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The Next Decision for LeBron James

LeBron James can opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat after the 2013-2014 season. The NBA’s golden child with advertising deals ranging from Samsung to Nike, could be looking to change addresses in a couple summers. Just as Samsung made James the center of their marketing campaign, a prospective team may do the same in short time. (As an aside, the Galaxy commercials worked on at least one consumer, as I upgraded my iPhone to a Galaxy S4 with the android operating system and haven’t looked back.) When it comes to James though, it’s never too early to start speculating. Wherever he decides to play next, he will alter the landscape of the NBA instantly. It is impossible to know just what he is thinking, but one thing is certain, James is cognizant of his place in basketball history and will only consider title contending teams. With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the possibilities for LeBron including the likelihood of the potential destinations, Without further adieu, here are the destinations:

1. Miami Heat

James, Bosh, and Wade all have player options for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. The big three could all choose to exercise their player options and stick together for two more runs at the championship. The only other commitments the Heat have on the books those seasons are Mike Miller, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. They could easily bring in veterans looking to win one a championship before they go out as they did with Shane Battier and Ray Allen.

Likelihood: High, South Beach living and playing with his closest friends too hard to overcome for other teams.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

This would be a scenario never seen before in the NBA, or perhaps any sport. Lebron left Cleveland with fans burning his jersey and a feeling of betrayal throughout the fanbase. After winning the draft lottery on Tuesday night though, the Cavs look to have a strong, young nucleus in 2014-2015 with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and most likely Nerlens Noel along with the cap space to bring in James and another max contract player. If James chose to return to Cleveland, the Cavs would boast three former number one overall picks (James, Irving, and Noel). James could get back in the good graces of Cleveland and have a much better roster than his first go-round there.

Likelihood: Unlikely but fascinating, just seems like the fans and owner burnt all bridges with James.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

This option is most likely contingent on Kobe Bryant retiring and the Lakers retaining the services of Dwight Howard. The Lakers have a serious talent problem on their roster now, but LeBron is capable of attracting talent to join him. He could choose to play for the league’s premier historic team and experience living on the West Coast for a few years.

Likelihood: Unlikely, I don’t believe LeBron would consider LA, but you can never count out the Lakers to bring in the league’s best players.

4. New York Knicks

Not really feasible, more of a pipe dream from a long suffering Knicks fan. To even be feasible the Heat would have to sign-and-trade LeBron for Amare’s expiring contract. It won’t happen but until LeBron makes his next decision I can dream of Melo and LeBron teaming up for an unstoppable offense. At this stage, Knicks fans probably have more of a chance at winning the jackpot at an android casino than LeBron joining the team – But I’m sure they will be keeping their hopes up while he assesses his options.

Likelihood: 0.0000000001%. (ie. It’s not happening)

5. Indiana Pacers

Indiana has George Hill and Paul George locked into great deals and Roy Hibbert is an imposing force in the middle. Adding the reigning MVP to that core would give the Pacers the most complete starting five and make them the perennial Eastern Conference favorites. In addition, they would still have the cap space to bring in another star.

Likelihood: Outside shot, depends on the development of Hill and George.

- Continue reading The Next Decision for LeBron James

Implications of Crabtree’s Torn Achilles

A number of reports from various news agencies surfaced earlier today about Michael Crabtree tearing his Achilles tendon during OTAs. While Crabtree was deemed a bust by many early in his career, his career simultaneously took off with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick under center. Had Crabtree remained healthy, there is no reason to believe he could have replicated the same success in 2013-14. Instead, similar to the much publicized situation in New England, the 49ers will be forced to rely on a couple unproven wide receivers to carry the load. A.J. Jenkins and rookie Quinton Patton will both have the opportunity to earn serious playing time this upcoming season. However, how successful the 49ers potent offense will be without Crabtree remains to be seen. Our friends over at William Hill, the top bookmaker at the UK, had the 49ers (tied with the Seahawks) at 8/1 odds to win next year’s Super Bowl. Anquan Boldin is getting older, and Vernon Davis disappeared for stretches in 2012. Given the uncertainty of the rest of the 49ers receivers, there is reason to be concerned about the Crabtree injury.

The NFC West, once the laughingstock of the NFL, is becoming one of the stronger divisions in football. The Seahawks obviously showed everyone what they can do in 2012, and the Rams, while certainly not on the Seahawks level, showed flashes of a team that could be tough to beat with a couple added pieces. Meanwhile in Arizona, new head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer will improve an offense that has nowhere to go but up. Already with a strong defensive unit, the Cardinals could look to be the team with a new head coach that turns heads in 2013.

Six months from now, this column could look very foolish. Even without Crabtree, Jim Harbaugh still has a number of weapons at his disposal. The team could probably get by with its strong running attack and defense, as it did in years past. However, the comfort level that Colin Kaepernick demonstrated with Michael Crabtree simply will not be there when the gunslinger from Nevada enters his first full season as a starter. The 49ers offense we saw roll through the playoffs in the 2012-2013 season will be much different than the one that takes the field this season.

- Continue reading Implications of Crabtree’s Torn Achilles

Geno Smith’s Turbulent Draft Journey

Geno Smith’s draft stock fluctuation has been a fascinating story. Unless you’re Geno Smith. Not even the storied free falls of Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers could be characterized by such temperamental change leading up to the draft. In February, Smith was garnering attention as the top pick. Meanwhile, just hours from the draft, some do not even project Smith as a first round pick. Prospects, specifically quarterbacks, are prone to having their draft stock waver in the months leading up to the draft. However, what makes Smith’s case particularly intriguing is the constant roller coaster ride his draft position has been on the whole time.

- Continue reading Geno Smith’s Turbulent Draft Journey

2013 NFL Mock Draft 8.02 (FINAL)

FINAL

FIRST ROUND

1. Kansas City Chiefs — Luke Joeckle, OT, Texas A&M
6-6 | 306 lbs. | Junior

We’re about 48 hours away from the NFL draft, and Luke Joeckle sits as generally the consensus first pick. Of course we have seen the top selection change a mere day before the draft (looking at you, 2006), so nothing is set in stone. Barring anything unforeseen, Joeckle will come off the board first.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars — Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
6-6 | 248 lbs. | Senior

A lot of mocks have Jacksonville going offensive tackle, but I have a tough time imagining the Jaguars are going to spend the second pick in the draft on a right tackle. Also, for what it’s worth, the draft could turn into a bit of a sticky situation for teams like Arizona and Miami should offensive tackles come off the board early. The late interest by Jacksonville (and to an extent Oakland) could just be a smokescreen trying to drive up trade value. Behind the scenes, Gus Bradley should be salivating at the opportunity to insert Jordan into his defense.

3. Oakland Raiders — Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
6-3 | 297 lbs. | Junior

The Raiders are a mess right now and need help on the defensive line most to help replace Richard Seymour. Shariff Floyd is the best defensive tackle and will fit in perfectly in Oakland.

4. Philadelphia Eagles — Eric Fisher, OT, C. Michigan
6-7 | 306 lbs. | Senior

Philadelphia is in a nice position here to grab any of the three top offensive tackles or Dion Jordan. Eric Fisher gets the nod in these scenario. Adding Fisher allows the Eagles to bump Todd Herremans inside and, perhaps more importantly, Danny Watkins to the bench. Star Lotuelei remains an option, but look for Chip Kelly to emphasize the offensive side of the ball in the draft. Also, with that being said, Tavon Austin wouldn’t be as shocking to me as it would to the rest of the city of Philadelphia.

5. Detroit Lions — Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
6-6 | 303 lbs. | Senior

Lane Johnson will get scooped up by Detroit at five. They have serious needs in the secondary, but Dee Milliner doesn’t have the upside to warrant being a top five pick. They might look for a pass rusher, but Matthew Stafford has missed too many games the past couple years to not have a reliable LT covering his blind side.

6. Cleveland Browns — Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
6-5 | 271 lbs. | Senior

Already having added Paul Kruger in free agency, the Browns will look to dramatically improve their ability to rush the passer in 2013 by adding Ziggy Ansah. Dee Milliner remains a strong option, but a lingering shoulder injury could force Milliner to slip a tad.

7. Arizona Cardinals —Tavon Austin, WR, WVU
5-9 | 174 lbs. | Senior

Arizona could really use a tackle, but all 3 that could go top 10 are already gone. WR might not be the biggest need, but Austin is one of the few offensive playmakers in this draft class. Pairing him with Larry Fitzgerald will improve one of the league’s worst offenses.

8. Buffalo Bills —Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
6-2 | 227 lbs. | Senior

The Bills are certainly no strangers to making picks that have draft enthusiasts scratching their heads. Ryan Nassib is a second round talent. However, the Bills cannot roll the dice and hope that their guy is sitting there in the second round. With Tavon Austin off the board, trading down is probably the ideal situation in this mock. If no trade partners surface, reaching for Nassib is not out of the question.

9. New York Jets —Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
6-2 | 317 lbs. | Senior

The Jets have holes across the roster, but the main difference in their team last year and the teams that made the AFC championship game was the offensive line. With no quarterbacks on the roster, the Jets only offensive hope is to be able to pound the rock.

10. Tennessee Titans — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
6-1 | 197 lbs. | Junior

Corner, offensive line, and defensive end are all viable options for the Titans here to finish out the top ten. Milliner falls a bit because of his shoulder issues, but the Titans should not hesitate to make him the pick. A rough 2013 campaign awaits the Titans regardless of this pick.

- Continue reading 2013 NFL Mock Draft 8.02 (FINAL)

2013 NFL Mock Draft 8.01

1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — LUKE JOECKEL, OT, TEXAS A&M

2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — DION JORDAN, DE/OLB, OREGON

3. OAKLAND RAIDERS — SHARIFF FLOYD, DT, FLORIDA

4. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — STAR LOTULELEI, NT, UTAH

5. DETROIT LIONS — ERIC FISHER, OT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

6. CLEVELAND BROWNS — DEE MILLINER, CB, ALABAMA

7. ARIZONA CARDINALS — LANE JOHNSON, OT, OKLAHOMA

8. BUFFALO BILLS — GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA

9. NEW YORK JETS — CHANCE WARMACK, OG, ALABAMA

10. TENNESSEE TITANS — EZEKIEL ANSAH, DE/OLB, BYU

11. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS — J. JONES, DE/OLB, GEORGIA

12. MIAMI DOLPHINS — BJOERN WERNER, DE/OLB, FLORIDA ST.

13. TAMPA BAY BUCS — XAIVER RHODES, CB, FLORIDA ST.

14. CAROLINA PANTHERS — SHELDON RICHARDSON, DT, MISSOURI

15. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — BARKEVIOUS MINGO, DE/OLB, LSU

16. ST. LOUIS RAMS — TAVON AUSTIN, WR, WEST VIRGINIA

17. PITTSBURGH STEELERS — KENNY VACCARO, S, TEXAS

18. DALLAS COWBOYS — JONATHAN COOPER, OG, NORTH CAROLINA

19. NEW YORK GIANTS — MANTI TE’O, ILB, NOTRE DAME

20. CHICAGO BEARS — D.J. FLUKER, OL, ALABAMA

21. CINCINNATI BENGALS — ALEC OGLETREE, ILB, GEORGIA

22. ST. LOUIS RAMS — MATT ELAM, S, FLORIDA

23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR, TENNESSEE

24. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS — DEMONTRE MOORE, DE, TEXAS A&M

25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — DESMOND TRUFANT, CB, WASHINGTON

26. GREEN BAY PACKERS — EDDIE LACY, RB, ALABAMA

27. HOUSTON TEXANS — RYAN NASSIB, QB, SYRACUSE

28. DENVER BRONCOS — ERIC REID, S, LSU

29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – SYLVESTER WILLIAMS, DL, NORTH CAROLINA

30. ATLANTA FALCONS — SAM MONTGOMEORY, DE, LSU

31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — KEENAN ALLEN, WR, CALIFORNIA

32. BALTIMORE RAVENS — ARTHUR BROWN, LB, KANSAS STATE

- Continue reading 2013 NFL Mock Draft 8.01

Weekend Preview

San Francisco (-5) @ Atlanta

The talk around the NFL this past week has focused on the emergence of Colin Kaepernick. His recent play, in combination with an already stout San Francisco 49ers defense, makes San Francisco a dangerous opponent. However, Atlanta just keeps winning games. While at times the wins may not look pretty, a home victory last week against the Seahawks means the Falcons have posted a league-best 14 wins. Something has to be said for a team that has a knack for pulling out wins in a game that figures to be close.

Despite the home field advantage and league-best 14 regular season and playoff wins, various sports betting websites have the Falcons as underdogs. And I can’t say I disagree. At this point in the year, San Francisco appears to be rolling. Look for a big day out of Vernon Davis.

San Francisco – 31; Atlanta – 24

Baltimore (+8.5) @ New England

Look for the Patriots to win the game but for Baltimore to keep it close enough to cover. New England has struggled against physical defenses this season, such as when they were held to 3 points in the first half against San Francisco.

Looking at the Patriots offense, they have run the ball more often and more effectively this season than any in recent memory. Haloti Ngata could make that difficult for New England to continue the way he clogs up the middle of the field. If Baltimore can shut down the run and make the Pats offense one dimensional they will have a shot. Another factor working in the Ravens favor is the loss of Rob Gronkowski. New England will be able to put up points as the Ravens have struggled with generating a pass rush without blitzing, which has been the way the Giants have beaten thme recently. Expect the Patriots to score, but Ray Lewis to keep his last game in the NFL from being a blowout.

Joe Flacco is quietly emerging as a clutch performer in the playoffs after his dramatic comeback in Denver. The Ravens need to be able to move the chains with Ray Rice to keep Brady and the Pats offense on the sidelines. They will hang in the game by picking up chunks of yards with Rice and Anquan Boldin and taking a few deep shots to Torrey Smith.

New England – 31; Baltimore – 27

- Continue reading Weekend Preview