Brian Trainor’s Official 2019 NFL Mock Draft

*** Guest Appearance from THE Brian Trainor***

LordTreeSap: Brian Trainor was the NFL Draft guru when we were coming up as kids. I’m happy to see he’s taken some time off from F-45 and rededicated himself to the game as Mel Kiper’s disciple once again.

After sending countless mocks and telling me about how he’s watched every pass that future Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has ever thrown, I figured we’d raise the stakes and let the public in on Trainor’s football genius.

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The entire first round mock is filled with trades, so make sure you’re following along or you could easily get lost in the Trainor madness.

1. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB – Oklahoma

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2. San Francisco 49ers – Nick Bosa, Edge – Ohio State

3. New York Jets – Quinnen Williams, DT – Alabama

4. Oakland Raiders – Josh Allen, Edge – Kentucky

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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin White, LB – LSU

6. New York Giants – Ed Oliver, DT – Houston

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonah Williams, OL – Alabama

**Trade With Detroit Lions** 8. Washington Redskins – Dwayne Haskins, QB – Ohio State

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**Trade With Buffalo Bills** 9. Green Bay Packers – T.J. Hockenson, TE – Iowa

10. Denver Broncos – Drew Lock, QB – Missouri

11. Cincinnati Bengals – Devin Bush, LB – Michigan

12. Buffalo Bills – Jawaan Taylor, OT – Florida

13. Miami Dolphins – Montez Sweat, Edge – Mississippi State

14. Atlanta Falcons – Cody Ford, Guard – Oklahoma

15. Detroit Lions – Rashan Gary, DL – Michigan

16. Carolina Panthers – Andre Dillard, OT – Washington State

17. New York Giants – Brian Burns, Edge – Florida State

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18. Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradbury, Center – North Carolina State

19. Tennessee Titans – Christian Wilkins, DT – Clemson

20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB – LSU

21. Seattle Seahawks – Clelin Ferrell, Edge – Clemson

**Trade With Baltimore Ravens** 22. Oakland Raiders – Noah Fant, TE – Iowa

23. Houston Texans – Greg Little, OT – Mississippi

24. Baltimore Ravens – Marquise Brown, WR – Oklahoma

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25. Philadelphia Eagles – Johnathan Abram, Safety – Mississippi State

26. Indianapolis Colts – Dexter Lawrence, DT – Clemson

27. Oakland Raiders – Byron Murphy, CB – Washington

28. Los Angeles Chargers – DeAndre Baker, CB – Georgia

29. Seattle Seahawks – Rock Ya-Sin, CB – Temple

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30. Green Bay Packers – Dalton Risner, OL – Kansas State

31. Los Angeles Rams – Jeffery Simmons, DT – Mississippi State

**Trade With New England Patriots** 32. New York Giants – Daniel Jones, QB – Dukegiphy (71).gif

Breaking the Bank: Here’s My New York Jets Free Agency Wish List

With the NFL’s tampering period beginning at noon ET on Monday, look for the Jets to be active with an excess of $80 million in cap space to spend on prized free agents. Remember, nothing can become official until the new league year begins on Wednesday at 4 pm ET.

Jets fans have been waiting for this day for a long time, really since the roster purge began two winters ago, ridding the team of veteran staples like Brandon Marshall, Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, and David Harris.

Expect general manager Mike Maccagnan to be very busy, as I assume we’ll hear about the Jets being “connected to” many of the big names free agents, especially in positions with a major need that should be addressed.

The Jets got off to the right foot on Sunday, acquiring former All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele from the Raiders. Gang Green hasn’t had a mauler like that inside since bringing over Alan Faneca back in 2008. Without further ado, here is who I’d like to see NYJ sign this week.

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LeVeon Bell: The 26-year-old made the polarizing decision to sit out the entire 2018 season unless the Steelers met his steep long-term contract demands. Pittsburgh decided to pass with John Conner in the wings. The Jets should be major players for Bell along with the Ravens and Colts, as the former Michigan State Spartan would immediately revolutionize a Jet offense with a dual threat playmaker we haven’t seen since the days of Curtis Martin. I’d expect his contract numbers to be in the ball park of Todd Gurley’s 4/$60 million extension. Other options: Tevin Coleman, Mark Ingram

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Golden Tate: It’s no secret slot receiver is a huge void on the Jets’ depth chart, along with not having a true No. 1 on the outside. This crop of free agents at WR should allow the Jets to fill the need in the slot and get by with a core of Enunwa, Anderson, and Herndon at TE. Golden Tate fits the bill perfectly, as a veteran who knows how to move the chains efficiently. I could also see the Jets going with a cheaper, younger option as well with Tate turning 31, like Adam Humphries, Cole Beasley, or Jamison Crowder.

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Trey Flowers: Maccagnan better do whatever he can to plug the gaping hole at edge rusher, which the Jets have been without really ever since dealing John Abraham to Atlanta over a decade ago. Trey Flowers had an awesome year up in New England, who fittingly opted not to pay the 25-year-old. Flowers became an analytics darling and should earn himself one of the most lucrative contracts cut this week. Other options on the Jets board should include the recently released Justin Houston and Anthony Barr. 

Matt Paradis/Mitch Morse: The Jets quickly realized their grave mistake of signing Spencer Long to play center last free agency, who was eventually benched by the mid-point of the year, as he seemed to botch multiple snaps to Darnold just about every game.

As Jets fans, admittedly, we’ve been a spoiled bunch with Nick Mangold and Kevin Mawae captaining the ship for the better part of my childhood. Maccagnan can right his wrong by going out and paying either of the top centers on the market with the Broncos moving on from Matt Paradis or ex-Chief Mitch Morse.

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Bryce Callahan: Bryce Callahan might not have been the most well-known player on the vaunted Bears defense, but opposing quarterbacks always had him in mind. Callahan posted one of the best grades as a corner, according to PFF in 2018. With Skrine (thank god) and Claiborne’s departures looking likely, Callahan would fill the void left at slot corner quite nicely, especially with Trumaine Johnson’s struggles on the outside last year. Other options: LaMarcus Joyner, Kevin Johnson, Jason Verrett, Ronald Darby.

 

15 Years of ‘The Girl Next Door’: The Movie That Taught Us More Than We Ever Thought

For guys in their mid-to-late 20’s, The Girl Next Door is a certified classic. I saw it for the first time going into the sixth grade as an 11-year-old, and will always watch it if I come across it on the movie channels. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it start-to-finish, but thankfully, It’s landed in the HBO rotation the past couple weeks. I’m not sure if that’s a coincidence, with Monday serving as the 15th anniversary since the Luke Greenfield-directed flick hit theaters.

Now, I spend most of the time either laughing at how dumb I was for believing their depiction of the high school experience, or how a lot of the dialogue and symbolism probably went way over my head 15 years ago. I feel like the first 10 years of life are a blur, and then we start to slow down time and develop a better understanding of how things in the world work around 6th grade.

Long before the days of Tinder and Bumble, you were pretty much stuck with whoever was in your school. Now imagine this, a beautiful ex-porn star moves in next door, and she’s somehow into you. If that isn’t the ultimate (totally unrealistic) fantasy scenario for a dude in high school, I don’t know what is.

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Elisha Cuthbert delivers the performance of a lifetime. It’s crazy to think she was only 21-years-old when the film released. A little over a weekend ago, I tweeted out that Danielle may be my favorite female role in movie history, and I stand by it. The Canadian actress quickly joined my list of crushes at the time time, which probably included a combination of Eva Mendes and Torrie Wilson. Heck, I went to see House of Wax just based on Cuthbert being cast in the film. It’s a shame she’s pretty much gotten blackballed by Hollywood since.

I’ve even changed my phone background to Cuthbert in The Girl Next Door to pay homage to Elisha and the 15th anniversary. There’s just certain scenes that will forever be imprinted on my brain, whether that’s her drawing in the diner or hitting Klitz and a stunned Eli with the signature, “I’m all wet, can I come in?” line.

One of the main reasons I was inspired to write this piece was because of the expectations the movie set for us when it came to more mature subjects we just didn’t know about yet. Just think about how much your senior prom paled in comparison to what they showed. They shot a sex-ed film for crying out loud! How about the fucking Tripod rolling up to the porn convention, where Eli and Klitz pose as directors and eventually get chased out by a meathead in dramatic fashion.

I’d wander to guess that this movie was the first time I’d been exposed to strip club culture as well. That was pretty funny when Matt sees a close family friend he’d never expect to be there, as you can never judge a book by its cover when it comes to your usual “strip club guy.”

Let’s give a shout-out to Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), who did a great job in the villain role. He actually scared the crap out of me watching back in the day, but he’s a lot funnier now, and deserves major credit for raising the stakes of the film. Kelly probably wouldn’t get away with some of the things his character did these days, like rolling up to Matt’s high school and pitching girl students to enter the adult entertainment industry.

Things also went downhill for Matt once he tried to bring Danielle to a local shitty motel on Eli’s recommendation. There’s one positive takeaway we learned growing up, stay away from the motel life with someone you genuinely care about.

Overall, the juice was worth the squeeze, as the best thing that could be said is they just don’t make comedy movies like this anymore. If you have some time Monday, hit up HBO or your go-to pirating website and take a stroll down memory lane by popping on one of my absolute favorites with The Girl Next Door. Moral Fiber, baby.

 

Goodbye Todd Bowles, LordTreeSap’s Wishlist for the Next New York Jets Head Coach

I feel like we just overthrew a dictator with Todd Bowles finally being fired as Jets head coach. If you remember, I’d been calling for his bleak regime to come to an end since the 2016 season. After three straight double-digit loss campaigns, CEO Christopher Johnson finally pulled the plug on the Bowles experiment, launching us into the next era of Jets football.

With Darnold boasting the makeup of our first franchise quarterback in the 21st century and a plethora of cap room, the decision as to who will right the ship is one of the most crucial in the turbulent franchise’s history. It’s crazy to think that the Jets have only had one coach (Parcells) to finish his tenure with a winning record (not counting Al Groh’s lone 9-7 season).

The coaching search led by Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan has already began to heat up with a good mix of big names and bright offensive minds. They have reportedly locked up interviews with Mike McCarthy, Kliff Kingsbury, Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator), Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator), Todd Monken (Buccaneers offensive coordinator), and heaven forbid, Jim Caldwell. (Iowa State’s Matt Campbell denied the Jets’ request)

Here is a list of potential candidates, in no particular order, I’d like to see become the 19th head coach of the New York Jets in 2019.

The Veterans:

Mike McCarthy – If McCarthy wants the job, it’s his. The ex-Packers coach has only agreed to interviews with the Jets and Browns, which is a good sign speaking to the appeal of the NYJ job among the eight openings. McCarthy checks off a lot of the boxes as a savvy offensive minded leader for Sam to the Jets brass. With a Super Bowl victory already under his belt, the Pittsburgh native boats a certain pedigree the Jets organization hasn’t seen since Parcells came to the rescue in 1997, making the 55-year-old an easy sell to the fanbase starving for consistency. Many have compared McCarthy’s second job to Andy Reid going from Philly to the Chiefs earlier in the decade.

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Adam Gase – I could see some of my fellow Jets fans being surprised at me having this name on the list. I don’t think Gase got a fair shake from Miami, and I’d be open to the idea of having him groom Darnold. Going 23-25 with a playoff appearance navigating the Fins can’t be deemed a total failure, right? Another thing I like about the 40-year-old, he’s played the evil empire known as the New England Patriots tough, taking the last two match ups on his home turf (or shitty grass field for that matter). Sign me up for a Gase change of scenery. He was also 5-1 against the Jets the past three years.

Back to College:

Jim Harbaugh – Big game hunting. After another failed season in Ann Arbor, could Jim Harbaugh be planning his exit from Michigan? It would take a lucrative offer and may cost Maccagnan his job, but whatever Jim wants he gets if he’s willing to don the green and white as Bowles’ successor. Harbaugh would be the perfect personality for NYC, and brings a fresh vigor to the franchise as someone who already had success at the NFL level with mediocre quarterbacks in Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick.

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David Shaw – Definitely a long shot, but always worthy of a call. Shaw seems content with staying at his alma mater, rather than testing the NFL waters in the head coaching capacity.

Kliff Kingsbury – A name that’s heated up this week, even though he’s accepted the OC job at USC after being fired by Texas Tech in November. He’s already locked in known interviews with the Jets and Cardinals, as both franchises look to pick his innovative brain when it comes to the new age of offense in the NFL. Kingsbury is helped by having connections with the next generation of stars behind center in Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes. He actually suited up for the Jets as a backup quarterback during the 2005 season. Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, and tight end Chris Herndon have also gave Kingsbury their stamp of approval on Twitter.

At just 39-years-old, he’d probably be better suited as an OC before jumping up the ladder as the top dog of an NFL franchise. Check out the legend with Jessica Simpson below.

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Hot Shot Coordinators:

Matt LaFleur – Everyone in the NFL is searching for the next Sean McVay or Matt Nagy. LaFleur could be the next name in line. A former college quarterback, the 39-year-old recently served under Kyle Shanahan as his quarterback coach in Atlanta and was Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator last season, before taking the same job in Tennessee. With ties to some of the brightest minds in football, LaFleur makes sense as a name teams are going to want to speak with in the coming weeks.

Jim Bob Cooter – JBC. Who has a better name than Jim Bob Cooter? This guy lives up to his alias after sifting through his Wikipedia page, which sees a DUI charge in college and climbing through a window to get into a woman’s bed in 2009. Charges for the aggravated burglary were later dropped.

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Back to football, JBC took over the Lions OC job in 2015 at just 31-years-old and survived the regime change from Jim Caldwell to Matt Patricia, but will be back on the market since his contract wouldn’t be renewed for 2019. Another young offensive mind worth talking to, but this would be a tough sell to the fanbase as another risky hire.

Todd Monken – Monken is someone I really wasn’t familiar with until I kept reading about the Jets interest in him. I figured Dirk Koetter was in total control of the Buccaneers offense, but it wasn’t until he gave the keys to Todd and his vertical passing game later into the season, that the team finally flourished with Jameis back under center. He also has some head coaching experience with three years down at Southern Miss, which should be deemed a plus. Monken is cousins with current Army head coach Jeff Monken.

 

 

LordTreeSap’s Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2018

Back in the Mix. It’s become a yearly tradition that I make this list, so I figured to keep it rolling over here. Even though I feel like we say this every year, 2018 was an epic 365 days in hip-hop, as fans received an array of albums from some of the best the industry has to offer. If you can’t find a style of rap within the genre by this point, you’re just not searching hard enough.

When we look back on this year in rap, I think it will be able to go head-to-head with just about any other campaign since hip-hop’s conception. From Cardi B to Travis Scott and the long-awaited joint album from Kanye West and Kid Cudi, here are my official top 10 albums of the year.

10. Drake – Scorpion 

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Even in a year he gets embarrassed in a scathing rap battle with Pusha T, Drake still comes out victorious. Drizzy owned the headlines and the charts (35 Hot 100 Entries) all throughout 2018 with a pop star-esque rollout for Scorpion. The double album went on to produce three No. 1 hits on the Hot 100, as well as one of the best songs in his catalog with “Emotionless.” After an exhausting year, I think the 6 God has earned some time away from the spotlight to hang with his now-exposed son, Adonis. Scorpion will compete at the 2019 Grammys for Album of the Year.

9. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V 

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Following a treacherous legal battle against Birdman and Cash Money Records, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V was finally freed this summer. The long-awaited project lived up to the hype, boasting a decorated guest list and woozy punch lines from Weezy that probably could’ve existed in any of the last few years. Flashing glimpses of the Wayne we fell in love with throughout the oversaturated project, I’m totally fine with this being the last installment of the historic Carter series, if he chooses.

8. Black Panther The Album 

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Kendrick Lamar was tabbed with the hefty responsibility of curating the Black Panther soundtrack. Hopefully K. Dot serves as a trailblazer in having more rappers involved with putting together soundtracks because he definitely exceeded expectations, properly aligning with the tidal wave of hype behind the acclaimed Marvel blockbuster.

7. Vince Staples – FM!

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Vince Staples goes back-to-back after landing the futuristic Big Fish Theory on this very list in 2017. The shrewd Long Beach native returns with more ingenuity, crafting his third LP in the style of a radio show with none other than Big Boy’s Neighborhood at the helm to make the effort a total West Coast affair.

6. The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE

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The long-awaited Jay-Z and Beyonce joint album seemingly dropped out of the sky this summer, in the midst of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music five-project run. Looking back, the effort didn’t get the proper acknowledgment as fans were quickly onto digesting the next flurry of albums in the coming weeks. Built around a Migos’ reference track, “APESHIT” serves as the project standout and hit record. Jay takes aim at his detractors like the Grammys and the NFL, while Bey shows that she can probably out rhyme your favorite MC on any given night.

5. Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap

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Nipsey Hussle delivered his highly anticipated debut album with Victory Lap at the start of 2018. I was worried that his magnum opus would be buried by 2018’s end, but Nip stood the test of time as the cream of the crop in street rap. VL will be well-represented at the Grammys in the stacked Rap Album of the Year category. If you haven’t yet, make sure to give the West Coast project a listen, you’ll even pick up a few gems along the way.

4. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy 

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Many wondered how Cardi B would follow-up her prolific 2017 campaign with her debut album. The Bronx native showed that she could take her artistry to the next level on Invasion of Privacy, usurping the throne as the queen of rap from Nicki Minaj. Producing a strong debut effort in the midst of a turbulent high profile relationship with Offset and having her first child, just solidifies Bardi’s status as an authentic global star and a force to be reckoned with in the future.

3. Kanye West & Kid Cudi – Kids See Ghosts 

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If Yeezy’s Ye album from the week prior was a microwaved meal, Kids See Ghosts was slow-cooked and seared to perfection. Even with the sky-high expectations I had going in, CudYe surpassed what I could’ve imagined with their seven-track genre-bending collab. It’s a shame the project has been overlooked on many year-end lists, which may have something to do with critics being turned off by West’s “antics,” but that’s the media for you in 2018. I hope there’s more music (or a tour) to come from the pair in the future.

2. Travis Scott – Astroworld

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This right here is astronomical. Scott completed the vision of bringing his childhood theme park to life through his experimental art with Astroworld, which completed his gradual rise from underground darling to mainstream global superstar. At its core, La Flame proved to be the ultimate collaborator with his third LP, precisely unleashing a prolific lineup of guests in prime opportunities for success, all of while remaining the star attraction.

1. Pusha T – DAYTONA

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DAYTONA, album of the motherfuckin’ year,” Pusha T claims on the outro of his eviscerating “The Story of Adidon” Drake diss. King Push continued to use that slogan on merchandise and across social media platforms to make sure he talked the future accolades into existence. At 41-years-old, Pusha cashed in the best year of his solo career, where his drug-laced raps sounded as fresh as ever over Kanye West production. The Virginia native didn’t waste a breath across the 21-minute effort, featuring hard-hitting guest verses from frequent collaborators in Rick Ross and Yeezy. Nobody did more with less than Pusha T, and he deserves to be rewarded for it here.

Honorable Mention: Kanye West – Ye, Lil Baby & Gunna – Drip Harder, Migos – Culture II, Jay Rock – Redemption, 6ix9ine – Dummy Boy, Nas – Nasir, XXXTentacion – ?, Meek Mill – Championships, A$AP Rocky – Testing 

Song of the Year: Travis Scott Feat. Drake & Swae Lee – “SICKO MODE”

Official DMR 2018 NBA Season Preview

The 2018-2019 NBA Season starts tonight as teams will fight all year long to lose to the Golden State Warriors in five games in the NBA Finals. If you’re like most fans, you’re hoping for a competitive regular season and entertaining playoffs in order to counteract the fact that the Warriors will win another NBA title. To prepare you for the upcoming season, LordTreeSap and DG listed their over / unders for certain teams, individual awards, and how each conference will finish. Enjoy.

Over/Unders

LordTreeSap:

Spurs Over 43.5 Wins 

The Spurs haven’t won less than 47 games since the lockout of 1998 and that was due to a shortened season. San Antonio notched 47 wins in 2017 with 0 help from Kawhi Leonard. Now, Pop and Co. can move past the Kawhi saga with the addition of DeMar DeRozan leading the Texas franchise to yet another winning season. I loved this bet just a week ago, prior to Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV going down with injuries, but I’m riding with the Spurs until the wheels fall off.

Knicks Under 29.5 Wins

It’s going to be a tough season for us Knicks fans, but it’s ultimately for the best, looking toward better days in 2019. Kristaps Porzingis should be in no rush to return, and with the Knicks owning their first round pick in 2019, this is going to be another rebuilding team. Harvesting the young talent on the roster will sit atop Fizdale’s priorities (besides his smoking wife Natasha). Let Ntilikina, Robinson, Knox, and the rest of the neophytes learn on the job, while keeping the tank moving forward. It’s for the best.

Wizards Over 46 Wins

Throughout the turmoil of 2017, the Washington Wizards still managed to pull out 43 wins, even though John Wall only managed to log half a season. The Wizkids should return to their 2016 form in a weaker Eastern Conference, where they put together a 49-win campaign. Washington quietly retooled their roster, finally shoring up their backup guard spot with Austin Rivers. They also acquired the polarizing yet productive Dwight Howard. Jeff Green could provide support in spots as well. Solid year coming for the win-now Wizards.

DG

Spurs Over 43.5 Wins 

I hate to agree with LTS for fear of a jinx, but this one is a no-brainer for me. The Spurs are the Patriots of the NFL. Until they fall off the wagon, how can you bet against them? Last season was their first “down” year in over 20 years and they still registered 47 wins without Kawhi Leonard. The injury to Dejounte Murray was not ideal, but DeMar Derozan is going to score 25 points per game and lead this team past 43.5 wins. Plus, when in doubt, they have Pop.

Miami Heat Over 43.5 Wins

The Heat won 44 games last year and return almost the exact team from a year ago. However, they are going to be a better thanks to the rebirth of Hassan Whiteside. Last season was a step back for Whiteside and at times, he looked lost on the court. This is the same Whiteside who lead the league in rebounding in 2017. If Whiteside returns to his 2017 form, the Heat will compete for a top 3 seed in the East. Plus, Dwyane Wade’s final ride will motivate this team throughout the year to make the playoffs.

Utah Jazz Under 50.5 Wins

This has more to do with the strength of the conference more than the talent of the Jazz. I love the Jazz. Drafting Donovan Mitchell was a home run for the organization. Just like the Heat, the Jazz return close to their entire core from a 48 win team. However, the West is the superior conference in the NBA and the Lakers, Nuggets, and Pelicans will all be better. I expect the Jazz to win 48 wins again so bet the under.

Individual Awards  

LordTreeSap:

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (+500)

It seems like to win the MVP award nowadays, your season numbers have to be accompanied by a cinematic narrative. LeBron should probably win the award again with his narrative juicy as ever, heading west to lead a possible 50-win Laker team to prominence. AD is definitely in the conversation this year as well, but I’m going with the Greek Freak to take home the hardware. He should be able to dominate a middling Eastern Conference with multiple moments wow fans and voters. A more uptempo system implemented by Mike Budenholzer makes the sky the limit, with a stat line eclipsing 30-10-5 well within reach for the year. Milwaukee just has to win more than 45 games.

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Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard

A rejuvenated Kawhi Leonard should be a treat to watch this year. After only appearing in 9 games last season, the Spurs shipped the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year north of the border to hang with Drake in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. I believe the 27-year-old returns to form in Toronto, leading the NBA in steals and absolutely dominates the rest of the East in his lone year suiting up for the Raptors.

6th Man of the Year: Lou Williams

We’re going back to back (Drake voice) with Lou Williams, who would tie Jamal Crawford as the only player to win the award three times in their career. Sweet Lou was nothing short of unbelievable, playing at the level of a possible all-star leading into the February break. I expect a similar stat line from Lou Will once again, with his unique lead guard role solidified as the top scorer in Clipper land.

Rookie of the Year: DeAndre Ayton

Simply put, Ayton can do it all on the basketball floor. It’s being reported that Devin Booker will actually be ready for the opener, so we could see the next Kobe-Shaq type of duo begin to take shape this year. Amid turmoil at the top of the organization, the Suns have one of the brightest young cores in all of the NBA and should be a fun team to land on for all my League Pass fans out there.

Most Improved Player: Markelle Fultz

After essentially taking a redshirt year to fix his shooting stroke (mindset), Markelle Fultz comes into 2018 as the 76ers starting shooting guard and the expectations are sky high for the former No. 1 overall pick. As someone who was heavily on the Fultz bandwagon coming out of Washington, I’m staying put with him possessing too much talent to not make it work.

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Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens finally breaks through in 2018 with a loaded Celtics team to notch his first of many Coach of the Year honors. Boston should relatively cruise to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and be around the 60-win mark. He’ll ultimately be judged on playoff execution, as most expect this Celtic team to meet the Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

DG

Most Valuable Player: Anthony Davis (+300)

It’s time for the “LeBron can win this every year, but let’s give to to someone else” award. If LeBron puts up the same numbers from last year and the Lakers make the playoffs, it’s a wrap. LeBron wins the MVP. However, the NBA loves to reward players on teams that improve significantly. That’s why I’m going with Anthony David. The numbers are there.. Last year, Davis averaged 28.1 points and 11.1 rebounds despite a slow start to the season. If both of those numbers remain the same or improve and the Pelicans snag a top 4 seed, Davis will be holding the MVP trophy at the end of the year.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert

The Jazz shocked the entire NBA community last year by not only making the playoffs with Gordon Hayward, but defeating the Thunder in the first round. Donovan Mitchell had a lot to do with the team’s success, but the team’s anchor is Rudy Gobert, thanks to his toughness and ability to defend the rim. Gobert won this award last year after only playing 56 games. If Gobert plays a full year and the Jazz are just as successful, he will repeat.

6th Man of the Year: J.J. Redick

This award all depends on if Redick consistently comes off the bench all year. Right now, Markelle Fultz is slated to start for the Sixers. If Redick comes off the bench, his only responsibility will involve putting the ball in the basket. Redick averaged a career best 17.1 points per game last year. However, if Redick becomes the leader of the second unit of a Philly team that wins 55 games, I could see voters rewarding Redick over Lou Williams.

Rookie of the Year: Luka Donic

Dallas, it’s time to meet the foreigner who will lead your franchise for the next 20 years aka Dirk 2.0. At first, I wasn’t completely sold on Luka Donic. I felt that because of his age and lack of playing experience in the US, it would take time for Donic to adjust to the NBA game. After watching Donic dazzle in the preseason, I can safely say I was wrong. Donic is ready for the bright lights of the NBA. Donic was drafted to the perfect system for his skillset in Dallas and will have Dirk Nowitzki as his mentor. The sharpshooter will win over many fans right away.

Most Improved Player: Josh Jackson

First of all, Josh Jackson said he wants to win this award. Motivation? Check. All kidding aside, Jackson has the potential to have a monster season. In his rookie season, Jackson averaged 13 points and 4.6 rebounds. This year, Phoenix should be one of the more exciting young teams to watch with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Jackson has a chance to cement himself as a top ten two-way player this year. Expect both his points and rebounds to improve dramatically. If Phoenix can somehow compete for a playoff spot and Jackson takes the next step to prominence, he will be in the running for this award.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens

In my opinion, this is the easiest award to pick. The Eastern Conference now belongs to Brad Stevens. Frankly, this award is long overdue. Stevens has increased his win total every year as the coach of the Celtics. With LeBron gone and Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning from injury, it’s 60 wins or bust for the Celtics. Plus, he’s my doppelgänger so I have to support the brotherhood.

LordTreeSap:

Eastern Conference:

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Washington Wizards
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Indiana Pacers
  7. Miami Heat
  8. Detroit Pistons

Western Conference:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder
  4. Utah Jazz
  5. Los Angeles Lakers
  6. San Antonio Spurs
  7. Denver Nuggets
  8. New Orleans Pelicans

Conference Finals/Champions:

East – Boston Celtics over Toronto Raptors

West – Golden State Warriors over Houston Rockets

Finals – Warriors over Celtics in 6

DG

Eastern Conference:

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Milwaukee Bucks
  5. Miami Heat
  6. Indiana Pacers
  7. Washington Wizards
  8. Charlotte Hornets

Western Conference:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. Utah Jazz
  4. New Orleans Pelicans
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Los Angeles Lakers
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves
  8. San Antonio Spurs

Conference Finals/Champions:

East – Boston Celtics over Toronto Raptors

West – Golden State Warriors over Houston Rockets

Finals – Warriors over Celtics in 7

Enjoy the season.

After All That She’s Accomplished, Why Does Nicki Minaj Remain Insecure?

“My legacy could never be undone,” Nicki raps on Queen standout “Hard White.” Based on her recent Twitter outbursts, it’s almost like she’s forgotten about her decorated resume. Before moving forward, I want to be open about being a big Nicki fan since her acclaimed debut and will always give her credit for carrying the burden of being the only premier woman MC in rap for the decade’s entirety.

I also want to preface my upcoming statements by saying I really enjoyed Nicki’s highly anticipated Queen album. But between her album’s women empowerment themes, recent interviews, and Twitter rants, I feel as if there’s been some contradictory messaging throughout the different channels of communication.

On one hand, you have the uplifting messages looking to churn out more woman bosses walking the earth. On the other, it’s been insecurities bleeding through aggression, where she has to embarrass and eviscerate any detractor standing in her way to remain atop the mountain of hip-hop’s elite.

Billboard announced that Nicki would come in at No. 2 with 185,000 equivalent album sales on the Billboard 200, after previously asserting that earlier projections were going to be wrong. Minaj finished behind Travis Scott’s Astroworld, which took the top spot for the second consecutive week as memes broke out across social media amid the warring fanbases.

The 35-year-old quickly hopped on Twitter to assert that she spoke to Travis about how she really had the No. 1 album in the country and attempted to expose Scott’s tactics in “cheating the system” to increase sales thanks to merchandise, tour passes, a boost from girlfriend Kylie Jenner and daughter Stormi. It’s odd to witness a vulnerable Nicki trying to justify herself when the Young Money rapper already went through a phase of hitmaking and chart domination at the top of the decade. She even finished behind Taylor Swift’s 1989 to end her streak of No. 1 albums in 2014 with The Pinkprint. 

Nicki then took aim at Spotify for treating her unfairly and continued to bring up her successful debut’s sales. An artist who has accomplished this much in her career should never have to look to sales for affirmation a decade later. It was honestly sad to witness the Trump-esque tweets in a borderline meltdown, which she claims as “dry humor and sarcasm.”

There’s also absolutely no reason to tear down La Flame’s accomplishment while he enters the prime of his career, in what has been a historic month for the 26-year-old from Houston. Nicki has engaged in some of those same marketing tactics by attaching albums to merchandise, tour passes, and even added 6ix9ine’s “FEFE” to her album on streaming platforms to boost first-week numbers. She should be mad at her team for not bypassing the Billboard algorithm in an optimal fashion. All artists are rightly doing everything in their power to maximize profits and sales while the opportunity is present.

Throughout the rants, Minaj has also made it known she believes there are forces at work within the music industry that are pulling strings to see her fail. Now, I necessarily don’t believe that, but I do feel that it’s become the “cool” take to hate on Nicki Minaj. Some of the backlash has been deserved. I strongly disagreed with the Queens native’s attack on an innocent journalist for an honest musical opinion about her. Sending the Barbz fanbase on the attack after hopping in her DMs with various petty insults is just uncalled for at 35-years-old.

In a world where everyone asks for the old version of their favorite artist, I’m looking for the next evolution. Nicki’s pen remains lethal and if her mindset matures going into crafting the next album, the Barbz leader’s magnum opus could still be on the horizon.

“A Queen knows her past, understands her present and moves toward the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ Special Ahead of its Time?

July 8th, 2010. LeBron James held an hour-long television special dubbed “The Decision” at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, CT where he would announce his next basketball endeavor, as the 25-year-old entered his prime. And these very words vaulted LeBron into his role as the NBA villain and temporarily broke the hearts of Cleveland fans (and fans of the other 4 teams he met with) to form the unfathomable Big 3 in Miami.

In this fall… this is very tough… in this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.

Joining good friends and ’03 draft classmates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh brought James over the mountaintop known as the original “superteam” in the Boston Celtics. Bron’s decision has to be deemed a success as he took home a pair of MVP awards and captured back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013 while on his way to 4 straight NBA Finals appearances.

With the backlash LeBron received from “The Decision” in 2010, some of it warranted, James has taken a way more subdued approach to changing teams in free agency. Back in 2014, he announced he would be coming home through a heartfelt Lee Jenkins piece with Sports Illustrated (Sorry Windhorst). 4 years later, James took his talents to Los Angeles via a Klutch Sports press release on the opening night of free agency (July 1) before embarking on a relaxing trip to Europe with his wife.

Let’s look back and examine the repercussions of the biggest free agent move in NBA history, which forever altered the landscape of the association with some more context, eight years later. The 2010 free agency class was absolutely stacked with stars across the board. After LeBron took a 3-year extension instead of five from Cleveland in 2006, he began giving himself the opportunity for maximum flexibility but keeping the pressure on the organization to win.

The digital world was just in its infancy as apps like Twitter/Instagram feeding us breaking news through a smartphone was just beginning to kickstart the digital revolution. Cable television was also still at its peak. NBA free agency wasn’t nearly sensationalized and only a handful of star players had a premier brand. Becoming that level of star in a small market was thought of as a nearly impossible feat.

The writing was on the wall for LeBron to leave Cleveland once Boston put him out in six games in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the 2010 playoffs. The last visual left on Cavs’ fans brains was Bron taking off his jersey walking into the Boston Garden tunnel. This already came after Celtic fans mockingly chanting “New York Knicks” at LeBron while he was at the foul line.

Few outlets covered the rumblings out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the United States took home the gold, that LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh all agreed to a pact that they would team up during the summer of 2010, but it was just a matter of where that would happen. Bill Simmons mentioned the possible theory during a state of the NBA article for ESPN around Thanksgiving of 2008.

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Fast forward to just days before free agency begins and Steph A. Smith breaks the news that LeBron was headed for Miami (June 28) on Twitter. His follow up statements/Tweets later somewhat recounted his original report, giving him a loophole in case he was to be proved wrong.

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James seemed to be okay with making his final decision by July 6, when his team of reps revealed that their client’s decision would be announced through a one-hour television special on July 8, which had never been seen before. We are officially in uncharted waters by this point.

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The following night, Alan Hahn of Newsday “officially” broke the news that the King was indeed headed for South Beach, taking some edge off “The Decision.” My Facebook memories reminded me of my quality analysis as a pissed off Knicks fan at the time, “This fuckin’ sucks.”

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Obviously, nobody from James’ camp commented on the reports to keep viewership up and just about everyone tuned into the 9 PM special, which went on for about 75 minutes. LeBron unveiled his decision to leave Cleveland at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, CT. with a bunch of the club’s kids behind him to Showtime’s Jim Gray, who, admittedly, hit the Ohio native with some soft scripted questions.

The special went on to raise $6 million in total ($2.5 to the Boys & Girls Club with $3.5 million going to various charities from ad sponsors such as Vitamin Water) and averaged just about 10 million viewers throughout. There was one special guest in the house, legendary artist and friend of the DMR, Kanye West. Yeezy, who is always ahead of his time when it comes to his actions, knew the moment would go down in NBA history books.

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West’s stay didn’t last long. Maybe he was looking for some publicity after the release of his radio-friendly “Power” single days prior. The song’s release kicked off Kanye’s redemption tour leading into his magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. According to an ESPN Studio Manager, a motionless Kanye West looked to fall asleep during the beginning of the show and woke up from his stupor and made his way out of the Boys & Girls Club well before the special ended.

Looking back on “The Decision,” there is a lot to be learned. He faced a lot of unfair criticism for having the special, as most seemed to gloss over the $6 million raised just to be mad an athlete didn’t choose their team (Hey, I was one of them too). I thought the NBA was over once the “Big 3” formed, and thinking about it, you won’t find any of those Miami Heat teams on anyone’s top 10 list in NBA history.

The “super team” era is officially on steroids with TWO TOP 12 PLAYERS joining a 73-win team to turn the Golden State Warriors into a bona fide dynasty. I get it that parity is the biggest myth in sports, but come on, 26 teams legitimately have no chance to win anything next year, and that’s being generous.

One criticism I don’t think is up for debate, LeBron needed to notify the Cleveland Cavaliers organization of his decision prior to his announcement, and I believe he realized his grave mistake soon after. At the time, I’m thinking 25-year-old LeBron has everything figured out and as I got older, you soon understand at 25 you are just scratching the surface of this thing called life.

James had some questionable people in his ear earlier in his career, most notably, William “World Wide Wes” Wesley, who had illegally “consulted” LeBron since he began attending his games as a 15-year-old. LeBron has had his every move magnified and debated ad nauseam since he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17-year-old to the point he has birthed the career of numerous prominent media members (Brian Windhorst, Nick Wright, Skip Bayless).

I love that LeBron ultimately took his free agency into his own hands and used his influence for the good of the masses. Now, was it executed the best way? Probably not. In a world of Woj bombs fighting against Shams and other insiders, I’d like to see players take Bron’s model and get in control of their free agency journey.

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Obviously, 99% of players’ decisions won’t have the impact of a LeBron, but players should capitalize on the opportunity of announcing their decision from a branding perspective before corporations like ESPN do. We’re not far off from ESPN holding a special event for free agency when its start time is inevitably moved into primetime to capitalize on those advertising dollars. This would continue to keep the NBA in the news cycle 11 months out of the year.

It’s interesting to think about how a KD decision special in 2016 or LeBron again this year would be received. LeBron coming home in 2014 comes to mind as a possible missed opportunity at an epic moment.

Paul George gave us a glimpse into his decision to return to OKC with a 3-part special broadcasted through ESPN. The authenticity of the series is still up for debate. Did PG know he was going back to OKC? Why didn’t he take any meetings? Regardless, it was cool to see his thought process, interactions with his agent and Thunder GM Sam Presti. The best part was probably the candid conversation where PG13 received some advice from Dwyane Wade.

“The Decision” is sure to go down in NBA immortality, but will history eventually repeat itself? Only time will tell. Happy 8th anniversary to “The Decision.”