A year ago, Yorvit Torrealba was playing for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. On December 23 he was suspended for hitting an umpire. Like, straight out smacking him while arguing a call. For his transgression he was suspended for 66 games. Per the suspension, he would have been eligible again this coming January 3rd.…
The Washington Wizards must add plenty of bodies this offseason with only five players currently under contract. J. Michael and I tasked each other with filling out the roster as we see fit while assuming Kevin Durant isn't an option. We both said keep restricted free agent Bradley Beal, but our decisions swerved from there. Next on my priority list, Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum. Here are the pros and cons of that potentially delicious and delusional call.
Pro: I'll start by sharing some thoughts from NBA analyst Matt Moore's mid-season article titled, "The Hornets' Nicolas Batum is the modern NBA wing every team needs." His game has looked more versatile and effective than ever. Everything about his game is fluid and smooth. He's slim and impossibly long, with a reported 7-4 wingspan. He's always been the kind of player that lights up scouting reports due to his combination of size, length and skill. He can handle, he can shoot, he can drive and finish, he can pass and defend. Batum may not be the top tier star of a team, but he is certainly a guy you want playing on the wing for your team."
Yes, what he said. The Wizards have a dynamic backcourt assuming Beal stays with John Wall. Marcin Gortat gets it done at center. Markieff Morris added needed athleticism at power forward. What they lack right now: A proven two-way NBA wing for the modern game.
Con: What the Wizards have at small forward now is Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr., otherwise known as their last two first round draft picks. Adding a hefty max contract player would seemingly put a high dollar roadblock on their road to developing. Porter becomes a restricted free agent next summer.
Pro: A creative coaching staff can figure out to use all three often and perhaps at times together. We're watching Oklahoma City use lengthy lineups to flummox Golden State's offensive machine. Ponder the full court possibilities with a pair of 6-foot-8 forwards in Batum and Porter Beal (6'5") and Wall (6'4") in the backcourt with Morris (6'10") at stretch-5. Everyone can sink 3's and run. Each perimeter player made at least 35% of their attempts from beyond the arc last season. Put in Oubre, who still needs to prove he should receive heavy minutes, and this small ball lineup gets even longer.
Con: With the salary cap projected around $92 million next season, an eight-year veteran like Batum is eligible for a per season max contract around $26 million. (Beal, entering his fifth year, would max out around $22-23 million). The Wizards can make that figure work and pay Beal, but then the back half of the roster would include a host of minimum contract players. That's a risky proposition considering all the bumps and bruises over an 82-game regular season.
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Pro: As OKC is demonstrating, those 10-12 player rotations found during the regular season often shrink to eight or so in the playoffs*. If you play fewer players and don't have a true elite option or a dynamic duo (Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook) or a Big 3 (Cavaliers), then you better have as much playmaking talent as possible within that eight. Batum's ability to play all over court helps offset any depth chart/injury issue.
(* Seeing as the Wizards didn't make the postseason in 2016, talking about playoff rotations defines putting the cart before the horse. Doesn't mean you don't think big picture and plan accordingly, especially since a coaching upgrade and good health puts Washington into top 2-4 seed mix.)
Con: If we're saying Batum isn't an elite player, then why pay him like one? Of the players truly on the open market this summer, the 27-year-old is a top 10 free agent and not all of those players are poised for max deals based on age. With more than half the league armed with oodles of cap space, Batum gets paid if he wants the full Brinks truck treatment. Even if he leaves a little on the table so a team can spend on others, that's still big bucks.
Pro: Batum's presence can help Washington's best player and the Wizards when that best player sits. He's not a point guard, but Batum's 5.8 assists ranked behind only Draymond Green and LeBron James among forwards. Add that type of threat and Washington can give Wall, who is coming off knee surgery, more of a blow during games and the season. The ball movement in general often declined when Wall watched from the bench.
Con: Pay Batum and Beal -- combined zero All-Star nods -- and now Wall becomes Washington's third highest paid player. Yeah, that could lead to chemistry issues if the three-time All-Star lets it.
Analysis: Stylistically, Batum is where the game is going. Add his versatility alongside the interesting talents on the roster and the Wizards will truly enter the modern NBA. Money, however, is an issue. Washington has enough, but so do others. Charlotte can pay him the most. The Wizards aren't going to spend over the luxury tax so add Batum and it's a fantasy football strategy of (no offense future Wizards)"stars and scrubs." But stars win in the NBA. Maybe Batum isn't elite. He'll make all better, including Wall and Beal. That's because he's the modern NBA wing every team needs. That's something worth considering.
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If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.
In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.
“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”
Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.
“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.
“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.
“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”
That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.
Winner: Feliz (2-1)
Loser: Bundy (0-1)
WHAT WENT WRONG: Dylan Bundy allowed a leadoff triple to Tony Kemp in the bottom of the 13th. After two intentional walks were issued to load the bases, Carlos Correa singled to center to win it for Houston.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Chris Tillman had won five straight, but added to his string of quality starts by allowing just two runs on three hits in seven innings. He’s thrown seven consecutive quality starts.
GOING DEEP: The Orioles’ two runs were home runs. Pedro Alvarez hit his third in the fifth inning. Manny Machado slammed his 13th in the sixth. Both were hit off Astros starter Doug Fister.
GOING LONG: The Orioles played their longest game of the season. They haven’t played past the 13th inning since Sept. 20, 2013 when they lost in 18 at Tampa Bay. It was their first four hour game of 2016.
LOTS OF K’S: The Orioles struck out 19 times in 13 innings.
LEAVING THEM ON: The Orioles twice left the bases loaded. In the second, Ryan Flaherty struck out, and in the ninth, Joey Rickard fanned. They left 11 runners on base.
HOME RUNS AND TILLMAN: Luis Valbuena’s two run home run off Tillman was just the third he’s allowed in 11 starts, but the second in his last two games.
THERE HE GOES: Matt Wieters stole his first base since May 26, 2013 in the ninth inning. He has seven stolen bases in his career.
YOU’RE OUT: Houston’s Colby Rasmus, who visited with manager Buck Showalter in the winter of 2014 about joining the Orioles was ejected by home plate umpire Dana DeMuth for arguing balls and strikes in the sixth inning.
UP NEXT: Tyler Wilson (2-2, 3.68) faces Collin McHugh (4-4, 5.13) on Wednesday night at 8:10 p.m.