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I can get the rest if you really want it but its both not completed yet and extremely long.

 

No need, I gotta spread some more though.

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Also, if anyone wants ESPN the mag + insider... go here and enter coupon code 3921. Its 4 bucks a year and you can get up to 4 years.

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Werent his other offers like WVU and Michigan or something (I follow ACC recruiting way too closely)? If he wanted to see some real talent, JMU is where its at. Thats a trip you should be making regularly.

 

Lol, if hes comparing the girls at Michigan, WVU, and Virginian, the talent at Virginia would have to win by default.

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apparently my espn insider access has expired, about 3 years after i got a 1 year subscription. Ill probably give in and get it once basketball gets going for Hollinger but can somebody get me

 

http://insider.espn.go.com/insider/blog?name=keating_peter&id=5477084

 

its peter keatings blog and its about home runs/statistics. thanks

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Today's winners in Stats and Analytics: Barry Bonds, Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols

Today's losers: Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez

Sometimes, one season can change the entire statistical arc of an athlete's career without anyone even realizing it; I don't mean when a player goes through a devastating injury or even when he switches teams -- just that his numbers can shift enough to alter our expectations of his future cumulative performance.

 

I remember after the New York Mets traded Tom Seaver, one of the few pleasures left to me as a young fan was tracking his progress toward 300 wins -- even if he had to pile up his victories for an alien team. After a dozen years in which Seaver was as consistent as a pitcher could be, his win totals started gyrating wildly in his late 30s, and my approximations grew more anxious as he got older.

 

Having 273 wins and pitching for a lousy team at the age of 39 seemed a lot further away from 300 than having 259 wins for the best team in the league at the age of 37. Of course, the Mets were dumb enough to allow Seaver to get away a second time and he got over the hump with the Chicago White Sox; my point, though, is that even as athletes' career totals increase, they carry with them a second set of expected numbers that can go up or down.

 

This all brings us to Alex Rodriguez. When I published "Dingers!" my history of the home run, at the start of the 2006 season, I used a method called "The Favorite Toy," which Bill James developed back in the early 1980s, to calculate that A-Rod had an 89 percent chance of hitting 600 home runs and a 30 percent chance, higher than that of anyone else (even Barry Bonds), of breaking Hank Aaron's home run record.

 

 

If you have no idea what "The Favorite Toy" is as a concept, read this. Essentially, though, it has three parts:

 

1. The distance to a target: At the end of 2005, A-Rod had 429 career home runs, meaning he needed 327 more to get to 756.

 

2. The speed at which a player is approaching a target (established HR level): James defined this by adding three times a player's most recent home run total, twice his total for the previous season and his total the year before that, then dividing the sum by six. Entering 2006, Rodriguez was hitting a weighted total of 43.8 homers a year, the most in MLB.

 

3. The time remaining in a player's career: James calculated this by multiplying a player's age by 0.6 and subtracting the result from 24. That gave A-Rod six years left to perform at his established level.

 

Once you have these three pieces of data, you can estimate how many homers a player will hit in the remainder of his career. That's just established HR times years remaining (A-Rod was predicted to get 263 more); you can also calculate the odds of a hitter reaching a particular goal. James defined this as: HR (or hits, or another stat) remaining divided by HR needed, minus 0.5. For A-Rod, this was .804 (263 divided by 327) minus 0.5, or 0.304.

 

 

Getty Images

Miguel Cabrera has been a pro only eight years and is mashing, so he has a shot at the 600- and 700-HR clubs.

A-Rod built on that, and even though Bonds nudged the career HR mark up to 762, Rodriguez started this year with 779 expected career HR and a 59 percent chance of breaking Bonds' record. But A-Rod's slowdown this season has caused his odds to hairpin.

 

It's not just that Rodriguez is hitting home runs less frequently this year (in 4.4 percent of plate appearances, versus 6.0 percent for his career) -- or that he's getting older. One of the things Favorite Toy gets right (even if accidentally) is that when it comes to predicting future home runs, only home runs hit in the most recent year and the two previous seasons are relevant. A-Rod's awesome 2007 season is firmly in his rearview mirror, with little chance of a repeat and no significance to what he'll do from here on out. And although my personal calculations indicate that Rodriguez still has a 63 percent chance to hit 700 home runs, his expected career total has dropped to 712, leaving him with just an 18 percent chance to break Bonds' record.

 

Could anyone else make a run at 763? Since 2006, a batch of veteran power hitters have left the game, and although a few new sluggers have arrived, overall home run totals are down. The Favorite Toy says only three or so current major leaguers are likely to hit 600 homers: Jim Thome (581 career HRs at present), Albert Pujols (397 HRs, but through only 10 seasons) and, after a bit of a drop-off -- Thome has a 97 percent chance and Pujols has a 76 percent chance -- Adam Dunn, who has 347 career homers through 10 seasons. He has a 45 percent chance of reaching 600 HRs.

 

Dunn is actually the hitter to watch here. Crazy stat: He's the same age as Ryan Howard but has 101 more career home runs.

 

In terms of reaching 700 HRs, only A-Rod (with that 63 percent chance) and Pujols (a 35 percent chance) remotely rank; Dunn is third there, as well, with an 18 percent chance. Miguel Cabrera, who has 239 homers through eight big-league seasons, has a 14 percent chance of reaching 700 HRs.

 

And when we get out to 763, we find that Rodriguez doesn't even have the best chance among current hitters to set the career home run record: Pujols does, at 20 percent. A-Rod is at 18 percent, with Dunn (8 percent), Cabrera (6 percent) and Prince Fielder (5 percent; 185 HRs through six seasons so far) far behind.

 

Of course, these projections are very fluffy, with no confidence intervals, and anything can happen. But they point out two statistical likelihoods that have emerged this season: A-Rod's career is reaching an inflection point, and Bonds' home run record might be much more durable than we've imagined.

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Miami (FL) at Ohio State MatchupsQBRBWROLDLLBDBSTCoach194.gif2390.gif2390.gif194.gif2390.gif194.gif2390.gif2390.gif194.gifMiami offense vs. Ohio State defense

• Hurricanes QB Jacory Harris has an opportunity to shine in this game. The Buckeyes lack elite speed along the defensive front, which leads defensive coordinators Jim Heacock and Luke Fickell to blitz more than they would like. They will occasionally utilize a zone blitz with a defensive lineman dropping off into underneath zone, but more often they simply bring extra pressure with a linebacker charging through one of the gaps. Harris' effectiveness in recognizing the blitz, finding his hot reads and making accurate throws with pressure in his face likely will determine the outcome of this game.

If he deals with it well, Miami has too many weapons at wide receiver -- including Leonard Hankerson, Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd and Aldarius Johnson -- for the Buckeyes' secondary to hold up, especially with starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa nursing a sore hamstring. However, making quick, smart decisions while under pressure -- particularly on the road -- has been Harris' weakness to date. If the Miami quarterback has not made significant strides in this department, he will be exposed in Week 2.

• Ohio State's stout run defense is anchored by DE Cameron Heyward. The Buckeyes are big and strong up front, and they do a very good job of protecting MLB Brian Rolle and WLB Ross Homan. Rolle and Homan diagnose plays quickly, take solid angles in pursuit and wrap up in space. Considering Ohio State's experience advantage in the trenches -- with the exception of Miami OT Orlando Franklin -- and its excellent linebacker play, it won't be surprising if Miami's rushing attack sputters. If Miami RB Graig Cooper were at full strength it likely would be a different story, but Cooper played sparingly last week and does not appear to be close to 100 percent following offseason knee surgery. The Hurricanes still have some talent at running back, but Damien Berry is not nearly as elusive or quick as Cooper, and while Mike James is a bit faster than Berry, he lacks the experience to consistently anticipate creases and make the proper cuts.

• The Hurricanes can gain an advantage on special teams, where Ohio State is unusually vulnerable due to inexperience. First year PK Devin Barclay had a field goal attempt blocked by Marshall last week and it was returned 61 yards for a score. The kick was a bit low, but LS Jake McQuaide was mostly to blame for giving up too much ground as a blocker. In addition, kickoff specialist Drew Basil appears to have a strong leg, but the freshman is inconsistent with his distance. Basil's third kickoff in the opener was too short and Marshall RS Andre Booker took advantage with a 63-yard return. Miami, on the other hand, has one of the most versatile and dangerous kickers in the country, Matt Bosher, who handles the place-kicking, kickoff and punting duties. In addition, the Hurricanes have potential game-breakers in the return phase in Travis Benjamin and Lamar Miller.

Key individual matchup

 

Miami LOT Orlando Franklin vs.

Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward These are two of the best players in the country at their positions. Heyward will move around the defensive line at times, but the majority of his snaps are spent at right end, which is where he will go head-to-head with Franklin. Heyward does not possess elite top-end speed, but he is big and powerful, does a good job of anchoring versus the run, and also has the quickness and power to generate consistent penetration with an array of double moves and bull rushes. Franklin might be the best offensive tackle Heyward faces this season, though. The 6-foot-7, 312-pounder has quick feet for his size, consistently gets into good position, and shows the lower-body strength and balance to limit Heyward's push as a power rusher. If Franklin can keep Heyward quiet as a pass-rusher, it will force Ohio State to blitz more often than it likes, and then it will be up to QB Jacory Harris and his receivers to communicate and connect against a vulnerable back seven.

 

 

 

 

Ohio State offense vs. Miami defense

• In his past two outings (wins over Oregon and Marshall) Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor has appeared more comfortable in the pocket and is making quicker decisions. He is still a threat to run, but Pryor can do more damage by making proper reads and distributing the ball to his underrated supporting cast. As he showed last week, Pryor will still lose the strike zone on occasion, and he continues to struggle with his accuracy on quick-hitting underneath throws. He simply needs to learn to take some zip off his fastball. But Pryor's accuracy continues to improve and he is showing much better anticipation. His first-quarter completion against Marshall to Dane Sanzenbacher -- Pryor delivered the ball in between the linebacker and safety against a Cover 2 zone -- is a throw he likely would have missed last year at this time.

• Keeping Pryor comfortable in the pocket will be a challenge for the Buckeyes. Their offensive line as a whole has good size, adequate mobility and above-average experience. However, LOT Mike Adams and ROT J.B. Shugarts are the least experienced of the bunch, with only 16 combined starts, and they face the toughest challenge versus Miami's potent defensive end duo of LDE Allen Bailey and RDE Oliver Vernon. Bailey is a versatile lineman with great power and quickness for his size. He won't threaten Shugarts with speed around the corner, but he has an array of power moves that will keep Shugarts guessing. On the opposite side, Vernon is fresh off a 3.5-sack breakout performance in the opener, and he has the explosive speed and athleticism to make Adams' life miserable. Look for the Buckeyes to frequently give one or both of their tackles help in pass protection. If that's the case, Pryor needs his three best pass-catchers -- WRs Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey and RB Brandon Saine -- to consistently separate from coverage and make plays, because the QB won't be getting as much help as usual from a No. 3 receiver or tight ends.

• The Buckeyes are using a two-back rotation of Saine and Dan "Boom" Herron and will occasionally have them on the field at the same time. In our opinion, the more touches for Saine the better, because he's a true difference-maker. Saine shows good patience waiting for his blocks to develop, and once he sees a crease he shows great burst to get through the line of scrimmage or bounce the run outside. Saine is also a natural pass-catcher with route-running savvy and reliable hands. In Week 1, the Buckeyes clearly worked to get the ball to Saine more often as a receiver out of the backfield, and we expect that trend to continue versus Miami and beyond. It will require a great deal of discipline from Miami's linebackers -- particularly MLB Colin McCarthy and WLB Sean Spence -- to keep Saine in check. The Canes cannot afford to have their "space" linebackers get overzealous when filling gaps versus the run or play-action.

Scouts' Edge

 

These programs have combined for 12 national titles and accounted for 80 first-round picks in the past 25 NFL drafts. Ohio State's controversial 2003 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami -- which won the national title for the Buckeyes -- will also generate a great deal of buzz leading up to this showdown. However, the history and tradition of these two programs won't matter when they take the field. What will matter is the play of Pryor and Harris. Harris is the better pure passer, but Pryor is making significant strides in that department. Plus, Pryor is developing into a better decision-maker, is the better athlete and has the built-in advantage of playing this nonconference showdown at home. The Hurricanes are much-improved from a year ago, and we expect them to battle Ohio State for four quarters. But coach Jim Tressel's Buckeyes know how to win close games and will take control in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Buckeyes 27, Hurricanes 24

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I received a series of questions on Twitter on Sunday about the top rookies for 2010, mostly asking whether I'd take Jason Heyward or some other rookie for the next few years.

 

With that in mind, I've re-ranked the top prospects who have already lost their 2011 rookie of the year eligibility, looking specifically at how much value I think they'll provide over the next five to six seasons. All wOBA, FIP and WAR figures are for 2010 only and are courtesy of FanGraphs.

 

1. Jason Heyward, RF, Atlanta

wOBA: .382, WAR: 4.1

How can you argue with this season? Heyward, the No. 3 prospect in baseball going into 2009 and No. 1 coming into this year, has met or exceeded those expectations, and is on pace to post the third-best walk total ever for a player under 21, all while hitting for average and power with above-average defense in right. There are 35- to 40-homer seasons in his future and plenty of additional All-Star Game starts.

 

2. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco

wOBA: .371, WAR: 3.1

The best player on the Giants since his promotion has put the lie to every comment Brian Sabean made about Posey being less than ready for the majors, and it's possible that their refusal to bring him up sooner to replace Bengie Molina's corpse will cost them a playoff spot. I think he's already raised his long-term power projection, the one tool that was a little bit lacking in his set.

 

3. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington

FIP: 2.10, WAR: 2.6

I'm assuming that Strasburg comes back all the way from Tommy John surgery, something that's true for at least 80 percent of pitchers who undergo the operation. But even a full-strength Strasburg won't appear in the majors again until at least the start of 2012, and in the interim, Heyward and Posey will rack up four or five wins for their respective clubs -- a lead that, once discounted backward, Strasburg may not be able to overcome. But I do think that in 2012 and beyond Strasburg will spoil us with superlative performances as he did this summer.

 

4. Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland

wOBA: .382, WAR: 2.0

I believe Santana would have been the rookie of the year had he stayed healthy, providing ridiculous offense for his position with excellent defense in a year when the AL hasn't come close to matching the rookie crop of its counterpart. He's going to be the center of the Cleveland offense for the next five years.

 

5. Mike Stanton, RF, Florida

wOBA: .350, WAR: 1.7

Currently fifth in the NL in isolated power if you drop the qualification line to 300 PA, even though he's only 20 and has struck out in nearly a third of those trips to the plate. He'll always have high strikeout rates, but that will come down with age and experience -- we're talking about a college junior, age-wise, who's already in the big leagues -- and he'll end up a plus defender in right as well.

 

6. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs

wOBA: .336, WAR: 2.2

Not bad for a 20-year-old with minimal experience over A-ball coming into the year. Unlike the hitters ahead of him, Castro hasn't shown great secondary skills at the plate -- he has just 17 unintentional walks in 445 PA -- but he has shown the great bat speed and hand-eye coordination that made him a top-20 prospect coming into the year. He's still a work in progress at shortstop and he could end up moving when Lee Hak-Ju is ready, but that's at least a year down the line.

 

7. Brian Matusz, LHP, Baltimore

FIP: 4.24, WAR: 2.0

Matusz has had a solid year when you consider whom he's faced and the defense behind him, and I remain as bullish on him now as I was in January: Lefties with a chance for three or four above-average pitches are very hard to find and project as potential No. 1 starters if they throw enough strikes.

 

8. Logan Morrison, 1B, Florida

wOBA: .396, WAR: 1.3

In the way the term is misused in and around the industry, the Marlins may have their first legitimate "Moneyball" player -- that is, a position player who derives a ton of his value from his incredible patience at the plate. He needs to play first base every day -- he'll probably never be average in left, and he's a better bet for 2011 and beyond than fellow rookie Gaby Sanchez.

 

9. Jaime Garcia, LHP, St. Louis

FIP: 3.45, WAR: 3.0

Impressive comeback year for Garcia, who missed large parts of 2008 and 2009 after Tommy John surgery but has posted excellent ground-ball and strikeout rates while staying healthy under a fairly high workload. He's not higher here because this is his ceiling -- if he maintains this level, he'll remain a very valuable pitcher for St. Louis, but I don't see him improving on this year.

 

10. Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle

wOBA: .277. WAR: -0.7

Smoak had a pretty disastrous first run through the majors. One scout who saw him with Texas expressed shock to see Smoak with "no approach" at the plate, but he's righted the ship in Triple-A Tacoma, both in performance as well as in his approach, and is back on track to be the star I projected him to be. With patience like Morrison's, power and the ability to hit for average from both sides of the plate, Smoak has a lot to like.

 

11. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Colorado

FIP: 3.51, WAR: 2.5

Chacin has been the biggest surprise among major rookies this year, pitching with a little more velocity than he showed in the past and with a better slider and curveball, and the increase in his ability to get swings and misses has raised his long-term ceiling. He needs to throw more strikes, both to reduce walks and to keep himself deeper into games, but considering what a mess he was in his 2009 cameo, the Rockies have to be ecstatic.

 

12. Wade Davis, RHP, Tampa Bay

13. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas

14. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh

15. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco

16. Jose Tabata, LF, Pittsburgh

17. Mike Leake, RHP, Cincinnati

18. John Jaso, C, Tampa Bay

19. Austin Jackson, CF, Detroit

20. Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Florida

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"I didnt play sports but went to an East Coast college. I did a lot of math, and it led me to believe that Terrell Pryor isnt good at football. Its a conspiracy. Call Obama. Boise State is the best team ever"

 

Didnt actually read the article but id imagine thats about it.

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In looking over the Heisman candidacy of Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, I cannot help but think back to when Andre Dawson won the 1987 National League MVP award.

 

Dawson certainly had a good season in some respects. He belted 49 home runs and batted in 137 runs, both of which were league-leading totals. The majority of the voters figured power numbers of that caliber were enough to vault Dawson to the top of their ballot, but Bill James had a different viewpoint in his 1987 Baseball Abstract. He figured those statistics were the numerical equivalent of empty calories.

 

He started by pointing out that Dawson's overall statistics weren't really that impressive. His .287 batting average was just below the median mark among NL outfielders, as were most of his other offensive stats. James also showed how Dawson's numbers were inflated in large part because he played in Wrigley Field.

 

After poking a hole in the statistical balloon, James proceeded to rant against what he saw as the real reasons behind the nomination. Quoting the Abstract:

 

"So why did he win the MVP award? I know what some people will say. It wasn't Dawson's statistics, it was his leadership and throwing arm. People will say that, but you know it isn't. You don't give an MVP for 'leadership' on a last-place team. Half the time, the MVP award goes to the league leader in RBIs. That's not leadership; that's statistics. And if they really understood his statistics, they wouldn't have done it."

One could make an almost identical argument regarding the Heisman case for Pryor.

 

His numbers may look gaudy at first glance, but a closer look at them and the real reasons he is among the front-runners for the award show that Pryor may be the most overrated player in college football.

 

 

Let's start with the aforementioned gaudy numbers. Pryor is ranked sixth in FBS in passer rating, tied for seventh in touchdown passes, 14th in completion percentage and 13th in yards per pass attempt.

 

Those are all elite totals, yes -- but Pryor's performance is also skewed by favorable circumstances. Four of his games have come against the Marshall Thundering Herd (1-4 Conference USA team), Eastern Michigan Eagles (0-6 MAC team), Ohio Bobcats (3-3 MAC team with wins against Wofford and Eastern Michigan) and Indiana Hoosiers (possibly the worst team in the Big Ten).

 

Pryor's passer rating of 127.52 against Miami and Illinois, his two best opponents so far, would rank 63rd in FBS this year.

Pryor completed 83 of 110 passes for 1,040 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in these contests. That equates to a phenomenal 187.24 passer rating when facing subpar opponents.

 

Now look at how Pryor did when the competition level was turned up. In the games against the Miami Hurricanes and Illinois Fighting Illini, he completed 21 of 43 passes for 309 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Put those into the quarterback calculator and it comes up with a passer rating of 127.52, a total that would rank 63rd in FBS this year.

 

It might be easy to give Pryor a pass for these stats if they were a two-game anomaly, but his 2009 numbers provide a similar showing.

 

When facing strong foes last season (strong defined as the USC Trojans, Illinois, Wisconsin Badgers, Purdue Boilermakers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Iowa Hawkeyes, Michigan Wolverines and Oregon Ducks), Pryor posted 108 completions in 195 attempts for 1,357 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Pryor's overall passer rating for those games was 123.58, or just about equal to his 2010 mark against tough opponents.

 

College Football Contrarian Thoughts

Every Wednesday, K.C. Joyner offers a contrarian viewpoint to a common college football argument. Sometimes he's right, sometimes he's wrong. He's always informative. Here are the last three, all of which proved to be accurate:

 

• Oct. 6: Denard Robinson should fear Sparty.

 

• Sept. 29: Andrew Luck will struggle against Oregon.

 

• Sept. 22: In Arkansas-Alabama, Greg McElroy will be more important than Ryan Mallett.

 

That shows Pryor doesn't have the statistical history to back up the idea that he is a great quarterback. But, as was the case with Dawson, his nomination may not really be based on his overall performance but rather on a much smaller set of metrics.

 

The Heisman Predictor, a fantastic tool developed by Ryan McCrystal of the ESPN Stats and Information department, uses a combination of historical voting patterns and statistics to predict who the voters are going to select as the winner of this prestigious award. It currently has Pryor ranked second with 111 points, but 70 of his points come from non-performance related areas (20 for being a Big Ten player, 25 for being an offensive player, 25 for being a quarterback). He also gets nine points for team victories, so 79 of his points could be said to come from being the quarterback of a successful Big Ten team.

 

This shows that, if history is any indicator, voters are likely to ignore Pryor's passing numbers as long as the Buckeyes keep winning. If that happens and Pryor plays as poorly in big games as he has the past season and a half, it would mean the Heisman didn't go to the best player in college football. It would instead be going to the highest profile player on the best team.

 

And it would be just as much of a misguided nomination as Dawson's MVP award was.

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COACH AND PROGRAM

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Dayton's Brian Gregory, VCU's Shaka Smart and Missouri State's Cuonzo Martin. What do they have in common? All four were fortunate enough to end last season with a win, something the rest of the Division college basketball coaches can't say.

 

After getting knocked out of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in a 10-point loss to Wichita State, Martin's Bears bounced back in the Collegeinsider.com Tournament. In four consecutive home games, Missouri State beat Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Creighton and Pacific to win the title.

 

Though it wasn't the NCAA Tournament, Martin was thrilled with the postseason success. It was just another sign that his program is making progress.

 

"I'd never left our last game, on the college level, where we won the game," Martin said. "It's a funny feeling. The guys walk around with a different kind of confidence, a different type of swagger, in a humble way. They were excited about lifting weights, excited about the spring workouts and excited going into the summer."

 

Just a year after winning 11 games, the Bears more than doubled that total to 24. It was the kind of jump Martin was hoping for, but not counting on.

 

Missouri State got off to a 12-1 start, with wins against Auburn, Tulsa and Saint Louis. The lone loss during the stretch was in overtime at Arkansas.

 

The young Bears won their first two Missouri Valley games, against Evansville and Illinois State, before the first blip of the season. Missouri State lost four of its next five, with three of the losses on the road.

 

"We had some breakdowns and fatigue started to set in with so many new guys playing a lot of minutes and understanding what it takes to play at this level consistently," Martin said. "Those things are part of a learning process for our guys."

 

Martin knew when he arrived on campus there was plenty of work to do. The midseason stretch showed him and his players that the work was far from over.

 

"I think we've got to keep moving," Martin said. "Everybody in the league is getting better. They're getting players every year. It never stops."

 

The Bears played well the final month of the season, winning seven of nine games, another sign of progress.

 

Of the 12 losses, eight were by six points or less. More progress.

 

"Our guys were competing," Martin said. "We couldn't make excuses as a staff because our guys were doing the things necessary to be successful. It was just a matter of finding ways to win games down the stretch."

 

Losing to Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Tournament was the lone late-season disappointment.

 

"For us, it's just those little things down the stretch of games, executing, making the free throws, getting a stop," Martin said.

 

PLAYERS

Offensive production shouldn't be a problem for Missouri State, which welcomes back five starters. The departing players combined for just seven points per game last season.

 

Missouri State Bears

Last Season 24-12 (.667)

Conference Record 8-10 (7th)

Starters Lost/Returning 0/5

Coach Cuonzo Martin (Purdue '00)

Record At School 35-32 (2 years)

Career Record 35-32 (2 years)

RPI Last 5 years 22-48-121-212-75

The leader of the team isn't one of the three senior starters. It's 6-6 junior forward Kyle Weems (13.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

 

"Kyle's probably the face of our program," Martin said. "He's a guy who does a lot of good things for us on and off the court. He's really gotten better every year in his overall game. We expect him to take another step. He's one of the few guys in the league whose stat line is across the board -- rebounding, steals, making free throws, three-point shooting, scoring. He does a lot of things well."

 

Weems isn't shy about going inside. At 240 pounds, he packs a punch, but he also has good mobility. He's a good three-point shooter (.407, 72-of-177) and solid at the free throw line (.780).

 

What part of his game needs to improve?

 

"His overall defense," Martin said. "He's shown he can do it [leading the team with 49 steals and 37 blocked shots]. He's just got to be a consistent defensive player."

 

Weems has plenty of help on offense, starting with 6-1 senior Adam Leonard (13 ppg, 2.4 rpg). The Missouri Valley Newcomer of the Year last season made a school-record 103 three-pointers (.390), becoming just the fifth player in league history to hit more than 100 in a season. If opponents are determined to stop Weems, Leonard will burn them from outside.

 

Blue Ribbon Previews

Take an Inside look at the MVC with Blue Ribbon's 2010-11 team reports:

 

Bradley

Creighton

Drake

Evansville

Illinois State

Indiana State

Missouri State

N. Iowa

S. Illinois

Wichita State

"He knows how to get shots moving off screens," Martin said.

 

Guard Jermaine Mallett (10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg), a 6-3 senior, earned a spot on the Missouri Valley All-Newcomer team. Like Weems and Leonard, he's a three-point threat (.340, 36-of-106), but he also earns his points by getting offensive rebounds (team-high 62) and at the free-throw line (.833, 100-of-120).

 

"He's one of those guys who is all over the place," Martin said. "He finds ways to score. He gets big steals. He goes and gets big rebounds for us. He defends. He'll battle 6-8 guys. He isn't afraid to get his nose dirty."

 

The point guard could be 6-1 senior Nafis Ricks (7.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.7 apg), who started just three games last season.

 

"He finished really strong for us," Martin said of Ricks, who was second on the team with 96 assists.

 

Guard Keith Pickens (3.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg), a 6-4 sophomore, started 17 games in 2009-10. He too is a three-point threat (.353).

 

Center Will Creekmore (8.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), a 6-9 senior, was an Academic All-MVC honoree last season. He hit 54 percent of his shots from the field and has inside-outside ability (.385, 5-of-13 3PT).

 

"He's a very intelligent young man," Martin said. "He plays hard, competes. He's gotten better every year. He got his body better. He's done a lot of good things to improve his game. He wants to be best big man in the league. He's going to put the time into it."

 

Serving as Creekmore's backup will be 6-11 junior Caleb Patterson (6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and 6-10 ju-nior Isaiah Rhine (2.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg). Patterson blocked 25 shots a year ago, second on the team.

 

"We'll play two of those big guys a lot more this year together," Martin said. "They've improved with their lateral quickness. And all of the big guys have improved their perimeter shots."

 

Martin expects immediate contributions from three incoming freshmen -- 5-10 Aaron Cooper from North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville, Ark.; 6-3 Corey Copeland from Northside High School in Fort Smith, Ark.; and 6-5 Nathan Scheer, a first-team Class 4 All-State pick from St. Francis Borgia High School in Washington, Mo.

 

"Cooper can really shoot the three-pointer," Martin said. "He's strong. He can defend and push the ball in transition.

 

"Scheer is a true winner, a true competitor [he led Borgia to the Class 4 state championship in 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2010]. He can do a little bit of everything on the floor like Weems and Mallett. He's one of those guys who you have to have in your program."

 

Martin calls Copeland a slasher who can get to the rim. He's capable of playing all three perimeter positions.

 

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B

BENCH/DEPTH: C

FRONTCOURT: B+

INTANGIBLES: A-

 

Martin's team isn't going to make another 13-win jump. But it can take big steps in the Missouri Valley. Now an experienced team with a three proven go-to guys, Missouri State should easily finish in the upper half of conference.

 

"If we can stay healthy, I think we have a chance to be all right," Martin said.

 

The greater goal, of course, is earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It's been 11 years since the Bears made their last of seven appearances in the Big Dance. Martin doesn't want to see many more years added to that streak.

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The typical argument against draft grades is, "Mel, you can't grade a draft for at least a few years." And while that's absolutely fair for some obvious reasons, you can hand out grades based on how much value teams got during the draft based on where they picked. It's not called "Pick Your Favorite Player" -- it's called the NFL draft. There's a process to maximizing value based on where a team selects, and initial grades are all about that and the degree to which a team attacked needs, as well as other factors such as scheme fits, building depth and adding value from trades.

 

But with a year of results, we can add some weight to the performance aspect people really think makes more sense. And I don't disagree. So let's see how the grades look after close to a year.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Summary: I loved the Seattle draft, not just because of the safe talent it acquired, but because it didn't trade away picks to maneuver within the first round and still got its guys. Russell Okung didn't have a dynamic season, but a lot of that is health-related. The guy should be an anchor for years to come. Earl Thomas racked up five INTs, and his development is extremely promising. Golden Tate struggled, particularly early. He showed some maturity issues, but the feeling is he can bounce back as his work habits get better and skills develop. There is not a lot after that, so the overall grade drops, but the top-two picks still look great.

 

Draft grade: A | Current Grade: B-plus

 

Baltimore Ravens

Summary: As much as the Ravens got great value, this is one that backfired a bit. Sergio Kindle got hurt off the field, and it seems as though his career is in jeopardy at this point. Terrence Cody is blocked by the great Haloti Ngata, and even good value pick Ramon Harewood was on the injured reserve. I still think the tight ends the Ravens got in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta can help out, but this class is off to a tough start overall.

 

Draft grade: A | Current Grade: C-minus

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Summary: Maybe my grade was too low. Tampa locked down a pair of long-term starters in wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, and Gerald McCoy -- who will be unfairly compared to the dominant Ndamukong Suh -- had some growing pains but played pretty well overall. Even waiver claim Ted Larsen worked out. The cherry, of course, is the magnificent year turned in by LeGarrette Blount, a guy initially signed by the Titans.

 

Draft grade: B-plus | Current Grade: A

Philadelphia Eagles

Summary: The Eagles drafted guys they felt could help right away, and it showed, because it seems like nearly every guy they picked started in some capacity. Highlighting that is the good season turned in by safety Nate Allen, a guy picked with the pick that Philly nabbed in the Donovan McNabb deal. (Allen got hurt, but he'll be back.) Riley Cooper was a surprise, Mike Kafka looks like a good bet to be a second-stringer soon and Brandon Graham will keep getting better when he's healthy. Another late steal was Kurt Coleman, who saw a lot of time at safety.

 

Draft grade: B-plus | Current Grade: A-minus

Arizona Cardinals

Summary: Dan Williams was a pick I really liked, but he didn't add much to the equation in 2010. Unfortunately, the Cardinals were forced to rely on the undrafted Max Hall and fifth-rounder John Skelton far too much. Daryl Washington provided some starts, and I still think Andre Roberts can be a player, but the grade drops.

 

Draft grade: B-plus | Current Grade: C-plus

Detroit Lions

Summary: Like Seattle, Detroit had two first-round picks (after a trade-up with Minnesota) and has scored with both. What else can be said about Suh, who flat-out dominated in a manner not at all befitting a rookie. Barring health, he looks like a penciled-in Pro Bowl D-tackle for as long as he wants to play. Jahvid Best didn't have a lot of running lanes, but he showed big-time toughness, playing hurt just about all year. The conversion of Amari Spievey from corner to safety looks like a smart move.

 

Draft grade: B-plus | Current Grade: A-minus

Pittsburgh Steelers

Summary:The Steelers weren't loaded with holes, and they definitely made some depth and developmental picks in the middle rounds, but they also hit some home runs. Maurkice Pouncey is, to borrow a phrase, pretty much who we thought he'd be -- but he just got there faster. Already a Pro Bowl player, he'll be an anchor for years to come. His injury before the Super Bowl is the only downer. Emmanuel Sanders looks primed to develop, and how about the contributions of Antonio Brown, who looks like a total steal as the 195th pick? A solid draft gets better.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: A-minus

Houston Texans

Summary: Kareem Jackson was the first-round pick, an obvious-need choice after the departure of Dunta Robinson. While Jackson started, he did so for a secondary that was gashed pretty much all season. His development is key. Darryl Sharpton also got some work as a nice-value pick in Round 4, but it's was pretty quiet draft after that. Ben Tate, a second-round pick, hurt his knee early and paved the way for Arian Foster.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: C-plus

San Diego Chargers

Summary: The Chargers aggressively targeted Ryan Mathews, trading up for him and making him the first every-down back taken. But even after a decent year, Mathews didn't really produce the kind of totals most expected. Health was a factor, but San Diego's passing game simply took over, and Mathews never seemed like a big part of the plan. Donald Butler was expected to help at linebacker, but he got hurt in camp. After him, no rookie really contributed very much. This draft grade takes a hit.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: C-minus

New York Jets

Summary: The need to give a lot of playing time to first-round pick Kyle Wilson was mitigated by the acquisition of Antonio Cromartie, so while Wilson has a future his contributions to the team weren't really felt. I liked the Jets' draft because I thought they got good value with every pick and drafted players I thought they might use reasonably early. Since they really didn't use these guys, there's a question as to whether they simply had plenty of depth at those spots -- a fair question on a successful team -- or whether the guys simply didn't look good. Either way, a disappointing class so far.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: C

San Francisco 49ers

Summary:I thought the Niners showed a lot of conviction, aggressively targeting their offensive line. Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati got plugged in and started throughout the year, so you can't say the Niners didn't have a plan. Taylor Mays wasn't a big contributor. and NaVorro Bowman was a special-teams stud instead of a regular, but he has a chance to develop. No leaks with the top picks, however.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: B-plus

New York Giants

Summary: Jason Pierre-Paul was the first-round pick, a raw pass-rusher with immense physical skills. I predicted then that he'd need a lot of work to refine his technique and to work against pro lineman in practice but could help the Giants late. He did manage to get some sacks (4.5), but he never cracked the starting lineup. That's not a failure, though, considering the competition. I think they like his future. Elsewhere, there really wasn't much. Chad Jones was injured off the field in a car accident, and Matt Dodge was the much-talked-about punter -- but not always in a good way.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: C-plus

Carolina Panthers

Summary: The Panthers actually got some nice pieces out of this draft, but it was hard to see it considering how much the kids got thrown into the fire. Jimmy Clausen struggled, underperforming my expectations for him, but it was a battle as he worked with fellow rookie wideouts Brandon LaFell and David Gettis. Both of those guys look like keepers, and there are intriguing pieces such as Eric Norwood and Greg Hardy that should continue to develop on defense. The results didn't add up, but Ron Rivera has some young talent to build with.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: B-minus

Chicago Bears

Summary: The Bears nailed one of the top sleepers in the whole draft, when seventh-round pick J'Marcus Webb was thrown into action and performed pretty well. Suddenly, a draft that didn't see any picks until No. 75 overall (Major Wright) found some decent value. Corey Wootton also looks like a keeper as a defensive end out of Northwestern. The Bears saw value in him as a local guy who wasn't at 100 percent during his final season in Evanston, and it should pan out for them. There wasn't major impact, but given where they were forced to pick, Chicago did well.

 

Draft grade: B | Current Grade: B

New England Patriots

Summary: It's one thing for so many picks to see the field, it's another when so many are immediate starters. So while there were a few value question marks, the Patriots were brilliant in terms of identifying fits. And it's not like Bill Belichick and the New England brain trust forced guys into action in an attempt to dignify their choices. No, these guys played early and played well, and the team was noticeably better because of it. Devin McCourty landed in the Pro Bowl. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were good enough that they seem to have shifted the whole offensive methodology, with more tight end sets than ever. Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham played a ton. Brandon Deaderick, the 247th pick, was called into duty and showed toughness. Even punter Zoltan Mesko was solid. Good picks all over, and the Patriots will have many more in April.

 

Draft grade: B-minus | Current Grade: A-plus

Dallas Cowboys

Summary: People complained that I didn't have Dez Bryant among my Top 10 rookies. But how could I? He missed four games and had three with zero or one catch. While he showed flashes of what should be an electrifying career -- if he's healthy -- he certainly wasn't the cherry on top of a great season. Sean Lee should become a starter, but after that, the draft offered little. Undrafted pickups were a better part of the overall rookie picture for Dallas. That they got no real help for the offensive line is still an issue.

 

Draft grade: B-minus | Current Grade: C-plus

Green bay Packers

Summary: The Packers' draft is looking better as the playoffs wear on, particularly because James Starks is contributing in the run game. Starks fell because he wasn't healthy in his final season at Buffalo, and Green Bay got great value because of it. Morgan Burnett got hurt, but Bryan Bulaga has become a starter and Andrew Quarless has seen action. Green Bay's attrition has opened up more opportunities than pure talent has forced its way in, but the results speak for themselves.

 

Draft grade: B-minus | Current Grade: B

Kansas City Chiefs

Summary: Eric Berry was a home run pick at a need position, one of the more predicable outcomes in the whole draft. Dexter McCluster was a bit of a hit-and-miss guy. He wasn't a part of the passing game to the degree I thought he could be, but when a team has a versatile rookie that can affect multiple areas of the playbook, it's not a one-year plan. Tony Moeaki, who dropped after he dealt with some health issues at Iowa, became one of the steals of the draft. Javier Arenas was on the field early and often. Even fifth-rounder Kendrick Lewis became a starter. A big grade jump in a draft I underestimated.

 

Draft grade: B-minus | Current Grade: A

Tennessee Titans

Summary: Alterraun Verner was still sitting there at No. 104 overall, and he becomes one of the big steals at that spot. He should be a longtime contributor for the Titans. Derrick Morgan was a guy I felt was really ready to contribute early because he's a versatile talent, but when he was lost to injury this draft class really lost points. Tennessee didn't get a lot out of Damian Williams, and I don't think anyone is under the illusion that Rusty Smith is the answer at quarterback.

 

Draft grade: C-plus | Current Grade: C

St. Louis Rams

Summary: The first two guys the Rams took are among my top rookies of the year. Sam Bradford showed poise and resilience in the face of a dicey receiving corp, and he was healthy all year after his endurance was a big question mark. Home run, period. They also got a left tackle solution out of Rodger Saffold, a player I thought Dallas might take in the spot they landed Bryant. Michael Hoomanawanui is a keeper at tight end, and even 226th overall pick George Selvie showed that he plans to contribute as a pass-rusher.

 

Draft grade: C-plus | Current Grade: A

Oakland Raiders

Summary: This is another team that gets a big bump up the Board, based on performance. As I wrote about Oakland midway through the season, its ability to get maximum value in "playing the draft" has been questionable, but what isn't in question is the eye for talent. Rolando McClain was a starter at linebacker, and a pretty good one; Lamarr Houston is a solution in the middle of the defensive line; and Jared Veldheer got moved around to start the season but found a home right where he was in college, as an athletic left tackle who should only get better. Then they got a steal out of Jacoby Ford as icing on the cake. His pass-catching skills are far better than his draft profile indicated. Solid work.

 

Draft grade: C-plus | Current Grade: A-minus

Buffalo Bills

Summary:Considering the holes on the roster, Buffalo had to get players that could step in immediately and help. I like C.J. Spiller, but emphasized that I considered him a bit of a luxury pick, considering there are other options in that backfield. His season can only be considered a disappointment. Torell Troup and Arthur Moats saw some time, but is there one guy from this class who looks like an anchor? I questioned Buffalo's plan, and I'm not sure this draft shows it really had one. If it did, that plan went off course early.

 

Draft grade: C-plus | Current Grade: D-plus

New Orleans Saints

Summary: I thought Patrick Robinson, the cornerback the Saints drafted in Round 1 out of Florida State, would give them more. He clearly still has some work to do. After that, this is a really lean class. Jimmy Graham is an intriguing talent and should continue to develop. He became a favorite target of Drew Brees later in the year, particularly as a red zone threat, but I don't feel any better about this draft today then I did in April.

 

Draft grade: C | Current Grade: C-minus

Cincinnati Bengals

Summary: I wasn't sure what level of production the Bengals would get, and framed against the disappointment of their season, you'd assume this class didn't add much. But that's not the case. Jermaine Gresham shaved off the rust and led rookie tight ends in catches. Carlos Dunlap didn't see much of the field early but exploded late for 9.5 sacks and was among my top rookie choices. Jordan Shipley was dependable, even amidst the sideshow of that group of wideouts. Not a remarkable draft, but they got some real players.

 

Draft grade: C | Current Grade: B

Cleveland Browns

Summary: It was a disappointing year, but Cleveland has a better roster because of some of these guys. T.J. Ward proved every question I had about him was wrong; he was fantastic, and did it all over the field. Joe Haden started slow and had to win over the coaching staff, but he'll be a long-term starter and still has Pro Bowl upside in my book. Colt McCoy got thrown into a starter's role and, amidst a lot of the usual rookie mistakes and misreads, showed the kind of toughness that teammates appreciate. I think he projects as the likely Week 1 starter in 2011, to little complaint, and that's impressive considering where the Browns got him.

 

Draft grade: C | Current Grade: B-plus

Indianapolis Colts

Summary: I think everybody who followed prospects closely would be in agreement: We all saw Jerry Hughes as a guy who could really help the Colts and get into the pass-rushing rotation in 2010. And while that didn't happen, at least the Colts got some good value elsewhere. Pat Angerer became a solution at linebacker, Brody Eldridge got into the tight end mix and Blair White showed he has a future in this league after not being drafted out of Michigan State. Injuries led to some battlefield promotions, but on a pretty good team, like Indianapolis that counts for something.

 

Draft grade: C | Current Grade: B-minus

Miami Dolphins

Summary: Koa Misi was a guy I highlighted early as one I thought would be an impact player early. He didn't come on to the degree I expect, but Miami definitely liked having him on the field. After that, Jared Odrick and A.J. Edds got hurt, leading me to think a more proper grade would be "incomplete."

 

Draft grade: C-minus | Current Grade: C-minus

Denver Broncos

Summary: A lot of this grade would seemingly depend on what you think of Tim Tebow. If he's the future, maybe you prop up this grade. If you don't think he's shown enough and is still a work in progress, perhaps, at best, the poor grade remains. But that oversimplifies it because there were some good components to this draft. Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton are keepers on the offensive line, Demaryius Thomas is a starter at wideout and Perrish Cox played like the great value he was as the 137th overall pick. Then there's Tebow. Am I sold? Not yet. But the grade improves based on the overall depth added.

 

Draft grade: C-minus | Current Grade C-plus

Washington Redskins

Summary: The Redskins got their current and future left tackle ... and that's about it. The disappointing thing is they lost a valuable second-round pick to Philadelphia for a franchise quarterback that seemed to cause a franchise-wide mess. Now they have to deal with the quarterback position again, and they still lack picks in the upcoming draft. After Trent Williams, only undrafted Brandon Banks is worth a mention. Not a good draft, and there is more work to be done.

 

Draft grade: C-minus | Current Grade: D-plus

Minnesota Vikings

Summary: Chris Cook got some starts, and 199th overall pick ("The Brady Pick") Joe Webb came on late and showed some flashes, but it's a pretty disappointing group overall. Remember that Cook was taken after the Vikings traded away the pick that became Jahvid Best. Of course, they then moved back up to get Toby Gerhart. The problem? Gerhart doesn't help much on third downs, and Best would have. This still has an incomplete grade, but the draft, like the season overall, didn't impress.

 

Draft grade: C-minus | Current Grade: D-plus

Atlanta Falcons

Summary: When I graded this draft initially, I said I didn't believe the Falcons had a lot of holes, and that would limit the grade they could get because it would be hard to get much impact. Corey Peters gave them some good work as the 83rd pick overall, but Sean Weatherspoon got just a handful of starts after going in the first round, and it was pretty quiet after that. Third-rounder Mike Johnson was inactive all year. In general, it was a to-be-expected and quiet class for a very good team.

 

Draft grade: C-minus | Current Grade: C

Jacksonville Jaguars

Summary: I'll say it again: I think Tyson Alualu is a really good player, but this draft was panned because of the way Jacksonville didn't acknowledge overall value in making picks. But the Jags jump because, once those picks saw the field, some performed very well. Start with Alualu, who started all year. While third-rounder D'Anthony Smith got hurt, the Jags got some mileage from Austen Lane, a defensive end they got in Round 5. Deji Karim was a guy a lot of people didn't know about, and he helped in the return game. Still not a massive haul, but better than it looked last April.

 

Draft grade: D | Current grade: C

 

Keep up with Mel Kiper through the year via his home page.

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Bynum for Melo.

Yep, sounds insane, and at first glance it sounds mostly like somebody -- either Carmelo Anthony's people or the Nuggets -- is blowing smoke to create leverage with other parties.

Nonetheless, it's too titillating not to discuss further. The idea of L.A. sending a core of Kobe Bryant, Melo, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol onto the court, with any random civilian inserted at point guard, certainly is a scary proposition for opponents. And for the Nuggets, one has to concede that coming away with Andrew Bynum is vastly preferable to getting, say, Wilson Chandler and a draft pick.

Additionally, the Lakers can dramatically sweeten the deal with spare parts. By also taking on Chris Andersen using the trade exception created by dealing Sasha Vujacic to the Nets, for instance, the Lakers can help the Nuggets further clean up their cap situation and save them over $10 million in salary and luxury tax. That becomes $13 million if L.A. throws in cash, $14 million if the Lakers take back Shelden Williams too, and $17 million if they do a side deal of Renaldo Balkman for Theo Ratliff and Devin Ebanks.

NBA Trade Machine

 

nba_trademachine_110.jpg Put on your GM hat and make your own trades and deals.

Trade Machine

 

 

Adding Andersen and Williams to the mix also allays the greatest fear of this trade for the Lakers: L.A. would be short-handed up front, giving opponents free rein to beat Gasol senseless.

Still, some areas of concern obviously remain. The Lakers would be sacrificing their single greatest advantage -- two 7-footers who create matchup problems for opponents' frontcourts -- to add a high-volume, middling-efficiency shot taker ... a role that Bryant already fills more ably.

One could argue that Anthony is such a huge upgrade over Ron Artest that it doesn't matter that Melo is a poor fit schematically. But it's not clear how the Lakers would defend high-scoring wing players. That's a pretty important consideration when their most likely NBA Finals opponents (Boston and Miami) each own two such performers.

Remember, too, that the Lakers aren't the only team involved in these discussions, and that the logic behind this possible deal on some levels is just as shaky for Denver. Nene isn't Gasol; he's going to have trouble coexisting in the same frontcourt with Bynum because he's not a natural 4. While Nene can opt out and become a free agent after the season, presumably the Nuggets intend to keep him and feel they'll be able to -- if they don't, they should be pursuing Nene trades with just as much zeal as they've solicited offers for Melo.

Looking more deeply, even some parts that at first seem to make sense don't upon further review. Most notably, there's the notion that this deal would position the Lakers well for a post-Kobe era, because Anthony could take over the role as the main go-to guy.

That's true, but it's mostly irrelevant. This is hardly the time to be thinking about "positioning for the future." The Lakers have a window to win another championship right now, and it's not going to be open forever. Kobe's knees aren't getting any springier, and the smoke signals from Phil Jackson's tepee are that somebody else will be coaching the Lakers next season. One has to wonder if swapping Bynum for Melo only puts the Lakers further away from a three-peat goal.

Nonetheless, it's a workable kernel of a trade, and here's why. As I noted above, Bynum for Melo doesn't make a ton of sense if that's the whole deal. If that's part of the deal on the other hand ... well, then we're talking. As I noted above, a two-way deal with the Lakers could save Denver a ton of money if structured correctly, while also giving the Lakers some replacement frontcourt bodies. So that's a start.

[+] Enlargenba_g_josects_200.jpgMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesGetting Melo would be nice. Add in Jose Calderon, though, and things could get very interesting in L.A.

 

 

However, the really interesting part is if they add other teams to the mix.

Let's think about these teams' goals for a second. For Denver, the big idea is to get as many young assets as possible for Anthony, but a second goal is to get the team under the luxury tax this season. Denver is $14 million over the threshold at the moment, but because of the cap exceptions owned by the Lakers and other potential trade partners, it's possible for the Nuggets to trade their way under.

And from L.A.'s side, if the Lakers got an upgrade at point guard along with Melo, then such a trade becomes a huge win for the Lakers as well ... regardless of whether Kobe and Melo get in each other's way a little bit.

Believe it or not, the framework of such a deal could work. Obviously, L.A.'s prime target as the point guard upgrade would be Chauncey Billups, but that's a pipe dream. It isn't possible to put together a realistic deal for Billups and Anthony -- the Lakers simply don't have the assets.

Jose Calderon, on the other hand, is very doable. And there's a really good three-way deal these teams could do that would land Calderon in L.A. along with Anthony; get Bynum to Denver while pulling the Nuggets all the way under the luxury tax via trade exceptions owned by the Lakers and Toronto; and save the Raptors about $16 million over the next two years by dumping the contracts of Calderon and Linas Kleiza on the Lakers. (My trade idea is here.) Draft picks and cash would almost certainly be part of the conversation too.

That's one thought, but there are plenty more workable scenarios. A Cleveland deal with Mo Williams, for instance, would work roughly the same way. So would one with Washington and Kirk Hinrich, although it's made more difficult by the Wizards' lack of a large trade exception.

The big-picture idea, however, is that there probably needs to be more to the picture than just Bynum and Melo for a realistic Lakers-Nuggets trade to happen. Bynum-for-Melo is certainly the centerpiece, but as a straight one-for-one trade there's more to dislike than like for both sides.

It's the other blocks that can be built around such a deal that make it enticing. While such a swap would be dramatically more complicated, it's that possibility that has me contemplating whether there really is some fire behind this smoke.

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can someone get this article for me?

http://thesuperconferences.com/conference-realignment-news/

As we, the college football fans of America, laid our heads down on Saturday night, we were exhausted. Not from the games, mind you. No, our brains were spent after having woken up in a world where Syracuse and Pittsburgh were still in the Big East, but by lunch they had migrated to the Atlantic Coast. As I tried to drift off to sleep, I started running future conference scenarios through my mind. West Virginia to the SEC … Texas to the ACC … Oklahoma to the Pac-10, er, 12, er, 16 … a Big 12 implosion … a Big Ten expansion … raiding parties rumbling toward every conference in between.

 

But no matter where my mind took me, one thought dominated all others. And it’s been there for a while.

 

What if, going back nearly 30 years, Penn State had gotten what it had originally wanted? What if, in 1982, the Nittany Lions had been allowed to join the Big East? Would that one move have been enough to alter or even avoid altogether the gigantic conference realignment dominoes that started falling a few years later and are still crashing to this day?

 

Think about it for a second. A Big East with Penn State, inarguably one of the most prestigious football programs of all time, would mean a Big Ten without them. It would mean that the Penn State-Pitt rivalry was still alive. And it’s not a long walk to think that other classic eastern schools such as Boston College and even Maryland might be in the Big East with them.

 

In the early 1980s, Joe Paterno wasn’t just the head football coach in Happy Valley. He was also the athletic director. When he sat down with PSU’s athletic department ledger, he realized that the school’s continuing athletic independence simply wasn’t financially sustainable. Football was fine, but without a conference affiliation, Penn State’s other sports were suffering. It was then when he envisioned an all-eastern football conference, a way for once-independent schools — and at that time there were a lot of them — to create a better business model. At first, Paterno investigated starting his own league. But ultimately, naturally, he approached the Big East. The year was 1982 and the conference was only three years old, formed as a basketball-driven, non-football league by the venerable, widely beloved hoops visionary Dave Gavitt.

 

What happened next depends on who you ask. Paterno has long maintained that Syracuse administrators torpedoed his effort. Big East officials have always denied that, citing issues over revenue sharing. No matter the reasoning, a basketball conference at the height of its powers publicly questioned Penn State’s worthiness to be a part of their Patrick Ewing-led world. They said that PSU’s hoops program was lagging and it needed new facilities.

 

Penn State’s Big East membership was voted down 5-3.

 

A quarter-century later I had a conversation with outgoing Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, in Charlotte, N.C., to attend the 2008 Meineke Car Care (now Belk) Bowl between West Virginia and North Carolina. Foreshadowing comments he would make to The New York Times three months later, the normally confident commissioner squirmed as he talked about Penn State.

 

“That was no doubt a major mistake. I think had we taken Penn State — and I wanted to but was in no position to make that decision at the time, I wasn’t commissioner yet — one of two things may have happened. One, we might still have football independents. People forget now that so many of the great programs were independent back then. Two, if we had still gone on to become a football conference then the lineup of the conference might be radically different.â€

 

Who was commissioner? It was Gavitt. In the most bizarre twist of all, he passed away Friday night after a long illness, spared from seeing the conference he founded lose two of its charter members. “If Dave were alive,†Tranghese told the Times’ Pete Thamel on Saturday, “he would not be happy today.â€

 

In a cruel twist of fate, it was Penn State’s move to the Big Ten that ultimately pushed the Big East into becoming a football league. After a 5-6 campaign in 1988, PSU’s first losing season in nearly five decades, the school decided it could no longer hold off the benefits of protecting its nonrevenue sports beneath the umbrella of a conference. So, amid more than a little resistance and controversy, it joined the Big Ten (said Bobby Knight: “I’ve been to Penn State and Penn State is a camping trip. There’s nothing for about 100 miles.â€). The announcement came in 1990, but they wouldn’t actually start playing games until 1993.

 

What happened in between was the first round of conference chaos. Arkansas and South Carolina joined the SEC. Florida State abandoned independence for the ACC. The Southwestern Conference collapsed. The Big East finally gave in to football, adding independents Virginia Tech and Miami. And all of the schools that Paterno had once envisioned as part of his eastern football conference — Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh — started playing Big East football.

 

The second move that the Big East likely regrets is the 1991 addition of Miami. In the short term, it was huge. The Hurricanes continued to roll off their 1980s success and won two national titles for the conference, in 1991 and 2001. But from the outside their inclusion always felt like a reach, with Coral Gables located 900 miles from the nearest Big East rival (Virginia Tech) and 1,500 miles from the conference offices in Rhode Island. In 2004, Miami bolted for the more geographically friendly ACC, taking Boston College and Virginia Tech with it.

 

Now the Big East barely hangs on to the bottom rung of the BCS ladder. By Sunday morning, that grip was two fingers looser. Syracuse and Pitt are gone. The conference’s best football team, West Virginia, is mentioned as a possibility to join Texas A&M in the SEC (if the Aggies’ path is finally cleared to leave the Big 12). The addition of conference nomad TCU already felt like an even more desperate move than the addition of Miami 20 years earlier. Now, after Saturday’s ACC news, the folks down in Fort Worth are acting jittery. And in 2009, shortly after succeeding Tranghese as commissioner, John Marinatto even dared bring up the attractiveness of Penn State in an interview with SI.com’s Stewart Mandel.

 

Sigh.

 

So, imagine with me if you will a Big East with Penn State. First as a non-football member, but then added in when the conference hit the gridiron in 1991. Now we have a league kicking off a decade with Joe Paterno at Penn State, Johnny Majors and Curtis Martin rebuilding the Pitt Panthers, Don Nehlen at West Virginia, Donovan McNabb at Syracuse, and Michael Vick at Virginia Tech. And if the Big East still invites Miami (which it likely wouldn’t have with Penn State in the mix), it becomes just that much stronger.

 

Perhaps even Notre Dame, which already competes in the Big East in every sport but football and even used to employ Big East football referees, could have been swayed to take the football plunge. Imagine the difference in perception if instead of sending (no offense) Louisville and UConn to fill its BCS berths, the conference had been represented on the big stage by JoePa or the Fighting Irish.

 

In a world where the Big Ten can’t add Penn State, do they expand at all?

 

In a world where the Big Ten doesn’t expand (which would have pleased the likes of Knight, Bo Schembechler and their friends), does the Big 12 stand pat? Or does it even exist at all?

 

In the world that Tranghese envisioned, where independents are still viable, then Texas might have walked away from the post-SMU implosion of the Southwest Conference to stand alone. Or perhaps Arkansas is never invited to the SEC and the SWC replaces SMU with UTEP and gets on with its life. Then does Florida State join the SEC instead of the Razorbacks? Does the Big 8 still exist? Perhaps expanding to add in members of the WAC as the Pac-8 had done not so much earlier, in 1978?

 

And even if the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-10 still went on to expand as they have, a Big East with Penn State and its eastern cohorts would have been in a much better position to defend itself, perhaps even going on the offensive and do a little raiding of its own. Maryland, which was always on Paterno’s radar for his eastern football league and perpetually frustrated with the ACC office’s perceived Tobacco Road bias, might have defected north instead of Big East schools fleeing south.

 

At the very least, the conferences of today would likely better resemble the actual geography of their names. As we inevitably march toward superconferences, as so many coaches now openly allude to during media Q&As, then the Big East could have dug in on its corner of the map and been one of those mega-leagues doing the picking instead being picked on.

 

“It is a lot to think about,†Tranghese said. “And it all goes back to a few days when we went one way instead of another.â€

 

He said that on Dec. 27, 2008. He had no idea what was coming. None of us did.

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