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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