- The Season's Over -

Kevin Garnett Packs His Bags

July 30, 2007

The Savior

I could not be more thrilled about this trade, one of the biggest in the NBA over the last decade, and one which completely blindsided me (in terms of timing, at least). As frequent readers know, that’s coming from the perspective of a Timberwolves fan, a Celtics fan and a huge Kevin Garnett fan. I’m ecstatic for the guy, who finally has a legitimate cast of characters around him to succeed. I’m thrilled for the Celtics and their proud, loyal fans. And I’m happy for the rudderless Minnesota franchise and fans who finally have a plan and a future to be excited about.

I’ve been glued to my laptop all afternoon, itching to write this piece. First it was Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a No. 1 pick to Minnesota to acquire Garnett. Then it was Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two first-round picks to the Timberwolves for Garnett. After that, scuttlebutt had the Celtics sending Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and two first-round picks to the Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. According to an anonymous Celtics official, it’s now a done deal, could be announced this evening, and looks like this: Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two future first-round picks to the Timberwolves for Garnett.

I consider myself to be a bigger Kevin Garnett fan than a Timberwolves fan. He has done everything within his power to earn my loyalty over the years, something that cannot be said of Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale. I’ve always believed that KG is a consummate professional who plays a brand of basketball that makes everyone around him better and should lead to winning. Sadly, over the last few years the latter has not been the case and Garnett has fallen out of public favor. Though he has always been considered a stellar player, critics from all corners have begun to question his ability to win.

Perhaps they have been fair given the records Minnesota has posted during lean years and the crushing playoff defeats in winning seasons. The problem is, this warrior has never had a supporting cast befitting of his considerable talent, skills and efforts. It would have been one of the great tragedies in NBA history if his career had quietly wound down in Minnesota, his fate forever tied to the incompetence of Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders. Forever a loser. At the very least, Garnett deserved a chance to prove that he could be a winner somewhere. He now has that chance. If he fails, then let the critics speak. But Kevin Garnett deserved a shot.

“Garnett is a throwback superstar, a Bill Russell for the modern age. When some people conjure up Russell they visualize the consummate winner, a man who led his teams to 11 NBA championships. But I link the two men by personality. By all reports, Russell shares Garnett’s intelligence, grace, and intensity. And, in his defense, Garnett has never had a Cousy or a Havlicek.

Unfortunately, it could be that the modern age has no use for Bill Russell. One of Garnett’s greatest strengths—his loyalty—is laughably out of place in the superstar-focused NBA . . .

Garnett has never complained about the mediocre supporting casts he’s been given . . . Garnett has embraced the state of Minnesota like a taller, darker version of Prince. Even this year, with his team in a tailspin and his own game under scrutiny, Garnett did nothing to shift the blame.” – Paul Shirley

Feeling Minnesota: This is the first time that Kevin McHale has pulled off a trade since acquiring Sam Cassell that didn’t immediately elicit a groan for even casual fans. I still consider him to be the worst general manager in basketball, but McHale deserves credit for getting this much value in return for Garnett. It’s been time to acknowledge the fact that Minnesota was not going to win a title with KG in his prime for over two years, and this summer management finally grasped that concept. Garnett could have opted out of his contract after this season, which would undoubtedly have been another disheartening campaign for the 31-year-old star, and Minnesota was in serious danger of getting nothing besides salary cap room in return. To be honest, I’m shocked that the Wolves will receive this kind of value at this stage in the game.

Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson was perhaps the most promising power forward in basketball after the All-Star break last season. During the stretch run he put up an exceptional line: 19.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 1.1 steals, 55.4% FGs and (most importantly for the foul-prone youngster) just 3.0 fouls per game. He finally came into his own in his third year after being the 15th overall pick out of Prentiss High School in Mississippi. Coming out of high school, he was a 2004 McDonald’s All American and averaged an incredible 42 points, 16 rebounds and 9 blocks during his senior season. Make no mistake about it, Jefferson will be an All-Star in this league more than once in the next decade. His defense could use a little work, but he’s learned to clean the glass and possesses exceptional polish on the offensive end for a player his size and age. His success a year ago is no accident: Al is finally committed to doing what it takes to succeed at this level. He’s been putting in the hours at the gym and showed up last season 30 pounds lighter than the previous year.

The loss of KG is going to leave a massive hole in the interior scoring, rebounding and interior defense categories that no player in the NBA could fill, but for a rebuilding franchise Jefferson is as good a candidate as any. And he’ll have help from Craig Smith, a diamond in the rough selected in the second round last season. Speaking of rebuilding, it says here that Baby Al will be a better power forward than KG in five years. That’s what the Wolves and their fans should be concerned about: the future. They actually have one now.

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24 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 30, 2007 at 10:45pm in ETB Articles, NBA, NBA Fantasy News

The MLB’s Deadline Dealin’

July 30, 2007

Tex: On the MoveWe’re still about 21 hours from Major League Baseball’s 2007 Trade Deadline, but the moves are already pouring in. This afternoon saw a few significant trades that will have an impact in fantasy baseball, this year’s pennant chases and the near future of several franchises. In the early going, Atlanta has to be considered a major winner so far, making moves to shore up their bullpen and offensive lineup. A couple of closer situations have also been shaken up in the last few hours, so let’s get to it.

The Mark Teixeira Deal: This is a major coup for the Braves this season, but a bittersweet deal for some Atlanta faithful as they’re giving up a big chunk of their future. The folks over at Start Salty, who have spearheaded the ‘Be American !!! Join The KeepSalty Campaign’, are likely crying tears as big as horse turds in their domestic beers tonight. That’s because the biggest piece in this deal after Teixeira is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a catcher/first baseman and one of the game’s most promising offensive prospects who should be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter sooner than later. As they put it, “Saltalamacchia is currently in a slump, but is still the future of Major League Baseball.” However, nobody should be more upset right now than Philadelphia Phillies fans who have seen their team’s best player injured and their closest rival in the standings make immediate improvements. From my perspective, it’s still going to be a hard fought battle, but the Braves have overtaken the Phils for the Wild Card berth despite still being one game back.

The full deal has Texas sending Teixeira and Ron Mahay to Atlanta in exchange for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and a player to be named later (likely injured 22-year-old top pitching prospect Matt Harrison). Salty will likely start at first base in Texas for the balance of the season and makes an interesting fantasy addition, one who should certainly be picked up in all AL-Only leagues with his Catcher eligibility. Meanwhile, in addition to gaining Salty the Rangers got two legitimate top prospects in Andrus and the injured Harrison. Elvis Andrus is an 18-year-old shortstop with a very promising future.

Even though Teixeira is just 27 years of age, this is a move for the present. Atlanta wasn’t going anywhere with their glaring need of offensive production from first base (Their 1Bs have combined for a .211 BA, .270 OBP and .363 SLG- ranking last in MLB in all three categories). Tex is in the midst of a down year, but he has averaged 38 home runs over the last three seasons, is coming off of consecutive Gold Glove campaigns and is now in line for a monster finish to his season batting in a lineup that can give him more RBI opportunities and protection. Mahay is a mediocre middle reliever, but he will fill some of the void left by the Mike Gonzales injury.

Dotel: You Can Drop Him NowThe Octavio Dotel Deal: That Dotel was on the trading block and that Atlanta was a possible destination wasn’t news, but that the Braves were able to pull off trades for two of the more high-profile names available within a matter of hours was a bit surprising. It’s not confirmed who will be heading to Kansas City yet, but no matter what the fallout from the Royal’s perspective isn’t going to be too bad because there’s no way they were going to become competitive while Dotel was still effective and they already had two solid options for their closer of the future (Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria). Right now it looks like it will be AAA RHP Kyle Davies. The other possible names involved would be Yunel Escobar (unlikely), shortstop Brent Lillibridge, RHP Tommy Hanson or outfielder Jordan Schafer.

The move means that Joakim Soria will inherit closing duties for the Royals, and he needs to be added in all leagues. He’s posted tremendous numbers this season (2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP .194 BAA, 51 Ks and 10 SVs in 44.1 innings), has been on fire over the last month (2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 15 Ks, 2 BBs in 11.2 innings) and he’s in line for around 10 SVs over the final two months.

On the other side of the ledger, Dotel loses most of his fantasy value. He’ll be a setup man for the Braves. Even if behemoth Bob Wickman were to be injured again or suffer a bad spell, Rafael Soriano would likely be the next in line to close out games. He’s been in a slump recently, but Soriano is their closer of the future, he’s had a solid season and he filled in admirably for Wickman earlier this season.

Atlanta may not be done yet, either. While Reports are trickling in that they are currently in negotiations for Bronson Arroyo of the Reds, looking to bolster the middle of their starting rotation.

The Ty Wigginton Deal: There were a number of teams in the market for the versatile Wigginton, including the Twins and Yankees, but the Astros won the auction on Saturday. They shipped extremely valuable middle reliever Dan Wheeler to Tampa Bay after watching Morgan Ensberg flounder for the last year and a half. Ensberg has been designated for assignment, but it’s a curious move despite Morgan’s struggles. He boasts a career OPS 70 points better than Wiggy, gets on base more, strikes out less and has a better glove in the field. Still, Ensberg has fallen a long way since his 2005 season in which he knocked 35 home runs and was one of the best 3Bs in baseball. Wigginton should post solid fantasy numbers for the rest of the season in HRs, RBIs and Runs with an offense that can better protect him and knock him in.

Luis Castillllllo!The Luis Castillo Deal: Ladies and gentlemen: let the Alexi Casilla era begin! Ok, maybe I’m the only one excited about the youngster whose skill set is eerily similar to a young Castillo. Hell, Ron Gardenhire will probably end up starting Nick Punto the rest of the season anyways. Castillo is a nice upgrade for the Mets defensively. He’s still rangy and has only committed 9 total errors over the last two seasons with the Twins. An extreme ground-ball hitter (He’s led MLB in ground ball percentage for the last four seasons), Luis pounds the ball into the dirt and excels at getting on base with infield hits. He should continue to do so for the Mets, and will score a bunch of runs if they hit him anywhere in the top of that order (Right now he looks like he’ll be plugged into the two hole . . . get your mind out of the gutter). He’ll also likely steal some bases if Rickey Henderson, Joe Reyes & Co rub off- he does have 315 career SBs, though a bulk of those coming with the Marlins. The Twins acquired outfielder Dustin Martin and catcher Drew Butera. Um, I don’t have much to say about those two.

Other moves and potential moves: The Phillies nabbed perennial disappointment RHP Kyle Lohse from the Reds (for LHP Matt Maloney), who doesn’t warrant much consideration in fantasy leagues but could be a capable 5th starter . . . The Red Sox are making a run for Eric Gagne, which would all but ruin his fantasy value, but would make probable closer Akinori Otsuke a valuable commodity again once he’s fully healthy . . . The Red Sox also want Jermaine Dye, but will not part with either Manny Delcarmen or Justin Masterson along with Wily Mo Pena in any deal . . . Felix Pie will not be on the move, and that’s a good thing for Cub fans. This kid is going to be a player in then ext few years . . . Dan Wheeler could already be on the move again . . . The Dan Wheeler trade means Chad Qualls will be the primary setup man in Houston and the backup for Brad Lidge as closer should he, you know, spontaneously combust again . . .

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 30, 2007 at 6:45pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Stephon Marbury: Out of His Damn Mind

July 29, 2007

High on LifeBeing a Minnesota Timberwolves fan, I’ve always known that there was something off about Stephon Marbury. After the Minnesota front office made it clear that Kevin Garnett would be their franchise player, tactically and fiscally, Marbury pouted and forced a trade. This was at a time when the Wolves were fresh off a playoff season and the trio of Marbury, Garnett and Tom Gugliotta looked like the best young core in the West (Remember, Googs was an All-Star power forward in the West before shredding his knees). At the very least, Stephon’s priorities weren’t in the right place. It’s likely no coincidence that for each stop of his career, the team ‘Starbury’ left has had a better record the following season (Minnesota in 98-99, New Jersey in 01-02 and then Phoenix in 03-04).

This summer, Marbury has kicked it up a notch though. He’s acting like a lunatic just about every chance he gets. First, the player who had said just last summer that he wanted to “die a Knick” informed New York media that he intends to leave the franchise and play in Italy when his contract is up after next season, “I’m not just thinking of doing it, I’m going to do it . . . My wife loved it there. It’s like a [David] Beckham thing.” He’ll be just 32. In defense of his recent behavior, Marbury said, “This is definitely the happiest I’ve ever been. I think me having a better understanding about who I am in my life and what I want out of my life, now that I have control of it, it’s a lot easier to be myself opposed to the way how things were. Before, I was basically rebelling against so many different things. Now for myself, it’s a lot easier to just live.” Gotcha.

Stephon has been blogging for the New York Post all summer, serving up some wisdom that is sure to inspire plenty of head cocking and eye squinting:

What I’m doing is bigger than basketball. Trying to take what I’m doing off the court and add it up to what I’m doing on the court is apples and oranges. It don’t add up. This movement is bigger than that.

I did an interview in Cleveland during the tour. This PR girl said that I finally made sense in that one cause I didn’t make sense in the interview I did with Beck in NYC.

If my sense don’t add up to yours, then pay me no mind. Feel me?

[ . . . ]
I do have one admission. I am high, high off of life.

I drink life’s happy water which is bottled at the divine source.
It goes down much smoother than “haterade.”. How does “haterade” really taste?

The entire interview he did with Bruce Beck on Mike’d Up for WNBC is below. The whole thing is like watching a drunk driver, knowing a terrible car accident is right around the corner. You want to reach out and shake him, or at the very least throw a trench coat over his head and spirit him away from the cameras before he can make an even bigger ass of himself.

ETB’s take on Marbury’s summer of love? He’s clearly on drugs.

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 29, 2007 at 5:38pm in NBA

T.W.I.etB. Notes: The NBA

July 27, 2007

Bogut is Totally Bogus We’re officially in the doldrums of the NBA offseason, when an Andrew Bogut haircut is considered “news.” The draft is over, every impact free agent has been signed, very few potential trades are in the works and summer league activity has mercilessly ground to a halt. Warriors, Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett fans eagerly await August 8th when Brandan Wright can be traded. Everybody else is busy convincing themselves baseball isn’t boring. There was something in the paper this morning, some controversy about a ref (I don’t recall his name), but I’m sure that’ll blow over by tomorrow. Still, there have been a few notable developments in the last week plus that will have an effect on regulation and fantasy play this season.

Here’s the rundown:

The Stevie Francis Signing: It’s amazing what a difference two years can make for The Player formerly Known as Franchise. Francis finished the 04-05 season with averages of 21.3 points, 5.8 boards and 7.0 assists and had averaged at least 5.3 boards and 6.2 assists in all of his first six seasons in the league. He hasn’t even approached those numbers in any stop since, his value bottoming out when the Portland Trailblazers decided they’d rather not even have him on the roster earlier this month. After considering the Clippers, Mavs and Heat he decided to return to the scene of past successes, Houston.

He should have gone to LA. If we’ve learned anything about Steve in the last two years, it’s that he’s a shaky character player whose ego will not allow him to be a role player. He needs to dominate the rock, for better or worse, in order to produce. I don’t think that’s going to gel with McGrady and Yao already in place as option 1 and 1A on offense (20.9 and 17.1 FG attempts per game, respectively).

He Works Hard, He Plays Hard

He’s had at least 3.3 turnovers (usually closer to 4) every season when he’s gotten minutes and has never posted a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. What I’m saying is, this isn’t a real point guard. That’s odd because you have to assume that Rafer Alston’s days in Houston are over, presumably because he lacks the ability to keep the offense in rhythm. I completely understand deciding that you can’t win with a PG with Skip’s shooting deficiencies (38.4% FGs, 72.7% FTs for his career), but at least he sports a career 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Offensive guru Rick Adelman could make this work, but unless he’s got something up his sleeve Francis is going to muddy up the whole offensive flow.

I thought it might be a mistake to trade away Juwanna Man Howard because of Yao’s health issues and because depending on Chuck Hayes for 35 quality minutes is a shaky proposition, but Mike James made a lot of sense for this team. He’s a decent ball handler, a decent scorer, a good passer and a strong outside shooter. Bringing in Francis befuddles me. It’s uncertain who the starting PG will be, but it seems like Skip is on the outs. Which leads us to . . .

Rafer Alston to Miami?: It makes too much sense for Skip to take his 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and street/court sense to South Beach, so maybe it won’t happen. It’s been no secret that the Heat are the biggest buyers in the PG market right now, and they’re likely going to make a move for Alston. He’s got plenty of experience feeding a dominant big man on his resume. Rafer doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t, shoot much in order to be effective- which will make him fast friends with Dwyane Wade. I think they should keep Udonis Haslem, but the Heat are apparently willing to deal him. The undersized power forward would be a perfect fit alongside Yao and Hayes up front for Houston.

The Chucky Atkins Signing: Another quarterback on the move, Atkins is in line for a significant uptick in production and minutes this season. It’s a two-year guaranteed deal which will pay $3.2 million this year, $3.4 million the next and there’s a team option for the following season, meaning Denver is willing to commit to him as AI’s running mate in the backcourt. He’s a great fantasy sleeper now, playing in one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses in the league. A pretty decent passer, Chucky can share ball handling duties with Iverson and Atkins’ outside touch will be a major asset to the Nuggets. It’s unclear where this leaves professional chucker JR Smith, but he’ll likely be a Voshon Lenard-type of role player this season, which can still help fantasy squads.

The (Derek) Fisher King Signing: This is a homecoming for Fisher, who played with Kobe Bryant for eight seasons and won three titles in LA. It’s a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $14 million and Fisher should be the starter entering this season. His steady play and veteran leadership is a major upgrade over the perpetually mercurial and whiny Smush Parker, who should have never been a starting PG in the first place. It also eases some of the pressure off of the Lakers’ PG of the future, Jordan Farmar, giving him another year or two to develop. Expect increased minutes and a modest improvement on the 10.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists Fisher put up in Mormon country last year.

Maggette: FT% SavantCorey Maggette Emerges from Doghouse, Sees Shadow: From a practical standpoint using Maggette as a reserve never made sense to me. He’s a rhythm player who needs minutes to make the most of his talents. He’s a scorer, but not the kind who can just stand around waiting for occasional jumpers. Stubborn head coach Mike Dunleavy has finally come to his senses, saying Maggette will definitely be in the starting lineup for the coming season.

Corey is a runaway freight train when he takes it to the hole, drawing a ton of fouls, putting pressure on opposing front lines and racking up free throw attempts that he usually makes (8+ FT attempts and 82+% FT shooting in each of the last four seasons). That’s his bread and butter in fantasy basketball, and there are very few players in the league who can buoy your squad’s FT% like Maggette can. Sure, he’s a defensive liability (and Tim Thomas isn’t?!), but the Clippers lack better scoring options. Cat Mobley is slowing down and Sam Cassell looks like he could be ready to phone home any day now.

Andrea Bargnani’s Here to Pump You Up: One of ETB’s favorite breakout candidates just got bumped up my cheat sheet a few notches: he’s stronger and he could qualify at center. The Star columnist Doug Smith is reporting that the sweet-shooting big man is bulking up in a serious way, “Apparently Andrea Bargnani, according to a friend who writes here for the most important Italian sports daily, looks bigger, stronger and better than when he left. That’s not a surprise – he lost an awful lot of weight when he missed that month after having his appendix taken out – but the bigger part of the equation is significant if he’s going to have to defend centres and power forwards this season.”

Hanz or Franz?Smith also reports that Andrea will be a full-time starter next year, occasionally as a “centre,” which is the equivalent of our center position. I was pretty skeptical about this kid, but he impressed me last year. He looked tougher than I thought down low (especially during that blocks binge of late December and early January in which he swatted 6 in one game) and he can actually create his own shot sometimes. He also had little trouble adjusting to the NBA three-point line, knocking down 100 triples as a rookie. In the ideal situation of playing alongside Chris Bosh and the tremendous penetration and passing skills of TJ Ford, if Bargnani is able to take a big step physically, look out. I’ll go out on a limb and make a bold projection for the 21-year-old of 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 2.0 threes. If he ends up qualifying at center, that puts him in elite company.

The World’s Best Haircut: Andrew Bogut got a new haircut, and it ain’t pretty. He was seen on an Aussie talk show sporting the pastie-inspired ‘do.You can check out the whole interview here. Bogut comes across like somebody David Brent would idolize/hang out with.

Many thanks go to MLive for the still image.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 27, 2007 at 2:13pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

The NBA’s Great Gambling Gaffe

July 23, 2007

The Donaghy Family

Because of the organized crime slant, I fully intended to write this piece in the parlance of 1920s newsies. I even re-watched The Hudsucker Proxy to get a better feel for the lexicon. Well, about a half an hour in I realized how incredibly difficult that would be, and how woefully underqualified I was for such an endeavor. I did manage to get some nice old school gangster images though, so enjoy those. Feel free to read the rest of this with the rapid-fire, syncopated internal voice of a Prohibition Era newsie if you like.

By now we all know the the basics. NBA referee Tim Donaghy has been officially charged with using his whistle to ‘fix’ professional basketball games after wiretaps used to monitor the Gambino mobster case revealed his name. The investigation has been spearheaded by none other than the FBI and involves tens of thousands of dollars riding on multiple games Donaghy worked, both in the regular season and the postseason. Though the NBA has not made any specific comments on the case yet, as of now there is no reason to believe that the actual outcome of games were altered. In all likelihood the point totals of teams and statistics of specific players were manipulated in the interest of organized crime (As an obsessive fantasy basketball player, that hits pretty close to home).

No other officials have been implicated yet, but (pure) speculation about the potential breadth of the case is starting to swirl. While corruption and point-shaving scandals have been uncovered or at least suggested in the NFL, MLB, NCAA and 1978 FIFA World Cup, this is the first time something like this has been uncovered in the NBA. No matter the outcome, it is a major black eye for the league, the worst since the cocaine issues of the late 70s and early 80s.

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10 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 23, 2007 at 10:25pm in ETB Articles, NBA

Fantasy Football: Tight End Rankings 1-10

July 20, 2007

Chris Cooley: Not Sexy“Fantasy Tight Ends.” It’s not a phrase any of us feel comfortable saying, even if we’re not talking about Brad Pitt or Thomas Mapother IV. I know that, but let’s get our chuckles, giggles, snickers and chortles out of the way up front and get to work. After kicker, tight end is the least sexy of the position players in fantasy football. It’s a position more on the nuts and bolts side of the game, but important nonetheless.

For the most part, tight ends aren’t fun to draft, own or start each week. They’re an annoyance. Sure, there are a select few who might be drafted in the first six or seven rounds. However, most of these guys are simply powerful, muscular men whose job a good portion of the game is to joust with powerful, muscular linebackers that want nothing more than to wrestle them to the ground and force them into submission. Men like Mr. Cooley, featured in the photo. There’s nothing sexy about that. Nothing at all. Let’s get to it.

1. Antonio Gates, San Diego Thunder Bolts: Peyton Manning, Ladianian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates: that is the Holy Trinity of fantasy football greatness. Each is so far ahead of the other players at his position that it’s nigh impossible to make an argument for anybody else. Gates is the only TE I would consider taking in the first five rounds of a draft, and he’s a solid selection anywhere after the early picks of the third round. In drafting you don’t consider how many total points a player will produce, you consider how many more he will produce than the average opponent’s player at that position. Gates is an order of magnitude ahead of anybody else on this list.

2. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: A curveball, I know. I’m likely the only guy who has Davis this high, but after Gates there’s no TE out there who’s prospects excite me like Davis’. This is a good time to point out that all of these rankings are based on projected output and not necessarily listed in suggested draft order. Strategically, you can wait on Davis until after the bigger names like Heap, Shockey and Gonzales are off the board. He’s going to be in the 6-10 range among TEs, but Davis has more sheer talent than anybody at the position: he’s a 6’3″, 253 lbs man who runs a 4.3 40 with excellent hands and open-field moves. Alex Smith is developing nicely; Frank Gore, Darrell Jackson, Ashley Lelie are solid but there’s a dearth of big playmakers and Smith is going to need a dump off option often. Davis has the skills to turn any short pass into a big play.

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4 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 20, 2007 at 3:34pm in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Fantasy Football: WR Rankings 1-10*

July 18, 2007

Ocho CincoAnd . . . we’re back. Despite two canceled flights and some wicked turbulence I’ve returned from the Midwest alive and well. Caught a great Twins game last Thursday with Scott Baker actually pitching very well, Chad Gaudin pitching not so well and Joe Nathan finishing the game with authority, retiring the final three batters with 9 pitches. I also had a chance to get out to my favorite Disc Golf Course, the scenic Basset Creek. For the time being I’m holding off on posting my updated fantasy baseball rankings because, well, they’re a pain in the neck and they’re still not done. Instead I offer ETB’s initial ranking of the top wide receivers in fantasy football.

For those of you who intend to participate in Empty the Bench’s First Annual Fantasy Football League, expect an e-mail with the league ID and login over the weekend. I’m just putting the finishing touches on the (some say too complicated) scoring system. I hope nobody’s a huge fan of kickers . . .

1. Chad Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals: With concern over Carson Palmer’s knee a thing of the past, this offense is set to put up big numbers in 2007. TJ is a great second option to take some pressure off and Rudi Johnson is always reliable. The loss of Chris Henry may hurt the Bengals slightly, but it should translate into a lot more looks for Johnson- particularly around the goal line. Chad is an unstoppable force when he’s on his game and I expect him to rebound from an up-and-down 2006 in a big way. Despite putting up “just” 87 receptions, 1,370 and 7 TDs (17, 360 and 5 coming in weeks 10 and 11), I see something like 1,500 yards and 14 TDs. The biggest reasoning behind this lofty ranking is the fantasy schedule though. During the playoff weeks he’ll be matched up against extremely suspect defenses: vs St. Louis, at San Francisco and vs Cleveland. Plus, the guy beat a horse in a foot race during the offseason. That’s gotta be good karma.

2. Stevonne L. Smith, Carolina Panthers: Smith is the most talented, electrifying WR in the business. He’s eminently capable of reproducing his 100+ catch, 1,500+ yard 12 TD season of 2005. He’s also had disconcerting leg injuries in two of the last three seasons, which isn’t ideal for a top-flight wideout who depends on his explosiveness. I think you can make an argument for Stevonne as the top WR out there, but I always try to avoid potential disasters as much as possible in the first four rounds of fantasy drafts. Jake Delhomme and Steve have a great connection, and I think this is going to be Deangelo Williams’ breakout season so it’s a good situation. A playoff schedule of at Jacksonville, vs Seattle and vs Dallas isn’t ideal, but it’s not bad either.

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 18, 2007 at 10:36pm in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

ETB Eats Too Much, Takes Short Siesta

July 10, 2007

Home, Sweet HomeAfter consuming a gluttonous volume of ribs and s’mores, ETB will be taking a brief mid-summer siesta starting tomorrow and lasting until Sunday. As you already know, Brian is lost without a compass somewhere in the jungles of southeast Asia. While awaiting word from Cambodian officials on his whereabouts I will be returning to my homeland of Minnesota. The break comes at a perfect time as the NBA offseason is in a bit of a lull, not much is happening in NFL Land and the MLB will just be awakening from its own mid-season slumber, so hopefully we won’t miss much.

Fear not, loyal reader, for I shall return this coming week with all kinds analytic goodness. Expect to see ETB’s Fantasy MLB Mid-Season Player Rankings hit the site early in the week and updates on all the various professional athletes who will undoubtedly have been arrested in the meantime (for drugs, violence, gun possession or some combination thereof).

I’ve got tickets to see my beloved Twins while in the heartland, so if you’re watching the games keep an eye out for me just behind third base- even if you don’t know what I look like. It’ll be fun, like Where’s Waldo.

Here’s hoping it won’t be Nick Punto’s ugly mug standing in front of me all game.

Take ‘er easy for all us sinners,

Andrew “Boom Boom” Thell

3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 10, 2007 at 7:56pm in Administrative

Fantasy NBA: The Draft’s Impact Players

July 8, 2007

Projections, we got your projections right here! Greg Oden! Kevin Durant! Al Horford! Mike Conley Jr! Petteri Koponen! Wait, scratch that last one . . .

Al HorfordIt’s ridiculously early to be talking about fantasy basketball, I know. It’s still early to be talking fantasy football, too, but that hasn’t stopped me. I’ve already got my fantasy baseball lineup set past the All-Star break based on pitching matchups though so I figured, hey, why not? Of course, for a full analysis of the NBA Draft results check out the live blogging we did as well as the excellent breakdown Brian wrote with a little help from his friends.

Some of the early returns are already coming in, but summer league stats are extremely misleading. First, the intensity, level of competition, quality of opponents and sophistication of offense pales in comparison with an average NBA game. Second, as Jason Quick of The Oregonian points out, the stats kept are unreliable: “Sergio Rodriguez had at least six assists, but was credited for three. Joel Freeland had a monster block on a Powe dunk attempt that brought people out of their seats, yet he is listed with zero blocked shots. Stefano Mancinelli was credited for going 1-for-1, yet he never took a shot.” For those reasons, ETB is focusing on situations and skill sets to project the fantasy viability of the NBA rookie class of 2007.

Kevin Durant, Seattle: Ladies and Gents, your Rookie of the Year. I’m projecting 18 ppg, 5 boards, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 43% FGs and 79% FTs. He should go off the board anywhere after the 4th round of your fantasy drafts. We saw a microcosm of his season on Friday in summer league when he showed that he’s capable of creating his shot at this level, but also that he needs some seasoning. Durant finished with 18 points (on a weak 5/17 FGs) and knocked down all eight of his FTs. With the playing time freed up by the departures of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, expect production from the outset.

Greg Oden, Portland: As I mentioned earlier today, Oden’s terrible performance on Friday has done little to diminish my enthusiasm. The guy has a sinus infection. I think we can expect something in the neighborhood of 11 ppg, 8 boards and 2.3 blocks on 50% FGs from the big fella. He’s going to take a while to adjust to the speed of the pro game, but it’s his adjustment to NBA officiating that’s really going to represent a steep learning curve. That makes him an excellent buy-low candidate right around the end of December who will, for fantasy purposes, be in the top half of starting centers for 2008. He should be an 8th round pick.

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 8, 2007 at 9:37pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

Musings From Around the NBA

July 8, 2007

Trevor Ariza-We all know that Grant Hill has agreed to a two-year contract with the Suns that will pay him $1.8 million the first year and a player option of $1.9 million for the second year. Lost in the the shuffle is the impact this could have on ETB favorite Trevor Ariza. Brian and I may disagree on this, but I think the kid is extremely talented. He’s not going to be an outside scorer (that’s what they got Rahsard for), but he’s a great defender and slasher who GM Otis Smith has called a future “star.” Ariza is a real hustle guy who can make a positive contribution without the ball and given the minutes he could easily average 15 points a game to go along with 6-7 boards and 2 steals shooting 50% on FGs.

-According to a Newsday piece over the weekend, “Talks between Minnesota and Golden State about a trade that would send Kevin Garnett to the Bay Area are real and advanced.” Right now they’re on hold because Brandan Wright, the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft, cannot be traded for 30 days. The package would likely include Wright and future All-Star Monta Ellis and several expiring contracts. If the Wolves could convince Golden State GM Chris Mullin to include Andris Biedrins it would be a great move for Minnesota. Either way, as a KG fan I’m really hoping he gets a chance to move on and has a legit shot at winning a title somewhere. It’s not going to happen with the T-Wolves.

-As fashionable as it was to be on the Greg Oden bandwagon over the last few years, people are already jumping off. He had a terrible debut in summer league on Friday, being tagged with three personal fouls in the first three minutes of the game and fouling out by picking up 10 total fouls. So what? Everybody should know that this is a young, raw player who will take time and significant polish to reach his potential. The biggest adjustment he’ll have to make is learning how NBA officials call the game, and I expect to see him continue racking up fouls in the foreseeable future. “It’s a different game. They call it different. There are a lot of things you can’t do with hand movements and hand checks,” he said. While he finished with only 6 points and 2 boards in 20 minutes, the physical talent, the body and the work ethic are all there and the poor showing does nothing to diminish my excitement about this young man or Blazers’ extremely promising future.

Jackass-The Miami Heat are serious about adding another perimeter playmaker to pair with Dwyane Wade. Mo Williams, Corey Maggette and Ron Artest are atop their wish list. The Heat have a midlevel exception worth roughly $6 million to pursue help outside, and they could also work out a sign-and-trade that would ship James Posey or Jason Williams out of town.

Mo Williams is a nice player, but he’s not a true point. He’s more akin to the combo-guard that Wade plays with better outside touch. He would be a major upgrade, but considering the dearth of PGs out there it would surprise me if they could land him for the midlevel. Corey Maggette is an offensive playmaker who can take it to the hole, draws a ton of fouls and makes his FTs. He’s also a defensive liability. As shocking as it may sound, I think the Tru Warrior makes a lot of sense here. He’s still the best man-defender in the NBA who’s a more than capable offensive player when he stays within his game. While Artest is always a threat to blow up, he also has the highest upside of the three and would give the Heat a legit shot at another title in the next two years before Shaq melts into the couch.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 8, 2007 at 8:14pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

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