Cleveland Cavaliers NBA draft

Cleveland needs to keep the Brooklyn pick

It is safe to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers have silenced all their haters after tying a franchise record with 13 straight wins. That puts the Cavs at 18-7 and second place in the Eastern Conference.

It definitely took a while for the Cavs to get things figured out. Their struggles early in the season were linked to poor defense and chemistry. This should have been expected considering the Cavs are the oldest team in the NBA and have so many new faces.

Through the first 12 games of the season, Cleveland was allowing an atrocious 114.2 points per game. During this winning streak, they have allowed 101.5. Overall, the team is averaging 107.6 per game, which ranks 21st in the league. It is not the best, but it is an improvement from where they started.

Oh, and the Cavs have accomplished all this without Isaiah Thomas and Tristan Thompson. Imagine how good this team will be once they return to the court.

There is not much doubt that the Cavs will be back in the Finals for their fourth straight season. However, there is also not much doubt that they will be facing the Golden State Warriors for the fourth straight time, and losing to them once again.

The Cavs aren’t getting any younger either. There have also been trade talks about the Cavs bringing in DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan. But in order to do that, the Cavs would most definitely have to part ways with their first round pick they acquired from the Brooklyn Nets. Cousins and Jordan also are both free agents next season with Cousins being unrestricted and Jordan with a player option.

Sending off a potential No. 1 pick and possibly players like Thompson and Iman Shumpert for a player they might not be able to keep is not a smart move for a team like the Cavs. They need to start preparing for the future. Players like Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Channing Frye, Jeff Green, Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Iman Shumpert all could be gone next season.

Now not all of those players are really considered losses, but this team needs to add some young talent for the future. That is why instead of using the Brooklyn pick as a trade asset, the Cavs need to actually use it.

NBA Draft lottery

The NBA will have a new lottery system in place for the 2018 NBA draft. The new system has leveled the playing field for the league’s worst teams.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA draft

The Cavs are not getting any younger. (Photo by STACY REVERE/GETTY)

Previously, the worst team had the greatest odds at the first overall pick. Now the worst three teams have the same odds at receiving the first pick.

As it stands right now, there are nine teams worse than the Brooklyn Nets. However, a handful of those teams should finish ahead of the Nets by the end of the season. Even if the Nets don’t finish as one of the three worst teams, the Nets could still end up with a high pick. Even with the previous lottery system, there were always teams winning higher picks than teams that were worse than them. The new system makes it even easier for those teams to get higher picks.

This class of rookies is stacked with talent with names like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith Jr. already looking great. This next class of rookies is going to be pretty good as well.

Top prospects

If you have not heard, Marvin Bagley is very good. The Duke freshman is the undisputed first overall pick for the 2018 NBA draft, and rightfully so. Bagley is averaging 21.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He is first in the NCAA in total points, second in total rebounds, second in double-doubles and is showing range with a 3-point percentage of 35. Bagley is going to be a beast in the NBA.

Even if the Cavs cannot get Bagley, there is still plenty of other talent. Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. was going to be battling Bagley as the NCAA’s top player, but an injury in his first game this season has sidelined him for the season. We all know how good Porter can be based on his film. His injury has not hurt him much in the latest mock drafts either.

Arizona freshman big Deandre Ayton is also looking like a stud early on. Ayton is averaging 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He has size at 7-foot-1 and 250 pounds and freakish offensive ability.

There is also Mohamed Bamba from Texas. He is not known for his offense yet, but his defense is amazing. The 7-footer has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and is averaging four blocks per game. He game is much like Tristan Thompson, also a former defensive stud at Texas.

Don’t forget about Miles Bridges either. Many expected the Michigan State sophomore to be in this year’s draft, but he returned to the Spartans instead for another big season. Bridges has been picking up where he left off so far. His season averages are not as high, but it is still early and from watching him you know he can be an NBA stud.

Keep the pick

The the current age of the Cavs, some may argue they should focus on winning now. However, with some of the team’s top players like Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson and most likely LeBron James returning to the team next season, why would they need to plan a massive rebuild?

The fact is, most of the Cavs’ stars are not that old. They can make the Finals in the next two seasons at least with their current roster. But if they don’t want to be left behind once all these players are finished, they need to start preparing for the future.

Yes, there is no guarantee Cleveland gets the top pick, or even a top three pick. But there is also no guarantee DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan would stay either. What you can guarantee is that this next draft class is going to be loaded with talent, and the Cavs will have a top 10 pick to get one of those players.

This offseason, the Cavs need to focus on getting younger and keeping Isaiah Thomas on the roster. They can start by getting him anther great teammate to work with.

 

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Al Horford: The Celtics’ most important piece right now

The Boston Celtics have now successfully rattled off 15 straight wins. They are without one of their best players in Gordon Hayward and have had injuries to many rotation guys along the way. They just held the NBA’s best offensive team to 88 points in a 92-88 win over the Golden State Warriors and seem to be meshing well as a team.

The Boston Celtics have the longest win streak after a 0-2 start and are looking to extend it with each passing game.

Balanced play

Al Horford

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, (Thesource.com).

The Boston Celtics have had a balanced attack nearly every night. They have seven players averaging 9.1 points per game or above. They have only had one player score over 30 points in a game and that was Kyrie Irving against the Hawks on Saturday night. The Celtics continue to have a rotation of players who have all led the team in scoring this season.

The most important turn around for the Boston Celtics have been solving their rebounding woes. Last season the Celtics were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. This season they are tied for second in the NBA in rebounding and average nearly 48 per game. The difference is drastic.

Last season they were getting out-rebounded by 2.3 rebounds per game. This season they are +5.6 on the boards. They average 7.9 more rebounds than their opponents this season compared to last. They clean up the highest defensive rebound percentage in the NBA at nearly 82 percent of all shots. The difference this season hasn’t necessarily been Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis like many thought. The rebounding battle has been Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford’s battle to win every night.

The three of them combine for 44 percent of the Celtics rebounds on average. Horford has increased his rebounding from 6.8 a game to 8.8 a game from last season to this one. Jaylen Brown in his increased role has jumped from 2.8 rebounds a game to 6.6 this season. There has been a continuous effort to cut down on giving teams extra possessions on offense. The Celtics have capitalized and in turn it is helping the Celtics win games.

Al Horford: The glue guy

Al Horford has had a career season this season and he has done it efficiently. Horford is averaging 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. He is also chipping in 4.5 assists and has a 20.1 player efficiency rating. Horford is shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. He is doing all this on just over 10 field goal attempts a game.

Every one of the statistics that was previously listed was either slightly or well above his career average. The most impressive statistic for to signify Horford’s importance is when he’s off the floor. The Boston Celtics are just a shade under 12 points per 100 possessions worse when Horford is off the floor. For comparison, when Kyrie Irving is off the floor the Celtics are three points worse when he is off the floor on average.

Al Horford is the most valuable Celtic on offense because he affects the game more than just scoring. Horford is involved more in the offense and is benefiting from touching the ball more on a possession to possession basis. Horford is one of the longest tenured Celtics and is both a vocal leader as well as a guy who can lead by example.

 

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Timberwolves

To beat the Warriors: Timberwolves

Right now the NBA is seen as the Warriors, and everyone else. Despite a rather sluggish start, nobody thinks there will be a contest come playoffs time. Quite frankly, there are a lot of teams a move or two away from being able to compete, and these moves aren’t unrealistic. So here are a few moves that certain teams could make, to really be able to compete with the Warriors.

Minnesota Timberwolves

A lot of people would argue the Wolves are too young to really compete for a title; however, I look at the level of play to determine who can compete, rather than using lazy narratives such as ‘they need to learn how to win’. The fact of the matter is that the Wolves are looking scary, without a point guard who can really create. Jeff Teague is a very solid guard, but I think he would be most effective as a sixth-man, like Derrick Rose. The Wolves big three has been looking scary. While at the moment they are ranked 29th in fast break efficiency, with the way these guys have been able to run the floor, once they get used to each other, they could be one of the best teams on the break in the league. Tom Thibodeau’s magic has begun to work already, as the Wolves defensive rating is slowly climbing.

The reason I think the Timberwolves can compete with the Warriors, Karl Anthony-Towns, has not been as good as advertised. He isn’t scoring as often (21.8 PPG in 2017-18 compared to 25.1 PPG in 2016-17), which would be forgivable, considering the Wolves have more offensive options; However, he isn’t significantly more efficient (59.1 eFG% this season vs. 57.6 eFG% last season). My personal problem is when watching him he doesn’t look like the dominant center everyone was saying he would be. Of course, the season is still very young.

Assuming everything else comes together, they really only need a point who can defend, and create on the offensive end.

Trades:

The only person the Wolves should go after is Eric Bledsoe, as the Suns are basically forced to move him at this point, and there really are no other starting caliber point guards on the block.

Wolves receive:

PG Eric Bledsoe

2018 second round pick (via Toronto)

Suns receive:

C Cole Aldrich

PG Tyus Jones

SG Marcus Georges-Hunt

2018 first round pick (via Thunder)

Overall the Suns would probably feel pressured into making this deal; considering they would get a decent enough replacement guard in Tyus Jones, that has some potential. The pick is also a nice addition, and Cole Aldrich has shown potential to be a decent backup center and has a good amount of experience under his belt. The Suns would certainly lose on this deal. However, I’m not too sure what better offers they would really get.

The Wolves have one of the scariest young duos in the league in KAT and Andrew Wiggins, both are electric offensively, and have the tools and length to be dominant defensively. So even if they decide to wait and not try to compete with the Warriors, barring any sort of major front office collapse and/or heartbreaking injury, it’s likely the Wolves will be NBA champions within the next decade.


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NBA opening night predictions: Celtics vs Cavs, Rockets vs Warriors

It’s been a while since we have had regular season basketball. On Tuesday night, the NBA regular season kicks off. The two games slated are the Boston Celtics on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets on the road taking on the Golden State Warriors.

These two matchups have a possible conference final feel to them to tip off the season. They also have a little bit of bad blood in them as well.

The NBA season has finally returned and with a lot of Allstars changing teams this season should make for an interesting one.

Celtics and Cavaliers

Everyone knows about the bad blood between Kyrie and the city of Cleveland. That is going to be the best kick off to the season that could possibly happen. Kyrie gets to travel to Cleveland and hear all the boos and possibly lead his new team in a win over his former team.

The Celtics and Cavaliers finished one and two in the East last season and if these teams didn’t already know each other before, they certainly do now.

Both of the teams’ new guards are feeding into the fire as well. Isaiah Thomas said he may never talk to Danny Ainge again. Kyrie Irving has been quoted numerous times comparing the two cities now that he has found a new home.

So what does this mean for this game? It means that it will be chippy for sure, there will be a lot of booing of Kyrie Irving and there will probably be some technical fouls. All in all it will be a tough game that is a perfect way to open up the NBA season.

I think that the Cavs still win this one by near double-digits. The crowd will be fired up and LeBron James still seems to be frustrated with the way Kyrie left things. The Cavaliers take a statement win at home. These two teams will continue to give us great matchups moving forward.

Rockets and Warriors

NBA opening night predictions

James Harden guarding Steph Curry, Photo Courtesy of Trashtalk.co.

The Rockets acquired All-Star guard Chris Paul this summer from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets have now built a starting lineup that many think can compete with the loaded Golden State Warriors.

In a possible Western Conference finals matchup, both the defending champs and a team predicted in the top five in power rankings square off. The Warriors add different pieces to their bench and can deliver blows to the Rockets.

The Rockets traded Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley and depleted their depth. They look to get big minutes out of their key guys heading into this season. Look for Eric Gordon to carry the bench scoring load as the season moves forward and be a front runner for the Sixth Man of the Year again.

Ultimately I think the season starts off with the Warriors winning by around 16. The Warriors are too deep and the Rockets are a team that will take a little time to gel. It’s also extremely difficult to win at Oracle and there’s no doubt it will be rocking on opening night.

The Season as a whole

Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Chris Paul, Paul Millsap and others have switched conferences, which will create the most exciting season in recent memory.

The young players who have entered the league are creating a large amount of buzz. Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum are all set to take the NBA by storm.

Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers who haven’t made the playoffs in a few years are set to make a playoff run. A shifting of the power has made it more interesting and a less predictable narrative.

This new season will be one of the best and Tuesday night we get to kick the season off. Look for a lot of entertaining games and a lot less rest from star players. In summary, the NBA is back and it’s not a moment too soon.

 

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Spurs

Three reasons why the San Antonio Spurs can Beat Golden State

Last year, the San Antonio Spurs season ended in a sweep by none other than the Golden State Warriors.

With the 2017-18 season approaching, the Spurs should be excited about the endless possibilities. In last year’s Western Conference finals, the Spurs found themselves down without their star Kawhi Leonard who re-aggravated his ankle injury after landing on Zaza Pachulia’s foot.

The jury is still out on the play which arguably cost the Spurs the series. With less than 12 days until the NBA season tips off, the franchise has something to prove to the world.

While other organizations struggle to maintain a balanced roster with youth and veteran leadership, the Spurs just seem to switch out pieces and depending on the draft.

Greg Popovich will be entering his 21st season as the Spurs head coach. Despite last season’s ending, the historic franchise still has a chance to do the impossible, dethrone the Warriors.

Before you freak out, remember that the Spurs went into halftime with a 62-42 lead in last year’s conference finals. During the third quarter, Leonard landed on Pachulia’s foot and was sidelined for the rest of the series.

In addition to Leonard sitting out, long time guard Tony Parker ruptured his quadriceps in the series against the Houston Rockets. Although Parker is 35 years old, the longtime Spur knows how to make his teammates better, facilitates the ball and leads the troops.

If both Parker and Leonard come back healthy, the franchise has a real shot of defeating the reigning NBA champions. Now if you’re a Spurs fan, there are three key reasons why you should believe that your team can defeat Dub Nation.

Spurs’ balanced roster

Image by Mark Runyon

During free agency, Spurs management made it a priority to re-sign Pau Gasol, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili. Despite the age of both Gasol and Ginobili, the two veterans will play a crucial role in the postseason.

In addition to re-signing key parts from last year’s roster, management also signed Rudy Gay and drafted Derrick White, a combo-guard out of the University of Colorado Springs.

Although Gay is coming off of a ruptured Achilles injury, general manager RC Buford and Popovich struck gold. The 31-year-old small forward can guard multiple positions, score and handle the rock.

The coaching staff can virtually play Gay in any situation whether it’s small ball, defending bigs or in crunch time situations. The Baltimore native has a career average of 18.4 points per game.

During last year’s Western Conference finals, the franchise struggled to get points from the bench. In addition, Gay will be a reliable player to the bench if he can stay healthy. When healthy the Spurs averaged 107.1 points per game in the postseason.

This season the Spurs will have a solid bench rotation in Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay and Joffrey Lauvergne. Now I know you may be laughing, but Popovich’s’ resume speaks for its self and he has a way of connecting with overseas players.

With the current roster, Popovich has roster depth beyond his second string and can play Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Bryn Forbes if necessary.

Last year’s playoffs helped provide Anderson and Murray with playoff experience. Throughout the offseason, Murray has worked out with Leonard which could be a blessing in disguise.

Trust in Popovich

Most of you may not like the comparison, but Popovich is probably the Bill Belichick of the NBA (minus the cheating and boring press conferences). Since taking over in 1996, the military veteran has changed the culture of the organization.

Any newcomer has to buy into the system, just ask LaMarcus Aldridge. No matter who is on the roster Popovich demands defense, ball movement and commitment. Players respect the 68-year-old coach and love to play for him because of his passion.

Coach Pop is the longest tendered coach in the NBA and that says something. Since he has been coaching in San Antonio, the organization has won five championships.

As long as the Spurs have Popovich on the sideline they have a chance to win on any night. Granted there does have to be some talent on the roster.

Reports have indicated that Parker may not return until December, but the franchise will weather the storm like always.

Chemistry

If healthy the projected starting line-up could be Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol.

Sources reported that Aldridge and Popovich cleared the air which could finally give LA the push to play harder. The starting lineup has played together for more than a year.

Last season Leonard led the team with 27.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. In order for this team to rise to the occasion and defeat the Warriors, they need to get a contribution from all five starters. Now again Parker averaged 15.9 points which were missed in the playoffs, but let’s face it, the bulk of scoring needs to come from Aldridge and Leonard with a splash of Green.

 

Featured image taken by Mark Runyon

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The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith

The Golden State Warriors have left teams looking to chase them. The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be one of the teams hot on their trail.

The Warriors look to beat teams with a deep rotation and many players who can play multiple positions. The Cavaliers have accomplished one of those things extremely well this offseason.

The Cavaliers depth is now at the same level of the Warriors, and there’s no denying that. Dwyane Wade joins a Cavaliers team as a steal. He adds depth at a shooting guard position and provides it at a low price (one year, $2.3 million).

The key loss this summer was Kyrie Irving and the key additions consist of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Wade.

Depth

Let’s start off with the surplus of depth the Cavaliers have added this offseason. The Cavaliers arguably won the Kyrie Irving trade due to the depth that they added.

They added an All-Star in Isaiah Thomas and also added Jae Crowder, who is an upgrade at backup small forward and can shoot the three. On a team centered around LeBron James, shooting the three is a vital part of the Cavaliers’ offense.

Their starters will most likely be Thomas, Wade, James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

The second team features Derrick Rose, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Crowder and Edy Tavares. Mix in Channing Frye and Jeff Green whenever the matchups seem favorable and this team is extremely deep.

The added depth helps with their matchup with the Warriors. Last season, including the postseason, the Cavaliers went 2-5 and allowed 120.3 points per game on average. In the five finals games, Kevin Durant averaged over 35 per game.

With Crowder on board, James gets relief on the defensive end from Kevin Durant and has a better chance of being rested in the fourth quarter to open up his offensive game.

Competing with the Warriors

Cleveland Cavaliers

New Cavalier Jae Crowder guards Lebron James. (Photo Courtesy of SI.com)

The Warriors have taken the new NBA and become unguardable. With the Warriors depth and their ability to add players who can be interchangable on both offense and defense, they are sometimes impossible to guard.

The Cavaliers have now covered the depth that they seemingly lacked in the 2017 NBA Finals.

The one problem that seems to be looming is what is going to happen at the point guard position. Thomas does add offensive firepower against the Warriors, but there’s a good chance that the Warriors will capitalize on his lack of height and have someone shoot right over him.

Rose could potentially see a rise in minutes come playoff time due to his size and not necessarily his scoring.

Bold Prediction

J.R. Smith Photo Courtesy of LarryBrown.com.

Listen, lots of sixth man award winners are pretty much primarily offensive weapons. J.R. Smith is on a very good team with the ability to come in and just flat out score. He won’t be as tired because he will be playing less and more efficient minutes.

I think J.R. finds a way to be in the top three voting for the sixth man of the year award. He might not be thrilled with losing his starting job to Wade, but I think he thrives in his new role off the bench. He is a former sixth man of the year winner in, so the statement isn’t too far fetched.

Smith averaged 8.6 points in 29 minutes per game last year, which was the second lowest total of his career. The Cavaliers are loaded, and with less pressure on him, output should improve.

Future Outlook

The Cavaliers still look like the top team in the East. They have gotten closer to Golden State and can officially hit them with two full lines of very good players.

The Cavaliers will have a new look to them this year and will have way more ammo to throw at the Warriors.

 

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NBA season preview: Pacific division

The Pacific Division is the home of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have the best team in basketball and everyone else is chasing them.

Three of the top five picks in the last draft find themselves suiting up in the Pacific division. The Suns and the Kings are currently in the midst of a rebuild but have formed solid foundations that look bright moving forward.

Finally, both of the teams in LA shook up their rotations in big ways this year by trading away one of their best players. The Pacific Division will be interesting due to the new faces in the division.

Here are the win predictions for all five teams in the Pacific division for 2017-2018.

Golden State Warriors

Pacific Division

The Warriors celebrate, Photo Courtesy of USA Today.

2016-2017 record: 67-15

2017-2018 prediction: 64-18

This record doesn’t really show too much. The Warriors are the best team in basketball and they return nearly the same team. They add Nick Young and Jordan Bell (through the draft) this offseason to an already strong bench.

Ian Clark leaves the team but Patrick McCaw has emerged as a role player this summer and could possibly play some of the minutes that Clark did.

The record is pretty much up to Golden State here. Ultimately there’s an extremely high chance that the Warriors make the playoffs so it is just up to Steve Kerr on how many games they truly want to win in the regular season.

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will always take this team deep into the playoffs if they are all healthy.

Los Angeles Clippers

2016-2017 record: 51-31

2017-2018 prediction: 44-38

Chris Paul wanted out of LA, but the Clippers somehow managed to get a very solid return for him.

Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley lead the charge out of the backcourt while the Clippers also added Danilo Gallinari and Sam Dekker. They lose Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul but have an interesting set of Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan forming.

A starting lineup of Beverley, Rivers, Gallinari, Griffin and Jordan with Williams coming first off the bench could be very interesting and doesn’t strike you as a team that just lost a superstar.

If Gallinari and Griffin can stay healthy this team looks like they could find a playoff spot in a tough Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers

Pacific Division

Jordan Clarkson, Photo Courtesy of LA Sports Hub.

2016-2017 record: 26-56

2017-2018 prediction: 36-46

The Lakers shook their roster up in a big way by getting out of the Timofey Mosgov contract. They also lost their best statistical player from last season in D’Angelo Russell.

However, in comes Brook Lopez, Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma and Ball were drafted by the Lakers this season and showed lots of promise in the summer league.

Brook Lopez is the big addition this offseason. An All-Star and proven low post scorer, Lopez adds something that’s rare in the NBA. The Lakers attempted to get away from their guard heavy rotation, thus getting rid of D’Angelo Russell to make way for Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson.

No one knows how good the Lakers will be but they will be much better than the product they had on the floor last season.

Phoenix Suns

2016-2017 record: 24-58

2017-2018 prediction: 28-54

The Suns turned their lottery pick into another young player with lots of potential. They are not necessarily in win now mode but more waiting a few years for their young talent to develop.

The Suns have grabbed a lot of former Kentucky guards to bolster their young backcourt. Josh Jackson, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss show promise in moving the Suns in the right direction.

The Suns continue to draft players that they find value in and put them on the floor. The Suns are getting a good young core together and could be a playoff team in the near future.

Sacramento Kings

2017 Sacramento Kings draft class, Photo Courtesy of Real Sport 101.

2016-2017 record: 32-50

2017-2018 prediction: 30-52

I don’t think the Kings have gotten worse at all, the Western Conference has gotten better. The Kings have mixed seasoned veterans in with great young talent.

Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, George Hill, Georgios Papagiannis, Harry Giles and Justin Jackson are just some of the talent that is in this loaded rotation.

The Kings are a team quickly on the rise and have done it specifically through the draft. With adding established veterans, the Kings are working to bridge the gap between putting a competitive product on the court as well as developing their younger guys looking to win in years to come.

Kings fans have a lot to look forward to moving forward, but for right now this is the Warriors division.

 

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NFL super teams: Could it work?

Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors have ruined the NBA for the foreseeable future thanks to their new super team. The Warriors will dominate for years to come and will have the greatest dynasty in sports history when it’s all said and done. That said, the question of whether or not NFL super teams could be formed is an intriguing one to address.

The New England Patriots are the closest thing in the NFL to a super team, as the 2017 edition of the squad is the frontrunner to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and some even think they could go 16-0.

But the fact is that the NFL does not truly have a super team. Sure, the Patriots are most likely the best team on paper going into 2017, but there’s still no guarantee that they’ll even win the conference championship game.

We’ve seen this issue talked about before, so why not join in on the fun and give a hot #take myself?

There’s a couple different aspects to dissect when looking into NFL super teams. First, and most crucial, is the money. Even though the NFL is the most popular sport in the United States, the 53-man roster leaves less money for each player compared to the NBA. When forming a super team, every single star player would have to take a pay cut in order to allow other stars on the team. NFL players have already complained about the the discrepancy between NFL and NBA contracts, so taking even less could be a tough pill to swallow for many players.

The next concept to consider is that NFL teams have very specific schemes. The offense ran in New England was much different from the one that the Dallas Cowboys ran last season, yet each were top-five offenses in the league. Not only would NFL super teams need stars at every position, but it would also need the right personnel to fit the scheme.

Finally, we must ask if there’s even enough time for NFL super teams to form a dynasty. The shelf life of a running back is already limited, and the prime of many players in the NFL can be shorter than that of an NBA player. Even if it all came together for an NFL team, would there be enough time for them to win multiple Super Bowls with the same core?

Money talks

Every year, NFL players holdout and skip training camp in order to get leverage in earning more money. There can’t be an argument made that NFL players are more greedy than NBA players, but it does go to show that the top talents in the NFL will put their team and preparation at risk in order to get a couple more million dollars.

What a hard life NFL stars live.

NFL super teams

Photo: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Le’Veon Bell is at least the No. 2 running back in the NFL, if not the best (David Johnson may have something to say about that). He’s putting his team’s success in jeopardy this offseason by deciding to holdout. The most significant problem for NFL super teams is whether or not players will put their pride aside to take pay cuts, even though they may be the most elite at their position.

Every elite NFL player will do his best to suck all the money out of his organization he can. Heck, even players that aren’t elite, like Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco, have tried this (and been successful) in the past.

This poses a threat to NFL super teams when trying to get the best of the best in one uniform. But this is only the start of the problem.

NFL super teams’ Schemes make for an even more complex problem

Dak Prescott and Drew Brees are two very different quarterbacks. Prescott resided in a run-heavy offense in Dallas, as the Cowboys ran the ball more than any other team last season (48.7 percent of plays). The Cowboys’ offense was built by its powerful line which counteracted its lack of skill players on the outside. This allowed Ezekiel Elliott to run all over (and away) from defenses in his rookie campaign.

The Saints’ offensive attack was much different from the Cowboys. Drew Brees had great weapons on the outside in former Saint Brandin Cooks, who used his deep-threat abilities to become Brees’ best downfield target. Rookie Michael Thomas managed to put together one of the best rookie seasons a wide receiver has ever produced, and was Brees’ possession target to look to.

Even Willie Snead, Coby Fleener and Josh Hill were utilized in the pass-first offense that allowed Brees to air it out on 63.4 percent of plays, good for fifth-most in the NFL last season.

The point is that NFL super teams need the perfect combination for an offense to work. The offensive coordinator, quarterback, skill players and offensive line must all be in sync and comfortable with the system in order to reach optimal success. And it’s the same way with the defense.

Not only do the star players at each position need to take pay cuts to form a super team, but they also have to fit with the scheme of whichever side of the ball they play on.

The player pool for a super team continues to shrink with these requirements.

Father Time waits for no man, not even NFL super teams

Barring a select few, most NFL stars are only elite for a couple years. Injuries cut their time of stardom even shorter (Jamaal Charles knows about that), which makes it even harder to field a star team.

Sure, the best of the best can sometimes manage to be stars for over half their career, but remember the requirements already talked about. Finding a star who is willing to take a pay cut and fits in the scheme is hard enough, so the pool of players has already dwindled.

NFL super teams

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tom Brady may play until he’s 50, but top players at other positions have missed time in the past couple seasons. If Le’Veon Bell could stop smoking weed and quit getting injured by the Bengals, he’d have a chance to be on Tom Brady’s list.

Antonio Brown missed three games last season, Julio Jones has played in 16 games in a season once in his six years and A.J. Green has missed ten games in his six-year career while finding his way on the mid-week injury report seemingly every week.

This goes to show that even the most elite players can’t escape the injury bug.

And if the top players earn as much money as they want on a theoretical super team, the bench will be filled with aging veterans who are ring-chasing and don’t have enough talent to suffice the loss of a star.

This continues to prove that forming NFL super teams may be nearly impossible.

NFL super teams: Making one is #hard

The San Francisco 49ers currently have the most cap space in the NFL. A lot will change come March 2018, but one thing that will most likely remain is that the 49ers will suck this season. They won’t be the most attractive franchise to build a super team with.

However, the team with the fifth-most cap space is the Houston Texans. Houston has $24.3 million in free cap space, and made the playoffs last season. The Texans seem to be just a few pieces away from being a Super Bowl contender, so we’ll use them as a possible super team.

There’s been a lot of changes to the NFL landscape from last season, and that trend will continue in each offseason. Let’s try to make the Texans a super team through 2018 free agency.

Finding a quarterback

The Texans’ most glaring need is at the quarterback position. Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford are the only notable names that will be free agents come 2018.

Photo: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins can be taken off the list right away, as it seems he’s been fighting to get a huge contract from Washington since he was in diapers.

Drew Brees and Matt Stafford both make sense due to the fact that they’ve had great years, yet Brees has just one ring, and Stafford has no playoff wins. It comes down to who would be the best fit in Bill O’Brien’s offense, assuming he stays on staff next season.

O’Brien’s scheme is based around the power-run game and using two tight end sets. The formations used in O’Brien’s system forces the quarterback to make crucial and complicated pre-snap reads. That said, Brees would be the better fit in Houston. His ability to run multiple formations in New Orleans could quite possibly translate to Houston.

If Brees were to make this move, he’d have to be fine with a pay cut since he’d be ring chasing and forming a super team. Let’s say he cuts his salary in half and earns $12 million with Houston.

Receiving a pass catcher

That only leaves $12 million and change in the bank for Houston. Houston has Lamar Miller, who should be an above average back for now. At wideout, the Texans have an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but could use some help on the receiving end. The wide receiver market is grim in 2018, but a familiar face for Drew Brees will be on the market in 2018 at tight end.

The Drew Brees-Jimmy Graham love affair in New Orleans was art. Graham will be on the market in 2018, and even though he’s had a history of wanting money, let’s assume he wants a ring and to play with Drew Brees more.

We’ll assume Graham will settle for a mere $8 million a year with Houston, which is only $2 million less than he got in Seattle. I for one hope that in this theoretical world, Jimmy Graham makes it in this tough world with only $8 million a year to come home to.

Room for one more player

With $4 left, the Texans could grab a proven veteran for cheap, or a lesser-tier asset. The Texans need help on the offensive line, specifically at tackle. The best player on the market in 2018 is Donald Penn, but he’s currently holding out of Raiders’ camp, so he has to be off the list. Nate Solder could be an option, but the likelihood that he takes a paycut to leave New England is as likely as Johnny Manziel not drinking tonight.

Allen Barber was the No. 16 guard last season according to Pro Football Focus. Although he’s mostly played left guard in the past two seasons, he’s seen time at tackle with the Eagles early in his career.

Barber wouldn’t be a blockbuster move at all, but he could end up being a nice find for Houston to help what’s been a bad offensive line.

NFL super teams: Could it work?

The idea of NFL super teams is far-fetched and there’s too many hoops to jump through for it to work. There’s too many stipulations not seen in the NBA like a much larger roster, less time to be in the peak of a career and scheme fits.

Although the NBA has made it work before, the Golden State Warriors’ mega-team and soon to be dynasty will only work in the NBA. NFL front offices have far too many hoops to jump through.

For now, let’s just enjoy hating the New England Patriots for being better than all of our teams and speculate other things, like how Bill Belichick can pull a homeless man off the street and turn him into a heroic wide receiver or cornerback in a Super Bowl.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports and esports coverage. You should also follow Tim, as he’s gotten over 100 likes on a grand total of three different tweets, and sometimes offers lukewarm takes on things that don’t matter.

2017-18 season preview: Top five NBA front courts

 

The NBA has shifted to a more perimeter-oriented league, yet strong, versatile front courts can be the engine to a good team. When the playoffs roll around, having a front court that can consistently score is vital.

Here is where the top five NBA front courts of the 2017-18 season will rank.

Number Five: New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis: 28.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.1 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.
Demarcus Cousins: 24.4 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 3.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 23.3.
Solomon Hill: 7.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 9.1

Two tremendous big men with different playing styles teamed up mid-season and hit the ground running together. Solomon Hill has helped take pressure off both big men with solid wing contribution offensively and defensively.

Davis and Cousins get most of the attention here however. The numbers speak for themselves but Davis and Cousins will need to be the leaders in order for the Pelicans to be playoff bound this upcoming season.

Rondo and Holiday will provide a solid balance to give Davis and Cousins a lot of easy looks around the rim.

Number Four: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Frontcourts

Karl Anthony Towns guarded by Gorgui Dieng, Photo Courtesy of USA today.

Karl Anthony-Towns: 25.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg 2.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 26.0.
Gorgui Dieng: 10.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 14.2.
Jimmy Butler: 23.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 25.2.

The Timberwolves are obviously a team in question. Yes they have put together a great roster heading into the 2017-18 season, but games aren’t played on paper.

Butler is in the prime of his career, Towns is blossoming into one of the best young big men and Dieng is a double-double big man who plays great around the rim defense. If all three play great basketball, they would be higher on this list, but there is a lot of uncertainty with the new look T-wolves.

Dieng and Towns are both young enough that they could scuffle and pass first guard Ricky Rubio is no longer in town. The numbers of the three don’t lie, but Butler has never played a game with them, so we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.

Number Three: San Antonio Spurs

Lamarcus Aldridge: 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 18.7.
Pau Gasol: 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 20.2.
Kawhi Leonard: 25.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.5 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.6.

Possibly the best two-way player teamed up with two players who fit in the Spurs’ system and have provided solid output. Leonard has been an MVP-type player at almost all times for the Spurs and helps make Aldridge and Gasol better when he’s on the floor.

Kawhi is obviously the engine on this team and both Gasol and Aldridge provide a complementary role for him. With the back court pretty uncertain, the Spurs are going to lean on the front court for more production than normal.

Aldridge had one of his worst statistical years last year and some of that can be attributed to injuries of his teammates and just flat out Popovich’s system. He will be poised for a bounce back year that could help drive the Spurs deep into the playoffs.

Number Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Frontcourts

The Cavaliers front court, Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

Tristan Thompson: 8.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 15.3.
Kevin Love: 19.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 21.2.
LeBron James: 26.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 8.7 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.1.

Seventeen All-Star appearances between this front court and they are still number two. The Cavaliers have gotten great return from these three, however Thompson and Love have struggled at times in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are only as good as their front court output. Thompson is the x-factor in nearly every playoff series because if he plays the way that he has shown flashes of, the Cavaliers are nearly unstoppable.

LeBron is always going to stuff the stat sheet and Love has continued to prove his value as both a rebounder and streaky knock down shooter. However, more often than not, Tristan Thompson has gone missing when they need him most. If the Cavaliers want to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals, the front court needs to be the catalyst.

Number One: Golden State Warriors

Zaza Pachulia: 6.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.1.
Draymond Green: 10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.0 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 16.5.
Kevin Durant: 25.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.8 apg. Player Efficiency Rating: 27.7.

The Kevin Durant experienced worked exactly as well as the Warriors would have hoped. Durant hit the ground running despite an injury mid-season and was the NBA Finals MVP. Durant proved his value as a two-way player in the Finals and came up clutch time after time.

Hate him or like him Draymond Green is a fantastic defender. He can guard all five positions and continues to stuff stat sheets. The Warriors are loaded and are the team to beat in the NBA, and the front court contributes heavily to that.

Realistically the Warriors should start Javale McGee, as he is a jolt of energy who provides much more both offensively and defensively than Pachulia. It ultimately doesn’t matter all that much when you have the best team in basketball.

Summary

Versatile wings are becoming increasingly more valuable in today’s NBA. Some of the best wings help contribute to the best front courts and it just so happens that some of the best wings find themselves on this list.

Each of the top five front courts are over 60.0 in player efficiency and contribute over 40 points and 20 rebounds at the very minimum.

Front court players are vital to postseason success, and we will see just how far the top five NBA front courts can take their teams in the 2017-2018 season.

 

Featured Photo Courtesy of NBA.com.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NBA's Gridiron Roster

The NBA’s gridiron team

Training camps have opened and football is in the air. As training camps get rolling there will be plenty of talk about what is happening on the gridiron. This means that basketball will be taking a backseat from now until February.

There is one more order of business left to discuss for basketball and its all for fun. Earlier this year, The Game Haus brought you the NFL’s Hardwood Roster which made an NBA roster out of NFL players.

It is time to reverse that and give you the NBA’s gridiron team. The only eligible players are current NBA players. Also, size is not going to translate the way it should just because basketball players are taller.

Offense

Left Tackle: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: If there is one NBA player who can protect a quarterback it is Draymond Green. Green is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. His playstyle shows his “I just want to win” mentality. Throwing him at left tackle is smart because he has proven to go that extra mile in order to win. He will rough up defensive ends all game long while making sure the quarterback stays off his back.

Left Guard: Julius Randle, PF, Los Angeles Lakers: The left guard position suits Randle because he has quick feet and is left handed. Guards need to be athletic and showcase an ability to pull on certain running plays. He is extremely explosive and if a play is called that requires him to pull, Randle will explode off the ball and create holes for any running back.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bSTeIhm86A)

Center: Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol is smart, tough and reliable. These are all qualities a team needs from their center. Gasol would be a great leader, thus setting the tone for the rest of the offensive line. Gasol is also a strong guy who could push around opposing defensive tackles.

Right Guard: Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder: Right guards need to be maulers in the run game. The first mauler that comes to mind in the NBA is Steven Adams. Adams is a tough, physical player who would excel at run blocking. He isn’t afraid to do the dirty work a team needs from an offensive lineman.

Right Tackle: DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Pelicans: Cousins loves to play a physical style of basketball and that could translate well into the NFL. He also finished second in the NBA with 20 technical fouls in 2017. Cousins would be willing to do whatever it takes to win and protect the quarterback. If he is this rough in basketball, imagine what he could do in a contact sport like football.

Tight End: LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron was a stud wide receiver in high school. He is so big that he would have to be a tight end. It has been said for a long time that LeBron is a physical specimen. He would learn how to be one of the best blocking tight ends in the game. LeBron has also shown his freakish athletism when flying through the air for a dunk. In the red zone, not one person in this world would be able to stop him for a jump ball. Seeing LeBron play tight end would be like seeing Gronk hulking up.

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/washington-fans-legitimatly-pissed-wizards-john-wall-wearing-cowboys-jersey/)

Wide Receivers: John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: John Wall is a wizard on the court. Yes, that pun was intended, but it is true. Wall is one of the fastest players in the NBA and that could translate as a wide receiver. He has also displayed uncanny athleticism with some of his finishes at the rim. That creativity would be fun in the open field.

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors: Imagine seeing DeMar DeRozan fighting for the ball in the air with defensive backs trying to stop him. DeRozan is a high flyer and that would translate to the gridiron.

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets: James Harden is known for his euro step and getting all the foul calls. Imagine Harden in the NFL getting pass interference calls. As the team’s third receiver, he could work the middle of the field and move the chains not only catching the ball but because of penalties too.

Running Backs: Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics: Running backs have to have the mentality that they are better than everyone else no matter their size. Isaiah Thomas is the perfect candidate for that. He is so agile and quick that with his small stature, he could fit through any hole. He would be the perfect scat back for an NFL team.

Steph Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors: The way that Steph Curry can make defenders dance is just silly. Who wouldn’t love to see that against defenders on the football field? Carrying the ball rather than having to dribble it would allow him to shake and bake defenders effortlessly. Curry would be breathtaking to watch on the football field.

Quarterback: Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: The summer league was just the beginning of what we are going to see from Lonzo Ball. His playmaking ability was Magic-esque. He can put the ball anywhere he wants to. A quarterback must be able to do the same. Lonzo has the perfect size for an NFL quarterback. He is the best choice for a quarterback because he has displayed amazing passing ability.

Defense

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: http://dailysnark.com/throwback-lebron-kevin-durant-played-football-game/)

Defensive End: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: The defensive end position has some of the most athletic players in all of the NFL. Kawhi is known for his world class defense and freakishly big hands. Throwing Kawhi on the end of a line and telling him to rush the passer could lead to a lot of sacks. Leonard would make a great edge rusher.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors: Kevin Durant is another freak athlete. If we follow the mold of selecting defensive ends, Durant is another player that can use his athletism to go get the quarterback. Durant would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Defensive Tackle: Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies: Defensive tackles have to be some of the most unselfish players on the team. The job description of a defensive tackle is to eat up blocks so that everyone else gets the glory. Z-Bo is the perfect candidate for a defensive tackle position. He will take up those blocks so the rest of the defense can eat.

Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets: Faried is just as perfect of a fit at defensive tackle as Randolph is. He will get down and dirty and do what ever the team needs to win. Faried has proven that he doesn’t need the spotlight on him. Any coach would sleep well knowing that Faried could eat up blocks so that the linebackers can run around knocking heads off.

Linebackers: Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen is one of the most lockdown defenders the NBA has ever seen. Kobe Bryant said he was the toughest defender he ever had to face. Allen has that grit all linebackers need to succeed. Any running back that has to meet Tony Allen in the hole is in for a big hit.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler is one of the best all-around players in the NBA but he made his name on defense. He has a tenacity about him that Chicago fans fell in love with. Early in his career, he showed no fear in going up against the best offensive players in the game. Throw Butler in at linebacker and you have a versatile defender who can come up to stuff the run or drop back and defend the pass.

Marcus Smart, SG, Boston Celtics: Certain linebackers are just pit bulls and Smart has that pit bull mentality. Any football coach could put him at linebacker and see instant toughness from the rest of the defense. Smart will get physical and isn’t afraid to go toe to toe with other giants. His passion is palpable and his teammates would feed off of him.

Cornerbacks: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers: Corners have some of the most difficult tasks in the game. Many people forget to list Lillard with the best point guards and the chip on his shoulder makes him fit the corner mold perfectly. Corners don’t always get the love when trying to stop the diva wide outs. In this passing era, Lillard would take it personally that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. 

Andre Roberson, SG, Oklahoma City: Roberson is the perfect candidate to play cornerback. Most times the saying about corners is “if they could catch they would play wide receiver.” Roberson has no offense at all and wo

NBA's Gridiron Team

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/draymond-green-warriors/)

uld fit this stereotype. He is long and receivers would get frustrated trying to match up with him.

Safeties: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City: This could come as a surprise to most people. Why not running back or wide receiver? The answer is because the best safeties do it all. They come up and stuff the run game. They also patrol the field looking to destroy receivers and intercept passes. The MVP would be an amazing safety if he played football. Offenses would definitely be game planning against Westbrook.

Avery Bradley, SG, Detroit Pistons: Bradley is another player that has made a name on the defensive side of the ball. Bradley will do a great job at being the last line of defense. He would put fear into any receiver who tries to come across the middle of his field.

Special Teams

Kicker: Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors: Draymond has been known to kick groins. This seems self-explanatory that he would be the team’s kicker.

Punter: Ricky Rubio, PG, Utah Jazz: Picking a punter is tough. If Steve Nash was still playing it would be easy to pick him. Ricky Rubio grew up playing soccer in Spain. He would have no trouble booting the football if the offense stalls.

Returner: Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers: Over the past couple of seasons we have been able to see Kyrie dazzle defenders and the world, with his moves. Irving would be an electrifying return man in the NFL. His moves have proven to break ankles on the hardwood so why wouldn’t that translate to the gridiron?

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

Featured image courtesy of Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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