R.J. Barrett Should be the New York Knicks Top Draft Choice

The New York Knicks should have a top pick in this upcoming draft, simple. Almost everybody in the basketball world agrees that a player on the Duke Blue Devils roster will be the number one pick in the NBA draft. Most people see that as Zion Williamson, but if I was an NBA General Manager and has the first pick I would pick RJ Barrett.
I had the chance to watch Barrett live Saturday February, 23rd against Syracuse. Zion didn’t play in that game due to his crazy sneaker injury in the previous game. Barrett took over the game, and filled the stat sheet, and crushed me, as a diehard Syracuse basketball fan, my dreams of sweeping Duke in the regular season. Barrett scored 30 points in the game, including multiple daggers that changed the outcome of the game. That game made me realize, that there is a reason Barrett was one spot higher then Zion Williamson in most recruiting rankings.
Can Zion jump out of the gym? Yes
Can Zion fill the seats of any stadium? Yes
Can Zion become a great pro? Probably
But, I think Barrett’s game fits the NBA better. At the end of the day, he’‘ll be the better pro of the two. Zion can get by defenders now in college basketball, but will he be able to get by Anthony Davis and elite NBA players and perform earth shattering dunks? For all he has worked, he’s not a great shooter, and who knows if he will ever be able to improve his shooting. Zion has also had two freak injuries in the past month, a shoe malfunction, and getting poked in the eye. With how Zion plays, there could be questions about durability, and if his body will be able to take all the hits. I, personally, just think there should be more questions about if Zion’s game can translate to the NBA.
Barrett has so much potential, and so much room to grow. He can score in bunches, and is an amazing defender already. Barrett could easily become one of the best wing players in the NBA in his first two year’s in the league.
Both have amazing potential, and an organization would be happy with either of them. But, RJ Barrett makes more sense for the Knicks. Imagine this starting lineup next season.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: RJ Barrett
SF: Kevin Knox
PF: Kevin Durant
C: Mitchell Robinson
That’s as good as a starting lineup in the Eastern Conference.
In my opinion, there is more risk picking Zion.  He has a lower ceiling and a lower floor, then RJ Barrett. RJ Barrett is one of the best college basketball players I have ever seen. His game will translate better to the NBA then Zion Williamson.

New York Yankees: Greg Bird Continue To Dominate, Position Battle Tightens

New York Yankees, Greg Bird

With both New York Yankees’ Luke Voit and Greg Bird dominating spring training, the first base position battle has gotten even tighter in recent days. On Wednesday, Bird launched a three-run blast to center field, dragging both Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres across the plate.

Voit finished the day 0-1 with a strikeout after showcasing his impressive power in prior games. The two first baseman have come out of the gate firing, but it’s often against lesser pitchers in meaningless games. The regular season offers a whole different challenge, and maintaining consistency will be the key to success.

Voit will undoubtedly earn the starting reps to start 2019, but if Bird can continue his success at the plate he could earn playing time as well.

The New York Yankees need to weigh the pros and cons:

The biggest question revolves around their defense, as Bird has proven to be a more natural first baseman over Voit. Last season, Bird conceded two errors in 74 games of play while Voit also had two in 32 games. This clearly indicates who the better defender is, and it gives Bird a glimpse of hope after struggling through two seasons of sub .200 batting.

What should manager Aaron Boone do?

Boone has an interesting situation on his hands – he has two players that seem to be motivated to earn the starting job. One of them hit .333 with the Yankees last year and played a significant part in making it to the ALDS. The other hit .199 and could barely stand in the batter’s box long enough to enjoy the view.

We know what he’s going to do at the start of the season, but it’s what happens after that sparks a thought. The efficient thing to do would be to utilize Bird as a rotational piece to keep Voit healthy, giving him opportunities to showcase his abilities sparingly.

This method would give Voit the reps he deserves but also keep Bird relevant and active in case an injury arises. Another idea would be to play the hot hand. Start Voit as expected and slip Bird in there every few games to see if he can catch a hot streak. Either way, both players will see starting time, but it’s a matter of who can show the most when swinging the bat.

New York Giants Preparing To Walk Away From Landon Collins In Free Agency

New York Giants, Landon Collins

Maybe there’s more to the story than previously thought, but star safety Landon Collins doesn’t seem to be the priority for the New York Giants this offseason. With the franchise tag deadline March 5th, the Giants are cutting it awfully close with Collins, but why?

If Collins wasn’t 100% and thought to return to full health, why wouldn’t the Giants tag him and end the speculation? There must be something more, whether it be about the significance of his injury or not.

What the Giants could be thinking:

It’s possible the team wants to evaluate other safeties at the NFL combine to weigh the option of drafting a player to replace Collins and the $11 million he would be owed if he was tagged.

General manager Dave Gettleman stated at the combine in regard to cap space and the 53-man roster:

“Here’s what everybody has to understand. You’ve got 53 players on your club and you’ve got a salary cap. You don’t have 53 silos. Decisions like this cannot be made in a vacuum.”

He further said that they were “evaluating” the choice to tag one of their best defenders. With the idea that the Giants need to go into the season with at least $8-10 million in cap space, that theoretically lowers their available sums of money to around $18 million from $28 million.

I anticipate that the team will make more cap-related moves to increase investment opportunity, and it could start with letting Collins walks in free agency. Thanks again Jerry Reese, you half-wit.

The New York Giants need to make salary moves:

Moving forward, players like Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Manning remain on the chopping block or are candidates for cap-savings – this includes lowering the hit, which is most likely for Manning if he wishes to play on a competitive team and stop hoarding money for his great-grandkids’ grandkids.

Depending on how much money the team can save via cap-cuts and deductions, Collins’ future continues to hang in the balance.

 

New York Yankees’ Shortstops: Love the one you’re with

The New York Yankees find themselves in the unique position of having an abundance of shortstops who can, and, in the absence of Didi Gregorius, will play the position until his return sometime in June.

Troy Tulowitzki was signed by General Manager Brian Cashman in a move that some have called genius, as Cashman sidestepped the high dollar free agents and opted instead for Tulowitzki for the league minimum with the Blue Jays paying the remainder of his salary in 2019.

Can the New York Yankees trust their veteran infielder?

As fans are well aware by now, Tulowitzki did not play at all in 2018 and had very limited playing time in 2017 due to numerous injuries.

Tulowitzki stepped into the batters’ box on Monday against Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays and appeared to put all of that behind him with one swing of the bat – he went yard two pitches into his first at-bat in a year and a half and just like that Cashman’s gamble would appear to have paid off.

One swing in spring training does not make a season, and the Yankees have Gleyber Torres to spell Tulowitzki as he is eased back into an everyday role. Torres played shortstop through the Cubs’ minor-league system before he was dealt to the Yankees in 2016.

Torres started 15 games and had a .928 fielding percentage at shortstop in ’18, as opposed to the .970  fielding percentage he had at second base.  The Yankees have not wanted to move Torres around and instead prefer him to continue to solidify his defensive skills at second base.

The 24-year-old Tyler Wade is vying for a bench spot in ’19 and over the weekend, he had the hot bat, with 4 hits in 5 at-bats, three of those hits for doubles.  Wade is a lefty who profiles as a good glove man but who has never had success offensively at the major league level.  He is a career .161/.218/.250 hitter with the Yankees.

Cashman has said that he is committed to Tulowitzki at shortstop in Gregorius’ absence, with the All-Star and Gold Glove winner getting the majority of the playing time.

Yankee fans question whether Tulowitzki will remain healthy enough and have the stamina to play every day or whether there will be a round robin at shortstop with Wade and Torres seeing more playing time, especially to start the season.

Regardless of who holds down the shortstop position for the New York Yankees in 2019, the infield defense is one area where the Yankees need improvement.  The longer Tulowitzki can stay on the field, the better the Yankees will be on defense this season.

Can Tulo be consistent?

What will be interesting to see is whether Tulowitzki can keep up the pace offensively as his batting averages had dipped in the three years prior to 2017 when he went out with injuries.  He hit .239 in 2015, .254 in 2016 and .249 in 2017 in limited games.

I don’t believe the Yankees brought Tulowitzki in for his power, though he’s been known to have some pop in his bat, but instead for his glove.

Whatever the Yankees get out of the shortstop position offensively while Gregorius is out, is gravy.  There will be plenty of heavy hitters on the team to provide the offensive impetus for this team.

As for Yankee shortstops this spring, my advice to you, is love the one you’re with –  Tulowitzki, Wade and Torres will all contribute to the success of the team coming out of the gate.

 

 

 

New York Giants: Head Coach Pat Shurmur Is Committed To Eli Manning

With the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine taking place this week, the New York Giants’ staff conducted interviews on Wednesday. The hot topic surrounding these interviews was, of course, the Giants’ quarterback position. The Giants were asked about their plans for the position in 2019 and beyond. The Giants would not reveal too much about their plans beyond 2019. However, head coach Pat Shurmur made one thing clear: Eli Manning “is back.”

What Coach Shurmur Had To Say About Eli Manning

This is not the first time coach Shurmur has said to the press that he wants Manning back in 2019. But for the first time all offseason, we heard a definitive answer. Rather than saying he wants Eli back, Shurmur said “He’s back.” There is a big difference between the two.

Coach Shurmur is confident Eli can still compete at a high level. He does not blame Eli for the Giants’ 5-11 season. Shurmur thinks that if the rest of the team plays better, Eli will too.

“I think Eli can help us win games, and he proved, when the players around him started playing better, that he can play at a very high level and help us win games,” Shurmur said. “So, yeah, at this point I want Eli back.” – Pat Shurmur

Despite this, Shurmur did not rule out the possibility of adding another quarterback to the roster in the offseason. The Giants will be doing their due diligence on the 2019 Draft Class to try to identify a franchise quarterback. In fact, Shurmur made it clear he has already started evaluating the top prospects at that position.

What Coach Shurmur Had To Say About 2019 Quarterback Prospects

When asked about Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins, Shurmur admitted that he has already watched every single play from both of the prospects’ junior seasons. Both prospects only started one season in college, so there is not too much film for the Giants to evaluate. But Shurmur has already watched every play from Haskins’s and Murray’s careers.

Regarding Murray’s controversial height, Shurmur did not seem too unsettled by it.  He noted that Murray’s height did not seem to effect his ability to throw the ball in college. Shurmur pointed out a key statistic during his press conference: “For a sub-6-foot player, he only had five balls batted down.” Shurmur is willing to look at quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes.

“Times have changed. Quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. … Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl, so I think you’ve got to look at the total player, you’ve got to look at his productivity, and you’ve got to look at whether he fits. And I think we as coaches then will use their skillsets to the best of their ability to get the most out of them and win games.” – Pat Shurmur

Both Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman floated the idea of a quarterback succession plan. They both made note of “the Kansas City Model.” What they were referring to was how the Chiefs groomed league MVP Patrick Mahomes. They drafted him in 2017, had him sit a full season and learn behind veteran Alex Smith, then promoted Mahomes to the starting quarterback job for 2018.

Mahomes went on to throw 50 touchdown passes and win league MVP while leading his team to the AFC Conference Championship game. The Giants would love to have similar success. If the Giants are confident in one of the 2019 Draft’s quarterbacks as a franchise guy, they will not hesitate to draft him and groom him behind Manning.

New York Yankees: Didi Gregorius To Return Later Than Expected

The New York Yankees brought in the reinforcements this offseason due to starting shortstop Didi Gregorius’s Tommy John surgery. The signing of veteran Troy Tulowitzki presented an alternative at the position while Didi rehabs.

It was expected that the usual starter would return mid-summer but reports have indicated that his timetable for return has been pushed back a few weeks.

June was the original return month, but it’s looking more like August at this point.

Manager Aaron Boone indicated that Gregorius could return 2-4 months into the season but Brian Cashman has now stated that it’s looking more like 6 months.

New York Yankees will utilize multiple players at shortstop:

It’s expected that both Tulowitzki and Gleyber Torres will earn starting reps at shortstop. Torres played sparingly at the position in 2018 but struggled with defensive efficiency, allowing five errors in 21 games. The move to second base saw his fielding percentage jump from .928 to .970. A significant change, which is why he remained at second for a majority of the season.

I anticipate that Torres earning reps at shortstop could be a test. The Yankees could be looking to see if he can be the long-term solution at the position since Gregorius will be a free agent next winter.

The Yankees are betting on their youth core to develop into every-day players for the next five years. Having a young shortstop can be the difference in a great team and a good team. Torres has the ability to develop into a top infielder with more experience, and at 22-years-old, his career is just beginning.

New York Giants: Eagles To Let QB Nick Foles Become Free Agent

In a change of events since the earlier trends in the offseason, it looks like the Philadelphia Eagles are set to let quarterback Nick Foles walk away and sign for a different team in free agency. Foles has been speculated on as a stopgap option at QB for the New York Giants, but it was believed before that the Eagels would sign Foles to a new deal before trading him away to save cap space. It looks, though, like Foles will become a free agent after all.

“We’ve been so fortunate over the last couple of years to have two top-15 quarterbacks in Carson and Nick,” said Eagles Executive VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman, on Wednesday. “We’ve spent a lot of time discussing this internally and with him, and we’ve decided to let Nick become a free agent.”

The other alternative would have been to use the franchise tag on Foles, which would be the more expensive option and would waste the tag on a backup quarterback who isn’t expected to get playing time barring an injury to starter Carson Wentz.

Foles could be a target for the New York Giants but not as a starter. It looks like the team will draft a quarterback whose goal is to learn behind Eli Manning, but another option would be drafting a quarterback in the future and signing Foles for now, who has the skills to push Eli Manning as actual competition while remaining in a backup role.

It’s not the likeliest deal, though. While New York does ave a certain appeal, all signs point to Eli Manning being the starter this season and therefore the Giants may not be the most attractive destination to Foles, regardless of pay. Still, it’s good to have options, and one of those options might be Nick Foles if things go the way they’re currently headed.

New York Giants: Dave Gettleman Answers The Odell Beckham Jr. Trade Question

A whirlwind of rumors suggesting a trade of New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has drawn interest from national media networks. Reports that the Giants had considered trading Beckham to the New England Patriots but backed out due to compensation and realization have surfaced.

Ultimately, trading the wideout would impact the team negatively – significantly. His influence on the team is great and losing his presence would be like losing the best player on your youth kickball team – his talent somehow makes everybody around him better, despite not seeing that influence in the win column.

Beckham’s injury concerns likely played a part in a potential deal, but moving forward the Giants are committed to keeping the talented receiver.

New York Giants promise the retention of OBJ:

General manager Dave Gettleman spoke to the media during the NFL combine, suggesting that the team was not interested in parting ways with Beckham.

After suffering a quadriceps injury that ended Beckham’s season prematurely, the team relied on star rookie Saquon Barkley to pick up the slack. The unit ended up finishing as the top scoring offense in the NFC East.

Head coach Pat Shurmur stated, “I look forward to having him (OBJ) back.”

The first thing that Gettleman said at the combine media session was a reassurance that OBJ would remain a Giant until further notice. The team is expected to have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league after an impressive bout of individual performance in 2018.

Having a healthy OBJ, an experience Barkley and a solid offensive line instill confidence in even the most cynical of fans. Success seems to be on the horizon.

New York Yankees: Miguel Andujar — Why Spring Training Games Count

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

You hear it among New York Yankees fans, and fans everywhere: Spring Training games mean nothing, that you watch to see players on the rise, and how the vets look. And the 2018 Yankees were no exception.

With Gleyber Torres on the come at short, and Miguel Andujar looking to stake a claim at third, however, the week-old acquisition of Brandon Drury to anchor the hot corner may have turned the page on “Miggy’s” 2018 shot. Given that story come Spring games, Andujar tied a game with the visiting Phillies on February 26, 2018, with a first at-bat pinch double in the bottom of the seventh.

New York went ahead in the eighth only to see Scott Kingery tie matters with a two-out home run in the ninth. But “Du” was “due” up third in the bottom half and, with two outs and a 2-2 count, he homered to left for the 4-3 win.

Chapter Two:

Even though Brandon Drury would hit one of five home runs in the visiting Yankees’ 6-4 win against Philadelphia in Clearwater, Fla., on March 1, 2018 (with Estevan Florial scoring the other run after leading off the seventh with a triple), the victory had Miguel Andujar supporters in the crowd feeling triumphant, as Miggy gave the Bombers an early 2-0 lead with singleton jacks in the second and third innings. CC Sabathia and Domingo German had the Yankees up 6-2 through six, and the team coasted from there.

Chapter Three:

The terrific start to the Yankee 2018 Spring Training campaign continued apace on March 2, despite the quick 4-0 lead visiting Atlanta took, largely on Ronald Acuna, Jr.‘s first-inning home run off Masahiro Tanaka. Miguel Andujar got two runs back with a fourth-inning rbi double, and Tyler Austin had a walk-off two-run bomb in the bottom of the ninth in the 5-4 Yankee win. No one could know that Drury health issues would soon derail his year, but plenty were watching closely to see if “Du” was ready to take the call.

More New Good News:

Another sign of a team on the rise features the Yankee 9-4  February 24, 2017, win over the Phillies. Didi Gregorius took the first pitch he saw over the fence in right center in the first, and, yes, Aaron Judge gave the home team a 2-0 lead with a bomb to left center in the fourth.

A Trade That Helped:

The Yankees traded catcher Aaron Robinson, lefthander Bill Wight, and righty Fred Bradley to the White Sox on February 24, 1948, for portsider Eddie Lopat, who would post a 113-59 mark in the Bronx and won four out of five decisions for five Yankee World Series teams, all of them winners.

New York Giants Are in a lot of Trouble Heading Into Free Agency

New York Giants quarterback, Eli Manning.

With several positions in dire need of assistance, the New York Giants need to allocate resources to upgrade specific units. The cornerbacks, safeties, offensive line, and defensive line all need reinforcements, which will require a hefty amount of investment whether it be through free agency or the draft.

Former general manager Jerry Reese left the salary cap in shambles, as the team still owed over $9 million in dead money moves after Dave Gettleman came in and cleaned house. It’s likely that the Giants will part ways with some players to open up cap space, or at least require them to lower their cap-hits to open up a bit of wiggle room.

The New York Giants are in a bad spot:

Currently, the team has about $27 million in cap, ranking towards the bottom of the league. They need to sign a top-tier free safety, retain Landon Collins, and sign a right tackle. That’s a ton of money that needs to be appropriated efficiently, but I don’t expect the Giants to address all of these positions through FA.

Positions like right tackle and safety can be addressed with draft picks, but it’s likely the team will draft a quarterback at No. 6, this means that the players drafted after won’t represent immediate starters. If the Giants get lucky in the second round, they can draft a potential right tackle, similar to what they did with Will Hernandez. My biggest concern is that after the second-round they don’t pick again until day 3 (fourth round).

What I expect the Giants to do this offseason:

I expect the Giants to package a few picks and move up into the third round to grab a safety. They have Sam Beal waiting in the wings to join the cornerback ranks – he was picked in the in the supplemental draft in 2018 which cost the Giants their third-round pick.

Acquiring Beal allows the team to focus in on safety and right tackle. Former Carolina Panther Daryl Williams remains an option, a fourth-round pick by Gettleman himself in 2014. They can back-load his contract to keep the cap hit down in 2019. The expectation is that Eli Manning’s $20 million cap hit will disappear in 2020, and Olivier Vernon’s contract might shrink a bit.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants manage this offseason with such little room in their cap. I would expect them to continue building through youth as Gettleman has been extremely successful in the draft.