Weekly Wednesday #8 – 2.7.2018

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.

Another Wednesday Weekly, another missed deadline. So, maybe the whole ‘Wednesday’ thing is a bit of misnomer, but hey you know the old saying: “Quality over.. Timeliness” or something. Plus, by delaying this past the trade deadline (yesterday at 3pm ET), I had a chance to go over the last minute trades (and missed opportunities).

NBA Trade Deadline

All in all, the trade deadline action came and went fairly quickly with most of the big moves coming in the final 2 hours, but there was still a lot of action in the week prior. 23 teams were part of a trade within a week of the deadline. I won’t touch on all of them, but I’ll go over a few of the biggest, starting with the first (and most significant) move of the trade deadline season.

Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas

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Kicking off the trade festivities, Dallas was surprisingly a buyer rather than a seller. Dallas gave up first round picks in 2021 and 2023 (kind of – I’ll address this later) along with the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan (LOL at the DeAndre Jordan/Dallas footnote in annals of NBA history) and Wesley Matthews for Porzingis and the unseemly contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee (making a combined $31 million next season). Acquiring Porzingis to play alongside rookie phenom Luka Doncic could make the Mavericks serious contenders in a few years.

It also helps the Mavericks in other ways. Dallas owes their 2019 1st round pick to Atlanta (via the Luka Doncic trade), but that pick is top-5 protected. Dallas benefits heavily by getting a top-5 pick this season. Not only would they keep this year’s pick, and instead send next year’s pick to Atlanta (which should be much lower assuming the Mavericks are better upon Porzingis’ return), but the 2 first round picks that will be sent to the Knicks will also be pushed back a year, meaning they won’t convey those picks until 2022 and 2024. Getting rid of some of their most productive players helps to accomplish this goal. And it’s clear this is what Dallas intended, as they subsequently traded Harrison Barnes to the Kings in exchange for Zach Randolph’s expiring contract and a young piece in Justin Jackson. Dallas transformed from a middle of the pack finish with 3 aging veterans into a young star, a solid young player, and a great chance to tank this season. The Mavs had a great week.

While it’s pretty clear that Dallas won this trade (they acquired a star), that doesn’t necessarily mean that New York lost it. This was one of the rare win-win trades we’ve seen in the NBA. This summer, 47% of all players under contract will be free agents (or can be, with a player option). With this trade, the Knicks went from enough cap room to sign one max player before re-signing Porzingis, and subsequently going over the salary cap, to enough room to sign two max players without hitting the cap. I know it’s a big if, but if they can get 2 players worthy of max contracts to sign with them (Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving are names that come to mind), then they definitely won this trade. Even getting one of them would make this an even trade for New York. Oh yeah, and don’t forget they picked up the aforementioned first round picks.

Scott Layden Swings and Misses

I mentioned above that 23 teams made at least some move in the week leading up to the trade deadline. The 7 who didn’t were the Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, Jazz, Spurs, Hornets, and… Timberwolves. 6 of these teams are firmly in the playoff picture. It makes sense for playoff teams not to force any trade at the deadline – they’re in the playoffs! But for teams outside the playoff picture, it almost always makes sense to make a trade to try and improve their team to make the playoffs or sell their expiring assets to build toward the future. If there is one team that is so dysfunctional, so inept, so incompetent that they do neither, it’s the Timberwolves. And it’s not like there were no easy options – there were plenty!

Derrick Rose will be a free agent at the end of the year, and it will be difficult to retain him given the Timberwolves current cap situation. Dane Moore did a great breakdown of Rose’s market back in November, but even then my optimism in re-signing him was buoyed by Thibodeau’s relationship with Rose. I don’t have the same optimism now, and Rose should have been shopped. Apparently, his name wasn’t even brought up in trade talks. Same with Taj Gibson. He’s been excellent, and is an important player for Minnesota, but he’s 33 years old, and likely won’t be back next season. Minnesota definitely could have gotten something of value in return if he was shopped. Even just his expiring contract could have fetched something. Teague may have been a tougher sell, with his player option for $19 million next season, but getting anything for him would have been a win. Minnesota missed a big opportunity to retool or reload.

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But don’t worry, there’s more. It wouldn’t be the Timberwolves if it didn’t get worse. As reported by Darren Wilson, GM Scott Layden apparently had multiple trade offers for Anthony Tolliver. The best of these included C.J. Miles and a second round pick from Toronto, Patrick Patterson and a second round pick from Oklahoma City, or two second round picks from Dallas. This is for a player averaging 15 minutes per game when he plays, and has been a healthy scratch from 16 games! He’s only even in the rotation due to injuries! Even if you don’t love the players offered (I think both would be decent additions), those are free draft picks! Why wouldn’t you take a couple of picks for him? I just don’t understand. This was a huge miss.

The Top-Heavy East Gets Top-Heavier

The top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference are significantly better than the rest of the East, with the 5th place 76ers a staggering 6 games ahead of the 6th place Nets. (For perspective, no consecutive seeds from 1-14 in the Western Conference are separated by more than 2 games). Of those 5 teams, all but the Celtics made a move to improve their rosters. The Eastern Conference Playoffs (after the first round) just got a whole lot more interesting.

Milwaukee nets Nikola Mirotic

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This was a great get for the Bucks, who’s combined trades this season have sent away Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, and Thon Maker (plus a bunch of bad picks) in return for George Hill and Mirotic. (Correct pronunciation can be found here). The Bucks now have a 8-man playoff rotation that can rival the deepest in the NBA.

Toronto steals Marc Gasol

What a get for Toronto. They upgraded from Jonas Valanciunas to Gasol for just a second round pick and role players Delon Wright and C.J. Miles (their 10th and 11th guys in their rotation). I was expecting a late first rounder, multiple seconds, or at least a couple young prospects. As a fan, I appreciate the Grizzlies for sending Gasol to a contender (he deserves it), but they should have gotten more in return.

Indiana increases depth

Indiana picked up Nic Stauskas and Wade Baldwin for free. I’ve long thought Baldwin was underutilized and the Pacers have the perfect situation to give him some extra minutes as a stout defender. Stauskas can light it up from deep and should fit well in the rotation. Neither is a splashy name, but Indiana bolstering their depth after losing Oladipo should help them stay fresh down the stretch.

76ers grab Tobias Harris

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As mentioned in my All-Star selections article, Harris has played himself into consideration for an All-Star spot. It’s too bad this trade didn’t happen a week earlier, as he’d likely have made the All-Star team coming out of the East. He’s been terrific, and the 76ers now sport the most talented starting lineup outside of Golden State (assuming Harris can keep up the solid play without wearing his usual #34. Despite the picture above, #34 is retired by the 76ers for Charles Barkley). In a subsequent move, they picked up a first round pick and Jonathan Simmons for their former #1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz.

Over the course of the week, the 76ers got rid of 4 bench guys, and brought in 5 bench guys; they got rid of a bad first round pick, and picked up a bad first pick; The real significant piece of the trade boiled down to Tobias Harris for Miami’s 2021 first round draft pick. Picking up an All-Star caliber player for a future first a great move for a win-now team, but it’s not without risks. Both Harris and Jimmy Butler will be free agents this summer, and could leave Philadelphia with nothing, and the unprotected Miami pick could be a very good one. Still, it’s a risk they needed to take if they want to compete for a title.

Top 5 of the Week

With the final season of the critically-acclaimed show, Game of Thrones, returning to HBO on April 14th, it’s time to start getting excited. If you watch one episode per day, that gives you just enough time to watch (or re-watch) the 67 available episodes. I will be re-watching each episode and doing a re-cap after each season, and I’ll probably be providing a bit of other Thrones-related content leading up to the premier.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Both trailers (here and here) have been minor and don’t show much in the way of what is going to happen, but that’s exactly what I’m most excited about. Season 7 was my favorite to watch thus far, mostly because it was the first season in years where I didn’t know at least partially what was going to happen. (I read the books after watching season 3, and some of the events in seasons 4-6 had already happened). Season 8 should be the same. It’s also been reported that each episode will be feature-length and the shortest episode is 88 minutes. Strap the fuck in.

As you may have seen in years past, there is betting for what will happen each season, including ‘Who Will Die Next?’. This year, there’s another bet included: ‘Who Will Rule Westeros at the End of Season 8?’ My top 5 this week will be my top 5 best picks for this bet. Note that these are not necessarily the 5 most likely, but the 5 best picks for your money based on the odds.

Who will end on iron throne GoT

First off, we can eliminate the people who have no shot: The Mountain, Gilly, Yara Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy, The Hound, Petyr Baelish (he’s dead – don’t believe the idiots), Jorah Mormont, Jaqen H’ghar, Daario Naharis, Brienne Of Tarth, Beric Dondarrion, Davos Seaworth, and Samwell Tarly. None of them have any sort of claim to the Iron Throne, and (just as importantly) none of them have any character development that suggests they would want it or try to get it.

We are thus left with a pool of 16: Tormund Giantsbane, Varys, Melisandre, Bronn, Euron Greyjoy, Jaime Lannister, Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark, Gendry, Daenarys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, The Night King, Jon And Daenerys’ Baby, Sansa Stark, Jon Snow, Bran Stark.

Varys, Tormund, and Bronn all have high ranking positions within the biggest armies (alive). But all three are low-born and would need multiple other people to die AND to inherit their positions without objection from higher-born subjects. Not likely.

Melisandre is magical, can control fire, and seems like she could become a savior against the white walkers. But she trusts the Red God R’hllor, and has been searching for the Prince(ss) Who Was Promised in her prophesy, and it would be a complicated matter to somehow change her entire worldview (since Season 2) in a few episodes. Similarly, Cersei received a prophesy in Season 5 – Episode 1 where she is told she’s going to be killed. I’m trusting the prophesy narratives – they’re both out.

Euron actually makes a really solid dark horse candidate (100-1 odds!), but they needed to bring him in earlier in the show if he was meant to win it all. This story is larger than him, and he’s out. That leaves us with our final 10: Jaime Lannister, Arya Stark, Gendry, Daenarys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, The Night King, Jon And Daenerys’ Baby, Sansa Stark, Jon Snow, Bran Stark.

Tyrion and Arya are the siblings with the least claim, and neither of their characters’ journeys thus far suggests leadership is in the cards. Bran has some weird shit going on, and I think there’s a way he could end up as the ruler, but he’s a bad value. He’s not the favorite in my opinion, and definitely not the overwhelming favorite his -150 odds suggest. Don’t waste your money.

Honorable Mention: Gendry. As Robert Baratheon’s only living heir (despite being a bastard), he’s got more of a claim to the Iron Throne than Cersei (or indeed any non-Targaryen). The fact that he was introduced early on and now has made a comeback, looks like his father, fights with the same weapon as his father, and has the trust of those currently in power, at 15-1, he’s not a bad value play here.

Honorable Mention: Sansa Stark. She’s been through hell and is finally back home in a place of power. She’s not likely to die fighting (as she doesn’t fight), and she has a strong claim to the North (second to Bran, technically, but would probably supersede him), and the 3rd best claim to the Iron Throne (behind Jon and Danaerys, respectively). Her story arc from naive little girl to badass woman is a transition fans would love to see. (Not me personally, because I hate Sansa a lot and blame her for being an idiot most of the show when her younger sister was able to be at least competent, but most people don’t see it that way, so the theory still plays). She’d make the cut, but at just +800, there’s a better option for story arc with better odds…

5. Jaime Lannister. He’s Cersei’s twin and could easily take her place if she dies, without any noblemen causing problems. He’s been a central figure throughout the show, and his story arc from villain to hero to ultimately savior would be a classic device. Killing Cersei aligns with her prophesy, and with his relationship to Tyrion, he could create peace terms (others need to have died, but still plausible). At 40-1, this long-shot is worth a wager.

4. Jon Snow. Arguably, Jon Snow should be the odds-on favorite for the throne, so +600 is great odds. He’s returned from the dead, he fulfills the prophesy of Melisandre, and he’s probably the most influential figure in the show (next to Daenarys). It took 7 full seasons (from the clues in literally the first two episodes to the reveal in episode 67) to uncover the mystery of his parentage. He’s got the best claim to the Throne, but with his support already declared for Daenarys, and the honor he’s shown throughout the show, I doubt he presses his claim over hers.

3. The Night King. So this one is probably a tougher bet than the others, just because it doesn’t make sense that the Night King would “Rule Westeros” without knowing more about his background. But he has the largest army, an ice dragon, giants, and his army grows after every battle. The show makes him out to be evil, but I feel like there’s something we’re missing. I’d put the Night King as one of the 2 favorites in the books, so 10-1 is not bad. But it’s television, and I have a hard time believing they’re just going to have everyone die. Then again, who saw Ned/Robb/Oberyn dying?

2. Daenarys Targaryen. The woman with the dragons. From the second her dragons hatched in the first season, she should have been the favorite to rule Westeros. At an absurd 12-1, this is where the smart money is. She’s got the largest (living) army, her dragons, the best claim (known) to the Iron Throne, an excellent story arc, and enough turmoil to overcome that it’s still not the “obvious choice.” This is where I’d place my bet if not for a slightly better bet…

1. Jon and Daenarys’ Baby. So we finally get to the best bet. Both Jon and Daenarys have the top two claims to rule Westeros, and oddly enough, they’ve become lovers in true Targaryen fashion. Multiple lines of Targaryen have been wed together, and multiple claims to the throne have been appeased through marriages in the past. Jon and Daenarys ruling together makes sense, so they would just need a baby and flash-forward sequence at the end of the show to put this bet in the money. We had the foreshadowing of Tyrion asking about the succession, the nephew/aunt bed scene with the Jon Snow reveal, and his suggestion that despite previous reports, she may in fact be able to have a baby. That’s a recipe for a baby Targaryen to rule at the end of Game of Thrones.

Weekly Wagers

So for the Super Bowl bets last week, I ended up winning just over $400. Not a bad way to end the season after going 7-10 prior. Oh well, now that the NFL season has wrapped up we can move on to focusing on the NBA (and March Madness when the time comes).

2018-19 NBA Record: 9-9-1

New York +8.5 at Detriot

Just last game, the Pistons beat the Knicks by 13 in New York. But it was also just the 3rd game after the Porzingis trade. I expect the Knicks to come out strong and play better this game. 8.5 is a big line, and I expect a closer game.

Milwaukee -7 at Dallas

While Mirotic likely won’t suit up against Dallas, the Bucks are already the better team. Combine that with the new fit on Dallas, the loss of Barnes, and a transition toward tanking development, and this one should be a blowout.

New Orleans -6.5 vs. Minnesota

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I can’t pretend that the Timberwolves are anything better than garbage right now. They’ve lost 5 of their last 6 games, including 3 straight, and have been awful on the road all season. The Pelican’s haven’t been much better as of late, but they’re solid at home (15-10), and oh yeah – Anthony Davis is supposedly returning tonight.

Sacramento -3.5 vs. Miami

I’m all in on the Kings. I’ve repeatedly (and rightfully) made jokes about Sacramento, but the Kings are looking good, and the DeMarcus Cousins trade is looking better every day. Buddy Hield has turned into a flamethrower, and they just flipped Justin Jackson (from the New Orleans draft pick) for Harrison Barnes. With the youngsters performing the way they are, and the additional firepower from Barnes, the Kings could even *looks around before whispering* make the playoffs.

Utah -6.5 vs. San Antonio

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Gobert gets to go up against the man who (arguably) took his spot on the All-Star roster. He will want this one more than usual, and his teammates will want to get them the win. It’s a fairly large spread for such a close matchup, but the Jazz have been playing great lately, and I expect them to take care of business tomorrow night.

Things I Like and Things I Don’t Like

I like
Andrew Wiggins running and not thinking. Just look at how easy it is when he gets out in transition. He’s long, athletic, and can jump over pretty much anyone. When he’s attacking the rim, he’s one of the best finishers in the game. He used a spin move on consecutive possessions against the Grizzlies on Tuesday, and scored both times. The only problem: he used the move twice the whole game.

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I don’t like
Andrew Wiggins standing and thinking. On countless possessions, Wiggins is just standing around, looking disinterested. He never moves off the ball, always just waiting for a swing pass. When he receives the ball, he rarely attacks the basket, and settles for one dribble into a pull-up jumper. I’ve long been a fan of Wiggins, but he’s finally wearing me down. That Memphis game I mentioned before? His final stat line (against an injured Grizzlies team) was 5/18 for 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assist, and 3 TOs. I still think he has potential, but this is his 5th season, and there needs to be full effort on more than 10% of his possessions, or he needs to hit the bench.

I like

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LeBron James’ All-Stars. LeBron drafted the best Center (Anthony Davis), Power Forward (Kevin Durant), Small Forward (Kawhi Leonard), and Shooting Guard (James Harden). The only position he missed for the clean sweep was point guard (Steph Curry was Giannis’ first pick). I loved Giannis picking his guy Khris Middleton first out of the reserves, but he easily could have gotten him a few rounds later (it still would been an overdrafted the otherwise likely last pick, but without missing out on Davis).

I don’t like
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s All-Stars. Let me get specific a few of the worst parts of his draft. First, he picked Ben Simmons 13th overall, and then traded him for the 16th overall pick, Russell Westbrook. Why wouldn’t you just take Westbrook if you thought he was better? Or at 15th? I don’t get it. He took D’Angelo Russell before Kyle Lowry and Bradley Beal. Either he was picking without regard to basketball (entirely plausible), or he picked badly. As someone who wants to see the All-Star game pick up intensity and be competitive, I was disappointed. (Plus, Giannis could have taken Karl-Anthony Towns earlier, but now I have to root for LeBron’s team, which is no fun at all)

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