Just as it looked like the Knicks were finally turning the page, the last three weeks have significantly hurt the Knicks playoff hopes. They have won just two games in that span and are sitting 1.5 games out of the play-in tournament. Even the least optimistic fan could not have expected the season to be this disappointing. If there's anything significant about this recent stretch, it's the likelihood that there will certainly be a trade at the deadline. The question is who should they pursue?
1. DeJountae Murray
In his fifth season, point guard Dejounte Murray has truly blossomed into one of the best draft steals in recent memory. Drafted at 29th overall by the 67 win San Antonio Spurs, Murray's production has gradually increased over the years. He's currently averaging career highs all across the board with averages of 19 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, and two steals. With Murray becoming a free agent in two seasons, they will likely extend him considering he's only 26 years old. However, the Knicks have plenty of draft capital for the next two NBA drafts, including three first round picks. They can certainly use their abundance of picks in order to finally get a young point guard capable of running an offense. Something that has held them back this year.
2. Myles Turner
Since December, Mitchell Robinson has certainly been playing as if he wants to stay in New York. However, his inability to stretch the floor and handle the ball has hurt the Knicks' offense at times and trading for Myles Turner would fix that. Whether they keep Robinson or not, Turner would provide an upgrade. He can put the ball on the floor and has shot a respectable 35% from three throughout his career. Lots of teams were interested in him before he had a stress reaction in his foot. Since then teams have been less active in pursuing him. If the Knicks can offer at least one draft pick, they should pounce on that opportunity.
3. Jalen Brunson
Although he hasn't started much during his career, Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks is an intriguing option for the Knicks. He's averaging career highs in points (17) and assists (5), and is well on his way toward setting a new personal best for games started. Additionally, Brunson is the most realistic player the Knicks can pursue. He will become an unrestricted free agent after the season and it will be hard to imagine the Mavericks meeting his contract demands. One main contributor toward this possibility is the fact that Luka Doncic has took the pressure of him. However, that should not stop the Knicks from trying to land him. Especially if they want to make a playoff push like last year.
For the first time in years, the New York Jets have seemed to hit on almost all of their draft picks. With their nine picks from last year's draft, fans have a reason to feel optimistic on most of their selections. Even for a skeptical fan such as myself, this is a draft class that offers plenty of hope.
For starters, all of the Jets' draft picks played a combined 69 games this year, which is the most playing time any of their rookie classes have played since 2006. Quarterback Zach Wilson, wide reciever Elijah Moore, and offensive lineman Alijah-Vera Tucker were the only rookies to start going into the season, but more players saw an increase in their roles as the year went on. Offensively running back Michael Carter was one of the team's most skilled offensive players, tallying 945 yards from scrimmaging while possessing a knack to break multiple tackles almost every time he got the ball. twitter.com/nfl/status/1439669558797762564
On defense, cornerback Brandin Echolos became a force late in the season recording five pass deflections and two picks with one going for a pick six, while the other came off Tom Brady. He and his fellow rookie cornerback Michael Carter II combined to deflect 14 passes. Along with the progression of Bryce Hall, the Jets should have a solid cornerback trio for years to come. twitter.com/NFL/status/1472669413832683525?s=20
As for Wilson, Moore, and Vera-Tucker, they all made the most of the playing time they received from the start of the season. Wilson overcame a rocky start to finish the season on a strong not with nine total touchdowns while only throwing two picks since he returned from his week seven injury. His signature game was a 297 yard, two touchdown performance against a Titans team that finished number one in the AFC. Moore's play also improved throughout the season, as 459 of his team leading 538 yards came in his final six games, along with five receiving touchdowns. While he missed the final five games, there's lots of optimism surrounding his potential. Vera-Tucker was arguably the most consistent rookie as he was solid in pass protection while sparking a running game that was coming into its own. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1444749314526367745?s=20
Going into last year's offseason, the only players that were considered cornerstones for Jets were their stud defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and offensive lineman Mekhi Becton. Now they have a true foundation of promising rookies, to go with Williams and linebacker C.J. Mosley, who had a nice bounce back year. By the season's end their rookies scored 15 touchdowns, which is more than any other draft class in franchise history. They also led the team in passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards, and interceptions.
There's every reason to believe that Jets will be flirting with a playoff berth next season even if they don't make it. Their draft class was a major storyline for the team going into the season and they performed at an exceptional level for the most part. It's why they beat division winners such as the Titans and Bengals, while nearly upsetting the Buccaneers. Although they only won four games, they enter the offseason with the fourth most cap space in the league along with four selections within the top 50 draft picks. If they have a solid offseason and their rookies take huge leaps in their sophomore years, Jet fans can finally sleep happily after football Sundays.
This is the time of year where that Giants and Jets fans always dread while Chiefs and Packers fans couldn't be more excited. The NFL Playoffs. In what was the longest season in NFL history, the standings kept changing like fire crackers, and after a chaotic final week, the playoff picture is finally set.
#2 Chiefs over #7 Steelers
#3 Bills over #6 Patriots
#4 Bengals over #5 Raiders
#4 Bengals over #1 Titans
#3 Bills over #2 Chiefs
#3 Bills over #4 Bengals
#2 Buccaneers over #7 Eagles
#6 49ers over #3 Cowboys
#4 Rams over #5 Cardinals
#4 Rams over #2 Buccaneers
#1 Packers over #6 49ers
#2 Packers over #1 Buccaneers
#2 Packers over #3 Bills
The beginning of a new year marks an opportunity for everyone to set new goals for themselves. That's why I'm going to propose some theoretical new year's resolutions to notable sports figures who could use them in 2022.
1. Rob Manfred - Get Your Act Together
Even before this year, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was competing with Roger Goodell with the title of "most hated commissioner in all of sports". He has been heavily disliked by both players and fans for actions such as his response to the Houston Astros' cheating scandal. However Manfred reached a new low this year, which was partly due to the two different types of baseballs that were used. One of the baseballs was more pitcher friendly, while another helped hitters be more productive at the plate. Keep in mind that this is ironic considering Manfred's crackdown on foreign substances back in June. As of now, the MLB is on locking out the players while they try to negotiate a new league agreement. While Manfred obviously isn't a player or owner, he deserves a ton of blame for the league's failure with the negotiations.
2. Ben Simmons - Change Your Mindset
Since he passed up a dunk late in the fourth quarter of last year's playoffs, Ben Simmons has yet to step on the court this season. He didn't engage with team until October and when he did, Simmons got kicked out of practice for showing a lack of engagement and was later suspended for the season opener. Simmons has also refused counseling from the 76ers to help him get back on the court. To top it off, Simmons has requested a trade but isn't doing any favors to help his cause. While he can create for scoring opportunities for others and defend the opponent's best player, Simmons lacks a solid jump shot and has a massive contract. If Simmons wants a fresh start, he needs to change his entire approach because as of now, he's a bonafide diva.
3. Zion Williamson - Get In Shape
Zion Williamson has seemed to enjoy the food in New Orleans a little too much. Williamson was drafted no. 1 by the New Orleans Pelicans and seen by some as the NBA's next prodigy. When Williamson is healthy, he's a force to be reckoned with. His ability to attack the basket, haul in rebounds, and protect the rim, is super impressive at 6'5, 280 plus lbs. It's his availability that has been an issue for Williamson. He didn't take the court in his rookie year until January and has yet to suit up this season. To his defense, the Pelicans haven't done anything please Williamson in his three years with the team. They've had a three different coaches in every season which is a recipe to make your franchise player unhappy. However, Williamson must take better care of his weight. If Charles Barkley is concerned, that tells you something.
PreviewPreview2:51Shaq & Chuck Roasting Zion Williamson on Inside the NBA YouTube · House of HighlightsNov 2, 2021
There is no better word to describe the Knicks' season than inconsistent. Following last year's surprising playoff appearance, the Knicks were expected to build upon their success after acquiring Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, along with extending Julius Randle, Derrick Rose, and Alec Burks. With these moves, the Knicks started 5-1, but have sputtered since, going 9-16. So why has this been the case? Well, their record can be attributed to a few notable reasons.
It is no secret that every good NBA team must have a starting unit that plays as one and finishes the job during crunch time. As for the Knicks, their starters have been extremely disappointing. They went into the season with hope that Walker would mesh with Randle and RJ Barrett, but this hasn't been the case. It only took nineteen games into the season for coach Tom Thibodeau to making major changes to the starting lineup. Walker, their starting point guard going into the season, was such a liability defensively that he was removed from the rotation in late November. He did bounce back with an impressive performances in his last two starts, which will make Thibodeau's decision interesting once their other players get out of COVID protocols. Additionally, center Mitchell Robinson was removed from the starting lineup a couple weeks ago, and it's unknown when he'll get his next start.
Last year, the Knicks were a team that no one wanted to play. On defense, they suffocated opponents holding them to an average of 104 points on 44% shooting: both league lows. This year, the opposing field goal percentage still hovers around 44, but they're now 18th in points allowed. They've constantly allowed guys not known for their scoring to put up a season high total whether it was Ricky Rubio's 37, O.G. Anunoby's 36, or Zeke Nnaji's 21 off the bench. For the Knicks' defense to resemble last year's success, this troubling trend must stop.
The offense, which was supposed to be improved upon this offseason, has also taken a step back. The Knicks' glaring weakness on that end of the floor comes from behind the three point arc. Last year, they finished 27th in three point attempts, but third in three point percentage. This year the Knicks remain in the top ten in three point percentage, but have climbed up to 11th in attempts. Their heavy reliance on shooting threes is a big reason why their offense has struggled to produce at a consistent rate. Their top two players in Randle and Barrett also deserve a lot of criticism. Last year, most of the Knicks' offense ran through those two players and they delivered time and time again. Even if their stats this year were a sliver below last year's stats, the Knicks would've won more games by now.
Finally, there's always one point in a game where the Knicks seem to lose their focus, and it proceeds to haunt them in the end. There were many games where the Knicks dug a deep hole for themselves to climb out of, whether it was against the Bulls earlier this month, or Raptors a couple of weeks ago. There has also been a lack of maturity in some of these losses. Take their loss against the Nets for example: Julius Randle might've had some calls go against him, but he was in the wrong to argue with the referee, which earned him technical foul midway through the fourth quarter. The Nets ended up winning by two in a game the Knicks could've won in regulation or forced overtime had Randle kept his cool.
Now obviously, it's still very early in the season. The Knicks just beat the lowly Pistons in a stress-free game, and will be facing two more teams this week who's rosters have been ravaged by COVID. This is a golden opportunity for the Knicks to get some momentum going. Don't forget that last year, the Knicks had a somewhat similar record earlier in the season, before going on that nine game win streak which propelled them into the playoffs. This team is certainly capable of repeating their success from last year. However, it's best that the Knicks find a way to stop digging a hole to climb out of, because before they know it, their playoff hopes could vanish.
It seems as if every NFL season, there's always that one team who looks like they're going to win it all. Regardless of whether they actually go the distance of not, this is the time where people start to hop on the bandwagon for one team in particular. But with new elements such as the 17 game schedule this season feels different. This year, there's not one dominant team nor will any team remain dominant and here's why.
To start off, we must mention the 17 game schedule as a key component. With one extra game added, there's no breathing room for a team atop of their conference like the Arizona Cardinals, or a division leader like the Baltimore Ravens. For other teams that might have emerged in the hunt, this is an opportunity for them to not only sneak into the playoff picture, but gain significant ground. Take the Indianapolis Colts for example. Their new signal-caller Carson Wentz missed most of training camp with an injury and the Colts sputtered to a 1-4 start. But now they've won five of their last six games and currently hold the top wild card spot in the AFC. In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles, San Fransisco 49ers, and Minnesota Vikings are gaining momentum at the right time. To say that we'll probably see two out of these three teams in the playoffs isn't a crazy prediction.
One key factor that will determine the playoff picture like any other year is injuries. Some teams such as the Ravens, Cardinals, and Packers have still managed to win despite injuries to key players. Other teams such as the Saints have been hit hard. They lost quarterback Jameis Winston for the season to a torn ACL. At the time of the diagnosis, they were 5-2 and had defeated the Buccaneers, but now they're on the outside looking in after losing four straight games. Another notable team worth mentioning is the Titans. With running back Derrick Henry bullying opponents, they slowly climbed to the top of the AFC. Even in their first game without him after a foot injury that will keep him out 6-10 weeks, they blew out the Rams. But now they face lots of questions after losing at home to the one-win Texans. Whether some teams are able to sustain their success going into the final weeks of the regular season will be interesting to see. It's worth wondering about the affect COVID could have on this year's playoff picture. If the Packers have to go down to Arizona for the championship game because they were behind by one game and lose, will Aaron Rodgers regret his decision to not get vaccinated? Had he got vaccinated, would he have been able to play against the Chiefs, a game the Packers lost without him? Maybe that one win would have given them the top seed.
Each week, there's one team that just had a statement victory and is on top of the world, only to get beat the next week. Just look at the AFC. The Chiefs looked like they're primed for another deep run defeating the Browns in a rematch of their divisional meeting to open the season. Then the Ravens seemed to snatch that momentum in a comeback victory that started a five game winning streak that temporarily put them atop the AFC. The Tennessee Titans currently hold the no. 1 seed but they fell back to earth after losing to the one-win Texans. In the NFC, the Cardinals have held on to the no. 1 seed thanks to their 7-0 start. It's the wild card spots which have made the playoff picture for that conference interesting. The Rams and Saints appeared to be locks for the top two spots but both teams have struggled as of late, opening the door to other teams like the 49ers and Eagles.
Whether this satisfies you as a fan or not, there's no dominant team this season. I was originally against the implementation of a 17 game schedule, but it has helped make this playoff race more interesting. Every week some team changes the outlook of the playoff picture and there's every reason to believe that this will continue until the season's over.
On Tuesday night, the NBA will begin its 75th season with the Milwaukee Bucks opening their title defense against the Brooklyn Nets in a rematch of last season's thrilling playoff series. It's fitting that this will be the first matchup in a season expected to have many teams contend for a championship. Over in the East, all eyes will be on the Bucks and Nets while the door is wide open for any team to contend in the West.
Regular Season Awards:
MVP - Luka Dončić
Defensive Player of the Year - Giannis Antetokounmpo
Rookie of the Year - Cade Cunningham
Sixth Man of the Year - Derrick Rose
Most Improved Player - Micheal Porter Jr.
Coach of the Year - Michael Malone
Eastern Conference Western Conference
#1 Bucks 4 #1 Suns 4
#8 Bulls 0 #8 Grizzlies 1
#1 Bucks 4 #1 Suns 4
#4 Hawks 1 #4 Jazz 3
#4 Hawks 4 #4 Jazz 4
#5 Heat 3 #5 Clippers 1
#1 Bucks 2 #2 Nets 4 #1 Suns 1
#2 Nets 4 #3 Nuggets 1 #3 Nuggets 4
#3 Knicks 4 #3 Nuggets 4
#6 Celtics 1 #6 Warriors 1
#2 Nets 4 #2 Lakers 2
#3 Knicks 2 #3 Nuggets 4
#2 Nets 4 #2 Lakers 4
#7 Sixers 1 #7 Mavericks 2
Every football season, there's one team that defies expectations and makes the playoffs after missing it in prior years. The 2017 Eagles and 2019 49ers are perfect examples of teams that bounced back after previously watching the playoffs at home. With certain teams poised to breakthrough, here are the ones that will likely get over the hump.
1. Los Angeles Chargers
Last season was a big transition for the franchise. They moved on from longtime starter Philip Rivers and drafted Justin Herbert who started sooner than expected, after an injury to Tyrod Taylor. Herbert made the most of his opportunity setting records such as most touchdowns passes for a rookie quarterback. However, they finished 7-9 which prompted the team to hire Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. During the offseason, they upgraded Herbert's offensive line by signing all-pro center Corey Linsley in free agency. The Chargers are hoping he will have the same chemistry with Herbert as he had with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. They also drafted Rashawn Slater who played both left and right tackle in college. On defense, Staley will be overseeing a unit that's getting their two best players, Nick Bosa and Derwin James back from injury last season. They also drafted Asante Samuel Jr. who has already been turning heads in training camp and could provide an upgrade to the cornerback position.
2. Miami Dolphins
Despite missing last year's playoffs, the Dolphins had a much better season than expected, going 10-6. While they blew their chance to clinch losing 56-28 in the finale, there's hope for the future. Led by cornerback Xavien Howard, Miami finished first takeaways and sixth in points allowed. Their coach Brian Floras has clearly established a foundation as they built of last season's finish where they went 5-3 after starting 0-8. Many of their best defensive players such as Howard, Byron Jones, Jerome Baker, and Emmanuel Ogbah will be returning this season. As for the offense, they surrounded second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa by signing Will Fuller IV, and used their draft capital to trade down for Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa and Waddle already have great chemistry dating back Alabama, which will be essential for his development. For the Dolphins to make the playoffs, their hopes will likely depend on whether Tagovaila becomes more comfortable with his command of the offense,
3. Arizona Cardinals
With the acquisition of all-pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals sprinted out to a 6-3 start and appeared on their way toward a playoff birth. They then proceeded to lose five of their last seven games and missed the playoffs entirely. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury enters this year on the hot seat having failed so far to develop anyone besides Kyler Murray. To give him the tools to win, management has addressed some of the roster's flaws in free agency. They gave Murray an established no. 2 receiver in former pro bowler A.J. Green, along with one of the league's top centers, Rodney Hudson. But their most prized acquisition was on the defensive side where they signed former two time Defensive Player of the Year winner J.J. Watt. At 32 years old, Watt might not be the player he used to be, but he can still impact a game in many ways. However, this team is at the bottom of the list because their secondary, one of their weakest units, wasn't addressed this offseason and there's no reason to believe it will improve.
Football is a very unpredictable sport because there's that one team which surprises everyone and might even proceed to make a deep playoff run. While there are other teams who weren't mentioned, I believe the Chargers, Dolphins, and Cardinals are the three with the best chances of turning their fortunes around next season. They have the assets to make it happen and take that next step beyond the regular season into January.
In just three days, the NFL will begin it’s 102 season. One of the biggest storylines going into this season is the schedule change which will have 17 games instead of 16. This could have a huge impact on where teams finish in the standings and opens the door for new teams to reach the postseason. With that being said here are my playoff predictions going into this season.
#2 Bills over #7 Steelers
#3 Browns over #6 Chargers
#4 Titans over #5 Ravens
#1 Chiefs over #4 Titans
#3 Browns over #2 Bills
#3 Browns over #1 Chiefs
#2 Packers over #7 49ers
#3 Rams over #6 Seahawks
#4 Football Team over #5 Saints
#1 Buccaneers over #4 Football Team
#2 Packers over #3 Rams
#2 Packers over #1 Buccaneers
#2 Packers over #3 Browns
If there's one takeaway from this year's NBA playoffs, it would be the increased use of the midrange shot. Despised in the world of analytics as an outdated shot, it's important value was evident this postseason. Players such as Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Khris Middleton took and made these shots.
When the Golden State Warriors were at their peak, they showed how valuable the three point shot can be, prompting everyone from guards to centers to add that shot to their arsenal. As a result midrange shots became a shot that players were advised not to shoot. During Mike D'Antoni's tenure in Houston, any player on the Rockets that didn't shoot a layup or three pointer on a possession would be called out during film sessions. The only player that still took these shots was Carmelo Anthony and while he still made those shots, teams despised it so much that he went a year unsigned. However, the Portland Trail Blazers picked him up in November, 2019 and he is once again proving how valuable it is to have a midrange shot.
In this year's playoffs, Anthony wasn't the only player knocking down midrange jumpers. The teams that won the most in the playoffs had guys that could knock down crucial midrange shots. The Brooklyn Nets had Kevin Durant who despite being the only healthy player out of their big three, literally knocked down midrange shots at will. Durant gave the Celtics nightmares in the first round and nearly eliminated the Bucks single handedly. Overall, he shot an incredible 59% on all midrange shots during the playoffs.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul feasted on midrange shots throughout the postseason while guiding the Suns to their first Finals appearance since 1993. Paul always had the ability to knock down midrange shots, connecting on 52% off those jumpers. But it was Booker who's midrange game took a jump. In his three best games of the playoffs (game 6 WCQF, game 1 WCF, and game 4 Finals), Booker shot an efficent 24/44 off midrange jump shots.
Although he missed the end of the semifinals and all of the conference finals due to an injury, Kawhi Leonard still had a terrific postseason. He helped the Clippers rally from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 against the Mavericks before putting them in a position to beat Utah. In the eleven games before the injury, Leonard was efficent from the midrange shooting 62%.
The Milwaukee Bucks won the championship mainly because of Giannis Antetokounmpo's heroics, but Khris Middleton also played an important role in their run. He established himself as one of the more clutch players of the playoffs hitting big shots on many occasions: his game winner against the Heat, a turnaround putting Milwaukee ahead for good in game 7 against Brooklyn, shots down the stretch to cap a 40 point Finals performance, and a fallaway to dash any hopes of a Suns comeback in game six.
In the regular season, teams never play defense as intense compared to the postseason where a midrange shot can be a useful weapon against tight defense. People who watched the NBA playoffs were reintroduced to the midrange shot. While the heavy use of analytics diminished its value, this shot was reborn during the playoffs. Expect an increased usage of these types of shots next season.