Milwaukee’s Franchise-Saving Trade

God has revealed himself as a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks. Finally, the Bucks have a franchise player to build around. Monta Ellis, recently aquired in a trade from the Golden State Warriors, is finally a guy that can score the basketball, a type that has eluded Bucks fans since Ray Allen left a few years back.

New Bucks Superstar Monta Ellis (NBA/GETTY IMAGES)

The trade did cost the Bucks, however. Center Andrew Bogut, a defensive stud, along with disgruntled SG/SF Stephen Jackson are now Warriors. The ends do justify the means, however, as the Bucks have acquired a genuine star in the NBA. The Bucks may not be Championship contenders but they certainly are closer than they were 24 hours ago. Look for Ellis to score with ease in Milwaukee, and the Bucks to win more as a result.

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Packer Draft Scout 3/7/2012

The NFL draft is approximately 50 days away. The Green Bay Packers hold the 28th overall selection, and will probably be looking to add defense to their roster. So who are some of the prospects that Green Bay will be looking at? Below are five prospects that I feel could be taken with the 28th pick. They are arranged in order of least likely to most likely.

#5- Courtney Upshaw OLB Alabama

Upshaw is undoubtedly the number one Outside Linebacker in the draft class, however, this makes it difficult for Green Bay to select him as he will probably be gone by 28. I am putting Upshaw on this list anyway because I feel he is the best option for the Packers overall. It is possible (though unlikely) that Green Bay could trade up to grab him. Upshaw had 51 tackles and 8.5 sacks at ‘Bama in his senior season en route to a National Championship. He will be a coveted pass rusher in the draft.

#4-Vinny Curry DE/OLB Marshall

Curry has good size and numbers (77 tackles 11 sacks last season) however his horrid 4.98 40-yard dash at the combine may have done him in as far as playing 3-4 Outside Linebacker (Usually players who can run a 4.80 or under play Outside). That being said, his motor and productivity could still keep him in play. Though I don’t expect Green Bay to take him in the first round, I could see them taking  a shot on him if he would slide to rounds 3 or 4.

#3-Ronnell Lewis OLB Oklahoma

Lewis did not put up fantastic numbers (59 tackles 5.5 sacks) as a pass rusher last year, however his reputation as a hard hitter and his combine numbers (36 bench reps and 4.68 40 –time) will make him an interesting prospect. Lewis may not project as a first rounder, however, if he survives to the Packers second choice, he is a very interesting possibility.

#2-Nick Perry DE/OLB USC

Remember the last pass rusher we drafted from USC? Yea he’s been pretty good. Perry looks to be the next Trojan to terrorize quarterbacks (though it’s unfair to expect Matthews numbers from him). Perry had a good Junior season having 9.5 sacks, and had a fantastic combine doing 35 reps and running a 4.64 40. The only problem for Green Bay is that Perry may have moved himself too high up draft boards to be around at 28. If he is, however, expect Perry to be a Packer.

#1 Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB Illinois

Mercilus is currently the man I expect to be the Packers selection at 28. With Perry moving up draft boards, Mercilus seems to be the compensation pick. Trust me, it’s a darn good one. Mercilus had 16 sacks last season for Illinois, and ran a 4.68 40 at the combine. Showing the speed, strength, and most importantly talent, to rush the passer, Mercilus seems to be a good choice to plug in across the way from Clay.

 

Mercilus (Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE, US PRESSWIRE)

 

Brewers 2012 Preview: World Series Contenders?

The Milwaukee Brewers will kick off their season on April 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. A lot is unclear as the team tries to bounce back from a devastating playoff loss at the hands of the very same Cardinals. I for one believe that if Milwaukee can develop chemistry and weather the Ryan Braun steroid issue, they could just be World Series Champions come October. Below is a preview of the Starting Pitchers, Relief Pitchers, Catchers, Infielders, and Outfielders that will start Spring Training for the Brew Crew:

Starting Pitchers: Yovani Gallardo may be in line to contend for a Cy Young Award this season as a co-ace of the Brewers staff. Gallardo is coming off a 2011 campaign that saw him go 17-10 to accompany his first 200+ inning season (207.1) and third consecutive 200 strikeout season (207 in 2011, 200 in 2010, and 204 in 2009). His 3.52 was a career best for the young ace.

Brewers co-ace Yovani Gallardo (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)

Joining Gallardo as co-ace is former Kansas City Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke. Greinke looks to put up a similar season as 2011 (16-6 3.83 ERA). Shaun Marcum (13-7 3.54 ERA) will once again be a solid third starter. Randy Wolf (13-10 3.69 ERA) and Chris Narveson (11-8 4.45 ERA) round out the unit. Milwaukee should have one of the better starting 5 in the National League, though they probably will not contend with the likes of Philadelphia or Atlanta. Minor Leaguer  Wily Peralta could also be in the starting 5, however this is unlikely due to the depth of the rotation and the fact that the starter he’d push out (Narveson) is a left-hander (Peralta is a right-hander).

Relief Pitchers: John Axford (46 Saves, 1.95 ERA) returns as one of the games most dominant closers. Along with 8th inning man Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA in 31 games with the Brewers) , Axford contributes to one of (if not) the best 8,9 combos in the game. The Brewers should win multiple games for this reason alone. With the losses of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins, the rest of the Brewers bullpen is undermanned, but look for starter turned reliever Manny Parra to fill in that 7th inning void if he can overcome his injury battles that cost him all of last season.

Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy is back as one of the games best young catchers. Look for another solid year of contribution by this defensive stud. George Kottaras should be back as the Brewers number two  and personal  catcher to Randy Wolf.

Infielders: The elephant in the Brewers room is that of the departure of Prince Fielder. Admittedly there is no sure fill in for the big man, but the Brewers are much improved around the rest of the infield. Aramis Ramirez should be a mammoth improvement all the way around at third from Casey McGehee. Also Alex Gonzalez should provide similar offensive numbers to Yuniesky Betancourt with much improved defense. Second Baseman Rickie Weeks returns to try and add another fantastic season to his record.

Outfielders: Ryan Braun, the reigning MVP, joins Corey Hart and a host of center fielders on the Brewers roster. Nyjer Morgan, the hold-over starter in center, will be pushed by Carlos Gomez as well as newly acquired 3 time Japanese batting champion Norichika Aoki. I personally believe Aoki will win the job sometime in the coming season.

A Vote of No Confidence

As the 2012 NBA season progresses, the Milwaukee Bucks main issue, at least in my opinion, is becoming more and more clear every day. The Bucks do not have an adequate head coach in Scott Skiles.

Two main issues drive me crazy when I watch the Bucks lose games that they should win: 1- The lineups at the end of games, and 2- the lack of time given for progression of young players.

Bucks Coach Scott Skiles (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

On the topic of lineups, Scott Skiles, at least in my view, does not put his best players on the floor at the end of games. For example, the Bucks had a 10 point lead over Orlando with four and one half minutes to play on February 11. It was at this point that Magic guard Jason Richardson scored about a third of his 31 points in the game. As Richardson nailed three pointer after three pointer, Skiles sat there and did nothing. If only the Bucks had a defensive specialist to stick on Richardson and stop his scoring outburst. Oh wait, they do. Luc Mbah a Moute sat on the bench while the Bucks watched their victory disappear. Unless there was some issue that I am unaware of (and to be fair there might be), this is inexcusable by our head coach. Also, dating back a few weeks, Skiles held a grudge against Stephen Jackson. Skiles made it a point to keep Jackson out of games, seemingly as a punishment. Is Jackson a saint? No. Does he deserve to be free of any guilt? No. Skiles, however, deprived the team of one of its best scorers while he played out his little grudge. Is that being professional? No, I don’t think so.

My second topic is lack of progressive time for young players. The Bucks, at least in my mind, have two legit talents in Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer. I do not mean they are the next Michael Jordan’s, but in time, I feel they can play meaningful minutes and help this franchise win. Their progression, which is needed, is continuously hindered by coach Skiles as he let’s them sit night after night playing next to no minutes at all. I must clarify, I do not condone giving them both thirty minutes a night and running the team around them, but a solid 3-5 minutes a game would do them and the team good. Let them experience real-game consistency and see what you got. You will never know if they don’t see the floor.

I may be the first, or I may be joining others when I say I want Scott Skiles fired. This team is going nowhere fast, and it is time for a new head man. The Bucks have suffered under the tyranny of Scott Skiles long enough.


Luc Mbah a Magnificent

If one peruses the Milwaukee Bucks statistics over the last four seasons, the name Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will not stand out. Averaging a mere 6.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in his career, the fourth year forward out of UCLA has a hidden value that is finally being appreciated by the loyalist of Buck’s fans.

Mbah a Moute guards Laker All-Star Kobe Bryant (Getty Images)

Mbah a Moute is what is known as a defensive specialist, and the Bucks have one of the very best in the league with him. His value does not lie in his own stats, but in the depleted stats of the players he guards. Every game the Bucks play, Mbah a Moute is tasked with guarding the very best the other team has to offer. Without scoring a single point, Mbah a Moute can win his team a game.

What makes the Cameroon native (he’s actually a prince) even more special is his ability to guard multiple positions. At 6’8 and 230 pounds, he is able to use his size and speed to routinely guard shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards (the position at which he usually starts). This can translate to him playing multiple stars when the Bucks face the very best. For instance, when the Bucks play the Los Angeles Lakers, Mbah a Moute switches off between Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. When the Miami Heat come to town, Mbah a Moute has responsibilities for Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. His versatility is truly amazing.

Mbah a Moute may not be a player that can single handedly win a championship, but he is definitely a valuable asset to a player who can. While others grab headlines with large scoring games and other offensive outbursts, Mbah a Moute continues to work quietly in the shadows, sneaking up on unsuspecting teams and making a difference.

State of the Bucks 2/2/2012

Bucks Point Guard Brandon Jennings (picture by David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

 The Milwaukee Bucks have a 10-11 record twenty-one games into the strike shortened 2012 NBA season. There are two ways to view the current state of affairs: 1) 10-11 is under .500, the Bucks are struggling or 2) they’ve won 6 of their last 8, which means they are on a run. The answer in truth, lies somewhere in between.

            On the positive side, the Bucks seem to have a chemistry not seen on the their court since the playoff run a few years back. Everyone seems to play hard and together. This alone will win you a few games. Point Guard Brandon Jennings seems to just keep improving, as he is averaging over 20 points and 5 assists a game. Drew Gooden, the newly appointed center now that Andrew Bogut is hurt, has played extremely well in his new role. Throw in solid contributions from Mike Dunleavy Jr., Shaun Livingston, and others, and you have a solid crew to play with.

            On the negative side, the Bucks cannot overcome their lack of talent solely with effort. With center Andrew Bogut hurt, the Bucks are without one of the top defensive centers in the NBA. Even with Bogut, the Bucks were probably a .500 team good for a 6-8 seed in the Eastern Conference and a first or second round playoff exit. Without him, they seem to be a .450 team with a possible chance at an 8 seed but most likely finishing just short of the playoffs. So what does this mean? As of now it means that the Bucks can look forward to another season in NBA purgatory. They are too good to grab a top 3-draft pick, yet too bad to seriously contend for a championship. All bets are off however, if they miraculously win the draft lottery or land a stud midway through the first round, events that have happened before.

The Great Finley Debate

Jermichael Finley poses after a reception at Lambeau Field in Green Bay (Reuters photo)

With their 37-20 loss at the hands of the Super bowl bound New York Giants, the Green Bay Packers have ushered in the 2012 NFL off-season. Amongst many decisions that general manager Ted Thompson must make, one sticks out to me as nearly unpredictable and very important. That decision is what to do with tight end Jermichael Finley, now a free agent.

Finley is undoubtedly a talented tight end. His track record proves this (55 catches 767 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2011)  but it also proves that up to date, he makes many crucial mistakes that have done nothing to put faith in his stock. This manifest can be clearly seen in his dropping an average of one pass a game during the season. So what’s the issue some may ask. The issue is that Finley may be in line (or at least looking) for a large pay day. What is Green Bay to do? If you don’t sign him, he may go and turn into an extraordinary player for another franchise. If you pay him, you run the risk of him never reaching his full potential thus wasting money that could be used to keep talent on the other side of the ball. My opinion: If the price is too high, get rid of him.

Is Finley talented? Yes. Can he become more dependable? Probably. Is it worth chancing? No. If Green Bay was coming off a season where the offense struggled and the defense was the carrying force, I would say beyond a shadow of a doubt hold on to him. This however, is not the case. The Packer defense is struggling and the offense is full of weapons for Aaron Rodgers to use whilst he pillages other team’s end zones.  If the Packers get rid of Finley, they will not only open up money to potentially bring in free agents and sign current defenders (such as B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews who both have two years remaining on their rookie contracts and are in for large pay days themselves) but also to get draft picks that could help them find players to improve the current defensive problems. If Green Bay uses the franchise tag (a defacto one year contract worth the average salary of the position the player plays) on Finley, they will be signed to pay him approximately  $5.5 million next season. They also will have the opportunity to trade him regardless of his opinion on the matter. If Finley can be signed for a reasonable price ($6 million a year or less) I say keep him, but if the price exceeds reason we will be far better off without him.