What Would You Like For Christmas?: NBA Edition

It’s that wonderful time of year!  A time of giving and spreading joy to the ones you love.  Santa’s currently taking requests, so let’s see what’s on some Christmas lists across the NBA.

Cleveland Cavaliers-A point Guard636463752897756434-usp-nba-cleveland-cavaliers-at-charlotte-hornets-95357169

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been on a tear as of late, winning 18 of their last 19.  LeBron is playing like the LeKing he is and Dwyane Wade is proving to be a nice piece of the bench.  Only problem is they’re currently running with Jose Calderon as their starting PG.  This isn’t too big of a problem with a team consisting of LeBron James because he can fill the role of PG beautifully, but one can’t help but feel they’d be better with a solid PG at the helm to take some of the load off of LBJ.  Luckily Isaiah Thomas is on his way back and potentially Derrick Rose (whom I still have faith in) to give the team some more depth at the point.

 

Orlando Magic-The Beginning of the Season

The Orlando Magic were doing beautifully at the start of the season and were even at the top of the Eastern Conference for a moment.  They’d beaten teams like the Cavs and the Spurs, all while Vucevic and Gordon were playing like All-Stars.  But their magic (pun possibly intended) ran out and the Magic quickly fell to the bottom of the league where they now sit.  I’m sure everyone on that roster wishes they could go back to the hey days of the early season when they were on top of the world.

 

Los Angeles Clippers-A Health Potion

The Clippers, like the Magic, were looking great at the beginning of the season, but suffered injuries to a multitude of their key players.  Gallinari, Beverley, Teodosic, and Griffin have all experienced injuries that have put them out for a good deal of time.  Luckily for them, Teodosic and Gallinari are on their way back, but Beverley is out for the year with a knee injury and Griffin could be out for two months with a sprained MCL.  If only the Clippers could obtain a health potion to regenerate their injured players and then preserve those that are not hurt, perhaps then they could make another run.  However obtaining such a potion may prove to be difficult with the pieces their quest party currently possesses, or lacks, I should say.  They may be able to find a low-powered potion and simply use it only for whoever they deemed most valuable (Blake), but it most likely wouldn’t be enough.

 

City of Chicago-An NBA team

It’s really too bad the City of Chicago does not have an NBA team, especially with their historic history.  I mean they did have the greatest player to ever play the game and I’m sure Horace Grant agrees with me when I say he wishes they had an NBA team to continue his legacy.  But sadly, Chicago is left with a lowly G-League team that can hardly handle playing 48 straight minutes of basketball.  Although they have beaten some decent NBA teams in a couple of scrimmage games they played this season.

 

Russell Westbrook-The Team to Himself AgainOklahoma City Thunder v Orlando Magic

Last season Russell Westbrook was the talk of the town for putting up the numbers he did.  Averaging a triple-double for the season is quite a feat, but he really didn’t have anyone else to back him up and help boost the team to a playoff berth.  This offseason the Thunder changed that and gave Westbrook the help he needed by acquiring both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.  A scary big three to say the least, but so far this trio has yet to prove themselves.  Much of the blame is going towards Westbrook because people are beginning to realize that Westbrook is a black hole that absorbs everything in sight, leading to a real logjam on the court.  The team’s failures can no longer be shifted off of Westbrook.  There is no scapegoat with that team and I’m sure Westbrook wishes he could go back to the days where he was the only source of production and he could do as he pleased with no worry about the team’s failures.  Westbrook could stat-pad all he wanted last season, but now that there’s two other stars with him in OKC, there’s no room for selfishness.  There’s no doubt Westbrook will be asking Santa for a team of his own this Christmas.  Maybe Santa could trade Paul George for him…

 

Lonzo Ball-A Jump Shot

Lonzo Ball has been off to a shaky start from a shooting standpoint.  His shooting percentages have been abysmal across the board and he’s beginning to take heat from the media because of it.  Ball will be looking to upgrade his shot from a medieval catapult to something more like Reggie Miller this Christmas.  Hell, he’d probably even take something like Shawn Marion at this point.  At least he could score.Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards

 

Dirk Nowitzki-The 2010-2011 Season

Dirk’s team this season is…not ideal and he’s sure not playing like himself either.  We can call this a fluke or lack of support around him, but perhaps it is simply Dirk getting old.  Let’s call it for what it most likely is, which is both.  Dirk’s got nothing around him and he’s 39 this season.  Those two factors do not play nicely.  Dirk this Christmas will be asking Santa for nothing but to go back to that lovely 2011 season where he not only played great basketball, but was able to take down LeBron and the Heat to capture his one and only NBA championship.

 

Nerlens Noel-A Place to Call Home

(Fitting that Noel is in a Christmas piece)usa_today_9910709-0

I can’t remember the last time Noel started a game and logged over 25 minutes in a game.  It honestly might’ve been back when he was with Philly (just checked, it was the second game of this season, so still not great).  Clearly Noel is not valued in Dallas and he does not feel motivated to try his best for an organization that clearly does not care about him.  The Hot Dog Incident is a perfect summary of the Noel situation.  Noel will be asking Santa to send him to someplace where he can feel needed and motivated to help his team win.  I’m thinking Cleveland.

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The NBA Heads to Hogwarts

I just finished Harry Potter, so I’ve been on a bit of a bender the past couple weeks.  But like every good bender, it leads you to some great thought sequences.  This one in particular led me to imagining NBA players, both past and present, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  I could’ve probably done the whole league at the rate I was going, but I decided to keep it to four players per house.

 

 

Gryffindor

LeBron James

LeBron belongs here because he’s the Harry Potter of the league in my eyes.  LeBron is The Boy Who Lived (in Akron).  He’s one of the greatest and most famous players who has ever lived, like his counterpart, and has had his temptation of the other house, Miami (Slytherin).  Now I’m not saying Miami is the Slytherin of the NBA, all I’m saying is that, like Harry was with Slytherin, LeBron was tempted to take his talents elsewhere, perhaps believing he belonged somewhere else.  But LeBron knew his destiny and where he belonged and thus made the return to Cleveland.GTY 859942948 S BKN SPO USA OH

Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade is like Ron Weasley in this scenario.  He’s viewed as LeBron’s sidekick in a sense, but is a tremendous player on his own, like how Ron is in the novels.  Dwyane Wade has also displayed great skill and bravery on the court, earning him a spot with Gryffindor.

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook earns a spot on Gryffindor due to his heart, loyalty, and bravery.  Westbrook didn’t leave OKC when the road ahead looked bleak.  He persevered and carved his own path of greatness, showing no fear no matter who he went up against.

Wilt Chamberlainwilt-chamberlain-1

Wilt Chamberlain is like Godric Gryffindor.  He’s an absolute legend whose skill and achievements are shrouded in legend and mystique.  He was a world-class talent whose name will live on forever.

 

 

Hufflepuff

Steph Curry

Steph Curry is like that dude Ernie Macmillan.  A tad arrogant and jealous of Harry (LeBron in this case).  But at the end of the day, Curry is a kind person who is willing to fight and show off his tremendous skill.

Kevin Loveusp-nba_-cleveland-cavaliers-at-phoenix-suns_001-e1463690815452

He just looks like he belongs in Hufflepuff.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq is known for being easy-going and getting along with everyone (except Kobe).  Shaq has been around the league and back, seeming to be on every team towards the end of his career, leading him to being a kind, accepting person, like a Hufflepuff.

John Stockton

John Stockton is an unassuming character, not really known for having much of a personality (or at least one that I know of), but he is filled to the brim with dedication, hard-work, and loyalty.  Christ the man spent his entire career in Utah.  That takes a lot of dedication in itself.

 

 

Ravenclaw

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown is one of the smartest players in the league and was an exceptional academic and basketball talent at Cal.  He even took grad-level classes as a freshman.  His talent and brain make him perfect for Ravenclaw.

Jabari Parker, Kawhi Leonard, & Tim Duncankawhi-leonard-tim-duncan

These next three guys, Jabari Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan  I’m grouping them together to avoid repeating myself three times in a row. Each are quiet, unassuming players who are world-class talents and known for their extensive basketball knowledge.  Although Parker has not played much due to injury, I feel he belongs here along with Kawhi who is quiet and a bit odd, but no doubt one of the best players in the league.   As well as Tim Duncan, one of the greatest players of all time, but also one of the smartest, most unassuming players of all time.  Fun fact: Duncan only got ejected in one game his entire NBA career and it was for laughing on the bench… If that doesn’t just perfectly describe Tim Duncan as a person.

 

 

Slytherin

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is like Draco Malfoy.  He wishes to be the one looked upon as the greatest of all time and as a bit of a villain so badly that he gave himself his own nickname, Black Mamba, which is a type of snake so that works out perfectly too.  This is like how Draco in The Chamber of Secrets (SPOILERS) wished that he was the one who was the heir to Slytherin and could speak parseltongue.

Kevin Durant

“Kevin Durant is a snake”.  But in all seriousness, the reason I put KD here is because he would totally be the wizard to join the Dark Lord once he sees the going get tough.  My Next Chapter…KD DEATH EATER

Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller makes such a perfect villain.  Not to say that all members of Slytherin are villains, but every villain is from Slytherin usually, making Miller a perfect fit here.  Miller is a master at taunting and messing with his opponents, like any great villain is.101323-famous-choke-sign-by-reggie-miller

Isiah Thomas & Bill Laimbeer

Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer are grouped together here because that’s just the way I think.  I can’t take one here without the other, so we’ll just group them together, pretend they’re one person and call it a day, shall we?  Anyways, Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer are perfect for Slytherin because they’re the bad boys.  They played rough, tough basketball that pissed off anyone they faced.  What member of Slytherin didn’t piss you off as you were reading?

 

My Favorite Versions of Players

Everyone has a favorite player, but does everyone have a favorite version of a player?  Probably not.  People probably don’t even think in this way, but I do.  I don’t just see players, I see different types of that same player, almost as if they were bipolar, or schizophrenic, or whatever.  For example, there’s a difference between Klay Thompson, and 3rd quarter Klay Thompson or Lonzo Ball and versus Eric Bledsoe Lonzo Ball.  Get the idea?  Good.  Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

 

First and foremost…

 

Like I Give a Fuck (LIGAF) Joel Embiid

 

Joel Embiid is one of the rising stars in the NBA, face of The Process, and arguably the best center in the East (He is the best, but I gotta say arguably to not piss off people).  But over the years, we’ve seen multiple versions of Embiid.  There’s been Draft Embiid, who looked like he was about to put his head into a wall after being drafted by the Sixers.  There’s been injured Embiid, who many worried would never see the NBA floor in his lifetime.  Then briefly at the beginning of this season there was Cornrow Embiid, but that didn’t really work out.  Sixers actually won their first game after he got rid of the cornrows, so doubt we’ll see Cornrow Embiid any time in the future.  But finally, we have Like I Give A Fuck Embiid, or LIGAF Embiid, for short.  LIGAF Embiid is a version of Joel who really could care less how he acts or what people think of him. dmernj-waaedjw0 This Embiid is a master of trash talk and messing with people on social media.  Famous examples being when he made fun of Kevin Durant’s 2nd Twitter account, asking Ben Simmons to dunk so hard on Lonzo Ball that his daddy comes to save him, and one of my personal favorites, making fun of Willie Reed so much it carried from on the court to off the court on Instagram, pretending he had no idea who Willie Reed even was (He honestly might not have actually known).  The great thing about this Embiid is quite often LIGAF Embiid is not only a fiend off the court, but on the court as well.  In order to measure LIGAF Embiid’s stats, let me first introduce a stat to you: a Don’t Give a Fuck (DGF) game.  A DGF game is one in which the player has messed with his opponents either before, during, or after the games in a manner that seems as though the player does not care what happens as a result.  Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant have a multitude of these games.  This season, Joel Embiid has played in about 5 DGF games, surprisingly all coming in a row besides the Detroit game.  In these five games, Joel Embiid and the Sixers are 3-2, with Embiid averaging 28.2 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg, all on 56% shooting, including a career game vs. the Clippers, scoring 46 points, grabbing 15 boards, 7 assists, and 7 blocks (Note: These stats were calculated before Embiid Processed Donovan Mitchell when they played the Jazz on Monday).  LIGAF Embiid is not to be fucked with.

 

Utah RubioSydney Kings v Utah Jazz

I feel like no one appreciates Ricky Rubio more than my dad.  My father has supported Ricky Rubio since the beginning.  Never has his allegiance to the Spaniard wavered.  When he heard that Rubio had gotten traded for a broken washing machine, he was a bit disappointed in the Timberwolves, and so was I.  Rubio seemed like a great PG to have working alongside Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl Anthony-Towns.  But alas, the Timberwolves did not agree with me.  They figured Jeff Teague would be their guy, which is a sentence I’m pretty sure hasn’t been said since 2014.  Now don’t get me wrong, Teague ain’t bad, but he ain’t Ricky Rubio.  Like my father, I have come to have a man-crush on Ricky Rubio.  And can you blame me?  Have you seen what Utah has done to him?  He’s a golden god.  The man’s got flowing locks, a glorious beard, and even got tatted up.  The man’s a bad boy now.  Those Mormons really know how to do makeovers.  Now to be quite honest, Utah Rubio isn’t as good as he is in my mind.  In fact, I don’t even think he’s improved since he got to Utah, but he just looks better, not only physically, but in his play.  Sure, he’s shooting 37% from the field and averaging barely over 13 a game, but it just looks like he’s scoring so much more.  He’s also not passing as much as he used to.  In fact, he actually finished with 3 or less assists in a game six times this season already.  Not a good stat coming from your starting point guard.  But I’m loyal.  I’m not gonna let some stats keep me from loving my Ricky.  I’m Lucy for God’s sake!

 

Hoodie Melocarmelo-anthony-hoodie

Oh boy.  This one’s intense.  If you’re familiar with basketball, then you’ve probably heard Hoodie Melo be referenced before.  If you haven’t, it’s basically offseason and practice Carmelo Anthony wearing a hoodie.  There are infamous clips of Melo going absolutely berserk on people during scrimmages in the offseason.  It’s videos like that that keep me up at night.  I’ve just thanked my lucky stars Hoodie Melo never materialized in a regulation game when Melo was with the Knicks.  I’ve seen Melo go off on my Sixers, so I can only imagine what he’d do if he were allowed to wear a hoodie in a game.  But now that he’s out West, I pray to god Adam Silver comes to his senses one day.  Melo would be putting up 50 night in and night out.  And I feel like we were so close to getting Hoodie Melo too.  Over the years, Carmelo Anthony had evolved to being more and more clothed.  He started off his career in Denver wearing just an arm sleeve and a headband.  Then he got to New York and added a second arm sleeve.  Then he added compression pants, and then he added an undershirt, which made him practically fully clothed by the time he left New York.  Who knows, maybe in a year or two we would’ve seen him wearing a hoodie if he had stayed in New York.  Just another thought to keep me up at night.

 

Neon Dion

Ah, Neon Dion.  He may not be the original, but I still love him.  Born in 2016 and going strong ever since.  Dion Waiters is one of those players that people expected to break out.  Experts originally thought it would happen Cleveland, the place he was drafted, but that didn’t ever pan out, leading him to be shipped out to OKC, where people then thought “Okay, maybe it’ll happen now.”  But alas, that hope washed away quicker than a baby down a greased up slide.  People began to give on Dion.  They no longer thought Dion had it in him to be a star.  But then he was off to Miami, and boy did he shine.  Miami was looking rough at the beginning of last season.  They were looking bad.  Real bad.  Then Dion decided “Fuck it.  Imma make a playoff run,” and a playoff run commenced.  The Miami Heat won 13 in a row in January and February, and thus Neon Dion was born.  Miami was looking like they were gonna make the playoffs, then Dion comes down with a sprained ankle, sidelining him for a while.  Miami’s streak stopped dead in its tracks.  They thought they could persevere without Waiters, but he proved more valuable than they realized.  Miami could not break the .500 threshold and ended up missing out on the playoffs.  This season, Waiters is putting up pretty average numbers, but it’s the mentality that he holds and the crazy shots he makes every now and then.  Dion once quoted Kobe Bryant stating “I’d rather go 0 for 30 than 0 for 9 because you go 0 for 9 that means you stopped shooting.”  It’s that type of thinking that makes me love and appreciate Neon Dion.usa-dion-waiters

 

Chinese Jimmer

 

Jimmer Fredette was a college phenom in BYU, and performed at a high enough level to earn him the 10th overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft.  I have always been a huge fan of Jimmer because of his crazy confidence from behind the three-point line, sometimes pulling up from just after half-court, and because he comes from Upstate New York, like myself.  I had high hopes for Jimmer.  I thought he was going to be the next J.J. Redick, and boy was I wrong.  I don’t know what it was, but Jimmer could not find playing time as he bounced around the league, and didn’t play too well when he did find floor time.  Jimmer just could not find his spot, even going down to the D-League (now G-League) for a bit.  When Jimmer got cut by the Spurs, I knew it was over for him.  If Popovich couldn’t save him,  no one could.  So Jimmer now found himself out of the league, so he turned to the place all outcasts turn: China.fredette  Jimmer joined the Shanghai Sharks in 2016 and took off like a bullet.  Jimmer ended up winning MVP for the season, averaging a whopping 37.5 ppg.  He then signed back with the Shanghai Sharks for 2 years on a deal worth $1.8 million and hasn’t looked back.  So far this season Jimmer is averaging 40 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.1 spg and a fight with Stephon Marbury in nine games so far this season.  Jimmer is a beast over in China and I absolutely love it.  If he continues to prosper, the man is going to be a legend in China and in my heart.

 

And last but certainly not least…

 

Angry LeBrongettyimages-874698670

I saved this one for last simply because he’s the most terrifying.  If any of the player versions listed above went toe to toe with Angry LeBron, they’d be dead before they hit the ground.  Angry LeBron is a beast that is not awoken too often, but when it is…look out.  I’m not sure why people continue to piss off LeBron, but they clearly have not gotten the message or seen the body count.  I don’t know how stupid a person can be, but clearly players still think they can poke the dragon and not get scorched to a piece of toast.  This season’s victims are Enes Kanter and the New York Knicks, and the Charlotte Hornets.  The Murder of the New York Knicks was a grand and epic one.  It was also one in which LeBron may have arguably started the conflict.  Usually people go after LeBron simply because he’s LeBron, but in this case, LeBron made a statement about drafting choices by the Knicks and Enes Kanter and others responded after being offended by LeBron’s remarks.  This tension between the two sides carried over into their game in New York and the conflict became visible in the 1st quarter of the game.  LeBron dunked it and as he was going upcourt, him and Frank Ntilikina bumped into each other, and LeBron continued to stand and get in Ntilikina’s way as the rookie tried to get the ball.  Ntilikina then shoved LeBron causing a bit of an argument with neither side backing down, and Enes Kanter then getting involved.  Kanter and LeBron exchanged words before the two sides were separated.  Afterwards, the Knicks took control of the game and began to dominate.  Everyone thought the Knicks had won this one, but Angry LeBron wasn’t having it.  LeBron went on to slash 23/9/12 for the game, including a LeFuckyou 3 in the face of Kristaps Porzingis late in the 4th quarter to cap off a hell of a comeback.  Afterwards, LeBron posted on Instagram, referring to himself as the king of New York, which made Enes Kanter mad again, but the damage was done.  Angry LeBron had triumphed once again.  Then, not two days later, the city of Charlotte itself tried messing with LeBron, with this tweet.Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 1.39.13 PM.pngI don’t get why they think that taunting LeBron is a good idea at all.  I really don’t.  LeBron proceeded to drop 31 on Charlotte including this emphatic dunk to seal the win.  Angry LeBron is just too good to be taken lightly.  If I was an NBA player I would treat LeBron like the king he is when he comes to town and pray to god that he treats you with mercy.

 

Why Aaron Judge’s Strikeout Numbers Are and Aren’t A Problem

Last Saturday’s Game 7 loss to the Astros was a tough one for the Yankees.  A team that has battled all year and exceeded expectations at every turn.  Considered to be in a rebuilding year at the beginning of the season, the Yankees surprised many by having a very successful season and even making the playoffs.  They then continued to surprise by coming back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.  862906558-0

In the ALCS, the Yankees went quickly down 0-2 in the series to the Astros, but then worked their magic once again and won the next three at home to give themselves a 3-2 lead in the series.  Despite this wonderful effort, however, the Yankees would eventually fall to the AL West Champs in seven.

Many Yankee fans were disappointed in coming up short of a World Series appearance, myself included, but only for a brief moment.  I quickly realized that we weren’t even supposed to be there.  We worked ahead of schedule and had a good run.  And since this was technically a rebuilding year, the team still has much room to improve and will only get better from this moment on.  In talking about rebuilding and improving as a team, let’s discuss a key figure in this organization: Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge has had quite possibly the greatest rookie season in MLB history.  Finishing the year with 52 home runs, 114 RBIs and slashing .284/.422/.627.  A statline that will certainly win him the AL Rookie of the Year award and possibly MVP.  But this incredible season comes with a tiny little blemish; Judge struck out 208 times.  A number that not only led the league, but also broke the rookie record for strikeouts in a season.  It is also worth mentioning Aaron Judge set the record for most consecutive games with a strikeout by a player (pitchers included) at 37, a record none would wish to hold.  aaron-judge-consecutive-games-strikeout-record

Now of course this is all no secret.  With all the hype surrounding Aaron Judge this season, it was hard not to hear about anything Aaron Judge-related.  Hell, ESPN practically had only three topics of discussion on their channel:  Aaron Judge, football, and LeBron James.  And anytime anything baseball-related happened, they had to relate it somehow to Judge, making their baseball broadcasts nearly insufferable (there’s other reasons, but let’s not get into that).  

So everyone knows he strikes out and everyone watched it happen over the course of the season.  And we continued to watch it into the playoffs.  The Yankees had a great playoff run, but Aaron Judge was not as effective as everyone perceived or expected him to be.  He came up big here and there, but it was quite honestly more often for his defense as opposed to his offense.  He only had one hit in the entire Cleveland series, and batted a decent .250 against the Astros.  He had four home runs paired with 11 RBIs in the playoffs and reached base a solid amount, but like in the regular season, his strikeout numbers continued to rise.  Judge struck out a whopping 27 times in the postseason, passing Alfonso Soriano for the most strikeouts in a single postseason.  Stats like this are less than ideal for a player the Yankees consider to be one of their main producers.

All of these ugly strikeout numbers paint Judge as being a pretty poor hitter at the plate, and it may sound like I’m trying to put down Aaron Judge, but I’m not.  In fact, quite the opposite.  What I am trying to (and will) explain is that Aaron Judge could simply be the leader of this new generation of hitters that is emerging in the league.  A generation that does not care much about strikeout numbers and is willing to sacrifice a few more strikeouts for more long balls.

If one were to look around the league right now, you would see a lot of free-swinging youngsters with high home run numbers, with Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger leading the way.  One can see this new trend forming just by the total number of home runs hit this season.  6105 home runs were hit this past year, absolutely shattering the previous record of 5693 in 2000.  The ball is flying out of the park left and right and it’s only going to increase from here on out.

The new generation of hitters love the home run and are very anti-small ball.  They’d rather beat the shift by bombing it 450ft over center as opposed to bunting it the other way.  You won’t be seeing guys like Kyle Schwarber or Joey Gallo bunting any time soon. joeygalloIn fact, they’d rather strike out trying than even attempt to hit it the other way.  And you can forget about fighting to get a piece on a breaking pitch.  These guys sit and wait on fastballs they can drive out of the yard.  If they’re thrown anything that moves, they’re either not going for it or swinging out of their shoes thinking it’s a fastball.  On the rare occasion they get a hanging breaking pitch, that’s when you see these guys driving the ball into a parking lot five blocks down the road.  These guys don’t care for contact hitting.  If it happens, great, but they’re more preoccupied with their launch angle; a new statistic that has been introduced in recent years with the help of Statcast.  Players will work on developing their swing to reach their desired launch angle, an angle ideal for driving the ball over the fence.  The problem is, hitters will then stick to this angle and not waver from it, meaning that they will quite often swing right through pitches they could otherwise put into play on the ground or at least foul off.  One argument for this philosophy of hitting, of course, is that a strikeout is simply another form of an out, no different than grounding out or flying out, to them, an out is an out.

But are strikeouts simply that?  Just an out?  Of course on the scoreboard it is, but does it always have the same effect on the game as every other type of out?  Short answer, no, it doesn’t.  Every out is unique and poses a different scenario, but let’s dive a bit deeper.  Let’s look at three players who are known for having high launch angles.  Let’s look at the stats of Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and Joey Gallo.  All three of these players hit a lot of home runs this year, and all have had their fair share of strikeouts.  What happens most often when a batter attempts to fight off a strike two pitch, they roll over and bounce it into the ground, leading sometimes to double plays that kill a rally, so let’s check out these three’s ground ball and double play stats.

Key:

GO-Ground Out

GDP-Grounded into Double Play

GO_AO-Groundout to Flyout Ratio

NAME GO GDP GO_AO
BELLINGER 89 5 0.71
GALLO 65 3 0.67
JUDGE 100 15 1.01

 

As you can see, their ground out and double play numbers are quite low.  To put it in perspective, the rest of the league hovered around the mid-to upper 100s for ground outs and around the mid-to upper 10s for double plays.  Judge was right around there in terms of double play numbers, but in comparison to the rest of the league, his ground out numbers are quite low.  And Judge has the most “normal” stats out of these three players, yet still is more on the low-end in retrospect to the rest of the league.  These guys don’t ground out very often, and are able to produce with the long ball, so what’s the problem?  Is there a problem?  Well, maybe.

For the sake of this article, let’s stick to Judge.  I mean, he is the reason for this article in the first place and the one who has seen the most success and publicity.  Aaron Judge is what is known as a true outcome hitter, meaning he really only produces the three true outcomes: A walk, strikeout, or home run.  Evidence of this being the case for Judge can easily be seen in his OBP, home run, and strikeout numbers.  His home run and walk numbers are absurd no doubt, but that strikeout number is a bit of a problem.  Now I’m sure Yankee fans don’t mind Aaron Judge striking out a lot because they really only care whether he’s hitting home runs, which he is.  Quite honestly, they may even be too distracted by the home run numbers to realize the ugliness of his inability to put the ball in play when he reaches two strikes.  The fans might not care, but the organization should be a bit worried.image  This guy is supposed to be your future.  Him and Gary Sanchez are supposed to be your biggest two producers for the team and if Judge is struggling to put anything in play, especially with men on base, you’re going to struggle as a team.  “But Zach, like you said, he’s producing, just look at the numbers.”  Yes I understand that, and I do not mean to invalidate this season for him, but in all likelihood, he is not going to produce at this high of a level year in and year out.  If he does, then everything I say in this article means nothing.  But pitchers are going to learn how to pitch to him.  In fact, many already have.  Just look at his post all-star break stats (minus September) and his postseason stats; very low average and high strikeout percentage.  Pitchers know his weakness and will continue to learn how to pitch to him.  This will only lead to more strikeouts for Judge, which in turn will lead to less and less production from Judge.

This past season when Judge was on, he was on.  There’s no doubt about that.  But when he slumped, he slumped hard.  And that’s where we saw most of his strikeouts.  It wasn’t like he was striking out and producing at the same time.  When he got into his spells of continuously striking out, he stopped producing altogether.  This is where the problem truly arises.  If he were producing, but striking out for his outs (like he did in the first half), then there wouldn’t be much of a problem, but it’s because he is slumping and basically only striking out that the problem comes about.  When you are slumping, you still hope to put the ball in play and at least try to make something happen, especially with men on base, but Judge instead would strike out, ending any possible chance of helping his team out even when he’s not at his best.  

Aaron Judge’s season can be broken up basically into four parts.  First Half Judge, Post All-Star Break Judge, September Judge, and Postseason Judge.  Each version of Judge different from the rest.   First Half Judge was an absolute beast.  Slashing .329/.448/.691 with 30 home runs and 66 RBIs, earning him a starting spot in the All Star Game.  Post All Star Break Judge was disappointing at the least.  Judge’s batting average plummeted like my GPA during finals week and he only hit 7 home runs from the end of the All Star Break to September.  Production was down in nearly every category, except for walks.  Walks were the only thing keeping him afloat.  September Judge was arguably best Judge.  For the month he slashed .311/.463/.889 with 15 home runs and 32 RBIs.  September really boosted his stats back to being complete absurdity and helped solidify his historic rookie year.  And lastly, Postseason Judge.  Judge’s dominance was nonexistent throughout the postseason, causing him to come up short in key situations.  In total, Judge left 20 men on base during the postseason, which is not what you like to see from your top hitter.

These postseason numbers bring up an interesting question that I’ve seen discussed a bit about Aaron Judge.  Is he clutch?  Because being “clutch” is a trait that many teams hope for in their players especially come playoff time.  This question of clutchness, of course, is proposed about nearly every star player across all sports and it’s a bit of a tricky one.  Clutch is not something that can be really measured. kris-bryant-cubs It’s not a stat that can be calculated like batting average or slugging percentage.  A few have tried to calculate “clutch” in the past and have even attempted to calculate Judge’s “clutchness.”  Fangraphs.com published an article last month claiming that Aaron Judge has been “the least clutch player on record.”  A list that also includes greats like Joe Carter, Alex Rodriguez, and Kris Bryant. Their definition of clutch is this, by the way (More info on their website).

 

“…[H]ow much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations

than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also

compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high

leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered

clutch. Clutch does a good job of describing the past, but it does very

little towards predicting the future.”

It’s a bit of an odd way if you ask me and attempts to mathematically explain a phenomenon that cannot be really explain because much of it is mental and random at times.  Much like the hot hand in basketball, clutchness is not something that can really be calculated or explained scientifically.  To me, it just happens.  But I guess that’s why I’m writing this article and not doing science experiments.  Clutchness is so difficult also because a big moment can happen at any point in a game.  The biggest play of the game could be a solo home run in the 3rd inning that helps the team win 1-0.  That’s generally not considered clutch, but is in fact a huge play.

Do I think Judge is clutch?  Would I trust him in a big spot?  I’m not sure.  But I would probably lean closer to no.  But that is only because I would trust a veteran player who has more experience in tight spots.  Judge is still a rookie.  And I think a lot of people still forget that.  He may have come up short in a few situations in the playoffs, but you have to remember he’s never been there before.  The more experience he gets in situations like that, the better he will get.

I’ve said a lot in this piece and have touched on a bunch of topics, but what does it all mean?  Are Judge’s strikeout numbers a big deal?  Yes and no.  It all depends on how Judge moves forward and develops as a player.  Again, he’s only a rookie.  He’s got time to adjust and improve.  He’s only played one full season at the big-league level.  There is still a lot that he has to learn690271066.  Having guys like Matt Holliday and Brett Gardner around this past year have had a great impact on his development and they will continue to guide him.  If Aaron Judge truly wishes to become an elite player for years to come, however, then he’s going to have to cut down the strikeouts a bit.  He doesn’t have to reach Tony Gwynn levels of patience and contact, but Judge does have to make a bit of an adjustment.  208 is far too many for a player in the meat of your order.  If he can learn to put the ball in play more and make things happen, not even get hits, then I feel he will see more improvement.  If he doesn’t, then he risks becoming a Chris Davis-type player who’s only usage is for the long ball, which I do not think the Yankees or Judge want.  

Judge doesn’t have to make too many adjustments on his eye at the plate, his OBP shows that he has an excellent one up there, but he has to be more mindful of the breaking ball.  The amount of times I’ve watched Judge swing and miss on the breaking ball low and away is far too many to count.  If he can learn to either recognize the spin a bit better or to step into the pitch and spoil it off, then he will drag out the at-bat longer and hopefully get a fastball he can crush.  

I have full faith Aaron Judge will adapt.  He’s a smart kid and want to succeed in this league.  He struggled last year during his September call up and was able to learn and grow as evident by this year’s performance.  Judge is going to have a long career in pinstripes.  Let’s just hope he can lay off some of those breaking pitches.

 

NBA 2017-2018 Season Preview: Winners, Losers, and Sleepers

With the NBA season upon us once again, it is time to make early predictions on how the season is going to turn out.  Instead of simply picking who I think is going to make the playoffs and win it all, I thought I’d share my thoughts on not only who is going to win, but who is going to surprise us, and who is going to fall flat on their face.  And let’s not forget highlighting the top rookies and players of the league.  So without further ado, I present another round of Percy’s Predictions!

 

To organize this all pretty-like, I’m going to take things conference by conference.

 

First, the West!

 

Winners: Golden State Warriors22846785-mmmain

No explanation is really needed for why the Warriors are, once again, going to be the Winners of the West.  Any team with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is going to be a lock to win their conference (and most likely the championship).  Barring any serious injuries to the four players stated above, there is very little chance of the Warriors not winning the West.  However, I will not say they are invincible.  Despite their star power, depth, and chemistry, I think the Warriors are still beatable, but only by two teams: The Spurs and the Rockets.  The Spurs and the Rockets are the only two teams that stand a chance against the Warriors in a 7-game series due to their depth, leadership, and play styles.  Both teams have improved this offseason (especially the Rockets) and are both seeking to take down the beast.  The Thunder have improved as well, but their bench is not much compared to the other three teams and I am weary of how three stars who need the ball in their hands will go over.  I could easily see problems arising down the line.  But if they can figure it out, then who knows?  All in all, the Warriors will finish first in the conference, however they will not win 70 games like some are predicting.  They will suffer losses to the other powerhouses of the league, and their annual loss to the Lakers will prevent them from reaching the 70 win mark.

 

Losers: Phoenix SunsPhoenix Suns v Miami Heat

I use the term ‘Losers’ a bit loosely in this scenario.  Yes, the Suns will most likely be the worst team in the West this year, but it will be nothing compared to the dumpster fire at the bottom of the East.  With players like Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Tyson Chandler returning, they will have some talent and experience to lead the team.  They’re a young team with potential, with guys like Dragan Bender, Marquese Chris, Tyler Ulis and others filling out their roster.  By the way, I firmly believe Tyler Ulis has the potential to become an Isaiah Thomas-esque player and will eventually reach that status.  His play at Kentucky impressed me from the first time I watched him.  He has shown development since his freshman year and I fully believe will become a solid starter at some point in his career.  Also worth mentioning is the addition of 4th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Josh Jackson. Phoenix will be a fun team to watch.  They will lose and get pummeled, but will be fun to watch nonetheless and will develop as the season goes on.  They will especially lose if they decide to deal Eric Bledsoe for draft picks like some are predicting and theorizing.  But Phoenix has a bright future ahead, no matter what direction they choose to go in.

 

Sleepers: Minnesota Timberwolves

Pretty much everyone knows The Minnesota Timberwolves have improved greatly with their acquisition of Jimmy Butler.   But the acquisition of Jimmy Butler was not the only good move of the offseason for Minnesota.  Minnesota also added veteran talent to their lineup by the likes of Jeff Teague, a solid point-guard, Jamal Crawford, a useful veteran shooter, and Taj Gibson, a solid body in the front court that adds depth to their team.  But that’s not all.  This past week, they signed Andrew Wiggins to a max extension, keeping the talented young stud in Minnesota for five more years. Their upcoming season is now filled with hype and expectations of great improvement, and I, like the others, expect great things from them.  I expect this team to make the playoffs this year with their improvement, however I see the Timberwolves doing more than that.  I believe that Jimmy Butler will have a larger impact on the team than people realize.  And in the same vein, so will Jamal Crawford.  Before these two guys got to Minnesota, the team lacked true shooting, especially from 3-pt range.  Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins were solid shooters, but LaVine is gone and Wiggins relies on driving to the hoop for scoring.  Butler and Crawford will provide firepower from beyond the arc that will help stretch the floor, which will also help a fastly improving Karl Anthony-Towns who is bound to go on a tear this year and become a top ten player.San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Top Rookie: De’Aaron Fox2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Yes De’Aaron Fox.  Most people predict Lonzo Ball will be the best rookie in the entire class, but I don’t think he’ll even be the best rookie in his own conference.  Going back to last year, I was more impressed by De’Aaron’s talent as opposed to Lonzo.  Yes Lonzo is a great prospect with all the potential in the world, but I do not feel he has the explosiveness and drive to reach that next level.  Ball will probably start the season off really hot, play well on national T.V., but then trail off and plateau as the season goes on.  Lonzo has a lot of pressure being in L.A. and having LaVar as his father.  If he slips up, everyone will be on him in a heartbeat.  And not to mention a lot of players are going to be gunning to punish him and shut him down for all the hype surrounding him.  De’Aaron, meanwhile, has no pressure at all on him.  He’s in Sacramento where no one will be paying attention, his team isn’t expected to go anywhere.  He’s got all the time in the world to develop and work on his game.  De’Aaron will probably start off rough, but only get better as the season goes on.  He’ll get used to the system, he’ll get used to the physicality, and he’ll improve his shooting. De’Aaron will develop into a solid player and consistently put up solid numbers night in and night out over the course of the season.  Lonzo will make some headlines every now and then, but De’Aaron will have the consistency.

 

Top Player: Kawhi LeonardHouston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five

Golden State may have four of the best players in the West, but Kawhi Leonard will be number one.  Kawhi Leonard is one of the most well-rounded, versatile players in the league and works phenomenally in Pop’s system.  He’s a star player with his own team.  Kawhi doesn’t have to worry about other star players getting touches and shots like the Warriors, Rockets, or Thunder do.  Kawhi is able to control the game and be whatever type of player his team needs at the moment.  He can facilitate the ball and spread the floor, he can keep the ball and shoot the lights out of the place, or he can step back and shut down the opposing offense.  Kawhi is as far from one-dimensional as you can get, allowing him to have great games every night even if his shot isn’t falling.  I believe the best and most valuable player to a team is one who doesn’t have to rely on shooting to help his team win games.

 

Now, the East!

 

Winners: Cleveland Cavalierscavsnation-comderrick-rose-via-fearthes-d44be77ff8a160f0ed552574a25cf175c96f0f7a-1

Again, no surprise here.  The Cavaliers are going to be the top team in the East and there’s really no one who can stop them.  And mind you, this is even after losing a star player like Kyrie.  To be perfectly honest, I think it’s very possible that this team is even better than they were last year.  Yeah they lost Kyrie, but because of that, they gained Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn pick, which is going to be very valuable to Cleveland because they’re going to gain promising young talent while maintaining their success.  And although Isaiah is hurt right now, he’s going to be back around midway through the season with a chip larger than the sun on his shoulder.  He’s going to play his heart out and absolutely tear it up.  But until then, the Cavs are still going to be phenomenal.  LeBron will be LeBron.  Dwyane Wade will provide some solid shooting, along with JR Smith.  Kevin Love will continue to be an underrated third option, and Jae Crowder will provide solid production on the offensive end, while being very tough and intimidating on the other end.  But hhe player who I think will have the largest, under-the-radar impact on the Cavs is Derrick Rose and I believe he is more important than most realize.  If Derrick Rose is able to play solid, fearless basketball, then he will be a great asset to the Cavs.  Rose does not have to return to his MVP form, and I feel he realizes that, which takes a load of pressure off of him.  Derrick Rose seems to have adapted to becoming a role player, which will help him become more useful to a team that does not need an MVP with LeBron there.  Rose has shown intensity and explosiveness that was really lacking from his game when he was with the Knicks.  Rose seems to want to be there and make a difference and I have full confidence that he will be a great starter while Thomas is out and then become a dangerous player coming off the bench going up against the 2nd string guard of the opposing team.

 

Losers: Chicago Bullshi-res-d6c867c13dde18b3a1e6c4ce1360728c_crop_north

To understand this pick, all you need to see are images from the Bull’s media day.  They had guys in strollers, guys you’ve never seen before, and guys without last names.  The Bulls are a mess and have hardly made any improvements to their roster.  The only “gains” they really made were adding Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.  But those acquisitions will only be viewed as solid if a few certain factors come to fruition.  The success of this trade and the improvement of the team relies largely on if Zach LaVine is able to come back and perform at the level he was at prior to his torn ACL and if Kris Dunn lives up to his expectations.  Now there’s still time for both of these players to become who they were projected to be, but it won’t necessarily happen this year.  And even if it did, they wouldn’t be nearly enough to help the Bulls climb out of that dumpster fire.  Their roster is one of the weakest I’ve seen in recent memory.  Up there with the 2015-2016 Sixers.  But at least the Sixers had promise.  I find it hard to find many positives about the 2017-2018 Bulls outside of LaVine, Dunn, and their future top pick.  Hell, they even lost Mirotic due to Bobby Portis punching him in the face, which is a black-eye (pun intended) on the organization as it is, but also reflects potentially poor chemistry amongst the entire team.  If you’re a Bulls fan, there is not much for you to look forward to this year.  Also, quick reminder, GarPax essentially turned Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and a 2nd rounder into Cameron Payne.  So as you can see, the Bulls at least have great leadership steering them in the right direction and not into an even larger dumpster fire!

 

Sleepers: Philadelphia 76ers1508268289_431c8a49cb203ab892a5d7e43a8acfa7

I almost picked Miami for this one, but decided against it at the last moment.  It honestly could go either way.  Miami showed a lot of growth last year and nearly made the playoffs with their insane run.  They’ve got players like Waiters and Whiteside that could really make a difference in a game and along with the rest of the Miami roster, have a team that could potentially play spoiler in the playoffs.  The reason I chose the Sixers over the Heat for the choice of sleeper is because I feel the Sixers’ roster as a unit has more potential to be great this season.  They’ve got young studs like Simmons and Fultz.  They’ve got great role players like Covington and Saric.  They’ve got the veteran presence in Reddick, Johnson, and Bayless.  And, they’ve got the face in Embiid.  This team has all the potential in the world to be a great team down the road, but I believe they have the ability to be effective right now.  I feel that the Sixers have the potential to play ahead of schedule much like the New York Yankees have this year.  Better outside scoring will benefit the team, making them more well-rounded.  Veteran presence will help guide and teach the younger players.  And a (hopefully) full season from Embiid will give the team a huge boost all-around.  The only problem with this team, but is also a bit of a plus is that they’re so young.  It’s good in the sense that they have great potential down the road, but it’s a problem when looking at the success of the team this year.  Since the Sixers are made up of mainly young guys, they don’t have the experience yet and still have much to learn.  Not to mention not being at their prime like the superstars of the league they’d be going up against.  They may be able to surprise people and develop ahead of schedule, they may not.  The Sixers’ entire season is made up of what-ifs, and that may prove to be the deciding factor of the Sixers’ success this season.  With their star players having histories with injuries, their seasons rest in the hands of the basketball gods.  If they all can stay healthy, then the Sixers will see great success.

 

Top Rookie: Ben Simmons

I think a lot of people have forgotten that Ben Simmons is a rookie this year.  Everyone has been so caught up with this year’s rookie class, especially with Lonzo Ball.  Why I’ve chosen Simmons over his other highly touted teammate, Markelle Fultz, is because I feel Ben Simmons is a better athlete and all-around player than Fultz.  Also, Markelle is the type of player who will need a few years to fully develop and get used to things.  Fultz is a great shooter and passer no doubt, but Simmons is simply a freak of nature.  Simmons is the size of a power forward, but has the skill set of a point guard.  He’s able to handle the ball, dish the ball, shoot the ball, and defend the ball.  It was merely two years ago, but I feel many have forgotten just how good Ben Simmons was at LSU.  He could seriously do it all.  And not only can he do it all, but he can guard them all, which I believe is a very underrated asset for a player to have in this league.  Now combine all of this with a year’s worth of NBA knowledge that Simmons has absorbed from being out for the season last year, but still being around the game.  Simmons already has a leg up on all these rookies in that regard, making him a force to be reckoned with.dixon-201061-f-wp-content-uploads-2017-10-101317_ben-simmons_1200-1200x800

 

Top Player: LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

With an East really lacking in stars, it’s no question LeBron gets this spot.  He would get it even if the likes of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were still in the Eastern Conference.  It is simply impossible to be better than LeBron.   I mean, what more is there to say about the guy that hasn’t been said before?  He can score, he can pass, he can rebound, and he can play defense.  The guy is one of the greatest of all time and his career isn’t even over yet.  And with a bit of a chip on his shoulder from losing in the finals last season and the ‘drama’ between Kyrie and the Cavs, LeBron is going to absolutely destroy anyone who stands in his way.  And look at the first game he’s already played this year.  He slashed 29/16/9.  The man had nearly a triple-double, yet after the game he said he was out of shape and wasn’t joking.  LeBron hasn’t even reached his final form and that’s how he’s playing?  God Damn…

 

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmonsusa_today_10338309-0

Without reiterating myself too much, I chose Ben Simmons over De’Aaron Fox and the rest of the rookies because I believe Ben Simmons is the best athlete and the best talent of this rookie class.  Simmons also has a better supporting cast to help him play even better and help him win games.  I believe a Simmons playing at the level I expect him to plus his team winning will ultimately lead the voters to choose him over any other rookie.

 

MVP: LeBron James

Again do not want to repeat myself too much here, but LeBron is going to be a player that impacts his team the most this season due to what he’s playing for.  LeBron will want to show this league that a loss will not set him back, but only make him stronger.  LeBron is out to prove and remind everyone that he is the best player in the league and there is no one that can touch him.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One

 

So there are my predictions.  Look forward to seeing how wrong I am in the end.  Here’s to a great season of basketball!

All-Star Rap Basketball Team

The rap community has always had a close relationship with the sports world, especially the NBA.  We’ve seen countless rappers make appearances courtside at NBA games, numerous references to players in songs, and even some NBA players try their hand at rapping themselves.  With a number of NBA players, such as Shaq and Damian Lillard taking part in the game of rap, I thought it would be interesting to make a team of rappers that would be suited best to take part in the game of basketball.dame_dolla_bigger_than_us_long-00_03_06_10-still116

 

Owner/GM: Jay-Z

Besides the fact that Jay-Z is actually part owner of a team, I believe Jay-Z would be perfect for the role of owner for this squad since he has plenty of other business experience.  Jay-Z is great at getting people together for projects and is well-respected throughout the community.  He’s a great businessman, having experience with co-founding his own label, Roc-a-fella Records and being a certified NBA and MLB sports agent with clients on his agency’s roster of the likes of Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant, and Dez Bryant.  All in all, Jay-Z is a great businessman who could run this team quite smoothly.jayz

 

Coach: Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre could have also fit the bill of owner in this situation, but I felt he was better suited for the role of head coach.  Dre’s production skills are some of the best this world has experienced and I feel that ability to craft and create in the studio could translate seamlessly onto the court.  He’d be able to draw up plays flawlessly and whip the team into the best shape they could possibly be in.  Dre brings out the best in the people he works with and nearly everyone in the rap world has nothing but respect for him, leading him to having an excellent relationship with the players.dr-dre-2015

 

PG: J. Colej-colebasketballroc4life

Cole may be more on the taller side of talent on this team, but I feel his skills and abilities fit the Point Guard role beautifully.  Just like in his music, he has the ability to show off when he needs to, but also put his pride aside and help those around him, making him a perfect candidate for point guard.  The quiet, unassuming approach he took on his last record and seems to be sticking with would create a nice deception to the skill that Cole possesses when he has the ball in his hands.  Cole also has much experience playing basketball, having stated on numerous occasions that he loved playing growing up, even playing on his high school team.  We’ve also seen him play in the 2012 NBA celebrity game, where he had a nice dunk with the alley-oop assist from Kevin Hart, which shows that Cole is a great multi-tool player.

 

SG: Freddie Gibbs1372788855_7f76937d705d32c3aa8886f0bb25218a

Freddie Gibbs, I believe, would make an excellent addition to this team.  I was unsure where to put him exactly on this squad, but I believe SG is where he fit best.  Freddie Gibbs has a strong, aggressive style of rapping that could intimidate anyone.  This style is especially present on tracks such as “Shitsville” off of his collaborative album with Madlib, Piñata.  A style, that would without a doubt translate onto the court, making him a scoring threat, as well as a defensive powerhouse.  People would be afraid to try anything against him, leading them to be weak and weary on defense.  This is a great skill to have for a big man, but due to his size in comparison to the rest of the team, I believe he is best suited for SG.  Also, Gibbs is very knowledgeable on the game of basketball and is an avid fan, giving him an edge on his opponents.

 

SF: Tyler, The Creator

This pick is a bit out there and unexpected.  I wouldn’t expect other owners to draft Tyler high, if at all, but I believe he could be a great asset to any rap basketball team.  Despite not being a huge fan of basketball, or having any real experience playing the sport, Tyler has the athletic build that any owner would dream of having on their team.8f2d89233a5a17f8b6b7395e327ccabb-odd-future-abs  Having a tall frame, with a skinny, yet muscular build, paired with natural athletic talent, makes Tyler a deceptively athletic threat, if I may.  Finding a position for him was tough, but Small Forward suits Tyler best because he is the most well-rounded rapper on this team.  He has the ability to go hard and tough when need be, as evident by tracks such as “Domo23” and “I Ain’t Got Time!”  Meaning he could take control of the game and pound it in the paint.  Yet at the same time, he is able to play it smooth and slick as evident on tracks such as “911/Mr. Lonely” and “Treehome95”, meaning he can take a step back and facilitate the ball effortlessly.  Also, having worked with a number of other artists, Tyler would have great chemistry with his other teammates.

 

PF: 2 Chainz2-chainz-ftr-jpg_1rw6wiylhntq01vitg21u4a0ge

2 Chainz is the first of the big men on this squad.  Standing at 6’5”, 2 Chainz is one of the tallest rappers in the game.  2 Chainz also has some of the most basketball experience out of any rapper.  2 Chainz attended Alabama State University on a basketball scholarship from 1995-1997.  Experience like this is a necessity on a team like this.  Being a bit of a veteran, 2 Chainz would serve as a great mentor to the rest of the team.  His lavish raps and melodic music would translate into a very graceful and beautiful style of play.  2 Chainz, however, is still able to get down and dirty when the time comes, allowing him to play some gritty defense and really battle under the hoop.

 

C: Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg, rounding out the starting five, would for sure serve as the captain of this roster. article-2560396-1b81e45900000578-177_634x759 Having been around the game nearly as long as Coach Dre, Snoop has veteran presence up the ying-yang.  His catchy, upbeat flow would translate into some great motivation and leadership.  Snoop would be able to keep the good spirits running high in the locker room and out on the court, even if the team is down or behind.  As for his play, Snoop is an avid sports fan, coaches football, and has run basketball fundraisers in past years.  Snoop has the athletic blood in him, making him a natural talent that can easily be utilized on the court.  His athletic talent can even be seen in his son Cordell’s football skills.  Cordell was a former WR at UCLA and was highly touted in high school for his play.  And lastly, Snoop has some experience as well.  Who could forget his appearance at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans?

 

Sixth Man: Lil B

No rap basketball team would be complete without Lil B.  Lil B could easily be in the starting lineup, but I feel that his skills would be better utilized coming off the bench.  Lil B has some experience under his belt, having tried out for the NBA D-League (Now known as the G-League), but just falling short.  He could provide an amped up energy that would surely get his teammates riled up.  Lil B is capable of lighting a fire that could spark a huge run for his team when they need it most.  It also helps that Lil B has been known to have great “influence” in the sports world.  An influence that could easily be used to his team’s advantage.17efecad

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

Lil Dicky

Lil Dicky, known at home as LiDicky, comes from a very athletic family.  For those who do not know, Lil Dicky is the often forgotten about fourth Ball brother, as seen in this video.  While he may not have been as highly touted as his other brothers, there is no doubt that Lil Dicky has some skill of his own.  

 

Wale

Wale has great athleticism, having attended multiple colleges on football scholarships, making him a good candidate for this team.  However I was unsure where he could have fit into this lineup or whose place he could have taken.  Also, his skill resides in football, so whether that athleticism would translate to basketball is unknown.

 

Meek Mill

Meek Mill does not have much of a sports background besides being a fan of it, but in recent years, he has been seen hanging out with members of the Philadelphia 76ers.  This may not mean much, but I’m certain that he could have picked up a thing or two from hanging out with the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.cnsebyruaaevhn1

Don’t Judge LeBron Based On This Final

Welp, another NBA season in the books and boy was it a boring one.  82 pointless games followed by a pointless playoff series all to set up the matchup we all knew was coming.  At least Joel Embiid was fun to watch for the few months he was out there.  If it weren’t for him, I probably would’ve gotten into the hobby of watching paint dry just to bring some excitement into my life.  It’s too bad this season was boring because in all honesty, the finals matchup this year was one for the history books.  The only problem was that everyone saw it coming, so it wasn’t a thrilling ride and then once we got to the finals, it was made clear quickly that this series wasn’t going to be as intense as we had all hoped.  The Warriors made quick work of the Cavs, eliminating them in only five games, handing LeBron another finals loss.  But did LeBron really lose?lebron-james-6717-usnews-getty-ftr_xqvd93njhofk10z2vpv9pkw7d

To put it simply, LeBron straight up balled out this entire series.  He became the first player in history to average a triple double in the finals by posting a slash of 33.6/12/10 in the finals.  If you were to look at just LeBron’s stats for these finals, you would assume that the Cavs won solely based on that.  He was absolutely unstoppable during the finals, yet somehow it wasn’t enough.  So what happened?  Well, for starters the bench was absolutely nonexistent.   There was absolutely no help from anyone outside of the Cavs big three.  At times it felt like the Warriors had a 5 on 3 power play, leaving LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin to fend for themselves.  Tristan Thompson got outrebounded by Steph Curry.  Deron Williams didn’t score a bucket until game four.  Richard Jefferson was their fifth leading scorer at a mere 5.8 ppg. jr-smith-6517-usnews-getty-ftr_sy1ach5ffia513rdhwunf2uzx  JR Smith started playing well, especially last game, scoring 25 on ⅞ from 3-pt range, but his play came a bit too late.  With no help from outside the big three and the Warriors bench outplaying the Cavs bench, LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin were forced to play extra minutes in order to make up for the poor bench performance, putting all the work onto their shoulders.  Honestly if it weren’t for LeBron’s stellar performance, the result could have been even uglier than it was.

But by no means is this an excuse for Cleveland’s loss to Golden State.  The Warriors were just too good for the Cavaliers.  I don’t think any team in history could best this Warriors team in a 7-game series.  This has got to be the best team in the history of basketball.  There was no stopping them.  Kevin Durant went off this series, averaging 35 ppg.  It felt like every time he pulled up to shoot it was going in.  And when he would leave his feet to dunk it was as if he was gliding through the air to the hoop.  It was all so graceful to watch.22846785-mmmain  Add that performance with Steph Curry’s great series as well, and there was just nothing the Cavaliers could do.  Curry slashed 26.8/8/9.4 in this series, nearly averaging a triple double like LeBron.  Steph Curry really showed up this series and it made all the difference in the end.  And like I said earlier, the play by the Warriors role players really helped seal the deal.  They were able to outscore the Cavs bench and force Cleveland’s big three back out onto the court sooner than the Cavs would have liked, thus tiring out LeBron and Co. allowing the Warriors starters to punish them.  Nothing could be done to stop this Warriors team this year.  I have yet to see a weakness in the Warriors that could allow a team to beat them.  The only way for the Warriors to lose is if they beat themselves and they certainly did not do that this finals.

But LeBron still statistically lost another finals, putting him at a 3-5 record in the finals.  Many people look at that and say LeBron isn’t great because he has a losing record in the finals, which is absolute shit.  The fact that LeBron has been to 8 finals already is impressive enough, so what if he’s lost 5.  Losing in the finals shouldn’t be looked down upon as much as it is.  It’s impressive to even be there, so why give an amazing player like LeBron flak for losing five?  “Oh but MJ has never lost a final.”  Yeah well LeBron also hasn’t gotten swept in the first round.  Twice.  Also if you look back on the teams LeBron has lost to, they’re nothing to be ashamed about.  He’s lost to the Spurs twice and the Warriors twice.  Two amazing teams during their times and were not really seen as underdogs in any finals.  Yes, he did lose to the Mavericks in 2011, but you gotta remember, that team swept the two-time reigning champ Lakers team.  So why should LeBron be looked down upon for losing to that team?1465581946-bkn-nba-final-heat-mavericks_19739287

A player’s finals record should not be used to judge the greatness of said player.  People keep looking at LeBron’s finals record as if it’s been an individual affair.  LeBron isn’t 3-5 in the finals, LeBron’s teams are 3-5 in the finals.  People need to remember that this game is still a team sport.  You win and lose as a team, and one player isn’t going to dictate that.  Yes, one player can have a large impact, but it is still up to the team as a whole to perform well in order to bring home a ring.  LeBron has balled out every finals he’s been in and tried to give his team the best chance they have at winning it all.  You cannot blame someone who gives his all those losses, especially this year’s finals.  Averaging a triple double is going above and beyond what was asked of him, and I think a lot of people don’t see that.  All they see is that LeBron lost again.  LeBron sucks, end of story.  But it’s not the end of the story.  If you look at what LeBron does when he goes out there game after game, you would see that this man is an incredible talent that has nothing to be ashamed about.  LeBron is the exact opposite of a sucky player.  LeBron is one of the greatest to touch the court and too many people take that for granted.

LeBron is one of the greatest to play the game.  There’s really not much more to say.  I think those that do not see that are not paying enough attention.  Far too often LeBron’s skills are overlooked and under-appreciated.  Yet then those same people who think LeBron isn’t one of the best see him lose and blame it all on him.  It’s mind boggling to me how bipolar the fans of the NBA are towards this man.  One minute they love him, but the minute he has a “bad” game they’re down his throat.  Everyone needs to stop criticizing LeBron, especially when it comes to losing in the finals.  It’s a team game.  There is only so much that one player can do, yet LeBron day in and day out gives his team more than enough.  Honestly the fact that people expect LeBron to win a final on his own is impressive enough.  Says all you really need to know about LeBron.  So leave LeBron alone, it’s not his fault.  Teams win and lose together.  All the blame cannot be placed on one person, especially a player like LeBron.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One

Weighing the Parity of the MLB vs. NBA

dm_170501_mlb_fantasy_miguel_sano_twins_3bWith the baseball season roughly a third of the way through, it’s a good time to stop and appreciate how beautifully unpredictable the sport of baseball is.  So many teams are performing better than expected, and worse than expected.  The Twins and Brewers are in first, while the Royals and Pirates lie in last.  Aaron Hicks and Ryan Zimmerman are having great years, while Rougned Odor and Andrew McCutchen struggle to get going.  The league year in and year out features surprise performances (and disappointments) that keep the league entertaining and filled with uncertainty.  Uncertainty that makes it nearly impossible to anticipate who the World Series champion will be.

The NBA, meanwhile, is about to enter the third straight final featuring the Cavaliers and Warriors.  The last seven finals have featured a LeBron James team and have seen only four different winners.  Four different winners doesn’t seem too bad, but when it becomes so easy to predict who is going to be in the finals, it makes the entire season feel boring and pointless.  Take this year for example, since preseason, everyone knew it was going to be Warriors vs. Cavaliers.Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One  Hardly anyone predicted otherwise.  Now I love a good LePerformance from LeKing in Lefinals as much as the next guy, but I do miss the mystery of it all like you get with baseball.  I felt like it wasn’t even necessary to watch any of the playoffs (still did) because I knew what the outcomes were going to be.  The only real interesting series was the Boston vs. Washington one.  I know it’s not possible, but if every series was like that one, then I would find the playoffs to be much more fulfilling.  It just sucks for the great players out there whose ceiling is losing either to LeBron or Curry.  So many great players miss out on a chance at a ring because of these two great talents and their phenomenal teams.  Yet so many people argue that a player isn’t elite if they don’t have any rings, like the way Shaq does towards Barkley.  But Barkley had to go up against some insane teams like the Pistons and the Bulls, so can you really blame him for not having any?  

Basketball is filled with dynasties and when one dies another one just rises in it’s place.   And with the way things are shaping up in recent years, it doesn’t seem like anything is going to really change.  The Warriors and Cavaliers just keep building their rosters with no other team really looking to stand in their ways.  Even if a team was able to put together a roster to take down the Warriors or Cavs, they would just take the place of the giant they conquered.  There seems to be no stopping dynasties and while I don’t mind seeing great teams, I wish there was a bit more competition against them.

Baseball, on the other hand, has been a bit more balanced.  Yes, we’ve seen the Giants win three in the past six years, but they had even year voodoo working with them that wasn’t broken until last year (Thanks Cubs).  And yes, the Yankees have won 27 in their mlb_a_yankeeswin2_576history, but they’ve been around for over a hundred years, and in recent years, the playing field has been very equal, seeing them win only two since 2000.  Different teams have made appearances in the playoffs and the World Series.  MLB playoffs in the recent years have proved to be a lot more exciting and unpredictable than the NBA’s.  Every team is beatable.  There are no juggernauts going into the playoffs that everyone knows is going to go all the way.  And like we saw with the Kansas City Royals in 2014, underdog teams are capable of making runs all the way to the championship.  But does baseball actually have more parity than the NBA?mlb_g_royals-celebration01jr_668x376

First, let’s look at the playoff lineups since the 2010.  The NBA has featured 28 different teams (Sorry Sacramento and Minnesota) and the MLB has featured 25.  But the MLB hasn’t had their 2017 playoffs yet, while the NBA has.  Also, the NBA has 16 teams make the playoffs each year, while the MLB has 10.  The NBA finals has featured eight different teams with six different champions, while the World Series has featured nine different teams with five different champions.  From the looks of these stats, it appears that they’re relatively even.  So why is this a discussion?

It is a discussion because I do not believe that the stats tell the entire story.  I’ve never been a big fan of statistics.  I do look at them and take them into account, but I do not dive as deeply into them as others.  I believe there are certain aspects of life and sports that stats cannot explain.  When it comes to the MLB and NBA playoffs, it simply feels like there is more competition in the MLB playoffs.  There is more uncertainty due to the nature of baseball.  There is room for more upsets because the game always comes down to a one on one situation; the pitcher vs. the batter.  If one makes a mistake, the other can prevail.  There’s nine players out there as opposed to five in basketball.  Due to this, one player in basketball is able to have a larger effect on the game, like LeBron James, who has proven that time and time again.  In baseball, one player can only affect the game so much.  A baseball team needs to be all-around solid in order to see success, while in many cases, an NBA team can ride on one or two great players.  The NBA and MLB are different breeds, so maybe it is only logical that baseball seems to have more parity than basketball.  

Overall I think the NBA has a relatively decent amount of parity, but it just appears to not.  Perhaps basketball is simply more predictable than baseball because in most situations, the best team will win unlike in baseball, which sees a larger number of upsets.  Is this a bad thing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I personally enjoy unpredictability in sports, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying this LeDynasty.  I suppose basketball is setup to have dynasties, it appears to be only natural.  I am worried, however, on the future of the game.  In the past, NBA dynasties were birthed, while these days the NBA appears to be headed in a direction where dynasties are created.25warriors-web-master768  The Warriors and Cavaliers are fortifying their teams and are going to hold this league hostage for years.  It would be nice to enter a season for once without knowing who is going to be in the finals, but I suppose that is not going to happen for a few years at least.  At least basketball dynasties aren’t as bad as they are in football (Looking at you Tom Brady) but I do wish basketball was more like baseball and had more mystery and uncertainty, but I am not sure what it would take to stop the formation of super teams.  Would eliminating the salary cap do it?  Or would that only make matters worse?  Who knows.  And who knows if any change will come, but for now I’ll just enjoy the LeDynasty and the Warriors battle it out in the coming week.

The LeBron vs. MJ Argument and Why it Should End (Or At Least Put Off)

Whether it’s with your friends at your school or your co workers around the water cooler, at one point in time you’ve found yourself involved in an argument about who’s the greatest; Michael Jordan or LeBron James.  Hell, I found myself arguing with a 6-year-old girl I met at a Chuck-E-Cheese about it.  And with each of these arguments comes anger, stubbornness, and someone thrown into the ball pit at Chuck-E-Cheese (I’m embarrassed to say who in my case).  This argument about who is better has happened for years now, with people flinging stats left and right trying to gain leverage in the debate.  Now I’m not here to discuss who I think is better, I am here instead to explain why this entire debate is unfair, pointless, and time to be put to rest.

LeBron James and Michael Jordan are two of the most elite athletes in the history of sports and have dominated their eras of basketball since their respected entries into the league.  Michael Jordan’s career spanned 15 years, saw six rings, and brought basketball to the level of popularity we all know it as today.  LeBron James is in his 14th season and has seen three rings, and has brought constant talk as to if he is better than Michael Jordan.  Now, admittedly, I have engaged in said arguments, but all in all, I believe that it is silly and premature to have these arguments and I will explain why.

When it comes to the content of these arguments, the main focus is on the playoff performances of both players.  Many people tend to look at their number of rings and say that Jordan has three more championships than Lebron, so he is automatically better.  If that was the case, however, then by that logic, Robert 451682-chicago-bulls-guard-michael-jordan-holds-the-nba-championship-trophy-aHorry, Frank Ramsey, Jim Loscutoff, John Havlicek, Satch Sanders, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, and Bill Russell are all better than Michael Jordan (Note: Arguments can be made for the latter).  So how is that a fair comparison?  I’ll tell you how; it’s not.  While championships may be an important sign of success and dominance, they do not always accurately represent the player.  Take Charles Barkley, for example.  Charles Barkley is arguably one of the best power forwards of all-time, yet he doesn’t have a ring.  Meanwhile, Larry Siegfried, a career 10.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.5 apg player, has five.  So is Larry Siegfried better than Charles Barkley?  Hell no.  God no.  So how is it fair to judge Jordan and LeBron the same way?c03-barkley-before-13-4_3

Another argument that comes into play is the fact that this is a different era of basketball.  A more competitive era of basketball.  An era filled with better athletes and better competition.  LeBron plays amongst players that are simply physically bigger and better than anything that Michael Jordan played against.  Biologically and historically, athletes are going to be better as time goes on.  The players develop alongside the game.  Now while I agree with this, I feel it is more important to look at the player within the era and what he accomplished.  Look at it this way: Babe Ruth is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, but if you were to put him in the modern-day, where the average starting pitcher throws 95 mph consistently and the breaking balls are even nastier, he wouldn’t be nearly as good, yet I still consider him one of the greatest to play because of what he did during his era.  Tying it back into this debate, you need to take into account some of the teams that Michael Jordan and company went up against.  Michael Jordan had to go up against teams like the ‘86 Celtics, led by Larry Bird, and the Bad Boys Pistons team lead by Isiah Thomas.  LeBron played some tough teams, but for the most part, nothing like what Jordan played against (see 2011 Mavs).  In order to just reach the finals, Michael Jordan had to go through some of the toughest teams.  Many point out that Jordan had been eliminated multiple times in the first round of the playoffs while LeBron has not, yet they fail to realize that Jordan was going up against some tough teams, no matter what era you’re looking at.  Twice he and his Bulls got swept by Larry Bird’s Celtics, arguably one of the best teams in history.  Jordan played against some of the greatest talents in NBA history, but so has LeBron.  Jordan went up against guys like Bird, Thomas, and Barkley.  LeBron went up against guys like Garnett, Pierce, and Allen.  “But Zach, those last three guys were all on the same team.”  Yeah, well I just wanted to stick with the rule of three.  Can’t list those three without the other.  “Zach it just sounds like your list of talent for LeBron is inferior in comparison to yours for Jordan.”  Alright fine, want me to list some more?  Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh (Yes he had to face them before he joined them) Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Ben and Rasheed Wallace (Damn good 2006 team) Derrick Rose, Paul George, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, Demar Derozan, I could go on.  Just like I could with Michael Jordan.  Talent is simply timeless.

Along the lines of talent, it matters who you’re supported by. Although one player can make more of an impact in basketball, who your teammates are matters.  During his career, Jordan had a pretty nice group of guys to work with.  Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, and countless other great role players.  LeBron in his early career was sent out there with a lineup that featured Anderson Varejao at center…Jokes aside, he was a good defender at his peak, but the point is LeBron in early parts of his career was equipped with jack shit compared to the supporting cast that Jordan had.  That is partially why LeBron left to go to Miami, which brings me to my counter argument to this point.  LeBron eventually did have a good supporting group.  His big 3 in Miami was insane and featured some great role players that really contributed when it mattered most (See Ray Allen Gm. 6 3-pointer vs. Spurs).  And then when LeBron came back to Cleveland, he was once again well-equipped, besides 2015 when the team was riddled with injuries.  Having Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on your side is a big boost for LeBron.Kevin-Love-Kyrie-Irving-Champs-Cover

Now we have come to the end of this little ol’ random of mine, so I am going to end it with some closing notes on this whole debate, maybe explain myself a bit better and tie up some loose ends.  It isn’t right to compare these two players, or at least not at the moment.  Let LeBron play and finish his career, then we can all take a step back and look at what the two of them have accomplished.  But until then, let LeBron play.  And I know that I have come across as a LeBron supporter throughout all of this.  While he may be one of my favorite players to watch, I do not lean in his favor, nor do I lean in MJ’s favor.  I talk more about LeBron simply because I have seen more of him than I have seen Jordan.  I grew up with LeBron, not Jordan, so can you blame me?  Still, though, I know enough about Jordan to know that he is an exceptional talent and it is truly tough to top a player like that, I mean, just watch tape of his flu game and you’ll see the type of player Jordan is.  And I do admit that Jordan’s stats vs. LeBron’s are better, especially in the playoffs.  I just feel that it is simply too difficult to compare the two, especially since they both played in different eras of basketball.  If the two played alongside one another, sure, go right ahead compare and contrast them until your face turns blue, but their careers never crossed.  So let the greats be great and just enjoy it while it happens.  Basketball is a game, it’s meant to be fun and enjoyed.  No sense in worrying about who’s better than who.  Just watch and treasure the game.

Indoor Stadiums: A Rant

tampa-bay-rays-tropicana-field-contractIndoor Stadiums just might be the worst thing that has happened to the game of baseball.  Currently, there is only one team in the major league that plays in a full-fledged dome, but other stadiums have retractable roofs, making them a sort of hybrid or half-breed, if you may.   That one despicable organization that plays in a dome you may ask?  None other than the Tampa Bay Rays.  You may be asking yourself “Zach, why so much animosity towards such an innocent structure?  What have they ever done to you?”  and what I’ll say to that is it is not about me, it is about the integrity of the game of baseball.  Baseball is the sport of the summer and is meant to be played outside, there should be none of this generated perfect environment bullshit.  “But Zach, due to the city of Tampa’s climate of having consistent hot and humid weather, playing baseball would be nearly unbearable in the outdoors.”  Oh yeah? Well then they should not have placed a team that could not handle some measly little heat.  You know what they say; if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen and go to Montreal because they deserve an MLB franchise more than your pathetic city.  Sadly, however this trend is a popular one over in the NPB in Japan.  Multiple stadiums in Japan are domes, a decision that is just too much for this little heart.  I hope one day that they all come to their senses and realize that their stadiums looks horrid compared to the beautiful masterpieces of their outdoor counterparts.  But I’ll cut them some slack for now.  That league is still developing and I am confident that they will turn the corner.  As for The “Tampa Bay No-Rays Because They Decided To Build An Indoor Stadium Making Their Name Quite Ironic,” there is no excuse.  You were given the chance to make a wonderful expansion team in the state of Florida and you mucked it up. Players hit a pop up and it literally gets stuck on the catwalks.  Yes it’s comedic at times, but wildly unprofessional nonetheless.  The only cool thing about the stadium is the fact that you have a tank filled with live rays that I can touch.  I like that.  That’s cool.  But alas, I finish with this.  Perhaps if you were to build a stadium that was outside, maybe you would have more Tampa Bay Rays fans instead of having your ballpark being a second home to Yankees fans.  Thank you, and goodnight.