If you have not been following and admiring what James Harden is doing this year, you are either so pro-LeBron to a delusional level or get bent-out-of-shape over officiating. Next, you are going to tell me Batman is not a superhero – he CLEARLY is, but not after watching Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Thanks a lot, Ben Affleck. If you are so upset by Harden’s play, give Adam Silver a ring – he is the one who is making the refs emphasize “shooter safety.” Better be consistent and share your distaste with D-Wade and Chris Paul, both of whom throw the ball at the rim every time a defender touches their forearm. Let us be honest, you do not watch the NBA for great defense (excluding the playoffs); you watch it because Steph pulls up from 26-feet out, or Giannas attacking the rim with a thunderous dunk, and Kyrie’s handles making a defender quake in their sneakers. See Virginia for a defense-first approach to basketball.
We are approaching the end of the NBA season and every win for playoff-fringe teams is vital. No one really cares about the Eastern conference because they are so top heavy – Bucks, Celtics, Raptors, and 76xers. I am not saying that the east is boring to watch nor am I saying they do not stand a chance competing against the West. At the end of the day, it is the Warriors v. Everybody. OK, you got me. I am saying that. The West is just so much more interesting due to the fact that outside of the Warriors, anyone and anything can happen. I personally hope Utah and OKC go round two, along with Portland and Houston. The Beard going against Dame D.O.L.L.A has me drooling already. Keep an eye on the Spurs, Clippers, Kings, and Lakers. LeBron is LeBron and he does LeBron things.
I will be very surprised if LA does not make the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed. As long as the Lakers avoid Golden State at the 8th seed, do not be surprised if he wills that team to the conference playoffs. There is a reason he has been to the finals the last eight years in a row. It really comes down to whether the Kings step it up and decide to not have an early off-season for the first time since the 2005-06 season or the Spurs buying into to Mr. ‘I have not missed the playoffs the last 21 years and refuse to start now’ Popovich. Wisdom and experience just ooze out of that man’s beard, along with sarcasm and hilarity. Will DeMar DeRozan be beaten yet again by LeBron with LA jumping San Antonio for one of the last two spots?
The big news this week is the Zion-less Blue Devils lost again making it their second loss in the last three games. Sure, Tennessee dropped two-games in a three-game span, but they are not a blue-chip program. I just find it interesting that Duke seemingly cannot find a rhythm without Zion playing. For god sakes, you have three other top-15 recruits in the nation? How are you still struggling? I have said for a few years now that I do not think Coach K actually does any [REAL] coaching. I watch guys’ like Mark Few, Jay Wright, Chris Beard and just see great coaching, on-the-fly adjustments, and great scheming. Duke just relies on having the better squad that hopefully does not blow it in the end. I do not like Calipari very much, but I believe he is a great coach because you can visibly see him instructing and adjusting. Coach K just sits on the bench until his team trails by eight or more points and yells at the referee. However, the Blue Devils found some footing with a dismantling performance against Miami. Needless to say, they still need Zion more than Zion needs them.
Also, the Boston Celtics are just awful. Like drinking orange juice right after brushing your teeth awful. As a collective, they have no chemistry right now and have not showcased their best basketball in months. Kyrie wanted his own team to lead, well … careful what you wish for. They have dropped four out of their last five games (including a loss to the Bulls). Is it crazy to say that the Celtics might be better off with Kyrie off the floor? If you look at the numbers of their last 16 games, the Celtics are 5-0 without Irving and 3-11 with Irving on the court. How can wins correlate with your best player on the bench? Go back to last year’s playoff run, the kids did alright without Irving. Maybe Irving’s time in Boston is starting to tick.
Nolan Arenado, like I predicted last week, took advantage of the flood gates that were opened by Manny Machado. Earlier this year, Arenado and the Colorado Rockies reached a deal to avoid arbitration. The Rockies agreed to give their star third baseman a 1-year $26M contract. After San Diego’s investment in Machado, Colorado decided to invest in their future – Nolan Arenado.
Miguel Cabrera signed an 8-year $248M contract back in ’14, which made him the highest paid position player ever at $31M per year. Arenado is set to receive $32.5M per year, with an option to opt-out after three years. Like I said in the last blog, Machado’s agreement allows for an opt-out option after five years. This is the new norm for superstar players. Get paid and play for a winner, or at least get paid and leave when it is advantageous. These past few days have benefited nobody more than Bryce Harper, who is still not under contract. The time is now, PHILLY. GIVE THAT MAN HIS PAYCHECK. Not only does Harper deserve it, but more importantly – no one wants him to be a Dodger (NOTE: I wrote this part on Tuesday, scroll down for update). No one. Just wait until Mike Trout and Mookie Betts become free-agents. Going to have to rename Anaheim “Troutopolus.”
Bryce Harper is finally on a team. The former MVP is officially a Philadelphia Philly. Although he is not receiving the highest annual salary in the history of the league, he is receiving the most $$$ amount ever. I originally thought he was going to get $340M (which I am sure you can pick up that specific number). This deal makes me happy for three giant reasons:
- HE IS NOT A LOS ANGELES DODGER
- HE DID NOT WANT AN OPT-OUT CLAUSE – lifetime player.
- NO TRADE CLAUSE
I absolutely love it and look forward to the kid everyone dubbed the “Chosen One” all those years ago. I still remember him hitting bombs at Tropicana Field like it was yesterday. Baseball needs Harper to have a breakout year.
“If you’re still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, this is the wrong franchise to be a part of and you should just come in and be like, ‘Listen, I can’t do this.’” said LeBron James in his post-game interview following the loss to Memphis.
That is pretty hypercritical for someone to say, who visibly plays lackluster defense in this video, he expects his teammates to perform better. In reality, he is truly saying he wants his teammates to take the fall for him. You knew what you were getting into when you left Cleveland for the second time. This is not Miami, pal. Yeah, I know they beat the Warriors bad on Christmas and were as high as the fourth seed, but they have demolished the Warriors at least once a year by 10+ points since establishing the dynasty in the 2014-15 season (excluding 2017-18 when they lost all four meetings by a combined of 24 points.) It is an 82-game season for a reason. Memphis was also one of the top-3 seeds in the West and the Warriors were not the other (Denver).
When it rains it pours. The Lakers are in a torrential downpour right now after losing to the Phoenix Suns. LAST PLACE, 13-51 PHOENIX SUNS. Let me be clear – I wholeheartedly believe LeBron is the best basketball player of all-time. Whether you compare him analytically, statistically, physically (really any way you can think of) to any other player, he is the most dominant of the two. That being said, I never believed in him turning the Lakers around this season from his free-agency signing back in July of ’18. The Lakers did not convince LeBron to join them, LeBron had his mind made up when Kyrie Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics. His thought-process behind this decision was reaffirmed after the NBA Finals game-one debacle by J.R Smith that led to a sweep by the hands of his arch nemesis – Golden State.
I get it, LeBron is planning for his future – on the court and off. The question is, which one does he hold more dearly? It was no secret he advocated for AD to join the Lakers and there were multiple trades offered in order to acquire the all-star big-man. I believe the media blew LeBron’s comments about wanting to play with AD out of proportion but what followed is all on James. He receives a lot of criticism, probably more than any other player in any sport. Most of it is gossip about him and his agent Rich Paul’s ‘schemes’, but some of it is warranted. You publicly called out your teammates for “allowing distractions to affect the way you play.” How the hell would you react to playing with someone who 1) does not care if you get traded 2) took a night off to help produce a rap album (hypercritical relating to distractions) 3) have done nothing to reassure your teammate’s confidence and chemistry heading into the playoff push. He undoubtedly believes in the “it is you, not me” mantra. Who wants to play with a guy like that, more importantly – how can you win? Hard to want to play with an organization who was so willing to deal you away without hesitation. Everyone knows the guy in a pickup game, who projects blame and criticism on his teammates. We all hate that Jeremy kid. Do not be like Jeremy.
The West is significantly more challenging than the East. The fourth-seed Cleveland Cavaliers defied the odds and made it to the NBA Finals due to LeBron James, along with making an appearance in the finals eight consecutive times. Welcome to the [BETTER] Western conference where you will not face a team with a losing record in any round of the playoffs. I know. What is this sorcery?
Make no mistake about it, LeBron moved to LA for his career outside of basketball. Sure he will try and recruit players to join him winning another championship as he approaches the latter part of his career (he will turn 35 next season). Los Angeles, along with New York, will always be in the conversation for big-time free-agents entering free-agency. It is what it is. Here is the thing though, people change. Paul George did not want to team up with LeBron in LA, in which many fans had already started calling George a Laker before last year’s post-season, and the front office could not execute a trade for Kawhi Leonard. That is an 0-2 in one off-season. Obviously, the goal of this upcoming off-season is KD, Klay, and perhaps Kyrie. Maybe LeBron gets Kyrie, or KD or LA executes a trade with New Orleans for AD. Maybe everything goes right for LeBron and LA in the off-season. You still have to prove you can win consistently against better teams and not shift the blame on your teammates’. I am willing to bet that Luke Walton is fired this off-season and LeBron will have a say in who is hired and around and around we go. Another Ty Lue situation in the building.
It is truly silly to argue exactly how good LeBron is and the degree of impact he has on his team and the game. The obvious answer is he is paramount to any organization – he is that pivotal player you build around and lean on to win you games. With that responsibility, which James openly knew and took it upon himself when he decided to take his talents to LA this past off-season, you have to be a positive leader and mentor to these guys. You are not going to skate by with a mediocre regular season and get seeded fourth like you did last year in Cleveland. You will not be able to simply awake from hibernation and choose to compete competitively for a championship when it suits you. You have to win your way to a playoff berth and earn your right to a higher seed. Start showing the world once again why you are the ‘best player in the world’ and guide that young team to salvation. Stop making excuses and finish strong, whether you make the playoffs or not.
Carmelo Anthony is that guy who repeatedly uses the phrase “back in my day.” Similar to Uncle Rico, Anthony is stuck in the past, which has not allowed him to progress and yield a positive impact on any team in years.
In his career, Melo has had nine first-round playoff exits’, one semi-final appearance, and one conference-final appearance. Anthony has also only led his team to a 50-win season once in his entire career.
For years, Melo was regarded as a superstar and his offensive prowess was only matched by a few. Sure, he will most likely be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame yet he will be most notably remembered by being a part of the historic ’03 draft class and for never winning a ring. It is important to point out that a lot of NBA greats’ have never won a title in their career. Only one team can win it every year and unfortunately, some never get the chance to compete for and hoist up the Larry O’Brien trophy. Melo is not a part of that conversation. I am just calling it how I see it. No one wants him to play for their team, he has done nothing to warrant his current contract ($25M +) and refuses to accept that he is not the offensive threat he once was. On the contrary, he has become quite the liability.
Every person who was drafted in ’03 (worth noting) has done something with their career that is notably. LeBron for obvious reasons – past and present. D-Wade, who is considered a top-5 all-time shooting-guard, is currently on his farewell tour and recently turned back the clock to hit a game-winner to beat GSW – not to mention he is a three-time champion. Chris Bosh is a two-time champion and was a top-5 power forward in the league for years and a potential Hall-of-Famer. The former Miami Heat and Toronto Raptor (doppelganger) has been consistently good. It is a shame that health reasons cut his career short; I suppose dinosaurs have to get old too. Kyle Korver is in the conversation for the best pure-shooter in league history (shout out the Midwest). David West has served as an enforcer in the latter half of his career but used to be a reliable scorer in the Chris Paul Hornet days. There are a few more fringe-worthy players like Leandro Barbosa, Luke Ridnour, Boris Diaw, but I am not going to go on.
All these guys accomplished something. Career-wise, Melo built quite a resume for himself:
- Scoring Champ in ’13
- Six-time All-NBA Team selection (two-second team, three-third team)
- 10X NBA Allstar selection (’07,’08,’10-’17)
- First-Team All-Rookie
- Four-time Olympic Medalist (three-time gold, one bronze)
- Two-time Male Basketball Athlete of the year ’06’, ’16 (Co-recipient with KD)
With that list of professional achievements, Anthony is going to be getting a call from the hall-of-fame in a few years. So why am I ‘hating’ on Melo? It is simple and I am going to use this Batman reference to explain:
Anthony is suffering from his own delusions of grandeur. You are not a difference maker, offensive weapon, key-contributor, superior basketball player like you were six years ago. You are a player who thinks more highly of himself and his ability than that of his teammates. In 2012-13, Anthony averaged 28.7 points-per-game and led the Knicks to a 54-28 record, in which he was awarded the NBA’s scoring champion. He made a deep run in the playoffs before ultimately being eliminated in the Conference Semi-Finals against the Indianapolis Pacers. After ’13, the Anthony-led Knicks overall record fast-forwarding to his trade year to OKC (’17), was 117-211. That is 0.555 winning percentage – just above 0.500. His player efficiency rating (PER), true-shooting percentage (TS%), usage percentage % (USG %) offensive wins share (OWS), and his box plus/minus all declined rapidly.
For those of you who are not mathmagicians, these stats show you that Melo’s efficiency overall, overall shooting, usage during the game, and impactful performances all plummeted after the 2012-13 season. I do not know if he ate some bad sushi (all sushi is bad), walked under a ladder, stepped on a crack and broke his mother’s back, or if James Dolan and Phil Jackson took turns sucking his soul out through a bendy straw. Point is, Melo just can not ball anymore, let alone be a starter for even the Cleveland Cavaliers. He should have retired after ’17 season after OKC got bounced by Donavon Mitchell and the Utah Jazz.
Dwyane Wade has faced the cold truth that he is not the player that used to dominate. He has decided to take on the mentor role in his last few seasons in the league, which has him coming off the bench more times than not. Wade could still start on the Heat because he has the ability to be a contributing factor still. Melo does not and the stats will back that up. Now for those of you who like to rely on the ‘eye test’, which I do as well, you can visibly see that Melo is not what he once was. Let me just point out one more disparaging fact to show you that I am not being problematic but rather pragmatic. Here is the number of games in a season that Melo has fallen short of achieving 20 points since coming into the league (2003-04) all the way to the year he was the scoring champion (2012-13)
- 03-04: 33 games
- 04-05: 31 games
- 05-06: 13 games
- 06-07: 6 games
- 07-08: 15 games
- 08-09: 22 games
- 09-10: 9 games
- 10-11: 15 games
- 11-12: 24 games
- 12-13: 7 games
Besides his first two seasons, Melo has shown he has the ability to score the ball on an almost nightly basis. Here is the number of games after his career year in 2012-13 (2014-17):
13-14: 12 games
14-15: 10 games
15-16: 26 games
16-17: 31 games
Nothing too alarming up until now. He still has the ability to score in games. Here are the numbers in his lone season with OKC in ’17 (NOTE: I will not take his lone year with the Houston Rockets into consideration because he played 10 games):
- 17-18: 50 games
So from Anthony’s prime (’05-’12), he only had 111 games where he failed to score more than 20 points in a game. In one season with OKC, he managed to not reach 20-points in 50 games, which is approximately 45% of the 111. One season showcased an enormous drop-off in production and talent, yet Melo still believes he is not a ‘bench player’. Get out of here, seriously – Houston is paying you not to play. BEWARE OF THE CARMELO CURSE. Once cursed, your team underperforms significantly.
You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. It is time to hang them up, guy. Let everyone remember you fondly for your ability to get buckets. Sign up for a city league at your local YMCA and dominate with that hoodie of yours. If you stay in basketball purgatory for too long – people will tend to remember the worst of you. You are NOT LeBron James, you are NOT Dwyane Wade. You are Carmelo Anthony – professional bucket-getter and that is it.
All stats and numbers are attributed to Basketball Reference.
The NFL combine is currently taking place in Indy. For some, this is the biggest ‘job interview’ that they will likely ever have. And do not mistake it for something other than what it truly is – a job interview. Your body measurements, recorded time(s) for the 40-yard dash, drill results, answers to questions, physicals, etc are all a culmination of your ‘first impression’ to teams. Scouts treat pro-days different than the combine because unlike a pro-day, it is a privilege to be invited to the NFL combine – NOT a right. It allows scouts to further evaluate your strengths, weaknesses in a fixed environment. For those who do not receive as much hype/attention, e.g., Nasir Adderley, Saftey from Delaware or Devin Singletary, Runningback from FIU, it allows the opportunity to showcase your abilities and attributes against those who are nationally known, i.e., players’ from power-five programs.
In my opinion, it is more important to weigh traits over productivity. Stats are eye-popping and fun to look at and measure, but they are sometimes misleading – especially in regards to the quarterback position. It is the most heavily scrutinized position in any sport because it is the direct indicator of whether your team will be successful enough to win a championship. The ‘Divine difference-maker’ if you will. Please do not give me the whole, “You do not need a good QB to win a championship” and have your rebuttal be “Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl.” Soon that joke will replace ‘Trent Dilfer’ for ‘Joe Flacco’ even though I do not think that is a very good comparison.
So how do you find and differentiate from a good versus franchise-changing quarterback? I believe you can boil it down to a few simple qualities:
- Awareness- ability to adjust on-the-fly and read defenses
- Durability- avoiding the injury bug
- Road Warrior- wins games away from home
- Punctuality- makes the throw at the right time
- Mentality- holds himself to a higher standard (not the same as confidence)
When you are looking for a future player, specifically a QB, to be the face of your franchise; it is paramount that you take these different factors into consideration. It is hard for a QB to possess every single one of these traits at any given time, let alone sustain it for years. Tom Brady is the only QB1 I have seen possess all these traits for an extended period of time (almost his whole career). Year after year, Tom Brady proves he is durable, gets his receivers the ball in exactly the right place at the right time (punctual), wins the tough games on the road, is always aware of the situation (whether that be clock-management or adjusting on-the-fly when seeing an offensive advantage, and above all else – brings it year after year after year after year after year after year. The New England Patriots are the most dominating franchise in all of sports. You can argue Bill’s Celtics, MJ’s Bulls, 2010s Warriors, but I do not think you can compare dominating in the NBA to dominating in the NFL or MLB for that matter. Aaron Rogers has showcased all these traits a handful of seasons (’10,’11, ’12, ’14,’16) and is widely considered the ‘best passer of all-time’, Matt Ryan in ’16, Peyton Manning (’04, ’06, ’12, ’13). Those are some examples of the big name players that my generation has grown up and watched. You can do some digging yourself to see how exactly your all-time favorite QB1 matchups up within my criteria.
I have been a huge Deshaun Watson fan since his breakout sophomore season at Clemson. That man was so fun to watch and in hindsight, he might be the defining player that turned that collegiate program into what it is now – a powerhouse. Not to mention he beat Alabama on a last-second drive. Such a fitting way for Watson to finish his career, especially since they lost the year prior to Alabama with the Crimson Tide scoring in their last possession. After watching Saban and Alabama dominate every single opponent (prior to SEC championship game against Georgia), you have to love seeing Dabo get that signature win with the new heir to the college football throne – Trevor Lawerence.
Yes, Watson’s INT numbers increased in his junior season. However, that is not an indicative factor (to me) if deciding if someone is a franchise signal caller. Like I mentioned above, I value those five traits over all else. So Watson’s turnovers did increase slightly, but so did his touchdowns. In fact, his completion percentage was relatively the same between his sophomore and junior campaign (67.8 to 67.0), along with an increase in passing yards, touchdowns, and more than 80+ passing attempts. The only thing that declined was his passer rating, which dipped from 156.3 to 151.1. If you watched Watson play every week within those two years (like I did) you would know that he was accompanied by a ton of drops from his WRs, which also turned into interceptions by the defense. In his tenure at Clemson, I remember only two games where I did not see Deshaun Watson play Deshaun Watson football – 2016’s matchup against NC State Wolfpack and 2016’s matchup against Pittsburgh Panthers. You can look back at the highlights of those two games and you will see what I am talking about (NOTE: Nathan Peterman was Pitt’s QB1 at the time and threw for five touchdowns – looks can be deceiving.)
My point is numbers are nice to look at, but they do not always paint a black-and-white picture. The story goes beyond the numbers – eye test. In big games, Watson went 5/5 in game-winning/comeback wins in 2018. Now I realize Watson and the Texans, as a collective, did not play very well in their home contest against Andrew Luck and the Colts in the playoffs. May I remind you, he was coming off a torn ACL injury the year prior, which he threw for 19 touchdowns in seven games. In 2018, he had 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions. That is not jaw-dropping numbers yet that does not really matter. Everyone from the beginning of the year was ‘mesmerized’ over Patrick Mahomes’ ability to throw the ball and from there on out focused purely on stats. Granted he is a great, young QB and will undoubtedly be the face of the NFL for the foreseeable future, but Mahomes has a top-three backfield in all of football going into this year. Alex Smith was a good QB who managed the game, but he never truly took advantage of his weapons around him – Mahomes took what was given and ran all the way to an MVP-esque season. Mahomes deserved MVP when it was all said and done, but you cannot tell me Andrew Luck did not make it interesting. Same deal with Watson for the most part (both players were going through rehab, with Watson coming off an injury and Luck taking proper precautions).
Deshaun Watson led the Texans to an 11-5 record in arguably football’s best division last year. Watson will be gunning for the title of AFC’s ‘best quarterback’ with Mahomes, Luck, Lamar Jackson (assuming he progresses in the passing game, along with opposing teams not figuring out a way to contain him), Mayfield, and perhaps Josh Allen. I believe Watson will progress even more as a passer this off-season and eliminate his tendency to throw out of the pocket, which is his Achilles heel. Watson was sacked 62 times in the regular season in 2018. That is astonishingly putrid and needs correcting via offensive line reconfiguration and pocket mechanics development. The numbers are not out-of-this-world but mark my words – Deshaun Watson will be the AFC’s best quarterback within the next three seasons. He has the arm strength and decision-making ability to be an elite quarterback. However, like all dual-threat quarterbacks, you have to focus more on staying consistent in and avoid deviating from the pocket. The best dual-threat QB1, Russel Wilson, picks his moments when to scramble and that is why he is consistently a top-10 QB1 in the league.
Do not make the mistake of counting out the Jacksonville Jaguares. They simply did not have a QB1 season in Bortles. Bortles failed to produce similar results like he did the previous year when they made a deep playoff run, ultimately losing to (who else) New England. That team is going to be elite once more next season with the addition of Nick Foles. More on that topic next week.
All statisitics are attributed to Sports-Reference and Pro-Football-Reference.
Well, that is all I got for you crazy kids this week. Pay attention to college basketball in particular. A lot of teams are competing for a spot on the March Madness tournament. Also, be sure to follow the Lakers and see if they make a late-run and slither their way into the seventh or eighth seed. It is NFL Mock-Draft szn, so please start calibrating yours. Follow the rumor mill and do some hypothetical thinking, e.g., Josh Rosen being traded to Washington for a first-round pick, Jacksonville acquiring Nick Foles in free-agency, etc. I appreciate all of you who have read my previous blogs from the beginning all the way to this one. Again, any comments, criticisms, elaborations, etc please leave a comment at the bottom. I promise to respond with a rebuttal or perhaps I will proceed to concede to your point. You never know. Also, if you want to be notified about when I post my blog (outside of you following me on social media) hit the “drink the kool-aid and join” button at the very bottom. My next blog will be in a couple weeks, got a lot going on with school and midterms – one simply cannot be in college forever.