NBA Playoffs: Ranking The Spurs Most Important Pieces

by Joel Gibson

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The Spurs are finally back to the NBA finals. Their discipline, skill, experience and luck (any team that makes it to the finals needs a little luck along  the way) have brought them back for one last run (or at least I think it’s their last big run, who knows with the Spurs honestly?).

No one has doubted the Spurs greatness in recent years. Yet few have expected them to return to the finals in the foreseeable future. Which pieces are most vital to the Spurs success this postseason?

5) Manu Ginobli

At 20 years old having watched the curious career of Manu Ginobli unfold in front of me has left only one certainty in my mind. Never again will see another player like the erratic, injury-prone, Argentian star.

Ginobli in his prime was widely regarded as a top five shooting guard in the league. He had/has great size, a fluent shooting touch, quickness and athleticism to get to the rim and above all, Ginobli will forever be known for his creativity. Continue reading

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NBA Playoff Rankings: Ranking The Best Player On Each Remaining Team

by Joel Gibson

The 2013 NBA playoffs have been exhilarating. We have seen underdogs (like the Warriors) rise and favorites fall (like the Knicks). We have seen stars shine (LeBron James) and stars rise (Ty Lawson).

Player’s legacies have been altered for better or worse in these playoffs. Some players like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are just flat-out refusing to go down without at least one more banner. Others are on the pursuit to greatness.

It is no secret, the playoffs are won by stars. For example, would the Warriors have ever made it out of the first round had Stephen Curry been injured? Would the Heat be in the conference finals if Derrick Rose was playing? Where would Miami be if LeBron had not signed with the Heat? Could Wade and Bosh have made them contenders? Stars change everything in the playoffs. Continue reading

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MLB Prospect Power Rankings: Top 10 Prospects On The Cusp Of Reaching The Majors (May 23, 2013)

Which prospects are on the verge of making an impact in the Major Leagues?  This weekly column will rank the ten who are closest (as well as other names that are being closely considered).  Keep in mind that while talent is factored in opportunity plays a major role, so there may be some “lesser” prospects who rank fairly highly on the list (ITC = In the Conversation; NR = Not Ranked):

1) Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher (4)
2013 Statistics – 2-4, 3.11 ERA, 49 K, 5 BB over 46.1 IP
Why He’s Here – Set to debut tonight

The Orioles need help in the rotation (entering play on Tuesday their starters owned a 4.85 ERA) and officials have gone on record stating that Gausman could be considered to skip Triple-A and jump directly to Baltimore. By now we all know that they did in fact believe this, as Gausman is set to be recalled and debut tonight in Toronto.  The fourth overall selection in 2012 he has thrown 61.1 professional innings. Is that enough? Well, 62 K vs. 6 BB make us think it could be. He s coming off a dominant start, where he struck out 10 over 6.0 IP. The Orioles should give him an opportunity to stick in the rotation from here on out.

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NHL 2013 Awards: Ranking The Jack Adams Trophy Finalists

Twenty players dress for each game, but there is only one coach. While the players are ultimately responsible for themselves and their performance, the coach sets the tone. How said players respond to coaching and how it impacts their performance on the ice is what separates the good coaches from the great ones. Selecting who should take home the Jack Adams Trophy is not just about what team had the best season, but the coach that did the best job with their team. Let’s take a look at the nominees and how they I have them ranked.

3. Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks
I can’t dispute that the Blackhawks were the best team in the league this season, but does that make him the Coach of the Year? What Quenneville essentially did here was take one of the most talented teams in the league and not mess it up. Granted there were some injuries to manage, but the talent was there. That does not make it any less crazy to me that the Blackhawks started the season with a 21-0-3 record and rode that success all the way through the season. While the start was remarkable, overall Quenneville got Chicago to meet, if not slightly exceed expectations. In short, he did his job, albeit at a very high level.

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2013 Trade Deadline Candidates: Top Five Players The Chicago White Sox Could Deal (Konerko, Rios & More)

We are not quite into MLB’s trading season, but it is quickly approaching.  While there is still time for struggling teams to right the ship, we are starting to get a feel of who may be sellers at this year’s trade deadline and who may not be.  Over the next few weeks we are going to look at these teams, ranking the Top 5 players who could be traded by the deadline.

The Chicago White Sox are currently 20-23, but that’s good for just fourth in the AL Central.  A team that has never been shy about making bold moves and entered the season nearing a $120 million payroll, they could easily decide to tear things down (somewhat) and look towards rebuilding for 2014 and beyond.

Who could be on the move?  Let’s take a look:

5) Jake Peavy – Starting Pitcher
He’s under contract for $14.5 million for 2014 and has a vesting option for 2015 (at $15 million).  While Peavy would obviously provide a boost to any rotation, that’s a hefty investment for a pitcher who has struggled with injuries.  In fact, 2012 was the first time since 2007 that he made at least 30 starts (from 2009-2011 the most appearances he made in a season was 19).

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MLB Weekly Power Rankings: May 20, 2013 (Cardinals Still On Top, Reds On Rise & More)

Seven weeks into the season and we have found some stability atop our rankings.  After that?  No one appears like they want to establish themselves among the best teams in the league (and the teams who have played well still have significant questions hanging over them).  Sooner or later we should get some clarity, but we’re not there yet.

Who is performing well at this point? Who deserve recognition? Let’s take a look at how things currently fall:

Rank Team (Previous) Thoughts
1) St. Louis Cardinals (1) Past Week: 5-2
Injuries are beginning to mount in the rotation, with both Jake Westbrook & Jaime Garcia landing on the DL.  For a franchise like the Cardinals, though, it’s of little concern.  They are loaded with talent and could easily bring top prospect Michael Wacha up to help fill the gap.  Even with the injuries there is nothing to be concerned about.  They are currently the class of baseball.
2) Texas Rangers (4) Past Week: 5-2
Can the starting pitching continue to post an ERA of 3.61?  We should all be skeptical, but right now they are getting the job done and they deserve respect for taking 3 of 4 from the Detroit Tigers.  Yes, Ian Kinsler landing on the DL is a bit of a concern but when you have Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings there is little issue.  He isn’t going to stick once Kinsler is healthy, but he should help bridge the gap seamlessly.
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NBA Playoffs: Ranking The Five Biggest Surprises Of The Second Round

by Joel Gibson

So far the NBA playoffs have brought us a lot of surprises. Some bad, like Russell Westbrook’s injury, and some good, like the emergence of the fun to love Golden State Warriors. While some things have stayed the same in round two, such as the Heat being the most dominant force on the court, there have still have been some surprises along the way.

Here are what I believe are the five biggest surprises so far in the second round of playoff action.

5) Kawhi Leonard’s rebounding:

Leonard came into the league as a hard-nosed, high-character player with some clear limitations. The expectations for his career changed in a major way when he got drafted by the Spurs.

The Spurs are notorious for getting the best out of players both mentally and talent-wise (look up Green, Danny). Leonard is still a very young player with a lot to learn. That has not stopped the Spurs from getting exceptional production from their upcoming star. Continue reading

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MLB Prospect Power Rankings: Top 10 Prospects On The Cusp Of Reaching The Majors (May 16, 2013)

Which prospects are on the verge of making an impact in the Major Leagues?  This weekly column will rank the ten who are closest (as well as other names that are being closely considered).  Keep in mind that while talent is factored in opportunity plays a major role, so there may be some “lesser” prospects who rank fairly highly on the list (ITC = In the Conversation; NR = Not Ranked):

1) Christian Yelich – Miami Marlins – Outfielder (3)
2013 Statistics – .316, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 20 R, 2 SB over 95 AB
Why He’s Here – Rebuilding franchise in need of talent

The season is already lost for the Marlins, there is no timeframe for Giancarlo Stanton to return and they have already summoned two players directly from Double-A (Marcell Ozuna & Derek Doetrich). Yelich has erupted in May (after missing a lot of April) to hit .370 with 5 HR, 13 RBI and 14 R (he went 3-6 with a double and 2 HR yesterday). Even more impressive may be his strikeout to walk ratio of 8 to 9. All that stands in his way of playing time is Juan Pierre, but is that something that should really stop them? They might as well go with a full blown youth movement, and you would think it’s only a matter of time before they do.

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2013 NHL Playoff Power Rankings & Predictions – Round 2

by Ray Kuhn

After a first round that lasted for what seemed as long as the regular season did, we are now down to eight teams. With every round, both the intensity and the beards will grow. While these eight teams advanced, they are still not without question marks. The second round will certainly be exciting, and there will be some tense moments. That is about all that can be guaranteed.

Here are my predictions at how the second round will transpire along with my rankings of the playoff teams:

Eastern Conference
Penguins over Senators; 5 games
Bruins over Rangers; 7 games

Western Conference
Blackhawks over Red Wings; 5 games
Sharks over Kings; 7 games

Rank Team Notes
1) Chicago Blackhawks (1) The Blackhawks barely broke a sweat as   they dispatched Minnesota in five games. Travel was at a minimum and Corey   Crawford looked good in goal. They are well rested, so far, and their playoff   run just seems to an extension of their regular season dominance.
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NHL 2013 Awards: Ranking The Hart Trophy Finalists

This should not be a popularity contest. To be even in the conversation for the Hart Trophy you have be, at worst, a very good if not great player. The other way to be considered for nomination is to have a very good year a while playing a large and vital part in your team’s success.

One of the few things most hockey fans can agree on is that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are two of the best players in all of hockey. You can use various statistics and metrics to analyze players, but the evidence is pretty unavoidable. Crosby and Ovechkin are the cream of the crop.

While Ovechkin needed the full 48 games to compile 56 points, good for the third most this season behind Martin St. Louis and his league leading 60 points, Crosby only needed 36 games to tally the same 56 points. The third nominee, John Tavares, was 17th in the league in scoring with 47 points. All three players made the playoffs, but all three had vastly different impacts on their teams. Let’s take a look at what that means to the Hart Trophy race.

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