Image Credit: Yahoo! Sports
Happy Memorial Day, all! In last week’s edition of Footenotes, we answered one of our best mailbags yet. With plenty covered, go ahead and check it out if you haven’t yet. With the NBA Finals beginning this week, I figured this would be a good time to jump in and break down the series ahead of us between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. In addition to that, we’ll dive into some CBB happenings and, unfortunately, take a look at some really poor play from the Kansas City Royals lately. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
NBA Finals Preview
Before the season began, most of you probably would’ve guessed that the Golden State Warriors would be making it to the NBA Finals for the fifth-straight season. Even without Kevin Durant, there isn’t a match for Stephen Curry and the rest of Steve Kerr’s team in the Western Conference.
The Warriors are undefeated this postseason without Durant and Curry has rebounded from a so-so start to the playoffs and is now playing some of the best basketball of his life. Averaging 36 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game in the Western Conference Finals on 42 percent shooting from deep, GS is going to be a tough out for Toronto.
Speaking of the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard has led this team to its first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. Averaging just over 31 points per game through three rounds of the playoffs, his run is one of the best in recent memory. Putting the team on his back in spite of some inconsistent play from his teammates, ‘The Klaw’ has reinserted himself into the conversation for being one of the best players in the NBA.
This series comes down to firepower. Golden State has more of it than Toronto, even without Durant. Even without DeMarcus Cousins. Should either of them return at any point in the series, that just gives Kerr more lineups to play with and more pressure to put on the opponent. Curry/Thompson/Durant/Green/Cousins is a tantalizing starting 5.
Leonard has been phenomenal this postseason and although Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry may be very solid supporting pieces, I’m not quite sure they’re going to be enough to win a seven-game series with the Warriors. Having home-court advantage could lead to a somewhat interesting series overall but at the end of the day, I just don’t see Toronto pulling it off.
Silvio De Sousa’s Eligibility
Seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced late last week that Kansas Men’s Basketball player Silvio De Sousa has been granted eligibility for the 2019-20 College Basketball season. This comes after De Sousa sat out the entire previous campaign due to ongoing eligibility issues.
De Sousa was a highly-touted prospect heading into his freshman season at Kansas. Under Bill Self’s tutelage in year 1, he averaged 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in just 8.8 minutes per contest. Those numbers adjusted to a 30-MPG pace rise to 13.6 and 12.6, respectively.
One of the nation’s top-40 recruits just a few years ago, De Sousa will provide a huge boost to a Kansas team that, until R.J. Hampton’s decision is announced, has a weak recruiting class and needs a punch. The return of a hungry, potentially NBA-bound player provides that.
Royals’ Woes Continue
Holding the third-worst record in the MLB at the time this article was published, it’s been a rough season for the Kansas City Royals. Despite young guns Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesí, along with veterans Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield providing some stellar play, the team as a whole is very bad. MLB.com’s expected wins/losses for the team is 22-30 and the Royals’ run differential is -41, which would be the 22nd in Major League Baseball.
Kansas City’s offense hasn’t been a huge problem. The aforementioned quartet of Dozier, Mondesí, Gordon and Merrifield is hitting .314/.288/.283/.293 and the team ranks 19th in baseball in runs scored. Leading the majors in stolen bases by a comfortable margin, things on that end aren’t much of a problem. The bottom of the order is worrisome but overall, the offense has been a bit better than expected this season, at least in my eyes.
The problem is the pitching. Ranking 29th in team ERA, neither the starting rotation nor the bullpen have been able to prevent runs from being put up on the board. With a far-from-elite, but still respectable offense taking the field in the other half of the inning, the pitching staff needs to step their game up. Posting the seventh-highest bullpen ERA in baseball, what was once looked at as one of the worst relief units in Royals history is now performing better than the starting rotation as a whole.
Speaking of that rotation, it ranks 26th in that same ERA stat. It’s 17th in innings pitched, but they’ve been some bad innings. Jorge Lopez has somehow been worse than he was a year ago and rumblings are going around that he might have to join the bullpen soon. The same goes for fellow 26-year-old Jakob Junis, whose performance has regressed even after a lackluster 2018. Veteran Homer Bailey has been as bad as advertised.
As expected, Brad ‘Stellar’ Keller’s numbers have taken a hit after bursting on the scene a year ago as a rookie. Despite that, he remains a valuable pitcher and offers a bit of promise for the starting rotation moving forward. Through six starts, Danny Duffy has been the Royals’ best starting pitcher. Averaging nearly 6 innings per start and posting an ERA just over 3, the 30-year-old has returned from injury a very effective pitcher.
Overall, this Royals team simply has too many holes to be successful. It’s pretty much where it was a year ago, but with more promise for the future. Dozier has come out of nowhere to put up a near MVP-caliber season. Mondesí continues to show why the Royals were so high on him despite struggling earlier on in his career. Gordon’s swan song as a Royal might parlay into another one-year deal. Merrifield’s selflessness in moving to right field so prospect Nicky Lopez could come up and play second base shows he’s tired of losing. He’s said it himself. Maybe the rest of the team will echo the same sentiment the rest of the way.
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