Gennady Golovkin; The Modern Day Mike Tyson

Other than the loud mouth personality, owning a tiger – from what I know Golovkin has not yet purchased one – and a face tattoo, what’s the difference between Gennady Golovkin and Mike Tyson? Both are, were for Tyson, quite the physical specimens with monster power and the unique ability to bring fear upon their opponents who have others punch them for a living.

Looking at both fighters bodies of work they are eerily similar. After his two-round dismantling of Dominic Wade, Gennady Golovkin now rests with a professional record of 35-0, 32 wins by the way of knockout. Through 35 fights in Tyson’s career, he 35-0, 31 wins by knockout.

In similar ways, both are cocky and will fight and in Tyson’s case did fight anyone that is and was willing to step up to bat. Golovkin’s cockiness has been a recent fad. The thing about it is, he knows he’s what’s in in boxing right now, just like Tyson knew when he was running the show. Just an example of GGG’s in ring cockiness came when he dropped his hands and motioned for Wade to throw punches at him.

Now look, things are obviously different. Tyson fought in the heavyweight division while Golovkin is just a middleweight. That said, Golovkin’s power is similar to that of Tyson just in a smaller body. The scary part is that Triple-G isn’t just a power puncher. He arguably has the best jab in the entire sport. Golovkin can adjust from stalker and strict power puncher to combinations of jabs to set his big shots up.

Golovkin’s resume has so much room to gr

ow as he begins to face bigger and bigger names. He’s been ready for these names but the only problem has been the big names have shied away from fighting him. Triple-G’s recent fight drew north of 1.3 million views. There are no more excuses for the biggest names in the sport to fight Golovkin. Golovkin, like Tyson, is about to be a pay-per-view star and rule the boxing world. We can only hope GGG doesn’t bite a piece of someones ear off.

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AL West Predictions

AL WEST

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1) Texas Rangers

  • Notable acquisitions: Justin Ruggiano, Ian Desmond
  • Notable losses: Yovanni Gallardo, Mike Napoli, Leonys Martin

 

Strengths: When Texas convinced Ian Desmond to sign on to playing left field for them, it officially gave the team the perfect balance in their lineup. Texas has some big boppers in the heart of their lineup, but they can steal bases and hit for a high average. They have depth off of their bench as well, especially if and when Josh Hamilton returns. Looking up and down the Rangers lineup, I don’t see any holes.

Weaknesses: This could be a stretch because the Texas rotation could be somewhat dominant, but past injuries could loom large. Yu Darvish missed all of last year and Derek Holland missed a large portion of it. Both have to prove they’re at full strength. Colby Lewis also had a very unexpected season in 2015 and I’m not sure it’s realistic that he’s a 17-game winner again in ’16. Like I said, the rotation could be just fine, in fact dominant, but there are questions that have to be answered before we proclaim them the perfect team.

Team MVP: Prince Fielder

W/L Prediction: 93-69

 

2) Houston Astros

  • Notable acquisitions: Ken Giles, Doug Fister
  • Notable losses: Mark Appel, Chris Carter, Scott Kazmir

 

Strengths: Houston’s strength is their youth. There oldest everyday player is 30-years old. That’s still in the midst of their respective prime. The middle of their infield is the best in the game and we’ve only gotten half a season out of them together. Each member of their outfield can hit for power, play plus defense and steal bases. Houston is young, fun, entertaining and should win a lot of games in 2016.

Weaknesses: Like their strength, their youth could also be their weakness. Let’s look at Game 5 against the Royals in last year’s ALDS. They had the series wrapped up in a bow, but everything came unraveled for the young ‘Stros. They’ve learned what it’s like to lose the hard way which should help this team build character and respond well in the face of adversity. Key word in that last statement was should. It may have crushed them in all crunch time situations. We will have to wait and see how it plays out.

Team MVP: Carlos Correa

W/L Prediction: 90-72

 

3) Seattle Mariners

  • Notable acquisitions: Steve Cishek, Wade Miley, Nori Aoki, Joaquin Benoit, Adam Lind
  • Notable losses: Carson Smith, Logan Morrison, Leonys Martin

 

Strengths: The Mariners rotation has a lot of interesting arms hat should carry their team for the 2016 season. Resigning Hisashi Iwakuma was huge. As we getting Wade Miley in a trade with the Red Sox. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are the most intriguing of the bunch. Both have an immense amount of talent but both are unproven at the big league level. The Mariners success could ride on how well both Walker and Paxton pitch in 2016.

Weaknesses: The Mariners have a strong infield heading into the 2016 season, but the outfield has a lot of question marks. With Nelson Cruz likely moving over to DH full-time, the outfield doesn’t have a real identity. None of their guys hit for much power or for average for that matter. Matter of fact, not one of the top four outfielders on Seattle’s depth chart had north of 355 at-bats last season. Who’s going to be the leader of this crew when it’s all said and done?

Team MVP: Robinson Cano

W/L Prediction: 83-79

 

4) Los Angeles Angels

  • Notable acquisitions: Yunel Escobar, Craig Gentry, Andrelton Simmons, Cliff Pennington,
  • Notable losses: Erick Aybar, David Freese, Mat Latos

 

Strengths: Mike Trout, Fish Boy, Trout, Mike. Whatever you want to call him, he’s the Angels strength. The Angels haven’t exactly surrounded Trout with a lot of help, so Trout is going to have to put together an astronomical season in order for Angels to compete for a playoff spot. And if anyone can do it, it’s Trout. He’s currently the face of baseball and expect nothing short of greatness for Trouty once again in ’16.

Weaknesses: As it was mentioned in the strengths, management has exactly helped Trout in terms of putting really good pieces around him. Other than Trout, Pujols and Calhoun, the Angels have no real power threats. They also don’t have a true leadoff hitter or anyone that will wow you with their ability to spray the ball over at the field at the dish. They need Trout, Pujols and Calhoun to really provide them with an insane amount of production. We shouldn’t expect Yunel Escobar’s addition to mean that much. I doubt he can do anywhere close to what he did last year again in 2016.

Team MVP: Mike Trout

W/L Prediction: 77-83

 

5) Oakland Athletics

  • Notable acquisitions: Henderson Alvarez, Ryan Madson, John Axford, Yonder Alonzo, Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis, Chris Coghlan
  • Notable losses: Brett Lawrie, Drew Pomeranz, Ike Davis

Strengths: The Athletics aren’t going to be very good in 2016, but they do have a plethora of outfield depth. They honestly have four-to-six guys that could start at any outfield spot. The three that will start – Davis, Burns and Reddick – have a great combination of speed, average and power. When one of them need a day, Coghlan, Crisp and Fuld can provide them with an day off.

Weaknesses: Other than Sonny Gray, Oakland’s staff is really going to struggle. Nobody on the staff other than Gray made north of 21 starts last season. With some high-powered American League offenses this year, the A’s staff is going to run into some problems. They have a lot of depth in the outfield I’m sure some teams would be interested in. Acquiring a starter or two wouldn’t be the worst idea Billy Beane would have.

Team MVP: Sonny Gray

W/L Prediction: 75-85

AL East Predictions

AL EAST

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Toronto Blue Jays

  • Notable acquisitions: J.A. Happ, Jesse Chavez, Drew Storen
  • Notable losses: David Price, Ben Revere, Mark Buehrle, LaTroy Hawkins

 

Strength: There is no doubt that the middle of the Jays order keeps the team’s heart beating. There 2-3-4 hitters all hit 39 or more homeruns just a year ago. It’s the closest thing to Murderers row we’ve had in a long time. Navigating through the Jays lineup is a disaster as a whole. Numbers six and seven hit a combined 41 homeruns last year so even if you get through the mashers in the middle, the back end can beat you too.

Weakness: The starting rotation is going to be a big problem for the entire division, including Toronto. They’ll finally get a full year of Marcus Stroman as their ace which is a positive, but question marks swirl around the rest of the rotation. Estrada, Dickey and Happ are solid, but the latter two are pretty inconsistent. Happ, in my opinion, was overpaid. He was brought in as the three or four starter but is being paid like a front end of the staff pitcher. The lineup will provide plenty of run support for these guys, but getting used to that will bite them where the sun don’t shine if the lineup gets shut down.

Team MVP: Josh Donaldson

W/L prediction: 90-72

 

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New York Yankees

  • Notable acquisitions: Starlin Castro, Aroldis Chapman, Aaron Hicks
  • Notable losses: Brendan Ryan, Adam Warren, Chris Young, Justin Wilson, Rookie Davis, J.R. Murphy, Stephen Drew

 

Strength: The best aspect of the entire Yankees team is their bullpen. The back end of the bullpen to be more specific. They arguably have the best 7-8-9 in baseball. The Yanks starters didn’t give them any depth last year, something that is likely to happen again in 2016. If that’s the case, the Yanks need to virtually have a perfect ending to every game they have a lead in.

Weakness: The Yanks pause for concern is something that I mentioned in the strengths – the starting rotation’s lack of depth. Most fans figured Brian Cashman and the rest of Yankees management would improve the rotation during the offseason, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, they chose to improve their bullpen to shorten games. But you still need have starters that can get that insane back of the pen a lead. The rotation is full of question marks. What will C.C. Sabathia provide? Will Masahiro Tanaka sustain another year of good health? Will 2015 sensation Luis Severino be on an innings limit? All questions that will be answered once the season begins.

Team MVP: Jacoby Ellsbury

W/L prediction: 89-73

 

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Boston Red Sox

  • Notable acquisitions: David Price, Chris Young, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith
  • Notable losses: Justin Masterson, Rich Hill, Wade Miley

 

Strength: Boston has a refreshingly young and talented team that is probably a year or two away from being a championship contender. There are so many names you can rattle off that makes it so exciting to be a fan of the Red Sox, and so painful for everyone else in the division. Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley Jr., Swihart, Rodriguez, Castillo, and that’s just at the Major League level. That fountain of youth is surrounded by a solid foundation of players that will help mold the future of the Sox, but also help them win games now.

Weakness: Yes, I understand they landed David Price, so I’m really talking about the rest of the Red Sox rotation. The rotation after Price has as many question marks surrounding it as the rest of the division’s staffs, minus Tampa’s. Clay Buchholz is bound to get injured at some point during the season and who knows if Rick Porcello decides he wants to use his sinker to his advantage and keep the ball off of Yawkey Way. David Price adds wins to this team, as does the bullpen, but without a consistent rotation, I don’t see more than a Wild Card spot for Boston.

Team MVP: Mookie Betts

W/L prediction: 85-77

 

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Baltimore Orioles

  • Notable acquisitions: Mark Trumbo
  • Notable losses: Steve Pearce, Wei-Yin Chen, Gerardo Parra

 

Strength: Baltimore’s main strength revolves around three names – Jones, Machado and Davis. Those three alone can carry an offense, and honestly a defense with how well all three pick it on that side of the ball as well. Machado is coming off a monster year and has risen to super stardom like we expected him to. Davis just resigned a long term deal that has him receiving paychecks until the year 2037. After the aforementioned “Big 3” there isn’t much you can smile at on the Orioles roster.

Weakness: I think I’m beating a dead horse but again, another AL East team’s weakness is their starting rotation. The Orioles don’t have a single trustworthy arm in their rotation. Chris Tillman, the O’s projected opening day starter and ace, pitched to a 4.99 ERA last season. Kevin Gausman hasn’t been nearly the pitcher the team had hoped for and Ubaldo Jimenez has been a disaster since arriving.

Team MVP: Manny Machado

W/L prediction: 76-86

 

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Tampa Bay Rays

  • Notable acquisitions: Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Hank Conger
  • Notable losses: Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, J.P. Arenciba

 

Strength: Unlike the rest of the division, the Rays rotation is the strongest part of their team. With 2015 all-star and Cy Young contender Chris Archer heading the rotation, the Rays have a great starting foundation. Then mix in Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi and you have a whale of a rotation. Problem is going to be run support for this rotation. There may be many occasions where Rays starters get through seven or even eight innings tied or losing because the lack of offense in Tampa.

Weakness: Offensive production is going to be hard to come by in Tampa this season. Outside of Evan Longoria who’s already on the down side of his career, the Rays are going to go through a season long power shortage. Tampa’s lineup is full of guys who are decent MLB players, some who would start on quality teams, most who would not. There are going to be a lot of devastating 2-1 losses in Tampa Bay this season.

Team MVP: Chris Archer

W/L prediction: 74-88

 

Division Winner: Toronto Blue Jays

Division MVP: Josh Donaldson

What’s Harrison Barnes Worth in Free Agency?

With the 2012-’13 rookie class’ free agency looming, Harrison Barnes has spent four seasons playing second fiddle to the “Splash Brothers.” Barnes potential is sky high and shows flashes of it on some nights. But when the dust clears and Barnes is receiving offers from other teams, will the Warriors match? What’s Barnes truly worth?

Let’s compare Barnes to another small-forward during the last year of his contract. Let’s take Gordon Hayward’s 2013-’14 season and compare Barnes’ 2015-’16 per-36 numbers:

Barnes and Hayward’s per-36

Hayward remained with the Jazz after they matched the Hornets offer sheet of $63M over four years. That’s $15.75M annually. Barnes per 36 numbers are slightly better than Hayward, but the Jazz have always relied on Hayward more than the Warriors have relied on Barnes.

Barnes, statistically, is a better shooter than Hayward. It could have to do with the way each is relied upon in their respective roles, but the stats could be back up the actual facts. But why pay a guy that type of money if he has a usage rate similar to the likes of Spencer Hawes, Alex Len and Corey Brewer?

Barnes per-36 numbers are an indication what he can do going forward. He’s averaging nearly 16 points per-36 and that’s as the fourth, and on some nights the fifth option on the Warriors. He’s extremely solid in many different ways scoring the ball. He can be a catch and shoot player, can post you up, and can take you off of the bounce. He’s superior than Hayward offensively in many ways, just won’t get credit for it until he’s in a role where he can just let it fly.

At his 6’9” frame, Barnes will be a hot commodity this offseason. The game is changing and Barnes will be able to play multiple positions, including power-forward. It’s highly likely the Warriors attempt to keep Barnes, especially if they win another championship. Why lose any pieces to a two-time champion? But even if they do keep him, don’t expect it to be cheap and expect them to have to match another team’s deal, just like Utah had to do with Hayward.

Expectations? He resigns with Golden State for a contract larger than Hayward’s. With the way players are signing deals and getting inflated contracts, expect nothing less with Barnes’.

The Fight Pacquiao Should Have Chosen

Manny Pacquiao is saying he will fight one more time, unless Floyd Mayweather will give him a rematch. Until Pacquiao wakes up and realizes Floyd seems satisfied with retirement, his last fight will come on April 9th.

That final fight will come against Timothy Bradley. The two have already fought twice during their careers, each winning once. Bradley’s win was one of the more controversial decisions in boxing history. There were honestly only one or two rounds you could have scored in Bradley’s favor, but even then, those rounds could have been won by Pacquiao which would have scored him each and every round.

Bradley may have been the best pay-per-view draw, but he wasn’t the best fight Pacquiao could have chosen. Especially if it’s Pacman’s last bout. It would have been great to see him challenge himself. Both Bradley fights have been relatively easy, the first one as I mentioned was so wrongly judged.

The opponent Pacquiao should have selected is Terence “Bud” Crawford. Crawford is one of the best young boxers in the game. A lot of boxers seemingly get a lot of hype swirling around their names and never live up to it. Crawford isn’t like those guys. The 28-year old is the current WBO junior welterweight champion.

Crawford can do anything in the ring. He can even switch to a southpaw stance, which is something not many boxers can do. Having to prepare for a righty and a lefty at the same time is something not many trainers help their fighters train for. Bud is 27-0 with 19 victories coming by way of knock-out. As of December 2nd, Crawford in number nine on ESPN’s pound-for-pound list, Pacquiao’s three.

Bradley is much more known than Crawford to the casual fan. Bradley has notable wins against Pacman himself, Ruslan Provodnikov, Juan Manual Marquez, and Brandon Rios. Crawford’s two biggest wins are against Yuriokis Gamboa and Dierry Jean, two guys not many casual boxing fans would know.

This fight would have been a dream come true for the both of them. Both are fantastic technicians that love putting on a show for the crowd. Bradley doesn’t have the power to hurt Pac like Crawford does and we’re going to miss out on that greatly. The last two fights we’re going to remember Manny Pacquaio by are both likely snoozers.

Aroldis Chapman: Rapid Reaction

 

Have you heard? Some Cuban flamethrower has been traded to the Yankees for four minor leaguers. In what was a wildly unexpected afternoon, Aroldis Chapman has landed with the New York Yankees, hopefully leaving his handgun in Florida.

Quite frankly, Aroldis Chapman is one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He’s made the all-star game four straight years, and has had at least 33 saves in each of those seasons. In 2015, Chapman had the highest strikeout percentage in baseball at 46-percent. Second and third you ask? Chapman’s new teammates, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

There’s no denying how dominant the back-end of the Yankees bullpen can, and probably will be. My guess is the seventh and eighth innings will be pitched by Betances and Miller. Hopefully, neither has a set inning and Girardi will check his binder and pitch them based on matchups. Chapman is the closer on opening day if he’s not suspended, it’s a no-brainer.

I’m personally upset with the Yankees organization for acquiring Chapman. Obviously the talent is there, but we see what kind of person is coming to the Yanks. Will he be suspended? Most likely. What’s to say he figures it out? He’s coming to the city that never sleeps. It doesn’t seem like the smartest thing the Yankees have done from a non-baseball standpoint. Domestic violence is serious and should not be taken lightly just because he’s a professional athlete. At no point should winning take precedent over domestic violence.

From purely a baseball standpoint, Brian Cashman is a genius. The best two prospects the Yankees gave up was pitcher Rookie Davis and third-baseman Eric Jagielo. Davis was the key piece to the deal. Davis had a solid year in Triple-A just last season. He has a plus fastball, but needs to develop his other pitches more. The Reds just traded their third baseman, Todd Frazier, so Jagielo could end being a long-term solution. The other two prospects in the deal were Caleb Cotham, who made appearances out of the Yankees bullpen in 2015, and infielder Tony Renda.

The Yankees have already gone through an excruciatingly long and annoying process with Alex Rodriguez over the last couple of seasons. Bringing in Chapman is just going to rekindle all of the negative backlash the Yankees organization has received. It’s not the best look for the organization as a whole. He may help the team win a championship, I’m fully aware of that. I just don’t look forward to rooting on someone’s who’s simply not a good person.

Giants Off-Season Plans Should Include Matt Forte

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30-year old running backs have never been players highly coveted in free agency unless they’re quarter backs.  This off-season, the New York football Giants should make an exception and go after Matt Forte to be their running back next season.

Forte has been the one of the most used running back in the league over the last few years. In 2014 alone, he not only rushed the ball 266 times, but  caught 102 passes as well. Forte has only missed eight games in eight seasons, so for you math majors out there, one game per year.

The Giants have zero stability in their backfield. Rashad Jennings came into the season the clear favorite, with Andre Williams likely to vulture carries, and Shane Vereen coming in on most passing downs. That has now transformed into a four running back rotation with the addition of Orleans Darkwa, who may be the best of the four.

 

Here’s a breakdown of all four Giants backs:

  • Rashad Jennings: 116 carries, 431 yards, 3.7 YPC, one touchdown
  • Shane Vereen: 51 carries, 216 yards, 4.2 YPC, zero touchdown’s
  • Andre Williams: 71 carries, 202 yards, 2.8 YPC, one touchdown
  • Orleans Darkwa: 33 carries, 134 yards, 4.1 YPC, one touchdown

Now here’s Forte at 30 (Note: He missed three games):

  • Matt Forte: 181 carries, 721 yards, 4.0 YPC, four touchdowns

Now, let’s not forget how well both Vereen and Forte catch the ball out of the backfield. The stats they’ve accumulated on the ground is only a small sliver of what they do as a whole.

Some of you are going to ask “what about Vereen? He and Forte are similar players.” I completely disagree. Sure, they are both fantastic catching passes out of the backfield. Both block well (enough) for their respective QB’s to have time to get rid of the ball. But Vereen can’t run in-between the tackles and grind out yards like Forte can and has every year of his career.

If Forte is signed, that means you would obviously have to dispose of one or two of the current running backs on the team. First one to go is Andre Williams. He has no side-to-side quickness and has one ability and that’s running north. That obviously hasn’t been much of a skill either as he’s only averaging 2.8 yards per carry. He can’t catch the ball AT ALL, so when he’s in the game, teams can put eight in the box because they know his only use is running straight ahead. Second one to go would be Rashad Jennings. Jennings is a skilled back, but if you bring in Forte, he’s too costly to have as nothing more than a backup. Plus, the Giants don’t use him nearly as much as they should.

That would leave the team with Matt Forte, Orleans Darkwa, and Shane Vereen. Two of the three are very good pass catchers, and Darkwa has shown the ability to be the featured back if anything were to happen to Forte.

There have been plenty of backs that have reached 1,000-plus yards at 30 or older. 47 times in fact, including Adrian Peterson just this season. All 47 times, it’s been done by someone of noteworthy status, exactly what Forte is.

I’m not saying give Forte a 3-4 year deal, but two years in New York could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Eli loves pass catching running-backs and who better than one who’s caught 100 passes in a single season. Forte is an all-around stud in the backfield. It’s the perfect fit and I hope the Giants will look at it and ultimately sign Forte for the next couple of seasons.

Facets Franchise Five

Everyone pretends they’re a general-manager sometimes. When we do, we think about who we would want to start our franchise with. Lucky for you, we wrote about who are five current players would be if we were starting a franchise today.

 

1. LeBron James

Surprise to probably nobody, LeBron James checks in at number one on our list. It’s hard to pick against the most polarizing athlete in all of sports. I mean seriously, the guy just signed a LIFETIME contract with Nike for $30M per year. Looking past the numbers he puts up, what he does off the court, and what he does for the franchises he plays for financially is one of a kind.

Now, back to the on-court stuff. James has been the fastest to accomplish basically everything that is everything to do with basketball. At 30, James has plenty of elite basketball ahead of him. James has always gotten the best out of his supporting casts, something he’s better at than anyone in the league, maybe ever. Just this season, the season people are saying LeBron is “slowing down”, James is sixth in scoring, second among small-forwards in rebounding, and 11th in assists. None of those ranking suggest James has taken a single step back.

James is the oldest one on my list and is the most worn down, but he’s still who I’m building my franchise around. Another five elite years of LeBron James is better than five elite years of any current player in the NBA.

 

2. Stephen Curry

What more can be said about last year’s league MVP that hasn’t been said these past two years. Best shooter in the league? Best shooter on the planet? Best shooter we’ve ever seen? My vote is for all of the above.

Curry is currently leaving everyone in the dust in this year’s Most Valuable Player award race. Leading the NBA in scoring and leading his team to a 22-0 start is just the start of Curry’s resume. He’s shooting a career-high 53-percent on a career-high 20 shots per game. 11 of those shots are coming from three where he’s shooting a career-best 47-percent.

Curry is second in offensive rating, first in offensive win shares, first in win shares, first in plus-minus and the list goes on and on. He’s continuously gotten better year in, year out, on both sides of the ball. We don’t talk about the strides he’s taken as defender enough because of how tantalizing he can be offensively.

Like Durant, Curry is 27. He’s in the midst of his prime and building my team around a point-guard is something I prefer. Curry is an iron-man and has only missed 12 games over the last four-plus seasons. Everything he touches seems to turn golden..I’ll show myself out.

 

3. Anthony Davis

I was torn on whether or not I’d take Davis or Durant third, but the brow edged it out. Davis is just 22-years young and is already one of the game’s elite. The thing that separates he and Durant is Davis’ ability to dominate games without dominating the ball. He was only 13th in usage percentage (27-percent) last season and still managed to score 24.4 points per game. Durant averages 30-percent usage over his entire career.

Davis’ ability to take over games isn’t just on the offensive side of the ball. He’s one of the best rim protectors in all of the NBA. Davis led the entire association in blocks per game the past two seasons. If it wasn’t for Hassan Whiteside’s insane start to 2015-’16, he’d be in the hunt for a third.

When Davis develops more of a post-game, he’ll be virtually unstoppable. He’ll be able to control games with the ball, off the ball, and on the defensive end. He’s already expanded his offensive repertoire to the three-point line where’s he’s knocked down 37-percent of his three’s.

 

4. Kevin Durant

I still believe that Kevin Durant is the world’s best scorer, even though a lot of people believe Stephen Curry has taken those reigns. We’ve never seen a player at Durant’s size do what he does. A seven-footer that can handle the ball like a point-guard and stop on a dime and shoot from 30 is extremely rare.

Durant is still just 27-years old, so age is not a concern. His growth on defense is something worth noting and something that isn’t talked about enough. This seems to become a trend with players that are elite scorers.

2015-’16 has been good to KD. He’s averaging a career-high 51.6-percent from the field, while knocking down 43.7-percent of his three’s, and 88.2-percent of his free-throw’s. He’s already notched a 50-40-90 season under his belt and he might need to loosen it again because he’s well in reach of recording another.

Durant’s foot issue from last season is seemingly long gone and shouldn’t be of any concern. The Slim Reaper is back and looks as good as ever. He’s one day going to retire as one of the all-time greats, hopefully with a ring or three.

 

5. Kawhi Leonard

With an already impressive resume for never being ‘the man’, Leonard checks in at number five. Some may think it’s a stretch, but I only think it’s up from here.

When entering the league, Leonard was known solely for his incredible defensive abilities but boy has his game blossomed. Leonard is averaging 21.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 50-percent shooting, 50-percent from three, and 86-percent from the charity stripe.

Not only has he turned into an offensive star, but he’s still that lock-down defender he was coming out of college. The reigning defensive player of the year is currently third in defensive rating and second in defensive win shares.

In my opinion, Leonard is the best two-way player in the game. Still only 24, he’s improved with every passing year. He’s finally become the number one option in San Antonio and has become the face of their franchise.

Honorable Mention: Blake Griffin

Player(s) Of The Night: Paul George & C.J. Miles

November 24th, 2015

I can’t confirm if it was raining in Washington on Tuesday, but it was raining three’s in the Verizon Center. Paul George and C.J. Miles combined for 72 points on 15-of-17 from beyond the arc.

From the moment the game began, both were unconscious. The three’s they were hitting weren’t open looks, they were almost all contested. It clearly didn’t matter what Washington did, neither seemed to care.

For George it was his second highest scoring output of his career. He also contributed eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in the win. PG13 has been a man on a mission of late, dismantling teams on both ends of the floor. We were waiting for the 2013-’14 version to return from the gruesome leg injury we’ve seen 100 times each, but this version is even better than what we expected.

The streaky C.J. Miles, on the other hand, had his season high point total dropping in 32. When Miles is hot, he can score from anywhere on the floor. Tuesday’s game will back me up.

The Pacers have been the most surprising team in the Eastern Conference, maybe the entire NBA. With outbursts like they got from George and Miles, they won’t lose to many teams. They are our Facets players of the night.

Player Of The Night: Kemba Walker

November 23th, 2015

Walker had the second best scoring output of his career on Monday scoring 39 points on 16-of-23 shooting (69-percent). He had five assists, six rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in 47 minutes of actions. He only turned the ball over twice. Walker dominated the fourth quarter and overtime going 9-for-10 from the floor with 23 points.

Walker has been exceptionally good his last five games averaging 24.4 points, 5.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per contest. He’s shooting 58-percent from the floor and 52-percent from beyond the arc.

This is the type of play we’ve been waiting for from Walker since he entered the league in 2011. Maybe he’s beginning the transformation into the player we’ve searched for since his magical NCAA tournament run in which he led UCONN to a National Championship.