Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Yoan and Isaiah


That is what the Celtics and Red Sox added in the last few days. That is generally what wins out in the end in sports. That is what we pay to see.

With the additions of Isaiah Thomas and Yoan Moncada, the Celtics and Red Sox, respectively, added two talented players to their organizations. We will take a look at each move individually, but the key here is that both teams improved their talent base without giving up much to do so.

Isaiah Thomas

Nick Van Exel 2.0. Lil' Jason Terry. Rich man's Nate Robinson. These are all comparisons I have read for Thomas since he was traded to the Celtics last Thursday. This translates to a scoring guard with an attack mentality. A man with big talent, even bigger balls and a small body. A man with such big balls and such a small body it's a wonder the forces of gravity don't just suck him earthbound.

The Celtics traded 2 months of Marcus Thornton (who's contract is up after this year) and a 2016 1st round pick from Cleveland (that would likely be in the mid 20's as long as Lebron is around) for the next three years of Thomas. Thomas is only 26 years old and he is signed to one of the best contracts in basketball, one that actually declines over the life of the deal.

Thomas is unlike anyone the Celtics have right now or really have had since they traded Paul Pierce. Brad Stevens' motion offense is a thing of beauty. It's great for a team that does not have a go to scorer. It's all about ball movement and is very Spursian. Unfortunately, in the 4th quarter, without a go-to scorer the offense stagnates. Thomas changes all of that. He wants the ball in his hands when the clock is winding down. And unlike Evan Turner, he can actually do something with it.

In his two games in green so far, he has averaged 21 points and 5 assists (against 4.5 turnovers...yikes). I watched him in the second half of the Phoenix game and I am very impressed so far. He's the only player on the team that can dribble (I had nightmares last night of Jae Crowder running the fast break). He throws some very cool passes (some a little too cool as evidenced by all the turnovers). He looks to be a good mid range shooter and a pretty good 3 point shooter. He can get absolutely anywhere he wants on the floor. He is somehow an amazing finisher despite standing only 5'9". He gives James Young a friend in the left handers club. He's also got an energy and attitude that the club was sorely lacking (sorry Kelly Olynyk, your lady hair and cankles were never going to be the heart and soul of this club). He also sucks on defense, but let's ignore that for now.

It seems like the major complaint from the fans and media surrounding the deal is that adding talent and trading away a draft pick runs counter to what Danny Ainge has been doing the last two seasons. I disagree. Ainge has been collecting assets since he stole the Nets lunch money in the Pierce-Garnett deal. With those assets, the goal was to maintain flexibility for an opportunity to present itself. If the team could be bad enough to land a top 5 pick, he would pursue that path as he did last year. If he was able to turn a trade exception into a first round pick and a talented young player like Tyler Zeller, he would pursue that even if it made the team better. If a superstar became available, he could trade for him.

In the case of Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics did not land a superstar, but they did land a good player who can help the team in the future. They did not give up much to get him and his salary going forward helps the team maintain flexibility. Thomas is yet another asset on a team full of them. He could be our sixth man and go-to scorer for the next three years, but he could also be the sweetener in a trade for a superstar. He makes the team better this year, but he doesn't guarantee them a playoff spot especially with the other 7-8 seed contenders improving at the deadline.

The reality is that there are 4 teams definitely worse than the Celtics (Lakers, Knicks, Sixers, T'Wolves) that the team was never going to catch at the bottom of the standings. They are also probably better than the Magic and, because of the difficulty of the West, the Kings, Nuggets and Jazz. No matter what the team did there was a strong likelihood they weren't going to finish worse than 9th. So if they add a player who is going to help the team for the future but it drops them to the 11th pick, I'd say it's a pretty strong move. I've been as guilty as anyone the last two years worrying about draft position, but I think with the top 3 out of reach it's time to stop worrying.

The NBA has been much more of a crap shoot lately. With freshman dominating the lottery, it seems like the variability of a prospects future is larger than ever. While the top 2 or 3 picks still hold tremendous value, the value of, say, 4-14 seems to be much more blurry. The 2013 draft, which was supposed to be a bad draft but has turned out pretty solid, contains a ton of talent drafted outside of the top 10 including Kelly Olynyk, Dennis Schroeder, Giannis Atentokoumpo (this is not the way to spell his name, sorry), Shabazz Muhammad, Michael Carter-Williams, Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee, and the possible best player of the draft Rudy Gobert (who was drafted at 27). If you played a series with those players against the players picked in the top 10 (including bust number 1 Anthony Bennett), the not-top-10 would win.

Adding Isaiah Thomas may hurt the draft position, but he does not hurt their chance to build a championship contender. The number one pick in the 2015 draft is not walking through that door with or without IT. Enjoy the swagger, the left hand, the nifty layups, the big grin, and most of all, the giant balls. Balls.

Yoan Moncada

It may not seem like it, but $63 million for a player who could be the number 1 pick in the draft is a steal. Major League Baseball (and all team sports) artificially deflate the value of amateur talent through the draft (and now international signing bonus restrictions). The only way for a top US amateur to play professionally is to submit himself to the draft. When that player is drafted, he can either sign with the team that drafted him (not of his choice) for more or less the amount dictated by the league based on his draft slot, or refuse to sign and wait a year to be drafted again and start the process all over again in perpetuity (I won't turn this article into an abolish the draft piece, you can get that here: Abolish The Draft). The only team that can get the top player in the draft, the next Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, is the team with the worst record. So when a player good enough and young enough to be selected first overall is a free agent, the open market dictates the player's value rather than the penny pinching billionaires who don't want to share their wealth with teenagers. Going to $31.5 million is certainly unprecedented, but when you consider the skill set it makes a lot of sense.

A brief summary of scouting reports on Moncada that I've read around the internet. He plays short stop in Cuba, but at his current size and agility profile he projects to be a more natural 3B or 2B. He's a switch hitter who projects better from the left side (Keith Law said his hitting from the right side is a little rigid). He's very strong and fast and physically imposing in person. He's got good hand-eye coordination so he could hit for a high average. He could be a 20 homer-20 steal type player with the ability to hit over 30 homers if he reaches his potential. Some scouts say he could be the number 1 pick and a superstar, others say he is a 1st rounder that projects as above average. He should take a year or two in the minors to get used to US ball. He's not a sure thing, nobody is at 19, but he's a very very good prospect and is now one of the top 20 in all of baseball.

The beauty is that all the Red Sox had to give up to get him is money. They didn't have to trade away their top major league talent for a top prospect like the Cubs did last year with Jeff Samardzija (spelled that right on the first try!). They didn't have to trade away all of their major league talent to be the worst team in baseball for three years like the Astros did. They just went out and signed the guy. Yes it was a lot of money and yes he could be a total bust, but it's only money and it doesn't even count against the luxury tax line, if that means anything to the team still. The cherry on top is that the next highest bidder was the Yankees and they need Moncada a lot more than the Sox do!

For their money they get a 19 year old prospect who should move quickly through the minors and can play multiple positions. You may have noticed that all of the positions he can play already go about 2 deep at the major league level, but 2 years from now who knows what the team will look like. Maybe Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts are traded for pitching (please, please no). Maybe Pablo Sandoval or Hanley Ramirez have to or can move to first base. Maybe Dustin Pedroia's body breaks down to the point where he is a backup or has to be traded to the weaker National League (the Phillies just traded Jimmy Rollins, their former MVP and career hits leader so it's not impossible). Maybe Moncada is traded for pitching or is a bust. The point is, no team ever lost a championship for having too much talent.

There are no real downsides to this signing. That $63 mil is money the team could spend elsewhere, but it likely would have been spent on a player over 30 on the downside of his career. The team can't give out bonuses to international prospects over $300k for the next two years, but that was the case even before the Moncada signing because they already went way over their league imposed budget. Those are the only two downsides, nothing else.

We don't know what will become of Moncada, but the upside is ridiculous and that is all that matters here.


  • Quick story on Isaiah Thomas that the non-sports fans should enjoy. If his name sounds familiar it is because there was a Hall of Fame point guard that played for the Pistons in the 80's and 90's named Isiah Thomas (spelled differently). The Pistons were the most hated team in basketball and were called the "Bad Boys". They were massive douchebags and Isiah was the applicator (do douchebags have applicators?). Any way, our Isaiah's father, James, grew up in California and was a die-hard Lakers fan. The Lakers had defeated the Pistons in the 1988 Finals and were set to face them again in 1989. James made a bet with a friend that his Lakers would win, but if they lost he had to name his son, you guessed it, Isaiah. Hopefully through some deductive reasoning you can figure out who won the '89 Finals. I'm glad my father never made a bet about the Celtics-Lakers so I didn't end up being named Kareem Abdul-Bergeron.
  • Tonight is the series finale of Parks and Recreation. Nothing funny to say about it, just remember to watch it. If I'm not too emotionally decimated after watching it, I will do a review of the whole series tomorrow.
  • I didn't live Tweet the Oscars this weekend, but I have a few thoughts to share:
    • I'm pissed that Michael Keaton didn't win Best Actor. Even if it would have felt a little like a "Lifetime Achievement Award", he was awesome in Birdman and he is fucking Batman. The dude who played Stephen Hawking did an impression for two hours. That should get you cast in SNL, not an Oscar. I think actors doing biopics should be ineligible for Oscars, otherwise give guys like Jay Pharoah the award for his impression of Denzel.
    • I'm also bummed that Rosamund Pike didn't win Best Actress even though I really like Julianne Moore. If you haven't seen Gone Girl you should really check it out. MINOR SPOILER ALERT Not that I would ever cheat on Sarah, but if you watch this movie and Rosamund's performance and still think it's a good idea to cheat on someone, well you deserve what is coming to you.
    • It's rare that one person can claim the two creepiest moments of the night, but god damn it John Travolta did it. His thetan count must have been extra high that night. He must have been channeling the spirit of Bill Cosby. That was the best work he has done since Broken Arrow. Congratulations to John.
    • I can't tell if this new Lady Gaga schtick is more annoying than her old schtick or they are equally awful. I'm just glad she let Tony Bennett rest for a night.
    • No better place than a 4 hour mutual masturbation fest to address all the world's ills. Racism is now over, immigration is solved, and 150 million women just got a pay raise today! Thanks actors!
  • Was scrolling through the guide on my TV and noticed a Rosie O'Donnell standup special. I didn't watch it, but it reminded me of my favorite joke in Chappelle Show history: during the "Player Haters Ball" they show pictures of celebrities for the player haters to hate on. When they get to a picture of Rosie, Chappelle's character says "She wears underwear with dick holes in em."
  • My show recommendation of the week is Better Call Saul. If you watched Breaking Bad you should already know about this show and already be watching it. Even if you did't watch Breaking Bad you could watch this show and be fine. It's funnier than it's predecessor and it has started off really strong. It will never reach the heights of Breaking Bad just because that show was one of the best 5 or so in history, but it has started off stronger than BB. In case you forgot, that show started off pretty slowly. It had good acting but not a lot happened right off the bat and it wasn't even a lock to go beyond one season. If Better Call Saul can be half the show it's fore-father was, then we are all lucky. 
  • Finally, because it is the series finale of Parks and Recreation, here is "5000 Candles in the Wind" by Mouse Rat:

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