World Series Preview

The World Series is where baseball’s two best teams square off and play anywhere from four to seven games to determine who baseball’s best team really is, right?

Right.  At least, that’s the way it’s been the past two years.  From 3rd grade until my junior year of high school, there was always one team in the World Series that the casual, locally interested baseball fan would have to do a double take on.  “Wait, the Phillies made the World Series?  The Royals?  Huh?”

In 2016, it was the Cubs and Indians who played in the World Series, two, for the most part, sorry franchises that had been nothing but disgraces for years.

But those two teams playing in the World Series was expected.  The Cubs were expected to contend for the NL Pennant; same with Cleveland in the AL.  No one was really surprised.

That happens to be the case again in 2017.  I had Los Angeles and Houston winning their respective divisions before the season.  The Dodgers were on-pace to be the best team ever before a disastrous run in late August.  Before the AL Wild Card Game, I picked Houston to represent the AL in Fall Classic.

This series isn’t anything we didn’t prepare for.  No one got hot in October.  I’m not digging up stats on a team that I didn’t pay as much attention to during the regular season.  We’ve been ready for this.  Does that limit the excitement?  Not at all.

Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Before we start dissecting the matchup, lets recap each team’s October.  The Dodgers steamrolled the Diamondbacks, whose pitching expectedly collapsed while also finding out that their bullpen was actually a complete mess. LA then faced the Cubs, who had the same exact issues as Arizona but put a little bit more of a fight up due to a simple talent advantage.  Yeah, pretty easy going.

The Astros faced Boston in the ALDS, capitalizing on a weak bullpen and clutch hitting and won in six games.  They then faced the young Yankees, who were this year’s best bet for a “Wait, what?” World Series team.  That went as expected, though some flukey pitching outings by New York stretched the series to seven games.

Houston’s played more, had shorter rest, and had the harder path.  If they’re gonna burn out, it’s gonna be here.  The same thing happened to the Indians in Game 7 last season.

The Dodgers already their collapse.  The insane, 43-7 stretch had to have an ugly side, and it came in late August when LA dropped 16 in a row.  LA’s seen both lights, and as this postseason has displayed, they’re back on track.

They’re getting stronger too.  After missing the NLCS, Corey Seager will start at shortstop in Game 1.  A huge reason for me taking Chicago last series, Seager left a massive hole in the Dodgers lineup.  I didn’t agree with how LA handled it, but it ended up working out.  That alone makes them hard to pick against.

After crushing most of the Cubs’ pitching staff, this Dodgers lineup can hit anyone.  They’re too good, and any batter, from Seager to Kyle Farmer, can get a hit when they need one.

Houston’s rotation has a deadly 1-2 punch with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.  Verlander’s been outstanding this postseason, throwing a high amount of breaking balls that no one can hit.  Keuchel’s been less impressive, but I still think you can count on 5+ innings an outing from him.

The Astros have to get big innings out of their starters.  Their bullpen is collapsing, forcing AJ Hinch to freak out and force back-of-the-rotation starters to make appearances late in games.  It’s pretty much a mess.  It could cost Houston the series.

If I were Hinch, I use Lance McCullers Jr. and Colin McHugh out of the bullpen still, and maybe ask Ken Giles to make long saves every night.  That’s probably their only option, as Chris Dewinski and Will Harris haven’t even been competent in October.

That is, in games that Verlander and Keuchel don’t pitch.  Assuming they fire away, Giles can come in for one or two innings and get the save.

Charlie Morton’s the x-factor here.  His postseason has been… interesting.  Coming out of nowhere, Morton’s thrown the ball better this month than he has in his whole career, and his best start came in Game 7 against New York, where Yankees hitters simply couldn’t make contact.  He’s gonna start Game 3 or 4, which gives Houston some time to consider ALL the scenarios with Morton.

As well as he’s pitched, I don’t trust him.  Not against this lineup.  His fastball has some really nice movement to it, but you can’t tell me guys like Justin Turner don’t know how to hit that.

To beat the Dodgers, the Astros have to get three good outings out of Verlander/Keuchel, which includes Games 1 and 2.  Starting the series tied 1-1 isn’t great, considering LA is gonna save Darvish for Game 3 and then can throw Kershaw again Game 4. Tied 2-2 after four is a much more pleasant situation than being down 3-1.

From there, you bank on Morton continuing his run and McCullers working overtime in Games 3 and 4.  Starters are gonna have to come out of the bullpen for Houston, cause Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock and Will Harris are not gonna get it done.

For LA, they can rely on their offense in case some of their pitchers likely implode (Kershaw and Hill).  The bullpen has been lights out, though this is a lineup they haven’t experienced before.  The amount of depth LA has should be able to get them out of tough situations.  Any pitcher can come in and get a random out.

There’s risks to consider on both sides.  Can Houston starters get deep into games?  How is the bullpen managed?  What if Yu Darvish is the only good starter for LA?  Can the bullpen save them?

In the end, it comes down to trust vs. momentum.  The postseason’s ever-longing question is “Who do you trust?”

My poll results: Check marks next to “Dodgers bullpen” and “Dodgers hitters”.

If we’ve learned anything in the postseason, it’s that you need pitching.  Usually that accounts for both rotation and bullpen, but since this series is a little wonky, you only need one.  The Dodgers have it.

I think Houston can get three great outings out of Verlander and Keuchel, but four is too much to ask when you account for rest and randomness, that is: A guy could have a bad day any day, especially when they are pitching every three games.

I struggled with this pick.  Houston’s been my team all postseason, but their bullpen issues and LA’s bullpen dominance is too hard to pick against.

Prediction: Dodgers in 7

The Late But Massive 2017-2018 NBA Preview

After the craziest NBA offseason ever, the season has finally arrived, and it feels awesome.

What hasn’t arrived yet: The preview.

It’s been late almost every year in this site’s history.  I think we’re just gonna make it a tradition.

Warning:  There’s a lot of words below, anywhere from 200-500 a team.  If there’s only certain teams you care about, they’re listed alphabetically.

Atlanta Hawks

  1. Dennis Schroder-Malcolm Delaney-Josh Magette
  2. Marco Bellinelli-Kent Bazemore-Tyler Dorsey-Nicohlas Brussino
  3. Taurean Prince-DeAndre’ Bembry-Luke Babbitt
  4. Ersan Ilyasova
  5. Dewayne Dedmon, Mike Muscala, John Collins, Miles Plumlee (Starter when healthy???)

There are not many teams that have this much turnover in a matter of two years.  Atlanta once almost won the Eastern Conference with an insanely fun team led by Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Kyle Korver.

Now, everyone is gone.

Obviously, this is tank/rebuilding year.  You probably shouldn’t watch this team.  I’m not a fan of Dennis Schroder; he’s like a less-athletic, losing Russell Westbrook. I’m not sure that Malcolm Delaney is a point guard, either.  Perhaps with Schroder’s forthcoming suspension for a battery arrest we’ll know the answer to that.

I know he won’t, but I think Marco Bellineli should start.  He’s more effective off-the-ball.  Kent Bazemore and Schroder on the court at the same time could turn into a cat fight for the ball.  I’m not sure I’d want Bazemore on my team anymore, but he’s still a nice off-the-bench scorer who you can run an offense through for like 15 minutes.

Taurean Prince really came on at the end of the year last season, and seems to be someone who can contribute to a contender at some point.  Atlanta won’t build around him, but he’s a great asset.

The frontcourt is kinda a mess and also kinda intriguing.  Dwight Howard is gone (I’ve written 200 words on this team already and forgot that Dwight Howard was played for them last year.  What a freaking disaster that was.), which immediately gives the Hawks two extra wins due to the eradication of the DwightBola virus.  They signed Dwanye Dedmon, who I like but is probably overrated since he just had his best year with the Spurs.  

They have a trade to make to clear some clutter.  Mike Muscala is sneakily really good; he could be a nice trade for a contender down the road (Warriors??).

They’re stuck with Miles Plumlee’s contract, so he should probably start (When he’s back from injury) just to get some value out of it.  That might not make the most sense though.  There’s a lot of John Collins hype.  If he turns out, him and Prince are two solid young players for Atlanta.

Ilyasova definitely starts at power forward.  He’s a good floor spacer and can play with almost any center.  Him and Collins could be deadly.

Really, this frontcourt cluster isn’t gonna matter much.  I’m watching like five Hawks games this year anyways.  You should watch zero.

Projected record: 26-56

Boston Celtics

  1. Kyrie Irving-Terry Rozier-Shane Larkin
  2. Jaylen Brown-Marcus Smart-Gordon Hayward (Injured for year)
  3. Jayson Tatum-Semi Ojeyele-Abel Nader
  4. Marcus Morris-Guerschon Yabusele-Daniel Theis
  5. Al Horford-Aron Baynes


I had about 350 words written on this team before Gordon Hayward went down.  I had them winning 62 games (Best in the East) and was incredibly excited.

Wednesday night sent a chill down my spine.

The only way Hayward’s injury doesn’t really affect them:  They weren’t accustom to having him out there.  Adjusting on the fly sucks, but it’s not like there’s any chemistry missing.

Now, Jaylen Brown has to step up even more.  He looked awesome Wednesday night, flying all over the court and draining threes.  But I don’t know if he can do that consistently yet.  This is only his 2nd year.

Same with Jayson Tatum, who’s a rookie.  They need big outings from him.  That is why they drafted him in the first place.

Perhaps the guy Hayward’s injury has the biggest effect on: Kyrie Irving.  He wanted his own team, and now he truly has it.  It’s his time to show us what more he’s capable of.

Wednesday night sucked.  I was so sad for Gordon, for the Celtics, for the league as a whole after that freak accident.  I’m still so upset.  When you’re a NBA fan in general, you feel the same way as Celtics fan.

Even with Hayward’s injury, I expect Boston to be fine.  I dropped their wins quite a bit, in fact so much they’re gonna end up at the No.2 or No.3 seed instead of No.1.  But this team is still really talented, and they’ve got a great coach too.  But more importantly: They have Hayward.

Projected record: 55-27

Brooklyn Nets

  1. D’Angelo Russell-Isaiah Whitehead-Spencer Didwidde
  2. Caris LeVert-Sean Kilpatrick-Joe Harris-Jeremy Lin (Injured for year)
  3. Allen Crabbe-Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  4. DeMarre Carroll-Trevor Booker-Quincy Acy
  5. Timofey Mozgov-Jarrett Allen-Tyler Zeller

I’ve talked about this Nets team quite a bit over the offseason on here and among friends since they are heavily but not directly involved with the Kyrie trade.

My main point has been…  This team isn’t that bad!  It’s another reason why Boston won the Kyrie trade; the 2018 Brooklyn pick is the least valuable of the four Boston has owned, and will probably end being the least valuable unless it turns out to be Luka Doncic.  That’s why Boston was okay with trading it.

Anyways, the Nets aren’t brutally bad, and actually have some things to look forward too.  Their strategy over the offseason was to take on bad contracts and gain assets in the process.  They haven’t had a pick in years, so they needed as much draft capital as possible.  At the same time, they also have no incentive to win or lose.  It’s been referred to as no-man’s land since the Kevin Garnett trade.

At the very least, you could make the team that owns your pick miserable about it, and that’s what they’ve decided to do.  This team isn’t making the playoffs, and won’t be one to watch that often, but they’re at least competent.  They have real basketball players who have contributed in the past and still can contribute.  They also have some young assets, like D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert, who are cornerstones of a future playoff team.

The biggest storyline with this team will be their success and how it affects Cleveland’s pick.  I really think they’re good enough to drop Cleveland to No.7 or so in next year’s lottery.  People have given up on Russell way too soon; he was in the worst possible situation in LA with a terrible coach and was forced out.  He was the No.2 overall pick for a reason.  He’s a little too ball-dominant and has no defensive effort, but he makes things happen.  For now, he’s a great young guy to lead this team.  Jeremy Lin’s injury sucks, but that means more minutes for guys like Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe together, who are both extremely underrated (Crabbe’s actually become underrated since people have been trashing his contract all Summer.  It is pretty bad, but still.).  Jarrett Allen has potential to be a stretch 5, but may not see huge minutes as the Nets are gonna be squeezing as many minutes out of Mozgov as possible.

Brooklyn has some lower rotation guys of intrigue too.  Sean Kilpatrick was awesome in college and did some good things on the court last year.  Trevor Booker doesn’t space the floor, but he can rebound well.  And even Joe Harris is alright.  See!  This team isn’t that bad!

With competence, a couple young players and a good coach in Kenny Atkinson, I think this Nets team can surprise some people, and put Cleveland in a rough spot next June.  I mean, with the way the back of the East is looking, they could even contend for the 8th seed.

Projected record: 34-48

Charlotte Hornets

  1. Kemba Walker-Michael Carter-Williams-Julyan Stone
  2. Malik Monk-Dwayne Bacon-Jeremy Lamb-Nicholas Batum (Starter when healthy)
  3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-Treveon Graham
  4. Marvin Williams-Frank Kaminsky
  5. Dwight Howard-Cody Zeller-Johnny O’Bryant 

There is so, so much going on here, and it’s literally the back of the East in a nutshell.

This feels like 35 wins exactly.  Chances are it’s higher, but there’s also a scenario where it’s below, too.

This team’s identity was defense until they were infected with DwightBola.  Who would’ve thought it’d be possible to downgrade from Cody Zeller???  That was mean.  He’s not bad, it’s just that he’s not my type of big guy.  Neither is Dwight.

If I’m Zeller, I’m pissed I’m not starting.  How is Dwight Howard contributing anything positive to anyone’s team anymore?

The Nicholas Batum injury is problematic, but Malik Monk is awesome.  There is no reason for Jeremy Lamb to start.

Kemba Walker and Monk could be a disaster or work beautifully.  If there’s any positive to Batum’s injury, it’s that it gives the Hornets a test case for a Walker-Monk pairing.

It was my concern at the draft and still remains:  Monk’s fit here is troubling.  I get why Charlotte took him… he fell way too far and was easily the best player available.  But Monk’s the type of player who needs the ball, and who could turn into a really good player on a championship team.  Charlotte needs talent upgrades, but with their current roster, Monk’s role will be limited.

I see this team hanging around the 8th seed.  They’ll be competent enough to sneak into the playoffs, but certainly won’t be pulling any upsets.  If they start poorly, a blowup could be on the horizon.

Projected record: 35-47

Chicago Bulls

  1. Jerian Grant-Cameron Payne-Kris Dunn (Starter when healthy)
  2. Justin Holiday-Zach Lavine-Denzel Valentine-David Nwaba
  3. Lauri Markkanen-Paul Zipser-Quincy Pondexter
  4. Christian Felicio-Nikola Mirotic (Injured)-Bobby Portis (Suspended)
  5. Robin Lopez-Diamond Stone

I thought before writing this column that there might be some incentive in watching the Bulls.

There isn’t any.

This is a brutal roster.  There’s a ton of overlap.  There’s too many minutes.  They have way too many lanky guys who are streaky shooters.  It’s a mess.

Oh, and they have teammates punching each other.

Not that I trust the Bulls front office is doing so, but the first thing that should be done is evaluating the young talent they possess.  I still believe in Kris Dunn, and think he can be a nice distributor who can irritate on the defensive end.  The only reason Bobby Portis wasn’t cut after punching Nikola Mirotic in practice was because he’s only one of two young assets they have.

Besides that, I’m not sure where else the talent is.  Zach Lavine is a nice player, but needs the ball in his hands to contribute and couldn’t guard a telephone pole defensively.  Nikola Mirotic is being paid about $5 million more than he should be, and is now out for the next month.  But hey, thank God they have Paul Zipser!  He’s the exact same player!

Then you have to throw in Lauri Markannen, who the Bulls inexplicably took over Malik Monk at No.7 overall in June’s draft.  I’m conflicted on him.  I’m much lower on him than most; my projection is a lanky wing who can shoot and be used in pick-and-pops.  But the multi-positional, ball handling Markannen that some project is baffling to me.  Where’s the athleitiscm?

On the contrary, he should start.  You could run some nice plays with him and Jerian Grant, who’s very crafty with the ball.  If Kris Dunn isn’t a turnover machine, his passing ability should help Markannen immensely.

You start Markannen because Mirotic is hurt, because Zipser is not good at anything in particular, and because, well… whatta got to lose?  Games?  If it gets me Luka Doncic, then sure!  Sign me up.

Projected record: 24-58

Cleveland Cavaliers

  1. Derrick Rose-Jose Calderon-Isaiah Thomas (Starter when healthy)
  2. Dywane Wade-JR Smith-Iman Shumpert
  3. LeBron James-Kyle Korver-Jeff Green-Cedi Osman
  4. Jae Crowder-Channing Fyre
  5. Kevin Love-Tristan Thompson-Ante Zizic

We’re gonna have concerns.  The pieces may not totally fit.  They might be terrible defensively.  They may not have a competent point guard till January.  They might look terrible at times.

It won’t matter.

A team led by LeBron James, especially this version, a pissed off, “FU Kyrie” version of LeBron James will not fail.  In the regular season that is.

My point is that they will be fine until the Eastern Conference Finals.  They have LeBron, and for 90% of the year, that’s all that matters.  The issues they have won’t be problematic till late May.

For now, it’s team that has the best player in the world and a bunch of “Wait, what?” guys.  Who would have thought in 2010 that LeBron, Wade and Derrick Rose would be on the same team?

For a team that’s struggled with chemistry the past three years, this current roster doesn’t offer many solutions.

I think Kevin Love playing center will help him fit in more, but he’s not a rim protector and never has been.  Over the summer, everyone acted like Jae Crowder is still an amazing defender.  Newsflash: He’s not, and he misses threes like myself.  Oh, and congrats to Jeff Green on getting a contract.

When Isaiah Thomas gets back, this team could be deadly.  They might give up 120 points a game, but Thomas’ debut should help smooth out ball movement, as his off-the-ball ability will be useful when Wade and LeBron are controlling things.

Projected record: 57-25

Dallas Mavericks

  1. Dennis Smith Jr.-Seth Curry-Devin Harris-JJ Barea
  2. Wes Matthews-Yogi Ferrell
  3. Harrison Barnes-Dorian Finney-Smith
  4. Dirk Nowitzki-Josh McRoberts-Dwight Powell-Max Kleber
  5. Nerleans Noel-Salah Mejri-Jeff Whitey

I think this team could surprise some people.  They probably aren’t making the playoffs, but they’ll at least be watchable.

I don’t know what Dennis Smith Jr. is yet, but his wrecking ball-like presence is gonna fool teams.  There’s a chance he’s already a top five athlete in the league.

I feel like his presence will affect at least half their games, in a one way or the other. There’ll be 20 games where the Internet is freaking out about something he did, or some crazy stat, but there’ll also be 20 games where he’s shooting them out of it, turning the ball over, and essentially loosing the game by himself.

Their supporting cast isn’t a disaster.  They have a nice guard rotation with Seth Curry, Wes Matthews and Yogi Ferrell.  All are multi-positional and can score effectively.  The only question is how they fit next to Smith.  Also, Devin Harris isn’t bad if he’s healthy, and the last legs of JJ Barea can contribute some minutes.

Harrison Barnes is fine, but will probably end up like Dion Waiters on Oklahoma City in 2014, with his hands in the air asking for the ball.

There’s no way Dirk is going out with a bad year.  If this is it, he’ll still put up 16 points and nine rebounds every night.  His presence will help Dallas in every way, including spiritually.

I’m not sure what I’d pay Nerlens Noel, but it’s certainly more than the qualifying offer.  He’s an elite rim protecter who can space the floor if needed.  That will help Smith Jr. and these young guards get to the rim.

Also, and this is a super nerdy basketball thing, but Dwight Powell is a pretty nice player off the bench.  If they make the playoffs it won’t be because of him, but he’s a criminally underrated rebounder.

Projected record: 38-44

Denver Nuggets

  1. Jamal Murray-Emmanuel Muiday
  2. Gary Harris-Will Barton-Malik Beasley
  3. Wilson Chandler-Tyler Lydon-Richard Jefferson
  4. Paul Millsap-Kenneth Faried-Trey Lyles-Darrell Arthur
  5. Nikola Jokic-Juan Hernangomez-Mason Plumlee

I loooove this team and think they’re gonna be really fun to watch.

They’re not there yet though.  Obviously to compete in the West you need stars, and they don’t really have that type of impact player yet.  Nikola Jokic is a 2nd tier superstar, and Millsap, at this point, is probably 3rd tier.  That doesn’t get it done.

I smell a trade at some point.  They need to see what they have at point guard, but this could become, if he is available, a Mike Conley destination.  They were in the Kyrie mix, and should have gone after Kyle Lowry in free agency.  Conley would be the type of star they need, because even though he’s not the dominant one-on-one player you need in the playoffs, him parried with Jokic and Millsap would be unfair.

I thought cutting Jameer Nelson was insane.  Denver’s making the right decision in starting Jamal Murray, but I don’t think we can be sure he’s a true point guard.  Emmanuel Muiday has his obvious problems; he can’t shoot or defend.  Nelson was at least competent at the end of last year, and would be the only true point guard on this roster.

The wings are also an issue for Denver.  Wilson Chandler’s fine, but they need shot making.  That’s why getting Tyler Lydon in the draft was a smart move.  He’s a more of a small-ball four, but his shooting can allow him to play at the three if needed.

There’s still no star there.  Denver was also interested in Paul George at the trade deadline.  That ship has sailed, but if a star wing becomes available later in the year, Denver could easily make a move.

So how does a team riddled with holes contend for the playoffs?  I think a lot of things go their way.  1)  Murray adapts to the big role well, and can score a bunch of points while getting by as a passer. 2)  Tyler Lydon shoots 43% from three and scores 12 points a game, and the Nuggets make a trade for a scoring wing before the deadline.  3)  Mike Malone is an awesome coach.  He’ll squeeze more wins out of this team than anyone.

Projected record: 45-37

Detroit Pistons

  1. Reggie Jackson-Ish Smith-Langston Galloway
  2. Avery Bradley-Luke Kennard
  3. Stanley Johnson-Anthony Tolliver-Reggie Bullock
  4. Tobias Harris-Jon Leuer-Henry Ellenson
  5. Andre Drummond-Boban Marjanovic-Eric Moreland

Yuck.  Anyone who thinks this team is making the playoffs is out of their mind.  Please don’t watch this team.

There is a lot of average and a lot of mediocrity entrenched in this team.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are platooning with Reggie Jackson by January; Jackson’s probably the only person on the planet who thinks he should be getting paid as much as he is.

Avery Bradley’s not the distributor type, but you could run an offense through him occasionally.  There’s a decent chance he’s this team’s leading scorer.  Andre Drummond probably will be, which probably isn’t a good thing since a big man who is consistently having plays ran for him and only him probably means your team is stuck in the old age.  And the Pistons definitely are.

Moving along, Luke Kennard might be able to share some distributing duties, but you can’t start him and Bradley together.

The wings are in rough shape.  Stanley Johnson hasn’t worked out, and Anthony Tolliver is getting old.  Tobias Harris really isn’t good at anything, and Henry Ellenson is a stiff.

If things are really bad, this could be a tear down project starting in February.  But at the same time, who wants any of these players?

Projected record: 30-52

Golden State Warriors

  1. Stephen Curry-Shaun Livingston
  2. Klay Thompson-Patrick McCaw
  3. Kevin Durant-Nick Young
  4. Draymond Green-Omri Casspi-David West-Jordan Bell-Chris Boucher-Kevon Looney
  5. Zaza Pachulia-Javale McGee-Damian Jones

Not a whole lot to see here.  In year two of the KD era, I think this team could reach incredible heights that may even surpass what the 2015-2016 team did.

There’s no issues here, but I have a couple things to keep an eye on:  1)  How do Oregon products Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher contribute?  Both were awesome in college, and are long, athletic big men who can run the floor and rim protecter.  Both are raw offensively, but it’s not like the Warriors need any more of that.  If Zaza and Javale fall off a cliff due to age, can Bell step in and contribute minutes at center?  I say yes after watching a small sample size against Houston Wednesday night.  2) If they’re both way too raw, does my proposed Mike Muscala trade go through?  3)  Can Patrick McCaw make this team even scarier?  He’s gonna take on a bigger role this season.  I’ve always loved him and his high shorts, and think his athleticism and ball-handling will make the Warriors even more dreadful when their stars are off the court.

The chemistry of this team will really come together, and hopefully KD will be healthy all year.  Because of that, we will see another historic year.

Projected record: 70-12

Houston Rockets

  1. Chris Paul-Demetrius Jackson-Bobby Brown
  2. James Harden-Eric Gordon
  3. Trevor Ariza-PJ Tucker-Luc Mbah-a-Moute-Troy Williams
  4. Ryan Anderson
  5. Clint Capela-Nene-Tarik Black-Zhou Qi-Chianu Onuaku

I had my doubts about this team coming into the season, but with OKC’s trade for Melo, they’re back up to my No.2 seed in the West.

That doesn’t mean their problems are solved.  The CP3 trade was confusing, and it stripped them of a ton of depth.

No matter how good of friends they might be, and no matter what type of conversations took place before the trade, I just don’t see this pairing of Harden and CP3 working out.  Both were in the top ten of usage rate in the playoffs, and love the ball.

The positive?  Houston will have Harden and/or Paul out there at all times, which is terrifying for a defense.  Staggering minutes should limit Harden and Paul on the court together, but crunch time will be a work in progress.

As I mentioned above, Houston shed a ton of depth in the trade with the Clippers.  Now, they’re stuck with little depth on the wing, and have a plethora of big guys who just don’t fit their mold.

That said, I loved the PJ Tucker signing.  You could make the case that he should start, but he isn’t the shooter Ariza is.  Houston’s biggest matchup problem with Golden State is on the defensive end.  Tucker won’t single handily fix the problem, but at least they added an option.

Even with their issues, Houston’s still pretty good.  Clint Capela is a great rim protector, and Ryan Anderson, though a blackhole defensively, can still shoot.  They have dudes, but the chemistry and defense, two things that were definitely issues Wednesday night, still, even after the win, don’t put them above Golden State.

Projected record: 57-25

Indiana Pacers

  1. Cory Joseph-Darren Collison-Joe Young
  2. Victor Olidipo-Lance Stephenson-Damien Wilkins
  3. Bojan Bogdanovic-Glenn Robinson lll (injured)
  4. Thaddeus Young-Domatas Sabonis-TJ Leaf
  5. Myles Turner-Al Jefferson-Ike Anigbogu

This is definitely a tank team.  I really have no idea what’s going on here.  Perhaps it’s a year they can take to evaluate some of the young talent they have.  With Domatas Sabonis’ option picked up, perhaps they’re already confident in him.  But Myles Turner is gonna be due for a big payday soon, and rookies TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu deserve minutes.

I know Darren Collison will probably start, but where are you going with him?  Cory Joseph is at least competent, and provides a little bit more scoring.  He’s better for these young guys to play with.

I’m running out of opinions on this team.  Let’s end this right away.

Projected record: 27-55

Los Angeles Clippers

  1. Patrick Beverley-Milos Teodosic-Jawun Evans
  2. Austin Rivers-Lou Williams-Sindarius Thornwell
  3. Danilo Gallinari-Sam Dekker-Wesley Johnson
  4. Blake Griffin-Montrezl Harrell-Brice Johnson
  5. DeAndre Jordan-Willie Reed

I can’t tell whether this team had a net positive offseason or not.  Essentially it’s about what you think the actual issue was.

For me, it was chemistry, spacing and injuries.  CP3 being gone might make everyone on the Clippers roster much happier, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Blake Griffin will miss 30+ games at some point.  I’ve never been a fan of the DeAndre Jordan-Blake pairing, since Jordan is useless in crunch-time due his free throw shooting and Blake isn’t a multi-positional player.  However, while Blake doesn’t possess a three point shot, there’s a chance he stretches out to the perimeter if the Clippers use him in more of a play-making role.  The Gallinari signing was odd; I’ve always seen him as a small-ball four.  The spacing issues are still there, and it’s not like Doc Rivers is gonna be the guy to make it work.

Maybe LA’s guards can help create space.  The Clips did a nice job of replacing CP3 and improving their bench in the trade, getting Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley, two very solid guards who can start or come off the bench.  They also have Milos Teodosic, who is already making me audibly gasp from highlight tapes.  That is, preseason highlight tapes.  Lob City ain’t going anywhere though.  Teodosic’s liability is on the defensive end, but Beverley can certainly make up for that.

The Clips are fun, but a lot of the same issues are still there from last year.  I think it’ll be a worse but happier team this season.

Projected record: 43-39

Los Angeles Lakers

  1. Lonzo Ball-Tyler Ennis
  2. Kentavious Caldwell Pope-Jordan Clarkson-Josh Hart
  3. Brandon Ingram-Luol Deng-Kyle Kuzma-Corey Brewer
  4. Julius Randle-Larry Nance Jr.
  5. Brook Lopez-Ivan Zubac-Andrew Bogut-Thomas Bryant

“Meh” is the feeling I get when I looked at this roster.  I stared at it for awhile, just trying to understand what the goal really is right now.

I think we have to take everything that happens with this team with a grain of salt until next July.  The LeBron/Paul George question is just too much of a cloud (It’s a cloud on a partly sunny day).

This team shouldn’t try, but they probably have to since the Celtics have their pick.  It’s not a terrible squad, but it’s also not a fantastic one.  As I said above: It’s meh.

Lonzo can be a bright spot.  His passing should be gorgeous to watch, but the Lakers don’t really have a large of supply of three-and-D perimeter guys for Lonzo to kick it out to.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is more of an isolation player, and Brandon Ingram has no jump shot.  Julius Randle has no stretching ability; I think this is make-or-break for him.  Larry Nance Jr. played really well last year.

The bigger question to all of that is whether Ball can attack the rim in the first place.  A knock on him is his softness and lack of driving ability.  This could be a good year to work on it with the lack of shooters.  Getting Brook Lopez was a sneaky-great move, since he can move out to the perimeter to create room.  Even though he’s hurt all the time, he’s excellent defensively (A rare thing on this team) and gives Lonzo a good pick and roll man to start experimenting with.

The Lakers are raw, young and won’t be able to defend anyone.  That’s their big flaw, and it’s a fatal one.  It’s not like they’re gonna make the playoffs anyways.  Congrats in advance on Lebron!

Projected record: 33-49

Memphis Grizzlies

  1. Mike Conley-Mario Chalmers-Andrew Harrison
  2. Wayne Selden-Tyreke Evans-Ben McLemore
  3. Chandler Parsons-James Ennis lll-Dillion Brooks
  4. Brandan Wright-Ivan Rabb-Jarell Martin-JaMychal Green (Starter when healthy)
  5. Marc Gasol-Deyonta Davis

The West is good, but let’s not act like it’s a ten team fight for the playoffs.  This team is pretty average.

If all goes wrong, and might already be with JaMychal Green’s injury, I think Conley and Gasol become available.  I mentioned Denver above for Conley.  The Celtics rumors about guys like Anthony Davis and Gasol won’t go away.  If they struggle to rebound again, they could make an offer.

Besides those two, I just don’t know how to evaluate this team.  You know Chandler Parsons is gonna play in 45 games.  Shooting guard is a complete disaster if Wayne Selden isn’t competent.  Green’s injury hurts, but they do have some depth there.  Still, it’s not a good sign that dudes are already getting injured for a team that’s always plagued by them.

Seeing Tony Allen and Zach Randolph leave started the end of this era.  Conley and Gasol are the next to go.  I don’t know if it happens this year, but it needs to soon.

Projected record: 39-43

Miami Heat

  1. Goran Dragic-Tyler Johnson
  2. Dion Waiters-Josh Richardson-Wayne Ellington
  3. Justise Winslow-Okaro White-Rodney McGruder (Starter when healthy??)
  4. James Johnson-Kelly Olynyk-Udonis Haslem-Jordan Mickey
  5. Hassan Whiteside-Bam Adebayo-AJ Hammons

Miami is like the Eastern Conference’s Denver, though they won’t struggle to make the playoffs.

There’s a lot of talent here, and even if it doesn’t totally work out, they have assets to make a trade if necessary.

The Rodney McGruder injury is troubling, but if Justise Winslow puts it together, the loss affects Miami’s depth more than their starting lineup.  McGruder, who’s limited offensively, could be a bench guy at the end of the year.

The Heat have built the prototype for the NBA’s new era.  They have a great point guard, lengthy, defensive minded wings, and a solid rim protector.  But the sheer talent they possess isn’t quite on par.  Who’s their superstar?  Who’s their late-game, one-on-one scorer in the playoffs?  Dion Waiters?  Yikes.

This is why the Heat were chasing Gordon Hayward this Summer.  He’d be that guy, and Miami would be eight wins better with him.  If a star becomes available before the trade deadline, Miami should jump on it.  They need that guy.

In this conference though, the Heat have enough talent to get close to 50 wins.  The depth, especially in the front court, will propel them.

Projected record: 46-36

Milwaukee Bucks

  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo-Matthew Dellavedova-Jason Terry
  2. Malcolm Brogdon-Rashad Vaughn-Sterling Brown-DeAndre Liggins
  3. Khris Middleton-Tony Snell
  4. Jabari Parker-Mirza Teletovic-DJ Wilson
  5. Thon Maker-Greg Monroe-John Henson

Talk about equipped for the modern NBA…

This team is gonna be really freaking good.  Led by the Greek Freak, Milwaukee has put athletic wings who can shoot all around him.  They’re long, which is perfect for defending a team like Golden State or Boston.

Giannis is obviously incredible.  There’s never been anyone like him… at that size with that athleticism, he defies anything we’ve seen.  And if he can shoot now?  (Eyes emoji seven times)

Yeah, be afraid NBA.  He’s high on my MVP candidate list at No.4.  I find it hard to believe he’ll win, since Milwaukee has a talented roster and plays in the East.  But if the Bucks win a crazy amount of games, say 59+ or so, there’s no doubt he’ll get some serious consideration.

It’s hard to find a hole in this team.  Malcolm Brogdon should continue to flourish, and Khris Middelton is an awesome offensive player.  Same with Jabari Parker, if he can stay healthy.

Parker’s contract wasn’t extended by Milwaukee before the deadline.  I don’t think it’s something to panic about if you’re a Bucks fan.  Put it this way:  Wouldn’t you want to see him play a full season before you hand him ~$80 million?

If Jabari is healthy, it makes this Bucks offense a potential top seven or so group in the league.  He’s a gifted scorer, and that post-up ability gives Milwaukee some sort of presence down low.

You can bank on Thon Maker being a solid rim protector, and really, that’s all you want out of him.  Anything else that he does is an extra bonus.  If the hype he had coming into the 2016 Draft is real, then watch out.

The Bucks are really good, and I think this team could develop into a contender throughout the year.  That’s not saying they’ll win the East, but for a team like Cleveland or Toronto, the mismatches might be too overwhelming.

Projected record: 54-28

Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Jeff Teague-Aaron Brooks-Tyus Jones
  2. Jimmy Butler-Jamal Crawford
  3. Andrew Wiggins-Shabazz Muhammed-Marcus Georges-Hunt
  4. Taj Gibson-Gorgui Dieng-Nemanja Bjelica
  5. Karl-Anthony Towns-Cole Aldrich-Justin Patton

Minnesota was another team that did a complete reload after realizing it would take stars to compete with the Warriors.  The Jimmy Butler trade was a steal, but besides that, where were the upgrades?

Trading Ricky Rubio made sense once the Butler trade happened, because those two sharing the ball or one playing off the ball is not efficient.  But the Timberwolves could have signed a more defensive minded or simply better point guard than Teague, who’s about league average at his position.

What Teague does bring is the ability to play off the ball and make shots.  He’s a good shooter, and you can run him around screens against certain defenses.  Essentially, he’s the 5th guy.

The Taj Gibson signing gives Minnesota a little bit more veteran leadership, but as for on-court fit, I wasn’t a fan.  Though he’s a bruiser, can rebound and play defense, he doesn’t bring the floor spacing Gorgui Dieng does.  Dieng certainly has his issues, but his athleticism and streaky three point shot makes him more efficient for today’s league.

My biggest worry about the Wolves is their chemistry, and Andrew Wiggins, like Teague and Gibson, are the main reason for those concerns.  Wiggins has always been used to having the ball in his hands, isolating himself, posting up, and going 4-17 on any night.  Sorry, that was mean.   But my point is that Wiggins isn’t a great shooter; he’s extremely streaky.  One night he’ll score 26, hit 45% of his shots, and single-handily win the Wolves a game.  But the next night he could be 2-13 and look completely incompetent.

That is certainly not worth $30 million a year, which is where Wiggins’ new contract will put his salary at.  Accounting for what seems to be a lack of effort on defense too, and you’re looking at paying for a good stats-bad team guy.

Wiggins will have to adapt into an off-the-ball role, but Jimmy Butler is a menace, especially down the stretch.

Even with all my concerns, the sheer talent of the Wolves will get them far.  Butler and Towns is quite a duo, and Teague can provide some shooting too.  They have Aaron Brooks and Tyus Jones to help facilitate if Teague doesn’t fit.  I could see their struggles bringing them down to a 7th or 8th seed, but having a year like last season won’t happen again.

Projected record: 50-32

New Orleans Pelicans

  1. Jrue Holiday-Frank Jackson
  2. E’Twaun Moore-Tony Allen-Jordan Crawford-Rajon Rondo (Starter when healthy)
  3. Dante Cunningham-Ian Clark-Solomon Hill-Darius Miller
  4. Anthony Davis-Cheick Diallo
  5. DeMarcus Cousins-Alexis Ajinca-Omer Asik

I have no idea what this team is.

I thought I knew what they were.

But then the Rajon Rondo signing happened, and New Orleans failed to address any other area of their roster, leaving a slew of guys who are old, washed up, overpaid and/or average.

It makes no sense.  It’s totally disrespectful to DeMarcus Cousins, who they rescued from an awful situation in Sacramento and are now putting him through something similar.  It’s even more disrespectful to Anthony Davis, their franchise player who they’re in denial about trading.  Yeah that’s right, I went there.

The Pelicans are on a track to go nowhere this season.  New Orleans is a candidate for a reverse Ewing theory once Rajon Rondo returns.  Jrue Holiday is a really nice point guard, and his craftiness coupled with Boogie and AD is gonna be awesome.  But throwing Rondo in the mix creates another set of needy hands, and with the way Rondo has played the past two years, minus the beginning of the Bulls-Celtics series in April, those are gonna be a rusty, cocky pair.

I want to give this team hope, but I can’t.  I think they need to take a long hard look at themselves, flip Boogie to a contender, and then start to evaluate the trade market for Davis.  You think what the Celtics gave up for Kyrie was a lot?  Well, Davis, because of that long contract and age, will garner a package big enough to kick-off a rebuild.

Projected record: 35-47

New York Knicks

  1. Frank Ntilikina-Ramon Sessions-Jarrett Jack
  2. Courtney Lee-Ron Baker-Damyean Dotson
  3. Tim Hardaway Jr.-Doug McDermott-Mingdaus Kuzminskas-Lance Thomas-Michael Beasley
  4. Kristaps Porzingis-Enes Kanter-Kyle O’Quinn
  5. Willy Hernangomez-Joakim Noah (Starter when suspension up??)

We’ve hit a rough patch of teams.

The Knicks are the Knicks and will always be the Knicks due to their complete lack of logic in putting together an NBA roster, making trades, and drafting players.

I mean, what is going on here?

(It’s really incredible how many teams have that question being asked about them.)

Point guard is a flaming disaster, and is so bad that giving Tim Hardaway Jr. the ball looks pretty appeasing.  What are the odds Hardaway Jr’s usage rate is 28% and he shoots that same percentage?  6-1?

They (or Phil Jackson, who’s now gone) drafted Ntilikina to help run the Triangle offense, which, like Jackson, is gone.  As bad as the Triangle is for today’s NBA, the pick made sense solely for the reason of running the Triangle.  But this is also 2017, and it’s all about quick buckets.

Ntilikina is a big x-factor.  You could see him playing out both ways.  A 6-5 point guard in today’s NBA, creating slashing lanes for people, leading a high powered offense and going to the rim?  That’d be sick.

But there’s also a chance he’s Kris Dunn 2.0 (It’s still early).  With Ntilikina, he’s not big enough of a star to guarantee that his uniqueness pays off.  We haven’t really seen anyone like Ntilikina ever before, and usually that’s a good thing, but since he wasn’t a polarizing prospect, it makes you wonder.

New York’s frontcourt is just as confusing as the rest of the team.  The first thing that should be pointed out is that the Knicks have Joakim Noah, who’s a complete shell of his old self and can’t defend anyone.  So what did the Knicks decide to do about that?  They traded for Enes Kanter, who’s literally the only player worst than Noah on the defensive side of the ball in the whole league.  Knicks, man.

Noah’s also suspended for PEDs, which really helped him last year.  That should move Willy Hernangomez into a starting position, creating a young, athletic duo between him and Porzingis.  Hernangomez is more of an older style big man, who lumbers around and could have ball fed to him if needed.  But he’s got surprising athleticsm for the type of player he is.  With Porzingis able to shoot the three ball and possibly do whatever you need him to, Hernangomez and Porzingis should be able to play with each other.

This could be a revolutionary Porzingis year.  He’s got the “Phil Jackson contemplated trading me.” buzzer going off in his head.  He is free of Carmelo.  He might be trying to get out of New York (Eyes emoji seven times).

But what I’m more interested in is his other abilities on the court, like the ball-handling, the passing, and the pull-up shooting.  He’s probably not that guy: A do-it-all who can play all five positions no problem.  But with the current shape of this Knicks roster, why not try out Porzingis in weird spots?  What do you have to lose?Have him handle the ball!  Use him as a jump-shooter!  Just please, for the sake of your fans, do something interesting.

Projected record: 29-55

Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. Russell Westbrook-Raymond Felton
  2. Andre Roberson-Terrance Ferguson
  3. Paul George-Alex Abrines-Jerami Grant-Kyle Singler-Josh Huestis
  4. Carmelo Anthony-Patrick Patterson-Nick Collison
  5. Steven Adams-Dakari Johnson

I already wrote substantially on this team after the Carmelo Anthony trade.  I think they’ll figure it out for the most part, but a season from hell can’t be ruled out.

Projected record: 51-31

Orlando Magic

  1. Elfrid Payton-DJ Augustin-Shelvin Mack
  2. Terrance Ross-Aaron Affalo-Mario Hezonja
  3. Evan Fournier-Jonathan Simmons-Wesley Iwundu
  4. Aaron Gordon-Bismack Biyombo-Jonathan Issac-Khem Birch
  5. Nikola Vucevic-Marresse Speights

Yet another team that has no idea what its doing or where its going…

The problem with this team is that there are young guys who need minutes to show what they’re made of, but then there’s also veterans who need minutes because having them sit on the bench when they’re overpaid is even more of a waste of money.

This is a make-or-break year for Elfrid Payton, who is what De’Aaron Fox as a bust looks like.  There’s a good chance Payton never gets it together, leaving DJ Augustin (who has to be 35 but isn’t) and Shelvin Mack, who really shouldn’t be on a roster, running the ship.

Terrance Ross will start because they have no one better, but if Orlando really wanted to tank and get a sense of their young guys, you’d move up Fournier and start Jonathan Issac, just to see what he’s made of (It’s not a lot based on his frame).

I still believe in Mario Hezonja.  The Magic have buried him behind a collection of average players.  They never gave him a shot and it sucks.  If I’m Detroit or Indiana, I’m taking a flyer on him.

Evan Fournier will play because he’s probably the best player on this roster.  He’s definitely not worth the money he got last Summer, but where else is that cash gonna go?

If Issac comes along, Orlando could look to move Nikola Vucevic, who they’ve been shopping for what seems like three years.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Issac pre-Draft, but think if he does turn out, it’ll be as a rim protector.

The Magic are going nowhere, and need to take this year to evaluate guys like Payton, Hezonja and Issac to see what they have.  Please don’t watch this team.

Projected record: 28-54

Philadelphia 76ers

  1. Jerryd Bayless-TJ McConnell-Markelle Fultz
  2. JJ Redick-Nik Stauskus-Furkan Korkmaz
  3. Robert Covington-Justin Anderson-Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
  4. Ben Simmons-Dario Saric-Amir Johnson-Richaun Holmes
  5. Joel Embiid-Jahlil Okafor

I have no words for this team and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

There is so, so much happening here.  The celling is so high it’s mind-boggling.  The Sixers are long, athletic, young, dynamic, and injury-prone.  Yeah, there’s a lot of adjectives for this team.

For the 76ers, it’s a matter of best-case scenario.  If everyone is healthy, and potential is reached, they could be the 3rd seed in the East.  Here’s how:

Ben Simmons wins Rookie of the Year by playing de facto point guard, making ridiculous passes and using his athleticism to get to the rim.  Markelle Fultz gets healthy and ends up starting, being used as an off-the-ball scorer who can run things when Simmons is out.  Joel Embiid remains insanely efficient and stays healthy, anchoring the offense and defending the rim at high levels, while also being able to space out and shoot threes.  Robert Covington finally shows everyone what he’s made of: A great three-and-D player who’s totally fine not having the ball.  And the bench is awesome: Dario Saric contends for Sixth Man of the Year as a stretch 4,  Justin Anderson breaks out and TJ McConnell does an average job facilitating.

For me, that’s 45 wins.  But health is the key to all of it, and with Fultz’s shoulder acting up, Embiid’s history of back/knee/foot injuries, and Simmons’ probable rust from not playing in awhile, that total could very well come down.

Projected record: 44-38

Phoenix Suns

  1. Eric Bledsoe-Tyler Ulis-Mike James
  2. Devin Booker-Troy Daniels-Davon Reed
  3. Josh Jackson-TJ Warren-Derrick Jones Jr.
  4. Marquese Chriss-Jared Dudley-Alan Williams-Dragan Bender-Alec Peters
  5. Tyson Chandler-Alex Len

Even with all the young talent the Suns have, they’re still building.  These guys are incredibly young:  Devin Booker is 20; so is Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss.  Yeah, three of our starters are 20 years old.  Give us a break.

That said, these guys need to play, which is why veterans like Jared Dudley will come off the bench.  The Suns still have the Tyson Chandler albatross that they’ve desperately been seeking to move.  It’s probable that by the time it’s up, this team is still really young and only winning 30 games, so it may not be that bad.  

Still, it’s not great to have to force minutes to Chandler when someone really raw like Dragan Bender needs reps.  If Bender makes strides, Chandler could end up like Dudley.

The Suns should tank and add another piece, but with all the youth, they may not have to intentionally lose games.  It might just come off inexperience.

Despite that, the Suns are watchable.  Devin Booker made that clear last season.  Josh Jackson is a force on both ends; he’ll attract eyeballs.  And Derrick Jones Jr.’s dunks will be on your Twitter feed multiple times this year.

The Suns are gonna suck, but you can suck and still be fun.  That’s a rarity, and we should be thankful for it.

Projected record: 25-57

Portland Trail Blazers

  1. Damian Lillard-Shabazz Naiper-Pat Connaughton
  2. CJ McCollum-Evan Turner
  3. Mo Harkless-Jake Layman
  4. Al-Farouq Aminu-Ed Davis-Caleb Swanigan-Noah Vonleh
  5. Jursuf Nurkic-Zach Collins-Meyers Leonard

Portland’s roster building strategy ever since losing the heart of their team in the Summer of 2015 has been extremely strange, and those mistakes are now starting to come to a head.

The Jursurf Nurkic trade was a positive, but excluding that, the moves have not been totally logical:  The Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe contracts, the Meyers Leonard contract, and the drafting of Noah Vonleh and Caleb Swanigan have all been pretty confusing.

There’s a lot of average on this roster.  Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu aren’t terrible, but aren’t locking the top players in the West.  Nurkic, who’s a good scorer, has defensive issues.  Lord knows Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum won’t guard anyone.

As the guards will dominate offensively, their defense collectively is so bad that it costs the team as a whole.  Portland, once again, can’t guard anyone.  It was their biggest issue last year, and as we saw in the Finals, you have to be able to defend to have a chance against Golden State.

The chemistry between Lillard and McCollum fell apart last year, and both acknowledged it.  I don’t know if the Trail Blazers’ front office is smart enough to consider it, but flipping McCollum or even Lillard into young pieces or a defensive minded star may not be a bad idea.

Projected record: 37-45

Sacramento Kings

  1. De’Aaron Fox-George Hill-Frank Mason
  2. Buddy Hield-Garrett Temple-Malachi Richardson-Vince Carter
  3. Bogdan Bogdanovic-Justin Jackson
  4. Skal Laissiere-Zach Randolph-Harry Giles
  5. Willie Cauley-Stein-Kosta Koufos-Georgious Papagiannis

Another season, another question of “WTF are the Kings doing?”

Like Orlando, the Kings just need to let the young guys play.  Sacramento went out and spent quite a bit of money on George Hill, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph and Bogdan Bogdanovic this Summer.  Only one is still a quality player and should be counted on for minutes (Hill).  The others are more there for leadership roles, but Randolph started in the season opener, and so did Garrett Temple.  Why?

When you’re developing young talent, the win total shouldn’t matter.  What should matter is getting guys reps and experience, and making sure they get better.  Not wins.  The signing made by the Kings this Summer were made to win games.  George Hill is a really good point guard; he’s a great passer and gives a crap defensively.  But there’s no reason to give him $18 million when you spent your No.6 overall pick on De’Aaron Fox, who’s probably already the 3rd most athletic guy in the league.  If anyone’s ready, it’s that dude.

Because of this, Sacramento will probably win more games than they should, since the organization is too caught on winning rather than development.  Hill is really good, and Bogdanovic can shoot on the wing.  Willie Cauley-Stein is a stretchy big who’s a menace under the basket on both ends.  Sacramento won’t contend for the 8th seed, but instead will be stuck in the middle, which is exactly where you don’t want to be.

Projected record: 34-48

San Antonio Spurs

  1. Dejounte Murray-Patty Mills-Tony Parker-Derrick White-Brandon Paul
  2. Danny Green-Manu Ginobli-Bryn Forbes
  3. Kawhi Leonard-Rudy Gay-Kyle Anderson
  4. LaMarcus Aldridge-Davis Bertans
  5. Pau Gasol-Joffrey Lauvergne

If you were confused about why Kawhi Leonard is the favorite for MVP, then looking at this roster should provide some insight.

Before I go over my concerns, I should say that this is the Spurs, and their head coach is Gregg Popovich, and they will almost certainly prove me wrong.

Anyways, here we go.

Shouldn’t we be a little more concerned about this team?  Pau Gasol is 37 (!!), LaMarcus Aldridge was a disaster in the playoffs (And then somehow just got a massive extension), and as awesome as Dejounte Murray’s flashes have been, he’s still pretty young and could make some mistakes here and there.

If this team didn’t have Kawhi, I think they barely hit 40 wins.  Rudy Gay is coming off an Achilles and has never really been that good anyways.  Davis Bertans is fine, but he’s kinda a stiff.  This could be it for Manu.  Yeah, this team has some issues.

Murray’s youth is backed up though.  Patty Mills is great at running the ship, and Tony Parker still has a little left assuming he can stay healthy.  Oh, and watch out for Derrick White.  That kid can score.

I’m not going under 50 wins for the Spurs because of Pop and Kawhi.  If they hit that number, there’s your MVP and Coach of the Year.

Projected record: 53-29

Toronto Raptors 

  1. Kyle Lowry-Delon Wright-Fred VanVleet
  2. DeMar DeRozan-Norman Powell
  3. CJ Miles-OG Anunoby-Bruno Caboclo-KJ McDaniels-Alfonzo McKinnie
  4. Serge Ibaka-Pascal Siakam
  5. Jonas Valanciunas-Jakob Poeltl-Bebe

I’ve never been a fan of the whole “Run it back” strategy these NBA teams use.  If it didn’t work once and you barely fixed it, then it probably won’t work again.

That being said, CJ Miles is a really good player.  He’s gritty, is great defensively, and can even handle the ball when needed.

Why are they aren’t starting him, I have no idea.

Norman Powell’s also really good, but he’s kinda like Marcus Smart: A guy who can give you an energy spark off the bench.  You put the ball in his hands and he’ll make things happen.  Powell’s a much better shooter, too.

But starting him?  I get he just got big money, but I’d be just as happy paying him that money to come off the bench and do his thing.

The Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan chemistry has been a subject of discussion.  Why throw another guy who needs the ball into the mix?

As talented as Toronto is, they’re not really fit for today’s NBA, and that was evident in their first round series against the Bucks.  Milwaukee killed them with athleticism and speed.  Toronto’s built on slow, inefficient, herky-jerky players.  That didn’t change this offseason.

Plus, their bench got worse.  If Lowry goes down, which is probable, who’s playing point guard?

Jonas Valanciunas is opposite of the prototype you want for a modern NBA center.  He only slows down the Raptors more.  They’ve gauged his trade market before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do it again.  If they could flip him for a backup point guard, or even someone who’s worse overall but a little bit more efficient, that’d be a nice upgrade for the Raptors.

Projected record: 48-34

Utah Jazz

  1. Ricky Rubio-Raul Neto-Dante Exum
  2. Joe Ingles-Donavan Mitchell-Alec Burks
  3. Rodney Hood-Joe Johnson-Thabo Selfolosha-Royce O’Neal
  4. Derrick Favors-Jonas Jerebko
  5. Rudy Gobert-Tony Bradley-Ekpe Udoh

I’m really disappointed.  I thought I was gonna like this team a lot more.

Utah is gonna struggle to score points.  As much I love him, you have to wonder whether Joe Ingles’ 2016-2017 season was a little flukey.  Derrick Favors can’t ever stay healthy and isn’t a bucket-getter anyways.  The Jazz need Rodney Hood, who’s shown flashes, to really emerge as that face-up, iso-scorer this season.  He’s been great off the ball in the past, but to be relevant in the playoffs, where you need someone who can get you a bucket.  Who is that on this team?

They’re gonna be excellent defensively;  Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio are two of the best at their position on that side of the ball.

Back on the offensive side, Gobert could average like 25 points a game this season.  Since their offensive options are so limited, I’d run pick-and-roll over and over again with Rubio and Gobert.  Have fun guarding that.

The Jazz lost some depth too.  Dante Exum is out for awhile again; the history of the tall point guard lately has been brutal.  Joe Johnson, who was awesome in the postseason, can’t be relied on like that again given his age.  Thabo Selfolosha is a loose cannon, and Jonas Jerebko, another love of mine, is kinda just a minutes eater and a rebounder.

Utah might win a couple games they shouldn’t due to their defensive presence, but their inability to score will catch up to them big time.  It’s okay though.  After losing someone like Gordon Hayward, these type of seasons are supposed to happen.

Projected record: 40-42

Washington Wizards

  1. John Wall-Tim Frazier
  2. Bradley Beal-Tomas Satoransky-Jodie Meeks-Sheldon Mac
  3. Otto Porter-Kelly Oubre Jr.-Carrick Felix
  4. Markieff Morris-Jason Smith-Mike Scott-Chris McCollugh
  5. Marcin Gortat-Ian Mahinmi

Another East team running it back.  We all know how that works out.

The Wizards have some hope though.  1) John Wall is a BA.  2)  They have some pieces to trade.

This feels like a Boogie destination if the Pelicans decide to go that way.  Washington could offer Marcin Gortat (simply for a center exchange), Otto Porter (As I said in their preview, they need wings) and a protected first round pick (top 8 protected???).  I think that gets the job done; New Orleans would be wanting to get rid of him anyways.

If that doesn’t happen, Beal has to stay healthy, and John Wall has to put up a season like he did last year.  Their depth, besides Kelly Oubre Jr., is lacking.

There’s not a whole lot else to say here.  Washington will end up in the middle of the playoff seeds, anywhere from 3-5.

Projected record: 47-35

Projected Standings:


  1. Cleveland Cavaliers, 57-25
  2. Boston Celtics, 55-27
  3. Milwaukee Bucks, 54-28
  4. Toronto Raptors, 48-34
  5. Washington Wizards, 47-35
  6. Miami Heat, 46-36
  7. Philadelphia 76ers, 44-38
  8. Charlotte Hornets, 35-47
  9. Brooklyn Nets, 34-48
  10. Detroit Pistons, 30-52
  11. New York Knicks, 29-53
  12. Orlando Magic, 28-54
  13. Indiana Pacers, 27-55
  14. Atlanta Hawks, 26-56
  15. Chicago Bulls, 24-58


  1. Golden State Warriors, 70-12
  2. Houston Rockets, 57-25
  3. San Antonio Spurs, 53-29
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder, 51-31
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves, 50-32
  6. Denver Nuggets, 45-37
  7. Los Angeles Clippers, 43-39
  8. Utah Jazz, 40-42
  9. Memphis Grizzlies, 39-43
  10. Dallas Mavericks, 38-44
  11. Portland Trail Blazers, 37-45
  12. New Orleans Pelicans, 35-47
  13. Sacramento Kings, 34-48
  14. Los Angles Lakers, 33-49
  15. Phoenix Suns, 25-57

NLCS Preview

In the division series, I went 2/4 in my picks with the Cubs and Yankees proving me wrong.  Usually I’ll continue picking against teams that prove me wrong, because it’s not like their talent level/ability to win games really changes within the first two weeks of the playoffs.  They get hot, get lucky, or face teams that they’re actually better then.

This year’s Cubs are not one of those teams.  The Nationals were my NL Pennant winners heading into the postseason.  I thought they had the least holes, the best pitching and the most consistency.  Turns out the D.C. sports slump got them again.  Chicago got through the best team.  That means they find an easier task in the next series.

NLCS: Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Corey Seager injury, which broke right before I put this up, really dashed the hope I had for Los Angeles in this series.  Removing him from the lineup not only takes away one of the scariest hitters the Dodgers have, but increases playing time for dudes like Chase Utley and Charlie Culbertson… Yikes, that’s not who you want batting in a crucial situation late in Game 4.

My guess on how the Dodgers replace Seager: Kike Hernandez plays shortstop, and a rotating cast of Andre Either, Kyle Farmer and Curtis Granderson secure the open outfield spot.  Once again: Those are not names you want batting in a big spot in the NLCS.

Obviously, it’s a huge loss.  And against a Cubs rotation whose effort in the DS was overshadowed by the faulty bullpen, hits are gonna be hard to come by.

The Cubs can rely on their starters.  Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana are all trustworthy; I think the Michael A. Taylor home run given up by Hendricks was mostly the sports gods just messing with Nationals fans.  John Lackey should not be counted out as a slightly above average starter, and Jon Lester, who’s really good at getting into bad situations, can usually get out of them.  The Cubs have the Dodgers’ forthcoming choke to hinge their odds on, so even the worst situations can be a little less brutal to get through.

Chicago’s bullpen though, isn’t exactly one that got unlucky in the DS.  There’s real issues.  Justin Wilson has been left off the roster after a rough division series.  Carl Edwards’ Jr. is really good at giving up home runs in big spots.  You have to wonder if Hector Rondon’s late September/competent-stretch carries over through his injury.  I still can’t believe Brian Duensing is on a Pennant roster.  Yeah, it’s not great.

For the Dodgers, it’s the age old question:  Can the rotation not fall apart?

LA’s rotation doesn’t have the benefits Chicago’s does.  The Dodgers are throwing to guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber (There’s many more names I could list).  Aside from Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, which Dodgers are you really scared of at the plate?  Chris Taylor?  Please.  The Seager loss is huge on both ends, but really gives the Cubs rotation an easy out.

With the Cubs, there’s no easy outs.  They’re clutch, and the Dodgers’ pitchers haven’t been that in previous postseasons.  LA has to get regular season production out of guys like Alex Wood and Rich Hill.  Yu Darvish’s start is a game the Cubs will probably lose, depending on who’s on the mound for Chicago.

The Kershaw postseason lack-of-success is totally inexplicable and can’t not be mentioned.  For now, we have to project as if he won’t pitch well.  There’s too much data that leans that way.  I understand that LA won the poor outing he had against Arizona, but the Cubs pitching staff won’t give up runs like the Diamondbacks’.  The pitching is much, much more important this time.

It’s weird how matchups can sway your opinions.  I’m not sure the Cubs deserve to go to the World Series; they were borderline mediocre in the regular season and I still think Washington would be best equipped to beat Houston.  But we’re here, and a pick must be made.  This series is essentially picking your poison.  For this series, I want what I can trust.

Prediction: Cubs in 6

ALCS Preview

New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

This matchup is the ultimate David vs. Goliath in terms of baseball’s past.  The Yankees have the history, the success and the hatred attached to them.  Literally no one is rooting for this team.

Houston, on the other hand, was a laughing stock four years ago (Like last year’s reigning champs, the Cubs), has been doubted almost all year, and has a city that really, really needs something to rally around after the events that transpired there this Summer.

In true baseball logic though, it couldn’t be more opposite.  I think it’s pretty agreeable that Houston is better than New York, and that Houston has been the AL favorite all season.  The Yankees, somehow, are actually the underdogs.

They should be.  I thought the Yankees got quite lucky against Cleveland.  Corey Kluber’s two sub-par outings came out of nowhere (He’s gonna win AL Cy Young).  CC Sabathia was shot out of a time machine for Game 5, and was mowing Cleveland batters down like it was 2007.  Andrew Miller wasn’t his normal self.  A lot of things broke the Yankees’ way.  That won’t happen against the Astros.

The postseason is all about pitching, but so far this October, even the best pitchers have struggled.  Guys like Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander all had rough outings in the Division Series.  Only one of those pitchers remain, but Verlander’s team is good enough to bail him out.

The Yankees rotation has a tall task of not melting down versus this Astros lineup.  It’s easily the scariest group left, with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez all having massive series vs. Boston.  New York got good outings out of Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, but got poor ones out of their more trusted guys like Sonny Gray and Luis Severino.  The script couldn’t be more flipped, and inconsistency is the last thing you want heading into the Pennant series.

Gray should rebound, but Severino’s shakiness has to be a concern.  His lack of quality starts and inexperience has limited my trust in him this postseason.  Thankfully the Yankees bullpen can enter early if needed.

Tanaka (who’s starting Game 1 tonight) and Sabathia have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Tanaka’s Game 3 start vs. Cleveland was impressive, but can also be described as an outlier right away.  Tanaka’s strike percentage actually increased throughout the game, an occurrence that is incredibly rare.  It’s hard to say any other way:  A performance like Tanaka’s in Game 3 will not happen again.

I don’t know what got into Sabathia in Game 5, but considering that his 8th best postseason outing ever (Based on the GameScore stat out of 21 appearances) came at age 37 against the reigning AL champions suggests that an outing like that won’t be seen again.

Houston’s rotation has much less concern revolving around it.  Dallas Kuechel is awesome.  Justin Verlander had his only bad start as an Astro in the ALDS.  I’m not sure I totally trust Charlie Morton, but guys like Brad Peacock can provide a quality start or two.  Plus, Lance McCullers’ Jr. could be back, and Houston has Colin McHugh likely coming out of the bullpen.

The Yankees have the bullpen advantage.  No one can bring out Chad Green, David Robertson, Dellin Betances and then Aroldis Chapman is succession.  It’s totally unmatched.

Houston’s batters though are the best left.  The shear ferocity of their at-bats are terrifying.  If men are on, you’re holding your breath hoping your pitchers’ fastball stays down, and even if it does, they’re still gonna hit it.  They’re that good.

The Yankees have things going their way.  Didi Gregorius is on fire, and they have a bullpen capable of making the game five innings.   But Houston’s offense is clutch enough to get runs early.  Against a Yankees rotation that has 1.5 starters I trust, the Astros shouldn’t struggle to get runs.

The Yankees have October’s spirit on their side.  Most of the time, the World Series winner is a team that gets hot at the right time, usually has a couple big issues throughout the whole year, and is counted out all season.  The Yankees are that team.  October’s infamous for the best teams choking, but with Houston, the Cubs and LA Dodgers left, the Yankees are baseball’s only hope for a World Series shocker.

I’m not playing that card though.  Houston’s more talented, more complete, and has been consistent all year.   They deserve it.

Prediction: Astros in 5

NLDS Preview + ALDS Synopsis (So Far)

With my time being incredibly limited due to mounds of homework and after school stuff, I just couldn’t find time to write on the two ALDS series.  I put my picks on Twitter yesterday afternoon (Indians in 5, Astros in 4) just before the first pitches were thrown.  It’s been a grind.  I’m trying my best.

However, things are gonna get easier, and I somehow found time to hammer this out.  It’s a special occasion.  We’ll start there.

NLDS #1: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Homerism possible 

Once we get five games to make a decision, the decisions become easier, and somehow less right.

I said in the Wild Card previews:  You need pitching and bench dudes.  You need a true ace, 2-3 quality starters (and one who can come out of the bullpen), and a deep, talented group of relievers.

The postseason is all about trust and experience.  Is your starter capable of not giving up 3+ runs an inning?  Has he ever pitched in October before?

Guys, this isn’t hard.  Even though all of our picks are never right, the World Series champion always makes the games shorter with a great bullpen and has starters that can get the job done.

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers have some trust issues.

Clayton Kershaw might be one of the five best pitchers ever, and yet has never been a trustworthy playoff pitcher.  Alex Wood is having a flukey/too good year, and has been bad in one postseason experience.  Rich Hill is 37.

There’s a serious case that Yu Darvish is the most trustworthy pitcher on this team. He’s been great since being traded to LA.  The postseason is why you get a guy like him.  The Dodgers probably understood that their rotation isn’t exactly the surest thing in the world when acquiring him.

But LA has a ridiculous bullpen to turn to too.  Kenley Jansen is one of the best relievers in the postseason.  The trades for Tony Watson and Tony Cigrani have paid off well, with ERAs of 2.70 and 2.79 since joining the team.  Brandon Morrow’s been close to unhittable.

That makes their situation better than Arizona’s, who’s full of unproven, inexperienced, and less talented pitchers.  Zach Greinke is the man, but he wasn’t exactly inspiring in the NL Wild Card Game.  Do I really trust Zach Godley, who’s having his first good year and has no experience?  Robbie Ray?  Are you kidding me?

Arizona’s bullpen isn’t anything special.  Fernando Rodney and Jorge De La Rosa are gonna be pitching big innings this series.  How do you think that makes me feel?  We’ve got Archie Bradley’s beard and bat though.

Offenses don’t usually decide much, but these are two clutch offenses that can get hits in big spots.  I’d actually take Arizona’s lineup; I think guys like David Peralta, AJ Pollack and Paul Goldschmidt are scarier postseason hitters than Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger.  Justin Turner and Jake Lamb are similar, but Arizona doesn’t have a Corey Seager.

Series’ always come down to pitching, and the Dodgers have the much better bullpen and have more talent in their rotation.  It was a good run guys.

Prediction: Dodgers in 4

NLDS #2: Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals

Lets do the same experiment for the Cubs and Nationals as we did above.

I’ve told friends and sports people that I thought the Nationals should be the NL favorite.  They had the best pitching staff in the NL, and nobody was talking about them (A lot of that can be blamed on Bryce Harper’s injury).

As you look through their NLDS roster, what pitcher don’t you trust?  Max Scherzer, Stephen Strausburg and Gio Gonzalez are locks. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have been on multiple playoff teams.  Brandon Kintzler is sneakily-elite. Enny Romero is a name you’ve probably never heard, but he’s been much better than traditional stats suggest.

I loved what Washington did at the trade deadline.  They made basic but necessary moves, and now they’ve put together one of the best bullpens in the postseason.  Oh, and they have the starters who you can trust.  Other teams built super bullpens to make the games five innings.  Washington can make the game zero innings with this staff.

That’s not to discredit the Cubs staff.  It’s still an impressive one.  I heavily criticized the Jose Quintana trade, but it looks pretty good now as he’s essentially the 3rd starter (That is, that I’d trust).  Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks have no concerns of mine, except that Arrieta has to be 100% healthy.  John Lackey and Lester don’t thrill me as options, but could be effective out of an already loaded bullpen.

With Wade Davis and Mike Montgomery , the Cubs have two elite relievers with a bunch of set-up men.  I think Justin Wilson finds himself again; talent thrives in the playoffs.  Carl Edwards Jr. is a viable option, and even Brian Duensing has been alright this year!  The odds of that backfiring though are very high.

It’s not that the Cubs are bad, or are that they’re far-below Washington.  This series is one big you-know-what wagging contest, and Washington is just a little bit more equipped in this matchup.  They have less guys hold-your-breathe guys and more “Oh snap” hitters.  Chicago’s been really good at not getting hits when it matters this season.  That’s the last trait you want against these pitchers.

Chicago wins the games Arrieta and Hendricks pitch, but can’t muster up enough hitting to get by.

Prediction: Nationals in 5

Why I picked the Astros in 4…


They have, as we’ve seen so far, probably the scariest lineup, as every dude can smack one or get a bases clearing double.  They have Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, who were awesome in their starts.  Boston had one starter I trusted, and he already blew up (Chris Sale).  Drew Pomeranz’s implosion in the first inning today was entirely predictable, and now a Doug Fister start is coming in Game 3.  The bullpen looked better on paper, but against hitters like this, it’s nearly impossible to get outs.  At this point, does Boston get swept?

Why I picked the Indians in 5…


They have Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco as their 1-2 punch, and if Trevor Bauer’s pitching like he did last night, that’s an unhittable rotation.  They have Andrew Miller, who dumbfounds guys and is one of the best pitcher’s I’ve ever seen.  They can also rough up a half-baked Yankees rotation.

I still think New York is in the series.  I didn’t like the way the bullpen was deployed last night, and that wasn’t Gray’s best performance.  Also, I’d be surprised if Bauer has that good of an outing again.  Most of last night can be attributed to bad luck, but Kluber and Carrasco will still overpower a boom-or-bust Yankees offense.

NL Wild Card Game Preview

Tonight, I’m a little biased.  My Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and this postseason has the potential for a sleeper to make a run.  Arizona has what it takes: A top five rotation (Depending on the stat), a decent bullpen, and a lot of utility players.  Oh, and an offense that can be unstoppable while also really easy to strike out.

The Rockies also have a decent rotation, and like the Diamondbacks, it’s full of flukey, one-year wonders who’ve never pitched in the postseason.  Jon Gray, tonight’s starter, possesses the only sub-4.00 ERA in their rotation.  He’s been awesome this year, with a 136 ERA+ and a 3.18 FIP.  Those numbers actually underrate Gray.  ERA+ takes into account a pitcher’s ballpark.  Coors Field is the best hitter’s park in the league, which means Gray’s been even better than that number suggests.  I don’t usually refer to FIP, because it’s extremely flawed, but in defense of Gray it works well.  FIP isolates the pitcher’s responsibilities, meaning it accounts for home runs, walks, HBPs and strikeouts.  FIP’s usually average well above ERA’s, hanging around 4.00.  Gray’s though is well below that number (3.18), which once again, is extremely impressive considering his home park.

Chase Field will only help Gray tonight.  It could be a key factor since this will be his first postseason start.

The Diamondbacks don’t have to worry about postseason experience on the mound.    Zach Greinke was the Dodgers’ only consistent playoff pitcher before signing with Arizona.  Ever since hitting his prime, Greinke’s had 3 quality starts in October, with a bad game coming against the Mets in 2015.

The Rockies have some advantages against Greinke though.  Colorado hits the changeup only worse than the Yankees.  Greinke’s changeup whiffs the most guys excluding his slider, which Colorado will struggle to hit (They’re 21st in the league against that pitch).   If they can hold off their swings, Colorado’s World Series-caliber lineup will definitely get runs.

Arizona can rough up Gray.  Inexperience is the first key, and capitalizing on fastballs is the second.  Arizona saw, on average, the 7th fastest fastball in baseball this year at 93.8 MPH.  Gray’s fastball averaged 96 MPH though, considerably higher.  The Diamondbacks strike out a lot, but when they do make contact tonight, watch out.  It might go a ways.

I’d expect the starters to go a long ways, which can only help both teams as the bullpens are relatively weak compared to other playoff teams.  Arizona’s core is Archie Bradley, Fernando Rodney, Jorge De La Rosa and David Hernandez, a talented but mediocre group.  Bradley finally put his stuff together this season, tossing a 1.73 ERA.  He though has zero postseason experience, and is quite young at 24 years old.  Fernando Rodney hasn’t been terrible this season, but is subject to a blow-up at any moment, as he gives up hits at an astounding rate (6.5 hit per innings!).  I have a bad feeling about his postseason.  David Hernandez was a great pickup at the trade deadline; I think he can be key tonight and later on down the road.

The Rockies bullpen has a similar set up.  They have two dudes who you can really trust (Greg Holland and Jake McGee) and a lot of other non-elites.  It might be enough tonight, but it won’t get them far in the next series if they advance.  Scott Oberg and Mike Dunn haven’t been great, but Pat Neshek has pitched well, and probably has the most experience out of anyone on this whole staff.  Chris Rusin’s been good, but I’m not sure he’s the difference against a possibly firecracker-like Diamondbacks offense.

I think tonight is close.  I think the starters make it deep, and then someone’s bullpen blows it.  With Archie Bradley and David Hernandez, the Diamondbacks have more talent, but Holland’s not screwing things up, and McGee is a good set up man.  I’m much more nervous than I thought I’d be, but I trust Greinke over Gray or anyone on Colorado’s staff.

Prediction: Diamondbacks-4  Rockies-3

AL Wild Card Game Preview

The MLB postseason really is the best.  You can’t tell me any other postseason is better.  There’s a good game on every night.  We get walkoffs and comebacks.  We get the Fall Classic.  We get someone who comes out of nowhere and lights up the month.  We get see all of our picks and preseason predictions fail.  Yeah, it’s a fun time!

The Wild Card Games are almost impossible to pick.  This will be the 4th set of Wild Card games since I’ve launched the site.  This will be my third time picking, (In the Fall of 2015, I had to take time off to focus on school).  In the two years I’ve picked these games, I’m 2-2.  1-1 on the AL side, 1-1 on the NL side.

So, my record’s not bad.  Especially considering that this is baseball, specifically playoff baseball, where crazy stuff nobody every imagined ever happening happens.

By now, you know the ingredients you need to succeed in the postseason: Pitching and pinch runners.  And by pitching, I mean both bullpen and rotation.  Not just one.

Twins vs. Yankees

The Twins… don’t really have either.  Ervin Santana is starting the Wild Card Game, who just completed a good but flukey year after posting a 4.9 WAR (!!!), which is far and away the best of his career.

Santana’s started two postseason games his entire career, so don’t give me that “Luis Severino is inexperienced!” noise. His starts were in 2005 and 2008.  He wasn’t great in either, giving up five runs in 4.1 innings in 2005 and five in 5.1 innings three years later.

Postseason pitching is completely different.  Only the best pitch well in the postseason.  Santana is… well… not one of the best.

Now, let’s not act like Luis Severino is the best pitcher in the league either.  The Yankees starter is 23 years old, and has never pitched in the postseason.  But, he’s been stellar this year, putting up a 2.98 ERA with 153 ERA+, and strikes out guys like crazy with 10.7 Ks per nine innings.

So it’s inexperience vs. inexperience on the mound.  Really, it’s a matter of risk:  What guy do you trust the most?  Who isn’t melting down?

In Severino’s worst game this season, August 12th against the Yankees, five of the eight earned runs he gave up came in one inning.  The other three were left on base by him, and his bullpen replacement gave up a home run.

That truly was Severino’s worst game.  In all the other games Severino gave up five or more in, the runs given up came in spurts.  There wasn’t necessarily a meltdown inning.

As for Santana, the quantity of bad games is more, and he had one more meltdown than Severino.  On June 20th vs. the White Sox, Santana gave up four runs in a single inning, and in a start 10 days later vs. Kansas City, five runs.

The sample size is too small to make a judgement on, but I like my odds with someone who we don’t know anything about rather than someone who we know is flukey and has a poor but limited postseason record.

The Yankees lineup is ridiculous.  They scored the 2nd most runs in baseball, have Aaron Judge (Who, despite the really rough half, could re-emerge in the postseason), and a lot of really, really solid players.

But all that really matters for now is how they match up with Santana, and it’s pretty well.  Santana’s two best pitches are his slider and changeup.  Per Brooks Baseball, he whiffs the most guys with those two pitches.

The Yankees are the best team in the league at hitting the changeup and ninth best team at hitting the slider, per Fangraphs.  So yeah, the odds are stacked against Santana.

However, the Twins stack up decently well against Severino too.  He only throws three pitches: A four-seamer, a change and slider.  Minnesota’s top 12 against the fastball and average against the change.  They’re best chance is against the slider.

The Twins have to score against Severino, because the New York bullpen isn’t giving anything up.  With Dellin Bentances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman, (Who had a weird one week funk but recovered in August), the Yankees can make any game shorter, which makes up for their less-than-stellar rotation.

As for New York, if Santana is firing, then they may not get the runs they need till he reaches whatever pitch limit the Twins have set for him.  The Wild Card is like a Game 7; you use all of your resources to win.  Adalberto Mejia is probably the Twins best bullpen option, but they’ll probably be scared off by his inexperience.  Good luck with Matt Belisle!

If it’s close, the Twins bullpen will find a way to blow it.  If the Yankees find a way to get runs against Santana, they should slide past the Twins with ease.

Prediction: Yankees-7 Twins-2

No One Won The Melo Trade

Just over a year ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost the best player in franchise history to the NBA’s juggernaut Golden State Warriors.  It was devastating, and rocked the league from top to bottom.

This offseason, we really saw its affects.  Stars among the names of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap and Paul George all changed teams, as front offices realized what it’d take to contend with Golden State.

The last domino was Carmelo Anthony, who until just over a week ago was still a member of the New York Knicks.  Yup, it was September 23rd, less than month until the season’s tip-off, and superstars were still getting traded.

There really is no offseason.

The NBA really has surpassed the NFL in terms of being a 12 month sport.  The NFL will always dominate the headlines and ratings, but the NBA has stole the throne in terms of actual conversation about the league.  In July of any year, what are we talking about NFL-wise?  Concussion studies?  Player suspensions?

Maybe the NBA Summer of 2017 was an outlier.  As I said above, it seems as if teams have figured out what needs to be done to compete with Golden State.  Only two of the superstars listed above were free agents who left their teams.  This offseason featured the draft and free agency like all other offseasons do, but had two particular events that dragged out the madness.

Kyrie Irving’s trade request was made public on July 21st.  By then in any other offseason, the dust has settled.  The majority of free agents had signed; it’s when the offseason really begins.

But THIS year, that was just the beginning of the summer’s biggest story.  It wasn’t until a month and a day later that Kyrie was actually traded.  Then we spent the next two weeks talking about it.

Then the Paul George-Lakers tampering story took up a week of stories and content.

THEN the Kyrie trade almost fell through because of Isaiah Thomas’ injured hip, and we spent a week discussing how Cleveland should handle that.

And finally, we arrived to last week, when the final domino of the offseason fell. Melo to the Thunder for some spare parts.  It was September 23rd and superstars were still getting traded.

The NBA might be a 12 month sport now, but never again will we see a Summer where two stars are traded after free agency, and definitely never again will we see one of the trades almost fall through and have this much drama attached to it (OK, both of them had “this much” drama attached to it).

Thunder get: Carmelo Anthony

Knicks get: Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, 2nd round pick

This is a hard trade for me to evaluate because, if I were a NBA GM, I wouldn’t even give my worst player for Melo.

That doesn’t mean that’s his actual value.  For someone who can still score at a high level and be a superstar, something somewhat considerable should have been given up.  That was not the case here.

The return was part New York just wanting to get rid of him (Like Indiana with Paul George), part Sam Presti finessing them, and partly the Knicks front office people being a bunch idiots (And yes Jame Dolan, that includes you).

The biggest issue New York had to deal with in trade discussions was that nobody, not even the Kings, was gonna give up any piece that would help even contribute to a championship team.  Therefore, you had to sell him for a bag of potato chips.

But was Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2nd round pick really all you could do?  Kanter is a one dimensional big who can’t space the floor and couldn’t defend a telephone pole if he tried; he’s one of the guys losing his place in the league.  Oh, and he’s making $10 million more than he should.  McDermott just hasn’t been able to figure it out, and the 2nd round pick is just the Knicks saying “OK, we have to get something that the fans can at least somewhat look forward to.”

It really was the Paul George scenario all over again.  Indiana had to trade him for whatever they could, and coupling that situation with incompetent management created an absolute steal for OKC.

Both times a team got desperate this Summer, OKC was there to step in and snatch the commodity.  It was masterful work by Sam Presti, who’s needs to make a splash after his past four years.  Sure, he drafted Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden.  But he never cashed in on that trio, trading Harden in what is probably the worst trade in NBA history and letting KD walk out the door.

Is Presti’s masterful work this Summer gonna pay off?  Sure, the value side of his moves are impeccable.  They traded Victor Olidipo, Domantas Sabonis, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2nd round pick for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.  What if I told you that a year ago?  I mean, it’s not like Melo and PG have changed as players since then.

But everything can change once you’re on the court.  As the 2012-2013 Lakers taught us, having two very, very ball-dominant players doesn’t work.  That’s Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony now.

Prior to this trade, I was ready to make Oklahoma City the No.3 seed in the Western Conference.  I thought Russ and Paul George would be deadly, as George doesn’t need the ball and can be a solid scorer on the wing, something OKC couldn’t find last season.  But bringing in Melo adds another needy set of hands, and forced Patrick Patterson, the underrated offseason signing by the Thunder, to the bench.

Melo playing power forward extends my concern even further.  Is he gonna want to post up?  Is he gonna think “I can iso-up these big guys?”.  Melo at power forward is gonna lead to him wanting the ball even more, since the matchups he’ll be faced with will go in his favor.  At three, he’d at least be faced with athletic wings.  That would force him to play off-the-ball more.

And defensively?  Melo can’t guard anyone at a high level at this point in his career. On that end of the floor, Patterson to Melo is a downgrade.  He’s not defending anyone on the Warriors.

I understand what OKC did though.  They grabbed a huge talent at a travesty of a price.  Talent wins games in this league.  Carmelo Anthony can put up 20 points a game with ease.  Look at what Cleveland has done the past three years.  You can’t tell me Kevin Love has fit in well.  Yet, it wasn’t detrimental to their win totals and success.

With OKC though, it could be.  Melo and Russ could be a complete disaster together, leaving Paul George in the Dion Waiters position, and George definitely bolting for the Lakers next Summer.  It wasn’t exactly a high risk trade, but it’s certainly not a high reward.