Cleveland Browns 2015 Draft Day…..Here we go again

When draft day is the biggest day of your season, you aren’t a very good team or organization. For the Cleveland Browns, once again, draft day is the biggest day of their season as they try to build a team that can compete for relevancy. Yeah, I said it. I don’t think the Browns are in a position to compete for a championship. This organization needs to succeed in this draft to put themselves in a position to be relevant. For the past several seasons the Browns have been that dude who tells you how great he is, but can’t show you.

The Browns miscues on draft day are epic. Cleveland has not had a franchise quarterback since Bernie Kosar, and yet they continue taking major gambles on draft day to try to find that signal-caller that can lead them. The problem is this franchise doesn’t seem to understand that what they really need are pieces that can complement a serviceable quarterback. That is the first step to relevancy.

With 10 picks in this years draft the Browns, ONCE AGAIN, have the chance to bring in some quality players that can give them talent and depth at key positions. Cleveland has their own pick at #12 and they have the Buffalo Bills pick (2014 draft day Sammy Watkins trade) at #19. This would be an exciting proposition if we didn’t see this team completely screw up their two-1st rounders last year. You remember last year ? The Browns had a top-five pick and Watkins, the Clemson star receiver was sitting there. The Browns traded that pick for the Bills #9 and this year’s 1st round selection. Not a bad deal until you saw what the Browns did with #9. They chose corner Justin Gilbert who was so badly over-matched in his rookie season that Cleveland had to bury him on the bench. Then the Browns traded up from #26 to take quarterback Johnny Manziel at #22. It was flashy. It was exciting and Browns fans went crazy. Then they watched those two players actually take the field. They went crazy again.

Train-wreck

So now the Browns are presented with a similar scenario. Two-1st round picks and numerous holes to fill. The problem is we are hearing rumors that General Manager Ray Farmer and the front office are lusting for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Yep, another quarterback. Analysts say the Browns love Mariota’s make-up. The former Oregon Duck is the anti-thesis of Manziel. He doesn’t party. He is down-to-earth and is someone the Browns can develop and build around. It would take the two-1st rounders to get him, and even then it may not be enough. The Browns could trade to move up and get him and then flip him to the Eagles and possibly get Sam Bradford in return. While this rumor has been alive and well for weeks, it doesn’t solve the numerous other issues the Browns face with their personnel.

Lets look at Cleveland’s horrific history of drafting quarterbacks since re-entering the league. It started with their first overall selection in Tim Couch. While Couch may have worked out, the Browns didn’t get him an offensive line to protect him and nearly got the guy killed. Over the last eight years the Browns have moved up to select Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel all to play quarterback. Quinn and Weeden were disastrous selections and Manziel was headed that way before his long stay in alcohol rehab this off-season. I will give the kid another chance. I am not willing to close the door on a kid that was good in college just yet. Early reports say Manziel has been going in early and staying late to try and put himself in position to play the position. For that reason I don’t think the Browns should gamble again and take Mariota or any other quarterback early in the draft.

I believe the Browns need to hang on to their picks. Here are Browns trouble spots that MUST be addressed over the next three days.

First, the Browns must get a defensive tackle that can stop the run. The Browns ranked last, dead last in run defense last year. It was the Achilles heel of a team that features a strong secondary and better than average linebacker corps. The Browns must use one of those two first-rounders to get a multi-faceted defensive tackle. Danny Shelton from Oregon meets all the criteria. *Most prognosticators believe this where the Browns go if they don’t trade the pick* Malcolm Brown from Texas fits the bill. Michael Bennett from Ohio State would fit as well. This position must be addressed. While Phil Taylor is a beast on that defensive line he just can’t stay on the field and that is hurting this team. The injury prone Taylor can not be relied on for consistent production. The Browns primary need is a run stopping upgrade on their defensive line.

Second, the Browns have a very solid offensive line, but when center Alex Mack went down last year the Browns season went down the tubes. Mack is vital to this team’s success. With Mack the Browns were averaging nearly 4 yards a carry. Without Mack the Browns barely averaged over 2 yards a carry. His health is paramount and all reports suggest he is good to go. Mitchell Swartz is not getting it done at guard so Cleveland needs to look at offensive line. There should be some great options in the first round. Interior lineman aren’t sexy on draft day but it’s how you build your team, from in the inside out. The guts of your team needs to be addressed, then you have the protection for your skill guys. Cleveland has no depth on their defensive line or offensive line and those positions need to be filled and strengthened.

After those positions are addressed then and only then do you try to get some depth at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe is now a Brown and he will help along with Brian Hartline. But, the Browns need more youth on the outside. Taylor Gabriel was a nice pick-up last year and became a reliable option but he is 5’8. Bowe gives the Browns size despite his age and Hartline as that gritty receiver who can go over the middle. While it would be nice to get an Amari Cooper or Kevin White at number 12, those two receivers will not be there. The guy who might be there is Davante Parker from Louisville. That would be a great selection, but it would come at the expense of an even greater need in the trenches.

If the Browns feel they must get a quarterback there will be some solid options late in the draft in the 4th and 5th rounds. Josh McCown is slated to be the Browns starter and that is fine. With Johnny Manziel getting his nose clean in rehab maybe he finally shows the Browns something and improves. In my mind quarterback is not a priority in this draft. With 10 selections the Browns should just stay put and *gulp* trust their scouts and draft for need and depth.

Dodgers Notes: April Analysis

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in a pretty good position as the first month of the season winds down. First place is never a bad place to be, and with May fast approaching the Boys in Blue are positioned for a good season and an exciting summer. In breaking down the first few weeks we need to critically analyze what is going right, and what is going wrong.

Since I have a sunny disposition (insert chuckle here) lets look at what is going well for the Dodgers. The Dodgers line-up has length. Gone are the big names of Kemp and Hanley, instead there are hitters that thrive on grinding out at-bats. This is a much better approach for long-term success. “See ball-hit ball” has its place, but if you are professional ball-player and you can’t hit with two strikes I don’t feel I can depend on you when the pressure mounts in August and September.

Despite his sub-Mendoza line batting average Jimmy Rollins grinds out at-bats. Like the consummate lead-off man he gives his mates a chance to get a look at the pitcher and can let them know what “that days” pitcher has working and what pitches aren’t. Howie Kendrick is a revelation to some, expected commodity to others. Howie was always the glue to that Angels line-up and he is showing that in the middle of the Dodgers line-up. He produces a tough at-bat almost every time up there and his addition is fun to watch.

Joc Pederson is as good as advertised. His defense is nearly flawless. He gets outstanding jumps on balls in the gaps and takes great angles to balls hit in the alleys. He is hitting .296 with an on base percentage well over .400. While he strikes out a little too much he can also take a walk. I love what he brings to the table and at 22 years-old he will only get better. A true anchor for years to come for the Dodgers.

Alex Guerrero told anyone who would listen during the spring that he wasn’t going back down to the minors. He wasn’t lying. He is raking. 5 home runs in 26 at bats. Two pinch-hit home runs. The only reason Guerrero isn’t playing every day is that he doesn’t have a position. While fans clamor for him to play every day, they fail to see that he still needs to work on his defense. His natural position is second base and he will not be supplanting Kendrick this year. We should enjoy his production and be happy that he is an option as a bat off the bench and a super utility player. But, until he isn’t such a liability defensively he can’t play every day.

Adrian Gonzalez has been the best hitter in the big leagues for the first month of the season. He went on a tear against his home-town Padres to start the year. He wasn’t going to keep hitting .500 but has been consistent and has had the penchant for getting the big hit. Gonzalez is vital for Dodgers success and the man can simply hit lasers. Despite the lefty-lefty match-up, I still have no idea why Dodger manager Don Mattingly sits him against San Francisco Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. Oh well, we will get to THAT in a moment.

The Dodgers starters have been solid. Clayton Kershaw only had 1 win last April and he will leave this April with only 1 win as well. I am not worried about the reigning Cy Young and MVP. He is a slow starter and will continue to anchor the staff. Zack Greinke is rolling. 3-0 with a sub 1.50 ERA. He has been superb. The Dodgers 1-2 punch in their rotation is what makes them the odds-on favorite to win the NL WEST.

It’s great to see Andre Ethier performing so well. With Yasiel Puig nursing a bum hamstring it figures Either will get more playing time. Ethier is hitting well over .300 with a couple of home runs in limited action. A guy that seemed to be on the outs has a chance to produce and show his value.

The emergence of Yimi Garcia in what has been a creaky bullpen is a pleasant surprise. The Dodgers can certainly use reliable arms in their pen and Garcia has proven his worth. I can see Garcia setting up closer Kenley Jansen when the big right-handed closer comes back from the disabled list. Left-hander Adam Liberatore looks real good as a lefty option. The hard-thrower pounds the zone and although his work has been limited, I expect him to get more work as the familiar names in the Box of Pain continue to flail.

There is a lot that is going right in the Dodgers Nation but there are some glaring weaknesses that I believe are holding this team back from becoming a championship contender. First, the injury bug is not necessarily anyone’s fault, but it is contributing factor to losses. Jansen is due back soon, and they need him back sooner rather than later. While I was not a fan of signing Brandon McCarthy to a 48 million dollar deal, now that he is one of us, I really wanted to see him succeed. McCarthy has the penchant for giving up the home run ball and also striking out a lot of hitters. I thought McCarthy was a decent, albeit overpaid option as a number four starter and his loss to the ulnar collateral ligament tear and Tommy John surgery is a tough loss.

The Dodgers are being cautious with Hyun Jin-Ryu and that is the wise decision. Ryu is vital to long-term Dodgers success. Los Angeles needs Ryu healthy and if keeping him on the shelf to rest that shoulder for a few months will help, then so be it. The Dodgers miss Ryu’s consistency in that third spot in the rotation, but they need to make sure he is 100 percent before trying to bring him back.

Puig hurt his hamstring in San Diego. We all know how delicate those hammies can be. A big part of Puig’s game is his legs. He needs those healthy to be the player that makes the Dodgers go. He should be held out as long as it takes. Carl Crawford tore his oblique on Monday. The oft-injured outfielder is hurt again. I don’t expect him back any time soon. To be honest, not a huge loss, that means more at-bats for Scott Van Slyke.

While the Dodgers defense is much improved, especially with Kendrick, Rollins and Joc up the middle, Yasmani Grandal leaves a lot to be desired behind the plate. We have heard so much about Grandal’s ability to frame pitches, and while that is fine and dandy his inability to block balls in the dirt are a major concern. He gets lazy behind the dish and doesn’t fully square up pitches in the dirt. His bad blocking habits cost the Dodgers extra bases and those bases turn into runs. So far not a huge fan but it’s early.

Brett Anderson is getting 10 million guaranteed to be a fifth starter and so far he has pitched like a fifth starter. Great stuff but lacking consistency and length. He is having a tough time getting through five innings. The Dodgers need him to pitch better.

The Dodgers bullpen in my opinion is still a major trouble spot. Not only do I not think the Dodgers front office adequately addressed the bullpen, but what bothers me the most is that the front office believes they addressed the pen. J.P. Howell does not throw hard, which is fine, but if you don’t throw hard you better locate. His location has not been good. Paco Rodriguez has been inconsistent and I don’t know if you can rely on him for big outs late in games. Right-handed flame throwers Pedro Baez and Chris Hatcher are pitching like former infielders, which they are. Baez throws 97 but doesn’t have a serviceable off-speed pitch and that hurts him. Hatcher has not been a consistent strike thrower, and when he does throw his 95 mile per hour fast ball its been getting hit…..hard. Joel Peralta is a nice addition, but I don’t think he is the late inning guy the Dodgers brass envisioned. There are way too many question marks in the bullpen for a team that has championship aspirations.

I begged and pleaded for the Dodgers to over-pay for Andrew Miller. They didn’t and now he is shining in New York. At 44 million dollars over four years the Yankees got a guy who can get lefties and righties out. He can pitch multiple innings and is down-right filthy. My teen-age like adoration of Miller will not waver until he either breaks down or starts serving them up on a platter. His presence would have given the bullpen the length that Kendrick’s presence has given the Dodgers offense.

At last but not least, Don Mattingly. I have supported our Dodgers manager when my head was telling me sometimes I shouldn’t. While he has improved in certain aspects of managing games, I still see him woefully deficient in handling the minutae of it all. Maybe it’s because we see the genius of Bruce Bochy on a daily basis leading an average Giants team to three World Series titles in five years. Mattingly is praised for his clubhouse abilities in handling big egos. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a place for this but it is getting increasingly difficult to over-look his in-game foibles. They aren’t glaring until they actually are. When they start costing you games, or don’t give the team the best chance to win, it is necessary to question him. His propensity for the double-switch borders on obsessive. Donnie uses the double-switch like a toddler who gets a new toy. He plays with it over and over and over and over. He sometimes needlessly makes the switch and wastes players that could be helpful in later innings. He doesn’t rest players on intermittent days, instead Mattingly rests them all on the same day making it nearly impossible to win that specific game.

Over the last week he has rested Gonzalez, Pederson and Ethier on the same day that Madison Bumgarner has pitched TWICE. I understand its tough for lefties to hit lefties. But, by sitting three of your best hitters against one of the best pitchers in the game, it gave the Dodgers virtually no chance to win those games. They lost them both. Would Bochy rest Posey against a tough righty ? No, Posey gets rest or the day off if he is tired PERIOD. Mattingly tinkers too much. He over-manages and his team suffers for it. There are things I like about Donnie, there are things I can’t stand. The things I can’t stand are starting to out-weigh the things I like.

With all this said, the Dodgers are in first place with a record of 12-8. They are 9-2 at home and are a more complete offensive team than they were last year and can score runs in more varied ways. It doesn’t both me that the Dodgers have lost four of five to the Giants. Small sample size, early in the year. The 270 million dollar Dodgers have strengths. The Dodgers have weaknesses. The Dodger post-season possibilities depend on whether they can ride those strengths and rectify those weaknesses

 

Chico State Baseball: Down Year Brings Great Appreciation…..

 

For the first time since 1994 the Chico State Baseball team will finish with a sub .500 record. If you pause for a moment and let that sink in, it almost doesn’t seem real. There are young men and women who are seniors in college who were not even born yet the last time the Wildcat baseball program did not have a winning season.

Later in this blog we will lament the season that was. But, for now lets appreciate the amazing run the Chico State Baseball program has had over the last two decades. This run of greatness has been epic. During this 21-year stretch the Cats have won 2 national titles, 9 regional championships and have been to the playoffs an incredible 18 times in the last 19 years. I would venture to guess this has been an unprecedented run of success in Division II baseball.

To pinpoint how and why the Wildcats struggled this year is difficult to answer, it was a multi-pronged meltdown. There was not one thing that went wrong this year for the Wildcats. There were numerous problems that became a tsunami of baseball inadequacies that led to the Wildcats demise. The struggles of the Wildcat program is certainly not lost on their CCAA competitors. You have to know there is modicum of joy in the clubhouses around the conference seeing this perrenial power fall flat. To borrow a Vin Scully line, “it’s so quiet in Chico, you can hear the chuckles in San Diego.”  In conducting the post-mortem exam I will not be mentioning specific players by name. After-all, these are college kids. This 2015 Wildcat squad tried and for whatever reason it just didn’t happen for them. But, because of the nature of the program they decided to play in, they are held to the standard of their for-bearers, and for that we must lend a critical eye. Here is the post-mortem……*grabs my scalpel*

First, A lot was expected of Chico State’s returning players. Was this an unfair expectation ? No. This program is used to slowly incorporating junior college transfers during their junior years’ (first seasons) in the program and then having them perform at a high level in their senior seasons. This was SUPPOSED to be the year these seniors dominated. They didn’t. One can make the argument that only a hand-full of Chico State seniors lived up to expectations. Nearly a dozen other Chico State seniors performed so poorly that the Wildcats had no chance to compete for conference and regional glory. A good team can with-stand down years from a couple of their key players. When a team has 10-12 players perform so far below expectations they really have no chance to be competitive. These upper class-men didn’t hit, didn’t hit with runners in scoring position, and were inconsistent on the mound.

Second, the kids in the Chico State program played like kids. It’s always nice to see young freshman come into the Wildcat program and get playing time and play well. And, while there have been moments where these youngsters have shined, they lacked the consistency to really to overcome the mistakes of their older brethren. Head coach Dave Taylor wanted to slowly incorporate the freshman into the line-up, but mid-way through the season he was forced to depend on the freshman. The struggles of this senior class trickled down to the kids, where they had to produce or else. These young players would look good one moment, over-matched the next. The result was not necessarily unexpected. I think the young kids performed well, but its tough to use their performance this year as a template for their future seasons, based on how much they were needed this year.

Third, for the past 21 seasons the Chico State program has prided itself on being the most fundamental team on the West Coast. You don’t win 2 National Titles, 9 Regional Titles and make the playoffs practically every year if you aren’t a fundamentally sound program. The Wildcats attention to detail this year was very poor. The short-game, bunting, hitting and running, base-running, even picking up signs was not very good. Fundamentally this team did not execute. To make matters worse they either didn’t understand situational hitting or just couldn’t execute.

The Wildcats inability to hit a ground ball to second base with a runner at second and nobody out was painful to watch. Their lack of consistency in trying to get a runner home from third with less than two outs was mind-numbing. THESE “situations” are hall-marks of the Chico State program. It’s THESE “situations” that have led to national and regional titles. Chico State struggled all year executing in these crucial spots. This program will only go as far as their mental toughness takes them. This year, their toughness can certainly be questioned.

Mentally tough teams don’t get blitzed week in and week out on double-header days. Chico State was swept FIVE times  on CCAA double-header days. Three of those sweeps were at home. This tells me they couldn’t mentally engage into the game for long periods of time. It’s not easy to concentrate for six hours of baseball and being mentally ready. The good teams, the great teams can. Chico State couldn’t.

Fourth, aside from a few glowing performances the Wildcat pitching was average. The numbers prove that out. With a team ERA a tick above 4, the Cats were serviceable but not of championship quality. The starting rotation was inconsistent and the bullpen, aside from the closer, was a little above-average. As an observer I can tell you its hard to pitch when you know your team can’t score. Too many times this year the Wildcats hurlers took the mound knowing they couldn’t make any mistakes because the offense was so anemic.

Fifth, the offense. Well, there isn’t much to be said about this team offensively. The Wildcats had the  worst team batting average in the CCAA (.240) they were last in the conference in extra base hits and slugging percentage (.301.) They were second to last in runs and hits. Before the season started it looked like a line-up of punishing power hitters with a sprinkle of table-setters  that would punish opposing pitching. I believed this would be one of the best hitting teams in Chico State history. The line-up gave me no reason to doubt them coming into the 2015 campaign. Considering the line-up was filled with returners from last year’s World Series squad, it was a reasonable expectation. Nope.

The post-mortem is ugly but it also makes one appreciative of the program’s greatness through the years. Taylor told me two weeks ago the whole season has been “humbling.” He added that this was a system-wide meltdown and everyone, including himself,  takes responsibility. As for the future, well there is no doubt the Wildcats are on the recruiting trail. Chico State baseball needs an upgrade in talent. Those upgrades are needed at virtually every position. Honestly there are holes everywhere, outfield, infield, rotation and bullpen. The exciting thing is because of their resources, stadium and reputation, the Wildcats will be able to bring in some high quality players and re-load quickly. Talented ball-players who may have never thought of Chico as an option now know there is an APB on the interstate for their talents at Nettleton Stadium.

As for the returners, it’s real tough to say what the future holds. The Chico State program has never been sentimental. Can you help the school and program win games ? If you can you are welcome to stay to compete and try to win a job. If you can’t your services are no longer needed…PERIOD.  This program has had success because either Lindsay Meggs or Dave Taylor never had qualms about cutting the cord. Chico State Baseball fans and alumni have an expectation. That expectation is the foundation that Taylor has come to embrace. I sense he never wants to go through another year like this ever again. He is already working hard to ensure, he never has to.

The hard work is already under-way. Contacting future Wildcats, bringing them up for a visit, having them sign on the dotted line. As is always the case in the Chico State program fall ball will be vital. Players will come in the fall of 2015 and be able to win jobs and then look to etch their names in Chico State lore. Many of the out-going seniors were part of last year’s incredible ride to Cary and the 2014 Division-II World Series. They will take those memories and cherish them, and as fans we will cherish their contributions to the Chico State Baseball experience.

Personally I see 2015 as a year where nothing went right, a lot went wrong and the universe was telling Chico State Baseball, “it’s your turn.”

In the end I am thankful for the 2015 Chico State Baseball season. Yep, I said it, thankful. Thank you for reminding me that this game is hard. Success should be cherished and winning should NEVER EVER NEVER be taken for granted.

40 Year Wait is Rewarded for Warriors fans……


As a Golden State Warriors lifer I have waited for this since I was a young tike sitting on my mom’s lap at the ole Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Watching Rick Barry light it up from deep, Clifford Ray with monster slam dunks, CJ hitting jumpers from the right base-line  and Jamaal “silk” Wilkes going for 20 night in and night out. With the great Bill King regaling the Warriors faithful with “Holy Toledo.”

With 67 wins and the best record in the Association the Warriors are considered the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. The only blemishes to the Warriors 39-2 home record was an early season loss to San Antonio and an overtime defeat to Chicago. Other than those losses the Warriors were flawless at home. They also went an amazing 28-13 on the road, winning most of their games on the home floors of their very tough Western Conference brethren.

I will not be christening the Warriors just yet, but I am feeling very good about the Warriors draw in the first few rounds. In the playoffs nothing is ever easy and I feel the New Orleans Pelicans will give the Dubs all they can handle. Anthony Davis is a superstar. His emergence helped propel the Pelicans into the playoffs and save head coach Monty Williams’ job. New Orleans has great depth. Some of the same questions that were being asked of the up and coming Warriors three years ago are now being asked about the Pelicans. With guards Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, New Orleans is more than capable in the back-court. I do believe the Warriors can take advantage of Gordon on the offensive end. He is undersized and is not a good defender. He will have his hands full trying to contain Klay Thompson.

The front-court is where the Pelicans pose their biggest challenge. Anthony Davis will have to be contained, but he will not be stopped. The Warriors will have difficulties stopping Davis. Draymond Green will have to allow Davis his points and not pick up cheap fouls in trying to challenge him. Andrew Bogut will not be able to hang with Davis. It is the one true mis-match the Pelicans have. But, it is the only mis-match they have.  Omer Asik is capable and can be a nuisance down low, but he is not in Bogut’s class. At every other position the Warriors are better. Plain and simple if the Warriors play as well as we have seen them play all year. They should win this series in 5 games. I give the Pelicans a game at home. Anthony Davis’ greatness allows the Pelicans to get a game.

Many national prognosticators are citing the Warriors lack of experience. Huh ? What ? This is the third straight year the Dubs have been in the post-season. Two years ago they beat the higher seeded Denver Nuggets and took the San Antonio Spurs to six games in a series that could have gone either way. Last year without an injured Andrew Bogut the Warriors stretched the Clippers to seven games before falling at the Staples Center. This team is tested. They have been through playoff wars. This is nothing new to the Warriors and they will handle it in a business-like fashion.

Golden State’s offensive and defensive prowess is un-matched. They are the top offensive and defensive team in the league. The last team to lead the league in both categories was the 72-win Chicago Bulls. My presumptive MVP is Steph Curry. At better than 23 points a game he has done everything and then-some to lead this team to unchartered territory. Klay Thompson not only scores 21 a game but is also considered one of the best defenders from the 2-guard spot. Thompson can defend three different positions on the floor and he also makes 43 percent of his three-point tries. Harrison Barnes is a huge X-Factor in this post-season. Barnes can not disappear in this series or in any series. He needs to produce to propel the Warriors deep in this run. We have run out of superlatives for Draymond Green. He is simply the heart-and-soul of the club. He is vital for the Championship aspirations. While Curry is the team’s best player, Green is their guts. A fearless competitor who is constantly attacking and competing. Andrew Bogut is the defensive force that is the back-bone of this top-ranked defense. He patrols the paint and cleans up mis-cues on the perimeter by shutting down drives to the rim. Bogut must stay out of foul trouble and must stay healthy.

The Dubs bench is a tremendous strength. Andre Iguodala and David Lee could have thrown fits and turned this thing sour. Instead, they both accepted their roles as bench players and let other player’s shine. The unselfishness of these two is a huge reason why the Warriors had a record-setting regular season. Head coach Steve Kerr will ask both Iguodala and Lee to play big and important minutes in the post-season. Shaun Livingston gives the Warriors a more-than-capable back up point guard and Leandro Barbosa is an electrifying scorer that can put points on the board in bunches. Festus Ezeli will important manning the middle when Bogut needs breathers. Ezeli is an under-rated interior defender that can change shots and grab big boards. Justin Holiday and Brandon Rush are complimentary pieces. If these two need to play extended minutes then the Warriors are either blowing teams out, or…the Warriors are in big trouble.

With the Spurs losing to the Pelicans on Wednesday night the Warriors could not have asked for a better set-up in the West. The Dubs avoid the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets and Mavericks in the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs. Many said the Spurs had nothing to play for on Wednesday…..NOT TRUE. The Spurs had everything to play for and failed. Instead of being a two-seed and getting home court advantage in series’ against the Clippers, Memphis and Houston, they lost and now do not have home court advantage in any of those series.

If the Warriors beat the Pelicans they would play the winner of the Memphis and Portland series. Three months ago a match-up with the Grizzlies would have terrified me, not anymore. Memphis is not the same team and is so limited offensively that they just don’t have the weapons to win a seven game series against the Warriors. Curry and company will not allow the game to be played at Memphis’ pace. Portland is decimated by injury.  Losing sixth-man extrordinarre Wes Matthews and having LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum nurse injuries is too much for the Blazers. I just don’t see them winning a seven-game series against the Warriors either.

The only way the Warriors would see defending champion San Antonio, the Clippers or Houston would be if they advanced to the Western Conference Finals. That is exactly where the Warriors want to see them…..not sooner.

I have the Warriors beating Pelicans in 5. It will the Warriors and Grizzlies in the 2nd round.

Save me a seat DubNation !!!