By Matt Barrett ‘17 and Mike Keating ‘17
The NBA playoffs are underway, and during the regular season it seemed like this would be the Golden State Warriors championship to lose. Who will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy?
M.B: The Western Conference has dominated the Eastern Conference this season. Of the teams made the playoffs, the West boasts a win percentage of 66, compared to the East’s 57 percent.
Between the Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Blazers, Grizzlies, Spurs, Mavericks and Pelicans it would seem obvious that a team from the Western Conference would win it all.
But I am not going to let conference biases dictate who I pick to win the finals. The West might dominate the East, but the Chicago Bulls will emerge as finals champs.
The Bulls have two intangibles that will earn them the Larry O’Brien Trophy—defense and experience. The Bulls have the second best defense in the league, limiting their opponents to just 86.5 PPG. The Bulls only allow their opponents to shoot 37 percent from the field. The Bulls also eat glass; they are third in the league in RPG with 45.7 per game. This prevents their opponents from getting scoring opportunities.
The Bulls also have what the Vegas favorites (Golden State) lack: playoff experience. This is the team’s tenth playoff appearance in 11 seasons. On top of that, starting power forward Pau Gasol is a two-time NBA champion. This team has been there before and knows what they have to do to be successful.
Led by shooting guard Jimmy Butler and point guard Derrick Rose, Chicago’s offense is top tier when healthy. With injuries to Butler, Rose, Joakim Noah and most recently Nikola Mirotic, the team struggles to stay at 100 percent.
But when healthy, this team is the best in the league and will bring a championship back to Chicago for the first time since Michael Jordan in 1998.
M.K: I picked the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals earlier in the year and I’m staying with that pick. After finishing the regular season with the NBA’s best record of 67-15, the Warriors show no signs of letting up.
Led by the should-be MVP, Stephen Curry, the Warriors offense has been outstanding this season. They led the NBA in true shooting percentage, shooting at a 57.1 percent clip. In addition to that, they also led in effective field goal percentage at 54.0 percent. Although they didn’t have the NBA’s most efficient offense, a spot held by the Clippers, they did finish second with a 109.7 efficiency rating.
The Warriors do not only play isolation basketball and rely on the jump shooting of Curry and fellow “Splash Bro” Klay Thompson—they finished first in the league with an assist ratio of 19.9. Also, the Warriors offense is easily the best all around attack in the league and they should have little to no problems scoring in the postseason.
Now there are a lot of people that argue that defense wins championships. Even though they have the best offense in the league, the Warriors have even a better defense. With a defensive efficiency rating of 98.2, they finished first in the league. Led by Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors tenacious defense should be enough to stop the offensive onslaught they’ll face if they play the Clippers, Rockets or Cavaliers.
When it comes to teams that might be able to compete with the Warriors, I look at the Clippers, Cavaliers and Bulls. I like the Clippers due to their strong frontcourt of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. In my opinion, Jordan has cemented himself as a top three center in the league.
The Cavaliers should be on everyone’s watch list because of one person: Lebron James. He’s been in the last four Finals and there’s no reason to think that he won’t be able to lead another team there this year. With a healthy Derrick Rose, the Bulls are a top team in the East. With the rise of Jimmy Butler and all-star play of Pau Gasol, the Bulls should have enough star power to compete with any team in the NBA.
In the end, though, I think the Warriors will end up winning hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy and Stephen Curry will win both the Finals MVP and NBA MVP.
Much of the hype during the MLB offseason was around baseball’s young talent. Guys like George Springer of the Astros, Jorge Soler of the Cubs, and Mookie Betts are entering their second season, while other like Kris Bryant are making their MLB debut. Who is baseball’s next big thing?
M.B: The Chicago Cubs had one of the biggest makeovers in recent history this offseason. The Cubs lured in manager Joe Maddon and ace John Lester to join the staff amidst a busy winter. Offseason transactions and minor league promotions have boosted the Chicago Cubs odds to win the World Series from 60-1 last season to 12-1 this season.
The Cubs young talent consists of outfielder Jorge Soler, third baseman Kris Bryant and second baseman Addison Russell. Do any of these players really have any potential to be the best in baseball?
Kris Bryant does. Numbers show that Bryant is ready for the big leagues. During Cactus League play in the preseason, Bryant boasted a .425 batting average with nine homeruns and 15 RBIs in just 40 at-bats. In the past three seasons, Bryant has bounced around the Cubs farm system, batting .327 with 55 homeruns.
There is no doubt that the level of pitching in the MLB is significantly higher than that of the minor leagues, so one should expect his numbers to decline. But Bryant is off to a fast start in his first few games as a Cub. He did strikeout three times in his debut, but who wouldn’t be nervous playing in front of 41 thousand people at Wrigley Field?
So far, he is 8-18 from the plate to go along with six RBIs. Bryant’s minor league numbers are no fluke; he’s for real. Expect him to lead the revamped Cubs for years to come.
M.K: With the Cubs calling up top prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, many have discussed who the next best player in the MLB is going to be. Right now, superstars Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw own baseball.
The next person to join that list will be Dodgers’ outfielder Joc Pederson. After being called up in late September last year, Pederson has seen game action in every game so far this season. He is currently hitting .300 with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Also, Pederson has shown great patience at the plate, drawing 12 walks and having a stellar OBP (on-base percentage) of .462.
According to the MLB website, Pederson currently ranks as the 14th best prospect in baseball. He has seen his stock drop since last year, but that was due to his poor performance last September. Now that he has been producing at the MLB-level, he should see his stock rise back up to its previous position.
Still, promising prospects like Bryant and Russell will succeed. They will be perennial all-stars. However, I think that the potential Pederson has exceeds that of other top prospects.