The New York Yankees have been maddeningly inconsistent throughout the 2021 season. With high expectations, they have underachieved. Whenever it looks like they might have figured it out, they once again go back to their losing ways. Even if they somehow sneak into the playoffs, they probably won't go far, and there will certainly be changes once the season ends.
Their problems start at the plate where they can't capitalize with runners in scoring position. The Yankees are practically at the bottom of the league when it comes to that category. Home runs - their strength at the plate - have come less frequently than in other years. They also lack contact hitters; too many players look to hit home runs and end up striking out. DJ LeMahieu, their best contact hitter in recent years, resigned for six years and $90 million, but he hasn't matched his play from the previous two seasons. Guys who were seen as key players in previous years such as Gleyber Torres have struggled. Their power hitter Giancarlo Stanton hasn't been the big time player the Yankees envisioned when they inherited his big contract. Only Aaron Judge has been the most successful hitter this year. He is leading the team in home runs, batting average, and RBIs while staying healthy so far.
As for their pitching, it seems like every time this unit takes one step forward, they then proceed to take two steps back. Gerrit Cole for the most part, has shown why he was worth the big contract the Yankees gave him, but he doesn't get much run support. The same can be said for Jordan Montgomery who pitched five starts without any run support from his teammates before last Thursday. Corey Kluber had appeared to be finding his groove after pitching a no-hitter in mid-May, before injuring his shoulder. By the time he gets back, the Yankees will likely be all, but eliminated from making the postseason. Domingo German and Jamesson Taillon have had their moments, but aren't long term answers. Their bullpen, which was viewed as their biggest pitching strength prior to the season, has blown a bunch of games where they appeared to have a comfortable lead. Three of those blown leads have come when they were leading by four or more runs entering the eighth inning.
These problems however extend beyond the diamond. It has been apparent that Aaron Boone hasn't been able to light a spark in this team, and he's made poor decisions in some of their losses. In their last loss to Boston for example, he pulled Domingo German in the eighth inning after giving up his first hit even though he probably could've pitched to one or two more batters. I've always thought that Boone has been unfairly criticized over the years, but if this team keeps underperforming, there's little he could say to convince management to retain him for another year. That's not to say they're not at fault either. Brian Cashman believed that he had a roster that could contend so he ignored areas that turned out to be flaws, whether it was the lack of left handed hitting, athleticism on defense, or a consistent rotation. Their player development has also been subpar if you realize they've developed no one who looks like a foundational player in the last five years outside of Judge. Cashman has done many good things for the franchise, but with this year likely being their 12th year without even sniffing a World Series, he should go.
Overall, this is looking like a lost season for the Yankees. As mentioned earlier, the only positive from this season has been a healthy Judge. While it's still possible for them to turn it around and sneak into the wild card, it seems more unlikely as they keep losing. On the bright side, the Yankees are usually able to find ways to turn it around after a rough season. That doesn't mean that they should make any moves at the trade deadline. If they find out that the players they want such as Trevor Story or Starling Marte are likely staying put, they should wait for free agency because they're not one player away from turning it around. What they should do at the deadline, is try to trade starters for prospects with high potential. Hopefully, this team makes the necessary moves to climb back in contention.
,The Atlanta Hawks were up by three points in the final minutes of game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons caught a pass on the block and had the chance for a wide open dunk, only to pass it to Matisse Thybulle who got fouled. Thybulle, a 44% shooter from the foul line, went one of two and the 76ers would later lose the game and the series. As soon as the series ended, extensive criticism was aimed at Simmons who will be a big question mark for the team's future.
Ben Simmons is a very unique basketball player. At 6′ 11, he can bring the ball up court and run in offense, something that only Giannis Antetokounmpo can also do at that height. Simmons is also a great ball handler and is able to set up teammates in transition. On the defensive end, Simmons' long wingspan has made him a menace. He can defend different positions on the court and it shows in his accolades of back-to-back First Team All Defense selections. The one weakness in his game is his shooting, particularly from three, which is an important skill to have in today's game.
While Simmons can hide these problems in the regular season, they make him vulnerable in the playoffs. Come postseason time, teams will look to attack a player's weakness, and this was never more evident than in this year's playoffs. In the first round, the 76ers dispatched the Washington Wizards in five games, but in Washington's game 4 victory, they were able to expose Simmons' free throw problems by hacking him down the stretch. Although Philadelphia won the series, Simmons had lost his aggressiveness. Against the tougher Atlanta Hawks in the semifinals, Simmons would only score a combined 19 points in the final three games. His passed up dunk in game 7 perfectly represents his reluctance to attack the basket in fear of shooting free throws.
Although coach Doc Rivers noted that the team has a plan to improve Simmons' shooting, it might be too little too late. A 76ers fan and close friend of mine in Philadelphia recently gave me his perspective on the situation: he believes that time is up. As good a regular season player as Simmons is, he is very easy to out-coach during the playoffs. When asked about trade possibilities, he believes it's worth trading Simmons because for one, they could acquire a talented perimeter player such as CJ McCollum or Damien Lillard. In addition, they can get rid of Simmons' big contract to add other pieces around Joel Embiid. Simmons may be a highly talented player, but his shooting struggles are too much to overcome in order to win a championship.
If game 7 turns out to be Simmons' last game as a 76er it would symbolize a complicated tenure for Simmons. While his unique play style put the 76ers in a position to succeed, it also resulted in many playoff disappointments. Don't be surprised if that game turned out to be his final one.
At 26 years old, he's had all the accomplishments an NBA player can dream of. Giannis Antetokounmpo has gone from selling CDs as a kid on the streets in his hometown Athens, Greece, to winning a championship. He's a representation of the American Dream that goes beyond the sport of basketball. On Tuesday night, he and his team overcame previous playoff disappointments by defeating the Phoenix Suns in four straight games after losing the first two.
Leading up to the Finals against the Phoenix Suns, people didn't even know if Giannis would play. He suffered what appeared to be a painful knee injury in game four of the Conference Finals against the Hawks and it looked like he would miss the beginning of the series. However, Giannis suited up for game one and played pretty well during the first two games, but the Bucks faced an 0-2 deficit. When the series shifted to Milwaukee they tied up the series sealed after Giannis delivered one of the best blocks in finals history to preserve the Bucks lead at the end of game four. The Bucks then proceeded to steal home court advantage in game five by fighting off a late Suns rally, and in game six, it was clear Giannis wasn't going to let this series head back to Phoenix right from the jump. On offense, he scored at will every time, whether it was layups, dunks, his new-found turnaround and even free throws. On defense he intimidated every shooter on the Suns, and would end up blocking five shots. His final stat line: 50 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks.
Loyalty played a big part in Giannis' journey toward a championship. Many people wondered why Giannis wanted to continue playing in a city that didn't have the celebrity lifestyle compared to New York City or Los Angeles. Yet he believed he owed a championship to the Bucks as well as the city of Milwaukee for taking a chance on him when he was just 18 years old. After every loss, he would take criticism and improve his game. Early in the finals when he was asked if the fans are are affecting his free throw shooting, Giannis acknowledged that was the case and vowed to improve his focus on making the free throw. This became a strength toward the end of the series, as Giannis went 17-19 in game six. Most players would've tried to avoid such a question concerning a flaw in their game. Finally, he fully established himself as a closer during this playoffs. With home court advantage on their side against Phoenix, Giannis delivered one of the greatest closeout performances of all time. His 50 points are tied for the most ever in a closeout game.
If there's anything that can be taken away from Giannis' playoff run, it's that you don't have to play in a marquee city to win a championship. You can play in a small market in the midwest and still be successful. Giannis proved that you don't have to chase super teams in order to win a championship. Guys like Kevin Durant and James Harden chose to create super teams in hopes of winning a championship and while the results have been mixed, Giannis won the hard way. He had a pretty good roster of Kris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez, but not the roster compared to the Nets. You can say injuries prevented other teams from advancing but that is part of the game. The attention Phoenix paid to Giannis helped him to get the best out of his teammates in the Finals. Whether it was Middleton's 40 point outing in game four, Holiday's clutch steal in game five, or even Bobby Portis' 16 points in the closer, you could see the Giannis effect during those last four games.
If Giannis wasn't already one of the greatest stories in all of sports, he certainly is now, To win a championship after years of falling short with the same team is super impressive given the fact that most players would've left had they been in Giannis' situation. Even if he never wins another ring, this year's championship will always be remembered for what Giannis accomplished.
It seems hard to imagine that there are only four NBA teams left standing. The energy in Madison Square Garden, along with the first round performances of Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, and Jayson Tatum seem like a year ago. But there are now four teams remaining in the playoffs with the best chance of breaking their championship drought.
Despite spending plenty of money this offseason, the Hawks found themselves six games under .500 entering all-star break. They decided to cut ties with coach Lloyd Pierce and promoted Nate McMillan to head coach. After that, the Hawks finished the season 27-11 clinching the fifth seed. They defeated the Knicks in five games thanks to the heroics (and foul hunting) of Trae Young. But perhaps more impressive was their second round series against the 76ers where they won game seven on the road. Young's last second winner in game 1 against the Knicks, has set the tone for a postseason in which he's averaged 29 points and 10 assists. McMillian also deserves a ton of credit for turning around Atlanta's season. With their confidence sky high, there's a real possibility they might sneak into the Finals.
Once again, the Bucks had another impressive regular season finishing as the third seed, but appeared to have a difficult journey as they opened the playoffs against a familiar Miami Heat team that defeated them in five games last year. The Bucks convincingly swept the Heat after nearly blowing game one. In the semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to win in seven hard fought games despite Kevin Durant's brilliance. Giannis Antetokounmpo's stepped up in a big way, scoring 40 points in the deciding game through smart decision making. Moving forward, he should stay in the post because Milwaukee's offense is more efficent that way. They should also run more plays for guys such as Jrue Holiday and Kris Middleton, to get more involved in the offense. If the Bucks want to get over the hump, this is their recipe.
In November, the Suns boosted their playoff chances by acquiring future hall of famer Chris Paul. With an already promising core of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Miles Bridges, this proved to be the missing piece they needed as Phoenix won 51 games during the regular season. Their first playoff opponent in 11 years were the defending champion Lakers who were favored by some (including myself) to win. They came back from a 2-1 deficit, winning the next three games with Booker capping the series with a 47 point masterpiece. They then followed this with a sweep of the Denver Nuggets to advance to the conference finals. Currently, they are up 1-0 thanks to Booker's 40 point triple double. Booker has balled out in his first postseason appearance, even though Paul hasn't been healthy throughout this postseason. With a healthy Paul, I think Phoenix has the best chance of winning their first championship.
Los Angeles Clippers:
It's crazy that the Clippers are finally in the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history after years of blown leads. It seemed like it would be another failure as they fell behind 2-0 to the Mavericks in the first round. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, they overcome that deficit as well as a 3-2 lead to defeat them in seven thrilling games. Against the top seeded Jazz, they once again tied the series at two games apiece after falling 2-0. George changed the course of the series, with signature performance despite no Leonard to send the series back to L.A. up 3-2. The Clippers capitalized on this opportunity to win the series. Right now, they are down 1-0 to the Suns and must grab home court advantage by winning game two. Leonard's health is still a question mark and it's possible he'll rest of the playoffs with an ACL injury.
My Updated Predictions:
In the Eastern Conference Finals, I'm picking the Bucks to defeat the Hawks. Atlanta is coming into the series with supreme confidence, but if the Bucks play Giannis in the post, and run plays through Middleton and Holiday, they should win the series. Holiday can also be counted upon to shut down Young. Holiday is one of the better perimeter defenders and he'll be everything the Bucks invested in him if he shows up. However, Atlanta's offense is more efficent and with their improvement on the defensive end, Giannis could be headed home again.
As for the Western Conference, the Suns will probably win the series if they win today. The Suns have played exceptionally well together from a coaching to a playing standpoint and it has shown in their play. The Clippers can't be counted out after what they've done, but they must win game two to prevent Paul from returning with the Suns up 2-0. If the Clippers lose, it's difficult to envision a comeback, which is why this upcoming game has major implications on the outcome of this series. That being said, I think Phoenix wins this game as well as the series.
If the Bucks and Suns face off in the Finals, it's going to come down to who's the better coach. Both teams have talented rosters and defend the basket well. However, Mike Budenholzer hasn't seemed to unlock the Bucks offense while Monty Williams has the Suns offense playing extremely well. Therefore, Phoenix wins their first NBA championship.
Last Wednesday, the Knicks' dream season came to an unfortunate end against the Hawks in game 5 of the first round in the NBA playoffs. As tough as it was, the team gave fans a reason to smile for the first time in years. They went from being one of the worst teams in the league over the last five years, to winning more games this season than the last two combined. Let's look at how successful their season has been.
Despite the praise the Knicks received for hiring head coach Tom Thibodeau, expectations were low to begin the season. It looked like the losing would continue when the Knicks lost their first two games. But then they showed signs of what was to come with a stunning blowout over the Milwaukee Buck, which set the tone the season. Every game, the Knicks looked like they might've peaked, only to prove fans wrong and go on another winning stretch. In early April however, it seemed as though their magic was out after losing five out of six games. But like earlier in the season, New York wasn't done yet and proceeded to go on an amazing nine game winning streak. Even after their streak ended, they ended the season on an impressive note, winning three straight games to clinch the fourth seed before Atlanta ended the dream.
There are many people who deserve a ton of credit for the Knicks' success, starting with president Leon Rose. He made some smart, low-profile free agent signings, such as Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, that significantly helped the team. Trading draft bust Dennis Smith Jr. as well as a second round pick for Derrick Rose was another fantastic move that brought more scoring and leadership to the team. His best move however, was hiring this season's Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, the primary reason for New York's success. Night in and night out, Thibodeau always got the Knicks to play hard through working together on offense and defense. Their defensive in particular was amazing all season because all five players worked together to stop their opponents rather than one guy making a defense better. It's why they were the number one defense in points allowed. Thibodeau also got the best out of his players, most notably Julius Randle. After a rocky first season with the Knicks, Randle responded by leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists. He was rewarded with his first career all star appearance and the Most Improved Player award. RJ Barrett became a more polished player in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average from 14 to 17, while improving his shooting percentage from 32 to 40. Derrick Rose was a great midseason acquisition who gelled immediately and added more scoring. Other players were key contributors such as Noel, Burks, Immanuel Quickly, and Reggie Bullock.
As for the team's future, they don't have to rely on the draft lottery anymore. They have two first round draft picks, and with Quickley looking like a reliable scorer, fans can trust management to draft wisely. In addition they have lots of cap room to sign free agents. While most upcoming free agents have been extended by their teams, there are still some available free agents such as Kawhi Leonard, Mike Conley, and Demar Derozan who could make a difference.. They should especially be interested in signing with the Knicks after the Garden crowd was rocking in every home playoff game. The Knicks can also use the money they have to bring back Rose, Noel, Burks, and Bullock among others. Giving Julius Randle an extension is another important priority. While they don't have to rush it, and his play fell off in the playoffs, he deserves the money for getting the Knicks in that position to begin with. The only exception might be giving him the max, but any other deal would work for both sides. Randle has previously said that he wants to stay in New York so there seems to be little obstacles in the way.
Although the Knicks season came to an end, this teams has a lot to be proud of. They finally look like a competitive team with players who play for one another, and got more out of this season than anyone could've thought. Fans have also taken notice and are excited to watch a good team for the first time in awhile, with celebrities such as Spike Lee. Fat Joe, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Rock filling the front rows. Although the Knicks didn't win a playoff series, the fact that some people predicted they'd win says a lot about their season. This team was fun to watch and more importantly, they have the foundation to be a great team.
On April 29th, the New York Jets entered the NFL needing to set themselves up for success in the short term and long term. After hiring Robert Saleh as their head coach, and trading their quarterback Sam Darnold, Joe Douglas set up himself for his most critical draft yet as a general manager. With the selection of quarterback Zach Wilson, trading up, and their commitment toward building around Wilson, this draft class is going to define Douglas' tenure with the Jets. With that being said, here's my opinion about their draft class.
1. Drafting Zach Wilson
Three years after, drafting Sam Darnold to be their franchise quarterback, the Jets are once again hitting the reset button on the quarterback position. Personally, I would've liked to see them keep Darnold and trade down to draft another skill position, such as Kyle Pitts. While Zach Wilson had an amazing season at BYU throwing for 33 touchdowns and only three picks, it was in a season affected by COVID-19 and he played against an easy schedule. However, Douglas still deserves to be trusted by fans since he has been a part of two organizations that have won Super Bowls in the Ravens and Eagles. He was very intrigued by Wilson throughout the offseason and was all in on drafting him following his pro day. Wilson is a talented quarterback who should succeed in the NFL, but in order to make that happen, the Jets must surround him in an environment with the right players and coaches. Something they can't do again after Darnold's tenure.
2. Trading Up
Although the Jets already had an extra first pick, Douglas wanted to move up. He traded the 23rd pick along with both third round picks to the Vikings for the 14th spot, which was used on offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Trading up to get an offensive lineman who plays on the interior is a risky move despite the fact that this position was their biggest need on the line entering the draft. On the other hand, Jets fans can get used to seeing Vera-Tucker playing on the left side next to last year's standout rookie and pancake machine Mekhi Becton. In addition, Vera-Tucker's ability to thrive in a zone blocking scheme, will be essential for their run game, which is based off the 49ers' system. It has been awhile since the Jets had stability at the offensive line, but Becton and Vera-Tucker can hopefully be cornerstones of that unit in the future.
3. More Skill Positions
In the following rounds, the Jets arguably already gave Zach Wilson more weapons than they did during Darnold's entire tenure. With their second round pick, they selected wide receiver Elijha Moore. Even though cornerback was one of their needs, Moore is a skilled receiver who was expected to go into the first round. He could be a huge steal for the Jets in the years to come. Moore is also from Ole Miss, which has produced two other talented receivers in DK Metcalf and AJ Brown. As for Wilson, this selection gives him a promising receiving core of Moore, last year's rookie Denzil Mims, and free agent acquisition Corey Davis.
The Jets continued to add weapons for Wilson with the selection of running back Michael Carter in the fourth round. Despite sharing touches with Javonte Williams at UNC, Carter had a very productive college career, and could work his way up the team's depth chart at running back. It's very common nowadays for a team to improve their running game through finding a running back later in the draft, and the Jets could be one of those teams if Carter establishes himself as an every down back. He must also establish himself as the better "Michael Carter" since the Jets drafted a cornerback who happens to have the same name.
This draft by the Jets had many positives. They hopefully selected their franchise quarterback who Douglas really trusts, and have committed themselves toward building around Zach Wilson. My original hopes were for them to keep Darnold while trading down, and select a cornerback in the second or third round rather than the fifth round. However, Douglas has experience with Super Bowl winning teams, most notably with the Ravens whose front office is one of the best in football. Therefore he probably knows what he's doing and hopefully, this draft will finally change the team's fortunes.
This NBA season has seen a drastic change in the standings compared to last year. Teams who have missed the playoffs for years, but are back in the mix include the Knicks, Suns, and Hawks. The return of fans after last year's hiatus, also adds to the excitement of this postseason.
Eastern Conference: Western Conference:
#1 76ers 4 #1 Jazz 4
#8 Wizards 1 #8 Grizzlies 1
#1 76ers 4 #1 Jazz 4
#4 Knicks 2 #4 Clippers 3
#4 Knicks 4 #4 Clippers 4
#5 Hawks 1 #5 Mavericks 1
#1 76ers 2 #3 Bucks 4 #1 Jazz 4
#3 Bucks 4. #1 Jazz 2 #6 Lakers 2
#3 Bucks 4 #3 Nuggets 2
#6 Heat 2 #6 Blazers 4
#2 Nets 3 #6 Blazers 4
#3 Bucks 4 #7 Lakers 3
#2 Nets 4 #2 Suns 2
#7 Celtics 0 #7 Lakers 4
When the best running backs are mentioned, names such as Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders are usually mentioned. With that being said, why isn't hall of famer LaDainian Tomlinson mentioned? Despite his incredible accomplishments, factors such as where he played and the fact that he never won a championship seem to have resulted in him being left out of the discussion for the greatest running backs.
Fresh off an amazing college career with TCU, Tomlinson was one of the top prospects and the San Diego Chargers viewed him as their savior in 2001. While winning didn't come right away, Tomlinson was immediately one of the league's best players. In his third season, he became the first running back to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in a season. In the following year, the Chargers made the playoffs for the first time in a decade with Tomlinson scoring 17 touchdowns. In 2006. he rewrote the record books in one of the best seasons for a running back, rushing for a career high 1,815 yards while tallying 508 receiving yards. His most impressive accomplishment was breaking the record for total touchdowns in a season with an amazing 31. The Chargers made the playoffs with a 14-2 record, but were upset by the hated Patriots in a heartbreaking loss. Frustration for Tomlinson only grew when his beloved mentor, coach Marty Schottenheimer was fired along with the death of Tomlinson's own father. For the next two seasons, he was still one of the top running backs in the league, leading the league in rushing in 2007, but his workload slowly started to decrease. He also dealt with injuries during the playoffs, and the Chargers eventually released Tomlinson following the 2009 season, making him a free agent for the first time in his career.
It wouldn't take long however, for Tomlinson to find a new suitor. The New York Jets signed him to a two year contract. Tomlinson had a strong season rushing with 914 yards while totaling over 1,000 scrimmage yards. In the playoffs Tomlinson helped the Jets win a rematch of the AFC championship game over the Colts by rushing for two critical touchdowns. The next week, Tomlinson finally got revenge on the Patriots with a touchdown reception in another victory. After a quiet 2011 season, Tomlinson signed a one day contract to retire as a Charger.
As of now, Tomlinson is seventh on the rushing list with 13,684 yards. He is third all-time in 162 total touchdowns, and his 624 receptions ranks third among running backs. His all-around game made him stand out apart from other running backs. Besides running and receiving, he was known to buy his quarterbacks extra time to throw thanks to his ability to pick up blitzes. On top of that, Tomlinson was able to throw the ball. His seven career touchdown passes are the second most in NFL history for a non-quarterback.
So for all of his greatness on the field, why doesn't he currently get the recognition he deserves? One reason might be the increasing number of fans who never saw the Chargers play in San Diego. With the Chargers now in L.A., many fans in San Diego have abandoned the team. In addition San Diego was a really small market team on the west coast which kept Tomlinson from the spotlight. The Charger's failure to win a Super Bowl also played a factor the lack of recognition for Tomlinson's game. Although people might not realize it, Tomlinson deserves to be mentioned in the best of the best without debate.
This year has been a exciting surprise for Knicks fans, as the team finally holds a strong spot in the standings. One of the main contributors toward their success is Immanuel Quickley who should be mentioned among league's top rookies. Despite being drafted at 25, he is a big reason why the Knicks are in this stellar position, and here's how he got them there.
Quickley is already good at running the floor in the early stages of his career. He knows how to set his teammates up for assists or make the pass toward an assist. Perhaps the most impressive skill he has, is his ability to get in front of his man. He usually puts some kind of move on his opponent and once Quickey gets a step, he getting back in front of him by putting putting his on his hip pocket. By doing that, Quickley has the option to kick it out, which he's not bad at doing, but he's better at drawing the foul or shooting his floater. In addition, Quickley runs the pick and roll better than most guards. That's when his passing is at its best. https://www.instagram.com/p/CKKLt3PHHly/ utm_source=ig_web_copy_link. His kind of play style has been a major reason why he's one of the top rookies.
When it comes to scoring, Quickley can get the job done in numerous ways. His floater game is his bread and butter. As previously mentioned, Quickley will usually rely on his floater once he gets in front of his man, which is something he has practically perfected only four months into his career. https://twitter.com/sny_knicks/status/1355951688159526913?s=20. He also knows how to get to the foul line. When it comes to shooting free throws, he's money foul line, demonstrated by his 89% free throw shooting. Quickley's outside shooting is also a strong aspect of his game thanks to his respectable three-point shooting. He can shoot off the catch or create for himself as shown below. https://twitter.com/MikeVorkunov/status/1374516153544962060?s=20.
On top of that Quickley sometimes gets the defender jumping and then drive where to the basket where he can use his floater.
Quickley's game is resulted in a significant amount of production on the offensive end for a team that mainly wins through defense. He averages 12 points in only 20 minutes. His three point shooting is respectable and hovers just under 40%. Per 36 minutes, his stats jump up to 23 points and 4 assists, which is really impressive for a rookie drafted late in the first round. His play has earned the respect of peers such as Lou Williams and Paul George following a 26 point performance against one of the league's toughest defenses. Perhaps the greatest thing to come out of Quickley's season, is the fact that the Knicks are in the fifth seed as one of the league's most surprising teams.
Whether or not the Knicks will be able to persevere through the second half of the season, Quickley has established himself as a fan favorite through his positive energy. He has already had a terrific start to his career and should only go up from here.
Last season, the Yankees were a little bit of a disappointment. Picked by many to win the World Series, the Yankees couldn't adapt to a season that was heavily affected by COVID-19. This resulted in a roller coaster season full of high and low moments, ultimately ending in a divisional series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. But as Spring Training is right around the corner, there are many reasons to look forward to 2021.
One reason for optimism is the Yankees' successful offseason. For the most part, they were able to check off some of their important priorities starting with re-signing star infielder DJ Lemahieu. Since he was signed to a two year contract, Lemahieu has outplayed his deal and has become a major contributor to the team. In the beginning of the offseason, the negotiations for a new contract started off on a rocky note, but both sides were able to agree to a deal consisting of six years and $90 million. In addition, Brian Cashman signed two time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to a one year deal. Despite injuries over the last two seasons, management probably believes that he could add depth to the rotation and become a mentor for the younger pitchers.
There are other bright spots of last year that will be primed to make an impact next season, starting with their 6 ft 7 slugger, Aaron Judge. Last year, he was looking like an MVP candidate during the first stretch of the season, which included six home runs in five games. Injuries put him out of the race, but he returned toward the end of the season, and had a strong postseason. Fellow hitter Giancarlo Stanton also served as a contributor after being sidelined for the majority of last year. While he also dealt with injuries, he returned to play a prominent role when the postseason arrived. Both players have changed their winter routines, in hopes of reducing the amount of injuries they get. Gerrit Cole, their prized free agent signing last offseason, has looked like a good signing for the most part. After a streaky start, he rebounded in September and was very solid in the postseason. With the urgency to win a championship increasing, these guys must continue to produce.
While the Yankees didn't adjust well to the season's modifications as a result of COVID-19, the effect the pandemic had on baseball last year, shouldn't be the case this year. Last season, the shortened schedule affected the Yankees chances of making the playoffs at a higher seed. When there was a month to go toward the end of last season, the Yankees were barely in the playoff picture at a record of 21-21. Had that been in a 162 game season, there wouldn't have been any concern, but here were the Yankees in danger of missing the playoffs. They then went on a tear as the season ended, going on a 10 game winning streak, the kind of momentum that they're usually able to maintain with a full schedule.
Even with last year's disappointing finish, there were still some bright spots that will be essential going into next season. In what will likely be a less uncertain baseball season, the Yankees should be able to rediscover their winning ways on a more consistent basis. On top of that, they checked off some of their most notable offseason priorities. This is a team that can really break through the playoffs and hopefully capture a long-awaited 28th championship.