All-NBA Teams: Biggest Questions Remaining Before Season’s End

Nikola Jokic NBA

In a chaotic and unpredictable season, determining the All-NBA selections for the 2020-2021 season will be anything but simple.

In a normal year, the three All-NBA teams usually reflect the ten-best players in the game along with five players who had extraordinary seasons but sit outside of the top-20 in terms of player rankings. Superstars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and James Harden combine for over 30 All-NBA selections. However, injuries may bump some of those players off the ballot.

With less than two weeks left in the season, there are arguably more than five spots still up for grabs, which is pretty high at this point in the year. As someone who doesn’t have a ballot, I’m anxious to see how voters weigh certain factors in their decisions.

Does Durability Matter And If So, How Much?

This is my biggest question when it comes to All-NBA this season. Does durability matter and if so, how much? The first question is an easy answer. Yes, durability matters. “Survival of the healthiest” is an accurate way to describe the All-NBA first and second teams. If a player puts up All-Star numbers and missed less than 10 games, then it should strengthen their case for All-NBA. Nikola Jokic is putting up historic offensive numbers, but he’s also played every single game, which ensures the Nuggets’ center will make All-NBA first team.

Durability has to matter, but where will the line be drawn for the number of games played to make an All-NBA team? In a 72-game season, can you play 60 games and still make All-NBA? Steph Curry is a shoo-in to make the first-team despite being a few games over the 60-game threshold so yes, players who played at least 60 games can make the team.

What about 50 games? Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, three players with great numbers across the board, will cross the 50-game threshold before the end of the season. Despite missing 15-22 games, 50-plus games played will be enough to qualify.

What if it’s below 50 games? This is where it gets interesting because the best player in basketball won’t play 50 games this season. Who is it? Scroll below.

Where Will LeBron James End Up?

A week ago, if you told me LeBron James would miss an All-NBA team, I would’ve said you’re nuts. After news broke that LeBron would need to sit out at least two games this week to rest his ankle, LeBron being excluded from the All-NBA team is more of a possibility.

Do I think LeBron will make an All-NBA team? Yes, but it should not be on the first team. LeBron could potentially miss one-third of the regular season when it’s all said and done. Note that LeBron missed 27 games in 2019 and still made All-NBA Third Team. With averages of 25/7.9/7.8, LeBron will make an All-NBA team this season. It will most likely be the second team, but there is a possibility it’s the third team.

Will One Nets Player Make It?

The Brooklyn Nets are the favorite to win the championship according to OddsShark. However, it’s possible that their three stars, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, will be left off the All-NBA teams. Can this happen? More importantly, should this happen?

Durant, Harden, and Irving are three of the fifteen best players in the league. However, each star has detrimental reasons to keep them off All-NBA. For Durant, it comes down to the number of games played and KD may not even eclipse 35 games. Leaving KD off the teams won’t be a problem.

Harden has played 42 games this season with averages of 25.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 10.9 APG. When he’s played, Harden has looked unstoppable. But, Harden will probably sit for the remainder of the regular season because of injury. More importantly, eight of those 42 games were played as a member of the Houston Rockets. I doubt the media will reward Harden with an All-NBA selection after a tumultuous exit in Houston.

Then there’s Kyrie, who has the best case out of three. Kyrie is averaging 27.0 PPG, 4.9 RPB, and 6.3 APG with shooting splits of .500/.385/.922. Kyrie will end up playing over 50 games on a team that’s in contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Kyrie’s off-the-court decisions have dominated the headlines including two leave of absences from the team. During one of those personal breaks, Kyrie attended an indoor birthday party maskless, which resulted in a fine. I’m not here to play moral police, but Kyrie’s off-the-court actions will certainly be held against him.

If the Nets win the championship without an All-NBA selection, it would mark the first time since the 1988-1989 Pistons where a team won a title without having a player who made All-NBA in that particular season.

As teams fight for playoff positions, keep an eye on players vying to improve their All-NBA candidacy.

What are your biggest questions regarding All-NBA? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

The NBA Play-In Tournament Is A Slam Dunk For The League

Luka Doncic Mavs NBA

It’s tough to side with billion-dollar corporations especially when that corporation is the NBA. Nine times out of ten, I’m going to support the teams and players over the league. However, this is the one time where I’m defending the league. I support the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Last year, the NBA installed the Play-In Tournament to determine the final seeds in each conference. The play-in game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers was a slam dunk for the league. The excitement around a game to enter the playoffs with a “winner-take-all” mentality was the perfect appetizer before the NBA Playoffs.

Before the 2020-2021 season, the NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously to install the Play-In Tournament on a one-year basis. This year seeds 7-10 in each conference will take part in the tournament from May 18-21.

The rules:

  • 7 v. 8 – Winner advances as the 7-seed to play the 2-seed
  • 9 v. 10 – Winner advances to play the loser of the 7 v. 8, loser goes home
  • The loser of 7 v. 8 v. the winner of 9 v. 10 – Winner advances to play the 8-seed to play the 1-seed
NBA.com

For fans, this is a win-win scenario. Who doesn’t want to watch competitive basketball where the stakes are high? These games matter, which should translate to hard-nose, playoff-style basketball on the court.

For the league, the Play-Tournament is obviously a huge win. The tournament will dominate the topic of conversation in the sports world that week. More importantly, the tournament gives more teams a shot and curtails fewer teams from tanking. However, let’s call it like it is. To quote Shane McMahon, “Here comes the money.” The league created the tournament to make money, plain and simple.

The only negative voices seem to come from the teams themselves. They’re singing a different tune. Injury concerns, motivation, and fairness are the most prominent reasons for dissension.

It all started when Draymond Green said the Play-In games were “not the real playoffs” and they don’t “motivate” him. Fred VanVleet played both sides of the fence, saying the Play-In games made “more sense for the Bubble.”

The Mavericks were aligned in their opposition to the Play-In tournament. Luka Doncic doesn’t like how two games shouldn’t decide your fate after 72 games. Marc Cuban understands why the Play-In Tournament exists but believes it’s an “enormous mistake” because of the compressed schedule.

Notice how the only voices discussing the pitfalls of play-in games are those teams in contention for seeds 7-10. Is this just a case of sour grapes?

If Cuban wants to complain about the compressed schedule, I’m all ears. Most of the players thought once the Bubble ended, the league would start in January. Because of money, the league pushed for a December start.

Is there a correlation between a compressed schedule and injuries? Perhaps. Many general managers and team health officials blame the compressed schedule for an abundance of player injuries. That being said, there are fewer injuries to starters this year than there were last year according to NBA data.

Cuban makes some fair points against the Play-In Tournament, but it’s important to remember that he voted for it to happen. Cuban was a part of the unanimous vote for the extended postseason. Hindsight is 20/20, and Cuban admits he made a mistake. But, as Stan Van Gundy pointed out, “He (Cuban) pushed for it.”

Would the Mavs be speaking out against the Play-In Tournament if they were a Top-6 seed with a chance of winning the title? Probably not.

The Play-In Tournament gives more teams hope for making the playoffs. Is it false hope considering the Play-In winners will almost certainly lose to the top two seeds? Yes, but championships (and rebellions) were built on hope.

With more teams vying for playoff spots, fewer teams will try to tank. I am not anti-tanking. I’m a Knicks fan. The Knicks tanked for three straight years. The bottom three teams in each conference should (and will) tank. But if you’re the 11-seeded Wizards or 11-seeded Pelicans, you should want to make the Play-In Game. The backend of the lottery won’t solve your problems.

The stakes have been raised in the regular season thanks to the Play-In Tournament. In most years, seeding battles typically involve teams looking to improve their seeds or the 9-seed trying to move up and jump the 8-seed. Now, there could be 24 out of 32 teams fighting for playoff spots. Competition is a good thing for the league and for the fans.

If you still don’t believe in the Play-In Tournament, imagine this scenario.

Steph Curry vs. Luka Doncic for the right to advance in the Play-In Tournament.

That’s a mic drop right comment. That’s a real scenario that might happen as the Mavs and Warriors occupy the seven and nine seeds respectfully.

More is not always better, but more competive basketball with the best players in the world is something I will always support.

Do you support or oppose the NBA Play-In Tournament? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @danny_giro.

New York Knicks: My Love-Hate Relationship With Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks

The main catalyst for the New York Knicks turnaround is Tom Thibodeau. Hiring Thibs as the head coach is the best thing to happen to the franchise since 2013.

Thibs has been better than advertised. Not one single soul on planet Earth thought the Knicks would be in the playoff hunt this season. I’m an optimist and even I didn’t predict this much success so early.

Back in December, I said, “If the Knicks can stay in the race for the 10th seed, I’ll be happy.” Now, I’m expecting to secure a spot in the play-in game at the very least. The expectations have changed and a lot of that can be contributed to Thibs.

From Day 1, the defense has been the Knicks’ calling card. Wait, the Knicks play defense? Yes, the Knicks play good, team defense. The Knicks rank first in points allowed, field goals allowed, opponents field goal %, and opponents three-point percentage. Overall, New York is third in defensive efficiency.

On the offensive side, Julius Randle is in the midst of a career season that could lead to a substantial payday at the end of the season. RJ Barrett continues to improve his jumper especially from behind the arc. RJ’s three-pointer was a liability a season ago at 32%. Now, he’s shooting 38% from three including an incredible 45% in his last 40 games.

There’s no doubt that Thibs has instilled a winning culture in a franchise that’s been allergic to success for most of the 21st century. What they lack in talent, the Knicks make up for it with effort and hard-nosed defense. As a fan, it’s refreshing to see a Knicks’ team that loves to compete and will be in dogfight nine out of every ten games.

As great as Thibs has been, there are a few fatal flaws to his coaching style. Frankly, these flaws have cost the Knicks numerous games. The Knicks own a putrid 2-8 record in games decided by three points are fewer. At 25-27, the Knicks are below .500 for the first time since Feb. 23.

Thibs’s rotations at the end of games are head-scratching. Being a defensive-minded team keeps the Knicks in most games. However, the Knicks struggle to generate offense especially late in the fourth quarter. The Knicks don’t have “the guy” who can generate offense and get a bucket. Randle has been awesome, but he’s not the guard who can create his own shot that the Knicks so desperately need.

When is the last time the Knicks had a point guard that defenses had to gameplan for? Who is the last point guard that could get his teammates easy baskets in the final minutes? If my calculations are correct, Stephon Marbury, who hasn’t played for the Knicks in over a decade, is the answer.

This lack of a true point guard is a huge problem, which is why playing Elfrid Payton over Derrick Rose at the end of games makes my blood boil. I don’t want to turn this into the “Shit On Elfrid Payton Hour.” Payton is a nice player, but he’s extremely limited on the offensive side of the ball. Thibs plays Payton at the end of games for his defense. In theory, that’s a good decision, but when Randle is getting double-teamed and RJ can’t create off the dribble, do you trust Payton to make a play on the offensive side of the ball? Rose is the closest thing the Knicks have to an offensive threat at point guard. Rose needs to finish games, especially with a struggling offense.

Then, there’s Randle, who doesn’t look healthy. Randle suffered a thigh injury a few games ago and hasn’t looked the same since. Despite recording a triple-double against the Nets, Randle did not shoot the ball well against the Celtics (9-23 from the field). I am NOT saying Thibs caused Randle’s injury. However, I can’t help but think logging 37 minutes a game has taken a toll on Randle’s body. If the Knicks want to win in May, they will need a healthy Randle at full strength. I hate leading the charge for the “Minutes Police,” but would it kill Thibs to rest Randle during a blowout?

Tom Thibodeau is an exceptional coach who knows how to get the most out of his players. If the Knicks can land a star and an offensive point guard, this team can be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

There is a lot more love for Thibs than hate. In fact, I don’t hate Thibs whatsoever. It’s frustration, not hate. I don’t want Thibs to change his personality, but some minor adjustments to his strategy could be the difference between a playoff loss and a playoff win.

Do you love or hate Tom Thibodeau? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Gardner Minshew: Why Teams Should Trade For Jaguars QB

Gardner Minshew

The quarterback that NFL teams should be trading for is not on the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, or Houston Texans. This quarterback plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars and no, it’s not C. J. Beathard. The aforementioned quarterback is Gardner Minshew.

Yes, the dude with the killer mustache and jorts should be a quarterback of interest for teams who either need a backup or want to bring in some competition.

With the additions of Trevor Lawrence* and CJ Beathard, the Jaguars’ quarterback room has no room for Minshew. The team would be doing themselves a disservice to keep Minshew as their third quarterback. The Jaguars should trade Minshew in the coming months, and according to Ian Rapoport, teams are interested.

There is a 99.9% chance the Jaguars draft Trevor Lawrence with the first pick. Let’s assume it happens.

If a team needs a starting QB, Minshew may not be as appealing as Deshaun Watson, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Sam Darnold. However, between his age, talent, and contract, there’s a lot to like about Minshew.

First, Minshew is entering his third season in the NFL. Minshew is 24 to turning 25. Do you want to know what other quarterbacks are 24/25? Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, and Darnold are all 24 and under. Outside of Darnold and (maybe) Jones, is Minshew on the same talent level as the other guys? I’ll go one step further and say he’s better than Haskins and Lock.

Minshew’s age might be appealing, but his contract is extremely desirable. One of the best ways to build teams in the NFL is to go all-in with a quarterback on a rookie deal and surround him with quality talent. In other words, it’s the exact opposite of what the Jets did with Darnold. With a cap hit of under $1m in each of the next two seasons, Minshew is a cheap option.

Obviously, the most important aspect of Minshew’s appeal is his play on the field. Is he a great quarterback? No. Is he a good quarterback who can produce and win games? I believe he can.

During his rookie season in 2019, Minshew went 6-6 as a starter and threw for 3271 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT with a 60.6% completion percentage. Not bad for a 6th-round pick. Last year, Minshew played most of the year with a thumb fracture and ligament strain. Still, Minshew raised his completion percentage to 66.1%. Overall, he’s thrown for 27 TDs and 11 INTs in two seasons. Keep in mind that the Jaguars traded or cut most of their “good” players in 2020.

Numbers don’t tell the entire story with Minshew. He’s deceptively mobile, especially in the pocket. Minshew became the leader of the team once the organization chose him over Nick Foles, who was traded to the Bears. Likability isn’t towards the top of important characteristics I’d want in a quarterback, but how can you not root for a guy like Minshew that shows up and gives it his all each week?

To acquire Minshew, teams would most likely have to trade at least a fourth-round pick. Would you rather take a flyer on a Day 3 quarterback or trade for Minshew? I’ll go one set further and say Minshew is better than any QB you’ll find on Day 3. Swapping a fourth for a cheap, proven commodity seems like a no-brainer.

There are quite a few teams with quarterback issues. Either these teams signed uninspiring options in the offseason or they might run out someone with more questions than answers.

I’m going to name some teams and their quarterback situations. Tell me which option you’d rather have.

Chicago Bears: 33-year-old Andy Dalton, who signed for $10 million, and Nick Foles, who was traded to Chicago from Jacksonville, or Minshew?

Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, who had a 57.3% completion percentage and 15 INTs in 2020, or Minshew?

New England Patriots: Cam Newton, who threw for 8 TD and 10 INT in 15 games last season, and Jared Stidham, who can’t even get on the field, or Minshew? Jim Nagy, the director of the Senior Bowl and former NFL scout, also believes the Pats should trade for Minshew.

Washington Football Team: Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed for $10 million, and Taylor Heinicke or Minshew? Before Fitzpatrick signed, FanSided analyst Matt Verderame said, “Gardner Minshew, if I’m Washington, I’m calling them every day, ‘You want a third-round pick? We’ll give you a third-round pick.'”

If you’re like me, you answered Minshew in every option. Minshew produced and won games for an awful team. Imagine what he could do in the right system.

Is Gardner Minshew a franchise quarterback? Probably not. But if a team needs an effective backup to compete with the starter, why not take a chance on Minshew?

2021 NCAA Tournament: The Bracket Manifesto

Gonzaga Basketball NCAA Tournament

After a two-year wait, the NCAA Tournament is finally upon us. As Upper East Side resident and CBS analyst, Jon Rothstein, likes to say…

The NCAA Tournament is one of my favorite events of the year. For three weeks, college basketball will dominate the sports world. In particular, the first day of the tournament is one of my best days of the year. 12 hours of basketball, food, gambling, and anarchy. Sign me up.

With the tournament comes the bracket. According to American Gaming Association, 36.7 million Americans say they will fill out a bracket. I’d venture to say that more than half of those people don’t watch college basketball, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means that a lot of people are going to fill out brackets and enter gambling pools.

Let’s just call a spade a spade. It takes a lot of luck to win your pool. However, there are some tips and trends to follow that could set you up for success. As someone who won a national tournament challenge and spoke on CBS Sports Radio about my victory, I may know a thing or two about the bracket…

This is my bracket manifesto.

I’m not going to tell you which teams to pick. However, I’m going to give you the keys on how to fill out your bracket. This manifesto is your tour guide. You still have to arrive at the destination, but I’m giving you the map to follow.

*Disclaimers are hot in the streets right now thanks to the “I am not a financial advisor, but I’m going to buy this stock” tweets. I want to state that I am not an expert. I’m just a guy who has found some success filling out brackets. This is MY strategy.

When In Doubt, Pick The Favorite

This is my number one rule. When in doubt, pick the favorite. It sounds simple, but so many of us fall into the trap of picking the perfect upset instead of focusing on who wins titles, which are the top seeds. There have been four champions since 1983 that have been seeded worse than five. The last team to do it was UCONN in 2014. If you picked UCONN in 2014 to win it all, you probably won your pool. Congrats, but that was an anomaly. Stick to a team in the top 5 as your champion.

Focus On Keeping Your Sweet Sixteen Intact

In most pools, brackets will be rewarded for advancement. If your pool rewards an upset win with more points, then pick more upsets. However, there are more points up for grabs in the later rounds. Don’t freak out if you don’t pick the correct #12 over #5 or #11 or #6 in the first round. If you had that team losing the next round, then it’s not a huge loss. Focus on having as many Sweet 16 teams as possible. If your bracket has 12 of 16 teams heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, then you’re in great shape.

First Time Final Four Participants Rarely Win It All

There’s a first for everything. Teams like Alabama and Tennessee may be trending in the right direction. Both squads are looking to reach their first Final Four in school history. However, only one team in the last 35 years has won a title during their first trip to the Final Four and that was UCONN in 1999. As someone who loves this Alabama team and will pick them to go far, it would be unwise to pick them as my champion.

The #11 over #6 Is The New #12 Over #5

One of the most popular pieces of advice shared during tournament week is the #12 over #5 upset. “You need to pick at least one 12-seed to win,” said one of your coworkers who thinks he’s an expert. Although your coworker is probably a snob, they’re right. In the past 40 years, at least one 12-seed beat a 5-seed in all but five tournaments. You should pick at least one 12-seed to win in the first round, but the 11-seeds are becoming the new must-have upset. 11-seeds are 21-19 against 6-seeds in the last 40 tournament games. So which Syracuse 11-seed wins a game in the first round?

Blue – The Color Of Champions

With apologies to red, orange, yellow, green, purple, white, and black, blue is the official color of champions. Since Syracuse won in 2003, only one other champion did not have a shade of blue on their uniform and that was Louisville in 2013. Technically, that championship never took place! This year, Gonzaga, Michigan, and Illinois are all 1-seeds not because of their resume, but because of the blue on their jerseys. Sorry, Baylor.

Cherish this NCAA Tournament. We were all robbed of March Madness last year. COVID-19 can’t ruin this one, right?

Right?

Please don’t ruin it, COVID.

What are your tips for filling out brackets? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

The NFL QB Carousel: Breaking Down What Every Team Will Do At QB

Cam Newton of the New England Patriots

Round and round here we go, where it stops, nobody knows! The NFL QB Carousel is in full swing as free agency starts next week.

Teams need a good quarterback to compete for a Super Bowl. Correction, teams need the right quarterback to compete for a Super Bowl. For those saying “No shit, Sherlock,” you’d be surprised with how many teams don’t understand this concept!

It’s not hyperbole to say this has been a wild few months at the quarterback position. It almost resembless an NBA offseason with all of the trades. Matt Stafford is now a Ram, Jared Goff is a Lion, and Carson Wentz is a Colt.

Between free agency and the draft, more teams are going to address the quarterback position. Here are my QB projections for every team.

  • Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes
  • Tampa Bay Bucs – Tom Brady
  • Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen
  • Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
  • Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert
  • Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow
  • Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield
  • Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson
  • Tennessee Titans – Ryan Tannehill
  • Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Muray
  • Minnesota Vikings – Kirk Cousins
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence*

*I’m putting the Jags on this list because there is a 99.9% chance they take Trevor Lawrence.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers – Benjamin Roethlisberger
  • New York Giants – Daniel Jones
  • Las Vegas Raiders – Derek Carr
  • Los Angeles Rams – Matthew Stafford
  • Detroit Lions – Jared Goff
  • New England Patriots – Cam Newton
  • Indianapolis Colts – Carson Wentz
  • Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott

That leaves us with 12 teams who must decide on QB for the upcoming season. Some of these teams will take care of their needs in the draft. Others will try to make a blockbuster trade in hopes of changing their franchise. The biggest wildcard is Deshaun Watson and the Texans. There is no chance he’s the starting QB for the Texans on opening day. If that’s the case, where will he end up?

Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan is still good enough to start in the NFL. He’s your classic fantasy QB who gets you 300 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. The Falcons are in salary hell because Ryan and Jones combine for over $63m of their cap. Will they try to move Ryan? I doubt it. As I said, he’s still capable of leading a team to the playoffs. However, they may draft Ryan’s successor with the fourth pick in the draft.

New Orleans Saints – Jameis Winston / Taysom Hill

My wish was finally granted. Jameis Winston upgraded his eyesight!

This all comes down to Drew Brees. After losing to the Bucs, it appeared as if Brees played his last game for the Saints. However, Brees is now working out like a guy who wants to play again. There’s a difference between doing some mobility stretches in the morning and pushing sleds up the street. Does he want to make a comeback? My gut tells me Brees retires, which means the Saints should sign Jameis and keep Taysom Hill as the backup.

Chicago Bears – Alex Smith

The Bears are screwed if they don’t acquire Watson, Russell Wilson, or one of the top QBs out of college. Seriously, what can they do if all else fails? I love Mitch Trubisky (the person) and I actually believe he’s a competent QB. However, he’s not a franchise-changing player. Nick Foles is an expensive backup QB, not a starter. If they can’t trade for Wilson or Watson, I would sign Alex Smith and Trubisky to one-year deals. Then, fire Ryan Pace and (possibly) Matt Nagy and draft a QB next year.

Washington Football Team – Ryan Fitzpatrick

Once again, we’ll see if the WFT can draft a top QB or trade for Watson. However, Riverboat Ron Rivera and Ryan Fitzpatrick were made for each other. Fitzy would love to sling it to Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas. This seems like a perfect fit.

Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Hurts

History tends to repeat itself. Will the Eagles draft another quarterback to compete with their starter? It didn’t work well for Wentz, let me tell ya that! The Eagles need to rebuild. Draft weapons, take care of the offensive line, and see if Jalen Hurts is “the guy.”

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson

Hahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Imagine having a top-five QB and trading him away because you couldn’t take care of him? Couldn’t be my team! In all seriousness, the Hawks should jump in the Pacific Ocean and never come back if they trade Russell Wilson.

San Franciso 49ers – Sam Darnold

I’ve never wavered from this prediction. If the Jets trade Sam Darnold, it will be to the San Francisco 49ers. Sorry Jimmy G, but your health is an issue. If you can’t stay on the field, then you can’t be a franchise QB. Those are the rules. Kyle Shanahan is going to unlock Darnold and remind us all why we loved the SoCal QB out of USC.

Carolina Panthers – Teddy Bridgewater/Trey Lance

It’s no surprise that the Panthers want to make a splash with a new owner who is not afraid to spend money. Teddy B is a serviceable QB, but the Panthers will be looking to upgrade. If they don’t get Watson, the draft is where they’ll make their mark and take a guy like Trey Lance.

New York Jets – Zach Wilson

The Mormon Manziel is coming to New York City if and only if Watson gets traded elsewhere. Zach Wilson’s stock is soaring as he continues to garner comparisons to Aaron Rodgers. Pair him with some WRs and another tackle and the Jets will be much improved in 2021.

Miami Dolphins – Deshaun Watson

Miami, this is the move to make. You have the ammo to make the move with the first-round picks. You have the QB to send back to Houston in Tua Tagovailoa. With Flores as the foreseeable coach in the future, Watson would be happy as a member of the Dolphins organization for the next decade.

Houston Texans – Tua Tagovailoa

See above. This is not personal, Tua. It’s just business. I like Tua, but Watson is the superior talent right now.

Denver Broncos – Drew Lock/Justin Fields

Drew Locks has shown flashes of potential, but he’s not the guy. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. Denver will most likely trade up in the draft to take a QB like Justin Fields. Let Fields compete with Lock and hopefully (for John Elway’s sake), Fields comes out on top.

What should your team do at QB? Let me know in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Predictions For Second Half Of 2020-2021 NBA Season

Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz

The first half of the NBA season is like the scene in Avengers: Infinity War where Thanos explains that it cost him everything in order to execute the snap. Did the NBA complete the first half of the season? Yes. Am I ecstatic that it happened? Absolutely? Did the NBA also postpone over 30 games due to COVID protocols? Unfortunately, yes.

On the court, it’s been fun to watch the Lakers reestablish their dominance and the Nets piece together a new super team. Off the court, it’s concerning to see Adam Silver and the front office implement confusing COVID protocols. Plus, the league hosted an All-Star game that many deemed unnecessary. If the NBA can make it to the finish line in July without too many bumps in the road, then all is forgiven

The past is behind us, and the second half of the season is ready to begin. Will the Jazz secure the 1-seed? Who will win the MVP? Can the Knicks make the playoffs? Here are my second half predictions.

Milwaukee Bucks And Utah Jazz Will Be The Top Seeds In Each Conference

Before the second half of the season kicks off, here are the standings as of 3/9.

The battle for conference supremacy is beginning to take shape. In the East, the 76ers currently hold the top spot with the Nets less than a half-game behind them. In third place are the Bucks, who are winners in six of their last seven games. If Giannis didn’t win a second-straight MVP, he would be at the top of the MVP race this season with averages of 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. The Sixers and Nets are better teams, but health concerns with their star players could derail their hopes for the top seed. Both of their mindsets will be to be as healthy as possible when it comes to the playoffs, even if that means sacrificing regular-season games to rest players. I think it’s quite the opposite for the Bucks. They want that 1-seed to avoid Philly and Brooklyn and will go all out to make sure they receive homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the first half, the Utah Jazz were the both best team in the Western Conference and the NBA. The Jazz boast a top-five offense, a top-five defense, and the best record in the NBA. This team is built that’s built to win a lot of games in the regular season thanks to their defense and depth. For my gamblers out there, the Jazz were the best team ATS in the first half with a record of 25-11. However, ask 100 people who will represent the West in the NBA Finals. You’d be hard-pressed to find 10 people who pick Utah. The disrespect is real, but they’ll have a chance to silence their critics if the road to the NBA Finals goes through Utah.

Team To Ascend – Miami Heat; Team To Descend – San Antonio Spurs

The Miami Heat were plagued with bad luck and injuries throughout most of the first half, which included their star, Jimmy Butler, who missed 10 games due to COVID-19. Despite a 7-14 start, the Heat battled back to 18-18 heading into the all-star break, which is sixth in the Eastern Conference. Things are about to get easier for the Heat with one of the four easiest second-half schedules. Butler, Bam Adebayo, and the rest of the Heat should climb to a top-4 seed before the season ends in May.

On the flip side, the San Antonio Spurs are like a cockroach; they never die. Somehow, the Spurs are in sole possession of the 7-seed with a record of 18-14. DeMar DeRozan consistently puts up 20-points per night, but his seven assists per night are paying huge dividends. Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson are a fun, young duo that continues to progress each game. However, the West is a gauntlet and with teams like the Mavericks, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Pelicans lurking in the standings, it will be hard for the Spurs to stay in the top-8. Plus, the Spurs face the second-toughest schedule from here on out, according to FiveThirtyEight.

The Knicks Will Make The Play-In Tournament 

I couldn’t go an entire article without mentioning the biggest surprise in the NBA, the New York Knicks. I can’t express how much I love this team. All-Star Julius Randle drank “Michael’s Secret Stuff” in the offseason with career highs in nearly every statistical category. Tom Thibodeau has instilled a toughness and tenacity that’s been missing for nearly a decade. Do the Knicks still frustrate the hell out of me? Absolutely. When Thibs is playing the starters in the last two minutes of a 20 point blowout against the Pistons, I want the suffering to end. However, it’s so refreshing to root for a competent basketball team again.

As great of a start it’s been, the Knicks will need to play even better in the second half to make the playoffs. The schedule makers did the Knicks no favors as New York faces the third toughest schedule in the second half. The Knicks are in dire need of shooting as they rank towards the bottom in team field goal percentage. At the beginning of the season, I said if the Knicks competed for the 10th seed all year, I’d be very happy. Expectations have changed. I expect the Knicks to make the Play-In tournament at the very least. Make it happen, boys.

Midseason Awards

  • MVP – Joel Embiid
  • ROY – LaMelo Ball
  • DPOY – Rudy Gobert
  • 6th Man – Jordan Clarkson
  • MIP – Jerami Grant
  • COY – Quin Snyder

Will these predictions stay the same at the end of the season? My predictions for how the races will turn out.

  • MVP – LeBron James
  • ROY – LaMelo Ball
  • DPOY – Ben Simmons
  • 6th Man – Jordan Clarkson
  • MIP – Julius Randle
  • COY – Quin Snyder

Playoff Predictions

East

  1. Bucks
  2. Sixers
  3. Nets
  4. Heat
  5. Celtics
  6. Raptors
  7. Hornets
  8. Knicks
  9. Pacers
  10. Hawks

West

  1. Jazz
  2. Lakers
  3. Clippers
  4. Suns
  5. Nuggets
  6. Blazers
  7. Mavericks
  8. Warriors
  9. Spurs
  10. Pelicans

NBA Finals – Lakers over Nets*

*If and only if Anthony Davis is healthy

What are your predictions for the second half of the NBA season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

Julius Randle Deserves To Be An NBA All-Star

Julius Randle of the New York Knicks

I love the NBA, but I hate the All-Star Game. That might come off as dramatic so I’ll adjust. I don’t hate the All-Star Game, but it doesn’t excite me anymore. As a kid, I adored All-Star weekend especially Saturday night’s festivities. The idea of the game’s best players teaming mirroed an NBA Live game so I tuned in.

As I got older, the All-Star Game lost its luster. I don’t expect guys to guard each other for 48 minutes, but the lack of anything resembling defense made it unwatchable. I’m not a Grinch. I like alley-oops and deep threes, but I wouldn’t mind the occasional blocked shot or steal.

I may dislike the exhibition game, but being an All-Star matters. It’s fun to joke about the level of competiion during the game, but it’s still an honor to be named one of the 24 players chosen to represent the NBA.

This leads me to Julius Randle, one of the biggest surprises of the season. Randle’s all-star status is not up for debate. Randle deserves to be an all-star this season.

So far, Randle’s numbers are all career highs with averages of 23.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. It’s Randle’s playmaking that’s significantly improved. Randle’s never sniffed four assists per game in his career. Now, he could realistically surpass six per game. That’s unfathomable for a guy that usually turned the ball over after a spin move.

Randle’s numbers are not being put to waste for a revitalized New York Knicks team. The Knicks currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 14-16. Sure, it’s below .500, but last season, the Knicks needed 50 games to record their 14th win.

Coming into the season, the majority of Knicks fans would struggle to say anything positive about Randle. Most, including myself, were counting down the days to trade or buy out the 26-year-old. I was completely wrong. Randle is making us all eat crow. After Monday’s win over the Hawks, Randle said, “Hard work is undefeated.” Could not have said it better myself, Julius.

Due to increased competition, Randle’s spot on the team is far from a guarantee. The five starters were announced tonight, which means seven spots are up for grabs.

Randle finished seventh in fan voting, which isn’t ideal, but not a huge blow. Randle tying for fifth in the frontcourt media vote strengthens his case to become a reserve.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the East takes five guards, five forwards, and two wild cards (guard or forward). Here are the players that are leading the pack and will make the team.

Starters: G Kyrie Irving, G Bradley Beal, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, F Kevin Durant, F Joel Embiid

Next Set of Locks: G James Harden, G Jaylen Brown, F Jayson Tatum

With four spots remaining, there’s room for one guard, one forward, and two wild cards. I’d expect the reserves to come from this pool of players.

  • F Julius Randle
  • F Khris Middleton
  • F Domantas Sabonis
  • G Trae Young
  • G Zach LaVine
  • F Bam Adebayo
  • F Jerami Grant
  • F Jimmy Butler
  • F Gordon Hayward
  • F Tobias Harris
  • F Ben Simmons

Right off the bat, I’m giving one spot to Sabonis, who’s averaging 21.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. Sabonis is the best player on a Pacers team that’s fourth in the Eastern Conference. He’s making the team.

At least one more guard is making the team so pick either LaVine or Young. With two spots remaining, there are few ways this could go. Simmons, Harris, and Middleton could be rewarded for being second-level stars on top teams. (In the Eastern Conference, Sixers are first and the Bucks are third.) Will they reward Bam, Grant, or Hayward for making sizable jumps in their numbers from a season ago?

Full disclosure, I’m a Knicks fan so I’m biased. However, besides numbers and the team’s success, the All-Star game is about narratives. With Randle at the helm, the Knicks went from a projected lottery team to sixth in the East. Randle is the reason why the Knicks are one of the best turnaround stories in the NBA.

The Knicks are back right now, all thanks to their future All-Star, Julius Randle.

Do you like Tom Brady? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Tom Brady: The Ultimate Villain Turned Babyface

Tom Brady

I have a confession to make. I like Tom Brady.

10 years ago, I would have punched myself in the face for making a statement like that. Even two years ago, I would never admit my admiration for the seven-time Super Bowl champion

As a Giants fan, I’m arguably one of two fanbases (the other being the Eagles) that have no reason to hate Brady for his success on the field. The Giants defeated Brady twice on the biggest stage. Big Blue stopped Brady and the 2007 Patriots from immortality, ruining the undefeated season. You’re welcome, Miami Dolphins.

I hated Brady not for his play, but for the uniform he wore. The New England Patriots were the bad guys of the 2000s. The Patriots were the Galactic Empire, Bill Belichick was Darth Vader, and Gillette Stadium was the Death Star. From all the “gate” scandals to cheating implications, New England kept winning. To make matters worse, Patriots’ fans became insufferable. How many times did I have to hear “Our season starts in the AFC Championship” from New England fans? As much as I hated them, the fans were right.

I may have disliked Brady, but I always respected TB12. He is the GOAT. That was never up for debate. The stats that support Brady’s GOAT case are unfathomable. Brady’s postseason numbers are “Gretzkyesque” and will take a monumental effort from a generational player to eclipse his stats.

As I watched Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi trophy for the seventh time, I said to myself, “This effing guy. Again?” The 43-year-old vet bested the 25-year-old phenom who wants to be the GOAT himself one day. It’s still possible Mahomes can become the GOAT, but the gap between Brady or Mahomes feels insurmountable.

Then, I watched the parade. Brady was laughing hard and partying harder. I couldn’t help but smile at all the videos of Brady celebrating on his boat.

He threw the Lomnbardi trophy to another boat in what could go down as the greatest pass of his career.

TB12 skipped the diet today and pounded a few too many drinks. It was the most relatable clip from Brady I’ve ever seen.

Over the past few years, Brady demonstrated his sense of humor with his social media posts after wins. From the TB Times to “W” videos, Brady knows how to assert himself as a winner. He’s also pretty funny and self-aware, evidenced by his avocado tequila tweet.

How can you watch those videos with a straight face? TB12 is turning babyface right before our eyes. For the non-wrestling fans, that means he’s becoming a likable good guy. Most football fans hated Brady in New England because he was the perfect villain. Society loves to root for stars, but it also enjoys watching the villain fall.

The more I laugh at Brady’s antics, the more I realize how much New England hindered his personality. Rob Gronkowski said he likes the “freedom of being yourself” in Tampa Bay, which was a clear shot at the disciplinarian system run by Belichick. That doesn’t make New England’s system wrong. The Patriots won six Super Bowls over the course of two decades. However, it’s tough to get a sense of a player’s true personality when Darth Vader is breathing down your neck.

It’s Brady’s world and we’re all living in it. Right now, I like what I see from the GOAT.

Do you like Tom Brady? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Super Bowl LV: The GOAT Debate Starts Or Ends Sunday Night

Tom Brady goat

What are the two worst words in sports? Answer: “GOAT Debate.” This time, the subjects are not Michael Jordan or LeBron James. The new GOAT debate between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady will either start or end after Super Bowl LV.

Thanks to sports talk shows, the basketball GOAT debate has been shoved down our throats like Joey Chestnut’s hot dogs on July 4. Is Jordan better than LeBron? Is LeBron better than Jordan? Is six for six in the NBA Finals worth more than four wins in ten appearances? Jordan may have had the better peak, but LeBron has the longevity.

The only thing holding back the GOAT debate is time. MJ played in the 90s while LeBron played in the 2000s. The two icons never faced off in the NBA Finals, let alone a regular-season game. Had Jordan and LeBron played each other with the biggest prize on the line, the GOAT debate would cease to exist.

Unlike the NBA, the NFL’s quarterback GOAT debate will receive clarity on Sunday night when Mahomes and the Chiefs take on Brady and the Buccaneers.

Currently, Brady is the GOAT. Whether you believe that means he’s the greatest football player of all time or the greatest winner of all time is totally up to you. However, he’s the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL.

The numbers speak for themselves. 6x Super Bowl champion, 4x Super Bowl MVP, 3x NFL MVP, 2X Offensive Player of the year, and a partridge in a pear tree. The fact that 43-year-old Brady will be playing in his tenth Super Bowl on Sunday is mind-boggling.

There is only one current player who might be able to catch Brady’s stats and accomplishments. It just so happens that he’ll be on the other sideline Sunday night.

Many believe Mahomes is already the most gifted quarterback to ever play in the NFL. In just three seasons as a starter, Mahomes won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP, and an NFL MVP. Mahomes has only lost one playoff game in his career and that was to Brady’s Patriots. If Dee Ford doesn’t go offsides, he would be undefeated in the postseason. Keep in mind, Mahomes is only 25-years-old. With Andy Reid, Eric Bienemy, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill at his disposal, Mahomes and the Chiefs will be Super Bowl contenders for the next five years.

All of the pressure is on Mahomes. If he wants to be the GOAT, he will need to beat Brady on the biggest stage. He needs to avenge his loss in the AFC Championship and win his second Super Bowl. If Mahomes beats Brady, he’s not the GOAT, but he’s on the right trajectory.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Chiefs win Sunday night, Mahomes wins MVP, and they win the championship the following year. That means Mahomes would be the catalyst for the first three-peat since the NFL merger. Plus, Mahomes would have the key victory over Brady in the Super Bowl. There would still be some work left to do, but you could make the argument that three straight Super Bowls including one over the GOAT rank higher than Brady’s six. I personally wouldn’t crown Mahomes the GOAT just yet, but if he were to win four to five championships including the important one over Brady, it would be difficult to not call Mahomes the GOAT.

On the flip side, if Brady beats Mahomes on Sunday, the GOAT debate ends right there. It would be dead on arrival. It would be seven to one in terms of championships. Brady would hold wins over Mahomes in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl. No matter what Mahomes does the rest of his career, not beating Brady in the two biggest games of the season would a giant blunder on his resume. For Brady, a win on Sunday gives him an insurmountable lead over Mahomes.

Sports talk shows will run GOAT debates until the end of time. After Super Bowl LV, they will either intensify or disappear at the quarterback position.

Who will come out on top in Super Bowl LV? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.