Dwight Howard on the Move

By: Prad and Jon

It looks like Dwight Howard’s stay in Hollywood is nearing its end as sources report that he is attempting to sign a max deal with another team. Howard had a difficult time this season with the Lakers. Part of the problem was being able to coexist with a star- studded roster. He also blames his ability to work within Mike D’Antoni’s system. Whatever the reason may be that Howard wasn’t a good fit in LA, he averaged some pretty bad numbers by his standards. He had his lowest scoring output since his sophomore season (17.1 PPG) and averaged the worst boards per game since his third season in the league (12.4 RPG). Howard will be at the forefront of the free agency period, which begins on July 1. It was previously reported that Chris Paul and him would want to team up and play together next season, but it is confirmed that Paul will remain in Los Angeles and re-sign with the Clippers. Howard’s potential spots for next season include Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston. The latter of which is the biggest possibility.

Chris Paul
Chris Paul

Houston’s Case

James Harden
James Harden

The Rockets will be the first to meet with the center on Sunday night. They will most probably be offering a four year max deal worth $88 million. Although this offer could be surpassed by the Lakers, Texas doesn’t incur an income tax. Also, the Rockets are one of the most international teams in terms of broadcasting because of former talent, Yao Ming and current point guard, Jermey Lin. His brand will become very marketable in Asia. Houston already has a strong team with a star in James Harden, who averaged 25.9 points a game this past season which accounted for 5th in the league. He led the Rockets to the playoffs and a tough fought series with the previous Western Conference Champs, OKC Thunder. The Rockets only have young big men (Thomas Robinson, Donatas Motiejuanas, Tim Ohlbrecht, and Greg Smith) with the exception of Omer Asik who’s going to turn 27 next week. Dwight Howard could serve as a possible mentor to all of this young talent. If he decides to team up with Harden, this core could stay together for at least another five years since Howard is relatively young, 27 and Harden is only 23. The only problem seems to be that Dwight Howard doesn’t necessarily exist well with other talented players, which was exemplified this year with Kobe and Pau Gasol. But, all the pros in this scenario are irresistible for D12 to pass up.

Atlanta’s Case

Josh Smith
Josh Smith

Atlanta is in a good position because they have a lot of cap space and a solid power forward/center in Al Horford. Horford is a star and borderline superstar, averaging 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds. Atlanta, unlike other teams, has the ability to sign two stars. However, with the latest news about Paul, it is very unlikely that Howard will sign with his hometown team. If Atlanta could have teamed Howard with Paul and Horford, they would probably be the favorites in the NBA. However, Atlanta can still field a capable team that can compete with Miami and the other east powers. If Atlanta re-signed Josh Smith and signed another star like Andre Iguodala or Brandon Jennings, Atlanta would have a dangerous starting five and at least have a chance at winning the Eastern Conference. Although Dwight Howard grew up in Atlanta, he has never expressed interest in returning. The Hawks have the worst odds of obtaining Howard, which should not come as a surprise.

Dallas’ case

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki

Although the Mavericks have little chance of winning the championship next season if they sign Howard, they will have a chance the following season because of the financial sacrifice that Dirk Nowitzki is willing to undertake. Currently, Dirk Nowitzki is in the last year of his contract, making over $20 million. Dirk and Dwight would be making over half of the Mavericks’ salary cap. However, Dirk has stated that he would be willing to take a major pay cut to sign another superstar in the 2014 offseason. In 2014, there could be a lot of good free agents that can propel Dallas to the championship. If Nowitzki takes a pay cut, Dallas will be able to sign a big name free agent as well as a number of quality pieces for their bench. Unlike the Rockets, the Mavericks have a championship winning coach, player, and owner. With the help of Mark Cuban, Dwight can become a bigger name and sign more lucrative endorsement deals. Since people close to Dwight are saying that he does not like the Lakers’ situation, Dallas will be a very attactive option becomes Nowitzki and their ability to sign another high priced free agent as well as a deep bench.

Laker’s Case

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant

His current team can offer Howard a max deal approximately five years $118 million. Yet the money might not be everything for Howard, because his main concern may be where he’s the main figure on his team or where he has the best chance to win an NBA title.  The aforementioned reasons about Mike D’Antoni and the roster filled with stars made it difficult for Howard to work and it will stay that way as long as D’Antoni stays in Los Angeles. But, Howard doesn’t want to go to LA after D’Antoni is fired because that will arouse suspicion about the correlation between D’Antoni’s firing and Howard’s signing. He already caused a stir when Howard forced the Orlando Magic organization to fire their head coach, Stan Van Gundy. Wherever Howard lands, one aspect is clear: he wants to be competitive and be in an environment where he can win a championship. Ultimately, I predict that Howard will end up playing in Houston alongside James Harden.

All Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com

Top Center Fielders and Future Star

By: Jon

1) Mike Trout – Angels

Mike Trout
Mike Trout

Mike Trout is the best all-around player in baseball because of his ability to hit, run, and play defense. After one of the most complete seasons in baseball history, Trout has followed his rookie season with another solid season. Trout is on pace to have another MVP caliber season, .315/13 HR/20 steals/57 runs/52 RBI. As the stats depict, Trout has the ability to do everything he wants while at the plate. Although he may not be leading the league in runs or steals, Trout will still garner a lot of MVP votes. Everyone who watches ESPN knows that Trout is a great defender because of the home runs he robs and the web gems he catches. The biggest joke of the MLB season last season was that Trout didn’t win a Gold Glove last season. However, he is the favorite to win the award this year because of his arm and speed.

2) Andrew McCutchen – Pirates

Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen

Andrew is one of the brightest stars in major league baseball today because of his physical skills and talent. The 27 year old outfielder is a superstar and the main reason why the Pirates are in their current position. Last year, McCutchen had a career year finishing third in the NL in the MVP vote because of his .327/ 31 HR/ 96 RBI/ 107 runs/ 20 steals. McCutchen is on pace to top most of his numbers that he accomplished last year, which could lead him to the MVP, if the Pirates continue their success. The Pirates will be good for a number of his years with McCutchen leading the team. Along with winning the Silver Sluggler award last year, he won the Gold Glove award. McCutchen is destined to win a lot more Gold Glove awards because of his speed, arm, and instincts.

3) Adam Jones – Orioles

Adam Jones
Adam Jones

Jones was acquired by the Orioles in a deal that significantly altered their future. In deal that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners, the Orioles were able to net Adam Jones and starter Chris Tillman. Adam Jones is a young star, who had a breakout season last year. Jones is on pace to set career highs in HR, AVG, SB, RBI, and Runs. He is currently batting .292/ 15 HR/ 56 runs/ 57 RBI/9 SB. Along with being a great hitter, Jones is a very athletic player, which allows him to be a great defensive player. In the last four years, Jones has won 2 Gold Gloves, but he should win a lot more in his future. Jones is part of a great Orioles lineup, which has helped him and the rest of his teammates have career years. Many people should keep an eye on Adam Jones because one day he may be a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Future Star: Oscar Tavares – Cardinals

Oscar Taveras
Oscar Taveras

Oscar Tavares was voted as the third best prospect in baseball by both MLB.com and Baseball America. In his last four minor league seasons, Oscar has batted over .300. Last season, Tavares had a break out season at Double-A with 23 HR, 94 RBI, and .321 averages. Although Oscar has been unable to reproduce last year’s stats at Triple-A because of his injuries, he is having a solid season, .306/ 5 HR/ 32 RBI. Tavares is projected to be an above average defender because of his great speed and arm strength. Expect him to be called up quickly and become an immediate star.

stats from baseball reference pics from espn.com

Do the Pirates have enough to finish above .500?

By: Jon

When people awoke this morning, they saw that the Pittsburgh Pirates had the best record in baseball. Many of them are probably thinking, “How could this be true? The Pirates have not finished a season over .500 in the last 20 years!” There is no typo. The Pirates have one of the most talented rosters as well as a consistent rotation and bullpen. The Pirates may only have one superstar, but every player on their roster feels like they are an All-Star. The Pirates are the first team to 50 wins, although the player with the highest batting average is rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole, .333. The Pirates have been winning because of their pitching. Many people only know starters AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano because of their past success and failure. Although Burnett and Liriano have been solid starters, the Pirates’ best pitcher has been Jeff Locke. During his first full season, Locke has won seven games and compiled a 2.06 ERA. The Pirates have 3 starters with an ERA less than 3.15, Locke, Burnett, Liriano. However, the current and future ace of the staff is Gerrit Cole. Cole was the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and has a 100 mph fastball with a devastating slider. He made his major league debut league on June 11. Since his debut, Cole has yet to lose or give up more than 3 runs. However, like most young pitchers, Cole has not pitched deep into many starts, averaging 6 innings per start.

Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole

The most unlikely of all the Pirates’ stars is Jason Grilli. After trading away their All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox, Jason Grilli assumed the position with few expectations. However, Grilli has taken the league by storm, converting 27 of his 28 save opportunities. Grilli has a 1.77 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 58 K. Along with Grilli, Mark Melancon is having a breakout season, solidifying the back end of the Pirates bullpen. Mark may have better stats than Grilli, 0.86 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 43 K.  Also, the Pirates have a solid lefty reliever, Justin Wilson. Although Wilson’s stats are not comparable to Melancon or Grilli’s stats, he has been an effective lefty specialist, 2.23 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 39 K.

Jason Grilli
Jason Grilli

Although the Pirates do not resemble the Yankee’s Murder’s Row lineup, they are able to score enough runs to win. The Pirates offense is led by superstar Andrew McCutchen. Andrew is having another great season, .293, 50 runs and 41 RBI. The Pirates may have an Andrew McCutchen clone in Starling Marte. The rookie outfield is having a great season, .283, 22 SB, and 51 runs. The Pirates are able to balance out their lineup because of Pedro Alvarez. The three year veteran is a home run machine. Alvarez is third in the National League in homers and many people think he has the most power in the league. Pirates’ fans may be hesitant about their team because they do not have a great lineup, like Cincinnati or St. Louis. However, if their pitching maintains its dominance, the Pirates will have their first over .500 season in the last 20 years and possibly make the playoffs.

Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen

Stats and pics from ESPN.com