1. Do you think Jeff Teague is a better fit for the Wolves than Ricky Rubio was and will he help this team win more games?
Nate Leer: I think Teague is a slightly better fit based on his ability to score and hit open shots at a higher rate than Rubio. Teague shoots 44% and 35% from the field overall and from 3 respectively. Those are significantly better numbers than Rubio’s at 40% and 30%. Rubio has significant edges in assists and steals but Teague averages 5 more points per game. They are essentially the same in turnovers. I think it comes down to what a coach wants from his PG and Thibs has shown a propensity for scoring over pure passing PGs. The point has been made that poor shooting from a guard is especially hard to hide in the playoffs, where the T-Pups hope to make headway this year. We only need to look at the type of supporting players contending teams tend to have on roster, vets who can shoot and play smart over streaky but talented younger players. The other factor is that Teague’s contract will expire right when the Wolves need the cash to pay Kat. Rubio had a nice contract but the team would have had to pay him or start over in a year or 2 and that could have slowed the build to being a legit title contender.
Kras: I think it will be hard to tell if this move alone will cause this team to win more, given other changes to the team this offseason. That said, Nate Leer lays out the most important part of this equation and that is the shooting numbers. Teague’s ability to shoot the ball more consistently than Rubio has is the only thing that is more alluring to me and was likely enough for the ownership, coaching, and management to make the move from Rubio to Teague. For me personally, I would have liked to see Rubio be able to work in this O, where he doesn’t have to be a top 3 scorer. Rubio is a very respectable player outside of his scoring and is one of the better ball distributors in the league. On the other hand, Teague’s more consistent shooting will be a welcome addition to a team that has been lacking in that area for some time now.
2. Does Miguel Sano deserve to be on the All-star team and is he the only member of the Twins that does?
Nate Leer: Yes, Sano deserves to be in the All-star game. He is on pace for close to 40 HRs, over 100 RBIs and 90 runs along with an elite OPS. He has also played solid D. Those factors definitely make him a legit All-star. I also think Ervin Santana deserves to get in and likely will. The Twins are in the playoff race so their best hitter and pitcher should make the game. Plus, Erv was the most dominant SP in the AL for over a month to start the season. Sure, he has cooled since then but he still has a nice stat line and has been solid throughout.
Kras: Sano has shown he has what it takes to be an All-star this season and for that he should be. As Nate Leer points out, he is on pace to have a fantastic season and one Twins fans can celebrate if he reaches those marks. He has been the Twins best offensive asset so far and his commitment to being a better than serviceable 3B has helped his team in the race for 1st place in their division. I think a strong case could and should be made for Erv as well. Cooled off yes, but earlier this season, before any help from Jose Berrios, Erv was the only starter they had that they could rely on. Without him to anchor the rotation at least once every 5 days, this Twins team would likely be a complete bust and wouldn’t be in any sort of contention. Both of them deserve it for their contributions to the Twins so far this season.
3. Did the Wild get the better deal in their trading of Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno?
Kras: They got what they needed most and that was the dumping of Jason Pominville and his contract. I do like that they got Tyler Ennis, who when healthy can be a pretty solid player. The problem is Ennis staying healthy. As a Buffalo Sabres fan, I like that they got a nice young blueliner with some potential to grow and hopefully find a spot with his new team in Marco Scandella. I would give the edge to the Wild in the trade. They freed up the money from the Pominville contract to be able to sign some of the younger talent they currently have in the near future when their contracts come due. The move makes neither team significantly better but it does help both teams’ needs moving forward.
JJ Benz: I have to agree with Kras about dumping the Pominville contact. Marco was a little harder to stomach because he plays his best hockey in the postseason. I like the fact the Wild acquired another C but this trade feels like a wash to me. Neither team got the better of one another but both teams filled needs.
1. Are the Houston Rockets now the biggest threat in the West to the Golden State Warriors after they traded for Chris Paul? If not, then who is the biggest threat?
Kras: No. The Rockets are not the biggest threat to the Warriors. I’m not convinced that CP3 makes the Rockets any better than they were last season, not to mention they are now without a handful of role players because of the trade. I think losing the depth that guys such as Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverly, and Sam Dekker provided will be missed later in the season as the annual grind takes its toll on the starters. Both CP3 and James Harden want to play and are at their best with the ball in their hands and I think there will be a painful learning curve for this new look Rockets squad. The biggest threat in the West to the GSW is still going to be the San Antonio Spurs. They are the only team in the West that has proven they can hang with the Warriors and even they have a hard time.
Nate Leer: I don’t think so. The Rockets are a poorly constructed team with their top 2 players both needing to have the ball in their hands to have their greatest impact. Paul is an aging, undersized defender and Harden is just plain bad on D. Reportedly these 2 wanted to play together but that does not make this a winning situation. Kras is right on that the Rockets might not even be as good as they were last year. He also points to the Spurs as the closest thing to real competition in the West. I agree with that as well.
2. Which NHL team made the biggest signing or trade since the expansion draft?
Kras: To me the biggest free agent move is the Philadelphia Flyers going and getting a guy I think can help this team win in G Brian Elliott. I think the Flyers are getting a gem in the goalie department and a potential star for a team that has been shaky at goalie for years. Elliott was 26-18-3 last season with the Calgary Flames helping them to a playoff berth in the West. Elliott also carried a very pedestrian 2.55 GAA and .910 save %, both numbers he is capable of improving on. I believe Elliott will have an opportunity to be the full time starter but will likely start out in Philly in a timeshare with current goalie Michal Neuvirth. Elliott, in my mind, is the far better talent between the pipes.
JJ Benz: I believe that the Dallas Stars have made the best moves in the off-season. The Stars have been a highly offensive team the past few years. Many people have thought that the team was a goaltender away from making a long postseason run. Ben Bishop should be the guy they have missed between the pipes the last couple years. Plus the team signed 2 quality blueliners and a productive 2 way C in Hanzel. Look out for this team to compete in the crowded Western Conference next year.
3. Can the Milwaukee Brewers sustain their success, remaining in 1st place and winning their division?
Kras: Being in the NL Central and having to compete against the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers will have to continue to play good to great baseball in order to stay ahead of those 2 teams as they look to make a push in the 2nd half of the season. As it stands right now, the Brewers have a 3 game lead over the Cubs and a 4.5 game lead over the Cards. The Brewers also have been incredible at the plate so far, with 6 of their everyday players batting .295 or better. Eric Thames is leading the Brew Crew with 23 HRs while Travis Shaw is pacing the team nicely with 61 RBI. The Brewers are doing everything right as of now but baseball is a funny game and a game of ups and downs as well as streaks and skids. They have been riding pretty high to this point without many low spots which tells me they are due to hit a rough patch and the All-Star break may just be the spot it all turns. I personally don’t think they will win the division in the long run. I think the Cubs will get hot after the All-Star break and they will reclaim 1st place and likely finish the season in that spot. I do think it is possible that the Brew Crew hangs on and grab a wildcard spot and from there anything can happen.
Nate Leer: I doubt the Brewers will win the division or even make the playoffs. Thames provided them with a nice offensive boost early but he has come crashing back to earth the last month or so. The rest of the team is average at best outside of Ryan Braun. Let’s give them credit for getting this far in 1st place. However, they are primed to fade and, as Kras points out, the cream of the division is likely to rise to the top in the 2nd half.