1. With training camp starting for the Vikings this week, what position do you feel they still need the most help, aside from the O-line?
Nate Leer: I think LB is the weakest position group outside of the OL with DBs a close 3rd. The Vikes have 2 young, talented LBs in Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks but both have had trouble staying on the field for full seasons. They both will be solid to great if healthy but that still leaves the 3rd LB in base sets as an area of concern. While this position is manned less than half the time on D, there really is not a clearcut player for the role even one as good as Chad Greenway, last year’s 3rd LB. Rookie Ben Gedeon, vet Emmanuel Lamur, and recent late round draftees Edmund Robinson and Kentrell Brothers are depth players but none has shown the ability to be a consistent force. The Vikes are most likely hoping Robinson emerges but the is a big question mark. More concerning would be if one of the young studs goes down and multiple players from the list above have to play for stretches. Scary.
Kras: I am going to stick on the D-side of the ball and say the CBs could use some work. We all know Xavier Rhodes has shown to be a #1 CB but he has had his struggles also. Rhodes has had periods of time in which he repeatedly gets flagged for holding and that can really hurt depending on the location on the field. Outside of Rhodes, they have Terence Newman who is as old as the game itself but has seemingly found a way to beat time. Next up are CBs Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander who still have plenty to learn and prove. Remember back to last season during their final game against Green Bay when the CBs proceeded to take matters into their own hand? Then Jordy Nelson went off and made fantasy football leagues for people? The point: they need work yet. In Zimm we trust?
2. With the Twins only a couple games out in the Central and right in the thick of the Wild Card race, is it time for them to be serious buyers?
Nate Leer: It is getting close to now or never time for them to get legit SP help. Losing 2 of 3 to the Tigers over the weekend puts the Twins 2.5 behind Cleveland. While that is not an impossible gap to close by any means, I still expect Cleveland to get hot. Since they are certainly not the favorites to win the division, I am glad they have resisted the urge to give up a quality prospect for a straight rental pitcher such as Jaime Garcia. If they want to make a move, getting a player who they own for a couple years makes much more sense. I am okay with the Twins giving up a package as long as they keep SS Nick Gordon in the system. He is too close, too good and plays a position of need for the club so he must be retained. If the Twins would add a Sonny Gray or similar and stay in contention, they could supplement their bullpen and even the rotation in August during the waiver trading period. Prices will come down for arms who are not good enough to get claimed but could still be serviceable as teams fall out of races.
Kras: I think the last point that Nate Leer laid out is really the best route for this club at this point. If they do make a move, only get a guy who the team can control for some years to come and add through waiver trading or free agency in the offseason. The Twins NEED the prospects they have in the minors. Depleting the minor league affiliates now in hopes of a 1 or 2 year push does nothing for the club beyond that. As much as I want to see the Twins fight it out and make the playoffs this season, it seems likely that may come at the cost of the future and that makes me change my tune. We need to trust Derek Falvie and Thad Lavine and their game plan.
3. Should the Minnesota Timberwolves give Andrew Wiggins $30 million per year?
Nate Leer: Assuming that Wolves management has a plan to afford Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns long term as well, I would pay Wiggy. However, if his contract jeopardizes being able to sign the other 2, I would have to wait and see if Wig plays some D this year. I believe management is smart enough to not do anything that puts keeping the other 2 players in question. So, in today’s NBA, $30 mill for an All-star level scorer, which Wig pretty much is, is not a crazy number. Plus, Wig still has upside to his game. His length and all-around scoring ability easily profiles to a better Demar Derozan
Kras: I think this is a hard question to answer. Although Wiggy has shown the ability to play big, he seems to be lacking the true fire needed to be a dagger kind of guy. Now, that being said, Wiggy is only 22 years old and has all the athletic ability you can ask for in a player. He averaged 23.6 PPG last season to go along with 4.0 Rebs and 2.3 assists. Unfortunately, I think you have to give him the $30 million a year on the hopes he figures his potential out and lives up to the Maple Jordan title that someone gave him. I hate to give up on him this early and have another team sign him up and have him erupt and take the NBA by storm. The Wolves need to make sure they have Karl Anthony-Towns and Jimmy Butler taken care of before they make sure Wiggy gets his but I think he will be a critical part of this team moving forward.
1. If Kyrie Irving is traded away from the Cavs, what team would he be best on and would the Cavs run of dominance be over in the East?
Nate Leer: I know he didn’t list them (reportedly) as a destination, but I think the Suns make the most sense on many levels. Realistically, none of the teams Irving reportedly mentioned even work as destinations. The Wolves are too committed to their current roster, the Spurs and Knicks don’t have assets to realistically trade, and Miami would have to gut its roster to make a play for Irving. Meanwhile the Suns could make an offer that helps keep Cleveland in the driver’s seat in the East while also allowing for a quick reboot if Lebron leaves in 2018. A trade starting with PG Eric Bledsoe, F Josh Jackson and C Tyson Chandler for Irving would fill a lot of holes for Cleveland while leaving plenty of talent behind in Phoenix for Irving to run with. This may be a long shot but is the best bet for a true win-win trade revolving around Irving.
Kras: I think whether or not the Cav’s run of dominance is over would depend on what they get back in any sort of trade package. It is hard to predict what could come from the NBA as they never seem to disappoint. Although the Suns do have the pieces to make a move that makes sense, don’t count out Danny Ainge. The Boston Celtics have a PG in Isaiah Thomas, they also have all sorts of movable options in Marcus Smart, Jalen Brown, Jae Crowder, and Gerald Green, just to name a few., They also have an assortment of draft picks they could get rid of to make a move. I will be interested to see if Kyrie actually does get moved before the start of the season at this point. It seems like an odd move at this time of year to move the star player but, like I said, it’s the NBA.
2. Was Jordan Spieth’s victory over Matt Kuchar in the 146th Open Championship a more impressive final round than last year’s Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson final round shootout?
Kras: No, and not just because I’m a Phil Mickelson fan. Last year both Mickelson and Henrik Stenson played incredibly well in the final round with both shooting below par while knocking wedge shots close and draining putts that weren’t. What Stenson and Mickelson did was battle for the Claret Jug. Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar played good golf but they weren’t playing great golf. Spieth did all he could to maintain his lead on the front 9 and the wheels nearly fell off on 13. Spieth did rebound nicely after his bogey at 13. He nearly had a hole in one on 14 where he birdied and on 15 sank a long putt for eagle. It was a good final round with some drama but it was nothing like last year’s Open. 145 will be hard to beat.
JJ Benz: I don’t think it was more impressive than Henrik’s battle with Phil last year. However, Spieth made a lot of mistakes early in the round but was resilient enough to right the ship and finish the round strong. Royal Birkdale is a little different beast than Royal Troon. Birkdale is only a par 70 with the consensus scoring holes being 14-18. Both the par 5s at Birkdale are on the backside along with a reachable par 4 making any birdies made on the first 13 holes kind of a bonus. I think Henrik’s final round was more impressive because I was just waiting for the favorite Phil to take the lead but he never got the opportunity. Spieth was the favorite and has shown that he can finish tournaments. So Spieth’s win wasn’t as impressive because of the course setup and he was the favorite.
3. Which NFL rookie RB will have the most yards from scrimmage (rushing & receiving)?
Nate Leer: You heard it here first Vikes fans: Dalvin Cook will be the most productive rookie RB in the NFL. I know, OMG, what a homer! Hear me out. As it stands today, Cook has the best track to yardage of any RBs that went in the early rounds of the draft. Leonard Fournette will likely have the most rushing yards as well as TDs but he could also have less than 100 receiving yards. That caps his total yardage unless he has a HUGE year running which is rare these days. Christian McCaffrey is the opposite scenario. He may have less than 500 yards rushing so would need well over 700 yards receiving to lead in yardage. Joe Mixon is a complete back like Cook but 2 young vets ahead of him who have had productive stretches, making him a long shot to contribute in multiple areas early. Cook has competition in Minnesota but vet Latavius Murray’s best skills are scoring and blocking, which don’t apply to this question, and Jerick McKinnon is outclassed by Cook’s talent. There’s the possibility of a late round back emerging but that usually takes half a season or so to happen and/or the player is one dimensional. I predict big things for Cook even if he does not start a game this year. He’s that good!
JJ Benz: I think Nate might be right. For me it comes down to opportunity. With Murray still nursing an ankle injury, if Cook impressives early he could get the bulk of the load. I do expect Fournette to be the best runner but backs in NFL must have an impact on the passing game as well. Fournette’s skill set doesn’t seem to be that of a natural pass catcher but you never know. I also think that McCaffrey has the skill set to be a yardage machine but with Stewart is still there so I don’t think he gets the opportunity to rush for a lot of yardage.