Thursday, July 31, 2014

Otto Porter Poised For Improvement

Today's post is written by Jason Slint,  for FanDuel.com. Fan Duel is a great fantasy sports website with both free and paid games available for multiple sports, making it the perfect site for your fantasy basketball needs. 

The Washington Wizards have to reflect on the 2013-2014 season as a positive for the franchise. They were able to not only make the playoffs as a pretty high seed, but they advanced to the 2nd round. Just about everything went right for the team, except the fact that they got almost no production out of rookie Otto Porter Jr. After a strong summer performance, the team is optimistic that he will be able to contribute in fantasy basketball this upcoming year.

When a player is drafted 3rd overall, they are expected to make some type of an impact as a rookie. Injuries caught up to Porter very early, and he was never able to settle into the rotation. Not only will he be more comfortable with the NBA style of play, but things will open up with Trevor Ariza no longer in town.

Paul Pierce has been signed by Washington to bring stability to the franchise, but people in fantasy basketball understand that he is not going to play a lot. At 36 years of age, he is more of a mentor at this point in time. Perhaps he can help Porter turn the corner and be a productive player for Washington. They are certainly hoping that he can be that final young piece to put alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal on the perimeter.

Porter might not be a fantasy basketball standout, but he doesn't really need to be. Instead, he is someone who needs to show activity on both ends of the floor, handle the ball with decent success and knock down open shots when they are given to him. As long as he is able to fit into the system for Washington, his future is still very bright. Expect a much better sophomore campaign for the forward out of Georgetown.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Love, Wiggins and Front-Office buffoonery

Rumors emerged last night that the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally agreed to include Andrew Wiggins in any Kevin Love proposal. As a Wolves fan, this is the best case scenario assuming Love won't stay in Minnesota.

Receiving a high-ceiling #1 overall pick, along with other young players and/or draft picks, gives the Wolves the best chance at building a consistent winner over the next few years. However, let's be clear here: Kevin Love is an elite player in basketball. If he were willing to resign with the Wolves rather than demanding a trade, he would't even be available. Cleveland wouldn't be close to landing Love with their Wiggins, draft picks and young busts offer that will probably end up landing him.

Seeing so called "experts" rail against Love is getting annoying. Yes, I'm not a fan of him because he's clearly been counting the days to leave Minnesota since he signed his second contract. But to suggest he's simply a stat stuffer is unfair and quite honestly terrible reporting.

At first glance, I understand why people aren't as high on Love as they should be. He's never made the playoffs, and because the average fan seems convinced a great player can lead his team to the post-season on his own, Love is considered overrated. But he isn't. Not by a long shot. He's the third most efficient offensive player in basketball, behind only James and Durant. Yes, his defense is poor and he can get lazy and whiny at times on the court. That doesn't matter. His offense is so elite the Cavs would almost certainly finish with the league's best record, and despite ESPN talkingheads consistently saying the Western conference representative would beat Cleveland in the finals, that seems unlikely. Miami managed to win 2 championships in 4 years with a big 3 that simply put isn't as good as a LeBron/Love/Irving big 3 would be at this point in their careers.

San Antonio may have embarrassed Miami this summer, but let's not forget Miami did defeat them in 7 games the year before. The Spurs were determined not to let that happen again, but to just assume the Western conference team is going to be great as San Antonio was this summer is silly. Even San Antonio is unlikely to be close to as good as they were in the playoffs.

Cleveland with Kevin Love, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and a bunch of veteran ring chasers will be the favorites.

As far as Wiggins goes, his potential may be slightly overstated after being a hyped up high school product. He's long, he's young, and he's extremely athletic. If he can turn his tools into production, he could be a very good if not great two-way player. However, the chances he becomes even 90% of the player Kevin Love is are slim. If it takes him 3-4 years to develop into that kind of player, which most expect it will, LeBron James will be 33 years old. Sure, James may still well be the best player in basketball at that time, but everyone ages at some point. What if James and Kyrie can't get past the Western conference over the next few seasons while the team waits for Wiggins to develop? If Wiggins fails to become a star, and ends up as a Rudy Gay clone, (an actual overrated stat-stuffer, unlike Love) the city of Cleveland may continue to be without a championship for another 50 years.

Sure, there's a chance Wiggins develops quickly and as soon as next season is an above average player that helps the Cavs win the title, but it's not a good one. Wiggins looked overmatched at Kansas as a freshman at times. That's to be expected from an 18 or 19-year-old kid playing on the biggest stage in college basketball, but let's not act like Wiggins is an automatic franchise changing player. He's certainly not the next LeBron James, a man who averaged 20 PPG in the NBA at the same age Wiggins played at KU.

And despite Bill Simmons hatred of Minnesota clouding his judgement, Wiggins is not going to become Scottie Pippen to LBJ's Jordan. He just isn't. Pippen is probably a top 15 player of all time, he just doesn't get the credit because he spent basically his entire career being second fiddle to MJ. Simmons basketball knowledge makes me actually glad the Wolves hired Kahn and didn't let Simmons little public plea for the job gain any traction. Simmons actually seemed to take it personally, going from praising the Wolves in nearly every article to criticizing even the smallest moves.

Not trading Wiggins for Love would be a colossal misstep by the Cleveland front office. Fans and league executives around the league are simply showing their stupidity when they say Wiggins shouldn't be offered in a deal for Love. To be honest, Love likely isn't getting the respect many lesser players have received (namely, Carmelo Anthony) because he's white. Some people, for dumb reasons I can't explain, always assume what they see  live is better than stats. He looks terrible running up and down the court, he's never been to the playoffs, and he plays like a white guy. He shoots well and plays below the rim. His best skills, rebounding and outlet passing, are glorified in old men's pickup games moreso than the NBA. But he scored 26 points a game, shot 38% from 3 and 82% from the free throw line. Kevin Love, contrary to popular belief, is a superstar. That's hard to admit as he packs his bags and gets ready to leave Minneapolis, but it's the truth.

Thankfully, Steve Kerr and Jerry West seem to think Klay Thompson is Kobe Bryant, so it looks like Cleveland is the only viable trading partner. A Wiggins based package is much better than a Thompson based package, so here's to hoping Kerr continues to prove he's one of the worst executives in NBA history. How he got a coaching job after running the Suns into the ground as a GM is beyond me, but letting him have any say in personnel matters is even sillier. Steve Kerr can't judge NBA talent. That's been proven.

Ideally, the Wolves and Cavs will agree to a trade in the next few days, so we can put this Kevin Love hoopla behind us and get back to losing 55+ games a season--a franchise tradition. Now we'll have to wait and see if Rubio follows in the footsteps of Marbury and Love, or if he can remain loyal to the organization that brought him in. With Glen Taylor and Flip running the show, even Rubio's extension might be a mess. But at least it's not Kahn, or worse, Bill Simmons, doing the negotiating.

Have fun in Cleveland, Kevin, they'll Love you there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ann Coulter and American Exceptionalism

In case you missed it, Ann Coulter wrote a scathing article about a week ago about the sport of Soccer. (Or, as it's correctly called everywhere else, Football) She received plenty of criticism for the article, and rightfully so. The article is terribly researched, and it reads like it was written in Greg Gutfeld's constant sarcastic idiocy.

I'm not a soccer fan. Not at all. I enjoy watching the World Cup every four years, but that's it. However, the article she wrote isn't just silly, it's completely incorrect. It would be funny if it was satire. Take a look.

In the very first paragraph, she rails against soccer for not focusing on individual achievements enough. 
Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls -- all in front of a crowd. 
That sentence alone should make those who think of Coulter as a "brilliant mind" reconsider. Has she never seen a penalty kick? Did she see Ronaldo's cross to keep Portugal momentarily alive against the US? It was a beautiful pass, and anyone watching or listening understood immediately who was responsible for that remarkable play. Ronaldo. Players miss the nets, score on their own goals, etc. There are just as many individual moments in soccer as there are in American football, basketball, baseball, etc.

Regardless, criticizing a SPORT because it's not individualized enough is laughable at best, downright mentally incompetent at worst. Sports are designed to teach people to work together for a common goal, not to make one person shine above the rest. Children learn to cooperate, how to accept failure, and how to deal with failure in front of their peers from playing team sports. This one quote--the first sentence of her argument, nonetheless-- is everything that's wrong with the belief of American exceptionalism. Soccer isn't as big in America, so it must be terrible, because America is the best!

Her second point was even worse.
 Liberal moms like soccer because it's a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level. 
 Idiotic is too nice of a word. When I was little, I played tee-ball. The games were in the middle of the day during the week, so the coaches were all moms, not dads. And guess what? Some of the people on my team were GIRLS. But, you know, it's not like Baseball is considered one of America's oldest pastimes or anything. The reason boys and girls play TOGETHER on some kindergarten level sports teams isn't because the talent level is similar (trust me, it's not) it's because the POINT OF THE SPORT is to cooperate. Teaching children to cooperate with both girls and boys at a young age will only help them adjust easier when they are meeting new people on a daily basis.
No other "sport" ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer. This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: "2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0." Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: "1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0."
Either she's completely making this up, or whoever was updating that marquee sign in Long Beach knows nothing about soccer. They play halfs, not periods. They also count UP, not down. So rather than saying "11 minutes left in the second period" the sign would really say that the score was 0-0 in the 79th minute, because that means there's 11 minutes left in the game. There are less goals in soccer than other sports, but this makes each scoring opportunity very exciting. I think she made this up thinking it added humor to the piece. Sigh.
The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport.
This is completely and utterly false. That is a solid reason to watch Fox News, though.
You can't use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs.
Yet another example of someone who's supposed to be "brilliant" misleading a ton of her readers. What ACTUALLY separates humans from other species is our brain. It's considerably more complicated and developed than other species, and it allows us to work together to succeed in the Animal Kingdom. Think about it. We can't survive a night in the cold, we are nowhere close to as strong as many animals, yet humans have managed to reach the top of the food chain. It's not because we have thumbs, sorry. It's because humans can cooperate to eliminate a threat, while animals only do it on a very minute level.
I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's "Girls," light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is "catching on" is exceeded only by the ones pretending women's basketball is fascinating. 
She just keeps listing things she doesn't like and pretending that it's a liberal agenda. Light-rails, AKA cheap, public transportation, are fantastic. This annoyed me though because nobody is force-feeding soccer or Girls or Beyonce on anyone. This is 2014 in America, I'm pretty sure the only thing being forced upon you is the NSA's over reaching. If you don't like soccer, turn the channel. It's simple.
I note that we don't have to be endlessly told how exciting football is. 
The NFL off-season was covered more than the Stanley Cup Finals on Sportscenter, so let's not pretend like American Football isn't overhyped. I love football, it's wonderful to watch, but fans in other countries love soccer MORE than Americans love football. That's not because people in other countries are morally bankrupt or stupider, it's simply a cultural difference that Ann Coulter can't seem to get her head around.
Despite being subjected to Chinese-style brainwashing in the public schools to use centimeters and Celsius, ask any American for the temperature, and he'll say something like "70 degrees." Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he'll say it's about 200 miles.
Again, this is Coulter citing American exceptionalism where it doesn't exist. Celsius actually is a lot easier to understand than Fahrenheit, as anything below 0 is freezing. Seems simpler than 32 degrees, no? Using kilometers instead of miles, again, is a cultural thing. Why are we so against people being different? Isn't this America? The world's melting pot? Can I ask any more questions?

One final complaint:
I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time. 
My great-grandfather was born here. Both were. I've watched every game of this world cup. Soccer isn't the problem. The English comment was the worst by far, though. Does Miss Coulter understand that most teenagers in other countries are capable of speaking multiple languages? Unlike in America, where we can't even speak one language correctly, speaking multiple languages is considered an asset.

Soccer's here to stay, Ann, but here's to hoping America can drop it's "Kind of smart, kind of blonde, kind of a woman" fetish and stop paying any attention to you.