2018-2019 NBA Season Preview

It’s finallyyyyy here. The NBA is back! People who know me well, know that the NBA is probably the sport I follow closest. I couldn’t be more excited for tip-off. The story-lines headed into the season are tasty per usual…

  • How are LeBron and the new look Lakers going to look?
  • Is this the last run for this group of Warriors, with the impending free agency of Durant and Klay in the summer of 2019?
  • How will the Jimmy Butler saga end?
  • Are the Celtics the biggest threat to the Warriors?
  • Will Kawhi Leonard flourish with the Raptors and embrace Toronto… or is he counting down the days until he can get to LA?
  • Has Markelle Fultz fully healed from his “shoulder injury?”

I could go on and on with this list. The story-lines in the NBA never end, whether it’s the off-season, regular season, or playoffs.

Here are some predictions of mine for the upcoming season…

MVP – Anthony Davis

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Photo Credit: Sporting News

Anthony Davis is a baadddddd man. I’m not sure people around Boston realize just how good he was last year. Davis was 2nd in the league in scoring, 5th in rebounding, 1st in blocks, 15th in steals, 16th in FG percentage, and even in the top 40 in FT percentage. The guy does it all on both sides of the court. The scary thing about Davis is that I think he’s only getting better. With DeMarcus Cousins bolting for Golden State, Davis’ usage and stats should only increase. The Pelicans brought in Julius Randle to replace Cousins. He should be a good compliment to AD. Randle is one of the better passing bigs in the NBA, which should only help to benefit Davis.  While Davis is shockingly somehow already going into his 7th NBA season, let’s not forget he doesn’t even turn 26 until March. The sky is the limit for this guy. He’s becoming a better shooter every year. Last year he made a career high 55 3’s and shot a career high 34% from deep. I’ve actually seen a handful of analysts predict that New Orleans’ won’t even make the playoffs. I think Davis is on the verge of a very special season. I envision him essentially carrying the Pelicans into a 5 or 6 seed and blowing away the field for MVP.

Rookie of the Year – Deandre Ayton

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Photo credit: Yahoo Sports

Some people may not think I’m going out on a major limb here, but you may be surprised to know that Mavs rookie Luka Doncic is the odds on favorite to win ROY, according to Bovada. Collin Sexton and Wendell Carter are names that have been mentioned as dark horses. There are a lot of strong candidates, but I think Ayton will get a lot of opportunity to pad his stats in the Suns run and gun offense, under new coach Igor Kokoskov. If you didn’t watch Ayton in college, the man is a flat out beast.

His combination of size, power and athleticism are something you don’t often see in a 7 foot center. People compare him to David Robinson and Shawn Kemp, which is very high praise. Ayton should be able to adapt to the NBA rather quickly. He’ll be starting from day one and the Suns will give him every opportunity to develop throughout the season. Ayton should be a walking double-double in his rookie season and for years to come. I’m expecting him to average around 17 points a game and 10 rebounds. Should the Suns make a push to the playoffs and make it as an 8 seed, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, it should only increase his ROY chances compared to Luka, Trae Young, Sexton, etc.

Most Improved Player – Jamaal Murray

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Photo Credit: NBA

I’ve long been a fan of Jamaal Murray going back to his days at Kentucky. Murray is bound for a big season headed into his 3rd year in the NBA. He’s always had a smooth stroke from 3 point land. I think Murray will make his mark on the league this year as one of the best young shooters/scorers. Murray just turned 21 in February, so he’s still learning his way around the league. Let’s also not forget that at Kentucky he played Shooting Guard. Since being drafted by the Nuggets he’s been asked to take on Point Guard responsibilities. Anyone who plays the game of basketball knows how much of a transition that is. A lot of responsibility comes with being the floor general for a team. At this time, Murray’s defense is still leaving a lot to be desired. Should he improve on that end of the court, it would only help strengthen his case to win the award this year. If he can continue to make strides as a play-maker, combined with his shooting and scoring ability, then Murray should be one of the finalists for MIP.

6th Man of the Year – Domantas Sabonis 

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Photo credit: 8 Points 9 Seconds

The Pacers were a great story last year. Everyone destroyed them for their Paul George trade, but it turned out to be a great deal for them. They got Victor Oladipo who was an All-Star and won Most Improved Player. They also received Domantas Sabonis who I think will now go on to win 6th Man of the Year in the ’18-’19 season. Sabonis will come off the bench with Tyreke Evans (who could also be a candidate for 6th Man of the Year). Tyreke showed last year that he’s still a very valuable player. Evans and Sabonis will feed off each other to form one of the best 1-2 combos in the league, off the bench. Sabonis is a very strong player in the pick & roll and this is a major strength of Evans as well. Sabonis is also a great rebounder and an above average passer (especially for a 6’11 Power Forward/Center). He has a good feel for the game and is headed into his 3rd season in the league, which is a good time for players to begin to mature and fully breakout.

Defensive Player of the Year – Kawhi Leonard

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Photo credit: Ball is Life

I’m going to make this one simple. When healthy, Kawhi, “the Claw”, Leonard is the best defender in the NBA. People may have forgotten after his injury prone 2017-2018 season, but he will quickly refresh the memory of fans in Toronto. He’s won the award twice (2015 and 2016). Toronto ranked 7th in defensive efficiency last year. Trading Demar DeRozan for Kawhi was the only big move they made in the off-season. With the arrival of Kawhi, I expect them to jump into the top 5 this season… in large part due to Leonard. The way he changes a game on the defensive end of the floor is special. He can fill up the stat sheet with steals, blocks, and defensive rebounds. Then he can also be asked to defend a quick guard, stud wing scorer, or big man who roams around the 3 point line or can play in the post. There have not been many guys who have played in this league, who can defend just about every position on the court like Leonard.

Kawhi… how do you feel when people say Rudy Gobert or Draymond Green is the best defender in the league now?

 

NBA Finals Prediction – Celtics over Warriors

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Photo Credit: SB Nation

Last but not least… I’m predicting the most common NBA Finals match-up. But unlike most people, I think my hometown Celtics will dethrone the Warriors in a classic series. The Celtics match-up defensively with Golden State as well as anybody in the NBA. They have the athleticism and length to not get pick and rolled to death into bad-switches (which the Warriors run on a lot of teams). Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Marucs Smart and Al Horford are all very good defenders. Brown and Tatum made serious strides defensively throughout the second half of last season and playoffs. They should only improve with another year under Brad Stevens. The Celtics have as good a bench as any team in the league. Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Aaron Baynes could arguably be starting for a handful of teams around the league. I think the Celtics have a stronger bench than the Warriors.

Both teams have 2 major questions heading into the season… and they probably won’t be answered until the second half of the season. For the Celtics, will Gordon Hayward return to his All-Star form after last years injury? Brad Stevens has already said Hayward will be limited to 25-30 minutes at the start of the season. I don’t think anybody is expecting Hayward to come out guns blazing in the start of the season. Everyone knows that it’s going to take some time for him to be back to his former All-Star self, but will it take him until February or will it take him a full year?

The Warriors on the other hand signed DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins this off-season. Cousins has made 4 straight All-Star teams. The question with Cousins is never his talent or skill. Instead, it’s his work ethic and character. He’s also coming off a torn achilles and will most likely miss the first few months of the season. With Cousins we need to see first, if he’s healthy when he returns from injury and second, will he fit in well with the Warriors or will he prove to be a cancer in the locker room (like we’ve seen in years past)? A healthy and engaged Cousins will make the Warriors next to impossible to beat, but I don’t think we’re going to see both of those traits this year.

One item to keep a close eye on throughout the year is who finishes with the better record. Home court advantage is as big in the NBA as any sport. Oracle Arena (home of the Warriors) is one of the most electric home court advantages in any sport as well. If the Celtics can get to the Finals and have home court advantage in the series, it will make me feel a lot better about this prediction.

It should be another amazing year in the association. Enjoy it… and GO CELTS!!!!

 

 

Believe it or not, Now is NOT the time to completely give up on David Price

I’m probably going to catch a lot of grief for this post, and deservedly so. The man who people call the Mental Midget, the Gutless Coward, and the Worst Postseason Pitcher of all time, has done more than his share of work to earn these demeaning nicknames. He has failed in the postseason for the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, and now Red Sox, time after time. With last Saturday’s nightmare performance, his record as a starting pitcher in the post-season fell to 0-9 in 10 starts with an ERA of 6.03. His teams have lost all 10 games he has started.

It’s truly remarkable to ponder how a pitcher with his track record of success in the regular season can continue to falter every time he’s trotted out as a starting pitcher in October. Let’s focus on the immediate concern, which is Price’s role against the Astros in the ALCS. This is where people are going to call me crazy, but Price is going to need to play a very important role for the Sox to win this series.

As of right now Price is slated to start Game 2. If Sale and the Sox struggle in Game 1, you never know, they could still end up bringing Price out of the bullpen instead of trusting him in a must win Game 2. I know I sure as hell would be very skeptical if they trotted out Price to start the 2nd game of this series, after dropping Game 1. Throw out a guy who’s never won a post-season game, to try and ensure you don’t fall down 0-2 going back to Houston against the defending World Champs. Yeah, no thanks!

Last year against the Astros in the ALDS, Price pitched out of the bullpen due to an elbow injury. Price was dynamite in the series pitching 6.2 scoreless innings against the ‘Stros. As we all know, the Astros would go on to win the World Series despite Price’s dominance in that post-season series.

Price pitched very well against Houston in this year’s regular season. In June he went 6 innings against them (in Houston) with 7 Strikeouts and 3 Earned Runs allowed. Then about a month ago, at Fenway, he went 6.1 with 10 K’s and 2 Earned Runs in what was one of his best outings of the season. The bullpen would go on to blow that game for him (surprise surprise). It’s at least promising to see him have some success against the Astros, compared to his putrid career record against the Yankees. That’s one mental hurdle that he’s hopefully already over, headed into this series.

Just as important as Price’s success against Houston, the Red Sox may not be able to constantly roll Rick Porcello and Chris Sale out of the bullpen in important situations, like they did in the Yankees series. Sale is going to be called upon to start 2, maybe 3 games in this series, depending on how it trends. Porcello, may see 2 starts as well, which would limit his exposure in the bullpen.

All of this leads to the point that the Red Sox are going to need to get something out of Price in this series. As mentioned before, it appears his first shot will be as a starter in Game 2. If he fails to impress once again, I have zero doubt that he will be relegated to the bullpen moving forward. If that’s the case, he’s going to become the team’s “long reliever” out of the pen. He could be counted on to get some big outs early (or late) in games if any of the starters face trouble later on in the series.

Eduardo Rodriguez may have been made for the long reliever role had he not earned his way into the doghouse with Alex Cora. This was after his lack of effort to cover first base back in Game 2. Aaron Judge hit a ground ball to first, that should have been an out. Instead it turned into an undeserved infield single due to E-Rod’s laziness.

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, right, is safe at second after a single off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez during the seventh inning of Game 2 of a baseball American League Division Series,Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Photo Credit: MassLive

Cora called out E-Rod out after the game for his effort or lack thereof. He then had him come out to pitch the 9th inning of the Game 3 blowout against the Yanks in which the Sox were leading 16-1. This was a clear sign that Cora isn’t currently pleased with Rodriguez.

You can hate on David Price all you want. I think even he, would agree to some extent, that it’s well deserved. But at some point “every dog has their day.” At some point Price is going to go out there and win a big post-season start or come out of the bullpen and be the x-factor in a series. For all the bad things we say about him, it’s never a matter of him not caring or dogging it on the mound (like Mr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s now dogged it a few times this year). It’s a matter of him getting too stressed on the mound. It appears he almost cares too much.

Despite all the failures, the Sox need Price to step up in this series whether as a reliever or starting pitcher. He’s going to play a major role… for better or for worse, that remains to be seen. As a Red Sox fan, wouldn’t it actually be a great story if he came out in Game 2 of the ALCS and threw a gem? Then he follows it up with a strong performance later on in the series or in the World Series? Here’s to hoping David Price finds a way to finally begin to earn our respect and make us forget about his post-season struggles for the next few weeks.

GO SOX!!

 

5 Week One Fantasy Football Takeaways

  1. Dion Lewis is the RB to own in Tennessee, no matter if you’re in a PPR or standard league – This pains me to admit as a Derrick Henry owner in my 2 most competitive leagues, but Lewis is the back to own going forward. One of the reasons I was big on Derrick Henry was that I thought we’d see improvement in Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense as a whole. I know it was only one game, but this looked like the same old Titans offense. Mariota was injured and looked shaky while healthy. In the few drives they did have success, it was with Dion Lewis on the field making plays on the ground and in the passing game. Lewis is the far superior pass receiver and if the Titans fall behind in games, Derrick Henry could be rendered useless since he offers little to nothing in the passing game. Sunday was the perfect example as the Titans trailed for most of the game and Dion Lewis was in on 71% of the Titans offensive snaps, while Derrick Henry only got 29% of the backfield snaps. If the Titans offense continues to struggle, trailing in games could become a constant trend and Henry’s weekly output could be very hard to predict, while Dion Lewis will continue to hold more value.
  2. Emmanuel Sanders is a legit WR2 moving forward – Sanders was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the season. He was drafted around WR36 in many leagues, while his teammate Demaryius Thomas was drafted about 2 or 3 rounds earlier. Sanders felt like the much better value in draft season, and he delivered big time on Sunday with 10 catches for 135 yards and a TD. It was easy to forget how good Sanders was in 2014-2016, after his down 2017 season. But let’s not overlook the fact he had a pitiful combination of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch throwing to him. Case Keenum, while not an elite QB in the NFL, is a major upgrade over the previously mentioned QBs. It’s clear that Sanders is as healthy as ever and has become Keenum’s favorite target. Their schedule is very enticing the next 3 weeks with a mediocre Raiders secondary, a Ravens secondary missing their best CB Jimmy Smith, and the Chiefs who may have the worst cornerback combo in the NFL. Buy stock in Sanders now.
  3. Joe Mixon is a top 10 RB moving forward – Mixon had a very rough rookie season. He only averaged 3.5 YPC, struggled with consistency, and lacked big play explosiveness as his longest run went for only 25 yards. He came into the season at 218 lbs., down 12 lbs. from the 230 lbs. he weighed last season. It’s always good to see a RB lose weight in an effort to get faster and quicker. The results spoke for themselves on Sunday as Mixon had 149 total yards, a TD and a long run of 27 yards (the longest run in his short career). Mixon was treated as a 3 down back as he handled 22 touches to Gio Bernard’s 2 touches. He was on the field for 76% of the snaps which was the 6th most among all RBs who played this past weekend. The talent has always been there for Mixon. He would have been a 1st round pick 2 years ago had it not been for off field issues. It looks like he’s ready to cash in on his talent this season.
  4. Phillip Dorsett is a thing – Dorsett generated a lot of buzz this offseason from Patriots beat writers. It was easy to overlook if you’ve followed Dorsett over his career. Dorsett, a former first round pick has looked like a bust and a one trick pony as only a deep threat option throughout his career. We saw some glimpses of his chemistry with the GOAT Tom Brady in the 3rd preseason game, as he had 4 catches on 4 targets for 35 yards… but still it was only preseason. After Dorsett’s 7 catch (on 7 targets) 66 yard TD performance in week 1, I think it’s time to buy stock in Dorsett. Brady clearly has trust in him. He actually looked like a polished route runner as well. With Julian Edelman suspended another 3 weeks, Dorsett should have value as a WR3/flex play the next 3 weeks… and may even have value after Edelman comes back.
  5. Dalvin Cook looks healthy and ready to eat – One of the biggest questions coming into week 1 was “how healthy is Dalvin Cook?” The Vikings were very cautious with him in training camp and preseason, coming back from his torn ACL. He only had 2 carries in the preseason for 1 yard. The coaching staff was noncommittal leading up to week 1 on whether Dalvin Cook would get a full workload. All questions were put to rest this past Sunday. While Cook didn’t light the world on fire, only rushing for 40 yards on 16 carries (while adding a respectable 6 catches for 55 yards), the major takeaway was that he looked healthy and could handle a full workload. Cook had 21 touches and was on the field for 80% of the Vikings offensive snaps. Minnesota looks like they could have their best offense since the Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss days. This should lead to a lot of scoring opportunities and success for a healthy Dalvin Cook.

 

5 reasons to be excited for College Football Season

College Football season kicks off next Thursday. It’s been a long awaited 7 months since Alabama’s improbable comeback against Georgia in the National Championship Game back in January. Obviously College Football isn’t as popular in the Northeast these days with the struggles of UConn and Boston College over the last several years. While UConn is projected to have another down year, BC is a dark horse in the ACC. Many preseason polls have them slated to finish as the 4th or 5th best team in the conference. If you’re not familiar with the BC Running Back A.J. Dillon (you should be if you payed any attention to the NCAA last year), make it a point to watch him this upcoming season. He’s a sneaky Heisman candidate. Whether you’re a die-hard college football fan or not, there are plenty of reasons to get pumped for the start of a new season…

It gives you an excuse to go grab a “couple casuals” with your friends every Saturday afternoon – Is there anything better on a Saturday afternoon then meeting up with your buddies to grab a few beers and watching the SEC game of the week? Every Saturday CBS has one of the best games of the week at 3:30 and can always be used as a good excuse to go hangout and drink with your friends. “It’s a nice Fall Day, (insert bar name) has their windows open. Let’s go grab a few beers and watch #20th ranked LSU try and take down #5 ranked Georgia.”

Every single game matters – One reason we all love the NFL and especially College Football is every single game matters. In the NFL you only get 16 games, but if you start out 0-1 or 0-2, by no means is your season over. The same can’t be said for College Football. If your favorite team loses a game in the early stages of the season, you better win out to have ANY chance of making the Playoff. The stakes are so high, week in and week out, during College Football season. Your favorite team’s national title chances can end with the blink of an eye, if they struggle and lose a game or two early on.

The Rivalries – As much as I love pro sports and a good rivalry like the Celtics vs. Lakers, Red Sox vs. Yankees or the Bruins vs the Canadians, there’s nothing quite like watching an Alabama vs. Auburn or Michigan vs. Ohio State game. These games deliver year in and year out. You can feel the emotion in the players, coaching staffs, and fans, when watching live on TV. With these power programs, there’s always SO much on the line as well. Conference championships, undefeated seasons, and chances to go to the National Championship game. The finishes never cease to amaze us, despite the fact some of these rivalries go back all the way to the late 1800s. Just when you think you’ve seen it all… some new crazy finish blows your mind. My favorite ending is still the end of the 2013 Iron Bowl…

It gives us something to bet on every Saturday afternoon – As great as an awesome Saturday summer day or spring day is, at some point people around the nation need their fix… and for many people that means getting in on some College Football action on Saturday. Whether you’re a die-hard or casual, everyone loves jumping in on the SEC game of the week or ESPN Primetime game to make their day a little more interesting. “Dude Bama is bound to regress soon… 17 point favorites against a ranked Texas A&M team… no way they’re covering that”… 3 hours later… “Oh wow Bama’s up 42-7. Am I ever going to learn my lesson to stop betting against them!?”

You can throw on the shirt of any team you want to support that Saturday. Show up to the bar where all of the alumni watches the games in the area and everyone in the bar will love you. – Alright, so I’m sure this wasn’t one people were expecting to see but hear me out… if you went to a good sports school in college, you know the pride and passion you have for your team. Whether it’s College Basketball or Football, if your alma matter has a big game you want to be watching it in a place with other fans who are locked in on that TV until the game is finished. I may have done this a few times last year with a certain ACC team. I mean it when I say it was 2 of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in Boston. I was pumping up the crowd in the bar on big plays. They put on the fight songs during commercials and muted the TVs to get the crowd fired up. The place goes wild anytime their team scores and you feel like you’re part of the college football atmosphere that we often miss here in the Northeast. I highly suggest it if you want to change up your Saturday once in awhile, meet some new people, and get a unique experience in whatever city you’re in.

Tiger Woods is BACK!

As a die-hard PGA Tour fan I’ve reserved judgement on Tiger Woods the last 8 months. I didn’t want to come out and say he’s back after his T23 in his first official tournament on tour in January. This was just months after his latest back surgery. I didn’t want to declare him for dead when just a few weeks later in his second tournament back, he missed the cut at the Genesis Open. He looked like he would never be able hit a driver straight again after the Genesis.

Those emotions have continued to run up and down over the last several months, from a second place finish at the Valspar in March and a Sunday charge at The Open last month, to a missed cut at the U.S. Open in June.

Everyone wants Tiger to win again. It would be an amazing story. A man who was once declared as the best golfer to ever live. A man who went through marriage issues like almost 50% of the country these days. A man who’s had four back surgeries over the last 5 years. A single man who can captivate an entire golf audience by himself despite competing against 155 other golfers. The story of seeing him win another major or even golf tournament would be one of the best sports dramas of all-time.

As someone who follows the PGA Tour religiously, of course I’ve wanted to see Tiger succeed again. Golf is an amazing sport, and anyone who plays it knows how difficult it can be. To see these professionals drive the ball 300 yards or hit 60 foot bunkers shots within 5 feet of the hole is jaw dropping. But let’s be honest, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the tour, the casual golf fan couldn’t give a damn about some random tournament in March or a major if Tiger’s not competing.

Everything came full circle on Sunday afternoon at the 4th and final major of the year. Tiger gave sports fans around the world one wild ride. Woods came into the day 4 strokes behind the leader and the eventual PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepeka. The big cat (Woods) gave fans around the world many ups.. and a few downs. He launched monster drives. He showcased his world-class short game around the greens. He reminded everyone how clutch he can be with his putter, and most impressively for me he reminded everyone that when in contention to win a major nobody is more passionate and hungry to win than Tiger himself.

Woods went on to shoot a 64 and finish the tournament at -14 in 2nd place. This was his best ever score at a major in a losing effort. Think about that for a second. A man who’s won 14 majors, 79 times on the PGA tour, had 4 back surgeries over the last 5 years, hasn’t won a golf tournament for 5 years, and hasn’t won a major championship in over 10 years went out and had one of the best final rounds of his major championship career today.

Let’s be honest… as great as Koepka’s final round was, the 2018 PGA Championship will be remembered for Tiger Woods’ exhilarating run at his 15th major victory. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve wanted Tiger to “be back” as much as anybody. I was almost ready to declare him back after his run at The Open Championship a few weeks ago but couldn’t go all in yet. After today, I’m officially all in. When you watch moments like this…

and when you have an entire bar of random people in Boston clapping and going wild when Tiger hits a birdie putt, you can’t resist the urge and truth any longer. Tiger Woods the man who finished 2nd at the final major of the year today is officially back and here to stay. I’ve waited a long time to say that… but I can finally say it with certainty… and oh boy does it feel good!

It may be 238 days away, but I’m already counting down the days until Tiger gets his next chance in a major at the Masters next April. In the meantime let’s see if he can win one of his final 3 or 4 tournaments of the year coming up. Oh and let’s not forget to watch him lead the U.S. to a victory over Europe at the Ryder Cup in a month and a half!

GO TIGER!!!!!!!!!

Fantasy Football Sleepers and Busts from each AFC Division

The NFL season is a little more than a month away. Many fantasy football drafts will be taking place in the next month, which means it’s time to start thinking about what sleepers to snag in the later rounds and which busts to avoid in the earlier rounds. I’m going to give one bust and one sleeper in each AFC division to help you get thinking about your upcoming draft. Hopefully members of my own fantasy leagues don’t read this, so they’re unable to gain the competitive edge.

AFC East

Kenny Stills

Photo Credit: RotoViz

Sleeper: Kenny Stills, WR Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins traded Jarvis Laundry this past off-season. Laundry was 4th in the NFL with 160 targets. Someone will have to absorb some of those targets. While the Dolphins brought in Albert Wilson from the Chiefs to help replace Laundry, I still think Kenny Stills will be the WR to own in Miami this year. Devante Parker has proved time and time again that he can’t stay healthy. Meanwhile, Stills showed some chemistry with Ryan Tannehill a few years ago in his 2nd season with the Dolphins. Another year with Tannehill, combined with the fact that the Dolphins will need someone to step up as their number one wideout, could mean a big year is in store for Stills.

Bust: Julian Edelman, WR New England Patriots

This one hurts to write as a Patriots fans, but I’m not one to be biased. Edelman is a 32 year old WR headed into his 10th NFL season (kind of crazy to think he’s played for that long), coming off a torn ACL, and will be serving a 4 game suspension to start the season for using PEDs. Not only do you have to worry about a drop-off with his age, but you also have to worry about his PED bust impacting his play on the field. I’d much rather take Chris Hogan who is going at the beginning of the 6th round in many drafts compared to Julian who’s going in the mid-to late 7th round.

AFC North

Sleeper: James Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers

James Washington will be going into his rookie year for the Steelers. Washington won the award for the best WR in College Football last year… the man can play. His combine left a little to be desired but if the Steelers have proved anything over the last several years, they know how to draft wideouts. How about the list of the guys they’ve taken… Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Martavis Bryant, and Ju-Ju Smith Schuster. None of these aforementioned players were 1st round picks… and the same is true of Washington. If there’s a significant injury to Antonio Brown, Ju-Ju… or even Lev Bell, be ready to pounce on Washington on waivers…and I don’t mind taking a stab on him late in drafts as well.

Alex Collins.jpg

Photo Credit: USA Today

Bust: Alex Collins, RB Baltimore Ravens

There’s no denying that Alex Collins had a very strong 2nd half of the season last year. The Ravens didn’t bring in any major backfield free agents or draft picks to compete with him for snaps this upcoming season. He’s backed up by Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon. The red flags for me with Collins are his fumbling issues, shortcomings as a pass catcher, and the fact he’s always been replacement level talent until this past season. Collins had 4 fumbles in 16 games last year. That won’t fly again in 2018. He’s also not a strong pass catcher. In the end Collins stats are a little inflated by his first 3 games last year when he averaged 6 YPC, 9 YPC, and 9 YPC, as a rotational RB. Take those 3 games out and he only averaged over 4 YPC in 5 of his last 13 games. He’s never been the most explosive guy, going back to his days at Arkansas and I expect someone else (whether on the team or via FA/Trade) to be the most valuable Ravens RB by season end.

AFC West

Sleeper: Patrick Mahomes, QB Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes is without question my favorite sleeper at QB. Alex Smith had led the Chiefs to the playoffs in 4 of his 5 seasons with the franchise… yet the team couldn’t had been more ready to move on from him. It’s all because of the potential greatness they see out of Mahomes. When I hear Louis Riddick (a man I consider to be the best NFL Analyst at ESPN) say of Mahomes, “I think he’s going to absolutely set the league on fire next year. I think Andy Reid is on to something down there in Kansas City”, I put a lot of stock into it. Mahomes has the arm, the swagger, the confidence of his franchise and weapons in Tyreek Hill, Sammi Watkins, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt, to have a big year in KC and be a top 5 Fantasy QB. Mahomes is currently going around the 10th round.

Royce Freeman

Photo Credit: ProFootballTalk

Bust: Denver Broncos backfield

Every year in fantasy, there are a few backfields that are an absolute mess for fantasy owners. The Denver Broncos are headed in that direction. Right now Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman, De’Angelo Henderson, and Phillip Lindsay have all received first-team reps. Of course there’s glowing reports about each guy from beat writers around Denver. While 2 or 3 of them will probably pull away from the pack as the backs to draft/own, I have a feeling it will be tough to gauge which guy to start on a week-to-week basis. On top of that Denver had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL least year. While they did add veteran LT Jared Veldheer to help stabilize their issues, how the unit will mesh is still a major question mark heading into the season. 3rd round rookie RB Royce Freeman is currently going around the mid 5th round in many drafts. I would definitely let someone else grab him and take a stab on Booker in the 11th or Henderson who goes undrafted, if drafting any of them.

AFC South

Dont'a foreman

Photo Credit: ESPN

Sleeper: D’Onta Foreman, RB Houston Texans

This is a risky prediction because there’s still an outside chance he could start the year on PUP due to his torn Achilles back in Week 11 of last year. If Foreman comes back healthy, I think he will take over the starting RB position from a mediocre Lamar Miller. Foreman was pushing Miller for touches before his season-ending injury last year. Miller is coming off a down season in which he averaged only 3.6 YPC. Anyone who watched the Texans last year saw that Foreman looked like the much more explosive player. Let’s not forget the Texans drafted Foreman in the 3rd round just 2 years ago as well. They clearly believe in his talent… as do I. I expect his average draft position which is around the 10th round to drop a little since he hasn’t taken the practice field yet. I for one will be targeting him in drafts.

Bust: Dion Lewis, RB Tennessee Titans

Let me preface this by saying Dion Lewis was one of my favorite Patriots over the last few seasons. I think he can still be a very valuable member of the Titans offense, but he has never been the most durable RB. He’s currently going around the 6th round in drafts, which is far too early in my eyes. Lewis was used as a bellcow by the Pats towards the end of last season. While he did a phenomenal job, I’m worried that it may catch up to him this season and injuries may occur again. I am also a huge believer in Derrick Henry and I think it’ll be difficult for the Titans to keep him off the field.

 

Be on the lookout for my NFC sleepers and busts preview in the next few weeks!

LeBron James to the Celtics? Could it happen? Do Celtics fans want The King?

I’ve said it before in past blogs and I constantly talk about it among my peers, LeBron James is the most tantalizing athlete of my generation. People either love him or hate him. People criticize him for how he wins, how he loses, biting his finger nails, and at every available opportunity.

As we closed the books on the NBA Season last Friday, with the Warriors sweep of the LeBron Cav… I mean Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA/Sports world immediately began to speculate where LeBron will land this coming off-season.  He will most likely head into free agency pending a $35 million player-opt out. Players on Twitter like Dejounte Murray of the Spurs and Enes Kanter of the New York Knicks have already began to make their push for LeBron to sign with their teams…

LeBron Spurs

LeBron Knicks

After all, who can blame these guys, who wouldn’t want LBJ? He’s still the best player in the world, best player of our generation, and better than Michael Jordan in some people’s opinions.

Boston sports media began buzzing last Wednesday when Stephen A. Smith of ESPN and a highly plugged in NBA personality, went on air and said LeBron will talk with the Boston Celtics this off-season regarding his free agency.

Now let’s set the record straight, the odds of LeBron coming to Boston right now are not very likely. Most sports books have the Celtics anywhere from 10-1 to 20-1. The Lakers are the favorite at this point to sign The King. The Celtics would have to jump through many hoops (no pun intended) to be able to sign him. First and most importantly is the relationship Bron’ and Kyrie Irving have.

Many people think Kyrie requested a trade out of Cleveland to get out of LeBron’s shadow. People believed that their marriage had taken a toll on each other. Other people, close to the situation, have said their relationship was not as bad as people think, and that Kyrie instead was sick of the Cavs organization.

For arguments sake, lets assume that Kyrie wanted out of Cleveland because he was sick of playing with LBJ. You’d have to believe that if LeBron came to Boston, that Kyrie would have to go… and at the very least Gordon Hayward and others, like Marcus Morris, would have to go in order to make the salary cap work.

Would sacrificing the 25 year old Kyrie Irving via trade for a 33 year old LeBron James be worth it? For me, it comes down to what a Kyrie trade could net you. If Kyrie could land you a guy like a Karl-Anthony Towns (22 years old), Damian Lillard (27 years old) or Kawhi Leonard (26 years old) then as much as it pains me to say it, I would give up Kyrie and bring LeBron on board. But if you have to give up Hayward to the Cavs in a sign and trade for LeBron (to make the salaries work for the Celtics), and then trade Kyrie because he doesn’t want to play with LeBron again and only get a kings ransom of draft picks, then as much as I love LeBron, I would have to be out on trying to sign him.

Now, putting all the salary cap and player relationships aside, the other simple question is, do Celtics fans even want LeBron to come play in Boston? Numerous shirts have been made in Boston over the years like … “LeBron’s a douche,” and “LeBron’s a bitch.”

I have plenty of friends who dislike LeBron and are always eager to chirp me when he has a bad game or loses in the NBA Finals. I love when they come at me saying “Michael Jordan would never get swept in the NBA Finals!” Some of them are already on record saying they wouldn’t want the Celtics to sign him because they don’t want to root for him.  I even put a poll up on Instagram today asking if Celtics fans would want him. Out of 70 votes, 69% of voters said they wouldn’t want him, while 31% said they would be in favor of LeBron coming to the Celts.

For me if all things were equal… of course I would want the privilege of being able to consistently watch one of the best NBA Players we’ve ever seen night in and night out. The idea of being able to go watch him play in person at the TD Garden, a handful of times throughout the year, is very exciting.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I consider myself very fortunate to have witnessed the achievements and greatness LeBron has provided over the last 15 years. I always tell my friends and the haters, “respect the greatness… because you may never get to see something like it again in our lifetime.”

As much as I want him to sign with the Celtics because of how great I think he is and how amazing I think the buzz around Boston would be with him coming here, I also just want him here to laugh in my friends and Celtics fans faces come next spring, when he would lead us to a guaranteed NBA Finals appearance and possible championship over the Warriors. I am sure that at that point all the “haters” would be bowing down to LeBron talking about how great he is and pulling a 180 saying how smart Danny Ainge was to get him here.

The last point I want to touch on is why it makes sense for LeBron to want to play for Boston. If he’s still concerned with winning championships, improving his legacy, and taking down the Warriors, who have beat him in 3 of the last 4 NBA Finals, then for pure basketball reasons Boston makes the most sense for him to win.

Jalen Rose of ESPN and former NBA Player went on record Monday morning saying “LeBron can only win a title with the Celtics or Warriors next year.” I’m not going to even consider the second half of his statement in regards to the Warriors… but coming to the Celtics makes all the sense in the world. He gets to play with 2 young guns that took the NBA by storm in the postseason, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Both have young fresh legs and can help take the burden off him defensively and offensively during the regular season. He also gets to play with some kind of mix of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, or Kawhi Leonard/Karl-Anthony Towns. All of the aforementioned guys have proven their worth in the league as a mix of All-Stars, All NBA Players, and All NBA Defensive players.

If LeBron is more concerned with starting to settle down in his career and play in nice weather while continuing to grow his brand, then somewhere like LA or Miami may make more sense, but he won’t be winning any rings there compared to the chances he would have with Boston over the next few seasons.

Buckle up Celtics fans and NBA fans because the next month or so in the NBA is going to be wild as the draft and #WhereWillLeBronGo story-lines begin to unfold.