2018 Golden State Warriors Boogie Thru NBA Free Agency

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As expected, LeBron James stole the free agency show by signing with the LA Lakers, a 4 year $154 million contract at age 33. The other key free agent signings were reported with very little fanfare although, in my opinion, had much more of an impact on the NBA landscape:

Chris Paul, age 33, signed a 4 year $160 million contract to remain a Houston Rocket

Paul George, age 28, signed a 4 year $137 million contract to remain an OKC Thunder

DeAndre Jordan, age 29, signed a 1 year $24 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks

Trevor Ariza, age 33, signed a 1 year $15 million contract with the Phoenix Suns

To me, the real headline is that none of LeBron’s buddies followed him to Hollywood. Magic Johnson losing Paul George (PG-13) to the Thunder is indeed very surprising and even shocking on many levels. PG-13 is still in his prime and he would have legitimized the Lakers. He grew up in LA and made comments about wanting to go home. Very curious why he chose to stay in OKC. Yes, I agree that the Lakers will be much better with LeBron but without PG-13, their roster now looks much like the Cavs roster that LeBron just left.

Also, in looking at the 4 year contracts for both LeBron and Chris Paul, both are age 33 and on the downhill slope of their careers. While both are still playing at a high level, father time always has a way of catching up. After losing PG-13 to the Thunder, I’m surprised that Magic Johnson didn’t offer a max contract to Uncle Drew. He got game, is from Hollywood, and looks younger than LeBron.

LeBron’s signing with the Lakers immediately became the headline. Then, two days later, the Warriors shocked the NBA world by signing DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins to a mid-level 1 year contract for $5.3 million. This, in fact, will cost the Warriors more than $20 million due to the NBA luxury tax for going beyond the allowable salary maximum. The World Champions just filled their only weakness with the most dominant Center in the league. Last year, Boogie averaged 25 point, 13 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game and is still only 27 years of age. JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia combined averaged 9 points, 5 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game.

Boogie is an All-NBA Center meaning that the Warriors now have all five starting positions filled with All-Stars (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant). How in the world could this have happened? The short answer is that when an organization develops a winning culture, treats their employees with class, and treats all of their opponents with respect, great players will want to migrate to that organization.

Boogie has a torn Achilles tendon which most likely had a lot to do with him signing with the Warriors for much less than his worth. He said that he is working very hard to be ready for the start of the 2018-2019 season. Knowing the Warriors, they will be very cautious and won’t play him until they are absolutely certain that he is fully recovered.

So here are the events that lead to Boogie’s decision to sign with the Warriors. He couldn’t sleep Sunday night as he had zero offers on the table including nothing from his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Boogie called his agent and told them that he is going to call Bob Myers, the GM for the Warriors, to express his interest in joining the team.  He then called Kevin Durant, Draymond Green who is vacationing in Greece, and Steph Curry to make sure that they were comfortable with him coming on-board. They all greeted his interest with shock and awe. Boogie said that Steph was especially thrilled thus sealing the deal for Boogie to join the team. Boogie also said that he played his Ace of Spades with the Warriors this year hoping that his role in another successful year will lead him to a lucrative contract next year.

Why the Pelicans didn’t offer him a contract is beyond my comprehension. They had their best season in their franchise history last year and really had the inside track to make some real noise this year. They, instead decided to go in another direction for unknown reasons. The Lakers also had plenty of salary cap space to offer Boogie a good contract. After losing PG-13, you would have thought that the Lakers would go after Cousins. Very curious why they didn’t. Instead, the Lakers signed Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo and got rid of one their young stars, Julius Randle. I’m not sure that these are LeBron’s kind of guys and I’m fairly certain that they will supply Shaqitin with some good Tweeting materials next year.

These are the kinds of decisions that make teams like the Pelicans and Lakers just average teams. I can say that about most teams who are desperately trying to catch the Warriors. They start on the right path but if they don’t win immediately, they make desperate decisions. Take, for example, the Toronto Raptors. They had the 2nd best record in the league next to the Rockets last year. Their coach, Dwayne Casey, won the NBA Coach of the Year award but they lost to the Cavs in the playoffs so they fired Casey. Another example is the Houston Rockets who had the best record last year but bought players putting them at their max salary. This year, they were forced to give Chris Paul a max deal for 4 years at $160 million even though he is 33 years old and has a history of leg injuries. Because they are at the salary cap, they couldn’t afford to bring another star to their team and instead lost one of their stars, Trevor Ariza. This is a big blow to them as Ariza was their best defender.

For Warrior haters who dislike their “Super Team” image, of the 5 super-stars, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all draft picks. Kevin Durant, is the only super-star who signed from another team whom the Warriors recruited. The Boogie signing was initiated by him and not by the Warriors. I am also very curious if these Warrior haters also hated the Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, and Lakers in their dominant years. Or, are most of these haters just millennials who never saw those other dynasties play? The NBA has survived all of these dynasties and will also survive the current Warrior dynasty. After all, they are the model of greatness and plain fun to watch.

All of the other “Super Team” pretenders have spent millions (up to their salary cap) to sign the next level stars in their attempt to beat the Warriors. If these teams would draft better and/or sign complimentary “team” players instead of signing individuals who play for themselves, they would have a better chance to catch up to the Warriors. They would also be better off to stick with their plans instead of blowing it up if they don’t win immediately. The Warriors won their first title in 1975 and took another 40 long years to win another championship in 2015. So Warrior fans have suffered through many lackluster years prior to the current organization putting together this dynastic team.

NBA fans may hate the Warriors now but they will continue to spend money on their teams in the hope that their team will one day become champions themselves. Everything is cyclical so Warrior fans are enjoying their time to shine while it lasts.

2018 NBA Finals – Cavs vs Warriors – Sweet Sweep

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The Golden State Warriors are the 2018 NBA Champions and have now won 2 titles in succession and 3 trophies in 4 years. They have made their statement by playing TEAM ball without caring what the rest of the basketball world have said about this current dynasty. If Warrior haters are tired of seeing the same team in the Finals year-after-year, then some other team has to beat them before they get to the Finals…. Period.  The same can be said about the Cleveland Cavs who have also reached the Finals in the last 4 years. The difference is that the Cavs have lost to the Warriors in 3 of the 4 Finals. In head-to-head games between the Warriors and Cavs since the beginning of 2017, the Warriors are 3-0 during the regular season and 8-1 in the Finals for a combined 11-1 in the last two years. This is called DOMINATION !!!

As for the pundits who say that the Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors if Chris Paul hadn’t hurt his leg at the end of Game 5 of their 7 game series.  Why don’t these pundits look at what the Rockets didn’t do in Games 6 and 7. In Game 7, from the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. Can anyone convince me that Chris Paul would have made up a 59 point difference in the 2nd half of Games 6 and 7? Also, one can easily say that the Warriors would have won that series in 5 games if Andre Iguodala hadn’t hurt his knee. The point is that teams have to play with the players available to them. It just so happens that the Warriors have more depth than any other team in the league… This is the reason that their motto, “Strength in Numbers” fits the team so well.

Let’s take a look at the Warriors Strength in Numbers during the Finals:

Shaun Livingston – made 13 out of 15 shots

JaVale McGee – made 16 out of 20 shots

Jordan Bell – made 10 out of 14 shots

Andre Iguodala – made 7 out of 12 shots

Kevon Looney – made 5 out of 7 shots

So these 5 players shot a cool 75% from the field during the Finals. This, my friends, is called Strength in Numbers !!!

Now, let’s take a look at the age of the core of the Warriors Team:

Kevin Durant (29), Steph Curry (30), Klay Thompson (27), Draymond Green (27), JaVale McGee (30), Shaun Livingston (32), Jordan Bell (23), Andre Iguodala (34), Kevon Looney (21), Zaza Pachulia (33), David West (37), Nick Young (32), Quinn Cook (24), and Patrick McCaw (22).

With the exception of Pachulia and West (and perhaps Iguodala), the rest of the guys on the World Champion team are all in their prime with their better years ahead of them. This is called current and ongoing DYNASTY !!!

For Warrior haters who dislike their “Super Team” image, of the 4 super-stars, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all draft picks. Kevin Durant, is the only super-star who signed from another team. All of the other “Super Team” pretenders have spent millions (up to their salary cap) to sign the next level stars in their attempt to beat the Warriors. If these teams would draft better and/or sign complimentary “team” players instead of signing individuals who play for themselves, they would have a better chance to catch up to the Warriors.

Kevin Durant won his 2nd consecutive MVP award for the Finals but on this team, individual awards take a back seat to the team goal of Team World Championships. If I were to pick an MVP, my most valuable individual in this injury ridden year is Chelsea Lane, the team’s Head Performance Therapist. She worked diligently on Steph Curry on his 3 ankle sprains and the severe knee contusion, on Andre Iguodala on his knee bone bruise, and performed a miracle on Klay Thompson’s ankle which he injured in Game 1 of the Finals. Due to Chelsea’s great work, Klay didn’t miss any games.

We can talk at length about the drama in Game 1 of the Finals when LeBron’s drive to the bucket with less than a minute was initially called a blocking foul on Durant, then changed (correctly) to a charge. Or the George Hill missed free throw with 4 seconds left which would have given the Cavs a lead. Or the JR Smith empty brain decision when he rebounded the missed free throw and dribbled the clock out because he thought the Cavs were ahead. He received the loudest standing ovation at Roaracle Arena in Game 2 when his name was announced and also received a chant of MVP MVP MVP when he went to the free throw line during the game. If the Cavs had won Game 1, then the series would have been over in 5 games instead of a 4 game sweep. We later learned that LeBron took his frustration out on a white-board after the Game 1 loss. But, apparently, this white-board took it out on Lebron’s hand and won that battle, too. Here is another example of the difference between the Cavs and Warriors. Steve Kerr can shatter a white-board during the game and his players get the message and responds in a positive way. LeBron breaks a white-board and also breaks his hand and his team doesn’t respond. Steve used a magic marker to break the white-board. There was no magic in LeBron’s hand when the Cavs needed a lot of magic.

In the 2018 NBA season, there were 3 teams in contention for the Title… The Warriors, Rockets, and Cavs… In a seven game series, the cream always rises to the top and the Warriors have been the cream of the crop for the last two years.

This year’s Finals sweep was indeed very sweet !!!

2018 NBA Finals – Warriors & LeBron show the world why they are winners

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The cream has risen to the top both in the East and the West once again. LeBron single-handedly willed the Cavs to win the East and the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers proved that there still are no equals in the NBA.

The stage is set for the Cavs vs the Warriors for the 4th consecutive year to determine the 2018 NBA Champion. Two teams meeting for a championship four years in a row has never happened in any professional sports until now. LeBron’s teams have reached the NBA Finals 8 years in a row, a feat that may never be replicated. Despite critics who say they are bored with watching the same teams battle it out again, both teams deserve to be in the Finals… Because they happen to be the best teams in their respective conferences… period…

I also believe that the Celtics and the Rockets were the 2nd best teams in the East and West. Both teams showed their grit by taking the Cavs and Warriors to a seventh game showdown. Both the Celtics and Rockets hosted the seventh game and both started the game strong. In the end, the Cavs and Warriors had the will and the heart and the stamina to finish the job to achieve their goal.

In the East Finals, the Cavs won Game Seven 87-79 after the Celtics got off to a 12 point lead. The Celtics finished the game shooting 34% (29 for 85) while shooting 18% from the 3-point line (7 for 39). Their two hottest 3 point shooters Terry Rozier (0 for 10) and Jaylen Brown (3 for 12) went ice cold. The Cavs shooting wasn’t much better but LeBron carried them to the East Title. The Cavs shot 45% (30 for 66) while shooting 26% (9 for 35) from the 3-point line.

In the West Finals, the Warriors won Game Seven 101-92 after the Rockets started red hot and quickly built a 15 point lead. The Rockets finished the game shooting 40% (36 for 90) while shooting 16% from the 3-point line (7 for 44). This after beginning the game shooting 6 for 14 from the three. From the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. On the other hand, the Warriors shot 49% (39 for 80) and 41% (16 for 39) from the 3-point line.

In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. This is an astounding stat but not totally surprising as the Warriors have repeatedly performed like champions in must-win situations.

Some negative comments that I have regarding the Rockets… They are a bunch of sore losers, from Morey down to their top players. I didn’t see any congratulatory messages from Morey to Lacob. Also, Harden, CP3, and Ariza walked off the court after losing without congratulating the Warrior players. And, when Draymond tried to help Harden off the floor after a fall, Harden shoved him away. Instead of congratulatory messages, the Rockets said that they would have won if CP3 had played. It doesn’t register with them that if Andre Iguodala had played, the Warriors would have won the series in 5 games. In sports, you play with the players that are available to play and may the best team win. In this case, the best team won.

In the Finals, the Warriors are heavy favorites. Having said that, one can never count out a LeBron lead team. May the best team win !!!

Already looking forward to 2019, what will the title pretenders do?

Houston Rockets: Chris Paul (CP3) is 33 years old. He is a premier point guard but will be a free agent. GM Daryl Morey (in his obsession to unseat the Warriors) did a great job this year to build a team capable of competing with the Warriors. The Rockets are at the salary cap and have no draft picks. It’ll be very interesting to see if they offer CP3 a max contract at his age. Additionally, he has a long history of leg injuries proving once again that he can’t endure the rigors of a long season. If they commit to CP3, it will limit what they can do to sign another super-star like LeBron or Paul George. My take on the Rockets is that they will remain as a top competitor in the West but don’t appear likely to unseat the Warriors anytime soon. Also, their philosophy of ISO and live-or-die-by-the-3 makes them an exciting team to watch but in a long series, the better team will figure them out.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics may have over-achieved this year in the playoffs by making it to the East Finals. They did so without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With the return of Kyrie and Hayward and the other young studs that they have (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum) they have the inside track to win the East next year.

There are other good teams who will continue to make the playoffs and make some noise but still aren’t at the same level as the Warriors…

The Cleveland Cavs will literally fall apart if LeBron leaves. They may not even make the playoffs in the weaker East Conference.

The Philly Sixers are an up-and-coming team and will compete against the Celtics for the East Title. This can become a reality if LeBron decides to sign with them. Note: It will not be wise for LeBron to join a team in the West Conference. It’ll break his streak of 8 consecutive years in the Finals.

The NOLA Pelicans can make some noise next year when DeMarcus Cousins returns. He with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are an awesome trio but they have little else.

The OKC Thunder struck out trying to build a super-team with the signings of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Good individual players but sucky team players.

Finally, you know that the Warriors will not stand pat. They will keep their core four together (Steph, KD, Klay, and Draymond) but everyone else (including Andre) may not be on the team next year. Do not be surprised if they go after free agent DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers. They need a dominant Center and Jordan is a great fit for the Warriors’ pick-and-roll style of play. DeAndre and KD are best friends so I’m sure there are some player recruiting going on. Zaza, JaVale and David West likely will not return next year. To make room for DeAndre, the Warriors may have to sadly say good-bye to Andre and Shaun. The three young players that the Warriors will likely retain are Quinn Cook, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell. I would love to see the Warriors do something to keep Kevon Looney, but he may have played so well, he’ll command a good payday from another team. Back in October of 2017, they decided not to pick up Looney’s 4th year option for 2.2 million but did pick up Damien Jones’ 3rd year option for 1.5 million. The 700k financial decision may come back to haunt the Warriors but at that time, they had no idea that Looney would have such a positive impact. Regardless, the Warriors are the team that all other teams will be chasing for years to come.

2018 SF 49ers Pre-Draft Edition

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Going into this year’s NFL Draft, my philosophy is “In Lynch and Shanahan I Trust”. In other words, no matter what they do in the draft, the team will be improved. In one year, they have turned this franchise from worst to fun-to-watch-respectable. To reach “first”, they still have some work to do but the arrow is clearly pointing in the right direction.

While they are drafting in the #9 position, there are 4 and maybe 5 teams ahead of them who are likely to pick a QB. This benefits the Niners tremendously as they already have their franchise QB in Jimmy Garoppolo. Thus, they will have their choice of the top 4 or 5 non-QB players in the draft.

The Niners need to address these weaknesses on their roster: Pass Rusher, Interior Offensive Line, Line Backer, Corner Back, and Wide Receiver in that order. They have already made some off-season moves to improve on these weaknesses.

 

Pass Rusher:

The Niners re-signed Cassius Marsh to a 2 year contract as he had a good year and showed flashes of brilliance as a pass rusher.

Jeremiah Attaochu (San Diego Chargers): 6-3, 243 lbs: Attaochu was a 2nd round 2013 draft pick by the Chargers and had 2 sacks in his rookie season. He then broke out and had 6 sacks in his second year. Injuries limited him the last two years. The Niners signed him to a 1 year contract for $2.5 million making this a low risk deal. The Niners are still hopeful that Arik Armstead can develop into an Edge Rusher but injuries have also plagued his career.

Bradley Chubb (NC State): 6-4, 275 lbs: Chubb is the premier pass rusher in this year’s college draft. He will not be available by the time the Niners pick at #9. If, by a miracle, Chubb is still on the board at #9, Lynch should not hesitate to draft him.

Harold Landry (Boston College): 6-3, 250 lbs: Landry is a pure speed rusher who racked up 158 tackles, 48 for losses with 25 sacks.

Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio): 6-6, 264 lbs: Davenport is a legitimate pass rushing threat and could turn out to be a home run.

Both Landry and Davenport will be available at #9 and one or both will be available at #12. If either one of these two prospects are at the top of Lynch and Shanahan’s board, they should try to trade down with Buffalo who have 2 picks in the first round… #12 and #22. They also have 2 picks in the second round… #53 and #56. Buffalo needs a QB. Lynch should ask for #12 and #22 along with another draft pick or another player like Kelvin Benjamin who is the big young WR that the Niners are looking for (6-5, 243 lbs). This works only if one of the top QB that Buffalo likes is available at #9 and they are worried that their QB may be taken before #12.

Interior Offensive Line:

Weston Richburg (Center for NY Giants): 6-4, 300 lbs: The Niners signed Richburg during the off season to a 5 year contract. He was at the top of Lynch’s free agent list and fills a major weakness. Richburg is only 26 so his prime years are still ahead of him. By far, the most valuable signing for the Niners during this off season.

Jonathan Cooper (OG for Dallas): 6-2, 312 lbs: Cooper was a first round (7th overall) pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and played 13 games for the Dallas Cowboys last year on a very good offensive line.  The Niners signed him to a one year low risk deal. He will be competing for a starting job at Right Guard along with Joshua Garnett and Erik Magnuson. Laken Tomlinson appears to have the Left Guard starting job locked up for now.

Joshua Garnett (Niners): Age 23, 6-3, 315 lbs: Can’t dismiss Garnett as a possible starting Guard in 2018. He was a 1st round pick in the 2016 draft and was placed on IR for the entire 2017 season. Apparently, he has transformed his body to better fit the zone blocking technique used by Shanahan’s offense. He stated that he is ready for a “monster” comeback in 2018.

Quenton Nelson (Nortre Dame): 6-5, 329 lbs: The top rated Guard in this year’s draft. He may be off the boards by the time the Niners pick at #9. If Nelson is available, Lynch should draft him without considering trading down.

Line Backer:

With the unfortunate situation with Reuben Foster, a position of strength is now a position that the Niners must address. They did re-sign Brock Coyle to a 3 year deal as he had a great season with the Niners last year. Also, we can’t forget that the Niners still have Malcolm Smith who missed last year with a torn pectoral. He was a valuable member of the World Champion Seattle Seahawks team and won the Super Bowl MVP that year. Since our Defensive Coordinator, Robert Saleh, came from Seattle, Smith fits in perfectly with his scheme.

We also have Pita Taumoepenu who the Niners drafted in the 6th round last year. According to Saleh, he has the smarts, speed and instincts. He needs to improve his strength, then he’ll be hard to keep off the field. Pita has had an entire off season to get stronger.

Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech): 6-5, 253 lbs: Exceptionally athletic and is still only 19 years old.

Roquan Smith (Georgia): 6-1, 236 lbs: Has great instincts and has quickness to get to the runner. Also has good pass coverage skills.

Both of these top rated LB’s should be available at #9. In my mind, it’ll depend on whether Lynch values Edge Rushers higher than LB’s in this year’s draft.

Corner Backs:

Richard Sherman (Seattle): 6-3, 195 lbs: The Niners snatched Sherman after he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Seahawks management over his contract extension. While he is recovering from an achilles tear, Sherman says he will be ready in time for training camp.

Sherman, along with Ahkello Witherspoon are earmarked as CB starters.

The Niners have also said that they will work very hard with Jimmy Ward at the CB position this year. This raises an interesting question about what the Niners intend to do with Ward’s Free Safety position. When Ward suffered a broken arm to end his season, the Niner’s 7th round pick, Adrian Colbert, played fantastically well at that position. This either means that the Niners have seen enough of Colbert to make him their starting Free Safety, or they will be looking at the Draft for another FS. The best Free Safety in this year’s draft is Derwin James, 6-3, 212 lbs. James is being compared to Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars. He will likely be available at #9 so the Niners would turn some eyes if they drafted James instead of an Edge Rusher, Interior Lineman, Line Backer, or Corner Back.

In terms of CB’s in this year’s draft, all the talk is about Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Denzel Ward (Ohio State), and Josh Jackson (Iowa). I’m thinking that the Niners will not draft a CB in the first round and instead go after either Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) in the 2nd round or Quenton Meeks (Stanford) in the 3rd or 4th round. Both have the size and speed that the Niners like. Oliver played with Witherspoon at Colorado so they’ll have an instant connection if the Niners go after him.

Lastly, the unsung value of Richard Sherman will be his teaching skills with this young group of CB’s. He did it in Seattle and there is no doubt in my mind that he can turn this group into one of the better defensive backfields in the NFL.

Wide Receiver and Running Back:

There is so much talk about the lack of good receivers on the Niners squad. I dispute that notion and think that the Niners have a solid set of receivers on their team already. Additionally, I grouped the RB position together with the WR’s because the Shanahan offensive uses the RB as a WR in a large percentage of their plays.

The Niner receivers (Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle and Garrett Celek) all had career years with most of their catches coming in the last 5 games with Jimmy G at QB.

Do the Patriots have any All-Pro WR’s? They don’t need any as they have Tom Brady.

Pierre Garcon (Niners): Age 31, 6-1, 211 lbs: Can’t forget about Garcon who went on IR in November. He’ll be back in 2018. If Garoppolo can make Niner receivers have career years in 5 games, can you imagine what kind of year Garcon can have this year? Also, Garcon happens to be very good in the Red Zone.

Jerrick McKinnon (Minnesota): Age 25, 5-9, 216 lbs: With the signing of McKinnon, the Niner RB position went from being respectable to being great. Carlos Hyde ran with power but McKinnon runs with power, shiftiness, and speed. McKinnon also has great hands and runs great routes which makes him doubly dangerous. With the defense having to worry about McKinnon coming out of the backfield, this alone will make the receivers that much better.

There is a WR in this year’s draft that I feel can be had in the 3rd or 4th round.

Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame): 6-5, 203 lbs: St. Brown comes off the line of scrimmage well, showing good, quick feet in his release. Despite his size, St. Brown played regularly both in the slot and out wide with the Fighting Irish. Although his long-term projection should be as an outside wide receiver, St. Brown repeatedly displayed the feel for space and comfort in traffic to succeed inside. He finds space underneath really well. On vertical routes and over the middle of the field, St. Brown sets up his breaks with false steps and creates separation that way. Lastly, he has the size that the Niners are lacking in the Red Zone.

The top rated RB’s will be long gone by the end of the 2nd round (Saquan Barkely (Penn St), Derrious Guice(LSU), Ronald Jones II (USC), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Sony Michel (Georgia). With the acquisition of McKinnon, spending a high draft pick on a RB would be unwise. There is a RB that I like in the draft that could be available in the 4th or 5th round.

Rashaad Penny (San Diego St): 5-11, 220 lbs:   Penny is a well built back and runs with exceptional balance and strength. Penny also has great athleticism for the next level and is impressive in the way he runs with speed, burst, and power.

It’ll be interesting to see what value that Lynch and Shanahan places on Corner Backs vs Wide Receivers in the middle rounds of the draft. Will they value CB’s like Oliver and Meeks higher than a WR like St. Brown? This is why I would prefer that they trade down from their #9 position to gather more draft picks.

 

To summarize, I trust Lynch and Shanahan to do the right things to improve the team. In one year, they have already made dramatic improvements to the point that they will be competing for the NFC West title with the Rams in 2018. With the free agent acquisitions and confidence that they will add quality players in this year’s draft, Niner fans will be treated to some exciting years ahead.

The G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s

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Every time a championship comes around whether it be a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, or an NBA Championship, the sports media hypes up who is the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T.). Even though trying to identify a G.O.A.T. for any sport is in impossible task, they go beyond a particular sport and try to pick the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s across all sports. This is lunacy.

During this year’s Super Bowl week, there was much discussion about Tom Brady vs Michael Jordan as being the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s. Further, after the Patriots lost, most sports media reporters stated that Jordan has sealed the title of the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s. Although, in my opinion, this is laughable, these kinds of discussions stir up more conversations and “sells newspapers”.

Every major sport has the Hall of Fame (H.O.F.). Players are selected into the H.O.F. based on some established criteria and for the most part, those elected are very much deserving. The H.O.F. players were the best of the best during the period and era that they played the game. The basic fallacy of trying to identify a G.O.A.T. is that as father time passes, many things change. Players are paid more and more over time thus their training becomes a year-around requirement. Diets and drugs (some legal and some illegal) have had a profound impact on the players’ conditioning along with their training regimen. Major rule changes make it impossible to compare players across eras. In the NBA, the game was much more physical in the 70’s and 80’s. The 3 point line was adopted in 1979 which revolutionized the game. Like the NBA, the NFL was much more lenient on physical and dirty play in the 60’s through the 80’s. Today, the QB’s are treated like girls and are now protected against both low and high hits. With the implementation of camera replays, nobody now knows what a “catch” is. In the MLB, how baseballs were made was changed in the 1920’s and ended the “dead ball era”. In the same era, rules are put in place to disallow “doctored” balls. Prior to this, it was common to use the same ball for a full game. Foul balls were routinely retrieved from the stands and re-used. Babe Ruth hit 54 HR’s in 1920 and 59 in 1922 thus ending the dead ball era. In 1973, the American League adopted the Designated Hitter to improve the offensive output.

Performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) ran rampant across all professional sports but MLB has taken center stage as baseball records are held sacred with the HR record at the top of the list. PED’s were not available until the 90’s, but the use of other drugs have been documented throughout MLB history. Babe Ruth injected himself with sheep testicle extracts. Mickey Mantle used amphetamine injections and other steroids available at that time. Hank Aaron was known to have tried amphetamine pills for a short period of time as he was frustrated by his lack of HR’s but he quit as it made him ill. Mike Schmidt and Goose Gossage also admitted to using amphetamines. To top things off, Bud Selig was the commissioner of the MLB from 1992 through 2014 which has been best known as the PED era. MLB revenues soared to new highs as over 50% of the players were juiced and offensive output were at all-time highs. Interestingly enough, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Goose Gossage, and Bud Selig are all in the H.O.F. Additionally, Gossage has consistently said that PED users should NOT be elected in the H.O.F. under any circumstances. It was not until 2005, after the congressional investigations of the use of PED’s did the MLB institute stricter rules and penalties for the use of PED’s. After these rules were put in place, players shunned these new rules and continued to use PED’s with the most notable player being Alex Rodriguez. He is doing everything he can to make himself visible to the public and to the MLB H.O.F. voters in a positive light. Time will tell if he does enough to get voted into the H.O.F. My fundamental question in all sports is “how many cheating players have made the H.O.F. and how many deserving players will never get in because they choose not to kiss the voters’ asses?”.

Getting back to the G.O.A.T.s…

In the NFL, the undisputed G.O.A.T. appears to be Tom Brady. Even though his team lost to the Eagles this year, his performance was outstanding as he threw for 505 yards, threw 3 TD’s and had a QB rating of 115.4. Having said that, the media pays most of their attention on Wins and Losses. With this SB loss, Brady now has a record of 5 wins and 3 losses in SB’s. In 2001, the Patriots were given a gift when Brady fumbled with a few minutes left in the game and trailing against the Raiders. But, the referees ruled that the play was not a fumble which lead to the infamous “tuck” rule. Thus, Brady’s first SB win should not have even happened as the Raiders should have won that game. In 2015, if the Seahawks would have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1 yards line with a minute left in the game, Brady would have lost. In 2016, if the Falcons would have run the ball 3 times from the 25 yard line with less than 3 minutes left and kicked a field goal, Brady would have lost. Thus, instead of having a 5-3 Super Bowl record, Brady could very easily have a 2-5 SB record. I’m not saying that Brady doesn’t deserve the title of the NFL G.O.A.T., I’m just stating that there are more than win/loss records in identifying truly great players. Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills was a truly great QB but since his SB record is 0-4, he’ll never be mentioned as a G.O.A.T.

If I follow the sheep and try to name G.O.A.T.s instead of my belief that H.O.F’ers are the standard, following are my picks.

In the NBA, Michael Jordan is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.

In the MLB, Willie Mays is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.

In the NHL, Wayne Gretzky is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.

In the NFL, Tom Brady is the acknowledged G.O.A.T. Brady has 5 SB wins but also has 3 SB losses. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw both have 4 SB wins with zero SB losses, but Montana is heads and shoulders better than Bradshaw. Lively discussion… lol

However, if I were asked to name a G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T’s, it is a simple choice… It would be Roger Federer. His career spans from 2001 to the present and at age 37, he is playing his best tennis. He has won an astounding 20 Grand Slam Tournament titles and 3 in the last year against much younger opponents. My second choice would be Serena Williams. She has 23 Grand Slam Tournament titles and is the same age as Federer. Serena is one slam victory away from Margaret Court and currently on maternity leave. Her goal is to come back and win at least 25 Majors. I give the nod to Serena over Court as Serena is playing much stronger competition as current Men and Women tennis players are living and breathing tennis all year long.

At the end of the day, G.O.A.T. discussions breed lively conversation, but the H.O.F. tells me everything I need to know about the greatest players in sports throughout history.

2017 Niners – Year in Review

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In 2017, Niner fans enjoyed a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, but it was also the best ever Halloween. Lynch went trick or treating and brought home Jimmy Garoppolo that day.

The Niners started the season with a dismal 0-9 record but finished the season strong winning 6 of the last 7 games for a respectable 6-10 season record. Garoppolo started the last 5 games and won every game. Interestingly enough, before the season started, I predicted that the Niners would win 6 games.

How can one player make the entire team better? Jimmy G has leadership skills both in the locker room and on the field. He makes everyone else better and play with much more confidence. He has the rare ability to scan the entire field quickly, make fast decisions, release the ball quicker than any QB in the NFL, and deliver the ball with precise accuracy.

This link provides some insight into Garoppolo’s talents both off and on the field: John Lynch conversation with Bill Belichick.

The Niner receivers (Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Juszczyk, and George Kittle) all had career years with most of their catches coming in the last 5 games with Jimmy G at QB. Additionally, the O-line gave up much fewer sacks with Jimmy G at QB as he released the ball much quicker.

The biggest signing priority during this off-season is to sign Garoppolo to a long term deal so Lynch and Shanahan can focus on building the team around him.

The Niners will address the 4 major weaknesses on the roster: Pass Rusher, Corner Back, Wide Receiver, and Interior Offensive Line during this off-season. I have every confidence that these gaps will be filled with either high caliber free agents or through the college draft. Let’s look at some options at each position:

Pass Rusher:

Ezekiel Ansal (Lions): Age 28, 6-6, 275 lbs: Ansal has 207 tackles, 44 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries in 5 years.

Melvin Ingram (Chargers): Age 28, 6-2, 248 lbs: A force off the edge, Ingram had another strong season for the Bolts. The outside linebacker finished with 66 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 42 pressures, 23 QB hits, four forced fumbles and four passes defensed in his fifth season.

Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys): Is very good but has back issues and will cost a fortune. Look for the Cowboys to re-sign him.

Bradley Chubb (NC State): 6-4, 275 lbs: Chubb is the premier pass rusher in this year’s college draft. He will not be available by the time the Niners pick at either #9 or #10 (tbd via coin flip with the Raiders). Their best bet to get a bona fide pass rusher is through free agency.

Harold Landry (Boston College): 6-3, 250 lbs: Landry is a pure speed rusher who racked up 158 tackles, 48 for losses with 25 sacks.

Wide Receiver:

Allen Robinson (Jaguars): Age 24, 6-3, 209 lbs: Tore his ACL in the first game of 2017 and is expected to be fully recovered before the 2018 training camp starts. He lead the league in 2015 with 80 catches, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns with Blake Bortles at QB. Can you imagine what his stats can be with Garoppolo?

Other free agent receivers include Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams and Sammy Watkins. I feel that Robinson fits the Niner needs best due to his height and speed. He can plug the role of an effective red-zone receiver.

DeAndre Hopkins (Texans): In my opinion, the best WR is the NFL. There is no way that the Texans will let him leave.

Courtland Sutton (SMU): 6-4, 215 lbs: Sutton is the top rated WR in this year’s draft. He may be available to the Niners with their first pick.

Pierre Garcon (Niners): Age 31, 6-1, 211 lbs: Can’t forget about Garcon who went on IR in November. He’ll be back in 2018. If Garoppolo can make Niner receivers have career years in 5 games, can you imagine what kind of year Garcon can have next year?

 

Interior Offensive Line:

Andrew Norwell (Panthers): Age 26, 6-6, 325 lbs: He isn’t a household name, but there isn’t a player with a better blend of physicality and detail in pass protection in the league. Norwell’s improvements in these areas have been key to his jumping into the elite guard ranks this year.

Justin Pugh (Giants): Age 27, 6-5, 311 lbs: Experience at Left Guard and Right Tackle. Versatility to play multiple positions is a plus in Shanahan’s eyes.

Quenton Nelson (Nortre Dame): 6-5, 329 lbs: The top rated Guard in this year’s draft. He may be off the boards by the time the Niners pick. If both Nelson and/or Courtland Sutton (WR) are available, it’ll be interesting on which guy Shanahan values more. It’ll be heavily dependent upon who they can get in free agency.

Frank Ragnow (Arkansas): 6-5, 319 lbs: The top rated Center in this year’s draft and the #33 overall prospect. He may be an option with the Niner’s 2nd pick.

Joshua Garnett (Niners): Age 23, 6-3, 315 lbs: Can’t dismiss Garnett as a possible starting Guard in 2018. He was a 1st round pick in the 2016 draft and was placed on IR for the entire 2017 season. Apparently, he has transformed his body to better fit the zone blocking technique used by Shanahan’s offense. He stated that he is ready for a “monster” comeback in 2018.

Corner Backs:

Malcom Butler (Patriots) and Trumaine Johnson (Rams) are free agents this year but I feel that they aren’t elite and their asking price will be prohibitive.

Patrick Robinson (Eagles): Age 30, 5-11, 192 lbs: Robinson is tied for the most interceptions on the team with three. He has the most passes defensed, with 15. He has tackled extremely well and given the secondary a gigantic boost with his ability to play in the nickel inside and on the island on the outside.

Rashaan Melvin (Colts): Age 28, 6-2, 194 lbs: He had a breakout season and is the Colts’ number one CB. He is being compared to AJ Bouye of the Jags, an elite CB. The likelihood is the Colts will re-sign him but Lynch may be able to offer a contract that he can’t say “no” to.

E.J. Gaines (Bills): Age 25, 5-11, 190 lbs: In his career, he has 175 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 3 recovered fumbles, 27 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. He may not be a shut-down corner but is very solid.

Joshua Jackson (Iowa), Denzel Ward (Ohio State), and Isaiah Oliver (Colorado) are the top three CB’s in this year’s draft. Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) is the true #1 rated CB but he is projected to play FS in the NFL. Fitzpatrick will be a top 5 pick so won’t be available to the Niners anyway. I would wait until the 2nd or 3rd round and pick the best available CB still on the board.

With both Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold declaring to enter this year’s draft, this gives the Niners a better chance to draft one of their top players.

The Draft order is:

  • Browns – Needs QB, RB, CB – Pick Baker Mayfield (QB) Oklahoma… A clone of Johnny Manziel so a perfect fit for the Browns.
  • NY Giants – Needs OT, QB, RB – Pick Josh Rosen (QB) UCLA
  • Colts – Needs ILB, OL, Edge – Pick Orlando Brown (OT) Oklahoma
  • Browns – Needs QB, RB, CB – Pick Saquon Barkley (RB) Penn State
  • Broncos – Needs OG, QB, OT – Pick Josh Allen (QB) Wyoming
  • Jets – Needs QB, RB, OT – Pick Sam Darnold (QB) USC
  • Bucaneers – Needs DE, RB, CB – Pick Bradley Chubb (DE) NC State
  • Bears – Needs WR, OL, CB – Pick Minkah Fitzpatrick (S) Alabama
  • (tie) Niners – Needs WR, OL, CB – Pick Quenton Nelson (G) Notre Dame or Courtland Sutton (WR) SMU
  • (tie) Raiders – Needs CB, ILB, OT – Pick Derwin James (S) Florida State

As for the Niners notable free agents:

Carlos Hyde is a solid running back but in all likelihood, he has played his last game as a Niner. Hyde runs hard but he doesn’t have the ability to break tacklers thus is limited in yardage after the first hit. He also has below-average hands as a receiver. Hyde had his best run of the year against the Rams in the final game where he took the entire Rams defense into the end zone from 7 yards out. For that, I am giving him and Eric Reid both game balls. The Niners would be wise to re-sign him at their price. If Hyde finds a better offer, the Niners will not match any offers higher than what they are willing to pay. Matt Breida has been a pleasant surprise. Also, Shanahan drafted Joe Williams from Utah this year but he was placed on IR for the entire year with a bad ankle. He has a history of fumbling so I’m sure they worked with him all year on the practice squad to correct this issue. We’ll have to wait and see how he develops next year.

Eric Reid was also a good Niner but he is almost certain to be released. The Niners’ 7th round pick this year, Adrian Colbert, is the long term solution at Strong Safety and Jaquiski Tartt will be the starter at Free Safety. For the last 4 games, the Niners have been playing Reid at a pseudo-Linebacker. His tackling skills are outstanding and he does have a keen nose sniffing out run plays. He had an outstanding game against the Rams in the final game with a game high 6 solo tackles and also deserves a game ball. At his stage in his career, he is a fast linebacker but a slow safety. I’ve heard that he doesn’t like playing linebacker. The Niners should bring him back only on their terms and their price.

Aaron Lynch is a goner. He never got into shape and wound up on the inactive list for the last three games of the year.

Tank Carradine played really well in the 2nd half of this year as a solid Defensive Tackle. The Niners should re-sign him.

Brock Coyle also played really well at jinebacker playing next to Rueben Foster. The Niners should also re-sign him. With Malcolm Smith returning next year, the Niners should have a very solid set of linebackers. Smith was on IR for the entire year after he tore his pectoral muscle in training camp. If you recall, Malcolm Smith was the Super Bowl MVP when the Seahawks won in 2013. Smith was also the player who intercepted the pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the last seconds of the 2013 NFC Championship game after Richard Sherman tipped the ball. As a side-bar, Kaepernick had his mind made up to throw to Crabtree regardless of whether he was open or not. A good QB would have seen that he was covered like a blanket and go through his progressions. Anquan Boldin was wide open by 10 yards on the left side of the end-zone but Kaepernick didn’t even look that way. The transfer of power from the Niners to the Seahawks was completed on that single play.

Depending on who the Niners can add via free agency or the draft will affect anyone on the current roster whether they are free agents or not, especially if they came to the team under Baalke.

Three Baalke players picked in the 1st round fit into the “keep or let go” category.

Arik Armstead (DT) hasn’t shown growth and appears to be let go. I believe the Niners will give him a final chance and see how he does in training camp. It’ll be a critical off-season for Armstead.

Joshua Garnett (OG) didn’t have a good freshman year and last year, he had knee surgery. But, it appears that he has worked really hard at transforming his body to take the rigors of the NFL. Training camp will tell the real story of his progression.

Jimmie Ward (CB/S) is a very skilled athlete but has been injured every year since being drafted in the 1st round in 2014. He is in his 5th year so if the Niners keep him, his salary will quadruple to over $8.5 million. The Niners like him as a Safety so if they keep him, they’ll have Colbert, Tartt, and Ward which may be a wise decision (Strength in Numbers… where have you heard that before???). He also has the versatility to play either CB or S (Versatility… where have you heard that before???). I believe the Niners will bring him back but sign him to a 1 year deal (2 at the most).

No matter what, it’ll be an exciting off-season so see who Lynch and Shanahan want to keep and who they will bring in via free agency and the draft. With all of the positive energy going into the off-season, free agents will be much more interested in looking at the Niners as a serious contender for their services.

Niner fans must trust Lynch and Shanahan to do the right things to improve the team. In one year, they have already made dramatic improvements to the point that they will be competing for the NFC West title with the Rams in 2018.

 

Final season ending This-n-That’s:

  • The Harbaughs didn’t enjoy their New Years.
  • Niner fans who wanted them to tank to get a higher draft pick aren’t fans. As it turns out, they will get their guy drafting at either #9 or #10 anyway. And because they finished strong, the likelihood that free agents will consider coming to SF improved dramatically.
  • Even though the Eagles finished with the #1 seed in the playoffs, their fans are extremely nervous. Exemplifies how important the QB is to a team.
  • The Patriots keep rolling with Brady at the helm. This year, they traded QB Jacoby Brissett to the Colts and he has been their starting QB all year. They also traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the Niners and he will be their long term QB. Exemplifies how important the GM and HC is to a team especially if they are kept for the long haul.
  • Can’t wait to go see the Niners vs Chucky Gruden and the Raiders at Levi Stadium next year.

2017-2018 GS Warriors – Strength and Length in Numbers

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In this 2017 year-end assessment of the Dubs, this team is a much better team than the one that won the World Championship last year. Steve Kerr made this statement before the season started. Thirty five games into the season, the Dubs hold a 28-7 record which is the best in the NBA but their record is simply a by-product of the real reasons why they are the best.

The Dubs re-signed all of their key players from last year’s championship team. In addition, they aggressively upgraded their only weakness by improving their supporting team. The signings of Omri Casspi and Nick Young improved the second team scoring power which was missing from last year. An added bonus is that Casspi fit into the Warriors scheme immediately and he has been a rock on both ends of the court. Omri runs the court like a deer and cuts like a knife getting many easy hoops in the paint. His shots have so much arc on them that the fans in the upper bowl of the coliseum get a close-up view of the basketball prior to descending toward the hoop. Omri’s 6-9 length doesn’t hurt either. Nick Young has worked hard and is now playing the kind of Dubs ball that Kerr was hoping. At the beginning of the year, Nick looked lost, especially on defense. He also had issues running and passing on offense. In the early stages, it looked like a rare mistake bringing Swaggy P to a smooth running team like the Warriors. He found his shooting range 10 games into the season so I started calling him Swaggy 3, but his defense was still suspect. In the last 10 games, all of the coaching and his hard work started paying off as Nick is now playing like a Warrior at both ends of the floor. Nick’s Swaggy references are now history.

In addition to Omri and Nick, the Dubs “bought” Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted Bell in the 2nd round of this year’s college draft. Jordan (6-9 with a 6-11 and ¾ wingspan) was a defensive gem at Oregon blocking 2.2 shots per game while scoring 10.9 points per game and lead the Ducks into the Final Four. The Warriors didn’t have any draft picks this year or last and wound up buying Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell in consecutive years. I’m thinking that the Dubs front office knows talent. And that is not the end of the talent story. Jordan Bell was NOT the best player on the Oregon Ducks team. Chris Boucher (6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan) was the MAN for the Ducks until he tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament against Cal. He wasn’t drafted so the Warriors signed him and he is now ahead of schedule in his recovery with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Lastly, the Dubs also signed Quinn Cook who played 4 years under Coach K. at Duke and is one of seven players who scored over 1,000 points with 500 assists.  He also ranks 4th best all time at Duke with a .853 free throw percentage. Quinn was cut by Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans prior to being signed by the Warriors. Cook started 2 games and had some significant minutes during Steph’s absence with an ankle injury.

Andre Iguodala has taken McCaw under his wings, Draymond Green has taken Bell under his wings, and although a bit odd, Kevin Durant has taken Cook under his wings. These are examples of why the Warriors are the best team in the league. They genuinely like each other and will go to great lengths to keep the team close and “preach the process”. On the floor, one can easily see how McCaw’s, Bell’s, and Cook’s game have improved due to the presence of the team veterans.

The unsung heroes of this year’s team are David West, Shaun Livingston, ZaZa Pachulia, and Kevon Looney. West is the enforcer, Shaun is the calming influence, Zaza is the hulk, and Kevon is the hustler. Much credit goes to Kevon as his first two years were injury ridden with hip issues. He lost 25 pounds and now looks leaner and faster than ever. His offense rebounding skills are “off the boards” and he hustles like crazy to keep balls alive on the offensive end.

As for the big 4 All-Stars, Klay is the solid rock who hasn’t missed any games this year. He is by far the best 2-way guard in the league. Steph is the captain and the leader but he has missed 12 games due to a sprained ankle. Displaying their strength in numbers, the Warriors went 11-1 during his absence. This in a nutshell shows the depth of this team and the strength in their numbers. Last year, Kevin Durant hurt his knee and missed the last 22 games of the regular season. The Warriors went 17-5 without him with a 14 game winning streak after adjusting to playing without him. Draymond is the Defensive Player of the year but does so much more on offense. He is one of the team’s assist leaders and best passers. Lastly, Kevin Durant is no longer KD. He has become K-D with emphasis on the D. Kevin is never satisfied with his game even though he is acknowledged to be the league’s offensive MVP and the MVP of the Championship series. He worked long and hard on his defensive skills during the off season. He is averaging 6.5 defensive rebounds per game which leads the team and 7.1 overall rebounds which is second to Draymond’s 7.5. He is also averaging 2.33 blocks per games which second in the league next to Miles Turner of Indiana who is averaging 2.36 blocks per game. In the Christmas day game with the Cavs, he had 7 rebounds and 5 huge blocks in addition to his 25 points. K-D is on course to win this year’s Defensive Player of the Year and he has the full support of last year’s winner, Draymond Green.

The Strength and Length of the Warriors are real and built under the leadership of Steve Kerr who won the Coach of the Year in 2015-2016 and by Bob Myers who won Executive of the Year in 2016-2017. The NBA is a copycat league and the top teams have made some dramatic trades to compete with the Warriors. The Rockets appear to have done the best job but they traded away much of their depth. The others are all pretenders. Also, look for other teams who don’t have any 2nd round draft picks to try to “buy” drafted players like the Warriors did.

For now, the Warriors look hard to beat with Myers, Kerr, and their supporting cast…

Niners Beat Jags for 4th Win in a Row

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There are now tons of Xmas cards flowing from the Bay Area to Foxboro thanking Bill Belichick for the early Xmas he gave to Niner fans back on Halloween. On that night, the Niners received their savior QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, for years to come for a paltry 2nd round draft pick in 2018.

In an earlier post, I said that the Niners are 2 years behind the resurgent LA Rams who now boast an 11-4 record and clinched the NFC West title yesterday. With Garoppolo in place, Lynch and Shanahan can now focus on building their team around Jimmy G. instead of continuing to search for a quality QB. The Niners will have to pay Garoppolo handsomely, but he has now proven that he is worth every penny that he gets paid. With Jimmy G. in place, I am now saying that the Niners are less than 1 year behind the Rams and will compete for the NFC title with them in 2018 and beyond. The Niners and Rams will take their rightful places in the NFC West again as the dominance of the Seahawks is coming to an end.

While Garoppolo had yet another outstanding day with 21 of 30 completed passes with 2 TD’s and 1 INT and a passer rating of 102.4, it was the rest of the team who all played brilliantly to bring home the 4th straight victory. The young kids in their rookie year have all developed into legitimate NFL players and will form the core of this team for years to come.

Round 1: Pick 3 – Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford – Getting better each week.

Round 1: Pick 31 – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama – Will be our Willis/Bowman for years to come.

Round 3: No. 66 overall – Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado – Has developed into a good CB.

Round 3: No. 104 overall – C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa – Will be good back-up to Jimmy G.

Round 4: No. 121 overall – Joe Williams, RB, Utah – On IR but could be Carlos Hyde’s replacement.

Round 5: No. 146 overall – George Kittle, TE, Iowa – Proving himself as a solid TE.

Round 5: No. 177 overall – Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech – Reminds me of Julian Edelman.

Round 6: No. 198 overall – D.J. Jones, DL, Ole Miss – On practice squad.

Round 6: No. 202 overall – Pita Taumoepenu, DL, Utah – On practice squad.

Round 7: No. 229 overall – Adrian Colbert, S, Miami – Has proven himself as a starter.

Un-drafted Players:

Matt Breida, RB, Georgia Southern – Great combo with Carlos Hyde.

Kendrick Bourne, WR, Eastern Washington – Good size with good hands and speed.

Key Players on Injured Reserve (IR):

RB Joe Williams – Potential replacement for Carlos Hyde if the Niners don’t resign Hyde.
WR Pierre Garçon – Looking forward to the Garoppolo-to-Garcon hook-ups next year.
OG Joshua Garnett – Hoping he can develop into a starting Guard next year.
DL Arik Armstead – Must prove himself early next year or he may not make the team.
DT Chris Jones – Must prove himself early next year or he may not make the team.
LB Malcolm Smith – Hoping he can be the player who won the MVP in the Super Bowl for Seahawks.
FS Jimmie Ward – Must stay healthy.
S Jaquiski Tartt – With Adrian Colbert, will form a good safety combo.

RT Trent Brown – Will be our RT for years and switch to LT when Joe Staley retires.

With a confident group of young players who are now strutting their stuff, my game ball this week goes to Kyle Shanahan. Not only has he gotten his players in a position to succeed, he called a brilliant game against the NFL’s best Defense. It wasn’t necessarily that the Jags defense played poorly…. It was more that Shanahan called plays that took advantage of where the Jags defenders lined up. He called plays where our WR’s ran routes that found holes and Garoppolo found them. He balanced his run/pass calls effectively (35 runs for for 131 yards and 30 passes for 242 yards). The gem call of the day was the run sweep with Breida to seal the game. The Jags were lined up to blitz and when Breida made it past their front 7, it was game over.

Shanahan also had a great game plan in the Red Zone. Garoppolo ran one in for the first TD and threw 2 TD’s. Garoppolo’s rollout to the left and his side-arm sling under a Jags defender to Trent Taylor for a TD is something that normal QB’s can’t make. It reminded me of something that Steph Curry would do to get an amazing assist.

As a matter of fact, the Niners are beginning to remind me of the Warriors 4 years ago. If Steve Kerr can do it, so can Shanahan…

Niners Beat Titans for 3rd Win in a Row

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Are you now a Garoppolo believer? I am…

Under his leadership, the Niners have now won their third game in a row after going 1-10 in their first eleven games. Same team, different QB… and the dramatic change in team play and production has been night and day.

Statistics don’t lie:

 

  1st 11 Games Last 3 Games
     
Record 1-10 3-0
Points per Game 17 22
Total Yard per Game 322 406
Passing Yards per Game 222 318
Pass Completion Pct 56.60% 68.10%
Time of Possession (minutes) 26.53 35.24

 

The most impressive statistic is the “time of possession”. The Niners are on offense 9 minutes more per game since Garoppolo took over. This means that the team is converting 3rd down plays at a much more efficient rate thus extending drives. Most importantly, the other team doesn’t have the ball so they can’t score.

In yesterday’s game against the Titans, Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 pass attempts for 381 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 106.8. It should also be noted that these great stats came against a Titan team which is a playoff caliber team.

In his three games as a starter, Garoppolo is 79 of 115 pass attempts for 1,026 yards with a passer rating of 98.0.

Another amazing stat is that in the first 11 games, Hoyer and Beathard were sacks 35 times (3.18 sacks per game). In 3 games, Garoppolo has been sacked 7 times (2.33 sacks per game). What makes this stat so amazing is that Garoppolo is playing with the same poor offensive line which in the last two games got worse as they were without their starting RT Trent Brown. They have had to play with their 4th string RT Zane Beadles whose natural position is at Guard. So why is Jimmy G getting sacked less often? The answer is that he is able to survey the field more quickly, pick up open receivers, and zip his passes with precision under heavy pressure.

Garoppolo has also put up these amazing stats with WR’s who I was cheering for in Training Camp and in the Pre-season games… Little known receivers who were either low draft picks or not drafted at all. Marquise Goodwin had another monster game with 10 receptions for 114 yards. Undrafted rookie Kendrick Bourne had 4 catches for 85 yards with one that he almost broke for a long touchdown. Garrett Celek had 3 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. George Kittle had 4 receptions for 52 yards. Trent Taylor had 4 catches for 40 yards.

With all of the glowing reviews of QB Jimmy Garoppolo, my game ball in yesterday’s win goes to Robbie Gould. He was 6-6 in field goals with the last one being the game winner. He also was 1-1 in extra points so he scored 19 of the 25 points that the Niners scored. Gould is GOLD!!!

Lastly, the Niner Defense is getting better each week. Reuben Foster is living up to his billing, DeForest Buckner and Soloman Thomas had solid games, Brock Coyle is developing into a good LB, Ahkello Witherspoon who I thought might be a bust has suddenly found his game and is starting to become a solid CB, and Adrien Colbert is showing that he could be our long term answer at Safety. They held Marcus Mariota to 238 yards passing and the two great running backs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, to only 90 yards rushing.

Niners Beat Texans for 3rd Win in 4 Games

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OK Niner fans, it is now time to start getting excited about next year. For the all important QB position, Jimmy Garoppolo is the present and the future. He is the guy that the Niners will build the team around. No more guess work around that position so Lynch and Shanahan can focus on improving the team during the off season on other positions of need.

Jimmy G has started 2 games in hostile environments against the Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans and has lead the Niners to wins in both games. In yesterday’s game against the Texans, he was pressured all day long by Jadeveon Clowney but hung in there and threw for 334 yards completing 20 of 33 passes with 1 TD.

Game ball goes to FB Kyle Juszczyk who had a monster game. He had a couple of outstanding catch-and-runs during crucial times during the game in addition to opening holes for Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida and protecting Garoppolo on pass plays.

The defense had another solid performance, but, CB Dontae Johnson simply was no match for DeAndre Hopkins who I consider as the best WR in football. Hopkins had 11 receptions for 149 yards and 2 TD’s.

Otherwise, the rest of the Niner defense held the Texans to 3 points. After Safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmy Ward both got hurt, the Niner’s 7th round draft pick, Adrian Colbert, was the next man up and he has been superb. He had the game winning play by drilling DeAndre Hopkins causing him to fumble with less than 4 minutes to play.

Much more to look forward to next year is that the Niners have the largest salary cap space in the NFL, even more than the hapless Cleveland Browns. They have $117.8 million to spend on their own players, highly visible free agents, and their 2018 draft picks. They will have to pay Garoppolo handsomely but will still have plenty of dollars to go after top rated free agents.

My hope is that the Niners will be able to sign some of the following free agents:

  • CB Trumaine Johnson (age 26) currently playing for the LA Rams.
  • WR DeAndre Hopkins (age 25) currently playing for the Houston Texans.
  • Edge Rusher Ezekiel Ansah (age 28) currently playing for the Detroit Lions.
  • OLB Melvin Ingram (age 28) currently playing for the LA Chargers.
  • G Trai Turner (age 24) currently playing for the Carolina Panthers.

There are other great free agents hitting the market next year that I’m sure Lynch and Shanahan will focus on. Really looking forward to what they will do in the college draft as well. Every single players that they drafted this year made the team and some are making significant contributions.

I see more than a ray of light shining down on this team in the coming years. I’m now convinced that Lynch and Shanahan know what they are doing and they will bring back “winning” that this fan base have been starving for since the Eddie D/Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, and Jim Harbaugh days.