The Boston Celtics continue to make massive mistakes this summer. Save for their (admittedly big) signing of Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, they’ve made wrong move after wrong move. Trading Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to clear the cap room for Hayward, trading away the first pick (Markelle Fultz) for the Lakers’ 2-5 protected 1st round pick in 2018 and the third pick, and now giving up a small fortune to pry wantaway Kyrie Irving from the Cavs. Basketball is about getting superstar talent, and they’ve almost surely slashed their chances of landing anyone with that potential with the Tatum and Kyrie moves. Especially with the direction that the NBA is moving, Tatum is a massively inferior piece to Fultz if your end is to win a title. Teams simply can not afford to carry wings without consistent three point range or defensive ability. The decision to trade Avery Bradley as a cap dump, rather than Marcus Smart, when he’s widely regarded as one of the best defensive guards on the planet and is a near elite three point shooter is a head scratcher. Even more shocking is the move for Kyrie Irving. They gave up Isaiah Thomas, who is nearly equal to Irving on the court, Jae Crowder, the only man on the roster who could have held his own defensively against LeBron James, the Nets’ unprotected first round pick in 2018 (which, again, could have turned into an #1 on a title team level talent), and Ante Zizic for Irving, a clear step back both in the short term and the long term. Thomas was, admittedly, an expiring contract and was going to leave if Boston didn’t cough up a max deal, but he’s an elite scorer of the ball and is much more valuable that this return for him implies. These moves all are remarkably confusing, given that even now Boston is no closer to beating the Golden State Warriors than they were at the start of the summer. They mortgaged the future for an incredibly bleak present, and it is sure to bite Danny Ainge.
This past Monday, MLB Now held a segment in which Brian Kenny argued that, at least, the gap is closer than you’d think between Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in regards to who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Looking at the numbers, one could argue that Scherzer could be taken over Kershaw, or that Pitcher 3, whose name you’ll learn later, could be taken over Scherzer .
Kershaw has both beat in ERA and FIP since the 2015 season, rocking a 2.01 and a 2.17 respectively. Scherzer holds a 2.79 ERA and a 2.97 FIP, and Pitcher 3 holds a 3.30 ERA and a 2.89 FIP. This is quite a sizable gap, but one could argue that Kershaw calling the cavernous Dodger Stadium home gives him a bit of an advantage here.
In ERA+, which adjusts for park effects, it’s not particularly close either. Kershaw is sporting an obscene 192, as opposed to Scherzer’s 147, and Pitcher 3’s 123. FIP- tells a similar story, with Kershaw putting up a 55, Scherzer a 74, but Pitcher 3 jumping Scherzer with a 67.
Kershaw owns a 17.5 fWAR in this timeframe, a full 2.1 wins ahead of Pitcher 3 at 15.4 and 2.6 ahead of Scherzer at 14.9, despite innings gaps of 47.2 and 70, respectively. bWAR, however, counts 10.7 for Pitcher 3, 16.4 for Scherzer, and 16.0 for Kershaw.
The conclusion you reach in this conversation is largely dependent on how you view the question. If you see it as, “which pitcher has been the most valuable to their club in recent years,” you will be more willing to consider Scherzer’s volume over the vastly superior output of Clayton Kershaw and the arguably superior output of Pitcher 3, Chris Sale. But if you see it as “which pitcher is the best at pitching?”, there really is no conversation. It’s Clayton Kershaw by a country mile.
Last week, the NFL held its annual first-year player draft. While this was exciting for fans of the league, for players, it’s an example of a disgusting lack of freedom in sports.
In basically every other field, young people are able to choose from their suitors, but the draft takes this choice away from them. Rather than choosing based on money offered, the state of the teams after them, et cetera, they’re thrown into whatever situation they happen to fall to. This often sets up the best prospects up for failure, because the teams that are often near the bottom tend to be poorly run, such as the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, or the New York Jets of the NFL. If, say, Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of the NFL Draft for the Cleveland Browns, decides that he’d like to come out of Texas A&M and immediately play for the New England Patriots, that should be his right.
Rewarding failure in team-building is also a horrible practice. It is egregious to say to a team that is chronically terrible, “Here’s the future of the sport! Do as you please!”
Opponents of abolishing the draft argue that, without the draft, a few select teams will dominate the league. The San Antonio Spurs have won 50 games a season since the dinosaurs died out. The New England Patriots have been great every year since the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. The Yankees and Red Sox have won 252% of all of the AL East titles in history. Even with the draft, that is meant to allow create parity, the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.
Whether there’s a draft or not, the teams that are at the forefront when it comes to having new, effective ideas will succeed. Teams like the Spurs and Cardinals, who are not in massive markets that allow exorbitant spending in free agency, still find themselves with good squads every year, because they’re organizations that are run by creative, intelligent people. If you are good at your job, you will continue to be able to build perennial winners, and if you are bad at your job, you will continue to build perennial losers. The draft’s existence is not relevant to that fact.
The idea that many have in opposition to this proposition, that all of the talented 18-22 year olds leaving college will simply take their talents to the best teams in the league, is patently untrue. In leagues with salary caps, it would be completely and utterly impossible for teams like the Cavaliers and Cubs to hoover up all of the talent. The players would be allowed to negotiate completely freely for their contracts, which would price teams out of being able to sign every elite prospect. The idea that guys will take cuts of tens of millions of dollars at 18-22 to play with a better team is untrue, as is proven by the decisions of guys like Anthony Davis to sign on long term in bad situations in exchange for huge differences in salary.
The young men who leave school and have dreams of playing in the NBA, NFL, MLB, et cetera, should have the same ability to choose their place of employment as anyone else, and the longer this system continues, the bigger a travesty it is.
The Miami Heat finished this season at 41-41, in the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference, one seed below the playoffs, after a 30-11 second half. At first glance, this seems like a good thing. No team had gotten back to .500 after being 13 under before Miami, and they did it after being 19 under. It was a strong finish to negate their abysmal start. But long term, this huge swing is detrimental to the franchise.
No reasonable fan would argue with the statement that teams exist in order to win championships, and this finish runs directly counter to those aims. Especially in the NBA, where individuals have a larger impact than in any other sport, elite talent is necessary to win titles. In all likelihood, if you’re getting said talent, you’re doing so through the draft. One look at the Heat’s roster tells you that this team is not even close to being a championship contender. Not a single player under contract is good enough to be even a #2 on a title team.
This short term winning, despite the excitement it brings now as a fan, prevented the team from having a high draft pick to have a chance at a Markelle Fultz or a Lonzo Ball, who could develop into the sort of generational talents necessary to win titles. With the Phoenix Suns owning our pick next year if it’s outside of the top 7, and the next year if the 2018 pick doesn’t go to the desert, this may have been our only chance in the near future at a game changer, outside of a massive coup in free agency.
Admittedly, the 41-41 record looks better to prospective free agent targets, but realistically, Kevin Durant is not leaving the Warriors for Miami, and any high-level target below him is going to make the Heat too good to have a lottery pick, and too bad to challenge LeBron’s Cavaliers. This state of purgatory is far and away the worst possible spot for a franchise to be, and teams like the Hawks and Grizzlies can attest to that fact. No matter what you think of Sam Hinkie, the Sixers have a real chance of having two top 4 picks this season, along with Joel Embiid, a real #1 for a title team, and Ben Simmons. It can work. It’s the best bet in the bottom bit of the league.
A few weeks ago, I decided to give up on having a life for awhile. This is the result. What follows is a ranking of the thirty most valuable players in the Barclays Premier League, based on my viewing and the best stats that are publicly available. This is not a list of the thirty BEST players in the Premier League, so PLEASE, don’t yell at me about Zlatan, or Santi Cazorla, or pretty much anyone else who is over thirty not being here. Thanks to Bill Simmons for the idea (if you watch the NBA, check out his trade value stuff on ESPN/Grantland, it’s great), Whoscored, Michael Caley (MC_of_a), @11tegen11, and Jörg Seidel (@goalimpact) for stats & graphics, and transfermarkt for contract details.
A few ground rules:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a better player than Romelu Lukaku, but because Lukaku, at 23, has around 6 more years at the top level, while the 35 year old Ibrahimovic is nearing retirement, Lukaku’s worth more.
Players nearing the end of their contract have more leverage against their current employers than those with multiple years remaining. Also, players on massive wages will have less suitors, which lessens the probability of competition.
Strikers command higher fees than midfielders, who command higher fees than defenders, who command higher fees than goalkeepers. One could argue that this is imprudent, but it’s the case.
4. NATIONALITY MATTERS.
Englishmen are more expensive than players from other nations, along with the general premium paid for players from luxury nations, such as Brazil, Spain, Argentina, et cetera.
5. HEALTH MATTERS.
However great a player Daniel Sturridge is, he won’t make this list, simply because he can’t stay on the field.
The list 30-11, will be up next Thursday, followed by 10-1 the next day.