1. What, if anything do you think the Wild should do before the trade deadline?
J.J. Benz: I think that if the Wild decide to make a move, which I am not convinced they have to do, it would be for a 3rd line C. Most of the teams in the league could use another star or solid D but there just isn’t that many of them in the league. However, the Wild do have a few solid D in the minors that would hold some value for other teams competing for the playoffs. Again, I would run with team they have now. If the team gets a resurgence from Jason Pominville, like he has shown in the past few games, it would be just like getting a solid forward in trade. I realize Pominville is not a C but the real need is 3rd and 4th line scoring. In the NHL, more than any other sport, the talent that gets hot at the right time makes a run in the playoffs. I am not sure that this team has peaked yet considering the years that Praise and Pominville have had so far. We said on this blog at the beginning of the year that this team needed its young players to take the next step for the team to make a deep playoff run. I have enjoyed watching the young talent this year and I believe they have made that step.
Kras: I don’t think the Wild should feel like they need to make a move at all. That said, if the right deal comes along, it never hurts to add depth where they can. To JJB’s point, adding another C would be move worth considering. Remove Eric Staal from this team and they would be pretty thin at C and it would be pretty hard to replace his production this season. As long as the Wild are going good like they are, it is hard to look at this team and say they NEED anything. They have scoring, D and the hottest goalie in the game right now, all they need to do is produce in the playoffs.
2. Assuming Adrian Peterson is not with the Minnesota Vikings next year, do you think they should draft a running back with one of their first 2 picks (2nd & 3rd round)?
Nate Leer: The Vikes have 2 3rd round picks so that could be a good spot to take a RB. However, they should stick to their board if there is better talent available at other positions, particularly OL or DB. They also have 2 picks in the 4th round so can afford to wait until the value is right. This is purported to be a good draft year for RBs so the Vikes could wait a bit to see if a talented player falls to the middle of the draft. They have a decent young asset in RB Jerick McKinnon who may be overmatched as an every down back but could flourish in the correct role. They will also likely add a veteran RB on the cheap and have former Tennessee 2nd round RB Bishop Sankey inhouse. In the modern NFL, it seems much more important to have a solid OL and quality QB than overinvest in the RB position.
Kras: I am not sold on the idea that they should take a RB with one of those first 2 picks. The team has other needs as well as RB and to me they may need to spend those picks on other positions. All things considered, I think the Vikings will have to see what is available in the free agent pool and for that matter who will be available in the draft for them to take with the 2 picks in question. For me I would like to see them try and get the O-line fixed. Then I would be looking to try and find a LB to help add depth to the D that may need to rebuild a bit after last season. I think they will need to do something at RB seeing how Jerick McKinnon is not the 3 down back of the future. He is a nice piece and certainly should have a role in this offense but he is not much of a between the tackles runner and that will need to be addressed.
3. Can the Minnesota Timberwolves sustain success without Ricky Rubio on the floor and does that success of failure affect his trade value?
Nate Leer: To this point Rubio has not made much of a difference in whether or not the T-pups are successful. Their current record indicates 2 things: they are not legit playoff contenders and Rubio is not a significant difference maker. Both of these factors lead me to want to see the young PGs – Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones – get significant playing time going forward. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the league knows Rubio’s limitations as well and that is driving down the market for him. One report had the Pistons offering G Reggie Jackson for Rubio but the Wolves were not interested. That may be as good of an offer as they get but at this point it is more about getting the playing time freed up than what the Wolves get in return. To directly answer the questions: no, the Wolves will not have sustained success without Rubio (but they won’t with him either) and I think the league knows enough about him that it doesn’t have much effect on his trade value.
Kras: To Nate Leer’s point about Rubio, he is what he is at this point, and that is a player who does a lot well but can’t be counted on as any source of O. I was a Rubio hater for quite a while because of the shooting issues but I have come around the last few years despite continued shooting woes. He does everything else on the court well, and there is underrated value to that. Rubio’s trade value has taken a definite hit since the start of the season so I can’t imagine them getting much more than a Reggie Jackson type player for Rubio. When I first heard the Reggie Jackson rumors, I wasn’t overly impressed by that but he does bring a slightly better shooting resume with him. Plus, the Wolves won’t need him to shoot as often as he does in Detroit since they have other weapons on the team. I’m not sure the Wolves would get much for him in the way of a draft pick or 2 either. I think we can all agree that Rubio is not the future. With that in mind, it is time to see the young guys Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones and what they can bring to this team moving forward.
1. With the recent MLB Hall of Fame voting, was there anybody else you think should have gotten in? Was there anybody you feel shouldn’t have gotten in that did?
Nate Leer: Aside from the “steroid guys”, I think OF Vladimir Guerrero should have gotten in. I initially thought he should be in and Bagwell should be out. However, a close look at their numbers show that they were very similar players – Vlad had a better average, Bags had many more walks but other numbers were very comparable. Vlad likely didn’t get in because it is his first year on the ballot. This is just another one of the silly, unwritten rules that some HOF voters have. To me, if a player was one of the best of their era, they should be voted in ASAP. Of course that would also mean Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should already be in, but that is a discussion for a different day..
J.J. Benz: I believe most of the same things that Nate Leer stated, however I believe that you could make a case that Vlad should have been in and Rock Raines just isn’t Hall of Fame worthy. I looked at his numbers recently and he had 9 really good seasons. He played from 1979-2002 and the last 9 seasons he didn’t steal more than 20 bases in any season. I think the longevity is nice but he was only okay to pretty good for half his career. I like the player a lot but, if I take away the emotional bias, he looks like a pretty good player. Not one of the best players of his era.
2. Do you think Russell Westbrook should start the All-Star game ahead of either Steph Curry or James Harden?
J.J Benz: I happen to think that the right players are starting the All-Star game this year. Regardless of what you think about the game itself, the players that should be starting are the best at their position. Westbrook may be averaging a triple double but his team is barely holding onto a playoff spot. Curry is probably having the lesser statistical season so far but can you really replace the reigning 2 time MVP? Sure you could but outside of OKC, I am not sure anybody would.
Kras: Starting the All-Star game is hardly a big deal but it does speak to the talent and depth at the guard position in the West. James Harden, Steph Curry are the starters then there is Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard, all of whom you can argue should start the All-Star game. It is a bit crazy that a guy averaging a triple double is not starting but he was beat out by Steph Curry, 3-point machine, fan favorite, 2x MVP. James Harden is no slouch himself this year averaging 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assist. His transition to running the point has been the next step for both him and the Houston Rockets who are looking like a contender in the loaded Western Conference. My guess is Westbrook doesn’t read much into it and if he does, he will only use it as motivation to get better.
3. Besides Matt Ryan, who has to be the Falcons most important player in the Super Bowl?
Kras: Matty Ice aside, I think the most important players to the Falcons will be RBs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. If the Falcons can get the running game going and sustain some longer drives, they will be able to eat time off the clock and more importantly, they would be keeping Tom Brady on the sideline. Both Coleman and Freeman haven’t had to be used too heavily this post season as Ryan has been able to use his WRs at will to score. This postseason Freeman has 87 yards on 28 carries and a TD to go along with Coleman’s 22 carries, 86 yards, and a TD. Both players have very comparable numbers and that should continue in the Super Bowl. I know the Atlanta O is all about throwing the ball and racking up yards but quick scores mean putting the ball in Brady’s hands and that is not what any team wants to do. The Falcons D has played better in the 2nd half of the season but there is still some concerns there as they are giving up 341 yards and 25 points a game on average. Those numbers might be a bit inflated – seeing how well their O has performed this season the D has had to spend a fair amount of time on the field.
Nate Leer: To me it is WR Julio Jones. You could argue for a player like pass rusher Vic Beasley who could possibly pressure New England QB Tom Brady into mistakes but I say JULIO! NE likes to take away the opposing team’s best offensive weapon. That has to be Julio in the minds of the Patriots D coaches. However, if Julio can manage to make some big plays while drawing more than his share of the D’s attention, the rest of the ATL O will have plenty of room to operate. While I was singing the praises of Julio after the Green Bay game, JJ Bens cautioned that those were some pretty bad DBs for GB. His point is valid BUT, if Julio can break off just 1 or 2 big plays early, the Dirty Birds have a much better shot to knock off the Coach and the Golden Boy.