The BS Report | Brad Shulkin

NOVEMBER |  it’s only the beginning…

The NBA season is well underway and with that comes ChicagoSportsWeekly’s winners and losers thus far. Before I begin, let me just say that the reason that I haven’t blogged in quite some time now is because of one simple thing…PLEDGESHIP. But since that is over with and I can now call myself a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi, I will continue to write blog posts on a more frequent basis.

WINNERS

Memphis Grizzles– In my mind, the Grizzles are the most well balanced team in the NBA. They are tough, the can score the basketball, and they have a top 10 defense and offense in the league. In fact, they score the 7th most points in the league, while allowing 92.6 points per game (ppg), which ranks 7th in the NBA. I guess this is no surprise as most of the team is returning from last year, but with Zach Randolph bouncing back from the injury he sustained last year as well as he has, and Marcplaying at the level that he is, I really think this team can make a statement in the Western Conference and give OKC and both LA teams a run for their money.

Charlotte Bobcats– After drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick of the draft, things looked to be heading in a new direction for the Bobcats…what am I kidding; it didn’t do anything to brighten the horizon for a team that has failed under the leadership of the guy that has been dubbed the best player ever to play basketball on this planet. That was at the time of the draft, but now as I continue to watch the youth of the Bobcats develop, with the likes of  Kemba Walker, Kidd-Golchrist, and dynamic shot blocking ability of Bismack Biyombo, things actually seem to be looking up in Charlotte. And who could forget former Bulls shooting guard Ben Gordon, who after a horrible stint with the Pistons, is trying resurrect his career with the Bobcats. Although it’s early in the season I will be optimistic, but in the back of my head I will always keep in mind that they are in fact…THE BOBCATS.

LOSERS

Indiana Pacers– In the first 10 games of the season, Roy Hibbert had only two games of 10 or more rebounds and only three games in which he scored double digit points. In those 10 games, the Pacers lost seven of them. To make things better, in the next two games he averaged 15 points, over seven blocks, 11 boards, and in those two games, the Pacers won both of them. My point is, is that the Pacer’s success on the court is solely dependent on Hibbert. If he can’t execute his offensive game, defenders spend less time worrying about him and more time on sharp shooter Paul George and Forward David West, ultimately leading to a lower amount of open looks. No one will doubt Hibbert’s defensive presensce for the Pacers, heck he had a triple-double the other night with 11 blocks, but if he can’t get his offensive game tuned up soon it is going to be a long season for the Pacers.

Sacramento Kings– It is very hard for me to say this as one of my brothers of my fraternity is a huge Kings fan. To be honest, I really feel bad for him. This team has so much individual talent, but once they step onto the court and try to play as a team, nothing falls their way. They have Tyreke EvansDeMarcus Cousins, and Marcus Thornton and still can’t find a way to even break even. Well at least at the end of the season they can say one thing…WE BEAT THE LAKERS!

Playoff Predictions 

EAST

  1. Miami Heat
  2. New York Knicks
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Philadelphia 76ers
  6. Indiana Pacers
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. Atlanta Hawks

WEST

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder
  3. San Antonio Spurs
  4. Memphis Grizzles
  5. Los Angeles Lakers
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Denver Nuggets
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves

APRIL |  “Lovable Losers” or “South Side Sluggers”?

Chicago Cubs

I am sorry to break it to you, but the Cubs will not win a World Series this year or any time in the near future. They are in a rebuilding mode, attempting to turn their awful farm system into a big league squad that can somewhat compete in a very weak Central Division. But let’s not get away from the big picture here. Theo Epstein’s vision of turning the Cubs into a team that can sustain success for multiple decades and revamping the farm system from the bottom up is all in the best interest of the team; I guess a few more years of losing can’t hurt.

Over the past few years, I have really gotten a sense at what the Cubs organization is all about. When the Ricketts family was forced to bring in the all-star crew of Epstein and Jed Hoyer, I knew it was really bad. Something must be terribly wrong if the top headlines surrounding the organization revolve around all-star front office personnel and not all-star talent on the field. Its only a matter of time now before the dominoes start to fall and each level of the Cub’s organization begins to takes shape.

What to look forward to- I really like what the Cubs are doing on the player development side. Up until this year, they had one of the worst player development systems in the league, destroying young talent by sending them up to the big leagues to early. But now under the management of Epstein, the system is starting to take shape. Ultimately structure was lacking, and I give the Ricketts family a lot of credit for bringing in the best guy to fix the problem. This year is really an experimentation of players and seeing which can withhold the duration of an entire season. One player that I am really looking forward to seeing come up from AAA-Iowa is Anthony Rizzo. The cubs acquired Rizzo in a trade with San Diego, with the goal of making him their first baseman of the future. He has the potential to be a big force in the big leagues, but hasn’t shown it quite yet. Although his big spring did help his cause, hitting .364 including five hits in 10 at-bats against lefties, he has to prove that he can do this on a consistent basis. If Bryan LaHair should struggle in the big leagues, Rizzo will absolutely get the call later in the year.

White Sox

I really thought the Sox had a playoff run in them last season, but I guess that didn’t pan out. With Mark Buehrle and Manager Ozzie Guillen leaving, I can’t see them even coming close to last season. There are just so many questions surrounding this team and being in a division as tough as the American League Central, I can almost guarantee you that the postseason is not in their future.

What to look forward to- I am really curious to see how the bullpen will do this year. Going into this season, the Sox really didn’t have a true closer to come in the ninth inning and shut down batters. They had a bunch of candidates but not a true guy. Also, I am dieing to see if Adam Dunn will rebound from his worst statistical season of his career. We all know that he has the potential to be great, but if he can’t become mentally ready, you can kiss the Soxs playoff chances goodbye.

MARCH It Ain’t the Year…Again

God, there is so much to make of the Cubs this season. Will they be contenders in a Central Division that lacks a lot of power, especially with two of the best hitters in baseball, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, leaving their respective teams to get more money? It’s very hard to say at this point in time, but I would’t bet on it. The Cubs are young, but not rebuilding, with guys like Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd filling holes in the outfield until the younger guys can make the move up to the big leagues. Actually, on second thought, they are the holes, especially Soriano and his glove, which I am convinced has a giant hole right in the middle of it. But Cubs fans, don’t worry, he has shown great promise this Spring. Didn’t that happen last year as well?

Let me take some time to point out something that needs to be pointed out. For the first time since I was born, a little over 18 years ago, the line “THIS IS THE YEAR” has yet to be used. Maybe it’s Epstein’s aura in Chicago, or maybe Cubs fans finally realize that any team with Alfonso Soriano just can’t win. Or maybe it’s Carlos Zambrano, whose move to Miami sparked huge expectations for a championship this year. God, I always knew Carlos was special. Being a fan for all my life, I still can’t fully understand the makeup of a Cubs fan, sitting at Wrigley day in and day out, rooting for their team that no matter what, will still continue to lose.

Over the past few years, I have really seen first hand at what the Cubs organization is all about. But when the Ricketts family was forced to bring in the all-star crew of Epstein and Jed Hoyer, I knew that it was bad. It says a lot about an organization when the top headlines for the year surround all-star front office men, and not all-star talent on the field. I absolutely won’t be betting on the Cubs to even make the playoffs, even with the new rule, which sends two wildcard teams to the post season.

Now lets get serious.  I really like what the Cubs are doing on the player development side. I have said this for years, but until the Cubs revamp their minor league system and start from scratch, they will never win a World Series. Up until this year, they had one of the worst player development systems in the league, destroying young talent by sending them up to the big leagues to early in their careers. But now under the management of Theo, the system is starting to take shape. Ultimately structure was lacking, and I give the Ricketts family a lot of credit for bringing in the best guy to fix the problem.

Image
First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

In terms of the Cubs ability to compete on the field this year, I would say not a chance. A lot of this year will be dedicated towards experimentation to see which players are at the level to play in the big leagues. Although Theo and Jed have said that they are not in a rebuilding mode numerous times, I still can’t buy it 100 percent. I think that to create a proven winner that will contend for numerous years to come, they need to experiment with the players they have and see which ones are big league ready.

One guy I would watch out for this year is Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs recently just sent him down to the minor leagues, but we all know at some point in the season, he will be back up. The cubs acquired Rizzo in a trade with San Diego, with the goal of making him their first baseman of the future. He has the potential to be a big force in the big leagues, but hasn’t shown it quite yet. Although his big spring did help his cause, hitting .364 including five hits in 10 at-bats against lefties, he has to prove that he can do this on a consistent basis. If Bryan LaHair should struggle in the big leagues, Rizzo will absolutely get the call later in the year.

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