Team Liquid's starting roster for 2017 NA LCS Summer Split

NA LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

The break between spring and summer has been relatively quiet in North America. Very few big name players were traded, acquired, or released from teams. Most of the biggest changes are at the coaching position, whose impact is difficult to gauge without watching drafts and getting feedback from the players themselves. Here is a summary of every mid-season roster update so far in the NA LCS:

Traded Players

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

After a single split with Immortals, Dardoch has been bounced to another roster. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) traded their jungler to Immortals for Dardoch. He brings a higher carry potential and early proactivity. He also brings an out-of-game personality that has been cited as the source of team-wide issues. CLG’s support staff will need to rein Dardoch in and properly channel his aggressive playstyle to find success.

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

CLG's Xmithie was traded to Immortals for Dardoch

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Xmithie was traded to Immortals in exchange for Dardoch. This is a surprising trade, considering CLG decided to keep their entire roster intact in the off-season leading into Spring Split. Immortals will be receiving a seasoned, veteran, shot-calling jungler to compliment their remaining teammates, particularly the younger players in the bottom lane. Hopefully, Xmithie will ameliorate any out-of-game issue and provide stability within the team.

LCS Aqcuisitions

Jason “WildTurtle” Tran

Unsurprisingly, WildTurtle has decided to leave TSM to find a starting role elsewhere, and he has. FlyQuest is bringing him on as the primary AD Carry. WildTurtle helped TSM win the NA LCS Spring Split, but had a rocky performance at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. FlyQuest finished fifth this spring, and with this acquisition they will look to move up in the standings this summer.

Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer

FNA Nisqy enters NA LCS ad mid laner for Team Envy

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nisqy enters North America from the EU Challenger Series. His spring split team, Fnatic Academy, qualified for promotion into the EU LCS Summer Split. Their slot was bought by Ninjas in Pyjamas, who signed an entirely new roster. Nisqy joins Team Envy after his strong showing within EU CS. Envy finished last split in tenth, and fought their way through the promotion tournament to defend their spot in the NA LCS. Changes in the mid lane may stabilize their gameplay for better overall performance.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy is also signing Pirean to their roster as a mid laner. Pirean most recently started for Phoenix1 in Summer 2016, and helped keep the team in the LCS after finishing eighth and fighting through the promotion tournament. This past split he was benched as a substitute mid laner behind Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Pirean looks to share mid lane duties with Nisqy. However, Pirean does seem to be the starter on the LCS website.

William “Stunt” Chen

Stunt is switching teams for the second time in six months. From substitute support on Dignitas to starting support on Phoenix1 to sharing the support role on Phoenix1, Stunt is now signed to Immortals as a substitute. While Stunt had some of the highest first blood rates, kill participation, and average KDA, he sacrificed high death shares and lower overall damage than his counterpart, Jordan “Shady” Robison. The Immortals infrastructure may be able to develop his talent in a stable team environment.

Terry “Big” Chuong

Big joins Team Dignitas as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Big is listed as a player for Team Dignitas in Riot’s Global Contract Database, and may be starting over Alex “Xpecial” Chu in Week 1. Xpecial was benched in favor of Stunt a few times throughout the Spring Split. Big most recently played for Echo Fox’s sister team, Delta Fox, in the NA CS. It would be surprising if his starting role on Dignitas is permanent this summer.

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Team Dignitas also signed Shrimp, a jungler substitution. DIG’s early split woes, and late split streak, rested mostly in the jungle position, as Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun built synergy with the rest of the team. Signing Shrimp on as back-up could be a response. Shrimp split jungle duties for Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe this spring, helping them finish first in the regular season and second in playoffs.

Brandon “Mash” Phan

The last NA LCS substitute worth mentioning is Mash, who has signed to Echo Fox as AD Carry. Echo Fox started the Spring Split strong, but faltered in the second half, finishing eighth in the regular season. The bottom lane was much to blame. Mash comes onto the roster after finishing first in the NA CS with Gold Coin United. While Yuri “Keith” Jew is still listed as the starter for Week 1, it would not be surprising to see Mash splitting time in this role.

Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo

Ssong is another newcomer to Immortals this summer. Stepping in as coach, Ssong has been the head of LCK teams such as Longzhu Gaming and ROX Tigers. Most notably, he was coach when ROX Tigers finished top four in the 2016 World Championships. Signing Ssong shows Immortals’ dedication to improving as a team, and building the proper environment for growing talent. It will be interesting to see how much he elevates the team compared to last split.

Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco

Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas as coach

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the longest serving veterans of the NA LCS, Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas this summer. After Apex Gaming chose him as coach, and they qualified into the LCS, Saintvicious was kept on as staff when Apex and Dignitas were acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming into Spring 2017, Saintvicious joined Team Liquid as a strategic coach. However, after Liquid’s nasty Spring Split, Dignitas has welcomed him back to assist David “Cop” Roberson.

Nick “Inero” Smith

Formerly of OPL’s Tainted Minds, Inero will be head coach for Echo Fox this summer. Prior to Tainted Minds, Inero coached Dream Team and Mousesports in the EU and NA Challenger Series. Tainted Minds was caught up in scandalous reports of mismanagement from players within the team, which eventually led to a competitive ruling from Riot. The staff and players were released, which has allowed Echo Fox to sign Inero on as head coach.

Dong Hwan “Violet” Kim

Team Envy has signed Violet, a reputable Starcraft II player, as head coach for the summer. Violet has been signed to Envy as a Starcraft player since the beginning of 2016. His crossover into coaching League of Legends seems risky considering Envy just missed relegation this past spring. Maybe Violet’s strategic gaming background will allow Team Envy to develop new tactics or playstyles.

Changes to Starting Rosters

Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng

Doublelift promoted to starting AD Carry for TSM

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unsurprisingly, Doublelift returns to play the Summer Split as starting AD Carry. Although the star AD Carry had taken a temporary hiatus from professional play, Doublelift was temporarily loaned to Team Liquid by TSM for the last few weeks of the Spring Split to help prevent their relegation. Although TSM won the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, the team aspires to improve for international competition. Based on their underwhelming performance at the Mid-Season Invitational, Doublelift could be crucial for attaining their higher goals.

Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer

Starting Goldenglue as Team Liquid’s mid laner is one of the most controversial roster appointments going into the Summer Split. Leading into the Spring Split, Team Liquid signed Goldenglue and Austin “Link” Shin for mid lane duties. Later in the split, Team Liquid overhauled the roster, moving their AD Carry into mid lane and starting the substitute AD Carry in bottom lane. The team was also almost relegated, even though they had Doublelift on loan from TSM.

In the meantime, Goldenglue bootcamped in South Korea to play against the best in the world and elevate his gameplay. Only time will tell if his Korean solo queue experience has paid off. Goldenglue may be the player with the most pressure on him, coming into this split.

Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

Piglet is also being reset into his normal role, AD Carry. Team Liquid announced their roster on Twitter as the same roster they signed coming into 2017 Spring Split. While “Midlet” exceeded expectations on a few occasions, it was not a long-term solution for Team Liquid’s problems. Hopefully, the bottom lane meta is more suitable for Piglet to carry, as he has done historically.

Leaving NA LCS

Dylan Falco

Team Envy’s Spring Split coach, Dylan Falco, is leaving North America to coach Fnatic in the EU LCS. His replacement will be Violet, as mentioned above. For more information on Coach Falco’s relocation, and the rest of the roster updates for the EU LCS, check out EU LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

Status Unknown

Adrian “Adrian” Ma

No updates yet on Adrian for Summer Split 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Adrian was last mentioned signing to Team Liquid while their support, Matt “Matt” Elento, needed to step down due to personal issues. Last playing on March 18, Adrian has not been mentioned in any team announcements for Summer Split. Team Liquid did part ways with Adrian, and Matt came back to assume the starting role, but nothing has been reported since then. Adrian left Phoenix1 due to disagreements with teammates, so it is possible that teams are hesitant to bring him into the mix.

Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo

After a disappointing Spring Split, Ninja has been replaced by two mid laners. There have been no announcements about his status since. He could be in contact with other NA LCS teams. He could be considered for a Challenger team. Ninja could also transfer to another region. The Summer Splits will be starting soon, so it is possible he remains unsigned altogether.

David “Hermes” Tu

Hermes joined Immortals coming into the 2017 Spring Split. He had an almost completely new roster of players, and together they finished seventh in the regular season and missed playoffs. Since the announcement of Ssong entering this position, nothing has been heard from Hermes. Judging by his Twitter, Hermes seems to be a free agent.

Simon “heavenTime” Jeon

HeavenTime is another unaccounted coach. Echo Fox brought on Inero as a replacement, but nothing has been seen from HeavenTime. With the season restarting soon, it is possible that he remains unsigned, as well.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: guards and centers

The interior of the offensive line is not usually a position that is highly sought after in the NFL Draft. In the 2017 NFL Draft Forrest Lamp may have been the best lineman in the class, but he didn’t get drafted until the second round. These are still valuable players and will get some attention this season, even if it isn’t all the attention they deserve. Here are the best interior offensive linemen for the 2018 NFL Draft, as the college football season approaches:

Mason Cole, Michigan

Mason Cole NFL

Mason Cole (Photo by: mlive.com)

Cole is one of the few linemen in this class who has the capability to play both tackle and center. His best NFL position is center, so he moved there permanently in 2016. He has good size at 6’5″ and 305 pounds.

While he has played solidly, another year of good tape is needed to be the best interior lineman in this class. Getting better at pass protections would be a nice bonus heading into this season.

The Wolverines will go up against some good teams in 2017 that should give Cole the opportunity to prove why he should be the first center selected in the draft. Michigan plays Florida, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State this season.

Will Clapp, LSU

LSU had a few good interior offensive linemen last season, but Clapp is the best one remaining. He can play both guard and center and likely will play the latter this season.

He is 6’5″ and 309 pounds, giving him decent size. Staying healthy will be a key for Clapp, as he has had some shoulder issues in the past. Clapp is good at both pass and run blocking and needs to continue to show that this season.

The Tigers will have a tough schedule as always in the SEC West. They have tough games against BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

Nelson is another good offensive line prospect out of Notre Dame and would have been one of the first interior offensive linemen off the board. Nelson has great size at 6’5″ and 325 pounds.

He has the necessary athleticism to pass block in the NFL, but has been more of a run blocker at the college level. He has started for the past two seasons and helped get the Notre Dame run game going.

Notre Dame has some good teams on the schedule this year and they play Georgia, Michigan State, USC, North Carolina, NC State, Stanford and Miami.

Billy Price, Ohio State

Billy Price NFL

Billy Price (Photo by: landof10.com)

A lot of the interior linemen have good experience, and Price does as well. He has started since 2014 and really helped Ezekiel Elliot emerge as a top running back.

He is 6’4″ and 315 pounds, which is solid for a guard. He has the experience and the run blocking down, but needs to improve his pass blocking in his last season of college football.

Ohio State plays Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan. Price will have his hands full with a reloaded Michigan offensive line, but he has played well against them in the past. With a good season he could go in the top two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

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2017 NBA Finals

2017 NBA Finals Preview

The 2017 NBA Finals are set and the wait is finally over. The world gets to see the Golden State Warriors matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third-straight year in the Finals.

It is the grudge match of all grudge matches. Everyone has been waiting for this series since the season tipped off on Oct. 25, 2016. Some have been waiting for this since Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in July.

This third fight between the Warriors and Cavs will be bigger than the “Thrilla in Manila”.

How They Got Here

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: REX Shutterstock)

The Golden State Warriors went 67-15 this season following a record-breaking 73-win season in 2016. Golden State also broke the record for most wins over a three-year span.

This Warriors team is actually better than last year’s team thanks to the signing of Kevin Durant. The Warriors took it easy in the regular season because their goal all year was to meet the Cavs in the Finals.

Golden State made quick work of their playoff opponents. They swept all three opponents in a tough Western Conference. What the Warriors have done this postseason has been impressive and they sent a message. Winning the Finals is an obsession to them and nothing else is considered acceptable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had it as easy as the Warriors. Cleveland went 51-31 and finished as the second seed in the East. The Cavs really struggled in the second half of the season. After Jan. 1st the Cavs went 26-24. They looked bad defensively and some started to question whether or not they were capable of another Finals run.

All those questions were put to bed quickly once the playoffs started. The Cavs easily swept the Pacers and Raptors before meeting the top-seeded Celtics in the conference finals. Cleveland then wiped Boston off their home-court in embarrassing fashion. Boston stole game three but all that did was delay the inevitable. Cleveland went on to finish the next two games easily to reach the finals for the third straight year.

Round One: Cleveland Hurt

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The first year these two teams met in the Finals was in 2015. Kevin Love had been hurt in the first round and would miss the remainder of the playoffs.

Game 1 of the Finals dealt another injury to a Cleveland star. Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap in the first game of the series during overtime. Golden State would win that game and win the series 4-2 to capture its first title in 40 years.

Many called the Warriors title tainted claiming that they would not have won the championship had the Cavaliers been healthy. They were champions without respect and it was their mission to prove they were worthy of the crown.

LeBron had failed to bring a title to Cleveland and many were wondering if it was the right move to leave Miami. The criticism was high despite him averaging 35.8 points per game, 8.8 assists per game and 13.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 38.9 percent from the field. Just as the Warriors were determined to prove they were worthy of the crown, LeBron was determined to bring a title home.

Round Two: Suspension Sparks A Comeback

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.nba.com)

Cleveland and Golden State would meet again in the 2016 Finals for a rematch. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were both healthy for this matchup and many thought the Cavaliers would prove they were truly the better team. Coming into the Finals the Cavaliers had only lost two games in the East.

The Warriors had a much tougher road in the West. They had to comeback from being down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. Throughout the playoffs, Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala were dealing with nagging injuries. They played through those injuries but were not at full strength and expanded tons of energy just to get to the Finals.

In the beginning of the series, none of that seemed to matter. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead and had the largest combined margin of victory in NBA Finals history. Cleveland would win Game 3 and Golden State won Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. In that game, Draymond Green was assessed a flagrant foul, setting his playoff total to four, resulting in a suspension for Game 5. No team had ever come back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.

Cleveland was able to win Games 5 and Game 6 to force an epic Game 7.

After six games the teams were tied in games won and total score. It was as close as a series as it could ever be and the final game of the year would truly decide a champion.

In Game 7, LeBron James blocked a late layup attempt by Andre Iguodala that set up a game-winning 3-pointer by Kyrie Irving. The Cavs won Game 7 93-89 and ended a 52-year championship drought in the city of Cleveland.

The Warriors had lost in the Finals and believed that had Iggy been healthier he would have dunked the ball. Golden State fans also believed that Curry wasn’t healthy and that if Draymond had not been suspended they would have won Game 6 and the series.

Round Three: Bragging Rights

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://realballinsiders.com)

Fast forward to now and here we are set for round three. The Warriors added superstar Kevin Durant to help them get back to the Finals for a third-straight season. The Cavaliers added minor pieces but have made it back to defend their title.

Golden State ended a 40 year drought and Cleveland ended a 52-year drought.

As mentioned earlier the Warriors enter the Finals 12-0 and the Cavaliers enter the Finals 12-1. Both teams sprinted to the Finals as fast as possible, and as rested as possible.

In round three, there are no excuses. Both teams are healthy and both teams will be rested. It is time to put up or shut up. It is time to make a mark on history.

Who’s era is it really? Without trying to predict too far ahead, it is unlikely these teams meet for a fourth straight Finals appearance.

Cleveland comes into the Finals averaging 116.8 points per game while Golden State comes in averaging 118.3 points per game. Both teams are great offensively but the team who plays the best defense will win this series.

There are so many fun matchups the world gets to see in this series as well. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson versus Kyrie Irving. Draymond Green versus Tristan Thompson, LeBron James or Kevin Love.

The most intriguing though is when Kevin Durant and LeBron James match up against one another. Two of the best players in the world will fight it out to be called the champion.

This series will go down in history. At the end of the day, the Warriors are going to win because they have just too much firepower. They lost last season by four points in Game 7. Adding Kevin Durant to the mix will just be too much. All eyes are on the Finals to see who really is the best between these two franchises.

The new greatest rivalry in sports will write the newest chapter this summer, changing legacies forever.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors 4-2

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: offensive tackles

The 2017 NFL Draft didn’t have as many highly sought after tackles as in years past. The 2018 class is going to have plenty of tackles to choose from in the first round. Here are the top offensive tackles heading into the 2017 college football season:

Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Orlando Brown NFL

Orlando Brown (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Brown is likely the biggest tackle prospect in this class at 6’8″ and 360 pounds. He may even have to lose some weight in order to deal with fast pass rushers at the NFL level.

He is the son of the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown, who had a good NFL career.  Brown was redshirted for one year, but has started every possible game since at left tackle. This season he needs to show he has the mobility and flexibility to stay in front of pass rushers.

Brown will be tasked with protecting Baker Mayfield again at left tackle. He has big matchups against Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. The Ohio State game will pit him against several good defensive linemen for scouts to evaluate him.

Mitch Hyatt, Clemson

With 29 starts in two years, Hyatt has a lot of experience. He has started in two National Championship Games and did a good job of protecting Deshaun Watson. He has average height at 6’5″, but below average weight at 295 pounds.

Hyatt will have to add strength to be able to hold up in the NFL. He finished this past season as a National Champion and as a first team All-ACC member (Media). In their only loss against Pittsburgh, Hyatt left the game with an injury and the team didn’t look the same without him.

Clemson will have key games against Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State. The Auburn and Florida State games will both test Hyatt and give him another opportunity to go against great defensive linemen.

Martez Ivey, Florida

Ivey was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and has played decently, but not up to his ranking. He hasn’t always been healthy, but this season is his time to shine.

He will play left tackle for the first time at Florida now that David Sharpe has moved on to the NFL. At 6’5″ and 305 pounds he has average height and weight, but left tackle feels like his natural position. He won the SEC offensive lineman of the week twice last year.

The Gators play Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State. Ivey will be tested against LSU, Georgia and Florida State, but the key match up for him to prove himself is against Arden Key of LSU.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

McGlinchey could have been the first tackle off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft, but elected to go back to school for his senior season. He is the leader this season in terms of sought after tackles. He has good size at 6’7″ and 310 pounds.

One asset that McGlinchey offers is experience at both tackle spots. He played right tackle to start his career and moved to left tackle last season. He might end up being more of a right tackle in the NFL, due to lack of athleticism, which could hurt his draft stock. Although he is, for the most part fundamentally sound, McGlinchey does need to cut down on the number of penalties he gets this season.

Notre Dame will go up against some good teams and defensive fronts this season. McGlinchey will be tested by Georgia, USC, Michigan State, North Carolina, Miami, NC State and Stanford. He will be specifically tested early by Georgia in week two.

Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

Had he entered his name in the 2017 NFL Draft, Rankin would have been selected in the second-fourth round range. He has a chance to improve his stock, but it will be difficult to do so with so many good tackles in this year’s class.

Rankin was good as both a pass blocker and run blocker and should get some more good reps with Nick Fitzgerald behind center. He has average size at 6’5″ and 307 pounds.

The Bulldogs will have a few big matchups playing in the SEC West. Rankins will play against good competition against LSU, Georgia, Auburn, BYU, Texas A&M and Alabama.

Connor Williams, Texas

Connor Williams (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

A lot of the national media hasn’t picked up on Williams as much as they should have in terms of being a good draft prospect. If Williams has a good year he could be the first tackle off of the board. He stands 6’6″ tall and is 288 pounds and needs to add some weight to his frame to handle strong pass rushers.

Williams has been the starting left tackle at Texas since his freshman year and brings a ton of experience. He is more athletic and flexible than most tackles in this class and could develop in to a great pass blocker.

Texas will be challenged by a few teams on their schedule this season. The Longhorns play USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Williams will get a chance to show what he has against USC and Oklahoma, which are both monumental games for Texas.

 

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Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Phoenix Suns 2017 NBA Draft profile

Day four of 2017 NBA Draftmas discusses the Phoenix Suns. Let’s break down the Sun’s season and what their draft needs are.

Summary

Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Devin Booker lead a high-powered offense in Phoenix, but defense still needs a lot of work. (Photo: Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY Sports)

It has been a rough several years for the Suns. The last time they made the postseason was 2010 when the team was led by Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

The last time Phoenix finished with a winning record was during the 2013-14 season when they went 48-34 and still managed to miss the playoffs due to an extremely competitive Western Conference.

This season, Phoenix finished with the second-worst record in the NBA. There haven’t been too many exciting things happening in Phoenix lately, except for the offense, which is lead by its young backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker.

The offense this season was solid. Phoenix ranked ninth in the NBA in points per game at 107.7. Booker averaged 22.1 per game and Bledsoe averaged 21.1. T.J. Warren, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss also chipped in a combined 34.6 points per game. Phoenix can definitely put the ball in the basket.

The problem in Phoenix was defense. Phoenix ranked dead last in opponent points per game at 113.3, giving them a point differential of -5.6. In fact, Phoenix has not had a positive point differential since their last postseason birth in 2010. This simply cannot continue.

If Phoenix is ever going to turn its franchise around, they need to improve defensively. That negative point differential has gone on too long.

PHOENIX suns nba draft Picks & Needs

 The Suns have three picks in this draft, one in the first round and two in the second.

First Round: No. 4

Second Round: No. 32, No. 54

Phoenix seems set on offense. They need to address their defensive issue in this draft. Their first-round pick will be used on a two-way talent, while the second round can be used on guys to help cut down on the amount of points the Suns allow.

Targets & Thoughts

 Pick #4: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas

Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball seem to be a sure thing at picks one and two. The 76ers will most likely add to their backcourt as their frontcourt seems set with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Jahlil Okafor. That leaves Jackson available at the fourth pick, and Phoenix should most definitely take advantage.

Jackson is a two-way talent that could thrive in Phoenix. In his one year at Kansas he averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Phoenix Suns NBA draft

Josh Jackson might be the best two-way player in this draft. (Photo: Getty Images)

The main concern about Jackson is his shooting, despite his field goal percentage being 51.3 percent and his 3-point percentage at 37.8. His form and mechanics are all odd, similar to Lonzo Ball. Not to mention his free-throw percentage is an atrocious 56.6 percent. The shooting definitely needs some work.

Luckily for Jackson, he won’t have to worry about being a primary scorer as Booker and Bledsoe will take care of that. Jackson is not ball-dominant anyway, evidenced by his 12.3 field goal attempts per game while managing to average 16 points.

Jackson plays with energy, which is going to help Phoenix on the defensive side of the ball. Jackson has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard due to his offensive and defensive talent. Jackson is a guy who will dive for loose balls and draw charges. He also had 2.2 steels and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes.

Jackson is a great fit in Phoenix. He should be able to develop his shot over time. His defensive skills can help the Suns cut down on their points allowed as well. The Suns won’t regret taking Jackson.

Pick #32: D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan

Wilson was a late bloomer at Michigan. The junior forward went from 6.6 minutes per game last year to 30.4 this year. He averaged 11 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, but really boosted his stock during the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

In those seven games, the 6-foot-10, 240 pound forward averaged 15.6 points, five rebounds and two blocks per game. Wilson’s size and athleticism help his defensive versatility as he can guard multiple positions on the court.

Wilson also has the potential to be a stretch forward. His season field goal percentage was 53.8 and his 3-point percentage was 37.3.

Wilson needs to improve his strength and post-up game, and his lack of experience also makes him a question mark. However, as a second-round pick, Phoenix only needs him to be a role player. Wilson won’t face too much pressure if that is the case and Phoenix could benefit from his versatility.

Pick #54: Kennedy Meeks, PF/C, North Carolina

Meeks just closed his four-year career at North Carolina with his best season yet. Meeks finished with averages of 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.

Meeks is mostly known for his rebounding and defensive skills. It is unclear if Meeks will get drafted at this point, but if he is available at pick 54, he might be worth taking a chance on.

Conclusion

 The Suns need defense. They need to address this in the draft, as well as the offseason. Josh Jackson is the best option at the fourth pick. D.J. Wilson and Kennedy Meeks would be other good options to consider in the second round.

Thanks for checking out the Phoenix Suns 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day five of NBA Draftmas to see what the Sacramento Kings are going to do.

NBA Draftmas Day 3: Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Draftmas Day 2: Los Angeles Lakers

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Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day three of NBA Draftmas is here to trust the process. Philadelphia fans are itching for their team to become contenders. This year they take another step closer to becoming a playoff team.

Summary

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: ohn Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia has not made the playoffs since 2012. Their overall record since then is 109-301. The future is beginning to look bright despite the recent failure. The 76ers improved their win total by 18 from last season, showing that the process is indeed working.

Not all signs are pointing in the right direction though. Last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, did not play a single game due to injury. Their franchise center, Joel Embiid, also dealt with injuries. Embiid was looking like the hands down rookie of the year until he went down with a foot injury. This is his third major injury, and it is never a good sign when big men have multiple knee or foot injuries. If he can remain healthy, he is going to be a top-three big in the NBA.

The 76ers struggled offensively, averaging 102.4 points per game, which ranked 25th in the NBA. They shot 44.2 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc. Those percentages ranked 27th and 25th, respectively. They also turned the ball over at an alarming rate with 16 per game, ranking dead last.

Defensively, the Sixers gave up 108.1 points per game. Opponents shot 46.1 percent against the Sixers. Philly needs to improve both offensively and defensively.

Like many teams drafting early, youth and inexperience plagued the 76ers. To develop into a playoff team, the talent inside the organization needs time on the court together. Simmons and Embiid must remain healthy for this team to start pushing for the playoffs. If they remain healthy and this year’s pick pans out, the 76ers should be geared to dominate the East relatively soon.

Picks & Needs

The 76ers have five picks in the draft, four of which are in the second round. This gives Philly wiggle room to possibly move up for a second first round pick.

First Round: No. 3 (via Sacramento)

Second Round: No. 36 (via New York), No. 39 (via Dallas), No. 46 (via Miami), No. 50 (via Atlanta)

The Sixers have a very solid frontcourt made up of Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Brett Brown has publicly stated that Simmons will play point guard. The Sixers still need a very reliable shooting guard who can get buckets.

They could also use some depth at the small forward position. Robert Covington is average at best and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is still young and developing. It will be highly unlikely that the 76ers draft five players. One of their late second-round picks could be used on a foreign player who may stay overseas for a few seasons, but five rookies would be too much on an already extremely young team.

Targets & Thoughts

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Pick #3: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Sixers need scoring help from the guard position badly, and Malik Monk is a scoring machine. The SEC Player of the Year averaged 19.8 points per game in his freshman season at Kentucky. Monk shot 45 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from behind the arc.

Every now and then Monk would go off with impressive scoring games. Monk scored 47 against North Carolina, 34 at Ole Miss, 37 versus Georgia and 33 against Florida. He showed just how great of a scorer he is. At his age, he can develop into an ever better scorer in the NBA.

Pick #36: Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson

Jaron Blossomgame is one of the oldest players in this draft. He will have maturity and experience that a lot of draftees won’t have. Blossomgame will be a solid scorer off the bench. He has nice length and size to be a quality NBA defender as well, but will need development in that area.

Pick #39: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

Frank Mason III could become one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Mason has a natural ability to push the ball and creates quick offense. He isn’t afraid to attack the rim to get to the free throw line. Mason will be able to come in and play anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes per game and be a solid role player.

Pick #46: Alpha Kaba, PF, France

Alpha Kaba already has connections on the Sixers. Kaba played with current 76er Timothe-Luwawu-Cabarrot in France. Kaba is able to stretch the floor, something the Sixers could use from a big. Alpha Kaba would not come to the NBA this season and the Sixers could allow him to continue his development for a few seasons overseas.

Pick #50: Aleksandar Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

Aleksandar Vezenkov is a raw European prospect who is capable of some good outside shooting. Philly will keep Vezenkov overseas until they need him. He has the talent to play in the NBA one day.

Conclusion

The Sixers have another top-three pick that will help them continue the process. Drafting Malik Monk would push the Sixers into playoff contention next season. It isn’t going out on a limb to say Philadelphia will be a seven or eight seed in the East next season. Getting to the playoffs would be the first step. They need that valuable playoff experience for their young core.

In the second round, the Sixers have four more picks that would allow them to be flexible in the draft. They will draft a few players who will stay overseas. Philadelphia is not far from contending for a championship and this draft will push them much closer.

Thanks for checking out the Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day four of NBA Draftmas to see what the Phoenix Suns are going to do.

Day 1 Draftmas: Boston Celtics

Day 2 Draftmas: Los Angeles Lakers

 

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Pridestalker moves from Misfits Academy to ROCCAT

EU LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

Roster updates have filled the space between the EU LCS Spring and Summer Splits. Teams swapped players. New organizations purchased academy teams. Challenger players were promoted to LCS, and LCS players dropped to CS. Here is a summary of what is known so far.

NEW ORGANIZATIONS

Ninjas in Pyjamas

Ninjas in Pyjamas purchased Fnatic Academy's LCS slot

Image from NiP.gl

Fnatic Academy qualified for the Summer Split by beating Giants Gaming in the Summer Promotion tournament. Since an organization is not allowed to field more than one roster in the LCS, Fnatic was required to sell their slot. Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) has purchased the slot, but the entire roster has been overhauled:

2017 Spring Split

Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek

Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneide

Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer

Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm

Johan “Klaj” Olsson

Kublai “Kubz” Barlas

2017 Summer Split

Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung

Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema

Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon

Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa

Hampus “sprattel” Mikael Abrahamsson

Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgaard

Profit comes to the EU LCS from LCK’s SK Telecom T1 (SKT), and Nagne comes from WYDream in the LSPL. Shook last played for Team Vitality in the 2016 Summer Split. HeaQ was acquired from Giants Gaming, and Sprattel from Paris Saint-Germain in the CS. NiP’s coach, NicoThePico, was most recently the head coach for Fnatic’s LCS team before stepping down in March.

While Team Envy (NV) in North America signed Nisqy as their mid laner, it is unclear whether or not Fnatic will maintain the rest of the roster as substitutes. Several of the players have expressed dissatisfaction towards the situation. It is also unclear if Kubz will remain the assistant coach for the organization.

Profit, NiP’s top laner, is arguably their highest profile acquisition. Although he only played nine regular season matches, Profit maintained the highest KDA among all LCK top laners, 8.7. SKT utilized him more frequently as a tank player, mostly drafting Nautilus. Profit joins G2’s Ki “Expect” Dae-han and Mysterious Monkey’s Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol as the third imported Korean top laner in the EU LCS Summer Split.

Mysterious Monkeys

Mysterious Monkeys purchased Misfits Academy's LCS slot

Image from Mysterious-Monkeys.de

The other Challenger team to qualify for the EU LCS Summer Split was Misfits Academy. They defeated Fnatic Academy in the Summer Promotion tournament. Since they also already have an LCS team, Misfits was forced to sell their slot, which has been purchased by Mysterious Monkeys.  They have maintained almost the entire roster:

2017 Spring Split

Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol

Milo “Pridestalker” Wehnes

Sofyan “CozQ” Rechchad

Florent “Yuuki60” Soler

Han “Dreams” Min-kook

Petar “Unlimited” Georgiev

2017 Summer Split

Park “Jisu” Jin-cheol

Leon “Lamabear” Krüger

Sofyan “CozQ” Rechchad

Florent “Yuuki60” Soler

Han “Dreams” Min-kook

Petar “Unlimited” Georgiev

With the departure of Pridestalker, Lamabear returns as Mysterious Monkey’s jungler. Lamabear was the starting jungler for Misfits Academy coming into 2017. However, he was suspended for four months due to unacceptable in-game behavior. Prior to his suspension, Lamabear played for Misfits in the 2017 Spring Promotion tournament to qualify into the EU LCS. The organization ultimately replaced him and Kim “Wisdom” Tae-wan with Lee “KaKAO” Byung- kwon for the Spring Split.

All of the members of Mysterious Monkeys will be rookies in their respective positions, including the coach. The MFA roster averaged 1,291 gold behind at 15 minutes during the regular season of the CS Spring Split and had a 40 percent win rate. However, they had the second highest mid-late game rating, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Yuuki60 averaged the highest damage per minute and lowest death share of all CS players.

LCS ACQUISITIONS

Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian

Maxlore acquired by Misfits

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits acquired Maxlore to fill the void left by KaKAO in the jungler position. This spring he played for Roccat (ROC). Although ROC had a poor early start to the split, Maxlore was a major factor in their late-split run for playoffs. He maintained an 83 percent win rate on Graves, and a 71 percent win rate on Rengar. Despite ROC’s 45 percent overall win rate, Maxlore had mid-high statistics for total assists, first blood rate, CS difference at 10 minutes, damage per minute, and wards cleared per minute. Giants Gaming seemed to utilize him better in 2016, so it will be interesting to see how Misfits incorporate him.

Milo “Pridestalker” Wehnes

Replacing Maxlore on ROC is Pridestalker. This spring, Pridestalker was the starting jungler for Misfits Academy. He played a major role in qualifying them for the EU LCS. During CS Spring Playoffs, Pridestalker maintained the highest KDA of all players, and during the Summer Promotion tournament, he had the second highest overall. Pridestalker also secured first blood in 50 percent of his games throughout playoffs and promotion. Only time will tell if he will be an upgrade over Maxlore.

Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan

A perennial EU support player, VandeR returns to the LCS after a short time on FC Schalke 04 (S04) in Challenger. He joins Team Vitality (VIT) to replace Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan and Baltat “AoD” Alin-Ciprian. VIT had horrible issues in the support position throughout the Spring Split, so this should be a huge pick-up for them.

S04 tore through the competition in CS regular season, maintaining a 10-0 perfect record. VandeR was a huge cog in that machine, averaging a 14.4 KDA and 11 assists per game. However, S04 dropped the ball in the CS Spring Playoffs, losing 3-1 to Misfits Academy. Several players and the coach have left the team. The most likely cause is disappointment.

Dylan Falco   

Dylan Falco acquired by Fnatic as coach

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Most recently acting as coach for NV in the NA LCS, Dylan Falco has been appointed the new head coach of Fnatic. Dylan has worked with several other organizations previously, including TSM, Immortals, and H2K. Former coach NicoThePico had stepped down mid-split, and Finlay “Quaye” Stewart acted as coach temporarily. It is difficult to judge coach Falco’s impact on NV’s gameplay. Fnatic’s roster has more collective veteran LCS experience and does not contain any Korean imports. These differences may be beneficial for him.

Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi  

One of the most shocking reveals this mid-season was the departure of YamatoCannon from Splyce. It has since been announced that he will be the head coach of Team Vitality this summer. Both Splyce and Team Vitality seemed disappointed by their performances this spring. According to YamatoCannon’s announcement video, his leaving Splyce was a mutual decision. While his persona as a coach and analyst will be hard to separate from Splyce’s organization, hopefully this switch will elevate Vitality’s performance.

LEAVING LCS

Olof “Flaxxish” Medin

Team Kinguin acquired Flaxxish from Giants Gaming after Giants’ relegation from the EU LCS. Kinguin is currently participating in the 2017 CS Summer Qualifiers tournament, which will decide if they play in the CS Summer Split. Flaxxish had a terrible Spring Split with Giants, starting with IEM Gyeonggi.

Flaxxish finished the regular season tied for fifth lowest overall KDA. He also averaged the most CS behind, third most gold behind, and ninth most experience behind at 10 minutes. Flaxxish only contributed 302 damage per minute and 18.7 percent of his team’s damage, both lowest among top laners. The pool of top laners in EU LCS is stronger with him in Challenger.

Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi

Memento acquired by Schalke 04

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Memento is another Giants Gaming player to be acquired by a Challenger team for the summer. S04 adds him to their roster to replace Jean-Victor “loulex” Burgevin. Despite Giants’ rough Spring Split, Memento had the second highest kill participation of all EU LCS players, and contributed 18.2 percent of Giants’ damage (highest among junglers). He also secured first blood in 50 percent of regular season games. Giants was able to take first dragon in 50 percent of games, due in large part to Memento.

On the other hand, Memento generally fell behind in gold, experience, and CS at 10 minutes. Almost all of his metrics got worse during the Summer Promotion tournament, which should theoretically be an easier pool of players. S04 had an excellent regular CS split, so Memento will need to play up to his potential if they are to maintain dominance this summer.

Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan

Team Vitality has rid itself of Hachani as support. Arguably one of the worst performers of the Spring Split, Hachani has been acquired by Ever8 Winners in Challengers Korea. During his time on Vitality, Hachani was among the bottom six players in KDA, kill participation, and death share. He also averaged four deaths per game, second lowest among supports. Vitality should be ecstatic to have him gone.

STATUS UNKNOWN

Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon

KaKAO is currently a free agent

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

With the announcement that Maxlore would come onto Misfits’ roster, KaKAO’s status for Summer Split remain unknown. As a free agent, he may be fielding offers from other organizations. He may be returning to Korea. He may be changing to another region, such as China or North America. Maybe he has decided to retire once and for all. Regardless, KaKAO’s spring performance exceeded expectations, and did not seem to be problematic for Misfits’ team. It will be surprising if a team does not sign him.

Origen

Since Origen’s relegation from the EU LCS, they have not discussed the status of the team. The organization did announce on Facebook that their entire roster (except Enrique Cedeño “xPeke” Martínez), including the coach, has been released as free agents. However, that has been the only talk for almost a month. It is unclear who will replace these players, but Origen has implied that they will be participating in the Challenger Series.

Giants Gaming

The other roster mystery lies with Giants Gaming. They, too, were relegated from the LCS and have yet to make any announcements about a new roster. Their AD carry, jungler, and top laner have all been signed elsewhere. There have been no updates regarding Na “NighT” Gun-woo or Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Best 2018 NFL Draft Prospects: tight ends

As of now, there aren’t many great tight end prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. A lot of prospects will be looking to weed themselves out from the rest of the pack this season and get drafted early. Here are the top prospects heading into the 2017 college football season:

Troy Fumagalli, Wisonsin

Fumagalli has been a step above anyone else in this tight end class so far and is the favorite to be the first one taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has great measurables at 6’6″ and 248 pounds.

In 2016, Fumagalli capped off a solid season with an outstanding performance in the Cotton Bowl. His performance against Western Michigan in that game had plenty of highlight catches. He finished the season with 580 receiving yards and two touchdowns, but those are impressive numbers considering the type of offense Wisconsin runs and the lack of great quarterback play he had.

Paul Chryst has mentioned that Fumagali has developed as a blocker, but he still needs to improve if he wants to be a good all-round prospect for NFL Teams to draft.

Wisconsin will play a few teams that give Fumagalli a chance to against good competition. The Badgers play BYU, Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.

DeAndre Goolsby, Florida

DeAndre Goolsby NFL

DeAndre Goolsby (Photo by: gatorcountry.com)

In the 2014 recruiting class, Goolsby was just a three star recruit, but has flashed good receiving potential and moved his way up the tight end ranks. He is a bit smaller than Fumagalli at 6’4″ and 244 pounds, but could end up being a better receiving threat.

Goolsby doesn’t have great numbers, but the quarterback play at Florida has been atrocious. He still has managed to put up 619 receiving yards and four touchdowns the last two years. His best game of last season came in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, where he finished with 91 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven catches. Because quarterback play is so bad, he has to make the most of every catch-able throw that comes his way this season.

Like Fumagalli, and most tight ends coming out of college, Goolsby has to become a better blocker. If he wants his stock to improve he needs to produce more, even with poor quarterback play.

Florida plays some good defenses this season. Goolsby will have a chance to show off his talent against Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State.

Cam Serigne, Wake Forest

Cam Serigne NFL

Cam Serigne (Photo by: zimbio.com)

A lot of casual fans won’t know who Serigne is because he plays for Wake Forest, but he can play. He doesn’t have great height at 6’3″, but does create separation and produces.

Over his first three years at Wake Forest Serigne has totaled 1,519 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He too has to put up with sub-par quarterback play, making his stats more impressive. In the bowl game against Temple, Serigne had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. That was the best performance of the year for the junior tight end.

Over seasons Serigne has solid stats, but he does need to be more consistent. He also needs to prove he can block despite likely having shorter arms than most tight ends in the class.

Serigne will be on the big stage for scouts when the Demon Deacons play Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Notre Dame this season.

 

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Los Angeles Lakers 2017 Draft Profile

Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day two of 2017 NBA Draftmas is here for the Los Angeles Lakers 2017 draft profile. It is time to break down one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Summary

Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Lakers are currently in their worst era in franchise history. They have missed the playoffs in four straight seasons. L.A.’s overall record over the past four seasons is 91-237.

It isn’t all bad for the Lakers as they have the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. They also improved their win total by nine games from the previous season.

There is a lot of young talent and a promising young head coach. Rumors are also swirling that they will be the eventual landing spot for Paul George.

The Lakers’ biggest problem is youth and as Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram continue to grow, wins will follow.

Los Angeles was a middle of the road team in scoring averaging 104.6 points per game which ranked 17th in the NBA. They shot 45 percent as a team, ranking 21st in the NBA. The Lakers also ranked 22nd in three-point percentage making 34.6 percent of their three-point attempts.

In order for the Lakers to improve, they will need to become a better offensive team. Experience and maturity for their young core will help improve their offense.

Defensively, the Lakers were pretty bad. They gave up 111.5 points per game which ranked them 28th in the NBA. They allowed opposing teams to shoot 48.3 percent from the field, which was the worst in the NBA. Los Angeles ranked 26th in three-point percentage allowing opposing teams to shoot 37 percent from behind the arc.

The Lakers need to improve defensively more than anything.

Picks & Needs

The Lakers have two picks in the draft, both in the first round.

First Round: No. 2, No. 28 (Via Houston)

At this point, the Lakers just need to get more talent that can help them win games. Their strategy in the draft should be to take the best available player. Their second pick should be used on a defender that can help improve the team’s low defensive rankings.

Targets & Thoughts

Los Angeles Lakers 2017 Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Pick #2: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA

Lonzo Ball is somehow stuck in his father’s shadow. Ball has to take tons of heat because of his father’s mouth. The pressure on Ball as he enters the NBA is already enormous and that pressure to succeed continues to grow every day.

His calm demeanor makes him extremely attractive as a franchise player given the circumstances. He has embraced the questions about his father. Ball has openly claimed his dream is to lead the Los Angeles Lakers.

On and off the court he seems completely unphased. It shows that no matter what happens he will be able to perform and if the Lakers are smart they will take Lonzo Ball and let him become the face of the franchise.

Lonzo Ball makes everyone around him better. Many have compared him to Jason Kidd and it is a pretty good comparison. He averaged 7.6 assists per game and helped the Bruins improve their record from 15-17 to 31-5.

His unique jump shot has been criticized but it works for him. In his one season at UCLA, Ball shot 55.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from behind the arc. One area he must improve in is his free throw shooting. He shot a below average 67.3 percent from the free throw line.

Lonzo has all the tools to be a hometown star. There are a million reasons the Lakers should take Ball but the biggest reason is that he can lead them back to the playoffs.

Pick #28: OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

The Lakers must acquire players capable of playing great defense. OG Anunoby is one of the top perimeter defenders entering the 2017 NBA Draft. He has the size, length, quickness and athleticism to become a lockdown defender in the NBA. Anunoby averaged 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game last season. The Lakers will have plenty of offensive weapons on the roster. Drafting Anunoby will give Los Angeles a solid bench player capable of coming in to make a defensive impact.

Conclusion

The Lakers have the second overall pick for the third-straight season. If they take Lonzo Ball, the Lakers will have created one of the best young rosters in all of the NBA. Ball will improve all the players around him, therefore making the Lakers team as whole, better.

With their second first round pick the Lakers need to find some defense. They could go with a solid perimeter defender or a rim protector. Don’t be surprised if the Lakers fight for the eighth seed next season due to this year’s draft class.

 

Thanks for checking out the Los Angeles Lakers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day three of NBA Draftmas to see what the Philadelphia 76ers are going to do.

NBA Draftmas Day 1: Boston Celtics

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: wide receivers

Wide receiver was a position that was highly sought after in the 2017 NFL Draft, but there are some good players in the upcoming class too. Here are guys who will be at the top of draft boards at the wide receiver position come next April:

Deon Cain, Clemson

Deon Cain (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Cain has been overshadowed by all of the great Clemson receivers of the past few years, but it is now his time to shine. Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are gone and Cain will be the primary outside receiver for the Tigers.

Last season Cain had 724 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, but will likely see that increase when he is the primary target this season. He will have to deal with an unproven quarterback this season, but his talent should show through no matter who the starting quarterback ends up being. At 6′ 1″ tall and 210 pounds Cain has good size, but will likely not be taken until the second round.

Cain has flashed potential, but he needs to have a solid and consistent season of production to prove he is worth of an early pick. The big games for Cain to prove himself are: Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

The favorite to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft is Christian Kirk. He has dealt with a lot of different quarterbacks during his time at Texas A&M and will have to again this season.

With Trevor Knight completing around 50% of his passes, Kirk still put up good numbers last season. He had 928 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. One of his biggest things he needs to work on is consistency, but that is partially on the quarterback. He’s 5’11”, which isn’t great, but he uses his athleticism well, making him capable of playing on the outside.

Kirk is looking to maintain his draft stock going into this season. The Aggies will play some big games this season to allow Kirk to show off his skills. They play UCLA, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and LSU.

Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Ridley is also in contention to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has been a key on Alabama’s offense, even though they run the ball a lot, with 161 catches in two years.

In 2016, Ridley caught 72 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns with freshman Jalen Hurts as his quarterback. Hurts is not known as a thrower and Ridley will likely be catching passes from him this season. His best game last season was against Kentucky, when he caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two scores. He creates great separation and has good speed, but like other receivers in this class, needs more consistency.

Ridley will be going up against some good secondaries this season and doing well in these games could push him to the top of draft boards at the wide receiver position. The Crimson Tide play Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn, which gives Ridley some great competition to go against.

Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame

Equanimeous St. Brown (Photo by: usatoday.com)

St. Brown isn’t on a lot of peoples’ radars, but he should be. He only played a little bit his freshman season, but came on strong last year.

He finished the 2016 season with 961 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. St. Brown has great size for an outside receiver, but needs to add some strength to his 6’4″ frame. He adds a big play threat and averaged 16.6 yards per reception. He will have a new quarterback to work with this season, but should be able to have a solid season.With another year of good production, his size and big play ability will entice an NFL team to take him early in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame is always on television, which will give him the most chances to be seen by NFL executives. The Fighting Irish will play Georgia, North Carolina, USC, Miami and Stanford, which all give St. Brown some top level competition to play against.

Courtland Sutton, SMU

Sutton is another receiver that, had he come out for the 2017 NFL Draft, would have been selected early. He has an interesting story and started his career at SMU as a defensive back before emerging as a great receiving threat.

Like St. Brown, Sutton has great size which entices NFL minds. He’s 6’4″ and 215 pounds and has dominated his competition in the AAC. He totaled 1,246 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016 and saw his draft stock rise continually throughout the year. His redshirt junior year promises to be one filled with good stats and success.

SMU doesn’t have the luxury of playing too many great defenses so Sutton will need to make the most of his chances in 2017. The Mustangs play TCU, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis.

James Washington, Oklahoma State

James Washington (Photo by: tulsaworld.com)

While everyone else on this list are dealing with some sort of quarterback issue, Washington doesn’t have to worry about that. His partner in crime Mason Rudolph decided to come back to school and they should both put up great numbers this season.

Washington has gotten better every season he has been in Stillwater. Last season he had 1,380 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. His most notable game from 2016 was against Pittsburgh. He finished that game with 296 receiving yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.

The dynamic duo will have a few opportunities to prove themselves against good competition this season with games against Pittsburgh, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas.

 

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