Monday, June 30, 2008

Baron Opts Out: What Now?

To the surprise of everyone who follows the NBA, Baron Davis is walking away from $17.8 million in hopes of netting a long term term contract. The should be all-star PG is obviously trying to cash in on playing 82 games. The first time he has done so since the 01-02 season. He realizes the chance of him repeating this feat is slim. For that reason coupled with him posting all-star numbers, he opted out.
Baron, along with agent Todd Ramasar, realized the market wasn't in their favor. However, they found out that their was a team which Baron would not mind playing for who could give Baron what he wants: The Clippers. Whether those conversations were within NBA rules is a story for another day.
So now Baron has a suitor, what is Mullin to do? He can sign him, trade him or allow him to leave without receiving anything in return. If the decision was mine I would choose to trade the disgruntled former employee. My first choice would be to seek a double sign-and-trade with the Clippers for Elton Brand. Though, I believe the Clippers would prefer to sign both Brand and Davis (something which the Clippers are capable of doing). Therefore, I propose the Warriors engage in a three-team deal involving the Nuggets and Pistons. The Warriors give the Nuggets that PG would they have desperately coveted the past few years in return for Carmelo Anthony. The Warriors then send Anthony along with others (most likely including Al Harrington) to the Pistons for Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups. The Warriors may also just decide to plan for the future and keep Anthony, deferring the next few seasons to the Lakers and Spurs. This actually is not a bad idea. A team with a nucleus of Ellis, Anthony, Wright, Randolph and Biedrins sounds mighty tempting. But I see the Mullin preferring to contend now while the Blazers aren't dominating the West and choosing to pursue Billups and Wallace.
While all these trade options sound great, unfortunately for the Warriors, Baron is an unrestricted free-agent, meaning the ball is in his court. Warriors' fans, prepare yourselves for a very interesting next few weeks.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Recapping the Warriors' Draft

Overall, it is safe to say that the Warriors had a successful draft given that they had the 14th and 49th picks of the draft. The Warriors' first selection, Anthony Randolph, is tall, thin and athletic, three qualities Warriors GM Chris Mullin appears to covet in his first round draft choices (see Andris Biedrins and Brandan Wright). Though despite Randolph's feather-like frame, he has the potential to be a star in the league. Think Lamar Odom, but better. Mullin envisions Randolph to be the small forward in his starting lineup of the future which already includes Monta Ellis, Marco Belinelli, Wright and Biedrins. Sounds like a dominant teams as long as they all reach their full potential (which is a big "if").
As for the Warriors second selection of this year's draft, Richard Hendrix, the Warriors may have acquired the steal of the second round. Hendrix possesses the body and skills to be a Paul Milsap at worst and a Carlos Boozer at best. Not bad for a 49th pick. In addition, Hendrix provides the Warriors with a powerful body who can bang with the big boys, something which the Warriors are in desperate need of. If Hendrix turns out to be a steal, don't be surprised because Mullin has a nice track record when it comes to drafting second round talent.
Could the Warriors have done better in selecting their first two draft choices? Probably not as the Warriors drafted the best talent available for both their picks. But if the Warriors wanted to take that extra step to improve their draft, they could have. The Warriors could have traded up to snag Jarryd Bayless, who would have potentially provided the Warriors with their point guard of the future. Something which would ease the pain of Baron Davis' inevitable departure (which I feel will occur sooner rather than later). Or if Mullin was not sold on Jarryd's point guard skills, then he could have easily acquired Mario Chalmers to be a steady PG of the future.
Though let us not dwell on the negatives and focus on the positives. Ultimately, Randolph and Hendrix provide the Warriors two more potentially strong pieces to add to their team of the future. Not bad Mullie.

Friday, June 6, 2008

McFadden signs!

Well Al Davis can actually learn from a mistake. Who would have known? The crypt keeper looking owner has signed his rookie running back to six years and sixty million. He signed McFadden much sooner, about five months sooner, than he did JaMarcus last year. In addition, that sounds like a fair contract for both sides. This move is a good one, especially when considering what AD has done this offseason, which consisted of him greatly overpaying for the likes of Tommy Kelly, Kwame Harris, Javon Walker, Gibril Wilson and DeAngelo Hall. Well done Al.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rowand's success

Aaron Rowand has been worth every penny of his once thought to be over-priced contract. As of Thursday, Rowand is on pace to hit .341 with 21 HR's and 95 RBI's. These numbers are similar to his numbers last season with one exception, he is hitting nearly 40 points better. Amazing for a guy whose numbers last season were supposedly inflated due to the fact he played half of his games in Philadelphia's park which is more fit for little leaguers. As for Rowand's defense, it is where the Giants envisioned it to be when they signed him to the big contract. In addition, his clubhouse presence has been immense in assisting the younger players' adjustment to the major league level. With these numbers, expect Rowand to be an all-star this year.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Does JaMarcus have it in him?

When Al Davis and Co. drafted Darren McFadden to play behind JaMarcus Russell, they envisioned the duo to be equivalent in talent and success to John Elway and Terrell Davis or any other great and successful QB-RB duo. While McFadden has the speed, agility and strength to run his way to Canton, Russell most likely will follow the path of Ryan Leaf. Ok, I admit that statement may be unduly harsh. JaMarcus didn't exactly throw fifteen interceptions to go along with his two touchdown passes as Leaf did in his rookie season. Let me try to compare the quarterback to another major bust: Tim Couch. Couch, the former number one pick by the Cleavland Browns, had a 73.2 quarterback rating, just under twenty points better than that of Russell's during his rookie campaign. No, that comparison doesn't work either since Couch didn't have the strength, size and mobility which Russell exhibits, making Russell more likely to be a successful quarterback. I'll give this one more shot: Daunte Culpepper. Yup, I think that is a perfect comparison. Daunte and JaMarcus are equals when it comes to strength, size, mobility, accuracy and decision-making. While the first three qualities are positives, the latter two are negatives. If you are wondering how Daunte managed to be successful without accuracy and decision-making skills I have a two-word answer for you: Randy Moss. And unfortunately for JaMarcus, Moss slacked his way out of town. So unless you have one of the all-time greatest wide receivers catching your mistakes, those are qualities needed to succeed as a quarterback. If you don't believe me just look at how well Culpepper did in Miami and Oakland (and don't give me the injury excuse because he has had three years to heal).
Judging from Russell's performance last year, he lacks the accuracy and decision-making skills to measure up to the league's elite quarterbacks, two qualities Culpepper yearned for but never obtained. I understand that Russell began practicing late into the season due to the contract dispute so he lost precious time to learn the game. Decision-making skills will improve with experience. Though, how much can he really improve an aspect of his game which is so awful. Russell has a strong tendency to throw into double coverage and lock onto his primary target. As for Russell's accuracy, it has suffered due to Russell's preference to use solely his wrist when throwing the ball as opposed to also using his feet to step into his throws. Both of these problems were major issues during his collegiate days at LSU and during the NFL Combine. His decision-making ability and accuracy have not improved much since then, so I don't see a major jump in the professional level where his competition level is much greater. These deficiencies are fixable but it will take strong work ethic which, quite frankly, I don't believe he possesses.
Though, it is possible and if it does occur, expect a player superior to Culpepper during his Minnesota days (the last time we saw a healthy Culpepper). So, cross your fingers Raiders' fans and pray to your eye-patch wearing Gods that he works his butt off in order to turn his weaknesses into strengths. Until then, McFadden must put the offense on his back and find a way to carry them into the playoffs.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not so big Giants

Brian Sabean, the Isiah Thomas of MLB decision making, believes the Giants can compete this year. Unfortunately, I must respectfully disagree. In a season which was supposed to be reminiscent of a rotting fish, is not quite that, but still close enough to give off that foul odor which those things do so well. The Giants are currently a whopping nine games under .500. Sure they are in 3rd place in the West, which last year meant being a game away from making the playoffs. However, it's highly dubious that that can be considered some sort of accomplishment when the teams below you are tied for the fewest wins in the majors, and you're only one win greater.
The Giants' current struggles stem from their inability, past and present, to provide their minor league system with young talent, in an era where it appears that in order to be successful one must have an abundance of good, young talent (See Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Cubs, Rays, Angels, Marlins, etc.). The horrid gamble by Sabean and Magowan that age and experience was the recipe for success led to the depletion of the minor league system. That gamble, coupled with their failure to draft half-decent position players, has led to their current dire state. Early on these mistakes were covered by the blanket of success. However, since the Giants began there descend to the bottom cellar of the baseball world, which already included the likes of the Royals, Pirates and Nationals, these mistakes have never been so transparent.
Instead of mitigating the damages, the Sabean-Magowan duo tacked on to it in a major way: Locking up Barry Zito for seven years and $126 million. The Zito signing was highly questionable, especially considering the left-hander was getting progressively worse since 2002. My theory for why they made the signing is that it was a feeling of nostalgia for signing a player named "Barry" to a record contract.
When the Giants finally realized that they were driving their franchise into the ground, which unfortunately did not happen until after the 2007 season, it was too late. The team was already stockpiled with had-beens and never-will-be's. There are only a handful of players worth having: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina and Fred Lewis. Some players look promising, but the jury is still out on them: Brian Wilson, Jonathon Sanchez, Noah Lowry and Merkin Valdez.
Sure the pitching looks good, but that won't mean anything until the team can score enough runs to win games. The Giants have only recently begun to add relevant hitters to their minor league system. However, these hitters are at least two years away from contributing. By then, Molina will most likely be gone and Rowand will be near the twilight of his career. So, barring beneficial offensive additions through free agency, there is a significant chance that in three years the hitting may be exactly where they are today. One may believe that signing free agents should not be too difficult for a franchise with the park, tradition and money such as that of which the Giants possess. However, the modern approach to dealing with good, young hitters has been to sign them early and sign them cheap, delaying their free agent status for several years. The optimist may argue that the Giants can trade for their offense. That would be an ingenious idea if there were players in the organization other teams would want besides Lincecum and Cain, but there aren't.
So what should the Giants do? Well the first thing they can do is stop playing the elders who are irrelevant to the team's future, such as Winn, Vizquel, Durham, Aurilia. I suspect the Giants are attempting to showcase them in order to use these guys as trade bait come July. Though it is doubtful that anybody decent may be obtained in return. So, replace these guys with the kids and see which ones can play and produce on a consistent basis. Once the year has ended, decide who are keepers and who are not. Then do the exact same thing next year, while at the same time looking for free agents and those who may be acquired through trade to help. It may take three to four years before the Giants can be successful again, but this is the path the Sabean-Magowan duo chose through their inauspicious moves. Until then, the best the organization can hope for is fielding a mediocre team. Boy, the near future is looking bright for the team in the Bay.