LeBron: The Next Chapter

Miami Heat Forward LeBron James
Picture Courtesy of palmbeachpost.com

A Decade of Dominance: 10…that’s the number of years LeBron James has played in the NBA. It’s hard to believe, because it seems like just the other day we were still in awe watching astounding highlight tapes of a kid out of St. Mary’s high school in Akron, OH. Nevertheless, King James has enjoyed all the riches, spoils, and rewards a King could desire during this decade (aside from a few struggles along the way). But what about the next 10 years?

At 28-years-old, LeBron James is already in the prime of his career. Which is crazy considering he’s been making headlines and highlight reels since 2003. With this year’s NBA Playoffs right around the corner, so too is the Next chapter of LeBron’ career. But before we gaze into the NBA’ crystal basketball to see LeBron’s future, here’s a rundown of his reign as King:

LeBron doing his pre-game powder ritual in Cleveland when he played for the Cavaliers from 2003-2010.
Picture Courtesy of espn.com

Taking the Throne: LeBron’s Career Achievements, Awards, and Statistics:

Awards:

2003-2004 NBA Rookie of the Year

2003-2004 NBA All-Rookie First team

Nine time NBA All-Star (2005-2013)

Two time NBA All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008)

Two time All-NBA Second Team (2005, 2007)

Six time All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008-2013)

2008 NBA Scoring Champion

Four time All-NBA Defensive Team (2009-2012)

Three time MVP Award Winner (2009, 2010, 2012)

Three time Olympic Medalist (2004 Bronze Athens, 2008 Gold Beijing, 2012 Gold London)

2012 NBA Finals MVP

2012 NBA Finals Champion

LeBron again with the Cavs about to throw-down his trademark break-away tomahawk slam.
Picture Courtesy of zimbio.com

Achievements:

One of eight NBA players to Win three MVP awards

One of eight NBA players to score 2,000 points or more in seven consecutive seasons

One of four NBA players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in their rookie year. (Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Tyreke Evans)

One of five NBA players to average over 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game in a season (five times) (Oscar Robertson achieved it six times, John Havlicek twice, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan)

One of three NBA players to average at least 30 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in a single season. (Oscar Robertson achieved it five times, and Michael Jordan)

One of two NBA players to average at least 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists for six consecutive seasons. (Behind only Oscar Robertson who had eight consecutive seasons)

One of three NBA players to average at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a post-season series. (the other two are Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird)

Only NBA player to average 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists for their career

Only NBA player to post at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, and 100 steals in four consecutive seasons

Only NBA player to score 30 or more points while also shooting 60 percent from the field in six consecutive games

And that’s just some of the achievements, there’s over two-dozen other achievements I left out to save space for this post.

James about to windmill it home for the Heat
Picture Courtesy of swaggnews.com

Stats: (Career Stats as of April 12th, 2013)

Points: 21, 037 (32nd on the NBA All-Time scoring list) Rebounds: 5,540 Assists: 5,287 (46th on the all-time list) Blocks: 649 Steals: 1,322 Double-Doubles: 255 Triple-Doubles: 36

Post-season: Points: 3,275 (16th on the all-time post-season list) Rebounds: 998 (44th on the all-time post-season list) Assists: 772 (22nd on the all-time post-season list) Blocks: 109 (53rd on the all-time post-season list) Steals: 195 (22nd on the all-time post-season list) Games: 115 (80th on the all-time post-season list) Double-Doubles: 48 Triple Doubles: 8

A King is Crowned: Last year LeBron James and the Miami Heat claimed the 2012 NBA Finals Championship and appear to be poised to win this year’s NBA Finals. Which would give King James another jewel to add to his crown, so to speak. This brings us back to the beginning of this post. With the beginning of this year’s NBA Playoffs, LeBron will put pen to paper (more specifically the rock to the rim) and write what will be the first pages of the next chapter in his already storied career.

So, what does the future hold for LeBron? The Answer: It’s entirely up to James himself.

While teammates Dwayne Wade (31)  and Chris Bosh (29) are a tad older than LeBron and may call it a career earlier than he will (likely due to injury or age), this Big Three should remain intact for at least another 5 years. However, James could opt out of his contract with Miami after the 2014 season. Meaning he could make another big “Decision” via free agency.

Which could spark more than a few what if scenarios around league front offices, as in “what if we had LeBron?”. An even bigger question…what if King James returned to his old castle in Cleveland?

Imagine for a moment James playing with star point guard Kyrie Irving, and a talented power forward in Tristan Thompson. Throw in a couple of other free agents/role players and you’ve got a Cleveland team that could go the distance. Granted, it’s unlikely team owner Dan Gilbert would even consider allowing LeBron back, but the idea is stimulating enough.

Then there’s the more realistic route, which is James re-signing with Miami to finish out his career in South Beach. James could then be a key cog in continuing to build the franchise into a Dynasty if all were to go well. Even after Wade and Bosh leave, James could sway other top players to bring their talents to South Beach until he too retires.

Miami guard Dwayne Wade (left) James (center) and center Chris Bosh (right) all celebrating their 2012 NBA Finals Championship
Picture Courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Everlasting Empire?: LeBron James has certainly changed the landscape of the NBA in more ways than one in his 10 seasons thus far, and he will continue to re-construct it for years to come. Which leads to one final question…where will James rank among the greatest NBA players of all-time when it is all said and done? The Answer: The sky is truly the limit for LeBron.

Here’s a projected finish should LeBron play another 10 seasons based solely on his career averages:

(stats based on James’ career averages over the next 10 years in which he would play 800 more games, 80 games a season, without any major injuries.)

Points: 43,117 (finishing 1st overall surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’ 38,387)

Rebounds: 11,380 (finishing at 26th all-time just outside the top 25 behind Elgin Baylor’ 11,463)

Assists: 10,887 (finishing 3rd all-time behind Jason Kidd 12,079 and John Stockton 15,806)

Blocks: 1,149 (finishing well within the top 50 at 36th all-time)

Steals: 2,682 (finishing 2nd all-time past Jason Kidd’ 2,679 and under John Stockton’ 3,265)

Based on those regular season career projected stats, LeBron would likely finish at or towards the top of nearly every statistical category in post-season career stats. As far as the number of championships goes, like the post-season itself neither playoff spot nor NBA Finals trophy is promised to any NBA team.

However, consider this interesting stat: Michael Jordan won his 1st of six NBA championships when he was…28 years old. Meaning LeBron may just be getting started on his ring collection also.


Picture Courtesy of teenbulletin.com

Final Thoughts: Hypothetically speaking James has a chance to end up with insane career numbers when he walks away from the game. However, realistic thinking tells us that James will eventually not be the same King James at some point down the line, and as a result his career numbers will see a steady decline until his NBA days are done.

Nevertheless, James can continue to play at a competitive level for at least the next 5 seasons and can likely bring home some more hardware (MVP awards, NBA Finals trophies/rings, etc.) in that time-frame. Past that, only time will tell how long the King will watch over his throne. Until then we can only watch, wait, and debate.

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Celtics Clinch a Playoff Spot

Boston Celtics F Paul Pierce looking for an open man against the Pistons
Picture Courtesy of csnne.com

Seventh Heaven: Following a 98-93 win over the Detroit Pistons Wednesday (April 3rd), the Boston Celtics secured a playoff spot and will likely be the seventh seed in this year’s NBA playoffs.

Despite an up and down month of March in which the C’s went 8-8 (including a six game losing streak, and losing Kevin Garnett for a few weeks), Boston has managed to will their way into the post-season once again.

Playoff Picture: With the NBA playoffs taking shape, here’s a look at what the Eastern Conference playoff seeding would look like if the season ended today (April 4th):

1) Miami Heat vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks

4) Brooklyn Nets vs. 5) Atlanta Hawks

3) Indiana Pacers vs. 6) Chicago Bulls

2) New York Knicks vs. 7) Boston Celtics

Pierce guarding New York Knicks F Carmelo Anthony at TD Garden
Picture Courtesy of zimbio.com

The C’s would draw the Knicks as shown directly above and would undoubtedly have their work cut out for them. Boston has only played New York a total of three times this season going 1-2 for the season series.

In their win against the Knicks, Paul Pierce posted 23 points with six assists, three rebounds, and one steal, while Kevin Garnett added a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The C’s held Carmelo Anthony to 20 points (which was solid considering he averages 28 points per game) and caused the Knicks to only shoot 40 percent from the field.

In their two losses to New York, Boston allowed Anthony to score a combined 57 points while letting J.R. Smith drop 32 points coming off the Knicks bench. Granted, in both losses the Celtics had multiple players score in double digit figures, however, the scoring combination of Anthony and Smith proved too much in those two loses.

Celtics C Kevin Garnett fading away agains New York Knicks C Tyson Chandler at TD Garden
Picture Courtesy of celticshub.com

Keys to Playoff Success: Defense will ultimately decide the outcome of Boston’s potential opening round series with the Knicks. If Paul Pierce and company can contain Anthony, who by the way dropped a combined 90 points in his last two games (April 2nd and 3rd against Miami (50) and Atlanta (40)), and hold the Knicks to a low shooting percentage while contesting shots and controlling the boards, the Celtics will have a chance against New York.

If they can’t…it will likely be curtains for the Celtics who will see an early exit if they fail to contain Anthony and the Knicks.

Final Thoughts: In what has been a brutal season for Boston, the Celtics have found a way to overcome injuries and losing streaks to give themselves a chance at a championship. Though it may be a long shot with the Heat, Knicks, and Pacers all looking like NBA Finals champions, the Celtics are in it to win it like everybody else. And when your Boston, you’re never counted out. How do you feel the C’s will fair in the playoffs? Leave a comment below.

Red Sox Opening Day: Boston Beats New York 8-2

Successful Start: The Boston Red Sox put their best foot forward yesterday (April 1st), by beating the New York Yankees 8-2 at Yankee Stadium. The victory marks the first Opening Day win for Boston since the 2010 season when the Sox (coincidentally enough) beat New York 9-7 on April 4th.

Red Sox OF Shane Victorino
Picture Courtesy of blogs.eagletribune.com

Jon Lester looked impressive on the mound tossing five solid innings with a 3.60 ERA, five hits, two earned runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts to start the season at 1-0. Newcomer and Sox outfielder Shane Victorino had a big day in the big apple with 3 RBI going 2 for 6 at the dish. Meanwhile, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (2 RBI 2 for 6) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (1 RBI 0 for 2 with a fielders choice to score Will Middlebrooks in the 7th.) produced as well en route to a win against the Evil Empire.

Rookie OF Jackie Bradley Jr.
Picture Courtesy of cbsboston.files.wordpress.com

Side Note: Historical Highlight: According to ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes Spring sensation and rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.’ major league debut in left field for the Sox, is the first time a rookie has made the Opening Day roster for Boston since Shea Hillenbrand in 2001, and Bradley Jr. is the youngest left fielder to start on Opening Day since Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski in 1961 and 1962.

Final Thoughts: There’s no better way to wash off some of the stench that was the 2012 season, than to come out and beat your most hated division rival by a few runs. Managed by new skipper John Farrell, the Red Sox look ready to turn the page and write a new chapter in the teams history book. How do you feel about the Sox after their Opening Day win? Leave a comment below.

March Madness: Florida Gulf Coast University

The Madness of March: By now you are all probably aware of who and where Florida Gulf Coast University is. However, before all of this madness began, they sounded like a made up college straight out of a Disney movie in which a team of lovable losers is lead by a hardball coach and go from zeros to heroes.

But Florida Gulf Coast University isn’t a fairytale, just ask Georgetown or San Diego State and they will tell you they are as real as can be.

The Eagles story began at the end of their regular season. Finishing at 24-10 overall and in second place behind Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Conference at 13-5 , FGCU fought their way through their conference tournament and surprisingly won to punch their ticket to this year’s big dance.

Then FGCU drew second seeded Georgetown as a 15 seed. Georgetown had spent the regular season atop the Big East with Louisville finishing in second place with a 14-4 conference mark going 25-7 overall. The Hoyas appeared poised to end their streak of early tournament exits and make a run in this year’s big dance behind the play of forward Otto Porter Jr. and Co. Unfortunately for Georgetown, the Eagles had a date with destiny.

Dunk City: March 22nd, 2013: The Eagles went neck and neck with the Hoyas in the first half of their first round battle with Georgetown. Impressively, FGCU hung with the tournament seasoned Big East bruisers, in what was the teams first ever tournament appearance. The Eagles would lead by two at the half by a score of 24-22.

The second half began and the unimaginable happened, The Eagles slowly but surely went on a 21-2 second half scoring run to stun Georgetown, bust brackets across the country and show the world what Dunk City was all about.

The signature moment of this first-round shocker came late in the game when FGCU point guard Brett Comer threw up an alley-oop from the corner and found forward Chase Fieler who sent the crowd into a frenzy with a one-handed jam for the finish. (As Shown Below)

FGCU became only the seventh 15 seed in the history of the tournament to beat a number two seed. Not to mention the Eagles didn’t just defeat Georgetown, they won by an impressive 10 point margin over the Hoyas. FGCU guards Sherwood Brown (24 pts) and Bernard Thompson (23 pts) led the Eagles in scoring and helped pace them to a 78-68 victory.

It would be more of the same on March 24th when Dunk City took on San Diego State in the tournaments second round of games. The Aztecs led by a point at the half (35-34). However, the Eagles were not to be denied and came roaring into the second half, led once more by Thompson (23pts) and Brown (17pts), to finish with another 10 point victory 81-71. (Highlights of FGCU’s history making tourney play can be seen below)

FGCU beating the Aztecs and advancing to the Sweet 16 marks the first time in tournament history that a 15 seed has ever made it that far.

Fun Facts About FGCU:

Here are some notes on the Eagles from their athletic website fgcuathletics.com.

The Players for FGCU are older than the college itself, as the university was established in 1997 (only 16-years-old).

FGCU started their athletics program in 2002-2003.

FGCU entered Division I in 2007-2008.

FGCU became post-season eligible in 2011-2012.

FGCU is located in Fort Myers, FL (also home to the Red Sox during Spring Training)

Head coach Andy Enfield became the bench boss in 2011.

Before taking the job in Fort Myers Enfield began his coaching career as a shooting coach for then head coach Mike Dunleavy and the Milwaukee Bucks from 1994-1996.

Enfield went on from the Bucks to Boston where he was an assistant coach under then head coach Rick Pitino for the Celtics from 1998-2000 where he worked with then rookie Paul Pierce on his shooting.

Finally, before taking the job with FGCU, Enfield was an assistant coach for Florida State University from 2006-2011. Enfield helped lead the Seminoles to a pair of sweet 16 finishes in the big dance during his time in Tallahassee.

Final Thoughts: Fort Myers-Slamma-Jamma, Dunk City, FGCU, the Eagles, whatever you want to call them, have shocked the nation and made their mark in college basketball.

When they play the third seeded Florida Gators this Friday, they won’t be wearing a ball gown or be running up and down the court in glass slippers, they will be in uniform just like UF and will play 40 minutes of high octane, in your face, no fear in their eyes basketball, just like everybody else.

If/When the Eagles defeat Florida this Friday to continue their tournament journey, don’t call it an UPSET…call it for what it will be…a WIN. Florida Gulf Coast University is no longer Cinderella…they’re Competition.

Red Sox Spring Training 2013 Update

With the 2013 regular season opener less than two weeks away, I thought I’d give fans an update of all the action coming out of Fort Myers, FL. The Boston Red Sox are 13-10 in Grapefruit League play this Spring and are in fourth place overall. Here’s a rundown of who has shined this Spring and what to watch for as we enter the 2013 season:

Pitch Perfect: Well, not exactly, however, the Boston Red Sox anticipated starting rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey have been all the buzz this Spring according to ESPNBoston.com.

This year’s rotation has posted a combined 1.99 ERA in Spring Training action (including three shutout innings by Lackey in an exhibition matchup with World Baseball Classic team Puerto Rico). When you consider the combined rotation ERA was an appalling 5.19 a season ago, that’s a significant improvement thus far.

 Lester, Buchholz, and Doubront have all shown promise of good things to come in 2013, with solid starts in their recent outings. Lester has pitched 20 innings allowing only six hits and two earned runs with 16 strikeouts. Buchholz has went 13 and 1/3 innings allowing eight hits and one run. While Doubront has pitched 8 and 2/3 innings allowing seven hits and two earned runs with 11 strikeouts.

Newcomer Ryan Dempster has posted solid numbers as well. Dempster has went 12 and 2/3 innings for Boston surrendering nine hits with three earned runs and nine strikeouts. As for Lackey, he is still a work in progress coming back from Tommy John surgery and has only worked 6 and 2/3 innings allowing six earned runs eight hits with only four strikeouts. However, Lackey has a 2.70 ERA in his last two outings for Boston, so there’s a silver lining for him.

A Future at Fenway: Arguably one of Boston’s top player prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. has had a sensational Spring showing. Bradley Jr. has posted a eye popping .436 batting average in just 18 games this Spring with nine total runs, 17 hits, eight base on balls, four RBI and one HR. Should Jonny Gomes or Shane Victorino falter in the outfield, or if Jacoby Ellsbury is stricken with injury yet again, Bradley Jr. could receive a call up this season.

Another top Sox prospect, whom we haven’t seen much of due to his participation in this year’s World Baseball Classic, Xander Bogaerts has been impressive with his glove work and faired well in the WBC for team Netherlands.

Bogaerts played in 7 games posting a .263 average with five hits, one run, and one RBI. Bogaerts has went 1 for 2 with one RBI for a .500 average in one game with the Sox in Spring Training. Should he continue to have success in the minors, Bogaerts could be on a fast-track to Fenway by next season.

Designated Dilemma: With the injury to David “Big Papi” Ortiz keeping Boston’s heavy hitter sidelined to start the regular season, the Sox need a solution at Designated Hitter. While it isn’t clear who the Red Sox will choose to fill Ortiz’ shoes until he returns, Mike Napoli would seem to be a logical solution until then.

Napoli has hit well in Fenway Park posting seven HR’s, 17 RBI, and a .710 Slugging Percentage in 19 career games at Boston. Also, Napoli has posted a .348 average with seven RBI, two HR’s, and a .652 Slugging Percentage in nine games in Grapefruit League action this year.

Granted, the Sox didn’t sign Nap to DH, they signed him to play first base and catch on nights when Jarrod Saltalamacchia needs a rest. However, with the Sox addition of Mike Carp from Seattle, Boston could slide a more than capable Carp over to first base and drop Napoli into the DH slot in the lineup, just as a temporary fix for Ortiz.

Here’s how the lineup would look with Napoli at DH and Carp at 1B:

1. OF Shane Victorino

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury

3. 3B Will Middlebrooks

4. 2B Dustin Pedroia

5. DH Mike Napoli

6. OF Jonny Gomes

7. SS Pedro Ciriaco (who will be returning soon from his minor back spasms to replace SS Stephen Drew who hasn’t fully recovered after suffering a concussion)

8. 1B Mike Carp

9. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who I have batting 9th only to add pop to the bottom of the lineup. Salty is batting .345 with five RBI and one HR this Spring.)

Side Note: This is just a look at one internal option the Red Sox have to make up for the current loss of Ortiz. The Sox could also simply allow David Ross to catch and let Salty DH, which would keep Napoli at 1B and make for a better lineup.

Napoli would stay as the number five hitter, Salty would move up to the number six spot with Gomes moving down to seventh, Ciriaco would move to eighth, and Ross would take Salty’s place batting ninth. Regardless of what the Sox choose to do, the DH position needs to be dealt with and soon.

Final Thoughts: The Boston Red Sox are off to a solid start this Spring and look poised to turn things around in 2013. Of course, only time will tell what fate the baseball gods have in store for Beantown this year. How do you think the Sox have looked in Spring Training? Who would you have DH for Boston? Leave a comment below.

March Madness 2013

It’s that time of year once again college hoops fans. That’s right get ready to breakout the pens, print off brackets, start up office tournaments/pools and be prepared to go absolutely mad!!!

March Madness is upon us with Selection Sunday (this Sunday March 17th) only a few days away. So, without further adieu here’s a rundown of teams you CAN and CAN’T trust and some Sleepers/Cinderella’s to watch in this year’s NCAA Men’s Division One College Basketball Tournament:

You Can Trust:

Duke– Likely number one seed, went 14-4 in the ACC and 27-4 overall. Has one of the richest tournament histories and recently got back playmaker Ryan Kelly. Kelly dropped 34 points in Dukes revenge win over this year’s ACC Champion Miami Hurricanes. All reasons to trust the Blue Devils.

Key Wins: Nov.24th vs. then second ranked Louisville 76-71, Nov. 28th vs. then fourth ranked Ohio State 73-68, Mar. 5th vs. then fifth ranked Miami 79-76. Key Losses: Jan.12th vs. North Carolina State 84-76, Feb. 16th vs. Maryland 83-81, Feb.28th vs. Virginia 73-68.

Indiana– Likely number one seed, went 14-4 in the Big Ten and 26-5 overall. Spent time this season as the number one ranked team in the nation and have a sensational offensive/defensive combo in playmakers Cody Zeller and potential POY Victor Oladipo. Led by coach Tom Crean the Hoosiers are as reliable as they come this year.

Key Wins: Nov. 20th vs. Georgetown in OT 82-72, Feb.2 vs. then first ranked Michigan 81-73, Feb.19 vs. then fourth ranked Michigan State 72-68. Key Losses: Dec. 15 vs. Butler in OT 88-86, Feb.7th vs. Illinois 74-72, March 5th vs. Ohio State 67-58.

Miami– Likely a second seed team, won the ACC championship outright. Started the season unranked and have been ranked as high as second in the nation. Led by seniors Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson along with coach Jim Larranaga (coached the 2006 George Mason Patriots to an improbable final four appearance) the Canes can be trusted.

Key Wins: Nov.28th vs. then thirteenth ranked  Michigan State 67-59, Jan.23rd vs. then first ranked Duke 90-63, Feb.2nd vs. then nineteenth ranked North Carolina State 79-78. Key Losses: Nov.13th vs. Florida Gulf Coast University 63-51, Dec.25th vs. Indiana State in OT 57-55, Feb.23rd vs. Wake Forest 80-65.

Gonzaga– Likely a number one seed, went undefeated at 16-0 in the West Coast Conference and 31-2. Gonzaga is the number one ranked team in the nation and have been led by the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, don’t let the WCC schedule fool you, the Zags are trustworthy this year.

Key Wins: Nov.23rd vs. Oklahoma 72-47, Dec.31st vs. then twenty second ranked Oklahoma State 69-68, Mar.11th vs. Saint Mary’s 65-61. Key Losses: Dec.8th vs. then thirteenth ranked Illinois, and Jan.19th vs. then thirteenth ranked Butler 64-63.

Louisville– Likely a number one or two seed (depending on whether or not they win the Big East Conference Tournament), went 14-4 in the Big East and 26-5 overall. The Cardinals have a good chance of winning the Big East tournament and securing a number one seed because of the dynamic play of Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, and Peyton Siva. Coached by tournament hardened veteran Rick Pitino, the Cards offer a solid sense of security this year.

You Can’t Trust:

Kansas– Yes the Jayhawks went 14-4 in the Big 12 and have a 26-5 record, and yes they will likely earn a second seed in the big dance, however, given Kansas’ tournament resume’, they don’t have a leg to stand on this year. Since 2005 Kansas has been upset a total of four times, two of which came in the tournaments first round. To their credit the Jayhawks were in last year’s National Championship Game and won it all in 2008, but given their topsy-turvy tournament track record don’t be shocked to see them going home early…

UNC– The Tar Heels went 12-6 in the ACC with a 22-9 overall record and suffered some struggles this season. While UNC has one a pair of National Championships since 2005 (05′ and 2009) the Heels have fallen short of the Final Four a total of four times, with a Final Four loss to Kansas in 2008. With their up-and-down style of play UNC is far from a safe bet in this year’s tourney.

UCLA– The Bruins were once a household name when it came to the Big Dance, but the glory days of the 60’s and 70’s have long been over. UCLA had a stretch of tournament success from 2006-2008 with three Final Four appearances and a National Championship appearance, however they have also been upset three times as well (2005 1st round, 2009, 2011 2nd round)and didn’t even make it to the dance in 2010 and 2012. Given UCLA’s inconsistency, they simply can’t be trusted.

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Syracuse– The Orange Men have been feeling a bit blue lately going 2-4 in their last six games losing recently to Georgetown 61-39. Cuse did manage to go 11-7 in the Big East and 23-8 overall but have struggled thus far in the Big East Tournament. Since their one and only National Championship in 2003 Syracuse has failed to advance beyond the Sweet 16 in six of the previous seven tournament appearances, the most recent was an Elite 8 loss last year to Ohio State. With the Orange Men having the longest case of an Upset Stomach I’ve seen in a while, they have yet to earn any amount of trust.

Notre Dame– Aside from a 5 OT thriller victory over Louisville this season the Fighting Irish have had a lack luster season posting identical numbers to Syracuse (see Cuse’ numbers above). Notre Dame’s tournament history is riddled with first and second round upsets over the decades that have past since the schools one and only final four appearance way back in 1978. The last time the Irish broke into the Sweet 16…2003. Needless to say, the Luck of the Irish has been absent for Notre Dame year-in-and-year-out. Moreover, the Irish are a historical lock to be upset.

Sleepers That Could Open Your Peepers:

Michigan State– The Spartans finished second in the Big Ten standings going 13-5 with a 24-7 overall record. Coached by tournament veteran bench boss Tom Izzo and led by the likes of Keith Appling and Gary Harris the Spartans are ranked eight in the AP Poll and will likely garner a number three seed. Michigan State has made five Final Four appearances with two National Championship appearances (won it all in 2000, lost to UNC in 2009) in the last 12 years. The Spartans have made runs before and could be poised for another deep run this year.

Saint LouisThe Billikens have only made two tournament appearances in the last 12 years (2000,2012) but they managed to make it to the second round last year and only missed making the Sweet 16 by four points losing to the aforementioned Spartans 65-61. Led by playmakers Dwayne Evans and Kwamain Mitchell Saint Louis finished in 1st place of the Atlantic-10 Conference going 13-3 and 24-6 overall. The Billikens are ranked sixteenth in the AP poll and could surprise a few teams this year.

ButlerDespite some early exits pre-2010 and missing last year’s tourney, the Bulldogs have managed to play in two of the last three National Championships and finished 3rd in the Atlantic-10 with an 11-5 record going 24-7 overall. Given the Bulldogs recent success in the big dance, Butler should not be counted out of this year’s potential sleeper group as they can surprise teams the same way they did in 2010 and 2011 this year.

Marquette– The Golden Eagles ended the regular season with a four game win streak that included W’s against Cuse and ND and have stayed hot in the Big East tournament. Marquette is ranked fifteenth in the AP poll going 14-4 in the Big East and 23-7 overall. The Golden Eagles last Final Four was in 2003, however, they have posted back-to-back Sweet 16 finishes recently. Marquette may be able to pull off a similar run like the UCONN Huskies did in 2011.

Oklahoma State– Despite recent tourney woes the Cowboys were on fire in the second half of season going 11-3 in their last 14 games with wins over higher ranked Big 12 foes Kansas and Kansas State. Led by Marcus Smart and Markel Brown (both averaging 15PPG) Oklahoma State may have the offensive scoring ability to trip a few teams up in the tournament.

Cinderella Stories:

Iona– The surprise MAAC Conference Champions finished the regular season with a overall record of 20-13 going 11-7 in MAAC play. The Gael’s will likely be a sixteenth seed in the tournament and as we all are aware no sixteen seed has EVER upset a number one seed in the history of the tournament. Nevertheless, this year’s crop of sixteen seeds will be some of the strongest yet and could give those trustworthy teams I mentioned early a scare…at least in the first half anyway.

South Dakota State– The Summit League Champions went 25-9 overall with a 13-3 conference record and will likely be a fifteenth seed, which gives the Jackrabbits a slight chance at an upset. Only six teams all-time have ever been a fifteen seed and upset a two seed. However, two of those upsets happened in last year’s tourney with Lehigh knocking off Duke, and Norfolk State defeating Missouri. So there’s hope for the Jackrabbits still.

Florida Gulf Coast University– This would certainly be a textbook Cinderella story as the Eagles are making their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance!!! FGCU won the Atlantic Sun Conference title and will likely be dancing as a fifteen seed. The Eagles went 24-10 overall with a 13-5 conference mark. Their a feel-good-story team that could win the hearts of millions while busting millions of brackets at the same time.

Belmont– The Bruins won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in their first year as a member going 14-2 with an overall record of 26-6. Belmont has been a rising mid-major program and will likely earn an eleventh seed, meaning they could legitimately make some noise if they catch fire this year.

James Madison– Won the CAA Conference Championship to punch their ticket to the tourney going 11-7 in CAA play with a 20-14 overall record. The Dukes will likely be a sixteenth seed, but just like Iona, this team could play a number one seed tougher than we’ve ever seen.

Side Note: The odds are stacked against these Cinderella teams yes, but in March…ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!!!

Final Thoughts: Granted there were plenty of teams I left out in what will be an eventual field of 68 teams, however I personally felt as though these teams stood out amongst the rest of the field. Who do you have going all the way? Who is most likely to get upset? Leave a comment below.

Patriots Off-Season Options

Getting Things Down Pat: With the latest news from the New England Patriots regarding Wes Welker wanting to “test the waters of free agency”, and the team failing to franchise any of their free agents, one has to wonder…what will the Pats do this off-season?

The Patriots have two primary needs this off-season. 1. A solid number one or number two wide receiver (should they fail to bring back Welker) and a productive cornerback/defensive back to help with the pass defense. Here’s a rundown of who the Pats can sign/draft to fill those needs:

Slot Machine: Wes Welker has no doubt been a great offensive weapon for the New England Patriots. Welker has caught 110 or more passes for 1,100 yards or more in five of his six seasons with the Patriots. He had a career year in 2011 with 122 grabs with 1,569 yards and 9 TDS. Welker however, is aging at 31, and is likely going to use his impressive Patriots resume’ to land himself a big pay-day somewhere else.

With all that said, and the fact that Welker is willing to talk to other teams, the Pats need a plan B should re-signing Welker fall through.

Here are the top five free agent pass catchers available:

Mike Wallace- In 2012 with Pittsburgh: 64 REC, 836 YDS, 8 TDS.

Greg Jennings- In 2012 with Green Bay (in 8 games): 36 REC, 366 YDS, 4 TDS.

Danny Amendola- In 2012 with St. Louis: 63 REC, 666 YDS , 3TDS.

Austin Collie- In 2012 with Indianapolis: 1 catch for 6 yards missed the season due to injury.

Brian Hartline- In 2012 with Miami: 74 REC, 1083 YDS, 1 TD.

Granted, those numbers don’t exactly replace Welker, but the Pats won’t need to completely replace him if they can land a solid receiver like the ones listed above.

Realistically Greg Jennings and Green Bay will probably agree to re-sign and Mike Wallace will probably take his talents elsewhere for more money than he’s worth. Austin Collie, when healthy has been reliable in Indy, but I don’t see him in New England next year. Brian Hartline had a career season last year for the Dolphins, so he should stay in South Beach.

So, that leaves Danny Amendola as the Pats most realistic option, as pointed out by Chris. Amendola has been a solid slot receiver for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and would be a good pickup should Welker leave.

Side Note: The Patriots only have 5 picks in this year’s NFL Draft (one in rounds 1,2, and 3 and two picks in round 7). The Pats will pick 29th in the first round and could wind up in a position to draft highly ranked wide receivers Keenan Allen out of California, Justin Hunter of Tennessee, or Cordarrelle Patterson also Tennessee.

No Thanks, I’ll Pass: The Patriots pass defense ranked 29th overall in 2012, giving up a total of 4,342 yards for an average of 271 yards per game. New England also gave up 27 passing TDS, allowed an average quarterback rating of 86.9, and a 62 percent pass completion rate.

Given those results, the Pats may want to hire one or two of these free agent pass defenders:

Ed Reed- In 2012 with Baltimore: 58 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Dashon Goldson- In 2012 with San Francisco: 69 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions.

Antoine Cason- In 2012 with San Diego: 73 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.

Quentin Jammer- In 2012 with San Diego: 64 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions.

LaRon Landry- In 2012 with New York (Jets):  99 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie- In 2012 with Philadelphia: 51 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Given the numbers the Patriots pass defense put up last season, any one of these available DB’s are significant upgrades to the secondary. Realistically Ed Reed, Laron Landry and Dashon Goldson will likely all re-sign with their respective teams or elsewhere. That leaves Antoine Cason, Quentin Jammer, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Again, picking up any one of those guys would be a step in the right direction.

Side Note: The Patriots 29th draft pick position could also allow them to go after a few defensive players such as Kevin Minter inside linebacker out of LSU, Blidi Wreh-Wilson cornerback of UCONN, or Desmond Trufant of Washington.

Final Thoughts: The Patriots have plenty of time to consider these and many other options in the weeks to come. It will no doubt be interesting to see what New England choose to do this off-season. What do you think will happen? Will Wes Welker stay? If he goes, who should the Patriots pursue? leave a comment below.

2013 American League East Division Breakdown

Beasts From the East: With Spring Training underway and baseball back in full swing, I thought I’d do a top to bottom predictions and projections piece on the AL East Division. Here’s a look at what the 2013 season has in store:

American League East Division Standings (by seasons end):

    1.  Toronto Blue Jays        92-70

    2.  New York Yankees       89-73

    3.   Boston Red Sox          85-77

    4.  Tampa Bay Rays          83-79

    5.  Baltimore Orioles         80-82

Team by Team Rundown: Post-Season Chances, Award Winners, and Prospects to Watch:

Toronto Blue Jays

Post-Season Chances: I have the Blue Jays winning the American League East by a small margin over the New York Yankees to capture their first AL East crown since 1993. The Blue Jays were big spenders this off-season and inked the likes of SS Jose Reyes, SP R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, plus 2B Emilio Bonafacio.

When you add those names just listed above to a team with guys like OF Jose Bautista, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Colby Rasmus, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, as well as SP Brandon Marrow and Ricky Romero, this team is scary good…on paper.

The Blue Jays have what appears to be a well balanced team with a solid rotation/bullpen. Also, the Blue Jays have roster depth with guys like INF Mark DeRosa and Maicer Izturis as well as DH/1B Adam Lind and OF Rajai Davis. I feel as though all of these factors will lead Toronto to an AL East title and a potential deep post-season run.

Award Winners: Despite the Blue Jays potentially having one of their most successful seasons since the early 90’s this year, I don’t foresee any MLB hardware being handed out at the end of the year in Toronto.

Prospects to Watch: According to CBSSports,com SP Sean Nolin and Aaron Sanchez will be a pair of arms to keep an eye on this season. Nolin could potentially help bolster the back end of the rotation to give guys like Morrow, Romero, and even Buehrle a break.

The 23-year-old Nolin posted a 2.04 ERA with 108 strikeouts surrendering only 27 walks in 101 innings pitched in the minors last year. Sanchez, 20-years-old, also shined last year in his professional ball debut posting a 2.47 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 90 innings of work, allowing 64 hits all season with 51 walks. Both are players to keep track of in Toronto.

New York Yankees

Post-Season Chances: While the New York Yankees were quiet spenders in this year’s offseason, they managed to make the right moves to address their team needs. The Bronx Bombers picked up former Red-Sox free agent OF Kevin Youkilis and DH Travis Hafner (former heavy hitter for the Cleveland Indians).

This year’s Yankees team will not have Alex Rodriguez (barring a medical miracle) but that doesn’t mean the Yankees won’t find their way to the playoffs. Minus A-Rod this is the same team that won 95 games and the AL East crown last season.

Plus Youkilis should fill in for A-Rod just fine at 3B. Not to mention Hafner could return to his heavy hitting ways at the shorter fenced Yankee Stadium and add even more pop to an already potent lineup. Moreover, the Yankees will find a way into the post-season once more. Most likely by way of securing a Wild Card spot.

Award Winners: The 2013 MVP award goes to… NYY 2B Robinson Cano. That’s correct, I have Cano as my pick for this year’s MVP. While the other logical picks of rookie sensation Mike Trout or Triple Crown King Miguel Cabrera might be more suitable choices, I think Cano can steal the show.

The reason being: Cano is in the last year of his contract and will have a big payday coming at seasons end. So, what better way to make that payday extra sweet than by not only being the best power hitting 2B in the free agency, but to also have a career year and win MVP?

Cano finished 4th in last year’s MVP voting with a 313. average, 33 HR and 94 RBI and should be primed to try and win this year’s coveted award.

Prospects to Watch: According to minorleagueball.com C Gary Sanchez and OF Mason Williams are two future pinstripe prospects worth your while.

The 20-year-old Sanchez split time last year between Low-A and High-A ball in Charleston and Tampa hitting for a combined .289 average 18 HR and 85 RBI in 116 games. Williams, 21-years-old, also split time in Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa with a combined .298 average, 11 HR and 35 RBI. If numbers like those continue to rise these two could see early call ups to the big show.

Boston Red Sox

Post-Season Chances: Everything in my “sports gut” tells me the Sox have a shot at sneaking into the post-season via the last Wild Card spot. However, fanship aside, with Boston realistically only winning roughly 85 games this season by my count, that leaves them on the outside looking in come October.

Award Winners: Unless the MLB creates a new award for “Comeback Team of the Year” I don’t see any award winners on this year’s roster.

Prospects to Watch: SS Xander Bogaerts and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. are without question the top two prospects to keep tabs on this year. Bogaerts and Bradley Jr are already impressing the Sox in Spring Training. Bogaerts went 1 for 4  and Bradley Jr. went 1 for 3 with an RBI.

Bogaerts hit for a .307 average with 37 doubles, 20 HR 80 RBI and 71 runs between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland, while Bradley Jr. batted .315 with 42 doubles, nine HR, 63 RBI, and 90 runs also playing with Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. Both are on a fast track to Fenway and should be exciting to follow throughout Spring Training.

Side note on Bogaerts: He played 3B for the Sox in their recent 11-1 drubbing of Boston College to prepare for his role on Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. The WBC is set to begin on March 2nd. While Bogaerts focus for the Red Sox will be to play SS, he will likely be moved over to 3B for the WBC, as Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers and the MLB’ number one prospect) will hold down SS for Team Netherlands.

Tampa Bay Rays

Post-Season Chances: Granted, the Rays did manage to win 90 games last season, and were only edged out by the Baltimore Orioles by 3 games to miss the post-season. However, with a weaker bullpen this year, and a lack of roster depth, I don’t have the Rays making it to the post-season this year.

The Rays have key cogs like SP David Price (2012 AL Cy Young Award Winner) and 3B Evan Longoria, as well as role players like SS Yunel Escobar, OF/INF Ben Zobrist, and SP Matt Moore. All of whom will easily help this ball club win close to 85 games, but unless their bullpen improves and they add another solid bat to the lineup, this team will struggle in 2013.

Award Winners: With David Price winning last year’s AL Cy Young Award, he should be poised to attempt the first AL pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards since Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000.

Price, however, will not win the 2013 Cy Young Award, as I see his numbers dropping a tad this season. He will finish 3rd in the voting behind Justin Verlander and my 2013 Cy Young Award winner: Jered Weaver.

Prospects to Watch: According to baseballprospectus..com OF Wil Myers and P Chris Archer are at the top of the crop . Archer started in 4 major league games last year for the Rays, pitching in 6 total. Archer produced a 1-3 record with 36 stirkeouts and a 4.60 ERA. Archer faired better in 2012 in Triple-A where he had 139 strikeouts with a 3.66 ERA and finished with a 7-9 record.

As for Myers, he exploded last year in the minors putting up big numbers in both Double-A and Triple-A. Myers combined for a .314 batting average with 37 HR and 109 RBI. Myers performance last year landed him in this year’s top 10 MLB prospects list. Both could see playing time at Tropicana in the near future.

Baltimore Orioles

Post-Season Chances: The Baltimore Orioles surprised the MLB last year as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They managed to win 93 games and beat the Texas Rangers in last year’s AL Wild Card Playoff Elimination game. So, logically Baltimore should have similar success in 2013 right? WRONG, the Baltimore Orioles will not only miss the playoffs this season, but will finish in dead last in the AL East and here’s why:

2012 Batting Totals for Baltimore:

Finished 20th in the majors for batting average with a .247

Finished 23rd in the majors for on base percentage with .311

Finished 15th in the majors for runs scored with 712

Finished 11th in the majors in slugging percentage with .417

2012 Pitching Totals for Baltimore:

Finished 14th in the majors for team ERA with a 3.90

Finished 21st in the majors for quality starts with 78

Finished 16th in the majors in WHIP with 1.29

Finished 16th in the majors in BAA with . 252

Those middle of the pack numbers simply won’t cut it in this year’s AL East if the Orioles want to make another run at the post-season.

History Often Repeats Itself:  Here’s a few more statistical nuggets to make my case a bit stronger:

Since that 1997 playoff season (in which the O’s won 98 games to clinch the division) Baltimore has only broken the .500 mark once (in 2012) and has finished dead last four times, fourth place nine times, third place once, with the highest finish since 97′ coming last year ending the 2012 season in 2nd place.

One more fun fact I should mention…Where did the Orioles finish the season after they clinched the AL East in 97′? The Answer: fourth place with a 79-83 record. The only reason they didn’t finish in dead last in 1998 is because the then “brand new to baseball” expansion team Tampa Bay Devil Rays who finished in last going 63-99 ( 98′ was Tampa Bay’s first season in franchise history).

Lastly, one of the keys to Baltimore’s success and overall record last year was closer Jim Johnson, who finished 2012 with 51 saves. Those 51 saves helped account for more than half of the Orioles wins in 2012 (93 wins divided by two equals 46.5, and since a save equals a win Johnson’s 51 saves translates into helping the O’s win more than half of their games in 12′). Unless Johnson can put up another 50 spot, Baltimore will have a setback season in 2013.

Award Winners: Given that I have the O’s finishing in last place this year, I also have them collecting no awards in 2013.

Prospects to Watch: According to baseballprospectnation.com  SP Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are a pair of arms you should watch closely as they are the top two prospects on Baltimore’s charts .

In fact, Bundy is ranked as the top pitching prospect in the majors. Bundy went 9-3 in the minors last year with an ERA of 2.08, 119 strikeouts, and a 0.92 WHIP. Bundy also pitched in two games for the O’s in 2012, for a total of 1.2 innings of work allowing 1 hit and 1 walk with a 1.20 WHIP. Gausman pitched in just 5 games last year in the minors but managed to total a 3.60 ERA allowing 11 hits, 1 walk, with 13 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.80.

While Gausman will certainly need more time in the minors, Bundy will most likely see action sooner than later with Baltimore, as he has proved last year he is ready to make strides in the majors. Bundy may be the young solution this year’s shaky Baltimore rotation will need, should things fall apart the way I’m predicting. Regardless, Bundy’s future in Baltimore, for now, is very bright.

Final Thoughts: The AL East Division will no doubt boast as one of the most competitive and toughest divisions in the MLB this season (as it has proven to be in seasons past). This division can legitimately have four of the five teams finish with above .500 records (the way it did in 2010 and 2011). So, let’s hear it…how do you see the AL East shaking down this year? Leave a comment below.

Red Sox Add Mike Carp Via Trade

Shipping Up to Boston: The Boston Red Sox acquired OF/1B Mike Carp this week from the Seattle Mariners, after agreeing to trade a player to be named later or a cash consideration in exchange for Carp. Carp will join the Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL tomorrow (Friday February 22nd) to begin his Spring Training.

Carp’s Numbers: In 2012 Carp batted .213 last year with 5 HR and 20 RBI in just 59

games. That’s a steady decline from 2011 when he batted .275 for 12 HR and 46 RBI in 79 games. Carp missed the majority of the past two seasons with the Mariners due to shoulder injury issues. Carp is a .255 career hitter with 18 HR and 71 RBI.

Can Carp Contribute?: Yes, yes he can. While Carp’s numbers certainly don’t leap off the stat sheet, he was acquired by the Red Sox to primarily add depth to first base and the outfield. Something the Sox certainly need this season.

The addition of Carp allows for breathing room at these positions, should Napoli’s hip injury re-surface or one of the outfielders go down. At 26 years-old Carp is a young platoon-type player that the Red Sox can work with and get solid production from, for little cost.

Final Thoughts: I like the addition of Carp in that the Sox aren’t giving up much for him and he could have tremendous upside in Boston. I look at it this way: If Carp (who has yet to play a full MLB Season) can stay healthy and provide the depth the Sox need, the trade is a great payoff. I have a feeling Carp could be the surprise of the season for Boston.

One last note on Carp coming to the Red Sox, in order to make room for him on the 40-man roster Boston had to put OF Ryan Kalish on the 60-day disabled list. Kalish you may remember is still recovering from right shoulder surgery.

Can Carp help the Red Sox this season? Leave a comment below

Beating the Odds: C’s Avoid Anticipated Collapse

Celtics Competing:  I’ll admit I was one of the many who threw their hands up and said, “What are we going to do now?” when I heard Rajon Rondo was out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Well, since then the Celtics have responded to everyone’s questions the old fashioned way…by simply winning.

The Celtics have won eight of their last nine games with impressive victories over the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Chicago Bulls . More importantly, and surprisingly, the C’s have done so without the likes of Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and more recently Leandro Barbosa (all out for the remainder of the season due to injury).

Winning Ways: With the loss of Rondo and Co., Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jeff Green have led the team on the floor along with assistance from Jason Terry. Here are their numbers for the month of February:

Pierce: 17.1 PPG with 8.9 RPG and 7.3 APG

Garnett: 16.6 PPG with 10.3 RPG and 1.4 SPG

Green: 14.4 PPG with 4 RPG and 1.7 BPG

Terry: 13.1 PPG with 3.7 APG

Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Bass have also contributed, each averaging 8 PPG.

The Celtics have used a no “pure point guard” philosophy in their 8-1 stretch without Rondo, and so far it has worked well.

Playoff Probability: Although Boston is finding ways to win without a true point guard, they will have to add depth to their roster if they want to have a sure shot at the post-season. According to ESPNBoston’ Chris Forsberg, Coach Doc Rivers recently released his “shopping list” of what he felt the team needed to compete down the stretch:

“Well, I would say a ball-handling guard. It’s no longer a point guard, it’s just a guard. A guard that, if I had my perfect guard for this group right now, it would be a guard that can play multiple positions, that can shoot, and has some toughness. Then we need a big. You’re not going to find a center, so a 4. Obviously a 5 would be great, but a 4 that can stretch the floor, or a 4 that can rebound — just a great rebounding 4 that has skill. That’s the list.”

We’ll have to wait and see what kind of deals Doc and Danny Ainge can whip up in the weeks to come. As of today (February 15th) the Celtics are 28-24 overall and hold the seventh playoff spot/seed of the available eight in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, if the season ended today the C’s would make the playoffs. Of course, the season still has about 30 games to go and as we all know with any sport “anything can happen”.

Nevertheless, I whole heartedly believe Boston can continue their winning ways and place themselves somewhere between a fifth to seventh seed at seasons end. Honestly, at the rate the C’s are playing, they could even lobby for a fourth seed. We’ll just have to watch and see what happens.

Final Thoughts: With roughly 30 games left and only 10 healthy players on a 13 man roster, the C’s have their work cut out for them as they head down the final stretch. Will the Celtics make the post-season? If so, what playoff seed will they earn? Leave a comment below.