirk- Phoenix, Amare- New Jersey, Johnson- New Jersey, Allen- Chicago, Pierce- Boston, Gay- New Jersey, Lee- New York

Level Five: Think of every rumor you’ve heard about in the last 2 years. In level five, I’m saying any single one can happen. There isn’t one set destination that could occur under level five. So instead of guessing, I’ll break down every scenario.

LeBron James: Where do we begin? First he was staying, then he was going, then he was going to stay, then everyone said he was going to leave, and then we thought he might stay, but then the Cavs choked again and now he is going to leave. So, where does he go?
Chicago: It was reportedly a done deal until the mini summit that occurred in Miami. He has the option of playing with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and potentially another top tier free agent (Bosh, Amare, Joe Johnson, Boozer, etc.). This might be his best chance for a title. But, he’ll never be the best to ever play for that Franchise. Can LeBrons massive ego take that hit? Also, what if he doesn’t even win a title there? His legacy is destroyed, and could never be repaired. No matter how many scoring titles or MVP’s he wins, if LeBron doesn’t win with a team that features an All star point guard, a budding big man, and another top tier free agent he will never be on the level that guys like Jordan, Kobe, Bird and Magic are on. And if he does win, he was supposed to and it’s no big deal. Which brings us to our next team…
New York: The concrete jungle where dreams are made of… dreams of the first title for the Knicks since 1973. I don’t care what anyone says, if LeBron brings a title to the Knicks he will be a bigger icon in New York than Derek Jeter (sorry all of you die hard Yankee fans, but it’s true. Derek Jeter isn’t as marketable as LeBron.) He would be immortal. But, the challenge is without signing another big time free agent, he would be playing for an exceedingly crappy team. So, why not play for…
Miami: This scenario only comes in play if over the weekend at the Mini Summit, Bosh, Wade and LeBron each agreed that none of them are the true Alpha Dog on the team, and they play Olympic style where they all can lead. This is almost too good to be true. We can buy finals tickets for Miami vs. Los Angeles Lakers already. Speaking of the Lakers…
Los Angeles Lakers: Remember when there were rumors about the deal that would send LeBron to the Lakers for Bynum and Odom? Well it most likely won’t happen considering the only way this would have had a fighting chance of happening would have been if the Celtics beat the Lakers again in the finals, and Kobe and LeBron decided “Okay, we can’t beat them alone, why don’t we beat them together and break the record for win total in a season on our way?” This was the better version of the now possible superpower with LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Think about LeBron, Kobe and Pau playing together. My God, I need to stop thinking about it so my heart doesn’t beat out of my chest. If LeBron likes the west coast, maybe he could go play for…
Los Angeles Clippers: A lot of young talent which is only missing a small forward. Starting lineup of B Diddy, Eric Gordan, LeBron, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman. Not too shabby. But, the Clippers will never own LA like the Lakers do, and LeBron is smart enough to realize that if he went to play for the Clippers he would probably have a career ending injury in game 3 of the season. Speaking of Russians, what if LeBron played for…
New Jersey: LeBron and the Russian Mystery Man Mikhail Prokhorov teaming together isn’t too far fetched. With the Yi Jianlian trade that just went down, the Nets have room to sign two top tier free agents. Let’s not forget that LeBron’s friend Jay-Z is a minority owner of the Nets, and the team is scheduled to move to Brooklyn sometime in the near future. Suddenly we start to hear the song again, “Concrete Jungle where dreams are made of…” But what if LeBron isn’t into the Mutant Russian Mark Cuban? He might like the company of American Mark Cuban and play for…
Dallas: Another sign and trade deal in the making. You can’t tell me Mark Cuban wouldn’t love getting LeBron whatever he wanted. The deal would likely involve Caron Butler, Erick Dampier’s expiring contract, and Rowdy Roddy Beaubois. LeBron is a Cowboys fan, and it just so happens Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones are friends. I see the Mavs playing a few games in the Cowboys stadium if LeBron is a Maverick. Finally, we have…
Cleveland: Is there any way this happens, or has there just been too much damage to be healed? If LeBron stays in Cleveland, he proves it is either because he wants more money (which I seriously doubt) or because he is a genuine guy who really wants to win a title with a city that has supported him since day one. That might help his legacy more than a title could.

Dwayne Wade: This one is easy. It’s clear that Dwayne Wade and Pat Riley are on the same page and are on a mission to recruit players to Miami. Not a bad idea in my opinion. Riley would fire Erik Spoelstra quicker than Bosh is going to leave Toronto, and we might see a team that could challenge the Lakers.

Chris Bosh: Toronto is out of the picture, so it comes down to what is Bosh going to do? Is he really tied to LeBron? Will he follow him wherever he goes, whether it be Chicago, Miami, Cleveland, New York, etc. What about a team like Houston sneaking in and trading Luis Scola and others for Bosh? And we can’t forget about those Lakers rumors we’ve heard about in the past.

Carlos Boozer: Boozer is the modern day Karl Malone in Utah, but Karl Malone never won a title. That could be because the Jazz had big guys like Greg Ostertag and Adam Keefe. Come to think of it, Boozer might have worse big guys than Malone (Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko). Yikes, get out of there! Boozer could end up in Miami if Bosh follows LeBron to somewhere besides Miami, like Chicago with Joe Johnson or Ray Allen.

Dirk Nowitzki: In all likelihood, Dirk will remain a Maverick due to his close relationship with Mark Cuban. But, he obviously opted out of his contract for a reason. We could see a Nash/Dirk reunion in Phoenix, or even New York if Nash tries to get out of town by forcing a trade. Maybe Dirk tries to start over in a place like Chicago, or perhaps he becomes LeBron’s sidekick in Cleveland (and let’s pray they get rid of Jamison.

Amare Stoudemire: Amare might be just as gone as Bosh is. I could see Amare ending up almost anywhere. I wouldn’t rule out Chicago with or without LeBron, Miami without LeBron and Bosh, New York with or without a reunion with Nash and D’Antoni or New Jersey.

Joe Johnson: I think it became clear to Joe Johnson this year that if he wants to win, it has to be somewhere besides Atlanta. He might look for a fresh start in New York or New Jersey, but don’t rule out Miami calling for him if LeBron goes elsewhere.

Ray Allen: After the horrible finals series with the exception of game 2, I can’t see Boston being too eager to keep Ray Allen. Allen could end up back there, or he could be a valuable role player in Miami, New York, or Chicago.

Paul Pierce: Similar to Dirk, I see Pierce staying put in Boston. However, if he felt the need to play close to home in California, he could sign with the Clippers or maybe even the Kings.

Rudy Gay: Memphis has a lot of young talent, including Rudy Gay. OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Xavier Henry provide a nice start for a franchise which had the 2nd highest win increase last season. But, Gay might be looking for a bigger city to play in like New York or New Jersey.

David Lee: I like Lee to stay in the NYC area and play for either New York or New Jersey. They seem like the best fits for him. Or the Pacers since they are getting close to being the first all white NBA team since 1962.

Finally, let’s not forget to mention that Chris Paul could be a major factor in this free agent period. If he gets traded to New Jersey for either Derrick Favors or Brook Lopez and Devin Harris, that may intrigue LeBron and Bosh/Amare/Boozer to form a superpower in Brooklyn (concrete jungle where dreams are made of).

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us at free agency being at a 3.8 on the scale. What does that mean?

Miami signs Wade, Boozer and Ray Allen. Not quite the superpower that Pat Riley and Wade wanted, but it puts them into contention. I’m assuming the rumors about Bosh being tied to LeBron are true when I say I believe LeBron and Bosh will end up in Chicago, and effectively becoming the front runners in the east. I think Dirk will remain in Dallas, where he has it made teaming with Mark Cuban. Amare Stoudemire heads to New York along with David Lee and make the Knicks slightly better. Perfect fit for Amare considering he is a complete defensive liability and the Knicks show no interest in playing defense. Joe Johnson heads to the Clippers to fill their void in the small forward position, and also to ruin his career. Rudy Gay sticks around in Memphis considering they have a young team that in a few years could make a push for the playoffs. Paul Pierce stays put in Boston with KG, Rondo and potentially a player like JJ Reddick who could fill the spot of Ray Allen. Chris Paul stays put in New Orleans, so New Jersey gets nothing. Don’t doubt Mutant Russian Mark Cuban though. Mikhail Prokhorov is an intimidating Russian businessman who has had his business rivals killed off in order to get his way in the past. Pat Riley, Jerry Reinsdorf and Donald Sterling better watch their backs. Now that I think about it, it might not be a bad thing if Sterling was wacked.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 NBA Draft

Didn’t the NBA season just end? Lakers vs. Celtics, epic game 7, Kobe’s 5th ring. That was just a week ago. How sweet is that? Less than 1 week after the 2010 NBA champion was crowned, the new season is already about to take shape. This is one reason why the NBA draft is quickly becoming more of an event than the NFL draft. Nobody is in football mode in mid April. The NBA playoffs are just getting under way, the College Basketball tournament just ended, and for the hockey fans you have the NHL playoffs starting as well. The NBA Draft takes place immediately after the previous regular season, and therefore NBA fans still have a little bit of full NBA mode left in them. Meanwhile there are meaningless baseball games or the opening rounds of Wimbledon to compete with rather than 2 playoffs. What else makes the NBA Draft so darn exciting? We know every player with the exception of a few foreigners here and there (just wait until I post my Running the Sports World blog, that issue will be taken care of) and almost every player has a chance to be a household name. In the NFL draft, I don’t know enough about the lineman getting picked 21st to be excited about it. We aren’t going to see him turn into a household name player. This years NBA draft, I have Hassan Whiteside going 21st. He is a 7’0 freshman with a 7’6 wingspan who with the development of an offensive post game could be a dominant force like we’ve never seen (Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m hyping Whiteside up pretty big to get my point across. It’s called Propaganda and all writers use it). The truth is, I agree with many NBA analysts when they say that this years draft class is relatively weak. Last year the same thing was said, but I went on record to say that I thought it was stronger than the experts thought (channeling my inner Lee Corso). But this year I have to agree. Without further a do, here are my predictions of the 1st round of this years NBA draft.

1. Washington Wizards: John Wall- PG Kentucky
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner- SG Ohio St.
3. New Jersey Nets: Wesley Johnson- SF Syracuse
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Favors- PF Georgia Tech
5. Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins- C Kentucky
6. Golden State Warriors: Ed Davis- PF North Carolina
7. Detroit Pistons: Al-Farlouq Aminu- SF Wake Forest
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Ekpe Udoh- PF Baylor
9. Utah Jazz: Paul George- SF Fresno St.
10. Indiana Pacers: Greg Monroe- PF Georgetown
11. New Orleans Hornets: Luke Babbitt- SF Nevada
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Patrick Patterson- PF Kentucky
13. Toronto Raptors: Gordon Hayward- SF Butler
14. Houston Rockets: Cole Aldrich- C Kansas
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Xavier Henry- SG Kansas
16. Minnesota Timberwolves: Avery Bradley- SG Texas
17. Chicago Bulls: Daniel Orton- PF Kentucky
18. Oklahoma City Thunder: James Anderson- SG Oklahoma St.
19. Boston Celtics: Larry Sanders- PF VCU
20. San Antonio Spurs: Eric Bledsoe- PG Kentucky
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Hassan Whiteside- C Marshall
22. Portland Trailblazers: Kevin Seraphin- PF France
23. Minnesota Timberwolves: Elliot Williams- SG Memphis
24. Atlanta Hawks: Lance Stephenson- SG Cincinnati
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Devin Ebanks- SF West Virginia
26. Oklahoma City Thunder: Craig Brackins- PF Iowa St.
27. New Jersey Nets: Gani Lawal- PF Georgia Tech
28. Memphis Grizzlies: Jordan Crawford- SG Memphis
29. Orlando Magic: Damion James- SF Texas
30. Washington Wizards: Dominique Jones- SG South Florida

Potential All Stars
John Wall- I feel like Wall has a chance to be a very good pro, similar to Derrick Rose who he is often compared to. He’s going to be playing for an exceedingly crappy Wizards team, and he is going to have to learn to mesh with Gilbert Arenas. However, he is a tremendous leader and has a ton of confidence, something needed in a point guard dominated league, and something that will be useful while playing for a dismantled team.

Evan Turner- Turner was the college player who I followed closely this year, (similar to Adam Morrison/Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry). I Loved the way he could dominate a game by scoring, assisting or rebounding. He is such a crafty, smart and complete player, I see him having a lot of success in the NBA.

DeMarcus Cousins- Cousins has a chance to be the best player in this draft class. He is so strong, large and talented. He has the making to be a consistent 20-10 guy on any team. He has that much upside. The question mark on Cousins is his attitude. A lot of coaches seem to be afraid to take Cousins just based on the thought that he is crazy. If he can keep his head, I see a number of All Star appearances for Cousins.

Under the Radar Stars
Gordon Hayward- Say what you want about him. Yes he’s white, yes he’s from a small school, yes he isn’t overly athletic. But god damn can Gordon Hayward play. Same things were said about Adam Morrison, and look at him now, he already has 2 championship rings.

Hassan Whiteside- Yupp, I’m buying into all of the hype and propaganda. His draft stock has slipped a little bit in the last month, but I feel like he has more potential and upside than any player in the draft. He is a physical freak and with a little polishing he can dominate. Mark that down. And the fact that I have him going to Oklahoma City at 21 makes me extremely excited. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Hassan Whiteside being as good as I expect… Yikes!

Jordan Crawford- Younger brother of Jamal Crawford, I see Jordan having a similar career path as his brother. Off the bench instant offense. I think he can have a role on any team. I’m ignoring the fact that he dunked over LeBron last summer, and I’m giving him praise. That is some unbiased journalism right there.

Potential Busts
Greg Monroe- Let’s take a trip back to the 1st round of the NCAA tournament this past year when the 14 seed Ohio Bobcats put a shellacking on the 3 seed Georgetown Hoyas, led by none other than Greg Monroe. That showed me that Monroe doesn’t have what it takes to be a good NBA player like a number 10 pick should be.

Cole Aldrich- Time for some biased journalism. I don’t like Aldrich, I’ve never liked Aldrich, and I never will like Aldrich. He looks mean and unfriendly. And I don’t think he is that good. Everyone talked about how great of a defender he is (and that is all he has going for him). But frankly, I doubt his ability to guard big men like Amare Stoudemire, Pau Gasol or even Dwight Howard who still has no post moves. Hell, he couldn’t even guard Jordan Eglesedor in the 2nd round of the tournament.

Daniel Orton- He might as well be from France. Don’t understand? Let me explain. The common knock on foreign players are “He average 3 points and 3 rebounds in 13 minutes per game playing for a French team… Why in the blue hell is he a potential lottery pick?” Well thats Daniel Orton. Those were his exact averages this past season at Kentucky. He barely scratched the surface as a college player, what makes people think he is ready to play in the NBA?

So at 7 p.m. the NBA offseason and pre season begins. From the sounds of it, there is potential for a barrage of trades that may occur between now and then. So most likely, my hours of working on this mock draft will end up being worthless. Shit!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 World Cup

Naturally, if a sports fan were asked the question, “Which sporting event takes place every four years?” the majority would answer by saying the Olympics. That’s understandable. The world’s best athletes gather to compete in a variety events in order to decide which country dominates the world (the reason I say this is because coincidentally the United States always wins the medal count and is also the only world super power). I’m here to argue that there is a different sporting event that happens every four years that means more to the people of their respective countries than the Olympics. The World Cup. It takes a lot of courage to try to write about a sporting event in which you are somewhat unfamiliar with the sport itself and a sporting event that you only have 1 experience with, which is what I am doing. Prior to the 2006 World Cup, the amount of soccer I had watched in my life was the TV spots for Bend it like Beckham and the Full House episode when Michelle scored against her own team… so sad. Despite my lack of knowledge, and at that point lack of interest, I watched a few games and to my surprise was completely hooked. This might seem a little crazy, but an international soccer game with the pride of your country on the line is some of the most exciting TV you can find. The crowds are blood thirsty and the players are passionate. In 2006, rather than jumping on board with the Americans, I cheered for my heritage (the Italians). Much to my delight, Italy defeated France in the championship game which went to a shoot out. From that point on, I was addicted to World Cup soccer. Four years later its back and in South Africa. This time I know what I am getting myself into, and have some idea of which teams could walk away with international bragging rights once this 32 team tournament is over.

Predictions (No names will be mentioned in this blog. I doubt anyone who reads this cares for thorough analysis on each team. So I won’t bore you with it.)

Group A
1. Mexico
2. France
3. Uruguay
4. South Africa

Group B
1. Nigeria
2. Argentina
3. Greece
4. South Korea

Group C
1. England
2. United States
3. Slovenia
4. Algeria

Group D
1. Germany
2. Serbia
3. Australia
4. Ghana

Group E
1. Cameroon
2. Netherlands
3. Denmark
4. Japan

Group F
1. Italy
2. Paraguay
3. Slovakia
4. New Zealand

Group G
1. Brazil
2. Portugal
3. Ivory Coast
4. North Korea

Group H
1. Spain
2. Chile
3. Honduras
4. Switzerland

Mexico vs. Argentina- Winner: Mexico
England vs. Serbia- Winner: England
Germany vs. United States- Winner: Germany
Nigeria vs. France- Winner: Nigeria
Cameroon vs. Paraguay- Winner: Cameroon
Brazil vs. Chile- Winner: Brazil
Spain vs. Portugal- Winner: Spain
Italy vs. Netherlands- Winner: Italy

Mexico vs. England- Winner: England
Cameroon vs. Brazil- Winner: Brazil
Germany vs. Nigeria- Winner: Nigeria
Italy vs. Spain- Winner: Spain

Spain vs. Nigeria- Winner: Spain
Brazil vs. England- Winner: Brazil

Spain vs. Brazil- Winner: Brazil

So there you have it. That is exactly how the World Cup plays out. As bad as I wanted to pick Nigeria to make a Butler type run to the Championship, I couldn’t do it. But who knows; I certainly don’t. It could definitely happen. In one month we will know which country reigns supreme and owns the soccer world. The World will be watching, and once again, so will I.