This Week In Hot Takes

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! Here’s our breakdown of all the hottest takes from sports media members from June 9-15.

5. Stephen A. Smith thinks the Cavs should trade Kevin Love…for Carmelo Anthony? In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers losing the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, plenty of people suggested that they should move Kevin Love for further help. Smith went further than most, though, saying Cleveland should dump Love for someone who’s five years older and a worse player by most metrics. That would be the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony.

Molly Qerim asks “If you’re the Cavs, what’s the first move you’re making this offseason?” Smith responds “I’m trading Kevin Love and I’m trying to acquire Carmelo Anthony. That’s the first thing I’m doing. The reason why is even though I think Paul George would clearly be both myself and Max’s first choice, it’s going to be harder to get a Paul George then it would be to get a Carmelo Anthony. I think Carmelo Anthony has the hearts, the guts, not only that, the perimeter game where he’s not going to disappear in a close-out game. That’s just not going to happen with Carmelo Anthony on the floor, particularly with LeBron James and Kyrie helping him.”

“I don’t know if there’s enough basketballs, and some can make that argument, but I’m telling you right now, nobody is going to force Carmelo Anthony to back down. Nobody is going to scare him, and no moment is going to scare him. And I think that’s a very big, big deal. And because of that, I’m not hesitant, I’m going for it. It’s something that I thought. If you remember, nobody was out front more than me speaking about how the Cavs needed to unload Kevin Love to get Carmelo Anthony.”

“It was specifically for moments like Game Five, where Kyrie shows up, J.R. Smith shows up, LeBron James shows up, but is then forced to roll his eyes in utter disgust at Kevin Love, because Kevin Love just didn’t seem to be the guy in Game Five that he was in Game Four or Game Two, things along those lines. Those are not issues you’re going to have with Carmelo Anthony. That’s the first thing I’m doing if I’m Cleveland.”

Let’s evaluate that for a moment. First off, Love is 28 and Anthony is 33, and trading a younger player for one who’s that much older often isn’t a good choice if their production’s relatively similar. Beyond that, Love had a much better 2016-17 season, posting a 21.1 PER and 6.1 win shares to Anthony’s 17.9 and 4.7. Love also finished well ahead of Anthony in rebounds per game (11.1 to 5.9), three-point percentage (37.3 to 35.9 per cent) and effective field goal percentage (51.0 to 48.8 per cent), and wasn’t far behind him in points per game (19.0 to 22.4).

Moreover, Love’s strengths (rebounding, three-pointers) seem more important for the Cavaliers than Anthony’s slight edge in pure scoring, as Cleveland already has plenty of guys who need a lot of the ball. Love’s usage rate, the percentage of team plays used by a player while he’s on the floor, was 26.4 per cent this season and is 24.7 per cent for his career, while Anthony posted a 29.1 per cent this season and has a 31.4 per cent for his career. And Anthony has received plenty of criticism for his volume shooting, and even those not quite so critical have pointed out that aging curves and his contract don’t bode well for him.

In any case, suggesting that Anthony should be the Cavs’ top target feels like a hot take. Smith has been banging the Love-for-Anthony drum for a long while, going back to January (and his former debate partner Skip Bayless also suggested this in February), but the idea hasn’t gotten any smarter.

Rating: ??

4. Skip Bayless: LeBron “shrinks from the occasion”: Speaking of Bayless, how about this lovely take?

There are plenty of arguments to make either way in the endless LeBron James versus Michael Jordan debate, so that’s not the particular hot take here (although “never” is an interestingly-strong statement considering that James’ career is far from over). The hot take comes about 1:26 in, when Bayless once again suggests that James isn’t “clutch”:

“On the biggest stage, in the key moments, you could always trust that Michael was going to rise to the occasion instead of shrink from the occasion, and too often even in these Finals, Game One second half, six turnovers, Game Two second half, disengaged, Game Three down the stretch, minute and a half left, you’ve got the ball in your hands with a four-point lead and you don’t attack, and then last night for that long stretch, nine minutes of the second quarter, you get outscored 36-11 and you only take two shots? I don’t know. Those are big, key, crucial moments. I gave LeBron maybe too much credit going in because I thought it was going to be a seven-game series and he was going to have to come up bigger in key moments.”

The “clutch” debate has created plenty of hot takes over the years, with many sports media personalities continually overrating small sample sizes just because they happen to come near the end of games (points scored before that time still count the same, and create the situations where you have a chance to win in the first place), and Bayless’ continual harping on it as part of the LeBron-Jordan debate certainly qualifies.

It’s also worth pointing out a few other things. This year saw James become the first player to ever average a triple-double in the Finals, so a lot of the criticism of him from Bayless is just pointless nitpicking, and “Jordan went 6-0 in the Finals!” conveniently ignores all the times the Bulls didn’t make it that far (James has already played in two more Finals than Jordan did). Is it somehow better to lose before the Finals? Bayless’ own show provided an interesting counterpoint to this last week too, with Chris Broussard talking about LeBron facing an estimated 26 Hall of Famers in the Finals versus Jordan’s nine. Cases can be made both ways in the James-Jordan argument, but continuing to bash James for “clutch” is a hot take. As is this tweet, saying LeBron’s stats don’t count because his team lost:

Well, Skip, he’s won more than you have.

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3. Rob Parker includes Aaron Judge and Daryl Strawberry in list of “Top 5 sluggers of all time”:  Oh, look, it’s our old friend Rob “Cornball Brother” Parker. Let’s see what he has planned this time:

This list is delightfully absurd. What does “Top 5 Sluggers” even mean? Top-five by home run totals? Top five by career slugging percentage? Or just “Five players who hit some home runs who came to Rob Parker’s mind?” It seems like the latter, with Aaron Judge, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Daryl Strawberry, and Barry Bonds on this list. There’s at least an argument for Bonds, Rodriguez and McGwire (first, fourth, and 11th in all-time home runs, respectively), but this is leaving out a lot of great home-run hitters like Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth (#2 and #3 respectively), and the inclusions of Judge (in his rookie season!) and Strawberry (335 career home runs, not even in the top 75) are just bizarre.

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2. Mike Bianchi says UCF kicker is “lucky to get a free education”:

There have been plenty of dumb takes on why NCAA players shouldn’t be paid over the years, but Bianchi takes it to a new level here, suggesting that the organization is right to tell UCF kicker Donald De La Haye that he can’t make money off his YouTube channel. Here are some of the lowlights:

So please spare me the rhetoric about how UCF and the NCAA is taking advantage of De La Haye, who is being fed, housed and educated to kick a football. He will likely be like 99.9 percent of college athletes who never make it to the pros. Many of these athletes don’t have the financial wherewithal to get into college but are admitted because of their athletic skill. Without college football, they never would have a chance to get an education.

As someone who is currently putting two daughters through college, don’t you dare try to minimize the price of a full-ride college scholarship. Anybody out there who doesn’t believe a college degree is fair compensation for chasing a bouncing ball, I suggest you try getting a job in today’s competitive workplace without one.

Ask Blake Bortles how much money he made at UCF — a school that offered him a scholarship as a quarterback when nobody else would. Bortles was instructed by UCF’s coaching staff, nourished by UCF’s dining halls and strengthened by UCF’s weight room. He went on to become the third player picked in the NFL draft and is now a multi-millionaire starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Why doesn’t somebody make a YouTube video about that?

Never mind the incredible amounts of money in college athletics (yes, even at schools like UCF; Bianchi whines about the program being a “money loser”, but that also involves what they choose to spend on coaches, facilities, etc), the take that “a college degree is fair compensation for chasing a bouncing ball” is hilarious. First, it’s notable that many college athletes can’t even get the supposed full value from that education, as athletic requirements often have them pushed out of particular majors. Beyond that, these players are working significant hours without actual compensation, and they’re bringing major value to the school (it’s interesting that Bianchi brings up Bortles, whose stint with the Golden Knights included a 2014 Fiesta Bowl win; that BCS appearance helped give the conference an extra $13 million in revenue).

But what’s even funnier than Bianchi’s tired arguments against paying players is that this case isn’t even about that. It’s about the NCAA being willing to let student-athletes work other minimum-wage jobs, but banning them from creative jobs. It’s not about paying players, it’s about preventing the players from getting paid by others for their talents. And even most of the anti-paying-players crowd decided not to die on this particular hill. Bianchi, on the other hand…

Rating: ?????

1. Berry Tramel writes “Durant gets his trophy — trophy wife”: Tramel, a columnist with The Oklahoman, is one of the most ridiculously over-the-top homers out there and has been for a long time. His latest round of Kevin Durant-bashing is a masterwork of hot takery. Here are some of the lowlights:

Kevin Durant sat at the postgame podium Monday night, with the hardware from being named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

Fitting. A trophy to go along with his trophy wife.

How else to describe the championship ring that Durant soon will get? Good-looking. Head-turning. Nice if you can get it. Interesting.

Just don’t pretend it means anything substantial.

Durant took the Fast Pass at Disneyworld. Landed on Everest via chopper. Birdied while playing a scramble; others teed off and hit the approach, Durant just tapped in.

The Warriors won this NBA title the Little League way. Stack your team with most of the best players, then act like you’ve done something when you’ve won.

…Who knows if Durant knows? Does Durant know that his shiny new championship ring has all the meaning of a trophy wife?

Even beyond “Disneyworld” (that’s an interesting spelling) or the insane Little League comparison, this whole thing is hilarious. Maybe it’s appropriate that Tramel fills this with the “trophy wife” relationship metaphor, as this whole column reads like angry, irrational trashing of the ex who left you and became more successful elsewhere. (Which is pretty much what it is, really.) And also, shouldn’t every team’s goal be to stack their roster with most of the best players? Should they be chasing players who aren’t the best? Maybe that’s the Thunder’s problem. And you can bet that Tramel would be preaching the virtues of “super teams” from the heavens if Oklahoma City had one. But I’m sure that championship ring has plenty of meaning for Durant, even if Tramel doesn’t think so.

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Notable absences: Phil Mushnick, Colin Cowherd, Shannon Sharpe.

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 97
Skip Bayless – 73
Phil Mushnick – 43
Colin Cowherd – 23
Shannon Sharpe – 20
JT The Brick – 17
Charles Barkley – 13
Don Cherry – 11
Rob Parker – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Doug Gottlieb – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Doug Gottlieb – 8
Ray Lewis – 7
Kristine Leahy – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Berry Tramel – 5
Mike Bianchi – 5
Bill Plaschke – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Albert Breer – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Rick Morrissey – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Frank Isola – 5
David Fleming – 4
The Sporting News – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Cris Carter – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Mike Milbury – 3
Tony Massarotti – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Jason Smith – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Mike Francesa – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Danny Kanell – 3
Chris Broussard – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Dan Dakich – 3
Michael DeCourcy – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Dan Wolken – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.