It’s time to put Siakam in the MVP conversation

Pascal Siakam
Game 2 of 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Earlier this week, the NBA put out their KIA MVP Ladder, ranking players based on their production so far this season. Below are the top five MVP candidates so far.

Current NBA MVP rankings

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

3. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

With all of these guys having some of the best teams in the league and them all being some of the most popular names in basketball, it’s no surprise these guys are atop the list.

 

The next five

6. James Harden, Houston Rockets

7. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

8. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

10. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

As the list moves into the next five, it’s no surprise the guys listed above are there either. They’re just as popular as the guys above, it’s just their teams haven’t had as much early success.

 

And five more

11. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

12. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

13. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

14. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

15. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

Then there’s these guys, who are having successful seasons early on and are still popular names, but aren’t as popular as the top tier guys.

 

The guy who should be in the conversation

With most of this list I agree, but there’s one huge disagreement. That’s the absence of the name Pascal Siakam. I get Siakam isn’t a super popular name. Last year was the first year most people knew who he was! Instead of being a star player, he won Most Improved Player. While that is an accomplishment, winning Most Improved doesn’t make you a star.

I understand that Siakam has yet to play an entire season as the main guy for his team, but based on what he’s done so far this season, he absolutely should be in the MVP conversation.

Through the Raptors’ first eight games, Siakam has led them to a 6-2 record, which currently puts them second in the Eastern Conference. In those eight games, Siakam has averaged 27.9 points (7th in the NBA), 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s doing all that while shooting 51.9% from the field and 41.3% from three-point range.

First of all, why is the NBA’s seventh leading scorer not in the top 15 in the MVP race? Guys like AD, LeBron, KAT and Booker are all on the list, and they’re all currently averaging less points than Siakam!

Second, how in the world is Kendrick Nunn, an undrafted rookie, ahead of Siakam? Nunn is averaging 16.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game and ranks 12th on the list, yet Siakam is left off? Makes perfect sense!

 

Where should Siakam rank?

If you ask me, Siakam should at the very least be ranked in the top 10. Let’s take a look at the guys in the top 10 and briefly compare them to Siakam.

Jokic currently has his team at the same record as the Raptors and in the same playoff spot, only in the Western Conference. However, he averages 16.3 points, which is 11.6 less than Siakam. Jokic averages 0.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists more than Siakam, but there’s no way that’s enough to overtake him.

Booker has his team off to a worse start (5-3), and is also averaging less points and significantly less rebounds. Lillard currently has the Blazers at 3-6 and not in a playoff spot, so I’m not sure why he’s even on the MVP list. He may be the league’s second leading scorer, but MVP’s don’t play for losing teams. Irving is kind of in the same boat as Lillard. He’s the league’s third leading scorer, but his team is just 4-4 and seems to be struggling to finish games. If anyone ranked six through 10 has a legit case, it’s Harden, who has his team at 6-3 and is the league’s leading scorer right now.

Now let’s move to the guys ranked in the top five. Embiid currently averages less points and assists, while shooting worse percentages from the field than Siakam. I’d easily take Siakam over Embiid for MVP right now.

This is where it starts to get interesting. AD and James are both averaging less points than Siakam, but they do have the best record in the Western Conference right now. You could make the argument here that Siakam has less help, because he’s not playing with a top five NBA player, while these two guys are.

That leaves us with Kawhi and the Greek Freak. Both guys are averaging more points than Siakam. With both of their teams sitting right where the Raptors are, I think I’d have to put these guys above Siakam at this moment.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific place for Siakam to rank right now, but I’d say he’s at least in the top five. At the very, very least, he should be in the top 15! Again, how on earth is Kendrick Nunn ranked over him, or even in the top 15 at all?

Pascal Siakam may be last year’s Most Improved Player, but he’s this year’s star for the Toronto Raptors. Siakam is a star, yet most people don’t see it. It’s time to start recognizing Siakam as more than the guy who helped Kawhi a year ago. It’s time to recognize him as a legit MVP candidate. Let’s give him the recognition he deserves.

 

Way too early bold Eastern Conference predictions

Pascal.jpg
Pascal Siakam going for a jump ball at Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Half the teams in the NBA have yet to play their fourth game of the season, but there are already budding tendencies we see continuing throughout the season. Using these tendencies, we’re making way too early bold predictions for the Eastern Conference!

Is it too early to be making these predictions? Probably. With such a small sample size, it’s hard to know how accurate our findings truly are. We won’t know for sure until much later in the season. However, we believe there are three predictions about the Eastern Conference we have right. Here we’ll break them down one by one, showing you why we believe we’ll see these results by the end of the NBA season.

 

1. Trae Young will be an MVP finalist

Trae Young has played just three games so far this season, but it’s already clear he’s taken his game to the next level. In his rookie year, Young averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 41.8% and a three-point percentage of 32.4%.

In the first three games of his second season, Young is averaging 34.0 points, 9.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 51.5% and a three-point percentage of 52.0%. His points per game have risen by 14.9, assists by 0.9, and rebounds by 2.3. Perhaps what’s more impressive, is the fact that his field goal percentage has risen by 9.7% and his three-point percentage by 19.6%.

Through three games this season, there’s been a clear difference in the way Young is playing. I know three games isn’t much to go off of, but let’s take a closer look into his numbers. During his rookie season, Young scored 30 or more points nine times in 81 games. In three games this season, Young has already done it twice. I foresee his number of 30 point games this season making a big increase, jumping from eight to somewhere between 20 and 30 times.

It’s obvious Young’s shooting has been better, as evidenced by his 9.7% increase on field goals and 19.6% increase on three-pointers. With the way he’s shooting and scoring right now, he honestly looks like MVP Steph Curry. I know that’s a big claim, but through his first three games, Young is averaging more points, assists and rebounds than Curry did in his unanimous MVP season (15-16), all while shooting 1.1% better from the field and 6.6% better from three-point range.

Young currently has his team sitting at 2-1, with their one loss coming to the 3-0 76ers by two points. There are still many games to be played, but if Young can keep up this play, he’ll surely have his team in the top half of the Eastern Conference by the end of the season. If he can do that, he’ll have my vote for MVP.

 

2. The Toronto Raptors will still make the Eastern Conference Finals

The moment Kawhi Leonard left Toronto to join the Clippers, was the moment every fan in the NBA counted out the Raptors this season. Yes, the Raptors are a much better team with Leonard. However, I don’t think it’s fair to completely count them out as Eastern Conference contenders.

We have to remember, Kawhi wasn’t the only player on this team. This roster still holds names like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. As much as we liked to think he was, Leonard wasn’t a one man show. This Raptors roster was, and still is deep. Through their first four games, the Raptors have five players averaging 12.3 points or more. Those five players are Siakam, Lowry, VanVleet, Ibaka and OG Anunoby. This is evidence this Raptors roster is still built to win, even without Kawhi.

You could easily argue that teams without a star don’t go far, but I’d counter that by saying this team does have a star. Last season we saw Siakam have a breakout year, but he was always in the passenger seat because of Kawhi. Now he’s taking over as the driver.

Through the Raptors’ first four games, Siakam is averaging 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s also shooting 48.1% from the field and 42.9% from three-point range. Guess what Kawhi averaged for the Raptors last season. 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 49.6% shooting from the field and 37.1% shooting from three-point range. Overall, Siakam’s numbers are better. I’m not saying Siakam is Kawhi, but I am saying he has taken over the star role for this Raptors team.

With a star player, another all-star (Kyle Lowry) and a roster full of great role players, there aren’t many teams in the Eastern Conference I’d take over the Raptors in a four game series right now. They may not have Kawhi, but they’ll still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

 

3. The Kyrie Irving led Nets will miss the playoffs

The Kyrie Irving era has officially begun in Brooklyn, but it hasn’t gone as planned to this point. Irving has been putting up massive numbers, averaging 37.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals on 45.6% shooting from the field and 41.2% shooting from three-point range. Irving’s numbers are awesome, but that unfortunately hasn’t translated to wins for the Nets, as they currently hold a 1-2 record.

To be quite honest, this Nets team led by Irving reminds me a lot of the Cavaliers teams Irving led before LeBron decided to come back to Cleveland. I know Irving was a lot younger back then, but he was the star player for the Cavaliers. He was their best player, and he put up good stats, but he could never lead them to a winning season.

Since then, Irving has won an NBA title and made the playoffs a bunch of times, including a couple times with a Celtics team he led. Irving is better than he was when he was a young star leading the Cavaliers, but his tendencies are still the same. Irving can make a lot of great plays and score a lot of points, but none of that really matters if you don’t win. He’s never been the type of player to take a team far when he’s the only star. That’s what he is on this Nets team right now.

Brooklyn has an exciting future, as Kevin Durant will be returning from injury next season. Nets fans should be excited, but they may have to put that excitement on hold for one more season. I’m not so sure Irving can get it done with this team. If the Nets do make the playoffs, I don’t see them being anything above the No. 7 seed. Maybe Irving can squeeze them in, but right now I’m not confident in that.

 

How the Lakers signing Dwight Howard will be different this time around

Dwight Howard’s first stop with the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t go as planned, but his second stop with the team will be much different.

Back in 2012, Dwight Howard became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The then 27 year old Howard joined a 34 year old Kobe Bryant and 38 year old Steve Nash. At the time, Howard was a star in the league. Prior to joining the Lakers, Howard had been a six time All-Star after leading the Orlando Magic to the playoffs six straight times, including one NBA Finals appearance.

Coming off a season in which he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, Howard was expected to be a star for his new team. It was at this same time that Howard’s career would never be the same. From there on out, Howard has bounced around the league, spending time with the Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards.

Howard with the Lakers in February 2013” by scott mecum is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2012 to 2016

In his first season with the Lakers, Howard’s stats didn’t look as bad as things actually were. Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the league) and 2.4 blocks. The Lakers finished that season with a record of 45-37, making the playoffs, but went on to lose in the first round.

The very next season, Howard moved on to the Houston Rockets, where he spent the next three seasons of his career. Why did Howard move on so quickly? There were several factors that likely went into Howard moving on, but to put it simply, Howard wasn’t the star he was with the Orlando Magic any longer. Howard wasn’t able to take a team of aging stars deep into the playoffs, as he hoped to do when he joined the team. Sure, his stats were still good, but individual stats and team wins are two very different things.

Howard’s short time as the star player for the Lakers seemed to take a toll on him. That’s why he split to join James Harden in Houston. Unfortunately for Howard, he was still expected to perform at a superstar level. Again, his stats looked good, but the team had another early out in the playoffs. The longer Howard played in Houston, the worse he got. Clearly, he still couldn’t handle having to perform at such a high level.

I’ll just go ahead and skip over the next few years of his career, as the story is the same.

Lakers Round Two

Howard’s first stop with the Lakers didn’t work out, but now he has a second chance. This time around, Howard will be a much more effective player for the Lakers than he was back in 2012. His stats won’t be as high, but his impact on the team will be much greater.

How so?

Well, this time around, Howard isn’t expected to be a star. This time the Lakers are bringing him in to protect the rim and grab rebounds in the absence of Boogie Cousins.

Instead of having to be a star with a rapidly declining Kobe Byrant and a Steve Nash who was about to walk away from the game, Howard will now be asked to play a specific role next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron may be getting up there in age, but he can still perform at a very high level. We all know Anthony Davis is a star.

With LeBron and Davis, Howard will not be required to carry the team. He won’t be expected to be a star like he was the first time around. Instead of averaging 17+ points per game, we should look for Howard to average 10 points per game or less.

While Howard’s points will be way down, he still has the talent to be a good rebounder and shot blocker for this Lakers team. That’s what the Lakers expect from Howard, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. He won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as often, just when LeBron or Davis pass it to him down low or he grabs a board.

I believe the Lakers made the right move by giving Howard a second chance with them, but they’re making an even better move by making the expectations for him very clear before he even steps foot in the building.

Buy or Sell: Toronto Raptors, NL MVP and Kevin Durant

This week we are back to the traditional “Buy or Sell,” where we focus on more than one sport at a time. Over the past several weeks, we’ve taken three topics from a sport and given you our thoughts.

Whether it’s been NFL, NHL, MLB or NBA, we’ve given you the best thoughts we can. This week is no different. This week we’ll be focusing on an NBA team in pursuit of an NBA title, two likely candidates for MVP honors in MLB, and one of the biggest NBA free agents.

Cody Bellinger” by Ian D’Andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

  • After his unreal four bounce buzzer beating game-winner in game seven against the Philadelphia 76ers on Mother’s day, Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors are looking to make it to the NBA Finals, but can they win an NBA title this year?
  • How about the National League MVP race? Of course it’s still way to early, but can Christain Yelich or Cody Bellinger win NL MVP?
  • What will the next chapter in Kevin Durant’s career be?

Let’s find out what Dan, Joel and I think about these topics!

Rahim: Kawhi and the Raptors win the NBA title this year

Joel: I’m going to sell Kawhi and the Raptors winning the title this year. Kawhi is a great player, but I’m not sure his team has enough to overcome what the Bucks and Warriors bring. Yes, I’m already plugging the Warriors into the Finals. Kawhi was able to overcome poor play by his teammates against the 76ers, but I don’t see it happening against either the Bucks or Warriors. The Bucks were the best team in the league this season, and the Warriors are the Warriors. You can’t have bad play from key players against these two teams.

If the Raptors get by the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, I seriously doubt Kawhi can carry the Raptors over the Warriors if he’s not getting the help he needs. The Warriors are dominating right now, and they don’t even have Kevin Durant playing. In the Finals with Kevin Durant, I can’t buy the Raptors winning the title.

Dan: I’m going to sell Kawhi and the Raptors winning the title this year. The Bucks are better than the Raptors, and the Warriors are certainly better than the Raptors. They didn’t play that great in the series against a tough Philadelphia team. Unfortunately for Kawhi, it’s just not his year this year.

Dan: Either Christian Yelich or Cody Bellinger will win NL MVP

Rahim: As A Dodgers fan, I would love to see Bellinger win the National League MVP, but Christian Yelich is making a real case to repeat. There are also many other players in the mix right now, so I’ll have to sell this! It’s also still early in the season, as most teams have only played a quarter of the season. Some players could get hotter later down the road and over take both these guys.

Guys like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, and Bryce Harper. I know none of these guys are playing at the level that we are use to seeing them play, but they could likely start to heat up. And both the Brewers and Dodgers have so much talent on their teams that the production of Bellinger and Yelich may fall as well. And it’s also tough to repeat as MVP in back-to-back seasons, so it will a tough task to do so. I mean the last player to win back-to-back MVPs was Miguel Cabera in 2012 and 2013. Although I sell this idea right now, I do see that this could happen.

Joel: I agree with Rahim that it’s still early in the season, so giving a firm buy or sell is hard here. For sake of the question, I’ll buy this. If I had to choose one, I’d go with Cody Bellinger. His stats are slightly better than those of Yelich at the moment, but Yelich is still having a great season.

Cody Bellinger ranks first in the NL in runs, hits, RBIs and batting average. He also ranks second in home runs right now. Yelich ranks first in home runs, fourth in runs, 13th in hits, third in RBIs and sixth in batting average. Yelich has played three less games than Bellinger to this point, but overall, Bellinger has the better numbers.

Again, it’s still too early to say for sure on this, but based on their numbers right now, I’ll buy it.

Joel: Kevin Durant will leave if the Warriors win another title, but if they don’t, he’ll stay.

Dan: I sell Kevin Durant staying with the Warriors. Pretty much everyone has said Kevin Durant is leaving, and I believe it. Could you blame him?

If the Knicks offer him a max contract, they could potentially team him up with Kyrie Irving and R.J. Barrett, or whoever else they might draft with the No. 3 pick. Or maybe it’ll be Anthony Davis, depending on if New York wants to trade their third pick and if the New Orleans Pelicans are willing to do that trade. It just makes so much sense, and would turn the Knicks into an instant title contender.

Rahim: I agree with Dan in the sense that Kevin Durant will not return. In the question, Joel has asked that he’ll leave if the Warriors win, but stay if they lose. I buy him leaving in both cases. Not sure it’ll be the Knicks anymore, but it will be somewhere that makes him the highest paid player in the league.

What I am more interested in is who else will join him? Like Dan said, there is a potential that Kyrie Irving can join him. But there are several other names that could be in the picture. Names like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, and even LeBron James. I say these names because this could be the biggest summer of all for the NBA and it’s free agency period.

I mean putting your feelings aside about how you feel about now the draft lottery went on Tuesday night, this is going to be one heck of a summer despite whether Zion Williamson goes to the Pelicans at one in the draft or Kevin Durant decides to join an already super team in place again like he did when he first joined the Golden State Warriors.

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And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Can Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors win the NBA title this year?
  • Will Christian Yelich or Cody Bellinger win the National League MVP?
  • Will Kevin Durant stay or leave Golden State depending on if they win the title or not?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment!

Buy or Sell: Trae Young, Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders

Now that March Madness is officially over and a National Champion has been crowned, we can all turn our attention to the next chapter in the world of Sports. But first, congratulation is in order for Virginia, as they beat Texas Tech 84-77 in overtime and withstood all doubters to become the 2019 College Basketball National Champions.

While we continue to celebrate the accomplishment of Virginia, let’s see what Aman, Joel and I think about other accomplishments from three different sports teams/players.

“Raiders” by Brian Cantoni is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

As the NBA season wraps up, we look at whether or not Atlanta Hawks rookie guard, Trae Young, did enough in March to earn him the rookie of the award. We will also look at whether or not the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders can accomplish making the playoffs this season.

Joel: The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs this coming season after their recent string of offseason acquisitions.

Aman: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs this season. Even though they’ve had some good off-season acquisitions, the Raiders will need some games to work on finding a good combination, and perhaps their acquisitions haven’t been the best. Positions which they’ve needed to fill, they haven’t.

Of course, the addition of Antonio Brown is fantastic, but you need more than one good player to win a game. I see the Raiders improving from last season for sure, but there’s still more established competition the Raiders will have to deal with, like the Chargers and the Chiefs. Hopefully, the Raiders have a good draft, and the Raiders can win more games, but playoffs is still a long shot.

Rahim: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs, at least, at this point of the offseason. The trade they made to get Antonio Brown was a steal, but that’s all they have on the offensive side right now.

Though the Raiders added OT Trent Brown, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Tyrell Williams and TE Luke Willson, I don’t believe it adds up to the talent they had last year at those positions. They have yet to resign RBs Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, WR Jordy Nelson has announced his retirement, and TE Jared Cook has joined New Orleans. Those are a lot of offensive threats QB Derek Carr will miss in the 2019 season, but they have a lot of drafts picks they could use to change my mind on whether I buy or sell them in the playoffs.

Their division is wide open, despite the pure dominance the Chargers and Chiefs showed last year. Both of those teams will have a lot of pressure to make it back to the playoffs and the Broncos will as well.

Speaking of Broncos, former Denver LB Brandon Marshall has joined the Raiders as well. But like I said, they need to draft BIG if they want to change the way I think about their playoff chances. I personally like Carr and Gruden, but they’ve got to get things back in order.

For now, it’s no playoffs for Raiders, maybe we’ll see them in it again when they get to Vegas.

RahimAli: After his excellent play in March, Trae Young will win rookie of the year?

Joel: Despite Trae Young’s great play recently, I’m going to sell on him being the new favorite to win rookie of the year. For starters, Luka Doncic has led his team to a better record than Young. Luka has led the Mavericks to a record of 33-48, while Young has the Hawks with a record of 29-52. There isn’t much of a difference in terms of the team record, but Luka has a slight advantage. I feel like having a better record, regardless of how small the margin may be, gives Doncic a leg up already.

Then there are their stats. Young had a great run in March, but Luka Doncic still has better overall stats than him. Doncic averages 21.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists, while Young averages 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. I’ll take the stats of Doncic over Young’s. We can also compare their shooting stats. Trae Young is shooting 41.9% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range, while Luka Doncic is shooting 42.7% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range. Trae Young has better assist stats. Outside of that, Doncic has better stats in every other category I mentioned.

Aman: Although he’s had a great season, it would be injustice to Luka Doncic if Trae Young won rookie of the year. Along with having a better record with the Mavericks than Young did with the Hawks, Doncic’s stats are also better. Doncic averages 3 points more than Young’s 19.1/game with eight less games. When it comes to rebounds, Doncic leads that by a much bigger margin, 4.1 ahead of Young’s 3.8. Therefore, I sell Young winning the award, but just barely. It would still make sense if Young were to win it, especially with the Hawks chances of being set up to have two top 10 picks in the NBA Draft this summer.

As Doncic and Young battled their way to the top of the rookie standings in all categories, many of us might have forgotten they were part of a trade for each other. That trade was Lukas Doncic and a 2019 first round pick for Trae Young. The pick is a top-five protected, so if the Dallas Mavericks do manage to get a top-five pick, they will keep it, but if it falls out then the Hawks could get it. Now let’s imagine the Hawks having Trae Young with two of the top 10 prospects in the draft.

Aman: After a mixed start to the season, the Cubs still are a team which will make playoffs.

Rahim: The MLB Season is back, and the Chicago Cubs are looking to reclaim their division after losing it in a tie-breaker with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. This season will be a bit harder, as the Cardinals are seeking to join the mix. You can find out what we at Fourth Quarter Sports think of the NL Central division in your playoff predictions here.

But the Cubs have a good team; they need to find themselves right now. The pitchers are struggling early in the season, and the bats are swinging in the wrong direction. In game one of the Cubs’ series against the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs put up a “0” in the runs columns, while the Braves had eight.

That zero runs by the Cubs came by surprise early in the season, as it was only the 4th game and they were averaging over nine runs in the first three games. Now we are 10 games in and the Cubs are finding themselves struggling in the same way. The Braves swept them and took one of three games from the Brewers, and because of that, I am selling the Cubs making the playoffs, especially if they remain struggling for a while.

Joel: The Cubs have had a rough start to their season, but it’s still very early in the season. I’m not going to count the Cubs out just yet because they’ve started 3-7. For the last four seasons, the Cubs have made the playoffs and won at least 92 games. I think they still have the talent to do so, and the amount of time left in the season very much allows them to win 90+ games again. I’ll buy they’ll still make the playoffs because it’s early in the season and their recent history shows they’ll end up as a playoff team.

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And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Will Trae Young win rookie of the year honors after his performance in March?
  • Can the Chicago Cubs overcome their recent struggles and still be a team to make the playoffs?
  • Will Antonio Brown and other acquisitions help the Oakland Raiders make playoffs this season?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

What you missed this weekend: 3/29-3/31

As the Basketball season wraps up and looks to put an end to all the madness next weekend, things are just starting to swing off in the MLB.

This past Thursday was opening day of the Major League Baseball season and you can see what we at Fourth Quarter Sports thought about the divisions and playoffs here. 

Don’t forget about the NBA playoff picture and where we are entering the few games of the season. So let’s see what we missed?

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PNC Park – Pittsburgh, PA by Dan Gaken is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

NCAA Basketball

Two No. 1’s go down an ugly fashion:

Despite Auburn’s best player Chuma Okeke getting injured, Auburn still defeated North Carolina astoundedly 97-80. Malik Dunbar accumulated 13 points in this game while Bryce Brown and Daniel Purifoy won 12 points each. Jared Harper got nine points, but more importantly, 11 assists. This win is important as Auburn aim for their first Final Four in history.

While Auburn is aiming for Final Four, Texas Tech have made it with their 75-69 win over Gonzaga. Though close, throughout the last minute, it was even tighter. Josh Perkins of Gonzaga’s five points in the next half-minute wasn’t enough as Gonzaga stumbled in the hunt for a win.

Though Perkins is not perfect. In the last minute, when Gonzaga was just trailing by two points, Perkins stepped outside of bounds, allowing Texas Tech the free throws they needed to win.

Perhaps earlier Gonzaga could’ve used a window of opportunity to win. When Texas Tech’s Tariq Owens was caught out of bounds while defending the ball, when Gonzaga should’ve been awarded the ball, they fouled seconds later, allowing Texas Tech to score more. The stars of both teams did show up. For Gonzaga, Rui Hachimura scored 22 points, Brandon Clarke with 18 and Perkins with 16. But what cost Gonzaga were the 16 turnovers.

Along with the excess of free throws, Texas Tech’s Jarret Culver scored 19 points and Matt Mooney surprisingly scored 17 himself.

Virginia finally makes the Final Four:

For the first time since 1984, Virginia has made the Final Four! Tony and Dick Bennet become only the second father-son coaching duo in history to be coaching in the Final Four. In Bennet’s words, he described the sensation as, “I’ve always dreamed of coaching in a Final Four…This seems [easy]’ — I didn’t realize how hard it was.”

Auburn makes first ever Final Four with thrilling OT win (By RahimAli Merchant):

Coming into the tournament as the conference tournament champ, you should be one of the favorites to go far in the tournament. That was necessarily the case for Auburn as they reach their first ever Final Four.

Auburn was on the edge of an upset in the first round as they won by a point against New Mexico State. They used that to fuel them to two huge wins over Kansas and No. 1 North Carolina before finally taking down their conference rival Kentucky in overtime. I knew Auburn was a sleeper team in the tournament, but they proved a lot in the NCAA tournament and I think they could beat Virginia and fight the Spartans for the National Championship next Monday night!

Duke’s 17 turnovers cost them a Final Four berth:

The reason this was an upset was that Duke was the no. 1 seeded team. And Duke lost by one point. Michigan State won 68-67. R.J. Barrett had the chance to win the game for Duke, but only one of his free throws went in. And Michigan State move on to the Final Four.

Players declaring for NBA Draft:

UCLA’s small forward Kris Wilkes
Oregon’s center Bol Bol
San Diego State’s forward Jalen McDaniels

MLB

Bryce Harper’s first homer as a Phillies player:

Expectations on Phillies’ new signing Bryce Harper were high, but his maiden home run for the team shattered all of that. Harper’s home run went for 465 feet and the Phillies went on to beat the Atlanta Braves 8-6.

Yu Darvish’s big return:

For the first time in nearly 11 months, Yu Darvish stepped onto the grass to pitch. Unfortunately, it didn’t go to plan. Darvish’s only two innings saw seven batsmen walk. The two runs which Asdrubal Cabrera was able to score off of Darvish resulted in the Texas Rangers triumphing over the Chicago Cubs 8-6.

Yelich making history:

Christian Yelich is already such a good player, being the reigning MVP, but this season might just be even more fun to watch. In all of MLB history, Yelich is now the sixth player to be an MVP who opens the following season with a home run in each of his first four matches. The last one was truly special as in the ninth innings, Yelich won the game for the Milwaukee Brewers against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Yankees SS Troy Tulowitzki homers for the first time since ’17:

It’s been a two-year wait for Tulowitzki, but he finally was able to score. After suffering through ankle and heel injuries, Tulowitzki was able to hit a homer in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles. However, the Yankees still went on to lose 5-3.

Goldschmidt hits 3 HRs in 2nd game with Cards:

It’s hard enough to score one home run, but Paul Goldschmidt hit three home runs in his second ever match for the Cardinals against the Brewers. His first came after facing nine pitches from Freddy Peralta before his tenth one was hit far enough. By the end of the game, Goldschmidt had accumulated three homers and five RBIs as the Cardinals won 9-5.

NBA:

Despite their poor effort in make the playoffs, Lakers Vets want to return next season: (By RahimAli Merchant)

With the arrival of LeBron James in LA, the Lakers expectations were huge! It was a playoff or bust type of season and as we can see from their 35-42 record. The Lakers will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season, but they are hopeful for a better run next season. With a lot of cap space and roster spots available, the Lakers front office has to decide what they want to do.

Two of the teams veteran players, Rajon Rondo and Javale McGee, have made it clear that they want to be back. McGee has an a career season offensively and Rondo has been the Rondo Lakers fans once hated when he was a member of the Boston Celtics. They have both managed to play a lot of minutes due to injuries to guys like Lonzo Ball and Tyson Chandler and when given the chance, they made the best of it.

As of now, the Lakers have been officially checked out as most then half the roster is injured and will sit the rest of the season. Can Rondo and Mcgee be apart of the 2019-20 Lakers and help lead them to a playoff?

Spurs retire the jersey of one of Argentina’s greatest athletes:

The Spurs’ most beloved player, Emanuel Ginobili was rewarded with the retirement of his no. 20 jersey. The ceremony was held at the AT&T Center after the Spurs beat the Cavaliers 116-110. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich reflected on Ginobili’s career afterward. He noted that with him in the team, were Spurs able to win the championships they won. Ginobili was also accomplished with an Olympic gold which he won for Argentina in basketball in 2004. En la termina, gracias Manu. 

Wade-Dirk final battle:

Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki played their final game against each other when Miami Heat took on the Dallas Mavericks. Wade found success in the last chapter with his eleven points pushing Heat to a 105-99 win over their opponents. Though the rivalry between the two people at times did heat up, a public jersey swap earlier made things much more positive. In the loss, Nowitzki scored two more points than Wade, but the Heat’s win allowed them an eighth-place spot in their conference.

Thunder striking:

Oklahoma City Thunder’s 107-99 win over the Indiana Pacers including an amazing 24-0 run in favor of the Thunder. In total, Paul George scored 31 points that night. Steven Adams pitched in with 25 points and 12 rebounds while Russell Westbrook made his name in 17 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, being his 29th triple-double of the season.

Buy or Sell: Harper, Raiders, Jaguars, Lakers, Atlanta United FC, and Lightning

We’ve changed things up a bit this time around, as another member of the team joins us for this supersized version of “Buy or Sell.” Aman Huda will be taking the place of Mickayeen from here on out!
This week we talk about six different topics, covering five sports. Yes, that’s right! We took supersize to the next level, and we would love to get your thoughts on everything we buy or sell this week! In last week’s article, we spoke of Nolan Arenado and his deal, but we left the real deal for Dan Piersman, as he tells us about Bryce Harper!

IMG_3979” by Dinur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Harper is one of our several topics this week! We also have some big topics about the NFL, to talk about some possible QB moves that could change the landscape of the AFC next season. There’s also the question as to if a struggling NBA team will land a top player in free agency. We also include a bit on the NHL and the defending MLS champions. Let’s get started!

RahimAli: Bryce Harper will bring another title to the city of brotherly love.

Joel: I’ll buy Bryce Harper bringing another title to Philly. I can’t say exactly when that will be, but he’s got a long time to make it happen, so I’ll buy it.

Bryce Harper is one of the best players in baseball. Having him on the team instantly made the Phillies better. Most of the time when you have a star player, especially one of Harper’s caliber, it’s easy to attract other stars as well. I think the Phillies can put together a nice roster over the next few years and really be able to get into not only playoff contention, but championship contention.

Again, I can’t say exactly when this championship will come. I doubt it will be this coming season or the season after, but maybe it could be. You just never know. I can see it happening over the course of Harper’s lifetime Phillies deal.

Aman: I too buy that Bryce Harper can do the job for Philly. If he impresses this season, he’ll definitely make others want to play with him, which will only make the team stronger and better in the future. Perhaps not this season, but within the next five years, it’s definitely a strong possibility seeing a World Series title being delivered to Philadelphia.

 

Joel: The Oakland Raiders will trade QB Derek Carr to target a top QB in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Aman: I sell the Raiders trading him away. It seems as of late that Carr might be important in getting the Raiders to land Antonio Brown, and the Raiders wouldn’t want to compromise on an opportunity like that. If a receiver like Brown can help the rest of the offense for the Raiders next season, the performance of everyone else will only improve. Along with that, if Carr and Brown can form an excellent partnership together, they’ll be crucial to the Raiders winning games next season.

RahimAli: I buy! When the Raiders somehow convinced Jon Gruden to come out of the play-by-play booth to coach again after 10 years, we all thought it was going to be a great thing for both him and quarterback Derek Carr. However, the Raiders and Carr didn’t have a great season at all, as they went 4-12. In fact, before the season started, Gruden traded the teams best defensive player, Khalil Mack, to the Chicago Bears for a first-round pick.

He also traded the teams best receiver, Amari Cooper, to the Dallas Cowboys for another first-rounder.

It’s clear Gruden is ready to clean house. With the offense getting older with guys like Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jared Cook and Jordy Nelson, who are all 30 plus, it’ll be hard to get rid of them for younger talent or picks.

Carr is 27 and still has plenty of upside. Last season, Carr had a career high in passing yards (4,049) and completion percentage (68.9) in a failed season for the Raiders. That alone should be reason enough for anyone to want to trade for Carr. At the right price, Gruden will do it.

After all, Gruden loves QBs. This year’s class is one of the most interesting, with all eyes on Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins. If the Raiders were to trade Carr, they would most likely be looking to use their 4th overall pick to get a QB like Murray or Haskins instead of ta defensive end as predicted in the most recent mock draft.

 

Aman: The Jaguars can make playoffs with Nick Foles next season.

RahimAli: I buy the Jaguars will make the playoffs next season with Nick Foles. I don’t completely put the failure of last season on the shoulders of QB Blake Bortles, because they had several issues. However, Bortles is one of the issues. I think all the issues will be a point of focus by the Jaguars coaching staff in this offseason and training camp.

One issue was the lack of depth at receiver and running back. The Jaguars’ offense runs through RB Leonard Fournette, who missed half the season with injury, which left T.J. Yeldon to pick up the slack. Yeldon was later joined by Carlos Hyde in a trade. Their WRs were banged up all season long as well. They lost WR Marquise Lee during the preseason.

All that alone was a cause of the Jaguars’ disappointing season. Bortles and the Jaguars went from 10-6 and making the AFC Championship game, to being 5-11 and the last place team in the AFC South. Last place is a regular position for the Jaguars with Bortles,  and it’s clear they need a change at QB.

With all their offensive weapons getting healthy and Foles having success running a similar offense in Philadelphia, I think this is a good move in the right direction. Now only if Jalen Ramsey and the defense can get their act together.

Joel: I buy the Jaguars being able to make the playoffs next season with Nick Foles. For starters, they made the playoffs with Blake Bortles two years ago. Nick Foles is a better QB than Blake Bortles. Not only is he a better QB in terms of talent, but he’s a much better leader. There was something different about the Eagles when Foles was in compared to Carson Wentz, and I believe it was Foles’ ability to lead a team. Blake Bortles isn’t a leader.

Then there’s the fact that Leonard Fournette was injured a lot last season, as RahimAli said. If Fournette can get healthy again, things will go back to the way they were during his rookie season, when he dominated on the ground. With Fournette returning to himself, that will open a lot of things up for Foles. They do need to address their receiver position, but I think they can easily take care of that either in free agency or the draft, at least well enough to get them by offensively.

Finally, there’s the defense. Despite what people might think, the defense was still pretty good last season. They weren’t as good as two years ago, but they ranked tied for fourth in the NFL in points allowed, allowing an average of 19.8 per game. That’s really good! With the offense getting healthier and being upgraded at the most important position, they’ve got a good chance to get back in the playoffs.

 

Joel: Despite probably missing the playoffs, the Lakers will sign at least one big name free agent this coming off-season.

RahimAli: As a Lakers fan hoping for another championship, I buy! But as a Lakers fans frustrated with this season, I SELL! I don’t think the Lakers will land a big name player this offseason.

In fact, I think LeBron will push for coach Luke Walton to get replaced, like he has done to every coach that has coached him not named Erik Spoelstra. It’s part of what LeBron does in his career. I think the Lakers will get a big name coach from outside the organization and have them try their luck; maybe somebody who can coach defense.

The Lakers will definitely miss the playoffs again this season, and everybody is going to be second guessing themselves. All these moves they made to set themselves up for a bright future with the “greastest of all time,” and it’s probably LeBron James’ worst season of his career.

Early last week, I gave three additional things the Lakers lack that has caused the situation they are in. But the biggest thing they lack right now is leadership, and no big name player wants to come to a team with a new head coach and no real leadership. We don’t even know who all will be part of the team next year, besides LeBron James.

But let’s go back to his season stats real quick, he’s shooting a career low, 66.9 percent from the free throw line. Instead of getting the basket and foul, James gets one free throw. I mean, I get he’s trying to get the rest of the players involved and be the playmaker that we all know and love him for, but he has to know when to take control without having a supporting cast like Dwyane Wade or Kyrie Irving.

Also, I don’t think any big name player wants to be the second best on their team. Isn’t that why Irving left in the first place? I mean, you can’t argue that James isn’t great when he just passed Michael Jordan for 4th all-time on the NBA scoring list, but you think scorers like Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard won’t have a problem? I don’t know, maybe Aman’s synopsis is a better one to go with, as I’ll continue to watch the Lakers fight and fail to make the playoffs.

Aman: I buy! The Lakers will definitely have the money to do so. Along with that, the team will be quick to make changes if they miss the playoffs, which includes buying a player or two. Also, coming from a player’s point of view, despite not being as credible of a team right now, it won’t be too hard to attract players to the Lakers, given a chance to play alongside LeBron James and live in a city like Los Angeles.

 

Aman: Atlanta United will defend their MLS title with a new manager.

Rahim: I’m going to sell this one! Sorry Atlanta fans, but repeats are the hardest thing to do. As much as I would love to see them do it again for the city of Atlanta, I don’t think it’s going to happen, and it has nothing to do with the new manager.

Although, I think Frank de Boer can lead the Five Stripe to the playoffs again, winning it all is highly unlikely. Frank de Boer is a European manager who’s more used to a European style of football. In the MLS, de Boer will need to adapt to the high-paced attacking and high-pressure from defenders. Also, the Atlanta United team is based on a South American style of football, something which will take time for de Boer to adapt to.

Plus, there are other teams who look more hungry for the title this year. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Los Angeles Galaxy are still looking to prove themselves. LAFC was pretty impressive in the opening season, and it seems they can only get better. We just saw usual favorites Seattle Sounders pound FC Cincinnati 4-1. And DC United, with Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney look like a proper football team.

That’s just the nature of the game we call Soccer. All it takes is one goal and a season can be over. For the sake of Atlanta United FC, it was a late first half goal in the Cup final that sparked the championship and ended a curse of the city of Atlanta. Read more about what that curse meant here.

Joel: I’m going to sell Atlanta United defending their title with a new manager. As is the case for RahimAli, it has nothing to do with the new manager. RahimAli also stated how hard it is to repeat championships.

It happens every once in a while, but it’s extremely hard to do. I know the NFL is completely different, but I’ll use the New England Patriots as an example. They’ve won six Super Bowl titles with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Out of those six, how many times have they repeated? Just once.

Yes, they’ve made it back to the Super Bowl in back-to-back years, but they’ve only won it in back-to-back years once. This is proof that it’s extremely hard to win a title after winning it the year before. I think Atlanta United will be a good team, but I’ll sell on them defending their title.

 

RahimAli: With the Tampa Bay Lightning being the only team in the NHL with 50 wins, they are the favorite to win the Stanley Cup?

Aman: What makes a hockey team great? Their offense. The team with the best offense, the team which scores the most typically becomes strong favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

Having 257 goals under their belt, the next best team in terms of goals is the Toronto Maple Leafs. When it comes between the Lightning and the Maple Leafs, the Lightning are favorites to advance further, and most likely to a Stanley Cup final. The Lightning’s playoff experience has been a lot better in recent history, and their confidence will likely be higher than that of Toronto’s. Therefore, I buy Tampa Bay taking the Stanley Cup home this time around.

Joel: I’ll buy the Tampa Bay Lightning being the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you look at the standings, they have 51 wins. The next closest team has 41 wins. Having 10 more wins than any other team means they’re not just the best team, but they’re quite a bit better than the rest of the field. I also think that anytime you’re the best team in the league, you should be favored to win the championship.

It just makes sense for the team with the best record to be the favorite. To give some statistics to back their record up, Tampa Bay ranks first in Goals For per game (3.84) and fourth in Goals Against per game (2.61). So not only are they a great offensive team, they’re a great defensive team too. That’s a great combination for winning a championship.

 

************************************************************************************

And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Could Bryce Harper bring a title in Philly?
  • Will Nick Foles lead the Jaguars to the playoffs if he were to sign there?
  • Could Derek Carr be traded?
  • Will any big name player join LeBron James as a Laker after possibly missing out on the playoffs?
  • Can Atlanta United FC defend their crown?
  • Are the Tampa Bay Lightning the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

What you may have missed this weekend: 1/25 – 1/27

We have managed to make it through the first month of 2019 without missing one of these articles. As we go on this is going to get harder and harder, especially with the NFL season wrapping things up next week in the Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots.

You can find out more on that next weekend and all throughout this week, as we will be giving you some Super Bowl surprise articles involving both teams.

Until then, let’s see what we missed this weekend with the limited action we did have. Action like the Pro Bowl, NFL news, NBA stars and brothers, College Basketball upsets and Tennis.

Novak Djokovic” by Carine06 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NFL

NFL fines Rams DB Nickell Robey-Coleman for the missed penalty

Was it or was it not a penalty when Robey-Coleman lit up New Orleans Saints WR Tommy Lee Lewis? Whether it was or not, it raised a lot of questions about the NFL rules and officiating. The penalty could’ve been many different things like pass interference, hit on a defenseless receiver, or helmet-to-helmet. For this one, it was the helmet-to-helmet penalty that Robey-Coleman will be fined for.

Chicago Bears sign K Redford Jones

After the Bears lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, this was a move that had to be made. The Bears lost off a missed kick by kicker Cody Parkey, which is why they signed Redford Jones.

With this signing, Jones has a chance to compete for the starting job with Parkey after he struggled in his first season with the Bears. Parkey missed a total of 11 kicks this season, which was the worst by any kicker. Jones doesn’t have any NFL experience, but he will get a chance to compete with Parkey come next season.

AFC dominates Pro Bowl

The only football game left before the Super Bowl was the Pro Bowl. That game featured the best players in the league all playing together against their rival conference. The AFC dominated with a 26-7 victory, as Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes picked up MVP honors. Could this be the first of MVPs he picks up?

This was a game that saw the NFC score their least amount of points in 25 years. They tried everything to get themselves going. Everything like having RBs Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara playing defense.

 

NBA

Clippers star arrived late to the game and achieved a career first

On Friday night the Los Angeles Clippers visited the Chicago Bulls and were experiencing weather delays that caused Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and star guard Lou Williams to miss shootaround. The snowy conditions made a 10-minute bus ride from the team hotel to the arena a long two hours. That didn’t seem to bother Williams though, as he accomplished a career first while leading the Clippers to a 106-101 win over the Bulls. Williams picked up his first ever career triple-double with a 31 point, 10 rebound and 10 assist game.

 

College Basketball

Losses by top 25 teams

13 Maryland to Illinois (78-67)

20 Mississippi to 24 Iowa State (87-73)

9 Kansas to 8 Kentucky (71-63)

16 Auburn to 22 Mississippi State (92-84)

6 Michigan State to Purdue (73-63)

19 Iowa to Minnesota (92-87)

 

Tennis

Djokovic adds another Grand Slam title to his career accomplishments

When you think of some of the greatest tennis players of all time, is Novak Djokovic on there? Well, he should be, as he added his 15th major title this weekend. It was his third in a row after already having won the Wimbledon and the US Open. This time it was the Australian Open, as he took on Rafael Nadal and beat him in three straight sets. Djokovic has also passed his idol, Pete Sampras, with the third most Grand Slam victories behind Nadal and Roger Federer.