Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New York Knicks 1st Quarter Evaluation

With Tuesday's win against Brooklyn, the Knicks have played 21 games so far--exactly 25% of the season. I picked this time to write my first opinion/analysis on my favorite team because, 1. I think a quarter of the season is a big enough sample size to judge a team, as well as the rest of the league, and 2. In the last week we've had 3 HUGE moments occur (JR's game winner, the 20 point rout of Miami w/o Carmelo, and tonight Kidd/Melo letting everyone know who runs New York).

Personally, it's hard to pick one specific game as my favorite. Both Miami games were statement wins (for different reasons), the buzzer beater in Charlotte was a thing of beauty, shutting up Brooklyn fans for the time being extremely satisfying; but if I had to chose, I'd probably go with the dark hose--the win on the road against San Antonio. It's the last time we were undefeated. That's when we proved ourselves. We put the NBA on notice, the Knicks are a contender. 

Quite frankly, I don't mind being snubbed by the media (although we are getting significant love now) or other basketball fans. Being a Knick fan hasn't been easy. Prior to 2010, fans memories are filled with bad trades, erroneous contracts, and disappointment after disappointment. The only thing more certain than having a lottery pick was trading it away in some deal for a washed-up player, well past his prime (cue Stephon Marbury). The pain of losing out on LeBron was transformed into optimism upon the arrival of Amare and a new found hate of Miami. It wasn't long before fans (including myself) got greedy for stars and essentially demanded we trade every asset for Carmelo. Turns out that trade worked out just fine. We finally got our franchise guy (because God know where'd be if Amare was the face of this team...). 

The 2010-2011 season was put on hold with the midseason acquisitions from Denver. Additionally, although much brighter, 2011-2012 expectations were also inevitably "calmed" by injuries and the quagmire that was 'Linsanity'. Only 1 win to show for the work/change during those two seasons; but I'm not complaining, two consecutive years of playoff basketball was enough to appease me.

Now I want more. I, and every other fan, suffered through the abysmal management moves. We tolerated the horrible play on the court for the promise of "Summer 2010." It took two seasons, but THIS is the real "fresh start" we were promised. Call the past two seasons a "clean-up," an experiment, call it whatever you'd like. To me, it was a tease. A tease at what playoff basketball is. Watching LeBron get his ring was enough to put me over the top. I'm hungry again.

I'd like to take the time to give credit to the organization for what it's done in preparing for this season. Retaining Mike Woodson (finally emphasizing defense), bringing in veteran/role player, and making smart financial moves.

There's no doubting that the age of this roster doesn't give off the impression of a bright future. The only young asset we have is Iman Shumpert. Our window is the next three seasons, and not just with our core; but with the entire roster. I sincerely applaud Dolan/Grunwald for letting Jeremy Lin walk. Many fans, including myself, had harsh to say regarding the offseason. 

Raymond Felton looks like the guy who was running our offense back in 2010. Jason Kidd makes up for whatever athleticism he's lost with his intellect, leadership, and clutch gene. Having that duo in our starting back court was something I never envision 6 months ago. Kidd has really aged gracefully into a SG. He's one of the best at doing exactly that, shooting; plus, he's always been one of the best rebounding guards in the league's history. Felton, coming off the "overweight" fiasco in Portland, has been playing beyond anyone's expectations. Throw in Pablo Prigioni to finish off the our trio of playermakers and it's a big improvement from the Douglas, Baron Davis, and Mike Bibby tandum we had leading our playoff team.

Aside from Jason Kidd, the most crucial signing of the offseason will turn out to be Ronnie Brewer. The news came late. We got him for a minimum deal. But the former Chicago Bull will play a key part in our further success. The one thing we've been missing is role players. Guy to play defense, rebound, do the little things. Landry Fields has been used in that role; but we all knew he never would pan out to be the solution. The Raptors saved us by grossly overpaying him to the point where we were glad to let him walk away. Bluff called, Toronto. Brewer has made the absence of Iman Shumpert's stellar defense much less noticeable. I also expect a seamless timeshare to occur when Shump returns in January. The possibility of two elite defenders on the wings gives me hope we can contain even the most prolific offensive attacks (i.e Westbrook/Durant and Wade/LeBron). 

If Mike Woodson can tinker to garner the most product out of Amare and bring him off the bench, watch out. A pretty substantial bench just got scary good. JR should be a 6th Man of the Year candidate (if not the favorite, especially with the Harden trade). He, along with Felton, have provided that secondary scoring option. Smith seems to have left his baggage beyond. Less and less have we seen the poor shot selection and imaginary defense. He's making plays/getting assists, helping out on the boards, and taking on the challenge of guarding some elite scorers. JR's bargain contract ($2.5 mill is OUTRAGEOUS) makes his contributions even more amazing. The talented scorer from his Denver days is still in effect; add on greater efficiency and a new "team first" mentality, we have a terrific leader for our 2nd unit. No discussion of the bench is complete with talking about Steve Novak. The fan favorite, undoubtedly the best shooter in the NBA, and the man who seems to shine in the brightest moments. I'll take his lack of ability on defense to see his "discount double check" celebration. Put him on the other team's decoy, let him space the floor and drill 3s, and hope he can just provide enough rebounding to validate his minutes. 

Our veteran's big haven't really needed to play many minutes due to Chandler's phenomenal performance yet again. This is quite beneficial seeing as Marcus Camby seems to be suffering still from his nagging injury and Kurt Thomas is simply nothing more than a 8-10 minute guy. Once Camby is healthy (let's let him take all the time he needs as long as he's ready for the stretch run) we'll be able to give Tyson more rest and add a true big man to our 2nd unit. Camby offers little to nothing on offense; but rebounds and defends with all his heart. I just hope Rasheed 'Ball Don't Lie' Wallace stays in good graces with the officials and can provide some veteran bench minutes. If nothing else, he stretches the floor as defenders MUST honor his 3-point shot. The reason he wanted another shot in to play was because he felt his ability to defend opposing big men (specifically young ones), and subsequently post them up (aka "school" them) warranted a roster spot. He's been playing BIG minutes and even taking over at "center" when we go with an all-bench lineup. 

James White and Chris Copeland, in some order, will take their places on the bench in street clothes once the Knicks return to full health. At some point, the inevitable nagging injuries will probably lead to one or both of them being called upon to man the bench and be ready for garbage minutes. Until then, I'm ALL for giving them as many minutes as we can spare--rest our aging rotational players, prevent injuries, and see what we got in to journeymen. Like I've stated, our only young asset is Shumpert. I doubt either White or Cope become anything substantial, not even guys who could crack our rotation; but I like the confidence James White displayed in the Miami game (when it wasn't completely over). We know he's a high-flyer; but I enjoyed seeing his jump shot, passing, and most of all "ability" to guard LeBron (not to any degree of success, just enough "skill" to man him up and be a body in front of him). Copeland had one game where he played 10 minutes of very impressive basketball. I always like having the "big man project" (i.e. Anthony Randolph, Jerome Jordan, Josh Harrelson) because you never know when one of them can turn into a version of Portland's J.J Hickson (a guy I'd love on our team). With salary not being a concern, why not keep them on the roster. Maybe give these guys time in the D-League to keep their competitive level up. We don't have 2nd round picks in the next few drafts (used as "throw ins" for our multiple sign & trade deals) and Denver owns our 2015 1st rounder, so getting a player (even rotational) through the draft will be difficult. We do finally have a first round pick this year (which will hopefully be towards the latter portion of the draft) and maybe we can strike gold again and find another Iman Shumpert prospect. From what I've seen in Mock Drafts, experts have us taking a PG. It makes sense since that's a position where a lot of teams have been locking up their guys. Honestly, I'd put my faith into Grunwald and hope he goes with "best available." Find some value. Not someone who's going to be overseas for 3 years or that we'll cut before the preseason. I want to add some youth. Many of our role players are signed to 1-year deals, and even our core has a 3 year expiration date. It will be interesting to see our mentality when the books clear in 2015. We also have our 2015 1st rounder, as well as one in 2016 so we should be able to use those to find guys to develop into "7th or 8th men." Don't get me wrong, if a trade offer comes along requiring the inclusion of 1 of these picks, I'll pull the trigger. Maybe the salary space from Stat will be used to add a big name FA for a run in 2015-2016 (I'm assuming we re-sign Melo, to make him a Knick for life). Bill Simmons made a mention to this in an episode of the B.S Report, how NBA contracts in the $10-$12 mill per year range (i.e these 4yr $40-$48 mill deals) are the downfall of NBA teams. Max contracts, combined with role players in the $5 mill range, and cheap veterans/young guys is the formula to win--the formula Grunwald has implemented. 

Finally, Carmelo Anthony is an MVP candidate. No one EVER doubted he was a top scorer in this league; but now he's doing the little things. Melo is playing defense, diving into the stands for loose balls, and most learning from Mike Woodson about how to be a team player. He even embraced playing down low, something I hope continues even when Amare returns. As long as we keeps playing (on both sides of the ball) at his current level, we have a shot against any team.

Monday, December 10, 2012

All-USC NBA Team

G: Gus Williams
G: Bill Sharman
G: Paul Westphal
F: Cliff T. Robinson
F/C: John Block

6th Man: O.J Mayo
Glue Guy: Brian Scalabrine

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NBA Eastern Conference Over/Under Wins Total

Atlanta Hawks

Addition by subtraction. They made big headlines dealing Joe Johnson (and his atrocious contract) to Brooklyn. With a healthy Al Horford, and Josh Smith playing for a new contract, I think this team does even better than last season. The loss of Marvin Williams is of no concern, and at worst is an even swap since they got a serviceable Devin Harris in the deal to manage the point alongside Jeff Teague. Danny Ferry deserves a lot of credit for the work he's done this offseason--STEALING Kyle Korver from Chicago and finding a hidden gem in Anthony Morrow. Quite frankly, I think Atlanta's rotation at SG will prove to be statistically more productive than Joe Johnson, for a fraction of the cost. I think this team goes way over and could realistically finish as the 3 seed. They're in the same group as Brooklyn, New York, and Indiana.

Pick: Over (LOCK)

Boston Celtics- o/u 50.5 Wins

Getting a healthy Jeff Green back. Adding Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. Drafting Jared Sullinger. Plus a half-decent Darko. The only loss? Ray Allen to Miami. Honestly, Jason Terry > Ray Allen. Plain and simple. KG and Pierce will play less minutes; but the depth on their bench will help keep the vets healthy. This team's MVP is Rondo. It's his team, no questions about it. The one hole is a back up PG, a position Doc Rivers has said will be filled by a committee of capable ball handling SGs. 51-31 I'd go way higher if it wasn't for the fact that Boston will probably be able to rest guys often and secure the #2 seed fairly early. What draws me to the over is that in the likely scenario that another team emerges from the 2nd tier to battle them for the second seed, Boston will have to go all-out down the stretch. In that case, along with the "Ray Allen extra motivation factor" which will give them a few extra wins that they probably don't deserve, the number creeps up to 54. This is the first of my 3 jinxes. I pray this goes under, in the hopes New York makes a play for the division title and a top 4 seed.

Pick: Over

Brooklyn Nets- o/u 44.5 Wins (-130 on the over)

The big move to Brooklyn is finally complete. We saw the fancy new arena and "classy" jersey styles. After acquiring Joe Johnson and resigning Derron Williams, this team really does look like a fantasy team. The biggest issue with this team will be can they stop anybody? Where is the defense going to come from. Brook Lopez is not a force down low. I suppose Gerald Wallace is still an elite defender, but that's about it. As seen by the -130 juice, clearly the public is betting the over. Quite frankly, I think the new city, new arena, new owner, new jerseys, new fan base will all factor together to give Brooklyn a few extra wins. I put this team at around 45 wins though, so it's a close call (and if the public keeps it up we could see this increase to upwards of 45).

Pick: Over

Charlotte Bobcats- o/u 19.5 Wins

In all honestly, I think 19 wins is the exact number. This is a BAD team. They'll be in the hunt for the #1 pick again this season. The only way you could get me to watch the Bobcats play in person is if you promise me a seat next to MJ. Charlotte will somehow manage 12-18 wins, no more.

Pick: Under

Chicago Bulls- o/u 48 Wins

WAY too high. No D.Rose until when? January? February? That's the biggest question mark going into this NBA season. Plus the front office completely destroyed the "bench mob" which will make filling in for Rose even harder. I think they sneak into the playoffs and once they get healthy, no one is going to want to see them in the first round.

Pick: Under (LOCK)

Cleveland Cavaliers- o/u 31.5 Wins

I think Kyrie will be an MVP candidate this season. Unfortunately, I really dislike the selection of Dion Waiters. This team will go as far as Irving can take them. Maybe Varejo can help teach Tristan Thompson mature into what scouts though he could be.

Pick: Over

Detroit Pistons- o/u 32.5 Wins

I think this team gets upwards of 35 wins. I'm a big fan of their young nucleus. They were almost a .500 team in the 2nd half of last season. Detroit only needs to improve by 2 games from last season's pace to get over this total, I definitely think they've gotten at least "2 wins" better.

Pick: Over (LOCK)

Indiana Pacers- o/u 50.5 Wins (-130 on the over)

I don't think this team is as good as last year. I think they get to 45-50 wins. Indiana doesn't have a real superstar. Just look at the Atlanta Hawks (who traded away a max. player), they have TWO players better than ANYONE on the Pacers roster.

Pick: Under

Miami Heat- o/u 61.5 Wins

Injuries could obviously derail this number. Another issue could be if they decide to "cruise" through the season (a la San Antonio) and take nights off, knowing they can shift gears in the playoffs. With all that being said, I think this goes over easily. LeBron is embracing playing power forward and Erik Spoelstra is vehement about this "position-less" basketball. It's scary to imagine the possibilities after adding Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen--2 DEADLY shooters. Throw in a healthy Wade, 65-17 is my guess. You can't predict injuries, and to hit 62-20 you can't have any significant injuries--that's the only thing preventing them from being one of my "locks." As a Knick fan, this is also (hopefully) a jinx. I'd gladly take the hit to my wallet if it means seeing this team fall apart.

Pick: Over

Milwaukee Bucks- o/u 37.5 Wins

I think Ilyasova is a stud. Resigning him was one of the most underrated "moves" of the offseason. 5 years, $40 million? Compare that to Amare Stoudemaire... Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are electric, fun to watch guards; but their lack of defense will be the downfall of this team being anything but average. They have about $20 million coming off the books this summer, not counting Jennings and Ellis who are also in contract years, so it looks like they're rebuilding around Ilyasova and a young group consisting of Tobias Harris, John Henson, and Doron Lamb. I watched Tobias A LOT every since he was a Long Island prodigy from Half Hollow Hills. His size and skills allow him to shift between SF/PF, making him an ideal tweener to play alongside Ilyasova and Henson. Personally, I think they should've drafted Tyler Zeller, a bigger body who can play the center position in a fairly "small" Eastern Conference. I can't really see them attracting big name players, despite their cap room, and wouldn't reccommend giving big money to Jennings or Ellis. Things will get worse before they get better in Milwaukee. I think 37 is the perfect number.

P.S This will be the most I/anyone else writes about Milwaukee until 2013 Mock Drafts start springing up.

Pick: Under

New York Knicks- o/u 46.5 Wins (**DROPPED to 45.5 Wins**)

Can I be unbiased here? To start off, anything less than an ECF appearance will be unacceptable to Dolan and Knicks fans alike. To be honest, I was quite disappointed when we let Lin walk. For a team that's had NO issue throwing around money to guys like Jerome James and Eddy Curry, how do you let Lin walk when you can have him for $5 million a season for the next two years. Worry about the back end of the contract in 2015--when you can use him as a trade chip (or better yet, dangle him to LA for CP3 at the deadline this year) or waive him to spread out the cap hit and avoid luxury tax penalties. Larry Coon did a wonderful job outlining the options back in July. But this rant is better suited for another piece. Now I think Amare's injury will really give us a look at how this team could play with him out of the starting lineup. Throw Carmelo at the 4 against smaller lineups, and Thomas or Camby in there versus bigger teams. I think the starting 5, when at full strength, should be: Felton-Shumpert-Brewer-Melo-Chandler. With J.R Smith as the 6th man, Kidd splitting time at PG, and Amare coming in with the second unit. But bench a guy on a max contract? I guess that's why they pay Mike Woodson the big bucks to make decisions like this. Given the injuries (Shumpert out until January, Amare and Brewer out to start the season) and the unprecedented age of this team, I'll put my fandom aside and be object in saying: under. Not by much though. Like mentioned earlier, I put them in the 2nd tier- Brooklyn, Atlanta, Indiana group. That gives the ability to finish anywhere from 3rd to 6th in the East (and means they will most likely have a 1st round matchup with one of those 3 teams). At worst, a slight improvement in seeding over last year. Everything has to go right for this team to reach 50 wins; and a record that's closer to .500 is more likely. This is another instance where I'd happily trade lossing the money for being wrong on this pick. Again, I'm going for the jinx. 45-37.

Side Note (for Knick fans): If you happen to find a $5 bill on the floor I recommend wagering it on the Knicks at +5000 to win the NBA Championship. Why? For the hell of it. I can't even begin to imagine how gratifying it would be to call the Knicks NBA Champions; but the only thing that could make it better would be realizing I won $250 all because I blindly threw down $5 back in October. Now you'll already have the money set aside to preorder that iPhone 6 coming out in September 2013.

Pick: Under 

Orlando Magic- o/u 24.5 Wins

At first glance, it seems a little high. Obviously we all know about the Dwight saga; but what's astonishing is how they didn't get back Gasol or Bynum or even Houston's plethora of picks and young assets. Instead they come away with a trio of rotation/average players. Makes no sense.  I even think the Ryan Anderson for Gustavo Ayon is a poor tradeoff. I think they're tanking, BIG time. Any potential impacts guys left on this roster will be dealt to strengthen their fight for the #1 pick. Jameer Nelson is going to be the only guy left, a pretty good player; but he just got paid--Any incentive left to perform? Frankly, it doesn't even matter what he does. Orlando is going to be selling its fans on the 2013 draft (not the best draft class to be tanking for). I think their the worst team in the East. Anywhere from 21-26 wins is where I see this team finishing. For whatever reason, I think their recent trend to screw everything up will continue as the finish towards the bottoms of the standings, rather than right at the bottom. Slightly hurting their lottery odds in the process. The possibility that Glen Davis can have a breakout season makes me less inclined to make the under here a "lock." In fact, I almost talked myself into the over by re-reading the last couple sentences I wrote. I better end this now.

Pick: Under 

Philadelphia 76ers- o/u 47 Wins

35-47. I could make a case for that to be Philly's 2012-2013 record. The losses of Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks will be greater than everyone thinks. I don't like the addition of Nick Young, who  really just chucks up 3 pointers at a high enough frequency that he's now considered a "scorer" and really doesn't much defense. Speaking of defense, 76ers fans are going to miss Iguadola. I loved his game. The front office HAD to do this trade as soon as they got the call saying they could get Andrew Bynum. But Bynum is already dealing with injuries and seems out of shape. Combine that with his history of missing CHUNKS of games at a time and blatant immaturity, I don't see this team gelling with a nucleus of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. The advanced statistics back me up on that notion. They have the best center in the Eastern Conference, but I think they finish 4th in the Atlantic Division and sneak out the 6 seed. I'll make it easy: 42-42, a .500 team (assuming Bynum plays 70 games, if he plays 60 I go back to my 35 wins pick). Let this sit in for a while: this is Andrew Bynum's team...

Pick: Under

Toronto Raptors- o/u 33 Wins (-125 on the over) (**UP TO 33.5 WINS**)

There's good reason why this is seeing some action (as noted by the -125 juice). I'm a fan of this over. Interesting team, headed in the right direction.The Atlantic Division is going to make for some GREAT basketball. Losing out Nash (the hometown guy) gives this team a little big of extra motivation in my mind. I think Lowry is better than Nash is. That young, versatile front-line is going to create tough matchups for most teams. Demar Derozen is fun to watch. The Landry Field signings was purely out of spite/a blockade to New York trading for Nash. It backfired in their face that they came away without Nash and their stuck overpaying Fields. But as a Knick fan, I can attest to how scrappy this kid plays. His offensive game has been hard to watch at times; but he's an outstanding rebounder for a wing player (up their with LeBron in that realm) and has a high basketball IQ. 37-45--I think they have a shot at catching Philadelphia for the 4th spot in the Atlantic (meaning they could sneak into the playoffs).

Side Note: Ed Davis over Greg Monroe will haunt this team.

Pick: Over (LOCK)

Washington Wizards- o/u 28.5 Wins

This opened in the 32-33 win range (congrats to anyone who got the under on that total). After the recent injuries to John Wall and Nene, also known as the 2 most important players on this roster, it correctly dropped by a few wins. I don't think this team fits well together. I like the collection of young talent and think highly of Bradley Beal; but John Wall has regressed in my eyes and Ariza/Okafor are a waste of space. Not much to say about this team going forward. It looks like an ugly season is on the horizon for Wizards fans.

Pick: Under

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fantasy Football Sleep & Busts


QB- Carson Palmer
RB- Ryan Williams
WR- Justin Blackmon
TE- Jared Cook


QB- Peyton Manning
RB- Frank Gore
WR- Brandon Lloyd
TE- Jason Witten

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hornets Close To Deal For Robin Lopez

The Hornets appear to be close to a sign & trade for Robin Lopez. This deal would be completed as a 3 team trade, also including Phoenix and Minnesota. New Orleans will also acquire Hakim Warrick in the deal from the Suns. Minnesota will send Wes Johnson and first round pick to Phoenix.

For now, the Timberwolves do not seem to be acquiring any players or gaining any future picks; but this trade would clear cap space for Minnesota (the current favorite to land Andrei Kirilenko).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ranking the Western Conference

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions: Perry Jones (draft), Hasheem Thabeet

Key Losses: NONE

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Key Additions: Steve Nash (s&t), Antwan Jamison (FA)

Key Losses: Ramon Sessions (FA)

3. San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions: Boris Diaw (re-signed), Danny Green (re-signed)

Key Losses: NONE

4. Los Angeles Clippers

Key Additions: Jamal Crawford (FA), Lamar Odom (trade)

Key Losses: Mo Williams (trade), Nick Young (FA), Reggie Evans (trade)

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Key Additions: Jerryd Bayless (FA)

Key Losses: O.J Mayo (FA)

6. Denver Nuggets

Key Additions: Anthony Randolph

Key Losses:

7. Utah Jazz

Key Additions: Mo Williams (trade), Marvin Williams (trade)

Key Losses: Devin Harris (trade)

8. Dallas Mavericks

Key Additions: Chris Kaman (FA), Darren Collision (trade), O.J Mayo (FA), Elton Brand (amnesty bid)

Key Losses: Brendan Haywood (amnesty), Jason Kidd (FA), Jason Terry (FA)

9. Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Additions: Chase Budinger (trade)

Key Losses: Michael Beasley (FA), Darko Millicic (amnesty)

15. Phoenix Suns

Key Additions: Goran Dragic (FA), Kendall Marshall (draft), Michael Beasley (FA), Luis Scola (amnesty bid)

Key Losses: Steve Nash (s&t)

16. Houston Rockets

Key Additions: Jeremy Lin (RFA), Jeremy Lamb (draft), Royce White (draft), Terrence Jones (draft), Jonas

Key Losses: Luis Scola (amnesty), Samuel Dalembert (trade), Kyle Lowry (trade), Goran Dragic (trade), Chase Budinger (trade)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Knicks Obtain Camby in Sign & Trade Deal

"Camby's contract will be for $13.2 million over three years. The Rockets will receive guard Toney Douglas , center Jerome Jordan , forward Josh Harrellson and second-round picks in 2014 and 2015, according to a league source."

I'll be honest, when I first saw "$13.2 million" I was shocked (even spread out over the three years). But an average salary of $4.4 million per season is actually good value for what Camby brings to the table. His rebounding, defense, and veteran leadership will surpass any value Josh Harrelson, Toney Douglas, and Jerome Jordan would've provided this season combined. Those two 2nd rounders were "sweetners" and the only real incentive for Houston to play ball; but despite their low superficial value, I think those two picks (and the "cash" which is really just New York having to pay all of Toney Douglas' salary) was the point where New York overpaid for Marcus Camby.

Regardless, Camby adds depth to the Knick's frontcourt and will primarily serve as Tyson Chandler's backup (an upgrade over Jared Jeffries). I wouldn't mind bringing back Jeffries for the veteran's minimum to serve as our 3rd big; but the front office needs to shift their focus onto finding a 3rd string PG and wing players who can fill out the roster and who are committed on the defensive side of the ball.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Best Bargains and Worst Contracts In Sports

Every sports fan has heard of Eddy Curry's contract that was signed back in 2005, $60 million over six-years with the New York Knicks, and thankfully it has come to an end. We are using the term "contract" very loosely here, by definition it requires "both sides for receive consideration." Curry only appeared in 222 of a possible 492 games and never appeared in the playoffs. Additionally, his contributions during his two best seasons in New York only helped produce 0.6 for the team (according to advanced statistics) and the final three seasons he's managed to produce minus 3.9 wins. So this agreement should be more accurately called a gift: the Knicks "donating" to Eddy Curry, which have now ended. It's time we examine other humorously ridiculous contracts. Which contract in sports rivals Eddy Curry's in comedic value?

Upon investigation, Barry Zito is clearly baseball's version of Eddy Curry: a parasite that keeps on sucking dollars out of its host's pockets. Giants fans are feeling the same frustration, anger, and pure disgust that Knicks fans felt for six seasons. Zito has a contract that similarly seems to never die. At least Knicks fan have rid themselves of Curry and his massive price tag; finally enjoying success and players living up to their contracts (so far). Unlike Curry, Zito is still milking millions from his team, owed $46 million over the next two seasons and even a potential 2014 option that could vest*. The total contract signed back in 2006 is valued at $126 million over seven years. It would be a stretch to call Zito's performance over that stretch average. An under .500 record and ERA** approaching 5 are numbers worthy of being released or sent down to the minors in most cases. Somehow San Francisco managed to win a championship despite their handicap, of course their highest paid player was not a member of the World Series roster.

It's hard to have a contract as catastrophic as Eddy Curry's in the NHL, simply because their salary cap system does not allow it. In simple terms, each year the NHL establishes a salary cap and a salary floor, the floor being approximately $16 million the cap. More importantly, no one player's annual salary can exceed 20% of that year's assigned salary cap. Despite these restrictions, the Tampa Bay Lighting did everything in their power to try and top the Knick's in terms of myopathy. The team signed Vincent Lecavalier to an eleven-year, $85 million contract back in July of 2008. That's an average salary of almost $8 million a season, a figure that is by no means as mind-boggling as others mentioned in this article; but within the context of the NHL, is equally absurd. The contract was front-loaded*** so the first three seasons Lecavalier has been earning $10 million annually. He was the highest paid player in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, and this year is only topped by Brad Richards ($12 million from the Rangers). To give a sense of just how high this amount was, let's see the highest theoretical amount a player could earn under the NHL's salary cap rules: 09-10: $11.36 million, 10-11: $11.88 million, 11-12: $12.86 million. So Lecavalier was essentially given a "max contract". This is term commonly used in NBA free agency; but only when discussing the contracts of the league's elite players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Vincent Lecavalier's production has been far from elite. In fact, last season, he finished tied 49th among NHL players in goals scored and 71st in total points-- not the type of production you expect from the league's highest paid player, in only the second year of an ELEVEN year deal.

I didn't consider any player still on a rookie contract for this list. Of course Jeremy Lin would be the easy choice making around $700k; but I found a more intriguing example after analysis of free agent deals and extensions. Kyle Lowry is by far the best bargain in the NBA today. During a time where max contracts are being handed out by the bunches, Lowry's deal with the Rockets only pays him $5.75 million this season. He is putting up gaudy numbers in the first half of the season: 15.6 ppg, 7.6 apg, 5.3 rpg, to go along with 2 steals and 2 threes. Based on these numbers, any fan will agree that not only is he the biggest steal in the league, but it's outrageous that he isn't playing in the All-Star game this weekend. Lowry does everything a point guard should do, plus more, for this Rockets ball club. When they've need him to score, he lights it up: 32 points (7-8 from 3 point range) against the Jazz just last weekend; or dish out 18 assist and only score 2 points (both on free-throws) like we saw back on New Year's Eve, when they need him to distribute. On top of all the counting stats and eye-popping numbers, a lot of his value doesn't show up in the box score: leadership, poise, and the toughness he shows taking numerous charges despite his size and position on the court. Before the 2010 season Kyle Lowry was a restricted free agent. Lost in the drama of LeBron's "Decision" and formation of Miami's Big 3, the Rockets matched Cleveland's 4 year $23 million offer sheet, retaining his services. Clearly we see why Daryl Morey was eager to keep this dynamic player-maker. 

Claude Giroux is the complete opposite of 


**ERA- Earned Run Average


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lin-sanely Deep

With Baron Davis' anticipated return, the singing of J.R Smith, and emergence of Jeremy Lin; the Knicks have a plethora of capable guards on their roster. The backcourt is becoming pretty crowded, and allocating minutes between guys is gonna be a tough call for Mike D'Antoni. Obviously Jeremy Lin has more than earned the starting point guard job and can be penciled in for 35+ minutes a night (excluding blowouts).

The shooting guard position has been the question mark the last two seasons but Landry Fields has become the regular starter due to his versatility and he should keep that spot after the recent relationship he developed with Jeremy Lin.

J.R Smith made his debut today and almost overtook Lin as the Garden favorite. Knocking down threes, pumping up the crowd, and running the floor, Smith is going to provide the athleticism and bench scoring Mike D'Antoni's squad really needs. It may seem like a good idea to insert him into the starting shooting guard spot because of Fields' recent erratic play, but Smith has been a Six Man of the Year candidate during his days in Denver and should thrive in that role (provided he plays substantial minutes off the bench).

Iman Shumpert seems to be the guy who will see the biggest decrease in playing time. Before Lin, Shumpert was the starter and by default getting big minutes. Even with Douglas kept in the dog-house, Shumpert will be the 4th option at guard. The one thing that will guarantee big minutes for Shumpert is his outstanding defense. He will likely come off the bench as a combo guard, throw him in there along side Lin or even have him play some point.

Bill Walker played some huge minutes and knocked down big shots for this team during the recent winning streak. Today he was a late scratch that allowed for the Knicks to activate J.R Smith; and we all saw how that turned out today. Smith will probably take the minutes and shots that Walker has recently had, which puts Walker into a reserve role; not quite Toney Douglas status, but close to it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011 NFL: Surprises & Disappointments

As Wild Card Weekend comes to a close, I decided to recap the major story lines of the 2011 NFL season. It was a year filled with uncertainty, due to the lockout; but once the games got underway we were surrounded by huge surprises and major disappointments.

Out of the 12 teams that earned playoff spots, the three biggest surprises would have to be the Bengals, Broncos, and 49ers.

Although Cincinnati got eliminated in the first round, they far out produced anyone's expectations. Rookie Duo Andy Dalton and A.J Green, along with young pieces like Jermaine Gresham and Jerome Simpson, give the Bengals a bright future in the passing game. Cedric Benson is an unrestricted free agent and it's unclear, due to all his legal troubles, if they will look to resign him. Regardless, backup RB Bernard Scott still has one more season on his rookie contract and will see an increased workload in 2012.

Tim Tebow. He took over for Kyle Orton and ended up sending Denver to the playoffs as AFC West champs. Tonight he made a phenomenal throw in overtime to knockoff the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow and the Broncos head to Foxborrow to take on the Patriots next weekend, looking more different results than their first meeting.

Maybe Alex Smith finally found an offensive coordinator who he can develop a multi-year relationship with. One of the best defenses in the league is augmented by Frank Gore and San Francisco's run game. Alex Smith hasn't been asked to create much offense or be the focal point, which has evidently made him comfortable.

Now we look at a couple of teams who were expected to still be playing football well into January: the Eagles, Jets, and Chargers.

Being eliminated in Week 16 is not what Vince Young predicted when he called Philly the "Dream Team." This team did not meet their expectations by any stretch of the imagination; but the team has decided to retain Andy Reid as head coach and hope for a better showing in 2012. Hopefully DeSean Jackson's contract situation is resolved so he and Jeremy Maclin can return to being one of the most dominant pair of receivers in the entire league. LeSean McCoy was easily the best running back in the NFC this season. If Vick can stay healthy for an entire season, this offense will break records at a scary rate next season. The pieces are there on defense; a stronger commitment from some of their role players, as well as some additions through the draft should make Philly a scary force once again on both sides of the ball.