SpreeGoogs http://spreegoogs.com Sports Commentary, 1990s Pop Culture, Mock Drafts and Power Rankings Sun, 11 Dec 2016 23:20:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.6 54895165 Breaking Down the 2017 MLB HOF Ballot http://spreegoogs.com/2016/12/11/breaking-2017-mlb-hof-ballot/ Sun, 11 Dec 2016 21:56:29 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7268 Well hello there SpreeGoogs nation! The posts don’t come very often anymore, but I wasn’t..

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Well hello there SpreeGoogs nation! The posts don’t come very often anymore, but I wasn’t going to miss my annual column looking at all the MLB Hall of Fame candidates. For the uninitiated, voters can choose up to 10 players, and you need 75% of voters in order to be inducted.

When no players were voted in on the 2013 ballot, there was a backlog of really talented players that I believe are HOF worthy. The last three years have helped clear the deck – Thomas, Maddux and Glavine in 2014, Smoltz, R.Johnson, Pedro and Biggio in 2015, then Piazza and Griffey in 2016. There are a handful of new candidates worthy of a look, but voters should at least feel now that HOF caliber players aren’t making their top-10. Here’s a look, in reverse order, of how my ballot would look for each of the candidates on the list this year.

35 Casey Blake, 1999-2011, Career WAR 24.9

Can you be a hall-of-famer without ever being an all-star? No, no you can’t. Blake spent the first four years of his career bouncing from AAA to the bigs, never playing more than 20 games per season, then had a respectably average 9 years with Cleveland and the Dodgers. Not a chance.

34 Matt Stairs, 1992-1993, 1995-2011, Career WAR 14.3

I love Matt Stairs’ studly power and distinguished facial hair – but his stats don’t add up to a HOF career. He had 38 HRs and 102 RBIs for my A’s in 1999 in his best year, and won a ring as a pinch hitter with the Phillies in 2008. But never an all-star – congrats on making the ballot Matt.

33 Arthur Rhodes 1991-2011, 1X All-star, Career WAR 15.0

We’ve only got a handful of the best closers of all-time in the HOF, so I don’t think a career-long setup guy has any shot. Rhodes had a long and successful 21 year career, enough to put him 25th all-time in games appeared as a pitcher, but no stats that suggest real consideration for the HOF. Kudos to Rhodes for ending his career on top, with a ring for the 2011 Cardinals and three perfect appearances in that series.

32 Orlando Cabrera 1997-2011, 2x Gold Glove, Career WAR 21.4

In my mind, his place in history is solidified as the shortstop the Red Sox acquired from the Expos in 2004 when trading away Nomar Garciaparra in a four-way deal. Cabrera then went on to be a key cog in their World Series winning team that year. After that, he floated around and ended up playing on six teams in his last four years in the league. 15 years of solid shortstop play gives his some solid career defensive stats, but offensively he doesn’t make the HOF cut.

31 Carlos Guillen, 1998-2011, 3x All-star, Career WAR 27.7

Started his career as the guy traded for Randy Johnson, but established a decent run as a quality shortstop for Seattle and Detroit. Not HOF worthy.

30 Freddy Sanchez, 2002-2011, 3x All-star, 1x Batting Champion, Career WAR 15.8

Sanchez won a batting title in 2006 and a ring with the Giants in 2010. Not a long career, not enough for HOF consideration, but a few great career moments for this scrappy second basemen. Too bad he kept getting hurt.

29 Melvin Mora, 1999-2011, 2x All-star, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR: 28.2

Mora had a solid run as the leader of the mid 2000’s Orioles, capped by his 104 RBI, .340 BA season in 2004. I don’t think Mora had the career longevity or enough dominance at his heights to warrant serious consideration, but he was a very solid player.

28 J.D. Drew, 1998-2011, 1x All-star, Career WAR: 44.9

Won a ring in 2007 with the Red Sox and was the MVP of the All-star Game the following year. Drew was a high draft pick who shunned the Phillies and re-entered the draft the following year, ending up with the Cardinals. A very solid player but not likely to get many votes.

27 Mike Cameron 1995-2011, 1x All-star, 3x Gold Glove, Career WAR 46.5

Cameron’s best season came for the incredible 116-46 2001 Mariners team, after he was traded to Seattle as the centerpiece of the deal that sent HOFer Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati. Cameron delivered 25 HRs and 110 RBIs for Seattle that year, and his 278 homers put him in the top 200 all-time. On the other hand, he never hit above .273 and struck out incessantly (9th all time in K’s. Great speed-power combo guy, but not a HOFer.

26 Pat Burrell 2000-2011, Career WAR 18.8

When “Pat the Bat” hit one out, it was quite the sight to see. Also quite the sight to see was Burrell’s appearances as “The Machine” in Brian Wilson’s bizarre YouTube videos with the 2010 Giants. Burrell was picked up off the scrap heap by the Giants, his hometown team, and had one final revitalization by hitting 18 bombs in just more than half a season to help the Giants win the first of their three recent titles. Burrell also won a title with the 2008 Phillies and had 292 career homers to just edge in to the top 150 sluggers of all-time.

25 Javier Vazquez 1998-2011, 1x All-star, Career WAR 43.3 (Left off the ballot).

My perception of Vazquez is way higher than his career numbers. He had a career ERA over four (4.22) and only won five more games than he lost. He was sub-par at best in the playoffs, and was only in serious consideration for a Cy Young once in his career, toward the end in an outlier year with the Braves. I remember him being pretty nasty at times though, which explains his spot at 30th all time in strikeouts. Crazy that he is not included on the official ballot.

24 Tim Wakefield 1992-2011, 1x All-star, Career WAR 34.5

A solid, reliable starter for the Red Sox for nearly two decades. Wakefield finished third in the Cy Young voting in 1995 in his first year with Boston, going 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA. He had another great year in 2002, but most of his career his ERA was over 4. With 200 career wins he gets in consideration for his longevity, but not a true Hall of Famer.

23 Jason Varitek 1997-2011, 3x All-star, 1x Gold Glove, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 24.3

Varitek and Derek Lowe were traded to the Red Sox in 1997 at the trade deadline for Heathliff Slocumb, a deal that certainly worked out for Boston, as Varitek played his entire career as a middle-of-the-order presence on two world series winners. His stats don’t add up to be HOF worthy but I’m sure some nostalgic Boston writers will throw him a vote.

22 Edgar Renteria 1996-2011, 5x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glove, 2010 World Series MVP, Career WAR 34.3

History will remember Renteria for the bookends of his career – he won the title for the Marlins in his second season with a walkoff single in 1997, and hit two homers in the 2010 Fall Classic to win the Series MVP and finish off the Giants championship run. In between, he hit over .330 twice and stole nea1rly 300 career bases. Renteria’s closest career stat comparison is to Alan Trammell (almost a HOFer) so Renteria is certainly deserving of some votes.

21 Derrek Lee 1997-2011, 2x All-star, 3x Gold Glove, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 34.3

Albert Pujols may have won the MVP in 2005, but its hard to argue that there was anyone better that year than Derrek Lee, who led the league in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS and won the batting title. Lee actually won the Silver Slugger instead of Pujols that season. Lee was also a plus defender, hit 331 career HRs and won a World Series in 2003 with the Marlins.

20 Jorge Posada 1995-2011, 5x All-star, 5x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 42.7

Like Varitek for the Red Sox, Posada will be remembered by Yankee fans as a key contributor to their turn-of-the-century dynasty teams with Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte. Posada is the first of that group to come up for Hall of Fame consideration, and I expect he’ll be the only one that never gets in. He had a long, successful catching career and hit a respectable .273, but didn’t have any “wow” career numbers as a hitter other than negative ones.

19 Magglio Ordonez 1997-2011, 6x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 38.5

Ordonez is a legit HOF argument. A career .309 hitter with an impressive .363 batting title in 2007, Magglio was also a terrifying power hitter (92nd all-time in SLG%). In an era where no one plays for one team his entire career anymore (aside from #24,#23 and #20 on this list), I’ll give Ordonez credit for having long runs with two teams, the Whitesox and Tigers.

18 Lee Smith 1980-1997, 7x All-star, 3x Rolaids Relief, Career WAR 29.6 (2016 Vote: 34.1%)

Last Chance for Lee Smith in his 15th year on the ballot. He won’t get in but he has had enough loyal voters to hang on for this long, which is commendable. For those who never saw Smith play, he led his league in saves four times with the Cubs, Cardinals and Orioles, and has the 3rd most saves ever (ahead of Wagner). He was also a seven-time all-star and had a career 3.03 ERA.

17 Billy Wagner 1995-2010, 7X All Star, 1X Rolaids Relief, Career WAR 28.1 (2016 Vote: 10.5%)

2nd year on the ballot for Wagner, and getting only 10% in his first year is a bad sign. He’ll likely pick up just enough votes to stay on a big longer but won’t be able to jump up to 75% within 10 years. His stats are very comparable to Lee Smith’s, who was never able to get high enough for serious consideration.

16 Sammy Sosa 1989-2007, 7X All Star, 6x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1998, Career WAR: 58.4 (2016 Vote: 7.0%)

He’s 8th on the career homerun list, and played a legit role in getting fans excited about baseball again with the homerun chase in 1998, but he is at risk of falling off the ballot completely. What’s the difference between him and Bonds or Clemens? I think there’s a feeling among some that Sosa’s mediocre pre-steroid numbers don’t help his case, whereas Bonds and Clemens would have likely been HOFers even if they hadn’t been BALCO customers.

15 Curt Schilling 1988-2007, 6X All Star, Career WAR 79.9 (2016 Vote: 52.3%)

Negative points for being a total idiot in his post-career. I think voters will be looking for reasons not to vote for him because of his off-the-field comments. He was a great & clutch performer for several world series teams and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting twice. I expect that he’ll go down slightly in votes this year.

14 Fred McGriff 1986-2004, 5x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 52.4 (2016 Vote: 20.9%)

The Crime Dog hit 30 homers in 10 different years in the bigs – starting with 34 in 1988 with the ‘Jays and ending with 30 in 2002 with the Cubs. He had a long, successful career, and was consistently great hitter. He won a title with the Braves in 1995 as the most feared power hitter in that lineup.

13 Jeff Kent, 1992-2008, 5x All-star, 4x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 2000, Career WAR 55.2 (2016 Vote: 16.6%)

Kent has received surprisingly low support for one of the top hitting second basemen of all-time. After a mediocre start to his career with Toronto, the Mets and Cleveland, Kent became a star with the Giants and was over 100 RBIs in each of his six years with the team plus twice again with Houston and the Dodgers.

12 Gary Sheffield 1988-2009, 9x All-star, 5x Silver Slugger, 1x Batting Champion, Career WAR 60.3 (2016 Vote: 11.6%)

Sheffield had an amazing 22 year career – he hit the magical 500 homerun plateau, topped 100 RBIs eight times, and though he never won an MVP he finished in the top 10 six times. Also, playing in nine all-star games is no joke. He’s in the top-40 all-time in offensive WAR, runs, homers, RBI, total bases, walks, runs created, times on base, and extra base hits. And won a ring with the 1997 Marlins. At 11.6 percent last year, he’s unlikely to become a HOFer but has the stats to make a legitimate case if not for admitting that he used steroids.

11 Manny Ramirez 1993-2011, 12x All-star, 9x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 69.2

Slam Dunk Hall-of-Famer on stats alone. But the steroids case is not even a debate with him – he was suspended 50 games for drugs in 2009 toward the end of his career and it appears likely that he used them during his time winning championships with the Red Sox. The stats, however, are very impressive: 555 HRs, 12 All Star appearances, and a stunning 165 RBI season with the Indians in 1999. .312 career hitter. And his quirky persona is a positive for me. I still can’t believe he high-fived a fan, or peed behind the green monster. I think he will be considered more in the Sosa category than in the dominant Bonds/Clemens category in terms of votes.

10 Edgar Martinez 1987-2004, 7x All-star, 6x Silver Slugger, Career WAR 68.3 (2016 Vote: 43.4%)

I finally had room on my ballot this year for Edgar Martinez, a worthy candidate. Martinez is a seven-time all-star with a .312 career batting average, two batting titles and very strong numbers throughout his career. He made a BIG jump last year from 27 to 43 percent, but is running out of time in his 8th year on the ballot. I predict he’ll stay about the same and won’t make it to Cooperstown, but he gets my vote.

9 Tim Raines 1979-2002, 7x All-star, 1x Silver Slugger, Career WAR: 69.1 (2016 Vote: 69.8%)

Final Chance for Rock! Raines is 5th all-time in steals, having led the league four straight years in the early 80’s. Even when his speed went, he managed to stick around and hit nearly .300 for several teams at the end of his career. He was a seven-time all-star, all in the 80’s with the Montreal Expos, and won a ring with the 1996 Yankees. He needs 23 more votes than he got last year, I think he gets in – that will be a feel-good story for this year.

8 Larry Walker 1989-2005, 5x All-star, 4x Silver Slugger, 7x Gold Glove, NL MVP 1997, Career WAR 72.6 (2016 Vote: 15.5%)

If you’ve read this column in the past, you know that I’m a card carrying member of the Larry Walker fan club. Not really, but I’m higher on him than most, as I think he’s one of the most impressive hitters of this era. He had a .313 lifetime average, won an MVP in 1997 when he hit 49 homeruns, and chased .400 on four different occasions. Amazingly, he hit .379 in 1999 and only finished 10th in the MVP voting – that shows you how homerun friendly that era was. And don’t forget Walker also won seven gold gloves for his outfield play.

7 Mike Mussina 1991-2008, 5x All-star, 7x Gold Glove, Career WAR 83.0 (2016 Vote: 43.0%)

Mussina was an incredibly consistent star pitcher across the 18 years of his career. His 270 wins put him in elite status among modern pitchers, and though I don’t picture him as an overpowering presence he is in the top-20 all-time in strikeouts. He was also an excellent defender on the mound. Currently he’s getting about the same number of votes as Bonds and Clemens – in a year with more openings on the ballot, this will be an important year for him – if he jumps up close to 50% I think he can keep increasing his share to possibly get in before 10 years are up. But if he stays where he’s at again, it could be tough for Moose to get in.

6 Trevor Hoffman 1993-2010, 7x All-star, 2x Rolaids Relief, Career WAR 28.4 (2016 Vote: 67.3%)

2nd all-time in saves behind Mariano Rivera who recently passed him, so as closers go he’s got one of the best track records in history. He had particularly impressive longevity, recording 30 or more saves for 14 straight years (!) save 2003 when he was injured. Like most closers, his career WAR was limited by only pitching one inning per game, so I’ve had to look at other stats to determine his worthiness. This is the stat that convinced me: Hoffman is 8th all-time in WHIP, tucked between HOFers Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. That means Hoffman not only had consistency in saves across his career, but there was some meat behind it as he rarely allowed any baserunners. He’ll get in eventually but I predict this year he comes just a few votes short.

5 Vladimir Guerrero 1996-2011, 9x All-star, 8x Silver Slugger, 2004 AL MVP, Career WAR 59.3

Conversations about Vlad the Impaler should really start with his amazing arm in RF. He also often led the league in errors, but made up for it with his outfield assists. Beyond that, he had jaw-dropping power and could hit baseballs off the ground. He hit over .300 for 12 straight years and was regularly over .330. Vlad is a legendary talent and was incredibly fun to watch. Anyone who watched him play will have been very impressed. He gets my vote, although with only 15 years in the league and a few of them plagued by injuries, he might not have the overall career stats to guarantee induction.

4 Roger Clemens 1984-2007, 11x All-star, AL MVP 1986, 7x Cy Young Award Winner, Career WAR 140.3 (2016 Vote: 45.2%)

Clemens led the league in ERA seven times, first in 1986 and then again twenty years later in 2005. He’s also 9th all-time in wins and 3rd in career strikeouts. Not a big fan of Clemens personally and his drug use suspicion puts a black mark on his career, but not enough to deny his stellar career.

3 Barry Bonds 1986-2007. 14x All-star, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver Slugger, 7x NL MVP, Career WAR 162.4 (2016 Vote: 44.3%)

Worth a reminder every year that Bonds’ numbers are other worldly. He stood alone with his impact on the game in his prime. He definitely gets knocked down a bit because his career is tainted with steroids, but I’m with the voters who say he should be allowed in and acknowledge his issues on the plaque. The guy is the all-time home-run king after all.

2 Ivan Rodriguez 1991-2011, 14x All-star, 7x Silver Slugger, 13x Gold Glove, 1999 AL MVP, 2003 NLCS MVP, Career WAR 68.4

Pudge was the best defensive catcher of his era, picking up almost every gold glove of the ‘90s and a few in the mid 2000s. Late in his career he developed quite the run as a winner, helping the Marlins win the 2003 World Series and leading the 2006 Tigers to the series as well. But Pudge wasn’t just a stud catcher, he was a HOF hitter. He hit over .300 10 times in his career and to me he’s a no doubt hall-of-famer.

1 Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005, 4x All-star, 3x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1994. Rookie of the Year 1991, Career WAR 79.6 (2016 Vote: 71.6%)

This is the year Bagwell gets in. With no-doubters like Maddux, Griffey already in, Bagwell should get the minor bump he needs to get over 75%. He hit at least 39 homers six times and had 449 for his career. We were all robbed of part of his best season ever in 1994 when the strike hit, when I believe he may have had a shot at the record for most RBI’s in a season and made a run at Roger Maris’ HR record. An MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and this year, a Hall-of Famer.

 

I predict that we’ll see Bagwell and Pudge go in this year easily, with Raines sneaking in barely in his last year of eligibility. Will Hoffman also get in with an 8% increase in votes? How close will Guerrero get? Will the drug-tainted guys go up or down in votes? We’ll find out in early January.

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2016 Olympic Basketball Rosters – Meet the Teams! http://spreegoogs.com/2016/07/20/2016-olympic-basketball-rosters-meet-teams/ http://spreegoogs.com/2016/07/20/2016-olympic-basketball-rosters-meet-teams/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 20:34:20 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7259   The summer Olympics are always a coming-out party for athletes that many of us..

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Will Spain be the biggest threat to the U.S. yet again?

Will Spain be the biggest threat to the U.S. yet again?

 

The summer Olympics are always a coming-out party for athletes that many of us have either never heard of, or haven’t seen compete in a meaningful away since four years earlier. This year in Rio will be no exception, and like many others, I can’t wait to be captivated by the fresh faces like Simone Biles and watch returners like Missy Franklin Kerri Walsh and Galen Rupp back for another run.

In basketball, on the other hand, we already know all the stars from the USA and see them in action constantly through the year. Just last month we saw more than half of this U.S. roster playing in the Western or Eastern Conference Finals.

So, while it will be interesting to see how that team gels and who becomes an alpha-dog on a team of stars, we know they are overwhelming favorites to win. What is less-frequently discussed and is often a surprise until they show up on the court, is how the competition stacks up against the NBA’s best. Here’s a look at the other international rosters for the upcoming games, in reverse order of expected finish.

12.Venezuela – inexperienced long shots.

  • 1 NBA Player (Greivis Vasquez)
  • Greivis Vasquez is the lone NBA player on this roster and won’t have a ton of support around him. Bay Area natives like me might also recognize veteran John Cox, who played his college ball at USF and has been playing internationally for over a decade.

11. China – the post-Yao generation.

  • 0 NBA Players
  • This team has former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian, who will likely be the primary scorer as a versatile wing, while 2nd round international draft-and-stash picks from this year’s draft, 20-year-old Zhou Qi and 22-year-old Wang Zhelin. All three of those guys are 7 feet tall, so maybe they’ll try to win by controlling the boards? Unlikely.

10. Lithuania – probably set up for a mediocre showing.

  • 3 NBA Players (Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas)
  • Kuzminskas just recently signed with the Knicks, so New York fans will be watching this team hoping he can become another Porzingis. You’ll also get a good look at Sabonis to see what kind of value the Thunder can expect from their draft day acquisition. That’s two PFs and a Center to battle inside, but not much else on the outside.

9. Nigeria – not another African pushover team.

  • 3 NBA Players (Al-Farouq Aminu, Festus Ezeli and Michael Gbinije)
  • This team starts with a pair of Trail Blazers – Aminu on the wing and newly signed center Ezeli – so Blazers fans will have their eye on this squad. They fill out the roster with Pistons 2nd round pick Michael Gbinije and a few former NBA journeymen Ike Diogu and guard Ben Uzoh.

8. Serbia – Is this some kind of Jokic?

  • 1 NBA Player (Nikola Jokic)
  • Let’s get a quick explanation out of the way, Serbia has a player named Bogdan Bogdanovic – that is not BOJAN Bogdanovic, who plays for Croatia and will also be in this tournament. This Bogdan guy is a Serb was drafted by the Suns in 2014 and his draft rights were traded to the Kings a few weeks ago. So, although they only have one current NBA player in Nuggets rookie sensation Nikola Jokic, they have likely future NBA player Bogdan, plus former Warriors bench warmer Nemanja Nedovic and Mrioslav Raduljica who played in the league with Minnesota and Milwaukee from 2013-2015.

7. Argentina – not what they once were.

  • 3 NBA Players (Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Nicolas Brussino)
  • Ginobili and Scola have led this team for over a decade of international glory, and Brussino is a newly signed Dallas Mavericks prospect who plays two-guard. This squad also has two former NBA Players Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino. With that mix, maybe they’ll play Scola at the 5 and go a little bit small, which could work against some of these Olympic teams. Other teams are deeper this year, so I see them falling short of the semi-finals.

6. Croatia – a young team to watch.

  • 3 NBA Players (Bojan Bogdanovic, Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric)
  • Bojan of the Nets and Hezonja of the Magic are both sharpshooters, and Saric is a forward who is finally coming over to the NBA this year for the 76ers after being drafted in the lottery a few years back. All three of these guys are sort of wild cards for their NBA teams this year, so watching them in the Olympics should help reveal what we can expect from them this coming year. Expect them to be middle of the pack with a chance to go far if things go well.

5. Brazil – the home team will be inspired to play well.

  • 5 NBA Players (Anderson Varejao, Nene, Marcelino Huertas, Leandro Barbosa and Raul Neto)
  • Sort of a weird group as far as NBA players go, with two 5s in Varejao and Nene, plus several experienced small guards, without any NBA-experienced wings. Who on this team could guard Paul George, Kevin Durant or Carmelo? But the rest of the Brazil team is filled with guys in their 30s, so they are veteran laden and have been preparing for this Olympics for a while now. Expect them to perform well for the home crowd.

4. Australia – a good core of talented players.

  • 6 NBA Players (Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut, Aaron Baynes and Cameron Bairstow)
  • The new Maverick Bogut is working his way back from the injury that knocked him out of the NBA Finals. Add him to a mix with Mills and Dellavedova and that’s an aggresive bunch that will fear nobody. They will care about winning this thing. If Bogut plays and can solidify that front line, expect them to do well in this tournament – if he doesn’t, they likely fall behind Brazil.

3. France – medal contender.

  • 5 NBA Players (Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert and Joffrey Lauvergne)
  • We all know Parker will run the point for the French as usual, and he’ll have a supporting cast whose gotten more high profile in recent years. Expect Batum and Diaw to start at the forward spots and get a lot of the shots for this team, with Gobert taking charge of the defense at center. Utah fans should be watching closely since a Diaw-Gobert front court could be part of a lineup the Jazz use often next year. Lauvergne of the Nuggets is also on the roster as another forward – while the other guard spot time could be split by former NBAers Nando De Colo, and Mickael Gelabale. This is a solid team that should stick around and possibly contend for a silver medal.

2. Spain – Veteran laden contenders.

  • 8 NBA Players (Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, Alex Abrines and Willy Hernangomez)
  • Mostly this is the same cast of Spainards that has battled the USA in the recent world championships and the last Olympics. You’ll have to go up against both Gasol brothers in the middle of the paint, surrounded by a slew of veteran guards who are crafty and aggressive. The list includes Calderon and Rubio at the point, flanked by some former NBA players in Juan-Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez, plus Rodriguez who just returned to the NBA with Philadelphia and youngster Abrines who just signed with the Thunder. New Knicks reserve Willy Hernangomez will be one of the young up-and-comers to watch on this team, while Bulls stretch four Mirotic could be the leading scorer on this team. There’s no doubt they are the deepest team outside of the U.S. and should be the favorites to reach the final game.

1. USA – The juggernaut

  • 12 NBA Players (Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry, Draymond Green, Demarcus Cousins, DeMar Derozan and Harrison Barnes)
  • You already know this group and that they’ll likely win the whole thing. Go USA!

 

 

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Breaking Down the 2016 Baseball HOF Ballot http://spreegoogs.com/2015/11/27/breaking-down-the-2016-baseball-hof-ballot/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/11/27/breaking-down-the-2016-baseball-hof-ballot/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2015 22:15:30 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7250 With the election of four men to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, voters..

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The Kid

With the election of four men to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, voters partially fixed a problem by reducing a glut of qualified candidates who were stuck on the ballot. Voters can only choose 10 folks on their ballot each year, but some voters have said they would certainly vote for more than 10 if given the option. With Ken Griffey Jr. as the only sure-fire first ballot candidate this year, I expect that other candidates may gain votes that they otherwise would not have received from voters who had to make cuts to create their 10 person list.

Each year, I like to breakdown the entire ballot, starting from the least likely inductees and leading up to the absolute certainties. Here’s my list from 32 to 1 for the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot. Winners will be announced in early January.

  1. Randy Winn, 1998-2010, 1X All Star. BR Rank: #685

Randy Winn caught fire in 2005 for the San Francisco Giants, hitting .359 after a trade at the deadline from Seattle. But did you recall he was involved in a rarely seen manager-for-player trade in 2002? The Rays traded Winn to Seattle for manager Lou Piniella and a minor leaguer. Add that to his selection as a pick in the expansion draft and Winn had quite the journey of transactions in his career. A solid career but nothing spectacular or HOF worthy.

  1. Brad Ausmus, 1993-2010, 3X Gold Glove, 1X All Star. BR Rank: #966

Like Winn above him, Ausmus was also an expansion draft selection. Could Ausmus join Trevor Hoffman as the first ever expansion draft HOFers? Unlikely, though his role as current Tigers manager probably helps raise his profile a smidge. As the primary catcher on the Killer B’s Astros teams of the late 90s and 00s, Ausmus was an excellent catcher but not close to a HOF level hitter, as he never had more than 9 HRs or 54 RBIs in a year.

  1. Mark Grudzielanek, 1995-2010, 1X Gold Glove, 1x All Star. BR Rank: #595

Count me among those who didn’t realize how impressive the career numbers were for Grudz until writing this article. I was ready to put him last on this list until I read that he hit over .300 five times, and hit over .295 for six straight years from 2003-2008. He led the league in doubles with 54 in 1997, and is in the top 200 all-time in singles and doubles. His cumulative career stats are pretty impressive.

  1. Luis Castillo, 1996-2010, 3X Gold Glove, 3X All Star. BR Rank: #484

Unlikely to make the HOF, but he’s got two rings. One as a part-time roster member of the 1997 champion Marlins, and again as a featured all-star on the 2003 Beckett-led squad. He regularly hit close to .300 in his Marlins years and twice led the league in stolen bases. His defensive stats were also excellent for a second baseman, making him a worthy candidate to appear on the ballot.

  1. Mike Hampton, 1993-2005, 2008-2010, 1X Gold Glove, 5X Silver Slugger, 2X All Star. 2000 NLCS MVP. BR Rank: #278.

Try not to remember Mike Hampton for his $90 million dollar deal with the Braves that ended up being a dud after Hampton got hurt. Try to recall his epic 1999 season where he went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA and finished 2nd in Cy Young voting, or in 2001 when he wasn’t a great pitcher but hit 7 HRs. Or, look at the season between those two when he was the NLCS MVP for the Mets and led them to the World Series with two wins. Hampton had a great run for a few years and was legendary as a hitting pitcher. Sadly, his career was cut short due to injury that could have gotten him closer to more serious consideration.

  1. David Eckstein, 2001-2010, 2X All Star, 2006 World Series MVP. BR Rank: #795

Eckstein is a hero for all the little scrappy baseball players out there, leveraging his grit and aggressiveness to 2 World Series championships, with the Angels in 2002 and the Cardinals in 2006. In his first two years with the Angels, he led the league in both sacrifice bunts and hit-by-pitches. He barely played the minimum number of years required to make the ballot and never dominated, but played important roles on winning teams.

  1. Mike Sweeney, 1995-2010, 5X All Star. BR Rank: #665.

Mike Sweeney had a solid stroke and spent a few years in the early 2000s as one of the hottest hitters around on some bad Royals teams. He hit .340 in 2002 but never got a batting title. A absolutely solid hitter – I don’t think he gets in, but its not because of the bias against DHs, its just that he didn’t quite have a long enough sustained run of greatness.

  1. Jason Kendall, 1996-2010, 3X All Star. BR Rank: #261.

One of my personal favorites for his three years with Oakland from 2005-2007, and a guy that personified what it meant to be a catcher. Here’s three of my favorite Kendall plays: the first when he steals home to win a game when the pitcher dropped the ball, another where he saves a wild pitch and dives to win a game, and a third where he dives over the catcher to score. Not surprisingly, Kendall was deemed by one stat to be the best baserunner since 1970. His best years came early in his career when he was a 3-time All Star, but his career stats add up in some key categories that define him: 5th all-time in games caught, 5th in HBPs. Kudos to Kendall on a helluva career.

  1. Mike Lowell, 1998-2010, 4X All Star, 1x Silver Slugger, 1x Gold Glove, 2007 World Series MVP. BR Rank: #560.

Lowell’s peak was in 2007, when he lead the Red Sox to the World Series and won the MVP after a massive 120 RBI season. Lowell was also a cornerstone of the 2003 Marlins with 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs in that season as well. Lowell was also a star in the field, with the second highest career fielding percentage for a third baseman in the history of baseball.

  1. Troy Glaus, 1998-2010, 4X All Star, 2x Silver Slugger, 2002 World Series MVP. BR Rank: #431.

The comparison to Lowell was closer than I expected. Both Glaus and Lowell broke in in 1998, had a MVP award and four all-star appearances. Lowell’s defensive numbers were a little better at 3B, but Glaus hit for more consistent power, including leading the league in HRs in 2000 with 47. At 320 HRs for his career, Glaus doesn’t have the career longevity to impress voters for the HOF, but at his best with Anaheim he was an unstoppable force.

  1. Jim Edmonds, 1993-2010, 4X All Star, 8X Gold Glove, 1X Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #86.

Edmonds’ career rank on Baseball Reference is just ahead of #87 Kenny Lofton, who came nowhere close to HOF induction, and right behind Duke Snider, who was a sure-fire HOFer. So how do we evaluate Edmonds? His defensive stats are superb – I would put him in the top-20 all-time defensive centerfielders but I wouldn’t put him over Griffey so he’s certainly not a once-in-a-generation guy defensively, and his offensive numbers compare unfavorably with plenty of guys who didn’t make it. He’s surprisingly 50th all-time in slugging percentage, but doesn’t jump out in any other career stats. Two seasons where he hit over 40 HRs and four seasons of 100 RBIs are impressive but not HOF worthy. Bonus points for a successful secondary career as a husband of a Real Housewives star.

  1. Garret Anderson, 1994-2010, 3X All Star, 2x Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #372.

I guess 2010 was the year the Angels of ’02 all had a meeting and decided to hang ‘em up, as this is the third member of that team on this list. Anderson was the longest tenured Angel of that group, which is reflected in 8,640 career ABs that puts him top-100 all time. He’s also top-100 career in hits, RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits, and top-50 in doubles.

  1. Lee Smith, 1980-1997, 7X All-star, 3X Rolaids Relief. BR Rank: #136 (2015 Ballot: 30.2%)

Our first returning candidate! Smith is in his 14th year on the ballot – last year he inched up from 29.9% to 30.2%. He finished 11th in the voting and has a chance to be around 8th or 9th this year. With less of a glut, I expect more writers to include Smith and see his number jump back closer to 40%, but he is running out of time and it doesn’t look like he’ll gain enough momentum to get in. For those who never saw Smith play, he led his league in saves four times with the Cubs, Cardinals and Orioles, and has the 3rd most saves ever (ahead of Wagner). A seven-time all-star and a career 3.03 ERA is solid stuff,

  1. Nomar Garciaparra, 1996-2010, 6X All Star, 1997 Rookie of the Year, 2X Batting Champion, 1X Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #243. (2015 Ballot: 5.5%)

Let’s start from the beginning with Nomar – as a rookie in 1997, he led the league in at bats, hits and triples, hit 30 homers and won the Rookie of the Year. He became the king of Boston over the next few years with 190+ hit seasons year in and year out, but was then shockingly traded to Chicago right before the Red Sox won the World Series. Nomar finished his career as a .313 hitter and then married Mia Hamm (bonus points for that). Last year I predicted Nomar would get around 10% and he ended up at 5.5%, just enough to stick around. This year he’s a few notches higher on my ballot and I expect a few people will find room for him enough to hover around 5% and stay around one more year.

  1. Billy Wagner, 1995-2010, 7X All Star, 1X Rolaids Relief, BR Rank: #120.

Wagner was an absolute flamethrower with very strong career stats, but I think his HOF case will one of comparisons to the other closers on the ballot. I think he compares pretty favorably to Lee Smith, so let’s compare their numbers. Smith is 3rd all-time in saves, Wagner is 5th. Wagner has a career ERA of 2.31 to Smith’s 3.03. Same number of all-star appearances. Smith had limited postseason action, while Wagner was actually terrible in his postseason appearances, particularly the 2006 NLCS. I’ll give the slight edge to Wagner, but the comparisons mean I think Wagner should be getting at least 20-25% of the vote right away and a candidate to be considered for several years.

  1. Alan Trammell, 1977-1996, 6X All Star, 4X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger. World Series MVP 1984. BR Rank: #45 (2015 Ballot: 25.1%)

Last chance for Alan Trammell! I continue to see Trammell as a borderline HOFer, but I’ve yet to consider him higher than the top 15 on my ballot. I missed watching most of his career, but as a six-time all-star shortstop with four gold gloves and a few silver sluggers, you’ve got to think he’s still going to get votes. I also forget to mention that he was the MVP of the 1984 World Series, so he’s got postseason accolades on his resume as well. His Baseball Reference rank puts him in the class of Dave Winfield or Eddie Murray, but as shortstops go I think he compares well to Barry Larkin, who made it four years ago.

  1. Sammy Sosa, 1989-2007, 7X All Star, 6x Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1998. BR Rank: #224 (2015 Ballot: 6.6%)

Obviously he’d be higher if not for the steroid scandal that soiled his career. He’s 8th on the career homerun list, and played a legit role in getting fans excited about baseball again with the homerun chase in 1998, but he is at risk of falling off the ballot completely. What’s the difference between him and Bonds or Clemens? I think there’s a feeling among some that Sosa’s mediocre pre-steroid numbers don’t help his case, whereas Bonds and Clemens would have likely been HOFers even if they hadn’t been BALCO customers.

  1. Fred McGriff, 1986-2004, 5X All Star, 3X Silver Slugger. BR Rank: #99 (2015 Ballot: 12.9%)

The Crime Dog hit 30 homers in 10 different years in the bigs – starting with 34 in 1988 with the ‘Jays and ending with 30 in 2002 with the Cubs. He had a long, successful career, and was consistently great hitter. He won a title with the Braves in 1995 as the most feared power hitter in that lineup. A slight uptick to 12% last year but he’s destined to stay around the same percentages and is unlikely to be inducted.

  1. Mark McGwire, 1986-2001, 13X all Star, 1X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger, 1987 Rookie of the Year. BR Rank: #177 (2014 Ballot: 10.0%)

Every full season he played in the bigs, McGwire was an all-star – he hit some of the most mammoth homeruns of the era, and other than Barry Bonds you would be hard pressed to find someone who was a more intimidating presence at the plate than McGwire in his prime. And there’s no question that McGwire helped save the popularity of baseball in 1998 when he hit 70 homers. Without the taint of steroids on his record he’d likely be in the top-7 of this list, but that does put a cloud over his career numbers. With the new rules limiting time on the ballot to 10 years, this is Big Mac’s last chance but he unfortunately won’t make it.

  1. Jeff Kent, 1992-2008, 5X All Star, 4X Silver Slugger, NL MVP 2000. BR Rank: #116 (2014 Ballot: 14.0%)

Kent has received surprisingly low support for one of the top hitting second basemen of all-time. After a mediocre start to his career with Toronto, the Mets and Cleveland, Kent became a star with the Giants and was over 100 RBIs in each of his six years with the team plus twice again with Houston and the Dodgers. It is going to be hard for Kent to climb enough to get elected, but I hope he continues to get enough votes to stay in consideration.

  1. Gary Sheffield, 1988-2009, 9X All Star, 5X Silver Slugger, 1X Batting Champion. BR Rank: #131 (2015 Ballot: 11.7%)

Sheffield had an amazing 22 year career – he hit the magical 500 homerun plateau, topped 100 RBIs eight times, and though he never won an MVP he finished in the top 10 six times. Also, playing in nine all-star games is no joke. He’s in the top-40 all-time in offensive WAR, runs, homers, RBI, total bases, walks, runs created, times on base, and extra base hits. And won a ring with the 1997 Marlins. I took a more serious look at Sheffield this year and don’t understand why he’s not being given more serious consideration, so I moved him higher on my list. He still hasn’t passed the smell test to me as a HOFer, but its hard to deny his very long and elite career.

  1. Edgar Martinez, 1987-2004, 7X All Star, 6X Silver Slugger, BR Rank: #121 (2015 Ballot: 27.0%)

Martinez has been as high as 36% and as low as 25% in six years so far on the ballot. The last two years indicate he’s not trending in the right direction. Perhaps there will be a minor resurgence this year as people favorably compare his numbers to long-time Seattle teammate Ken Griffey Jr.? Martinez is a seven-time all-star with a .312 career batting average, two batting titles and very strong numbers throughout his career.

  1. Tim Raines, 1979-2002, 7X All Star, 1X Silver Slugger, BR Rank: #47 (2015 Ballot: 55.0%)

I wrote out my list of my top 9 relatively quickly, and just as easily wrote off numbers 16-32, but I had a very difficult decision between Raines and Martinez, and also considered McGwire, Kent and Sheffield as possibilities. I’d like to find room for all of them, so I’ll start by giving a nod this year to Raines, who is in his 9th year on the ballot. He jumped from 46 percent to 55 percent last year so he has a chance to make another push this year. If he gets above 60% this year I think that will convince enough people of his serious candidacy to get him in on his final chance next year. Raines is 5th all-time in steals, having led the league four straight years in the early 80’s. Even when his speed went, he managed to stick around and hit nearly .300 for several teams at the end of his career. He was a seven-time all-star, all in the 80’s with the Montreal Expos, and won a ring with the 1996 Yankees.

  1. Larry Walker, 1989-2005, 5X All Star, 4X Silver Slugger, 7x Gold Glove, NL MVP 1997. BR Rank: #61 (2015 Ballot: 11.8%)

Time for my yearly Larry Walker fan club rant – unlike last year, I’ve been able to find a spot for Walker in my top-10 and would definitely be voting for him this year. He jumped up from 10% to 11% but has very little chance of actually getting inducted. That’s too bad for a guy who I think is one of the top-50 hitters of all-time. He had a .313 lifetime average, won an MVP in 1997 when he hit 49 homeruns, and chased .400 on four different occasions. Amazingly, he hit .379 in 1999 and only finished 10th in the MVP voting – that shows you how homerun friendly that era was. And don’t forget Walker also won seven gold gloves for his outfield play.

  1. Mike Mussina, 1991-2008, 5X All Star, 7X Gold Glove, BR Rank: #26 (2015 Ballot: 24.6%)

Mussina was an incredibly consistent star pitcher across the 18 years of his career. His 270 wins put him in elite status among modern pitchers, and though I don’t picture him as an overpowering presence he is in the top-20 all-time in strikeouts. He was also an excellent defender on the mound. Unlikely to get in but deserves it.

  1. Curt Schilling, 1988-2007, 6X All Star. BR Rank: #37 (2015 Ballot: 39.2%)

Schilling was the best pitcher (16-7) on an early 90’s Phillies team that made the World Series, went 22-6 in co-anchoring the Diamondbacks world title in 2001, and led the Red Sox to two world titles with a bloody sock. He also finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting in each of 2001, 2002 and 2004. In all, he went 4-1 in the World Series for his career, and always seemed to show up when it mattered. Hall of Famer to me. He’s had a weird HOF trajectory, as he started at 38%, dropped to 29% in his 2nd year and then jumped back to 39% last year. I see Schilling taking another jump this year – how much of a jump will dictate whether he can keep growing and make it in eventually.

  1. Trevor Hoffman, 1993-2010, 7X All Star, 2X Rolaids Relief. BR Rank #148.

Hoffman makes his first appearance on the ballot and will be another interesting test case for closers. He’s 2nd all-time in saves behind Mariano Rivera who recently passed him, so as closers go he’s got one of the best track records in history. He had particularly impressive longevity, recording 30 or more saves for 14 straight years (!) save 2003 when he was injured. Like most closers, his career WAR was limited by only pitching one inning per game, so I’ve had to look at other stats to determine his worthiness. This is the stat that convinced me: Hoffman is 8th all-time in WHIP, tucked between HOFers Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. That means Hoffman not only had consistency in saves across his career, but there was some meat behind it as he rarely allowed any baserunners. I don’t think he’ll be a surefire entrant, but he probably gets in or close this year.

  1. Roger Clemens, 1984-2007, 11X All Star, AL MVP 1986. 7X Cy Young Award Winner, BR Rank: #25. (2015 Ballot: 37.5%)

Still voting for Clemens and Bonds. Their performance-enhancing drug use is a black mark on baseball record books, but I’m not interested in keeping one of the best pitchers of all-time out of the HOF. Clemens led the league in ERA seven times, first in 1986 and then again twenty years later in 2005. He’s also 9th all-time in wins and 3rd in career strikeouts. This will be a telling year to see if anyone adds Clemens or Bonds to their ballot and gives them a boost. If they jump up in to the 45 percent range this year they could re-ignite a discussion on whether they can make it by the end of their 10-year time on the ballot.

  1. Barry Bonds, 1986-2007. 14X All Star, 8x Gold Glove, 12X Silver Slugger, 7X NL MVP, BR Rank: #131. (2015 Ballot: 36.8%)

The stats make him unquestionably one of the best players ever, so this is always purely a discussion on his steroid use. Entering his 4th year on the ballot, he would have to change the minds of more than 200 voters who denied him in the past. There may be a handful who add him this year with a lighter ballot, but how many? The path for induction for Bonds involves growing steadily in the next 3-4 years instead of taking a big jump in any given year.

  1. Jeff Bagwell, 1991-2005, 4X All Star, 3X Silver Slugger, NL MVP 1994. Rookie of the Year 1991, BR Rank: #34. (2015 Ballot: 55.7%)

Bags won an MVP in the strike season of 1994 and was ROY in 1991. He hit at least 39 homers six times and had 449 for his career. We were all robbed of part of his best season ever in 1994 when the strike hit, when I believe he may have had a shot at the record for most RBI’s in a season and made a run at Roger Maris’ HR record. He led the league in runs several times as well. Bags jumped up a bit from 54 to 55 percent in his 5th year on the ballot last year – but this ballot is a little more wide open so I see him making a jump. Look for Bagwell to be right on the precipice of election this year, in the 65 to 70 percent range but just short of induction.

  1. Mike Piazza, 1992-2007, 12X All Star, 10X Silver Slugger, 1993 Rookie of the Year, BR Rank: #65 (2015 Ballot: 69.9%)

Piazza was unquestionably one of the best catchers of all-time and almost certainly the best power hitting catcher of all-time. A 12-time all-star, lifetime .308 hitter, ROY in 1992, and constant force for the Mets and Dodgers. That means he’s a HOFer to me. With Martinez, Johnson, Biggio and Smoltz all getting in last year, I think the ballot should really open up for Piazza in this his 4th year on the ballot. I’d look for him to finish just above the 75% threshold and reach induction this year.

  1. Ken Griffey Jr., 1989-2010, 13X All Star, 10X Gold Glove, 7X Silver Slugger, 1997 AL MVP. BR Rank: #27

Junior, AKA The Kid, is a surefire first-ballot hall of famer. To me, he has the most beautiful, fluid swing we’ve ever seen, and his defensive exploits were Sportscenter worthy nearly every night. His injury plagued years with Cincinnati in the early 2000’s were a real shame for all of us, because we missed out seeing Griffey make a serious run at the homerun record or at least topping 700. Despite the injuries, he ended up 6th all-time in HRs, 15th in RBIs, and top-10 in most defensive categories for center fielders. Congrats to the Kid on a well-deserved induction.

Prediction: I anticipate Griffey will get in easily, Piazza gets in after a few years of waiting, and Trevor Hoffman sneaks on with just enough votes. Look for Raines and Bagwell to make jumps and get closer to election, and several others to increase by a few percent this year.

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Remembering Rowdy Roddy: Wrestlers as Actors http://spreegoogs.com/2015/08/19/remembering-rowdy-roddy-wrestlers-as-actors/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/08/19/remembering-rowdy-roddy-wrestlers-as-actors/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:30:15 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7231 When one talks about athletes in movies, you’ll often see major sport athletes playing themselves,..

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When one talks about athletes in movies, you’ll often see major sport athletes playing themselves, or in some way playing a role involving their sport. But, when you need a gigantic bad guy, a brute character or just a general badass to raise hell and take names, there’s no one more qualified than pro wrestlers. Everyone likely remembers Hulk Hogan battling in Rocky III, or seeing The Rock in the Fast And The Furious movies, but there’s a lot of little known stars who made big performances on screen. Here’s a look my five favorites who rocked it on the big screen: 

5. Kurrgan
Unless you were a big wrestling fan, you may have forgotten Robert Maillet’s run on the WWF as Kurrgan in The Oddities faction, but you probably saw him as the guy who beat up Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, or as the giant monster in 300. A perfect giant villain.
4. The Big Show
Any fan of Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy knows that Captain Insano shows no mercy! A great cameo from The Giant/The Big Show

3.  Rowdy Roddy Piper
Piper “retired” in the prime of his career in the late 80’s to head to Hollywood, and ended up as the star of They Live the following year. Piper passed away earlier this month, which led to plenty of reminiscing about his famous line from that film: “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

2. Andre the Giant
Princess Bride fans will recognize the former WWF Champion and headliner of Wrestlemania III for his role as Fezzik.
1. Tosh Togo
After a successful stint as an NWA champion in the 50’s and 60’s, Togo made his fame as “Odd Job” in the James Bond films – one of the best henchman roles of all time.

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Why Aren’t Athletes in Movies Anymore? http://spreegoogs.com/2015/08/17/why-arent-athletes-in-movies-anymore/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/08/17/why-arent-athletes-in-movies-anymore/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 22:00:49 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7234 Athletes are people too. They make a ton of money and they live a lifestyle..

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Athletes are people too. They make a ton of money and they live a lifestyle most of us can’t even dream about, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have personalities. Or free time and a need to fill it.

Thankfully, LeBron James had the free time to play a part in Trainwreck, a pretty solid movie that I enjoyed last weekend. He wasn’t the lead role and he won’t win any Oscars for his performance, but there’s no doubt he made the movie better. He plays himself, a superstar who befriends the male lead, a surgeon who specializes in athletes. There’s no one alive who could have played the role he played like he did. The movie was better off with a real, name-brand star than a generic guy with muscles. No one can play LeBron James like LeBron James.

When I get nostalgic about the sports/media environment I grew up with (constantly), I think about the accessibility of athletes. They were all over my TV, even in the offseason. Not just cameos and appearances on TRL, the late ‘90s were full of movies that actually starred athletes.

athletes in moviesFor reference, I’m not talking about roles a la Kareem Adbul-Jabbar in Airplane (a handful of lines) or Kareem in Saved By the Bell (one episode in the New Class spinoff). I’m talking about Kareem in Slam Dunk Ernest (1995). It’s a matter of prepositions: he wasn’t just IN the movie, the movie was ABOUT him.

Editor’s Note: Although it’s not a feature film, it would be criminal of me to not include a mention of Kareem’s appearance in Sugar Ray’s “When It’s Over” music video.

Space Jam (1996) is a good movie. And it could only be good with Michael Jordan in it. He made that movie. The same is true with Ray Allen in He Got Game (1998).

I saw Kazaam (1996) in theaters. My Giant (1998) too. I’m not embarrassed. They aren’t exactly brilliant cinema, but I cheered for the basketball players, so I paid to see them in another medium. Plus, I was 10. I didn’t know anything.

I never got around to seeing Double Team (1997), but I assume it’s a lot closer to the My Giant end of the spectrum than the He Got Game end. It was a bad idea for a movie, but it still got green-lit and made.

You get the point: athletes used to be the leads in movies, especially basketball players. Then the Iverson/Kobe era hit the Association and for some reason, the acting stopped.

In the decade plus that followed, athletes have social media profiles where they can publish their unfiltered opinions 24/7 to millions of adoring followers. The market exists for athletes off the court and yet somehow, sports stars have slipped off the silver screen. I don’t know why.

Hordes of people wear clothes the pros endorse and drink sodas they promote, surely the same people would line up to see their movies. If TNT can turn Charles Barkley narrating basketball games in must-see television, surely a decent movie producer could turn a profit on a movie starring Steph Curry. I don’t like romcoms, but I’d pay money to see a dumb movie about a girl accidentally falling in love with Blake Griffin. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t watch a Chris Paul/Kevin Durant bumbling buddy cop movie.

Maybe the late ’90s era was the outlier. Maybe the ’95 to ’98 time span I’ve been using for my examples was unnaturally rich in sports stars who made movies. Maybe those movies all did so poorly that no studio would ever touch them again. Or maybe someone somewhere just lost the creativity to write movies for people who can’t act. Then again, IMDB says Rob Schneider is working on three movies right now.

They might just be dumb jocks, and there’s a reason these guys are athletes instead of actors, but the entertainment value is real. Anyone who saw the Green Bay Packers in Pitch Perfect 2 will agree.

We’re due for an athlete-acting Renaissance some time here, and I hate to be the one to say I told you so, but I’ll gladly raise my hand if I’m right. Maybe Space Jam 2 is just the thing to kick it off. Just imagine with me.

Frank is working on a companion piece for later this week, so make sure you come back to see what he has to say.

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Special Olympics World Games: Everything That’s Good About Sports http://spreegoogs.com/2015/07/24/special-olympics-world-games-everything-thats-good-about-sports/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/07/24/special-olympics-world-games-everything-thats-good-about-sports/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:30:07 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7218 Think about the first thing that attracted you to sports. For me, it was the..

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Think about the first thing that attracted you to sports.

For me, it was the intensity of competition. The goal of competitive athletics is to outperform your opponents and there’s a strong interpersonal battle involved. Man vs. man. Woman vs. woman. Team vs. team. It’s primal, but it’s deeply entertaining.

Maybe you like the internal struggles of sports. Athletes trying to outperform their personal bests. Real, human people facing the limitations of their humanness. Runners training and strategizing to finish a race just a single second faster. Throwers and jumpers doing thousands of technical repetitions to add even an inch to their maximum.

olympics-logoYou might be the kind of person who sees beauty in well-oiled execution: a cross that just beats an offsides call and sets up a goal, a perfect 10 in any gymnastic discipline, a service ace in volleyball or tennis, a hole-in-one, a bocce ball that winds its way through a field of targets to settle in and kiss the pallino.

There’s something for everyone. Even more, there’s a unique connection with athletes and teams you cheer for. When they win, you win. Spectating is a deeply personal experience.

Starting tomorrow, the Special Olympics World Games kicks off with opening ceremonies at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN and the nine days that follow will be the single best span of sports spectating for the next four years.

More than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries will compete in 26 different sports. Some of the games will be on ESPN and you should find a way to watch as much as you can.

Whatever it is that attracted you to sports, the World Games has more of it than you’ve ever seen. The competition is fierce but never disrespectful, the athletes are inspiring on another level and the emotional connection is overwhelming.

The Special Olympics isn’t just about sports, it’s about people. And it’s majorly powerful. You’re not just watching the best athletes in the world, you’re cheering for the absolute most incredible people alive on the Earth. You’re seeing athletes whose total strength is barely revealed in competition.

The World Games are full of people who face serious, lifelong obstacles and the way they’ve overcome them is unlike anything else you’ll see. It’s one thing to watch impressive athletes, it’s an entirely better thing to watch inspiring people who are impressive athletes. Trust me. Watch the Games for a little and you’ll feel like a different person.

To get a taste of what you’ll see, here’s a short feature about Karen Dickerson, one of the U.S. long-distance runners:

Watch the opening ceremonies tomorrow and stay up to date with Special Olympics home page at ESPN. You’ll be glad you did.

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Truly Defective: Death by Over-Characterization in True Detective Season 2 http://spreegoogs.com/2015/07/22/truly-defective-death-by-over-characterization-in-true-detective-season-2/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/07/22/truly-defective-death-by-over-characterization-in-true-detective-season-2/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 15:30:20 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7191 HBO’s True Detective was my first trip down the binge-watching rabbit hole. I hadn’t been watching..

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HBO’s True Detective was my first trip down the binge-watching rabbit hole. I hadn’t been watching the first season, but the noise about the finale last year was so deafening that I decided to see what it was about. I started the first episode at 8 p.m. on a Saturday, thinking I would watch the first few hours to get a base and then watch an episode a day until the middle of the next week.

Of course, that didn’t happen. I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning watching the first six episodes, fell asleep on the floor of the living room and woke up with the remote in my hands ready for the final two. Nothing else in my life mattered. I didn’t shower, I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t even eat between the time I started and finished. I had to watch Rust Cohle hunt down the Yellow Man.

True Detective was perfect. The perfect mixture of reliable (Woody Harrelson) and unpredictable (Matthew McConaughey). The perfect plot structure for a mystery: start with no information, gather a bunch, narrow it down to the final suspect. It was action, it was suspense. It was psychological, emotional, physical. It was the epitome of entertainment.

TDBar640Before Season 2 of TD started, I couldn’t wait. I even made plans with my girlfriend to watch the show in the serialized, weekly installments for seven weeks and then binge again all day Sunday before the finale, to make sure we absorbed every piece of the series. That’s how invested I was in this season. Unfortunately, it’s been a huge letdown. I definitely won’t be watching any episodes a second time; actually, I probably won’t even watch any more on Sunday night, it’ll just fall into the the when-I-have-time-and-nothing-is-on bullpen on my DVR – the ultimate demotion.

What went wrong?

How could a show so engrossing become so unnecessary?

Here’s what I think happened:

You know that saying “some is good, more is better”? Well, what was good about TD1 was Rust Cohle (McConaughey). Hart (Harrelson) was excellent as well, but he was the straight man to set up Cohle’s internal insanity/intelligence knockdown-dragout. He stole the show, but he didn’t do it alone, he had to have a foil.

In TD2, four headline talents came to the show, doubling the amount of star power and effectively quadrupling the number of storylines. I don’t know who’s to blame, but somehow all four of them ended up trying to be the next Rust Cohle. There’s no Marty Hart. There’s no sanity and order. Just four alcoholic goodfornothings mumbling their way through conversations where everyone is hiding something.

Every character has a dark backstory and Herculean internal struggles that affect how they solve a crime. All four leads are fighting multi-front wars at all times and all those battles go both forward and backward in time.

Somewhere in between seasons, we took our eye off what made TD1 so great (a murder mystery entree with a side of interpersonal conflict) and ended up making TD2 a pile of unrelated internal identity battles that all take place around the time of a murder. Or is it a missing person? And wait! There are blue diamonds too.

true-detectiveWelcome to Season 2 of True Detective. Where every cop is a dirty cop. Every present has an unspoken murderous past. Everyone is hiding something. All of our detectives are no longer working police officers. Just like that girl, a couple of months have gone missing and no one seems concerned.

Instead of watching three detectives search for clues while one villain muddies the waters so he doesn’t go to jail for whatever his illegalities are (real estate maybe?), we get four stars, blindly digging up the past and no one solving a case in the present. We have four Rust Cohles without a Marty Hart to focus them and drive the case (and the plot) forward.

With only three episodes left, here’s what we know about the murder case:

  • A man named Ben Caspere is dead and the killer gouged his eyes out
  • Caspere hosted crazy, Eyes Wide Shut-type orgy parties at his house, where important people went for sex
  • Somewhere there is a hard drive

And here’s what we know about the missing girl

  • There’s a girl and she’s missing
  • There’s no way this isn’t connected to the Caspere murder

That’s all of the solving we’ve gotten through five hours of this thing! Meanwhile, viewers can nearly write biographies on each of the four lead roles:

Ray VelcoroRay Velcoro (Colin Farrell) is a recovering addict and current alcoholic. He’s going through a messy custody battle that threatens to take away the son that dramatically isn’t his. He has a violent streak, brass knuckling his son’s bully’s father to a pulp early in the season and baseball-batting Rick Springfield until his teeth start coming out in episode 5. He even killed the guy he thought raped his wife and fathered his ginger kid, but it turns out, he was duped. All his troubles forced him to quit the police force and start working for the shady Frank Semyon. He has a mystery scar on his lip and shows his inner brooding by wearing bolo ties.

 

Paul WoodroughPaul Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) is a war veteran who we meet in the middle of an attempted suicide. Or is he just addicted to the adrenaline of combat and needs to go on high speed, unlit midnight motorcycle rides around curvy cliffside roads to push the right buttons? He’s gay, but can’t admit it, instead impregnating his beard and proposing to her to continue the ruse. He was framed for sexual assault by a Paris Hilton look-a-like and has to go on paid leave from his police work, which is a problem. He decides to settle down and build a family, but all of his money from the war was gambled away by his good-for-nothing mom.

 

Ani BezzeridesAni Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) grew up in some kind of weird, mysterious hippie cult that her dad leads and rebelled against it by joining the police force. She was demoted from detective to managing the evidence locker after the shootout, which is a shame because she’s the only one trying to actually solve anything. She has the healthy sense to smoke E-cigarettes, but doesn’t realize she’s putting her sister’s life in danger asking for help investigating the crime. Bezzerides has the most unknown territory in terms of backstory, but her suppressing all of that is what makes her interesting.

 

Frank SemyonFrank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) got pretty rich doing something illegal but all of his money was in the hands of Caspere when he died and now Semyon is on the war path to reclaim his fortune. He grew up poor, working as a picker in his teenage years, only to drag himself up to high society as an adult. He owns a casino that’s a front for plenty of other illegal business. His wife can’t give him a child, which is surprisingly something he wants. He doesn’t get along with any human people because he’s always trying to pull a fast one on people and his dad used to lock him in the basement when he was a kid, so he had to kill rats to survive.

Doesn’t that seem just a little unbalanced to you? How can we have so much backward-looking character building and no forward-progressing case solving?

There aren’t clues to put together. No one is even a cop anymore. Everyone has started mumbling/growling so much I have to turn the volume up so loud the sound effects wake up my neighbors. There’s a pretty important character named Pitlor whose name makes you say “wait, what did you say?” every time he’s mentioned.

The makers of TD got so caught up in the successful minutiae of TD1 that they tried to make an entire season out of it instead of actually making another good mystery show. There are certainly a couple of crimes still to be solved in TD2, but we’re not going to do that. They’ll just exist until the finale, when they’ll get resolved, but we won’t actually see any of the process, which is the fun part.

To double down on the distraction of this backstory avalanche, we’re also going to have to wrap up all of those plot tangents too. How does Velcoro’s divorce end? Who did he really kill? Is Frank going to get his money back? Does Riggins come out of the closet? Does he stay with his beard? What is Ani’s dad’s cult doing (besides kidnapping women)? We have to do all of this AND find the missing girl AND solve Caspere’s murder. This will be exhausting. The only thing that makes sense is if the missing girl killed Caspere because she found out that he fathered Velcoro’s kid and was threatening to make Riggins join Ani’s dad’s cult if he came out of the closet, which was also hiding $5 million of Frank’s money, which had been converted to blue diamonds. The whole thing is on a hard drive. Inside of a bird mask.

Don’t even get me started on how awful the theme music is.

At least that shootout at the end of episode 4 was fun.

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Athletes and The Same-Sex Marriage Ruling http://spreegoogs.com/2015/07/14/athletes-and-the-same-sex-marriage-ruling/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/07/14/athletes-and-the-same-sex-marriage-ruling/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 17:00:52 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7170 On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 majority in favor of..

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On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 majority in favor of gay marriage nationwide. Specifically, the ruling declared that in the eyes of the law, the U.S. constitution allows for same-sex marriages in all 50 states, meaning that it is consequently illegal for any state to refuse the right of marriage to a couple on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Navratilova

Navratilova

This ruling comes on the heels of a number of developments over the course of the past decade or so that have brought the U.S. closer and closer to marriage equality. A detailed outline of the history of LGBT rights in America shows that several landmark events — California’s nullification of Proposition Eight (which blocked same-sex marriages back in 2003) or the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that declared it illegal for states to refuse to recognize gay marriages, among others — have led to the recent declaration. Indeed, a strong majority of states had already legalized same-sex marriage.

But the Supreme Court ruling now stands as arguably the most significant achievement to date for LGBT rights advocates. It’s also the end of a long struggle for universal marriage equality. And as tends to be the case with major political and societal issues, a number of prominent athletes and sports organizations were among those sharing reactions to the news! Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy opinions of athletes (and of those athletes only) that were circulating the weekend after the Supreme Court decision.

A number of the more prominent celebrity reactions, including those from Landon Donovan, Alex Morgan, Mardy Fish and the entirety of the WNBA, were positive, celebratory and grateful. But perhaps even more noteworthy were a slew of responses from athletes with strong connections to the LGBT community. Prominent gay athletes past and present, such as former tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and professional basketball player Jason Collins added their own positive reactions. Also, current NBA star Kenneth Faried, who was raised by two mothers, surely warmed some hearts as well, standing up jubilantly in favor of the ruling. Perhaps the most telling of them all was Navratilova’s statement in her tweet: “We are legal everywhere.”

For The Win also covered some athlete reactions to the news and added a number of tweets from entire organizations. Interestingly enough, the majority came from MLS franchises, with the Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew and L.A. Galaxy all offering public support for the ruling. Among these reactions, Galaxy star Robbie Rogers, who was once recognized by President Obama for blazing a trail for gay athletes, also chipped in by tweeting:

All of these reactions and the fact that they were shared in a forum as public as Twitter, display how far the athletic world has come in accepting LGBT movements and individuals. Naturally, there remain many opinions out there that still go against same-sex marriage and gay rights. However, the ongoing legal progress made by LGBT advocates seems to be enabling those athletes who do support or have direct connections to LGBT communities feel more comfortable expressing themselves. Given that sports, at their core, are about community and relationships, this is a fascinating development to see. And perhaps no one has better summarized the progress we’ve seen (and the road yet to travel) than Oklahoma University track and field athlete Tanner Williams. A married, gay individual, Williams wrote a profound editorial that serves as a great comprehensive look at the state of athletes today as they relate to LGBT movements.

That editorial is fantastic reading for anyone with a particular interest in these issues. But suffice it to say that last week’s Supreme Court ruling and the generally positive tone of reactions among athletes shows a drastically changing public mindset — and a great deal more acceptance in athletic communities.

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2015 SpreeGoogs NBA Mock Draft Part 2 http://spreegoogs.com/2015/06/24/2015-spreegoogs-nba-mock-draft-part-2/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/06/24/2015-spreegoogs-nba-mock-draft-part-2/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 20:00:47 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7142 To catch up on how things shook out in the lottery, go read Part 1...

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To catch up on how things shook out in the lottery, go read Part 1.

15. Atlanta Hawks: Bobby Portis, PF/C (Arkansas)

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Portis

There seems to be a break after the first 14 players in most mocks. As in, no matter what mock you look at, the first 14 players are the same, in some order. I followed suit, because I get a lot of my information from the same places those other mocks do. Anyway, the Hawks are in a great spot: they don’t need anything (assuming Paul Millsap DeMarre Carroll re-sign) and can sort of just take the best player who falls. In my mock, I don’t really think anyone is “falling” because I’m assuming the presumed-best players go early. If any of those previous 14 players are left, no matter what position, they’re in play here.

Since no one fell to the Hawks, they’ll take Bobby Portis, a rebounding and midrange-shooting specialist from Arkansas. Portis can run enough to keep allow the Hawks to keep up the tempo when their starters sit and Shroder takes over. Paul Millsap is an ideal veteran for him to learn under. We’re into a new tier of draftees now, so teams are probably looking for players with one elite skill. Portis might be an elite rebounder, but he’s definitely got an elite motor and his game fits with the way the Hawks play.

16. Boston Celtics: R.J. Hunter, SG (Georgia State)

Hunter

Hunter

There are two wild cards at play here: Boston, a team with multiple first-round picks and very even positional talent distribution (they can draft any position that isn’t point guard) and Hunter, a player who has been rocketing up draft boards to land near the end of the lottery. He can shoot and he’s pretty athletic, should be able to fit in with Brad Stevens’ system, which either works well with versatile players or is designed that way now to make up for the lack of stars. Either way, I think Hunter works for them.

The Celtics are also one of the hotter teams in trade talks. They have a late first (28) and early second round pick (33) to combine with this one and might move up if they feel like there’s a post player that they can get for good value. That’s really too many picks to be able to give meaningful playing time to everyone, so look for one of those picks to get packaged with this one to move up in front of Utah or maybe Indiana and grab someone. The Heat are probably ideal trade partners.

17. Milwaukee Bucks: Kelly Oubre, SF (kansas)

Oubre

Oubre

I’d love to give the Bucks a big guy here. I hate to burden any team and fanbase with the idea of suffering through a jayhawk, but the only other player I considered here was Looney, and he also attended one of my rival universities. The Bucks are set for the short-term future at the 1 (MCW) and have super talented forwards (Parker and Giannis), so all they really need is some depth on the wing and a big who can rebound.

Oubre has been falling a little bit lately because he’s an embarrassment off the court and in interviews, but he does have some valuable basketball skills. Jason Kidd proved last season that he can actually coach, so it’s likely that Oubre can fit in instantly as the first wing off the bench. A little outside shooting would be a good complement for the Freak’s penetrating style. Fun side note: the Bucks starting 1-3 right now of MCW, Giannis and Khris Middleton adds up to ~39 feet of arms.

18. Houston Rockets: Delon Wright, PG (Utah)

Wright

Wright

I don’t think this is a pick a lot of other mocks will make. The next tier of point guards involves Wright, Tyus Jones, Terry Rozier and Jerian Grant; any one of them could end up here, but to me, the best one for the Rockets is Wright. He’s got the best size of the three of them and can defend the best. Plus, he doesn’t turn the ball over, his assist:turnover ratio in college was over 5.0! He’s a willing passer, which you need with James Harden on the team.

The goal of this pick is to grab a player who will minimize the dropoff when Patrick Beverly has to come out, and Wright seems like he’s the most similar to Bev. Grant has more experience, but that doesn’t matter for a team that will see the ball in Harden’s hands so much. Jones is fast and scores pretty well, but do they really need more of that? I’m pretty confident in the way Wright fits in Houston. Take that, other mocks.

19. Washington Wizards: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF (Arizona)

Hollis-Jefferson

Hollis-Jefferson

For me, this pick came down to RHJ and Looney. I didn’t consider Sam Dekker, because he’s exactly the kind of NCAA Tournament rising star who ends up getting taken too early every year and isn’t actually very good. The Wizards are looking at losing Paul Pierce to the player option, so they have minutes at the wing to go around and I don’t think Otto Porter is quite ready to take them all yet.

RHJ moves extremely well for someone of his size, and while he doesn’t shoot that well, he can defend 3s and 4s at a high level. I think every playoff team has to be watching the NBA Finals this year wondering how they can build a team that plays good small ball. Imagine the Wiz with Wall and Beal in the backcourt, Porter and Hollis-Jefferson on the wings and Nene (or even Gortat) as the big. That team can run. They might not be great at outside shooting, but they could defend well and they’re a nightmare in transition. The overall move to speedier lineups will boost RHJ’s draft stock, just you wait and see.

20. Toronto Raptors: Kevon Looney, PF (UCLA)

Looney

Looney

Looney is an interesting player this year. He and Montrezl Harrell are probably on a tier of their own as the last bigs who have first-round talent. Looney doesn’t have the kind of athleticism you’d want in a run-and-gun backup 4, but he hits the offensive boards hard and, unlike Harrell, can spread the floor with a reliable outside shot. The Raptors have an Amir-Johnson-sized hole to fill in their roster, and while the best option might be to just re-sign Johnson, the more realistic option might be to sign the poor man’s version (Looney) for cheaper.

For reasons I don’t really understand, Looney was seen as a lottery talent for most of the year and has only recently started to fall further back in the draft projections. He doesn’t have a traditional post game, which is a huge problem for a guy his size, but he definitely can make shots off putbacks and he has a good shooting stroke. He might be the right player to try in a 4-out type of set with the Raptors backups. If his shot were attached to a faster body, he’d be a lottery pick for a team trying to build around the small ball strategy. But that isn’t the case, so he’ll fall around here.

21. Dallas Mavericks: Jerian Grant, PG (Notre Dame)

Grant

Grant

I had to double-check who was still available because in the real draft, Grant almost has to be gone by 21. But that’s how mock drafts work, I guess. I have a good friend who is very attached to Mavs basketball and he always likes to remind me that Dallas doesn’t draft players. They pick guys when they are on the clock, but they put the team together exclusively via free agency and trades. But the rules of the mock are that there are no trades, so they actually have to draft someone.

This year, they’re kind of recovering from the Rondo experiment, so they’ll be looking to add a point guard. Or put a point guard on the summer league team until another team trades them a real point guard. Grant has the most experience of any ballhandler in this year’s class, which is certainly valuable to a veteran team like Dallas. They need another wing too, but there’s not a lot left, particularly at the 2. Jones and Rozier are options in play, but I think Dallas goes for the proven pure point guard. They don’t have one and just lost Monta Ellis to free agency, so they’re going to need to put the ball in someone’s hands an awful lot.

22. Chicago Bulls: Justin Anderson, SF (Virginia)

Anderson

Anderson

This one’s hard to predict. Thibs is out and Fred Hoiberg is in, so we don’t really know what this team is trying to look like. Jimmy Butler hasn’t officially signed with the Lakers yet, but he still isn’t a Bull. Taj Gibson just had surgery and won’t be available to practice with the team over the summer, maybe not even star the season. They still have Rose, but no valuable backup. Noah, Mirotic, Gasol and a healthy Gibson are solid group of bigs, but Snell and McDermott are not really wings you want to start a season with, hence Anderson.

Anderson defends well, which will fit into any system Hoiberg wants to run and just had a monster year shooting the three. Playoff teams can always add 3/D players, and playoff teams who lost their best wing scorer/defender can certainly benefit from the depth. Sam Dekker might be an option for a team looking for a worse version of Anderson who plays well in the NCAA tournament, but the hard part might be turning down Jones and Rozier behind Rose. Wing needs win out for Chicago in my mock though.

23. Portland Trailblazers: Sam Dekker, SF (Wisconsin)

Dekker

Dekker

This just in: Portland is either a major threat to win the West or in major trouble depending on how a couple of free agents go. Aldridge is the big one, literally and figuratively, but Wes Matthews is also hunting for a near-max deal, which Portland probably isn’t giving him. That’s ok, remember they traded to get Aaron Afflalo, right? Oh yeah, he’s a free agent too. So is Robin Lopez. Actually, the Trailblazers only have one player (McCollum) under contract beyond the upcoming season, and that’s a team option, so if they wanted to, they could have absolutely no one under contract by next summer.

It all adds up to a pretty classic BPA scenario. Actually, Lillard is still there (and Steve Blake opted in) so maybe BPEPGA (best player excluding point guards available). That leaves Jones and Rozier out, but makes room for either Sam Dekker or Montrezl Harrell. They’re losing a hell of a lot of three-point attempts from Matthews, so I’ll give the edge to Dekker, who isn’t afraid to shoot the deep ball.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Brown, SF (Stanford)

Brown

Brown

The Cavs are in a situation similar to the Blazers: the offseason is about figuring out what to do with their free agents, not the draft. LeBron and Love are the big tickets, but it would be a miracle if they didn’t both end up back in Cleveland. Tristan Thompson is an RFA, so they’ll get him back, but JR Smith has a player option for next year. Assuming everyone ends up back on the Cavs, it seems like wing depth is the biggest need. Even with LeBron and JR back, there’s no one else on the roster except Mike Miller and Joe Harris (garbage), so the Cavs need to draft someone  before they get into a sticky cap spot.

Brown is a four-year college player, so he’s as experienced as it gets in the draft pool. That might not be great when you’re talking about upside, but the Cavs window is open now, so they need players they can count on next summer. The stars and shooters approach got them far enough last year that adding a 44% three-point threat seems obvious. We all saw what happened to the Cavs without enough point guard depth, but a healthy Kyrie Irving will hopefully make fans forget about all those Delly games. Jones/Rozier continue to fall.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarell Martin, PF (LSU)

Martin

Martin

There is a rumor floating around that Jarell Martin has a promise from a team in the first round. There is an accompanying rumor that the Grizz are the team that has made it. Again, this is a draft about what I think will happen, so I’ll go ahead and take a gimme where I think I’m getting a gimme. Of course, they’ll probably just pick Rakeem Christmas or someone else totally out of nowhere, but that’s the way drafts go.

Looking at the depth chart, the Grizzlies should be going BPA here, but there’s a definite need for some backup bigs and there aren’t a lot of first-round quality players there. The obvious solution is to pull the classic Larry Bird move and just pick second-round talent in the first round. If we’re picking bigs, I LOVE Harrell at this spot, he’s definitely the best big left, but hey, a promise is a promise.

26. San Antonio Spurs: Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF (France)

Luwawu

Luwawu

More stereotyping, the Spurs take a foreign player. I’ll explain it though, so hang with me. San Antonio, like the Cavs and Blazers, needs to bring all their free agents back before they worry about who they’re drafting. That includes Tim Duncan (who is never a threat to leave) Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. After that, they’ll draft for depth and they can take BPEPGA. For next year’s team, Luwawu is only 19, but is already a strong wing defender who is built an awful lot like Leonard and should be able to learn from him.

The Parker/Manu/Timmy era in San Antonio will be remembered as one of the most successful team/player combos in basketball history, but those guys are all getting old and the new guard will have to take over. Leonard is certainly a part of that, but I’m not sure who else is. The answer probably isn’t available at the 26th pick. Luwawu’s offensive game will need to adapt a little before it’s NBA-ready. He can drive and draw contact, but his outside shooting is average. He looks like a defensive specialist who can slash.

27. Los Angeles Lakers: Terry Rozier, PG (Louisville)

Rozier

Rozier

There’s a lot of chatter regarding the Lakers thinking hard about D’Angelo Russell with the second pick, and I think it’s mostly just gamesmanship. They’re picking Okafor at 2. But that doesn’t mean guard depth isn’t still a problem. Rozier is a little bit more of a combo guard than a point guard, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Long-term, this is still a free agency team, and players who can fit in at more than one position give L.A. versatility.

Rozier would give the Lakers two young, cheap combo guards, who would both play a sort of off-ball 1 for a year with Kobe coming back. Depending on which free agencts the Lakers attract next offseason, Rozier and Clarkson can both play either the 1 or the 2, so they should still be able to get minutes. It’s like that exercise where you fill a jar with different-sized rocks by putting the big ones in first and the filling in the small ones around them. Rozier is a small rock, but he’s tough and he can fit with a lot of other players.

28. Boston Celtics: Montrezl Harrell, PF (Louisville)

Harrell

Harrell

Seems odd that he’s still available, especially with the lack of bigs in this year’s class. Boston is a pretty decent team that can still afford to make BPA draft picks, and in this case, Harrell and the 16th pick Oubre would be a promising collection of players/skills from the first round. Harrell rebounds well and has an active motor that reminds me of the Boston bigs in recent years. He can get minutes as a rebounder right away, but he’ll have to add some offense to his game if he wants to get any more run.

The more I read about the draft, the more I think this pick will be made by a team that isn’t Boston. The team right now is all depth and no real stars, so a team with the 16th, 28th and 33rd picks is crazy to just add three more depth players. The C’s should be packaging 16 and 28 to move up to the mid-lottery, or maybe even all three picks to move up to 4 or 5.

29. Brooklyn Nets: Tyus Jones, PG (Duke)

Jones

Jones

Jones is probably the biggest loser in my mock. He’s a small point guard with a lot of skills and pretty good shot-making ability, but we’ve seen this guy before in other drafts. It’s just hard to play in the NBA without an NBA body. I like what he can add as a backup ballhandler, but he probably can’t defend for long periods, no matter how good he is on offense. He’s definitely the best player available here, and Brooklyn needs cheap talent because they already have a lot of players under some heavy contracts.

Overall, this team is a huge question mark. The Nets have one more season under the failed Williams/Lopez/Johnson regime and then will probably spend a ton of money building something else. The Nets won’t draft someone to be a part of that something else, but point guard depth isn’t ever going to be a wasted pick and Jones is too good to be available here.

30. Golden State Warriors: Rashad Vaughn, SG (UNLV)

Vaughn

Vaughn

The Warriors just won everything and aren’t really even losing anyone, so their roster looks pretty set as it is. The only player from their pared-down playoff roster that won’t be back is Barbosa, so I’ll take a little bit of extra guard depth with Vaughn. We’re only looking at a grand total of 10-12 minutes a game here, since the Steph/Klay/Livingston combination has earned plenty of minutes, but that’s still plenty of time to grow as more than just a scorer.

Vaughn doesn’t shoot much better than average, but he can’t be less reliable than Barbosa was, and he brings a lot of the slashing that will need to be replaced. Vaughn won’t have the ball in his hands a lot with Golden State, so he’ll have to rely on speed around screens and some interior banging to get himself good looks, but those are strengths for him, so it’ll be a nice fit. People will love to point out that smaller-school alpha scorers can’t possibly learn from a better player than Steph, but Vaughn’s ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Curry’s, he’s a complementary second-string slasher, which is exactly what the Warriors need.

Good luck to your teams in tomorrow night’s draft.

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2015 SpreeGoogs NBA Mock Draft Part 1 http://spreegoogs.com/2015/06/23/2015-spreegoogs-nba-mock-draft-part-1/ http://spreegoogs.com/2015/06/23/2015-spreegoogs-nba-mock-draft-part-1/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 21:00:27 +0000 http://spreegoogs.com/?p=7120 “The time has come,” the Mocker said, “To draft for many teams: Of hoops–and ‘ships–and..

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“The time has come,” the Mocker said,
“To draft for many teams:
Of hoops–and ‘ships–and first-round picks–
And Sacramento Kings
And if the wings can pick and pop–
And whether bigs shoot threes.”

This is going to be long, so I’ll get right into the mock picks in a minute. But first, some general guidelines for this mock:

  • There won’t be any mocked trades; it gets too difficult to juggle and isn’t realistic or rewarding for fans trying to see which players are actually in play for their team
  • I’m mocking the first round only
  • I try to avoid the “[player X] fits on [Team Y] because they need a [position Z] and he’s the best one” format; assume that all picks are made because the players will fit on the teams
  • I will, instead, try to explain the actual drafting mindset of the teams, noting which players will be considered for a pick and how the team considers its long-term structure
  • For each pick, I’ll try to play the role of the GM, considering existing contracts, past draft history and style of play; it also means that I’m picking long-term starters for most of the lottery teams and single-skill bench contributors for the playoff teams
  • This is how I think the draft will happen, not necessarily how the draft should happen; there’s plenty of overlap between those two methods, but they don’t always match up 1:1
  • Traditionally, basketball teams are built of five positions, but I like to think of teams as built of three positions (1 ballhandler, 2 wings, 2 bigs) so that affects who I pick

Here we go:

2015 SpreeGoogs NBA Mock Draft (Picks 1-14)

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, C (Kentucky)

Towns

Towns

This pick would seem to already be made. Like just about every NBA draft, we know how the first pick will shake out at least a month before the pick is made. Towns is a monster of a player and still seems to have plenty of room left to improve. He shoots, he rebounds, he defends the paint, he does everything pretty well already and will probably only get better.

In the long run, the ‘Wolves extended Ricky Rubio last year and have a talented group of young wings (Wiggins, Bennett, Shabazz), so the best place to add talent would be the big positions. Pekovic and Dieng are ok, but there are still plenty of minutes to go around. The pick ultimately comes down to Towns vs. Okafor, and it seems that the ‘Wolves prefer Towns. I don’t think you cold go wrong with either.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C (Duke)

Okafor

Okafor

Can you name anyone on the Lakers who actually played last year? Seriously, Kobe didn’t, and unless you’re a fan of Jordan Clarkson (I am), Ryan Kelly or Bob Sacre, you probably didn’t even notice the Lakers were in the Association in 2014. Unfortunately for LA fans, it seems like the right thing for the team to do is to grab one player who could be something and then just develop the young core until the salary cap expands next offseason (even more so for them because Kobe’s 25 million comes off the books) and they use their identity (they’re still the Lakers) to grab a big-name free agent for two. Or three.

The best players left would appear to be Okafor, Porzingis and a couple of ballhandlers. After seeing what Clarkson did last season in a starting job, I’d tend to think the Lakers are fine moving forward with him and will draft the last elite offensive post player. The Lakers are playing for next year’s offseason, and realistically, the only players under contract will be Julius Randle, Okafor and Nick Young. I’ll assume Clarkson extends too, leaving them with a solid (and cheap) core and a lot of money to throw at whatever free agent wings they want, so Kevin Durant come on down.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Kristaps Porzingis, PF (Latvia)

Porzingis

Porzingis

This is the pick where the draft gets interesting. The Sixers have been tanking and collecting early picks for a while, but it really hasn’t gotten them anything. Nerlens Noel is probably a firm part of the long-term plan, but Joel Embiid, the other big that they’ve been sitting on, just re-injured himself and who knows when he’ll actually be ready to play. As far as wings and ballhandlers go, the cupboard is bare. The Sixers need everything, and this seems like a classic BPA trap pick.

I say trap pick because I think the floor for both Russell and Mudiay is high. Philadelphia will see that Porzingis is a nice complement for Noel, and they’d be right, but it takes a good point guard to win in the NBA. From media reports leading up to the draft, it seems like the 76ers rate Porzingis too highly, and they might be right, but we’ve seen the foreign big who can shoot movie before. Unless you’re Dirk or maybe Nikola Mirotic, it doesn’t work out. If I’m picking for the 76ers, I’m taking Russell, but I’m not, and I think they’re taking Porzingis.

4. New York Knicks: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG (Ohio State)

Russell

Russell

Here’s an unsung benefit of drafting D’Angelo Russell: you save money on your PR and media training personnel. Not only is Russell an elite talent, he’s also absurdly good at the pre-draft interview session. Going into next year, the Knicks are in the same position as always: Carmelo is expensive and there’s no one else on the roster, unless you count Jose Calderon and/or Shane Larkin. Russell fills an awful lot of holes on the roster. He can start as the second-option wing and move into a more ball-dominant role with the second team.

I’m assuming that the Knicks are in a Lakers-like year of developing a handful of young guys for a year before binge spending next offseason and the versatility of Russell compared to Mudiay is attractive to them because he can shuffle around and still get plenty of minutes after they sign a veteran next year.

5. Orlando Magic: Willie Cauley-Stein, C (Kentucky)

Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein

This is going to be a bold statement, but the Magic really aren’t that far away from being a good team. They don’t really need anything. The backcourt (Payton/Oladipo) is very good/young/cheap. The wings (Harris, Gordon, Harkless) are super athletic but lack a true shooter. Vucevic will be back down low. The only skills not really represented are shot-blocking and maybe defensive rebounding, enter WCS.

Either way you look at it, this team is built to out-athlete people in a transition game. I think WCS is the pick here to try to improve size without sacrificing that athletic ability. The only other possible option would be Justise Winslow, who could give them a third wing (with Vecevic as the long big) who could guard opposing 4s and space the floor with his shooting, something Gordon can’t really do. It’s probably a coin-flip between WCS and Winslow. The good news for Orlando is that if the Knicks trade in front of them (decently likely) and one of those two isn’t available, they still have a great option.

6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG (China)

Mudiay

Mudiay

If the previous five picks are made, I’m betting the farm on the Kings taking Mudiay. I’m really not even sure who else is in the running for this pick. They’re building around Gay (wing) and Cousins (post), so they need a 1 and Mudiay is probably the last elite talent left. He’s a big, physical point guard who can score plenty without having plays run for him, which is great, because there won’t be plays run for him.

To win in today’s NBA, you have to have a dominant point guard, and Mudiay is the best pure 1 in this draft class. The Kings aren’t going anywhere immediately, but Cousins is something to build around and Mudiay is as good a building block as there is for him. Unlike a lot of these lottery teams, the Kings don’t really have a lot of cap room to play with, so they might be interested in a trade that unloads some of the bad contracts, but if they stay and pick, they couldn’t do better than Mudiay.

7. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow, SF (Duke)

Winslow

Winslow

This is a tough pick. Here’s the scenario: The Nuggets have plenty of players signed for next season, but after that, it’s basically just Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. The need shooting, they need defense, they basically just need the best wing they can get. In this case, I’m picking Winslow over Hezonja. Mostly because I have a bias against foreign players. I like Winslow’s size and his defensive versatility and people forget that he shot over 40% from the 3-point line last season. Dude can shoot and defend.

Winslow is the best pure wing in the class, and it’s strange that he’s still left after six picks, but that’s the way the draft works. Positional runs are everything. In terms of the big picture, the choice at 7 comes down to what the Nuggets are planning to do with their free agency room next year. The Nuggets don’t have a lot of cap room right now, but they do next year, and I think Winslow’s defense makes him stand out over Hezonja for Denver. No matter who they go after in free agency, every player still needs to defend, and Winslow is one of the best defenders around.

8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, SF (Arizona)

Johnson

Johnson

The big question for Detroit this offseason is what happens with Greg Monroe. At this point, it seems pretty unlikely that he’ll be back in the Motor City. What the Pistons are building post-Monroe with Ilyasova and Drummond looks like a pretty classic 4-out setup. They’ve already got the shooting big and the interior big they need, so the long-term goal is another wing to pair (or to prefer) with KCP.

Johnson can defend more positions better than KCP, and while I wouldn’t call him a floor-spacer, he shoots well enough to take the open looks the offense will get him. He seems like a high-end 3/D player in Detroit. The other option on the wing for the Pistons is Hezonja, but I really don’t get the excitement. He’s supposed to be this great shooter and scorer, but he’s only scoring 15 points per 40 and he shoots the same percentage from deep as Johnson. Hezonja is going to be the player who falls in my mock, but he’s definitely in the running for a few teams.

9. Charlotte Hornets: Devin Booker, SG (Kentucky)

Booker

Booker

A third Wildcat in the lottery! The Hornets have made it pretty clear that they are looking for a shooter in the first round, so it’ll come down to Booker and Mario Hezonja. The pick has to be a wing and with the way that MKG (the other starter) plays, they’ll need shooting from somewhere. Booker is the best pure shooter in this class and not much else, but the Hornets are really only looking for that one skill, so it’s ok.

Again, Hezonja loses out, this time to a player almost everyone has rated lower than him, but hear me out. With Big Al, Zeller, and MKG not giving the Hornets any spacing at all, Charlotte gives the edge to the speedier player (Booker destroyed the lane agility test) with better range. Size doesn’t matter as much, neither does defense, since MKG will always guard the best wing on the opposing team. Booker is probably a better fit for a playoff team looking for a second-unit shooter than a lottery tea, looking for a starter, but if the Hornets are going to draft for one need, they might as well pick the player that actually takes care of that one need.

10. Miami Heat: Mario Hezonja, SG/SF (Croatia)

Hezonja

Hezonja

It finally happens, he has a team. At this point he’s the wing with the highest potential and he’s probably too much to pass up for Miami, a team with a bunch of huge question marks. Bosh will be there long-term and that’s all they know past this season. Dragic will probably extend with Miami for a while, but both Deng and Wade have player options for the the upcoming season. Miami might be drafting the first wing off the bench or they might be drafting the first starting wing option (assuming Dragic and Bosh are covered on some play).

Henzonja plays a position of need and seems like the BPA right now too. We’re getting into the Kaminsky/Turner range of the draft right now too, but Kaminsky’s game overlaps entirely with Bosh’s and there are too many unknowns with Turner to take him this high. Hezonja gives Miami another wing to play in a three-wing small lineup that puts Bosh at the 5 and he also provides some insurance against a possible Wade/Deng exodus. He’s the right pick here.

11. Indiana Pacers: Trey Lyles, SF/PF (Kentucky)

Lyles

Lyles

You’ll have to bear with me a little bit longer on this one because this is my team. For the only pick in the entire mock, I’ll be choosing who the team should pick, not who they will pick.

This offseason, Larry Bird has already made it known that he wants the Pacers to play smaller and faster in the future. This will be the last season with David West and Roy Hibbert, so it makes sense to get faster by subtraction when those two leave, but that means there will have to be some newer, faster bigs to take the minutes. Lyles is a perfect 4 for a smaller, faster offensive team. He has great mobility/wingspan, so with a year to learn post defense from the outgoing vets, he could grow into a worthy starter.

The popular Pacers mock pick this year is Murray State’s Cameron Payne, which doesn’t make any sense. The Pacers already have George Hill, Paul George, Solomon Hill and CJ Miles under contract and are probably going to re-sign Rodney Stuckey. They don’t need any more 1-3 players. They have to get mobile big men. You don’t make the team faster by adding more players at the fast positions, you have to replace the plodding bigs with mobile bigs, which are hard to find. I’d like to see them re-sign Lavoy Allen in free agency and pair him with Lyles for at least 10-15 minutes a game to see how that speedier lineup works.

Another option would be Frank Kaminsky, who definitely adds shooting that Lyles doesn’t have, but probably doesn’t have the body to defend NBA big men like Lyles can. If someone like WCS or StanJo falls on draft night, that’s the pick. Actually, if any of the players not named Devin Booker who are already taken in this mock fall, they’re the pick. We all know that waiting to see who falls isn’t the Larry Bird strategy, He likes to pick someone who he knows will be there at his pick and set his sights. For him in the real draft, that might mean Jerian Grant, but for me in my mock, it’s Lyles.

12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner, C (Texas)

Turner

Turner

The Jazz need a center. It’s almost like all they can afford to draft at 12 is a center. They have a ton of young, talented, contractually obligated players at 1-4. Seriously, for the next three seasons they have Hayward, Favors, Exum, Burks and Rodney Hood. Two more years for Trey Burke as well. The Jazz are in a good spot to go with their favorite flavor of big: inside (Turner) or outside (Kaminsky).

We’re running out of teams that have a lot of minutes available, but we’re also running out of players with multiple skills to offer a team. Turner is someone I looked into a lot, and I really don’t get. He kind of sucked at Texas for a year and all of a sudden he’s a lottery talent? Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to get drafted in the lottery because he’s young and has size, I just don’t think he has any skills. He is a good fit for the Jazz because he doesn’t need to do anything right away.

13. Phoenix Suns: Frank Kaminsky, C (Wisconsin)

Kaminsky

Kaminsky

What? A big who can shoot 3s to the Suns? I hate to stereotype, but it’s almost too easy at this point. Kaminsky is the best player left too, but he seems like he fits what Hornacek is doing in Phoenix. Moving from college to the pros, Kaminsky’s big question mark is defense, so why not just put him on a team where defense doesn’t matter?

It would look like the future of this team is the Morris brothers, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, then whatever wings fill out the rest of the roster. However, Knight is a restricted free agent right now, and Cameron Payne might be a sneaky insurance play against matching some team desperate to overpay for Knight. We’re also starting to get into Bobby Portis territory, but Kaminsky seems like a way better fit for Phoenix.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne, PG (Murray State)

Payne

Payne

It’s too bad the Thunder had to play without Durant for so long last year, because they’re not lottery bad at all when they’re healthy. Actually, they probably would have made the playoffs last season on Westbrook alone if he didn’t have to shoulder the load for months before the final playoff push. He ran out. Payne is a strong backup for OKC. Who knows how good a rested Russ could be at the end of the season.

The Thunder have to be looking ahead at who they can bring in that will be an advantage for keeping Kevin Durant next offseason, and a point guard with Payne’s elite vision/passing seems to be the right way to go. I don’t think there’s any actual threat that he’ll leave, but who knows how much of that Kobe money the Lakers will offer.

That’s it for today, come back tomorrow for Part 2.

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