Thursday, June 23, 2011

NBA Draft Preview: Beware of Kahn Bearing Draft Picks

Much like a loyal fan of a mediocre small-market franchise, I hunt draft articles voraciously for Derrick Williams speculation. It's rare that an NBA team with a top 3 draft pick so obviously invites trade offers. And even more tempting, the Timberwolves GM is supposedly one of the weakest in the NBA. The temptation of trading overrated big-name veterans for Williams must be overwhelming. But that's not as safe a bet as you may think.

However, before you become convinced that your team needs Derrick, the NBA draft of 25 years ago offers a sobering reminder of how such trades can pan out. And no, I don't mean Len Bias. The 76'ers thought they were giving Julius Erving one last chance at a championship by acquiring Roy Hinson from the Cavaliers in exchange for the #1 pick. Please do read this 1986 article on the deal. Cleveland was in total disarray, and had a part-time scout (Gregory) playing general manager because the GM had been fired. Half the NBA was trying to fool Cleveland into giving away Hinson. Gregory was so out of his league, he freely admits to the paper that "It was like when a sergeant gets killed in a war, and the private takes over." His reasoning about why he traded Hinson is extremely simplistic, as he randomly babbles about Daughtery's hands as a major reason for acquiring Brad Daughtery.

Hinson as well sounds like the perfect opportunity for the 76'ers to reload and take down Boston. He was willing to defer to the established stars on the Sixers. Imagine the pairing that Hinson (20 and 8 in Cleveland the year before) could have been with Barkley. George Karl, Roy Hinson's former coach, was so sure of Hinson's skill that he said
"Someday, he will play in an All-Star game. I've been wrong about other things in the past, but I don't think I'm wrong about that."

That said, I still think a team we haven't heard of yet will swoop in and trade for Derrick Williams at the last moment. Also, what kind of draft piece is this if I'm leaving out baseless, uninformed speculation? I apologize. The opportunity to balance out a team that has its best players all at about the same age is too tempting to pass up. It's complicated because many of the teams with depth have it at the point guard spot (San Antonio, Oklahoma City, etc.). However, I thought of a few candidates.

Think, for example, of the Memphis Grizzlies, who have the Conley-Gay-Mayo-Gasol group all closely linked together in terms of resign dates. Memphis has steadfastly promised they would not trade Gay, but how can they avoid doing so if they want to keep Gasol? Or even, believe it or not, the Dallas Mavericks, although they have very few real assets under their control long-term other than Dirk. Mark Cuban does adore his veterans, but there's a sort of simple logic in one of the oldest teams in the league making a deal with one of the youngest teams in the league. I think the Lakers are a terrible fit, but what about (wince) the Los Angeles Clippers? The Clippers offer of Kaman for Beasley and Flynn was rejected, but I wonder if Eric Gordon could be available. (He would have to be signed to an extension, however). The matchup problems that a Williams-Griffin combination would present are quite tempting. Finally, I realized that the New York Knicks are...oh please don't tell me you thought I was serious. Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Terrelle Pryor's Value Too Low?

I read an article on Sports Illustrated web-site that ripped Terrelle Pryor's QB abilities. Don Banks, a good writer, valued Pryor as only being worth a 5th or 6th round draft pick in the upcoming supplemental draft. I might agree with Don if Terrelle had come out for the regular NFL draft. But I think that actually, some team will bid a low 3rd round or high 4th round pick for Pryor, due to some exceptional circumstances Don may have not considered.

Leverage in dealing for Kevin Kolb. Teams like the Cardinals are desperate for a quarterback, and are forced to wait until the lockout ends to try to deal for a new quarterback. If such a team can acquire Pryor, it creates the illusion of more depth at the quarterback spot. Such a team can then claim that they can get by with a veteran retread for a few years while waiting for Pryor to develop. This forces the Eagles to lower their price. If acquiring Pryor for a 4 means that a team need only offer the Eagles two second-round draft picks instead of including a first-round draft pick, it's well-worth it.

Added buzz for ticket sales for a dull team. After the lockout ends, teams may struggle selling tickets, especially if that team already had a bad reputation. The Bills, for example, had a smart draft where they avoided taking a QB and decided to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick for now. However, Bills fans are very impatient with the team's losing style and lack of playmakers. Or, take Cincinnati, a team that had to blackout games last year. Think that such a team won't be tempted to take Pryor to boost ticket sales and lure in a few Buckeyes fans? It will also help create more competition for Dalton at a relatively cheap price.

Added playmaker for unconventional offenses. If the Dolphins were willing to spend a second-round pick on Pat White, why not spend a fourth-round pick on Pryor? For run-first teams with immobile, strong-armed QB's, why not bring in Pryor as an additional weapon? Yes, it's not exactly clear where Pryor best fits, whether QB or wide-out. But it's clear he has above-average skills. And that's enough to intrigue talent evaluators, who foam at the mouth at transition talents like Tebow, Matt Jones, Pat White, and others. Somewhere, there's a GM or coach who thinks they can use Pryor as a secret weapon, and they'll see him as a bargain.

The deceitfulness of scarcity. Imagine you are an NFL GM. The draft is over. You can't sign any undrafted free agents. You have next to nothing to do. There is literally ONE player in all of football that you can acquire. Don't you think some bored GM is talking himself into Terrelle Pryor as we speak, cackling as he thinks he will get an edge on the rest of the league? We all become bargain hunters when we think we got the last item on the shelf. Expect that instinct to persuade at least one GM to pay big for Terrelle Pryor.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blogger Bias and The Curious Case of Deadspin's SportsWriting Fixation

Many bloggers justifiably complain about the way journalists treat us like children stuck in our mother's basement. But bloggers turn around and commit their own crime against sportswriters by insisting that every column sportswriters write must contain nothing but sports content. Heaven help the sportswriter who tries to write about something that doesn't involve a ball. Sportswriters are single-minded idiot-savants who are only capable of game recaps and sports cliches. Don't believe me about this bias? Let's take some Deadspin columns as an example.

Yesterday's debut of Tom Scocca at contained the usual blogger initiation ritual of painstakingly proving why yet another writer is not bloggerly enough. (Naturally, I intend to follow him through the looking glass. Hypocrisy duly noted.) He dragged out Deadspin's Barbaro, err, favorite dead horse for yet another beating.

Tom decided to lecture us all on the dastardly sin of a writer not writing about sports. He assumes that we are all on Deadspin to read about sports, not his life. Tom clearly underestimates my desire to waste time by any means that won't get me fired, but I appreciate his high estimation of my principles. I'm also totally taking that yoga class just to improve my health. It's strange that as Deadspin contains less and less sports content (and higher and higher pageviews), they still fail to realize the trend elsewhere. Yes, I'll read about a sportswriter's life, if it's interesting and the alternative is a derivative game recap I've read elsewhere. Why wouldn't I?

Tom then asks us "In the week when the Mavericks were putting together the most unexpected Finals triumph since the Billups-Wallace-Wallace Pistons beat the Lakers, who needed an essay telling the story of how Wright Thompson dreamed of growing up to be a Writer and drinking in the Big City?" For Tom, Wright Thompson's major crime appears to be that he has not joined the herd of sportswriters using second-rate psychology and thinly disguised stereotypes to write the 10000th column about the NBA Finals. Wright Thompson is not writing about sports. Thus Wright Thompson must be lectured by Deadspin to be more sports-focused. Why?

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but at some time Deadspin decided to kindly mentor confused writers and keep them focused on sportswriting. They are not alone in this, but I've noticed it so often that I started keeping track. A brief history of Deadspin's odd fixation with not allowing sportwriters to have any non-sports fun follows. I'll allow much of it to stand alone without commentary, and eagerly await your explanation as to why this tendency exists.

One of my favorite examples is this article by Jack Dickey admonishing writers for mentioning their own Japan experiences in articles. A sportswriter writes about the Japan disaster and mentions that she once lived in Tokyo as the reason for her interest in the story. But the defense of a writer wondering if her friends died isn't enough to dissuade Jack from bringing this non-sports writing monster to justice. He writes "But she is exploiting the disaster for her own ends just as surely as Pondexter was, even if their means of expression differ." Exploiting! As everyone knows, mentioning a hot news story on a low-traffic sports site is the ultimate SEO bait. There's no way such an article would get buried under 126234 CNN news stories. So Dickey's main problem is that a sportswriter writing about a non-sports topic would get more pageviews than usual? Interesting.

"Mitch Albom Is The Greatest Writer Who Occasionally Writes About Sports" (Title)
"He abandoned the art of lyrical game stories and statistical sidebars to write nu-religion feel-good-about-feeling-bad fiction and there's no reason that anyone else shouldn't follow him." --Dashiell Bennett

"Big Ben’s Woman Problems The Result Of Stunted Psychosexual Development, Says Guy Who Writes About Sports" --Tommy Craggs

"You might have noticed that this is more accurately a list of things that distract Bill Plaschke. Distract him, a sports writer, from having to come up with actual sports things to write about. Lamar Odom won't play poorly because he went on TV, and he won't overcome the adversity of said TV show to play well." "Barry Petchesky"

"Yes, Gladwell is an effortless writer who manages to only occasionally sound like a PowerPoint slide. And yes, he clearly knows his sports. But to say he might be our best sportswriter is to suggest he is, in fact, writing about sports, which he most definitely isn't. Sports are incidental to him, just the front end of another in a long series of tedious analogies, as often as not to management culture (basketball is batch processing!). As it is, we're up to our bow ties in slumming dilettantes seeking out tiny epiphanies in sports. The last thing we need is to start anointing another." --Tommy Craggs

So why are bloggers, particularly Deadspin, so angry when sportswriters fail to stick to sports? I thought Barry's words about Page 2 well-described why I like it when sportswriters do not stick to sports. I look forward to your comments as to why bloggers keep insisting sportswriters only talk about sports.
"But to do it with humor, to give talented writers a sandbox where they wouldn't be beholden to typical rules was something new. Remember, at this point, a web site was seen as a newspaper on a computer. It's not a stretch to say Page 2 was a muse for a generation of sports bloggers, unconstrained by the need to write a nutgraph, or even about sports at all. It was a template of irreverence." --Barry Petchesky