Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 NFL Week 17 Picks

Week 17 is always a wacky one, and by my count, there are only two early games with any playoff implications, with Tampa barely clinging to even that claim. I'll get back to more detailed picks with the playoffs, but in the mean time, have a safe and happy New Year!

Ravens -2 at Bengals

Cardinals -6.5 at Rams

Chiefs -4 at Chargers

Broncos -1.5 versus Raiders

Packers -3.5 at Lions

Last week: 4-1
Season total: 48-40-3

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 NFL Week 16 Picks

Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Redskins -3 at Bears

Jaguars +5 versus Titans

Chargers -4 at Browns

Texans -1 versus Bengals

Chiefs -3.5 versus Broncos

Last week: 2-3
Season total: 44-39-3

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016 NFL Week 15 Picks

Another December weekend, another whirlwind of events for me after my graduation from the USF Sport Management Master's program yesterday, so this will be another short one.

Ravens -6 versus Eagles

Packers -4.5 at Bears

Chiefs -6 versus Titans

Raiders -2.5 at Chargers

Patriots -3 at Broncos

Last week: 4-1
Season total: 42-36-1

Saturday, December 10, 2016

2016 NFL Week 14 Picks

Currently being out on vacation won't stop me from posting my picks! But it will keep them extra short.

Redskins -1 at Eagles
Bengals -5.5 at Browns
Colts -6 versus Texans
Steelers -3 at Bills
Giants +3.5 versus Cowboys 

Last week: 2-3
Season total: 38-35-3

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 NFL Week 13 Picks

We're hitting the home stretch with this being the last week containing any byes. There were some tough picks to choose from, but these lines stood out.

Packers -6.5 versus Texans

The Green Bay offense has gotten their groove back behind Aaron Rodgers, and I think their banged up defense can do enough at home against Brock Osweiler and this inconsistent Houston offense.
After last year's injury plagued campaign, Davante Adams has really found his stride with Rodgers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 NFL Week 12 Picks

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm getting this one out quickly because of the three Thursday games.

Cowboys -6.5 versus Redskins

This line seems too high against a decent Washington team until you consider that they have to travel on a short week after a night game on Sunday and that Ezekiel Elliott can put a game away late behind this incredible offensive line. Kirk Cousins has been on fire and now has R.Kelley as an effective new workhorse to keep a balanced attack, but I just don't believe in their defense, especially against an efficient offense on the road.
Dak Prescott's been great and put Zeke in a position to succeed.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

2016 NFL Week 11 Picks

Keeping this one extra short due to family commitments and might have to do the same next week since it's starting to become that time of year. Who knows, maybe that'll break my streak of mediocre picks!

Colts -2.5 versus Titans

Tennessee is playing really well right now, but Indy just beat them in their house four weeks ago. I don't feel great about it, but I like the home team coming off the bye here with a reasonable spread.
Having Donte Moncrief back healthy should help make the Colts offense more consistent.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 NFL Week 10 Picks

We're getting into the dog days of the season, and I need a good week after my worst picks in a while. Lots of injuries are harder to keep track of this time of year, but at least we have a better feel for who teams are by this point.

Chiefs +3 at Panthers

Kansas City did what they needed to last week at home against an inferior opponent, and now they get their most important players on offense back as quarterback Alex Smith and running back Spencer Ware have both cleared the concussion protocol. Jeremy Maclin aggravating his groin injury in the first quarter last week is a blow, but they haven't been on reliant on him as much this year thanks to Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, and speedster rookie Tyreek Hill stepping up on the outside. Meanwhile, Carolina let L.A. hang around last week and eventually gave up a late touchdown to only win by 3 and push. Their secondary is still a problem, and I can already see a big day for tight end Travis Kelce against them. Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will likely be covered by star safety Eric Berry, and I think the Chiefs can match up well on defense overall. Give me the points and better team, even on the road.
Dontari Poe and this defense will need to win the battle inside to get the road W.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

2016 NFL Week 9 Picks

Another week with six teams on bye leaves limited options for picks, but at least the TV schedule is a bit more balanced than usual with only six 10:00 AM PST games and four late afternoon contests. Also like last week, none of the spreads are too egregious, with all the lines currently at a touchdown or less, making for some interesting teaser opportunities if you so choose.

Vikings -6 versus Lions

This admittedly feels a tough too high considering how badly Minnesota has played since their bye week with their injuries along the offensive front taking a toll and offensive coordinator Norv Turner's startling resignation. However, they are finally back at home for the first time since Week 5, and they have been a dominant 3-0 in their new stadium, outscoring opponents 72-37. A bad offensive line doesn't travel well, so they should do a better job at home against a Detroit defense that ranks last in Football Outsiders DVOA. The Lions have lost their last three on the road after their last second comeback at Indy to start the season, and I think their aerial attack will have a hard time against 4th best pass defense in DVOA.
Sam Bradford will look to get this offense back on track at home under his former OC Pat Shurmur

Saturday, October 29, 2016

2016 NFL Week 8 Picks

Last week was a much needed winner to get back on track, and I'm going to keep this short again to avoid overthinking things.

Bengals -3 versus Redskins (in London)

Let's start across the pond again, even if that ugly display last week might have scared away the English from our brand of football forever. With the disclaimer that it was against Cleveland, the running game display from Cincinnati last week was encouraging as Jeremy Hill was effective as a hammering change of pace behind recent starter Gio Bernard, who also has been playing well. Now they get a soft Washington defense that ranks 31st against the run according to Football Outsiders. The Bengals haven't been nearly as good as usual on defense this season after losing some players to free agency, but they catch somewhat of a break with running back Matt Jones out this week. If they can get some pressure on Kirk Cousins, I think they can force some erratic throws and get the win.
A.J. Green's juggling history came in handy during this Hail Mary to end the half.

Monday, October 24, 2016

2016-17 NBA Preseason Power Rankings

I can't believe basketball season is already here since that instant classic of a Game 7 in the Finals felt like yesterday, yet here we are. Today was the cut down date for rosters to get to 15 players, meaning things are still a bit in flux, so here are just my brief thoughts on how each team stacks up. As usual, I'm listing teams' raw point differential as the best way to evaluate how they truly performed along with their offensive and defensive efficiency listed on NBA.com.

1. Golden State Warriors (1st in the West)
2016: 73-9, Point Differential: +10.8 (1st), Offense: 112.5 (1st), Defense: 100.9 (T-4th)

I knew there was a chance, but it's still hard to wrap my ahead around the fact that Kevin Durant is a part of this team. They are the prohibitive favorites to win it all and have a Vegas over/under of 66.5 wins that sounds silly at first until you consider that they won 67 in Steve Kerr's first year as coach before last year's NBA record of 73 wins. I'd still caution against betting that at all considering that they won't be pushing for the record again, but with their talent, it's hard not to see them around the 70 win mark. Unlike the 2010-11 Miami Heat, this team should mesh immediately with their shooting and lack of ball dominating skill sets, and their All-NBA stars are all in the peak of their primes, giving them more staying power than the 2007-08 Boston Celtics. There are also some exciting young prospects like the past two big men selected with the 30th pick, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones, and the Summer League sensation I was excited about and suggested they try to lock up to a longer deal, Patrick McCaw. It would've been nice if Elliot Williams would've worked out as one of the D-League lottery tickets I hoped for or an international free agent could've provided a cheap rotation piece, but that would just be icing on the cake given their free agency coup. Durant fits in seamlessly with his shooting, passing, positional versatility, and overall unselfishness while also adding more shot blocking with more length than Harrison Barnes provided in their smaller lineups and provides the one thing they were missing in their league-best offense: the ability to get to the free throw line.
I used this slide for school in a hypothetical free agency pitch, but it's relevant here to show KD's fit.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (1st in the East)
2016: 57-25, Point Differential: +6.0 (4th), Offense: 108.1 (4th), Defense: 102.3 (10th)

It will be interesting to see how much LeBron James and the defending champs coast now that they finally delivered a trophy for Cleveland. With the Matthew Dellavedova sign and trade and Mo Williams late retirement, they are mostly relying on rookie 2nd rounder Kay Felder as backup point guard, and although he is a potential dynamo, they might have to tax James with the strain of leading the second unit in his age-32 season. They remain mostly unchallenged atop the East and still have the best player of his generation and MVP favorite to lead the way to 55-60 win campaign, but Zach Lowe made a great point in his recent tiers rankings: there's never been a Finals trilogy. Even the famed 1980's Celtics and Lakers would stumble upon the Sixers and Rockets in the middle of their historic meetings, so you never know what can happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 NFL Week 7 Picks

I didn't feel great about the games last week and should have went with some of the teams I liked in teasers as my picks like the Patriots and Cardinals. Of course, the Seahawks would have come through on a teaser but failed to cover after a disastrous third quarter following a dominant first half, dropping me perilously close to .500 on the season. Time to change that!

Giants -2.5 "at" Rams (in London)

Odell Beckham Jr. is starting to look like his game breaking self again, and the Giants defense is playing decently enough that I expect them to take care of business on what is essentially a neutral field. In particular, they rank 9th in run defense DVOA on Football Outsiders while the Rams have the 31st best run offense since they can't seem to block for Todd Gurley. Although Case Keenum has been playing over his head, I am not too concerned about him airing it out more than Eli Manning.
This could be a spot for Olivier Vernon to convert his pressures into sacks.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

2016 NFL Week 6 Picks

I'm going to keep this short since balancing school, work, and these posts have taken a toll on my picks lately, but alas, I abide by Vince Vaughn's wise words in Wedding Crashers: Rule #76, no excuses, play like a champion.

Steelers -7 at Dolphins

Coming off of back to back big home wins, I am somewhat hesitant taking Pittsburgh on the road since Big Ben's numbers haven't been as dominant away from Heinz Field, but Miami is coming off back to back bad losses. Their secondary is likely to get picked apart by this explosive attack, and Ryan Tannehill might not have much time in the pocket with this offensive line trying to block the Steelers' fierce front. A healthy Arian Foster could help if he is set to make his return, but it won't matter if the Steelers get up early and tee off.
I like Antonio Brown's chances of finding the end zone again this week.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

2016 NFL Week 5 Picks

Looking back on it, picking against Pittsburgh at home was about as bad as my Week 3 pick against New England. Big Ben and that offense often looks unstoppable in the friendly confines of Heinz Field, and that helps their defense tee off and play at a higher level. I was tempted to go with them at home again this week against a slumping Jets team, but the public was too swayed by last week and pumped the line up from -6 to -9.5. I thought about taking the Texans +7 what figures to be a low scoring slugfest with Minnesota's main outside threat Stefon Diggs ruled out, but I still expect the Vikings to win at home if they keep feeding Jerrick McKinnon.  Lastly, the other pick that I almost went with is Green Bay -7 at home, but although I like the Packers to win, I expect Odell Beckham Jr. to bounce back in a shootout that could get close.

Patriots -10.5 at Browns

This line has gotten a bit inflated after opening at 7.5, but they really can't this one high enough, even if it's on the road against an opponent that never seems to go away. Coming off an embarrassing home loss where they struggled in all phases of the game, you can bet that Bill Belichick will have them ready for this one and all the trickery involving Terrelle Pryor. Although I don't completely buy into the narrative of "angry Tom Brady" (he's a first ballot Hall of Famer; it's not like he's ever needed extra motivation thus far), the value of his return is immeasurable. Combine that with Rob Gronkowski continuing to get healthier and Cleveland's slot corner Tramon Williams dealing with a shoulder injury against Julian Edelman, and sometimes you just don't want to overthink things.
Tom Terrific is always in line for a big season, "scandal" or not.



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

2016 NFL 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.
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

2016 NFL 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.


2016 NFL 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.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

3 Questions Ahead of the 2016 NBA Finals

There were some critics last summer who didn't feel that the Golden State Warriors were truly worthy champions because they faced injured opponents in the postseason. If the resulting 73 win warpath hasn't silenced those critics yet, a Finals rematch with a fully healthy Cleveland Cavaliers team could provide a definitive answer. However, this Cavs team is quite different from a year ago, which brings me to three intriguing questions about this series:

How will Cleveland defend Golden State's backcourt?
Uncle Drew will have to have more surprises like this.

Masked by all the firepower new head coach Tyronn Lue has put on display during this dominant playoff run through the lesser Eastern Conference is the fact that the Cavs don't have as tough of a defense as they did a year ago. They ended up finishing 10th in the league by allowing just 102.3 points per 100 possessions overall for the year, but that number increased to 104.8 in the 41 games after David Blatt was fired, which is what the 18th best defense averaged. That's a problem when you're facing the #1 offense in the league, especially since you don't match up well with their All-NBA backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 NBA Regular Season Wrap Up

It's just about playoff time, but I wanted to put a bow on the regular season with my two cents on the potential award winners before making some predictions on the first round.

Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry
A repeat is almost a forgone conclusion.

The reigning MVP probably won't win the award unanimously, but he should. To go along with leading the defending champs to a record setting 73-9 season despite having a target on their backs every game, Curry accomplished the following personal feats:
  • Led the league in Player Efficiency Rating (31.5), Win Shares (17.9), scoring (30.1 points per game) despite sitting out 19 fourth quarters, steals per game (2.1), and total steals (169).
  • Became just the 7th player to record a 50/40/90 shooting season and had the highest scoring season of anyone in that club.
  • Broke his own record for most 3's in a season from last season, 286, with an eye-popping 402. J.J. Redick's incredible 47.5% 3 point percentage may have beaten Curry's 45.4%, but he made less than half the total number of shots with 200. Just an insane stat.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard

Another repeat winner from last year, he again edges out Draymond Green for me, and it's more deserving now than when he missed 18 games last season. It's almost a coin flip between the two since Green's versatility to basically guard 1 through 5 unlocks so much for the 73 win Warriors, but I decided to go with the spearhead of the best defense in the league. The Spurs won 67 games in their own right, and they gave up 2.2 points per 100 possessions fewer than the second best defense.
Towns will pick up a lot of hardware in his career.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns

This one should be unanimous, as well, as Towns won Rookie of the Month all 6 times. I had no doubts about him as the top pick in last year's draft, but I had no idea he'd be able to be this good this fast. He's also seems like such a good kid that I view him like a better shooting Tim Duncan, which is incredible praise, but I think Bill Simmons captured his style better as a combination of Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 NBA Trade Deadline Review

The 2016 Trade Deadline has now passed, and I've rounded up almost every detail of all the deals made this week with the exception of the exact cash involved in some trades. I will add my thoughts on each deal over the weekend, but for now, here's the list of teams with action along with my updated team assets spreadsheets.

Detroit-Orlando

Pistons get:
Tobias Harris$16,000,000$17,200,000$16,000,000$14,800,000

Magic get:
Brandon Jennings$8,344,497
Ersan Ilyasova$7,900,000$8,400,000

Charlotte-Memphis-Miami

Hornets get:
Courtney Lee$5,675,000
$542,714 (from Memphis)

Grizzlies get:
Chris Andersen$5,000,000
P.J. Hairston$1,201,440
'17 Miami 2nd (protected 41-60, then unprotected)
'18 Charlotte 2nd
'19 Boston 2nd (protected 31-55)
'19 Brooklyn 2nd

Heat get:
Brian Roberts$2,854,940

Miami-New Orleans

Pelicans get:
Jarnell Stokes$845,059$980,431$1,251,245
$721,300

Heat get:
'18 New Orleans 2nd (protected 31-55)

Detroit-Houston

Pistons get:
Donatas Motiejunas$2,288,205$6,223,825
Marcus Thornton$947,276

Rockets get:
Joel Anthony$2,500,000$2,500,000
'16 Detroit 1st (top 8 protected, top 10 protected through '21, then unprotected)

Cleveland-Orlando-Portland

Cavaliers get:
Channing Frye$8,193,029$7,806,971$7,420,912

Magic get:
Jared Cunningham$947,276
'20 Cleveland 2nd (via Portland)

Blazers get:
Anderson Varejao$9,638,554$10,361,446$10,000,000
'18 Cleveland 1st (top 10 protected through '19, then becomes a '21 2nd and the lesser of the Lakers' or Minnesota's '19 2nd)
  • Tim Frazier waived for roster spot and then Varejao waived upon completion.

Atlanta-Chicago-Utah

Hawks get:
Kirk Hinrich$2,854,940

Bulls get:
Justin Holiday$947,276$1,015,696
'18 Denver 2nd

Jazz get:
Shelvin Mack$2,433,333$2,433,334

Denver-Oklahoma City

Thunder get:
Randy Foye$3,135,000

Nuggets get:
Steve Novak$3,750,001
D.J. Augustin$3,000,000
'16 Charlotte 2nd (protected 56-60)
'16 Oklahoma City 2nd
  • Novak waived upon completion.

Miami-Portland

Heat get:

Blazers gets:
Brian Roberts$2,854,940
'21 Miami 2nd


Phoenix-Washington

Phoenix gets:
Kris Humphries$4,440,000$4,630,000
DeJuan Blair$2,000,000$2,000,000
'16 Washington 1st (top 9 protected through '21, then unprotected)

Washington gets:

Markieff Morris$8,000,000$7,400,000$8,000,000$8,600,000
  • Blair waived upon completion.

Los Angeles-Memphis

Clippers get:
Jeff Green$9,450,000

Grizzlies get:
Lance Stephenson$9,000,000$9,405,000
'19 Los Angeles 1st (top 14 protected through '20, then becomes '22 2nd)

Houston-Philadelphia

Rockets get:
Draft rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum

76ers get:
Joel Anthony$2,500,000$2,500,000
'17 Denver 2nd
  • JaKarr Sampson waived for roster spot.

Pre-Trade Deadline 2016 NBA Power Rankings, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, here is an evaluation of the bottom half of the league based what they've done so far along with what's in store for their future.

16. Portland Trail Blazers, 27-27 (27 H/27 A) +0.6. Offense: 7th (104.4)/Defense: 18th (104.3)


The good:
  • They won 12 of their last 15 heading into the break to get their point differential into the green, arguably warranting a higher spot in these rankings.
  • C.J. McCollum has built on his strong finish to last year and provided a lot of value as both the starting shooting guard and backup point guard with Damian Lillard. What that small back court lacks in defense they make up for with dynamic scoring and playmaking, and Allen Crabbe has started to reach his potential as a third guard in a contract year, as well. 
  • The quick rebuild in the front court has gone well around them with their smart, low-risk acquisitions all paying off. Along with his usual activity, Al-Farouq Aminu is hitting 3's at a career high rate in the first year of a solid contract; Mason Plumlee has started every game like Aminu and contributed positively on both ends, including doubling his assist rate; Ed Davis is finally getting some appreciation for his yeoman's work on the boards and interior scoring; and former top 15 picks Noah Vonleh and Maurice Harkless have shown their talents at times in their roles.
The bad:
  • The calculated risk of the Arron Afflalo rental cost them a talented young wing in Will Barton and potentially a mid-first round pick, somewhat hampering potential trades to try and make a playoff push.
  • As fun as the Lillard-McCollum back court is, they'll always be limited defensively, and their young bigs sometimes lack the focus necessary to make up for that.
The interesting:
  • They have the most cap room in the league to help facilitate a deadline deal, either to provide an upgrade for themselves or to accumulate assets from desperate teams, and as ESPN's Kevin Pelton has pointed out in his chats, they could actually save money by only paying the prorated amount left on someone's contract instead of owing the difference between their payroll and the salary floor to their current players.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pre-Trade Deadline 2016 NBA Power Rankings, Part 1

The 2015-2016 NBA season is over halfway done, so it's about time I shared some of my thoughts on it. Besides being broken in half due to length, this post has been delayed a couple of times with my research over the past couple of weeks, updating my team assets spreadsheets, and working with the Super Bowl Host Committee last week with the big game in town. Alas, I've included screenshots of each team's page (with some older draft rights being cut off due to irrelevancy) with their records, number of home or away games, point differential, and efficiencies (points per 100 possessions) to assess the current outputs of each team with an eye towards future outlooks.

1. Golden State Warriors, 48-4 (24 H/28 A) +12.5. Offense: 1st (113.1)/Defense: 2nd (99.2)


The good:
  • Despite missing their head coach for most of the year until now, the defending champs came out on fire, starting the season 24-0 to shatter the previous NBA record for the best start of a season that was 15-0, and that first loss was on the back-end of a back to back after a double OT game to cap off a 7 game road trip. The 72 win record is in sight.
  • To go with the top offense (by a solid margin) in the league, they're edging out the Pacers and Celtics for the 2nd best defense in the league, a year after having the top defense and barely finishing behind the Clippers for the #1 offense.
  • Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP, has gotten even better, leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating (32.1, which would be an NBA record), scoring (29.8, despite sitting out the 4th quarter 14 times), and 3's made (245, already the 7th most in a season and on pace for 392 to obliterate his own record of 286). He's also set to become just the 7th player to join the 50/40/90 club.
  • Draymond Green, who should've been starting in the All-Star Game if not for the ridiculousness of fan voting, is having career highs across the board with a lot of the offense running through him, leading to an incredible 7.2 assists per game, the 7th best mark in the league and most of all non-point guards. Those numbers are padded by being able to pass to the best shooting backcourt in the league along with guys having surprising shooting years like Andre Iguodala (38.7 3P%) and Brandon Rush (45.0 3P%), but he is also shooting a career high 42.0 3P% to go along with that playmaking and usual versatile defense. Just an incredibly valuable player.
The bad:
  • Extensions were not reached with fourth year players Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, meaning that the Warriors might have big overpayments to match in restricted free-agency this summer in order to keep their young core together.
  • They are lacking in draft capital, owing their 2017 first rounder to Utah and not having a 2nd round pick until 2019.
The interesting:
  • How high can the return of Steve Kerr raise their ceiling? Luke Walton did an incredible job helping them to a 39-4 record as head coach and is likely to garner offers from other teams like Alvin Gentry did last year as top assistant, but Kerr can better manage the rotations and minutes. Intermixing the starters more with 6th Man of the Year candidate Iguodala, swiss-army knife Shaun Livingston, and the rest of the bench can help prevent any offensive lulls.
  • The NBA debut of first round pick Kevon Looney was a pleasant surprise recently, and he could become a key part of that bench if he puts it all together with his Green-like skill set.