Business
400
Sports
317
Sport
610
Politica
663
SBNation.com - All Posts
unread news (Demo user)
SBNation.com - All Posts
unread news (Demo user)
Will CC Sabathia be the last MLB pitcher to win 250 games?
CC Sabathia reached a milestone on Wednesday with his six strong innings against Tampa Bay. The Yankees left-hander earned the victory, making Sabathia the 48th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win 250 games. The postgame conversation included a lot of Hall of Fame talk for Sabathia, who also reached 3,000 career strikeouts earlier in 2019, expected to be his final season. Twelve of the previous 13 pitchers with at least 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts are in Cooperstown, with only PED taint keeping Roger Clemens out. “I think he’s a lock,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, per MLB.com. “This is it for him. I think in five years, they come calling.” For years any time a pitcher would reach 300 wins, many folks would wonder if he would be the last 300-game winner. Randy Johnson, who reached 300 wins in 2009, was the last to do so. Now the question might be if anyone else after Sabathia will even get to 250 wins. Starting pitchers aren’t pitching as deep as they used to these days, making wins harder to come by. The average start in MLB in 2019 is 5.31 innings, down from 5.97 just five years ago, in 2014. Starters getting two fewer outs, on average, has resulted in fewer wins — in 2014, starters got a win in 35.1% of their starts, compared to just 31.0% this year. Here are baseball’s active win leaders, after Sabathia. Bartolo Colon in theory has the best shot at 250, needing only three more wins. But even though he pitched in the majors last year and won seven games with Texas, Colon isn’t currently pitching in any big league organization, and he’s also 46 years old. The only other active 200-game winner is Justin Verlander, who might have the real best shot. He’s only 37 wins shy, and is still excellent in his age-36 season. He has a 2.59 ERA and leads the majors in WHIP this season (0.743), and already has nine wins in 2019. Under contract through 2021 with the Astros, Verlander might very well reach 250 wins before hitting free agency. Zack Greinke is 35, and sitting in a good spot at 195 wins. His ERA is only 2.65 this year, and he’s won eight games. Even if he wins another 10 games in the rest of 2019, can Greinke get the other 45 wins in his age 36-38 seasons, which would match his total from ages 32-34? Clayton Kershaw still has age on his side at just 31 years. He has more work to do, but already getting to 160 wins puts him in a good spot. But then again, 90 wins is an awful lot, especially for someone who has been on the injured list in five of the last six seasons. Consider that Sabathia, who like Kershaw reached the majors at age 20 and was an innings horse for years, had 191 wins through his age 31 season. It took Sabathia seven more seasons to reach 250. Injuries and decline phases can wreck the best of intentions. So enjoy these 250 wins for Sabathia, and marvel if or when the next pitcher reaches the milestone, because it won’t be easy.
7 h
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
How the Celtics went from future rulers of the NBA to rebuilding in 2 years
The 15 steps Boston basketball took to rise and fall before reachIng greatness. The Boston Celtics spent three years building a well-advertised future juggernaut that never really contended, and now that foundation is all but gone. With the news that the Celtics are preparing to lose both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford this summer, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Boston basketball is in shambles. With its two best players gone and cap space only available to recoup one star over the summer, the Celtics may have their cards played out for them. After holding tight to young forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum while running for a title, they may become the star pieces of a rebuild instead. This isn’t what GM Danny Ainge and the Celtics wanted. The fever-pitch dream that the collection of assets gained from the 2013 trade with the Nets would coalesce into a perennial title contender is over. Back-to-back years of signing premier free agents and drafting prospects with star-potential will amount to zero NBA Finals appearances, much less titles. Here’s how the Celtics failed to go from good to great. June, 2017: The Celtics miss on Paul George In pursuit of adding another superstar, GM Danny Ainge reportedly offered the Brooklyn Nets’ pick which eventually turned into the No. 1 selection for George before the 2017 trade deadline. The Pacers passed. Then, on draft night, the team offered three first-round picks and two starters (one being Jae Crowder) to get George, per Jeff Goodman. Why didn’t Boston offer more of its war chest for George? Several factors contributed, including the fear of George being a one-year rental and the forthcoming addition of Gordon Hayward in free agency. But the unexpected news that the salary cap number would come in lower than initially projected also made it difficult for the Celtics to script a scenario where they got both George and Hayward. In a sense, they had to choose one or the other. In the end, the Celtics’ initial offer was strong, but Indiana ultimately accepted a deal with the Thunder before free agency officially began. Aug. 22, 2017: The Celtics trade Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving But later that summer, Boston got its star. Ainge executed a controversial deal when he shipped fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas in a package for a younger and more proven superstar in Irving. The Cavaliers guard had requested a trade in the month prior, and Ainge took a gamble by dealing the leading scorer from a 53-win team, along with solid role player Jae Crowder and the final Brooklyn unprotected first-round pick. Thomas’s health was in question, though, after suffering a hip injury that kept him out of the last three-and-a-half games of the Eastern Conference Finals. In the end, he didn’t return for the Cavaliers until midway through the 2017-18 season. Thomas was a fraction of himself at that point, and was subsequently traded to the Lakers after 15 games. From a purely basketball perspective, this deal turned into a robbery for Boston. Oct. 18, 2017: Gordon Hayward fractures his tibia In the opening quarter of the Celtics’ first season with its championship-ready roster, Hayward suffered an infamously gruesome injury. A fractured tibia and dislocated ankle ended his season before it really began and robbed Boston of its prized free-agent acquisition. He missed the rest of the season and hasn’t been the same player since. March 24, 2018: Kyrie Irving’s knee trouble The Celtics stayed near the top of the East despite losing Hayward, but their luck changed when Irving had a “minimally-invasive procedure to remove a tension wire in his left knee.” The procedure was related to the torn patella he suffered in the 2015 Finals, and though he was only supposed to miss six weeks at most, he was eventually ruled out for the season. May 2018: The Celtics go on a postseason run anyway Despite losing two stars, Horford, along with the kids — Brown, Tatum, and Terry Rozier — went on a postseason run that shocked most. They knocked off the Bucks in seven games in the first round, the Sixers in five in the second, and fell just short to LeBron’s Cavaliers in seven. Tatum averaged 19 points per game, Brown 18, Rozier 17 and Horford 16. Surely a healthy Celtics team could win it all. June/July 2018: The Celtics refuse to offer the pieces to land Kawhi Leonard Leonard’s trade request was complicated and messy, and his long-term desires and health status were murky at best. In Ainge’s mind, trading for a player who’d seen the floor just nine games in the season prior was a risk, and that risk only multiplied with Leonard set to become an unrestricted free agent. So, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Boston refused to add either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown into an offer for the inevitable Finals MVP. That looks like a bad decision now. Oct. 4, 2018: Irving pledges his commitment to the Celtics Unprompted, Irving told a TD Garden audience before the season begun that he’d re-sign with the team when his contract expired in 2019. “I’ve shared it with some of my teammates as well as the organization as well as everyone else in Boston. If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year,” he said. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.” - @KyrieIrving pic.twitter.com/0wDLzuv5WL— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 4, 2018 (Oops!) Nov. 12, 2018: Irving sounds off, Part 1 After a loss in Portland dropped Boston to a 7-6 record, Irving threw shade at his teammates. “We’re not as good as we think we are,” Irving said. “That’s what it comes down to.” Then he stated the need for an older presence. “Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet” Irving said. “A 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint.” Nov. 20, 2018: Hayward offers to come off the bench Hayward’s recovery from injury was slow and trying. He offered to play a role off the bench, and Boston obliged. But according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Hayward’s play, and the way coach Brad Stevens handled his return from injury, was at the root of the Celtics locker room problems. “You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could in a tough situation,” MacMullan said in an NBC Sports Boston video. “But I really think that’s where it started. They were force-feeding him on his teammates. Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well. He wanted to get him his confidence back. “He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room,” MacMullan said. Jan. 12, 2019: Irving sounds off, Part 2 In the closing seconds of a road game against Orlando, Irving wasn’t given the last-second shot. The ball landed in Jayson Tatum’s hands instead, and he missed a baseline fadeaway. After the game, Irving went off. “The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team,” Irving said, per Yahoo’s Keith Smith. “What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the Finals?” “There were no expectations last year. Everyone played free and easy. Everyone surpassed whatever they expected for themselves. This year? We all have high expectations. The players, the coaches, everyone. And that’s good, but we aren’t doing it yet.” Jan. 17, 2019: Irving apologizes to LeBron James Just days after his meltdown after Tatum’s missed shot, Irving stole the spotlight from his Boston teammates, who’d just beaten the inevitable champion Raptors by nine points. Unprompted, Irving told the media he made up with James after the trade request from Cleveland. “I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold. I wanted to be all that and the responsibility of being the best in the world, and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people. Bron was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship.” Feb. 1, 2019: Irving goes back on his verbal promise Four months after he said he’d re-sign in Boston, Kyrie, while in New York for a game against a Knicks team linked heavily with him in free agency, changed his mind. “I don’t owe anybody shit.” Feb. 10, 2019: Marcus Morris said the team isn’t fun Here's the full exchange Kyrie Irving had with reporters about that video with Kevin Durant: pic.twitter.com/diVTWWmYEd— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 21, 2019 Morale sunk another notch when Morris spoke out after a loss to the Clippers, in which Boston forfeited a 28-point lead to lose by 11, “We don’t have no attitude. We don’t have no toughness. We ain’t having fun. It’s going to be a long season.” ▶️ Marcus Morris Sr. keeps it real about the Celtics loss and how he feels the team has been playing lately pic.twitter.com/AakcU4ag7i— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 10, 2019 “I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench, they’re jumping on the court, they’re doing all other stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates’ success,” Morris said. “They’re enjoying everything and they’re playing together and they’re playing to win. And when I look at us, I just see a bunch of individuals. “It hasn’t been fun for a long time.” Feb. 20, 2019: Kyrie doesn’t like questioning about conversation with Kevin Durant Later, Irving sounded off on a reporter who asked about a conversation that went viral between Kevin Durant and the Celtics star during the All-Star break. Fans presumed it was an impromptu free agency discussion. In the discourse (which can be seen here) Irving questions the legitimacy of the internet, the question, why he needs to explain himself, and more. “Is the internet real for you in your life? It’s my life, right? It’s two people talking, having a conversation. If this was the real world would it be anybody else’s business? But it’s a video of somebody assuming what we’re talking about, right? So why would I care about it? Why does that have an impact on my life?” The full transcript is here: Here's the full exchange Kyrie Irving had with reporters about that video with Kevin Durant: pic.twitter.com/diVTWWmYEd— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 21, 2019 May 2019: The Celtics lost to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games After routing Milwaukee in Game 1, Boston fell meekly the next four games to end its disappointing season. Irving shot a dismal 35 percent from the field in the five games, scoring 20 points on 21 shots per game. Boston may have been as close to fully healthy as it had been in years, but its spirit was broken and they were exposed against a much better team. That was the beginning of the end. Rumors soon followed that Irving was likely to sign with the Nets this summer, the Celtics lost out on Anthony Davis, and now Horford’s departure seems like a foregone conclusion. The Celtics as we knew them are over. Nothing about this team ever felt right. Now, Irving and Horford are likely packing their bags and leaving the Celtics to ponder what might have been.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Why each AFC East team will go over and under their Vegas win total in 2019
Vegas win totals are set for the 2019 season. With teams through their offseason workout program, it’s time to consider where each team will land. The true NFL offseason is officially upon us. Mandatory minicamp has come to a close and players from all 32 teams have gone their separate ways. Most players will get some vacation time in while continuing to work out in preparation for the return to training camp in late July. Once training camp arrives, the road to Super Bowl 54 begins in earnest. Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie. Below are win totals for the four teams in the NFC West. The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 11 wins for the Patriots, the payout is -140 (you bet $140 to win $100). If you bet the under, the payout is +120 (you bet $100 to win $120). That means the over is the favorite. Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not. Now that roster overhauls are mostly complete and teams have finished up spring workouts, we took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter. New England Patriots: 11 (-140, +120) — Pats Pulpit Why over: Fun (at least when you’re from the northeastern regions of the country) fact: over the ten-year span since Tom Brady returned from an ACL tear that cost him all of 2008, the Patriots averaged 11.3 wins per regular season. The only times they failed to win more than 11 came in 2009, Brady’s first season back, and last year when they went 11-5. So just going by probabilities, you should take the over. The Patriots have also shown in 2018 that the dynasty is still alive and well. And while the team has suffered considerable losses since winning the Super Bowl, Brady, Belichick, and company should never be betted against – especially considering that they will go against three divisions this year that are projected to be rather inconsistent: the AFC and NFC East as well as the AFC North. Why under: Before lifting the Lombardi Trophy to cap the 2018 season, the Patriots won 11 regular season games. Problem is – at least as things stand today – that the team has gotten worse since then: gone are Rob Gronkowski, Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and seven assistant coaches. Drafting N’Keal Harry in round one should help a bit, yes, but Bill Belichick and company still need to do a mighty fine job of getting him and the rest of the offseason acquisitions up to speed quickly to help replace Gronkowski, Flowers and company. If they fail to do that to a sufficient degree, or if the injury bug bites key players such as Tom Brady, New England could very well fall below 11 victories for the first time since 2009. New York Jets: 7.5 (-110, -110) — Gang Green Nation Why over: They’ve invested heavily on both sides of the ball, but those offensive investments are what could get this team up to .500 or better. Adding Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, and Kelechi Osemele are key talent infusions, and Sam Darnold is coming off a solid rookie year that was overshadowed by Baker Mayfield. The on-field additions are big, but the move to new head coach Adam Gase could be the key in 2019. We saw all sorts of drama between him and Mike Maccagnan before the latter was abruptly fired in May. This roster is not yet built for sustained long-term success, or even clear-cut playoff contender success, but there’s enough talent on the table to get this team to .500. Why under: The Jets have made some solid additions via the draft, but the bulk of their impact additions have been free agent signings. The talent is intriguing, but focusing roster-building on overpaying in free agency is something that often does not pay significant dividends. Add in the drama surrounding Gase-Maccagnan and Gase’s track record as a head coach, and things could go south in a hurry. Buffalo Bills: 6.5 (-130, +110) — Buffalo Rumblings Why over: The Bills will not be playoff contenders in 2019, but their offseason additions point to a team that could easily get the one more win necessary over 2018 to hit the over. They surrounded Josh Allen with upgrades at virtually every single position, and while the ceilings for some of those players are relatively low long-term, they are solid additions for 2019. Veteran tackle Ty Nsekhe, guard Spencer Long, and center Mitch Morse will help, and rookie guard Cody Ford is a solid core addition. The Bills added defensive tackle Ed Oliver through the draft. They are coming off a -5 turnover differential, and if that number can move back toward the mean, this is a team that could flirt with .500. Why under: The biggest question mark could be the ground game. The team added notable veteran Frank Gore to the backfield and drafted Devin Singletary in the third round. Those two plus LeSean McCoy don’t exactly wow for the time being. If the ground game is ineffective and the offense is laid on Josh Allen’s shoulders, things could get ugly. Miami Dolphins: 5 (Even, -120) — The Phinsider Why over: The Dolphins have more talent than people realize, especially as everyone lost to injury last year begins returning this year. Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, and Brice Butler are a solid wide receiver group that can have periods of domination when they start using their speed. Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage should be a powerful 1-2 at running back. Mike Gesicki should grow into his role as the starting tight end in his second season. Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Bobby McCain make up four of the five defensive backs positions - then add in TJ. McDonald who can play up the box as a thumping safety/linebacker mix. Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker, and Kiko Alonso are solid linebackers when they are put in the right role - and McMillan and Baker are just growing into the NFL. There is a lot of talent that just needs to be put together - plus the addition of Josh Rosen. Why under: The offensive line is still a giant question mark, the pass rush has to be discovered still, and the Dolphins are getting really young, really fast. If position groups and the entire offense/defense are not able to come together, or any of the young players are unable to live up to expectations, it could be a long year. At quarterback, the Dolphins will either be relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick and hoping for Fitzmagic more than Fitztragic, or on Rosen and hoping he learned as a rookie in Arizona and will now play like the franchise quarterback he may be. If neither quarterback can do those things, Miami will struggle to find their way to five wins.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Pelicans’ most intriguing NBA Draft decision isn’t the No. 1 overall pick
Here are some of the options New Orleans has when it comes to the No. 4 overall pick. After agreeing to trade away superstar Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Orleans Pelicans gained the No. 4 pick, their second high selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. Winning the draft lottery last month means they’ll have Zion Williamson land in their hands at No. 1, but the Pelicans now have multiple options for handling the No. 4 selection. They can move the pick for either a young player or trade down for more assets, and there is also the chance they just keep No. 4 to themselves and select a sidekick to help out Williamson. Let’s take a look at their choices. 1. OPTION 1: Keep the pick This is the easiest and simplest option for New Orleans. If the Pelicans keep the pick, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter should be at the top of their draft board. Culver, who is one of the more unique prospects in the draft, is a versatile wing defender who can make plays off the pick-and-roll. He would give the Pelicans an extra ball handler on the floor and would do well in a supporting role. Hunter would be a big help on the defensive end with his 7’2 wingspan. Like Culver, he can switch on the perimeter and hold his own. Offensively, he’s an efficient scorer, with a true shooting percentage of nearly 62. Hunter displayed some ability to stretch the floor at 43.8 percent. However he did it with a small sample size, taking only 5.6 three-point attempts per 100 possessions, as opposed to Culver, who took 7.7 attempts per 100 possessions. Head coach Alvin Gentry can get creative with the Pelicans frontcourt lineups and possibly run a duo of Hunter at power forward and Williamson at center. Both players can contribute right away and be long-term partners alongside Williamson as the future of the franchise. Anyone the Pelicans take at No. 4 would be on the same timeline as Zion and grow along with him. OPTION 2: Trade for an established player With their current roster, it’s not out of line to believe the Pelicans could make a run for the playoffs. Williamson will be able to contribute from day one. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are solid young players, if not better than that. Incumbent guard Jrue Holiday has been one of the best two-way guards in the league. If things turn right for the Pelicans, they should be in the playoff mix. Adding a young, but established veteran to this group would only strengthen their chances. Players like Chicago Zach LaVine or Washington Bradley Beal would give the Pelicans a scoring boost and help spread the floor with their three-point shooting. As the main bucket getter for Chicago last season, LaVine showed a major uptick in production and scoring efficiency. His true shooting and effective field goal percentages both went up by more than six points last season. Although he has his problems defensively, LaVine would fit in with the timeline of this Pelicans team at 24 years old, and can excel in a role where he doesn’t have to do all the work offensively. Beal was in a similar position at Washington. With the loss of John Wall, he completely took over the reins as Washington’s main offensive option, averaging nearly 26 points per game on a slightly above average 58.1 true shooting percentage. A decent three-point shooter as well, Beal will be the top offensive options for the Pelicans, but won’t have to do it all by himself. Problem is, New Orleans probably has to give up more than just the fourth overall pick to get either. Although the fourth pick would certainly go a long way in helping the Wizards or Bulls contend again, they’d have to give up a key piece of their own core for it. It’s also worth noting the Wizards want to keep Beal and reportedly will offer him a three-year, $111 million contract extension. One other possible trade target is Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, as noted by SB Nation’s Pelicans blog The Bird Writes. The 23-year-old Gordon put up impressive numbers in Orlando last season, averaging 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for a playoff team. He also showed defenses have to at least account for him on the perimeter, shooting a career high 35 percent from three. Gordon also has elite talent defensively, both on and off the ball. The on-court fit with Williamson could get murky because Gordon is not a dead-eye shooter, but lineup flexibility is one luxury to having Williamson. It’s also fun to imagine the combination of Ball’s passing ability and two players who can play above the rim like Williamson and Gordon. Expect a lot of alley-oops in New Orleans if that happens. OPTION 3: Trade for more picks If the Pelicans want to cash in on the No. 4 pick but don’t want to get back a single player in return, they can always trade down in this draft. It never hurts to acquire more picks and get more chances to land a good role player. There are two teams with multiple picks inside the first round of the draft who could swing a deal with New Orleans. The Atlanta Hawks is in the middle of a rebuild of their own with the trio of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and John Collins. They currently have picks No. 8 and No. 10, along with No. 17, which they acquired from Brooklyn. By packaging both top-ten picks to the Pelicans, Atlanta could be in prime position to land a player like Culver or Hunter. Then, the Pelicans can take multiple swings on some high upside players, such as Duke’s Cam Reddish or Georgian center Goga Bitzade. New Orleans could also deal with Boston, who has the No. 14 and No. 20 selections from the Kings and the Clippers, respectively, as well as their own pick at No. 22. Now that the Celtics must pivot to building around young forwards Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they’ll be looking to build a supporting cast for the future. Perhaps they’d be tempted to trade up. With the Davis trade complete, new Pelicans team president David Griffin can now focus on the future. He have a potential superstar in Williamson, and with it comes flexibility in constructing the Pelicans’ roster. It’s no secret multiple teams are interested in the No. 4 pick, so Griffin has options when it comes to possible trades. Which one will they choose? It’ll depend on when the Pelicans believe their window to contend actually starts.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Mike Conley trade shows the Jazz are going for it, and now is the perfect time
The Jazz are serious, and they should be. This has the potential to be a huge addition. The Jazz pulled off the most predictable trade of pre-draft szn, adding an All-Star caliber point guard in Mike Conley to their bare-bones backcourt. Utah sent Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, pick No. 23 in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a protected 2020 first-rounder to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the ultimate floor general and veteran point guard. The trade legitimizes a Jazz team that has always been one piece short of elevating itself to the Western Conference’s elite. Since Utah drafted Donovan Mitchell two summers ago, they have been a two-man show, with an act split between the physics-defying guard and their rim-protecting Frenchman, Rudy Gobert. With those two, Utah was already the proverbial team no West opponent wanted to face in the playoffs. Now, they’ve added the best possible help by bringing in a battle-tested veteran point guard with miles on miles of basketball left in the tank. The Jazz are going for it, and there’s no better time to do it than now. When you survey the Western Conference, it only makes sense the Jazz go for gold. The Warriors will almost certainly not win an NBA championship next season — not with potential season-ending injuries to both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, if both even re-sign in free agency. Golden State’s stranglehold on the Western Conference throne has loosened, and there is no team in the conference that is a sure bet to replace them, Lakers included. Under coach Quin Snyder, Utah has perennially been one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, but they’ve lacked an offensive playmaker outside of Mitchell. That has allowed defenses to key in on the young guard, leading to back-to-back inefficient shooting seasons. Those defenses will have to figure something else out now. Mitchell has some help. What more can I say about my city! You guys made me the man I am today! Memphis is home. Always! ..Time for another chapter! Excited to give all I have to The Jazz and the city of Utah! #LetsGetIt #GodsPlan #takenote — Mike Conley (@mconley11) June 19, 2019 Conley is an upgrade from Ricky Rubio. He can create his own shot and is a reliable perimeter shooter, especially in crunch time. He’s not as pesky as Rubio, but Conley is still an elite defender and as smart a player as you’ll find in the league. For a player like Mitchell, who recorded the NBA’s 7th-highest usage percentage last season, this is a breath of fresh air. He no longer has to create everything for Utah’s offense. It will be an adjustment, but one that benefits Mitchell in the long run. The trade isn’t perfect. Conley hasn’t played 80 games in a season since 2012-13 and has a history of foot trouble. The Jazz will have to manage his load similar to the way Toronto managed Kawhi Leonard’s this season. Conley will also be 32 years old when this season begins. With two years left on his contract, this was a move for a Utah team that clearly prioritizes right now over the distant future. The Jazz also had to give up key rotation players and draft picks to land their new point guard. Memphis, per sources, will listen to offers on the first-rounder (23rd) acquired in the Conley deal.And, protections on the future first from Utah:-Pick will convey to Memphis is 2020 or 2021 if it falls between 8-14-if it doesn’t, protected 1-6 in ‘22,, 1-3 in ‘23, 1 in ‘24.— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) June 19, 2019 But scared money don’t make no money. The present is all anyone has, and presently, the Jazz are in position to compete for their deepest playoff run yet. Utah went for it, ensuring they get Mitchell some help as he enters the early prime of his promising career. At the end of the day, that’s all their fans can ask.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Utah’s window of opportunity is wide open
Kyle Whittingham’s Utes have improved just as the rest of their division has regressed. Just a bit more improvement could mean their first Pac-12 title. Bill C’s annual preview series of every FBS team in college football continues. Catch up here! A mere seven years ago, the Golden State Warriors were a basketball afterthought. They had some intriguing young talent, but they had just finished up their fourth consecutive losing season and had been to the playoffs only once in 19 years. There wasn’t much history here — they hadn’t been to even a Western Conference final since 1976 — and there was definitely no blue-blood status. We of course know what happened in the years that followed. The Warriors built a sustainable core thanks in part to outstanding talent evaluation. Stephen Curry was the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, Klay Thompson was No. 11 in 2011, and future NBA defensive player of the year Draymond Green was the No. 35 pick in 2012. They found other useful pieces like Harrison Barnes (No. 7 in 2012) and Festus Ezeli (No. 30 in 2012) in the draft as well. A power vacuum briefly formed in the usually-tough Western Conference. The Lakers got old and cratered. The Spurs and Mavericks began to show their age as well. Teams like the Grizzlies, Clippers, and Nuggets found a glass ceiling. The Spurs and Thunder were still particularly good, but this was not the murderer’s row it had once been. When the Warriors found a window of opportunity, they took advantage. They upset the third-seeded Nuggets in 2013 and nearly did the same to the Clippers the next year. In 2015, smoked the Pelicans and Grizzlies, beat up another upstart club (the Rockets) in the Western Conference Finals, and beat a banged up Cavaliers team in six games to win the NBA title. They lost the next year but found a way to fit Kevin Durant’s contract under the cap, then won the next two titles as well. Watching the Warriors in the 2019 playoffs — they made the finals again but lost to the Raptors, due in part to injuries to Durant and Thompson, and now free agency might be about to rip apart the core of the roster — got me thinking a lot about windows of opportunity. There is no draft in college football, and there’s definitely no free agency (at least, not exactly). Still, there’s a similar process for changing your lot in life: Build a sustainable core/system. Watch for power vacuums. When one appears, take advantage. Utah has very much accomplished steps one and two at the moment. Kyle Whittingham’s Utes landed in the Pac-12 at an awkward time. They had become the shining star of the Mountain West in the 2000s, bowling for eight straight years and going unbeaten with BCS bowl wins in both 2004 and 2008. The Utes had already begun to slide, however, when the Pac-12 called. They had regressed in each of their last two years in the MWC, and the slide continued in their first two seasons a power conference. They bottomed out at 58th, with a 5-7 record, in 2012. They rebounded in 2013 but appeared to hit a ceiling, ranking between 35th and 38th for four straight years. But just as the Pac-12 South as a whole began to lose its bearings — USC went through three coaches in four years, Jim Mora’s UCLA build went sideways, and the Arizona schools failed to sustain 2013-15 momentum — Utah surged. The Utes rose to 25th in 2017, and while their 7-6 record didn’t yet belie their improvement, it did in 2018. With a team loaded with underclassmen, the Utes improved to 17th, and after competitive early losses to both Washington schools, they ripped off seven wins in their final eight regular seasons games to earn their first South crown. Just as their division rivals sank, they rose. Based on average S&P+ win projections, here are your projected South standings heading into 2019: Utah 6.4 projected conference wins (8.9 wins overall) USC 5.0 (6.5) Arizona State 4.6 (6.7) Arizona 4.0 (6.2) UCLA 3.9 (4.9) Colorado 2.8 (4.8) Unless USC’s remodeled offense erupts, Utah is a heavy favorite to repeat. The Utes are projected favorites in 11 of 12 games, and they would be favorites in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon or Stanford and merely a slight underdog against Washington. Utah is just a couple of ifs away from fielding a top-15 (or better) team at a time when its division mates are struggling to get their respective acts together. There are quite a few key seniors on this squad, but recruiting has improved slightly in recent years, and they appear more capable of replacing key talent than they once were. This, friends, is what we call a window of opportunity. We’ll see if the Utes can take advantage. Offense On the field, personnel changes are minimal for Utah this year. Quarterbacks Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley both return, as do 1,000-yard rusher Zack Moss and seven of last year’s top eight receivers. The line loses basically 2.5 starters, but 2.5 return, too. There is one pretty big change, though. Offensive coordinator Troy Taylor was named head coach at Sacramento State, and Whittingham replaced him with an old friend: Andy Ludwig. Ludwig was Whittingham’s first OC hire back in 2005 before moving on to Cal, San Diego State, Wisconsin, and eventually Vanderbilt in the years that followed. In four years at Vandy, he improved the Commodores from 120th in Off. S&P+ in his first year to 24th, their best ranking since 1987, in his fourth. Veteran quarterback Kyle Shurmur allowed Ludwig to establish his preferred pass-first approach, and back Ke’Shawn Vaughn was one of the country’s most explosive players. Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports Zack Moss Zack Moss isn’t quite as explosive as Vaughn (few are), but he’s more efficient, and he does still pack a pop in the open field. He rushed for 1,096 yards in just nine games before injuring his knee, and he should be healthy this fall. So, too, should junior Devonta’e Henry-Cole, a change-of-pace speedster who missed 2018. Moss is listed at 222 pounds, and Utah’s likely line rotation might not feature a single player listed at under 310. Four returnees boast starting experience (led by tackle Darrin Paulo’s 26 career starts), and Whittingham added two beefy transfers in Washington State’s Noah Osur-Myers (6’4, 310) and Marshall’s Alex Locklear (6’5, 330). Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Tyler Huntley Whittingham’s teams are typically defined by their physicality, and when Utah runs the ball, you’re going to feel it. Still, Ludwig’s happy place is in a pass-first universe. We’ll find out if Tyler Huntley is ready to live in that universe. Huntley broke his collar bone in an upset loss to Arizona State — he and Moss both missed the last five games — and replacement Jason Shelley looked alright in closing out the Pac-12 South title. But Utah scored just 23 combined points against Washington and Northwestern to end the year, and it appears this is Huntley’s job to lose. Pre-injury, Huntley appeared to have taken a huge step forward in his development. He had completed 73 percent of his passes, with a 176.6 passer rating, as Utah topped 40 points in four straight conference wins before the collar bone cracked. The receiving corps had a lot to do with that uptick. Britain Covey is a solid option out of the slot, but fellow slot man Jaylen Dixon took huge strides throughout his freshman campaign (with Shelley behind center, he caught 21 balls for 303 yards in his last four games), and wideouts Samson Nacua and Demari Simpkins had their moments, too. They all return, as do sophomore tight ends Brant Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham (combined: 37 catches, 417 yards) and sophomore wideout Solomon Enis (13 catches, 179 yards). This is the deepest receiving corps Utah has had since joining the Pac-12. Ludwig could have some fun. Defense Offensive improvement was maybe the biggest driver of Utah’s recent overall upgrade. That’s mainly because the defense was already good. The Utes improved back to 19th in Def. S&P+ last year, seventh time in the top 25 under Whittingham. Longtime assistant Morgan Talley took over as coordinator in 2016, and Utah’s defensive success has continued apace. In a conference with quite a few strong running backs, Utah’s 2018 defense was defined by its ability to blow up your run game. The Utes were eighth in rushing marginal efficiency allowed and second in stuff rate, stopping 28 percent of opposing rushes at or behind the line. That the defensive line returns wholly intact is a pretty good sign that this dominance will continue. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Bradlee Anae A foursome of disruptive ends returns, led by senior Bradlee Anae (15.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 18.5 run stuffs), but the tackle position sets Utah apart. Seniors John Penisini (6’2, 320) and Leki Fotu (6’5, 330) are utterly enormous, and junior backup Pita Tonga (6’1, 300) isn’t exactly small. Penisini and Fotu both eat up blockers and make plays — they combined for 12.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and 20 stuffs, and they made life pretty easy for a pair of rampant linebackers, Chase Hansen and Cody Barton (combined: 32.5 TFLs, nine sacks, 43.5 run stuffs!!, 13 passes defensed). Hansen and Barton are both gone, but Whittingham has done his best to reload on the fly. He returns senior rover Francis Bernard and has added three transfers: former Penn State star Manny Bowen, former UCLA blue-chipper Mique Juarez, and Stanford sophomore Sione Lund. The bar is awfully high, but there’s still lots of talent at LB. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Julian Blackmon Question marks arise in the secondary. Despite a decent pass rush, Utah was only 43rd in passing marginal efficiency, 36th on passing downs. They did an outstanding job of forcing third-and-longs, but they’d let you off the hook occasionally. And that was WITH starting safeties Corrion Ballard and Marquise Blair. Corner Julian Blackmon has apparently moved to safety, and undersized nickel Javelin Guidry is a honey badger-style playmaker (3.5 TFLs, 10 passes defensed). And the secondary could get a nice boost if Nevada transfer Nephi Sewell (6 TFLs) is granted immediate eligibility. (No decision has yet been made, it appears.) Veteran corner Jaylon Johnson picked off four passes last year, and overall the experience is solid. But the secondary still bears most of the burden of proof on this defense. Special Teams There’s no other way to put it: Whittingham has mastered special teams. The Utes have ranked in the Special Teams S&P+ top 10 for five straight years (they were first last fall) and in the top 20 for 12 of Whit’s 14 seasons in charge. This is a constant source of strength, to the point where they can lose an amazing punter (Mitch Wishnowsky) and place-kicker (Matt Gay), and my response is, “Eh, they’re fine.” Until proven otherwise, Utah gets the benefit of the doubt here, even if at least a little bit of a drop off is likely. 2019 outlook 2019 Schedule & Projection Factors Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability 29-Aug at BYU 50 7.2 66% 7-Sep Northern Illinois 76 18.5 86% 14-Sep Idaho State NR 39.5 99% 20-Sep at USC 29 2.1 55% 28-Sep Washington State 36 9.0 70% 12-Oct at Oregon State 105 22.3 90% 19-Oct Arizona State 49 12.0 76% 26-Oct California 60 14.4 80% 2-Nov at Washington 15 -4.8 39% 16-Nov UCLA 63 14.8 80% 23-Nov at Arizona 52 7.4 67% 30-Nov Colorado 68 16.1 82% Projected S&P+ Rk 17 Proj. Off. / Def. Rk 27 / 20 Projected wins 8.9 Five-Year S&P+ Rk 11.9 (26) 2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 40 2018 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -5 / -0.6 2018 TO Luck/Game -1.6 Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 75% (90%, 59%) 2018 Second-order wins (difference) 9.2 (-0.2) If nothing else, S&P+ projections give you a sense of a team’s margin for error. Utah has a lot of it. Not only are the Utes projected favorites in 11 games, but only one of those wins has a projected margin under seven points (2.1 points at USC). Granted, if they do lose at USC, their most likely division challenger, that erases a good percentage of said margin for error. But they head into 2019 with far more of it than anyone else in the South. Seriously, what an opportunity here. Utah might never have a better chance of winning the Pac-12 and reaching the Rose Bowl (or better!). There are a couple of big-time pieces to replace on defense, and any time you change offensive coordinators there could be some growing pains. But Utah’s window of opportunity is open, and it’s up to the Utes to take advantage of it. Team preview stats All 2019 preview data to date.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Celtics will be fine
Building around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? It could be worse. Don’t cry for the Boston Celtics. Sure, their biggest free agent splash of the decade — Gordon Hayward — suffered a horrific injury in his very first game with the team and hasn’t been close to the same since, despite the Celtics pushing him to the forefront of their gameplan. Sure, their second biggest free agent splash and actual biggest free agent acquisition of this era — Al Horford — appears to be walking away amid a contract impasse this summer. Sure, foundational superstar Kyrie Irving, acquired in a blockbuster trade two summers ago, appears to be walking away in free agency to join a division rival. Sure, the Celtics failed to acquire Anthony Davis, the generational superstar Boston has been lusting after for half a decade. Sure, the Celtics watched their mortal enemies, the Los Angeles Lakers, add Davis to their team. But don’t cry for the Boston Celtics. This is brutal blow after brutal blow after brutal blow, to be sure. The dreams of the Celtics becoming the NBA’s next superpower are dead. That’s not happening after Boston loses both Irving and Horford for nothing, after missing out on Davis, and assuming that Hayward doesn’t transform back into the player he was three years ago. The lightning is out of the bottle. But the room isn’t dark. The Celtics still have Jaylen Brown (age 22) and Jayson Tatum (age 21) on rookie deals. The Celtics have three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 20, and 22) in Thursday’s NBA draft. Marcus Smart, one of the league’s premier perimeter stoppers, is on a team-friendly contract. Boston has a future Grizzlies draft pick that will become unprotected in 2021 if it hasn’t been conveyed by then. The Celtics will have loads of cap space this summer assuming Irving and Horford both do walk. They have Danny Ainge and one of the most well-respected front offices in the league. They have Brad Stevens, still a well-respected coach even if a bit of shine came off this year. The Celtics are going to be fine. We’ll see what tact Ainge and the Celtics deal with the triptych of picks on Thursday and the rest of this free agency sprint. Boston could continue to hunt big game — there are suggestions that the Celtics could chase Bradley Beal by packaging picks and a prospect to the Wizards — or that Ainge could slide into the free agency mix. The most intriguing path, though, is the path of least resistance: simply resetting expectations and building around Tatum and Brown. Remember that a huge reason for the Celtics’ sure ascendance was the way the team looked with Irving and Hayward out of commission at the end of the 2017-18 season and through a plump playoff run. Tatum looked like a future All-NBA caliber player. Brown looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year. Stevens looked like a genius. Of course, that team had Horford, an integral defender on a team that relied on defense, and Horford is a special player that will be mighty difficult to replace. But Boston has time. Tatum regressed this season — the old sophomore slump hit him — but there’s nothing structurally wrong with his game. It’s a matter of refinement and role. He’ll learn to take better shots. Assuming the C’s don’t keep Irving and don’t add another ball-dominant guard, Tatum’s role will be back in a more natural place as a No. 1 or 2 scorer. Brown finished the season really strong and looked like the most valuable Celtics at times during the playoffs. His combination of intelligence and athleticism is hard to match among young wings — not because there aren’t many other smart young wings, but because Brown is so cerebral. Ainge doesn’t nail every draft pick, but Boston is among the better teams in that realm. (Leveraging the No. 1 pick in the year Markelle Fultz was the consensus No. 1 pick into Tatum and this year’s No. 14 pick is a nice win.) One expects that with three picks on Thursday, the Celtics will come out with something of good value, whether it’s a single prospect Ainge trades up for, a couple of lesser prospects, or a veteran trade target like Clint Capela. Another reason everyone was so high on Boston was the fragility of the Eastern Conference. That hasn’t changed. The Raptors are champions, but there’s no indication as to whether Kawhi Leonard will remain. The superteam Knicks aren’t going to happen, after all. The Sixers and Bucks remain strong, but have major, major free agency tests to pass in the coming weeks. Even with everything falling apart, the Celtics do not appear to be at major risk of falling down to No. 9 or worse. They won’t be the favorite barring a major swing, but they will remain in the mix even if they reset. This isn’t how the Celtics or the Celtics fandom expected things to go in 2019. On the whole, it’s a bad beat. But that’s relative to expectations. Reset those, and it all looks a little brighter. The Celtics probably won’t be great for at least a couple more years, if then. But the Celtics will be fine. Take solace in that.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Why each NFC West team will go over and under their Vegas win total in 2019
Vegas win totals are set for the 2019 season. With teams through their offseason workout program, it’s time to consider where each team will land. The true NFL offseason is officially upon us. Mandatory minicamp has come to a close and players from all 32 teams have gone their separate ways. Most players will get some vacation time in while continuing to work out in preparation for the return to training camp in late July. Once training camp arrives, the road to Super Bowl 54 begins in earnest. Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie. Below are win totals for the four teams in the NFC West. The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 10.5 wins for the Rams, the payout is +120 (you bet $100 to win $120). If you bet the under, the payout is -140 (you bet $140 to win $100). That means the under is the favorite. Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not. Now that roster overhauls are mostly complete and teams have finished up spring workouts, we took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter. Los Angeles Rams: 10.5 (+120, -140) — Turf Show Times Why over: Continued improvement from long-term core and health. While the Rams are coming off of a “Super Bowl or bust” season that saw them reach that pinnacle, they’re now beginning a process that will see them shed several significant veterans. LG Rodger Saffold III, C John Sullivan, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Mark Barron and S Lamarcus Joyner all found new homes this offseason. Next year’s potential crop of departures include LT Andrew Whitworth, DT Michael Brockers, EDGE Dante Fowler Jr., CB Aqib Talib and/or CB Marcus Peters. While the Rams are hoping young depth can help address some of those departures, the likely source for keeping the team as competitive as it has been will be their long-term core. The Rams have already signed six players aside from rookies beyond the 2020 season: WR Robert Woods, RT Rob Havenstein, P Johnny Hekker, WR Brandin Cooks, RB Todd Gurley and DT Aaron Donald. Throw in QB Jared Goff and you have a core of Rams that will need to drive the team for years to come. They’ll need to be the ones to deliver in big games to ensure the Rams’ success. If they can continue to improve their individual performances for this season and remain healthy, there’s reason to think they can deliver another season of 11 wins or more. It’s also going to require health. While the Rams have been arguably the healthiest team in the NFL over the past three seasons, last year’s ACL injury to WR Cooper Kupp was a major issue for the offense. His return should be a major boost, but similarly the Rams must avoid similar injuries to core contributors. Why under: Performance decline, OL transition, health. If improved performances from the core are a key to the over, a potential decline could be the reason the Rams take a major step back. Obviously, the first target here would be QB Jared Goff. After a disastrous rookie season, Goff made huge improvements year-to-year from 2016 to 2017 to 2018. Should he take another leap in 2019, the Rams will almost certainly hit the over; however, a step back would be a major impediment and revive the catcalls of a “system quarterback” moniker that plagued Goff in 2018. To a similar yet lesser degree, should the core have a performance blip, it could hold the team back albeit to varied degrees. Hekker had a performance blip in 2018. Another in 2019 or an even worse season would raise significant questions and concerns. Havenstein, Cooks and Woods are key cogs in the wheel but have less individual impact because of their positions. The idea of a performance blip from Aaron Donald is probably not worth concern. One from Todd Gurley though is. With the way his regular season and postseason ended and the Rams trading up into the third round to take a rookie running back, there’s reason to think Gurley could take a major step back in quantity and perhaps quality. There’s also the nature of the offensive line transition. The Rams will have new starters at left guard and center. Their right guard, Austin Blythe, is hardly set in stone. And Whitworth is heading into his final season. While that transition to a new left tackle isn’t perhaps relevant to the win-loss total in 2019, his turning 38 in December might spark fears that Father Time catches up to Big Whit before his career is over. And of course there’s always the unpredictability of injury. Should the Rams lose key contributors for long stretches of time and their replacements fail to provide adequate fill-in performances, injuries could do in the 2019 Rams as they have so many teams before. Seattle Seahawks: 8.5 (-140, +120) — Field Gulls Why over: Russell Wilson has proven time and again how much he can carry this team, securing double digit wins in six of his seven years at the helm — and nine in the one other season. The Seahawks saw significant turnover this offseason, but as long as Wilson is in town, the team remains a contender. Making Wilson’s life all the better? The offensive line’s improvement last season. A line needs talent, but getting rid of coach Tom Cable following the 2017 has proven critical to improving the line. If it continues at this pace, Wilson will be in great shape and the team can find some balance between the run and pass. Why under: The turnover this offseason hit the defense most significantly. The team traded away dominant pass rusher Frank Clark and parted ways with long-time veteran safety Earl Thomas and nickel back Justin Coleman. They have found some potentially valuable replacements on defense, but the unit has a lot to prove after years of dominance. With a tough schedule on tap for 2019, Seattle’s defense is counting on a lot of players taking a step forward this season. San Francisco 49ers: 8 (-110, -110) — Niners Nation Why over: Health. Jimmy Garoppolo plays a full season to his potential. George Kittle somehow gets better. Dante Pettis takes the next step, and the stable of running backs are too much for defenses to handle. The 49ers added two receivers early on in the draft. If Kyle Shanahan thinks you can play, you probably can. If the team can get early contributions from them, they’ll go over. On defense, the complete makeover of the front four leads to turnovers and short fields for the offense. Dee Ford is as good as the team thinks, and Nick Bosa has a superb rookie year. The defense isn’t lights out but they are streaky and get timely stops. With a “last place schedule,” the 49ers are able to fight for a playoff berth. Why under: While the pass-rush improves, the secondary doesn’t take a step forward. The growing pains continue opposite of Richard Sherman. The injury bug bites the secondary again and players are forced to play that shouldn’t be playing. The team regrets not selecting anyone in the secondary until Day 3 of the draft. The linebackers are exposed in coverage and the defense can’t get off the field. Offensively, gunslinger Jimmy makes more mistakes than you’d like in a full season. The interior offensive line’s play takes a step back and that’s a big reason for the down year on offense. Mike Person reverts back to the play that’s led him to be a journeymen. Arizona Cardinals: 5 (-130, +110) — Revenge of the Birds Why over: The Cardinals are taking a huge risk and are gambling on an Air Raid college head coach with a losing record to be able to implement a system in that has been lightly used and concepts scraped from, but not really tried at the NFL level. Yet, there are few offensive minds in football as respected as Kliff Kingsbury, he was able to create a team offensively in his own vision and he has a defensive coordinator in Vance Joseph that can and has won in the NFL. The unknown makes the under easy, but the potential makes the juice on the over sweet. Why under: It is a former college head coach who was a legend coaching at his alma mater, Texas Tech, who was fired because he could not win. Most successful college coaches struggle to transition to the NFL, why on earth would a failed college head coach work? Add in star cornerback Patrick Peterson’s absence for the first six games, and a lot could go wrong for this team.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Tell us your name and we’ll give you a personal NBA scouting report
It’s 100 percent accurate! With the NBA Draft only a few days away, there are only a few more days to pour over mock drafts as well as pray to the basketball gods about who you want your team to select. You’ve probably watched a lot of highlight tapes on YouTube as well as read the numerous breakdowns on numerous players. You know all about their strength and weaknesses to the tee as well as what their ceilings/floors as a prospect. But what if you could find out an NBA scouting report about yourself? Well luckily for you, SB Nation has developed another scouting report generator which is sure to give you the most accurate scouting report about you as an NBA prospect. Find out the skills you have to help your potential team now and what you need to improve on moving forward. Who knows, some of these things might even have to do with events on the court. Trust us when we say that this is 100 percent accurate and nothing less. Try it out and share it with your friends! If the generator is not showing up for you, click here! And if you want to read about the actual NBA Draft, here you go: NBA mock draft: Zion Williamson and Ja Morant know where they’re going. Then it gets interesting Find the perfect NBA draft prospect for your team Jarrett Culver is the NBA Draft’s most versatile prospect after Zion Williamson Coby White is the NBA draft speedster built for buckets Bol Bol’s star potential in the NBA Draft is worth gambling on Who is the real Cam Reddish?
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Bengals’ 7 playoff losses under Marvin Lewis, ranked by how soul-crushing they were
The Bungles just continue to break their fans’ hearts. Normally, there’s no reason to talk about the Bengals during the offseason, but former coach Marvin Lewis opened up an opportunity. In an interview with CBS Radio, Lewis said that he doesn’t miss the NFL and that he doesn’t think he’ll ever return. More importantly, Lewis was asked about his 0-7 postseason record with the Bengals, to which he gave a succinct answer: “The other team ended up with more points.” Bold. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since January 1991, when they beat the Houston Oilers 41-14 in the Wild Card Round. They’ve never won a Super Bowl and have consistently been one of the worst teams in the postseason over the past 50 years. With the St. Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup last night, the #Bengals move into fourth place on the list of oldest franchises in the 4 major sports without a title.Texas Rangers -- 1961Minnesota Vikings -- 1961Atlanta Falcons -- 1965Bengals -- 1968— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) June 13, 2019 Lewis does deserve some credit for making the Bengals competitive — they went 12 straight seasons, from 1991-2002, without a winning record before Lewis was hired. He could never get them over the hump in the postseason, though. They finally moved on from Lewis this offseason after 16 seasons and not a single win in the playoffs. But which loss was THE worst for Bengals fans? Here are the seven postseason losses of the Marvin Lewis tenure, all from the Wild Card Round, ranked by how Bengal-y they are. 7. Jan. 4, 2015: Adam Vinatieri kicked the Bengals out of the playoffs Andrew Luck threw for 376 yards and a touchdown in a 26-10 playoff win over the Bengals following the 2014 regular season. The Bengals only scored one touchdown: 1-yard run by Jeremy Hill at the end of the first quarter. It was a slow, painful loss for the Bengals. The Colts would drive down the field, stall out in the red zone, and kick a field goal. The Bengals struggled to pick up first downs and ended up punting eight times; the Colts only punted four times. Adam Vinatieri kicked four field goals while the Colts’ defense held the Bengals to just 254 total yards on offense. The Bengals farted around and watched themselves lose via 1,000 paper cuts. 6. Jan. 5, 2014: The Chargers didn’t even need Philip Rivers to blow out the Bengals During the 2013 NFL season, Cincinnati got pummeled by the three-headed running back monster of Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, and Danny Woodhead in the playoffs. The trio combined for 36 carries, 183 yards, and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard run by Brown with 2:37 left to push the Chargers’ lead to 27-10. Andy Dalton managed to throw for 334 yards, but it took him 51 attempts to get there and he tossed two interceptions along the way. The Chargers’ ground game was so good that Philip Rivers didn’t have to do much. Rivers only threw 16 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. That’s all the then-San Diego Chargers needed from Rivers to put away the Bengals. The Chargers haven’t exactly been playoff stalwart over the years — they also haven’t won a Super Bowl — but this win in Cincinnati was one of their best appearances in the postseason. 5. Jan. 5, 2013: Cincinnati wasted a good defensive performance against Houston The Bengals just could not get out of their own way during their 19-13 Wild Card Round loss to the Texans in the 2012 season. Despite getting an interception return for a touchdown from Leon Hall and holding the Texans to one offensive touchdown, the Bengals were unable to pull it out. Dalton put up a brutal performance, throwing for 127 yards and an interception on 30 attempts. The Bengals went 0-for-9 on third down and only held the ball for 21 minutes of game time. What makes the loss worse is the fact that the Texans don’t have a great track record in the playoffs themselves. In the franchise’s 17-season existence, they’ve only beaten the Bengals (twice) and the Connor Cook-led Oakland Raiders. This loss just added more salt to the wound. 4. Jan. 9, 2010: The Bengals let Mark Sanchez dice them up Mark Sanchez only attempted 15 passes against the Bengals in the 2010 Wild Card Round, but he sure did make the most of them. He completed 12 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown — that gave him a passer rating of 139.4, which was easily a career high. Running backs Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones combined for 169 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to push the Jets to a 24-14 win in Cincinnati. Like just about every playoff game under Lewis, the Bengals didn’t get quality quarterback play. Carson Palmer threw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 58.3, which ended up being his final playoff game in a Bengals uniform. Palmer did eventually get a playoff win with the Cardinals during the 2015 season — the only one of his career. 3. Jan. 8, 2006: Carson Palmer tore his ACL in the Bengals’ first playoff game in 15 years Ben Roethlisberger destroyed the Bengals in his first playoff game against them. He passed for 208 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 31-17 win in the 2006 Wild Card Round. Losing to a longtime rivals always sucks, but this game was especially awful for the Bengals. At the time, it was their first division title and postseason appearance in 15 years. Then their first taste of success in years ended in disaster. Palmer tore his ACL early in the game, which meant that Jon Kitna had to take over. Along the way, the Bengals blew a 17-7 lead and Kitna was picked off by Troy Polamalu and James Farrior. A backup quarterback struggling against Bill Cowher’s Steelers defense was pretty predictable, but it was still a double punch in the gut for the Bengals. Not only did they lose to their most hated rival, but they lost their quarterback in the process. 2. Jan. 7, 2012: They lost to T.J. Yates. Yes, T.J. Yates. In the 2011 season, the Bengals snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and met T.J. Yates and the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round. Yates was coming off an unspectacular five-game stretch as the Texans’ starting quarterback after Matt Schaub went down with an injury, but Cincinnati failed to capitalize. Yates threw for 159 yards and a touchdown, which isn’t anything to get excited about, but that was far better than how Dalton played that day. Dalton was intercepted three times, including one that was brought back for a touchdown by J.J. Watt. Cincinnati gave up two touchdowns to Arian Foster and ended up losing 31-10, its biggest playoff loss in the Marvin Lewis era — but not the worst. 1. Jan. 9, 2016: The meltdown against the Steelers, oof Without question, this is easily the most painful loss. Cincinnati had one of its best regular seasons ever under Lewis and couldn’t do a damn thing with it. In 2015, the Bengals went 12-4 and won the AFC North, thanks to having one of the top offenses in the league that year. They were seventh in points per game, third in adjusted yards per attempt, and scored the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in the league. The Bengals found themselves in a playoff game against the Steelers for the first time since 2006 — when they lost Palmer to an ACL injury. Even though the Bengals and Steelers are major rivals, Pittsburgh has a big advantage in head-to-head matchups. This was Cincinnati’s chance for revenge. Unfortunately, Dalton hurt his thumb in a December loss to the Steelers, which knocked him out for the rest of the season — including the playoffs. The game started off like any other Bengals postseason contest, with Cincinnati facing a 15-0 deficit. But the home team stormed back in the fourth quarter behind backup quarterback AJ McCarron. With under two minutes left, the Bengals took their first lead of the game, 16-15. Following a Landry Jones interception, Jeremy Hill had a chance to ice the game with 1:36 left. Instead, he fumbled the ball after a hit by Ryan Shazier. That was unfortunate, but the Bengals still had a chance to win — then Vontaze Burfict happened. On the Steelers’ final drive of the game, a banged-up Roethlisberger, who had been carted off earlier, returned to the game. With 22 seconds left, Burfict laid a vicious hit on Antonio Brown. Brown, like Bengals running back Giovani Bernard in the third quarter, suffered a concussion. Unlike the helmet-to-helmet hit on Bernard, this play was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Then, Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter went onto the field after Burfict’s hit on Brown and was involved in an altercation with Adam “Pacman” Jones that resulted in a 15-yard penalty on Jones. That gave the Steelers the ball on Cincinnati’s 17-yard line. Chris Boswell hit a 35-yard field goal and an unforgettable playoff game came to an end. It was the Bengals’ best chance to beat their division rival in the playoffs and it turned into a mess of a game. Cincinnati has yet to make it back to the playoffs since.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Lakers now sitting atop the 2020 NBA championship odds
The Los Angeles Lakers have soared to the top of the 2020 NBA championship odds at the sportsbooks after acquiring Anthony Davis to join LeBron James. The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the NBA’s worst teams over the last six years with a dismal record of 163-329 over that stretch. But after signing LeBron James last offseason and trading for Anthony Davis this offseason, the Lakers suddenly find themselves as the betting favorites to win the NBA championship in 2020. Los Angeles is a +250 favorite on the 2020 NBA championship odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The last few months have been a perfect storm for the Lakers; the Golden State Warriors (+750 to win the NBA championship) have potentially lost both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson for next season with injuries, the Houston Rockets (+850) are dealing with inner turmoil, and winning the draft lottery to move up to No. 4 gave the team the draft capital it needed to trade for Anthony Davis without losing Kyle Kuzma. Suddenly, the West looks wide open, Kevin Durant isn’t available to make an opposing team a whole lot better, and the Lakers have two of the top five players in the NBA with the cap space to sign another big free agent. Optimism around this group is certainly justified given the circumstances. Right behind the Lakers on those NBA odds are the Milwaukee Bucks at +550. The Bucks finished last season with a 70-27 straight up and 57-36-4 against the spread record; if Khris Middleton decides to stay with the Bucks, they should once again be an elite team. If Kawhi Leonard decides not to re-sign with the Toronto Raptors (+600), Milwaukee will enter the 2019-20 season as the clear top dogs in the East. If Leonard does return to the Raptors, expect their odds to go up a bit and for Toronto to be firmly in the mix for another championship next season. The Los Angeles Clippers (+1400) are currently one of the favorites to sign Leonard during free agency, which has been baked into their betting odds at this price. Other contenders to win the championship in 2020 include the Philadelphia 76ers (+1000), Boston Celtics (+1800), Denver Nuggets (+2000), Dallas Mavericks (+2200) and Oklahoma City Thunder (+2200). With the draft set for Thursday and free agency following on July 1, there will be plenty of movement on these lines in the near future. 2020 NBA Championship Odds Los Angeles Lakers +250 Milwaukee Bucks +550 Toronto Raptors +600 Golden State Warriors +750 Houston Rockets +850 Philadelphia 76ers +1000 Los Angeles Clippers +1400 Boston Celtics +1800 Denver Nuggets +2000 Dallas Mavericks +2200 Oklahoma City Thunder +2200 See the complete list at OddsShark For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Brooks Koepka leads 2019 Travelers Championship odds
Brooks Koepka leads a talented field on the betting lines at sportsbooks heading into this week’s Travelers Championship at TPC at River Highlands. Brooks Koepka picked up a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open last weekend for his fifth runner-up finish since the start of last season, tied with Tony Finau for the most on the tour over that stretch. Koepka and Finau will both be in the same group when the 2019 Travelers Championship kicks off this Thursday. Koepka is a +750 favorite on the odds to win the Travelers Championship in Cromwell at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. It’s difficult to make a strong case against fading Koepka with the way he is playing at the moment; the 29-year-old has finished in the top four in four of his last six tournament appearances including runner-up finishes in the Masters and U.S. Open and a win in the PGA Championship. He is clearly the one to beat if he is on his game this weekend. Joining Koepka and Finau (+3300 to win the Travelers Championship) in one of Thursday’s featured groups is last year’s winner, Bubba Watson. Watson (+2800) won this tournament by three strokes with a 17-under-par performance in 2018 for his third career win in this event (also winning it in 2010 and 2015). The defending champion has been struggling this season with only two top ten finishes in 14 events thus far. Patrick Cantlay is second on the golf odds behind Koepka at +1000 to win this tournament. In 2011, Cantlay shot a 60 in the Travelers Championship as a 19-year-old amateur, the lowest score by an amateur in PGA Tour history. The 27-year-old has three top three finishes in his last five tournaments including a win in the Memorial Tournament earlier this month. Jordan Spieth (+1600) won the Travelers in 2017 and went on to win the Open Championship in his very next event. That was Spieth’s last win on the PGA Tour; perhaps another win at the TPC at River Highlands could be just what Spieth needs to spark a return to his old form. Other potential contenders to win this year’s Travelers Championship include Justin Thomas (+1800), Paul Casey (+1800), Francesco Molinari (+2000), Jason Day (+2000), Bryson DeChambeau (+2500), Marc Leishman (+2800), Tommy Fleetwood (+2800) and Louis Oosthuizen (+3300). Leishman won this event in 2012. Travelers Championship Betting Lines Brooks Koepka +750 Patrick Cantlay +1000 Jordan Spieth +1600 Justin Thomas +1800 Paul Casey +1800 Francesco Molinari +2000 Jason Day +2000 Bryson DeChambeau +2500 Bubba Watson +2800 Marc Leishman +2800 Tommy Fleetwood +2800 Louis Oosthuizen +3300 Tony Finau +3300 See the complete list at OddsShark For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
You just hate to C it
We have that and more in Wednesday’s NBA newsletter. The Boston Celtics’ nightmare season continues apace ... even though the season is over! It has become unanimously reported that Kyrie Irving plans to leave the C’s for the Brooklyn Nets when free agency officially begins on June 30; this is the worst kept secret in basketball. Then, on Tuesday, word broke that Al Horford will opt out of his $30 million contract for 2019-20 ... and not re-sign with Boston, with whom he has reached an impasse. Apparently, Horford and the Celtics are at loggerheads over the size of his next contract. Some reporters are suggesting Horford has a lucrative long-term deal from another team just sitting out there, waiting to be announced on June 30. If so, Boston is poised to lose its two best veteran players after a disappointing 2018-19 season in which the Celtics -- expected to compete for a spot in the Finals -- were laughed out of the second round. And all this after their eternal rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, successfully traded for Anthony Davis, a player that Celtics have been chasing since essentially his draft night. In the process of that trade happening, Davis’s agent declared that the superstar wouldn’t re-sign in Boston if the Celtics pulled off a trade for him. This is not how any of this was supposed to go for Boston, not for a franchise with an unimpeachable record of success, a top general manager, a top coach, and a smart rebuild plan. Back to the ol’ drawing board. The Trojan Horse Is Out Of The Barnes The other notable player option news from Tuesday is that Harrison Barnes has opted out of his $25 million deal with the Kings to hit free agency. This led to some good laughs, apparently, because the idea that Harrison Barnes is worth more than $25 million per season is funny to many. I’ll admit: it is a little funny. But also, in this market, at the rate free agents will be going for and considering just how much cap space is sitting out there ... well yeah, Harrison Barnes is going to get an enormous contract. The Barnes discourse is beside the point, though, because -- as has been rumored since the Kings traded for Barnes in February -- odds are that this was all planned out by Barnes and Sacramento so that the Kings can give Barnes a very large long-term deal this summer using all that cap space they have. The trade -- Sacramento sent Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph to the Mavericks, not a whole lot of outgoing value -- was seen as pre-agency, a way for the Kings to ensure they added talent using cap space. To make that work, Barnes has to decline the option and sign a long-term deal. Whether it’s a good idea for the Kings to commit something around a fifth of the salary cap to Barnes for the next four years is another question entirely. But this doesn’t likely mean that Barnes is out there looking for a $100 million deal on the open market. He probably already has one sitting on a desk with a pen from the Kings, waiting for free agency to officially start. Links Ricky O’Donnell has a new NBA mock draft on the eve of the derby. There is growing intrigue around the No. 3 pick! It has been assumed the Knicks would take R.J. Barrett there, but it sounds like Darius Garland, the Vanderbilt point guard, is now in play. INTRIGUE! Here’s Ricky on Jarrett Culver, the draft’s most versatile prospect after Zion. Paul Flannery peels apart the layers of the Anthony Davis trade onion. Michael Pina on how amazing a fit LeBron and A.D. are. The Lakers are trying hard to open up a max slot after determining that they don’t have one. If you’re a subscriber, this TrueHoop piece by Henry Abbott on the Lakers working without a net is really great. R.J. Barrett is reading to take center stage. A reminder that the Lakers have been dreadful for years and still print money. There was no run on season tickets after the Davis trade because there aren’t actually a bunch of season tickets available. Fascinating history piece by Kelly Dwyer on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s trade demands. Did the Raptors actually take a risk in trading for Kawhi Leonard? Kristian Winfield writes that the Rockets went championship or bust, and this is what bust looks like. Vincent Goodwill published a piece on Tuesday reinforcing that Chris Paul and James Harden basically hate each others’ guts. The Wizards won’t have their new general manager before free agency begins (wow) and franchisee Ted Leonsis shoots down the Masai Ujiri reports, which means one of two things: either Ujiri’s agent floated that to get his client a raise from the Raptors, or the Wizards are embarrassed Ujiri wouldn’t even pick up the phone and are covering their tracks. Kevin Arnovitz has an intriguing thought replicating the medical school match system with draft. As you know, my preference is to let rookies pick where they want to play in a a highly regulated rookie free agency system. But a match system is highly intriguing and would allow the NBA to replicate a televised special announcing the matches. Natasha Howard as one of the most improbable WNBA MVP candidates in history. Alex Wong, one of my favorite basketball writers, on one of my favorite basketball subjects: Jeremy Lin, NBA champion. Tom Haberstroh on whether teams are getting worse at the NBA draft. Androgynous fashion is in, and WNBA players are embracing it. If you’re a subscriber to The Athletic, this is a very nice piece by Lyndsey D’Arcangelo on the 20-year friendship of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. Be excellent to each other.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Final NBA mock draft! After Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, things get interesting
This is our NBA final mock draft for 2019. The 2019 NBA Draft has never had much mystery at the top. Zion Williamson blew away his peers and every reasonable projection of his talent during his freshman season at Duke, making him the clear choice for whatever lucky franchise landed the No. 1 pick. With the New Orleans Pelicans securing his rights, the foundation was laid for the Memphis Grizzlies to take Murray State point guard Ja Morant at No. 2 and for the New York Knicks to select Williamson’s college teammate R.J. Barrett at No. 3. The fourth pick always felt like the true starting point of this draft, and it’s changed hands as the Pelicans acquired it in the Anthony Davis trade with the Lakers. Two days before the draft, it feels like the rest of the top 10 will be determined by whatever New Orleans does with its second pick. There is no consensus choice for that pick, but rather an entire tier of interesting young players who could grow with Williamson and help maximize his talent. It could also be used as part of a trade. After a months of scouting and weeks of rumors, the draft is finally here. This is our final projection for how it will shake out. Be sure to check out our NBA draft player finder to determine the perfect pick for your favorite team. 1. New Orleans Pelicans - Zion Williamson, F, Duke Williamson has a case to be the best NBA prospect of the decade. He’s at a historical intersection of power, speed, and agility while also offering nearly unprecedented versatility. This is a player who can initiate the offense with the ball in his hands and then play center on defense. Williamson is going to be dominant as a scorer at the rim. It’s likely he develops into a skilled pick-and-roll handler. He’s going to turn into one of the league’s great help defenders by racking up steals and blocks. He’s also going to be a good teammate who makes everyone around him better and has a tangible impact on winning at a high level. There is no one else in this draft class who is in Williamson’s zip code in terms of talent. 2. Memphis Grizzlies - Ja Morant, PG, Murray State Morant’s star potential rests on his combination of athleticism and playmaking. He’s a fast and explosive point guard who puts pressure on the defense as a downhill attacker both in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. Collapse on Morant and he’s blessed with special vision and gifted passing ability to find open teammates. His ultimate ceiling might depend on how efficiency he can finish at the rim. Morant will have to prove his shot from the NBA line, but his 81 percent mark on foul shots and his 36.6 percent three-point stroke on nearly five attempts per game indicates he may be a better shooter than he’s given credit for. His defense is also a question mark, but it’s worth noting he put up quality block and steal rates as a sophomore this past season for Murray State. With Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis is set up for a promising future. 3 New York Knicks - R.J. Barrett, G, Duke The Knicks’ dream offseason is over before it ever started. A fall in the lottery coupled with Kevin Durant’s torn achilles means there is no quick fix on the way for New York. Duke’s R.J. Barrett is still a nice consolation with the third pick. A year ago, Barrett was widely presumed to be the No. 1 prospect in this class before his college teammate Williamson flew past him and everyone else. His season at Duke was still undeniably productive, averaging 22.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in the toughest conference in America. As he did it, he earned a reputation for having tunnel vision as a scorer and drew criticism for his shot selection. The key for Barrett is to stop forcing his own offense and tap into his once promising potential as a playmaker. For all his faults, Barrett is still one of the youngest players in this draft, has tremendous size for a wing, and has proven to be a high-motor player. There are plenty of avenues here for a long and bright career. 4. New Orleans Pelicans - Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech The Pelicans are loaded with future assets after bleeding the Lakers dry in the Anthony Davis trade. This No. 4 overall pick represents their first big chance to build around Williamson. New Orleans could be enticed to trade back for the more picks, but Jarrett Culver is the best player available if they keep the selection. Culver is most versatile prospect in the draft next to Williamson, a gifted shot creator and finisher who also projects as an impact defender. While he’s not the type of knockdown shooter New Orleans would ideally like next to Williamson, he is a do-it-all wing with a strong feel for the game on both ends. New Orleans would be well on their way to building a great defense with Culver joining Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Jrue Holiday. 5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Cam Reddish, G, Duke Cleveland has a ton of options at No. 5. It can pair last year’s lottery pick Collin Sexton with another point guard in Darius Garland who would offer superior shooting and ball handling ability. It can take a 3-and-D wing with a high floor in De’Andre Hunter. It can also swing for the fences with Cam Reddish, a player who would fill a positional need while also offering higher theoretical upside than any other wing on the board. Reddish struggled to live up to to his recruiting hype as a freshman at Duke, ending the season with the lowest effective field goal percentage of any projected first round pick. His lack of athletic explosiveness and under-developed feel for the game was particularly evident when he put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim. Even still, Reddish has a promising shooting stroke and the potential to provide versatility on defense, with a 7’1 wingspan helping him post a nearly three percent steal rate. It’s a gamble to take Reddish this high, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team tempted by his natural talent level. 6. Phoenix Suns - Coby White, PG, North Carolina White soared up draft boards as a freshman at North Carolina with his combination of speed and shot-making ability. More of a scorer than a facilitator, the 6’5 guard would be an intriguing fit next to Devin Booker in a multiple ball handler system. Phoenix reportedly prefers him to Garland. White can play on- or off-the-ball because of his size and knockdown catch-and-shoot ability. While he prefers to beat you down the court with his speed, White also has an advanced array of moves in his scoring arsenal, including a step-back he used to devastating effect at UNC. This is a pick that would give Phoenix even more offensive firepower, but likely wouldn’t help improve an already spotty defense. 7. Chicago Bulls - Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt Garland did enough to position himself as a possible top five pick in this draft despite only playing five games at Vanderbilt because of a torn meniscus. His biggest selling point is his advanced pull-up shooting ability, which helped him hit 47 percent of his threes as a freshman and will continue to make him a dangerous outside threat in the NBA’s pick-and-roll heavy offenses. It remains to be seen exactly how good Garland is as a facilitator after finishing with more turnovers than assists during his small college sample. His lack of size at 6’2 will also lead to questions about his defense and his ability to finish at the rim on offense. While not a perfect prospect, Garland’s upside is worth the risk if he lasts until the No. 7 pick for a Bulls team with a big hole at point guard. 8. Atlanta Hawks - De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia Hunter would be a nice fit in Atlanta’s rebuild if he slides down to No. 8. A strong-and-long combo forward, Hunter offers NBA-ready defense at the point of attack and refined catch-and-shoot ability that would match well with Trae Young on the perimeter. He’s seen as a high floor prospect who projects as one of the safest bets in this draft to at least be a reliable rotation piece. Hunter’s ceiling will ultimately be determined by if he can improve as a shot creator off the dribble. His 44 percent three-point stroke is a big part of his appeal, but he’ll have to quicken the release on his jumper against faster NBA defenses. With three picks in the first round, the Hawks would do well to get a dependable contributor like Hunter at eight. 9. Washington Wizards - Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas It’s rare to find a 6’11 center who can run like Hayes. The Texas freshman burst onto NBA draft radars this season with his incredibly impressive movement skills, running the floor with the speed and agility of a wing whenever the Longhorns got out in the open floor. While his offensive skill set remains unrefined, Hayes should have value early in his career as a rim protector thanks to his length and shot blocking instincts. He’ll have to add muscle to his thin frame if he wants to improve as a rebounder. 10. Atlanta Hawks - Sekou Doumbouya, F, France Doumbouya is blessed with the physicality required to eventually grow into an NBA combo forward. The 18-year-old has already gotten valuable minutes in France’s top pro league, showing off impressive ability to run the floor and the strength to rebound and finish inside at 6’9. His ceiling will ultimately depend on how his jumper and handle improves. With three picks in the top 17, the Hawks are in a position to roll the dice on a talented but unpolished prospect like Doumbouya. 11. Minnesota Timberwolves - Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga Clarke was the second most effective player in college basketball behind Zion Williamson in his debut season at Gonzaga. After sitting out a year ago as a transfer from San Jose State, Clarke emerged as the best defender in the country and also one of its most skilled finishers. This is an elite athlete with an advanced feel for the game who could be deployed to devastating effect if he finds a good fit in the draft. The Timberwolves would be a perfect match. Clarke’s lack of shooting ability and true center size would be mitigated by the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns in the Minnesota front court. As Towns spaced the floor and continues to dominate offensively, Clarke could be counted on to provide defensive value and also score efficiency when he gets the ball near the rim. In the right situation, Clarke could be the steal of the draft. 12. Charlotte Hornets - Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga Hachimura is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. He looks the part of an NBA lottery pick at first glance as a 6’8, 220-pound combo forward who put up big scoring numbers at Gonzaga. While Hachimura has soft touch on his jumper from mid-range and the strength to finish inside, he also has poor defensive instincts and rarely creates for his teammates. It only takes one team to take a chance on Hachimura in the lottery — but he could just as easily slide out of the top 20. It feels like he has more variance to his draft stock than any other prospect. 13. Miami Heat - P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky Washington took a major leap as a sophomore at Kentucky this past season off the strength of his improved three-point shot. After making only five threes as a freshman, Washington canned 33 triples on 42 percent shooting from deep. The threat of his deep ball made the things Washington was already good at even more effective. He’s now an inside-out threat who can score in the paint, attack the defense from the face-up position, and provide rebounding and defensive versatility thanks to his long arms and strong core. Washington might not be the flashiest prospect available, but he does project as one of the most versatile in the right situation. 14. Boston Celtics - Goga Bitadze, C, Georgia Don’t be fooled into thinking Bitadze is the type of traditional big man who struggles to thrive in today’s NBA. The 19-year-old from Georgia makes up for a lack of elite athleticism with a well-rounded skill set and impressive feel for the game. He’s already won the prestigious Rising Star Award for the best young player in Euroleague as a 6’11 big man who can pass, rebound, and stretch the floor to three-point range. He’s worth taking a chance on for a Celtics team that needs a replacement for Al Horford eventually. 15. Detroit Pistons - Romeo Langford, G, Indiana Langford would go at least 10 spots higher if his perimeter jump shot didn’t abandon him during his freshman season at Indiana. After a legendary high school career where he rewrote scoring records in the state of Indiana, Langford had a productive year for the hometown Hoosiers but only shot 27 percent from three-point range. Langford otherwise showcased tremendous scoring instincts and soft-touch on floaters and pull-up jumpers inside the arc. With a 6’11 wingspan and a strong frame, he could be the prototype for an NBA two guard if he can fix his shot. 16. Orlando Magic - Nassir Little, F, North Carolina Little legitimately entered the season with more NBA hype than Zion Williamson before a one-and-done season at North Carolina that provided more questions than answers. Little came off the bench all year behind a veteran Tar Heels front court and failed to carve out a consistent role until the end of the season. He looked lost on offense for most of the year, showing a serious inability to make plays for anyone else and disappointing evaluators with his struggles shooting from three-point range. Even still, Little was once so highly touted because he plays hard and has a perfect frame for a modern combo forward. He feels like one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in this draft. 17. Atlanta Hawks - Bol Bol, C, Oregon Bol Bol is one of the most unique prospects to ever hit the NBA draft. He’ll be among the longest players in league history from the moment he gets selected, measuring at 7’2 with a 7’7 wingspan and 9’7 standing reach at the combine. He’s also one of the best pure shooters in this draft regardless of position, backing up the reputation he forged as a recruit by hitting 52 percent of his three-pointers at Oregon. At the same time, Bol is also one of the slowest and least fluid athletes expected to go in round one. Durability is a cause for concern after a broken bone in his foot limited him to nine games this season. He badly needs to add muscle to his thin 208-pound frame. A team like Atlanta with three picks in the first round is in perfect position to take Bol. His raw talent is worth taking a chance on in a draft considered low on star power. 18. Indiana Pacers - Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky Need a knockdown shooter in the backcourt? Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro is one of the best options available in this draft class. The 6’4 guard is a dependable catch-and-shoot threat who can also run off screens and attack a closeout. There will be doubts about his ball handling and his defense, but the ideal version of Herro’s pro career mirrors J.J. Redick’s. That’s a player worth taking a chance on. 19. San Antonio Spurs - Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky Johnson is a jack of all trades and a master of none. Kentucky’s freshman wing has good size at 6’6, shot 38 percent from three, and has enough athleticism to hold his own as a defender and half-court scorer. He’d give the Spurs a young wing to develop with their first of two first round picks. 20. Boston Celtics - Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC Porter was projected as a possible top-five pick early in the college season after he got off to a blistering start as a freshman at USC. He ended the year only seventh on his own team in minutes per game. It was all part of a bizarre season for Porter, who looked brilliant as a one-on-one scorer when he was locked in and then disappeared when he wasn’t. Porter has good size and athleticism at 6’6, 220 pounds and also has some untapped upside as a defender. The Celtics are in position to bet on Porter’s tools and upside with three first round picks. 21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech Alexander-Walker is a 6’5 guard who can play either backcourt spot because of his ability to shoot, pass, and dribble. He moved from shooting guard to point guard midway through the season for Virginia Tech as a sophomore and showed an ability to run pick-and-rolls and find open shooters. Alexander-Walker is limited by his lack of athleticism. Scouts will wonder if his ability to create off the dribble will translate in the NBA. For a Thunder team that needs guards who can shoot, this would be a nice fit at No. 21. 22. Boston Celtics - Talen Horton-Tucker, G, Iowa State Horton-Tucker is a development prospect at this point but his tools could pay off down the road for a patient franchise. The freshman from Iowa State has a strong 6’4 frame with a 7’1 wingspan and an evolving skill set on both ends. Offensively, Horton-Tucker likes to handle and pass the ball in the open floor when he’s not firing up threes, which he does with tremendous volume but only 31 percent accuracy. His length and low center of gravity allows him to defend a variety of positions while also darting in to make plays as a help defender. He’s also one of the youngest prospects in this draft, not turning 19 years old until November. 23. Utah Jazz - Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia Claxton is a sophomore center from Georgia whose slow rise up NBA draft boards can be directly traced to his potential as a switch defender and rim protector. A 6’11 big man with a 7’3 wingspan, Claxton is light on his feet and does well to get in a stance defensively against guards. He needs to add strength to his 220-pound frame but he’s agile enough on both ends and impressed as a shot blocker this season under Tom Crean. He also might still have some untapped potential as a shooter. 24. Philadelphia 76ers - Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina Johnson has a case to be the best three-point shooter in the draft. The 6’8 forward hit 45 percent of his threes during a breakout senior year playing in North Carolina’s fast and efficient offense. He’s limited as an offensive creator and will have to prove he can stay on the floor defensively, but a knockdown shooter with this type of size is worth taking in the 20s. 25. Portland Trail Blazers - Grant Williams, F, Tennessee Williams will try to make the transition from a college superstar to NBA role player as a super strong 6’7 forward with great defensive awareness, quality passing ability, and a developing jump shot. Williams won’t be able to live in the post like he did at Tennessee, but most of the other skills that helped him become a two-time SEC Player of the Year will translate to the next level. He’d be a huge steal at No. 25. 26. Cleveland Cavaliers - Mfiondu Kabengele, C, Florida State Kabengele is the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo who became Florida State’s leading scorer as its sixth man during his sophomore season. The strong 6’10, 250-pound big man is an explosive vertical athlete who also emerged as a 37 percent three-point shooter this season. Team will wonder if he can survive defensively as the only traditional big man on the floor and wonder why he only had 21 assists over two seasons combined at FSU. 27. Brooklyn Nets - Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington Thybulle has a case to be considered the best perimeter defender in this draft class. He put up monstrous block and steal rates as a senior in the middle of Washington’s zone defense, positioning himself as a hyper-athletic 6’5 wing with the mindset to both force turnovers and lock his man down. His offensive ability is rudimentary at this point, but he did finish well at the rim. If he eventually improves as a shooter, Thybulle could have major value as a late round pick. 28. Golden State Warriors - Chuma Okeke, F, Auburn The sophomore forward suffered a torn ACL as he was having the game of his life for Auburn against North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Those who go back and look at his tape will find a versatile 6’8 prospect who was an engaged defender and hit nearly 40 percent of his threes. Okeke lacks great athletic burst, but he’s a high-IQ player on both ends who has enough size and skill to potentially emerge as a draft day steal for a patient franchise. 29. San Antonio Spurs - Darius Bazley, F Bazley was a McDonald’s All-American out of high school who chose to sit out the season and train for the draft rather than honor his commitment to Syracuse. The lack of information available makes him one of the hardest players to evaluate in this draft. He has great size for a combo forward at 6’9 with a 7-foot wingspan and a reputation for being able to shoot the ball. The need for big wings who can potentially defend a variety of positions and stretch the floor on offense might be enough to push Bazley into round one. 30. Milwaukee Bucks - Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue Edwards was expected to be one of the best players in the country this season as a junior point guard for Purdue. It felt like he wasn’t getting enough help from his teammates for most of the season, as he put up big scoring numbers (24 points per game) on poor efficiency (39 percent shooting from the field). The whole country got to see what Edwards was all about in the NCAA tournament, when he popped off for 42 points two different times during Purdue’s run to the Elite Eight. Edwards measured at just 6-foot in shoes at the combine, but he has long arms (6’6 wingspan) and he’s one of the best shooters in this draft.
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
The Houston Rockets’ rock-bottom was always predictable
Pairing Chris Paul and James Harden was always a “championship or bust” move. This is what “bust” looks like. When the Rockets traded for Chris Paul two summers ago, then signed him to a four-year, $159.7 million extension despite him being 33 years old, it was supposed to usher in an era of Houston basketball that legitimately challenged the Golden State Warriors as title contenders. And in Years 1 and 2 of the wild experiment that paired Paul with eventual MVP James Harden, it did. But entering Year 3, we have conflicting information about both Paul’s future in Houston and his relationship with Harden. Yahoo!’s Vincent Goodwill reported both Paul and Harden want to part ways with each other and cited a source who called their relationship “unsalvageable:” “Paul went to Rockets management and demanded a trade, and Harden issued a “him or me” edict following the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors, sources said.” Meanwhile Rockets GM Daryl Morey appeared on Sports Talk 790 the day before. Not only did Morey say Paul doesn’t want to be traded, but he insisted that instead of fielding trade offers for the aging point guard, he’s seeking a third star to add to the dynamic duo. .@SeanUnfiltered: "Does Chris Paul want to be traded?"@dmorey: "No, Chris Paul does not want to be traded."@SeanUnfiltered: "Will you field calls on Chris Paul?"@dmorey: "No, we want to add one more star to this team."— SportsTalk 790 (@SportsTalk790) June 17, 2019 Regardless of which story is true, one thing is for sure: Houston’s trade for Paul was a championship or bust move. It was never a sure fire bet to work, and it could only have ended in one of two ways. That was the point. Now, this is what bust always would look like: possible friction between the two and an immovable contract for an aging star on a team that never made it to the NBA Finals. It’s also a situation Tilman Fertitta inherited when he bought the Rockets from former owner Leslie Alexander for a record $2.2 billion in 2017. Houston, after the Paul trade, was viewed as a team with an open title window. Two losses to the Warriors later, that title window appears shut. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon details a Houston front office riddled with turmoil, led by Fertitta, who has “grumbled about Paul’s contract, expressing regret to Rockets staffers and even in front of rival executives.” Morey’s big gamble fell short of its ultimate goal: an NBA championship. Now, it’s hard to see a viable exit strategy. How did we get here? Paul’s first season in Houston inspired hope the Rockets could actually dethrone the overloaded Warriors. He was a big shot taker and big shot maker, a pressure release for Harden, who carried one of the league’s two heaviest workloads and jockeyed with Russell Westbrook in a two-man MVP race the season prior. Last season, Paul carried the Rockets and made plays down the stretch when Harden couldn’t. The Harden and Paul-led Rockets recorded the best record in basketball, and they were potentially on their way to the NBA Finals, too. But then Paul suffered a hamstring injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals that kept him out for the series. Houston went on to win the game and take a 3-2 series lead, but they weren’t the same team without him. Golden State came back and won the series, then swept LeBron James’ ragtag Cleveland Cavaliers for their second straight NBA championship. Rather that build on that success, the Rockets botched last summer’s free agency. Instead of doubling down on the improved defense that powered their 65-win season, Houston allowed Trevor Ariza to walk to Phoenix and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to go to the Clippers. The Carmelo Anthony experiment was a wild failure, and injuries to Paul and Clint Capela sapped the team of its depth. All the while, Harden endured another season carrying the city of Houston on his back. He may very well be the MVP front-runner, especially after a superhuman month of January, where he averaged 43.6 points and scored 61 points at Madison Square Garden. But at what cost? Without Paul, the Rockets couldn’t manage Harden’s load if they wanted to make the playoffs. His minutes ran up to astronomical levels. Meanwhile, Paul played in his third straight season of 61 or fewer games, and didn’t seem happy about the team’s growing dependence on Harden. As a source told Goodwill: “There’s no respect at all, on either side.” Ready for the kicker? That was only the first season of Paul’s monster four-year contract extension. He is owed another $124 million over the next three years, while Harden will begin his own super max extension that pays $170.9 million through the 2022-23 season. Making a title run with a Paul-Harden partnership meant sacrificing the long-term for the short term, but the bill is now due earlier than expected. If the Rockets do want to trade Paul, they will have a difficult time finding a team willing to take his contract. As popular an option as it has been, the Lakers are not a viable trade destination for Paul. They do not have enough cap space to fit his salary, and frankly, it wouldn’t be the best move for them, regardless of his relationship with LeBron James. There are teams that could use a player with Paul’s skill set. The Orlando Magic made the playoffs with D.J. Augustin as their starting point guard. Are the Wolves actually shopping Andrew Wiggins? A guard of Paul’s caliber would do wonders for Karl-Anthony Towns. If Kemba Walker leaves, the Hornets have several contracts they could use to match Paul’s salary, and they could include Nic Batum, a versatile two-way wing who has struggled since leaving Portland. And how about the Miami Heat, who have one of the ugliest cap sheets in the NBA and could unload several contracts to bring Paul to South Beach? The Suns, Pacers and Jazz are also teams in dire need of a talented point guard, but the youth of these teams suggests they’d be interested in players earlier into their career. Problem is, all of those teams would send back toxic long-term contracts of their own to make up for swallowing Paul’s deal. It will be nearly impossible to trade Paul for any positive value. There’s one more option for Houston: ride this storm out It may seem like the Paul-Harden partnership has run its course, but if the Rockets can’t find a deal, their only hope may be to keep Harden and Paul together one more year and try to smooth over any tension while making one last title run. The Warriors won’t be contenders without Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles) and Klay Thompson (torn ACL). That leaves the conference wide open for everyone, Houston included, to make a run for it all. The Lakers will be stronger than ever after pairing LeBron James with Anthony Davis, but they’ll need a third star to be championship favorites, and it’s unclear if they’ll be able to create the cap space to land one. The Nuggets will be better next season, but they’re still a young team with much to learn. The Trail Blazers will lose several key free agents without adequate means of replacing them. The Clippers could get Kawhi Leonard in free agency, or they might not. Then there are the Rockets, armed with two of the best guards in the NBA and their $5.7 million taxpayer’s mid-level exception. They will also find it difficult to retain key free agents, including Iman Shumpert, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, and restricted free agent Danuel House. But the Rockets’ offense was successful despite Harden and Paul rarely, if ever, assisting each other on the court. Can they put their gripes aside to make one more run at a championship? They might have no choice. If so, Houston needs to get more out of Clint Capela, who underperformed expectations in the first season of a five-year, $90 million extension. The Athletic’s Shams Charania notes the Rockets have had “conversations around Capela.” SB Nation’s Houston Rockets blog, The Dream Shake, suggests a trade package that sends Capela to the New Orleans Pelicans — a team without a starting center on its roster — for the No. 4-overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. If the Rockets want to add one more star, as Morey said on the radio, they could deal Capela and picks to do it. But is that enough to yield a difference maker, or did the Rockets miss their chance when they declined to include Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker in a potential deal for Jimmy Butler back in November? The Rockets made a championship or bust move when they traded for Paul and then agreed to give him an extension. But after a first year with legit championship hopes, Houston is in the middle of the “bust” scenario playing out. This was always on the table given the long-term salary committed to their back court. Now, it’s hard to see an attractive exit strategy. If the Rockets championship window is closed, their bust window is only beginning to open.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Anthony Davis to the Lakers is a heck of a start to the summer, but it’s only the start
There’s a LOT still left to be resolved after this blockbuster for both the teams involved and the rest of the NBA. Anthony Davis is a Laker. By becoming a Laker, AD is obviously not a Celtic. Even with the benefit of 48 hours to let it all settle, the deal still comes as a surprise after a year’s worth of posturing and maneuvering between two of the league’s superpowers. There’s so much to get into here, we’ll have to take it piece by piece. AD and LeBron and what, exactly? When the Lakers added LeBron James last summer they did so with the promise that more free-agent superstars would be on the way. There were three prime players available in this loaded class of superstar talent: Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, who are free agents, and AD who is a year away from such status. The Lakers had cap space, but neither KD nor Kawhi have shown much interest in taking it and KD’s future took an unfortunate turn during the Finals when he ruptured his Achilles. Paul George didn’t take LA’s money either, electing to sign with OKC long-term last summer rather than return home. The Lakers simply couldn’t fritter away another year of LeBron. Rather than be left holding the bag the Lakers went all-in to acquire Davis, surrendering much of their young core and the next five years worth of draft rights. It’s a heavy price but Davis is the kind of transformational talent who is worth it, assuming he signs on for the long term. (Don’t laugh. This league, as you may have heard, is crazy.) When healthy, Davis is one of the five best players in the league, and arguably the league’s best big man. He’s also the kind of player who should do well playing with LeBron. With apologies to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, neither AD or Bron has played with a talent of this magnitude. It’s an interesting spot for both players. Davis never played with another star in New Orleans, while LeBron has never taken a backseat to anyone on a basketball court. AD is not a peer like D-Wade or Bosh, he’s a young alpha like Kyrie Irving and we saw how that turned out. This situation should be different because LeBron and AD need each other and it will be on both to make the relationship prosper. The question now is what the rest of the Lakers roster will look like along their two superstars. They held onto Kyle Kuzma, which is nice, but there are no guards to be found. They have some cap space, but it’s not clear how much they’ll have after the ink is dry. AD has a trade kicker and asking him to give up $4 million after walking away from a lucrative long-term extension may be easier said than done. The timing of the deal is also important. If the teams wait until July 30 to complete the transaction, that would open up more cap space for the Lakers to spend. There’s nothing compelling the Pelicans to wait longer than the lifting of the July 5 moratorium. Perhaps they can squeeze something else out of the transaction. These are the kind of details that experienced general managers catch during the negotiation and it’s unclear whether Laker general manager Rob Pelinka saw those items clearly. This is the same general manager that signed a roster full of non-shooters to play with LeBron, so you’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical of his ability to skillfully execute a blockbuster or put together a competent basketball roster. LeBron and AD is a hell of a start, but it can’t be the end point. As an aside, don’t misinterpret Masai Ujiri’s blueprint. The lesson from Toronto’s championship is not to throw caution to the wind in the chase for a transformational star. The lesson is that there’s a time to make that kind of bold move. By trading for Kawhi Leonard, Ujiri added the missing piece to what was already a strong foundation. Simply stockpiling superstars hasn’t always yielded such strong results. This was a David Griffin move, all the way When Griffin agreed to take over a President of Basketball Operations with the Pelicans, he did so with the assurance that he’d be able to run the franchise his way and make decisions that were in the best interest of the club. The word at the trade deadline was that New Orleans would never deal with the Lakers, but if getting the best possible return meant dealing with the Lakers, then so be it. Griff was clearly calling the shots. In Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, Griff didn’t get back a potential superstar to pair with Zion Williamson, yet all three certainly have potential. The idea of Zo and Zion running pick-and-roll lobs all the live-long day has tremendous appeal. This is a wonderful opportunity for Ball to get his career back on track. Hart can fit in anywhere. He’s just a good player. Ingram is the wild card. While some still see untapped potential in his skinny frame, others see Andrew Wiggins. He’s still young and growing, so let’s see what he can become before passing judgment. Ball and Ingram, especially, stand to benefit from the change in scenery. In those three, along with Williamson and veteran Jrue Holiday, Griff now has the outline of an intriguing basketball team, one that should be able to grow with Zion as he develops. The Pelicans aren’t better without AD, but they’re better positioned to maximize Zion’s prime years than they did for Davis. A lot has been made of the fact that this deal looks a lot like the one the Pelicans turned down at the deadline. But it’s not the same deal because the draft picks have changed. When the Lakers landed the fourth pick in the lottery, it upped their package considerably. Conversely, Boston’s draft assets looked a lot worse once the ping pong balls settled. The fourth pick in this week’s draft has value, either as a means to adding another talented young player or in acquiring one. The deep end of the pick pool is where it gets interesting. New Orleans gets LA’s top pick in 2021 unless it falls in the top eight, at which point it becomes unprotected in 2022. The Pels have swap rights in 2023 and an unprotected first in 2024 that can be rolled over to 2025. All those future picks are liquid gold on the trade market. If the Lakers bottom out, they can be cashed in on high value choices. Even if they don’t, unprotected first-round picks carry enormous trade value in a league where picks are most valuable before they’re made. Griff did well here, especially considering the Celtics balked at the last minute. This is very bad for the Celtics, but it’s not a total disaster. It’s still bad though. For the last few years the Celtics have been hovering around AD, loading up on picks and other assets to use in an eventual blockbuster. The letters AD were whispered around the Garden so frequently it was as if they were attempting to speak it into existence as an inevitability. And so Danny Ainge built the Celtics on parallel tracks. On the one side was a competitive team with a penchant for overachieving, and on the other was a locomotive filled with assets hurtling toward New Orleans. Where one began and the other ended made for an occasionally uncomfortable existence, but it was generally understood that the team was a means to an end, and that endpoint was Anthony Davis. That was never more evident than the decision to acquire Kyrie Irving from Cleveland. Not only was Kyrie an exceptional player, he was also exactly the kind of personality that the C’s envisioning bringing other players to Boston. Like Anthony Davis. That all changed during a wild February sequence when AD demanded a trade and Kyrie backed away from his verbal promise to re-sign. The Celtics proceeded to implode and all those years of careful planning and asset hoarding went by the wayside. Irving is almost certainly gone after a bizarre season that saw him publicly blame his younger teammates for not living up to his standard. It ended with his oddly disengaged postseason performance. “Who cares,” indeed. The Celtics held out hope that a pairing with AD would swing Kyrie back to Boston, but even that appeared to hold little promise. After all that, the Celtics are left with neither. This is bad, really bad. It’s not a complete disaster, however. Had Ainge gutted the roster only to see Kyrie sign with Brooklyn and AD opt out after a year ... that would have been a disaster. That he blinked was a win for agent Rich Paul, who spent the last few months telling everyone that AD would not be long for the parquet. Instead, Ainge will enter the offseason with a roster that includes Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart along with Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes. They would like to bring Al Horford back into the fold and maybe now there’s room for free agents like Marcus Morris and even Terry Rozier to return. That’s not a contender necessarily, but it’s still the guts of a team that went all the way to Game 7 conference finals just over a year ago. It’s also the one that nearly lost in the first round to Milwaukee and has seen the rest of the conference load up on star power. Tatum and Brown hold the key. Their developments were stunted by Irving’s arrival and all of last season’s weirdness. Getting them back on track is vital if Boston is going to contend with this core. Still, this team needs more talent and Ainge still has all those draft assets to pursue another disgruntled young veteran star. (Bradley Beal, maybe?) No matter who Ainge is able to get, it won’t be of the order and magnitude of Anthony Davis. Those kind of players don’t come around very often and this was yet another opportunity lost. They’ve been roasted in the past for not pulling the trigger on trades for players like Leonard, George, and Jimmy Butler. Most of those non-moves worked out just fine. Still, AD was supposed to change all that and now AD is gone too. It’s been a very strange few years in Boston. Maybe now they can focus on what they have instead of what they hope to acquire.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Why each AFC North team will go over and under their Vegas win total in 2019
Vegas win totals are set for the 2019 season. With teams through their offseason workout program, it’s time to consider where each team will land. The true NFL offseason is officially upon us. Mandatory minicamp has come to a close and players from all 32 teams have gone their separate ways. Most players will get some vacation time in while continuing to work out in preparation for the return to training camp in late July. Once training camp arrives, the road to Super Bowl 54 begins in earnest. Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie. Below are win totals for the four teams in the AFC North. The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on nine wins for the Browns, the payout is -130 (you bet $130 to win $100). If you bet the under, the payout is +110 (you bet $100 to win $110). That means the over is the favorite. Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not. Now that roster overhauls are mostly complete and teams have finished up spring workouts, we took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter. Cleveland Browns: 9 (-130, +110) — Dawgs By Nature Why over: The Browns had as strong an offseason as anybody, loading up additional talent on both sides of the ball. Baker Mayfield had a phenomenal rookie season, and if he builds on it, this team is a playoff contender. They are currently division favorites and have the ninth best Super Bowl odds. If Greg Robinson improves at left tackle and the offensive line holds up over the course of the season, this team is sufficiently stacked on both sides of the ball to get into double digits wins. Why under: Expectations are high and the team has added a lot of talent, but they will still be counting on Baker Mayfield to build off a great rookie season. If Mayfield has a sophomore slump, the Browns might not be able to reach expectations. This is a team with a new head coach, questions on the offensive line, and a difficult schedule. They can overcome it, but finishing at or below nine wins is still a real possibility until the Browns prove otherwise. Pittsburgh Steelers: 9 (-125, +105) — Behind The Steel Curtain Why over: Despite a mediocre season which saw them miss the playoffs in 2018, and the departure of Antonio Brown, this team still has a very strong core of players returning for 2019. Ben Roethlisberger leads the charge on offense, and James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are coming off Pro Bowl seasons. Defensively, the addition of Devin Bush and Mark Barron should help lift the defense which already gets to the QB as well as anyone else in the league, to new heights. If they can spread out the touchdowns Brown pulled in last year, they will be just fine. Why under: Speaking of those touchdowns Brown pulled in, there were 15 of them. Sure, they signed rookie Diontae Johnson, and free agent Donte Moncrief, but is that good enough? While the defense should be better next season, the offense, and their inability to score regularly, could be the reason the team underachieves when it comes to the over/under total for this upcoming 2019 regular season. Baltimore Ravens: 8.5 (+105, -125) — Baltimore Beatdown Why over: Greg Roman builds a strong scheme, utilizing sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson’s running and passing ability. Jackson takes the next step in fixing his mechanics and accuracy, which in turn provides more scoring opportunities for the Ravens’ offense. The 2019 draft class of WR Marquise Brown, WR Miles Boykin and RB Justice Hill instantly contribute and perform well. Meanwhile, the Ravens defense avoids a drastic plummet from their free agent losses earlier in the year with the addition of Earl Thomas III and the already dominant secondary. At least one of the junior pass rushers develop to pair opposite of Matt Judon, or rookie Jaylon Ferguson comes out of the gate ready to play. Health, as always, is a factor, and the Ravens avoid critical losses in the trenches on both sides of the line. Why under: The offensive scheme is still built towards Jackson and the running back unit carrying the rock over 30 times a game, while failing to open up the passing attack. Jackson’s accuracy inconsistencies continue and the rookie class can’t establish chemistry with the man under center. The offensive line doesn’t develop further, which leaves the most of the interior offensive line as a liability. On defense, the pass rush losses of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith can’t be replaced by Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser and rookie Jaylon Ferguson. The inside linebacker unit doesn’t step into the role left behind by C.J. Mosley and offenses strike early and often with tight ends across the middle of the field. Injuries hamper either side of the ball for long periods of time, which result in late-game breakdowns and losses. Cincinnati Bengals: 6 (-120, Even) — Cincy Jungle Why over: The Bengals would have easily won 8+ games last season if not for the injuries to A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. They were 5-3 before Green’s toe became an issue, and they wound up finishing 1-7 down the stretch. The roster got slightly better this offseason through free agency and the draft, not to mention Zac Taylor will breathe new life into this franchise. As long as the Bengals’ heavy-hitters stay healthy, they’ll get to seven wins and will be a dark horse playoff contender. Don’t sleep on defenders Sam Hubbard and Jessie Bates having huge sophomore seasons that make this defense a formidable unit. Why under: As much as Marvin Lewis needed to be fired, he did take this franchise to seven playoff trips, and several of those teams were undermanned units that Lewis got the most out of. Zac Taylor may be a better offensive mind, but he’s still got a weak defense that may actually look worse under first-year coordinator Lou Anarumo compared to what it was when Lewis was running the defense. The linebacker unit is still arguably the worst of any NFL team. The offensive line is also still a major question mark that could easily cripple the offense and turn this into a bottom-five team that struggles to just win five games, let alone the seven needed to beat the over/under. Another thing to consider is Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are in their age 30+ seasons and should see a decline in their play, which could turn this defense into the NFL’s worst.
1 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
LeBron James has never had a teammate as perfect as Anthony Davis
Their games complement each other perfectly. If LeBron James could pick any other person on planet Earth to be his running mate, it would be Anthony Davis. There are other superstars who’d be productive and pleasant in a winning situation, but none can accentuate James’ strengths, capitalize off them, and conceal his defensive limitations. Davis lands in Los Angeles at an ideal and fascinating time. There is no unbeatable juggernaut in LeBron’s path, thanks to the Warriors’ injuries. He’s about to team up with a fellow megastar and arguably the most talented teammate he’s ever had. (Dwyane Wade was awesome in 2010-11, but there are numerous reasons why it shouldn’t surprise anyone if 26-year-old Davis exceeds that impact). Moreover, the two cross paths at a reputation-curving pivot point in their careers. Both failed to make the playoffs last year. Both were humbled. And now, both exist on the same frequency. Empathy won’t be an issue because they desperately need each other. Davis will help LeBron delay the age-related physical decline that invaded his body last season, while LeBron’s general omniscience should summon a more realized version of Davis than any we saw in New Orleans. LeBron is about to enter his 17th season and has played 10,000 more minutes than any other active player. (Yes, 10,000. Read that again). His time at the top of the league’s food chain is ending, if not over. But at the same time, LeBron still deserves more touches, responsibility, and decision-making power than whoever else is on his team. While any other star teammate would, in one way or another, veer into his lane by needing and/or wanting the ball, Davis is comfortable eating off his teammates. Since 2015-16, he’s scored 3316 points on assisted two-pointers, despite missing 59 games over that period. No other player has more than 3000. Self-creation has never been the primary way Davis gets buckets. Twenty-seven players averaged at least 20 points per game during the 2017-18 season. Among that group, only Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis averaged fewer seconds and dribbles per touch than Davis. Throw in his physical dimensions, discipline, and awareness that makes Davis a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and he checks every box James should want in a co-star. The big picture advantages for the pairing are self-evident. Davis should lower James’ usage and let him rest more, both on the sideline and on the floor. He yanks opposing big men into foul trouble, and is as comfortable steadying the game’s tempo as he is sparking it into a sprint. (Since 2014-15, Davis has ranked above the 92nd percentile in the percentage of non-shooting fouls he drew per team play, according to Cleaning the Glass.) That help goes both ways. Minus a brief, somewhat-unnecessary collaboration with DeMarcus Cousins, Davis’ Pelicans’ tenure was defined by a tragic evasion of needle movers. His Pelicans teammates weren’t scrubs — Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, and a couple others weren’t bad — but the talent level still topped out at “All-Star snub.” Years from now we’ll look back at the first seven years of Davis’ career as a worst-case scenario for building around a young superstar. In LeBron, Davis now has a consummate problem solver by his side. What neither has is all the time in the world, and how they interact in year one is everything. On paper, LeBron and Davis should elevate each other’s very best qualities from the start. In 2017-18, James Harden and Clint Capela, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams, and Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic were the top three duos that generated more assisted baskets at the rim than anyone else. Fourth was Davis, from Rajon Rondo. Fifth was … Davis, again, from Holiday. That supreme ability to finish in the paint will add a vibrant set of colors to LeBron’s palette. James was born to orchestrate a half-court offense with someone this galactically awe-inspiring, and those two in transition is legitimately one of the scariest visuals an opposing basketball coach can imagine. But their most direct connection will be in the pick-and-roll. Davis induces a special brand of panic whenever he dives towards the basket. No pass is out of his reach, and halting whoever has the ball usually turns into the defense’s secondary objective. But there’s only so much a defense can do when James, who’s impossible to stop downhill with one man, is the ball-handler. (LeBron finished 7.5 plays per game as a pick-and-roll ball-handler last season, up from the 5.2 he averaged over the previous three seasons, per NBA.com. Expect that number to go up a little bit.) Watch Karl-Anthony Towns as Holiday barrels into the paint off Davis’ drag screen. The spacing here is critical, with three Pelicans lined up behind the three-point line on the left side. Towns is responsible for the help, but if he leaves his feet to contest Holiday’s layup, Davis will dunk on his head. And look at what happens here to poor Jarrett Allen. A simple ball fake in Davis’ direction shifts Brooklyn’s seven-footer two feet into the paint. James has played with roll partners that demanded respect before, but Davis is one of the feared divers of all time. Not every defense will drop Davis’ man. Some might duck under the screen and welcome an open pull-up for LeBron. Those with appropriate personnel will switch. Some may trap LeBron and force AD to create in a 4-on-3 situation. Help defenders will swarm the paint and force kick-out passes to the three-point line, especially in the playoffs. James will find teammates on the perimeter, but we don’t yet know who, exactly, will be taking those shots. This obviously matters. (Free agents like JJ Redick, Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Ross, Marcus Morris, Wesley Matthews, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, and Seth Curry will all be affordable and should be on the Lakers’ radar this summer). But assuming they’re even average spot-up threats, LeBron and Davis will supply ample opportunity on the back side. One of the most intriguing ways they’ll collaborate is off ball. LeBron will set and receive pin-downs and cross screens with Davis (and vice-versa) in ways that generate terror. The simplest form will come with LeBron curling off the baseline and using his momentum to infiltrate a defense that’s mid-rotation, lower on the floor. Expect Los Angeles to borrow a few sets from Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry’s playbook, too. In one simple action the Pelicans occasionally ran last year, Davis would start in the corner, receive a wide pin-down screen from the initial ball-handler, then flare behind the three-point line. He hasn’t had the most success from deep, but not all of Davis’ attempts can come at the rim. Swapping several long two-point jumpers — nearly a quarter of his shots over the past two seasons were mid-range pull ups — for open threes is part of his evolution. Doing so is also necessary to create wider driving lanes for LeBron. A tenet of James’ success over the past few years has been his ability to feed big men from the outside, knowing one or two open threes early on tends to make an opposing big man hesitate with help. During his second stint with the Cavaliers, LeBron assisted on 502 of Kevin Love’s baskets, more than any other teammate by a significant margin. Chris Bosh was his number one assist partner in his final three seasons in Miami, too, and in 2017, James assisted more of Channing Frye’s threes than Draymond Green did for Klay Thompson. There are straightforward ways to get Davis going from the perimeter, like a pick-and-pop higher on the floor. There are also some more elaborate actions. The Pelicans found different ways to hide what they really wanted to do. Sometimes Davis would be the one who set a wide pin-down, then whoever he picked free would immediately return the favor. This stuff was complicated enough to stop before, and with LeBron either directly involved in the screen or drawing attention at the top with the ball in his hands, defenses will have no other choice but to wilt. Regardless of who else is on the team, these are some ways LeBron and Davis will work together. If new coach Frank Vogel elects to stagger their minutes, one or both can feast on opposing bench units more than they have before. They’ll of course be a devastating duo on the fast break. James has teamed up with some hypnotic talent in the back half of his career, but placing him beside Davis is like introducing Martin Scorsese to Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s invigorating, a mind-expanding partnership that not only alters how he’ll navigate through the season, but also each game, quarter, and possession. The potential is boundless. Even though they sacrificed most of their future to make this tandem real, what matters is the short term. And, assuming they use their cap space to sign logical complementary pieces, nobody will have a higher ceiling than the LeBron-AD Lakers, at least for this coming season.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Natasha Howard could be the most improbable MVP ever
Major injuries to Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird have given Howard a key role in Seattle, just two years after she was a mere backup scoring four points per game. She’s proving ready for a star’s role. Welcome to The W Is It, a weekly column about all the stuff that freakin’ rules in the WNBA. Here’s last week’s debut column on Chelsea Gray. Have any tips of topics to cover? Find me @mellentuck on Twitter. How deep is the talent pool in the WNBA? Consider that when one MVP went down with a torn Achilles, her teammate, two years removed from being a 12-minute-a-game reserve, has become a candidate herself. Natasha Howard’s meteoric rise has been so rapid that she’s lifted the Seattle Storm out of the injury-plagued wasteland so determined to crush their back-to-back title hopes. With star Breanna Stewart and legend Sue Bird sidelined due to injury, Howard has become an absolute terror. She’s averaging 20 points per game in leading the remaining Storm roster, which has no business holding a record above .500, to a solid 5-4 start nearly one month into the season. The offseason wasn’t kind to Seattle basketball. Like at all. A month before the WNBA season was set to begin, Howard watched as reigning league MVP Stewart, her Storm and Dynamo Kursk teammate, tore her Achilles in the EuroLeague Final Four. Five days later, Seattle’s head coach, Dan Hughes, announced he was diagnosed with cancer. Then, four days before the Storm were set to make their season debut, legendary point guard Sue Bird needed arthroscopic knee surgery, for which she’ll be out indefinitely. The heartbreak was infinite and the Storm’s chances at a back-to-back title were barren. But Howard, the 6’2 slashing, three-point shooting, shot-blocking, court-running and position-bending big, has instead developed her game to a level few thought she’d be able to sustain. Despite double- and triple-teams, she’s scoring over defenders in the paint, seeing the floor better than ever and continuing to serve as a defensive anchor. Recap the top plays from Natasha Howard's double-double performance (31 PTS, 16 REB) @seattlestorm #WNBA #WatchMeWork pic.twitter.com/4bwLr2Hr2r— WNBA (@WNBA) May 25, 2019 Her rise is even more remarkable considering the Storm poached her from the Minnesota Lynx for a mere second-round pick and a pick swap that never happened prior to the 2018 season. Stuck behind 2017 MVP Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson, Howard didn’t have a clear path to earn playing time. It’s criminal, really. But it shows the surplus of talent a league with only 12 teams and 144 roster spots has. “It’s something a lot of teams deal with,” Storm GM Alisha Valavanis told SB Nation. “There’s depth that given a starting opportunity on different teams, they may be able to break out.” Through her game, Howard made her need for a bigger role clear. Anyone who’d seen Team USA’s 2016 Olympic team nearly lose in a scrimmage to the USA Select Team because of a Howard onslaught knew where her ceiling stood. The forward who averaged four points per game in the season prior broke out for 18 fourth-quarter points against the next-best players in the world. After hitting just one three-pointer in eight tries in her first three seasons, she hit three in that one night. “I think that’s when everyone opened their eyes even more like ‘Wow Howard is really good,’” she told SB Nation. “They didn’t know I was that good because I hadn’t had the opportunity to show my talent [like that.]” Now, finally, after four years of learning — and being overlooked just a bit — Howard has taken her chance to shine and is running with it. The Storm are out to an impressive start given the devastating injuries to its most coveted pieces, and that doesn’t happen without Howard’s quick bursts to the rim and much-improved range. She’s proving she can handle a larger plate. This isn’t just the silver lining to crap offseason luck. The Storm, as they stand right now, are a damn threat because of her. Here are a few other things to celebrate from Week 4 of the season. Megan Gustafson is back in the W Let’s GO! Gustafson, the NCAA National Player of the Year and leading scorer in all of college basketball last year at 28 points per game, was drafted by the Dallas Wings in the second round of April’s draft, but then cut before the season started. That’s how much damn talent is in this league. Anyway, the Wings re-signed her on June 13. Though she didn’t see any action in the ensuing game, shouts to her dad, who drove 20 hours to see her suit up for the first time. Gustafson had to fly out to Texas the morning after she found out she’d been offered a contract, so he drove from Wisconsin to Iowa, where she lived, to take her car all the way down to Dallas. The day before Father’s Day too! @GustafsonMeg10’s dad drove a combined 2⃣0⃣ hours this past weekend to see her play pic.twitter.com/fdZ6C6VgSd— WNBA (@WNBA) June 16, 2019 Dan Hughes is coming back this week! Specifically, Friday against the L.A. Sparks, GM Alisha Valavanis told SB Nation. “We are excited to have Coach Hughes back on the sideline.” Hughes, the Storm’s head coach, was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer in April, and he’s been progressing well. On June 6, he said his surgery had been successful and that he’d been at team practices watching interim head coach Gary Kloppenburg take the helm. A quick health update from Coach Dan Hughes #WeRepSeattle pic.twitter.com/J2elAhS1rr— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) June 6, 2019 Fever guard Erica McCall rapped on stage with Carrie Freaking Underwood OMG! @EricaMcCall24 rapping to "The Champion" on stage with @CarrieUnderwood is the BEST thing you will ever see!!! #Fever20 #AllForLove pic.twitter.com/S2FENiPKAp— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) June 17, 2019 Who needs Ludacris when you can get the GOAT of WNBA rap, Erica McCall. This was HYPE. I’m delighted to welcome out newest WNBA stan, Carrie. Amanda Zahui B LIT UP the Sparks In a win over L.A., the New York Liberty big scored a career-high 37 points in 36 minutes and made seven of the eight threes she took. She came into the season with only 38 made threes in four YEARS, yet she came out with flames on the second night of a back-to-back. A walking bucket tonight ☔️ @AmandaZahuiB (37 PTS / 7 REB / 7 3PM) #WatchMeWork pic.twitter.com/2EAWcpsjiC— WNBA (@WNBA) June 16, 2019 WNBA Stan(s) of the Week - LeBron James, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook The Las Vegas Aces really are the biggest bandwagon franchise in the league, huh. Please watch as Kelsey Plum daps everyone up. KP with the Gucci Row crew @Kelseyplum10(via @wnba) pic.twitter.com/KcyQQ1bHDy— WSLAM (@wslam) June 15, 2019 I’m obsessed with this video for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that RUSS is part of the banana boat squad now? How? When? Future Laker? Anyway, this might not be the last we see of Aces Stan Bron. He said he wants to come back for Vegas’ playoff run. Candace Parker is BACK On Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET, Candace Parker will make her 2019 season debut at home against the Washington Mystics. She suffered a hamstring injury in the team’s first preseason game, and her team was able to cling on to a 4-3 record in her absence. Let’s GOOOOOO! She’s back #GoSparks #LeadTheCharge #SparkTheTrueYou pic.twitter.com/LnZlv9h2Hw— Los Angeles Sparks (@LA_Sparks) June 17, 2019
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
How many bases can you rack up in a single MLB game?
Probably not as many as Shawn Green From the early total base leaders the likes of Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig to today’s leaders, Shawn Green and Josh Hamilton, the total base record has always required a player’s single best game of their career. Today, the best route to the top of the list is with MLB’s first five home run game, but it’s not the only way. There are only 18 players who have ever hit four home runs in a game and the leaders in total bases for a single game tend to be a four home run game with flair. Whether it be tacking on a single or double. This makes Shawn Green’s 19 total base game extremely difficult to surpass. Even Mike Cameron, who hit four home runs plus a shot to the warning track a few weeks before Shawn Green’s outburst, finds himself three bases short of the top of the leaderboard. One thing is for sure, when the total base record is broken, it will be a performance for the history books. Be sure to check out more episodes of High Score at www.youtube.com/sbnation.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Jarrett Culver is the NBA draft’s most versatile prospect after Zion Williamson
Inside the rapid improvement that made Jarrett Culver an NBA draft lottery pick. Jarrett Culver’s competitive spirit was forged through the timeless tradition of sibling rivalry beneath the unforgiving west Texas sun. As the youngest of three boys in a family full of athletes, Culver honed the talent that would eventually make him an NBA draft lottery pick by facing his older brothers on the courts and fields around their Lubbock home. The Culvers didn’t just play one sport — they played all of them. Oldest brother Trey would become a two-time NCAA high jump champion who is training for the 2020 Olympics. Middle brother J.J. currently plays college basketball at the NAIA level. Jarrett first excelled as a running back and wide receiver on the football field. His soccer ability was the stuff of urban legend. But upon enrolling at Coronado High School, he decided basketball was the sport he would devote himself to in full. Randy Dean coached all three Culver boys on Coronado’s basketball program. He described Trey as a glue guy who provided defense and rebounding. J.J. “only knew one speed” which led to spectacular moments but also some mistakes. And Jarrett? “He just had that presence on the floor that the great players have,” Dean told SB Nation. “He wasn’t flamboyant or cocky about it. But you knew he was the guy.” The youngest Culver flourished in his junior year as Dean moved him from the wing to full-time point guard. He was turning into the best player in the area by the time Coronado went to a Christmas tournament when misfortune struck. Culver went up for a ferocious dunk, got caught up on the rim, and came down with an injured shoulder. The pain lingered through the season but he never took any time off. When Coronado was eliminated from the playoffs, the school soccer coach asked Jarrett and J.J. if they’d be interested in joining his team for the end of the season. Jarrett scored four goals in six games to help the squad qualify for the postseason. Then it was back to basketball for his debut appearance on Nike’s EYBL circuit. Culver had only been receiving mid-major college interest to that point. Everything change when he was asked to join Texas-based program Pro Skills for their trip to Brooklyn on the opening weekend of EYBL play. In his second game, Culver scored 18 straight points, drawing legitimate headlines and opening up the flood gates for his college interest. Two days before Culver would fly to New York, Texas Tech hired Chris Beard away from UNLV in one of the strangest and most impactful coaching carrousel fiascos in the history of the sport. While former Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith never extended an offer to Culver, Beard did so immediately. Culver committed before the start of his senior year, choosing to stay in his hometown for college. He was still considered a three-star prospect at No. 312 in 247 Sports’ rankings. Finally, Culver saw a doctor about his shoulder. They told him he had a torn labrum and advised getting surgery immediately. Culver couldn’t stand the thought of missing his senior year, so he opted to play the entire season injured and have the procedure when the year ended. “That’s really the story of his character right there,” Dean said. “The other guys on the team were guys he had been playing with since 7th or 8th grade. He wanted that senior year to be good for them not just for himself. That’s why he chose to play” Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports Texas Tech had never been past the Sweet 16 in the history of the program when Culver arrived on campus. As a freshman, he emerged as the third leading scorer on a team that would go all the way to the Elite Eight. Still, Culver wasn’t even the breakout recruit on his own team. That would be Zhaire Smith, another three-star prospect who blossomed into the surprise No. 16 NBA draft pick after a brilliant one-and-done season no one expected. Culver now had the blueprint to follow his own NBA dreams. As the Red Raiders lost six of their top eight leading scorers from the year before, Culver assumed the mantle as Beard’s leading man. Like high school, he was moved on the ball from the wing. And like high school, he thrived with the move to de facto point guard. All Culver did as a sophomore was take a team full of overlooked recruits just like himself to the national championship game. He was the hub of everything the Red Raiders did on offense, turning into a dynamic off-the-dribble creator on a team where no one else could easily get their own look. Here are seven plays that show the versatility of his scoring ability out of pick-and-rolls and isolations: Culver always has a counter. With hesitation dribbles, spin moves, and wrong-footed layups, he turned into a crafty driver and one of the sport’s great finishers. On the season, he converted 69 percent of his shots at the rim with only 25 percent of those field goals coming off assists, per Hoop-Math. While a player like R.J. Barrett drew criticism for having tunnel vision and seemingly predetermining his drives, Culver consistently had a trick up his sleeve to get a bucket. Culver was the driving force on the Red Raiders’ offense, but the real reason the team ran all the way to the national championship game was because it had the most efficient defense of college basketball’s modern era. It’s defense where Culver will likely make his biggest impact early in his career. He projects as a three or potentially four-position defender who can switch screens, hold his own at the point of attack, and help teammates by making quick reads away from the ball. His advanced feel for the game shows up on both ends, giving him tremendous role player potential as he makes the jump to the NBA. Even if he never develops into a go-to offensive option in the league like he was at Texas Tech, his defensive ability, passing skill, and high IQ all project to make him a valuable player. Here are three defensive plays and three passes that show Culver’s two-way versatility. Culver is widely considered of the best perimeter defenders in this draft. Critics will point to his 30 percent three-point percentage as a reason to worry about his offense, but it’s also worth noting he scored efficiently in a variety of different ways. Culver graded out as “good” or better in every play type this season in Synergy Sports’ database. The jumper will get better, too. Culver reworked his shot over the last offseason to create a higher release and improve his rotation on the ball. The fact the Culver was able to get off 5.2 three-point attempts per-40 is encouraging. Volume is a skill in itself, something that contemporaries like De’Andre Hunter (3.4 three-point attempts, per 40) couldn’t match even as a more accurate shooter. Versatility is the name of the game in today’s NBA. Jarrett Culver is as versatile as any player in the 2019 NBA Draft this side of Zion Williamson. Culver can initiate offensive sets as a ball handler and find a way to score efficiently regardless of the situation. While he lacks ideal first step burst, he makes up for it with a full bag of counters and an unusual rhythm to his attacks. He also knows how the make smart cuts off the ball and even has a solid post game when a smaller defender switches on him on. Defensively, Culver has the size, quickness, and feel to be impactful. He measured at 6’6.75, 194 pounds with a 6’9.5 wingspan at the combine, giving him the type of frame to handle a plethora of different offensive players as he adds muscle to his frame. He thrives in help-and-recover situations, which is a vital part of defense in today’s NBA. Players typically get drafted in the top-five for takeover scoring ability, blistering first-step athleticism, or knockdown shooting. Culver doesn’t have any of those traits, at least not yet. What he does have is a well-rounded, intelligent game that translates at both ends. He had a massive impact on winning at the college level and projects to do the same in the NBA. Whatever a team needs, Jarrett Culver is there to do it. His game isn’t done blooming yet.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Stanford might be college football’s most predictable program, but 2019 is a mystery
Can David Shaw’s Cardinal overcome inexperience and take advantage of a home-friendly schedule? Bill C’s annual preview series of every FBS team in college football continues. Catch up here! Football is a messy, small-sample activity that rarely leaves us with crystal-clear answers. You lose games to lesser teams, you beat better teams, and because we’re dealing with a 12-game regular season and not, say, 82 or 162, we learn to live with the lack of transitive clarity. Stanford has become a rather interesting exception to the rule. Since 2013, David Shaw’s Cardinal haven’t lost to a team that finished with a losing record. They also haven’t beaten all that many particularly good teams. Over the last five years, they’re 9-17 against teams that finished with nine or more wins and 39-2 against everyone else. The 2018 season was particularly stratified. Stanford whipped up on bad teams, beat decent teams, and lost to good ones. The defense stopped bad offenses and got gashed by good ones, and quarterback KJ Costello did great against bad defenses and was merely solid against good ones. Stanford vs. teams ranked 31st or better in S&P+ (0-4) — average score: Opp 37, Stanford 25 | yards per play: Opp 6.3, Stanford 6.0 | average percentile performance: 58% | Costello’s passer rating: 143.7 Stanford vs. teams between 32nd and 75th (6-0) — average score: Stanford 24, Opp 14 | yards per play: Stanford 5.7, Opp 5.4 | average percentile performance: 64% | Costello’s passer rating: 158.4 Stanford vs. teams ranked 76th or worse (3-0) — average score: Stanford 42, Opp 23 | yards per play: Stanford 7.0, Opp 5.4 | average percentile performance 58% | Costello’s passer rating 166.9 At first glance, it appears that Stanford began the season on fire (4-0), hit a mid-year funk (1-4), and finished strong (4-0). Really, though, the Cardinal were mostly the same team — the funk just happened when the best teams on the schedule showed up. This is about as predictable an existence that college football offers. Is it a happy one? Just more than a decade ago, with Shaw on staff, Jim Harbaugh pulled off one of the starkest program-building jobs of the 21st century. He inherited a Stanford program at one of its lowest historical ebbs — the Cardinal had averaged just 3.2 wins per year over the previous five seasons and had finished ranked just three times in 29 years — and got the foundation laid in just a couple of years. From 102nd in S&P+ the year before he arrived, he improved them to 78th in 2007, 60th in 2008, 35th in 2009, and fourth in 2010. Harbaugh left for the NFL, but Shaw has kept the house intact. Stanford has established itself as a constant top-25 caliber program that plays more physically than you do and recruits better than its admissions standards would lead you to believe is possible. When they keep their starting QB healthy, the Cardinal win a lot of games. When they don’t, well, they still win quite a few games. Their S&P+ rating has also acted like a house settling into its foundation — on average, it sinks slightly each year. Stanford has, per S&P+, gotten at least a tiny bit worse in six of the last eight seasons. They are projected to make it seven of nine seasons this fall. This is an odd place to be. A decade ago, only ranking 32nd, as they are projected to this fall, would be a cause for celebration. And based on basic long-term health indicators — investment in the program, proximity to eligible recruits, etc. — it’s still a hell of an accomplishment. But when it is demonstrated that you can do more than that, it still feels disappointing. Costello was rock solid last fall, carrying an offense that got a massively disappointing contribution from its run game, but he’s nearly the only known entity returning on offense. His top running back (Bryce Love), top two WRs (JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trenton Irwin), top tight end (Kaden Smith), and four of five line starters are gone. It’s Costello, all-world left tackle Walker Little — admittedly not the worst starting point — and a lot of mysteries on offense. The defense should improve after fielding an uncharacteristic number of freshmen and sophomores, but will it improve enough to offset offensive regression? Is Costello good enough to avoid that regression altogether? We can assume that whatever level Stanford establishes, the Cardinal will beat the teams below that line and lose to the teams above it, but where might that line be? Offense This is not the radar one would expect from a team that had a running back drafted in April: The Cardinal headed into 2018 with maybe the scariest running back in college football and a massively experienced line. They proceeded to rank 107th in Rushing S&P+ and eighth in Passing S&P+. Over 24 percent of their non-sack carries were stuffed at or behind the line. Love was battling knee and ankle injuries from basically the first snap of the season, and the line didn’t have a single guy who started all 13 games. Love was never a particularly efficient back — Stanford’s 2017 success basically came from waiting around until he exploded for a 50-yard gain — but in 2018 he lost most of his explosiveness too. He had 30 rushes of 20-plus yards in 2017, then just eight last year. Backup Cameron Scarlett was a bit more efficient than Love but was even less explosive. Youngsters Trevor Speights and Dorian Maddox offered nothing in either category. Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports K.J. Costello With a worthless run game, Stanford slowly opened things up. Costello averaged 28 passes per game in September and 38 per game through the rest of the regular season. And despite this one-dimensionality, he completed 65 percent of his passes and finished 16th in overall passer rating. Arcega-Whiteside, Irwin, and Smith became the rocks that Love couldn’t, and Stanford somehow finished 26th in Off. S&P+, only 10 spots worse than 2017. So was it Costello or his receivers? Was he making them look good, or vice versa? The answers to those questions will determine whether Stanford can withstand attrition. Costello does get tight end Colby Parkinson back; the junior and former blue-chipper was easily the most explosive of the primary targets (16.7 yards per catch), but he was far less efficient, too. He was an all-or-nothing weapon in a corps of constants, and he’ll need to become more consistent this fall because Costello might be leaning on him a lot. Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports Colby Parkinson Shaw has recruited remarkably well in the receiving corps. Parkinson is a former top-40 recruit, and Stanford currently boasts six four-star freshman, redshirt freshman, or sophomores at wideout. Sophomore Osiris St. Brown looked the part in a small sample, gaining 204 yards in just eight receptions. Three more young blue-chippers (Michael Wilson, Connor Wedington, and Simi Fehoko) combined for 24 catches as well, but this isn’t much to lean on. One assumes that Shaw and offensive coordinator — pardon me, Andrew Luck Director of Offense — Tavita Pritchard will strive for balance if at all possible. Can Scarlett carve out an efficiency niche with the turnover up front? Granted, Little’s not alone; three others (juniors Devery Hamilton and Dylan Powell and sophomore Drew Dalman) have combined for 21 career starts up front, and sophomore blue-chipper Foster Sarell could figure things out at any moment. But the line still has a lot more to prove than we would normally expect of the Stanford line. Defense Shaw has pretty consistently fielded an elite unit on either offense or defense. He has never managed to field two in the same year. He has had three offenses finish 16th or better in Off. S&P+, but Stanford averaged a Def. S&P+ ranking of 46.3 in those years. He has had four defenses rank 12th or better, but his offense averaged 44.8 in those years. Very strange. Last year was the first under Shaw in which Stanford had neither a top-16 offense or defense. Granted, that might have been different had Love and the O-line remained semi-healthy, but either way, the defense was a mediocre-for-the-talent-level 43rd. This was almost encouraging. Stanford actually improved ever-so-slightly on defense (from 44th) despite massive youth. Eighteen defenders made at least 13 tackles last season, and nine of them were freshmen or sophomores. This probably explains why defensive coordinator Willie Shaw Director of Defense Lance Anderson played so conservatively: Stanford was 39th in marginal explosiveness but 87th in marginal efficiency and 61st in overall havoc rate. That’s awfully bend-don’t-break. D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports Paulson Adebo Maybe it’s encouraging, though, that those nine freshmen and sophomores made over half of Stanford’s havoc plays (tackles for loss, passes defensed, forced fumbles). One of those youngsters, Paulson Adebo, was maybe the best cornerback in the Pac-12 last year despite his redshirt freshman status. Paulson Adebo headlines the strong group of cornerbacks returning for action in the Pac-12 this year. pic.twitter.com/qpjyBG1ufA— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 30, 2019 Even with bend-don’t-break rules applying, Adebo defensed 23 passes (second in FBS, behind only Virginia’s Bryce Hall) and recorded 3.5 tackles for loss and three run stuffs as well. Adebo, junior Obi Eboh, and sophomore Kendall Williamson give Stanford maybe the most exciting CB corps in the conference despite the loss of starter Alijah Holder. Safety Malik Antoine returns, too, though there’s not another experienced safety on the roster. With these corners, Anderson might get the itch to be more aggressive, but we’ll see if the safety situation allows it. Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports Jovan Swann (51) The defensive line returns mostly intact, too. Seven linemen recorded at least two tackles, and six were freshmen or sophomores. Junior-to-be Michael Williams was the leading tackler up front, and despite lining up mostly as two-gappers — intended to be more block-occupiers than play-makers — ends Jovan Swann and Thomas Booker combined for 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The major turnover comes at linebacker, where four of last year’s primary seven are gone. But Jordan Fox, Gabe Reid, and Casey Toohill (Stanford’s most active linebacker, recording seven havoc plays in seven games but missing six games with two different injuries) are still back. But they were all OLBs last year. Stanford has a lot of exciting defensive talent, but it has to be disconcerting that the backbone of the D — namely, the inside linebackers and safeties — is where most of the turnover occurs. Special Teams Maybe we should call future Stanford special teams coaches the Pete Alamar Director of Special Teams. Alamar came to Stanford as special teams coordinator in 2012 and has brought spectacular consistency to what is generally the least consistent unit on the field. Stanford has ranked eighth or better in Special Teams S&P+ in each of the last four seasons, and with the return of place-kicker Jet Toner, he’ll have a chance to make it five straight. He has to break in a new punter and punt returner, however. 2019 outlook 2019 Schedule & Projection Factors Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability 31-Aug Northwestern 57 8.3 68% 7-Sep at USC 29 -3.2 43% 14-Sep at UCF 27 -4.2 40% 21-Sep Oregon 20 -1.3 47% 28-Sep at Oregon State 105 17.0 84% 5-Oct Washington 15 -5.1 38% 17-Oct UCLA 63 9.5 71% 26-Oct Arizona 52 7.1 66% 9-Nov at Colorado 68 5.8 63% 16-Nov at Washington State 36 -1.3 47% 23-Nov California 60 9.1 70% 30-Nov Notre Dame 12 -6.6 35% Projected S&P+ Rk 32 Proj. Off. / Def. Rk 37 / 39 Projected wins 6.7 Five-Year S&P+ Rk 17.9 (12) 2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 21 2018 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 3 / 0.9 2018 TO Luck/Game +0.8 Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 54% (45%, 63%) 2018 Second-order wins (difference) 8.4 (0.6) This is an odd time for Stanford. The Cardinal have indeed been inclined to regress slightly for most of Shaw’s tenure, but they still have plenty of upside, and they might be starting as few as one senior on each side of the ball. Depending on which underclassmen go pro, they could be building toward something massive in 2020. Thanks to home-road splits, though, now’s the time to overachieve. The three most highly-projected teams on the Cardinal’s schedule (Notre Dame, Washington, Oregon) all visit Stanford Stadium, and while they are projected underdogs in six games, all six of those games are projected within a touchdown. If some young receivers step up for Costello, and if the aforementioned defensive backbone is just sturdy enough to allow exciting edge defenders to make plays, then every game on the schedule is winnable. Of course, if neither of those things happen, then about nine games are losable, too. We won’t have to wait long to get our answers about this team. Of five projected top-30 opponents, three show up on the schedule in the first four weeks, and that’s after a visit from defending Big Ten West champion Northwestern. Team preview stats All 2019 preview data to date.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Parc des Princes smells a little like pee
On pee, and the animal instincts that unite all cultures. The World Cup opener at Parc des Princes was too cold to take in a sensory impression of the stadium. All one really cared about was huddling up against the gusting wind while watching France get a 4-0 win against South Korea. But nine days and a dozen degrees Fahrenheit later, as the United States kept Chile almost entirely contained in its own half for 90 minutes, the unmistakable aroma of old pee drifted up into and around the press area. It reminded me of an incident a few days earlier at the Centre sportif Emile Anthoine, close to the Eiffel Tower. I was headed to a press event and, to my misfortune, clear as day saw a man relieving himself in the bushes just outside the center. There were plenty of people passing by on the nearby sidewalk because, as you’ll recall, this was by the Eiffel Tower. He did not care. He simply peed. As it turns out, humans act like animals everywhere. Americans have a complex relationship with the French. We envy Parisians for their perceived sophistication, their cosmopolitan attitudes, their seemingly unending flow of wine and gourmet cheeses. Yet we lampoon them for these things as well, tutting at the image of the roué fellow about town, the libertine philosopher smoking a cigarette and poo-pooing boorish Americans. The cigarette thing, from what I’ve seen, is pretty accurate, making some parts of Paris smell like Las Vegas. But the rest is your standard cultural cartoon Frankenstein’d from generic historical attitudes, pop culture images, and imagination filling in the Atlantic-sized gap between us. Meanwhile, I have seen approximately several hundred New York-related apparel items in Paris and Reims, either relating to the city itself, or to the Yankees. A Parisian in an NYC snapback is a New Yorker in a Paris je t’aime shirt, a way of enjoying the existence of an outside world beyond your familiar boundaries. The cross-global pollution happening between two of the most famous — or infamous — cities in the world is an undeniable link between our essential humanities, just like our dude peeing in the bushes. He could have been behind any bar on the Lower East Side. He just happened to be in broad daylight by a giant athletic center in a major tourist area. Parisians probably have their images of Americans too. I met a Franco-American in a bakery, someone who had spent most of her life in France but gotten her university education in America. She told me it took her a while to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all picture of Americans, who differ from one another across county lines, let alone across states or geographical regions. France, is, after all, less than the size of Texas. An American northeasterner and southerner might have less in common between them than they would with a Parisian. But whether it’s the pizza-rat subways of New York City, the open container back alleys of New Orleans, or the bushes by the Eiffel Tower, we really are just human beings with bad judgment who need to pee.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Was the Kawhi Leonard trade actually a risk for the Raptors? A debate
Did Masai Ujiri really make a bold gamble trading for Leonard, or was it actually riskier to keep the status quo? Last July, the Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard. By itself, with no other context in the frame, that sentence should be viewed as a humongous victory for that organization. But Leonard was not coming off an MVP-caliber campaign when the Raptors acquired him. A mysterious quad injury effectively ended his 2017-18 season with only nine games under his belt — in eight of those nine, he did not crack 30 minutes. On top of that, 2019 would be the final year of his contract, meaning the Raptors might have just forked over DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first-round pick for one year of Leonard, if healthy. (Also, Danny Green, which is important to note). That sounds like a risky move, but was it? Looking back on the deal one week after the Raptors won their first championship in franchise history, SB Nation’s Mike Prada and Michael Pina debate that question below. MIKE PRADA: All season long, Masai Ujiri’s decision to trade for Kawhi Leonard has been classified as a gamble. “Will Kawhi Leonard validate the Raptors’ big bet” is the exact language I used in tracking the impact the playoffs will have on the NBA’s biggest stories. It seemed obvious to me that trading for an injured star with no assurances he’d stay beyond this season was a big risk. I didn’t even think to call it something else. But you don’t see it that way. Is it fair to say you don’t think it was a risky move at all? MICHAEL PINA: For a variety of reasons, I don’t. Some of why I feel the way I have isn’t based on rational thought. I recognized Kawhi’s injury history but, him being someone I long thought would unseat LeBron James as the proverbial Best Player Alive, even 90 percent of that talent was far better than DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a late first-round pick. So I never expected him to be anything less than great this season — a contract year in which he’s trying to get paid. By the time meaningful games roll around, he’d be in good enough shape to rediscover his apex. Now, even if the real “risk” here centers more around Leonard’s free agency than his health, to me, as an organization that’s long operated with an NBA championship in mind, another season of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan would be a far worse gamble. During his introductory press conference back in 2013, Ujiri told media members assembled before him “the overall goal in the NBA is to win a championship. That has to be the overall goal. It’s not playoffs, it’s not … it’s to win a championship at the end.” Fast forward to last summer. The Raptors had won 48, 49, 56, 51, and 59 games with Ujiri at the helm, and had zero appearances in the Finals to show for it. Two roads are then presented: Trade for Leonard (and Danny Green) without surrendering your top two assets, then, even if only for one year, dramatically raise your organization’s ceiling, or ... Run it back and, in all likelihood, lose in the first, second, or third round. Again. With DeRozan about to turn 30 on the final year of his contract. Lowry is 33. Which option is a greater risk? PRADA: First of all, you can’t just hand-waive the injury risk away. Kawhi spent the entire season battling a medical staff purported to be among the most forward-thinking and player-friendly in the entire league. He played nine games during the season and shut himself down in the middle of that process. No matter how great a fully healthy Leonard is, you’d be nuts to not worry about the possibility of re-injury or, worse, permanent decline. (Regarding your point about him wanting to prove himself in a contract year and thus get himself in better shape, we just saw Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson show that will alone cannot overcome the realities of the human body). Second of all, the choices you present are vastly oversimplified. It’s not like Ujiri was spoon-fed that final offer and simply had to accept it. He had to do the work to seek it out, negotiate the Spurs down, divert attention away from other potential transactions, and ultimately complete it, all without jeopardizing the mood of the roster if it fell through. To go through all that, you have to make a decision that what you have isn’t enough and that the best way to get out is to stake everything on one season with a player that may not be healthy. Remember, Ujiri didn’t exactly break up a 40-something-win low-playoff seed. He broke up a team that won a franchise-record 59 games, led by the coach of the year and two stars who finally embraced a city that had been spat on throughout its history. He sacrificed a homegrown talent for a one-year chance to improve on the best season in franchise history. It’s easy to say the DeRozan-Lowry Raptors hit a glass ceiling, and maybe they did. But with LeBron James out of the conference, there was reason to believe the team who had the best record in the conference the season before could step into the power vacuum without doing anything. Given all those conditions, Ujiri vigorously pursued and executed the trades. I buy that it was smart. I don’t buy that it had no risk. Here’s a question for you: if exchanging that level of a trade package for one guaranteed year of Leonard was such a low-risk move, why didn’t any other team beat the offer? Why is the idea of trading for a “rental” still taboo to so many? PINA: I do not dispute that trading for a one-year rental is typically a gamble, but the particulars that apply to Leonard and Toronto do not translate across the board. The Raptors were simultaneously on the doorstep of a Finals appearance—sans enough talent to actually make it—and on the verge of starting over. How many teams can say that? This trade was a way to get in front of the inevitable, upping championship odds without mortgaging the future. How much worse is their long-term position if Leonard’s leg falls off a day after he lands in Canada, really? Before the trade, this team was running in place; a rebuild was on the horizon. Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka were not offered the five-year deals they wanted in 2017, and Ujiri reportedly offered DeRozan to the Thunder for the same package (Victor Oladipo and Domatas Sabonis) they traded for Paul George. With Kawhi, a rare opportunity presented itself and Ujiri snatched it without having to fork over anything of real substance (outside a late first-round pick) that would be useful after DeRozan and Lowry’s contracts expired. The Raptors only had so long to break through, and even without LeBron in their path, let’s please be serious about how good this team would’ve been with DeRozan as a first option this season. That squad is more likely to fall against the Magic than defeat the 76ers. We know they weren’t good enough to fill any LeBron-less vacuum, either. Since Ujiri was hired, Toronto’s postseason plus/minus was -11, -56, -85, -57, and -44. They were outscored by 10 points against the Indiana Pacers in 2016, and scored just four more points than the Milwaukee Bucks in a six-game series the following year. Meanwhile, every other realistic suitor either had no urgent motivationto shake things up (Boston and Philadelphia), or figured they could just sign him in free agency (both teams in LA). Trading for Leonard was an unnecessary and legitimate risk for them all because, at the time, Boston and Philadelphia was confident in their future. Dealing attractive assets that doubled as present-day contributors could’ve ruined that if Leonard walked. These teams were young, with key pieces that had untapped potential, and their front offices had reason to believe internal growth could guide them to a championship. The Lakers and Clippers were incentivized to pursue Leonard in free agency. Why give anything up when you can get him for free? The Raptors had none of that going for them. If they keep Leonard, great. If not, they are where they would’ve been anyway, set to enter a different part of their franchise life cycle. For them, standing still was always the greater risk. PRADA: All that is fair, and I get that Toronto’s situation was somewhat unique. But to me, that actually underscores why this trade was risky. The assumption in all your detailed analysis of the situation is that any NBA team would process their situation the same way Ujiri and Toronto did, and that’s simply not an assumption I’m willing to make or take for granted. Forget the teams you mentioned, even though all of them took a safe route that the Raptors could have justified. Where were other “stuck” teams in the Leonard trade picture? Where was Portland, for example, another team built around two guards that didn’t have a clear path to contention? Where was Washington? Where was Indiana? Where was Miami? Where were any number of teams that had a DeRozan-level player and weren’t coming off 59-win seasons with multiple all-stars on the best team in franchise history? Nitpick the particulars of each all you want, but if trading for Leonard wasn’t a risk, then it follows that all or even just one those teams would have at least jumped in more aggressively and forced Toronto to come with a better offer. Actually, here’s a better comparison: the mid-10s Clippers. Both teams achieved historic success for their morbid franchises, yet kept bumping up against glass ceilings in heartbreaking fashion. Both teams had decisions to make: play it “safe” and try to nibble around the edges, or go for broke and make dramatic changes to their cores. Were the Leonard trade not a risk, these two teams would have both chosen Option No. 2. Instead, the Clippers kept trying to run it back, while the Raptors bullied their way into the Leonard sweepstakes and got the deal done. Ultimately, I think our disagreement stems from the idea that the Leonard trade, in your words, was “a rare opportunity that presented itself.” My point throughout is that opportunities don’t just present themselves to you. You have to make a bet against incumbency bias to go get those opportunities with as much zeal necessary to get deals done. That’s where Ujiri really made his bold gamble. PINA: See, I don’t think there was any other team that can be compared to Toronto. Bradley Beal and Victor Oladipo are four and three years younger than DeRozan, respectively, and the Heat had nothing close to a perennial all-star on their roster. The Raptors were coming off a season in which they had the best bench in basketball. They were built to go from DeRozan to Kawhi and expect a championship, knowing Lowry, Ibaka, Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, etc. were there as a solid support system. There were even more paths to upgrade the roster (Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and CJ Miles for Marc Gasol), too. In other words, the Raptors were unique. I don’t think they shared much beyond postseason disappointment with those Clippers, either. Those teams were good, particularly when Chris Paul first got there. From 2013 to 2015 they finished with a top-three point differential, which is obviously plenty good enough to win it all, and when healthy their stars were even better in the playoffs than they were during the regular season. The same can’t be said for DeRozan and Lowry. At the end of the day I fundamentally don’t believe trading for Leonard was a risk in Toronto because A) they didn’t give up much, and B) they were headed towards a notable step back from anything close to title contention if they did nothing at all. For Toronto, it was always worth it to make this deal. Even if it blew up in their face, they wouldn’t be in any worse position than had they done nothing at all. Risk implies they had something to lose, but by doing it, all they had was a championship to gain.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
6 NFL players on the verge of their best season yet
Free agency and shrewd draft moves have surrounded these six veterans with more talent than ever. This offseason, several NFL players found new homes that could lead to major improvements in their games. Odell Beckham Jr. moved from Eli Manning’s aging passing game to Baker Mayfield’s deep ball extravaganza in Cleveland. Trey Flowers left New England’s rotation-heavy defense to reunite with his former defensive coordinator in Detroit. Nick Foles will get the opportunity to make 16 starts behind center for the first time in his career now that he’s a Jaguar. Then there’s the flip side. Plenty of players benefitted from staying home, watching the supporting casts around them improve. For instance, Jacksonville’s group of wideouts upgraded from Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler sailing passes over their heads to working with a Super Bowl MVP. Mayfield gets an All-Pro wideout to fling passes at indiscriminately, knowing there’s a non-negligible chance Beckham will catch it no matter where it goes. The entire Lions defensive front will get some extra opportunities to crash the pocket thanks to Flowers’ versatile presence. But then there are the veterans who are just waiting for an opportunity to regain lost glory or reach their potential. These are the players primed for breakout and comeback seasons, set to reward the faith their teams have invested in them. So who’s in line for a big 2019? Here are six veterans whose front offices have put them in line for a significant uptick. DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins Since the start of 2019, Parker went from catching passes from checkdown masters Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler (a combined 7.1 yards per attempt last fall) to deep ball lesser god Ryan Fitzpatrick (a league-leading 9.6 YPA). The results in training camp so far have been promising. We've watched this 50 times already... What about you?Fitzpatrick >> @DeVanteParker11 pic.twitter.com/CDC3Tgfuzq— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 6, 2019 Parker’s inconsistencies have been endemic of the profile Miami was eager to cast aside. Despite carrying the pedigree of a first-round wideout with him into the league, he’s failed to match the numbers he put up over his final two seasons at Louisville. While he briefly emerged as a deep threat as a rookie in 2015 (19.0 yards per catch), his career has mostly stalled out thanks in part to his place in an offense that struggled to stretch the field. Tannehill, a quarterback forged in the ether of limbo to be eternally stuck between good and bad, is gone. And although he wasn’t able to take advantage of Jarvis Landry’s absence last season, Parker will hear his number called more than ever now that he’s paired with a quarterback who prefers to look downfield rather than default to his slot wideout with regularity. The Dolphins recognized this potential, too. They extended him for two years and $10 million earlier this offseason. If (or when) Fitzpatrick is replaced by second-year passer Josh Rosen, Parker will be the security blanket for a young, budding quarterback eager to prove himself — and who is capable of making throws like this: .@MarkSchofield brought this Josh Rosen throw to my attn. while discussing Rosen's reported "third round" trade value.W13, 3rd & 23, tie game, 4:35 left. Leads to a GW FG. Couldn't put it anywhere else. pic.twitter.com/aaOWaJwBpL— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 7, 2019 Derek Carr, QB, Raiders The bad news is Carr won’t have Marshawn Lynch to provide support — both moral and ground — in 2019. The good news is, holy crap, Jon Gruden just gave him a brand new toolbox with which to work. Gruden resisted the temptation to replace a quarterback who emerged as an MVP candidate in 2016 and instead improved his team’s foundation around Carr. Donald Penn and rookie Kolton Miller made up one of the league’s worst tackle tandems last season, so Oakland released the veteran Penn, kept 2018 first-round pick Miller at left tackle, and brought Patriots left tackle Trent Brown to the West Coast with a record-setting contract to lock down the other side of the offensive line. This extra time to throw — Carr was sacked a career-high 51 times in 2018 — will come in handy after the Raiders completely revamped their receiving corps. Out went Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, and Jordy Nelson. In came Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Hunter Renfrow, and, most importantly, Antonio Brown. While the club’s lack of tight end help is concerning, Carr will now have a deep lineup of targets who can create windows of opportunity up and down the field. If he can’t regain his 2016 magic with this roster, he may never — and that could leave Gruden angling to replace his franchise quarterback before his team’s 2020 move to Las Vegas. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals Johnson emerged as an all-world multipurpose tailback in 2016, but injury, awful blocking, the league’s least-threatening passing offense, and the Cardinals’ amazing excess of gridiron malaise transformed him into bad-year Doug Martin last season. Arizona was unhappy with all of that, so it blew everything up and wagered its future on an offensive savant who’d just been fired as the 35-40 head coach of Texas Tech University: Kliff Kingsbury. The 2019 Cardinals will be leaning hard into a rebuild, but it’s easy to see what Kingsbury has in mind for his latest project. After drafting Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray with the first-overall pick and adding pass catchers like Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson later in the draft, the first-year NFL head coach is assembling a limitation-free spread offense. He’ll allow Murray to take chances downfield and improvise mightily in and out of the pocket. That creates a lot of space for a dual-threat back to thrive. Though Kingsbury only had one Red Raiders running back record more than 30 receptions in a single season (DeAndre Washington, who is currently part of the black-and-silver Raiders’ platoon), he’s also never had a weapon like Johnson to boost his offense. The former Northern Iowa standout broke out for 80 catches and 879 receiving yards while leading the league in yards from scrimmage in his monster 2016 season. Now he’ll be the safety valve for a rookie quarterback who may need to make a whole bunch of short-yard snap decisions thanks to Arizona’s work-in-progress offensive line. That blocking could still be a problem, but Kingsbury’s spread offense and the keep-em-honest deep threats provided by Isabella and Butler should open up lanes for Johnson to thrive. He’s also the top tailback on a depth chart that features T.J. Logan and Chase Edmonds, so he should get a lot of opportunities to prove he’s still an upper-tier runner. Kyler Fackrell, LB, Packers Fackrell set a career high with 10.5 sacks in 2018. This was impressive not only because it came in seven starts (over 16 games played), but because it came for a defense whose other primary edge threat was a 32-year-old Clay Matthews (3.5 sacks, 12 QB hits). It was also a bit of an anomaly, since Fackrell’s 12 QB hits suggest he wasn’t getting to the passer as much as your typical double-digit sack performer — Fletcher Cox, for instance, also had 10.5 sacks last season but contributed 34 QB hits as a master disruptor. The fourth-year pro is now primed for a starting role at outside linebacker in 2019, and Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has given Fackrell some much-needed support to keep his trajectory pointed upward. Green Bay made an extremely uncharacteristic splash in free agency by doling out $154 million in contracts for outside linebackers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith along with safety Adrian Amos. He’d later add former uber-recruit Rashan Gary in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to round out his rebuild of the Packers’ pass rush. This updated depth chart could push Fackrell out of the spotlight, but he’s already proven himself as a valuable rotation piece for a team with few real threats to contain. Now he’ll be flanked by players capable of occupying blockers and preventing scrambles and rollouts away from his pressure. While that may not lead to a new personal record when it comes to sacks, Fackrell should be a much more consistent presence in opponents’ backfields in 2019. Myles Garrett, DE, and Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Browns Third-year pros Garrett and Ogunjobi are hardly long-toothed veterans and both are coming off exceptional seasons. The addition of Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson, a dynamic veteran duo set to lineup alongside them in Cleveland’s four-man front, will make them even more dangerous. John Dorsey’s radical overhaul continued this spring as his Browns went above and beyond just stealing Beckham away. No team in the league can match the balance of pass-rushing power Cleveland will bring to the trenches behind a lineup that features four starters who combined for more than 30 sacks last fall. And now they’ll get more freedom than ever to baffle opposing linemen and quarterbacks thanks to the departure of rigid defensive coordinator Gregg Williams: “I hopefully have more freedom to be the player I want to be,” Garrett told the media after a minicamp practice in Cleveland. “[Former defensive coordinator and interim head coach] Gregg [Williams] was more like: ‘You win with these two moves. I don’t want to see anything else out of you.’ It’s kind of hard with two moves. I feel like you can’t always be so predictable.” Quarterbacks stepping up to avoid the edge pressure of Vernon and Garrett will only be pushed into the blocker-backpedaling force of Richardson and Ogunjobi. At 600 combined pounds, that pair will also be a hellacious combo to clear for runs up the middle. Their ability to absorb blockers should also create gaps for Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert to excel as high-yield linebackers. Pressure is going to burst through the Cleveland defensive front like a malfunctioning pressure cooker, and that chaos should lead to career bests across Freddie Kitchens’ roster.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Why each NFC South team will go over and under their Vegas win total in 2019
Vegas win totals are set for the 2019 season. With teams through their offseason workout program, it’s time to consider where each team will land. The true NFL offseason is officially upon us. Mandatory minicamp has come to a close and players from all 32 teams have gone their separate ways. Most players will get some vacation time in while continuing to work out in preparation for the return to training camp in late July. Once training camp arrives, the road to Super Bowl 54 begins in earnest. Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie. Below are win totals for the four teams in the NFC South. The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on 10.5 wins for the Saints, the payout is +120 (you bet $100 to win $120). If you bet the under, the payout is -140 (you bet $140 to win $100). That means the under is the favorite. Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not. Now that roster overhauls are mostly complete and teams have finished up spring workouts, we took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter. New Orleans Saints: 10.5 (+120, -140) — Canal Street Chronicles Why over: Drew Brees holds off Father Time for one more year and combines with an improving defense to make another playoff run. Brees has shown some signs of decline recently, notably in road games, but it’s not unreasonable to bet on him keeping it up for another year. He won’t have Mark Ingram in the backfield, but when healthy, Latavius Murray has been a solid complementary option. Also, don’t sleep on the addition of tight end Jared Cook and the further development of wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Meanwhile, the Saints have won 13 and 11 games the past two years in part because their defense has started to turn into one of the better in the league. The unit showed signs of growth last season, and the addition of rookie safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson gives them a chance to boost a secondary that struggled last season. Why under: Drew Brees showed some signs of deterioration in the second half of last season, and is a year older. The departures of center Max Unger (retirement) and Mark Ingram (free agency) only further add to the potential question marks. Second round pick Erik McCoy should slot in at starting center, but if he has some rookie hiccups, it could create problems for an offensive line that will also be moving on from Jermon Bushrod. Atlanta Falcons: 8.5 (-130, +110) — The Falcoholic Why over: The Falcons are loaded with talent and fixed their biggest weakness along the offensive line, and that’s the best reason to feel confident about their chances of hitting the over. They have one of the league’s scariest passing attacks, a deep, healthy running back group, and now a revamped offensive line. If the defense improves at all they’ll be lethal, but even if it doesn’t they ought to be a contender. Why under: The defensive line now features what feels like 20 guys duking it out for 8-9 spots, but only Grady Jarrett and maybe Takk McKinley profile as excellent options there. Atlanta’s done a lot to upgrade their depth but can still only afford an injury or two before the lights dim on that side of the ball, and it’s far from clear that the defensive front can bring enough heat on opposing quarterbacks. Carolina Panthers: 8 (-135, +115) — Cat Scratch Reader Why over: The Panthers would have won more than seven games last season if not for Cam Newton’s shoulder falling apart over the last month of the season. Carolina started 2018 on a 6-2 run and then came crashing back down to earth after their embarrassing loss to the Steelers on Thursday Night Football — the same night that Newton suffered the hit that injured his shoulder. What followed was an ugly losing streak of seven straight games that ended in Week 17 against a Saints team that really wasn’t trying too hard to win. Assuming Newton’s offseason shoulder surgery was successful and he can return to his pre-injury form, the Panthers should win more than eight games in 2019. Why under: Cam Newton underwent offseason shoulder surgery and there’s a chance that he’s not ready to go when the season starts. The Panthers drafted Will Grier as a backup option to groom for the future, but if Newton has to miss significant time in 2019 then the Panthers’ fate will be in the hands of either a third round rookie or a combination of Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke. The Panthers tried to use Allen and Heinicke at the end of 2018 and the results weren’t much to write home about, so it’s safe to assume that if Newton is out for an extended period in 2019, the Panthers won’t reach the eight win mark. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6.5 (Even, -120) — Bucs Nation Why over: A new scheme and new coaches on defense might be what they’ve been missing. Moving on from Mike Smith to Todd Bowles is a big improvement in coaching. Personnel-wise, Tampa Bay’s secondary doesn’t look great, but Bowles’ presence and playcalling should help out. The loss of Jason Pierre-Paul will hurt their pass rush, but they might be able to put a band-aid over that wound by using Devin White and Lavonte David on blitzes up the middle. Offensively, they’ll need fewer turnovers from Jameis Winston, but it’s probably safe to say that won’t be happening this year. Instead, they can try to revamp a running game that finished 24th in DVOA and 31st in yards per carry. Ronald Jones needs to step up after a disappointing rookie year. If he can, he can form a nice duo with Peyton Barber. Why under: The defense is still really, really bad. Even with Bowles taking over as defensive coordinator, the Bucs still have an underwhelming secondary. Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith are the longest tenured defensive backs on the teams and both of them were drafted in 2016. If Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh can mesh well together, the Bucs should have a nice interior duo, but they still don’t have any proven edge rushers following Jason Pierre-Paul’s injury. Their schedule isn’t looking too easy either. Even though the Bucs have a “last place” schedule, they still play against the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers twice. Oh yeah, and they have to play the Rams and Seahawks on the road, the Colts and Texans at home, and open the season against an improved 49ers squad. Ouch. They might not have the secondary talent to keep pace with those teams.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Rockets aren’t yet chopped, but they might be screwed
We have that and more in Tuesday’s NBA newsletter. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon dropped a gnarly story about drama amid the Houston Rockets on Monday. There’s a lot there, but the biggest use of the piece is probably as an origin story for a bad franchisee. Tilman Fertitta comes off as a little too involved in the day-to-day business of an otherwise well-run team. I wouldn’t say this story makes him look like the next Robert Sarver, but there are some Sarvarian vibes here. To wit: Fertitta has been airing laundry about his (rejected) offers to coach Mike D’Antoni, creating a rift through the violation of protocol (and the apparently insulting offers). He also got most defensive in the interview with MacMahon about not wanting to pay the vicious repeater tax and as such having Daryl Morey slide under the tax one year -- this year, as it turns out. If you get angry at accusations from the peanut gallery about being cheap in a year that, while competing for a title and running out of quality players, you traded a rotation player to get out of the tax, you need to look in the mirror. It’s fine to be pragmatic about the luxury tax. It’s a bad look to get so defensive and denialist about its impact. Own it. You’ll also be unsurprised to learn that James Harden and Chris Paul aren’t really loving life together, that the Rockets are regretting CP3’s massive contract (Fertitta is apparently openly discussing his regret in front of officials from other teams!), and that D’Antoni’s agent -- not D’Antoni, but his agent -- is most mad at the front office. (Imagine the reaction if you replace the name “Warren Legarie” with “Rich Paul” in this story ...) It’s a mess! And an inopportune mess, given that the Warriors seem destined for a down year without Kevin Durant and with Klay Thompson for just half the year. Houston should be gearing up to claim that championship. Instead, they are bickering about money and control of the ball. What a disappointment. Aussie Aussie Aussie Australia will now have two top-25 draft prospects in the National Basketball League next year as LaMelo Ball will be playing with the Illawara Hawks. He joins R.J. Hampton, the No. 5 recruit in this class, down under. The NBL has made an explicit push to nab one-and-done prospects who prefer to play professionally rather than go to college for a semester and a half. Terrence Ferguson was the pioneer among American high school players going to Australia instead of college, and now it’s officially a trend. With one-and-done winding down over the next few seasons, Australia will never become a true competitor with the NCAA, which still has the overwhelming majority of pro prospects. But it’s notable that the NBL is now beating the NBA G League at recruiting high-end high school graduates. The NBA has never really found a way to make the G League work as a holding ground for elite prospects who’d rather play professionally than go to school. It’s a real bummer. Links Find the perfect NBA draft prospect for your team with our personalized scouting report. Cool project. Hammered Norman Powell was the best part of the Raptors’ championship parade and rally. Kawhi breaking out his signature laugh was another top moment. But it was all overshadowed by a terrifying shooting that injured four people. I wrote about the rise of the mercenary NBA superstar. It’s time for the SB Nation Blogger Mock Draft! Three Pelicans decisions that could define the Zion Williamson era. Speaking of which, the Pels picked up a 2020-21 option on Alvin Gentry’s contract. Bomani Jones on the NBA, analytics, and race. Why R.J. Barrett makes sense as a Knick. Zach Lowe suggests the Anthony Davis trade could be the league’s most important trade of a veteran (not draft picks) since Kareem in 1975. Hard to argue with that. Kevin O’Connor on the Warriors’ future. Dan Devine asks what the Knicks do now. Be excellent to each other.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
Rockies vs. Diamondbacks: Odds and series betting trends
The Colorado Rockies visit the Arizona Diamondbacks for a three-game series starting on Tuesday as small underdogs at sportsbooks for the opening contest. The Colorado Rockies are a perfect 5-0 in their last five games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies hope to extend that winning streak on Tuesday night when they take on the Diamondbacks in the first game of a three-game series. Colorado is a +115 road underdog on the MLB odds in Arizona at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Antonio Senzatela will take the mound for the Rockies squaring off against Merrill Kelly and the Diamondbacks as -135 home favorites. Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks When: Tuesday, June 18, 9:40 p.m. ET Where: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona Betting Line / Total: Arizona -135 / 9.5 Runs Rockies at Diamondbacks OddsShark Matchup Report Colorado Rockies Betting Notes Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Trevor Story are all having fantastic seasons for the Rockies as the team ranks second only to the Minnesota Twins in runs per game (5.70) and team batting average (.271) this season. But despite possessing an elite offense, the Rockies are just 37-34 on the season and 4-5 over their last nine games. The culprit is the team’s pitching, which sits in 28th place in team ERA at 5.29 and dead last by a considerable margin in ERA among starting pitchers with a whopping 5.85 runs allowed per game. The desert heat in Arizona hasn’t bothered the Rockies as they are 6-1 in their last seven road games against the Diamondbacks per the OddsShark MLB Database. Arizona Diamondbacks Betting Notes Arizona has been extremely streaky this season, erasing a 6-9 start with a 14-4 run only to follow that up with a 10-19 slump. Since then, the Diamondbacks are back on track with an 8-3 record over their last 11 games, and the net result of all of these ups and downs is a middle-of-the-pack record of 38-35. The Diamondbacks rank seventh in the league in runs scored and ninth in team ERA, so they should be a playoff contender if they can find some consistency. Merrill Kelly has been brilliant in three May starts with a 3-0 record, a 0.81 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP. Rockies at Diamondbacks Betting Total Tuesday night’s total is set at 9.5 runs. The OVER is 6-2 in Arizona’s last eight games and 5-1 in Colorado’s last six. This should be a fun series between two hard-hitting NL rivals. It continues with projected pitching matchups of Jon Gray vs. Zack Greinke on Wednesday night and Jeff Hoffman vs. Robbie Ray on Thursday afternoon. For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs
White Sox vs. Cubs: Odds and series betting trends
The Chicago Cubs hope to continue their recent success against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night as home betting favorites for the series’ opening game. The Chicago Cubs are 7-2 in their last nine games against the Chicago White Sox. The Cubs will try to break out of their recent slump in a two-game series against their cross-town rivals starting on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field The Cubs are a -230 home favorite on the MLB odds in the Windy City Showdown at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Cole Hamels will get the start for the home team going up against Ivan Nova and the White Sox as +195 road underdogs. Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs When: Tuesday, June 18, 8:05 p.m. ET Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois Betting Line / Total: Cubs -230 / OFF White Sox at Cubs OddsShark Matchup Report Chicago Cubs Betting Notes Over a disappointing seven-game road trip against the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the Cubs went 2-5 over seven games. This recent slump has allowed the Milwaukee Brewers to take over first place in the NL Central, but the Cubs are hoping to regain that lead over a 10-game homestand starting on Tuesday. Newly acquired closer Craig Kimbrel is starting a Triple-A assignment this week and should be ready to join the team next week. In their last seven games at home, the Cubs are 6-1 per the OddsShark MLB Database. The Cubs are also 6-2 in their last eight home games against the White Sox. Chicago White Sox Betting Notes After losing 100 games last season across a 62-100 campaign, the White Sox have been far more competitive in 2019 with a 34-36 record through their first 70 games. Chicago has a couple of exciting young players on offense to build around moving forward in Tim Anderson, who is batting .315 with 10 home runs, and Yoan Moncada, who is batting .294 with 12 home runs. And Lucas Giolito looks like a legitimate staff ace for years to come with a 2.22 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. The White Sox have lost two straight since going 5-1 over their previous six games. White Sox at Cubs Betting Total The total for this contest will be released by sportsbooks on Tuesday afternoon. The OVER is 4-2 in the last six meetings between the Cubs and White Sox. The Cubs are 10-3 in their last 13 games with Cole Hamels on the mound. This short series will wrap up on Wednesday when Giolito will get his first taste of this rivalry in a matchup against Jon Lester. For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
2 d
Sports News, Scores and Fan Opinion Powered by 320 Sports Blogs