1. With Tracy McGrady’s name in multiple trade rumors, including with the New York Knicks, does it make sense for the Knicks to pick up the multi-time All-Star? If so, should they hang on to him after this season?
CR: There is no downside to the Knicks’ acquisition of Tracy McGrady. New York is not in contention for the playoffs so McGrady will not destroy any chemistry the team may have had, they have not had a premiere star on the roster that put fans in the seats since Allan Houston (Stephen Marbury and Steve Francis don’t count) and the Knicks cleared out nine million dollars in cap space for free agents (maybe LeBron James, maybe Dwayne Wade) this coming off-season. And, what if McGrady comes to New York with a chip on his shoulder? Maybe he wants to prove to the rest of the league that despite his injury ridden career, he can still perform at an all-star level. He has been on winning teams, and he has led those teams deep into the playoffs. McGrady could provide the veteran leadership New York desperately needs. This is a great move for the Knicks with a tremendous upside and, come the end of the season, if the price is right and he proves to be a valuable asset to the organization, the Knickerbockers should hold on to McGrady.
JC: Now that the Knicks have picked up Tracy McGrady it is easy for me to say this deal makes sense. It is the first time the Knicks have done anything exciting since trading for Stephon Marbury and we all saw how that went. The rest of this season is nothing more than a try out for a very hungry McGrady. If he plays well, then he will likely ink a one year deal to prove his durability in hopes of another long term maximum contract. If he doesn’t play well then the Knicks still cleared a ton of cap space and might be able to resign him for even cheaper. The Knicks cannot just put all their hope in LeBron James, and this trade gives them other options besides praying for stellar free agents to leave their respective teams.
MM: It makes a ton of sense for the Knicks to trade for Tracy McGrady. The important part of the trade is unloading Jared Jeffries’ salary, which clears about six million more of cap room for the Knicks next year. Why is this so important? It sets up the Knicks to have enough cap room to sign two max contract free agents this offseason. The only team who will also potentially have that much cap room is the Miami Heat, and New York is a superior market to Miami. Even if they cannot land James or Wade, a team featuring Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh and Danilo Gallinari is terrifying. Whether or not to resign McGrady remains to be seen. If he is productive, and takes a paycut to the point where they are not sacrificing their cap flexibility, then sure. However, this salary cap relief is the reason the trade needs to be done by the Knicks, regardless of the player they get back.
MO: The most important point beyond the obvious is that McGrady has something to prove here. Both Chris and Jason made that point, but I have to give it to Mr. Cantor for making yet another vital point — LeBron may not come to NYC. Poor Chris, because Mike gets the 2 for bringing up the other main point such as the Jeffries giveaway as well as other scenarios minus LeBron. Chris, you made similar points, but T-Mac has never led any team deep into the postseason. One for you.
2. With the NFL season now over, all the football attention has turned to the draft. If you are my boys, the St. Louis Rams, what are you doing with that number one pick? Taking Ndamukong Suh? Gerald McCoy? Trading Down? They also have the 33rd overall pick. Give me the best case scenario here.
CR: St. Louis was last in the league in points per game (10.1) and 31st in points allowed (27.2). A single draft cannot come close to plugging the amount of holes this team has. If I was the General Manager and had to steer this sorry group of sub-par football players in the right direction I would begin by focusing on the defensive side of the ball and draft Ndamukong Suh No. 1 overall rather than Gerald McCoy. Although both are big defensive lineman I give Suh the edge because I think he is a bit more athletic and powerful than his counterpart. Mel Kiper Jr. has referred to Suh as “maybe the most dominating defensive tackle I’ve seen in 32 years.” Suh’s sack totals have increased each year as a starter for Nebraska from one to 7.5 to 12. I think Suh is the best bet for St. Louis and it is important to fortify the defense before the offense because, as history has shown, you can win with a great defense and no offense.
JC: If I were the Rams upper management, I would absolutely trade down. The Rams could likely acquire two mid-first round picks if they trade the coveted number No. 1 pick. I make a run at Colt McCoy (who they can probably pick at number 20-30) in the draft. He is a very smart player that has experience as a winner (something the Rams need). Unlike Jimmy Clausen (mindset) or Sam Bradford (injury prone) there are no real question marks with McCoy. I would then draft a top tier wide receiver, Dez Bryant, with my other first round pick. Bryant is a physical receiver that would work well with Stephen Jackson’s physical smashmouth style of playing. There will be some growing pains but I love the idea of a quarterback and his primary receiver growing together as players. With my first pick in the second round, I’d address a woeful secondary. The Rams are not nearly as bad as their pitiful 1-15 record indicates. They lost six games by eight points or less. I trust that head coach Steve Spagnuolo can turn this young defense around without using a pick on a big defensive player. The Rams already invested a top two pick on Chris Long in 2008. Investing so much of the Rams future on the defensive line will take the focus away from the rest of the team.
MM: Envisioning scenarios where the Rams should trade down is difficult. It is too hard to know who will want to trade up, and whether or not the Rams would be satisfied with their position. Who could foresee the New York Jets last year trading so far up for Mark Sanchez? Assuming they stick with the No. 1 pick, the best possible move for the Rams would be to take Suh. In my opinion, you take the best available player with the first pick, and use the remainder of the draft to address depth. In this case, the best player happens to also fit a glaring need for the Rams. Steve Spagnuolo is a defensive minded coach, and no one needs to be reminded of how his Giant’s defense performed during their Superbowl run. Suh would give the Rams an inside defensive presence they lacked this year. Run stopping and pressuring the quarterback are arguable the most important elements of a team. You pressure the quarterback and your secondary does not have to be nearly as good to be effective. Suh seems to offer this presence. In a best case scenario, I see the Rams taking him No. 1 and perhaps a young quarterback like McCoy or Tony Pike later in the draft.
MO: Mike gets the 3 here. The likelihood of getting a guy like Suh and Colt McCoy is more than plausible, and having just that would be a very positive draft. Jason gets the 2 for laying out a scenario that would make sense and also help in different facets. Chris gets the 1 for only discussing Suh v.s Gerald McCoy and not talking about the other high pick at 33.
3. The Olympic hockey games have begun, and many Canadian players have gone on record as saying the Olympic gold is more important to them this time around than the Stanley Cup. Which is the more prestigious prize when it comes to hockey — The Olympic gold or the Stanley Cup?
CR: This is tough call but I am going to go with the gold medal. Every player dreams of hoisting the Stanley Cup above their heads at the end of a long season, but that’s just it, it happens every season. There is a four-year gap between the Olympic Games and there is something special about playing for the flag on your chest. No Stanley Cup champion has had a bigger impact on the United States than our 1980 gold medal winning Olympic hockey team. It was symbolic in a grand fashion and brought more pride to this country than any single NHL Champion could ever provide. Maybe Olympic hockey has not seemed so special these past few tournaments because the same four teams — Canada, Russia, Czech Republic and Sweden have been primary fixtures on the podium. However, as U.S. hockey has been improving, our Junior Olympic team defeated Canada for the gold medal earlier this year and more American stars are emerging in the NHL like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and Ryan Miller to name a few, and, because most of the world hates us, there are rivalries being restored in these 2010 Olympic Games. In the NHL you play for money … in the Olympics you play for country pride, and that is why the gold medal trumps the Stanley Cup.
JC: Great question. I would have to say the Olympic gold means more. So many players outside the U.S. play in the NHL. Because of this, there is a huge sense of national pride that these players carry with them. Similarly, many foreign players said that the World Baseball Classic meant more to them than winning the World Series. The lockout really took some of the value away from the Stanley Cup by reminding the NHL’s fans and players that the NHL is nothing more than a business. The Olympic gold is associated with pure competition and pride rather than a paycheck.
MM: As far as athletes are concerned, Olympic gold should be more important than a championship. When you play for a team, you represent a fanbase usually no greater than a few states. When you compete in the Olympics, you represent your country. There are few opportunities where a hockey player can have as blindly loyal of a fanbase than during the Olympics. Canadians are rabid about hockey, but usually care only for their team. I doubt there are many people in Toronto hoping the Canadians win the cup for all of Canada, the same way a Red Sox fan doesn’t root for the Yankees to bring one home for the Northeast. During the Olympics, everything is changed. A Stanley Cup is important for sure, but when you play for the gold you’re playing against the best in the world, game after game, and playing for more than just a paycheck.
MO: With all of you making similar points and agreeing on the gold medal carrying more prestige, I have to give the 3 to Jason. Good points about the WBC by comparison as well as the prestige of the Stanley Cup diminishing after the lockout. Chris, you get a very close second. Your discussion of the Stanley Cup being awarded every year gets you the deuce. Mike, I understand your answer, but it was just the weakest of the three. Uno.
Jason wins 8 - 6 - 4