We are approaching a very fun time in the sports calendar with the NBA Playoffs, March Madness and the start of the MLB season upon us. With that in mind here is a lineup of NBA/MLB comparisons.
Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks
Karl Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Goldy and KAT are both at the center of their team’s lineups, and they are elite offensively at their positions.
Paul Goldschmidt does massive damage at the dish while playing gold glove defense at first base. The 29 year Goldy is a 5 time All Star, and he won the silver slugger at first base in 2013, ’15, and ’17. The silver slugger is awarded to the best offensive player at each position, and with Paul’s career .299 batting average and .931 OPS (On base plus slugging) he certainly belongs there.
Up north, Karl Anthony Towns beasts in the paint and from three point land, while providing rim protection on defense. The amazing 22 year old is the best offensive center in the NBA, and the 7 footer’s upside is enormous. After averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds per game last season, Karl has had less opportunities with Jimmy Buckets in town. He still is incredibly efficient, and he should shoulder a larger offensive load with Jimmy out with injury.
Much like his counterpart in the desert, Towns two way impact should lead to a postseason appearance.
Jose Altuve – Houston Astros
Chris Paul – Houston Rockets
Though neither Houston star would be considered large for their respective sports, when they are playing their contribution is enormous.
The 27 year old Altuve was the AL MVP last season en route to winning the 2017 World Series. Paul joined the Rockets last off-season and he has combined with James Harden to form a team that is a real threat in the Western Conference. Altuve racks up hits better than anyone else in baseball, leading the MLB in batting average each of the last two seasons. The 32 year old Paul is similarly incredible at producing offense, being named to an All NBA team 8 times in his 13 year career.
Additionally, opposing teams in Houston better hold on to their valuables because Altuve and Paul are elite thiefs. Paul has led the NBA in steals six times and is averaging 2.3 per game for his career. Altuve is also known to swipe a bag, leading the MLB in 2014 (56) and 2015 (38).
Both these talented individuals have made Houston one of the best sports cities in the country.
Josh Donaldson – Toronto Blue Jays
Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
During Donaldson’s stint with the Oakland A’s where he made three consecutive playoff appearances from 2012-2014, I met Klay at an A’s playoff game. Klay and I both left the Oakland Coliseum impressed with JD’s ability to rake, but neither of us could have predicted what would be next for these two athletes.
Following the 2014 season, the A’s curiously traded Donaldson to the Blue Jays, where he preceded to hit 41 homers, drive in 123 runs, win AL MVP, and make me question my A’s fandom even more. Klay has been an All Star every season since 2014, emerging as one of the best two way players in the league. Klay has also won two titles, scored 60 points in three quarters, and had Joe Lacob bowing down to him after his playoff explosion in Oklahoma City.
Both Klay and JD are capable of putting a charge into the crowd with long range bombs.
Carlos Correa – Houston Astros
Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz
They say in baseball and basketball put your best athletes up the middle and let them ball. Both Correa and Mitchell are in pivotal positions at a young age and succeeding.
Correa is an exceptional athlete standing at 6’4, 215 lbs and he is part of the Astros championship core. That athleticism allows the Puerto Rican to make plays defensively that others simply cannot. Correa has delivered since he entered the big leagues, earning rookie of the year at the age of 20. In 2017, Correa broke out as an All Star for the first time posting a .315 batting average and finishing 7th in WAR amongst position players.
Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell stands at 6’3, 211 and he is enjoying a massively successful rookie year. As the primary scorer for the playoff hopeful Utah Jazz, Mitchell has thrived averaging 20 points per game – which leads all rookies. Additionally Mitchell has range, hitting 2.4 threes per game, and he’ll rise up for for some big time slams.
Correa is no stranger to big hits, and both these athletes have bright futures.
Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans
These two ridiculous talents may still be under the radar because they have yet to experience deep playoff runs. In past years, Trout and Davis have had questionable supporting casts, but in AD’s case he has the Pelicans tracking the postseason after a two year drought.
The Pelicans improved play can be attributed to landing Demarcus Cousins in the offseason, but since his Cousins’ injury Davis has entered into another stratosphere. Since Cousins went down at the end of January, the 24 year old Davis has averaged nearly 32 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals per game. In other words, with his dominant play of both ends, Davis turned into the Mike Trout of basketball.
Trout is capable of everything on the baseball field, having already won two MVPS by the age of 25. Trout finished 2017 with a ludicrous 1.071 OPS mark and he led the MLB in WAR every year from 2012-2016. Like Davis, Trout has some new talent to play with, and the Angels on paper look like a postseason team in 2018. While we have him slotted to play left, Trout is one of the game’s premier defensive center fielders.
Much like Davis can provide and deny offense, Trout has been known to infuriate opposing fan-bases:
Byron Buxton – Minnesota Twins
Victor Oladipo – Indiana Pacers
Both these players faced high expectations based on their high draft stock and physical tools.
Buxton, the #2 overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft, struggled in his first two MLB seasons before breaking out in his age 23 season. Buxton won the Gold glove in center, finished fourth in the AL in steals, and had the second best defensive WAR. A career .217 hitter, Buxton upped his average in 2017 to .253 with 53 RBI’s. The best is yet to come for the young Buxton as he and the Twins hope to build on their 2017 Wild Card appearance.
Oladipo, the 2nd overall pick in 2013, was twice traded before landing with the Pacers for his All Star age 25 season this year. Oladipo has jumped from averaging 15 points per game to 25 with the Pacers. Oladipo is also leading the league at 2.2 steals per game, providing menacing defense and elite offense for the 37-28 Pacers.
Both Buxton and Oladipo have started to realize their incredible upside that comes with being a two-way stud.
Aaron Judge – New York Yankees
Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers
While Aaron Judge would be quite the basketball player, his stellar rookie season has all eyes on what the big man can accomplish in his second MLB act. Judge casually mashed 52 big flies, plated 114, made the All star game, finished second in MVP voting, and won the Rookie of the Year. Amongst all this he established himself as one of the MLB’s emerging stars and the face of the franchise. While the sample size for Judge is small, his impact was large in the Big Apple during 2017.
The 6’7″ Judge makes the rest of the MLB look small, and the 7’0 Embiid is a giant amongst giants. Embiid’s long awaited debut came in 2017 where he amazed the basketball world in a 31 game sample. His encore performance has been spectacular as Embiid is averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds, and is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Embiid (23) and Judge (25) are young behemoths in their sports and they will remain All Stars as long as they are out there.
Wilson Contreras – Chicago Cubs
Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons
Both these young men are powerful and effective. Contreras, a member of the 2016 champion Cubs, came on strong in 2017, hitting .276 with 21 homers and 74 RBI’s. The 25 year old Contreras has a cannon of an arm, making him one of the better receivers in all of baseball.
Drummond is an elite receiver, not of baseballs, but of missed shots. Drummond is averaging a league best 15.7 rebounds per game this season, and he was just named to his second all star team. The 25 year old has taken a leap with his previously atrocious free throw shooting and he is averaging a career high in assists at 3.3 per game.
Drummond’s counterpart in baseball also accumulates assists, finishing third among NL catchers with 86.
Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
James Harden – Houston Rockets
It may be unfair to the NBA’s MVP favorite to compare him with the best fricking pitcher on planet earth, but each of these bearded southpaws are filthy.
Kershaw, with his devastating combination of 6’4″, 228 lbs worth of deception and arsenal of effective pitches, is virtually unhittable. For Harden, the solid 6’5″ 220 frame allows James to devastate defenses with rim attacks and step back triples, making him virtually unguardable.
Kershaw has 3 Cy Youngs, 1 MVP, and he has led the MLB in ERA 5 times, including 2017. Harden is also massively impactful on the court, having been one of the league’s top scorers the last 3 seasons, including leading the NBA this season at 31 per game. Additionally, both Kershaw and Harden have had their troubles in the playoffs, but that isn’t to overshadow their nastiness.Defenders of Harden must constantly be on alert, because he can make them drop…
further than a Kershaw 12-6 curveball.
Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians
Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz
Opposing offense’s are rarely successful when squaring off with the “Klubot” or the “Stifle Tower”.
Kluber, a two time Cy Young award winner, led the AL in complete game shutouts in 2016 (2) and 2017 (3). Gobert does the same on a nightly basis for the red-hot Jazz, as he is capable of re-routing an offense away from his paint. Kluber also specializes in this re-direction, sending batters back to the dugout a third best in the bigs 265 times in 2017.
A strike throwing machine, Kluber walked the fewest batters in the MLB per 9 innings last season, rarely giving the guy in the box a free pass to first. Rudy allows for nothing easy as well, leading the NBA last season in blocks per game at 2.6.
Kenley Jansen – Los Angeles Dodgers
Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
When the game is hanging in the balance, both the Dodgers and Blazers know who to call to turn the lights out. Kenley Jansen dominates for manager Dave Roberts, leading the MLB in saves at 41and being named to the 2017 All Star Game. Over the last two years Jansen has been one of the premier relievers in the bigs, saving 88 games, posting a 1.58 ERA, including striking out 213 in 137 innings. Come the ninth inning, teams trailing the Dodgers have to be fearing the call to the pen, knowing it’s time for Kenley.
A similar thought must cross Portland’s opponents down the stretch, because an explosion of daggers is likely to come. This burst from their 27 year old 3x All Star point guard happens so frequently that it’s been coined Dame Time. On a recent 2for1 Hoops podcast, we debated that Lillard may be the best clutch shooter in the entire NBA. But don’t let me tell you, watch for yourself:
Joe Maddon – Chicago Cubs
Gregg Popovich – San Antonio Spurs
Besides their affinity for white beards, both these men are at the top of their professions. The 64 year old Maddon broke the Cubs championship drought in 2016, after a successful stint at the helm with the Rays. The three time manager of the year, Maddon thrived in Tampa Bay by being unconventional and maximizing lesser talent – ultimately reaching a World Series in 2008.
The 69 year old Pop also maximizes his talent, particularly this season without Kawhi Leonard. Pop has won five titles, and he is largely considered to be the best coach in the entire NBA. While Maddon may have a lighter approach, each of these lifers are excellent leaders.
Billy Beane – Oakland Athletics
Daryl Morey – Houston Rockets
While Daryl Morey will be the first to tell you about how his analytics-inspired approach has changed the NBa landscape, don’t expect the “Moreyball” movie in theaters anytime soon. Billy Beane, portrayed by Brad Pitt in Moneyball, began the analytical revolution in the MLB. Constrained by limited payroll resources, Beane crafted a data driven front office strategy that created a winner. Morey has taken the same information driven approach to building the juggernaut Rockets, who take a mind blowing 42 three pointers a game.