Hello hello hello, amigos. Welcome back to a brand new entry. I hope everyone is having a great summer. Mine has been filled with fantasy baseball, How to Get Away with Murder and long walks with the pooch.
It has been an interesting few weeks since I posted my last entry with the expert analysis from your friendly neighborhood caveman – Nate Gust. Like I mentioned before, we will be teaming up for a pre-season fantasy football watchlist as the season approaches. Along with Gust returning, I will also invite a few other people to join in and give their insights and perspectives on what is happening around the sport’s world. It is going to be an interesting summer to say the least.
Let’s start off with a little review of what has and happened in sports. Like I predicted awhile ago, the draft did not go the New York Knicks way – SHOCKER. When you are poorly managed from your owner all the way down to the intern who is in charge of getting everyone’s coffee orders, the scales are going to be stacked against you. James Dolan has a lot of issues he needs to address and fix in New York but none perhaps more urgent than his snaggletooth. Quite a set of chompers you got there, Jimmy. How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? The answer might hold the key to landing KD and Kyrie this off-season.
The NBA Finals have arrived and we are privy to yet another Golden State Warriors title run. With that said, I do enjoy watching the Warriors because it truly is the greatest assembling of players ever to play on a single team. However, the signing of DeMarcus Cousins – for me – tarnished their image almost beyond repair. I know Boogie was signed after injuring his Achilles, but come on. The Warriors? Being a top-three center in the league isn’t guaranteed coming off an injury like this and I completely get why he signed with Golden State. That doesn’t mean I agree with it. I am an avid fan of the NBA and will watch it 10/10 over college basketball because there is no better offense in the world. Yes, defense isn’t necessarily the main focal point in the NBA, but you don’t watch for great defense, you watch for someone to get dunked on or to see a 24-foot jump-shot in transition. Shooters shoot and the Warriors shot their shot. Ultimately, it was enough to sign both KD and Cousins.
More than anything, I want Durant to leave the Warriors. It’s time to reset the league by disbanding the greatest superteam in any sport ever with KD departing this July. I know it’s been awhile since it was just the Splash Brothers in the backcourt and the enforcer Draymond Green banging in the trenches. The Warriors are a better team with KD on the court; no question about it. There is a reason he has re-signed the last couple of years and that reason is because they win championships as a collective. I don’t know about you guys, but watching the Warriors play in this years playoffs without Durant makes me reminisce about the years before his signing. I watched EVERY game in the 73-9 season and let me tell you – the bench won just as much games as the starters did. I miss Harrison Barnes, Ian Clark, Mo Speights, Leoandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush, James McAdoo and even Brandon Rush (not really). The Warriors sacrificed their bench in order to bankroll the Hampton Five. Now, it is strictly an a la carte bench from year-to-year, with the exception of Shaun Livingston. Those were the days were I could get behind them and cheer for a championship run. Nowadays, I just hope to see an opponent stay within 15 before the buzzer sounds off.
I hope the Raptors are able to pull it off. I really really do. As much as I love Curry and Klay, we all need a change because this collective group of players is ruining the NBA. The funny thing is – most of America is cheering for the Canadian club to win. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in the U.S cheer for another country to win against its own. Don’t believe me? Take a look. . .
I know I went off on a little tangent there, so I will digress back to original point – the NBA Finals matchup between Toronto and Golden State. Since LeBron took his talents to the West and was handed an early vacation, Kawhi has officially begun his Eastern Conference reign. This series could change everything for not only the Raptors, but for the entire conference. If Kawhi decides to stay, there might be a true heir to LeBron’s Eastern throne. Kawhi has been nothing short of spectacularly dominate in his first post-season with Toronto.
This video pretty much sums up Kawhi’s demeanor his entire tenure in the NBA. Doesn’t want the trophies or the recognition – he just wants to win championships. I was on the ropes about him last year and the drama that took place in San Antonio behind the scenes and his trade request, but I have to say – I respect him. Didn’t play for an entire year and had a lot of people speculate whether or not he still could perform to the level we have been accustomed too. Wellllllll, he has shown us he that he’s still got it. I really do hope Kawhi decides to stay and be the King of the North. No one, besides maybe DeMar, wants to see him fail as a Raptor.
It’ll be interesting come free-agency. Not only does Kawhi have to make a decision, but there is a lot of marquee guys hitting the open-market. Chances are you already know who I am referring to. Here’s hope no one signs with the Lakers and they continue to free-fall in basketball purgatory. The Clippers have had a relatively unhistoric tenure in the NBA – time for the ‘other guys’ to get their shot.
Obviously the Warriors are in the NBA Finals, again, for the fifth straight time and winning four of them. In all five of those series’, Steph Curry has never won Final’s MVP. Seems quite odd when you break it down. Curry is already dubbed (pun intended) the best shooter of all-time from former players, fans and current players. So why does the best shooter and debatably top-five point guard of all-time seemingly ‘struggle’ to win the Final’s MVP? Let’s break it down:
We all know what Steph Curry is capable of doing on the court – whether he has a supporting cast or not. We’ve seen him shake ‘n bake defenders to the rim with a finger-roll, step-back jumpers and pull-up from 25+ feet to sink a three-pointer with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. No person has singlehandedly revolutionized the game more than Curry. He is also, perhaps, the most cocky player in the league right now. He doesn’t do it so much with words but rather his actions. The man literally shots the ball and then turns around and jogs down the court with complete confidence it is going in.
We don’t see it as much anymore with the addition of KD – anybody in the league, including LeBron, would be the second option behind him. Being second fiddle to Durant does have its perks though – having the Slim Reaper and Trey Thompson in your backcourt does lighten the load for you. It is a long 82-game season and people can get burned out. For Curry, the playoffs haven’t always brought out the best performances. However, in the last couple of years, he has shown immense improvement. Take a look:
2014-’15 Finals (Won 4-1 against Cleveland):
- 26 ppg
- 5.2 rpg
- 6.3 apg
- 44% shooting (38% from 3)
2015-’16 Finals (Lost 3-4 against Cleveland):
- 22 ppg
- 4.9 rpg
- 3.7 apg
- 40% shooting (40% from 3)
2016-’17 Finals (Won 4-1 against Cleveland):
- 26.8 ppg
- 8 rpg
- 9.4 apg
- 44% shooting (39% from 3)
2017-’18 Finals (Won 4-0 against Cleveland):
- 27.5 ppg
- 6.0 rpg
- 6.8 apg
- 40% shooting (42% from 3)
Statistics are attributed to Basketball-Reference
Curry has shown he can show up to play in the big moments. In the beginning, you could see his struggles were quite evident compared to his regular season stats. However, as time goes on, he has steadily increased his performances on the biggest stage. The last two years would warrant consideration for Final’s MVP. The only reason Curry has not won a Final’s MVP is because LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been on the floor with him. That is the only reason. Period. It isn’t rocket science. He is being forcibly compared to a 6’8″ Basketball God and a 6’10” man who dribbles like a guard and is widely debated as the best player in the game. KD and LeBron are stat-sheet stuffers and always have been, so it’s unfair to compare Curry in the Finals to them. It goes together about as well as peanut butter and ladies.
If you want to see Steph go out and be like Westbrook, I promise you the Warriors will never win a championship. There is a reason why KD left and why OKC has made THREE STRAIGHT first-round exits, even with the marvelous MVP-esque play of Paul George. Steph is Steph and he has his own style. He isn’t a tenacious rebounder, a wizard passer or a defensive anchor. He is the best perimeter shooter in the game and overall solid player – not a do-it-all player though. When all said and done, no one will disparage his career because he didn’t win a single Final’s MVP. Anyone who watches and follows the NBA will look back and know exactly why – KD and LeBron were on the floor – and that’s OK. LeBron (guaranteed) and KD (most likely) will go down as two of the greatest overall players of all-time and Steph will go down as a top-five point guard ever. Did you catch that? The delineation between the two statements I just made. Listen, it doesn’t matter if Steph pulls-up from 30 ft to hit a three-pointer or if Harden drops 60 points seven times in a season or even if Giannis breaks the glass while posterizing a defender – no one is big enough to outshine KD or LeBron in the league right now.
At the end of the day, Steph Curry could go down as a top-five point guard of all-time without even being a true point guard. If you were to think of your top-five right now, who’d you choose? Mine would be:
- John Stockton
- Steph Curry
- Steve Nash / Isiah Thomas
Yes, I think Steve Nash is a borderline top-five point guard of all-time. Get over it. Point being, except for Magic being 6’9″, every one of these guys played similarly to each other EXCEPT STEPH CURRY. Stockton, Nash, Oscar and Magic all averaged over their careers at least 8.5+ assists per game, while Steph is at 6.6. Now that is not the only variable, but it is perhaps the most important. Steph is a shoot-first pass-second player, which is the era we are currently in. Until recently, point guards were the team leaders whose duties were running the offense and getting everyone good looks. Those times have changed recently with the point guard position becoming less and less the main focal point in running the offense and more about the scoring aspect. In this day and age, the best team leaders are typically your small, power forwards and or center. The responsibilities and obligations bestowed upon the point guard has now shifted to other positions. Look around the league:
- SF Giannas for Bucks
- PF Draymond for Warriors
- C Embiid for 76ers
- SF LeBron for Lakers
- C Jokić for Nuggets
- PF Griffin for Pistons
- C KAT for Timberwolves
- C Vučević for Magic
- C Gasol for Raptors
- C Horford for Celtics
Times are different and we’re in the era where having a dynamic scorer point guard is the most important position in basketball. Steph is dynamic to say the least. You don’t make the playoffs without a dynamic point guard at the helm, but that doesn’t mean he is your leader or even best player. A dynamic point guard is an integral player you must have, but it doesn’t translate to winning and we’ve seen that. The Warriors beating the Cavaliers is about as equally impressive as LeBron carrying Cleveland without any help from his team with both Irving and Love out injured. Fast-forward to 2019 and nothing has changed. Cleveland and LeBron needed a point guard as much as Golden State and Steph needed a small forward. Can you remember the last time a point guard won the Final’s MVP? It was more than a decade ago and it was Tony Parker in ’07. Wasn’t the best player on that team or even the leader, but he was an integral part. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
This series might seem like it has higher stakes with KD being injured and all, but in reality it doesn’t. Since KD has been out, Steph has stepped his game up and has led the Warriors past the Rockets in Houston and a four-game sweep after being down big in every contest. If he plays phenomenal and wins the Final’s MVP this year that will ensure some silence from his critics, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. Everyone knows his ability and how he affects the game on the court. In due time when we are pushed around in our wheelchairs and have nurse Ratchet change our adult diapers, we will all look back reminisce how truly electrifying Steph Curry and what a treat and privilege it was to watch him play.
Two months into the season and I am loving every minute of it. The Diamondbacks are third in the NL-West standings behind the Padres and (you guessed it) Dodgers. Arizona has played surprisingly well for the majority of the season, with the exception of a couple series’. With Goldschmidt being on the St. Louis Cardinals, Peralta has stepped his game up with the help of recently acquired Adam Jones, Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I think we can maybe sneak into the playoffs if are pitching is consistent. However, it is a long season and San Diego, LA and Colorado are all better equipped and possess better depth throughout their entire organizations in comparison to Arizona’s. Time will tell, but I think we will finish in the middle of the pack when the season ends.
The first thing you should know by now is that Christian Yelich’s MVP award was not a fluke – he deserves that hardware more than ever. The Brewer outfielder has shown his true colors thus far and has exceeded expectations. I owe him an apology. However, I don’t think he’s comparable to league’s best player, Mike Trout, quite yet. Trout is on a separate, higher tier in comparison to everyone else. If Trout is A1, Yelich is A2.
Speaking of great players, I would be doing Cody Bellinger a disservice by not mentioning him. Bellinger has arguably been the best player so far this season in both the NL and AL. He has really improved his overall game and is becoming an elite five-tool player. On Monday, I saw him gun out not one, but two runners heading towards the bag from right-field.. If you remember, Bellinger was brought up from the minors to play first-base. That isn’t even his best feature – his batting is unbelievable. He is batting .382 with 20 HR/51 RBI and a OPS of 1.239. I know I was just showering Yelich with compliments, but Bellinger is the MVP of the entire league at the two month mark. If he can stay this hot throughout the entire season, he could make a case for a top-five player for foreseeable future.
One more player I have to mention is Nolan Arenado – the Rocky Mountain Lion. We all know how incredible he is (especially since he’s in my division and usually goes yard in the series). After starting off relatively slow, for Arenado standards, he basically said, “Yeah, vaca’s over, kids. Papa is here and he wants a smooch.” Batting well over .400 and the Rockies are starting to hit on all cylinders. Colorado does have a few injuries, but the team has enough firepower to push through and remain competitive.
Perhaps the biggest surprise this season so far is the New York Yankees. Riddled with injuries throughout the club, most teams would’ve imploded and collapsed down the standings. Most teams. The Yankees are not only surviving but thriving in wake of so many injuries. They are the leaders in the AL-East with a record of 35-19, followed by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Red Sox. Do you care how the Orioles are doing? This is truly incredible how the Yankees were slated to be a Triple-A team in a powerful AL-East and have somehow defied the odds. Here is a list of the injuries:
- 3B – Miguel Andüjar
- RHP – Dellin Betances
- SS – Didi Gregorius
- OF – Aaron Judge
- OF – Giancarlo Stanton
- SS – Troy Tulowitski
- RHP – Luis Severino
- LHP – James Paxton
- LHP – Jordan Montgomery
- RHP – Jonathon Loaisiga
- LHP – CC Sabathia
- RHP – Ben Heller
- OF – Jacoby Ellsburry
- RHP – Jake Barrett
Every team gets bit by the injury bug at some point during the season, but this is ridiculous. I hate the Yankees with a passion, but you have to give them credit where credit is due. Manager Aaron Boone has done a phenomenal job with the platoon players New York has scattered throughout the lineup. This example clearly shows you how to distinguish good managers from great managers. Losing Judge, Stanton and Severino alone could stagger any team. It’ll be interesting to see how New York holds up with Boston seemingly back on track from that World Series hangover. Great baseball is ahead when these two collide Thursday.
It’s the Twins’ world and we’re all just living in it. The AL-Central has been a place of solace and success for the Cleveland Indians for most of the past decade. And it hasn’t even been close. The Indians are struggling to find its offense so far this season, whereas the Twins are winning at every aspect. Minnesota is currently 37-17 and is handling their division. I’m going to blow your mind.
If you look at their schedule for the remainder of the season, they’ve played 54 games to this point – May 29th. There is 108 games left in the season. Of the 108 games left, the Twins will play 80 games against .500 teams or worse. That means only 28 games will be played against opponents with a record of .500 or better. Now, I almost failed algebra in high school (I got a D-), but it doesn’t take Einstein to tell you that is about as favorable odds as you can get in ANY sport. The way the Twins are swinging the bat, throwing off the slab, fielding the ball and running the bases, this team should be well over 100 wins when October comes around. Boston had 108 wins last year, along with the Yankees reaching 100. That was in the competitive AL-East – the AL-Central is about as top-heavy as Dolly Parton. I wouldn’t bet them to win the World Series, but they will get as good of shot as any.
Honestly, I’m very confused by the drama that is taking place within the Lakers organization. It is basically a glorified, ‘he said she said’ situation right now. When Magic Johnson, the greatest Laker of all-time, became the front-office leader of Los Angeles, I was actually really happy. As much as I hate to admit it, I was happy. Listen, we as sport’s fans need big market teams to do well. Baseball isn’t as fun when the Yankees are terrible and football isn’t the same if we can’t hate the success of New England. It just isn’t. Most of the time we rely on envy of other organizations to get us through the day. Once your team reaches its pinnacle and the tides turn in your favor, its a weird feeling. Most of my teams, for the majority of my life, have been bad. Very bad. Arizona just had the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, Arizona Diamondbacks have been below average for most of the past decade and Texas Longhorns just now turned the page from a seven-year stint in college football purgatory. I know all about being less than mediocre and hating big-name markets and successful dynasties.
With the Lakers not being the Lakers for the last few years and the emergence of the Warriors in the Pacific Division, there has definitely been major consequences. Same thing is happening in New York, except New York has never experienced half the success LA has historically – actually around an eighth to be exact. This was supposed to be the proverbial next chapter of the Los Angeles Lakers – where winning and competing for championships is the standard once more.
Life doesn’t work like that and neither does Magic Johnson. For how great he was on the court and leader of his team, it doesn’t automatically translate into success. Like I said in a previous entry, being a brand itself does not guarantee success – you must have the wherewithal to make it happen, along with the right personnel. Tom Herman did it with one of the most prestigious sport’s programs in the nation – Texas Longhorns. He was able to get the Longhorns back to national recognition by having the ability to lay down and develop a culture where winning is the only standard. Yes, Texas gets great recruits every year (ranking-wise) but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the foundation and ability to properly develop people once they get there. Being a brand is not enough alone – you need the right people to steer the ship.
From this interview, you get the impression that Magic was actually doing an OK job and was surrounded by personnel that was inadequate – mainly Rob Pelinka. He sets the tone of “not having the power he thought he had” or “the ability to do what he wants.” I don’t buy this interview at all. Not one bit, other than the Rob Pelinka part. I have no doubt in my mind Pelinka was lobbying for Magic’s job behind his back and talking about his performance negatively when he was away on other business. This reminds me of the San Francisco 49ers internal problems between Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Jed York and Ty Lue and LeBron doing it to David Blatt. We all know what happened and how the 49ers have performed since Harbaugh’s departure (not good) and Lue was fired early in last year’s season.
Anyway, Magic was the guy to get the organization back on track. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and the fault cannot all fall onto Pelinka’s shoulders. In fact, I think Magic did more bad than good in his short tenure with LA. Let’s take a look at the good and bad:
Pros of Magic with LA:
- Signed LeBron (did he really though? Could be debated)
- Drafted Kuzma
- Cleared up salary space to sign superstars
Cons of Magic with LA:
- Botched AD trade (could also be up for debate)
- Couldn’t close deal with Paul George
- Alienated his roster into thinking they’re replaceable
- Let Brook Lopez walk in free-agency
- Let Julius Randle walk in free-agency
- Traded away DeAngelo Russell
- Passed on Jayson Tatum (could be up for debate)
- Workplace dysfunction
Am I forgetting anything or did I cover my bases pretty well? Magic has been anything but magic since taking helm of the Lakers a couple years ago. It’s funny that he says all this now when he didn’t even have the decency to let anyone know ahead of time – including Jeanie Buss. This was very cowardly of him and I have no respect for someone who just ups and quits on his colleagues and team. I get it – he wasn’t having fun – but you knew the situation you were getting into. This team is predominately young and inexperienced. They don’t know how to win. What example does it set when you randomly quit on them? Food for thought.
Having LeBron on your team does wonders for an already established franchise historically, but doesn’t really do anything unless you pair him with players that fit his style. You have to roster better players and that starts in the off-season. Though the Lakers missed out on getting Kawhi from the Spurs and Paul George from OKC, they did sign Rondo who has a proven track record – the only problem is it was about three to four years too late. Primetime Rondo is long and gone. Michael Beasley doesn’t count as ‘veteran support’ and Lance Stephenson, at best, is a platoon player. Brandon Ingram started to come into his own before getting hurt and Lonzo has proven once again he can’t stay healthy for majority of the season. Kuzma is a solid player, but not a building block.
The Lakers were rolling before LeBron went down Christmas day, but so were the Memphis Grizzles and look what happened – the 82-game season weeds out the contenders from the pretenders. This is the Western Conference – “This ain’t checkas.” That was a wake up call for LeBron. Fortunately for Lakers fans, LeBron isn’t used to losing or being unsuccessful (unless it’s against the Warriors). He will be back with a vengeance this upcoming season and will look to prove his critics, me, wrong. I’m looking forward to it. I know he can handle the scrutiny because he’s been under the spotlight since he was 16-years old. My point is not everybody else can hold their own. LA is a bright light city, a platform for the entire world to watch and follow. Not everyone is accustomed to that pressure. Most stars and superstars haven’t experienced what LeBron goes through on a daily basis other than a few exceptions. Things are only magnified in LA. Nobody cares about Cleveland, but everyone in the world pays attention to LA.
I hope Frank Vogel gets a fair shot. I originally thought Jason Kidd was the perfect candidate for the job – mainly because Lonzo Ball IS Jason Kidd with a worse jump-shot. Do I think the Lakers will set the world on fire? Absolutely not, but I think in year-two of the LaBron will outgrow the growing pains and set the foundation for the future. The only contingency – the Lakers NEED another superstar.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy this entry. Had a lot of fun writing it. Also, for those of you who need a fix until fantasy football gets here – start doing fantasy baseball. Don’t shake your head at me. It is a lot of fun. It keeps you occupied all summer long and makes you enjoy watching baseball again. I’m telling you, imagine finding that hidden gem on the waiver wire, now multiple that by 10. Finding the ‘golden pickup’ is the greatest feeling ever. It really doesn’t require too much effort outside of setting your lineup daily and pre-draft research. Watch a baseball game with your pitcher pitching and it’ll make it 10X more interesting. Stay classy, San Diego