A Mini Penguins-Capitals Series Preview

It seems a little unfair to both teams that this isn’t the conference final, right?

With the Panthers, Blackhawks, and Kings out, these two teams could easily be considered the best left in the whole playoffs.

Like last preview, this will be a short breakdown of what should be an excellent series.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

These teams are so incredibly evenly matched.  Both can score and both have good defenses.

Goaltending is another story.  Matt Murray could be starting in the net for the Penguins the rest of the playoffs, and while he has preformed very well, he still lacks experience.  That is not great against a team like Washington.  Murray’s GAA has been very low, sitting at an incredible 1.33.  If his defense can step up, then Murray won’t be under as much pressure.

Defense is going to make this series.  These were the 2nd and 3rd best defenses in the league this season.

The Capitals used their D-men most effective in the first round, having their top two +/- scorers be Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner.  John Carlson, another D-man, had six points in six games in the first round.

Compare that to Pittsburgh, the Penguins got more out of Kris Letang than anyone else in the first round, but didn’t have as many defensemen putting up high +/- scores.

Washington doesn’t only have better skill defensively, but their guys do more stuff that contributes.

I think that and the goaltending becomes the difference in this series.  Both teams have experience all around, but this really seems like Washington’s year.  This is definitely their series.

Pick: Capitals in 6

A Mini Islanders-Lightning Series Preview

The NHL has cluttered the start of the second round this year, with Game 1 of Islanders-Lightning dropping the puck before the first round ends.  Tonight’s double header of games also features Game 7 of Predators-Ducks.

It is very strange of the NHL to do this, so, as a result, here is a quick preview of New York and Tampa Bay’s second round matchup.

New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Islanders pulled a stunner in my mind, beating one of my Eastern Conference Finals participants in six games in the first round.  At the same time, it wasn’t a total team effort.

John Tavares was unbelievable in that series.  Its amazing his +/- wasn’t higher than 2.  Against the Lightning though, he needs help.  The Lightning defense is too good.

Tavares struggled to get help against Tampa Bay; only Ryan Strome (Who did something for once!) had a higher +/- in the series.  The Lightning’s offense is very good but underachieved this season.

I said Tampa Bay would start to miss Steven Stamkos in the 2nd round.  I’m retracting on that.  The Islanders’ defense is not amazing by any means, and Tampa Bay has too many guys with high offensive production.  That is without Stamkos.  Tampa Bay should be able to carry on one more round without him.

Thomas Griess proved himself with a great series against Florida, finishing with a GAA of 1.79.  However, this is Ben Bishop on the other side of the ice we are talking about.  His GAA was even lower, but more importantly, Bishop has the experience over Griess.  Bishop has been in big spots before.  That matters, big time.

I think Tampa Bay is the better team in all areas.  If New York gets this to seven games, it will be largely in part to another huge contribution from John Tavares and a crappy performance from the Lightning defense, which all in all, is very hard to see.

Pick: Lightning in 6

On Predators-Ducks Game 7…

It is very hard to preview a certain Game 7, mostly due to the fact that picking these games are crapshoots.  However, my original pick was Predators in 7, so I will roll with that.

2016 NFL Mock Draft

What an incredible 9-10 days we have had leading up to this year’s NFL Draft.  The top two picks getting traded within a week of each other led to much shuffle within the top ten, at least in my mind.

I approach every NFL Draft with two mindsets: 1) The way I see it actually happening or 2) The way I think it should happen.

I usually pick one mindset and roll with it for the Draft, but this year has been funky, mostly due to the fact neither of these quarterbacks are sure things.

So with this mock draft, both mindsets will be featured.  The 2nd pick in this mock is an example of the way I think things will work out.  It doesn’t mean I agree with the pick being made.

No.1, Los Angeles Rams: QB, Jared Goff, California

Los Angeles’ trade was absolutely massive, but also unexpected.

See, I don’t like either quarterback in this draft.  But the Rams like one, and with their trade, it guarantees the QBs will go one and two, like last year.

Many reports seem to suggest the Rams favor Goff, which with a gun to my head, I’d rather have.  Goff has had better competition and has more intelligence.  That may be due to that fact I watched Goff much more this season.  At the same time, Carson Wentz was a winner in college and seems like the stud the Rams may covet due to their change of location.

So talent: Goff.  Experience, marketing, character: Wentz

No.2, Philadelphia Eagles: QB, Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

Once again, my mock draft is thrown for a loop.  The night prior to this trade, I had completed my first round mock draft and had written about 12 of the picks.  Then the massive Eagles-Browns trade happened, and some reshuffling had to be done.

There is a ton of directions this trade will take.  First, Cleveland did a great job.  They clearly weren’t sold on any quarterback (smart), and knew they could add more picks by moving back.  Cleveland reflected the “What should happen” mindset of mine.  I didn’t like Cleveland taking a quarterback at No.2, even though when they sat there, I thought they would.

Perhaps this shows the progression of thought in the Browns front office, which is something that has been lacking for some time now.

The trade gives Cleveland picks to rebuild with and shows their trust in RG3.  He is their guy for this season, and with money they are giving him, he should be.

From Philadelphia’s side of things, it goes South fast.

We knew Cleveland was getting calls about No.2, and that the two most likely teams to trade up were the Eagles and San Francisco.  Thats why this trade wasn’t all that unexpected.

At the same time, the Eagles are going to be paying Sam Bradford $18 million and Chase Daniel $8 million this upcoming season.  So why do we need a third guy here?  Especially if he is going No.2 overall?

If you take a quarterback at No.2 overall, he should be your guy.  He is the new face of your franchise.  He should start Week 1.  Period.

But the Eagles are going to be putting Carson Wentz in a really weird situation, which is not the thing you’re supposed to do to rookies.

Even though I don’t think Wentz is that good, I feel bad for him.  Because the situation in Philly is gonna get awkward real fast.

I think the Eagles are taking Wentz, but I don’t think it is smart.  Remember how this year’s front office was supposed to be smarter that last’s?  What happened to that?

No.3, San Diego Chargers: OLB, Myles Jack, UCLA

San Diego should be in best player available mode, and that is Myles Jack.  The guy is a freak athletically, and can play anywhere.  The Chargers may even be able to use him on offense, as UCLA did two seasons ago.  I wouldn’t be too concerned of the knee injury, as recent reports have blown off previous concern.  NFL executives are smarter than me, and I trust them and their doctors to make sure Jack is okay.  This guy is a stud, and that is what the Chargers need.

No.4, Dallas Cowboys: DE, DeForest Buckner, Oregon

Buckner here is essentially a replacement for Greg Hardy, although with no baggage and more potential.  He is a ferocious pass rusher, something the Cowboys have lacked for awhile now.  This pick seems a little high in some eyes, but it is more about need.

No.5, Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

This is a player some would think is going too low.  Jalen Ramsey may be the best player in the draft.

This would be an excellent addition for a rapidly improving Jaguars defense.  Ramsey is very versatile, something which has strangely been held against him.  The Jaguars would be thrilled to land him at No.5.

No.6, Baltimore Ravens: CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida

There is no way anyone would take Vernon Hargreaves over Ramsey, but he’s a pretty good fallback plan if you’re Baltimore.  He is a little small, but he is quick and can keep up with anyone.  Baltimore has many corners on the roster, but there are question marks with all.  With Hargreaves, there are none.  He will lock anyone down.

No.7, San Francisco 49ers: OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

The 49ers would be ecstatic to have Tunsil fall to them here.  Its not that I don’t think Tunsil is good, I just think the needs of other teams and the Rams-Titans trade really messed with things.  Before the trade, I thought Tennessee would take Tunsil No.1.

No matter who the QB is in San Francisco, the 49ers need offensive line help.  Tunsil is amazing value at this pick.  At this point in the draft, you can’t worry about any concerns there are.  You just take him.

No.8, Cleveland Browns: OT, Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

Cleveland should be in best player mode, and they will be really disappointed when Tunsil goes at No.7.  The fact he falls that far will unfortunately get their hopes up.

Ronnie Stanley is the next best option on the offensive line, a spot where Cleveland can use some help.  RG3 can run, but we know all the issues he’s had with that.  Some extra protection up front should help.

No.9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT, A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Adding Robinson would create a ridiculous defensive line for the Buccaneers.  Joey Bosa could be considered here, if the Buccaneers think they could move him inside due to concerns over his speed.

No.10, New York Giants: DE, Joey Bosa, Ohio State

Another great value pick.  This Giants defense has many holes, and with Bosa the best player available here, it just makes sense.

The reason for Bosa’s drop?  I think Buckner is a little more pure.  Bosa has the ferocity, no question, but I question his speed coming off the edge.  He could be moved around a bit to help that weakness out.

No.11, Chicago Bears: OT, Jack Conklin, Michigan State

This offensive line is horrendous, leaving the Bears no choice but to take a lineman here.  Stanley being taken earlier will disappoint them, especially since the trend of tackles falling developed.

No.12, New Orleans Saints: DE, Shaq Lawson, Clemson 

I considered Reggie Ragland in this spot, but thought the Saints needed someone up front rather than a thumper-type linebacker.  Lawson has been soaring up boards for awhile now.  Sure, he needs to work on rushing the quarterback more, but he is a disrupter in any other case.  The Saints, one of the worst defenses in the league last year, need a guy like this.

No.13, Miami Dolphins: RB, Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State

Its perfect, isn’t it?

I was waiting for the right spot for a team to draft Elliot.  The guy is a beast, but running backs’ value is slowly decreasing.  However, Miami is in dire need of one after Lamar Miller left for Houston.

Elliot is a physical runner who can also break away.  He can do anything you ask him to.

No.14, Oakland Raiders: OLB, Leonard Floyd, Georgia

I don’t know if this Raiders defense even needs anyone else.  It is probably too early to go wide receiver here, but it is something the Raiders should consider.

Floyd has flaws, but he is long and very athletic.  The Raiders have a lot of big, heavy-hitting defenders.  A guy like Floyd would give this defense some more uniqueness.

No.15, Tennessee Titans: DE, Kevin Dodd, Clemson

I love the Clemson guys in this draft.  Even though Kevin Dodd has a funky frame, this guy is athletic and will cause trouble for an opposing offense.  He’s not an imposing figure, but would be a nice piece for a defense that has many holes.

No.16, Detroit Lions:  ILB, Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Adding Reggie Ragland would boost an already fantastic linebacking core.  The Lions hit hard and play smart.  Ragland fits that mold.

No.17, Atlanta Falcons: DT, Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Controversial pick here.  I think Nkemdiche certainly has off-the-field issues he needs to work on, but I also think this is a large enough fall for him.  Atlanta has struggled developing their front seven for years now.   Nkemdiche is an automatic plug-in and produce.  You can’t question his talent.  I think this is a necessary risk the Falcons need to take.

No.18, Indianapolis Colts: C, Ryan Kelly, Alabama

Ryan Kelly is going to be one of those big, fat lineman that you look at and go “My God, that guy is massive.”  And thats a good thing!  Because usually, those guys are good football players.

He is a big man, and he is a big-time player.  He is ready for the NFL.  The Colts need offensive line help desperately so that Andrew Luck doesn’t have organ problems anymore.  This is an important pick for the Colts, and in the current situation at this point in the Draft, is the only logical thing for them to do.

No.19, Buffalo Bills: DE, Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State

If the Bills take Ogbah, they’d probably move him back to linebacker.  Buffalo has a stacked defensive line, and don’t need anyone else.  This may be a little high for him, as he lacks some skills.  This pick would fill a need for the Bills.

No.20, New York Jets: OLB, Darran Lee, Ohio State

Lee could easily go to Buffalo the pick before.  The Jets need help at linebacker, and Lee has the skills to play in this league.  However, he may be a little limited depending on role.

No.21, Washington Redskins: DE, Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

The Redskins have a lot of guys up front already, but many of them carry question marks, and have been sketchy performers throughout their career.

Spence is a raw and wild player.  He makes things happen on the field.  The speed needs work, but Spence has great awareness, and being smart is becoming a big part of the game.  This pick makes all the sense in the world for Washington.

No.22, Houston Texans: DT, Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

JJ Watt, Vince Wilfork, and Sheldon Rankins as my defensive line?  Yes please!

I think Rankins’ smaller size won’t be an issue due to who is around him, and the issues they present the other team.  Offensive lines are going to have to hassle with Watt and Wilfork already, leaving Rankins the least-guarded guy in the trenches.  With this pick, Houston could end up with one of the best defensive lines ever.

No.23, Minnesota Vikings: WR, Laquon Tredwell, Ole Miss

The Vikings have attempted to invest in weapons for Teddy Bridgewater, and have only hit on one: Stefon Diggs.

Diggs was great last year, but he is surrounded by sketchy guys like Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright.  Adding someone like Laquon Tredwell would finally give Teddy some true weapons.

Tredwell was amazing in college, and is a vertical threat down the field.  That is something Minnesota currently lacks.  I think, at this point in the draft, the wide receivers will begin to go.

No.24, Cincinnati Bengals: WR, Josh Doctson, TCU

The Bengals lost two wide receivers (Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones) in free agency, which was probably completely fine with them considering the money those two got.

Instead, the Bengals can replace them with Josh Doctson, who was the best receiver in college football last season.  Doctson is a vertical threat, and won’t be used in the short passing game, but he can go get a football.  Him and AJ Green are gonna give cornerbacks and safeties a nightmare.

No.25, Pittsburgh Steelers: CB, Eli Apple, Ohio State

This Steelers secondary has been a wreck for years, and every move they have made to fix it has failed.

Eli Apple is a big, physical cornerback.  His isn’t going to get beat by anyone, and can go up and grab interceptions.  This would be the cornerback the Steelers have lacked for so long.

No.26, Seattle Seahawks: DT, Jarran Reed, Alabama

The Seattle defense, which is still very good, has holes up front.  The ends are solidified with quality starters, but between the gaps is where the Seahawks are lacking.

Jarran Reed will stuff gaps and won’t miss tackles.  He’s not a pass-rusher, but that is okay giving his surroundings.  This pick would fill a big hole for Seattle.

No.27, Green Bay Packers: WR, Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma

This was a tough pick.  I think Green Bay could trade out if they don’t like anyone left.  I simply selected the best player available for the Packers.

Green Bay has plenty of wide receiver depth, but Shepard is one of the many talented receivers in this draft.

My best guess is Green Bay trades out, unless they have a sleeper they’re looking at.

No.28, Kansas City Chiefs: WR, Corey Coleman, Baylor

The Chiefs, like Minnesota, have struggled to obtain weapons.  Adding Corey Coleman, an all-around playmaker, would give the Chiefs a nice stockpile of Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, and Coleman.  This is what Alex Smith needs to succeed.

No.29, Arizona Cardinals: TE, Hunter Henry, Arkansas

While Jermaine Gresham is on the Arizona roster, the Cardinals have lacked a true tight end for sometime now. Arizona can’t defend them either (Thats a whole nother issue.).  Henry is a receiving first tight end, who doesn’t drop balls.  Henry would be a huge addition to an already splendid Arizona arsenal of weapons.

No.30, Carolina Panthers: OG, Cody Whitehair, Kansas State

Carolina has lacked line depth for awhile, and I don’t know how much I trust their current offensive line.  Whitehair is a solid prospect who has plenty of potential.  He doesn’t have to start right away.

No.31, Denver Broncos: OG, Joshua Garnett, Stanford

I know it seems high, but this is a big boy who can block.  The Broncos need as much of it as they can get with their current quarterback situation.

Previewing The Meaningful NBA 1st Round Matchups

We have finally finished a very boring NBA season, in which there was only one or two teams worth watching all year.  And even as the playoffs start, we’re still having the same dilemma, hence the title of this column.

East previews:

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #8 Detroit Pistons

I have loved this Detroit team this season.  They’re long, athletic, and modern.  Reggie Jackson is their point guard, but I have really enjoyed them.  They’re smart too, mostly due to Stan Van Gundy’s coaching.  Thats one of many things the Pistons have an advantage at in this series.

Its been a drama-filled year for Cleveland, with everything from coaches getting fired for no reason to the love life of players.  They’re vulnerable, and its because they don’t have chemistry.  As I’ve been saying for two years now, Kevin Love essentially plays the same position as LeBron.  He’s basically standing in the corner or on the wing, waiting for the ball from Kyrie Irving or Lebron.  57% of Lebron’s shots this season have been in the post, while only 36.6% of Love’s have been.  Not great for Love, who’s position is power forward (Granted, that position is going through a fundamental change.).

Not only is this a chemistry issue the Cavaliers have dealt with for the past two years, its something the Pistons can easily take advantage of.  With Kevin Love not doing what he’s supposed to, that gives Detroit more bodies to deal with Lebron.  Detroit is deep.  They have long guys like Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Stanley Johnson; all athletic guys who can help contain Lebron.  Only one is gonna take him at once.  This goes lengths for the way Detroit can stop him.  They have capable guys who will all be well rested when they have the role of guarding one of the league’s best players.

If Detroit can contain Lebron, this means Kyrie Irving iso-time, which is always eventful.  That could be a good or a bad thing.

This series is not going to be a Kyrie Irving vs. Reggie Jackson duel.  We know who’ll win that.  Instead, Detroit can throw it down low to Andre Drummond, who’s had a monster season.  The Cavaliers have finally made a smart personnel move, starting Tristan Thompson at center for these playoffs.  He certainly won’t be as productive as Drummond, but is at least more effective than Timofey Mozgov. (PER doesn’t totally agree with me).  Thompson has been good on defense this year, but Drummond has been unstoppable down low.

I wrote a lot on this series because I’m taking an improbable pick in it.  I think Detroit is gonna have enough guys to contain Lebron, and Drummond will keep the Pistons caught up on offense.  Detroit can wear down the Cavaliers in a long series, and we know what happens when Lebron gets worn down.

Pick: Pistons in 7

#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #5 Boston Celtics

It seems unfair that this is a first round matchup.  This should be a 2nd round matchup, and might even be Conference Finals deserving.

This is going to be an old fashion, grind it out series.  Boston doesn’t usually play that way, but they will have to beef it up if they want to beat Atlanta.

Boston’s best way to attack offensively would be going to the rack with all their guards.  Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas have been great offensively this season.  They have to keep it up if Boston is going to hang around with the Hawks.  Threes won’t cut it, mostly because Boston isn’t good at making threes and missing them won’t help them justify the low-post scoring of Atlanta.

Boston’s biggest mismatch is down low with Al Horford and Paul Millsap.  Its not that Jared Sullinger and Amir Johnson are bad players, its more about Horford and Millsap, who have been Atlanta’s best players, not unexpectedly.  Boston has relied on the guards in crunch-time and in general.  Its a reliance problem, and even though Atlanta’s play defies modern times, Boston will struggle to defend it.

Boston has great depth, but don’t have the proper guys to defend Millsap and Horford.  The Celtics should increase their pace offensively and try to wear down the two front-court studs, and hope that works.

It pains me to do it, but I just can’t take Boston.  They’re another team I loved this season, but the matchup is gonna be too much for them.

Pick: Atlanta in 5

#3 Miami Heat vs. #6 Charlotte Hornets

Props to Steve Clifford for guiding this team to a playoff spot.  He has done an incredible job with a roster that didn’t seem too great at the beginning of the season, and only got worse after losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

And even after all of that negativity towards this team, I think they are going to give Miami a really hard time.  Chris Bosh’s absence is huge, and could be fatal for Miami in this series.  Taking away Bosh is taking away (on average) 19 points a game and spacing.  Joe Johnson’s pickup has been huge though, and has turned Miami into a three guard team.  At the same time, Goran Dragic has struggled to fit in since getting to Miami, Dwayne Wade can’t play all the time (though has played well when he has), and Joe Johnson is not in a role to play a true guard position.  Miami lacks a true point guard; someone who can command and take over in crunch-time.  I think the Heat are gonna struggle to put up points, especially against a team like Charlotte, who have been very good on defense this season.

The Hornets have a true point guard in Kemba Walker, who at times has been frustrating, but can get it done.  They have surrounded him with a unique and sometimes underwhelming cast, but with many different types of players.  Marvin Williams has had an above average season, starting at power forward for the Hornets.  It will be him on Luol Deng, who has struggled to find rhythm and a role with the Heat.

Charlotte, similar to Detroit, has bodies.  A lot of them.  And they all matchup very well to the Heat.  This has been a pretty average Heat team; its amazing they got to the No.3 seed.  Its fair to say Miami has overachieved.  They’re playing an underapprieated Hornets team, who is going to have multiple advantages on them.

I’m taking the Hornets.  The East is a confusing and sometimes disturbing place.  I think the conference has boosted some teams and shadowed others.  This is the Hornets time to sneak out of that shadow.

Pick: Hornets in 6

East picks:

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Indiana Pacers: Raptors in 4

This is gonna be unwatchable.

West Previews:

#4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers

I’m going to keep this one short…  There is a clear winner here, but it will be watchable basketball, unlike the slaughters below.

This series is going to fun, with Damian Lillard and Chris Paul dueling each other out, and Blake Griffin making a true return, in a matchup that greatly suits him.

Damian Lillard has had yet another great year, but has been helped out by the rise of CJ McCollum.  Without McCollum, Portland probably wouldn’t be here right now.  The guards of Portland are going to keep them around.  CP3 can only harass one of them.  However, the Trail Blazers will struggle to guard Blake Griffin.  Noah Vonleh has played poor this season, and is still adjusting to the NBA (he’s been so raw throughout his short career).  The Trail Blazers have lost Meyers Leonard for the postseason, someone who would have greatly helped contain Blake and possibly would have given Portland a shot in this series.

The Clippers have too many pieces for Portland to keep up with, but I am excited for the Dame-CP3 showdown game, where Dame is in heat-check mode the whole 4th quarter.  That though, will probably be the highlight of this series for them.

Pick: Clippers in 6

West Picks:

#8 Houston Rockets vs. #1 Golden State Warriors: Warriors in 4

Utah missed the playoffs, so instead of the Jazz testing the Warriors and winning two games against them, we get to watch Golden State win by 40 every night.  Houston doesn’t even want to be here anyways.  That team hates each other.

#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies: Spurs in 4

Memphis, like Houston, probably doesn’t want to be here either.  Can I take the Spurs in 3?  Is that possible?

#3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks: Thunder in 4

The opening round of the West sucks.

On on the Warriors breaking the all-time wins record for a single season…


On Kobe Bryant’s final game…

Congratulations to the NBA on making Kobe’s finale successful for himself without making it look like they staged it.  Oh wait!

(The rest of this portion of the column is written by someone who hated Kobe growing up and still does)

After Houston secured the 8th seed, I think Utah was told by the NBA to go easy on Kobe.  I’m not saying they totally staged the game, as they managed to keep it close, but I think there was some definite league influence.  Since this season was so crappy for Kobe, they might as well make it up with letting him score 60 in his final game.

Congrats to Kobe though.  The guy was an amazing player and made me cry countless times growing up a Suns fan.  He’s the 8th greatest player of time.

PS:  Shooting a piece of paper or other object into the trash bin or container and saying a basketball player’s in the act of doing it never happened before Kobe.  He was the first name associated with it.  It will be odd when you hear it now, but at the same time, I have heard people say “Lebron” or “Curry” when shooting.

On Sam Mitchell’s firing by the Timberwolves…

I am so happy for all the Timberwolves fans who were relieved of Sam Mitchell yesterday.  In fact, the Wolves might win 40 games next year automatically due to his firing.  All this teams needs is a competent coach who can guide the young guys and not totally care about winning yet, though with one more top pick, Minnesota is gonna get scary good, and fast.

On Randy Wittman’s firing by the Wizards…

This was another firing that had to happen.  It came a year or two late, but the Wizards finally canned Randy Wittman, a coach who never truly could coach.  Granted, this season had been hampered by Bradley Beal’s constant injuries, but this team should have been much better, especially considering the stakes there are on this Summer for Kevin Durant.  I can’t wait for the Wizards to hire Scott Brooks.  Its gonna be fantastic.

On George Karl’s firing by the Kings…

I honestly think this Kings teams is more embarrassing than the 76ers.  The Kings are about to hire their 9th coach in 10 seasons.  Their owner has no idea what he is doing, and their GM doesn’t know how to make a trade.  And George Karl just got fired for no reason, adding to the list of coaches fired under those circumstances.

The only positive out of this is the benefit the other 29 NBA GMs get out of it: The honor of making trades with this team.

I seriously think the NBA needs to help them out.  This is just going to continue.  Some thought Vivek Ranadive just had new owner syndrome.  Clearly, its becoming chronic.

Happy playoff season!! (NHL included!)

NHL Playoffs: First Round Preview

This will be the 2nd NHL playoffs I have covered on the site.  I do have a NHL playoff bracket, which will not be anywhere on the internet until after the Stanley Cup Final.  I’m expecting this first round to go very well for myself, besides the fact that my two teams probably won’t make it out.


Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals 

I am so happy for this Philadelphia team.  This season started out as a dud for them, at least by my standards.  I had this Flyers team close to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, not trusting the goaltending and thinking they wouldn’t have enough talent.  Oops.

And it turns out they’re in the playoffs, with an electrifying rookie, experience, and goaltending that has finally solidified.  And they have a chance to pull off an unprecedented upset, which I believe is certainly possible.

The Flyers are unique.  They are defensively-minded and play fast offensively.  Shayne Gostisbehere is an amazing talent.  He is fast, is menacing defensively, and isn’t afraid to take risks on the ice.  I feel like Washington is gonna have trouble keeping him under control.

Now sure, the Capitals have talent everywhere.  They’re the best team in the league.  But Philadelphia is young and has experience, a rare combination.

I see this as a low scoring series.  Steve Mason and Braden Holtby have had fantastic seasons, and both defenses are strong.  The Flyers are going to challenge Washington with their speed, and because of that, I think they steal two games.

Pick: Capitals in 6


Detroit Red Wings vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Steven Stamkos injury sucks because it hurts Tampa Bay’s chances of making a deep playoff run and removes one of the league’s best players from the playoffs, where everyone is watching every game.

At the same time, I think this is the best possible matchup for a banged up Lightning team.  Tyler Johnson, Ryan Callahan, and Victor Hedman are all hurt.  But Detroit barely made into the playoffs, and probably isn’t even playoff-worthy.  Then again, would you really like to see the Bruins in instead?

The back of the East was really underwhelming this season, and was part of the reason I wished Ottawa would step it up late in the season.

Anyways, Detroit has issues everywhere.  They go through these weird slumps, then pull out of them and look like a 104 point team.  The Red Wings biggest issue is goaltending, where Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have both struggled lately.  Against a talented Lightning team, who has  capable scorers on the blue line, thats an issue.

Tampa Bay won’t miss Stamkos too much in this series, but when they move on, thats when things will get tough.

This is a ballsy pick, but I don’t trust Detroit and don’t think they belong here.  Tampa Bay is only gonna get better and healthier.

Pick: Lightning in 4


New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers

I have loved watching this Panthers team this season.  They have the right mix of experience and youth, and have no weaknesses.

The Islanders are an 100 point team, but haven’t shown their best play when I have watched them.  Sure, the stats show certain things, many which are useful, but I have relied on my eyes more with this team.  I feel like, similar to the other New York team (more on that later, unfortunately), they have underwhelmed as of late.  The Islanders have struggled to put away games close to the end.  New York hasn’t been able to get production out of guys like Josh Bailey and Ryan Strome lately, and they’re very much aware of it.  John Taveras has been doing it all.  That can’t happen against a Florida team like this.  They will make you pay with their high-powered offense.

Both teams need to play smart in this series, as neither are great on the power play.  Both teams are below-average when it comes to man-up situations.

The Panthers are also healthy, and have great goaltending.  The Islanders have issues in the net, even though Thomas Griess has a 2.36 GAA and and a Quality Start percentage well over 50%.  The struggle to close out games may not be Griess’ fault, but the backseat taken to the Panthers in  the quality of goaltending is.

I don’t think the Islanders are a bad team, I just think Florida is much better.   This Panthers team is slated for a deep playoff run.  Blowing through the Islanders kicks it off.

Pick: Panthers in 4


Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers

Are you ready for a physical, brutal, hatred-running-high series?  We’re gonna get seven games of it, and it has me worried.

The Rangers have underwhelmed me lately, which has me worried for these playoffs.  The Penguins have done the opposite.

This is a Pittsburgh team I have criticized all season, and since the new year, they’ve turned it around.  I am usually skeptical of teams that turn it around and coming flying into the playoffs, so what makes Pittsburgh scary?

Its their talent.  This team is stacked.  That is why it was so shocking to see them stumble out of the gates.  And that talent is gonna test the Rangers.  Both teams are dealing with injuries right now, though I think Pittsburgh will be able to make New York miss their guys more.  Dan Girardi has been shaken up, and Ryan McDonagh will miss a good chunk of this series.

The Penguins possess speed and physicality, and have blue-line scorers.  Pittsburgh is gonna be able to do whatever they want offensively.  It will take another run from Henrik Lundqvist to get the Rangers out of the series.  He’s a had a great year, but we all know how the playoffs are a totally different story.

The Penguins goaltending is a mess, but that may be okay if their defense plays to their ability, which they certainly have as of late.

This is gonna be a great series, and I do have hope for my Rangers.  I just think the Penguins will take advantage of the opposition’s injuries better than New York will.

Pick: Penguins in 7



Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars

It was a month and a half ago when I was attending a hockey game in which Mike Yeo’s son was on the opposing team.  Being the cruel hockey fans we were, we chanted “Who’s your Daddy?  (Clap clap, clap clap clap) He got fired!”  Yeah, that was a month and a half ago.  The Wild sucked and all their fans were pissed off.

And now they’re in the playoffs, matched up against the best team in the conference, and a huge rival.

If you’re a Wild fan reading this, which trust me, there will be a lot, you like how this series preview has started.  Its about to take a turn south.

First of all, you should be happy you’re here.  Because around six weeks ago, you shouldn’t have been.  At the same time, its been easy to tell the confidence level is not as high as it was last year.  That was out of control, and those out of control Wild fans got what they deserved in a sweep by the Blackhawks.  This year, everyone is a bit more cautious, which means smarter.

Minnesota is faced against the best offense in the league in this series.  Keeping that under control is going to be important, and that means scoring first.

The Wild have games where they get six shots in the first period.  That can’t happen versus this Dallas team, because they will easily take the lead.

The Wild fan’s view would be “Dallas’ defense isn’t good anyways.”  Well, its not the tough defenses that give Minnesota trouble, its themselves.  Those are the games where they “choke” are when the offense simply does nothing, not because there is a good defense shutting them down.

Minnesota needs to force the puck deep in series like this one.  Antti Neimi is a below average goalie this season based on the quality start metric, though stats like GAA support him.  Creating chaos in front of the net can only help Minnesota in this series, but that forces them out of their comfort zone.  That scares me too much.

Pick: Stars in 5


Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues

Chicago loaded up at the trade deadline, improving their depth to make another run at the Stanley Cup.  They understand the threat the Kings are posing.  I don’t see that big of a threat in this series.

The Blues defense is very good, and is backed by the tandem of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen.  Both have had great seasons.  I see this series as a low scoring, defensive-minded contest.  Both teams are going to struggle to score, and this goalie matchup will make it even harder.

The reason I am taking the Blackhawks is because of their talent and the trust I have in it.  This is a St. Louis Blues team we routinely make fun of for choking in the playoffs.  Who says it won’t happen again?  Chicago needs to stick to what they’re used to: Getting the puck deep and not pushing the puck too far off the rush.   This is a tough Blues defense.  If Chicago keeps attacking the net and getting it deep, the puck will eventually get in.

Corey Crawford is better than the two St. Louis goalies combined, though that doesn’t mean Chicago will have an easy time scoring.

This pick is about trust and talent.  Its very hard to see this good of a Blackhawks team go out so early.

Pick: Blackhawks in 5


San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

I’ve been telling friends this isn’t the year you’re allowed to give me crap about my hockey teams, because I don’t think either of them are going to get out of this first round.

This has been a surprising and fun to watch Sharks team.  I’m just happy we got this far.

I think this Kings team is really good, and I’ve been saying that all season.  It was improbable to me they would fall off, like some expected.  Los Angeles’ offense has struggled throughout the year, but have one of the best defenses in the league, which will go very far in this series.

The Sharks play similar to Chicago where they force the puck deep and don’t rush things on the ice.  That’s the way you play against the Kings, but getting the puck in the net is a different story.  Jonathan Quick has had another great season, with a GAA of 2.22.  The Sharks are gonna have much trouble scoring.  I expect this to be an easy series for Quick.

This being the 4th time in the past six years these teams have played in the playoffs is an overrated statement.  These teams have changed so much. Sure, its a cool fact, but lets not shove it down people’s throat.

These are two talented teams, but the Kings have better goaltending and are gonna be so hard to score on.  I think the Sharks are gonna make this a competitive series.  These teams are very similar, but I think the Kings talent outweighs the Sharks’.

Pick: Kings in 6


Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

This is gonna sound really odd considering this will be a long series, but I don’t know how fun this will be to watch.

This series is going to lack offense.  The Anaheim defense is too good for Nashville to have their forwards break through, and that is if they show up.

See, I want to like this Nashville team.  They’re good, but they’re not really good.  Pekka Rinne has had a little bit of a down year, but that will be manageable since I don’t trust the Anaheim offense.  I’m not sure I trust Anaheim overall.

John Gibson and Frederick Anderson have had great years, but we haven’t seen them in big spots.  Rinne has been there, and won’t have too much of a hassle if his defense steps up.

This series may be a little underwhelming at times.  I see close games all the way through, mostly due to lack of scoring.   I’m not sure anyone will truly stand out for either team, making this an odd, long series.

So why am I picking the Predators?  I think when the offense gets going, they will score easier than Anaheim on the net.  And they’re more likable.  Except for Mike Fisher.  He stole Carrie Underwood from me.

Pick: Predators in 7

Sam Hinkie Was Too Smart For The Sixers

I have never been too skeptical of what Sam Hinkie was doing in Philadelphia.  And while some of it was confusing, strange, stupid, and even smart, you always had to give it a chance, because you never knew when it was gonna make sense.

In the past two or three months or so, it started to make sense.  They weren’t winning or doing anything different.  They sucked, like always.  But it made sense because the final and right guy had came along: LSU’s Ben Simmons.

I’m about as high as you can be on Ben Simmons. (Don’t give me the “You don’t watch college basketball” crap.  You know how I treat that sport and why I watch it.  Its not worth covering on the site because there’s a limited amount that needs to be covered.)  I think he is the best prospect since Kevin Durant, and I think he should go No.1 no matter what in the Draft.  The potential is too high.

I bet you Hinkie knew that, and had the 76ers gotten the No.1 overall pick, they would have taken Simmons.  Let me make a case to you here…

  1. Ish Smith
  2. Ben Simmons
  3. Dario Saric
  4. Nerleans Noel
  5. Joel Embiid

Is a possible (a lot of ifs and whats here, I know) lineup of what is above that bad?  At least, this is something you can see coming together at some point.

The moving parts here: 1) The Sixers first have to actually draft Ben Simmons, and that will take No.1 overall, which is in the lottery’s hands.  I think this lineup would be very similar if they end up with Brandon Ingram, who’s gonna go No.2 and could be more of a fit on paper for the 76ers.  2) It is confirmed that Dario Saric will be joining the 76ers next season.  Saric is a Croatian stretch 4, who has the skills to play the 3-spot, and is a underrated piece that no one has considered.  3) Jahlil Okafor is not in this lineup, and that will be dependent on many things, including whether the team gets Simmons or Ingram in the draft.  4)  There are some good bench pieces, like Robert Covington and Jerami Grant, who could even be expendable.

That’s a lot that has to happen, but its also something, that clearly, the Colangelos have failed to see.  Notice the plural?  Yeah, thats because Hinkie’s replacement is Bryan Colaneglo, Jerry’s son.

That lineup has a lot going on.  A position-less freak in Ben Simmons, who yeah, is gonna have to work on expanding his offense, but has too high of a ceiling to pass on for a raw offensive game.  It has a stretch 4 playing even smaller at the 3-spot, though Saric is showing the capability to knock down outside shots overseas (41% on 3s isn’t bad!).  And also has two centers playing with each other, which well, doesn’t really work anymore, and is something I’ve advocated strongly against over the past couple years, but could be offset by the combo of Saric and Simmons.  And hey!  Ish Smith has played very well for the Sixers since he arrived there!

Its a short-sighted vision by the Colangelos, who practically forced out Hinkie, the guy who is most likely to see this possibility.  Some of this column may have already offended the many Arizona sports fans who are reading this and who love Jerry Colangelo.  My Dad described him as a “hero” in Arizona.  The rest of this column may as well too.

It may be surprising I’m being so critical of the Colangelos.  They are heroes in Arizona.  The reason the Diamondbacks and Suns exist in Arizona is because of Jerry Colangelo.  Without him, my Dad may not even be that big of a sports fan.  My Dad got me into basketball and baseball, because Jerry Colangelo got the Suns to Phoenix before my Dad was born, and because he grew up playing baseball and always had a connection with it.  The Diamondbacks coming to Arizona gave him and I a team to root for, and helped me love the sport.  So yeah, my criticism of Colangelo may not sit well with the majority of people reading this.

But the blame can’t totally go on Jerry for the situation in Philly, even though it is ironic that he hired his son to be GM!

It all starts at the top for Philadelphia.  Terminating Hinkie three months before this could have started to make sense and come together was short-sighted.  Its fair to assume that Sixers ownership was never on the same page as Hinkie, and probably thought he was a crazy man, which, well, he probably was.

I read his whole, 13 page resignation letter.  I interpreted it as a long, sophisticated, and complex language-filled FU letter to the Colangelos, and also got a “Watch this work out for you guys.” vibe from it.  Because he knows it will work, and there are many reason for me to too.

Maybe Hinkie is a weirdo.  His resignation letter proves that further.  But he was also smart.  Too smart for the 76ers.  And by the front office moves made by Philly in wake of Hinkie’s resignation, it shows their intelligence level was never on Hinkie’s level.  Thats why he isn’t there anymore.

As for what Sam Hinkie does next?  Maybe he gets a GM job soon.  Maybe its only a role in someone’s front office.  Maybe its a GM job in a couple years.  Maybe its nothing at all.  Whatever and wherever it is, the team that buys into must be prepared and have confidence.  I think they will when they see this Philadelphia team take off in the next three years.

I’m sure the NBA is thrilled about Hinkie’s resignation too.  The guy has drove them insane for years with the way he’s toyed with the lottery.  So much so its driven people to come up with a whole new lottery system, which is an issue, just a different one than this.  (The issue with the lottery system is exactly what happened to the Cavaliers in the past five years: Three No.1s in five years.)

Hinkie has been hated for many reasons so far.  The one reason they haven’t been able to hate him yet for is winning.  Thats about to change.