So, in a surprising trade move, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings pulled off a big one, with New Orleans getting DeMarcus Cousins and Sacramento getting back Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, and Langston Galloway. So let's look at the move. Did the Pelicans make a splash for future years and making them a big threat in the West? Did the Kings get enough? Does it affect in any manner the rest of the NBA this season? Let's look at it.
New Orleans will have one of the strongest inside presences in the NBA now.
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BOTH TEAMS WON IN THE DEAL: Let's face it: Cousins is the NBA's resident knucklehead. He's been that way since he played at Kentucky. That said, while the Kings tried to keep him in check, the issue was that the Kings couldn't win without him either. But being too combustible on a team like Sacramento is not good for the team. And they brought back a veteran (Evans) as well as a rookie shooter, who if you give more minutes to, can play a strong role (Hield) and another guy to add depth (Galloway). Evans is coming back off of knee surgery so the stats look a bit hindered, but he can still help and probably play a stronger role in Sacramento as can Hield. They can go small (probably have to now) but it also opens up more time for Willie Cauley-Stein, who can be the new go-to guy down low for Sacramento. As for New Orleans, all the excessive backcourt depth was used to get Cousins, so they could have a fierce tandem down low. But now more pressure will be added on E'Twaun Moore, who is streaky as they get at the shooting spot. They have Jrue Holliday and Tim Frazier (who is serviceable backing up Holliday) at point so that is safe. It is just going to be now New Orleans will really have to win the post wars. And they can really do that now. And it takes pressure off of Davis. But the question will be how well Cousins can keep his cool with the Pelicans. He isn't the guy in New Orleans and if he gets out of line, what will happen? Or will he get out of line? The good news is that he has friend and fellow Kentucky alum Davis there so that might be advantage New Orleans.
Golden State may be glad that Cousins went to New Orleans and not Cleveland.
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THIS TRADE ACTUALLY HELPS OUT THE WARRIORS AND HURTS THE CAVALIERS: I was thinking when LeBron was saying how he wanted another "playmaker" that the Cavs would consider making a deal to get Cousins, especially when Kevin Love went down. And honestly, Cleveland needs somebody down low after that. It seemed to be more of a fit. And I think the Finals was won by Cleveland last year because there was more of a presence down low with their players as opposed to Golden State, who relied on the 3 too much (I still think that by the way). Granted, New Orleans is only 2.5 back of the 8th seed, which means a possible first round match-up between the Pelicans and Warriors. That said, having to go against Cousins and Davis with not as much depth in the backcourt against Curry, Green, and Thompson is more beneficial to Golden State than having to go against Cousins & Love in the finals with a bit more depth in the backcourt in Cleveland.
New Orleans is trying to find ways to keep Davis happy by putting a contending team for him.
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PELICANS MAY GO "ALL-IN" IN 2017-18: If New Orleans gets to the playoffs this year, great. Of course, seeing the Warriors may be their reward. But if they do and give Golden State fits (they just might now), don't be surprised if the Pelicans make some other key moves to improve the lineup for the next season. Depending on what other moves are made, I could see the Pelicans make a strong play for Paul Millsap from Atlanta (free agent to be). And given how Durant is really on a 1-year contract with the Warriors and with both him & Curry likely free agents, it could be an interesting bit with New Orleans if they could net a star (I am definitely NOT saying Curry or Durant would go to New Orleans; if anything quite the opposite). But Cousins has one year left after this year on his contract. Make a splash and get a guy like Millsap and the Pelicans would be in the thick of the West for sure.
If you can't win with Anthony Davis, you may need to get ready for a pink slip.
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ALVIN GENTRY HAS NO ROOM FOR ERROR ANYMORE: It is very hard to think Gentry has been around as a head coach for 20 years (though he has made stints as assistant coach a few times in between his stops in Miami, Detroit, Clippers, and the Suns). But he has only made the playoffs twice in his coaching career and he has coached in 13 seasons (granted some of them he was the replacement or was fired midway through). But the problem is, he has now a team with talent, but he has had difficulties with talented, yet troubled teams in the past. If he can't keep Cousins in check, New Orleans will get a new head coach. In fact, unless the Pelicans roll off 10 in a row after the break, he still may be gone after this year even if they make the playoffs. So Gentry has to make sure everything is a well-oiled machine for the Pelicans to make noise in the West.
Sometimes losing the star player may be beneficial to a team; Sacramento may be that example.
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ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION FOR SACRAMENTO? We know Cousins is a talented player, but he is troubled. But sometimes an environment is tense and people are walking on eggshells regardless of what the case may be. The Kings may have a bit of a learning curve with Cousins gone, but there is some veteran leadership out there so it may not be a problem of filling in the loss of Cousins. Sacramento might play more relaxed and their style of game with Cousins gone and it could create some issues out West.
Overall, this trade works out. Sacramento gets a fresh start with new players and maybe a new ambiance in the locker room and in their new arena. But it also gives Cousins a fresh start elsewhere, where the pressure of being the guy may be taken off and he can play his game. At least that is what the Pelicans are thinking.
Yes, the Big 12, my FAVORITE conference in college football (if you read my posts about the conference over the past 6 months, you know it is ultimate sarcasm). Now I have no love loss for the conference. The style of play from the likes of Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Baylor, etc. among others, I just don't think that is a winning formula in college football. If you're scoring 50+ points and LOSING, then something is wrong with the style of play. People can argue the conference just has great skilled players on offense that just gives defenses fits, but when the out-of-conference games happen early on, the Big 12 struggles against the likes of the other powers. Case in point: we saw Oklahoma lose to Ohio State-at home where the Buckeyes dominated the Sooners in that game. We saw Arizona State put up 70 against Texas Tech. We saw Stanford handle Kansas State. We saw Arkansas beat out TCU in Ft. Worth, Whatever it is, it isn't working. Whether it is the quick strike offenses that don't take enough time off the clock to get their defenses rested, or it is just filling the holes that the defenses actually have, the Big 12 has to answer some questions as a whole to see if they are actually a legit conference.
I am going back to see what I predicted in my 2016 Big 12 predictions back in August. It should be an interesting bit.
In the midst of their scandals, Baylor slipped badly and back into the middle of the pack of the Big 12.
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WHAT I GOT RIGHT? I somewhat figured West Virginia and Oklahoma State would be a threat to the conference down the stretch and thought Kansas State would be better than some projected. That said, Baylor at 6-6 was my nailed it because I did see them winning their first six only to lose their final six.
Instead of finding themselves in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, the Horned Frogs got a trip-and a loss at the Liberty Bowl.
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WHAT I GOT WRONG? I thought if you didn't mess with Texas you would have been okay. But 3 of the 4 Texas teams somewhat failed me. TCU was my pick for the conference championship and crashed. Badly. Kenny Hill is NOT the answer in Ft. Worth. I thought Texas would have made the strides to keep Charlie Strong there for at least a 4th year, but instead lost to Kansas near the end, thus solidifying his exit in Austin. And given the Red Raiders having an easier schedule than normal, they failed miserably and once again had the worst defense in all of college football the second straight year.
So, what are some questions the Big 12 will have going into next season?
1. Can Tom Herman get the Longhorns back on track? Well, if he does, he has to win over recruits, which he DIDN'T do this offseason as Texas wasn't ranked in the top 25 in that category. The offense will be rolling, but questions will be abound on defense. Herman does inherit a lot of good players from Strong, but he just needs to make sure the team gels. A good start for Herman and Texas would be 8-4, but anything less, and he will be incredibly scrutinized.
2. Is anybody ready to de-throne the Sooners? At this point, probably not. West Virginia, if they show that 2016 is not a fluke, could give Oklahoma a run for the money. Outside of that, maybe Oklahoma State and an outside shot may be Kansas. TCU has questions to answer as well and Baylor is in mega trouble.
3. Can Kliff Kingsbury make the needed changes to get Texas Tech out of the "one-trick" pony category? He CAN if he wants. If anybody remembered the Texas Tech/TCU game where Kingsbury played a conservative game where he probably ran the ball more in that game than in his whole time at Lubbock combined, the Red Raiders won. Now I think if you use the quick strike offenses to keep teams off-balance, use it here and there. Texas Tech uses it religiously, and it pretty much gasses his own defense in the process. If anybody saw the National Championship game, if you have a defense out there too long, if it is Alabama or TCU, that defense will be worn out. But Kingsbury's job is riding on the line this season. If the Red Raiders finish 6-6 and are 120th in total defense, he's long gone. But it depends if he wants to make those changes.
4. Will Baylor finally know their punishment with all the scandals sometime over the summer? Anytime I wonder when, new evidence is put out on the Bears. Needless to say, it isn't looking good for Baylor for 2017 and having them play any bowl game. But regardless, it might be 15 years ago all over again for the Bears as they might reside in the bottom of the Big 12.
5. Will the Big 12 Championship game help the argument for the Big 12's legitimacy as a Power 5 conference? Not really. Had they added two, the conference would have been split back into 2 divisions, which would make perfect sense in doing it. Could you imagine had Oklahoma won bedlam, thinking they would go to a playoff, only the week later have Oklahoma State beat them in the championship? That isn't going to work and may be on the outside looking in.
That's it for this time. Sorry for the delay. I will have more the next few days.
The Braves made news this weekend acquiring long-time Reds Gold Glove second baseman and 3-time All-Star Brandon Phillips from Cincinnati for two minor league players, both well past the developmental age. Adding on, Cincinnati is willing to pay all but $1 million for the rest of the contract, thus making this a steal of a deal.
Or is it really?
Don't get me wrong: I like Brandon Phillips and he is one of those guys that are "good for the game." But this is the unfortunate part: he is a stop-gap move. Sean Rodriguez was brought to Atlanta for the reason of being the Braves guy at second so that Ozzie Albies would be ready for Atlanta sooner rather than later and possibly move him over to 3rd when Albies does get in the bigs. Rodriguez was injured in a car accident and could miss the first half of the season.
Now, as a Braves fan, I am at least feeling a bit better that the Braves moves, compared to the last two seasons where they pretty much folded the season before it even began, is at least try to field a competitive team that may have a shot at a wild card. After all, Atlanta committed the crime of imploding the team while alienating the fan base in the process. With Taxpayer-I mean SunTrust Ballpark about to open in two months, "standing pat" wasn't an option. But..........the key moves that were made:
Signing Sean Rodriguez (31). Signing Bartolo Colon (43, but 44 when May rolls around), R.A. Dickey (42), Kurt Suzuki (33), and trading for Jaime Garcia (30). So the big question is, did they get better, or really older?
At the very worst, Colon will be at the very least entertaining.
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Rodriguez hurts, hence why the Phillips trade went down, but hopefully he can be a boost down the stretch. Colon is a modern day Frank Tanana, where his career was about blazing fastballs as a kid and has now turned into a junk-style pitcher. It works and seeing him swing may be worth the price of admission. He had a great year with the Mets in 2016, but you wonder when it goes away. Dickey, on the other hand, you do wonder if his time is nearing at an end (10-15, 4.46, 1.37 WHIP in 16). So maybe he is more relegated to 5th starter/bullpen. Suzuki really replaces AJ Pierzynski behind the plate, so make your own idea there, but at 1 year for $1.5 million it isn't too painful. Garcia, whom St. Louis had high hopes, had nearly the same numbers as Dickey in 2016 as many wondered if it was the arm started to give way as he's had surgery on his arm twice and now it is a mental issue. So all of the moves can be questionable ones to this point for Atlanta.
But...........at least they are not giving away Teheran or Freddie Freeman.
I also get the off-season this year in baseball was one of the most dud off-seasons with a crummy free agent pool (Edwin Encarnacion as the BEST bat available? Relievers making the big bucks?) Atlanta has pieces in place for a while, such as Freeman, Teheran, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Mike Foltynewicz (if he can get his head on straight). So adding veterans is needed, but in terms of the field performance, all of the moves are a "they will work IF" moves. And that is what is concerning. They can all have good years and push Atlanta into the thick of a Wild Card race, OR they may not make it through one year. But too may hypotheticals. Yes, I am glad the Braves are fielding a competitive team in 2017, but I am not sure if this is the best way of going about doing it. Time will tell when April rolls around.