Examining and Analyzing Sports the Way They Should Be

It’s still a bit premature to think about, but there is a chance, a slim chance that the 12th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Dario Saric plays in the NBA this season.

Saric, a Croatian star, is currently signed to a two year agreement with Anadolu Efes, an Istanbul based basketball club that competes in the Euroleague. Anadolu Efes’ season just began with Saric not dressing for either affair.

Part of that is because the first two games of Efes’ season were in the Turkish Basketball League which stipulates that only six foreign players can dress for a TBL game. The other part though is a bit more interesting.

Saric’s father, Predrag Saric talked to a Croatian newspaper earlier in the week about his sons DNP’s. “It’s not good. I’m afraid it’s time for the alarm.” He said, adding that, “if this continues, we will look for someone who can pay to breach the contract. Dario has to play, not watch the match from the stands.”


Saric’s current contract does not have a buyout built in which could present some trouble if the situation did escalate quickly. Philadelphia does have cap space, but NBA rules prohibit teams from paying more than $600k towards and buyout. Saric’s buyout would surely be more than $600k which is what his father is referring too when he says, “we will look for someone who can pay to breach the contract.”

The 76ers expect Saric to join the team next season and seem content to let him play the 2014-15 campaign in Europe. If Saric’s current situation with Anadolu Efes is not resolved look for him to play this season on another European team rather than in the NBA.

-Ben Pickman  


Damjan Rudez signed with the Pacers before the Paul George injury. He was expected to be a backup in the Pacers frontcourt. But then again the Pacers expect Paul George to play this season.

In a recent podcast with Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe  , Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that Rudez was going to play a lot of small forward this season and listed him with C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey, Chris Copeland, George Hill and C.J. Watson among other wing players.

Rudez, 28, is in the prime of his career. After being initially expected to play 10-15 minutes per game the injury of George has opened the door for Rudez to play a bigger role. Of course the Crotian forward cannot replace all of George’s production, but can he even match a portion of it?

Rudez is 6’ 10’’ tall. He’s a lean 200 pounds. Because of his size he was widely considered to be a power forward, but due to the George injury he will be playing more small forward. This immediately creates a matchup problem for opposing team’s. Picture a 6’10’’ Rudez guarding a 6’7’’ Matt Barnes or 6’8’’ Luol Deng. Rudez is a good shooter. Playing

Basket Zaragoza 2002 last season in the Spanish league, Liga ACB, Rudez was a matchup problem. He shot 44.1 percent from three and 46.5 percent from the field. But Rudez was merely a shooter.

He averaged 10.7 points per game, but only hauled in 1.6 rebound and 1.9 assists. This summer in the FIBA World Cup, Rudez came off the bench averaging a mere 5.2 points and 1.2 rebounds in 14 minutes of action. He shot an unimpressive 30 percent from the field which will not cut it in the NBA.

In other related International tournaments such as the 2013 Eurobasket and 2008 Olympics, Rudez has performed better, but only marginally.

Rudez will be able to stretch the floor well for the Pacers, but if he can’t contribute by pulling in rebounds or defending his position, then Rudez will likely not make as much of an impact as many had hoped.

-Ben Pickman 

Tags

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know much about Matt Shoemaker.


The Eastern Michigan product had recorded a total of 5.0 major league innings entering this season, but after throwing 136.0 innings of dominant baseball for the Angels this season, he has emerged as the second best starter on the best team in the American League’s staff.


But should he be starting what could easily be a pivotal game two?


I get it. 16-4 win-loss record. 3.04 ERA. But is he good enough to be apart of the Angels three man rotation?
For this article I compare the numbers of the Shoemaker with the Angels next best three starters, C.J Wilson, Jered Weaver, and Hector Santiago along with the Kansas City Royals best four starters, James Shields, Yordana Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas.


C.J. Wilson is scheduled to start game three for the Angels, with Shoemaker slated to start Games 2 and 5. Manager Mike Sciosia is making the right call though. Shoemaker has a higher O-Swing percentage, a stat that tracks how often hitters chase pitches outside the zone. Of the 8 pitchers in the sample, he throws the highest percentage of first pitch strikes and has the highest percentage of swings and misses. A lot of this is because of Shoemakers slider which he throws almost 20 percent of the time. His sinker also helps him get ahead in counts. Shoemaker is not a flame thrower on the mound by any means, but he is not afraid to challenge hitters and more importantly does not walk batters. Occasionally he leaves pitches over the plate, but if he is able to get ahead he becomes far more successful.


C.J. Wilson has the lowest O-Swing percentage but has the highest groundball ratio of the group and a stellar groundball/flyball ratio. For a pitcher throwing a playoff game on the road these are crucial statistics. Wilson does not walk a lot of hitters. He is no longer the ace that he was in Texas, but his control is still excellent even though is stuff is not as good as it once was.


Wilson’s excels at keeping the baseball down and because of his array of pitches, he has emerged as a solid groundball pitcher. Kansas showed Tuesday night that it is a volatile place to play. It felt like a football game not a baseball game. I guess 29 years of waiting will do that to someone. Wilson, a veteran who has pitched in World Series games will not be phased by the moment and his ability to keep the ball down and more importantly in the park is even more augmented.
Shoemaker is still a rookie. Even though he is in the rookie of the year conversation, being a young pitcher and going into a hostile environment is not easy. He is not a groundball pitcher and if he doesn’t get ahead his statistics show that he is far more likely to fail. That’s why Sciosia is right to start him game two. Game five on the other hand is a different story.


-Ben Pickman  


It didn't take long for the Brooklyn Nets' Andrei Kirilenko to get injured. The 33 year old Russian small forward back has began acting up. Kirilenko's back was his problem last preseason when the former Jazz forward missed 25 of the Nets' 29 preseason games. 

Kirilenko battled back spasms all of last season missing the first two months of the season completely and never fully getting back into a rhythm. Kirilenko called his back spasms last season the, "worst of his career."  He played in only 45 games, his lowest total since the 2004-05 season. 

Kirilenko reportedly spent a lot of time in the gym this summer working on strengthen his core and back muscles hoping to avoid this very problem, but it appears that age and attrition is catching up to Kirilenko. With Paul Pierce now in Washington, Kirilenko was slated to be the starting small forward, but it appears that Bojan Bogdanovic or Alan Anderson will be the starting small forward for the Nets come opening night. According to the New York Post, Kirilenko sat out the Nets' sunday morning practice. He also made it clear to reporters afterward that he would sit out several days if he had too. 

It's good that Kirilenko recognizes that his team needs him in December, January and February more than in November. But this does not bode well Kirilenko and the Nets this season.


-Ben Pickman

Tags

Bojan Bogdanovic and his name are coming to the NBA. 

Bojan Bogdanovic, no relation to Bogdan Bogdanovic a Serbian and recent draft pick of the Suns,  was one of the best international players at the FIBA World Cup. The Croat, 25, finished the tournament as the third leading scorer. Although Croatia was eliminated by France in the round of 16, the surprisingly tall 6 foot 8 inch small forward put on a stellar performance finish with 27 points (on 11 of 19 shooting) and grabbed six rebounds as well. After playing in Istanbul for the last three seasons, Bojan will join the Nets this fall.

Bogdanovic will be a crucial part of the Nets success this season. Depending on the health of small forward Andrei Kirilenko, Bogdanovic might actually be the Nets starting forward on opening night.

Well, he’s another versatile player, new coach Lionel Hollins said after watching tape of him with King. “He’s a 2-3, a 3-2 basically and he can shoot the bal and he can put the ball on the floor. And the more shooters you have, the better. The more versatility, the more playmakers you have, the better your team can be.”

Bogdanvoic has fared well in his two appearances against NBA teams. He scored 11 points in an exhibition against the Celtics in 2012 and dropped 19 in the preseason against the Thunder this past preseason.

The 6’8’’ wing player likes to put the ball on the deck and attack the basket, and since he was originally drafted in 2011 has also improved his three point shot.

Scouts say that defense has always been the weakest part of Bogdanovic’s game so it will be interesting to see how he performs guarding NBA wings night after night. One major difference between the European and American game is the level of physicality. European games tend to be far less physical in terms of banging on the boards, or physical post up play. Rather they tend to be more up and down, transition offense, quick ball movement and shooting.

Bogdanovic will have ample opportunities to play this season with the Nets and his potential impact could take the Nets from a possible playoff team to one of the four or five best teams in the Eastern Conference.

-Ben Pickman 

Tags

Milos Teodosic was one of the brightest stars of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. The 27 year old guard led Serbia to the championship game where they were outmatched by a superior United States team. But will he ever make an impact at the next level?

Teodosic though turned many heads with his play. His 13.6 points and 4.4 points were both tops for his team. His 23 and 24 point performances against Brazil and France respectively are impressive enough,  but against an France team with multiple NBA players Teodosic shot 75 percent from the field. He dominated off the pick-and-roll and proved to be a pest to many of his foes.

Teodosic not surprisingly drew interest from multiple NBA teams. Before the tournament ESPN.com Marc Stein reported that Teodosic's last contact with an NBA team was in the summer of 2013 with the Memphis Grizzlies. Post-Tourney, multiple teams are reportedly interested in the Serbian guard. 

The Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz are the only teams in the league that can sign the Serbian guard to the multi-year $3 million contract that he wants. Teodosic has made it clear that he needs to have job security and a significant salary for him to even consider leaving CKSA Moscow.

In Europe many of the top players prefer to stay in their home continent. They chose money, fame, and minutes over the challenge of playing at the highest level in the world. Teodosic seems to be no different. It is unlikely that he will ever make the jump to the next level, but if he does he has the game to make him a solid bench player for an NBA team.

-Ben Pickman

Tags

Slideshow:


Earlier in the summer the Spurs signed former Providence point guard Bryce Cotton to a contract. The Spurs have a reputation for getting the most out of every single man on the roster and Cotton seems like a logical choice to be the Spurs next hidden gem. Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, and Gary Neal were all once considered afterthoughts in the NBA and each one is now a very impactful NBA player.

Cotton was a unanimously All-Big East first team selection in his senior year at Providence. In his final season with the Friars, Cotton averaged 21.8 points, and 5.9 assists per game. He also totaled in 3.5 rebounds and had a 57 percent true shooting clip in 39.9 minutes per game. Cotton went undrafted thought most likely because of his size. He stands a mere 5’11’ and weights in at 163 pounds.

After a successful summer league, Cotton signed a two year guaranteed deal with the Spurs and with Patty Mills out for the next six to seven months, Cotton will have a chance to prove himself.

Don’t be surprised to see the former Friar guard become the newest and next Spur sparkplug to come off the bench and turn a few heads.

-Ben Pickman 


For 19 consecutive summers' Ray Allen knew he wanted to play basketball. He knew that he needed to be in the gym 24/7 shooting three pointer after three pointer preparing for a moment similar to that of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA finals.

Allen, a two time champion, holds the NBA record for most 3-pointers made both in regular season play (2,973) and postseason play (385). But ater 19 years in the league, Allen seems torn to whether or not he should return.

For weeks after the LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers news Allen was linked to Cleveland. It seemed like only a matter of time until the three-point specialist became the next name on the list of many to move from South Beach to Northeast Ohio. But for whatever reason nothing was finalized.

Then stories about Allen remaining with the Heat became public. Clippers coach Doc Rivers is a natural Allen Recruiter after coaching him in Boston. Just today the Clippers waived to players allowing them to possibly go after Allen.

The Spurs have one roster spot open and while they have expressed interest in Mexican center Gustavo Ayon and have made it clear they want to bring back Australian center Aron Baynes, if they could sign Allen to a minimum contract  they most likely would.

The Mavericks have thrown their team in the proverbial pot as well and you can guarantee that privately more teams have reached out to Allen's agent.

When asked about his decision in mid-August Allen responded, "It's August and I don't want to rush to judgment." He added, "I want to get to September and see how I really feel."

Well, three point king, it is now September, the ball is in your court. Make your decision.

-Ben Pickman


Tags

Alfredo Simon is not new to the Major League's. But his success this season is. Simon is 33 years of age and in his seventh season in the major league's, but one of the most surprising story lines of the baseball season has been well, surprising.

Simon struggled early in his career and pitched in only 19.1 innings in his first two major league seasons. In 2011, Simon pitched in 115.2 innings for the Baltimore Orioles, but was a putrid 4-9 with a 4.90 ERA.

Simon has pitched in 87.2 innings this season and is 9-3 in those 12 starts. If not for the dominance of Johnny Cueto, Simon would be the Reds' most consistent pitcher.

To put his 9 wins into perspective, Simon had 17 total wins coming into 2013-14, and nine already halfway through June.

Simon has a 2.95 Era and the lowest BABIP of his career. Simon is throwing less four seem fastballs. Instead he is throwing more two-seams fastballs, a pitch with natural movement coupled with velocity. He is throwing less sliders and relying more on his fastball and changeup.

But the question is can Simon keep up his early season success?

He is a career journeyman with no real success. And he's almost surpassed his inning total from last season. His age also is a strike against his resume and you would expect him to be more fatigued in August and September.

It is safe to say that Simon will not maintain the pace he is on. There is no reason to think that he will win 20 games this season. But it is safe to say Simon that Simon is in the midst of his best season as a professional.

-Ben Pickman


Tags

Francisco Rodriquez has waited almost six years to regain the elite form that made him the best reliever in baseball back in 2008.

In 2008, then with the Angels the 26 year old Rodriquez, was in the middle of the best stretch of his career. Coming off of an 2007 All-Star appearance, the man affectionately known as K-Rod, emerged as the best reliever in baseball. His 62 saves in 68.1 innings pitcher coupled with a 2.24 ERA helped Rodriquez not only make the All-Star team for what was then the third time of his career, but also was good enough for K-Rod to finish 3rd in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

But after 2008, K-Rod moved on to the Mets. And like with so many other talented players, the Mets did what the Mets usually do; make them worse. K-Rod was actually an All-Star in his first season in New York, but he regressed in 2010 and 2011 which prompted the Mets to trade the closer to the Milwaukee Brewers halfway through the 2011 season.

Rodriquez finished the 2011 season with the Brewers serving as the Brewers set-up man. In 2012, K-Rod again was the Brewers set-up man and to many pundits and fans alike, it looked like the K-Rod who was once regarded as one of the best closers in baseball was nothing more than a good reliever.  After starting the 2013 season with the Brewers, K-Rod was traded to the Baltimore Orioles where he finished the 2013 campaign.

This past offseason K-Rod signed a one year deal with the Brewers.  The Brewers seemed to like K-Rod but judging by the mere $ 3 Million dollar deal he was given, liked him to  be merely the set-up to Jim Henderson who was coming off of a breakout season and looked poised to maintain the  Brewers closer role.

Henderson had a bad Spring Training and K-Rod, now 32 years of age, has been the Brewers opening day closer ever since.

In 2014 K-Rod looks like the K-Rod of old. He has 20 saves which leads the major leagues and many of his statistics are similar to his stats from 2008.  But what has changed? For starters he is throwing more first pitch strikes. His 61.2 first pitch strike percentage is the best mark of his career since his rookie season  when he appeared in a mere five September games. Secondly, he's throwing more changeups and less curveballs.

When K-Rod was dominant in 2008, he threw a curveball only one percent of the time. But immediately his curveball percentage jumped to almost 20 percent from 2009-2013.

This season K-Rod is throwing curveballs only 15 percent of the time, the lowest mark of his career since 2008. Instead he's throwing more changeups, 29% of the time to be exact.

As a whole, he's throwing less pitches that are strikes and more pitches that look like strikes. His walk rate is down. And hitters are making less contact and when they do their batting average on balls in play is down.

Look for K-Rod to continue much of his early success this season and take note of the Brewers and their ninth inning man.

-Ben Pickman


Tags