Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Second Round

We made it past the first round, which was pretty entertaining.  We had great games: Almost comebacks (Sorry Ottawa).  A very wrong prediction (Calgary hates me).  A “How did they not win that?” game (Cough, Detroit last night, cough).

Islanders-Capitals, Blackhawks-Predators, and Red Wings-Lightning were my favorite first round series.  Winnipeg played so much better for getting swept.  That team has some interesting potential, though the Evander Kane thing sucks.

Red Wings fans can’t feel great right now (you know who you are).  They lost a killer last night, in a game where they had a billion shots and opportunities.  I still don’t know how they lost, and now, you don’t know what the future holds.  Was this the last Datsyuk/Zetterberg run?  Is Mike Babcock out, and headed to Philadelphia?  It’s gonna be an interesting offseason, like San Jose’s and Toronto’s.

Anyways, let’s jump into round two.  We’re gonna have less games per night, which is great for some one like me who covers everything (check out the new tagline!).  These matchups will be fun.  However, out of the four, we’ll have no Game 7’s.

East:

Capitals vs. Rangers

Man, as a Rangers fan, was I rooting for the Islanders in that series.  I thought the New York thing would be fun, and no, it’s really not a rivalry.  It’s all about bragging rights.  Anyways, Capitals-Islanders was the best series of the first round, as I predicted it to be in my preview.  I nailed the pick, taking Washington in seven.

The Rangers handled the Penguins easier than I expected them to.  Pittsburgh was a zombie coming into the playoffs, and they had no chance from the beginning.  Though they got a game, they were out played the whole series.  I was never nervous, and was pretty confident from the start.

This series is a little different for me.  I’m not nervous, but I feel like the Rangers do have a chance to lose.  These teams are evenly matched.  3rd and 6th in offense and defense.  Both of them.  Top ten offenses.  Top ten defenses.  This should be fun.

Both teams have their stars.  Washington features Alex Oveckhin and Nicklas Backstrom.  New York features, well, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan.  There’s a lot of guys to worry about with the Rangers.  They attack on offense with speed, and know what they’re doing.  New York has chemistry, and that’s hard to defend.  The Capitals have John Carlson, who’s been fantastic this year, and should have been up for the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman).  Washington has a younger defense, making them faster at the blue line.  With the Rangers age, the Caps have the advantage here.

The offense and goaltending for New York is where it changes.  The Rangers fly up and down the ice, but take their time when it comes to attacks.  Wearing out Washington is the key, since they are gonna be stingy.

Henrik Lundqvist was phenomenal in the first round.  He’s stopped everything for the Rangers.  That’ll probably continue, and, unlike last series, gives Washington the disadvantage in the net.  Braden Holtby was very good in round one.  He played better than Jaroslav Halak, which wasn’t surprising.  The Capitals find themselves with the worse goalie here, and no one can deny it.  While Lundqvist isn’t a MVP candidate, due to his missed time, without him, the Rangers wouldn’t be the favorites for the Stanley Cup, per Sportsbook’s odds.

Both teams have the right amount of experience, and that’s what makes a series great.  Both know what they’re doing.  They’ve been here before.  It won’t be bad hockey.  Enjoy it.

Oh yeah!  Prediction time!  As I said above, I’m not nervous about this series, but I’m definitely less confident.  New York has to spread out attacks and slow the game down with them.  Tire out Washington, get power plays, and stop the puck.  That’s the game-plan.  Execute, and you’ll be fine.

That last line was super homerful.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

Canadiens vs. Lightning

This is gonna be a fascinating series.  Montreal was up 3-0 on Ottawa, then the Senators got pesky and won two games.  The Canadiens finished out the series in six after allowing Ottawa back in.  The Senators gave them an unexpected fight.  They were pesky!  But, Montreal is too strong of a team for that to bother them.

The Lightning, as I covered at the top, some how won last night in Game 7.  Ben Bishop put up a shutout, somehow, due to the insane amount of chances Detroit had.  Detroit-Tampa Bay was a fun series.  There was lots of good goaltending, especially for the Red Wings after inserting Petr Mrazek, who played great even though his team didn’t help him last night.

Neither team is coming in here with rest.  Both series went at least six games.  Tampa Bay in a thriller, and Montreal in a kinda-scare.

Carey Price has been ridiculous this year and only continued it in the second round.  He stopped everything.  He’s gonna have a test against the fast-paced Lightning.  Tampa Bay has Steven Stamkos, the ultimate assist guy.  He can set up everyone.  Working with Tyler Johnson, who was great against Detroit, it makes a dangerous pair.  Montreal’s defense will have to step up.  Carey Price is great, but can’t do it by himself.  Getting him disoriented and erratic will give Tampa Bay more chances.

Montreal is going to be able to respond.  That’s no question.  I have concerns with Tampa Bay’s defense, and with the way the Canadiens attack off breakaways with Max Pacioretty, they’re impossible to stop.  Ben Bishop could be in trouble if his team doesn’t help him.  This series deals with good team chemistry.  Both have it, but one team has it on both sides.  Montreal shuts people down, then attacks swiftly.  Tampa Bay goes full steam ahead, and doesn’t totally worry about defense.  With a good, but not great goalie, that might be problem against Montreal.

Tampa Bay has hope in this series.  I mean, they’ll get a game, but I am seriously worried about the defense, and whether Ben Bishop can handle being shot at so much.  For the Canadiens, their path to the Cup gets a tad easier with this quick series.

Prediction: Canadiens in 5

 

West:

Wild vs. Blackhawks

I admit defeat on picking the Blues.  I mean, this Minnesota team has been unpredictable all year, and they did it again.  They beat St. Louis in six games, as I had the Blues in six.  I didn’t receive as much crap as I expected Monday morning (I live in the Twin Cities) due to my pick, but it was still there.

Chicago beat Nashville in six, compared to the series win I gave them in seven.  Nashville lost Shea Weber to a knee injury halfway through the series, taking away one of their biggest leadership guys.  Chicago went back and forth with goalies, starting Scott Darling and Corey Crawford.  Both did very good, with Darling edging Crawford out by a bit.

This is a rematch of last year, where the Blackhawks beat the Wild in six games on an overtime winner.  The outcome is one Wild fans try to forget. They surely don’t want that again, and they feel confident it won’t happen.  This Minnesota team has people really excited, and it’s not only them who really like the Wild in the playoffs.  I will say, they’re super fun to watch, and am rooting for them, as others think different.

Minnesota is so much better than last season, and will be able match up better with the Blackhawks.  You could say they have the goalie advantage with Devan Dubnyk, who as of now saved Minnesota’s season.  He’s one of the finalists for Venzina Trophy (best goalie in the league this year).  Chicago has two guys worth starting, which is sometimes a problem (cough Vancouver cough St. Louis).  It can get a little frisky with that situation, and it worries me a tad with Chicago.

Against the Blues, Minnesota started the game well.  They got shots and pushed the puck.  It got St. Louis worried, and then they gave up a goal.  Basically, if Minnesota scored first, there was an 85% they were winning that game, because they don’t blow leads.  The Wild get in trouble when they start slow, and that didn’t really happen in the last series.  While they were blown out 6-1 in one game, I’m not sure they even tried that night.  It’s not worth talking about.

Chicago is one of the better teams in the league from a talent standpoint.  While Minnesota has the under-the-radar/good chemistry guys (Like the Hawks in basketball, though not good enough record wise), Chicago might be able to simply out-skate the Wild.  Meaning, while on the ice, they’ll be smarter.  They know what they’re doing.  They’ve been here before.  The Blackhawks are smarter than Minnesota, with more experience.  The bench is smart as the Blackhawks have the coaching advantages by a mile.  They’re just a better team, with more talent, and more experience.

This series is going to be defensively dominating.  Expect lower scoring games.  Minnesota has a lot young guys on defense who are fast and physical.  They’ll be faster than Chicago in the back.  Side note though:  Why is Jordan Leopold playing so many minutes?  Yeah, his daughter’s letter was cute, but he’s not great.  Sorry.  Matt Dumba has been excellent late this year for the Wild, and really showed it against the Blues.  He’ll be someone Chicago will have to keep their eye on.  Looking at the Blackhawks roster, one might think that Chicago gets more from it’s offense, but the defense is the heart and soul of this team.  They have experience with guys like Duncan Keith, who know what they’re doing.  They’ve been here before.  Experience is a common trait with Chicago, and Minnesota isn’t totally full of it.  While I expect the Wild to play Chicago tough, I just can’t do it.  And yes, I am okay with getting burned by them again.  And by my friends.

Prediction:  Blackhawks in 6

Ducks vs. Flames

So, I originally had the Ducks in four in the first round, but that was in my bracket.  After re-thinking, I decided to give Winnipeg a game for their crowd, since that place is a circus and you could probably hear it from Fargo.  Note to self:  Don’t re-think playoff series.  Winnipeg played a lot better than a sweep however.  That team is really young, and super physical.  They’re very fun to watch.  I enjoyed seeing them play well.  The Jets’ problem in the series was that, when Anaheim’s offense picked up, they couldn’t defend and then collapsed.  The Jets played very well for most of the game, but choked when it mattered.

On Calgary:

And that’s it.

So yeah, I underrated Calgary.  I’ll admit that.  This looks like it for Vancouver.  This might have been their last run.  It didn’t help that Alexander Burrows left practice on a stretcher one day.  Anyways, the Flames used their speed to beat the Canucks, and flew around the ice.  They poured it on Vancouver in Game 6, as it kinda seemed like the Canucks gave up there.  That’s what the Flames do.  They tire you out.

However, the Ducks are ridiculous on offense, as they used it as their biggest weapon against the Jets.  Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler were top three in points for them last series, with Jakob Silvferberg in second.  Silvferberg had a great series, having the highest +/- on the team (5).  Jonas Hiller started all six games for the Flames last series, and did very well.  He’ll have a tough task against the Ducks blazing offense, but his team will have to help him out a bit.

Calgary also has a very good offense, but are still figuring things out.  Like I said in the first round preview, they’re the new kids around here.  Young and inexperienced, they aren’t very aware of what’s lurking.  They did very well against Vancouver, but matchups are key, and the Canucks got the worst matchup possible in the first round.

The Flames have one catalyst to this series, but it’s still up in the air.  Captain Mark Giordano tore his bicep in late February, and was expected to miss the rest of the year.  However, local reports in Calgary and Anaheim have the team optimistic about his return for a game or two in this series.  Girodano is one of the best defenseman in the league, and makes the Flames pretty pesky with him.  He gives them some more experience and leadership.  A possible return would also add physicality to the Flames, something they lack.  Look, Calgary would be estastic to have him back late in the series, but that’s if it gets past five games.

I know, I know.  I underrated Calgary in the first round.  I gave Vancouver credit because they were older and knew what they’re were doing.  They let me down, and the Flames showed me that are a good team who deserves to be here.  Anaheim is a different team.  They’re so much better than Vancouver, and could be close to unstoppable.  If Calgary gets a game here, Giordano is gonna have to be in the lineup.  And yes, I am confident about my pick.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

 Enjoy the second round!!!!

Adrian Peterson’s Trade Market

With the draft just a week away, the time to move Adrian Peterson is now.  The Vikings have made it known that they want a deal done by the draft.  Why?  Well, because if a deal happens, they’ll most likely get a first round pick, and they’ll want to know who they’re taking with that pick.

The Vikings have also made it known what they want for Peterson.

“The Vikings want a starting cornerback in addition to a first round pick”- Adam Caplan

With this known, let’s make trades.  I’ve came up with four in my head, based on the Vikings parameters and how Peterson would fit with that team.  While my trades don’t match exactly what Minnesota wants, they come pretty close.

Number One:

Cowboys get: Adrian Peterson

Vikings get:  Morris Claiborne, Cowboys 2015 1st round pick (No.27)

The Cowboys have been rumored to be interested in Peterson since the early part of last season.  There’s been tampering rumors and all due to an alleged phone call between Peterson and Jerry Jones.  They’re seen as the frontrunners for him, which makes sense given the history.  Minnesota might accept this deal.  Morris Claiborne has more than starting capabilites.  However, he hasn’t lived up to the huge expectations he had coming out of college.  It might shy the Vikings away given that Dallas might be ready to move on, given he hasn’t totally worked out.  Though, Minnesota sees cornerback as their biggest need, and it’s what they want out of this deal.

Dallas, if this deal weren’t to happen, would have to draft a running back at No.27.  I’ve covered it, and am pretty sure they would take Melvin Gordon.  Trading Claiborne would leave them with a hole in the secondary, but they could use later draft picks to re-fill it.  Honestly, if this offer was really on the table, I believe the Cowboys would do it in a heartbeat.  It’s really a matter of whether how much more Minnesota would want from Dallas.

Number Two:

Cardinals get: Adrian Peterson

Vikings get: Patrick Peterson

So, I’m kinda abandoning Minnesota’s price on Peterson here.  If Arizona really does want AP, this is what it would take.  A Peterson-for-Peterson swap.  Straight up.  If I’m Steve Kiem, I can’t give up anything more than Patrick.  He’s one of the best cornerbacks in the game.  Even after coming off the down year, Peterson would flourish next season, and I’m expecting him to.  No matter what team he’s on, PP will preform, and man, would the Vikings be happy about that.

Minnesota would have to be okay with this deal.  It’s straight up and nothing else.  Arizona won’t be able to hand the Vikings any other piece.  It would be too much.  The Cardinals have been interested in AP for the last month or so.  Larry Fitzgerald has chimed in on it, saying it would make them contenders.  I agree, and as a Cardinals fan, I’d be pretty stoked about possibly having Peterson.  It would also make me the most hated kid in school as I live in the Twin Cities, and having the star player traded to my team probably wouldn’t be a fun thing for me to handle.

Arizona could definitely use AP.  Andre Ellington is very good, but has limitations and misses about five games a year.  AP is durable and would surely preform.  Again, Minnesota would have to be okay with what Arizona was proposing, because the Cardinals can’t give up anything else in a deal like this.

Number Three:

Giants get:  Adrian Peterson

Vikings get: Prince Amukamara, 2015 1st round pick (No.9)

This is the more likely offer the Vikings would except.  This is also the type of offer Minnesota is looking for.  Prince Amukamara is a great corner who’s still young at 25.  While he’s still a tad raw in certain aspects, he would be a huge upgrade for the Vikings secondary.  The pick would be very important in this deal, as the Giants are forced to give up taking Randy Gregory or someone like him.  Again, this is the god-father like offer Minnesota is looking for, and if they want a deal done, they’ll probably have to compromise.

The god-father offer is something New York could be willing to pay.  While they did sign Shane Vereen over the offseason, he’s not an every down back.  He’s very good, and can catch passes out of the backfield, but with him and Rashad Jennings lined up behind Eli Manning, the whole thing could get frisky.  Adding Peterson would give the Giants a reliable running back who could get by with a bad offensive line like New York’s.  Adding AP would also, in my opinion, make the Giants the favorite in that division.  It’s an interesting thing to ponder, and New York is a team no one is talking about in the running for AP.  Watch out, they could be sneaky.

Number Four:

Dolphins get:  Adrian Peterson 

Vikings get: Brett Grimes, 2015 1st round pick (No.14), 2016 3rd round pick

Again, another team that no one is talking about in the running for AP.  Miami currently has Lamar Miller as their starting running back, who’s been pretty frisky.  He had bright spots last year, but showed nothing that gives me any hope.  Adding Peterson would completely change expectations, and give the Dolphins a third big offseason acquisition (Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Cameron).  Coming into Miami, Peterson would take a lot of pressure off of Ryan Tannehill, forcing him to not throw as much.

The Vikings would have to ask for more than their original price with this deal.  I have them getting Brett Grimes, who is a solid starting corner, but is nothing special.  I really believe, that with Grimes and the Dolphins’ first round pick, Minnesota wouldn’t except it.  That would force Miami to send them next year’s 3rd, which seems high, but then again, if Miami wants to do this, they’ll have to give up whatever Minnesota asks.  Giving up two picks and a starting corner for AP is a package that might cause Miami to pull out.  The Dolphins could do this with a total win-now mentality, and while those end up falling apart pretty quickly, Miami’s would work, this season at least.

Have a good weekend!!!!  Enjoy the playoff games!!!!

Boom, Clap, The Thunder Move On

Whether you consider this past Thunder season a success or not, this move was quite a shock.  Oklahoma City fired head coach Scott Brooks yesterday afternoon.  The move sent shockwaves throughout the league, and blew up Twitter.  While it wasn’t a huge surprise, I was pulling for Scott Brooks to keep his job.  I didn’t think he deserved to get fired.

In his tenure with the team, a total of seven seasons, Brooks reached the playoffs five times, including two Western Conference Finals and the 2012 NBA Finals.

It was quite a run, and after all of that success, he deserves to get fired after the one season he didn’t make the playoffs?  Coaches aren’t paid for what they’ve done in the past, as baseball players are, but Brooks had so much under his resume.  Plus, his players loved him, and with Kevin Durant’s free agency upcoming, this probably wasn’t the smartest move.

Let’s go a little bit deeper…..

Sam Presti is a good GM.  He would be considered great had he not made the Harden trade.  Presti built this roster through the draft (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant) and through trades (most of the bench).  It worked, but their main piece happened to only play in 27 out of 82 games this past year.  While Durant can’t be blamed for the injury, it seems he came back too soon.  There was warnings.  The type of injury he had was notorious for guys coming back too soon.  Whatta you know!  He came back to early, way early, it being a month before the original date, and look at where we are.

Had Durant been healthy the whole year, this would be playoff team.  One scary playoff team.

Next year, Oklahoma City is gonna have the best roster they’ve had since they traded Harden.  Westbrook, Durant, and a great bench.  Serge Ibaka will be healthy.  Enes Kanter is a question of money, and whether OKC gives him what he wants.  If not, he’ll get overpaid some where else.

This is the main reason I disagreed with Brook’s firing.  The Thunder have huge potential next year.  This team is gonna be really good, given they stay healthy.  With KD’s free agency coming up, I would have kept everyone together, and go for the title.  And if it doesn’t work out, fire Brooks and figure out KD.  There.  Simple.

So why did they do this now?  Presti said that Brook’s firing had nothing to do with this past season.  The rest makes no sense:

“We determined that, in order to stimulate progress and put ourselves in the best position next season and as we looked to the future, a transition of this kind was necessary for the program.”  -Sam Presti, Thunder GM

What?  That makes no sense!  The best position for next year would have been to keep everyone, go all in, and hope and pray that Durant comes back.  All they did now was make Durant even more mad at the organization (dating back to, oh, the Harden trade).

In fact, everything that Presti said didn’t make sense.  He claims it had nothing to do with last season, which is understandable, but then again, OKC hadn’t missed the playoffs until this year, which gave Brooks higher standards to meet.  So maybe it did!! And, as I’ve already said, the best position for next year would have been to keep everyone.

Maybe I’m wrong, but Scott Brooks didn’t deserve to be fired yesterday.  They could have given him one more year.  And instead, they’ll have a new coach coming into one of the most important seasons in franchise history.

As for Brook’s replacement, multiple candidates have already been named.  University Of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Ollie has been named as a candidate, even though he released a statement stating his intentions to stay at the school.  Ollie has been a great coach at UCONN, winning a national championship and having players like Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb come through the program.

And yes, I know you’re thinking “Wait, you didn’t cover college basketball this year!  What do you know?”  Just because I don’t write about a sport, doesn’t mean I don’t watch it.  I watched plenty of college basketball this past year.  Watch out for the first NBA Mock Draft.  

University Of Florida head coach Billy Donavan has also been linked to the OKC job, as he’s good friends with Presti.  Donavon has been another very successful college coach.  I’d love to see that happen, and my money is on him taking that job.  However, the transition could be rough, and that’s not what the Thunder need.  Perhaps they could look for someone experienced.

Scott Brooks is one of the best coaches in the league.  And he’s a free agent.  Don’t worry, he’ll have a job soon enough.  Orlando and Denver have been linked to him, and I think he’ll end up with one of those teams.  Orlando is super young team who has a bright future.  While they’ll be a project, it’s one that could payoff down the road.  That team has a ton of potential, and I think Brooks is gonna end up there.

Denver would be interesting, but that team is a mess, as they’ll be cleaning house this Summer.  They could trade EVERYONE besides Jursuf Nurkic.  The Nuggets will need someone young who’s in it for the long haul.

I don’t think Scott Brooks deserved to get fired.  The move couldn’t have came at a worse time for the Thunder.  With next season being the most important in franchise history, this wasn’t the right time to shake things up.


 

On the Hawks sale…..

Yet another bomb was dropped yesterday in the NBA world, just minutes after Scott Brooks was let go.  The Atlanta Hawks, who are cruising their way through the Nets right now (more on that later) were sold to billionaire Tony Ressler, Sara Blakely (Spanx founder) and her husband, and Grant Hill.

That’s quite a group.  Hill had been in on the Kings with Ressler last summer, and now they got their team.  The price was way below what I had imagined, selling for $850 million.  I thought for sure it would top $1 billion, just because of their sudden rise this year.  Atlanta is also a big market, and I thought that would have a big impact.  With the Clippers selling for $2 billion last summer, I also thought that would set a new standard.  While I knew the Hawks wouldn’t hit $1.5 billion, I thought it would it exceed one billion.

It’s interesting to say the least, and their current playoff opponent is gonna be the next team sold.  That should be one hefty price.


 

Playoff Quick Hits:

Gonna run through every series….

  • So, Hawks-Nets is not fun, even though it was quite close last night.  Brooklyn has no brain when it comes to shot selection, and the Hawks are totally taking advantage.  The Nets have no way to defend their team ball.
  • The Celtics, even being down 2-0, have gave Cleveland is little bit of a run for their money.  They’ve started super fast while the Cavaliers have started slow, making it close in the second quarter.  Cleveland turns it on in the second half though, leaving Boston without a chance.  Still, it’s fun to see Boston be pesky.
  • Derrick Rose has played great for the Bulls against the Bucks.  It’s why they’re up 2-0.  Milwaukee is struggling to defend the Bulls, as they don’t have big enough guys.  Turns out the Bucks wing guys have not played well this series, as it seems The Greek Freak might be a little nervous.  I hate saying that, but the offense of the Bucks hasn’t been moving well, and it’s due to the poor shooting.
  • Wizards-Raptors has been hilariously bad and entertaining.  In Game 1, Toronto played terrible on offense and yet somehow got the game to OT.  In Game 2, it was the same problem for Toronto.  They have no shooting and the offense is discombobulated.  Paul Pierce has carried the Wizards, but has lately gotten help from Bradley Beal.  Beal has been great since returning, and it’s helping the Wizards pull off the upset.
  • The Warriors are up 2-0 on the Pelicans, yet, it hasn’t been super pretty.  In Game 1, the Warriors had a huge lead and later blew it, leading to a pretty wild final three minutes.  Anthony Davis has proven to be a matchup problem for the Dubs, but Golden State has answered due to New Orleans’ injuries.  The Pelicans backcourt is no match for the Splash Brothers.  However, I still believe the Pelicans will get a win in this series, and if they do, it’ll come from a Brow quadruple-double.  You heard it here.
  • The biggest story of out Houston-Dallas is the Mavericks’ injuries and the Rajon Rondo situation.  He didn’t play the whole second half in Game 2, and now is being ruled out indefinitely due to a back injury.  Then, just yesterday, Rick Carlisle comes out and says he doesn’t expect Rondo to ever play in a Mavericks uniform again.  And yeah, they still have at least two games left.  The whole thing is a cluster, and it’s amazing how screwed up Dallas is.  They haven’t been able to guard JOSH SMITH.  YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GUARD JOSH SMITH.  He played amazing in Game 2, and dropped a ton of dimes to Dwight Howard.  Dallas hasn’t been able to guard the paint, which leads them to be down 2-0.  I honestly don’t think they’re winning a game in this series.  That team is a mess.  So much for Rockets in six.
  • It’s amazing that Spurs-Clippers is a first round series.  It’s the only series in the league that’s tied at one (so much for a fun playoffs).  Both games have been pretty good, with last night being a classic.  In the OT matchup in Game 2, the Spurs tied the series after out-pacing the Clippers.  I think the Spurs found their stuff, and I’m not totally sure the Clippers are winning again (hint hint).  In Game 1 though, the Clippers played much better, and had their starts play well, as San Antonio’s didn’t.  Also, shot selection isn’t great from Los Angeles so far.  Keep an eye on that.
  • In the final series, the Grizzlies have bullied the Trail Blazers.  Portland has no one to guard Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol down low.  That’s the main issue.  In an unlikely turn, Memphis has shot super well from outside as Portland has gone cold.  However, I’m still sticking with my pick.  While Damian Lillard hasn’t played well, I think he’ll snap out of it.  He’ll go off one night, and will give Portland at least one win.

So much for Quick Hits…….

NBA Playoff Preview: Round One

We made it!  Wow!  I’m really excited!

Unlike the NHL, I don’t have rules for the NBA playoffs.  They’re not as insane, and are easier to pick (and bet on).

I’m not using a ton of stats in this column.  Basketball is about chemistry.  Yes, I love statistics, especially advanced ones, but I know these basketball teams well enough to not use a ton of stats.

The Western Conference is an absolute bloodbath.  All of these teams are great and fought their  way in.  It’s unbelievable that an Oklahoma City team with a MVP candidate didn’t make the playoffs.  Had the Thunder been in the Eastern Conference, they would had been the 5th seed.

The East is, well, not fun.  It’s not anywhere near where the West is, and they’re are some pretty bad and highly disturbing matchups.  We’ll start there:

East:

Hawks-Nets

So, Atlanta comes in to this series after rolling through the Eastern Conference, loaded with, well, not anyone who’s a superstar.  That’s what makes them special.  They have no one who’s a true superstar.  Atlanta has five guys who all play well together.  They all have chemistry, and that’s a huge element to a successful team.

The Nets, well, barely got in after Indiana lost to Memphis Wednesday night.  And man, would I’ve much rather seen the Pacers here.  Brooklyn is just another one of those sub-par, bad East teams.  That’s really all I’ve got.  I mean, this team really isn’t even good.  They’re kinda like the Flames in hockey.  Brooklyn is here because someone else choked.  And they’re just soaking it in.

This series isn’t gonna hang around long.  Atlanta loves to throw it down low to their big guys Paul Millsap and Al Horford.  If they’re not open, Kyle Korver is sitting there at the wing waiting to take a three.  However, I’m pretty sure Horford and Millsap will be open.  Brooklyn doesn’t have the size and speed to keep up.  Brook Lopez is aging and can’t keep himself out of a boot.

Brooklyn overall is old and aging.  Though Atlanta’s backcourt isn’t loaded with talent, they will have the advantage against Deron Williams and Joe Johnson on both sides of the ball.  Brooklyn’s guards is a display of horrible shot decisions and injuries.  Atlanta is smart team who makes sure the ball is spread around.  If the ball is in your hand, you’re either shooting or passing.

Dribbling isn’t allowed in Mike Budenholzer’s offense.  And man, has he been one heck of a coach.  He’s probably gonna get Coach Of The Year, since the Hawks were worse than Golden State last year.

Budenholzer is gonna make sure Atlanta spreads the ball around, and plays up tempo.  Playing fast will tire out this old Brooklyn team.  This series is more about if the Nets can put up points.  If not, Atlanta gets to sit back and watch Brooklyn put on a horrific display of shot selection.

Prediction: Hawks in 4

Cavaliers-Celtics

This was the first matchup set in stone, and the only matchup in stone coming into the final night of the regular season.  I walked into Advisory class Wednesday morning, and was talking about how this series was gonna happen.  Everyone was asking who would win, and my response was:  “Do you know who Jae Crowder is?  Because that’s who’s covering Lebron James in this series.”  The answer?  “Nope”.

Thankfully, I know who Jae Crowder is.  He’ll spend most of this series on Lebron, a matchup that will be pretty difficult for Crowder.  He’s not special in any way.  None of his numbers stand out.  He’s if anything a liability on offense, as rebounds don’t come easy for him.  On defense, he’s better, but he’s on Lebron.  Good luck.

Perhaps the only reason the Celtics are here is their pickup of Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline, and their amazing coach Brad Stevens.  The setting in Boston has allowed Thomas to go into alpha dog mode every night.  He fits well where he’s the guy.  Phoenix didn’t work that way.

Brad Stevens is an excellent coach.  He’s figured out to plug anyone into this offense, and Thomas has been a perfect example.

Cleveland’s had an interesting year, and everyone knows it.  It’s not worth talking about.  This team found themselves once the year hit 2015, and have been cruising since.

While Kevin Love hasn’t fit with the Cavaliers, he’ll still be important on defense in this series.  He ain’t a rim protecter, but can lock a guy down near the paint.  On offense, I’m not sure who’ll guard him.  My best guess is Kelly Olynyk, since they both have the similar frame.  Jared Sullinger will be on Timofey Mozgov, which will be a tough matchup for Mozgov.  Sullinger has great footwork, and might be able to get around Mozgov on post ups.

Boy, I’m really praising the Celtics so far.  I don’t really think they have a shot.  They’re just happy to be here.  It gives their younger core some experience, and brings them a lot of hope for next season.  Cleveland should roll through this series, but I won’t 100% blown away if Boston snags a game.

Also, it’s pretty cool that Kevin Love will play against his future team in this series (hint hint).

Prediction: Cavaliers in 4

Bulls vs. Bucks

Finally, we’re getting to some good series.

Milwaukee’s been through a lot this season.  They had a new coach.  Then Larry Sanders, quit? I guess.  The trade deadline rolls around, and they ship Brandon Knight to Phoenix, who was probably their best player all year.  And guess what?  They’re in the playoffs.  Remember, this team was predicted to be one of the worst in the league.  And yea, I know this sounds crazy, but Jason Kidd has done a great job with this team.

The Bucks get the Bulls, who have also been through a lot.  It seems the injury bug hits the Bulls every year, like the Rangers in baseball and Red Wings in hockey.  Derrick Rose went down again.  Jimmy Butler sprained his elbow.  This team was a mess for a month.  And it’s amazing to think that the coach who guided them through it might be out after the end of the season (not getting into that yet).

This is a really fun matchup.  Milwaukee has a ton of wings guys who can shoot.  They’re also superior on defense.  The Bucks do a good job of spreading the ball around, which is a skill that has improved since trading Knight.  They aren’t a huge team, when it comes to size, but can over-power people by pace and their perimeter size.  Giannis (The Greek Freak!!!) Antetokounmpo is a fantastic wing player who will space the floor and bring an element of speed hard to keep up.  Khris Middleton is perhaps the biggest guy on this team, and is great power forward who can shoot on the outside.

The problem for the Bucks is that they have the Bulls covering them, one of the best defensive teams in the league.  The three-headed monster of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Nikola Mirotic is a big problem.  Not only can they play defense, but all can make outside shots.  That’s where I get worried for Milwaukee.  Guys like Giannis and Michael Carter Williams (especially) won’t be able to handle those guys.  They did bring in Miles Plumlee, but he’s a rim protecter, and will have a tough time on Noah.

Chicago’s guards are kinda just there, and I’m not sure after his third surgery how much of an impact Derrick Rose is gonna be.  I’d let him the big guys do the dirty work like usual, and use the guards when you need them.  Rose will be plus rather than a minus on defense, but I can’t say he trusts the leg completely.

I want to pick the Bucks in this series.  I really do!  I just don’t think they’ll be able to guard Chicago’s big guys.  The size difference is too large.  However, with some good shooting and fast pace, the Bucks will test Chicago.

Prediction: Bulls in 6

Wizards vs. Raptors

This might be the hardest series to pick.  Why?  Because neither team is great.  Neither team is bad though.  It’s two good teams, but they aren’t anything special.  However, the East ain’t great, and I won’t be shocked if the winner of this series ends up in the East Finals.

The Wizards came in with a lot of hope this year.  After breaking out last season, they had high expectations.  Bradley Beal battled injuries all year, leaving them without one of their key scorers.  Beal is great jump shooter, and can come up in the clutch.  With him finally back, the Wizards have more stability.

The Raptors were consistent throughout the year.  They never got hot, but never fell off (like Washington).  Toronto has a great fan base and an insane GM, who’s willing to do anything.  However, at February’s trade deadline, he did nothing, something that confused me a bit.  The Raptors could have used a wing guy, perhaps a Jeff Green, but they’ve proven that they can rely on their other players.

This is going to be a really fun series.  John Wall will be on Kyle Lowry, providing an excellent matchup.  Wall is a passing guard first, and a driver second.  Lowry is kinda the same, though he has jumper ability.  Wall should look to drive against Lowry when he has the ball, and if he can’t get by, that’s when Wall will make those sick passes.

DeMar DeRozan is a excellent player, and I’m not totally sure he has a position.  He’s a two/three, kinda like a Klay Thompson.  DeMar isn’t a heat check guy, but does have great outside shooting abilities.  He’s the one matchup I’m concerned about for Washington.  Letting him take over will lose the Wizards a game.

While he’s still developing, Jonas Valanciunas has really raised his game this year.  I love the guy, and think he’s in a great matchup with Marcin Gortat.  Valanciunas will have the defensive edge, as he’s bigger and stronger.  Gortat will have to really carve his around him, and get open off screens.

I haven’t liked Washington’s bench all year. It’s basically made up of a bunch of old washed-up guys who were good when I was like five.  They aren’t great.  Maybe it’s just me liking to make fun of them.  Also on Washington’s bench is their coach, Randy Wittman.  He’s not great, and I think he’s out if they don’t win this series.  He wasn’t able to figure out how use the guys when Beal was hurt, and it led to their after All-Star Break meltdown. It’s why they got stuck playing Toronto instead of the Bucks.

Toronto has the big man advantage in this series.  And while I think it’ll be very competitive, the Wizards offense is too cluttered.  The Raptors will find those holes and make them pay, perhaps in the huge game late in the series.

Predication: Raptors in 7

West:

Warriors vs. Pelicans

Finally, we made it to the Western Conference.  The bloodbath.  This is gonna be fun.

The Warriors dominated the league all year long.  Steve Kerr coming in changed this whole team, yet no one will admit it because Mark Jackson is a media member and no one wants to disrespect him.  But I’m not a media member (yet), and I’ll say this.  Jackson was the biggest problem with that team last year.

The Pelicans barely made the playoffs because San Antonio didn’t try Wednesday night.  Had they lost, Oklahoma City would had been in after killing the Timberwolves (A game I was at).  New Orleans has Anthony Davis, and that’s about it!  Their coach sucks, and they don’t have that great of a roster around him.

The good thing for the Warriors in this series is that they can cover four of the five starting guys.  Jrue Holiday is a tad dicey, but has no chance against Stephen Curry, who’s defensive game is not his strength.  I really don’t know what Holiday is.  He doesn’t have big numbers, anywhere.  That’s where the concern comes in.

We’re gonna have Tyreke Evans on Klay Thompson, which is a matchup that is gonna get ugly pretty fast.  Though Evans has had a good season for the Pelicans, Klay is so polished and ramped up his defensive game.

Where the Pelicans could cause the Warriors trouble is with their best player Anthony Davis.  Davis is the best young player in the league, and is a MVP candidate now that his team is in the playoffs.  The Warriors don’t have anyone to cover him.  Draymond Green is too small, and David Lee or Andrew Bogut won’t be able to keep up with him.  Davis is gonna go off in this series, even though it won’t last long.

If the Pelicans are gonna win a game, Anthony Davis is gonna win it for them, and he’ll be the only one who’ll win it for them.  Golden State doesn’t have a matchup for him.  Actually, Golden State doesn’t have defensive players to guard lots of guys in the league.  The Pelicans happen to have one of those matchup nightmares.  While they won’t win the series, they’ll at least get one postseason win, and the Brow will be that guy who gets it for them.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

Rockets vs. Mavericks

Oh man.  This is gonna get hairy at multiple times.

The Rockets battled injuries all year.  It’s amazing they have the two seed, and it’s my main reason why James Harden is my MVP.  The Rockets were without Dwight Howard for a good chunk of the year, and are entering the playoffs without Patrick Beverly and Donatas Motijunas.  Motijunas was their second true big guy on the team, even though he still shot threes.  He’s a huge loss for the Rockets, and now have Howard as their only true big guy.

The Mavericks were very good early, but lost chemistry after acquiring Rajon Rondo.  I thought it would work, but Rondo couldn’t fit, and probably won’t re-sign there this coming summer.  They fell apart at one point, as the Rondo/Monta Ellis backcourt wasn’t working.  It’s getting better, but the playoffs aren’t the time to figure things out.

This series is gonna be ridiculously chippy and fun at the same time.  The Rockets rely on jump shots, and that’s it.  They don’t throw the ball low much, because Dwight Howard isn’t that great any more.  The live and die by that jump shot, and their offense works because they make them.

You have to assume that the shots will go in, and in that case, each of these games are going to be shootouts.  The Mavericks are gonna have to keep up with Houston, because there will be no defense in this series.

I believe Dallas’ game plan for this series is simple.  Get it to Dirk Notwitski, or shoot the three.  With that, they can keep up, no matter how much Houston scores.  The Mavericks won’t be able to the turn the ball over, or be silly with it.  Houston can shift a game that quickly.

The chippiness comes from the Chandler Parsons move, and these two teams being in Texas, and Rajon Rondo talking trash.  Dirk won’t be afraid to talk either.  The technical fouls will be flying.

This series is gonna posses no defense.  I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a final score in 140s for each team in a game.  However, the Mavericks will get sloppy in a couple games and fall behind.

Prediction: Rockets in 6

Clippers vs. Spurs

How did this become a first round matchup?  This is ridiculous!  Unbelievable!  These are two title contenders and one will be out in the first round.  This conference is just a bloodbath.

The Spurs started the year very slow, and some wondered whether they were breaking down.  They weren’t playing bad, they just weren’t good enough to keep up with the rest of the conference.  Then the new year hit, and the Spurs became the Spurs again, but only got the 6th seed.  The second to last night of the season, they were in the 2nd seed.  THIS CONFERENCE MAN.

The Clippers have been good all year, as expected.  They have a great team with tons of talent, but I’m not sure they have the greatest chemistry.  I mean, some guys are kinda just there, and others do stuff.  It’s more, ‘these guys’ (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) and less everyone else (J.J. Redick, Spencer Hawes).  However, the problem that exists has to with the less-used guys.  They aren’t that good, or at least, they don’t totally fit in this system.  Hawes wasn’t a good signing, and Redick is just kinda there next to Paul.

The Spurs pose huge matchups issues for the Clippers.  First, Tim Duncan is still amazing, and is having yet another good season.  Duncan is also still unguardable, and the Clippers really don’t have anyone for him.  Blake Griffin is too small to guard him well enough, and DeAndre has no defensive skills whatsoever besides rebounding.  I expect Duncan, even with his age, to dominate this series.  Oh yeah, that’s only one guy the Clippers can’t guard.

Kawhi Leonard has been unbelievable this year.  After getting off to a slow start with his team, he’s dominated the second half of the season.  He’s a defensive stud and has the ability to get to the rim.  Oh yeah, he can takes threes too.  He can do it all.  And the Clippers don’t have anyone to guard.  That’s a problem!  A really big problem!! Chris Paul is going to be on Tony Parker (which will be easier than expected for him).  That means J.J. Redick or Matt Barnes will be on Kawhi.  Not great!  Redick, as said above, is kinda just there, and does nothing unless he hits a three.  Matt Barnes is okay on defense, but really does his part taking bad shots, helping his team none.  Neither of these guys are gonna be able to contain Kawhi, who’ll have the lane wide open for himself.

And don’t forget, he’ll be shutting down anyone he’s guarding on the other side of the court.  The Clippers have no option for him.

As you can see, it’s pretty clear who I’m taking.  I just explained it.  Los Angeles has no one to guard San Antonio’s two best players.  That’s a big problem.  The Clippers will get a win in this series (thanks to a dominate Chris Paul), but I’m not sure this is gonna be that fun.  This was the worst possible matchup for the Clippers in the first round.  They got it, and’ll pay for it.

Prediction: Spurs in 5

Trail Blazers vs. Grizzlies

I was so happy the Grizzlies didn’t get the 6th seed.  Even though we still got a ridiculous matchup at 3/6, I’m still happy this Memphis team wasn’t there.

I’m not a Grizzlies fan, but man I love this team.  I had them in the Finals for quite awhile, then they started getting hurt and fell off.  At the same time, the Warriors were playing ridiculous basketball and it was too hard to go against them.  Memphis is a great team who doesn’t shoot the three at all. They barely take them, because they don’t have to.  When you have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, outside shots are unnecessary.

Portland is a much more exciting team that the Grizzlies are.  They’re very flashy and take lots of crazy shots.  Portland cruised their way through the West, and had multiple good wins throughout the year.  I really want to like this team, but…. they’re playing the Grizzlies, and that’s a bit of a problem.

Portland doesn’t have the matchup issues the Clippers do with San Antonio, but they do exist.  They exist in the paint, where Memphis has Gasol and Randolph.  Portland has Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are both very good.  However, Gasol has amazing footwork, and should be able to work around Lopez.  While they both have the ability to put the ball in the hoop at an insane percentage, Lopez will struggle to get there due to Gasol’s defense.

Zach Randolph will be on LaMarcus Aldridge, in a matchup that is sure to impress.  Aldridge has been battling a thumb injury (a thumb that’s broken).  It hasn’t bothered him, but Z-Bo is a bruiser, and it has to be concerning for the Trail Blazers.  Z-Bo will have a tougher time against Aldridge more than anyone, but you have wonder if he’ll (Aldridge) be cautious.

Portland has the guard advantage in this series.  Damian Lillard is a postseason gem, and is prime to have a great series.  Tony Allen is a good defensive guard, but he’ll have his hands full with Lillard, who’s a scorer and passer in one.  He’s like Kyrie Irving (in the scoring sense), though Lillard is a true point guard, and has the ability to pass.  Tony Allen isn’t a scorer, making him a prime target for Lillard to shut down.

This series is gonna come down to who’s out-bruises who, and who plays better in the paint.  This is all about the low post.  Memphis will have the advantage down there, but they’ll have to keep Damian under control.  You have to expect Lillard to have a big game, and Memphis to have a sloppy night.  This might be the most thrilling series in the first round.

Prediction:  Grizzlies in 6

That wraps up a huge, 3,600 word, NBA playoff preview column.  Have a good weekend, and enjoy all the postseason games going on in sports. 

Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Round One

We made it.  We made it here.  Holy cow.  I’m freaking out.

Last year’s playoffs were ridiculous.  There’s no reason to think this’ll be any different.  I have a couple, not rules, but things I like to see from playoff hockey teams.

  1. I like experience.
  2. I like teams that have been good all year long
  3. I like teams that win face-offs and set up attacks well

Those are kinda the rules.  Keep those in mind below.

East:

Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens

We should just blame everything on Boston for allowing the Senators in the playoffs and (in the NBA) the Nets in a possible playoff position.  This Ottawa team fired Paul MacLean in December after a horrible start.  Ottawa’s problems in the first half of the year went around their goalie situation. Three guys on their team have started more than 20 games this year.  It’s been their biggest problem.

The Canadiens, like I predicted, dominated all year long.  There was never any real worry with this team for me.  They have so much experience.  Two of some of the best players in the league.  The best goalie in the league in Carey Price.  There was nothing not to like and there still isn’t.

Montreal has some ridiculous +/- scores on their team, and they revolve around P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty.  Both have point shares over 10, which is pretty insane.  In this series, the Canadiens will have to attack Ottawa with speed.  Getting their goalies dis-ortiened and confused is the key.  Take advantage of their weakness, and get goals out of it.

The Senators in this series has the much tougher task.  They’ll have to score off the breakaway, as attacks will be hard to set up due to Montreal’s tough defense.  Carey Price is another issue for Ottawa, as he has only 7% of shots get past him.  The Sens are gonna have to force turnovers and bad passes if they have a shot in this series.

My main problem with the Senators: They win hockey games relying on the other team’s mistakes, and Montreal doesn’t make many.  Ottawa isn’t strong enough to set up on their own against a team like the Canadiens.  Honestly, I don’t think they have a chance.  It was a good run, but the Cinderella ends here.

Prediction: Montreal in 4

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

I said in October that if the Red Wings were going to make the playoffs, they would have to stay healthy.  They did a good job with that, and look at where they are.  I’ve liked this team most of the year, but have never loved them.  They’re very smooth with their possessions, but turn the puck over a lot.   They’re pretty average when it comes to their offense and defense, but hockey is more about how you play together.  Detroit does a good job with that.  They have chemistry.

Tampa Bay was no surprise, like Montreal.  Their offense is insane.  Tampa Bay scores more than anyone in the league.  That’s the biggest key in this series.  It’s about matchups.

Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson were tied in points this year at 72.  Johnson had more assists, but Stamkos is more athletic and really flies around the ice.  The Red Wings are gonna have to control this scoring duo.  This is what could lose this series for Detroit.  They allow Johnson and Stamkos to set up and generate an attack.  The attack continues on and Detroit gets tired.  Then they allow a goal.  It happens all the time, and I’m quite concerned for the Red Wings and their handling of that duo.

I don’t expect Detroit to get totally dominated though.  They have a ton of experience with guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.  Both are over 34 and are still playing at an incredible level.  These guys are gonna have to play extraordinarily well in this series.  They’ve done it all year.  The Red Wings will have to set up attacks around Zetterberg and Datsyuk, because they aren’t gonna be able to defend the Lightning.

I hope this is a good series.  It has a lot different possible paths.  I won’t shocked by anything, but here’s my best guess:

Prediction: Lightning in 6

Rangers vs. Penguins

Man, Pittsburgh is walking into this series like a zombie.  They’re tired, mad, and hurt.  This team collapsed late in the year, and barely sneaked in due to Boston’s lackluster ending to the year.  Everyone got hurt.. ok, well, not everyone, but most of their key guys.  Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin got hurt around the same time, and it led Sydney Crosby to go into Sid-the-Kid mode and take over.  I’ll tell you what, Pittsburgh wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.

Now, Pittsburgh is coming into this series a tad lost.  I mean, they’re barely here!  So guess who they get?

That’s right.  The President Trophy winners New York Rangers!! (Homerism seeping into this column).  They’ve been great all year.  They play outstanding defense.  Their defensemen are their star players.  Those guys play great hockey and mean so much to what they’ve done this year.  New York’s defense is what they’re known for, but the offense is just as good.  Rick Nash has had a great season.  Chris Keider’s season has been totally underrated, as he’s posting a 24 +/-, third on the team.

This series is going to revolve around how Pittsburgh comes out in Games One and Two.  If they’re still rusty from the late season haul, it’s gonna be troubling.  The case is there for Game 1 to be a must win for them, just because of momentum.

The Penguins are also going to have to be careful with penalties.  Kris Letang is out for the year. He’s arguably their best power play guy.  In fact, he leads the Pens in power play assists.  He’s a great set up man Pittsburgh will miss.

The goalie matchup is incredible in this series, with Henrik Lundqvist in the net for the Rangers. While he was hurt in March, Cam Talbot stepped up and played great.  I’ll have no issues if they choose to start him in a playoff game this postseason.

I expect this to be a tough series for the Rangers.  Pittsburgh is a tough team.  They’re just tired and hurt.  They could come out and win Game 1, have me on my heels and a tad nervous.  But they could also be their normal, late-season selfs and not skate fast enough.  It’s all about the Pens coming out of the gate.

Prediction: Rangers in 6

Capitals vs. Islanders

I really think this could be the best series in the first round.  These two teams have been good all year.  Washington has gone under the radar.  This team is really good.  They have experience and youth.  They have a good, but not great goaltender.  They are ranked 6th in offense and defense.  So yeah, they’re pretty fun.  I think they’re fun to watch.

New York was this year’s surprise team.  They score, score, and score.  John Taveras fell just short of the scoring title, and is one of the best young players in the league.  He leads the Islanders in most of the scoring categories.  He’s, well, really good!  You should know who he is!

This is gonna be a great and fun series.  Both teams score like crazy, and set up attacks very well.  This series could average something like four goals a game per team.  Yea, that’ll be fun.

Where this series takes a turn is the goalie situation.  i’m not sure either goalie is great, and with these offenses, it could get ugly for one team.  Jaroslav Halak is okay.  I mean, he did go 38-17 this year, but had a 2.43 GAA (Goals Against Average), which is a tad high.

Braden Holtby is younger and better.  His Goals Saved Above Average is ridiculous at 17.46.  The guy is a machine and started 71 games this year.  And their backup isn’t great.

With two great offenses in this series, the goalie who does a tad worse than the other could end up being the reason why his team lost the series.  This is gonna be a fun seven games.  It’s too bad one of these teams will be heartbroken, because they’re both very good overall.

Prediction: Capitals in 7

West:

Wild vs. Blues

This Wild team, oh this Wild team.  I have no words.  They start slow in games, and comeback in the third period and win.  It’s just ridiculous.  If you looked at this team in January, Mike Yeo was on the hot seat.  Their goalie situation was a mess.  The defense wasn’t playing well.  I mean, this was one big dumpster fire.  Then the Devan Dubnyk trade happened on January 15th.  And look at where we are.

The Blues have been good all year.  Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the best players in the league, at only 23.  St. Louis made moves at the deadline to acquire older experienced guys.  Three of the six oldest guys on their team they traded for at the deadline.  C’mon, they wanted leadership.  Agree with me.

This is going to be a fantastic series.  I live in the Twin Cities, and the excitement is overwhelming.  Everyone’s pumped, everyone’s overly cocky, everyone has crazy predictions.

I really like this St. Louis team and have all year.  They’re super fast, and set up attacks very well.    My only concern with the Blues would be their defense, and their lack of experience there.  While they do have older guys, they aren’t… totally great.

Minnesota can take advantage of that.  While they aren’t stellar offensively, the have very productive players who play well together.  Zach Parise is a fantastic player, and is one of my favorite players to watch in the league.  Hockey takes chemistry, and the Wild have it.

Minnesota’s team problem is the slow starts.  In the regular season, that’s typically what happened.  They come out slow, don’t get shots, and depending on who they played, fell behind.  They’d play behind most of the game, until the third period hit.  The jets came on, and they come back and win.  This happens on a weekly basis, and everyone who watches Wild games knows it.

I don’t think that’ll work in the playoffs.  Teams are too good for that to happen.  That’s my main concern for the Wild.  Unless their opponent starts slow, they’re in trouble.  And I really don’t think the Blues will allow that to happen.

Prediction: Blues in 6

Predators vs. Blackhawks

The runner up for best series of the first round, Chicago and Nashville are very different teams.  Though they were both very good during the regular season, the Blackhawks play outstanding defense, while Nashville excels on the other end.

Chicago lost Patrick Kane in late February, and while they made a ton of moves at the deadline, they didn’t panic.  Chicago’s moves worked out very well, getting guys like Antonio Vermette.  They beefed up their center position, giving lines a boost.  It worked out, and now with Kane back way ahead of schedule, they’re good to go.  Kane wasn’t even expected back till the 3rd round (if they made it that far), and I was quite concerned for the Blackhawks in the playoffs.  With him being ahead of schedule, he’ll play Game 1.

Nashville is so young and raw, and haven’t been plagued by injuries this year like Chicago.  This team plays so fast, and they get their opponents off guard with it.  When that happens, they score, and then it repeats.

Nashville’s defense is surprisingly ranked higher than their offense, and that can be attributed to goalie Pekka Rinne.  They guy is unbelievable, and will have incredible runs withing games.  He’s one of the best goalies in the league, and his point shares prove it at 14.23.

This is going to be a fantastic series.  Above, I stated my three (kinda) rules, and Nashville falls into one of the things I don’t like.  Their best players are so young.  Filip Forsberg is 20!!! 20!!!  And he leads his team in points!!  It’s unfortunate that Nashville’s biggest leadership guys don’t contribute much.  This is where Chicago has the advantage.  They know what they’re doing, while Nashville will still have to figure things out.

The Predators are gonna give the Blackhawks a run.  Chicago won’t get out of this series easily.  They’ll get tired late in games, and you have to expect Kane to be just a tad rusty.  Though, Chicago, with their best player, will get through this, but it definitely won’t be their toughest test.

 Prediction: Blackhawks in 7

Ducks vs. Jets 

Alright, I know how teams who have dominated all year freak people out when making picks in the playoffs.  Everyone thinks that because they’ve been good, this is when they’ll fall apart.  Anaheim fits that mold pretty well.  And nobody is really picking them to get out of this one easily.

The Jets are kinda like the person who you don’t really like but they keep bugging you.  You try to ignore them and you don’t really want them around, but they just keep poking you.  Then, they ask you if you want to hangout and (in Winnipeg’s case) make the playoffs.  That’s how I feel about the Jets.  They’re kinda good, kinda great, and kinda bad, all at once.  They aren’t sketchy, but aren’t in any way great.

Winnipeg doesn’t have star players.  They have Dustin Byfuglien, one of the most exciting players in the league, but they aren’t super flashy as a team.  They play good hockey, and know what they’re doing.  The Jets don’t score much, but play good enough defense to make up for it. Blake Wheeler is a super underrated player on this team, scoring the highest +/- on the team.  Andrew Ladd has great scoring abilities, and is one of those guys who see the ice very well.

Ondreji Pavelec has been fantastic as of late, but is simply average as a goalie.  He has the hot streak going for him, and if he can keep it up, the Jets have an easy advantage over the Ducks in the net.

Anahiem has a ridiculous offense featuring their three star players:  Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, and Ryan Getzlaf.  Perry has and will always be a great hockey player.  He shoot the most out of anyone on the team, and well, Wayne Gretzky can explain how everyone feels about that:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky

I’ve never used a heading before.  It’s pretty cool!

The Ducks struggle a bit on defense, but make up for it with their insane scoring attack.

I don’t see Winnipeg really having a shot here.  I know, I know, their crowd is insane.  Those fans are just absolutely crazy.  Whenever the Jets play the Wild in St. Paul, the crowd is about 50-50.  If the Jets do win a game in this series, it’s because of that.

In my bracket (which you’ll see later), I had the Ducks in 4.  To not look absolutely ridiculous, I’ll make it five, and give Winnipeg a win because of that crowd.

Prediction: Ducks in 5 (or 4)

Canucks vs. Flames

How are the Flames here?  Is this it for the Canucks after this playoff run?  Johnny Hockey?  Yes, wait, ok, he doesn’t deserve a question mark!!!  He’s Johnny Hockey!!!

Anyways, this is a question-filled series.  Both teams have been good this year, but not great.  They’re pretty evenly matched.

Calgary somehow got the 3rd spot in the Pacific division because the Kings fell apart.  The Flames lost their captain Mark Giordano to a torn bicep in late February.  They don’t play great defense, but have a top ten offense in the league.

Vancouver is quite similar.  They have a very good offense and an okay defense.  The Sedin twins have been decent this year, but are the leading scorers on this Canucks team.  Their stars are aging, and this is probably their last big run.  Alexandre Burrows has been great this year, and severely underrated for his impact on this team.  Even though +/- doesn’t think so.

Calgary has a ton of youth and speed, and aren’t very experienced.  The Canucks have that experience, and have showed since the turn of the decade.  The Flames are going to have to out -skate Vancouver, and get breakaway goals.  The Canucks have goaltending, well, not issues, but they have two guys capable of starting.  They’ve switched back and forth all year.  It’s very possible they play both of them in this series.

Calgary has a starting goalie who’s alright overall.  He (Jonas Miller) is not great, but not bad.  Like the Capitals-Islanders series, this could come down to who’s just a tad worse in the net.

I expect this to be a fast series, but Calgary could cause Vancouver to get tired, as their guys are older.  However, Vancouver has the experience, and they know what they’re doing.  And yes, I know I’m probably underrating Calgary.

Prediction: Canucks in 5

Bracket:

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I don’t care what you think.  We aren’t past the first round yet.  It’s just for fun.  In fact, that’s what the playoffs are about for us:  Fun.

NFL Mock Draft 1.0

The NFL Draft has kinda snuck up on me, like everything does these days.  I’m not sure if I’ll do another one.  We’ll see.

This draft features two franchise quarterbacks, a lot of line-talent, and some very good wide receivers.  However, those wide outs will go fast.  Two running backs will go in the first round, quite late, as running backs’ value in the league has dropped.  Also, as you can see, I suck at writing intros.  Always have, always will.

What’s below features no trades. 

No.1, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jamies Winston, Florida State

This is so obvious that teams and the media is making up trades for Marcus Mariota.  OK, maybe it’s not that obvious, but I think this is a done deal.

Tampa Bay is a mess at quarterback.  Mike Glennon, unfortunately, has fell off a cliff and doesn’t look like anywhere close to a franchise QB.  Josh McCown made it a year here, before getting hurt and playing awful football.  It’s kinda a disaster.

Jamies Winston comes in and gives these fans something to get excited about.  While the rest of the roster needs work, Winston is a great start.

I love Winston’s game.  He’s somewhere in between Colin Kaepernick and Ben Rothlisberger.  Both have big arms, which Winston does.  Winston is very athletic like Kaepernick.  He can use his feet to make a good play.  Standing at 6’4, 230 pounds, he can shed tackles, like Rothlisberger.

Now, the off-the-field side of this is always a question, and it’s something I don’t like addressing.   Tampa Bay has to do as much inside work as possible before drafting him.  Though his record isn’t exactly clean, you have to trust that when Winston comes into the NFL, he’ll behave properly.

No.2, Tennessee Titans: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

I don’t see Marcus Mariota falling.  Tennessee is another disaster of a franchise, and if it wasn’t for Charlie Whitehurst last year, this team would have No.1 overall.  The Titans can’t pass this opportunity up.  While I like Winston much more, Mariota has the potential.  He’s super athletic, more than Winston, and gains substantial yards with his legs.  That adds a whole new dimension.

Like the Bucs, Mariota gives Titans fans something to cheer about.  Again, the rest of the roster needs work.  That’s where Mariota and his coaches have to be patient.  You can’t official judge a guy until he has weapons to work with.

Tennessee doesn’t have that yet.  That is why you draft Mariota.  You draft him for the long haul.

No.3, Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Leonard Williams, USC

Ranked the No.1 overall prospect in the draft, Williams is a terror.  There are two reasons why he won’t go No.1.

  1. Tennessee and Tampa Bay need QBs
  2. After Jadeveon Clowney being an early bust, I don’t know if GMs will take a risk on a defensive end at No.1 or No.2 in the draft.

Jacksonville has a QB, and is in the re-bulding process.  This team in his best player mode, and with Williams still there, there is no way they pass.  The Jaguars need an outside rusher, as most of their defensive lineman are old and washed up.  Williams would come in and be a sack master, and in a division with weak QBs, he’d be a terror on Sundays.

No.4, Oakland Raiders: WR Kevin White, West Virginia

Some might wonder why Amari Cooper isn’t being taken here.  Look, the Raiders are in best player mode.  They have a QB in Derek Carr.  Kevin White is a speedster wide receiver.  They guy can fly, and can run any route.  Adding White would give Carr a great guy to throw to.

Cooper is coming up, very soon.  He’s more of a down field threat, who can go up and grab any ball.

No.5, Washington Redskins: OLB Dante Fowler Jr., Florida

Washington lacks good linebackers.  This team is desperate for a good defensive player.  Fowler is projected higher than this, which shows how hot of a commodity he is.  Fowler is a great cover linebacker, and waits for the running back to come to him.  He’s not great at rushing the passer yet, which is something he can work on.  It’s a skill that the Redskins would want him to improve on.

No.6, New York Jets: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

While they don’t have a QB yet, adding Cooper would give them a big time downfield threat.  Cooper will go up and grab any ball.  He’s extremely similar to Andre Johnson.  New York could use him as a big part of their future offense, when they find the right guy to command it.

No.7, Chicago Bears: OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson

I love this pick.  Chicago’s defense was miserable last year, and they’ve never been able to replace Brian Urlancher since he retired.  Beasley, is well, a beast!  The guy has been building up his stock for years.  The Redskins could be an interesting option with Beasley, as he can rush the passer extremely well.  This draft is filled with great defensive players, so anyone really knows where these guys will end up.  Lots of teams could use them though.

No.8, Atlanta Falcons: DE Shane Ray, Missouri

Atlanta is another team that’s kinda a disaster, though they have a really good QB.  With a new coach, defensive mastermind Dan Quinn, this is a perfect fit.  Shane Ray comes off the edge so fast, and is a sack master.  Playing at Missouri boosts his stock maybe a little too high, since that’s been a great defense over the years.  Still, the Falcons could use someone like this.

No.9, New York Giants: OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska

I never had Randy Gregory any higher than this.  Though he’ll probably fall below this spot due to a failed drug test, which turned up pot use.  Though that’s not as big of a problem as PEDs are, it’ll cost him a couple spots.

I put Gregory here because this is a great fit.  He can come off the edge, but will most likely stay back since the Giants have a very good defensive line.  He sees the field very well, and is a good cover linebacker, who’ll match up with most tight ends in the league.  Though it probably won’t happen, this would be a great fit.

No.10, St. Louis Rams: OG Brandon Scherff, Iowa

The Rams don’t need anyone on the defensive end, which limits their options here.  Though, with a hole at the guard spot, St. Louis could use this pick on Scherff, who is a big burly guy who specializes in run blocking.  With new QBs coming into the Rams system, a good offensive line would be helpful to adjusting.

No.11, Minnesota Vikings: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State

This is super high compared to others, but the Vikings can’t pass this up.  Signing Terence Newman was smart, but Minnesota needs some youth back there.  Waynes was part of an excellent secondary with the Spartans.  He’s a smart player who can cover anyone.  Mike Zimmer is a great defensive coach.  He’ll push to make this one happen.

No.12, Cleveland Browns: NT Danny Shelton, Washington

The Browns currently have three nose tackles on their roster that I have never heard of.  Not even once.  So this better happen.  Danny Shelton is a force in the middle of the line.  He can get past anyone.  He’s not a sack master, but will get high amounts of tackles.

No.13, New Orleans Saints: DT Arik Armstead, Oregon

This draft is rich with line-talent on both sides of the ball.  Armstead dominated offensive lines at Oregon.  He’s a hassle to deal with.  The Saints were miserable on defense last year.  Any upgrade they would take.  If Trae Waynes is still around at this spot, I could see the Saints taking him instead, however, this is the best option available.

No.14, Miami Dolphins: OT Andres Peat, Stanford

Peat is a big, scary looking dude.  This guy is a bear.  He mauls people on the line.  While him watching at Stanford over the past four years, he seems like a lineman that would adjust nicely. Stanford ran an offense that’s similar to an NFL one, with the same schemes and plays.  The Dolphins offensive line was not great last year.  Drafting Peat would give Ryan Tannehill some more protection.

No.15, San Francisco 49ers: WR Devante Parker, Louisville

The Dolphins and 49ers might flip selections here.  Parker would make sense for Miami.  However, San Francisco has always lacked someone like Parker since putting Colin Kaepernick in the starting role.  Parker is a super speedy receiver, and has great hands. While the 49ers still need a downhill threat, Parker can come in and grab multiple balls a game.  This should happen, but don’t be surprised if he’s gone at No.14.

No.16, Houston Texans: OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh

Though they play different positions, the release of Chris Meyers leaves a huge hole in this offensive line.  While Clemmings is tackle, he can still solidify the outer edge.  Another large man, Clemmings does actually have very good footwork for a guy his size, and for tackles, that’s important.

No.17, San Diego Chargers: SS Landon Collins, Alabama

Locking up Brandon Flowers was a great thing for this Chargers secondary.  San Diego has had major issues back there for awhile now.  Adding Landon Collins would not only improve the secondary, but give it young talent.  Collins was part of the masterful Alabama defense that dominated everyone.  While he might be a little raw, San Diego can develop him and have him become an important part of that secondary.

No.18, Kansas City Chiefs: CB Jalen Collins, LSU

The secondary players are starting to fly off the board.  Kansas City has a great front seven, but after trading Brandon Flowers, the secondary has been ok.  With Eric Berry going through lymphoma treatment, the Chiefs should take Jalen Collins with this pick.  LSU is another school that has produced great secondary players.  He doesn’t have much experience, which is a concern, but could easily be developed into a quality corner.  His potential is too high for the Chiefs to not take the risk.

No.19, Cleveland Browns: DT Malcom Brown, Texas

I know that I have them taking a defensive lineman at No.12, but this team needs big boys up front.  Again, there is no one I’ve heard of on their defensive line.  They have to use this draft on defense, at least in the first round.  Brown and Shelton are very similar.  They aren’t sack masters, but will cause problems and make tackles.

No.20, Philadelphia Eagles: OT D.J. Humphries, Florida

This pick will probably confuse you.  While the Eagles’ offensive line looks good on paper, injuries always plague this group.  Plus, there’s been rumors about Evan Mathis’ name on the trade market.  While he’s a guard, Humphries could at least give this group more depth in that scenario.  Humphries is very athletic and is a tough kid.   Again, this is not a popular pick.  Most think they’ll go secondary here, but their main targets will already be gone.

No.21, Cincinnati Bengals: OT La’el Collins, LSU

Humphries could also end up here.  Many have La’el Collins going higher than this, but I believe Andreas Peat and T.J. Clemmings have a higher upside.  Really, the Bengals should take any offensive lineman they can.  This is not a good offensive line, and never really has been.  While they have experience, their performance is slowly decreasing, and adding some youth should improve the line as whole.  The Bengals are gonna have to take some kind of O-lineman here.

No.22, Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Kevin Johnson, Central Florida

I already loved Kevin Johnson just because of his name (K.J.!!!!!!)  But man, is this guy talented.  He is a true shutdown corner.  While he’s not big or physical, he can stay with anyone.  Pittsburgh’s secondary wasn’t great last year, and with Ryan Clark and now Troy Polamalu gone, they need help, badly.

No.23, Detroit Lions: DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State

Goldman would come in and essentially be the long term replacement for Ndamukong Suh.  While the Lions traded for Haloti Ngata, Goldman would be a rotation guy who would eventually become a starter.  Suh is such a loss that Goldman might see more playing time than expected. Goldman is not a sack master, and really just takes up space and causes chaos.  He’d be a nice compliment to Ngata while also being part of future plans.

No.24, Arizona Cardinals: OLB Bud Dupree, Kentucky

With Daryl Washington’s future not in balance, this would be a smart pick by the Cardinals.  Dupree is a fast linebacker who’ll make any tackle in front of him.  He’s a great cover linebacker too, something the Cardinals have struggled to find.  Dupree isn’t a great pass-rusher, but that’s not what the Cardinals are looking for.  That defensive line is good enough.

No.25, Carolina Panthers: OT Ereck Flowers, Miami

I made fun of how bad the Panthers offensive line was all year, and trust me, it was never good. Drafting Ereck Flowers would solve these problems.  Guys retired on the Panthers last year, and adding Flowers would give this group some youth.  He has issues that can fixed, but this might be more of project than an instant starter, and I’m not sure that’s what the Panthers want.  However, the best guys are starting to fly off the board.  If he’s here, take him.

No.26, Baltimore Ravens: NT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma

After trading Haloti Ngata (as mentioned above), this pick makes total sense.  Jordan Phillips is big boy who takes up a ton of space.  He’s also great at shedding blocks, which allows him to stuff running backs.  He’s not a sack-master, but would be a great fit in this defense.

No.27, Dallas Cowboys: RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

So, the Cowboys thought they were getting Adrian Peterson since October.  That didn’t happen, and probably won’t happen.  Then they lose DeMarco Murray because they low-balled him on an offer.  You don’t do that to big-time free agents.  They’ll say “screw you” and leave, and that’s what happened.

One more thing, do the Cowboys really think Darren McFadden will help them?  He’ll be in a boot by Week 3!!

With all of this, it forces Dallas to take a running back, and Melvin Gordon is the best running back in this draft.  The guy is unbelievable.  He puts up incredible stats, and has a great combo of power running and leaving guys in the dust.  He’s like super fast Marshawn Lynch.

I’m not talking about how he fits.  If he’s drafted by the Cowboys, he’ll be starting Week 1.  No question.

No.28, Denver Broncos: DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State

The Broncos defense was very good last year, don’t get me wrong.  However, they relied on their back seven, not their front.  And now Terrence Knighton is a Redskin.  Denver has no one on the defensive line, besides Sylvester Williams, who’s ok.  Drafting Michael Bennet would give them a huge boost up front.  He has great quickness, and could get past anyone.  This guy had a great career at Ohio State.  He knows football.  This should happen, and I’m not sure what else the Broncos would do here.

No.29, Indianapolis Colts: OLB Eli Harold, Virginia

While the Colts’ linebacking core is pretty stacked, this would still be a good pick.  Eli Harold has the ability to move and play on the line, where the Colts do need help.  Indianapolis relied on their secondary last season.  With drafting Harold, they would have better talent up front.

No.30, Green Bay Packers: DT Carl Davis, Iowa

Even though the Packers resigned B.J. Ragi, this would be a pick that the Packers could work with.  Ragi is on a one year deal, so giving Carl Davis time to develop more would be helpful.  Whether he replaces Ragi or not is another question.  He’s kinda a project, but has a celling to high to pass on.  He takes up space, and has great run defense skills.  He is not a pass rusher, and that’s one thing the Packers could work on with Davis.

No.31, New Orleans Saints: CB Ronald Darley, Florida State

The secondary was one of the biggest problems for the Saints last year.  Adding Ronald Darley would give them a boost of talent and add youth to the group.  Darley is a great cover corner who is very speedy.  He’s not big, so tackling bigger receivers might be a problem.  Though, the Saints desperately need some help back there.  This pick needs to be made.

No.32, New England Patriots: RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

The Patriots lost Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in free agency.  And Bill Belichick doesn’t seem to like Jonas Gray.  This forces New England to use this pick on a running back.

Yeah, Gurley is coming off the NCAA violations and a torn ACL, but the Patriots need someone at running back, and why not start young?  Most see Gurley as a second round pick because of the injury.  The violations should not cause Gurley to fall.  This guy is a power house.  He is simply incredible.  We’ve all seen him play.

This pick needs to happen.  The Patriots aren’t huge on taking starry names, but the potential is too high on Gurley.

This mock draft was done with help from NFL.com’s Predict the Pick.

The Madness That Transpired On Opening Night and Day

I don’t understand why five certain MLB teams had to do big time business on Opening Night and Day.  Aren’t you busy watching your team, or getting prepared for the first game?  Why must you complete a blockbuster trade?

The trade I’m referring to went through Sunday night, just an hour or so before Cardinals-Cubs was about to get underway.

Padres get: Craig Kimbrel, B.J./Melvin Upton

Braves get: Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, 1st round pick

My first reaction here was “Holy Preller”.  A.J. Preller has came into San Diego and has completely shifted their franchise.  I’ve covered it and predicted their season already.  This is only another huge boost.

Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball.  Last year, he had 47 saves, leading the NL.  He’s still young, debuting only four seasons ago.  Since he’s a closer, it’s hard to project him, but the Padres only add stability in their bullpen, which rounds out one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Kimbrel is a strikeout machine, KO’ing 95 batters in 61.2 innings last year.  Though I love the trade for Kimbrel, I’m not sure I like the Padres picking up Melvin Upton.

The only thing I’m fascinated by in the Upton move is this:

CB3KVI3UEAECK8O

Notice where Melvin is?  As we know, justin Upton was traded to the Padres earlier in the offseason, and he starts in left along with Matt Kemp and Wil Meyers.  Melvin is an outfielder, so he’ll find himself on the bench.

The meme is still great though.

As for the baseball side of acquiring Upton, he’ll probably be an off the bench guy, who’ll play utility.  Since Matt Kemp is quite injury prone, it’s likely Melvin will see some time starting.

Melvin’s contracts huge, as he is owed $46 million over the next three years.  Upton had majorly disappointed the Braves since signing it.  Atlanta seemed desperate to find a taker for Upton, and it ended up costing them their best closer.  That’s how bad they wanted to get rid of him.

Atlanta clears a ton of money with this deal, and it sets the stage for the rebuild that’s already in progress.

With what the Braves got back, I mean, wow, how did they get away with this?  San Diego gave them a ton of players, including a young pitcher who is promising.

Carlos Quentin had been with the Padres the past three seasons, being a major liability.  He’s always hurt, and led the majors in hit by pitches in 2012.  Whether you consider that a good thing is your decision.  Quentin has always been a bit of a pinball, so it’s not a surprise he got moved.

Cameron Maybin also got sent to the Braves.  Maybin has been great when healthy throughout his career, but has never had the huge season.  He’s played in 100 games once in nine years.  San Diego gave up on him, since he’s already 28.  Maybin has played in 33% of the Padres games the past two seasons.  That’s, not great.

The Braves might get something out of him.  I mean, I’d bet on his defense to improve in centerfield. His DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) has been down lately.  Whether the projection agrees, if I’m Atlanta, that’s all I want.

Matt Wisler is a nice prospect that got sent to Atlanta in the deal.  Ranked No.70 on MLB.com’s Prospect Watch, Wisler is a strikeout fed pitcher, who relies on them quite much.  His ERA is a tad high, along with his WHIP.  Those can be worked out, but with a record of 9-5 in Triple A this year, his team is helping him out a bit.  Wisler has time, and so do the Braves.  This could work out quite well.

I don’t know much about Jordan Paroubeck, but as another young prospect, the Braves have some solid guys in their farm system.

The trade overall helps San Diego big time in the short term.  After Preller came in, he completely rebuilt this team, and this happened to be one of the final pieces, just hours before the MLB’s first game of the season.


On Corey Kluber’s extension…..

After last year’s Cy Young season, Corey Kluber got locked up by the Indians.  Cleveland’s ace got basically a five year, $38.5 million extension, with the possibility of incentives dragging the price up to $77 million.

The money was a lot lower than I expected, giving what Rick Porcello got (more on that later).  Perhaps the Indians know Kluber is older, and has a higher risk of getting injured.  It’s more about him willing to take less money to win, though staying Cleveland as a city ain’t great.

With last year’s Cy Young winner locked up, Cleveland is ready to win.  This team is super good this year, and will only get better.  Having your best guy under contract helps.


On Rick Porcello’s extension……

I’ve always liked Rick Porcello as a pitcher.  He’s young, and is a solid rotation guy, who’ll probably end up being a No.3 or No.4 with Boston.  The Red Sox locked him up to a four year, $82.5 million contract on Opening Day.

Boston needs solid pitching after losing many of their key guys from the last couple seasons.  The money was huge, more than Kluber.  Though, it is the Red Sox, so they have that type of money to spend.  Giving Porcello the money now is better than giving it to him later.  He’s only 26, and has a bright future.

There aren’t many restrictions within his contract, allowing the Red Sox to deal him if necessary. That out come isn’t a likely one, as the Red Sox see Porcello as one of the key guys for their future plans.


On Josh Harrison’s extension…….

Just this afternoon, the Pirates locked up third baseman Josh Harrison.  The contract was for four years, and was worth $27.3 million.

Harrison had a monster season last year, hitting 13 HRs and boasting an outstanding OPS of .837.  It was Harrison’s breakout year, as he had spent the past three years with the Pirates.

He’s known for his power, and is a hassle on offense to pitch to.

The money isn’t huge, which was smart of Pittsburgh.  Though he had a huge season, it’s his only good year as a player.  It seems that they might have jumped the gun on him, and it might back fire.

I like Harrison.  He’s a great hitter who excels at getting on base.  Though, I’m just worried the Pirates threw the money at him a little too early.


Couple observations from the first two days of the baseball season….

  • Sunday night, the Cubs were a disaster defensively.  No knew how to communicate in the outfield
  • Also, Cubs, please get your park fixed
  • Rough start for Mat Latos in his Marlins debut.  Made it 2/3 of an inning and gave up seven runs.  He had a lot of trouble keeping the ball above the waist of his batter.
  • We’re two days into the season, and I’m really excited about my fantasy baseball team.