Kevin Shattenkirk free agency: Best options

Ever since the end of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL offseason hasn’t slept. The expansion draft built the Vegas Golden Knights while New Jersey and Philadelphia selected Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, respectively. One of the top free agents expected to hit the market, T.J. Oshie, heads back to the Capitals on an eight-year deal.

With Oshie settled in the Capitol, the best all-around player available is former Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The seven-year veteran is the most talented offensive blue liner.

This season, he finished with 56 points, trailing Norris finalists Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman. He’s notched 27 goals the past two seasons with both St. Louis and Washington. Defensively, he’s a solid skate who can move the puck from zone to zone.

Where he has the most value is on special teams. His eight power play goals and 27 points were second-most for a defenseman this season. His shot percentage has improved each season since 2013-14. He can lead the attack on the man advantage.

While his plus-minus isn’t pretty to look at the past two seasons, it improved on a stable Capitals blue line. Teams will keep that and the price he will garner in mind when signing him. What teams are in the running for him?

The Favorites

Boston Bruins – Kevin Shattenkirk has been linked to Boston for a few years. He played college hockey at Boston University after growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Boston inquired about him at the trade deadline, but the Blues reportedly wanted two first-round picks and David Pastrnak, which was way too high.

The Bruins have a young core of defensemen with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Torey Krug does well on the power play, but he was the main quarterback on special teams. McAvoy had two assists on the power play in the playoffs, but he may need more time.

With Shattenkirk, Boston gets a proven asset that makes their blue line fast and deadly on offense. Its roughly $13.5 million in cap space means they can afford him if he stays around the $6-$7 million AAV range. He provides that leadership for a young core. General Manager Don Sweeney has to think about if Shattenkirk’s offense is enough of an upgrade without breaking the bank.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left, playing with Blues) could join the Rangers in free agency. Photo courtesy of Newsday/Photo by Mary Altaffer, AP

New York Rangers – On paper, the Rangers and Shattenkirk is a perfect marriage. New York now has $20 million in cap space after buying out Dan Girardi and trading Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan. Rumor has it Shattenkirk favors the Rangers for its location close to home.

On the ice, he fills a dire need for the Blueshirts. Girardi, while a gritty player, is not the same puck mover as Kevin Shattenkirk. On the power play, their special teams were 3-for-39 in the postseason after a top 10 finish in the regular season. Shattenkirk can replace Brady Skjei on the second unit, giving them a Ryan McDonagh-Shattenkirk combo on the man advantage.

Despite the recent trade for Anthony DeAngelo, New York still needs help on defense. Brendan Smith is still in play for New York, and they can still sign both. He checks every box on both sides. Even if the Rangers may look to get younger and cheaper after shedding Stepan’s contract, Shattenkirk can still make them competitive and fill multiple needs.

Dark Horses

Tampa Bay Lightning – Tampa’s interest in Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the worst-kept secrets in the NHL. In January, the Lightning tried to trade for the blue liner from St. Louis. It did not come to fruition. Now, the Tampa Bay Times reported GM Steve Yzerman is kicking the tires on Shattenkirk.

Even after snagging Montreal’s pristine defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa is looking for top-four defensive help. Shattenkirk joining Hedman gives the Lightning one of the best combos in the league. His offense and his right-handed stick, according to Times’ writer Joe Smith, is a fit for Tampa Bay.

Ultimately, Shattenkirk’s willingness to come to Tampa Bay is the biggest obstacle. He rejected a seven-year, $42 million extension and a deal to head to the Sunshine State. Does he want to be there? Are the Lightning built to succeed in the next few years? With Shattenkirk, they can, but it’s hard to see unless they gain more pieces.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left) could become teammates with Miles Wood next season. Photo courtesy of My NHL Trade Rumors/Photo by USATSI

New Jersey Devils – Any Rangers fan might have a tough time reading this, but it has some traction to it. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in March he wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils threw money at him.

New Jersey has $24 million free in cap space, so their offer could blow almost every other team out of the water. They have five total defensemen and a restricted free agent on their roster at the moment. Andy Greene and Damon Severson were their best defenders, and they were -16 and -31 for a weak team last season.

Basically, Kevin Shattenkirk becomes their best blue liner if he signs. New Jersey should make him their biggest priority. An offense with Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and now Nico Hischier is impressive, while Cory Schneider is strong in net. However, he needs help badly in front of him. Shattenkirk helps them out, and they have room to look at other names such as Cody Franson or Karl Alzner.

Other Possible Destinations

Buffalo SabresTSN’s Darren Dreger reported last week of the Sabres’ interest. Like the Devils, they have a vast amount of cap space. They have a nice defensive core already in Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian. Buffalo is very young, so Shattenkirk would have to be patient with them.

Montreal Canadiens – No surpise here, but Montreal needs to shore up their defense. They have space with $21 million, but there hasn’t been a lot of mutual interest. Plus, if they deal Alex Galchenyuk and lose Alexander Radulov, they may need to prioritize finding some forward help.

 

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What’s Next For Chris Paul?

Chris Paul has failed to even make the Western Conference Finals for his sixth straight year in Los Angeles. The Clippers have had trouble in the playoffs during Paul’s time with the team despite having other star players surrounding him. Paul’s time as a star player is coming to an end, which raises the question of what’s next for CP3?

Paul has an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to hit the free agent market this summer. Regardless of whether or not he decides to stay in Los Angeles, Paul will almost certainly use the opt-out clause.

If Paul stays with the Clippers, he is eligible to sign a five-year deal worth more than $200 million. Leaving the Clippers would significantly reduce the maximum contract that Paul could sign. However, some other factors must be considered.

A recent report said that Paul is likely to opt-out and resign with the Clippers. However, the status of fellow star Blake Griffin is also up in the air. If Griffin decides to leave in free agency, would it be wise for Paul to return to Los Angeles?

Paul’s window of opportunity for winning a championship is closing fast. Blake Griffin has proven his lack of durability again this season, and he has lacked the same explosiveness after suffering a number of knee injuries. Clippers starting shooting guard J.J. Redick is also a free agent this summer, which could further impact Paul’s decision.

The incentive to move would be motivated by a desire to have a better chance at a championship as his prime begins to come to a close. Paul looked great without Griffin in this year’s playoffs, and could likely be a key piece in a championship contender if the fit was right. The incentive to stay would be the considerably larger contract.

It seems that no matter how well Paul performs in the playoffs, the Clippers are doomed to have an early exit year after year. According to NBA analyst Shane Young, his career playoff stats have been historically great. He ranks third in player efficiency behind LeBron James and Michael Jordan, third in true shooting behind Magic Johnson and Stephen Curry, second in assist percentage behind John Stockton and has had a career playoff slash line of .519/.318/.847.

Clearly, the Clippers playoff woes run far deeper than Paul. Would his chance at a ring be heightened if he were to change teams? Paul could move to San Antonio this summer and team up with Kawhi Leonard to try and take down the Warriors in the West. With better coaching, Paul would likely thrive in the Spurs’ system. He would also be able to be more of a playmaker for the offense with Leonard, which could make him a much more efficient player.

The Clippers would still be a strong team if Griffin and Paul returned and could still continue to compete for a championship. After all, they looked like one of the strongest teams in the league at the beginning of the year.

However, after six years of failing to meet expectations, how high is the Clippers’ ceiling truly? Either way, Paul is a generational talent and will be a game changer no matter where he ends up going.

 

(Featured Image by Sporting News)

 

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Why Adrian Peterson to the Saints makes sense for both parties

On February 28th, the Minnesota Vikings decided not to pick up Adrian Peterson’s option for the 2017 season. However, the former MVP will now be joining the New Orleans Saints on a two-year, $7 million deal.

At first glance, this seems like an odd signing for a player that wanted to be on a contender. However, this might be the perfect fit for Peterson and the Saints. With Peterson coming off a torn meniscus, he will be out to show the NFL that he is still a top running back. As for New Orleans, they are looking to stop their three season streak of going 7-9.

Another question that continues to come up, is how the Saints split carries between Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. After all, Ingram is coming off a season were he rushed for over 1,000 yards. Last year it was clear that Ingram was the lead back, while Tim Hightower also got his touches (133 carries for 548 yards & 4 Touchdowns).

Regardless of injury Peterson is an upgrade over Hightower, which means the carries should increase. Ingram will still be the top running back for the Saints, due to his ability to receive and pass block. So the question is now asked, why is Adrian Peterson a good fit in New Orleans?

Image result for adrian peterson drew brees

Peterson and Brees could give defenses nightmares ( TSgt Michael Holzworth).

Why this could work

Adrian Peterson may have led the NFL in rushing for three different seasons (2008, 2012, 2015), but he received no favors from his quarterbacks. Throughout his prime years, “AP” had quarterbacks such as Christian Ponder, Joe Webb and Tavaris Jackson under center. Pairing him now up with Drew Brees is a scary thought for opposing defenses.

The days of seeing eight players in the box to stop him are now over. If healthy, teams will have to decide whether they are going to try and stop Brees or Peterson. For the first time in his career, the pressure is off of him to carry an offense. Not only that, but he’ll also under one of the best schemes in the NFL.

Sean Payton might be deemed as overrated by some portions of the media, however there is no denying his play-calling ability. The Saints always find themselves in the top five offenses year after year, regardless of the skill players in the system. Adding a future Hall of Fame running back, will make Coach Payton’s job a little less stressful.

The last aspect, and arguably the most important is the change in offensive lines. The Vikings ranked 30th in average yards per carry before contact, meanwhile the Saints ranked 6th. A much improved offensive line will definitely help open more holes for Peterson to hit.

There’s no denying that Peterson’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean the tank is empty. For the first time in his career he has an elite quarterback, an offensive minded coach, and a lighter work load.

The Saints might not be the contender that fans were thinking of, yet they aren’t far off. It’s no secret that they have been a victim to their horrid defense. Perhaps the combination of Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram can keep the defense off the field, which would be a recipe for success.

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Adrian Peterson Free Agency

Adrian Peterson Free Agency: Where Will he Sign?

The clock will soon be ticking now that Adrian Peterson is entering free agency. Adrian “All Day” Peterson could retire today and be an NFL Hall of Famer. Peterson holds the record for most rushing yards in a game, as he ran for 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007.

Peterson also had an MVP season in a passing era when he ran for the second-most yards in a single season back in 2012. He ran for 2,097 yards coming off a gruesome knee injury in which he tore his ACL and his MCL along with straining his LCL.

Peterson has run for a total 11,747 yards in his career in just 123 games. He has a career average of 4.9 yards per carry and 95.5 yards per game which ranks third all-time behind Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. Peterson is going to generate a lot of interest in free agency even though he turns 32 on March 21.

Not many running backs produce after the age of 30 but Adrian Peterson could be the exception. His work ethic is legendary and he will be a valuable asset to any team in contention. Here are a few teams who will be in the running for Peterson and make sense for both parties.

Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Peterson released this statement to ESPN after hearing his option would not be picked up, and said there’s still a chance he lands with the Vikings.

“It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings,” Peterson said. “They know what I bring to the organization as a player, with my work ethic and dedication. The door is still open to find some common ground.”

Peterson went on to say he will look at other opportunities, and that his primary focus is winning a Super Bowl.

He says the door is still open and that the main goal is to win a championship in which he believes the Vikings are capable. The Vikings need Adrian Peterson at the running back position. Matt Asiata is also a free agent and that means the Vikings current running backs are Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham and Bishop Sankey. McKinnonn has shown promise but isn’t going to be a feature back for a contending team.

The Vikings went from about 22 million in cap room to approximately 38 million in cap space by declining Peterson’s option. Peterson knows the Vikings will be working hard to bolster the offensive line. If he is willing to see that taking somewhere between eight to 10 million will allow him to finish his career in Minnesota with a top five defense to carry the team.

Oakland Raiders

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

If Derek Carr didn’t go down with a broken leg, the postseason may have played out differently. The Raiders are going to be contenders and they have a great offense. The Raiders have let go of Latavius Murray and are in need of a running back. Peterson would be a great fit in the Black Hole.

The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in all of football as Pro Football Focus ranked them the fourth-best offensive line. Joining the Raiders would give Peterson a great offensive line and a great young quarterback that defenses have to respect. This would open up the running game for Peterson.

The Raiders will have 48 million in cap space allowing for tons of flexibility. They could throw more money at Adrian Peterson then most teams if they believe he is the piece that takes them from contender to champion.

The Raiders also have a young defense that continues to get better. A young strong defense and a solid offensive line with playmakers all over the offense is what makes the Raiders such an attractive option for Adrian Peterson.

New York Giants

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: Twitter)

Adrian Peterson’s tweets are a good indication of just how interested he is in the Giants. He likes the moves they are making. They have also proven that they can win a Super Bowl as their quarterback has won two. The Giants also let go of starting running back Rashad Jennings leaving the door open for a guy like Peterson to fill that void.

New York fills the contender criteria Peterson is looking for and lack the depth at the running back position. They also have 14 million in cap space available to bring him in. New York has a young defense that is continuing to get better. There is a common theme with the teams that would be a good fit for A.P.

A good defense that can help a team win a Super Bowl and an offense that is capable of playing well around Peterson. The one thing that might hurt the Giants is their offensive line which was ranked 20th by Pro Football Focus. Why leave Minnesota with a suspect offensive line to go to another contender with the same problem? The difference is the Vikings have the cap room to improve the line while the Giants are more limited.

Adrian is tweeting about the Giants which means he is interested. It will take a lot for the Giants to get A.P. but they are one of the teams with a legitimate shot at doing so.

Dallas Cowboys

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

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

The hometown team is always in play. It does not matter that they have Ezekiel Elliot. Jerry Jones has made bold moves in the past and this surely would be a bold move. Could you imagine a one-two punch of Elliot and Peterson? Jerry Jones can, which is why the Cowboys are one of the favorites.

They are attractive to Peterson for three reasons. First, as mentioned already, they are his hometown team and he grew up a Cowboys fan. He has been on record in the past saying he would love to play in Texas if he ever had to leave Minnesota. Second, they have a great offensive line ranked second by Pro Football Focus. Lastly, they are a contender. They made the playoffs last season and have a good, young quarterback.

It makes sense for the Cowboys because spelling Ezekiel Elliot with Adrian Peterson would be legendary. Both backs could potentially have a 1,000-yard season. Elliot had numerous runs in which he would go untouched for 10 or more yards and if Peterson got into that open field he could bust a lot of long runs into touchdowns.

The Cowboys cap space is where the issue may lie. They only have $4.3 million in available. Dallas has an opportunity to free up cap space by releasing Tony Romo. Releasing Romo would make eight million in cap space available. If that is enough to sign Peterson, Jerry Jones will give it some thought.

Prediction

It is hard to imagine the Vikings not finding a way to get a new deal done. Peterson will test the market but once he realizes his value is much lower than he’d like he is going to look at the Vikings and see three things. First, he is familiar with the organization and can remain comfortable without relocating. Second, he himself sees the Vikings as a contender which is what he wants most and the Vikings defense can help him win a Super Bowl. Lastly, he will most likely get the most money from the Vikings because they know him and will value loyalty.

In the end, Peterson is a Viking and will alway be a Viking even if he decides to start a new chapter.

 

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Franchise Analysis – San Francisco 49ers

For more than 60% of the NFL fan base, the season is over. Whether it was a key injury or an inept GM, there is a reason why your team didn’t make it. Fear not, because you may have heard of an event in May that allows teams to accumulate new players and renew faith in your franchise, the NFL Draft. This will be the first of an ongoing series in which I will perform an in depth analysis to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of every NFL team, including what positions need to be addressed in the draft and free agency, starting with the San Francisco 49ers.

2016 Evaluation

Any competent 49ers fan knew that this year had the potential to be rough. Of course, Chip Kelly and his unique offense brought potential and excitement, but also an element of uncertainty. On the season, the 49ers ranked 27th in points and 31st in yards. Clearly, those rankings are not the hallmark of Chip Kelly’s offense. However, they were first in situation neutral pace. This means that the 49ers ran plays faster than any other team when the game was within one possession. Sadly, when your team can’t run or pass effectively and consistently, being the fastest team works against your defense.

Despite the offensive rankings, the 49ers do have assets at the running back and the left tackle position. According to Pro Football Focus, Carlos Hyde had a 71.4 player rating, which is average. So why would an average running back be an important asset moving forward? Because of the offensive line he’s playing behind. At season’s end, the average rating of a 49ers offensive linemen was a 58.08.

If you remove Joe Staley, their other offensive asset, they average is a 52.25 rating. The fact any running back could be considered average running behind this atrocity indicates talent. Also, if you happened to watch any of their games this year, they often were playing from behind, meaning, Hyde’s ability to run the ball is incredibly limited, as they need to make up ground. There aren’t many players that will entice potential head coaching candidates, but Hyde is certainly one.

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

Joe Staley was one of the few players the 49ers could consistently rely on this season at left tackle. (Courtesy of: USA Today)

As a linemen, Staley is the highest rated offensive player with an 81.4. This makes him a top 25 player at his position among qualified players. Sadly, his age and injury concerns decrease his value. Given that he is under contract, there is no reason to believe that the new 49ers general manager will let him go. Look for Staley to return next year as a top 15 tackle.

I’ll try to keep this brief. The 49ers defense was horrific this season. They were the absolute worst in terms of points and yards. Specifically, the 49ers were one of worst defenses against the run in NFL history. Of course, injuries to key defensive players attributed to this statistic.

However, there is clearly a scheme issue here. There are multiple players on defense that are not a fit for their 3-4 style defense. I won’t elaborate on which players, because the next coach may run a completely different defense, making some of those out of position players more valuable.

The only redeeming players on this side of the ball, outside of the injured NaVorro Bowman, are Tramaine Brock and Gerald Hodges. Brock is just outside of being a top 25 cornerback and Hodges is a top 20 inside linebacker. If the next head coach decides to stay with the 3-4 scheme, they will have a good pair of inside linebackers in Bowman and Hodges.

Divisional Analysis

You hear analysts and former coaches say it all the time, you build a team to win your division. There are a few things the 49ers have to do if they want to compete for a division title in 2017.

First, they have to be better against the run. When a team can run the ball effectively, they control every aspect of the game. The 49ers will never be able to compete if they can’t contain running backs like David Johnson and Todd Gurley the four times a year they play. But where do the 49ers need help most?

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

Deforest Buckner will look to improve upon his rookie campaign, but will a new coaching staff help or hurt his development in year two (Courtesy of: USA Today)?

In order to compete, they need to address the defensive line position in the draft or free agency. Their best interior or edge defender was DeForest Buckner. Buckner is a young, ascending player, but his strength is rushing the passer. The 49ers need to pair him with an interior defender who’s biggest strength is stopping the run.

Next, this team needs to address their offensive line. As stated, Joe Staley is an above average tackle. The 49ers absolutely have to acquire a tackle to pair with Staley on the right side. Their right tackle this year was Trenton Brown, who received a 53.7 rating. If the 49ers can find even an average tackle, they will see a dramatic increase in their ability to run and pass.

If this team can be better against the run and be more efficient on offense as a whole, they will find themselves in a position to win more of their games in 2017.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. This team, like most NFL franchises, has to address the quarterback position. There’s a reason Seattle and Arizona have been battling atop this division- consistency at quarterback. I sadly don’t have much to offer in this area, as free agent quarterbacks don’t often work. At this point, there isn’t a quarterback worthy of their 2nd overall pick in the upcoming draft with prospects like Myles Garrett and Johnathan Allen that could help address their putrid rush defense.

Of course, there are more positions that the 49ers need help at, but these are the positions they must improve with the focus on competing in their division. That’s not to say they can improve by upgrading other positions, rather, these are the most important to their success.

Postseason Prospects

Moving forward, I will include what a franchise needs to do compete in the playoffs. However, this is one of the few cases where I simply won’t. This team just has too many holes that can’t possibly be addressed in one season. Here are the most critical metrics that determine whether or not a team will make the playoffs.

On offense the important categories are points, yards per attempt, 3rd down conversion rate, sacks allowed, and time of possession. On defense the following metrics that determine playoff viability are points allowed, yards allowed, 3rd down efficiency rate, sacks, and turnovers.

Here are all the categories previously mentioned and how many playoff teams are within the top 15 in that respective category, in order from highest to lowest ranking.

Offensive Metrics

Points

  • Atlanta, New England, Green Bay, Dallas, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City

Yards Per Attempt

  • Atlanta, New England, Dallas, Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Detroit

3rd Down Conversion Rate

  • Green Bay, New England, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh

Sacks Allowed

  • Oakland, Pittsburgh, New York, New England, Dallas, Miami, Kansas City, and Houston

Time of Possession:

  • New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami, Houston, New York Giants

Defensive Metrics

Points Allowed

  • New England, New York, Seattle, Dallas, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Detroit

Yards Allowed

  • Houston, Seattle, New England, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and Dallas

Turnovers

  • Kansas City, Oakland, New York, Green Bay, Miami, New England, Pittsburgh

3rd Down Efficiency

  • New York Giants, Miami, New England, Houston, Seattle, and Dallas

Sacks

  • Miami, New York Giants, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas, and New England

I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend. These teams made the playoffs because, for the most part, they don’t have any glaring holes in their game. That’s why the threshold was the top 15 teams. It proves that to make the playoffs you don’t have to be elite in every category. However, you can’t be terrible either.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they are nowhere to be found in these categories that determine playoff viability. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve in 2017.

2017 Prediction

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

With Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke out in San Francisco, the Niners are looking for new faces to lead this franchise in 2017 (Courtesy of: Inside the 49ers).

There’s too much unknown to make an honest prediction about who the 49ers will select in May. They still have to hire a general manager and head coach. They could go a variety of different ways depending on their scheme and philosophy.

If I had to guess, I would see them addressing their defensive line position given the number of premiere players in the draft. Rather, I could see them trading back with a team like Tennessee who has multiple first round picks, courtesy of the Rams, in order to just accumulate as much talent as possible.

Barring something incredible, this team as it’s currently constructed will not win the NFC West. However, I do think they will finish 3rd and improve their record to 5-11.

The Rams were as dysfunctional as the 49ers, but now that they have cleaned house officially, they will be more stable moving forward. The decision on who will lead the 49ers on the field and in the front office will have a huge impact on their success over the next decade. So, choose wisely San Francisco.

 

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10 Things to Watch For in the NBA in 2017

2016 comes to a close as one of the most exciting basketball years in the history of the NBA. From Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s last seasons, to Russel Westbrook’s triple doubles, to the ridiculous Finals series, this year was full of memorable moments that will go down in NBA history. However, a new year brings new possibilities. Here are the ten best things to look forward to in the NBA in 2017.

10. Trust The Process?: Will Joel Embiid win Rookie of the Year? Can Ben Simmons make his long awaited return? Will the Sixers end up with two top ten picks? Can Dario Saric make the leap to consistent NBA starter? The New Year brings loads of questions for the NBA’s perennial doormat and not many clear answers. It will be interesting to see whether the 76ers will be able to escape the NBA’s cellar in 2017.

9. 2017 NBA Draft: This draft is considered to be one of the most talented ones in recent years. Markelle Fultz remains the prize at the top of the draft, and names like Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson highlight an unusually deep lottery pool. The lottery looks to be a mix of familiar teams (Philadelphia) and newcomers (Miami and Dallas) as teams try to find a future superstar. Summer league will no doubt be a spectacle this year as well.

8. 2017 Trade Deadline: The trade deadline this year will be full of stories, especially with the loaded draft coming up. Greg Monroe looks to be a possible big-name trade candidate. Portland, a team with a weakness in the frontcourt, may look to target Monroe or one of the big men from Philadelphia. Rudy Gay remains a big name for teams in need of a three-and-D wing presence. For teams with a need a guard, Goran Dragic and Will Barton look to be high end options on the market. With a talented draft class this year, teams may be less likely to part with picks. But the plethora of young talent around the league makes this deadline an especially interesting one.

7. MVP Race: This year brings one of the best MVP races we’ve seen in years. Right now, James Harden and Russell Westbrook look like the favorites. However, the award usually goes to a player on either the one seed or the two seed. Can the Rockets or Thunder grab that distinction? If not, voters may be compelled to look to former winners Lebron James and Kevin Durant, who have each put together noteworthy seasons. This MVP race is one of the most wide open in recent memory and looks to go down to the final weeks of the season.

6. The Greek Freak’s Takeover: Giannis Antetokounmpo has been incredible this year as his astronomical rise to stardom has continued. He’s taken the NBA by storm over the past calendar year by showing a Magic-esque ability to play every position on the court. He’s a freak athlete, a superb defender, and a great distributor. If he can develop a jump shot, the league better watch out. The Greek Freak’s continual rise to superstardom will no doubt be something to marvel at in the coming year.

5. Free Agency: This summer an exploding cap, combined with stars hitting the market, will make for an eventful free agency. Steph Curry is the biggest name as he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, and many other players have player options that they can exercise to become free agents this summer. Madness will no doubt ensue as free agency opens this summer and teams have a historic amount of money to spend. Watch for a shakeup of the power balance in the league.

4. New All-Stars: 2017’s NBA All Star Game could play host to a slew of first time All-Stars. Second year guys Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis look like they have a decent chance of making their first appearance. More established league stars such as Giannis, Kemba Walker, and Hassan Whiteside have a chance at making their debuts. All-Star weekend should be a blast to watch as some young guys get a shot at making their NBA All Star Game debut.

3. Golden State Warriors in the Playoffs: The new-look Warriors are capable of putting out a lineup that looks seemingly impossible to stop. Meanwhile, their Western conference foes seem to have taken a step back compared to last year. This Warriors team lacks rim protection and depth, and it’s fair to wonder whether that will come back to haunt them in the playoffs. The Warriors will need their superstars to step up if they want to make it through to the Finals again this year.

2. Russell Westbrook Chases History: Russell Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double, a feat nobody has accomplished in over 40 years. Can the Oklahoma City star continue his dominance in 2017? With a motor that seems to never stop, the answer could be yes. A triple-double season may even be enough to secure the MVP on a low-seeded playoff team. Westbrook has truly been something to behold, and his dominance of the NBA will be something to watch in 2017.

1. The Cavaliers Title Defense: Lebron James and Kyrie Irving kicked it up a notch on Christmas Day. They outperformed the Warriors in the stretch and buried them on a Kyrie buzzer beater. Is the trio of Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin Love enough to beat the juggernaut in Golden State? Well, having the best player in the world doesn’t hurt. The NBA playoffs will no doubt be a appointment television as Lebron tries to win his fourth title for Cleveland.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Why The NBA Needs A Franchise Tag

 

(http://www.huntingtonbuzz.tv/view_article.php?article_id=998)

(http://www.huntingtonbuzz.tv/view_article.php?article_id=998)

 

 

 

The NBA needs a franchise tag similar to the one in the NFL. It is as simple as that. Imagine Kevin Durant being stuck in Oklahoma City for at least one more season. The landscape within the NBA could be entirely different, had the Thunder been given the option to tag Durant.

If you have watched Sportscenter at all last month, you have seen them talking about the players who have been designated for a franchise tag trying to get a long term deal done in the NFL. The deal must have been done by July 15th at 4 P.M. EST.

In the NFL, a franchise is allowed to tag a player with the franchise tag. A franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player that is  scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The franchise tag binds the player to the team for at least another year. The tag is a valuable asset to the franchise, but the franchise tag can be tricky business. It really helps a team make sure they don’t lose a valuable player. At least for another year.

In most cases this is good but can be a bad thing too. A player may not be happy with getting tagged. If a player gets hurt during the year they are given the franchise tag it hurts their chances at signing a long term deal. This may cause a holdout or make a player decide to not play hard. There are pros and cons to a franchise tag, but I am positive that NBA owners and general managers wish they had the chance to use a franchise tag.

A franchise tag in the NBA would be a way to stop the formation of super teams. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was quoted saying, “I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two super teams, that it’s a huge television attraction,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear.” The commissioner knows that a league full of bottom feeders is bad for business. The reason the NFL is loved is because of the parity within the league. The NBA has lost that since the formation of super teams.

(http://www.sportal.co.nz/nba/kevin-durant-warriors-adam-silver-super-teams/1ez5j8zodkgza1l6pgsyvxkj7t)

(http://www.sportal.co.nz/nba/kevin-durant-warriors-adam-silver-super-teams/1ez5j8zodkgza1l6pgsyvxkj7t)

If there had been a franchise tag in the summer of 2010 LeBron would have been stuck in Cleveland at least one more season. Cleveland could have worked out some kind of trade that year if LeBron was dead set on leaving. The Cavs also could have convinced LeBron to stay. Trades and signings could have been made after tagging Lebron to give him faith in the franchise.

The same could have happened with Kevin Durant this offseason. The Thunder could have tried and traded Durant after tagging him. They could have gotten something in return rather than watching him just walk away.  A long term deal could have been reached with the extra time that a franchise tag would provide.

The players have too much power to form super teams. Ever since LeBron and Bosh joined Miami other players have mimicked the move to try and compete. Adam Silver is correct in saying super teams are bad for the NBA.

I believe a simple addition of a franchise tag in the next collective bargaining agreement would really help the NBA franchises. It may cause a lockout, but it would be for the betterment of the product put on the court.

It hurts the players a bit, but even if it does, it only sets their plans to leave back by a year. I think it will also help the NBA regulate the formation of super teams. The NBA needs a franchise tag for the parity of the game. Franchise tags could be a simple solution to the death of competition.

 

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The Denver Bronco Quarterback Carousel

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What will the Broncos do at quarterback? (Photo: imfromdenver.com)

The quarterback is the most important position in football, and arguably the most important position in sports. NFL teams spend years looking for their franchise QB- just look at the Cleveland Browns.

The Denver Broncos have had the honor and privilege of having Peyton Manning as their quarterback- over the last 4 years. We all suspected this would be the last season with Manning under center with an NFL team. As the season went on, the clearer it became that he was running on fumes. It was his time to go.

Peyton Manning out, and Brock Osweiler in… Right? Nope. Many people thought at the end of the season Manning would retire, and John Elway would hand the keys over to Osweiler.

That was probably Denver’s initial plan, and I cannot blame them.

Osweiler helped lead Denver to the playoffs. He played in 8 games last year, winning 5 of those 8. He threw for nearly 2,000 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.

In my opinion, he had done enough to earn a mid-level contract spanning over 3-4 years. I think Denver was more than ready to give him that, but I don’t think anyone thought the Houston Texans would give him the mega-contract that they did (4-year/ $72 million).

Denver would have been absolutely insane to match that contract, and they didn’t. They made the right call letting Osweiler walk, but who will be the next QB for Denver?

Rumors point to NFL-journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, or current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I think either of these guys are decent options.

Fitzpatrick had a career year last year in New York. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards, 31  touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He led the Jets to a 10 win season for the first time since 2010, and the second time in almost 10 years. The trouble with Denver signing Fitzpatrick is both his age (33) and the fact he is asking for too much money.

According to CBSSport.com, Fitzpatrick is looking to get somewhere around what Sam Bradford earns (18 million a year). The money he wants doesn’t quite make sense because that he is an inconsistent 33-year-old QB. If Denver decides he is their guy, they can expect more QB turnover in the near future, and I am not talking about the interceptions that Fitzpatrick will throw.

Trading for Colin Kaepernick presents different issues for Denver. Unlike Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick’s age (28) is not an issue, but Kaepernick is slated to earn 12 million dollars in 2016. Denver only has 17 million dollars in cap space. It would be  foolish to give Kaepernick, a quarterback who recently lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert, over 3 fourths of their remaining cap space.

Another problem with Denver trading for Kaepernick is that he wants to be a Cleveland Brown. According to ESPN, Kaepernick has ties with the coaching staff in Cleveland and feels he is a good fit with the Browns. Why trade for a guy that is expensive, inconsistent, and wants to be in Cleveland?

Recently Denver acquired former 1st round pick Mark Sanchez. I think that was a brilliant move. He is about the same type of passer as both Fitzpatrick and Kaepernick, but he is substantially less expensive. His time in Philadelphia wasn’t all that bad; there were moments of greatness.

I believe Sanchez gets a bad rap and is actually a decent quarterback. Is he Denver’s next Franchise quarterback? No, not at all, but he is an experienced and affordable quarterback, who can properly bridge the gap between Manning, and their next quarterback.

I think the best course of action for Denver is to draft a guy like Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, or Kevin Hogan in the 1 of the first 3  rounds of this years draft. Let Sanchez and your rookie compete in camp and go into the season with the same defensive plans as last year. They didn’t need much of a passing game last year to win the  Superbowl. If it isn’t broke, why fix it?

AFC East Free Agency

We now transition to the offseason as free agency and the draft loom in the NFL. (Photo: NFL Official Media)

We now transition to the offseason as free agency, and the draft looms over the NFL. (Photo: NFL Official Media)

With the close of the NFL season now past, I don’t really know what to do with my life. There’s no football to watch, so now I’ll have to transition into full-time college basketball watching.

Of course, I’m a firm believer that there’s only an NFL offseason if you let there be an NFL offseason. That being said, I’m not allowing the lull from February to July bring me down. Besides, there’s always the NFL Draft, free agency, and trades that can be completed throughout the spring and summer.

We’ve got a few mock drafts out, so I’ll begin to examine the free agency class of 2016. I’ll inspect each teams free agents, and look at the players’ possible landing spots.

AFC EAST

New England Patriots, 12-4

Offensively, New England doesn’t have too many players that could leave. The Patriots could lose two running backs, each of which could produce next season.

Blount will find interest from multiple teams. Photo by Getty Images

The first, LeGarrette Blount averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 165 tries in 2015. He reached the end zone six times on rushing attempts and added one more score via the passing game. In a crowded and confusing Patriot backfield, Blount found his way to contribute despite a hip injury that cost him his season after 12 games.

Blount is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), and may receive interest from other teams in the NFL. It’s likely that Blount remains with the Pats next season with a new deal.

The next running back is one that found a job after not receiving any looks from NFL teams until the Patriots signed him. Jackson was signed due to Blount’s injury and rushed for just 71 yards on 31 carries for New England in the final four games of the season and the postseason. Jackson scored two rushing touchdowns as well.

It seems unlikely for Jackson to wind up with any team next season. The Patriots already have Dion Lewis and others, so New England will probably not sign Jackson for next year.

New England has no starter on idefense that will enter free agency in March.

Other New England Free Agents: Ryan Wendell, Tarell Brown, Tavon Wilson, Aikem Hicks, Nate Ebner, Brandon Gibson, James Develin, Sealver Silga, Dane Fletcher, Justin Coleman, Rufus Johnson, Brian Tyms, Cameron Fleming, Brandon King, LaAdrian Waddle, Dekoda Watson

New York Jets, 10-6

The New York Jets were the only team in the NFL to finish over .500 yet not make the playoffs. They have many key contributors that could depart the team for a better future elsewhere. A starting quarterback, multiple running backs, and wide receivers could head elsewhere for 2016.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s #beard saved the insanity of many Jets fans this season. The bearded warrior threw 31 touchdowns and led the 11th best scoring offense in the NFL.

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has made it clear that he intends on re-signing Fitzpatrick in the offseason. I expect Fitzpatrick back with the Jets when the season opens.

The running back position gets hairy for New York. Leading rusher Chris Ivory, and complimentary back Bilal Powell will hit the market this offseason.

At age 27, Chris Ivory may be heading out of his prime. Ivory scored eight total touchdowns in 2015, and only rushed for 4.3 yards per carry.

His season was filled with highs and lows, which is apparent in his best and worst games. He accounted for 196 total yards and one touchdown, including 7.3 yards per carry against Washington in week five. In week eight, Ivory ran for just 26 yards on 23 carries, yet he still turned in two touchdowns.

2015 was Ivory’s best season, but inconsistency and age worry me. I’m not sure if that’s true for GM’s around the league, however. Rumors around the Jets organization point to Ivory heading away from New York next season.

As the leading pass-catcher out of the backfield last season, Bilal Powell will look for a new contract this offseason. Powell caught 47 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 2015. He also rushed for 4.5 yards per carry in 313 attempts. Powell was a solid back which provided a great change of pace for the Jets last season.

Powell is 27, just like Chris Ivory. I’d make Powell a priority over Ivory, but again, I’m not the Jets. With Ivory unlikely to resign with the Jets, Powell may become a priority. I expect Powell to resign with the Jets and earn more carries next season.

Wilkerson will look for a big payout. Photo: SB Nation

As a Pro Bowl reserve, fifth-year defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off his best season. Registering a career-best 12.5 sacks and batting down seven passes, Wilkerson will most likely look for a large contract. You may remember him playing in the fourth quarter of his week 17 game with a broken leg.

Wilkerson has got to be at the top of a crowded Jets free agency board, and I can’t see Wilkerson settling for a hometown discount. Wilkerson opted not to resign with New York during the season, meaning he could be looking for a max deal.

Calvin Pace, an outside linebacker who is just finished his 13th season in the NFL, will probably be forced into retirement. His 2015 season was underwhelming, and sources report that the Jets are not looking to resign the seasoned veteran this spring.

Fresh off of a season with 90 tackles and two sacks, Demario Davis will test his value in free agency. Davis is coming off his fourth season in the NFL, and his previous two were better statistically than that of this season.

Sources say the Jets will move on from the Arkansas State product. Davis won’t receive a huge contract, but he should still be slotted into an NFL team’s linebacker rotation come this fall. To fill the void, the Jets are planning on signing fellow free agent Erin Henderson.

Other New York Free Agents: Damon Harrison, Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Leger Douzable, Darrin Walls, Stevan Ridley, Ben Ijalana, Stephen Bowen, Willie Colon, Jamari Lattimore, Chris Owusu, Kellen Davis, Zach Sudfeld, Ryan Quigley, Kenbrell Thompkins, Randy Bullock

Buffalo Bills, 8-8

The Bills are looking to add a few free agents to propel the team over the 8-8 hump. The biggest names the Bills may attempt to resign are Percy Harvin, Richie Incognito, and Cordy Glenn.

Percy Harvin has an ambiguous free agency situation. Photo: Getty Images

After a rocky first season that even included reports of contemplation of retirement for Percy Harvin, the wide receiver will most likely see a smaller contract than the $4 million he received in his previous deal. The Bills are reportedly “leaving the door open” for Harvin, but it seems like Harvin will really feel out his options before signing a new deal.

Richie Incognito re-birthed his career this season in Buffalo, finding his way to the Pro Bowl. Incognito will be a huge part to the Bills offensive line, and will likely receive a big time deal with whoever he signs with.

The biggest conundrum with Incognito is his age. At age 33, Incognito’s number of seasons left may be numbered. He may not receive more than a two-year deal, but the Bills have expressed that the offensive guard has been prioritized for the Buffalo offseason.

The Bills have another offensive lineman who they’ve also said they’ll prioritize in the left tackle, Cordy Glenn. Glenn has been so dominant that he could find a deal worth upwards of $10M. The Bills want to retain both Glenn and Incognito, and they’ll have to do some major work to fit them and others on the payroll.

Other Buffalo Free Agents: Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Alex Carrington, Corbin Bryant, Chris Hogan, Stefan Charles, Ty Powell, Bacarri Rambo, Jordan Mills, Josh Johnson, MarQueis Gray, Cierre Wood, Leonard Hankerson

Miami Dolphins, 6-10

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Lamar Miller is a hot commodity this spring. Photo: AP

Miami has a few bigger names that they’ll attempt to resign, and one of those is one of the top running backs available. Lamar Miller is a top three free agent running back, and the Dolphins will do what they can to resign Miller.

Miller has said that he wants to sign with the team that has a scheme that fits his style the best. Multiple coaching changes throughout the season could hurt Miami’s chances of retaining Miller, as he carried the ball less than ten times in six games. Miller will absolutely listen to all offers, so Miami must impress the tailback to get him back in the Sunshine state.

Rishard Matthews was an interesting wide receiver for Miami in 2015. He had tremendous games and huge busts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews back in Miami, but there will be other teams willing to overpay for Matthews due to the lack of available wide receivers. Matthews is a home run threat for any team, and could be valuable for whichever squad rosters him.

Oliver Vernon and Derrick Shelby both battled for playing time as defensive ends in 2015. Vernon, the starter, had 7.5 sacks and 61 tackles in 16 games started this season. Shelby, who started nine games, sacked the opposing quarterback 3.5 times and added two forced fumbles and an interception.

It seems one of the talented defensive ends will be back in Miami next season, but the question is who. Vernon will receive more money, but Shelby proved he could come in a produce for Miami. It’s hard to predict who will go where, but expect one to resign with Miami for next season.

Other Miami Free Agents: Matt Moore, Louis Delmas, Kelvin Sheppard, Michael Thomas, Spencer Paysinger, Jake Stoneburner, Matt Hazel, Ulrick John, Shamiel Gary, Brandon Williams, Shelly Smith, Jacques McClendon, James-Michael Johnson

Check The Game Haus for articles concerning each division’s free agency situation as the week goes on.