Monthly Archives: March 2016

Lakers Have Hit Rock Bottom

Kobe Bryant’s Farewell Season will go down as the worst season in the history of the Lakers franchise. Not exactly what the Buss family and GM Mitch Kupchak had in mind. Head Coach Byron Scott has not been able to fix the squad that has been a failure since Phil Jackson left. Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni were high profile signings that flamed out quickly.  There are 3 major problems with the Lakers organization at this point, in-fighting between the Buss family, the ghost of Phil Jackson, and the massive presence of Kobe Bryant.

Jim and Jeanie Buss need to figure things out and get on the same page as another chapter in Lakers basketball starts with the retirement of Kobe Bryant. The final seasons of Kobe’s career hindered the Lakers ability to be competitive. Building one last championship squad was the goal with the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2012. Those aspirations never came to fruition with Nash getting hurt and Howard seeking greener pastures.  The fallout led to the Lakers starting a rebuild with culmination of the Kobe Farewell tour in full on rebuild mode. Unfortunately the youth movement doesn’t seem to have paid off as the young players haven’t progressed under Byron Scott’s tutelage.  The million dollar question is how much of it is on the players and how much is on Head Coach Byron Scott?

In my opinion Byron Scott is a major roadblock as to why the Lakers younger players haven’t developed.  This season was supposed to be focused on development.  Tough love and making players earn their minutes is understandable at the beginning of the season.  Playing your young core should have been the priority.  Scott has one year left on his deal and very well could have received an extension if Russell, Clarkson, and Randle showed growth.  The Lakers would be foolish to bring Scott back for another season.  The best thing Scott can do for the Lakers is continue to mismanage the team to improve the chances of not having to give their top 3 protected pick to the 76ers.

Who is the coach to fix this mess?  As GM of the Lakers these are the guys I would talk to for the job and avoid contacting.  Luke Walton and Tom Thibodeau are the rumored leading candidates for the job. Walton gained steam coaching the Warriors while Steve Kerr was away from the team.  Walton will be on a lot of coaching short lists having worked his way up thru the ranks.  I put more stock in his resume and IQ than his handling of the reigning champs early this season.  Walton will be a successful NBA head coach at some point.  Are the rebuilding Lakers the best spot for his first head coaching job?  I believe Walton should take a page from Steve Kerr in terms of choosing his first job.  Kerr left the rebuilding Knicks at the alter and took over a Warriors team with more talent.  It’s sometimes difficult to wash the stink off of a failed first job.  Derek Fisher and Jacques Vaughn are currently finding that out.

Tom Thibodeau had a successful run with Chicago Bulls come to an end due to in-fighting with upper management.  Thibodeau was criticized by upper management for playing his players too many minutes.  The shorter rotations hurt the Bulls as they often limped into the playoffs after spectacular regular seasons. Derrick Rose’s health played a part in the Bulls failures as well.  Thibodeau is a phenomenal X’s an O’s coach and will get another job at some point. A .647 career winning percentage with a 255-139 record puts you on many short lists for coaching jobs.  Has the 2011 NBA coach of the year learned to play politics better than he did in Chicago?

Nate McMillan has a 478-452 .514 career coaching record with the Seattle Sonics and Portland Trail Blazers. McMillan won 2 division titles as a coach.  The problem was McMillan’s teams often got bounced in the opening round of the playoffs. McMillan is currently an assistant coach for the Pacers.  His experience in different roles around the game may give McMillan another shot.

Monty Williams had a losing record 173-221 .439 as head coach of the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans.  In 5 years Williams had 2 first-round exits and 3 seasons missing the post season during his time in New Orleans.  Currently Williams is the Associate Head Coach of the Thunder.  Williams did a good enough job in New Orleans to qualify for another shot at a lead chair.

Mark Jackson helped to turn around the Golden State Warriors in his 3 seasons at the helm. The career 121-109 record .526 is impressive considering the first season featured a 23-43 finish.  Jackson got the Warriors from point A to point B, but the organization felt someone else was better to suited to get the team to point C.  Steve Kerr did just that in his first year at the helm.  Jackson had some run-ins with the front office which led to his dismissal. I’m not a fan of Jackson and the way he conducted business in Oakland.  I’d like an explanation as to what went wrong and if he’s learned from the experience.   His resume does merit consideration for head coaching vacancies.

Other former coaches don’t fit the Lakers for various reasons.  Jeff Van Gundy wants full control which won’t happen in LA.  Former Laker Derek Fisher looked completely overmatched in New York.  Working for Phil Jackson wasn’t as beneficial to Fisher’s career as many would have expected.  David Blatt’s resume overseas is impressive, while his NBA resume has a bunch of question marks.  Getting neutered by LeBron James is the first problem.  Star players often do that to players, but Blatt didn’t seem to relate well to his players or the NBA game.  His innovate offense overseas was squashed by King James. Blatt was in a really tough spot in Cleveland.  He needs to be really selective in pursuing a 2nd NBA head coaching job.

The Lakers job is one of the premier coaching jobs in all of sports.  Others may view it otherwise as the mighty have fallen in recent years. Whether someone has ties to the organization or not should outweigh their qualifications for the job.  First the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak need to get their affairs in order.  Then they should look for a new coach.

Keeper League Strategarization

Self scouting is important in fantasy sports for many reasons. It gives a direct idea of what was done right and what was done wrong.  The “Why” answers are the most important of all. Last season I had a categories league team that was one of the worst in the league. My starters had to high of a WHIP, while my hitters struggled to hit for average and power.  I spent time this off-season trying to figure out why my team sucked and what I needed to do for this upcoming season.  In the league we have 260 dollars of draft money with player costs going up 5 dollars each season.

I decided to keep $10 Adrian Gonzalez, $6 Jason Kipnis, $6 Evan Longoria, $6 Maikel Franco, and $11 George Springer.  I had a low team batting average and lacked power last season. Gone from the team are Carlos Santana, Jose Reyes, Gregory Polanco, Wil Myers, and Randall Grichuk. My keepers will provide some Power and Speed.  I will need to balance out my roster with some guys with a high batting average and steals.  I like Polanco, but at the keeper price which would have been $13, to me that was too much.

Pitching wise I decided not to keep any of my relievers. Mark Melancon’s strikeout rate has decreased and the keeper price was too high. Cody Allen was too expensive as well. I wanted to lock down my rotation with solid arms with high strikeout rates and upside.  $19 Gerrit Cole is worth every penny as a lock down ace. Chris Archer at $14 is a number I am comfortable with due to his upside. I’m a believer Archer is more of the pitcher than he was in the first half than after the All-Star break.  $16 Taijuan Walker is a gamble, but I’m willing to bet big on that arm.  Jeff Samardzija for $6 is a risk worth taking. I’m a believer in Brian Sabean and the Giants way of evaluating players.   44 starting pitchers were kept this season in the league so I planned to get my share.

My keepers add up to 94 dollars leaving me 166 dollars to fill out my roster. I need a catcher, middle infielders, outfielders, closers, and starting pitchers with upside. The plan is to pick a few players out the player pool I want at any cost and go from there.  Upside and stashing a few prospects until they come up to the Majors will fill out my roster.  Since some of the guys I play against read my site, those players will get discussed after the draft.

Len Stealing My Sunshine

The Phoenix Suns are in full tank mode and finally have decided to unleash Alex Len. Attempting to build up the trade value of Markieff Morris delayed the process a bit. Len injury problems during his college and professional career may be one of the reasons Tyson Chandler was signed this off-season. I’ve been impressed with Len’s ability to score down low and facing the basket.  Defensively Len has been more willing to mix it up down low.  His defense from 10 ft and in is solid but foul trouble causes problems.  The Suns have started Len at Power Forward and played the twin towers together more in the recent stretch.  Small ball lineups can possibly negate the Twin Towers. However Chandler not Len should lose minutes at this stage of the season.

Fantasy owners tracking Len should have taken notice of his steady increase in usage rate.   January saw a usage rate of 17.1, February jumped to 25.2 and so far in March its 27.2. February was a good month for Len as he averaged 12.23 ppg and 9.2 rpg. The fantasy basketball playoffs often come down to schedules as Len in weekly leagues ends the season with 3, 4, and 4 games.  The added eligibility of PF in some leagues only sweetens the deal.

I picked up Len a few weeks ago due to Zaza Pachulia’s drop-off in production.  Len’s play has impressed me to the point where I may consider him as 1 of my 2 keepers for next season. The keeper prices jump 1.5 times and owners can only keep a player for 2 years.  My keepers entering this season were Jimmy Butler for $8 and Chandler Parsons at $ 11. Draft pricing for Kawhi Leonard $25, Carmelo Anthony $31 and Marc Gasol $26 are too rich for my blood. Karl Anthony-Towns $12 is set as one of my keepers. D’Angelo Russell $8, Thaddeus Young $2, Myles Turner $1, and Aaron Gordon $1 are also lost cost keeper options.  I like to have inexpensive young keepers so I can spend more in my draft. I’m leaning towards Butler for one more year, but Len’s play has questioned my thought process quite a bit.

Shark Bites in San Fran

The Giants spent $90 million for Jeff Samardzija this offseason. Samardzija was rough last season leading the American League in homers allowed with 29 and all of baseball in runs allowed with 122 and hits allowed with 228. A career 47-61 record and 4.09 ERA is a tough sell for $90 million. Samardzija claims he was tipping his pitches which explains the drop off in production.

 

As a fantasy owner Samardzija should be far down on my list of prospective pitchers.  I actually plan to keep him for $6 bucks in a keeper league. My gut says 2016 will be a career year for Samardzija. Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti is one of the best in the business and should be able to help get “Shark” back on track. The Giants defense is significantly better compared to the White Sox and the ballpark is more pitcher friendly as well. These changes will help balance out his decreasing strikeout rate-increasing fly ball rate.  For as bad as Samardzija was in 2015, he walked only 49 batters.

 

Fantasy Owners should expect Samardzija to be a middle of the rotation starter just as the Giants do. Samardzija will help in strikeouts and maintain a low WHIP.  Samardzija has never had a winning season as a starter, but I believe that changes in 2016.  The Giants are a well run organization having won 3 out of the last 6 World Series.  Trust more in the Giants ability to evaluate talent than Samardzija’s performance last season.

Fantasy Owners Should Track Arian Foster

Arian Foster’s release from the Texans was expected with a salary of $6.5 million due for next season.  Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Lamar Miller, and Chris Ivory being on the market could close doors for Foster. Coming off a season-ending Achilles injury the soon-to-be 30 year-old will have to prove he’s healthy before getting a deal.  Running backs in this draft class also could potentially close doors on Foster. NFL teams often take the Hugh Hefner approach to running backs looking for newer, younger models. Potential suitors will be eliminated by drafting Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry. Foster has missed 23 games in 3 seasons and has no leverage in contract negotiations. If Foster wants to continue to play a short-term incentive laden deal is the most realistic option.

The resume is impressive with 4 Pro Bowl selections and 4 seasons over 1,200 yards. The yards per carry stat is one I look at in evaluating running backs. Foster at his peak in 2010 was at 4.9 yards per carry followed by 4.4 in 2011, 4.1 in 2012, 4.5 in 2013, 4.8 in 2014, and 2.6 thru 4 games in 2015. The YPC has gone down as the Texans offense has regressed. Foster came into the offense with Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub at the helm. The Texans offensive ineptitude made life more difficult for Foster facing more guys in the box. With over 1,4oo NFL carries on his body, Foster is closer to the downside of his career instead of his peak.

The Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks, Cowboys, Dolphins, Bucs, and Titans all are projected to be in the market for running backs. Linking Foster to the Broncos makes sense with his former coach running the system that helped make him a star. The Patriots are often willing to give veteran players another chance. The Seahawks may want to add a veteran to help out their young RB’s. The Cowboys could look to add a compliment to Darren McFadden.  The Dolphins and Bucs have free agents and young running backs ready to step up in place. The Titans have a backfield of quantity instead of quality. When will Foster be healthy enough to work out for teams? The timelines may not match up.

Foster depending on the situation could be valuable for fantasy owners. Expectations should be tempered as Foster isn’t the same player he was in 2010. Best case scenario Foster could be a committee back that sees the goal-line work providing some late round value for fantasy owners. Fantasy owners should track Foster’s progress and evaluate the situation he lands in this season. The team that signs Foster should dictate his value for fantasy owners.