Golden State Warriors Sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers to Win Their 3rd Title in 4 Years

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Finally, it’s over. An NBA season that was about as predictable as the sun rising has mercifully come to an end. Warriors-Cavs IV was kind of a drag when all was said and done. Yeah the Cavs kept it close a couple times (probably should have won Game 1), but I don’t think anybody really believed they were going to pull off the upset over Golden State. I figured they’d at least win one game, but alas, Golden State pulled off the sweep in convincing fashion with a 108-85 victory. Now that I think about it, there hasn’t been a sweep in the NBA Finals since the Spurs swept the Cavs in 2007, LeBron’s first ever trip to the Finals. So I guess I’ll give the NBA that. In all honesty, this was really the first time I didn’t give a shit. The first installment of Cavs-Warriors was basically “oh cool, two new teams even though one of them has LeBron James for the 5th straight year.” The Warriors won in 5 games thanks in large part to a Kyrie Irving knee injury. Cavs-Warriors II was like “oh…a repeat.” That one actually turned out to be a really good series as the Cavs won the city of Cleveland’s first title since 1948 in 7 games, a series in which the Warriors famously blew a 3-1 series lead. Cavs-Warriors III’s main storylines were “the tie breaker” and “can Kevin Durant get that elusive first ring?” Warriors won in 5. But what can you really do with Cavs-Warriors IV? There weren’t any interesting storylines and even the Warriors didn’t even look that excited that they won the Finals.

The Warriors won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, either. Kevin Durant can opt out of his contract basically whenever he wants but as long as this team is winning like they are, why would he? Steph Curry has 3 years left on a deal he signed last season, Draymond Green has 2 years left, and Klay Thompson will be a free agent after next season provided he doesn’t get a new deal before that. So this super team isn’t going anywhere and its nucleus will be firmly cemented next season.

As for the Cavaliers, this was most likely their last chance. LeBron James is a free agent and all signs point to him leaving the Cavaliers once again and it would be hard to blame him. There’s just no way the Cavaliers are going to be able to get much more help for him to get over the hump that is the Warriors. When a guy takes that supporting cast to the NBA Finals, you know he’s on another level. There’s a reason people are legitimately debating whether he’s better than Michael Jordan. The problem with his legacy, though, is that he’s now 3-6 in his NBA Finals career, a .333 winning percentage. The first title came in a strike-shortened season, the second came with the help of a CLUTCH Ray Allen 3-pointer to save them from elimination, and the third came after Draymond Green got suspended for a Finals game, giving the Cavs the momentum they needed to overcome the first ever 3-1 Finals deficit. I’m not one to say that these should be held against LeBron, because as far as I’m concerned, a win is a win is a win and the fact that he has played in 9 NBA Finals is incredible and he doesn’t get enough credit for that feat. But there will always be naysayers who will pick apart literally everything. I won’t delve too deep into where I think LeBron James will wind up in the offseason because, quite frankly, we don’t know shit yet. For a while I heard it was certainly going to be the Lakers, now I’m hearing 76ers. All I know is that I really want him to choose a Western Conference team so my Celtics can go to the Finals for the first time since 2010.

We also shouldn’t discount what LeBron has done in these last 8 years. Since 2011, every single Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals has featured LeBron James (4 years for the Heat, 4 years for the Cavaliers). The last time LeBron wasn’t in the Finals was 2010 when the Lakers beat the Celtics in 7 games. Where was I the last time there was an NBA Finals game without LeBron James? My middle school graduation dance, which had the horrifically poor timing of being during Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Here’s a picture of me from that day.

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In case you were wondering, I was mad because my crush was dancing with another dude. It was a rough night for me. She was with that dude and the Celtics were losing a sloppy game to the Lakers while I was stuck at this dance I didn’t want to be at but was morally obligated to because I would never see most of these people that I had grown up with ever again. Now look how far I’ve come since the last time LeBron James wasn’t in the Finals.

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I conquered Westeros, took my place on the Iron Throne, and got a much-needed hair cut. It’s unbelievable what can happen in 8 years.

So here’s to what should be a VERY interesting offseason in the NBA. Let me know what you thought of the Finals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Post-NBA Draft Lottery Mock Draft

I haven’t gotten a chance to REALLY break down what each top prospect can and can’t do yet so my explanations for this are going to be brief and I’m only going to focus on the Lottery Picks, which is really about as much depth as I’ve gone into on this rookie class so far. So with that intro, let’s get to the mock.

1. Phoenix Suns-DeAndre Ayton-C-Arizona

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The Suns won the NBA Draft Lottery last night in the last year where the team with the worst record in the league has the best odds (starting next year, the three worst teams will have equal odds). Devin Booker is a good scorer but he’s going to need some help out there. Enter DeAndre Ayton, who is probably the most polished player in this class. Alex Len is their only big man of note as Dragan Bender has yet to make a serious impact. Ayton reminds me of DeMarcus Cousins in that he’s a big, muscular, genetic freak who you can pretty much pencil in for 20 points 10 boards every game. He’s also a decent mid-range shooter to boot. His defense isn’t great but he’s athletic enough that he can use that to overcome some of his defensive inefficiencies.

2. Sacramento Kings-Jaren Jackson-C-Michigan State

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Jackson is 6’11 240 pounds and is more projection than finished product, but damn is his ceiling high. The Kings could really use a boost. If you only ever watched college hoops, you’d think that the Kings were the best team in the league on paper given the success their players had in college. But aside from De’Aaron Fox, who looks like a budding star, there really hasn’t been a ton of production from their recent slew of draft picks. Jackson might not be the safest pick in the world, as he’s pretty skinny for his size and struggles when engaged with physical players, but he’s an excellent shot blocker and he did shoot 39% from 3.

3. Atlanta Hawks-Luka Doncic-G-Slovenia

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Doncic is this year’s “can’t miss” foreign star, which has included guys like Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja of late (very hit or miss) and this is a guy I admittedly have not gotten to see much of. But he’s 6’8 with handles and is a matchup nightmare. He’s not super explosive but he’s an excellent distributor and is one of those guys that elevates the play of those around him. The Hawks have been rolling with Dennis Schroder as their primary ball-handler and while he doesn’t suck, per se, he is probably better suited coming off the bench. Doncic at the very least can become the team’s primary distributor.

4. Memphis Grizzlies-Marvin Bagley III-F-Duke

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Bagley was the preseason consensus number 1 player but questions arose about his jump shot and his being very lanky. I got to see him live and he very quietly had a 20-10 double-double. The Grizzlies were at their best when Zach Randolph was dominating the low post and if Bagley can put on a few pounds of muscle he can become that type of player.

5. Dallas Mavericks-Wendell Carter-C-Duke

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I was actually more impressed by Carter than I was by Bagley when Duke visited Indiana. Carter was just bullying IU defenders below the hoop and that type of physicality make him troublesome for opponents at the next level. The Mavericks have a nice point guard in Dennis Smith Jr, now they just need someone for him to pass to, especially considering Dirk Nowitzki is up there in age.

6. Orlando Magic-Mo Bamba-C-Texas

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Mo Bamba has one of the most fun names to say in all of sports and he’s a Hell of a basketball player to boot. He’s 7′ with a 7’9 wingspan and he plays with a lot of intensity. He’s still a work in progress but he could become the big man the Magic have lacked since losing Dwight Howard.

7. Chicago Bulls-Michael Porter Jr-F-Missouri

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A back injury derailed Porter’s season and potentially cost him being a top-3 pick. Nonetheless, as long as his back checks out, the Bulls will be chomping at the bit to land a talent like him. He was the #1 recruit in the nation and unfortunately for Missouri, they never really got to reap the benefits of his all-around game. The Bulls could have a potential star on their hands.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers-Mikal Bridges-F-Villanova

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This is the Nets pick the Cavaliers acquired from the Celtics in the Kyrie Irving trade. For Villanova’s championship-winning team, Jalen Brunson was the guy who got a lot of the credit (his winning Player of the Year would be a good indicator of that) but Mikal Bridges is actually the better prospect. Bridges might be the best defender in the class and is a pretty good 3-point shooter. His ceiling is limited but he’s a guy who can contribute right away and be a quality starter for years to come. The Cavaliers lack any really great defenders right now and Bridges can do that and perhaps keep Cleveland from being blown out in playoff games.

9. New York Knicks-Trae Young-G-Oklahoma

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Trae Young is perhaps the most boom-or-bust player in this class. He put up absolutely STAGGERING numbers for Oklahoma but by the end of the season he was looking so streaky that teams began to wonder if he didn’t just get hot early in the season. He’s a good shooter and a good passer but he’s not an elite athlete. However it’s a weak guard class so a guy with his upside will easily make him more enticing to teams. The Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis and if he and Young can develop good chemistry, it could become a Durant-Westbrook type relationship (until one eventually leaves the team).

10. Philadelphia 76ers-Collin Sexton-G-Alabama

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I think Collin Sexton could be a dark horse to be a really good player in this class. He reminds me a lot of the underrated Elfrid Payton (and no, it’s not JUST because of the hair). He’s a good distributor and basically carried Alabama to the Round of 32 all by himself. He’d be a luxury pick for the 76ers, who still don’t really know what they have in last year’s #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz but they can get creative with their lineups with a guy like Sexton around.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Robert Williams III-C-Texas A&M

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Full disclosure, I actually hadn’t heard of this guy prior to writing up this mock, but scouts seem to be really high on him. He’s an excellent rebounder and a very physical defender, which is something the Hornets sorely lack outside of Dwight Howard, whose effort can be inconsistent at times. His offensive game could use some work but he’ll be an enforcer under the basket.

12. Los Angeles Clippers-Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

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Miles Bridges is pretty raw but he can take over a game if you’re not careful. He’s an exciting dunker and a pretty good defender. The problem is that his best position is probably power forward but he plays more like a shooting guard which kind of makes teams unsure of what to do with him. If put in a system like the Clippers with Doc Rivers, Bridges could find a role that best suits him.

13. Los Angeles Clippers-Kevin Knox-F-Kentucky

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Another pick for the Clippers, who sorely need more playmakers after we saw how they struggled without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Knox is really raw and he never really realized his full potential with Kentucky. However he has a good shot and he can be a real mismatch if he can continue to develop it.

14. Denver Nuggets-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-G-Kentucky

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The Nuggets are a team that suddenly feels like they’re on the cusp, they just need to knock a couple picks out of the park. Gilgeous-Alexander is a good distributor, which is good because he’s not a great shooter. But he’s a very unselfish player whose confidence grows with every game. As long as you have a good scoring option to go along with him, Gilegeous-Alexander could be the distributor to take him to the next level.

So that’s going to do it with the Lottery Mock Draft. I’ll do another mock the day of the Draft at the end of June, I haven’t decided if I’ll do the entire first round or just stick to Lottery Picks like I did today. Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Season Recap

The NBA regular season has come and gone and now we’ve got what feels like the longest postseason in sports to look forward to. The NBA playoffs typically last around 2 months, with the first playoff game starting up on Saturday and Game 1 of the NBA Finals scheduled for May 31. I think there’s one too many playoff rounds, but that’s neither here nor there. The point of this blog is to recap what was a pretty interesting NBA season, from giving out my personal awards to playoff predictions and every storyline in between. So let’s get to it.

Awards:

NBA MVP: James Harden-G-Houston Rockets

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This is probably going to be unanimous amongst the writers, as not only did Harden lead the NBA in scoring with 30.4 PPG, but the Rockets are now legitimate threats to the Golden State Warriors, something we haven’t had in the Western Conference since the twilight of the Spurs. Russell Westbrook may have averaged a triple-double for an entire season again, making him the only player ever to do so, and LeBron James was LeBron James, but Harden’s the pick here.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert-C-Utah Jazz

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This was tough because Gobert only played 56 games and it was really tempting to choose somebody else. But there’s no denying the impact Gobert had in those games. Utah’s defensive rating was the best in the NBA when Gobert was on the court and he himself had the best individual rating in the league. Other candidates include pretty much every member of the Celtics, DeJounte Murray, and Joel Embiid.

Rookie of the Year: Donovan Mitchell-G-Utah Jazz

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This might be a bit controversial because Ben Simmons is more than likely going to win this award. But if you’ve been reading my scarce number of NBA blogs, then you know my stance on what qualifies as a rookie and apparently, Donovan Mitchell shares that sentiment, as he’s been wearing sweatshirts that are seemingly against Simmons’ rookie eligibility. Mitchell has turned the Jazz from a team that was in an apparent rebuild to the 5 seed in the Western Conference in just his first season. Ben Simmons’ overall numbers are better, but again, I don’t consider him to be a rookie. He had his chance but missed his rookie year with an injury.

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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I’m seeing that other coaches are getting more love than Brown, but when your team goes from 4th worst record in the NBA to 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, that should make you a lock for Coach of the Year. I did predict that the 76ers would make the playoffs for the first time in years, but I didn’t expect them to be this good. Trust the Process, indeed.

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams-G-Los Angeles Clippers

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Lou Williams was a big part in keeping the Clippers from being an embarrassment this season. He averaged 22.6 PPG and while he did start 19 games this season, he primarily came off the bench. That scoring total was 18th best in the NBA and was best amongst players who primarily came off the bench. That’s going to win you the award pretty much every time.

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo-G-Indiana Pacers

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Oladipo finally emerged as the star he’s always had the potential of being. He credits this to his year in OKC, as he got a chance to watch Russell Westbrook and mimic his work ethic. That has led to the Pacers being the 5 seed in the playoffs with a legitimate chance of taking down the Cavaliers. Oladipo scored 23.1 PPG, 12th best in the NBA, this coming after being a sidekick for much of his career.

Comeback Player of the Year: Jrue Holiday-G-New Orleans Pelicans

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This was a hard one to pick but I’m going with Holiday on this one mainly because he had a career year after many injury-plagued seasons. This was the first season since his 2012-13 All Star campaign that he was healthy for the entire season and he proved his health by scoring a career-high 19 PPG.

Playoff Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

Round 1:

1 Toronto Raptors vs 8 Washington Wizards

Not a hard one here. The Wizards have looked lost with John Wall injured while this may be the best team the Raptors have ever fielded.

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The Pick: Raptors

2 Boston Celtics vs 7 Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo may cause problems to this injury-riddled Celtics squad, but Boston is too deep to be overcome by the Bucks.

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The Pick: Celtics

3 Philadelphia 76ers vs 6 Miami Heat

The 76ers are arguably the hottest team in the NBA right now and they continue that momentum by easily dispatching the Heat.

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The Pick: 76ers

4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 5 Indiana Pacers

The Cavaliers are their lowest seed by a LeBron-led team since the 2007-08 season (which was also the 4th seed) and the issues surrounding them have been well-publicized. But LeBron in the playoffs is nearly untouchable so while I do think the Pacers give them a bit of a scare, I’ve got the Cavs moving on.

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The Pick: Cavaliers

Round 2:

1 Toronto Raptors vs 4 Cleveland Cavaliers

Yes the Raptors are really good, but it’s hard to bet against Playoff LeBron. I think the Cavs make the Eastern Conference Finals for the 4th consecutive season.

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The Pick: Cavaliers

2 Boston Celtics vs 3 Philadelphia 76ers

This is going to be a really fun series, one that was a lot more evened-out thanks to Kyrie Irving’s injury. But I’ve got the Celtics prevailing on the strength of their defense.

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The Pick: Celtics

Eastern Conference Finals:

2 Boston Celtics vs 4 Cleveland Cavaliers

Things might go differently with a healthy Kyrie, but alas, that is not the case and the Celtics’ luck runs out against Playoff LeBron as the Cavs make a 4th straight trip to the NBA Finals.

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The Pick: Cavaliers

Western Conference:

Round 1:

1 Houston Rockets vs 8 Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves are ice cold and run into the best team in the NBA. This won’t take long.

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The Pick: Rockets

2 Golden State Warriors vs 7 San Antonio Spurs

Steph Curry will miss the series due to injury, but without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs never stood much of a chance anyway.

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The Pick: Warriors

3 Portland Trail Blazers vs 6 New Orleans Pelicans

This is the one series I have where a lower-seeded team wins and it’s mainly due to the stretches of dominance the Pelicans have had throughout the season. No knock against the Trail Blazers, but New Orleans is too hot right now.

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The Pick: Pelicans

4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 5 Utah Jazz

The Jazz had a fun run but Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and the Thunder will be too much for Donovan Mitchell’s Jazz squad.

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The Pick: Thunder

Round 2:

1 Houston Rockets vs 4 Oklahoma City Thunder

The Rockets stay hot and Harden beats his old running mate in Russell Westbrook. I still shudder to think of what OKC would look like if they kept the trio of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden together, especially with the versions of each player we have today.

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The Pick: Rockets

2 Golden State Warriors vs 6 New Orleans Pelicans

With a healthy Steph Curry, the Warriors squash the Pelicans’ momentum and return to the Western Conference Finals.

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The Pick: Warriors

Western Conference Finals:

1 Houston Rockets vs 2 Golden State Warriors

This is the first time in a long time that there was a legitimate threat to the Warriors’ chances of returning to the NBA Finals. I think this series goes a full 7 games, but I’ve got the Warriors emerging victorious once again.

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The Pick: Warriors

NBA Finals

2 Golden State Warriors vs 4 Cleveland Cavaliers

I would hate to see this matchup for a fourth consecutive season because I enjoy parity when it doesn’t involve my favorite team. But I just have a bad feeling that it’s going to happen again. I would love to see Raptors-Rockets in the Finals, but I think we’re going to get more of the same and I’ve got the Warriors once again wiping the floor with the Cavs.

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The Pick: Warriors

Congrats to the Warriors on another title, 3rd in 4 years. Don’t get comfortable, though. The Celtics are coming for you next season. That’s going to do it for my NBA regular season recap, let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: March 31

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-The Red Sox were able to bounce back in a big way against the Rays, as Alex Cora gets his first managerial win 1-0. The one run came across on a Rafael Devers single in the 7th inning to score Xander Bogaerts. One thing I did notice, though, is when the Red Sox won, the outfield did not do their win-dance-repeat routine, instead they just fist bumped. I’m a little disappointed that the dancing appears to be over but a celebratory fist bump is fine, I guess. Also, Red Sox starting pitching was outstanding once again as they have yet to allow a single run. David Price went 7 innings and only let up 4 hits in getting the win. Craig Kimbrel continued to do Kimbrel things and struck out the side in order en route to locking down his first save of the new season.

-Villanova guard Jalen Brunson won National Player of the Year in the NCAA, which feels like an unimportant award, to be truly honest. For whatever reason, basketball’s top individual prize just doesn’t feel like it’s worth anything, unlike the Heisman. Why that is is beyond me, but nonetheless, it is interesting that Brunson won it over Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who put up a ridiculous statline all season. However, as I’ve noticed, this award typically goes to the best player on the best team and by that logic, Brunson is the rightful winner.

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-Speaking of college hoops, the Final Four starts Saturday night as Loyola-Chicago takes on Michigan and Villanova takes on Kansas. As bad as my bracket was for much of the tournament, I actually managed to get 3 out of 4 Final Four teams, with Loyola being the lone exception, of course. I had Arizona coming out of the South but they thought it’d be funny to get blown out by 13th seeded Buffalo in the first round. I had them in the National Championship, losing to Villanova. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how this Cinderella run for Loyola ends because it just feels like they can do no wrong. Michigan is a really good opponent and they’ve been on fire, too, but the lowest seed they’ve faced so far is the 6th-seeded Houston. Should they win and make it to the National Championship, they will have done so by beating a 14, a 6, a 7, a 9, and an 11 in Loyola. I’m predicting the championship game will be Michigan vs Villanova, which will be very conflicting for my uncle, who attended ‘Nova but is also a big Michigan fan.

-After Aaron Hicks injured his ribs, centerfield may have a vacancy for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury is currently on the DL and Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner moved into center while rookie Billy McKinney manned left. However, Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated that Aaron Judge may get a look in center when Gardner needs a breather, which could get interesting. Judge has only played right field since his Major League debut in 2016 and he has played it very competently. However if he does end up playing some centerfield, he could wind up being the biggest centerfielder of all time at 6’8 280 pounds. I tried doing a google search for the tallest centerfielders but it didn’t help very much so I may need some help from the readers. But I can’t imagine there’s ever been a heavier one at the very least.

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-The Oakland Raiders cut punter Marquette King. Normally a punter getting cut wouldn’t make news, however King is a special case. He gained notoriety in the NFL for his entertaining social media presence and his on-field antics, which included some fun celebrations when he would pin a punt inside the 20 yard line. And the elephant in the room, he’s the only black punter in the league, there I said it. The guy can kick, though, and I can’t imagine he’ll be out of a job for very long. He did have a pretty lucrative contract for a punter, as he was in the second year of a 5-year $16.5M deal. Jon Gruden also cut talented young tight end Clive Walford, who showed promise in his first two years, then basically did nothing in 2017 as he only caught 9 passes in 13 games.

-Amazon’s All or Nothing series that kind of works like Hard Knocks but follows a team during the regular season is going to follow two football teams this year, one college and one pro. The college team is going to be Michigan while the NFL team is the Cowboys. They were following these teams throughout the season and will compile their footage into a documentary on a team’s season. They started doing this in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals and it was a blast following a team as it made a run at the Super Bowl, falling just short in their NFC Championship loss. Then in 2016 they followed the Rams and we got to see the inverse, as they fired coach Jeff Fisher midseason and we got to see what it was like for an organization to deal with this kind of upheaval, which was super interesting. For the 2017 season, Michigan went 8-5 including a bowl loss to South Carolina after starting off pretty well while the Cowboys went 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs so these ones seem like they’re going to be more up-and-down rather than all ups with the Cardinals or all downs with the Rams. I’ll definitely be looking forward to this series. The Cowboys one will be released on April 27, also Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft while the Michigan one will be released on April 6 (this coming Friday).

-76ers “rookie” Ben Simmons recorded his 11th triple double on the season against the Hawks, which is more than 27 other teams. Simmons is most certainly going to win Rookie of the Year, but I’m still going to bitch and moan since in my brain this technically isn’t his rookie year, as he was drafted in 2016. But whatever, nobody ever really remembers who won Rookie of the Year anyway. You know who won last year? Malcolm Brogdon. Did you know that? Because I sure as Hell forgot, I had to google it.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA All Star Weekend Preview

We’re at that magical time of year where it’s NBA All Star Weekend, which aside from the Super Bowl is really the only sporting thing of note in February. It’s in Los Angeles this year and I typically find that the challenges they do to be more interesting than the actual game itself. I’m writing this around 6 pm on Friday night, so I’m just going to give a couple of quick picks on the Celebrity Game and Rising Stars Challenge. I think that team Lakers, coached by ESPN NBA Analyst Rachel Nichols, is going to win mainly because they’ll have Candace Parker on their team, who is really the only person on either roster that I know for a fact is good at basketball. For the Rising Stars Challenge, I think Team World is going to defeat Team USA. I know, that’s very unpatriotic of me, but Team World has both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The best Team USA has to offer is Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown, two good players but not up to par with what Team World can offer. I’ll be rooting for Team USA, though, not just for nationalism purposes, but because they have 2 Celtics players (Brown and Jayson Tatum) whereas Team World has none. We’ll see how my picks did on Saturday morning when this blog is published. Let’s get into the festivities.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Are they not doing that Shooting Stars challenge this year? Damn shame, I actually really enjoyed that event, especially once everybody got to shooting half-court shots to try and beat the best time. Well as we get into the third year of the Skills Challenge obstacle course/gauntlet/whatever you want to call it, the new twist implemented has been pretty riveting. The 6 participants are not only just guards now, but big men as well and in fact, both years that this has been in effect a big man has won (Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porznigis). Granted both winners were genetic freaks of nature, which makes it surprising to me that Giannis Antetokounmpo is not taking part in this, as I feel he could totally keep the streak going for big men. But as it stands right now, the participants this year are guards Buddy Hield of the Kings, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets, and Lou Williams of the Clippers to go along with big men Andre Drummond of the Pistons, Al Horford of the Celtics, and Joel Embiid of the 76ers. Drummond’s involvement in this has to be a joke, right? The guy’s a terrific defender and post player, but handling a basketball? Come on now, the guy has a family. Of course, as soon as I say that he’s probably going to go and win the damn thing. I’ve got to imagine the favorite to actually win this thing is Clippers guard Lou Williams, but the way this competition has been going, it’s going to be an athletic big man. Al Horford is probably the most athletically gifted of the bunch but he gives off such a vanilla air that it’s probably going to be a colorful personality like Joel Embiid, who had a pretty great comment over the weekend. Paying homage to Dikembe Mutombo, Embiid was asked what his favorite pickup line is, to which he responded “who wants to sex The Process?” Legend. Embiid’s probably going to win.

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Projected Winner: Embiid defeats Williams in the final.

JBL Three-Point Contest

Wrestling fans will probably do a double-take at the sponsor, but no, it’s not that JBL, but a speakers company. Shame that there won’t be anyone yelling “ballgame” or emotionally (and in some cases, physically) abusing coworkers. But all tangents aside, the contest this year will feature reigning champ and former Indiana Hoosier Eric Gordon of the Rockets, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, Devin Booker of the Suns, Wayne Ellington of the Heat, Paul George of the Thunder, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, and Tobias Harris of the Clippers. Klay Thompson’s got to be the odds-on favorite to win this event as he’s arguably an even more prolific 3-point shooter than his teammate Stephen Curry is, but that’s probably because shooting 3’s is all Thompson is really known for while Curry has insane handles to go with his 3-point shooting prowess. But I actually think that Thompson won’t win. He did win it when the event was in Toronto two years ago, but I think the fact that he has won it before will kind of take the sense of urgency out of him. I’m actually going to go with a guy who’s star is on the rise…a star…rising to the sun? Okay, I’m saying I’m picking Phoenix Suns’ guard Devin Booker to win. He’s a very capable shooter and I think he’s going to be on a mission to make an impression on the rest of the league, considering he doesn’t get much respect being the best player on one of the worst teams.

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Projected Winner: Booker defeats Thompson and George in the final.

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest

Didn’t it always use to be Sprite sponsoring this? I wonder how Verizon is going to make their little scorecards look. But that’s neither here nor there. We’re at the Slam Dunk contest and here’s another event where I think the NBA is totally whiffing on an opportunity to have Antetokounmpo participate. A guy of his freakish athleticism would certainly shine. But we do have a pretty solid list of participants. We have rookies Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks, Larry Nance of the Lakers, and former Indiana Hoosier Victor Oladipo of the Pacers. No real household names (though the way Mitchell and Oladipo are improving, that may change), but some real hop from all of these guys. Oladipo lost in the final round of this contest in 2015 to Zach LaVine, which pretty much spells disaster if you have to face that guy. The fact that he still won in 2016 even though Aaron Gordon’s dunks were way better still doesn’t sit well with me. The reigning champ, Glenn Robinson III, is not participating this year in a dunk contest that was ultimately a letdown from the absolutely incredible 2016 affair. But I think Oladipo is going to come out on top this year. I don’t know if the contest is going to be great, as 3 of the 4 competitors will be making their first appearance in this contest so we don’t know how creative of dunkers they really are. But I do know that Oladipo is capable of some impressive dunks in games, plus he was pretty good when he lost to LaVine in ’16. I think he takes home the hardware this year.

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Projected Winner: Oladipo defeats Mitchell in the final.

NBA All Star Game

This one has an interesting component to it because the top two vote getters, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, picked their teams. On Team LeBron, we’ve got of course, LeBron James of the Cavaliers, Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, Kyrie Irving of the Celtics, Kevin Durant of the Warriors, LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Goran Dragic of the Heat, Andre Drummond of the Pistons, Paul George of the Thunder, Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Kemba Walker of the Hornets, and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. On Team Curry, we’ve got of course, Stephen Curry of the Warriors, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks, DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, James Harden of the Rockets, Joel Embiid of the 76ers, Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves, Draymond Green of the Warriors, Al Horford of the Celtics, Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors, Klay Thompson of the Warriors, and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves. I’m not nearly as interested in the winner of this game as I am to seeing if a team reaches 200 points. They’ve come close each of the last two years, as the West hit 196 and 192 in 2016 and ’17, respectively. But I guess I have to pick a winner in this game and I think I’m going to go with Team Curry here, as I think they’re a little deeper than Team LeBron. Poor LeBron, can’t seem to shake that Curry kid.

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Projected Score: Team Curry: 187 Team LeBron: 181

That’s going to do it for my NBA All Star Weekend preview, let me know what you think is going to happen in each event in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NBA Season Preview

The NBA season opens on October 17 in a game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, which couldn’t be more perfect considering these two teams pulled off a huge trade a month ago where they swapped superstar guards. I felt that just under a week left until the start of the regular season would be the perfect time to give my predictions on how this season will play out. This will be a 3-part series, much like my postseason MLB series, with top-10s by position coming tomorrow and a top-100 coming Friday. However that one I’m considering breaking up into multiple parts. Stay tuned for that. For this preview I will project awards, All-NBA teams, and the playoffs. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Awards:

NBA MVP: Kawhi Leonard-F-San Antonio Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard already has a Finals MVP on his resume, now he looks for League MVP (photo credit: Slam Online)

After flirting with the idea of Leonard as MVP for a few years now, I think this is the year he finally gets it. Leonard has been the best player on the Spurs for some time and that’s saying something, considering the team is typically littered with Hall of Famers and has the best coach in the game in Gregg Popovich. Leonard is a stud defender who also puts up over 20 points per game and will lead this Spurs team on another deep playoff run.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert-C-Utah Jazz

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Rudy Gobert has been a nightmare for anyone brave enough to enter the paint (photo credit: Salt City Hoops)

Truth be told, I thought Gobert should have won this award last year. His 8-foot wingspan along with his 7’1 height make it damn near impossible to score in the paint, as he consistently swats away any shot that has the audacity to approach his territory. I think he gets this award this time and gets the recognition he deserves after a few years of really strong defensive play.

Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala-F-Golden State Warriors

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Andre Iguodala looks to add another trophy to his mantle (photo credit: Sporting News)

This is always a hard award to predict and it feels like kind of a cop out to pick Iguodala here. The guy could not only start for most teams, but be their best player (looking at you, Nets). Yet on this stacked Warriors team, he comes off the bench and he does it as well as anybody. How many players can say they were Finals MVP while coming off the bench? Just Iggy.

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr-G-Dallas Mavericks

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Dennis Smith Jr has looked really impressive in his small body of work with the Mavericks (photo credit: Sports Illustrated

I was really tempted to choose Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, or De’Aaron Fox for this spot, but I felt that Dennis Smith Jr would ultimately be the guy to go with. He’s locked down the starting point guard job for the Mavericks already, coming off a really strong summer league performance that reminded me of Damian Lillard’s quick ascension. I think Smith is in the best position to succeed early out of any rookie in the league (and I’m not counting Ben Simmons for this even though he technically still qualifies. He had his chance at a ROTY in my book and couldn’t stay healthy).

Coach of the Year: Brett Brown-Philadelphia 76ers

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Brett Brown looks to reward Philly fans’ patience with a playoff berth (photo credit: CSN Philadelphia)

I don’t know if Brown will do anything otherworldly, but if you check my playoff predictions below, you’ll know why I have him winning coach of the year. After years of Trusting the Process, it seems that the 76ers are primed and ready to be relevant again. I think they have the pieces in place to make a playoff run if they can stay healthy. And that’s a BIG “if.” But I think they will be healthy enough and capture the 8th seed in the East. And since Brown will be at the helm of this resurgence, he will get the honor of Coach of the Year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Chandler Parsons-F-Memphis Grizzlies

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The normally deadly sharpshooter didn’t look like himself in 2016-17 (photo credit: Sporting News)

Parsons struggled mightily in the first year of his big contract from the Grizzlies. His points per game was cut in half, his FG% dropped from 49.2% to 33.8% and his 3-point shooting, his best trait, was down from 41.4% to 26.9%. A shooter of his caliber should not have a lower 3-point percentage than DeMarcus Cousins (36.1%). I think he bounces back this season and gets recognized for his return to shooting prominence.

Most Improved Player: Myles Turner-C-Indiana Pacers

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Myles Turner looks to take a big step in his development (photo credit: NBA.com)

Myles Turner is a guy oozing with ability and I was praying he would fall to the Celtics at 16 in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Pacers took the Texas product at 11 and have reaped the benefits thus far, as he has averaged 12 points per game and 6 rebounds per game over his career. However when you watch him play, it is pretty clear that those numbers should be higher as he is seemingly always around the ball and the loss of Paul George for the Pacers will open up more opportunities for him to get big numbers this year.

All-NBA Teams

First Team

G-Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

G-James Harden-Houston Rockets

F-LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

F-Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

C-Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

Second Team

G-Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

G-Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

F-Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

F-Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

C-Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

Third Team

G-Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

G-John Wall-Washington Wizards

F-Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

F-Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

C-Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

Projected Playoff teams with Seeds

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Charlotte Hornets
  7. Detroit Pistons
  8. Philadelphia 76ers

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Houston Rockets
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Los Angeles Clippers
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

Playoff Round-by-Round Predictions:

Eastern Conference:

(1)Cavaliers def. (8)76ers

(2)Celtics def. (7)Pistons

(3)Wizards def. (6)Hornets

(5)Bucks def. (4)Raptors

(1)Cavaliers def. (5)Bucks

(2)Celtics def. (3)Wizards

(1)Cavaliers def. (2)Celtics

This conference is really a 2-man race between the Cavaliers and Celtics. The Wizards and Raptors may make things interesting, but overall Cleveland and Boston are the teams to beat as they will duke it out for the Eastern Conference championship for the second straight year. I have the Cavs winning it over the Celtics for a second straight year and fourth straight overall as they are just too deep for the much-improved Celtics to compete with. It won’t be as lopsided a series as it was last year, but the Cavs will prevail.

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The Cavaliers and Celtics are the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference (photo credit: Newsday)

Eastern Conference Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

Western Conference:

(1)Warriors def. (8)Pelicans

(2)Spurs def. (7)Clippers

(3)Rockets def. (6)Trail Blazers

(5)Thunder def. (4)Timberwolves

(1)Warriors def. (5)Thunder

(2)Spurs def. (3)Rockets

(1)Warriors def. (2)Spurs

Unlike the East, the West has 5 teams that I could envision winning it, however the Warriors will win once again because they are just that much better than everyone else. As long as Gregg Popovich coaches the Spurs, they will compete for a title but they aren’t quite as deep as they have been in years’ past. The addition of Chris Paul will be big for the Rockets as James Harden has a world-class distributor to feed him the ball. The Timberwolves had a fantastic offseason and they have the look of a team that is sick of losing. I think the Thunder will struggle out of the gate with their new Big 3, but I think they will put it together by the end of the year in time for a run. There are a lot of mouths to feed in OKC and that could lead to some on-court issues between Westbrook, George, and Carmelo Anthony. But again, the Warriors are just better than everyone else and they will win the West.

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs

The Warriors and the Spurs have been two of the elite teams in the West for the last few seasons (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Western Conference Champion: Golden State Warriors

NBA Finals:

(1)Warriors def. (1)Cavaliers

I’m getting pretty sick of this matchup but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. I have the Warriors and Cavs meeting in the Finals for the fourth straight year, which has never happened before and will beg the question: is this a better inter-conference rivalry than Celtics-Lakers? I think the Warriors take it in 7 and Steph Curry wins Finals MVP. Fun fact, Curry didn’t win Finals MVP either time the Warriors won under his tutelage.

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Could we really get a fourth consecutive Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals? (photo credit: Sporting News)

NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors (MVP: Stephen Curry)

Those are my picks for this NBA season. I’ll revisit them at some point this year. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.