Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Draft Class: What the Hell Happened?

I fully understand that you can't judge any player a quarter of the way through his first year in the NBA, but ... still. Every year a handful of rookies explode onto the scene with impressive stats or immediately improving his team's record like Tyreke Evans last year.

This year seems different. I know a lot of draft experts said that this years draft was particularly weak, but come on... are there more than a handful of rookies that are even getting playing time? Not a good time for my beloved Utah Jazz to get an incredibly rare lottery pick. How many have they had? Something like 4 in the last 30 years.

I know Hayward is young, and Kevin O'Connor asked for 2 years before the pick is judged, but the early returns have not been promising. With the notable exception of one impressive dunk, and another missed one, he has done little to spark my imagination. Even though Deron supposedly struggled (not really, Sloan just didn't like him look it up), he had flashes of what he will one become. Even the much maligned CJ Miles when given the opportunity in his rookie year out of high school showed flashes (I have that game on DVD, yeah ... I'm that guy).

Lets take a look at this incredibly weak (yeah I know, this far) draft, pick by pick:

1. John Wall - Wizards 16.7 PPG 8.9 APG 3.4 RPG 2.3 SPG 40% FG 33% 3FG 82% FT
It's too bad that the rest of his team is awful, because he is really fun to watch. I have had a chance to see a couple of the rare nationally televised Wizards games and have been able to catch a few of his mythical coast-to-coast attacks. Impressive. No way he could not have been the number one pick in this draft. (15 games played, 13 started)

2. Evan Turner 6.4 PPG 4.5 RPG 1.8 APG
One of the bigger disappointments thus far. I am not afraid to admit I wanted him for the Jazz. I saw him as a bigger Brandon Roy with working knees. Instead he has been benched a couple times for the putrid 76ers. No looking good in Philly. (25 games played, 12 started)

3. Derrick Favors 6.7 PPG 5.6 RPG
You know things are bad when a guy averaging 6 and 5 has thus far been a top rookie. He looked awful during the Orlando Summer League, but was fairly impressive against the Jazz, mainly because he was dominating the boards against a Jazz team which has been led in rebounding in multiple games by PG Deron Williams. Supposedly he will be Denver's crown jewel in a Carmelo Anthony trade. Good luck Denver. (24 games played)

4. Wesley Johnson 9.2 PPG 3.4 RPG 2 APG
I actually like Wes. I thought he would have been a great fit for the Jazz. Ronnie Brewer with a nice jumpshot. Still, everyone knew going in that his ceiling was going to be a role player on a contender. He was the number 4 pick in the draft. Yikes. (26 games played, 22 started)

5. Demarcus Cousins 11.3 PPG 6.8 RPG 41% FG
The Jazz have faced the Kings a couple of times so far and both times, Cousins looked HORRIBLE. Throwing shots wildly towards the rim. How he averages 11 points a game is beyond me. The Jazz supposedly tried everyway possible to move up to get Cousins. I would rather have Big Al. And I'm not the biggest Big Al guy out there. (23 games played, 11 started)

6. Ekpe Udoh .7 PPG .3 RPG
I liked Udoh for the Jazz. Maybe not so much now. He was injured throughout Summer League, Preseason, and most of the season to this point. I happened to be watching when he made his NBA debut, and I didn't think he looked bad. Pretty active, and he knocked down a jumper. This is the 6th pick in the draft. (3 games played)

7.  Greg Monroe 5 PPG 5 RPG 20 MPG
Ah Greg. I wanted him so bad for the Jazz. I still think he will be good. Why he doesn't get more of a chance on the disgustingly bad Pistons is beyond me. Or maybe he's just not good. I don't know. Things are not looking good. (24 games played, 2 started)

8. Al-Farouq Aminu 6.4 PPG 3.2 RPG 47%3FG
Another guy I have seen a couple of times this year so far against the Jazz. He doesn't seem to do anything other than shoot 3's. He does it pretty well though! (26 games played, 14 games started)

9. Gordon Hayward 1.9 PPG 1.3 RPG 37% FG 8 MPG
Don't ... it's just too painful right now. (21 games played, 4 started)

10. Paul George 4.9 PPG 2.5 RPG
In Orlando Summer League, Paul George looked like Tracy McGrady. I don't know why the Pacers have only played him in 8 games. Injury? I don't know, but I was surprised about how good he was. For a Jazz team that struggles at times to score, he might have been a good pick.

11. Cole Aldrich 1.0 PPG 2.2 RPG
I thought this was going to be a great pick for the Thunder, and one that would help them out this year. Instead Cole has spent a lot of time in the D-League. (5 games played)

12. Xavier Henry 5.9 PPG 41% FG 11%3FG
Xavier had been getting hype heading into the first Jazz-Grizzlies game, and had found himself in the starting SG spot. During the game you would not have even noticed he was on the floor. For supposedly being a nice shooter, his percentages are stinky wiff. (24 games played, 13 started)

13. Ed Davis 5.8 PPG 5.9 RPG 52%FG
Davis has been injured, but in the handful of games he has played he has done okay. I was hoping that if the Jazz didn't land Monroe, Davis would be the picks. Nope. (9 games played, 1 started)

14. Patrick Patterson 3 points in 1 game played
I am so happy the Jazz didn't pick Patterson. It would have been vanilla. It would have been redundant. It would have been a disaster.

15. Larry Sanders 4 PPG 3.2 RPG 1 BPG
Another player that had been a little hyped and starting heading into a matchup with the Jazz, and like Xavier Henry, was completely invisible on the court. (18 games played, 8 started)

16. Luke Babbitt .8 PPG .5 RPG
Rumor was this was the Jazz pick. When they opted for Hayward, Portland swooped in as they often do with Jazz players. I am happy. (8 games played)

17. Kevin Seraphin 2.9 PPG 3.8 PPG 12 MPG
I did see him get posterized the other night by Lamar Odom.

18. Eric Bledsoe 7.9 PPG 6.1 APG 3.5 RPG 27 MPG
Finally! A good pick. How Bledsoe dropped this far in this stink-pit of a draft is beyond me. GM's scout right? He gave the Jazz problems here in the there during the 2 games played this year. Very nice late first pickup by the ... Clippers?!

19. Avery Bradley 1.6 PPG .8 APG
Good luck finding the court on the Celtics Avery. (5 games played)

20. James Anderson 7.0 PPG 1 APG 1 RPG
Good luck finding hte court on the Spurs James. (6 games played)

Skipping ahead ...

39. Landry Fields 10 PPG 7 RPG 31 MPG
HOW DID THIS DUDE FALL SO FAR DOWN?! He is sort of garbage man for the Knicks. A little Matt Harpring-y. 7 RPG? From a SF? That is value. (26 games played, 26 started)

55. Jeremy Evans 2.8 PPG 1.2 RPG 68% FG and F-ing CRAZY HOPS
This frankly inexcusable. In a draft this bad, somebody, somewhere before 55 should have taken a flyer on this guy. It's been hard for him to find the floor for the Jazz, but when he has he just starts catching alley-oops. He is my saving grace. Sadly, he may just be the Jazz's legacy of the 2010 draft. Here are the highlights:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Judging the Jazz (limited sample size)

The Jazz don't look good.

I am fully aware that the season is 6 games old. They will be better. I hope they will be better. Right now though, they look out of synch. Out of synch has been at times an understatement. The offense hasnt looked this bad .... well ... I cant think of time when it has looked this bad. Even the 04-05 Jazz ran the offense pretty well, its just hard to makes shots with Keith McLeod, Carlos Arroyo, and way too washed up Howard Eisley throwing up the rock.

There are many reasons for this. Some of whom I had high expectations for have disappointed, other from whom I expected little have impressed. Here is what I have seen:

The BSG (Big Sweaty Giant) has thus far produced fairly solid averages. 18.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and most importantly 1.5 BPG. However, closer examination presents a more depressing picture. While 9.5 RPG is pretty solid for the average NBA player, it is quite a bit lower than the 11 RPG he was pulling down as the main man in Minnesota. It is infact more on par with his season averages from last season when he was recovering from his ACL injury. Thats not good for those keeping track at home. This could be for a variety of reasons: less rebounds available to rebound because the Jazz shoot at a much higher clip than the T-Wolves, as well as being surrounded by better rebounders. This doesn't seem to be very accurate considering the Jazz are getting blasted on the boards almost every night, as well as the fact that as a team shooting percentages are down from their Jazzy norms. The two most likely answers are a) his legs are shot from his bigger injuries and hence limits his rebounding ability or b) the lack of offensive execution means everyone is out of position which means they are out of position for rebounds. Offensively he is not faring much better. While 18.3 is pretty good numbers in the NBA he is only shooting 44% from the field which is pretty low for an around-the-basket player. Watching him so far he seems like he is first of all struggling with the offense and second of all rushing everything. He seems nervous when he gets the ball and is throwing up rushed push shots. In the preseason when he was more comfortable he was going harder to the basketball mixed in with spin moves and the such (see below). He needs to relax and he will be fine.

Paul MillsapPaul has been awesome. He has always said that he thought he should be a starting power forwards in this league and he has proven that. He eviscerated the Thunder in all elements of the game. He has been the unchallenged MVP so far for the Jazz. Guaranteed 0-6 without him.

Raja BellPerhaps the biggest disappointment so far. The Jazz propoganda machine kept telling us that even though he is old, he wasn't old in NBA years because of his limited total minutes compared to other players his age. But old is old unfortunately unless you are either John Stockton or Steve Nash. Our supposed defensive stopper has gotten lit up by the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Jason Richardson, and Eric Gordon. He also has been up and down with his shot. Old guys also get worse as the season goes on. Wesley Mathews is looking pretty good right about now. Wait, they gave him 9 million dollars? In a single day? and they have to pay him 5 million more this season? Never mind.

Andrei KirilenkoAK has looked pretty solid. His jumper is as good as it has been since his All-Star year. He gave Durant a hard time as well. The only thing that is keeping him from being AK of old is his blocking ability. It's gone. He used to be a freak. He was the most exciting part of watching Jazz games because of his spectacular blocks. Those days are gone. AK has sustained too many leg injuries during the past 4 or 5 seasons and his legs don't have the springs that made him special. I will never forgive Beno Udrih from flopping into his legs in that cursed game in San Antonio. UUUDDRRRRRIIIIHHHHH!!!!!

Earl Watson/Ronnie PriceI actually haven't minded Earl's presence like I thought I might. He plays good defense and runs the offense okay. It's the other guys in the second unit who are having a hard time executing it.
Ronnie Price is as awesome to watch as ever. Sloan has also been freed to use Ronnie properly as the come off the bench in certain matchups to create havoc.

Gordon HaywardI have actually been pretty impressed with Gordie so far. He is being underutilized so far I think. They should be using him in the second unit in a similar way that they use AK, meaning letting Gordon act as a play maker/passer. He has shown pretty amazing playmaking ability and ball handling for a guy his size. I was genuinely pissed at Deron for lashing out at him during the Suns game. Gordon I thought was one of the few guys who was busting his butt and making plays including a great block on Hedo "I Miss Dwight Howard" Turkoglu.

FESENKOFess needs to play more. He is more confident than he has ever been. He has even shown some offensive game. The Jazz havent had Fess-friendly matchups so far, so his lack of playing time hasn't been that big a deal, but you never know with Sloan. He needs to get in the game.

Francisco ElsonElson has gotten a lot of credit for being a spark of the bench, but I disagree. He looks lost so far on both ends of the floor. I would much rather have Fesenko clogging the lane. However, if you watch Elson as the team heads to the bench for timeouts, he is a leader. He is always talking to guys. Reassuring them. He even spent some time telling Deron where he was struggling versus the Clippers. That sort of stuff will be useful later on.

CJ MilesCJ has been up and down. Against the Clippers he was awful. We are talking MULTIPLE airballs. Against the Thunder, he may have been our best player. Now that Boozer is gone, CJ has become the Jazz fan whipping boy, constantly bashed in every form. CJ though has struggled largely because of the offensive problems that have effected the team. He has also struggled because he feeds so much of...

Deron WilliamsAt the beginning of training camp, Coach Sloan went out of his way to say some of the players had shown up out of shape. The media immediately jumped on Jefferson (who has admittedly had a hard time getting up the court at times). I'm starting to think he may have been talking about Deron. I have watched every minute of every game thus far. What I have seen from Deron has been disturbing. He has been unable to break people down off the dribble like he normally does. He could not get to the rim against Monta Ellis. Yeah, that Monta Ellis. Earlier in the season he wasn't pushing the ball like he usually would. Looking at pictures of Deron from the off-season. Deron may have gone all Baron Davis on us, and started his cardio work too late this summer.

This will get fixed, but it is definitely not helping things to start the season. Let's hope he doesn't become rookie Deron Williams. Yikes. He has also struggled in developing chemistry with Al Jefferson who has been slow in picking up the offense. Deron may not have liked Carlos Boozer personally, but there is no denying that they had great chemistry on the court. They read each other like few tandems in the league. We as a fan base may have underrated Carlos Boozer as a basketball player.

Jeremy Evans
Get well Jeremy. I love you.

Obviously things will improve. All is not lost, but its going to be an uphill battle to be sure. With a tough road trip lurking .... I'm nervous.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Utah Jazz Season Preview (10-11)

Another perfect preseason. That's right. ANOTHER. The 1976-1977 New Orleans Jazz went a perfect 4-0 in the preseason. Is this year's team destined for greatness? That previously perfect New Orleans Jazz team went on to a dominant 35-47. So maybe not. Still, there is plenty of reason for the wild optimism spreading throughout Jazz land.

The Carlos Boozer regime had grown stale. The Jazz had clearly reached a plateau with their current lineup. As long as Carlos Boozer was the power forward of the Jazz, the Jazz would be a solid playoff team that would never be able to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. Many of the other players on the roster (Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver) were nice players, but undoubtedly one-dimensional. The already surly Deron Williams was getting grumpier by the day. The team needed to mix things up.

And management did. In spades. Many of the new players have made favorable impressions on Jazz fans on and off the court. However, this does not mean that this team is without valid question marks. We have no idea how all of these pieces will fit together was teams start scouting the Jazz. Nor do we know how well various players will accept their role once the team starts playing for keeps. The team will also remain without Mehmet "Mr. Big" Okur for the forseeable future. Once he returns, the role of many of the Jazz's front court players will change drastically. Transitions like those are never without major bumps in the road.

All we know for sure is that it is going to be an exciting, different, and must watch season. So here now is the 2010-2011 Utah Jazz player by player preview:


Deron Williams - The Godfather. The best PG in the league. No player in the NBA hates reporters more. He is going to be great and grumpy all season. And I love him. I love his musk. I want to eat breakfast with him. He is going to be an all-star again. If the Jazz are a top team in the West is going to make first team All-NBA this year. Book it.

CJ Miles - On Bill Simmons' NBA preview
episode of his podcast, he called CJ Miles a "crater" sized hole in the Utah Jazz. People who watched CJ during last seasons post-season disagree. All signs point to this season being THE season. The season in which CJ fulfills his destiny of becoming a legitimate NBA scorer. The only thing I worry about with CJ is going to be how does he perform without Deron on the court? Last season CJ played almost exclusively alongside Deron. This season he is going to be playing with Ronnie Price or Earl Watson as the point guard. I am not sure if CJ is ready to become a creator for himself and others. I fear with Jazz's second unit he is going to revert back to being more of a spot up three point shooter.

Mehmet "Monet" Okur - Poor Memo. He has been one of the healthiest Jazz players of this era. He seems really bummed about not playing. We wont see him until December at the earliest. By that time the Jazz will probably be in some form of a rhythm and his return will no doubt throw a wrench in the situation. This season will not be Memo's finest hour. However, he will be crucial if the Jazz face the Lakers in the postseason for the 56th straight year.

Paul Millsap - Paul did it. He finally rid himself of Carlos Boozer to take what he felt he deserved. The starting PF spot. However, I fear for Paul this year. Watching the preseason, he seems to be the one guy on the team out of rhythm. He doesn't look comfortable in the offense. He looks like he is having a hard time finding his spots to score. Part of this could be that Deron has missed half of the preseason (despite the preseason's CRITICAL IMPORTANCE) and he relies on Deron so much, but we will see. I don't think Paul is going to have the year that people think he will.

Andrei Kirilenko - I had a funeral for AK when he was on the verge of being traded but a few short weeks ago. Now zombie AK looks like AK of old. And I couldn't be more thrilled. He looks energetic. His shot looks great. AK is going to have a big year I think. If the Jazz trade this guy mid-season to save money, I will be devastated.

Ronnie Price - Ronnie is quietly having a great preseason. He is causing havoc on both ends of the floor. He hates the Lakers more than I do. He is good for one "HOLY ****" play a week. He always shows up to play in big games. He has one major problem, which I will get to later.

Kyrylo Fesenko - FESENKO! He looks awesome. I want him to play. This could be his last year with the team. He only has problem. And it's the same as Ronnie Price's.

Do we really only have this many returning players?

Al Jefferson - He says all the right things. He has been dominant offensively during the preseason. His pump fakes and spins are beautiful to watch. He is going to have a monster year. I went through the complete range of emotions with Al. I never liked his game at Minnesota. He put up the numbers he did because once the ball goes in, it does not go out. I love him now. He has been open to passing the ball and has been scoring with ease. The greatest thing about Al? He doesn't need Deron to score. Boozer was incapable of creating plays for himself or others. As long as you can get the ball in Al's hands he can score. Its going to be different. My main concern, AND IT IS A GREAT ONE, is the playoffs. Al has never made the playoffs and I wonder if he is going to be able to score. As mentioned earlier Al relies heavily on pump fakes to score the ball in the post. In the playoffs, he is going to be heavily scouted and players who will defend him will be coached not to go for any of these fakes and to shade him away from the baseline. I worry he will not be effective in the postseason, which is where we will need him most.

Raja Bell - One of the times I have been the most bummed in my Jazz fandom was the day I picked up the morning paper to find that the Phoenix Suns offered (and Raja accepted) a contract within minutes of the 2005 free agent period opening. I loved Raja when he was here. We have not had a team badass since he left. He will be useful for many reasons, but chief among them is that Kobe is going to want to score on him. When Kobe shoots a lot, that means Gasol shoots very little. This is a good thing.

Jeremy Evans - Here is a quote from my Twitter account immediately following the drafting of Jeremy Evans "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!". Seriously. That was what I tweeted. I would just like to apologize to Jeremy Evans and the Utah Jazz. I was wrong. Here's to the many alley-oops he will throw down in his Jazz career. The Jazz need to give him a deal identical to the one they gave Paul Millsap when he was a rookie. 1 year guaranteed with team options for year 2 and year 3. I am still bitter that they did not give Wesley Mathews that deal. WHAT IS THE HARM IN NON-GUARANTEED YEARS 2 and 3!??!??!?!? ACK!


Gordon Hayward - Hated the pick when it was made. Still don't love it today. He has struggled to find his shot during the preseason. He recorded TOO BIG YO during spring break ... OF 2010. If you here him talk he thinks he is black. This is never good. Good luck to you Gordon. To quote Principal Skinner: "Prove me wrong kids! PROVE ... ME ... WRONG!"

Earl Watson - The leading candidate of the Milt Palacio Memorial Award for the guy who plays a lot for a guy who shouldn't be playing on a good team. No offense to Earl. He seems like he has a good feel for the system and defends well. However, he is not a good shooter but shoots too much. The Jazz do this every year. Milt, Jason Hart, Brevin Knight, Howard Eisley (2nd stint), etc. Ronnie Price should be playing the backup PG, but I am convinced it will be Earl. He would be a great 3rd PG, not 2nd.

Francisco Elson - See above. Again, awesome 11th, 12th guy. However, I just think Fesenko is better. I never thought I would write those words, but I think Fesenko does the most good for us. Again however, I think Jerry is going to give the backup C minutes to Elson. Too bad.

All I know is I am excited for this thing to get going. How excited?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Team By Team (except for the Jazz) Preview of the 10-11 NBA Season

As I watch the Yankees’ season tremble in the hands of A.J. Burnett, I decided that it may be time for me to fully turn my attention to the coming NBA season.

As many people, including the commish, have stated, the 2010-2011 season of the National Basketball Association is becoming, or perhaps has become, the most anticipated NBA season of all-time. It’s easy to see why this is the case. For the first time since the early 1990’s the league is loaded.

The NBA, like everything else, is subject to a cycle. The NBA had it’s first golden age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s under Russell and Chamberlain. The league then struggled until Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league followed closely by Michael Jordan, Hakeem, Stockton/Malone, etc. As the Jordan era drew to a close, the league was noticeably lacking a broad talent base, allowing the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to roll through the early part of the decade. LeBron and Dwyane Wade soon become the pseudo Johnson and Bird, part of the soon to be legendary 2004 NBA Draft. Like Johnson and Bird, they were followed closely by a new generation of super-talented players like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, CP3, and now Kevin Durant.

As a side note: Who is who in that analogy? It’s pretty clear cut I think. LeBron is definitely Magic 2.0. He is basically a super athletic version of Magic right? Wade is definitely Larry Bird. Unstoppable scorer, only guy from his generation with a championship, constantly injured. Dwight Howard is David Robinson. Alien like athlete, limited offensively, will never win a championship until he gets an A+ teammate like when Robinson got Duncan. Durant? Durant is Jordan. Inexcusably not drafted number one overall in his draft, once in a generation scorer. Once he develops a focused defensive game he will win championships. Many.

Point is we have reached another golden age. 2010 is 1990. Right? Uh ... right. Seemingly this season will be spectacular. But if this season is the most highly anticipated season ever, doesn’t that also mean that it has the chance to be the most disappointing season ever? Here are some ways I see that happening:

-The Heat are too good: LeBron, Wade, and the others are too good and roll through the season and go virtually unchallenged in the postseason. I don’t see this happening, but I definitely think it COULD happen.

-Injuries: Top players go down. The Lakers are aging and have played more games in the last three years than any other team. What if Kobe and Gasol go down which would hypothetically take away the Heat’s biggest threat. What if Durant goes down? The Thunder tank and wind up with another top 5 pick (shudder). Wade goes down and the Heat become no different than the LeBron-led Cavs. What if ... gulp... Deron goes d.... I can’t even type it. (If you have wood ... knock it.)

-The Lakers win again. I puke. LA burns ... again. Everyone but Lakers fans would find this incredibly anti-climatic.

Having said that, I am wildly excited for this season to begin. Cannot wait. Here is my team by team (except for the Jazz) preview of the NBA Season. Who will underachieve, meet, or exceed expectations? Here are my shots in the dark.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics - UNDERACHIEVE
Just when you thought it was impossible, the Celtics got older and more bionic (Jermaine O’Neal) this offseason. I think this is the year that the wheels come off. Four more rounds of playoffs on Garnett’s knees? Ray Allen’s descent into blindness? Rondo also got exploited against the Lakers and I think is due for a tough year. Not to mention his difficult personality mixed with the fact that Shaq has never left a team on good terms and is slowing being exploited as a jerk. The Celtics get an underachieve despite how pysched I am that Shaq and Big Baby are most definitely going to wrestle multiple times this year.

New Jersey Nets - MEET
It will be pretty tough for this team to underachieve considering no one expects them to do anything this year. I do like the additions of Travis Outlaw and Jordan Farmar (my dream backup PG for the Jazz), but those guys are not franchise changing. I think Avery Johnson is going to lose this team, and quickly. Derrick Favors also looked terrible in the Orlando Summer League.

Toronto Raptors - MEET
Holy hell. Is there a desirable player on this roster? Barbosa has dissappointed since he got into the league, Bargnani is a poor man’s Mehmet Okur, and DeMar DeRozan is one dimensional. This a team that I would be happy for if they got the number one pick if there even is a draft next year. Like the Nets it will be impossible for them to underachieve this year. Every win is gravy.

New York Knicks - EXCEED
This is a classic case of the team that is going to win a bunch of games at the beginning of the year, spinning NYC into a frenzy, before ultimately falling apart as the season progresses. They will be fun to watch. Anthony Randolph could not have gone to a better situation for him. Same goes for Raymond Felton. Amare is going to find life to be a little different without Steve Nash though. I think they will compete for a low playoff seed, but will fall short.

Philadelphia 76ers - UNDERACHIEVE

Andre Igoudala has been getting a lot of praise this summer for his play at the World Championships. I am not buying. I still saw a lot of 3’s jacked up from him and he should never jack up 3’s. Evan Turner is struggling thus far in the preseason and looks to have a less than stellar rookie year, and as former teammate Mark Titus pointed out on the BS Report might have some Rondo-like personality issues. They really should have taken DeMarcus Cousins with the number 2 pick.

Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers - EXCEED
Hey Cleveland, it will be okay ... I think.
But in all seriousness, I think this team has a lot of 2003-2004 Utah Jazz potential. People are claiming this team will be one of the worst it history. Teams always play hard for Byron Scott in his first year coaching them. They still have a little talent (JJ Hickson). Hey! They also have Mo Williams in common! Though Mo seems to have gotten the memo since he left the Jazz to shave his strange shoulder/arm hair.

Milwaukee Bucks - UNDERACHIEVE

Love me some Andrew Bogut (get well soon Andy!) not so much on Brandon Jennings. His personality has self-combustion written all over it. He’s like a less talented Allen Iverson. We all saw how that ended. They overachieved a bit last year. I think this is going to be a down year for them.

Indiana Pacers - EXCEED
I am frisky on Indy this year. Very frisky. I like their starting lineup a lot. Darren Collison matched CP3’s production with NO last year. Dhantey Jones is there crazy in the head defender that every team needs (ask Deron Williams who visibly hates being defended by him). Danny Granger is underrated and if the Jazz couldn’t have traded up to get Deron in 2005 would have picked him at 6. Pyscho T is going to be a solid hustler, rebounder, defender. Roy Hibbert was clearly overlooked a couple of drafts ago and is a solid post scorer that protects the rim. They have TJ Ford, Mike Dunleavy, talented scorer Paul George, underrated Josh McRoberts off the bench. I am calling it now. The Pacers are making the playoffs this year. Plus, I really do think that Gordon Hayward was really bummed the Jazz picked him just ahead of the Pacers.

Detroit Pistons - UNDERACHIEVE
This might be Joe Dumars last stand. I hate the makeup of this team. Rodney Stuckey is overrated. Rip Hamilton’s best years are behind him. Tayshaun Prince snuck onto the Redeem Team despite being unable to score effectively. They signed Tracy McGrady. Desired by Jazz fans, Greg Monroe is not going to see the ball. Still wish the Jazz would have gotten him.

Chicago Bulls (Jazz) - UNDERACHIEVE

Boozer is already injured and he hasn’t even played in a game. Ronnie Brewer is going to miss Deron Williams dearly. Can you remeber one memorable game from Luol Deng? Derrick Rose is overrated, but he and Kyle Korver will benefit from each other. Joakim Noah cant score. The Bulls will make the playoffs in the weak East, but they will not be anything special.

Southeast Division

Orlando Magic - MEET
Orlando will not be any different from last year. I am willing to wager they will have the exact same record. I still wish they would have traded Vince for Gilbert Arenas. For some reason, I saw that working. Dwight still can’t score? Yawn. Moving on.

Washington Wizards - MEET
John Wall looks awesome. This is truth. However, I think people are expecting a little too much from this team. They need to get rid of Gilbert. Seriously. I do like the Javale McGee-John Wall combo. They will be a better version of the CP3-Tyson Chandler combo from a few seasons ago. They do not have enough around them right now though. I see them competing, but ultimately not making the playoffs.

Miami Heat - MEETThey will not be the ‘96 Bulls, but they will be freaking good. I have little to no doubt they will be the top team in the East and will blitz through the playoffs. The Finals will be their only big test I think. I cannot wait to watch this team though. It’s gonna be fun.

Charlotte Bobcats- MEET
This team is going to stink. Again. Quick, name me their starting roster. Yeah, thats what I thought. They get a meet because I don’t think people expect much from them. Atleast Gerald Henderson will have fun playing pickup games with MJ.

Atlanta Hawks - UNDERACHIEVE
I fear that Joe Johnson is going to become too bloated with money to care. Recently, the Hawks have said they are unsure if they will offer Al Horford a contract extension. Thank you! I would love the Jazz to get Horford to team with Big Al using their freed up AK money. Oh my. That makes me very happy. Are you kidding Atlanta? Al Horford is a legit scorer/defender at the center position. You can count those on one hand. Pay dude! I think this team has a little bit of tension boiling under the surface, also how much longer can they keep playing Mike Bibby’s corpse Weekend At Bernie’s style?


Northwest Division

Minnesota Timberwolves - MEET
Oh boy. This may be the worst team in the league. The will meet expectations for a Top 5 pick ... which they will screw up. I just hope Kosta gets a lot of burn. Boom. The Jazz truly owe the Timberwolves many favors.

Denver Nuggets - UNDERACHIEVE
Chauncey Billups believes the myth of Chauncey Billups. He should be Ty Lawson’s backup. Watching him jack up 3’s against the Jazz in the playoffs last year no wonder Melo wants out. Birdman looks more crazy than ever before. JR Smith currently plays for this team. This team is going to struggle.

Oklahoma City Thunder (should be Seattle Supersonics) - Underachieve(ish)
This team is going to be good. I do not doubt that. However, people think this team is going to cruise to the 2nd seed in the west. This is not true. Durant is the real deal. He is not overrated despite being rated very highly. However, his cohorts are infact ... overrated. I have never been a Russell Westbrook fan. He is a rich man’s Ronnie Price. I just don’t think he is a PG. Jeff Green is a little bit of a poor man’s Lamar Odom. Scottie Pippen he is not. James Harden doesn’t look he is athletic enough to be a legit SG in the league. This team isn’t perfect despite what people keep saying this summer. They will have a few downs with their many ups. They will be somewhere near the top of the 2-8 jumble we are inevitably heading to again this year.

Portland Trailblazers - UNDERACHIEVE
It is beyond me how people keep picking this team ahead of the Jazz this year. NBA commentators keeps saying “if this teams stays healthy this year”, but at a certain point don’t you just have to accept that a team that gets injured every year is GOING TO BE INJURED EVERY YEAR? Andre Miller and Brandon Roy don’t like eachother. Rudy Fernandez pines for the shores of Espana. Still haven’t won a playoff series. No thanks. Playoff team, but nothing more.

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors - EXCEED
I am also a little frisky on Golden State. I love Steph Curry. I think at some point he is going to be Steve Nash. His court vision is underrated. He has Nash-like shooting percentages as well. I like the David Lee signing for them. My only problem is Monta Ellis. Never been a fan. He is a ballhog and an inefficient scorer. They also will not be able to guard anyone. They won’t make the playoffs, but they will hover around .500.

Los Angeles Lakers - MEET
Yawn. Barring injury this team will be the Los Angeles Lakers. I think they downgraded at PG though. Derek Fisher has aged another year, and anyone would take Steve Blake over Jordan Farmar is crazy. That being said they will again be the top seed in the West.

Sacramento Kings - UNDERACHIEVE
People seem to be high on this team. I am not. I do not understand the Tyreke Evans fascination. To me he is a guy on a crappy team that goes one on one every time down the floor and isn’t very efficient. Like an early career Carmelo Anthony only not as big and good. I do like DeMarcus Cousins though. Supposedly the Jazz tried desperately to work a deal to get him during the draft and that would have been intriguing. But playing alongside Tyreke, I don’t think he is getting the ball much on the post. They will be in the lottery again. Let’s just hope their owner doesn’t drown his sorrow in the bottle again. Yikes.

Phoenix Suns - MEET
Poor Steve Nash. I think he is doomed to join the Karl Malone All-Star’s. Starting lineup: Stockton, Dominque Wilkins, Barkley, Malone, Ewing. I do think that this team will compete for the playoffs, but may fall short. Channing Frye will not duplicate his freakish success from last season. I am not a fan of Hedu. Other guys are getting old.

Los Angeles Clippers - EXCEED
Once this team gets rid of Baron Davis, look out! Love Eric Gordon. I did not like him at all coming out of college, but he has proven me wrong. He does everything. He has PG skills, defends well, and can shoot it well. All indications also point to Blake Griffin becoming a beast. Eric Bledsoe was a quiet but excellent pickup late in the draft. The problem with the Clippers is their depth. Not much going for them besides the guy mentioned.

Southwest Division

Mephis Grizzlies - UNDERACHIEVE
Zach Randolph will not duplicate his success from last year. He is too busy attempting to become the Avon Barksdale of the NBA. Rudy Gay got paid big and is going to go into hibernation (lame pun INTENDED) until he gets traded in a few seasons. OJ Mayo has disappointed since being drafted and needs to be put somewhere that he can play more of a PG role. This team is going to the lottery for sure.

Houston Rockets - UNDERACHIEVE

Not a fan of their roster at all. Their wings can’t defend, Scola doesn’t scare me, and simple physics says that Yao Ming shouldn’t exist. This is another team that I think people are way too high on. Lots of guys that like to shoot, not enough guys that like to pass.

San Antonio Spurs - MEET

Ho hum. They will do what they do. Middle seed playoff team. Lose in the 1st or 2nd round. Their window is closed. I do see them perhaps breaking a younger team’s heart early in the playoffs though.

Dallas Mavericks - MEET
They should have let Brendan Haywood walk. Instead they gave him a ton of money and are apparently starting him over Tyson Chandler who had a solid summer with Team USA. I like the Chandler signing for them, but not if he isn’t getting on the floor. Dirk is Dirk. He’ll be great. Everyone else is too past their prime. That being said. Pencil them in with another division title and a top 4 seed in the playoffs.

New Orleans Hornets - EXCEED
Although I do not think they have the best PG in the league, Chris Paul is still pretty good. Love the Trevor Ariza trade for the Hornets. He and CP3 are going to make each other very happy I think. David West is a scorer. He isn’t going to take you to the promised land, but he is a reliable scorer. The rest of their roster looks pretty bleak. I think the guys that I mentioned though are going to be enough for them to sneak into the playoffs.

So here is how I think that the standing will shake out:

1. Miami Heat
2. Orlando Magic
3. Boston Celtics
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Indiana Pacers
8. Washington Wizards
9. New York Knicks
10. Charlotte Hornets
11.Cleveland Cavaliers
12. Philadelphia 76ers
13. Detroit Pistons
14. New Jersey Nets
15. Toronto Raptors

1. LA Lakers
2.Dallas Mavericks
3.Utah Jazz
4.Oklahoma City Thunder
5. San Antonio Spurs
6. Portland Trailblazers
7. New Orleans Hornets
8. Los Angeles Clippers
9. Denver Nuggets
10. Phoenix Suns
11. Houston Rockets
12. Golden State Warriors
13. Memphis Grizzlies
14. Sacramento Kings
15. Minnesota Timberwolves

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lessons Learned from Phil Jackson's Book "The Last Season: A Team in Search of It's Soul"

"I'm going eighty miles per hour, just my bike and my thoughts." And so Phil Jackson begins his book "The Last Season" which chronicles the 2003-2004 Lakers. When the book was released, Phil's inner thoughts about Lakers Management and Kobe Bryant caused a great deal of controversy. Writing about this book six years later, I am striking while the iron is scorching hot.

My desire to read "The Last Season" is singular. I wanted to read all of the dirt that Phil wrote about Kobe during a period of time that he was extremely bitter after Kobe forced Phil out of LA. Though Phil clearly states in the prologue that he "didn't want this book to be about the small petty gossip that makes up a lot of the NBA world", the book is overflowing with the small petty gossip that makes up the NBA world.

While my thirst for Kobe gossip was quenched in spades, this is not all I got from Phil's book. Phil is often referred to as "the Zen Master", a wise basketball master (see his other book "Sacred Hoops" connecting Buddhism and basketball). It would be wrong if I didnt come away from his book with a few lessons learned. Here is but a few:

1. Phil Jackson is extremely pretentious

His opening sentence (see above) is clear evidence of this. First of all: Am I the only one who feels like someone supposedly riding 80 miles an hour on a bicycle should be focused on his road or trail and not on Kobe Bryant? I hate bikers. It fits that Phil Jackson is a biker, in Montana, alone with his thoughts, his bike and he are one.

Throughout the book (especially early and late) Phil drops disgusting worthy nuggets of pretension.
"Teamwork is a nebulous thing, It is as ephemeral as love" (1)
"I need to decelerate, allowing the natural beauty of the landscape to usher in serenity. Before me, I saw forever, nothing and everything" (6)
Give me a break. You are a basketball coach. You are a glorified babysitter. There are a lot of reasons that being a Jazz-fan is gratifying. Knowing that Jerry Sloan would literally rather travel back in time, get drafted in World War II, and finally be put on the front lines at Normandy than write that slime is one of them.

2. Phil Jackson is a liar
In the last paragraph of his prologue (which is not a prologue so much as an introduction) Phil Jackson thanks Lakers fans. He spews smelly garbage about he "wanted to walk off the court and shake your hands and applaud you for your support." Especially noting those in the upper bowl. The working man. In theory this is a nice sentiment.

But sorry working-class Lakers fans (who I have spent many playoff games rubbing shoulders with in the upper bowl of the once and future Delta Center), Phil Jackson does not care about you. I know this first hand. My eyes have seen the glory of Phil Jackson's lies.

Many years ago, during a time when the Rocky Mountain Revue (R.I.P.) was held in the Delta Center, I got out of school and went down early to get good a good seat to see the stars of tomorrow. Jamie Watson! My seat was so good in fact that I was able to sit directly behind the participating teams' personnel. Phil Jackson was literally one row in front of me evaluating players while in his last seasons with the Bulls. Towards the end of the day a couple kids in Michael Jordan jerseys scuttled down the aisle past me and very politely approached Phil. "Hey Phil, can we get your autograph?" they asked. Phil barely looked at them and coldly told them "No." No more no less. The kids hung their heads and climbed back up the steep stairs of the arena.

Thats not all. Soon after the kids were gone, Phil beckoned a nearby usher. Phil than launched into a tirade. Yelling at this poor fool, he ordered him to not allow anyone to get near him. But go ahead. Stop Phil to shake his hand. You deserve it.

3. Kobe Bryant is an angry child

Like I said earlier, this book was released immediately following Phil's exit from the Lakers, which was orchestrated by Kobe. Let us just say that Phil opens the gates and the sewage starts a-flowin. Not only does Phil explain why he isn't surprised that Kobe was being charged with rape (10), but says that the he had been told that Kobe often sabotaged his high school games so that he could receive the glory when he bailed him out at the end. Whoa. This is awesome.

Kobe's behavior sounds eerily similar to the behavior of my little brother. Kobe pouts after "Shaq didnt call me this summer." (17) Kobe fakes sick so he doesnt have to go to practice (22). The Lakers pay for private jets to fly Kobe back and forth from his hearings in Colorado, and Kobe complains about the type of jet he is forced to use (32). Kobe threatens that if the Lakers keep treating him like this he is going to the Bulls AND he is taking Slava Mevedenko with him. KOBE NOT SLAVA! Finally Kobe is put in timeout for a week (100).

Phil lets it known that he has wanted the Lakers to trade Kobe from his first year in LA onwards. He says that he begged the Lakers to trade Kobe in 1999 to the Suns in exchange for Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion. That would have been a really interesting team. A young Jason Kidd and a young Shawn Marion alongside a DOMINANT Shaq. I think that team would have still won as many championships. I'll even go out on a limb and say they may have won one more. Kidd was an MVP candidate even in 2004 when the Lakers lost to Detroit. Marion I think could have been forged into a Scottie Pippen type player under Phil. Interesting.

4. Phil had little respect for the Utah Jazz and Karl Malone

Phil explains that Lakers owner Jerry Buss first brought up the possibility of acquiring Karl Malone in 2001. Phil quickly rejects this idea because his game has dropped off since the mid 1990's. Mid 1990's? Hey Phil didn't Karl win the MVP twice in the LATE 1990's? Didnt he lead an inferior Jazz team to two straight NBA Finals giving your Bulls your toughest series?

He also has no love for Utah. When Karl becomes a free agent in 2003, he states that he has "finally" decided to leave Utah. Hey Phil, you keep talking about how much you love the frozen tundra you call Montana. Thanks of leaving Utah for the rest of us.

5. ... but he learns respect

He also clearly didn't have any respect for Karl Malone previous to his season with the Lakers, because Phil time and time again throughout the book seems so surprised and enamored with what he sees from Karl. He drops an awesome Karl Malone story in which he tries to get a hold of Karl and is told that he just went out riding his bike. He asks when he usually returns, 4 hours they say (71). Even Phil admits he didn't realize the dedication this guy possesses.

Phil later mentions how moved he is by Karl's words at the beginning of the season to the team about how much a championship would mean to him (23). He is blown away about Karl's willingness to learn after almost two decades in the league to learn, and his seemingly boundless energy.

Phil develops a full blown man crush on Karl as the Lakers enter the playoffs by shutting down a young Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett before injuring his knee. Late in the book Phil laments that they probably would have won if not for Karl's injury calling Karl the MVP of the Lakers during the postseason. To illustrate how far he came in his view of Karl Malone, he tells a story about how in the Finals as the Lakers are being dismantled by the Pistons, Kobe, Derek Fisher, and Rick Fox come to his office and ask him to start Devon George instead of the injured Karl. Phil can not bring himself to do it due to the respect that he has for Karl and the defense he has played throughout the playoffs (239).

As Phil states (232) Karl Malone is a "true warrior".

6. I'm pretty sure Phil is secretly a lame nerd

The immortal phrase "cool, calm, collected" is often used in relationship to the so-called "Zen Master". However, the book gives me the impression that Phil was probably picked on at school. A lot. Phil sneaks into the book a few refrences to his never touched upon career playing for the New York Knicks. Every anecdote gives the impression that he stinks. He tells a story about being benched for screwing up an inbounds pass (71) and quickly mentions that he rode the pine frequently. A quick check to Basketball Reference confirms this showing he had a career average of 6.7 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. The Greg Foster of his day he was.

At one point in the book, for reasons that remain unclear, Phil tells a bizarre story about being caught on his high school team's bus with a pornographic novel (117). Not a pornographic magazine. A novel. Really? I guess egg-head would rather read about filth than see it. NERD!

Then there is this.

7. Raja Bell is going to be great for the Jazz

A few times in the book Phil mentions that Kobe often gets caught up in personal battles to fill an inner need to prove his manhood. Phil is careful to explain that when Kobe does this the Lakers tend to not play well and often lose.

He takes the time to point out one specific time that this happens. It happens with then Jazzman Raja Bell (138). Kobe scores 34 but takes 23 shots and 21 FT's. Phil later on mentions that the Lakers are at their most dangerous when in the first half they get the ball inside (Shaq then, Gasol now) and let Kobe look for his shot late. If Raja can force Kobe into a few of those games this season, we are in good shape. It bears mentioning that the last time the Jazz won in Staples, Raja had a big game.

8. Despite exposing Kobe as a child, Phil is a baby

Phil spends a lot of time blaming Lakers losses on everything but himself throughout the book. This is especially true after the Lakers destruction at the hands of the Pistons which he blames out right on the officials.

He also becomes extremely bitter anytime the Lakers lose and oddly starts calling people out including Mark Cuban (multiple times) and celebratory Mike Bibby following a big three (118). The bitter diversions come often and are extremely out of place and usually take up quite a bit of space.

Quick Hits from the Book
- Derek Fisher is a bad regular season player, but man is he clutch.
- Shaq has to wear orthopedic shoes (76)
- This happened this season.
- He explains why the Nuggets lost to the Jazz in last years playoffs and why I think that Kevin Durant nearly killed Chauncey Billups during the World Championships this year on 224. Billups is a chucker, and when its on (like in the 2004 Finals) its good, when its not (the last 3 years) its very very bad. Nuggets fans are crying because of the truthiness of this statement right now.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Lucasfilm is the absolute worst for not letting this happen . . .

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Real Life Rewind: 2009-2010 Yankees Offseason

The past few editions of Madden have included a feature called "Rewind". This feature is designed for anyone who has uttered the phrase "the computer cheated". I admit that I have had my suspicions about the computer before and may yet again, but I am opposed to the feature's existence. If you are a man you play with no rewinds, if you're my little brother or a woman or a combination of the two you play with three.

The idea is pretty simple. If you throw an ugly pick (hello Brett Favre) or fumble the ball (hello Adrian Peterson) or let the opposing running back mosey on down for an 80 yard TD (hello Cleveland) simply press x immediately following the play and all of the players conveniently begin moving backwards until you find yourself back before the snap presumably so you do not make the same mistake again.

Although I loathe the rewind within the bounds of Madden, I love the idea when it is implemented in real life. I leave the Directv remote on the coffee table and the dogs eat it: REWIND. I eat my delicious Barbacoa burrito and foolishly decide to finish my wife's resulting in a devastating puke: REWIND. Ben Roethlisberger decides to go bar hopping in some podunk southern town: REWIND. (Oh, wait, I guess every professional athlete does have a rewind because I don't think anything ever happened to that guy. He's still playing for the Steelers? Smells like a rewind.) Anyway, you get the idea.

For this edition of "Real Life Rewind" I turn to the 2009-2010 New York Yankees offseason. After the Yankees let go of World Series MVP and noted adult video collector Hideki Matsui as well as clutch heartthrob Johnny Damon and acquired Curtis Granderson and reacquired 2004 goat Javier Vazquez, many sports pundits anointed the Yankees offseason as major success, perhaps the best offseason in all the Big Show. Now Yankees fans are frantically pushing their x buttons. So here is the hypothetical Yankees offseason rewind.

1. Let Matsui Walk (Again)

Sad to say, but in this instance Cashman was right. It was time to let Godzilla be free. He was aging faster than that chicken salad that has been in my fridge for weeks. Despite hitting out of his head in the World Series, he was virtually unplayable in the outfield making his only valuable at the DH spot in the lineup. With the wise Grandpa Jeter getting up there in age and A-Rod free from substance and Kate Hudson enhancement, an open DH spot was going to be valuable.

This season vindicated this move. Matsui has not been able to match his Yankee production out west. He is hitting .255 with 16 homers and 63 ribbys. Not bad, not great, just there. At the price he was commanding, it was time to move on. So far this is not a rewind, but wait ...

But instead of Matsui changing coasts and signing with the Angels of Southern California Los Angeles by way of Anaheim, Matsui and his tapes return home to Japan as the conquering hero. As the ultimate act of sweet nostalgia he signs with his beloved Yomiuri Giants (a longtime jersey pursuit). This also stops the reigning World Series MVP from getting a standing ovation in Yankee Stadium wearing different colors.

2. Give Johnny the Money

The arguments that were made against resigning Matsui could also apply to Johnny Damon. Money: check. Age: check. Declining production: check. Yet I still feel like the Yankees should have signed him for the asking price. Here is why:

He is clutch. Whenever he is up to bat in a big moment you know he is going to come through. His steal of 3rd base in Game 4 of the World Series last season was THE most exciting moment of last season's playoffs. Also, despite his significant decline in production with the Tigers this season, it really does seem like Yankee Stadium was designed with his swing in mind. You would have to think with the added games in the Bronx this season his productivity would be much higher.

The biggest reason of all to keep Johnny? The alternatives. The Yankees instead turned to the once and future Yankee Nick Johnson. Like Nick Johnson before him, Nick Johnson promptly did nothing of note and like a DL hungry animal sniffed his way to the leftover pizza boxes of the DL. To replace Johnson, the Yankees threw a bag of circus peanuts to Houston for Lance Berkman. Fat Elvis has since struggled to find any sort of groove and has been routinely booed at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Damon's agent Scott Boras cited money as the main reason that Johnny is no longer in pinstripes, but now the Yankees are on the hook for so much more. The Big Puma and the Big Injury now have added a combined 20.5 million to the Yankees payroll, instead of the 8.5 million that Damon earned from the Tigers. With the help of the trusty Real Life Rewind, Johnny ends up with the Yanks.

3. Keep Austin Jackson

The most lauded Yankees move of the offseason was trading heralded prospect Austin Jackson to the Tigers for Curtis "No-leftys Please" Granderson. The Yankees were convinced that Granderson's productivity would increase with the help of Yankees hitting coaches and playing in hitter friendly Yankees Stadium and seemed unconvinced of Jackson's ability to hit off of major league pitchers.

Instead, after his early success in Fenway, Granderson has been a major disappointment and now Yankees fans are faced with the prospects of watching perhaps AL Rookie of the Year Austin Jackson rack up web gems in Detroit for years to come. Jackson has also been a productive hitter in Comerica Park, hitting .307 with a .357 OBP scoring 72 runs.

After the our rewind, the Yankees leave Granderson in Detroit and keep Jackson. The Yankees then move Jeter one step down in the lineup and the Yankees lineup looks something like this (AL pitchers beware):
1. Jackson
2. Jeter
3. Teixeira
4. A-Rod
5. Cano
6. Posada
7. Damon
8. Swisher
9. Gardner

4. Go Get Cliff Lee

The Yankees big pitching acquisition was Yankee fan whipping boy Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves for Melky Cabrera. The Phillies around this time shockingly traded Yankee-killer Cliff Lee to the Mariners. I take the role of Brian Cashman. Lets hit the rewind:

The Yankees still trade the Melkman to Atlanta, but instead of holding onto Javy (who is built to pitch in the NL) they swing him along with prized catching prospect Jesus Montero to the Phillies for Cliff Lee. The Phillies get a proven NL pitcher to pitch alongside the Doc as well as top-tier prospect. They don't turn that down right?

Meanwhile the Yankees rotation looks like this: Lee, Sabathia, Pettite, Hughes, Burnett. Holy COW! With the help of the trusty rewind feature the Yankees easily surpass 100 wins and attain #28.