Panthers Move Up to take Jeremy Chinn in the second round

The Carolina Panthers made multiple picks in the 2nd round on Friday night. After trading a third and fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks, the Panthers selected Southern Illinois safety/nickel Jeremy Chinn.

Chinn, who was expected to be a mid-second round pick, slid slightly and Carolina moved up to draft their guy. He is a versatile secondary piece that can hit, cover, and create turnovers.

The Panthers signed Juston Burris in free agency and is expected to start at safety for Carolina, but Chinn can play either corner spot (outside or nickel). He is going to find himself on the field a lot as a rookie.

After selecting Yetur Gross-Matos with their first pick on day two, Carolina has now added three potential defensive starters through the draft:

Derrick Brown, NT, Auburn

Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois

Chinn blew up the combine this past February. He ran a 4.45u 40-yard dash, benched 20 reps, and had a vertical of 41 inches. He is an NFL caliber athlete that has tremendous upside as a safety.

NBA Mock Draft 1.0

The All-Star break is in full-force, and NBA teams are focused on what changes they need to make in order to build a run over the final months of the regular season. However, for the bottom of the league, the remainder of this season has become about giving younger players more playing time.

Here is my first mock of this draft cycle. 

Note: I use Tankathon to simulate the draft order, hence why Minnesota is at the top of the list.

  1. Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards, Guard, Georgia

Anthony Edwards is a unique scorer with incredible contact balance. Adding him to a core that features D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns is extremely promising. Bringing in Edwards also frees Minnesota from the possibility of paying Malik Beasley over $10M per year as a pending free agent, although they still may elect to bring him back as a sixth man.

  1. Warriors – James Wiseman, Big, Memphis

As much as I do not like James Wiseman being selected this high, the Warriors are likely to take a center with a team that consists of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. The Warriors also could trade this pick in combination with Andrew Wiggins to get another All-Star caliber player on an already loaded roster. Win-win for Golden State.

  1. Hawks – Tyrese Maxey, Guard, Kentucky

While Maxey may not be a ‘star-power’ type pick, he brings much-needed defense to a backcourt that features Trae Young. Maxey also has an incredible work ethic and should be ready to start for an NBA team right away. Young/Maxey/Hunter/Collins/Capela is… something.

  1. Hornets – LaMelo Ball, Guard, USA

The Charlotte Hornets brought in Terry Rozier this past off-season. Devonte’ Graham has also exploded this season. However, Ball is a 6-foot-8 point guard that has incredible vision and world-beating shooting upside. Graham is able to play off-ball and Rozier seemingly could either be moved or come off of the bench. Either way, talent over everything.

  1. Cavaliers – Deni Avdija, Forward, Israel

With Garland and Porter Jr. being the backcourt of the future for the Cavaliers (along with Drummond coming in via trade), Cleveland needs starting-caliber players at both forward spots. Avdija could be a secondary or tertiary playmaker along with being able to spot-up from anywhere outside the three-point line.

  1. Knicks – Onyeka Okongwu, Big, Southern California

The Knicks have drafted ball-dominant players with their past two picks. As an RJ Barrett truther, I fully believe he could be an All-Star when surrounded with high-quality role players. Okongwu brings an irreplaceable skill set similar to that of Bam Adebayo. He is extremely mobile, can guard any frontcourt players, and has shooting upside. Okongwu is a plus player on both sides of the court that could help unlock part of the existing New York core.

  1. Pistons – Cole Anthony, Guard, North Carolina

Cole Anthony is a score-first guard that could jump-start a Pistons rebuild. He is the best shooter in this draft class and has uncanny rebounding ability for a guard. Shooting + athleticism is typically a good combination for a draft prospect and to be able to get someone that has both traits in the mid-lottery is an absolute win for the Pistons.

  1. Bulls – Isaac Okoro, Forward, Auburn

The Bulls, despite their many flaws, have drafted pretty well in recent years. They have a great tandem in Markkanen and Carter and should be able to hit on either Coby White or Tomas Satoransky as their future point guard. Okoro gives them a long-term option at the three that can do everything. Okoro can be a secondary playmaker, incredible on-ball defender, and step back and knock down shots as well. The Bulls have a dynamic offense already and adding another supporting role player and extremely talented defender cannot hurt.

  1. Wizards – Tyrese Haliburton, Guard, Iowa State

Haliburton is an interesting player. He’s arguably the best facilitator in this draft class as well as a lengthy guard on defense as well. Even if John Wall is back, Haliburton could find some minutes as either a sixth man or possibly even find himself in the starting lineup if John Wall is traded. Regardless, the Wizards have another long-term guard. 

  1. Kings – Devin Vassell, Wing, Florida State

Vassell is one of the best 3&D prospects in this draft. He could easily become a top role player in the NBA due to his physical attributes and lights-out shooting. The Kings may be losing Bogdan Bogdanovic and have recently benched Buddy Hield. I could very well see them adding another wing like Vassell.

  1. Suns – Killian Hayes, Guard, France

Ricky Rubio is not the long-term answer for the Suns. While he has been a sufficient starting point guard, Hayes could be a big upgrade. Despite being a similar archetype, Hayes is a drastically better shooter than Rubio already (39% from three and 91% from the FT line).

  1. Pelicans – RJ Hampton, Guard, USA

The Pelicans have a lot of talent at so many different positions, so it’s difficult to slot players to them. But the Pelicans do need more youth and shooting in the backcourt. Hampton struggled in his short stint in New Zealand, but the talent and upside are clearly there. Griffin has the trust of the Pelicans franchise as well as the respect from the rest of the league.

  1. Spurs – Paul Reed, Forward, DePaul

The Spurs are typically a very predictable team when it comes to drafting. I know most would slot Theo Maledon here but San Antonio has both Dejonte Murray and Derrick White at the point guard spot. Paul Reed is an offensive-minded forward that has All-Defense team potential. 

  1. Trail Blazers – Jaden McDaniels, Forward, Washington

The Trail Blazers always select the players with the highest upside. McDaniels is clearly that at this stage in the draft. Adding a potential starting forward with shooting upside in the late lottery could pay off, but McDaniels as a whole does have a lot of bust potential.

  1. Magic – Theo Maledon, Guard, France
  2. Timberwolves – Nico Mannion, Guard, Arizona
  3. Celtics – Kira Lewis, Guard, Alabama
  4. Bucks – Joel Ayayi, Guard, Gonzaga
  5. Mavericks – Obi Toppin, Forward, Dayton
  6. Thunder – Isaiah Stewart, Big, Washington
  7. Nets – Josh Green, Wing, Arizona
  8. Nuggets – Tre Jones, Guard, Duke
  9. Heat – Saddiq Bey, Forward, Villanova
  10. Jazz – Patrick Williams, Forward, Florida State
  11. Knicks – Jalen Smith, Forward, Maryland
  12. Thunder – Cassius Stanley, Wing, Duke
  13. Celtics – Xavier Tillman, Big, Michigan State
  14. Raptors – Ashton Hagans, Guard, Kentucky
  15. Lakers – Jahm’ius Ramsey, Guard, Texas Tech
  16. Trendon Watford, Forward, LSU

Mock Draft 2.0

Mock Draft Season is upon us. The Senior Bowl has come and gone with many players experiencing either a rise or drop in their stock. Without further ado, here is the mock.

Trades

Miami receives: 1.03

Detroit receives: 1.05, 1.18, 2.56

—————————–

Arizona receives: 1.12, 3.80

Las Vegas receives: 1.08

—————————–

NY Jets receive: 1.16, 3.78

Atlanta receives: 1.11

—————————–

Denver receives: 1.20, 3.73

Jacksonville receives: 1.15

—————————–

Indianapolis receives: 1.28

Seattle receives: 2.34, 4.119

THE DRAFT

1.01 Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

This pick should not need any explanation. The Bengals take the best quarterback in the draft. One can only hope he is surrounded by the talent necessary to succeed at the next level. Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon are a solid start.

1.02 Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

Ron Rivera gets his hand on another elite defensive cornerstone. Absolutely no way he trades out of this pick. Young is electric and should be a force for years.

LSU v Alabama

1.03 Dolphins (from DET) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Look, I know it’s an expensive move. However, I do believe this is the package necessary to sway Detroit from offers from the Panthers, Chargers, and possibly the Colts and Raiders. Tua finds his home that is clearly invested in his health.

1.04 Giants – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Jedrick Wills is OT1 in this class. The Giants (still) need offensive line help. Wills can play on either side and could very well be an elite player in doing such.

1.05 Lions (from MIA) – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

Daniel Jerimiah has Brown second on his big board and typically his board reflects that of most NFL franchises. The Lions need another player on the interior of their defensive line to complement Trey Flowers. Brown is an excellent player.

1.06 Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Phillip Rivers is gone. If the Chargers cannot land a player like Tom Brady (which, let’s face it, they won’t), they need a quarterback. Herbert is extremely accurate and will hopefully grow mentally in the NFL.

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1.07 Panthers – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Panthers might not re-sign CB1 James Bradberry, but even if they do bring him back, Okudah solidifies an extremely shaky secondary. Ross Cockrell is a pending free agent and Donte Jackson simply did not become what was asked from him this past season. Okudah has a chance to be special.

1.08 Raiders (via ARZ) – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Simmons is a special talent and the Raiders move up to snag their guy. He’s too much of a perfect fit for them to sit and wait for the board to fall their way. The Raiders move one of their three second-round picks to certify Simmons becomes their player.

1.09 Jaguars – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Jacksonville needs to give Minshew a WR1. Dede Westbrook and DJ Chark are excellent complementary players, but Jeudy is a surefire first-receiver in an offense that could become electric next season.

1.10 Browns – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

So Becton being OT2 now is a thing I did not expect. Anyways, OL talent falls in the draft, and the Browns finally give Baker Mayfield more than a half-second the throw.

1.11 Falcons (from NYJ) – AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

Like the Raiders, the Falcons have many day two picks. They sacrifice one to get an additional edge rusher in AJ Epenesa, arguably the second-best defensive end prospect in this draft.

1.12 Cardinals (from LV) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The Cardinals have Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andy Isabella. All of those players are best utilized in the slot. But to make this offense even more #fun, I want Kingsbury to get a vertical playmaker. Lamb is exactly that. Also, the rumors say the F.O. loves him.

1.13 Colts – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

The Colts get their quarterback. Love might not be a start-right-away type guy, but he has the traits and physical ability to become a special player if he can cut out the mistakes he made at Utah State in 2019.

1.14 Bucs – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

Jacob Eason is a Bruce Arians quarterback. However, I also believe that this team is interested in Phillip Rivers, and if true, the Bucs should be gunning for win-now players.

1.15 Jaguars (from DEN) – Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

The Jaguars move up from their second pick to bolster their offensive line. Wirfs can play either guard or tackle and is an excellent run blocker. They get a good value in the middle of the first.

1.16 Jets (from ATL) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

The Jets move down and get Andrew Thomas. The fact that the Jets are able to move down and grab an additional third-round pick along with securing a franchise left tackle is a spectacular move by Joe Douglas.

1.17 Cowboys – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Byron Jones may be a casualty of this free agency for Dallas. Fulton is CB2 on my board and could be an immediate starter.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State

1.18 Lions (from MIA) – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

With their first pick, the Lions helped their defensive line. With this one, they select a great coverage linebacker in Patrick Queen. I usually am not a huge advocate of selecting linebackers in the first round, but I really do like the trio of Simmons/Queen/Murray

1.19 Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

The Raiders get their dream duo of Simmons and Ruggs. Ruggs could end up being the first receiver taken. He’s the fastest player in the draft and with his lack of injury history, I believe he could be at the top of many teams’ boards.

1.20 Broncos (from JAX) – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

The Broncos grab Henderson after getting another third-round pick. Henderson is a tall corner that was great in coverage for Florida this year. He’s a starter from day one.

1.21 Eagles – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

With the way that the board falls, the Eagles take the best value at one of their needs. Murray is the last of the top tier linebackers and he should be a DROY candidate from his first snap. 

1.22 Bills – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

Amazingly, Chaisson is still available. There is not really a stand-out edge rusher in a great pass-rushing Bills defense. Chaisson is a well-rounded edge player that has high character and will compliment Ed Oliver very well.

1.23 Patriots – Marlon Davidson, EDGE, Auburn

A senior bowl riser, Davidson made himself money in the one day of practice he attended in Mobile. He beat everyone in front of him, along with having a stellar season at Auburn. The Patriots get him in the back half of the first.

kj

1.24 Saints – KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State

The Saints need a different receiver to put across from Michael Thomas. They could take a quarterback here, but if Brees is gone, I could see them sticking with either Bridgewater or Hill (as Payton has said). Hamler is speedy and can be used in a variety of ways.

1.25 Vikings – AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson

The Vikings need secondary help. Although it isn’t a great value, Terrell was shutdown for Clemson the majority of this year.

1.26 Dolphins – Austin Jackson, OT, Southern California

The Dolphins need to protect their franchise quarterback. Austin Jackson is the best OT available and has the potential to anchor the offensive line.

1.27 Colts (from SEA) – Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

The Colts move up to grab an interior lineman. Blacklock was a disruptive 1T at TCU that can heavily affect the interior pocket. Love/Blacklock is a fun duo.

1.28 Ravens – Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin

The Ravens may end up losing Matt Judon in free agency. In doing so, they will have a major hole to fill. Baun did it all for Wisconsin and could end up going in the first round for his efforts.

1.29 Titans – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

I love Harold Landry. I think he could be an elite player soon. However, Gross-Matos has a Brian Burns-type mold that is becoming increasingly common in the NFL today. The Titans, anchored by Jeffrey Simmons and Jurrell Casey, would make an elite defensive line nearly unstoppable.

zoomin

1.30 Packers – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

Jalen Reagor is my WR3. The Packers, getting him opposite of Devante Adams, would diversify their receiving core in a great way. Reagor has route running upside, contested catch ability, and obviously speed.

1.31 Chiefs – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

The Chiefs need to select the best corner available. Diggs is excellent and should be able to match up with any outside receiver. He has so, so much upside.

1.32 49ers – Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The 49ers could move back here. But. They could also take the best player that falls to them. In this case, it’s Grant Delpit. 

2.33 Bengals – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

2.34 Seahawks (from IND) – Netane Muti, iOL, Fresno

I love Netane Muti. I don’t know what the Seahawks are going to do. Nobody does. But Muti makes a ton of sense.

2.35 Lions – Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

2.36 Giants – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

2.37 Chargers – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn

2.38 Panthers – Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

There isn’t any way Eason slips out of the top-40. He could go to New Orleans, New England, or even the Colts if they don’t take a quarterback in the first. He’s a physically gifted player that falls.

2.39 Dolphins – Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

2.40 Cardinals – Josh Jones, OT, Houston

2.41 Browns – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

I just want to say that I LOVE the Becton/McKinney stack. 

2.42 Jaguars – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

2.43 Bears – Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

The Bears should say goodbye to Trubisky, but Ryan Pace is going down with the ship. It’s a shame that the Bears are wasting a talented defense.

2.44 Colts – Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

2.45 Bucs – Nick Harris, iOL, Washington

2.46 Broncos – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

2.47 Falcons – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

2.48 Jets – Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah

Andrew Thomas/Bradlee Anae is a huge win for the Jets after moving back in the first.

2.49 Steelers – Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue

2.50 Bears – Tyler Biadasz, iOL, Wisconsin

2.51 Cowboys – Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

2.52 Rams – Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida

The Rams get a solid edge. I would love to see Greenard next to Donald and Brockers.

2.53 Eagles – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

2.54 Bills – Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF

2.55 Falcons – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

The Falcons love to take a RB every year. In this case, they take the best available — Swift — who surprisingly fell all the way to the latter half of the first round. I know the Falcons have a ton of needs. But Freeman is aging poorly and Swift is an elite talent.

2.56 Lions (from MIA) – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

2.57 Texans – JK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

2.58 Vikings – Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma

Gallimore falls and the Vikings take advantage.

2.59 Seahawks – Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State

2.60 Ravens – Michael Pittman, WR, Southern California

2.61 Titans – Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

2.62 Packers – Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

2.63 Chiefs – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

2.64 Seahawks – Ashtyn Davis, S, California

Mock Draft 1.0 (Trades)

It’s officially mock draft season. In an offseason full of angst and anticipation, it’s exciting to predict where certain prospects will go in the draft. Let’s get into it.

Trades:

Miami receives: 1.03, 2021 fifth-round selection

Detroit receives: 1.05, 1.18

———

Carolina receives: 1.13

Indianapolis receives: Cam Newton, 4.103

———

burreax

1. Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU


The Bengals have a new franchise quarterback. They need to do all they can to put protection and talent around Joe Burrow, who had one of the most electric seasons in college football. Put this selection in ink.

2. Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

It is impossible to see Ron Rivera trading away an incredible edge talent like Chase Young. He’s a franchise cornerstone and as close to a can’t miss-talent as you can get. With 16.5 sacks in 13 games, Young is ready to play at the next level.

3. Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

*The Miami Dolphins traded the 18th overall selection to obtain this pick along with a future fifth-round pick. The full trade can be seen at the top of the page*

The Dolphins were always the team with Tua Tagovailoa. Despite his injuries, Tua likely has the best deep ball placement in this draft class. He is a great talent, and if not for his injuries, might be the first quarterback taken (at least, there would be more of a debate). 

4. Giants – Isaiah Simmons, Hybrid, Clemson

My only concern about Simmons is that whatever team he lands on might use him incorrectly. Dave Gettleman drafted Shaq Thompson back in 2015, and he gets a similar-ish player here with a top-5 pick. Isaiah Simmons is an impact player. He is all over the field constantly and is elite at just about every spot he was played in college. Don’t get it mixed up — his versatility is an absolute positive.

5. Lions – Jeff Okudah, Corner, Ohio State

*The Lions traded the third overall selection to move back and acquire the fifth and eighteenth selections. The full trade is at the top of this page*

Okudah is a shutdown corner and one of the best secondary prospects since Jalen Ramsey. The Lions are able to move back and get another staple for their defense. While it would have been nice to improve upon the defensive line, you simply cannot pass up on a CB1 like Okudah with the fifth pick.

6. Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Phillip Rivers looks to be done in Los Angeles. If that’s the case, I expect the Chargers to either select an offensive lineman or quarterback with this pick. Herbert is accurate and, if he can improve upon his mental processing, could end up being a franchise quarterback. 

7. Panthers – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

If the Panthers do, indeed, end up trading Cam Newton (like I have them projected to in this mock draft), then you can bet on them selecting a quarterback with one of their first two selections. Love is an incredibly talented quarterback that needs to improve on the mental side of the ball. He can make all of the throws and has the talent to be an NFL quarterback, it’s just whether a team is willing to afford him that time.

8. Cardinals – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The Cardinals need to add more weapons and protection around Kyler Murray. With this pick, they add one of his former college teammates. Lamb’s RAC ability is special for a player of his size. Both he and Jeudy are special WR prospects and I anticipate the first team to select a receiver will pick from those two based on fit.

9. Jaguars – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Jeudy is a polished route-runner with the speed and separation ability to become an elite WR1 at the next level. The Jaguars need more weapons, so I would be surprised if they passed on Jeudy here.

10. Browns – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

The Browns get lucky as all three top-tier OTs fall to them at ten. Jedrick Wills is the best of the bunch, and could likely play at either tackle slot at a very high level. The number one priority of the Browns should be to get Baker Mayfield protection.

11. Jets – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Look, I know Joe Douglas has never taken an offensive player (other than Darnold) in the first round. But Thomas is a franchise left tackle and the Jets need all the offensive line help they can get. 

12. Raiders – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

While the defensive line may not be a major need, the Raiders are able to snag a top defensive talent that falls to them in Derrick Brown. Mayock took Ferrell, Abram, and Jacobs last year, and will look to continue off of what looks to be a solid young core of players.

13. Panthers – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

*The Carolina Panthers traded QB Cam Newton to the Colts along with a mid-round pick in order to obtain this selection. The full trade is at the top of the page*

The Colts trade out of the first round to get an elite quarterback (when healthy) that could possibly put them over the top. Newton, with an offensive line and weapons like the Colts could afford him, could easily get back into pro bowl form. To get him for a mid-first round pick would be a win. 

The Panthers get the defensive line help that they desperately need in Kinlaw, a 6-5 315 pound monster. He is another body in the middle to help with one of the worst run defenses in history last year. Next to Kawann Short and Brian Burns, he should be able to flourish.

14. Buccaneers – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

The Buccaneers need offensive line help. Tristan Wirfs is a versatile lineman that can become a franchise tackle. I honestly have no clue what the Buccaneers are going to do about their quarterback situation (rumors have pointed towards Phillip Rivers [????]), but I believe Wirfs would greatly improve this line in both the passing and running game.

15. Broncos – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

The Broncos could use this pick in many different ways. I think they pass on the receivers left on the board and opt for someone in round two to improve a once-elite secondary. Fulton was a great corner at LSU that could have been a first-round pick last year but instead opted to stay for his senior season. Fulton helps a Broncos secondary that needs it.

16. Falcons – AJ Epenesa, DL/EDGE, Iowa

Remember when Vic Beasley led the NFL in sacks back in 2016? Well, now he sucks. The Falcons need another edge rusher, and Epenesa could end up going in the top-10. He’s an easy selection for a struggling Falcons defensive line.

17. Cowboys – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

The Cowboys could go with either McKinney or Delpit here, but that part does not matter as much as getting Jeff Heath away from the starting lineup. The Cowboys need a safety, and McKinney is the best in this class in my opinion.

18. Lions – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

*The Lions acquired this pick as part of the Tua Tagovailoa trade. The full trade can be seen at the top of the page*

Patrick Queen shined in the CFB National Championship game. He’s quick for a linebacker and was all over the field the entire year for LSU. The Lions need a lot of defense in this draft. Okudah/Queen is an excellent combination.

19.Raiders – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

The Raiders need more weapons, and Henry Ruggs is one of the fastest players in college football. It’s hard to see him falling beyond this spot given that most receivers with his combination of speed/lack of injury history always go top-15. In a stacked receiver class, he falls to 19.

20. Jaguars – Kenneth Murray, LB, Jaguars

The Jaguars picked Jerry Jeudy with their first pick, and now it’s time to help the defense. Murray was LB1 before Queen declared. He’s a great linebacker talent that deserves to go in the first round, and he finds a home here.

21. Eagles – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

The Eagles need help outside the numbers, and Diggs is a tall corner that has the traits to become a CB1. If the Eagles address wide receiver in free agency (I’m looking at you, Robby Anderson), then they should absolutely get some youth at corner.

22. Bills – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

I very desperately want Henry Ruggs with Josh Allen, but he simply is not available here. Chaisson is a nice consolation prize, though. He’s an edge that has a lot of bend, speed, and creativity. The Bills had a great pass rush this past year without a truly elite edge rusher. They might find one here in Chaisson.

23. Patriots – Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

The Patriots had 56-year old Ben Watson catching passes this past season. Cole Kmet is a great all-around talent that would give (likely) Tom Brady another threat over the middle that he was missing this past year.

24. Saints – Tyler Biadasz, iOL, Wisconsin

The Saints will need a new left guard after Andreas Peat is a pending free agent. Instead of paying him, they pick Biadasz, the top interior lineman in this class. 

25. Vikings – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

The Vikings really need secondary help. Xavier Rhodes looked incredibly slow this season. They need to add more youth to defense that has very little weaknesses. Gladney helps with that.

26. Dolphins – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

It’s a bold move using one of the picks you got for Laremy Tunsil on another offensive tackle, but Becton is a really solid player that has the power and frame to succeed at the next level.

27. Seahawks – Netane Muti, iOL, Fresno State

Yes, I know this is a reach. But, it’s also the Seahawks. The same Seahawks that took Rashaad Penny in the first round of 2018. The same Seahawks that took LJ Collier in the first round of 2019. Muti is an intriguing player at left guard that I would bet on being successful at the next level.

28. Ravens – Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

Admittedly, I’m not as high on Lewis as others are. I think the Ravens could add another playmaker like Tee Higgins or Jalen Reagor here, but Lewis would help a pass rush that already has a lot of interior pressure.

29. Titans – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

The Titans picked Harold Landry in the second round of 2018, but they do need more pass rush. As good as Landry is, Gross-Matos would help a defensive line that consists of Jeffrey Simmons and Jurrell Casey.

30. Packers – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

Reagor is a very talented receiver in a loaded class. He’s got speed, separation, and contested catch-ability. He could go very well next to another playmaker like Devante Adams, and would give Aaron Rodgers another non-practice-squad receiver to throw to.

31. Chiefs – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

The Chiefs need another corner. Kendall Fuller is really good, but they have to add more around him in the secondary. Thornhill and Mathieu are a great pair in the back, but Henderson would give Kansas City another option at corner — and a good one too.

32. 49ers – Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The 49ers adding Delpit to an already loaded defense would just be incredibly fun. John Lynch picks a safety here that struggled this past year but can become truly elite at his position if he performs up to post-2018 expectations.

Carolina Panthers Dream Offseason

The Carolina Panthers are in a strange position this offseason.

With uncertainty at the quarterback position (at least from management, it seems), one of the worst run defenses in recent memory, and a roster full of aging talent, there was not much hope as the Panthers lost eight games in a row to end the season. 

In being an extremely unpredictable offseason, I am going to create what my dream offseason would look like for the Carolina Panthers.

Why?

freegifmaker.me_2g8im

Step One: Picking A Head Coach

There are really only three main coaches that I am considering for this: Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Lincoln Riley is not included on the assumption that he will not leave the Oklahoma Sooners.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals

But as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers, I am going to pick Eric Bieniemy of the proven Andy Reid coaching tree. In his first year as the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2018, his Patrick Mahomes-led offense led the NFL in both yards and points scored. This year, his offense is fifth in passing yards per game and sixth in total offensive yards gained.

The offensive coordinator hired during this dream offseason is Joe Brady, the current mastermind behind Joe Burrow’s magical Heisman season. Brady was an assistant on the New Orleans Saints.

I know that Joe Brady is almost certainly going to be apart of Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s future head coaching staff, but this is a dream off-season, damn it.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jack Del Rio is going to come from the television booth. Del Rio has been a defensive coordinator for four whole seasons and had a top-5 defense essentially every single one of them. 

Del Rio was the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers in 2002 when he led them to become the second-best defense in the NFL. This isn’t a sexy pick by any means, but Del Rio is, by all means, a significantly better DC than head coach (especially for the Raiders).

Let’s get to the internal moves.

Rules:

I am going to be using the Fanspeak “Manage The Cap” Free Agency simulator to determine my free agency signings. I can cut, re-sign, and possibly franchise tag players. There are no limitations as to who I can cut. Anyone is on the table.

CUTS:

Dontari Poe

Poe simply has not lived up to his contract and entering a year where he is due upwards of $10 million, this is the only correct move. After this, though, the interior defensive line spot will have to be addressed with only Kawann Short under contract. 

Poe was injured for a large portion of this past season, but even so, the Panthers tied the record for most touchdown runs given up in a given season. That is not a good statistic. 

Savings: $10 million

Greg Olsen

Sure, this says “CUTS”, but I’m 90% sure Greg Olsen is retiring after this season anyway. The nine-year Panther legend has been incredibly reliable throughout his career but recently has not been able to match his once-elite production. 

Olsen retiring saves the Panthers a decent amount of money, and even if he were to keep playing, I’m not sure Carolina would bring him back for another year.

Savings: $8 million

Jarius Wright

Wright had five drops this past season while yielding less than 300 total receiving yards. Wright caught less than two passes per game and scored zero touchdowns. He is not worth his 2020 cap figure in any way whatsoever. Jarius Wright is, at worst, an easy cut and should not be a Panther next year.

Savings: $3 million

Mike Davis

It’s puzzling why the Panthers even claimed Mike Davis in the first place. He played little to no snaps behind Christian McCaffrey and Reggie Bonnafon and his cap number just is not reasonable given he is a third-string running back.

Mike Davis showed some skills during his short stint in Chicago but he is another easy cut along with Jarius Wright.

Savings: $3 million

Total Amount Saved Against the Cap: Roughly $24 million

WHO TO BRING BACK:

James Bradberry:

Bradberry apparently wants to be paid as if he is a top-5 corner in the NFL and as much as I want to believe that statement, he simply is not. The Panthers would likely have to give him over $14 million per year in order for him to stay. I only had about $60 million to use after cuts for this simulation. Giving ¼ of the available cap room to a corner that is not an elite player just is not understandable.

James Bradberry walks.

Mario Addison:

Initially, I was hesitant to re-sign Mario Addison. But he is Carolina’s most consistent edge rusher and, at worst, will provide mentorship to Brian Burns. Addison turns 33 in September but might retire following this coming year, so if anything, he will be back on a short-term deal.

New Contract: Two years, $15 million (about 7.5 guaranteed)

Gerald McCoy:

As much as I would love to have Gerald McCoy back on the Panthers, there are other options available in free agency that I prefer. McCoy is aging and a spectacular personality off of the field. I just do not believe bringing him back would benefit the long-term goals of this defense.

Gerald McCoy walks.

Vernon Butler:

Butler sealed his fate after he punched the wrong person after getting blocked 15 yards downfield by a Colts offensive lineman. Following an ejection, he gave the middle finger to a Colts crowd while trailing by over 20 points. After a somewhat positive season, I am still happy to let Butler walk and count towards the compensation pick formula.

Daryl Williams:

No.

Chris Hogan:

Hogan really did not have any major impact on the Panthers season this year, mainly because he was on IR for half of it. He is a solid depth receiver and could provide hands for another team. I don’t see the point in re-signing Hogan.

Ross Cockrell:

Cockrell was a great depth corner for the Panthers and even outplayed 2018 second-round draft pick Donte Jackson in the final quarter of the season. Cockrell was well worth his contract and should be back in the black-and-blue next year, for the right price.

New Contract: Two years, $10 million (about 4.5 guaranteed)

Greg Van Roten:

GVR was actually not as horrible as many people anticipated this past season. He was fine but was hurt towards the end of the season. I offered Van Roten a contract on Fanspeak’s simulator but he sadly declined it (was around the two years/$3.5M range). I was not going any higher than that.

Others that walked:

Bruce Irvin

Kyle Love

Javien Elliott

Tre Boston

FREEEEEEE AGENCYYYYYYYYYY

(roughly $60 million available to use on free agents after cuts)

djreaderrr

Signing number one: DJ Reader, interior defensive line, Four years, $50 million (roughly 35 guaranteed)

DJ Reader is a 25-year old 330-pound behemoth of a nose-tackle. The Panthers HAVE to fix their run defense and signing Greensboro-born DJ Reader would be a huge step in accomplishing that. 

Reader was graded an 86.7 this past year by PFF and had nearly 40 solo tackles. He is an absolute monster anchoring a defense and would be spectacular next to Kawann Short. He is the biggest (literally and figuratively) signing in this simulation.

Signing number two: Joe Thuney, offensive guard, Four years, $30 million (roughly 23 guaranteed)

The Panthers need to get better in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Thuney is a solid offensive guard and only allowed one sack this past year according to PFF. 

He would presumably go on the left side of the offensive line opposite of Trai Turner. Thuney is absolutely an upgrade over Daryl Williams, who gave up the most sacks of any guard in the NFL and definitely above the tier of guard that Van Roten finds himself as well.

Signing number three: Jason Peters, offensive tackle, One year, $9M (roughly 7.5 guaranteed)

Jason Peters is going to be 38 years old this coming season. That also means he could be either a stop-gap at left-tackle or someone that could help Greg Little and Dennis Daley learn the position better themselves.

Peters has been a solid contributor for the Eagles for like, ever, and might even retire after this year. But in this simulation, he’s coming to Carolina for a final season.

Signing number four: Karl Joseph, safety, Three years, $15 million (roughly 10 guaranteed)

After letting Tre Boston walk, there simply are not enough draft picks to solve the problem that is the Carolina Panthers secondary. Eric Reid is probably the only solid starter in the back four as it stands, even with Donte Jackson.

Karl Joseph is another promising player that could have his best days ahead of him. Signing him for about $5M a year could look really good in a few years.

OTHER SIGNINGS:

WR Justin Hardy: Two years, $4M (2M guaranteed)

CB Cre’Von Leblanc: Two years, $4M (2M guaranteed)

TE Logan Thomas: One year, $1.5M (1M guaranteed)

EDGE Kamalei Correa: Two years, $8M (4M guaranteed)

DL Tyeler Davison: Three years, $13.5M (8M guaranteed)

WR Laquon Treadwell: Two years, $6M (2M guaranteed)

CB Trumaine Brock: One year, $3.5M (3M guaranteed)

DL Austin Johnson: Two years, $7M (4M guaranteed)

THE DRAFT

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sike

*I used The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to simulate what I would do for the Panthers on draft night*

agodamongmen

First Round: Derrick Brown, Defensive Line, Auburn

Okay, look: I know that there is a lot of money poured into the defensive line as it is right now. But, Derrick Brown is an incredible player and could truly help the Panthers front-3 become elite once again. It would be extremely difficult to run the ball against a defensive line that contains Kawann Short, DJ Reader, and Derrick Brown. That is truly needed after the Panthers had one of the worst run-defenses in NFL history.

Other players considered/available: Tristan Wirfs, Isaiah Simmons, CeeDee Lamb, Grant Delpit

Second Round: Paulsen Adebo, Corner, Stanford

The Panthers really need another corner, even with investments in Ross Cockrell, Cre’Von Leblanc, and Trumaine Brock. Adebo is a tall, physical outside corner that gives the Panthers another option in coverage.

Third Round: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU

Justin Jefferson might fall in a loaded wide-receiver class. Standing at 6-foot-3 at almost 200 pounds, he has the height to become an X-receiver. Jefferson has over 1400 yards and 18 touchdowns as one of Joe Burrow’s top targets. He’s a threat outside and could have his stock rise, depending on how he tests at the combine.

Round Four: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama

Najee Harris is a powerful runner. He weighs nearly 230 pounds and could be the perfect compliment for Christian McCaffrey. Harris is just pure power and could be used in short situations. A backfield that has Harris, McCaffrey, and Cam Newton would just be so, so fun.

The rest: Jake Hanson (iOL, Oregon, R5), Terence Steele (OL, Texas Tech, R6), and Eric Stokes (CB, Georgia, R7) all provide depth for their positions and, in all likelihood, will not play much.

FINAL DEPTH CHART

Screenshot 2019-12-30 at 8.56.44 PM

Takeaways:

The quarterback position will be one to watch for the Panthers. I did not address it, because frankly, it does not need to be addressed. Cam Newton is a stellar quarterback and should absolutely be given a chance to thrive when fully healthy.

In this simulation, I invested over $100 million and three draft picks on the offensive and defensive line. The Panthers desperately need to get better up front (both protecting Cam Newton and stopping the run) and this is my way of doing that. The defense HAS to be better if Carolina would like to make a playoff run, and it all starts upfront.

The firepower of an offense led by Cam Newton with surrounding pieces like DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Justin Jefferson, and Christian McCaffrey is exciting — especially if a head coaching candidate such as Eric Bieniemy comes to the Panthers.

This simulation is a bit unrealistic, I know. But that’s the fun in it.

The Hornets Don’t Deserve To Have An All-Decade Team

2019 has been an eventful year. Usually, around this time, major media outlets start producing “Best of… <insert whatever year it happens to be>” pieces. They range from music to sports and popular culture. But, with 2019 coming at the end of the decade, those “Best of 2019” articles have morphed into “Best of the 2010s” articles, with most major sports media players writing about all-decade teams.

Well, the Charlotte Hornets are sadly a professional basketball team. That means they will be (and already have been) included in this “All-Decade team” circus. This article isn’t meant to take away from those articles. 

All-Decade teams are a fun thought experiment. However, are there really five players worth giving a nod to represent this team over such a pathetic decade of basketball?

Let’s recap.

The 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats (yes, remember the Bobcats?) kicked off the decade with a comfortable 34-48 start. Gerald Wallace only played 48 games during this season. In fact, the only two players to play in all 82 games were Boris Diaw and DJ Augustin. 

Yikes.

To give a sense of how much roster depth this Bobcats team had, Basketball Reference shows that there are 18 different players that played in at least ten games that particular season.

Let’s list those players:

Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Kwame Brown, Gerald Henderson, Dante Cunningham, Tyrus Thomas, DJ White, Shaun Livingston, Nazr Mohammed, Dominic McGuire, Eduardo Najera, Derrick Brown (Auburn defensive tackle?), Matt Carroll, Garrett Temple, Sherron Collins, and a player named DeSagana Diop making roughly $35 million over five years. 

Kwame Brown started 50 games for the 2010-11 Bobcats and if that is not an indictment of just how bad that team was, I’m not sure what is.

Stephen Jackson had a solid year and the Bobcats were able to get him for two aging players, but it is difficult to put meaning in his numbers given, well, nobody else could score on this version of the Bobcats.

Let’s go ahead and skip to the 2011 offseason. 

The big move that the Bobcats made was making an in-draft trade with the Bucks. They sent Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and the rights to (sigh..) Tobias Harris in order to receive Cory Maggette and (sigh..) Bismack Biyombo.

Now I’m not here to correct every bad draft pick from the Bobcats/Hornets. BUT. There is going to be a lot of talk about missteps in the draft.

This was one of them. Luckily, two picks later, the Bobcats landed their future-best-player-in-history in Kemba Walker. It’s just ironic how, during the time, they preferred a player who is now one of the most overpaid in the NBA, making over $17 million per year despite averaging just eight points per game in 2019.

Following a lock-out by the Player’s Association, the Bobcats started their 2011-12 campaign with a promising win against the Milwaukee Bucks. They won by a single point, with leading scorer DJ Augustin having a crisp 19/2/8 stat line.

[Side note: I shutter every time I type out the word “Bobcats” regretting the era which I willingly watched wretched basketball]

This is where things go downhill.

The Bobcats had seven different losing streaks of variance in how painful they were. The first losing streak only lasted four games. Being at the beginning of the season, everyone knew the Bobcats were going to be bad. They just didn’t think it would be “Give Gerald Henderson 33 minutes per game” bad. Then the Bobcats went on losing streaks of six, 16, five, three, two, with a 23-game losing streak to end the year.

The Bobcats had an offensive rating 9.3 points below league average and a defensive rating 5.8 above league average (don’t worry, that’s a bad thing). This resulted in a horrendous negative 15.2 net rating compared to the league average. 

In comparison, the second-worst team in 2011 was the 20-win Washington Wizards (nearly three times the amount of wins as the Bobcats). They had a net rating (compared to the league average) of -5.2, which is about three times better than the Bobcats that year.

Our king Boris Diaw started his immediate decline during the 2011 season. 32-year-old Cory Maggette shot an astounding 37% from the three-point line. Kemba Walker at least looked promising, averaging about 12 points per game albeit shooting 36% from the field.

Rookie Bismack Biyombo made the mistake of attempting to trash talk Rudy Gay (Also, why would anyone talk trash on this Bobcats team? Like this Bobcats team was bad enough to inspire VICE to write this newsletter on relegation and why it should be a thing in the NBA).

Biyombo <after block>: “This is my house!”

Rudy Gay: “You have seven wins. It’s everybody’s house.”

Rudy Gay was not wrong. The Bobcats won four games at home. It was, indeed, everyone’s house.

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Looking at this game result table created by Basketball reference, you can see that the Bobcats got schlacked in pretty much every single loss. This is easily the worst team in NBA History and one of the worst displays of professional sports in the United States ever.

I could create this article solely based on the 2011-12 Basketball season alone. But it would become far too long. 

Two seasons though the decade, the best player on the Bobcats was a 32-year-old Stephen Jackson that put up empty stats on a bad Charlotte team.

The following offseason, the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats miss out on top-prize Anthony Davis after falling to the second pick in the lottery. They proceed to select Michael Kidd-Gilchrist above Bradley Beal.

The Bobcats also brought in Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, and Brendon Haywood. Sadly, the Bobcats would still finish with the second-worst record in the NBA only ahead of the Orlando Magic.

Kemba Walker’s scoring has become more promising as he is averaging almost 18 points per contest on splits of 42/32/80. He would be the only Bobcat to play in all 82 games. 

Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist displayed lots of promise, playing in 78 games, averaging 9/6/2 with a block and steal to go along with it. 

DeSagana Diop also manages to stick around due to his $7 million contract. That’s right. The Bobcats had an overpaid old player. You never would have assumed that, given their near-perfect track record in recent memory, but we’ll get to that later.

In the 2013 offseason, the Bobcats selected Cody Zeller with the fourth overall pick in the draft. They also brought back Josh McRoberts and 2011-12 leading scorer Gerald Henderson. The BIG move that the Bobcats made during the summer of ‘13 was signing Utah big Al Jefferson. 

The 2013-14 season would be the last for the Bobcats. Soon, they would be reverting their name back to the Charlotte Hornets (thank god). The Bobcats, though, went out on a high note. Kemba Walker maintained his scoring albeit with slightly worse efficiency, and Al Jefferson averaged 22/11/2 with one steal and one block as well. Gerald Henderson consistently scored roughly 14 points per game on splits of 43/35/76 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was playing great perimeter defense. 

The Bobcats finished as the seven seed and went on to play the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

As you might assume, the Bobcats were swept. 

That offseason, the Charlotte Hornets made another big splash in free agency *cue Darth Vader themed walk-out music*.

Lance. Stephenson.

That’s right, after Gordon Hayward’s agreement with the Hornets was matched by the Utah Jazz, they went after the weirdest man in basketball.

And rightfully so, at the time.

Ben Swanson of At The Hive wrote at the time, “Charlotte desperately wanted to upgrade their talent from the wing after losing out on Gordon Hayward, and they got one of the best young players in Stephenson”.

The 2014-15 Charlotte HORNETS took a slight step back and missed the playoffs.

At this point, Bismack Biyombo was very clearly a draft bust, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t living up to the expectation thrust upon him by being the second overall pick in the draft, and Kemba Walker was still struggling to score in a more efficient manner. The team led by Steve Clifford finished 33-49.

Lance Stephenson was a… uhhhh…. failed experiment. He wasn’t what he was touted to be nor was he what Michael Jordan marketed him as part of a big three between Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. 

That’s right. That was a totally normal thing that happened. (PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO)

I just realized that I forgot to mention that the Hornets had a top-10 pick the previous year and used it on Indiana forward Noah Vonleh (because why not?) and he played in a total of 25 games his rookie season averaging only ten minutes in those appearances. He is not a very good basketball player. 

Vonleh was then traded in combination with 2011-12 leading scorer Gerald Henderson to the re-tooling Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Nic Batum. 

The Hornets also drafted Frank Kaminsky in the 2015 NBA Draft after yolo-ing it by passing on Justice Winslow, Myles Turner, Devin Booker, or a package of about six different picks from the Boston Celtics, who were desperately attempting to trade up. 

Charlotte also brought in Jeremy Lin, followed by traded for Jeremy Lamb and Spencer Hawes. Hornets legend Bismack Biyombo left in free agency, sadly. 

Everything finally came together for the Hornets. They landed Courtney Lee mid-season and finished the year at 48-34, just a half-game back from being the three seed.

Kemba Walker was playing spectacular basketball, Nicolas Batum was also proving to be an incredible pre-season addition to the team.

Other acquisitions like Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin were proving to be vital to the success of the team.

I mean, there was even a point where someone from Bleacher Report wrote an article about how the Hornets were starting the wrong point guard, and how they should prioritize playing Lin over Walker. 

And now, it’s time to talk about the most painful two weeks of being a Charlotte Hornets fan during the 2010s. 

The sixth-seeded Charlotte Hornets faced off against a LeBron-less Miami Heat team in the first round of the playoffs. They lost the first two games but proceeded to win three games straight. 

Then, something terrible happened.

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In all seriousness, the Hornets lost the final two games of the series by a combined 40 points. And that is the furthest the Hornets made it in the entire decade. Game seven (which they lost by 33 points) of the first round in the NBA playoffs.

That off-season, more bad things happened.

Marvin Williams signed a four-year/$50 million contract. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who showed some promise in the seven games that he played in 2015-16, signed a four-year extension worth roughly the same as Williams’s contract. 

Kemba Walker actually signed a four-year, $48 million contract during the previous season, which is perhaps the one good thing that resulted of the salary cap spike of 2016. The Hornets allowed Jeremy Lin, Al Jefferson, and Courtney Lee to walk in free agency, though, as they simply could not afford to keep everyone.

The one player that they did manage to keep, however, was Nic Batum, who was heavily interested in going to Dallas but was convinced by Kemba Walker and co. to stay in Charlotte on a ‘discount’

That “discount” wasn’t much, though. Batum signed a five-year, $120 million deal to stay in Charlotte.

And when the salary cap did not increase in a major way again the following offseason, the Hornets became stuck in a contract situation that, put simply, no one wanted.

In an attempt to gain another role player, the Hornets sent their first-round pick during the 2016 offseason to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for shooter Marco Belinelli.

You know what? To hell with this. I’m going to make both 2016-17 and the 2017-18 years synonymous. Because you know what? Nothing changed. Sure, the Hornets made a couple of different trades, like adding Miles Plumlee and then subsequently trading him for Dwight Howard the following offseason, but nothing major changed. Both years, the Hornets finished 36-46 and had the 11th overall pick. Both years, the Hornets missed out on a superior player in the draft following the season (Donovan Mitchell and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander).

Both years were disappointments in their own right and the fact that nothing major changed during the entirety of either year is an indictment of how complacent management was and still is.

You can point to Dwight Howard and say: “That was a big trade at the time”, but Dwight Howard was a declining center who could not contribute to winning basketball anymore as his style of play had become outdated. He put up stats in both Atlanta and Charlotte. At the end of the day, those stats were meaningless. 

The Hornets also had awful asset management during this time. Rich Cho is, at least in part, to blame for this. Yet the one constant, even before Cho was instilled as general manager was Michael Jordan and his undying influence on the poor souls he surrounded himself with. During this time (and much longer before these two years), he had scouts reporting directly to him and he would then pull strings from there. Michael Jordan is to blame for some of the most average, mediocre years in Charlotte Hornets basketball, and nothing could waver my confidence in saying that.

Then we get to 2018-19. The Charlotte Hornets have one asset and his name is Kemba Walker. He is, without a doubt, very clearly a top-5 point guard in the NBA. Nicolas Batum has fallen off an has shown he was never worth the $27 million price tag associated with his name. Jeremy Lamb was an interesting surprise in 2017-18 and has clearly become the number two player on the team.

The Hornets acquired Bismack Biyombo again during the 2018 offseason, because why not? They also brought in Spurs legend Tony Parker for the final year in his career. Dwayne Bacon has been a nice surprise and Frank Kaminsky seems to be another disappointing lottery pick. 

The season starts and the Hornets actually have a shot at making the playoffs as a 7-8 seed, but after the All-Star break, they would barely lose out to the Magic and Pistons and be excluded from the playoffs by a single game. 

After that, the Hornets proceeded to lose Kemba Walker to the Celtics because they were not willing to pay him the amount he requested.

Actually, let me fix that.

The Hornets did not just lose Kemba Walker. They completed a sign-and-trade that gave Kemba Walker to the Celtics in exchange for $19-million-per-year Terry Rozier.

We’re in December now, so that’s cool. Devonte’ Graham looks like a real player and first-round pick PJ Washington looks like a hit. James Borrego is seemingly a spectacular coach. This year has been really promising.

But if we are talking about the decade, the Hornets do not, under any circumstances, need to have “All-Decade” teams made about them. 

You know what? I’m going to make a starting-five of mistakes that the Hornets made this decade that royally skewed their chances of doing anything remotely close to competing.

1. Signing Nic Batum to a five-year/$120 million contract.

This is one of the worst mistakes any team in the NBA has made in the past ten years. Not only does it ruin your chance of being a free agency player for the next five years, but it also improved the team just enough during the 2016-18 seasons to ensure they would not have a top-10 draft selection.

The problem is I can see WHY the Hornets made this mistake. The salary cap spiked and they had to build off of their existing success from the previous year. The problem was the fact that they lost major role players in free agency thus making the team worse regardless of what they did to maintain themselves.

2. Not trading Kemba Walker.

Kemba Walker is the best player in Hornets franchise history, without a doubt. But if the plan was to either low-ball Walker in free agency and/or simply let him walk, then there’s zero rationale in not trading him before the trade deadline — especially when a player like Tobias Harris nets four picks along with a young player in Landry Shamet.

AND Tobias Harris isn’t even as good as Kemba Walker. It’s frustrating.

3. Drafting Frank Kaminsky.

I can point to a lot of draft picks and say “they made a mistake here” but this one, in particular, bugs me. The Hornets needed another guard/wing in their rotation but they decided to add a 23-year old big that cannot defend the paint. 

I’m mad at two aspects of this: The no-trade with the Boston Celtics and the players that Kaminsky was picked over. Devin Booker, Justice Winslow, and Myles Turner were all picked within five picks of Kaminsky — and to select him over that group without accepting a trade package that featured six picks from the Celtics is damning.

4. Trading for Miles Plumlee.

The Charlotte Hornets only owed Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert a combined $12 million (with Hawes only being on the team for one additional year) had they kept them — but trading for Plumlee started a rotation of trades for overpriced big men — from Plumlee, the Hornets went to Dwight Howard, who was then traded for Timofey Mozgov, who got flipped for Bismack Biyombo later in the same summer. 

Not only this, but the Hornets turned the $6 million that Hawes was owed in 2017-18 into $17 million that Bismack Biyombo will be paid in 2019-20, with of course an elongation of payment.

5. Trading Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and what would become Tobias Harris for Bismack Biyombo and Cory Maggette.


Sure, Biyombo looked promising at the time, but this move really absolutely killed the Hornets in 2011-12, when they won just seven games. Biyombo never really panned out, and Tobias Harris simply did. Stephen Jackson was never really the same after that 2010-11 year, but I’m absolutely certain he would have faired better than what actually happened.

The Hornets have always sucked, but they were especially bad during the 2010s. They made the playoffs twice and won three games in those two series. Multiple missed draft picks, a plethora of botched trades, and a handful of bad contracts killed them. There simply are not enough good players during the 2010s for the Bobcats/Hornets to consider actually rewarding them with an “All-Decade” team.

#TankSZN: Hornets’ Early Draft Targets

The Charlotte Hornets have lost four straight games to the Raptors, Wizards, Bulls, and Nets. After starting the first seven games with a winning record (!!!), FiveThirtyEight gives the Hornets less than a one percent chance at making the playoffs with a predicted record of 22-60 (the second-worst mark across the league according to the predictor). 

That officially means we’re in for the tank. In being a bad team, the Hornets have (hopefully) invested in their scouting department, despite the recent report by Sean Deveney that they are interested in acquiring All-Star center Andre Drummond. 

Looking at some of the players that could be top-5 picks come June, there are many guys that come to mind. There are three players right now that seem to be in contention for the first overall pick. Even though the NBA seems to be higher on him than most media outlets, Memphis center James Wiseman still seems to lead the pack, despite being suspended for over ten games. North Carolina’s Cole Anthony and Georgia’s Anthony Edwards will likely be the other top players in this class come draft time.

Prospect A) Nico Mannion, Guard, Arizona

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Nico Mannion is a creative, athletic point guard that can score at all three levels. He is a great player in transition and can initiate in the half-court as well. There’s room to get better from both a defensive and physical skill point.

Mannion is currently projected to be a top-10 pick and has the potential to be selected as high as the top-5 depending on how his season at Arizona goes. However, alongside fellow freshman Josh Green, he looks really good.

Stock: Between 5-10

Pro Comparison: Homeless man’s Kyrie Irving

Personal Rank: 5

Prospect B) Onyeka Onkongwu, Big, Southern California

onyeka.jpg

Photo Credit: The Athletic

Onyeka Onkonwu is one of the more interesting prospects in this year’s draft. Originally not a top-10 recruit, Okongwu is a 6-foot-9 center that has elite defensive rim protection skills, can score inside with ease, and is a spectacular athlete.

On the flip side, Okongwu’s playmaking and passing need improvement if he wants to have a positive offensive impact at the next level. He hasn’t played against anyone major first at Chino Hills, and then in his short tenure at USC (so far, at least).

Okongwu’s free throw percentage would indicate he could end up becoming a decent shooter from beyond the three-point line.

Stock: Lottery

Pro Comparison: Brandon Clarke with a higher ceiling

Personal Rank: 7

Prospect C) James Wiseman, Center, Memphis

Wiseman_James_1920MBB_4124_TC_20191011

Photo Credit: James Wiseman

Admittedly, I’m not very high on James Wiseman. But he’s good as a rim-running big. Wiseman is very mobile for a player of his frame (7-foot-1). Wiseman also has good footwork for his age. Wiseman has a well-developed offensive game and might be able to gain a consistent long-range jump-shot.

The reason I’m not high on Wiseman is that his skill set is largely replaceable. For someone of his talent, his shot-blocking has to improve. I personally wouldn’t select a player like Wiseman in the top-3, but I do understand the appeal behind what he brings to the table.

Stock: Top-3

Pro Comparison: KAT but worse around the perimeter

Personal Rank: 8

Prospect D) Cole Anthony, Guard, North Carolina

coleanthony

Photo Credit: GoHeels

Cole Anthony is one of the most electric guards in college basketball. He is arguably a top-10 shooter in the ACC as it stands right now, and one of the best rebounding point guards in the past five years.

Anthony is an incredible athlete but can be iffy with his facilitation at times. He can dominate the ball a little bit too often, as well. Anthony is best as a point guard, but can also mesh well with other pass-first guards as well.

Stock: Top-3

Pro Comparison: Damian Lillard with better rebounding

Personal Rank: 2

Prospect E) Anthony Edwards, Guard, Georgia

eddwards

Photo Credit: WSBTV

Anthony Edwards is incredible at getting to the rim and has some of the best contact balance I’ve seen from a college basketball player. Edwards is a solid 6-foot-5 and looks to have filled a frame that would be capable of scoring at the rim at the NBA level.

Edwards could be better off-ball but is simply an incredible player both handling and defending the ball. He is an explosive athlete that almost no one can hang with.

Stock: Top-3

Pro Comparison: Victor Oladipo with a better outside scoring game

Personal Rank: 1

NBA Season Roundtable

The NBA is back after a long offseason filled with an incredible amount of league-altering free agency signings and mega-trades. 

The Lakers and Clippers are the early title favorites, and the Hornets are currently projected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

The Queen’s Guard staff have made their predictions about this upcoming NBA season. 

Most Improved Player

Dylan Jackson (@JaxonNBA) – Delon Wright, Guard, Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks acquired Delon Wright after they sent two second-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies to sign him. He signed a three-year deal worth almost $30 million. Wright averaged 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists last season for the Grizzlies and is a perfect fit next to a talent like Luka Doncic. Wright has the defensive versatility to play either guard spot, and I could see him averaging almost 18 points per game with splits of 45/33/82, assuming he improves his efficiency and shot selection. 

Euan Reynard (@EuanKow) – Lonzo Ball, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans

It feels like Lonzo took a lot of W’s this offseason – His inevitable trade from the Lakers landing him in a great basketball situation, taking more control of his life from Lavar, developing a much more sound jump shot – will all factor into an improved performance from him this season. With Zion sidelined, he will see more of the ball in the meantime, giving him a great opportunity to show all the ability that made him the 2nd Overall pick in the draft 2 years ago.

Stephen Sears (@stephenstweets) – Terry Rozier, Guard, Charlotte Hornets

I’m not sure if this is a good thing and if I like the pick. But if he plays semi-well and puts up decent enough numbers this should be his. As long as it doesn’t affect the Hornets drafting one of the young star point guards, I’m fine. 

Chase Pletcher (@ChasePletcher4) – Miles Bridges, Forward, Charlotte Hornets

Preseason certainly didn’t bode well for this take, but every season I always pick a Hornets player to win this award because I so badly want someone on the team to breakout. Maybe it’ll be Bacon, but Bridges seems more likely.

Mike Kyle (@Kyleina33) – Miles Bridges, Forward, Charlotte Hornets

I talked about what Miles Bridges needs to do to make the jump from year one and two here. He has the opportunity this year to level up because of how many minutes he will see this season on top of how well known his name already is around NBA circles. 

Josh George (@BallSoHard_Josh) – Lonzo Ball, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans

Don’t think he’ll win so I’m kind of going in a different direction but just want to acknowledge him. The shot looks a lot better and I think he’ll thrive in a different setting with the up-tempo pace that the Pelicans play with. Also, he already has a lot of chemistry with Zion. Look out for him this year. 

Cole Casstevens (@SpainPnR) – Bam Adebayo

Good player, starting minutes, and on a decent team. Plenty of opportunities for Bam to showcase his game.

Final Count: Lonzo Ball 2, Miles Bridges 2, Delon Wright 1, Terry Rozier 1, Bam Adebayo 1

6th Man of the Year

DJ – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers

No question. Lou Williams is awesome, should be even better with the talent the Clippers have this year. Harrell could also be in consideration here.

ER – Spencer Dinwiddie, Guard, Brooklyn Nets

With many more eyes on the Brooklyn Nets this year after their big offseason splashes, more people will be paying attention to the play that Dinwiddie will be bringing off the bench, I believe he will dethrone back to back 6th man champ Lou Williams with a big year and big scoring numbers.

SS – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers

This doesn’t need to be explained. 

CP – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers

I am mostly just saying because I don’t know who else is even going to be a contender for it, sorry.

MK – Joe Ingles, Forward, Utah Jazz

Joe Ingles made his name by coming into games and knocking down triples. With a new and improved Jazz team that should be at the top of the West, Ingles has the opportunity to be the driving force off the bench. He’s good for a couple of big threes each game which will be extremely valuable for a team battling through the Western Conference 52 games a year. 

JG – Goran Dragic, Guard, Miami Heat

I wanted to say Lou but I’ll go out of the box and say Dragic. I think the Heat can compete for home-court advantage this year in the East and Dragic isn’t a high-level starter anymore but it’s great if he’s your backup PG. Think he thrives against bad competition. 

CC – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers

You know how this story goes.

Final Count: Lou Williams 4, Spencer Dinwiddie 1, Joe Ingles 1, Goran Dragic 1

Defensive Player of the Year

DJ – Joel Embiid, Big, Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid should have won this award last year. He’s the best rim protector in the league. His sole presence in the paint makes it difficult for anyone to even consider driving to the basket. With that team likely being the best defensive team (Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford) in the league this year, there’s no question who this award should go to. 

ER – Anthony Davis, Big, LA Lakers

With the type of season I believe AD is going to have, I find it hard to believe that he won’t win an end of season award this year. He’ll make a good run for the MVP but will receive this as a pretty strong consolation prize.

SS – The Clippers. All of them.

Kawhi Leonard? Paul George? Patrick Beverley? I’m not sure teams are gonna score on these dudes but good luck. One of Kawhi or PG will be the DPOY. 

CP – Kawhi Leonard, Forward, LA Clippers

This probably won’t happen, and as weird as it sounds, I think Kawhi will want to prove something this year. I think he’ll play the majority of games and want to do everything he can to assert his dominance over that other SF in LA. 

MK – Kawhi Leonard AND Paul George, LA Clippers

Let’s get wild here. We’re going to have co-defensive players of the year. The Clippers’ wings are going to strike the fear of God into opponents and rattle their opponents to levels we’ve never seen. 

JG – Rudy Gobert, Big, Utah Jazz

This is another boring pick but Rudy is truly the most impactful regular season defender. His rim protection is just incredibly valuable. Not much else to say.

CC – Rudy Gobert, Big, Utah Jazz

Same deal as last year, Joel will be the best defender on the best defense in the league, but with Al allowing him to rest some and Gobert renowned as the league’s best defender, I bet he’ll three-peat.

Final Count: Kawhi Leonard 2 (1 + 0.5 + 0.5), Rudy Gobert 2, Paul George (0.5 + 0.5), Joel Embiid 1, Anthony Davis 1

Coach of the Year

DJ – Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are still a top-4 seed in the Western Conference, and if they get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs after losing Kevin Durant with Klay Thompson out the entire year, this award wouldn’t even be a debate. Steph Curry and Draymond Green for the win.

ER – Eric Spoelstra, Miami Heat

The Miami Heat have built a very good regular season team with multiple players who can come in and give effective minutes on any given night with the help of one of the league’s best coaches. Putting that together with a legit star in Jimmy Butler and exciting young players like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo, the Heat could realistically push for 50+ wins this season and give Spo a chance at an award he is yet to win in his coaching career.

SS – Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans

I want to give this to Doc Rivers, especially after missing out on it last year. But I think this new Pelicans team is getting ready to shock a lot of people. We all know how good Zion is, but the rest of the pieces that surround him will make a great team. The kids that came from L.A. in the Davis trade, fellow rookies, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxon Hayes and some solid vets in J.J. Reddick, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Favors. This team MIGHT sneak into one of the final playoff spots in the west, and if that happens, this award goes to Gentry.

CP – Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

This seems like a basic answer, but if Pop can take this Spurs team to the playoffs in the stacked West he deserves to be in consideration

MK – Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have had the best offseason in franchise history, even if they were forced to trade the best player in franchise history. The newly shaped roster with Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, JJ Reddick, and Zion Williamson has skyrocketed New Orleans in League Pass rankings. Gentry is a great coach that will be able to maximize this team’s talent a-la 2017-2018 Brad Stevens. 

JG – Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets

Continuity is important in the regular season and the Nuggets have a lot of it. Also, they’re probably the deepest team in the league. This depth doesn’t help as much in the playoffs but in the regular season, their bench will run teams off the floor. With some injuries in the West (Klay, PG13) & the adjustment periods for teams like the Rockets & Lakers, I think Denver will have the best record in the West and that’s a pretty convincing COY case for Michael Malone. 

CC – Mike D’Antoni

Best record in the west, one of the best in the league, and who could resist crediting Mike when the Harden and Westbrook reunion makes a formidable regular-season team.

Final Count: Alvin Gentry 2, Steve Kerr 1, Mike D’Antoni 1, Eric Spoelstra 1, Gregg Popovich 1, Mike Malone 1

Rookie of the Year (NOT named Zion Williamson)

DJ – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans

I’m going with Zion’s teammate. I love NAW’s game and his combination of scoring, playmaking, and length give a great shot to win this award (even with Zion Williamson). He should have been drafted a lot higher than he was.

ER – RJ Barrett, Wing, New York Knicks

With Number 1 Overall pick Zion Williamson out for a significant period following knee surgery, I believe Knicks rookie RJ Barrett should be the frontrunner for this award. The Canadian has already shown natural scoring ability in the pre-season and should see a lot of ball-handling duties this year, as well as enough volume to put up some seriously impressive numbers – In an award that is often dictated by stats rather than team success.

SS – Ja Morant, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies

I think the Grizzlies might be sneakily good this year? Not like good enough to make the playoffs, or even be in consideration really, but good enough to where we’ll say they might be able to do that next season. And it’ll be to the credit of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.

CP – Jarrett Culver, Wing, Minnesota Timberwolves

With Zion out for at least a month and a half to start the season, the ROY race is wide open, but I think people will quickly see why Culver is the second-best player in the draft

MK – Ja Morant, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies

If you don’t know, Ja Morant is better than Zion Williamson. I’m dying on this hill. The addition of Morant is going to boost Memphis up a rung on the NBA ladder. Morant does everything you need a point guard to do in today’s NBA. He runs an offense well, can score at will, and loves getting other players involved. 

JG – Ja Morant, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies

Not a lot of intriguing candidates here (Zion still wins even if he only plays 50) but I think I’ll go with Ja Morant. Think he’ll struggle some this year before he breaks out next year or the year after but he should get the counting stats. He’ll have a lot of impressive highlights & the hype train will begin. Think if he averages like 14 and 8, he can be the Non-Zion ROY. 

CC – PJ Washington, Forward/Big, Charlotte Hornets

The only reason to doubt Zion being ROY is if he missing too much time, outside of him, I think ROY is a crapshoot. That being said, I’m going to bet on PJ. PJ will get plenty of minutes to put up enough counting stats. His per 36s for the pre-season were 17 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, on 76.5 TS%, so I don’t really feel like a homer, he has as fair a chance as anyone. Perhaps, a less efficient player playing worse basketball will have more counting stats, but PJ will be a deserving consideration I think.

Final Count: Ja Morant 3, PJ Washington 1, Nickeil Alexander-Walker 1, Jarrett Culver 1, RJ Barrett 1

Most Valuable Player

DJ – Damian Lillard, Guard, Portland Trail Blazers

During the course of the playoffs last year, I’ve learned not to doubt Dame. I don’t believe that award voting should take place until after the playoffs, and I don’t think Lillard could win this award the way it is currently set up. But next year, if the Trail Blazers could get into the second round of a loaded Western Conference, Damian Lillard will be crowned King, though it may not be ‘official’.

ER – Joel Embiid, Big, Philadelphia 76ers

I believe the 76ers will have the best record in the NBA this year, which puts their best player Joel Embiid immediately into the conversation. Embiid averaged 27.5ppg last season on just .517eFG% – I expect him to get that number up to the .550 mark along with the other elite bigs in the league which should lead to him averaging 30 on the season. Pair that with his proven Defensive ability and reported weight loss this offseason and he is a prime candidate for the MVP award.

SS – Steph Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors

No one is believing in him nor his Warriors. When he goes-the-hell-off this season and has his squad back in the playoffs without Klay and KD – they’ll remember. 

CP – Nikola Jokic, Big, Denver Nuggets

I think the Nuggets finish with the best record in the NBA, and the Joker is the engine behind that team and keeps getting better every year.

MK – LeBron James, Guard/Forward, LA Lakers

I, for one, am here for the LeBron James F-you tour. Last season, which was objectively deemed bad by many, LeBron James averaged 27/8/8 with a bad Lakers team. Additionally, we saw James suffer the first major injury of his career. Now with a revamped roster that includes Anthony freakin’ Davis and the second PR blunder of his career, LeBron James is going to dominate the NBA. 

JG – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks

This isn’t the sexiest pick but I think Giannis can win again. He’ll improve again this year (not as drastically) and the Bucks will have the best record in the league. Something like 30/12/7 wouldn’t surprise me at all. That + like 60-22 in the regular season is a great case. In the regular season, Giannis is the best player to have

CC – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis is just as good, Bucks regular-season defense will be just as good, and their offense in the regular season will be just as good. Easy pick, Giannis is likely a two peat MVP

Final Count: Giannis Antetokounmpo 2, Damian Lillard 1, Steph Curry 1, LeBron James 1, Nikola Jokic 1, Joel Embiid 1

Eastern Conference Champion

DJ – Miami Heat

I want all the smoke. With the addition of Jimmy Butler to go along with players that are constantly improving like Bam Adebayo and Justice Winslow, this team is built to win now. I refuse to put either the Bucks nor Sixers in the finals simply because I don’t like how either team is built. The Miami Heat are going to be an incredible team to watch, and I’m picking them to win the Eastern Conference.

ER – Milwaukee Bucks

Whilst I think the 6ers will have the best regular-season record, I won’t be picking against Giannis to get out of the East.

SS – Milwaukee Bucks

No Kawhi in the East, No LeBron. However, they do have reigning MVP, Giannis. I think their depth, experience, and overall talent should be enough to carry them past the likes of Philly, Brooklyn, etc.

CP – Philadelphia 76ers

I think the NBA is as open as it ever has been this season, but the Sixers just have so much talent. Simmons is an issue in the playoffs, but I think he will become less of a coward, and I think they have enough size to slow down Giannis. If KD made a magical return late in the year – maybe the Nets.

MK – Milwaukee Bucks

Why have Giannis learn to shoot when you could surround him with shooters instead? The Bucks are playing chess and the rest of us were playing checkers. Not having another star next to Giannis could definitely hurt, given the Fortnite duos state of the NBA. However, this team is so deep with talented players at each position and a coach that knows how to utilize this roster. 

JG – Philadelphia 76ers

Think it’s a two-team race with the Sixers & Bucks and think that the Sixers matchup super well with Giannis. Ben can guard Middleton and Bledsoe just turns into a pumpkin every year. Sixers in six. 

CC – Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are going to smother the NBA on defense, nobody is scoring on these guys efficient enough to win a series. 

Final Count: Milwaukee Bucks 3, Philadelphia 76ers 3, Miami Heat 1

Western Conference Champion

DJ – LA Clippers

Kawhi Leonard + Paul George is awesome. Add in the surrounding pieces that the Clippers currently have and that is a championship contender. I am absolutely here for an All-Los Angeles conference finals series. 

ER – LA Lakers

I believe the Lakers will make big moves during the season, which will turn them into a more balanced team fit to beat the Clippers come playoff time.

SS – LA Clippers

This team is stacked, and deep. As I stated with DPOY pick, this team is going to be tough to beat. It’ll be tough but I think they ultimately come out on top of the West.

CP – LA Clippers

As I said, I think Kawhi plays like he has something to prove. Their defense should be scary, and I think they beat the Nuggets in 7 on the road in the WCF. 

MK – Portland Trail Blazers

This is the year. Dame and CJ are one of the best one-two punches in the league. Portland has big men in Nurkic and Whiteside. They finally have the depth as well with Rodney Hood, Skal Lasbissire, Kent Bazemore, Zach Collins, and others. The makeup of this team is so complete and I believe the most underrated in the league. Watch out. 

JG – LA Lakers

Bron has a revenge year for those that think he’s lost a step. AD gets MVP votes. They pick up a valuable player at the deadline or buy out time and they just edge out the Clippers. Lakers in seven. 

CC – LA Clippers

Kawhi and Paul will miss the creation of guys like FVV, Lowry, and Westbrook. However, I don’t think anyone in the west can match up well enough with those two to win a series.

Final Count: LA Clippers 4, LA Lakers 2, Portland Trail Blazers 1

NBA Finals Champion + Finals MVP

DJ – LA Clippers + Lou Williams (over the Miami Heat)

I could go with one of the two superstars on the Clippers. But I’m not going to. No one on the Heat can match Lou Williams’ scoring punch off the bench. He’s going to feast. Also, Clippers in six against the Heat.

ER – LA Lakers + LeBron James (over the Milwaukee Bucks)

It’ll be a tough contested series, but the combo of Davis and LeBron will prove too much just as it did for everyone else along the way with LeBron just edging the MVP award based off some great clutch moments

SS – LA Clippers + Kawhi Leonard (over the Milwaukee Bucks)

No explanation needed.

CP – LA Clippers + Kawhi Leonard (over the Milwaukee Bucks)

I think the Clippers win it all and Kawhi repeats as Finals MVP. I wouldn’t say he’s the most impactful player in the league or overall value, and I certainly think some people overrate the whole “will to win” thing, but I do think Kawhi just knows how to win late in games. More so than the Sixers, who for some reason I just feel like will have something hold them back from winning it all.

MK – Portland Trail Blazers + Damian Lillard (over the Milwaukee Bucks)

I originally had the Bucks winning because I believe that Giannis needs to get over the hurdle, but this Blazers team is filthy. As mentioned above, I love their pieces. I think Dame and CJ are driven to make the next step and elevate Portland to the promised land. Give me the team full of dogs compared to the team with just one (very big, very scary) dog. 

JG – LA Lakers + LeBron James (over the Philadelphia 76ers)

Could see this going either way but this is probably LeBron’s last chance at a championship so I think he really brings it. Don’t think the Sixers can match up with him well enough and he always sons Horford. LAL in 7. 

CC – Philadelphia 76ers + Joel Embiid (over the LA Clippers)

They’re just too good on defense for me to bet on anyone else.

Final Count: LA Clippers 3, LA Lakers 2, Philadelphia 76ers 1, Portland Trail Blazers 1

Worst Team

DJ – Charlotte Hornets

They won’t win the lottery, because Hornets, but this team is absolutely terrible. They have some young pieces but they are going to win less than 20 games this season. 

ER – Memphis Grizzlies

Whilst a couple of teams may have worse rosters than the Grizzlies, I believe that their schedule will be so tough in the West that its hard to picture them getting to 20 wins this season.

SS – Charlotte Hornets

No explanation needed.

CP – Cleveland Cavaliers

I could definitely see Kevin Love either getting traded or just not playing very many games for this team

MK – Washington Wizards

Dare I say that the Wizards are more clueless than our Hornets? I have no idea what they are doing. John Wall is still injured with his Achilles injury. They just gave Bradley Beal a massive extension instead of shopping him. They’ve already peaked as a team as the fourth seed in the East back in 2017. Their roster as is doesn’t stand out in the slightest. 

JG – Cleveland Cavaliers

 I think the Cavs trade Love at some point and after that, it’s rough to look at their roster. They’ll be bad this year. 

CC – Cleveland Cavaliers

Worst defense in the league, and not really much better on offense.

Final Count: Cleveland Cavaliers 3, Charlotte Hornets 2, Memphis Grizzlies 1, Washington Wizards 1

First Overall Pick in the 2020 NBA Draft

DJ – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC

He’s talented. The Hornets NEED him.

ER – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC

In the UNC system, Cole Anthony will show all the ability required to be considered worthy of a number 1 overall pick, hopefully, it’ll be the Hornets making that decision come June…

SS – LaMelo Ball, Guard, USA

Please, God.

CP – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC

He is very good 

MK – LaMelo Ball, Guard, USA

I’ve had the luxury of watching LaMelo play in person three times and each time was better than the last. Highlights or rankings don’t properly describe just how good he is. He moves like a gazelle on the court, has the best court vision I have seen for someone his age and can be a gifted scorer. I’m ALL IN on LaMelo Ball. 

JG – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC

Watch Cole Anthony at UNC this year. He’s the perfect Roy Williams guard. He’s going to be first-team All-America & may even win player of the year. His ability to be able to get to the rim and pull-up from 3 will be amazing to watch. We could be looking at a Dame clone. 

CC – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC

I reserve the right to change my mind after a year of CBB, but as of now I love Cole’s shot creation, athleticism, and handle. It seems like he’s going to be an efficient creator out of high PnR.

Final Count: Cole Anthony 5, LaMelo Ball 2

2019-20 Player Preview: Dwayne Bacon

Dwayne Bacon is the best two-way player on the Charlotte Hornets roster. He has size, scoring, and defensive, he is, without question, the most well-rounded player on the Hornets’ roster. While this is indeed a fact, Bacon, who is in a contract year, will still have to prove that he belongs with the Hornets going forward. 

Dwayne Bacon has the ability to cement himself as a high-level role player this year. Granted, he will absolutely have to take on more of an offensive role for a Hornets team that, well, doesn’t have much going for it. Charlotte will also rely heavily on Bacon on the defensive end since they also have a lack of perimeter defenders.

Playing a premium position, small forward, Bacon has shown that he can play at any level. From early March to the end of the season (16 games), he averaged 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists while shooting 45% from the field, 40% from three (!!!), and 70% from the free-throw line.

This is obviously a small sample size. But it is promising nonetheless.

Dwayne Bacon could become a perfect role player – even better than Robert Covington who I personally rate very highly. He’s got the athleticism and mentality to thrive in the NBA. 

After spending much of his first season in the NBA’s G-League, Bacon improved on his rookie season last year in almost all facets of his game. We should expect the same this year. As he can score at all three levels, it would not be surprising to see him lead the team in scoring this year. Bacon also might be leaned upon when it comes to late-game situations (if there are any, I mean, this team is BAD). 

Dwayne Bacon already took Nicolas Batum’s starting position, and this is after Borrego stated often last season that he wanted Batum to be more aggressive. He is only going to grow more.

This being a contract year for Bacon means he could earn a massive payday – but will be a restricted free agent this summer. Any contract offered by another team could be matched by the Hornets, assuming they extend a qualifying offer.

It will be interesting to see just how head coach James Borrego decides to use Dwayne Bacon. With his growth on both sides of the ball paired with his willingness to learn/accept a role, his value as an asset for this team moving forward is tremendous.

I feel as if I wouldn’t be doing Bacon justice if I didn’t note his rap career.

This offseason, Dwayne Bacon and Miles Bridges released a joint album: King of Ace. Generally, there’s a lot to say about NBA players releasing music. Damian Lillard is a genuinely good rapper. But it is safe to say that Dwayne Bacon nor Miles Bridges have any sort of remarkable future in that industry. King of Ace is not good. Rapper Dwayne Bacon and basketball Dwayne Bacon are polar opposites. One is exciting to experience. The other, not good. 

I expect Dwayne Bacon to take another jump in his career. What exactly that jump is has yet to be determined. 

The Queen’s Guard officially stans Dwayne Bacon in every way (with the exclusion of his music).

NFL Awards: Staff Picks

The Queen’s Guard is ramping up NFL coverage with the season starting up. That said, here are the staff picks at each and every NFL award (and more).

Offensive Player of the Year

Josh: Saquon Barkley, RB, NY Giants

Barkley is going to get a lot of touches with either Eli Manning or Daniel Jones at QB so expect big numbers. 1700 yards rushing isn’t out the question in my opinion.

Euan: Saquon Barkley, RB, NY Giants

Barkley managed to put up the most all-purpose yards in the league last season despite being in one of the worst offensive situations in the league and I expect him to be even better this upcoming year. Returning for his 2nd year in the same offense, with an improved Oline and more dependency on the run game, expect Saquon to put up some all-time numbers should he fulfill all 16 Games.

Steve: Saquon Barkley, RB, NY Giants

I honestly considered him as my MVP pick but we all know running backs don’t win that award anymore. So he’ll get the next best thing. With Odell gone and basically all of the Giants receivers being injured, I would expect Barkley to basically be the entire offense. His numbers this year might be absolutely insane.

Mike: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara is the best running back in football. He just never had the workload to prove it. Now with Mark Ingram in Baltimore, Kamara should see more work in the Saints high powered offense (yes, they brought in Latavius Murray, but I don’t think he sees the same work that Ingram did). Kamara is lightning in a bottle in both the ground game and passing game on one of the best offenses in football.

Dylan: Saquon Barkley, RB, NY Giants

Saquon Barkley is an exceptional talent. He is, without a doubt, the most talented halfback in the NFL. In an offense without Odell Beckham Jr., Barkley could near the 2,000-yard mark, and in a media market as large as New York, that is bound to get the attention of voters.

Defensive Player of the Year

Josh: Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams

The best defensive player in the league. Not much else to say here.

Euan: Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams

The way things stand, it’s hard to see anyone else winning this award for the foreseeable future. Having just been voted the best player in the NFL by his peers, and at the age of only 28, don’t expect Donald’s dominance to be stopping anytime soon.

Steve: Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams

Dude is just a freak and quite possibly the best player in the entire league.

Mike: Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Chicago Bears

I’m still in disbelief that Mack didn’t win DPOY last year. If you watched the Bears defense at all last year there’s nothing I need to say here. He’s a monster (and I don’t want him to hurt me for not picking him).

Dylan: Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald is the clear-cut best defensive lineman in football. Last season, Donald had 20.5 sacks as an interior pass rusher, which is unheard of. At only 28-years old, Donald should have no problem having the same impact on the field as last year.

Coach of the Year

Josh: John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Really like the Ravens chances this year with Lamar Jackson being handed the reins and their pick up of Earl Thomas. Think I see 11-5 this year and a coach of the year win.

Euan: Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

In each of the last 4 seasons, the coach winning this award has led their team to at least 7 wins more than the season before. With Shanahan being one of the most talented offensive minds in the league, expect his 49er team to make a real push for double-digit wins with the return of starting Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Steve: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

I don’t like this pick, but if the Browns actually have a good season as we all expect them too then he should come away with this award.

Mike: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

For those that don’t know, I live in Cleveland and I hate the Browns so this one hurts. However, I understand how over-reactionary the NFL would be if the Browns were to make the playoffs. That’s *all* (easier said than done) they have to do for Freddie to be the coach of the year.

Dylan: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

Freddie Kitchens entered last season as the offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns. He grew internally and made a case to become the head coach. Now, he gets to utilize the talents of Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb on offense. Not to mention, Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Damarious Randall on defense. I expect the Browns to make a play for a high seed in the AFC this season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Josh: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

They’re handing him the reins this year and he should thrive in this offense. Pretty high on Kyler and I can see him having a big year.

Euan: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Having been given the keys to the team as the day 1 starter, Kyler Murray is in the driver’s seat to take home this year’s award. Whilst Arizona may not have a very successful season this year, new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury should be able to put Kyler in good enough situations offensively for him to have a successful year and put up some impressive numbers for a first-year Quarterback.

Steve: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

This is a Kyler Stan account. This years number one pick will live up to expectation. His team won’t be good but he’ll be flashy enough to receive the votes.

Mike: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

In the past 12 years, there have been three quarterbacks drafted in the top 2 with incredible rushing abilities. All three went on to win OROY: Robert Griffin, Cam Newton, and Vince Young. Not only does Murray run, but he is a much better passer than all three of those players. Kyler Murray in the air raid system plus his rushing potential makes him an easy pick for ROY.

Dylan: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

Look, I know that Montgomery has to split time with Tarik Cohen. That still won’t stop me from putting him here. With Mitch Trubisky at quarterback and Montgomery filling out a Jordan Howard-type role (with a little extra pass-catching), it isn’t out of the question that Montgomery gets 220+ touches. If he can get that amount with at least average efficiency, Montgomery will look like a premier RB in the NFL. Similar to Kareem Hunt for Kansas City.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Euan: Brian Burns, OLB/DE, Carolina Panthers

Another homer pick but man he looked terrific in the preseason. I can see him easily starting this year and making a lot of noise as the Panthers switch to a 3-4.

Euan: Devin Bush, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers

There may not have been a better fit in this past draft than Devin Bush going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at number 10 overall. After rave reviews coming out throughout training camp and the preseason, Bush looks poised to follow in the footsteps of the great AFC North Linebackers before him and help Pittsburgh work towards a bounce-back season after 2018 drama-filled campaign.

Steve: Brian Burns, OLB/DE, Carolina Panthers

The homer in me once again. Burns is already looking like he’s ready to bust out with a 15 sack season.

Mike: Josh Allen, OLB/DE, Jacksonville Jaguars

Allen joins the Jacksonville Jaguars defense, one of the best defenses in football. Allen’s versatility will allow him to play all over the field, and I expect the Jags to disguise him for easy playmaking opportunities. Now you put him in defense with Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Calais Campbell, and Yannik Nagkoue? Good Lord.

Dylan: Quinnen Williams, DL, New York Jets

Covering the draft for the Queen’s guard, Williams was the top overall player on my big board. That said, he’s one of the best interior linemen I’ve seen play college football. He should have an impact on the Jets defense. I would expect somewhere between 6-8 sacks (which is spectacular for a rookie interior linemen (Aaron Donald had nine his rookie year).

Breakout Player Prediction

Josh: Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers

WR1. This is the pick I believe in the most. Samuel is going to have a big year and all Panther fans know it. The guy has all the skills you want in an elite receiver and he’s going to put them on display. 1200 yds and 10 TDs this year at least.

Euan: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Cook was seen as one of the steals of the 2017 NFL Draft after falling out of the 1st round and eventually being selected 41st overall by the Vikings. However, injuries have plagued his first 2 seasons in the NFL along with having to share a backfield with other talented backs – but coming into 2019 Cook looks poised to be a major part of the Vikings offense as the no doubt number 1 ball carrier on the team. Should his body hold up, Cook will see some major work this season and has the opportunity to have a huge year as one of the league’s breakout stars.

Steve: Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

I’m assuming everyone else will pick Curtis Samuel so I’ll go with Corey Davis. We all know who Davis is but he hasn’t quite lived up to being a top 5 draft pick yet. He had a solid 2018 season and is looking to build off of that. Expect him to make some noise this year.

Mike: Sam Darnold, QB, NY Jets

Sam Darnold’s rookie season overall wasn’t good totaling 2800 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 15 picks. However, once Darnold came back from his injury in week 14 it’s like the game slowed down for him entirely. Over the four-game stretch to end the season Darnold put up 80/125 (64%), 931 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. With an upgraded receiving core, the addition of Leveon Bell, and QB friendly coach Adam Gase Darnold has the tools to break out this season.

Dylan: Dede Westbrook, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles was not good at football. It’s as simple as that. Nick Foles is better at football. He may not be the inevitable savior of this football team, but Foles is for damn sure better than Blake Bortles. As a slot man, Westbrook’s main strength is on short throws towards the middle of the field. Bortles seldom threw over the middle. Nick Foles, however, thrives in that area. As the most talented pass-catcher on the Jaguars with a competent quarterback, it would not surprise me to see Westbrook go north of 1,000 yards with ten touchdowns. It may not be superstar numbers, but any team would love that production from one of their receivers.

Most Valuable Player

Josh: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Homer pick obviously but I really do believe in this one. Cam has his best set of weapons since he’s been at Carolina and has improved his throwing mechanics. You can book 3500 yards and 35 TDs if he’s healthy.

Euan: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

After back to back seasons struggling with form and injury, I refuse to believe the best quarterback of all time will spend 3 consecutive years outside of the post-season. I expect Aaron to return with a vengeance in 2019 playing in Matt LaFleur’s more modern offense.

Steve: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

The homer in me is loud this season and I just can’t stray away from it. I want to put Patrick Mahomes here but I just can’t see a repeat happening and I feel as if a Brady/Brees fall off will happen. I think Newton is in the perfect position to have his team firing on all cylinders. He’s supposedly healthy, we know how good he was last year, was even in the MVP discussion before going down to injury. If Cam can return to that form and deliver a complete season with the added addition of actually being able to throw the ball further than 15 yards, then he could very well walk away with this award.

Mike: DeShaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

I don’t know if people fully realize how unbelievable Deshaun Watson is. And now with running back Lamar Miller already out for the year with a torn ACL, there is more put on the plate of Watson to carry the load. He also has an incredible wide receiver room with Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee.

Dylan: DeShaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans

DeShaun Watson is an incredible football player with incredible talent at the wide receiver position with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee. The Houston Texans are also going to be forced to throw the ball more than they want to with franchise RB Lamar Miller out for the season with a torn ACL. Should the Texans clinch a top-3 seed in the AFC with Watson scoring 40+ total touchdowns (passing and rushing combined), he will have a great case to be crowned MVP.

Super Bowl Prediction

Josh: Panthers Win Over Patriots

We get our revenge. I’m all in on us this year.

Euan: Patriots Win Over Eagles

A rematch of the Super Bowl from 2 years ago where an offensive showdown ended up with the Eagles winning their first Championship in franchise history. I predict they won’t be so fortunate this time though, as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will work their way to another title as well as solidifying their already strong cases as the greatest Quarterback and Coach of all time.

Steve: Panthers Win Over Chiefs

Carolina gets back to the promised land led by MVP Cam Newton and this time to finish the job against last years MVP Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs. Speak it into existence am I right

Mike: Saints Win Over Chiefs

I’m a big believer in knowing when something is about to happen due to previous events. Astros winning the world series after Hurricane Harvey? Check. UNC basketball winning in 2017 after losing the previous year on a buzzer-beater? Check. Are the Saints missing out on a Super Bowl berth because of the worst no-call in NFL history? This seems like one of those moments.

Dylan: Texans Win Over Bears

Defense wins championships, and both of these teams have incredible defenses. Though the Texans may lose Jadaveon Clowney, they still have an incredible defense with JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Jordan Reid, DJ Reader, and more. The Texans also have world-class talent at wide receiver along with one of the best pass-catching RBs in football. If they can put it all together, the Texans will be a force.