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

The Dak Prescott Contract Conundrum

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

The Dak Prescott contract conundrum is something that I feel has been talked about for ages, and with the Coronavirus pandemic also going on, it feels like this story is only getting dragged out more and more. There are so many different contract offers being thrown around and so many different perspectives on the deal, but we are here to get you guys situated and all caught up on the latest on the Dak Prescott situation and our predictions, from everyone’s point of view.

The Dallas Cowboys’ Perspective by Rohan Krishnan:

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been in talks for a long term contract for a while now, so what is taking so long? The problem is that the front office and Dak both have different contract numbers they are looking at. Dallas is definitely willing to make Prescott the highest paid quarterback in the league, but they want more years. Also, a recent interview with COO Stephen Jones told us that Dallas wants to make sure their salary cap is divided up in a way that helps Dallas win. “There’s all sorts of analytics out there that show if your quarterback takes up too big a percentage of your salary cap, that it decreases your chances to win. We’re just trying to figure out the right fit”, Jones said recently. The Cowboys want $35 million per year for 5 years, and Dak will do $37 million per year for 5 years according to a recent report from Mike Fisher, as he wants $45M in the fifth year because he believes that with the inflated market then, that is what he will be worth. That being said, he is only going to be 31 when the contract is over, so he will get another big contract yet again, and that seems solvable for both sides. Prediction: I believe that Prescott will stay a Cowboy and sign a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 NFL season.

Dak’s Perspective by Pranav Thiriveedhi

As previously mentioned, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been negotiating for a while about the contract that Dak receives and how much he will get paid. Initially, Dak Prescott, who thinks he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a leading part of one the best NFL offenses, asked Dallas to pay him a lot of money for him to stay a Cowboy. From Dak’s perspective, he in some way deserves this money, based on the production he has stirred up for the Cowboys in the last few years. In the last season, Dak Prescott has thrown for a whopping 4,902 yards, along with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Even though the Cowboys missed the playoffs in a grudge match that is the NFC East, it can be very believable to see that the Dallas Cowboys will perform exceptionally with Prescott as the leading horse in the years to come. After a lot of time, the Cowboys matched his ask and offered him a 5 year, $175 Million contract, that comes to around $35 Million a year. This contract would make Dak Prescott the most paid QB in the entire league. Mike Fisher reported that Dak Prescott only wanted to be under this contract for 4 years, and this makes sense for Dak. The league is changing and players are playing under bigger contracts that last shorter amounts of time and Dak believes this should pertain to him as well. Dak Prescott and his team took this offer into thought and came back saying that if he came back for his 5th year he would need to be paid $45 Million! Obviously from Dak Prescott’s perspective, this is something he really wants and is adamant about, but in the end this money is coming from the Cowboys. Prediction: So after Dak plays all his cards and runs out, I predict that before the start of the 2020 NFL season, the Cowboys and Dak Prescott will sign a 5-year deal, but the money will be on the Cowboys terms.

The NFL’s Perspective by Saransh Sharma

The Coronavirus pandemic is going to take a hit on the NFL in terms of money, as no fans will mean they are losing all of that revenue they would have made from those people, especially season-ticket and VIP/box seat holders. Teams will need to be compensated and therefore that could lead to a salary cap reduction. But what does this have to do with Dak Prescott? Well, if there is a sense that the NFL will indeed lower the salary cap, after this season, then even paying Prescott the 4-year, $140M deal ($35M/year) would be too much, because Prescott would take up such a huge chunk of the cap space, and they just signed Amari Cooper for $22M/year, and Ezekiel Elliott is on a $15M/year deal. Over the next few years, guys like Leighton Vander Esch, Demarcus Lawrence, and Michael Gallup will all be up for extensions, and if Dak is on a long 4-5 year contract eating up lots of cap space, the Cowboys might not even be able to bring back one of those players mentioned. Now, I understand that the cap will eventually increase to even higher than what it is right now, because at some point things will go back to normal and even get better after this pandemic, but because of how the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contract would work, this would probably last at least 3 seasons, which would not go through the entirety of Prescott’s contract. This is more of a hypothetical, but definitely something that Dallas is considering every time Prescott wants a higher number in terms of salary. Prediction: Prescott will take the 4-year deal at $140M ($35M/year), but 2-3 years in, there will be restructuring of the deal which will allow for the Cowboys to assess the market then, and allow for Dak to get paid his current market value (so he could get the $45M per year on his contract later). Either way, unless he gets traded, Dak is a Cowboy for Life.

‘The Last Dance’ Review, Recap, and Reaction

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

The 5-week, 10 episode docu-series on the greatest run by a team in a decade in the history of sports, concluded today, with the ending being capped off with the 1998 NBA Finals victory by the Chicago Bulls to win their 6th championship in 8 years, thus completing ‘The Last Dance,’ which was what coach Phil Jackson called this last year quest for the dynasty. So much happened behind the scenes and off the court that we really did not know until now, and the fact that we got the chance to capture all of that and see Michael revisit and talk about these moments was truly remarkable. There are so many big pieces to the ‘98 Championship run from so many different past seasons, whether it be playing against Dennis Rodman and losing to him and the Pistons constantly and then eventually recruiting him to the team, and also Jordan having retired for baseball, then coming back and getting back in shape, Scottie Pippen’s role, Jerry Krause’s ignorance, MJ’s winning mentality being described as ‘disrespectful,’ and so much more. Here is the big review, recap, and reaction all-in-one to all the events, details, decisions, descriptions, and much more, of how ‘The Last Dance’ turned out to be successful, both as the ‘98 season, and as the critically-acclaimed docu-series.

Saransh’s Reaction

Michael Jordan’s Competitive Nature

The competitiveness of Michael Jordan is second to none not just amongst basketball players, but amongst athletes. Whether it was an NBA Playoff game, golfing with his dad, or just a simple ‘coin toss across the room’ game with the team security guard like in Episode 6, everything was a competition to Mike. The most impressive thing about his competitive nature was what motivated him to compete at such a high level. Sometimes it was as simple as just losing, like it was for him against Detroit and Orlando, seeing them celebrate in Chicago and winning against him in a series, but sometimes it was just one action or comment by someone that was their downfall, and Michael’s rise. When Charlotte stole a game from Chicago in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference in 1996 and B.J. Armstrong talked a little trash, it was over for Charlotte. The next 4 games went to Chicago and they even swept Orlando in the Conference Finals.

Then there was the side of Jordan which I think a lot of people were surprised to see and hear about, which was the ‘not-so-nice guy’ side of him. The stories of him at practices are honestly as legendary as you can think of. He punched Steve Kerr after a practice after Kerr did not back down from him when Jordan got mad at Phil Jackson for putting Kerr on him and making fun of him. He then proceeded to apologize and talk it out on the phone with Kerr, and as they were both competitive guys, they understood why it got heated. But even as great as Michael was, there were still people that did not like his ways as a teammate. Former Bulls Point Guard John Paxson talked about how he would be scared at times, and Power Forward Horace Grant apparently could not eat after games because Jordan did not let him. But at the end of the day, this made Jordan the greatest, the tough love. It was so hard for him to talk about his teammates, that he started tearing up talking about it and hearing about how some of his teammates felt sometimes. But in the end, the hard truth was that it was his way of gaining trust of them, and making them realize what he expected of them. If he did not go so hard on Kerr, Jordan would not have trusted him to take the Finals-winning jumper, he would not have trusted Scottie Burrell to be such a great role player, or Dennis Rodman to go out and skip practices, or even let guys like Luc Longley and Bill Wennington, who got overlooked, be vital pieces of the team in every title run. What made Jordan so great was that he involved his teammates through his trust in them and instilling his mental fortitude into them, and if you did not want that, you did not have to play with Michael and enjoy the great journey.

The Legend of Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr was a man who came from a humble beginning. Kerr was born into a family of UCLA professor Malcolm Kerr, and eventual professor Ann Kerr. As they were both professors, Steve’s family had Steve and his brother very academically-minded and focused, as the only time the TV would be on from Monday through Thursday would be for big basketball games. Malcolm being at UCLA, loved basketball and got Steve into it by taking him to UCLA games, and at that time, the John Wooden coaching era was going on, and the greatest college basketball teams ever were there for Steve to witness live and in-person. Steve played all through high school as well, but did not receive offers until the very last minute, when Arizona offered him a scholarship. At this time, Malcolm had gone to American University at Beirut, along with his wife and Steve’s brother. However, the story of Malcolm being shot and killed was truly heartbreaking, and really drove Steve to be the person and competitor that he is. 

When Kerr got to Chicago, he brought that competitiveness that he gained that drove him after having lost his father, into the championship culture of Chicago. He challenged Jordan, did not back down, did not let himself get brought down by Jordan’s competitive edge at practice, which sometimes Jordan took too far, including the time he punched Steve. From that time forward, however, their trust levels and understanding of each other was like no other. It led Steve to be trusted by Jordan to hit the Finals-winning shot in ‘97, just like MJ trusted John Paxson in ‘93 to do the same thing, whom Steve learned from and mentored. He not only won his rings with Chicago, but also in San Antonio as a player in 2000 and 2002, and a coach of the Golden State Warriors dynasty from the past 5 seasons. All in all, Steve’s competitive edge and love for basketball came from his father, who instilled in him the game, life values, and a hard-working nature into Steve.

Phil Jackson’s Resilience, Even When MJ Left

I think it is taking it a bit too far to say that Phil Jackson was overlooked throughout this whole run, but the work he did definitely can get a bit lost in the shadows when your players are as good as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Jackson was asked to make the Chicago Bulls into NBA Champions after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had been asked to make them relevant. He took over as the head coach in 1989 after Doug Collins was fired in Chicago, which, given the success he brought to Chicago, where he took the team from nothing to the Eastern Conference Finals with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the firing was a bit surprising, but Collins had been with the Bulls for a while, so therefore warranted his way out the door. Jackson took over the team when they were very close to ending the dynasty of the Detroit Pistons, and in his first year, he nearly did that. Had Game 7 been in Chicago and not Detroit, Jackson would have ended the dynasty in his first year with the Bulls, but the next year, Eastern Conference Finals rematch yet again, the Bulls swept, and won the 1991 NBA Finals over the Lakers, and then proceeded to win in ‘92 and ‘93. Then, out of nowhere, Michael Jordan retires.

Jackson did not back down or let Jordan’s retirement get in the way of him coaching this team. The team might have lost the greatest to ever play the game, but the team was pretty darn good even without Jordan. In 1994, the team won 55 games and if it were not for a blown call in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks, they could have tried for their 4th straight championship. The year after that, the Bulls struggled a bit, but getting Jordan back got them a healthy seeding in the playoffs, but Orlando stole the series thanks to Horace Grant, the former Bull. He then allowed Jordan to be able to retrain his body back into basketball form and he helped the team add talent, such as Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, and they helped go 72-10 and win the NBA Finals, and start another 3-peat. And then he did it again, going 3-peat with LA from ‘01-’03, and back-to-back in ‘09-’10. Phil Jackson is, in my mind, the greatest basketball coach of all-time, and it all started not when he won his first 3-peat with Michael, but the seasons he endured without him.

Nikhil’s Reaction

The 1992 Olympics Dream Team

For the first time, the United States sent a team of mainly NBA players to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to compete in the Men’s Basketball tournament. This allowed the likes of Jordan, Bird, and Johnson to play on the same team, and form the inevitable Dream Team, the likes of which has gone down in history as one of the most legendary teams ever. What came as an initial shock was the exclusion of Isiah Thomas, and the sports media at the time associated Jordan’s icy relationship with him as a defining factor of this decision. Jordan, when interviewed for the filming of the documentary stated that he had no influence on the formation on the team, but did concede that had Thomas been selected, the flow and camaraderie of the team would have changed. Regardless, the cohesion of the team that did end up competing in Barcelona was second to none, and this is what elevated them above the rest. Their practices were some of the most competitive in existence, and this culminated in the infamous scrimmage in Monte Carlo. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan captained their respective sides in an anything-goes, trash-talking, no-holds-barred grudge match. At one point Magic’s team was up 8, and he felt the need to tell Jordan that if the famous ‘Air Jordan’ didn’t show up, they were gonna blow him out. As Saransh alluded to earlier, Jordan took this personally, and instantly made Johnson eat his words. He proceeded to score around 10 unanswered points, and won the game for his team. Those within the team recollected the tension in the air during the bus ride home as suffocating, but the instant Johnson cracked a joke with Charles Barkley, the team’s camaraderie rose back to prominence, albeit with Michael Jordan firmly at the helm of the ship. 

During the Olympics, the Dream Team faced off with Croatia, and the newly drafted Bull, Toni Kukoc. There was some friction between Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc, given that Jerry Krause placed a great amount of praise on the shoulders of the Croatian, and seemingly devalued the accomplishments of the current Bulls roster at the time. In the first game against Croatia, Jordan and Pippen seemed to go after Kukoc during the game, shutting him down defensively, and thus making every effort to make Krause look bad. However, the second time around during the Gold Medal game, Kukoc surged back and showed his worth even though they lost. The Dream Team took home the gold, and Jordan’s legacy started to take meaningful shape.

I found it very interesting to hear Kukoc’s side of this story, especially given the context of his situation before arriving in the league. Having hailed from Croatia, at the time a war-torn state of Yugoslavia, he, along with his teammates during the Olympics, all had an amazing amount of strength and focus that Team USA simply didn’t account for. To trash-talk, abuse, and target Kukoc doesn’t really faze him, simply because it isn’t comparable to the fight for his literal will to live. It just goes to show that no one’s story can be understood from a distance, and that everyone has certain traits that make them unbreakable, no matter what the circumstances are.

Jordan’s Stint in the MLB

The tragic death of Michael Jordan’s father in many ways defined Jordan’s career path, starting with his first retirement from basketball. At the time, Jordan’s reasoning was that he had produced 3 championships, and had given everything he had to the city of Chicago, so he figured that since he had no more challenges and no more motivation to play basketball, he should call it quits. The drama escalated and peaked during a White Sox playoff game, during which Jordan was present. The information of Jordan’s retirement leaked during the game, and the swarm of reporters and fans ensued. The media ran rampant with headlines up until the official press conference the next morning, in which Jordan stated that he was at peace with his decision, and also left the door open for anything down the road. What ensued was a list of allegations seemingly connecting the death of Jordan’s father, the presence of his gambling problem, and the progression of his career to his retirement. Some outlets even told a narrative that David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, veiled this retirement as a secret ban from the NBA due to his gambling. This is beyond absurd given that Jordan was the best thing to happen to the NBA financially, socially, and internationally. What is certain however, is that the retirement was of his own accord.

Jordan transitioned to baseball during his retirement period, and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. This was one of his dreams that he had as a kid, and in many ways it follows his father’s dream to play in the MLB. The issue was that since Michael Jordan was such a polarizing figure all over the country, the facilities apparent in the lower levels of the MLB league system simply could not accommodate the amount of hype that he drew in. Due to this he was placed in the minor leagues Double A league, where the sufficient amount of fans could be accounted for. Couple this with the fact that Jordan had not played baseball properly since he was 17, and it was a seemingly disastrous fate. What no one expected however was how good he was. He started out with a 13-game hitting streak, and after a while opposing pitchers started to throw breaking balls rather than fastballs, the latter of which was never thrown for nearly a month. Jordan’s dry spell resulted in a media sandstorm, calling him out on his poor play, and labeling his decision as faulty. The most striking of these was the Sports Illustrated magazine cover of him missing a pitch, and labeled him as an embarrassment. As we all know, this lit the fire in Jordan’s mind, and he kept getting better and better as the season went on, to the point where it was speculated that he could’ve made it to the major leagues. The MLB had a strike that year, so that element of his career was cut short, and thus he returned to Bulls. What can be said however, is that he made a lasting impact in his reputation as the greatest ever.

Krause’s demolition of the Bulls: Good or Bad?

Jerry Krause has been documented throughout the course of the Bulls dynasty as a dictator type of general manager that would put prospective over his current players and even his own family to an extent. When the Bulls won their 6th championship, there was already huge speculation about what the Bulls would do and whether or not the team would get blown up. Jerry Reinsdorf, the team owner, states that he asked Phil Jackson to come back for the next year, which he turned down. He also states, that it would be suicide to keep the players they had due to injury, egos, etc. Jordan retorted that any player and coach would’ve been happy to sign the one-year contract to chase that 7th championship, and states that it’s “maddening” because it definitely could’ve happened. Following the 6th ring, Jackson, Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, and Jordan all left the Bulls organization, and the Bulls embraced a rebuild that can be argued to have progressed to the current-day.

I know that the immediate gut reaction to this is to have let Jordan and the team chase the 7th ring. But just to play devil’s advocate in this scenario, let’s look at the benefits of how things played out. Given that Jordan himself stated that he was physically drained following the season’s end, and that Pippen had struggled with injuries during the Finals run itself, it is almost a guarantee that someone essential to the teams success would sustain a lengthy injury during the season, jeopardizing a Finals run. This along with the fact that some players would inevitably ask for more money, and some key pieces would get moved around due to the nature of the business, all equates to a significantly lesser change of even getting to the endgame, let alone succeeding. In my mind there isn’t anything wrong with how the Bulls dynasty ended, because they went out on top. Doing so cemented their lasting legacy as the greatest dynasty to grace the NBA, and affirms Michael Jordan’s candidacy for the “Greatest Of All Time” conversation.

 

 

NFL Best Free Agents Remaining: But Why Are They Here?

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

This year’s NFL Free Agency has been the best in NFL history, but the craziest part of all of this is that there are still elite players left as free agents right now. Players like Cam Newton, Jadeveon Clowney, and Everson Griffen still see their names on the market and not on a team. Here are the top 12 free agents, and our predictions for where they will go:

  1. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE

This one to me is actually mind-boggling considering his production. Now, to be fair, the Coronavirus pandemic has hurt the value of guys like Clowney, because the outside linebacker position was one that had an abundance of talent in this year’s NFL Draft, so teams could bank on a younger, cheaper player to develop and become a good linebacker. He was hurt last season and only played 13 games and only had 3 sacks, but he forced 4 fumbles, had his first interception and pick-6, deflected 3 passes, and had 13 QB hits, which is an average of 1 per game, which is pretty solid. The problem is that the idea of waiting a season and going for a small contract for this upcoming season, and then cashing out after next season is not as viable an option as it used to be due to the impacts of Coronavirus. That being said, Clowney is open to waiting for the summer to roll around and sign a big deal if it comes then.

Prediction: Jets Sign Clowney on 3-year, $52.5M deal, $39M Guaranteed

  1. Cam Newton, QB

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, Cam Newton was coming off of a 15-1 MVP season, and a near Super Bowl victory. Now, Newton, having dealt with a few injuries, has been released by the Panthers and is now struggling to get a contract as even a backup for this upcoming season. Honestly, I think that Cam Newton is definitely starter material, but he just has to do his due diligence and wait it out this year and be a backup. Newton surely can still play at a starter level and play at a high level as well, I just do not see it being this season.

Prediction: Steelers Sign Newton on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal

  1. Everson Griffen, DE

Now this is a player who I understand why he is unsigned. 2 years ago, when the Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game, Griffin had 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. In the next 2 seasons combined, he has 13.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and no forced fumbles. The only number that has been near the same in 2017 is the QB hits, which he had 24 just this past season after 25 in 2017. Granted, in the 2018 season, Griffen did only play 11 games, so the stats look unusually low, but these past 2 seasons, Griffen’s low number of sacks really is costing him now come free agency time. 8.0+ sacks is something Griffen is used to doing, so seeing him now barely being able to get that is strange, and the health issues have not helped either. That being said, Griffen’s talent still warrants him getting a 1-year ‘prove-it’ deal, and then signing onto another deal of a bigger salary with the same or different team. 

Prediction: Seahawks Sign Griffen on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal to Replace Clowney

  1. Larry Warford, OG

Larry Warford was a surprise release a week ago by New Orleans, but a lot of it apparently had to do with the fact that he put on some weight and New Orleans did not like that it was happening during this offseason, so they let him go, and they also have a young, worthy replacement for him at Left Guard in Andrus Peat, who got a 5-year, $57.5M extension a few weeks back. Warford, despite the weight concerns, is still capable of being an elite left guard in the NFL.

Prediction: Warford Goes Back to Detroit, Signs with Lions on 3-Year Deal

  1. Jason Peters, OT

Jason Peters has been a monumental piece of the Philadelphia Eagles offense since 2009, protecting various NFL quarterbacks who achieved stardom through their years in Philly such as Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz. Jason Peters is a Super Bowl champion who is decorated with achievements such as being a 9x Pro Bowler, 2x First Team All-Pro, 4x Second Team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 2010’s decade team is now at an older age of 38, but still has the fire to play into his 40s. He is currently a free agent coming off an average year at a price of $3.5 million, but is still holding strong communication with the Eagles and is being eyed on by the Broncos, Jets, and Browns as well, who all would perform much better with his veteran status.

Prediction: Peters re-signs with the Eagles to a 1-Year or 2-Year Deal

  1. Logan Ryan, CB

Logan Ryan is one of the NFL’s most elusive and underrated cornerbacks coming off an amazing season with the Tennessee Titans. The 29 year old is a sharp veteran, who has the ability to force turnovers and provide pass breakups during crucial plays. In 2019, finishing his contract with $9.5 million left for the year, Logan Ryan combined for 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 force fumbles. Teams that would benefit from Logan Ryan include the Dolphins, Eagles and Jets. Logan Ryan has commented about the Jet’s interest in him and how signing with the team he shared practiced fields with in college would make sense for him, but he is adament that he wants to sign with a “contender.”

Prediction: The South Jersey native signs with the Eagles to a 1-year Deal

  1. Carlos Hyde, RB

Carlos Hyde is one of the best players from the 2014 NFL Draft and also one of the best running backs to play the game in his time so far. After another 1000 yard season, this time with the Houston Texans (Carlos Hyde has jumped over a lot!), the free agent running back is looking for another team to call home for the 2020 season. After rejecting the Texan’s offer, Hyde sees interest coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, who need a veteran running back to mentor Miles Sanders. I don’t really see other teams very interested in him and there is major competition between three running backs to sign with the Eagles.

Prediction: Hyde stays a FA into the start of the season or signs a small deal with a rebuilding team

  1. Markus Golden, LB

Markus Golden is one of the NFL’s most underrated 3-4 edge rushers coming off a good season with the New York Giants. Last year, playing all 16 games, Golden acquired 72 tackles, 10 sacks, a force fumble and 1 defensive touchdown. When Markus Golden is healthy, he poses as a legitimate threat to any offense and will finish every season with double-digit sacks to his name. As of now, the Giants and Lions see interest in signing the electric edge rusher. 

Prediction: Markus Golden signs a 3-year deal with the Lions, fixing up that faulty pass rush

  1. Taylor Gabriel, WR

Gabriel is seen as a speedy playmaker but did not live up to the hype in Chicago. In two seasons with the Bears, Gabriel managed just 96 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. He also dealt with concussions and as a result Chicago released him to clear cap space. However, he is currently the top option on the WR market because he is still a talented player and has the speed to hurt defenses deep. He could be very serviceable to a team that needs a deep threat to complement their best receiver. 

Prediction: Gabriel signs a 1-year deal with the Packers to help stretch the field

  1. Cordy Glenn, OT

Cordy Glenn has been a solid player for the majority of his career. He is 30 years old and could be a great veteran presence for a team looking for a tackle. However, his 2019 season was suspect as he only played 6 games and had a tumultuous relationship with the Bengals which led to his release. He was suspended by the team at one point for “internal disciplinary reasons” and dealt with concussions which probably explains why he has not been signed yet. I can definitely see a team taking a gamble on him though because he was great when he played and is a serviceable starter. 

Prediction: Glenn signs a 1-year deal with the Vikings

  1. Mike Daniels, DT

Mike Daniels is coming off an injury-plagued season with Detroit. He played nine games due to foot and arm injuries and finished with nine tackles and just 1 sack. It is clear that he is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful player. Before signing with the Lions, Daniels was one of the Packers best defensive players and an emotional leader. He can help mentor younger players, provide some solid IDL depth, and help stuff the run. 

Prediction: Daniels signs a 1-year vet min deal with the Cowboys and reunites with Mike McCarthy

  1. Delanie Walker, TE

Delanie Walker is another player who has been dealing with different injuries the past few seasons and was cut by the Titans due to the rise of young tight end Jonnu Smith. Walker has had a lot of success with Tennessee however and was the greatest tight end to ever play for them. He is 36 and is entering his 15th season in the NFL but I think he still has some left in the tank. He has always been productive for Tennessee when healthy and can provide endless options as a receiver and a blocker to change an offense. He could bring some good value to a team with a young tight end group.

Prediction: Walker signs a 1-year deal with the Patriots to help mentor Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi