Overwatch League Expansion Tier List: What cities will we see next?

It was recently reported that the Overwatch League was looking to expand with a price tag of a cool $30 to $60 million. Activision Blizzard also announced that they are now looking to add four or six teams instead of the two they were planning on originally. This adds numerous possibilities, and many different cities will be vying for spots in the league.

With that in mind we are going to look at which cities have the best chance of getting Overwatch League teams and rank them into three tiers.

Rankings will be based on the following questions:

  1. How big is the city?
  2. Has the city had any involvement in esports before? If so, how successful have those events been?
  3. Is there a known investor/franchise that is from that city that would want to put it there?
  4. Are there teams in close proximity to this city already? (i.e. another LA would not be likely)

There will be other factors to keep in mind as well. If they only go with four teams will they just keep the two divisions? If they go six do they split them up? Also, they will want to keep the divisions equal. To do so, there are only so many teams from certain areas that can can be considered.

Not happening this time

There are some cities that will probably be mentioned but, it is very unlikely that they will get a spot for one reason or another.

Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Kansas City- While all of these cities have a good amount of traditional sports teams, it is unlikely in this first expansion that they will pick two Midwest cities – especially ones that don’t have a huge connection to esports just yet.

Rome, Barcelona- Both are huge for soccer/futbol. That being said they aren’t necessarily known for esports and while they could eventually get teams there is no chance they beat out most of these other cities.

Tier 3- Unlikely but Possible

Brooklyn-  This was originally going to be a complete no, but looking at a couple factors changed that. To start, the Season 1 playoffs are happening at the Barclays Center. Also, most traditional sports have at least two teams in the big apple. Lastly, Los Angeles already has two teams so why not put two in New York as well? The main reason this is a long shot is that the Overwatch League wants to be a global league and there are areas of the United States and Europe that need teams more. Remember, there can only be two or three teams coming from the Atlantic area.

Overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Knights.gg

Beijing- The market in Asia is huge for just about any esport, especially China. Beijing did host the 2017 World Finals for League of Legends in an arena that held 91,000. The real problem is that there are at least two other cities that will be on this list that the OWL will want more for their Asian market. Truthfully, if Shanghai hadn’t come first, it is very likely that Beijing would be a higher priority.

Pittsburgh- This city is the least expected one on this list. That being said there is already an established esports organization that is officially the esports team of the city, the Pittsburgh Knights. With investors already coming in and the city backing them, it would be very easy for the OWL to establish a team in this city. Also Rob “Leonyx” Lee, owner, already has a ton of experience within the world of esports and would be able to help grow the new league.

The major problem is that without the already established team, Pittsburgh would never be considered. They don’t host any big events, it’s one of the smaller cities on this list, and the Philadelphia Fusion are in the same state.

Denver- DreamHack being in Denver put this city on the esports map. It’s in a very good location as there aren’t any teams already established anywhere nearby. That is about all it has going for it when it comes to a potential team, though. Unless a major investor with connections to this area comes forward, it is hard to see the Mile High City getting a team this time around.

Tier 2- Close but just out of reach

Atlanta- There is a lot to like about putting a new team in Atlanta. To start, there are no other teams in the area, so they could hit a whole new demographic. Their newest team in the MLS is bringing more fans to their games than any other team which means that this city receives new teams with enthusiasm. Lastly, Atlanta is a hotbed for hosting esports events such as DreamHack, the CWL, and more. The only thing going against Atlanta is that there are a limited number of spots.

overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Dribble.com

Washington D.C.- With a plethora of investors to choose from, a brand new NBA2k league team, and it being the capital of the United States it makes it hard not to at least consider D.C. The city is obviously big enough. The problem is that there are already so many teams in close proximity, such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. If D.C. wants a team and they don’t get one this time around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one in serious consideration next time.

Cleveland- The Midwest desperately needs an Overwatch League team. The closest ones are either on the East coast or in Dallas. While Cleveland may not have been on the list before, that has changed majorly in the last year and a half. There is clearly investment interest as Cleveland has added two major esports franchises in the Cavs Legion from the NBA2k League and 100 Thieves from League of Legends. Both franchises are expected to perform well as the Cavs Legion have a top team lead by Hood and 100 Thieves recently finished 2nd in the NA LCS.

Tier 1- Very Likely

Chicago- We will start with the city that most likely will take Cleveland out of the running this time. Chicago is a major sports city and it has hosted numerous major esports events. Most consider Chicago to be the New York of the midwest and for good reason. It is a very cultural city that has incredibly loyal fans and has the biggest population in the Midwest. Did we mention that the Midwest needs a team? Even if there were only two spots available it is likely that Chicago would be highly considered, now with the possibility of three, Chicago had better be ready for an esports team.

Courtesy of: Leagueoflegends.com

Hong Kong- Like Cleveland being overshadowed by Chicago, Beijing won’t be considered because of this city. Hong Kong has been one of the major Asian cities for the last century and is one of the most Westernized cities on the continent. Combine this with the fact that it is likely that the OWL wants to reach more fans in China, and you get a top tier city. With a company like Tencent being in the area it is highly likely that they may want a piece of the OWL pie as well.

Paris- MSI for League of Legends will be happening here in just a few days. Paris has hosted esports events and is one of the major cities in Europe. Lets not forget that the London Spitfire are the only team representing Europe in a global league. If you don’t think Nate Nanzer is thinking about this then you’d be dead wrong. This city makes a ton of sense and like Chicago, even if they were only bringing in two teams overall it is likely Paris would be near or at the top.

Berlin- Almost everything that has been said about Paris can be said about Berlin. Although there is one distinct advantage, League of Legends EULCS is based there. This shows that people will attend games and the esports scene is growing there quickly. That being said, this may also be a reason why the league wont go here. As of right now it seems as though both leagues aren’t exactly on great terms (check out what happened to Immortals), so it is possible that the OWL could look elsewhere for now.

Seattle- Esports are based on the West Coast. It is where most of the studios are and it is where every team currently is based. With connections to Microsoft, many esports events being hosted there, and the general acceptance of esports in this city, it is likely they would be considered. Seattle would continue building the base of esports in the west and thus continue to grow it.

Overwatch League Expansion

Courtesy of: TheVerge.com

Toronto- The fact that there was not a team in Toronto to start was a little surprising. This city has a massive esports culture. It has hosted many events and it has one of the new NBA2k League teams. Canada needs to be represented in this league and Toronto is an obvious choice to make it happen.

Las Vegas- A year ago this may not have been a top choice. But with their new esports arena (used by Ninja for a Fortnite tournament), a new hockey team that is doing extraordinarily well, and a new NFL team, this city is ripe for an OWL team. The stereotype of Las Vegas being the sin city is still there. However, in the last decade or so it has become much more family friendly. With all of the new major venues and teams coming to Vegas, an OWL team just makes sense to join them.

Tokyo- Last but certainly not least is the biggest city in Japan. There is a massive culture built around gaming and esports in this city and country. They even have heroes and a map representating them in game. If a slot buyer comes forward with connections to the city then it would be very hard for the OWL to pass up the opportunity to bring Tokyo into the mix.

What do you think?

These are some of the top cities that could be considered for Overwatch League spots. As of right now there have been no announcements as to the bidding process, who has made a bid, or just about anything other than what we know from that original report. Speculation will increase the hype as the league starts their last stage this week.

What cities do you think will receive teams? Are there any that were missed? Comment below and let us know!

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Here is why Esports Arenas will be coming to a city near you

The world of esports is growing very quickly. Estimations show that it will be larger than a $1.5 Billion industry in the next couple years. We are seeing more major sponsors for leagues and teams. With this, esports are switching over to a franchising system. This can only mean more money coming into esports.

With franchising comes the need for arenas. For a long time, esports were not taken all that seriously because many worried that either a certain esport wouldn’t last long enough or that esports would be unable to be franchised because they wouldn’t make enough money. Well, Twitch and other streaming services changed that. This grew the audiences to very high levels. What it also did, however, was bring about a new worry.

Would people go to games or would they just prefer to watch it online? After spending time at TD Gardens in Boston, The Fillmore in Miami for NA LCS, talking with other journalists, and following both League and Overwatch League closely, I can tell you that people will absolutely go to these games weekly.

What about all the other events that have come before this?

Counter-Strike Global Offensive in Esports arena

Courtesy of: CS:GO Betting

This is a valid question. The answer is that most events or even leagues can be categorized into two different areas right now.

  1. Most of these events are only happening maybe once a month as tournaments or major events that happen a couple times a year. Examples of this are CS:GO and Dota 2. What these events prove is that if there is a major event, people will come. The problem is that it doesn’t show that there are enough people who would go on a weekly or multiple days a week basis.
  2. The second area is that most leagues as of now are based in Los Angeles or other centrally located cities. Both the OWL and League are based in LA and the NBA2k League is in New York City. This is great for the people who live there or who travel there as they can watch their teams play. Everyone else is sadly out of luck.

The Fans

Fan bases for esports as a whole are growing substantially. According to Statista.com, there will be almost 400 million viewers by the end of 2018. This number will only increase as games like Fortnite, which are sweeping the world right now, are spreading to casual and non-gamers.

With the swath of viewers, there will be many who attach to certain players or teams based on their viewing experiences and what games they like. While this is great, many people often never have an event close enough to them to see their favorite team or player perform in person. Thus, they watch online.

Courtesy of: SportsTechie

With the new franchising leagues, esports are following traditional sports. Many people forget that traditional sports did not start off with teams magically appearing in cities around the world all of a sudden. Instead, a relatively small amount of teams traveled and hosted events at venues where large numbers of people could gather. This mirrors how esports have been the last few years. Now, esports are moving onto the next stage of development with franchising.

With teams representing areas and cities, people will more likely gravitate towards them as their team. Again following the traditional sports model, this will help fan bases grow, allowing people to become more attached to their teams.

As more and more people watch esports, they will be enticed to at least look at their hometown teams which should, in turn, build fans in those areas.

Franchising

As one could probably tell when reading this, franchising is a game changer. Like the NFL, NBA, and MLB, esports like League of Legends, NBA2k, and Overwatch are following in their predecessors’ footsteps. They are paving the way for other esports to jump on franchising as it offers stability and money.

Stability and massive amounts of money have always been what has kept esports from being taken seriously. There were relegations at such an early start for esports like League of Legends. This kept people and groups from feeling comfortable in investing. With franchising eliminating relegations, we saw an instant interest to the tune of up to $20 million in investments for spots in these leagues.

This is a much cheaper price than trying to buy an NBA franchise. Getting in on the ground level of anything this big is always more exciting.

With the money and stability comes the desire to make more money. Building an arena can definitely help in this area. The investment towards the future will pay off as they will be able to grow the fan base even more due to people finally being able to watch their city’s team in person.

“If you build it, they will come.”

This quote from the movie Field of Dreams, while it is about the traditional sport of baseball, applies to esports quite well.

Between other events, the fan bases, and the stability brought about by franchising, the next logical step is to start building esports arenas in cities. While there are some newer ones, like in Las Vegas and Arlington, there are plenty of teams and companies working out ways to create even more.

With the leagues that are franchising, there are even some cities that will already have a need for new arenas to host the multiple teams that are in them. You can check them out here.

All of these leagues will continue to grow and more esports will be franchising. Call of Duty announced their intentions to franchise, but not much more has come out since. With that, more cities will get involved and the need for arenas will increase.

Keep an eye out, esports and their arenas will be coming to a city near you.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Populous.com

 

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Multi-Esport Cities

While the Esports industry is very young, franchising has allowed for it to mature much faster than its traditional sports counterpart. With franchising coming into play there are many different groups and people buying in, and these entities want esports teams in their cities.

This means that many fans will start to want to see their teams in person and thus esports arenas are the next step, you can check out why that is here.

The teams in League of Legends have not officially stated what cities they will be based in, so some of this is a bit of guessing as either they were founded in these cities or have major investments from them.

Now here is a list of US/NA cities that already have multiple teams in them:

Boston:

  • Boston Uprising (Overwatch League)
  • Celtics Crossover Gaming (NBA2k)

Cleveland:

  • 100 Thieves (League of Legends)
  • Cavs Legion (NBA2k)

Dallas:

  • Dallas Fuel (Overwatch League)
  • Mavs Gaming (NBA2k)

Houston:

  • Clutch City (League of Legends)
  • Houston Outlaws (Overwatch League)
  • OpTic Gaming (League of Legends)

Los Angeles:

  • LA Gladiators (Overwatch League)
  • LA Valiant (Overwatch League)
  • The Overwatch League
  • NALCS

Miami:

  • Florida Mayhem (Overwatch League)
  • Heat Check Gaming (NBA2k)

Milwaukee:

  • Bucks Gaming (NBA2k)
  • FlyQuest (League of Legends)

New York:

  • Counter Logic Gaming (League of Legends)
  • Echo Fox (League of Legends)
  • Knicks Gaming (NBA2k)
  • New York Excelsior (Overwatch League)

Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Golden State Guardians (League of Legends)
  • San Francisco Shock (Overwatch League)
  • Warriors Gaming Squad (NBA2k)

Philadelphia:

  • 76ers GC (NBA2k)
  • Philadelphia Fusion (Overwatch League)

Toronto:

  • Raptors Uprising GC (NBA2k)
  • Team Solo Mid (League of Legends)

 

We will make sure to continue updating this list as more esports franchise, more teams commit to cities, and more teams join the already franchised leagues. An EU and Asia list will come out once a couple other franchising esports leagues finalize.

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London Spitfire

Does London Spitfire’s inconsistency make the league more interesting?

London Spitfire likes to keep the league interesting. Spitfire are easily the second best team in the Overwatch League. With an impressive 15-7 league score so far and a +30 map differential it’s impossible to deny they are among the best. However they are not perfect by any means. They have three more losses then their rivals New York Excelsior, and they have now lost three matches in a row. They lost to rising stars Philadelphia Fusion, then long time road block Houston Outlaws, and then their aforementioned rivals, NYXL.

London are one of the most dominant teams, but they struggle in odd match ups and often lose to opponents considered much worse then them. But admittedly, their inconsistencies have made them a very interesting team to watch. NYXL looks amazing with flashy plays by Park “Saebeyolbe” Jong-ryeol and Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon, but if you’re anything like me, seeing them win every day is a bit…boring. But a team like Spitfire, well anything can happen.

London Spitfire

London’s abysmal start to stage 3 places them with the bottom two teams in the League. Courtesy of the Overwatch League website

Losses against lower teams

It sounds weird praising a team for their losses, but this does make the whole league a bit more interesting to watch. They lost to two teams I would argue they should’ve easily won. That was Boston Uprising and Los Angeles Gladiators. Now since then both have proven themselves as forces to be reckoned with, but neither team has even managed to make it to stage finals before. The Boston match was a heart pounding 2-3 loss for London. It was an amazing game that lead to their first loss. At that point we thought the three Korean teams were going to dominate the league. London vs Boston was the first sign that wasn’t going to happen.

And when they lost to the Los Angeles Gladiators, they lost by a bit of a margin, 1-3. But it again really fit a story line of Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung claiming victory over his old comrades. In both scenarios, although disappointing for London fans, was actually incredibly hype to see them lose, and totally went against what everyone was expecting.

Roadblock with Houston Outlaws

At this point it’s fair to say that London have a problem with Houston. Maybe it’s that Houston is known as a great anti-dive team. Maybe it’s because all four times they have played Houston it was the same week that they play New York. Or maybe there really is just a mental road block at this point. No matter what it is, if you’re just looking at the regular season they are 0-3 against Houston. Now why is this interesting? Story lines. People like a good story, and a dominant tyrant brought down by a somewhat mediocre (at this point) team is exciting. On top of that once they do win, it’ll be even more exciting since we won’t be expecting it. It was super exciting when they tasted revenge beating Houston 3-1 in the Stage 1 finals. Next win will be just as satisfying as well…if they win.

 

The most interesting rivalry in the league

New York Excelsior is the final boss of Overwatch. With an immaculate 20-2 record and a staggering +54 map differential, they are the top dogs. At this point there aren’t many teams who really put up much of a fight towards NYXL. Heck, only two teams in the entire league have ever actually won against them. Those being Philadelphia Fusion, and of course, London Spitfire. The Spitfire are actually the only team to win twice. Once in the Stage 1 finals and a second time in Stage 2. Unfortunately after a pretty one sided loss against NYXL, they are now 2-2 on sets. Like I said, NYXL always winning does get boring, but as long as London is around, they will never sit too comfortably a the top; if they slip up even a little, London will be looking for blood.

 

Why is this good for the league?

People like to see change; if you watched the same episode of the same show every day it would get boring. Watching the same three teams win day in day out is exhausting and uninteresting. That’s why a team like London is good for the league. Keep it exciting, keep the fans on their toes. There’s a reason in Football no one wants the Patriots to win, they always win. No one wants to see the same result everyday. So London both being the only team to go toe to toe with NYXL while also being a team that any team can strive to beat keeps the league a bit more balanced.

 

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lucky this postseason

Series outlook: Vegas looks to get lucky this postseason

The Golden Knights have broken all expansion barriers and winning a playoff series is the next obstacle in their way. The Kings will be a very tough opponent for Vegas, and this series is sure to be one of the best ones of the first round. Like all playoff series’ in the NHL, the Knights will have to be a bit lucky this postseason to win.

Vegas Playing As A Team

What has made Vegas work, is their ability to work as one unit. Vegas does not have star power on the offensive or defensive end, but they all work very well together as a unit. The Knights had seven players score more than 40 points during the 2017-18 season which was among the top numbers in the league. For the Golden Knights to win in the postseason, it will be critical for them to stick to this formula.

Team Defense

Vegas plays excellent team defense. Their defensemen have done a great job all season of swarming the puck and forcing bad decisions. The Knights finished the season with the second highest takeaway total in the entire NHL. They also had a great takeaway to giveaway ratio at 1.1.

The Golden Knights were able to keep the goaltender relatively clean this season, and when you have a goalie the caliber of Fleury, it makes it very easy to win games. Because of this Andre-Fleury was able to have one of the best even-strength save percentages in the entire NHL with a ..931. He has this save percentage on the 10th least shot attempts in the whole NHL.

William Karlsson

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports)

Even though the Knights don’t have a superstar the one player you would pick to be the leader is William Karlsson. Karlsson’s career-high 78 points led the Golden Knights, and his 43 goals had him ranked third in the entire NHL.

Karlsson did have success against the Kings this season in the four games he appeared. Karlsson tallied three goals and one assist, along with a plus/minus rating of +3. The Knights are 2-1-1 in those games. If William Karlsson can continue to play well, the Golden Knights will have a very good chance at beating the Kings this series.

Kings Lockdown Defense

Like many of the Pacific division teams, the Kings play physical defense that results in low scoring battles. Los Angeles finished the season with a 2.43 goals against average which was good for the lowest total in the NHL.
Penalty Kill

The Kings had an incredibly good penalty kill in the 2017-18 season. They finished first in the NHL with an 85 percent success rate. The Kings are a team that doesn’t take too many penalties, but when they do they kill them very efficiently.

Vegas’ power play ranks ninth in the NHL so the Kings penalty kill will be put to the test, The Kings will have their hands full with Vegas’ power play, but holding them to five on five play will be their best shot.

Anze Kopitar

lucky this postseason

(Photo By: NHL.com)

Kopitar dominated the offensive side of the ice for the Kings this season. Anze finished the season with 92 points and the next closest player on the Kings had 61. Kopitar was consistently the best player on the ice and he proved it by being a force on the offensive end. In four games against the Knights this season Anze tallied two goals and three assists. If he can play at a high level against the Knights, this series could shift in LA’s favor.

Series Prediction

The Golden Knights have a good chance at winning this series, and it is because they match up very well. The Kings have a very good penalty kill, but when they play five on five, they tend to struggle. Vegas has had a balanced attack all season, and it is what will separate them from the Kings in this one.

If the Kings are going to take this one they are going to have to have to steal a win in the first game. I believe the momentum will be too strong to overcome if the Kings allow Vegas to win game one. The Kings have a very strong at home, but the Knights are a good road team that has good chance to neutralize Los Angeles’ strengths.

I like the Knights to win this series, but it will not come easy. This series will take a lot of both teams and will most likely go to seven games.

Vegas wins the series: 4-3

Featured image by USA Today

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The bloodiest battles in the Overwatch League are yet to come

Now, I’ve talked about why this stage in particular is going to be great. So far I haven’t been disappointed, either. We’ve had some great games so far, and this week should be no exception. I’m looking just a bit past this week, though, to week 3 of the Overwatch League’s third stage. A week so packed with potential that I’m writing about it eight days in advance. Why is that far-off day worth worrying about now? Follow along, dear reader, and I’ll show you…

The battle for LA is back with a vengeance

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

One of the hottest rivalries in the Overwatch League, this hometown hoedown never disappoints. In S1W3, the Valiant squeaked by with one of the league’s first reverse sweeps ever in a harrowing 5-map affair that kept the crowd loud all night long. In S2W3, we saw a decidedly different outcome, a 4-0 smash from the Gladiators, whose shiny new main tank Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek made it look easy against the Valiant’s sagging shields.

Now in S3W3, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will take the lead in the head-to-head rivalry. Fissure has cemented himself as a fixture for the Gladiators. The Valiant are looking good after acquiring ex-Dallas Fuel support Scott “Custa” Kennedy and Seoul’s former Tracer star Jun-Hyeok “Bunny” Chae. Indy “Space” Halpern has looked good, too, moving up to the main roster after turning 18 earlier this month. Even so, the Valiant’s new additions will need to work overtime to prepare for the onslaught of purple fists, rockets and shuriken sent out by the Gladiator’s insanely versatile DPS lineup, which recently added Ted “Silkthread” Wang to its already impressive arsenal.

Keep an eye on this match for sure, but also keep in mind that it’s not the only big rivalry we get to see this week…

 

This state ain’t big enough for the two of us

Dallas vs. Houston has been… not as competitive as the Battle for LA. I’ll be real with you there. S1W2’s high-noon brawl left the Boys in Blue bleeding in the street, with Houston cruising comfortably to a 4-0 sweep. I would hope that the Fuel put up a bit more of a fight this time around, but it’ll be up to their front line to make that happen. Their new tank Minseok “OGE” Kim is set to make his debut in week two against Seoul- maybe.

Debut or no, Dallas has a lot of work to do to put up a fight against the Outlaws, even with their recent stumbles against the Boston Uprising. Unkoe and Jonathan “Harryhook” Tejedor Rua have been working well together, at least. The DPS corps is looking strong, and if Brandon “Seagull” Larned has to swap back to his former role as projectile specialist, they could be even stronger. Ponghop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod should be returning to off-tank, too, where his phenomenal D.Va play can really shine.

No, no, EFFECT. You have to get MAD at Muma! Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Houston has been struggling a bit with consistency, but still has fantastic upset potential so long as their heavy hitters come to play. Jacob “Jake” Lyon needs to pack the caffeine gum and get to chewing; his frenetic Junkrat play has torn top teams to pieces, and his Tracer is steadily improving, too. Shane “Rawkus” O’Flaherty has been on a bit of a tear himself. That Soldier:76 flex on Numbani last week? Or the Roadhog flexes on Junkertown? More, please!

We could even see some changes at main tank for the Outlaws, too, with Russel “FCTFCTN” Campbell waiting in the wings. I wrote a bit more on that here– suffice to say, he’s pretty good. You could say I like the guy. I don’t know if Dallas will by the end of the day, though.

I don’t want to send this one off as a 4-0 sweep for the Outlaws, though I’m sure many could come to that conclusion with confidence. Dallas has that spark, even now, and they tend to bite teams that underestimate them. Let’s hope the desk gets EFFECT really, really mad. The power of NMA might just win the day for them, like it did against Shanghai.

 

Speaking of Shanghai…

2018-04-04 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Yes, the Dragons are winless. No, that probably won’t change any time soon. But if it had to happen… if Shanghai had any chance at all… it would be here, in S3W3, against the Florida Mayhem. With games against Seoul, Boston, Philly, New York, and London, there will be no better opportunity for Shanghai to win a game this stage- or this season, even, barring their other match against Florida in S4W4.

Shanghai doesn’t need a win, per se. They’re not in the hunt for any playoffs (unless we see a BIG turnaround in stage four,) and the roster is going to need to take its time to get things right and find their groove. All the same, though, a victory- ever- in Season 1 would mean great things for team morale, which is a crucial point for a game as intense as Overwatch.

Besides, how could you not want the Dragons to get a win at this point? The underdog story is one of the most quintessential American tales in the history of anything, ever, and Shanghai are definitely underdogs at this point. Florida aren’t much better off, frankly, though the gap between the two teams is still four wins and 31 maps wide. Each team is reshaping their roster in a big way, and that could mean an upset when the Dragons need it most.

 

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Featured photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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Overwatch

LA Gladiators: Are You Not Entertained?

After a shaky start in Stage 1, a few roster tweaks, and the addition of Fissure, the LA Gladiators continue their hot streak in Stage 2. The LA Gladiators currently stand at 6-2 in Stage 2, already a huge improvement from their previous Stage 1 record of 4-6. With their shields up and pushing forward, the Gladiators find themselves in third place behind New York Excelsior and Seoul Dynasty – a great spot to be heading into the last week of Stage 2.

What makes them special?

The Gladiators made a huge roster move in the off-season which helped propel them forward – the acquisition of Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek from the London Spitfire. Although he didn’t see much play time with the London Spitfire, Fissure was known as one of the best, if not the best, tank player in the game. Analysts questioned why he wasn’t seeing more playtime. The Gladiators gladly took the opportunity to upgrade a role that their team drastically needed.

Fissure has great awareness and communication when playing. He knows precisely when he needs to peel and create space for his supports, as well as when he can get aggressive and finish off enemy players. Fissure gives the team a healthy balance between aggressive and defensive play. With a few communication issues in the beginning, the Gladiators roster have found great chemistry with Fissure added to the mix. The addition of Fissure is paying huge dividends for the LA Gladiators.

Unique heroes

Another important part of the LA Gladiators is their ability to flex and play a variety of heroes. The LA Gladiators can make teams play to their playstyle or flex onto heroes which counter the enemy’s playstyle. With such a wide hero pool, it is not uncommon to see Joao Pedro “Hydration” Veloso de Goes Telles play Doomfist or Lane “Surefour” Roberts on Sombra. Enemy teams must specifically craft strategies around these hero picks if they want to find success. The clip below shows the impact that Hydration’s Doomfist can make and how it can catch teams off guard.

The Road ahead

With the acquisition of Fissure, wide hero pools and great team chemistry, the LA Gladiators are pushing forward with their shields up to make the Stage 2 playoffs. With only a week left in Stage 2, the LA Gladiators have set themselves up in a great position to make the playoffs. The Gladiators clash with the Philadelphia Fusion and Boston Uprising heading into the final week of Stage 2. With two tough opponents remaining, every win matters for the Gladiators. Will they continue to entertain the crowd with their victories or will they be left humbled in defeat by the enemy team?

 

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Featured Image Credit: LA Gladiators

Videos Clips: Overwatch League

Lakers fantasy basketball

Lakers fantasy implications the rest of the season

For all of the fantasy basketball nuts out there, this is arguably the most exciting part of the year. As fantasy playoffs approach for head-to-head leagues and things are finally starting to fall into place for those doing rotisserie, player performance becomes just as important as ever.

Let’s dive into the fantasy values of the Los Angeles Lakers, who you might want to hold on to and who you might want to deal.

Holds

On a young team technically still fighting for a playoff spot, the Lakers have plenty to offer in terms of fantasy upside. Here are the Lakers that should be held onto for the remainder of the season.

Brandon Ingram 

Averages in the last week: 19 points, 57.1 percent shooting, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, one 3-pointer

Lakers fantasy basketball

Photo from www.gramunion.com

We should take this one with a grain of salt, because these averages come from just one game. Since then, he has been battling a groin strain and will be reevaluated in a week.

Regardless, one game can show just how much Ingram can contribute to the box score. Assuming the injury isn’t serious, Ingram should be a stud the rest of the way and demand the ball more than anybody on the team.

The young Kevin Durant comparison has a lot of weapons to offer. Unless an owner needs production immediately, riding out the injury and deploying him when healthy will definitely be advantageous.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 

Averages in the last week: 17.3 points, 54.3 percent shooting, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 2.7 3-pointers

Pope is known for his streaky play, but has actually been ridiculously good lately. While the rebounds and percentages won’t be this good the rest of the way, everything else should hover around what it is right now.

There were plenty of rumors that he would get less playing time in order to develop the younger guys, but considering he’s only 25 years old and the departure of Jordan Clarkson, he has been getting big minutes.

He should be a solid source of steals and triples the rest of the way, with a dash of inconsistency.

Julius Randle 

Averages in the last week: 23.7 points, 54.8 percent shooting, seven boards, 1.3 steals

The departure of Larry Nance Jr. has helped Randle in a big way. He has been as dominant as ever lately.

After a slow start to the season, he should be in for a big finish and will definitely help out anyone’s fantasy team.

Honorable mention: Kyle Kuzma

Drops and Deals

Depending on the size and competitiveness of your league, these are the players that could possibly be dropped or dealt in the near future:

Lakers fantasy basketball

Photo from ClutchPoints

Brook Lopez 

Averages in the last week: 12.7 points, 51.7 percent shooting, four boards, one steal, one block, 1.7 3-pointers

While these numbers are not horrible by any means, this is sadly some of the best of Brook Lopez that we have seen this season. His days of knocking down multiple triples per game and consistently contributing to the blocks category have come to an end in Los Angeles, and the maintenance days are inevitable for one of the older Lakers.

If you can sell high on him after a decent week, it wouldn’t be the worst idea.

Isaiah Thomas 

Averages in the last week: 23 points, 38.6 percent shooting, 6.7 assists, 2.7 3-pointers

While the points appear to be nice, the percentages and lack of defensive stats are not a whole lot to write home about. Thomas has not accumulated a single steal in his past five games. His defensive efficiency is hurting fantasy owners more than helping.

Unless you are taking percentages and only need points and a handful of assists for your team, Thomas probably isn’t your guy.

What about Lonzo?

Lonzo Ball 

Averages in the last week: 12 points, 46.2 percent shooting, five rebounds, 6.7 assists, three steals, 3.7 3-pointers

Lakers fantasy basketball

Photo from The Undefeated

Don’t worry, Lonzo Ball has not been forgotten.

Ball seems to lie somewhere in between the two categories listed above, as he is truly a surprise on most nights. Against the Blazers, for example, he was underwhelming with 10 points and not much else. However, he had an 18-7-11 line with six 3-pointers a few nights before against the Spurs.

As a rookie, inconsistency may as well be his middle name, and that is why he may be tough to hold onto. On the other hand, the upside is there and he can usually be treated as a poor man’s Russell Westbrook (inefficient with lots of stats across the board).

The 3-pointers are not sustainable, but everything else could definitely increase slightly. If you are a risk-taker in need of lots of stats across the board who can deal with inefficiency and inconsistency, Ball is the perfect player for you.

Conclusion

A lot can happen in the basketball world, especially on a streaky team like the Los Angeles Lakers. Every fantasy owner is different and has certain needs for their particular team.

But as a whole, the above analysis is a fair prediction of what the rest of the season could look like for each of the mentioned players. For those entering playoffs soon, best of luck, and may the best baller win.

 

Featured image from LA Times

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NBA All-Star Game format a hit

This year had to be different. With the recent All-Star games in the NBA, fans were getting disinterested, as it was just a prolonged dunk contest. It failed to truly showcase how great the players partaking in the game were. NBA Commisioner Adam Silver and team captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry all stepped up to make the new NBA All-Star Game format work.

The Draft

2018 NBA All-Star Draft

All-Star Draft (Photo by: express.co.uk)

One conference playing another in any All-Star game was a great idea, before interleague play started happening in every professional sport. It allowed room for debate of who had the better players and which conference was better overall. It solved the great unknown questions of the era.

Those questions are, for the most part now answered.  Now teams get to play each other multiple times a year in the NBA and the Western Conference is deeper than the Eastern Conference. Players no longer take pride in their conference, but rather in their specific teams and themselves. The change to a draft format was necessary.

James and Curry treated the draft the right way, with James selecting Kevin Durant to start off the selections. Both tried to field teams that could win rather than picking players they were close with. Curry was unable to get his teammate, Durant, and James didn’t pick his teammate, Kevin Love, early at all.

The draft itself helped create some interesting matchups and combinations that fans now wonder about. James and Durant, the two best players in the league, were on the same team. James was reunited with teammate Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook and Durant were on the same team for the second straight season after Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As for matchups that were created, Dwayne Casey coached team LeBron and against his own players, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Westbrook and Irving got to match up with Curry and Harden in a battle of the best guards in the league. When Team LeBron went small late in the game James got the pleasure of guarding Joel Embiid that created some great sequences.

The Effort and motivation

2018 NBA All-Star Game

Photo by: fatmouthsports.net

All the players had a lot to play for, as the winning team would get $350,000 to charity, while the losing team gets $150,000. While these aren’t great personal stakes, it gives the players something to take pride in.

This also helped create a sense of competitiveness around the game. The minutes weren’t split evenly as in past years. James played 31 minutes (as opposed to just under 20 in 2017), while Curry accumulated 26 minutes. Al Horford logged only 12 minutes and Goran Dragic was in for 11 minutes. (LaMarcus Aldrige played four minutes due to injury and Jimmy Butler sat out with sickness). While the West gave a lot of playing time last year to it’s starters, the East did not give anyone more than 24 minutes.

Not only were there more minutes played for the stars (overall), than most years, but they were on the court when it mattered. Team LeBron had their starters (with a minor concession of subbing Anthony Davis out for Paul George) on the floor at the end. Team Stephen put in Kyle Lowry and Draymond Green in at the end of the game in an effort to get a stop. Both teams gave themselves a chance to win because they put their best players on the court (or tried to) for whatever situation came up.

Another surprise was, players actually fouled to prevent baskets rather than running out of the way. There were 16 personal fouls in 2017. This year there were 26. That’s a perfect mix of making sure no one gets hurt from crazy fouls and actually trying for an All-Star Game.

The main thing that made this work was the defensive intensity. Last year there were 374 total points scored. This year the teams’ defense stepped up and only 293 total points were scored. Curry was held to 27% shooting from deep, while Harden was even worse at 15%. Staples Center did have some pretty stiff rims, but the defense was also a cause of the low shooting percentages this year.

The Finish

When it came down to the last quarter, it was apparent that both teams were actively trying to win, which isn’t always the case in an All-Star game. Timeouts were called to set up plays and, as mentioned before, the best lineups were put in for the best results.

At the very end it was Team LeBron storming back to take the lead 148-145. They needed a defensive stop against a team that was loaded with some of the best three point shooters in history. To end the game, James and Durant were able to trap Curry in the corner and prevent him from getting off a great shot.

That play capped of the best NBA All-Star game in years. If that wasn’t enough for fans, Adam Silver announced that the same format will be used next year, but that the draft will be televised. This should just generate more interest and competitiveness between players.

For once fans can get excited about All-Star weekend again.

 

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NL Central face of the franchise

The current face of every NL Central team

One conversation that will never get old is talking about who the cornerstone player of every franchise is. Some teams have an obvious representative, others not so much. Here is a look into the face of the franchise for every team in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell

If we were to have this conversation two weeks ago, then there would be a much more obvious answer for the Bucs. However, the Pirates’ front office thought it was time to do some shuffling. Even though Pittsburgh fans are upset about giving up Andrew McCutchen, who has been an icon in the Steel City for some time, it was a good move to show concern for the future. It just looks especially bad because of what the Marlins have been doing this offseason as well.

NL Central face of the franchise

Josh Bell represents a changing of the guard in Pittsburgh. (Photo from Rumbunter.com)

Some may be wondering why Starling Marte is not in this spot. His 80-game suspension does not help his cause here. He also is an All-Star and two-time gold glove winner who can steal bases with the best of them. However, he does not represent the future for the Pirates. He is 29 years old, and the Pirates are not going to be contending anytime soon.

Josh Bell just finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. If it were any other year, Bell would have had a much better chance of bringing home the award. With Cody Bellinger breaking out in LA though, the race was much more clear cut. Bell has the chance to be a prototypical slugger in Pittsburgh for a while, as he is only 25 years old.

In the future, Bell could be a force in the middle of the lineup with 30 home run potential. He provides more pop than Marte does, and is already a threat in the middle of the lineup. His young age coupled with his power is the reason why he has the opportunity to take the place of Cutch in Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto

No argument here. If you were to argue faces of the franchise around baseball, this may be one of the easiest.

Joey Votto has been a fixture at first base for the Reds for over a decade. He has won the NL MVP and made it to the All-Star game five times. Not to mention, there may not be anybody better at getting on base than Votto.

Votto also has a set of intangibles that would make any manager salivate. He is the kind of guy that can lead a young group of guys into the big leagues, and that is what he is doing now as the Reds have a wave of young players coming up. His baseball smarts along with his excellent talent make him one of the best hitters in the league.

Another thing about Votto is that he is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. He is heading into his age-34 season and coming off a year where he could have easily won the MVP. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton had the power numbers that make anybody go nuts. However, if you are looking at the full package, Votto is much more valuable.

If Votto keeps up the pace he is at for another couple of years, there is a solid chance he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible.

Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein

NL Central face of the franchise

Theo led the charge to break the curse in Chicago. (Photo by John Arguello)

Chicago is still fresh off a World Series title in 2016. It is still crazy to say considering many Chicagoans went a lifetime without seeing their lovable losers make it all the way.

Epstein made his way to the Windy City in 2011, and from the start there were many who were certain that it was their time because of it. After he masterminded the destruction of the Boston curse, this seemed like a doable task for the 44-year-old president of the Cubs.

With apologies to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Epstein is a favorable choice for this title. He is the one who orchestrated the revival of success in Wrigley, and many knew that as they chanted, “In Theo we trust.”

While Rizzo has become a poster boy for the Cubs, and Bryant has won an MVP at third base, it is impossible to not credit Epstein with the Cubs’ success.

As a baseball executive, there is no doubt that Epstein has already earned himself a spot in Cooperstown.

St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina

NL Central face of the franchise

Yadier Molina has been the most important face in St. Louis since the departure of Albert Pujols (Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Ever since the departure of Albert Pujols, Molina has done an excellent job of stepping into the role of leading this storied franchise. While Molina may not be the best player in the league by a long shot, there are things that he does that put him above most.

He has those intangibles that his NL Central counterpart Joey Votto has. Molina’s ability to call a game is second to none, while he also knows exactly how to make a young ballplayer feel comfortable on the mound.

Yadi doesn’t have those offensive stats that pop out on the box score, but Tony La Russa made it clear when he was manager of the Cardinals that it didn’t matter. La Russa once stated that even if Molina hit .000, he would still have a spot in the lineup. Now that says something about a player.

While it is not clear if Molina will make it to Cooperstown, he will certainly be remembered as one of the greats to wear the Cardinals uniform. He stated earlier this offseason that he will not play after his contract with the Cardinals expires in 2020. These three years we have left with him will be pivotal in determining his place among the greats.

Milwaukee Brewers: Bob Uecker

The Brewers have made big moves this offseason for Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. They also have their eyes set on locking up Yu Darvish in a long-term contract. As a result, the name on this list may be different in a few years. Despite a great year from Travis Shaw and Jimmy Nelson, it doesn’t come close to the reputation that Bob Uecker has set for himself.

Uecker is getting close to Vin Scully territory with his broadcasting. He is being held back from that status though as he is not in a place like Los Angeles, and also spent a decade playing professional ball in the 50s and 60s. Shortly after his playing days, he joined the Brewers broadcasting booth in 1971.

After many successful years in the booth, Uecker earned an iconic role as the broadcaster in the Major League movie franchise. Many don’t realize that you can still tune into his legendary broadcasts to this day. He also won the Ford C. Frick award in 2003 in recognition for his broadcasting, cementing himself among the legends in the game.

While the Brewers are making moves to compete on the field, Uecker always makes it entertaining to tune into the game. It will be a sad day when the 84 year old will have to hang up the mic and retire from the booth.

 

Featured image by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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