Buffalo Sabres win 2021 NHL Draft Lottery

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors  |  By Zach Leach  |  Last updated 6/2/21

For the final time for the foreseeable future, all non-playoff teams were eligible to win the first overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. Beginning in 2022, a team can only move up a maximum of ten spots, meaning the teams who finish No. 12 through No. 16 in the final league standings cannot move high enough to take over the top pick.

Well, the lottery balls decided not to take a crazy bounce in their last opportunity to move a team from the middle of the first round all the way to the top. Instead, the draft order stayed virtually the same. The Buffalo Sabres, who held the worst record in the NHL this season and thus the top odds in the lottery, retained the pick. The expansion Seattle Kraken, awarded the same odds as the third-worst record in the league, moved up one spot, switching places with the Anaheim Ducks. Here is the official first-round draft order for the top 15 picks:

  1. Buffalo Sabres
  2. Seattle Kraken
  3. Anaheim Ducks
  4. New Jersey Devils
  5. Columbus Blue Jackets
  6. Detroit Red Wings
  7. San Jose Sharks
  8. Los Angeles Kings
  9. Vancouver Canucks
  10. Ottawa Senators
  11. Chicago Blackhawks
  12. Calgary Flames
  13. Philadelphia Flyers
  14. Dallas Stars
  15. New York Rangers

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Top 10 storylines for the 2021 NBA Playoffs

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Vincent Frank  |  Last updated 5/17/21

The 2021 NBA Playoffs are about to get started here soon. They begin with eight teams taking part in the inaugural play-in tournament, including the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers going up against the Golden State Warriors.

Back east, we’re highly intrigued to see how the Philadelphia 76ers perform after earning that conference’s best regular-season record. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are limping into their play-in matchup against a red-hot Washington Wizards squad.

Below, we look at the top-10 storylines for the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

Upstart New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks to do battle

After winning a mere 21 games a season ago, these Knicks just locked up the fourth seed back east following a win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday . New York finished its first regular season under head coach Tom Thibodeau with a 41-31 record. Julius Randle has looked every bit the part of an MVP candidate. Meanwhile, youngsters such as Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett showed out big time.

With that said, New York’s first-round matchup is not going to be a piece of cake. It comes against an ascending Atlanta Hawks squad that posted a 27-11 record under Nate McMillan following the firing of Lloyd Pierce . Flush with a ton of young talent, star guard Trae Young included, these Hawks could very well be looking at a deep run in the NBA Playoffs. It starts this week against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Boston Celtics on the hot seat with difficult play-in matchup

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After earning a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Celtics regressed big time during the regular season. In fact, Brad Stevens’ squad finished with a .500 record and as the seventh seed back east. Their reward? A play-in matchup with the Washington Wizards for a spot in the NBA Playoffs.

With Jaylen Brown sidelined for the remainder of the season to injury , Boston is certainly facing an uphill battle. That’s especially true given the way Russell Westbrook and his Wizards closed out the regular season. After starting the season with a 17-32 record, Washington finished by winning 17 of its final 23 games. For his part, Westbrook averaged 23.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 14.0 assists during that 23-game span. Watch out, Celtics!

Stephen Curry’s absolute brilliance heading into the NBA Playoffs

Since returning from a tailbone injury back on March 29, the NBA scoring champion has been otherworldly. Curry dropped 46 points in Golden State’s season finale win over the Memphis Grizzlies en route to helping the Warriors clinch the eighth seed in the play-in tournament. In 24 games since he returned, the all-time great point guard is averaging 36.9 points and has made an obscene 154 threes.

Curry and his Warriors will now take on the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday evening for an opportunity to earn the seventh seed in the NBA Playoffs. Should the Dubs come out on top, they’ll face the Phoenix Suns in the first round. This is notable in that Golden State just recently knocked off Phoenix . Even with a loss to the Lakers, these Warriors would then have a shot at the eighth seed and a first-round matchup with a Utah Jazz team that they also just recently defeated.

Milwaukee Bucks against the Miami Heat is going to be great for the NBA Playoffs

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

In a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals series, the defending conference champion Miami Heat are riding a hot streak into this series. Miami won eight of its final 10 regular-season games to avoid the play-in tournament. Even with Victor Oladipo sidelined for the playoffs , the Heat are in a good position against Milwaukee. In fact, this team boasted a 33-19 record when Jimmy Butler suited up during the regular year.

As for the Bucks, they won two of three regular-season matchups against Miami. In need of a deep run in the NBA Playoffs, the pressure is squarely on Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer to avoid a disastrous first-round loss to a lesser team. That’s where two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo comes into play. He averaged a surprisingly low 21.8 points in last season’s defeat at the hands of Miami.

The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers

It’s official. Even after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans in their regular-season finale, the defending champion Lakers will be forced to contest with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in Wednesday’s Western Conference play-in. The winner of said game will have the seventh seed and take on the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The loser would go up against either the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs for the eighth spot and a first-round outing against the Utah Jazz.

This is not what the Lakers had envisioned when they started the season with repeat aspirations. Given the way Curry is playing and with the Lakers’ injury concerns, there’s no telling whether Los Angeles will come out on top in this game. The good news? Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be on the court at the Staples Center come Wednesday evening. The bad news? Los Angeles is looking at an uphill climb to repeat as champs and James just tweaked his ankle injury.

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Super Bowl LVI odds: Best team value bets for 2021 NFL season

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Matt Fitzgerald  |  Last updated 5/15/21

A number of NFL futures bets can be placed well in advance of the 2021 NFL season, but Super Bowl odds are where the real market value is in sports betting.

Yes, trying to pick the Lombardi Trophy winner out of 32 teams is a difficult task, yet a lot of clubs can be ruled out from the jump. Consider that a $100 bet on the No. 1 favorite, the Kansas City Chiefs, would yield a $525 profit at +525 odds.

Let’s take a look at the latest Super Bowl odds from DraftKings, and then break down several teams whose odds present the best value while the numbers are still rather raw.

TeamSuper Bowl odds
Kansas City Chiefs+450
Tampa Bay Buccaneers+675
Buffalo Bills+1300
Los Angeles Rams+1300
Baltimore Ravens+1400
San Francisco 49ers+1400
Green Bay Packers+1400
Cleveland Browns+1600
Seattle Seahawks+2500
New Orleans Saints+2500
Indianapolis Colts+2500
New England Patriots+3000
Los Angeles Chargers+3300
Pittsburgh Steelers+4000
Tennessee Titans+4000
Arizona Cardinals+4000
Washington Football Team+5000

Best value bets for 2022 Super Bowl odds

Playing a favorite: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+675)

Can Tom Brady lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl repeat? Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady completely changed the culture in Tampa Bay in just one season. From the chaotic Jameis Winston era to the greatness of TB12, the Bucs came together late in 2020 and won eight straight en route to a Super Bowl LV triumph.

Picking one of the top two favorites admittedly isn’t the best value, but in Tampa’s case, it’s worth a flier. After all, Brady has played in four of the last five Super Bowls, and the Bucs roster is far more talented than anything he was working with toward the end of his time with the New England Patriots.

Tampa Bay somehow kept all its starters on offense and defense, not to mention its top coordinators. That continuity, and a fuller offseason program in 2021, is going to help the Bucs be more consistent this season.

A longer, 17-game season and the fact that Brady had rather serious knee surgery in the offseason are causes for concern. That said, Brady is the ultimate iron man, and until the wheels actually fall off, history tells us it’s never wise to doubt the GOAT.

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Which players will be X-factors in the 2021 NCAA men’s tournament?

Posted 7 hours ago | By Jeff Mezydlo

The 2021 NCAA Tournament field is set. It’s good to have the event back and with it comes some of the best talent in the country. Some are household names to college fans, while others might be just under-the-radar. Regardless, their value to each team is immeasurable in some cases.

Here’s a list of 25 players who have what it takes to be an X-factor when it comes down to how far their respective teams will last in this season’s tournament.

Jose Alvarado, Guard, Georgia Tech

Jose Alvarado, Guard, Georgia Tech
Nell Redmond/USA TODAY Sports

The Yellow Jackets have made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, and do so riding an eight-game winning streak as the ACC tournament champions. The senior Alvarado has been a big reason for the program’s resurgence this season. While he’s averaging 15.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds, Alvarado’s leadership goes beyond the numbers. He’s the heart and soul of this Georgia Tech team and, truly, as Alvarado goes so does this team. 

James Bouknight, Guard, Connecticut

James Bouknight, Guard, Connecticut
David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

As a No. 7 seed facing Maryland in the first round, then possibly second-seeded Alabama, UConn will have to work to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. However, if Bouknight (19.0 points per game) can find the offensive form he enjoyed prior to shooing 32.0 percent and totaling 24 points in the Big East tournament, the Huskies could surprise. This is no longer a team that solely relies on Bouknight to lead the way offensively, but if we see the guy who scored 40 against Creighton in December, then UConn can be dangerous.

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NFL players who could regress in 2021

Posted 8 days ago  |  By Chris Mueller

Father Time is undefeated in the NFL, though Tom Brady is currently attempting to change that. Other players aren’t so lucky, and it’s impossible to predict exactly when a given player might go from star to scrub. Sometimes declines are gradual, while in other cases, a player falls off a cliff and turns into a liability almost overnight. Let’s take a look at some players who, either because of age or other factors, might be on the decline heading into the 2021 season.1 of 25

Josh Allen

Josh Allen
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Please do not put me through a table, Bills fans. Surely you can understand why some folks need to see Allen duplicate his 2020 performance before they start to fully believe, right? Allen made a massive jump from year two to year three, going from 20 to 37 touchdowns while only adding one interception in the process. He also added eight rushing touchdowns for good measure, and he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, despite many believing he would never be an accurate NFL passer. Most of the peripheral, advanced numbers looked good, too, so this is more a guess than anything that Allen has to come back to earth a little bit. If he doesn’t, the Bills will be an AFC force for the next decade.

2 of 25

Calais Campbell

Calais Campbell
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After four straight seasons posting a Pro Football Focus grade of 90 or better, Campbell’s play, while still good, dropped off considerably in 2020, as he graded out at 74.7 overall at PFF. Campbell played in just 12 games after having not missed one in five straight seasons and wasn’t the elite run-stuffer he had been in the past. He will be 35 years old at the start of the coming season, and it’s reasonable to assume that he might fall off further, though even if he does, he’ll have put together an exemplary career.

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NFL players poised to make a leap in 2021

Posted 10 hours ago  |  By Chris Mueller

One of the most fun parts about any NFL season is watching new stars establish themselves. Occasionally, players come completely out of nowhere – think Kurt Warner in 1999 – but more often, the emerging superstars are guys who were showing signs of greatness the previous season, then put it all together the following year. Let’s take a look at some players who might make the jump to superstardom in 2021.

1 of 25

Cam Akers

Cam Akers
Mike De Sisti / The Milwaukee Jo via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The 52nd pick in the 2020 draft, Akers had a slow start to his pro career, carrying the ball just 50 times for 201 yards in the Rams’ first eight games, two of which saw him not even touch the ball. Things changed down the stretch, as he ran for 424 yards in Los Angeles’ final five regular-season games, then exploded for 131 rushing yards, and 176 overall in a playoff win over Seattle. Akers acquitted himself well in the Rams’ divisional-round loss to Green Bay, and his skill as an occasional pass-catching threat should be more on display now that Matthew Stafford is around. 

2 of 25

Jaire Alexander

Jaire Alexander
William Glasheen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Alexander, the 18th pick in the 2018 draft, finally came into his own in his third season after making steady improvement in 2019. He was rarely targeted, seeing only 80 passes thrown his way all year, and it’s understandable why opposing quarterbacks avoided him; they had just a 67.4 passer rating when targeting him. Alexander made his first Pro Bowl this year, and while he doesn’t have the name recognition of Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, or other elite cornerbacks, it is clear that he absolutely belongs in their class; next year, it’s a good bet that his play will force everyone to take notice.

3 of 25

Jessie Bates III

Jessie Bates III
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Playing in Cincinnati is tough because, well, it’s the Bengals. The franchise’s status as a near-annual laughingstock – even when their record is good – means that some of the league’s better players go relatively unnoticed and underappreciated. Bates is one of those players, as he was Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded safety this season, yet still doesn’t have so much as a single Pro Bowl nod after three years in the league. Bates allowed a passer rating against of just 70.7 this season and has been a consistent ball hawk since entering the league, posting three interceptions in each season. Crazy as it sounds, his best chance to be recognized as a star next year might actually rest with Joe Burrow. If the Bengals are good, Bates’ excellence will be recognized.

4 of 25

Brian Burns

Brian Burns
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After a promising rookie campaign in 2019, Burns’ numbers went up across the board in 2020, as he racked up nine sacks, 21 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, and eight tackles for loss for the Panthers’ defense. Burns’ Pro Football Focus grade jumped from 63.7 in 2019 to 76.8 in 2020, despite switching from outside linebacker to defensive end. Whatever your preferred nomenclature for his position – the catch-all “edge rusher” is now the trendiest way to put it – Burns’ first two seasons suggest he has a good chance to be one of the league’s premier sack artists for years to come.

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MLB spring training, 2021 season likely to start on time

Originally posted on MLB Trade Rumors | By TC Zencka | Last updated 1/3/21

In the time of COVID-19, no scheduling occurs without caveats to consult and confirm with health officials. Cases of coronavirus could surge further,  and breakouts and hot spots remain possible even as vaccines begin to make their way into circulation. And despite ubiquitous uncertainty, as well owners advocating for a delay, it appears the 2021 season will start on time, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich. MLB and the MLBPA have each announced their intentions to stick to the CBA and have regularly scheduled starts for spring training and Opening Day.

The presumption has been that any potential delay would come from the urging of the league office, but Drellich provides this statement from MLB:

“We have announced the dates for the start of Spring Training and the Championship Season. As we get closer we will, in consultation with public health authorities, our medical experts, and the Players Association, determine whether any modifications should be considered in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases and the challenges we faced in 2020 completing a 60-game season in a sport that plays every day.”

Owners would prefer to delay the start of the season in order to get more people vaccinated and generally provide a safer playing environment. But they also want to limit the number of games played without fans in attendance. With the CBA in place, however, MLB has little recourse but to start the season on time. Considering the success of the NFL and NBA to operate under the present circumstances, it would likely take a significant, state-levied change in circumstances to seriously derail the season.

This is good news for the players, who have continually advocated for a full 162-game season. None of this is to say the season’s schedule is set in stone, of course, but it does seem likelier than ever that there will be a full season in 2021.

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Athletes who will dominate in 2021

Posted 4 hours ago | By Seth Trachtman

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been an unforgettable year in sports. Most sports fans will be relieved when the calendar finally turns to 2021. The good news is that we could be set for one of the best years to ever be a sports fan with long seasons and the scheduled 2021 Summer Olympics. So with that in mind, here’s a look at some of the athletes who are set to dominate in 2021.

1 of 25

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Mike Ehrmann / USA Today Sports Images

Although the Bucks had a disappointing finish in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, Antetokounmpo won his second consecutive NBA MVP after averaging 34.9 points and 16.1 rebounds per game. Now that he is staying in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future, the Greek Freak has even bigger goals for the 2020-21 season.

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts
Tim Heitman / USA Today Sports Images

Betts has now won World Series with two different franchises after the Dodgers got their long-awaited victory in the abbreviated 2020 season, and the outfielder also earned a huge contract. Now the leader of a star-studded Dodgers roster, Betts hopes for a repeat.

3 of 25

Simone Biles

Simone Biles
Denny Medley / USA Today Sports Images

One of the greatest Olympic gymnasts ever, Biles has four gold medals and one bronze to her name already. She’s looking to add to that total in the delayed Tokyo Olympics.

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NFL owners delay decision on expanding regular season until early 2021

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 12/16/20

Roughly 24 hours after stories emerged that NFL owners could vote during a Wednesday virtual meeting to expand the regular season to 17 games starting in 2021, it appears the matter has been tabled through at least the holidays. 

ESPN’s Dan Graziano and the Associated Press reported on Wednesday that owners agreed to delay a final decision on season expansion “until early in 2021.” 

Via the collective bargaining agreement signed by owners and the NFL Players Association in March, owners can add one game to the regular season at any point between 2021 and 2023. Such a move would decrease the length of the preseason, likely by either one or two matchups. 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained that one interconference contest (AFC vs. NFC, NFC vs. AFC) will be added as the 17th game “based on divisional standings and rotating divisions each season.” 

The NFL has routinely embraced patience as a virtue during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, it remains unknown how many fans will be welcomed to Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for Super Bowl LV, which is scheduled for Feb. 7. That venue hasn’t been filled beyond 25 percent capacity for a football game this fall. 

Barring unforeseen setbacks related to coronavirus vaccines, however, fans should expect a 17-game campaign for next year.

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One prospect to watch for every MLB team in 2021

By Justin Mears

The 2020 calendar year took a lot away from a lot of people, but in the world of Major League baseball nobody lost more than the minor leaguers. The entire minor league season didn’t happen at all, and while some top prospects got to participate at their parent club’s alternate site, it was not the same as playing in real games. Provided this ends up being a normal season, the year of lost development bears watching when it comes to rookies potentially making an impact in the year ahead. Let’s look at one prospect from each team who’s yet to make their big league debut that could have the greatest impact on his club in 2021. 

1 of 30

New York Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP

New York Yankees: Luis Gil, RHP
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Gil finished the 2019 season pitching for the Yankees A+ team in Tampa, but as a member of the team’s 40-man roster he was able to at least spend 2020 at the alternate site rather than on his couch. In 20 total minor league starts in ’19, the big righty posted a strong 2.72 ERA in 96 innings while striking out 123 hitters and holding opponents to a .207 batting average. The number that really jumps off the page looking at Gil’s numbers is his home run rate, as he’s served up only SEVEN long balls in over 200 career innings. He’ll probably begin 2021 in AA, but on a Yankees team desperate for impact starting pitching, don’t be surprised if he ends up skipping AAA all together. 

Boston Red Sox
: Jeter Downs, SS/2B

Boston Red Sox: Jeter Downs, SS/2B
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Had he not lost the 2020 minor league season, Downs very well could have put himself in position to potentially begin 2021 with the big club. Even with the way things stand, don’t be shocked if he works his way onto the Fenway Park infield sooner rather than later. Downs was Boston’s prize return in their controversial trade with the Dodgers that sent Mookie Betts to the west coast, and while it’s a tough ask, they’re hoping he can blossom into the type of player that can ease the fanbase’s frustrations a little. Across two levels of LA’s system in ’19, the 22-year-old slashed .333/.429/.688 with 24 homers and 86 RBI. A natural shortstop, Downs will have to shift to second in the big leagues, as the Red Sox have Xander Bogaerts locked up long term at position number six.

3 of 30

Tampa Bay Rays: Shane Baz, RHP

Tampa Bay Rays: Shane Baz, RHP
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

Wander Franco is the best prospect in all of baseball, but there’s no guarantee he plays for the Rays in 2021. On the other hand, Baz was the final piece of Tampa Bay’s heist of the Pirates in the now infamous Chris Archer trade from a few trade deadline’s ago. Pittsburgh’s 1st round back back in 2017–#12 overall I should add–joined Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow in heading from western Pennsylvania to western Florida in the trade that just keeps on giving. The latter two are already cornerstone pieces of a team that just won the American League pennant, and in 2021 Baz should establish himself the same way. In 17 minor league starts in ’19 the righty pitched to a 2.99 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP, while blowing away well over a batter/inning and surrendering only five home runs. The Rays love to get creative with the pitchers, and while he might start out as an opener or potentially a reliever, Baz should become an integral part of this pitching staff in short order. 

Toronto Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP

Toronto Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
Kim Klement/USA Today Images