Carolina Panthers head coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera was known as a gambler last season, and much of the team’s 12-4 record was attributed to his aggressive choices to go for it on fourth down. But in the offseason, he and Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman appeared to make another bold move, jettisoning the team’s best wide receiver, longtime Panther2And FiveThirtyEight favorite! Steve Smith. That was especially risky given that they lost their three other top wideouts (Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon — all of whom signed as free agents elsewhere) and Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross (who retired after the season).That means it’s up to three new acquisitions — veteran third-wideout types Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery, and rookie Kelvin Benjamin — to catch quarterback Cam Newton’s passes, and it’s on the unproven Byron Bell to protect his blind side. Newton’s new supporting cast has raised its share of questions over the offseason.But the receivers who left weren’t that great, either. Newton3Who may also be bothered by a fractured rib early in the season wasn’t particularly efficient (on a per-play basis) a year ago, even with his old teammates in the lineup. After a solid 2012 season in which he ranked 15th among qualified quarterbacks4Those with at least 180 combined passing and rushing plays. in combined passing and rushing DVOA, the former Auburn standout fell to 20th in 2013.Newton may have set career highs in wins as a starter (12), passing touchdowns (24) and completion percentage (61.7 percent), but the underlying advanced metrics weren’t kind. Newton directed 53 percent of his pass attempts to the now-departed Ginn, Smith and LaFell in 2013, and on those plays he averaged an unimpressive passing DVOA of -3.5 percent last year (slightly ahead of the Tennessee Titans’ blah QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick). When targeting tight end Greg Olsen, though, that number rose to +3.8 percent (more like a cross between Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer — quite a difference). Olsen is back for 2014, and it’s not hard to envision Cotchery,5Who flashed outstanding efficiency in the Steelers’ offense last season Avant and the rookie first-rounder Benjamin combining to cover the DVOA necessary to break even on Carolina’s receiving-corps overhaul.And if not? Hey, Newton can always run the ball.Atlanta FalconsExpected wins: 8.0Playoff probability: 34 percent (22 percent to win the NFC South)Super Bowl win probability: 2 percent For a team that’s won two division titles since 2010, and in 2012 came within yards of a Super Bowl berth, the Falcons had a surprising down year last season. In part, blame injuries. The offensive line was decimated; wideout Julio Jones, leading the league in receptions at the time, was lost to a fractured foot during Week 5; all-time Falcons receiving leader Roddy White coped with a high-ankle sprain; and the usually dynamic running back Steven Jackson had hamstring problems.With his supporting cast on the bench, quarterback Matt Ryan unraveled, throwing 17 interceptions and suffering through an eye-popping 44 sacks — both career highs.But Atlanta fans can almost certainly bet on a better showing than last year’s dismal record. Even with Tony Gonzalez’s departure (the 37-year-old tight end pulled in 83 catches, 859 yards and eight touchdowns in his final NFL campaign), Atlanta has a couple of statistical factors working in its favor going into the 2014 season.First, there’s our old friend the Plexiglas Principle (see the Saints section above). Historically,6Going back to the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and pro-rating all schedules to 16 games (when necessary). teams that decline by more than seven wins in a given year tend to improve their record by 4.4 wins the following season. Last year, Atlanta’s win total declined by nine, making an improvement that much more likely.Also, consider how the Falcons lost last year — seven of the team’s 12 losses came by a touchdown or less. Agonizing close losses and a tough slate of opponents meant Atlanta performed more like a six- or seven-win team in 2013, according to its schedule-adjusted Pythagorean rating. As our colleague Bill Barnwell at Grantland has explained, teams that underperform their Pythagorean expectation by that substantial a margin can expect to improve more than a little bit the next season.That’s partly why Vegas’s preseason over/under win totals have Atlanta winning 8.5 games (tying the team with the division-rival Carolina Panthers). Don’t be surprised if the 2014 Falcons look a lot more like the Falcons that went 56-24 in head coach Mike Smith’s first five seasons than the team that went 4-12 last year.Tampa Bay BuccaneersExpected wins: 7.0Playoff probability: 21 percent (13 percent to win the NFC South)Super Bowl win probability: 1 percent The New Orleans Saints are the favorites to win the NFC South title, despite what looks to be a tougher slate of opponents than the NFL’s official strength of schedule would suggest.1On the whole, the South should be improved compared to its collective record last season.The excellence of the Saints’ offense is established. Quarterback Drew Brees has ranked No. 1 in passing yards over the past three NFL seasons, and his 2013 totals — 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns — were only surpassed by Peyton Manning’s record-breaking numbers. Jimmy Graham is an exceptional tight end (and a good if not great receiver). But on the other side of the ball, Rob Ryan’s defense needs to continue to deny the advances of opposing teams — and to secure more takeaways from them.Ryan unquestionably made an impact last season, his first in New Orleans. In 2012, the Saints had allowed the most single-season yards by a team in league history, and ranked last in Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. After Ryan signed on as defensive coordinator a year ago, they pulled up to 10th in defensive DVOA.But the Plexiglas Principle — that teams who make significant improvements in a given category from one year to the next tend to regress back toward their previous form — might hit New Orleans’s defense hard this year.Perhaps there’s still reason for optimism about the defense, however. Last year, the Saints were a top-10 defense, despite securing the league’s fourth-fewest turnovers per game. Turnovers are one of the most volatile statistics in football, and the Saints could benefit from a bit more luck this year. That would help offset any regression in the other aspects of their defensive performance.Carolina PanthersExpected wins: 8.5Playoff probability: 42 percent (30 percent to win the NFC South)Super Bowl win probability: 4 percent FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight NFL previews, one division at a time, to highlight the numbers that may influence each team’s season. America’s favorite weekly soap opera is about to begin; get prepped.New Orleans SaintsExpected wins (using implied power ratings from Las Vegas point spreads): 8.9Playoff probability: 42 percent (35 percent to win the NFC South)Super Bowl win probability: 5 percent The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new head coach, Lovie Smith, who spent last season watching football from his basement after being fired by the Chicago Bears in 2012. The Bucs had a dreadful 2013 season — can their former linebackers coach better steer the ship?Smith is a defensive-minded coach: Under his tutelage, 57.7 percent of the Bears’ total Approximate Value 7Approximate Value is Pro-Football-Reference.com’s attempt to generate a single numerical value representing the quality of any player’s season, regardless of position. was generated by defensive players. And as Robert Mays at Grantland noted last fall, things fell apart for the defense in Chicago after Smith’s departure. In 2012, the Bears’ defense ranked first in DVOA, and it was a top-10 unit in eight of Smith’s nine seasons with the team. (In 2013, under new head coach Marc Trestman, the Bears fell to 25th.)This all bodes well for the Buccaneers, whose defense is starting from a reasonably strong place. The unit ranked a respectable 14th8Averaging the Buccaneers’ DVOA from 2012 and 2013, when they placed eighth and 20th, respectively. in DVOA over the past two seasons, and that was with defensive players generating 45.7 percent of the team’s AV.That number is less than the average Bears team during Smith’s tenure, but when we look at how the defensive value was distributed among positions, an interesting pattern emerges: Both the Bears of Smith’s tenure in Chicago and the past two Tampa Bay defenses gained about the same proportion of their value from the defensive line (Bears 37.4 percent, Buccaneers 38.2 percent), linebackers (Bears 29.4 percent, Buccaneers 27.3 percent) and the secondary (Bears 33.1 percent, Buccaneers 34.4 percent). Smith and new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will at least have a template that they’re comfortable working with.To that end, the Bucs returned their top defender (as rated by AV) from 2013, Gerald McCoy, and added free agent pass-rusher Michael Johnson from the Cincinnati Bengals, a double-digit sacker a year ago. The secondary has taken a hit with the release of cornerback Darrelle Revis (now in New England) to free up salary cap space, so the Bucs will be looking for a strong performance from former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner, or perhaps even former No. 7 overall draft pick Mark Barron (who has not met expectations yet).Of course, a team needs to score points to win, and Tampa’s offense was dreadful last season. It ranked 24th in the NFL in efficiency (Smith’s offense in Chicago never finished higher than 20th in the league). Although it’s unlikely the Bucs will make great offensive strides this season, Smith has done plenty of housekeeping in an effort to climb the ladder — including bringing in former Bears QB Josh McCown, who was insanely efficient in limited action a year ago.Read more of FiveThirtyEight’s NFL season previews.CORRECTION (Sept. 2, 9:12 a.m.): A previous version of this article said the New Orleans Saints have a 30 percent chance to win the NFC South. They have a 35 percent chance.
FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projection system, CARMELO,1Its full name, which it’s embarrassed to say in public, is Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization. is back for a second season after a strong rookie campaign.The basics of CARMELO are the same as last year. We’ve run projections for 485 veterans and 82 rookies. The system identifies historical comparables since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 to project the career path of today’s players. LeBron James’s top comparable is Larry Bird, for instance, while the system likens Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram to Andrew Wiggins.Like any sophomore, CARMELO has undergone a few changes around the margin — more about those in a moment. First, though, a quick review of how the system performed last year. Analyzing the projections for individual players is hard, because there aren’t really a lot of publicly available projection systems to compare CARMELO against. The list of players the system liked the most holds up pretty well, however, having been a little ahead of the curve in identifying the value of Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green, and the breakout of Giannis Antetokounmpo, among other successes. On the flip side, there were CARMELO’s inexplicable crushes on Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton, who will have to show significant improvement this season to live up to the system’s lofty expectations.Another way to evaluate CARMELO’s performance is through its team-by-team projections, for which we can make some direct comparisons — namely, to projected team win totals from Las Vegas before last season. That comparison makes CARMELO look good. If you’d been betting on its projections, you’d have gone 18-11 against the Las Vegas spreads (skipping a bet on the Memphis Grizzlies because the CARMELO and Vegas projections were identical), or 13-4 if you restricted yourself to cases where the CARMELO and Vegas lines differed by at least two wins. CARMELO also had a higher correlation with actual win totals, and a lower root-mean-squared error, than Vegas did. San Antonio Spurs57.158.567 Toronto Raptors44.545.556 Milwaukee Bucks34.443.533 PROJECTED WINS Chicago Bulls47.849.542 Cleveland Cavaliers63.256.557 Boston Celtics49.242.548 Minnesota Timberwolves24.925.529 Orlando Magic36.132.535 Sacramento Kings38.330.533 Atlanta Hawks45.749.548 Source: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook Utah Jazz43.840.540 Charlotte Hornets39.432.548 Portland Trail Blazers36.226.544 Root-mean-square error7.68.9— Brooklyn Nets21.728.521 And CARMELO correctly identified the best teams in each conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. It was somewhat too optimistic about the Cavaliers’ regular-season win total and too pessimistic about the Warriors’ but found some redemption when the Cavs beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals.The most noticeable addition to this year’s version provides some context for all the record-setting contracts being signed under the league’s new salary cap. We’ve added a category called market value, which translates wins above replacement into a dollar figure for each player. (See here for a description of the thought process behind this calculation.) For the upcoming season — after a massive jump in the salary cap — we estimate that each win is worth about $5.2 million in market value. Next season, that dollars-per-win exchange rate will increase to $5.6 million.Be aware, however, that CARMELO regards the best players in the league and the best rookies as being massively underpaid, and therefore most other players will appear to be overpaid. Essentially, these numbers reflect what salaries might look like if there were a team salary cap but no individual maximum salary. It projects stars like James to be worth $60 million a year or more, far more than the max.Other changes are relatively technical. First, whereas last year CARMELO projections were based on a combination of Box Plus/Minus and Real Plus-Minus, they’re now based on BPM only. One problem with RPM is that it’s only available for recent seasons, whereas BPM can be calculated with standard player and team statistics dating to the 1970s. That poses a problem for a system that relies heavily on making historical comparisons. Although there are workarounds, we’ve decided — having had a year to review the system’s performance — that a BPM-only approach strikes a better balance between simplicity and accuracy. Frankly, we have designs on our own plus-minus metric that would eventually displace both BPM and RPM, but that’s something that will have to wait for a future incarnation of CARMELO.The next change is even more technical. CARMELO projections are generated through a two-step process. First, the system produces a baseline projection for each player based on regression analysis. Then, it adjusts the forecast and generates a distribution of possible outcomes based on the comparable players. Although the second part of this process is almost exactly the same as last year, we’ve put more work into the first step, the baseline projection. The system is now a bit smarter about handling players with limited playing time. It also recognizes that different statistics have different amounts of predictive value. For instance, because shooting can be streaky, players who generated strong performances on the basis of good shooting seasons are more apt to regress to the mean than others. By contrast, generating shots, drawing fouls and taking 3-pointers are correlated with improved performance in future seasons. Rebounding, blocking shots and, especially, accumulating steals are also correlated with stronger future performance.2Note that these descriptions apply to NBA veterans only; different indicators are valuable when translating college stats to the NBA. For instance, high-usage college players — think Adam Morrison — don’t always adapt well to the NBA, where generating good looks is much harder than in college and where everyone on the team can shoot at least a little bit.All in all, this year’s projections should be a little better than last year’s, and last year’s did OK for themselves. Golden State Warriors61.360.573 Washington Wizards41.045.541 Indiana Pacers37.742.545 Miami Heat37.745.548 Phoenix Suns38.236.523 Oklahoma City Thunder58.057.555 Los Angeles Lakers22.129.517 Houston Rockets52.654.541 Dallas Mavericks38.038.542 Correlation with actual.82.76— CARMELO projections beat Vegas last season Los Angeles Clippers56.156.553 TEAMCARMELOVEGASACTUAL WINS Detroit Pistons36.633.544 Denver Nuggets26.326.533 New Orleans Pelicans44.947.530 New York Knicks24.831.532 Philadelphia 76ers22.021.510 Memphis Grizzlies50.550.542
The son of NBA great Michael Jordan was fined $250 on Thursday and ordered to pay court costs as a result of an altercation during the Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska last month.Marcus Jordan, 21, plead no contest to disturbing the peace during an argument with a woman outside a Nebraska hotel. He had also been charged with obstructing a police officer, but that charge was dropped as part of his plea agreement.The youngest of Michael Jordan’s two sons was in Omaha on July 1 for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials when police responded to an early-morning call to the Embassy Suites Hotel. According to a police report, an off-duty officer working security for the hotel was trying to subdue Jordan as he argued with two women in the driveway. Jordan was said to be “very animated, intoxicated and uncooperative.”Jordan said he didn’t know the woman trying to calm the situation was an off-duty police officer. He later appeared at police headquarters several hours after the 2:11 a.m. incident to apologize for his behavior.He appeared in Douglas County Court with his Omaha-based attorney on Thursday and left without speaking to reporters after paying his fine following a three-minute hearing.Jordan could have entered a written plea and avoided a trip back to Omaha, but didn’t want to be seen as having received special privileges because of his famous father.The younger Jordan had been playing college basketball at Central Florida, but is no longer a member of the team. He averaged 13.7 points per game for the Knights last season.The loss of the 6-foot-3 shooting guard comes as a blow to coach Donnie Jones’ team. He had totaled 24 double-digit scoring performances and had helped draw more fans to the games through his work with social media. His older brother, Jeffrey Jordan, played 13 games as a senior at UCF last season before leaving the program in January to tend to personal matters.
Game 2 of the World Series was a wild roller-coaster ride that saw both the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers battle back from two-run deficits in the late innings, before the Astros finally won in the 11th. Along the way, it was also a showcase for the many different ways a manager can botch his bullpen management.When sabermetricians uncovered nuggets like relievers being far more effective than starters, or the penalty a starter faces every time he cycles through the batting order, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts must have been taking notes. But for all the strides smart managers have made in bullpen management, it is still possible to get a little too cute with cutting-edge relief strategies. Roberts might be the poster child: He used nine pitchers Wednesday night, and pulled starter Rich Hill after four well-pitched innings — decisions that left L.A. undermanned when the game turned to extra innings.Roberts had already yanked Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw relatively early, giving him the hook after seven innings despite his throwing only 83 (dazzling) pitches. (Kershaw ended up with the third-best seven-inning World Series start ever by Game Score.) With Hill, the leash was even shorter: Despite tossing the third-best World Series start for a starter in four or fewer innings (according to Game Score), Roberts went to the pen anyway, turning instead to a relief corps that went 82-5 when leading after six innings, and 90-0 when leading after eight.But that plan went awry six pitchers in, when closer Kenley Jansen — who’d only blown one save (in 42 tries) during the entire regular season — gave up a game-tying home run to Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the ninth. By the 10th, Roberts was down to using Josh Fields, who had a 4.18 FIP during the regular season — and Fields promptly allowed a pair of homers. By the 11th, Roberts had to use 34-year-old Brandon McCarthy, who hadn’t pitched all postseason — and McCarthy served up another homer, in this case George Springer’s decisive two-run shot.Relying on Jansen wasn’t a bad idea — he was the backbone of an LA bullpen that literally never blew a ninth-inning lead — but Roberts’s unnecessarily quick hook and subsequent relief carousel left the Dodgers with little in the way of a backup plan if Jansen didn’t slam the door shut. (To say nothing of the way Roberts also emptied the Dodger bench of any potential pinch-hitters or defensive subs.) If the game had gone on any longer than it did, LA’s only available pitchers would have been Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Kershaw — the Dodgers’ scheduled starters for Games 3, 4 and 5.At the other end of the spectrum was Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who rode starter Justin Verlander as long as he could (six innings) and was loath to make a pitching change even as the Dodgers chipped away at Houston’s lead in the bottom of the 10th. Astros closer Ken Giles was on his second inning of work, something he did only four times during the regular season. He was also hovering around 30 pitches — the most he threw in an outing all regular season was 311He did toss 37 pitches in an ALCS appearance against the Yankees. — when he yielded the game-tying RBI to Kiké Hernandez. In contrast with Roberts, Hinch probably stuck with his pitchers too long, and it almost cost him.From a fan’s perspective, the bullpen charades made for exciting baseball. The Astros’ eventual victory ended up being the 15th-most exciting World Series game ever according to the total movement in Win Probability Added during the contest. And the eight combined home runs hit in this game became a new World Series record — one that’s fitting for this season of unparalleled slugging. Now, the Astros have a fighting chance to win this series, with a 46 percent probability according to the FiveThirtyEight model and three straight home games coming up. If they do end up champions, they can point to Roberts’ bullpen micromangement as the deciding factor in Game 2 — oh, and those four clutch late-inning homers helped, too.
See more NFL predictions Oh, and don’t forgetBORTLES! We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe All newsletters Things That Caught My EyeCFB Championship game previewNick Saban’s Alabama will play former mentee Kirby Smart’s Georgia, and it’s bound to be a great game. Saban has won all 11 games played by former assistants by an average of 28 points, but Georgia is no big underdog here: they beat offensive powerhouse Oklahoma in the playoff and will be strong contenders against last year’s runner up. [ESPN]Somehow the Patriots even won the bye weekThe New England Patriots, which did not play football this past weekend, saw their chances of winning the Super Bowl rise from 31 percent to 34 percent. This came because of several key upsets: They’ll face a Tennessee Titans squad that currently has the lowest Elo rating among teams still in the playoffs, with one substantial AFC contender in Kansas City out of the postseason. [FiveThirtyEight]Blake Bortles, Jaguars running backBlake Bortles rushed for 88 yards in the Jaguars victory, 71 yard in scrambles, behind only Colin Kaepernick when it comes to postseason scrambling yards in the past 10 postseasons. Leonard Fournette, an actual running back for the Jags, ran only 57 yards. [ESPN]Olympic quality in four monthsErin Jackson made the Olympic team for long-track speedskating after pulling third place in the U.S. Speedskating Trials. More remarkable: Jackson — who will be the first black woman to make the team for long-track speedskating — has only been training full time for four months after being an inline speed skater for 15 years. [Deadspin]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?The one percent, but tennisPrize money in tennis is incredibly disproportionate, with highly ranked players raking in millions — the top 128 players who qualify for each of the four Grand Slam titles make 18 percent of the total prize money. Those ranked between 200 and 2,000 make almost nothing. [Digg]Twelve is enoughWhile those on the outside of the NFL playoffs looking in may long for an expanded field of perhaps 16 playoff teams rather than 12, the difference between a five seed and a six seed and a hypothetical seventh seed or eighth seed is pretty vast. We can find this by looking at Defense-adjusted Value Over Average — a way to describe a team’s efficiency — since 2002. The average DVOA of a fifth seed and sixth seed (11.1 percent an 12.3 percent, respectively) is considerably higher than the DVOA of what would have been the seventh and eighth seeds (4.9 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively). [FiveThirtyEight]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL game: Can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions?Big Number88.2 percentThat’s the offensive efficiency rating for Alabama, just a hair lower than 88.7 percent, the defensive efficiency rating of Georgia. These teams are remarkably well matched across the board based on their efficiency ratings. [ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:Well another great Andy Reid playoff performancewalt:it’s incredibleneil:Also, Mariota could literally fill out an entire football team — he has run, thrown, caught a TD from himself, and threw a pancake block on the game-sealing runwalt:gruden seemed to imply he was calling a lot of those plays during that big driveall he’s gotta do is read up on cap space and he can be the whole front office as wellPredictions NFL NBA See more college football predictions College Football See more NBA predictions
We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe Danny Ainge finally made a trade, and now he’s getting killed. The guy can’t win.The Boston Celtics are sending Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are sending back Kyrie Irving.For Boston, the trade means giving up the the last year of Isaiah’s bargain deal, plus the four seasons of additional surplus value (or cheap labor) created by the Brooklyn draft pick’s rookie deal. To put another way, the Celtics are paying to supercharge that draft pick, essentially turning it from an unknown quantity — in terms of both pick range and player quality — into a proven star. This comes with some downside: Getting an All-Star or All-NBA player on a below-market rookie deal is how modern superteams are made — just ask the Warriors. But given the team’s larger context, the trade doesn’t mortgage Boston’s future, it insures it.At the star level, a Thomas-for-Irving deal is close to an even swap. The two players share skill sets (scoring off the dribble, creating separation for pull-ups, historically bad defense) and both are likely to earn max deals when their deals are up. But Thomas, 28, is three years older and (at least) 6 inches shorter than Irving, 25. Thomas is also on the final year of his deal, which pays him about $6 million this season. Irving has two seasons remaining on his deal before he can opt out, and he’ll make about $19 million this season and $20 million the next.The Celtics’ ceiling for the 2017-18 season isn’t necessarily higher today than it was Tuesday morning, and their ceiling four or five seasons out, once the player drafted with the Brooklyn pick has matured, is undeniably diminished.But the worst-case scenarios are now off the table. The Celtics have done away with the risk of losing Thomas (leaving his crucial bucket-making role vacant) for nothing in free agency or close to nothing in a last-minute trade. Maxing out a 29-year-old 5-foot-9 scoring guard would have been a massive risk, and it would have been difficult to find a trade partner other than Cleveland. Contending teams that need a guard with Thomas’s skill set and can offer something in return are rare — practically nonexistent, actually, until Irving requested a trade. And while the Celtics do lose the surplus value they would have gotten from adding a future star on a rookie deal, here’s the crucial thing to remember: Irving is likely better than the player they’d draft with Brooklyn’s pick.We’d expect a player picked first overall to produce almost 35 win shares over his first five seasons, and a player selected between second and fifth overall will probably produce between 20 and 25: Besides, Ainge’s Assets — a stockpile that he’s been building since the infamous Kevin Garnett trade with Brooklyn in 2013 — have been a running joke going back to the days when Kevin Love was a rumored Boston target. He spent the last year targeting All-NBA wings Jimmy Butler and Paul George but declined to include premium assets such as the exact draft pick he just sent to Cleveland. Seeing him now pull the trigger on Irving, a very good player who isn’t quite Butler or George, makes for good meme fodder, sure. Butler and George both went for cheap, but both also went for packages that catered specifically to the teams dealing them (the Bulls really like Kris Dunn, and new Pacer Victor Oladipo played his college ball at Indiana). It’s not really clear what kind of offer it would have taken to move Chicago or Indiana off those deals and keep their stars in the East.It was important for Ainge to find a deal sooner rather than later. Butler, George and Irving all signed their contracts before the salary cap spiked thanks to the influx of money from a new TV deal. This makes them far easier to trade than star players typically are because their salaries are easier to fit onto their new team’s roster and their original teams have to take back less money that’s tied to inferior players. If the Celtics hadn’t found a suitable place to spend their assets by the time the pre-TV deals had expired, they would have had a difficult time fitting a new star under the cap without also dealing away a star already on their payroll.Questions remain, including how good the Celtics’ defense can be after they shipped out Avery Bradley this offseason and are now sending Crowder to the Cavs, but these are mundane tactical concerns. Boston’s big, existential unrest finally seems to have come to an end. The Celtics’ core is more or less set. Now they have to actually play the games. All newsletters Irving produced 31.4 in those seasons — a bit less than the average No. 1 overall pick (though his rookie season was shortened by the 2011-12 lockout), but better than the average second through fifth pick. He also did it while missing 85 games over those 5 seasons. That’s concerning in its own way, but it shows you Irving’s ability to fill it up when he’s on the floor. It’s far from certain that the Brooklyn pick will turn out to be No. 1 overall now that the team is no longer openly tanking, and even if the Nets do turn out to be the worst team in the league, their pick would only have a 25 percent chance of being No. 1. So the Celtics lose out on the early, below-market years of an uncertain draft pick, but they get a player entering his prime whose early seasons were better than those of most top draft picks. Irving’s $136 million projected value over the next five years, according to CARMELO, isn’t All-NBA-level, but it’s a solid baseline for a team that needed a new point guard.Boston was ridiculed earlier this summer for passing on Markelle Fultz, who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick that the Celtics traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. But Fultz’s strengths mirror Irving’s — pull-up jump shooting, pick-and-roll scoring — and remain hypothetical in an NBA setting. The Sixers would be thrilled if Fultz turns out to be as good as Irving. And while Fultz projects to produce like a superstar, there’s almost no chance he plays at Irving’s level this season, which happens to be Al Horford’s age-31 season and Gordon Hayward’s age-27 one. If the Celtics lost Thomas in free agency after next season, leaving them with no ready replacement for his star-level perimeter shot-making while they waited for Jaylen Brown and draftee Jayson Tatum to turn into star performers, they risked taking a step backward during what should be a prime year for their two big free-agent acquisitions.The argument for holding onto assets is that there’s a better chance to “keep the window open.” But that cuts both ways. A season lost at the front end or in the middle of the contention window is just as damaging as one lost at the end.
See more NFL predictions All newsletters See more college football predictions Oh, and don’t forgetBORTLES! We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe Things That Caught My EyeCFB Championship game previewNick Saban’s Alabama will play former mentee Kirby Smart’s Georgia, and it’s bound to be a great game. Saban has won all 11 games played by former assistants by an average of 28 points, but Georgia is no big underdog here: they beat offensive powerhouse Oklahoma in the playoff and will be strong contenders against last year’s runner up. [ESPN]Somehow the Patriots even won the bye weekThe New England Patriots, which did not play football this past weekend, saw their chances of winning the Super Bowl rise from 31 percent to 34 percent. This came because of several key upsets: They’ll face a Tennessee Titans squad that currently has the lowest Elo rating among teams still in the playoffs, with one substantial AFC contender in Kansas City out of the postseason. [FiveThirtyEight]Blake Bortles, Jaguars running backBlake Bortles rushed for 88 yards in the Jaguars victory, 71 yard in scrambles, behind only Colin Kaepernick when it comes to postseason scrambling yards in the past 10 postseasons. Leonard Fournette, an actual running back for the Jags, ran only 57 yards. [ESPN]Olympic quality in four monthsErin Jackson made the Olympic team for long-track speedskating after pulling third place in the U.S. Speedskating Trials. More remarkable: Jackson — who will be the first black woman to make the team for long-track speedskating — has only been training full time for four months after being an inline speed skater for 15 years. [Deadspin]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?The one percent, but tennisPrize money in tennis is incredibly disproportionate, with highly ranked players raking in millions — the top 128 players who qualify for each of the four Grand Slam titles make 18 percent of the total prize money. Those ranked between 200 and 2,000 make almost nothing. [Digg]Twelve is enoughWhile those on the outside of the NFL playoffs looking in may long for an expanded field of perhaps 16 playoff teams rather than 12, the difference between a five seed and a six seed and a hypothetical seventh seed or eighth seed is pretty vast. We can find this by looking at Defense-adjusted Value Over Average — a way to describe a team’s efficiency — since 2002. The average DVOA of a fifth seed and sixth seed (11.1 percent an 12.3 percent, respectively) is considerably higher than the DVOA of what would have been the seventh and eighth seeds (4.9 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively). [FiveThirtyEight]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL game: Can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions?Big Number88.2 percentThat’s the offensive efficiency rating for Alabama, just a hair lower than 88.7 percent, the defensive efficiency rating of Georgia. These teams are remarkably well matched across the board based on their efficiency ratings. [ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:Well another great Andy Reid playoff performancewalt:it’s incredibleneil:Also, Mariota could literally fill out an entire football team — he has run, thrown, caught a TD from himself, and threw a pancake block on the game-sealing runwalt:gruden seemed to imply he was calling a lot of those plays during that big driveall he’s gotta do is read up on cap space and he can be the whole front office as wellPredictions NFL College Football See more NBA predictions NBA
After a long bye week for Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and associate head coach Greg Schiano, the Buckeyes dominated Saturday’s game against Rutgers.There were many questions as to how Schiano and his defense would perform following his incident with a bicyclist early last week. Schiano struck the bicyclist on the morning of Sept. 22, and was later cited for the accident.OSU coach Urban Meyer said Schiano was extremely distraught following the incident.“He was devastated,” Meyer said at Wednesday’s press conference. “It broke his heart.”Following Saturday’s game against Rutgers, Schiano was made available to the media. While most questions centered on the production of his defense, he did offer one statement about the events from last Thursday.“In respect to him and the whole situation, it really was an awful accident; one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” Schiano said. “It happened and I’m glad that he’s progressing, and he and his family remain in our prayers.”The victim, identified as a 26-year-old male, was transported to the Wexner Medical Center on Sept. 22. There has been no update on his condition, although Columbus Police Department Sgt. Brooke Wilson said the victim was expected to survive.Schiano said he would make no further comment on the situation
The Ohio State men’s tennis team has passed another milestone. With Monday’s win against Michigan, the team clinched its seventh-consecutive outright Big Ten regular-season title. The victory also extended the team’s home winning streak to 146 consecutive games. The last time the team was not the conference champion, former Buckeye Mike Nugent was drafted to the NFL and George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States. Under coach Ty Tucker, the Buckeyes have never finished below fourth in the regular-season conference standings. “I don’t ever even think about it,” Tucker said. “Everybody is going to give you their best shot. The (sports information director) here, they put it in the first two lines of every release that we’ve got a win streak, believe me, people are hungry to beat us.” Tucker said he wasn’t thinking about streaks, though. He said his biggest concern was about the weather heading into the postseason. The breeze could be a factor in the Big Ten Tournament and the heat could become an issue the deeper the team advances in the NCAA Tournament, Tucker said. “In tennis, the wind is a huge equalizer,” Tucker said. “So if you get caught outside playing in 45-degree weather and 30-mile-per-hour winds, anything can kind of happen.” The Big Ten Tournament is held at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., on the edge of the Lake Michigan. Tournament play begins Thursday. The Buckeyes’ 11-0 record in the Big Ten earned them a first-round bye in the tournament. They will face the winner of Wisconsin and Nebraska on Friday. With the postseason right around the corner, senior Chase Buchanan ended the season with the most doubles wins at 36. The regular season could be summed up as “close,” Buchanan said. “We’ve lost two matches by as close as you could lose two matches,” Buchanan said. “But that also means that we’re that close to winning.” The first of those losses came to No. 1-ranked USC and the second was to No. 4-ranked Georgia. Both matches ended, 4-3. Sophomore Blaz Rola enters the tournament with the most singles wins from the regular season at 29. The Slovenia-native is used to playing on clay courts which produce a higher bounce on the ball. The transition from clay courts to hard courts was tough at the beginning of his career, Rola said. “This was part of the reason of why I came here,” Rola said. “My main surface was clay court and I needed to get better on the hard courts.” Rola said he plans to play professionally after his career with the Buckeyes. The team finishes the season ranked No. 3 and enters the Big Ten Tournament with 90-consecutive wins against Big Ten opponents, which includes the regular season and Big Ten Tournament combined.
The Carrier Classic carries special meaning for Ohio State men’s basketball junior guard Aaron Craft.Craft’s brother, Brandon Craft, is an Army soldier currently deployed in Afghanistan and returns home on Nov. 17.In the meantime, Aaron Craft and the OSU men’s and women’s basketball teams, including his sister, freshman guard Cait Craft, will play games Friday on the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.Aaron Craft said he spoke with his brother on the phone this week about his deployment.“He just finished his last mission, so he is packing up and getting everyone else there ready,” Aaron Craft said.The Findlay, Ohio, native said playing on the aircraft carrier will be different for him with his brother in the army.“It’s going to be a good experience for my entire family,” Aaron Craft said. “It’s good we are going down early tomorrow, hopefully we can see some things and soak it up then go in and enjoy it.”Aaron Craft and the men’s team are scheduled to play Marquette, while his sister and the women’s team are set to face Notre Dame.Men’s coach Thad Matta said he wasn’t sure why he planned the tournament at first, but he is glad he decided to.“I went to the luncheon in New York City and talked with the people that are going to be at the game,” Matta said. “It definitely brought home to me what this game is about and, obviously, you look at college basketball, a billion-dollar industry, and this game obviously has a lot more meaning to it.”Aaron Craft said playing a game outside will be a new experience for him and the team.“It’s definitely going to be interesting, maybe a little dark,” Aaron Craft said. “I wish it was nicer here so we could practice a little outside. It will be fun though.”The men’s basketball team have squared off against the Golden Eagles nine times since 1933-34 and hold 5-4 series advantage.Aaron Craft and the current Buckeyes, however, have not played Marquette. And even with the frenzy surrounding the nature of the event, he said the team’s focus remains squarely on the Golden Eagles.“Our biggest focus is playing on Friday and playing against a great team, Marquette,” Aaron Craft said. “Everything that’s going into this game, kind of playing as a team, first time we are playing on TV against a great opponent, that’s our biggest focus.”The Buckeyes will be sporting camouflage jerseys for the game and it’s something junior forward Deshaun Thomas approves of.“Yeah, I like this camouflage,” he said.OSU women’s basketball is scheduled to tip off its Carrier Classic game against Notre Dame at 4 p.m. on Friday while the Buckeyes’ men’s team is slated to tip off against Marquette at 7 p.m.