The NFL Regular Season is Finally Here!

In less than one week the NFL will start their 100th season. The Bears and Packers, probably the most historic rivalry in football, will open the season on Thursday, Sept 5th. Normally the NFL opens their season with the defending champion, but not this year. The rivalry means to much to the league and it will be the 199th game played between the teams. Once you get past that game, opening weekend will be full of great matchups like the Redskins and Eagles plus the Patriots and Steelers. I wanted to take a look at the teams vying for Super Bowl contention and if we could see a few surprise teams this year.

Starting in the NFC, there are a few teams that are expected to stay on top while a few teams could have a turnaround and surprise people. In the NFC East, the Eagles should prevail. I do not think the Giants and Redskins have enough talent to compete with them. However, if enough breaks go their way the Cowboys could end up on top of the division. The NFC West should belong to the Rams. They are loaded with talent and could have even more drive this year after losing in the Super Bowl last year. I do not believe the 49ers, Seahawks, or Cardinals have near enough talent to knock the Rams out of the top spot in the division. The NFC North figures to be a slugfest. It could end up being the most competitive division in the league. Plenty of people believe the Bears will win again while plenty believe the Vikings will turn it around and rise to the top. I am not an expert, but I believe we will be watching the Bears and Rams battling to be the NFC participant in the Super Bowl.

In the AFC there will be many of the same powers at the top, but many are predicting some surprising change as well. We will start in the AFC North with the Browns being the “hot” pick of most people. They have plenty of talent and name recognition now, but do they have the toughness to knock off the Steelers and Ravens? That will be fun to watch! In the AFC East you can not go against the Patriots. They have won the division 10 straight times! Until Brady and Belicheck are gone you have to figure the division runs through them. The AFC West should be easily handled by the Chiefs, but the Chargers could make a run. The Raiders also figure to be better as do the the Broncos with the addition of Flacco. I believe we will be looking at a Patriots vs. Chiefs title game with the Chiefs making it to the Super Bowl.

In many season the playoffs are mostly decided by the last week except for 1-2 spots. Hopefully there will be more spots on the line this year. It really turns up the excitement. Week 17 has quite a few match ups that could end up deciding the division and playoff spots. The Bears play the Vikings, the Chiefs play the Chargers, Pittsburgh is at Baltimore, and the Saints play the Panthers. All 8 of these teams could end up in the playoffs or out. It would be great to see all of these teams playing at full strength to decide the playoff match ups. To be honest, I am just excited that the season is starting. I can not wait to watch Thursday’s game and many more throughout the year, especially the Chiefs vs. Rams in the Super Bowl.

—Victor Mandalawi

2019 Baseball HOF

Every year around mid to late July you can set your sights on Cooperstown, NY. As you can see here, I wrote about the Hall of Fame last year as well. Hall of Fame Weekend is always fun to watch, especially if one of the inductees was one of your favorite players. This year will be no different as there are 6 more inductees. The players are great DH’s Harold Baines and Edgar Martinez. There are also two great starting pitchers being inducted in Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay. Finally, two great closers being inducted are Lee Smith and Mariano Rivera. I wanted to take a brief look at their careers and what players have a shot at being inducted next year.

Let’s start with Baines and Martinez, Harold Baines was a somewhat controversial selection. He was voted in by a committee, not the writer’s association. He played in over 20 seasons which is amazing. However, he played the field mainly during his first 7 seasons and was primarily a DH for the rest of his career. Baines was a 6 time all-star and compiled some amazing career numbers. When you look at his overall numbers they are impressive as he had over 2800 hits, almost 400 homers, over 1600 RBI’s, and 1300 runs scored. Those numbers sure are impressive and if his selection is controversial to the writers, clearly someone felt he was worthy. Edgar Martinez played his entire career for the Mariners. Few people would argue that he is Hall of Fame worthy as he had a marvelous career. He produced over 2200 hits, over 500 doubles, over 300 homers, over 1200 rbi’s, and over 1200 runs. When comparing his numbers to Harold Baines’s, Baines was superior. However, Martinez had a better batting average, better on base percentage, and better slugging percentage.

Let’s move on to the two starters, Mussina and Halladay. Mike Mussina played for the Orioles and the Yankees during his career. He is not necessarily a controversial decision but it should have been a no-brainer. Mussina won 270 games in his career, while spending his entire career in the toughest division in baseball. Mussina also has the 13th best war among pitchers since WWII, that statistic alone should have been enough to get him in immediately. Roy Halladay is the other starter on the list. Unfortunately, Halladay died in a plane crash a couple of years ago. He does not have the massive numbers that many other pitchers have compiled, but he has the right numbers. He was an 8 time all-star, 2 time Cy Young winner while being runner up twice. He also threw a no-hitter in a playoff game.

I want to finish with the closers. Lee Smith played for eight teams, but most remember him as a Chicago Cub. Lee Smith retired as the all-time leader in saves. You could argue that he helped shape the modern closer role. I wanted to close with the best closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera. I could give a million different stats to justify his enshrinement. I will only give a couple, they are staggering. Rivera has the lowest career era of any pitcher in the last 100 years. He managed to turn it up in the playoffs and had a career .70 earned run average. Quite simply, Mariano was awesome!

There will be another vote in a few months and next year at this time we could be discussing a new group of enshrinees. Players like Jeter, Konerko, Cliff Lee, and Alfonso Soriano will be on the ballot for the first time. You could also finally see names like Shilling, Clemens, and Bonds get inducted. No matter who gets voted in they will undoubtedly be deserving. Every year there is an argument about who got in and who did not, but in my opinion if the majority votes for you that is clearly enough. I know I enjoyed watching all of these players over the years, even if they help beat the Yankees.

—Victor Mandalawi

Wild and Crazy Draft!!!

Every basketball season teams “tank” so they will have a better chance at getting a higher draft choice. In the NBA if you do not qualify for the playoffs you are in the draft lottery. If a team has the lowest number of wins they will have the highest chance at winning the lottery. However, this year a true long shot won the lottery. The New Orleans Pelicans jumped numerous spots to claim the first pick. Memphis and the Lakers also jumped numerous spots to claim the second pick and fourth pick. All of those slots should have went to teams with a lesser record, but it did not happen. The NBA recently made some changes to the lottery so teams that “tank” are not necessarily rewarded and it seems to have worked. Regardless of the order, the draft is a great time for teams. They have a shot at drafting a blue-chip player, finding the diamond in the rough, or using the picks as currency to acquire established talent from other teams. I wanted to take a look at the selections from this year’s draft and possibly forecast the future.

New Orleans had the first pick and it was not a surprise that they selected Zion Williamson from Duke. Zion is being viewed as more than just a talented player. He has a certain appeal to the masses that make him a huge name before he has played a minute in the NBA. I do not think he will end up being one of the greatest players of all-time, but that will not matter. He brings hope to the team and fan base. At the very least, the Pelicans will be able sell tickets and merchandise during the rebuild.

As expected, the Grizzlies drafted JA Morant with the second pick. He exploded onto the scene this season and dominated his competition. The New York Knicks selected RJ Barrett with third overall pick. I am sure they had their sites set on Zion as he alone could have changed the course of the franchise. However, he might have been enough to lure a couple of marquee free agents to the team. The Lakers had the 4th pick and selected De’Andre Hunter. He will not play for the Lakers because the pick was traded, more on that later. The top five was rounded out with the Cavs selecting Darius Garland from Vanderbilt. He only played a handful of games this year because of injury, but scouts believe his potential is immense.

Another part of the draft is trying to follow the trades. I would argue that the NBA draft has more picks being traded than any other sport. I would also say these trades are more significant than other leagues. A few examples from this year are as follows, the Lakers received the 4th pick, instead of using that pick to pair a young player with LeBron they used it as a trade chip to acquire Anthony Davis from New Orleans. New Orleans received the 4th pick this year, a first rounder next year, and a few players in the deal. They turned around and dealt the 4th pick for more picks this year and next. The Pelicans have been able to arm themselves with plenty of chances at acquiring young talent. That is just one team making those waves, you do not see that happen in the other leagues.

The NBA Draft is always a great time for fans. If your team was not very good and did not make a run in the playoffs, it can signify hope for the future. Hope could be in the form of the best college players or it can also be found in the form of established veteran players like Anthony Davis. It can be harder to follow the NBA than in previous generations based on the movement of free agents, but some would argue that is what appeals to many now. I think it builds excitement during the off season and it bridges the gap to the start of the next season.

—Victor Mandalawi

Can we determine the contenders this early?

The MLB season is well underway with most teams having played about 1/3 of their schedule which is about 55 games. A couple of months ago I wrote about the season starting. The article covered expert team predictions, expert player predictions, and my own personal predictions. Obviously teams have plenty of time to either start playing better or playing poorer, but 1/3 of the way into the season gives us a good preview of where it may end up. We can also look at the early leaders for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year.

I, along with the experts predicted the AL would be a race between the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Indians. I gave the Twins and Rays a shot to compete and that is a good thing. The Twins have come out firing on all cylinders and have the best record in the league. Are they for real? It looks to be that way based on the strength of their offense. They lead the league in home runs. They also have a nice pitching staff led by Odorizzi and Berrios. The Rays are hanging with the Yankees and are only a half game out of the lead in the East. If the season ended today the playoffs would feature the Astros, Twins, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. Plenty can change in the next 100-110 games so teams like the Indians and A’s have time to right the ship.

The National League is shaping up exactly as was figured early in the year. The Phillies and Braves are leading in the East, with the Cubs and Brewers leading the Central, and the Dodgers hold a comfortable lead in the West. Can anything change? I believe the Central is bunched up heavily and almost any team has a shot to come out on top. I also believe the Rockies and Padres have a shot to get hot and catch the Dodgers.

In my earlier article I mentioned that picking a winner of the Cy Young, MVP, and ROY would be very difficult. Now that the season is 1/3 complete I will make a few predictions. There are plenty of players that have had a great start to the season, but will they be able to sustain it? Here are a few names that should end up in the hunt for the MVP in the AL. I think Rosario, Bregman, Bogaerts, and of course Mike Trout have a shot. In the NL the favorites will be: Bellinger, Arenado, Yelich, and Rizzo. I think the Cy Young contenders in the AL are Verlander, Morton, Snell, and Odorizzi. The NL contenders will be Ryu, Scherzer, Greinke, and Strasburg. The ROY in the AL may come down to Chavis, Lowe, and possibly Vlad Jr. if he can get on a hot streak. In the NL the frontrunners are Alonso from the Mets and Paddack from the Padres.

It may be a little early to predict the actual winners of the divisions and player awards. Baseball has so many games that it is not too late for almost any team to make a run. Having 110 games left leaves plenty of time. In the NFL, being 1/3 of the way through the schedule means you have 10-11 games left and it may be too late. You also have to take the trade deadline into account. A team can get a dominant pitcher and that could drastically change the course of the season. Picking the winners could be anybody’s guess, but watching the season play out is what makes the sport so fun to follow.

—Victor Mandalawi

Playoffs are Underway!

The NBA regular season ended on April 10th. The playoffs began a few days later on the 13th. The regular season is always full of ups and downs for every team. Obviously, there are plenty of teams that are rebuilding and had no shot but one team that did not make the playoffs was the Lakers. Why is this significant? This is his first time since 2005 that LeBron’s team is not in the playoffs. Has it hurt the tv ratings? Of course it has, they are down 14%. Even though LeBron is not in the playoffs the show must go on. I wanted to take a look at the first round match ups that have completed and the current second round series. I also want to take a look at what teams are actual contenders. Can anyone knock off the defending champs?

In the Eastern Conference, the number one seed Bucks took on the Pistons and swept the series. The two seed Raptors played the Magic and lost the opening game but got back on track and won the next 4 to advance. The three seed Sixers took on the Nets and won in 5 games. The final first round series in the East was the Pacers vs. the Celtics. The Celtics did not live up to expectations in the regular season but they showed up and swept the Pacers. In the Western Conference, the Warriors had a little trouble with the Clippers winning in six games. The Nuggets beat the Spurs in a seven game series. The Trailblazers knocked out the Thunder in 5 games. In the final series the Rockets beat the Jazz in 5 games setting the stage for a rematch with the Warriors.

Usually the second round brings much better competition. Only 8 teams remain and all 8 are quality teams. In the West, the Warriors have their hands full with the Rockets, but they are up 2-0 in the series, yet it is far from over. Hopefully the series outshines all of the complaining the players have done about the referees. The other series features the Trailblazers and Nuggets. The series is tied at 1 game a piece. Both of these teams are very good and will be able to showcase their skills in primetime. The Eastern Conference features the Bucks and Celtics with the series tied at 1 game a piece. The other series is a match-up of the Sixers and Raptors. The Sixers hold the slight lead at two games to one.

Picking a winner out of the remaining teams is very difficult. I actually believe that all 8 teams could make a run and contend for the championship. However, betting against the defending champs is always a bad idea in my book. Until the Warriors are beaten, I can’t pick against them. Good luck to all of the fans that have a team still in the fight. Watching meaningful playoff games sure beats sitting around waiting for the Zion Sweepstakes!

—Victor Mandalawi

2019 Men’s NCAA Tourney

The men’s NCAA Tourney is usually referred to as March Madness. The tournament is played out in 63 games over the span of a couple of weeks, not including the play-in games. The tournament venues are spread throughout the country with ultimately 4 regional sites determining the Final Four participants. I personally think it is a fabulous tournament that offers so much entertainment value. I wanted to take a look at the 4 regions and any upsets that might have occurred in each. I would also like to review the Final Four and Championship Game. Lastly, I wanted to highlight some of the best games in the tournament.

The West Region was led by #1 seed Gonzaga followed by Michigan, Texas Tech, and Florida State. Some would argue that this was the weakest of all regions on paper. The 4 top teams advanced to the sweet sixteen with Gonzaga beating Florida State and Texas Tech beating up Michigan. Texas Tech was able to knock off the one seed Zags and advance to the Final Four. In the Midwest region, the top four seeds were North Carolina, Kentucky, Houston, and Kansas. That bracket seemed to have plenty of firepower, but it was the number five seed Auburn Tigers knocking off Kansas, UNC, and Kentucky to advance to the Final Four. They could officially be called Giant Killers! The East Region was chalk led by Duke, Michigan State, LSU, and Virginia Tech. The Spartans were able to win out and advance to the Final Four. The South Region was represented by Virginia, Tennessee, Purdue, and Kansas State. The first round supplied two major upsets with Kansas St and Wisconsin losing but in the end the #1 seed Cavaliers advanced to the Final Four.

As always there were fantastic, edge of your seat type games in the tournament as well as great individual performances. JA Morant was able to play 2 showcase games and prove he belongs in the discussion as one of the best players in College. Carsen Edwards from Purdue was also able to show that he belongs. He played like a man possessed and almost carried Purdue to the Final Four. Duke was able to squeak by UCF in the second round and was then able to barely sneak by Virginia Tech in the third round. They were finally knocked off by Michigan State in another nail biter, losing by a point. Purdue also played in two of the best games of the tourney by beating Tennessee and losing to Virginia. Virginia was involved in three unbelievable games by beating Purdue, Auburn, and Texas Tech in consecutive games.

The Final Four featured Michigan State playing Texas Tech and Virginia playing Auburn. As mentioned earlier, Virginia was able to knock off Auburn in a fantastic game. While Texas Tech handled Michigan State in another entertaining game. In the finals Virginia was able to beat Texas Tech in an OT thriller. It was a little over a year after being the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed. I am sure the loss helped propel this team in many ways.

At the end of every tournament you can always look back and find the winning team’s defining moment, but Virginia had three of them. There might not have been as many crazy upsets in the early rounds as usual, but the quality of the games were great. Every region had games that were nail biters, with many of the final games being outstanding to view. I enjoyed this tournament as much as any in recent memory, hopefully next year provides much of the same. I will leave you with the ever popular, “One Shining Moment“.

—Victor Mandalawi

Opening Day 2019!

If you are living in a cave or you are captivated by March Madness, you may not have noticed that baseball has started. Technically, the season started a couple of weeks ago when the Mariners and A’s opened the season in Japan. However, yesterday was opening day for the remaining 28 teams. Opening day could mean nothing to you but I happen to love the day. Obviously, it marks the beginning of the season but it has other meanings to me. It usually marks the beginning of spring and the thought of warmer weather. The weather brings greener grass and blooming flowers and plants. After the dreary winter months, a little life is always welcome. Baseball is a very long season and many things can happen throughout a season, so let’s take a look at some predictions from the professionals and myself! Who will win it all? What players will be in the running for MVP and Cy Young?

The American League looks a lot like it did last year. It is very top heavy with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros. Those three teams might be the best in baseball. When you look at the expert predictions for the AL East, the Red Sox and Yankees will certainly be selected as the division winners. The AL Central is a very weak division, but the Indians have enough pitching to get through into the playoffs. The Astros should win the AL West again with relative ease. Some of the other teams that could make a run at the playoffs are the Rays, Angels, and Twins.

The National League is wide open. You could argue that two teams in each division could win with some divisions having three teams with a legitimate shot at winning. The NL East should be decided between the Nationals and Phillies. The NL Central figures to be a three team race between the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals. However, the Reds made quite a few significant moves in the offseason to possibly make a push. The Dodgers and Rockies will most likely be the class of the NL West. A few other teams like the Padres, Mets, and Braves could possibly make a push for a wildcard slot.

Baseball has always relied on numbers and statistics to tell a story of how the season plays out. It is changing a little with analytics and advanced metrics becoming popular, but numbers still drive the game. Players that produce large numbers usually end up being in an MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year race. Check out some of these predictions by the professionals to see what players could win the awards! There are so many great players and pitchers, selecting winners for these categories is almost impossible. Don’t forget that they are selected by sportswriters who could possibly have an agenda and the votes are not always sound.

Picking a winner is a very difficult thing to do. You have a 1/30 shot and you can eliminate at least 10 to 15 teams that have no chance of winning, so your odds will go up. The playoff games can be decided by one player getting red hot and predicting that is impossible. I would like to think the Yankees will be in hot pursuit of title number 28 and the grass is getting greener so life is good!

— Victor Mandalawi

Spring Break!

What do you think of when the calendar turns to March? There are plenty of things to turn your attention to. You can think about March Madness, Major League Baseball getting underway, possibly the weather in your area improving, or just being able to get outside and work in your yard. One of my favorite things to think about this time of year is Spring Break. Spring Break is usually associated with vacations to a warm weather or beach destination. That does not always have to be the case. I wanted to take a look at all of the types of vacations that can be taken. You can choose warm weather, cold weather, a combination of both(?), or just go sight seeing.

Let’s start with warm weather vacations. There are plenty of destinations within the US or Caribbean that you can visit. Your preference of vacation will determine your location. If you like to sit at a pool or a beach and relax, you will need to visit Florida or a tourist location in the Caribbean. Destinations like Miami, Cancun, Punta Cana, and Jamaica are all very popular this time of year. If you are into entertainment and a family friendly destination then Orlando, Florida is a highly popular location. You can visit DisneyWorld, Universal Studios, or Sea World. However, theme parks are not the only attraction for families. You can visit the Kennedy Space Center or spend the day at Cocoa Beach.

Warm weather destinations are not the only place to visit. You can visit plenty of cold weather locations. Here is a great article that offers plenty of advice and locations around the country. If skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and ice-fishing are your type of entertainment then you should buck the warm weather trend and enjoy yourself. What if I told you there was a place that you could enjoy a warm waterpark one day and go skiing the next day? That place would be Wisconsin Dells. A family could certainly find plenty to do in a location like that!

What if you wanted to see the sights? You could visit virtually any city you wanted. You could visit New York City and head to Times Square, Ellis Island, The Empire State Building, or view the 9/11 Memorial. You could also go to our Nation’s Capital, Washington DC. There are so many places to visit and sights to see that you could certainly fill up a week. You can also visit the Smithsonian. It is the largest museum in the world and you could probably spend days here alone. What about visiting our National Parks? There are plenty throughout the country and they have plenty of variety.

As you can see there are quite a few options for taking a vacation during spring break. I did not even mention taking a cruise or viewing MLB spring training games in Florida or Arizona. There are options for all types of people. You can go skiing, swimming, and sight seeing. Spring Break can also carry a type of symbolism for people. It usually means that Winter is coming to an end and spring is around the corner. If you are heading somewhere this month or just watching the calendar waiting for warmer weather, please have fun!

—Victor Mandalawi

All-Star Weekend!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the state of the NBA here. This week I want to write specifically about the All-Star game. It has always been one of my favorite events. I can remember as a child recording the games and re-watching them a few times. I may be wrong, but I do not think the game is as competitive as it used to be. There is very little defense that is played. Even though that has changed it is still very entertaining to watch the best players in the World show off their talent. Even though the game is fun to watch, it is the rest of the weekend’s events that make All-Star weekend great. On Friday, the Celebrity game and Rising Stars game are played. On Saturday we will get to see a skills challenge, 3 pt contest, and the ever popular dunk contest. The game will follow on Sunday. The format is different because the teams were drafted and are no longer East vs. West.

The first event of the weekend is the Celebrity game. You can watch last year’s game here. Quavo was the MVP of the game last year and will be looking to repeat the accomplishment again this year. Some of the contestants will be the retired football player Steve Smith, performing artist JB Smoove, along with retired professionals Jay Williams and Ray Allen. The Rising Stars game will follow the celeb game. The format is Team USA vs. Team World. Both rosters are stacked with tons of young talent from across the globe. In looking at the rosters, I would like to think that Team USA has the edge, but nothing is a given in competition.

The first event on Saturday will be the Skills Challenge. It will feature plenty of talent with a couple of All-Stars and a few rookie of the month winners. Almost all of the players are young, except the veteran Mike Conley. Let’s hope the old guy can hold off the youngsters, it would be a win for all of us that are aging. The 3pt contest is the next event. This should be great to watch because we have the defending champion Devin Booker, retiring all time great player Dirk, and the Curry brothers. Here is a great video showing some of the all time great performances in the shootout. Hopefully this year’s event can produce a moment like this from Larry Legend! The final event of the evening is the slam dunk contest. The contest seemed to be losing steam over the years, but the contest in 2016 featuring Gordon and Lavine really brought it back to life. I really hope that the momentum carries forward. I would love to see the contest be as popular as it was when I was younger. The best contest was quite possibly this one, but there are plenty to choose from.

The all star game will take place on Sunday and the format is just a little different than years past. The game will feature Team LeBron vs Team Giannis. They were allowed to draft their teams based on getting the most votes. Obviously, the teams are loaded with talent. Picking a winner is almost impossible. I would imagine that no defense will be played until the 4th quarter and only if the game is tightly contested. Do not be surprised if the home town player, Kemba Walker, wins the MVP award.

Even though the players do not play as hard during the game and the format has changed, the game is still very entertaining. In my opinion, the game is only a small part of the all-star weekend. I believe that all of the other contests help make up a great weekend of entertainment. I hope you will have a chance to sit down with your family and friends and enjoy a little of the action.

—Victor Mandalawi

State of the NBA

This is usually a great time during the season to start paying attention to the game. Most teams have played around 50 games, so we have a pretty good idea if a team in contention or not. You are able to weed out the pretenders at this point. Also, the all-star game and trade deadline both fall within the next couple of weeks. Even the fans of teams that are in the tank have something to look forward to because there are potential stars emerging from the college game. I wanted to take a look a closer look at who the favorites for the championship may be. I also wanted to discuss any potential trades that could shake up the landscape of the league and what college players are being coveted by the teams in the lottery.

Let’s start with the teams that are in the tank! Those teams are the Bulls, Cavs, Knicks, and Suns. Those are the 4 teams that will probably end the season with the best shot at the number one pick. There are usually a few “can’t miss” prospects every year and this year is no different. The Duke Blue Devils have two on their team, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. ESPN offers a great look here at the top prospects. Many pundits are very high on Williamson because of his combination of size, strength, and athleticism. He would certainly help put fans in the seats.

A few days ago Anthony Davis created shockwaves throughout the league by saying he would not re-sign with the Pelicans. That will cause the Pelicans to trade him so they can recoup some assets before he departs for nothing. He is a top 5 talent in the game and every team in the league would love to have him. You would think he has no say in where he should end up but that is not the case. He can not veto trades, but he can say that he will not re-sign with any team that trades for him. That will cause teams to not waste assets hoping to land him. When this move happens, it will cause major dominoes to fall. Another massive deal that has already happened was the Porzingis trade. The Knicks unloaded a few players and gained a few future picks and some decent players. The main thing they gained was cap space with the thought of targeting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. The deadline is over a week away, I am sure there will be a few more moves.

Who will win it all this year? Is it too early to make a selection? Anyone can make a prediction, but I personally do not think it will matter because the Warriors will win it all again. The Warriors have not played as well this year as they have in the past, but they are getting hot now and hold the best record in the Western Conference. They will end up with home court advantage and that should be enough to get them into the Finals. The Eastern Conference is not so clear cut in my mind. The Raptors, Sixers, Bucks, and Celtics all seem to have a legitimate shot at advancing to the finals. I think the Celtics have the most talent and they should advance. That would give us a Celtics and Warriors title matchup!

As mentioned previously, if you are fan of the NBA this is a great time to really start focusing. There has been one massive trade with the possibility of more to come. The All-Star game is around the corner and it will display the awesome talent in the league. The season is more than halfway over and teams will be looking to find their groove and start playing their best basketball heading into the playoffs. Good luck to the rest of the league but I believe the Warriors are the cream of the crop!

—Victor Mandalawi