Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 NBA Draft Preview

I'm running out of time to do my NBA Draft Preview, so this is going to be short. Here are my thoughts:

  • I know it makes sense from an advanced metrics perspective and from a skill standpoint (better outside shooting and better defense), but it still is crazy to me that Karl-Anthony Towns is likely going over Okafor. Okafor was truly outstanding all year long and while Towns might have more potential it does worry me that he was a good but not critical player for Kentucky. I think it might be easier to be produce better advanced numbers when you are less of a top option (Towns played 21.1 minutes per game) than it is for someone who was constantly double-teamed like Okafor.
  • All this hype about the "new-NBA" after the Finals is a little bit overblown. Yes, this year was more about small ball and less about the traditional center position. However, just last year the Spurs won the title thanks in no small part to Tim Duncan. There are big advantages to having a dominant post player. 
  • D'Angelo Russell seems to be universally loved, but I never was that impressed the few times I watched Ohio State. I know his numbers are pretty good and that the highlights of some of his passes were truly impressive, but he didn't seem too athletic, that great of a shooter or someone who can take over a game. I could see him as a starter, but never a star. 
  • This is a homer take, but Justise Winslow is amazing. I would be shocked if he wasn't a productive starter. He could be the best player in the draft.
  • For the Jazz I want them to take Tyus Jones. I could see him challenging Exum for the starting point guard position, complimenting Exum like Trey Burke was supposed to do and worst case scenario being a good backup point guard. I haven't completely given up on Burke, but I wouldn't pass on Jones.
  • It's hard to have an opinion on the players I haven't seen - that seems obvious.
  • Jerian Grant is worth a shot in the middle to late first round. He was just so good at Notre Dame last year. Same thing about Delon Wright. I saw him play a couple times and he just seemed to have complete control of his team.

We will see what happens starting in one minute.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2015 Duke National Champions

College basketball is probably my favorite sport, which makes the Monday of the National Title game almost like a holiday for me. And considering most holidays mean a day off from work, I normally aren't able to concentrate that well on that specific day. That is especially true on the rare days that Duke makes the national title game. One would think this might even be more the case this past Monday, since not only was it a title game, and Duke was playing, but also I was attending the game.  However, for this past Monday I actually had a very productive day. I think part of that had to do with wanting to leave early in order to drive to Indianapolis to go see the title game, and the other part had to do with getting ready to on a work trip to Texas. Up until I got in the car to leave work it was just a normal day, but everything after that was beyond surreal. I had invited one of my friends (who happens to live down the street) to go to the game in Indy after finding tickets on Sunday. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy tickets that were more than 50% less than previous prices because all of the fans of Kentucky were selling the tickets for a very reduced rate. However, despite the *discount it didn't feel like any hype was lessened when we arrived in Indianapolis. There was literally music in the streets as countless waves of people walked by with smiles on their faces. I have been to many sporting events, but the feeling walking around Indy before the basketball title game was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. 

*The prices were still high

We walked around for a little bit, picked up our tickets from Stubhub and then went into Lucas Oil Stadium to watch warmups. At this point I was getting a little bit nervous. I had invested a ton of time, money and emotions into this one game, and it was being projected (by Vegas and many commentators) to be a close Wisconsin victory. Also, there was the little issue of having a 6:30am flight leaving from Columbus the next morning. The one really good sign was that in a stadium made up of about 85% Wisconsin fans, the people in section 153 were more of a 50/50 mix. That included this one diehard Duke fan who had flown in from Orlando to see the game by herself. A new friend that (spoiler alert) I found myself hugging during some of the game's more dramatic moments. 

The game itself was absolutely transcendent, and that isn't hyperbole. It was 70k people whose emotions were tied to every single play, and were standing the vast majority of the game. I have never been to a Super Bowl, but I heard that was more of a corporate crowd, and that the game wasn't for the common fan. This game seemed completely different from that because the people in the stadium just seemed normal - if you define normal as people who act like me when watching basketball games.

The game followed a familiar pattern for anyone who had watched Duke all year. This game was almost exactly like the St. John's game or the UVA game or either UNC game. Unlike last year's team this year's team almost seemed to offended when teams would take seemingly overwhelming 2nd half leads against them. This game was no different, but the one thing that was different was that the 8th man (on a team with 8 scholarship players) was the one that closed the game by hitting a 3, creating a turnover and then having a 3 point play. Grayson Allen (the 8th man) took a 9 point Wisconsin lead and cut it to 3, and this year's Duke team had a new hero.

After that it was time for Tyus Jones and somewhat surprisingly considering his struggles all game Jahlil Okafor to step up. Jones hit what seemed to be truly impossible shots (from my viewpoint they looked like really poor, low percentage decisions) and Okafor had two extremely important field goals with 3 minutes to. And before I knew it, it went from making excuses (it's ok they are about to lose....Wisconsin is just a really good team....and this has been a fun experience) to really thinking Duke was going to win it all. It is hard to describe, but it all seemed to happen in the matter of seconds. I nervously watched the final few plays (the Tyus Jones missed layup and then the free throws) before celebrating the final few seconds counting down till Duke's 5th National Title.

This might all seem a little bit silly, but for those of who know me it isn't. I watched 97% of the minutes played by Duke this year in basketball, and actually attended three games. I normally like Duke, but this year's Duke team just seemed different. I loved watching how they played, and will likely be complaining in future's years about how future Duke teams don't have the post player of Okafor, the defense of Winslow or the leadership of Cook or the overall brilliance in the biggest moment of Tyus Jones. Regardless of what happens after this (and almost definitely all four of those players will gone from next year's team) it was an amazing team, and I am beyond thrilled to have been in attendance when they won the title. 

After attending the game, I finally got on twitter to see what people were saying as we drove back from Indy. I didn't get to sleep until around 4am, which gave me a whole 1.5 hours of sleep before waking up and rushing to the airport. I have probably never been more happy/tired (most of the times for me tired does not equal anything close to happy) in my life. I was actually able to make it till 10pm on Tuesday, which put my awake hours at 30 out 32 hours. It was worth it. The whole thing was worth it. Monday night was one of the reasons why I became a sports fan.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Things I've Learned Being a Parent

L is now rapidly approaching her 2nd birthday and I feel like I have learned so much about how M and I parent. A lot of what I thought would be true has been true, but there certainly have been surprises along the way. Now in know particular order is a list
  1. Coherent, long-form thoughts can be very difficult in a world of constant interruptions. Thus the list....
  2. I can't do the "cry it out method" and I realize now how foolish I was in passing judgement on anyone who cosleeps. L is a light sleeper and it works best for our family to have her in our bed. Articles like this one make me more justified in our decision: Screaming to Sleep.
  3. Being a parent is the toughest and best thing one will ever do. I know that sounds somewhat obvious, but it is somewhat crazy how true it is. My career, Duke over UVA, the stock market, etc all fall a distant 2nd.
  4. Being a parent can and often does mean being selfish. I've heard more people talk about how "selfless" being a parent makes you, but I have found it to be the complete opposite. There are often times I have to miss things I would like to do or be a poor friend or a poor coworker because I have to take care of L. For example it is snowing right now and L might miss school tomorrow. At that point we have to decide if M's parents watch her, we take off work or if we hire a babysitter.
  5. I am a lot more productive at work when we do get a babysitter since I know how expensive it is ($10/hour) to be at work. 
  6. Our country's attitude to being a parent is so backwards that just writing this makes me upset. It makes no rational sense why there is a mortgage interest tax deduction, but childcare isn't subsidized. (Note - I am not saying our childcare should be subsidized or that we don't take advantage of the mortgage interest tax deduction. My main point is there should be a national discussion on our antiquated tax code.) The mortgage interest tax deduction incentivizes people to take on debt. A child care tax deduction would incentivize people to have children, go to work and have high quality day care. All three of those points is a net benefit to society. One of my favorite books of all time was Pamela Drunkerman's Bringing Up Bebe. I am so jealous of the French's attitude towards affordable, high quality daycare. 
  7. Over the past few months, L and I go to Block's Bagels and read the NY Times on Sunday. I have found myself more and more looking forward to this time. The people at Block's are friendly, there is a normal Sunday morning crew of customers and L absolutely loves the food there. I feel like we are building a little tradition, while also giving M some time to sleep in, clean the house or do whatever she wants without a toddler interrupting her.
  8. Dishes, laundry, cleaning up, etc - they never end. One wouldn't think that the addition of one small person would make such a difference, but I feel like the amount of housework has grown at exponential levels. 
  9. If Greek Methodology was written using modern day examples, Sisyphus would be cleaning up children's books and toys for eternity.
  10. Time is finite. I think that is the main lesson I have learned from being a parent and growing up in general. It has really sunk in for me with L because as a teenager or even someone in your 20s everything is possible. Now I realize that is no longer the case. Often times I would like to play basketball, catch up on The Americans, write a blog post, etc. That isn't possible when you have only a two hour window due to L's nap. Time seems incredibly short with L around. Part of that is because as a parent you are a lot busier than you were pre-children. The other part is that especially at this age they change so rapidly. L went from just learning to walk to saying a few small words to saying small sentences to counting to 10 in what seems like no time at all. And the way at which she learns is just fascinating and makes me realize that this very moment right now is going to pass so quickly. This is common advice from parents, but still it is something I didn't expect from being  a parent.
My Dad has often talked about how he wasn't someone that thought for a fact that he would be a parent. He said that for my Mom it was her destiny, but he needed to be coaxed a little bit. However, he would always end this speech with the line that "now that I am a parent, I can't imagine it any other way." That is how I feel about having L. I have learned so much from being her parent, and I am so thankful that our family is a family of three.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Baby Burden

"The goal of being a parent is to make your child independent" - a famous phrase from my Dad. And for the longest time becoming more independent has been one of the great things about growing up.  The funny thing about that quote is that up until today I always thought about that quote from the child's perspective. I thought about how my Dad was very bright for considering that it is in the child's best interest to be independent. I thought about how the child needs to be an independent thinker and someone who doesn't have to rely on their parents.

After yesterday I am starting to think about it from the parent's perspective.....and how as a parent I might interact with the world. By making your child independent then as a parent you reduce the burden you place on others. In the case of making your child independent it is probably something better for both the child and the parent. I know it sounds simple, but again I don't know if I ever considered things from the parent's perspective.

I am thinking about it from that viewpoint because my daughter places a huge burden on other people.....and that is extremely tough for someone who has always had a goal of being independent. In my mind being independent meant that you didn't need help from you parents, friends, etc. Obviously this is somewhat foolish in that throughout one's life you get help along the way, but there is a difference between accepting/getting help and setting up a life where you always need help. I never wanted to be the latter.

Now that I have a child, I realize that I will be asking for a lot of help. By asking for this help I have created an unnecessary burden that otherwise wouldn't exist. I am a burden on family members (who often need to watch her when she is sick), my coworkers (who often have to cover for me since I need to go take care of my child), my wife, passengers on a plane (who have to deal with sitting next to a fidgety child), waitstaff (who have to clean up from child), etc. Having a child means placing a burden on society that I never really considered until today.

Because of that it, is hard not to think about my Dad's saying. By making us independent he was helping me out, but he was lessening that burden from society. Obviously there will always be children, but it seems reasonable for parents to try and make their children independent -- less for the children and more the greater society in general. Maybe society is too large of a word, but there is certainly a small corner of the world that is at least partially impacted by our decisions. We have tried to make the right decisions, but sometimes when our full-time daycare calls sending L home it means that either 1) one of us will take off work 2) someone will watch L. That is our struggle right now because neither option above is a good decision.

Anyway, I know I haven't posted in a long time and don't think the above means that life or being a Dad isn't going well. Actually both are going extremely well. I could write on and on about how amazing L can be. She constantly amazes me with her actions, vocabulary and personality. It is great being a parent. It just also means that the preceding paragraphs are also true.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Preview

Tonight is a free night with no M and no L, which means I have a free night to do the one blog post that I have annually updated since 2008. Before this year's predictions below are previous years with a few notes about my predictions/suggestions.

  • 2008 - Draft Kevin Love over OJ Mayo. - Maybe this was beginner's luck, but this post keeps getting better every year. Now we are onto to my 7th draft preview and the Twolves are still between bad and mediocre and Kevin Love wants to leave the team. The good news for the Twolves is that they got  6 good years out of him and now will have plenty of good trade options that if used correctly could really help the future Twolves. 
  • 2009 - Good on Lawson, Curry and Danny Green, but a big miss on Thabeet and Harden. Looking back on this draft it might be my most favorite one because of the quality guards available. This was the infamous "point guard draft" from David Kahn, where someone he ended up without a starting point guard. The Twolves would clearly be better off with even my worst predictions from this draft. I still can't believe the 2009 Timberwolves draft - which is summarized in this Bill Simmons article You Realize How Badly the T-Wolves Screwed up the 2009 Draft, Right?
  • 2010 - This was a tough year to predict, so I am giving myself a pass on my predictions. I really don't know what to make from the predictions featured here.  Can we forget this draft and can any draft expert explain how Al-Farouq Aminu was ever considered to be a lottery pick?
  • 2011 - Very high on Irving (which wasn't a big reach) and also Jonas Valanciunas (which I haven't seen play, but still would prefer over Enes Kanter). We now have enough time to really feel clear about this draft, and while it wasn't as bad as 2010 or 2013 it still isn't a great draft. Still I really wish the Jazz would have used the 3rd pick on Jonas Valanciunas over Enes Kanter.  Also, I liked my conviction in not trading Paul Millsap and doing whatever possible to acquire Kyrie Irving. Other than that there isn't much to go from this year. 
  • 2012 - Now that we are a couple years removed from this draft, I can look at the draft where neither the Jazz  or the Timberwolves had a 1st round pick. This was basically a UNC/Duke draft preview and I am thrilled with my negative reviews of Harrison Barnes and Austin Rivers. Also, my Tyler Zeller prediction still looks pretty decent now. Of course the best two players from the group of six might have been my 5th (John Henson) and 6th best (Miles Plumlee) players, so I can't really count this as a win. Best case analysis was this was a pass (saving a team from using a top 10 pick on Barnes/Rivers would be valuable) because of Henson and Plumlee.
  • 2013 - this draft needs to be graded on a curve because it was and still looks to be terrible. I will stand by my  first two thoughts on Alex Len being terrible (even though I would have been right had I just wrote that about all the draft picks), and ranking the point guards as MCW, Burke and then McCollum. Finally, my point on Oladipo looks good - even if it is combined with a positive point on Otto Porter.
Now it is on to 2014! This draft is amazing because of the talent and because I am incredibly invested after watching the Jazz tank this season just to acquire what ended up being the 5th pick in the draft. Also, Duke has two players (Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood) that will be 1st round picks and in Jabari's case will be a top 2 pick. Finally, there is interest in the 1st pick (the Cavs are the new local team), the 5th pick (the Jazz), the 13th pick (the former local team the Twolves) and the 23rd pick (the Jazz). Throw in the fact that LeBron opted out and Kevin Love is available in a trade and a lot can happen on Thursday. Anyone on to my thoughts:

Thought 1 - I think Andrew Wiggins will be better than Jabari Parker because of his potential and because of his defensive ability. Jabari Parker can't play defense and led Duke to an extremely disappointing season by going 1-1 against UNC, not winning the ACC tournament and then losing in the 1st round to freakin Mercer. Still, I really like Jabari Parker. I like his ability to score, to bring the ball down the court, but most of all I like his attitude. I don't think he will ever be the best player on a really good team, but I do think he is someone that you can be proud to have on your team because of the way he represents himself. He is just someone who is hard not to like....even if I wish he didn't have as many faults as he does. 

Thought 2 - I don't know how this fits in for the Twolves, Jazz or Cavs, but I really like Nik Stauskas. I would certainly draft him over Randle and I am leaning towards liking him over Gordon as well. The big question would be his defense, but I can't imagine him not being a productive player on offense in the NBA. I certainly wouldn't draft Doug McDermott over Stauskas.

Thought 3 - Rodney Hood will at best be a starter on a bad team or the 8th man on a decent team. I still can't get over the Mercer game, and generally think that players that struggle against Mercer shouldn't go in the 1st round. 

Thought 4 - I have been talked into Noah Vonleh. After seeing a video breakdown of him and reading a lot of articles comparing him to Chris Bosh, I think Vonleh is the right high risk, high reward player for the Jazz. I love the way his shot looks (especially compared to Gordon) and I think that his negatives (help defense, feel for the game, passing) will improve as he gets older.

Thought 5 - Would I trade Derrick Favors and the 5th pick to Cleveland or Milwaukee for the 1st or 2nd pick and I would be happy with either Wiggins or Parker? Yes - absolutely. Favors is never going to be a star in the league and at best would be the 3rd or 4th best player on a title team. Parker/Wiggins have their faults, but they both have a much greater potential, and they will be cheaper than Favors. 

Thought 6 - I'm a bigger fan of rolling the dice with Embiid than taking Gordon, Smart or Exum. I don't know much about Exum besides what I read about him, but I am hesitant on a player from Australia who hasn't really played against much top level competition. I know Embiid is hurt, but it isn't like the Jazz are going for the title next year, so might as well use the 5th pick on a player who could be the best player in the draft. 

Thought 7 - I am thinking that Smart, Gordon and Randle will be relative busts based on their draft slot. Out of those three I am least confident in Gordon because if he fixes his shot then he will easily be one of the best player in the draft. I just can't get over the 76 out of 180 on free throws. People seem to think that with NBA coaching they will fix his shot, but I think Arizona has basketball coaches and they probably tried to improve Gordon's shot. The video of Gordon on offensive show defenders an easy 4 to 5 feet off him, which makes me wonder how he could possibly be valuable on the offensive end in the NBA. For me Randle just wasn't very impressive in college and looked like a player who will find it tougher to bully his opponents in the NBA. Smart might be worth the character risk if he could shoot the ball better or was taller or led his team to a little bit more team success.

Thought 8 - Kyle Anderson win the Tyler Honeycutt award for player I like despite evidence that he won't ever be a decent NBA player. I wouldn't mind the Jazz taking him with the 23rd pick. Also, I really liked watching KJ McDaniels at Clemson and I think he would be worth the risk in the 20s. 

Thought 9 - Based primarily on him looking amazing against Kentucky I think a 2nd round pick on Johnny O'Bryant would be smart. 

So I am a big fan of Parker, Wiggins, Vonleh, Stauskus and Kyle Anderson, and I am down on Smart, Gordon and Randle. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Family trip to Minnesota

It's amazing how some things in life change and others stay completely the same. I know that is not exactly an original thought, but after a weekend back in Minnesota it really rings true to me. M and I's life has changed so much with new jobs, a new city, a new house and big new life stage with a daughter. However, being back in Minnesota it was as if we were almost 24 year olds again at the Lone Tree. My old boss at Honeywell still had the same humor, downtown was still really fun and my drinking buddies were still ready and willing to share stories of guys trips past over multiple rounds of whiskey.

There will always be a part of me that looks back on the years I spent in Minneapolis fondly, and I think having a connection to the city in the future is important. I've now been back three times in the two and a half years since moving from Columbus, and while I probably can't keep up that rate, it would be nice to have periodic trips back. There will always be a part of me that wishes we still lived there, even if I enjoy the advantages of where we currently live.

The one big thing that has changed with our lives is our daughter, and traveling with her was something that was a big concern. She had never been on a plane before, and we were extremely concerned about the ins and outs of traveling with a child. I don't know if we were lucky or if it isn't as big of a deal, but it really couldn't have gone much better traveling with her. She slept for 75% of the first flight and 100% of the second flight, and to say that was a relief would be an understatement.

Other random thoughts from the trip:
  1. One of the best sandwiches of all time is the Surdyk's wine bar in the Minneapolis airport. Seriously try the Italian Stallion (no onions) if you ever have a free 30 minutes at MSP.
  2. When traveling - be the easy person to travel with - not the difficult one. M is thankfully a good traveling companion, who makes my life easier by looking up directions, coordinating activities with friends and keeping me sane.
  3. Being hungover with children around is absolutely terrible. I knew this before, but it is worth repeating and considering again next time I think another whiskey is a good idea.
  4. I miss the people I work with, but not the work. It is nice to know that on a day to day basis the work I am currently doing is better than at any other time before.
  5. The food scene in Minneapolis is really, really good. From old standbys like Amore Victoria to a somewhat new experience at the Smack Shack (we had gone to the food truck, but not the restaurant) to eating my way through downtown Minneapolis on Friday night (Bradstreet Crafthouse is worth going back to time and time again), it was all outstanding.
  6. Minneapolis is still very cold. We lucked out with weather on Friday/Saturday, but the cold rain of today provided a stark contrast to the weather in Columbus. It felt like going from winter to spring traveling from Minneapolis to Columbus.
  7. Twins game> Clippers game....and it isn't close at all.
  8. Now that going to Target Field isn't as trendy as it was when the stadium opened, you can get close seats for not very much. We paid $50/seat for seats between home and 3rd that were 2nd row behind the Champions Club. 
  9. Minneapolis is an underrated city - and not just by the country at-large - M's old coworkers didn't really believe us when we said we planned this trip to visit friends and eat good food. 
  10. Good hosts can make all the difference. Thankfully we were set up all weekend with some of the best hosts around. I can't say enough about their hospitality in letting them into their home. L loved crawling around and playing with their two kids. It was such a better option than a hotel.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Being a parent

If you wanted to know what it is like being a parent consider the amount of time that I have gone between posts. I know it is a cliche to complain about how much life changes with a child and how you are so busy right now, but the cliche has some truth. Things do change. Life is much busier. It isn't so much that I don't have time to myself, but rather that I don't seem to have long periods of time to devout to something like writing a blog post. I have time, but it is almost always interrupted time. It seems like the second I am able to get comfortable then either L starts crying or I remember something that I need to do.

Anyway, I have some time right now, so let me get down some random thoughts in no particular order.

One thing I have heard over and over again is about how time goes by so quickly. It doesn't. It feels like 38 lifetimes ago that M and I were DINKS living it up in San Antonio on our babymoon. Maybe with more years under my belt I will feel that way, but right now it feels like it has been a long 9 months.

Everyone has baby advice...even and sometimes especially when I am not asking for or in search of any advice. For example L is cosleeping with us. Besides the occasional bad nights (and we are on a bad stretch right now) I don't mind it. If you would have told 25 year old me that I would be in shock, but now that I am actually in that situation it isn't what I thought it would be like. Anyway, I sometimes tell friends or coworkers about that and almost immediately they start to give advice. I know they have the best intentions (or maybe they just like hearing themselves talk), but I don't actually need their advice. M and I are doing what is best for our family and I don't think our decisions really matter one bit to them.

You do learn how to prioritize things better. You also learn that a trip to the grocery store or to work can sometimes feel like a break. It isn't that you necessarily like doing these activities more than you used to, but sometimes it seems necessary to break things up.

One thing I heard from a close coworker in my previous job was that you should enjoy your home because you will spend a lot of time in it once you have a kid. That is 100% true. The days and nights that used to be spent going out to eat or drinking with friends or to attending a sporting event are almost exclusively replaced with staying home, fixing dinner and watching shows on DVR. With that in mind I am glad to still really enjoy our home and our neighborhood. I can sometimes sour on Columbus (I still often miss Minneapolis), but living in Bexley is one big plus.

The final thing I have learned about being is a parent is that it isn't all gloom and doom. I feel like the modern parent (and the modern parent blog) are all about being realistic about the negatives of raising a child. I appreciate their honesty, bluntness and realism, and I certainly find that better than people who turn a blind eye and are just positive about the joys of parenting. However, I find that being a parent is a lot better than my expectations. I will try to get into that more later, but I have a crying baby to take care of right this instant.