2018 NBA Finals Preview

*Sigh.* Here we go again. As I, and literally everybody else, predicted, it’s Warriors-Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive season in the NBA Finals. I already bitched about this yesterday so I’m not going to do that here. I’m just going to do what I always do when I prepare for championship games: go position-by-position and give advantages where I see fit. So without further ado, let’s do it.

Point Guard

Warriors: Stephen Curry

Cavaliers: George Hill

Advantage: Warriors

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Duh. Even if Curry isn’t 100%, he’s still the most impactful point guard in the game today. He’s one of the greatest shooters of all time and people don’t talk about his handles enough. Hill’s not a bad player, don’t get me wrong, he’s actually pretty good. But he can’t hold a candle to Steph.

Shooting Guard

Warriors: Klay Thompson

Cavaliers: Rodney Hood

Advantage: Warriors

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Another pretty easy one and it’s basically the same explanation as point guard: Thompson is one of the best shooters of all time and while Hood isn’t a bad player, he can’t hold a candle to Thompson. I know it’s copy-paste, but that’s been the NBA Finals the last four years, hasn’t it?

Small Forward

Warriors: Kevin Durant

Cavaliers: LeBron James

Advantage: Cavaliers

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This is probably the closest matchup in these comparisons. Kevin Durant has been doing most of the dirty work for the Warriors while Steph Curry has been dealing with an injury. But LeBron James is the best player on the planet, perhaps all time (I’m not getting suckered into the LeBron-Jordan debate. I won’t do it). He has to win out here. But that being said, KD can do things with a basketball that nobody else can and he will have a huge impact on this series.

Power Forward

Warriors: Draymond Green

Cavaliers: Kevin Love

Advantage: Warriors

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This was another close one but I’m going to give the edge to the Warriors mainly because I have a soft spot for guys that stuff the stat sheet. Green may be a bit undersized for his position and style of play, but you can’t deny the guy gets numbers and plays great defense. Love has a tendency to disappear at times from games but he can also put on an absolute show if he can get into a rhythm. But Green is more consistent, so he wins out.

Center

Warriors: JaVale McGee

Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson

Advantage: Cavaliers

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JaVale McGee is easily the weakest link in the Warriors’ starting 5 but the other members are so good that he can get away with just being in the background. Tristan Thompson is a rebounding machine and really turned it on late in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. He’s going to need to dominate the glass if the Cavaliers are going to have any shot of upsetting the Warriors in this series.

Bench

Warriors: Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, David West, Kevon Looney, Zaza Pachulia, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, Quinn Cook

Cavaliers: JR Smith, Jeff Green, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr, Jordan Clarkson, Jose Calderon, Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, Kendrick Perkins, Okaro White

Advantage: Cavaliers

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This might be a slight upset but my reasoning for putting the Cavs over the Warriors in this regard is that Andre Iguodala is not healthy. A healthy Iggy and the Warriors win this category no problem. But aside from him and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors bench doesn’t do a whole lot for the team. With the Cavs, a lot of their bench guys have had plenty of time in the starting lineup and can explode at any second (Smith, Green, and Korver in particular). So I’m going with the Cavs for bench.

Head Coach

Warriors: Steve Kerr

Cavaliers: Tyronn Lue

Advantage: Warriors

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Tyronn Lue may be the worst coach to ever win the NBA Finals. Granted, he was technically an interim head coach when the Cavs won in 2016, having fired David Blatt midway through the season, but Lue is basically just a guy who chills at the head coaching chair on the bench while LeBron runs this team. As for Kerr, I honestly have no idea if he’s good or not because his team is so goddamn good. I mean, Hell, he took a game off and his team still won by 40. But I do know for certain that he’s better than Lue so the Warriors win this category.

Final Score: Warriors: 4 Cavaliers: 3

I do believe that the Warriors will win this series in 5 games. Now yes, they only won my categories by 1 spot, however the gap for the Warriors’ wins was significant while the gap for the Cavs’ wins was minuscule. So I stand by my prediction from yesterday that the series will go 5 games. As for MVP? I think Durant repeats as Finals MVP. That’s going to do it for my NBA Finals predictions, let me know how you think the series is going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 3

at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.

-Mookie Betts is on a freaking tear. While he did miss some time with a leg injury (his absence was more precautionary than anything since it was determined to just be a bruise), he has been a monster for the Red Sox in the first month of the season, culminating with his 4th career 3-home run game, the most in franchise history. The Major League record is 6 by Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa. Oh and he’s still just 25 years old. Mookie is currently hitting .365 with a Major League-leading 11 home runs and 21 RBI and along with the hot-hitting Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez, the Red Sox boast one of the deadliest lineups in baseball to go along with a stellar pitching rotation. This team is scary. 

-Not to be outdone, Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion also hit 3 home runs in a game, this one against the Rangers. As of right now, I have no idea if there has ever been 2 3-home run games on the same day in Major League history, but it sounds like one of those oddities that could be the case. Encarnacion really needed a game like this because heading into it, he was slashing .171/.250/.352, which are abysmal numbers for the notorious slow-starter. However once he gets going, there isn’t a deadlier right-handed bat in the Majors. As I mentioned, Encarnacion always gets off to a slow start to the season and by the end of it, he’s usually his typically dangerous self. He is 35, though, so perhaps a downward trend is on the horizon.

-Glenn Jacobs won the Republican nomination in the Knox County, Tennessee mayoral race. Since he is a Republican in Tennessee, that pretty much all but guarantees that he’s going to become Knox County’s next mayor. In fact, he won the Republican nomination by just 17 votes! Now, you might be wondering why I give a shit about this when I’ve made it known I hate politics and this is seemingly the most unimportant mayoral race ever. Well the fact of the matter is that I love Glenn Jacobs and he had a profound impact on my childhood and even now currently in my adulthood. Never heard of him? Well, that’s because he is better known to the public by a different name. HE’S FUCKING KANE FROM WWE!!! That’s right, the Big Red Machine, the Undertaker’s brother, the guy who had some very problematic storylines in the WWE (including an angle where he rapes a female wrestler, impregnates her, then another wrestler causes her to miscarry) is the favorite to become the mayor of a county in Tennessee. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to perform wrestling moves on each other like any other kids. There were a few moves that we liked to do. The one we probably did the most was Chris Jericho’s “Walls of Jericho” mainly because it was a pretty easy move as well as John Cena’s “Attitude Adjustment” (which back then was called “The FU”). But Kane’s “Chokeslam” was one of our favorites to do. So I’m pretty excited for the Devil’s Favorite Demon to hit that Chokeslam on some ne’er-do-wells in Knox County, Tennessee and have Hellfire lining the sidewalks. Here are some Gifs to showcase just how great a mayor Kane is going to make.

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Don’t you just love America? Also, Kane’s first name is “Glenn.” If that doesn’t destroy a man’s aura then I don’t know what does.

-Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer thinks that Astros pitchers may be doctoring the baseballs. In a Twitter thread, Bauer basically stated that the balls feel stickier there and that he feels that it’s very suspicious that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have become absolute monsters since joining the Astros and went into a rant about gum and stuff like that. While I am a fan of Bauer and his lack of filter, I think this is a bit farfetched and just begging for somebody to get targeted when the Indians and Astros square off. First of all, yes, Verlander and Cole have seen significant upticks in production since joining the Astros. However these are also two of the most talented pitchers in baseball who needed a change in scenery and got that in Houston. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Verlander and Cole would be #1 and #2, respectively, in the AL in strikeouts, which is where they currently rank. These guys have always been strikeout pitchers and now they seem to be invigorated. I think it’s more likely that Astros pitching coach Brent Strom is doing a Hell of a job. I mean have you seen Charlie Morton lately? A 34 year-old hitting 99 mph has nothing to do with doctoring baseballs. Strom is just killing it with these guys right now.

-I finished All or Nothing’s Dallas Cowboys edition a few days ago but kept forgetting to give my thoughts on it like I did with their Michigan edition. Here’s a few things I noticed:

Michigan definitely employed a no-swearing policy because the Cowboys had some of the biggest potty-mouths in the league (Dez Bryant being a particularly big offender). I was also a little surprised by head coach Jason Garrett’s potty mouth. He strikes me as the kind of guy who says “flipping” when he means “fucking.” But nope. No he says “fucking” like a normal person.

Cowboys runningbacks coach Gary Brown was the breakout star of this show. His relationship with the runningbacks was kind of a mixture of a father who will be your best friend but will also impart his wisdom upon you. This was very apparent when he had the backs over his house for dinner with his family and you could just tell everybody loved each other. Darren McFadden showing up dressed like Brown and talking like he does was also pretty amusing. I actually had no idea McFadden actually retired during the season until All or Nothing talked about it. Shame, too. McFadden was a big “what if” in the NFL because he was extremely talented but was held back by injuries.

Dez Bryant and Jourdan Lewis talking trash to each other was my favorite part of the series. It was only a one-part segment but these guys were jawing at each other during their STRETCHING. It was pretty funny how much tension you could sense, though I kind of got the vibe that Lewis was just trying to provoke Bryant and Bryant was taking the bait. They then went one-on-one with each other and had to get separated because Lewis got pissed because he thought Dez pushed off of him when he made the catch (he kind of did, but it was pretty bang-bang).

My one complaint was that I don’t think they emphasized Tyron Smith’s importance to the offense enough. Yes, when he went down, they made sure to highlight that his replacements, Chaz Green and Byron Bell, got absolutely DESTROYED by Adrian Clayborn to the tune of 6 sacks. But while they were in the starting roles there was little to no mention of Smith’s absence or recovery timetable. In fact, they didn’t even acknowledge his return. Smith is the best left tackle in football now that Joe Thomas is retired but you wouldn’t know it based on All or Nothing. In fact, I think the entire offensive line kind of got the shaft in favor of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

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. Vote Kane.

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Pirates

Since I know you’re all clamoring for it, here’s my bracket. Congratulations to Villanova on their second national championship in 3 years, third overall. I did make it safely into Fort Lauderdale, encountered a lot of problems, but everything is good. The wifi in my hotel is AWFUL, so there may be a chance that I have to miss a day on the blog. Fingers crossed I don’t have to. But anyway, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 17 games behind Chicago Cubs, 12 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Corey Dickerson, OF Daniel Nava, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, LF Michael Saunders, RP Kyle Crick

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Andrew McCutchen, SP Gerrit Cole, 1B John Jaso, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Dan Runzler, C Chris Stewart

Best Offensive Player: CF Starling Marte

Best Pitcher: Ivan Nova

Depth Chart:

C-Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz

1B-Josh Bell

2B-Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez

3B-David Freese, Colin Moran

SS-Jordy Mercer

LF-Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier

CF-Starling Marte

RF-Gregory Polanco, Bryce Brentz

SP-Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow

Bullpen-Felipe Rivero (CP), George Kontos, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, AJ Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Clint Hurdle (8th season with Pirates)

Hitting Coach-Jeff Branson

Pitching Coach-Ray Searage

1st Base Coach-Kimera Bartee

3rd Base Coach-Joey Cora

Bench Coach-Tom Prince

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The Pirates are all in on their rebuild. They traded their two most prolific players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole to try and build for the future. They didn’t take the next step after their breakthrough starting in 2013 and now they’re trending back towards mediocrity. It’s a smart move to get out in front of these rebuilds, especially if they didn’t have any real chance at competing in the first place. Here’s a look at the potential lineup for the Pirates.

1. Corey Dickerson-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese/Colin Moran-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of underperforming talent in this lineup. It starts with Starling Marte, who is a freak athlete but got busted for PED’s last season and missed 80 games. In his limited time last season, he hit .275 with 7 home runs and 31 RBI with 21 stolen bags and a 1.2 WAR. He’s one of the fastest players in the game and a talented hitter but he’s one of those guys that I think could be so much better but for whatever reason just hasn’t taken that next step. Josh Harrison is a guy I enjoy watching play. There’s just something about him that gets me excited to watch him go. Last season he hit .272 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI while being able to play pretty much every position imaginable. Josh Bell was a breakout stud for them last season, hitting .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI, providing a big power bat in the middle of their lineup. But after those guys there isn’t a whole lot. Gregory Polanco was a guy I heard several people compare to Barry Bonds when he debuted and he has been far from being that dangerous threat. He had a pretty solid 2016 but his 2017 left a lot to be desired. He hit .251 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI while playing a pretty good right field but also being one of the worst baserunners in baseball. There is some talent in their minor league system such as Austin Meadows, who could be seeing some playing time before this season gets out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates selling some of their talented assets at the Trade Deadline for a team trying to make a late push for the postseason.

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After trading Gerrit Cole, there isn’t much to go off of in this Pirates rotation in 2018. Slated to start opening day for the Bucs is Ivan Nova, who has been just okay since joining Pittsburgh after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees. Last year he went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA while posting a measly 6 K/9. He isn’t a bad pitcher but being a team’s ace is nowhere near where his talent merits. Jameson Taillon is a talented guy and he showed a lot of ability last season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was able to return after successful surgery and was able to make 25 starts, going 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA but a 3.48 FIP, suggesting the Pirates’ defense wasn’t a big help for him. Taillon is a guy who could be the team ace by next season and I think he’s someone they can build this rotation around. Tyler Glasnow is another talented pitcher in the rotation but he’s been a nightmare at the Major League level. He carries a career 6.75 ERA in 22 appearances and 17 starts. I don’t expect this rotation to really do a whole lot, they did finish 13th in the Majors in team ERA last season but they lost their best pitcher in Gerrit Cole and didn’t acquire anybody that will ease that loss.

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There isn’t much talent in the Pirates bullpen with the exception of their closer Felipe Rivero. Rivero really burst onto the scene in 2017. He posted a 1.67 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings and recorded 21 saves. His fastball can touch 100 miles per hour and he’s got the breaking ball to throw off hitters’ timing like you wouldn’t believe. After him, though, there’s a pretty steep drop. George Kontos is a decent reliever with a pretty solid cutter but the rest of that ‘pen is filled with guys I’ve never heard of. Though looking at their numbers, AJ Schugel is a guy I should start paying attention to, as he posted an ERA of 1.97 in 32 appearances. But otherwise there isn’t a whole lot to really be paying attention to at the moment.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Pirates. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole team gets blown up at the trade deadline. After a few good players there’s a pretty steep drop in productivity that will really limit this team’s ceiling. Clint Hurdle, who is an excellent manager, will likely be on the way out as they get into a full rebuild process once they start to drop in the standings.

Projected Record: 76-86, 4th in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Diego Padres, whom I got to briefly work for at the Home Run Derby in 2016 and really got me invested in their culture (pretty much just worshiping Tony Gwynn). Let me know what you think of the Pirates’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Top 10 NFL Free Agents

A quick breather from 30 Clubs in 30 Days, I think we’ve all earned that. Let’s talk football. It’s going to be an interesting offseason as this is one of the more stacked free agent classes in recent memory. As I mentioned in the intro of this morning’s Milwaukee Brewers preview, the deadline for the Franchise Tag has passed and the potential free agents who will not be hitting the open market are Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry (who may get traded), Lions pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner, and Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell (Bell has stated his displeasure with getting tagged). So now that the guys getting tagged are off the market, let’s take a look at who the 10 best players available are. I’m not going to include Drew Brees on this list because let’s face it, he’s not going anywhere.

10. QB Teddy Bridgewater

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Just a tough go for Teddy Bridgewater. After being the 32nd overall pick in 2014, Bridgewater was looking pretty good and appeared to be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future. However, shortly before the 2016 season, he suffered a gruesome non-contact injury that resulted in a torn ACL, a dislocated knee, and other structural damage that was so bad people feared he may lose the leg. He seems to have made a full recovery, thankfully, though he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2015 NFC Wild Card Round (that game where Blair Walsh missed the chip shot field goal that would’ve sent the Vikings to the Divisional Round and eliminated the Seahawks). He says he wants to start and he’s more than capable of it, but the severity of his injury may scare some teams.

Projected Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins

9. DT Muhammad Wilkerson

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Muhammad Wilkerson’s departure from the Jets has seemingly been a foregone conclusion for years now, as the team has been on the fence between trading him, slapping the franchise tag on him, or giving him an extension. They ultimately released him this offseason and he’ll be hitting the open market. Wilkerson still has plenty left in the tank at 28 years of age though I doubt he’ll be getting much more than a 3-year deal.

Projected Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills

8. QB Sam Bradford

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Sam Bradford’s had kind of a weird career. He was a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, was the first overall pick by the Rams in 2010, won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that same season, then injuries happened. It got so bad that Bradford’s fragility is a running joke amongst NFL fans. Though once he joined the Vikings after a year with the Eagles, he seemed to flip a switch. Bradford was excellent in 2016 as he completed 71.6% of his passes, threw for 3877 yards, and tossed 20 TDs vs only 5 picks. He got off to a good start in 2017 as well as he torched the Saints defense in Week 1 before hurting himself once again in practice. Only this time his replacement, Case Keenum, was terrific and Bradford never really got the job back. There’s certainly going to be a market for Bradford because he’s better than a lot of the guys other teams have been trotting out there as starters.

Projected Landing Spot: New York Jets

7. CB Trumaine Johnson

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Trumaine Johnson is one of the more underappreciated corners in the league. He doesn’t make the flashy plays but he always ends up covering the opposing team’s #1 receiver and he does a pretty good job at it, too. However the Rams are a bit strapped for cash and they knew they wouldn’t be able to bring Johnson back so they traded for Marcus Peters and slapped the franchise tag on LaMarcus Joyner. Whomever ends up signing Johnson will be getting a steal.

Projected Landing Spot: New England Patriots

6. QB Case Keenum

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The third former Vikings quarterback on this list, I was very surprised that the Vikings didn’t slap the franchise tag on Keenum after his performance in 2017, leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2009 season, but there’s a reason for that which I’ll get into later because it involves another guy on this list. Keenum had a rough night against the Eagles in that conference title game but he was otherwise excellent for the Vikings and performed well beyond anybody’s expectations for him. There will be concern that it was a fluke and that the Eagles exposed his flaws, however I’m sure somebody will be willing to take a risk on him.

Projected Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals

5. CB Malcolm Butler

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As a Patriots fan, it’s going to suck to see Malcolm Butler go. It was kind of a messy ending, given the inexplicable benching in Super Bowl LII, but it was such a wonderful beginning, as pictured above, that no matter what happens I’m going to remember him fondly. After recording arguably the greatest interception of all time, Butler became a really good corner, finishing in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ cornerback ratings for 2015 and 2016. 2017 wasn’t as great for Butler and he got picked apart in the playoffs. There’s no chance he returns to the Patriots after the way he was handled, though and that’s going to leave a big hole at corner opposite Stephon Gilmore in New England (which I hope gets filled by Trumaine Johnson, but that’s wishful thinking).

Projected Landing Spot: New Orleans Saints

4. WR Allen Robinson

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There’s never a good time to get injured but Allen Robinson may have picked the worst time to tear his ACL. He was an absolute stud in 2015, catching 80 passes for 1400 yards and a whopping 14 TD’s. He was a disappointment in 2016, though, as his yardage total was nearly cut in half and he struggled with drops. Entering a contract year in 2017, Robinson was out to prove that 2015 wasn’t a fluke. Then he tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Texans. So now not only has he not had a great season in 2 years, but he also hasn’t really played since 2016 thanks to his injury. I’m a little surprised the Jaguars didn’t elect to tag him and give him one more shot at a contract year, however they made the AFC Championship game without him and they probably feel comfortable with the guys they have. If Robinson can put forth a healthy 2018, though, he’s one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.

Projected Landing Spot: Chicago Bears

3. WR Sammy Watkins

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Sammy Watkins is one of the most talented receivers in the game but injuries and having to learn a new system on the fly have kept him from reaching his full potential. The fourth overall pick by the Bills in 2014 and the first receiver taken in that already legendary class, Watkins was traded during the 2017 preseason to the Rams and was forced to learn Sean McVay’s playbook at an accelerated pace and as a result, his play faltered. Despite playing 15 out of 16 games, Watkins only had 39 catches for 593 yards (though he did have 8 TD’s to go with that) in offensive guru McVay’s system. However if he can stay healthy and be given a full offseason to learn a new system, Watkins could become the dangerous threat the Bills thought he’d be when they took him in 2014.

Projected Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys

2. DT Sheldon Richardson

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Sheldon Richardson is one of the best defensive tackles in the game however the only thing keeping him from being a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player is himself. He’s had his issues off the field, the most appalling for me being that time he got in a high-speed chase with police with his 10-year old nephew in the passenger’s seat. Not good. However when he’s on the field he’s terrific and he was a big boost to the Seahawks’ defense as they were able to get creative with him and move him all over the line. If he gets into the right culture, he could be a huge impact on a team.

Projected Landing Spot: Returns to Seahawks

1. QB Kirk Cousins

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You had to know Kirk Cousins was going to be #1. I’m not going to get too deep into this one because I already did that when the Redskins traded for Alex Smith. However there are reports that the Vikings are ready to offer him a king’s ransom, somewhere along the lines of 3 years and $91M GUARANTEED. It was a weird saga for Cousins with the Redskins and I’m happy for him that he’s been able to leave that toxic situation and, from the looks of things, get seriously paid.

Projected Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings

That’s going to do it for the top 10 free agents in the NFL. Let me know what you think of this free agent class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.