General Sports: July 19

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-So Kawhi Leonard was finally traded. It was announced in the wee hours of yesterday morning that the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors had a deal that would send Leonard north in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected first round pick that could become 2 2nd rounders in 2020 if the pick somehow ends up being in the top 20. Already we can tell that this trade is an absolute mess. First off, DeRozan was reportedly “extremely upset” that he was included in the deal because he felt he was reportedly “lied to” by the front office about a potential trade. It was also reported that Leonard was not happy with landing in Toronto, as he had made it pretty clear he wanted to play in Los Angeles. To both players I say grow the fuck up. For DeRozan, the only player who is untradeable is LeBron James and that’s because he basically acts as his own GM for whichever team he happens to play for. Could it suck? Yeah, I’ve got to imagine getting suddenly told you don’t play for a team you’ve spent your entire adult life playing for probably feels tough right now. But unless he was flat out told by the front office that he was off limits in any potential deal, then I don’t see why he should think he was untouchable. If he led Toronto to the NBA Finals, then perhaps I’d give him some more credit. But the Raptors got their dicks kicked in by the Cavaliers in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Nobody on that team is untouchable. As for Leonard, you can’t expect the Spurs to bend to your whim because you want to go somewhere else while you’re still under contract. The Lakers and Clippers do not have the assets necessary to compensate for the value lost by your departure. The Spurs need to get something in return if they’re going to trade you. Besides, your contract is up at the end up the season. Suck it up, play in Toronto (which I think is a very pleasant city), then if you decide you’d still rather go to LA, then you can sign there as a free agent. Just make sure you keep playing your ass off with the Raptors so that the Lakers or Clippers will actually WANT to sign you. Because let’s face it, these last few months haven’t been very favorable for your public image with NBA teams.

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-Speaking of trades, it was announced during the MLB All Star Game that the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers had a deal in place that would send superstar shortstop Manny Machado to LA for a package of prospects, one of whom is Yusniel Diaz, MLB.com’s 84th best overall prospect. Pretty much everyone and their mother had Machado to the Dodgers pegged ever since Corey Seager went down for the season with an arm injury. It’s been a revolving door of utility guys at shortstop since then and now that Machado is there, the Dodgers will once again have a superstar manning short while they make another run at a World Series title. That is until Machado hits free agency at the end of the season, which is why the prospect return wasn’t as high as a guy of Machado’s caliber typically commands. Diaz has a ton of potential, but he was far from LA’s best prospect (Alex Verdugo) and the fact that Machado will likely only wear Dodger blue for a few months lessens the trade value a little bit. From what I’ve been reading, it seems very likely that Machado will sign with the Yankees in the offseason and will likely replace fellow impending free agent Didi Gregorius. However the addition of Machado has the red-hot Dodgers looking even better as they go for another deep run into the playoffs. Also, as a sidenote, Machado and pretty much everyone involved with him beating around the bush about the potential trade during the All Star game made for some pretty great television.

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-Brewers breakout reliever Josh Hader had some pretty problematic tweets pop up while he was pitching in the All Star game, which included several uses of racial, homophobic, and other demeaning slurs. Hader has been unbelievable this season and it seems that anytime somebody’s star is on the rise, some idiotic things they said in the past seem to sprout up. MLB has since ordered Hader to take sensitivity training and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s matured a lot since those tweets were sent out and that he isn’t the person those old tweets make him out to be. But guys like Hader need to become examples for future generations for why you need to be careful what you say on social media. It’s basically like getting read your Miranda Rights. Anything you say on Twitter can and will be held against you in the court of public opinion.

-The Home Run Derby was great, particularly the final 2 rounds. I don’t care that Bryce Harper’s dad was throwing pitches before Harper’s home runs landed, which is against the rules. All in all, the Home Run Derby is meaningless, it’s just a fun experience for everyone involved. Plus, Kyle Schwarber, the guy getting screwed in this situation, didn’t care so I don’t care. If you care about Bryce Harper’s dad’s pitches, you take the Home Run Derby WAY too seriously, and this is coming from a guy who already takes the Home Run Derby a little too seriously as it is. Try and tell Bryce Harper’s dad that he cheated. I dare you.

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-Darrelle Revis retired after 11 seasons in the league, most of which with the Jets. Probably the greatest corner of my adolescence, Revis’ last great season came in his lone year with the Patriots en route to helping them win Super Bowl XLIX. It also led to this great text I got from my mom the day after that Thursday Night Football game where he repeatedly got burned by Marquise Goodwin.

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Gotta love parents.

So 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.

LeBron James Signs With the Lakers

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As I craftily predicted, LeBron James will be taking his talents out west to Hollywood. The deal, as Woj pointed out, is a league max of 4 years and $154M. It was also interesting to note that some of LeBron’s reps were in Philly meeting with the 76ers, who were the other team that seemed most likely to land his services. He was not present at those meetings, though, and he was in fact in Los Angeles. Now he joins the storied Laker franchise that has the second most titles among all NBA franchises (trailing the Celtics, of course).

So what does this mean for the NBA? Well, first and foremost the Western Conference is now even more of a bloodbath than ever. You have, of course, the Warriors, who have won 3 out of the last 4 titles and were a blown 3-1 lead away from having won 4 in a row. You have the Houston Rockets who took the Warriors to the brink and are bringing back their future Hall of Fame point guard in Chris Paul with a max deal (again, as I craftily predicted) as well as reigning MVP James Harden. You have the Thunder, sort of, who managed to convince Paul George to stay even though everyone and their mother thought he’d be joining LeBron in LA. And now you have the Lakers, who are mainly just LeBron James right now since he hasn’t really acquired any teammates yet. However LeBron has taken a worse supporting cast to the NBA Finals before so just because there isn’t a ton of talent around him now doesn’t mean that doesn’t make the Lakers contenders.

This also takes a mack truck and clears all the small children out of the road for the Celtics to reach their first NBA Finals since 2010 (which happened to be against the Lakers). There is virtually no competition for them. Yeah, the 76ers and Raptors are pretty good, but the Celtics curb stomped the 76ers in the second round of the playoffs last year while the Raptors got destroyed by the Cavaliers, whom the Celtics took to Game 7. And the Celtics did all that without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, who will both be healthy for the start of the 2018-19 season. The LeBron signing also opens the door for a potential LeBron James vs Kyrie Irving NBA Finals, which will just be a bonanza of storylines to work with.

So what do the Lakers need to do in order to unseat the Warriors? Well for one, they need another player. Since they traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance to the Cavaliers at the Trade Deadline (very sneaky play there, LeBron), the Lakers now have room for 2 max contracts in their salary cap. LeBron takes up one of them and they could use another one on one of the potential free agents still out there (DeMarcus Cousins) or pay Kawhi Leonard after acquiring him in a trade from the Spurs (or both, since Leonard has stated he doesn’t really care about the max contract, he just wants out of San Antonio). The development of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball is also critical, however the latter’s may take a little more time since he tore his meniscus and it is unknown how much time he’s going to miss. Provided, their development only matters as long as one or both of these two aren’t part of a package for Kawhi Leonard. However, since the Lakers have no other ammunition except the potential of Ingram and Ball, there really isn’t any other option for them if they want to land Leonard. I’m also interested to see how LeBron works with Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who was taken 31 spots after LeBron in the 2003 NBA Draft. Pretty much everywhere he’s been, LeBron has basically been the Jackie Moon of his organization and has been the alpha over his head coach. Walton doesn’t strike me as the pushover that Tyronn Lue does or David Blatt and Erik Spoelstra did so there could be some potential head butting.

But regardless, this coming NBA season will certainly be a lot more interesting than last season’s. That’s it for today’s blog, sorry about the brevity but I just came back from the beach and I am just dead, however I couldn’t NOT blog this news so I powered through it the best I could. Good on me. Let me know what you think of LeBron James joining the Lakers in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Top 10 NBA Free Agents

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Before I get into the blog, I’m sure many of you might have noticed that it wasn’t me writing the blog yesterday. That would be James Neary, who will be occasionally contributing to this blog now. He’s a friend of mine from high school with whom I played baseball and basketball. You’ll love him.

As for the blog itself, last night was the deadline for players to opt in or out of their contracts and the free agency class is finalized. So I figured it’d be fitting to look at the class this year and predict where everyone will wind up. So with that, let’s not waste any more time and get to it.

10. JJ Redick-G-Philadelphia 76ers

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Redick is the definition of a catch-and-shoot player with a 3-point shot that can fit pretty much any system. He was a big part of the 76ers’ emergence and if they don’t land LeBron James, I think they’ll put some of that cap space towards bringing the sharp shooter back.

Projected Landing Spot: Stays with Philadelphia 76ers

9. Marcus Smart-G-Boston Celtics

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Smart is one of the toughest players in the league and his defense and energy was critical in the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals despite injuries to key players such as Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. There’s just one issue: he can’t shoot. Smart’s biggest asset, though, is his toughness and ability to draw fouls and get in the heads of opposing players and while he is looking for a large contract (he’s looking for an annual salary between $12-14M), I’m sure somebody will be willing to give it to him to bolster their depth and improve their defense.

Projected Landing Spot: Signs with Utah Jazz

8. Isaiah Thomas-G-Los Angeles Lakers

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What a crappy year for Isaiah Thomas. He was the man in Boston, got traded seemingly out of nowhere, and wound up being forced out of Cleveland before being forgotten with the Lakers. He has a chance to start fresh and he has shown he is very capable of leading a team on a deep playoff run.

Projected Landing Spot: Signs with Phoenix Suns

7. Clint Capela-C-Houston Rockets

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As bad of a year that Thomas had, Capela’s was that good. Capela was a revelation this season for the Rockets and made himself into one of the premiere defenders in the NBA. He was a big reason why the Rockets were able to give the Warriors a run for their money in the Western Conference Finals. He’s probably the best defender available and I think that any team that lands him will become that much tougher in the paint.

Projected Landing Spot: Stays with Houston Rockets

6. Chris Paul-G-Houston Rockets

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Like the emergence of Capela, the addition of Chris Paul was a major factor in the Rockets becoming a threat to the Warriors. His chemistry with James Harden helped the bearded one land his first MVP award. He is looking for a max deal but the Rockets have one to spare so if they’re smart, I think they keep the formula that worked so well last year and give it to CP3.

Projected Landing Spot: Stays with Houston Rockets

5. DeAndre Jordan-C-Los Angeles Clippers

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Jordan opted out of his deal with the Clippers at the last minute and became an unrestricted free agent. Jordan is another excellent defender and arguably the best rebounder in the entire NBA. The story about how his last free agency tour went is one of the oddest stories in recent memory and now that there’s nobody left with the Clippers to barricade him inside his house so that Mavericks officials can’t reach him, I do think a deal with Dallas does happen. They are, in fact, rumored to be heavily pursuing him.

Projected Landing Spot: Signs with Dallas Mavericks

4. DeMarcus Cousins-C-New Orleans Pelicans

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DeMarcus Cousins suffered an achilles injury midway through the season, which probably hurt his free agent stock. But he’s one of the most dominant big men in the game when healthy and he was just starting to form a strong 1-2 punch with Anthony Davis in New Orleans prior to the injury. He’s the type of guy who you can count on for a 20-10 season and be the vocal leader of your club house, provided he’s not in one of those “moods.”

Projected Landing Spot: Signs with New York Knicks

3. Paul George-F-Oklahoma City Thunder

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George was traded to the Thunder from the Pacers prior to this past season in what was then perceived to be a VERY lopsided deal for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. However Oladipo earned an All Star bid and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award while George played second fiddle to Russell Westbrook as the Thunder got bounced in the first round of the playoffs against the Jazz. George is still one of the better all-around shooters in this free agency class though and a star player who will command a max deal.

Projected Landing Spot: Signs with Los Angeles Lakers

2. Kevin Durant-F-Golden State Warriors

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Technically, Durant is a free agent, which is why he makes this list. However nobody believes he’s not returning to Golden State, as they can afford the potential deal despite the ludicrous amounts of talent on that roster. So I’m not going to give this much more thought for the 2-time NBA Finals MVP.

Projected Landing Spot: Stays with Golden State Warriors

1. LeBron James-F-Cleveland Cavaliers

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The one we’ve all been waiting for. It’s very unlikely that LeBron remains in Cleveland, as his relationship with team owner Dan Gilbert is pretty strained. Plus, the talent on the Cavs’ roster is nowhere near where it needs to be in order for the King to get his 4th ring. I’ve heard of a million different potential landing spots for him and I really don’t have the faintest clue as to where he’s ending up so for my Projected Landing Spot, I’m going with the team that I’ve heard the most about.

Projected Landing Spot: Signs with Los Angeles Lakers

Bonus: Kawhi Leonard-F-San Antonio Spurs

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No, he’s not a free agent, but Leonard wants out of San Antonio and the Spurs are fielding offers. With just a year left on his current contract, if a team is going to give up the king’s ransom it’s probably going to cost to get him, they’re going to want to ensure that they’re going to be able to lock him up to a multi-year deal. And based on some of the packages I’m hearing, there’s only one team that has the assets to land the former NBA Finals MVP.

Projected Landing Spot: Traded to the Boston Celtics for a package including the Kings pick, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier (Yes, I am aware that Danny Ainge just said the team isn’t looking to make a blockbuster deal. But I’ll believe it when I see it)

Let me know what you think of the 2018 NBA Free Agency class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

What NBA Free Agency Can Teach Us about the International System & Political Signaling

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By James Neary

The intersectionality of politics and sports is an ever-present fissure in the harsh divisions of America today. You can yell back and forth across the dinner table about why players should or should not kneel, wear black hoodies, or lambast the president. But you can’t argue this: sports ​are politics. Power dynamics, economics, and public relations are obvious driving forces behind both the Warriors and the White House. While this article largely focuses on the context of the NBA and the boisterous atmosphere surrounding free agency headed into this weekend, the concepts mentioned here will be largely applicable to other leagues as well. While to most political scholars the metaphor is apparent, the sports fan less versed in the traditions of Capitol Hill stands to gain a lot from this discussion.

Although the metaphor isn’t perfect, the NBA today can be seen as an international system similar to the one every human on earth calls their own, except for maybe Marxists. Political scholars usually refer to our syste​m as ​anarchy ,which you know the meaning of. Despite the UN and other international organizations’ best effort to instill some rule of law on a global level, realist theory in political science argues that doesn’t mean much. How the NBA functions similarly to this follows: Each team acting as a nation, or ‘black box,’ in which you can hardly see the inner policy, practices, and traditions of the institution itself, but are left instead with the resulting implications of the choices made through their internal processes. There are institutions such as the NBA itself, the NBPA, the television and internet service providers, etc. that do impose rules over combat (games), economics (salary caps), diplomacy (trades), and ethics (dress code). Politically, either from a realist or liberal (not like that, idiots) perspective, the argument can be made both that these institutions do and do not play a leading role in the decisions made by teams.

Now that the overall framework and political theory is established, it’s time to take a look at this year’s NBA free agency circus and see how it corresponds to our political conditions. To be completely forthcoming, I’m a diehard Celtics fan, but I also appreciate the unprecedented grandeur of (IMHO) the greatest player of ever, Lebron. In our metaphor, the games these teams play against each other are representative of actual battle between states. This can be thought of as either military or economic competition, as the former seems to be traded for the latter in recent politics. If you are going with the most basic metaphor, games as battles, then in that context Lebron is equal to the largest concentrated nuclear payload on Earth. Golden State has the most combined nukes, and maybe even the second largest single concentration in KD or Steph. Draymond is kind of like a predator missile: easy to deploy and very destructive, but can cause a lot of unwanted damage. Teams, just like states, are in a constant struggle with others to secure these assets and deploy them effectively on the battlefield to maximize their returns.

As stated above, the metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s obvious the teams in the NBA (and the WNBA, NFL, CFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, LLWS… maybe not that last one) function according to a framework of power dynamics similar to that of our international system. What prompted this discussion, however, is the ​seemingly exaggerated media circus leading up to Lebron, Kawhi, and PG’s decision to stay or leave their respective teams this year. Sorry to burst the bubble, but I’m of the school of thought that this is not out of the ordinary in any way. It’s the very nature of our political institutions and their derivative economy to systematically bombard us with information every hour of the day, every day of the year. This might be a phenomenon that has developed recently, seeing as the most unrelenting place it manifests itself, in both the political and athletic arenas, is my push notifications. The logic stands though, the NBA or any other sports organization has nothing to gain in a quiet offseason. They lose money, they lose ratings, and they lose traction. Michelle Beadle and Mike Greenberg, on GetUp! On ESPN following the NBA awards, pointed out the balance of awkwardness for having the show so long after the regular season (when the votes were cast) and of politics for having so much invested in such an ambitious event. So there it is, whether through free agency, championship parades, fallings out between superstars, or fashion shows, the NBA will always give you as much to talk about in the offseason as it can.

 

That being said, what was about this offseason in particular that prompted such a discussion on the intersectionality of sports and politics? To be honest, I think the average basketball fan is becoming increasingly aware of this connection due to the rate at and ease with which we see these developments. What has been particularly noticeable this offseason is the amount of political signaling going on between teams and parties. Magic Johnson, proving to be a very skilled statesmen, has executed some of the better attempts at this so far. Signaling to fans his resolve, he recently committed to stepping down as President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers if he were unable to land some big free agents this offseason or next. Signaling resolve is often used by leaders during international combat, but can be utilized in economic and diplomatic relations as well. Perhaps most similar to Magic’s case in a relevant American context, Republican Senate Candidate for Missouri Austin Petersen challenged grassroots Republican primary adversary Tony Monetti to a high stakes unofficial ballot in which the loser would resign. Both candidates initially agreed, but Monetti backed out, signaling weak resolve to his voting base while Petersen signaled strong. US Rep Maxine Waters’ call for private discrimination against members of the Trump administration and Senator Chuck Schumer’s condemnation of her remarks are also signals of resolve relevant to their respective voting bases. Magic Johnson’s recent strategic move, however, is also indicative another political phenomenon we’ve seen play out on the international stage recently. What Magic did was essentially ‘draw a line in the sand,’ as President Obama did in 2012 with his denunciation of the Assad regime in Syria. What weight these red lines actually hold in practice however, is up for debate.

Besides just the words of Magic Johnson, there have been numerous occurrences of political signaling in recent days of the NBA offseason. Perhaps the most obnoxious form of signaling is coming from Lavar Ball. When looking at the dynamics of the Kawhi Leonard situation, Lavar’s endless media stunts, self-promotion, and cold takes make perfect sense. The Spurs, a franchise notorious for flying under the radar and giving the media as limited access as possible, see Lavar as significant cost to obtaining Lonzo from the Lakers. The fact that it’s the Spurs makes that cost significantly higher than it would be for any other team as well. Knowing that the Lakers will probably have to deal Zo or Kuzma to San Antonio to grab Kawhi, Lavar is making it exponentially more difficult for that deal to happen with his son. Therefore, Lavar is setting up Lonzo, a pass-first and lanky rebounding point guard, to play with two of the greatest two-way wings of all time. A pretty brilliant move in my opinion, and one that echos Israel’s attempts to leverage as much power as they possibly can to shift the international relation strategies of the United States more in their favor.

 

The metaphors and political connections in this scenario between the Lakers, Spurs, and Lebron do not stop there obviously. You have virtue signaling, like in that horrible poem that Lakers intern wrote for softy Paul George. Commitment signaling, like in how Kyrie was absent from the Celtics bench in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals this year. I think it could even be reasonably argued that Lonzo’s diss track to Kuzma was a signal to Lebron that he was willing to part ways with his good friend to make space for him. The Lakers, evidently thought this was poorly executed, as they reprimanded the two rising sophomores for their antics, thus signaling to Lebron their capabilities. Lebron has even engaged in this signaling himself, most probably by orchestrating leaks from his camp that he doesn’t want to hear any pitches, most absurdly by wearing a hat during the finals saying “There is no magic pill.” It seems that every year, every summer, there has developed this atmosphere of circus surrounding NBA free agency. I hope that I’ve established this atmosphere is far from unprecedented or unreasonable. Applying frameworks of political science, including organizations of international systems, political signaling, and power dynamics is useful for understanding the neverending onslaught of Joel Embiid’s tweets and Stephen A.’s rants involving the NBA.

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.

JR Smith

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I didn’t watch a second of NBA Finals Game 1 basically out of protest for seeing the same matchup every year. I was playing a Sporcle quiz on my computer where I had to name every pick of the 2018 NFL Draft (like the normal person I am). All of a sudden I get a text from a buddy asking if I’m watching the game. I told him “no, why?” He gave me the situation. But it can all be summed up by just saying “JR Smith.” Here are some of the seemingly hundreds of Tweets I saw in my newsfeed.

I guess you probably want to know what happened, huh? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have seen that George Hill was at the free throw line shooting free throws with the Cavs down 1 with about 5 seconds left. He makes the first free throw to tie the game. He missed the second, though, and it gets rebounded by JR Smith. Smith, not realizing the game was tied and the Cavs did not, in fact, have the lead, tried to dribble out the remainder of the clock (about 5 seconds). He realized his mistake too late and the Cavaliers were unable to get a legitimate shot off before time expired, sending the game into OT. Here’s the play in question.

All this could’ve been avoided had George Hill just hit the free throw. Alas, JR Smith’s blunder will likely live on in infamy as the Cavs ended up losing the game 124-114 in OT despite LeBron James dropping 51 points. And quite frankly, if you were to tell me that a mental lapse by JR would cost the Cavs an NBA Finals game, I would’ve totally believed you. The man is very well known for being one of the more interesting personalities in the game of basketball and that’s not necessarily a compliment.

Instead of being up 1-0, the Cavs find themselves down 0-1 to the best team in the NBA all thanks to a lapse in judgment. Who’s to say the Cavs would’ve hit the shot at the end of regulation? For all we know, they could’ve missed it and it would’ve been the same outcome as Smith running out the clock. But in Smith’s case, they never got an opportunity for a shot, which is where all the “what-if’s” will be coming from.

And one last thing, I’m normally all for people giving a guy shit for a major screw up. But Smith screwed up on the biggest stage in basketball. He knows he screwed up. Don’t go pestering the man about it. He’s going to live with that the rest of his life and it may end up defining his NBA career unless he does something in this series to redeem himself. And honestly, I do feel kind of bad for the guy. I do hope he gets a chance at redemption.

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.

I’m Sick of Seeing the Same Shit Every Year

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You want to know why I don’t blog about basketball that much? Do you want to know why I blog more about random baseball games than I do about the NBA Playoffs? It’s because it’s just not worth writing about. It’s the same shit every year, it seems. There is a MAJOR parity issue in the NBA.

The Cavaliers have won the Eastern Conference for the 4th consecutive year and it’s the 8th consecutive year that the East’s representative in the Finals is led by LeBron James. Now, that’s not to say I’m salty against LeBron or saying that he should stop winning so damn much. He’s the greatest player on the planet and perhaps of all time, especially considering he’s taken this dumpster fire of a Cavs team this far (I still think his taking the 2006-07 Cavs to the Finals was more impressive. LeBron really was by himself that year. At least this year he has Kevin Love, who people often forget is a good player).

This also may come off as sour grapes considering I’m writing this shortly after my Celtics lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m well aware of that. But believe me, I blame the Celtics for that loss. They shot 29-85 (34.1%) from the field and 7-39 (17.9%) from 3. You’re just not going to win when you shoot that poorly. Defensively, they did their job. They just couldn’t get their shots to fall.

But there is literally no parity in the NBA and it’s making it hard to care about the league. Now yes, the Warriors still have to beat the Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals tonight, but come on, who really expects the Rockets to win this game, especially without Chris Paul and with James Harden in this weird stretch of shooting? I may come back to eat those words, but whatever. That would make it 4 straight years of the same matchup in the NBA Finals. FOUR!!! It’s never happened in baseball (there has never been more than 2 consecutive identical World Series matchups), it’s never happened in the NFL (they have only repeated Super Bowl matchups once: Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII where the Cowboys beat the Bills on both occasions), just now in the NBA. It never even happened in the NHL, either, and there was a time when there were just 6 fucking teams!

The NBA seems to have this issue of super teams that also plagues the United States, where most of the league’s talent is held by the top 1% of teams. But basketball seems to be the sport that is easiest for one player to take over a game. LeBron James is so good that he could probably lead this year’s Suns team to the Finals while the Golden State Warriors have the “Death Lineup” (I refuse to call them the “Hampton Five” because that’s just so much less cooler than “Death Lineup”) that is so good that head coach Steve Kerr literally took a game off, let the players do whatever they wanted, and still won by 40. The fact that a team like the Warriors can boast 4 superstar players and still somehow not face any sort of salary cap restrictions is just bonkers.

Am I saying the Warriors and Cavaliers should tone it down and let other teams catch up? Absolutely not. This is more that the other 28 teams need to step their game up because the NBA is just getting unwatchable to me. I can’t just keep watching the same NBA Finals over and over again. I can already tell you how this year’s series is going to go, too. The Warriors will win in 5 and will absolutely dominate a couple of them. LeBron will be so good in one of the games (let’s say…Game 3) that he practically wins it all by himself. However despite the fact that Steph Curry isn’t 100%, the Warriors are still able to lean on Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to take over the game and fluster the Cavs’ cast of benchwarmers to the point where LeBron actually breaks down in tears in frustration. Book it.

So what do I suggest the league do about such a thing? Well I don’t know if there’s anything they really CAN do. The Warriors drafted Curry, Thompson, and Green and the success of those three allowed them to land Durant in free agency. What are you going to do, encourage teams NOT to draft quality players when they already have some? Quite frankly, the only way I see any real change happening is if LeBron left the Cavaliers this offseason and joined a Western Conference team. That way it will become a legitimate mystery as to who will come out of the East and it won’t be an absolute cakewalk getting to the NBA Finals for the Warriors.

But something has to change in order to renew my interest in this league because quite frankly, I’m sick of it.

I apologize if I come off as testy. The Celtics’ crap shooting can do that to a man. I was actually in a really good mood before I turned that game on because I just got done watching Solo and I was actually pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the dumpster fire I was expecting it to be and I actually had fun watching it. Also, the cameo at the end has me very intrigued about the Star Wars Anthology films going forward. I’d go into more detail but this is a sports blog and Star Wars is for NERDS, not us jocks. Oh well. Am I overreacting to the NBA’s parity issue? Or is this a legitimate concern? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft: Full Recap

This is the last I’ll post of the 2018 NFL Draft, which is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and it never ceases to disappoint. With all 256 picks made, I’ve gotten a chance to scour them all and decide what I think of each team’s class, which players got screwed, which players god overdrafted, etc., etc. So let’s get to the recap.

Best Draft Class: Green Bay Packers

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The Packers had the most picks (12) going into this Draft and they made very good use of them. This class is getting bonus points for the wheeling and dealing they did. First, they acquired the Saints’ 2019 first round pick to move down, then they gave up one of their third rounders to move back up and get a cornerback in Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. Then they doubled down on corner in round 2 and got a first round talent Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who led the nation in picks last season. The secondary was such a huge need for the Packers that I don’t mind that they hit the same position multiple times, especially considering both players they got were first round-caliber prospects. Aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, that unit is garbage. I would have liked to have seen them get another safety, but if I’m a Packers fan, I’m more than happy with the corners they got. The Packers also got great value for their wide receivers in an effort to find a replacement for Jordy Nelson as they landed Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the 4th and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the 6th. Here’s every pick the Packers made.

18. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

45. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

88. Oren Burks-LB-Vanderbilt

133. J’Mon Moore-WR-Missouri

138. Cole Madison-OG-Washington State

172. JK Scott-P-Alabama

174. Marques Valdes-Scantling-WR-South Florida

207. Equanimeous St. Brown-WR-Notre Dame

232. James Looney-EDGE-California

239. Hunter Bradley-LS-Mississippi State

248. Kendall Donnerson-EDGE-Southeast Missouri State

Honorable Mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

Worst Draft Class: Oakland Raiders

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Jon Gruden’s first Draft in 10 years didn’t go great in my opinion. First, he traded down to take Kolton Miller. I liked the trade down and I like Miller, but there were far more pressing needs for the Raiders than offensive line and there were some damn good players available. There were a ton of needs on the defensive side of the ball, pretty much every position could have used a pick dedicated to it. When the Raiders took Miller, the following defenders were available: Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans, all of whom would have started immediately on that defense. Then in the second round they took a defensive tackle named PJ Hall. At first I thought it was a typo and they meant NC State’s BJ Hill and I thought to myself “it’s good they addressed DT, and I like Hill, though I think this is a little rich for him.” Turns out it wasn’t a typo and they drafted some guy named PJ Hall from Sam Houston State, a player I had never heard of. They traded up for another tackle in the third, this time North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker, a guy I think I heard of in passing but never paid much attention to. I don’t know why they needed to trade up for a tackle from NC A&T of all places, but what do I know, I’m a blogger who lives in his parents’ basement. They took Arden Key in the third round, which I thought was a good value, but he’s a guy that has struggled with drug abuse and has failed to maximize his potential and I’m not so sure the Raiders would be the best place for him, especially with the eventual move to Las Vegas. They get bonus points for landing Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, though, so that keeps this Draft from being an utter shit show. There’s talent in this class, don’t get me wrong, and I think some of the guys taken later in this class could wind up being steals, but I thought the value of a lot of these picks, especially given who else at their positions were available, was pretty poor. I can’t in good faith give this class a good grade out of the gates. Here’s the rest of the class.

15. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

57. PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State

65. Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T

87. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

110. Nick Nelson-CB-Wisconsin

140. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

173. Johnny Townsend-P-Florida

216. Azeem Victor-LB-Washington

228. Marcell Ateman-WR-Oklahoma State

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets

Best Bargain: Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan-Oakland Raiders (140th Overall)

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times during this draft process, but Hurst fell in this draft due to being diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. I expected him to fall out of the first round, but I didn’t expect him to fall all the way to the 5th. Oakland got a tremendous value with this pick. I at one point had Hurst as the 12th best player on my Big Board. His reaction to the snap is basically perfect. As soon as the center even flinches his wrist, Hurst is off. The only knocks against Hurst for me was that he was a bit undersized (which didn’t bother me so much because Aaron Donald is considered undersized) and I felt that he would often be so consumed with the guy who is trying to block him that he’s not looking in the backfield to see where the play is going. But that’s something that’s easily coachable. The Raiders got a goddamn steal with this kid, which significantly helps what was otherwise a weak class.

Honorable Mentions: Bo Scarbrough-RB-Alabama-Dallas Cowboys (236th Overall), Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida-Seattle Seahawks (141st Overall), Deshon Elliott-S-Texas-Baltimore Ravens (190th Overall), Josh Sweat-EDGE-Florida State-Philadelphia Eagles (130th Overall), Tyrell Crosby-OT-Oregon-Detroit Lions (153rd Overall)

Biggest Reach: Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh Steelers (28th Overall)

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I had 8 safeties rated ahead of Terrell Edmunds, including one that went undrafted (Quin Blanding). Yet the Steelers still made him their first round pick, 28th overall. In fact, Edmunds was so surprised he was taken by the Steelers, he was in the bathroom when they called him. He had been sitting in the green room with his brother Tremaine, who was taken 12 picks earlier by the Bills and despite not technically having been invited to the green room, he still got to hold his jersey with the commissioner and Ryan Shazier because they had the Edmunds Steelers jersey lying around for his brother. It made for a nice story, but the Steelers could’ve gotten this guy in the third, maybe even the fourth round.

Honorable Mention: PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State-Oakland Raiders (57th Overall), Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T-Oakland Raiders (65th Overall), Joseph Noteboom-OT-TCU-Los Angeles Rams (89th Overall)

Notable Undrafted Free Agents and Where They’ve Signed

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Every year there are extremely talented players that get overlooked. Here are just a few.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-WR-Indiana-Washington Redskins

JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State-Indianapolis Colts

Josh Adams-RB-Notre Dame-Philadelphia Eagles

Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana-Los Angeles Rams

Akrum Wadley-RB-Iowa-Tennessee Titans

Allen Lazard-WR-Iowa State-Jacksonville Jaguars

Chase Litton-QB-Marshall-Kansas City Chiefs

Nic Shimonek-QB-Texas Tech-Los Angeles Chargers

Kurt Benkert-QB-Virginia-Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Allen-QB-Houston-Carolina Panthers

Kevin Toliver-CB-LSU-Chicago Bears

Jeff Holland-LB-Auburn-Denver Broncos

Davin Bellamy-EDGE-Georgia-Houston Texans

Riley Ferguson-QB-Memphis-Miami Dolphins

Hercules Mata’afa-DL-Washington State-Minnesota Vikings

Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State-San Francisco 49ers

Holton Hill-CB-Texas-Minnesota Vikings

And those are just the big names that didn’t hear their name called. There were hundreds of others. But as I said in yesterday’s blog, just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean your NFL dream is dead. Not by a long shot.

The Quarterbacks That Were Taken

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Football’s most important position is definitely quarterback and there was no shortage of signal callers in this year’s class. Here’s every QB that was selected.

1. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma-Cleveland Browns

3. Sam Darnold-USC-New York Jets

7. Josh Allen-Wyoming-Buffalo Bills

10. Josh Rosen-UCLA-Arizona Cardinals

32. Lamar Jackson-Louisville-Baltimore Ravens

76. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State-Pittsburgh Steelers

108. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond-New York Giants

171. Mike White-Western Kentucky-Dallas Cowboys

199. Luke Falk-Washington State-Tennessee Titans

203. Tanner Lee-Nebraska-Jacksonville Jaguars

219. Danny Etling-LSU-New England Patriots

220. Alex McGough-FIU-Seattle Seahawks

249. Logan Woodside-Toledo-Cincinnati Bengals

Of the 13 quarterbacks, all 10 from my rankings ended up getting drafted, a first for me (last year I had 9 out of 10, UPenn’s Alek Torgersen being the lone undrafted quarterback). Of the 3 that weren’t ranked, Lee, Etling, and McGough, none of them probably would’ve cracked my “first 5 out.” Lee is the most talented of the three but his play at Nebraska was far below his talent. I’ve seen Alex McGough (pronounced “Mah-GOO”) play a couple times, since Indiana and FIU have a home-and-home series and I’ve gotta say, I don’t know what Seattle sees in him. He just looked lost every time I watched him play (which, to be fair, was only against IU, which has a pretty solid defense). The Patriots and Saints were two teams I figured would be going after a quarterback in the middle rounds as hard as anybody, but the Saints didn’t take any and the Patriots took a guy that had defenders stacking the box to stop the run because they knew he wasn’t a threat. Perhaps both teams weren’t high on this year’s class and elected to try and find their Hall of Fame quarterbacks’ successors in next year’s Draft.

Most Confusing Draft Day Decision

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The Draft Day decision that confused me more than any other was the Cowboys not electing to take a wide receiver until the third round, and even then they took a pretty raw Michael Gallup out of Colorado State. They did trade a 6th rounder to the Rams for Tavon Austin, but Austin hasn’t lived up to his 8th Overall pick billing and has been a guy that you just get creative with rather than a real threat to the defense. They also didn’t address pass rusher until the 4th round with another raw player in Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. I know they took Taco Charlton in the first round last year but pass rusher is still a big need, especially if they can’t sign DeMarcus Lawrence long-term. Overall I thought the talent the Cowboys got in the Draft was good, I just think they had their positional priorities out of whack a bit.

Secretly Genius Draft Day Decision

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A move that didn’t make sense to me at first but has really grown on me is Bill Belichick’s decision to take Georgia runningback Sony Michel with the 31st pick. I was a little taken aback by the decision at first since the Patriots had a very crowded runningback room, but then I thought some more about it. Only one of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee is going to remain on the roster as the goalline power back. James White is just the pass catcher who never gets carries. Rex Burkhead is a wildcard who is only back on a 2-year deal. The Patriots were at their best last season when Dion Lewis was torching defenses in the second half with his all-around style of play. Michel is a very similar style of player and he was the most explosive player on Georgia’s offense that was a quarter away from a National Championship. There are people who are going to complain that the Patriots should’ve addressed the defense that got torched in the Super Bowl to which I say this: they kind of already did. The Patriots’ defense was riddled with injuries last year, particularly to Dont’a Hightower and 2017’s top Draft choice Derek Rivers (who was having a nice training camp before tearing his ACL). They’ll be getting those guys back and healthy They also signed Adrian Clayborn and traded for Jason McCourty to fill the holes for the meantime while also stockpiling on picks for next year’s Draft. The defense looks to be fine and in a win-now mode while the plethora of picks for next year’s class will likely be used to re-stock as this group gets older. So no surprise, but to me, the most genius Draft Day decision comes from the mind of Bill Belichick.

Some Prospects to Keep an Eye Out For in 2019

For scouting departments, when Mr. Irrelevant is announced, they get to work on next year’s class. Here are some guys that I think will go high next year.

Ed Oliver-DL-Houston

Nick Bosa-EDGE-Ohio State

Rashan Gary-DL-Michigan

Drew Lock-QB-Missouri

Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

AJ Brown-WR-Ole Miss

Dexter Lawrence-DL-Clemson

Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

Austin Bryant-EDGE-Clemson

Just a few guys to look out for next college football season (you’ll notice a lot of defensive linemen. Next year’s class might be the best ever class for that position group).

And that’s a wrap on the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.