Bizzle’s Dumb Idea: NBA All-Star Game Edition

Leave it to the NBA to botch its All-Star voting process. Some new rule where player voting matters has left a guy averaging a triple-double out of the starting lineup. Seriously, how do the players in the league not vote for Russell Westbrook? He’s not the one who left his team to join a 73-win team. He is the one that signed a 3-year extension with a team where he’s really the only true option; but yet players seem to hate Westbrook for whatever reason. Stephen Curry is All-Star worthy, sure, but he has spent all season either adjusting to KD’s arrival or trying to duplicate his back-to-back MVP success (probably the latter). Having him start over Westbrook is a crime, and just proves the All-Star voting system is a big joke.

I think it’s time we end the madness and adopt some new ways to pick the All-Star game. I propose that the NBA adopt MLB’s ‘every team must be represented’ rule. The math on that is simple you have 15 spot and 15 teams in each conference it’s too perfect. Just think how interesting picking the sides becomes. For instance, would the Warriors’ All-Star be Durant, Curry or Thompson? Tthat’s a tough call. The coaches with the best records as of Feb. 1 would get the opportunity over a week or so to pick the 15 players for their rosters. This season it’s Tyronn Lue and Steve Kerr. With the loaded roster each of them possess, imagine the intrigue on having to pick one of your guys over the others. That adds to the drama of it all. It could be televised. They televise the draft lottery and Al- Star selections, with my forma,t would be must-see in my eyes. The biggest questions with this would be, do you just go the 15 best players or do you construct a roster? With nothing riding on the game, I’d just go the best 15 and watch it play out over 48 minutes. This also helps reduce the chances of injury with a deeper bench. With all teams being represented, it gives some player in Atlanta or Denver a shot at MVP honors; I can’t remember the last time that happened.

I can’t make this outlandish proposal without giving you who would be my All-Star 15 from each team and I’ll let you know, it’s not as easy as it sounds due to everyone trying to team up to bring home a championship. Who knows  maybe some players would start valuing All-Star chances over titles. I’m kidding, but, want to join a superteam? Enjoy missing the big game from All-Star weekend. You’d better hope you can dunk or shoot threes.

Eastern Conference All Stars: 

Atlanta Hawks:PF Paul Millsap 

He’s not flashy or a household name but he gets it done. Just like my assessment of Millsap it wasn’t flashy but got the job done. 

Boston Celtics: PG Isaiah Thomas

Having the best season of his career thus far. Having Al Horford around has really helped. The 5’9 point gaurd is leading the Celtics to there best season since the Paul Pirece Era. 

Brooklyn Nets: C Brook Lopez 

The Nets are the Philadelphia Phillies of this exercise. We only invite you because we have to. So why not grab the big man? Even if he’s an awful rebounder at 7 feet tall and I do mean awful for his size. 

Charlotte Hornets: PG Kemba Walker 

I almost went Cody Zeller here. Just kidding, it’s obviously Kemba. He’s probably the most popular Hornet since Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good. Wlaker is putting up career numbers and is becoming one of the best back court players in the game. 

Chicago Bulls: SF Jimmy Butler

I could have gone Dwyane Wade here because he’s at the end of his career and you have to honor the greats of the game, but that can wait till next season. Butler wanted to be the man in Chi-town and he is. Plus it’s not everyday you get an All Star who enjoys shit talking his teammates publicly.

Cleveland Cavaliers: SF LeBron James 

What does Tyrone Lue do? Kyrie Irving, under the old system, is an All-Star but for this you have to take the most popular player in the game. Do you think this Eastern squad is enough player makers for the King? Probably not he’s still gonna bitch isn’t he. 

*Side Note: The Chicago Cubs are World Champs baby!!

Detroit Pistons: C Andre Drummond

Sure, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson are leading the team in scoring, but Drummond is this teams backbone, averaging a double-double. Now if only he could get his free throw shooting to even be slightly below average. Drummond needs to work of his Free throws the way Donald Trump needs to work on not being so Twitter happy….Like I’m one to talk. 

*Side note spent a lot.of time trying to find Drummond at a Tigers game. Apparently he is too good for the Tigers.

 Indiana Pacers: SF Paul George

Again, clearly the best player on the Pacers, even with Jeff Teague having a nice season after coming over from Atlanta. George is a household name and NBA 2K17 cover athlete. With the whispers of him leaving Nap-town, don’t be shocked if it becomes Myles Turner’s All-Star spot in the future.

Miami Heat: PG Goran Dragic 

Here’s where if I’m Tyron Lue I make the strategy move and take Dragic over Hassan Whiteside. I’m already fairly deep in the frontcourt and with all the guards the West is bringing to the table, I need someone who can keep up with them. Whiteside is flashier, but Dragic helps me win the game, even if it doesn’t ultimately matter. Plus the likelihood of Whiteside doing something stupid in New Orleans is high.

Milwaukee Bucks: SF Giannis Antetokounmpo 

The Greek Freak is a stud and he’s only 22. As long he’s with the Bucks he will always be their representative for the All-Star game. Plus, being able to guard all five positions is a big help.

New York Knicks: PF Carmelo Anthony

This spot should be Kristaps Porzingis’ spot. He’s slowly becoming the face of the Knicks as Melo and the front office are seemingly at odds with one another. You’d have to think in this spot to keep Melo happy, Lue would pick him in an effort to maybe work out a trade later down the road? Sure it’s just an All Star game but snubbing Melo could hurt the Cavs in the bigger picture. 

Orlando Magic: SG Evan Fournier 

Not exactly much to choose from in Orlando. Aaron Gordon was supposed to take that next step this season but hasn’t. So hopefully he enjoys that dunk contest for another season. I’ll take Fournier and his scoring ability here. Just whatever you do, DO NOT Google his last name. You have been Warned.

Philadelphia 76ers: C Joel Embiid 

Who else would it be? Not only was Embiid worth the wait, he’s funny as hell too. Plus, I can’t remember the last time the Sixers had an All-Star. Who better than Embiid to break the strea? Not to mention an All Star bid whould almost certainly help his DM game, where it all goes down.

Toronto Raptors: SG DeMar DeRozen

DeRozen can score from anywhere on the floor and has slowly built himself into one of the more underrated superstars in the NBA. If he played in a bigger market, we would never shut up about him but you know, Canada.

Washington Wizards: PG John Wall

Averaging a double-double and leading the Wizards to a current 5th seed in the East. Wall might just be the fastest player in the NBA. You take Wall over Beal in this spot so Lue wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on Dragic. Plus it’s John Wall look at that Swag.

Now on to the Western Conference All Stars: 
Dallas Mavericks: SF Harrison Barnes

He’s the best player on a bad team, so I think Kerr goes with Barnes especially given their Golden State connection. Not to mention had Barnes stayed in the Bay Area he would never make an Star game. Interesting thought, I could see Cuban paying off Barnes to defer the spot to Dirk given their bromance.
Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic

I know what you are saying “Oh that’s what he looks like.” Almost went Gallinari here but Jokic is having a better overall season for the surprisingly decent Nuggets, who are currently in the playoffs. Nuggets fans should expect him to play on this West roster.
Golden State Warriors: SF Kevin Durant

This is were this MLB idea gets interesting. You have Kerr coaching and picking the team. Kerr has to choose between the two-time MVP who won him a title, or his hot new All-Star who is the second-best player in the NBA. Of course you go with Durant. he hasn’t missed a step ànd has became even more efficient in Kerr’s Offense. Tell you wouldn’t tune into an All Star Selection show and watch Kerr sweat out this decision.

Houston Rockets: PG James Harden

The Beard is having one of his best seasons of his career. Harden has not only improved offensively but he’s making everyone around him better while leading the lead in assists. It wouldn’t be an All-Star game without Harden. He may be the first athlete to survive the Kardashian Kurse, because obviously you spell it with a K in this situation.

Los Angeles Clippers: C DeAndre Jordan

Sure he’s the team’s 6th-leading scorer, but he dominates the glass and the paint. His 13-plus rebounds a game is stellar. He’s been the most consistent Clipper this season and this All-Star nod is well deserved. Plus those alley oops will look filthy.

Los Angeles Lakers:  PG Lou Williams

The Lakers are full of young potential but it’s the veteran Williams who has been the best player on the bad team, so he gets the Lakers’ spot. Lucky for the Lakers under this format they even get a player. Side note, this would be the first non-Kobe All-Star for the team since forever.
Memphis Grizzlies:  PG Mike Conley Jr.

Can I pick an All-Star based on a contract? Sure I can, it’s my fantasy. Conley is the highest-paid player in the NBA. Sure, Marc Gasol is overall the best player on the team but in this game quick players matter with all the star power on the floor.

Minnesota Timberwolves: C Karl-Anthony Towns

One of the best young players in the game, if not the best. Should have been an All-Star already, but under the old format it’s hard to break though. The T-Wolves are a team on the rise in my eyes and it starts with Towns. Should be an All-Star for years to come just like former Wolves Great Kevin Garnett. 

New Orleans Pelicans: C Anthony Davis

This is possibly the easiest player to pick for a team. Poor Davis has hardly anything around him and still puts up monster numbers. If there is ever a possession in which Davis doesn’t touch the ball, the coach should be fired on the spot. Hell, I’d throw him the ball while he is on the bench like Daffy Duck did in Space Jam.

Oklahoma City Thunder: PG Russell Westbrook

Should be starting in the actual game. He’s averaging a triple-double. Let me repeat that, A DAMN TRIPLE DOUBLE! Yes, he’s the best option on the Thunder after KD bailed for Golden State. If he can somehow continue this pace and make the playoffs, he will be winning more than my All-Star vote.

Phoneix Suns: SG Devin Booker

The young and exciting Booker is on the rise and regarded as one of the best young players in the game. His shooting touch would be awesome for the All-Star game.

Portland Trail Blazers: PG Damian Lillard

I’ll do something the NBA couldn’t this season and make Damian Lillard an All-Star. At the time of writing this, Lillard is averaging 26 a game and not to mention he is a very popular player throughput the league.

Sacramento Kings: C DeMarcus Cousins

Boogie, love him or hate him, is the marquee player on the Kings. He should be an All-Star every season, as he is hands down the best center in the league, but his basket case like tendencies rub a lot of people the wrong way. It’s time for him and Sac-town to part ways, so Boogie better be picky with his next team as this format only allows for one All-Star and you know Boogie loves his shine. As you can see Boogie isn’t pleased.

San Antonio Spurs: SF Kawhi Lenoard 

With Duncan gone and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker on the decline, this is now his team and he has filled the role perfectly, averaging 25 points a game. Just like his predecessor Duncan, Kawhi let’s his game do the talking for him, which is a nice change of pace in this look-at-me era of the NBA.

Utah Jazz: SF Gordan Hayward

For you casual basketball fans, if you haven’t noticed, the Utah Jazz are good! I know, crazy right? But check the standings. The baby-faced Hayward got paid big bucks and has been enjoying a career year. Proof that a beard and a hair cut can change a man(see below) but Heyward will always be the guy in the picture above to me. 

Well there you have it Bizzle’s Dumb Idea in its entirety!

Which side would you take in this format? Do you think I overlooked a player more deserving than the one I picked? Well, let us know!

Bizzle’s Dumb Idea: NBA All-Star Game Edition

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #28 Minnesota Twins

#28 – Minnesota Twins (70-92) in 2014, my 2015 projection (72-90)

This team summary is going to be slightly more positive than my previous two, as I view the Minnesota Twins as a team trending in the right direction.  I’m not here to crush everyone’s hopes and dreams.  I have some concerns with this team, but there’s also a lot to be excited about.  I’ll start with the concerns, as they pertain to both the Twins immediate situation and the challenges they will face moving forward.

The Twins have some bad contracts, and as a small market team, bad contracts can severely limit Minnesota’s options to build around the core talent they’ve assembled.  Joe Mauer still has 4-years, at $23 million per year, remaining on his 8-year, $184 million extension.  That’s the type of financial commitment that can cripple of a mid-to-small market team if the player doesn’t produce to his expected value.  Unfortunately, that’s what we’re seeing with Joe Mauer, as injuries leading to position change, and possibly some regression with the bat, have lead to Mauer’s decline from one of the best Catchers this generation, to a Major League average First Baseman.  The Twins also have a total of $25.5 million per year committed to the pitching combination of Ervin Santana (signed through 2018) and Ricky Nolasco (signed through 2017).  Combined with the money owed Joe Mauer, that’s $48.5 million per year(of a $100 million ML payroll), through at least 2017, committed to three players who project for roughly 6.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2015.  To the Yankees, that’s business as usual.  To the Twins, that’s a lot to absorb and remain competitive.

As for the positives, Baseball Prospectus ranked the Twins Farm System #4 in 2013, #1 in 2014, and #2 in 2015.  Not only do the Twins have an impressive amount of organizational depth, but the high-end talent that has headlined the Twins prospect rankings over these past 3 years is nearing the Major Leagues.  The amount of impact talent in this organization is pretty staggering.  It’s almost impossible, even with some of the financial limitations this organization may face, to imagine this Twins team not competing for Central Division titles beginning in 2016.  The 2016 Minnesota Twins may be next year’s version of the young and exciting Chicago Cubs team everyone is wound up for this season.

Hitters to watch: Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia, and Danny Santana.  These three young players need to play every day they are physically able so the Twins can have a firm grasp on exactly what they have heading into 2016.  Vargas is a 1st Base/DH (best suited as a DH), switch-hitter, with power.  The question will be if he hits for enough average to claim the full-time DH job moving forward.  I think .250 is a reasonable expectation, and I imagine the Twins would be satisfied with that if comes with 20+ homers.  Arcia, a left-handed hitting, corner outfielder, faces nearly identical challenges.  The power is there, smacking 20 homers in 2014, in just 410 ABs.  For the Twins to hand him a full-time job, Arcia must improve his .231 batting average, starting with his dismal .198 average against LHP.  If he can push that average against LHP to at least .230, he’s going to be a valuable player for the Twins moving forward.  If he can’t, he can still provide some value as platoon guy, much in the Matt Joyce mold.  Danny Santana burst on to the scene in 2014, hitting .319 with 7 homers and 20 Steals.  Santana might be biggest regression candidate entering 2015, as his 2014 totals were lifted by an unsustainable .405 BABIP.  The question is, how far will the average fall?  If he can set a new baseline between .260-.270, he can be a useful contributor.  If it falls closer to .240-.250, he’s going to lose the job to Eduardo Escobar, another temporary solution at SS.  If the Twins fall out of contention early, I’d also like to get an extended look at Catcher, Yosmil Pinto.  He’s shown some impressive skills with the bat, for a Catcher, but questions about his defense behind the plate may push him off the position.  His offensive tools don’t play as well at 1st Base or DH.  The Twins may want to answer those questions about his defense and find out if he’s going to be a possibility behind the plate before 2016 arrives.

Pitcher to watch: Just one….. Phil Hughes.  Personally, I’m a believer.  I think Hughes can repeat, and possibly even improve on his impressive 2014 season.  If the Twins hope to contend at all in 2015 and beyond, Hughes must be the Ace.  The Twins have pitching depth, but most of their young arms are mid-to-back of the rotation guys.  They can’t afford to go out and sign a top of the rotation free-agent.  They need Phil Hughes to be that guy.  It’s unlikely Hughes, an extreme fly ball pitcher, will repeat his incredible 0.69 BB/9, or his 0.69 HR/9 (with a 6.2% HR/FB rate), but it’s possible he’ll see improvement with his BABIP against, which may offset some regression elsewhere.  I think it’s completely within reason to expect Hughes to post a 200-inning, sub-3.50 ERA season.  If he delivers on that, the Twins have a phenomenal deal on the 5-year, $58 million extension Hughes signed in December.

3/17/2015 – Ryan Perry, @OCBrooks7 on Twitter

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #28 Minnesota Twins

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #29 Arizona Diamondbacks

#29 – Arizona Diamondbacks (64-98) in 2014, my 2015 projection (71-91)

The good news: Tony La Russa isn’t drunk, asleep at the wheel of his Florida SUV.  The bad news for Diamondbacks fans: Tony La Russa is, in my opinion, drunk, asleep at the wheel of your organization.  Since the Diamondbacks hired La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer in May of last year, to oversee the baseball operations department, TLR has bizarrely hired several of his friends to various positions in the D’Backs organization.  Dave Stewart, a former player of La Russa’s, who was working as a player agent, was hired as GM, to work directly under TLR.  Chip Hale, who had crossed paths with Stewart and La Russa as Bench Coach for the A’s, was hired as Manager.  Dr. Ed Lewis, 66-year-old former veterinarian was hired to lead the Diamondbacks analytics department.  The early outlook is not great.  The Diamondbacks signed 24-year-old Cuban import, Yasmany Tomas, to a 6-year, $68.5 million deal, then threatened to play him at Third Base.  The verdict is still out on his bat, though it’s concerning he struck out more often than he walked in the Cuban Serie Nacional, a league soft in pitching.  The one report on Tomas in which everyone seems to agree, he’s not going to be able to pull off Third Base.  That potentially gives the team a pair of corner outfielders, in Tomas and Trumbo, who project similarly, with good power, poor contact skills, and questionable defense.  The D’Backs also raised some question marks trading away two prospects to land Starting Pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson, coming off a disastrous 2013, and injury-plagued 2014 with the Rays.  Hellickson, a fly-ball pitcher, often had trouble keeping the ball in the yard in pitcher-friendly Tampa.  The move to Chase Field, combined with the Diamondbacks corner outfield defense, isn’t likely to help his numbers.  The fact the Diamondbacks front office keeps suggesting they expect this team to immediately compete, combined with there being no clear direction or trend to any of the moves this team has made in the last year and a half, all suggests to me this team might be looking in a new direction, someone to clean up La Russa’s mess, within another year or two.

Hitters to watch: Is Paul Goldschmidt too obvious?  If that name isn’t obvious, google him.  There’s enough out there that you don’t need to hear about him from me.  I love A.J. Pollock.  Offensively, he’s not great at anything, but he’s good at everything.  Defensively, he could be one of the best Center Fielders in the game.  He should be headlining that Arizona outfield for a least a few more seasons.  At shortstop, I like Chris Owings.  Like a poor man’s A.J. Pollock, Owings is very good defensively, and does enough to contribute offensively.  He’s one of those guys who’s a much better real-life player than fantasy player, so he’ll always be a bit under the radar.  I’m also interested in Outfielder, Ender Inciarte, though his role is uncertain.  He’s another player who’s value is mostly tied to his defense.  I think there’s still some question if Inciarte can provide enough offensive value to keep him in the lineup.  The trouble is, he may not get the opportunity to show us his value, because, if Tomas is forced to the Outfield, Inciarte dips to 5th on the D’Backs depth chart.

Pitchers to watch: This is where the team will struggle the most.  I’m not a believer in Hellickson, Vidal Nuno, or Addison Reed.  I think Opening Day starter, Josh Collmenter, is probably better suited for a role in the bullpen.  It’s going to be rough.  As a positive note, I like Patrick Corbin, currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and due back mid-season.  I also think the Diamondbacks have some interesting arms that could contribute at the back end of the rotation or the bullpen.  Rubby de la Rosa, Chase Anderson, and Allen Webster have all shown promise and possess tools to be successful Major Leaguers.  I’m particularly fond of Anderson, 27-years old, who may have the least impressive stuff of the three young pitchers, but has had the most encouraging results.  There is some depth in the bullpen.  Addison Reed, Brad Ziegler, Oliver Perez, Evan Marshall, Matt Reynolds, and Randall Delgado are all usable Relievers.  However, I wouldn’t expect any of them to be much better than average.  A below average rotation backed up by an average bullpen is going to make it a long year for Diamondbacks fans.

3/16/2015 – Ryan Perry, @OCBrooks7 on Twitter

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #29 Arizona Diamondbacks

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #30 Philadelphia Phillies

#30 – Philadelphia Phillies (73-89) in 2014, my 2015 projection (67-95)

When Ruben Amaro Jr. took over the GM responsibilities in 2009, after serving a decade as Assistant General Manager, he was taking over a Phillies team, largely assembled by Ed Wade and Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, coming off their first World Series Title in 28 years. The Phillies have been on a steady decline ever since. Amaro has often scoffed at the use of analytics, been combative with the Sabermetrics community, and even criticized other front offices for being unrealistic and overvaluing prospects.  All the while, the other 29 organizations watch on as the Phillies sit on declining, overpriced veterans as Amaro waits for an offer that allows the Phillies to ‘win the deal’ in his eyes. This team isn’t going to compete in 2015. It’s clearly time to tear down this Phillies team and start a rebuild, but many question if Amaro is the man to oversee that process. In July 2014, ran a poll, with over 10,000 votes recorded, asking Phillies fans if Amaro should ‘stay or go’ with just a touch under 94% of the voters wanting Amaro to go. That’s high even for Philadelphia standards. If Amaro wants any shot at retaining this position, the Phillies need to move some of these veteran contracts this season, and show fans they’re progressing towards building another contender in Philadelphia.

Hitters to watch: One eye needs to be kept on Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the two most obvious candidates in the Phillies lineup to be traded.  Now that Amaro has waited for the season to begin, he needs both players to play well and stay healthy for the Phillies to expect anything of value in return for the two remaining stars of the 2008 Championship team.  The other eye needs to be focused on the Phillies future.  The one hitter on the current Philadelphia 40-man roster that I could see being a significant contributor for the next contending Phillies team is Maikel Franco.  The 22-year old corner infielder has flashed impressive power throughout the Minors, smacking 31 homers across two stops (High-A and Double-A) in 2013, and 16 homers at Triple-A in 2014, at just 21 years of age.  Franco doesn’t have particularly strong plate discipline, but makes up for it with higher than normal contact rates for someone with his power.  It’s reasonable to think, if he can gain a slightly better understanding of the strike zone, he can make solid contact with more consistency and unlock the power he flashed in the lower minors and be a 25-homer guy in the Majors.  That’s a valuable commodity in today’s offense starved environment.

Pitchers to watch: Again, like with Howard and Utley, one eye needs to be kept on Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, two popular trade targets.  The greater the early season performance, the greater the potential trade return.  As far pitchers likely to be with the team past August 1, Jake Diekman (28) and Ken Giles (24) are two very exciting arms in the Phillies bullpen.  The Lefty/Righy combination has been dominant at times, both posting strikeout rates well over a batter per inning.  With the year-to-year performance and health of relief pitchers being extremely volatile, the Phillies have an interesting decision to make with these two power bullpen arms.  Do you hold on to both, hoping they’ll still be effective, late-game relievers when this team is once again ready to compete?  Or, do you decide dominant bullpen arms are a luxury not necessary for a rebuilding team, and flip them now, while both may be at their peak value, for pieces that could potentially accelerate the rebuilding process?  It’s an easy decision for me to make, from the safety of my couch, behind this computer screen.  It’s a more difficult decision for members of a front office, who’s jobs are on the line when making decisions like this.

3/13/2015 – Ryan Perry, @OCBrooks7 on Twitter

MLB Power Rankings/Team Preview Series – #30 Philadelphia Phillies