2018 American League (And World Series) Predictions

Image result for red sox yankees astros

Now on to the American League. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out my 2018 National League Predictions before reading on to find out who I’ve got in the World Series. Here in the AL, it’ll be a slug fest. From the Bronx Bombers to the defending champs in Houston, it’s all a matter of who’s going to have the hottest offense at the right time. Let’s take a look at who will have that sweet swing by season’s end.

 

AL West

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Much to the MLB’s dismay, the Astros are only getting better. The defending World Champions not only retained the bulk of their lineup, but they actually got stronger with the arm of ex-Pirates ace Gerritt Cole. That rotation was already pretty deep with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel leading the way, not to mention the heat of Ken Giles in the bullpen. Throw in perennial MVP candidate Jose Altuve and his partners George Springer and Alex Bregman, and you have a really fun team to watch that can crush the morale of any team in baseball.

I can save you some time if you want to skip ahead, there is no beating that in the AL West. The other teams all have their individual strengths, but nothing matches the overpowering Astros. Perhaps the furthest off are the A’s who have a very tough ballpark to play in at the O.Co Coliseum. Without Sonny Gray, the pitching looks like it could really scuffle, and a few minor moves in the offseason don’t look like they can revive Oakland. That said, I am never one to doubt the “Moneyball” movement.

The Rangers had a good run last year, but in the end they fell short of the playoffs and sold catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Yu Darvish before the trade deadline to put them out of contention. Despite an above-average lineup, Texas just doesn’t have the power to overcome predominantly poor pitching across the board. In a hitter’s park like Arlington, things can go either way, but the Rangers’ greatest weaknesses will show on the road.

In the northwest, the Mariners have a pretty solid team, but nothing too flashy. The power combo of Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano is always scary, and even if his best years are behind him, you never want to face King Felix on the mound. Also, shortstop Jean Segura’s OBP can raise a few eyebrows just like his glove on the left side of the infield. But overall, Seattle just isn’t built to win championships without a few more pieces.

The Angels are on the rise with the signing of Shohei Otani, but honestly, I’m not a huge fan. As good as he was in Japan, the MLB is a different league. Minor Leaguers can shred their competition, but they won’t get any respect unless they can prove it in the big leagues. Japan should be no different. That said, if he happens to be as good as advertised, L.A. would have one of the best outfields in the world with Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Justin Upton as well as a versatile kicker in Otani. I just don’t see the pitcher/DH making a huge impact.

Predictions:

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Los Angeles Angels (Wild Card)
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Texas Rangers
  5. Oakland Athletics

 

AL Central

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The AL Central is just as much of a runaway as the West. The two-time defending champions Cleveland Indians should stay in control wire-to-wire in 2018. Even with the losses of Carlos Santana and Bryan Shaw in the offseason, Cleveland is as dangerous as ever. Namely, their murderer’s row pitching rotation puts a capable starter on the hill every night. Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber leads the Tribe, but I wouldn’t want to square up against Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, or even Danny Salazar. There’s no off day in Cleveland, the only question is what seed they can come away with in the playoffs.

Last year there was a clear pecking order throughout the division, but I think spots 2-4 could be separated by 5 games or less in 2018. The Twins made the jump from one of the worst teams in the MLB to second in the AL Central in 2017, narrowly missing out on a Wild Card spot in a competitive playoff race. I’m tabbing the Twins to move back around .500 this year because I think they over-performed in 2017, and that false confidence led to some stagnant offseason decisions.

There’s always that team that makes a surprise jump like the Twins did. This year, I actually have two. The Giants in the NL, and the White Sox right here. Nobody has made more moves than Chicago since July, and now is when it will start to pay off. They are by no means a team to steal a playoff spot, but they won’t be getting walked over. Yoan Moncada and Lucas Gioloto are two names I’m really excited to watch as they make their mark on the MLB this year. Hang with them through the growing pains, and before long we can see the Sox in October.

Recently the Royals have been hovering around the top spot in the AL Central but have only been able to take the crown once in the history of the division (no pun intended). Unfortunately for KC, they won’t be any closer this year. While they were slowly able to re-sign some of their key players from the famed 2015 World Series run, this year will probably be their last chance to win-now. Even then, the pitching just isn’t there to face the powerful American League bats.

That leaves the lowly Tigers. It’s easy to put them in the cellar after watching them give away Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez in 2017. Besides an aging Miguel Cabrera and a very inconsistent Jordan Zimmermann, there isn’t much to love in Detroit. But how low can they go?

Predictions:

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Detroit Tigers

AL East

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Here’s where it gets fun. The AL East is a beast of a conference, probably only rivaled by the NL West. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles all have legitimate shots at winning it, and the Blue Jays are in the hunt for the Wild Card too. As for the Rays, well, without Evan Longoria it’s better luck next year.. maybe.

Toronto is a long shot mainly due to two big losses already. That is, Troy Tulowitzki dealing with a nagging heel problem, and Jose Bautista just not getting signed for some reason. Edwin Encarnacion has been out the door for a while now, and that leaves exactly zero stars from the glory days a couple of years ago. The good news is that the pitching is still there, but there are a lot of big bats to beat in the AL East.

Baltimore has the opposite problem. Their lineup is dangerous from top to bottom. You’ve got Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, and you have the undervalued Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini in the mix too. The problem is their pitching. If this tells you anything, their ace is Dylan Bundy, and Zach Britton will miss at least the first two months of the season with a torn achilles. Every game the Orioles play will be a shootout, and they can only win so many of those.

Boston. I picked you to win it all last year.  What happened? You had everything going for you.  A plethora of young talent, the ace of aces in Chris Sale, and a winning fanbase led by manager John Farrell. Oh.. John Farrell. Well, he’s gone now, so we’ll see what new manager Alex Cora can do in that clubhouse to get you back on top.

Well, that is, if you can get past the New York Yankees. In March 2017, I picked the Yankees to win the 2018 World Series. The signing of Giancarlo Stanton and a lower budget only affirmed that prediction. There are hardly words to describe the dominance of this 40-man roster. Even with some blockbuster trades over the winter, they still maintain an incredibly strong farm system. If the Yankee dynasty was over, it’s surely back now.

Predictions:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card)
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Tampa Bay Rays

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Game 163: Los Angeles Angels vs. Baltimore Orioles- I can’t decide who will advance to the Wild Card game to face the Red Sox between the Angels and Orioles, so I declare a tie. Given the history of the Orioles in sudden-death games, Angels win.

AL Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels at Boston Red Sox- I still like the Sox this year; it’s just a tough draw playing with the Yanks. Chris Sale can ground the Angels, and the bats won’t have a problem with anyone in that rotation. Red Sox win.

NL Wild Card: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals- I picked the Cubs to win the NL Central before the signing of Greg Holland to St. Louis, and I’m already regretting it. Nevertheless, here they are against Madison Bumgarner in an elimination game. No chance. Giants win.

Division Series

ALDS: (1) Houston Astros vs. (4) Boston Red Sox- They’ve been here before. Last year, Houston knocked out my predicted champions in a speedy 4 games. The same rosters return for both squads, except the Astros added Gerrit Cole. I won’t commit to the sweep, but Astros in 4.

ALDS: (2) Cleveland Indians vs. (3) New York Yankees- The Yankees are the three seed because their schedule is going to be way harder than their AL West and AL Central counterparts. So we have another rematch, this time of the 2017 ALCS, and we have the same result. Yankees in 3.

NLDS: (1) Washington Nationals vs. (4) San Francisco Giants- The Nats just can’t escape the NL West. D.C.’s struggles in the postseason have been well documented, from the Giants to the Dodgers, and most recently the Cubs, ousting them in the very first round. This is the Nationals’ last chance to win with Bryce Harper, and new manager Dave Martinez finally, finally makes the most of it. Nationals in 5.

NLDS: (2) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (3) Chicago Cubs- A really fun matchup of the past two World Series champions will collide in an exciting series that features everything a fan could want. Two great teams, the world’s best pitcher, and the league’s best fanbases. That said, the Dodgers are just too complete of a team to lose in a series format. Dodgers in 4.

Conference Series

ALCS: (1) Houston Astros vs. (3) New York Yankees- What a fun series this will be. The best two offenses will go at it in 7 games that could all reach double digits. Throw any kind of pitching advantage out the window; it comes down to clutch hitting and who wants it more. Yankees in 7.

NLCS: (1) Washington Nationals vs. (2) Los Angeles Dodgers- What a nightmare for those Nationals fans. Riding high off their first ever postseason series win, the Nats are ready to take their momentum to the very last game. Unfortunately, they’re about to run into the buzzsaw that is L.A. Dodgers in 5.

World Series Prediction- Yankees beat Dodgers in 6 games.

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2018 National League Predictions

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It’s one of my favorite days of the year: Opening Day. Baseball returns today, and that means it’s time for my predictions for each division. Last year, I correctly named all 6 division winners, and named the dark horse to sneak into the playoffs. Will I fare just as well this year? Let’s take a look at what we can expect over the next seven months.

NL East

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Let’s start off easy. If you can believe it, the best offense in the National League will actually get better this year. As the Nationals are my hometown team, I am well-versed in their injury-riddled 2017. Nonetheless, they cruised to their third NL East crown in four years by not only being the only team in the division over .500, but by beating the second-place Marlins by 20 games. This year, for better or for worse, will be no different for D.C.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy will start the season on the DL while he recovers from a knee injury he suffered last October. Trea Turner has been prone to a few on-and-off injuries due to his stature, and of course accidents can happen. That said, it’s easy to forget about stellar outfielder Adam Eaton returning to this talented roster to help with depth in the outfield and add to a very strong starting lineup. I don’t know how many games the Nats will play at full strength, but one way or another, they will be at the top of the NL East pile by season’s end.

As good as the Nats will be, that’s not to say this division is lopsided… besides the Marlins. New General Manager Derek Jeter sold basically everyone this offseason to kick start the rebuild in Miami. Unfortunately, due to the spending spree and fan backlash, those left in South Florida aren’t too happy to be there. I don’t expect this season to be a complete disaster, but make no mistake, it’s going to be hard to watch the Marlins.

The Phillies, Mets, and Braves find themselves in the middle ground. The Mets had their 2017 season littered with an absurd amount of injuries, primarily to one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. They can be a surprise team in 2018 if they’re at 100%, but nothing is a guarantee in New York.

As I anticipated, the Phillies have made a lot of improvements over the offseason. One of the youngest teams in baseball, everyone has a year of experience under their belt, and the front office made moves to acquire free agents Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta to bolster their roster. Still, with one of the biggest remaining budgets in the MLB, the Phils may not be done yet.

Predictions:

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. New York Mets
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Miami Marlins

 

NL Central

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Moving westward in the NL, we come to the midwest that has been dominated by the Cardinals and the Cubs over the last 5 years; St. Louis winning from 2013-2015, and Chicago winning in 2016 and 2017. This year, I envision the bitter rivals atop the standings again.

Similar to the Marlins, the Pirates sold the farm over the offseason. They surrendered their young ace, Gerrit Cole to the Astros for four players highlighted by pitcher Joe Musgrove, and most notably, they let the face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen go to the Giants for two of San Francisco’s top prospects. The Pirates’ front office will tell you that this is a money-saving move for the future, but Pittsburgh fans have got to wonder when the future will finally be here.

The Reds are no better off than they were in 2017. Their pitching is still horrendous, and Cincinnati’s hot start at the plate last year quickly dissipated as the season wore on. The only question is if the Pirates’ moves will drop them below the Reds in the standings or not. Regardless, these two franchises will be in the cellar of not just the NL Central, but the MLB.

I’m keeping the Brewers in third after a tremendous 2017. Their overachievements were awesome, but I don’t see sustained success in Milwaukee. Luckily, the Reds and Pirates will inflate their win total, so maybe they can make a couple of roster-solidifying moves come the trade deadline. For now, I’m dropping them to 3rd.

That leaves the Cubs and Cardinals… and it’s going to be close. Chicago had a drop-off after their World Series run in 2016, but a 92-70 record is pretty respectable. The Cardinals should be healthier this season, with ace Carlos Martinez returning from injury, and Alex Reyes, one of the best young prospects in baseball, primed to make his MLB debut in May. The main question in the NL Central is: will the Cubs recapture that winning hunger with all of the same talent still on the roster, or can the Cardinals’ constant push dethrone the reigning division champs?

Predictions:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Cincinnati Reds
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates

 

NL West

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I was so ready to pick the Giants to pull off the classic “worst to first” move… and then Madison Bumgarner broke his hand. Last year, the Giants went from a Wild Card team to one of the worst teams in the MLB, and not that it’s Bumgarner’s fault for falling off his dirt bike.. but it’s kind of his fault. So, while he sits out the first 6-8 weeks of the season, I don’t know how San Fran can fair in an incredibly competitive division even with the acquisitions of superstars Evan Longoria and the aforementioned McCutchen. But when Bumgarner’s back, they will be my playoff dark horse.

The runaway Wild Card winners from last year are definitely still in the hunt, too. The Rockies and the Diamondbacks swapped 2nd and 3rd place in the division all summer long until they finally settled the score in a one-game playoff in Arizona. With a general improvement in the NL (minus the Marlins and Pirates), it’s going to be very hard to repeat that success.

The Rockies finally bolstered their bullpen with Wade Davis. This was their biggest problem last year, and if he can pitch well in a hitter’s park like Coors Field, Colorado is capable of making it back to the postseason. I also have an eye on Carlos Gonzalez. He was virtually nonexistent in 2017 after being a perennial star for the Rockies throughout his career. I don’t know which Carlos will show up this year, but if it’s his former self, Colorado can be dangerous.

There wasn’t a huge splash for the Diamondbacks this offseason. They made a couple moves to pick up Steven Souza, and they named Brad Boxberger as their new closer, but that’s not going to win them the World Series. In fact, with a surge of playoff contenders coming, it might not be enough to play game 163. My dark horse from last year won’t be in it this year.

That leaves the Dodgers (Sorry Padres, you’re still young). Los Angeles is as good as ever, and they are probably my pick to win the pennant this year, even if they ultimately fall in the division race. Their lineup is stacked from top-to-bottom from veterans Matt Kemp and Yasmani Grandal to young stars Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. Not to mention, they might have the best pitcher to ever do it: Clayton Kershaw. I have no choice but to pick the reigning five-time NL West champs.

Predictions:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card)
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. San Diego Padres

NBA Week Twenty-Four Fantasy Predictions

916kingscourt..com

Big shout out to maleopold15 over at Sports Thoughts for his help in the help of creating a new series. He reports on the NBA, MLB, and the NFL. We are each helping each other out on our new fantasy series, mine for the NBA, and his for the NFL. Go check out the full blog at Sports Thoughts.

This is a weekly series that will be published every Sunday, previewing who will be the best fantasy players of the next week. Maleopold15 and I will select our ideal fantasy starting fives heading into the week.

Last Week

Last week, Maleopold selected Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns who averaged a combined: 28.8 Points, 9.7 Rebounds, 6.4 Assists, 1.4 Steals, and 1.3 Blocks.

I selected Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Joel Embiid who averaged a combined: 27.6 Points, 9.7 Rebounds, 6.3…

View original post 430 more words

NBA Week Twenty-Three Fantasy Predictions

916kingscourt..com

Big shout out to maleopold15 over at Sports Thoughts for his help in the help of creating a new series. He reports on the NBA, MLB, and the NFL. We are each helping each other out on our new fantasy series, mine for the NBA, and his for the NFL. Go check out the full blog at Sports Thoughts.

This is a weekly series that will be published every Sunday, previewing who will be the best fantasy players of the next week. Maleopold15 and I will select our ideal fantasy starting fives heading into the week.

Last Week

Last week, Maleopold selected Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns who averaged a combined: 23.8 Points, 9.2 Rebounds, 5.7 Assists, 0.7 Steals, and 0.9 Blocks.

I selected James Harden, Demar DeRozan, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis who averaged a combined: 24.1 Points, 7.8 Rebounds, 5.4…

View original post 479 more words

March Madness Predictions

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I’m taking a quick break from the NBA to share my thoughts on one of my favorite times of the sports calendar… March Madness. Kings Court and I will both be posting our brackets and sharing our sleepers, favorites, and mentioning what we don’t like about each other’s brackets so that we can guarantee perfection. With time running out to fill out yours, let’s take a look at what we can expect to see this March.

 

My Bracket:

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My Sleepers:

1. New Mexico State (12 Seed in the Midwest). I love NMSU’s first matchup against Clemson, and I think their potential game against Auburn is a toss-up. It’s also entirely possible that they see Charleston, but either way I love the momentum of the WAC Tournament Champions. They have size down low, they are elite defensively, and they have a solid senior point guard in Zach Lofton (19.8 ppg) who leads a diverse supporting cast. I know I only have them winning one game, but the Aggies are a serious Sweet 16 threat.

2. Stephen F. Austin (14 Seed in the East). I actually did commit to taking the Lumberjacks into the Sweet 16. Texas Tech is stumbling into the tournament after losing 5 of their last 7 games, while SFA is coming off a conference championship. SFA is a great offensive team, too. They shoot at nearly 50% from the field, and 38% from beyond the arc. Defensively, they lead the country in turnovers as they harass their opposition all game long. I think the Lumberjacks have a good draw, and they can even give Purdue some problems to cement themselves as the 2018 Cinderella.

3. Almost anyone in the South. I didn’t pull the trigger on some of these, but I have a close eye on Creighton, Davidson, Buffalo, Loyola-Chicago, and Nevada. With the ACC 6th man of the year from UVA done for the year, the Hoos are in even more danger of being upset by Creighton. What the Jays lack in size and defense, they make up for in consistent three-point shooting that can topple even the best of defenses, especially when they’re a man down. On that same note, Nevada plays a very similar game against Cinci who boasts the #2 defense in the NCAA. I know defense whens championships, but time will tell if it wins in March.

 

My Final Four:

Arizona. I chose the Wildcats out of the South simply because they have the most raw talent on the floor. UVA, Cinci, and Tennessee have great defenses, but Arizona holds their own while shooting at one of the highest clips in the nation. Although I didn’t pick it, I won’t be surprised to see some turmoil in that region which should make Arizona’s path even easier. My undoing could be a really tough first round matchup against Buffalo, but I’ve got Arizona surviving all the way to San Antonio.

Villanova. Everyone is talking about how Villanova has the easiest path to the Final Four, and frankly that scares me. They definitely have the best draw with the toughest test coming in the Sweet 16 likely against either WVU, who plays the famous ‘Press Virginia’ defense, or Wichita State, who plays textbook team offense. However, I’ve got Nova because they can do it all. Six double-digits scorers, the best backcourt in the NCAA, and a tenacious defense that will force every player on the opposing team to do their part. Villanova won’t beat themselves, and I don’t see a good enough team to knock them off for the remainder of the season.

North Carolina. I went with the Tar Heels because of experience. I love Gonzaga’s chances to win a dogfight against Xavier in the Sweet 16, but I don’t think they have the depth to match Carolina. As for Houston, I could see them getting beat by Michigan, but neither have the size or the clutch shooting of UNC. This late in the season, it’s about grit and toughness, and I think North Carolina has it.

Michigan State. I had to pick MSU by default. I hate the long lay-off from their last game nearly two weeks ago, but they get to play their first two tournament games 30 minutes from home in Detroit. It’s a tough road past Duke and Kansas, but with a couple practice games under their belt against teams with very similar dynamics to the powerhouses, I think MSU will be back in their late-season groove as they tear through the Midwest.

 

Kings Court’s Bracket:

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Things I Don’t Like:

1. Missouri. I know Michael Porter is back, but he has played two games all season for a total of 25 minutes. In his big return in the conference tournament, he was average at best, and his team was ousted in their first game by the 12-seeded Georgia. In addition, their big man Jordan Barnett was suspended for the first round of the tournament, so not only do I have the Tigers out of the Final Four… I have them losing in the very first round to a struggling Florida State team.

2. Alabama. Collin Sexton may very well be the best single player in the tournament, but he is going to be easy to stop down the stretch. I have Virginia Tech winning that first round in a toss-up, but even if Bama escapes, there is no way Sexton is going to out duel Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. The only way Alabama moves on is if Sexton never has an off night, his supporting cast actually comes to play, and all six of Villanova’s best players can’t find the bottom of the rim. I’m sticking with my champs.

3. Duke. I can live with Duke getting to the Final Four. The Midwest is a really tough region with so much history between the top-3 seeds. But I don’t like the Blue Devils to cut down the nets in April. Marvin Bagley may be a top-5 draft pick in June, but he is still a freshman that was outmatched by VT’s Kerry Blackshear, and UNC’s Luke Maye in the last week alone. Senior Grayson Allen leads the team, but his emotional tendencies are well documented, and that’s no way to win a close game. Duke may be regional champions, but not national champions.

 

Now head on over to Kings Court and see what he’s got to say about his bold picks. And, I know I’m not perfect, what would he change? Let me know your thoughts, too! Who do you have cutting down the nets in San Antonio?

NBA Week Twenty-Two Fantasy Predictions

916kingscourt..com

Big shout out to maleopold15 over at Sports Thoughts for his help in the help of creating a new series. He reports on the NBA, MLB, and the NFL. We are each helping each other out on our new fantasy series, mine for the NBA, and his for the NFL. Go check out the full blog at Sports Thoughts.

This is a weekly series that will be published every Sunday, previewing who will be the best fantasy players of the next week. Maleopold15 and I will select our ideal fantasy starting fives heading into the week.

Last Week

Last week, Maleopold selected Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond who averaged a combined: 23.2 Points, 8.2 Rebounds, 4.1 Assists, 1.1 Steals, and 1.8 Blocks.

I selected James Harden, Devin Booker, Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis who averaged a combined: 23.8 Points, 6.8 Rebounds, 3.9…

View original post 545 more words

NBA Week Twenty-One Fantasy Predictions

916kingscourt..com

Big shout out to maleopold15 over at Sports Thoughts for his help in the help of creating a new series. He reports on the NBA, MLB, and the NFL. We are each helping each other out on our new fantasy series, mine for the NBA, and his for the NFL. Go check out the full blog at Sports Thoughts.

This is a weekly series that will be published every Sunday, previewing who will be the best fantasy players of the next week. Maleopold15 and I will select our ideal fantasy starting fives heading into the week.

Last Week

Last week, Maleopold selected Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns who averaged a combined: 24.8 Points, 10.4 Rebounds, 4.6 Assists, 1.7 Steals, and 1.5 Blocks.

I selected Stephen Curry, James Harden, Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond who averaged a combined: 25.6 Points, 10.8 Rebounds, 5.2…

View original post 562 more words