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Offseason Blueprint: The Detroit Pistons are an NBA basketball team. Hopefully, they can remind fans of that in the next few years.
The playoffs continue to rage on, but there are 26 teams sitting at home with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs, watch the Conference Finals, and wait for next season to start. For their sake, we wanted to look ahead with the next edition of the OFFSEASON BLUEPRINT series. In each, we'll preview some big decisions and make some recommendations for plans of attack along the way. Today, we're looking at the Detroit Pistons. step one: weave a new narrative Some teams are good, some teams are bad -- but almost all of them have a general direction. Are you a young team on the rise? Or a veteran team trying to squeeze out as many wins as possible? Right now, the Detroit Pistons are in a wonky grey area. They're missing an identity. When they tried to make the playoffs, they were fairly mediocre (records of 37-45, 39-43, 41-41). When injuries hit this past season, they plummeted down to 20-46. While that generally suggests a young and rebuilding team, the roster doesn't reflect that yet. Their marquee players are Blake Griffin (age 31) and Derrick Rose (age 31.) They also have a veteran coach in Dwane Casey who's more accustomed to competing than rebuilding. All in all, they feel like a confused, forgotten franchise. Fortunately, there's a new sheriff in town. The team hired a new GM in Troy Weaver, who had been Sam Presti's right-hand man in Oklahoma City. Weaver's been on the verge of a GM job for several years now, and his hire represents something of a coup for this embattled organization. Going forward, the franchise needs to hold the keys over to Weaver and allow him free reign to do whatever he wants. Back in OKC, he had experience with a variety of makeups: with a rebuilding team, with a contending team, with a rebuilding-wait-whoops-we're-accidentally-pretty-darn-good team. It's up to him to look at this roster and this payroll and determine the best path forward from here. step two: hold a garage sale for your old homeowner's property Presumably, Troy Weaver will treat this project as more of a teardown than a remodel. Mainstay center Andre Drummond is already out of the door, and the other veterans may join him on the bus out of Detroit. Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done. It makes a lot of sense to trade star PF Blake Griffin to a veteran team, but his injuries and his contract ($37M + $39M player option) would make that difficult from a logistical perspective. There's a chance that a desperate team may be willing to roll the dice on Griffin. Throughout his career, he's been one of the more misunderstood players in the league. People want to treat him as an athlete-dunker only, but he's actually a skilled ballhandler and passer. In his last healthy season in 2018-19, he averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, and even showcased an improved three-point shot (36.2% on 7.0 attempts per game.) If healthy, he'd be a major difference maker to a team like Portland. Still, teams aren't going to give up major assets for Blake Griffin until he proves that he is healthy. From Detroit's perspective, it makes more sense to wait to trade him. They need him to come back, put up some good stats, and then float him in offers. Right now, you'd be trading Griffin for 20 cents on the dollar. In contrast, Derrick Rose's stock may be at a high. He put up good raw numbers this year (18.1 points, 5.6 assists), and he's on a reasonable $7.5M expiring contract. He'd be a positive addition to a playoff team, best served as a Sixth Man scorer. The Pistons and their fans like Rose (and he likes playing here), but it'd be irresponsible for them to not consider trade options. If they get any decent offers, they have to pull the trigger. If the offers are weak -- R2 picks or so -- then the team can keep him around as a veteran leader and placeholder starter. step three: don't let your breakout break out As bad as the Pistons were, they had a few bright spots. Derrick Rose played better than expected. Luke Kennard looks on track to be a rising starter. And, most surprising of all, rando Christian Wood broke out as a legitimate NBA player. As a starter, Wood averaged 21.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Wood is a springy, energetic player who also has an improving range (40% from three as a starter.) You can read a longer deep dive about Christian Wood here, but to sum it up. A) His production looks legitimate, as he's been putting up numbers in virtually every stop as a pro. But B) His breakout may be poorly timed for the Pistons, because he's slated for free agency and about to get more expensive. He's a 24 year old whose best days should be ahead of him. Based purely on his stats and scouting profile, you could talk yourself into a contract closing in on $15M a year for Wood. However, players with his "pedigree" (undrafted, limited sample size) rarely get that type of contract right away. To me, paying him somewhere in the range of 3 years, $36M would be a fair deal on both sides. There's too much uncertainty to justify much more of a commitment. Of course, the Pistons should know better than any of us whether to trust Wood. Prior to this year, he had a mixed reputation in terms of his basketball IQ and work habits. If Coach Casey can sign off on Wood's character, then the team can feel more comfortable with him as a building block. If there are still red flags, perhaps it's better not to get too attached. The Pistons have more cap room than most teams this offseason, so the money shouldn't be a major deterrent to this decision. It should be entirely about Wood as a person and a player. If you believe that he's the real deal, then you keep him around. step four: find your next field general Christian Wood is a solid young player -- Luke Kennard is a solid young player -- but these aren't franchise players. They're secondary scorers and members of a supporting cast. To truly advance to the promised land, the Detroit Pistons are going to need to find transcendent talent, somehow and some way. Unfortunately, the NBA Draft Lottery didn't help. The Pistons slipped down from the # 5 slot to the # 7 pick, making it unlikely that they'll land a future star. On the bright side, the "supply and demand" may be on their side. This draft class happens to be heavy with point guards. There's LaMelo Ball (the # 1 prospect on ESPN), Killian Hayes (the # 1 prospect on The Ringer), and Tyrese Haliburton (one of the safer picks in the class.) If any of them slip down to # 7, the Pistons should strongly consider them. It usually takes a point guard a year or two to find their footing, but they can sit behind Derrick Rose for a year and then get unleashed in 2021. From a personality standpoint, Rose isn't going to mentor and educate like Aristotle, but he's capable of soaking up 25 minutes and allowing the next PG some time to develop. If those top guards are not available (and they are unlikely to be), the Pistons may have to take some chances. One name I'm intrigued by is R.J. Hampton. On face value, that'd be a "reach." Like LaMelo Ball, Hampton was a top high school prospect who went off to play in the Australian league. Unlike Ball, his NBA stock suffered as a result. While Ball put up numbers (17-8-7), Hampton put up weak stats -- 8.8 points, 2.4 assists on 41-30-68 shooting splits. As a result, Ball is now locked into top 3 pick status, and Hampton is seeing his name ranked around the 10-20 range in mock drafts. However, I'd defend Hampton to some degree. We have to consider the context here. LaMelo Ball joined a struggling team called Illawarra. With Ball, the team went 3-9 (and finished 5-23.) When you're playing on a bad team like that, you can be the "star" and jack up as many shots as you want. In contrast, Hampton joined the New Zealand Breakers, a better team that relegated him to 20.6 minutes a night and a more limited role. His raw stats may not do him justice. No doubt, Hampton has a long way to go, especially as a shooter. At the same time, he's a big lead guard (6'4" with a 6'7" wingspan) who flashes a lot of explosive scoring ability when he's getting downhill to the hoop. He's also a smart kid and allegedly a good worker. There's some legitimate "star" potential here, even if it's a narrow bull's eye. Hampton doesn't have the same athleticism as Russell Westbrook (hardly anyone does) but maybe there's a parallel here. After all, Weaver and OKC selected Westbrook after he'd been a little under the radar after playing off the ball at UCLA. To be clear, I'm not urging Detroit to take R.J. Hampton at # 7. I'm not endorsing him as a future star like Westbrook. I don't know enough to do that; I don't sit around and splice up tape of New Zealand basketball. Still, the point is, the Pistons should be looking at upside players in that vein, knowing that they're going to need to hit a home run in the future. step five: keep one hand on the detonator The Detroit Pistons only have $68M committed on the books for next season, which means they could be players in free agency even if they re-sign Christian Wood. If the team decided to go "all in" in a desperate attempt to compete, then you could maybe talk yourself into retaining Blake Griffin, handing out a big contract for Fred VanVleet, and shooting for the playoffs. That may work. But to what end...? The 7th seed? The 8th seed? Is that the end goal here? More realistically, the team should (as discussed) try to get Blake Griffin back and fully healthy in order to showcase him for a trade. After that, they'd then dive into a full rebuild. Presuming that's going to be the ultimate destination, then the Pistons may as well get a jump on that with free agency. With their remaining cap space, they can take on a toxic asset that comes attached with future picks, or take some fliers on young and promising players. Among my favorite gamblers of this offseason may include PG Kris Dunn (CHI), SG Denzel Valentine (CHI), SF Josh Jackson (MEM), and C Harry Giles (SAC.) None of them should draw huge money offers, making them reasonable purchases and lottery tickets. If the Pistons end up blowing it up, then they should play their younger players over the course of the season. That should mean a lot of Sekou Doumbouya (entering Year 2) and even some Thon Maker (entering Year 42). If that means you only win 25-30 games, that's all right. It'll only help your odds for next year's lottery. I've mentioned this before with some potential tankers (CLE, CHA, etc), but next year's draft could be quite strong. The group is headlined by point forward Cade Cunningham (heading to Oklahoma State) and scoring swingman Jalen Green (heading to the G-League), but there are about 4-5 other players who have the potential to join the # 1 pick conversation in time. The Detroit Pistons aren't likely to be bad enough to get a top 3 pick on their own, but the flattened lottery odds make it possible for the 7th or 8th worst team to leapfrog into that territory. Of course, before Weaver and the Pistons officially press the detonator and go into full-blown rebuild/tank mode, they need to have a heart to heart with Coach Casey. He's 63 years old already, and entering the third year of a five-year deal. Is he going to embrace the rebuild? Is he going to be the scapegoat if they rack up losses? They need to get on the same page, out of fairness to Casey and out of fairness to this franchise. A reasonable solution would be to promise Casey that, if he does tank like a good soldier, he'll still be retained for next season. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will chrome. previous offseason blueprints ATL, CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, IND, GS, LAC, MIL, MIN, NYK, POR, SA, SAC, UTA
While this season has been massively impacted by COVID. I am probably the most hyped for the QB's than I have been in a while. Easily my favorite class since 2018 and easily the best since 2012 which is 1983 of all QB classes. 1983 featured six quarterbacks were taken in the first round—John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien, and Dan Marino. Three ended up as Hall of Famers. 2012 featured first-round draft picks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden, as well as third-rounder Russell Wilson. By season's end, three more rookie quarterbacks would start their first games – third-round draft pick Nick Foles, fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins, and sixth-rounder Ryan Lindley. While Luck retired early due to injuries ended what would be a hall of fame career, Russell Wilson looks like a lock for the hall and potentially the greatest QB in NFL history if he continues at this pace. Cousins and Tannehill have solidified themselves as legit starting QBs and Foles is a super bowl MVP. This class features 12 guys to really watch and to me, four really special QBs in Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and D'Eriq King. Brock Purdy, Iowa State, Jamie Newman, Georgia, Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Kyle Trask, Florida, Shane Buechele, SMU. Kellen Mond, TAMU, K.J. Costello, Mississippi State and Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota. Sunshine (Lawrence) is probably the most talented QB prospect to enter since Elway. Elite arm, arm talent, mobility, size, field vision, and has tremendous Football IQ. He has flaws, he has the Elway/Cutler syndrome where instead of anticipating where the WR is going to be, he sees them open which he can get away with but not always. He gets happy feet at times in a muddy pocket and wants to run. He needs playmakers more than he MAKES playmakers. Lance has the best tape of the four horsemen. Best deep ball. 2nd best anticipation (King), 2nd best athlete (King), best system flexibility, 2nd best decision-maker (King), the closest prospect to Andrew Luck they say and I agree. His tape is amazing but like Luck, has flaws. Lance barely had a muddy pocket, only 14 sacks in 16 games. He was a big part of it with his pocket mobility but it wasn't that damn good. He rarely had to go to 3rd and 4th options but he did so well. 0 INTs but without elements, it's kinda hard to really evaluate is it real or not. Fields has tremendous talent, size, the athletic ability for his size, arm strength, and is a solid decision-maker. What I like the most about Fields is his projectability and how well-coached he is as a prospect for a dual-threat guy. While I don't think he's superior QB wise to Haskins, he's a McNabb like athlete and I think he will translate as a solid starting QB in year 1. I do think translating to the NFL will be harder for him than people think but like Josh Allen, he has just enough athletic ability and size to really make things happen in the NFL and his arm is crazy strong as well. Just pure God-given talent and really well-coached. King is the best QB in this class to ME overall. He reminds me the most of Burrow who was the best QB in the draft to me last year. A system QB who's best in a spread like Kyler Murray. He was PFF's best QB in 2018 in college football and he's on his way to being the best QB in 2020 as well. Like Burrow, he's an older QB, in fact, he's the same age(23) as Burrow and I think that gives him a lot of advantage over TL, JF, and TL who are all 20-21 years old. While he is similar to Burrow, he has elite elusiveness and break tackle ability like a running back. His flaws to me is his size, system flexibility, unlike Burrow, I would like him to have more pocket mobility like Wilson to counteract the lack of size, and he could still work to improve his arm talent like we have seen Wilson do when he joined the Seahawks. When I like a guy, I like him and I gave him a 1st round grade last year if he entered so why not again. Others: Brock Purdy, Iowa State, Jamie Newman, Georgia, Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Kyle Trask, Florida, Shane Buechele, SMU. Kellen Mond, TAMU, K.J. Costello, Mississippi State and Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota. Purdy has a lot of Baker Mayfield in him including being bad in a muddy pocket. I just don't like him as much as Baker because well, Baker's production was insane. I think Purdy realistically is a 2nd round grade. Newman has shades of Daunte Culpepper with his deep ball and his tremendous playmaking ability. He lacks the ability to just simply move the chains so personnel will be key with him. The talent and playmaking ability is exceptional but does he fit the modern NFL if he doesn't land on one of these big-play teams is the question. He has tremendous value in the 2nd or 3rd round. Trask never started a HS game but that's okay because D'eriq King was their QB. Still, Trask got major SEC D1 offers and King did not. Trask had a good first year with the Gators and showed that he's a NFL level QB. I really feel he's in the mold of Kirk Cousins but with more size to boot which will impress scouts. 2nd or 3rd round grade. Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Shane Buechele, SMU, Kellen Mond, TAMU, K.J. Costello, Mississippi State, and Tanner Morgan are all 4th to 5th rounders to me. Ehlinger's best shades are a better throwing Tebow which I disagree with because Tebow was a much better football player than Sam is and Taysom Hill which I think actually makes some sense. As a backup, I like him overall. Buechele is a tremendous system QB in the mold of Case Keenum. Keenum has had a tremendous career as a 2012 undrafted QB. In today's NFL where they are looking for QB's like Buechele as backups over the game managers. I expect Buechele to be taken in the 5th round as the game is changing for backup QBs. Mond has raw but impactful arm strength, productive, and is an athletic QB who some teams love to bet on as a 1st rounder type. Some will say he's as talented as Jordan Love but I will argue that Love is a far better NFL prospect as he can throw into tight windows and while his decision making needs to improve as well as his mechanics, his arm talent is not off the charts as well. Now, he's a better prospect than someone like Kizer because he is productive, I have a tough time with inconsistent Black QB's almost all either have to produce or they are career backups. They don't get the time that white QB's get. I do think he's a 2nd round talent but I gave him a 5th round grade. Morgan is a damn relic to me. The Matt Hasselbeck QB's are on the way out. Matt Ryan is the last of the Mohicans. My big issue with him for his style of QB, I would prefer he would be 6'4-6-6. Being that he's 6'2, he needs to be a lot more mobile than he is and I do think he has a strong NFL future but he's a backup at best to me. 4th to 5th round grade. Overall, I love this QB class. It's deep, has tremendous top-heavy talent, and is worth talking about. I wasn't hyped at all about last year's class and Kyler Murray is a system QB and thankfully went to the right system. This is a class, you have a chance to hit big with a QB. I think teams should consider a QB this year even if you have one already entrenched.
A couple of insights I want to share with you based on my own entrepreneurial journey
Long story short I turned 30 recently. I am starting over from scratch: emotionally, financially, and yes even spiritually. In the last two years, I have lost pretty much everything that mattered to me. Me and my girlfriend broke up. I lost friends. I lost my house. I lost my savings. I lost my confidence. You name it and I probably lost it. Perhaps the worst is that I have lost my peace of mind. Despite being talented, high IQ, conscientious, with good skills in relevant areas I, unfortunately, have come at a crossroads where I might need to get a 'real' job for the first time in many years for quite a while to build myself back up. I have truly hit rock bottom and hope that I can find the inner strength to still believe my entrepreneurial goals are a real possibility for me - even though it will likely be way later in life than I had hoped. I wanted to share 10 insights with you guys, especially for those of you < 25 years based on my experience. Trust me you really do not want to be me right now. I am optimistic by nature but I have seem to have lost even that side of me. I'm now in a mental prison I have trouble escaping and wonder if I ever will again because I wasted so many years & drag the failures with me. About me: during my 20s I started about 6 businesses. Out of those 3 flopped. One was sold within a year for a low six figure sum. The second did $3 million ARR with $600K profits. The third we raised some VC but had to fold the venture within a year. I am trying to recoup ever since but it's been extremely tough. Focus Being a very curious person by nature I have a wide range of interests. I am also good at learning new things and as a result, spread myself too thin during my 20s often stressed out of my mind. Don't be like me and take the time before you start anything to consider it's implications. Then apply yourself and take relentless action. Insight #1: focus on 1 or 2 things for 5-10 years and then go to the next thing. Courage The one thing nobody can teach you yet is extremely important in my experience is courage. I use to have it but I misdirected it and seem to have lost it. But I have some friends who started very successful companies all because they had the courage to actually pursue it. I would advice anyone < 25yrs to take massive risks. Often they are not as big as you think they are and you only need to be right once. Not to mention people will give you bonus points for trying and help you out. But once you hit 30+ (let alone 40/50) nobody gives a fuck anymore generally speaking. So you go from a courageous young entrepreneurial spirit to just another 30-year-old loser like me right now who 'doesn't have his shit together'. Take swings and go for that homerun with everything you got while you can. Insight #2: courage matters twice, take risks while you can, swing for the fence. Iterate The best way to discover if something works is to try it. Test. Iterate. Test. Iterate. You really don't want to be a perfectionist. I speak from experience - though I have managed to let go of this nasty habit all together. Look at the world as a place that is your laboratory and experiment all the time. Insight #3: the world is your laboratory so play around, test, iterate, and test some more. Anti-fragile Learn how to become anti-fragile (read the book). In retrospect I was too fragile during my teens and too robust during my 20s. Meaning that I was too rigid in my thinking, eating up the whole hustle hard culture and working myself to the bone 'because that is what men do'. It took me years to find out that actually, you want to become anti-fragile meaning: you are highly adaptable, dynamic, thrive in chaos and most importantly; are high in terms of cognitive flexibility. In other words: live your life dynamic instead of superimposing your beliefs onto the world and your routines and becoming rigid. Insight #4: cultivate an anti-fragile attitude towards life Contracts Our business was doing $3 million ARR and we were making good money. I traveled the world and lived in a cool loft. I had been working 18/7 for close to three years. One day I got a phone call. It was my business partner. Long story short I got basically fired from my own company and was out on the street within 4 weeks all because our initial contracts gave him way too much leverage that I did not see coming at the time. I was too naive and paid dearly for it. Insight #5: get business agreements on paper and do it properly or you will regret it Founders The main reason our VC backed company didn't work out was it turned out our founding team just did not vibe well. We could not align ourselves and in retrospect one of us was just too irrelevant for the position in the company. When looking for cofounder(s) look for this: 1) good chemistry 2) proper communication 3) similar life phases 4) mutual trust 5) applicable skills 6) similar vision Insight #6: finding cofounders is not a matter to take lightly Alignment If you are like me you want to make an impact above anything else. I believe wealth and impact go hand on hand but I have noticed over the years some people just want to make money end of story. Both are fine, but if you are like me, make sure that whatever you do it somehow resonates with your core being. Otherwise, you will feel empty inside and you will give up I will guarantee it. Insight #7: if you want to make an impact on the world make sure your project aligns deeply Luck I hate to say it but luck matters a lot more than most will admit. I have seen it many times in my life as well. Most notable is a guy I once met who became the cofounder of a company worth $300 million (I won't mention the company so don't ask). His cofounder was brilliant, and he was his roommate who was lazy as hell and worked in the kitchen of a chinese restaurant. But they enjoyed working together and next thing you know this guy is crushing life. It happens all the time. That being said you can also create your own luck by working smart, becoming a man of value and building your reputation. Insight #8: don't underestimate serendipitous luck, it happens but focus on creating your own luck Skills The 18-year-old me could get drunk, play soccer, crush people in super smash brothers and ejaculate prematurely. The 30 year old me can code (somewhat), build websites, trade options, speak in public, raise investment, negotiate contracts, build financial models, run advanced analytics, build teams and much much more. Make sure you stack up your skills as you go and always keep learning. I really wish someone told me early on in life how important it is to acquire useful skills in your life. Insight #9: acquire relevant skills and always keep learning new things and improving The right IT The reason you want to run a lot of experiments is because you need to find the right IT. Meaning the right fit between what the market wants, what you can build, and what they want to pay you for. Great ideas (very rare) take off like nothing you have ever seen before. Even though it's not likely you'll solve a problem with such demand the thing takes of to the stratosphere, you can at least try! I've also seen and experienced the opposite countless times where founders work years on something that should have been folded after 3 months because it was just not something people wanted. Be aware of this. Insight #10: test to find the right IT, if something doesn't grow or take off quickly, re-evaluate Faith This one to be honest gets me a bit teared up as I am writing this. But here we go: have faith in your adventure, pursue it with faith and plan for even greater journeys. A big reason my 20s have mostly been a shit show filled with failures is because deep down I lacked faith things would turn out well, probably because I come from a very poor and rough background. I am working on it but it seems impossible to change this belief. I often wish I could go back in time, give that young man a hug, tell him I love him, that he is enough, and encourage him to share his gifts with the world instead of doubting himself. That being said, try somehow to find faith in yourself and what you are working on and life will open itself up to you I promise. I have seen it many times. Insight #11: develop faith in yourself and make peace with life, trust things will be fine There were originally about 25 insights but I trimmed it down to these. Please don't underestimate it, they are not set in stone but based on 10+ years of failure (and some successes). Trust me, hitting rock bottom sounds a lot more romantic in a book or a movie. When it happens to your own life, and I have experienced it three times so far, you will go through the heart of darkness. TLDR; I built some companies during my 20s and mostly failed. I am now at rock bottom and these are the insights I derived based on my entrepreneurial thus far. I wish you all the best, hopefully, you will find something useful here you can apply to your own journey. EDIT 1: thank you for all the rewards and comments it means a lot to me right now EDIT 2: part two is up online (because so many of you requested it) you can read ithere EDIT 3: I keep on receiving a TON of DMs with people thanking me which makes me happy, it means you got something out of it. You may also considerbuying me a coffee. EDIT: 4: many of you asked me to keep you posted on my next venture so I will update here again when the time is right, but when that will be I don't know, it could take quite a while
Ranting about every single SSBU character - Day 37 : King Dedede
SSBU is agreed to be the most balanced of all the smash games, so naturally all the characters are broken beyond comprehension and I hate them all. Keep in mind that this is not a serious post, I am not directing this at anybody, this is just for fun and to relieve the immense amount of salt I've accumulated Day 37 : King Dedede As a Hammer main in Monster Hunter, I really wanted to like King Dedede. But I just don't gel well with zoning styles. Wait, why am I being kind? I don't fucking like camping, is what I'm trying to say. Why did I bring up Monster Hunter? I'm just beyond hyped for Monster Hunter Rise. Generally, changing a single move isn't going to have a massive impact on a character, unless that move was a mainstay in their playstyle (Corrin's Pin comes to mind). But, in my opinion, it was a huge mistake to make Inhale a reflector. I can already feel the ground quaking from all the Dedede mains rushing in to defend their monarch, but we'll get there when we get there. Dedede's playstyle is all about having a Gordo out and about as much as possible while they run in whirling their hammer. It's a very linear and dull plan, but you can't really fault them here, since their slow speed spells a death sentence if they attempt to engage in fisticuffs. "Wait, is this the right series?" you may be asking, "This is rants, right? When did you start lactating the milk of human kindness?" Let me finish. Gordos have a huge weakness that even I can't be mad about, because it's one of those rare instances where a move is properly balanced and thought out. In return for their solid stage control, they can be reflected by any move dealing at least 2%, which is literally most jabs. Previously, Dedede would have to keep an eye out for a returning Gordo, and airdodge or side B at the right time to throw it back, which was a pretty good strategy play. Do they pressure, or do they be wary. Now of course they get Inhale to reflect, so as soon as their yeeting animation is over they just have you stand there, mouth gaping like an avian Sarlacc pit, waiting for you to hit it in. It's absolutely stupid because either you hit it and get it reflected into your eye sockets or you try to get around and, which they can punish. This has now become the standard Dedede gameplay, and it's sad to see what it has devolved to from 4. Outside of this, Gordos are especially frustrating when you're offstage since they can just toss them forever, and if you manage to grab to ledge, they keep a Gordo out while they charge a smash. This is, according to Dededes, a tight ledgetrapping game, because as everyone knows they were the first to ever discover that an independent projectile is excellent for forcing ledge options which they can punish with wide range smashes. Just Mensa level IQ, these guys. Dedede mains, having a not entirely unexpected lack of understanding of how much to use a joke, will crouch on you at whichever chance they get, which, why would the game not let you taunt online but then leave that in? The Dtilt comes out real fast too, so you're not gonna be able to curbstomp them for being little pricks. The crouch helps Dedede mains convince themselves that a BMI greater than a regular national income is somehow attractive, because you can see them memeing their character in every Smash comment section and vicariously trying to live out these fantasies through a fat penguin. Dedede's airspeed is slower than a quadriplegic in honey, so most Dededes will simply hover in place, waiting for you to come close, before fastfalling with a fair or bair. Uair takes just long enough for me to consider if there are any upcoming games that can save my Switch from being snapped over my knee. Thanks to his weight, multiple jumps and armored, long distance Up B, Dedede is going to be living longer than most bloodlines. You thought KRool was hard to kill, wait till you do absolutely everything to a Dedede and they just come back and continue tossing Gordos. His Fsmash is the go to for Dedede's top level higher thinking process ledge gameplay, and this move, once it starts charging, comes out deceptively fast. And it's one of the strongest Smashes in the game, which doesn't really check out for a wooden hammer being swung by flabby flippers, but alright. There's nothing much to say about Usmash and Dsmash, but for some reason, nearly all the time after a Dedede does a Smash they immediately Dtilt. I don't really understand why, seeing as most of the time I'm well out of the way, but then I wasn't blessed with the intelligence to figure out that more hitboxes at the ledge = better coverage. Jab allows him to draw you in so he can cancel out and get a grab. I think that covers it all, really. Dedede just isn't that memorable for me, since most Dedede players have a crippling lack of imagination, having used up most of their brain cells figuring out ledge strategies and memes that sing the glory of the only fictional character they could identify with, a rotund, incompetent despot. Hmm? Jet Hammer? People actually get hit by that? Oh my, um, sure... Jet Hammer bad Index of the previous rants
Comparative Review: John Danaher's Pin Escapes and Lachlan Giles' Fundamentals of BJJ Escapes (long)
During quarantine, I watched all 18 hours of Danaher’s Pin Escapes and Giles’ Fundamentals of BJJ Escapes instructionals, and took careful notes on everything, eventually totaling 48 typed, single-spaced pages. These are my thoughts. TL;DR Both are excellent sets, and both are applicable to both gi and no-gi. Danaher’s wins on depth, while Giles’ wins on breadth. I recommend Giles’ set for white belts, due to lower price and greater number of positions dealt with, while Danaher’s is better for those further along who still have trouble getting basic mount and side control escapes to work for them and need extra details. Value Danaher: $197 for 10 hours, 52 minutes, 17 seconds = 3 min 19 sec per $; produced 26 pages of notes = $7.57 per page of notes; information density of 25 minutes per page Giles: $127 for 7 hours, 14 minutes, 12 seconds = 3 min 25 sec per $; produced 22 pages of notes = $5.77 per page of notes; information density of 19 minutes 42 seconds per page Introductory Blather Danaher: 1 hour, 24 minutes. Lots of repetition here, in an “I just said this in voiceover to PowerPoint slides, and now I'm going to say it again while looking into the camera” way. On the other hand, he presents a lot of careful analysis on what constitutes a pin, and based on that, presents a 5-step heuristic for escaping pins, worked examples of which constitute the rest of the Pin Escapes instructional. Giles: 28 minutes. No Danaher-esque theoretical analysis here, but he does include some useful practical advice on how to go about learning the material on the instructional and how to incorporate it into one's game. Much of the content is in the titles of the sections listed on the order page for this product on bjjfanatics.com. Have you ever watched the fundamentals section of the Grapplers Guide? You know the videos that have a clear title, like “Don't chew gum on the mats,” and you click on it, and it's a 7-minute video of Jason Scully talking about why you shouldn't chew gum on the mats, and you watch until the end like the fool you are, and you get to the end, and you think, “Why the heck was this a video? And how could he talk so fast for so long and still say nothing more than the title?” Well, much of this is like that. (Sorry, Jason. You know I love Grapplers Guide and I'm only kidding. Kinda.) (Sorry, Lachlan. You know the only reason I got Grapplers Guide was for your videos, and I'm only kidding. Kinda.) Fundamental Moves Danaher: 39 minutes. Everything in this section is covered more in depth, with better camera angles and better explanation, in Danaher's free instructional, Self-Mastery: BJJ Solo Drills. The content is fantastic, but the only real reason you'd watch this instead of BJJ Solo Drills is because it's shorter and covers only the movements you need for this escape instructional. Pin Escapes covers seven basic body movements (counting sliding shrimps and rising shrimps separately); Solo Drills covers about two dozen movements, depending on how you divide them. Giles: 22 minutes. Covers eleven basic body movements. Of these, the hip escape, reverse hip escape, and gongoa shoulder roll are basically the same as equivalent techniques shown by Danaher. The Bridge and the Bridge and Roll are very similar to what Danaher teaches, but each has a couple of details missing or added from what the other shows. Interestingly, on the Bridge and Roll, Giles teaches to do a side crunch toward the side you're rolling, which is exactly the opposite of what Matt Thornton teaches. I haven't had the opportunity in quarantine to try them both out and decide which one I like best. Mount Escapes Danaher: 2 hours, 8 minutes. As expected, it's long-winded and repetitive. He literally takes 8 minutes and 55 seconds to say “Don't put your hand on his knee unless you keep your elbow from being exposed.” Also, the chapter titles are supremely unhelpful, e.g. “Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 1” through “Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 7.” Here are my subtitles to help distinguish one from the other; more will follow in other sections: Bridging Escape From Mounted Position (Basic Version) Bridging Escape From Mounted Position 2 (Misdirectional Bridging) Bridging Escape From Mounted Position 3 (Dealing with the Grapevine) Bridging Escape From Mounted Position 4 (Dealing with Crossface Hold) Bridging Escape From Mounted Position 5 (Bridging as Setup for Elbow Escape) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position (Basic Version) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 2 (Serpentine Motion & High Mount) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 3 (Going Directly For the Knee) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 4 (Use of Hand and Elbow) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 5 (Don't Expose Your Back) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 6 (Leg Shimmying) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position 7 (Dealing with Crossface) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position - Ankle Trap Method (Transitional Escape from Knee Drive to Mount by Turning Away) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position - Ankle Trap Method 2 (Transitional Escape from Knee Drive to Mount by Turning In) Elbow Escape From Mounted Position - Ankle Trap Method 3 (Transitional Escape from Stepover Method) As you can see, Danaher basically only teaches two escapes, and focuses on giving details, options, strategies, and applications of these rather than exploring other escapes. Giles: 1 hour, 10 minutes. Giles is straightforward and concise in his explanations. Unlike Danaher, Giles shows many of his techniques in footage of actual rolls with upper belts, with a voiceover explanation, which I found quite illuminating. Content-wise, Giles covers the two major escapes Danaher covers, but in less detail. For instance, he doesn’t even touch on the “knee-down” variation of the elbow-escape that Danaher prefers. He covers the importance of inside leg position in mostly the same way Danaher does. On the other hand, he spends a significant amount of time discussing the battle for inside arm position, which Danaher seems unconcerned with. Giles also covers escapes from S-mount and includes a high-percentage escape directly to SLX. Giles covers a couple of submission escapes (cross-collar choke, americana, and armbar), whereas Danaher only addresses positional escapes. Side Control Escapes Danaher: 5 hours, 16 minutes. Here’s the meat of the set: five hours of side control escapes. This is what you bought the set for; admit it. You’ve always had trouble escaping side control, and you’re willing to shell out whatever Danaher asks if he can just share the secret to escaping side control. You imagine the look on that 300-lb. Bubba’s face as you slip your scrawny, pencil-necked 130-lb. frame out from under him, laughing deliriously, and scurry up his back. You imagine the admiring looks of that cute purple belt you’ve been trying to impress, as well as the satisfied nod of your coach as you see him thinking Yep, he’ll be ready for the next belt come promotion day. So, does he deliver? You betcha. In spades. Twenty minutes into this section, my mind was blown at how little BJJ I knew. I knew the gross muscle movements, of course, but the difference was all the fine details – all of which I had been blind or oblivious to thus far. I felt like all my escapes so far were the equivalent of peering into the storefront windows of a BJJ gym, watching furious action from a distance, unable to hear or understand the significance of what was happening. Sometimes the audio quality is poor. About 38 and a half minutes into Volume 7, a sound like a wobbly fan is heard in the background. It never prevents you from understanding what Danaher says, but it’s pretty distracting. It makes me think their mats are in a basement, and just off camera is a washing machine, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry and a big orange box of Tide detergent. Unfortunately, although he includes escapes from north/south, knee on belly, and kuzure kesa gatame (sitout with far side underhook), and even reverse kuzure kesa gatame, he does not include any escapes from standard kesa gatame (scarf hold). I consider this a serious oversight, as anyone with a judo background is bound to use the scarf hold. Elbow Escapes from Side Position 1 (Introduction) Elbow Escapes from Side Position 2 (Moving His Head) Elbow Escapes from Side Position 3 (Inserting the Knee) Elbow Escapes from Side Position 4 (Dealing with Crossface) Elbow Escapes from Side Position 5 (Asymetrical Bridging) Elbow Escapes from Side Position 6 (Misc Tricks) Elbow Escapes from Side Position 7 (Dealing with the Hip Block) Knee Escapes from Side Position 1 (Introduction) Knee Escapes from Side Position 2 (Beating the Crossface) Knee Escapes from Side Position 3 (Fighting for the Underhook) Knee Escapes from Side Position 4 (Anchoring on his Leg) Knee Escapes from Side Position 5 (Finishing the Single Leg – Leg Hook) Knee Escapes from Side Position 6 (Finishing the Single Leg – Elbow to the Floor) Knee Escapes from Side Position 7 (Finishing the Single Leg – Moving Under the Sprawl) Knee Escapes from Side Position 8 (Hand Grips) Knee Escapes from Side Position 9 (Opponent’s Knee Position) Knee Escapes from Side Position 10 (Putting Things Together) Giles: 2 hours, 15 minutes. While Giles’ escapes from standard side control are certainly serviceable and effective (the frame and guard recovery and the underhook escape to knees), they didn’t wow me in the details like Danaher’s did. On the other hand, his escapes from related positions – north/south, knee on belly, and kesa gatame variations – are systems that are generally more complete than the ones Danaher presents, covering almost every variation you’ll encounter. Back Control Escapes Danaher: 36 minutes. Thirty-six minutes? That’s it? After spending five hours on side control escapes, you couldn’t even manage a full hour for back escapes? What happened? Did Matthias decide not to put up with the abuse your lapdog Placido was always willing to take? Or did Bernardo Faria set a hard limit of 11 hours to a set? Not even a body triangle escape? Lazy, Danaher. Lazy. And as always, the chapter titles are unhelpful. My subtitles: Sliding Escape (Basic Version) Sliding Escape 2 (Escape from Lapel Choke) Sliding Escape 3 (Escaping to the Opposite Side) Sliding Escape 4 (Preventing Face-Down Rear Mount) Giles: 1 hour, 38 minutes. Here’s a turn-around: Giles spends nearly three times as long as Danaher on back escapes. And it’s far more comprehensive: Giles shows escapes from both the overhook side as well as the underhook side, escaping the shoulders first and escaping the hips first, including how to deal with hooks and the body triangle. Plus, Giles caps it off with some excellent rolling footage. Turtle Escapes Danaher: 48 minutes. Solid escapes for both one arm around the waist and the seatbelt/harness grip. Giles: 35 minutes. Doesn’t cover the one arm around the waist situation, but makes up for it by covering turtle positions where your opponent’s got a hook in, an underhook, or two underhooks, none of which Danaher covers. Front Headlock Escapes Danaher: Doesn’t cover this at all. Not even on his Front Headlocks instructional. Bad Danaher. No cookie for you. Giles: 47 minutes. Very good escapes for both chokes and attempts to take the back from the front headlock position. Thorough with important details highlighted.
Offseason Blueprint: it’s time for the young/Young Atlanta Hawks to leave the nest and take flight
The playoffs continue to rage on, but there are 26 teams sitting at home with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs, have nightmares about getting blocked by Bam, and wait for next season to start. For their sake, we wanted to look ahead with the next edition of the OFFSEASON BLUEPRINT series. In each, we'll preview some big decisions and make some recommendations for plans of attack along the way. Today, we're looking at the Atlanta Hawks. step one: grow up and play D, because you can’t be forever young Two summers ago, the Atlanta Hawks hired coach Lloyd Pierce on the basis of his defensive reputation. So far, that hasn't translated to the court. Last season, the Hawks ranked 27th in defensive rating. After a year in the system to improve their habits and chemistry, that ranking jumped all the way up to... 27th. What's wrong here? A few factors, of course. The one that gets the most attention and the most blame would be the deficiencies of Trae Young. His lack of length and athleticism will always be a problem, but it shouldn't be this bad. ESPN RPM ranks his defensive impact as a -6.2 per 100 possessions, which ranks 520th out of all 520 qualifiers in the NBA. According to that metric, his defense is even worse than Isaiah Thomas (at age 31.) Isaiah Thomas may be a helpful comparison though, because he does illustrate that one bad defender shouldn't be able to sink a team on his own. In IT's great season in Boston, his individual defense was poor, but the Celtics ranked in the top 5 in defense overall. Clearly, some teams are able to overcome liabilities like that. The Hawks may have to consider hiding Trae Young on defense like he's in the witness protection program. Other lead guards like Allen Iverson defended off the ball often, which is an approach that worked for his team defenses in Philadelphia and Denver. So what else is wrong here? The second major factor would be a matter of youth. Yes, we have a "Young" and a "young" problem here. Inexperienced players tend to be bad defensively, and the Hawks were one of the youngest teams in the league. Their top 5 players in minutes played (Young, De'Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, John Collins) were all in their age-22 season or younger. There are some college rosters older than that starting five. That aspect should improve in time, especially because some of those young players like Hunter and Reddish project as good defenders. Although it may sound counterintuitive, another issue with the defense is the offense. The Hawks play fast (top 5 in the NBA in pace), and shoot a bunch of threes (top 10 in three point attempts.) The problem is: they don't make a lot of those threes. As a team, the Hawks shot 33.3% from three, dead last in the NBA. These issues naturally affect their defense. The Hawks are playing fast and missing threes, which tends to lead to transition baskets for their opponents before the Hawks can get back and get set. If the Hawks improve their offense, then their defense should improve by proxy. To do that, they may have to slow down their pace to some degree. Modern teams love to run and gun, but if you're not very good, you're only giving your opponents extra possessions to allow their talent to win out. The fourth potential issue is a matter of coaching. As mentioned, Lloyd Pierce had a good reputation as an assistant coming over to Atlanta, but we haven't seen that manifest so far. It's a tough job assignment coaching up a young team, but it's a talented group of players. If we don't see tangible improvement in Year 3, then I would presume it's time to fire Pierce and look for another answer. There are a lot of good coaches on the market right now, so Pierce needs to step up his game to avoid getting replaced. Rebuilding teams can afford to be patient, but they can't afford to give their coaches tenure. step two: use it before you lose it The 2020 free agent market is going to be quieter than an indoor mall during COVID quarantine. Hardly any teams have cap space... except for Atlanta. In fact, the Hawks have the most cap space in the entire NBA, committed to only $58M on the books for next year. This is going to be a bad free agent class, but that's okay. In a sense, the Hawks are like the best looking guy in a dive bar. There may be slim pickings, but at least he gets his pick of the litter. You don't want to throw your money away foolishly, but you don't want it to burn a hole in your pocket either. Eventually that cap space is going to dry up when you extend your young players, so this may be a great opportunity to "use it before you lose it." The first option should be to throw a big offer at restricted free agent Brandon Ingram. Ingram has great length for a wing player, and his scoring prowess would make for a -- wait, what was that? The Pelicans just matched my offer in mid sentence? Okay then, let's move on to our next options. I'd also consider making sizable offers to free agents Bogdan Bogdanovic and/or Jerami Grant. Bogdanovic is a skilled scorer who averaged 18-4-4 per 36 this past season, and has the potential to thrive as a secondary scorer or 6th man. At 27, he also fits the general timeline here. While Bogdanovic may not be the defensive stopper we're looking for, you can never have too many quality wings in today's NBA. Jerami Grant doesn't have the same shooting ability or skill set, but he's an energetic player and an impact defender. He's 26 now, and should retain his value for the next 3 years. Having Grant as a complementary starter or rotation player would help the team on and off the court; from what I understand, he's a hard worker and a team-first player. On the lower end, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to punch some lottery tickets and hope they pay off. Josh Jackson (former Suns bust) still has potential at age 23. Chicago SG/SF Denzel Valentine has an intriguing skill set. And fellow Bull Kris Dunn is one of the premier defenders at his position. Dunn would make for a great yin/yang backup to Trae Young. step three: have some faith in John the Baptist One of the reasons that the Atlanta Hawks' cap size will dwindle in the future is the potential extension for PF John Collins. A year or two ago, the team may have thought long and hard about whether or not to commit huge money to Collins. There were some indications that he was a "good stats / bad team" kind of player. He was a tweener who struggled on defense, and didn't stretch the floor reliably on offense. These days, it's harder to hate on Collins. The raw stats are as good as always (20-10 this year), but he's also playing a more desirable brand of basketball as well. He's worked to improve his range and shotmaking. His three-point shooting went up to 35% in year two, and swelled to 40% in year three. His FT% has also gone up each year, from 72% to 76% to 80%. You appreciate when a young player improves his game, as it indicates a lot more potential still in the tank (as he turns 23 next week.) Defense is becoming less of a concern for Collins as well. The trend towards smallball allows him to play about 50% of his minutes at center. In turn, that allows Coach Pierce some flexibility. Depending on the matchup, he can go with the traditional bigs like Clint Capela or Dewayne Dedmon, or he can play a smaller, more dynamic 5 in Collins. Collins will never be Kevin Garnett, but if he's at least average on defense, then he's a net positive player. Going forward, there's no immediate rush or urgency to extend Collins this offseason. The team will have matching rights next summer, so they can wait and see Collins "prove it" over a full regular season before committing to him. Still, if he's willing to sign a reasonable extension this offseason, the Hawks may be able to avoid the headache. Atlanta's a good situation for a young scorer like Collins, so the hope is that he'd be amenable to a reasonable deal that locks him up as part of this core. step four: remember you're playing the long game, not Tetris The Atlanta Hawks will have the # 6 pick in the draft, giving them the chance to add another young prospect to the team. We had been concerned about too much youth on this roster, but it's not worth giving up that pick for a veteran because we're not in "win now" mode yet. The team may as well keep collecting youngsters like they're pokemon. With that top pick, they should keep that mindset, and not fall victim to the desire to find the right "fit" (hence the Tetris analogy.) Best available player. That's a good philosophy when you're drafting in the top 10 regardless, but it applies to this team more than most. The team needs to get a lot better, but there are no glaring issues in terms of positions or rotations. Trae Young will have PG on lockdown. Kevin Huerter will have a role as a wing. Better still, Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter are the types of BIG wings that can fit across several positions. The frontcourt should be fine as well between John Collins and Clint Capela. Given that, almost any position would be fine for the Hawks to select. At PG, the top prospects (according to ESPN) are LaMelo Ball (N.Z.) and Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State). Both players would be fine picks for the team, because both have the size and length to guard 1s or 2s and can play alongside Trae Young in that regard. Offensively, LaMelo and Trae may fight for the ball, but both have dynamic scoring potential that would make a tag-team dangerous. Haliburton would be an even easier fit, as he's had experience playing off the ball. At SG/SF, the top prospect is Anthony Edwards (Georgia), who is likely to be off the board. I'm also a fan of Devin Vassell (Florida State), who projects as a good 3+D player that could soak up minutes at SG and SF for this team. He's one of the safer prospects in the class to me. I also like Deni Avdija (Israel), a ball moving forward with the size to play either SF or PF. The hardest debate may be whether to select a big man that falls to them, be it James Wiseman (Memphis) or Onyeka Okongwu (USC). After acquiring Clint Capela (and potentially ponying up for a John Collins extension), the team may not want to invest much more into the position. Still, I'd hold firm to my "best player available" idea. Wiseman and Okongwu have major potential as defenders, which has been a problem area as discussed. It could be worth bringing them in and seeing how they develop. If they turn out to be the real deal, then it's perfectly fine to trade Capela or even Collins after the fact. I'd have a harder time justifying the selection of two other top prospects: Killian Hayes (France) feels like too much of a pure point guard to me, and Obi Toppin feels like too much of a duplication to John Collins. Still, we've discussed 7 prospects that I've already given the "greenlight" to draft, which means at least 2 of those should be available when the Hawks are on the clock. step five: give the kids some big brothers We've harped a lot on the youth of this team already. Usually, that's seen as a positive. Rebuilding teams are supposed to be young, right? Sure. But there's some danger there of going overboard. If you're too young, and too inexperienced, then it's hard for the young pups to learn from those around them. It's hard to hold them accountable if there's no one else around to play their minutes. We can't have the blind leading the blind here. Oftentimes, teams try to solve this issue by adding older veteran mentors to the locker room. The Hawks found the MOST veteran of them all by adding Vince Carter (age 43.) In theory, that's exactly what we're talking about. Wise old sages like Carter can help the kids grow up and learn to be professionals. Still, I'm not sure that's enough. As respected as an old vet like Vince Carter may be, there's only so much influence he can have on a team if he's not playing. There's only so much influence he can have on a kid's habits if they're not in the same peer group. It's unlikely that 20-21 year olds are hanging out with guys in their mid to late 30s. They're in different stages in life, and probably have different interests and lifestyles. Given that, I believe there should be more of a priority placed on "big brother" teammates in addition to older mentors. What do I mean by big brothers? I mean veterans who have good work ethic and character, but aren't over the hill. Young vets (ages 25-27 or so) who can still contribute on the court, and can still act as friends and peers to the kids. True role models. Consider this: who influenced your behavior more in high school: Your teachers? Or your friends? We need friends / big brothers that will spend more time with our kids, and teach them through osmosis if not outright lectures. Consciously or not, the Memphis Grizzlies showed the value of this principle with their current season. They surrounded their rookies and sophomores with "big brother" vets like Tyus Jones (age 24) and Kyle Anderson (age 26.) Those guys happen to be high-IQ players and high-character teammates, but they're still young and good enough to play 20+ minutes a night. When you're checking all those boxes, you can influence the young players on your roster more effectively than the salty old dog who's basically an assistant coach. It's hard for me to give recommendations for "big brothers" because I don't know these players behind the scenes outside of public reputation, but the idea would be to add smart, hard-working veterans in that 25-27 age range. We want vets who play unselfishly on offense, and play hard and disciplined on defense. Even if they're not great, they can help instill good habits with the team, on and off the court. previous offseason blueprints CHA, CHI, CLE, IND, GS, MIL, MIN, NYK, POR, SA, SAC, UTA
The Strangest, Yet Most Common Criticism of the ST
So that Recent Daisy Ridley interview made me want to dust off an old thesis statement of sorts I’ve been saying since The Last Jedi was released. Not so much what she was saying but the reaction to it. I was going to include this in my post about why I wondered #ReleasetheEdwardsCut was never a thing but it didn’t seem right at the time. So Here Goes Nothing: This is an observation I began to notice about March 2018 or so, when the “””backlash””” for TLJ really began to take form and start getting ugly. A lot of signs went in different directions so it was hard to point to one exact thing. Then, just after Solo’s release Jeremy Jahns uploads that video, the really dumb one where he says TLJ promotes too much Social Justice or some crap like that and tried to justify everything by saying “I like the movie mother!” (because nothing says good movie like a painfully obvious allegory my neighbours ten year old could figure out in addition to watching Jennifer Lawrence have the shit beaten out of her. Also a Baby gets eaten, yeah.) and something he said in to really stuck with me. First he Says Star Wars is a cinematic universe (it isn’t) then says “Did anyone know what RJ was doing!?” And that was it right there, he managed to summarize what I've been observing these last few months but couldn't put into proper words. Star Wars Fans are mad that the ST is too Directo Artistic Driven then Franchise/ Design by Committee/ Business driven. It’s as if Jeremy was saying that he wants more studio control on these things and that directors should just follow orders and shut up. Now obviously he didn’t say those exact words I just typed but he sure as hell seemed to imply it. Now that seems like an oddly specific thing to say people are criticizing them for and I seriously doubt you will hear that exact phrase mentioned anywhere. But Think About it For a Moment.... How many times have you seen variations of these comments: “Rian Johnson should be on a tighter leash” “They should have had a stric plan for the ST from the start” “One person should have written/ directed the whole thing” “They should only do what the fans want” "Take a page from Marvel." Or some comment that eludes to the notion that Disney/ Lucasfilm should have stepped in more and not let the directors do as they were hired to do. What's funny to me is how "They should have had a plan" always translates to "I fucking hated The Last Jedi!!!!" Now that might seem like an odd way to look at it all but this isn't the first time Star Wars has been "criticized" like this. Look at the PT for example. In just about every review I’ve seen, both in print and YouTube, there’s always a moment where the reviewer says something along the lines of “Did no one tell George this was a bad idea?” or “Did no one challenge George on this?” This is RLM’s most common talking point. Or those claiming Lucas surrounded himself with yes-men who would do everything he wanted and that was it. Lucas did pay for the entire PT out of his own pocket mind you. He had an entire VFX company at his disposable to make any crazy thing he imagined. Who’s to tell him what he can and can’t do? Rick McCallum sure as hell wasn't going to. There is a certain "tragedy" for lack of a better word, when comparing Lucas in the 70s/80s to what he became in the 90s/00s. He ultimately became the very thing he rebelled against, the film producing machine where he could call the shots, order people to do as he wanted and no one could tell him otherwise. This is the entire thesis of The People Vs. George Lucas documentary. Very few directors working today occupy the same zeitgeist that Lucas once did. Abrams certainly doesn’t and neither does Johnson or Edwards or even Howard for that matter. How many can say they changed the medium of film with just one movie? I’d imagine anyone who wanted to seriously challenge Lucas would probably be fired on the spot for it. It would be like trying to challenge James Cameron or Steven Spielberg or David Fincher. You’d get about one inch before being kicked out of the door or in Cameron’s case, yelled out till your ears bled while your phone was nail gunned to a wall. You just couldn't do it. The situation the new films have found themselves in pretty much sets up that criticism though. George Lucas is gone, never coming back. He was THE BOSS and nothing was going to change that. Disney now owns Star Wars and will continue to own it until Kingdom Come. It has now crossed the rift from Filmmaker’s creative vision to Valuable franchise used for profit. Another IP to add to Disney's ever growing roster. So now with every new director they have to answer to Lucasfilm, to Disney, to the Mouse but they aren’t treated as servants but as guests. They aren’t ordered around, they aren’t told what they can and can’t do and they have all the resources imaginable at their disposal. A blank canvas and a $200 Million dollar cheque. For better TFA is very much JJ Abrams from start to finish. He loves his mystery boxes and stories about young women trying to find their place in the world and male supporting characters with father issues while ultimately being a pastiche of what he loves . If you seriously think TFA was made to be a remake of ANH (It really isn't) because Disney wanted it that way for a quick buck, welcome to your first JJ Abrams film. For worse, TROS is very JJ Abrams in the most frustrating way possible… but still very much a film made by him. Every decision made in TROS, good or bad(mainly bad), is something that has appeared in all his movies/ tv shows. You see the gear turning in his head with some of the more... questionable choices. Even behind the scenes, when things seem iffy is never feels like “The hand of the Mouse is stepping in.” It always feels like Abrams listening to feedback from his colleagues like Spielberg and DuVernay. Or in TROS's case, bad impulses.... TLJ is pure Rian Johnson from frame one up until the credits roll. TLJ is eerily similar to the Breaking Bad episode The Fly, the first episode he directed. An entirely character focused story that examines who the characters are and what they ultimately want and their greatest fears. And just like TLJ it is still talked about to this day. Frigg, TLJ and Knives Out both have the same ending twist… The Last Jedi’s production however is where things get interesting. TLJ might just have the smoothest and cleanest production of any Star Wars film probably ever. The Story was set and locked before TFA was in theatres. No massive reshoots, no extreme rewrites, no behind the scenes meddling, no studio oversight, no on set drama, no crazy editing changes and finished under budget with months to spare. That doesn’t happen for like 99% of movies made today, blockbuster or not. The PT on the other hand, oh boy.... TPM got off reasonably well. Some bad weather that destroyed sets didn't send them back too much. Some like to point to everyones reaction to the Rough Cut being the ultimate sign that everyone working on TPM knew it was going to be awful. That's the thing though, it's a rough cut, that's the whole point. It doesn't matter how good or bad any movie is at the end of the day, rough cut screenings are brutal.... ATOC and ROTS on the other hand didn't even have a finished script until about a month into shooting. And most importantly Anakin's entire motivation to turn to the dark side was added after the fact during reshoots. Which were done in late 2004 mind you. No Comment. It was funny for a while when I’d glance at STC throughout 2018 to see where the narrative was going and the most common one for a good month was always some variation of “Did Disney mess with TLJ!?” Trying to prove that something must have gone horribly wrong during the making of the movie... except there wasn't. And I’ve seen this play out in real time with in-person conversations, but after realizing that not only is that not the case but they can’t point to any other of the “usual suspects” to say “this is why thing bad” their only option is to say “RJ Shouldn’t have been allowed to do that!!” If anyone is wondering why RJ is getting his own trilogy this is the reason. The dude gets shit done with no issue. Even the death of Carrie Fisher didn’t put a damper on anything(the amount of comments I’ve seen that said “why didn’t they kill of Leia” got comical). It’s what makes watching The Director and the Jedi such a fascinating experience because everyone is looking at everything going “Is this gonna work or no?” With Emphasis on Hamill the most. TFA’s production was kinda messy but manageable. News about TROS's production has been revealed throughout the year and most of it points to it being messy and chaotic. The making of Docs try to hide this by showing us happy faces, people passionate about what they are doing and saying “hey this is awesome!” Then there’s the horrible realization that we live in this shitty era of movies dictated by film franchises that we watch out of obligation and internet culture creating a massive hyperbolic bubble around everything. I remember a time whenever information about any film was released (franchise or not) and if it was revealed that there was some form of behind the scenes drama between director and studio or changes made that the director wasn't part of people got mad. But now whenever we hear that the response is almost always “Hey they probably saved the movie from being a disaster.” A Real Paradigm Shift. It’s just accepted that Franchise Films are the result of produce studio oversight and that’s ultimately a good thing(that’s not to say there aren’t examples where this hasn’t been the case but that’s a discussion for another day). Which Leads Us To... Marvel immediately comes to mind with regards to this. After 23 movies the MCU has gone through 15 directors. Those who left after one or two movies don’t have nice things to say about it and it’s easy to see why. It’s funny seeing some put the MCU on some pedestal for “How Franchises should be,” which I find head-scratching. The MCU might just be the most micro-managed film franchise of all time. The amount of times I’ve read some behind the scenes piece about how scenes were shot literally weeks before release or were in six months plus of reshoots after the fact is staggering or how directors get screwed over and told to take a knee. And that’s not even getting into the nitty gritty of it all like how they don’t allow directors to shoot their own action or characters being shifted roles because it would affect toy sales. They also sure as hell don’t plan everything out. The amount of times the MCU has retconned entire films out of existence or just pretended certain developments didn’t happen could be its own drinking game. Character development in thrown out the window for the sake of appearance. The writers of Endgame can’t seem to keep their answer straight as to where and when Captain America ended up when he wanted to spend his life with Peggy. If anything Marvel is really good at giving the impression that everything is a well maintained car while running on fumes. Compare the Avenger’s Home Base between movies and then tell me with a straight face “Marvel Pays attention to continuity.” As an aside, what exactly do Marvel and Star Wars have in common? Aside from being owned by Disney what do they have in common? Nothing..... The approach, risks taken, sense of awe, the types of stories of told. It's like comparing a nice tasty burger from that one restaurant in town to an all you can eat Buffet. Sure it's all food at the end day but theres a difference. There’s also the matter of the type of directors that Marvel has picked. They largely go for Indie or TV directors with very little experience making films this scale. They also don’t have a huge amount of clout to their name so they can’t make huge demands for what they want. Sure some have more of a style and clout to them but those are the exceptions that proves the rule. For every Ryan Coogler or James Gunn there's The Russo Brothers or Jon Watts. Star Wars on the other hand has actively sought out directors with experience in films this size and those who have their own style that is reflected in the ones they make. To summarize JJ Abrams is Diet-Spielberg while Rian Johnson is Quirky American Auteur. Gareth Edwards could be the next “mostly” poignant blockbuster director while Ron Howard is a seasoned Veteran. Star Wars could have easily have grabbed any number of pencil pusher directors and gave them ultra strict guidelines to follow and nothing else. Have them make movies that are nothing more than giant fan service reels aimed at getting all the fan dollars in the world. And I think that's what so many kind of expected we were getting from the get go and are confused and out right mad that isn't the case. To Quote u/friedAmobo "Disney and Lucasfilm, regardless of what some people may think, are not stupid - they know the best way to make money is to do what the fans want. That would mean Luke being the main character in TFA, the main trio reuniting, and other fan service moments that would make Rogue One blush. The fact that TFA\ ***isn’t*** *about any of that is telling. It means they had an idea for something different, and they made it."* "TLJ is even more condemning for the cash grab argument. Rian Johnson was the sole writer and director of the movie, and as we all know, the movie was very divisive. But how was that a cash grab, then? If Lucasfilm wanted to make tons of money, they could have a powerful Luke train Rey, and then have him beat the First Order on Crait with super Force powers. It’d have made an easy couple hundred million dollars more. The fact that they didn’t do that, but ended up going with a story that had the potential to be divisive is, again, telling." But…. then you have the complete 180 with the anthology films. Rogue One and Solo and reading into their production is mind boggling. For as much as TROS’s production seemed like a nightmare, the production of these two seemed like fighting Nightmare from Metroid: Fusion. No one wants to come clean with what the hell happened with Rogue One. What movie completely reshoots it’s final act with a little over 6 months before release(not saying it doesn’t happen just bare with me here)? Gareth Edwards is probably never going to talk about how he was basically fired from it and replaced with Tony Gilroy. You think it’s anyway surprising that he has nothing to do with this Cassian Disney+ series? Solo had its directors fired midway through production then reshot the entire movie with someone else. That Doesn't Happen…… I remember hearing that during the summer of 2017 and my coworkers and I just laughed our heads off at it. The notion of a Han Solo movie (without Harrison Ford) was such a ridiculous idea at the time and then this happened on top of it. There’s also the uncomfortable truth that no one wants to admit about the Anthology Films. They Aren’t About Anything. Not that they aren’t about “anything” in the literal sense, but more so in the “these films exist to shove Star Wars nostalgia in your face and nothing else.” They are set during the OT era for frigg sake and throw LORE and CANON junk at you to make up for their complete lack of emotional/ dramatic meaning(I say this as someone who enjoys Solo greatly). Because they are side stories you the viewer don’t have to worry about anything of major consequence happening in them that would affect the main narrative (Skywalker Saga in this case). They can do whatever they want and basically a safe bet for an audience. You don't have to worry abut your favourite characters being killed or doing things you don't agree with. It’s like a video game side quest where all you get is a shiny new item by the end of it that’s good for a while until you get something better an hour later. This might not seem like much but I think fans seriously underestimate the power that comes with these being a side story. The Mandalorian fits into this category as well and something that Hello Greedo has praised the show excessively for. Add on the fact that Disney/ Lucasfilm is going to keep making Star Wars content in the form of movies/ Live Action series/ animation until the ice caps melt and we all die. It's not out of the realm of possibility that something you've always "wanted" might one day happen. To quote my very good friend u/SorryNotSpartacus: “They also, very simply, are not the main saga, and I think people underestimate how much of a difference that makes to the fan audience that by and large seems to respond more positively to the anthology films. Most fans are used to reading or watching EU material.” I recall seeing multiple comments early 2018 “RJ should have been given an Anthology film(s) instead.” As if to say “That way he can do what he wants and I don’t have to worry about it,” or something to that affect. But there’s also the sad fact at the end of day that’s all Star Wars fans “Want.” They don’t want a story or anything meaningful but a shrine to their nostalgia, a two hour fan service reel or a big “thank you” for being fans. Fulfill their own expectations and make them feel nothing but superficial joy. Don't let them think or feel anything else in the process. To quote Frank Oz: “All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as Filmmakers, we’re not here to fill people’s expectations.” He’s talking about The Last Jedi if that wasn’t clear. You’d think this would be obvious but so many fans seem to think it’s the other way around that these things exists to validate them as fans and nothing else. Don’t believe me? Go to any Star Wars sub reddit and search “this but un-ironcally,” or just type any number of words followed be “fans.” The results might surprise you… or won’t. Better yet just Search Rogue One and look for the most upvoted post. It's why I take issue with that recent quote from Jon Favreau that's been floating around for the last few weeks. “We alway knew, and this was something I learned from over at Marvel and working with Kevin Feige, is you always want to keep core fans in mind, because they have been the ones that’ve been keeping the torch lit for many, many years, but there are also stories for young people and for new audiences. These are myths, and you always want to have an outstretched hand to people who might not have that background . And so you’re really telling two stories at once. You’re telling the story for the people who are fresh eyes, and you’re telling the story for the people who’ve been there with the property and with the stories and characters for many years, and make sure you’re honouring them as well.” Almost as if he's saying "Just shove enough fan-service onscreen, someone will recognize it and it will make up for our lack of story telling abilities." It's funny how he uses what he learned from Marvel as "collective wisdom" when he got screwed hard when trying to make Iron Man 2 a movie about Tony Stark dealing with his own death. Stop treating these very corporately controlled entities like they are your best friend, they are not and never will be. Even if you think you have, it's not real. You think this wouldn’t have to be said but it needs to: You as a fan do not own Star Wars. Buying all the stickers and Funko Pops doesn’t make you an owner no matter how you stretch it. You do not have a say on how these things go, you do not get to say what can and can’t happen, you are not the writer, you are not the director, you are not the person who wipes the table off after a meeting because same jack-hole split coffee all over it.You are the person who buys a ticket then bitches online about it. Then again there is always the obvious “fans have no fucking idea what the hell they even want anymore.” Not that I’m free from this, I sure as hell don’t know what I want. I could give some vague answer like “More Babu Frik” but even that seems too broad. I saw a really dumb tweet around February 2018 that showed two posters, The Last Jedi and Justice League and the tweeter said "Filmmakers of these franchises should be actively aware what fans want and go out of their way to ensure that." Naturally most of the replies were ridiculing the guy for his flawed logic. The most liked reply came from someone who said the following "This implies that Star Wars fans actually know what the hell they even want." Also Justice League failed because it didn't do what the fans want? Oi Vey....) None of this is to say anything you yourself have criticized any of the ST films isn’t valid to you or someone else. Unless you’re one of those people who thinks “They have a secret political agenda!” in which case please stop. For as much as I talked about the ST being filmmake director driven they are still very much films released by Disney for the sake of profit. It’s just as much an art form as it is a business. Just as much of a product as they are a piece of fiction. For as much as RJ and his cast and crew have talked about the freedom he was given, he's not going to kill off all the characters and have Rey become a film scholar and analyze the works of Zack Snyder. The ST films are not art house epics and never will be. Neither is the PT or OT for that matter. Lucas is a much better businessman than director. He knew damn well the PT was his ticket to make up losing half his fortune after his messy divorce. Keep things going so he can basically retire once ROTS was done. But that’s all I have to say on the matter. This was based entirely on observation and conversations with others. Also there is no JJ-cut of TROS. There is no version of The Rise of Skywalker in which all the past Jedi appear as ghosts and start doing all the kick flips imaginable that was cut because CHINA. It Doesn't Exist.
Hey everyone! My name’s Procraft, I’ve been an Azmo main since the beginning of time itself, and as of posting this, I am currently GM #39. I saw a post discussing Azmodan’s current state, and was typing enough to where I thought it would warrant its own post. Here are some things that would make Azmodan so much more viable/fun to play!
Ever since his rework a few years ago, they made the impact area of his Q visible so much sooner, and this was honestly the most tragic nerf out of all. You can land close range dunks no problem, but it’s impossible to land any max ranged ones. This really lowers the skill ceiling of Azmo, and makes plays like this or this no longer a reality. Like literally, the enemy has to not be looking at their screen in order to get hit by a max ranged dunk, it’s that easy to dodge. They did increase the base travel speed of his Q to compensate for this nerf, but even still, the fact that the dunk gets revealed so much sooner just ends up punishing the higher-skilled Azmos from pulling off those high IQ snipes. If there is just one change that blizzard would make, I would really hope that this is it. Just bring back those long-ranged snipes that’s all I ask. Maybe reveal the impact area later by default, and also maybe gluttony/art of chaos/some other talent hide the impact area for an even longer duration, just to bring back those amazing snipe plays.
Tide of Sin has got to be the most boring, uninspired ult in the entire game. It’s not even that good, I honestly hate having to take this ult. All it does is give my Q 50% extra damage on its next cast, and makes it “cost no mana”. The ability itself costs 100 mana to use. You aren’t saving any mana by using this wtf. What would be AMAZING to have is make it so that this ability “Empowers your next ability”, and maybe if you used your dunk it would deal more damage and hide the impact area, if you used your minion it might spawn like a super minion or like a gate that continuously spawns minions for 10 seconds, if you used it on your laser it would become like a super laser or something that would chain to a few targets, if you used it on your passive you would spawn like a catapult-like siege minion or something. Words could not describe how cool that ult would be. If that’s too much to ask, then at least give Azmo a second charge of it/make it do SOMETHING else. Just please, ANYTHING else than what it currently is.
Laser needs to apply its effects if the target dies while it’s being channeled. I honestly believe that this was a completely unintended nerf to Azmo, but for example, if you take Master of destruction at 7 (the talent where laser explodes in an area once the channel is finished), and the target dies, you don’t get the explosion. When people take this talent, they laser the mage minion, and the laser explodes, damaging the whole wave, so that you can dunk it and get stacks. But after about level 14ish, your laser will kill the mage minion before the explosion ever goes off. Same thing with heroes, if you kill the hero before the laser finishes, you don’t get the explosion, Cydea's kiss, Hellrift, Sin's Grasp, etc. I’m shocked they haven’t patched this just yet. I mean, could you imagine if KT’s living bomb didn’t detonate if the target died? KT mains would literally riot.
Sin's grasp as a level 20 talent is trash. This talent used to be so much better at level 16, and you didn’t even need to channel on a hero in order to get the full CD reduction. This talent should be a 13/16 talent if anything and Azmo should get a different 20 talent as a replacement. Laser should have it’s own questing talent early on, that would be such a cool option!
Demon warriors are honestly pretty worthless, especially in team fights. I can’t tell them where to go or anything like that. The only thing I can do with them is to immediately block a skillshot. Other than that, your opponents will just easily stomp on them. Their damage is so low and unimpactful. They are only good at PvE (taking minion/tower aggro). They should give Azmo the ability to prioritize a target for his minions to attack, just how Gazlowe can select the primary target for his turrets to attack, Azmo should be able to command his minions to attack the target of his choosing. Because right now, they will just run forward until they get aggro’d by the very first thing they see. Overall I feel like his demon warriors need some attention. There’s no “demon warrior build” that you can do. You can only take talents that just buff some plain stats on the warriors (make them do slightly more damage, have slightly more health etc.). It would be really cool if his demon warriors had a more intuitive build path/had a viable build. A questing talent for his minions would be so cool!
Azmo is practically the only ranged assassin without any defensive options. While he does have a high health pool that doesn’t mean he’s tanky. It would be nice to at least have some sort of defensive option (ice block, armor, escape). He does have trample, but that's at level 16, and the range is so small, and it doesn’t teleport you instantly like bolt of the storm does. Cydeas kiss is the only thing Azmo could possibly take to have some sort of sustain, but that only works if the entire channel finishes, and you have to use it on a hero. Maybe have an ability that works similar to KTZ’s Phylactery, where Azmo’s abilities would heal him for a certain amount.
Overall, I’m not trying to make it sound like he’s the worst hero in the entire game. He’s pretty good, but just needs a couple of fixes/new talents that's all!
[OC] CASH ME OUTSIDE: Which future free agents have the most to gain or lose if basketball resumes in the Orlando bubble ?
Back in 2016, young Danielle Bregoli appeared in a Dr. Phil segment eloquently titled: "I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime." She made the most of it, and even gained fame for her instant catchphrase "cash me outside". Usually, that's where a viral moment ends. However, Bregoli (now known as Bhad Bhabie) has actually parlayed that one moment into a legitimate career. She's a rapper signed by Atlantic Records, and her videos have millions and millions of views. We see this happen often in sports and in basketball specifically. The national media and even front offices start paying more attention to high-profile televised games -- the NCAA tournament, the NBA playoffs, etc. If a player can make the most out of their time in the spotlight, then they can parlay that into huge success themselves. College players who have big tournaments shoot up draft boards. NBA players who have good playoff performances can drive up their prices in free agency. We've seen it time and time again, from Austin Croshere, to Jerome James, to Ian Mahinmi. The continuation of the NBA season (barring a Kyrie Irving led rebellion) means that some players are going to get their time in the spotlight again. That's hugely important for players who are about to reach free agency. Now, there are a lot of big name free agents that are going to cash in regardless. Anthony Davis has a player option; I suspect he'll do all right. Similarly, there are veteran players like Danilo Gallinari or Joe Harris who are more "known commodities." We've seen plenty of them, and we understand their skill sets and values. Their prices are somewhat fixed (aside from concerns about a COVID-infected cap.) Alternatively, there are a group of future free agents that have more volatile stock. They have a lot to gain -- but they have a lot to lose. This is their moment. This is their last impression. They're heading into the Orlando bubble to do business, with the hope that teams will cash them outside.
READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP
C Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio If you just glanced at the raw stats, you might not understand why anyone would fuss about Jakob Poeltl. He averages 5.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Ho hum. He's only started a grand total of 38 games in his four-year career so far. Yawn. He's a true center who can't shoot threes? Yikes, go back to 1973. Can we move on to free agents who actually matter? Not so fast, my friend. Jakob Poeltl is a lot more interesting than those numbers suggest. He may be a 7-foot true center from Austria, but he's hardly a stereotypical "stiff." He's more nimble than you'd expect, and shows good defensive instincts inside. Overall, he's a smart player with a natural feel for the game. Those skills are born out in the advanced stats, which LOVE Poeltl's impact. Over the course of his career (4-year sample size here), teams with Poeltl on the court have scored 126 points per 100 possessions, and only allowed 107 per 100 possessions. That's the type of difference (+19) that ranks up with the elite in the NBA. Now, we have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. On/off figures rely heavily on your teammates, and Poeltl's had the good fortune of being on some great bench units in Toronto and now San Antonio. Still, you'd have to guess that he's contributing to those units in a major way. Fortunately for teams and for Poeltl, we don't have to "guess" much more. LaMarcus Aldridge (who had been playing 95% of his minutes at center) is out for the season, clearing a huge pathway for Poeltl to play 25-30 minutes a game and prove his worth. Or not. This is exactly the type of volatility we're looking for in this exercise. upside/downside: If the season had ended prematurely, the Spurs could have effectively "hidden" Jakob Poeltl and retained him for a modest price. As a restricted free agent, his value may have been depressed even more. He may have returned on his qualifying offer ($5M) or signed a team-friendly extension in the neighborhood of $6-8M a year. However, if he has a monster bubble-bracket showing, then teams are going to look at him as a potential starter and pay him accordingly. Gone are the days when Ian Mahinmi or Timo Mozgov would get $15M a season, but $10-12M isn't unrealistic. Heck, Mason (the good one) and Miles (the bad one) Plumlee both got more than that. PG Shabazz Napier, Washington Shabazz Napier knows all about shining under the spotlight. He helped UConn pull off an upset NCAA title, and consequently boosted his draft stock. LeBron James even publicly praised him as his "favorite player in the draft." The Miami Heat then acquired Napier (perhaps as a way to keep the King happy?) However, James left in free agency that summer anyway, and the Heat never seemed too invested in Napier after that. He'd be in Orlando the next year, and Portland the following year. Napier's kept bouncing around since then. In fact, he's already been traded SIX times in his young career. In his journey around the league, Napier has been up or down. Sometimes he flashes and makes you think he could be a high-end backup or even a low-end stopgap starter. Other times, he disappears or shoots poorly, and you start using his name as a trade filler contract. This bubble in Orlando may represent Napier's best chance at latching on to a role and a landing a decent contract. At the moment, he's soaking up minutes for the Washington Wizards, who have lost John Wall to an Achilles injury and have lost Isaiah Thomas to awful defense-itis. In their wake, Napier and veteran Ish Smith are platooning at PG, and both trying to show their competence. If Napier can take advantage of these 25-30 minutes he's getting, then he will go a long way to securing his future in the league. upside/downside: If Shabazz Napier can outplay Ish Smith and hold the fort well at PG, then teams may start viewing him, as mentioned, as a high-end backup/low-end starter. That may not sound like any great shakes, but that's a lucrative role. Ish Smith himself makes $6M a year -- D.J. Augustin makes $7M. Those figures would represent a major pay raise for Napier, who's never made as much as $2.5M in any season so far. On the other hand, if he flops and the Wizards fold, then he'll be back to looking at 3rd PG spots and fighting to stay in the league.
BREAKOUT STARS WHO CAN'T AFFORD TO BREAK DOWN
PG Fred VanVleet, Toronto Fred VanVleet had to work hard to convince NBA teams to buy into him. That's bound to happen any time you're an undrafted player who looks like he should be selling pretzels at a game at not playing point guard. But finally, after several years of proving himself, Fred VanVleet put himself in prime position to cash in this summer (or whenever free agency actually happens.) He carried over his great Finals performance to this regular season, averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists. He can shoot -- he can defend. Hell, he can even defend across positions despite his limited height thanks to his strength and his basketball IQ. In fact, basketball-reference listed VanVleet at SG for 54% of his minutes this season. Presumably, FVV will be a lead guard going forward, but that versatility only adds to his value. You can make an argument that he offers similar value to a player like Malcolm Brogdon, who got over $20M in salary in Indiana. What's the "volatility" here? Why can't we lock in VanVleet for a fat contract yet? Well, VanVleet needs to finish the job, essentially. We all remember how great he played in the Finals, but we tend to forget how badly he played in the playoffs prior to that. In their seven game war against Philadelphia, VanVleet shot a combined 3-24 from the field (12.9%) and averaged 2.0 points per game. Perhaps he was distracted by issues at home, but he was also rattled by the Sixers' length. He can't have that happen again, or else it'd leave a sour taste in the mouth of the NBA front offices, and scare them from trusting him as a surefire starter going forward. upside/downside: If Fred VanVleet plays well (the same level as he's played throughout the year), then he's looking at a healthy deal. He's 26 right now, so he may land a 4-year deal in excess of $60M ($15M per year). But if he struggles in the playoffs, then that may go down to something like 3 years, $40M ($13M per year) as teams view him as more of a fringe starter instead. C Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers will enter the bubble with genuine and realistic title aspirations. They're loaded from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the field. That said, they may be too deep for their own good. In some ways, it still feels like two teams fused together like the Man with Two Heads. On one shoulder, there's the "old Clippers" from last year -- the plucky overachievers fueled by the chemistry of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. On the other shoulder, the "new Clippers" -- the would-be Super Team featuring two superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Because the Clippers have been coasting through the regular season and load managing their stars, they haven't gotten the chance to lock in rotations and nail down their final form as a cohesive group yet. That's especially apparent in terms of the PF/C spot. Like last year, the team starts young center Ivica Zubac, but then cedes major minutes and a bigger role to Harrell off the bench. However, they've also brought in PF Marcus Morris, fresh off a strong half-season for the Knicks. There are contenders here, but no clear plan. When push comes to shove, is the team going to play a traditional lineup with a PF and a C? And if so, which center will close out games? And if the team needs to adjust and go to a "smallball" approach against a team like Houston, who will that lone big be -- Harrell or Marcus Morris? For Harrell, winning that role will be important as a matter of pride, but also important as a matter of market value. He'll be an unrestricted free agent (as will Marcus Morris). But unlike Morris, Harrell hasn't gotten a huge contract in the NBA yet. This summer was supposed to be his year to cash in. However, if Doc Rivers and the Clippers don't feel like he can hang on D at the end of games, then that will give his stock a big hit. upside/downside: If you're a free agent coming off a championship team, you're bound to get paid (and likely overpaid.) Of course, to benefit from that ring, you'd have to be seen as a key member of that team. As a result, Harrell needs to lock down the closing minutes at center. If that happens, then he's in line for a big contract in the range of $15M per year. However, the nightmare scenario for him would be if he gets played off the court due to his defense; if that happens, then he'll be seen as a niche role player and his contract will likely go down to the $10-12M range.
LAST CHANCE FOR A BIG CONTRACT
SF Jae Crowder, Miami Veteran Jae Crowder is a great addition to any contending team. He's a strong, dogged defender. He can hit threes. In a world that craves 3+D players, he fits the bill to a T. At least, that's his reputation. In reality, Crowder has never reached the heights that he did back in Boston (a familiar trend among former Celtics, it appears.) The most obvious issue is the inconsistent shooting. He had never been seen as a shooter originally, but he worked on that aspect of his game. In 2016-17, Crowder hit on 39.8% of his three-point attempts. The presumption is that he'd finally clicked into another gear, and could only get better from there. He became a valuable trade piece (and ended up going to Cleveland in the Kyrie Irving deal.) More and more, it's starting to look like that one season was an outlier. Crowder's three-point percentage has fallen back down to Earth, registering 32%, 33%, and 32% over the next three seasons. His defense also may have been overrated. At 6'6" with a 6'9" wingspan, he has only average size for a SF and only registered an average impact in terms of advanced stats. He's bounced around lately, from Cleveland to Utah to Memphis and now to Miami. Interestingly enough, Crowder got off to a hot start in Miami, and may have started to resurrect his stock. The Heat had been playing him more as a smallball four (basketball reference listed him at PF for 60% of his minutes), and he looked rejuvenated by that change. He hit on 39.3% of his threes (13 game sample size) and also looked better defensively as well. The question now is... can that continue? Miami will be healthier coming back from the break, and may not envision heavy minutes for Crowder in this playoffs. Are they going to rely on him? Or bury him? TBD. These next few months will be crucial for Crowder's stock as he heads into unrestricted free agency. upside/downside: If Jae Crowder can continue to play well as a smallball PF (and also soak up minutes at SF), then it'd give credence to the idea that he's a legitimate starter. And as a result, he'd be looking at salaries in the $10M+ range. However, there's also a lot of potential downside here. If his shooting stumbles again, it's difficult to imagine smart teams viewing him as anything more than a depth player at this stage (29, turning 30 in July.) He may have trouble matching his current salary of $7.5M. C Derrick Favors, New Orleans We're trying to focus on players with "volatile" stock and some unknown elements to their game. I'm not sure that describes New Orleans big man Derrick Favors right now. After some very high expectations as the # 3 pick, he appears to have settled into a known commodity right now at age 28. He's never going to be an All-Star, but he's developed into a capable starter (9.2 points, 9.9 rebounds this year) who is particularly sturdy on the defensive end. So what's the lingering question here? For Favors, it's more about a matter about whether he's a long-term "fit" with this New Orleans team. After rotating between PF and C in Utah, Favors has been locked in as a true center with the Pelicans, playing 100% of his minutes as a 5. That certainly feels like his best position moving forward. But the question is... do the Pelicans need a center? They just invested the # 8 overall pick in Jaxson Hayes, a naturally springy 7-footer. Moreover, there's still the lingering question about whether Zion Williamson may be best served as a smallball center himself. Between the two, there may not be loads of minutes at the 5 in New Orleans. Realistically, the team could retain Favors on a 1 or 2 year deal and utilize him as a placeholder until Hayes fills out and develops into a viable starter. At the same time, Favors is likely looking for a longer-term deal than that; this may be his last big contract. The Pelicans haven't had their full roster together all season, so they still need to work out their rotations. Will coach Alvin Gentry want to lock Favors in at the 5 (with Zion Williamson at the 4)? If push comes to shove, will Favors be squeezed out? Those decisions may go a long way to determining his free agency future. upside/downside: As mentioned, Derrick Favors' "value" may be more locked into place than his peers on the list. He's likely worth around a 3 year, $40M contract ($13.3M per year.) But for him, the question will be where that money will come from. A lot of the playoff teams that could use him (say Boston, for instance) don't have the cap space to offer those prices. If he wants to get bowled over with money, it'll likely come from a young team with cap room (like an Atlanta or Charlotte). But for them to justify paying big money to a big man, he'll have to keep playing heavy minutes and keep putting up solid numbers.
THE COMPLETE WILD CARD
SG Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Remember him? There are younger fans out there (the babies and toddlers among us) who may not even recall the extreme strengths of weaknesses of Andre Roberson. It's not an exaggeration to say that, at his peak, Andre Roberson was the best perimeter defender in the NBA. Armed with length (6'11" wingspan), nimble feet, and a tenacious style of play, he could slow down anyone from 1-4. In 2017-18, ESPN's real plus minus metric graded his defensive impact as a +4.3 per 100 possessions, second best in the league behind Rudy Gobert. Alas, Roberson only checked one box on the 3+D prototype. He's a career 25.7% shooter from beyond the arc, and a particularly ugly 46.7% at the free throw line. That free throw percentage even dipped as low as 31.6% in that 2017-18 season. So why do I keep citing the 2017-18 season? Because that's the last time we actually saw Andre Roberson play. He ruptured a patellar tendon, then had setbacks in rehab. All in all, he missed the entire 2018-19 season, and he's missed the entire 2019-20 season so far as well. Allegedly, Roberson is ready to come back now. If that's true, that would be a huge boon to his stock as he approaches unrestricted free agency. If any team is going to pay Roberson, they want to see that he's healthy and that he can keep up his defensive impact. And hey, if his shooting form looks like it's improved, then that'd be a major bonus. The mystery is likely to continue though, because we're not sure if Roberson is healthy, and we're not sure if he'd actually play even if he is healthy. Oklahoma City has found a good rhythm right now, and has had success combining their guards in lineups together. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can serviceably guard SGs and SFs, then there's not a huge need for Roberson in the starting lineup. At the same time, the wing depth is still pretty thin, so a healthy Roberson could help on the margins. upside/downside: It's difficult to imagine Billy Donovan throwing Andre Roberson out there for 20+ minutes a night after such a long layoff. Given that, the most likely scenario is that we see faint glimpses of Roberson this season, which forces him to take a modest one-year "prove it" deal in 2020-21 to rehab his stock. However, IF Oklahoma City finds itself struggling to contain a player like James Harden in the playoffs, then you'd figure they'd break the glass in case of emergency and call in Roberson. If Roberson can prove that he's back to his old stopper ways, then he's a valuable piece for a team. He'll never get HUGE money if his shooting continues to suck, but he can be a $8-10M role player. And if he ever learns to shoot at a modest clip (even 33% from three) then his stock will balloon.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’re on the brink of a new season, albeit a strange one. Stadiums with no fans, the Raiders in Vegas, 14 playoff spots, and no Tom Brady in New England are just a few of the things that will feel strange this year – but football will go on. Of course, there’s always the looming threat of a Covid-19 outbreak derailing things, but I’m going to operate from the optimistic point of view that things will go on as scheduled. If you’re new to the Rookie Report, each week I’ll be breaking down the matchups that the rookie class will be facing and letting you know which ones are good fantasy options and which ones should be avoided. I’ll throw in some sleepers and guys to stash on the bench as well, and I try to cover all of the fantasy relevant rookies each week (kickers excluded). Make sure to read the details on each player and not just what header they’re under since some of these may be format specific. Any players under the same header that play the same position are listed in the order that I would play them this week. The rookies are always a tough group to predict for fantasy production, but week 1 is always tough since we don’t have any on field production to go off of when making decisions. This year we don’t even have preseason games. For some of these predictions you have to read the tea leaves a bit and read between the lines of the coachspeak, and sometimes you just have to trust the talent of the player to win out. With all that in mind, let’s dive in and talk about week 1…
Rookies to Start:
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC (Wk. 1: vs. Hou.): If you have CEH, you likely took him in the first round, so you don’t need me to tell you that you’re starting him every week unless he gives you a reason not to. The Chiefs have the highest projected point total in the league this week at 31.75, and the Texans were in the bottom-6 in the league last year at limiting RB fantasy points. They were especially vulnerable to receiving backs, allowing more receptions per game to backs than every team other than the Colts. There’s no reason to shy away from CEH in DFS lineups despite a $7,000 price tag in DraftKings. Editor's Note: this article was posted here on/fantasyfootballafter TNF aired, although it was composed earlier. Sheesh. :) RB Jonathan Taylor, IND (Wk. 1: @ Jax.): Taylor will be in a prime spot to make a splash in his NFL debut. You likely drafted him as your RB2 unless you started with 3 straight running backs, so you’re probably going to play him regardless of what I write here. I won’t try to stop you. He’ll likely be splitting the backfield work with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines this week, but the Jaguars were one of the worst defenses in the league against opposing running backs last year and lost Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and AJ Bouye from that defense in the offseason. They’re projected to be one of the worst teams in the league and are an 8-point home underdog in week one. The Colts should be able to run plenty in this one, and I expect Taylor’s talent to show through even if his opportunities are limited. He’s a solid RB2 option this week. WR CeeDee Lamb, DAL (Wk. 1: @ LAR): Lamb is the best of the rookie receiver crop in my opinion, and he gets a great opportunity to start proving me right in week 1. The Rams consistently use Jalen Ramsey to shadow the opposing team’s #1 receiver, and with Dallas that means Ramsey will be chasing around Amari Cooper. This will be good news for both Lamb and Michael Gallup who get to face off with Troy Hill and Darious Williams instead. Advantage Cowboys. Despite Zeke Elliott racking up plenty of carries last season, the Cowboys ranked 10th in pass attempts, 2nd in passing yards and 5th in passing TDs in 2019, so there is plenty of volume to go around, and this week that volume should be finding Lamb and Gallup. The Cowboys also have the 3rd-highest implied point total of the week at 27.5. You may not have drafted Lamb as one of your top 3 wide receivers this season, but this could be a week to get him in the lineup over someone you drafted before him. At just $4,100 in DraftKings, he’s a screaming value for tournaments.
RB Cam Akers, LAR (Wk. 1: vs. Dal.): Akers enters week 1 listed as the number 3 running back on the depth chart with Malcolm Brown as the starter and Darrell Henderson at #2, but I see ‘starter’ as a nominal title for Brown. He’s a guy the team trusts to do the job if the others don’t step up, but he’s not a feature back that you build around. Darrell Henderson is playing catch-up a little bit after being banged up in camp, and I think Akers has a real chance to take over the lead role in week 1. I expect the team will ride whoever gets the hot hand this week, but this is an offense that creates plenty of fantasy production for the running back position. We know that Todd Gurley was an otherworldly talent at his peak, but McVay has also gotten productive fantasy seasons from Alfred Morris and Rob Kelley when he was in Washington, and an incredible 3-game stretch from a seemingly washed up CJ Anderson in LA. Dallas was a middling run defense last season, so if Akers is able to get the bulk of the work this week, he’s got obvious RB2 upside. RB Zack Moss, BUF (Wk. 1: vs. NYJ): The Jets boasted one of the best run defenses in the league a year ago, but in the offseason they lost two of the guys that were big reasons why they were so effective. CJ Mosley opted out of 2020, and Jamal Adams was dealt to Seattle. Even if the Jets are able to be a solid run defense again without those guys, they’re likely going to be playing from behind so much that the RB counting stats are still going to add up. Moss enters the season expected to be the Bills’ early down running back. The Bills had the 7th-highest rushing percentage in the league last year, running on 47.5% of their offensive snaps, and they figure to be run-heavy again. I’d expect Moss to finish week 1 around 15 touches, and he’d be first in line for any goal line carries. That puts him firmly on the flex radar in 12-team leagues and is a better play in non-PPR formats. WR Henry Ruggs, LVR (Wk. 1: @ Car.): Ruggs was the first receiver off the board in April, and he’ll open the season as the team’s WR1 with Tyrell Williams out for the year. Ruggs has the speed to be a dangerous deep threat, but with Derek Carr at QB he’ll likely have to make his living on schemed touches in the short part of the field where he creates yards after the catch. As the WR1, I’m sure Jon Gruden will make sure Carr is getting the ball to Ruggs, but the group of pass catchers that thrives in the short part of the field is crowded in Vegas. Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Jalen Richard are all good receivers in that area, so I don’t see Ruggs being a target hog early on. His road to being a fantasy standout will be through creating big plays. He’ll get a chance to do that against a Carolina defense that isn’t terrible against the pass but isn’t imposing either. Ruggs is a boom-or-bust option who is capable of a Marquise Brown style week 1 breakout (Brown went 4-147-2 in week 1 last year), but is also capable of falling short of 40 yards. WR Jerry Jeudy, DEN (Wk. 1: vs. Ten.): Jeudy is an outstanding talent and landed on a team where he’ll walk right into the WR2 role in the offense, but it’s not a high volume passing offense and he’ll likely start the year behind both Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant in the pecking order. That outlook may have changed on Thursday with Sutton suffering a shoulder injury in practice. If Sutton sits, Jeudy could be the WR1 in week 1. No cornerback on the Titans should be capable of stopping Sutton, but they probably won’t be quite as overmatched by Jeudy. Fant should be in line for a nice day as the Titans struggled to contain tight ends last year, allowing the 6th-most points per game to the position. Keep an eye on the Sutton updates. If Sutton sits or is going to be limited, Jeudy should see enough volume to be a playable WR3 option. If it seems like Sutton is going to be fine, I would probably keep Jeudy benched until we see what his target share looks like as the WR2. WR Brandon Aiyuk, SF (Wk. 1: vs. Ari.): Aiyuk’s status is still up in the air this week, as is Deebo Samuel’s. If Aiyuk plays and Deebo doesn’t, there should be some consideration for getting Aiyuk in your lineup as a flex option. He may be facing off with Patrick Peterson in that scenario, but Peterson was anything but his typical self after returning from a 6-game suspension to open the 2019 season. He rounded into form late in the year, but Peterson is on the wrong side of 30 and Aiyuk is the type of receiver that can win at all levels of the field. The 49ers’ offense is going to run through George Kittle and their running backs, but they do have an implied point total of 27.25, so it’s likely that *some* receiver puts up a nice fantasy game Sunday. If he plays, Aiyuk is likely to lead the wide receiver group in targets, giving him the best shot of being that guy.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Joe Burrow, CIN (Wk. 1: vs. LAC): I like Burrow’s upside over the course of the year as a QB2, but I think there will be some growing pains in the early part of the season. The Chargers are not an inviting matchup for an NFL debut. They’ve got a solid pass rush anchored by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. No team blitzed less than the Chargers in 2019, and yet they ranked 13th in the league in QB pressure percentage. It didn’t translate into a lot of sacks, but the addition of Linval Joseph to the middle of the line should help free up the edge rushers to be more disruptive this season. The team will be hurt by the loss of Derwin James to injury, but they still boast one of the best starting pairs of corners in the league in Casey Heyward and Chris Harris. I think there is a good chance the Chargers make Burrow look like a rookie in his debut and would be hesitant to play him in 2 QB leagues if I didn’t have to. RB JK Dobbins, BAL (Wk. 1: vs. Cle.): If I drafted Dobbins as my RB3 this season, I’d be tempted to play him this week. The Browns ranked 30th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat last year, and the Ravens are favored by 8 in the opener. There could be some garbage time for Dobbins once the Ravens get out in front, but Baltimore may still try and keep Gus Edwards and/or Justice Hill involved in the run game as well. The official team depth chart listed Dobbins as the 4th-string back. I expect he’ll work as the number 2 guy behind Mark Ingram but would like to see how the rotation plays out before putting Dobbins in my lineups. I RB Antonio Gibson, WAS (Wk. 1: vs. Phi.): Gibson has had a ton of buzz around him during camp after Washington cut Adrian Peterson. He’s a versatile player who has drawn comparisons from the coaching staff to Christian McCaffrey. That’s obviously a pretty big stretch, but the head coach and offensive coordinator making the comparison were both in Carolina last year. I think Gibson will be the best fantasy back on the team this year, but I don’t love him for week 1. The Eagles ranked third in run defense DVOA last season, and I expect we’ll see Peyton Barber handle most of the early down work early in the season for Washington. Gibson will also be competing with JD McKissic and Bryce Love for 3rd-down work. The team is thin at wide receiver, so you could even see Gibson line up in the slot a bit since he played a lot of wide receiver in college. All in all, there’s just too much uncertainty about what his week 1 role will look like to trust him in fantasy lineups. RB D’Andre Swift, DET (Wk. 1: vs. Chi.): Swift has been working through a couple injuries in camp but should be able to suit up on Sunday. The problem is that with the signing of Adrian Peterson this backfield figures to be a three-headed monster, and that’ll be a headache for fantasy players. Swift may get the valuable 3rd down passing work, but I’d like to see how the workload is divided before relying on any Lions running back in my fantasy lineups. I’d take a wait and see approach with Swift. RB AJ Dillon, GB (Wk. 1: @ Min): Dillon enters week 1 listed as the 3rd running back on the depth chart in Green Bay, and while I would normally tell you to ignore the official team depth charts at this point, this one feels like how it’ll actually play out on the field. I’d expect Aaron Jones to be the clear lead back with a mix of Jamaal Williams and Dillon spelling him for some early down work. The best bet for Dillon getting a healthy workload would be garbage time in a blowout win, but that seems unlikely with the Vikings favored by 3. I’d keep Dillon away from your lineups. RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, TB (Wk. 1: @ NO): In case you drafted Vaughn early and have been living under a rock in recent weeks, the signings of Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy will make Vaughn mostly useless for now in fantasy leagues. He’ll likely be limited to special teams early in the season and won’t have much value without injuries in front of him. Feel free to drop him outside of dynasty leagues. WR Michael Pittman Jr., IND (Wk. 1: @ Jax): Pittman should see the field quite a bit in week 1, but I don’t expect it to translate into fantasy production just yet. The Colts played 61% of their snaps last season in 11 personnel (3 WR), and their 3-WR sets to open the year should feature Pittman, TY Hilton and Parris Campbell, but the bulk of the passing volume should go through Hilton and Campbell (along with Jack Doyle and Nyheim Hines). The Colts are an 8-point road favorite this week, and I’d expect them to lean heavily on the running game which will limit how many targets there are to go around. If Pittman makes it to even 5 targets, I’d consider his week 1 to be a successful one. WR Chase Claypool, PIT (Wk. 1: @ NYG): The Steelers have spent much of the summer talking up Claypool, but this is an offense with a lot of mouths to feed. The return of Ben Roethlisberger should make this a much more fantasy-friendly offense than it was last year, but Claypool enters the season as no higher than 4th in the target pecking order. The Steelers do have a favorable matchup this week and have the 5th-highest implied total of the week, and Big Ben hasn’t really played much with James Washington or Diontae Johnson, so if you want to roll the dice on Claypool in a DFS tournament (just a $3,000 price tag in DraftKings) I wouldn’t fault you for it. For season-long leagues you should have safer options for week 1. WR Denzel Mims, NYJ (Wk. 1: @ BUF): It sounds like Mims is going to play this week, but after missing much of camp with a hamstring injury, I wouldn’t count on him getting a full workload in this one. It also remains to be seen which outside receiver will tangle with standout corner Tre’Davious White. Breshad Perriman is coming off an injury of his own, and both players make for poor options against a tough Bills defense with the Jets having an implied point total of just 16.5 points. WR Justin Jefferson, MIN (Wk. 1: vs. GB): Jefferson is a very talented receiver, and the Vikings obviously believe in him after drafting him in the first round in April, but he’ll likely open the season splitting WR2 snaps with Bisi Johnson. The Vikings play with 3 WRs less often than any other team in the league. They consistently operate out of a 2 tight end base set with Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. Jefferson will eventually work his way past Bisi, but I’d want to see what kind of opportunities he gets early on before trusting him in my fantasy lineup. His week one matchup isn’t all that appealing either. Green Bay is one of just 2 teams in the league that allowed less than 10 receptions per game to opposing wide receivers last year. WR Tee Higgins, CIN (Wk. 1: vs. LAC): With AJ Green expected to play week 1, it’ll be hard for Higgins to get on the field much. It looks like Green, Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate will be the trio on the field in 3 wide receiver sets, and Higgins will be competing with John Ross for any leftover reps. There’s no reason to consider Higgins for week 1. TE Cole Kmet, CHI (Wk. 1: @ DET: Kmet was the first tight end drafted in April, but he doesn’t figure to play a large role early in his rookie season. He’ll open the season behind at least Jimmy Graham on the depth chart, and possibly Demetrius Harris as well. The Lions were a middle of the pack defense against tight ends a year ago, but Kmet shouldn’t be a consideration in any formats this week.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB Tua Tagovailoa, MIA (Wk. 1: @ NE): I don’t list Tua here with any thoughts of you using him in week 1. I mention him in case you’re in a 2-QB league where he’s sitting on the waiver wire. He’s going to take over for Fitzpatrick at some point this season, and when he does he’s going to have big-time upside. He’s worth stashing if you have the roster spot in superflex and 2-QB leagues. I would rather have Tua than fellow rookie Justin Herbert. RB Josh Kelley, LAC (Wk. 1: @ CIN): Kelley enters week 1 as the likely backup to Austin Ekeler, but that role will probably come with 10-12 touches and possibly more if the Chargers pull away. Ekeler isn’t built to be a 20+ touch per game kind of back and the Chargers are shifting to a more run-heavy approach this season with Philip Rivers gone. Kelley looks like the back who will pick up the slack the Melvin Gordon left behind. Only 4 teams allowed more rushing yards last season than the Bengals, and while Cincy could be improved with the addition of DJ Reader to their D-line, I expect they’ll still find themselves in a lot of negative game scripts. For week 1, Ekeler has RB1 upside, but Kelley isn’t a terrible option as a flex in deep leagues. He’s someone you should be picking up everywhere if he’s on the waiver wire. I expect his role will grow as the season progresses. RB James Robinson, JAX (Wk. 1: vs. Ind.): What a difference a week makes for Robinson. A week ago Robinson looked like he was going the be the number 4 or 5 running back on the depth chart, but since then Leonard Fournette was cut, Ryquell Armstead went back on the Covid-reserve list, and Devine Ozigbo landed on IR. Robinson is suddenly the projected starter this week. Chris Thompson will handle most of the 3rd down work, but Robinson is going to be on the field a lot. The Colts didn’t give up many running back touchdowns last season (6), but they gave up plenty of yards to them, both on the ground and through the air. The Jaguars project to be playing from behind in this one, so Chris Thompson is probably the guy that will lead this backfield in fantasy scoring this week, but in deep leagues a starting running back is hard to ignore. Robinson certainly shouldn’t be on your waiver wire and he has 10+ point upside this week. WR Bryan Edwards, LVR (Wk. 1: @ Car): Ruggs is the guy with the draft capital, but Bryan Edwards may emerge as the alpha receiver on this Vegas team. He excels in the intermediate part of the field where few other receivers on the team do, and he’s easily the most physical of their receivers, which will serve him well in the red zone. His QB has compared him to former teammates Davante Adams and James Jones, both of whom excel at getting in the end zone. The Raiders have a reasonable implied point total of 25.25 this week, and if I had to bet on any Vegas pass catcher getting in the end zone it would be Edwards. He costs just $4,200 in DraftKings and is very likely to outperform that price tag. He may not get as many targets as Ruggs, but don’t be surprised if he outscores the first rounder in week 1. WR Laviska Shenault, JAX (Wk. 1: vs. Ind.): After all of the changes and injuries that have come up for the Jaguars over the last week or 2, about the only thing that seems clear with this offense is that DJ Chark is going to be targeted a lot. I’ll add a second thing here – Laviska Shenault is going to be very involved in this offense. Reports out of camp this week are that the Jaguars are getting VERY creative with the ways they’re using him. He’s a versatile player that lined up all over the field in college and is dynamic with the ball in the open field. I expect Jacksonville to make it a point to get the ball into his hands any way they can, even if it means handing it to him out of the backfield. Viska has a higher DraftKings price tag than some of the other rookies at $4,400, but he could be a really interesting option in limited slate contests. 10 touches isn’t out of the question in week 1. WR Van Jefferson, LAR (Wk. 1: vs. GB): I wasn’t high on Jefferson coming into camp, but he’s been impressive. He’s not an explosive athlete, but his football IQ and feel for the game are off the charts. He’s a route running technician who was a tough cover for Jalen Ramsey in camp. It remains to be seen if he’s fully overtaken Josh Reynolds for the WR3 role in the offense, but if he has he’ll be on the field a lot. The Rams like to line up with 3 wide receivers on the field as much as anyone. Dallas was stingy against wide receivers a year ago, but they said goodbye to their number one corner Byron Jones in the offseason. Jefferson is more of a stash right now, but if he’s on the field as the WR3 a 4-60 kind of game wouldn’t be that crazy for him this week. WR John Hightower, PHI (Wk. 1: @ Was): Hightower has a chance to benefit from a couple of injuries ahead of him this week, and also from the extra attention the Washington secondary will give to DeSean Jackson. D-Jax burned them in the opener last year with 2 TDs of 50+ yards. They’re going to do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen again. That means less attention for JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, and Hightower. Of that trio, Hightower is the only one with the burner speed to hurt Washington deep. He’s a DFS tournament dart throw who will cost the minimum in DraftKings, and can have a nice NFL debut with just one or two deep balls. That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you as you try to figure out what to do with the rookies on your team for week 1. Keep a close eye on the injury report this week to make sure you don’t end up playing anyone inactive. Feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss) if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything written above. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game. Original article from drinkfive.com
Not a single trip report, but more of a collection of experience and lessons from many trips. I don't think I have posted this here before, it might be useful in this very long planning period. Most of my travel here as day or week long trips has been solo travel. This is probably as safe and easy a solo destination as you are going to get. People hiking or biking across the country by themselves is commonplace, eating isn't a group thing like in some countries, and other than maybe a few activities that require a booking with a minimal group size you won't find yourself excluded from anything. I have never had any problems (though as a white male it might be easier for me to avoid them, I can't speak for other demographics). The only real factor for me regarding solo travel here has been that if you really want to meet other travelers then it will be much easier at a hostel in a more popular area (ie Interlaken/Luzern/Zermatt) than if you go off to other forms of accommodation in the lesser known regions. There are hostels all over the country, but many (especially the YHAs) tend to attract domestic Swiss tourists of various ages rather than an international scene. The Swiss are not going to embrace you like a family member, but are friendly in their own way. I have never had a problem getting help (even without a mutual language), sharing tables at relaxed places like mountain restaurants is quite standard (once all the empty ones are partially occupied), and sometimes they will be very chatty in a way that still surprises me sometimes. Speaking the local language makes it much easier to get talking with people, but English often works everywhere (too well given that I still have issues getting people to talk to me in German sometimes). Disclaimer:
I am in no way linked to, get paid by, or benefit from anything I do on here in any way whatsoever (sadly nobody has even tried to bribe me with gifts or luxury hotel stays). This is purely for my own amusement.
I will also try and update or correct posts as I or others spot mistakes, but there could still be errors.
This is mostly aimed at English speakers, those who speak the local languages will have far more options.
I live in the German speaking area so I am very heavily biased to the sights and culture there just through my daily experience.
I am a little insufferable at always wanting to be different, so I tend to be a bit harsher on populafamous places than unknown ones. You should try and mentally correct for that.
Travel in Switzerland in general in two posts: new (mostly specific thoughts on places), and old (more general information on the country as a whole).
Imgur album/info posts:This is the larger one which has detailed info/links and is still slowly evolving, and I also have this older one which is more basic and locked. This is a list of popular posts on social-media and what they actually are.
More detailed blogs on more major tourist spots: An overview of the tourist spots in general (link), and Jungfrau region (Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald/Mürren/Wengen) (link), and Luzern/Rigi/Pilatus (link), and Gruyères (link), and the St Beatus caves (link), and Zermatt (link).
Swiss vs European power plug adapters - not always compatible! If you have an EU plug it might not fit into a Swiss socket, but newer ones should do (roughly speaking when the two prongs are 4mm or less in diameter, and 14mm apart they should work in both the EU and Switzerland).
Cable cars typically stop running at around 5pm (but can be until 10pm or so if it is servicing a village like Mürren). This is especially deceptive in summer when it stays light until much later. Check when the last run is, the internet is full of stories of people who found themselves with a long walk down in the dark.
Internet - practical Many of these also have a phone app version which is worth having. General:
My Switzerland. The official and very extensive tourism website. Just about any information you could possibly need about anything is on here.
Wikivoyage. A bit hit and miss: the overview and coverage for places like Zürich is fantastic, but many places are lacking in useful or any info.
Local tourist areas all have their own websites. Usually in both summer and winter versions, giving you info on: conditions, what is open, ideas for what to do, etc:. Eg: Jungfrau region, Zermatt, Appenzell, and so on.
SBB. The website (and also app) for the train network covering buses, boats, and cable cars too. Timetables, ticket info, and pass info. It is sometimes better to look up the timetable for seasonal things like cable cars and boats on their own websites (eg: BLS boats on Brienzersee, or cable cars in the Aletsch region) as when they don’t run the SBB just gives a vague “can’t find the connection” notice. They do various travel passes, though it is best to carefully calculate your planned routes or figure out if it is worth it It is worth looking for the off-peak “super saver” tickets which limit you to a certain train but can cut the price in half (and if you have the half-tax this cuts the price again, to as much as 75% off).
Official accommodation (which should include Airbnb) will offer a guest card in many tourist areas including free/discounted local transport and activities. Typically this is just in the town/village and places 10-20 minutes away (eg for Interlaken), but in the beautiful and underrated canton of Ticino it covers the entire canton.
Aside from the standard options for finding rooms you might also want to look into other options such as https://alp.holidaybooking.ch/?language=en, and https://www.rooms.ch/ . Many smaller independent options (especially farms and rural hotels) are not on Booking.com etc and you will have to find them by trawling around on google maps. This could help if you really want to stay in a certain area but everything is booked out, but many of them have a very basic setup so you might need to phone up or fill in a form on their website.
Another option that might be worth considering is the Swiss Hotel Card, a 99CHF per year subscription that offers half priced hotel rooms. This is limited to participating hotels and doesn’t apply during the high season, but could easily pay for itself with just a single night or weekend. I have yet to try this, but the range of locations looks like it could be quite good for domestic travellers.
Switzerland Mobility. Detailed map showing all official routes for hiking/biking/skating…. With lots of short and long suggested routes. If you sign up for the (paid) Pro version then you can plan routes on the map with detailed height information and pretty good time estimates. for example.
map.geo.admin.ch (mobile app - Swisstopo). The official govt map is amazing. Quick to load and use on desktop or mobile. You can toggle useful overlays like hiking paths (in some ways better than Mobility above as the levels are shown and the contrast makes it much clearer), and just about anything else from geological features to ski runs, you can even switch to historic versions of the map going back to the mid 1800s and watch the country grow. It will even convert any section you like to PDF for easy saving and printing. All for free.
When actually out and about I tend to use Maps.me on my phone which has rather good coverage of the footpath system and addresses/businesses. That said it does have some big gaps in some areas. I wouldn’t use it for advanced routes, but to check my position and where a certain side path might take me it is mostly very useful. The directions feature sometimes gives good advice and sometimes decides that a perfectly good bit of path can’t be used and that you should take a 3 hour detour. The time calculator does not take height change into account, so do not trust that either.
If you speak any of the national languages then the Swiss broadcasting Corporation has plenty to offer in each. For example with German there is the SRF is who do a mix of High-German and Swiss-German telly and radio. SRF Play is their on demand TV/radio website and app. They are very good at putting their full shows onto youtube - the main SRF Youtube channel has quite a bit of content (and there are other specialised official channels too). Radio podcasts are on the SRF website and on Spotify (and probably other places too), for Swiss-German check SRF1 (especially the regionaljournal channels) and SRF3, and for the hardcore the Hörspiel channel often has full plays in Swiss-German.
Swiss Watching - Diccon Bewes (2010). Switzerland seen through British eyes. A very readable and enjoyable introduction to the history, people, politics and areas of the country by someone who has lived there for years. Ideal reading as a traveller. There are some over generalisations but given the scope and size it mostly does a good job. If you read anything about Switzerland make it this. He also has a Google-talk video which is basically a condensed version of the book
Slow train to Switzerland - Diccon Bewes (2013). The author retraces the first Thomas Cook tour of Switzerland and shows how much has changed since then and by the rise of trains and tourism. A very interesting read for the history and travel ideas.
Around Switzerland in 80 Maps - Diccon Bewes (2015).Yet another Diccon book, though this is much more history and culture than travel based. At a large 33x23cm it isn’t travel friendly either, but it is beautifully done with a range of well reproduced images and interesting information. It is accessible and interesting to everyone, but I would say this book is most enjoyable to those who already know the Swiss landscape, history and culture to some extent already. The TedX talk that he does on the subject is rather good.
The Bergli publisher, which Diccon is part of, have quite a few light hearted books about Swiss culture and Switzerland.
How the English Made the Alps - Jim Ring (2000). A history of how the development of tourism, climbing, and winter sports played a major role in the development of the Alps. Not just Switzerland, but it is a major focus of the book.
A Tramp Abroad - Mark Twain (1880). FREE EBOOK. Satirical and absurd account of his travels in Europe. The Swiss part is often hilarious. As above is interesting to see just how much the country has changed since then. Several places such as Weggis-Rigi and Zermatt-Riffelberg have Theme walks in the approximate places where he walked himself. A tramp in this sense is to walk, not the homeless person as most people other than the Kiwis might assume.
Sherlock Holmes - The Final Problem - Arthur Conan Doyle (1893). FREE EBOOK. A quick and easy read of Holmes' "final" adventure ending at the Reichenbach falls by Meiringen. He oversells the waterfall somewhat though I must say.
The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann (1924). Inspired by and set in a Davos mountain health retreat. No comment as have yet to read it.
William Tell - Friedrich Schiller (1804). FREE EBOOK. Performed every year in Interlaken amongst other places. Frankly it is really blood boring - the whole thing can be summed up that the Swiss are good christian brothers, and the Austrians are utter wankers.
Bill Bryson passes through in his 1991 book “Neither here nor there”. While still mostly a good read, being almost 30 years old the info is rather outdated in parts. The country has become much more lively since then for a start.
La Place de la Concorde Suisse - John McPhee (1984). A very out-dated but in some ways interesting read looking at Swiss military thinking and culture back in the 80s. The attitudes and situation are very different now over 30 years later. This is only really worth it if you really want to learn about that bit of Swiss history. It also commits the cardinal sin of having numerous bits of French scattered about the book but with no translation provided, which is really bloody annoying.
If your German is good then:
Von Casanova bis Churchill - Barbara Piatti (2016). A series of articles about famous visitors to Switzerland.
The publisher Emons does local Krimis. If you like a nice murder or two to go with your hiking spots. The quality is good enough but the writing is not going to win any literature awards.
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