Welcome to Wednesday Weekly, where I go over your need-to-know water cooler talk, provide some of my favorite upcoming wagers, and have a bit of fun with things I like and dislike. If you’re not a fan of sports, gambling, politics, pop culture, or fun, then still read it anyway because I do it for the pageviews.
Quick hitters from the past week
There was a lot of discussion about who is the greatest quarterback of all time on Sunday when two of the 5 greatest QBs of all time faced off in Foxborough. But in case you missed Thursday Night Football last week, Nick Mullens is the true GOAT. The 49ers have had the greatest quarterback of all time on their roster, and it only took them 9 weeks and injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard to bust him out. Can’t wait to see the 49ers run the table with this budding superstar (hyperbole aside, that was an awesome debut).
Julio Jones finally caught a touchdown. Prior to Sunday, he had 53 catches and over 800 yards through 7 games. But no touchdowns. He broke that streak on a short screen that he broke off for a 35 yard score in garbage time. Hey, sometimes you need a slump buster.
The Timberwolves continue to be the most dysfunctional team in the NBA. As patient zero for the disease known as “being a Timberwolves fan” I can say with all honesty that we’ve been in a worse place plenty of times. Sure, Jimmy Butler is being a real McAsshole about his trade demands, but this is a short-term problem. Butler will be gone soon enough, and we can go back to a feeling of hope, instead of whatever this is.
Last night, NCAA men’s basketball opened in spectacular fashion. #4 overall Duke opened their season against #2 Kentucky, and it was something special. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett (the top two high school prospects, both playing for Duke) put on a show to remember. It was the most fun I’ve had watching college basketball since, well, ever. Yes, that includes March Madness. The highlights are amazing, but they don’t even do this game justice. Duke might not lose a game. Wow.
Nuggets beat the Celtics to keep pace at 9-1 with the 10-1 Warriors and Raptors. Bucks are still looking strong, despite dropping a game to the Trail Blazers, who have looked locked in. Rockets seem to be fixing their issues and have won 3 straight, while the Cavaliers have continued to struggle, and don’t look like they’ll improve with an injury to Kevin love and J.R. Smith actively looking to get traded. We should have known the historically bad Cavs would go right back to being awful after losing Lebron. I mean, they’ve done it before.
Top 5 of the Week
This will be the top 5 players for a re-draft of the loaded 2017 NBA Draft. Most NBA drafts have one or two potential superstars, a few potential all-stars, and a handful of rotation players. The rest usually don’t stay in the NBA very long. Some drafts (2003) give you more stars than other drafts (2013), and you can usually tell whether a draft class was good within a few years. It didn’t take long for us to know the 2017 draft class was special. There are multiple superstar level talents, a deeper amount of rookie contributors than usual, and probably the highest amount of players who will make an All-Star game from a single draft in at least a decade.
Please note that this list is based on what my pick would be at each draft selection. I am not claiming to know what a given team would choose today, mostly because it’s near-impossible to ever know what some franchises would do (looking at you Sacramento).
1st Pick – Philadelphia 76ers
Original Pick: Markelle Fultz
New Pick: Donovan Mitchell (Picked 13th overall by Utah Jazz)
Donovan Mitchell is downright incredible. He is exactly the player the 76ers thought they would be getting in Markelle Fultz. Both are athletic, attacking point guards with good size and ridiculous length (Fultz is 6’4″/195lbs/7’0″ wingspan, Mitchell is 6’3″/205lbs/7’0″ wingspan). Fultz is faster, with a quicker first step; Mitchell is stronger and a better leaper. I still think that Fultz will be a good NBA player, but with the question marks surrounding him, the 76ers choose to elect a similar athlete who has proved he can do it at the NBA level. Jayson Tatum might make this pick look stupid in a few years, but Donovan Mitchell is a can’t miss pick here. (Also, Celtics fans are the worst so I’m partly not taking Tatum out of spite).
2nd Pick – Los Angeles Lakers
Original Pick: Lonzo Ball
New Pick: Jayson Tatum (Picked 3rd overall by Boston Celtics)
Jayson Tatum was drafted into a great system and thrust into a prominent role when the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward 5 minutes into last season. He was more than solid filling the role. He was the best non-Ben Simmons rookie for the first 2 months of the season, and even with a late-season slump he was still everything Danny Ainge hoped for when drafting him. He was huge in the Celtics’ deep playoff run, and is yet another all-star caliber player on a loaded Boston roster.
The Lakers aren’t upset with Lonzo Ball. He was great as well. He’s a stud defender, an excellent rebounder, and sees the floor better than anyone in this draft class. That being said, he shot only 36% from the field and missed 30 games due to injury last season. The Lakers would love to have this one back. Tatum is the better player and has more upside. They’d take the player who averaged over 18ppg in the playoffs as a rookie. Tatum goes 2nd and he’s out to prove me wrong about taking Mitchell over him.
3rd Pick – Boston Celtics
Original Pick: Jayson Tatum
New Pick: Lauri Markkanen (Picked 7th overall by Minnesota Timberwolves and traded to the Chicago Bulls)
Lauri Markkanen was one of the few bright spots of the 2017-18 Chicago Bulls. He was so impressive the Bulls couldn’t even tank effectively, and thus had just the 7th pick in the draft. Unheralded out of Finland, Lauri “the Finn Reaper” Markkanen showed he could be the first offensive option for a team, scoring over 15 points per game while shooting 36.2% from deep on almost 6 triples per game. That is excellent production and efficiency for a rookie. And while he made a lot of defensive rookie mistakes, he was actually mostly solid, and looked like he could be very good on that side of the ball. The Celtics are obviously happy with Tatum, but with him already taken, they couldn’t pass on Markkanen.
4th Pick – Phoenix Suns
Original Pick: Josh Jackson
New Pick: Lonzo Ball (Picked 2nd overall by Los Angeles Lakers)
Lonzo Ball is unfairly judged based on his dad’s behavior. Lavar is a ridiculous man who says ridiculous shit, and people (myself included) just don’t want to deal with or hear about his antics. People also take Lavar’s absurd arrogance as reason to dislike Lonzo. They point to his flaws (mostly his shot) rather than recognize his greatness outside of them (namely: everything else). He will be a regular on the All-Defensive team, he snagged 7 rebounds per game as a rookie point guard, his team has been much worse without him (.462 win% with; .367 win% without), and he’s the most gifted passer from this draft by a mile. With Tatum and Markkenen already gone, the Suns might look to bolster their frontcourt depth and grab John Collins or stick with Josh Jackson, or even take the highest upside guy left in Fultz, but the best move here is taking the high-floor and high-ceiling combination with Lonzo Ball.
5th Pick – Sacremento Kings
Original Pick: D’Aaron Fox
New Pick: Markelle Fultz (Picked 1st overall by the Philadelphia 76ers)
Call me crazy, but I’m all-in on buying Markelle Fultz stock. He was the consensus first overall pick for a reason. He could very well come back next season and be every bit as good as everyone expected. Sure, it is concerning that his injury seemed to be mental. It’s also concerning that he seemed to forget how to shoot due to this maybe-injury. The safer bet is John Collins, but let’s not give up on a kid who just turned 20 and has the potential to be the best player in the draft. He’s a great passer, a great rebounder, and a great defender. Hell, even without his shot he’s basically still Lonzo Ball! Yes, Lonzo is bigger and has better court vision, but he’s never shown he could shoot, whereas Fultz was a 41% 3-point shooter in his lone season at Washington, scoring over 23 points per game. I’ll stop here before I talk myself into moving him even higher on this list.
Still can’t believe I had to leave off John Collins. Damn.
Overall Record: 4-1-0
NFL Record: 3-0-0
NBA Record: 1-1-0
With the exception of Derrick Rose’s incredible 50-point masterpiece to boost the Timberwolves to a win over the Jazz, I was perfect in my inaugural Weekly Wagers. One week does not a trend make, but it’s a pretty good way to start.
Atlanta -5 at Cleveland
I bet on the Falcons and against the Browns last week and both worked out, so I think we should ride the wave. The Falcons offense has hit their stride at the same time as the Browns defense has been porous. I can’t see Matt Ryan and this offense scoring less than 30, and the Browns aren’t winning in a shootout. Falcons win by a pair of touchdowns.
New Orleans -6 at Cincinnati
As much as I hate to take two road favorites, I just can’t get past the fact that this game is essentially Drew Brees vs. Andy Dalton. Is that really less than a touchdown difference? Especially with A.J. Green out? The Saints might have the best offense in football, and the Bengals have allowed over 35 points per game over their past 3. Drew Brees will take care of business in Cinci.
Usually I’ll pick a few more games, but there’s nothing else I love this week. Unfortunately for someone writing a weekly blog, NBA lines usually don’t come out until one day prior to the game. You’ll have to deal with only getting Wednesday NBA gambling recommendations before I figure out a better way to deliver my picks.
Things I Like and Things I Don’t Like
Steph Curry doing Steph Curry things. MVP voters enjoy new narratives, so he likely won’t win this year, but he’s been the most deserving of it so far. During the 2015-16 season, (when he unanimously won the MVP) Curry scored 30.1ppg on 50.4%/45.4%/90.8% shooting with 6.7apg and 5.4rpg. This season, Curry is scoring 31.3ppg on 52.5%/50.8%/92.3% shooting with 6.1apg and 5.4rpg. Oh yeah, and his team is 10-1. You can argue about whether the Warriors’ dominance is bad for the NBA all you want, but nobody can deny that watching Curry when he starts heating up is one of the most exciting things in sports.
I don’t like:
NBA injuries lasting longer than expected. Look, I understand it’s the correct move for DeMarcus Cousins, Kristaps Porzingis, and Michael Porter Jr. to be patient with their injuries. It’s a good thing to wait to come back. They’re smart to do it. But I selfishly hate that I don’t get to watch these guys play. Add in the injuries to Lauri Markkanen, Kevin Love, Dejounte Murray, Justin Patton (homer inclusion), and Will Barton, and the NBA is missing some serious players. I guess that’s just how it goes.
JaVale McGee playing like an all-star. He’s leading the league in blocks, anchoring a defense that absolutely falls apart when he’s on the bench. McGee has adapted his game perfectly to find a niche that he can excel in. He’s come a long way from way from his back-to-back Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP awards and being known as a “weirdo’s weirdo.”
I don’t like:
Luke Walton on the hot seat. The Lakers have underperformed all season. They have been bad at times. But this team is 4-6, a whole 1.5 games out of the playoffs. Take a breath. Luke Walton is a good coach, and he dragged a disaster of a roster to 35 wins. The 50-win Cavs (who went to the Conference Finals, again) also started 4-6 last season. This team might not look great right now, but teams shouldn’t be judged based on how good they are in October and November. Luke Walton should have a long leash, and if he does get fired, there are plenty of teams (please Timberwolves!!) that would be lucky to have him.
Vikings remembering how to play defense. After allowing 27.5 points per game over their first 4 contests, they’ve held opponents to 18.8 points per game since then. This includes the game against New Orleans when the Saints had a pick-six and a fumble recovery to start a drive at the Vikings 18 yard line. The Vikings defense finally looks like the group we saw last season, and that’s scary. This team will be a menace in the playoffs.
I don’t like:
The Packers. Nothing further. I just don’t like them.
The College Football Playoffs. It’s objectively cool to have a playoffs to make sure that the best teams in the country get to compete for a national championship. Prior to the playoff there was regularly undefeated teams who didn’t make the National Championship game. That is absurd. How can you win every single game and not be the National Champions?
I don’t like:
UCF getting left off again. The College Football Playoffs will almost assuredly have a one-loss team playing for the Championship. That team might be better than UCF. But UCF won every game on it’s schedule last season, going 12-0, got left out of the Playoffs, and subsequently beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Auburn had previously beaten Alabama, the eventual National Champions. This year, UCF is 8-0, and ranked 12th in the country. Despite winning every game for 2 full seasons, UCF won’t get to compete for the national title. Expand the College Football Playoffs to 8 teams, give an automatic bid to undefeated teams, or figure out a new way to judge a Champion, but something needs to change. Long Live UCF.