Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Top 5 Yankees Prospects

1. Gary Sanchez C-A+ Tampa

Catcher Gary Sanchez had been touted as the best out of the three super catchers the Yankees had had in their farm system before trading Jesus Montero. Although still only 20 years old, Sanchez has the potential to be a superstar catcher for a long time. His bat is as advertised, he hit 18 home runs and drove in 87. Also he had 15 stolen bases, reminds me of a young Jorge Posada. His defense has come around as well, which is partly the reason he is number one. He is not like Jesus Montero where, the Yankees would have possibly used him soley at DH or first base, which wouldn't have worked out for obvious reasons. Still a year away for me, he is entering his age 21 season and by the time this season ends he should be at least AAA.
MLB Comparison: Victor Martinez in the Cleveland Years

2. Slade Heathcott CF-A+ Tampa

Zachary Slade Heathcott comes in at number two. Most people have him lower for different reasons. But I have him this high because of his potential to make it to the big leagues this season. Director of scouting Damon Oppenheimer said it himself that, Heathcott could be making an impact sometime this year, and I agree. He has a throwback attitude towards the game, he plays hard every single play no matter the score or situation. I saw him play last year in spring training, he knew that he wouldn't be making the team but, still beat out a ground ball to the third baseman in one of his at bats. He has the mentality you want in a player of his caliber. Yes, there have been some injury issues because of the way he plays but, when you have a kid with such special talent you just have to hope the injury bug leaves him soon. I have in the MLB this year but worst case scenario AAA by the middle of the season ETA-2013
MLB Comparison: Josh Hamilton

3. Mason Williams CF-A+ Tampa

Mason Williams has been touted as the best athlete of any Yankees prospect. Which means he has a real big upside. He hit 11 home runs between Charleston and Tampa in 2012 and their is still room for him to develop. (he only weighs 150 lbs) Williams is known as a speed guy with 20 stolen bases in 2012 and 28 in 2011. He'll take some time get up to the big leagues, he needs to fill out more and when he does he can be a 30-30 guy for sure, and play some real good defense as well. He'll move up to AA Trenton this year and maybe AAA by the end of the year ETA for the Bronx-2014
MLB Comparison: Bernie Williams

4. Tyler Austin RF-AA Trenton

Tyler Austin is probably the most far along in his development. He is only one of the top four in AA already. A toolsy outfielder much like Heathcott and Williams, less of a ceiling but more of a sure thing than the other two. So far he hasn't been injured and his power has developed hitting 17 home runs between Rookie ball and all the way to AA Trenton and 80 RBI's and 23 steals. You might see Austin with the big club by 2014, hes going to into his age 22 season. Really hard to believe this kid wasn't drafted until the 13th round. Imagine if Heathcott, Williams and Austin all reach their potentials? That would be one heck of an outfield, one that could rival the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward. Plus if they succeed that means that Curtis Granderson will be out of the picture. No disrespect to Curtis he just strikes out too much for my liking.  ETA-2014
MLB Comparison: Torii Hunter

5. Brett Marshall RHP-AA Trenton

Marshall is the default best pitching prospect in the organization because, Jose Campos was shut down with elbow soreness and Manny Banuelos recently had Tommy John surgery. This isn't to say that Marshall isn't a good pitcher. He thrived in AA Trenton, winning 13 games with a 3.52 ERA only walking 53 in 158.1 innings. Could be a David Phelps type, meaning he could start if needed or maybe even do some long relief. He is starter by trade but i'm pretty sure he'd do anything to make it to the Bronx. Marshall has some real good stuff, having a fastball sitting between 92-95 and occasionally touching 98. He also has a good two-seamer, a good changeup and slider that needs some work. His command has gotten better since high school which makes him a more attractive trade chip or just someone for the yanks to think about in the near future. ETA- some time in 2013.
MLB Comparison- David Phelps

Follow me on Twitter- @donnyfinkle

5 of the worst contracts in the MLB

Let's cut to the chase. These are all guys who have signed massive contracts in the past few years and have not lived up to the billing, making them impossible to trade and a hugeee waste of money. Perhaps they were worthy of these deals in past seasons, but all of these players are vastly overpaid when compared with their current production and future outlook.

Vernon Wells   OF  LAA   (2 years left, owed $42 Million) 
Wells might not have the lengthy deals of other guys on this list, but no one is more undeserving of a $21 million annual salary than one Vernon Wells. Not only has his play steeply declined since being traded to the Angels, but coming into this season, he likely won't get much playing time with Trout, Hamilton, Bourjos manning the OF and Trumbo getting most of the looks at DH. This is a career .273 hitter that just batted .224 in two seasons in 750 ABs to go along with a .264 OBP. Wells hit 25 home runs in his first year as an Angel with lots of playing time and managed 11 last year in 250 ABs. Paying someone $21 million for those type of numbers should be a legitimate crime. At age 34, there is no real optimism for any sort of comeback. The Angels can't wait until his contract expires so that they can start worrying about the terrible contracts they've given Pujols and Hamilton.

Ryan Howard   1B   PHI     (4 years left, owed $104 Million) 
Howard was once worth $25 million a year when he averaged 49 home runs and 140 RBIs over a 4 year span from 2006-09. But Ryan is no longer that player with immense power and after injury last year, the 33 year old slugger looks more like a $10 million dollar a year player than $25 million a year player. Howard  hit 31 home runs in 2010 and 33 in 2011, with 110 RBIs while batting around .260 and slugging nowhere near his career average of  .551 (.460 combined in 2010-11). Solid numbers but not worth $25 million a year. With injury concerns becoming more relevant in his career and at age 33, I don't see this Subway endorser putting up the stats to merit his insane contract.

Carl Crawford    OF      LAD     (5 years left, owed $106 Million) 
Here is another guy who has been ravaged by injuries. The Redsox were so excited to sign him away from the Rays 2 years ago and now he is playing as a Dodger. That didn't last long. Crawford got the contract because he is a well-rounded baseball player, provides good defense, incendiary speed and a reliable bat (career .292 average). In his first year in Boston, Crawford didn't bring his A game, scoring just 65 runs to go with 56 RBIs, 23 walks, only 18 steals and batting .255 in 500 ABs. That's not worth $20 million a year, not even close. Last year, Crawford got hurt, but showed signs that the .255 average in the previous season was a complete fluke by batting .282 in albeit a very small showing of 117 ABs. Crawford will have a chance in LA to show whether he is still the guy that put up this stat line (110 runs, 19 homers, 90 RBIs, 47 steals and a .303 average) in the 2010 season for the Rays. At 31, he isn't really young anymore but may still have a few solid seasons in LA, probably not worth anything close to $20 million a year though.

Alex Rodriguez      3B      NYY   (5 years left, owed $119 Million) 
This one is fairly obvious. A-rod is owed around $25 million a season and will be 42 when this contract expires. A-rod has done great things in the past, but this is just not a good idea. At 37, being injured and not being able to play this year while also being linked numerous times to PEDs, A-rod is a huge waste of cash. A-rod is in perfect company on this list, an over-the-hill athlete in his 30's, has seen his production dip each of the past two years and is grossly over payed for nothing. After 7 straight seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs with the Yankees, A-rod has hit a combined 34 home runs and driven in 119 runs the last 2 years. Again, not close to the value he should have as a player who is paid $20+ million a year. Yankees can't wait to get rid of this guy.

Jayson Werth       OF     WAS      (5 years left, owed $102 Million) 
Werth, 33, turned a stellar 3 year span with the Phillies, where he averaged 28 home runs, 84 RBIs and 90 runs, into a whopping 7 year, $126 million contract. Since then, Werth scored 69 runs to go with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs while also striking out a career high 160 times and ended the season with a .232 batting average. Plain and simple, Werth should never have gotten this rich a contract in the first place as he was never a star worthy player once in his career. His best seasons in Philadelphia he posted a 4.6 WAR (Wins above replacement) rating whereas an MVP candidate player would put up a WAR rating of at least 7-8. Before getting injured last year, Werth was having a decent season. At 33, there isn't much optimism that he will retain his gaudy power numbers from Philly.The Nats are pretty much stuck with this contract unless someone dumb trades for it. At least they are finally baseball contenders.

Guys who just missed: Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Zito, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, John Lackey, Josh Hamilton, Alex Rios, Nick Markakis, and Adam Dunn.

Follow me on twitter @jaym12391

Fight Night In Boston

As I rush to get this article written before heading to work I just want to share my excitement for tonight’s NHL matchup of Sabres vs. Bruins.  This is poised to be one of the most physical games of the year between two of the most hard-nosed teams in the league.

Buffalo has gotten off to a slow start this season and are in desperate need of a scrappy win against a division rival and a couple of big fights to turn their early season around.  Boston just doesn’t back down from anyone and has more than enough players to answer the call that I’m sure Buffalo will dial out tonight.

Enter Shawn Thornton and John Scott.  The Bruins' Thornton (6'2 220) and Sabres' Scott (6'8 270) are two of the biggest, baddest dudes on skates.  These two already have bad blood from a 2011 confrontation Thornton had with Scott's then team the Blackhawks bench.  Scott said some things to Thornton from the bench which Thornton later said "he would handle in his own way" after getting about 40 stitches worth of his face removed from a skate.  Scott went as far as to reply that Thornton "got what he had coming to him".

Scott's lack of on ice time has held him back from meeting Thornton since then but you can expect the two to get their chance tonight at 7 pm on NESN.  If you are a casual fan of hockey looking to really get your interest involved I implore you to tune in tonight and see if you don't catch the craze of the fast paced, hard hitting, quickest growing demographic that is the NHL.

Follow me on Twitter @JoeBroPongPro 

Fantasy Sleepers: Matt Carpenter

I will begin my 30 team, 2013 preview next week (I figure new week, fresh, blah blah), so today, I will begin on some fantasy sleepers for the year. Hopefully, I will do position by position before the season starts, so right now, let's focus on some individual players. Today, we will take a look at Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals. Carpenter played a super-sub role for the Cardinals in 2012, mostly at first base when Allen Craig was out and at third base for David Freese.  But, Craig (clearly) established himself at first this past season and Freese stayed healthy, so what does manager Mike Matheny do? Tell Carpenter to learn a new position: second base.

Carpenter has been hard at work learning the position, and since he has more pop than Daniel Descalso, and Skip Schumaker is now in LA, he has a legitimate shot at the everyday job. It only matters to the fantasy owner what he'll produce offensively, so let's look at some numbers. In 114 games last year, Carpenter registered a .294/.365/.463 line - a very respectable .828 OPS.  I feel that power over a whole season of everyday play will up Carpenter's slugging percentage. His 'regular' stat line for you old school geeks like me - .294, 6 HR, 46 RBI. Carpenter totaled 87 hits in 296 appearances with a 34-63 BB/K ratio. To predict Carpenter over a whole season, it's fairly simple: let's double his plate appearances, which will be equivalent to a full season as a starter. Extrapolating the data to 600 AB's puts Carpenter at a .294/12 HR/93 RBI line. Carpenter's power should be more constant over the season - I predict closer to 20 HR. Carpenter is working hard to move to 2B to play everyday. His bat is what needs to get into the line-up: Matheny will find a way. Carpenter will be the Allen Craig of 2013.

Why Donnie Baseball Could Be Back in Bronx

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is final year of his contract. With all the new star studded acquisitions over the past half year, Mattingly is going to put under tremendous pressure to win the division. A feat easier to say than to do, with the World Champion San Francisco Giants being the class of the NL West. So what this brings us to is, the possibility of a return to the Bronx for Mattingly. How? You my ask, well, with experts predicting the Yankees to have a sub par year losing some key players from last years division winning team, this could be the end for Joe Girardi. They have a lot more competition in the east this year, with the new look Blue Jays and the Orioles, Rays, and Red Sox all expected to compete as well. Now as far as Toronto goes, who knows how well they will actually play. As the Lakers have shown us, All-Star teams can fail when they do not mesh. So let's say that the Blue Jays become the class of the AL East with the Orioles, Yankees and Rays not far behind. The Steinbrenner family is not one that likes to lose. And we all know that fans somewhat do not agree with some of Girardi's methods. i.e. "The Binder"

Enter Don Mattingly, considering that much like the Steinbrenner's, the Dodgers ownership group including Stan Kasten and Magic Johnsonm have shown they are willing to do whatever it is to win. Now unfortunately, although it is not fair to him, Mattingly would be the one to take the fall if they do not produce as expected. So if the stars align correctly, their could be a new manager in New York next season. If they both become unemployed I believe the Yankees should pounce on Donnie Baseball. He is the perfect type of manager, learning underneath the great Joe Torre. He is a bit more of small ball manager than Girardi, and there's nothing wrong with that. The Yankees lost in the ALCS last year for many reasons but, one of the biggest reasons was, they had a lot of power hitters who could hit mistakes. Meaning they could hit the long home runs against mediocre pitching but, when it came down to the great pitchers of Tigers their bats went cold. See a trend? A lot of their players are not great hitters, they live and die by the home run. They are starting to get away from that, resigning Ichiro and getting Gardener back. Look at how San Francisco was constructed, their biggest off season acquisition last year was Ryan Theriot. It's not about big stars as much as guys who can get the bat on the ball.

Which makes me think, that Mattingly would be a good fit with this type of team. But of course, everything would have to happen right for this to occur. I don't think the Yankees will end up in 3rd place, I think they will win the division because, they are battle tested and who knows how the Blue Jays will mesh together. Also the same goes for the Dodgers only they have had at least a full season to get to know each other and start to work as a unit.

Follow me on Twitter @donnyfinkle

Martin Prado extends with the Diamondbacks

Per Ken Rosenthal, Martin Prado, just acquired last week, has signed a 4 year, $40 million extension with the team. Presumably, he will be the third baseman for the team in the foreseeable future. Those who know me know how big of a Prado fan I am - he does everything well, but nothing extraordinary. Teams who win championships need a Prado-type player.  He might not be a traditional 8-figure player, but he's an extremely solid vet for the Diamondbacks, who locked him up during his remaining peak years.  

Driver Announces Retirement After 14 Years

Donald Driver announced today via twitter that he plans to hang up his cleats after a wonderful 14 year career.  Driver posted, “After 14 years in the NFL, I have decided to retire. It’s been an amazing journey, thank you for all of your love and support! #Packer4Life” on twitter earlier this morning.  The former 7th round pick will leave the game with Packers records In receptions (743) and receiving yards (10,137) as well as 61 touchdowns.

            A real class act, Driver played his entire career in Green Bay and in a league filled with contract hold outs, PED’s and DUI’s, Driver remained a great role model with a spotless record on and off the field.  Driver is arguably the greatest Packers receiver of all time and his Hines Ward-esque smile and general love/respect for the game will certainly be missed by Cheese Heads and NFL fans alike. 

          The Packers will hold an official ceremony for his retirement at Lambeau Field on Wednesday, February 6th.

Follow me on Twitter @JoeBroPongPro for more updates.

Jackie Robinson

Today would have been Jackie Robinson's 94th birthday. We all learned when we were young about the bravery Robinson had breaking the color barrier, and Branch Rickey for signing him. I went back and checked out Robinson's career stats once last year, he was truly a great player.  How's this for a ridiculous stat: his career BB to K stats? 740 BB's to only 291 K's!! Go and check out his stats, and learn something today. He opened up the color barrier for many great players to come after him, like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and stars like CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder today.  Truly a great baseball player, American and hero.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Captain Cally Out 2 Weeks

     Amidst an early slow start to the 2012-2013* season for the New York Rangers, the teams website today reported unnerving news for fans and players alike.  Team captain Ryan Callahan will miss 10-14 days with a shoulder injury following an MRI after the teams 2-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday where Callahan had scored what would end up being the winning goal.

     This shortened season opened up with immense expectations for the team who made it to the Eastern Conference finals the year before and only strengthened their roster and hype by adding one of the biggest free agents in the off season, Rick Nash.  Opening up 3-3-0 with only 6 points, sitting 1 point behind the perennial cellar-dwelling Islanders, is not exactly what fans had in mind.  This injury can only make things worse, with the captain projected to miss 6 games, including 4 against division rivals in a shortened season where every game means something.

     One of the best defensive attackers in the league, Callahan's leadership and ability to defend on the power play will be sorely missed over the next 2 weeks as the Rangers struggle to keep up in arguably the strongest division in the NHL.

Follow me on Twitter for more updates @JoeBroPongPro

Why Ichiro was a waste of $$

Ahh, Ichiro Suzuki. Over his career, both in Japan and in the United States, he has been a hell of a player. A HOF, indeed. Ichiro excelled in the field, with range and a strong, deadly arm. At the plate, Ichiro had the knack for beating out those pesky little infield grounders and according to other players, puts on a hell of a power display during batting practice. He's got power; he's just a slap hitter. Ichiro appeared to be done, hitting .272 in 2011, and declining to .261 with the Mariners in 2012.  After being traded to the Yankees, Ichiro rebounded back to an Ichiro-esque .322. But, he is a 39 year old outfielder. The previous season and a half is more representative of what should be to come.  Let's take a look at what should be the Yankees' 2013 Right Field Platoon.

Nate Schierholtz
Nate Schierholtz. Admittedly, not the sexiest name. Will he bring in loads of fans like Ichiro will? No, not at all.  If anything, he'll confuse fans with how to pronounce his last name. Nonetheless, Schierholtz would have been a cost affordable, one-year solution to half of the right field platoon.  He will make slightly over $2 million this season. Schierholtz is a left handed hitter, so he would play most days against right handed starters.  Schierholtz is a career .266/.319/.413 against right handed pitchers.  He does not have a discernible home/away or first half/second half split.  In fact, he has hit .287 against righties the last two seasons. So, let's predict what Schierholtz could do over a full year.  We'll give him the same number of at-bats as Raul Ibanez got last year as a comparable comparison: 425. If we take Schierholtz's stat line from last year against righties and put them at 425 at bats: .287/.360/.466 with 12 HR's, 107 hits, 35 RBI with 6 SBs.  The RBI should be increased factoring the Yankees' line-up and ballparks in the AL East.

Russ Canzler
You probably do not know Canzler.  You should.  Canzler was the AAA MVP in 2011.  Considering how Tampa Bay has struggled with offense for years, and last year, Cleveland's lack of right handed hitters (and Hafner getting hurt at DH), he would have gotten a chance to play regularly.  Canzler is a strong candidate to make the Yankees out of spring training (provided he produces).  He does not really "have a position" so to speak - but that versatility helps: corner IF and OF, in this case, RF.  If you take Canzler's numbers against lefties over a whole season (based on his MLB stats), he'll hit 41 HR's.  Not happening.  So, let's use Andruw Jones' at bats last year as a proportional representation - 269.  Considering Canzler's versatility, we'll bump that to 350 at-bats.  We'll also place his stats using his minor league #'s against lefties.  Canzler would hit .277 (but considering his track record, this should be closer to .300) .277/.346/.467 with 10 HR's,  97 hits, 44 RBI.

Between the two, this could be a tandem which produces .290/.355/.467, 22 HR's, 80 RBI and nearly 200 hits - a very good stat line.  Considering Schierholtz's defensive prowess and Canzler's pop, this is a more effective duo than what Ichiro would produce.  Not to mention, both players combined cost would be less than $3 million this season, less than half of what Ichiro is making.  That money could have been spent on Russell Martin instead of the garbage which will be behind the plate for the Yankees this year.  More on the RH Platoon soon.

Follow me on Twitter @jmflorio

Thoughts on the Grizzlies, Raptors, Pistons trade

        The Grizzlies, Raptors and Pistons decided to shake things up Wednesday by completing (soon to be finalized) a 3 team, 6 player trade that lands Rudy Gay in Toronto, Jose Calderon in Detroit and Ed Davis/Tayshuan Prince in Memphis. Memphis also received Austin Daye from Detroit and a 2nd round pick from Toronto. Toronto also landed Hamed Haddadi from Memphis.
         The move from Memphis' point of view is a complete salary dump trade, which allows them to save about $6 million in the off season. Both Toronto and Detroit added to their salary caps, most notably the Raptors acquiring $17.8 million in Gay/Haddadi versus $12.8 million in Davis/Calderon. The Raptors net themselves a semi-star player to combine with young, but frustrating Kyle Lowry, Andrea Bargnani, Demar Derozan, Amir Johnson and rookies Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. The Pistons add a true pg that they haven't had since Chauncey Billups. Both Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight are combo guards, displaying more 2 guard traits than pure point guard traits. Calderon solves this problem and they don't take on a lot of money to acquire him (roughly $800,000). The Pistons realize it's time to move Prince's contract and the move allows others, most notably Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler, to get more playing time and evolve their games. The presence of Calderon should have a big effect on Detroit's big men, Greg Monroe, Drummond, and Jason Maxiell. As noted above, the Grizzlies make this trade because it saves them a lot of money and nets them 2 young players, plus a more than serviceable SF to replace Gay in the lineup in Prince. Davis (23)  and Daye (24) gives Memphis two young bigs with cheap contracts who can provide excellent depth behind starters Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Behind those two, Memphis only has Darrel Arthur, so adding PF depth makes sense. They save money and get a veteran in Prince who can step in right away without the Grizzlies missing a beat. Both Davis and Daye give Memphis an increase in size, rebounding and post defense, all things they could certainly use. 
       I personally like this trade for Detroit, adding Calderon was something they desperately needed. I don't think the Grizzlies will win the title this year, so they hold on to Davis and Prince for next year and can maybe resign Daye who will be a free agent. Their future isn't really brighter without Gay but perhaps the flexibility they get by cutting Gay's cash can allow them to make more moves in the off season. At worst, Davis is an ok return for Gay but nothing to really smile about. The plan was to cut cash and they did that. Toronto trades away Davis, a guy I liked there, and Calderon, a huge trade piece, to land Gay and hopefully convince fans that the team is going in the right direction. They got better, slightly. I don't think it pans out long term as Gay is due a nice deal of money, Davis was only 23 and was their best pure big. I hope I'm wrong because Toronto deserves a better basketball team. But overall I think the Pistons came out on top, followed by the Grizzlies, and the Raptors come in last despite acquiring the best player in the deal. 

Follow me on twitter: @jaym12391
or email me at

New Contributor: Michelle Villa

Really excited to welcome our first female blogger to Florio Facts!!! She's awesome, you're gonna think so too and most importantly, she's a huge NY Giants fan like me - give her a warm welcome to Florio Facts, Michelle Villa!! Follow her on Twitter @michv510 and stay tuned for her first post!!

Pronk to the Bronx?

Reports around the net are circulating that Travis Hafner will sign a deal with the Yankees to compete for the DH gig. Hafner is reportedly looking for more than a minor-league deal, but considering his injury history since 2007, he'll have to settle for it.  Hafner went through a 4 year period where he (along with David Ortiz) the most feared DH in the league, and one of the best all-around hitters in baseball.  From 2004-2007, Hafner averaged .296 with 32 HR's with 109 RBI and over 100 BB's a season, but since then only played one season with over 100 games.  Hafner was somewhat productive in 2010 and 2011, but considering the fact that he's a 35 year old DH who can't stay healthy from just hitting, the odds are against him.  If it's a minor league deal, the Yankees are making the right choice by throwing as many pieces against the wall and seeing what sticks.  If Hafner can somewhat resemble what he did in 2010 or 2011, he'll be a solid #7 hitter as the DH, and who knows? Maybe he'll be resurgent like Eric Chavez the last two years for the team, but right now, let's see how he produces in Florida in 2 months.

Follow me on twitter @jmflorio

The Lake is Filled Once Again

The "Lake Show" is back! The LA Lakes are currently on a 3-game winning streak and it probably feels more like a 15-game streak after everything that the team and their fans have been through. Kobe has double digit assists during this streak, Nash is hitting clutch shots, Dwight and Pau have been producing more, and one of the less talked about reasons is the emergence of the Lakers' role players. Players like Earl Clark, Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison have stepped up at one point or another during these past few games and played a critical role in winning games. And although Kobe is getting most of the credit for his PG-type play, and he deserves it, let's give some credit to the one man that will NEVER get any... Mike D'Antoni!

This roster may not be suited for his system with the way they were trying to play early in the season, but remember that D'Antoni was not given a training camp to work with his players or implement any type of offensive strategy. The Lakers have been learning on the fly and just because you have big names like Kobe, Dwight and Nash doesn't mean they would instantly gel together and win an NBA title. The Heat struggled learning how to play together (and they didn't have a coaching change after 5 games) and the Knicks stars Melo and Stat STILL don't know how to properly play together (although they are getting closer). The Lakers have high expectations, and rightfully so, but D'Antoni has been implementing his strategy on the fly as they are playing games and that is a very tough thing to do. With Kobe deciding to embrace his new role, the D'Antoni system is now looking a bit more promising for the Lakers. The one thing that a D'Antoni offense has done in the past is elevate the play of marginal players and help them to make more impactful contributions for a winning basketball team. This is why players like Meeks and Clark are suddenly lighting it up and making huge plays for the Lakers. D'Antoni, Nash, and Kobe have worked tirelessly to find a solution to the problems and they have found one. The Lakers CAN win this way and although Kobe loves scoring, he loves winning much more. Kobe knows that D'Antoni is not going anywhere this season and they must try and make it work so that Kobe has a legitimate shot at another ring, which is the ultimate goal.

This new offensive philosophy will be tested very quickly, however, because the Lakers will be on the road for their next 7 games. They can beat teams like the Suns, T-Wolves, and Pistons and if they do.. who's to say that a possible 6-game winning streak wouldn't give them the momentum and confidence that they need to go on the road and beat teams like Brooklyn, Boston, and Miami. Time will tell, but never underestimate a basketball team gaining confidence and trusting each other to make plays.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boston Celtics: Trade Pierce and Garnett

As a Boston Celitcs fan, it's hard for me to say that the C's need to swallow their pride and trade both veterans for future considerations. It's a business. Pierce has been a Celtic his entire career and KG changed the entire Boston culture since his arrival in 2007-08. Garnett changed this entire defense and Pierce has been the leader through good and bad years and hasn't left the team. The Celtics have been dominant the last 5 years prior to this year because of the combination of Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Rondo and Coach Doc Rivers, along with multiple others who have helped Boston succeed. With Allen now playing with the Miami Heat and Rondo out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, it is time to blow it up it Boston and continue on and build around the few, young player we have.

Had Rondo not been injured I would have wanted to move him as he would have fetched the most in terms of value seeing as Rondo is the youngest and most prominent. The Celtics are dealing these players under the assumption that they will at best make playoffs, but not at all seriously contend for NBA title for rest of season with Rondo now out. Even next year with Rondo back and KG and Pierce a year older, the Celtics would still not have a legitimate shot at the NBA title. I love Pierce and KG and trading them away would be a terrible PR decision because of what they've done for team and city/region. But as a basketball decision, it is the correct one. Pierce and Garnett still have some creditable value right now (Pierce as a scorer/leader/good defener, Garnett as an elite defender, floor spacer, jump shot maker) and can fetch a decent return that would benefit the team within the next 5 years.

If the Celtics were able to trade Pierce, Garnett, Terry and Bass and gather 3-4 younger players and picks (players and picks actually worth decent players), I'd pull the trigger on each one and build around Avery Bradley, Rondo, Courtney Lee (he could be traded also if the return is worthwhile), Jared Sullinger (BEAST), Jeff Green (Another Beast), and Fab Melo, the Celtics would AT LEAST have an all-star caliber PG and a defensive stud and improving player in Avery Bradley at SG (He's in his 3rd year, just 22!). Jeff Green can be more than solid at SF and switch to PF occasionally with Lee playing the 2/3. Sullinger is the ultimate answer for the C's at PF, incredible rebounder. Just a very, very smart player, improving offense (should have mentioned him in early NBA ROY post) and he is going to be a cornerstone guy going forward, especially if Pierce or Garnett are moved. Melo, at worst, is a big, defensive center who comes off the bench and provides strength up the middle and no easy lay-ups. Potential to be a starter one day.  Add those 5 to whoever the Celtics can add in trades and the draft and the Celtics have a very exciting future awaiting. As much as I'd hate to see it myself, it is time to say goodbye to Garnett and Pierce. It was a wonderful run and you've both done sooooooooo much for the Boston Celtics. Whatever happens, I hope the best for both of them. If the Boston Celtics want to do well come 2014-1018, both Pierce and Garnett (and all the money they're due) need to go.

Follow me on twitter:    @jaym12391
Email me at

3 Dark Horse candidates for NBA ROY (Rookie of the Year) and others who deserve consideration

At this point in the NBA season, there are two front-runners for the Rookie of the Year award: Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. Davis, the preseason favorite for the award and #1 selection of the New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans?), has been injured a few times this year already but his stats (13ppg, 8 rpg, 2 blocks 1 steal per game and shooting 52% from the field) back up that he is a deserving candidate. His defense is the best of any rookie and he hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of his potential at 19. Lillard, the 6th overall selection to the Trailblazers, has really surprised a lot of people with his poise, leadership and consistent play. At 22, he doesn't have the drooling potential of Davis or others on this list, but he is the best rookie right now and current front-runner at this point in the season. Despite playing the most minutes and being used the most of all the rookies, Lillard has come through with impressive statistics (18 ppg, 6.5 apg, 1 steal and shooting 36% from 3, making 2.5 a game while also shooting 84% from charity stripe). He is the best leader/scorer at the moment, with Davis not far behind. But others are slowly starting to creep their way into the picture and ready to crash the ROY party which currently safely sits just two.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist     SF   CHA 

#3 overall pick to the Bobcats, Kidd-Gilchrist has not had as spectacular a season as Lillard and Davis but is holding his own as a player that can do a lot of things well and help a team win. His play has slowed in recent weeks as he seems to hit a bit of a rookie wall. He's 8th in mpg among rookies but pretty efficient. Averaging 10ppg, 6 rpg, 2apg and a steal and block a game. Nothing to be hugely excited about here, but the 19 yo is a very good rebounder for his position/size and is already an excellent defender. Strong play over the rest of the season can put him in great position to take home the award, but with a weak supporting cast, I don't think he will be able to sway many voters.

Bradley Beal      SG       WAS 

Beal, the 19 yo #2 overall pick to the Wizards, has not seen his sweet shooting stroke translate into success as quickly as many had hoped, evidenced by his current 39% fg percentage, 36% on 3ptm and 79% from ft line. This is a guy who came out of HS destined as the next Ray Allen and with good reason. One of the prettiest strokes I'll ever see. Despite ugly shooting numbers, Beal is still scoring 13ppg, 3 boards, 3 assissts and a steal per game while still netting 1.5 3's per game. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, there isn't anything to drool over, but now that John Wall is back, Beal will have a complete pg to play with (he also didn't have a complete pg in his one year at Florida) and I think the addition of Wall will allow for Beal to have a better 2nd half of the season. He is a more highly touted player and better scorer than MKG and I figure he will do slightly better than MKG in voting. If he really puts it all together and averages near 18ppg with improved shooting numbers the rest of the way, watch out!

Andre Drummond       C      DET  

Of the 3 players, Drummond plays the least and yet has the most upside/potential. Drummond only plays 20 minutes per game due to coach Lawrence Frank trying to limit his talented big man. The #7 overall pick to the Pistons (complete steal) has played phenomenal despite his lack of minutes. In terms of rebounding and blocking, only Anthony Davis even compares to Drummond. On a per 48 minute basis, meaning if the player had played a full 48 minute game all the time, what would he average, which helps make up for minutes per game discrepancies, Drummond dominates Davis in both categories. Rebounds per 48 mins: Davis-12.9  Drummond-17.6. Blocks per 48 mins: Davis-3 Drummond-4. Currently, on 20 mpg, Drummond is averaging 7-7 (ppg and rpg), 2 blocks and 1 steal a game while shooting 60% from the field. If given more time, and I expect he will as he has been the most impressive Detroit big this season so far ( and that's with Greg Monroe on the roster), Drummond will see his stock and statistics skyrocket. If he were to get a comfortable 30 mpg going forward, it would be hard not to imagine this freak athlete putting up 10-10 with 2-3 blocks a game. He is oozing with potential and dominance if he could just get more minutes and is my most likely player of the 3 to upset Lillard/Davis and win this year's NBA ROY.

Others to consider who have major work to do:

Dion Waiters    SG     CLE
According to ESPN's John Hollinger's expanded statistics, Waiters is the most used rookie on the court with a usage rating of 24.1%. In comparison, Damian Lillard, another very used rookie, has a usage rating of 23.1%. Despite his usage and decent stats (14ppg, 1 steal, 2 boards, 3 assists, 1.3 3's per game), Waiters has not been very efficient (like Beal) shooting 38% FG, 32% 3PT and 79%FT from the overall field. Beal is used a little less than Waiters and more highly touted, so he gets the nod. But Waiters, like Beal, can really score and shoot the basketball, but is better suited slashing and driving to the hoop. With Kyrie Irving back in the fold, I don't expect him to draw any consideration for ROY, but strong play and improving shooting can help raise his stock.

John Henson     PF    MIL
Henson is a real dark horse candidate here because he only plays about 13 mpg, stuck behind Ersan Ilyasova at the 4. I had expected the UNC alum would be having a better season by now but he has not seen many minutes as the Bucks are deep at the 4. Despite not playing much, Henson has averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds quietly, not really impacting the defensive side too much (.6 blocks per game). But Henson has the 2nd highest rebound rate among rookies behind Drummond (over Davis) and also has the 3rd highest PER (Player Efficiency Rating) among rookie players behind, again, Drummond and Davis, at 17.55. One to watch for but won't contend for ROY.

Andrew Nicholson    PF     ORL
No one knows much about the St. Bonaventure alum, but Nicholson can play basketball. If not for the emergence of Nikola Vucevic, more people might be talking about Nicholson. He doesn't do anything extremely well, averaging  7 ppg and 3 rebounds per game in just 15 mpg. He has seen minutes in bunches with injuries but Glen Davis and Vucevic have kept him from getting any real consistent playing time. Nicholson ranks 6th among all rookies in PER, Value Added ( another statistic from Hollinger that evaluates how much value a certain player adds over replacement value player) and EWA (Estimated wins added, which guages how many wins an individual adds over replacement value player), behind most of the other guys on this list in each category. What most intrigues me about Nicholson is his effective, efficient offense. at 6'8", Nicholson is a little undersized at the PF position but makes up for it by being an excellent shooter for a big man. Between Davis, Drummond, Henson and Nicholson, Nicholson is the best offensive player by far and is the most polished. More minutes at the PF position would truly allow for Nicholson to realize his offensive potential and allow him to become more skilled rebounder. Not likely a ROY candidate but one to watch out for as he will be a solid, solid player for years to come.

Follow me on twitter: @jaym12391                or contact me at

5 Reasons Why Alex Rodriguez Will Retire This Year

1. How good can he be with two bad hips?

Now about to undergo his second hip surgery, the question will be raised, can he be serviceable when he is healthy? Some believe that he cannot, and for good reason, he has two bad hips and for a power hitter who needs to be able to generate torque with his hips. After the debocle that has been known as his 2012 postseason, it makes sense that A-Rod is slowing down rapidly. He has had more nagging injuries in the past few years. What do you think is going to come of a player who has had two major hip surgeries before his 38th birthday...

2. Can the Yankees void his contract?

Yes. They can void his contract. How you ask? They have Rodriguez's contract insured, meaning they can void his contract and get reimbursed for the $114 million left on his contract. According to New York has already been looking into voiding the rest of the contract. Who could blame them? Even before this  story came out, they were paying $114 million to a player on the decline, who was going to be out until at least the all-star break possibly longer. So now with the chance to get him out of their hair obviously the Yankees will take a look at their options.

3. His health moving forward

A-Rod's health these past few years hasn't been great to say the least. Of course last years broken wrist was a freak injury but two hip surgeries and other nagging injuries as well. Who knows how long his body will hold up. Yes, Alex is an absolute gym rat, but there's only so much you can do. I believe that those injuries will come back to bite him even more this year.

4. How are the fans going to react?

The Yankees faithful has always given Alex a hard time whenever he didn't do something good. The boo birds were quieted after his magical postseason in 2009, which we have now learned might have been tainted. Now the fans will be out in full force against Rodriguez this season if he comes back. He was never one to succumb to pressure real well and with the newest accusations against him another 5 years of that wouldn't exactly be good for his psyche.

5. How tarnished is his legacy?

We all A-Rod has a bit of an ego problem. Which makes me think that with two separate instances of being accused of using performance enhancing drugs, there is absolutely no shot of him even getting 50% of the Hall of Fame vote. His legacy (whatever was left of it) is completely gone. He is going to go down as one of the biggest liars in Major League Baseball. (yes, I know most of you are saying I told you so right now.) Players who tell the truth about their use of steroids don't get completely immured from being involved in rumors but, the ones that tell the truth are respected more than others who claim to be telling the truth and than are accused again with pretty convincing evidence.

Follow me on Twitter @donnyfinkle

Bobby Valentine to Sacred Heart?

    Bobby Valentine has had, lets just say, an interesting career path in sports.  From leading the Mets to the World Series in 2000, to becoming the first American manager to win a Japan Series in 2005 with the Chiba Lotte Marines, to essentially imploding the Red Sox organization in only 1 season, its safe to say Bobby V has become quite a conventional name, for most unconventional reasons.

    Now, according to a report by the Connecticut Post, you may be seeing Valentine this year not on NESN or ESPN, but instead in a small New England college.  Valentine is currently the leading candidate to fill the vacant role of athletic director at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.  The Stamford native visited the campus 2 weeks ago to interview for the role to fill retiring Don Cook's shoes.

    Neither Valentine nor Jim Barquinero, Vice President for athletic and student affairs, have elected to comment on the legitimacy of Valentine's interest.  Nevertheless, a quiet little college in Connecticut may be exactly what Valentine needs after creating one of the worst on and off field drama saga's imaginable with the Sox this past season.

Follow me on Twitter @JoeBroPongPro

MLB Bits N' Pieces

Orioles Sign Dickerson
Former Brewers, Reds and Yankees outfielder Chris Dickerson signed a minor league deal and an invitation to the Spring Training with the Baltimore Orioles today.  Dickerson could be a left handed compliment to Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones.  Expect him to compete for the 4th OF job and likely beat out Lew Ford.

Pertinent Padres Pitchers
Not really in the scheme of things (the title, that is), but I wanted to use alliteration - thanks to 7th grade English teacher Ms. Lazzari.  Anywho: the Padres signed two pitchers today: Freddy Garcia and Tim Stauffer both to minor league deals. Garcia went to the best place possible for his career, as he is an extreme flyball pitcher nowadays.  He should earn a back-end of the rotation job.  Stauffer is rehabbing from elbow surgery and has been with the Padres his whole career.  Thanks to Aaron Gleeman over at NBC HardballTalk for some info.

Hideki Okajima
Okajima was released by the Softbank Hawks, his Japanese team today.  Look for him to sign a deal with an MLB team soon.

Gonzalez re-signs with the Brewers
Alex Gonzalez resigned with the Brewers on a 1 year deal today, likely to back-up Jean Segura.  Gonzalez is coming off a torn ACL.

The Seattle Mariners signed Kelly Shoppach to a minor league deal today.  With the trade of John Jaso to the Athletics, Shoppach should be the back-up to Jesus Montero.

New Contributor: Joe Longley

Ecstatic to welcome a new contributor to Florio Facts! Give a warm welcome to Joe Longley!! Follow him on Twitter @JoeBroPongPro and stay tuned for his first post!!

The All-Time Rule 5 Draft Team

The Rule 5 Draft.  One of the most misunderstood parts of Major League Baseball.  I have been intrigued each year when the draft occurs - unlike my colleague Jimmy, I believe it has relevance.  To explain the Rule 5 Draft, it's fairly simple.  Teams carry 25 man rosters through most of the active MLB season - your regular MLB roster.  The 40 man roster features minor league depth (MiLB free agents, top prospects and protected players).  At a certain point in the offseason, teams must set their 40 man rosters and protect minor leaguers who might be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.  The requirements are slightly hard to explain, but it's mostly international players with 5 years who aren't protected and drafted players with 4 years and are not on a 40 man roster.  Teams can take a player, bring them to camp and place them on the 25 man roster for the whole year, otherwise it must offer the player back to the original team for $25,000.  Now, I present, the All-Time Rule 5 Draft Team - and it can compete, especially in 2013 with it's starting rotation.

Starting Offense
C Jody Davis
1B Darrell Evans
2B Dan Uggla
SS Everth Cabrera
3B Bobby Bonilla
OF Roberto Clemente
OF Josh Hamilton
OF Jayson Werth
DH Jose Bautista

Some big names, notably HOF Roberto Clemente.  I had a tough time finding both a catcher and a shortstop.  Davis was a 2X All-Star and a Gold Glove winner with the Cubs.  Evans hit over 400 HR's, and is Bill James' most underrated player of all time.  Uggla is already in top 10 all-time for 2B HR's.  Everth Cabrera was like my only option for SS. Bonilla was a feared hitter in the 1980s.  Hamilton, Werth and Bautista are some of the top hitters today.

C Ronny Paulino
IF Cecil Cooper
OF Shane Victorino
UTIL Frank Catalanotto

Cooper almost was 1B.  Victorino has been solid and Catalanotto was a true utility man.

Starting Pitching
SP Johan Santana
SP RA Dickey
SP Ivan Nova
SP Alexi Ogando
SP Miguel Batista

Here we have 2 Cy Young Award winners in Dickey and Santana.  Nova and Ogando are both solid young arms for the Rangers and Yankees.  Batista got the nod over Mike Morgan due to the fact that he is still playing....barely.  This rotation can compete in 2013, legitimately.

Long Relief Mike Morgan
LH Specialist Javier Lopez
Set-Up Jeff Nelson
Set-Up John Wetteland
Set-Up Willie Hernandez
Set-Up Mitch Williams
Closer Joakim Soria

Morgan is known for being well-traveled, and Octavio Dotel just beat him out for most all-time teams played.  Morgan played for 12 teams, both in the rotation and bullpen, which makes him perfect long relief.  Lopez just beat out Mike Myers, as he is the premier LHS today.  Nelson was rock solid for the late 90's Yankees and earned an AS appearance in 2001.  Wetteland, Hernandez and Williams were all closers, and good ones, regardless of Mitch Williams' postseason performance.  Hernandez won the NL MVP AND Cy Young in 1984! Soria gets the nod at closer.

So, the next time the Rule 5 Draft is questioned, point to this all-Rule 5 draft team.  Pretty solid.  It's relevance has been reduced (Josh Fields and/or Chris McGuiness might be the only players with a legit shot at an MLB roster spot, especially Fields) but you can find a hidden gem.

Honorable Mentions: Scott Diamond, Evan Meek, Mike Myers, Fernando Vina, Scott Podsednik, George Bell, Luis Ayala, Willie Upshaw, Jason Grilli, Guillermo Mota

Follow me on Twitter @JMFlorio

What can Seahawks do with Matt Flynn?

Flynn, who set Green Bay passing records with his only start in the last regular season game of 2011, was riding a soaring stock into last year's free agency and landed himself a solid 3 year, $19.5 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks to be their starting QB. A month later, the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson out of NC State in the 3rd round to bring in competition for Flynn. No one told Wilson that it was Flynn's job to win and Wilson set his sights on being a starting QB himself. Wilson ended up beating Flynn, securing his spot as the starting QB and franchise player and led the Seahawks to a fantastic season, ending with a loss in the divisional round to the Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks haven't regretted their decision to start Wilson over Flynn as Wilson put up 3118 passing yards, 26 passing TDs versus only 10 interceptions, 64% completion percentage and a QB rating of 100 for the season and QBR rating of 69.6 (average QBR is 50). Thrown in that Wilson is one of the most poised, mobile QBs (489 rushing yards, 4 tds on just 94 attempts) in the league and the Seahawks clearly made the right choice.
This leaves Matt Flynn a complete afterthought in Seattle fan's minds. What to do with the most buzzed about FA of last years group? The Seahawks could keep him as one of the higher upside backup QBs in the league and use him as insurance. They could go the trade route and try and push him to a QB-needy team like the Jets, Cardinals or Eagles. However, the success of Wilson and other rookie QBs (Luck, RG3, Tannehill, Weeden and decent showings from Foles and Cousins) has scouts and GMs buzzing about whether first year QBs can be productive from the get-go. In certainly worked for the Colts, Redskins and Seahawks as all 3 teams made the playoffs with rookie QBs at the helm. I don't think it's the norm but the landscape of the NFL is changing yet again. It is an UPDATE LEAGUE! The current feeling is that the right guy in the right system can lead to success despite being inexperienced.
With guys like Geno Smith (WVU), Matt Barkeley (USC), Mike Glennon (NC State), Landry Jones (Oklahoma) and Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) waiting to lead their own team to the playoffs, there could be less and less interest from teams who need QBs because they can get a cost effective player in the draft that can fit their respective scheme better than Flynn can. It will certainly be an interesting scenario to watch develop. I believe the Seahawks will eventually look to deal him and try and land a draft pick that can help the Seahawks build around their already solid roster. A player for player trade is unlikely, doubt anyone deals a known commodity for a QB that we really haven't seen a ton of work from. Draft pick compensation seems like the more likely road. Seattle had a huge draft last year, so if they could get a 4th round selection, 5th at worst, it would be a nice return on their investment and save themselves some money while also giving Flynn a chance to finally be a full-time starting NFL quarterback.

Follow me on twitter at @jaym12391 or email me at

Jet-Marcus Russell

Now before everyone gets real crazy and makes more New York Jet jokes... the discussions within the organization about JaMarcus Russell have been described as "informal". Things are very early in the process and the Jets just hired a new GM, so they are in the beginning stages of evaluating their roster. But in all honesty, Jet fans shouldn't mind this at all. Sure, JaMarcus Russell was one of the biggest busts in NFL history, but at this point at least the Jets are looking at any and all options to get some new QB talent in green and white. There is no doubt that it would be a complete joke if Russell ended up being the starter to begin the season, but that seems impossible at this point so please hold off the jokes... for now. Who knows, maybe the Jets will develop a surprise wildcat package for JaMarcus and force the opposing defenses to prepare all week for their secret offense! They could even be looking into signing him to become Fireman Ed's replacement, so let's not jump to conclusions just yet. At this stage, I'm sure Jet fans will be happy with ANYONE besides Mark Sanchez under center. There may be a new GM in town, but in the end the Jets are the Jets and for all negative matters they tend to make the impossible possible.

Follow me on Twitter: @jhubzz

Rob Ryan already out in St. Louis?

Per Chris Mortensen, recently hired Rob Ryan will not be the Defensive Coordinator for the St. Louis Rams this year. "After another visit Monday, the Rams decided Rob Ryan won't be defensive coordinator. Rams coach Jeff Fisher: "It wasn't a scheme fit.""  Ryan notably runs the 3-4, with Fisher being a 4-3 coach, so from a 'fit' standpoint, it makes sense why Ryan is not retained.  It remains to be seen if Ryan will be out of a job "for like 5 minutes" again.

Follow me on Twitter @jmflorio

Mets sign Scott Atchison

Per Ken Rosenthal, via the Mets Twitter feed, the Mets have signed right handed reliever Scott Atchison to a minor league deal.  Atchison has actually been a solid reliever for the Red Sox, pitching to a 3.18 ERA over the last three seasons, with a very nice 1.58 ERA in 2012.  Atchison does not strike out a ton of batters but also does not walk many batters, either.  Considering the Mets bullpen problems the last few years, Atchison should make the team out of Spring Training and I would not be surprised if he's in the 7th inning mix this year.

Follow me on Twitter for instant updates @JMFlorio

HGH Busts?

Possible major news out of the baseball world today, as reported by the Miami New Times.  The Times is reporting that multiple MLB players - most notably Alex Rodriguez - were on the client list for Anthony Bosch, an adviser to such MLB players, for HGH.  You can check out the entire post here -  
Check out some of the names on this list - Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Rodriguez.  As noted, Cabrera, Grandal, and Colon have been busted for PEDs already - and Grandal must serve his suspension to start the year (which is why Nick Hundley was not a trade option, especially for the catching starved Yankees).  Colon has been under suspicion since his return to the majors in 2011 with the Yankees and his "miracle arm" is what I'll call it.  Cruz and Gonzalez have not been tied to PEDs yet.  If it turns out to be true for Rodriguez, it might just be the nail in the coffin for him.  The injuries have been piling up, the public distaste has risen high - it might be time to pack it in.  I don't know how Rodriguez can explain himself out of this one, especially since MLB adopted HGH testing this offseason.  More news should be on the way, so stay tuned to Florio Facts - and follow me on Twitter for instant updates @JMFlorio  

5 guys to remember come June (NBA Draft)

It's almost February and it's around that time that the best players in college basketball start to be considered  for NBA rosters. With that in mind, I will unveil 5 players that should be at the top of every NBA scout's list when evaluating all players around the nation. Keep in mind, these are players that may not have the best statistics currently in college, but are best suited for the NBA right now and have the highest upside/potential to reach the hall of fame.

5.  Ben McLemore (20)     PG/SG            Kansas 

McLemore, a redshirt freshman, has really emerged up a ton of draft boards thanks to superb play so far this season. The 6'5" shooting guard has NBA scouts drooling because he is playing as good as any player in the nation right now and can do so many things well. He's an explosive athlete with good size, excellent shooter with great range, can defend multiple positions and is a scorer. At 20 years old, there is a lot of great basketball left in his career and many expect him to declare for the draft after a long NCAA tournament run by Kansas. Some teams would like him to become the ultimate scoring PG, which I think he could become one day but might better be suited as all-around 2 guard. Needs to add some weight/strength but he has high ceiling.

4. Alex Len  (19)                  C                  Maryland 

Len, the tallest player on this list (7'1") is a tremendously skilled big man on both sides of the ball. Size is always a huge commodity in the NBA and so perhaps Len should be a little higher. Len, a sophomore,  is a very good offensive player, with a very soft touch near the basket and an emerging mid-range shooting game. He has a very high IQ which aids him in being a very skilled passer for a big man. For a 7-footer, he is a better than average athlete and superb rebounder and shot blocker. The only knock is that he may need to add more muscle (as most college players need to) so that he can be more ready to play in the NBA right away. He is more cornerstone player than project but may need time to adjust to physical style of NBA basketball.

3. Nerlens Noel (18)          C                 Kentucky  

Noel, the #1 rated HS player coming into this year's recruiting class, is #1 on a ton of NBA scouts draft lists. The freshman fits the bill because he is an extremely curious, yet physically astounding specimen. He doesn't have Len's size, but he is the more mobile, better defensive center of the two. Len's offense tops Noel's but Noel's upside as a defensive monster and game changer is far greater. Noel is a terrific athlete and rivals former Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis in the blocking category. Both are considered as game changers on the defensive side with developing offensive games. There is no doubt in my mind that Noel will be at worst a 15-9-2 guy in the NBA with the potential to be a 22-15-4 player with a relentless motor and dominant defense. Despite an underwhelming freshman season so far, he is one to watch for come draft day as the #1 pick and will most likely be in the draft.

2. Anthony Bennett (19)            PF                       UNLV    

Bennett is without a doubt the most athletic of all the players on this list. Coming into this year, he was a top 10 freshman, but has risen his stock even higher with consistent, dominant play. Huge wing span, elite leaper and great rebounder for his size (6'8"). Despite him being undersized, he makes up for it with the great motor. Very good shooting range and effective low post game. He has potential to be perennial 25-10 guy each year. Needs to work on offense. Defense isn't great. Could use more effort there to enhance value.

1. Shabazz Muhammad (19)    SF/SG                UCLA  

Of all the players on this list, Muhammad has the best chance of being the best scorer and star player of the bunch. At 6'6", the freshman might be a little undersized for the 3, but he could potentially be a taller 2. At whatever position, Muhammad is an excellent attacker of the basket and a very physical player. He is the best finisher of the group and is right there with the rest in terms of athleticism. Very good defender and rebounder. Needs to improve getting others involved and shooting but overall and well-rounded player. Do-it-all wings in the NBA are rare so he fits right in here at #1. Wouldn't be surprised if he was an eventual a 25-5-5 player in his prime.