The Case For Embiid


Joel Embiid is the number one player in this draft.  He won’t go number one anymore and you can’t fault teams at the top passing on him after it was reported last week that he’d need surgery to repair the navicular bone in his foot, after already dealing with a stress fracture in his back during his lone college basketball season.  It’s been said a million times now, but back and foot injuries for big men are like rust on a boat.

By now everyone knows the history of navicular bone injuries in the NBA.  Bill Walton, Yao Ming, Kevin McHale,  Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Brook Lopez all suffered the same injury during their career.  The circumstances behind each were different along with the results post surgery, but there is obvious cause for concern with the direction Embiid’s career will go.  We tend to think of larger people being bruisers and able to withstand a beating because they’re so big.  But the truth is when people start getting into the seven feet and above range you actually become more delicate.  Humans just aren’t meant to be that big, which makes you appreciate the careers of Olajuwon, Robinson, Ewing, and O’Neal even more when you think about how durable they all were.  The injury to Embiid has changed the perception of his career path, what hasn’t changed though is his rare talent.

NBA centers with athleticism and skill are a rare commodity.  Hell, seven footers that can stay on a basketball court are rare.  It’s why teams like Memphis reached for the immobile Hasheem Thabeet 2nd overall or the Clippers taking Michael Olowokandi with the 1st overall pick in 1998 who was dominant in the Big West Conference, but couldn’t even get his team out of the first round of the NIT in his final season.  Over the last 31 drafts centers were picked first 15 times.  NBA center prospects are a lot like quarterback prospects in the NFL.  If you hit on the right one you’ll be in contention for years, just look at the current NBA champions. And that’s what Joel Embiid represents in this year’s draft if he can go on to have a healthy career.

Below are the freshman year stats of the best centers of the past couple of decades along with Embiid and a few other more recent center prospects.

Player G MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Joel Embiid 28 23.1 3.8 6.1 0.626 3.8 5.9 0.639 0 0.2 0.2 3.5 5.1 0.685 8.1 1.4 0.9 2.6 2.4 3.4 11.2
Hakeem Olajuwon 29 18.2 3.1 5.2 0.607 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2 3.6 0.563 6.2 0.4 0.9 2.5 1.4 2.9 8.3
Patrick Ewing 37 28.8 4.9 7.8 0.631 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2.8 4.5 0.617 7.5 0.6 1.1 3.2 2 3.2 12.7
David Robinson 28 13.3 3.1 4.9 0.623 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.5 2.6 0.575 4 0.3 0.2 1.3 1.1 2.9 7.6
Tim Duncan 33 30.2 3.6 6.7 0.545 3.6 6.6 0.543 0 0 1 2.5 3.3 0.745 9.6 0.9 0.4 3.8 1.2 2.5 9.8
Anthony Davis 40 32 5.3 8.4 0.623 5.2 7.9 0.653 0.1 0.5 0.15 3.6 5.1 0.709 10.4 1.3 1.4 4.7 1 2 14.2
Shaquille O’Neal 32 28.2 5.6 9.8 0.573 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2.7 4.8 0.556 12 1.9 1.2 3.6 2.9 3.8 13.9
Alonzo Mourning 34 28.3 4.6 7.7 0.603 4.6 7.6 0.609 0 0.1 0.25 3.8 5.7 0.667 7.3 0.7 0.4 5 2 3 13.1
Nerlens Noel 24 31.9 4.1 6.9 0.59 4.1 6.9 0.59 0 0 N/A 2.3 4.3 0.529 9.5 1.6 2.1 4.4 1.9 2.6 10.5
Dikembe Mutombo 33 11.3 1.6 2.3 0.707 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.7 1.5 0.479 3.3 0.2 0.3 2.3 0.9 1.8 3.9
Brook Lopez 26 25.2 5.4 10.8 0.496 5.3 10.3 0.513 0.1 0.6 0.2 1.7 2.5 0.692 6 0.8 0.4 1.7 N/A N/A 12.6
Michael Olowokandi 25 10.3 1.6 3 0.526 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.8 1.4 0.556 3.4 0.2 0.1 1.3 0.8 1.9 4

And here are the same players freshman year stats per 40 minutes.

Player G MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Joel Embiid 28 647 6.6 10.6 0.626 6.6 10.3 0.639 0.1 0.3 0.2 6.1 8.8 0.685 14 2.3 1.5 4.5 4.1 5.8 19.4
Hakeem Olajuwon 29 529 6.9 11.3 0.607 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 4.4 7.8 0.563 13.5 0.8 2 5.4 3.1 6.4 18.1
Patrick Ewing 37 1064 6.9 10.9 0.631 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.9 6.3 0.617 10.5 0.9 1.5 4.5 2.8 4.4 17.6
David Robinson 28 372 9.2 14.8 0.623 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 4.5 7.8 0.575 11.9 0.9 0.6 4 3.3 8.7 23
Tim Duncan 33 997 4.8 8.8 0.545 4.8 8.8 0.543 0 0 1 3.3 4.4 0.745 12.7 1.2 0.5 5 1.6 3.3 13
Anthony Davis 40 1281 6.6 10.5 0.623 6.5 9.9 0.653 0.1 0.6 0.15 4.5 6.3 0.709 13 1.6 1.7 5.8 1.3 2.4 17.7
Shaquille O’Neal 32 901 8 13.9 0.573 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.8 6.8 0.556 17.1 2.7 1.7 5.1 4.1 5.4 19.8
Alonzo Mourning 34 962 6.6 10.9 0.603 6.5 10.7 0.609 0 0.2 0.25 5.4 8.1 0.667 10.3 1 0.6 7 2.8 4.2 18.6
Nerlens Noel 24 765 5.1 8.7 0.59 5.1 8.7 0.59 0 0 N/A 2.9 5.4 0.529 11.9 2 2.6 5.5 2.4 3.2 13.1
Dikembe Mutombo 33 374 5.7 8 0.707 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2.5 5.1 0.479 11.7 0.5 1.2 8 3.2 6.5 13.8
Brook Lopez 26 654 8.6 17.2 0.496 8.4 16.3 0.513 0.2 0.9 0.2 2.8 4 0.692 9.5 1.2 0.7 2.8 N/A N/A 20.1
Michael Olowokandi 25 257 6.2 11.8 0.526 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.1 5.6 0.556 13.1 0.6 0.3 5.1 3 7.5 15.6

Embiid’s freshman year numbers stack up very well with some of the best centers in NBA history.  His FG% was topped only by Ewing.  His rebound rate per 40 was better than Hakeem, Ewing, and Duncan.  His 2.3 assists per 40 was bested everyone not named Shaquille, and he averaged 8.8 trips to the free throw line per 40 which was better than anyone else on the list.  Going off of their freshman numbers Embiid absolutely belongs with the elite centers of the last 30 years.  The elite ones being Ewing, Olajuwon, O’Neal, Robinson, and Duncan.  That group has collected 4 Rookie of the Year awards, 3 Defensive Player of the Year trophies, 5 regular season MVP awards, 17 NBA Finals appearances, 8 Finals MVP awards, and 13 championship rings over the last 30 years.

When you have an elite center you win, which is why tomorrow a team in the top 10 will be justified in picking Embiid broken bones and all.

NBA Finals Preview



Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders tweeted this out last night. It’s from the first time Lebron and Duncan met in the Finals in 2007. Lebron was just 22 when the Cavs got stomped by the Spurs.

At this point everyone knows what is at stake for the players and coaches on both sides.  If Duncan and the Spurs win it will be their 5th title since Duncan joined the team.  Five titles puts Duncan on a list of only 25 other players with five or more rings.  If you cut out the non Hall of Fame players the list shrinks to 18.  A 5th title will also move Duncan into a tie with Kobe Bryant for the player with the most rings in the post Jordan era.  For legacy purposes that 5th ring should lock up “best player of his era” for Duncan when you consider his two MVP regular season MVP awards and three Finals MVP awards.

For Lebron a win brings him halfway home to catching Jordan at age 29.  And since it doesn’t look like Lebron is going take a break and give the NHL a shot he’s got a very realistic chance of catching Jordan and being in the argument as the best player of all time.  A loss to the Spurs probably ends the Jordan Lebron debate for the time being since Lebron would be without a 3-peat.  A Heat win would also put Dwyane Wade in rare air, being one of only 37 players with at least four titles.  Maybe most importantly though a Heat win will also assure us of another moment from Chris Bosh like the one below.

After nerding out, trying to remember specifics from last year, looking at the numbers, and talking to NBA super fan Judi Dench I came to the following conclusion; I believe the Spurs win in six games, and here is why.

Miami Was A Much Better Rebounding Team In 2013

Everyone that watched the Finals last year remembers Lebron’s 3-pointer followed by Ray Allen’s 3 pointer that sent Game 6 into overtime.  Everyone also remember’s discussing Popovich’s decision to sit Duncan during the those two crucial sequences.  Both times before James and Allen hit their shots the Heat collected an offensive rebound to give the team another shot to stay alive.  Ray Allen’s incredible shot doesn’t happen if Chris Bosh isn’t down on the block fighting for the offensive rebound.  This season though Bosh and his game have floated further away from the basket.

During the regular season Bosh averaged a career low 1.2 offensive rebounds per game and a career low 6.6 rebounds per game.  In the playoffs his rebounding numbers have dipped even lower to a 5.7 per game average.  His rebounding percentage has remained the same the past two years, 12.7 in 2012/2013 and 12.8 in 2013/2014, but if the Heat are in need a basket late in a game this time around Bosh is more likely to be standing in the corner (like he was at the end of Game 5 against the Pacers this year) instead of down low fighting for a rebound in case there is a miss.  Since Bosh has drifted further away from the paint it led to Lebron leading the team in rebounds this year with a 6.9 per game average, and a 6.8 per game average in the playoffs.  The trouble for the Heat is if Lebron is initiating the offense, and possibly being expected to take the shot he can’t also be in position to fight for the rebound, unless he grows a third arm in the next 18 hours.

The lack of rebounding, particularly on the offensive end, can’t all be blamed on Bosh.  The Heat as a whole are worse rebounding team this year.  Last post season the Heat averaged 9.6 offensive boards per game.  This year that number is down to 6.1 in the post season.  The Heat have actually shot slightly better during these playoffs, which of course leads to fewer offensive rebound opportunities, but the advanced stats also point to the Heat being a less proficient rebounding team this year.

Playoffs OREB% (Rank) DREB (Rank) REB% (Rank)
2013 25.2% (7th) 71.1% (14th) 49.4% (11th)
2014 17.6% (16th) 74.7% (9th) 47.6% (13th)

The Heat’s rebounding numbers on the defensive end have actually been better these playoffs.  That might be a bit misleading though after going against Al Jefferson on one foot, a Nets team whose leading rebounder was Garnett with a 4.8 per game average in the playoffs, and the Pacers Roy Hibbert who inexplicably starting playing like his talents were stolen by the MonStars of Space Jame.  During the regular season this year the Heat ranked 29th in OREB%, 24th in DREB%, and 27th in REB%.

The Emergence Of Tiago Splitter

Last year Splitter was a part of the Spurs’ rotation, and he was exceptional on the defensive end in the regular season earning a 96.1 DefRtg, which ranked first among Spurs regulars.  This season was much of the same and Splitter again ranked as the best Spurs defender with a 94.5 DefRtg.  Where Splitter’s game has improved, during the playoffs, is on the offensive end and crashing the boards (I know again with the rebounds).  Last year in the playoffs Splitter didn’t have where he collected more than 6 rebounds or and only had three games where he scored more than 10 points.  So far this year in the playoffs Splitter has had 9 games of at least 8 rebounds despite playing roughly the same number of minutes as last year.  In the first round of the playoffs against Dallas Splitter had three double-doubles against the Mavericks with games of 14 pts &13 reb, 17 pts & 12 reb, and 10 pts & 12 reb.  Splitter was much less effective against the Thunder and Blazers, but those two teams also ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in opponent FG% in the restricted area during the regular season.  The Heat’s defensive presence in the paint shades closer to the Mavericks than it does to the Thunder or Blazers.  Unfortunately for the Heat Anderson, Bosh, and Haslem are not the same caliber of defender as Ibaka or Robin Lopez.  The Spurs aren’t really the type of team that is going continually pound the ball down low, but we may see more of that this time around since the Heat look more susceptible to giving up points around the rim.  The Spurs don’t have an Ibaka type to contend with, which may lead to more of Duncan and Splitter on the floor together as was the norm during the regular season.

Wear And Tear

This is the fourth trip in a row to the Finals for the Heat.  Even if they don’t beat the Spurs, making four title appearances in a row is impressive.  Unfortunately with all the success comes more damage to the body.  Since joining the Heat Lebron has played in 376 regular season games, and once the ball is tipped tonight he’ll be playing in his 83 playoff game as a member of the Heat.  That’s five seasons crammed into four years.  Even with the lockout shortened season that is still a lot of basketball.  The pounding Lebron has taken may not have an effect on him.  He isn’t human after all.  At the same time the Heat did do a better job managing Wade’s minutes this year and he has been significantly better this year than last year in the playoffs.

Year MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2013 35.5 6.5 14.3 0.457 6.5 14.1 46.0% 0 0.2 25.0% 2.7 3.6 75.0% 4.6 4.8 1.7 1 2.6 2 15.9
2014 34.7 7.4 14.3 0.519 6.9 13.1 53.1% 0.5 1.2 38.9% 3.4 4.3 79.7% 3.9 4.3 1.5 0.3 2.4 2.7 18.7

Now that I think about it, this probably won’t have a huge effect on the Heat.  They need four more wins this year to win another title.  As beaten up as they all are I’m sure they can get up for a max seven more games.

Final Thought

When the Finals ended last season I think every fan could have watched the Spurs and Heat battle it out for another seven games.  It’s great theater to watch the the best team take on the best player.  In reality though the Heat are also a really good team.  They can whip the ball around as well till someone has an open shot.

After the Finals ended we watched another off-season that saw major dollars shelled out to Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, and Al Jefferson.  We saw the Warriors make a trade to land Andre Iguodala and the Nets bring in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  We watched another 82 game season that led to discussions about whether or not the Pacers had enough to beat the Heat and if Durant could finally get over the hump title hump.  We saw the Knicks fall down an endless elevator shaft, giving us moments like this one from Andrea Bargnani.  We witnessed the Blazers return to relevance culminating in a memorable shot from Damian Lillard.  There was the very forgettable Slam Dunk Contest, Glen Davis’ Godzilla moment, and Kevin Durant’s incredibly authentic MVP acceptance speech.  And now after an excellent playoffs (that were condensed thank god) here we are again watching the Heat and Spurs battle it out for NBA supremacy.

While thinking about how funny it is that despite so many players changing teams, dollars being spent, and words being said and written that nothing has really changed in the NBA I was reminded of one of the better West Wing episodes called “Midterms.”  Upon hearing that the House of Representatives stayed exactly the same Josh says to some of the other White House staff members, “After four months and 400 million dollars everything stayed the same?  Tell me democracy doesn’t have a sense of humor.”  I have no idea if the NBA gods have a sense of humor, but they certainly have good taste.

Enjoy the Finals!

19 Wins Are 19 Wins


Last week after the NBA Lottery Bill Simmons went on SVP & Russillo and again made a comment about the Sixers strategy this season ruining the promise of a bright future for MCW.  He referenced Antoine Walker and said he fell into bad habits his rookie season, that irrevocably changed his career.  He went on to say MCW, like Walker was stat chasing for the rookie of the year award making MCW damaged goods.  Maybe there is some merit to what Simmons said in regard to MCW stat chasing this season.  At times it felt that way, but as a whole I still disagree with Simmons and many other members of the NBA media who believe MCW’s season was more of a mirage than anything else. If Carter-Williams wants to be one of the best players in the NBA 95% of that is on Carter-Williams himself.  The other 5% is divided between Brett Brown’s ability to develop MCW and Sam Hinkie’s construction of the roster.

The 19 wins during the 2013/2014 season will not have any effect on MCW’s future.  Nobody is ok with losing.  Everybody prefers winning.  But some professional athletes are less motivated than others.  Some athletes are less concerned with losses and more concerned with their paycheck or the late night entertainment named Sweet Pea. Michael Beasley, the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 draft, was a part of a Heat team that won 43 games and went to the playoffs his rookie season.  The 2008/2009 Heat team had future HOF Dwyane Wade, solid veterans like Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion, and fellow rookie Mario Chalmers who was selected 34th in the draft.  The Heat head coach was Erik Spoelstra.  Pat Riley was the GM and Micky Arison was the owner.  The same coaching, management, and ownership core that has led the Heat to the last three NBA Finals.  Beasley, who had all the talent in the world, lost his mind in South Beach and saw his career go in the toilet.  Chalmers, a far less talented player, has been the starting point guard through the Heat’s championship run.

The players that have the most success in any professional sports league are the ones that are blessed with god given talent and work the hardest at their craft because they are maniacal about winning. Durant and the Sonics/Thunder won only 19 games his rookie season.  And in his second season with the addition of Russell Westbrook they won only 23 games.  Now Durant and Westbrook on playing in the Western Conference Finals.  Steph Curry won only 26 games his first season, and is now considering one of the best guards in the game.  And last season ROY Damian Lillard’s Blazers won 8 of their last 34 games, but made it to the second round of the playoffs this year thanks in large part to the ice in Lillard’s veins. Carter-Williams did lose Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner midseason, both casualties of the rebuild.  But was that really a bad thing considering Zach Lowe’s post this week included an anecdote about Turner looking into walking back to the team hotel from practice due to his frustration from a lack of playing time?  For all we know MCW could have been negatively influenced by Turner when he was a member of the Sixers locker room. Getting back to more tangible reasons to be excited about MCW, using Basketball-reference.com and their incredible Play Index tool I went as far back as the 1999/2000 season (trying to include all of the current top guards in the game) and filtered for guards that averaged at least 30 minutes per game as a rookie.

The Player Pool (27): Victor Oladipo, Tyreke Evans, Trey Burke, Steve Francis, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio, Raymond Felton, O.J. Mayo, Michael Carter-Williams, Mario Chalmers, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Kirk Hinrick, John Wall, Jason Richardson, Jamaal Tinsley, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Brandon Knight, Brandon Jennings, Bradley Beal, Andre Iguodala Compared to the others on the list here is where Carter-Williams ranked in all the important guard categories:

Minutes:  13th

Field Goal Attempts: 5th

Free Throw Attempts: 5th

Rebounds: 1st

Offensive Rebounds: T-4th

Defensive Rebounds: 1st

Assits: T-8th

Steals: T-4th

Turnovers: 25th

Points: 10th

Field Goal %: 20th

2 Point Field Goal %: 16th

3 Point Field Goal %: 24th

Free Throw %: 26th

PER: 12th

Usage: T-6th

Offensive Rating: 25th

Defensive Rating: 15th

Assist %: 9th

The takeaway from this, Carter-Williams has work to do particularly when it comes to all areas of shooting and getting his turnovers down.  Both of those deficiencies are correctable.  If Carter-Williams puts in the work his shot will improve, and as he continues to acclimate to the NBA game his turnover numbers should decline. The positives to take away from where Carter-Williams ranked is the Sixers pace did not have as dramatic of an effect on his numbers when you consider his minutes were toward the middle of the group.  He’s an elite rebounder for his position, does a good creating free throw opportunities and is solid as a distributor. Based on his rookie numbers there are two players who Carter-Williams compares favorably to, and when you think of his game, build, and athleticism it makes sense.  Those two players are Russell Westbrook and Jason Kidd.  All three players can fill up every category on a stat sheet on a given night.  None of them were or will ever be thought of as elite shooters.  MCW is obviously not the same class of athlete as Westbrook (he might be alien) but does have a significant length advantage over other point guards much like Kidd had during his career.  MCW can’t score quite like Westbrook, but does a better job involving his teammates like Kidd.  Here are the rookie numbers for all three guys.

Player Age MP FG FGA 2P 2PA 3P 3PA FT FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS FG% 2P% 3P% FT% AST% PER Usage% ORtg DRtg
Michael Carter-Williams 22 34.5 6.1 15.1 5.3 12.1 0.8 3 3.7 5.2 1.4 4.8 6.2 6.3 1.9 0.6 3.5 3 16.7 0.405 0.44 0.264 0.703 30.2 15.5 25.7 96 108
Russell Westbrook 20 32.5 5.3 13.4 4.9 11.8 0.4 1.6 4.3 5.2 2.2 2.7 4.9 5.3 1.3 0.2 3.3 2.3 15.3 0.398 0.415 0.271 0.815 27.5 15.2 25.8 99 111
Jason Kidd 21 33.8 4.2 10.8 3.3 7.6 0.9 3.3 2.4 3.5 1.9 3.5 5.4 7.7 1.9 0.3 3.2 1.8 11.7 0.385 0.433 0.272 0.698 33.2 15.1 19 103 109

Could Carter-Williams stall out in his development like Tyreke Evans or go crazy like Steve Francis?  Absolutely.  But the trajectory of his career is going to be determined by Carter-Williams and nobody else.  The 19 wins are nothing more than that, 19 wins.

He’s Not Coming Back


 

At the end of America’s greatest film of the last 50 years, Point Break, Johnny Utah along with his jean jacket Tim Riggins-ish hair and a small army of police storm Belles Beach to bring the elusive Bohdi, played flawlessly by the late Patrick Swayze, to justice.  After a brief fight in the ocean Keanu is able to handcuff himself to Swayze.  Utah tells Bodhi that he’s got to go down and make amends because things went bad.  Bodhi refuses to hear it, and pleads with Utah that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to surf the “50 Year Storm.”  Suddenly resigned Utah uncuffs Bodhi to go surf the skyscraper sized waves and achieve surfing immortality before meeting his end.  As Bodhi is paddling out into the surf the police bombard Agent Utah asking why he let him go.  Without missing a beat Utah answers “Nah I didn’t.” Ignoring Utah, the police get themselves into position expecting Bodhi to return, yelling at one another, “We’ll get him when he comes back in!”  Utah, hearing the cops yelling at one another says to himself, “he’s nawt coming back,” before he ceremonially throws his F.B.I. badge into the water closing a chapter of his life.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 2.05.52 AM

I bring this up because in less than a month Lebron James is going be a free agent for the first time, assuming he opts out, since “The Decision.”  Ever since Lebron left Cleveland it feels like both the team and the fans have continued to chase him with the belief that he will come home.  The speculation grew this week after Cleveland won the draft lottery again, giving them a serious trade chip to acquire a top talent like the very available Kevin Love.  Forbes put out an article explaining why Lebron should return and TNT analyst Charles Barkley championed Lebron’s return to the Cavs as well.  Now I love the man, but Barkley voices a lot of opinions that make him look like a buffoon.  At the trade deadline this year he declared the Eastern Conference over after the Pacers acquired Evan Turner.  For the entire playoffs Turner has scored only 39 points, grabbed a meh 25 rebounds, dished out a forgettable 19 assists to go along with 9 turnovers and an “I didn’t know that was possible” -53 +/-.

I understand the Lebron debate brings more drama to the NBA off season discussion, but Cleveland fans need to know Lebron is not coming back as a basketball player.  Not this summer, or next, or in 2016, or when his following contract is up and he’s on his last legs.  Lebron is staying put in Miami.  It’s not his hometown, but Miami is his adopted home.

Lebron’s wife and children live down in Miami with him.  His kids are in school down there where I’m sure they’ve made friends and built a life.  The  same goes for his wife Savannah who recently opened her own juice bar down in Miami.  James also has interests in Miami.  It’s been reported that James has spoken with David Beckham about investing in the MLS expansion club in Miami.  A conversation that we know isn’t just a courtesy since Lebron already owns a small stake in Liverpool F.C.  Then of course there is also the advantage of being in Florida, which has no state tax, and living in freakin Miami.  Miami isn’t for everyone, but it’s better than Cleveland or Akron.  You don’t see Michael Bay filming dramatic shots of planes flying over a Cleveland billboard in his movies.  That sign, which apparently doesn’t exist outside of the movie world, always says Miami for a reason.

Cleveland fans are quick to point out that Lebron still owns his mansion in Akron, but he also owns a monstrosity in Coconut Grove and may own a chateau in France for all we know.  Maybe he kept the house in Akron because if he sold it he’d be taking a multi-million dollar hit to the head or because he has friends/family currently living there rent free and doesn’t want to kick them out.  One house does not a decision make.

Like most households big family decisions come down to what is best for the career of the primary breadwinner.  And if the best decision for Lebron was to return to Cleveland I’m sure his family would be willing to make the sacrifice.  But that’s the problem, the situation in Cleveland is an absolute gong show right now.

Starting at the top, the Cavaliers are still owned by Dan Gilbert, an evenly tanned businessman with greased backed hair and the charm of a frat bro who is 12 beers deep. Casual NBA fans probably remember him, I’m positive Lebron does.  Gilbert is the same owner who decided to publicly undress James after he made the ill-advised move of announcing where he’d sign his next NBA contract on national television.  When all of this went down Lebron was 25 years old.  Gilbert was a grown-ass man.  But that didn’t stop him from verbally assaulting the young adult.  In his open letter to Cavs fans Gilbert used words like former hero, deserted, narcissistic, self-promotional, betrayed, cowardly, self-titled, shameful, selfishness, disloyalty, heartless, callous action, self-delcared, dreaded spell, and bad karma.  Gilbert really went for the gusto by also putting quotes around the words, decision, witnessed, king, curse, and chosen one.  And if you could believe it Gilbert also threw the caps lock down to say, “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.” 

I still haven’t forgotten that letter and I have no ties to anyone involved in this situation.  If I’m James every time I see Gilbert, whether it be at a game in Cleveland or All Star Weekend, I’m showing him my middle finger with the championship rings stacked on top of one another.  Has there every been any sort of word that the two buried the hatchet?Superstars like Lebron act so polished in front of the camera that we can forget that they are human.  Behind the scenes though, I’m sure James would use some colorful language when discussing his feelings towards Dan Gilbert.  Lebron’s decision to leave was just business, Gilbert made it personal.

For arguments sake lets say James and Gilbert are able to co-exist once again.  Things are no more enticing in Cleveland from a purely basketball standpoint.  David Griffin has been the permanent GM in Cleveland for about a week, has no previous experience as the lead decision-maker and no championship rings on his fingers. In Miami James still has Pat Riley running the team, who has successfully constructed a roster that has made it to the last three NBA Finals and could very well be on their way to a fourth.

Well Cleveland does have Coach……  Wait no they don’t.  The Cavs just fired Mike Brown for the second time, after signing him to a five year contract last summer.  Amazingly enough Brown doesn’t hold the record for number of times fired by one Cleveland sports franchise.  That honor belongs to former Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski, who has been fired by the Browns THREE GOD DAMN TIMES since 2004.  That means between Mike Brown and Rod Chudzinski they’ve been fired a combined five times in one city since 2004.  Such collective sports franchise ownership incompetence may never be topped.  That is a stat that could last longer than Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak.

As for Cleveland’s current coaching search, it’s been reported they are aggressively combing the college basketball ranks to find their next coach.  The name circulating currently is Florida coach Billy Donovan.  Donovan is a Hall of Fame coach, but has zero NBA track record.  Plus, Donovan looks like a long shot to leave Gainesville.  Other sought after college coaches, like Tom Izzo and Kevin Ollie, don’t appear to be leaving for the NBA anytime soon.  Of the remaining coaches with NBA experience there is the miserly George Karl, the very average Alvin Gentry, and the somewhat appealing Lionel Hollins.  Or if James remains in Miami he can continue to be coached by Erik Spoelstra, who Lebron has built a rapport with and like Riley has been a part of the Heat’s last three NBA Finals appearances.

But what about Miami’s aging roster!  Ray Allen looks 25 but is really 45.  Chris Anderson is 35 but looks 65.  Wade’s knees have more rings around them than the giant redwoods in California and Chris Bosh avoids the paint as if it’s a poison peanut butter pit.  All true statements to a degree, but take a gander at the Cavaliers’ roster and it isn’t showing that much promise.

Their franchise centerpiece, Kyrie Irving, has averaged only 60 games over his first three seasons in the NBA.  The creaky Dwyane Wade at 32 played 54 games this season after playing  91 games last season.  Beyond games played, Irving has show very little leadership as the focal point of the Cavs.  To date his greatest accomplishments in the league include winning the 2014 NBA All Star Game MVP award and getting over 33 million YouTube views since 2012 for the original Uncle Drew Pepsi ad campaign.  Furthermore, Irving has already been voicing his own concern over the direction of the Cavs.

Then there is SG Dion Waiters.  Off the court Waiters is good buddies with the Browns’ suspended receiver Josh Gordon, who decided to stick his own nose into the Cavs situation this season.  On the court this year Waiters shot 43% from the field, 68% from the free throw line and finished the year with a 14.1 PER.  50% of the time when Waiters name made the front page of ESPN.com this year it was because of an alleged fight with a teammate, verbal back and forth with Irving, or because he’d shot the Cavs into another one of their 49 losses this season.

Beyond the Grumpy Old Men-ish backcourt the Cavs have an average power forward in Tristan Thompson, an aging Anderson Varejao, Jarret Jack, and last year’s first overall pick Anthony Bennett, who I can only hope isn’t puttering around a mental ward playing Connect Four with his imaginary friend Otis.

The Cavs have the first overall pick though!  That means Embiid, Wiggins, Parker, or a potential trade for Kevin Love!  Again this is true, but is Lebron going to be enticed by the opportunity to play with an 18 year old who is going take time to develop?  Lebron went through this process himself.  He knows how long it takes to become an elite player in the NBA.  Playing with Kevin Love I’m sure is enticing to Lebron, but what’s to stop Love from trying to force his way to Miami?

The Wolves are losing more of their leverage with each passing day.  If Lebron gives Kevin Love a call and says come play with me in Miami, do you think Love is going say, “No, I’ll only do it if we are both in Cleveland.”  Love can go to Flip Saunders tomorrow and say, “tell every other team I’m only opting in if I go to Miami.”  At that point Saunders is left with two options.  One, hold onto Love and let him play out the last year of his contract in Minnesota and wave goodbye as he walks away next off season.  Or two, watch the offers start to dry up since no team is going to want to give up serious assets and risk Love leaving after one season, like Dwight Howard did last off season, leaving  Saunders with no choice but to trade Love for Chris Bosh, some future first rounders, and cap relief.

Even if that is too far-fetched for some people to believe, James and Miami have a lot of options.  Riley could convince Wade and Bosh to opt out this year and give them more guaranteed years for less money allowing the Heat to pursue someone like Eric Bledsoe, Pau Gasol or Greg Monroe in free agency.  A concept that isn’t insane considering Bosh, James, and Wade all took less money the first time around to make history.  The Heat don’t need THAT much to keep this thing going.

If Wade and Bosh balk at that idea then they can play out their contracts try to win over the next two years and Riley can let them walk after 2016, when the free agent pool will include players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, and potentially Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving.  Even if the Heat don’t win the title the next two seasons Lebron is still going to be only 31 years old.  Jordan and Bulls began their second three-peat when Jordan was 32 and the Bulls had retooled their roster.  Also the East doesn’t look like it is getting that much more competitive in the near future.

The point of all of this is that Lebron is like gravity.  Players are going to come to him.  He doesn’t need to go anywhere.  When anyone thinks of the Heat, James is the first player that comes to mind.  This isn’t Wade’s team anymore.  So whether it is this summer, next summer, or in 2016 elite players will still be clamoring to play with James barring any sort of catastrophic injury.  Lebron doesn’t need to manipulate his situation anymore.  After winning two rings and potentially a third in the coming weeks others will manipulate their own situation to come play with him.

The argument that Lebron feels some need to return home and play for his hometown is a flimsy one.  I recognize that the situation is different since he started in Cleveland, but was there ever any outcry for Jordan to play in Charlotte, or for Magic to return to Detroit, or for Bird to bring the Pacers a title?  Those three players like James made the city they won in their adopted home.  I’m sure there is already a spot picked out for a statue of James outside Miami’s arena.  The same way Jordan’s is built in Chicago, Magic’s is in Los Angeles, and Bird’s will be in Boston.  Cavaliers management is rotten from top to bottom right now.  There is no real upside for James to return to Cleveland.  My guess, Lebron follows in the footsteps of the great players previously mentioned and one day seizes control of the Cavaliers from that walking hard-on Dan Gilbert.

Before letting Swayze go off to wrestle with his maker Keanu looks at his ex-compadre that betrayed him and says (in classic Keanu cadence), “via con dios.”  Unlike Johnny Utah, Cleveland fans never had the opportunity to say goodbye to James and gain closure.  Because of that I can sympathize with the Cleveland fans.  They had this generational talent grown in their own backyard and playing for THEIR team, but management and ownership screwed the whole thing up and that generational talent left town without a goodbye.  It’s not your fault Cleveland fans.  If I could, I’d hug you all like Sean MacGuire in Good Will Hunting.  Like Bodhi, Lebron James has a chance to reach immortality as it relates to his life’s work. He’s not there yet, but he’s in range.  Cleveland, let him go.  It’s time to leave the beach, he’s not coming back.

 

NBA Lottery Power Rankings


10.  The Wolves

Watching another All-NBA player walk out of Minneapolis is going be painful for Wolves fans.  And losing Love is going be tougher than when Kevin Garnett was traded to the Celtics.  When Garnett left he was 30 years old, had spent 12 seasons trying to bring the Wolves to relevance, won an MVP, and made it to a conference finals in 2004.  Love on the other hand is only 25 years old, has never been able to give the Wolves fans a playoff run, and would still be on the team for two more seasons had former GM David Kahn given him a max extension.

The smallest of silver linings though is that there will be no shortage of teams willing to trade multiple assets for Kevin Love.  Since both the Celtics and Lakers didn’t make it into the top three of the lottery they may both look make a play for Love. The Cavs could also make a play for Love, since they have their own all-star to please before he’s able to bolt for a more successful franchise.  In addition to those three the Bulls, Warriors, Sixers, Suns, Rockets, Knicks (only in a ceremonial fashion), and Jazz (my dark horse pick) will all at the very least make calls to the Wolves to see what it’d take to trade for Love.  With that many teams the Wolves could start a very serious bidding war for the young power forward.  If Flip Saunders can learn a thing or two from the Orlando Magic/Dwight Howard situation he could have the team back on the upswing in a relatively short period of time.

9.  Ernst & Young

How did Ernst & Young become the official accounting firm of stuffing and delivering envelopes for all forms of entertainment?  They’re stuffing the envelopes at the NBA lottery, the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys, and the Golden Globes.  When envelopes need stuffing people in sports and entertainment call Ernst & Young.  Doesn’t Deloitte deserve their time in the spotlight just once?

8.  The Charlotte Bobcats Hornets

The bizarro Charlotte Hornets had a big week.  They finally put to rest the terrible Bobcats name, which hopefully includes these “Nascar Night” uniforms.  The Charlotte basketball fans had without a doubt the worst mascot in the NBA.  They can thank former owner Robert Johnson for the atrocious name.  While not confirmed, there has always been suspicion that Johnson chose the Bobcats name because his name was a part of the mascot.  If that rumor is ever confirmed we’ll know the cause of the organizations previous ten years of basketball, which resembled Bobcat excrement.  When I buy the 76ers I’m going rename them the Philadelphia Druids.  Look at what has happened since Jordan and the Charlotte organization announced they’d be changing the name back last May.

  • Jordan went from being a completely incompetent owner to a below average owner with the selection of Steve Clifford as head coach
  • They were able to sign Al Jefferson in the off season, who brought some respectability to the franchise and played like a legitimate all star
  • Their 2013 NBA Draft pick Cody Zeller doesn’t look like a complete train wreck.  A comment most 2013 lottery teams couldn’t say about their selection in last year’s draft.
  • Clifford got a marginally talented Charlotte roster to rank 6th in Defense Rating this season.
  • The team won 43 games and made the playoffs for only the second time in 10 years
  • And last night thanks to Joe Dumars, Corey Maggette, and the abomination that was the Ben Gordon contract the Hornets received the 9th overall pick from the Pistons. The highest the pick could have been without it carrying over another year.

Because the team was so good defensively in 2013/2014 and so terrible shooting the ball (25th in FG%, 23rd in 3FG%, 24th in FT%, and 24th in OffRtg) Doug McDermott might be the perfect piece to add to the team, along with whatever they do with Portland’s 2014 first round pick (24th overall), and the 18 million plus they’ll have in cap space this summer.

7.  Dell Demps’ psychiatrist 

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I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for Dell Demps last night.  When watching him all I could think of was the scene in Terminator 2 when Miles Dyson agrees to stay back to blow up Cyberdyne, and is left with only his thoughts and past mistakes just before setting the bomb off.  I can’t imagine anyone else in the New Orleans organization volunteered to go to New York and force a smile knowing that there is almost no chance of the team keeping the pick.  So like a good soldier Demps went to NYC and ate the grenade all by himself, muttering “I don’t know how much longer I can hold this.”

I’m thrilled the Sixers will have two top 10 picks heading into the draft, but god dammit it was painful seeing Demps up at the podium.  This isn’t all on Demps either.  Ownership demanded they try to win this season, which is what led to the Holiday for Noel and a 2014 1st round pick trade.  Now that the trade is complete I’ll be rooting for the Pelicans next year, because as of right now this trade looks like it could end up being one of the most lopsided in recent memory.

6.  The Eastern Conference

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Lost in all of the other compelling story lines is the fact that teams from the Eastern Conference control 5 of the top 6 picks, 7 of the top 10, 8 of the 14 lottery picks, and 13 of the top 20 selections.  The West has been the deeper conference for more than a decade, but sports are cyclical and if the Eastern Conference teams pick correctly the talent gap between the East and the West could begin to shrink after the draft.

5.  Orlando Magic

The Magic are well on their way back to playoff contention.  They have young players on the rise in Nikolas Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Moe Harkless.  A veteran in Aaron Afflalo that could net them more young assets or picks in a trade, and the 4th and 12th picks in the draft.  By the end of the draft the Magic could field a starting five of Vucevic, Harris, James Young, Oladipo, and Dante Exum.  Maybe the Magic also decide to get in on the Kevin Love action.  They certainly have the trade chips to pull it off.

4.  Philadelphia 76ers

I’ll go more in depth with regard to the Sixers options later, but their plan to demolish the roster and start over has worked out wonderfully so far.  A year ago they were picking 11th  with the potential of losing their 2013 1st round pick, no real salary cap relief and no direction.  Thanks to a team wide commitment to blow the whole thing up the Sixers now have the reigning rookie of the year, the 3rd and 10th picks in the upcoming draft, 5 more second round picks, 30 million in cap room, and they’ll have a chance to what they have in Noel.  Getting the first overall pick would have been ideal, but as I’ve said before drafting MCW where they did in last year’s draft is already lucky.  Of the 65 ROY winners only 5 were picked lower than 10th in the draft.  Carter-Williams is the first since Mark Jackson won in 1988.  Like winning a championship you need some luck to go your way when building a team, and the Sixers got some of that luck with the selection of Carter-Williams.

Most people consider this a four person draft, and the Sixers are picking third.  Getting the 5th pick would have been tough to swallow, but at 3 the Sixers will have the opportunity to draft Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, or Exum.  Plus they’ll draft another player at 10 that could be Stauskas, LaVine, or maybe Aaron Gordon if things fall right for Hinkie and the Sixers.  Hinkie also has Thaddeus Young and ample cap space to maneuver the team into what he feels is the best draft position.  The team is going be the NBA equivalent of a day care center next season, but they are going be exciting for the first time in a dozen years and may even make it back onto national television.

3.  Mallory Edens

So let me get this straight.  Mallory Edens is gorgeous, can get court side seats to any NBA game she chooses, and will receive a substantial trust fund if she hasn’t already.  Wait, she definitely hasn’t received that trust fund yet since she’s just graduating from high school.  I was going make a joke about Tinder and swiping right for Mallory.  Now I feel slightly dirty.  I’m also creeped out that her dad was cool with pimping her out on stage like that.  Simmons always mentions new owners want to make big moves right away, and judging from his decision to put his hot 18 year old daughter on national tv I’d bet new owner Wed Edens is going be more involved with Bucks personnel decisions.  Mitch Kupcheck is probably on the phone with Wes Edens right now telling him he can have his daughter on the next season of Real Housewives in exchange for Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo.

2.  The Cleveland Cavaliers

I believe it was former president Franklin Roosevelt who said, “Cleveland blows.”  My entire extended family is from the Cleveland area, and I’ll have not problem letting them know my thoughts on the city’s sports franchises.  After the lottery results the Cleveland fan base can no longer claim to be the most tortured sports city.  If they can’t put a respectable team on the court next season Dan Gilbert should be stripped of his son’s bow tie and his ownership of the Cavs.  The Cavs shouldn’t win the lottery again until we’re within five years of the sun burning out.  You’re on the clock Cleveland.  Don’t fuck this up, again.

1.  The Julius Erving “WHAT THE FUCK” Face

When Irving heard the Sixers name after the 10th pick I thought he was going charge Adam Silver like a crazy-eyed William Wallace and stuff him into the lottery ball machine.  After a few seconds and a quick explanation of what was going on the good doctor settled back down.  In fairness, this was the first time I remember them announcing the actual team picking and not the original team with the pick so I understand his confusion.  Also my buddy Tanner pointed out, you got the briefest of glimpses into how competitive guys like Irving are at any age and in any scenario where there is a winner.

Thank you to Dan McQuade of Phillymag.com for doing God’s work and making the Dr. J. reaction into a gif.

More Pertinent Thoughts on the Eagles 2014 Draft


Last year was Kelly and Roseman’s first draft working together and as things stand now it was a success.  The top three picks (Johnson, Ertz, and Logan) all played a significant number of snaps as rookies and showed promise.  Earl Wolff and Matt Barkley also saw time as well, with limited success compared to the other three.  Of the Eagles late round picks LB/DE Joe Kruger is still with the team after spending the year on IR, and could be a contributor this season.

Using last year’s draft as a guide to what the Eagles look for in players a few things stand out.  For starters all the players the Eagles selected in 2013 were at the top end of the spectrum in terms of measurables for their position.  Each ranked as at least a 3 out of 5 (1 being the best, 3 being the lowest) according to Scouts Inc on ESPN.com with the exception of Matt Barkley, who was a 4.  Johnson, Logan, Wolff, Kruger, were all a 1 or a 2.  Johnson’s 4.72 40 time was actually a little better than TE Zach Ertz.

Another thing that stood out was that the Eagles seemed to keep their word when they said they “stuck to their draft board.”  This selection of Ertz in the 2nd round was maybe the best example from the 2013 draft.  Despite already having productive TE Brent Celek on roster, and countless holes to fill the Eagles picked Ertz, who so thought would be a late first round pick.  While some Eagles fans balked at first, myself included, Ertz looks like a potential Pro Bowler at the position in the coming years.  This philosophy is welcomed in Philly after watching Reid spend two seasons reaching for players like Danny Watkins and Jaiquawon Jarrett.

The third trait that carried through the Eagles draft picks was that they were all productive college players.  Johnson was an Academic 1st Team All American at OU for two years and Ertz caught 69 passes for almost 900 yards and 6 touchdowns at Stanford. Logan a DT from LSU was a productive member of the NCAA’s best defensive line in 2012.  Matt Barkley was a four year starter at USC and safety Earl Wolff was a three year starter at NC State and 1st team All ACC his senior year after he recorded 119 tackles, 8 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions.

The last thing every Eagles selection had in common with the exception of Jordan Poyer was each player was described as a leader, with a great work ethic, and passion for football.  Hopefully ESPN doesn’t come and revoke my insider subscription for posting premium content, but here is what Scouts Inc wrote about each player under the Intangibles column.

Lane Johnson

Outstanding student. Academic All-Big 12 First Team in 2011 and 2012. No off the field incidents to our knowledge. Hard worker and determined football player. Versatile athlete with experience at QB, TE, DE, ROT and LOT. Human relations major at OU.

Zach Ertz

Accountable on and off the field. Active in community service. Not a partier and not a drinker. Continues to mature and develop as a leader. Son of Douglas and Lisa Ertz. Oldest of four children. Father played football at Lehigh.

Bennie Logan

Outstanding football character. Earned right to wear prestigious No. 18 as a junior in 2012. Tradition goes back to QB Matt Mauck, who wore No. 18 during 2003 national title run. Jersey is handed down to a player best representing what it means to be a Tiger on and off the field. Coordinator John Chavis on Logan: ‘It’s important to help your young guys learn how to practice, and leadership is not just in the games. It’s every day. It’s every minute you’re on the field, and when you’ve got a guy like Bennie Logan in your room, he’s going to set the tempo’. Son of Sandra Logan and Bennie Frost. Has seven siblings.

Matt Barkley

Disciplined individual. Showed good leadership during transition from Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin, in addition to severe sanctions levied on USC football program prior to the 2010 season. A three-time team captain and was the first sophomore in USC history to be named team captain. Understands the necessary sacrifices on the field, in the film room and weight room in order to be successful at the most demanding position in professional sports. Holds a career mark of 34-13 in 47 starts. Matt and his family have spent recent Christmas’ volunteering with orphans in third world countries.

Earl Wolff

Excellent intangibles. Young man of high character. Grades out very high in terms of football character and intelligence. Graduated with a degree in sport management in December, 2011 (in three-and-a-half years). His mother, Sharon Davis, is a master sergeant in the National Guard. Davis was deployed in Kuwait, with the 113th Sustainment Brigade, for a year. She worked in logistics and acquisitions.

Joe Kruger

Son of Paul and Jennifer Kruger. Father played football for Oregon State. Oldest brother Paul is 3-4 outside linebacker who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last year and signed with the Cleveland Browns during the off-season. Older brother Dave played defensive tackle for the Utes last year. Brother-in-law Tony Bergstrom is a backup offensive tackle for Oakland Raiders. Hard worker.

This emphasis on character extended into the Eagles free agency approach as well.  Barwin and Casey were both known as players with high character.  Carey Williams, while concerned with his sconces was known as a fierce competitor and it showed.  This season the acquisition of Malcolm Jenkins continued to follow that trend.  Coming into the draft from OSU here is a scouting report on Jenkins character from CBS Sports.  I couldn’t find one from ESPN.

Jenkins was a mentor for the team’s younger players at Ohio State. He is a leader by example on the field, but grabbed a more vocal role in the locker room after being named defensive captain. He is very mature for his age and has the blue-collar work ethic to go with his blue-chip ability. He does well in the classroom and has no known off-field issues. He is not the type that needs attention. He takes well to hard coaching and comes across as very respective and team-oriented in interviews.

The most discussed Eagles off season move also has the smell of a player’s character being brought into question.  Desean Jackson’s release this off season has produced the most venom on the local radio airwaves since J.D. Drew refused to sign with the Phillies.  While I don’t believe Jackson was let go “for football reasons” I also am skeptical it had anything to do with his supposed gang ties.  From what’s leaked to the media and other rumors swirling Jackson was maybe the Eagles most difficult employee.  There was the visible argument with a coach during the Vikings game and of course his comment after the season ended that he would like to be paid more.  I find it hard to fault NFL players looking to make more money, but Jackson was due 8 figures this coming season had he remained an Eagle, which would have made him one of the five highest paid WR in the NFL.  So from the sound of things Jackson was a little more me and a little less team, than Kelly liked and they made the decision to let him walk.  Looking at last year’s draft and free agent signings regardless of whether or not I believe the Eagles screwed up in getting nothing in return for Jackson I have to give him credit for remaining consistent.  Now I hope that carries over to this year’s draft or I’m going look like an ass.

Quarterback

Unless Kelly goes rogue and decides to dump Foles for Manziel, which I believe is highly unlikely, I don’t see quarterback being a focus for the Eagles this year.  Maybe in the later rounds I could see them draft Logan Thomas from Va Tech, but that would be more as an athlete than a QB.  At 6’6″ 250 with a 4.6 40 yard dash time, large hands, and supposedly a great work ethic I could see the Kelly and the Eagles try to develop Thomas into a WR or TE.

Running Back

Much like QB, I can’t see RB being a high priority this draft.  Not only do the Eagles have the 2013 rushing leader in McCoy, but they also carry Bryce Brown, Carlos Polk, and newly acquired RB/WR Darren Sproles already.  So I think you can scratch Hyde, Hill, and Mason off the board.  As for the smaller RB/WR types maybe the Eagles pick one in the 3rd or 4th if they like the value.  Both Dri Archer and De’Anthony Thomas returned kicks and or punts at their respective schools, which is something the Eagles could use with Jackson now gone and Demerius Johnson providing little in the return game last year.  Thomas and the Eagles interest or lack of interest in him will be worth watching.  He was incredibly productive at Oregon, but has some red flags.  In three seasons at Oregon Thomas scored 46 touchdowns amassed over 1,800 yards rushing, and another 1,000 yards receiving.  However Thomas also ran into some injuries and actually saw his numbers drop each year.  With that said though he was absolutely one of the most exciting players to watch the last few years, at one point being must see tv. Maybe Chip feels like he knows him well enough to take a shot in the 3rd/4th round, or he goes the other way and feels he knows him well enough to know that the shenanigans will continue at the pro level.

Fullback

Is the position officially extinct or are they still on the endangered species list?

Wide Receiver

Here’s where it finally gets interesting.  Personally, I don’t see WR as being as big of a need as most of Philadelphia.  Yes, Jackson is gone, but I don’t think the Eagles will have as difficult a time replacing his production.  Maclin is back this season and even though he is coming off an ACL this isn’t 1988.  In four season, which includes the dumpster fire of 2012, Maclin has been consistent.  After taking a deep breath if Eagles fans would realize he’ll be stepping into Jackson’s spot and that they will need to fill the spot vacated by Avant in the draft things don’t seem so dire.

As for the WR prospects using last draft as a road map I think you can cross Kelvin Benjamin right off the Eagles list.  He’s got character questions, he’s described as a sloppy route runner, and at almost 260 he might not even be a WR two years from now.  Off the top of my head he sounds a lot like a former 1st round WR from USC named Mike Williams.  Bill Barnwell, a solid NFL writer at Grantland, thinks Evans is the ideal WR for Kelly.  That’s probably true, but at the same time Evans is the ideal WR for any NFL team.  He’s productive, has great size and enough speed.  That doesn’t make him ideal for one coach.  That makes him ideal for any coach.  As for the next tier, Cooks, Lee, and Beckum I could see Lee or Beckum being the Eagles pick.  Again using last year’s draft Cooks, while checking the boxes of being incredibly productive and of high character, he’s behind in the measurables department.  While Kelly’s biggest leading WR at Oregon was Jeff Maehl, at six feet, that may have been more do to recruiting limitations than preference.  Marqise Lee looks like he is right in Kelly’s wheelhouse.  I think they could use more help on defense but, if Lee is the highest rated guy on their board then they should go for it instead of reaching for a 29 year old safety that was a sheriff before playing football for two years at Texas Tech.

If the Eagles pass on a WR in the first then they can pick one on the 2nd day of the draft.  Martavis Bryant can be crossed off the board, along with Benjamin if he makes it to day two.  I’d be willing to bet my mediocre salary neither guy is coming here.  I’d have zero issues with them drafting Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief, or Brandon Coleman.

On the third day or even third round I’d love for them to pick up Jarred Abbrederis from Wisconsin.  He was Wisconsin’s only receiving threat for three seasons, everyone on the field knew it and the guy still produced.  I had two watch him on two occasions beat the ever loving shit out of former Buckeye and 1st round prospect Bradley Roby.  This past season Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown against Roby and OSU.

Offensive Line

With the selection of Lane Johnson last year and the extension of Jason Peters this offseason offensive tackle doesn’t appear to be a big priority either.  I could see them taking a developmental guy in the later rounds, but kind of doubt we’ll see a tackle picked in the first three rounds.

Guard on the other hand I could see the Eagles selecting at some point on the second day.  Herremans was the weak spot on what might have been the best offensive line in the NFL last year, so selecting a guard really isn’t a need, but would be nice to have looking forward.  As for the players available I’m no expert, and can’t in any way claim to have watched guards closely last season.  Going off of ESPN Xavier Su’a Filo from UCLA looks to be the best guy out there.  All I know is he’s Samoan and that there have been a number of nasty lineman that have come from that tiny island.  Plus he’s got a cool name, so I’m all in.

At center Jason Kelce and his facial hair were locked up this winter for a bunch of money so there isn’t a need to worry about the guy whose butt will be the home of Nick Foles’ hands.

Defensive Line

The Eagles need defensive line or linebacker help because somebody needs to be able to rush the quarterback.  The Eagles ranked 20th in sacks last year with 37, and to be honest that was higher than I thought they would have ranked.  There were games like the San Diego one when the quarterback had eons before having to get rid of the ball resulting  in Rivers throwing for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Trouble is it doesn’t look like there are very many pass rushers in the draft.  Clowney and Mack are sure to be gone.  Aaron Donald doesn’t look like a fit for what the Eagles want to do.  Anthony Barr would be my ideal pick for the Eagles and despite his slide into the 20s in a lot of mock drafts Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said Barr’s slide was more of a media fabrication than truth.  After those three I’m not sure who is left that fits what the Eagles want to do.  Ford, Ealy, and Crichton all had success getting to the QB in college, but also look more suited to be 4-3 ends.  Stephen Tuitt from Notre Dame would be a solid pick for the Eagles, but I don’t know how much pressure you can expect out of a 3-4 end.  Another Notre Dame defensive lineman I’d like is nose tackle Louis Nix III.  I hope he’s an Eagle because of his performance on the field, but maybe more so to see where his Chocolate News YouTube show goes as he becomes a pro.  Judging from the moves they’ve made since Kelly became coach defensively they’ve geared their philosophy towards stopping the pass, so with that in mind maybe a player like Nix isn’t as high on their board since he’s known more for his run stuffing ability.

Other lineman or rush LB that aren’t YouTube sensations that I could see the Eagles taking in the early rounds are Kareem Martin from UNC, Marcus Smith from Louisville, Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech, and Brent Urban from UVA.  Those four all look like they fit the profile for the type of players Kelly and Roseman are looking for.

Players you won’t see coming to Philly include Ra’Shede Hageman, Demarcus Lawrence, and Timmy Jernigan.  All have serious red flags particularly Jernigan who reportedly failed his drug test at the combine.  If a player is dumb enough to fail the combine drug test than he might not be smart enough to pick up the defense.  Think about it, this guy gets busted WHEN HE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT DAY HE WAS BEING TESTED.  That’s like knowing where a sobriety checkpoint is and deciding to down a 5th of Jack Daniels moments before it’s your turn to speak to the police officer.

Late round guys I could see here include Ed Stinson of Alabama, Jackson Jeffcoat of Texas, Taylor Hart of Oregon, or Deandre Coleman of Cal.

Linebacker

Mosley and Shazier both look like they’ll be gone when the Eagles pick.  Of the two I’d prefer Mosley to Shazier, but neither is a player I’ll be heartbroken to miss out on.  Of the linebackers that will be around in the 2nd and 3rd rounds I’d be thrilled to see Kyle Van Noy or Chris Borland in an Eagles uniform.  Borland could slide right into Ryans spot after this season and Van Noy is the kind of “swiss army knife” type (think Barwin) that Kelly covets.

Neither FSU linebacker, Smith and Jones, will end up an Eagle.  Both had red flags prior to the combine and both like Jernigan failed the combine drug test so they’ve been voted off the island.  Ditto for Prince Shembo from Notre Dame, despite the great name.

Players I could see here from mid to late rounds would be Adrian Hubbard of Bama, Shayne Skov of Stanford, or Ronald Powell from Florida.  The one player though I want more than any other in the draft though is Trent Murphy from Stanford.  The guy is a absolute ox, and was the clear leader of what may have been college football’s best defense last year.  Murphy also produced at Stanford racking up 25 sacks and 41.5 tackles for a loss during his last two years of college.  Maybe the best part thing about Murphy is under hobbies ESPN listed steer wrestling.  Who the fuck is steer wrestling in 2014?  Bring this guy to Philly.  As my buddy Steve said he looks like some J.J. Watt Connor Barwin hybrid.

Defensive Backs

At corner I could see Gilbert, Dennard, Verrett or Fuller fitting in with the Eagles next season if any of them fall to the Eagles in the first round.  Bradley Roby is the one I don’t want in Philly.  I saw enough of him in college and heard enough stories to know he was inconsistent and kind of a dog.  Add in the off field stuff and Roby ain’t making the flight to Philadelphia.

After the top group I could see Jean-Baptise or Joyner make their way to Philadelphia.  Jean-Baptiste exceeds the physical requirements the Eagles look for, while Joyner fulfills the character and intangible qualities Kelly and Roseman value.  Again I haven’t watched enough cornerback play to know much, but of all the guys listed Dennard from MSU did jump out a number of times this season when playing for Michigan State.

At safety I’m in the Philadelphia minority (typically the right place to be) I don’t think safety is such a pressing need.  The Eagles brought in Malcolm Jenkins, saw solid contributions from Earl Wolff, and most importantly cut Patrick Chung.  The subtraction of Chung alone will lead to 3 fewer passing touchdowns allowed next season.  On top the that the safeties this year are nothing to get too excited over.  Pryor was labeled a big hitter, which is swell but he isn’t as well know for his coverage skills which is just a bit more important.  As I said before Kelly seems geared toward stopping the pass so I don’t see Pryor being a fit even if he is there at 22.  As for Clinton-Dix I saw enough of him at Bama to know he really isn’t that special.  He was highly recruited and was solid while at Alabama, but he was spectacular.  Also if he’s in Philly can you imagine the puns the paper will come up with?  “Ha Ha and Eagles Get Last Laugh” or “The Eagles Ha Ha Moment” maybe “Ha Ha Has Nobody Laughing About The Eagles Defense Now.”  I don’t need that in my life, and you shouldn’t want it in your life either.  Jimmie Ward has serious character issues so that’s the big N-Zero.  If Deone Bucannon or Terrence Brooks from FSU are there in the 2nd round either may be the pick, but again I don’t see the Eagles all that concerned with safety.

My Ideal Scenario

I’d love Anthony Barr to be there for the Eagles, but if he isn’t I’d really like to see the Eagles move down and add another 2nd or 3rd round pick.  For what has felt like years all Kiper, McShay, and Mayock have said is that this is a historically deep draft.  I have no reason not to trust them, so I hope the Eagles can add more picks because while the Eagles don’t really have a lot specific needs they do need to just add more overall talent to the defense and general depth across the board.

 

Go Birds.