The Lakers Don’t Have the Next Kobe, but the First Lonzo

By Alexander C. Lawrence

As painful as this might sound to Laker fans like myself, the Los Angeles Lakers do NOT have the next Kobe “Bean” Bryant on the roster. Kobe brought so much to the game of basketball that we may not see the next Kobe for years, if ever again. Kobe believed whole-heartedly that each practice should be as hard as a game, if not harder. If Kobe didn’t like something his teammates were doing he was never shy letting them know it. He was arguably the most important player in basketball from 1999 to 2009 and was the bridge that filled the void left by Michael Jordan.

With all these accolades that Kobe accomplished, its tough for anyone to come into the league and fill his shoes, much less a pass-first point guard with a braggadocios father. But that still doesn’t mean Lonzo Ball can’t be the rightful heir to Kobe Bryant. Fans were so excited to see what Ball could bring to the table since a lot of people viewed him as a can’t miss prospect with loads of potential. Kobe was special too when drafted, but he had a reliable and proven star center in Shaq who he shared the court with, something Ball must do without.

Emulating Kobe will be near impossible, but Lonzo doesn’t need to do that. I think right now the primary focus for him should be to work hard each day on getting better. Yeah it’s no surprise that the majority of Laker Nation and the organization are banking on him being the next great Laker, this has been a star-starved team in a star hungry market. I’m confident he can be that and of course being drafted so high to a franchise that has been known to be a competitive basketball team throughout its franchises storied history comes with high expectations. He is not alone with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, Josh Hart etc. who are all young players looking to thrive and help bring an NBA championship back to LA.

There is a clear target on Ball’s back, but his father LaVar Ball has always put his sons in the spotlight claiming they have the ability to be great, so this nothing new to him. The truth is it’s never going to stop until he reaches greatness. He has to hone his game and take it one game (or practice at a time). He isn’t the get in your face type of guy as Kobe was, that’s just not him. That’s okay though because he has passing and rebounding abilities that are out of this world and easily surpass Kobe’s at his peak. He has smooth passing skills and he’s always looking ahead to see how he can set his teammates up to score, before himself. Those players don’t come around often but his potential based on what we saw from him at UCLA is too intriguing not to assume he can adjust and be the guy the Lakers have so desperately needed since Kobe’s departure.

For all NBA prospects that are drafted, no matter how much of a “can’t-miss” prospect they are, there is always a wait and see approach because you don’t really know what a player has until a few years of developing them. L.A. has never had a prospect like Lonzo and the excitement that people have for him is unparalleled. Kobe walked into Shaq’s spotlight and didn’t need to be the savior from the get-go. If Lonzo plays his game, goes about his business and performs on the court, he will win over the media and fans of the NBA.

The New-Look Lake Show

By Alexander C. Lawrence 

These new Los Angeles Lakers are fast, versatile and athletic. From Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma, the pieces this team has acquired are looking to fulfill the promise of getting over that playoff hump that has plagued them since the 2012-13 season. These Lakers are young and aggressive which is why I believe this team can do great things in the near future.

So far in the 2017-18 season we’ve seen glimpses of what this young team is capable of. Lonzo Ball has shown the ability to be pass-first in his mentality, not common among today’s scoring-centric Point Guards. He is a pass first, score last kind of player despite the potential to be a prolific scorer. He has solely been committed to finding ways for his teammates to score. His teammates aren’t complaining as they are still working to build good chemistry. Lonzo knows how to anticipate passes and for every successful NBA team there must be some kind of telepathy established among their players. He has to find guys that he can lean on and count on being in certain spots and positions. A lot of this is placed on Ball to be able to develop this telepathy among his teammates, but his teammates also have a responsibility to know where to be so Ball can get them the rock. There is a learning curve for both sides as they learn what each other likes and when and where they want to be when passes occur. If Ball intends to succeed he’ll need to help build up this team chemistry and a strong second half performance is not out of the question despite his inconsistent play in the first half of his rookie season.

Lonzo Ball is not the only rookie making noise in Staples Center as rookie Forward Kyle Kuzma has made an impact right away. Kuzma plays every game with a killer instinct and goes out each night locked in and ready to play. He keeps his composure in big moments such as in the Laker’s game against he Houston Rockets. These same Lakers ended James Harden and the Rockets’ 15-game win streak with Chris Paul in the line-up. They also ended the Rockets 55-game win streak when scoring at least 115 points. They won behind Kuzma’s career-high 38 points despite James Harden posting 51 points. As of right now he is looking like the steal of the draft. He is asserting himself as the best option at the 4 over Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.

Brandon Ingram has the opportunity to be one of the NBA’s next great defenders with his elite length and tireless work ethic. The hard work he’s put in is paying dividends in year two as he is averaging 16 ppg, which is up from his 9.4 ppg last season. Ingram seems to be on his way to being the star the team has needed to close out games, but still has work to do. He is not afraid of big-time moments and is establishing himself as a go-to target. He drives to the basket like few others and so far teams can’t figure him out. He knows how to finish around the rim and draw fouls most of the time when doing so. In two-years we’ve seen his mid-range shot become a core aspect of his game which, with his lengthy arms, makes it difficult for most to contest. The problem with Ingram, aside from improving his defense, is getting him to shoot the three ball. This season his 3 point shot accounts for less than 13% of his total shots. That number needs to go up, which could help make him the truly potent scoring threat that he was billed as at Duke. If he works on his defense and three point range he will wind up being the man in L.A. that most, including Kobe, predict him to be.

Larry Nance Jr. brings so much energy when he is on the court. He brings strength and speed when playing the 4 or 5 position, which creates a mismatch for opposing teams.  He isn’t worried about mismatches or who he is playing he just plays, as evidenced by his most recent dunk when he hammered it down on Warriors F Kevin Durant. However, Nance must work on his offensive contribution to the team in terms of scoring and offensive rebounds. Luke Walton thus far has shown he likes pairing Nance and C Brook Lopez together when they are healthy, a clear sign of Nance’s rising stock. His rebounding and leaping ability is out of this world and if he continues to work hard he will have a future in L.A. His mature play has made him into a clear cut contributor to the team.

By now most people are well aware of the decision to start Julius Randle off the bench by the Lakers and how he was thrilled about the move. This has been partly due to inconsistent play when he was healthy. He has performed better since the move to the bench and some might say Randle, Clarkson and Kuzma are one of better big-three bench units in the NBA. This season he is averaging 12 ppg to go along with 6 rpg. He brings excellent strength when playing opposing big men which makes up for his height mismatch. As much as it pains me to say this, everything is pointing to Randle being done in L.A. at the conclusion of the season. There are big names such as LeBron James and Paul George on the free agent market which could complicate his future with the team.

Jordan Clarkson was drafted with the 46th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft and there’s no question he has helped make the Lakers a more cohesive and entertaining basketball team. He’s only in the second year of his four year deal, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t entertain ideas of a trade, as teams have already reached out to them. I believe Clarkson has hit his potential at age 25 and that’s not to say its all downhill from here. He has been great off the bench and showed he can start in the NBA, no question. He brings that Laker’s bench to life and energizes them night in and night out. Unfortunate for Clarkson is that he may be dealt in order for the team to obtain more money to pay free agents this upcoming summer.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was signed this past offseason on a one-year, $18-million dollar deal. This gave Caldwell-Pope the chance to test the market again at the conclusion of this season or if he exceeds expectations the team may opt to sign him to a multi-year deal. He brings a 3 point threat to the team and it’s only improving. He is a two-way guard and has shown he can be a reliable defender. Ideally you’d like to see him dishing the ball to his teammates more, but by no means is he a ball hog. He needs some polishing in terms of his offensive skill-set as well. This young guard still has plenty of potential and lots to prove, but aside from legal issues (violation of probation) that the Lakers knew about prior to signing him, he may very well wind up paying off for LA regardless of whether he stays or not.

Based off these assets the fans of the Lakers have reason to believe and “trust the process” for the first time in a long time. Yes there are a couple of trigger-happy young guns who have a ways to go before being ready to compete for an NBA Championship, but they are still learning as they are a very, very young team. Give them time and the dividends will pay off Laker Nation. For right now I’m just excited to see fun basketball with a dash of hope for the future this holiday season.


The Birds Are Alright

By John Camera

With an impressive offensive output against the hapless Giants, the Nick Foles-led Eagles look poised to continue their impressive play this season.

No, Philly isn’t going to tank now that Carson Wentz is out for the season.

Foles stepped into the starting lineup for the first time since 2016 when he had a single start for Kansas City. Before that, Foles started seven games for the 2015 Rams after leaving Philly via trade following the 2014 season. The Arizona product has been mostly an afterthought following a spectacular and out-of-nowhere 2013 season that saw him throw for 27 TDs and just 2 INTs under Chip Kelly.

It was the veteran signal caller, who almost considered retirement following a forgettable stint with the Rams, that was the most reassuring  part of Philadelphia’s win over the Giants. Nick Foles was consistent, efficient and most importantly, didn’t have any turnovers in a commanding performance. The Quarterback had complete control of an offense that didn’t show any signs of stepping back or fading away following the loss of Wentz. Foles finished the game completing 24 of his 38 passes, several drops and miscues by WRs could’ve led to more completions, for 237 yards and 4 huge TDs. Every touchdown pass came in the red zone, underscoring the brilliant performance Foles had when the Eagles needed touchdowns the most. With a Giants’ offense that suddenly found life, Foles ensured Philly was getting in the paint and not being forced to kick field goals.

And did I mention he didn’t turn the ball over?

With a running game that was good but not great, Foles was handed the keys to a shiny, big-play offense and made them look down-right methodical against New York, in the best way possible. Foles took what the defense gave him, carving up a depleted Giants’ secondary without forcing the ball to any one player at any given time. Foles is not on the same level of Carson Wentz, that much is clear, but his efficiency in the pocket, inability to be rattled and knack for not turning the ball over will make him a capable replacement to guide the Eagles into the playoffs.

With this win, Philadelphia clinched a first-round bye for the first time since 2004, where they met the Patriots in the Super Bowl only to lose, 24-21.

The biggest negative from this showdown in New York was Philly’s defense. The lackluster performance in terms of tackling and pass coverage nearly gave the game away despite Fole’s excellence. The Eagles’ defense kept a usually-dormant Giants’ offense in the game by failing to wrap up their playmakers, playing soft defense with a lot of cushion for the New York’s receivers and biting on double moves. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills were especially at fault, victims of several big plays by the Giants’ passing attack.

That being said, clean up some of the negatives on defense, and the Eagles should be able to make noise in the playoffs even with Nick Foles under center.


Evaluating the Blue Devils at the Quarter-Pole Mark

By Jack Drapkin

Before I even discuss how the team has fared, what has gone right and wrong for them in the early going, I want to say how much fun it’s been to watch these guys play. Not since the 2015 title team, granted that was only three years ago, has a Duke team been this much fun to watch. Just like that team, they are never out of a game and always seem to save their best basketball for late. Now at 10-0, can the Blue Devils maintain this style of play and continue escaping with close victories after playing to the level of their competition? Well, if their play against South Dakota is any indication those days may be behind us sooner than we thought.

While we have spent a ton of time early-on this season marveling at Grayson Allen’s shooting prowess and Marvin Bagley III’s innate ability, the Blue Devil defense is still going to be the difference maker for this unit. Defense is a five-man responsibility unlike the offensive end of the court. The Blue Devils have struggled to defend consistently, particularly in the first half of games. 

The difference between good and great teams, but also young and old ones is the ability to play with a consistent level no matter the opponent. For these Blue Devils thus far, it seems no matter who the Blue Devils play the first half is going to be close. Much of this is a result of a lack of communication at the defensive end of the court to start games. However, while they gave up a trio of early treys against South Dakota, the defense looked much better in the first half, limiting them to only 30 first-half points. A sign that the defense may be improving in these first half situations.

There is another factor that I would like for you to consider as to why they have struggled to guard in the first half, Coach K. You see, has been experimenting much more often with the man-to-man defense in the first half before switching over to the 2-3 when its needed in the second half. This is not to be misconstrued as a bad thing either. It is essential that the Blue Devils can play at least some man-to-man when they get to ACC play. They will need to play it in case a team gets hot shooting beyond the arc and they need to mix up the look for example. Anyways, Coach K hasn’t had much practice time recently with all of the travel and early games, so look for the man-to-man defense to improve after the first handful of ACC games.

In short, while it’s been fun star-gazing over the early offensive returns of this prolific group, don’t overlook the defense, it may just be the difference between them raising a banner in April or not.

Nick Saban Wants It Both Ways

By John Camera

Alabama is a good football team. A damn good football team. But after their embarrassing 26-14 loss against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, it is clear that they are not the best team in the nation. That argument is certainly up for debate but is best left for another article. Simply put, Alabama doesn’t deserve to be in the playoff this year and Nick Saban’s whining shouldn’t change that.

To be fair to him, Saban is being a good coach when he said post-game that his guys deserved a shot at the playoff. There are a lot of talented players on his roster, guys who are Seniors and guys who will go to the NFL after their Junior season. This is their last chance to win a championship and Saban, like every other coach in America, wants to deliver that to them. But his words ring hollow, especially after his comments following the Crimson Tide’s 27-19 win over Texas A&M back on October 7.

“It’s like taking poison. Like rat poison.”

That was what Saban said in regards to the hype sports pundits had placed on Alabama. The head coach heaped blame on the media for inflating his team’s ego and affecting their performance against Texas A&M, a game that Saban thought shouldn’t have been as close as it turned out.

“I’m asking them (the players) are you going to listen to me or are you going to listen to these guys (the media) about how good you are?” Saban continued in his postgame press conference. The coach is telling his team to remain humble, as any coach would, but is reminding them they are not as great as the media has dubbed them.

Up until their near-loss against Mississippi State, two weeks before the Iron Bowl, the Tide seemed unstoppable in the regular season yet again. Even with a great Georgia team wrapping up the SEC East and an emerging Auburn team, Bama still seemed like the favorite to finish 13-0 and earn the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Things obviously did not turn out this way and Alabama will both finish the year 11-1 and without being able to play for the SEC Championship. If they hope to make the playoffs, they will have to do so as a team that is not a conference champion. This would be the first time that a team would make the playoff without at least a stake in its conference championship.

If Alabama had lost to a team like LSU or Mississippi State earlier in the season, it would’ve diminished their record and ranking but would not have had the same affect as losing to Auburn. Losing to LSU or Mississippi State and then beating Auburn would’ve guaranteed Alabama a spot in the playoff as long as they beat Georgia for the SEC Championship. But losing to Auburn on the last week of the regular season and missing out on a chance to play in the Championship has doomed Bama barring a series of upsets this coming weekend.

If Alabama does indeed miss out on the playoff, it would be the first time in the tourney’s history that the Tide won’t be in it. But when Nick Saban declares that his team is not as good as the media says and then argues that his team is good enough to be in the playoff despite failing to take care of business against Auburn, he cannot be able to have it both ways. This is an Alabama team that has big wins over bad squads like Tennessee, Arkansas and Mercer. They also have played average teams very close, like Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State. The best team they faced all year, Auburn, decidedly bested them by 12 points and dominated almost the entire game.

Alabama is not the same juggernaut they have been in past years, Saban is right about that much. And for that reason, they do not belong in the College Football Playoff this season.


Duke’s Blue Collar Worker… Gary Trent Jr.

By Jack Drapkin

If the Duke Blue Devils were to succeed this year, it was to be on the backs of senior guard Grayson Allen, point guard Trevon Duval and/or the freshman frontcourt tandem of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. Gary Trent Jr., was expected to have a prominent role, however there were no guarantees that he would even start at the beginning of the season. While everyone has had the spotlight at times, Trent Jr. has been bringing his lunch pale to work and getting it done while no one is watching.

I’ll be the first to admit, I was worried about Gary. After a promising exhibition campaign and first two games of the season, Trent Jr. could not buy a bucket from the outside. However, despite his shooting struggles he remained active and engaged on the defensive end of the court. He seems to be okay doing his work out of the spotlight and is comfortable not receiving the credit. Not only does this help tremendously with this Duke team, but it also allows Gary to show NBA teams that he can do the same things for them too.

As a defender, Gary Trent Jr. moves his feet well and has active hands. It’s not as though Gary has had a tremendous number of steals or blocks either. He just is always in the right spots on the court, and that kind of accountability is what a coach is looking for. This is part of the reason why Trent Jr. is averaging over 31 minutes a game for Duke, Coach K can trust him.

On offense, Gary Trent Jr. has a diverse repertoire of moves and can score from all three levels of the court when he has it going. He has a great three-point stroke and will need to knock them down more consistently in ACC play. While not the most explosive athlete, his heady play allows him to find openings in the defense and get a step on defenders, like his game-tying and-one drive against Texas.

Look for Trent Jr. to be wearing his hard hat all season long, doing the dirty work while no one is watching.


Wendell Carter Jr. | A 5 Game Synopsis

By Jack Drapkin

Let’s take a look at the freshman’s big start to most likely his only season in Durham. Outside of the opener against Elon, where he placed himself in early foul trouble, he has scored in double figures each game this season. With per-game averages of 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists and three blocks, Carter has been filling up the stat sheet early on in his freshman campaign. So what has made Carter Jr., so effective early on in his career? Two words size and relentlessness.

While Carter Jr. does possess a quality basketball IQ his early success has been based on his ability to establish himself in the paint. In a situation where plays are rarely run for him, Carter Jr. and his frontcourt counterpart Marvin Bagley III have managed to score their points in a variety of manners. Some via screen and roll, others via post but Carter Jr. has scored a bunch of his points just cleaning up the offensive glass. He has a great righty jump hook, that he uses once he establishes himself in the low block. In addition, if left open behind the three-point line he is able to connect from long range though it’s still an area that needs development.

On defense, Carter has been a shot-blocking machine. With almost three blocks per game and a six-block performance against Southern, it’s safe to say Carter has been comfortable on this end of the court. He displays great timing when it comes to his shot-blocking instincts and knows when to get off his man to for the weak-side opportunity. Playing the center position in the Duke defense provides ample opportunity to contest shots at the rim. One area to note, the teams have been much smaller on average than Duke to start the season, outside of Michigan St. Let’s see if this trend continues as we move into conference play.

While Carter Jr. has gotten off to an outstanding start, there are a couple of areas of concern to keep in mind as we move further into the season. Primarily, the aforementioned foul trouble is an area young bigs tend to struggle with in addition to ball security as he has turned it over two times a game. Finally, how he responds to size will be a question mark as he had some struggles to score in the paint against the size of Michigan St.

There is no question Wendell Carter Jr. is a good player, his play in conference and overall consistency will determine if he is a great player.

Kansas City Forgot What Made Them Great

By John Camera

The Chiefs find themselves drifting further away from contender and closer to pretender following an embarrassing 12-9 loss in overtime against a 2-8 New York Giants team that had all but quit on its coach. Make no mistake, the Kansas City team that has dropped four of its last five is not the same team that started 2-0 against the Patriots and Eagles respectively, arguably the two best teams in the league right now. Kansas City has very much lost its way.

The Chiefs are not yet in danger of missing out on the playoffs thanks in large part to an AFC West full of underachievers. The Chargers look average, although have rebounded well from a 0-4 start, the Broncos can’t find any offensive momentum to break a six game losing streak and the Raiders looked especially listless in an embarrassing 33-8 loss against New England. This has allowed the Chiefs to remain on top, two games ahead of everyone else, at 6-4. But the most concerning thing is not their ability to take home an AFC West title, it is their place in the AFC hierarchy of power.

After racing out to a 5-0 start, Kansas City looked like the best team in the league, especially after trouncing the defending champion Patriots in Foxborough on opening night. They did it with a potent offense, a QB in Alex Smith that seemed reborn without the shackles of being a game manager and a running game led by rookie Kareem Hunt. They lost WR Jeremy Maclin but it seemed to be addition by subtraction with the way the passing game soared in his absence. Smith was more confident and took deeper, more aggressive shots against defenses with speedy and talented WRs like Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson, Marcus Robinson and Chris Conley. Travis Kelce remained their number one target and thrived in the role, the big, athletic TE able to stretch the field and be equally effective both short and deep down the seam.

Alex Smith’s performance in the first five game compared to the last five are stark and telling of the struggle that the offense has had. Smith has had less chances to do what made the Chiefs so surprisingly dominant in their passing game; attack downfield. Smith’s yards per attempt went from 8.71 to 7.35, indicative of the more conservative approach that the air attack has been relegated to and has used in past seasons. His other passing stats have dropped as well. Passing yards are down from 278 per game to 257, TDs are down from 2 to 1 and completion percentage from 76.5% all the way down to 62.3%. And after throwing zero interceptions in the first five games, Smith has thrown three in the past five.

While the running game has also struggled in the Chiefs four losses, it’s been the passing game’s sudden impotency that has ultimately made Kansas City fall from the top of the league to the third or fourth best team in it’s own conference. The Chiefs will absolutely need to get back to a downfield, deep-shot, aggressive passing game if they expect to make a significant playoff run. Reverting back to the check down, conservative passing game and trying to win with a running game behind an average offensive line and a defense that has looked weaker than usual is not going to get it done for Kansas City.

Its not surprising that fans and media want to sound the alarm after that embarrassing loss to a Giants squad that looked lost. I don’t think its that time, at least not yet. The Chiefs still have a solid lead in the AFC West and can essentially make the playoffs just by taking care of business against their divisional opponents. However, they will need to recover their early season form in the passing game if they can expect to challenge the Patriots or Steelers and be considered true title contenders.

I Was Wrong About Carson Wentz and Jared Goff: Here’s Why

By John Camera

If you’ve seen my draft profiles on Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, you’ll know that my opinions on them as the top two quarterbacks in the 2016 draft were very strong. Yes, I agreed they were probably the best of the bunch, but still, I thought that wasn’t saying much. To me draft media was hyping up these two because the narrative behind the NFL Draft is so much more interesting when franchise QBs are involved. In addition to the media, my thinking was that General Managers who felt the need for a young QB who can guide their team to success would artificially inflate the value of those who are the closest thing to that.

I thought Wentz and Goff were both second round picks, guys who would need significant time before a team got their return on investment. And there was nothing wrong with that; Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were second round picks and Teddy Bridgewater was picked 32nd overall. I believed that taking them early in the first, much less numbers one and two overall, was a huge mistake. And their rookie seasons proved me right more or less. Wentz started hot with a lot of easy reads and simple throws and cooled off quickly once defensive coordinators figured out how to stop him. Goff was terrible as soon as he got into the lineup, unable to get the ball downfield and lacking good pocket presence. In their sophomore seasons, a lot has changed, and while it is still early to say what their career path will be, Wentz is 24 and Goff is 23, we are getting a firm idea of they are capable of.

Starting with the number one overall pick, I felt Goff would be woefully unprepared to make a switch from a college spread system to a more conservative NFL attack, especially one under someone so notably unimaginative as head coach Jeff Fisher. More importantly, I had major concerns with his accuracy. On his throws more than 10 yards downfield, I did not see consistent touch and accuracy. Goff threw wide of his targets quite often at Cal, making his receivers work extra hard to grab his passes and sometimes getting them killed when throwing them into coverage, like throwing them directly into the path of a safety coming downhill. I also thought his footwork and pocket presence left something to be desired. All of these issues were prevalent in his rookie year, where Goff struggled to do anything positive and talk of Sean Mannion replacing him was no longer a whisper in the 2017 offseason.

Rookie Head Coach Sean McVay has a lot to do with Goff’s development into a competent Quarterback this year, as the Cal product has gotten significantly better in the all the areas that I had issues with previously. His accuracy in particular has take a huge step forward that is simply unusual for most QBs. Accuracy is a big thing to try and change and for Goff to be able to do so should earn him a lot of credit. The addition of weapons like Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Gerald Everett was also critical but no acquisition was more offense-changing than Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth. Look no further to the success of Goff as compared to Andy Dalton, Whitworth’s old QB. It goes to show what a real, effective coach and a retooled offense can do for a young QB who experiences turmoil in his first season.

Wentz on the other hand had a rookie season with a lot of promise. He looked pretty good despite a limited preseason and an offense that was largely devoid of weapons at WR and RB. I was largely skeptical of Wentz because of how defensive coordinators were able to shut him down in the second half of the season when they adjusted to the Eagles’ somewhat conservative offense. However, it is foolish to deny Wentz’ ability and play-making acumen any longer. He is clearly an excellent young QB and could be the next great star at the position. He is having an MVP caliber year so far, guiding the Eagles to 9-1 while putting up the most passing TDs in the league. Wentz has improved in every area from his rookie to sophomore year; decision making, pocket presence, accuracy at all levels of the field, timing and footwork. Coming out of North Dakota State, I feared that Wentz’ poor footwork, inconsistency in reading through his progressions and especially his uneven pocket presence (noting how badly his accuracy degraded under pressure and his penchant for holding the ball too long) could be his undoing at the next level.

All of these weakness cropped up in Wentz’ first season and while not a reason to call him a bust, I was not ready to consider him undeniably and eventually great. This season, however, he has been great, issues coming up here and there but more often than not Wentz has been simply spectacular. And just like Goff, an influx of weapons like Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffrey has also helped make Wentz a better and more consistent QB.

It’s important to remember that we can’t account for everything when scouting players, especially a complex position like QB. We don’t know what the player’s work ethic is like, their film study acumen, how well they respond to coaching, and how well the team they will go to coaches’ are. Scouting as an outsider can very much be a “best guess” based on what is seen on tape and scouting reports that end up erroneous are impossible to escape. As long as the reason why they were wrong is understood, we can learn from past scouting mistakes and make better judgments in the future.

Business is Boomin’ for the Blue Devils

By Jack Drapkin

The Blue Devils led by Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval looked fantastic in the Champions Classic matchup against Michigan State on Tuesday night. Much of the talk prior to the game had been about the frontcourts of the two teams but the Duke backcourt stole the show. Between Grayson’s 37 points and Duval’s 10 assists, the Blue Devils backcourt was dominant.

Let’s talk about just how great Grayson Allen was in this game. He may have finished with 37, but he led all scorers with the quietest 14 points in the first half as well. He connected on SEVEN three-pointers, not even including the two times he was fouled beyond the line and connected on all six free throws. He hit huge shots, namely the big threes at the end of the first half and the pull-up from the top of the key. Most importantly like Duval, he remained composed throughout the game.

Speaking of Trevon Duval he was absolutely tremendous. The fact that he can’t shoot *yet* speaks volumes to how good he is right now. His ability to explode and get to the basket is reminiscent of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. But how many freshman point guards can put up 30 assists and 4 turnovers?!? He has exceeded expectations early on in the 2017-18 season and with his poise I fully expect it to continue.

Lastly, and this is mostly for myself, but I figure some of you will enjoy this..get you a teammate like Jordan Goldwire. Goldwire is somehow consistently more excited than the person who makes the given play.

The Blue Devil backcourt is going to be a ton of fun to watch this season.