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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preseason Game 1 Thoughts

Patriots 6         Redskins 23
Preseason Game 1 Thoughts

            First off, this game was pretty tough to watch. The team looked flat the entire night and never really found themselves. The legit starters for the Patriots didn’t get to play either so while the team didn’t look too good the best players didn’t even touch the field for the Patriots. The list of players who didn’t play Thursday night includes Brady, Mayo, Revis, Gronk, Edelman, Mankins, McCourty, Hightower, Collins, and Amendola. Thursday night was a showcase night for many of the depth players on the roster to earn their place on this team. While it was tough to watch most of the night, there were certainly some bright spots in there as well. I’m going to take a look at this through positives and negatives even though the negatives will outweigh the positives after this dismal performance by the Patriots.


·         The Offensive Line

o   This mainly applies to the first half, but could be applied to the entire game too. The pass protection for Mallet throughout was suspect. Early on, Mallet made a nice throw to LaFell to convert a 3rd down only to see it taken back because of a Solder holding penalty. The rest of the half Solder struggled. Mallet’s struggles could be directed toward the OL play in front of him. They struggled to contain the Skins pass rush all night.

o   The run blocking was rough as well. On the first attempt of the day, Ridley saw at least 4 Redskins in the backfield the moment he took the handoff, luckily he found a way to gain 2 yards somehow. As a team that Patriots had 24 carries for 63 yards and a really crappy 2.6 YPC average and a lot of that falls on the offensive line for not opening up holes for the runners.

·         Ryan Mallet

o   Yes, I know the OL play was bad, which could be a reason for Mallet’s struggles but still he did not look very good. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and rushed his movements and progressions. The easy play to look at with a magnifying glass is the quick slant to LaFell that was thrown at his feet killing the chance at a first down. The offense didn’t do anything when Mallet was at the helm, which sucks because this was sort of a showcase game for him.

·         The Front 7 (Anderson, Beauharnais and Fleming in particular)

o   Didn’t come close to hitting the quarterback and did a really poor job penetrating the LOS on run plays. All of the LBs took really bad angles all night and looked to be caught out of place a lot. The defensive line rarely set the edge well, too. Granted, the team did not have the entire starting LB core and the starting DL only played a couple series, but still these depth players did not do their jobs very well out there.

·         Logan Ryan

o   This is mainly because I have very high expectations for Ryan heading into this season to develop into a better player. Two plays in particular stick out from Ryan’s play the other night. One was in the first half I believe and the Pats had the Skins backed up on their own 1 and Ryan let Robinson slant right in front of his face for an easy 15 yard pickup getting them out of trouble. Then, a second play Ryan got beat down the sideline on a nice throw and catch. Overall I thought he looked subpar. Hopefully he can turn it around and become the player we all expect him to be.


·         Jimmy Garoppolo

o   Yes, he was playing vs. vanilla defense against Washington’s 2s and 3s but still this kid looked good. He looked to be very comfortable in the pocket and made a lot of very good decisions. He throws a beautiful deep ball, that’s for certain. He had 3 throws that beyond impressed me; all of them were thrown toward Tyms. The first was the deep ball in the third which was incomplete, the second was the first play of the 4th quarter where Jimmy sent a beauty down the sideline to Tyms for a huge gain, and the 3rd impressive throw was the TD toss to Tyms, yet another perfectly placed pass over the shoulder. IF Garoppolo can continue to make throws like that in these situations Mallet may be on the chopping block.

·         Brandon LaFell/ Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms

o   LaFell didn’t do much, but he looked good when he was out there and did do something. I thought he looked smooth running routes and seems to have a lot of length to offer on the field which Brady will use to an advantage. Boyce made a couple catches but again just looked electric to me once he touches the ball. This kid is certainly talented, but he can’t seem to fully put it together yet. Hopefully he does, because he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The obvious positive here was Tyms as he put up 120 yards and the lone Patriot score of the game off of a beauty pass from Jimmy G. Tyms may have been playing vs. vanilla defense and not much contact at the line, but he still went out and produced in the stage that demanded it. It will be interesting to follow him the rest of preseason and see how he and Garoppolo develop together.

·         Malcom Butler

o   Effort is the first word that comes to mind when I think of his performance. Butler was all over the field all night. He should’ve had at least 2 interceptions as well which really would’ve helped his chances at a roster spot. He is a smaller corner but his effort makes up for that. He showed very well on Thursday night and with Brandon Browner suspended the first 4 games of the season Butler could find his way onto the roster if this type of play keeps up.

·         Tavon Wilson and Patrick Chung

o    BB was pretty obvious in his attempt to give Harmon, Wilson and Chung all equal reps on Thursday and I think Wilson did the most with his. He was the most active out there making a lot of tackles looking pretty big but not slow. He didn’t make any glaring mental mistakes, which shows growth on his part. He looked pretty good in my opinion coming up and playing the run game. Chung didn’t rack up the same tackle number as Wilson but he still looked smooth out there. He didn’t impress me as much as Wilson, but he looked better than I thought he would for some reason. I am rooting for Wilson to win out in the safety competition and take the starting role but I also like Harmon a lot too and wouldn’t mind seeing him take it either. We also can’t rule out Jemea Thomas making a push in the coming weeks for the spot either. The competition at the second safety spot is the most interesting to me at this point in the season.

Overall the game wasn’t pretty for the Patriots, but there were the bright spots that I outlined above. The team heads back to Gillette to joint practice with the Eagles before their game on Friday night. Friday night should see more action from the starters and it should also answer more questions about position competition and who will stick on the roster.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Patriots Training Camp!!!

Patriots Training Camp Important Questions and Projecting the 53

            Well, the NFL season is finally here. Obviously, the regular season hasn’t arrived yet and won’t for another six weeks or so. But, Training Camp and preseason is the most anticipated time of the year because the lull of the offseason is just too long. Training Camp is very fun to follow because we get to find out what players are shining in practice and what players could be on the bubble. Young players are fighting for NFL careers and veterans are just trying to not get cut during this time of year. It’s always a fun time and here are the biggest questions/thoughts for the Patriots heading into Training Camp.
·         How have the rookie wide receivers progressed heading into their ‘Jump Year’?

o   In New England, the Year 2 Jump always seems to be important for a young player. We saw the jump from Collins in the playoffs last season. While the rookies had their highs and lows during the season, overall they did a very good job for being thrust into the roles they were. Of course there will be growing pains with young guys in a
tough offensive system with a QB who demands excellence. Now, it’s time to find out how these guys have progressed. Dobson, Boyce and Thompkins all could be very big pieces for the offense this year if they are able to make the jump in their sophomore season. The biggest expectations are on Dobson since he was picked very high and showed the most promise last season. He hasn’t fully recovered from the foot injury yet, but hopefully that hasn’t hampered him. We didn’t see a lot from Josh Boyce last year, but the few times we did see him he showed explosiveness. Thompkins had a very good start to the season with some big games (the GW TD vs. the Saints comes to mind), but down the stretch and into the playoffs he disappeared on us. Hopefully all three of these guys can get on the same page with Brady and learn the offense inside and out to be the most productive players they can be. The addition of LaFell could be a big one. Some are high on him, while others are down on him. He put up a consistent 600 yards a season in a conservative offense as the third option. This system can get the most out of some WRs and I think LaFell could be one of those guys. Danny Amendola had a tough first season in New England as he did not meet hefty expectations. Hopefully he can stay healthy this season and have great production in this offense. The wide receivers as a group have a lot of room for improvement and hopefully they reach full potential this season.

·         How the interior Defensive Line is shaping up and the health of the vets

o   Last season the Pats interior D-Line was decimated not even halfway through year. Big Vince was lost with the achilles injury in Week 4 and Kelly the week later to an ACL. From there we saw Jones, Vellano, Siliga and Sopoaga try to patch up the middle but in reality it wasn’t great. While all did a valiant job being thrust into starting roles, the defensive line was a huge weakness on the team. Bill Belichick went out and helped secure the middle by drafting Dominque Easley in the 1st round. So the biggest question for the DL is how Kelly and Wilfork are looking out there and how is Easley looking too? If all three can play a healthy season to their fullest the interior DL looks very solid, but that’s asking a lot especially from two big boys who are in the latter stages of their careers. Outside of those 3, Siliga, Jones and Vellano will be battling it out for spots up on the depth chart and the roster. For this position, the key is health. If Kelly, Wilfork and Easley are all 100% I don’t think we will see any signs of weakness up the middle and teams will struggle to run the ball on the Pats.

·         Who will take the starting spots on the interior Offensive Line?

o   Starting off, I think it’s safe to say Mankins will have his starting spot, but from there everything else is up in the air. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly are coming off of really tough seasons in which both struggled greatly. BB went out and drafted three offensive linemen to create some depth and competition at the position. I think Bryan Stork could really compete for Wendell’s job at center if he really impresses at camp. Both Wendell and Connolly have contract numbers that help the team out if they are cut. Connolly will have to battle with Jon Halapio and Josh Kline at the guard spot and even Marcus Cannon maybe if he kicks back inside with the return of Vollmer. I think when it’s all said and done Wendell and Connolly could both be gone or both be here depending upon how the rookies play in TC and preseason. The interior OL was a huge weakness last season and some new faces in there may improve the situation.

·         How is the secondary going to gel (specifically the slot CB and SS)?

o   This is the most improved part of the team and is now undeniably the strength of the team, at least if these guys all can put it together. BB went out and signed Revis, arguably the best CB in the league, and Brandon Browner who was a Pro Bowler in 2012. This secondary is now loaded with talent and now it’s a question of where everyone will fall on the depth chart. Obviously Revis is the number 1 CB, but from there it’s all up to competition. Dennard and Ryan are young budding players that will need to beat out the vets if they want to see legitimate
playing time. The only weakness in the secondary is the strong safety spot. Duron Harmon showed some promise last season that he can fill the void but he still had a lot to prove. The team also signed Patrick Chung so we shall see what he can bring to the table. I don’t see Chung making the team, but a healthy competition for Harmon would be nice. Maybe this is the season the Tavon Wilson steps up and plays like we expected? That would be very nice. Hopefully whoever wins out the SS spot steps up and plays very well in this already strong secondary.

·         What other players can make a leap or prove themselves?

o   Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon are all candidates to make a leap heading into their second season. Collins and Ryan in particular showed a lot of promise as rookies and hopefully they build a lot off of it.

o   Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Dont’a Hightower, Tavon Wilson, and Danny Amendola. Vereen and Amendola would both be very productive players if they could only stay healthy. They need to play a full season healthy to prove they can be important contributors to the team. Stevan Ridley needs to prove that he can hold onto the football and be a horse as the lead back. He did a great job as the lead back in 2012, but had issues last season with fumbles. If he can get past this setback, he can be a beast for the Pats in the run game. Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson need to prove their talent on this team. Hightower had a very good rookie season and regressed a little after being pushed into a tough spot last season when Mayo went down. He has been good but still needs to prove how good he can be as a high selection. He has a lot of talent and now that he will be playing a better suited role for himself I expect a big year from him. Tavon Wilson has shown pretty much nothing over two years. He forced a couple turnovers in his rookie season, but barely saw the field last season. Wilson was a reach as a second round pick and hasn’t proved his worth for that selection. Hopefully he turns it around.


53-Man Roster Projection

With all of the young talent on this team and the additions in free agency, finalizing the 53-man roster will be very tough for BB. Here is my pre training camp projection of the 53-man roster:
QB (3) Brady, Mallett, Garoppolo
RB (5) Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, White, Develin
WR (7) Edelman, Amendola, LaFell, Boyce, Dobson, Slater, Thompkins
TE (2) Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui
C  (2) Stork, Wendell
G  (3) Mankins, Halapio, Kline
T  (4) Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming
DE (5) Jones, Ninkovich, Buchanan, Moore, Smith
DT (5) Wilfork, Kelly, Easley, Siliga, Jones
ILB(3) Mayo, Hightower, Beauharnais
OLB(2) Collins, Anderson
CB (5) Revis, Browner, Dennard, Arrington, Ryan
SS (2) Harmon, Wilson
FS (2) McCourty, Thomas
ST (3) Gostkowski, Allen, Aiken

·         My 53-man roster is pretty straight forward. I think only 2 TEs will make the roster because Gronk is saying he’s 100% healthy and ready for the season.
·         I have Patrick Chung being cut from the roster, because I don’t see him beating out anyone for a spot.
·         I also don’t have any of the UDFA RB’s making the roster because I think the current RBs have too much talent added onto the draftee James White whom I really like.
·         I also have Dan Connolly being cut. I think the drafting of Halapio put Connolly on the bubble; also the team really likes Josh Kline too which makes him expendable with his hefty contract.
·         I really like Jeremy Gallon but with all of the WRs already on the roster I don’t see him making the cut. Hopefully he can make it onto the practice squad.
·         I see Bryan Stork possibly beating out Ryan Wendell for the starting spot but I think Wendell makes the team anyway.

Monday, July 14, 2014

NBA Free Agency Thoughts

NBA Free Agency Thoughts

            Outside of the playoffs and finals, the free agency period for the NBA is most exciting to follow and this July has been one of the most exciting since the 2010 offseason which featured the Decision and the infamous formation of the Big 3 in Miami. From a Celtics perspective, they have been rather quiet after there had been talks of ‘fireworks’ from the organization. Here I’ll take a look at the recent big signings around the league. My Celtics related comments will be all the way at the bottom for the Celtic fans out there.

·         LeBron James signs a 2-year $42-million deal with Cleveland

o   This is the move of the offseason obviously. Of course, the James haters find this move a sell out by LeBron. I’ve heard people say he finds the first door after losing (which is true), he knew returning to Cleveland would make people pat him on the back (also true), or even he left to go to a better situation with a young Kyrie and Wiggins (which I disagree with). I think if he returned to Miami, he would have a better chance at a ring. Unless the Cavs get Love, they wouldn’t be as good as Miami would have been with him. Even though I am a huge James hater, I really respect this move outta him. Yes, he may have found the door and ran when the tough got going, but I’ve come to learn that that’s what kind of guy LeBron James is. He’s a front runner. But, I respect the hell out of the fact that he knew he messed up big time in 2010 and righted a wrong by returning home to the city that so badly needed a star and relevancy in it. I’m a sentimental kind of fan, and a star that turned his back on the area that raised him, then returns is a great story. I’m sorry if I’m a sucker, but it really is. If LeBron is able to deliver a title to Cleveland without getting a Kevin Love to help him that would make his story and legacy so much better. Also, I would be happy for those fans over in Cleveland because they deserve a title so much. This is a class move by LeBron to go home. For those of you who still do not respect him or hate the move, what do you expect? It’s LeBron. At this point, we all know that he just isn’t the type of guy that Jordan, Larry or Magic was that’s just fact. LeBron is just as skilled as those players, but he doesn’t have that ‘it’ factor. Anyway, all of that aside, I really respect the move by LeBron to come back home.


·         Carmelo Anthony signs a 5-year $129-million deal to stay in New York

o   Good for Melo for getting paid, good for NY and Phil to retain him. New York is looking up though, if you ask me. Melo will still have to carry them and most likely it will be a 7-8 seed in the East. The Knicks need to get that horrible Amare contract off the books before they become relevant again.

·         Chris Bosh signs a 5-year $118-million max deal to stay in Miami

o   WOW. Very surprised to see this happen. This move, in my opinion, shows the greatness of Pat Riley as a GM and salesman. He somehow sold Bosh on staying in Miami even after LBJ ditched town. Obviously that extra money and year helped Bosh make the decision, but let’s be honest, Bosh’s best situation was to take the max in Houston and ball with a new big 3. I am very surprised to see him change his mind; sadly, Miami will not be a title contender for at least two more seasons so Bosh will be stuck on a decent team. He will also be back to the old Bosh in the post averaging 24/11 like he did in Toronto. A good move by Riley to keep a star around to build something with, and a solid move by Bosh to stick around and take the money.

·         Dirk Nowitzki agrees to a 3-year $30-million deal to stay with Dallas

o   Big Shot Dirk staying home. Not really a surprise. This guy belongs in Dallas. Of course he could have gotten more on the open market, but he has that gene of loyalty in him, which adds to his legacy. The Mavs may be a decent team that could make a surprise run in the playoffs now that they added Tyson Chandler as well. Class move by Dirk to stay for cheap, good for Dallas.

·         Kyle Lowry agrees to a 4-year $48-million deal to stay in Toronto

o   This is a big resign for the young Raptor team. The Raptors have a very good core in place with Lowry, DeRozan and Johnson to be a competitive team each season. Lowry should only get better as the years progress as well. For a guy that can down the road by a top tier PG, 12 million per season is a very good deal for the Raptors.

·         Chandler Parsons signs 3-year $46-million offer sheet to join Dallas

o   What a huge signing for Dallas. It fills a huge need as a scoring 3. Add a young Parsons to Ellis, Nowitzki and Chandler and you have a team that can make some real noise in May. The only thing is, 15 million a year for Parsons is a HUGE overpayment if you ask me. Also the other big overpayment this offseason was Gordon Hayward going back to Utah for 4/63.. Like what? I would take Bradley over him. I was upset at Avery Bradley’s 8 million per year and Jeff Green’s 9 million this season but both those deals look like steals compared to this deal. It certainly a high price, but Parsons should fit in well with Dallas and keep them youthful as well.

·         Luol Deng signs a 2-year $20-million deal to join Miami

o   This is a bargain for Riley and Miami. Deng’s rumored price going into FA was anywhere from 13-15 million but he ends up getting 10 a year. Miami has quickly rebounded from losing Bron to making a decent playoff team in the East with Bosh and Deng as the core and more cap space to make moves. Deng will be a 2nd option there so he gets to shine and Miami gets a bargain and stays a winning team. Good for both sides.

·         Pau Gasol signs a 3-year $22-million deal joining Chicago

o   If Derrick Rose can play a full season and postseason 100%, this signing is huge for Chicago. Pau can score, which Chicago needs badly. With Rose, Butler, Pau and Noah and Gibson off the bench, this Bulls team could end up being the 1-seed in the East and be a legit title contender. A great signing for Chicago and a good spot for Pau to shine.


Celtics Related Moves

·         Celtics sign Avery Bradley to a 4-year $32-million deal

o   I like Avery Bradley; I do, just not at this price. At least that’s what I was saying when the deal was signed. Now that the numbers for the Hayward and Parsons deal have come out, I really don’t mind the Bradley signing. He’s still very young and has upside at and at 8 million a season, looks to be a bit of a bargain. Rondo, Smart and Bradley is a good combo of guards for this Celtics team.

·         Celtics trade 10.3 TPE and conditional 2nd round pick to Cleveland as part of a 3-team deal getting Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and a future protected 1st round pick.

o   Love this deal. Love it. We traded pretty much nothing and still got a solid shooter Thornton with an expiring deal, a young big man in Zeller (which the C’s desperately needed) and yet another first round pick. All of that for nothing. I think we may see Thornton traded before the season even starts or at the trade deadline. He is a good scorer that a contending team could use off the bench in the playoffs. Even if he isn’t traded, he has an expiring deal which is perfect for the Celtics through this rebuild. Zeller looks to be part of the future plans of the team. Hopefully he can develop into a solid big man who can give us 20-24 minutes a night down low. You gotta love this trade by Ainge. He gave up nothing for something.

·         EXTRA: Paul Pierce signs a MLE 2-year $10-million deal with Washington

o   When I saw this I said, “Good for Paul”. He brings veteran leadership and clutch scoring to a very young and competitive Wizards team that they need. The Wizards will make the playoffs again this season and if the Celtics drop into tankapalooza 2.0 then I will easily root for the success of Paul in the playoffs with the Wiz. Something to think about, Pierce has an opt out after one season though, so maybe if the Celtics gets some studs by 2015, Pierce will opt out and rejoin for one last run in his career. Obviously, a pipe dream, but what a great story it would be. Best of luck to my favorite player all-time Paul Pierce.    

The Celtics have been relatively quiet in this free agency a little to my surprise after the “fireworks” were supposed to be coming. There are still rumors of Kevin Love, which I’m holding out hope for, but that seems very unlikely too. I think the C’s can still offer the best package IF Cleveland doesn’t give up Wiggins and Golden State won’t give up Thompson. If the Celtics cannot get Love, they should just sit back the rest of the offseason (as they are doing) and just play the young guys and see how the season turns out, then make a run at FA in 2015. I’m still holding out the dream that Love is coming here though, and I’m not giving up until he wears another team’s jersey.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Celtics Draft Impressions

Celtics Draft Impressions
            I was holding out last second hope that the Celtics would make one last push to trade for Love, but that did not happen and as the draft started to unfold the picks became easily clear. Rumors had the Celtics very high on the athlete Aaron Gordon, but when the Magic surprisingly took him at #4 the Celtics had to look at the next option which was Marcus Smart. Smart at #6 was the best player available and does many things that a team can like. Then as the picks began to swing around closer to #17, a player who was high up on boards early in the season, James Young began to slip down the board. The Celtics selected the lengthy shooter at #17 and set up their future with a fierce guard in Smart and a good wing scorer in Young. The draft for the Celtics was a very good one. Here are some thoughts on each of the picks:

·         Marcus Smart (6’4 220) PG/SG – 2 Seasons at OKST: 16.6PPG 5.9RPG 4.5APG 2.9SPG

o   I have always been a supporter of Marcus Smart in college. I love what he brings to the table. He’s a fierce competitor and brings a great level of intensity and leadership to the floor. While he has his weaknesses, shooting and a temper, there isn’t much at Smart is weak at. He is a bull when he attacks the hoop. He is also a very active and good defender averaging almost three steals per game. Smart has taken over games before, putting the team on his back willing them to victory. Many are quick to call OKST a mediocre team, but they lost their starting center early in the year, which left them very vulnerable inside. If Cobbins does not get hurt, OKST would have been a legit team in March.

o   While many are quick to point out Smart’s inconsistent shooting, I think this aspect of his game is underrated. Yes, Smart can’t consistently find his jumpshot off of the dribble and over defenders, but he’s not a guy that you can just leave wide open like Rondo and be okay. The other knock on Smart is that he is a hot tempered player. There was obviously the incident where Smart pushed a Texas Tech fan, but I think he was provoked. I like the fact that Smart has a hot temper. It only adds to his fire and intensity.

o   Overall, Marcus Smart has a lot to offer and a lot of potential in this league. He can be a lock down defender. He can find a way to score through attacking and getting to the line if his shot isn’t falling. He is a great leader and competitor. Smart is a very solid all-around player and with a couple seasons in the NBA he could develop into a very good guard.

·         James Young (6’6 215) SG/SF – 1 Season at UK: 14.3 PPG 4.3 RPG 1.7 APG

o   I’m going to sound like a homer, but yes, I LOVE this pick as well. On my list at #17, I had Young number 1 then Anderson and Napier as other options. I’m very glad to see the Celtics land this lengthy wing scorer. He had a solid but not amazing regular season for the Wildcats, but come March he found his shot and his role in the offense and carried Kentucky a couple games in the tournament. Young didn’t boast the best stats at UK, but he was also on a team with 4-5 other great offensive players. If he is asked to be the #1 or #2 scoring option he can be lethal. Young struggled to light it up percentage wise from deep during the season, only shooting the three at 34%, but he has a very natural stroke and I don’t see this stat as an issue.

o   James Young has great length and athleticism to play either the 2 or 3 positions. He would be a very lengthy 2-guard or an average 3. Young has a very long wingspan, which can help him become a disruptive defender as well. He can put his head down and attack the hoop and finish with authority (shown in the Title game). Young can turn into a very effective scorer who could stretch the floor with the deep threat and attack from the wing which the Celtics could really use. This is a very good pick at #17.

·         Implications?

o   When Marcus Smart was drafted, many people immediately thought: Rondo is gone. I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but I don’t think Rondo being traded is a done deal. Marcus Smart has and can play the off-guard position and could be used as just that with the Celtics as they keep Rondo around. I think it could work out if it was given the shot. Smart has played the off-guard position many times before and his game can easily translate into being an off-guard. So I think Rondo may not be gone as others have jumped to.

o   I think that the drafting of Smart and Young could mean that BOTH Rondo and Bradley will be gone next season. Bradley will be a RFA come July and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Celtics just letting him walk and throwing Smart and Young into the fire next season at the 2-guard spot. If the Celtics do retain Bradley, I think that he and Rondo are top candidates to be traded as the Celtics may be looking to tank this season again and get more young assets.

o   All in all, for not getting Kevin Love, I love what Danny Ainge did in this draft. He didn’t force the issue by moving up and he didn’t trade back either and took the best player available at both #6 and #17. I loved both Smart and Young prior to the draft and the fact that the Celtics are walking away with both of them on the roster makes me very happy. While Danny Ainge predicted that ‘fireworks’ would be in store for the draft, I am certainly okay with what transpired. If both of these players can turn into the players they are supposed to be, the Celtics could have a very solid foundation of Smart-Young-Sullinger and Olynyk to build from and find more young talent. Yes, the Celtics look like they are going down the long rebuild road, so this is what we have to accept and just root for consistent improvement out of the young guys. BUT I still think the Celtics have the assets to get Love while keeping these two guys as well. I think Ainge isn't done with Flip, so we shall see what happens in the end! So as always, through thick and thin, GO CELTICS!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Celtics Draft & Kevin Love

Celtics Draft and Kevin Love Thoughts, also Flip and Golden State Are Blowing Smoke.

            This is a huge offseason upcoming week for the Boston Celtics. What happens from now until June 26th could decide the future of this team for years to come. The Kevin Love rumors are still hot and heavy. Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green’s futures also weigh in the balance depending upon this Love situation as well. The Celtics are either going to land Love and become a playoff team, or they don’t get him and blow the whole team up and look to build through the draft. The Kevin Love saga has been a rollercoaster from the get-go as well. At first, Love to the Celtics was a dark horse thought, and then when Love visited Boston, suddenly the Celtics were the favorites to land him, but now with the recent reports that the Warriors and Nuggets have potentially better offers, the Celtics have fallen back into the pack for Love. Or have they?

            We’ll start with the Love rumors, and then move into draft talk. First off, I think that Flip Saunders is full of absolute crap right now. He continues to say that the Wolves want players in return for a Kevin Love deal. This Golden State rumor that Klay Thompson is available is hard to believe. The report is that the trade would be David Lee + Klay Thompson + GSW 1st Rd for Kevin Love + Kevin Martin. Now why on earth would either team do this trade? Golden State looks like they are getting a good deal for Love, but they are splitting up their most lethal tandem (Curry/Thompson) in the process. In my opinion, they do not gain much from this deal and still lose a first round pick in the process. As for Minnesota, this puts them absolutely nowhere. I understand that Flip wants players in return for Kevin Love, but getting Thompson and Lee is a down grade from Love and Martin. Minnesota will be stuck in a cycle of mediocrity if this deal were to go through. Not to mention the fact that Thompson and Lee would most likely leave Minny in free agency eventually anyway. Fact is if the Wolves want players in return for Love, they aren’t going to get a Durant or LeBron to make them a 50-win team. If they choose to take the players in return, they will be stuck winning 25-35 games a season and not have any prospects looking up. This is why I think the GSW rumors are crap. There is no way the Wolves wreck their future like this. The Celtics have draft picks they can offer and a good player in Sullinger who can give the Wolves a better chance to be a contender down the road. If Flip wants to take glorified role players, the Wolves will be worse off than they are now. That’s why this ‘wanting players’ rumor is crap. But, if this is crap, why is Flip leaking all of this? Driving up the price for Love.

            According to the Herald’s Steve Bulpett, the Celtics have only offered picks #6/#17 and Kelly Olynyk to the Wolves. This news now makes sense with the reports that the Celtics offer isn’t enough according to Flip. The best asset the Celtics have, outside of the #6 pick, is Jared Sullinger. They also have two Brooklyn picks in ’16 & ’18 and a swap in ’17. Flip knows about these assets, obviously, and wants to make Ainge offer them up. Ainge hasn’t even shown his full hand yet, which is why the Celtics aren’t the favorite for Love as of now. Once Thursday night rolls around, Ainge will pull off what he has to, within reason, to obtain Love. The Celtics are the obvious favorites to obtain Love with the assets they have. Flip Saunders can sit there and try to deny it all he wants, but the Celtics have the best assets to take Minnesota’s best player off their team for a second time in seven seasons. He’s in full denial and Ainge will make the necessary push to get Love if he wishes when the time comes.

            Now some fans do not want to trade for Kevin Love, because they either think Sullinger can turn into a 20/10 player or they believe that keeping the draft assets is the way to go. That, to me at least, is a very risky way to go. How many teams successfully tear it all down then come back to be a competitive force? The answer is not many. Oklahoma City got lucky that they landed a generational talent in Durant to turn their franchise around. I look to Indiana when I think of this rebuild. Indy missed the playoffs for years and slowly built their team with first round picks and finally turned a corner after years. But, once they turned that corner, they imploded and found out that the core in place wasn’t good enough to win a title. I don’t want this to happen to the Celtics. I don’t want to see them slowly get better, missing the playoffs for 3-4 years, then find out all of this rebuilding isn’t even enough to win. There’s also the rebuilding that ends up like the Cavs, Bobcats or Jazz where we are just stuck in the lottery year after year never hitting on any picks. So, unless the Celtics get lucky and land a generational player (not gonna happen), they should look to trading for Kevin Love. A core of Rondo-Love-Green isn’t a bad start and immediately makes the playoffs as a 5-8 seed in the East. Once Kevin Love is acquired the Celtics can go after other free agents or wheel and deal for another superstar (Melo?). I just feel like avoiding building through the draft is the way to go. To successfully rebuild through the draft you need a lot of luck, which I don’t like relying on.

            If the Celtics do not acquire Kevin Love for whatever reason, we need to look at their options with the #6 and #17 picks in this year’s draft. There’s also a very good chance that Rondo and Green will be moved if the C’s don’t land Love. So there could be a chance at more first round picks this draft or in future drafts. So let’s start with my big board Top 20 players overall in this draft:

1.      Jabari Parker – I love this kid. The knock on him is that he cannot score versus bigger defenders and isn’t a great defender himself. But, he is an extremetly talented scorer and there’s no denying that.
2.      Andrew Wiggins – While his athleticism and upside is really hard to deny, I haven’t fallen in love with him. He doesn’t have that ‘it’ factor to me and could turn into a Jeff Green, wildly talented player, but passive and inconsistent.
3.      Joel Embiid – His ceiling is the next Hakeem. His floor is the most recent big man lottery bust. The injuries scare me (mainly the back) and he is very raw. Very risky pick, but it could pay huge dividends down the road.
4.      Noah Vonleh – He’s another big man who is very young and raw, but his size and length are undeniable. He has already developed a solid all-around offensive game.
5.      Dante Exum – Big questions about NBA readiness, but has great size for a PG and a very good skillset to be a successful player.
6.      Marcus Smart – He’s a solid player. Nothing really special about him, outside of intensity. Good but not great at shooting, handling, IQ and defense.
7.      Zach Lavine – Reminds me a lot like Westbrook. Explosive. He needs to be a better decision maker shot wise, but has all the tools.
8.      Aaron Gordon – Freak athlete who needs to polish up his shot and post moves a lot to be a force, but overall has a lot to offer with size and athleticism.
9.      Julius Randle – He’s a beast inside and has a huge motor, but hasn’t shown reliability with the right hand and can’t stretch a D with his jumper, for now at least.
10.  Gary Harris – He’s another guy who is solid. Nothing special but everything very well. Is a knockdown shooter when left open and could turn into a very good NBA role player.
11.  Nik Stauskus – He’s got solid length for a 2-guard and is a pure shooter. Not a special athlete, but a smart offensive player.
12.  Elfrid Payton – He’s a taller PG that is very explosive off the dribble. He won’t stretch the D with a killer jumper, but can slice it apart with an attack.
13.  James Young – He is a very good shooter and scorer in general. Very underrated in my opinion. His skills and size can potentially translate into a very good wing scorer and defender.
14.  Doug McDermott – He’s a money ball shooter, which we all know. But there is serious question about his athleticism and overall quickness to play NBA ball. He will be able to hit open looks, but what else? Remains to be seen.
15.  Kyle Anderson – Has the skill and size to play PG, SG or SF which helps his value a lot. He’s not an amazing athlete, which will hurt him a little but the versatility is huge.
16.  Glenn Robinson III – He’s a freak athlete who can get out and run making highlights plays. Has a lot of room for improvement at shooting and defending, but has potential.
17.  Shabazz Napier – If he was 6’3, I would have him in the Top 7. Amazing IQ, knockdown shooter, solid defender, smart passer and great leader. The only knock is his size. He seriously does everything very well.
18.  Cleanthony Early – Has good size to play the 3-spot and is a good shooter when left open. He’s a good scorer overall, but ball control could improve.
19.  Tyler Ennis – Another PG that does everything well. Very mature for his age and is a great passer, but also knows when to take it over himself. Great potential for him.
20.  T.J Warren – He’s a gifted scorer from 2-point range that can find a weakness in any defense. Doesn’t have a 3-point shot, which is a huge negative, but can be developed. He is a natural scorer that teams will love.

With the Top 20 Big Board looked at now let’s key in on the Celtics selections at #6 and #17 and see the available options for them.

#6 Pick:
·         Joel Embiid (if he falls due to injury concern) – huge potential and fills a huge need as a rim protecting center.
·         Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle – All of them are talented power forwards in their own ways which should intrigue the Celtics. Gordon and Vonleh’s upside are really hard to pass on.
·         Marcus Smart or Zach Lavine – This is a scenario in which the Celtics have traded Rondo and view these two as possible PG replacements.

#17 Pick:
·         James Young, Cleanthony Early, Glenn Robinson III or Kyle Anderson – All of these players can bring a wing scoring threat to the team if they decide to trade Green.
·         Shabazz Napier or Tyler Ennis – More PG options here if the team does move Rondo.
·         Adrien Payne – Stretch 4-man.
So after looking at all of this, my dream scenario for the C’s is getting Kevin Love for a good price and building from there, but if this cannot be obtain my dream picks for #6 and #17 would be Noah Vonleh and James Young, but obviously if Embiid falls, this situation changes. This next week is huge for the future of the franchise. Any wrong decisions and the Celtics could be stuck in mediocrity for years, but if the right moves are made, they could be contending really quickly. Hopefully Ainge makes the correct moves. Go Celtics!!