Saturday, December 26, 2015
State Of My Teams 2015
The end of 2015 is near, which means it is time to take a look at the state of my favorite teams. The good, the bad, the firesale. So let's get to it.
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS BASKETBALL: I feel pretty good about the Heels. While their preseason #1 ranking is gone and they have lost the lone two "true road" games this season thus far, I like what this team should be when March rolls around. They are talented, deep and experienced. The "ifs" are pretty easy to see. If Marcus Paige and the rest can be healthy for the tournament. If the team plays hard, especially defensively, every game. If they can continue their good perimeter shooting. All those could equate to UNC's sixth title. Plus, if Brice Johnson keeps playing like he has over the last few weeks, then this team could be the best in the nation.
That's what is interesting about the Heels. It is a NOW thing. Next year's recruiting has picked up, but the 2016-17 Tar Heels won't be elite. Paige and Johnson will graduate and Justin Jackson could go pro. A look at 2015 as a whole saw some so-so play from last season that saw late leads squandered and the investigation into the program by the NCAA heating up.
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS FOOTBALL: What a season for Carolina! Sure, it was book-ended by losses to South Carolina teams (South Carolina at the beginning; Clemson at the end). There was an 11-game winning streak in the middle and some lofty offensive performances. Now, several of the guys who made this a magical season will be gone after the Russell Athletic Bowl game against Baylor, but that doesn't take away from a year where UNC won the Coastal Division and gave Clemson (the top ranked and undefeated Tigers) a tough game in the ACC Championship.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: A wild year, to be sure. The Redskins started 2015 in a rebuilding mode and it all looked bad. The great promise of 2012 is gone. Robert Griffin III was given his final shot at proving he was the future of the Skins. The defense was overhauled. There was a new GM. The draft wasn't sexy, and neither was the free-agents being brought in.
Which was perfect. Washington got more bang for the buck and head coach Jay Gruden's decision to dump RG3 during the preseason for Kirk Cousins has proven right for the team. While this hasn't been a dominant season by any means, the Redskins are a win (today) away from being NFC East champions and a playoff team. How? This was a franchise stuck in the mud. Nothing of value and having to find the quarterback of the future again. The nickname was in the news again and Daniel Snyder's money grabbing was looking unattractive. It just looked like another 3-13 year.
Now? Well, there could be a playoff appearance, the Redskins are trying to keep Cousins as our franchise QB, RG3's contract will be off the books and the GM looks like a guy that can bring a lot of talent into the fold.
CINCINNATI REDS: My final two teams aren't as feel good. The Reds are rebuilding and for many around here, it is tough to watch. I've always said the Reds were in a weird position as a franchise. They cannot spend with the best in the league (or the division, like St. Louis or Chicago) but they don't have to keep rebuilding to make a run (like the Pirates). A couple of years ago, the Reds attempted to be like the former, but are now turning into the latter. The Reds gave huge deals to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey but now having to sell off players like Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier to start over again. The Frazier deal hurt Reds fans as he was a favorite. But it is the reality of where the Reds are in the pecking order. The Reds made a great attempt early in the decade and just couldn't get past the first round. Now it is time to start over.
The problem is that it is tougher than you think. The Reds still have Votto and Bailey who are getting paid a lot of money. The deals for Phillips and Chapman fell apart so they are still Reds. Feast or famine Jay Bruce and oft-injured Devin Mesoraco are among the more expensive players. The 2015 season was a last-ditch effort to see if there was anything left in this team. It didn't, and now Cincinnati is heading into a new era.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: The Lakers are in the same boat, albeit a nice, bigger boat. The Kobe Bryant era is ending and he will be retiring at the end of the season. While sad, it is good because it finally allows the team to move on to the next phase. Not only was Kobe's contract (the biggest in the NBA) hurting the Lakers, his style of play was hindering the development of the young guys and a detriment to free agents.
Outside of a few players (namely Julius Randle, DeAngelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson), most of these guys won't be in Los Angeles when the good times roll. The key for the future is (a) being bad enough to be able to keep their 1st round draft pick next summer (if it is outside the top three, it moves to Philly) and (b) being able to pull some big free agents into the fold.