1. What do you think of the T-wolves free agency moves so far?
Kras: So far, the moves have been few and far between, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s okay in, my opinion, that they haven’t signed a midlevel player to a high end contract. It shows that there may be some front office awareness that the young guys they have will need some of that money in the not-too-distant future. It also says that the Wolves don’t see a whole lot of free agent talent that can help them out. There was some talk about making a play for Pau Gasol who would have been a nice addition to the post rotation. The lone free agent that the Wolves have signed so far has been Cole Aldrich, a PF/C option who has been in the league six years and has played for a few teams, the latest being the L.A. Clippers. Even with the addition of Aldrich they could use another “stretch 4” type to add some shooting and depth to the roster.
Nate Leer: I think their lack of action is actually the right action. While there seems to be a few holes on the team that could be plugged with over-priced, stop-gap options, it makes sense to me to see if the young talent they have can develop in 2ays that solve those problems. Example: Based on last year, they need shooting but maybe that is way less of a problem next year since Wiggins and LaVine are putting up thousands of shots each day and hopefully so is everyone else. The point is not that we know whether these issues are solved but rather that it is possible given where most of the players are in their careers and the strengths of the new coaching staff. There is not ned to hurt the cap situation going forward just to be a little better this year. If this team can make the playoffs, Minnesota could be a legit destination for a high-level free agent next year. They should keep their options open and just supplement the roster with cheap and/or short-term signings.
2. What do you think of the Minnesota Wild free agency moves thus far?
Kras: There was some early “what if?” chatter about Stamkos but I think we can all agree that the money situation here isn’t right and the Wild didn’t show any signs of taking a step forward this year and becoming a contender for the Cup. They have taken some steps to help shore up some of the problem areas on their roster. They signed Chris Stewart, a physical winger who played 20 games with the Wild two seasons ago. Stewart was in Anaheim last season with Boudreau and Boudreau has touted Stewart as a great team guy who will stick up for all his teammates. The other nice signing that the Wild made was adding much needed depth at the center position with Eric Staal. Staal is coming off a down season with the Rangers where he did not find much success. With the promise of significant minutes and a return to his natural center position, Staal signed with the Wild. With 3 years and a $3.5M annual cap hit, I think this move is smart and hopefully will work out for the Wild. The move back to center for Staal will make him more comfortable and he is a guy who can make the players around him better.
3. Do the Twins have the ability to reach .500?
Kras: Um, no! They have been playing better as of late but I think it is safe to say that they may have put themselves in too big of a hole to pull out of. It is also hard to see a team who has their closer and set up man in the bullpen (Perkins and Jepsen respectively) both no longer with the big league club hving much sustained success. Perkins is shut down for the year and maybe longer and Jepsen has recently been designated for assignment. Neither of these guys were particularly impressive when they had the ball in their hands. I think the experiment with Sano in right field has not helped the team, and the general lack of production from the bats in the lineup has prevented them from winning more games. The Twins starting staff has been the usual mess that it is. With Hughes now done for the season, the ups and downs of Nolasco and the rest of the question marks, it is far from a good thing going right now. Hopefully guys like Duffey continue to pitch well and develop for next year (I have said that too many seasons in a row now) and Jose Berrios should get some more run after the All-Start break. I cannot say it is impossible yet for them to reach a .500 record I just think there has been too many inconsistencies and there will be to many new pieces to try and set up for them to have a great run and give us a bunch of hope going into next year.
Nate Leer: Yeah, the outlook for the rest of the season is pretty bleak. I think they would do well to develop young players and not worry too much about wins and losses. Realistically, just playing .500 ball the second half would be an accomplishment.
1. Who is the big winner of NBA free agency?
Kras: The Golden State Warriors are the winner hands down. With the signing of Kevin Durant the Warriors should be the team to beat next year. They now have arguably the best two players in the league on the floor together and that should open all sort of options for the players around them. To have KD, Steph, Klay and Draymond on the floor together is a scary idea for the rest of the league, but they will still have to perform as a team. The deal for KD is a 2 year $54.3 million, with the second year being a player option. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers these guys will put up when they are on the court together. I will be interested in seeing if these guys put up the fantasy numbers like they have been able to produce throughout their respective careers. Surely they will be a favorite to win night in and night out but as we learned this year, 73-9 doesn’t mean a thing when you don’t get that ring!
A couple other signings that stick out to me:
Al Horford to the Celtics: 4 years, $113 million- Horford will be a nice piece to work with some of the young bigs that Boston has. Also Horford will be an additional rebounding and scoring threat if need be.
Al Jefferson to the Pacers: 3 years $30 million- If for no other reason than this is a very money friendly contract. He is coming off one of his worst seasons numbers wise but some of that had to do with the injuries that plagued him last season and the fact that Charlotte was looking to some of their younger bigs ( Zeller, Williams and Kaminsky). Jefferson will bring some much needed scoring to the post for the Pacers and will hopefully help in the development of Myles Turner who showed some promising signs last season.
Andre Drummond resigns with the Pistons: 5 years $130 million- although Drummond was a restricted free agent I think it is important to lock up the best rebounder in the league. Drummond was a bit inconsistent last season with his shooting, and we all know about the free throws, but if he can improve on the 52% FG% and the DREADFUL 35% FT% Drummond will have the potential nightly be a 20-20 guy. He needs to improve on the free throws, only shooting 35% forces the hand of the coach late in the game to pull him out if he can’t hit them. If Drummond could work his way up to a 50% FT shooter he would force teams to respect that and the HACK-a-Drummond strategy would not be an effective form of basketball.
2. After Dustin Johnson’s win at the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational make him the new #1 golfer in the world?
Kras: According to the official world golf rankings, no, he is number 2. According to my thoughts, yes, there is no one playing better golf than he is. DJ and Jason Day battled it out down the stretch at the Bridgestone Invitational and DJ’s ability to navigate trouble in the final 3 holes was the difference. DJ shot a 66 on Saturday (best round on the day) and he put himself in position to have a chance on Sunday. I don’t think it can be overlooked that Jason Day only hit 4 out of 16 fairways on Saturday and still managed to lead the pack going into Sunday (21/56 fairways total). It was not the most impressive showing by Day but he was solid everywhere else on the course most notably, on the greens with the putter. I feel that DJ is playing better golf than anyone on tour right now and if he keeps it up should have a nice showing at Royal Troon and possibly overtake Day in the world rankings as number 1.
3. Which of the MLB division leaders will have the best opportunity to make it to the World Series? (Baltimore, Cleveland, Texas, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco)
Kras: There is still a lot of baseball left to be played before things are all said and done. There will be plenty of winning and losing streaks that teams will go through before the end of the season and that means that it is possible that these 6 teams are replaced by different teams at the top. However, as of right now, the one team that stands out to me would be the one team that has been there and been in contention over the last 5 seasons and that would be the San Francisco Giants. They rank 11th in runs per game and hits per game while ranking 5th in walks drawn per game. The offensive category is respectable, however it is the pitching that is the strength of this team. The pitching staff combined has put up a 3.64 ERA which is 6th best in the MLB and they have given up 79 HRs which is 7th best in the league. The reality is, this team just knows how to win. It is not always pretty but the team knows how to win and manager Bruce Bochy always has them ready to go.
Nate Leer: I think Kras is right on with this analysis. The season is essentially half over so we have a pretty good feel for these teams. Sure, a more play-off tested team could, and probably will, make a serious run at one of the divisions and the wild card could provide more real competition. However, San Fran has the best post season pitcher in recent memory, more good pitchers after Bumgartner, some clutch hitting and as good of a manager as there is in the game. Those factors often add up to post season success and the odds go up when the team with those traits is the Giants.