2019-20 NBA Finals Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

The NBA bubble is soon to come to an end, and what a success it has been, and what a thrilling and unexpected Finals we are set to have. A Miami Heat team that is the third team in NBA history to be a 5-seed or lower to make an NBA Finals, against a Los Angeles Lakers team led by former Heat player, LeBron James, who is star-studded and back in their first NBA Finals since 2010. So much is at stake for both franchises, with Miami able to get their 4th ring and have this team be the greatest underdog story in NBA history, and LeBron James on his quest for being the Greatest of All-Time and winning his 4th ring. Here are our predictions for who wins this highly-anticipated NBA Finals:

Saransh’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Heat fan myself, this is beyond my wildest expectations for this season. Early in the regular season, Miami was the 2-seed, but then post-All Star Game hit, and the team started reeling, and I had lost my hope of anything crazy, like an NBA Finals appearance, happening. But then the bubble came around and they unlocked a potential the basketball world was not ready for. An excellent run to end the regular season, and then a sweep of the overhyped ‘MJ Warren’ and the Pacers led us to Milwaukee, whom all season I said Miami would beat, and I did not miss on that one. That being said, I thought our series against Milwaukee would be longer and more physical, resulting in Boston beating us there, but that was not the case at all, and Miami was able to tough it out against Boston in 6 games. Anyways, enough about my internal happiness and joy over us making the NBA Finals, now to the series. 

So Miami started off the season hot, but in the end, got themselves to a position even better than that. This next test against the Lakers is a beast like no other. As amazing as Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson have been, as well as veterans Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, this is something they have not experienced, but they will have a former Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala to help them out with that. Him, along with Butler, will have the duties of guarding LeBron James and trying to slow him down, which I do not see happening. The Heat’s zone defense, however, could cause lots of problems and make the Lakers one-dimensional, meaning the support cast of shooters has to knock down their shots, as coach Eric Spoelstra will flex his forward thinking on this one. The backcourt of Miami, with Herro, Robinson, and Dragic, are going to feast offensively, against Alex Caruso and Danny Green, so one of those guys offensively has to be consistent every game in order for the Lakers to take commanding control of this series. The way that Caruso has been playing offensively with running the offense, he just needs to keep being aggressive as a ball-handler and floor general in order to keep the Lakers over the hump of Miami.

Matchup-wise, the Lakers would have preferred Boston. They could have played with a bigger lineup against guys like Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum, and forced Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to be the guys that beat them. This Heat squad makes it much more difficult, as despite their lack of size, they rebound much better than Boston (case in point, Bam Adebayo and Jae Crowder), they have so many different players who can take over a game and keep it close, and they are going to cause headaches at times for the Lakers. At the end of the day, Miami has all the matchups and depth they need, and Bam could do just enough to slow down Davis, but there is simply no one who can stop LeBron James. As great as Butler and Iguodala are at defending him, to see a guy at age 37 dropping 30-point triple-doubles casually might be the scariest sight in NBA history. That alone, along with the impact of having another superstar in Anthony Davis will prove too much for this great, young, and electric Heat team. Lucky for them, and lucky for me, there is going to be lots of success to cheer about coming in the future, and even with a more competitive league next year (with teams like the Nets, Wizards, and Warriors getting fully healthy), Miami is in prime position to make another title run next season. As much as I love my Heat, I can never go against LeBron and the better Lakers team (which, while it is a superteam, it is a balanced one, not like the Warriors of years past). This will go down as one of the most unexpected title runs in history for the Heat, but they will fall just short to an opponent that is simply better than them. 

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Anish’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As the Lakers and Heat meet in the NBA Finals I can say I was only surprised about the Heat, very surprised. I confidently had the Lakers and Celtics as my finals prediction but the Heat took the East by surprise and absolutely dominated as a team. Different players would go off different nights, as much as we’d call this “Jimmy Butler’s team” stat wise it was very balanced. The Heat have an incredibly deep roster where guys like Tyler Herro can come off the bench and drop 37! It’ll be exciting to watch this matchup, however I think the Lakers are clearly the favorite to win. It appears to be just another NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James as fans/haters are already getting to pull out LeBron’s finals record at the end of this. The LeBron slander has completely changed as now the West is being appeared as the “weaker” conference compared to the battles in the East. The hate towards LeBron James as a basketball fan is just laughable. I see LeBron dominating in this series, but when necessary he will take a step back to Anthony Davis. Regardless, the Lakers will win this series because they have the star power and are far more experience playoff wise. Miami is a great young team who just had an incredible run, however it’s no match for an experienced LeBron James led Lakers.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Nikhil’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Wizards fan, it’s somewhat heartwarming to see a comparatively mediocre team like the Miami Heat make the NBA finals. By all means, the Heat are in no way, shape, or form lackluster in any respect, but the fact that they had to earn the respect of the league first, and then had to defy all expectations kind of shows how much of an uphill climb this roster had to make. In this respect, I’ve morphed into a Heat fan ever since the beginning of these weird and extenuating circumstances. The Heat have broken the stereotype of two all-stars per team and have managed to spread the wealth among their entire roster, spearheading this approach with the play of the totally deserving de facto leader of their squad, Jimmy Butler. They’ve used such unique techniques, like a 2-3 zone defense reminiscent of high school ball among other things, to get to this position, and head coach Eric Spoelstra has to be hailed for his forward thinking.

But this is the Lakers we’re talking about. And if history has taught us well, it’s that you bet on LeBron James when the odds seem to be in his favor.

The Lakers are the true embodiment of where the league finds itself today: a double-headed monster in James and Anthony Davis, surrounded by specific skill set journeymen, like Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso. This is the definition of a super-team, but one that seems to be pretty balanced in comparison to the 4 All-Star Golden State Warrior teams from years past. It just seems wrong not to pick this team, especially having beaten all opposition up until this point by 4-1 in each series. The Heat are a very similar threat to the Nuggets in many ways: underdog mentality, a well spaced out roster, a lot of young talent, but we all saw how that went. As much as the fan inside me wants to see Miami make this a series, deep down we all know what’s about to happen, and who’s about to pop off.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

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NFL 2020 Season Playoff Predictions: Before Week 1

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Nikhil Pradeep

The 2020-21 NFL season is just days away from us, as on September 10th, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Houston Texans to kick off the NFL season, and through everything that has been going on around the world, especially with COVID-19, which has forced some players to miss practices and maybe even season games, and has also kept fans out of stadiums, there is just so much uncertainty around if the NFL can even manage to have an entire season. As we are seeing with the MLB, without a bubble, players and coaching staff members are most likely going to end up getting COVID-19 throughout the season, and with how big NFL rosters are, it could force teams to go deep into their practice squads, put backups in quarantine (Seattle is doing that with Russell Wilson and his backup quarterbacks), or even simply put the NFL on pause until they find a bubble, or even completely cancel the season. With this post, we will try not to get into that, and treat it as if it is just a normal season, and let you know our predictions for the NFL season, based on our post from June with the NFL standings.

NFL Consensus Standings (Based on our NFL Records Predictions)

NFCAFC
1 – New Orleans Saints (13-3)1 – Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
2 – San Francisco 49ers (12-4)2 – Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
3 – Dallas Cowboys (11-5)3 – New England Patriots (11-5)
4 – Green Bay Packers (10-6)4 – Houston Texans (11-5)
5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)5 – Buffalo Bills (10-6)
6 – Seattle Seahawks (10-6)6 – Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
7 – Atlanta Falcons (10-6)7 – Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Saransh’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has so much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and Julio Jones will be a tough cover, even for Richard Sherman. The daunting task of facing the 49ers defense, however, especially the front 7, is too much for Atlanta to handle, paving the way for a 49ers victory.

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

This is probably a division-winner’s worst nightmare for a Wild Card Game, to play Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, just ask the Philadelphia Eagles (although had Carson Wentz not been injured in that Wild Card Game last season, this is a whole different conversation). The Cowboys are going to be a good team, but their core is very young outside of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and that is going to hurt them quite a bit, not to mention their suspect defense. The run-first mindset of the Seahawks, combined with Russell Wilson’s talent and experience, beats Dallas. 

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady vs. Rodgers in the playoffs, could you ask for a better matchup? I mean that alone gives this matchup so much hype and potential. Defenses will be non-existent in this one, as both teams are very offense-first and have high-scoring potential. Brady will outplay Rodgers, but Rodgers will do enough to complement the run-game to beat Brady and the Bucs. 

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

The last time Lamar Jackson faced Philip Rivers was in the 2019 Wild Card Round, when rookie Lamar entered the game in place of Joe Flacco, down 23-3, and was 50 seconds away from pulling off the upset, but fumbled. Now, Jackson is the reigning league MVP and leads one of the most exciting teams in football and one of the biggest Super Bowl contenders. Rivers and Indianapolis will put up a valiant fight, but Lamar and Baltimore get the win this time. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

Cam Newton might not be in the MVP form he once was in, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots are going to help him get back to elite-quarterback status this season, and that is going to be hard for anyone to stop, even for a defense as good as Pittsburgh’s. Getting Ben Roethlisberger back will get this offense back to having its high-scoring potential as always, but it might not be enough in this game to stop Cam and Co. 

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

These two teams met last year in the Wild Card Game, and man was it a great one. Down 16-0 most of the game, the Texans battled back to force overtime, and then some costly mistakes by Josh Allen in the overtime period gave Houston an easy field goal to win it. That game will be much different than this in large part to the fact that the Texans do not have DeAndre Hopkins, who had 90 yards on 6 receptions. Not having that nearly-unguardable player is going to be the difference this time around, as an improved Josh Allen and improved Bills team will take this one. 

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Call me crazy, but the Saints have not exactly been very good in the postseason the last few years. Oh wait, I am not crazy, I am right. That theme unfortunately continues yet again for the Saints, as Russell Wilson and his monstrous receiving core comes up big and denies Drew Brees of a chance at a second Super Bowl ring for perhaps the last time in his NFL career. 

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (4) Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is a guy you do not want to mess with, even at this stage of his career, where his team is not the usual, pass-heavy, everything-goes-through-Aaron Rodgers type team, and his numbers might not be as glamorous as it has been, but Aaron Rodgers is still one of the greatest football players and intellectuals of all-time. Not only that, but the Packers defense knows what to expect from the 49ers after last season’s NFC Championship game, where Jimmy Garoppolo only threw 8 passes. The Packers will be much more prepared for the run-game this time around, and make Garoppolo do the thing he hates the most, throw the ball in the clutch. I mean, he is a quarterback and does not make big plays throwing, weird right? His job is to throw the football, especially in the clutch, right? Just ask Emmanuel Sanders why he left San Francisco to go play for Drew Brees instead. All jokes aside, Rodgers and the Packers get their revenge. 

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Unfortunately for the Bills, there is not much they can do. The Chiefs take this one easily.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots

Lamar Jackson vs. Cam Newton. John Harbaugh vs. Bill Belichick. This matchup is one filled with tons of starpower, both on the field and on the sidelines, and to see Cam Newton revitalize his career and play against a quarterback like Lamar Jackson, whom many compare to a young, MVP Cam Newton, is going to be a great matchup to see and an instant classic. However, Lamar will have learned from his playoff mistakes previously. Baltimore will find a way to outsmart Belichick’s defensive gameplan and lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game. 

NFC Championship Game

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Rodgers vs. Wilson yet again in the NFC Championship Game? Yes, please. Last year, Rodgers got revenge for the 2015 NFC Championship Game loss, but this year, in yet another classic matchup between these two, Wilson gets his revenge. Seattle stuns Green Bay in Lambeau and goes to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

Mahomes vs. Jackson, yet another amazing quarterback battle, and one of the MANY we will hope to see this postseason. Kansas City is the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl, but many forget that there has not been a repeat Super Bowl champion since the Patriots did it back in 2003 and 2004. After two years of disappointment, it is only fitting that Jackson comes into a league of his own through this postseason run and takes down the defending champions, showing yet again how hard it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions in the NFL. 

Super Bowl LV: Baltimore Ravens vs. Seattle Seahawks

This Super Bowl is going to be a historic one. It will feature one of youngest Super Bowl matchups amongst the two quarterbacks (combined age), the first Super Bowl featuring two Black starting quarterbacks, and just the third time that a 6-seed has made a Super Bowl. Yet again, the quarterback battle does not fail to disappoint anyone, and in a year filled with so many unknowns, a potential playoff bubble, and so much more, I pick an even more unpredictable Super Bowl champion. Russell Wilson and that monstrous receiving core I mentioned earlier (Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, plus Greg Olsen and Will Dissly at Tight Ends), along with a great running mentality, they will present a challenge that the Ravens simply cannot match, no matter how great the heroics of Jackson are. The Seattle Seahawks are your Super Bowl LV Champions.

Pranav’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has been the most iffy team in the last few years, not only on the football side but literally with every other sport in the city. But for the Falcons, a promising offense with star receiver Julio Jones and a reliable Matt Ryan could pose a major threat in the NFC playoff side. On the other hand, the 49ers, have arguably the best defense in the league and were the NFC’s rep for last year’s Super Bowl. Depending on the performance of Atlanta’s offense and how well Todd Gurley fits into Dan Quinn’s scheme, Atlanta has a shot at upsetting San Francisco. 

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Dallas Cowboys, once again, are in a position where they have to match up against one of the hardest teams to play, on both sides of the ball. Unlike their path to the playoffs (which was to just win the NFC East) they will have to prove they are the real 3rd seed and show the entire NFL they are the team to be scared of. But let’s be realistic. Other than Elliot, Cooper and Martin, what other talent resides in Dallas that can stand up to Russell Wilson and the dangerous Seattle Seahawks. Seattle will easily step over Dallas and move onto the next round.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like Saransh said above, this round will feature Brady vs. Rodgers in the playoffs, something fans have been dying for since forever. Guess what? It’s going to happen and the game will come down to the wire. Brady is probably the most reliable player in the NFL when it comes to the playoffs and with a strong and loaded offense, I think the Packers defense will have too much to handle. Brady and the Bucs take this game. They definitely won’t forget it.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

Lamar Jackson was last year’s MVP. MVP is a regular season award to clarify. When it comes to the playoffs though, Lamar Jackson really drops out of that “MVP Race.” Last time Jackson played Rivers in the playoffs, Lamar got a taste of what really goes on in win-or-go-home games and unless he is healthy and is able to lead the Ravens to start off the game well, this will be a cakewalk for Baltimore. Rivers and the Colts will put up a good fight, but a more experienced Lamar Jackson (at least more than last year) will lead the Ravens to the next round.

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

The New England Patriots were expected to have a losing record after losing the biggest player in franchise history. The Pats had even more bad news with the opting out of almost the entire defense due to the Coronavirus. But, with the addition of former MVP Cam Newton and the more experienced Gilmore, Belichick can definitely prove the doubters wrong once again. New England will end their “rivalry” with the Steelers and move on to the next round.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

This matchup is a repeat of last year’s playoffs, where the Texans took the game in what was a very close and competitive matchup. I think the loss of Deandre Hopkins will play a significant part in Houston’s struggle but I still think they have a shot. Houston will beat Buffalo.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Saints once again will have the opportunity to show the world they are the best team in the NFC. But for the New Orleans Saints, a playoff struggle drought is hard to overcome. Not much changed with the team, but some things are happening as we speak that can alter the future of the Saints organization. Seattle on the other hand looks rock solid and can definitely pull off a “seeding mistake” upset. Seattle takes this game. 

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Next up is another great matchup for Tom Brady and his new team. A game against his former apprentice in what will be a thriller for the ages. A booming Tampa offense against San Francisco’s wall defense will definitely be a hard game to predict a winner but I can see Tom Brady’s experience overcoming the 49ers. Bucs move onto the championship game.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (4) Houston Texans

Mahomes is too good. Sorry, not sorry. Chiefs will move on.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots

Lamar will definitely win his last game but can he overcome another round of the playoffs in the same year? And against Belichick and Cam? I don’t see this happening for the Ravens. Patriots take this game and move onto the AFC Championship.

NFC Championship Game

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Last time Brady played Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in the playoffs, he needed the luckiest play in the world to win (Malcolm Butler interception). But this time, a stronger Seahawks offense and defense will provide a reckoning for Brady and will show the Bucs they aren’t ready yet. Hopefully the Seahawks run the ball this time. Seattle moves on to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (3) New England Patriots

Two years ago, the Patriots and Chiefs played in what was the craziest AFC championship game in a long time. Brady and Mahomes went back and forth, which caused the game to come down to the wire, where the Patriots got the edge and were able to win. But this time, Brady won’t be there to provide that insurance against the Chiefs. Cam Newton will perform his best, but an already Super Bowl contender in the Chiefs will show the NFL why they belong in the Super Bowl again.

Super Bowl LV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks

If the Super Bowl comes down to the Seahawks playing the Chiefs, this will surely be a hard one to predict, with an amazing matchup at every position on the field. The most exciting one would obviously be the Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes showdown. Mahomes got the best of the 49ers last year, but the Seahawks are not the same team they were last year. They are stronger and have a real hunger in the team’s heart. I think this game will be a showdown that comes down to the wire, but I definitely see the Seahawks pulling away with the Lombardi Trophy.

Rohan’s predictions:

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

I think Atlanta is going to surprise a lot of people this year. Matt Ryan always performs well in even years, and they have weapons like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Todd Gurley. Despite Atlanta’s electric offense, the 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league. San Fran moves on in a nailbiter. 

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Dallas and Seattle are going to be a high scoring affair. You got two of the best quarterbacks in the game as Prescott and Wilson will have high passing games. However, I think Wilson will outduel Prescott and the Seahawks defense, with newly acquired backs Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar, will make a couple of needed stops for the victory. Seattle advances.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here we have another legendary quarterback duel. Aaron Rodgers vs Tom Brady is always a fun one as these two are bound to be in the Hall of Fame. Tampa Bay has a sneaky good defense though and I think the Buccaneers will outduel the Packers in the end. Tampa wins by a touchdown.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is a sleeper team this year. They went 7-9 last year but they arguably got an upgrade at QB and their defense has one of the better linebacker corps with Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker leading the way. But they are playing Lamar Jackson, who is coming off an MVP season and is looking for redemption after a disappointing playoff loss last year. I think the Ravens take this one easily at home in a blowout. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

I am surprised to see the Patriots at the third seed, but I could see it happening. Cam Newton would have to be playing close to what he was before injury and offensive pieces like N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel have to step up. However I think the Steelers are the better team here. Big Ben is back and JuJu will have a bounce back year because of that. They also have James Conner who has suffered injuries in the past but I think he will be healthy this year. I got the Steelers winning on the road.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Despite the Texans losing Hopkins, they still have a very solid team. I think Will Fuller is massively underrated and can take a step up in his production this year. They also have newly acquired deep threat Brandin Cooks and David Johnson who could have a bounce-back year. The Bills are another team that I really like this year. Josh Allen continues to trend up and now he has Stefon Diggs to help him out. A rematch of last year’s playoff game, I think the Bills get revenge and win this one thanks to their defense.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

I am not sure how to feel about the Saints. Every postseason it seems that they choke and lose to an inferior opponent. But in this matchup, Seattle is a very good team and I feel that they are better than the Saints. New Orleans postseason woes continue and Seattle clinches an NFC championship berth.

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 49ers are looking for redemption after losing a lead and the Super Bowl last season. It is also nice to see Garoppolo go against Tom Brady since Garoppolo was his backup back in New England. In this matchup, we have a firepower offense consisting of Brady, Godwin, and Evans against a defensive juggernaut of Bosa, Sherman, and Armstead. I see the 49ers coming on top in a close one thanks to their elite defense.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Listen, I love Josh Allen and the young Bills, but the Chiefs are going to blow them out period. Kansas City kept the same team from last year and got better. Chiefs move on easily. 

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

Man what a game this would be. One of the greatest rivalries in all sports in the AFC Divisional Round. I definitely think this will be a close game despite Baltimore having a much better and deeper team. Lamar will learn from his previous mistakes and have one of the best Ravens playoff performances but the Steelers will give a very good fight. Ravens by a field goal.

NFC Championship Game

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is one of the best in the NFL. If you want proof, just take a look at their two most recent matchups. In Week 10, the Seahawks grinded out an overtime win but in Week 17, the 49ers got a last second stop and won the NFC West. I think this one will be another one for the rivalry books, as the Niners come out on top in a thriller. 

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

This is the matchup many people were expecting in last year’s postseason, but the Ravens flamed out in the divisional round. Mahomes and Lamar are the future of the NFL and this game is going to be a fun scoring affair. Kansas City is the high favorite here, however I think the Ravens will win thanks to Lamar who further cements his place as one of the most dynamic QBs in the league.

Super Bowl LV: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers

A rematch of the 2013 Super Bowl, this one is definitely going to be a treat. This game will go back and forth, but the swarming 49ers defense will have its ways with Lamar and shut him down. The 49ers get their redemption this year and win the Lombardi Trophy, becoming the third team to win 6 championship wins.

Nikhil’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

The 49ers proved a lot of people wrong last year by making it to the super bowl, and for all intents and purposes kept the same team and mentality for this year as well. The ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality applies perfectly fine in my opinion, and this matchup against Atlanta should not be a real threat to their postseason aspirations. With a staunch defense that will pose real problems even for Atlanta’s high-powered offense (headlined by Julio Jones, Todd Gurley, and Matt Ryan), and a decent enough run-central offense, I see the Niners winning this one in a secure manner.

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Somehow, some way, the Seattle Seahawks always manage to make it into the postseason one way or another. The reason behind this has to be Russell Wilson, and his MVP caliber play in recent years. With Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson on offense, and an already solid defense that just got better with the addition of Jamal Adams, there isn’t any real doubt here that they’ll win this game handily. Especially when a team as mired in mediocrity as the Dallas Cowboys steps up to be the opponent, Seattle will keep the ship sailing right through to the next round.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ah yes, the two old men of the league, in a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out. Nothing gets better than this type of matchup. As I sort of alluded to already, this game is all about the high-powered offenses. And with the recent addition of Leanord Fournette, the Bucs seem to take this one. When you have names like Brady, Gronk, Godwin, Evans, and even Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy as members of a rotating RB committee, there really is only so much Aaron Rodgers can do with his comparatively weaker offense. I do see the Packers making it difficult for the Bucs, but in the end the Bucs take this one.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

I think Lamar Jackson is mad. Mad about going out so early in last year’s playoffs, even after completing one of the most jaw-dropping seasons for a QB in recent memory. And if sports has shown us anything in past years, it’s that you should never make a team’s best player angry. This Raven’s team is nuts, and that’s an understatement. Matched up to a rather unproven Colts team with so many new moving parts, and it’s hard to go against the Ravens blowing them out of the water. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

If Lamar Jackson is mad, Cam Newton is FURIOUS. And again, you never want to make a former MVP mad. Again, there is so much we don’t know about the Patriots right now, and that makes it even harder to predict this matchup; we don’t even know if they’ll put the pieces together to make it into the playoffs. But for arguments’ case, when matched up against a rather uninspiring Steelers team, if they can figure it out I can see the Patriots sneaking by to the next round.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

The Texans are a rather interesting case, because many thought they had the potential to contend last year, but they’ve seemingly gone backwards by getting rid of Deandre Hopkins this offseason. Don’t get me wrong, this team is definitely still talented, with Watson, Johnson, Fuller V, and of course JJ Watt, but the way this league has headed in recent seasons, the Texans simply haven’t made the right moves to contend. The Bills on the other hand are on an upward trend, having proved a lot of doubters wrong last season as well. With the addition of Stefon Diggs to a rather underrated offense, I think we see the first upset in my set of predictions, and see the Bills advance to the next round.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Saints have to break this curse that they are in eventually, and I believe this is the year. Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and of course Drew Brees are in dire need of a NFC Championship appearance, and it feels like, now more than ever, they want it more. The Seahawks will definitely provide a hell of a fight, but in the end I don’t think their defense can contain the offense of the Saints enough to see them through. New Orleans advances.

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Apprentice meets master. Jimmy Garrapollo showed the world that he was no joke last year, carrying the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Even though the Bucs have the one person that Jimmy G learned under in the New England system, I think the 49ers are more adapted to deal with the other team instead of vice versa, and it’s mainly because of their amazing defense. Brady has not been the human highlight reel he has been in previous years, and I think the Niners defense capitalizes on this. Expect the Niners to advance.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs (5) Buffalo Bills

Mahomes. Ok cool, glad everyone’s on the same page. Kansas City flies past.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs (3) New England Patriots

The Patriots are too new of a team to expect the most from in their first year without Tom Brady, and even having them this high up in my prediction is giving them a huge benefit of the doubt. I don’t think their offense can put up enough points to contend with the absolute machine that is the Ravens offense. Thus, the Ravens advance to the next round.

NFC Championship

(1) New Orleans Saints vs (2) San Francisco 49ers

This is where these predictions get interesting. Both of these teams have strengths on different sides of the ball: New Orleans has their offense, the 49ers have their defense. We’ve emphasized those strengths so much, so in my mind it depends on who wins the matchup of their weaker ends of the ball. In my opinion, I think the Saints put it together on defense and are able to shut down the run-heavy Niners offense, and thus, advance to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs (2) Baltimore Ravens

Again, I think Lamar Jackson has something to prove, and is going to flourish in this matchup. I think he matches Patrick Mahomes in production, which will inevitably result in a complete shootout between the two. What seems to be the deciding factor in this matchup is the defense, and I think the Ravens can muster up enough secondary structure to contend and limit Mahomes’ production. It will be a crazy, hard, but earned win for the Ravens.

Super Bowl LV: (1) New Orleans Saints vs (2) Baltimore Ravens

Throughout these predictions I’ve been on the Ravens bandwagon, stating that Lamar Jackson will play like someone with something to prove, and the Ravens will rally behind his play. I also think the Saints have matured from their previous blunders and have finally moved away from their fragile nature. Thus, both of these teams are teams that have learned from the past, and have in some ways turned the corner. In the end, I think the hunger that the Ravens can tap into, as well as the jaw-dropping talent that their roster has gives them the upper hand. It will definitely be close and a high scoring affair, but I predict the Baltimore Ravens as the next world champions.

2020 NBA Playoffs Biggest Storylines – Conference Quarterfinals (Post-Game 1s)

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

With the Western Conference play-in now officially completed and the Portland Trail Blazers having won and gotten the 8th-seed, the entire NBA playoffs is set and the Conference Quarterfinals will commence. To see our NBA Playoff Predictions from before the NBA Bubble started, click the link here. We now will dive into the biggest stories to watch going into the start of the playoffs.

Saransh’s Storylines:

How Will Houston Play Without Russell Westbrook?

This entire season, while James Harden has always been the top scorer for this team, Russell Westbrook has been the leader and glue-guy for the team. Westbrook was the one who helped him and Harden get over their differences that they originally had to start the season, he was the one who helped the team get through midseason trade rumors and speculation that OKC won the Russ-CP3 had been rising. When Head Coach Mike D’Antoni wanted to start his small-ball experiment and thus GM Daryl Morey traded starting Center Clint Capela, Russ elevated his game the most. Russ had career-highs in shots per game made and field goal percentage, and overall was a more relaxed and under control player compared to what he was in Oklahoma City. He honestly is now an underrated player (surprising to say), but deserves the most credit of all the players for Houston’s success, especially since small-ball began. 

That being said, after seeing how Harden, along with Eric Gordon and Jeff Green, played yesterday, if they play like this in Game 2 as well, having Westbrook back could have a highly-anticipated series end very quick. Only having an 8-man rotation will be tricky to manage with Westbrook back and also playing big minutes, but it means that playing guys like Gordon and Green more in the series, could be the difference. The series will hinge upon that bench support for Houston, and their health.

Did The Refs Sell The Mavericks And Ruin Their Series Momentum?

The Dallas Mavericks controlled Game 1 on Monday in nearly every facet possible, besides the final score, of course, but the referees had a lot to do with that. The ejection of Kristaps Porzingis, which was due to a slight shove, was probably the softest ejection I have seen in my entire life of watching basketball. If Porzingis got ejected for that, shouldn’t Carmelo Anthony get suspended every time he curses after getting a rebound? There were a few other questionable calls here and there after Porzingis got hurt which halted the momentum of Dallas, but had he not been ejected, the way Porzingis was dominating the paint with his rim protection and rebounding at the time, they would have won the game and taken all that momentum into Game 2 and prolonged this series more than expected. If you are Dallas, you could not have asked for a better start to the series against a heavily-favored Clippers team, but the ridiculous ejection, and final score, left nothing but a cloud of frustration for the team.

Does Brooklyn’s Overachieving Bubble Run Concern Toronto?

Simply put, no. Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving is walking into Orlando to suit up and play the defending champions. That being said, the run that the Nets had, including almost knocking Portland out of the playoffs (should have called timeout and drawn a play), and beating teams like the Clippers and Bucks in the process, the Nets showed that they are not here to be messed with despite their extremely shorthanded roster, but the defending champions have been way too good defensively to let Brooklyn get on a roll and shock the world. In Game 1, the Nets cut a 33-point Raptor lead to 9, but the Raptors defense was just too much, and they showed that their roster is simply too much to handle, and that they do not need Kawhi to be as scary of a contender as they are. As much as I would love to see the Nets make the series competitive, Toronto is too much to handle.

Nikhil’s Storylines:

Can The Miami Heat Make Noise In The East?

This Miami Heat team has defied a lot of expectations this season, and having accomplished everything that they have has taken a lot of grit, a lot of grind, and most importantly, a LOT of team chemistry and self-confidence. Everyone, including myself, saw this year as being a lottery pick year for this team. That being said, there are still many limitations going forward though. In order to contend for a championship in this day and age, most teams require at least a superstar tandem (Ex: LeBron & AD, Kawhi and PG, Russ and Harden). The Heat do not have a bonafide duo that they can rely on during crucial moments in a speculative deep playoff run. Yes, Jimmy Butler is a given, but who can be that other piece? Bam Adebayo has proven himself as a worthy candidate, but his game is still raw and he simply isn’t at the level of most superstars in this league, even with his first All-Star appearance. One thing I will say is that Miami manages to find a way. As of this post, they have already gone one game up on the Indiana Pacers, and contributions as a team from Nunn, Herro, Crowder, Robinson etc. can really turn this team into a viable threat in the East, and give powerhouses Toronto, Milwaukee, and Boston a run for their money.

Are The Denver Nuggets a Real Threat In The West?

Everyone seems to be infatuated with the possibility of a Clippers vs. Lakers Western Conference Finals, to the point where the third-seeded Denver Nuggets seem to be completely overlooked. This team is STACKED all things considered. Jokic and Murray comprise a deadly starting line-up, and up and coming players like Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol are both surprisingly sturdy in their play as well. Combine this with a perfectly crafted bench unit as well as key role players, and you have a team that could very well take down either one of the two LA teams. What’s even more appealing is that this team is built for the future, and can become a powerhouse in the Western Conference if they simply hold onto their assets they have, and continue to develop the young players they have right now as well. Yes, they might not have the complete answer for LeBron and AD, and may have not figured out the complete puzzle of Kawhi and PG, but this team has the resources necessary to piece it all together. And the best part is that even if they don’t find winning ways now, they can easily find it a few years from now, when the LA teams start to see players past their primes. Watch out for this Nuggets team to shock a lot of people now, and establish themselves for the future.

What’s Wrong With The 76ers?

Philadelphia on paper looks like a very dangerous team, yet in person they just seem lackluster. When you headline a team with 4 prominent figures in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, you expect production, and plenty of it. What we see though is a rather uninspired team that is missing something, and no one can really place a finger on it. Couple this with the injury to Ben Simmons, and you get a downward spiral of a situation for Philadelphia, one that puts head coach Brett Brown in the hot seat. Don’t get me wrong, the team is definitely winning games, and are placing themselves well within the provisional playoff picture, but many believe that the team just isn’t built or even inspired enough to contend with the likes of Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee. Joel Embiid himself has said that he needs to step up for his team, and yes, maybe his lack of production on both ends of the court is somewhat to blame for the team’s woes, but I don’t see it as an end all be all solution. Whatever their issue may be, they need to figure it out soon in order to get past the rather difficult first-round matchup with the Celtics.

Anish’s Storylines: 

Do the Blazers Have a Legitimate Chance To Defeat The Lakers?

After the Game one, upset over the Lakers, the Blazers have the league talking. Everyone knew before the Blazers would be a tough fight for the Lakers in the first round, and after game one they proved them right. The Lakers looks sloppy in their game and despite LeBron’s big triple double the Lakers couldn’t finish the game. The Lakers had issues making free throws in the clutch and Portland capitalized by hitting their shots. However, despite LeBron’s triple double, I feel like there is more left in the tank for King James. The real question is whether LeBron will activate playoff mode this early in the playoffs and completely take over the game or will he continue to dish out the ball and rely on his teammates to hit shots next game. The Lakers did a great job of hammering down in the paint and causing 3 of the Blazers starters to get 5 fouls and be in foul trouble late in the game. The Lakers definitely have the ability to defeat the Blazers on paper; it’s just a matter of chemistry and team experience (besides LeBron) which the Lakers lack.

Are the Bucks Still The Favorite To Win The East?

Similar to the Blazers pulling off an upset against the Lakers, the Magic defeated the Bucks in game one. This came to a surprise to practically everyone as the Magic seemed like the most forgotten team in the playoffs. After the Bucks loss, everyone is now beginning to question the Bucks potential. Now the real question is can just Giannis be enough to lead the Bucks to the Finals? Khris Middleton has been horrible in the bubble so far, and he is supposed to be Giannis’s secondhand man and without a consistent performance from Middleton it puts too much pressure on Giannis. Initially I had the Bucks making the finals, but because of their recent struggles I am leaning towards the Raptors-Celtics side of the bracket. It will be interesting to see the Celtics without Hayward but I still give them a slight edge over the Raptors. I believe whoever comes out of the bottom half of the Eastern Conference (Raptor/Celtics side) will defeat the Bucks and move on into the Finals. The Bucks are still a great team but I don’t see them as winning the championship, rather I see an Eastern Conference Finals loss coming their way.

Are We Sleeping On The Jazz?

Monday’s Game 1 against the Nuggets was one of the best games this year. The battle between Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray was like no other, it seems like in the clutch neither of them could miss and Murray got the slight edge in overtime. But we can’t forget about Donovan Mitchell’s historic 57 point game! Even with missing Mike Conley the first game the Jazz were neck and neck with the Nuggets. Conley is expected to be back for Game 3, this is important because Conley is another elite defender and to put him on Jamal Murray and contain him. This makes Jamal Murray use more effort with a better defender on him and Donovan Mitchell will be alongside another scorer and facilitator. The Jazz have always shown they are underdogs in the playoffs and are well capable of pulling off upsets. Although last year they struggled against the Rockets, the year before they defeated the Thunder, and the year before the Clippers. This Jazz team is improved from last year and have developed a better chemistry with great defense, good wing shooters and Donovan Mitchell taking the clear superstar position in this playoff series. The Jazz could make a decent push in the playoffs starting with an upset on the Nuggets. Don’t sleep on the Jazz!

NBA Bubble Playoff Predictions: Pre-Playoffs

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

This Thursday, July 30th, the NBA season will restart in the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, where games will take place with 22 teams in multiple arenas in the ESPN complex. Each team will play 8 games and then go into the playoffs as the standings are after 8 games (standings will be based on win percentage as not each team will have played the same total number of games throughout the entire season). With the restart just around the corner, we thought we should dive into our pre-playoff Playoff predictions. Here are the consensus standings we made, as well as the individual series predictions for the entirety of the NBA Playoffs:

Consensus Standings

SeedEastern ConferenceWestern Conference
1Milwaukee Bucks (60-13)Los Angeles Lakers (57-14)
2Toronto Raptors (50-22)Los Angeles Clippers (50-22)
3Boston Celtics (49-23)Denver Nuggets (49-24)
4Miami Heat (46-27)Utah Jazz (45-28)
5Philadelphia 76ers (41-29)Houston Rockets (44-28)
6Indiana Pacers (41-32)Oklahoma City Thunder (43-29) 
7Orlando Magic (33-40)Dallas Mavericks (44-31)
8Brooklyn Nets (32-40)Portland Trail Blazers (34-40)

Saransh’s Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Round 1

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

This series would have been a lot more entertaining had guys like Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Nicholas Claxton, Wilson Chandler, and Kevin Durant gone to the bubble. Or at least Kyrie. There is not much else to say besides what this series could have been, and what the Nets are capable of doing, but being that severely undermanned and having a tough schedule is going to get them this tough of an opponent. 

Prediction: Milwaukee in 4 games.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

Orlando is a sneaky team here because even though they have a tough road in Orlando and they will not win the series, this is a team that prides itself on its depth, and actually has depth that can match Toronto. In the end, it really comes down to the fact that having guys like Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol off your bench, as well as the huge discrepancy in starting lineup talent, that Orlando will not be able to keep up. I think like last season, Orlando will get a win in a close, last-second win, but there will not be much else Orlando can walk out of the bubble with. To see them improving every year, however, is very promising, and with the young players they are developing, they can make trades come free agency and surprise people (DeMar DeRozan or Victor Oladipo?)

Prediction: Toronto in 5 games

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers

If Indiana was going to have Domantas Sabonis playing in the bubble, this series would go the distance, but with his foot injury results showing the doubts of that happening, this is going to be another quick one. Indiana is built around Oladipo, but there is just too much he would have to do to keep up with the depth and talent on Boston’s side, and not to mention that he is not 100% healthy either. Tatum will probably see Myles Turner guarding him and that might slow him down, but Kemba Walker against TJ McConnell, Gordon Hayward against Doug McDermott, and Boston’s bench against Indiana’s, all of those matchups that go Boston’s way and keep this series from being longer than it should be. If Sabonis is able to come back, this series goes the distances, but if not, this will be a quick one. Either way, the winner is the same.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 games

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers are really experimenting with new ways to unlock their full potential. They are playing Ben Simmons at the 4, Shake Milton at the point guard, and playing Al Horford off of the bench as the Sixth Man. While all of this seems great, there are a few problems with this. In scrimmages so far, they have had Ben Simmons play inside on defense along with Joel Embiid, but it is creating a huge hole on the perimeter for defense, and is even creating, in my eyes, a bit of a rotational issue. Guys like Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz have been seeing their usual minutes alongside guys like Embiid and Simmons be rationed out a little more than usual (it is just scrimmages so far, but still), and while having Simmons play more freely than usual seems like a great thing and he has been the best player for Philadelphia since the Orlando restart, he somehow is still managing to do the one thing that Brett Brown tried to fix, which was him taking the ball out of the hands of guys like Embiid. Against one of the league’s deepest teams in Miami, a team that matches up perfectly against the likes of Philly, but can separate themselves with their unbelievable 3-point shooting, who are the best in the league in terms of 3-point percentage. 

The deciding factor will be how guys like Harris, Milton, Richardson, and Thybulle match the 3-point shooting of Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Kendrick Nunn. With the offense being less perimeter centric due to Simmons freelancing ability now, the Sixers could get caught behind trying to defend the 3-point line, and not having Simmons on the perimeter to get back in transition to stop those 3-point opportunities is going to hurt Philly. Miami has shown too much consistency all season to falter against this new-look Sixers team that Brett Brown is using to try to save his job.

Prediction: Miami in 6 games

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Miami Heat

The best team in the Eastern Conference against the most likely team to take them down in the Miami Heat. Miami leads the season series 2-0 and the most noticeable thing is how much the Miami depth makes a difference. Not only is the Miami bench able to give them the boost over Milwaukee that they have needed, but they have also found the perfect matchups to slow down Giannis’ supporting cast, by throwing guys like Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn on Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Much like last year against Toronto, where the Bucks will struggle is the depth and offensive production outside of Giannis. This could be the beginning of the end of Giannis in Milwaukee. 

Prediction: Miami in 6 games

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics

This series is honestly the hardest to predict of them all. Both teams have great starting lineups with stars around their superstars, have great depth, and two of the best coaches in the game. No home court advantage for either team certainly does not make the prediction any easier. My decision really comes down to the starters, where Toronto has the advantage at center and power forward, the small forward battle is actually neutralized due to OG Anunouby’s ability to defend, which will slow down Gordon Hayward a ton, but Boston’s backcourt takes the win. The matchup between Jaylen Brown and Norman Powell clearly goes in favor of Brown, who can give you 20-25 points a night, as can Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. The consistency is what takes Boston over the hump.

Prediction: Boston in 7 games

Eastern Conference Finals

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Miami Heat

Boston and Miami is a rivalry that saw Miami win each of their 3 matchups of the 2010s, and kicking off the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals with this only seems fitting. Miami and Boston have been neck-and-neck all season in standings, and are neck-and-neck in terms of talent. Like the Toronto series, the advantage is given to them in the backcourt with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, who can match the 3-point shooting excellence of Robinson, Nunn, and Herro, and are scoring machines. It will be a close series thanks to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but Miami is a year away from the NBA Finals. The luck of the long run unfortunately runs out here, but man, oh man will they surprise people.

Prediction: Boston in 6 games

Western Conference Round 1

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

Give Portland credit if they make it to the playoffs and have to fight through being behind in the standings and have to play in the play-in tournament. But like always, there is too much talent in the way of Lillard and McCollum, and not enough talent with them to get over the hump.

Prediction: Lakers in 4 games

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

I wish I could say that Dallas is ready to make this upset, but it is simply too early. The team is young and has loads of potential, and Luka Doncic is the next face of the NBA, but right now, guys like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are too much for Dallas to handle.

Prediction: Clippers in 5 games

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

Who would have thought that a team that had acquired 7 first-round picks over a span of trading 2 of the NBA’s best players in Russell Westbrook and Paul George, would find themselves in the playoffs and as this good of a team? Seriously, I never thought this would happen, and I doubt most Thunder fans thought that either. OKC is quietly one of the league’s most exciting and upcoming teams, with the perfect balance of young and veteran talent, with guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul leading the way. Denver, like OKC, matches up in a very similar way in terms of young talent, with guys like Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. leading the way. The big difference is going to be the guy that has stolen the show in Orlando so far, and that is Bol Bol. If Coach Mike Malone can utilize him right, it could cause major problems for Oklahoma City, given his defensive prowess to block shots, and his scoring ability.

Prediction: Nuggets in 6 games

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets

This series features 2 teams running small ball lineups, but one of those 2 teams does not have a 7-foot tower inside. The Houston Rockets are going into the bubble with the tallest player in their rotation being just 6’8”, so expect Rudy Gobert to take a bit more of the offensive load for the Utah Jazz. Utah would be the obvious pick for this series, but missing out on a third scoring option like Bojan Bogdanovic due to injury is crucial, especially for size and defnse, and Houston should capitalize on the opportunity. Utah, despite having Gobert, actually does not have a lot of taller players like Houston, and so having guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook who can rebound well, could help them take this series away from Utah. Expect Westbrook to take defensive responsibility against Donovan Mitchell, and then dominate on the offensive end. 

Prediction: Rockets in 6 games

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Houston Rockets

In this series, size matters for Houston more than it will against Utah, because the best big man in the league in Anthony Davis is who the Rockets have to try and slow down, and simply put, no matter how great Westbrook and Harden are, no one is stopping Davis. LeBron will have his usual great playoff mode series, but Davis will just prove to be too much.

Prediction: Lakers in 5 games

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

This is an interesting series because on paper, Denver clearly has the better frontcourt, better point guard, and maybe even the better bench, but the starpower is lacking for them. While Nikola Jokic is the best center in the league, I am not sure he can match that of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the bench of Denver will not be able to match the bench of the Clippers, led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Bol Bol and Michael Porter Jr. can help make this series interesting, but their star potential that everyone is expecting from in a few years, needs to show up over these few games, and I simply do not see it happening. Expect Jokic and Millsap to dominate the weaker frontcourt of the Clippers and they certainly will keep it close and win some games, but they do not have enough firepower to match Kawhi and PG at the end of it all. 

Prediction: Clippers in 6 games

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Los Angeles Clippers

The battle of Los Angeles is here… in Orlando. Yeah, that is 2020 in a nutshell. Not that homecourt advantage would have mattered in Los Angeles, but having seen this series with fans would have been a whole new atmosphere for playoff basketball, although Orlando gives us a never-before-seen feel to everything, so it all works out in the end. In the regular season, the Clippers took two of the first 3 games, and have a fourth coming to kick off their seasons in Orlando on July 31st. The Lakers won the third matchup by going away from small ball and benching Kyle Kuzma for JaVale McGee, which gave some mismatches for guys like Anthony Davis, who often drew Marcus Morris Sr., or occasionally Paul George, and LeBron drew Kawhi or Morris. Having JaVale helped limit points in the paint, and starting Danny Green also gave them good perimeter defense and a great shooting option on the perimeter. The difference in this series will be with guys like Green, and having guys that can shoot the 3 and defend on the perimeter as well, and the Lakers have more of that than the Clippers, despite having 2 Sixth Man of the Year-caliber players off of their bench. The additions of guys like JR Smith and Dion Waiters certainly helps in that department. That, the mismatches that Anthony Davis will have, and the relentless drive and heart of this team, led by Playoff LeBron, will be too much for the Clippers to handle.

Prediction: Lakers in 6 games

NBA Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Boston Celtics

The 2010s decade kicked off with a Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals for their 12th matchup, where Los Angeles came back from down 3-2 to win in 7 games in one of the most intense NBA Finals series I have ever witnessed. In the 13th installment of the rivalry and the NBA Finals that kicks off 2020, we see a much more different type of game being played, one of that is more premier-oriented and fast-paced, unlike that last series, where scoring 100 points as a team was an accomplishment. Talent wise, these are the best teams in their conference, and this series would come down to who guards LeBron and Davis, as does every other series. Even if Boston was to put Tatum and Brown on Davis and LeBron, there would be too many holes for LeBron and Davis to exploit with their passing, and players like Danny Green, Dion Waiters and Alex Caruso, can feast off of open 3s with weaker defenders and pull the game and series apart that way. Not to mention how huge of an advantage experience is for Los Angeles, I mean, LeBron has literally been to 9 NBA Finals, this would be his 10th, and this win would put him as the GOAT, having overcome the biggest circumstances, both inside and outside of the bubble, that any NBA player or team has ever endured. This Celtics team is a great one, but too young and inexperienced to match that of LA. Jayson Tatum will prove he is the leader of this team, but will not be enough to stop The King.

Prediction: Lakers are 2019-20 NBA Champions, winning the Finals in 6 games

Anish’s Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Round 1

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

The matchup between the Bucks and the Nets would be fairly easy for the Bucks as the Nets are currently missing both their superstars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Nets are still a solid all around team but I don’t think they have what it takes to pull an upset over the Bucks

Prediction: Bucks in 4 games

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

No one expected the Raptors to be where they are today, that being said it’s still surprising for them to be at the #2 spot after losing their Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. However, the Magic lack the playoff experience that the defending champs hold and I believe the Raptors will dominate this series.

Prediction: Raptors in 4 games

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers

The Celtics are a young team that can put up a fight to be one of the best in the Eastern Conference. Both of these teams lack one clear superstar and are held up by their starters and role players evenly. In times like the playoffs having a superstar is a big factor so with these teams lacking I see the series being close with Celtics on top.

Prediction: Celtics in 6 games.

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

Now this is an interesting matchup. No one expected the Heat to climb all the way up to 4th seed and no one expected the Sixers to fall down to 5th seed. After the Sixers heart crushing end to last season to the championship team, I believe they will come back with a vengeance and fight harder than ever. Miami has proven to be a solid team with Butler and their young stars but in a close series I put the Sixers on top.

Prediction: Sixers in 7 games.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

With the Sixers coming underperforming this season I don’t see them beating the Bucks. The Bucks have been firing on all cylinders this season while the Sixers have fallen short on their expectations. The Sixers beating the Heat is about as far as I can see them in these playoffs.

Prediction: Bucks in 5 games.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics

Now this will be a very close matchup for both teams. Again with two teams lacking one clear superstar but their role players and starters are great with potential this will be a series to watch. I believe this series can go either side, people may favor the Celtics because of Tatum, Walker, and Brown vs the Raptors known name only in Siakam and maybe Lowry/Vanvleet. The Celtics were strong last season with a weak team like the Pistons but got blown out when they faced the Bucks. On the other side it’s hard to compare last season with this Raptors team after losing their best player but they have managed to pull away with a better record. I believe this series will be very close and with their second time through the Celtics will come on top as the Raptors just don’t appear to have any one player they can rely on to carry them in the playoffs like last year.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs (3) Boston Celtics

This appears to be a familiar matchup as last year the Celtics were defeated 4-1 in the series. However, this year they have acquired Kemba Walker as a less dramatic version of Kyrie Irving. As the Celtics will learn from their mistakes from last year the Bucks have also developed as a team and Giannis continues to put on a show. I see this series fairly close but give the Bucks the edge.

Prediction: Bucks in 6 games.

Western Conference Round 1

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

It was a tough fight for the Blazers to even get here as it seems like on the other hand the Lakers have been cruising through. Just looking at the Lakers roster their star power in LeBron and Davis is unmatched for the Blazers Lillard and McCollum. Although the Blazers now have 2 great interior forces with Nurkic back in the lineup alongside Whiteside, I still don’t think it’s enough to overcome the Lakers. The series will be close but I have the Laker on top.

Prediction: Lakers in 6.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

The Clippers duo of George and Leonard are one of the best on both sides of the ball. It’s also a surprise to see the Mavericks make the playoffs led by the great performance of Luka Doncic. However, with this matchup I feel like with Luka clamped on ball with either George or Leonard it makes it very hard for the Mavericks to win.

Prediction: Clippers in 5.

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

The Nuggets again have shown to outperform expectations in the hard Western Conference and only one bigger surprise comes in this Thunder team. Who would have though that with their two biggest stars in Westbrook and George that instead of this team going in rebuild mode, as many people assumed, they would have made the playoffs. As much as this is the underdog squad led by Chris Paul, I don’t see the practicality of them going very far in the playoffs. The Nuggets are also a young team but learning from last year they should be able to put this Thunder team away.

Prediction: Nuggets in 5.

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets

As much as the Jazz improved with Mike Conley the Rockets have also improved adding Westbrook. Many fans would see this as an easy win for the Rockets however there may be more to the story. With the addition of Westbrook there are two ball dominant point guards on one team, they managed to make it work during the regular season, but the playoffs are a whole different story. The Jazz are one of the best defensive teams with great defense not only in the paint with Rudy Gobert, but their perimeter is locked with Conely and Mitchell. Although the Rockets win the frontcourt battle they’re missing one key element, a solid paint presence. Rudy Gobert is a one of a kind shot blocker and intimidator in the paint and makes it tough to score inside. This wouldn’t have been a problem for the Rockets, however they traded away Clint Capela to run their small ball lineup. With the Jazz good defenders on the perimeter it’ll make it hard for the Rockets to find options on offense. These are two elite teams but I give the Jazz the edge.

Prediction: Jazz in 7 games.

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Utah Jazz

Now comes the trouble for the Jazz where this is as far as they go. Without a clear superstar and the Lakers having 2, the Lakers have the easy edge. The series won’t be that close and I give the Lakers the edge.

Prediction: Lakers in 4 games.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have done an awful lot with their young lineup, but even with their one year experience I don’t think it’s right to put them over the Clippers. The Clippers have Paul George and Kawhi Leonard who will perform during the playoffs as they have experience and the former Finals MVP isn’t easy to stop. I give the Clippers the edge and it’s not very close.

Prediction: Clippers in 5.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Los Angeles Clippers

Now this is the matchup everyone is expecting, nothing new. Kawhi can handle LeBron while George and Davis are still able to perform. It can’t get more even than this watching this matchup would be equivalent to the NBA Finals. That being said I see this series going neck and neck to a game 7. I give the Lakers an edge because as well as the Clippers have done, LeBron has had his 2nd season with the Lakers team and understands the unit better than Kawhi and George joining the Clippers for one season. Although Kawhi has done a similar thing in Toronto, I don’t see them getting past LeBron in the playoffs because even aging LeBron in the playoffs is another level and I wouldn’t bet against him.

Prediction: Lakers in 7 games.

NBA Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (1) Milwaukee Bucks

The two best teams with the 2 clear MVP candidates going head-to-head is what we’ve all been waiting for. The Bucks have been surprising with how dominating they have taken the Eastern Conference while the Lakers seemt to be in a battle with the Clippers. However, an important thing in this series is LeBron James. During the NBA finals LeBron has shown to be an unstoppable force. As much as we’d say Giannis is similar he hasn’t quite stretched the floor as far as LeBron and his jumpshot (still not great but better than Giannis). Also placing Anthony Davis who is a phenomenal defender on Giannis almost cancels him out. There’s no one really on the Bucks completely capable of shutting down LeBron and that is why I give the Lakers the edge.

Prediction: Lakers in 6 games.

Nikhil’s Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Round 1:

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

The sheer amount of disparity between these two teams sort of speaks for itself. On one hand you have the MVP and DPOY candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, and on the other, you have a hopelessly depleted Nets team missing most of their offensive firepower. Again, pretty self-explanatory here.

Bucks in 4.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

The Raptors have proven to the rest of the league that even with the loss of Kawhi Leanord over the offseason, that they are still a quality basketball club, and still have hopes of another ring in the future. The Magic are, well, the Magic. Again, it’s relatively easy to see who wins here.

Raptors in 4.

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers

It is worth mentioning how well the Pacers have worked around key pieces in order to contend in the playoffs this year. Oladipo is a known star in this league, however the rise of Domantas Sabonis, as well as Myles Turner and the rest of the team have vaulted them into relevancy. That being said, this Celtics team seems to have finally found the right mix of star power and teamwork, centralizing around Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. Team chemistry is off the charts as of now, and they will be carrying that momentum into this matchup. The Pacers will be able to put up a fight, however I don’t think it will be enough.

Celtics in 6.

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

Man, this Heat team is one of the most fun to watch in a long time. With Butler at the helm, with excellent young pieces in Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, as well as all-star support in Bam Adebayo, this team is poised to go far. That being said, this 76ers team is no slouch, and with their own mix of superstars including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, they give the Heat a very valid run for their money. In all honesty, this is the matchup I’m most looking forward to in the East, and I think the Heat take it, but it’s a close and hard fought fight that realistically can go either way.

Heat in 6.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Miami Heat

Here it is folks, my first upset within this set of predictions. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an undisputed FORCE in this league, and yes, this Bucks team is beyond dangerous. However, it just seems to me that this team is so centralized around him, even with an all-star in Khris Middleton paired with him. It’s to the point where you don’t think of the team as much anymore, you think of the one player. In this sense, Miami is the complete opposite. They have so many options when it comes to offensive productivity, and are a solid team on defense as well. I think during the series they will be able to capitalize on the moments that Antetokounmpo isn’t on the floor, and contend well enough when he is. Again, it won’t be without a concerted effort, but if anyone can do it, it’s the Heat.

Heat in 7.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics

This is probably the closest matchup within the Eastern Conference, and in my opinion, it’s between the two most meticulously crafted clubs within the conference as well. The Raptors again have defied all expectations this season, and have shown a lot of heart to get to this point. The Celtics have lived up to the hype, and have matched the expectations that were placed on their shoulders this offseason. Both teams have earned the right to be where they are in the standings, and yet it is still so hard to pick one. In the end, I’m leaning towards the Celtics to take it solely based on their talent within their starting line up. If their team chemistry can shine, and they can not rely on Jayson Tatum for every source of offensive production, they have the slightly better chance to take the series

Celtics in 7.

Eastern Conference Finals

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Miami Heat

In many ways I see the Celtics as the improved version of the Heat. They have the same sort of variation in offensive production, however the Celtics have a bit of an edge in terms of offensive production and overall team experience. Thus, I would pick them over the Heat 9 times out of 10. It does hurt a bit to go against Miami though, they are so fun to watch and can be such an underdog story at times. I just think their luck runs out here.

Celtics in 6.

Western Conference Round 1:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

The greatness of this Lakers team does not need any introduction, and will be discussed later on in this prediction. However, the main reason they win this series for me is the disappointing play the Blazers have shown this year. After adding Carmelo Anthony to an already Western Conference Semifinal achieving squad, you would think that they would at least match that accomplishment this year. Maybe it’s the rest of the league getting way better, maybe it’s not. Regardless, they lose this series, and need to have a hard look in the mirror.

Lakers in 4.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

Oh man this will be a fun series to watch. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George up against Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. In all honesty, the Clippers are the more mature and seasoned team, and I expect them to use this to their advantage on their way to winning the series. However, this is a good litmus test in essence for this Mavs team, who isn’t in “win now” mode unlike both LA teams. If they can put up a good fight, which I personally think they will, they have a lot to look forward to in the future. For right now though, the Clippers take this series.

Clippers in 6.

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

The Nuggets are a very lowkey sleeper team in these playoffs. You know the names, you know the record, but you really don’t see their lethal nature until you see them play in person. The team chemistry is crazy, especially for a team whose main star player is a big man. For this reason, they trounce the Thunder in almost every category, with the exception being Steven Adams, because no one messes with Steven Adams. Anyways, regardless of how meteoric this rise has been for the Thunder, especially in context of the Westbrook trade over the offseason, they simply can’t compete

Thunder in 5

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets

This season is very much a disappointment for the Houston Rockets, who many believed going into the season were going to run the league along side the Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks. Acquiring Russell Westbrook seemed to be the one thing that could vault this team into a championship run, and it just hasn’t worked out. That being said, their talent and skill is in my opinion better than that of the Jazz, who really only can rely on Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for consistent production. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the team is a bunch of ballers in their own right, but the offensive firepower of Houston, as controversial as it is, is too much to handle.

Houston in 6.

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Houston Rockets

This is where the Rockets defense and bench woes come back to hurt them. They can get away with relying solely on their offense to propel them to wins, however with a powerhouse team like the Lakers, that method simply will not suffice. The Lakers are too disciplined on both offense and defence to even think about letting Harden or Westbrook run rampant. Couple that with their own firepower in Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and a highly upgraded bench unit, and this series isn’t even that close.

Lakers in 5.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

Both of these teams are so well disciplined on both ends of the court, however I’m giving the edge to the Clippers solely based on their bench production, and it’s dominance over that of Denver. For those who aren’t super informed with everything about the NBA, the Denver bench is one shrouded in mystery, and often leaves people wondering who even is there. Compare that with the Clippers bench which has 2 out of the 3 current nominees for 6th man of the year, and you start to see where the differences in these two teams lie. For this reason, I have the Clippers winning this matchup.

Clippers in 6.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Los Angeles Clippers

Ah yes, the matchup everybody and their mom has been frantically waiting for since the first tipoff in this NBA season. We’ve seen it before, we’re going to see it again, LeBron and AD, versus Kawhi and PG is going to be the rivalry of the season for every NBA fan. These teams are so evenly matched, and this is very much supported by the regular season games both teams played against each other. Simply based on the dominant season LBJ has been having, as well as the chemistry between those two as compared to Kawhi and PG, I’m leaning more towards the Lakers winning this series. That’s not to say the Clippers are the lesser team, in fact I would say their roster is a bit more well rounded than the Lakers, however the Lakers just have a bit more upside in terms of momentum and heart. It’s weird to say yes, but in all honesty, that’s all that’s between these two teams.

Lakers in 7.

NBA FINALS

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Boston Celtics

It’s kind of odd to say, but at this exact point in the prospective season, I would say that the Lakers have taken on and overcome their biggest challenge of the season in the LA Clippers. There is a reason why so much emphasis is placed on these two teams, and why they are the focal point of the NBA world as of now. The Celtics on the other hand are woefully inexperienced when it comes to this sort of stage, and that combined with the humongous task of taking down “Washed King” and crew sort of spells the end of the road for their squad. Because of this, I can see the Lakers taking this series in a much less difficult manner than their previous, and winning the NBA championship.

Lakers in 6, NBA Champions.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as everything else going on. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

https://yemencrisis.carrd.co/

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/

NBA 2019-20 Awards Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, and Nikhil Pradeep

With this season happening and being completed in the most unusual of circumstances due to the continued outbreak of the Coronavirus in the United States, the NBA Awards could be affected a little differently this year. The NBA has announced that these 8 seeding games in Orlando will have no effect on who wins what award, and that the voting will take place from today until July 28th, and award winners will be announced during the playoffs (late August, early September timeframe). It hurts award voters because they cannot focus in too much on what is going on in Orlando with their contenders, but instead go 4 months back to see the whole season before the Coronavirus outbreak. That being said, here are the candidates for each award, and our predictions for the winner of each award. 

Most Valuable Player

  • Candidates
    • Giannis Antetokuonmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks
    • LeBron James, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
    • Luka Doncic, PG, Dallas Mavericks

Defensive Player of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
    • Giannis Antetokuonmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks
    • Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz

Most Improved Player

  • Candidates
    • Brandon Ingram, SF, New Orleans Pelicans
    • Devonte Graham, PG, Charlotte Hornets
    • Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat

Rookie of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
    • Kendrick Nunn, PG, Miami Heat
    • Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans

Sixth Man of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Montrezl Harrell, C, Los Angeles Clippers
    • Lou Williams, SG, Los Angeles Clippers
    • Dennis Schröder, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
    • Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Executive of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Pat Riley, Miami Heat President of Basketball Operations
    • Lawrence Frank, Los Angeles Clippers President of Basketball Operations
    • David Griffin, New Orleans Pelicans Executive VP

Saransh’s Award Predictions

MVP Winner: LeBron James

The debate between Giannis and LeBron for MVP has been going for the entirety of the season, and with both playing like the two best players in the league, and being on the two best teams in the league, no real separation has been created as to who should be the Most Valuable Player. Again, however, like previous years, we have to look at which player is more ‘valuable’ to the team, and which player has helped their team improve and win more this season. Last season, we saw LeBron miss 27 games due to an injury, the most in his career, and this season, his team is the 1-seed in the Western Conference and looking to secure homecourt throughout the playoffs against their Western Conference opponents. Giannis, on the other hand, is playing in a weaker conference, and playing for the better team, both record-wise, and statistically, despite putting up similar numbers. The biggest argument I have heard is that Giannis carries more of the load than LeBron, but that simply is not the case. Aside from Anthony Davis, no starters average double figures this season, whereas Giannis has 3 other starters averaging double figures. Milwaukee has also only changed their starting lineup once, whereas Los Angeles has had 10 different starting lineup combinations. With uncertainty and less support from starters, LeBron still being 11th in scoring and 1st in assists is as impressive as it gets, especially at age 35. Giannis will have more chances in the future, but LeBron takes this one.

Defensive Player of the Year Winner: Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis joining Los Angeles last summer to team up with LeBron James did not scare people because of his offensive ability alongside LeBron, but because of what he brought to the defensive end. James, while his defensive stats have been down, has had a great impact on the defensive end as a Laker, as last season, the team was top-5 in defensive efficiency before his injury, so adding Davis on just makes them even tougher. Davis is already 3rd in the league in blocks (2.4), tied for 8th in steals (1.5), and the team is 3rd for the season in fewest points allowed (106.9). The stats are huge, but his impact that is shown beyond the stat sheet, by often guarding the best player on the other team (alongside LeBron) both on the perimeter and inside, is what separates him from Giannis and Gobert on that end of the floor.

Most Improved Player Winner: Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo, fan-favorite amongst all Miami Heat fans, especially myself, has proved to Miami that taking him 14th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft was a huge steal, and he has turned himself into the franchise cornerstone. Bam went from playing 23 minutes a game and splitting playing time with elite rim-protecting center Hassan Whiteside, to now being the starter, playing 34 minutes a game, and nearly doubling his production in points, steals, and blocks, and averaging a double-double on over 56% shooting from the field. Adebayo has become the great sidekick to Jimmy Butler, both by being a complementary scorer, as well as the rim-protecting defensive anchor. Despite how much Devonte Graham and Brandon Ingram improved, Adebayo changed the future of Miami, and helped them go from a team many thought would be rebuilding or a fringe playoff team, to now being a championship contender. Adebayo is a player Miami has built around this year, and will do so in the future. 

Rookie of the Year Winner: Ja Morant

Memphis, a team that this offseason had: let its last piece of the legendary ‘Grit and Grind’ team go in Mike Conley, finished out of the playoffs for many years, but for once in the lottery were able to go low enough to get a good draft pick, and picked up a new head coach in Taylor Jenkins after spending over 2 months searching for one, finds themselves as the current 8-seed in the Western Conference, and putting all their faith and pressure on the shoulders of rookie sensation Ja Morant. Ja has been an efficient scorer like everyone expected him to be, but to be the floor general and defensive menace he is on the perimeter, was something unexpected. Ja has taken this team over in one season and completely redefined the culture, as now from the old ‘Grit and Grind’, veteran-built look, Memphis now is a fast-paced, pace-and-space team surrounded by a plethora of young talent, and then the right veterans at the right spots. Had guys like Kendrick Nunn, Zion Willamson, and maybe even Tyler Herro been more healthy, this discussion might be a lot harder, but even then, Ja would still be the well-deserving winner of this award, solely on his impact on the team alone.

Sixth Man of the Year Winner: Dennis Schröder

The Sixth Man of the Year award has largely been dominated by Lou Williams, who has won the award in three of the past five seasons, and his 3 wins are tied for most all-time. The only problem for LouWill is the fact that his teammate Montrezl Harrell played just as much Sixth Man as he did, and Dennis Schröder has outplayed both of them. Schröder has been as true a Sixth Man as you can get, be a reliable, big-time scorer off the bench, and start if necessary. While Schröder has only had to start once this season, his presence off the bench has been unmatch, being third on the team in scoring, second in assists, and third in minutes played, he has been a vital part to the success of Oklahoma City, which has been largely unexpected, considering the fact that they traded Paul George and Russell Westbrook and went into a complete rebuild mode with the multitude of draft capital they acquired for them. Trading Carmelo Anthony for D-Schro 2 summers ago has definitely paid off for OKC, as his impact and full potential is on full display for the first time in his career.

Coach of the Year Winner: Nick Nurse

Imagine this. Your first year into your job, in fact not even a month into your job, your franchise cornerstone in Demar DeRozan, is involved in a massive trade for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, both of whom are on expiring contracts and unhappy. You are sworn in to coach these guys to become championship contenders after years of heartbreak at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but now that LeBron is in Los Angeles, the Eastern Conference is as wide-open as ever. He not only leads Toronto to the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference, but knocks off the 1-seed Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, and then wins the NBA Finals over the dynasty Golden State Warriors. 

Now what if I told you that both Leonard and Green would end up leaving in free agency, and Toronto signed no replacements, would you still think that they can be Finals contenders and defend their crown? Most people would say no, but Nurse proved them wrong. Leonard and Green are both doing great playing in Los Angeles, but Nurse’s situation in Toronto is no different than last. Same seed as last year, same record, same team they are chasing at the top of the East. Nurse helped this team become a consistent contender that they failed to be before the Kawhi trade, and made Pascal Siakam an elite power forward and franchise cornerstone, and looks to take his team to yet another NBA Finals. As great as the team has been, they were never this good before Nurse, and it shows.

Executive of the Year Winner: Pat Riley

Much like Sixth Man of the Year, this is a no-brainer. Let’s go back to last April, when Pat Riley signed Kendrick Nunn to a 3-year, $3 million deal (non-guaranteed) right as the regular season ended from the Golden State Warriors G-League affiliate team. Come June, Miami held a lottery pick, but not the greatest one ever at pick 13. Instead, they managed to turn that into Tyler Herro (whom many compared to Devin Booker), he then, without making a dent on the cap space, traded Josh Richardson and a first-round pick for Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade during free agency, and in that same 4-team trade, traded the often-disgruntled Hassan Whiteside for Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless (who found his way onto the New York Knicks after being traded by Miami to the Clippers, then to the Knicks). Then, fast-forward to the trade deadline in February, he traded away James Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Dion Waiters, his 3 biggest contracts, for experienced vets Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder, and then on top of that, signed Iggy to a 2-year extension which includes a team option, therefore not hurting the team’s cap space come 2021, when they try to make a push for Giannis. This team went from dealing with the retirement of Dwyane Wade in the form of a multi-year rebuild, to a championship contender with a fast-paced development for young players like Nunn, Herro, and Bam Adebayo. Those 3, along with Jimmy Butler and the rest of the players they traded for, will be part of the Heat Culture for a long time, and made them a contender for years to come.

Anish’s Award Predictions

Most Valuable Player Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis has been in the runnings against LeBron for the Most Valuable Player. The reason I give Giannis the edge over LeBron is because the Bucks currently sit 53-12 with the best record in the league. Although the Lakers are second, LeBron gets the strong support of co-star Anthony Davis while it feels Giannis is more of a one man show in Milwaukee. Statistically the two are close, however Giannis obtains an advantage in the defensive side where LeBron continues to lack late in his career.

Defensive Player of the Year Winner: Anthony Davis

The reason I chose Anthony Davis is because of his presence in the paint for the Laker. Davis and McGee duo has been a problem for many teams against the Lakers as they make it very hard to score in the paint with their block totals. Anthony Davis currently averages 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals which are among the top defensive players in the league which is why he is my pick for Defensive Player of the Year.

Most Improved Player Winner: Brandon Ingram

This was a close decision between Brandon Ingram and Bam Adebayo. Ingram upped his PPG by 6 and Adebayo upped it by 8 PPG. The reason I chose Ingram over Adebayo is because Adebayo was given more minutes this year by 10 and performed better with more time he was given. Ingram on the other hand maintained the same minutes per game and still increased his PPG drastically. Although he was given another opportunity with the Pelicans and more chances his improvement in a new setting and team makes him my pick for Most Improved Player.

Rookie of the Year Winner: Ja Morant

While all the hype is currently surrounding star Zion Williamson as he was also announced as one of the 2K21 cover athletes, my prediction for Rookie of the Year would have to be Ja Morant. Although Zion has been extraordinary in his few games played, those games aren’t a large enough sample size to win this award and the only other person who comes close in comparison is Ja Morant.

Sixth Man of the Year Winner: Dennis Schröder

Schroder has been the backup to Chris Paul with the thunder but still has managed to put up a great 19 PPG. He is competing for this award with two other Clippers players in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The reason I have Schroder winning it is because Lou Williams already has won this award consecutively and it’s rare for the NBA to give it to him again. Also, these two Clippers are competing for the award with each other giving Schroder a slight advantage and with their stats so close I give Schroder the edge to win.

Coach of the Year Winner: Nick Nurse

This one is a no-brainer. Nick Nurse should definitely win this award because of how he kept the Raptors in such great shape. After coming off a championship win and losing their finals MVP to the Clippers, no one expected the Raptors to even make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference anymore. Not only are they in the playoffs but they sit second in the East (46-18) only behind Giannis’ Bucks. To take a new team that Nurse hasn’t worked with before that just lost its superstar and has no real ‘star player’ to rely on and still be competing in the Eastern Conference is why Nick Nurse is my pick for Coach of the Year.

Executive of the Year Winner: Lawrence Frank

Lawrence Frank is my pick for Executive of the year for orchestrating the biggest offseason steal of this year. Kawhi was constantly rumored to go to the Lakers or stay in Toronto during the offseason and it came to a huge shock when we found out he’d go to the Clippers. But not only did the Clippers add former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but they managed to add Paul George too in the package. Frank strategically knew that Leonard wanted to work with another superstar but didn’t want to necessarily be a shadow to LeBron, so bringing Paul George in to co-star Leonard was the perfect move. The offseason completely changed the future for the Clippers as now they’re neck and neck with the Lakers for who will come out Top in the Western Conference. This big move to acquire not one but 2 superstars during the offseason is why I chose Lawrence Frank as Executive of the Year.

Nikhil’s Award Predictions

Most Valuable Player Winner: Giannis Antetokoumpo

The fact of the matter is that Giannis Antetokoump has put up another season’s worth of historic numbers, and has vaulted his Bucks team into the best record in the league. Averaging nearly 30 points, 14 rebounds and six assists despite playing less than 31 minutes per game is not an easy task, and Antetokoumpo did it in dominant fashion. Even though Lebron James was league leader in assists before the break, and put up staggering numbers of his own at such a late stage in his career, (25.7 PTS, 10.6 AST, 7.9 REB), I don’t think it’s enough to compare to the accomplishments of Antetokounmpo, and thus I wouldn’t pick him for MVP.

Defensive Player of the Year Winner: Giannis Antetokoumpo

With this take, Antetokounmpo is slated to win the MVP and DPOY awards, a feat that only Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan have ever accomplished. The numbers simply don’t lie when it comes to Giannis’ defensive contribution. He leads the league in defensive win shares with 4.8,he leads the league in defensive plus-minus standings with 4.1, and finally, he also leads the league in defensive rating with 96.3. Combine this with an average of 13.7 rebounds per game, and the most defensive rebounds in the league, and you get a freak of nature worthy of both the MVP and DPOY awards.

Most Improved Player Winner: Brandon Ingram

This can easily be given to Bam Adebayo, who like Ingram snuck his way onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team roster, and make no mistake what he has done this year is very much worthy of praise. However, many people expected him to undertake this maturation and this increase in skill, albeit not as quickly. Brandon Ingram on the other hand was written off by so many people, including myself. He simply didn’t fit under LeBron’s Lakers, and that stunted his growth as a player, to the point where he had to pack his bags and wonder if the NBA was the right place for him. A wildly unexpected coming of age season followed up this culture shock for Ingram, and he, to put it frankly, balled out this season. Since the Pelicans did not have the monster that is Zion Williamson for a good stretch, Ingram picked up the slack and produced OUTSTANDING figures, including 24.3 PTS, 4.3 AST, and 6.3 REB. I’d call it a comeback story for Ingram, one definitely worth the MIP award.

Rookie of the Year Winner: Ja Morant

This might be the easiest pick of the bunch: when you have a rookie who can take a rather mediocre team like the Grizzlies, and put them in playoff contention, you have to recognize the achievement. And when the next closest competition is Zion Williamson, who only played 19 games for the Pelicans, this shouldn’t even be a discussion. An honorable mention has to go out to Kendrick Nunn of the Miami Heat, who put up respectable figures for a player whom many have not never heard of before, however they pale in comparison and impact to a team than that of Ja Morant. Just give my man the award already.

Sixth Man of the Year Winner: Dennis Schröder

Dennis Schröder has been one of those cornerstone bench pieces for years in this league. When Jeff Teague finally left Atlanta way back when, Schröder finally had his change in a starting role, and largely underwhelmed, granted the team was pretty below average as well. In his new role behind Chris Paul with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he’s enjoyed some of the best basketball of his career, and gets to do it under the guidance of the point-god himself, Chris Paul. He is an instrumental piece of OKC’s playoff push, something that NO ONE thought would even happen since the departure of Russell Westbrook. Averaging 19 PTS, 4.1 AST, and 3.7 REB, he provides that spark off the bench for one of the league’s surprise stories. Thus, I think he provides a better case for 6th Man of the Year than Montrezel Harril, and Mr. 6th man himself, Lou Williams.

Coach of the Year Winner: Nick Nurse

Nick Nurse took a championship team that lost the greatest thing to ever happen to it’s franchise in Kawhi Leanord, as well as an instrumental piece in Danny Green, and brought it back to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, with almost no real big replacement. I think that’s enough validation in it’s own right. Just for argument’s case though, compared to Billy Donovan, who by all means has done a fabulous job with underdogs OKC, and Mike Budenholzer, who also has done very well with the league’s best team, Nurse simply outclasses them. Point proven.

Executive of the Year Winner: Pat Riley

Given the expectations for the Miami Heat and the actual outcome, Pat Riley deserves every ounce of praise he can get. When the news of Jimmy Butler leaving Philadelphia broke, I personally wondered why he would go to a non-contender, and one that didn’t even have much of a rebuild in mind. However, the likes of Kendrick Nunn, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr., and others have given this team so much life and so much firepower, they’re honestly one of the most fun teams in the league to watch, and by all means not where most thought they would be at this point in the season. Once again the NBA is treated to the genius of Pat Riley, and somehow he and Erik Spoelstra seem to work their magic once again.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as the Yemen Crisis, Coronavirus, and so much more. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

https://blacklivesmatter.com/partners/

https://yemencrisis.carrd.co/

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-04-28/coronavirus-charity-how-to-choose-and-donate

The Impact of Cam Newton to New England

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

Wow, did Bill Belichick just outsmart the entire NFL again or what? I mean, think about it, he waited for Cam Newton’s value to deteriorate (due to the lack of interest) just enough to the point where he could sign Newton to the league-minimum deal of $550K in guaranteed money (base salary is $1.05M with incentives it goes up to $7.5 million). If this is not the greatest free agency scheme Belichick has ever pulled off, then I do not know what is. All the talk about Belichick being content with Jarrett Stidham at QB, and potentially even tanking for Trevor Lawrence in the upcoming draft, has been put to bed in the most Belichick-way possible, by signing a former MVP to replace another former MVP. Now, we all know that Tom Brady is the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time, but replacing him at age 42 with a healthy Cam Newton who still has got some prime years left in him, is not a downgrade at all, and if it does not work out or Belichick simply likes the team but sees a different vision beyond Cam Newton, then Belichick can let him walk, and Cam can get a bag elsewhere, the same way guys like Teddy Bridgewater did this past offseason, and Case Keenum did in 2018. Now for the big question, which is what we predict will happen in Cam’s first season in a Patriots uniform.

The Rejuvenation of SuperCam by Saransh Sharma

If there is any player who played at an MVP and near-Super Bowl winning level that I would trust to return to that form after years of injuries and being doubted, it is Cam Newton. The chip on his shoulder has been there ever since he was brought into Auburn after being suspended at Florida for stealing a laptop, which led to him being kicked out of the school, going to JuCo, and then coming back to Auburn a whole different player, winning the Heisman, becoming a National Champion, and getting drafted first overall to the Carolina Panthers in 2011, a team that had not achieved any real success since 2002 when they went to the Super Bowl and choked against 2nd-year QB Brady and the Patriots. Newton quickly established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, making a Pro Bowl as a rookie, and running away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He later went on to make multiple playoff appearances, and then in the 2015 season, went to the Super Bowl, and took a lot of criticism for his play and his press conference responses. Newton’s season in 2016 was cut short due to injury, but had a very successful 2017, only for that to end, and then injuries to hamper him the last 2 seasons. But still, the last healthy version of Cam we saw took his team to the playoffs, threw for over 3300 yards and had 28 total touchdowns. Now, with a better offensive line than he had in New England, an all-time great head coach, and having a chance at rejuvenation, Cam Newton is in the best shape of his life and looking to prove everyone wrong.

The Patriots receiving core still is not the best, but you also have to realize how unhealthy they were last season, which led to sloppy, inconsistent play from the players who were able to stay healthy. Edelman led the league in drops with 13, Mohamed Sanu was only with New England for 8 games due to being traded midseason, and due to a nagging injury, did not see the field or targets very often, first-round pick N’Keal Harry only played 7 games with injury, and rookie Jakobi Meyers only started one game, which a 13-9 win against Dallas in Week 9. And do not forget that they never had a consistent tight end option or running game due to injuries, and they had Antonio Brown, Demariyus Thomas, and Josh Gordon at one point, who all got released or traded (Thomas). New England just did not have anything on offense consistently to be a contender, thus their Wild Card game loss. With Newton, they now bring a healthy and more balanced offense. The team is honestly very similar to that of Carolina when they went to the Super Bowl, where they had a big-bodied receiver (Sanu), other good receivers who can play outside and in the slot (Edelman and Harry), a check-down option (White), and a power running back (Michel), and an elite defense to help out. That being said, it is not as good of a receiving core and offense as that in Carolina, more of a ‘Great Value’ version of it, if you will. I think Newton has a chance to show flashes of his MVP form with the similarities in the offense’s structure, but mostly be his 2013-self, where he first showed he could be an elite QB, and there is no better Offensive Coordinator than Josh McDaniels to help lead him.

As for how the team will do, New England should win the division, and I believe Newton will do a great job of leading the team, but I do not anticipate them winning more than 10 games. New England will go 10-6 and hold the tiebreaker over Buffalo to win the division, locking them up with the 3-seed in the AFC. A matchup with a tough Steelers or Chargers team is my prediction, but I think that both teams, due to their elite defenses, will slow the passing attack down, and there simply will not be enough that Newton can do to lead his team to victory, so the season will end at the Wild Card. 

As for his free agency, being on a 1-year deal at the moment, it is up to Belichick to decide what the next move with Cam is. I think that Cam will actually go elsewhere to a younger, more QB-needy team, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who could be seeing the last of Ben Roethlisberger, but have an exciting and young roster around him, and an elite defense. Also look out for Cleveland and Oakland, other exciting and young teams who, if they choose Newton over their current QBs, would become contenders and could see an infusion of a veteran presence comforting for them.

Can Cam Avoid His Kryptonite, The Injuries? by Rohan Krishnan

To start off, I am definitely a fan of this move by the Patriots. Adding a player at a cheap price to an important position is a very smart decision and this is the perfect example of a low risk high reward move. Cam Newton is indeed 0-8 in his last eight starts, but he was playing with an injured shoulder. When Cam was healthy, he was a very respectable quarterback. From Weeks 1-9 in 2018 when healthy, Newton averaged 236 passing yards per game, totaled 15 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Furthermore, Cam was a beast in the running game by leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards (342) and touchdowns (4). 

Signing Newton, a former MVP, is very exciting for the whole Patriots fan base, but I would not say it is a lock that he would start just yet. He has dealt with a lisfranc injury which is very annoying to deal with. He also needs to show up to camp healthy and prove to the coaches that he can still play. This is why the Patriots gave him a very cheap contract because Newton needs to prove himself. If everything goes well in training camp for Cam, I think he would have a very solid comeback season in New England. I do not think he will return to MVP form, but he is capable of playing like a top 12 quarterback in the league. Even though the Patriots lost Tom Brady, they still have an elite coaching staff that could bring out the best out of Cam’s skillset. Josh McDaniels is a fantastic offensive coordinator, and we all know how big of a mastermind Bill Belichick is. I think Newton will prove all of the doubters wrong this season and New England will find a way to continue their playoff streak. I have the Buffalo Bills winning the division even with the Newton signing, but I predict New England will sneak in as a wild-card team. I don’t have them going far in the postseason as I have them losing in the first round, however the Patriots will stay as a competitive squad. 

Can Cam Newton Pave His Road to Glory in Foxborough? By Pranav Thiriveedhi

As everyone already knows, the Patriots recently signed Cam Newton, former Auburn Legend and NFL MVP, to replace Tom Brady, who was arguably the greatest football player to ever play. This move by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots was spectacular! Being able to grab an amazing NFL QB to replace Tom Brady was an awesome move to keep the Patriots “Super” Era still afloat. Before Cam’s entry into New England, QB Jarrett Stidham, was poised to start for the Patriots and was expected to produce some great work for them to either give the Pats the 1 or 2 seed in the AFC East, which would really be amazing after the biggest loss to the team in franchise history. But now, with Cam Newton under center, the Patriots really have a chance to get back into the driver seat and hold that position as AFC champ for a little more time. 

Obviously, this only makes sense if Cam stays healthy, and plays at a level he did when he took the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl just a few years ago. It’s hard to write about health because that obviously is determined in the game, but what we can talk about is Cam’s playing level on the field. I am not going to lie, but I can see Cam Newton having his best season yet if all goes well. The former Heisman Trophy winner has the best receiving core he has ever played with for the next season, with receivers like Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Mohammad Sanu. I don’t think he has played on a team with that many great receivers. Cam Newton also has a little bit of the Christian McCaffrey energy in the form of James White (no argument there) and Sony Michel, who is really showing he can be a brilliant member of the New England Patriots. The Patriots have also given Cam Newton an advantage in the always underrated Offensive Line, a line that always has been sitting in the top 10 in the league for a long, long time. Carolina really didn’t give that opportunity to Cam, which means we never saw Cam Newton perform with more time, something Tom Brady has had the pleasure of having almost his whole career. 

Now with legendary coach Bill Belichick, an amazing offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels, an awesome receiving core with two running backs that play in all parts of the field, and a top 10 Offensive Line, the Patriots and Cam Newton can really do something next year. I predict that the Patriots will easily get that above 10 wins season and will lock up the AFC East with the 1st seed. They, along with a healthy Cam Newton, will also make a big run in the playoffs, and maybe even have a shot (not a guarantee) at capturing the Super Bowl. 

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as everything else going on. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/

Should the NBA Continue, Relocate the Bubble, Or Cancel the Season?

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, and Anish Dhondi

The NBA is in a weird spot right now. They have already a plan in place to have their season, in their ‘bubble’ return, with 22 teams being invited to Orlando, and even the entire 88-game seeding games schedule released, but with the large spikes of the Coronavirus in Florida, doubt is beginning to creep in, leaving the players, coaching staffs, and front offices of teams tense, and all the pressure in the world on the shoulders of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. As great as Silver has been as a Commissioner, this pressure is almost insurmountable, as the health of the teams and future of the NBA depends on his decision. If the NBA is cancelled this season, then there would be no basketball until October 2021 at the earliest, as the NBA would not have enough money to hold a 2020-21 season, putting them in a lockout. If the NBA resumes in Orlando, the rates at which players, staff, front office, etc., contracts the Coronavirus, would be very high, and even if it is moved from Orlando, the chances of catching the Coronavirus are still high. All in all, there is not much that Adam Silver can do, as really the fate of the NBA rests in the hands of others, mostly outside the ‘bubble’ and whether or not they social distance and decide to try to be as safe as possible, as that is the only way the Coronavirus will being to slow down. Here is our take on each option, and what the result of each option being chosen would be:

The Doomsday Scenario(s)’ by Saransh Sharma

The NBA is having their players get tested for the Coronavirus, and with the first wave of testing having now concluded, players such as Nikola Jokic, Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, Alex Len, and Jabari Parker (all Sacramento Kings players), and 2 unnamed Phoenix Suns players have already announced that they have tested positive for Coronavirus. On top of that, guys like Davis Bertans and Avery Bradley have announced that they are sitting out, and guys like Carmelo Anthony are reluctant to go due to the risks. This leads to the first ‘doomsday scenario’, which is that not enough NBA players or coaching staff members agree to go to Orlando (or wherever the bubble ends up being, if it moves). If this happens, the NBA will not have enough money to the players to get a fair amount of pay for the season and have a full season due to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and already the season will be shortened due to when this current season would be ending, and the Olympics being at the end of July. This would lead to a lockout.

Next comes the second ‘doomsday scenario’, which is that the NBA has enough players and coaching staff members agree to go to the bubble, but the spread of Coronavirus between players and teams is so much that it causes for the NBA to have to halt the season and suspend it for good. This brings forth a lot of questions for the 2021 Olympics, because the NBA would have ended the 2019-20 season, have the 2020-21 season cancelled due to a lockout, but the NBA season most likely would not be shortened if it went into a lockout due to the Olympics being in July, and the NBA season would maybe be 30 games. This being said, this does affect the Olympics. Will countries even send their NBA players to the Olympics when they have not played in over a year, or will they send their college prospects or other players from other leagues that have been playing and get them the experience? The NBA has a lot of pressure on them because Team USA and other countries will rely on their players having had some professional playing time before going to play internationally, meaning that if there is no season next year, Olympic basketball could be in the balance in terms of the talent sent there. The NBA having this season cancelled could turn out to be a turning point not just for the future of the NBA, but international basketball as well.

New York, New York, It’s A Heck of a Town‘ by Nikhil Pradeep

The legendary Stephen A. Smith went on ESPN’s First Take recently, stating that the NBA should relocate the league’s “bubble” restart to New York City rather than playing in Orlando. In short, his reasoning is that New York is clearly the bigger city and has much more available space to work with when considering how far hotels and facilities should be from each other. He then follows up by saying that Governor Andrew Cuomo has led the city, as well as the state, back from the crisis much better than Florida and its population has, and that since the city has shifted to Phase 2 as of June 22, 2020, it is “what it’s all about right now”. 

Folks I love Stephen A. Smith as much as anyone, but this is a FREEZING cold take.

Jay Williams and Marcus Spears, the other two analysts on the show, quickly shot down this theory for two different reasons, however they both agreed that Florida should not be the place where the restart should happen, and frankly I agree with them. The fact of the matter is that COVID-19 is still a national health emergency, whether or not the federal government chooses to acknowledge it or not. In all honesty, the way that America has handled this pandemic pales in comparison to places like Germany, Spain, and England, all of which have restarted their top-tier soccer leagues with flying colors. The disease doesn’t infect people based on their social rank, it doesn’t discriminate in who it infects, and it is STILL everywhere within America. By placing NBA players, staff, and officials in Florida (which statistically has been one of the worst states to attempt to contain the disease), you effectively expose them to the virus simply for the sake of entertainment. And by relocating the restart to NYC, the same sort of exposure WILL STILL happen, simply based on how dense the city is. It does not matter how spread apart facilities are, this virus has spread across the entire globe with no problem, so what’s stopping it from travelling down a block or two? There is simply too big a risk to take, and players like Davis Bertans and Avery Bradley are examples of athletes who care about their health and safety more than the need to play. Frankly, I firmly believe the NBA should not restart the season in July simply based on how the country is handling the pandemic, and how easily things can go wrong.

You’re Never Too Old For Disney World by Anish Dhondi

As the NBA released its schedule for the reopening on July 30th, it looks like a push towards reopening the season with no setbacks. Currently 16 of the 302 NBA players planning to play in the season have tested positive for Coronavirus. Although this isn’t good news, it’s relieving that the number isn’t higher and therefore may have the NBA continuing with their plans. The original plan was to have a bubble for the NBA to play inside of Disney World where they’d have little to no interaction with the outside world other than players and staff. However, Florida has appeared recently as one of the Coronavirus hotspots in this second wave of cases and fear across the United States. While there are many people talking about a potential move for the bubble to another city with less cases, the chances are more unlikely than you’d expect. Disney has been preparing the scenario for these players to live fairly decent lives while playing in this quarantined season. Players will have access to exclusive Disney interactions to keep them entertained throughout the season and playoffs. There’s risk in if one player inside the bubble gets Coronavirus it could cause the whole NBA to shut down again. The NBA is taking strict measures to maintain the safety of the players by having them wear a ring that monitors temperature and other factors that could show signs of the virus, along with weekly testing for safety. As much as this coronavirus has been ignored in our country and cases continue to grow worse and worse, I still think the NBA should reopen strictly in this bubble. The reason for this is that it gives people a reason to stay in and watch NBA which is a change from the daily routine of quarantine that can get excessively repetitive and cause people to leave their homes and put everyone’s lives at risk. Obviously if cases continue to grow exponentially then the NBA should also shut down but at this rate I can see the NBA opening on time near July and it will be interesting to see the impact that these last couple months have had on the players.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as everything else going on. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/

The NBA Returns Part 2: Who Gets the 8-Seeds?

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep and Anish Dhondi

The NBA had just last week announced their full plan for their season’s return with a ‘bubble’ format in Orlando, with just 22 of the 30 teams being invited to come back, and many different rules and regulations to keep players and their families safe and healthy have been put in place, and we detailed our biggest storylines for the remainder of the season. We now jump into Part 2 of ‘The NBA Returns’ series to bring you our predictions for the 8-seed in each conference, and how we think each team will fare in their remaining 8 games of their season. Using NBC Sports’ predictions for who each team will face, here are our predictions for which teams will make the playoffs, and which teams will be sent home quickly from Orlando:

Anish’s Predictions for: Memphis, Portland, New Orleans

Memphis Grizzlies: #8 Seed, Western Conference (32-33)

Projected Opponents: Trail Blazers, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Bucks, Pelicans, Pelicans, Celtics

Memphis currently holds the 8th seed and will be fighting to keep their spot in the playoffs. Not many people expected this grizzlies team to perform this well with the departure of Mike Conley. Their roster is young and doesn’t have much playoff experience. Their schedule appears relatively easy in comparison to the other teams fighting for a playoff spot so they should have a good chance in maintaining their position. Led by the athletic duo of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. this Grizzlies team can be a force in the future but I don’t believe they have the experience to perform under the pressure of the playoffs and could see them falling down a couple places.

Portland Trail Blazers: #9 Seed, Western Conference (29-37), 2.5GB of Memphis

Projected Opponents: Grizzlies, Rockets, Mavericks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, Lakers, (Heat or Magic)

As many of the teams benefited from this playoff format, the Blazers were not among them. Their current schedule to have a shot of the playoffs is harder than the schedule they had remaining for the regular season. This means because of the pandemic they’re forced to unnecessarily play harder teams in the fight for a playoff spot. These 8 games are basically like the playoffs if the Blazers want a shot and star Damian Lillard needs to be at the top of his game to lead them to victories. When the team needs him the most, Damian Lillard has been known to be one of the clutchest NBA players in the league, this playoff format with the pressure of make-or-miss for the playoffs puts all eyes on Lillard to carry this team. However, as much as Lillard can go off, he must have the help of his supporting cast and co-star CJ McCollum to provide consistent help. Jusuf Nurkic is also expecting a return after going down last season with a brutal injury. I can see this Blazers team making a push to play into the playoffs even with a tough schedule.

New Orleans Pelicans: #10 Seed, Western Conference (28-36), 3.5GB of Memphis

Projected Opponents: Kings, Jazz, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Kings, Grizzlies, Magic

The pelicans were a dark horse team that none really expected to perform this well. With the emergence of Ingram’s recent performance, Jrue Holiday’s consistency, and the most popular rookie in years, Zion Williamson, the Pelicans can squeeze their way into a potential spot. When it comes to viewership, Zion is near the top and generates mass amounts of revenue for his popularity. His electrifying play for a rookie is something we haven’t seen in years and hopefully it gives the Pelicans enough momentum. However, I see the Pelicans and the Grizzlies as a toss up for the playoff chances. Both teams lack the experience of the pressured setting because they’re filled with young talent. If these teams had the same record I would give the Pelicans a slight advantage with the leadership of Jrue Holiday and his performance in past playoff appearances, however because they are 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies it may be difficult to secure a chance for the playoffs.

Saransh’s Predictions for: Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix

Sacramento Kings: #11 Seed, Western Conference (28-36), 3.5GB of Memphis

Remaining Teams to Play: Pelicans (x2), Nets, Mavericks, Rockets, Magic, Pacers, Spurs

For every team currently not in the playoffs in the Western Conference, so below Memphis, they have a bit of a mountain to climb, with Sacramento being tied in record with New Orleans. Sacramento’s schedule, however, gives them a favorable shot to at least get up to the 9-seed and force a play-in with Memphis, as they do not really play any elite teams aside from Houston. Getting New Orleans twice is key in helping them move up the standings, as winning both is their best way to get a leg-up on them in the standings, and with all the games at neutral sites, anything can happen. 

The ease of opponents, along with the experience of Sacramento, will propel them to the 9-seed and force them into a play-in with Portland, a very even match, although the advantage goes slightly to Portland, due to having Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s scoring to aid them, something that will be hard for De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield to match. Getting Jusuf Nurkic back at Center/Power Forward is huge for the Blazers as well, as his lateral quickness and shot-blocking will be used effectively to slow down Marvin Bagley in the pick-and-roll, making this exclusively a backcourt-driven series. As much as I would love to see Sacramento back in the playoffs and into their glory days again, the uphill battle might be too much, as their time will run out in the playoff play-in.

San Antonio Spurs, #12 Seed, Western Conference (27-36), 4GB of Memphis

Remaining Teams to Play: Nuggets, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Jazz (x2), Nuggets, Kings, 76ers

With LaMarcus Aldridge deciding to undergo his right shoulder surgery now and skip Orlando, rather than go play and then opt for surgery, San Antonio’s record (tied) of 22-straight seasons of making the playoffs is now in jeopardy for the first time in this 22-season stretch. It almost seems unreal to think we could see a playoffs without San Antonio for as long as Gregg Popovich is coaching, the same way it was to see LeBron not be in the NBA Finals after 8 consecutive appearances (his injury did hold him back for almost half the season, but the Lakers simply did not have the talent anyways to surround LeBron with). Simply put, San Antonio simply does not have the talent that they would normally have due to injuries, to be able to compete for the 8-seed.

So, for the first time in forever (literally, and also a ‘Frozen’ reference), there actually will be an offseason where San Antonio will have a lottery pick in the NBA Draft (currently projected to have the #11 pick in the draft), and could have a ton of cap space with DeMar Derozan’s impending free agency upcoming, and him not returning, as his massive contract and age would not fit the team’s direction. I think San Antonio will look to go for Saddiq Bey in the draft at Small Forward, therefore solidifying Derrick White and Dejounte Murray as their backcourt of the future. This trip to Orlando is all about finding out who will be in San Antonio for the long-run, and who will be playing elsewhere.

Phoenix Suns, #13 Seed, Western Conference (26-39), 6GB of Memphis

Remaining Teams to Play: Mavericks (x2), Clippers, Pacers, 76ers, Heat, Wizards, Thunder

The team with the longest playoff drought currently is Phoenix, as they have not made the playoffs since their Western Conference Finals appearance in 2010, back when they had Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudamire, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson as the centerpieces of their star-studded squad, but were dethroned by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum of the Lakers in 6 games. Since then, they constantly end up picking in the lottery, and they have landed stars like Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, and busts like Dragan Bender and Cameron Johnson. So all in all, Phoenix has just been an outlandish, inconsistent team on paper, but consistent in terms of losing games and missing the playoffs. However, with the acquisitions of Kelly Oubre Jr., Dario Saric, and Ricky Rubio, the team added much needed veteran players to a bizarrely young team. 

Things went very well this season to start, in fact, at one point Phoenix was one of the best teams in the league, but then DeAndre Ayton tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, missed 25 games, and since then have settled for mediocrity, but still currently consistent with the whole ‘miss-the-playoffs’ bill. Either way, this team is now healthy and will be well-rested, and can show their potential. I fully expect this team to play their fast-paced, inside-out, pace and space game on offense, but still have their usual struggles on defense, preventing them from winning games, such as games against teams like OKC, Philly, and Indiana. This team will come close, but teams like Sacramento and Portland will make it tough for Phoenix to climb their way into the playoffs, as record-wise, they were lucky to have an invitation to Orlando. Talent-wise, this team has a great core that with the proper development and scheming from their coaching staff over their trip to Orlando and this up coming offseason, can change Phoenix from a young and hopeful, to a gritty, tough-minded team that no one wants to play in the playoffs.

Nikhil’s Predictions: Orlando, Brooklyn, Washington

Brooklyn Nets, #7 Seed, Eastern Conference:

Remaining Schedule: Clippers (x2), Kings, Wizards, Celtics, Magic (x2), Trail Blazers

The Brooklyn Nets have largely underwhelmed this season, and the mid-season injuries to Kyrie Irving and others clearly have not helped their case of being future contenders in the Eastern Conference. That being said, they have been blessed with a current Eastern Conference which is weak in every aspect of the word, and have found themselves in a fairly beneficial position in 7th place. Even with the injury to their starting point guard, and the controversy he has been stirring in recent weeks in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Nets are adequately equipped to make the playoffs. Mainstays like Deandre Jordan, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and a very capable supporting cast can easily propel this team forward, and given that their schedule is easier compared to the Wizards’, they have very high chances to make the playoffs. In comparison to Orlando, the teams are very similar in roster depth and star power given that Irving and Durant are both out for the Nets, so expect these two teams to be very similar in record once the ‘regular season’ games are over. I’m predicting the Nets to finish 8th in the conference solely based on Orlando’s comparatively easier schedule. This will end up in an unfavorable draw with the Bucks come playoff time. 

Orlando Magic, #8 Seed, Eastern Conference, 0.5GB of Brooklyn: 

Remaining Schedule: Pacers, Kings, Nets (x2), Pelicans, 76ers, Raptors, Lakers or Trail Blazers (not yet decided)

The Magic have found themselves in nearly an identical situation as the Nets, minus the starpower and controversy. Orlando has over the years become a rather mundane destination for players, and honestly is one of the more forgettable teams in the league. But make no mistake, this team is a viable playoff squad, and outclasses a good amount of teams within the Eastern Conference. Players like Evan Fournier, DJ Augustin, and Jonathan Isaac provide the foundation for a quality squad, and to top it off, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic give the team that firepower to put them over the edge. Again, given their rather easy schedule, compared to the Nets and Wizards, they are a very strong contender to make the playoff picture, and in my opinion, will get the 7th seed over the Nets. The fact of the matter is that Orlando avoids playing stronger teams like Boston and the Clippers, and instead plays the likes of Indiana and New Orleans. Because of this, I believe they will finish in 7th after the regular season games finish, and draw a matchup with either Toronto or Boston, depending on how things shake up.

Washington Wizards, #9 Seed, Eastern Conference, 5.5GB of Orlando:

Remaining Schedule: Celtics (x2), Thunder, 76ers, Nets, Bucks, Suns, Bucks

Let’s be very clear right of the bat, the Wizards need MULTIPLE miracles to make the playoffs. Make no mistake, Bradley Beal and company have a very nice team put together: the likes of Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr combining forces causes this team to be very dangerous when slept on. Combine this with the uber-underrated Beal and his offensive ability, and you have a very deadly squad. The issue that has plagued this team for many of the past years however, is their  inability to get stops on the defensive end. Year after year, contest after contest, the Wizards manage to put up points very nicely, but throw away opportunities so often with lackluster focus and inability to make crucial stops. This does not seem likely to change when going into the modified NBA season this year, and given that their schedule is filled with matchups against offensive-minded power teams like Milwaukee and Boston (both of which they play TWICE), the playoffs seem bleak. Expect them to finish 9th outside of the postseason picture, and far enough record wise to wear a 8th and 9th seed with the predicted Brooklyn Nets would not be necessary.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

The NBA Returns: What To Watch For – Part 1

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, and Anish Dhondi

The NBA is officially coming back on July 31st in DisneyWorld with no fans, and we, along with all of you guys reading this, cannot wait for the return. By the time the league would resume, players would have been on a 4-month layoff due to the season being suspended for the Coronavirus. A quick run-through of how the return will work, the NBA has only invited 22 teams to Orlando, with the bottom 2 Western Conference teams (Warriors and Timberwolves) and bottom 6 Eastern Conference teams (Bulls, Pistons, Cavaliers, Hornets, Hawks, and Knicks) being amongst the 8 that were not invited. The top 6 teams in the East have clinched their playoff spots already, and the top 7 have clinched in the West. Each team will play 8 games and they will be played amongst the 22 teams remaining. 

As far as restrictions, the NBA has created a ‘bubble campus’ within Orlando where all the teams, coaches, players, staff, etc. are required to stay, and only 3 family members can be with you, and they almost must be within the ‘bubble’. Along with that, there will be tests every day for COVID-19 for all players, coaches, and staff, and if you are tested positive, you are out for at least 7 days, meaning that in the playoffs, that could be 3-4 games. Also, teams will eat at restaurants together and can only play golf, and the DisneyWorld rides will not be open for families.  

Now that we have given an overview of the regulations, we bring you to the biggest storylines of the return of basketball:

Saransh’s Biggest Storylines

Kyrie and KD Sitting Out

Kevin Durant was injured last year in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets, and then returned for the NBA Finals, where he would end up getting injured yet again, and has not been back on the court since. Despite the recent reports that he is healthy, he will sit out and get ready for a big title push next season, where Kyrie Irving will also be back and healthy. Irving has been injured off-and-on this season, and even though he is healthy as well (probably healthier than Durant considering Durant is still doing his last bits of rehab), he is sitting out as well. This is a big storyline because, for one, they only have a 0.5 game lead on Orlando for the 7th-seed, and a 6-game lead for the 8th-seed. With no superstars, a thin bench, and only 8 games to play, Brooklyn could potentially have to play-in for the 8th-seed to make the playoffs, or even miss them altogether. Second, if they do make the playoffs, they will face either Milwaukee or Toronto (Boston or Miami is possible but unlikely), but whichever team it is, they will easily sweep Brooklyn. Next season is when we will really start talking about them.

The ‘Other’ Contenders: Miami, Houston, and Dallas

All the talk has really been about the LA teams, Boston, Milwaukee, and Toronto matching up in the NBA Finals, and everyone seems to overlook the other true contenders. I’m talking about Miami, Houston, and Dallas, the teams that have been playing ‘in the shadows’, so to speak, yet still getting the job done every single night. Miami and Houston at one point in the season were as high as the 2-seed, and Dallas was the 4th-seed earlier. Now, with them being at 4th, 6th, and 7th, respectively, they face a different battle than expected, but with 8 games left and still a good shot at a higher seed, you never know. The biggest challenger to Milwaukee is Miami, and the biggest challengers to the LA teams are Houston and Dallas (Utah would be in the conversation if Bogdanovic was not injured. He is now out for the season). Miami with their size, balance, and 3-point shooting to match up with the best in the East, Houston with their unique small-ball lineup, and Dallas with Luka, Porzingis, and other upcoming young stars, these teams are going to surprise a lot of people this season and be around as contenders for years to come.

Nikhil’s Biggest Storylines

The Bubble Teams, And The Playoff Implications That Follow

It’s no secret the NBA wants to get as much viewership and as much buzz back into its games, and the best way to do that is to include as many teams as viably possible into its return. The method that the board has settled on is nothing short of complex and mildly confusing, but in many ways addresses all concerns of proper seeding, fair play, and equal opportunity for each ball club. The NBA firstly has invited 22 teams, which are all teams that were in the top 8 in each conference once the season was paused, as well as teams within 6-games of the 8th seed (New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, and Phoenix in the West, and Washington in the East). These teams will play 8 regular season style, “seeding games” to determine their positions going into the make-shift playoffs. A possible play-in tournament between the No. 8 and No. 9 teams in a conference could be utilized if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth. In that case, the No. 9 seed would need to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the playoff berth, while the No. 8 would need one win from the two potential games. From there, a typical NBA style playoff structure would follow, and a champion will be crowned. It is the battle for the 8th seed, particularly in the West, that catches my eye. As the table stands, Memphis holds the 8th seed, and Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento are all tied for 9th, with San Antonio and Phoenix not far behind. I expect Portland to walk away as the 8th seed once the whole thing plays out, simply based on their experience, and talent. In all honesty, they should be higher up in the table given that Lillard is a bonafide superstar in this league, and he’s with a surrounding cast including CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony. Yes, Ja Morant and Zion Williamson (both of which I will elaborate on in a bit) are very prominent figures in their own right, but the teams they command simply aren’t at the level the Blazers are. I do expect to come down to the wire, possibly with the play-in tournament having to be used as well.

The NBA’s Polarizing Rookies Are Instrumental in the Bounce Back of the League.

The NBA has lost millions due to the pandemic, and since the virus is a worldwide phenomenon, they are losing revenue from everywhere all at the same time. So, in order to bounce back accordingly, the league needs to make every money-making move possible with this return they have in mind. This is definitely part of the reason why more than the standard 16 teams were invited back to the season, by adding the additional six teams, 88 games are effectively injected back into the schedule, and the collective salary reduces loss by $300 million. What is even more of a motivating factor is the massive viewership garnered by Zion Williamson and Ja Morant (Mainly Williamson but i’m trying to be nice). The No. 1 pick in this years draft has carried an insane amount of buzz ever since his high school days, and is a huge money maker for the league. By including New Orleans back into the season, and possibly the playoffs in some capacity, the league effectively boosts their revenue potential, allowing the world to focus once again on Williamson, and the hype to return to the league. Couple this with the lesser but similar effect Morant has had with Memphis, and you have two very prominent incentives for people to start watching again, and get hooked back into the league. By appealing to what the people want to see, the league directly propels themselves back to the position they were in before the pandemic striked.

Anish’s Biggest Storylines

No Home Court Advantage for Players

With this new format being in place teams lack the comparative home court advantage that they would have normally received in the playoffs. Normally a 1st seed team would have the advantage in a series against the 8th seed team, as the first 2 games would be in the 1st seeds court and if it were to extend to a 7 game series the 1st seed would get the extra home game. Now the home court advantage has been eliminated in order to maintain the safety of players. Can you imagine watching an NBA game with no crowd noise? Silence in the background and strictly the sound of the basketball would be a dull game without fan reaction. Ideas have been thrown around as a possibility of the NBA incorporating crowd sound effects from its popular NBA based video game, NBA 2K. Although this sounds strange it may benefit in giving the audience a little more excitement during moments of the game where the crowd would normally get pumped up. Although home court advantage may not seem like a big deal to us, it’s a big deal to the players. Many players thrive in a home court setting with their own fans cheering them on giving them a boost in confidence on the court. An example of this is shown with superstar Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Lillard averaged 31.9 PPG when playing on his home court, however that number dropped to 25.9 PPG when playing on an opponent’s court. This is a significant difference for one player and shows the importance of home court advantage which won’t be a factor in the playoffs this year so it’ll be interesting to see how these players perform.

Players Getting Back in Shape

The NBA has been suspended for months and after a couple games it will be the playoffs which is the most important time of year for teams because it’s all of the years work towards winning a championship. Many players however may not be in the same shape as they were prior to the suspension which can be an issue. Without the proper routine and training to get these player’s bodies ready for the rigorous pace of the NBA again, many injuries can occur. It will be interesting to see the difference between all these player’s peak performance during the regular season and the effect quarantine has had on some of their bodies with a lack of going to a gym or being able to consistently work out. Even if players were to be exercising, nothing quite matches the pace of an actual NBA game, so with these players in offseason mode it would be a struggle to quickly get back into shape with no preseason or 82 game ‘warm up’ for the playoffs. Will this affect the favorites for winning the championship this year? And what if a star player was to get Coronavirus or returns back to the game too quickly for his body and gets injured that would have him out for basically the entire playoffs? There are many dangerous factors in opening up this season after a long absence and we’ll see how it turns out.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

NFL Season Predictions Part 1: Records

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Nikhil Pradeep

The NFL season is upon us in just a few months and as of right now is set to take place as normal, with or without fans, the season will go on. With that in mind and the NFL Draft and most of free agency having taken place, we as a team make our first set of season predictions, starting with team records. Here are our predictions:

Saransh’s Division Predictions: NFC West and South

NFC West

  1. San Francisco 49ers

The defending NFC Champions stacked up their roster even more than last year. Despite losing on Emmanuel Sanders, they traded Deforest Buckner for a first-round pick, then traded up again to get Brandon Aiyuk to be the pass-catching replacement for Sanders, and they’re getting Jerick McKinnon back to add to their already deadly RB arsenal. They also added to their defense with that first-round draft pick, getting Javon Kinlaw to replace Deforest Buckner at defensive tackle. Yet again they will be an elite defense, and Jimmy Garoppolo has even more weapons to throw to. Expect a big season from San Fran. Record: 12-4

  1. Seattle Seahawks 

Seattle was about a half yard away from being the two seed in the NFC and NFC West Champions, yet instead ended up with the 5 seed in the NFC, and not getting any home games, having to play in Philly on Wild Card Weekend, have Wentz unfortunately get knocked out for Philly leaving them with Josh McCown, who had an inspired performance which nearly won them the game, and then Seattle had to play catch-up against Green Bay in the Divisional Round, but simply could not slow down Rodgers and Adams enough to win. This year, they will get unlucky again, this time with the division. I think that while they will be better than Arizona, they will struggle in their divisional games, as I have SF sweeping them, and them splitting with Arizona and LA. As good as they will play outside of their division, their division struggle will keep them away from the division title, narrowly putting them in the playoffs. Record: 10-6

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Last season, the team ended the season 5-10-1, most of their wins coming in their late-season surge when RB Kenyan Drake was traded to them and finally figured out how to run without fumbling. Drake now has been good for four career games, nice. This offseason, however, their trade for DeAndre Hopkins in which they just really gave up David Johnson, was a huge step in the right direction for a team that has not had success in the past 4 seasons. Kyler Murray to DeAndre, and a good defense? Yes, please. That being said, Hopkins could see frustrations due to his lack of targets with guys like Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald around, as Fitz was targeted 109 times last year, and Kirk had 108. That could lead to some mishaps along the way, which has me having them just a game out of the playoffs. Record: 9-7

  1. Los Angeles Rams

First off, before I go into my record prediction for the Rams, I just want to say, the Rams rebranding and new jerseys was a failure of epic proportions. I mean it is as if Best Buy and the Division II school Angelo State combined together and decided to team up to make jerseys and logos, having absolutely no idea what they are really doing. Anyways, as far as the Rams, the fall from one of the most exciting and best teams to watch in the NFL, to now a team that is fighting to make the playoffs, was a dramatic fall. In the end, Todd Gurley, who was the player that was injured which led to the downfall, has now been traded to the Atlanta Falcons. LA drafted Cam Akers to replace him, and the WR tandem of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will be good, but the defense, like last year, will struggle with the offense not being able to produce too many points due to a struggling Jared Goff at QB. Record: 7-9


NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints

Another season goes by and another controversial ending to a playoff exit. Yeah, the Saints really cannot catch a break. That being said, they are still the most talent-filled roster in the NFC, and they only got better by signing Emmanuel Sanders from the San Francisco 49ers, giving Drew Brees yet another passing option. The defense did not really change much, but getting LB Zach Baun as late as they did in the draft was a huge steal. Saints will have a really good regular season yet again, and hopefully for them, the postseason ends differently. Record: 13-3

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Still does not feel or sound right, but eventually we have to get used to it. Brady has the best wide receiver core he has ever had in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and do not forget that he got his best friend Rob Gronkowksi to join him. I only have them getting 10 wins, however, and just one seed ahead of Atlanta due to their defense. Apart from the linebacking core, the defense is a huge issue and will force the Bucs to lose a winnable game or two. They will be a playoff team, but not a strong one. Record: 10-6

  1. Atlanta Falcons

28-3. Since they had that lead in Super Bowl LI, Atlanta just has not had a single game in which they have played with confidence. That being said, their entire defense is healthy to start a season for the first time since Super Bowl LI, and they now have an elite running back in Todd Gurley, who should find his form. The only thing holding them back from not being ahead of New Orleans or Tampa in the South is their wide receiver core. Aside from Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, they do not have a game-changing tight end like New Orleans and Tampa do with Jared Cook and Gronk, respectively. That being said, they will be a very good team again and one to look out for this season. They will turn some heads and impress. Record: 10-6

  1. Carolina Panthers

A new coach, a new QB, and some other new offensive weapons, a lot of new in Carolina. Matt Rhule, Teddy Bridgewater, and Robby Anderson are the guys I am talking about that finally can help give Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore the help they need and take the weight off of their shoulders. That being said, this team has a bright future and is very young, but right now are too far behind the rest of the South and the NFC. They will be better, but not better enough to be a playoff team. Record: 7-9

Rohan’s Division Predictions: NFC East and North

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys disappointed last year with an 8-8 record and finally moved on from head coach Jason Garrett after 9 seasons. Their new head coach is Mike McCarthy who put together a fantastic coaching staff and I feel they will do a lot better this season. All of their key players are returning to one of the best offenses in the league and it even got a boost with the addition of receiver CeeDee Lamb. They did lose Robert Quinn but their defense is still solid on paper especially with the signings of Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy. With Dak and Zeke, I think Dallas will bounce back and become a top 5 team in the NFL this year. Record: 12-4

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

I’m not sure what to make of the Eagles’ questionable offseason. Their biggest needs were wide receiver and cornerback. They took care of the latter by acquiring top corner Darius Slay from the Lions. However, they did not help Carson Wentz much. They did draft receiver Jalen Reagor in the first round, but I feel they should have gone with Justin Jefferson, or be aggressive and trade up for Ruggs, Jeudy, or Lamb. Later in the second round, they go with quarterback Jalen Hurts which is a very puzzling and surprising move. Instead of getting more offensive firepower, they took a developmental quarterback which is a true head-scratcher. Philadelphia’s defensive line looks great, but their secondary still looks shaky. But due to the elite coaching staff and Carson Wentz, I see the Eagles nabbing a wild-card spot.  Record: 9-7

  1. New York Giants

The retooling Giants have definitely improved this offseason. They got themselves a brand new coaching staff with head coach Joe Judge leading the way. New York also has a loaded offense which is good for the development of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. It consists of top running back Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Darius Slayton. However, this team is still very young and has a lot of holes to fill. Their offensive line should be better with the addition of Andrew Thomas, but it is still not good. They don’t have a pass rush either and need the young players on the defense to raise their game. They are heading in the right direction however and I see them building off on last year. Record: 6-10

  1. Washington Redskins

The Redskins are another team that is in the rebuilding stage and have made a lot of important moves. The big one is firing longtime team president Bruce Allen after a 10 year reign of terror.  This was a move that was long overdue and something the Redskins have hoped for a long time. It was a sign of a new era and they followed this up by hiring Ron Rivera which was an outstanding move. Washington needs a culture change and Rivera is the perfect man to take charge. Later on, they drafted Chase Young who is the best player in the draft. The defensive line looks filthy, consisting of players like Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, and Jonathan Allen. However, they lost seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and the offensive line looks below average. The receiving core is also one of the worst in the league which does not bode well for Dwayne Haskins. Just like the Giants, the Redskins are trending upwards and will see improvement, but I can’t quite see them as a playoff team yet.  Record: 5-11

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers

Green Bay was absolutely dominant in the North last season. They went 6-0 against all division opponents and finished with a 13-3 record. The Packers lost the NFC Championship game due to their horrendous run defense which has been a problem all year. Despite not improving their defense over the offseason, I still see the Packers winning the division for the second straight year. Matt LaFleur was very impressive in his first year with the squad and Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best in the game. Aaron Jones and Davante Adams are also elite weapons for the Packers offense. However, the Packers surprisingly did not take a wide receiver in the draft which is one of their biggest needs. The team seems confident that their young receivers like Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling would take a leap. Packers fans were mad at the result of the draft, but I think they would be satisfied with another NFC North title. Record: 11-5

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota is another team that made the postseason and pulled off an upset in New Orleans. I expect them to compete heavily with the Packers for the NFC North crown this season, but I have them 2nd due to the many notable departures. They traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills who is arguably a top 10 wide receiver in the league, but they got a good return on it. Minnesota also lost key defensive pieces as Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes, and Xavier Rhodes all found new homes. However, Minnesota still has plenty of key pieces who were huge in their success last year. Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback despite his price tag and Adam Theilen is one of the most underrated receivers in the league. They also drafted Justin Jefferson in the first round to replace Diggs and he could turn out to be better than Diggs down the road. I think the Vikings will be neck and neck with the Packers, but I don’t think it will be enough. Record: 9-7

  1. Detroit Lions

The Lions are coming off a disappointing 3-12-1 season and have made the playoffs only three times since the turn of the century. They haven’t found much success under Matt Patricia but they are getting a healthy Matthew Stafford back and that is why I see them improving this year. The Detroit Lions were 3-3-1 when Matt Stafford got hurt and proceeded to lose every game from that point on. And this offseason, Patricia once again went out of his way to add defensive players that he likes and kick out the ones who he did not. The Lions did lose top corner Darius Slay but drafted Jeffrey Okudah with the 3rd overall pick who has a high upside, and signed a talented veteran in Desmond Trufant. I think the Lions will be a better team this year and in contention for a wild card spot. Record: 8-8

  1. Chicago Bears

After going 12-4 in 2018, the Bears slumped last season to an 8-8 record. Trubisky is showing signs of being a bust and Chicago went on to acquire quarterback Nick Foles from the Jaguars. In fact, I think Foles is the favorite to win the starting job. You could say it is an upgrade, but it is minimal at best. That being said, I do like what the Bears did this offseason. They improved at several positions including safety, pass rusher, and tight end. I really love the Cole Kmet pick and he could be one of the steals of the draft. On top of that, the defense is still one of the best in the league and to me, it is even better than their 2018 defense where they went 12-4. I see this team in contention for a playoff spot, but the quarterback position has me skeptical so I have them finishing last. Record: 7-9

Pranav’s Division Predictions: AFC East and North

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots

The New England Patriots have been the most dominant team of the 2000s and 2010s under the leadership of future HOF quarterback Tom Brady and legendary coach Bill Belichick. The team has made it to the AFC Championships practically every year and made a run for the Super Bowl 8 times! But after a crazy start to the offseason (departure of Tom Brady), and a wicked hard schedule in front of them, Bill and the Pats have a long run ahead. The Patriots offense has been known for producing great QB talent outside of Tom Brady, such as Jimmy Garrapolo and Jacoby Brissett. Now, the Patriots will be led onto the field with Jarett Stidham under center and a young and talented team to join him. I think the Patriots will surprise the whole NFL community and make a run for the playoffs. Everyone is doubting them to even get close to a winning record, but not me. Record: 11-5

  1. Buffalo Bills

After a long 20 years, the Buffalo Bills are given the opportunity to win the division after the break-up of the New England Patriots. A new defense and a strong and track-team like offense is surely enough to throw some pain on opposing teams next year. Last year, the Bills ended the regular season with a 10-6 record with not much talent. The Bills have been sprouting up here and there over the past few years with playoff appearances, but with the entry of Stefon Diggs and the defensive talent of DB Tre’davious White booming last year, the Bills are sure to go on a run. A hyped up team can only go so far though, so let’s not hope that the hype turns into worry. If all goes well for the Bills Mafia from now to the start of the season, expect some fear in the AFC East. Record: 10-6

  1. New York Jets

The New York Jets have been the laughing stock of the AFC East for the last 10 years, with nothing good coming to the franchise, other than the signing of Le’veon Bell which really didn’t output to anything last year. After a miserable 0-4 start to the season last year and a late surge to a 7-9 record, the Jets need to change some parts or even all parts of their team. Their star player, Jamal Adams, who is the definite leader on the team is now on the trading block, so expect some worrisome to arise for the New York Jets. Unless the Jets go through some blockbuster change, I will have to put them down at a losing record. Record: 4-12

  1. Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins were also not the greatest team last year as well, suffering humiliating losses in the beginning of the season. Don’t even let me get started on that pathetic start of the season. 0-7? Are you kidding me? Aside from that, the Dolphins made a huge plus move with the drafting of Alabama hero Tua Tagovailoa, and expect him to start the season in week 1. Expect some trouble to arise in the first few weeks but a later pull down the road. An injury-prone star doesn’t mean much in the NFL, so if Tua can stay healthy and the Miami offense can catch up, I can see the Miami team hit a .500 record or a little bit above. Record: 8-8

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the NFL’s hottest teams, especially with the presence of MVP Lamar Jackson and his amazing performance last year. Baltimore was the ticket team to win the Super Bowl last year, but after an upset loss to the Tennessee Titans, Lamar Jackson is yet to win a playoff game. The Ravens will perform well this year too, but with the entry of the Steelers, Browns, and Bengals entering this highly-competitive division, expect a lot of confusion and turmoil to happen. The Ravens offense and defense are both incredible and in healthy shape, but if the other NFL teams have learned something from playing Lamar Jackson, we probably will see some slow down in the production of the Raven’s Offense. The Ravens will make the playoffs, but not show the same strength as last year. Record: 11-5

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh has been among the greatest teams in NFL history, but has taken the role as the number 2 or number 3 team in the AFC during the reign and era of the New England Patriots. After the departure of Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell, and the injury season for Big Ben, all hope seemed lost for the Steelers. But the Steelers were able to hold their ground and make a run to end with a 8-8 season. Now the Steelers have nothing to lose this season, so expect some role reversal in the team, especially with Big Ben coming back. I think the Steelers will definitely be a team to watch next year. Record: 10-6

  1. Cleveland Browns

After years of holding the spot as the worst team in the NFL, the Browns caught a break after drafting highly praised QB Baker Mayfield and signing on star wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. And with Nick Chubb in the backfield, many thought the Browns had turned everything around and were on the road to stardom. But last year, Cleveland underperformed everyone’s prediction for the new team, performing poorly throughout the season, ending with a 6-10 record. It’s hard to see if they can get out of this disastrous drought, but hopefully they can. If all goes well, and Baker proves his worth, I can see the Browns have a turnaround season. Record: 9-7

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals! The Bengals are one of the most talked about teams pre-draft and post-draft and were in total shambles. Over the years, Cincinnati has been known for it’s mind-blowing playoff drought. Sometimes they make the playoffs and sometimes they don’t even come close, but now we all question the team’s ability to even win a single game. Last season, the Bengals finished with a horrendous 2-14 record, with some criticizers wondering how they were even able to win those two games. Whatever it may be, the Bengals needed a change, and they got what they wanted when they used to first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to pick up Joe Burrow, star quarterback from LSU. Joe Burrow is certainly a well-polished and talented QB prospect who was able to bring the NCAA championship to LSU over the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and many more talented programs across the nation. But is Joe Burrow the next Tom Brady, will he be the saviour for the miserable Cincinnati team? My answer is maybe. Joe Burrow has the talent to pull a whole team around but I don’t think he can do it by himself, certainly not this season. Cincinnati has shown no effort into picking up instrumental pieces to support Joe Burrow next season, so until the Bengals do that, they will finish last in the AFC North. Record: 6-10

Nikhil’s Division Predictions: AFC West and South

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

It’s hard to bet against the Chiefs in any sort of scenario, and that isn’t going to change for the 2020-2021 season. Having made no real moves, for good or for bad, the team shapes up to be more or less the same in terms of poignancy and ability to make big-time plays on offense. They’re defense could be a small question mark since there’s always room for improvement, however when you have Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, and such on the other side of the ball, it becomes more of a nitpick more than anything. Expect them to make a deep playoff run, and potentially contend for another championship. Record: 13-3

  1. Las Vegas Raiders

After coming off a 7-9 season, the Raiders have sort of leveled off in terms of boom or bust potential. They are consistently average, which to be fair, is better than being horrible. However, with a new location, new stadium, and many new offseason additions, the Raiders can definitely become a moderate force within the AFC. People like Jason Witten, Nelson Agholor can breathe new life into a rather stagnant offense in prior years. And the additions of Cory Littleton, Eli Apple and Jeff Heath among others can bolster a defense that is already pretty decent. The biggest motivating factor for this team however is the addition of Marcus Mariota. Both him and Derek Carr are in my mind top tier quarterbacks at their best, and the competition that will inevitably arise between the two during training camp will easily push both of them to perform at their best during the season, regardless of who starts. We can expect to see an improved Raiders team next season, but the question remains, by how much? Record: 9-7 

  1. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have been under .500 for the last 3 seasons, and the team attempted to remedy that situation with a few notable additions to their roster. The biggest, and most polarizing, was the addition of Melvin Gordon from the Los Angeles Chargers, which when paired with Phillip Lindsay can be a devastating backfield for opponents to handle. This coupled with their draft pick Jerry Jeudy gives QB Drew Lock a slew of options, something absolutely needed for his development and potential. The Broncos defense has been a staple of their team, flaunting big names such as Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, and that doesn’t change at all for next season either. However, I don’t think it’s enough to contend for a playoff spot, and it might not be at the level that the Raiders could be at in terms of quality. Expect another average record for the Broncos next season. Record: 7-9

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are a very hard read at this stage of the NFL offseason. On one hand, they’ve lost Phillip Rivers, the face of the franchise for the majority of the past years, as well as Melvin Gordon, who was one of the most reliable backs for the team since the days of LaDainian Thomlinson. On the other hand, they’ve kept integral pieces such as Keenan Allen and Joey Bosa, and improved an already great defense by adding Chris Harris. The big deciding factor here is the QB position, which looks to be in the hands of journeyman Tyrod Taylor, however the Chargers also have high hopes for their first-round draft pick, Justin Herbert. We can fully expect for Taylor to be pulled the instant he seems unserviceable, however there simply are too many question marks around this team’s offense to be definitive about it’s production. Defense is great, but I don’t think it’s great enough to save the offense in the event that it slips up. Expect a lot of growing pains from the team next season: Record: 6-10

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans

Ok I know, Deandre Hopkins being dealt was one of the dumbest trades I’ve seen in a long time. I myself wondered what Bill O’Brien was thinking, even with the two’s rocky relationship being exposed. However, there is still a lot to like with this Texans team, and frankly given the state of the rest of the division, they still seem like the front-runners of the group, albeit a bit less far in front as last year. They’ve added names like Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks, Darren Fells, David Johnson, Eric Murray, and Bradley Roby, among others. This, combined with the unreal playmaking ability of Deshawn Watson, as well as the never-ending reign of JJ Watt results in what can still be a devastating team for opponents. What seems to be the real deciding factor in this case is the locker room talk. Egos of coaches and players need to be put to the side in order to propel this team forward, and frankly, out of Hopkins’ shadow. I can see this team doing really well if they put everything back together properly. Record: 11-5

  1. Indianapolis Colts

Ever since the retirement of Andrew Luck at the beginning of last season, the Indianapolis Colts have been scrambling for answers. Finishing with a 7-9 record after such a sudden shock is fairly commendable, and they have gotten MILES better since then. Having found their solution at the QB position in Phillip Rivers, the Colts offense suddenly feels in stable hands. This combined with signings like DeForest Buckner, Trey Burton, Anthony Castonzo, and Xavier Rhodes creates a team with a very high upside, one that seems overdue as well. However, even with the departure of Deandre Hopkins, the Texans still seem like the owners of this division, and the Colts in my eyes are not at that level yet, especially given how new the side is with Phillip Rivers at the helm. But it’s close. Record: 10-6

  1. Tennessee Titans

The magic that the Titans tapped into last year, in my eyes, has run out. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely showed the country what they were all about, but oppositions have gotten much better, while they have sort of stagnated in many ways. Having resigned Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, they do still possess the wrecking ball capability that the offense had last year, and with additions like Vic Beasley and Johnathan Joseph, they get much needed defensive help. However, I don’t think it’s enough to contend with the conference, let alone the two teams I mentioned above. They are definitely a quality team, but just not up to the standards necessary. Record: 9-7

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars had an interesting season last year, to say the least. Minshew Mania took over for a brief period before the rest of the team started showing their true potential, or lack thereof. The team let go of Nick Foles, who at one point was thought to be the future for the club, and has gone all in on Gardner Minshew, who does have the talent and skill necessary to win, but lacks a sturdy set of surrounding environment to work with. The team has done minimal offseason moves, like adding Tyler Eifert and Chris Thompson among others, however it simply isn’t enough to be considered “good”. Expect more of the same from the Jags this year, with less drama. Record: 5-11

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855