Tuesday, January 31, 2012

National Signing Day!

So, Swan tells me tomorrow is National Signing Day as he's on the upswing on the roller-coaster of Gopher fandom.  A lot of high school footballers have already committed, but tomorrow is the day where those that have been staying mum in order to have their LOOK AT ME moment can do so on national TV.  The rest of the poor schlubs that already committed will sign their binding letter of intent as well.

Kendall Gregory-McGhee got a cake!
The knobs at ESPN will be covering it like so:
Many of the nation's top prospects, including Mario Edwards, No. 1 in the ESPNU 150, Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 3), Andrus Peat (No. 9) and Eddie Goldman (No. 10), will make their decisions on ESPNU. There will also be reporters stationed at campuses across the country and former Miami coach Randy Shannon will join analysts Tom Luginbill, Craig Haubert, Corey Long, Jamie Newberg and Mark Schlabach to break it all down.
There is one Minnesotan on the coveted ESPNU 150 list and guess what?  The Gophers got him.  His name is freaking Isaac Hayes too!  He's a guard and ranked #112 on their list.  In fact, of ESPN's top 10 players from Minnesota, the Gophers landed 6 of them; with one undecided.  Is this an unprecedented level of in-state recruiting?  I have no clue.  I laugh in the face of hard-hitting journalism like researching top in state recruiting classes.

Since I'm an ESPN Insider (impressive, right?) I thought I'd share some info on some of the Gopher recruits and maybe search the youtubes for videos to critique in my amateur (read: incorrect) way.  Also, I know Rivals and other resources have other rankings and all they tend to prove is that no one agrees on (knows) anything.  I'm using ESPN because it's readily available and is maybe something everyone doesn't have access to  I'd love to see if anyone goes back and tracks if any service has more accuracy than another though.  Chances are they each have their moment. 

Isaac Hayes - Mendota Heights, MN - St. Thomas Academy
#9 OG - 6'2" - 270lbs

ESPN's ranks him the #9 OG and gives him an 80 out of 100 (4 stars).  His album, Hot Buttered Soul, was ranked #90 on FastnFabulous.com's list of greatest soul albums.  ESPN's scouting report basically says he's a stud. He can run-block, pass-block, get to the second level by pulling or trapping and he's tough/strong.

Demonstrates quick set ability; can bend and slide his feet, showing very good balance and explosion when delivering the initial punch; uses his hands effectively, working to stay inside with good extension. Displays the athleticism to pull and get out in front on bootleg plays. We like his aggressive finishing attitude; it's what we look for when evaluating offensive linemen.
Check out this highlight film of him killing people.  His strength just overpowers most of them, sometimes caving the whole defensive line in.  Even more impressive is to see him get out in space and swat these guys to the ground like flies.  

Jamel Harbison - Charlotte, NC - Mallard Creek High School
#32 WR, 5'11" - 190lbs

Andre McDonald - Minnetonka, MN - Hopkins High School
#37 WR, 6'2" - 200lbs
The Gophers have received commits from two 80 grades, 4-star wide receivers in Harbison and McDonald.  Reading through the recruiting info, they are two very different types of receivers though.  Harbison is a powerful, quick player that might be your prototypical slot player making plays over the middle. In the video below, he returns kicks, breaks tackles, makes long catches and generally looks awesome.
[Harbison] is very quick given his size, shows good burst off the line and has the ability to be a factor in all three phases of the passing game. Displays a great combination of reliable hands and the speed to turn any reception into a touchdown. -ESPN (video)
McDonald is a big, strong player with great hands but does not possess crisp route running or break-away speed.  McDonald returns some punts in his video below, but doesn't show the burst that Harbison does.  He looks huge out there though and definitely uses his body to get in front of defenders to make the catch.
[McDonald] is tough and will go after the ball in traffic and isn't afraid to go over the middle. He is at his best in one-on-one match-ups on the jump ball as well as on underneath routes where he can use his frame to shield the ball for the defender. -ESPN (video)
Jonah Pirsig - Blue Earth, MN - Blue Earth Area High
#48 OT, 6'8" - 300lbs

The weenies at ESPN give Pirsig a 79, thus making him a 3 star dude instead of a 4 star.  The ESPN scouting report describes him as a "dominant run blocker" and "has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position" and finally, "this is not a clumsy football player".  They further go on to indicate he needs more explosion (don't we all) and could work on lowering his pad level.  He's 6'8", his pads are going to be high; give him a break.  Pirsig does seem kind of polar bear shaped; with his upper body being longer than his legs.  This worries me a bit because in watching the following it seems he just flops over at times like a weeble-wobble. I'm sure Kill and friends will fix that and turn him into Walter Jones. (video)

Also, I highly recommend a google images search of "weeble wobble"
Here are some quick comments on the rest of the recruits, with the JUCO transfers listed at the bottom.

Dinero Moss    #34 S   Sunrise, FL       6'0''      204
Kick-ass name and some good size.  ESPN describes him with "sleeper", "ball hawk" and "explosive".  Plus, his name is DINERO!  He also apparently already has a nickname: "Lights-Out".  This video shows he gets low on tackles, has pretty good awareness with the ball in the air and seems to relish getting the big hit. WHO HATES IOWA?  Apparently not Dinero Moss...

Lincoln Plsek    #103 DE          Waco, TX        6'4''      235
Plsek is on the list of lunch-pail types that seem to be a hallmark of this first Kill recruiting class.  ESPN buzzwords are "not flashy", "ability to grow", "good motor" and "can deliver a pop".  There's a possibility he moves to tight-end, but ESPN thinks he has more upside at DE.


K.J. Maye        #95 ATH         Mobile, AL      5'10''    190
Maye played QB at Murphy HS in Mobile, but it seems like he's destined to move elsewhere; maybe wide receiver or safety.  This is your classic Kill recruit.  He has speed and athletic ability, who cares about position.  Can we call it a classic Kill recruit in his first U of M recruiting class? Whatever... I'm going with it.   ESPN Insider uses "good looking, sleek athlete", "light and lean" and "under the radar".  He sounds like a god-damned racehorse.  Watch his video (SOUND UP!) and you can see he's small, but lightning quick.  He also has some pop in his arm, so maybe some QB play isn't out of the question.  I wouldn't mind seeing what he could do as a 3rd down back type either.

Yoshoub Timms           #83 DT            Fort Walton Beach, FL 6'2''      260
ESPN: "physical dude", "solid size", "flashes of a good get-off" and "displays toughness".  Timms gets a 76 from ESPN, so they think pretty highly of him.  Unfortunately a youtube search for Yoshoub Timms only returns Timmy from South Park videos.  Hopefully his "get-off" is better than Timmay's.

Philip Nelson    #94 QB            Mankato, MN  6'2''      215
ESPN: "lacks ideal measurables", "accurate son of a gun", "quick release and impressive arm power" and "one of the most accurate in short and intermediate".  Basically they just knock his height like he's Doug Flutie, but they do give him a 74; one point from a 3 star.  (video)

Rodrick Williams Jr.     #88 RB            Lewisville, TX  5'10''    215
ESPN: "good versatility", "pass catching threat", "good burst" and "not a lot of wiggle".  Sounds like Rodrick is like me on the dance floor.  What he is though is big and he can catch the ball.  Looks bursty here.

Mitchell Leidner            #110 QB          Lakeville, MN  6'4''      220
ESPN: "deceptively good athlete", "buys time with feet", "adequate deep ball", and "heady".   Leidner is also a 74 from ESPN like Nelson and Rodrick.  Watching him on tape, it looks like his down-field passes vary in accuracy and he sometimes throws the lollipop that would not work in the Big Ten.  He does have the zip on intermediate throws and he's definitely a tough runner, although he might get KTFO if he runs like that in CFB.

Alex Keith        #192 DE          Columbia, MO 6'3''      220
ESPN: "active", "frame that can support more mass", "good motor and hustles" and "displays rigidness".  Active in the ESPN vernacular is akin to the dreaded participation ribbon I think.  Keith has by far the best production value in his youtube clip I've seen so far.  We need to get that guy working on the blog.  From the vid, it appears he has an uncanny ability to get up in the air and bat passes down.  He's also blocked a number of kicks.  He does look like he needs to add size, but he impresses me a bit even if it seems like he's a bit of a one trick pony with the outside-rush-then-jump move.  Also nice to see some special teams coverage hits in there.  I bet Kill & Co. liked that.

Brian Nicholson            #120 OLB       Miami, FL        6'0''      215
ESPN: "attack style", "short range burst", the dreaded "hip tightness", "toughness" and "should add value on special teams".  It looks like he pursues and can tackle, but he's raw.  (video)

Nick Rallis        #121 S Edina, MN       6'0''      205
ESPN: "tough", "solid run supporter", "good pursuit speed" and "drives through ball carriers".  All I care about is how sweet his hair is.  His video is filled with hustle and extra-effort type plays.  (video)

Jordan Hinojosa           #138 DT          Miami, FL        6'3''      272
ESPN: "plays through the whistle", "needs to improve upper and lower body strength", "tough to single block at times" and "high effort and technique make up for athleticism".  Swan and others like Jordan's upside.  I like his facial hair.  Here's his version of the Tebow press conference.

Scott Ekpe       #147 DT          Lewisville, TX  6'3''      255
ESPN: "needs to improve strength", "quick first step", "gives effort in pursuit with a high motor."  MOTOR!

Antonio Johnson           #157 S Cleveland, OH 5'11''    190
ESPN: "productive as a RB and a DB", "tough customer", "very good desire" and "plays zone coverage with good awareness".  Instrumental version of Birdman in this video with a lot of celebrating by Johnson.  He's definitely one tough SOB.

Jack Lynn         #174 OLB       Lake Zurich, IL            6'2''      205
ESPN: "can add body mass over time", "is effective as a slot receiver", "creates havoc in the opposing backfield", "alert in zone coverage" and "tough customer who plays with motor".  I see a trend, you guys.  Jack is the last of the 2 star guys listed by ESPN.  I gotta say he looks pretty smooth at both WR and LB. (video)

Duke Anyanwu #289 WR         Blaine, MN      6'2''      215

Damarius Travis            S          Pensacola, FL  6'1''      185

Maxx Williams  TE        Waconia, MN  6'3''      220

Eric Murray      ATH    Milwakee, WI  5'11''    175

Ben Lauer        OT       Plymouth, MN  6'6''      260

Isaac Fruechte  JUCO WR       Caledonia, MN            6'2''      210

James Gillum    JUCO RB        Pearl River, LA            5'11''    195

Jeremy Baltazar            JUCO CB        Brenham, TX    6'0''      195

Martez Shabazz            JUCO CB        Athens, TX       5'11''    170

Briean Boddy   JUCO CB        Coffeyville, KS 5'11''    175
I like the idea of adding Baltazar, Boddy and Shabazz in the hopes of immediately bolstering the secondary.  This is a huge need.  These dudes all have cool names too.

Roland Johnson            JUCO DT        Duncan, SC      6'1''      285
Likewise with Roland Johnson... hopefully he can immediately contribute.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gopher v. Illinois/UFCONFOX Dual Live Blog

7.05: Starting out with the UFC. Pretty drunj already. Expecting absolute incoherence by 10.00. Let's just enjoy the ride, shall we?

7.07 Gophs pretty much need to win this game, right? I hope it's lively in the Barn tonight. Place has been a fucking morgue of late. I predict a win and, hopefully, Myers Briggs gets ejected for radical douchespray-ness.

7.09 I have an unhealthy man crush on Joe-Dan. Most impressive freshman I've seen around these parts in a long time. Oh, and then Tubby takes him out. Fascist.

7.11 I like Demian Maia in this fight against Chris Weidman. Can't say I've seen a lot of Weidman, but Maia is a jits ace and has improved his standup pretty considerably, so it's tough to see Weidman besting him.

7.13 Student section pretty impressive thus far tonight. I blame @FromtheBarn for encouraging excommunication of all of our half-assed fans.

7.14 Fack. Under Siege is on too? Want to punch a hole in my TV for not being able to manage more than one program at a time. Wife glaring at me for screaming in frustration.

7.16 Chris Weidman wins the tat contest. He's going to lose, but his skin would make more interesting wallpaper. So there's that.

7.18 Turned back to hear announcer criticizing RS3.0. I hate that fucking sloth. What a goddamned drip.

7.20 I don't want RS3.0 to die. I said that to appease those who think I'm too harsh on him.

7.22 The Bad Boy shorts with the eyes on the ass scare me a little. Kind of like a baby being born without a head or some shit lie that.

7.24 Pretty tight first round for Weidman/Maia. Maia throwing a lot of haymakers. I feel like Weidman is a little concerned about taking Maia down since it would probably mean he'd lose an arm or his neck. Tough to live without a neck.

7.27 Back to Gopher game just in time to see Eliason tie it. Already 52.3x the player RS3.0 is.

7.30 Midway through the Maia/Weidman fight. Kind of a sleepy, technical fight. At least no one is losing a fetal explosion on their ear on the mat so FOX pulls the card from live TV.

7.31 I guess it's Weidman 2-0; no matter how you score it, it's a bit of a snoozer. Back to Gophers...and commercial. Fuck you Commercial Christ.

7.37 This fight has devolved into something of a shit sandwich. Both are exhausted. I hope they both lose.

7.41 Wife pretty pissed about that Harley Davidson commercial, you guys. Weidman wins. "What a great fight!" - No one.

7.42 Back to Gophers for awhile. Eliason is pleasing me. /crosses arms /nods approvingly.

7.49 If Bisping wins and gets a title shot, there is no God whatsoever. I used to like the guy and then he coached the Ultimate Fighter and I saw what nozzle he was. Now I hope all of his skin burns off.

7.51 Gophs up by 5 with 28.2 left in the first half. Haven't been able to see much other than to recognize that this team is miles more impressive when that bung RS3.0 isn't on the court.

7.54 I'm pretty sure even Britons hate Bisping. And they have irrational love for everything British, like Prince Charles. And I say that as an expat Briton.

7.57 Giving this round to Bisping, even with the takedowns. Bisping has connected with a couple of nice shots. Sonnen looks rough.

8.03 Christ, did Sonnen even prep for this fight. He looks like an ass crack out there.

8.10 Sonnen in full mount with 2.15 left in the third. Pretty much needs a finish for the win or to smash him for the drawsauce. He's definitely down 2-nil.

8.13 Frack. I think Bisping wins. Last I saw he was +300. Should have bet my rent money on that, I guess.

8.16 Huh. Chael won. 30-27 on two cards. I must be fucking bombed out of my mind. Glad I still have rent money.

8.19 Sampson scored. It was worth a specific entry.

8.24 Got FIFA 2012 for the PS3 today. I really suck the hind teat at that game. I've been an XBoxer for years so it may just be because it's on a different platform. That's the story I'm going with, anyway.

8.29 Myers Leonard is my least favorite player in the nation. He was a giant bitch in our first meeting and he's playing like a nozzle tonight. I hope he gets plantar fascitis.

8.31 #whyisralphsampsonplaying

8.33 Phil Jones is damn good; I'm just not sure he's good enough to beat Rashad right now. Evans is pretty wily.

8.38 Love you, Latvia.

8.45 Davis imbued with the spirit of JoePa here.

8.50 Watching fight while Twitter tells me the Gophers are imploding. Typisch. While he's not getting dominated, it's pretty clear Davis is the inferior fighter.

8.57 Phil looks like he gone cry. Poor Phil.

9.04 Ending with a whimper here. Too much bourbon, if such a thing is possible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MLB Hall of Fame

Judging who is a hall of fame player is a difficult task, and it has become even more troubling as the steroid-era players reach eligibility and a confusing mix of young stat heads that never saw older guys play and old curmudgeons that only look at classic stats and their fond, albeit fading, memory of certain players to determine voting.  Voters seem to be willing to change their mind on whim rather than having some kind of formula or strategy. 

Guys like this guy are determining HOFers.

Worst of all are the sportswriters that decide to throw a bone to hometown players that don't stand a chance in hell of be elected to the hall.  They apparently think a little recognition will make this player's day or something.  I find it to be annoying at the least and hulk-smash-y at the most.  Use your votes for the player you think are deserving of the Hall of Fame, you ninnies.  If you liked some player from your market so much, write an article about them.  You are baseball writers, after all.

This year, Barry Larkin was the only player that received the required 75% of the vote.  In my opinion, he's a deserving candidate and was one of the best shortstops of his era.  I think a hall of fame player can be determined by three factors:

1.  Career stats that stack up with the all-time greats aka the magic thresholds:  3000 hits? You're in.  500  close or over 600 homers? You're probably in.  300 wins is mostly no longer attainable with 5 man rotations and 100 pitch counts, but 250-260 should give you a hard look and 275+ might mean you're in. 

2.  Being one of the best players in your era:  Did you have a 10 year run where you were the best? In.  Did you get a bunch of MVPs or you were in the top 10 in MVP or Cy Young quite a bit? In.  Position comes into play here.  Being among the best in your era with an extended career and therefore some big career stats helps.  Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances are not an important consideration because they've been ruined by horrible voting.  They are the to be given the most minor of considerations.  In 1999, Rafael Palmeiro got a gold glove by being the DH for 128 games and playing first base for just 28 games.  He still managed to make one error.  Ozzie Smith made the all-star game in 1995 at age 40.  He played 44 games all year and hit .199.

3.  The rare several years of extreme greatness and a career suddenly cut short:  Kirby Puckett falls into this category.  Some think Don Mattingly should, but even though I had some Mattingly posters on the wall (one with a tommy gun?) I don't think he fits mainly because he had a slow degradation and perhaps not as many top level seasons as you'd like.  Koufax is an example though.

I can't stress enough how important era is.  Ron Santo got jobbed for a long time even though he played quite a bit in an era where the mound was higher and pitchers like Bob Gibson were posting 1.12 ERAs and he was still kicking some ass. (In 1969, the mound was lowered from 15" to 10")  Also an important tiebreaker or consideration is the lore or hype surrounding the player.  If there were seminal events in their career with one of the three above, this should get them over the top.  Huge playoff performances, breaking records, being known for being incredible at something, etc.

With all of these factors in mind, here are the guys I would have voted for for the MLB Hall of Fame.

DownwithGoldy with Barry Larkin in '91

1. Barry Larkin, SS - 495 Votes, 86.4%

Larkin was the only one to make it in to the Hall of Fame and did so easily with 86.4% of the vote.  Barry was one of the best shortstops of his era. There are others that are in that conversation, namely HOFers Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith, but that's quality company to keep.  Larkin was the 1995 MVP and was 7th, 12th, 12th, 17th, 22nd in other years.  Larkin amassed 2,340 hits, 198 homers and 379 stolen bases over 19 years.  While those numbers don't hit any of the big counting milestones, they are impressive amongst shortstops.

He was known as one of the best shortstops in the game and since we already know gold gloves are rigged we can allay the fact that he only won three of them.  As long as The Wizard was doing backflips out to his position, writers were going to give him a gold glove. 

Finally, Larkin was 90th all time in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with 68.9 all time.  That puts him like 4-5th among shortstops.  (Robin Yount was maybe a half shortstop) So, what the frick is WAR you ask?

"WAR is a sum of the win value of a player's offense, defense, pitching, adjusted for that player's defensive position, playing time (thus keeping the replacement level players off the field) and year, park, and league context."  -Some Smart Guy
So, basically a number of other stats are taken and mashed together in order to compare players across era and position.  Neat huh?  OK, so he's in.  Here's who else I would have voted for...

Nice shirt choice, bro.

2.  Jeff Bagwell, 1B - 321 Votes, 56%

Steroid era guys are tough to vote for; especially when some have either been implicated or have admitted to using performance enhancing what-nots.  So, we're left with two options:  ignore about 12-15 years of baseball completely, or once again compare them against their peers and vote in the elite. (and make fun of their shrunken testes)  We'll never know how many didn't use something, so I'm inclined to just take the era for what it is.

Bagwell WAR was good for 79.9 over 15 years.  He won 1 MVP award and was top-10 another five times.  He had 2314 hits, 449 homeruns and a career .408 OBP.  He also stole 202 bases for the hell of it.  He was a very good defensive player, but it was at first base, so no extra points there. He's 22nd all time in OPS (On Base + Slugging) at .948.  He had cool chin-beards.

LaRussa checking the oil...

3.  Mark McGwire, 1B - 112 Votes, 19.5%

This last season was Mark's 6th being eligible for the HOF.  His numbers are well beyond what would be normally required for entrance but he's shared more needles than my man Bubs on The Wire has.

Bubs on the grind.

McGwire was one of the most feared hitters in baseball.  He had 583 homers, a .394 OBP and a 63.1 WAR.  The bitter writers have made him suffer for awhile and I think it's time to accept him in.  What's interesting now though is in 2012 a number of other known steroid lovers are also eligible (Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, etc).  So, will McGwire get lumped in with all of these first timers as they get the snub? Or does he get in before them, thus indicating they'll eventually get in as well.  Do they even have enough material to make busts out of some of these massive craniums?

4.  Tim Raines, OF - 279 Votes, 48.7%

Tim "Rock" Raines was originally given his nickname based on his build, but in Ken Burns' baseball it was also said that he only slid into bases head-first because he didn't want to break the vial of crack in his back pocket.  Raines is 5th all-time in stolen bases with 808, he had 2605 hits and another 1330 walks.  He has a 64.6 career WAR and a .385 OBP.  He played in 23 seasons spanning over parts of 4 decades.  Over time as statistics begin to favor OBP as opposed to batting average, Raines has gained a lot of momentum.  Raines is one of the best lead-off men of all time, whether high on crack or not. 


5.  Jack Morris, SP

Morris had 254 wins over 18 seasons.  He garnered MVP votes in 5 seasons.  He averaged 16 wins per year over his career. His career ERA is a less-than-wonderful 3.90.  These numbers would put Jack just outside of consideration, but then you consider his playoff performances.  He's been a key component of 3 different World Series teams.  He's 7-4 in 13 post-season starts with 5 complete games. As a Twins fan the 10 inning complete game he hurled against the Braves stands as a massive moment in baseball history.  However, I'm not alone in this as it's considered by many to be one of the great games in World Series history.  Jack Morris' post-season play and success puts him over the top for a HOF induction.

Had a little Garfunkel in him, didn't he?

6. Alan Trammell, SS - 211 Votes, 36.8%

If Barry Larkin is in the HOF, Alan Trammell should be as well.  Larkin had 2340 hits, Alan had 2365.  Larkin had 198 homers, Trammell had 185.  Larkin had 1 MVP and was in voting 5 other times, Trammell was in voting 7 times and finished 2nd once.  They both have won some gold gloves and both were key cogs on a championship team.  To me, Trammell was just a shade (noracist) short of the player Larkin was and he should be in. 

Sorry about all of these baseball blog post...I'll do something else next.  Now accepting suggestions in the comments section. YWIA

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Get Tape for Your Pet's Heads - Gopher Football Recruiting

What the deuce is happening with this recruiting cycle? I'm not much of a recruitnik, but I know enough to know that, like Toweliee, I have no idea what's going on right now. We've got about 15 TE/H-back prospects currently committed, a bunch of dudes who are not ranked by the esteemed recruiting services and now, two weeks before NSD, appear to be going after receivers like we're abandoning the idea of an offensive line and rolling with ten receiver sets. Maybe it'll be a revelation like the toaster or forward pass. After 45 years of shitting our mess kits, why not give it a shot?
It's okay, Toweliee. No one knows what's going on.
The attitude on the Gopher webz is predictably schizoid. On the one hand, peeps are convinced the team is doomed and, regardless of Kill's coaching acumen, we'll never be competitive with a bunch of Western Michigan rejects. Alternatively, we should all relax because Kill is the greatest developer of talent since Fillmore Slim, recruiting services and BCS offers be damned.

So which hyperbolic viewpoint is closer to the truth? Beats me. There's certainly merit to the argument that higher-rated recruits have a positive correlation with joy in the W column, though I think it's overblown, to some extent (MV over at FBT did some of his sorcery to define the R-squared value, or the amount of variability in W/L that can be attributed to recruiting rankings, but I'm too lazy to find the link). Conversely, it'd be tough to win many games with drunk tubs of margarine like TRE and me, regardless of the strength of Kill's talent development regimen. It just doesn't look like we're getting guys who are coveted by the other AQ conferences.

So, what to do? I'm not stressing too much since there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. We've been latched to the hind teat of the B1G for my entire life, so what's another few throwaway years if Kill's recruiting  is as appealing as Bert motorboating Barry's supple moobs. Regardless, the next two weeks should be interesting. I'll openly weep if a certain local WR chooses UCLA over us, even though I know it's coming. I won't apologize for my telekinetic rage when the pig's blood falls from the rafters onto my prom dress, you guys.

They're all going to laugh at you, Gophers!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Timberwolves 2011-12 Preview

Okay, so the season already started, but I'm calling it a preview anyway.  I know you guys will bombard the comments section with complaints about this, but tough titties.  We have some long winter months ahead, and while the Gophers are taking their lumps in Big Ten play, why not watch the Timberwolves from time to time.  I know you're bitter towards them, but the time to climb aboard the bandwagon is now!  They've been in every game this year and have won the last two.

Adelman cracks me up in this pic
Here's my run down of the Wolves' roster this year.

Starting Lineup

Really need Luke to go back to this hairstyle.
PG  Luke Ridnour
Key Stat 4th in NBA with 44% from 3 point range in 10-11.
Salary $3.7MM -  signed through 13-14

Ridnour appears to be the man Wolves fans love to hate and it's going to get even worse for him this year as the Rubio hype continues to grow.  Ridnour is a quality veteran that has good percentages, makes few mistakes and carries a palatable salary.  Rubio's development is a wild-card, but I'd expect Ridnour to start at the point all year and for Rubio and Barea to continue to come off of the bench.  This doesn't mean that Ridnour will consistently get the most minutes at the point though.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
SG Wes Johnson
Key Stat Wolves rookie record 103 three-pointers in 10-11.
Salary $4MM - team option for 13-14

Wes was a major force at Syracuse; mainly as a slasher type that ran the floor at break-neck speeds.  In his rookie year with the Wolves he seemed to convert to more of a spot-up shooter type.  As the year went on, he seemed to get better in that role, but I think he's being under-utilized if that's all he's doing.  With Adelman in, we have less triangle and  more wide open play.  With Rubio/Barea/Ridnour the plan clearly is to run.  Wes should get on a wing and get some dunks.  Last year, Wes shot 39.7% and 35.8% from 3.  What they need most from Wes is the ability to play solid defense.  As scrappy as Barea is, there will be plenty of 2s he just cannot guard due to his size.  Wes shows flashes of good D, but needs consistency here.

Oops, God's Son left weed on the table.
SF Michael Beasley
Key Stat 4.4 points per game increase in first year with Wolves.
Salary $6.3MM - signed through this year, qualifying offer for 12-13

The good thing about Beasley is he's one of the few Wolves that can create his own shot.  He can get a shot off pretty much at will.  The bad thing is he's a little mopey, shoots too much, plays no D and loves the Mary Jane.  Another scary thing is Beasley/Love/Randolph all have the same agent and are all looking for extensions.  At $6-7MM Beasley has value.  I'm not so sure he does at $10MM per year; especially when you have a lot of redundant skills/position with rookie Derrick Williams.

Kevin Love lost weight this summer; part of it thanks to beach volleyball!
PF Kevin Love
Key Stat first player to average at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in a season since Moses Malone in 82-83
Salary $4.6MM - signed through this year, qualifying offer for 12-13

Kevin was a beast last year.  He didn't rest in the off-season either.  He worked out like that Jillian Michaels psycho was screaming in his ear all off-season.  He's almost scary-in shape, but it hasn't stopped him from banging underneath like John Holmes in the first four games.

C Darko Milicic
Key Stat  2.0 blocks in 24 minutes per game
Salary $4.8MM - signed through 13-14

Everyone hates Darko, but he has an ok-ish contract and provides something that no one else on the team can.  Namely, post defense and shot blocking.  Flattening Kendrick Perkins in the first game is the type of borderline crazy, Serbian war-lord we need to see inside.  They only need him for about 20 minutes a game and he can blast out his 6 fouls in that time for all I care.


SF/PF Derrick Williams
Key Stat: 56% from 3 at Arizona last year.

Salary $4.6MM - team option in 13-14 and 14-15

When Derrick Williams was drafted, I was torn.  There's no doubt he was one of the best available in the draft and he had a massive season at Arizona.  I was concerned about the similarities between him and Beasley.  They're both a little slow to be a 3 and a little undersized to play the 4. Derrick will need to be able to hit the NBA three with consistency.  His key stat is that he did shoot 56% from 3 last year.  Now he needs to be able to step back three feet and do the same in the NBA.  He's having early struggles with the 3 early on this season, but I've seen him be very active on both offensive and defensive rebounding.  Although undersized, he's very nifty around the rim; using solid footwork and a variety of finishes with both hands.

I no look-a when I make-a the pass. /rubiovoice

PG Ricky Rubio
Key Stat: FG 39.2%, 3PT 22.4% last year at Barcelona
Salary $3.5MM - team option in 13-14 and 14-15

You can't say enough about Ricky Rubio right now.  He's come flying out of the gates in amazing fashion with his slick ball-handling, high tempo, finishing and even some jumpers.  The key stat for Rubio that everyone loves to point out is how poorly he shot for Barca last year.  Being the uber-dork that I am I watched a few of those games and I came away thinking the jumper wasn't that bad.  I don't think most people realize that was over 20 games where he went 20 for 51 from the field.  He split time there with former Memphis Grizzly Juan Carlos Navarro.  He hasn't been perfect, he makes some boneheaded mistakes out there that hopefully he'll learn from as he develops, but despite that he generally flat out makes everyone play harder and look better around him.  I have a bet with Jeff in California that Rubio will shot at least 40% from the field this year.  So far, so good!


PG J.J. Barea
Key Stat 9.5ppg last year with Mavericks
Salary $4.3MM - signed through 14-15

Barea is one of the elder statesmen on the team at 27 years old.  He's a bulldog that annoys opposing players with his in-your-underpants defense.  He's slippery like Jonny Flynn wants to be when he drives the lane; and he's a very good 3 point shooter that can rain them in bunches.  He's battling through a bit of a hamstring issue right now, but the times where he's been feeling good, he looks very nice out there.

This is the only time I've seen Anthony smile.
PF Anthony Randolph
Key Stat 4th NBA in pouty looks last year.
Salary $2.9MM - signed through this year, qualifying offer for 12-13

Mensa isn't calling Anthony any time soon.  He has a lot of talent, but not a lot of brains.  Adelman, to his credit, is finding the guy playing time right now in the hopes that he'll learn through experience.  This is a big year for Anthony, who hopes to prove that he's worth of some kind of contract extension.  He rebounds, he blocks shots, he's very aggressive, he commits silly fouls, he goaltends, he turns the ball over. 

PF/C Anthony Tolliver 
Key Stat 40.9% from 3 last year, high socks
Salary $2MM - signed through this season only

Tolliver is earning a lot of playing time right now.  He's on of the guys on the bench that can come in and give you some scrap on defense and maybe knock down a 3 hear and there.  He has the stiff white man's game in a black man's body.  You have to love Anthony.  By the way, he's also the team's player rep in the union.

SF Martell Webster 
Key Stat Played 82 games in 09-10
Salary $5.3MM - team option for 12-13

Martell is perpetually injured.  He's got the back of a 350lb construction worker it seems.  When healthy, he's useful.  Another guy that can shoot and play a little D.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him steal some Wes minutes if Wes remains in the dog-house if/when he's back. 


Nikola Pekovic

Key Stat
Salary $4.3MM - signed through 12-13

Pek is a burly pick-and-rolling center that doesn't see any time right now.  He has a nice prison tat on his shoulder with a dude and a bunch of skulls and usually is sporting a beard.  If Darko were to go down he would ably step in as the resident thug/banger guy, without the shot blocking.

Amanda Altschuler FTW
SG Wayne Ellington 
Key Stat 9.3ppg in 8 starts last year
Salary $1.1MM - signed through 12-13, qualifying offer in 14-15

Wayne seems to do stuff when he gets the chance.  He got a start already this year with Wes struggling and he did very well.  I'm impressed by how Ellington has worked on his game and as long as his contract is really cheap, he's useful on the bench.

Check out the big braids on Brad.
C Brad Miller
Key Stat  All-Star in 03 and 04, sweet headband
Salary $4.7MM - signed through 12-13

Brad is in the twilight of his career and was a part of the Flynn trade.  He's owed a chunk of change this year and next.  He's still a good passer and has good size, so he might give a few minutes at center when he comes back in February.

You're going to have to put that hat all of the way on here in MN. 
SG Malcom Lee
Key Stat 13.1ppg at UCLA last year
Salary 3 year deal through 13/14, couldn't find salary

Lee was a second round pick this year from UCLA.  At 6'5", he's supposed to be able to play and defend both the point and shooting guard positions.  He's raw, and is a cheap stab at a defensive stopper type.  Of course, early media reports are all about how wonderful he is, but we'll have to wait and see.