Before we roll to my almost flawless MLB ATS picks, how about a lil Clipperland Luv. While most assume Davis & Dunleavy are screwed w/ Elton bolting for easier frontcourt pastures out East, I contend the Clippers line-up (w/ the signing of a particular PF) will be back in the playoff mix by the 2009-10 season. Don’t buy-it…let’s take a closer look & see how Baron’s new squad compares with his old:
SG - Monta Ellis vs Eric Gordon/Q-Mobley
While only a handful of lightning-quick guards can roll with the undersized-Ellis, let alone slow his ridiculous mid-range game, an inability to spread the defense in Nellie’s system (which insinuating a 3-ball casting-party from the squad all season) and failing to successfully run the point forced Baron to play too many minutes…which might be why he looked more tired than a newbie at Vivid Entertainment Pool Party by year’s end. I know Ellis was a perfect speedster to utilize Baron’s open court passing skills, but besides having a slower gear, isn’t Eric Gordon kind of a Monta Mini-Me? Throw-in a veteran like Q-Mobley who always loves playing with a showboating PG (i.e. Stevie “no-longer” Franchise) and the SG match-up isn’t as much of a blow-out as you think.
SF - Stephen Jackson vs Al Thornton
I know S-Jax is a legitimate, well-rounded, NBA-talent who’s been on his best behavior of late, but I honestly believe his fancy for the 3-pt line was not sound therapy for his trigger-happy floor-general. Not to mention, he’s probably overdue for some off-the-court mischief. As for Baron playing with the athletic-freak Al Thornton, I actually picture Kidd tossing to Vinsanity (without the showboating & ole-defense) and a player with much more discipline in the half-court. Also, Thornton’s a genuine good-guy that will gravitate towards a veteran presence like Davis and provide some highflying gems to keep Baron a regular on Sportscenter. Call me crazy if you like, but I think the Clippers easily have the better baller at SF…especially for the long-term.
C - Andris Biedrins vs Chris Kaman
As a diehard Warriors (and Alba) fan, I can verify the 7-foot jumping jack Biedrins received only 6 passes, not counting alley-oops, from Baron over the last two seasons. While he’s a productive energy guy perfect for GST’s system, Kaman is one of the more skilled 7-footers in the league (athleticism not included) and if he progresses half as much as he did last year Davis will have plenty of confidence passing him the pill. Honestly, while everybody thinks Nellie’s run-n-chuck style was perfect for Baron, with his dominate backside able to back-down virtually every guard at will, I think a half-court set and a big (Kaman) with a soft-touch could make him look even sweeter…especially with that kick-azz beard.
PF - Al Harrington vs Josh Smith
Obviously I have no idea if Hot-Lanta would match, but shredding salary and offering every penny in the bank to Josh Smith immediately turns Clipperland into a highflying circus. To tell you the truth, this might even be a better fit for Baron than if Brand stuck around. Can you imagine Bouncin’ Baron maneuvering through the lane and seeing J-Smith & Thorton slashing-in from either wing? It’s like Fukudome to Wrigley or Jesse Spano in Showgirls-perfect. While everybody says the Hawks will match, most of that talk was if teams were offering around 10-12 million. If they creep closer to the 15-million dollar range, with all the youngsters needing paper in the next few years (Marvin Williams, Al Horford, etc.), could ATL afford to cripple themselves to match? For sake of my beautiful, well thought-out breakdown, I say no-way…And as a result (drum-roll please) Clipperland becomes prettier than Ali Larter in a whip-cream bikini!
With that, let's head to my ATS pick and Hotties of the day...
TAMPA BAY RAYS (+105) @ CLEVELAND INDIANS
While the recently smoking-hot Rays were brought down to earth in a sweep by the Bronx Bombers, I’d actually be less likely to invest my emergency-money on the Rays tonight if they were coming-off a series victory in New York. I’m sure the youngsters have a dreaded fear of falling back to the “Devil” Ray days and will be focused on righting the ship in Cleveland. Speaking of the Tribe, they’ve lost 10 straight and should be more depressed than Ronny Mexico after blowing a 6-0 lead in Detroit yesterday. As for the home-field advantage, I’m guessing we’ll see a smaller crowd than normal waiting to chastise the club as soon as the Tampa scores a run. And now that teams have a little more tape on 23 year-old phenom Aaron Laffey, I’m guessing that may happen sooner than later (First 11 starts: 2.83 ERA - Last two starts: 8.10 ERA). As for Tampa’s hurler Andy Sonnanstine (10-3, 4.31), the team loves his tempo on the mound, and as a result, always seems to have a nice day at the plate. Especially against a squad that’s hitting .228 over its last 7 games, I expect Sonnanstine to cruise and enable the Rays bat to find a rhythm…Rays by 2-3 runs