Thursday, May 16, 2013

Memphis Grizzlies advance to the Western Conference Finals

     If you had told me at the beginning of the 2012-13 NBA Season that the Memphis Grizzlies would make it to the Western Conference Finals, I would have called you crazy. Well it looks like I am the crazy one as the Grizzlies beat the top seed Oklahoma City Thunder last night to advance to their first Conference Finals appearance in franchise history.
            On January 30th, the Grizzlies put themselves in a deep hole when they traded their leading scorer F Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors as a part of a three-team deal. The Grizzlies did acquire F Tayshaun Prince in the deal, a guy who has a lot of championship experience but trading their leading scorer was a shocker to the basketball community. The Grizzlies thrived all season long on their defense. The Grizzlies would go on to lead the league in opponent points per game at just over 89 per game. C Marc Gasol became the first European to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, averaging under 8 boards and 1.74 blocks per game and G Tony Allen made the NBA All Defensive First Team and G Mike Conley and Gasol made the Defensive Second Team.
            The Memphis Grizzlies do not have a dominant player as any one of their starters can be the leading scorer in any game. They don’t have a flashy player and do not play a style of basketball that will get you out of your seats. They love to play physical and like to slow the game down and feed the ball to their big men.
            The Grizzlies entered the playoffs as the #5 seed and opened the playoffs against the #4 Los Angeles Clippers, a team who had just won their first division title in franchise history. The Grizzlies got themselves in a hole as they dropped the first two games in LA before winning the next four and advancing to the Semifinals against #1 seed Thunder. A big part of the Grizzlies success against the Thunder was their ability to shut down F Kevin Durant, perhaps the best shooter in the NBA.
            After advancing to their first Conference Finals in team history, the Grizzlies are looking to extend their best season in franchise history and will now get some much-needed rest as they await the winner of the San Antonio Spurs/ Golden State Warriors series. 

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Monday, May 13, 2013

My storylines after the first five weeks of the 2013 MLB Season

         It has been just a little over a month since the 2013 MLB season started and there have been several storylines thus far. Here are the ones that stood out to me:
Justin Upton’s numbers are not as good as they seem.
 After the first month of the season, lots of baseball fans think that Atlanta Braves OF Justin Upton would win the NL MVP if the season were to end today. Yes, Upton had a great first month of the season with his major league leading 12 home runs, but he doesn’t have the numbers to win the MVP right now. Of his 12 home runs, only one has been with a runner on base. Yes that it is not is fault but Upton only has 21 RBIs right now. Upton is batting .178 with runners on base this season and .190 with runners in scoring position.  Upton has almost twice as many strikeouts, 41, than RBIs. His .269 batting average this season is close to his career .278 average and if Upton wants to become an MVP recipient, he will have to lower his strikeouts and improve his average with runners on. By the way, Upton returns to face his old team the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight in Phoenix.
Miguel Cabrera can accomplish the AL Triple Crown for a second straight year.
 During his 2012 AL MVP season, Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera became the first AL player to hit for the Triple Crown since Boston Red Sox LF Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. After watching him accomplish it last year, I already knew that he could do it this year. Cabrera is apart of one of the major’s most dangerous lineups and with newly acquired OF Tori Hunter in front of him and the powerful 1B Prince Fielder behind him allowing him to easily lead the AL in RBIs. He is currently first in the AL with 40. Miguel Cabrera also does not strikeout. Cabrera is the opposite of Upton as he currently has twice as many RBIs as he has strikeouts. He also leads the AL in batting average with .376. There is no doubt that Cabrera is the game’s best hitter buts it’s how he does it that makes him so dangerous. He can hit the ball to anywhere in the field and is batting .521 with runners in scoring position. It will not surprise me if at the end of the 2013 MLB season, Cabrera leads the AL in batting average, home runs, and RBIs.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in deep trouble.
Currently sitting in fourth place in the AL West and 10 games behind the Texas Rangers are the Angels. Entering this season, I knew that Angels were going to have trouble with their rotation because they didn’t really have one. Although the signing of CF Josh Hamilton highlighted the 2012 offseason, I still believe that their offseason was a disappointment because they didn’t address any of their pitching needs. They lost three of their starting pitchers from last year as Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and Zach Greinke all found new homes this season. After Jered Weaver went on the 15-day DL with a broken left elbow in April, the Angels were left with one of the worst starting pitching staffs in baseball. The Angels are currently 27th in the MLB with a team era of 4.59. Tommy Hanson has the team’s lowest era and it is just under four runs per game. Bottom line is that the Angels are headed for a long, disappointing season if they don’t make any trades and pick up some quality pitchers. Oh, and their big offseason acquisition Hamilton is batting a horrendous .203 so far this season. 

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why Dwight Howard should re-sign with the Lakers

       It has been only three days since the Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the NBA Playoffs and the question on everyone’s mind regarding the Lakers is: Will Dwight Howard return to the Lakers next year or will he join another team? Howard is a free agent after this season and a season that started with goals of winning a ring ended by being called a “nightmare.” In the end, I believe that it is best for Howard to remain with the Lakers.
            Howard came over to the Lakers last offseason in the blockbuster trade that sent Andrew Bynum to the 76ers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, and Aaron Afflalo to the Magic among others. Immediately after Howard arrived in LA, there were expectations to win a title in 2012-2013. Howard was coming off of back surgery and the organization wasn’t sure if Howard would be able to play on opening night. He was ready on opening night and played 76 games this season although he dealt with shoulder injuries all season.
            In the first half of the season, Howard struggled to get adjusted to coach Mike D’Antoni’s system as he told reporters on numerous occasions that he was frustrated because he wasn’t getting the ball. Howard ended the season averaging 17.1 points per game, his lowest average since 06-07 with the Magic. He led the league in rebounds with 12.4 per game and was 5th in blocks with 2.45 per game. But Howard finished the regular season strong, averaging 19.4 points per game in the final two months as the Lakers desperately tried to make it into the playoffs.
            So why should Howard come back to LA? If Dwight Howard wants to go down as one of the greatest centers of all-time, he should stay in LA. The Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history and if he stays, Howard will become the face of the team. Yes, I just said that. Howard became the leader of the team when Kobe Bryant went down with his Achilles injury in April and Kobe doesn’t have that much time left in him. His contract ends after next year and I believe he will retire if the Lakers win a ring. GM Mitch Kupchak has expressed his support for wanting Howard back and Kobe will be ready to hand over the throne to Howard. Kupchak will then build the team around Howard and maybe bring another superstar to LA, maybe CP3 or LeBron? There is also a difference in the contract Howard can get. If Howard signs with the Lakers, it will most likely be a five-year contract worth over $110 million. If he goes to another team, the max he can sign for is 4-years, worth $87.6 million.
            Dwight Howard is frustrated after such a tumultuous season. I have never season a season like the 2012-13 Laker season and I know that if Howard re-signs with the Lakers, he will become one of the greatest centers in Laker history. I know that Dwight is mad but his decision should be made soon. Sign with the Lakers and become the next Kareem or Wilt or Shaq.
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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rams have a draft to remember in 2013

           Entering the 2013 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams knew that they had to address their needs at WR, LB, and S. Mission accomplished as the Rams had one of the best drafts in recent memory. Here are the reasons why:
            Round 1 (Pick 8) From Bills: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
The Rams were going to get Tavon Austin in this year’s draft; there was no doubt about it. From the NFL Combine to his private workouts, Austin blew away GM Les Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher with his ability to be a playmaker, exactly what this team needs. But were the Rams going to trade up into the top 10 as Austin was moving up draft boards on Draft Night? Snead and company pulled the trigger and traded their 16th, 46th 78th, and 222nd picks to the Bills for their 8th and 71st picks. It seemed like the Rams were going to give up a lot at first but in my mind it was just right. Austin is going to be an instant impact in St. Louis and already has his biggest fan in QB Sam Bradford, who will be given his most explosive WR since entering the league in 2010. Austin can do everything on the offensive side of the ball. He can line up at the slot receiver spot, the running back position, and is an explosive punt and kick returner.  Austin will be making flashy plays for years to come.
            Round 1 (Pick 30) From Falcons: LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
            When the Rams were up again at 22, there wasn’t a player that they really wanted so they traded their 22nd and 2015 7th round picks with the Falcons in exchange for their 30th, 92nd, and 198th picks. The Rams were able to get a top 15-talent guy with the 30th pick in LB Alec Ogletree. Ogletree fell to the Rams because teams were concerned with his off the field issues. But the Rams aren’t afraid of guys with off the field issues as Fisher drafted CB Janoris Jenkins last year and he turned out to be a great contributor. Ogletree is 6’2” and weighs 242 pounds but the guy is fast. He has a great motor and doesn’t give up on plays and always finds ways to get into the backfield. He is also a great tackler. He will fit great alongside LB’s James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
            Third Round picks (71, 92): S T.J. McDonald, USC and WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
            The Rams didn’t have a second round pick as a result of the Bills trade but did have two picks in the third. After losing S Craig Dahl in the offseason, the Rams needed to address the safety position and got a good safety if he is in the right system in USC S T.J. McDonald. I watched a lot of this guy at USC and there were lots of plays were he was non-existent but there were also lots of plays were he made the big play. The Rams have a good system for McDonald to be productive. He is a big, physical presence at 6’2” and is a big hitter but was flagged numerous times in college for leaning with his head. He is a good tackler as he led the Trojans with 112 tackles last year. Side note, his father Tim McDonald was a 6-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl in 1993 with the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams then drafted WR Stedman Bailey with the 92nd pick. Bailey went to West Virginia also and like Austin, is a playmaker. Here are his numbers last year: 113 catches for 1,627 yards and 25 touchdowns. No that is not a mistake. Bailey led the NCAA with 25 receiving touchdowns! Bailey was a reliable option for QB Geno Smith at WVU and will likely be the same for Bradford. The duo of him and Austin already has Ram fans bringing up the name: “Greatest Show on Turf part 2.” Lets not get carried away but it could happen. The fact that the Rams were able to get Bailey this late and had already drafted Austin will really help the receiving core because Bailey knows what he has to do to get open and to get opposing defenders away from Austin. He is not the fastest guy but will be reliable for Bradford and is good at picking up first downs.
            If you add the Rimington Award winner in Alabama OG Barrett Jones, who was a first round pick a couple of months ago but fell to the 4th because of injuries, then the Rams did really good in the draft. I wish the Rams would have addressed the running back position better but the front office must know something that the fans don’t because they traded both of their sixth round picks for a fifth round pick in order to draft Vanderbilt RB Zac Stacy. Overall I would give the Rams an A- this year as they definitely addressed their needs and will look to make a playoff appearance in 2013 for the first time since 2004.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

The Biggest Winner and Loser of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft

           With the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft officially over, here is my reaction with my biggest winner and biggest loser:
            Biggest Winner: Minnesota Vikings
            I picked the Vikings by a narrow margin over the St. Louis Rams because not only did the Vikings get the best players available at the time of their picks, but also were able to get a top 5 talent with the 22nd pick without up trading for him. DT Sharrif Floyd was expected to go in the top 5 but fell dramatically to the Vikings. But it’s a great fit for the First Team All-American as Floyd will add strength and quickness to a team that needed another defensive tackle. Floyd has the ability to become the next Kevin Williams, who will be entering his 11th year with the team next year. Getting CB Xavier Rhodes with the 25th pick will help their pass defense that ranked in the bottom third in pass defense and touchdowns last year. Rhodes is a big, physical corner who loves to press opposing wide receivers. The Vikings then traded up to the 29th pick in order to draft WR Cordarrellle Patterson.  Patterson will look to replace Percy Harvin, who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Patterson was the 2nd best WR available at the time and can be a game changer.
            Biggest Loser: Buffalo Bills
            This one is not a surprise. The Bills traded their 8th pick to the Rams in exchange for the Rams 16th pick. The Bills were going to draft a quarterback in the first round and everyone thought it would be either Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. But the Bulls shocked the NFL world when they took E.J. Manuel out of Florida St. Manuel was a two-year starter at Florida St. and threw for 3,392 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. The Bills could have drafted Manuel in the second or even the third round had they waited but they decided to jump the gun and draft him. Manuel has an ideal quarterback size at 6’5” and has a strong arm but was inconsistent the past couple of years. Considering the Bills could have taken Floyd or LB Jarvis Jones, I believe the Bills made a mistake with drafting Manuel in the first round.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The "steal" of the 2013 NFL Draft

        One of my favorite parts of the NFL Draft is finding a player who will be drafted in the third round or later and turn out to be a star. Last year it was running back Alfred Morris, drafted in the 6th round by the Washington Redskins. Morris finished the 2012 season second in the NFL with 1,613 rushing yards and second in the league with 13 rushing touchdowns. I am not saying that this player will be a star in 2013 but I believe he will be a Pro Bowler in years to come. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor reminds me a lot of 49ers running back Frank Gore. Taylor and Gore are both 5’9” and weight almost exactly the same at around 215 pounds. Also Taylor’s running style compares a lot to the 4-time Pro Bowler Gore.
            Stepfan appeared in every game in his freshman year but only ran for 303 yards because he was backing up Toby Gerhart, who would go on to finish second in the Heisman voting. Throughout his next three years at Stanford, Taylor became one of the most consistent running backs in college football and durable, never missing a game in his four years with the Cardinal. Taylor rushed for 1,137 yards his sophomore season, 1,330 his junior year, and finished 10th in the nation last year with 1,530 yards. In his three BCS bowl appearances, Taylor ran for 379 yards and three touchdowns. His 4,300 career rushing yards set the all-time career record at Stanford and his 45 career touchdowns are also a school record. He also had 21 games with over 100 rushing yards, a school record.
            I have seen Taylor being taken in mock drafts anywhere from the third round to the sixth. If he is taken anywhere between the third and the sixth, it will be a steal for the team that gets him. Taylor is not going to flash you with his running style but he finds ways to get open holes. Whether he waits for an open hole or runs over opposing defenders, Taylor has the tools to have a long illustrious career in the NFL. He is not afraid of contact and one of his weaknesses is that he cuts off blockers in order to hit an opposing defender. He also excels in the screen game and is a good pass blocker. Taylor also does what any running back should do and that is fight for the extra yard.
            Gore was taken in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and became the 49ers starting running back in his second season. Another interesting note is that Gore and Taylor ran the same 40-yard dash time, 4.59 in their pro days. A couple of teams that I can see Taylor fitting with are the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, and the New York Giants.
            Stepfan Taylor along with 253 other players will be getting drafted this weekend. Although he will most likely not be a starter in his rookie year, he will become one of the NFL’s most reliable running backs in the years to come.

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