Typically at this point I would talk about notable omissions. Unfortunately, in this class, even bad players end up ranked because there's just not enough players to actually push some fairly weak players out of board range. Though also, past iterations of the board have only been 60 players long so past years might have talked about Immanuel Quickley (Undersized non-handling shooters tend to not be very valuable) or Cassius Stanley (Understanding what's going on on the court in front of you matters), but both of them have pretty well-defined strengths and weaknesses. That said, Isaiah Stewart has no redeeming features, and he's somehow still a better prospect than Ashton Hagans. Also Skylar Mays, who I think is an incredibly smart person who gets credit for feel as a basketball player based on that and not based on his actual feel. Additionally, I've traditionally discussed potential 2 way candidates who I wouldn't draft, but I think are well suited to a 2 way deal in case they develop well in an NBA team context. Again, this is impacted by ranking 75 players rather than 60, so guys like CJ Elleby, Yves Pons, Cassius Stanley, and Borisa Simanic would've all normally been discussed here but end up ranked instead. But also I think guys like Chris Smith, Trent Forrest, Emmitt Williams, Cassius Winston, and Nick Richards all are reasonable bets for 2 way deals because of some open unknowns. So now, pre-addressing guys where I'm fairly far away from consensus:
So this is going to be the big one that people disagree with I suspect, but:
Maledon's shooting mechanics have a high degree of manipulability, which is something that matters a lot for shooters that develop to high, high levels.
Maledon has a high level burst that he uses effectively in conjunction with his size and ability to finish through contact as a slasher
Those two factors matter a ton and when combined with his lack of clear weaknesses, they are more than sufficient to make him the best player in this class, especially in the absence of another good option.
I'm relatively high on him when compared to draft twitter, I'm aware. The track record for guys with any kind of athleticism and a standing reach over 9'4" drafted in the first round is pretty solid if you start after Greg Oden, and that's omitting Mitchell Robinson, Deandre Jordan, and Hassan Whiteside, all of whom were early 2nd rounders. If his median case is Hassan Whiteside that doesn't think he needs to post up, then that's a pretty good outcome for this draft.
The short version of the argument here is that guys his size don't do what he does. Is the competition awful? Sure. But FIBA play is usually enough to be usable. Does he have physical issues? I think they're a little overstated, but it's clearly a weakness. But I expect he'll be a positive player on both ends of the floor, and he's the only extreme upside bet in this class. At some point, while there is risk, you just have to bet on guys like that.
Zeke Nnaji/Onyeka Okongwu
These two are likely going to play the same role; They're short roll/pinch post bigs who make plays off the dribble and with their finishing on the offensive end, and mobility guys first on the defensive end because of limitations to their physical tools (Nnaji's length, Okongwu's height). Nnaji is far better at the primary traits of that role. He's a better handler, better finisher, and better mobility guy on the perimeter. He also has a better chance of shooting, which is the first additional skill you want to add to that role. Okongwu, meanwhile, has a far better chance of Edit: developing beyond and outside of that role. Better flashes of passing, explosiveness around the rim, etc. But I generally buy that Okongwu's flashes are infrequent enough to not make up for him being worse at his NBA role.
Ball is a 99th percentile passer. Ball is a 0th percentile rim finisher. And a low percentile shooter. And a low percentile defender. And a low percentile physical tools guy (beyond his positional height, which is good). His passing is an overwhelming strength, and at some point any significant outlier skill is enough. This is easily the most likely ranking on this board to be wrong as well, because wherever he goes he's going to get a ton of usage dumped into him and that's extremely valuable to players like him. But there are just too many weaknesses that were displayed against low level competition to justify ranking him higher, especially if you don't buy the upside as more than a 1% case, since it would require so many different things to go right.
Perry might be the single biggest divergence in how he was used at the college level and what he's actually good at. He's a super high level pinch post guy, who can attack mismatches at the 4 or 5, hit generally good passes, and hold his own fairly well defensively. Basically, he can do a lot of what Julius Randle does when Randle is trying, without being a sticking point in the offense. But Ben Howland is an outdated dinosaur of a coach and as a result Perry got to spend almost the entire year as a traditional post 4. And even in that absurd miscast, he was still an extremely efficient player. Yes, his decision-making verges on awful at times, but that can be highly coaching influenced and didn't seem to be an issue in FIBA play, where, when separated from Howland he was very good. Perry is a reasonable upside bet as a result.
There's so much incorrect information floating around about Hayes. He's been credited with improving his ability to burst by guys, even though he very clearly still can't beat any disciplined defender consistently. He gets a ton of credit as a team defender, but most of the rotations he's making aren't processing based but are instead just his team encouraging all of their guards to cheat off of shooters above the break hard. His on ball defense is a catastrophe, getting blown by at LaMelo level frequencies. His 3 point shot, which has been occasionally projected as usable due to his not great but probably usable stepback, is not usable because he doesn't actually do any shot prep for C+S situations. There's also the handedness issue, though that's fairly minor. Ultimately, I just haven't seen a remotely satisfactory answer in the film to the question "What does Killian Hayes do against a disciplined defender". And Hayes is good at getting defenders out of discipline, between an effective floater and his weird ability to segment his arms to throw off the timing of a pass. But we've already seen middling EuroCup/G-BBL teams stall him out by just staying down, so it's hard to see a world where NBA teams can't manage that.
Toppin might be the best play finisher in the class. He also has some ability to create off the dribble, both for himself and others. The problem is that ability to create is merely okay, when it really needs to be outright good in order to make up for his defensive ineptitude, because the play finishing alone just isn't quite enough.
Isaac Okoro/Herbert Jones
Herb Jones is the best defensive wing prospect since MKG, and like I said with LaMelo, at some point an outlier skill is enough. He's also a better ball handlepasser than the likely lottery PG on his own team. He's even merely a below average finisher now, despite having been LaMelo level bad last year. Is there a chance he's not offensively enough to make the league? Sure. But again, at some point it's worth the bet that he meets the bare minimum for his outlier defensive skill to take over. Okoro, meanwhile, is a similar player but he trades defensive acumen (And a fair bit of it -- the gap in them as defenders is large) for even better passing than Herb's already good ability and high level ability to finish at the rim. Basically, Jones has the bigger outlier skill, but Okoro is way more likely to hit minimum thresholds, so it makes sense to have Okoro higher, but both players in the same general area.
Luka Garza/Vernon Carey Jr.
There are 3 traits that an ultra-big must have in order to succeed at this point, IMO. They must be a smart passer, they must at minimum try on defense, and they must be able to play NBA style ball on top of any post possessions they do. Garza hits all 3. Carey hits 1 if we're being optimistic about his pick and roll ability. Which isn't to say Carey's totally irredeemable. He makes some good post seals, which is a minor weakness for Garza, and he has a chance of shooting, which is something.
Josh Green has been raised as a 3+D with a little bit of auxiliary ball handling guy for years now, which is fairly unique since most high level RSCI guys are the best player on their team and aren't pigeonholed from day 1. Only problem is, there are significant problems with all 3 of his shot (right-left movement and mediocre results indicate a probably below average shooter), defense (He isn't watching his teammates and reacting to what they do -- he's watching the opponent and reacting to what the opponent does, and that causes his rotations to be frequently late) and his auxiliary secondary handling (Poor creativity as a finisher) and the auxiliary ball handling, which is just inconsequential. There's some level of fixability to those, but generally I don't think I'd take him any higher than this.
Bolmaro has gotten some hype in recent days, in large part because when he beats a guy it's usually by a high, high level dribble move, or by a great pass. Only issue is he can't actually get by guys, so when things work they look great but far too many possessions (Especially when he plays actual ACB/Euroleague level competition) are just spent dribbling to nowhere because he lacks the burst. Similarly, while he's praised as an on-ball defensive guy, he struggles to actually move his feet with anyone with actual speed. So that's my board for this year pending whatever combine information we get. Please feel free to ask any questions, but please also remember that this is not a projection as to where the players will be drafted, and try to keep discussion relevant to the board at hand.
NBA Sports Betting Breakdown (March 9th) - Best Bet on the board is CHA +4.5 #CheatSheetPros!
NBA Sports Betting Report (March 9th, 2020) from CheatSheetPros! << Up arrow if you follow! >> QUICK NEWS AND NOTES: New ALGO projected scores are on fire!We had a hole in the margins that I noticed and was going to apply a quick fix.Now our NBA sheets auto update and have the games as Tier 1, Tier 2 or Slight Lean for the sides if we are looking at a play.We went 5-1 last night on sides and had a +5.5 and +8 dog projected to win outright and both won! Definitions & References: O/E is offensive efficiency and that is how many points scored per 100 possessions. D/E is defensive efficiency and that is how many points allowed per 100 possessions. PLAYS TO CONSIDER: RECOMMENDED PLAY: CHA +4.5 ALGO PROJECTED SCORE: CHA winning by 10 or more. ANALYSIS: Sheet is popping off some crazy stats in this one. CHA has a better eFG% by +13% and that is a HUGE number, typically we see 2-4%. ATL’s eFG% right now ranks 30th over the L3 games while CHA is 3rd best in the NBA over the same span. CHA also shooting the 3 ball 13% better and we have them projected to have about 10 more FT attempts in this game which is nice when you are taking points. CHA is leading the O/E column 1.15 (5th best) vs. 0.95 (30th) and D/E are pretty tight at 1.13 to 1.15. CHA should be able to control this game as they are projected to dominate the boards and they play at the lowest pace in the NBA at 93.5. Cha is only allowing 43.7 opponent boards per game over the L3 and ALT is allowing 62.3! Wow! Neither team is great but I’m riding the hot team getting +4.5 points. I don’t mind a play on the under 223.5. Vegas opened this at 225 and it’s down to 223.5. We have it projected anywhere from 207-213 so safely on the under. RECENT GAMES: I like to look at the recent games and compare the opponents because stats can skew if a team is playing dominate NBA teams or tanking teams. CHA is impressive beating HOU 108-99, then only losing to Denver by 2 and Spurs by 1. They only lost by 8 to MIL and prior to that beat TOR by 3. Solid teams and they are playing close games. ATL lost by 17 to Memphis, lost by 6 to a terrible WAS team that doesn’t play defense and then another loss to Memphis 127-88. BETTING TRENDS: CHA is 6-0 ATS in their L6 games. CHA total has gone under of 9 of last 11 games. RECOMMENDED PLAY: TOR +4.5 ALGO PROJECTED SCORE: I like to see the L3 Model AND the New Algo on the same side but they are split here. L3 has TOR winning the game by 8 and the New Algo has Utah winning by 7. Sheet has a slight lean to Utah -4.5 but I don’t like it. ANALYSIS: These two teams are almost dead on in the efficiency stats but the main difference is TOR playing at a pace that is 9.6 more possessions per game and scoring 13.4 more points per game. Everything in this game is close: Blocks & Steals 13.4 to 13.0, Turnovers 12.0 to 14.0, O/E 1.13 to 1.10 and D/E 1.06 to 1.04. There is the ever so slightest edge in rebounding to Utah as most games they are -1 and TOR is -6. In a game this close I have to take the points here with Toronto at +4.5. RECENT GAMES: TOR beat SAC by 5, GSW by 8, PHO by 9 and then lost to Denver. Utah squeaked by DET winning by 6, BOS by 5, NYK by 8, CLE by 13 and WAS by 10. BETTING TRENDS: TOR is 1-5-1 ATS in their last 6 games. TOR totals have gone over in 4 of last 5. TOR is 7-1 ATS in their L8 games vs. Utah. MILW vs. DEN – I didn’t break down this game because there is no Giannis so the stats change drastically when a player like this is not playing. We have the slightest of leans to Denver -5.5 but I think this game is going to be close to that number and I don’t feel confident in giving out Denver. When Giannis is ON the court they score 115.6 and allow 99.3 and when he is OFF the court they score 112.9 and allow 106.3. So much close games when he is off. MILW played last night and lost to PHO in a high scoring affair so I’m worried about their fatigue for this game. NEW for 2020!– Follow Us onTWITTER: @ CheatSheetPros and get any last minutes plays we like! Thank you for reading and good luck! Haze
So, you might know me from Twitter or Insta. A very nice guy from Slate contacted me asking for my feedback on Sumo and CV19 etc. and I answered his questions, um, fully.. possibly got carried away, I even tried to make it a bit for the layman. Today Brej9 contacts me and says "hey, your quote got used in a Slate article". I happily took a look and they only used a smidgen of what I wrote. No bad on their part; it was my choice to write so much. Brej9 suggested I should at least put up what I wrote somewhere. I didn't expect the top thread would be the very Slate article when I came here.. Anyway, here it is. "Can you describe broadly how coronavirus has impacted wrestling?" Just as everywhere else precautions have been put in place. Stables have been disinfected and all the other protocols for hand washing etc instituted, and all wrestlers(known as rikishi in Japan) from very early on, have been required to wear masks when out. It is normally possible in most stables for fans/supporters to arrange to go and see morning practice and see their favorite rikishi. This was banned some time back,and a few stables compensated by web streaming their practices (quite an innovation in sumo,which changes glacially). However,all stables are in the Tokyo region,where COVID19 cases were quickly rising,so no contact practice was instituted (mostly sumo style conditioning)and what limited streaming there was,was stopped. The most visible effect of COVID19 was the honbasho (official tournament)itself. Honbasho,held 6 times a year are the spectacle of sumo. This is the sumo that everyone can see if they turn on NHK, the government's public channel between 3pm and 6pm during a two week tournament,and the only competition that actually affects rikishi's rankings. Every 2 months a rankings sheet, called the banzuke, written painstakingly in beautiful calligraphy, is issued for a honbasho. The banzuke has been issued regularly for centuries and is an honored tradition. It is the feeling that if a banzuke has come out,it must be played out. So there was some pressure on to see it through. No COVID infections had been found among rikishi, so the decision was made to go forward with no audience. Even more so than most sports,the audience is an integral part of sumo. The really expensive "seats" (just seat cushions on floor) are right at the foot of the raised clay ring, so the absence of an audience is immediately palpable. Every sumo day is begun and ended with rituals. The ring entering ceremony of all upper ranked wrestlers in their colorful apron style kesho-mawashi,and the following ring entering ceremony by the grand champions known as yokozuna,are the most visible of these rituals. For some fans,these two time honored rituals are the main event. So,for everyone watching on TV,it was a very different experience to watch the silent parade of colorfully adorned rikishi,climbing onto the ring,with no adoring fans calling out their names. The ring-entering ceremony of the 2 active grand champion yokozuna, was even more discomforting. In this ceremony, a yokozuna goes through a number of long ago ritualized poses and stomps his feet at a few predetermined moments,and the audience,in unison shouts out a hearty "yoisho!" in time with each stomp. It was quite an empty feeling to see this and "hear" the yokozuna stomp in compete silence,when watching on TV. There were many comments about this from the public and the media. Though these ceremonies are rituals carried out in accordance with Shinto, Japan's original religion before contact with other countries, the fact that it is actually and originally a religious ritual is easy to forget. I think one gets over the initial discomfort at these rituals carried out to an empty venue,you start to remember and appreciate the rituals for what they were and still are,a solemn entreaty to the gods,a sacred consecrating of the ring to prepare and purify it for the bouts that were to come. Heck,you could even hear the yokozuna champions' stomping, which is usually drowned out by the crowd. Much could be said of of the changes in the bouts themselves. In the upper rank bouts,every lurch and throw attempt,even the lulls,are actively oohed and awed in unison by the crowd - that very crowd which the two grappling rikishi could fall into at any second - but not this time.. The lack of that background "music" made the sumo rather boring to watch at first. But again,many began to notice how well you could hear the impact at the initial charge,and the grunts and gasps of the rikishi,and the sound of the impact as they hit the clay. In some bouts, losing rikishi with no audience buffer to slow them down would go wheeling quite far into the seats. The rikishi themselves began to report that though they were taken aback at first with no audience,many eventually realized that they could concentrate fully on their sumo without distraction. The experience of sumo this time around became something else,a very different atmosphere to be sure,but we came to enjoy it. "Why has sumo been able to hold some competitions while other sports (e.g. the NBA)have had to cancel everything? Is sumo better protected from coronavirus?" In many cases,as the article you linked laid out,the honbasho was able to go ahead because sumo itself is more insulated from the outside world. Rikishi,by and large,live a communal life in the 40-odd stables that exist in sumo. Rikishi's lives are more like soldiers in a barracks,very different from the life led by usual athletes. The stables and the JSA (Japan Sumo Association) have much more control over rikishi than most any sport could imagine. What they wear, what and when they eat,when and where they can go out,whether or not they can drive cars (they can't), is all strictly controlled. So, in such a life, insulating rikishi from COVID19 infection could be largely done by simply cutting off access to the general public. And as I said,the banzuke rankings had already been made, so the impetus,with no known COVID19 infections among the rikishi, was to go forward. The stables and JSA are very aware of course,that in this communal life (they all sleep ,eat, bathe, practice in very close quarters)the chance of an infection running rampant through a stable is very high, so rikishi are being monitored. Whether precautions put in place is enough remains to be seen. At this point,the next honbasho official tournament for May has been delayed two weeks,but is still slated to go forward. There has been one confirmed case of COVID19 in a stable,but no subsequent cases as of yet. "Out of an abundance of caution" the JSA could cancel the honbasho now,but the sport of sumo, as a centuries old time honored tradition, is actually overseen by a government department. The Japanese government has not instituted lockdown orders of the scale seen in many other countries,and compliance is mostly voluntary. The government has pushed off a decision about whether to continue or strengthen any anti-COVID restrictions off until early May. Though I haven't heard it said outright,I am sure the JSA is following the government's lead on this one,and waiting to hear what will be done nationally before it makes a move. Having said that,the common wisdom is that though it is waffling to do so, that the government will extend, if not strengthen the restrictions put in place and the JSA will very likely follow suit and cancel the honbasho. "Have you heard anything about there being more betting on sumo wrestling now that other sports are cancelled?" Gambling on most sports is illegal in Japan,and sumo is no exception. In fact a big scandal in sumo in 2011 was set off by number of former rikishi,who had gone on to work for the JSA,illegally gambling on baseball. As in many countries where it is illegal, some people use websites to make bets with bookmakers in other countries where it is legal, such as the UK. In general, the Japanese are a very law abiding, and perceived vice avoiding populace, so I don't think illegal gambling or gambling through international websites is very widespread. However,a net search did reveal more sites than I expected catering to sports gambling through said sites,and many did specifically mention that there are more international sites taking bets on sumo with the dearth of active sports for everyone to bet on. As a cororally,the excitement around sumo outside Japan was more palpable this last honbasho. I had a number of people retweeting my posts, saying "the only sport going on anywhere right now!" so I am sure anybody inclined to bet on sports was looking for avenues with which to do it.
NBA Sports Betting Picks (February 28th) from CheatSheetPros!
NBA Sports Betting Picks (February 28th, 2020) from CheatSheetPros! PLAYS TO CONSIDER: Our Model Projection:Toronto 112 vs. CHA 92 TORONTO -14 – I prefer this in a money line parlay because I hate laying double digit numbers in the NBA but Toronto has a massive advantage here. They lead offensive efficiency 1.05 to 0.92, and defensive efficiency 0.89 (#1 in the NBA) to 1.13. They also have a massive advantage on the blocks and steals 16.0 to 9.6 and lead NBA at 7 blocks per game! They are also shooting 11.6 more 3P’ers per game and hitting them at a 37% clip. Their eFG% is also 11% higher than CHA. Our Model Projection:SACRAMENTO 110 vs. MEMPHIS 105 SACRAMENTO +3.5 – I have them winning this game outright as a dog so also like the ML here since you are getting “+” money. SAC has a massive edge in efficiency at 1.09 to 0.98 on offense and then 1.01 to 1.19 on defense. Memphis has lost 4 straight and 4-6 in their L10 games so I’m riding with SAC who has a +8% eFG%, 8% betting 3P% and 11% better FT%. Our Model Projection:OKC 120 vs. MIL 117 OKC +11.5 – I think MIL wins this game as they are 26-3 at home and playing great ball right now. Also 9-1 in their L10 games and won 4 straight. However, OKC is also playing well as they are 8-2 in their L10 games and they have won 5 straight. This should be a good matchup but I think OKC can stay inside 11.5 and I’m going to hit the OKC money line a little as this one should be a pretty big “+” spot. These teams rank out pretty close to each other so grab the points. Our Model Projection:WASHINGTON 116 vs. UTAH 109 WASHINGTON +10.5 – Let me start by saying 90% of the money is on UTAH in this game so I’d play this one light. I like WASH money line for another shot at a big “+” score. Utah has lost 4 straight games and 4-6 in their L10 games. Washington is shooting 11% better beyond the arc, 7 more FG attempts per game and they have a massive edge in blocks and steals at +5.4. Utah has the advantage on the glass but if WAS is hitting the 3’s and continuing their massive run at the “steals” category they could pull out a “W” here! TOTALS WE LIKE: WASHINGTON / UTAH over 232 Both teams are giving up more points than they are scoring so this one could be a shootout. WAS has a 1.10 D/E and Utah a 1.21! WAS also plays at a pace of around 112.2. We projected the pace of this game at 109.8 with an average offensive efficiency of 1.08 and defensive efficiency of 1.15 putting this around 241 possible points on the high end. Our model has this sliding under but I like a play on the over here. WAS in hitting the over in 59% of their games and 52% of the time in Utah games. DETROIT / PHOENIX under 218.5 I hate betting unders! I typically also FADE the play if it is an under but something is jumping out for this game. We are projecting the pace of this game at 99.3 which is SLOW AS F**K. We like this to squeak in under the total. Opened at 220 and already moved down to 218.5 and holding the majority of the bets. DALLAS / MIAMI over 228.5 Projected pace of this game is 109.2 putting it around 238.7 total points if you are running off the projected pace model. We have this game scoring 241 almost across the board and only in one scenario did we have it hitting 228. Both teams are killing it with the over covers at 63% and 61%. Slight this one over and cash that ticket! NEW for 2020!– Follow Us onTWITTER: @ CheatSheetPros and get any last minutes plays we like! Thank you for reading and good luck! Haze
Australian Open First Round Men's Singles (WTA First Round to follow)
The Australian Open directors are getting a lot of flack, and rightfully so. Running a tournament is incredibly time-consuming as you have to fix the draw, disrespect the players health, be willfully ignorant and not mention worldwide issues that are within miles of the location, and then there is all that scheduling. I am inclined to cut them some slack though, as very few things that draw complaint and ire are black and white. The Australian Open is a HUGE source of revenue for Melbourne, and aside from aussie rules football might be one of the largest events held in the calendar year. My first inkling given the air quality being reported (1 day outside the equivalent of smoking 20 packs of cigarettes was reported on the news in towns near the fire) was that the event was in real danger of being cancelled, and while it is irresponsible to allow players to compete if they are in danger, the directors are under tremendous financial pressure to make this event happen. We all will be keeping a close eye on the players ability to dig deep in these 3/5 matches, and given the physical toll the AO has already been known to take due to the heat I expect this to be a very gritty event. For the first time in a few years I don’t think there is a clear favorite to run away with the men’s or women’s title, and that spells hungry tennis from the guys who are in the hunt. In the men’s I think Nadal, Federer, Novak, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Khachanov, and Rublev will have a strangehold on the later rounds, with Berretini and Shapovalov being the darkhorse candidates. The women’s has Barty, Pliskova, Osaka, and a resurgent Serena (hasn’t played a top player but she improved at each event last year and there’s no reason to think she won’t be a bit calmer this year if she reaches the later stages of an event) looking to get busy on adding to their already impressive legacies, and I have to say Osaka showed a level of patience and ballstriking several times in her run at Brisbane that made her look almost unbeatable. Her backhand seems to have improved as well as she’s been able to hit sharper angles than usual which enables her to utilize the slightly unorthodox down the line pass that she hits. Fuck all that two weeks from now noise though. Let’s pick winners. I’ll be doing the WTA also and editing it in here (might make a second post if it doesn't fit due to character length), but I wanted to get this up early. Also character max (40k) doesn't let me post it all so the rest is going in the comments. Nadal Dellien : While he should win this comfortably, this is a big fu to Nadal to play this guy in the early rounds. I often think directors place guys who Federer and Nadal and Novak are very similar to against them in the early rounds, and while this benefits Federer playing guys like Kohl and Gojo and skill players who don’t take a big toll on the bones, Nadal gets the short end of the stick playing Schwartzman and other grinders seemingly nonstop. Dellien had a lot of bettors hearts hurting with his gutsy performance against Kwon last year at the USO, and he’ll extend rallies here as much as he can. Given his preference for clay, his court positioning isn’t going to be such that Nadal will have much pressure, but he (Nadal) will have to earn all his points. Nadal in 3 annoying sets. Delbonis Sousa : Two good dudes. Delbonis is coming off qualifying in Adelaide before losing to hometown favorite Duckworth and Sousa is coming off a disappointing loss to Vasek Pospisil where he was literally hit off the court. That is something that for a journeyman like Sousa who prides himself on making matches physical is a tough one to take, and although generally he’d be favored over Delbonis, this one may be difficult for him since he doesn’t have a lot of matches or confidence. Delbonis has top level offense when he’s serving well, and his backhand is a cannon, but this is not his best surface and he is prone to throwing in 4-5 poor points in a row. Expect this to go 4 or more sets, with Sousa’s backhand errors and Delbonis’ serving issues deciding the outcome. I’d lean Sousa. Eubanks Gojowczyk : Eubanks qualifying for the AO is a big step for him. He has a great serve and big swings but he struggles with his movement and consistency. Gojowczyk is the guy you’d hate to play doubles with until you randomly won the tournament. He will hit the ball awkwardly into the net over and over trying to make his shots perfect, but when he’s on he can take the raquet out of anyone’s hands like a poorman’s Martin Klizan. The errors won’t help him here, as his shots don’t have to perfect against Eubanks. Given Eubanks usual status as a WC entrant, his qualifying run has to lend itself to him having a pretty good chance to win some sets here, and his serving game and Gojo’s awkward returning mean this will likely be decided in tiebreakers. It’s hard to bet against the more experienced player in Gojo, but I could see either one taking this in 4-5 sets. Kovalik Carreno Busta : Kovalik is one of the few players to actually come back on a protected ranking and lose for a year and then gain traction. You love to see it and Marcel-Stebe is another one who seemed destined to be off the tour and then kinda got things together eventually. Kovalik has funky offense and is a solid challenger threat on clay to anyone he plays. This is the wrong first round for him. Although PCB went down fairly quickly to Lloyd Harris this past week, he finished up last year in fairly decent form after a horrendous return from injury that saw Benoit Paire use him as target practice several times, and 15-40 become his usual starting point in his service games. PCB may drop a set but barring injury his defense and consistent pace of play should be too much for Kovalik. PCB in 4 Kyrgios Sonego : “What are you gonna do, go bet on Kajeerios?” said Miguel. My friends have not been wholly supportive of my decision to bet tennis fulltime, and have not been supportive of the proper pronunciation of any of these people’s names. Further still, they think that gambling and Nick Kyrgios go anywhere near each other. They don’t. As a -700 favorite against Lorenzo Sonego, there should be no way that Nick can lose this match. He has a solid backhand, the best serve on tour when he’s motivated, and a ton of skill. Unfortunately, ignorance is bliss, and Nick is wasting his best years not training and not competing because of nothing we can blame him for. Talented athletes come and go in sport, and their burden is to find the motivation when they likely have always just been able to “turn it up” when they wanted to win. In a sport where people train outrageously hard, Nick somehow finds himself in the same position. That ability to turn it up numbs the losses. “I don’t care about this,” is a fair statement and “I could win if I wanted to” is dangerous knowledge because it means you really only do win when you want to. “What do I really want” is too tricky a question for someone as superficial as Nick and so his mental struggles on the court will likely continue. I expect Sonego to steal a set here as he has a good bit of skill and is hungry to take the next step in his ascent, but really this is players at different stages of their career, and Nick should be ready to contend for a title now. Still, if a child doesn’t want to eat their broccoli no amount of promising them it’s good for them will work. Nick in 4 or Sonego in 4 noisy whiney bitchfit sets. Cuevas Simon : Simon played well in his one match at the ATP cup but fell quickly to Chardy, who then seemed too tired to compete against PCB a round later. This doesn’t give me much confidence, and for the past two seasons it seems like Simon is able to beat everyone one week, then about as good as a pusher can be without winning for the rest. This is a winnable match for him given Cuevas’ struggles to find consistent form on hardcourt, and his defensive prowess being his best form. Cuevas has the offense, variety, and physical ability to make hardcourt matches close against most of the top 100, but doesn’t really string the wins together as he tends to experience surges in form within matches. It won’t be lost on either of these veterans that NK likely waits in the next round and he is willing to gift anyone a win at any time. The “this is his home event he won’t disrespect it” idea would make sense but to me that just adds to the looming frustration of a loss that sits in the back of his head as he decides whether or not to give his best effort. I gotta stop talking about this guy. No pick here and I expect Simon to come through. Uchiyama Ymer : Mikael Ymer has been the hottest player not quite on the tour for the past two months. He’s won a ton of matches on the challenger circuit and played moderately well in the nextgen cup. Uchiyama flies under the radar but is exactly the player to stretch Ymer if he makes errors. The match will be on Ymer’s raquet but you have to think how often you have been seeing Uchiyama’s name in the draws at majors and how the pressure of being the “name” player will affect Ymer’s ability to perform. Still, this is giving too much credence to Ymer’s past as an inconsistent player. His athletic ability and serve should get him through this one. Ymer in 5. Vilella Martinez Khachanov : I love Khachanov’s game but am consistently nervous when he plays qualifiers in the early rounds. He plays such a high intensity game that he seems to bring people up to his level, and Vilella Martinez who I’ll admit I’ve never seen play has been snagging people all week in the qualifiers that he was not expected to. Can he overcome a top 20 player in his first major on tour? Likely not, but I expect him to acquit himself nicely and possible even take a set if Khachanov is still finding problems in consistency on his forehand wing. Khachanov in 3-4. Monfils Lu : I’m assuming Lu is in on a protected ranking or something as I haven’t seen him active on tour since giving Zverev a heart attack way back when. Monfils has been equally inactive but this is one of those “Monfils looked in great form in the 1st round” matches and given Pospisil and FAA in the next two rounds Monfils should be primed for a good run here at the AO. Monfils in 3 unless he really doesn’t make an effort. Karlovic Pospisil : The fairy godmother returns! Karlovic serving looks like a fairy granting wishes with their magic wand. I hope he wins this, but he probably won’t. Pospisil is seemingly approaching the levels that people thought he would in the past before he struggles with back injuries, and I’m still not convinced of his potential to be anything other than another Dimitrov type overrated underperforming talent, but his ballstriking is solid enough here to win the few rallies they’ll get into. Pospisil in 4 tbs. Duckworth Bedene : This seems like one of the cheapest games of the first round, with Bedene sitting at just -160. Duckworth played well and beat Delbonis this past week, but really hasn’t been in any real matches on tour besides playing Andy Murray in one of his earlier comebacks. I get that the guy is a hometown favorite but Bedene has been a consistent challenger winner and a tour 2nd and 3rd rounder for 5 years now, and I think his serve/forehand combo are enough to maintain control of this match. Bedene in 3-4. Gulbis FAA : Rough one for Felix to start the tournament with. Gulbis is Nick Kyrgios travelled back in time to warn him to make an effort, but instead he noticed the tour hadn’t really progressed that far and just hopped into qualifying. Gulbis marching easily through qualifying is tough for any first round opponent since his height and power make him able to hold serve at the end of sets when the qualifiers offense is supposed to falter. FAA had a rough patch at the end of 2019 but got it together after the FAA cup and was hitting with excellent length in his loss against Rublev this week. With Rublev pegged as a future #1 by John McEnroe last year, this is a good sign that FAA should have a decent Australian Open. What we’re all expecting though is the dominant 3 set future #1 beating from FAA and I’m not sure if it will go that simply. FAA in 5 or fewer if he’s able to win the tiebreakers. Fritz Griekspoor : I don’t even think given some of Fritz’ past performances that he should be favored in this matchup. Griekspoor has a big game, a great compact serve, and is in form on these courts after coming through qualifying. Fritz will need to come out early with solid serving in order to put some doubt in Talon’s mind. The “working your way into the match” pushing the backhand into play bs that Fritz falls into will have this one going 5 sets before he knows it and guess which player has been playing more tennis recently (it isn’t Fritz). Man I do not like the US strategy of awarding WCs nonstop to players who don’t win and I think it has poisoned Fritz and Tiafoe and a few others who have the game to compete but lack the killer instinct. Griekspoor in 4. Ivashka Anderson : Unfortunate for Ivashka to pull a better version of himself. Ivashka boast a big serve and forehand and unlike many big men can play defense and hang in a rally. Anderson has been very inactive but is a better version of this. While his losses can be bizarre (Pella dispatching him in straights) he did fairly well at the ATP Cup against a hapless Christian Garin and should be a solid favorite to come through here. In the past I’ve been guilty of backing Ivashka against the questionable tour names like Monfils which is a fun sweat but hasn’t produced any dollars, so this time I will sit quietly. Anderson in 4-5. Bolt ARV : If it’s tennis in Australia, Alexander Bolt seems to be up for the task. A consistent qualifier and performer in the early 250 events, Bolt is a high energy player with a big serve and a compact backhand. This is not a great matchup for him, as ARV was hit off the court by Tommy Paul but first beat Munar and Thompson, two guys who don’t make many errors and try to push the pace. ARV looked rock solid against both and didn’t make many errors. I do believe he brings a level of defense that will stifle Bolt’s offense, and him being lefty is going to negate some of Bolt’s advantages. ARV in 3-4. Mannarino Thiem : I forgot about Thiem when I was writing the intro. His hardcourt game has progressed and in my opinion he’s the most skilled player on tour right now outside the big 3. “Mannarino is a tricky lefty” I’m tired of writing that. Mannarino doesn’t beat guys with power, and mostly pushes the ball onto the backhand wing, which is the wrong strategy against Thiem. Thiem in 3 and Mannarino falls down at least once from the weight of shot. Medvedev Tiafoe : Great. Medvedev who works hard and plays consistent and doesn’t bail out of volleys and takes his losses quietly against an overrated dude with an enabling camp. I am so disappointed in Tiafoe’s lack of progress and his immediate willingness to fistpump anytime anything goes right. Is there still no one in his camp that will tell him that consistent level of play is what wins on tour, not shots. Look at Benoit Paire who is supremely talented and hits 30+ winners per match but always finds himself in deciding sets. Tiafoe has really no chance here, and it’s sad because had he spent his time earning his way on tour rather than being gifted it, he would be able to compete at this level already. He’s one of the best athletes on tour with one of the worst perspectives. Medvedev in 3. Koepfer Martinez : Pedro Martinez qualifying on hardcourt is pretty damn impressive to me, and he has a guy who just spent a year doing some impressive qualifying. I’m glad Koepfer gets his first direct entry into a major, and he should have an advantage here, after his main struggle in majors being fatigue in early rounds after pushing to get through the qualifying. Martinez has the game to take a set here and Koepfer’s height means he has to play every point a bit harder than most guys, but he should have the consistency to muscle through, and his lefty offense is legit. Koepfer in 4-5. Gaston Munar : Gaston is the French selection for the WC into this event, and he will go up against one of the more difficult defensive tests on the tour. Munar doesn’t give up much, and is constantly improving. Gaston is getting acclimated to the challenger tour and isn’t quite there yet, but this will be good experience for him and hopefully he’ll earn his way there in the future. Munar in 3. Popyrin Tsonga : Popyrin was an early round terror for a lot of people in 2019. 2020 has been a middling but brief start for him but he seems to be in good form. Tsonga has played one event and was quickly dismissed by Kecmanovic. This means very little as Tsonga is prone to not giving his best effort at 250 level events, and really has excelled mostly on the indoor tour and any event located in France. Family life and the 2nd half of his career may have taken a toll on Tsonga’s commitment to fitness, and that makes this match a question mark. Tsonga has the offense to take this match over, and the experience plus name to have this be a mental battle for Popyrin if he gets close to the finish line. Impossible to predict this one, but it’s hard to see either player winning in straight sets. Tsonga in 4-5 if he’s fit and Popyrin in 4 if he’s fat. Isner Monteiro : Monteiro’s impact has been absent on the hardcourt tour for a while now, and it was interesting to see him come through qualifying and beat Norrie before falling to Paire. The loss to Paire seems like one he’d want back but Paire played some of his best tennis ever last week in his finals run. Monteiro gets a bonus in this matchup as he’ll have an easier time holding serve than he would against the rest of the tour, but Isner had a good time in Adelaide and got his serve going for a few matches. Generally when he is in form, his matches include tiebreakers and tiebreakers against Isner are as exhausting to play as they are boring to watch. Isner not being able to hit his backhand into the court is about the same as NBA players not being able to sink a free throw. I know he’s a bigman and bigman tennis and fearhand and all the dumb excuses Tennis Channel makes for him, but get Gimelstob out of your box, fix your swing on the backhand wing, and try to be more than just a guy who ruins draws. Isner in 4. I’m not sure why I suddenly got angry at Isner at the end of that, but I’m not taking it back. Tabilo Galan : It always amazes me when I see guys like Coric and Querrey playing first round that they allow qualifiers to play each other. To be fair, they usually play into a bad section of the draw, but the increased prize money makes it seem like an awesome shot for the guys who land in that section. Tabilo is a good player from Chile and none of you have seen him play. I also have not seen him play, but recent results playing close with Luke Saville and Marc Polmans, coupled with his win over Stakhovsky suggest he’s on the cusp of making the tour. Galan on the other hand is a year ahead of him, and did some very impressive qualifying last year. He has that niche factor of never being out of a match regardless of the score, and pushes the pace with his forehand and hits with range which can be difficult for some players to adjust to. His game reminds me a bit of Joao Sousa, and I lean towards his experience, but have no real way to suggest who will win this match. Kecmanovic Seppi : After a disappointing injury led to his US Open exit, Kecmanovic has to be all kinds of fired up to get back into a major event. This kind of speculative thinking leads to a lot of poor wagers as people back guys in “comeback games” against their old teams or “revenge matches” after prior losses. Seppi is a very tricky opponent who is as accurate as he is calm. He doesn’t have the power to really hit through Kecmanovic’s defense but he has the experience to get deep in sets and his ease of pulling the trigger on what he considers the right shot regardless of the situation can make him dangerous once he gets there. Kecmanovic is likely going to be able to take advantage of Seppi’s spot serving with his movement and should wrap this one up in 4. Kecmanovic in 4. Dzumhur Wawrinka : Dzumhur has looked good the past two weeks in the events he played on the challenger tour and in Qatar, but this is the perfect matchup for Wawrinka to begin his run. Wawrinka managed to be frontpage on the AO page after one of my associates texted me excited about taking a Wawrinka future at 50/1, which means to me he is in immediate peril. Stan has been improving every match he’s played since his return to the tour, and although it’s been a while, that just means he’s still trying to get back to the top of the tour. Dzumhur has to produce a great deal of variety to win on tour given his lack of physical dominance, and while his skill is brilliant, at times his errors and demeanor is as well. I don’t really see him winning a lot of baseline rallies, so this will likely come down to who is able to hold serve easier. That should be Stan, and I think he comes through here with at least one hiccough. Wawrinka in 4. Goffin Chardy : I swear these guys have played each other like 10 times in the first round at majors, but Wimbledon and Roland Garros are the only spots they’ve met with a straight set victory going to Chardy on clay and Goffin on grass. Chardy looked bad last week against PCB after a decent win over countryman Simon, but he is a dangerous player in the first round of any event. He sometimes lacks the timing and with his very smooth oldschool game it’s important to minimize errors in today’s compact game. Goffin is in good form again after a lonnnnnnnng return from eye problems that started to look like he’d never get it together again. His serve can become ineffective at times and i’m hesitant to cite weather but I believe Goffin will have the easier time competing in the smoky heat of Melbourne. Still, it’s difficult to put out a guy who can play the kind of flawless offense that Jeremy can, so I’d expect Goffin in 4. Herbert Norrie : This is a nice matchup of two guys on tour everyone expects to beat but nobody wants to play. Herbert is an upset threat in any 2/3 match and his variety/skill stemming from his years dominating doubles actually make him able to compete with a higher quality of opponent than his results would suggest. Norrie is somehow the opposite. His simple game and preference for the grind make him struggle with pretty much every opponent he plays. I really think the flat backhand/topspin forehand combination is a bad one as his opponents can choose which ball they’re better capable of defending when they’re on defense. Herbert unfortunately won’t be the underdog here, and that makes it somewhat more difficult to back him. Norrie plays a low-risk low-reward game, but in a 3/5 format the grind can often be rewarded when one player is looking to play a skilled game and the other guy is bunting the ball back to you and making british noises. I don’t think either player can run away with this one, but I hope Herbert does. Herbert in 5. Sugita Benchetrit : A lotta qualifiers are going to be squinting at this spot in the draw thinking at what could have been. Sugita can win the matches you count him out of, and it’s easy to overlook his consistency on tour over time due to his lack of marquee wins. Benchetrit pulled upset after upset to come through qualifying and that form makes him about even money in my mind to win this one. Sugita is a challenger tour journeyman and is used to competing with these guys, but somehow these two haven’t met. The winner meets Rublev, so I’m not going to put too much thought into this one. Sugita in 4-5. Rublev O’Connell : This is unfortunate for O’Connell to be playing the hottest player on tour right now. Rublev is also playing some good ball. I spent 2019 making fun of Rublev’s appearance, but I’ll spend 2020 backing him to win tennis matches. Back to back titles and McEnroe stating that he thought he was a future #1 about a year and a half ago have me starting to believe. In the past he’d cough up errors when pressed defensively, but he came up with the answer in the past week every time he was pressed, utilizing some skill that many had not seen before (a few onehanded slice passes and some beautiful two handed lobs). The second serve is a liability as he tends to just spin it in but until he plays a top-tier returner of Benoit freakin Paire he will do fine behind it as he’s one of the best baseliners on tour. O’Connell has been the most consistent player on the challenger tour in the past year and if you watch this match you’re going to hear about how he worked on a fishing boat and now it’s a feelgood story. He has a smooth onehanded backhand and just keeps hitting the court until people fold. The key to beating him has been absurd power and that’s where Rublev (barring fatigue or injury) will end his tournament. Rublev in 3. Basilashvili Kwon : Kwon getting to play in the Kooyong exhibition matches was an interesting choice for a guy who is usually grinding it out. I actually like it because the more comfortable he is on court with the tour players the quicker he will ground himself. Kwon has a very nice game and really doesn’t miss off the backhand wing that much. He tends to get behind the baseline a bit given his speed and this is a problem against Basilashvili, who hits the ball past people sitting in the crowd. Basilashvili has been known to tie himself to a ball with string and just hit the ball to his next event destination for free airfare. I do not think there is a harder hitter on tour right now. With a middling ATP Cup, he’ll have trouble here with Kwon. Kwon moves the ball around and is a fake-test. If Basilashvili makes errors, he’ll lose this match. That’s fairly straightforward. With the momentum though it’ll be difficult for Kwon to serve this one out as he hits his spots nicely at times but doesn’t exactly get to 40-0 often. Someone in 5 and if Basilashvili comes through easily he’ll be in good shape to best Verdasco in the next round. Verdasco Donskoy : Donskoy managed to get got in qualifying, and while normally Verdasco is a flight-risk from any match, he turned in a good effort in Doha and should be poised to win this one. Lucky loser entrants have a beautiful history of destroying higher ranked players, and Donskoy possesses a flat yet big offense, but I don’t think fresh Verdasco isn’t going to find a way to win 3/5 sets of tennis. Verdasco in 3-4. Ruud Gerasimov : Casper Ruud is always a threat to become great. His game seems complete, and when he wins it looks like he’s the next big thing. I think his ceiling is either 40-50, or several years in the future, as this match has me thinking Gerasimov is going to win. A big server with a heap of wins over the past year, the fast courts of Melbourne are going to be decent for his chances here. This is a good spot in the draw with Zverev waiting and his early history in majors present in a players mind, and it’s difficult to gauge how effective Ruud’s game will be on a given day. Being the frontrunner in tennis honestly seems to be a hump for all these guys, and so I think this one will be tight. If Ruud wins in 3 I’ll back him against Zverev. If Gerasimov wins, I think he’ll cover a handicap against Zverev. Zverev Cecchinato : Zverev has to be glad to get one of the tour’s most notable hardcourt strugglers in his first round. Cecchinato hits big but makes errors off of routine balls, and his frustrations are so well-known at this point that even TC announcers mention them. I don’t think he’ll be able to turn around his game against Zverev, and even though Zverev gives up at the slightest hint of adversity, he shouldn’t have much here. Zverev in 3-4. See you in South America, Marco. Berretini Harris : This is the other Harris. A nice enough player, this WC will be seen on tour more in the future, but in this one he’ll just be seen playing defense. Defense, which, thus far, only the big 3 have really proved effective at against Berretini’s forehand. I’m excited to see how his backhand improves over the course of this year, as if it does he’ll become a threat to win majors. Sandgren Trungelliti : This is a strange matchup with Sandgren really not making the best effort in some matches and losing, and also making a great effort in some matches and not being rewarded with the W against some lesser players. Trungelliti isn’t likely to give this one away, and I have to say that although Sandgren steps it up in majors, he is at risk here. He’s fat(for professional tennis). It’s hot. Trungelliti in 4. RCB Berankis : This is an interesting match no one will watch. I won’t watch it either. Maybe this match is not interesting. RCB and Berankis should be out there for hours, and although I’ve seen Ricardas look dominant from the baseline, RCB doesn’t really go away. Someone in 5. Querrey Coric : These two have had similar stories, with big successes being followed up by somewhat disappointing years. Querrey struggles to find the court in rallies and gets outworked when he’s not thumping aces, and Coric attempts to outwork his opponents but can’t stop hitting the tape long enough to do so. This is a rough first round for both of them as their opponent tests their weaknesses. Querrey is likely the player in better form right now, as he played moderate decent in Adelaide before getting dismissed by Rublev. If this is on an outer court Coric has a better chance as serving is generally more difficult and conditions are more windy. I’m already cringing thinking about Berankis somehow beating RCB and then Coric, but I’m not going to pick Coric here until he displays the form he did in 2017. Querrey in 4-5. Pella Smith : Pella just shouldn’t lose this match. Smith is another of a good crop of Aussie tennis players, but I don’t think he would have come through qualifying and I don’t think he’ll hit through Pella’s defenses. Pella is coming off good practice competing in the ATP cup, and should wrap this one up in 3. Safwat Barrere : Safwat won the last few rounds of qualifying as and underdog, and now gets rewarded by playing the king of 2019 qualifying. Barrere moves the ball around beautifully, and like other french players the score does not affect the shot selection which is great to see. His strength is holding serve, and it should be his edge in this matchup. Safwat scares me because he’s one of the players in the draw I actually haven’t watched a lot, but this is a matchup of a challenger threat vs a tour threat and I think Barrere will solidify his place on tour with a win here. Barrere in 4-5. Thompson Bublik : Thompson plays tennis like he really wants to be on tour. Bublik plays tennis like he really wants to embarrass the tour. This is another good matchup of conflicting styles as Thompson will take every single point you give away and Bublik will constantly make his opponent uncomfortable. Bublik’s T serve is brilliant and his game at net continues to improve. He’ll definitely frustrate Thompson who in the past has had trouble finding the pass against serve and volleyers, and although he hasn’t been that active recently, Bublik’s top gear is better than Thompson’s. It’s difficult to find that top gear for a full match to I expect this one to go back and forth a bit. Bublik in 5. Opelka Fognini : Fognini is likely to take this one well. Opelka is the perfect storm of physical ability and flailing. Fognini doesn’t want a single hair out of place and won’t swing at a ball unless it’s a testament to skill and beauty. Fognini has shown in 2019 that he is not done winning on tour, and although he is prone to mope at any moment, he has competed well. Opelka seems to show improvement in the rally but still coughs up the errors. I don’t think Fognini will find 3 full sets of breaks of serve here, and Opelka might by virtue of Fognini feeling the pressure and also Fognini feeling the anguish of possibly losing to a flailer. Opelka in 4-5 tiebreakers. Shapovalov Fucsovics : Marton can’t catch a break. A former junior standout, Fucsovics works harder on his fitness than most teenagers work on their snapchat streaks. His reward is often playing the best players on tour and competing hard in a loss. A year ago Fucsovics was not quite as good. A year ago though Shapov (name’s too long that’s all you get) would have been error prone enough to lose this match outright. I saw great things from him in his ATP Cup matches, and he looks a bit physically stronger this year which is a bonus because bless his heart he has puppy dog brains. Fucs (i’m running out of gas) is prone to getting slicehappy on his backhand, and that complacency works right into Shap’s (even more lazy) gameplan as he hits most of his forehands crosscourt and works best starting point from there. Sha in 4. Sinner Purcell : This one is interesting as Sinner will be looking to nab some tour names this year, but Purcell is not one of those names, yet is a quality player. The hopeful in me wants Purcell to compete here, but I don’t think Sinner is actually an overhyped talent. He hits very big, applies constant pressure, and although there are similarities to the Zverev that lost match point to Nadal, Sinner has no real serving issues. Sinner in 3-4. Mayer Paul : Tommy Paul had the best beginning to this season for unproven commodities, not only winning a few matches but also being predicted to do so by the books. He’s serving well, hitting with great pace, and is a pretty solid athlete which make him a threat when he keeps the ball on the court. Mayer is supposedly a clay specialist, but his hardcourt game is solid and he hits and serves big. I expect this to be a high level match but having seen some recent struggle from Mayer against guys playing a slight cut below Paul (Monteiro/Cecchinato), I actually expect Mayer to lose here. Paul in 4-5. Londero Dimitrov : Good. I always hope for Dimitrov to get it together and here is an opponent that will force him to. Dimitrov is the better player and has more talent, but Londero wants to win. He’ll push the pace and he has legitimate offense that will force Dimitrov to play defense and hopefully keep the ball on the court. Londero isn’t really best on hardcourt by a longshot but he has proven that he’s willing to improve and compete, and that’s big against an idiot parade like Dimitrov. Dimitrov in 4-5. Hurkacz Novak : This is pretty unfortunate for Novak who has been in great form this January. Hurkacz has been in finer form, and while Novak is a hardnose opponent unlikely to give up, Hurkacz has the bigger weapons and should be able to have an edge in this one. Still, given Novak’s form I doubt it will be straight sets. Hurkacz in 4. Milman Umbert : This is an interesting matchup given Humbert’s title run, and Milman’s relatively good form against Paire who played lights out tennis. Milman has one shot, and it’s his forehand crosscourt. Humbert’s backhand isn’t the pinnacle of consistency, and his backhand let him down against Ymer in the nextgen cup so it could happen again. Milman will make this match physical, and while Humbert is capable of playing crisp enough offense to take the raquet out of his opponents hands, it’s in his best interest to do so here, as Milman will have a tremendous amount of home support out on Court 3. A stadium crowd is one thing, but a smaller stage can get raucous and frustrating, and Humbert’s main risk is momentum. Still, I think he’s at a point where this will likely be a gutsy performance from Milman and an Humbert win. Humbert in 4-5. Halys Krajinovic : I’ve never watched Halys play tennis, and it’s important to note that in case anyone thinks I know what I’m talking about. I want to say that Kraj has this in the bag since he is a rocksolid tour player, but he’s tossed in some terrible performances. Probably Krajinovic in 3, or Halys in 5.
NBA Bets that I like for tonight - thoughts? From CheatSheetPros! Our Sides 5-0 last night on the sheet!
NBA Sports Betting Report (February 7th, 2020) from CheatSheetPros! QUICK NEWS AND NOTES: Using the NBA CheatSheet the sides went 5-0 last night. I preferred a few other games but either way I should of following my sheet instead of taking the Lakers, lol. Tonight I’m putting up a few plays that jump out to me, if you are reading the sheet let us know what you like! PLAYS TO CONSIDER: WASHINGTON +2 over DALLAS – This is just a gut call because Luka is off the floor and Porzingis broke his nose and he is questionable for the game. If he can’t go I like the chances of Washington rolling this up. I will warn you 92% of the bets are on Dallas right now. We have this as a tight game with the slightest of edges on the sheet to Washington. TORONTO -1 over INDY – We had this pegged as 115-102 with every model covering the spread. Toronto is on a 12 game win streak and Indy has lost 3 straight. Toronto has a offensive efficiency advantage 1.18 to 1.06 over the last 3 and defensive efficiency advantage over that same span allowing only a 1.04 vs. 1.11. Toronto has to lose at some point but I’m going to ride the hot hand here! HOUSTON -2 over PHO – This one is tricky because they just beat the Lakers and Westbrook is sitting tonight. Phoenix is 9-17 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games and lost 4 straight. We had this 121-107 Houston taking it down. Houston has the advantage for OE by 12 and DE by 15. But no Capela or Westbrook so keep that in mind. Houston has won 4 straight. Statwise Houston is taking 51 3 point attempts per game compared to only 22 by Phoenix. Phoenix is allowing allowing a high 42% 3 point shot compared to Houston only allowing 33%. Houston is about 6% better on the free throw line and PHO has the rebounding edge however if they can beat the Lakers I’ll take them over the 9-17 Suns! PORTLAND +9 over UTAH – We have Portland winning this game outright 114-105. Sharp money is on Utah and 62% of spread bets are on Portland. Utah has been struggling as of late going 4-6 in their last 10 games and they have lost 5 in a row. They are 18-5 at home so many they can turn something around??? Giving 9 points to a hot Portland team that is scoring 115 PPG I have to take that. I’ll also sprinkle a little on the money line because Portland has made me so much money on the ML. NEW for 2020! – Follow Us on TWITTER:u/CheatSheetPros and get any last minutes plays we like! Thank you for reading and good luck! Haze
[In-Depth] Breaking down Lakers' Biggest Threats: Bucks & Clippers
At 21-3, the Lakers have positioned theirselves at the top of the West, and the team has looked solid from the get-go. If they arrive healthy, AD and LeBron are the top duo in the L. Let's analyze the top 2 threats to the purple & gold.
Since summer both LA teams have been considered as the favorites to reach the Finals, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, both having rejected the Lakers throughout the last two summers, have joined an already-deep roster that forced the KD-Warriors to 6 last postseason. In terms of matchups, Clippers offer an elite perimeter unit to throw at LA's backcourt and lots of capable bodies to throw at LeBron, starting with PG/Kawhi. Doc likes to start games with Zubac at C but his death line-up is a small-ball with lots of scorers and playmakers and Harrell as the defensive anchor and powerful presence that can operate both in and out. AD should prove to be a bad matchup for that line-up at 6'10'', but it's questionable if Vogel would still opt to put AD at the 4 with a big-man supporting him (aka McGee or Dwight) facing such a small line-up. The problem with using the same line-up we've used this year is that since the Clips have two All-NBA forwards, LeBron would have no option but to defend one of them, and we've yet to see Vogel go with the zone defense in long periods of games so there's no getaway. Our zone defense is top-notch, but our rotational outside defense is not as good as it seems, and we could really struggle against a Beverly-Lou-Kawhi-PG-Harrell 5. Pro against the Clippers though, is that we'd have a 7-game home-court advantage.
On the East, Giannis is currently leading the Bucks to a 15-game streak, and given its easier schedule till the end of the season, its very probable that they'd have the home-court advantage in a potential Finals matchup. Should be noted they're 11-1 at home so far. Starting with the obvious, Giannis is one of the most dominant players and tougher to guard given his size and skills, and starting this year he's also expanded his outside shooting too. The Lakers really don't have anyone exactly ideal to cover him (only if Iggy was 28 and signed with us), but as we've seen in the Raptors series last ECF, your best bet is to float him and let him operate outside and pressure him with double-teams whenever he sees an opening inside. Giannis is a solid passer too and you have to take care of shooters like Middleton or Matthews so you can't outright double-team Giannis since he's smart enough to share the rock. Brook Lopez is maybe the most underrated asset for Milwaukee, and Budenholzer likes to use him at the 5 since he's great at the pick-n-pop plays at the key, gives great spacing on offense and is a reliable rebounder at the D. Bucks also have one of the best 2nd units and are very deep, and have not been bad while Giannis rests. In terms of matchups, the Lakers can face challenges having Brook Lopez on the floor, forcing our interior defenders outside the paint and leaving Giannis free entrance to the hoop. Middleton is a good defender and mostly guarded Leonard in the ECF last year, he potentially would guard LeBron, and if the Lakers go big with McGee/Dwight and AD, Giannis and Davis could maybe guard each other. Currently the Bucks have the #1 offense in the league, at more than 120 points per game, so even though their back court may seem somewhat of a lesser threat than the Clippers', their offense flows through Giannis constantly looking at mismatches and switches, looking for open shooters and relying on spread-out bigs, good spacing and lock-out defense in both their 1st and 2nd unit. What are, in your opinion, the biggest threat to the Lakers; Bucks or Clippers? Let me know below.
1 - TRADE Drummond to Dallas DET gets: Brunson, Lee, $11M trade exception (from Barnes trade to Kings), 2nd Rd. Pick (via GS) DAL gets: Drummond, cap filler (Frazier or Thomas?)
Dallas says yes because they can pair an elite rebounder and low-post presence with Porzingis. Drummond can also complement Doncic well with rim running and PnR.
Detroit says yes because they officially jump-start the rebuild, prevent themselves from overpaying a Center with limited modern NBA skills, and salvage what little value they have left in Drummond. Brunson is the prized asset in this deal, he's 23 years old with 3 years left on his rookie deal. He's shown promise when given extended minutes. Depending on how the draft goes, you can either start him next year at point, or roll with him as the first guard off the bench. You also get a Golden State's 2nd Rd. Pick which'll almost certainly fall somewhere between #31-#39
2 - TRADE Rose to Milwaukee DET gets: DJ Wilson, Ilyasova, 2020 1st Rd. Pick (via IND) MIL gets: Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris
Milwaukee says yes because they can have Rose fill the role left by Malcolm Brogdon without having to pay Brogdon-like money. Rose is also guaranteed for next year which fits with their financial timeline (most of the current roster is signed on for next year before Giannis becomes FA in summer of 2021). To a lesser extent, Markieff Morris is added to fill in the minutes (if any) left by Ilyasova.
Detroit says yes because they capitalize on Rose's value when it's arguably at its highest level since his MVP days in Chicago. DJ Wilson is the prized asset in this deal. Wilson has had even less of an opportunity than Brunson has had this year to showcase his skills (mainly because he plays behind Giannis). Detroit can give Wilson a ton of burn to really see what his potential is. He has one more year left on his rookie deal, he's 6'10, 230lbs, very athletic and can stretch the floor. DJ playing with Doumbouya may go on to form quite the forward-duo. You also acquire Indiana's 1st Rd. Pick, which would fall some where in the high teens, low twenties.
3 - WAIVE Reggie Jackson and Ersan Ilyasova
Detroit waives Reggie Jackson and Ersan Ilyasova simply because they shouldn't be apart of their long-term plans and its highly unlikely they'll be able to get any bites or any substantial returns in the trade market.
4 - DRAFT PG and C with two 1st Rd Picks. (ideally a PG with the DET lotto pick that can fall anyhwere in the top 10, and then a C with the IND pick that will most likely fall between 19-21). DRAFT more size with Golden State's 2nd Rd. Pick from Dallas.
Let's hypothesize for the sake of this post you end up with the #7 pick and the #21 pick. You draft PG Tyrese Haliburton with the 7th Pick, and then C Vernon Carey, Jr. with the 21st pick. Then with Golden State's 2nd Rd. Pick from Dallas, you pick C Omar Yurtseven
5 - Try your best to TRADE Blake Griffin
I'll admit trading him seems to be nearly impossible. The most likely scenario is that he plays out his current deal without being trade and you hope he recovers from knee surgery well enough to play at ~85% of the level he played at last year.
If you are able to get a team to bite, the only team that can pull it off, and maybe makes any kind of sense is Charlotte, I think this may be the deal to get it done:
DET gets: Batum, 2021 Lottery Protected 1st Rd. Pick (if Charlotte doesn't make playoffs in 2021, the pick turns into an unprotected 2022 2nd Rd. Pick) CHA gets: Griffin
Charlotte says yes because MJ would probably love some added star power to try to sell more tickets. Charlotte by no means is a top free agent destination so there best bet is to use offseason trades to bring in players (i.e. sign-and-trade with Rozier). From a basketball perspective, you already have Bridges and PJ so the fit may be a bit wonky but luckily Bridges and PJ are naturally versatile players. Borrego is a gifted young coach who is a big proponent of positionless basketball so he'll definitely be able to provide the necessary minutes to Griffin, Bridges, and PJ. The big challenge for Borrego here is to ensure that Griffin doesn't stunt the development of Miles and PJ.
Detroit says yes because, again, they try to salvage some value from a lackluster asset. Batum is added as a courtesy to CHA so that his poor work ethic is removed from that locker room, and so that CHA can retain some cap space. Detroit can either waive him outright or have him ride the pine and/or play spot minutes here and there when needed. Perhaps Batum takes a liking to Doumbouya and helps him with his game a bit? The protection on the pick makes sense, it's basically CHA saying that they'll pay a 1st Rounder to get in the playoffs. If the Griffin experiment doesn't go to plan, then CHA will simply just be giving away a 2nd Rd. pick in 2022.
6 - RE-SIGN Wood
Ideally 3-yr deal @ $28M-$32M, with a player option for the 3rd year.
7 - Sit out free agency to preserve cap space and flexibility
The ~$40M in cap space will be fairly meaningless to a team like Detroit, especially with how poor the 2020 FA class is. The objective here is two-fold, first, to grow the young guys as much as possible and second, to have other teams drive up the bidding prices on free agents so that when the 2021 deadline comes around, perhaps you can capitalize on other teams overpaying as a way to add more future draft picks (much like Atlanta has done).
Halfway through the season anyone could use a break, and for those guys in the top of the rankings who’ve earned it, that break is the grasscourt season. Short volleys, a boost for everyone’s serving, appreciative crowds, and exhibition events that feature about the same effort level as the real tour events. With the awe-inspiring grind of the clay tour behind them, the tour’s finest will head to Wimbledon this week for a chance at making history. At this vaunted venue, even 1 match can be talked about for years and with the speed of the grass, upsets are never out of the question. Below are my thoughts about the 1st round of the men’s division. Djokovic Kohlschreiber : Kohl managed to nab a win against Novak earlier this season in Indian Wells on a slow hardcourt. A couple weeks later he managed to steal a set in Monte Carlo on clay. The progression from favorable conditions to difficult ones continues, and while Kohl is the definition of a professional on the tour, this is one way traffic. I had a chance to watch some of Novak’s exhibition matches this past week, and while the best takeaway was how capable Shapovalov and Garin are on the swift stuff, Novak looked not only engaged but happy to be in contested rallies. If you watch a lot of great champions they are actually at their most engaged and highest level when they are being pressed, and this is revealing of how difficult it is to play at peak level against inferior opponents. Kohl’s W against Novak will keep his attention on the match, and where he struggled a bit in his comeback Novak’s serving game is nearing top level again (he has really been hitting his spots nicely). Novak is my pre-tournament pick for the title here, and I don’t think he drops a set here. Novak in 3. Kudla Jaziri : Kudla has had a Mischa Zverev like start to 2019. He had to go through qualifying in some events and head to the challenger in Surbiton, but managed to string together some 7 wins through this grass season. Arguably his best surface, he has a great first round draw here in Jaziri, who has been struggling with injury and playing not only sparsely, but on clay at that. Two clay challengers and early exits have been on the menu, and rumblings of dealing with injuries lend to the idea that he probably is not at his peak for Wimbledon but of course cannot afford to pass up 1st rd points and pay in a major. With a big serve and a big forehand, Jaziri is a threat in any set of tennis, but these players are trending in opposite directions. Kudla in 4 at most. Gulbis Mayer : Although this matchup sits in the Novak section, this is a tidy little spot for someone to steal some very important ranking points with the winner likely facing Hurkacz where they won’t be favored but will certainly have a chance. Gulbis has had 3 subpar losses to start his grass season, and Mayer hasn’t fared much better. The time Mayer tends to need to produce his groundstrokes will hurt him on the grass, and injury rumblings before the French Open coupled with his lack of activity make me think this is a great chance for Gulbis to steal a match and remain relevant on tour. Gulbis in 5. Hurkacz Lajovic : Grass suits Hurkacz game nicely as he has a big serve and good reaction time on his groundstrokes. A fairly flat backhand moves nicely through the court and although he’s had middling results through the grass season, he’s shown more promise than Lajovic. One of the smaller players on tour with a less than dominant serve, Lajovic prospers primarily through precision and intelligence. That counts for something on grass but what will decide this match will be Hurkacz ability to hold serve with a great deal more ease. Hurkacz in 4. Auger-Alliassime Pospisil : “Anything is Pospisil,” my friend says for the 400th time. “haha” I type for the 400th time. I am nothing if not loyal. If you watch Vasek Pospisil you think, This is a professional tennis player. Big serve, excellent skill, appears to be in top shape, but the results end there. Grass and the US Open will be his best chance to pick up some points, but this is a terrible first round draw for him. Perhaps injuries have hampered his rise on the tour in the past, but he has shown an impatience on court that speaks to a slight confidence issue in hanging with the top players. While they’re from the same country and this comfort can produce a higher level of tennis from the underdog, FAA’s current form on grass is not to be underestimated. Those saying he has a chance at the title are more hopeful than valid, but he is a favorite against anyone outside the top 30 in any round at this event. An easily repeatable serve, a great reach, and pure athleticism combine to form one of the best coached players I have seen enter the tour in a long time. Injuries cost him his big major debut at the French Open, but I expect him to be prepared for the big stage here and clean up a struggling Pospisil. The best thing I’ve seen from FAA has been the winners he hits to the open court. There are a lot of guys employing the “guide it to the spot and kinda cringe inward and hope” strategy, but this kid hits the ball with length and angle right through the court. This may cause an error here or there but in time (and he has it) it will produce a player whose standard shots are simply more aggressive and repeatable than his opponents. This is a future #1 barring injury. Given Vasek’s main strength is a big serve, he could hold his way to some tiebreakers, but the writing is on the wall. FAA in 4 at most. Dimitrov Moutet : Dimitrov has yet to have a match this year that did not seem like it was primetime disaster popcorn status. Moutet is likely most known for his gutsy loss in the French to Londero, but he has turned heads this season on the challenger tour and while he’s not the most athletically blessed guy, he’s left handed and has a great deal of determination and confidence about going after his shots. Dimitrov has been know to play too passive and to lose his length, and this is a player who will steal a set if you let him. That loss of focus is an intangible, and so while Moutet will be waiting and hoping for it, Dimitrov SHOULD (big should) win this in 4 sets. With the winner facing FAA, I really am hoping that he does. Dimitrov in 4. Sonego Gralloers : I glanced at the oddsmakers lines for this and noted that it’s a pickem. Granollers has all but vanished from the main tour this season, and Sonego’s game and stock has been on a constant rise. The expectation of fatigue following his win in Turkey this weekend could play a factor, and Granollers is a get artist who will extend any match. Sonego has the better serve, better forehand, and his backhand slice has proven quite annoying on grasscourts, and I expect fatigue to not be as much of a factor for a young player. Sonego in 5. Umbert Monfils : Monfils has taken a nice vacation through the start of the grass season, and as stated in his contract, he must play at like one Frenchman in the first two rounds of a major. I haven’t heard injury rumors about him, and while his loss to Kudla is a little troubling I caught that match and he was mostly practicing and enjoying himself. There is a great deal to like about Ugo’s game. He’s a lefty, he has excellent control and poise, and a good enough service game to allow him to remain in the top 100 for a few years at least. Monfils is going to be able to counteract these positives here though, and while he hasn’t shown much determination through the first section of the grass season, for many guys at the peak or end of their career these are warmup events, and I expect Monfils A or B game is enough to get him through this match. Since they’re French and since it’s Monfils, you’re going to have to consider that a 4 or 5 set clash could ensue, so I would avoid betting on it, but Monfils should come through here with relative ease. Monfils in 4. Medvedev Lorenzi : Lorenzi is the most annoying player on tour who no one should lose to. People do though, and his fight and skill at 37 steal him enough victories each year to keep him just around the 100-150 level. Medvedev is a player capable of the kind of anger and frustration that net Lorenzi most of his wins, but Medvedev in rage mode features no alterations in play and possibly even better serving than usual. This is oneway traffic. Medvedev in 3 incredibly drawn out sets. Carreno Busta Popyrin : Oddsmakers have Popyrin as a favorite in this one and the reason is the consistency that PCB has shown to lose close matches since his return. He has been losing the first set in almost 75% of his matches since his return from injury and this is a crusher on a surface like grass where it is hard to manufacture breaks which are really where PCB has always made his money. I cannot count the number of times PCB was broken at the end of a set and broke right back. He showed some promise before losing to Sonego in Antalya but he just isn’t back to his peak yet. Popyrin is unproven on tour, and while he’s notched some wins here and there the best thing about his game is his game. Results aside, Popyrin is one of the best talents in terms of ceiling on an Australian roster that features nothing but young talent right now with Kyrgios/De MinauThompson/Bolt etc. This is a real test on a real stage for him as PCB does not give anything away and has a representative service game, and I’d be hard pressed to call a clear winner here. I do think that coming through qualifying will give Popyrin a decent amount of confidence, and that notion that “this guy may be vulnerable” is enough that if he’s able to nose ahead he could win this match. While PCB’s level hasn’t quite returned to 2017 2018 level, he is still the way more experienced player. I expect this to go 5 sets, with the winner being a coinflip. Popyrin in 5. Chardy Klizan : Chardy has played some grass since the French and Klizan has not, seemingly, played at all. In a bo5 match Klizan may find his game and begin to pressure Chardy, but Chardy’s offense is such that he will likely already have a 1 or 2 set lead before this happens. I don’t see either guy getting blanked, and Chardy simply will be the more prepared player. Chardy in 4-5. Klahn Goffin : Goffin is back, my friend announced recently. A former high level tennis player and a current pro announcer, his words were just what I’ve been waiting to hear. After an eye injury which seemingly reduced all aspects of his game for months, Goffin finally began to show good form in Hertogenbosh and Halle. Wins over Berretini, Zverev, and Hughes Herbert are the most notable for me, as these players all present defensive challenges that the old Goffin was apt to solve, and the recent Goffin has been apt to get rolled by. A fairly simple first round opponent in Klahn will not present much opposition, and while Goffin can make anything into a match, I believe he would have to throw this one to avoid finding himself in the second round. Goffin in 3. Edmund Munar : Edmund began to show some excellent quality this week in his match against Evans. After not much of a season, and a first set where Evans showcased his entire variety in exchange for multiple breaks and multiple rounds of applause, Edmund again found a way to apply his forehand in a manner that breaks down his opponents mental game and turns them into defensive grinders. While he wasn’t able to find the cracks in Taylor Fritz game, playing on home soil against a clay court specialist should find him in the driver’s seat. Munar has actually shown more early in the grass season than I expected, holding serve enough to get to a tiebreaker against Fucsovics and Coric. That doesn’t offer much hope in terms of beating an in-form Edmund with the crowd at his back, however, and he will likely bow out and head to the hardcourt swing. Edmund in 3. Majchrzak Verdasco : Verdasco had the good fortune to be part of Sam Querrey’s return from an ab injury, but still nabbed a set. This is notable for me because had he not shown a spark of competition, it would be easy to write him off here. Some may remember Majchrzak from his marathon match with Kei Nishikori at the AO 2019, where had he not succumbed to cramps he would have likely pulled the upset and already been on the main tour. Life is a struggle however, and while Majchrzak has spent the last few months on the challenger tour, he has been racking up wins and will be ready for this stage. A big serve and crisp groundstrokes make him best suited I believe for a fast hardcourt, but the grass could easily be his coming out party. He came through qualifying and while I’m sure Verdasco won’t be taking this lightly, he will have a hard time shutting the kid out. In a match that will largely be decided by whose offense makes more errors, we may see the first upset of the 1st round here. Verdasco is a guy who requires favorable conditions to compete, and on an outside court against a “random” I don’t think he will do much besides complain if Majchrzak begins to roll. Majchrzak in 4. Arnaboldi Karlovic : I’ll be honest, I don’t know Arnold Arnaboldi. I don’t know if his first name is Arnold either, but it would be cute if it was, so it is. Having come through qualifying, I can guarantee he is a quality player with a fairly good ability to hold serve, and that’s enough to mean this match will feature tiebreakers. Who will win those tiebreakers? I have no flipping idea. Karlovic matches are the hardest to predict as until he throws in a bad service game he looks unbeatable, and once he’s in a volley it almost appears that he cannot play tennis at all. The grass suits his slices and volleys, and he would appear to be fresh after skipping the clay season and the grass. Karlovic in 4 or 5. Fabbiano Tsitsipas : After a good week and a nice warmup match with Querrey, Fabbiano has drawn a terrible first round opponent. While he is coming off a loss to FAA, Tsitsipas is one of the best and most well-rounded players on tour right now and has the edge in their past matchups. Fabbiano is a threat for an upset and has pushed some guys in the past, but he’s been a bit unlucky here with the draw and this should be a bit more than he can handle. Tsitsipas in 4. Anderson Herbert : Is Anderson back? Oddsmakers do not believe so, but also believe so. Anderson sits at -220 on Bovada and in what has been one of his best events in the past, this is a bit low. Herbert is one of the most skilled players on tour and is excellent at net, but his lack of power has at times kept him in matches he should have been able to win in quick fashion. Anderson looked unimpressive in his first match back from injury, and the jury is out on whether he is fully recovered, with a loss to Simon not really lending itself to believing that a deep run at Wimbledon is on the way. For gambling porpoises I would avoid this one, but as a spectator it is another intriguing story at an excellent event. Herbert has been on the edge of some big wins it has seemed at times, and a rusty Anderson may just be his chance to get one. Somebody in 5. Tipsarevic Nishioka : What a wonderful draw where Thiem plays Querrey and these two get to ball out in the first round. Tipsarevic has made some traction in his return from injury, and Nishioka has made more. While Tipsarevic is a great player with good control and a ceiling higher than Nishioka, that ceiling is well behind him and Nishioka is a difficult player to put away. I expect shockingly long rallies for grasscourt tennis in this one, and I suspect Nishioka will come out ahead in way more of them than Tipsarevic. Nishioka in 4. Seppi Jarry : A matchup of opposites. Seppi’s best surface. Jarry’s worst. Seppi’s controlled swing is short and allows him to adjust well in the grass. Jarry’s huge swing leads to all kinds of errors on his groundstrokes. Seppi’s strength is poise and consistency. Jarry wins 1 tournament a year and looks like a top 20 player then double faults his way to first round losses for 3 months. Seppi is towards the end of a bright career and his game is beginning to falter. Jarry is at the beginning of his and at probably his best. After a hard to watch loss to Simon a week ago it would be easy to write Jarry off here, but Seppi lacks the big weapons to put this one away in short order. This is another coinflip and given Jarry’s recent struggles I would not be surprised if Seppi wins. Seppi in 5. Copil Pella : Marius Copil is a player much like Chardy who is simply a joy to watch. He has a huge serve, a great deal of variety, and a beautiful onehanded backhand. Pella is a player without much flair but with way better results. Primarily a claycourt threat, Pella has defied the odds and grinded through a great deal of hardcourt upsets in the past few seasons. This is a match where Copil should be seen as having the edge with court conditions, but the consistency of Pella will likely make the difference if he is able to make it a physical battle. Hard to say on a grass court if he’ll be able to, and Copil has been able to pull upsets in the past when he is serving well. Pella in 5. Wawrinka Bemelmans : Scary. Bemelmans has just been a non-factor on the tour after being a consistent 1st 2nd round appearer for 2-3 solid years. Now he’s found his way nicely through qualifying, and plays a resurgent Stan. A bad matchup for Ruben, but a nice welcome back to the tour. Stan did lose to Mahut last week, but Mahut’s game was built for grass and going deep the week before a major has never been something the top guys have done. This should be one way traffic for Stan although given Bemelmans qualifying form, he may be able to steal an early set. Wawrinka in 4. Stebe Opelka : Stebe’s comeback trail hasn’t really offered him many winnable matches. This could be one. Opelka is so inconsistent a veteran like Stebe might be able to hang around long enough to benefit from the errors, but on grass that becomes even less likely. Opelka has probably the best serve on tour when it lands in, and probably the worst service percentages for anyone above 6’5” on tour. When his serve lands in however, it is not coming back. Stebe is not a particularly gifted returner, and his only real chance here lies in Opelka’s poor returning. While it sounds like I’m painting a picture for Stebe to win, I’m mostly cringing at the thought of the match being on Opelka’s raquet. This is a match that will either be oneway traffic for Opelka, or will be lost by him rather than won by Stebe. Opelka in 4 but I wouldn’t put a single penny on it. Kovalik Haase : Kovalik’s protected ranking has appeared with a very lucky draw. Haase has struggled of late and seems at the twilight of his career. There are not many first round matchups that Kovalik has a chance in, and the same can be said for Haase. Haase is going to have the bigger weapons here, and the rust has shown for Kovalik in the past few events. Haase in 4 or 5. Gunneswaran Raonic : It’s hard not to like Prajnesh’ freeswinging left hand. He has a very smooth service motion and a good attitude on court. Raonic is on his best surface however, and while injuries have really made his 2019 a complete bust, this is a warmup match. Watching Raonic serve in the early rounds at Wimbledon makes you wonder how he hasn’t won the event before and watching Federer inevitably return almost every one of his serves at 36 makes you wonder what the other guys are doing. We’ll miss out on that matchup this year, but it’ll be someone other than Gunneswaran who makes returns. Raonic in 3. Khachanov Kwon : I don’t know a ton about Kwon but Khachanov has been hit or miss all season. What I have noticed, however, is that he tends to step up for the big events. Given his ranking, and his relatively stable place on tour, this may be a conscious choice. Wins over Struff, Kecmanovic, and losses to Berretini do represent a significantly harder schedule however, than Kwon’s impressive (most sets won by 2 or more breaks) path through the qualfying. That kind of talent and his alltime high ranking of 123 mean he does have a chance to nab a set (Karen has a habit of losing a set in every match in majors) but he won’t be able to win this one outright. Khachanov in 4. Giron Lopez : Lopez is easy to hate while you watch him lose and easy to love while you watch him win. The guy is skillful and creative. Grass is his best surface at this stage of his career by far and he has picked up a titles in both of the past two years. He opens his Wimbledon with a match against Giron who first turned heads in the Australian Open by upsetting Chardy and De Minaur at Indian Wells before eventually falling in the third set to Raonic. An athletic player with a good forehand and a quick serve, he’s a bit one dimensional and this may give a significant edge to Lopez. Breaks are hard to come by on grass and Lopez is one of the most proficient servers on the ol Earth hair. Giron’s game (I haven’t watched the qualifiers I’ll admit) is mostly about power and when he was rushed at IW he did make some careless errors. I think given his form in the qualifiers he will definitely win a set, but Lopez should have the edge if the match gets close with his variety and experience. Lopez in 4-5. Darcis Zverev : Man if they aren’t trying to keep Mischa on tour. How the actual fluff did he manage to draw Darcis here. The problem is actually that Darcis has the kind of wicked slices and variety that are a nightmare to compete against on grass, but the fortunate thing is that he is getting towards the end of his career. This will come down to whether Mischa is able to get profitably to net, and honestly I am not optimistic. Whoever wins is going to get tuned up by RBA. I was a big fan of Darcis in his Fed Cup heroics, and I think he is probably in better form than Zverev here. Darcis in 5. Gojowczyk Bautista Agut : This guy RBA is the NBA 6th man winner on the ATP. While not regarded as one of the top 10 guys, he is the same amount of difficult to beat every time he steps on court, and when those top 10 guys play him he pushes them as much as anyone else. On the opposite side of the net we have Gojowczyk, who swings like his name and hits clean flat winners from anywhere. Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit as many of them as he misses so far this season, and RBA specializes in punishing this. This match will play about the same as it would on clay, with RBA targetings Gojo’s backhand and hitting as many kick serve to take him out wide and off balance as he can. RBA in 3. Paire Londero : Londero is adding nicely to his maiden win by notching wins and battling all the way into the grass season. Paire has been the best he ever has, and appears motivated coming into a tournament with a big emphasis on serving and volleying he is one of the shortlist of most talented players at the tactic. This is the classic Paire matchup, a guy who will fight for every point and expose Paire’s impatience, but who doesn’t have the big serving to keep Paire from dictating most of the rallies. If they both show up with frosted tips expect at least one awkward article from Tennis Channel about it, and this is similar to the Verdasco Majchrzak match in that I do think Londero has a chance if he’s able to get an early lead. I don’t expect Paire’s intensity will be able to win this in straight sets, and I’ll be taking the over here. Paire in 5. Carballes Baena Kecmanovic : RCB has actually notched some good grasscourt wins to start the season which is an unexpected bonus for a guy who makes most of his dollars on clay. Kecmanovic had a GREAT showing this week in Antalya and for one of the first times on tour will be facing a guy with less offense than him. I’m not sure of the fatigue factor, but given Kecmanovic’s dedication on the challenger tour I imagine his conditioning will get him through at least one or two more matches. Kecmanovic in 4. Cuevas Dzumhur : Dzumhur finally got a nice win last week over Ebden, and has another chance here against a guy who isn’t famously the most motivated on grass. Cuevas didn’t look great against Jarry, and while I’d like to write him off here, Dzumhur lacks the big serve that Jarry possesses. Dzumhur in 4 tight sets, but I would not be surprised if Cuevas pushes this one to 5, and given Dzumhur’s erratic past, this one isn’t worth predicting. Vesely Zverev : I love it. If Zverev shows up playing passive, he loses this one in straights. Vesely’s best upsets have come on grass, and he has come through qualifying easily. A big lefty with huge groundstrokes and a powerful serve is the perfect match to get a look at whether Zverev is going to be a threat in this section of the draw or not. I’ll be honest, I don’t suspect he will. Vesely in 4. Thiem Querrey : Woof. Querrey announced this week that his abdominal issues are behind him, and played some of his best tennis. While a loss to Fritz is not the best, he has struggled with him in the past so it isn’t completely unexpected. Thiem is coming off a brilliant run in the French Open and while he was unfortunate with the weather and scheduling, there’s no shame in losing to Nadal. Grass hasn’t been his favorite surface, but he hasn’t really struggled on it either. A big serve, huge power, and a good base of skill and variety make Thiem a threat to any player at any time on any surface. Querrey is just the opponent, however, to pressure Thiem for time and to take the raquet out of his hand on the serve. With both guys playing at a good level, this one should feature quick sets, several tiebreakers, and a section of the draw that actually looks like it will get easier each round until at least the 4th with Garin/Rublev waiting and the other section featuring dellien/milman/andreozzi/djere. Whoever loses will be disappointed here as this is just the worst 1st round for both. Querrey in 5. Garin Rublev : Garin looked real efficient and his movement was excellent in his exhibition match against Novak. He’s had a way better 2019 than Rublev who has struggled with injury. Where Rublev has bigger groundstrokes and can get in a great rhythm, he has suffered behind his second serve (double faults at the worst times), and his temper is simply a liability that I think he’s the only one who can’t see. Garin is composed, the better athlete, and in better form. Garin in 4. Dellien Milman : Oddsmakers have Milman sitting at about -1200. Dellien has been playing clay challengers so this is understandable, but Milman is not the worldbeater that warrants that kind of line. Dellien is a grinder, and Milman is the same. I don’t know if Dellien’s timing will be solid here, and I actually would have liked him to get in some grass practice before the event rather than kind of sticking to his bread and butter. Milman in 3, but if Dellien gets going he could make this a very long 3. Andreozzi Djere : Neither player has shown much in the way of victories thus far in the grass season. In their previous matchup Djere was able to best him on the slow hardcourts at Indian Wells. Djere is trending upward but grass isn’t exactly his best surface, so this won’t be oneway traffic. Andreozzi hasn’t exactly shown anything that shows he’ll pull the upset so. Tentatively, Djere in 4. Simon Caruso : Ooooh. Caruso showcased a big forehand and a solid serve at the French, and used the same to good effect to come quickly through qualifying at Wimbledon. Simon managed to wake up after a mundane early season, and looked to be finding his form on the grass. This is one of my popcorn matches for the first round, with Simon being a real slick opponent on the grass but not really having a way to just hit Caruso off the court. On the opposite end, Caruso will need to hit big shots to get through Simon’s defense and will have the chance to. Somebody in 5. Uchiyama Sandgren : Sandgren has really been hit or miss thus far on the tour. He briefly was very fit and looked to be stepping it up but the results didn’t follow. He notched two mid-level wins in Eastbourne, and while Ichiyama might be looked at as having a better level currently after coming through qualifying, 5 sets with Kubler isn’t really tour level stuff. Sandgren owns the h2h matchup 3-0 in this one, and I do think it’s a bit of a coinflip, but this has to be a mental battle for Uchiyama. I really don’t know who I expect to win this one. Fucsovics Novak : Tough draws are Marton Fucsovics reward on tour for about two years now. This one is no different. Countryman Dennis Novak seems to only show up for majors, and with his power and crisp serving he is a danger to anyone in the first round. This one can’t go anything but the distance with Novak’s form a great threat but Fucsovics defense and fitness being just a job and a half to hit through. Whoever wins here I expect to beat the winner of Tiafoe and Fognini so i’m excited to find out and hopeful it’s Fuscovics as he’s primed for some major results with his game. Fucsovics in 4-5. Tiafoe Fognini : Two guys who are sure they’re better than they are. Fognini hasn’t played since Rolan Garros and there’s a part of me that thinks he won’t be making much noise at this event. Tiafoe has been having a disappointing month but has at least been active despite his losses. Whoever wins will earn a war with Fuscovics or Novak and this pleases me. Tiafoe likely has the better chance and the higher level of motivation here. Tiafoe in 4. Cilic Mannarino : Mannarino is so very capable on grass. His forehand dips so nicely and his serving game is light years better with the aid of the swift stuff. Cilic’s reach should give him the edge here, neutralizing this. Mannarino is working with smaller weapons and it will show here. Despite some disappointing results, Cilic is still a threat and a fairly consistent performer at most majors. Cilic in 4-5 unless his backhand is unable to find the court on returns. Sousa Jubb : A great draw for Jubb who is making his debut at a major. A great draw for Sousa who isn’t at his best on grass but has been fighting and earning some good wins the past few weeks. Who wins? Probably not Jubb. Inexperience and Sousa’s ability to make matches a physical test are going to rob him of this opportunity, but qualifying as a teenager is simply an amazing accomplishment and given Sousa’s relatively weak backhand, there is a chance Jubb could steal a set. Sousa in 4. Delbonis Evans : Evans is having the best grasscourt season of anyone. He has gotten in a ton of matches, has had some wars and his skill level is the best it ever has been. A lot of people have been tagging him as a dangerous floater for anyone in the draw, and this is where my opinion deviates. While he’s an excellent skilled player, Evans works with smaller weapons, and has to maintain top level in every match he plays. I don’t believe he’d be favored against most of the top 50, but I was hoping he’d get some winnable matches as his variety is very relaxing to watch. Enter Delbonis. One of the biggest swings on tour and one of the most consistently well performing guys on clay, grass is something he plays but without much success. This is the perfect matchup for Evans, and with Ward/Basilashvili waiting there is a chance Evans can make a third round and get himself some valuable points he will need heading into a very difficult hardcourt season. Evans in 3. Ward Basilashvili : Basilashvili hits one of the hardest balls on tour, and has to be favored in this match. Ward, however has some nice wins over Kudla/Karlovic/Stakhovsky this season which show he at least will be competitive in this match. Although Basilashvili lost to Fucsovics and Berretini, he represents a step up in level for Ward and it may be the end of the road here for the hometown favorite. Basilashvili in 4. Shapovalov Berankis : Shap looked good in his exhibition against Novak and this is an ideal first round opponent for him. Berankis will be hard pressed to earn break points against Shap’s offense and Berankis profits mostly from his power and Shap’s defense will be able to negate that. Shapovalov in 4. Tomic Tsonga : A lot of people were upset with his loss to PCB but Tomic has been trying at tennis and that, my friends, is a miracle. I expect him to try here too and to make this loss respectable. On the other side of the net Tsonga has a bigger serve, better fitness, and the lowest percentage running one handed forehand pass in the game. Tsonga Shap 2nd round should be entertaining. Tsonga in 3 or 4. Kyrgios Thompson : The mental battle of the year for Kyrgios. Thompson will work hard and make Kyrgios do the same if he wants to win. Will Kyrgios engage and fight and “stoop” to Thompson’s level to get the work done? I haven’t seen anything to indicate that he is capable of that level of fight. I think if Thompson can stay tight in his service games, Kyrgios will get impatient and make an early exit. Kyrgios’ body with someone else’s brain could win Wimbledon, but all his antics and all his injury faking and all his talking to the crowd are just the actions of someone who is scared to try. Scared to find out how good he really is. Scared to care. Less tools, but all Thompson does is care and try. Thompson in 4 depressing sets. Sugita Nadal : Shame Sugita did not draw someone else as he is a pretty solid grasscourt player. Nadal has bitched and moaned about the seeding and kinda ruined any chance of me cheering for him here, but this should be over in straight sets. Nadal in 3. Nishikori Monteiro : Good warmup match for Kei and while Monteiro is a dangerous lefty, Nishikori’s backhand neutralizes the crosscourt forehand. This won’t be as simple as Kei in straights for the simple reason that his serve is semi-useless so far this season, but he should be able to get the win because Monteiro just isn’t the offensive terror that can hit Kei off the court. Kei in 3-4. Istomin Norrie : For a big serve, Istomin’s grass season has been fairly disappointing. Expect that to continue here with the hometown favorite Norrie playing his scrappy game to good effect. A loss to Rosol and Jubb don’t inspire hope in Istomin having the serving together to beat a player on the rise like Norrie. Norrie in 3-4. Johnson Ramos-Vinols : Johnson has a good chance to get some ranking points here. ARV isn’t much on the grass and hasn’t been that strong at all in 2019. A good serving performance has bolstered Johnson’s confidence in his last few outings and he should roll here. If the writeups seem like they’re getting shorter it’s because omg there are a lot of matches in this tournament. Johnson in 3. Cecchinato De Minaur : De Minaur season is fast approaching as we get this silly dirt and grass behind us, and while this one on paper should be a lock for De Minaur, he had a disappointing loss to Bedene who is a great grasscourt player but a guy you should be putting away if you want to be considered a “lock.” Still, Cecchinato’s best result on the grass swing has been only coughing up one break per set against Hurkacz, and this will be one way traffic as ADM is unlikely to give up the momentum once he gets it. De Minaur in 4 but probably 3. Struff Albot : Everybody’s adorable favorite Albot cannot seem to avoid Struff these days. On hardcourt, this is a closer test. On grass, the edge in power and serve favors Struff too much for Albot to do much more than take a set. Struff in 4. Fritz Berdych : Another great popcorn match. With Berdych having taken much of the past few months off, it’s hard to guess what to expect here. Oddsmakers notched Fritz at -170, and this is a nod to his only real result of the year, which is his title in Eastbourne. Honestly, I would expect his run to continue, but if Berdych is healthy, this will be an epic contest. Fritz in 4 or Berdych in 5. Andujar Kukushkin : Kukushkin will have too much variety and experience here for Andujar to have a shot at winning this. A claycourt specialist, dont expect much in the way of results from Andujar for the rest of the year. Kukushkin in 3. Ruud Isner : Isner published one of the most awkward comments of the year this week stating that if he lost in the first round he would go home a net loser. Travelling with his family, a team of coaches, a doctor, and being able to shell out for a house within walking distance of Wimbledon is a beautiful thing and something to be thankful for, not a burden to be pointed out in the media. Playing professional tennis is a blessing, not something to be negotiated at the ol dollar table. Besides, Isner is not going to lose first round. Ruud should make it to a few tiebreakers, but Isner’s serve at Wimbledon is something that will carry him through most matches and the first round is something (barring a secret injury) that he should not experience any fatigue for. Isner in 4. Berretini Bedene : One of the bright points of this season has been Matteo (win every single close match) Berretini. Simply put, the kid does not blink. With Baghdatis likely waiting in the second round I do expect Berretini to make a nice run here, and it will start with a good grasscourter in Bedene but a guy who traditionally does not beat the top 20-30 guys. Berretini in 3. Schnur Baghdatis : In what may be his last Wimbledon, Baghdatis has been lucky enough to draw lucky loser Brayden Schnur. I predicted Marcos would be finding his way off the tour a season ago, but he surprised me with his ability to win matches and his exceptionally solid backhand. A quick warmup with FAA last week, and Marcos looks to make at least the second round here against Schnur who has shown promise on the hardcourt but no real results to suggest he will win this one. Baghdatis in 4. Koepfer Krajinovic : Oddsmakers have this as a pickem and these are two very different men entering this contest. Koepfer plays mostly on the challenger level, but is coming off a grasscourt title in his last outing. Krajinovic hangs with some of the top guys on tour, but hasn’t played since the French Open. I admit I’m not very familiar with Koepfer’s game but it looks like he is the favorite here. Perhaps Kraj is injured or perhaps Koepfer is that good. I am excited for the latter and will be watching this one for sure. No pick. Ebden Schwartzman : Diego isn’t much on grass. Ebden is just having a terrible season. Grass is traditionally Ebden’s best surface but he hasn’t done much this year, and there’s no reason to think that it will start now. Diego in 3-4. Pouille Gasquet : As per contract all French players must play each other in every event, or maybe there are just so many of them that this happens? I don’t like this matchup. Gasquet is excellent on grass and while he’s at the middle/tailend of his career, I would love to see him playing towards the end of the first week. Pouille is a great talent and I love his aggression on the court. This is a tough match to call and when I peek and see J Clarke playing Noah Rubin and Bublik playing Barrerre below them, I kinda cringe. Pouille likely has the edge in form and Gasquet the edge on this surface, but it will be hard for either of these guys to put the other away quickly. Somebody french in 5 (probably Pouille). Bublik Barrere : I’m still waiting for Bubliks talent to match his mental game but it’s starting to materialize. Barrere is a solid talent and has qualified at a few majors already. Bublik leads the h2h with the one win coming by narrow margin (7-6, 7-5) in 2019 but also has been playing better comp so far on the grass. A 5 set win over Liam Broady will give Barrere confidence but may indicate that his level is not quite what it is on clay. Bublik in 5ish. Clarke Rubin : idc Harris Federer : Federer in 3.
The Single Dumbest Myth in All of Sports Betting! You Probably Made This Idiotic Mistake
Just don’t do it. The square player buys it hook, line, and sinker and thinks it’s the De Vinci Code of NFL betting. So often we warn gamblers about the mortal sin of using inductive rather than deductive reasoning. The quintessence of that is the rapid circulation of the insipid illogic of “all you have to do is pick the straight up winner of a game and chances are you will have the spread winner.” It’s always followed by some stat where the outright winner has covered 80 percent of the time. Dah. As any sports betting podcaster knows, when an underdog wins they cover 100 percent of the time. The favorite cannot cover unless they win outright. It’s impossible. The only scenario in which a team can win and not cover is when the favorite wins but by a smaller margin than the spread. Not shockingly the numbnuts who perpetuate unscientific preposterousness almost always quote stats relevant to the NBA or NFL. In college sports there are more mismatches and hence larger spreads where the margin is larger for a favorite to win and not cover. If a team is a 3.5 point favorite the only way the team that wins will not cover is for the favorite to win by one, two or three points. Any other result will have the team that wins covering. At what percentage do these half-wits think a team should win and not cover? Obviously the stupidity of this widely circulated inductive blather can be refuted from now until eternity. Or at least until an underdog wins but fails to cover, whichever comes last. But to those who subscribe to it as if there is any logic, thanks for keeping the books in business for the rest of us. Since the prevailing premise behind this urban myth is “it’s so much easier to pick the SU winner than the spread winner” why don’t these fancied geniuses just pick dog winner after dog winner on the moneyline? There are plenty of underdogs that win outright, many huge dogs in fact. If one wants to postulate how much easier it is to pick the SU winner, why waste such foreknowledge on collecting $100 for every $110 risked? Just keep picking those 250 dogs and get your money’s worth. I don’t want to ruin this fool’s gold with such a logical question, but like I keep saying, I guess those pipe dreamers are needed to keep the books in business for the rest of us. No oddsmaker will go broke underestimating the intelligence of the betting public. The author Joe Duffy has been a successful professional handicapper long before the Internet. Duffy burst on to the scene as scorephone legend “JD of the ACC”back in the 1980s and is now CEO ofOffshoreInsiders.com
[OC] Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Just Me? a 30-team examination of which coaches are on the “hot seat”
The NBA season hasn't started yet, but that doesn't mean that coaches should feel entirely comfortable in their offices quite yet. Circumstances change quickly, and coaching positions can change quickly along with them. Through this (super long) post, I wanted to assess each coach's job security for this 2019-20 season. There's no simple or accurate metric for measuring this, so I'm going to give an estimated and subjective appraisal of their chances of getting fired, either in mid-season or at the end of the season.
I LOVE YOU, PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME(listed alphabetically by team)
Golden State: Steve Kerr After 5 years on the job, Steve Kerr has a winning percentage of .785 in the regular season, and 3 NBA titles in the postseason. In fact, the team's 57-25 record last year was the worst of his tenure so far. So yes, his job is safe. Kerr could coach the next 10 years there if he wanted. For Kerr, it's not a matter of job security; it's a matter of health. He's been able to endure his constant back pain in pursuit of titles, but will he have the same resolve if the team sags into "good but not great" status? TBD. chance of firing: 0%. chance of retirement: 10%. L.A. Clippers: Doc Rivers A few years ago, Doc Rivers was almost the victim of his own success. His gaudy resume had allowed him to take charge of the L.A. Clippers front office, and he simply didn't do a great job in that role. However, he wisely took more of a backseat there, and embraced the job (head coach) that he's quite good at. The 48-34 record last year re-established his coaching cred, and the new superstars should energize him for a few more seasons at least. chance of firing / retirement: 2% San Antonio: Gregg Popovich Along with Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich is firmly in the "you can stay as long as you want" camp. And he nearly has. He's been at the helm for 23 years. Amazing, the last two seasons (47-35, 48-34) have amounted to Pop's worst percentages over the course of a full season. He's one of the greatest ever, and unlike some old veteran coaches, hasn't lost his fastball whatsoever. He's constantly adapted, evolved, and thrived. But as with Kerr, the question is whether Popovich is nearing the end of the road, for personal reasons. He's 70 now, and in control of Team USA. He may hand the baton off and focus on that job going forward. I suspect he'll give it a go in both roles until the Olympics at least, but it's no longer a guarantee. chances of firing: 0%. chances of retiring: 20%.
I STILL LOVE YOU, BUT WE MAY NEED COUPLES COUNSELING(listed alphabetically)
Boston: Brad Stevens A season or two ago, Brad Stevens was the golden boy coach in the NBA. After a slightly underwhelming 49-33 season, we're starting to see some grumbles about his offense (which isn't as free-flowing and ball-moving as his age may suggest.) The Celtics will replace Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker, but expectations aren't much lower. If the team can't grab a top 4 seed, those grumbles may grow. And if the Boston-Stevens love affair ends, would he start to eye a move back to the NCAA? Probably not, but we can't promise the marriage lasts forever. chances of firing: 2%, chances of leaving: 5%. Miami: Erik Spoelstra Although the Miami Heat have been mediocre lately (124-122 over the last three years), I'm still be inclined to group in Erik Spoelstra in with the "untouchables." After all, this is a 2-time champion coach with 500+ career wins prior to the age of 50 (48 years old right now.) Even if the Miami Heat underachieve and miss the playoffs again, I don't think Pat Riley would want to rock the boat on this culture. Still, Jimmy Butler is a handful, and potential addition Chris Paul isn't a bed of roses either. If Spoelstra can't get "buy in" from his new stars, then there may be more trouble in paradise than we expect. Again, it's a very small chance a divorce happens, but we can't give it a 0 either. chance of firing: 4%.
JUST DON'T EMBARRASS ME IN PUBLIC(listed alphabetically)
Cleveland: John Beilein It's hard to under-estimate the leverage rookie coach John Beilein has with the organization right now. They lured him from Michigan with a 5 year contract, where he'll be "working for" a front office that features assistant GM Mike Gansey (Beilein's former player.) Simply put: they're going to hand him this team and allow him to build a program in his image. Despite that, it doesn't mean the transition will work like a charm (just ask Billy Donovan.) Beilein is 66 years old, and has never coached in the pros before. He may simply decide that he hates the NBA and walk away prematurely. Still, it's hard to imagine that happening this early barring any unforeseen health issues. chances of firing: 1%. chances of leaving: 5%. Memphis: Taylor Jenkins Although they have wildly different resumes and backgrounds, Taylor Jenkins will be in a similar boat to John Beilein. He's inheriting a team that's in a rebuilding situation, and should afford him a lot of patience going forward. The Wharton-grad Jenkins projects as a smart, modern coach who should have long-term success. Still, we can't absolutely guarantee Memphis doesn't fire him after 1 season, because they have done that before. chances of firing: 3% Milwaukee: Mike Budenholzer Based on pure coaching talent and resume, Coach Bud has nothing to worry about - particularly after a 60-22 record last season. The only reason that I'm even putting him in this category at all is the potential for off-the-court issues. He had been arrested before on a suspicion of DUI back in 2014, although he was later found not guilty. If something worse happens in that ilk, then he may be in trouble. But barring that, he's obviously safe. chances of firing: 2%. Minnesota: Ryan Saunders While interim coach Ryan Saunders (Flip's son) had been a popular pick in the locker room, he still represents a sizable risk by this new front office. After all, he's only 33 years old and hasn't been a head coach at any level prior to that short stint last season. He may be a home run; he may be a strike out. Of course, he'd have to be a wild strike out (with a bat thrown into the stands) for it to amount to a firing in year one. chances of firing: 5% Orlando: Steve Clifford Veteran Steve Clifford did a tremendous job in his first year in Orlando, helping the team improve from 25-57 to 42-40 and a playoff trip. There's a chance the Magic may stagnate in R1 unless one of their young players (Jon Isaac, Mo Bamba, Markelle Fultz) takes a "leap," but they should have patience with Clifford for at least another year or two. Barring health issues, his job is safe. chances of firing: 2%. Phoenix: Monty Williams One of the reasons we can't claim rookie coaches are entirely safe is because teams like Phoenix have fired them in the past -- including Igor Kokoskov last season. However, it'd be very difficult for any owner (even Robert Sarver) to justify doing it two times in a row. In fact, Monty Williams secured a 5-year deal to help prevent that nonsense. chances of firing: 2%. Sacramento: Luke Walton Despite mixed results in L.A., Luke Walton was a hot commodity with the Sacramento Kings franchise, who gave him a nice 4-year contract. Of course, that happened before the sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced since. While that appears to have quieted down, any new rumor or accusation may turn up the heat on Walton. Barring that, the team should stand by their man. chances of firing: 5%. Toronto: Nick Nurse Nick Nurse is about as close to "untouchable" as you can get for a coach with 1 year of experience. But hey, that was a heck of a year. Nurse won the title, and outfoxed several great coaches along the way. The Raptors could probably sink down as low as 30 wins (unlikely) and still keep Nurse for the long haul. chances of firing: 1%. Utah: Quin Snyder While Quin Snyder hasn't had a huge amount of playoff success yet himself, he's also quickly established himself as one of the better NBA coaches. Over the last three years, the Jazz have played lockdown defense and averaged 49.7 wins. This offseason has raised expectations, but Snyder should be safe for another season or two even if they slightly underachieve. The bigger issue would be if Snyder gets in trouble off the court; he had a wilder history in college prior to straightening out in the pros. chances of firing: 4%.
YOU'RE SAFE (FOR NOW)(again, alphabetically)
Atlanta: Lloyd Pierce In theory, Lloyd Pierce should be in great shape here in Atlanta. The young team had a solid 29-53 season in his first year, and their young core projects well for the future. That said, expectations will rise over time. Pierce was partly hired for his defensive reputation, but the team only ranked 27th last season. With Trae Young (who graded dead last in ESPN RPM on defense), that may be hard to change. Hopefully rookies De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish will solve that issue, but if not, Pierce may start feeling some heat in 2020. When he was hired, the team only gave him a 3 year contract, which indicates that he didn't have much leverage coming in. chances of firing: 7.5% Charlotte: James Borrego Like Lloyd Pierce, James Borrego will be entering Year 2 in a rebuilding situation that should lend itself to patience. On the other hand, logic tends to go out the window when it comes to the Charlotte Hornets. Borrego will have to deal with a weak roster, and a shaky front office that just gave $19M a season to Terry Rozier. I expect Borrego will survive for a while, but we can't rule out a house cleaning. chances of firing: 10%. Brooklyn: Kenny Atkinson Kenny Atkinson has done a great job bringing the Nets out of a deep black hole rebuild, but now the expectations will vault up with the arrival of Kyrie Irving (and soon Kevin Durant.) Presumably, those stars wouldn't have signed up in the first place if they didn't like Atkinson. That said, their opinions can change at the drop of a hat. A disappointment in 2019-20? Okay fine. Another in 2020-21? Then Atkinson will start feeling that seat warm. chances of firing: 4% Dallas: Rick Carlisle As one of the most respected coaches (and a title winner to boot), Rick Carlisle should have job security for life. Still, the NBA will always be a stars league, and Carlisle's star isn't Dirk Nowitzki anymore. It's going to be Luka Doncic (and Kristaps Porzingis' team), and Carlisle will need to appease them to some degree. Missing the playoffs this year may be fine, but whiffing again in 2020-21 would be problematic; it would be the 5th season in a row without a playoff berth. chances of firing/retiring: 5% Denver: Mike Malone After a premature exit in Sacramento, Mike Malone has rebuilt his stock by lifting Denver to contender status. He's improved every year, from 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36 to the breakout 54-28 record last season. Of course, that also comes with rising expectations. Like the others in this section, Malone could survive one regression year, but two disappointing years in a row would be a problem. chances of firing: 5%. Detroit: Dwane Casey Of all our coaches, Dwane Casey knows that one should never get too comfortable. After all, he was fired after a 59-win season (and a Coach of the Year trophy) in Toronto. After that, he still had enough leverage to earn a 5-year deal in Detroit, which should buy him quite a bit of time. Still, a 41-41 start was "meh." To make matters worse, Nick Nurse and the Raptors won the title without him (albeit with Kawhi Leonard.) Given Casey's big contract, he should be safe in Year 2 and Year 3, but there's hardly a guarantee he'll survive all 5 years of the deal. chances of firing: 5%.
10 HOTTEST SEATS(in order)
(10) Portland: Terry Stotts Remember, this isn't a ranking of the best and worst coaches but merely their situations. In fact, everyone would agree that Terry Stotts is a very good basketball coach. In fact, if you asked the other NBA coaches to rank their peers, I suspect Stotts may even crack the top 5. That skill has manifested on the court as well. His Blazers have made the playoffs for 6 seasons in a row, and had a mini-breakout with a Conference Finals trip this year. Still, making the playoffs doesn't lock in job security in the NBA; winning a title does. And until that happens, the franchise will always wonder in the back of their minds on whether or not they should pull a "Masai Ujiri" and squeeze Stotts out for a younger assistant on his staff like Nate Tibbetts, a rising star in the ranks. After tasting the WCF last year, can Stotts afford to take a step back? Probably. Losing in R2 seems about right for this team as presently constructed. But what if they lose in R1? Then it becomes more of a debate. I'd still recommend keeping Stotts and tweaking the roster instead (ya'll got any more of them stretch PFs?) but I'm not in charge of the team and I'm not ruling any shake-ups out. chances of firing: 15% (9) Indiana: Nate McMillan As with Terry Stotts, it may feel strange to see Nate McMillan on this list. At first glance, neither should be on the hot seat at all. In McMillan's three years on the job, he's guided the team to winning records and playoff trips in each season. The Pacers just finished 48-34 despite Victor Oladipo's injury, and may be better than that this season with new additions like Malcolm Brogdon. Still, we have to go deeper than the first glance here. Indiana thrives on the basis of their defense (ranked 3rd last season), which is heavily influenced by assistant Dan Burke and DPOY candidate Myles Turner. Offensively, the team tends to look a little scattered and uncreative, which has Pacers fans quietly murmuring about McMillan. They added some new scorers in Brogdon and T.J. Warren, but both are players coming off career years from 3. If they regress at all -- and this team regresses at all -- then McMillan may be in more trouble than we realize. Am I expected that? Not really. If I had to bet, I would bank on the Pacers winning 45-50 games and McMillan lasting at least another season. But if we're looking for potential hot seat situations, we can't ignore the potential downside here. If they underachieve, McMillan may be the fall guy. chances of firing: 20% (8) N.Y. Knicks: David Fizdale We can't judge David Fizdale too harshly based on his 17-65 record in year one. After all, tanking and landing a top 3 pick was all part of the plan. But what's the plan going forward? After striking out with the superstars in free agency, the Knicks signed a bunch of B+ and C+ players to big money. With it, they've attempted to re-set expectations. Instead of landing superstars in 2019, they're going to land them in 2021! Hopefully? In the meantime, David Fizdale should be able to survive until then. His team is still young, and features first and second year players like R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, and Dennis Smith. Practically speaking, the veterans like Julius Randle and Bobby Portis are meant to supplement that rebuilding movement. Fizdale should be allowed to develop this group, and be afforded some growing pains in 2019-20 and again in 2020-21. However, there are a few factors working against him. The front office may fancy themselves a playoff contender out East, which may go sour by the end of the year. Moreover, that front office isn't exactly on solid ground themselves after getting pounded by the press this summer. Dolan may want a complete fresh start after this year. More than that, there's a non-zero chance James Dolan leaves town himself, and some super-billionaire like Jeff Bezos uses his change jar to buy the team and mold it into his image. At the end of the day, there's more uncertainty with this situation than a second-year coach would like to see. chances of firing: 20% (7) Chicago: Jim Boylen As a well-respected defensive coordinator, Jim Boylen's name has always been bandied about for head coaching jobs in the past. He finally got his opportunity last season after taking over for apple pie Fred Hoiberg in mid-season. At first, it did not go well. Jim Boylen had about as rocky of a start as you can imagine, earning negative reports in the press about his drill sergeant attitude clashing with the locker room. Still, he turned that perception around and had a decent finish to the year and earned some "buy in" from the players. Better yet, his Chicago Bulls may be a darkhorse contender for the # 8 seed. They have offensive stars in Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen already, so an improved defense may vault them closer to .500. Even if that doesn't happen (yet), Boylen should feel safe knowing he has the backing of the front office. Of course, that also ties Boylen's fate to that front office. Ownership has tended to leave Gar Forman and John Paxson alone, but it's not a lifetime appointment. If this team doesn't improve enough (and wins say, 25 or 30 games), then there may be a total housecleaning here. I'm a little more optimistic on the Bulls' chances of winning 35-40 games than others, but we can't rule a potential disaster out. chances of firing: 25% (6) Philadelphia: Brett Brown After a long dark winter, Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers have emerged from the "Process" intact. In fact, Brown has won more games in each of the last two seasons (52 and 50) then he did over his first three seasons combined (47). But with that comes raised expectations, which may be higher than ever. With Kawhi Leonard out of the Conference and the sheen off the Boston Celtics, the Sixers are the co-favorites with Milwaukee to make the Finals. Losing in the Conference Finals would be acceptable, but a R1 or R2 loss may be stinging. Would that disappointment be enough to cost Brown his job? It's debatable. His contract extension runs through 2021-22, but that's never stopped a coach from being fired before. Fans may grow frustrated if Ben Simmons still can't shoot, or if Joel Embiid can't stay healthy, or if Philly's defense doesn't look as dominant as it should be on paper (despite Simmons, Embiid, and Jimmy Butler, they only ranked # 15 last season.) It's very possible that Brown becomes the scapegoat here. Of course, we're talking "worst case scenarios" here. Chances are: the Sixers should be quite good and have a very good chance to make the ECF or the Finals. So while we can't rule out a firing, we wouldn't bet on it either. chances of firing: 30% (5) New Orleans: Alvin Gentry After coming over from Golden State, the exceptions for Alvin Gentry in New Orleans were sky-high. Suffice it to say, it's been an underwhelming return so far. Despite the (occasional) presence of Anthony Davis, his Pelicans have won less than 35 games in three of his four seasons on the job. Oddly, Davis' trade demands may have helped Gentry survive another year. With the blockbuster deal, expectations get re-set and the window extends again. On paper, Gentry and assistant Chris Finch's run-and-gun style should suit this new roster well. Gentry is also someone who's earned high praise from his players and from the media in the past. If new execs David Griffin and Trajan Langdon didn't believe in him, they had the opportunity to make that change this past summer. But alas, that doesn't mean they won't have that same opportunity again next summer. Gentry's contract will be running out, and the team may decide to go with someone younger than him (he's now age 64.) To earn a longer leash, Gentry doesn't need to make the playoffs, but he has to show reasons for optimism. The Pelicans need to find a clear role for Zion Williamson, and earn some improvement from the cast-off Lakers. There's a lot of talent on the roster, but if the team stalls or looks like a muddled mess, Griffin may likely clean up the picture and chose his own head coach the next time around. chances of firing: 35% (4) Houston: Mike D'Antoni Veteran Mike D'Antoni may start spitting out Rodney Dangerfield routines, because the poor guy doesn't get much respect. Despite a great run here in Houston (records of 55-27, 65-17, 53-29), he's still struggling to earn a contract extension from the franchise. And while owner Tilman Fertitta gets the blame for that, we can't rule out Daryl Morey's influence either. Morey has stated in the past that he thinks coaches' messages tend to run stale after a few years, and that philosophy has born out in their decision making. Jeff Van Gundy lasted 4 years. After him, Rick Adelman lasted 4 years. After him, Kevin McHale lasted 4 years (+10 games). This season, Mike D'Antoni will be entering the dreaded 4th year himself. The Houston Rockets' job essentially has strict presidential term limits, and he's verging on lame duck status. To up the degree of difficulty even further, the team added Russell Westbrook to the equation. That's not to say it's the wrong decision by any means or that it won't work out (personally I'd still peg them for a top 3 seed), but we have to admit there's a sizable chance that it won't work out. The chemistry for Harden + Westbrook is going to be harder to calculate now that they've both had considerable success (and MVP seasons). And if something doesn't click, it will certainly be easier to blame D'Antoni than the two stars, whose massive contracts run for another few seasons. chances of firing/retiring: 40% (3) L.A. Lakers: Frank Vogel It's rare to see a first-year coach listed this high, but this is rare circumstances indeed. Frank Vogel will be joining the Lakers on a 3-year contract, which is quite light for a veteran like him. That fact showcases his limited leverage and his reduced reputation. The Lakers didn't high the coach who guided the Indiana Pacers to the ECF; they hired the coach who led Orlando to 29-53 and 25-57 records. In some ways, Vogel is lucky to have landed any job at all. But there's no mistaking the fact that this particular job will come with some challenges. Primary among them: the threat of assistant Jason Kidd breathing down his neck. According to some, Kidd was the first choice of the front office, and the conspiracy theory that they simply didn't want to hire him outright (due to domestic violence charges in the past) checks out logically for me. Vogel can't be too pleased to turn on the Summer League and watch his new star LeBron James sitting next to Kidd in Vegas either. Will LeBron James, Rich Paul, and Jason Kidd conspire to stab Vogel like Caesar? The odds are high. But the question is a matter of "when?" James didn't love David Blatt, but allowed him 1.5 on the job before he got the boot. The Lakers may end up giving Vogel a full season and change to make his impact on the defensive end before considering a full-time change in midseason in 2020-21. And hey, we can't rule out the "what if it works?" theory either. This team has LeBron James and Anthony Davis, for fuck's sake. They have a legitimate chance to be a great team, and even an NBA champion. If that happens, Vogel won't be going anywhere (at least, not for another year or two.) chances of firing: 45% (2) Washington: Scottie Brooks The Scottie Brooks era in Washington has been a disappointment, and it won't get much prettier from here. After the John Wall injury, the Wizards will be entering 2019-20 with one legitimate star in Bradley Beal and a wonky supporting cast. They're a motley crew of decent prospects who may be 2 years away (Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant) and veterans who may be 2 years removed from quality play (Isaiah Thomas, Ish Smith, C.J. Miles.) Realistically speaking, Bradley Beal will have to put in a Herculean effort for this group to win 35 games. If there's any reason to think the axe will not come for Scottie Brooks' head, it's that this Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis isn't the "off with his head!" type. He's been patience with the Washington Capitals hockey team, as well as this Wizards unit. Former GM Ernie Grunfeld lasted for years past his expiration date. And in turn, Brooks may be allowed to play out another year of his (pricy) contract. Brooks also has a reputation as a good player development coach, which bodes well for his prospects during a possible rebuild to come. All that said, Brooks shouldn't be investing in D.C. real estate. The clock is ticking. I would fully expect new acting GM Tommy Sheppard to cut Brooks loose and choose his own coach at some point, but we can't be 100% confident it will happen after this season or after the next. chances of firing: 50% (1) Oklahoma City: Billy Donovan Given his new status as a /NBA punching bag, it's hard to under-sell just how much leverage Billy Donovan had when he first came to Oklahoma City. We're talking about a well-paid college coach who had won two separate NCAA titles at Florida, and had resisted the NBA calls for years. He arrived in OKC with a 5-year deal in tow, as well as a reputation as one of the best coaches in basketball. As we now enter Year 5 of that contract, Donovan's reputation has been tarnished considerably. He's been blasted for perceived underachievement, particularly in the postseason. With Kevin Durant, the team blew a 3-1 lead to Golden State, and hasn't won a playoff series since (losing in R1 three times in a row.) In fact, they've gone 4-15 in playoff games since then. Donovan's managed to avoid getting the boot because of his reputation and big contract, but those excuses won't hold off the executioner much longer. Personally, I'm a little bit of a "Donovan Defender." I don't think he's done as bad of a job as advertised. After all, his worst regular season record has been 47-35. He's kept the team afloat without Kevin Durant. And sure, he probably should have reined in Russell Westbrook, but it's not easy to harness an MVP. The fact that Donovan won 48 games with a guard who jacked up 20 shots a game (at 50.1% true shooting) is oddly impressive in a way. And heck, let's even defend blowing the 3-1 lead. It's not like OKC woke up one morning with a 3-1 lead under their Christmas tree; Donovan used some wily tricks and unconventional lineups to help earn those 3 wins in the first place. But again, these rankings aren't about my perception of the coaches, but rather my perception of their situations and stocks. In theory, this OKC roster isn't half bad and could flirt with .500 if they wanted to pursue the playoffs. And in theory, if they blow it up, then a college coach like Donovan may be well suited for that rebuild. But in reality, I just don't see an extension here. The marriage has soured, resentment has built up, and a divorce may be best for both parties involved. chances of firing: 55%
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NBA Picks (1/26/2020) NBA Free Pick & Prediction Sunday January 26, 2020 Underdog Outright Winner
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