MLB: Players In The NL And AL East That Are Set To Surprise In 2017

Every year the stars are acknowledged and the scrubs are erased from the fans whiteboard, but there are a few players that can’t be written off from making a name for themselves. Below are Major League players in the MLB Eastern divisions (AL and NL) that may surprise us this year.

Joely Rodriguez (Philadelphia Phillies) – With nowhere left to turn, Philadelphia’s Phinest chose a young gun that has shown promise. I like the guts this kid shows on the mound and his ability to locate will challenge the likes of Bryce Harper, Christian Yelich, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (all of whom are left-handed hitters). With the help of Rodriguez, I can see the Phillies recreating stability in their pen which could scare teams this MLB season.

Feb 20, 2017; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Joely Rodriguez (63) poses for a photo during spring training at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Logan Verrett (Baltimore Orioles) – Despite having a high ERA at times, teams like Verrett because he’s only 26 years old and he can strike out a lot of batters. His postseason experience will come into play if the O’s can make the playoffs in 2017.  Verrett’s versatility can’t be denied either. Last season he started a dozen games as a member of the Mets. I know the O’s acquired Alec Asher, but that certainly doesn’t rule out Verret from pitching his way into a Baltimore rotation that contains the likes of Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Verrett’s versatility can’t be denied either. Last season he started a dozen games as a member of the Mets. I know the O’s acquired Alec Asher, but that certainly doesn’t rule out Verret from pitching his way into a Baltimore rotation that contains the likes of Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Adam Warren (New York Yankees) -Even though Spring 2017 hasn’t been kind to Warren he still has value. In 2016 he had a 3.26 ERA in 29 games with the Yanks. In 2015 Warren keep hitters to a batting average of .236 and in 2014 an average of .219. The 29-year-old doesn’t give up the long ball very often and keeps his walks at a minimum. The Yankees will lean on him especially since they have a bunch of youngsters still adjusting to life in the Bronx. The icing on this paragraphs word cake? Warren isn’t pleased that he is being placed in the bullpen which could mean he will take over the diamond to a point where finally returns to the rotation a place the Yanks aren’t very strong.

The Yankees will lean on him especially since they have a bunch of youngsters still adjusting to life in the Bronx. The icing on this paragraphs word cake? Warren isn’t pleased that he is being placed in the bullpen which could mean he will take over the diamond to a point where finally returns to the rotation a place the Yanks aren’t very strong.

Adam Conley (Miami Marlins) – Somebody must take control of the Miami rotation, so why not Conley? The Washington State Alumnus is in a rotation with Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, and Tom Koehler…yeah…I had to read that twice too. Conley has only allowed 20 homers and 83 walks in 200.1 big league innings. The left-hander also knows how to put Ks on the board. The kid has potential and Miami needs to turn him loose this season if they want to make progress moving forward.

Mitch Moreland (Boston Red Sox) – We know the BoSox are loaded in their lineup, but Moreland can pack a punch. Over the past three seasons, the 8-year veteran has hit 20 plus homers three times. He also had 114 RBI in the past two seasons combined. Moreland should flourish in a hitter friendly ballpark like Fenway Park and because of the excellent hitters in that Boston lineup, he should get good pitches to hit during this MLB season.

Nick Markakis (Atlanta Braves) – Here’s a guy that represents consistency in the MLB and will once again help the Braves in 2017. The veteran outfielder hit .269 last year with an on-base percentage of .346. Markakis also drove in 89 runs in his second season as a Brave.

He was literally the second best hitter on the Braces last year, but no one talked about him as such. With Atlanta focused on a rebuild he could get dealt before the deadline if the right trade partner comes along and if enough prospects come to the surface. I respect the career he’s had over the years and I fully expect him to rub off some of his wisdom to Dansby Swanson and Adonis Garcia.

Sep 4, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Matt Duffy (5) throws the ball against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Duffy (Tampa Bay Rays) – Tampa Bay can’t rely solely on Evan Longoria to produce consistently. With Duffy, the Rays are getting a guy that can hit for average. In three seasons the 26-year-old has an overall average of .281 and during his time in Tampa Bay he put up an average of .276 which should put some optimism into Rays fans.

With Steve Pearce and Logan Forsythe departing over the offseason the Rays needed to help their franchise player in Longoria. Duffy is also a good defender and the Rays witnessed that first hand as he didn’t commit an error in any of the 19 games he was in the field.

Seth Lugo (New York Mets) –  Lugo was fantastic in 64 innings pitched in 2016. He allowed only seven homers, 21 walks and posted a 2.67 ERA. With injuries to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz over the past calendar year, the Mets need a new face to show dominance.

Losing Bartolo Colon and Logan Verret in the offseason only pushes that challenge onto Lugo’s shoulders. I expect him to make Mets fans stand and call for an encore nearly every time he touches the mound. That curveball of his is no laughing matter.

Mar 27, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Seth Lugo (67) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Pearce (Toronto Blue Jays) – His versatility is what stands out to me. The veteran utilityman has played first base, second base and the corner outfield spots during his decade long career. It wouldn’t be reasonable to think Melvin Upton, Jr. (OF), Ezequiel Carrera(OF) and Justin Smoak (1) will produce at a high level for Toronto.

Losing Edwin Encarnacion in free agency only stresses the need for someone to take a few extra balls deep. The additions of Kendrys Morales (30 HR in 2016) and Pearce (49 HR the past 3 years combined) should make up for that loss. Over the past four seasons, Pearce has played 85 or more games three times. In the previous six seasons, Pearce never played in more than 61 games.

Shawn Kelley (Washington Nationals) – Whether he comes in to get a save or not this season Kelley has been a proven commodity in the MLB for a while now. That shouldn’t be forgotten. The 8-year reliever has shown that he can get holds and saves. And he can also achieve a low ERA (2.64 ERA in 2016 and 2.45 ERA in 2015). Kelley doesn’t give up the long ball (only 13 HR allowed in his last 109.1 innings). He also won’t hand out a free pass (46 walks in last 161 innings pitched). If the Nats capture the NL East in 2017 expect Kelley to play a major role in the team’s postseason push.




Los Angeles Lakers: D’Angelo Russell is the future, so stop tripping

The nonsense needs to stop. There is no need for the Los Angles Lakers to bring in any type of PG other than the one they have now in D’Angelo Russell. Do not trade for Rajon Rondo, do not draft Lonzo Ball or any other guard experts are claiming as the next Kyrie Irving or Magic Johnson. This is Russell’s team, hands down.

What more does the 21-year old kid have to prove?

His rookie season he was held back due to three huge obstacles. Byron Scott who had no faith in his young players, Kobe Bryant who was on his retirement tour and Russell learning the NBA game. Many tend to forget the kid was only 20-years old when he was giving the keys to the most storied franchise in NBA history. Hell, even Magic himself had to go through a learning curve of sorts before he became who he is.

This season, Russell was given new life under new coach Luke Walton. While the Lakers have struggled Russell has shined. Like most players, there were ups and downs during the year but lately, with the Lakers out of contention, Russell has decided to put his skills on showcase. In March he has played his highest average of minutes per at 33. His scoring average is up to 19 a game and it’s not just the numbers. Look at the level of competition he had done this against.

Russell is not scared of the league’s top PGs. He dropped 28 on Russell Westbrook, 40 on Irving, 28 on John Wall and 22 on Damian Lillard. Yet, his name stays in NBA Trade Rumors galore and with the Lakers possibly having a top 3 pick this year there are talks of Ball coming onboard. But there’s no need for all of this.

The Lakers are rebuilding and there is nothing to rebuild with if Russell is not there. Maybe a player can come in and average a double-double but give the kid a chance to run to run the show how he sees fit. His first season was a wash. There were too many people pulling him in different directions at once. His second season hasn’t gone as planned and that’s not all his fault. The Lakers spent their money on the wrong players and neither has produced anything remotely close to helping the team grow. Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov are shut down for the year and the Lakers are pretty much left with a college team on a nightly basis. But that hasn’t stopped them from competing. It all starts with the floor general and he has handled himself quite well considering the circumstances.

Just give them time to learn and grow as a unit.

 




Checkout The Frisco RoughRiders Opening Day Festivities

The Frisco RoughRiders are starting the 2017 season on a homestand. This Double-A affiliate to the Texas Rangers will have six-straight home games, and each planned to truly please the fans! Opening Day will be April 6, and fans can head to Dr. Pepper Park in Frisco, Texas to start taking on the excitement!

The Thursday season opener will start with a matchup against the Springfield Cardinals. The St. Louis Cardinals affiliate will face off with the RoughRiders beginning at 7:05 pm Central Time.

Fans who head to the game will receive schedule magnets (for the first 2,000 fans). In addition, there will be the Thirsty Thursday promotion ($1 domestic draft beers, $2 craft and import beers, and $1 Dr. Pepper products from 6-8pm). During the game, Jugglin’ Josh Horton will be providing entertainment. Afterward, fans are welcome on the field for a post-game fireworks show.

When the gates open at 6:00 pm, fans can head on over to the Choctaw Lazy River. This addition to Dr. Pepper Park was rated as the best ballpark improvement over $1 million for the 2016 season, by Ballpark Digest. So, floating in the water, watching baseball, and an all-you-can-eat menu with brats, hot dogs, peanuts, chips and Dr. Pepper products. That’s what fans can get with the $39 Opening Day Lazy River Pool Party ticket package.

Single-game tickets for Opening Day, along with the Texas League All-Star on June 27 and the rest of the 70-game regular season schedule, are available at RidersBaseball.com, (972) 731-9200 and the RoughRiders Ticket Office. Additionally, season tickets and other special ticket packages are also on sale now.

Straight from RidersBaseball.com:

“The season-opening homestand (April 6-11) also features Frisco ISD Night (4/7), Girl Scout Night (4/8), 2017 Riders Season T-shirt for first 1,500 fans (4/8), 2017 Schedule Poster for first 2,000 fans (4/9) and Education Day (4/11).

An exciting series of giveaways and theme nights follow throughout the season, in addition to promotions every day of the week. Bobbleheads immortalizing Texas Rangers favorites Yu Darvish and Nomar Mazara, and Riders’ “Ambassador of Fun” Michael Gruber, top the bill of fan freebies. Celebrities descend on Dr Pepper Ballpark as part of Retro Game Show Night, Tribute to Gilligan’s Island Night, 90’s Nite and Tribute to Grease Night.”

Be sure to catch some great baseball action, with the Frisco RoughRiders battling the Springfield Cardinals. Gates open at 6:00 pm, and the first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm.




Major League Baseball: A Preview For The 2017 MLB Season

Baseball fans you can rejoice! Major League Baseball’s regular season is basically here! We are now four days away from baseball games counting for the 2017 MLB season. Sunday will see six teams open their 162 game seasons, as there will be three games spread out throughout the day.

But that is just the start of it all. We have a long season ahead of us. There will be a lot that happens between now and October. While plenty will change over the course of the coming months, it is always helpful to enter the season with a bit of an overview.

So that’s what we are bringing you here. Below is a quick snapshot of what we can expect from each team, who are the favorites for awards and what you need to be prepared for the season. Check it out below!

The Teams

AL East – The Boston Red Sox will once again be the favorites to repeat, following the big Winter trade for Chris Sale. The New York Yankees will be banking on the power of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Matt Holliday as their pitching is a bit sketchy behind Masahiro Tanaka. The Toronto Blue Jays lost some of their bats, and likely take a step back. The Baltimore Orioles will likely see Kevin Gausman step up, but behind him their pitching is still subpar. And the Tampa Bay Rays will likely be swimming no the bottom of the pool.

AL Central – The Cleveland Indians look to repeat, with an upgrade in their lineup thanks to the Edwin Encarnacion signing. The Kansas City Royals need to start strong, or they could go into a full firesale with tons of pending free agents after the season. The Detroit Tigers could also become sellers if they start off slow. As for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, they will be counting on young talent to stay out of the basement.

AL West – The Texas Rangers still have the firepower with the bats, and hope their rotation steps up behind the Darvish-Hamels duo. The Houston Astros made plenty of additions, and are a sneaky World Series contender. The Seattle Mariners look to once again be a team with hope, and will likely fall flat yet again. The Oakland A’s are the same old team, relying on young guys to lead them to an ok season. And the Los Angeles Angels have no hitting outside of Mike Trout, and their pitching isn’t much better.

NL East – The Washington Nationals are once again loaded, and now get a full season of Trea Turner. The New York Mets rotation looks for a healthy season, which would make them very dangerous. The Miami Marlins will likely be average at best like most seasons. The Atlanta Braves are a team with some serious upside, and I will not count out a sneaky run for the Wild Card. Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies also have some young talent that could lead to a .500 season.

NL Central – The Chicago Cubs have replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, and boast the deepest roster in baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals would be division favorites in almost any other division, but they will likely need to settle for a Wild Card. The Pittsburgh Pirates need someone to step up on offense, while their rotation sees some intriguing young names. The Milwaukee Brewers could leap the Pirates if everything breaks right, but I still wouldn’t count on it. And the Cincinnati Reds and their fans have little to look forward to.

NL West – The Los Angeles Dodgers will hope for a healthier 2017, as they once again remain in contention for the division title. The San Francisco Giants do not have even year magic or much of an offense to count on this year, but they do still have the arms. The Arizona Diamondbacks have some upside, but they need bounceback years from a ton of their starters. The Colorado Rockies may have one of the best lineups in baseball, but that will be all for naught if they still can’t pitch. And the San Diego Padres are simply the worst team in baseball.

The Awards Favorites

NL Cy Young – This will once again be a great battle. Clayton Kershaw is also a top of the preseason list of favorites here. But do not count out his division rival Madison Bumgarner. The Mets’ will have two guys in the thick of it, with Jacob DeGrom and Noah “Thor” Syndergaard striving to be the best. Then we have the Cubs’ duo, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester vying for the top spot. There will surely be other contenders come season’s end, but as things stand right now, these are our most likely candidates.

AL Cy Young – While the NL is loaded with great pitchers, the AL is not. Corey Kluber is likely to be one of the favorites at this time, pitching for the league’s top team from a year ago. Do not count out Justin Verlander, who has shown how dominant he can be in the past. If you are looking for some up and comers, the AL East boasts a few options in Marcus Stroman and Chris Archer. But the real favorite has to be Chris Sale, who will now be sporting Red Socks. This race is much more likely to see someone come out of left field and surprise us all.

NL MVP – Most people will be on the Kris Bryant bandwagon for the repeat. But his teammate Anthony Rizzo also has to be in the mix for consideration. There will be the group of people who love Bryce Harper way too much, and as a result he is a preseason contender. If Corey Seager takes another step forward, do not count out the Dodgers’ shortstop. But none of those names will matter, as this will be the year of Nolan Arenado. Book it.

AL MVP – Mike Trout, Mookie Betts or Manny Machado. If you ask 100 people who wins this award, 75 percent will say Trout. Another 24 percent will say one of the other two guys. But do not count out the two big names in Houston, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Josh Donaldson always seems to find his way into the discussion as well. Finally, I see this being a year where Francisco Lindor takes another step forward, meaning he may be our sleeper contender in this one. But at the end of the day, Trout still likely walks away with it.

NL Rookie of the Year – This was likely going to be a two-man race between Alex Reyes and Dansby Swanson. Then Alex Reyes got hurt and is likely going to miss the entire 2017 MLB season. So this is certainly Swanson’s to lose. If Swanson puts together a halfway decent year, he’s extremely likely to walk away with the trophy. Jose Peraza is another potential candidate here.

AL Rookie of the Year – This race is a bit more open than the NL version. The White Sox will present several candidates. Yoan Moncada may be the overall favorite, as the former Red Sox prospect will come with plenty of fanfare. Lucas Giolito, brought over in the Adam Eaton deal, will look to prove himself in the AL. Then we have Andrew Benintendi from the Red Sox, who is my personal pick for the award. Look for things to get interesting in the AL for this one.

What You Need To Enjoy The Season

This one is super easy. For you to get the most enjoyment out of the season, you need to be able to watch as many games as possible! The best way to do that, MLB At Bat/MLB TV. This is one of the greatest creations of all time. The app is great, as I can plug my phone in and listen to any game on the radio while I drive.

But what’s even better, you can watch virtually any game! To sign up, you can go here. If you only want to get your teams games, you can do that too for a cheaper price.

So now that you got the games, you need a website to help you keep up on all things baseball. Obviously, INSC is going to be my first recommendation, as we will bring you baseball knowledge all season long. But if you are looking for a site that is all baseball, all the time, check out MLBTradeRumors.com. One other site I would highly recommend is RosterResource.com, which gives you an overview of every team’s roster, with updates when things change.

So there you go, everything you need to know leading up to Sunday. While Sunday will provide us with three games that officially count, that is just the appetizer. This is just game one of 162 for six of the 30 teams in MLB. Bring on the baseball season!

The countdown continues, as we are now just four days away! Be sure to check back each day here at INSC, as we have been counting down the days. Each day we are publishing a number-themed piece related to how many more days until the season starts!

What are you most looking forward to this baseball season? Tell us in the comments!




New York Yankees: Countdown to Opening Day #4

The snow is melting, it’s getting warmer, and Opening Day is just around the corner. In just four days, New York Yankees baseball will be part of our daily routine once again. I’ve already covered some of the all-time Yankees greats in this countdown, but this one is above the rest. The number four in pinstripes belongs to no other than Lou Gehrig.

Gehrig doesn’t quite have the hardware that other legends in this countdown had, but that’s not at all indicative of how legendary his career was. Born and raised in New York City, Gehrig was noticed by the Yankees while attending Columbia University. On April 18th, 1923, in a game between Columbia and Williams College, Gehrig would strike out seventeen batters, a team record.

Everyone knows about Babe Ruth being a pitcher before mashing homers, but not many knew Gehrig had a history on the mound as well. In attendance for that game was Yankee scout Paul Krichell, who was impressed by Gehrig. While his performance on the mound was impressive, Krichell marveled at Gehrig’s unbelievable power at the plate. The 19-year-old Gehrig would sign a contract with the Yankees later that month.

It didn’t take long for Gehrig to reach the big league club. He made his New York Yankees debut on June 15th, 1923 as a pinch hitter. His shot at regular playing time didn’t come right away, as he spent parts of 1923 and 1923 in minor-league Hartford. His time spent there was the only time Gehrig had ever played baseball for a team based outside of New York City. Gehrig was truly the definition of home-grown talent, and there’s no question how he was, and still is a New York icon.

After an impressive 126 games in 1925, Gehrig played in his first of many full seasons in 1926. He took full advantage of his regular playing time, breaking out with a .313 average, 16 home runs, 112 RBI, and a league-leading 20 triples. He played in his first World Series that year, batting .348 in seven games against the Cardinals. Entering 1927, Gehrig had broken out as a star, but it wasn’t until that season started that he took his career to a whole new level.

Gehrig’s 1927 season is still considered one of the greatest seasons by any batter in history and with good reason. He collected 218 hits to the tune of a .373 average, 47 homers, and a record breaking 175 RBI. His 117 extra-base hits and 447 total bases that season rank second and third all-time, respectively. The 1927 New York Yankees is still considered one of the greatest teams of all-time. Gehrig’s MVP-winning campaign helped lead the Yankees to a four-game sweep of the Pirates in the World Series.

Perhaps the craziest stat on Gehrig’s baseball card is his RBI totals. He led the league five times, surpassed 150 seven times, and finished with 1995. This was all while batting in front of Babe Ruth. He was an All-Star in seven straight seasons from 1933 to 1939. In 1934, he won the Triple Crown, leading the league with 49 homers, 166 RBI, and a .363 batting average. That same year he was awarded his second career MVP award.

I could write a book on Lou Gehrig’s accomplishments, but it still wouldn’t describe just how great he was. Of course, his greatest accomplishment was perhaps playing in 2,130 straight games, a record that stood until 1995 when Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed it. What’s amazing yet heartbreaking is that Gehrig managed to stay in the lineup, even when his health started to decline.

Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on June 19th, 1939, his 36th birthday. Two days later the New York Yankees announced his retirement. A couple weeks later on July 4th, “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day” was held at Yankee Stadium. It was then that Gehrig delivered his famous “Luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech to a sold-out crowd in the Bronx.

Lou Gehrig’s number four was retired that very day. At the end of 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the youngest ever to do so at the time. Gehrig passed away on June 2nd, 1941, but his number four in pinstripes will forever have a permanent place in Monument Park, and in the hearts of Yankee fans.




Countdown To The MLB Opening Day 2017: “4” Stories That Can Shape The 2017 MLB Season

As we are getting into Spring and getting Winter behind us, we could look forward to baseball beginning in a few days. Since we are only four days from the start of the season, I thought it would be appropriate to look at four stories that could play a role in the 2017 MLB season.

Without further ado, let us look at four stories that could play a role in how the 2017 season turns out for some teams:

Can the Chicago Cubs dominate the National League once again? – The Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908 a season ago. They got there by dominating most of the National League during the 2016 regular season. However, in the 2017 season, you have teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals, who are all expecting to be healthy for this upcoming season. It will be interesting to see how their veteran pitching staff does this season.

How close are we to seeing the New York Yankees be on top of the American League East? – 2017 will be the first year without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and many of the others who played a crucial role in the 2009 World Series team. The 2017 Yankees team will be lead by Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and other youngsters. For many of these guys, it will be their first full season in the majors. I still feel we are a few years away from the Yankees being on atop of the American League East division as a result.

Will health play a factor for the New York Mets? – In the 2016 season, the Mets had a ton of injuries. From David Wright to Neil Walker plus a majority of the pitching staff. No one knows how good this team can honestly be if everyone is healthy. The health factor will play a huge role for me, especially for the pitching staff.

Can the Mariners end their 15-year drought? – The last time the Mariners made the playoffs was when you had Ichiro Suzuki on the team. However, if Felix Hernadez can be healthy, this team, who is lead by Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, might be what the Mariners need to finally make the playoffs. Only time will tell.

These are the four stories that I see that could play some role in how the 2017 season turns out. The Major League Baseball season gets back in action this Sunday, April 2nd.




2017 NBA Mock Draft: Picks 1-13

The 2017 NBA Draft is nearing with the regular season drawing to a close. By now a vast majority of the teams now they have no shot at the playoffs and are watching the NCAA Tournament closely to hopefully find the missing link to a championship or the next face of their respective franchises.

The NBA Draft is just as unpredictable as any other sport. No one really knows how a top choice or second rounder will turn out. That’s the beauty of the game. With that being said, it’s time for the official start of the NBA Mock Draft. Mocks are hard. Players can choose to stay in school or come out early and with this class, it’s very thin on bigs, however, it’s guard heavy. It’s funny because those are the positions most of these team do not need.

Please, check the date and see when this was written and make note that records will change every day. I will continue to do an update often. Enjoy.

 

1- Boston Celtics- Markelle Fultz (PG-Washington)

The Celtics need a post player to pair with Al Horford but how can you pass up a scorer and defender like Fultz? Isaiah Thomas averages 30 points per game but what Fultz will provide are nights off for Thomas from carrying the offense alone. With Avery Bradley, the Celtics are a bit more defensive but Bradley cannot score like Fultz from either the perimeter or off the dribble.

2- Los Angeles Lakers- Malik Monk (SG-Kentucky)

Ok, so Monk stunk it up in his last game in the NCAA Tournament, it happens to the best of them. The Lakers are in need of a Center, not shooters or defenders on the wings. The Lakers taking Monk will help in a potential a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers that will net them Jahlil Okafor for Jordan Clarkson.

3- Phoenix Suns- Lauri Markkanen (PF-Arizona)

Despite the Suns record they actually have tons of talent. This season was one of growth as the team decided to shut down players in order for the younger guys to gain some valuable experience. In short, they decided to tank. The Suns are loaded in the backcourt with Eric Bledsoe, and Devin Booker but what they need is another big man to stretch the floor. This is where Markkanen will make his money. He’s not the next Dirk but he’s showing signs of being the next Brook Lopez. Not much of a defender or rebounder but he will be a matchup problem along with Len and T.J. Warren.

4- Orlando Magic- Josh Jackson- (SF- Kansas)

What are the Magic’s plans with Aaron Gordon? Is he a player or just a highlight reel? The backcourt could be addressed but the Magic must deal with a few defensive issues they have. Jackson could very well be the top pick this year and the Magic could very well use his defense on the perimeter. He could turn into the nest Matt Barnes minus the off the court issues.

5- Philadelphia 76ers- Dennis Smith Jr (PG-NC State)

If the 76ers can somehow grab Jordan Clarkson for Okafor than selecting Smith is the next logical choice. I like T.J. McConnell but Smith is a different kind of beast. He has handles, can attack and play above the rim, plus he has a pretty decent perimeter game. To pair Smith with a frontcourt of Saric, Embiid and Simmons would be brutal for the rest of the NBA for years to come.

6- New York Knicks- Lonzo Ball (PG-UCLA)

His father can crave the Lakers all he wants but the truth is, the Lakers don’t need Ball. Who called Ball the No.1 pick anyway? His best bet will be to join Carmelo Anthony in New York for however long he’s going to be there. The Knicks are looking for a new face of the franchise and the kid with the wicked jump shot may be the prize.

7- Minnesota Timberwolves- Isaiah Hartenstein (PF Germany)

It never fails. Every year there is a shocker of a pick and in 2017 it will belong to the Timberwolves. I believe that Ricky Rubio has done enough to warrant another year in Minny. Zach LaVine is set at the 2-guard and Andrew Wiggins, KAT, and Gorgui Dieng will man the post. By drafting the German big man it will give him a season or two to learn before Dieng moves on. Some have labeled him the next Dirk but isn’t that with any 7-foot German big man who can shoot?

8- Sacramento Kings- De’Aaron Fox (PG- Kentucky)

At some point, the Kings will have to gut their roster and this offseason seems to be the best time. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have played great but neither is the future playmaker they need. Drafting Fox is the smart choice. He may not be the best shooter in NCAA but he does everything else just fine. He can be the next Rajon Rondo if surrounded by the right teammates.

9- Sacramento Kings (From New Orleans)- Jayson Tatum (SF-Duke)

Rudy Gay is gone and Tyreke Evans is one dribble away for IR. The backcourt could be addressed but the Kings must deal with a major vacancy at the SF position. Coach K loves to recruit wings that can play both ends of the floor. Last year it was Brandon Ingram, this year it’s Tatum. His numbers are not All-Star level but he will be a solid contributor for a team that must begin to focus on the defensive end.

10- Dallas Mavericks- Ivan Rabb- (PF- Cal)

The Mavericks need to start thinking about a replacement for Dirk. The Draft is thin in terms of bigs and any pick here will be a gamble but the Mavs must focus on the future. Nerlens Noel is the man in the middle and Rabb will provide further muscle up front. His inside presence is outstanding but his outside shot may be just as good. If given quality minutes he can easily be a double-double player in the NBA.

11- Charlotte Hornets- Miles Bridges- SF- (Michigan State)

It’s time the Hornets sent Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the bench. I love his defensive hustle but the Hornets need scoring on the wings. Bridges will add the athleticism the Hornets have been missing for some while now. He has improved on his perimeter game but his true strength is driving to the basket and making poster shots of his opponents. Pairing Bridges with Kemba Walker on the break will be a highlight reel every night.

12- Detroit Pistons- Luke Kennard- (SG- Duke)

The Pistons need a perimeter threat to go with those bigs in the post. Pope is ok but he’s a bit inconsistent. The Pistons need Kennard to be the J.J. Reddick or the Kyle Korver of Detroit. If Kennard can continue to show his range outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium then Reggie Jackson can rest easy.

13- Chicago Bulls- Frank Ntilikina- (PG- France)

The Bulls can forget trading Jimmy Butler or watch Dwyane Wade walk out the door. It’s time to cut ties with PG Rajon Rondo. Ntilikina is not the next Tony Parker, he may be better. His defense is just as good as his offense and what’s better is that he can make a shot from the perimeter, unlike Rondo.