Hey, so, by next week’s column, real NBA games will have been played. Before then, I want to outline some of my predictions for the season.
MVP — Blake Griffin (surprising one, I know)
Right there: Paul George
Defensive Player of the Year — Kawhi Leonard
Right there: Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside
Rookie of the Year — Joel Embiid
Right there: Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield
Sixth Man of the Year — Brandon Knight
Right there: Austin Rivers, Eric Gordon
Most Improved — Jabari Parker
Right there: Zach LaVine
Coach of the Year — Quin Snyder
Right there: Steve Kerr, Doc Rivers
Eastern Conference Playoff Outlook
Just missed: Magic, Bucks
Western Conference Playoff Outlook
Just missed: Pelicans, Timberwolves
- Clippers’ core has its best season — There is just something about these Clippers that has me believing. Maybe it’s because Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Blake Griffin all have the opportunity to leave next summer and might want to give it their all in case it’s their last season together. Maybe I believe they finally all stay healthy at the same time. They are still weak at the wing, but it feels like they have the depth to beat two teams before facing Golden State in the West finals. I’m not writing them in to win it all, but I think Chris Paul and friends finally get past the second round.
- Timberwolves don’t trade Ricky Rubio — I used to be on board with trading Rubio, and when they drafted Kris Dunn and he showed out in Summer League, I became the captain of that ship. But, I don’t think it is the right move for right now. Next summer/season, sure, but they are not making the playoffs this season. Good things will happen under Tom Thibodeau, and they have Karl-Anthony Towns, but the bench isn’t great — although it is not bad — and they are still children, for the most part. Rubio is one of the league’s best defensive point guards, and passes with the best of them. He’s one of the best at making his teammates better. He’s a horrific shooter, so the casual fan doesn’t typically see him as a good player. Especially in today’s game, where shooting is so prevalent. But letting shooting cloud one’s opinion of everything else good a player does is a mistake, especially when gauging value. Because, like always, defending and passing is still extremely important. And if you surround Rubio with four shooters, can you really complain? Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a team starting five shooters in the NBA right now. It’s better if the non-shooting starter is a big, but it is not a requirement. The recent report on Rubio says that he will not be traded now, but that Thibs believes Kris Dunn may be ready to start 20 games in. So, does that mean Rubio is gone after 20 games? It’s a weird situation, but I don’t think Dunn will be ready to start 20 games in — thus, Rubio will stay. For this season, at least.
- Thunder make a trade for…somebody — I feel like the Thunder are not content with where they are right now. They were close to a Cameron Payne-for-Rudy Gay swap before Payne’s foot injury. They might go after Gay again, or maybe go bigger. LaMarcus Aldridge may be available, which would be an awesome acquisition for them, although they might not have anything San Antonio wants. Cameron Payne is a great asset when healthy, Domantas Sabonis may be someone the Spurs like, and Enes Kanter is nice for a team wanting to beef up their bench bigs-wise. There are always future picks, too. Paul Millsap may not be off-limits to Atlanta considering he can become a free agent next summer and will turn 32 in February. Acquiring a rather big name, or at least a solid starter, is the only way the Thunder have a realistic shot at a decent postseason run. Adding a name could turn them into a top four seed, whereas right now, they look to be a lower seed.
- Speaking of stars, three of them will get traded — Who, you may ask? That I do not know, but after the lackluster in-season trading of last season, and with the cap still going up, it feels like the 2015–16 trade deadline hype may spill over into this season. The preseason rumors surround Rubio, Gay and Aldridge are exciting, and more names will surely be tossed into the mix as the season gets underway.
- Blake Griffin wins MVP — Griffin is my favorite for MVP because he doesn’t have anyone to get in his way, so long as he stays healthy. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick are the perfect guys to have around you if you want to put up huge stats. Paul only takes over a game when he feels he needs to. His production comes within the flow of the game and Griffin’s usage is not affected much. Jordan inflates Griffin’s assist numbers as DeAndre will often catch lobs from Blake. Redick is a shooter that does a lot of his work off the ball. Griffin is allowed to play his game in LA and at his peak is one of the better players in the game. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are going to get in each other’s way in Golden State, although the better of those two players winning the MVP wouldn’t be much of a surprise. I hate doubting LeBron James, but he may start to step back and let Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love win regular season games, stepping in when necessary. I think he’s at the stage in his career when he wants to start saving his body for the postseason. Russell Westbrook is going to put up incredible numbers, but they are probably going to be produced inefficiently as hell. And the Thunder likely won’t have enough wins, anyway.
- Jabari Parker wins Most Improved Player — This is the toughest award to predict, because there are so many players around the league capable of breaking out. Parker is the most likely to have a big year. He looked a lot more comfortable in his 76 games last year than his injury-shortened rookie season. He knows his game extremely well, constantly attacking the rim — whether on the baseline or powering through defenders in the paint like a power back trying to break through a defense’s goal-line stand. He takes mid-range shots here and there, but knows he is most effective getting to the rim. Relating back to my last prediction, Parker has a shot at being as good as Blake Griffin someday. Think about it — they have the same skill sets, and Griffin back then played a lot like Parker does now, although Griffin relied on explosiveness and dunks more. Parker averaged 14 points (.493/.257/.768 splits) and five boards last season. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo — who is also set to have a big year and often draws a defense’s attention — those numbers could rise considerably.
Warriors vs. Cavaliers (surprise, surprise)
Warriors win in six games
Fantasy Football: Week 6 Review, Week 7 Preview
QB: Ben Roethlisberger ($7,500) — 11.56 — This was just a stupid week of football, and a stupid week of fantasy football. Pittsburgh vs. Miami was supposed to be the biggest blowout of the week, and probably one of the bigger ones of the season. Instead, Big Ben got hurt and the Dolphins won. Bleh.
RB: Le’Veon Bell ($7,900) — 18.80 — At least Bell always shows out. He’s always worth a play no matter the circumstances — even now moving forward with Roethlisberger for at least a couple weeks.
RB: Lamar Miller ($6,600) — 35.80 — The Colts have a horrific defense, and Miller was hungry for a touchdown coming in. Seemed like a good low buy (Miller is worth so much more than $6,600), and he ended up running the hell out of the ball. 149 yards and a touchdown, plus a receiving touchdown.
WR: Cole Beasley ($4,400) — 23.80 — I call him Cheap Ass Cole Beasley, and that’s meant as a compliment. How is this dude still so cheap? He’s Dak Prescott’s favorite target and was facing a beat up Green Bay secondary. After zero touchdowns in his first four games, Beasley has scored in two straight, with two touchdowns in this game.
WR: Eddie Royal ($4,000) — 9.40 — I just wanted a receiver in Chicago’s offense this week, with the legendary Brian Hoyer facing a Jaguars’ secondary that has struggled a bit early on. In retrospect, I picked the wrong receiver, as Cameron Meredith (11 receptions) caught for 113 yards and Alshon Jeffery (seven receptions) for 93 yards.
WR: Emmanuel Sanders ($7,000) — 8.00 — This game was weird. It is getting really hard for me to deny that playing guys on Thursday Night is just not a great idea. It’s a short week and the football ain’t always great. There are always one or two studs, but I never seem to pick them, so I think I’ll stop playing on Thursday Night. Denver’s offense couldn’t do crap, and thus, Sanders didn’t do crap. That’s my analysis.
TE: Jimmy Graham ($4,900) — 14.90 — Is Jimmy Graham back? He had over 20 points in Weeks 3 and 4, and nearly eclipsed 15 last week. His targets have been near 10 a game since Week 3. He may have finally found a place in Seattle’s offense.
Flex: Fozzy Whittaker ($4,300) — 1.30 — I didn’t think Jonathan Stewart would play this week, and facing New Orleans’s defense is usually a green light to play the running back they face. Stewart had 85 rushing yards and his only two touchdowns of the season, and I played the backup. I really should stop wasting my money on my irrational confidence.
D/ST: Steelers ($3,400) — 1.00 — I went all-in on the Steelers this week, the ONE week the Miami Dolphins decided to be a competent football team. Fantasy Football Lord, take me now.
QB: Andy Dalton ($6,000) — The Cleveland Browns are not good at football, and the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t bad at it. So despite last week’s Pittsburgh-Miami debacle, I’m going all-in on the Bengals this week. It starts with Andy Dalton. He’s posted two 20-plus fantasy games in a row, both on the road. It’s funny, because every game Dalton has played on the road this season has actually been 20-plus points, while at home, he’s posted 11- and 14-point games. One was against Denver’s defense, and the other was Thursday Night. I have confidence Dalton welcomes back Browns’ coach Hue Jackson to Cincy and makes him regret leaving.
RB: David Johnson ($7,400) — It’s not a great matchup (Seattle), but it is at home and it is David Johnson. He’s been the best and most prolific running back in the league this season, and there’s a good chance he’ll be able to keep it up, even against Seattle.
RB: DeMarco Murray ($7,200) — Murray is coming off his least productive fantasy game of the season against Cleveland, posting just 12.5 points. It wasn’t a bad non-fantasy day for him, with 65 yards and a touchdown, but what was holding him back was no receptions. Catching and running with the ball has been what has gotten him over 21 fantasy points a game before last week. He’s facing the Colts this week, who just gave up 35 points to Lamar Miller. Murray is a must-play this week.
WR: A.J. Green ($8,600) — This just feels like a big week for A.J. Green. I already talked Browns earlier: they’re not good. I think Andy Dalton will have a good day, which gives Green a greater chance at a good day.
WR: Cameron Meredith ($4,700) — Cameron Meredith is everything I hate about fantasy football. This is being written after the Thursday Night game, in which Meredith posted 2.20 points following weeks of 30.6 and 25.3 points. Meredith would have probably been fine if the Packers didn’t break Brian Hoyer’s arm (damn them for that), but it is just such a typical thing to happen to me. I play a guy — who is still cheap, so if I have big days from a few other guys, I may be fine in the end — who came out of nowhere and had two big weeks, but then when I play him, has his least productive game of the season. The dude had 27 total targets in Weeks 5 and 6!!! Last night: two.
WR: Ty Montgomery ($3,000) — This is one of those plays where you’re happy they did well, but pissed you didn’t play the guy that did better than him. Montgomery may be a must-play moving forward, as he is essentially the Packers’ running back until James Starks returns despite being listed as a wide receiver. He’s just an all-around playmaker, no matter the situation. Montgomery had 10 receptions (13 targets) for 66 yards Thursday night, along with nine rushes for 60 yards. Add it all together and it equals out to 22.6 points, a fantastic night for a guy who pretty much costs nothing. But, there’s always the guy you didn’t play. Davante Adams ($3,900) had 13 receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns (41.20 points). Randall Cobb also had a better night with 28.60 points, but he was more expensive than the other two at $5,800.
Lesson from all of this is that maybe we should just play all three of these guys — and don’t forget Jordy Nelson, who actually was the one who missed out on this night — and see if they can all click again. Not having a real running back makes the receivers a lot more valuable.
TE: Zach Miller ($3,800) — I also had Miller on Thursday Night, a Hoyer beneficiary. Hoyer really could have had a good night — he was on the verge of going five straight games with over 300 yards passing on no interceptions — but again, the only way to stop a legend like that is to hurt them. And that the Packers did. I never expect huge games from my tight ends, perhaps because they are rather cheap. Miller had six points, which I can live with. It just hurts knowing he could have ended up with double that if Hoyer didn’t get hurt.
Flex: Devonta Freeman ($5,900) — This spot came down to Freeman and Kansas City’s Spencer Ware, who is still worth the play despite Jamaal Charles’s return. The Chargers don’t defend pass-catching running backs too well — C.J. Anderson had an easy receiving touchdown last week that was called back due to a penalty.
Ware actually had a day against San Diego, too, in Week 1, with seven receptions for 129 yards on top of 70 rushing yards and a touchdown.
With Atlanta at home and hot — especially on offense — Freeman could have a really nice day.
D/ST: Bills ($3,400) — Buffalo is playing well overall as of late, with four wins in a row. Assuming Jay Ajayi doesn’t rush for over 200 yards again, I think the Bills could squeeze an interception or two out of Ryan Tannehill and hold them to 10–15 points.
Week 7 Picks
Week 6: 9–6
Packers over Bears
Giants over Rams
Ravens over Jets
Chiefs over Saints
Bills over Dolphins
Vikings over Eagles
Raiders over Jaguars
Bengals over Browns
Redskins over Lions
Titans over Colts
Falcons over Chargers
Buccaneers over 49ers
Patriots over Steelers
Seahawks over Cardinals
Broncos over Texans