2012 AFC PREVIEW (written August 26th)

Posted: 1st September 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NFL

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs:  The AFC West is a cluster every year and 2012 figures to be no different. Best-case scenario – With Jamaal Charles returning to form and the addition of Peyton Hillis to the backfield, the Chiefs ground and pound attack once again becomes the top rushing attack in the NFL. Worst-case – Charles isn’t himself, Hillis can’t regain his 2010 magic and Cassel is forced to throw the ball 30 times a game. Prediction: 9-7
  2. Denver Broncos: Best-case – Peyton Manning is his old self, slinging the ball all around the field, provoking career years from WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Worst-case The neck still is a major concern as Manning gets rocked Week 1 on a late hit by Pittsburgh’s James Harrison. Peyton never recovers and Denver gets introduced to Brock Osweiler much too early. Predicted Record: 8-8
  3. San Diego Chargers: Best-case – After an atrocious 2011, Philip Rivers cuts down on the INTs and leads a much more consistent attack. Ryan Mathews stays healthy and becomes a top 5 NFL RB. Worst-case – Mathews, who already broke his collarbone this preseason, never gains full health, Antonio Gates is banged up all year, the special teams is awful again, and Rivers repeats his 2011 performance, in which he threw 20 INTs. Prediction: 8-8
  4. Oakland Raiders: Best-case – Darren McFadden stays healthy for an entire season…period. Worst-case – McFadden is in and out of the lineup and with Michael Bush gone, the backups can’t shoulder the load. After showing flashes the second half of 2011, Carson Palmer struggles mightily without the help of the running game. The defense, which was horrendous in 2011, makes no improvements. Prediction: 7-9

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans: Best-case – Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub stay on the field, Arian Foster is a monster yet again, and the Texans defense is even better, despite the loss of Mario Williams to Buffalo. Worst-case – Schaub and Johnson are injured again, the defense takes a step backwards, and teams are able to keep Foster from having monster games, by stacking the box and shutting down the Texans running attack. Prediction: 11-5
  2. Tennessee Titans: Best-case – Chris Johnson reminds us of the back he used to be. With Johnson rolling, the passing game opens up and Jake Locker looks like a veteran utilizing his many weapons. Worst-case – Johnson gives us a repeat performance of his terrible 2011 campaign, Kenny Britt can’t stay healthy or out of trouble and he never even gets on the field, and Locker proves he is just a second year player by stinking it up. Prediction: 9-7
  3. Indianapolis Colts: Best-case – Andrew Luck is a stud right out of the gate. Austin Collie can overcome his concussion issues and stay on the field, and Reggie Wayne, once again interested, has a magnificent season. Worst-case – Luck shows why it’s hard for rookie quarterbacks to be successful in the NFL, no matter how talented they are. The defense can’t keep Luck and the Colts in many games. Prediction: 4-12
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Best-case – MJD ends his hold out. Joining the Jags in Week 1, he runs all the way to his second straight NFL rushing title. Blaine Gabbert makes huge strides, surprising almost everyone and Justin Blackmon has a fine first year. Worst-case – Jones-Drew’s holdout lingers into the regular season and he is ineffective upon his return. Gabbert is even worse than we thought he was. Prediction: 3-13

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots: Best-case – New England takes advantage of the NFL’s easiest schedule and runs the table while Tom Brady and the Patriots become the first team ever with four 1,000 yard receivers; Welker, Lloyd, Gronkowski, and Hernandez. Worst-case – At this point, it seems only a major injury to Tom Brady can keep New England from at least a 12-4 season. Prediction: 15-1
  2. Buffalo Bills: Best-case – The offense stays healthy this year and coupled with Mario Williams, rookie CB Stephon Gilmore and the rest of the Bills revamped defense, Buffalo challenges for it’s first playoff appearance since 1999. Worst-case – Stevie Johnson winds up being a flash in the pan, the defense is disappointing, and the Bills can’t stay in the shootouts they competed in last season. Prediction: 11-5
  3. 3.    New York Jets: Best-case – Tim Tebow takes over the starting job from Mark Sanchez and Sanchez can finally leave New York and get a fresh start somewhere else. Coach Rex Ryan does not guarantee a Super Bowl win, because they have no shot. Worst-case – Tim Tebow takes over the starting job from Mark Sanchez, but is useless because the Jets have absolutely zero offensive weapons. Prediction: 5-11
  4. Miami Dolphins: Best-case – Reggie Bush repeats his 1,000 yard performance, Davone Bess has the fans forgetting Brandon Marshall, and Ryan Tannehill manages to get by in his first year. Worst-case – Tannehill is yanked after two weeks, Reggie Bush goes back to being Reggie Bush, and the once solid defense regresses. Prediction: 3-13

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens: Best-case – Baltimore uses Ray Rice more consistently and he leads the league in rushing, meanwhile, Torrey Smith becomes the 2012 version of Victor Cruz/Jordy Nelson, and the Ravens finally make it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2000. Worst-case – Ray Rice goes down with an injury and the lack of an adequate backup is too much for the Ravens to overcome. Prediction: 13-3
  2. Cincinnati Bengals: Best-case – Andy Dalton takes a giant step in his development, A.J. Green quickly becomes one of the top WRs in the game, and the defense is even better than a year ago. Worst-case – Dalton and Green both have nightmarish sophomore slumps, the running game never gets going, and the fans see shades of the Bungals. Prediction: 10-6
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Best-case – Mike Wallace joins the team and the duo of he and Antonio Brown are unstoppable and somebody, anybody steps up and becomes a successful feature back in Mendenhall’s absence. Worst-case – Wallace is not the same, the running game is awful, the offensive line gets more and more banged up, and to top it off Roethlisberger goes down. Prediction: 8-8
  4. Cleveland Browns: Best-case – Trent Richardson is as advertised and becomes the best rookie RB since Adrian Peterson, leading the Browns in practically every offensive category. 28-year-old rookie QB Brandon Weeden is competent and Greg Little has a breakout season. Worst-case – Richardson injures his knee early on and the Browns have yet another miserable season. Make it eighteen years and counting since the Browns have won a playoff game. Prediction: 3-13

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Tom Brady – New England Patriots

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Von Miller – Denver Broncos

Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Chandler Jones – New England Patriots

Breakout Candidates: WR Torrey Smith – Baltimore Ravens

Breakout Candidates: WR Denarius Moore – Oakland Raiders

2012 Fantasy Football: WR/TE

Posted: 1st September 2012 by Jeff Plattner in Fantasy Football, NFL

Now that we’re through the signal callers and workhorses, it’s time to move onto the pass catchers, with wide receivers and tight ends. With playmakers popping up all over the league last season, the deepest position in 2012 has got to be the WR position.

One could make the argument that there are as many as 30 solid WRs in the 2012 fantasy draft pool, while others outside of the top 30 still have nice potential. At TE, it’s the Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham show, but even in 12-team leagues, the position is deep enough where everyone should wind up with a good player at the position.

WR Tier One: A Class By Himself (with 2011 stats)

1.  Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions: 96 rec. 1,681 yards, 16TD

In a league stacked with receivers, Calvin Johnson is in a league of his own. Megatron, as they call him, was a huge beneficiary of Lion’s QB Matthew Stafford finally staying healthy for an entire season. His 2011 numbers will be hard to duplicate, but look for another great season from Johnson, the matchup nightmare.

WR Tier Two: Proven Vets

2. Larry FitzgeraldArizona Cardinals: 80 rec. 1,411 yards, 8TD

In his final three seasons catching balls from future Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner, Fitz averaged 97/1,310/12TD. Since Warner’s retirement those numbers have dipped to 85/1,274/7TD. With an elite QB, Fitz would be in consideration with Johnson as the No. 1 overall WR, but with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton limiting his upside, selecting him over Johnson would be a mistake.

3. Roddy WhiteAtlanta Falcons: 100 rec. 1,296 yards, 8TD

While some would argue the emergence of WR Julio Jones hurt White’s value last season, his targets were actually up from 2010. With Jones becoming more involved in the offense, White could see a few less balls thrown his way in 2012, but draft Roddy with confidence, because one thing he has never done in his career is miss a game.

4.  Wes Welker New England Patriots: 122 rec. 1,569 yards, 9TD

A monster in PPR leagues, sure Welker has to share the ball with two great TE’s and newcomer Brandon Lloyd. However, it’s New England and there will be plenty of balls to go around. After proving he is fully recovered from a 2009 knee injury, 100 catches seem like a foregone conclusion for this guy.

5. Greg JenningsGreen Bay Packers: 67 rec. 949 yards, 9TD

After missing three games in 2011, I expect Jennings to return to his 2010 form in which his numbers were 76/1,265/12TD. He’s ahead of Andre Johnson for two reasons. Johnson has missed 12 games the last two years. And while Green Bay is almost exclusively a passing team, in 2011, the Texans had the most rushing attempts in the league, while only San Francisco and Denver threw the ball fewer times.

The Best of the Rest

6. Andre JohnsonHouston Texans: 33 rec. 492 yards, 2TD (missed 9 games)

7. A.J. Green Cincinnati Bengals: 65 rec. 1,057 yards, 7TD

8. Hakeem NicksNew York Giants: 76 rec. 1,192 yards, 7TD

9. Mike WallacePittsburgh Steelers: 72 rec. 1,193 yards, 8TD

10. Julio JonesAtlanta Falcons: 54 rec. 959 yards, 8TD

Over valued: Victor CruzNew York Giants: 82 rec. 1,536 yards, 9TD

Cruz came out of nowhere to be one of the best stories of the 2011 season. I’m not suggesting he’ll fall completely off the map, but don’t expect Cruz to match his 2011 numbers. He made the most of poor tackling, as five of his nine scores were plays of 68 yards or more and only one came inside the red zone.

Over valued: Jordy NelsonGreen Bay Packers: 68 rec. 1,263 yards, 15TD

I’m not saying Cruz and Nelson aren’t great fantasy options. All I’m saying is that if you draft them with expectations of them repeating what they did a year ago, you’ll come away a disappointed fantasy owner, by year’s end. In 2012, these are two WRs you’ll have to overspend on, so draft these guys cautiously. The upside is that they both play in a pass-happy offense.

Sleeper 1:  Brandon MarshallChicago Bears: 81 rec. 1,214 yards, 6TD

Sleeper 2:  Reggie WayneIndianapolis Colts: 75 rec. 960 yards, 4TD

Admittedly the most star-studded sleeper list ever, fantasy owners have completely forgotten about Wayne. Keep this in mind: Wayne reached his 2011 numbers, which were pretty solid, catching passes from QBs with three of the worst ratings in the NFL. Andrew Luck was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft for a reason. If he has anything close to the seasons Cam Newton or Andy Dalton had throwing the ball in ’11, Wayne will bounce back.

TE Tier One: The Gronk and Graham Show (with 2011 stats)

1.  Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints: 99 rec. 1,310 yards, 11TD

Contrary to everyone else in American, Graham is my top rated TE in 2012. Why? He should see 20-30 more balls than Gronk and while the Patriots added a weapon in Brandon Lloyd, the Saints lost Robert Meachem and his 61 targets last season.

2.  Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots: 90 rec. 1,327 yards, 17TD

Tom Brady’s favorite red zone target should have another magnificent season. While Graham had arguably the second best season ever by a TE, in 2011, Gronk one-upped him by having the best ever. These two guys are leaps and bounds above every other NFL TE.

TE Tier Two: Everybody Else

You can find very good TEs after Graham and Gronk are off the board. However, if you miss out on those two studs, you may be best served to be patient and be the last to select a TE, because the difference in numbers 3 through 10 or 12 is not much.

3. Aaron HernandezNew England Patriots: 79 rec. 910 yards, 7TD (missed 2 games)

4. Antonio GatesSan Diego Chargers: 64 rec. 778 yards, 7TD (missed 3 games)

5. Jason WittenDallas Cowboys: 79 rec. 942 yards, 5TD

6. Jermichael FinleyGreen Bay Packers: 61 rec. 767 yards, 8TD

7. Brandon PettigrewDetroit Lions: 83 rec. 777 yards, 5TD

8. Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ers: 67 rec. 792 yards, 6TD

9. Fred Davis Washington Redskins: 59 rec. 796 yards, 3TD

Youngsters to Keep an Eye On

Jared CookTennessee Titans: 49 rec. 759 yards, 3TD

Jermaine GreshamCincinnati Bengals: 56 rec. 596 yards, 6TD

Kyle RudolphMinnesota Vikings: 26 rec. 249 yards, 3TD

Coby FleenerIndianapolis Colts: The rookie played with QB Andrew Luck in college.

2012 Fantasy Football: Running Backs (written August 5th)

Posted: 1st September 2012 by Jeff Plattner in Fantasy Football, NFL

For years, the running back position was the key to any successful fantasy football team. That has changed in recent years. With the overwhelming popularity of the “running back by committee” approach by teams around the NFL, fewer and fewer feature backs get a bulk of their teams carries/touches. In fact, in 2011 only two backs (Maurice Jones-Drew and Michael Turner) had 300 or more rushing attempts.  The number of backs carrying such a load has steadily dropped since the 2005 and 2006 seasons, in which ten RBs toted the ball 300 or more times in each of those seasons. So, while the carries become more evenly distributed, the elite feature backs are much harder to find. With that in mind, we look at 2012 fantasy football running backs.

Tier One: The No-Brainers (with 2011 stats)

1.  Arian Foster – Houston Texans: 1,224 rush yds, 10TD, 53rec. 617 yds, 2TD

No matter how you look at it, Foster, Rice, and McCoy are the three elite level fantasy backs in 2012. Why does Foster get the edge, in this case? You can make the case that Rice is actually used a bit more out of the backfield, but in the end, Foster gets a much more consistent workload on the ground. His only game with less than 15 carries came in week 2 versus Miami, when he left early with an injury.

2. Ray RiceBaltimore Ravens: 1,364 rush yds, 12TD, 76rec. 704 yds, 3TD

In contrast to what we just mentioned about Foster, it seemed at times in 2011 that Baltimore completely forgot Rice was on the field. One of the most dynamic backs in the league, he carried the rock 13 times or less in five games. However, Rice still managed to approach 300 carries, while posting career highs in rushing yards, receiving yards, rushing TDs, receiving TDs, and total TDs.

3. LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia Eagles: 1,309 rush yds, 17TD, 48rec. 315 yds, 3TD

Despite just five games with 20+ carries, McCoy failed to score a rushing TD just three times in 2011. The fact that he touched the ball four times per game less than Foster and almost two times per game less than Rice, is why McCoy is third on my list. Although many would argue it decreases his fantasy value, coach Andy Reid has done a great job of limiting McCoy’s touches, especially in the passing game, to keep him fresh. His 20 TDs were 11 better than his previous career high.

Tier Two: Beware – Draft with Caution

4.  Maurice Jones-Drew Jacksonville Jaguars: 1,606 rush yds, 8TD, 43rec. 374 yds, 3TD

MJD was his usual workhorse self last season. His 343 carries in 2011 were 42 clear of anyone else in the league and he led the league in rushing, as a result. Throughout his career, MJD has found himself on a team without many other weapons. With the offseason additions of WRs Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon, and Lee Evans, the Jaguars are trying their best to help MJD. However, as this column is being written, his biggest concern is restructuring his contract, the reason he has yet to report to training camp.

5. Ryan MathewsSan Diego Chargers: 1,091 rush yds, 6TD, 50rec. 455 yds

After a disappointing 2011, Mathews comes with great risk, but what I like about him are two things. Mike Tolbert is no longer in San Diego to steal away all of his goal-line touches and he has Philip Rivers, along with a respectable receiving corps, to keep defenses honest. In his third season, should he stay healthy, the Chargers could finally realize why they spent the No. 12 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, to take Mathews.

6.  Chris JohnsonTennessee Titans: 1,047 rush yds, 4TD, 57rec. 418 yds

Johnson showed flashes of what we saw in 2009, but was wildly inconsistent for much of the season, after holding out late into training camp. His No. 6 ranking is based almost solely on potential of what we know he is capable of doing, even though we haven’t seen much of it the past two seasons. If he slips on draft day, he could be of great value, but don’t reach for Johnson early or overspend on him in auction drafts. Let him be somebody else’s headache in 2012.

7. Matt Forte Chicago Bears: 997 rush yds, 3TD, 52rec. 490 yds, 1TD

If you shy away from Forte, now that Michael Bush is also in the Chicago backfield, you are shying away for the wrong reason. Goal line carries or rushing TDs in general have never been Forte’s strongpoint, as he has just 21 rushing TDs in 60 career games. Forte is a flat out yards from scrimmage guy, who you can be sure will catch 50+ balls and top 1,000 yards rushing. Long scoring plays are icing on the cake for Forte owners.

High Risk/High Reward

Adrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings: 973 rush yds, 12TD, 18rec. 139 yds, 1TD

Jamaal CharlesKansas City Chiefs: 1,467 rush yds, 5TD, 45rec. 468 yds, 3TD (2010 stats)

Darren McFaddenOakland Raiders: 614 rush yds, 4TD, 19rec. 154 yds, 1TD

Three of the most talented backs in the game, this trio could come at bargain rates in 2012. All coming off their own injury problems, Charles and Peterson suffered ACL tears in 2011, while McFadden was all sorts of banged up, like usual. While it will take guts to draft any of these guys in early rounds or at a high dollar amount, the rewards could be massive, should they stay healthy. Always the risk taker, I would much rather roll the dice on one of these three, than draft a DeMarco Murray, Fred Jackson, or Steven Jackson, all of whom have limited upside.

Don’t reach for: DeMarco MurrayDallas Cowboys: 897 rush yds, 2TD, 26rec. 183 yds

Far too many people are too high on Murray. Sure, he’s the primary back in Dallas, but with his injury concerns and lack of play-making ability out of the backfield, I don’t feel you’ll get the return from Murray on your investment. 527 of his 897 rushing yards came in three games, against St. Louis, Seattle, and Buffalo. This season, Dallas faces just three defenses that ranked 20th or lower in rush defense last year.

Sleeper:  Stevan RidleyNew England Patriots: 441 rush yds, 1TD, 3rec. 13 yds

If Ridley can simply hang on to the ball, he could show huge fantasy value in 2012. New England liked what they saw from Ridley, so much in his rookie season, that they let BenJarvis Green-Ellis leave for Cincinnati. The Patriot offense scores like crazy, so it wouldn’t be absolutely absurd to see Ridley rack up 10 rushing TDs.

Deep Sleeper:  Doug MartinTampa Bay Buccaneers: Rookie in 2012

Owners poised on making LeGarrette Blount their No. 2 or even No. 3 RB in 2012 are setting themselves up for disaster. The Bucs have had about enough of Blount and unlike Blount, Martin provides Tampa with an every down back. Don’t expect eye-popping numbers from Martin, but he could be a steal late and is a gem in keeper formats.

2012 Fantasy Football: Quarterbacks (written July 29th)

Posted: 1st September 2012 by Jeff Plattner in Fantasy Football, NFL

Whether you’re in your teens or over the hill, chances are you have at least heard of Fantasy Football. Last year, 27 million people across the United States and Canada played fantasy football. To say it has taken the nation by storm over the last decade would be an understatement. Here’s some less than encouraging news for the business owners out there. Every hour spent managing your fantasy football team, at work, costs your company about $5. During last year’s football season, North American companies lost roughly $1.2 billion dollars of productivity per week, due to employees managing their fantasy football teams while at work. On the plus side, the hobby adds $2.97 billion to the economy every year. Which states are the craziest when it comes to Fantasy Football? The top three are North Dakota, Delaware, and Indiana. With every football team, fantasy or real, it all begins with the quarterback. So, which signal callers should you target in your 2012 draft? Let’s take a look.

Tier One: The No-Brainers (with 2011 stats)

1.  Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers: 4,643 pass yds, 45TD, 6INT, 257 rush yds, 3TD

During the past three years, Rodgers, Brees, and Brady have been, by far, the most consistent fantasy QBs, and Rodgers has been the cream of the crop. You can practically pencil him in for 4,000 passing yards and 40 TDs right now. He should be the first QB taken or highest priced in all drafts.

2. Tom BradyNew England Patriots: 5,235 pass yds, 39TD, 12INT, 109 rush yds, 3TD

If you miss out on Rodgers, Brady and Brees are 1A and 1B and the order just depends on who you are. Brady is my 1A for two reasons; the Patriots added WR Brandon Lloyd to their receiving corps and the Saints saw a whole heap of trouble this offseason.

3. Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints: 5,476 pass yds, 46TD, and 14INT

A normal year for Brees is about 4,500 yards and 37 TDs. Not much of anything has been normal for Brees and the Saints during this nightmare of an offseason. Although Coach Sean Payton won’t be on the sidelines, or anywhere near the team, this year, Brees is a veteran and I expect him to have another very successful season.

Tier Two: The Young Studs

4.  Matthew StaffordDetroit Lions: 5,038 pass yds, 41TD, and 16INT

It’s always been a matter of staying healthy for Matt Stafford. He finally accomplished this in 2011 and he, Calvin Johnson, and the rest of the Lions reaped the benefits. With Johnson, second year WR Titus Young, and emerging TE Brandon Pettigrew, Stafford has a tremendous trio of receivers to sling the ball to.

5. Cam NewtonCarolina Panthers: 4,051 pass yds, 21TD, 17INT, 706 rush yds, 14TD

For Newton, a “sophomore slump” may still be a great year. He had probably the best rookie season we’ve ever seen from a QB, in general, and definitely by fantasy standards. However, when drafting, don’t make the mistake of assuming Cam will rush for 14 more TDs this season, because it won’t happen. His talent is impressive, but what’s not is his receiving corps

Tier Three: Reliable Veterans

6.  Eli ManningNew York Giants: 4,933 pass yds, 29TD, and 16INT

7.  Philip RiversSan Diego Chargers: 4,624 pass yds, 27TD, and 20INT

8.  Tony RomoDallas Cowboys: 4,320 pass yds, 29TD, and 11INT

9.  Michael VickPhiladelphia Eagles: 3,303 pass yds, 18TD, 14INT, 589 rush yds, 1TD

10.  Peyton ManningDenver Broncos: 4,700 pass yds, 33TD, and 17INT (2010 stats)

Wild Card: Peyton Manning – Peyton definitely has the track record, but his neck must hold up. The uncertainty of what will happen to it, if anything, when he takes a big hit, is sure to shy plenty of fantasy owners away. Peyton Manning, in 2012, is the ultimate risk/reward option at QB. He has a better than average group of WRs and TEs to throw to, so provided he can stay healthy, Manning could post big numbers.

Sleeper:  Jay CutlerChicago Bears: 2,319 pass yds, 13TD, and 7INT

Cutler is reunited with former Bronco teammate, WR Brandon Marshall. This means, for the first time since he was a Bronco, in 2008, Cutler has an elite WR to throw the ball to. Although his TDs haven’t taken a dip since going to Chicago, his passing yards are way down. While Cutler nears 30 years of age, we’ll see if he can reach his ceiling in 2012, after a disappointing and injury riddled 2011.

Sleeper: Matt RyanAtlanta Falcons: 4,177 pass yds, 29TD, and 12INT

It’s time for Matty Ice to step up and become the star that we once all believed he could be. With two of the best WRs in the game in Roddy White and second year stud Julio Jones, along with perhaps the best TE of all-time, Tony Gonzalez, Ryan has no more excuses to not be great.

The Next Cam?: Robert Griffin IIIWashington Redskins: simply stated, those who feel Griffin III will perform as Cam Newton performed in his rookie season, may get burnt.


Stretch Run to the Playoffs

Posted: 21st August 2012 by Jeff Plattner in MLB

With roughly forty games left to play in the Major League Baseball season, playoffs races around the league are starting to intensify. Here’s a quick look at which teams are in those races and whom we can expect to prevail.

American League East

With Tampa Bay’s struggles to score runs and Baltimore’s inexperience, the AL East division title is once again the Yankees’ to lose. Boston and Toronto are all but out of it, so while the Rays are surging, having won eleven of their last thirteen and are fresh off a four game sweep in Anaheim against the Angels, I’m not sure they’ll have enough to catch the Yankees. Six more games head to head could be the deciding factor, but expect New York to hold off the Rays and Orioles to win their third AL East title in the last four years.

American League Central

In my mind, it’s been inevitable all season long that at some point the Detroit Tigers would overtake first place and go on to win the division. Well, we’re closing in on September and that has yet to happen, but they currently sit just 1.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox. Losers of seven out of their last eleven games, the Tigers have three more series’ before kicking off September against the rival White Sox. The seven head to head games between the two teams are huge, but what could be even more important for Detroit are their sixteen remaining games against AL Central bottom feeders, Kansas City and Minnesota, which includes thirteen straight to end the season. They always say it only matters which team is in first place on the last day of the season. That team should be the Detroit Tigers.

American League West

Much like the AL East is to the Yankees, the AL West is to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are on a mission to return to their third straight World Series and it all starts with securing the AL West title and home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Currently sitting 5 games clear of Oakland and 9 games ahead of the entertaining, but disappointing LA Angels, the Rangers will win the West, the only question is whether or not they’ll appear in their third straight World Series.

American League Wild Card

For the first season ever, each League will have two Wild Card teams, who will face each other in a one-game playoff, for the right to advance to the Divisional playoff round. Right now in the AL, five teams are within 4.5 games of the Wild Cards. While Tampa Bay and Baltimore currently hold the two Wild Card spots, Oakland is ½ game out, Detroit is 2 back, and the Angels are 4.5 out. Who will earn the Wild Card births? Oakland may remain right in the race until the last two weeks of the season when their schedule turns brutal. A nine-game road trip at Detroit, the Yankees, and Texas could spell the end for Oakland. Since my pick to win the AL Central is Detroit, we’ll flip flop the White Sox and Tigers and say that thanks to the luxury of playing eighteen more games against the Twins, Indians, and Royals, the White Sox will earn a Wild Card birth. I have to believe the other goes to the Tampa Bay Rays. Their struggles to score runs came to an end as they scored 37 runs in their four-game sweep of the Angels. If they can continue hitting, their pitching is too good for them not to win.

National League East

The Washington Nationals are in their eighth year of existence. They have never had a winning season, have lost 100+ games twice, and were 148 games below .500, as a franchise, coming into the 2012 season. At 75-46, they are currently the best team in baseball and sit 5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves for first in the NL East. If you haven’t heard, GM Mike Rizzo is firm in saying he will shut down star pitcher Stephen Strasburg, after he has reached somewhere between 160-180 innings. The reason, Strasburg missed the entire 2011 season recovering from the dreaded Tommy John surgery, which has decimated so many pitchers’ careers. With 139 1/3 innings under his belt, that means Strasburg figures to have about six more starts in him, which would mean Washington would play out the final two weeks of the season and the playoffs without one of the best pitchers in baseball. While Rizzo says his decision is in the best long-term interest of the organization, I feel he is making a huge mistake. In sports, nothing is guaranteed and while Rizzo feels he is keeping Strasburg healthy for many more playoff runs by his Nationals, he is also squandering the greatest opportunity his franchise has ever seen and one that may not come around again for many, many more years. With that said, the Nationals should hold off Atlanta to win their first ever NL East division crown.

National League Central

The second best team in baseball is the Cincinnati Reds. Winners of eight of their last ten, the Big Red Machine is back and looking to win just their second division title since 1995, which is the last year the Reds won a playoff game. Even with former NL-MVP Joey Votto on the disabled list since mid-July, the Reds have been in cruise control and currently sit 6.5 games clear of Pittsburgh, in the division. In Votto’s absence, players such as Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier are stepping up to have big years. So, even with their best player laid up for awhile longer, there isn’t much of a race in the NL Central. Cincy should win it easily.

National League West

The tightest race in baseball is in the NL West, where the Los Angeles Dodgers hold a minuscule ½ game lead over the San Francisco Giants, with the Arizona Diamondbacks lurching, just 4.5 out. I found myself wondering the last year and a half how Melky Cabrera was suddenly such a good baseball player. After averaging just 8 HR and 54 RBI with a .266 batting average over his first five full seasons in the majors, suddenly Cabrera hit .305 with 18 HR and 87 RBI for the Royals last season and was hitting at a .346 clip through 113 games this year. And then it all made sense; Cabrera tested positive to a performance enhancing drug and was suspended by the league for 50 games. The loss is a huge blow to the Giants and should end their division title hopes. Look for the Dodgers to hold of the Diamondbacks for the division crown, but Arizona will make a run at it.

National League Wild Card

Much like the AL, five teams are within range of the NL Wild Cards. Atlanta and Pittsburgh currently hold down the spots, with San Francisco a game back, St. Louis 2 games back, and Arizona 5 back. With San Fran out of it, in my book, that leaves four teams. With the Braves and Pirates enjoying a bit more favorable schedules than the others, expect those two teams to hold onto the Wild Cards and meet in a one-game playoff immediately following their three-game series to end the year. A playoff birth would mark Pittsburgh’s first winning season and playoff birth since 1992. Fans whose teams are out of it, such as Twins fans, should be rooting for this team. They have waited a long time to have something to cheer about.

1992 Dream Team vs. 2012 USA Olympic Team

Posted: 24th July 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NBA

While camping along the North Shore of Lake Superior this weekend, the thought of what to write about upon my return home Sunday night came over me. Surely there would be something going on in the Minnesota sports world, which could garner this week’s focus. The Timberwolves swinging and missing on not only Nic Batum, but also other free agents along the way? No, why add salt to that wound? The Twins threatening to be American League cellar dwellers for the second straight year? Nah, we’ll hold off on that until October 4th, when it’s a done deal. The Wild’s big offseason signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter? Nope, missed the boat on that one…but well done Wild!! I got it… the Olympics are less than a week away, so why not dabble in the in debatable debate? That’s right, could the 2012 Olympic Men’s Basketball team defeat the 1992 Dream Team? Usually one to stay out of such ridiculous arguments, I couldn’t help but look at some of the numbers surrounding this “debate.”

First off, let’s get one thing straight. The 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team is and always will be the greatest basketball team ever assembled…period!! The fact that they would defeat our 2012 Olympic squad in any scenario is beside the point and not worth debating, because the possibility of any such game ever taking place is non-existent. What is debatable however, is what squad features the better makeup of players, resulting in the better overall team. And that argument should be short lived. In case it’s been too long and you somehow forgot or in the event you were not even born yet, here are the players who comprised the 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team. Below are the players, their NBA teams, and their NBA career per game averages.

PG – Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) 19.5ppg, 11.2apg, 7.2rpg

PG – John Stockton (Utah Jazz) 13.1ppg, 10.5apg, 2.2spg

SG – Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls) 30.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 5.3apg

SG – Clyde Drexler (Portland Trailblazers) 20.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.6apg

SF – Larry Bird (Boston Celtics) 24.3ppg, 10.0rpg, 6.3apg

SF – Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls) 16.1ppg, 6.4rpg, 5.2apg

SF – Chris Mullin (Golden State Warriors) 18.2ppg, 4.1rpg, 3.5apg

PF – Karl Malone (Utah Jazz) 25.0ppg, 10.1rpg, 3.5apg

PF – Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns) 22.1ppg, 11.7rpg, 3.9apg

PF – Christian Laettner (Duke) 12.8ppg, 6.7rpg, 2.6apg

C – David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) 21.1ppg, 10.6rpg, 3.0bpg

C – Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks) 21.0ppg, 9.8rpg, 2.4bpg

With the exception of Laettner, who was the lone collegiate player selected to the Dream Team, every player on the roster is in the NBA Hall of Fame. Everyone, including Laettner, has been an All-Star and the group has been selected to a combined 117 All-Star Games, winning 15 NBA MVP awards along the way; Jordan (5), Magic and Bird (3), Malone (2), Robinson and Barkley (1). Every Dream Team member except Malone (No. 13), Drexler (No. 14), and Stockton (No. 16) were Top 7 selections in the NBA Draft. Among those, all were selected in the Top 5, except for Bird (No. 6) and Mullin (No. 7). The Dream Team combined to win 23 NBA Championships; Jordan and Pippen (6), Magic (5), Bird (3), Robinson (2), and Drexler (1). The rest of the team can thank Michael Jordan for never having won one. After cruising through the Tournament of the Americas, the Dream Team continued it’s dominating ways in Barcelona, crushing the competition to the tune of a 44ppg average margin of victory. Between the Tournament of Americas and the Olympics, the Dream Team finished a perfect 14-0, winning their games by 79, 44, 60, 41, 38, 47, 68, 33, 43, 44, 41, 38, 51, and capping it all off with a 32 point win in the Gold Medal game, against Croatia. Here’s a similar look at the 2012 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team, their NBA team, and career stats to date.

PG – Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) 18.8ppg, 9.8apg, 4.5rpg

PG – Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets) 17.6ppg, 9.2apg, 3.3rpg

PG – Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) 19.0ppg, 6.8apg, 4.7rpg

SG – Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) 25.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.7apg

SG – James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder) 12.7ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.5apg

SF – Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) 26.3ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.8apg

SF – LeBron James (Miami Heat) 27.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 6.8apg

SF – Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) 15.3ppg, 5.8rpg, 4.9apg

SF – Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) 24.7ppg, 6.3rpg, 3.1apg

PF – Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) 17.3ppg, 12.0rpg, 1.9apg

PF – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets) rookie, yet to play an NBA game

C – Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks) 8.6ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.4bpg

Of the players on the 2012 team, Chandler, Harden, and Davis have yet to play in an All-Star game (although Davis has also yet to play in an NBA game of any sort). While it already seems a foregone conclusion that Davis will appear on multiple All-Star teams, Chandler and Harden, especially Chandler, could feasibly never make an All-Star team. The group has been selected to a combined 43 All-Star games, with Kobe and LeBron accounting for over half (22) of them. Only Kobe, LeBron, Durant, and Paul have been selected to the All-Star game in more than 50% of the seasons they’ve played in. LeBron (3) and Kobe (1) are also the only NBA MVP’s of the group. Even more impressive than the Dream Team, is the fact that every member of the 2012 Olympic Team, with the exception of Kobe (No. 13) and Iguodala (No. 9), was a Top 5 NBA Draft pick. Again, Kobe (5) and LeBron (1) account for the team’s only 6 NBA Championships. So, while most members of the 2012 Olympic team still have many years ahead of them, they are not nearly as decorated a bunch as the 1992 Dream Team was, just looking at the percentages. While Laettner is the only member of the Dream Team to not be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Paul, and Carmelo figure to be the only locks on the 2012 team. Others have a lot of work to do, while Chandler and Iguodala figure to be long shots at best, and Harden would be hard pressed to make it, unless he ever fits himself into a starting lineup somewhere. Of course the fact of health comes into play here, but let’s also not forget that some of the NBA’s elite players of today are not on the 2012 Olympic Team. The loss of Blake Griffin is not as significant as some may feel. However, the additions of Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, and Dwight Howard would greatly improve the quality of this USA squad, at least on paper.

To choose the best team, you must choose the best players, correct? Exactly, let’s do this right now. Position by position, which players would you take, given the opportunity? We’ll comprise a mixed “Dream Team” with two players at every position, PG, SG, SF, PF, and C, as well as two “flex” players, who can be any position. Here’s the squad I would trot onto the court…

PG – Chris Paul: the fact that Paul is in the prime of his career and Magic’s NBA career had already ended prior to the 1992 Olympic Games, is why Paul gets the nod here. He is the most complete PG in the NBA today. Paul also gets the starting nod over one of the best PGs in NBA history, because of his versatility.

SG – Michael Jordan: he is and will be the best player of my lifetime.

SF – LeBron James: the selection of James over Bird is similar to why I selected Paul over Magic. James is one of the best players in the game today and Bird, who was one of the best to ever play, was at the twilight of his career, with major back issues.

PF – Karl Malone: Looking back, The Mailman was one of the most under rated players of his generation. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t been involved with basketball since retiring that we don’t hear his name often, but Karl Malone was really, really good.

C – David Robinson: With only two real centers to choose from, I went with The Admiral simply because he enjoyed a better, more complete career than Ewing.

PG – John Stockton: again, this choice was solely made on the fact that Magic’s playing days were already over. Magic was my favorite player, growing up, and it pains me to leave him off my team.

SG – Kobe Bryant: This is no knock on Clyde, who was a fantastic player, you just have to go with Kobe here, selfishness and all.

SF – Kevin Durant: see LeBron James, above.

PF – Charles Barkley: Just as I’d love to have Magic on this team, I’d also love to include KLove, but his body of work, while nice recently, is nothing compared to the career Sir Charles showed us. However, Love is on his way.

C – Patrick Ewing: Ewing was almost as great as Robinson, just didn’t have the titles to go with it.

11th Man – Larry Bird: though his back was almost completely shot, how could you possibly leave Larry Legend off of this team. He was one of the greatest off all-time.

12th Man – Magic Johnson: Ha!! There’s no chance Magic isn’t making this team.  Although his playing career was cut short after contracting the HIV virus, he still had the ability to compete and the will to be the best, while competing at the ’92 Barcelona games.

So there it is, proof beyond the shadow of a doubt that only four players (LeBron, Kobe, Durant, and Paul) could have landed a spot on the 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team, the greatest basketball team ever assembled. End of debate!!

NBA Player Movement

Posted: 17th July 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, David Kahn, has been a busy man this offseason. When the Wolves tip off the 2012-13 season, their roster is sure to look much different than it did in their final game of the 2011-12 season. However, the biggest piece of the offseason puzzle for Kahn and the Wolves has also been the biggest difficulty to make happen. Minnesota has been interested in Portland Trailblazers French swingman, Nic Batum for a while now. Batum has made it clear that he prefers to play alongside Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love as opposed to returning to the Blazers. But, Batum is a restricted free agent, so Portland has the luxury of matching the offer sheet he signed with Minnesota, which reportedly is worth $46.4 million over 4 years, if they want to retain his rights and they most likely will. Portland has until midnight on Wednesday to decide whether or not they will match Minnesota’s offer to Batum. Their decision could ultimately make or break the Wolves offseason success.

As part of their pursuit of Batum, Kahn and the Wolves made many other roster moves. Although these delayed moves may have cost the Wolves the ability to pursue other players should Portland match Minnesota’s offer and retain Batum, in an attempt to clear cap space and make room for the possible addition of Batum, in a matter of hours on Friday, the Wolves amnestied C Darko Milicic, waived SF Martell Webster, and traded C Brad Miller. I understand Kahn trying to work a sign-and-trade for Batum, but when that was not happening, I do not understand why we decided it was a smart move to wait another entire week, before getting the above moves done? While the Wolves wait to see if Portland will match their offer sheet, perhaps one of their better secondary options, O.J. Mayo, signed with the Dallas Mavericks. Moving on…The Wolves chose not to bring back free agent SF, Michael, Beasley, who has signed with the Phoenix Suns. In a pre-draft trade with the Houston Rockets, Minnesota acquired SF Chase Budinger. They’ve also agreed to terms with former Trailblazers star, Brandon Roy and Russian standout, Alexey Shved. Shved is a 6’6” athletic PG, who can stroke it from deep. If you want a sneak peek before he joins the Wolves, Shved will be playing for Russia in the Olympics. Roy and Shved will not sign contracts until after the Wolves find out their fate with Batum. The additions of Roy and Shved, to the Wolves backcourt, could make it easier for Minnesota to part with guards, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea, via trade. Rumors of a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies have been swirling lately as well. The deal would send SG Wayne Ellington to Memphis in exchange for Grizzlies PF Dante Cunningham, providing the Wolves with much need frontcourt depth. While the Wolves have been busy themselves, other teams around the league have been as well. We’ll know whether or not Nic Batum will be a Minnesota Timberwolf by Wednesday night. While that is still a work in progress, below are some of the key moves that have already been made or are on the verge of being made this offseason.



Old Team

New Team

Ray Allen SG Boston Miami
Ryan Anderson F Orlando New Orleans
D.J. Augustin PG Charlotte Indiana
Elton Brand PF Philadelphia Dallas
Kwame Brown C Milwaukee Philadelphia
Chase Budinger SF Houston Minnesota
Marcus Camby C Houston NY Knicks
Jamal Crawford SG Portland L.A. Clippers
Reggie Evans PF L.A. Clippers Brooklyn
Raymond Felton PG Portland NY Knicks
Landry Fields SG NY Knicks Toronto
Gerald Green G-F Brooklyn Indiana
Brendan Haywood C Dallas Charlotte
Dahntay Jones F-G Indiana Dallas
Chris Kaman C New Orleans Dallas
Jason Kidd PG Dallas NY Knicks
Rashard Lewis SF New Orleans Miami
Ian Mahinhi C Dallas Indiana
Steve Nash PG Phoenix L.A. Lakers
Brandon Roy G Portland Minnesota
Luis Scola F-C Houston Phoenix
Ramon Sessions PG L.A. Lakers Charlotte
DeShawn Stevenson F Brooklyn Atlanta
Jason Terry SG Dallas Boston
Hasheem Thabeet C Portland Oklahoma City
C.J. Watson G Chicago Brooklyn
Lou Williams G Philadelphia Atlanta
Mo Williams G L.A. Clippers Utah
Nick Young SG L.A. Clippers Philadelphia
Joe Johnson SG Atlanta Brooklyn
Kyle Lowry PG Houston Toronto
Corey Maggette SF Charlotte Detroit
Ben Gordon SG Detroit Charlotte
Darren Collison PG Indiana Dallas
Marvin Williams SF Atlanta Utah
Devin Harris PG Utah Atlanta
Trevor Ariza F New Orleans Washington
Emeka Okafor C New Orleans Washington
Lamar Odom F Dallas L.A. Clippers
Samuel Dalembert C Houston Milwaukee
Jerryd Bayless G Toronto Memphis
Jarrett Jack G New Orleans Golden State
Goran Dragic G Houston Phoenix


2012 AL All-Star Team: Plattner’s Picks (written July 2nd)

Posted: 17th July 2012 by Jeff Plattner in MLB

Better late than never 2.0…following my NL All-Stars, I wrote about my best from the AL…

After revealing my version of the 2012 National League All-Stars last week, this week we’ll visit my American League squad. Apparently, I had one extra pitcher on my NL team than Tony La Russa, who managed to leave off not only Johnny Cueto, but also Zack Greinke. That’s flat out delusional. Supposedly, the reason they were omitted was that they were both scheduled to pitch the Sunday prior, so they would not be available to pitch in the All-Star Game. Either way, they deserve to be recognized for the superb seasons they are both enjoying. And, let’s be honest, La Russa does not need all thirteen pitchers to make it through the game. With that said, let’s meet Plattner’s 2012 American League All-Star team. Stats used are as of games played through July 1st.

C – A.J. Pierzynski (Chicago White Sox) .285, 14 HR, 45 RBI. Pierzynski is having the season of his life and is a big reason why the White Sox remain in first place in the Central. He leads all AL catchers in RBI and is second in HR and batting average.

1B – Paul Konerko (Chicago White Sox) .335, 14 HR, 40 RBI. It kills me to start off this team with back-to-back White Sox, but the ageless wonder, Paul Konerko, is at it yet again. This guy simply does not age. He’s only 36 years old, but you’d swear he’s 46…he’s been around forever.

2B – Robinson Cano (New York Yankees) .313, 20 HR, 47 RBI, 1 SB. Yikes, two White Sox and now a Yankee? This just keeps getting worse. However, Cano is in a class of his own when it comes to AL second basemen. He has huge leads in HR, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS.

3B – Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) .321, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 3 SB. Cabrera is an unreal hitter. Among AL third basemen, he ranks first or second in every major statistical category, except for triples and steals. Over the last eight seasons, he’s averaged .321, 33 HR, and 115 RBI; staggering.

SS – Asdrubal Cabrera (Cleveland Indians) .295, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB. This is quietly becoming an All-Star team dominated by the worst division in baseball, the AL Central. Cabrera’s numbers are simply better all-around numbers than anyone else at his position, which is a terribly weak position in the AL, and that is why he will start at SS.

OF – Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers) .314, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB.

OF – Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) .339, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 22 SB.

OF – Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) .301, 19 HR, 41 RBI, 11 SB. Hamilton and rookie Mike Trout are no-brainers. If you haven’t heard of Trout yet, take note! He is something special. The third spot is a toss up between Jones and Jose Bautista of Toronto. It depends on if you like straight power or a more rounded player. Taking a .243 hitter (Bautista) who only hits for power is hard to justify when you have a guy like Jones, who does it all.

DH – David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox) .301, 21 HR, 54 RBI. Much like Konerko, Ortiz is 36 years young and still crushing the ball. A fact about Ortiz; in his six seasons with the Twins, he never hit more than 20 HR. In his nine with Boston, he has averaged over 35 HR per season.

SP –  Jered Weaver (Los Angeles Angels) 9-1, 2.13 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 68 K. Weaver gets the nod over Chris Sale, because he’s been here before and Sale is unproven as a starter before this season. Weaver and C.J. Wilson have been the glue that’s held together an otherwise disappointing Angels starting rotation.

Reserve Hitters

C – Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins) .327, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB.

C – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Boston Red Sox) .254, 15 HR, 37 RBI.

1B – Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers) .297, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB.

2B – Jason Kipnis (Cleveland Indians) .272, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 20 SB.

MI – Ian Kinsler (Texas Rangers) . 276, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 15 SB.

3B – Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers) .323, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 1 SB.

SS – Elvis Andrus (Texas Rangers) .307, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 16 SB.

CI – Mike Moustakas (Kansas City Royals) .266, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 2 SB.

OF – Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays) .243, 27 HR, 64 RBI, 4 SB.

OF – Mark Trumbo (Los Angeles Angels) .308, 20 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB.

OF – Josh Willingham (Minnesota Twins) .267, 17 HR, 56 RBI, 2 SB.

OF – Austin Jackson (Detroit Tigers) .322, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 7 SB.

DH – Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto Blue Jays) .292, 22 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB.

Reserve Pitchers

SP – David Price (Tampa Bay Rays) 11-4, 2.92 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 97 K.

SP – Matt Harrison (Texas Rangers) 11-3, 3.16 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 65 K.

SP – C.J. Wilson (Los Angeles Angels) 9-4, 2.33 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 84 K.

SP – Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox) 9-2, 2.27 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 94 K.

SP – Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers) 8-5, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 121 K.

SP – Jason Hammel (Baltimore Orioles) 8-3, 3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 90 K.

SP – Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners) 6-5, 3.09 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 114 K.

SP – Tommy Milone (Oakland Athletics) 8-6, 3.73 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 63 K.

RP – Fernando Rodney (Tampa Bay Rays) 23 SV, 0.98 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 36 K.

RP – Jim Johnson (Baltimore Orioles) 23 SV, 1.30 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 22 K.

RP – Joe Nathan (Texas Rangers) 18 SV, 1.87 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 42 K.

RP – Ernesto Frieri (Los Angeles Angels) 10 SV, 6 Holds, 0.00 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 42 K.

While my NL team featured eleven different All-Stars, just nine are different on my AL squad. Here’s what caused me to lean the way I did.

A.J. Pierzynski vs. Mike Napoli: Pierzynski was flat out snubbed for one reason and one reason only; because he is A.J. Pierzynski. Not liked by fans or many in the game, A.J. has All-Star numbers, but his lack of respect cost him. Even with A.J. getting snubbed, the selection of Napoli is a head scratcher. It seems he was rewarded more for last year’s success than this year’s.

Tommy Milone vs. Ryan Cook: In my book, Oakland did not have a legitimate All-Star. That said, the two closest figured to be Milone and OF Josh Reddick. Cook is having a solid year, but was a bit of a surprise pick.

Mike Moustakas vs. Billy Butler: I went ahead and made the more exciting pick for Royals fans on this one. Butler is a solid player, but Moustakas is simply more fun to watch.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia vs. Matt Wieters: Wieters is deserving of the spot and may have been the pick due to the success Baltimore is enjoying, but “Salty” is having the better season. His fifteen bombs are tops among AL catchers.

Jason Kipnis vs. Derek Jeter: Kipnis was robbed here. You could argue that he’s having as good a year as any middle infielder, including Robinson Cano. Jeter was the fan selection at SS because of his name alone.

Josh Willingham vs. Curtis Granderson: Once again, this is a matter of the fans helping out the Yankees. Of all the Minnesota Twins, he’s had the most consistent bat all year for and also has much better all around numbers than Granderson.

Edwin Encarnacion vs. Adam Dunn: Wow! I realize Dunn has gotten his power stroke back this year, but come on. Regardless of how many HRs you’re hitting, when you carry a .219 batting average with it, it does not impress me. “E5” as they call him, for his tendency to commit errors at third base, is hitting nearly .300, with 22 HRs of his own. He’s also better in nearly every other statistic.

Ernesto Frieri vs. Chris Perez: Frieri has given up zero runs and only eight hits in 26 1/3 innings. He’s struck out more than half the batters he’s faced, has 11 saves and 6 holds. Perez has a 3.34 ERA, a higher WHIP, ten less strikeouts in six more innings pitched. Should I just stop now?

Jason Hammel vs. CC Sabathia: This pick is easy to explain. Sabathia belongs in the All-Star game, but is injured. Therefore, Hammel is the next best option at SP.

2012 NL All-Star Team: Plattner’s Picks (written on July 1st)

Posted: 17th July 2012 by Jeff Plattner in MLB

Better late than never…this was written on July 1st and sums up my take on the National League All-Star team.

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is July 10th and the rosters are set. Each year, comparing my All-Stars with the actual rosters is fun and interesting. No sense in wasting any time. Having not looked at the rosters yet, we’ll begin with my National League All-Star team. After revealing my team, we’ll scope out the real All-Star team, compare and contrast, I’ll defend my picks, and we’ll do the same for the American League (which will be the topic of discussion next week). All stats used are as of games completed through June 30, 2012.

C – Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia Phillies) .356, 11 HR, 43 RBI. Ruiz leads all NL catchers in hits, batting average, on base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), and OPS (on base + slugging).

1B – Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds) .350, 14 HR, 47 RBI. Votto’s batting average is fifty-seven points higher than anyone else at his position, in the NL. Statistically, he’s first by a landslide in every category except HRs and RBIs, where he’s second in both.

2B – Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks) .300, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 7 SB. This was a four-man race. Hill wins out because, while other categories are close, his OBP, SLG, and OPS are all much higher than those of Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla, and Jose Altuve.

3B – David Wright (New York Mets) .355, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 8 SB. Wright may not have elite power, but he has everything else. Other third basemen are enjoying nice years, but Wright’s average, OBP, and SLG are astronomically ahead of his competition.

SS – Ian Desmond (Washington Nationals) .276, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB. This is an extremely close two-man race between Desmond and Starlin Castro of the Cubs. Desmond gets the nod for two simple reasons. His overall numbers are slightly more impressive and his team is 17.0 games ahead of Castro and the Cubs, in the standings.

OF – Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals) .310, 20 HR, 61 RBI, 7 SB.

OF – Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado Rockies) .337, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 10 SB.

OF – Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) .346, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 14 SB. This group of three is at or near the top of the outfield crop for just about every statistical category. The NL is stacked with amazing outfielders, but the only three other five-tool OFs, who could be considered in the same tier as these guys are Matt Kemp, who is injured, Melky Cabrera, whose HR and RBI numbers aren’t quite good enough, and Ryan Braun, who is a cheater. So there you go!

SP – R.A. Dickey (New York Mets) 12-1, 2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 116 K. As recent as a few months ago, if you were to ask me if R.A. Dickey would ever be the starting pitcher in an All-Star game, I would have been confident enough to tell you I would bet absolutely everything I had against it…I’m glad I’m not a betting man.  Dickey’s 12 is already a career high in wins and his WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) and ERA are somewhere around about half of what they’ve been for the majority of his career. Quite impressive for a man in his late 30’s.

Reserve Hitters

C – Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals) .312, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 7 SB.

C/DH – Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants) .298, 10 HR, 41 RBI.

1B – Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks) .292, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB.

2B – Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) .287, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 4 SB.

MI – Jose Altuve (Houston Astros) .308, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 12 SB.

3B – Hanley Ramirez (Miami Marlins) .259, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 10 SB.

SS – Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs) .296, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB.

OF – Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) .282, 19 HR, 50 RBI, 5 SB.

OF – Melky Cabrera (San Francisco Giants) .354, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 10 SB.

OF – Matt Holliday (St. Louis Cardinals) .307, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB.

OF – Martin Prado (Atlanta Braves) .321, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 9 SB.

OF – Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers) .308, 22 HR, 55 RBI, 13 SB.

Reserve Pitchers

SP – Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals) 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 112 K.

SP – Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies) 10-4, 3.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 111 K.

SP – Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants) 10-4, 2.85 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 92 K.

SP – Chris Capuano (Los Angeles Dodgers) 9-3, 2.69 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 89 K.

SP – Zack Greinke (Milwaukee Brewers) 9-2, 2.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 102 K.

SP – Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants) 9-3, 2.53 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 114 K.

SP – Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds) 9-4, 2.26 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 79 K.

SP – Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals) 9-3, 2.81 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 122 K.

SP – James McDonald (Pittsburgh Pirates) 7-3, 2.44 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 86 K.

RP – Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) 23 SV, 1.50 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 50 K.

RP – Joel Hanrahan (Pittsburgh Pirates) 20 SV, 2.10 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 35 K.

RP – Santiago Casilla (San Francisco Giants) 21 SV, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 28 K.

RP – Tyler Clippard (Washington Nationals) 13 SV, 10 Holds, 1.83 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 39 K.

RP – Huston Street (San Diego Padres) 12 SV, 1.29 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 28 K.

Between the two teams, 11 players were different. Some of it was due to fan voting, some of it was not. Here are the differences and why Plattner’s Picks went the way they did. We’ll do a quick breakdown of my team versus the real All-Star team and why my picks are the correct ones!

Aaron Hill vs. Dan Uggla: Hill is hitting .300, Uggla is hitting .232; enough said.

Hanley Ramirez vs. Pablo Sandoval: At .300, 6 HR, and 25 RBI, there are no less than eight 3B in the NL who are better than Sandoval. This is the downfall of fan voting.

Brandon Phillips vs. Rafael Furcal: Of all major categories, Furcal is only better in OBP and SB, and not by much in either category.

Matt Holliday vs. Matt Kemp: I only left Kemp off my team because of his injuries. In my book, he’s the best OF and maybe even the best player in the National League.

Martin Prado vs. Jay Bruce: Bruce not making my team was a direct result of the “every team gets an All-Star” rule. Look past the 12 HR and 23 RBI edge for Bruce and Prado is better almost everywhere else. He has twenty-five more hits, more SB, thirty-eight less strikeouts, and his average is sixty-four points better.

Paul Goldschmidt vs. Bryan LaHair: Goldschmidt has more runs, hits, doubles, RBI, SB, a better batting average, better OBP, SLG, and OPS. LaHair has two more HRs. You tell me??

Tyler Clippard vs. Aroldis Chapman: Clippard has the better ERA, Chapman the better WHIP. Clippard has 23 combined saves and holds to Chapman’s 15. Finally Clippard has 1 blown save to Chapman’s 4.

Chris Capuano vs. Clayton Kershaw: Besides W/L record, their numbers are eerily similar, so why not take the guy with the far better record? Capuano is that guy.

James McDonald vs. Lance Lynn: I admit it’s hard to leave a 10-4 starting pitcher off your All-Star team, but I managed to do so with Lynn, thanks to his 3.62 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Compare those numbers to McDonald’s (2.44 and 0.98) and it’s not even a contest.

Johnny Cueto vs. Wade Miley: Same record, but Cueto’s ERA is much lower than Miley’s, plus Cueto plays for the first place Reds.

Santiago Casilla vs. Jonathan Papelbon: Paps clearly won here on name recognition only. Casilla has more saves, lower ERA and WHIP, and plays for the better team.

NBA Draft ’12: more than a Mock Draft

Posted: 25th June 2012 by Jeff Plattner in College Basketball, NBA

The NBA Draft is Thursday, June 28th, but the idea of doing some typical, boring mock draft where I simply run down the teams and plug in players where they might go did not seem appealing. Therefore, with a quick text message, I contacted two of my closest friends, Jim and Jay, who have two outstanding basketball minds. Having drastically different schedules, (me, a Business Analyst, Jim, a Farmer, and Jay, a Bar Manager) we would complete the entire draft via text message, over a three-day period. Nonetheless, the scenario was simple. We would each be the GM of eight NBA teams (6 teams each that owned one first round pick and two teams each that owned two first round picks). The teams were divvied up so that nobody would make consecutive picks, except for Jim, as GM of the Celtics, with picks No. 21 and 22. Here’s what transpired…

(Jay) Sorry. Working a double…Here’s my 1st pick: Anthony Davis: PF Kentucky – “The Bourbon Street Brow” is the most anti-climactic pick since LeBron or Duncan in ’97, but is also the third safest No. 1 of the last 20 years or so. After moving Emeka this morning to DC, it’s a lock that those minutes will be used for Davis. Pair his low post presence with “Sloth” Gordon on the perimeter and the Hornets have a couple pieces to build around.

(Me) Solid pick and a no brainer. GM Jimmy, MJ, and the Bobcats, with their slick new unis are on the clock. Unis don’t win games, so Jim better make a splash and put somebody in that uni that can actually make a play. Just set a record for most times saying uni(s) in one sentence.

(Jay) Since I own Minnesota’s No. 18 pick, I would like to hypothetically trade that and Derrick Williams to the ‘Cats for the No. 2 overall pick.

(Jim) Give me an hour. McHale, Isiah, Dunleavy, Kahn, and I are golfing. One hole to go…. (3 hours later) No trade. The Charlotte Bobcats with the 2nd pick of the 2012 NBA Draft select Thomas Robinson, PF Kansas – first step to credibility is defense and teaming Robinson with Biyombo should help protect the paint. Robinson also is ready to make an immediate impact, which is important for the rebuilding Bobcats.

(Me) With the 3rd pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards select Bradley Beal, SG Florida – After adding two nice defensive pieces last week via trade, we feel good here in Washington. In a conference where the playoffs are always a possibility, we felt we were missing one piece. Beal is a perfect fit for where we’re heading. He’s a great shooter and a great kid.

(Jim) How is his smile, Kahn?

(Me) Perfect teeth! Sacramento is officially shopping the No. 5 pick. Any interest out there?

(Jay) With the 4th pick, the Cleveland Cavs select Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Kentucky – The second overall player slips into our lap at four. Highest motor of anyone in the draft, winner on every level and lives to play hoops. Can affect the game with or without the ball. Doesn’t hurt that his close friend, and high school teammate, Kyrie Irving was last year’s Rookie of the Year.

(Me) After exploring all options with the No. 5 pick, we were unable to find a deal we felt would help us win right away. Teams like us need to take risks in order to be successful. Time to shake things up. With the 5th pick, the Sacramento Kings select Andre Drummond, C Connecticut – More than anything, we love Drummonds athleticism and potential. He’s already a monster on the defensive end and has all the tools to be great in this league offensively as well. We have plenty of offense on this team, but lack that dominating defensive presence in the paint. Drummond will team with DeMarcus Cousins to form our version of the Twin Towers.

(Jim) With the 6th pick, the Portland Trailblazers select Harrison Barnes, SF North Carolina – while he doesn’t fill a position of need, we firmly believe in taking the best available player and a guy that was almost second off the board. With another high pick, we can balance out the roster.

(Me) With the 7th pick, the Golden State Warriors select Dion Waiters, SG Syracuse – Small ball is back in Golden State. With Curry at the point and Klay Thompson sliding over to the three, of the SGs available, the Warriors felt the aggressive play and desire to attack the rim, of Waiters, compliments the shooting ability of Stephen and Klay, the best. With our second first round pick, we’ll look to add depth to our team. I can’t believe I took a Syracuse guy, gross!! Toronto’s on the clock…can we just skip them? Does anyone actually consider them part of the NBA?

(Jay) Remember “Vinceanity’s” slam-dunk contest? Toronto says you’re welcome. At least we aren’t “Big Country’s” NBA Alma mater, Vancouver! With the 8th pick of the draft, the Raptors select Damian Lillard, PG Weber State – This was a no brainer for our team. We need a scoring PG with high basketball IQ that can shoot or drive to get points. With a 40” vertical and similar size to Derrick Rose, this could be just what the Purples need to start the rebuild.

(Me) The Bucks are patiently waiting for the best available “Great White Hope!”

(Jay) How hard is it to name even ten players that have ever played for the Bucks? Haha. I wanted that No. 5 pick badly for Cleveland. I also wanted to Kahn it up with the Wolves!

(Me) Sorry, I wasn’t awake at 4:01am when you texted me, requesting a trade, as I wake up for the day at 5:17am!

(Jim) With the 9th pick, the Detroit Pistons select Meyers Leonard, C Illinois – Bottom line is we needed to get bigger and we feel Meyers has the potential to make a formidable frontcourt with Greg Monroe.

(Me) Wow! Did not see that coming. Seems as though it is back to the drawing board for the Milwaukee Bucks. Ha!

(Jay) Sorry about the delay boys…work was crazy busy last night. After careful consideration, and after a lapse in judgment by Joe Dumars, the Charlotte, errrr….New Orleans Hornets select Tayshaun Prince 2.0, John Henson, F North Carolina – Although we could have went a few different ways with this pick, we couldn’t pass up the thought of Henson and Davis covering nearly 16 feet of space in the paint with their incredible wingspans. Good luck shooting anything within 15 feet of the hoop. It’s not the “Big Easy” any more boys.

(Jim) With the 11th pick, the Portland Trailblazers select Tyler Zeller, C North Carolina – Getting LaMarcus Aldridge help up front was a priority for us in this draft. While Zeller might not be a wow pick, he is going to be a solid pro for a long time and should be able to contribute right from the start. And I overheard Aldridge and Zeller already talking about how they are looking forward to throwing around the lightweight Hornets new front line.

(Jay) Well at least Portland will be the most boring team next year. Sign me up to see a gimpy Aldridge and two white hacks in Pryzbilla and Zeller.

(Me) Well, now that Jim has completely screwed up Milwaukee’s plans with his last two picks, let me totally rethink the Bucks’ strategy…With the 12th pick in the draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select Jeremy Lamb, SG Connecticut – After seeing some targeted bigs go off the board earlier than anticipated, the Bucks decided it was in the best interest of the organization to go ahead and take the best player remaining on our draft board. We love Lamb’s length, athleticism, silky smooth scoring touch, and ability to defend both guard positions. He adds much needed depth to our backcourt.

(Jay) After squashing yet another trade attempt, the Bucks make a confusing SG pick after acquiring one of the top tier SGs at this years trade deadline. Has Kahn’s “Infectious Radius” reached Milwaukee already?? In the first reach of the draft, in a need versus want situation, the Phoenix Suns select Kendall Marshall, PG North Carolina – This pick makes the most sense for a team that needs help everywhere. Steve Nash is a free agent looking for a championship caliber team and there are no real superstar-potential players at this point in the draft. Marshall’s size (6’4”) and high basketball IQ make him a good piece to hopefully put next to a superstar in the next year or two.

(Me) Depth never hurt anybody. The Bucks did not feel the need to reach for an undersized big man, who would have been forced to play C.

(Jay) It does if you’re starting Ekpe Udoh against anything that weighs over 135lbs. And with that…the Houston Rockets and Kevin McHale are on the clock.

(Me) What are you talking about? We’re fine, we have Kwame Brown, Ha! With the 14th pick, the Houston Rockets select Arnett Moultrie, PF Mississippi State – while he may not be the top player left, we feel he’s among the top big men remaining and we love Moultrie’s size, athleticism, and ability to stretch the floor. A physical rebounder, he brings much needed help to our thin front line.

(Jay) Your front line is thinner than LeBron’s hairline. Billy King’s 76ers are now on the clock. Little known fact about Philadelphia: it was once the capital city of the United States.

(Jim) With the 15th pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Terrance Ross, SG Washington – The playoffs showed us we had two very big weaknesses and outside shooting is one of them, as Iguodala and Turner are not three-point marksmen. With Lou Williams opting out, Ross should be able to add scoring off the bench right away.

(Me) With the 16th pick in the draft, the Houston Rockets select Fab Melo, C Syracuse – Desperate for help in the middle, we feel Fab provides us with a defensive presence we’ve lacked. While he’s very raw on the offensive end, we feel we have the offensive firepower to bring him along slowly in that department and simply focus on protecting the paint for now, while hopefully NOT getting face-stomped!!

(Jim) With the 17th pick in the NBA draft, the Dallas Mavericks select Austin Rivers, SG Duke – We didn’t think he would be available after hearing he had top 10 promise, but we are thrilled to add a dynamic player to our aging roster. With Dirk still in the fold and a massive amount of cap space, we look to be back in the championship sooner than later.

(Jay) With the 18th pick, the Timberwolves select Perry Jones III, F Baylor – It isn’t often that a top 5 talent slips this far in the draft. Coach Adelman has a history of motivating players, and if he can motivate Jones, the Wolves got a steal. Much like Paul George of the Pacers, Jones can play the 3 or 4 and likes to have the ball in his hands facing the basket. Great shooter for someone his size.

(Me) With the 19th pick in the draft, the Orlando Magic select Moe Harkless, SF St. John’s – As we prepare for the seemingly inevitable departure of Dwight Howard, it was time to take a look in the mirror. What we saw was a team full of mostly jump shooters. Moe brings us another dimension on the offensive end, as an individual who loves to attack the rim. His explosiveness and athleticism was just too intriguing to pass up.

(Jay) With the 20th pick, the Denver Nuggets select Terrence Jones, F Kentucky – with a young front line of McGee, Faried, and Gallinari, it will be important to have depth that can play three or four different positions. Jones has a 7’2” wingspan, but can be deadly being the arc. Good value at this spot.

(Jim) With the 21st pick in the draft, the Boston Celtics select Royce White, SF Iowa State – with the reality that we have to deal with the 6’8” 280lb LeBron James ever year, we need as many strong bodies as possible to at least get in his way. Royce has many skills and with the strong leadership of the returning Kevin Garnett, we think we can get the best out of Royce. With the 22nd pick of the draft, the Boston Celtics select Evan Fournier, SG France – with the possibility of Ray Allen not returning, we need help at the two guard spot and feel that Fournier is the best available wing and believe that he might be able to contribute this season.

(Me) With the 23rd pick, the Atlanta Hawks select Jared Sullinger, PF Ohio State – There comes a point in the draft where reward simply outweighs risk and to compete in the rugged Eastern Conference, we know the Hawks must get bigger and more physical up front.

(Jay) You jerk!! After praying that we could keep “Sully” in his home state, the Cavs have decided to select Andrew Nicholson, PF St. Bonaventure – Looking to add excitement to the font line, we decided to go with the small school riser with incredible length. He attacks the rim every chance he gets. Will be a great dump off pass for Kyrie or to rebound MKG’s misses.

(Jim) With the 25th pick, the Memphis Grizzlies select Marquis Teague, PG Kentucky – last season, with the tight schedule, we played Mike Conley Jr. too many minutes, so finding a guy to help at the point was a priority this offseason.

(Me) Dang!!

(Jim) “Agent Zero” just didn’t cut it.

(Me) With the 26th pick, the Indiana Pacers select Tony Wroten Jr., PG Washington – with the late season emergence of George Hill at the point, Larry Legend and the Pacers feel there are enough teams out there with needs at the PG position that they can dangle Darren Collison as a trade chip and acquire another piece to the puzzle of a vastly improving team. Wroten has zero jump shot, but as a backup, will have the time to develop one.

(Jay) Fresh off of winning the 2012 title, it’s time for the Miami Heat to reload. With the 27th pick, we select John Jenkins “Jingleheimer Schmidt,” SG Vanderbilt – in a tough toss up between Jenkins and Kentucky’s Doron Lamb, Jenkins wins on head to head workouts and straight up shooting ability. With the possibility of the Great White Hype, South Dakota’s own Mike Miller retiring after one of the greatest close out game shooting performances in some time, we need to have someone who can keep defenses honest for the Big Three.

(Jim) With the 28th pick in the draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Jeff Plattner, SG Norman County East High School…with James Harden and Serge Ibaka seeking max contracts, there is a very good chance Harden will be traded, so we thought it was important to find a shooter off the bench. Wait…we meant Will Barton, SG from Memphis.

(Me) Ha! Crap, I want to run with Durant and Co. You must’ve seen my highlight tape!

(Jay) I’d take Britney Griner over you, slim. Haha! With the 29th pick, the Chicago Bulls select Doron Lamb, SG Kentucky – the best shooter remaining is also quite the slasher and scorer. The most underrated player on the Wildcats last season will add some instant offense for the Rose-less Bulls.

(Me) With the 30th and final pick of the first round, the Golden State Warriors select Quincy Miller, F Baylor – the Warriors need help on the glass and although he comes with some injury risk, picked this low, Miller is a low risk and adds the help on the boards that the Warriors are seeking.