NCAA Football Preview

 From Manziel transitioning to the NFL or the new playoff system in the FBS, the game of football has had plenty to keep everyone busy and entertained this Summer. Now with games getting under way this weekend here’s our big preview (without week 1 games in our considerations). In our college football preview this year we will cover all the FBS conferences and our predicted winners, our Heisman winner, contender and dark horse, our Division 3 champ prediction and finally our Don’t Sleep On… list.

 

[*Denotes Returning for 2014 Season]

American Conference

Last Year’s Champ: University of Central Florida (#10, 12-1)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Blake Bortles UCF, Marcus Smith LOU

Louisville exits the conference now in the ACC, as does Rutgers with their new mark as the easternmost member of the Big 10. Replacements include East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa, all coming over from Conference USA.

Dan: East Carolina. I like this conference, I really do. It’s not a front-runner conference, but it will be very exciting with these teams and where they’re at right now. They shopped around at the C-USA marketplace and came out big winners, with some of the conference’s top teams coming over. ECU QB Shane Carden was one of the top 25 in the country last season with 33 passing TDs (see our rankings), and is poised for breakout season 2.0. They have a loaded schedule at South Carolina, at Virginia Tech, and at home against North Carolina in a three-week stretch. Huge conference tests at Cincy and at home against UCF, but I think they’ll have the manpower to pull off the conference switch-a-roo championship in the American, and Carden will be the POY.

Bryce: Cincinnati. The American is a conference of halves. Half is good, half is bad. Potentially real bad. I really like how Cincy’s schedule lines up, and that’s why the win the conference…well that and their adequate talent pool. Toledo and Miami of Ohio are solid openers, and Ohio State then follows as a great test of how good they really are. Conference opener is a mediocre Memphis squad, then comes Miami of Florida. Another good test of talent game. Four weeks later we have our potential game of the year where the Bearcats play host to the Pirates of East Carolina on a Thursday night. No UCF on the schedule this year either. Cincy will sweep the Miami’s, finish with one loss to the Buckeyes, and take the second American crown. (Quick lesson. Miami University=Ohio; University of Miami=Florida. And Miami University was a school when Florida was still ruled by Spain…)

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Florida State University (#1, 14-0)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Jameis Winston FSU*, Aaron Donald PITT

Maryland’s departure was covered by Louisville marking 2014 as their first season in the ACC.

Dan: Florida State. Far and away the most talented team in this conference. Each division looks like a two-horse race, with the coastal coming down to Miami and North Carolina, and the atlantic coming to Florida State and Clemson, with the respective winners playing for the conference crown. I’m hoping for a FSU/Miami showdown in the title game, but all bets are off at that point. Jameis might be the best QB in the country, and with a plethora of weapons around him (read: speed kills), he’ll have another great year, taking the POY crown and with FSU taking the conference, and possibly a national playoff berth with it. Be sure to keep an eye on Virginia Tech as well, as it looks like they’re poised to break out of their down streak of late.

Bryce: Florida State. The Seminoles were the most complete team last year in the ACC, and things don’t change much here. I like Dan’s point to watch the Hokies; they play OSU early on in what should be a nice measurement game. I say keep on eye on the Dukies. They avoid playing FSU and Clemson in their crossover games, so consider it an extra boost to what should be a competitive season for the Devils from Durham. The ACC as a whole was stronger than the Big 10 last year, I’m curious to see how that holds up, and who takes the crown as the second best football conference.

 

Big 12 Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Baylor University (#13, 11-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Bryce Petty BAY*, Jackson Jeffcoat TEX & Jason Verrett TCU

No membership changes here, but you’d have to expect some soon. With the Big 12 only having 10 members and the conference having membership in the “Super 5” league of the FBS, the Big 12 is in prime position to start accept applications for schools to get into, what should be, the most highly coveted arena in collegiate athletics.

Dan: Baylor. Call this conference a 3 ½ team race with some high-powered offenses in the running for the crown. Those 3 ½ teams would be, in order, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and half of Texas Tech, the explosive offensive half that is (remember the first quarter of this game?). Baylor has the most talent and is the most complete team, even though Oklahoma’s defense brings them into that category as well. We’ll have to see if Trevor Knight is the QB everyone think he will be, or if last year was a fluke, unlike Bryce Petty, who will keep putting up big numbers with the Bears, as they run away with this conference, by one game.

Bryce: Baylor. Does this conference spell parity or what? There are a lot of different feelings around the conference as to who should break out this year and who was smoke and mirrors in 2013. All I know is that Baylor and Oklahoma are the only ones that stand out to me. The rest could all finish .500 and I wouldn’t be surprised a tick. Petty is the best quarterback west of the Mississippi, and he’ll turn Baylor into his team, marking over RG3’s stamp, when they make a run at the playoffs this year.

 

Big 10 Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Michigan State University (#3, 13-1)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Braxton Miller OSU*, Chris Borland WIS

No schools departed but Maryland and Rutgers come aboard in 2014. The big idea here was getting the Big 10 on the Eastern Seaboard. New Jerseyians scoffed at the idea because, “We don’t care about Rutgers football,” and Maryland’s football program has nothing to write home about in recent years. We’ll put that to bed right now because the Big 10 Network just inked a deal to get their network on New Jersey and Maryland television sets, which means money, baby.

Dan: Wisconsin. This looks like a classic homer pick, but let’s not say that so fast. No Braxton Miller means no Ohio State in the title game, or so you would think. That leaves Michigan State, who is not what they were last season, or so you would think, although they return their QB who does a little of everything for that Spartans team. I’ll take MSU coming out of the East division and Wisconsin, who has an easy schedule apart from an August 29 matchup with LSU, should be the western sponsor in Indianapolis. The Badgers toughest B1G test is a home game against Nebraska in mid-November, and they return one of the best RBs in the nation in Melvin Gordon. Watch out for Penn State to ruin some things as well in that tough east division. I guess I’m banking on the fact that anything can happen in the championship game to push Wisconsin through.

Bryce: Michigan State. As much as I do like Wisconsin, I don’t like their inconsistency, or lack of solidarity at the quarterback position. I guess the same goes for OSU. Both solid teams but they don’t have that signal caller that just shouts “Gamer” or “Winner” or “Dependable” even. Enter Connor Cook. The Stanford of the east, except they walked all over them 8 months ago. Their ability to hang with any offense they face, and force whatever offensive approach they want to use on defenses, is just rare and fun the same. Oregon September 6th will be tough test number 1…even though I’d take MSU -10. I’ll say the next big test is in the final week of the regular season when Sparty takes on Happy Valley. At Penn State, looking to close on an undefeated season, but those Nittany Lions really want their 9th win as well. Did I mention it will snow? Spartans finish undefeated but I’ll call Penn State and Oregon close calls this year.

 

Conference USA

Last Year’s Champ: Rice University (10-4)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Rakeem Cato MARSH*, Shawn Jackson TULSA

Membership changes here, but not in the right direction at all. CUSA loses Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina while only gaining Western Kentucky from the Sun Belt and Old Dominion from the FCS.

Dan: Marshall. With no big boys on the schedule, I think this team could go undefeated overall. Non-conference games include Miami (OH), Rhode Island, Ohio, and Akron, then they get into conference play, where their toughest test looks to be Middle Tennessee at home, while they also get conference champ Rice at home. Senior QB Rakeem Cato is a Heisman hopeful, and maybe the best QB in college football. He threw for 3900 yards and 39 TDs last season, leading the Herd to the 8th highest scoring offense in all of college football at 42.1 PPG. They ranked 21st in the country in passing YPG, and 23rd in rushing yards, so it isn’t just happening through the air, although their defense is sturdy as well, ranking 32nd in the country in scoring defense last year. If Cato puts up big numbers and his team goes undefeated, you’ll see him in New York, maybe with some hardware too.

Bryce: Marshall. I hate to repeat my partner, but the Thundering Herd will be the team to beat in the Conference USA, and the state of West Virginia as well. Cato is an animal. If you haven’t seen him in live action, please find a weekend this fall to do so. He’s entertainment in and out of the pocket, plus you’ll feel silly when he comes second in Heisman voting and you never saw him play…I’ll call MTSU at home one to watch, as the Blue Raiders had one heck of a running attack last season and only beat Marshall in the last seconds of what was a thrilling weeknight battle in 2013. Rice could be one to watch too, but they seem to play just as dangerous as any of the other CUSA rivals.

 

Mid America Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Bowling Green State University (12-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Jordan Lynch NIU, Khalil Mack, BUFF

No conference changes.

Dan: Bowling Green. Almost every team that was in the running last year is losing their best player, besides BG. QB Matt Johnson will be back, along with a solid receiving core. Gone from the conference are Jordan Lynch, Khalil Mack, Keith Wenning, Willie Snead IV, and Dri Archer. BG had the #5 defense in the country last season, allowing just 15.9 PPG, while putting up just under 35 on the scoreboard each week. It’ll be Bowling Green over Buffalo in the conference title game in Detroit, for a visit to Detroit for a bowl game.

Bryce: Bowling Green. Unfortunately most of the MAC’s playmakers have either graduated or gotten drafted (or both). Leaving potentially to be the most exciting part of the MAC to be the new Bahamas Bowl which pits the MAC against CUSA. Out of conference matchups with Indiana and Wisconsin should help prepare them for the mediocre MAC schedule that they will face. I see double digit wins in the Falcons future, but nothing like an undefeated season and claims for the playoff berth. Look for the west to beat up on each other and leave Toledo or Northern Illinois to battle BG in the championship game.

 

Mountain West Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Fresno State University (11-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Derek Carr FRES, Shaquil Barrett CSU

No conference changes.

Dan: Boise State. New head coach Bryan Harsin knows the Boise State way, and will have the offense clicking on all cylinders, even when breaking in a new QB, as many of the teams in the conference are doing. Front-runner Fresno State loses Derek Carr and Davante Adams, while Boise must deal with the loss of QB Joe Southwick, but returns skill players across the field. The Broncos get Colorado State, Fresno State, and San Diego State at home on the blue turf, where they’ll once again go to work winning the Mountain West.

Bryce: Boise State. Chris Peterson’s exit to Washington came at an appropriate time. While Boise State was a force to be reckoned with in the Ian Johnson Fiesta Bowl days, the luster has lacked a bit in the last couple years. This fresh start they look to embark on comes also without a huge competitor in conference. Harsin has gone and hired 4 former Boise State players from the glory days who have since turned to coaching. 3 more either come from small schools or bring a very youthful mind. Wyoming will make a bowl game this year, as will Utah State, but neither will have the gusto to top the Broncos for the east division crown. Without Derek Carr, Fresno State no longer has a real incumbent threat, but the Dogs and the Wolfpack should finish 2 and 1 respectively in the west.

 

Pacific 12 Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Stanford University (#11, 11-3)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Ka’Deem Carey ZONA, Will Sutton ASU

No conference changes.

Dan: Oregon. They have maybe the best player in the country in QB Marcus Mariota and an offense that is showing no signs of slowing down. A young defense didn’t do them any favors last season, especially against the run, but another year should do them well. They’ve got one of the best defensive players on their hands also in CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who should stand tall against some of the better offenses in the Pac-12. They’ll have their hands full in an early week 2 test at Michigan State in a battle of top-10 teams. On the road against UCLA should be a preview of the conference championship later in the season, but Oregon always seems to get tripped up somewhere along the way, this year’s possible trip-up could come against Oregon State in the Civil War during the final week of the season. Look for the Ducks to get into the national playoff with a solid 1-loss season.

Bryce: Oregon. Originally I thought of Stanford and UCLA first. Stanford lost too much of their talent to the NFL and their defensive coordinator to Vanderbilt. UCLA, a hot pick to win the conference and even the national title, just isn’t complete enough for me. They have an excellent quarterback but their O-line and run defense doesn’t look like they’ll get the job done. Oregon, with defensive issues of their own, still has speed and the defense is growing. Both older and also older. As Dan mentions, the offense doesn’t show signs of stopping. Ever hear of a player being too fast for the football team?

 

Southeastern Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Auburn University (#5, 12-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Tre Mason AUB, Michael Sam MIZZOU & CJ Mosley BAMA

No changes but the rumor mill involving North Carolina moving in is worth a check…mostly because it was never put completely to bed.

Dan: Georgia. I want to pick Ole Miss, I really do, but playing in the west, I can’t. There’s too many good teams in the west and Georgia doesn’t have to deal with nearly as many in the east. They have a relatively easy schedule, if you can say that for an SEC team, and should be much better on defense than they were last season, with the addition of former FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who will have the still-young Bulldogs ready to play each and every week. After picking them to win the national championship this year, this pick feels much better. They lose star QB Aaron Murray, who holds a ton of SEC career passing marks, but they get almost every other skill player back, whether they are returning to school or coming back from an injury. This team was riddled with bad luck and injuries and still almost won 10 games. This year should be a coming out party for the young Dawgs defense. We’ll have to see if they can get by a strong western team in the championship game, but it could be any of LSU, Auburn, Bama, or Ole Miss. I’ll go Georgia over Ole Miss in the championship game, because why not.

Bryce: Mississippi State. Dak Prescott and timing, baby. Mississippi State is not a team that can compete for SEC title’s year in and year out. But they can be scary every few years. This is one of their few years. Here’s their scheduled potential pitfalls: 9/20 LSU, 10/4 Texas A&M, 10/11 Auburn, 11/15 Alabama, and finally 11/29 the Egg Bowl with Ole Miss. I’ll call out one loss in that mix, either to LSU or Alabama, but not both. Returning 18 of 22 starters with those 4 that left signed NFL contracts (only 1 drafted). The Bulldogs will pose nice threats at defensive line and their secondary will get the job done week in and week out. Prescott will be the heart and soul of the offense, not to say they don’t have a solid core of running backs and receivers though. Watch Prescott do some athletic things, stealing the spotlight that was reserved for Braxton Miller this season.

 

Sun Belt Conference

Last Year’s Champ: University of Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4) and Arkansas State (8-5)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Antonio Andrews WKU, Xavius Boyd WKU

Additions to the conference have been a plenty, as they include FCS Southern Conference members (Appalachian State and Georgia Southern) and FBS Independents (Idaho and New Mexico State). App State and Georgia Southern won’t be in the postseason as they are in their transition year. Georgia State did that last year so they technically become full fledged members this year, too. Idaho has the proud distinction of being the only academically ineligible team in the FBS. But since you can’t suspend an entire team, they just won’t be in postseason play, as if that was truly a possibility.

Dan: Louisiana-Lafayette. I’ve got my money on this being a two-team race between ULL and Arkansas State…sound familiar? The Ragin’ Cajuns get Arkansas State at home in late October (on my birthday), and that could be the difference in this conference race. Each team faces its share of early tests, ULL against Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, and Boise State, while Arkansas State gets Tennessee, Miami (FL), and Utah State. I think each team will enter that October 21 matchup with a 4-2 record and all the marbles riding on that game. Senior QB Terrance Broadway was the highest ranked Sun Belt QB in our ranking last season, and for good reason. He’s a dual-threat guy with a big arm, and he’ll be the key to a Cajuns title run. The only other team I could see challenging for the ship would be Troy.

Bryce: Louisiana-Lafayette. A bunch of brand new additions to this conference, as mentioned above, tells us this conference is a solid split between the core and the newbies. The core is ULL, La Tech, Troy and Arkansas State. La Tech will take the back seat and let the other three duke it out for the Sun Belt, Belt. Back to Terrance Broadway and why he’s a difference maker…he hasn’t thrown for over 3,000 yards or 20 touchdowns yet in his career, but those legs of his are the difference maker. His ability to make plays happen when his lackluster O-line breaks down is Cajun’s key to success. Fun to watch, but I’d like to see some bigger numbers this year.

 

Heisman Hopefuls

@bsedio

Winner: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Contender: Leonard Fournette, LSU

Dark Horse: Rakeem Cato, Marshall

The fan in me actually has Cato as the winner, Petty the contender and Fournette as the dark horse. This because the last couple Heisman winners have been off the radar at the beginning of the year and you’re not supposed to know who Fournette is. But instead I go conservative in picking Petty as he was in contention last year, the LSU frosh as my contender because I’d be willing to bet you know Fournette has been compared to Adrian Peterson, and Cato as my dark horse because regardless how much I tweeted about him last year, you probably still don’t care he threw 39 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while logging 3916 yards. Of the 11 guys that threw for more yards last year, only Derek Carr and Jameis Winston threw more touchdowns. You know all about Petty so I’ll finish here with Fournette, letting his highlight tape do the talking.

@DKnappyBoy

Winner:Todd Gurley, UGA

Contender: Marcus Mariota, ORE

Dark Horse: Christian Hackenberg, PSU

I had the same winner & dark horse as Mr. @bsedio at first, but changed some things up and came up with my new big three. Todd Gurley will grab the award in a loaded QB field, including names like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and more. Hackenberg seems like a nice candidate because he’s the prototype QB, he plays in a good conference, and he definitely has the schedule to make some noise, with games against Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big Ten, as well as a early season matchups to put up some big passing numbers. He’ll have to make better throws to a ton of different receivers now that his favorite target Allen Robinson headed off to the League. Hackenberg will have his time in New York in the coming seasons, but he won’t win the award this year. It’s close between everyone else. I think that Gurley will have to be huge for Georgia if they want to win games in the SEC with an inexperienced QB. His running ability will open up the entire field. Mariota will have a great year once again, but with so many high-profile candidates in the same conference, he could be overshadowed in some games. I’ll go with Gurley to take home the hardware in early December

 

Don’t Sleep On……………………

Teams, coaches, players, mascots, it doesn’t matter, here’s who you should be watching for this season. Who knows, maybe you’ve heard of ‘em.

Dan: Texas Tech & Nate Sudfeld. The Red Raiders were one of the feel-good stories of the season, until about week 8, when they hit the wall and their schedule got a little tougher. They finished 8-5 in Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first year, but made strides in the right direction with the high-powered offense (remember that Baylor vs. Texas Tech 1st quarter I posted before?). QB Davis Webb is currently the only scholarship player at that position, but it won’t matter, because he was golden last year, throwing for nearly 3000 yards and 20 TDs. Kingsbury isn’t afraid of any of the big boys on their schedule, including games against every member of the Big 12, plus a non-conference game against Arkansas. This offense might score 45 PPG and win the Big 12 outright, I wouldn’t be surprised, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Nate Sudfeld is a different story, he’s a one-man wrecking crew, who will lead his Indiana Hoosiers through a tough Big Ten east schedule from the QB position. We had him ranked as the #25 QB in the country last season as a sophomore, and looking to only get better. After winning the starting job outright from a dual system mid-season last year, Indiana’s offense took off and ended up averaging almost 39 PPG and over 300 passing YPG. He ended up throwing for nearly 2500 yards and 21 TDs in a part-time job. Indiana has offensive fire power, which is how they’ll have to win games because their defense isn’t stopping anyone. Indiana will win 7 games this year and Sudfeld will be the man responsible for that. How’s a bowl game sound for the Hoosiers? Talk about a basketball school…

Bryce: Nike’s ability to disgust us, Rakeem Cato and The Bulldogs of Mississippi State. So I’ve already covered Rakeem Cato and MSU but I feel like people may not be taking me seriously. So I’ll say it again. Mississippi State will do way more damage than you can imagine. If Dak Prescott stays healthy, the sky is the limit. Rakeem Cato will win the Heisman if Marshall goes with 0 or 1 losses this season. Feasible too. He’s done nothing but fill stat sheets in Huntington. His draft stock will be fun to watch too, seeing as he’s a no brainer as a Heisman winner, but may not have been touched if he left early last year (remember Brett Smith of WYO?). On to Nike…My first bone to pick is with what they do in their backyard. Not only do I think the White/Green and Black/Yellow concepts are bizarre, but they don’t even go together. I can just see mom’s all over the Pacific Northwest walking by and thinking the Washington Huskies are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I could really go on with countless other examples of atrociousness but I’ll just finish with this: just because you can change something, doesn’t mean you should…aka change for change’s sake usually isn’t for the better.

 

Division 3 Championship:

Because they play football in the other divisions too.

Dan: Linfield over Mount Union. Linfield is #3, Mount is #2 in the pre-season poll, all chasing defending champ UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks are breaking in a new QB and lost a lot of key members of that championship team from last year, especially on defense, so we’ll rule them out of the championship conversation. Mount Union got embarrassed in the championship game by 40 points, and have a top 2 player in the country coming back to lead them to the promised land in QB Kevin Burke. Linfield plays out west and should have a relatively easy road to Salem, if they can get by a few regional home games. They should run away with the conference and show up in the playoffs with nothing but confidence. Mount had a “down” year last year and many feel that they’ll be back with a vengeance in 2014.

Bryce: Linfield over Mount Union.

 

Playoff Teams & National Champ

Dan: 1-Florida State, 2-Baylor, 3- Oregon, 4-Georgia, CHAMP-Oregon over FSU

Bryce: 1-Florida State, 2-Michigan State, 3-Oregon, 4-Mississippi State, CHAMP-Michigan State over FSU

 

The Forgotten Free Agents

So, LeBron and Carmelo signed, but we all knew that. Here’s to helping you pick up the pieces on some of the other things that happened; good, bad, and otherwise.

(This may get out of hand because this kind of stuff gets me excited, so bear with me).

 

GOOD MOVES:

Nick Young- Lakers (4 years, $21.5 million)- So the Lakers didn’t lure Carmelo to town, what better to do than get mini-Carmelo for a reasonable price? Young averaged 17.9 PPG on an awful Lakers team, but somebody had to take the shots, right? The reason I compare them is because of their shooting abilities and their love of the 3-point shot, maybe a little too much. We’re not sure exactly how much Kobe has left at age whatever he is (old), but I doubt he’s worth the $25 million per year they’re paying him. Young is a solid backup plan because if nothing else, you still have to score more points than the other team to win a game. Just over $5 million/year seems like a great deal for a guy who wanted to stay in LA, he gets buckets.

Darren Collison- Kings (3 years, $16 million)- Collison will be the de-facto starter in Sacramento because of a recent Isaiah Thomas trade to the Suns, but that’s not all bad for the Kings and their questionable roster plans. Collison is not one of those questionable moves, as he was a very, very, very, very, very reliable backup to Chris Paul with the Clippers/Scorpions last season. He is admittedly a pass-first PG, which they desperately need on that roster. He’ll be a guy who looks to pass versus their ex-PG Isaiah Thomas, who looked to score and held the ball too much every possession. The Kings didn’t want to pay starter money for Isaiah Thomas, so they didn’t. They may or may not have one of the worst front offices in the association, but this move looks to be a solid one for a guy who’s still only 26, and will finally get his chance to start.

Kent Bazemore- Hawks (2 years, $4 million)- Who??? *Looks him up* Why would you even pay a guy that averages 6 PPG?! Well because of this, he’s an athletic freak who has great size, and, wait for it………potential. After being traded from the Warriors to the Lakers at the tail end of last season, he went onto average 13 PPG, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game over the final 23 games of the year. Sure, right now he may be more known for his bench celebrations (here: LINK), but before long you’ll appreciate the raw talent of his game, both on the court, and on Twitter- he’s a funny guy. He’s 24 and in the middle of his development, which is probably good he got out of LA before Kobe ruined that too. 43/34/60 splits aren’t good at all, but like I said, this is about developing potential in a young guy, and he’ll have a great shot to in ATL, where he could even get the starting nod next season over an aging Kyle Korver, who could be just as effective off the bench. Bazemore’s 36-minute per games are pretty good looking should he ever find his role in that lineup.

Paul Pierce- Wizards (2 years, $11 million)- The Washington Wizards are a young, unproven team on the rise. If you need evidence of that, check out their playoff run this season, as many of their young guys had breakout performances, especially Bradley Beal. The best thing for a young team is veteran leadership, a guy who’s been there and done that before, and what hasn’t Paul Pierce done before? He’s been on bad team (Celtics), he’s been on great teams (Celtics), and everywhere in between, including a layover in Brooklyn last season. We talked about Kobe not having much left, but how much does the Truth have left in his legs at age old? Last year with a loaded Nets lineup, he played 28 MPG in 75 games while shooting it at 45/37/83 splits, a nice season overall coming off the bench for a playoff team; throw in 5 boards and 3 assists and you’ve got a pretty good 37 year-old dude. 28 minutes played is one thing, but can he get that number up and still be productive, especially starting as you’d think the Wizards will ask him to do. His clutch play is legen…dary, one of the best ever, and he’s still got a 15 PPG year left in him, especially with all the trailing 3’s he’ll hit next year by not being able to keep up with the younger guys.

The Miami HEAT- Let’s talk about the moves from a team who lost the biggest free agent prize of them all after LeBron went home. Not all was lost with this team after LeBron’s departure, as they still managed to make out alright with their signings, players who should help them capture the 4/5 seed in the East next season and a (fingers crossed), second-round matchup with the Cavs. I would have talked about Danny Granger, but since LeBron left, he won’t be as big of a factor, so let’s leave him out of this. Other signings included the re-signings of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, all important pieces of the puzzle in Miami, yes even Mario. The outside signings included Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, who will be immediate starters for this team. I for one love what the Heat did with their offseason, not counting the part where LeBron left, of course. Chalmers was bad/terrible/awful in the playoffs last year, but a guy who knows the Spoelstra offense and can make some 3’s is definitely important to have in this lineup. Bosh was a huge signing for the Heat, who were reeling and found some stability after losing LeBron. Bosh is an all-around player on offense, who fell in love with the three last year, but can get back to his 25 PPG self from the Toronto days, which they’ll expect him to do, and I expect of him as well. He’ll have more space to play with too. Did they overpay him? Yes, but you can’t blame them while scattering for some kind of viable basketball-playing option in the wake of The Decision 2.0 (he should have done another show, but that’s not the point). Wade will retire a member of the Heat after this 2 year deal is up, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be mildly effective in the right cases. He won’t get as many open layups, but he’ll have more opportunity to create his own shot, as he’s always been one of the best at that. I’d expect him to be jump shot-heavy this year. McRoberts will join Bosh in the frontcourt and form a formidable passing duo from those spots, and for a bargain price of 4 years/$23 million. Deng was another big signing for Pat Riley and the Miami Mafia, bringing in another scoring option. He’ll directly replace LeBron, as if anyone could do that, in the starting lineup. Deng is important because he’ll be the LeBron of the offense, kicking out to open shooters. As long as Pat Riley is working his magic, the Heat are a playoff team, and a minor Cleveland upset away from the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

 

BAD MOVES:

Jodie Meeks- Pistons (3 years, $19 million)- Yes, that’s right, Jodie Meeks will be getting paid over the next three years while playing for the Detroit Pistons. Why? Well, that’s a little harder to explain. Apparently Detroit only looked at his 15.7 PPG with the bad/awful/terrible Los Angeles Lakers last season, because someone had to take those shots. He’s a career 43/38/88 splits aren’t exactly great for someone known as a 3 point sharpshooter, but the Pistons must have seen something with the style he plays that fits in with what Coach Stan Van Gundy wants to do with that team. Last season in LA, he was asked to do a ton more on offense, and delivered to the tune of those 16 PPGs, while his first season is LA, he was a 3-point specialist, shooting over 65% of his shots from beyond the arc. He’ll be in that same 2012-13 Meeks role in Detroit, which will remain to be seen how well overpaying him pays off for one of the more talented rosters in the East.

A usually sad Ben Gordon, looking extra sad

A usually sad Ben Gordon, looking extra sad

The Orlando Magic- Channing Frye and Ben Gordon are the two that we’ll be focusing on here with the Magic, signing them both for a combined $41 million. More than anything, these guys will help round out the bench and put them over the minimum salary requirements for the salary cap. The Magic are a young, rebuilding team with many good pieces in place, including Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, which oddly enough play the same positions as these two guys they signed. Frye signed for 4 years, $32 million, which is a lot for a guy who stunk up until 3 years ago in Phoenix, mostly because he was looking at open threes all over the place. He’s 6-11 and doesn’t rebound well for a guy who’s 6-11, his splits look like Jodie Meeks at 44/29/82, but is a much more reliable defender, having the size advantage on almost everyone he comes up against. His best season was a 12.7 point, 6.7 rebound season in 2010-11 with the Suns, but he’s 4 years older now and I’m not sure those old numbers could have gotten him $8 million/year. Ben Gordon signed for 2 years, $9 million, which is good for a guy who A) hasn’t been good since his Chicago days, and B) hasn’t cared much since then either. He was benched for good after 19 games with the Bobcats last season, and hasn’t started a game in the previous two seasons. He’s a career 40% three-point shooter and the Magic think that he can be that again without someof the Chicago and Detroit pressures weighing on him. Still, $4.5 million/year could be spent other places, like guys who have played an NBA basketball game since February, which was where Gordon’s last game action came. If anything, the Magic gained guys that can, and will, bomb it from downtown after losing over half of their 3-point shooting, by attempt, from last year. Some veterans on the club could help the three young draftees the Magic picked up.

 

OTHER MOVES:

Lance Stephenson- Hornets (3 years, $27 million)- This guy turned down $8.5 million/year in Indy to take $9 million in Charlotte. We’ll have to see if it pays off, but Lance apparently does not like the stable organization that Indy offered and would rather take the extra $500,000 on a maybe up-an-coming team in Charlotte. The most interesting thing about Lance is that nobody knows just how good he can be, which made these offers very interesting from each team, all culminating around the same range. In his defense, Stephenson will have a much larger impact with the Hornets than he had with the Pacers, being option 4 or 5 with Indy, and immediately turning into option 1 or 2 in Charlotte. 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists were his numbers in Indy last season, while he’s got a line of 9, 4, and 3 for his career. You don’t usually see guys this young come into free agency, and that’s why the Lance story is such great poetry. That and he’s a international man of mystery and bafoonery also add to the fairytale. I think Lance is a great talent with a lot to bring on the court, unfortunately he gets himself into some trouble with the media and his boneheaded plays when he tries to take over the game himself. This happens all too often, so maybe MJ can teach him something about being the 2nd best basketball player of all-time. See what I did there? Also, Lance is probably the only guy in the league with an And1 sponsorship deal, just for fun. (Fact check: Isaiah Canaan of the Houston Rockets also sports the 1).

The Lance face: both the best and the worst thing to happen to your team

The Lance face: both the best and the worst thing to happen to your team

The Houston Rockets- Biggest losers this off-season could be the Rockets, not a good sign after being the 4-seed in the tough Western Conference last year. They missed out on Carmelo after he, more or less, opted back into the Knicks. They lost out on Chris Bosh, who would have been the championship piece to the puzzle, after he re-signed with the Heat on a max deal. They lost Jeremy Lin, which is probably good for them actually, and lost Chandler Parsons after they didn’t match the Mavericks offer of 3 years, $45 million, a huge price to pay for Parsons, something the Rockets just couldn’t do. They signed Trevor Ariza to take his place, but he’s old and not as athletic as Parsons. They’re the biggest losers of the off-season, and yet are a top 5 team in the Western Conference. They have the best center in the league, and the best (???) shooting guard in James Harden and are a few bench updates from cracking the top 4. Oh, throw out Omir Asik to the Pelicans after a money-clearing deal on day 1 of free agency, and you’ve got…….one of the best teams in the West? Makes sense.

 

STILL AVAILABLE:

Eric Bledsoe- He’s a restricted free agent, but the Suns have brought in a PG to maybe replace Bledsoe in Isaiah Thomas, previously of the Sacramento Kings, who they gave a 4 year, $27 million deal earlier this month. This makes Bledsoe semi-expendable, although he’s one of the best young guards in the game and led this Suns team to a near playoff berth in the West. The Suns definitely have money to spend should a team make an offer sheet to the young guard, coming into the off-season at over $32 million to spend. He currently has zero offers on the table and the Suns reportedly ‘hope and expect’ him to return without much action this off-season. Last I heard, the Milwaukee Bucks were trying to put together an offer sheet for the young guard, but that may have fallen through with the waiver claim of Kendall Marshall. I’d expect Bledsoe to be back in Phoenix next season, and for many to come. He’s not yet a max deal guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a $15-18 million contract extension is in the works in Phoenix, apparently not coming this off-season though. NBA FA Monroe Smith

Greg Monroe- Young big men are rare in the league, but Greg Monroe and his restricted free agent tag wouldn’t believe it if you told them. Around the league, there has not been much interest, only the Suns have talked about bringing him in. Maybe the league knows something we don’t and would rather have a shot at him in unrestricted free agency after next season, since it’s unclear exactly what the Pistons will do with him when that time comes. He also has zero current offers on the table and looks to be back in Detroit for another season of clogging up the lane for Josh Smith. It bring up a couple interesting questions about floor spacing, teams moving away from traditional big guys, and others, but all in all, Monroe will be back with the Pistons for the next season. After that, it’s anyone’s ballgame. Stay tuned for the summer of 2015 to see where Monroe will land.

Mo Williams- Why is he on this list? Williams is a great guy off the bench with a ton, a ton of experience on playoff teams and backing up various places around the league. 44/39/87 splits are nice for a guy off the bench, a spot starter, a career backup, whatever you want to call him. He may not be Eric Bledsoe, but he’s a solid veteran presence that a team can use to their advantage. Are you listening, Golden State?

 

There you have it, an NBA article that was a few weeks overdue, but right on time, as it turns out. It will be interesting to see what happens in each situation outlined above. Sure, it got out of hand and lengthy, but hopefully you enjoyed it enough to read to the very end.

As always,

 

@DKnappyBoy

Major League Baseball’s Second Act

Did you draw up baseball’s first half correctly?

So you had the Rangers injuring themselves to last place, the Rays contemplating trading their ace David Price, and the entire National League in a two-way tie for first? Right…

Let’s take a look back at what your NBSR staff predicted back in March, granted we still have half the year to play. First, only Brett had not the A’s winning the AL West (he had the Rangers). Jordan was the only one not picking the Tigers in the Central, as he chose the currently second place Indians. In the East we all had different division winners. The Blue Jays were the only team not chosen, currently in third and relying on that long ball for their success. Our wild card predictions in the American League were all vastly different. Tampa and Seattle are the most interesting selections coming from Brett and yours truly. As everyone know, Tampa Bay has been rumored to be looking to trade David Price…though it seems to this amateur writer that more teams have been interested in the left-hander than there have been reports the Rays will actually deal him. Either way Tampa is in position to go for, or give up on this year. The East is definitely still up for grabs, giving the fourth place team still an outside shot at a postseason run. Now the third place Mariners would be in second place in either the Central or East with their record. Their pitching staff has stepped up to the rubber, if you will, this season, and have really helped support King Felix. The problem here is that the A’s are 9 games ahead in that division and leave the M’s really needing a wild card berth as their most legitimate shot at October baseball for the first time since 2001. Again, there’s a lot of baseball left to play…

It used to be the mustache…

…now it’s the beard

Over in the National League we were dead on with the Dodgers. The Diamonbacks had a couple wild card choices whom are currently 11.5 back of the division leading Dodgers…and Giants. Dan was the only one here bright enough to pick the Giants to make the playoffs…and the Brewers to win the Central. The Brewers and Cardinals are currently tied for the division tops. The Pirates and Reds keep that division the tightest in baseball, a combined 4 games back of the lead. In the East we all went Nationals and Braves and rightfully so, as that division is most certainly a two-pony race.

So without further ado, here is @bsedio‘s MLB Power Rankings. I took into consideration team’s current records primarily, with a team’s outlook for the rest of year to break ties and close calls.

1. Oakland Athletics

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Detroit Tigers

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

5. San Francisco Giants

6. Milwaukee Brewers

7. Atlanta Braves

8. Washington Nationals

9. Baltimore Orioles

10. St. Louis Cardinals

11. Cincinnati Reds

12. Seattle Mariners

13. New York Yankees

14. Toronto Blue Jays

15. Kansas City Royals

16. Pittsburgh Pirates

17. Cleveland Indians

18. Arizona Diamondbacks

19. Miami Marlins

20. Tampa Bay Rays

21. New York Mets

22. Chicago White Sox

23. San Diego Padres

24. Minnesota Twins

25. Houston Astros

26. Boston Red Sox

27. Colorado Rockies

28. Philadelphia Phillies

29. Texas Rangers

30. Chicago Cubs

Live Blogcast #2

Here’s the new & improved NBSR blogcast. Only 36 minutes so it’s short, but sweet. We covered topics like the World Cup, NHL & NBA free agency, and of course, the Houston Astros. Stay tuned for our next blogcast and get in on the conversation on Twitter @NBSportsReport or e-mail us at Northboundsportsreport@gmail.com.

Here’s the latest blogcast:

The Las Vegas Scorpions New Threads

-@bsedio

The Blue and Red team from LA will move to Las Vegas in a few years. So NBSR is here to give you some amateurly-done logos, colors and jerseys.

The Logo: First and foremost we needed to get rid of that basketball in the former logo. I mean, are people really confused at to what sport your team plays? (Though it was tempting to put one between Scorpio’s claws right there).ScorpionLogoOutlined

So here we go with a more cartoon looking scorpion than life-like. Much more family-friendly approach. Your six year old niece won’t be terrified when she’s this critter posterized all over the arena. Yet in the same regard, a scorpion allows some edgy promo materials and advertising opportunities. The colors are Garnett and Gold. Maroon in general is a pretty undervalued color in sports. But our real goal here is to utilize the gold in the color scheme. Vegas…gold…unique to the NBA in both accounts. And we’re not talking gold/dark yellow, we’re talking metallic and flashy GOLD.

The Unis: So many different directions you can go with this one. First had the idea of keeping the Clippers script/cursive writing, just to have some cohesiveness or a little shoutout if you will. But with cursive writing comes a traditional feel, and the Vegas Scorpions will be running a more modern route. ScorpionsHome

So we went with a script-like font instead. Give it a more modern and upscale feel than cartoonish cursive. This home set is made to be simple. We want the mettalic gold to be present but not over-powering, hence the maroon piping on the back. Louis Vuitton has done a number on the interlocking LV, so why not take advantage? We highlight the side piping with it. Finally, you’ll note the big scorpion on the back. In real life the scorpion would be more faded so you don’t have that number clash you see here. We wanted something new and different here, but not “Over-Nike” it, if you will. You could do the whole jersey in repeating scorpion background print, you could dress up the backside of the shorts, you could do a number of different and ugly things. But just because you Can do something, doesn’t mean you Should. We want a new and unique look, but this is Vegas. We’re high rollers, not circus folk.ScorpionsAwayandAlt

For the sake of simplification we have the away and alternates here. These are two different jerseys, not one Mardi Gras one (see the New Orleans Hornets of past). Here you can see how simple the unis would look without the LV in the piping. You can also see a much better contrast of the number over top the logo in the back. One alternate NBSR might not mind seeing is a partnership with Louis Vuitton. We won’t get into the details of uniform licensing and what Adidas would do…rather we speculate. For that one jersey you wear on Christmas, or opening night, or whatever, you have a jersey made in Louis Vuitton print, highlighting the LV. We could see Vuitton doing a custom interlocking LV in return and opening up huge marketing opportunities on both ends.

Either way this is our first mock up, and we hope we got your creative juices flowing. If you would like to send us your own ideas or design we have a Twitter and an email.

@NBSportsReport

NorthBoundSportsReport@gmail.com

If NBSR owned the team formerly known as the Clippers

Scorpions warm up line

Some of you may think this story is a little stale at this point, so we hope this is a nice break from the mud-slinging that had been happening within this little problem. The Jason Kidd to the Bucks deal hasn’t been done yet, the draft is over, and free agency is in a few days, so here’s something to hold you over until then:

As you all know, the Los Angeles Clippers went through and will continue to go through some interesting circumstances, to say the least. Here’s what we know; Donald Sterling is a racist and can’t watch an NBA game for the rest of his life. The Clippers were sold to Steve Ballmer, of Microsoft fame, in May. Sterling said he would sue, took those words back, and then put them out there again as reports tell us he looks to fight for his ownership of the team. He has reportedly hired several private investigation firms to dig up dirt on the NBA, it’s owners, and commissioner Adam Silver. On the court, the Clippers have been one of the better teams in the West for the last 2 years, and will likely continue to be for years to come. Of course, this whole charade could throw that plan off, thanks to a few different moves they could/should make in the off-season and in years to come.

Rename:

This is kind of the cool thing to do in the NBA right now, give your team a new look, sell tons of stuff, either offend or solidify your fan base, hopefully you get it right. We’ve seen a handful of teams change their names and their logo/colors and really revamp the beauty of their organization in the last decade. Let’s set the record straight, even if this Sterling situation had not happened, the other LA team has been struggling for the better part of 30 years, having the worst winning percentage of any professional sports franchise in that time span. Another disturbing find, the two LA teams have essentially the same logos, take a look:

Clips vs Lakers logos

A name change was probably needed anyways, just to kind of restart the whole progression of the franchise, this only speeds up the process. Now that the Clippers brand is essentially tarnished, here are some options for our team, formerly known as the Clippers. How’s this look as far as a new name goes for our Los Angeles franchise:

Emperor Scorpion,  Pandinus imperator, 1 year old, in front of white background

That’s right, we’re changing the name of our NBA team to the Los Angeles Scorpions, and we’re not even close to being done yet. Sure, we could have gone with something boring and retro like everyone is reverting back to, something nautical to keep the Clippers theme, or something historical to the area, but we went off the grid with the Scorpions. We had plenty of other ideas, including the Outlaws, Miners, and so on. We could go on all day, but if you want to submit your name for our franchise, let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@NBSportsReport).

A note for the reader: from this point forward, the team previously known as the Clippers will be referred to only as the Scorpions. 

Relocate:

Maybe not as cool as changing the name of your franchise, but it usually is something that goes hand-in-hand with it. The Minneapolis Lakers are the only ones that I could think of that moved without changing their mascot, from Minnesota to Los Angeles (forgive me, that was a quick thought and I’m not old enough to remember all the movers and shakers throughout NBA history). Of course, we saw the Seattle SuperSonics move to become the Oklahoma City Thunder just about five years ago now, and now we’re seeing how well that all worked out. I’m not saying that they wouldn’t have had that success had they stayed in Seattle, but they didn’t, so we’ll never know.

We’ve got some ideas for our newly acquired NBA franchise, recently, in the section above, renamed the Scorpions.

Seattle: As you well know, new Scorpions owner Steve Ballmer has been wanting to purchase as NBA team for some time now. Unfortunately for him, and Seattle basketball fans, the Clippers were the wrong team to buy. He had been in groups that tried to buy both the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks in the past three years; reportedly with plans to move those two franchises to Seattle should he be the winning bidder. Those both fell through and now Ballmer finds himself in control of the Los Angeles Scorpions. Ballmer lives in Seattle and we know that there are fans in the area. When the Thunder left, there had been complaints of weakening fan attendance over the final few years there, which is understandable. When you know your team is going to be moved, is there any point in attending the games for a hopeless cause to keep them there? The disappointment felt by Sonics fans over those final Seattle years must be what Milwaukee Bucks fans feel like all the time, hopeless. Anyways, Ballmer could really put the entire city of LA against him in moving the Clippers, who have been in Southern California since the 70’s. He would also be foolish to lose that lucrative TV contract, which is up for renewal after the ’15-’16 season. Let’s face it, you’ll make more money from that contract in LA versus Seattle. The best thing going for Ballmer is the passionate fans in the city, and the fact that they lost their team just five short years ago.   Scorpions Vegas sign

Las Vegas: This is interesting, the possibility of a professional team in Sin City. Of all four major sports, I think the NBA would be most likely to put a team in Las Vegas, for what that’s worth. Here’s something to think about for a possible move, a privately funded arena recently had a ground-breaking ceremony in late May just off the strip in Vegas. The $350 million arena would be a state-of-the-art center perfect for professional basketball and hockey. Definitely an upgrade from the Staples Center, which they share with their rival Lakers. This would give the Scorpions their own building with a deal that they can basically write themselves, should they be willing to go in that direction. Here’s the real kicker, AEG, who owns and controls operations of the Staples Center, is also in control of this new arena in Vegas, so maybe a move there wouldn’t be as hard as we think. The Staples contract isn’t up until 2023, but with the company in control of that contract owning both buildings, it would be an easier transition rather than buying out completely of a deal to move to a new place, owned by another company. While moving to Vegas would hurt the hearts of fans in LA, it may not be the worst thing that could happen. They wouldn’t be moving halfway across the country, but just 4 hours to the East, a quick drive on highway 15. The fans would be more than willing, I assume, to make the trip for a few home games every year, plus you get to have some fun in Las Vegas, and what’s better than that? The new arena is set to be completed in 2016, just in time to write up a new TV contract for the Vegas area, time enough to break it to their fans, and then enough time to load up the semi-trucks and head East to the desert. One con of the situation is the gambling, and the NBA really doesn’t like gambling, because what professional sports league does? The NBA had their embarrassing Tim Donaghy referee betting scandal, and would like nothing more than to never revisit that conversation again. The NBA has some connections to Vegas with their summer league, and with the right things happening, they could land the Scorpions too.

Other Southern California city: San Diego and Riverside would be the best two candidates to host the Scorpions at this point, for a few different reasons. First, your fans are still there because you’re literally moving right down the road. You just don’t want to share a building with the Lakers anymore and want your own stuff, like your little brother growing up. In Riverside, you’ll keep your LA television market and your huge payday with that TV deal, while in San Diego, you get your own big market, the largest market without an NBA team in the country for that matter. San Diego was also the home of the Clippers before they moved to LA in the late 70’s, so there’s your fun fact of this article. Scorpions San Diego Clippers logo

The Scorpions have studied and takes all the pros and cons into consideration before choosing what they feel is the correct location for them…

Let’s go to Vegas.

 

Rename & Relocate:

I assume you get the idea with this one. If not, see above. This is what we’re doing with our team, since that’s the most fun and that’s what we like here at the NBSR. This is the route that we have chosen to take this time around. Please welcome your newest NBA franchise, the Las Vegas Scorpions, circa 2017.

Roster moves:

Keep everything about basketball, nothing stupid on the court to go along with what’s happening off of it. That means signing good locker room and character guys who have been around for at least a few years, while also filling some of your needs basketball-wise.

Something you don’t see every day that the Scorpions have going on this off-season is that fact that their payroll is going up after losing this year’s batch of free agents. This season, their payroll was just over $73 million, and after losing a handful of players, their payroll will be $73.6 million. Tell your friends that one. Player options this summer include Darren Collison, who was a great, and I mean great, backup PG this year especially when Chris Paul was injured, and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis, who also played well this season, shooting the highest percentage in his career (61% in the Playoffs!). I would expect both to take their option and remain with the Scorpions, in fact, I would be surprised if either ended up playing somewhere else next season. A team option will be Willie Green, who is due $1.4 million if they pick him up, which I would not expect them to do. Here’s some of what we would do with player acquisitions, who we sign, and stay away from at all costs. We’ll limit this just to free agent signings since I couldn’t tell you what they’ll do with pick #28 in a few days at the draft, or any trades they may make; only free agents.

Say no to Lance Stephenson, you don’t need any more distractions. I’ll admit, I am extremely interested in his development. He is becoming a head-scratchingly good basketball player in this league, and part of his development will be playing in the right city for the right organization on the right team. Are the Scorpions that team, maybe, but we’ll never know because I wouldn’t touch this guy with a 10-foot pole in free agency.

It’s hard for me to say this, but you don’t need LeBron. Would you probably be better with him? Of Course, but I think other things outweigh that possibility, mostly due to the fact the LeBron will stay in Miami. Now that you know you’re not getting him, you can move along with the same types of things that got you to this point, which is one of the best teams in the Western Conference, if not NBA. You don’t need to be pitching the idea of LA to the King right now, you should be all about the guys you have right now, and keeping them, while building a unified team attitude.

Here’s what you DO need:

-Small Forward, offensively minded. Matt Barnes can be uber-effective as a primary defender off the bench/spot starts but doesn’t necessarily fit with what the Scorpions do on offense. Most of what he gets on offense are steals that turn into layups or in transition. He’s fearless, but shows his weaknesses on the offensive end.

Luol Deng, Rudy Gay, Evan Turner

-Center. Because DeAndre Jordan can’t play every minute, and anyone else they put there on the roster is a liability at that spot. They lose Ryan Hollins, to free agency, and Jordan plays 35 minutes/game, which may be a few too many in the long run. Sure, he shot 67.6% in 2013-14, but that’s because over 67.6% of his shots were within 3 feet of the rim. Still has a raw low-post game. Maybe a veteran player here to teach some of these younger big men that they do have (Jordan, Griffin, Big Baby). Remember when the KG-to-LA rumors were flying around? I think Jermaine O’Neal can be a good fit because of the mess he was apart of in Indiana (Malice at the Palace), and is a veteran guy who can show these younger players the way to sustaining a pretty good career.

Jermaine O’Neal, Drew Gooden, both!

-They have more than enough bench scoring because of Jamal Crawford and the fact he could go off for 20+ any given night.

-Here’s a preview of your 2014-15 Los Angeles Scorpions lineup:

PG- Chris Paul, Darren Collison

SG- JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Reggie Bullock

SF- Luol Deng, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley

PF- Blake Griffin, Glen Davis, Drew Gooden

C- DeAndre Jordan, Jermaine O’Neal

-Contracts of the guys they signed:

Deng- 3 year, $16 million (would have been more, but was bad last year)- 5M cap hit

Gooden- 1 year, veteran’s minimum (same as he made at WASH)- 500K cap hit

O’Neal- 2 year, $4 million (same as he made at GSW)- 2M cap hit

Plus 2 others to fill out their 15-man roster- 1.5M cap hit

Total signed players = $9 million cap hit in 2014-15

-This brings their total payroll to right around $80 million for the 14-15 campaign. A team who has never paid the luxury tax before will have little to pay over the salary cap, and on paper, look to have made upgrades already.

-I’ll go ahead and send this over to future Scorpions Coach/GM/President of Basketball Operations, Doc Rivers.

 

There you have it, the rebranding efforts of the NBSR staff in association with the Las Vegas Scorpions, and the National Basketball Association.

 

@DKnappyBoy

First live Blogcast

Here’s the result of our first live event here at NBSR. Sorry that Bryce’s face is shown the entire time, we’ll work on that.

We covered topics that included the NBA Finals, draft, LeBron, Carmelo, etc. As well as MLB MVPs, apologies to Jose Altuve, and how much/little we care about soccer.

Look for another live podcast in a few weeks.

W.A.R. What is it Good For?

by @bsedio

Foreword: So I’m about 2,000 words into one of my favorite pieces I’ve put together. Over three days I had been working on a nice article for you readers on Major League Baseball’s mid-season MVP and how W.A.R. plays a role. After all, you can’t have fun and baseball statistics in the same thought if sabermetrics/advanced metrics don’t play a role.

On day three I click “save as draft” thinking I should make sure my masterpiece doesn’t get destroyed because of a freak power outage. WELL, it didn’t seem to matter, because working on a post for three days without saving or posting it must have confused the WordPress system, and as it thought, farted, and sneezed, my refreshed page now consisted of the first two sentences I wrote and, conveniently, nothing else.

I cried for about a day and a half and realized I had to restart. I’ll first and foremost apologize for the brevity of this piece, but I don’t have another 3 days to recreate that article that was lost, as we must move on. Instead you get the abridged version. And I’ll go out on a limb and bet that 15 of our 20 readers would prefer this one anyhow. Without further ado, or technical mishaps, “WAR, What is it Good For?”

War, what is it good for? Absolutely Nothin’.

W.A.R. What is it good for? Determining your MVP.

As nuiance-esque as preseason World Series predictions, NBSR is proud to bring you our mid-season MVP award winner. So here’s a run through of our staff’s pre-season predictions and other notables at this point.

@b1ders: Ryan Braun and Mike Trout

@bsedio: Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton

@DKnappyBoy: Buster Posey and Mike Trout

@biodome22: Troy Tulowitzki and Mike Trout

Honorable Mentions: Jose Altuve, Nelson Cruz, Jonathon Lucroy and Jose Abreu

JOSE ALTUVE, 2B, HOUSTON ASTROS

Noted as the only All Star representative for the Houston ball club a couple years ago, the Astros now have shown some good fight in 2014 and are moving in the dynasty direction that the front office believes to be a reality in but a few years time. He leads both leagues in hits and is third in stolen bases (behind two National Leaguers). Last year Altuve stole a career best 35 bases, and at time of writing has 26. Last year he recorded 177 hits (152 games) and currently sits at 98 (71 games and is hitting .331). On-pace to smash both those career bests in 2014, but it won’t be enough. Ichiro Suzuki hit .374, yes .374, when he set the single season hit record with 262 in 2004 (161 games played). Vlad Guerrero with a .337 average and 206 hits won the MVP; mostly because of his 39 homers. Ichiro had 8 in comparison. (Altuve’s 162 game average is 6 homers, so consider 8 actually an idea of heroism from Altuve if accomplished). Guerrero would finish the year with a 5.6 WAR and Suzuki an impressive 9.1, while both played over 140 games in right field. Either way Altuve doesn’t have the dazzling power and his 2.5 WAR won’t be enough for rights to the hardware this year, but he’s worth being mentioned.

Jose’s Quirky Stat to Note: Altuve has batted third or fourth in the lineup this year 14 times and he’s batted leadoff 42 times. His slugging percentage is higher batting leadoff and is also the slot in which he’s hit both home runs.

NELSON CRUZ, OF/DH, BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Let’s turn that page over on Altuve and look at the complete opposite. The MLB leader in homers and RBI, Cruz has 22 homers and 58 RBI through 70 games played.

Known for his power, and that one flyball he misplayed.

He’s hitting exactly his career average of .270 but his OPS and slugging are both over 100 points higher now than his career averages. Interestingly enough, Cruz is on pace to bat in about 130 runs this year which would absolutely shatter his career high of 90 in 2012. His 2.7 WAR is less sexy than his power numbers thus far, but staying healthy will probably be his biggest challenge for the remainder of the year.

Nelson’s Former Homes Stat to Note: Cruz has played for the Rangers and the Brewers before finding himself in Baltimore this year. In games played in Arlington and Milwaukee he is 9 for 23 with 4 homers and is slugging a cool 1.000.

JONATHAN LUCROY, C, MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Probably the least sexy name on the list, but you can’t deny his numbers. 2nd in average in Major League Baseball, 6th in OBP, and 9th in OPS. His 25 doubles

Lucroy with Hank. I hope this picture is on a baseball card somewhere.

in 68 games ties his totals from last year (147 games) in what was his best doubles year. Now in his 5th season, Lucroy is displaying gap-to-gap power with his RBI and home run numbers low enough to keep him under the radar for now. His WAR of 3.9 is rock solid and has to be a pleasant surprise to Brewer Nation…or is it? The past two seasons he has posted a 3.5 and 3.6 WAR. Again, rock solid by my calculations.

Jonathan’s First Pitch Stat to Note: Lucroy must like a challenge because after starting an at bat with a first pitch ball he has an OPS of .890, while a first pitch strike has lead him to an OPS of .970.

JOSE ABREU, 1B, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Strictly power numbers here from the Cuban defect. With 20 homers and 53 RBI he is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year honors.

Dunn’s protege?

He’s in the top ten in baseball in homers, RBI and slugging, all while he’s a step behind the others with only 59 games played thanks to a pit stop on the DL. Adam Dunn 2.0 is hitting .263 with an on base percentage that sits at a mediocre .320. Voters better like power numbers because his 1.6 WAR and his pure average numbers won’t help in his case.

Jose’s Air Ball Stats to Note: 24% of the time Abreu hits a fly ball, it goes over a fence in fair territory. The league average is 7%.

RYAN BRAUN, LF, MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Our second Brewer believe it or not; and @DKnappyBoy isn’t writing this either [this is where you scratch your head]. The Hebrew Hammer,

You can hate the player, not the flow.

as no one refers to him, is quite unheroic this year. Average of .279 and OPS of .822 isn’t anything to laugh at, but it’s not exactly MVP numbers. His 1.2 WAR should be enough to make this the last sentence we mention about him.

Ryan’s Spray Chart Stats to Note: Bruan would be this season’s MVP if he didn’t hit the ball up the middle. Average of .271 and OPS of .783 when going up the gut (107 at bats), and is hitting over .465 and his OPS is over 1.200 when pulling or going oppo (71 at bats).

MIKE TROUT, OF, ANGELS OF LOS ANGELES, ANAHEIM, and CALIFORNIA

The 2012 Rookie of the Year started his career in style, finishing second in MVP voting in 2012 and 2013 (Miguel Cabrera both times). This year his stolen base numbers are way down, and I blame Albert Pujols and the Angels front office…another topic for another day. Averaging a WAR of somewhere in the neighborhood of 9.5 the last two season, his 4.5 this year isn’t far off. His statline is good all over, take your pic. The OPS over 1.000, the slugging over .600, OBP over .400 and average over .300 just sounds like MVP-like numbers. Different to my assumptions, his dWAR is only .3 (2.1 in 2012 and negative last year). It’s hard not to figure though, that having those other big names in the lineup with him might be the biggest thing you can take away from him, next to his defense. In contrast Miguel Cabrera has had an unhealthy Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder in previous years. So if it comes down to those two again, and is as close as it has been, I see Cabrera getting the nod. They valued his power over Trout’s defense before, right?

Mike’s Power Outage Stat to Note: When the Angels win, Trout hits twice as many homers. That 26 career homers in losses, and 52 career dingers in wins.

MIGUEL CABRERA, CI/DH, DETROIT TIGERS

Speaking of Miggy, and his 2.4 WAR and -.1dWAR this year…2nd in RBI, hitting .320 and pounding doubles like it’s his job….

Oops

Yet nobody on the staff picked Cabrera….

Miguel’s Glove Stats to Note: Cabrera is a career .992 fielder at first, .956 at third base and .971 in the outfield.

JOSH DONALDSON, 3B, OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Originally drafted as a catcher by the Cubs, this year Donaldson is a year removed from a fourth place finish in MVP voting and second in baseball with a 4.6 WAR. On pace to sniff 30 homers and 100 RBI this season, in his fourth season of Major League action, but

How his last couple weeks have felt.

his .125 average the last two weeks isn’t helping. Up until a couple weeks ago Donaldson had everyone’s eyebrows way up (6 hits and 2 RBI last week, goose eggs the week before that). He still holds an OPS over .800 but the real noise he’s making is in the field. And with most thanks to advanced metrics (runs saved, range factors, and the likes) we now are valuing his defense more than has been done in the past. His dWAR is 2.1 (tied for first in MLB) which is super close to his 2.6 oWAR. So naturally we can say half of his value is in his glove, which probably won’t impress voters at season’s end as much as it does NBSR staff.

Josh’s Loaded Bases Stats to Note: Donaldson hits best with the bases loaded. He’s hitting .452 over his career with the bags juiced, yet only 1 career grand slam.

GIANCARLO/MIKE STANTON, RF, MIAMI MARLINS of FLORIDA

Stanton is well known for his brute strength. His ability to hit balls off of slides, window facings, and restaurants will carry with him his entire career. At 6’6″ 240 lbs, only 3 of his 20 home runs have been under 400 feet (for comparison, 10 of Nelson Cruz’s 24 have been under 400 feet, and 9 of Edwin Encarnacion’s 23). Stanton’s first year making over half a million dollars (after taxes) might also be the first year he hits over .300. Hitting .303 and slugging .585 on the year are impressive feats for someone only revered to have power…but we’re not even in July yet. His BABIP is one of the highest I’ve seen in a while, a toasty .365. Now remembered what we learned, that a BABIP is always looking to move towards the league average (.290-.303) and is a reflection of one’s batting average. Even if you include his career BABIP of .330, we should still expect to see some significant regression in the second half of the season. But for now, just try and find an NL hitting category in which he’s not near the top. And, oh yeah, his 4.5-third-best-in-the-bigs-WAR.

Giancarlo’s Early Inning Numbers to Note: Stanton’s OPS is over 1.000 and ten of his home runs have come in innings 1-3. From the 4th inning on, his OPS is south of .890 and has only 9 homers.

BUSTER POSEY, C, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Posey is in the top ten in one hitting category: sacrifice flies (6, four are tied with 7). His .280 average is nice but not great, his OPS of .761 helps that out a bit, but maybe not enough. 9 homers, 36 RBI and a measly 1.6 WAR tell the same mediocre story of what should be, a real star. His lowest WAR to date was his brutal knee injury year that was cut short and stranded him at 1.4. Next lowest was 3.9 and won him Rookie of the Year honors. So what do we do when shown abnormal numbers? Check the BABIP. Buster’s .286 BABIP tells us we should see a rise in production, but maybe not one of epic proportions; after all, his 2012 MVP campaign had him with a BABIP of .368 (.336 avg, .957 OPS).

Buster’s Unfriendly Confines Stats to Note: Posey is clearly not an AT&T Park fan. In 978 AB’s on the road and 900 at home in his career, his batting average is 42 points lower and his OPS is 125 points lower at home. On top of that he has 43 homers on the road and only 27 at AT&T Park.

TROY TULOWITZKI, SS, COLORADO ROCKIES

Last but not least, we present, the candidate who has taken advantage of where he plays more than anyone else! The highest batting average (.355), on base percentage (.445), slugging percentage (.637), OPS (1.082), and WAR (5.2) in all of baseball. Pepper in 18 homers, 45 RBI, an Offensive Win Percentage higher than Babe Ruth’s record .857 (let’s not under sell it, he’s at .870) and he’ll be a Home Run Derby captain. Troy Tulowitzki is my mid-season MVP. His numbers are across the board better than anyones.

Tulo’s response when asked if he’d consider playing for a team that didn’t play home games in air thinner than a postcard…

His dWAR is an unsexy 1.3, but I’m the only one who considers dWAR a sexy stat. Other than his .364 BABIP, the only thing holding him back from a 2014 MVP trophy at season’s end is that Rocky Mountain Bias. Yeah, you’ve heard of it. It’s where guys hit .200 points higher inside Coors Field than outside of it. Absurd you say? Well I did round down, but Tulo is hitting .460 at Coors and .252 when not a mile above sea level. That’s preposterous. Tulowitzki is my mid-season MVP, but what if he keeps up at the pace he’s at? I know we ask this question all the time; remember Chris Davis last year? “Dude, he’s on pace to hit 94 homers!” Right. So let’s just all keep our pants on, but play that hypothetical game: Does Tulo get MVP votes at season’s end if he hits .350, but by doing so hits .200 points higher in Denver? Nobody knows the answer. But if he does get the nod, would that encourage hitters to explore Colorado as their next team? Don’t you think Robbie Cano would have been interested in National League pitching, in the thinest air possible, being the most friendly environment to hit in if voters didn’t show a bias against it? And if Tulo wouldn’t get the nod, does that mean you can’t win an MVP in Denver? Would all Rockies hitters be scoffed at now and forever?

Troy’s Stat to Note: Okay, he’s hitting .460 at home. Could you hit .460 on the moon?

Coming Soon

As the Summer has been approaching the NBSR staff has been kept busy in their individual lives. Please stay tuned for articles in the near future. Featuring an MLB 1/3 Season Review, MLB ASG Coverage, what we would do if we were the new owners of the Clippers, and the best player in major league baseball.

@NBsportsreport

Derek Jeter is Overrated

In the midst of Derek Jeter’s farewell tour he is being showered with gift baskets (ironic?). I don’t have a gift basket to offer, just my two cents on his career. Let’s establish this right away, Derek Jeter was a fantastic player. He currently sits ninth in career hits with 3349 and twelfth in career runs with 1885. More importantly he leads, or is top ten, in nearly every postseason category. He is first in postseason runs scored, singles, doubles, and triples. He is fourth in October RBI’s and third in home runs. All in all these numbers helped five of his Yankee teams win the World Series. He is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. That is not in doubt, and I’m not saying he shouldn’t be. Somewhere along the way though, the legend of Derek Jeter has built him into some things he is not. He is not a good (or average) fielder, he is not the greatest shortstop of all-time, and he is not the greatest Yankee of all-time.

In recent years it seems that Jeter is not the fielder he once was. In fact he is pretty much as good now as he has been his whole career. That is because he’s just not a good fielder. People will point to his career .976 fielding percentage and say he is about as sure handed as they get. In fact this is good for the 8th best career percentage among active shortstops that qualified. Most of the names in front of him will make sense (Troy Tulowitzki, J.J. Hardy, Brendan Ryan), but there is a head scratcher up there with Jhonny Peralta. Peralta in the 4th highest spot among active shortstops gives testimony to how little this metric can matter. You would be hard pressed to find someone super excited about Jhonny’s fielding. Fortunately for us smarter minds have developed more advanced sabremetrics to compare defensive prowess. Range factor helps determine exactly what it sounds like, a players range. Among the 27 qualifying active shortstops, Jeter was dead last in this metric. A stat we hear about nowadays is WAR (wins above replacement) which can be further broken down into offensive and defensive WAR. The higher the WAR the more wins you produce for your team. Jeter’s career dWAR is no less unimpressive coming in at -9.2 wins. He actually hurt the Yankees with his defense in all but three of his seasons in the pinstripes.

Future home of a Derek Jeter plaque

As sparkling as his fielding percentage is, 5 Gold Gloves are even shinier. Jeter managed to pull off three straight (’04, ’05, ’06) before picking up two more later in his career (’09 and ’10). The GG’s for Jeter is just one of many instances where a more deserving player missed out on the award. At times the honor seems to be more of a popularity contest than a measure of fielding ability. The only year Jeter won a Gold Glove and had a positive dWAR was 2009 (1.0). All the other award years he hurt his team at shortstop. In fact, 2005 was the worst fielding year in his career yet he still won. Shortstop play was better in the National League in the mid- 2000’s, but for his first three awards Jeter was never at the top of the AL in fielding percentage, runs saved, or range factor. In 2009 and 2010 he did lead the junior circuit in fielding percentage, but was well from the top of the league in runs saved or range factor. Jeter may have 5 GG’s, but he pretty clearly did not deserve them in terms of performance in the infield, which was below average for most of his career.

Along with catcher and centerfield, shortstop is one of the most important defensive positions on the field. Therefore defense should be a big part in evaluating who the better SS is. Derek Jeter has been fortunate in the fact that his strong hitting has distracted from his dismal defense when measuring him up against all-time greats. And it’s understandable how his hitting does that. He is top five in hits, doubles, and homeruns amongst SS’s, and top ten in RBI’s. His career OPS is up there too at .826. For all his offense though it is once again his defense that keeps him from the top of the thrown. Jeter’s career WAR of 71.8 is good for just TENTH (!) among SS all-time. Ahead of him is a PED user, a “dead ball” era legend, a wizard, and a man made of iron. Alex Rodriguez, George Davis, Cal Ripken, and Honus Wagner were worth ten or more wins than Jeter. The irony is that had Jeter moved from SS with the arrival of A-rod his WAR would probably be higher because he would not have been as big of a detriment in the field. No denying he could hit with any of them, but encompassing the full position Jeter should not be considered the greatest SS of all time, and probably not in the top five.

Throughout the history of baseball there probably has not been a more hated team than the Yankees. Regardless what you think of them they have had some pretty special players. Even amongst the giants of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle many might place Jeter at the top. There is no doubt the number 2 will someday be retired by the Yankees, and a plaque of Jeter will go up in Monument Park. With that said, those four previously mentioned were better ball players and I would throw Yogi Berra ahead of him as well. While Jeter has the five championships, believe it or not that is the lowest number among these Yanks. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle all have higher WAR’s than Jeter, many doing it in thousands of less plate appearances. Jeter is outside of the top ten on Yankees lists in both slugging percentage and OPS (those four top both). Jeter leads the Yankees in hits, but his batting average is good for just seventh among on New York’s career list. While Jeter has led the Yankees over the last two decades, New York has always had an obscene amount of talent on the team. So much so in fact that in his entire career Jeter was the most valuable player on his team in just three seasons (’98, ’99, ’09). Jeter will always be New York’s favorite son. In baseball terms though fifth best Yankee is about as good as it should get for him.

“Past a diving Jeter and into centerfield” – most commonly used expression in sports.

If Jeter’s five seasons deemed worthy of a Golden Glove weren’t enough of a joke it is the fact that he is a 13-time All-Star. Every year there are going to be snubs for the Midsummer Classic, but AL shortstops during the 2011 seasons were particularly screwed. As we know fan voting can occasionally lead to undeserving players starting in the game. Jeter starting the 2011 game was a humongous joke. He had a first half slash line of .270/.330/.353 with 3 HRs (!) and 24 RBIs. By comparison the two other SS on the AL roster were Asdrubal Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta. Cabrera hit .293/.347/.489 with 14 HRs and 51 RBIs. Peralta hit .312/.362/.529 with 14 HRs and 50 RBIs. It is pretty easy to pick out who is not the All-star in that group yet somehow Jeter was set to start the game, although he ended up sitting out to rest.

Jeter was a fantastic player and did it clean in a dirty era. I respect him for that, but I for one am not that sad to see him go. Jeter was an incredible hitter, a terrible defender, and is worthy of praise. Let’s just curb the enthusiasm when the SS or Yankee “Greatest of All-Time” conversation starts.

 

 

Derek Jeter’s High School Scouting Report via the Rockies