MLP Shuffle Draft Reactions
The Shuffle Draft reveal was earlier today and, boy, the moves continue to be surprising from teams. Here is the draft order and the choices made by the teams:
(1) The Bus draft Wes Burrows
(2) The Ranchers draft James Ignatowich
(3) ATX Pickleballers draft Pablo Tellez
(4) The Lions draft Etta Wright
It sounds like teams are not done making moves with the trade deadline of July 14th still over a week away. Looking at the Shuffle Draft today, if you don’t think the players are the driving forces behind the vast majority of these moves, you have to be kidding yourself. Let’s take a bit of time to go through each choice from most to least interesting.
James Ignatowich to the Ranchers
This is the most interesting move of the day. After trading for Jackie Kawamoto, the Ranchers gained a real edge on the field with arguable the strongest female pairing out there in Bright and Kawamoto. They dropped Austin Gridley and end up taking a huge gamble on James Ignatowich.
Bright is the only player Ignatowich has any history with – they are both players with big personalities and seem to get along quite well. Bright/Ignatowich have played a couple of tournaments together recently with middling results. There’s no doubt Iggy is talented but his doubles game needs a lot more seasoning. He is playing more men’s and mixed doubles, but with the level of talent out there for the men’s player pool it’s hard to understand why the Ranchers would take such a big gamble on someone with so little experience in the doubles game. Ignatowich was not even our radar as a potential player to be picked up by teams.
It’s always possible this gamble could pay off given how good the women are on the Ranchers and DJ Young’s ability to take over matches sometimes. However, with so many other options out there, this is a D minus type move from the Ranchers.
Update (7:55 pm EST) – Apparently we completely missed the memo that Anna Bright and James Ignatowich are dating, and have been for a little while now. Thanks to our readers for commenting and messaging us directly to inform us of this. This adds more context as to why there would be so much internal push for Ignatowich to be drafted by the Ranchers. MLP is truly a players league right now. If some of these player driven moves don’t go well in Newport, it’ll be interesting to see if the player empowerment gets dialed back a couple of notches heading into the Ohio event in October.
Wes Burrows to the Bus
Another big, but more understable, gamble being taken by the Bus was picking up Wes Borrws. Burrows is not all-in on pickleball like most of the other players involved in MLP but the talent is right up there with the best of them. As we identified in our reaction post after Eden Lica was dropped, the ideal fit for the Bus was a left-sided player who could complement Kyle Yates and provide more juice for their 2nd mixed pairing. The problem for the Bus is that the left-sided options were few and far between in the player pool.
We saw in Burrows’ recent match with Warnick against Wright/Newman that he can make a lot happen. The question is whether Burrows has the ability to sustain a high level over the course of an entire MLP event. Burrows just doesn’t play enough to have the consistency level that other pro players have. That is what makes this a fascinating gamble for the Bus. There are a number of a different versions of Wes Burrows that we could see in Newport from match to match.
In contrast to the Ranchers, this high risk, high reward gamble makes a lot of sense for the Bus.
Pablo Tellez to the ATX Pickleballers
Tellez showed out well in his replacement duties for Rob Nunnery at the first event of the year. Tellez and Padegimaite did not lose a single mixed match. Once again though, we felt there were better options out there to replace Merchant than Tellez, who does have one of the higher DUPRs out there for available players. The obvious fit for ATX in choosing Tellez is in mixed with Sarah Ansboury ,who has played a bunch of tournaments on the left-side with Rafa Hewett to some pretty good success. Ansboury is not as strong a left-sided mixed player as Padegimaite and Tellez likely can’t wreak havoc in the same way that Hewett does, but we would guess the mixed fit has partly driven this pick-up.
On the men’s side of things, we have concerns about Tellez’s ability to provide the consistency that Frazier needs. Tellez is a very talented guy, but this doubles stuff takes time. It will be interesting to see how Frazier and Tellez perform as Frazier can do so much for taking court in men’s even though he plays a bunch with JW where he doesn’t have to. It’s a definite upgrade from Merchant for mixed but not so much on the men’s side.
Of course, Tellez can bring the heat in singles, but those Dreambreakers are such a crap shoot.
Etta Wright to the Lions
This was the most expected move of the day. Etta Wright is a player on the rise, and we should see her getting stronger results as the year goes on. The Utah connection is there with Chuck Taylor so you expect that Taylor was pushing for this move. With the women in the replacement pool, Wright may very well have been the best of the bunch available. On the other hand. she doesn’t have a lot of experience at the highest level, and it will be a baptism by fire for her in the MLP environment. We’ve harped on the Lions enough over the past week.
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56 thoughts on “MLP Shuffle Draft Reactions”
Ignatowich being Bright’s boyfriend should help with the chemistry. Having said they I thought they should have won the match last weekend vs Brascia/Tellez but they came up short. We will see.
One other big upside on James is he is 10000% better than Gridley in singles. I felt Gridley was the worst singles player (male or female) in the Austin event.
The singles stuff is overblown. A few rallies and Gridley is suddenly the worst singles player ever
Sarah ansboury tried hard to outdo Austin in that department. He is a sines upgrade but doubles downgrade so…not sure if it pays off
We had no idea of this and no clue how we missed it. Thanks for commenting
I’m fairly positive that Bright and Ignatowich are dating, so this is most likely a personal decision. I feel really bad for Austin Gridley that it’s looking like he most likely got dropped so Anna could play with her boyfriend. Not cool.
Excited to watch Wes Burrows and especially Etta Wright play. Two players who seem to have lots of potential and desire this shot.
I love mixed doubles Pickleball but the fact that relationships seem to be the determining factor is a bit odd. You wouldn’t find that in any other sport. Also, it lowers the professionalism as well.
It’s fascinating how much relationships are figuring into decision making
This is correct. We have updated the post to reflect this. Have no idea how we missed the fact they were dating. Thanks for sharing
I am GM of the Ranchers- thanks for all of your lively commentary! Our team went 0-3, losing two dreambreakers in the ‘22 season opener. I have an obligation to make moves to make our team better and more likely to win. I don’t make anything for winning, but our players can make $20k more for winning than losing. I want that for them. I though Austin was a really solid player and had us a point away from winning 2 of our matches, but thought we could improve our ability to win more singles points in the dreambreakers with a change. I hated to release such a solid player and nice guy, but I thought it was a bad idea to come in 11th place and think that doing nothing would yield different / better results. Keep the chatter up!
With the new rally scoring you have to plan on Dreambreakers. Season 1 it was rare, Season 2 it happened almost 50% of the time. You guys at NML never noticed this or pointed out the importance. Ranchers lost 2 Dreambreakers so they had to upgrade in the male singles department.
We think the Dreambreaker stuff is overblown. There will be more dreambreakers but they are such a crapshoot. You want to be avoiding them in our view. If the doubles is close, go with the singles guy. But don’t go with a guy just cuz he’s good at singles
Nailed it – I think the interesting thing to observe will be – we have the highest DUPR ratings of any team- but that is because our women are 2 first round picks that are .3 higher than the second ranked women’s team. Since the women “touch” 3 out of the 4 lines and play half of the the dreambreakers points- we will find out if our moves help or hurt our results.
With almost 50% of matches going to dreambreaker, singles is very important. Looks like NML missed bad here. Did they watch MLP? Makes Tellez / Iggy significantly more valuable than a guy like Gridley.
See our other comments. Dreambreaker stuff is still carrying too much importance, especially with how cautiously the top guys are playing against weaker opponents
JW cleaning up against Simone and John Cincola to get his team to the finals isn’t luck
JW was the first overall pick for a reason. He’s a different level
Ahh our first clear hole in NMLs logic! The only way the “JW is a different level” argument works, is if you were to posit that the difference in singles ability between JW and Iggy, or even JW and Tellez, is more than the difference in singles ability than Iggy / Tellez and Gridley. There’s nobody that believes that, including Gridley himself. “Dreambreakers are a crapshoot”?? Another horridly flawed argument. Tellez or Iggy is beating Gridley 11-1 11-1 in singles, on Gridley’s best day. Under any circumstance. Calling that a crapshoot is an extremely uninformed way to describe a dream breaker matchup between those two.
There’s something to be said that a true top player in the sport can turn it on when it’s needed. Another intangible type thing.
Let’s assume Gridley is losing 11-1, 11-1 (which may not be true) to those guys. That’s not him losing 22 out of 24 rallies. He’s still getting stops in there and probably quite a few of them. I bet if you track the data from previous MLP or next MLP you’ll find overall data shows the difference overall is not a massive gap
Dreambreakers are very important. Statistically, over time with a large sample size they will occur 33.33% of the time? That’s because there are only three possble outcomes for each match. Either 4-0, 3-1 or 2-2. So it’s inevitable to happen a third of the time.
No doubt they are important. But that’s like saying a penalty shootout in soccer is important. They are crucial but how much you can control across any given dreambreaker is the question
It doesn’t work like that. Just because there are 3 possible results, it doesn’t at all mean that they are equally likely.
In any given match you would be correct. A superior team would be heavily favored with a 4-0 or possibly 3-1 result more likely, But over time and a large sample size each three possible outcome would hover at 1/3 each.
This is the same as saying that there are two possible outcomes for the weather – either it rains or it does not rain – so in the long run it must rain 50% of the time.
Or in sports, this is same as saying that in an NBA best of 7 series, there is an equal chance it will finish 4-0, 4-1, 4-2, or 4-3.
There is just honestly no reason why it’s going to even out in the end between these 3 results in an MLP tournament.
Simply disagree. Rain is not competing with sunshine. If you think it will not even out then what match score will dominate and why?
This isn’t really a matter of opinion. I’m not trying to be rude, but your assumptions are just incorrect.
The outcome that will dominate depends entirely on the skill levels of the teams. If there are two evenly matched teams and one awful team who play each other in a round robin, there will be two 4-0 results, and the other would probably be 2-2 or 3-1. If all the teams are even, then 4-0 would be pretty rare. There’s no reason it all has to balance out and have an equal number of each.
Using the data from Austin, it looks like half of the matches finish 3-2, and a quarter each finish 3-1 and 4-0. This makes sense to me as team strengths are relatively equal and the scoring methodology makes comebacks easier.
2 out of our 3 matches went to dreambreakers. If I learned one thing from losing dreambreakers over the past two seasons- you need confident singles players to win tight matches. That was my thinking we’ll see if I was right in Newport!
Fair enough that’s the approach. Reasonable minds can disagree and clarifying with your other comments about the decision making. Buck stops with you, although we are still going to have our questions about player influence regardless.
But if you have a better doubles player you don’t have to leave it up to the dream breaker if you even make it there! Doubles is far more important than singles!
This is correct in our viewp
I didn’t think Ignatowich would be picked because he seemed to do poorly in his PNIA debut. Singles dreambreaker was mentioned a lot but didn’t I see Staksrud in the pool and his singles is better based on medals. But presumably you have that magic “chemistry” with Ignatowich.
Do we know who is still out on the injured list and thus needs a replacement? Unless someone gets injured at Beer City, I wouldn’t expect any newly injured.
I wonder if Simone influenced ATX choice since Dylan has partnered with her and would listen to her input. They said she was behind Tellez pick last time.
Ignatowich’s team won 4-0 didn’t they lol
PNIA results should not be any indicator of ability for MLP
Ignatowich is a lot lower as a doubles player. It’s an odd choice from a pure talent perspective. It sounds like Nunnery should be good to go so no injured players right now
I think fans and even some analysts often have a hard time understanding that sports are not static. athletes are not static machines that once programmed, never change. James has barely begun his pickleball journey. in his short time playing he has already ascended to the top of the pro singles game. he’s young, tall, rangy, and a freak athlete. He’s in the “going vertical” phase of his pickleball journey. His upside is way higher than Austin’s. Austin is a known commodity. And since he’s been playing quite a while, you aren’t going to be able to tap any more upside a player like James potentially will bring. Austin does not come from a tennis background, and while getting every ounce he can from his talent, his stroke fundamentals have weaknesses that can be exploited.
I believe you are going to seem more transactions like this, as new younger more athletic players come on the scene. This transaction is a bout the future. I am sorry for Austin. I suspect that his playing partners were asked to give an honest assessment of his play, and also their thoughts about the possibilities of James and his potential, not only in singles, but in doubles, as he begins to get a feel for the game. This was a smart decision. Trading out a known commodity for potential massive upside.
I appreciate what you’re saying but this is not building a franchise for years down the road. You have two events left in the year. One in a month and another in 3 months. You are banking on major development if you want that kind of improvement in a really short period of time.
Players, fans, and analysts also have a hard time understanding not to overreact to very small samples of information. Also, it’s very clear Anna Bright has pushed for James to be on the team and would not have done so if he wasn’t her boyfriend. The Ranchers don’t need massive upside to win given their team construction. It’s why we said Burrows makes more sense as an upside swing
I think this is spot on. Particularly when you consider that the MLP has two groups: newcomers, and familiar faces who weren’t good enough to be locked up by the PPA.
I’m not sure about the last statement. There are some very low tier pros under PPA contract – Gretchkina, Sheehan-Dizon, Jones, Spencer Smith…
Oh, agree! I’m not saying that all PPA players are long-time top players, but the converse — most long-time top players are PPA. So that leaves newcomers, and old-timers still grinding to try to make the pro thing happen, for MLP consideration.
A third group would be good, but not FT players because they have FT Jon’s
james just changed his plans from working for a living, to trying and make it on the pro pb tour. i would bet he is grinding 4-6 hours a day this summer on court, a lot of it doubles. I think AG prolly was replaced due to his singles play and chemistry issues. I am not certain, perhaps you know something I don’t, that AB is making personnel decisions for her team? that would surprise me. input yes? final decisions? no. Ranchers were a Mid pack team that was not going to get much better. they made 2 moves in an attempt to get a lot better. I think they have. DJ and James are going to be dangerous imo. You seem to be valuing AG differently than MLP owners are. It will be fun to watch.
Players aren’t necessarily making absolute final decisions but since we posted we are now pretty confident this is an AB spurred decision to at least pick up Ignatowich. Dunno about the decision to drop how that came about
AG is a great teammate and person. No personal chemistry problems- we just went 0-3 in pool play and changes had to be made. It was tough calling AG and letting him know we were releasing him. I got to know him and his family really well in Austin- they stayed with my family. I wish him well and hope somebody picks him up before the drop/add deadline and he kicks some butt.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! The way you handled the Gridley matter was very professional! Good luck in Newport!
lets try to go into the thinking of the Rancher’s General Manager, AB, to see if we can determine why SHE made the AG JI swap.
AG was 1-2 in mens and mixed correct? I think the bet is that if James can only go 1-2 in mens and mixed, but brings massive singles upside, it’s a WIN. Given he will be playing Mixed with AB, the chemistry will be improved, and you will have 2 players who play together often on court with each other. I imagine him being the same age as DJ is also a +++ for chemistry. Those are wins. So James has to go 1-2 in mens and mixed plus win his singles points for this trade to be a WIN.
the upside is what if James can do better than 1-2 in his matches?
the trade has very little downside and tons of upside. ymmv.
Just going through comments here, if you go back to watch a couple of Gridley’s matches he was very close to winning 2 of those losses which would totally change the outlook on things. The Gridley drop could be defensible but not for Ignatowich in our view. The team is still good though overall
While I greatly value the input of our first round picks, my business partner and I own the team and I make the daily personnel decisions and am solely accountable for our results. I am not even sure if AB/JI are the best options for mixed for us- DJ/AB were pretty good together. The only positive on that is JI/AB live in South Fl and can practice doubles together easier than most. I sat on the bench during the AUstin MLP event and had a front row seat to the 0-3 results we posted. If we win 1 match then our 2 personnel moves are winners. I think we can win the whole thing personally- but I think that every time.
As per the reply comment I just made, commendable that you are standing up to take ownership. On the 0-3 thing, the trade was a coup so that alone could be what vaults the team to the next level. There were a couple of matches within those 0-3 that could have changed that to a 2-1 very easily too. Will be fun to watch no doubt though!
I personally find it funny the James decision is getting so much attention while the Pablo decision isn’t. It’s a very similar pick that isn’t taking the same level of heat. Unproven doubles guy worse than who they’re replacing but better mixed players with huge singles potential. Clearly Pickleballers are thinking similarly to Ranchers
This is a fair very comment. We didn’t like the Pablo replacement choice in first MLP and think his situation isn’t as good this time around. His situation bolstered his stock in our view
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