Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mark Jackson's Problem and Harrison Barnes

Unfortunately for Golden State, the draft isn't the only newsworthy piece of information to come out of Golden State Thursday. I'm not going to really talk about it much here, cause I don't know much about it, but apparently Coach Mark Jackson was a victim of a scandalous extortion scheme involving a stripper. You could probably put two and two together to figure out what the basis of the extortion charge is, but I just hope this doesn't take Jackson's focus off of the draft. He's obvioussy the victim in this, so I do feel for him, even if he never met this woman, his name still gets dragged through the mud, but that's the price you pay these days to be a high-end public figure. Anyhow, that's off-field, non-basketball related news so I'll leave that to the legal analysts and pundits to talk about, cause there is much more important things happening at Warriors headquarters tonight.

All I've been hearing over the last few days is exactly what I posted in our previous post a few days ago. The Warriors look like they will indeed hold onto all their picks and will have to make a choice on somebody at pick 7. The thing is, I don't even think they know who they're going to pick yet, and probably won't until they see how the first 4-5 picks shake out. They could still be holding out hope that a Barnes or Drummond fall to them, but at the same time, they need to be prepared and have a plan B ready. Everyone in the Bay Area sports media seems to believe that Plan B is Dion Waiters, which I mentioned last post, but it's really anyones guess at this point. There was also a rumor floating around Wednesday that the Warriors could trade down in the draft and acquire two mid-round picks. I think they're playing it by ear though, and we won't see them do anything until the draft starts, if they do make a move at all... Be sure to check back with us after the picks role in for player analysis and thoughts. Until then, in Bob Myers and Coach Jackson we trust, kind of.

SF Harrison Barnes
Warriors Draft Harrison Barnes: The pick is in, and the guy I was really hoping would fall to Golden State, ended up doing just that. The Warriors biggest need heading into this offseason was at small forward, and in my mind, they just got themselves the 2nd best one in the draft, with the possibility to be the best. Barnes was picked on most mock drafts to go anywhere from pick 3 through 5, but most pundits had him coming off the board before the Warriors picked at 7. Barnes averaged over 17 points per game last season for UNC, and most people think he lost his chance at being the number 2 pick by not finishing the season off strong with a good tournament showing. He's a better offensive player than #2 pick Michael Kidd-Gillchrist, but he's not quite the defender. His best attribute heading into his rookie season is by far his jump shot. He's a tremendous athlete and shoots the ball at the peak of his jump, making it next to impossible to block. The one area he'll have to improve on is his inside play and being more aggressive in attacking the rim. All in all, love this pick as Barnes is not only a special, consensus top-5 talent, but also helps fill the biggest need on the floor for the Warriors. Here is a video of Barnes vs. Virginia Tech from January to get an idea of his style of play. As you can see, a great shooter that should fit right in with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Are LeBron and Jordan Now Comparable?

The Miami Heat won the 2012 NBA Finals, and they did so in such convincing fashion, that it's raised some question as to whether or not LeBron James could be on his way to Michael Jordan-stature after all.

LeBron Reels in First Tittle
After LeBron went 8 full seasons through the league without a championship, his moment finally came last night in South Beach as the Miami Heat won their first tittle since 2006. The win gave LeBron his first tittle at age 27, which is a year younger than the great Air Jordan was when he hoisted the trophy for the first time with Chicago. It's prompted a lot of talk around the basketball world whether or not this victory should put LeBron James in the same sentence as Mr. Jordan, but I think it's way to early to make that jump. Jordan was a 5-time Champion, put up ridiculous scoring numbers and had one of the best jump shots in the NBA and LeBron, in comparison, is just getting started. I personally am not even close to being ready to put James up on the pedestal with Jordan, but he's definitely on the right path. During that championship celebration, LeBron exuded a persona that I've never seen out of "The King". He admitted being humbled by last seasons loss to the Mavs and even said he played the game "angrily". It seems like LeBron has grown up a lot since his last trip to basketball's biggest stage, and as a fan of the NBA, I'm happy to see he's finally getting it. He's certainly one of the most skilled players I've ever seen, and although I'm not ready to say he's Jordan 2.0, he's definitely on the right path.

D-Wade: The Glue of the Heat!
The two overlooked guys, in my mind, for the Champion Miami Heat is the guy who brought them home the 2006 tittle, Dwayne Wade, and their tremendous coach, Erik Spoelstra. After that loss to the Mavs last season, I thought that Spoelstra would be the guy who would bear the brunt of the failure and end up losing his job. However, all he did during this playoff run was prove that he too learned from the 2011 upset to the Mavericks. That dude has to run perhaps the most glorified and heavily ridiculed team of the last 20 years, and even when it looked like they were down for the count various times throughout these playoffs, he riled his troops together and got them back on track. He took over a team with 3 guys that were always option number one for their respective teams, and managed to get those 3 to not only mesh, but play together like powerhouse. That's a leader for you. This is also where I think D-Wade helped a lot. As great as LeBron is, Wade is older and more mature than James, had been there before and won and seemed willing to do whatever he had to in order to ensure the "Big Three" would be successful. He went from being one of the leagues premiere stars himself to playing 2nd fiddle to LeBron and did it terrifically, and selflessly. Qualities that are hard to find in modern day NBA stars.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Giants Web Cast

We've only been doing about a show or two per month lately over at, as they've been having some audio issues with their site. However, the videos have been fixed to work at secondary sites, so we've resumed them and I wanted to post our first episode back since early May.

These will start being posted with more regularity as we'll be doing one show per week. We also have the 49ers WebCast launching, and the Warriors WebCast resuming later this month, and will post both here once they're up... Anyway, here's the latest Giants BlogCast:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Matt Cain Throws Perfect Game

Matt Cain exemplified perfection Wednesday night at AT&T Park, as the man who's come so close to no-hitters in the past, finally went the distance, throwing the first perfect game in Giants' history.

Matt Cain In Midst of Perfection
Cain struck out a career-high 14 batters in route to his perfect outing, as Houston hitters looked lost at the plate all night long. I've been to a few games when Cain has taken no-hitters into the 8th and 9th innings before, but I've never seen him in the form he was in Wednesday night at AT&T Park. The 27 year-old right-hander is the one that got the big contract in the winter, not Tim Lincecum, and the early dividends have paid off huge for San Francisco. With Cain's perfect outing, he moved his record to a dominant 8-2, coupled with a 2.19 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. It was his 7th straight victory, and he's allowed 1 or less runs in 5 of those 7 outings. This game also has to put him on the map as the potential starter for the NL in the All-Star game in July. With the way he's been going since back-to-back 4-run outings a month ago, there really hasn't been a better starting pitcher in the league. I know R.A. Dickey is having an incredible season for the New York Mets and even Aroldis Chapman has been mentioned as a possible starter for the NL, but Matt Cain is on fire right now, and has really become may be the NL's most dominant starting pitcher at the moment.

I'll tell you one person who will definitely be happy with Cain's performance, and that's Lincecum. He better be thanking Matty for helping take some of the spotlight off him. It was a game that will forever go down in the history books, not only in San Francisco Giants history, but Major League baseball history as well. It wasn't just Matt Cain that did his job to perfection Wednesday, as the Giants offense rattled off 10 runs vs. J.A. Happ and the Houston bullpen. Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera and Brandon Belt (for a 2nd consecutive game) all went yard, and 7 of the 8 starters had multi-hit games. Pablo Sandoval reacted to being moved down to the 6th spot with some anger, going 3-4 with a double and 2 RBI, by far his best game since being activated over the weekend. It was a rare night when everything lined up perfectly, the offense, the defense and of course, the pitching. This is the type of victory that can really spark a season!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals Prediction

The NBA Finals are finally upon us, and it's the exact matchup I was hoping for and expecting, OKC Thunder and the Miami Heat. These two were arguably the best team in their respective conferences, so it's only fitting they meet in the Finals, but this is a tough one to predict.

Heat's 2nd Finals in 2 Years
This is going to be a helluva matchup, as both teams have immense talent. It's the two super stars of the East vs. the rising young powerhouse of the West. The Heat showed in game 7 vs. the Celtics how they can just take over a game and dominate when LeBron and Wade are going to the basket and Chris Bosh is knocking down shots, they're pretty much unstoppable. However, the Thunder sport a defensive unit that should be able to at least compete with Miami's offensive stars. They have big Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins to guard the basket and protect against those Wade and LeBron power-drives to the basket when they just take their man on the dribble and fly to the hoop. They won't be able to do that as easily vs. OKC. Also, the Thunder have one of the best perimeter defenders in the game in Thabo Sefolosha. I believe the Coach Brooks would be wise to throw Sefolosha on Wade, because I think James is too strong for him and Thabo can at least neutralize D-Wade a bit. That would leave a Durrant/James matchup which would likely make for an epic battle. On paper, the Thunder compare very favorably with the Heat, as the Heat don't have an inside presence on offense or defense like the Thunder have with Ibaka and Perkins.

Are the Thunder Ready?
Ultimately, I think this series is going to come down to whether or not the Thunder can take advantage of their mis-matches. I really believe that this as Oklahoma's series to lose if they can play their game, but the Heat will pounce on them and bury them if they don't. The other clear advantage that OKC has besides inside presence on defense is their stud point guard Russell Westbrook, who when he's right, will take over  a game kinda like Rajon Rondo almost did to the Heat in game 7. Rondo was giving Miami all sorts of trouble driving to the hop and either dishing off to an open shooter or finishing at the rim himself. Westbrook isn't quite the passer that Rondo is, but he can be much more dangerous on offense when he has his shot. When his shot is on, he's not only a threat from outside, but one of the fastest, most efficient guards in the league off the dribble. The Heat turned it up when they had to against the aging Celtics, but their paper thin prevailing in that series tells me they have all kinds of issues on defense, and I expect the Thunder to take full advantage of those issues. That said, the Thunder are one of the youngest collective groups in the league, and they showed it at times in their series vs. San Antonio. If they make rookie mistakes on the big stage, as I've said, the Heat will pounce. In the end though, I expect the Thunder to be too much for Miami and although it very well could take all 7 games to do it, I think the OKC Thunder will be the next champion of the NBA.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A's Get a Little of Everything in the Draft

We talked a bit about the top Giants draftees over at The Giants Baseball Blog a few days ago, and today, I wanted to talk a bit about the A's top picks, as they had a few first round/compensation selections and looked to have cashed in.

As always, you never quite know what you get in the MLB Draft until the players take the field and start playing for their respective organizations, but the A's had 5 picks in the top-100, and used them wisely. Here's a brief player capsule on each of their 5 five picks.

Russell Can Do It All
#11) Addison Russell, 3B; Pace HS, FLA: Russell was one of the top-3 prep bats to come out in this years class, and since the A's have had trouble producing quality hitters in recent years, it really didn't surprise me that they took a stick with their top overall pick. Russell is a very good athlete who played short in high school, but most believe his future is at 3rd base. He's got the bat for it, and he's a plus defender with a cannon arm. He kind of reminds me a bit of Pablo Sandoval with his size, and his ability to hit everything in the strike zone. One thing the A's will work with him on is being patient and staying back, but this kid looks like the real deal and the A's have to be ecstatic with this selection. He's just 18, so he's probably got a few years of seasoning to do before being big league ready, but he's got the tools to move through Oakland's system quickly.

#34) Daniel Robertson, SS; Upland HS, CA: Again, the A's had a clear need to add some potential starting MLB bats in this draft, and they did just that with both Russell, and their 2nd pick, Robertson. Both Robertson and Russell played SS in high school, but Robertson has more of a chance to stick there as a pro. He's got the intangibles you look for in a shortstop, plus he was one of the best prep hitters in the draft. He's not as powerful as Russell, but you won't find too many prep bats that hit for a better average and played as important role for his team than Robertson. A lot of scouts had him going in the first round, so it's almost like the A's came out with two first round infielders with these top-two selections.

#47) Matt Olson, 1B; Parkview HS, GA: Olson was both an impact hitter and pitcher in high school in Georgia, but he was drafted with the intent on making him a first basemen. He's got a smooth left-handed stroke which the ball just jumps off of. He's got the ability to hit for plus power at the next level and should carry a decent average with it. This one was a bit surprising, as he wasn't even in a lot of the top-100 prospect lists, but after doing some research, I can see why the A's like the 6'4" 235 pound slugger.

#62) Bruce Maxwell, C; Birmingham Southern: This was the real head-scratcher for me. There were a lot of nice prospects on the board, better catchers even, but the A's obviously liked something about Maxwell. He's a good receiver and a terrific defender, but it seems like his defensive skills may be ahead of his hitting right now. Again, I don't know enough about him to deem this a bad pick, but at 62, you'd expect to get someone with a little more clout and track record, however, they really made up for it with their 5th selection.

Sanburn a Possible Ace Closer!
#74) Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Arkansas: The A's got lucky with this one here. Sanburn was one of the higher thought off relievers in this draft, and many thought he'd come off the board in the first round. He had success as closer for Arkansas, and I doubt the A's have plans on moving him from the bullpen. His fastball sits in the mid-90's with regularity with the ability to add a few mph when needed. Plus, with two college seasons under his belt, and being a relief pitcher, he appears to be the pick with the quickest track to the bigs. The A's dealt their star young closer Andrew Bailey before the season, and they've likely found his long-term replacement in this touted flame-thrower. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

A's and Giants MLB Draft Preview

MLB's annual Amateur Draft is just a few hours away from kicking off, and although I'm not as familiar with as many prospects in this class as I've been the last few, there are still some very nice talents projected to go in round one. In this post, we'll take a look at a few players for each the A's (Pick 11) and Giants (Pick 20) that could hear their name called this evening.

First off, we'll start with Oakland, who should have their choice of players that may fall to 11, and for a team in complete rebuilding mode, my guess is that they'll take the best available talent on the board at 11, whether it's a catcher or a relief pitcher. Also, the A's a few choices in the compensation round as well, which means they'll be walking out of today with a few new pieces to their puzzle. We'll talk more about their choices after the draft, but here are a few names expected to go around the top-10 that may fall to Oakland at 11:

SS, Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico B.A.: The brightest prospect coming out of Puerto Rico this year is the 18 year-old Correa, who may decide to keep his commitment with Florida if he doesn't go in the top-10. Still, a lot of teams could be hesitant to take him because of that fact, and if he falls to Oakland, and they can convince him to sign, they could be finding themselves the next Miguel Tejada. A true shortstop who hit's like a corner infielder but runs and defends like a center fielder.

RHP, Marcus Stroman, Duke: Stroman is this drafts Drew Storen. Almost a sure bet to rise quickly thoruhg the minor leagues and become an eventual top-notch closer at the big league level. I know relievers aren't always the most exciting selections high in the first round, but this kid has some unique tools. The one knock on him is his size, standing at only 5'9" tall. That said, look at Pedro Martinez and Tim Lincecum, plenty of slender framed, shorter pitchers have done just fine in the Majors and I think Stroman will too. If the A's decide to go closer of the future, he's their guy.

1B/3B Richie Shaffer, Clemson: Shaffer is probably the best corner infielder that will last past the top-10, and if the A's want to make a move to stabilize their corner infield future, he should be their choice. He's adept at first and third base and has the bat to carry himself at both spots. The A's haven't had top corner infielders since Eric Chavez and Jason Giambi, so going this route would make a lot of sense. Billy Beane also likes his collegiate players and Shaffer should move through the system quickly.

LHP, Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma St.: With all the young starters the A's have accumlated through trades the last few years (and more likely on the way this summer when they deal guys like Colon, Balfour and Reddick), I think the A's would be better suited going after a college bat like Shaffer. However, if they do take a starter, the left-handed Heaney could very well be their man.

Possible Targets for the Giants at Pick 20:

RHP, Zach Eflin, HS, FLA: Eflin is one of the higher touted prep right handed starters in this draft, and really reminds me a lot of another Zach the Giants drafted then dealt away last summer for Carlos Beltran. Eflin has a quiet, compact motion but the ball explodes out of his hand. He could go higher than 20, but if he falls there, the Giants should jump. He's 6'5" and 200 pounds, and has a frame and motion very similar to Giants' horse Matt Cain. The Giants have done terrific with their first rounders when picking pitchers in recent drafts, and they don't have the depth in the minors like they did 2-3 years ago. They've got to where they are now by drafting pitching early, and they need to continue that formula.

RHP, Chris Stratton, Miss. St.: Stratton could also make a lot of sense for the Giants as most believe he'll last into the 20's and could be the best college arm available when the Giants choose. He's almost like a right-handed version of Andrew Heaney, who I think would be a great choice at 20 if he fell as well. Stratton was a reliever at Mississippi St., but became a starter this year and quickly became his teams ace. He's got a mid-90's fastball and 3 average to above average pitches to go with it, which if he refines, would give him 4 out pitches. 

OF Victor Roache, Georgia Southern: Roache presents an option that the Giants haven't taken in a long, long time. A natural power hitting outfielder who projects out to hit 25+ home runs per year at the next level. His stock is sky rocketing though, and he could go as early as 8-10, or as late as 25-30. The Giants have some good young hitters in their system, but they don't have any outfielders with plus power, and Roache may be their best bet for just that. He's also coming out a Junior, so he's had some experience and should be ready to move through the system.

RHP Ty Hensley, HS, OK: Hensley isn't quite the overpowering arm that some of the other high schoolers in this draft are, but I've seen some of his work and the kid makes it look easy out there. I like Eflin a lot, but wouldn't at all be opposed to Hensely if the Giants want to go that route. Both are prep arms that would likely take 3 years of seasoning before being ready for big league duty, but both guys project out to be #3 starters or better, and again, the Giants have had most their success in recent drafts taking prep arms early.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What to Expect From Niner Newcomers

Well, we've talked at length about the draft choices the 49ers made back in April and the effect we believe each will have with the team in the 2012 season. And with mini-camps going on all over the country these last few weeks, I wanted to go through the small list of free agent additions the 49ers made this offseason and list what will likely be expected from each.

Mario Manningham, WR: He was likely the biggest impact free agent the 49ers signed this spring. He should come right in and start immediately opposite of Michael Crabtree, which should not only take pressure and focus of #15, but also open up more space for Vernon Davis to do his thing as well. He's had some injury issues the last couple of season with the Giants, but he seems to come up huge in every big game he appears in, and poses both a vertical and possession-receiving type threat. He'll still likely be option #3 behind the guys Alex Smith is most comfortable with, Crabtree and Davis, but I have a feeling he and Alex will hit it off and make a nice connection. The most important factor though with the Manningham signing is it gives a team that couldn't pass for it's life in the NFC Championship, a much more formidable receiving corps.

Moss Impressing
Randy Moss, WR: Moss was the first addition the 49ers made way back in March, and I really liked the move. Moss has been away from the game a year and is supposedly working with renowned motivation and focus. He knows darn well this is not going to be the Patriots offense where he'll get his 100 yards and TD each week. His role will be more to stretch out defenses and keep them honest on the deep ball while opening up the underneath for guys like Davis and Crabtree. If there was one element to the 49ers offense that was missing the most, it was lack of vertical threats in the passing game. Not only did they draft a nice one in the first round, they also brought in Moss. At the same time, Moss will have some work to do in training camp in order to convince the 49ers staff that he's still a play maker. The 49ers all the sudden went to having no receiving depth to having quite a few options, and the best 3 guys out of Crabtree, Manningham, Jenkins and Moss are going to see the most game action come September.

Brandon Jacobs, RB: Jacobs presents a possible solution to another problem the 49ers had last season, and that is short yardage situation where they have to run to ball in order to keep a drive alive. Last season, Gore was used a lot more sparingly, and the 49ers don't want him taking all that punishment between the tackles in short yardage situations and that's why they brought in Jacobs. While Jacobs hasn't been great for the Giants the last few years, he's shown up motivated, lighter and quicker to 49ers headquarters this spring. If he can get back into his 2009 mode, it would really complete the 49ers trio of rushers. They have Gore for the majority load, Kendal Hunter as the speedy C.O.P back and now hopefully Jacobs as the bruiser to get that 3rd and 1 when they need it.

Josh Johnson, QB: Johnson was linked to the 49ers in rumors last fall before the NFL trade deadline when the 49ers weren't quite sold on Colin Kaepernick as the #2 QB in his rookie season. The 49ers are still saying Kaepernick is their QB of the future, but he's apparently not making the progress the team was hoping he would, as quickly as expected. That prompted them to go out and get a proven NFL backup and one that Jim Harbough knows quite well from his days coaching at San Diego State when Johnson set school records for passing yards and TD's. I was all for going after him last fall, so I definitely like the move of bringing him in now. I would have no problem with him closing out a game or starting one in emergency should Alex go down with an injury at some point in 2012.

Parrish Cox, CB: This signing is a lot like the Randy Moss deal. The 49ers protected themselves in-case Cox gets crazy off the field again, but I personally don't think he'll be an issue. He got off to a nice start in Denver with a strong rookie year in 2010, but didn't play last season due to disciplinary actions. He's apparently got his head on straight, and if he can return to form like the 49ers are expecting, he'll end up being a tremendous steal at the price the 49ers got him for. At the same time, if he doesn't work out or fit in, he'll be expendable, just like Moss will be. All in all though, I like the move and I think the 49ers have the influence to keep his nose clean and have him operating at an optimum level. He should figure heavily into the 49ers Nickle and Dime coverage packages.