Thursday, February 8, 2018

2018 NBA Trade Deadline Week Recap

So much for that "quiet deadline," right? I've listed every move that's happened this week with almost all of them having every detail included by now (12:05 PM PST, just after the deadline has passed), and I'll add any further details plus some thoughts on the deals as the day goes on. All information about players' current salaries is from Eric Pincus at BasketballInsiders.com, with non-guaranteed, team option, and player option seasons color coded.


Milwaukee gets:
Tyler Zeller$1,709,538$1,933,941


Brooklyn gets:
Rashad Vaughn$1,889,040
Milwaukee 2018 2nd round pick (protected 48-60, otherwise becomes 2020 2nd round pick)

Nets GM Sean Marks continues to do solid work with his cheap veteran signings, and now he cashed in one of them to pick up an extra draft pick that will likely last longer with the team than the former 17th overall pick was going to. Across 42 games (33 starts), Zeller averaged a solid 7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in just 16.7 minutes with 54.6%/38.5%/66.7% shooting. I don't completely see the need on the Bucks' end for another limited big man, but they always seem to be looking for a center that can provide some offensive skills without killing them on the other end. Since they declined the fourth year option on Vaughn, they obviously didn't have plans for him in the future after he was also the 17th pick in his draft, so they must be hoping they'll be good enough that the 2nd rounder will be late enough to not be of much consequence.


Charlotte gets:
Willy Hernangomez$1,435,750$1,544,951$1,701,735

New York gets:
Johnny O'Bryant$1,524,305
Charlotte's 2020 and 2021 2nd round picks

Poor Hernangomez: he goes from out of the Knicks' rotation to a Hornets team that already has Dwight Howard, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky in established roles up front. Howard and Kaminsky only have one more year left on their deals, though, and the 23 year old Spaniard showed enough as a rookie (11.6/9.3/2.0 averages in 25.8 minutes over his 22 starts) that he can be thought of as a nice backup center option in the future. It would have been nice if things worked out for him to stay in New York with his former Sevilla teammate and buddy Kristaps Porzingis, but getting two 2nds back isn't bad value in return considering he was a 2nd rounder himself and that his defensive limitations have kept him out of favor this season.


Los Angeles signs Williams to 3 year, $24 million extension:
Lou Williams$7,000,000$8,000,000$8,000,000$8,000,000

With the last year reportedly only containing $1.5 million guaranteed, this was a surprisingly affordable extension for the Clippers since Williams was eligible to sign for upwards of $42 million over four years. I suppose the 31 year old veteran preferred some security in the same city after being on his fifth team in five season, including a year and a half in LA already with the Lakers, over chasing the Mid-Level Exception that is expected to have around an $8.6 million starting salary this summer. That's understandable, so hopefully for his sake the Clips don't end up trading him after the required six month wait now that the high-scoring 6th man is under team control like they did with Blake Griffin.


Chicago gets:
Willie Reed$1,471,382
Right to swap 2022 2nd round picks

Detroit gets:
Jameer Nelson$1,429,818

Don't look now, but after all the other times they conceded sweeteners as a throw-in, the Bulls actually made a deal that benefited them in the 2nd round! Nelson, who turns 36 tomorrow and will be on his fourth team since training camp, was never long for the rebuilding squad after being included in last week's trade, and now he gets to be reunited with his Orlando coach, Stan Van Gundy, as needed point guard depth for a team competing for a playoff spot. The cost is clearly low for the Pistons after Reed was also recently acquired as an extra piece in the Griffin trade, and it looks like Chicago is just going to waive him anyway despite his productive per-minute numbers. That's a little disappointing, but it does open up a roster spot to try out younger players while inching the Bulls ever so closer to the salary floor (more on that shortly). 


Los Angeles gets:
Channing Frye$7,420,912
Isaiah Thomas$6,261,395
Cleveland's 2018 1st round pick (protected 1-3)

Cleveland gets:
Jordan Clarkson$11,562,500$12,500,000$13,437,500
Larry Nance Jr.$1,471,382$2,272,391

I'm still a bit in shock from the first stunner of deadline day as my initial thought from this morning still holds true: I can't believe the Cavs helped the Lakers clear salary space to target LeBron James and another max contract this summer. As things stand now with the 1st round pick sitting at #24 and estimated at a $1.82 million cap hold, LA can hold onto Julius Randle's cap hold as a restricted free agent and have $45.93 million in space. Clearing Clarkson's salary made things simpler to achieve the estimated $65.65 million in room needed for James and a 30% max salary player like Paul George (assuming a $101 million salary cap), though, because they can stretch Luol Deng's remaining salary and simply renounce Randle's rights like the rest of their free agents to reach $67.3 million. That number could increase a little bit if the pick becomes lower due to Cleveland improving after today or if they waive the non-guaranteed contracts of young players like Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac, or Thomas Bryant. Perhaps the Cavs are confident enough that James will stay, especially after fortifying their roster today, that it doesn't matter; there was a report two days ago that LA was shifting their focus to the 2019 free agent class after all. If that is the case, this still helps the Lakers get closer to having two max slots that summer as they'll now have over $60 million in space, and stretching Deng that year could offset a new deal for Randle that eats into that. Deng's contract might even be easier to move once it has less money remaining on it, but it's always been likely that it'll have to count as $7,362,000 in dead money over five years or $6,270,000 over three depending on once he's waived.

As for the actual product on the court, it's a shame how far Isaiah Thomas' stock has fallen after his hip injury and poor 15 game run in Cleveland that he's basically just an expiring contract, so hopefully he can rebuild his free agent value a bit with what is likely to be plenty of opportunity in LA. It may hurt his pride to come off the bench, but he could potentially feast on opposing second units, play alongside the 6'6" Lonzo Ball, and have free reign during the times the rookie is banged up like now. If Frye isn't bought out, he can help in their young players' development by providing floor spacing as a big man like I wrote about when Brook Lopez was brought in. For the Cavs, Nance will give them a player who actually brings effort on defense, and they've already seen recently with rookie Cedi Osman how much of an impact that simple difference can make. He can also slide across a couple of positions for some versatility along with Clarkson, and although the latter tends to give it back up on defense, he provides an athletic scoring punch to the back court with some passing. With that being said, it is a little odd that they did this move that required giving up a 1st round pick and taking on future salary considering they had their other big trade coming just a little bit later. Dealing with Isaiah Thomas' constant public comments couldn't have been that bad, could it?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Super Bowl LII

It's been a wild ride through the NFL playoffs to this point, but at the end of the day it's the two #1 seeds left standing for the fourth time in five years. The surprising part, of course, is that Philadelphia has been able to continue their strong play with backup quarterback Nick Foles, but the gamblers in Vegas are apparently believers with so much money coming in on them that the line has dropped by a point and a half. That being said, I'm going to fade the public and stick to my guns with my pick of the Patriots beating the Eagles to claim their third title in four years just like Super Bowl XXXIX.

Last week: 1-1
Season total: 151-114-1

Patriots -4.5 versus Eagles

Folks smarter than me have already written about how New England going with a no-huddle offense could provide a huge advantage and that the Philly defense isn't quite as elite when away from home, so I'll just focus on the matchups that lead me to a fairly confident Pats pick despite the fact that this group never scores in the first quarter of Super Bowls and are 3-4 against the spread in them. Obviously, the quarterbacks aren't on the field at the same time, but five time champion Tom Brady provides a clear edge over the occasionally impressive but inconsistent Foles. Rob Gronkowski officially getting cleared from the concussion protocol means Brady will have all his weapons available, and he could be a dark horse MVP pick at 9/1 odds. Although Malcolm Jenkins is a great strong safety capable of limiting most tight ends, Gronk is arguably the best ever and always a threat to score with 10 touchdowns in 10 full postseason games (not counting the Jaguars game when he suffered a first half concussion or the 2012 game when he re-broke his arm after just 7 snaps).

Friday, February 2, 2018

New Orleans lands Mirotic after all

New Orleans gets:
Nikola Mirotic$12,500,000$12,500,000
New Orleans 2018 2nd round pick

Chicago gets:
Omer Asik$10,595,505$11,286,516$11,977,527
Tony Allen$1,471,382
Jameer Nelson$1,429,818
New Orleans 2018 1st round pick (protected 1-5, 1-8 in 2019, 1-10 in 2020, 1-9 in 2021, and converts to 2022 and 2023 2nd round picks)
Right to swap 2021 2nd round picks

The full protections on the 1st rounder New Orleans is sending doesn't really matter since it's unlikely that it will fall in the top-5 this year given that it's currently #17 with their 27-23 record, but we now have all the details of this trade after Woj tweeted them this morning. We also now know that recently bought out center Greg Monroe has chosen to sign with the Celtics for more money and better playoff odds, but that doesn't change the fact that the process behind this move, which cleared roster space and room under the Luxury Tax for the Louisiana native, was sound. The Pelicans went from just $706,678 under that threshold to $1,703,383, so they can still pursue other big men options to help fill the void left after DeMarcus Cousins unfortunately tore his Achilles.

A lot of the available minutes will go to Mirotic, of course, as he is a great stretch-four option with Anthony Davis shifting up to center, and picking up his team option for next season shouldn't have been as big of an issue as it was earlier in the week when this trade initially fell apart. Since he felt the chilled market last summer as a restricted free agent and had to settle for the one year deal with the option attached, he gained the ability to reject any trade since the acquiring team would lose his Bird rights. Mirotic rightfully leveraged the situation for the security of the $12.5 million being picked up, and then since he was no longer on a one year contract, his consent was no longer needed. I've seemingly always been higher on his ability than most, but he is certainly justifying that salary now with 16.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in just 24.9 minutes on 47.4%/42.9%/82.3% shooting.


Monday, January 29, 2018

So much for Blake Griffin being a lifelong Clipper

Detroit gets:
Blake Griffin$29,727,900$32,088,932$34,449,964$36,810,996$38,957,028
Willie Reed$1,471,382
Brice Johnson$1,331,160

Los Angeles gets:
Tobias Harris$16,000,000$14,800,000
Avery Bradley$8,808,989
Boban Marjanovic$7,000,000$7,000,000
Pistons 2018 1st round pick (top-4 protected through 2020 before becoming unprotected)
2019 2nd round pick

Well that escalated quickly. After the #WojBomb dropped at 3:02 PST, Kevin O'Connor had most of the details on the return at 3:12, and then Woj reported that the deal was done at 3:30. I still haven't seen the exact details on which 2019 second is involved since Detroit has their own and a complicated one from either Cleveland, Houston, Orlando, and Portland, but that's a trivial detail in the wake of this shocking trade that came out of nowhere. LA went from selling Griffin on being the first Clipper with his jersey retired to shipping him to Detroit just six months later, so keep that in mind the next time there's fan outrage over a player leaving in free agency.


It's interesting re-reading my quick reaction to his deal in July and how notable it was that he got the 5th year of guaranteed money but not a no trade clause, and now the Clips are taking advantage of that to get out of that large contract. Since he actually took slightly less than his maximum salary this season (likely to help the team stay under the Luxury Tax), his trade bonus will make up for that $215,000 difference to increase his overall cap numbers by $860,000 overall to what I've included above and slightly cushion the blow for him. Taking on all of that long-term money for a constant injury risk who is about to turn 29 and has already missed 16 games this year seems like a shortsighted move by Detroit. That's the problem when your head coach is also the president of basketball operations like Stan Van Gundy is, especially after the team has lost 12 out of 15 since Reggie Jackson's injury and are struggling to fill their brand new downtown arena. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017 NFL Conference Championship Picks

I know it's been repeated ad nauseam this week, but who would have thought that when the final four NFL teams square off, three of the starting quarterbacks had just one combined playoff start coming into the season. Although Tom Brady being among the last standing is of course no surprise, no one could see this coming from Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, and Case Keenum. Granted, they are being carried by arguably the three best defenses in the league, but a weird NFL season that saw scoring down across the board will still look weird with either of those NFC quarterbacks leading the charge on Super Bowl Sunday. Spoiler alert: the man on the AFC side will look familiar, though.

Last week: 2-1-1
Season total: 150-113-1

Patriots -7.5 versus Jaguars

Shocking, I know. I probably would have stuck with them at the inflated -9 the line opened at, so seeing it come down after concern over Brady's banged up hand is actually nice to see (although a teaser, possibly with the Over is probably the best bet of weekend). Consider me not worried about the GOAT playing injured with a Super Bowl berth on the line, especially at home against the still shaky Blake Bortles. You could be worried that a weak New England front seven can't contain Leonard Fournette, but they just held the similarly large and explosive Derrick Henry to 28 yards on 12 carries. And although I love Jacksonville's defense, that unit just gave up 42 points to Pittsburgh and allowed 37 (not counting the Bortles pick-six) a few weeks ago to San Francisco. Their few weak spots over the middle are likely to be exploited by Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis. I said at the beginning of the year that the Pats would win their third championship in four years like in '01-'04, and now I'll even double down on that by saying it actually will be in a repeat of SB XXXIX.


Eagles +3 versus Vikings

Minnesota has the amazing narrative of being on the verge of hosting its own Super Bowl after that miraculous ending following years of playoff torture, and there's so much to talk about with that. How there were four lead changes in the final 3:01 to play. How Marcus Williams ended his tremendous rookie season, which included a huge interception earlier in the game, with a total whiff due to concern over pass interference and became the new Rahim Moore with inexplicably no one else behind him. How there was a fleeting moment of thought that Stefon Diggs needed to get out of bounds with a second left in order to try for a field goal before realizing he had nothing but green in front of him to score the winning touchdown. Or how it seemed like that would result in a cover of my -5 pick until after all the chaos they chose to just kneel on the extra point attempt for a push (although I've seen that the line ended at a brutal -5.5 for late Vikings backers after it opened at -3.5). I get it; it would be fun for 'Sota to continue on for a fairy tale ending. But this is real life instead, and they're facing the old adage of being a dome team going outdoors for a night game. More importantly, I think Philadelphia's offensive line is superior overall and will do a better job blocking in a game featuring two fierce defensive fronts. Maybe Jay Ajayi's work through both the air and ground results in another long gain. Sometimes you just have a feeling that letdown is coming for a team, and in this case, I think older brother Mychal Kendricks comes out on top over his younger brother Eric on the Vikes.



Friday, January 12, 2018

2017 NFL Divisional Round Picks

Ouch. That's pretty much all I can say after going 0-4 last week due all of the underdogs covering the spread, including outright wins in both Saturday games. Maybe I overthought things like Andy Reid only giving Kareem Hunt -- the NFL's leading rusher and possible Rookie of the Year -- five carries after the first quarter despite holding a lead nearly the entire time. I'll keep things simple this week like I did during my hot close to the year instead.

Last week: 0-4
Season total: 148-112

Eagles +3 versus Falcons

I know Philly's offense is completely different with Nick Foles having to fill in for Carson Wentz, but come on. The #1 seed getting a field goal at home is taking things too far because their defensive front should be able to make up for any concerns about their inconsistent corners trying to contain Julio Jones.

Patriots -13.5 versus Titans

Although I'm still a bit in shock that Tennessee came all the way back and held onto that win last week, what I do know is that Bill Belichick won't get outcoached like that. If you want #narratives, you can count on the team getting fired up about Sam Wickhersham's report and wanting to prove any doubters wrong. You could also just take solace in the fact that Tom Brady will be relentless against this Tennessee pass defense.

Steelers -7 versus Jaguars

I will not take Blake Bortles in a road playoff game. I will not take Blake Bortles in a road playoff game. I will not take Blake Bortles in a road playoff game.

Oh, sorry I just have to keep repeating that to myself as I go back and forth on my pick. I don't want to pick on Blake, whom I've rooted for in past years on here, but he looked about as bad as you could have feared in that first playoff game as Jacksonville somehow didn't cover despite only allowing 3 points at home. I know Pittsburgh's defense has looked bad without Ryan Shazier and that Leonard Fournette ran all over them at Heinz in a game that prompted Ben Roethlisberger to (mostly) joke about retiring, but you know who else knows all that? Mike Tomlin and the Steelers coaching staff, who may not always be perfect but have shown over the years that they are pretty darn good. Joe Haden's absence in the secondary was arguably just as important during that rough defensive stretch, so having him back along with Antonio Brown on offense should carry the Steel Curtain into a rematch with the Pats.

Vikings -5 versus Saints

I don't like line moving up over the course of the week, but there's no way I'm going against Minnesota here. Both teams may have change a lot since the first edition of this game back in the first Monday Night Football game of the season, especially in the backfields with Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook, and Adrian Peterson no long participating, but one things has remained constant: the Vikings defense is tremendous. I'm not sure there's any clear weakness New Orleans can exploit, and you could tell in last week's game how much the late injury bug has taken its toll on Sean Payton's unit. Going against Drew Brees in Case Keenum's first playoff game is a concern, but there's a reason the latter will be getting a nice pay day and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will likely get another head coaching job, possibly from the same team.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

2017 NFL Wild Card Picks

So close. That's all I could help but think when the dust cleared and I finished one game back of first place in my 38 person picks pool last week. Probably like the Ravens and their fans replaying that wild Bengals touchdown on 4th and 12 (!), I just kept thinking about if just one thing had gone differently, whether it be the hapless Broncos being able to beat the Chiefs backups in Mile High, news about David Fales taking almost all of the snaps at quarterback for the Dolphins being more widespread, or me not changing a pick or two at the last minute due to injury reports like the Packers in Week 4, then I would have either won outright or tied for the top price. Even though I still received a handsome reward for being runner up, it's hard to get the taste out of your mouth knowing you were that close, but alas. I'll just heed the words of noted philosopher Elsa and "Let it go" as the calendar flips to a new year and move on to the next phase of the NFL season. I'll need a clear head because some might say that these are the picks that separate the cream of the crop...Not anyone on this site, but, you know, some people.

(PS since the picks pool is finished on CBS Sports, I'll be using the current odds on VegasInsider.com)

(PPS before fully moving on to the postseason, I did want to look back to the regular season one final time to point out that my over/under picks for win totals before the season were a solid 21-11)

Last week: 11-5
Season total: 148-108

Chiefs -8.5 versus Titans

Kansas City hasn't given up more than 20 points at home all year en route to a 6-2 record in Arrow Head, so the question is will they approach 29 points themselves? Well, they've averaged 28.6 in the five games since offensive coordinator Matt Nagy started calling plays rather than Andy Reid, and if you take out last week's exhibition with Patrick Maholmes and the backups, that numbers is exactly 29 points per game. Throw in the fact that Tennessee ranks 24th in DVOA against the pass and is facing this year's version of Alex Smith that finally isn't afraid to let it loose down the field like he's always been capable of, and I think you have the recipe for success. The Chiefs' #32 ranked run defense DVOA facing Derrick Henry with a full workload is a bit scary, but I like KC to go ahead early and keep some separation to hopefully take the running game out of it. Let the track race between Tyreek Hill and Adoree' Jackson begin!

Rams -6 versus Falcons

Out of all the games in this slate, this one probably has me the most nervous because Atlanta is the more experienced team that proved last year that they can go deep in the postseason, and despite being frustrating to go with against the spread, they did go 6-2 over the back half of the season. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman could take advantage of the DVOA's #22 run defense, and Julio Jones is always a threat to be the best player on the field. That being said, Todd Gurley was arguably the league's MVP this year and has tremendously improved his work in the passing game since he came into the league, totaling 64 catches for 788 yards and 6 touchdowns in just 15 games to make life easier for Jared Goff. Considering that Atlanta allowed the most receptions to running backs, this could be another big Gurley game, and as Mike Lombardi of The Ringer has point out throughout the year, they like to pour it on when they win. Seven of their 11 wins were by double digits, so they should cover this spread at home.

Jaguars -8.5 versus Bills

I just don't see how Buffalo can put up many points on the road against this elite defense. Not one Bill averaged even 50 receiving yards per game, and if you don't count the work Kelvin Benjamin did in Carolina, Charles Clay was the most "dangerous" presence with 558 yards, or 42.9 per game. Not exactly threatening for the likes of Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Aaron Colvin, Tashaun Gipson, and Barry Church. Feeding LeSean McCoy will seemingly be their only effective offense, but he's far from 100% with a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, you can expect DVOA's 31st ranked run defense to get a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette on the other side, so I'm not too concerned about needing to rely on Blake Bortles to lay such a high spread. Buffalo got their big "win" last week with the excitement of getting lucky in the four-way tiebreaker to end their long playoff drought, but now it's time to turn back into a pumpkin as midnight approaches on their season.

Saints -7 versus Panthers

You've probably heard the old adage "It's hard to beat an opponent three times" in reference to divisional rivals facing off again in the playoffs, but as I heard Bill Barnwell explain on Sportscenter this week, that's not actually the case. In the 16 cases that this scenario has occurred since 1990, a 3-0 sweep has been the result 11 times. Given that New Orleans not only won but dominated both matchups, I think that will become 12 out of 17 times. Cam Newton averaged just 175 yards passing in those two games compared to 210.9 against everyone else and had 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions compared to a 20:13 ratio otherwise. Carolina's linebacker trio of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson trying to contain Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in both phases of game will be fun to watch as that duo became the first pair of running backs on the same team to both total over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. The matchup that won't likely be as contested is James Bradberry Daryl Worley trying to stick with Michael Thomas as he averaged 6 catches for 78.5 yards and scored in both games.