Clippers Trade Package for Kawhi Leonard Revealed

kawhi-leonard-clippersSan Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard wants to return to his hometown Los Angeles after requesting a trade. Many initial rumors centered on the Lakers, which have plenty of young players to offer. But the L.A. Clippers have also jumped into the mix and are already offering a trade package.

According to the L.A. Times’ Tania Ganguli, the Clippers are willing to give Tobias Harris and either the 12th or 13th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It’s unclear if this is enough to land a player of Leonard’s caliber. He was the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and is arguably the league’s best two-way player when healthy. Meanwhile, the Clippers are only offering a quality starter and a late lottery selection for an elite player.

Reports have suggested that San Antonio doesn’t want to trade Leonard to a Western Conference team. But odds are that they’ll take the best deal, especially if it’s to a (currently) non-contending team like the Clippers or Lakers.

Clippers Concerned about Leonard’s Injury

Kawhi Leonard only played in nine games last season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury. San Antonio and their medical staff’s handling of the injury is why he wants to leave.

But according to CBS Sports, neither the Clippers nor Lakers are convinced that Leonard is over the injury. He suffered a deep thigh bruise in the 2016-17 season, which has had complications ever since. One medical opinion suggests that the bruise may have atrophied and is affecting other tendons in the leg.

Here’s more from CBS:

kawhi-leonard-clippers-3“Neither the Lakers nor Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs, as both teams have concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury. He spent several months away from the team while rehabbing, which led to public barbs from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about Leonard’s absence — an unusual move for the Spurs.

“While the Lakers are open to trading any player on their roster, how much they are willing to give up depends on their confidence in his health.”

The Lakers have attractive young pieces like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. But San Antonio would likely want two of these players in the Leonard trade. Making such a deal would signal the Spurs’ desire for a rebuild.

The Clippers don’t have the same caliber of young players as L.A. But they potentially have more to offer when looking at their roster and the 12th and 13th first-round picks.

Clippers could Immediately Become Title Contenders

kawhi-leonard-clippers-2The Clippers were surprisingly competitive last season after trading Chris Paul (offseason) and Blake Griffin (mid-season). They finished 42-40 and were in the playoff mix until the last couple weeks of the season.

Barring a trade, the team returns DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, and Harris. Adding a piece like Leonard could instantly make L.A. a top team in the West.

The same could be true of the Lakers. Although they don’t have as many good veteran players, a year of improvement and adding Leonard could make them significantly better. Plus, the Lakers have enough cap space to make a future deal with Leonard work.

Cleveland Cavaliers Eye Kawhi Leonard in Trade

kawhi-leonard-cavs-1Kawhi Leonard has announced his desire to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard’s trust in the team eroded during the 2017-18 campaign based on how they dealt with his quadriceps injury.

Many potential suitors are lining up to land the former Finals MVP. This includes the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are dangling what few assets they have in hopes of getting the superstar forward.

According to Cleveland.com, the Cavs have made calls to San Antonio in hopes of making a deal. This comes amid the uncertainty on what LeBron James will do in the offseason.

Can Cleveland Pull Off This Trade?

kawhi-leonard-cavs-2The problem for the Cavs is that they don’t have enough pieces to compete with Boston or the L.A. Lakers, both of which are rumored to be in the Kawhi sweepstakes.

They have All-Star forward Kevin Love, Brooklyn’s first-round pick (eighth overall), and a few young players. Love is the most-attractive piece here, but he also plays the same position as San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge.

That said, it’s hard to see Cleveland having enough to land Leonard, who, when healthy, is one of the league’s top-5 players.

Should Cleveland Even Try to Make This Deal?

Trading for Leonard now is tricky, because he has just one year on his contract. He’s most interested in playing for the Lakers. But if the Spurs trade him elsewhere, then it might just be a one-year rental.

Therefore, Cleveland needs a long-term commitment that Leonard would even be interested in re-signing. Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto highlighted the dangers in making this deal without a commitment:

“Trading for Leonard for one year with no commitment to his future is a risk for any team. Oklahoma City did that for Paul George, shipping Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana last summer. George had a year left on his contract. He said he wants to play in L.A. Oladipo and Sabonis have helped revive the Pacers and will be part of the team for the next few years.”

Another side to consider is if Leonard is truly over his quadriceps injury. L.A. is reportedly cautious on the deal, because they don’t know if he’ll be healthy. That said, Cleveland could make this deal only to end up in another Isaiah Thomas situation.

Why do the Cavs Want Leonard?

There’s a sense of mystery on why Cleveland is so interested in Leonard. Is it because they want to bolster their roster in a last-ditch attempt to keep LeBron. Or are they simply hoping to be competitive after he leaves?

The latter makes little sense, considering that the Cavs would have to give up a major piece(s) just to get Leonard. But adding him alongside LeBron could make them stronger contenders to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. They’ll also have to stave off an improved Boston Celtics team in the East.

Germany’s Loss to Mexico Shows Difficulty of Repeating as World Cup Champs

germany-mexico-world-cupGermany comes into the 2018 World Cup looking to defend their title. But they’ve gotten off to a rocky start in their quest to do so.

The Germans lost to Mexico 1-0 in Sunday’s match. This puts Germany last in their group, and they’ll need at least a win and a draw in their next two matches.

Many expect the Germans to still make it out of Group F — despite it being considered the 2018 Cup’s “Group of Death.” But if they don’t advance far in the World Cup, then they won’t be the first defending champion to do so.

Let’s look at how poorly some recent champions have fared in trying to repeat as champs. Also keep in mind that you can bet on World Cup matches and futures here at GTBets.

No World Cup Champ has Defended Their Title in 56 Years

germany-mexico-world-cup-1Pele’s Brazilian team beat Czechoslovakia in the 1962 World Cup, thus defending their title from 1958. Little did Pele know that his squad would be the last to do so for the next five-plus decades.

Defending champs haven’t just failed to repeat since then —they’ve actually done badly. This is especially the case in recent years, with the 2010 and 2014 champions going out in the group stage.

Germany coach Joachim Low believes that his team is different, saying, “That shouldn’t happen to us.” But recent history doesn’t inspire much confidence in this statement.

Their loss to Mexico puts Germany’s backs to the wall. They play a tough Sweden squad, which is leading Group F after a victory over South Korea. And the South Koreans don’t have a bad team either, ranking 57th in the world.

A Look Back at Previous Defending Champs

Here’s the history on how defending World Cup winners have done in their repeat attempts since Brazil defended in 1962:

1966, Brazil – Pele and the Brazilians tried for no. 3 in a row. But their star was hurt in an opening win over Bulgaria. They lost their next two matches against Hungary and Portugal to go out in the group stage.

1970, England – After defeating West Germany to win the 1966 World Cup, England once again faced their nemesis in the 1970 Cup final. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but lost 3-2 in overtime.

1974, Brazil – The Brazilians barely made it out of the group round. Their World Cup ended in the second round (four-team round robin) with a defining 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands.

1978, West Germany – The West Germans made it out of the first group stage. But they lost all of their second-round group matches against Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands.

1982, Argentina – Diego Maradona’s debut at the World Cup didn’t necessarily mark success. Argentina advanced out of the group stage. However, they lost in the second round group stage with defeats to Brazil and Italy.

1986, Italy – This year marked the World Cup’s switch to a single-elimination format after first-round group play. Italy finished second in their group and were defeated by France in the Round of 16.

1990, Argentina – Maradona led his team to the 1986 Cup title. He nearly did it again in 1990, but was denied with a 1-0 loss to Germany in the final.

1994, Germany – This German team lost 2-1 in the quarterfinals to Bulgaria. Later, coach Berti Vogts would say his squad “wasn’t a true team.”

1998, Brazil – The Brazilians made it to the final against host country France. But Ronaldo got sick before the match and played poorly en route to a 3-0 loss.

2002, France – After the upset victory over Brazil on their home soil, the French were a huge letdown four years later. They failed to score a single goal in group play and were bounced with losses to Denmark and Senegal.

2006, Brazil – This year marked a replay of the 1998 Cup Final. France’s Thierry Henry netted the winner that stopped Brazil short on yet another repeat attempt.

2010, Italy – A loss to Slovakia, and draws to Paraguay and South Africa ensured that Italy didn’t make it out of group play.

2014, Spain – La Roja had a horrible start after losing 5-1 to the Netherlands. A 2-0 loss to Chile in the next match sealed their fate. The Spaniards at least went out with a 3-0 victory over Australia.

Detroit Pistons Counting on Dwane Casey to Engineer Quick Success

Dwane-Casey-Piston1The Detroit Pistons moved on from Stan Van Gundy after four seasons — only one of which resulted in a playoff appearance (first-round sweep). They quickly hired Dwane Casey to replace him and are hoping that the former Toronto Raptors coach can produce quick results.

Casey and the Raptors achieved both a franchise and Eastern Conference best record of 59-23. But they were swept in the second round of the playoffs by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

According to the Detroit News’ Bob Wojnowski, the organization worked hard to land Casey, who helped transform Toronto into a strong defensive team.

Casey was the top coaching candidate on the free agent market this offseason. He has the most experience and best recent records. This earned him a five-year deal with the Pistons, who are looking for any hint of playoff success after disappointing seasons under Van Gundy. Owner Tom Gores said that they “got their guy” after the signing.

Pistons Have a Lot of Work to Do with Front Office

Van Gundy led a dual role as both coach and general manager. In the aftermath of his firing, many wondered if he was only suited for one role.

Casey won’t be the general manager. And this leaves Detroit scrambling to put together a solid front office. Here’s more from Wojnowski on the matter:

“Once again, we’ll see if the Pistons are forward thinking, or grasping from the past. To turn the team around, it’s about more than just the coach. There’s still uncertainty in the organization, and it’s unclear who will assume which roles, from president to general manager.”

Dwane-Casey-PistonsDetroit has had eight coaches in the past 11 years. And Van Gundy is the only one to make the playoffs (2016) in this span. Before that, the late Flip Saunders was the last to have a winning record (2008).

Some of the failed coaches in this span include Michael Curry, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks, and John Loyer (interim).

Gores resisted the temptation to make a splashy hire with a young coach. The team is conceivably built to win now with Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and Reggie Jackson on the roster. Plus, Detroit doesn’t have much flexibility anyways when considering their contracts.

The Pistons finished 39-43 last season, missing out on the playoffs. If Casey can make small improvements, then the team can at least compete for a lower playoff seed.

Detroit Pistons Outlook for 2019

Given that the Finals just ended, we don’t yet have our futures up for the 2018-19 NBA season. But when we do, the Pistons are likely to be a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team.

They probably won’t make a significant splash in free agency after trading for Griffin last season. However, Detroit will be an interesting team to watch if they can stay healthy.

Jackson has been hurt each of the past two seasons. But if he can make it through the entire 2019 campaign, then the Pistons have a much better chance. They could also exceed expectations if the Griffin-Drummond front-court pairing gels throughout the year.

Goldman Sachs AI Predicts Brazil will Win World Cup – Uses 1 Million Simulations

brazil-world-cup-2018Several countries enter the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a good chance to win. And this makes it tough to predict a winner when looking at World Cup futures. But if you’re looking for help when betting on the future champ, then consider the results from Goldman Sachs’ artificial intelligence program.

The investment firm’s AI used machine learning to create 200,000 models, which come from mining data on players and teams to predict match scores. After going through 1 million variations of the World Cup, Goldman Sachs has determined that Brazil will win the tournament.

AI Shows Match Scores in 2018 World Cup Bracket

The picture shown below features the match results predicted by Goldman Sachs. The numbers listed next to each country dictate whether each team beats its opponent. These numbers also predict the unrounded number of goals scored in each potential iteration of the event.

goldman-sachs-brazil-champ-world-cup

An unnamed member of Goldman Sachs’ research team wrote about the interesting model that they used to predict the World Cup matches and final results.

“We are drawn to machine learning models because they can sift through a large number of possible explanatory variables to produce more accurate forecasts than conventional alternatives,” wrote the employee.

More World Cup Findings from Goldman Sachs

You can see some of the other interesting findings from Goldman Sachs below:

  • Brazil is expected to win its sixth World Cup. The AI predicts that they’ll beat Germany in the championship by an unrounded score of 1.70 to 1.41.
  • France actually maintains the second-highest odds of winning. But their semi-final meeting with Brazil gives them less of a chance to win than Germany, which wouldn’t face the Brazilians until the final.
  • Argentina and Spain — two of the world’s best teams — are expected to fall short of expectations and lose in the quarterfinals.
  • England — one of the most-publicized teams — should have a strong World Cup run. But they’re predicted to lose to Germany in the quarterfinals.
  • Saudi Arabia could be the Cup’s biggest Cinderella, advancing out of their group stage in spite of their lowish world ranking.
  • Russia, the host country, isn’t predicted to make it past the group stage. They’re expected to be upset by Saudi Arabia.

Anything can Happen

Using data from Goldman Sachs’ AI is definitely an interesting way to look at the 2018 World Cup. But you can’t guarantee anything from a betting standpoint just by using results from the program. An author from the study cautions this with the following statement:

“We capture the stochastic nature of the tournament carefully using state-of-the-art statistical methods and we consider a lot of information in doing so. But the forecasts remain highly uncertain, even with the fanciest statistical techniques, simply because football is quite an unpredictable game. This is, of course, precisely why the World Cup will be so exciting to watch.”

2018 World Cup Futures

As covered above, Brazil is expected to take home the World Cup crown this year. And if you’re confident in the Goldman Sachs AI, then you can bet on Brazil through our GTBets World Cup futures.

Also note that you can wager on any of the other favorites too, including Germany, France, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, and England.

Group F Considered Group of Death in 2018 World Cup

2018-world-cup-group-of-deathOne of the most-interesting parts of the World Cup is determining the Group of Death. The 2018 edition is no different, with there being several groups to choose from.

In most cases, the Group of Death is characterized by two tough European squads and two strong teams from other confederations. Here’s an example of the two candidates from the 2014 World Cup:

  • Group BAustralia, Chile, Spain, and the Netherlands. This group was so tough that the defending champs, Spain, went home early.
  • Group GGermany, Ghana, Portugal, and the US. Germany and the US moved on, while Portugal, one of FIFA’s top five teams, went home.

FIFA changed the way that group draws are done in the 2018 World Cup. This edition no longer uses geographical considerations as heavily. Instead, groupings are more based on the FIFA World Rankings.

Nevertheless, Group F still stands out as the Group of Death in the 2018 Cup. Let’s look at each team in Group F and discuss why they make this such a tough draw. Also note that you can bet on every World Cup match at GTBets.

1. Germany, FIFA Ranking #1

  • Qualifying record: 10 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses
  • 43 goals for, 4 goals against

thomas-muller-germanyThe defending World Cup champions have played great ever since their victory in Brazil. They were perfect in World Cup qualifying matches and haven’t lost since a 2-0 defeat to France in the Euro 2016 semifinals.

The Germans have crushed teams like the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, and Norway on their path towards World Cup success. This squad is so deep that their B-roster beat Mexico and Chili in back-to-back matches in the Confederations Cup.

Germany has dominated thanks to a ridiculous stable of goalkeepers, Bayern Munich’s stifling defense, and stars like Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane, Toni Kroos, and Mesut Ozil. Muller scored five goals in every international tournament that he’s competed in. If he puts in seven goals in Russia, it would move him past countryman Miroslav Klos as the World Cup’s all-time scorer.

2. Mexico, FIFA Ranking #15

  • Qualifying record: 11 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss
  • 29 goals for, 8 goals against

hirving-lozano-mexicoMexico firmly handled the CONCACAF Hex, only losing once in 16 matches. They also outscored opponents by over a 3:1 margin.

El Tri has some strong players in Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandex, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, and Meme Ochoa. They also boast 22-year-old Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, the PSV Eindhoven star who scored 19 goals in his first season in Europe.

3. Sweden, FIFA Ranking #23

Qualifying record: 7 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses
27 goals for, 9 goal against

marcus-berg-swedenSweden’s road to the 2018 World Cup wasn’t an easy one. They had to beat The Netherlands (UEFA Group A) and Italy (1-0 in aggregate playoffs) to reach Russia. Not coincidentally, both of these teams failed to qualify for the Cup in a total shocker.

It’s also worth noting that Sweden notched an impressive victory over France. But were these big wins just Cinderella living it up before the clock strikes midnight?

Not quite. Sweden has an experienced core who’ve been together since 2009. They’ll blend these veterans with fresh talent that won Sweden’s first-ever UEFA U-21 title in 2015.

The Swedish national team chose to pass on star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But they may not miss him when considering that they boast Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen, and Isaac Kiese Thelin.

4. South Korea, FIFA Ranking #57

  • Qualifying record: 12 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses
  • 38 goals for, 10 goals against

son-heung-min-world-cupSouth Korea had an easy time in the first two rounds of AFC qualification matches. But they struggled the third round, with losses to China and Qatar, the latter of which resulted in German manager Uli Stielike being fired.

Nevertheless, the Reds have a strong attack thanks to Son Heung-Min and his world-class abilities. The 25-year-old has played outstanding in Tottenham and is bringing the same skills to Russia.

South Korea is looked at as the weakest team in Group F. But they’re a strong No. 4 in the toughest group.