Examining and Analyzing Sports the Way They Should Be

Like so many basketball players before him Sonny Weems' life in the NBA was short-lived. He played a mere three seasons, two with the Toronto Raptors and one with the Denver Nuggets. All in all, three seasons for a second round pick is actually pretty impressive and in those three seasons, Weems proved that he could play in the best basketball league in the world.

In his third season in the NBA, his second with the Raptors, Weems actually started 28 games and when he wasn't starting was a major contributor for the Raptors off the bench. He averaged 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in his final season in the NBA and averaged almost 24 minutes per game.

But when the lockout occurred delaying the start of the 2011-12 season, Weems fled the U.S. and signed a contract with  BC Zaliris Kuanas of the Euroleague. Weems lasted only one year for the Lithuanian club as a result of suffering a season ending injury.

Weems was again at a crossroads. Should he return to the states and try to play for an NBA team again or should he look for another job in Europe?

Weems decided to take the latter and signed a contract with CSKA Moscow again in the Euroleague, the second best basketball league in the world.

But for Weems all he needed was an opportunity. Weems, 27, attended Arkansas-Fort Smith junior college and after being named an honoarary junior college All-American  signed on with the Arkansas Razorbacks for his junior and senior years. So for him switching team's and moving again to another country was no big deal.

"When I was younger, I didn't care about getting a passport," Weems said. "But now that I've been traveling because of basketball, my eyes have been lighting up. There's a lot to see in this world."

Weems has emerged as CSKA Moscow's go-to scorer this season and is averaging 22 points, five rebounds, and 3.5 assists in two postseason games against Panathinaikos Athens.  Weems and CSKA Moscow are now one game away from returning to the Euroleague Final Four and competing for another title. There were reports last fall that Weems has an NBA-out this summer so don't be surprised if Weems returns to the NBA next season.

Weems has had made noticeable changes to his game.  Weems has learned to develop a true pick-and-roll game and is no longer just relying on his athleticism. Because European basketball features far less skilled players, Weems has learned to play more of a half-court game and learned to play at  slower pace.

Don't be surprised to hear Weems' name when CSKA Moscow competes in the Euroleague Final Four and for CSKA Moscow's sake advances past the semifinals and wins a Euroleague title.

-Ben Pickman

The Indiana Pacers are set to battle the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the Eastern Conference postseason without the player many thought was the best center in basketball a mere two seasons ago.

No,  that's not Roy Hibbert, but rather that player is Andrew Bynum. Bynum played a mere two games in Indiana before he re-injured his knee. Coach Frank Vogel said Bynum will miss this entire series against the Hawks and that realistically he is done for the season.Bynum played well in those two games, averaging 11.5 points and 9.5 rebounds but played in a mere two games in Nap Town.

Bynum a first round pick back in 2005 of the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to be one of the best center's in the league a mere two years ago, but since departing Hollywood, has been the biggest waste of space in the entire league. Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Pacers took flyers for Bynum this season and after failed stints for both teams his NBA career is in serious jeopardy.

-Ben Pickman

All former Baylor Bears point guard Pierre Jackson wanted was a shot to show his vast abilities. The D-League All-Star fled to Istanbul once the NBA trade deadline past and his trade request was not honored. The former Baylor guard tore up the D-League averaging 29.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Jackson broke the NBA D-League record scoring 58 points. Whether you are playing in the NBA, NBAD-League, Europe, NCAA, or high school, 58 points is 58 points.

Jackson left in late February for Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, but failed to make any impact overseas. According to Hurriyet, Jackson and Fenerbahce have parted ways. Jackson played in only six games for Fenerbahce  and scored a combined 20 points and dished out a mere 8 assists. For someone who looked poised to make an impact at the NBA level, Jackson seemed out of place overseas and struggled to adjust to the different style of play that European basketball has.

Jackson plans on returning to the states and playing in the NBA summer league for the Pelicans who still own his draft rights. Look for him to make an impact for the Pelicans summer league team and hopefully find a spot on an NBA roster come next season as it is unlikely a career in Europe is in Jackson's cards.

-Ben Pickman

C.C. Sabathia is now a member of one club no Major League pitcher wants to be apart of: the "under 90 MPH club." So far even through three starts Sabathia has a noticeable drop-off on his fastball velocity. Last year the big lefty's average fastball velocity was 91.3 MPH. When he joined the Yankees his fastball averaged 94.1 MPH. Now after hundreds of taxing innings on his arm, the former Cy-Young award winner is averaging only 89.8 MPH on his heater and is throwing a slower sinker as well.

What does the decreased velocity mean for Sabathia and his Yankees?

It means that innings similar to the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox are more prone to happen. In Sabathia's third start of the season, and first against the arch-rival Red Sox, Sabathia stifled the World Series champions for five innings before his decreased velocity caught up to him. He gave up two home runs, one to Johnny Gomes and another to David Ortiz in what was a four run sixth inning.

With this decreased velocity blow-up innings are more likely to happen. Against the Blue Jays in his second start of the season Sabathia at one point retired 17 of 18 hitters before a three run six inning made what looked like a stellar outing turn into a mediocre start at best. Already in each of his three starts, Sabathia has given up at least three runs in an inning three times and if you take away his first two innings against the Astros, and inning number six against both the Jays and Red Sox, Sabathia has given up one run in 17 innings.

Of course those blow-up innings mean he had a bit of bad luck with where each batted ball ended up, but bad luck is more likely to occur when you are throwing 89 and not 94. Sabathia gave up a career high home-runs per nine innings last year which should only increase as his fastball velocity decreases.

Sabathia can still be an effective pitcher but it just means he needs to hit his spots and become a more crafty lefty than a hard-throwing ace who gets by with just one pitcher.

-Ben Pickman

Which 2013-14 NBA rookie leads the league in PER?

No it's not Michael Carter-Williams. It's not Victor Oladipo. It is Brooklyn Nets power forward Mason Plumlee.

Because Kevin Garnett has missed games due to both injuries and rest, Plumlee has started 21 games in his rookie season.  And while his modest 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds are nothing special, the Duke product has made major contributions for the Brooklyn Nets.

Since the All-Star break, the Nets rookie is averaging 8 points per game and is pulling in just fewer than 6 rebounds per game. While Plumlee does not take a lot of shots himself, he sets excellent screens which free up his teammates for open looks.

Early in his career Plumlee is a banger and lacks a lot of the finesse that is needed to sustain a lengthy NBA career. Plumlee needs to work on his post defense. Opponents shoot seven percentage points better with Plumlee on the floor between 5-9 feet. He moves his feet very well, but is still learning how to defend on the highest level.

Lucky for Plumlee he gets to learn from one of the best defensive leaders in the NBA, Kevin Garnett, and in Garnett's absence Plumlee has looked comfortable anchoring the Nets defense.

Now that Garnett has returned from a 19 game absence due to back spasms, Plumlee will return to playing fewer minutes per game, but look for his impact in the postseason and on to next season.

-Ben Pickman

Here's a good trivia question for you Phillies baseball fans, Jimmy Rollins has now made 14 straight opening day starts at shortstop for the Phillies,  but how many different uniform numbers has he worn and what are they?

Rollins has donned a number 29 jersey in his rookie season way back in the year 2000. He wore number 11 from 2001-3 and switched to number 6 for 2003. But since 2003 he has returned to wearing number 11.

Rollins is a three-time all star  and a world champion. He has won four Gold Glove Award, one Silver Slugger and an NL MVP. Rollins is one of the few players to win an MVP in the same year he was not an All-Star.

With his grand slam yesterday, Rollins became the tenth player in Phillies history to hit  more than 200 home runs.  With that homer he became the 19th player in major league history with at least 400 doubles, 100 triples, and 200 home runs.

Rollins' 425 stolen bases are good enough for second most in Phillies history. He is fourth in Phillies lure with 2175, the franchises all-time leader in doubles  and third in triples.

Even though Rollins has reportedly not adjusted well with new manager Ryne Sandberg, he is still one of the best Phillies ever.

-Ben Pickman

The Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets are going to make the playoffs. If the season ended today then the Cats would face off against the Heat in a series that would surely end in a maximum five games. But either way this season would have to be considered a success for a under-talented Bobcats team.

One of the nicest surprises for the Bobcats has been the role of power forward Josh McRobers.

In a season where Joakim Noah has been applauded by every NBA fan and analyist for his passing and playmaking ability, McRoberts' passing ability has seldom been discussed.  

McRoberts 67.0 passes per game and 4.2 assists per game are both the second best total of any big man. His 22 percent assist rate is second again only to Noah and is better then both Blake Griffin and Kevin Love among others.  His 4-1 assist-to-turnover ration is one of the best in the league for bigmen and the Bobcats are plus five with him on the floor per 100 possessions.

McRoberts has emerged as the fulcrum of the Bobcats offense and because of his unique ability to shoot three point shots as well as pass out of the post, McRoberts provides the Bobcats with countless possible options.

McRoberts 57 percent jump shot from just above the free throw line is excellent especially for a bigman's mid range jumper.

But what really sets McRoberts apart is his passing ability. McRoberts  was a second round pick back in 2007 and has bounced round a few teams before arriving in Charlotte on a two year $ 5.5 million deal.

Look for him to stick around as the Cats become the Hornets and only continue to improve as a team.

-Ben Pickman

Creighton forward Doug McDermott lead the nation in scoring per game (26.9 ppg) and is going to win any possible National Player of the Year Award.  He led the 3 seeded Creighton Blue Jays to their third consecutive NCAA tournament erth where they were dispatched by a superior Baylor Bears team.

McDermott may have finished his college career with 3,150 points, good enough for fifth all-time, but he is still only  a walk-on.

Back in July, McDermott relinquished his scholarship for his senior season. Relinquishing his scholarship enabled point guard Grant Gibbs to use it instead after being granted a sixth year of eligibility because of a medical redshirt. His father and coach Greg approved the move, and as a result the McDermott family is paying for their sons education.

"When we applied for an extra year for me, our program was out of the allotted scholarships. So Doug knew that if I did get the extra year that he would become a walk-on and ... Doug's family, basically, would be paying for my school for a year," Gibbs said. "So he reminds me of that. His mother reminds me of that daily that I owe her some money when this is all over. It as a tremendous gesture, obviously ... I think Doug has kind of solidified his spot as probably the best walk-on in the nation with that."

As a result just like so many other students, Doug's college education is coming out of his families own pockets. Unlike so many other students, Doug is going onto the NBA.

Either way, McDermott leaves Creighton as the best player in the history of the Blue Jays program and the best walk-on in the country.

-Ben Pickman

True or false- the Chicago Bulls threw in the towel when they traded Luol Deng back in early January?

The answer to the question above is an emphatic false. The Bulls are actually are playing better basketball since trading Deng to the Cavs. The Bulls currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference are one game behind the Toronto Raptors.

And while they look like they are good enough to challenge the Pacers or Heat in round two of the Eastern Conference playoffs come April and May. The Bulls will run out of gas in the second round thanks to their putrid offense. The Bulls score a league worst 93.4 points per game and if it wasn't for their third consecutive season of finding a washed up point guard, plugging him into their offensive system, and making him look like a competent guard (see C.J. Watson, Nate Robinson, and now D.J. Augstin) the Bulls offense would be a complete joke. It would look more like a car with two flat tires lumbering along then a powder blue Mercedes driving down an empty highway.

But next season the Bulls plan to add what they hope is the next Toni Kukoc.

Nikola Mirotic is set to arrive in the Windy City come this summer. For those who are unaware of Mirotic he is currently one of, if not the best player in Europe. The Spanish  Cup MVP averaged 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 62 percent from the field in 21 games. To give you some perspective on how impactful a Spanish Cup MVP could be in the NBA, keep in mind Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, and Mirza Teletovic, and Pablo Prigioni have all won the hardware mentioned above.

Mirotic's Euroleague's numbers are even more impressive.  He's averaging 16.8 points and 4.9 rebounds for Real Madrid which looks poised to again contend for the Euroleague title. The Euroleague is the most competitive league in Europe and is second to only the NBA in terms of the competition and overall level of play so putting up those numbers in under 25 minutes of play per game is impressive.

A 6'10'', the Montenegrin power forward is a mere 23 years old and is a power forward because of his size but also posses the ability to play some small forward at the NBA level. The Bulls current small forwards are Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell so adding another quality option couldn't make that rotation any worse.

The Bulls are likely going to amnesty Carlos Boozer come July freeing up the 3-4 million dollars that Mirotic wants as well as giving them enough money to potentially sign Carmelo Anthony.

Upon his arrival, Mirotic will likely come of the bench and try to replace the production that Taj Gibson has brought the Bulls second unit in his short NBA career.

Gibson has emerged as a legitimate two-way power forward since the Deng trade. He is now playing fourth quarters and while he is not starting he still tallies just about 30 minutes per night. Since 1/5/14 he is averaging 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds. That of course does not mention his stellar defensive play on bigger forwards and centers he matches up against. In the six games Gibson has started this season his scoring numbers go up to 20.5 points and he pulls in on average 9.3 rebounds per game. Pre-Deng trade he was averaging only 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds.

With Gibson likely to take over the starting power forward position, Mirotic will become the leader of the Bulls second unit. If Mirotic  does provide the Bulls with some offensive punch come next November then look for the Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose to be even better then they ever were before.

-Ben Pickman

The 2003 NBA draft was littered with superstars. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh,  and Dwayne Wade to name a few. Kirk Hinrich is not a superstar like the four players above area. But is Hinrich one of the best Chicago Bulls ever?

Admittedly, the Kansas product is no Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen, but  Hinrich is 7th all time in  Bullsgames played. He's 6th in minutes played, 9th in field goals made,  1st in three's made, 4th in assists, 3rd in steals, and 9th in points. For a player that has never made an all-star team, Hinrich is near the top of many statistical categories in Bulls history.

Hinrich has not averaged more than 12 points per game since 2006 and more than six assists per game since 2007, but now in his 10th year in the league, Hinrich is still playing meaningful minutes on a team that desperately needs point guard production.

-Ben Pickman