Detroit Pistons 2019 Draft Preview: Centers

*I hate using “positions” as the NBA has grown out of that but it’s easier for this blog’s current purposes to use the archaic labeling systems*

The Pistons have worked out a lot of bigs. My secret hope is that this is because they realize they just cannot be paying Andre Drummond 50 million per season when he is 30, but I have to be realistic. They may or may not have even considered that troubling possiblity, and/or may or may not consider it an issue (I don’t know which of those two would be worse) . It’s a very real possibility they are just looking for a backup C to fill our roster spot that we have a hole at.

I would be ESCTATIC if we took Goga Bitadze. Goga is a rim protector that spaces the court, a basketball unicorn that is very valuable. He is super young at just 19 years old, and to do what he is doing in the second best basketball league in the world (sorry NCAA) is very impressive. He already has a strong frame and great length, and in addition to his unicorn traits, has solid back to the basket moves, and finishing ability around the rim. He does have to improve his rebounding ability and his pick and roll defense, but he shows flashes of both. To me he is a high ceiling, high floor guy and will be able to learn from Andre for a year or two, before taking over for him as we move on.

I would be pleased if we took Bol Bol or Jaxon Hayes. Both are still raw but have a lot of potential. Bol is basically all of Goga’s unicorn traits x 10. Has outstadning potential as a shooter, rim protector and shot creator due to unheard of length and impressive fluidity for a man his size. The issues with him are his health, his frame and his motor. Foot injuries are not to be toyed with, especially for 7 footers. That is something you will have to keep a keen eye on. He’s also going to have to add the 20 lbs he lost while injured + another 20 lbs in order to not get pushed around in the post by the grown men in the NBA .. How will his frame and his foot handle that ? Does he lose some of that agility and put more pressure on his foot, with the added weight, assuming he can put it on. And finally, and most concerning … His motor is really, really poor. You cannot teach work ethic, will or passion at this level, so that improvement will need to come from within. If he solves those weaknesses he is a future HOFer. But those are three MAJOR red flags in addition to some others. At 15, I would be good with us taking that gamble, though. Same for Hayes. He is a rim protector, that has the mobility and agility to be a great pick and roll defender as well. His limitations come from the offensive end, as he is incredibly raw on that end. He essentially only scores on putbacks, dropoffs and lobs. But he’s shown enough touch on his free throws, that he may be able to develop a functional mid range jumper. The upside is that he could become Tyson Chandler with a jumper, which would be huge commodity in a league that is so pick and roll heavy. Of these three though, I think he is the least likely to be available, because of that.

I would be annoyed if we took Bruno Fernando or Mfiondu Kabingele. Neither is a bad player per se. But I don’t think either would be great starters, and would ensure that the Pistons carry out on their desire to build around our current core. They both are safe picks. Fernando is solidly athletic and does enough things well to carve out a niche as a rotational big. Kabingele is a poor man’s Goga, albeit with some troubling passing instincts. It’s not that either player would be a “poor” pick. But i’m almost certain it would mean they passed on one of the aforemntioned 3 bigs, and that would both highly, highly annoy, yet not surpise me at all.

Lions State of the Roster – 2019 NFL Draft Outlook (Offense)

Detroit-Lions-Image

Time to take a look at the Lions as they get ready for the 2019 NFL Draft. Bob Quinn and company have done a solid job in 2019 Free Agency (more on that in a later post) and are actually in a solid roster position, where they do not have to abjectly reach for need.  This is not to say that they are not with flaws however. We will start with the more settled side of the ball – Offense.

Key:

Bold = Roster Lock

Italicized = Likely will make 53 man roster

Red = On the bubble

QB

Matthew Stafford 

Connor Cook 

It is debatable whether or not Matthew Stafford is a franchise QB. My take is that it depends on what your definition of that is. Is Stafford a QB capable of putting the Lions on his back and playing mistake-free, high level football?  Yes, in spurts. But not enough to be considered an elite, Top 5 QB, no. However…how many teams with elite Top 5 QBs have won recently outside of Tom Brady ?

Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have not won rings in almost a decade. Matt Ryan has come close, but no cigar. Russell Wilson won, but when he did he was far from the franchise QB he is not, and was definitely more of a game manager (sidenote: game manager has such a negative connotation for QBs in the football community for some reason, but a game manager is just as likely to win a SB as a gunslinger, if not more so).

My view of a franchise QB is not so narrow. To me, DeShaun Watson is a franchise QB. So is Cam Newton. So is Baker Mayfield. These are QBs that you can win a ring with. They don’t have to be top 5, elite QBS, but they can play at a level high enough, that if they have the support, they can win.  This is Stafford. He has never had a good OL, good offensive weapons, and a strong defense at the same time. He may still not. But if Bob Quinn and the Lions front office do their job, he is good enough to lead the Lions to the promised land.

Perhaps more relevant is this … Can we upgrade on Stafford in this 2019 Draft ? I like Kyler Murray and *reluctantly* appreciate the talent of that Buckeye QB. But neither has Stafford’s talent. Ditto for Daniel Jones and Drew Lock. Lions are set here.

Now as for backup QBs, that role is currently held by Connor Cook. I have been mildly surprised by Cook’s career so far, because despite him playing for those losers in East Lansing, I greatly respected his talent. I was happy when he finally graduated, because he had tormented my Wolverines for long enough with his accuracy and had more than enough arm talent for the next level. I thought he would be firmly entrenched as a backup now, and had the chance to develop into a starter. Hopefully he can become that for the Lions.

Draft Outlook: Don’t look for the Lions to add a QB at the draft unless one they really like falls to them on Day 3. Then, whoever they draft will battle it out with Cook to be Stafford”s understudy. Otherwise, they will just grab a QB familiar with Darrell Bevell’s offense and let him and Cook battle.

RB

Kerryon Johnson 

C.J. Anderson 

Theo Riddick 

Zach Zenner 

Nick Bawden (FB) 

The Lions feel like they finally added the running back they have longed for for since Barry Sanders hung up his cleats and I too am excited by Kerryon Johnson’s future.  I’m also happy that the Lions found a good insurance policy/complement to Johnson in CJ Anderson. Anderson serves all three roles the Lions need: a quality complement to Johnson’s running style, a power back to absorb goal line and short yardage body shots so that Johnson does not have to, and a back capable of being the feature back in the event of a Johnson injury. The Lions have not been both this talented and deep at RB in a while.

Theo Riddick is also back to be the 3rd down back/ nominal receiver out of the backfield. Riddick’s elusiveness is still his calling card and he is still one of the better receiving threats out the backfield in the NFL. However, he is italicized because his salary ($4 million) may be a bit expensive for a guy that is best used as a 3rd back, and is more receiver than running back. Still he likely will make the roster. The same goes for Nick Bawden as Bob Quinn drafted the FB in last year’s draft. Quinn obviously has high hopes for Bawden, as drafting a FB is pretty rare in modern day NFL.  In fact one could argue it’s pretty stupid, but that’s a post for another day. Bawden missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL, but like Riddick he will likely make the roster. Quinn drafted him, and Bevell has used the FB historically in his offenses.

The guy in red is Zach Zenner, who always manages to make it back on the Lions due to his toughness and grit as a runner. That and he’s a solid special teamer. This is a deep year for running backs in the draft though, and if one the Lions really like is hanging around in the middle of Day 3, I could see them pulling the trigger. I highly doubt the Lions would keep 5 backs, so at that point it would be a Zenner/Riddick battle which I think would go to the latter. But I have learned not to count Zenner out. Few players that the Lions have had recently can match that guy’s heart.

Draft Outlook: The Lions can basically treat this like QB. They are set,  but if a guy like Karan Higdon or Mike Weber is still available in Round 5, I could see the Lions not being able to pass on adding talented long term depth (remember CJ Anderson only has a 1 year deal).

WR

Kenny Golladay 

Marvin Jones 

Danny Amendola 

Brandon Powell 

TommyLee Lewis

This is the biggest need area on offense to me for the Lions. While they conceivably have their three starters at the position, you have to look deeper. There is a need at slot WR. Sure they have mostly cured it with Danny Amendola. But Amendola’s injury history, while overstated by many, is real. He is banged up quite a bit, but more to the point is that he’s just a stop gap. Lions would do well to grab a young slot to learn from Amendola, and take over next year.

On the outside, Kenny Golladay is a young emerging stud on the otuside. Complementing him is Marvin Jones, the talented deep threat. The Lions still have a need here though. One reason is depth … None of the gentlemen in red provide sufficient depth in my estimation. The other is that you eventually will need to move on from Marvin Jones soon. He probably only has one more year left to perform at his current level before his salary is no longer commensurate with his impact. Athleticism is a major part of his game and both his speed and leaping ability will begin to wane as he approaches 30. More relevant is the money. The Lions will be able to save 6.5 million in cap space if they cut him next offseason. Not saying that this is Marvin’s last year in Honolulu Blue, but I expect the Lions to have some contingency plans in place.

The Lions picked up TommyLee Lewis, who is most known for being the Saints receiver that was PI’d by aptly named Rams nickel corner Nickell  Robey-Coleman in the NFC  Championship game. Lewis is small and fast, just like Brandon Powell. Powell is a guy that the Lions front office seems to like a lot and wants to take that next step forward. Both could make the roster or neither could. I see one of them making it and the other spot being taken by draft pick or possibly two.

Draft Outlook: This draft is historically poor at the top at receiver. Just the massively overrated Ole Miss WR DK Metcalf is getting first round love. However, there are a treasure trove of receivers that will fly off the board in the second and 3rd rounds. I personally like Andy Isabella from UMass and Kelvin Harmon from NC State as really talented and good kids, but I haven’t finished my draft evaluations quite yet.  I think the Lions will grab a receiver on Day 2 and possibly double back for another on Day 3.

TE

Jesse James

Michael Roberts

Logan Thomas

The Lions dropped some good change on Jesse James to be our starting TE and that should end the notion of us taking TJ Hockenson at pick #8. James is a solid two way TE, not elite in either reciving or blocking, but good enough at both. However, depth at this position is weak to say the least. Michael Roberts offers little as a blocker and has not done much as a receiver either. Yours truly was banging the table for George Kittle in 2017, but unfortunately I do not work in the Lions front office. Kittle meanwhile is somehow dominating the NFC West with the patchwork of QBs he had in his first 2 years. The Lions also signed Logan Thomas, an athletic specimen who has not quite mastered his transition from college quarterback to NFL TE. Not exactly a murders row.

Draft Outlook: I could see them trading down into the mid first round and taking Hockenson or Fant. Or perhaps Irv Smith with their 2nd round pick. I have also heard that they had interest in Ole Miss TE Dawson Knox. I have not eyt done film study on him, but allegedly he’s a prospect on the rise that they could nab on Day 2. I expect them to use either a Day 2 or Day 3 pick on a solid TE, and could see said player being #2 on the depth chart by the time September arrives.

OT

Taylor Decker 

Ricky Wagner 

Andrew Donnal 

Tyrell Crosby 

Taylor Decker is a foundational piece and the inconsistent but mostly good Rick Wagner is back to bookend him. The Lions are set and solid here. Behind them is Tyrell Crosby, their very promising young tackle from last year’s draft. He projects to be the swing tackle UNLESS he ends up being our starting RG (more on that in a second). Based on what Quinn has said, I believe the preference would be to keep him at tackle, presumably to take over for Wagner in a year or two when he ages past the effectiveness of his contract. But he played some at RG last season and looked very good at times. If he’s the best guy at G, the Lions may look to the draft for a new developmental swing tackle. Andrew Donnal is just a guy. He has tackle experience and was sought out by the front office in March, so it’s likely he makes the final 53. but I doubt we see him on the active roster very often (barring injury of course).

Draft Outlook: If the Lions go tackle, again it will be a Day 3 guy, and likely a developmental guy.

OG / C

Frank Ragnow 

Graham Glasgow 

Oday Aboushi 

Kenny Wiggins 

Joe Dahl

After receiver, this is the position with the most  immediate need on offense. Last year’s first round pick, Frank Ragnow is solid, and I’m actually expecting him to dominate in 2019, after a year of getting his feet wet. His running mate, Graham Glasgow, is also a solid starter, and have helped solidify that Lions interior. However, there is currently a gaping hole at RG. The current incumbent is probably Kenny Wiggins. Wiggins is a favorite of Lions OL coach Jeff Davidson, going back to his stint as the OL coach for the Chargers. The only issue is that Wiggins is not very good. As a backup G, hje’s overpaid but not awful. You domn’t want him as a starter.  Oday Aboushi meanwhile is a Bevell favorite, going back to his time in Seattle. He’s also not the greatest, but probably better than Wiggins, and with the added value of being able to play tackle if necessary. Finally, there is Joe Dahl, the holdover from Quinn’s first Lions draft, who has not really shown much of anything in his time with the Lions.

Draft Outlook: The Lions will likely add a player at this position, either on Day 2 or early on Day 3, if they choose to add someone. Also keep in mind, that in addition to having an open slot at G, C Graham Glasgow is a 2020 free agent. With Ragnow’s ability to play C, this pick could be looked at as replacement for Glasgow in 2020, if not to fill the hole in 2019.

Overall, I expect the Lions to do the bulk of their draft on offense on Day 3. The Lions have a whopping 6 Day 3 picks. I see them using one of their Day 2 picks on a receiver, but the rest of Day 1 and 2 should be used to help fix their defense. I expect them to certainly target some talented developmental players, as the core foundation of this Lions offense is already in place.

Agree or Disagree ? Please don’t hesitate to leave comments !

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2018 NBA Mock Draft (Lottery)

The 2018 NBA Draft is here ! This means, it’s the end of Mock Draft season. This is a time when a lot of insiders try to read the tea leaves, wade through the smokescreens and prognosticate the upcoming Draft.

It’s important to know the caveats of my mock, as all mock drafts are not created equal … Points to consider:

*Most Mock drafts either are predictions of what they think teams will do (brave), or predictions of what the writer would do (usually with no consequences in later years) … I’m going to do both ! 

*I’m not predicting any trades even though I’m sure there will be several in the Top 14 that completely shake things up.  It’s just too hard to figure out and the wrong one will throw you off.

Okay let’s go !!

1. Phoenix Suns 

What I Think They Will Do: C DeAndre Ayton. This one is as close to a no-brainer as it gets. While the NBA has shifted to a league where perimeter players are at a premium and bigs are devalued, there are some big men who skills destroy the modern narrative. Ayton is one of them. HOF-level talent. PHX has a nasty core in he, Booker and Jackson +  the #16 pick.

What I Would Do: Ditto.

 

2. Sacramento Kings 

What I Think They Will Do:  F Marvin Bagley. I like Bagley a lot, although he’s become a bit of a pariah in the Draft community. People question his jumper, his defense, and his offensive polish. However, I think things can be overblown at times. He will have to work on all 3 things, but I see a guy that is a relentless rebounder, has a high motor, and elite scoring instincts. He should settle in as a 16-20 ppg scorer and double-digit rebounder from Year 1. He also fits the athletic core that Vlade Divac appears to be building in Sacramento with DeAaron Fox and Harry Giles.

What I Would Do: G Luka Doncic. He is the second best player in this Draft. He has a high floor and a pretty high ceiling. At the end of the day, the modern NBA revolves around being able to pass, dribble and shoot. He does those three things better than almost everyone else in the Draft, is 6’8, 18 years old, and just dominated the second-best basketball league in the World. Not rocket science.

 

3. Atlanta Hawks – 

What I Think They Will Do: G Luka Doncic. There has been a lot of discussion about Jaren Jackson and Trae Young with this pick. I think that in the end they go with Doncic. GM Travis Schlenk is rebuilding this team, essentially from the ground up, and Doncic is the best playmaker in the Draft. He also has a star power that is lacking, and he could be the face of the franchise for Atlanta for the next decade.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

4. Memphis Grizzlies –

What I Think They Will Do: F Michael Porter. The Grizzlies have been trying to move this pick attached to Chandler Parsons, but unfortunately for them, no one wants to touch that contract with a 10 foot pole. Actually, scratch that, fortunately no one does, as I think moving a pick this high,just to accommodate a salary dump, would be incredibly short-sighted. Memphis needs to begin building for the future. Michael Porter is by far the biggest boom or bust player in this Draft.  And not just because of his back and hip injury concerns. There are legitimate questions about his defense, ball handling and playmaking ability. But without a doubt, he is the best pure scorer in this draft, with tremendous jump shot, elite length, and a scorer’s mentality. Memphis needs a player like him.

What I Would Do: Ditto.  

5. Dallas Mavericks –

What I Think They Will Do: C Jaren Jackson Jr. There are quite a few decision makers that believe Jackson will long-term be the best player from this draft. Indeed Jackson is a unicorn. He’s a 40% long distance shooter, with simply fantastic defensive potential. He has the ability to both mirror guards on switches and protect the rim (averaged almost 6 blocks per 40 minutes in college) with elite length. His stats are not as pretty as others because he was poorly used by Tom Izzo, but his defensive upside is through the roof. He needs a bit more work offensively, but even if he just becomes a lob threat, that can knock down open jumpers, his value is tremendous. Nothing in the NBA is rarer than a stretch 5 that can also be a defensive anchor.  Lots of rumblings that the Mavericks will go Mo Bamba with this pick instead, but I think Jackson will be the Mavs pick in the end.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

6. Orlando Magic – 

What I Think They Will Do: C Mo Bamba. Bamba is probably even more of a unicorn than Jackson is, in terms of measurables. His reach is absurd and he combines that with a deft shooting touch, and high level intelligence, that teams have simply raved about. I don’t think he has quite the same upside as Jackson, as he is not quite as mobile, nor does he have the college production as a shooter that Jackson does, but there are many scouts that think due to his measurables he has as high an upside as even Ayton. A lot of teams think that the Magic will target a point guard, but if you study John Hammond’s draft picks in Milwaukee (John Henson, Greek Freak, Thon Maker) and even here in Orlando (Jonathan Isaac) he loves to take raw, high upside, big men who offer a lot of length. Bamba takes that to a new extreme, so no way Hammond passes on him here.

What I Would Do: C Wendell Carter Jr. This is not a knock to Bamba as I feel the gap between him, Jackson and Carter is infinitesimal. But Carter is one of my favorite players in the Draft, and while not the defensive specimen Bamba is, I believe he is still very good on that end, but offers more offensive value. Orlando truly needs more balance, as they project to become an elite defensive team with the Aaron Gordon+ Jonathan Isaac core, but there are sill question marks about those two offensively.

7. Chicago Bulls – 

What I Think They Will Do: C Wendell Carter Jr. The Bulls have been linked to a lot of players, but I think the best fit for their roster is Wendell Carter Jr. They have been looking for a big man who can fit next to Lauri Markkanen, and if they do not trade up, I expect them to take whichever C of the aforementioned trio falls. Carter is the one that does here, and I think he actually fits best with Markkanen, as he compliments him both defensively AND offensively. A skilled and deft post scorer, who also has an excellent outside jumpshot, and is a high level passer. But unlike lots of other skilled big men, Carter is also a defensive anchor with elite length and decent mobility. I think the Cavaliers secretly covet him, as he is the perfect big to pair with LeBron, but in this scenario, Chicago nabs him before they do.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

8. Cleveland Cavaliers –

What I Think They Will Do: PG Trae Young. There is a lot of growing steam that they will be using this pick on Shae Gilgeous Alexander, and in many ways it makes sense they would do that. SGA is an excellent perimeter defender, has a functional and improving outside shot, and can both play on and off the ball, as a finisher and a playmaker, important traits if you want to play with LeBron.  But the Cavs did not workout SGA (that we know of), have no idea if LeBron will be back (probably not) and are likely looking to add some star power. Trae Young has huge question marks about his defense and his measurables. But no one denies his elite level of skill. He has an elite handle, an elite jumper, and is probably second only to Doncic as a passer in this draft. Add in the fact that the Cavs had a (not-so) secret workout with Young on Saturday, and that LeBron deemed Young a “very special player” earlier this season … all signs are pointing Young’s direction. Now it is very possible that the Cavaliers leaked the workout news to the media, and are trying to set up a smokescreen to allow SGA or Wendell Carter Jr. to fall to them. But I have very little confidence in the acumen of the Cavs front office, and doubt they would be pulling off such an effective bout of misdirection, based on how they have bungled things in the past.  

What I Would Do: Trade this pick. They need to trade this pick for one of the young stars on the market. I have heard Kawhi Leonard (in a package with Kevin Love-unlikely) and Kemba Walker (good fit) as possible trades, and those are the right moves to make. You have to keep LeBron at all costs. For as much as Trae Young helps offensively, defensively he is a sieve. Walker is a much more balanced player to assist LeBron and might be enough to keep him.

9. New York Knicks – 

What I Think They Will Do: F Kevin Knox. Knox apparently wowed the Knicks in his workout and many in the league believe that if he is still on the board, this is where he will go. I still have questions about his defense but there is no denying, he is a high level shooter with the upside to become more. He and Kristaps Porzingis would form a very intriguing duo together. But that defense … A lot of people think it will get better, as early in his AAU and HS career he was excellent on that end. We will see …

What I Would Do: G Shae Gilgeous-Alexander. Pairs well with Frank Nkitilina but is versatile enough so that if the Knicks ever do get that elusive superstar (like maybe Kyrie Irving… I know unlikely, but Knicks fans can dream) he can play off the ball. In the meantime, he can be their new hope at PG. 

10. Philadelphia 76ers- 

What I Think They Will Do: SF Mikal Bridges. There may not be a better pure fit. Bridges is right there with Carter for my favorite players in the Draft. Elite defensive potential. Dead-eye shooter on high volume of 3s. 7’2″ wingspan.  Yes there are questions about his ability to create his own shot. No, he’s not a future superstar. But paired with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid, he won’t have to be. A whole lot of Klay Thompson to his game. Probably not THAT good as a shooter, but he’s going to be a good one. And he’s a Philly kid, who played at Villanova (and won 2 titles) and whose mother works for the 76ers. It’s so perfect it probably will not happen lol.

What I Would Do: Ditto.

11. Charlotte Hornets – 

What I Think They Will Do:  G Shae Gilgeous-Alexander. This will come down to Colin Sexton vs. SGA and I think SGA will win out. He has greater defensive versatility, playmaking ability and outside shooting range than Sexton, all 3 of which are tenets of the modern NBA. He also fits much better next to Malik Monk, and the Hornets need to be prioritizing their future over their present, as they are stuck on the mediocrity treadmill.

What I Would Do: Package #11 + Kemba to try get into the Top 5. Kemba is about to put the Hornets in a difficult situation. The team is not good enough to justify giving him the supermax, and yet losing him for nothing would be a tough pill to swallow. The time is now to move him and try to get up high enough for a Michael Porter or Luka Doncic. Whether that is moving him to Cleveland and then packaging the picks to get higher or whatever, Kupchak has to make a move.

12-13. Los Angeles Clippers – 

What I Think They Will Do:  F Miles Bridges , C Robert Williams. Jerry West knows what he is doing. And so while everyone is convinced that they will take Colin Sexton, I think he will take these two. Both Bridges and Williams are high level athletes, who will be better pros than college players. Both played out of position in college, which really hampered their effect on the game. Both will thrive with the space the NBA game provides. Bridges has a very well-rounded game, as he has a solid outside shot, and can finish with ease at the rim with touch and power. He’s also a solid defender who can guard both forward positions, and is a hard worker and coachable kid. Williams is a highly athletic and long big man who can run the court, finish on lobs and protect the paint. Neither will likely be studs, but both can be solid NBA players, as West tries to re-build this Clippers team.

What I Would Do: Ditto. 

14. Denver Nuggets – 

What I Think They Will Do: Ok, breaking my own rule here … I think it is highly likely the Nuggets trade this pick (along with Kenneth Faried) . They have a very precarious luxury tax situation, and they would love to get from under Faried’s contract, as it would allow them to sign Nikola Jokic to a max deal this summer, AND re-sign Will Barton, one of the best 6th men in the NBA, (and their 3rd leading scorer) without heading into the luxury tax . Without knowing who they would trade this pick to, it’s difficult to guess who would go here. Could be Lonnie Walker, Jerome Robinson … or …..

What I Would Do:  PG Colin Sexton. I actually think that whoever they do trade this pick to will be targeting Sexton because he is a tremendous value this low in the lottery. Sexton has some flaws to his game but he has an elite ability to attack the basket, and his upside is big-time. That paired with the fact he has a reputation as a tireless worker and competitor is enough for me. He’s shown enough to make me believe he can knock down jumpers in time, and you can’t teach the gifts he has. He would fit really well as the captain of the Nuggets second unit as he can be what Emmanuel Mudiay was supposed to be in a lot of ways. A 3 guard rotation of him, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray could be very interesting and dynamic. Besides, if they want to get rid of Faried, they could always pair him with a lotto protected 2019 first round pick, and they likely would still be able to move him.

Comments ? Let me know ! 

How to KEEP LeBron Vol. 3 – Cavs Edition

The Grousbeck brothers & Stephen Pagliuca. Joseph Lacob. Tilman Fertitta. Peter Holt.

Chances are, you have NO idea who any of those people are without Googling them.

You know who they are ?

They are the (majority) owners of the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs, respectively

You don’t know their names because you are not supposed to know their name. You should know their General Managers instead. Danny Ainge, Bob Meyers, Daryl Morey, R.C. Buford. Four of the best GMs/Team Presidents in the NBA.

Dan Gilbert. You know who he is. That’s part of the problem.

Gilbert fired David Grifin, a GM who is in the league of the 4 previously mentioned gentleman, because they did not see eye to eye on a deal to acquire Paul George without a commitment from LeBron James post-2018. Gilbert wanted this commitment because he felt that HIS security was more important than LeBron’s comfort and flexibility. Griffin, like any logical GM knew that the best way to secure LeBron’s comfort, was to give him flexibility while also leveraging as many resources as possible to try to win a title. Gilbert was scared of uncertainty. Griffin embraced it. Because of Gilbert’s fear, he likely will lose LeBron for nothing in about a month’s time.

I think everyone realizes it. The mid-season deals that happened showed how a team that is scared to lose its present, and scared to lose its future, is doomed to lose both. The Cavs could have acquired DeAndre Jordan or Kemba Walker, but were not creative enough or bold enough to make it happen (should have included the Brooklyn pick but put Top 5 protection on it). Knowing they would be facing Kevin Durant, they got rid of their best perimeter defender in Jae Crowder, and added a bunch of youth and long-term salary. They traded Dwayne Wade, still a strong bench player who has ample playoff experience for basically nothing. They made all of these moves without LeBron’s input and then tried to save face by informing him of the moves just before the deadline. They were building for post-LeBron. And so they shall reap.

I don’t know if Koby Altman, Griffin’s successor,  got that direction from Gilbert or is charting his own path on it’s own. But it is a STUPID one. If they lose LeBron, the Cavs will still have too much talent to truly bottom-out and do a full rebuild. But they also will not have enough to compete in the East. They will be mired in mediocrity. Even if they use this 8th pick in the Draft, that they have so feverishly cherished since the extremely stupid decision to trade Kyrie Irving, it’s unlikely they will unearth a superstar.  When you have generational, superstar, GOAT level talent, you do whatever you can to build around them. You will have decades to rebuild after they are gone. But if you catch lightning in a bottle., you keep it there.

If I was Altman … I would call Mitch Kupchak and Chris Wallace up. Those two teams are in very interesting situations, and their situations can help me.

Mitch Kupchack is the new GM of the Charlotte Hornets and well-known for his work in rebuilding the post-Shaq Lakers into the juggernaut of size, length and power that won back-to-back titles at the end of the 2000s. He inherits a team in dire need of a reboot, with a star player headed for unrestricted free agency. They are in a bad spot. If they re-sign Kemba Walker to a max deal, they will be stuck in the mediocrity rut, picking between 10 and 15 every year, praying for a miracle. However, letting their star walk for nothing is also not an option. What to do ?

Similarly, Chris Wallace, a former GM of the Celtics and current mainstay at the helm in Memphis has a conundrum. The directive that is emanating out of Tennessee is that the Grizzlies need to compete next year. This is a ludicrous thought as the Grizz current structure, paying monstrous contracts to two terrific, but support-level players (Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol)  is absurd. They should be rebuilding … But it seems like they are trying their best to position themselves to be a playoff team in 2018-2019. Rumors abound that they are shopping the 4th overall pick in the Draft for either an impact player and/or a way to get out of Chandler Parsons disastrous contract.

Here’s the remedy:

Hornets trade : Kemba Walker + Michael Kidd Gilchrist + Marvin Williams + #11 overall pick 

Hornets get: #4 overall pick + #8 overall pick + Chandler Parsons + Jordan Clarkson

Why for Charlotte: It’s time to start anew in Charlotte. This move allows the Hornets to get two building blocks in a draft that is about 7-8 players deep in true difference makers. Yes they have to eat a couple of unsightly contracts but those will both be off the books by 2020. Adding the two picks they select in this years draft + Malik Monk + whomever they get in 2019 will be a strong core with which to move forward with.

Grizzlies trade: Chandler Parsons + #4 overall pick

Grizzlies get: Michael Kidd Gilchrist + Marvin Williams + #11 overall pick 

Why for Memphis: Memphis wants to compete now and Williams + Kidd-Gilchrist bring you two forwards who can bring a different dimension to the Grizzlies. Williams is a lethal shooter at the 4, and paired with Gasol would allow the Grizzlies to play true 5-out basketball. Kidd-Gilchrist would give them a true lock-down perimeter defender, something they have lacked since Tony Allen’s departure.  They shed Parson’s albatross contract which is right there with Ryan Anderson for worst contract in the NBA. And they still get the 11th pick which they could use to add a talented player like Lonnie Walker or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to their core.

C- Marc Gasol/Deyunta Davis

PF – JaMychal Green/ Marvin Williams

SF – Dillon Brooks/ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 

SG – Tyreke Evans (re-signed)/ Marshon Brooks

PG – Mike Conley/ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th pick) 

That is a very balanced and deep roster. Definitely not title worthy, but could get to the second round of the layoffs (which for whatever reason appears to be Memphis’ goal … silly but whatever)

Cavs trade: Jordan Clarkson + #8 pick.

Cavs get: Kemba Walker

Why for Cleveland: LeBron James. You made an ill-fated attempt to trade away a secondary creator that helped LeBron and forced him to shoulder the load all season. Kemba is not Kyrie, but he’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Cleveland will also still have the tax-payer MLE. They can target a guy like Avery Bradley, but he likely will get bigger offers. What they could do instead is to use it on a guy like Kenatvious Caldwell-Pope. KCP has a history of being a streaky outside shooter, yet whe he got to LA last season, his outside shot went from streaky to deadly. Between he and JR Smith, you would have an excellent combo of 3 and D-wings to flank next to LeBron.

C- Kevin Love/ Tristan Thompson/ Larry Nance

PF – LeBron / Jeff Green (re-signed) 

SF- Rodney Hood (re-signed)/ Kyle Korver  

SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/ JR Smith  

PG – Kemba Walker/ George Hill 

That’s a very, versatile team. Every reserve listed could play both with and in place of the player listed above them allowing you to go big-or-small, based on the matchup. This would be a team worthy of challenging the Warriors and while they probably would still need a bit more to get the job done, they could make it a good series.

However, unlike the previous two scenarios I outlined … I have ZERO confidence that Koby Altman, Dan Gilbert, and the misfit organization that is the Cleveland Cavaliers would have the creativity, or the vision to make a move like this and secure the present and future. Such a shame.

Comments ? Leave them below !

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How To Get LeBron Vol. 2 – Lakers Edition

In the 31 years between 1980 and 2010, the Los Angeles Lakers played in the NBA Finals 16 times. Out of those 16 attempts, they captured the NBA Championship 10 times. That means in any given year for a little over 3 decades, that season had a 50% chance of ending with the Lakers winning the West and a 33% chance of a Lakers title. That’s a mind-blowing level of success and domination of a major sport. While the Celtics continue to hold a one championship edge over the Lakers, LA most certainly is THE team of the NBA.

Being a professional team based in Los Angeles obviously holds certain advantages, and the Lakers over the years have leveraged those to the max. They lured Wilt Chamberlain away from the Philadelphia Warriors, when he was fresh off of an NBA Championship in 1967. Wilt would lead them to a title in 1972, the franchise’s first since moving to LA.

3 years later, after Wilt and Jerry West had hung it up, the Lakers struck again. This time, it was finessing MVP and NBA Champion Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) from Milwaukee. A few short years later, Kareem would team up with an outstanding young PG from Lansing, MI and the rest was history.

In the 1990s, the Lakers then set their sights on a young, world-shattering force by the name of Shaquille O’Neal. And once again, they were successful. It took some mind-numbingly-stupid  negotiating from the Magic for it all to come to fruition, but when the dust cleared, the only guy to lead his team past Michael Jordan in the playoffs in the 90s was in Laker purple and gold.

Now here we are in 2018, and the Lakers are once again in position to do what they do, but with possibly the biggest fish yet on the hook: LeBron James.

The Lakers are currently sitting with $62 million in cap space (if they renounce the rights to all free agents) which is almost enough for them to sign two max free agents. To sign LeBron to the max would require a first year starting salary of million $35.3 and it would be $30.3 million in first year salary for Paul George, the free agent most often linked with the Lakers.

The crudest and most simple way for the Lakers to clear the requisite cap space to sign both PG and LeBron to the maximum they can command (outside of re-signing with their own teams) would be to use the stretch  provision on Luol Deng’s contract. This would enable them to spread Deng’s remaining $36.6 million over 5 years. This would drop Deng’s cap number from about $18 million this year (and next) to $7.3 million, which would give the Lakers $72 million in cap space, enough to squeeze LeBron and PG in, with a little bit left over to add a rotation player.

However, that would leave a very misshapen roster. LeBron, PG, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart is a very interesting core of players, but it is extraordinarily young, and greatly lacking in size, even by modern NBA standards.

It’s always better to be more creative …. *GM hat, please*

So the first step of this process is that in order to maximize the next 5 years, the team has to understand what is core to its future. Right now there are 4 key, core players to the Lakers nucleus: Hart, Ball, Ingram, and Kuzma. The reality is that as you add two players with the skill of LeBron and Paul George, usage for these other 4 guys will decrease. For players like Kuzma and Hart, as their usage decreases, their efficiency should increase, as they are more or less role players who get their offense created by others. For guys like Ingram and Ball it’s a little bit stickier. There certainly is precedence for making 4 different ball dominant players work, especially with willing passers like Ball and LeBron, and if the Lakers didn’t have the albatross of Deng on the books, it would be worthwhile to watch these guys all together.  However Deng’s contract is just a huge albatross that limits the vision I have for the Lakers roster, and while it may take parting with one of the 4 core players to do so, I think it may be worth it.

Now the popular trade I see out there on the rumor mill is for the Lakers to move Ingram and Deng for Kawhi Leonard. And if that deal is truly available, the Lakers should take it and run. But I’m skeptical that the Spurs will actually pull the trigger on a deal like that, and certainly not between now and mid-July, so I’m going to process this as if that is not an option.

So first step of course is adding Paul George and signing him to the max  … A 4 year deal worth approximately $129 million ($30 million first year salary with 5 % raises). This drops the Lakers cap situation to $32 million in space.

The next move would be inking C DeAndre Jordan to a 4-year $86 million dollar deal. This requires a $20 million first year salary with 5% raises. Now many may think that this is a below market deal for Jordan, but when you scan the market it really is not. Because the NBAPA decided not to smooth out the cap and jumped it massively (which coincidentally is why the Warriors were able to add Kevin Durant to a 73 win team), teams gave out large contracts and acted as if the cap would rise exponentially each year. They were wrong. The cap has been flat the last few years and because of that, very few teams are working with cap space this offseason. Honestly, the only teams that I can see as viable options for Jordan, other than the Lakers are his current team, the Clippers and the Mavericks, the team he last left jilted at the altar. Neither seems likely to me. Joining the Lakers with a deal that gives him a $20+ million dollar salary until he is 32, staying in the city of LA, and being able to compete for a title seems like a good move for his future and his legacy. Honestly, whether the Lakers get LeBron or not, Jordan to the other LA team just seems logical.

Third, with $10 million, the Lakers should sign Avery Bradley to a 3 year 31.5 million dollar deal, with an opt-out after year 2. Now, that deal is a lot less than I think he anticipated getting a year or two ago. But the market, as I mentioned earlier, is very flat. Very few teams have in excess of $10 million in cap space, and those that do are either in a different stage of team formation, or are focused on bigger fish than Bradley. I suspect he will get some mid level exception offers, but the MLE will come in at under $10 million most likely. This deal beats those offers, and once again offers the opportunity to play for a contender.

Finally, with the remaining 4.4 million  (2 million left over from initial cap space + 2.4 million in roster spot cap holds freed up by signing 3 players) the Lakers can sign a veteran big man like Ed Davis or Alex Len to help flesh things out.

Soooo … you may be confused …. The Lakers just used all of their cap space to sign free agents and none of them were LeBron … Yes, that is because when managing the cap, you have to understand how to leverage your assets … And so instead of trying to sign LeBron outright, the better move would be to execute a sign-and trade for someone already on the roster. And so the next move would be to trade Luol Deng + Lonzo Ball to the Cavs for LeBron in a sign-and trade. 

With Deng at a cap value of $18 million and Ball at a cap value of $7.45 million, the Lakers would be sending out $25.5 million in salary.  As a result, LeBron’s maximum first year salary would need to be $31.85 million (trades can only be 125% of the salary you send out  + 100k) so he would be leaving about $3.5 million on the table. But if it was only about money he would just re-sign in CLE anyway. LeBron could ink a 2 year 65 million dollar deal with his customary opt-out option after year 1 to maximize his flexibility and earning power.

While some LA fans, especially LaVar Ball,  would balk at having to give up Lonzo for LeBron, it makes sense as structuring things this way allows the Lakers to make the other transactions discussed and acquire all of these other players (who all have specific reasons for being acquired). Besides that, Ball would be at best the 4th banana in LA, and as a guy that thrives as a playmaker with the ball in his hands, he would not be as productive as most fans expect anyway. To fit around the core of guys that LA would be assembling, you would need a 3 and D guy to occupy the traditional point guard slot, and that is not exactly Lonzo’s game (strong defender but he is an atrocious shooter at this level so far).

For Cleveland, although they would have to eat Deng’s salary, they would be getting a young building block back in Ball for an out-the door LeBron, and he would be able to thrive in a low pressure environment. As I detailed in the Spurs post, Cleveland won’t have cap flexibility until 2020 anyway, so Deng does not really limit them in that respect. Aside from all of that,  I would LOVE to see the interactions between Lavar and Dan Gilbert !

(Now, there is a version of this where the Lakers can keep Ball … If they stretched Deng’s contract  (($10.7 million)), did not sign Bradley or Davis (($14 million)), either convinced Jordan to take $5 million less or signed Derrick Favors for $15 million (($5 million)) and convinced PG to take $2 million less (($2 million)) you could  then try and convince LeBron to come for just under $32 million .. But with a downgrade at C, carrying Deng’s deal for 5 more seasons, no Bradley , and having to convince LeBron AND PG to take pay shaves ?? … Not worth it to keep Lonzo)

Now about putting this roster together … Because if you could not surmise, the construction of this roster was built with defeating the juggernaut that is the Warriors in mind. Here is the 8-man rotation:

 C – Jordan/ Davis 

F – LeBron/ Kuzma  

F – Ingram/ (Kuzma) 

G – George/ Hart  

G – Bradley/(Hart) 

That should be a truly terrifying roster for the Warriors. Jordan at C nullifies the “Hamptons Lineup” because you cannot get away with Draymond Green trying to keep Jordan off the glass. In addition to that, Jordan’s presence as a rim protector allows the other defenders to be more aggressive and truly clamp down on the perimeter. Jordan will thrive playing off of LeBron as well as he has similar passing chops to Jordan’s old running mate CP3. If LeBron could make Tristan Thompson look good as a pick and roll lob finisher, imagine him with DJ.

Playing LeBron as a point PF allows him to defend Draymond on defense, a player he can help off of as opposed to wasting energy guarding the Warriors better scorers. Offensively, he has a great mix in Ingram and George, of guys that can create their own shot without LeBron but are also dead eye shooters who can create space for LeBron’s drives and knock down open jumpers when he gets them those shots. Bradley is also a solid shooter, who excels at moving without the ball off of screens and and would do well playing off of LeBron.

With Ingram and George matching up with Klay Thompson and Durant, they would certainly make those guys work on both ends. And Bradley is the PERFECT defender for a guy like Steph Curry. He has elite quickness,  a 6″11 wingspan and a bulldog mentality to really harass Steph.

Off the bench, Kuzma and Hart are excellent role players who are young and can mix and match well with the starters. Hart is a lot like Bradley and can play both guard spots and the wing, with strong defense and excellent long-range shooting. Kuzma can be asmall ball five and can play alongside/rest both Ingram and LeBron. And Ed Davis is an excellent back-up C that is another tremendous low post presence defensively and on the glass, but can also move better than the typical back-up C. He may potentially get a bigger deal than what the Lakers are offering, and if so they could grab Len, who is better offensively, but not as good on the defensive end. That’s a strong 8 man rotation, and the Lakers could just fill in the loose ends with veterans chasing rings or low-cost young players looking for a chance ala the Warriors.

If the Lakers follow my guidelines … They will be 2019 NBA Champions. For the record, I think LA is going to be the final destination for LeBron, but they may not follow this exact blueprint.  …. They should though lol … Let me know what you think !

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How To Get LeBron Vol. 1 – Spurs Edition

The San Antonio Spurs Dynasty is one of the most underappreciated dynasties in all of sports.

They have been a potent force for two decades now, navigating the many different iterations that the NBA has evolved into. The mystique of the Spurs resonates with their ability to evolve, both ahead of and contrary to the rest of the NBA.

In their first form, they dominated with the Twin Towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but even between their two championship end points of 1999 and 2003, they had morphed from a dreadfully slow, low post oriented team that bludgeoned you to death with defense and size (1999) to a high post, oriented team, that was still stout defensively, but was also much more ruthless and precise in their offensive efficiency. The personnel shifted between those eras as well … Avery Johnson, Mario Elie and Sean Elliot gave way to Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Bruce Bowen and Stephen Jackson as the Spurs grew into a dual-sided monster.

The Spurs would win two more titles in 2005 and 2007, as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli continued their ascendance, and the NBA became a league dominated by pick and roll basketball (Jerry Sloan and Mike D’Antoni never get the credit they deserve). The Spurs adapted to the changing tides, but never abandoned their defensive stronghold and the ability to play through Duncan.

The last championship Spurs team was very different than the previous teams. They were still a very good defensive team of course, anchored by an ageless Duncan and the burgeoning star that was Kawhi Leonard, but the most salient aspect of that team was it’s passing and spacing. They were lethal, and they were one of the forerunners of the modern day NBA.

The architect of all of these Spurs teams was the man I consider the greatest coach of all-time, Greg Poppovich. He is the person who has seamlessly interwoven all of these parts, and elicited buy-in from a host of stars and otherwise malcontents over the years. He intends to get a meeting with LeBron, and I think he will be successful. And he can offer LeBron James something that the players he’s often compared to enjoyed, but that he’s never truly had: elite coaching (no disrespect to Erik Spoelstra).

But how, you may ask, can the Spurs get LeBron? Look at their cap: (courtesy of Spotrac.com). Even if they renounce all of their restricted and un-restricted free agents, they are only about 600k under the cap. That’s about 30 million short of what they need.

However, they also have two players with player options for 2018/2019 in Rudy Gay ($8.8 million) and Danny Green ($10 million). They have a third player in Pau Gasol ($16 million)  who is under contract this season, but only has about $6.9 million of his 16 million guaranteed for the 2019/2020 season. What does all of this mean ? It means the Spurs have assets and options.

The easiest route for LeBron to get to San Antonio would be for Rudy Gay and Danny Green to both opt out of their contracts. If that happened, all San Antonio would need to do is move Pau Gasol + a first round pick to a team that has cap space and they would have 35 million in cap space to make the magic happen … That’s more than enough. Or even if Gay opted-in and Green opted out, they would be set, as moving Gasol + Green off the books would open up 26 million in cap space. That would be a pay cut for LeBron, but when you factor in that Texas has no state income tax, it would only be a pay cut of a couple million dollars … He’s taken bigger pay shaves than that in the past.

However, the downside to using this method to sign LeBron outright is that San Antonio would lose the rights to go over the cap to re-sign their free agents, as they would need to be renounced. The Spurs would also lost the ability to use their mid-level-exception to fill out the roster as well, as all exceptions have to be renounced when a team goes under the cap. It makes more sense to try and trade for a re-signed LeBron if you want to maintain flexibility … However you would need to be creative and involve a 3rd team as it is unlikely that Cleveland would be eager to help out the team they are losing LeBron to … without some incentives …. Creativity is not an issue for me *puts GM hat on*:

A 3 way trade that make sense: 

Spurs get: LeBron James 

Clippers get: Danny Green + Pau Gasol 

Cavs get: Danilo Gallinari + 2019 Spurs first round pick (lottery protected) + 2019 Clippers first round pick (lottery protected) 

Why for Cavs: Getting two first round picks + a solid if injury prone wing in Gallinari is about the best haul they could hope to expect if LeBron is actually leaving. Compare that with what the Clippers got for an out-the-door Chris Paul and this is much, much better.  The Cavs will not have any cap space until the summer of 2020 with or without Gallinari, so he does not harm their flexibility at all. The Clippers pick in this deal would not likely come to Cleveland until 2020 (more on that later) but that still works. Having two first round picks (their own + these) in each of 2019 and 2020 can really help jump-start the rebuild post-LeBron. 

Why for Clippers: This is all about the Summer of 2019.  Look at their cap for 2019 … very bare! By shedding Gallinari and taking on Green’s expiring deal, and Gasol’s  partially guaranteed 2020 deal,  they could have over $80 million dollars of cap space available, possibly even past $90 million depending on how much the cap goes up and what they do with Lou Williams. That’s enough room for 3 max free agents ! The potential free agent haul in 2019 looks a lot better than what will be out there this summer, and this move maximizes their potential haul. What’s more is that they likely will be so bad in 2019, that their first round pick won’t convey until 2020 anyway, so they could be in position to add 3 max players to their two picks from this year and another high lottery pick next year. That is how you completely reshape a roster. 

Why for Spurs:  LeBron James, duh. The Spurs would be unbelievable. For sign-and trade purposes they could  do a 2 year 60 million dollar deal, with an opt-out after year one for LeBron (he prioritizes flexibility) and it would set the Spurs up nicely. Because it is a sign-and trade, the Spurs could keep all of their free agent player rights and could bring back whatever combination of Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson, Brynn Forbes and Davis Bertans they want to fill the roster. They also would still have the mid-level exception at their disposal, which would enable them to bring in a big-man like Dwayne Dedmon to fill out the roster as well. Forbes, Bertans and Parker should all be very cheap to bring back. You likely would have to let Anderson walk, as the luxury tax apron would create a hard cap due to sign and trade (for more information check this salary cap FAQ … basically once they do a sign-and trade, they have a hard cap they cannot exceed), and some team would likely offer him more than they could afford to match.  Still, consider this line-up: 

 F – Aldridge/ Dedmon / Laveurgne

 F – LeBron/ 2018 first round pick / Bertans

 F – Leonard/ Gay/ Paul 

 G – Mills/ Ginobli / Forbes

 G – Murray/ Parker/ White    

There are question marks there but that is a scary team … Kawhi’s health would be a large question mark, but I’m sure that at some point he will return to the court. Gay gives you an excellent back-up to both forward positions and Dedmon give you an excellent rim protector that can play both with and in place of Aldridge.  

In Leonard and Murray, the Spurs would have two of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, which would allow LeBron to thrive in a help defender role. There is also plenty of shooting to surround the new big 3 in San Antonio, with Forbes and Mills and more importantly an architect in Greg Poppovich who can really allow LeBron’s greatest gift, as a passer, to flourish. 

If LeBron really wants to win a few more titles, play with great talent, and play under legendary tutelage, this is the move. I think it is more than doable ….  and unlike several other NBA franchises, I think the Spurs are smart and creative enough to make something like this happen as well. 

Comments? Let me know ! 

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DETROIT LIONS DRAFT OVERVIEW- #82 OVERALL TRACEY WALKER

This pick was the first true head scratcher of the day for Bob Quinn and company, in my opinion. Though I may have had some reservations about passing up on a pass rusher with the Ragnow pick, and passing up on Guice with the Johnson pick, I did see Ragnow and Johnson as players who filled roster needs for the Lions. This one did not fit the bill.

Glover Quin has a brand new contract. Quandre Diggs shined in his first tour of duty at FS at the end of last year. Matt Patricia of course is known for using 3 safeties a lot in his time at New England, but even there the Lions are covered. They re-signed Tavon Wilson, who was the opening day starter last year and has experience in Patricia’s scheme from his time in New England. And then finally there is Miles Killebrew, the third year holdover from Quinn’s first draft. It seemed like the 2 deep was set, and if they were going to go with 5 safeties, the 5th was going to be a special teams maven that they picked up as an UDFA to compete with Charles Washington and other safety-type players currently on the 90-man roster.

However, when you use a 3rd round pick on a player, you are intimating that you expect that player to contribute early, and become a starter, sooner than later. And perhaps that is the case here. Quinn and company were certainly very excited about the pick.

Film time:

 

(I dislike using highlight film because it’s obviously very difficult to evaluate players when looking at their best plays and leaving out their issues. I can tell more about a player from his mistakes than his highlights.)
There’s some very intriguing things to like about Walker. First is his speed. He ran a 4.51 at the combine which is a great time for a safety. More importantly, that speed translates to the film. Walker showcases that speed in ranging over the top to make plays on the ball, and when coming down to make stops in the running game. He profiles as a free safety, with his body type and fluidity, but he is definitely physical enough to make plays in the running game. And make receivers think twice as well. ULL used Tracy in a variety roles: as a hang defender in the box, as a deep zone defender, or in man-to-man. Having such a versatile safety is important to a Patricia-led defense and I can see some Patrick Chung in his tape. I also like that Walker knows how to make plays on the ball. He had 19 PBUs and 8 INTs in his 4 years at ULL and was a steady and solid contributor from his freshman year until now.  

My major concerns are about how Walker will translate. It’s a big jump from ULL to the NFL and the caliber of athletes that Walker will face are on another level. Many players have made the transition from as small or smaller conferences of course, but usually they have outstanding traits or dominant production that put you at ease. While his production was solid and consistent, he was far from dominant at ULL. While he has great speed and long, 34 inch arms that should aid him well in coverage, the rest of his traits are average. Agility and explosion are better determinants of coverage ability, especially for a safety, than pure deep speed and nothing he showcased on the tape or at the combine suggests that he has plus attributes in those categories to contribute. Against Ole Miss he got COOKED on this play. 

At the East-Shrine Bowl week, he was brought in for praise from many different publications, and even Quinn said that it was that week of practice that really intrigued him about Walker. But in the game he was very quiet. Now being that he plays a role where quiet is not a bad thing, I’m not using that to damn him, but it would have been nice to see some translation from the practice hype in the game. I am actually a bit intrigued at the idea of using Walker as a press corner, rather than as a safety because he could use his physicality, length and speed to really be a problem. See here how he uses his physicality to get “handsy”. As a safety, the refs are calling that flag all day for defensive holding. But as a press corner that is attacking, he may be able to get away with it.  Maybe that will be something that they experiment with if Walker does not break through at safety. Then again, maybe not. 

In short, Walker has some of the physical attributes necessary to make this pick a success. I think it was reach, although some reports had other teams ready to take Walker in the 3rd, so I don’t know. The Lions passed on Arden Key, and could have easily moved up for Sam Hubbard or Rasheem Green in the 3rd, three players who could have helped fix the woeful Lions pass rush. Instead they took a safety that requires some projection. I don’t anticipate Walker making a huge dent this year on defense unless Diggs is a poor fit in Patricia’s scheme at S or they move him to nickel. I could see Walker potentially beating out Killebrew as the 4th safety, and them using Killebrew as a Dime (or full-time) LB. But likely Walker will make his impact on Special Teams this year as a gunner and a jammer on the punt return/coverage units as they develop him to compete for a starting role in 2019 and on.

I give this pick a C-.  Would have been happy with him in the 5th round, but 3rd round is too high for someone who requires that much projection, especially when you are taking him at one of the Lions deeper positions and passing on a huge need. I’m tempted to give this a D but I think Walker actually is an NFL caliber athlete and safety is important in Patricia’s scheme so clearly he saw some important things in Walker’s profile. 

Detroit Lions Draft Overview – #43 Overall Kerryon Johnson

So I can admit when I have jumped the gun. And I may have jumped the gun in my initial “mild displeasure” over the Lions selection of Mr. Kerryon Johnson.

It’s not that I thought Kerryon was a bad player. I knew he was good. He led the SEC in yards and touchdowns and was named the Conference Offensive Player of the Year. You don’t do that without being good at football.

But I was irritated that the Lions used a premium pick on a non-premium position (RB is the easiest position to fill on offense) , and then even at that passed on superior talents at the position … like Derrius Guice.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to do my usual thorough analysis pre-Draft. So a lot of my thoughts about Lions picks were based on superficial analysis and memory of players from watching them live. Pre- draft, I ranked the RBs as so:

  1. Saquon Barkley (drafted #2 overall)
  2. Derrius Guice (drafted #59 overall)
  3. Sony Michel (drafted #31 overall)
  4. Nick Chubb (drafted #35 overall)
  5. Ronald Jones (drafted #53 overall)
  6. KERRYON JOHNSON
  7. Rashad Penny (drafted #27 overall)

I may still be mad at passing on Guice after I look at his film in-depth. But after taking a deeper dive on Kerryon, I saw a lot of things that I may have missed live.  And they make me feel a whole lot better about this pick. ( Also, so does this)

So Kerryon. He has nice size for the position at 6’0 and about 215. His combine agility numbers were so-so, but he had outstanding explosion numbers. A 40 inch vertical and a 10’6″ broad jump are outstanding and confirm the explosion you see on tape.

Speaking of tape:

 

 

So the first thing you notice about Kerryon is his running style. It is very patient and methodical and has drawn a lot of similarities to LeVeon Bell’s. While that is certainly the top end of the spectrum for Johnson, like Bell he is very adept at waiting for his blockers to get in position before planting his foot and exploding into the hole. His feel for running is very evident as he varies his approach based on what the defense is showing him. Sometime he will press one hole, waiting for defenders to over pursue, before darting back into the hole he just created. Other times, he will explode north and south as soon as he identifies the crease. He has great balance and very good power through the hole and is able to finish through contact, drive his legs and fall forward the majority of the time. Occasionally, he doesn’t display the greatest vision, and misses holes (had a cutback for the TD here) but this is not a regular occurrence.

By no means is Kerryon a burner, in fact raw speed is probably his biggest flaw as a back. But he is as complete as it gets in the other much, more important dimensions. He is a more than capable pass catcher out of the backfield, even though his route running could use some work. He’s not an open space savant (like his teammate Ryan Davis #23, goodness gracious that guy is terrifying in space), but he can get the job done and get positive yards when put in that scenario.

Kerryon is also going to play and play a lot because in terms of pass protection, he’s one of the best I’ve seen at the college level, on par with Zeke Elliot and Mike Hart. He shows time and time again that he is an asset, and stonewalls linebackers and defensive backs alike. His technique is excellent, his vision to identify blitzers is as well and he just has a willingness to block that is just not found in a lot of running backs.

That to me speaks to his competitiveness. Kerryon is a physical and thumping runner, and he likes to mix it up, even when he doesn’t have the ball. Despite him not testing off the charts in agility or speed , he has flashes where he showcases some long speed and where he makes people miss in space. He also has these dynamic, play maker runs that are just a mixture of explosiveness, toughness and it-factor. Let me also be clear … he was doing all of the things I’m showing you against 2 of the top 3 defenses in college football, Georgia and Alabama, whom both played in the NCAA Championship game … Auburn beat both as well.

I am very intrigued as to what this pick means for the Lions this season. They seemed poised to go into the year with the Thunder/Lightning pairing of LaGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah, mixing in Theo Reddick as a 3rd down specialist. However, Kerryon is a wild card as he can contribute in both the run and pass game in multiple ways.

I’m also interested in seeing if the additions of Blount and Johnson means the Lions are looking to install a run scheme that is more zone oriented. It would make sense as our offensive line is wickedly athletic at this point and both Blount and Johnson’s running styles seem more conducive to zone rather than gap blocking.

After thinking things over, I get the pick a lot better. After this season, it’s likely that neither Abudullah or Blount will be here, and Riddick is no guarantee himself unless he can show improved skills running the ball. Kerryon is a great foundational piece as a do-it-all back who can play every down, and has the toughness and athletic ability to have success. Perhaps next season, they add the speedy, game breaking complement to Johnson to really open up this offense. But I appreciate Mr. Johnson and I’m looking forward to what he will bring to us this season.

I give this pick a B+.

Detroit Lions Draft Overview – #20 Overall Frank Ragnow

I’m back !!!!!

After a lengthy hiatus I have been re-energized by my favorite event of the year – The NFL Draft !

I have some mixed feelings about this Draft for the Lions, but I will get into that, as well as my overall feelings about this franchise and the direction it is headed in a later post. On one hand, I think with the possible exception of one pick that I still need to do some research on, the Lions drafted good players, right around their appropriate value level, and in some cases got steals. I think they added some really good, safe pieces that will fortify the roster. My beef is based more so on the players they passed up, a couple of whom I predict we will strongly, strongly regret passing up. But that too, I will expound up another time.

Based on Bob Quinn’s post draft-interview and some clues from Matt Patricia about how the defensive scheme will look, I understand the direction the Lions are moving in … I just don’t understand why, based on recent history in the Super Bowl we would choose to construct our roster in that way. However, as I said , all of that is for a later post … Let’s dig into the here and the now – Frank Ragnow, C Arkansas:

Usually Draft Breakdown has a better mix of 2016 and 2017 film, but I’m guessing Frank’s injury played a role in the lack of options they had for this past season. If you check their site, they have 2 other films you can check out of Ragnow, but both are from 2016. I really wish they had the Alabama film, as that was film of him at guard, and scouts say that he absolutely mauled that front, which is a good test since most of Alabama’s defensive line is going to be in the NFL.

The first thing that stands out to me about Frank is how quickly he explodes out of his stance. He does so under control and with his hands ready to punch. That is a good thing … because the second thing that stood out to me was that when he does punch and gets a hold of you, that’s the end of you doing anything on that play.  Frank has a ton of raw strength and power, and he has long arms so when he executes a play perfectly, it’s all she wrote. In addition to all of this , Frank moves like a much smaller man. His pulls from the C position were excellent in terms of his movement skills (more on his pulling later) and he was a really effective combo blocker, clobbering cats at the line of scrimmage and then peeling off to the second level.

His movement skills also translate in pass pro. His short set is excellent and his feet looked good and provided a wide base and anchor that could withstand the power interior DTs exerted. He was also good at scanning the line of scrimmage and identifying blitzers to pick-up. Of course, there are some aspects of playing C, that watching film you will never be able to pick up, like who makes/adjusts the line calls but my money is on it being him and not the QB. A C with a strong grasp on the mental side of the game is as invaluable to an offense as a Mike LB is to setting up the front seven.  In any event, when he puts it all together, the strength , the explosion and the movement skills look like an All-Pro C and that is what I think his ceiling is. I also think he would be great as a G (wish I had the Bama film to confirm).

Where Frank struggled was mostly in technique things. And by struggle I mean Frank Ragnow in 2016 not in 2017 as I saw only glimpses of some of these same issues in the 2017 film. Several times in that 2016 film though, while Frank exploded out of his stance, he did so and immediately stood up. In doing so, he completely took himself out of the leverage battle. He also did a lot of catching instead of attacking and let players get their hands inside, a big no-no for offensive linemen. The crazy thing is that against most of the linemen Auburn had, Frank was so powerful and had such a good anchor, that even with bad leverage, he was fine. However, Montravius Adams (#1,  2017 3rd round pick of the Green Bay Packers) showed Frank what will happen if he stands up against NFL linemen a few times. IT WAS NOT PRETTY. Thankfully, even in that game, when his technique was good, he handled Adams pretty well. And like I said before, there were only rare occasions of that in the 2017 film I saw.  Montravius is in the division too, so new and improved Frank can get some revenge !!!

Another slight issue is that Frank often pulled and could not identify someone to hit. Or he would pull so fast and move so quickly, he would make his block more difficult than it needed to be. This will easily be corrected with coaching and, is something that happened more in 2016 than it did in 2017. Frank was an NFL player in 2016, but the development he had between those seasons was big time, in terms of consistency of technique. That’s why I think at worst he will be a solid starter for us either at C or G next to Graham Glasgow. But I think that he will likely become a Pro-Bowl caliber G and solidify our OL for the forseeable future.

Some fans were upset with the selection of an interior OL with our first round pick. I was not in that group, because I knew just how good Frank is, I just had a preference for a couple of other players. Pro Football Focus is effusive in their praise for Frank and he’s broken their scale at how good he’s been the last two years by their grading. The monster contract that Andrew Norwell just pulled in free agency shows you how guards are becoming much more coveted in value in the NFL. No longer can they just be one-dimensional maulers. They need to be scheme diverse and capable pass protectors as well, as the caliber of DT’s evolves, and teams begin using defensive ends as interior rushers in their sub packages.

I personally would have preferred Isaiah Wynn over Frank as I think that Wynn is a little bit better at G and can also play LT if Decker gets hurt again, which is a truly valuable trait to have. Frank is an interior OL only (but a damn good one). Also, an even higher priority preference would have been to address our woeful pass rush in the first round as opposed to drafting an interior OL. One of the major strengths of this draft class was the interior offensive linemen. You could have gotten a starter in the 2nd or 3rd round of the Draft (not Frank or Wynn though). Meanwhile, Harold Landry, the best pure pass rusher in the draft (yes, even better than Bradley Chubb) was sitting there at pick #20. I think we will regret passing on him for years to come.

However, outside of moving up to get Quentin Nelson and my slight preference for Wynn, the Lions could not have done a better job of shoring up the interior offensive line than grabbing Frank at pick 20. Bengals fans were PISSED, because they thought they were getting him at 21. I don’t blame them.

Frank Ragnow, happy to have you !

Grade for Frank Ragnow pick:  A-

 

Agree or disagree ? Hit my comments section !