PicturePicture via Robbie Dunne
It's that time of year again.  Both pro and college football are quickly transitioning into mid season.  Baseball is awaiting its exciting (but drawn out) playoffs.  This is the perfect time to look forward to the 2013-2014 NBA Season.  Training camps are scheduled to begin in the next week with preseason games starting as soon as October 5th!  The 2013 NBA finals were surprisingly exciting considering the old broken down Spurs took the Heat to the brink before Ray Allen brought them back from the dead.  I don't think we as a basketball community totally understand just how dead the Heat were in Game 6, before Allen hit the biggest 3 pointer in recent history.  The Heat were down multiple possessions TWICE in the final minute.  Tim Duncan NOT on the floor for the final 19 seconds allow the Heat to get an offensive board and set up the best 3 point shooter in NBA history?  Craziness!  LeBron had an average night in game 7 (37 and 12), but Shane Battier hit 6 threes and the Heat won mostly comfortable.  The Spurs had the NBA Finals won, in their historic "last hurrah", vs. the best player of this generation, and the best team since the early 00' Lakers.  Had it been the Heat this scenario happened to, ESPN would still have Stephen A. and Skip yelling at each other about it.  Well, now that I've recapped the spectacular end of last season, lets look at next season:

  1. Miami Heat - We'll hear all about LeBron's ability to opt out, but three-peat is only thing on his mind
  2. OKC Thunder - Durant might be the best overshadowed athlete of all time.
  3. San Antonio Spurs - They'll coast until the playoffs, but still have the talent
  4. Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose rejoins an already good Bulls team.  Must resign Deng, though.
  5. Indiana Pacers - Paul George got his, but if the Pacers want to beat the Heat, he'll need another step.
  6. Memphis Grizzlies - They learned how to win last year, now they just need to stay hungry.
  7. L.A Clippers - Doc Rivers might be the best offseason acquisition in the NBA this season.
  8. Golden State Warriors - A Healthy Andrew Bogut will put this team into Home Court talk in west.
  9. Brooklyn Nets - Everyone is willing these guys to the top, but I just don't see it.
  10. Houston Rockets -  A lot of talent, but are they a team?  At least Dwight hasn't requested a trade yet.
  11. New York Knicks - Shuffled things around, but didn't improve.  Still trying to force Carmelo + Amare.
  12. Portland Trail Blazers - My sleeper pick this year.  They might be a year away, but have the talent.
  13. Atlanta Hawks - Teague and Horford will get them wins in a weak East, but no playoff success looms.
  14. Denver Nuggets - If 57 win seasons don't do it in Denver, they're going to be really disappointed this year.
  15. Minnesota T-Wolves - A lot of fun to watch stat guys, like a poor man's Clippers...ugh.
  16. Cleveland Cavs - If only the Cavs had a stud SF guy to put them over the top...hmmmm.
  17. Washington Wizards - There is a light at the end of the tunnel for these guys, 2 years away though.
  18. New Orleans Hornets - Whats up with all these previous top 5 pickers improving??? Thought tanking fails?
  19. Toronto Raptors - When your hopes ride on Rudy Gay, prepare to pick mid lottery.
  20. Milwaukee Bucks - They have 8 Sixth Man of the year candidates, so there is that...
  21. LA Lakers - Poor Kobe.
  22. Dallas Mavericks - Poor Dirk.
  23. Utah Jazz - Not a bad pool of talent, but really no direction and no room for error.
  24. Orlando Magic - The only team carrying a true hope banner.  Very long rebuild starting to come together.
  25. Sacramento Kings - They just gave a ton of money to the most emotionally childish player in the NBA...
  26. Boston Celtics - Trying to feel bad for them...Really, I am.
  27. Charlotte Bobcats - Only fan base I pity more than Milwaukee's.
  28. Phoenix Suns - Worst of west, by a wide margin.
  29. Detroit Pistons - If this team succeeds, I lose all faith in basketball. How many more times can BJ get punched?
  30. Philadelphia 76ers - Bynum deal set them back by at least 3 years.  Tragic.

Lottery Fever!

Editor’s Note: Attention to NBA GM’s…Buying a copy of Shirley Jacksons: “The Lottery” will be of no help to you; however it may not hurt some of you as much as you’d think.

Earlier this week, NBA aficionado and author of this very website, @TheSpangover, sent me a tweet saying this:

“Still stand by not tanking.Talent level at 15 for @Bucks is same as 8th pick. Deep draft. Hear me @Galaxy_Diener ? Harris trade was bad tho”

This was in response to the NBA lottery on Tuesday night, I can only assume, as the teams were put into their official order:

1)    Cleveland – The Cavs and owner David Gilbert received the final payment of their LeBron James sale to Miami.

2)    Orlando – Might just be the happiest team to fall to number 2 in NBA history.  They get the no brainer position of picking either McLemore or Noel.

3)    Washington – Sitting in no man’s land with a very interesting roster make up, the Wizards are sure to fail no matter what in this position.

4)    Charlotte – Probably the least cared about franchise in pro sports.  This was in my opinion the biggest news of the draw.  Dropping to 4 in this draft is devastating to an already poorly constructed team.

5)    Phoenix – The first of a line of dominos that will make this draft very hard to predict.  Stay Tuned for @TheSpangover ‘s best guess in the coming weeks.

6)    New Orleans – Will Eric Gordon ever pan out?  Do the Pelicans roll the dice and pick a combo 3/4 to go with Gordon and Unibrow?  Bennett from UNLV could be really interesting here.

7)    Sacramento – I’m sure the Kings, fresh off of securing its team short term future in Sacramento, will follow up with…well…something.  Their biggest challenge will be finding someone lazier than Tyreke Evans, or more mental than DeMarcus Cousins.   

8)    Detroit – Pretty simple here.  Detroit needs scoring.  Shabazz can score.  If he’s here at 8, they have to take him, right?  I say yes.  8 is a good spot for pushing all the chips onto one number.  Side note: Always play 34 on the roulette wheel.

9)    Minnesota – Cody Zeller, we don’t want Minnesota’s roster to lose its Caucasian ratio.  Unless you are Al Sharpton.  And if you are Al Sharpton, why are you reading this article?

10)  Portland – Another dice rolling spot here for a pretty nice roster.  I take the most explosive slasher on the board.

11)  Philadelphia – If I had to pick one lottery destined to pick earlier in next year’s lottery it’s them.  I hope they don’t take the Big White guy from Gonzaga.

12)  Oklahoma City – They should trade this pick to a desperate team.  Whoever they choose will be buried deep.

13)  Dallas – Tough spot here.  They need to get athletic, quick, but who will be available here?

14)  Utah – The Al Jefferson problem will always linger.  Keep or trade?  I’d try to trade up and make a run at Burke.  Al Jeff, Hayward, and #14 to Washington for #3 and Okefor would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

Now to the point

CC looked at this order and came to the conclusion that sitting at 15 isn’t much worse than sitting at 8.  I agree, for the most part, but to get a full view of how bad the NBA is, the Bucks were closer to Wizards than they were to New Jersey (Home Court in Rd. 1).

When was the last time a team won the NBA finals without their best player being a player they drafted in the lottery?

If you are looking to argue, and disagree about building through the draft, you’ll say the 2004 Pistons.  They were a patchwork hardworking team built for efficiency and defense.  If you are a Bucks fan you might recognize a name from that Front Office…John Hammond*.

*Google John Hammond.  In this day of sports media how can the head of a Major 3 pro sports team not have his name show up on the first page of a Google search?  Next, check out his Wiki Page.  There are bigger pages for retired indoor soccer players.

What is funny about that Pistons team is that they are the biggest exception in NBA history.  2004 was a very down year.  Tayshaun Prince was their best drafted player; however you could argue that Billups or Rip Hamilton was their best player, both acquired in shrewd deals.  Prince definitely was the lynch pin as 2nd best defensive player and very efficient offensive wing.

If you go back and skip over the Pistons, you come to the 1983 76’ers.  They Bought Erving and Malone and won the title. 

The lesson is this:  You have to draft a superstar and surround him with 2 all stars and solid defensive supporting cast.  How can the Bucks even begin to compete for a title if they never have an All NBA talent?  The answer is they can’t.

So what do we do?  We lose.  We email Senator Kohl, we stop going to games.  Don’t support these 8 seed playoff teams.  When you are a playoff team, and still in the bottom half of the league, you don’t deserve a sell out in the playoffs.  Send the message to ownership that Milwaukee wants a winner.

Miami was nothing before Wade, OKC was nothing before Durant.  You must get the superstar in place before you can get anything else.  If you acquire a great cast or 1 all-star, you’ll be too good to finish high in the lottery and be forever unable to acquire the stud.    Trying to get the 8 seed year after year is the shortest sighted goal in sports.  The pursuit of win now is the main reason preventing the Bucks from Winning.

The NBA is half timing and half luck.  If you never put yourself in position to get lucky, you never will be. 

Phillip J Fry Said it best: (Bucks are the Grasshopper and the Lottery teams are the octopus)

“All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. Then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a race car.

Is any of this getting through to you?”

The NBA: Where well planned failing is more successful than good old fashioned blind hard work.

Are you listening Herb?



There is no thrift in Major League Baseball.  The Milwaukee Brewers have been a franchise that has increasingly moved away from this archaic way of thinking.  It’s a large hump to overcome, however, and it is what currently plagues this small market team from ever being able to contain any momentum what-so-ever. 

Let’s start from the beginning.  The Brewers haven’t always been the best run or luckiest franchise in pro sports.  Much like its Milwaukee counterpart (The Bucks) they have been hurt by the hands that feed them.  Baseball came to Milwaukee thanks to current MLB Commissioner and Wisconsin guy Bud Selig.  He also oversaw a franchise that had only made noise in the playoffs exactly one time in his tenure as owner.  However, his brain child, Miller Park has been a rousing success and ignited a series of events that has ultimately led us to fancy new, and more importantly rich owner in Mark Attanasio.  Gone are the days of 40 million dollar payrolls and 7,000 people in the stands on a Tuesday night in June.  Despite the lack of a killer instinct and an overall inexperience to winning meaningful baseball games, this franchise is a player.  With cornerstone players in place on good deals, and an always potent lineup, The Brewers are a team is no one’s underdog.  The only problem is that they do seem to be many teams’ underdogs.  Most importantly, The St. Louis Cardinals.   Constantly owned, often embarrassed at the hands of the self-promoted classiest team in baseball.  A side note on the tale of these 2 franchises, if I may:  The Cardinals let Albert Pujols walk 2 seasons ago, as of a week and a half ago if you were to look up 1st Base OPS for the Cardinals and Angels, you’d see that the two teams would be within one thousandth of a point of each other since Pujols left.  That is the kind of staggering stat that makes Brewer fans scratch their heads and wonder if there is any hope for the future.  If a team can replace the best player in baseball and put that 25 million a year into other areas what chance does Milwaukee have?

Now we’ll bring it all back around to thrift.  Thrift is what you do when you have to get by.  Bill Gates doesn’t shop at Wal-Mart.  He doesn’t have too, he can pay a guy to pay a guy to order stuff online for him, and still not wear it.  This is why baseball is so hard.  Always being able to resign every single on a roster is a huge advantage, and an unfair one (But we’ll leave that debate for another day).  Two things have contributed to Milwaukee’s recent turnaround in the standings over the past six seasons.  1) The sucked so much for so long that they eventually had enough high 1st round picks reach the majors and began to win on pure talent.  2) They have an owner willing to increase payroll when possible, thanks to fans willing to come out to watch semi competitive ball games.  These two reasons have allowed Milwaukee to reach the middle of the pack in payroll as of last year.  Without the small market card to play, which to GM Doug Melvin’s credit he’s never played (Publicly at least), fans have become increasingly impatient with his personnel moves.  A man who once took over the worst franchise in baseball, rebuilt and reworked a roster year after year, he’s tried almost everything in pursuit of winning.  The 3 managers he’s overseen are a triangle of disparity.  He’s paid for big name players; he’s tried to build a staff with thrift.  He’s given away prospect for big names, and given away big names for prospects.  In recent years the Brewers bullpen has been a revolving door poor performances, injuries and frankly just wasted opportunity.  Since 2010, the starting staff has been workable if not good, the lineup has been potent, and as of the moment I’m writing this the Brewers have nothing to show for any of it.   Currently in last place and June quickly approaching what can Brewer fans cling too?  In the case of poor performing teams, it’s usually the future, but in this team’s case, I’m not so sure.   The farm system is not in terrible shape, but the help is twice over the horizon.  Rickie Weeks has gone from All Star to unmovable contract, and big decisions are looming for a few star players.  Corey Hart and Nori Aoki are both quickly approaching Free Agency, and unless Mark Attanasio wants to open his check book, there is a good chance one of them is lost.  The Bullpen must be addressed for a 4th straight year.  All of these concerns will have to be handled with outside players and/or a ton of money.  The concerning issue is that the Cardinals have been rated by Baseball Prospectus as the best farm system in baseball, and is already the best team in the NL Central.

How much longer can Milwaukee live season to season and continue to piece important pieces together with this thrift philosophy?  I’m not going to argue that the answer is to tank or start trading Braun, but I cannot envision the next couple of years being successful without pitchers that are not currently in the Brewers system.  With such a potent lineup, and an average at worst bench it would be very beneficial to start looking into making some deals, and selling off assets at the deadline. 

The question is: can Doug Melvin do this?  As noted previously he’s done everything else, but he’s never been in this exact position before.  Up until now he’s always been looking to acquire assets, not deal them.  The Zach Grienke case is the exception, but when trading a past Cy Young award winner, a lot of the challenge is taken out of the equation, even though he did hit a home run with that move.  Pitching is and will always be at a premium, can Melvin find a diamond in the rough?  Does he have stomach to give away a good player like Lucroy, Hart, or Aoki?  I’m not so sure that he is willing to do that.  If something doesn’t happen at this deadline and the Brewers don’t magically turn the season around, there is going to be trouble.  I think a sub .500 season gets Melvin fired, and deservedly so.  10 years into his tenure and so many valuable pieces, yet nothing except 1 playoff series won.  Farm system is below average at this point, and a below average product at the MLB level is unacceptable. 

I do not envy the position Melvin is in.  I hope it does all turnaround and the Brewers can fight for a Wild Card spot, but realistically I’m more hoping for an advantageous deal the deadline that pays dividends next season.  Because, let’s face it, there’s always next year!  *Cringe

-          Diener34


    - Diener34 is a guest columnist at CC’s Third Degree and can be followed on Twitter @Galaxy_Diener


    May 2013