Predicting the Opening Day Starters for LeBron’s Lakers

After a wild start to the free agency period, the Los Angeles Lakers do not look like they will be making any other major roster adjustments heading into next season. General Manager Rob Pelinka publicly stated that besides LeBron James, all other starting positions are going to be competed for. The Lakers have an interesting collection of players on their roster, which of those guys will start alongside LeBron at the start of the season?LeBron-Lonzo.jpg

Point Guard: Lonzo Ball – Ball is the Lakers’ reigning starting point guard, but after the signing of Rajon Rondo, it isn’t a given he gets to remain in that position. Ball probably gets the nod; he was the second overall pick just a year ago and he played well last season. Ball has shown more potential as a shooter than Rondo, an important skill for a point guard on a team where LeBron will have the ball in his hands a lot. Rondo will probably get a lot of playing time, but that should be minutes off of the bench.

Shooting Guard: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – After having a weird season for the Lakers last year, KCP is back on another one year deal and is the presumed starter. Josh Hart is entering his second year and should make this a tough competition. Hart and KCP will probably play together for stretches because Hart has the size to play some at forward. Lance Stephenson is another guy who will get minutes, playing the two and the three. Stephenson brings toughness and a little bit of crazy to this Lakers’ roster.

Forward: Brandon Ingram – The crown jewel of the Lakers’ young talent. Ingram is a young scorer who has not yet grown into their body. After averaging 16 points last season, people will be expecting him to make a jump with another year under his belt and playing with LeBron. Kyle Kuzma will also have an impact at the forward spot. The second year player will provide spacing next to LeBron. Stephenson and Hart will also get some run here.

Forward: LeBron James – The only given on the roster.

Center: Javale McGee – Man, this is kind of scary. The Lakers let Brook Lopez go so that they could start McGee at center? McGee tried to change his reputation with the Warriors, but he just should not be a starting center. For whatever reason, the Lakers front office decided that McGee is the guy they want, and he better be. The Lakers’ depth at center is completely nonexistent. Don’t be surprised if halfway through the season the Lakers make a move for a center.

A starting lineup of Ball-KCP-Ingram-LeBron-McGee isn’t particularly exciting. Is this starting lineup better than the one LeBron play on during the NBA Finals? I don’t know. In Vegas, the Lakers have the second best odds to win the NBA title. Don’t buy into that hype. As it stands now, it is hard to imagine the Lakers finishing higher than fourth in the Western Conference.

 

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Five Takeaways From the 2018 World Cup

I’ve never been a soccer. I always thought it was boring, much too slowly paced for my attention span. However, over the past month I watched a significant amount of the World Cup. I had dabbled in watching previous World Cups, but this year’s version caught my attention. Here are five takeaways from the 2018 World Cup from a soccer novice.

  1. Kylian Mbappe is the most exciting player in the world: Before watching the World Cup, I had never heard of Mbappe. He’s a 19 year old phenom who scored 4 goals for France this tournament. I thought perhaps I would get caught up in the greatness of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but the teenager from France captured my attention more than either of him. He was fast with the ball, had moves that would juke defenders out of his shoes, and always seemed to be pushing France further into enemy territory. Oh yeah, and he was the second teenager to ever score a goal in the World Cup Final, putting him in an exclusive club with Pele. Mbappe is an incredibly fun player to watch, and it will fun to see how he grows.Kylian-Mbappe-716600
  2. The U.S. missing the Cup probably enhanced my enjoyment: The odds of me consuming this much of the World Cup with the U.S. national team making the tournament would be significantly lowered. While I would have watched the U.S. games intently, I doubt I would have become invested in any of the other games. The U.S. missing the World Cup allowed me to focus on other teams and other games. I consumed the World Cup as someone with no rooting interest, and it was great.
  3. Soccer is more physical than I thought: Soccer has a bad reputation for players’ exaggerating physical contact and flopping. While there is definitely plenty of players who will flop like a fish out of water when anyone touches them (looking at you, Neymar), players are allowed to be more physical than I thought. There’s plenty of jersey grabbing and pulling and slide tackles. I was shocked at the amount of contact that occurred without penalty. The floppers are annoying, and really give the rest of the sport a bad name.
  4. Fortnite celebrations are lame: France’s Antoine Griezmann won man of the match in France’s World Cup Final victory, but his goal celebrations get a thumbs down from me. On two separate occasions, Griezmann put an “L” on his forehead and danced around, mimicking an emote from the game Fortnite. The dance just looks incredibly stupid, and on top of that it seems awfully disrespectful. I’m not one to bash sports celebrations, but this is one that I wouldn’t mind being retired. antoine-griezmann-france_uv3rpypdt2ip1suxcovb6re54.jpg
  5. I’m ready for more: The 2018 World Cup was a lot of fun, and made me become a fan of soccer. While I probably won’t consistently watch the MLS, or start watching foreign leagues, I am much more open to the sport. Next time I’m bored, I might flip on a MLS match over watching Rocky IV for the millionth time. Between the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, I think I watched one soccer game. I fully expect that number to be exceeded just by the end of the year.

Geico Scores Big With World Cup Advertisement

TV Ratings for the 2018 World Cup in the United States are down 44% from 2014, but things aren’t all bad. Geico’s World Cup commercial, titled “Longest Goal Celebration Ever” is funny and a great example of what advertisement should be. The commercial shows a player scoring a goal and then celebrating with the classic slide. However, this player’s slide defeats friction and gravity and he ends up sliding for the duration of the commercial, maneuvering across the whole field on his knees.

There are a few reasons I like this commercial so much. First, it is funny, and there are not many advertisements that are legitimately amusing. Next, it is timely and extra-relevant due to the World Cup. And finally, realizes branding isn’t solely a visual thing. Sure, they do show the Geico website for exactly three seconds, and the player knocks down the “C” in Geico, but the emphasis of the commercial is not on a green lizard or any logo. Geico made an entertaining, timely, and smart advertisement that trusted viewers would be able to identify the makers of the ad without too much in-your-face branding. It’s short, sweet, and a big score for Geico.

3Double Mock Draft 2.0

  1. Phoenix Suns – DeAndre Ayton
  2. Sacramento Kings – Luka Doncic
  3. Atlanta Hawks – Jaren Jackson Jr.
  4. Memphis Grizzlies – Marvin Bagley
  5. Dallas Mavericks – Mo Bamba
  6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young
  7. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr. 
  8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Michael Porter Jr.
  9. New York Knicks – Mikal Bridges
  10. Philadelphia 76ers – Miles Bridges
  11. Charlotte Hornets – Kevin Knox
  12. Los Angeles Clippers – Collin Sexton
  13. Los Angeles Clippers – Robert Williams 
  14. Denver Nuggets – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  15. Washington Wizards – Lonnie Walker IV
  16. Phoenix Suns – Keita Bates-Diop
  17. Milwaukee Bucks – Zhaire Smith
  18. San Antonio Spurs – Troy Brown
  19. Atlanta Hawks – Jacob Evans
  20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Khyri Thomas
  21. Utah Jazz – Kevin Huerter
  22. Chicago Bulls – Chandler Hutchinson
  23. Indiana Pacers – Elie Okobo
  24. Portland Trailblazers – Josh Okogie
  25. Los Angeles Lakers – Mitchell Robinson
  26. Philadelphia 76ers – Dzanan Musa
  27. Boston Celtics – De’Anthony Melton
  28. Golden State Warriors – Melvin Frazier
  29. Brooklyn Nets – Donte DiVincenzo
  30. Atlanta Hawks – Anfernee Simons

 

Notes:

  • Here is a link to the lottery portion of the first mock draft, and here is a link to picks 15-30.
  • Ayton has been bumped up to the first pick. After working out with the Suns, Ayton said he wasn’t going to work out for other teams and that “I know I’m going number one.” It seems pretty clear that Ayton will be the top pick.
  • I don’t know what to do with Michael Porter Jr. because of his medical issues. I think there’s a good chance that Chicago picks him at 7, but ESPN had a mock where he fell out of the lottery. He’s a huge question mark.
  • I think Kevin Knox is going to go a little higher than expected. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Sixers took him at 10.
  • After not being in the first mock, Huerter, Okobo, Okogie, and Frazier are new additions.
  • The players that fell out of the mock include Aaron Holiday, Jalen Brunson, and Gary Trent Jr. It is also worth noting that Jontay Porter withdrew from the draft so he is also not in this mock.

A Look At Promotional Giveaways in the MLB

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Promotional giveaways are common in sports, especially in the MLB. Baseball teams are especially prone to promotional giveaways because of the long season (81 home games). Franchises turn to giveaways to increase attendance and excitement surrounding a team. It’s a win-win: fans get something for free and the team sees an increase in attendance, buzz, and goodwill.

Bobbleheads are one of the most common giveaways in sports. Usually, a bobblehead is simply a figurine of a current player, but teams are starting to get more and more creative. Some teams have embraced pop culture and mixed it with bobbleheads. For example, on May 4 the New York Yankees gave away a bobblehead of Aaron Judge dressed as a Jedi for Star Wars Day. In July, the Pittsburgh Pirates are giving out an Incredible Hulk bobblehead. Teams are also experimenting with new types of bobbleheads, earlier this season the Arizona Diamondbacks gave out a bobblehead that plays audio of Diamondbacks’ radio call from last postseason. The Minnesota Twins are putting out three separate bobbleheads of their outfielders that all can stand on their own, but with all three you can put them together to form a miniature outfield. Judge-jedi.jpg

But it isn’t just bobbleheads that teams are giving away. MLB teams are giving away all kinds of stuff. From hollowed out bats, to foam fingers, to rally towels, to hats, to… beard growing plants? The Red Sox gave away a statue of Craig Kimbrel where plants grow to form him beard. It’s like a sports version of a Chia Pet. The Miami Marlins are giving out pool floaties. The Seattle Mariners are giving out wine-stopper with Robinson Cano atop of it. In the world of baseball giveaways, things get a little weird.

‘Tis the season for free stuff at your local ballpark. It’s worth noting that minor league baseball teams also have promotional giveaways that are worth checking out. So go checkout a game and come back with a pennant, bobblehead, or maybe even a nutcracker.

The Timberwolves’ Twitter Account Roasts Bryan Colangelo

Late last night, The Ringer posted a great article investigating five Twitter accounts which appeared to be operated by Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Bryan Colangelo. Colangelo has claimed responsibility for one of the accounts, but has denied using the other four. However, all five accounts share some interesting similarities. The accounts defended some of Colangelo’s moves, criticized 76ers’ players and coaches, and telegraphed some of the team’s strategy. If you haven’t done so, I highly recommend you read the article by Ben Detrick for more information.

The article has sent NBA Twitter into a frenzy, and rightfully so. Even current players on the 76ers like Joel Embiid tweeted about it. But the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Twitter account had an excellent tweet regarding the matter this morning. The tweet was a video of a Twitter login that showed the Timberwolves account and a burner account, and the burner account gets deleted. It’s a hilarious jab at the 76ers and Colangelo. Ironically, much like the account in the video, the tweet was also deleted. Luckily though, a user on Reddit that goes by the username SomaliRection posted a screen capture of the Tweet.

There are still a lot of unknowns in the Colangelo-Twitter kerfuffle, and the 76ers have announced their own investigation into these accounts. However it plays out, whoever runs the Wolves’ Twitter account deserves some congratulating on a hilarious tweet.

A Tale of Two Series: The NBA and NHL Finals Are Strikingly Different

After two marathon playoff seasons, the NBA and NHL playoffs are both down to the final series. On one side of the coin the Golden State Warriors face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive NBA Finals. On the other side, the Washington Capitals are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1998, and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are the first NHL expansion team to make the Finals since 1968. The matchups in the NBA and NHL final series couldn’t get much different.

It’s hard not to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James. This is his eight consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It’s an amazing accomplishment. And no one can downplay how dominant the Warriors have been the past four seasons. But here we are, two impressive teams about to face off for the fourth straight year, and it is hard to get excited about it. Maybe because it is a forgone conclusion that the Warriors will send the Cavs packing in a short series. The Cavaliers are one of the biggest underdogs in NBA Finals’ history. Regardless, the fourth successive matchup between these two teams just feels anticlimactic. LeBron2.jpg

Skating on to the Stanley Cup Finals, there are all kinds of story lines. First, how about the fact that there is an expansion team in the final series? It may seem unfair to long suffering fanbases, and maybe the NHL expansion draft rules need changing, but this is an incredible story. This is a collection of rookies and guys not protected by their former teams, the fact that they have made it this far is amazing. Meanwhile, the Capitals are back in the chase for the championship after their last appearance 20 years ago. The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup. Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest players of all time, and the only multi-time MVP not to win the Stanley Cup. The list of intriguing topics in the Stanley Cup Finals goes on and on. knights

So here we are, two final series that could not be more different. The Cavaliers-Warriors IV is like Shrek Forever After: the first two series/films were great and then followed by a dud. Watching the fourth installment seems more like a chore than a pleasurable experience. On the other hand, Capitals-Knights is like Baby Driver: a new, exciting series/film that is bursting with energy. Even though my love for basketball is exponentially higher than my feelings toward hockey, the Stanley Cup Finals has me more excited than the NBA Finals for the first time ever.