2017 NBA Draft Recap

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The 2017 NBA Draft has come and gone as the next set of young talent is ready to enter the NBA for the upcoming season. There were some obvious picks, some surprises, some trades, and lots of speculation about what the draft results mean for free agency on July 1st. A NBA record 14 freshmen were selected in the first round, and the Spurs pick of Derrick White was the latest a senior has ever been drafted. Here is my recap of the things I found the most important.

The consensus #1 pick in the draft was made official as the Philadelphia 76ers selected Washington PG Markelle Fultz to join a squad of young studs that Philly has been piling up over the years. Many people think the time has finally arrived for the 76ers to be competitive again, as Fultz will join last year’s #1 pick Ben Simmons, star big man Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington in what could be an exciting young core if all remain healthy. No one questions Fultz’s athletic talent and abilities on the court, but the one criticism has been that he played for a terrible Washington team that lost 23 games last year. Fultz will have the opportunity to change the loser perception if he can lead Philly back to the promised land.

The second pick in the draft was no surprise either, as the Los Angeles Lakers selected UCLA PG Lonzo Ball. The selection comes just days after the Lakers traded away former lottery pick point guard D’Angelo Russell, indicating that they will put their trust in Ball for the foreseeable future. Lonzo Ball led the nation in assists per game last year, but has drawn criticism for his shooting mechanics. Nevertheless, he should be an exciting player to watch on a young Lakers team next year that has it’s sights on winning again.

After giving away the #1 overall pick to Philadelphia in a controversial trade, the Boston Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick. Danny Ainge said after the draft that they would have taken Tatum #1, thus the reasoning for trading the pick. While Tatum is dynamic scorer that can play and defend multiple positions on the court, it remains to be seen if the Celtics will ultimately keep him or package him in a trade for one of the many superstars that Boston is trying to acquire. Not everyone thought Tatum should’ve been the #3 pick either. Many people had Kansas star Josh Jackson, who was taken by Phoenix at #4, as the third best player in the draft. Time will tell whether Tatum or Jackson should have been selected first.

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The biggest trade of the night was Chicago Bulls trading Jimmy Butler and their first round pick to move up to #7 and take Lauri Markannen out of Arizona. Butler will reunite with his former head coach Tom Thibodeau and join a talented young team that includes star big man Karl Anthony-Towns and former #1 pick Andrew Wiggins. This was a great move for Minnesota, and a questionable move for the Bulls who definitely could have gotten more for Jimmy Butler as they look to rebuild their team.

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Despite being known as a dysfunctional franchise, I thought the Sacramento Kings quietly had the best draft last night. After taking De’Aaron Fox at #5, they traded down and picked up both Duke star Harry Giles and North Carolina veteran Justin Jackson. Fox should contribute right away, and if Giles stays healthy and reaches his potential he could be the next Kevin Garnett. The Kings also added sharpshooter Frank Mason III out of Kansas in the second round to wrap up a pretty impressive draft overall.

Let me know your thoughts on this year’s draft in the comments down below.

-Jeff

 

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TV Review: The Leftovers Season 3 (2017)

The third season of The Leftovers wraps up one of the most intriguing, mysterious, and bizarre television shows that has ever been produced. The season begins three years after Season 2 and just a few weeks before the symbolic seventh anniversary of the Sudden Departure, in which two percent of the world’s population mysteriously disappeared and were never found. We start off with the same cast of characters back in Jardin, Texas, but end up all the way in Australia by the last episode. Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), and others experience life-altering events throughout this final season, and producer Damon Lindelof does another masterful job at giving us a window into the minds of these characters. This series has always been about how human being cope with loss, and with the circumstances more extreme than ever this season, Lindelof does not disappoint.

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Season 3 of The Leftovers dives deeper than ever before into the minds of each character and how they are processing the tragedy that occurred almost seven years earlier. One of the things I found most interesting throughout this season was the numerous religious references. With the sudden departure being compared to the rapture by many people in earlier seasons, the theme of religion has already been hinted at throughout the series. However, in Season 3 the characters address it head on and gave the audience the opportunity to understand each character’s fundamental belief system. Matt Jameson (Christopher Eccelston) is convinced that Kevin, who has died and come back more than once, is Jesus and starts writing a book about him (the new version of the Bible). Kevin’s dad is convinced the apocalypse will happen on the seventh anniversary of the departure via flood. Both the number 7 and the flood are references to the Old Testament. When Kevin’s dad tells Kevin he has to die in order to stop the apocalypse, it is reminiscent to God sacrificing his son Jesus for the world.

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As is the case with many great TV shows, the series needs to have a great finale. After the second to last episode in Season 3, the series finale of The Leftovers could have gone in a number of different directions and had very high expectations to live up to. I thought the description for this episode was perfect and very fitting: “Nothing is answered. Everything is answered. Then it ends.” We do in fact get some answers during the final episode. It takes place many years later where Kevin and Nora reunite in Australia. Nora reveals that she was able to travel to this place to see her kids again, but that they were with a different mom and she felt like she didn’t belong there. She mentions we only lost a few of them (the departed), but that they lost all of us. I thought this was fascinating to think about because it makes us think about what really happens in the afterlife. What if instead of Heaven, people just go to another existence and it’s not really that great after all? What if there’s still pain and suffering, and people experience sadness for the ones they left?

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Overall, I thought this was a phenomenal season and an incredible series. No other TV show that I’ve ever watched dives into so many deep and fascinating ideas, and really makes you think about your fundamental belief systems. This is not a light show to just sit down and binge on a Sunday afternoon, but if you’re looking for something that’s really going to make you think and that can spur great discussion, there’s no better option than The Leftovers.

My Rating: 9.7/10

Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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TV Review: Bloodline (2015-2017)

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*NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS BLOG*

Bloodline is about a close knit family, one of whom is a “black sheep”, named the Rayburns and takes place down in Florida.┬áThere are the parents, Robert and Sally (Sissy Spacek), who own the Rayburn family inn which is a popular vacation spot in the keys of Florida. Then there are the four adult siblings: John (Kyle Chandler), Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), Meg, and Kevin. After a horrific boating accident that killed their sister Sarah when they were all young, Danny is blamed by his father for her death since he was out on the boat. He was beaten by his father to the point where he needed to go to the hospital, but Sally told her other children to lie about what happened and say Danny got hurt in a car accident. Danny was never able to forgive his family for this, and became an outcast over the years, until he returned home years later threatening to reveal the truth about that day.

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I thought this series was very interesting because they do a compelling job of exploring an age old question: How far would you go for family? The Rayburns had no problem covering up the events surrounding their sister’s death and Danny’s beating. However, things start to get more complicated when Danny begins running a drug operation through the inn. The other siblings are forced to cover this up as well so the inn remains out of trouble. The biggest problem, however, occurs at the end of season 1 when John gets in a fight with Danny after he threatens his family and ends up killing him. Once again, the siblings do their best to cover this up, but things slowly fall apart as the lies keep piling on and the family begins to get exposed.

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I think it can be tough to know what we would do if put in the situation of someone like John Rayburn. He is forced to choose between his brother and his family. He does what he thinks is right, but it continues to haunt him for the rest of his life. Even after all of the investigations are over and he comes out cleanly, he continues to have dreams and thoughts about Danny in his head. I think it goes to show that, no matter how much of an outcast and how bad someone might seem, there’s always going to be the family connection. It’s why this series is called Bloodline. Despite their differences and the bad things that every one of them has done, the Rayburns always tried their best to stand up for and support each other, even when crimes were committed and lives were at stake. What would you do if a family member committed a crime that you knew about? It’s a fascinating struggle between the moral and relational parts of our brain, and shows that a strong family bond can be among the most powerful of influences.

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I was a little disappointed with how the series ended because I thought there were still more questions to be answered, but overall I really enjoyed the drama throughout the whole series. I thought every episode was gripping and it is one of the few shows where I did a lot of binge watching to find out what happened next. I would highly recommend watching Bloodline and give it an 8.5/10.

Let me know your thoughts on the show in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 NBA Finals Preview and Prediction

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#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #1 Golden State Warriors (-240)

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What seemed like a predetermined outcome before the season has finally arrived. The Cavaliers will face the Warriors in the NBA Finals for a third consecutive year, with each team having won one of the previous two championships. There are plenty of story lines to watch for in these Finals. Cleveland will try to defend it’s title while Golden State seeks revenge after blowing a 3-1 lead last year. Kevin Durant is looking for his first championship in his first year with the Warriors, while Steph Curry is looking to avoid another disappointing Finals performance. Lebron is looking to even up his Finals record at 4-4 as he continues to chase the ghost of Jordan. With injuries and suspensions hovering around the last two Finals matchups, the rubber match may finally deliver the clean and hard fought matchup that NBA fans have been waiting for.

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The Cavaliers are heading into the Finals as underdogs, so if they’re going to have a chance, their trio of All Stars will have to step up big time. The Warriors will no doubt give a lot of attention to Lebron while on defense, so Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will have to consistently hit shots off of the open looks they will get as a result of Lebron double teams. Lebron will have to hit some jump shots as well, since players like Durant, Draymond Green, and Javale McGee will be there to protect the rim and keep Lebron from consistently driving to the hole. The key for the Warriors will be to play aggressive defense but not get into foul trouble early. The Cavs second unit will need to step up as well. Players like Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and JR Smith can provide a much needed spark off the bench and will have to keep pace with a very good Warriors bench if they want to be competitive for the entire game.

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For the Warriors, the game plan is pretty simple: Get the ball to your best players and let them go to work. With a multitude of options, the Warriors are deadly on the offensive side of the ball. After leading the NBA in points during the regular season, they’ve put up even more in the playoffs and are outscoring teams by an NBA record 16 points per game en route to the first 12-0 start in NBA postseason history. Kevin Durant, one of the elite scorers in the game, has made the Warriors better on defense as well. Sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have the ability to heat up from 3 at any point, and versatile big man Draymond Green can defend all positions on the floor. Then you add in bench players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Javale McGee, and you have a Warriors team that simply looks unstoppable.

PREDICTION: GOLDEN STATE DEFEATS CLEVELAND IN 6 GAMES

FINALS MVP: KEVIN DURANT

Let me know your thoughts and predictions in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

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Thank you Isaiah Thomas for one of the most Legendary Seasons in Celtics’ History

 

Nobody in the world could have predicted the type of season that Boston Celtics’ point guard Isaiah Thomas had this year…except for Thomas himself. The 60th and final pick of the 2011 NBA draft has been doubted his entire life, and that’s exactly what has made him into an All Star and the best player on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Even as Thomas was well on his way to a historic season this year, the doubters were always there in full force. Everyone kept saying he reached his ceiling, and that there was no way he would be able to keep up the pace he was playing at. Again and again, IT proved the doubters wrong and it led to one of the most legendary seasons in the history of the storied franchise that is the Boston Celtics.

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Isaiah Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game, 5.9 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and a 26.6 PER during the regular season. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Thomas was unbelievably clutch throughout the entire season, average 9.8 points per game in the fourth quarter to lead the Eastern Conference, including a 29 point fourth quarter explosion against Miami in December to break Larry Bird’s franchise record for points in a quarter. Thomas also set a career high in that same game with 52 points, which was the fourth highest total by a Celtic in franchise history. However, Thomas took it to another level in January. He averaged 32.9 PPG, the third highest monthly total in franchise history behind Paul Pierce and Larry Bird, and 6.9 assists en route to being named Easter Conference player of the month. That same months, the Celtics went 10-4 to take over first place in their division and Thomas was named to his second straight All-Star game.

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However, IT4 wasn’t done yet. In February, Thomas broke John Havlicek’s franchise record of 40 straight 20 point games, finishing with 43 consecutive 20 point games before the streak was snapped against Atlanta on February 27th. In March, Thomas became just the third player in Celtics history to hit 200 threes in a season, and the sixth player in franchise history to score 2000 points in a season. The Boston Celtics finished the regular season as the #1 seed in the East for the first time since 2008, largely due to the play of Isaiah Thomas. That wasn’t enough to satisfy IT however. Criticisms of his recent playoff performances and the Celtics not being able to get out of the first round in the last two years provided plenty of motivation.

Despite learning of the tragic news of his sister’s death right before the playoffs, Thomas led the Celtics to a 4-2 series win over the Bulls in the first round. He then attended his sister’s funeral after Game 6 and came back to put up 33 points and 9 assists in Game 1 against the Wizards. He topped that with a mind-blowing 53 points, second highest in Celtics postseason history, in a Game 2 overtime win. The Celtics would go on to win the series in 7 games to reach their first Eastern Conference Finals since 2012. In Game 2, Thomas injured his hip which ended his season, but it will go down as one of the greatest in Celtics history.

From all of Celtics nation, thank you Isaiah Thomas for an incredible and inspirational season of basketball.

-Jeff

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Reaction to HBO’s Bernie Madoff Documentary: The Wizard of Lies (2017)

The Wizard of Lies is HBO’s newest documentary which takes a look at Bernie Madoff and the biggest financial fraud scheme in recorded history. The film starts Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife. The powerful documentary takes a look at the impact of a $65 billion dollar ponzi scheme on not just all of the victims who invested, but also on Madoff’s friends, family, and loved ones.

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The following definition from Investopedia describes exactly what a ponzi scheme is:

A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud where clients are promised a large profit at little to no risk. Companies that engage in a Ponzi scheme focus all of their energy into attracting new clients to make investments. This new income is used to pay original investors their returns, marked as a profit from a legitimate transaction. Ponzi schemes rely on a constant flow of new investments to continue to provide returns to older investors. When this flow runs out, the scheme falls apart.

Something I found interesting during this film is exactly how long this had been going on. Madoff started his company in 1960, and although he admitted to not having traded since 1996, many people believe the fraud may have been going on all the way back to the early 1980s or late 1970s. It took all the way until 2008, when one of worst stock market crashes in the country’s history happened, for the scheme to finally be exposed due to investors demands to withdraw money when there wasn’t enough money coming in to satisfy these demands.

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One of my biggest takeaways from this documentary can be summed up by a quote by one of Madoff’s sons when being questions by the FBI. When the FBI asks him how he didn’t know about his father’s crime, he angrily responds “How did I not know?! You’re the FBI. How the fuck did you not know?!” This is in fact a very valid question. As evil as the entire scheme was, the government’s incompetence to conduct multiple botched investigations and ignore obvious evidence and warnings signs over a decades long stretch may have been just as bad. The SEC conducted multiple investigations over the years into Madoff’s company and failed to find anything.

Financial analyst Harry Markopolos pointed out in 1999 that it was impossible for Madoff’s company to generate the returns it was claiming. He said it took him five minutes to the conclude the numbers didn’t add up. Instead, he was repeatedly ignored by the SEC offices in both Boston and New York for ten years until the scheme finally unraveled. Madoff himself admitted that he was essentially banking on the incompetence of the government to keep his scheme alive, which really says all you need to know about the leaders of our country.

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The truly tragic part of this documentary, aside from all of the victims who lost their life savings, was the impact on Madoff’s family who trusted Bernie and had no knowledge of any wrongdoing. The family had to endure the wrath of the public eye simply because of their associations with Bernie Madoff. Things got so bad that one of Madoff’s sons committed suicide just two years after the scandal became public. In the film, Ruth Madoff tells Bernie how she has no skills, no friends, that she needs him because she would have nothing else without him. It is truly tragic that those with the Madoff family name will forever unfairly be associated with the unthinkable crimes that Bernie Madoff committed.

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The last thing I found interesting about this documentary was at the very end when he was being interviewed in jail. He mentions to the interviewer that he was upset because he came across an article comparing him to serial killer Ted Bundy. He says there is no comparison because he never killed anyone like Bundy did. Then the film ends as he asks the woman interviewing him “Do you think I am a sociopath?” The camera slowly zooms in on his face before fading out to credits with no response from the interviewer. I think this is a powerful scene and a great ending because it really does make you think: Is the crime Madoff committed actually as bad as what a serial killer has done? Sure, Madoff didn’t kill anyone directly, but he ruined thousands upon thousands of lives and left a lifetime’s worth of damage behind him. For that reason, you can make the case that he is one of the most evil men to ever live.

Thanks to everyone for reading this blog. Please let me know what your thoughts and comments are in the comments down below.

-Jeff

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2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview and Prediction

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#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #1 Boston Celtics (+375)

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The Boston Celtics will open up the Eastern Conference Finals at home against the Cavaliers as big underdogs despite being the #1 seed in the East. The Cavaliers are coming off back to back sweeps to start the playoffs, while the Celtics had two long, grueling series, including a Game 7, to get this far. Cleveland is trying to reach the NBA Finals for a third straight year, while the Celtics are making their first conference finals appearance since 2012 against Lebron’s Miami Heat.

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One of the keys to this series will the point guard battle. Both players are known for their elite scoring abilities but both have been mediocre on defense. It will be interesting to see how the Celtics match up against Kyrie, because Avery Bradley may end up being the one doing the majority of defending. The starting lineups for the Celtics in this series will also be key, since the Celtics cannot afford to get off to slow starts or give up big runs like they did in the previous round against Washington. They need to find a lineup that works and stick with it for consistency. Meanwhile, the Cavs Big 3 will likely do the majority of the damage against the Celtics. Boston has struggled with rebounding and will really have to lock down the boards against guys like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and even Lebron.

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Talent-wise, the Celtics are way overmatched, so if they are going to have a chance in this series it will come down to coaching. As mentioned earlier, the starting lineups will be key in this series. Bench play will be important too. If the Celtics get off to a slow start, it will be crucial for the bench to provide the spark that gets them back in the game rather than put them in a deeper hole. However, at the end of the day I think Cleveland is too good of a team to lose this series even without home court advantage. Cavaliers in 5.

Let me know what your thoughts on the series are in the comments down below.

Thanks,

Jeff

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