Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 40-31

People usually have their own draft strategies, but drafting two straight running backs is a common one. As I previously stated, it is the most coveted and important position in fantasy football. This list of running backs is important because of how scarce the position is. Here are the Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 40-31.

40. James White (New England Patriots)- The Super Bowl hero, James White, has the opportunity to take a big step this year. After the departure of LeGarrette Blount, there is no clear number one running back for the New England Patriots. Primarily a receiving back, White recorded 551 receiving yards on only 60 receptions. White also quietly averaged 4.3 yards per carry. I’d like to put him higher on this list but because of the ample amount of running backs on the Patriots roster this is where he should be. Draft him in later rounds and wait for his time to breakout.

New England Patriots running back James White during a NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

39. C.J. Prosise (Seattle Seahawks)– Another running back in a running back by committee situation, Prosise is a difficult player to rank. As the lead back on the Seahawks last year, Prosise rushed for 172 yards on only 30 attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. The Seahawks also use him a lot in the passing game (208 receiving yards on only 17 receptions last season). After acquiring Eddie Lacy in the offseason, Prosise isn’t the lead back but given Lacy’s injury history and Prosise’s success as a number one back, if he gets his chance he’ll produce for you.

38. Giovanni Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals)– Bernard has the ability to be a great fantasy player this year. He was on the field for 394 of his team’s offensive snaps last season in 10 games and expect that to continue. He isn’t a three down back but he is used in the passing game as one of Andy Dalton’s primary weapons (at least 39 receptions every season since he’s been in the league). Don’t expect any breakouts this year, especially rushing behind Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill, but if you’re looking for consistency (8.5 standard fantasy PPG last year) then draft Bernard.

37. Kenneth Dixon (Baltimore Ravens)– Coming off of a decent rookie season, riddled by injuries, Dixon is an interesting fantasy candidate this season. After rushing for 382 yards in 12 games, Dixon can take the lead back role this year. He will miss the first four games because of PED use, so his draft stock is low right now. Draft Dixon as a steal late, and wait for him to get back on the field.

36. Jamaal Charles (Denver Broncos)– A former first round pick in most fantasy leagues, Jamaal Charles is definitely past his prime. That doesn’t mean he still can’t produce RB3 numbers however. After only playing in eight games over the past two seasons, there is always risk coming with the draft pick of Jamaal Charles. From 2012-2014, Charles had three straight 1,000+ rushing seasons. Yes we all know the Broncos running back situation is hard to decipher but for the price Charles is going at right now, currently the 40th running back taken off draft boards, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take him.

35. Doug Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)– Doug Martin is fantasy frustration at it’s finest. Another former first round fantasy pick has had success and has struggled over the course of his career. If he can stay healthy he will produce. In the two seasons where he’s played all 16 games he’s eclipsed 1400 yards both times. He will be missing the first four games of the season, but with the revamped Tampa Bay offense, when he gets back there’s no reason why he shouldn’t produce and succeed. Draft Martin but handcuff Jacquizz Rodgers for some certainty.


https://i.sportstalkflorida.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/dougmartin.jpg

34. Adrian Peterson (New Orleans Saints)– After a very successful tenure in Minnesota, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have parted ways and “All Day” now finds himself in New Orleans. Only two years ago Peterson rushed for 1485 yards and 11 touchdowns, so obviously he still has some juice left in the tank. Typically AP would be higher on this list but because of how pass-heavy the Saints offense is and Mark Ingram still on the roster, I don’t see Peterson being much higher.

33. Duke Johnson (Cleveland Browns)– Another running back who is primarily a receiving back, Duke Johnson has found some nice success in the NFL. After having a combined 872 yards last season and with the revamped Browns offensive line, Johnson should enjoy another good season. The only problem with his fantasy game is the lack of touchdowns Johnson has, only three in his career. Plus playing behind the breakout star, Isaiah Crowell, Johnson is no more than a RB3.

32. Ameer Abdullah (Detroit Lions)– Ameer Abdullah plays a crucial role in the Lions offense. Last season the Lions ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, and Abdullah is important in both of those departments. The main rusher on the team and the second receiving running back behind Theo Riddick, if Abdullah can stay healthy he will produce for the lions and your fantasy team.

31. Danny Woodhead (Baltimore Ravens)– Standing at 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, Woodhead has put together a nice career with the Jets, Patriots and Chargers. Woodhead has been a reliable receiving option out of the backfield for quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers and Tom Brady, and now he travels to Baltimore to play with Joe Flacco. The thing it comes down to with Woodhead is health. Two years ago, playing 16 games, Woodhead rushed for 336 yards, caught for 755 yards and had a total of nine touchdowns. The production is there if the health is so it is a risky pick, but it could pay off big time.

http://prod.static.ravens.clubs.nfl.com//assets/images/imported/BAL/news-articles/2017/03_March/Free-Agents/FA_Woodhead_news.jpg

 

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Sabine Lisicki

The one returning tennis player that no one is talking about… but should be

Coming out of the French Open, the always brief grass court season was set to be headlined by the return of Grand Slam champions Roger Federer, Victoria Azarenka, and Maria Sharapova. Sharapova’s returns continues to have false starts and the other two are back, but it was the return of a slightly less accomplished player that caught my eye when scanning this week’s draws.

Germany’s Sabine Lisicki made her season debut in Spain this week after battling injuries for the better part of the year and is still alive in the quarterfinals. Here are a couple reasons why Lisicki’s return on the grass is noteworthy.

Past Wimbledon success:

The big hitting German’s game is tailor made for the speed of grass courts. She holds the record for the fastest serve ever recorded by a female. Generally speaking, grass caters to power. Lisicki has a lot of that in all facets of her game.

Despite never being consistent enough for a top ten ranking, Wimbledon has always turned her into a different player. The 2013 runner up has knocked off Li Na, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams in past years at the All England Club. That list speaks for itself. However, it becomes even more impressive when you consider that all of those ladies were reigning Grand Slam champions when the former World No. 12 upset them.

As much as players say they are unaware of other players, most of them are lying. Yes, Lisicki is still trying to find her sea legs after the injuries. Even so, with the track record above, no one wants to run into Lisicki at Wimbledon. You can watch her knack for the most famous courts in tennis below on the Bine Tuzki YouTube channel.

Wimbledon

Photo: goceleb.com

The Grand Slam scene is still wide open for the women:

We just watched Jelena Ostapenko win the French Open after being ranked outside the top 30 at the start of the event. Apart from the serve, Lisicki is a very similar player to the Latvian. Also clay does not reward power the way grass does, yet Ostapenko still completed her fairytale.

Lisicki hoisting the trophy at Wimbledon is far less of a pre event stretch than Ostapenko doing so in Paris. The French Open drove home a single point loud and clear.

As long as Serena, Sharapova, and Azarenka are out of the picture or knocking off rust, Grand Slams are about whoever can catch lightning in a bottle for two weeks. Even with Lisicki knocking off rust of her own, she is very capable of doing just that at Wimbledon.

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Who’s That Champéon? It’s Galio!

Here we break down the competitive and solo queue uses of a popular meta champion, Galio. Yes, I know how to spell champion, but isn’t everything so much better when you can cash in on some sweet 90’s nostalgia?

Galio – The Colossus

Galio is a supportive tank that excels in the top and middle lane, while also being somewhat viable as a support. With a kit loaded with CC and wave clear, Galio is a must learn champion for pros across the lanes.

Why is Galio Meta

Gallium has always been a metal, but Galio has almost never been meta. His recent rework and high mastery level have allowed him to excel in professional play more than solo queue environments, in part due to his team-play dependent ultimate and safe wave-clear.

Galio’s Q, Winds of War, also known as, “kill the caster minions”, can allow him to safely defend turrets even against 2v1 scenarios. His passive, Colossal Smash, resets based upon the frequent usage of his abilities. In competitive, you are more than likely to see his passive used in tandem with Iceborn Gauntlet procs, to clear waves faster than all other tanks.

Shield of Duran, Galio’s W, provides both a passive magic shield and an active AOE taunt that also reduces damage dealt to Galio. Shield of Duran makes clean dives incredibly hard to pull off on Galio. This adds to his ability to deal with 2v1 scenarios that often arise after the first tower has fallen in pro play.

Galio’s W (top left), Passive (bottom left), ultimate (middle), Q (top right), and E (bottom right). Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

 

Galio’s gap closing knock up, his E, Justice Punch, allows for some sweet instant knock ups when cast backwards near an enemy. It is also a substantial gap closer when cast normally. Justice Punch allows Galio to set up his bread and butter laning combo for harass in the Top and Middle Lane. Casting E, into Winds of War, followed by a taunt to keep the enemy in the Winds of War AOE is devastating on its own; but with allies around, the CC duration can often be fatal.

In competitive play, Galio’s ultimate, Hero’s Entrance, allows for the largest AOE knock up in the game. Used alongside divers such as Rakan and Jarvan IV, Hero’s Entrance can decide team fights. Used independent of divers and initiators, Galio’s ultimate can provide disengage and pick denial due to the damage reduction it gives its target. If you see a comp with heavy dive, you better expect the Galio pick and vice versa as Galio meta is more than just an LCK craze.

Who Uses it in Competitive

Galio top lane has been a popular pick in solo queue environments. However, the ability to flex this champion in two and sometimes even three roles makes him one of the highest priority picks. In the LCK, Galio has a 90.7 percent pick/ban rate. This is just slightly higher than his NA LCS pick/ban rate which stands at 86.5 percent. The difference in the win rates Galio has in the two regions is illustrative of how comfortable each region is with the popular protect the carry meta. With a 62.5 win rate in the LCK, Galio is a powerful pick that alongside dive champions can be enough to snowball mid game team fights into a victory. In NA, Galio’s  43.8 percent win rate is something to be questioned. Perhaps, NA teams find better success with him in scrims, or maybe they are just trying to replicate the LCK picks without adopting the entire team strategy to go with it.

Who Plays it Best?

In the current meta, hard crowd control based initiation is just as valuable as peeling for carries, making Galio one of the best picks. That being said, who plays it best? And more importantly, what makes them play the best?

Kt Rolster’s mid laner, Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, is the Galio player to watch. With three games and three wins, Pawn boasts a 11.33 KDA on Galio, proving that if he can get his hands on the pick, he will utilize Galio’s kit to the max. Kt Rolster as a team play Galio better than any other team, picking the champion alongside dive champions such as Jarvan IV, Rakan and Renekton.

“Oh, you want to play Galio mid? Well too bad.” Courtesy of Lol Esports flickr

Picking Galio first allows Kt Rolster to flex the pick between mid and top, as both Pawn and Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho are adept Galio players. The flex allows for the shuffling of Galio across lanes based upon the matchup, as Galio has much better match ups into magic damage lanes. Austin “Gate” Yu, support player of Echo Fox, took the ability to flex pick Galio one step further by using him as a support into a Zyra/Varus lane matchup. This pick worked against CLG due to the magic damage in the bottom lane allowing Gate to build a very cost efficient Locket of the Iron Solari.

With his base damage, professional players only pick up a couple of Doran’s Rings as offensive items. While the passive on the Rings’ mana regen has been made Unique, don’t expect Galio to fall off anytime soon. Pawn has shown Galio’s base damages to be more than enough through his purely defensive builds, typically rushing Adaptive Helm into Ninja Tabi and Warmog’s. Pawn’s use of Galio’s ultimate ability during laning phase is something you would expect out of a Shen player on steroids. With Heroic Entrance bringing CC in itself and an easier to hit taunt than Shen, Galio is the champion to beat in competitive League of Legends.

Bringing Galio into Solo Queue

Due to the nature of his kit, Galio is a much better champion in a coordinated team composition. That being said, he is still a powerful solo queue menace given the proper conditions. First, make sure your team has dive. While Galio is great at peeling, solo queue is often about killing the enemy carry over protecting your own. This is because protect the carry comps are a lot more difficult to pull off without proper coordination and trust. So only pick Galio if you have a dive buddy, maybe a duo partner, to go ham with. Second, Galio has a lot of bad matchups. What makes this worse is the fact that popular solo queue champions, such as Riven, Tryndamere, Talon, and Yasuo all do really well into Galio’s core itemization. Try not to blindly pick Galio as he greatly benefits from stacking magic resist. Finally, to play Galio correctly in solo queue you need to have exceedingly good map awareness. Utilizing Galio’s best ability, his ultimate, to bail out your teammates and counter ganks during laning phase is why Galio gets picked for mid lane. Hit level six and counter gank the enemy jungler before the opposing laner can react.

If you can manage to do those three things, then cash in on the colossal amount of LP Galio can grant you.

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Featured Image courtesy of Jesse Baron

The Snowball Problem

“Troggs Rule!” is not an especially fearsome battlecry, and yet it evokes dread and terrifying memories in the minds of many. The same can be said for the growl of a Mana Wrym, or Frothing Beserker expressing his weapon’s need for a drink. With Un’goro, we have a new sound to etch into our collective memories to be filed under “Trauma”: The hoarse shriek of that neon-pink “flappy bird”, Vicious Fledgling.

Demanding Answers

Two copies of early answers are rarely enough to reliably counter Snowball minions

What makes all these cards so problematic and easy to despise is twofold. First is their relatively high health for the point in the game they are likely to be played. 3 health on turn one or 4 health on turns 2-3 is incredibly hard to deal with, and almost impossible to do in a timely, efficient fashion.

But remove them fast you must, because the other trait these cards have is easy-to-activate, unlimited, permanent attack buffs. Vicious Fledgling also gains health, divine shields and “Cannot be Targeted” effects depending on adapt RNG. The effect of this huge scaling of threat level is to very quickly deal massive amounts of damage and force the opponent’s entire gameplan to absolutely revolve around first dealing with that 1-3 drop.

The combination of scaling attack and initial survivability is brutal. A hard to remove card that is also incredibly threatening has proven over and over to be the most effective Aggro minion, and these cards combine those aspects perfectly. Cards like these can quickly “Snowball” the game out of control.

Exacerbating RNG

Now, there’s nothing wrong with cards that end games if left unchecked. Beefy finishers like Ysera or Deathwing are great because they quickly turn the tides against resource-starved opponents, forcing games that otherwise would drag on indefinitely to draw to a close. However, by the time your N’zoth or Alexstrasza comes down to finish things off, your opponent has drawn through enough of their deck to have drawn an answer or two that they conceivably could have saved. Even a card like Bloodlust comes down late enough that the odds are an opponent with enough AOE in their deck would have a very good chance of drawing at least one copy to preemptively counter it.

But on the crucial turns 1-3, you will on average have seen only a tiny sliver of your deck. Even if you run numerous copies of early answers and hard-mulligan for them, there is a decent chance you don’t even have the ability to draw them. That’s normally fine, and midrange or control decks normally run a number of comeback mechanisms to make up for slow starts or answers too deep in your deck. However, the sheer power of these Snowball minions makes these factors simply too little too late in most cases.

This leads to games being vastly decided primarily on the draw/mulligan phase, with little to no interaction on behalf of players. Luck is a huge and important part of Hearthstone, but the level to which early draw RNG decides games due to Snowball minions is patently undesirable.

Class Warfare

Some classes simply can’t deal with early Snowball minions without board control

Early Snowball minions demand one of two things; consistent early-game answers combined with backup comeback mechanisms, or a similarly potent pro-active gameplan of one’s own. When classes cannot do either of those two things, no manner of mid-game beef will help them. One of the primary reasons behind Paladin and Hunters’s recent Mean Streets period of unpopularity was its inability to deal with Tunnel Trogg outside of Doomsayer. They were only saved from the current onslaught of Fledglings, Pirates and Mana Wyrms through their own pro-active gameplans. Now Warlock is facing many of the same problems as these classes had in the past, due in part to their inability to tempo out an early board advantage, answer early minions or heal.

 

As long as Snowball minions exist, they will place considerable extra pressure on those classes without Evergreen tools for dealing with or contesting them. This weakens class diversity and can force otherwise promising decks into obscurity.

Arena Woes

Arena was, for a long time, relatively free of early-game Snowball dominance. While pre-Standard arena had its fair share of cards that accrued value (especially via Inspire), these generally came later in the game. Meanwhile, other Snowball minions could not reliably draw on their synergies due to the nature of Arena. However, Vicious Fledgling is proving exceptionally destructive to this balance. Due to the paucity of early removal in the format, it frequently decides games all by itself.

While not overly impressive cards performance-wise, the way it runs away with games if left unanswered even for a single turn is intensely frustrating for a 3-drop. Add to that the inherent RNG of Adapt and the problems of an immediate Windfury grab and you’re left with a card that rewards circumstance far more than interactions.

The Snowball Solution

Does Mana Wyrm really need to be evergreen?

The solution to Snowball minions is simple; lower their survivability or move them to Wild. Potent early minions are necessary for the survival of certain classes, but there is no need to over-centralize them into one or two cards per class that outperform all others. Aggressive classes should have a number of potent options rather than a single overpowered steamroller. Like with Deathrattles, Blizzard should learn the lesson that permanent, easy-to-activate attack buffs on a survivable early body is simply too strong.

We need more early minions that express versatility, power and flair in the manner of Radiant Elemental, Razorpetal Lasher, Malcheezar’s Imp and Hydrologist. Team 5 are good enough at designing cards that we no longer need endless variations of Tunnel Trogg.

 

Title art by Arthur Bozonnet. Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com

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Boston Celtics 2017 NBA Draft options

Boston Celtics 2017 NBA Draft options

The 2017 NBA Draft is tonight and the Boston Celtics once again have more options than any other team in the NBA. With a plethora of draft picks, young valuable talent and cap room, the Celtics are poised to make a blockbuster move.

Yet Celtics fans have seen this too many times on draft day or trade deadlines to except something big to happen. Let’s talk about what could happen, just for fun.

The Boston Celtics traded the No. 1 overall pick for the 2017 draft to the Philadelphia 76ers to move back to the No. 3 spot and a future first round pick (which Is extremely valuable being from the 76ers).

Danny Ainge has said that they moved back in the draft because the player they were eyeing will probably be there at number three. If this is the case then the trade is a no-brainer for the Celtics. The Celtics have a lot of choices leading up to the draft but don’t expect a big draft night trade, it’s more likely to see a trade happen after the draft. But let’s begin.

Trade For Jimmy Butler

Boston Celtics 2017 NBA Draft options

Courtesy of ESPN.com

It’s clear the Chicago Bulls have been shopping Jimmy Butler since the trade deadline of last season. It seems like his price was too high for Danny during the season but now the price for Butler is dropping. It was reported by CBS Sports that the Celtics declined an offer from the Bulls for the No. 3 pick in the draft.

If this report is accurate, it tells me that the Celtics feel strongly that they can obtain a dominate small forward in the draft, rather than taking on Butler with no guarantee he will resign with the team. Don’t count out a last minute deal for Butler out entirely yet though, as there’s still a small chance the Celtics would consider sending other picks or a package of players to land the dynamic scorer.

The Unicorn:

Boston Celtics 2017 NBA Draft options

Courtesy of SI.com

This is by far be the most desirable trade for the Celtics. Getting a guaranteed difference-maker right now with strengths in areas the Celtics have problems in like rebounding and low post scoring would be a dream scenario for any general manager.

The rumors of the New York Knicks willingness to trade Kristaps Porzingis for a high pick in this year’s draft is actually unbelievable. Considering how much he is beloved by the New York fanbase, these rumors come as a shock to the entire NBA community. Unless Phil Jackson knows something we don’t, it would be a big mistake to not go after Porzingis.

Draft options:

The safest and more practical option would be for the Celtics to take the No. 3 pick in the draft which would be a toss-up between Kansas’ Josh Jackson or Duke’s Jayson Tatum. Another option would be to explore trading down again to gather more assets and try to get Florida State’s Jonathan Issac.

The fact is that the Celtics are looking for a forward in this draft assuming they use the pick and in this draft there is plenty of options at that position.

No matter what the Celtics do, they are still the reigning No. 1 seed in the East and have a fun and competitive team. Using these picks might not be the most flashy moves the Celtics could make, but setting up for years of success never hurts either.

There are also so many trades to pursue after the draft concludes and huge cap space points to an exciting summer of free agency.

Overall, the Celtics are in one of the best positions of all the franchises in the NBA. Celtics fans can be satisfied with the excitement that this current team already brings them but there is always room to improve.

 

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Eric Decker’s fantasy impact with the Titans

On June 18, the Tennessee Titans signed Eric Decker to a one-year deal. After being cut by the New York Jets just six days earlier, he quickly finds himself a new home in the Music City. How will Eric Decker’s new Titans deal affect his fantasy value?
Decker missed most of last season with hip and shoulder injuries. What he brings to the Titans is another weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota and joins a solid combination of targets such as rookie Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews and Delaine Walker. Along with these guys, this gives the Titans a new look. In 2016 the Titans were a run-first football team as they ranked fourth in rushing attempts.

With all of these weapons, Decker should find himself as the first or second receiving option in the Titan offense. Decker has good size at 6-foot-3, and can be a versatile receiver that will excel as a red zone target due to his size. In 2015, the last full season he played, Decker was the top option in the red zone with 29 targets inside the 20-yard line, 16 inside the 10-yard line and 6 within the 5-yard line. He should maintain those numbers as he and Davis are their tallest receivers on the Titans roster.

Eric Decker's fantasy impact titans

Marcus Mariota (Photo by si.com)

The biggest winner though is Marcus Mariota. Mariota had an up-and-down 2016 fantasy season. From weeks 5-12 he was one of the best quarterbacks, throwing 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Through weeks 1-4 and 13-17 he was one of the worst, ranking 31st in fantasy points.

What did help Mariota in 2016 was the addition of Matthews and the deep ball. Mariota jumped from 35 deep ball passes of 20-plus yards in 2015 to 50 in 2016. Matthews recorded the sixth-most in that category with 16 receptions. Decker had the same number in 2015 with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback and should only help Mariota improve these numbers.
In the receiving core, Rishard Matthews will find his production down slightly depending how coaches like the personnel around him. He’s going from being the number one receiving option, not counting tight end Delanie Walker, to a possible number two or three receiver behind Decker and Davis.

The Titans ran a three receiver set 46.9 percent of the time in 2016, which was 18th in the NFL but was below the league average of 51.62 percent. With some of the new players we could see some different packages to include their top receivers.

Eric Decker's fantasy impact titans

Corey Davis (Photo by: titansonline.com)

Davis, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft from Western Michigan, will be an effective receiver in the near future but will not be this year. He has the potential to be a great NFL player and should still have a good season but doesn’t have the pressure on him with Decker’s presence.

Davis has good receivers to learn from like Decker because he and Decker are the same type of receiver. They are the same size, both have good hands and Davis can become a great red zone threat like Decker.

Before signing Decker, Davis would’ve been the second receiver and still could be battling with Matthews. Davis will be a great asset for years to come in fantasy and should be considered a WR3 or filler for receiver position.

As for Delanie Walker, he’s in a difficult situation. Walker will still be a top target in the offense, but adding Decker will decrease his targets, especially in the red zone. Walker will remain a top tight end selection and should go in the middle in the of your 2017 fantasy draft, but I expect his numbers to decrease with the addition of Decker.

As for where to draft Decker, he was drafted on average as the 29th receiver in 2016. This ranks in the 50’s overall after having a breakout season in 2015.

In 2017, factoring in his health and his role on the Titans, he looks to be between the 30th and 45th receiver making his draft position in the 90’s. He could be undervalued there, but with the concern of injuries and unsure of how his quarterback produces, I believe he is properly positioned and should be as a WR3 with the potential to be a WR2.

 

Featured image from sportingnews.com.

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NHL Awards predictions for the 2016-2017 season

It’s understandable to devote all the attention to tonight’s expansion draft. Lest we not forget, however, that the NHL Awards are happening too.

Perhaps it is mostly because the Vegas Golden Knights’ selections occur during the presentation, but this year’s awards are must-see as a hockey fan. From a heated Norris race to multiple options for the best coach and general manager, the finalists well deserve the recognition. These were tough decisions, but there are very few choices where the voters could err.

The postseason stat awards are already apparent: Connor McDavid collects the Art Ross trophy for the most points, Sidney Crosby the Maurice Richard award for the most goals and Braden Holtby the William Jennings nomination for allowing the fewest tallies.

Off the ice, Columbus’ Nick Foligno bagged two awards: the Mark Messier Leadership Award and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders won the NHL Foundation Player Award.

Will these talented players receive more hardware than they already have? Find out below for the official predictions from The Game Haus.

Hart Trophy – Most Valuable Player

Connor McDavid is nominated for two NHL Awards.

Connor McDavid. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Nominees:

Oilers C Connor McDavid

Penguins C Sidney Crosby

Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky

Crosby has history and hardware on his side in this race. The Pittsburgh star is a two-time Hart winner in 2007 and 2014 while collecting three Stanley Cups and two Conn Smythe Awards. McDavid and Bobrovsky are first-time nominees, with the latter reaching as high as fifth in the voting back in 2013.

The Columbus netminder had a phenomenal season, but this is a two-man race between McDavid and Crosby. McDavid bested Crosby in points even though he scored 14 less goals. The first 100-point season in Edmonton since 1995-96 is no small feat. Sid the Kid was still elite this season with 89 points.

In the end, the award is for the most valuable player. McDavid was absent on the score sheet for consecutive games just twice this year, registering points in 70 games. Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl enjoyed banner years, while Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle also performed well. McDavid’s 70 assists helped everyone’s cause, and his team reached the playoffs because of it.

Prediction: Connor McDavid

Ted Lindsay Award – NHLPA’s Most Outstanding Player

Nominees:

Oilers C Connor McDavid

Penguins C Sidney Crosby

Sharks D Brent Burns

This award seems redundant since it’s basically the MVP with a different voting pool. The only difference from the Hart is the addition of Burns, who had 76 points and 320 shots this season. Burns’ feats will be explained further in the Norris category, but he is undoubtedly worthy of a most outstanding player award. He makes this award tougher to choose.

As mentioned before, McDavid and Crosby each have worthy cases. Crosby is seeking his fourth Lindsay award, which would tie his fellow Penguin Mario Lemieux for second-most all-time. McDavid could be the third overall Oiler to win and the first since Mark Messier in 1990.

In the end, though, this is the same award as the Hart. It’s a difference of voter opinion, but it’s hard to say one clearly deserves one award while another does the other. With that in mind, this goes to the same player as the Hart, who overall was the best player this season.

Prediction: Connor McDavid

Norris Trophy – Best Defenseman

Nominees:

Lightning D Victor Hedman

Senators D Erik Karlsson

Sharks D Brent Burns

Finally, an award that McDavid can’t win! Instead, we get three players who were the backbone of their teams. Although the award technically is for the best defenseman, players over the years get more accolades for their offensive work as well. All three have played that part well this season.

Hedman has never made it to the top three in Norris voting. His 72 points this season and 53.4 percent Corsi rating have vaulted him there. Averaging 24:30 minutes of ice time is stellar. However, he’s not as talented offensively or defensively as Burns or Karlsson, so he likely won’t win.

From here’s it’s a matter of preference. Burns led the league in shots; Ray Bourque was the last defenseman to achieve that mark 22 years ago. Twenty-nine goals and almost 25 minutes of playing time per game are insane, too. He is an impressive shot blocker and a prime two-way talent.

If the award had voting through the postseason, Karlsson would win in a landslide. His postseason performance while injured was tremendous, and his 71 points, 26:50 TOI and 201 blocks are as well. However, the voting doesn’t include postseason performance. Therefore, based on a slightly better season, Karlsson will have to wait to grab his third Norris trophy.

Prediction: Brent Burns

Vezina Trophy – Best Goaltender

Nominees:

Canadiens G Carey Price

Captials G Braden Holtby

Blue Jackets G Sergei Bobrovsky

This category features the top two netminders across most of the basic statistics and another who had a 10-game winning streak this season. This is the hardest player award to predict based on how close two nominees are.

First off, Carey Price will likely not win. That winning streak is impressive, and a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage are too. However, they dwarf in comparison to Holtby and Bobrovsky. While he carried his team to an Atlantic Division title, Washington and Columbus had better seasons. Price was great, his competition is better.

As for that competition, it’s difficult to firmly say one was better than the other. Consider Holtby’s stats: league-leading 42 wins and nine shutouts alongside a 2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage. Now, match them with Bobrovsky’s numbers: 41 wins and seven shutouts, with a league-leading 2.06 GAA and .931 save percentage. How do you decide who was better when the stats are so close?

The deciding factor may come down to the Bob’s 14-game winning streak in December. He had another seven-game unbeaten stretch. Holtby’s best was a 14-game stretch without losing in regulation. This isn’t the best tiebreaker, but voters may have put more weight.

Prediction: Sergei Bobrovsky

Calder Trophy – Best Rookie

Auston Matthews can win the first of what could be many NHL Awards

Auston Matthews. Photo courtesy of NHL.com

Nominees:

Jets RW Patrik Laine

Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews

Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski

While the Hart and the Vezina are close, this one is more clear-cut. Matthews was the favorite the moment Toronto drafted him first overall in last year’s draft, but Laine and Werenski made it tougher for voters this season.

Laine scored 36 goals in his inaugural season with Winnipeg, leading the team and finishing second amongst rookies. He did it all at 18 years old. Werenski, meanwhile, was quietly the best rookie defenseman and a quality blue liner in general. He notched 47 points and was a +17 on the ice. He had more points his rookie season than Rick Nash. That’s insane to realize.

Unfortunately for both, Matthews had a special year in the NHL. This was apparent the moment he scored four times on Opening Night. He tallied 40 goals and 69 points on the season, leading the Leafs into the playoffs this season. This is an easy choice.

Prediction: Auston Matthews

Selke Award – Best Defensive Forward

Nominees:

Wild C Mikko Koivu

Bruins C Patrice Bergeron

Ducks C Ryan Kesler

There’s a mix of former nominees and newcomers for the Selke. Bergeron has won it three times and nominated three more times. Kesler won in 2011 and has finished in the top three in five total instances. Koivu is a first-time finalist who’s finished as high as fourth in voting.

Koivu had more blocked shots than points with 65 and 58 points. Kesler won over 57 percent of his faceoffs and ranked third in the NHL as a forward with an average time of 21:18 on the ice. He is likely the toughest one of the bunch to go against one-on-one.

The toughest out of all of them this year, however, as Bergeron, who did everything on the ice. He may have had fewer points, but he had more faceoff wins than Kesler (1,089 to be exact) and was more efficient in the circles. Bergeron goes up against many top lines and creates havoc on the ice. He can match Bob Gainey as the only four-time Selke winners.

Prediction: Patrice Bergeron

Other NHL Awards Predictions

Lady Byng Award for Most Gentlemanly Player – Wild C Mikael Granlund. Every nominee was a first-timer, so this is a toss-up. However, if you go 27 games without being called for a penalty, you need some kind of recognition.

Masterson Trophy for Dedication to Hockey – Senators G Craig Anderson. Easy money. His wife overcame cancer and he was lights out during her battle. The best story of the NHL this past year had a happy ending and follows up with a happy epilogue.

Jack Adams Award for Best Head Coach – Toronto’s Mike Babcock. All three candidates (Todd McLellan of Edmonton and John Tortorella of Columbus) turned around mediocre teams into playoff contenders. But did anyone expect the Leafs to go to the playoffs? Babcock created the right winning culture.

NHL General Manager of the Year – Nashville’s David Poile. His team’s run to its first Stanley Cup Final didn’t count in voting; it didn’t need to anyway. His offseason acquisition of P.K. Subban electrified the team.

 

Feature image courtesy of Cali Sports News

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2017 NBA Draftmas

2017 NBA Draftmas: Teams with no picks

It is the final edition of this year’s 2017 NBA Draftmas. This edition will focus on all the teams that do not have picks in tomorrow’s NBA Draft.

Summaries

Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have made the playoffs in seven straight seasons with their only conference finals appearance coming in 2013. Last season, Memphis finished 43-39 and lost to the Spurs 4-2 in the first round.

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Grizzlies are like the Atlanta Hawks of the West because they are a consistent playoff team that will be competitive but won’t win the Finals.

Memphis is known as a physical, slow-paced defensive team ranking third in the NBA in points allowed per game at 100 points per game.

Offensively, the Grizzlies shot a league-worst 43.5 percent from the field but ranked 17th in three-point shooting at 35.4 percent.

Memphis is stuck in the middle of the league, which is the worst spot to be in. They aren’t good enough to win a title but are too good to get decent draft picks.

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles is in a similar situation as Memphis in which they are stuck in the middle and can’t win a title but are too good to get new young talent. The Clippers have made the playoffs for six straight seasons but have never made it to the conference finals.

Last season they finished 51-31 and lost to the Jazz 4-3 in the first round. Los Angeles doesn’t have the money to acquire any big free agents currently and they have no draft picks. To make matters worse, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can leave in free agency.

The Clippers were a very good offensive team shooting 47.5 percent from the field, second-best in the NBA. Los Angeles also shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Clippers were a solid defensive team only giving up 104.4 points per game which ranked 12th in the NBA.

The state of the Clippers isn’t as positive as it seems and the best days may be behind them.

Cleveland Cavaliers

In the past couple of days, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization has been rocked by news. Former General Manager David Griffin is no longer with the team and LeBron James was not happy about it. Rumors are flying that they will be trying to acquire Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

Everyone knows the Cavs’ story. They have been to three straight NBA Finals, winning the 2016 NBA Championship after coming back from a 3-1 lead.

This season they finished the season 51-31. The entire franchise is built around LeBron and as long as he is there they have a chance to make it to the Finals. Without any picks, in the NBA Draft, they must sign free agents or make trades to improve the team, but they are pretty limited in what they are able to do.

Golden State Warriors

2017 NBA Draftmas

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The defending champions are sitting pretty. Not only did the Warriors just win a championship but they have won two of the last three championships. Their core is still solid with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and of course, Kevin Durant.

Andre Iguodala may leave but the Warriors are confident Patrick McCaw can fill that role. The Warriors are in prime position to continue competing for titles. As long as they keep the peace amongst one another they will be fine. Their roster may need some fine tuning to the bench but there is nothing to worry about for the Warriors.

Needs

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies biggest need is a small forward or shooting guard who can impact the scoreboard. Scoring is a big issue for the Grizzlies and these two positions, in particular, need an upgrade the most.

Memphis could also look to add a power forward that could take over for Zach Randolph. Randolph is aging and losing the ability to be a dominant player. If Memphis wants to improve they need to address it as soon as possible.

Los Angeles Clippers

If Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leave they will need a complete rebuild. If the Clippers can keep these two players then what they need badly is a small forward. Their current small forward is Wesley Johnson and the entire depth at the position is lacking. Acquiring a capable small forward could send the Clippers to the next level.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs need a bench capable of not fading in the Finals. Cleveland’s role players played well all year but when it mattered most they came up small. Shooting guard and center could be improved but there isn’t much separating the Cavs from the Warriors.

Golden State Warriors

The defending champs need to make sure they have a rim protector and bench depth. If they continue to keep a bench that can contribute when the stars need rest then they will win the championship again next season.

Conclusion

None of the four teams listed have any picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. All four teams are playoff caliber teams and if they want to make their team better they will either have to trade into this year’s draft, trade for players in the NBA or sign free agents.

The Game Haus, thank you for following us through this year’s edition of NBA Draftmas. From our haus to yours, thank you and enjoy the 2017 NBA Draft.

 

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Jonathan Isaac Boston Celtics

Why the Boston Celtics will draft Jonathan Isaac

With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching, and the Boston Celtics moving back from the first overall selection to the third, many questions have risen about whether General Manager Danny Ainge will use the draft pick or trade it in a package for a superstar.

As you can see by the title, I believe they will keep the pick and draft Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac, and here is why.

Team needs

Jonathan Isaac Boston Celtics

Boston has a logjam at the guard position. (Photo by Getty Images)

Boston has a logjam at the guard position. All-NBA guard Isaiah Thomas had a career year, averaging about 29 points and six assists on 46 percent from the field. He earned the nickname “The King of the Fourth Quarter” after a 15-game span in January in which he averaged 13.6 points in the fourth quarter alone. Even with his defensive issues, he is clearly the Celtics’ franchise player.

Shooting guard Avery Bradley is a two-time All-Defensive player. He has improved his field goal percentage from last season by about two percent while also increasing his total rebounds by over 100. One can make an argument that he is the Celtics’ “best” overall player because of his prowess on both sides of the floor.

On the bench, Boston has Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier.

Smart is a physical defensive guard who can rebound and play make. His jump shooting is still poor, but it has been constantly improving. In this season’s playoffs, Smart shot about 40 percent from three, which is a huge jump from his 28 percent mark during the regular season.

Terry Rozier, similar to Smart, is not a great jump shooter, but excels at rebounding and playmaking. His per 36-minute stat line is about 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game. Rozier and Smart are great depth guards who add a needed level of toughness and defense.

With all of these guards on the roster for the foreseeable future, there was clearly no need for the Celtics to draft Washington’s freshman guard Markelle Fultz, who is widely recognized as this year’s top talent in the draft.

The glaring weakness for the Celtics is their rebounding and defense, as they ranked 27th in total rebounds, 23rd in total blocks and 18th in total steals. Ideally, the Celtics will add a versatile scoring wing who can improve their defense and rebounding.

The perfect fit

In today’s position-less NBA, a 7-foot wing player that can shoot, attack the rim and guard multiple positions is invaluable.

Isaac’s length and athleticism will allow him to guard the one through four positions with ease. Stronger forwards may be able to bully him in the paint, although because many NBA teams are transitioning to playing small ball, his versatility will undoubtedly translate.

Ainge also loves the combination of size and ability that players like Kevin Durant possess, and Isaac fits that exact mold. Granted, Isaac’s college numbers (12 PTS, 7.8 TRB, 1.2 AST, 1.2 STL and 1.5 BLK) are far inferior to Durant’s (25.8 PTS, 11.1 TRB, 1.3 AST, 1.9 STL and 1.9 BLK), although they both have similar 6-foot-11 210-pound frames, while shooting over 35 percent from three and 50 percent from the field.

Danny Ainge has his guy

Jonathan Isaac Boston Celtics

Jonathan Isaac is the perfect fit for Boston. (Photo by FSView)

Isaac was the very first prospect brought in by the Celtics this offseason and according to an SBNation report, Isaac “won’t work out for teams picking after No. 4”. This is interesting considering Isaac is projected to be picked outside of the top five by the majority of draft experts.

One theory by Boston Sports fan Mike Lichtenstein, who appeared Monday on The Felger & Massarotti sports radio show, is that Ainge promised Isaac that the Celtics are going to move back in the draft and take him with the third selection. This would explain why Isaac has only worked out for two teams, twice with the Phoenix Suns who have the fourth pick and once with the Celtics.

Boston then brought in Fultz for a workout, although clearly they have no interest in him after trading the first overall pick to Philadelphia.

The player that most people believe the Celtics will select is Josh Jackson, although he has refused to work out for the Celtics. In my opinion, this rules him out as an option for Boston.

Making this trade with Philadelphia would be foolish if Boston expects to take Jackson anyway, as multiple reports have the Lakers showing interest to take him with the second overall pick.

Last season, Ainge spent the third overall pick on Jaylen Brown, even though he was projected to be a late top ten selection, showing that he has no problem getting his guy. I believe this year it will be a similar case.

Isaac to Boston seems inevitable.

There is a lot of speculation that the Celtics will draft Duke freshman Jayson Tatum, although his lack of defensive prowess and offensive efficiency make Isaac seem like a much better fit.

 

Featured Image by CelticsBlog.com

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