After a narrow victory in Week Five, Mike O’Donnell came out on top and is now the all-knowing inquisitor for this week’s edition of speculative sports banter. Sports Editor Bobby Olivier, Copy Editor James Queally, and WTSR Sports Director Mike Leatherwood will discuss the latest and greatest NBA transactions, where two NFL free agents will call home next year and who is poised to make a run at the pennant in the upcoming MLB season.
1. As the NBA trade deadline has just expired, who do you think made the best trade before the deadline to help their team get better?
JQ: The Chicago Bulls are one of six or seven mediocre teams fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and now they have added Brad Miller, Tim Thomas and Anthony Roberson to their mix, which should help them rise above the middling groups like Milwaukee, New York and New Jersey. Miller adds a physical presence to the Bulls schoolyard-style offense, and Tim Thomas should be a good defensive lift off the bench who can shoot the three ball when necessary. He’s a poor man’s Bruce Bowen, while Roberson is a decent shooter who can play eight or 10 minutes a night. All in all, the Bulls got more mature and more physical from these last two trades – two attributes lacking throughout their conference. That should be enough to put Chicago in the postseason.
BO: Until Wednesday night, I would have said the Oklahoma City Thunder for obtaining Tyson Chandler, but now that the deal was rescinded, I am going to go with a team that could not get any worse. The 11-44 Sacramento Kings pulled off a five-player deal which will bring solid forwards Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden to the California capital along with two other throw-in players. The Kings have been lacking in versatility down low as Brad Miller is having a sub-par season but the 23.5 combined points and 12.8 combined rebounds which Nocioni and Gooden will bring to the royal family should help them get back on track. The question was which trade helped their team get better. The Kings just gained scoring and gained cap room by dropping Miller’s 11 million plus salary. What more do you want?
ML: The one biggest surprise of this year’s NBA trading deadline was that there were no real blockbusters, especially with all the massive contracts teams need to rid themselves of (Vince Carter). However, you have to consider the Magic acquiring Rafer Alston to be the trade with the biggest playoff implications. Orlando lost a key part of their offense for the year in Jameer Nelson and needed to replace him desperately. Alston is a proven point guard in this league that can make an impact on both sides of the ball. Alston will be a great fit on that team and he can be the man that gets Dwight Howard the ball. We all know when Dwight Howard gets the ball, the Magic win.
MO: Queally gets the 3 here. The Bulls definitely made the most and best moves in reestablishing themselves in the East, and these trades may have made the difference that will get them into the playoffs. Bobby nabs the 2 for saying the Kings got better in the long- run, but right now, they’re only going to get worst first. Leatherwood, you stated the obvious. One point.
2. The two names making the most noise in the NFL offseason right now are Albert Haynesworth and Anquan Boldin. Which of those two players are going to make the most impact next season and who will both be playing for?
JQ: Well, we answered this question in ATD a mere two weeks ago, but once again, it’s Haynesworth. He is one of the most impactful defensive players in the NFL. This man changes games. The Titans won games last year on Sundays where Kerry Collins threw for less than 200 yards and/or one or no touchdowns. On a team whose offense is in question, the Jets per se, Haynesworth can take a middling team and make them a 10-plus win squad. The Titans did not go 13-3 without him. This is his first taste of free agency, so I could see him heading for a bigger money market like New York. I could see him sporting the Gang Green in 2009.
BO: This is a no-brainer. Let’s look at both situations. As of today, Boldin is finished acting like a child and has said publicly that he is prepared to discuss a long-term contract with the Arizona Cardinals, the National Championship runner-up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Detroit Lions who went 0-16 this season are showing interest in Haynesworth. Both players can obviously produce, but Arizona is set to make another run for at least a division title and the Lions have become perennial losers. Boldin will have a bigger impact and Haynesworth’s speed and power will be wasted in Motor City.
ML: I believe Boldin will make the bigger difference on his new team. Boldin is that No. 1 wide receiver who can be the playmaker that so many teams are so desperate for. Now, yes, Haynesworth is a monster inside, but Boldin is such a mismatch against almost any defensive player. He can physically wear down cornerbacks, can outmuscle safeties and can blow past linebackers. There is no matchup for a guy like Boldin. Now, as far as where they are going, I believe Haynesworth and the Titans will eventually get a deal done. Boldin, on the other hand, is clearly unhappy in Arizona and will most likely be traded before the regular season. I think he would be a good fit in Philly or with the Giants.
MO: Leatherwood gets the nod in a very close one. Dissecting Boldin’s abilities and a better discussion of where both players will likely end up gets you the 3. Quealls gets the 2 for giving us Haynesworth’s credentials and one of his possible destinations. Bobby, since when did we call the Super Bowl runners-up “the National Championship runner-up”? Uno.
3. Baseball season is approaching quickly. We all love to speculate, so who is going to come out of the American and National leagues this year?
JQ: I don’t care how few points you give me O’Donnell, but these year-in-advance championship predictions are simply idiotic. The evaluations the three of us make this week will mean absolutely nothing after injuries, mid-season deals and under- and over-achievers come out of the woodwork. Did the 2008 Rays teach you anything? Ugh. The East divisions look particularly strong this year, so I like a winner from both of those divisions to take their respective leagues. The Yankees offseason moves make them contenders, but I still like Tampa’s team-first attitude, and Evan Longoria is only going to get better this year. Chase Utley has a hip flexor injury and has already pissed off Charlie Manuel by taking batting practice last week instead of going to a rehab session. On top of that, the Mets can actually contend in games that go beyond six innings thanks to the additions of Putz and K-Rod. Let’s say Mets-Rays, even though I and everyone else will be wrong.
BO: First off, it’s far too early to judge, but in the spirit of the game, I will do my best. In the National League, there is no reason why the Phillies should not repeat and win another NL Pennant. They are bringing pretty much everyone that helped them win last year including World Series MVP “Hollywood” Cole Hamels and lockdown closer Brad Lidge. The lineup is still arguably the most dangerous in the league with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard returning as well. In the American League, “Yankees win! Tttthhhheeee Yankees win!” Yes, I said it, the Bronx Bombers are going to christen their new stadium with an AL Pennant. Chien Ming Wang is coming back healthy and the acquisitions of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira will put the Yanks over the top. Tri-state fall classic – I’m calling it now.
ML: This upcoming baseball season is going to be one of the most anticipated seasons in recent history, especially in this area of the country. Everyone is focusing on how the Yankees are going to win the American League Pennant. But the one thing that has been overlooked is the offseason the Red Sox had. They landed John Smoltz and Brad Penny to finish out the rotation and also signed Takashi Saito. They have the nastiest pitching staff in the league with Josh Beckett, John Smoltz, Jon Lester, Dice-K and Brad Penny as well as a fantastic bullpen with Takashi Saito, Kenji Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. They are my pick over the Yanks. Now for the NL, you have to think the Phillies are still the favorite. They are bringing back pretty much the same team with the exception of Pat Burrell and the addition of Raul Ibanez. As long as they stay healthy, they could easily repeat.
MO: Queally gets the 3 here. Shedding light on Utley’s injury is certainly important, and the Phillies need him to repeat for sure. Your picks are definitely plausible, although I’m not too sure about the Rays again. The 2 goes to Leatherwood in a close one for letting us about the other team in the AL East, as it almost seemed like the Red Sox offseason moves went under the radar compared to those of the Yankees. Bobby, you had a good argument, but it was just the weakest out of the three. One point.
Queally gets the W, 8-6-4