Saturday, October 1, 2016

2016 NFL Week 4 Picks

Alright, now we're starting to get a bit more of a sample size with three weeks of games in the books. I still had another blowout loss in my picks with Pittsburgh suffering some key injuries on defense and proving to be a touch overrated, but we're going to stay positive in this space! After some initial hesitancy with laying -7.5, I took the Bengals at home against an over matched defense on a short week (albeit with Miami's run defense holding surprisingly steady before the awesome A.J. Green took advantage of their inexperienced corners), so I'm 4/5 on my most recent picks. Book the flight to Vegas!

Broncos -3 at Buccaneers

This is a rare 1:05 pm PST start for a western team traveling east, and it's welcome change to help balance that there are SEVEN 10:00 am games. Tampa had this same situation last week hosting L.A., and San Diego got a 1:25 pm game in Indy last week while Oakland has back to back early starts. It seems pretty arbitrary to put certain West Coast teams at that built in disadvantage over others, and selfishly, it puts us viewers in a scramble with so many early games and few options late!

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I'm going with the surprisingly 3-0 defending champs thanks to the growth of Trevor Siemian, who is starting to let it rip and make better throws in the red zone. Their ferocious defense should be able to contain Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and Charles Sims, so the inexperienced passer just needs to make enough plays to open up the running game. The Bucs are stout against the run, but they struggled against Case Keenum with top rusher Robert Ayers out.

The AFC Defensive Player of the Month could feast on TB's tackles.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

NFL 2016 Week 3 Picks

Week 2's are always tough because you don't want to overreact to one  game, but that's all you have to go on besides preseason expectations. I struggled with my picks after the Jets won on Thursday, with the Giants not covering by a point after kneeling at the 1 and the Jaguars and Bears killing themselves with turnovers that took them out of any chance to win, but I did get it right with the Texans, which is where I'm going to start my redemption week. Posting this early for the Thursday night game, and I'll add the rest over the weekend.

Texans -1 at Patriots

This feels like the type of game Bill Belichick somehow pulls out when the odds are stacked against him like in Week 1 at Arizona, but they had all offseason to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for that one compared to a short week for the third round rookie , Jacoby Brissett. A good defense travels, and J.J. Watt's group will be ready to terrorize the third string quarterback who relied almost exclusively on passes at the line of scrimmage in relief last week. That will change with first team reps at practice, but it will be difficult to match points with the suddenly explosive Texans, whose new additions at the skill positions are paying off.

Image result for jadeveon clowney
Now back at defensive end, JD Clowney has been dominating
9/24 Addition:
Man, when I lose a pick, I lose BIG, with another team that shot themselves in the foot. Note to self: don't pick against your Super Bowl pick at home, no matter who's starting.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

NFL 2016 Week 2 Picks

The last couple of seasons, my weekly posts have faded down the stretch due to priorities with work and school, so I'm going to change things up a bit this year and only highlight a handful of picks each week that I at least have some sort of confidence in after going much more in depth in my season preview. Due to a lack of injury information on most teams earlier in the week, I won't always have picks for the dreaded Thursday games, but I had the Jets in that surprising shootout.

Giants -4 versus the Saints


It'll take more than that to stop OBJ.
The Cowboys' usual keep away tactics didn't let the Giants get their explosive offense into rhythm, limiting them to a minuscule 54 total plays in just 23:17 of possession, but New York is in a great spot this week at home against a bad Saints defense that lost their top corner Delvin Breux while giving up 35 points last week. The Giants lost this matchup 52-49 in New Orleans last year at the last minute, but Drew Brees has been mortal on the road in recent season, with a 288.1 yards per game average and 9-6 touchdown to interception ratio away from home compared to 356.6 YPG and a 23-5 ratio in the Superdome last year. It will be hard to match last year's jaw-dropping numbers, but New Orleans natives Eli Manning (30/41 for 350 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no picks) and Odell Beckham (caught 8 of 9 targets for 130 yards and 3 scores) should have no trouble carving up this defense again.


NFL 2016 Preview and Week 1 Picks

Football is back! It's the time of year when every team has reason for optimism with a new season and new players, and I'm going to go through each team's season outlook with their Vegas over/under for win totals as I make my Week 1 picks, with the road team listed first.

Panthers over 10.5 wins

On offense, MVP quarterback Cam Newton gets his favorite receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, back after a lost season due to a torn ACL, and when the 6'5", 240 pound behemoth was healthy in 2014, he was peppered with 145 targets that he turned into 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns as a rookie. His return's impact on the offense will be interesting since besides counting on Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, an unheralded receiving core provided well distributed production, including another jumbo sized receiver that they like in 6'4", 232 pound Devin Funchess. This is still a run first offense, though, with Newton and effective running back Jonathan Stewart running behind one of the best interior lines in the league with Ryan Kalil, Chris Norwell, and Trai Turner.

On defense, it is abundantly clear where general manager Dave Gettleman values his players with an absolutely beastly front seven that has heavy draft capital in it, including this year's first rounder, defensive tackle Vernon Butler, who might be the eventual replacement for Kawann Short due to an upcoming monster contract that's well deserved. If defensive end Kony Ealy maintains his high level of play from the playoffs, then they'll continue to get by without having to pay a high premium on defensive backs thanks to go with their elite coverage linebackers. Gettleman's been great at picking up veterans off the scrap heap that provide big contributions like safety Kurt Coleman last year, and now after letting All-Pro corner Josh Norman go to Washington after developing him as a fifth rounder, they're going to be giving second and third round rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley all the snaps they can handle with third year player Bené Benwikere.

Overall, the NFC champions kept finding ways to get it done during a remarkable 15-1 season, and their outlook for 2016 hasn't changed in a substantial way. They're a mostly young, hungry team that seems certain to make the playoffs again behind their defensive front and playmaking quarterback.

Broncos over 9.5 wins

A full year in Kubiak's scheme is good news for C.J.
On offense, they actually have potential to improve from last year's mediocrity, which is surprising considering one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time just retired, but Peyton Manning wasn't nearly the player he normally was. Now, they'll be fully committed to head coach Gary Kubiak's system after trying to mix it in with Manning's preferred offense last year, and the offensive line could be a lot better with free agent tackles Russell Okung, who struggles to stay on the field but was signed to a steal of a contract after he chose not to use an agent, and Donald Stephenson, who flashed potential but inconsistency with the division rival Chiefs, in the fray. Running back C.J Anderson is set up well to be the bell cow after they matched Miami's contract offer to him, and fourth rounder Devontae Booker should prove capable if he can't maintain his strong finish for the second year in a row. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and underrated tight end Virgil Green make up a strong receiving core, but last year's seventh rounder, Trevor Siemian, will likely just be a caretaker at quarterback until first round pick Paxton Lynch is ready to roll. That could be a problem, though, considering that Siemian had a 58.9% completion rate and a 27-24 touchdown to interception ratio in 44 college games at Northwestern.

On defense, a consequence of having a historically good unit is that you'll lose some key pieces to free agency like defensive lineman Malik Jackson and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. That being said, this is still the best secondary in the league behind arguably the best group of outside pass rushers, a devastating combination. If remaining inside linebacker Brandon Marshall can continue to make plays behind run-stuffing lineman Sylvester Williams and Derek Wolfe, this could still be the top defense in the league.

Overall, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips leads a group that is capable winning games by themselves, so the defending champs should have another successful season. After all, the already dealt with poor quarterback play last year, so could this year really be that much worse?

The pick: The Super Bowl champs almost never lose these Thursday night home opener, but they also hardly ever have a giant hole at the quarterback spot, either. Denver might have more talent on the roster overall, but Carolina's offense is much more reliable in this situation. Panthers -3

Friday, July 1, 2016

Roster Analysis: How the Warriors could sign Kevin Durant

Let me preface this by saying that I am a fan of the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant has also been my favorite player since I first saw his smooth stroke at the University of Texas. I normally try to remain rational and accountable in my writing, but with all that being said, OH MY GOODNESS KD PLAYING IN THE BAY IS POSSIBLE.

When a WojBomb was dropped five months ago that the Dubs intrigued Durant, I contained my reaction since it didn't seem right or realistic to think about scrapping a team that was the defending champions and in the midst of pursuing the single season wins record. That didn't stop me from reading Danny Leroux's enlightened piece on how the pieces could fit under the salary cap a couple hundred times or constantly tinkering with my own spreadsheets, though. The salary cap estimate going up to $94 million helps things a bit, and now that Cleveland beat them in a stunning Finals, it seems much more plausible that a star like Durant would consider joining an elite team as a missing piece to put them back over the top instead of ring-chasing with the back to back champs. It was one of the first things to go through my mind after Game 7, and after their meeting went very well today (as all of these meetings do), I figured I might as well put together a post about it instead of a tweet here or there, especially now that Shaun Livingston's guarantee date and the deadline to extend qualifying offers to James Michael McAdoo, someone whose cap hold is small enough that I thought could be kept, and Ian Clark have passed.

Golden State did extend qualifying offers to Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to allow themselves the opportunity to match any contract, and along with cap holds for their other free agents, they're nowhere near the amount of cap space needed to sign KD to his maximum salary possible as of now. However, with the right timing and execution, here's how they can fit him under the projected salary cap if he agrees to come. The biggest challenge would be moving the incumbent big man, Andrew Bogut, without taking any salary back, but with so many teams having money to spend due to the cap spike, they should be able to find someone to take on the still productive 31 year old with only about $11 million owed to him in the last year of his deal. Then they'd have to withdraw the qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, renounce the rights to nearly all of their others, and leave their first round pick, Damian Jones, unsigned for now to keep his cap hold lower than the deal he'll actually sign for. I think any idea of Andre Iguodala being traded to clear room should be dismissed given what he means to the team with his unselfishness and the fact that Durant became buddies with him and Stephen Curry on the 2010 Team USA roster. There hasn't been any indication as to whether Brandon Rush would be a bench player they intend to keep, but his cap hold is so low that they could hold onto his Early Bird rights and still clear the necessary space, as shown to the right.

Then once Durant signs, one of those empty roster chargers could be filled by Patrick McCaw, the second round prospect they shrewdly acquired purely with cash, one of the benefits of receiving so many playoff gate receipts lately. I'm going to list him at just the $543,471 rookie minimum here, but you'll notice that there would still be close to $700K of cap space remaining at this point (depending on where the salary cap actually falls), an insignificant amount to sign anyone else at this juncture. If the Warriors view McCaw as a potential rotation player in a couple of years, they'd be smart to use this remaining space to give him a bit more upfront money guaranteed in order to secure a 3 or 4 year contract instead of just signing him with the Minimum Exception that maxes out at 2 years, like they did when using part of the Mid-Level exception to give Draymond Green 3 years, $2,640,743 in 2012.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 Draft week trades

After yesterday's big moves, more trades came early and often with the NBA draft today, so I attempted to track them all down here. I'll update this post as more details come out and add some thoughts on them, as well, but for now, here is a list of all the action. The salaries start with the '16-'17 season, with yellow indicating team option, blue for player options, and red meaning non-guaranteed money.

Hawks-Pacers-Jazz

To Indiana:
Jeff Teague$8,000,000
10% trade bonus. Renegotiate and extend?

To Utah:
George Hill$8,000,000

To Atlanta:
#12 pick (Taurean Prince)

Bulls-Knicks

To New York:
Derrick Rose$21,323,252
Justin Holiday$1,015,696
2017 2nd round pick

To Chicago:
Robin Lopez$13,219,250$13,788,500$14,357,750
Jerian Grant$1,643,040$1,713,840$2,639,314
Jose Calderon$7,708,427

Nets-Packers

To Brooklyn:
#20 pick (Caris LeVert)
Future 2nd rounder

To Indiana:
Thaddeus Young$12,078,652$12,921,348$13,764,045

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ben Simmons and Building Around a Point Forward

We just finished an incredible Finals series that featured the preeminent player of his generation complete a historic comeback against a team that set the record for regular season wins with 73. And while LeBron James became the first player to lead both teams in a playoff series in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks to win a well-deserved third Finals MVP trophy, something only four other players can claim, it could not have been done without the incredible shot making of Kyrie Irving. On that record breaking team they somehow beat, Stephen Curry led the league in scoring despite playing the traditionally pass first position of point guard, while his power forward, Draymond Green, ranked 7th in the entire league in assists, with James joining him as the only non guards in the top 20. Tomorrow, Ben Simmons will become the #1 pick in the draft, and with James and Green in mind, I'm going to take a look at ways to build around my favorite type of player: a point forward.

Let's start with the basics: Ben Simmons is 6' 10.25", 240 lbs with a 7' 0.5" wingspan according to the most recent pre-draft measurables, and he averaged 19.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 2.0 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 34.9 minutes as a 19 year old freshman on an unimpressive LSU team. The first thing that stands out when I watch him play is that he appears to have great basketball instincts, and he has a flare for incredible passes thanks to extraordinary vision. He knows where to go to inhale rebounds, and he has the ball handling ability of a smaller player to run with it, thriving in transition. He may not have the transcendent quick-twitch athleticism like LeBron to chase down blocks (few humans do), but he does have very good physical traits, especially with straightforward actions. In other words, he has the skills to either lead the break and drop a dime for a teammate's bucket or finish the play with a viscous alley-oop.
The Tiger from the Land Down Under can definitely throw it down.