Saturday, December 9, 2017

2017 NFL Week 14 Picks

It wasn't pretty, but my Atlanta pick on Thursday broke my losing streak in prime time games. Let's hope that means my little hot streak (40-20 the last four weeks) will continue. When guessing what the lines would be to see how my feel for the week is, I actually nailed eight of them right on the money, so that either means I'll have a great week or am way overconfident in the favorites. Let's find out!

Last week: 10-6
Season total: 105-87

Vikings -2.5 at Panthers

Minnesota's steady offense should have a much easier time moving the ball against a Carolina squad that has begun to spring leaks in the secondary than Cam Newton will face on the other side. Especially with Devin Funchess banged up and Greg Olsen still working his way back, points will probably be at a premium at home.

Bengals -6.5 versus Bears

Missing Joe Mixon and a bunch of pieces on defense isn't encouraging, but Cincy has been playing well overall in recent weeks. And Chicago's defense has been banged up in its own right, so I'll side with the more experienced offense.

Packers -3.5 at Browns

I can see why some may consider this a trap game for Green Bay with the imminent return of Aaron Rodgers in time for tougher opponents coming up, but with the spread this low, I just can't side with Mr. 1-27, Hue Jackson. Him somehow winning the power struggle over head of football operations Sashi Brown is probably worse than Sam Hinkie's ousting with the 76ers. Even if the roster was lacking in certain areas, Brown has put together enough nice pieces to win more than one game out of 28, and new hire John Dorsey, who was hired suspiciously fast, is set to reap the rewards of the extra draft picks and cap space the franchise has going forward.

49ers +2.5 at Texans

It's overly simplistic to compare Jimmy Garoppolo and Trent Taylor to Tom Brady and either Wes Welker or Julian Edelman, but the GOAT's understudy certainly looked good in his first start with his new club and had quite the connection with his small slot receiver to get the W. Those two and Marquise Goodwin should also be able to take advantage of this Houston defense this week unless JD Clowney can prove to be a one man wrecking crew.


Reviewing the Okafor trade Philly finally made

Brooklyn gets:
Jahlil Okafor$4,995,120
Nik Stauskas$3,807,147
2019 Knicks 2nd round pick

Philadelphia gets:
Trevor Booker$9,125,000

That's it. That's the deal. After the surprising #FreeJah movement, this is all that was involved on Thursday in the long-anticipated move for 2015's 3rd overall pick, which goes to show you what the value was around the league for a defensive liability who isn't all that efficient on offense. Of course, since he had his fourth year option declined (a sensible move by Philly considering the $6,313,832 price tag), any team acquiring him is limited in their ability to re-sign him if things work out. It's probably not worth giving up much in a trade if you could be free to sign him this summer after all. Still, the fact that the 76ers had to throw in a decent draft pick, along with Stauskas to match salaries, to move him for a veteran big man off the bench is underwhelming. Booker is a good pro to have, won't affect their future cap situation, and will give them an actual positive contribution, unlike what they're trading away. But the fact that I still think of this play as his career highlight might tell you all you need to know.
Even if I've always been down on Okafor as a player, one can't help but like this move for Brooklyn given that the polarizing big man is still just about to turn 22. Once again, Sean Marks makes a move for a couple lottery tickets (Stauskas was the #8 pick himself in 2014 and only turned 24 in October) at a low cost to add upside to his young roster. Rookie Jarrett Allen has shown encouraging signs in his limited minutes, but he is their only young big man depending on what you classify Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as. Now Okafor joins the player selected one pick after him, D'Angelo Russell, as worthwhile gambles around their intriguing group of wings. Even if these additions don't stick around beyond this year, adding future draft capital helps, especially since the Nets previously didn't have a 2nd in 2019. Heck, there's a chance that pick could be the most valuable part of this trade depending on how the Knicks' rebuild looks by the end of next season. Having to waive the solid Sean Kilpatrick to create the roster spot and losing Booker's locker room presence are not insignificant repercussions, but overall you can't fault the process behind this move.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2017 NFL Week 13 Picks

Well, it was a nice run. After starting 11-3 in Week 12, Thursday night's dud means I've now lost the last three, all in prime time. Guess that just means I'm due to go another run. Since I’m out of town this weekend, I’ll keep things short.

Last week: 11-5
Season total: 95-81

49ers +3.5 at Bears

Vikings +2.5 at Falcons

Titans -7.5 versus Texans

Packers +1.5 versus Buccaneers

Broncos +0.5 at Dolphins

Patriots -8.5 at Bills

Ravens -2.5 versus Lions

Jaguars -9.5 versus Colts

Saints -3.5 versus Panthers

Chiefs -3.5 at Jets

Chargers -13.5 versus Browns

Raiders -6.5 versus Giants

Rams -6.5 at Cardinals

Eagles -5.5 at Seahawks

Steelers -5.5 at Bengals

Saturday, November 25, 2017

2017 NFL Week 12 Picks


Week 11 wasn't quite as good as I had hoped, but I was quite thankful for Thursday's results. It's back to a full slate now that every team has had a bye, so now is the time to separate from the pack at the top of my picks pool.

Last week: 8-6
Season total (counting the Thanksgiving games): 87-76

Titans -3.5 at Colts

Rishard Matthews' likely absence hurts, but facing the #26 pass defense in DVOA is a great bounce back spot for Marcus Mariota after a 10 day layoff. In fact, Tennessee's remaining schedule unfolds pretty nicely for them to secure their playoff spot in the open AFC field.

Falcons -8.5 versus Buccaneers

I was already going to say this is the week Julio Jones breaks loose in a big way for his fantasy owners, and that was even before I read that he has 68 catches for 1,110 yards and 8 touchdowns in 10 career games against Tampa. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been surprisingly effective thanks to poor competition, but I doubt he'll be able to keep pace in this game.

Browns +8.5 at Bengals

Sometimes it seems like Cleveland just wants to give away the cover with the way DeShone Kizer has turned the ball over late in games. I feel like a broken record, but Cincy's putrid offensive line going up against this solid defensive front should keep this one close, though. Give me the points.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

2017 NFL Week 11 Picks

Fresh off my best week of the season that won me the top prize in my picks pool, things are off to a good start again after Pittsburgh took care of business on Thursday. Let the good times roll!
Last week: 11-3
Season total: 76-70

Browns +7.5 versus Jaguars

Cleveland continues to give teams some trouble before falling apart late, but they're getting close and closer to that elusive first W. They probably won't get it here with rookie DeShone Kizer having to face this elite defense with the possibility of two backup tackles starting, but I think they can hang around at home, especially with Corey Coleman coming back healthy.

Saints -7.5 versus Redskins

I was tempted to take Washington because this New Orleans run is bound to end at some point, but with this game in the Superdome, the Saints wins will be marching in a bit longer most likely. The New Orleans defense is up to #5 in Football Outsiders DVOA to go along with the #2 offense thanks in part to remarkable balance since the Adrian Peterson trade.

Chiefs -10.5 at Giants

In case you forgot about Andy Reid's record coming off a bye, it's 16-2 straight up and 13-5 against the spread. New York just lost to the previously winless 49ers to fall to 1-8. Let's not overthink this one.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017 NFL Week 10 Picks

Just when I thought I was out, Jeremy Lane pulled me back in with that blocked extra point after Arizona's garbage time score on Thursday. I've been thinking about only posting my top picks of the week like last year, but I'm feeling better about this week after my Seahawks -5.5 pick was preserved.

Last week: 7-6
Season total: 65-67 

Saints -2.5 at Bills

This line seems fishy considering how both teams have performed recently, but the thing is that it already takes into account how much better Buffalo plays at home. With E.J. Gaines continuing to miss time, I don't think their defense holds up, though.

Steelers -10.5 at Colts

Speaking of home/road differences, I hate laying this many points with Pittsburgh on the road, but I have a hard time seeing Indy staying with them all the way through. After all, I saw how they almost blew the game against Tom Savage last week.

Lions -11.5 versus Browns

I was tempted to take the points here considering how Cleveland has hung in their games before last week's bye, but I think this is a get right spot for Detroit at home. Matthew Stafford is primed to win someone the Millionaire Maker in DraftKings here.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Phoenix finally ships off Eric Bledsoe

Here it is, the first NBA trade now that the season has started! This is what it looks like based on the report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe and BasketballInsiders.com's salary numbers:

Phoenix gets:
Greg Monroe$17,884,176
Milwaukee's 1st round pick (protected 1-10, 17-30 in '18; 1-3, 17-30 in '19; 1-7 in '20; then unprotected)
Milwaukee's 2nd round pick (protected 31-47 in '18 and then expires)

Milwaukee gets:
Eric Bledsoe$14,500,000$15,000,000

Those are some unique protections on the picks, but they make sense for a Suns team that doesn't necessarily want too many selections in this draft class alone. In addition to their own, they are likely to have Miami's 1st that's only top-7 protected, so it may be more useful to add the Bucks' 2019 1st when there are lighter protections. This upcoming draft has a lot of star power with DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III, and Mohamed Bamba likely at the top, but it's not as deep as this past class in the middle where the pick could fall. There's a decent chance that the Bledsoe addition will help Milwaukee finish among the best 13 records in the league to ensure that this year's 2nd will convey, as well, so this should end up being a solid trade package considering their lack of leverage in negotiations. Staying patient after sending the malcontent point guard home two weeks ago allowed them to increase their draft capital and pick up a solid veteran big man on a large, expiring contract. Monroe is still only 27 if things go well enough to keep him around during their continued rebuild, but it is more likely that they try to flip him again for more assets, potentially adding to the overall return for Bledsoe, or buy him out for some cost savings. This also freed up more cap space next year, so they can get to around $27 million in room depending on how they handle their non-guaranteed contracts and where the draft picks land.
Milwaukee now has some interesting back court combination options.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

2017 NFL Week 9 Picks

Last week saw a couple of misses by that darn half point, but that's OK. The process is getting back on track. WE CAN BUILD ON THIS! Or at least, I thought I could until I forgot how different Buffalo plays on the road and started the week off 0-1 yet again. Whoops.

Last week: 6-7
Season total: 58-61

Titans -3.5 versus Ravens

Hopefully the bye week allowed the balky hamstrings of Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, and Corey Davis to heal up and allow their offense to get back to peak efficiency after some fits and starts this year. The 10 days off also allowed Joe Flacco to get over the concussion after that scary hit on TNF, but you just can't trust their offense, especially on the road.

Jaguars -4.5 versus Bengals

So far, Jacksonville has been an every other game team, but does last week's bye mean they're back on schedule in an odd week? If that's not the hard hitting analysis you're here for, then I'll offer the fact that they lead the league in sacks while Cincinnati's offensive line is their biggest weakness.


Falcons +1.5 at Panthers

I went with Carolina last week on account of their stout defense's matchup with a suspect offense, but this time I don't think their offense can keep up with Atlanta's. Matt Ryan has had turnover issues so far this year, but if they get some positive regression to the mean in that area, they could go on a run.

Eagles -7.5 versus Broncos

It's Brock Osweiler starting on the road against the team with the best record? Yeah? You can't make the spread high enough.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

2017 NFL Week 8 Picks

I didn't tweet out my Thursday pick because I had no confidence in either team, but with optimism about Matt Moore after he led the comeback the previous week, I took the points with Miami. In a 40-0 game, safe to say that they fell just short of covering, so that's not going to help me in the standings after my worst week of the season and possibly ever. I think I might need a bye one of these weeks.

Last week: 5-10
Season total: 52-54

Vikings -9.5 "at" Browns (in London)

Cleveland losing their best player and franchise cornerstone Joe Thomas is a scary thought against Minnesota's fierce defense.

Panthers +2.5 at Buccaneers

Even after these teams had completely different types of games last week, I thought Carolina would be favored. Luke Kuechly clearing the concussion protocol only confirms that for me.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 NFL Week 7 Picks

Well, maybe getting the Thursday night game wrong again will get me back in the pattern of losing it before a winning week overall after a bizarre weekend that featured a record 15 non-offensive touchdowns. I knew Amari Cooper was too good to stay in a funk for much longer, but who could have envisioned 11 catches, 210 yards, and 2 touchdowns after he only had 18, 146, and 1 on the season up until that game!

Last week: 6-8
Season total: 47-44

Bills -3.5 versus Buccaneers

Jameis Winston getting cleared to start makes me less confident in this one, but Buffalo ranks 2nd in Football Outsiders DVOA compared to Tampa Bay at 31st. Jordan Matthews' possible return could aid in Tyrod Taylor's impressive home splits continuing against the struggling Bucs secondary, as well.

Titans -6.5 at Browns

The one pass defense ranked lower than Tampa in DVOA? Cleveland. Marcus Mariota looked good in his return on Monday even without his mobility in play, so I'd expect a big offensive performance from Tennessee here.


Panthers -3.5 at Bears

This low line feels like Luke Keuchly's concussion was already baked into it, and it's reasonable enough to lay the points with the better team. Chicago can't hide Mitchell Trubisky against good defenses forever.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2017-18 NBA Opening Night Power Rankings Part 2

Well that was some opening night between four of the top five teams in Part 1 of my preseason rankings. From the terrible Gordon Hayward injury to Kyrie Irving trying to hit another impossible 3 in LeBron James' face to try and sent an unlikely comeback to overtime, the first game had it it all, for better or worse. Then the Rockets weathered a Warriors storm to lead for only the opening and last minutes behind an electric James Harden performance and their defensive additions. Injuries to Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Omri Casspi before and during the game jumbled Golden State's rotations a bit; Pat McCaw's foot was on the line for a would be 3 in the final two minutes; and a crucial 0.6 seconds came off the clock on the first inbound attempt before Kevin Durant's near buzzer beater. Still, starting out 0-1 last year obviously wasn't a death sentence for them, and you can clearly tell what kind of team they will be. The bottom half of the league, not so much.

16. Charlotte Hornets (7th in the East) 36-46 
Point Differential: +0.2 (15th), Offense: 106.4 (14th), Defense: 106.1 (14th)

I mentioned often last year how they were 33-29 when Cody Zeller played and just 3-17 when he was out, but now that they added Dwight Howard, I'm curious to see how the big man rotation plays out. Nicolas Batum's injury to start the year obviously puts them behind the eight ball, but fill-in starter Jeremy Lamb has been a solid producer in his minutes, as her per 36 averages are 18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steal, and 0.8 blocks. They also drafted Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon to further solidify the wing depth, so with a balanced offense and defense, they should return to the playoffs.

17. Philadelphia 76ers (8th in the East) 28-54
Point Differential: -5.7 (27th), Offense: 100.7 (30th), Defense: 106.4 (T-17th)

Like the Clippers in the West, putting everyone's favorite sleeper team as the 8th seed is a hedge against injury concerns for Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and now even Markelle Fultz. Embiid may have only played 31 games last year, but his impact was evident as he had a +3.2 net rating when on the floor, the only Sixer in the positive besides Shawn Long, who only played 18 games. They apparently think enough of his health to give him a risky, partially protected max contract rather than maintaining around $39 million in cap room that already accounted for his $18.3 million cap hold next summer, so hopefully that's a good sign. Fultz's shooting struggles as he deals with his own ailments means he'll come off the bench to start, and that's fine considering the potential 3-and-D fit of Jerryd Bayless next to J.J. Redick. It should also help the playmaking development of Simmons and Fultz as they're split up to run the first and second units when they are at full strength. May the basketball gods be ever in their favor.


18. New Orleans Pelicans (10th in the West) 34-48 
Point Differential: -2.1 (22nd), Offense: 103.3 (T-25th), Defense: 104.9 (T-8th)

The grand big man experiment didn't quite go as planned since they went 11-14 after the trade for DeMarcus Cousins, including just 7-10 when Boogie played. The lineups with him and Anthony Davis were generally positive, though, and in the 376 minutes that they shared the floor with Jrue Holiday, the team had a +2.8 net rating. The utter lack of focus on surrounding them with shooters for spacing is confounding, though, and consider me skeptical that Dante Cunningham's 39.2% mark last season is for real since he only hit 31.2% the previous year after only being 2 for 38 in the first six years of his career. Maybe Ian Clark and Darius Miller will prove to be more than nice end of the bench options or Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo, who currently isn't healthy again, will show they have more left in the tank than what the market dictated, but they're on the outside looking in among playoff contenders for me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

2017-18 NBA Opening Night Power Rankings Part 1

Well what do you know: with the new elongated schedule, opening night is already here in the middle of October! It feels like just last month that the Warriors completed their dominant 16-1 postseason run, but after one of the most wild offseasons in recent memory, I can't wait to see how the new-look teams perform. My thoughts on each move are pretty well covered in my draft recap and two-part offseason tracker, so I'll keep things short here with an interesting statistic or two for each team, starting with the top half of the league due to who's opening tonight. Last year's final records and points per 100 possessions from NBA.com are listed for reference, but of course, a lot has certainly changed since then.

1. Golden State Warriors (1st in the West) 67-15
Point Differential: +11.6 (1st), Offense: 113.2 (1st), Defense: 101.1 (2nd)


And despite all of the maneuvering around the league, the defending champs are still the overwhelming favorites to repeat. To follow up on my hot take from June, I'll add the more reasonable prediction that Kevin Durant will join Stephen Curry with a second MVP as this team makes a strong case for the most talented group ever. The seemingly only flaw in his Warriors debut season was his penchant for pull up 3's: he shot just 24 of 92 (26.1%) in those situations compared to 91 of 215 (42.3%) on catch and shoot 3's, per NBA.com tracking. There's room for positive regression to the mean there since he made 194 of 489 (39.7%) pull ups the previous three seasons, and of course, the biggest shot of his career showed that the regular season shooting was likely an aberration.


2. Houston Rockets (2nd in the West) 55-27 
Point Differential: +5.8 (3rd), Offense: 111.8 (2nd), Defense: 106.4 (T-17th)

The Chris Paul trade made them perhaps the most fascinating team to watch due to the dynamic between him and James Harden, and the additions of versatile defensive forwards P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute provide strong depth to throw at opposing offenses. Besides how the star guards' assist totals are affected by playing together (ranked 1st and 4th in assists per game), I'm curious to see how Paul's mid-range game meshes on a team that famously devalued the shot since 41% of his field goal attempts came from that range last year, shooting an excellent 50.9%.

3. San Antonio Spurs (3rd in the West) 61-21 
Point Differential: +7.2 (2nd), Offense: 108.8 (7th), Defense: 100.9 (1st)

Add LaMarcus Aldridge's surprising extension after his much maligned end of the season to the recent list of odd decisions that takes them out of the free agency race next summer despite their sneaky appeal to the top stars. Perhaps his recent sit down with Gregg Popovich focused on the idea of him playing as a lone big man more often since they let Dewayne Dedmon leave, signed Rudy Gay, and have a guard orientated roster. That might be more of a curve ball for the playoffs, though, because Pau Gasol was re-signed to a larger deal than expected, and they were 30-9 when he started last year. Tony Parker coming back from ruptured quad some time in December at age 35 is a concern, but their main lineup of him, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge, and Gasol had a +7.4 net rating in 392 minutes. Plugging Patty Mills in for Parker actually bumped that up +24.1, albeit in only 86 minutes, while second year guard Dejounte Murray only logged 6 minutes with that group.

Friday, October 13, 2017

2017 NFL Week 6 Picks

Don't look now, but my self-deprecating reverse jinx actually worked to give me just my second Thursday night win in six weeks. Carson Wentz might not be able to keep making plays on 3rd and long for the whole season, but when the defense plays that well, he won't always have to. After basically treading water in my picks pool the last few weeks, hopefully this start will get things going.

Last week: 7-7
Season total: 41-36

Packers -3.5 at Vikings

What else is there left to say about Aaron Rodgers, really? Green Bay's tackle situation is still a concern when facing a defense like this, but as he showed on last week's game-winning drive, he can escape with the best of them. Furthermore, rookie Aaron Jones showed why #DraftTwitter was so high on him and he was a top add on fantasy waiver wires last week, so Rodgers might not have to do it all himself. I'm excited to see similar young running back Jerick McKinnon finally getting more work for Minnesota, but with Stefon Diggs rule out due to a groin issue again, their offense could struggle to keep up.

Texans -9.5 versus Browns

I'm still optimistic about young DeShone Kizer's long term upside once he learns more from the sideline, but Deshaun Watson is already showing why he should have been the first quarterback taken in April. Am I above going down narrative street with the cliche that Cleveland will regret trading with Houston for that pick? Nope, I'm definitely not. Losing both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus could hurt the Texans defense enough to keep this close, but Hue Jackson is in the midst of a 2-24 head coaching stretch exactly for calls like that 4th and 2 failure in a game they should've won last week.

Falcons -10.5 versus Dolphins

Jay Cutler is 58 of 98 for just 476 yards with 2 TD's and 3 interceptions in his last three games despite great passing matchups and openly admitted when signed out of retirement that he's out of shape. But it's a good thing he knows the offense from his one year with Adam Gase unlike Colin Kaepernick! Please. Oh, and he's now on the road against a team coming off a bye week that helped them get healthy, including star pass rusher Vic Beasley.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

2017 NFL Week 5 Picks

Once again, I hate Thursday night games. Can we talk about how Jameis Winston should have been called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the first play after Bill Belichick surprisingly punted from the 34 yard line? Either a safety or field goal there turns the 5 point win into a cover, but no, my hesitation around the Pats defense proved not to be overthinking it this time. On the other hand, that incredible backdoor cover by the Chiefs on Monday night will go down in Scott Van Pelt's Bad Beats lore, so I can't complain.
Last week: 9-7
Season total: 34-29

Titans -2.5 at Dolphins

I'm changing this one in the morning if Marcus Mariota is ruled inactive, but he got some practice work in throughout the week. If he can give it a go, Tennessee should feast on an unimposing defense, and Miami's inept offense is a bounce back opportunity after the Titans defense was walloped last week.

49ers +1.5 at Colts

San Francisco may be 0-4, but they've lost by just eight points combined the last three games and have covered the spread each time as a result. After improving their point differential at the end of regulation each game, here's their chance to actually be ahead when the clock strikes 0:00 since Andrew Luck is out at least another week. Having the much more athletic Solomon Thomas switch to the Leo defensive end instead of Arik Armstead (as initially expected when he was drafted) has the 49ers pass rush continuing to improve, so Jacoby Brissett might not have the time to put up enough points here.

Lions -3.5 versus Panthers

Despite being 3-1, I still don't trust either of these teams, but Detroit has been more consistent and is at home. Anthony Zettel has provided another pass rushing threat with Ziggy Ansah, and that's helped their pass coverage become a pleasant surprise, giving me some confidence in the cover. Cam Newton looked back to his MVP self for at least one game, but until he proves it consistently, I'm inclined to think it was more due to the struggling New England defense.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

2017 NFL Week 4 Picks

"What is...overthinking it, Alex?"


I'm going to keep it simple with the rest of these.
Last week: 9-7
Season total: 25-22

Saints -2.5 "at" Dolphins (in London)

I don't think either defense is that good, so give me the Drew Brees offense over Jay Cutler's, especially coming off an impressive road win.

Titans -1.5 at Texans

I continue to think Tennessee is the most well-rounded team in their division, and although Houston impressed on the road last week, they've yet to put together an overall complete game.

Bengals -3.5 at Browns

After another brutal loss, this is where Cincy gets their first win after improving every so slightly each week. As expected, OC Bill Lazor stayed committed to his best running back Joe Mixon and fed A.J. Green, whom Cleveland has no one to cover, so I'm looking for a breakout game here.

Vikings -2.5 versus Lions

After being scared off by Case Keenum's first start that was on the road, he inspired a lot more confidence at home last week, and I'm comfortable going with Minnesota's defense and running game anyway.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Digesting the Thunder's Melo Theft

Oklahoma City gets:
Carmelo Anthony$26,243,760$27,928,140

New York gets:
Enes Kanter$17,884,176$18,622,514
Doug McDermott$3,294,994
Bulls 2018 2nd

This NBA offseason has been full of stunners, and now that the trade was made official today, Carmelo Anthony choosing to waive his no-trade clause and trade kicker to move to Oklahoma City is right up there among them. And before you weep for Enes Kanter being traded away from a place he has been very outspoken, remember that the trade kicker he got when signing an offer sheet with Portland bumps his salary this year to $20,566,802 and he has a home in New York. Now let's look at this deal from each team's perspective.

The Knicks were obviously hoping for more at the beginning of this saga, but considering that their hands were tied by Anthony's ability to veto deals, this is better than nothing to help them towards a proper rebuild around Kristaps Porzingis. Although they weren't able to pick up an extra 1st round pick, Chicago's 2nd this year should be in the 30's as that team also rebuilds, and it helps make up for the fact that they don't control their own 2nd due to a pick swap. Kanter's bonus means that they're only saving just under $2.4 million this season, but even in the likely event that he picks up his option for next season (which is not affected by trade) they have gained $9.3 million in flexibility for that year. Perhaps they extend McDermott in the next few weeks or retain him in restricted free agency after seeing what they have in him, but the point is that they did well not to take on any long contracts like the Ryan Anderson one Houston was offering. The big man rotation next to and behind Porzingis is a bit crowded with Willy Hernangomez and Joakim Noah already in the fold, but Kanter can put up big scoring and rebounding numbers while his defense, or lack thereof, should help them tank. The same will likely be said about McDermott since he'll have plenty of opportunities at small forward on this team, and maybe more offensive freedom will help him show why he was a highly regarded, albeit overrated due to his lack of defensive tools, prospect coming out of college. They are both just 25 years old, so there is a chance this trade can be remembered for more than just helping the team achieve another high spot in the lottery.

This will take some getting used to.

Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 NFL Week 3 Picks

Last week got off to a good start on Sunday with Cam Newton missing Christian McCaffrey in the end zone leading to my only pick that didn't cover in the morning games, but my teams after that didn't perform up to expectations with the Packers fielding a MASH unit and the Giants struggling in all sorts of ways. Still, a winning week is a step in the right direction, and I'm planning on building on that here.

Last week: 10-6
Season total: 16-15

I had the 49ers +2.5 last night (I swear, I can even show a screenshot of my pick'em pool!) in what had to be the wildest Thursday Night Football game ever before the phantom offensive pass interference call stopped a comeback for the ages. San Francisco's defense looked gassed on just four days of rest after being on the field for 82 plays the previous game, but credit is due to Jared Goff for continuing his second year leap with an impressive performance back in his native Bay Area. Like I wrote before, the situation he's in now is basically a complete 180 from last season with an actual coaching staff, offensive line, and receivers.

Ravens -4.5 "at" Jaguars (in London)

An already decimated offensive line losing All-Pro guard Marshall Yanda is a concern for Baltimore. So is run-stuffing defensive lineman Brandon Williams being out this week. Starting running back Terrance West is questionable, as well. And you know what? You still can't convince me to back Blake Bortles against this ferocious defense in a game away from home, even if Jacksonville has been playing across the pond the last couple of years.
I have a feeling we'll be seeing more Ravens defenders with the ball in their hands.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 NFL Week 2 Picks

It wasn't a great start for my picks, and I was reminded a bit of why last season I switched to only posting my preferred plays rather than the full slate. After all, I wouldn't be betting each and every game if I was actually in Vegas since some games are clear stay-aways. I am participating in a picks pool on CBSSports.com, though, so for now, I'll continue to write a bit about why I made each pick according to the lines listed there rather than go in depth on a few.
I still can't believe Deshaun Watson ran for a 49 yard score on 3rd and freaking 15 one play removed from getting rocked from Geno Atkins. Tyler Eifert stepping out of bounds before his touchdown hurt, and now with the offense's struggles overall have leading to Bill Lazor now taking over as offensive coordinator, we'll see what this 0-2 team is really made of.

Chiefs -4.5 versus Eagles

I should have remembered how good Andy Reid is with extra time to prepare before laying the points against him last week, and even if this only 10 days rest, I like his chances against his old team back home in Arrowhead. The loss of star safety Eric Berry is devastating, but I think Kansas City can get enough of a pass rush to keep Carson Wentz from improving on his deep passes.

Titans -1.5 at Jaguars

Jacksonville's defense looked even better than I had hoped, which allowed them to take the ball out of Blake Bortles' hands and just feed Leonard Fournette. Facing a much better Tennessee offensive line, I think this will be a much more competitive game and will stick to my guns with the better quarterback here, Marcus Mariota.

Friday, September 8, 2017

2017 NFL Over/Under Picks: NFC, plus Week 1 Picks

Continuing on the first half of my Over/Under picks, I'm including my take on how each NFC team will do this season, how they finished last year, and what their expected win total was based on their points scored and allowed. I have brief picks for this opening weekend at the end, so let the games begin!

Seahawks over 10.5 wins
Last year: 10-5-1. Expected: 9.8-6.2

Although the offensive line is always a cause for concern, Seattle looks poised to make another run at the Super Bowl thanks to an unbelievable defense and a healthy Russell Wilson. Keeping their star quarterback upright will be a challenge now that former basketball player turned tight end turned left tackle tore his ACL and last year's third round pick, Rees Odhiambo, is moving back to his college position after competing for the left guard spot a season ago. Counting on last year's first round pick Germain Ifedi kicking back out to right tackle after failing at guard is also a concern, so Wilson will likely have to rely once more on his mobility that was limited from the start of the season last year due to ankle and knee issues. When he is able to make throws, he could put up the best numbers of his career since Doug Baldwin has proven to be a #1 receiver, Jimmy Graham came back from his torn patellar tendon amazingly well, and Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson have shown flashes of dynamic playmaking ability when healthy. With running back Chris Carson looking like a seventh round find, Thomas Rawls seemingly fully recovered from his 2015 fractured ankle, and C.J. Prosise a strong third down option, they have options in the backfield in case free agent flier Eddie Lacy can't hit his weight requirements. 

There could be a lot of celebrations this year.
Even if the offensive line limits the amount of points they put up, there shouldn't be many required thanks to what is likely the best defense in the league, especially with the recent trade for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson making up for top pick Malik McDowell missing time due to a car accident. That could make their pass rush unstoppable when they go into the nickel and shift Michael Bennett inside to bookend Cliff Avril with Frank Clark, who had 10 sacks last year as the third defensive end. Combine that with arguably the best pair of off-ball linebackers, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, shutting down the run and a full year of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at safety, and it's hard to spot any weaknesses to exploit. The corner depth behind Richard Sherman could be the target with DeShawn Shead still recovering from a torn ACL, but they must feel comfortable with former nickelback Jeremy Lane and third round pick Shaq Griffin since they traded away Tramaine Brock a couple weeks after signing him.

Packers over 10 wins
Last year: 10-6. Expected: 9-7

Green Bay has made the playoffs eight straight years, have averaged just five losses during that sizable sample, and have a certain quarterback named Aaron Rodgers, whom I would consider the favorite for MVP every year, so I'm comfortable taking the Over. Replacing the occasionally spectacular Jared Cook with the more reliable Martellus Bennett at tight end and having Ty Montgomery at running back for the full season should make the offense more consistent without having to rely on Rodgers being a magician. Jordy Nelson remains an elite receiver and is another year removed from his torn ACL, Davante Adams broke out for 12 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards, and Randall Cobb is in line for a bounce back year after averaging six catches for sixty-five yards the first six games before a hamstring injury limited him the rest of the season.

The improvement of a defense that got torched through the air is what will determine their playoff success, and they used their first two draft picks on cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones, who are both exceptional athletes. Since they have one of the best pairs of safeties in the league, the latter will likely fill the versatile role of the departed Micah Hyde while the former could be a starter opposite prodigal son Davon House. Third year corners Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins should still be in the mix after struggling with injuries and consistency last year, but the most important thing will likely be a pass rush that is trying to replace Julius Peppers with late addition Ahmad Brooks in sub-packages. Mike Daniels provides penetration inside, but they'll need starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry to be at their best in order to generate pressure off the edge and get off the field.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017 NFL Over/Under Picks: AFC

Labor Day has come and gone, so it is officially time for the NFL season to start. That means in addition to cheering for your teams both real and fantasy, it's time for some fun making picks thanks to the good folks in Vegas! I was 19-13 in predictions for teams' win totals last year before finishing 60-44-3 against the spread, so I'm going to start with those again. Along with my picks, I'm including last year's record and Pro Football Reference's Expected W-L records based on points scored and allowed. First up, the AFC with the defending champs.

Patriots over 12.5 wins
Last year: 14-2. Expected: 12.7-3.3

There's a reason they are the heavy favorites to repeat, and after going 14-2 last year despite Tom Brady's bogus 4 game suspension, I have no reason to doubt them. Yes, Julian Edelman tearing his ACL is a painful blow as Brady's most trusted target, but Rob Gronkowski is now fully healthy with Brandin Cooks added to the fold to lift the lid off defenses and Chris Hogan a year into the system. Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead should more than make up for the loss of LeGarrette Blount as part of a deep running back committee with Dion Lewis and James White behind a great offensive line, and unlike other teams who would fall well short of expectations should anything befall their quarterback, New England can count on Jimmy Garoppolo as a backup. This total is so high that I probably wouldn't bet it, but for the sake of this post, I'm comfortable taking the Over.

Defensively, the surprising choice to splurge on cornerback Stephon Gilmore rather than give Malcolm Butler a new contract or re-sign the reliable Logan Ryan does provide a short term upgrade in a good secondary. They'll need fourth round rookie Deatrich Wise and sneaky late addition Cassius Marsh to help out last year's fourth round find Trey Flowers in providing a pass rush for those DBs, but otherwise the front seven is a stout unit. They finished 3rd in rushing yards allowed and 5th in Football Outsiders' rush defense DVOA, so whether or not they need to blitz in order to get pressure is really the only question about this team overall. In the end, I think history repeats itself, and the most talented team and best coach go back-to-back to make it 3 out 4 like they did in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
Look for these two to connect on the most TDs in the league.
Steelers over 10.5 wins
Last year: 11-5. Expected: 9.9-6.1

The Killer B's are back together now that Martavis Bryant was officially reinstated to provide another threat alongside Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger, and with a top-notch line in front of them, this offense will be devastating as long as all of them are on the field. That is always the concern given the injury history of Big Ben and Bell, while suspensions tend to loom around the latter and Bryant, as well. Right now, though, it looks like all systems go for this team to put up points early and often.

Playing with a lead will help this defense that came alive after their Week 8 bye thanks in large part to blitzing 43% of the time in the second half of the season. Former first round pick Bud Dupree erupted for 4.5 sacks over the last four weeks of the season after being activated off of IR in Week 11, and they picked T.J. Watt in this year's first round to bookend him as an edge rusher. The defensive line held their own against the run, so if blitzers can tee off in obvious passing situations, opponents will have a tough time attacking a secondary that has some potential with Joe Haden recently joining Artie Burns at corner. Given that there might have been a little luck in going 5-2 in one-score games last year to outperform their expected record, the Over might be a bit close, but I think they'll hit it based on their track record.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Unpacking the Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas Swap

Boston gets:
Kyrie Irving$18,868,626$20,099,189$21,329,752

Cleveland gets:
Isaiah Thomas$6,261,395
Jae Crowder$6,796,117$7,305,825$7,815,533
Ante Žižić$1,645,200$1,952,760$2,281,800$3,872,215
Brooklyn's 2018 1st

Just when I had really switched into football mode and thought my updates were done, the NBA news cycle came storming back to life on a random Tuesday afternoon in August. Now that Shams has confirmed the deal is done, let's peel back the different layers of this trade. Starting with the simple stuff, Cleveland goes from paying about $220.3 million between payroll and the Luxury Tax to just over $197 million by my math. This difference of just $4.2 million in salaries makes a huge difference because they are dealing with the repeater penalty and in such high tax brackets, so it's no chump change they're saving. With the contracts of Edy Tavares and Kay Felder not fully guaranteed, the final number could end up being $184.8 million once rosters are cut down to 15.

In terms of future value, Irving is only 25 years old and has another year left on his contract before he can opt out in the summer of 2019, which left him without a ton of leverage when this trade request saga started since he's not an immediate flight risk. Comparatively, Thomas is expecting a max contract after this season when he'll be 29, and that is a risky proposition for teams given how small guards tend to age. Crowder, who just turned 27 last month, is on one of the best contracts in the league with under $22 million owed over three years, though, and Zizic is just about to start his rookie contract at only 20 years old after being the 23rd pick in last year's draft. The true value of this trade of course hinges on the Nets pick, and I've stated a couple of times that Boston shouldn't overvalue it since Brooklyn is trending upward. They still have the Lakers/Kings premium 1st and picks coming from the Clippers and Grizzlies anyway, and you never know how or when prospects will develop with their Finals caliber team.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sifting through Kyrie and Melo Trade Ideas

When Brian Windhorst broke the story that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, it was like the shot heard round the world with all sorts of reactions. Does he have that much of an ego that he wants to leave a team that's gone to three straight Finals and won a title just because he's tired of living in LeBron James' shadow? What leverage does he really have to force a trade since he can't opt for free agency until the summer of 2019? If he wants to be the franchise player again, couldn't he just wait it out until next season with all of the rumblings that James is going to move to LA? That last part might be an underrated factor in his thinking since he saw first hand how bad the roster can be when left in shambles after the King's departure: Irving was just 64-117 in games he played while the team was 78-152 overall his first three seasons. He doesn't want to be the last one left at the party, and after the underrated David Griffin wasn't re-signed (because Dan Gilbert never gives GMs second contracts), the dysfunction of the team led to this request that was even more shocking than his flat Earth take.


The Trade Machine is everyone's favorite toy, so I came up with my own quick 3-team deal like so many on Twitter did, not really expecting a perennial Finals contender to actually break up like this. However, more of these details coming out over the weekend kept adding fuel added to the fire, Zach Lowe indicated that Irving's relationship with the team is almost frayed beyond repair, and Joe Vardon's story on Derrick Rose choosing Cleveland had some damning evidence about the team's intentions. The two sides apparently came to a deal after "discussing how the team will return to the Finals without Kyrie Irving" and with Rose "looking at a potential starting spot in the same lineup with LeBron James, now that Irving has asked for a trade and James is eager to see him off." Yikes, I guess that means we should think of more trade ideas! Even if I think he's a bit overrated and unlikely to be a true best player on a title contender as something of a one-dimensional player, that singular outstanding talent of shot-making is likely enticing to a lot of teams out there.

Friday, July 7, 2017

2017 NBA Offseason Running Blog, Part 2

Now that the moratorium ended yesterday and the first week of signings and trades produced such a large page already, I decided it's time to start a new post. Again, I'll be including outside links to the reports, adding to it with new moves and my thoughts on them within the day (and usually the hour) of what occurred, and noting whenever any updates came out on previous sections. Free agent salaries are my estimates based on reports and standard 5% or 8% raises while current salaries are from BasketballInsiders.com with the colors indicating player optionteam option, or not fully guaranteed.

Celtics and Pistons swap Bradley and Morris (Shams)

Boston gets:
Marcus Morris$5,000,000$5,375,000

Detroit gets:
Avery Bradley$8,808,989
2019 2nd round pick

At long last, there is the required move by Danny Ainge to have enough cap space to sign Gordon Hayward to a max contract after Jordan Mickey's non-guaranteed deal is waived. That would be the easiest corresponding move compared to keeping Guerschon Yabusele stashed or trading Demetrius Jackson's partial guarantee somewhere, especially since Mickey hasn't shown much in just 198 minutes through two years. It is disappointing that Ainge didn't have this contingency trade lined up ahead of Hayward's decision so that he wouldn't be operating out of a desperate position, and he's paying for it now with a 2nd (I would guess they're sending back the Detroit pick they own) attached as a sweetener in a salary dump. Although I'm not surprised that Bradley's the one sent out because he's about to become a lot more expensive next year, I did think that they'd get a better deal out of it. Morris does come with an extra year of control at a cheap price and brings some needed size to a roster lacking power forwards, but his poor defensive rebounding will only make Boston's struggles in that area worse. At least his solid outside shot and passing will fit in with Brad Stevens' offense, and he's only going to be 28 this season.
It's funny, when I looked at the numbers the other day and tweeted what the Celtics could take back in salary to create the required room, the cheap deal for Morris did jump out at me, but I didn't really mention it for a couple of reasons. First, my concerns above about the fit in Boston, but I didn't think Detroit would add an asset to Morris in order to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whom they could just re-sign. Turns out I was wrong about which direction the extra throw-in would be going! It would seem that Bradley was in fact brought in to replace KCP, though, since they play similar roles as lockdown defenders of either guard spot who can do a bit more offensively than typical 3-and-D players. Between trading for Bradley, signing Langston Galloway, and drafting Luke Kennard, the writing seems to be on the wall, so this year might be a trial run to evaluate what they have before deciding to pay up for Bradley next summer. Furthermore, any match of a large offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope is even more unlikely with them now only around $15 million away from the hard cap that they put on themselves by using the majority of the full Mid-Level Exception on Galloway.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

2017 NBA Offseason Running Blog

Are you not entertained? In a lot of ways, the NBA Offseason really is its own spectator sport with all of the competition, surprises, and drama involved, but rather than live-tweeting it, I'm going to attempt to track what's going on in this post with outside links to who broke the details and information about current salaries from BasketballInsiders.com (colors mean player option, team option, or not fully guaranteed). Being posted at 10:15 AM PST on July 1st, I've started to add in my commentary alongside my estimates of what the contracts will look like based on reports (max salaries should be pretty set in stone, though), and I'll be updating it throughout the week. The official salary cap was set at $99,093,000 last night, locking in what max salaries can start at, and now we're off!

Utah picks up Rubio before midnight hits (Jones)

Jazz get:
Ricky Rubio$14,250,000$14,950,000

Timberwolves get:
Thunder 2018 1st round pick (top-14 protected through 2020 before becoming 2020 and 2021 2nd round picks)

Ever since the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, I tried thinking of what teams have both the need and means to acquire Rubio, and Utah stood out with their 2016/2017 cap space expiring once the new league year starts and the uncertainty around Gordon Hayward, George Hill, and Joe Ingles. Zach Lowe reported shortly afterwards that their was interest there. Deadlines spur actions, as Andrew Brandt likes to say, so when talks heated up yesterday, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Jazz secured at least part of their back court at a fair price that I accurately guessed. Now they have a point guard who is four and a half years younger, a better playmakers, a comparable defender, and cheaper than what Hill, a far superior shooter, would have cost after a failed renegotiation and extension fell through during the year. Although it is complicated with Hayward reportedly wanting Hill to stay but also sharing the same agent as Ingles, who would plunge them deep into the Luxury Tax if re-signed with the other two all at market value, this does make sure they are secured at the position ahead of their pitch for him, and in the doomsday scenario of losing their star wing, they can now rely on Rubio to run the offense with Rodney Hood and either Dante Exum, Alec Burks, or rookie Donovan Mitchell.

For Minnesota, it is unfortunate that they had to move on from a valuable player that was often the heartbeat of the team, but with Tom Thibodeau never seemingly a fan and the need for shooting around Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns, the writing was on the wall. Getting a 1st for next year, albeit with protections, is important since they owe a similarly protected pick to Atlanta from the failed Adreian Payne trade, and they have playoff aspirations next year that would mean losing it. Although Rubio had an undervalued contract for the next two years, moving him also brings their max possible cap space to over $32 million as they seek a new point guard and more shooting at forward.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Fascinating Mechanics of the CP3 Trade

Rockets get:

16-1717-18
Chris Paul$22,868,828$24,268,959

Clippers get:

16-1717-1818-19
Lou Williams$7,000,000$7,000,000
Patrick Beverley$6,000,000$5,513,514$5,027,028
Sam Dekker$1,720,560$1,794,600$2,760,095
Montrezl Harrell$1,045,000$1,471,382
DeAndre Liggins$1,015,696$1,577,230
Darrun Hilliard$874,636$1,471,382
Kyle Wiltjer$543,471$1,312,611
Houston's 2018 1st round pick (top-3 protected)
$661K in cash

These are the final details of this morning's #Wojbomb that Chris Paul has decided to join the Houston Rockets, but there were a lot of steps to get to this point in the waning days before the new league year starts. Chief among them was Paul facilitating the trade by opting into the last year of his contract and reducing his trade kicker from $3.6 million to $661K, which LA technically has to pay but is being offset by the cash Houston is sending. However, after trying to grasp the idea of CP3 playing with fellow top-10 player James Harden (we'll get to that), my next thought was that the initial terms of the trade weren't legal from the Rockets' side of things. And then more details emerged that demonstrated the salary cap genius of Daryl Morey and the Rockets front office that I'll try and summarize here.